Taking to the Sky

To celebrate A Flight of Fancy, we’re running a special week-long contest. Starting October 5, 2012, through next Friday, October 12, we’ll feature Regency quiz questions at the end of each post. To enter the contest, you’ll need to correctly answer the questions in the comment section below. For every correct answer, your name will be added into the drawing for a Regency Food and Frolic gift basket. There will be five questions in all, which means your name can be entered up to five times (if you get all five questions right). The deadline to answer ALL CONTEST QUESTIONS will be Saturday, October 13 at midnight.

Photo on Scenic Reflections

A Flight of Fancy has a heroine who would be considered a nerd nowadays. For fun, she reads Greek and Hebrew, translates ancient documents into English, and executes mathematics. She regrets not being able to go to university, but since she cannot, she determines to make her mark on the world through creating a balloon one can steer.

Balloons could not be steered except per the caprices of the wind currents. These change at various heights of the atmosphere, so a balloonist had to raise and lower the gas—hydrogen—level in the balloon to affect their direction. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. Usually it did not. Sails and paddles were employed in an attempt to create steerage to greater or lesser success—mostly lesser.

Considering one had to go aloft with live fire to create the hydrogen, and the car or basket was not all that large, limiting the quantity of fuel, long journeys in a balloon without touching down were simply not possible. Decades later, Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in 80 Days, was considered fantasy. It was the science fiction of its day. (He is, of course, the founder of steam punk, a steam punk author told me.) But I digress.

How grand getting from London to Lisbon, sailing over the heads of the French enemy, sailing high enough to be out of range of their guns, would be! Much safer from the enemy than taking a ship.

Unfortunately, steering was the first problem with long-range travel, and having enough fuel to keep gas in the balloon was another problem.

It doesn’t mean people did not attempt, and come close, to sailing long distances. Sophie Blanchard, a famous French balloonist, sailed across the Alps. No problem. Balloons could go extremely high; therefore, getting over the mountains was not a problem for her. She was also not sailing over enemy territory, being French.

During the Regency, Mr. Sattler decided to fly from Ireland, across the Irish Sea, and to England. He did so with great success. Several times, he had to raise and lower his level to catch favorable currents, but the coast of Cumberland drew into his sites.

So he decided to go down to Liverpool, and that’s when he ran into trouble. He caught a strong current. The waxed canvas tubing that carried the hydrogen from the beaker of acid and iron shavings, to the balloon, began to tear away from the balloon, causing him to lose altitude at an alarming rate.

Mind you, he reports that he was around three miles in the sky. Plunging from that height would have been rather frightening, not to say deadly.

With great risk to life and limb, he managed to affect repairs while poised above a live fire and that beaker of acid and iron shavings to make the hydrogen. I won’t say how because I use this incident for the basis of an important scene in A Flight of Fancy.

Mr. Sattler ended up in the sea near Liverpool. A flock of sea birds attacked him for the food he had carried with him, and several ships sailed past him. Eventually, as night fell, a naval vessel stopped and picked him up.

That Lord Whittaker is against Cassandra going aloft in a balloon makes a great deal of sense. Men and women, including Sophie Blanchard, died because of their fascination with taking to the sky in a balloon. Cassandra, however, is like thousands of men and women throughout history, who risked their fortunes and their lives to bring us new inventions and scientific discoveries—she will not let the danger stop her from trying to improve balloon flight and make it a practical form of transportation.

For more details on how balloonists made hydrogen and why they went aloft with a live fire, read my article at: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/

Today’s questions:

1: How did aeronauts steer a balloon?

A: They used sails.

B: They used paddles.

C: They used wind currents.

D: They used the balloon itself.

 2: Which of the following was not used to make hydrogen for the balloon.

A: Fire

B: Acid

C: Wax

D: Iron

This contest is now closed. Please see the final post for answers to the trivia questions. 

More Than Conquerors

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37 NIV

A few months ago, a friend betrayed me. The pain slashed shockingly deep into my soul. Never had I imagined that she would take the step she took. Every time I see her name now, I want to cry for the loss of a friendship that was important to me and, I thought, her too.

A few days ago while at a conference, someone was shockingly rude to me on an elevator. She was a stranger to me, and still her  behavior hurt me. Just this morning, when telling my husband about it, the mortification from her words cut into my heart.

My human reaction is to lash back, hurt the other person as I was hurt. How dare this person treat me like this? I want to fight.

Yet I need say nothing, take no action. The fight is already won. Romans 8:38-39 tell us that nothing—NOTHING!—can separate us from the love of God. That means that no matter how rude someone is to us, no matter how many people betray us or snub us or treat us like we are less important than we think we are, We are bonded to the Lord through His great love.

We are more than conquerors. In our hearts, through the one who loved us so much He died for us, we are greater than those who seek to destroy us.

Romans 8:37 has become my life verse because I need this reminder when my humanness wants to lash back at those who hurt me. I don’t need to because Jesus has already paid the price and made me more than a conqueror over the sins of the world that strive to separate me from His love.

