Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine's Day, the History

By sweet historical romance author, Donna Hatch

A re-post, but this is as timely today as it was 6 years ago :-)

As a romance author and hopeless romantic, I cannot possibly ignore Valentine’s Day. I admit, until I started researching the topic, I really didn't know the real history behind Valentine’s day except it was to honor a Christian named Valentine who was martyred for marrying people in secret. Which really didn't make sense to me. Was he martyred because he was Christian? Or because he was marrying people? To my surprise, I found the answer to be a bit of both. Maybe. Although no one really sure who, exactly the famous Valentine actually was. And much is couched in myth and speculation. However, here's some fun history, sprinkled liberally with legend.

This much appears to be factual: In Rome 270 C.E. the Emperor Claudius II put out an edict saying no man could marry. Ever.


Talk about a stupid law!!!! No marriage? At all? And sex outside of marriage was considered to "prostitution" which was illegal. Talk about a bunch of unhappy people. And how were children to be brought into the world? Did he think it was okay for his entire country to become extinct in a single generation? Clearly, this brainless emperor didn’t think that one through.

But he apparently did have a reason for it. He felt that marriage made men "soft" and therefore unreliable soldiers. Men wouldn’t want to leave his wife and child AND die for his country, and because Emperor Claudius needed a massive army to maintain his vast empire. So, he outlawed marriage. Clearly he wasn't worried about becoming unpopular with his crazy law nor having a country peopled with soldiers for his posterity.

Into this confusing chaos steps Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna, who invited all young lovers to come secretly marry and, in turn, converted quite a few people to Christianity. Clearly this man was intelligent – much smarter than the Emperor because while getting his way of converting people to Christianity, he also saw to the needs of disgruntled lovers. Aw, isn’t that sweet?

Or it might have been a ploy to convert heathens. Either way, the Emperor inevitably found out, and had Valentine arrested.

The odd thing is, Valentine may not have been condemned for going against the Emperor's edict. Some accounts suggest it was because he refused to renounce Christianity and convert to Roman ways AND even attempted to convert the Emperor to Christianity. Talk about pluck! According to legend, while Valentine was awaiting execution, he befriended a girl who was the blind daughter of the jailer. While in jail, Valentine restored her eyesight through his faith. Some people believe he fell in love with her. Then he supposedly wrote her a farewell letter on the day that he was stoned (or beaten, according to some sources) and then beheaded. Another account reports he simply died in prison, probably of typhus, or gaol (jail) fever. At any rate, Valentine reportedly signed his love letter, "FROM YOUR VALENTINE."

We have been using his name, and even that phrase, ever since.

Also, there appears to have been anywhere from three to seven men who bore that name and were martyred, or died while in service to the church. Apparently one helped a number of Christians escape prison where they were being beaten and tortured. This Valentine was caught and executed. Another Valentine was a missionary in Africa, but little is known about him. Or, it’s possible, they were all the same men, but accounts of his death have been muddied. However, we do know that Valentinus, or Valentine, was a very common Roman name.

Though the marrying Valentine was executed on February 24, (according to some sources, anyway) 270, the Christian church chose to honor him and all the Valentines – who all supposedly died on or near February 14 – on February 14th because they wanted to replace a Roman rite of passage to the God of Lupercus. Part of the festival included men running around and slapping young women with a strap dipped in blood with the idea it was supposed to make them fertile. Another practice in that festival involved putting the names of virgins in a box (I wonder if they were willing or unwilling?) and drawn by not so virginal men (ARE there any virginal men?) in a lottery. Whichever girl was drawn was then assigned to "pleasure" the lucky man until the next lottery, which was a year later. (poor girl!!!) Sounds like a premise for a book, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the church was appalled by this pagan holiday (I don't blame them) so they chose to substitute it with a close second. Well, okay, maybe by the men’s standards it wasn’t such a close substitute. But Valentine’s Day appealed to the love aspect of the ritual instead of sex. I’m sorta surprised the men went for it, men being what they are. But I guess pleasing his wife, or the girl whom he hopes will be his wife someday, in the hopes he’ll get lucky (ahem) was the best substitute a good Christian man could hope for.

So, happy Valentine's day! And be grateful we aren't Roman!!!

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Few Favorites

I've found that almost any Regency writer--or reader--is fascinated by the Regency. This means all things to do with the early 1800's. These are a few of my favorite refrences:

Titles and Forms of Address, A&C Black Ltd. -- Because a small, handy guide is very handy.

The English Year, Roy Strong and Julia Trevelyan Oman -- A terrific book to sort out the seasons.