Bride Cakes

The multi-tiered extravaganzas with frosting flowers and sometimes fanciful designs we now associate with wedding cakes are a Victorian invention, as are most of our modern wedding customs. That does not mean, however, that wedding cakes did not exist before Victoria and Albert’s 300 pound confection.

Cake at a wedding dates back at least to Roman times when a cake of wheat or barley was partially eaten by the groom, then broken over the bride’s head, followed by the crumbs being tossed into the crowd. This represented prosperity and fertility and good fortune.

In various forms, the custom continued through the middle ages and into our time of the Regency. Some evolutions took place along the way. Wheat poured onto the bride’s head replaced the cake breaking, though some evidence reports that an oat cake was broken over the bride’s head in Scottish weddings well into the nineteenth century.

In the Regency, bride cakes ranged from what sounds like what we recognize as fruit cake such as those passed around at Christmas, though much, much larger, to flour cakes stacked and held together with icing.

Stacking cakes was a more modern form of the “stack” a pile of wheat rolls piled high to represent prosperity over which the bride and groom kissed. Cakes replaced the rolls, but piling them together created the problem of keeping them piled, making sure they did not crumble away, and keeping them from going stale. Frosting them together seemed like a natural way to solve this problem.

Not too long before the Regency, bride pies became the custom. This was a savory, not a sweet pie. A glass ring was baked into this pastry, and the lady who received the piece with the ring was sure to wed within the next year, rather like the ring in a Christmas pudding.

Many cake customs had not died by the Regency. One that seems to have survived was the cutting the cake into small pieces to distribute through the guests. Young women took their pieces home to lay beneath their pillow. They thought this would help them dream of the men they would marry. Other brides carried this further and the piece of cake had to be drawn through the wedding ring as many as nine times before it would reveal the recipient’s future spouse.

Here is a recipe for bride cake from an 1818 housekeeping book by Elizabeth Raffald.
(Note: I have changed the s that look like f to a modern s for ease of reading.)

To make a Bride Cake.

TAKE four pounds of fine flour well dried, four pounds of fresh butter, two pounds of loaf sugar, pound and sift fine a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of nutmegs, to every pound of flour put eight eggs* wash four pounds of currants, pick them well, and dry them before the fire, blanch a pound of sweet almonds, and cut them lengthways very thin, a pound of citron, one pound of candied orange, the same of candied lemon, half a pint of brandy: first work the butter with your hand to a cream, then beat in yeur sugar a quarter of an hour, beat the whites of your eggs to a very strong froth, mix them with your sugar and butter, beat your yolks half an hour at least, and mix them with your cake, then put in your flour, mace’, and nutmeg, keep beating it well till your oven is ready, put in your brandy, and beat your currants and almonds lightly in, tie three meets of paper round the bottom of your hoop to keep it from running out, rub it well with butter, put in your cake and lay your sweetmeats in three lays, with cake betwixt every lay, after it is risen and coloured, cover it with paper before your oven is slopped *ip: it will take three hour* bakings

To make Almond-Icing for the Bride Cake.

BEAT the-whites of three eggs to a strong froth, beat a pound of Jordan almonds very fine with rose water, mix your almonds with the eggs lightly together, a pound of common loaf sugar beat fine, and put in by degrees; when your cake is enough, take it out, and lay your icing on, then put it into brown.

To make Sugar-Icing for the Bride Cake.

BEAT two pounds of double refined sugar with two ounces of fine starch, sift it through a gauze sieve, then beat the whites of five eggs with a knife upon a pewter dish half an hour; beat in your sugar a little at a time, or it will make the eggs fall, and will not be so good a colour, when you have put in all your sugar, beat it half an hour longer, then lay it on your almond icing, and spread it even with a knife ; if it be put on as soon as the cake comes out of the oven it will be hard by the time the cake is cold.

Abasing Oneself in Society

 “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:11 KJV

(Read Luke 14:7-11.)

This passage often comes to mind when writing about the Regency. The notion of sitting at the lowest place, of abasing oneself in society is an anathema to what we show amongst the peoples of the Regency. Getting the highest honors, marrying the highest ranked man or the richest heiress was what the world was all about, or at least what the world we portray was all about. And yet we write Christian Regencies, which means our characters must have a Christian world view while living in a society that insisted upon promoting one’s social standing and/or wealth—politely, of course. On the one hand, they are not supposed to raise themselves up if they are to be serious followers of Christ. On the other hand, they cannot move through the halls and balls of even the gentry without looking, acting, and simply being the best in an attempt to attract the best.

Rhubarb Restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland allows you to dine regency style today. Seated here, even the lowest place at the table is grand.

As I write my characters, I struggle with this dichotomy for them. And then I think how apropos to today’s society are the struggles of my characters.

Nowadays, everything is about networking. To network, we need to promote and promote and then, for a change, promote some more. Get our names out there for the world to see, recognize, respond to, we’re told. Editors won’t buy books from authors who don’t already have a web presence, etc., etc., etc.

Networking Around the World

Hubris is the word that comes to mind. Extreme pride or arrogance. It’s practically de rigueur for a Regency hero to be that way. Yet how can we have an arrogant hero who is a Christian? How can we as Christians be prideful of our work enough to tell people they should select ours above all others?

I’d like to know the thoughts of others on this subject, as it is something with which I struggle for my characters of my books and within my own character. My conclusion is to put others first, uphold others, place them at the head of the table, and let God take care of the rest.

Special Announcement! Free Book!

Kristi here and I am very excited to announce that today and tomorrow only (May 15 and 16, 2012), you can get a FREE Inspirational Regency novel!

That’s right, you can own “A Necessary Deception” by our very own Laurie Alice Eakes for free! It’s available as a free eBook on Kindle and Nook. Don’t own a Kindle or Nook? You can get the Kindle app for your PC or smartphone for free! (I just love all this free stuff, don’t you?)

So CLICK HERE to go to Amazon and get your free book. It’s perfect for getting you ready for the next book in the series coming out in October.

CLICK HERE if you want the Nook version.

If you have friends that you want to introduce to the fabulous world of Regency England, this is a great way to do it! Who doesn’t love a free book?

Have you already read “A Necessary Deception”? Get in the comments below and tell everyone how great it is so they’ll go get their own copy. Gotta go now… I’m off to snuggle on my couch and read!

Murder in Parliament

Murder in Parliament sounds like the title of a mystery novel. Sadly, the title is the raw truth. On may 11, 1812, an assassin walked up to the prime minister and shot him. The Right Honorable Spencer Perceval died within minutes of the shooting, and the killer turned himself in moments after that.

The Right Honorable Spencer Perceval courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spencer_Perceval.jpg

Murder is always tragic, and this one made more so for its seeming pointlessness. At first, before details were known, some thought the assassination a French plot. After all, the French seemed to be winning the war. The British weren’t doing well on the continent at any rate. Why not disrupt the government with an assassination? But, no, the killing shot was triggered from the hand of an individual, a subject of Great Britain, John Bellingham.

John Bellingham photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Bellingham_portrait.gif

So why did John Bellingham have special pockets sewn into his coat to hold his pistols concealed? Why did he wait in the lobby of Parliament, wait for Perceval to appear, then walk up and shoot him through the heart?

Many said he was insane, that he must be insane. Others denied this fact, one of those being John Bellingham himself. Another who said he was sane was Sir James Mansfield, the judge who presided over his brief trial and pronounced his immediate sentence.

Bellingham wanted justice. He may or may not have been the John Bellingham who went to sea as a midshipman in the 1780s. That ship went aground after the crew mutinied. He may have been the same John Bellingham who’s tin business in London failed a few years later. No one is quite sure. That he worked in a counting house is certain. He also went to Russia for  importers and exporters, and there is where the real troubles began.

A ship insured by Lloyds of London was lost in the White Sea. Before the merchants could collect on the insurance, Lloyds received an anonymous letter saying the ship had been sabotaged. Suspecting Bellingham was the author of said letter, the owners of the vessel claimed he owed a substantial debt, which landed Bellingham in a Russian prison. A year later, he managed his release, went to St. Petersburg, and dove into more trouble that landed him back into a Russian prison. He was released in 1808, received permission from the czar to leave Russia, and ended up back in England in 1809—to no happy homecoming.

Bellingham petitioned the British government for compensation for his imprisonment in Russia. But nothing was forthcoming. Due to Russia’s relationship with France at the time, the British had broken off diplomatic relations with Russia. At the persuasion of his wife, Bellingham gave up and went to work, but tried again in 1812.

Allegedly, a civil servant at the foreign office told Bellingham he could take whatever measures he thought proper. I expect this clerk thought Bellingham would write letters or even waylay someone like Lord Gower, the British ambassador to Russia at the time of Bellingham’s imprisonment in that country.

Bellingham, however, made other plans. He bought the pistols, had the pockets made, and executed his plan as Perceval strode through the lobby of Parliament.

Assassination photo courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Assassination_of_Spencer_Perceval.jpg

One can dismiss the incident as someone with a grievance taking it out on the highest person he could reach. One might think that people would be appalled by him and call out with joy at his hanging. On the contrary. Much sentiment lay with Bellingham. He had carried out justice and maybe in the future, those in high places would listen when petitioned by a wronged common man.

Indeed, though no one—or perhaps a few far-sighted thinkers of the time—realized that this assassination did change the course of history, that John Bellingham’s actions brought about justice. A different government came into power after Perceval leadership was gone, a government that reenacted much needed reforms that helped the poor.

As for Bellingham’s family. A collection was taken, and his family ended with far more money than they had before his dastardly deed and consequent execution.