London-World City 1800-1810, Celina Fox -- tThis one is expensive but the images are great.

The Prince of Pleasure, J.B. Priestley - Not only a great boo but wonderful writing.

The Best Circles: Society, Etiquette and the Season, Leonore Davidoff -- An underrated gem.

London’s Pleasures: From Restoration to Regency, David Kerr Cameron -- It really does help to know where Regency pleasures came from.
Shops & Shopping, Allison Aldberg -- Because I love shopping.

The A to Z of Regency London, Harry Margary -- You can't have too many maps.

A Country House Companion, Mark Girouard -- Great photos and information.

Miss Weeton, Journal of A Governess, 1811-1835 -- Source material is always the best.

The Family, Sex and Marriage: In England 1500 - 1900, Lawrence Stone -- Stone makes it all clear.

Road to Divorce, Lawrence Stone
Marriage, Debt, and the Estates System, English Landownership, 1650-1950, Sir John Habakkuk -- It really does help to know this stuff.

The History of Underclothes, Willet and Cunnington -- Makes the undressing and dressing scenes easier to write.

A New System of Domestic Cookery for Private Families, by a Lady (Mrs. Rundell) -- It's not just about the cooking.

Food in History, Reay Tannahil -- A wonderful history of food, and oh, those meals!

Sporting Art: 1700 – 1900, Stella Walker -- Art books can be great sources of inspiration.
The Celebrated Captain Barclay: Sport, Gambling and Adventure in Regency Times, Peter Radford

The School of Fenching With a General Explanation, Henry Angelo -- This is probably more technical than most folks want, but if you're going to do a fencing scene, do it right.

Hell and Hazard, Henry Blyth -- Everything you need to know about gambling.

The Duel: A History, Robert Baldick -- Lots of great stories.

Fox Hunting, Jane Ridley -- Very well written.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Firearms, Ian V. Hogg  -- I love illustrated books.

The Purchase System in the British Army, 1660-1871, Anthony Bruce -- Terrific information.

Horse and Carriage; The Pageant of Hyde Park, J.N.P. Watson -- Great images.
Side saddle Riding, Betty Skelton -- It's not as difficult as most folks seem to think.

Mind of the Horse, Henry Blake -- If you have horses in your books, read this book first.
Horse & Carriage, J.N.P. Watson -- An excellent resource for anyone who loves horses.

The Elegant Carriage, Marilyn Watney -- A charming, lovely little book.
A More Expeditious Conveyance; The Story of the Royal Mail Coaches, Bevan Rider -- Great information on coaches and the coaching roads.

Cary's New Itinerary Great Roads (yearly editions), John Cary -- Maps, details, and even traveling descriptions. A book beyond value!

Friday, January 29, 2016

London's Historic Pubs, Part I

©Cheryl Bolen
Our whole family has a love affair with London, and since our sons have grown we've spent a lot of our time in its pubs.

Though my boys are far more discerning over their beer, bitters, ale, and stout (I may not have all that right because I'm not all that discerning about such) I, on the other hand, am more discerning about history. I love historical pubs.

In London, you can find a pub (this name a shortening of public house) on every block, but it's much harder to find a historic pub in the world's most urbane, international city. Nowadays, many pubs have morphed into wine bars. Others have eschewed traditional "pub grub" like shepherd's pie for appetizers like . . . can you believe nachos? And many have gone Zen with their decor. We prefer dark with rich old wood bars. We love to get fish and chips and kidney and shepherd's pies. If there's a fireplace, so much the better. My last consideration is "associations." What historical figures  are associated with the pub?

The oldest pubs typically are in the oldest parts of London, around The City and the boroughs immediately surrounding it. (There are 32 boroughs in this vast city.) Most of the really old pubs will have low ceilings and often are housed in several smaller rooms.

Here's a list of historical pubs we have sampled. It is not complete because we will continue adding to it with each new trip.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
One of the first historical pubs we ever checked out was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (rebuilt in 1667) in The City. Though there's a sign for it on Fleet Street, customers enter through a "close," which is a narrow pedestrian street, off of Fleet.
My husband and son beneath Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese sign.

Many decades ago my high school English teacher showed us slides from her 1950s trip to London. I remembered two things about those slides more than 20 years later when I took my first trip to England. I recalled all the post-war rubble of bombed buildings—and the name of an old pub where Samuel Johnson and many other literati had imbibed, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Now, no trip to London is complete for us without a swing by the quaint, dark warren of rooms. We prefer the tiny front one with its own fireplace. We loved being there on weekdays and seeing all the bankers and journalists coming off Fleet Street in their suits for an after-work pint. Sadly, in recent years, it's been discovered by tourists, and those British accents are becoming rare.

Spaniard's Inn
My sons at Spaniard's Inn
The second must-visit pub for us each trip is the Spaniards Inn, which we first discovered on a 1996 trip, though it's been in picturesque Hampstead alongside the Hampstead Heath since 1585. Hampstead is about four miles north of Charring Cross. The pub/inn is located by a tiny 400-year old toll house that's no longer in use. A lot of history is associated with this inn. Famed highwayman Dick Turpin (1707-1739) was said to have been a regular, and poets John Keats and Lord Byron were frequent guests. It's said Keats, who lived nearby, wrote Ode to a Nightingale in the inn's garden's.

I prefer the interior's low-ceilinged nest of rooms, some with cozy high-back benches of old oak. If there's no rain and even a hint of sunshine, Londoners, on the other hand, will opt to eat and drink in the large garden, part of which is arbored. 

Unlike Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, this has not been overrun by tourists. It is very popular with locals from the posh surrounding neighborhoods of Hampstead and Highgate, and its parking lot (a rarity for a London pub) is filled with Range Rovers and BMWs.  

The George Inn
Photos by Cheryl Bolen

Just as atmospheric as the first two, The George is London's last remaining galleried inn. It is the only one on our current list located south of the River Thames, in Southwark. Just steps from the Tower Bridge underground station and a minute's walk from the river, The George is still entered the same way as coaches and horses entered when the inn was rebuilt in 1676. The former inn yard now offers ample outdoor seating.

Though the National Trust bought the inn to preserve it, it's no museum. It's a popular hangout for food and drink, and the interiors are authentic English pub. Like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The George is composed of many small rooms that offer that unique coziness that promotes good conversation and good times. It was visited by Charles Dickens and mentioned in his Little Dorrit.

Cittie of Yorke
Bolen Boys at Cittie of Yorke
Though there's been a pub on this site since 1430, the current one is decidedly Victorian though it only dates to the 1920s. It's located in High Holborn not far from the Chancery Lane underground station. It was formerly known as Henneky's Long Bar and was the subject of a Dylan Thomas ode.

Though it's a vast departure from the low-ceilinged labyrinths of some of our favorite old pubs, this is a must-see. There's a cozy front room, but the heart and soul of this wonderful pub is its high-ceilinged main room with the famed long bar. Something about it—perhaps its high clerestory windows—reminded me of the big hall in the Augustinian Brewery in Salzburg. There is plenty of dark wood here to add the patina of age.
Enjoying a pint (or half pint) in one of the quaint cubicles at Cittie of Yorke.
The pride of place at the Cittie of Yorke are the Victorian-style oak cubicles that line either side of this large, wood-floored chamber. We had to wait to claim one, but it was well worth it. An added plus is the pub's endorsement by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Part II, Next Blog
Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, High Holborn/Chancery Lane
Red Lion in Westminster
The Cross Keys in Covent Garden
The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden
The Old Bell Tavern in the City
Cheryl Bolen's third Brazen Brides book, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, releases this spring.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Carriages and Coaches in Regency England

People in Regency England depended heavily upon horseback and carriage to get around. Many of them traveled extensively from their country homes to London for the Season, which was both a social and political time of year while the House of Lords was in session. Many roads were terrible, and weather and highwaymen made travel uncomfortable as well as dangerous. To accommodate the Regency gentry or nobility, the styles, paint design and features of carriages were as varied as today’s automobiles, and many were also custom-made. Nobility had their family coat of arms painted on the side of their family coach. Image, status, and money, as well as personal taste, were all factors in choosing a carriage. A reader may come across a number of different names for conveyances. Unless one is willing to do research, these names may mean nothing. So, to help you visualize types of vehicles in historical novels, here are some more commonly used types:

Barouche (pictured): a very expensive and large four-passenger carriage pulled by four horses. Its folding hood could be raised but it only covered two of the passengers. This was viewed as a status symbol to own and provided a stylish way to be seen showing off wealth and clothing. It also allowed for unimpeded views, so they were ideal for sight-seeing.

Curricle(pictured) a vehicle meant for two horses, it was small and only had two wheels. Its hood folded down, like a convertible. Lightweight and very fast, it was a favorite of young men who wished to show off driving skills and a perfectly matched team. Thrill-seekers often used it in racing, but it tipped over easily, so it was dangerous, hence the challenge and allure.

Dog cart: named so because owners often used it for taking fox hounds to a hunt. It had a seat in front for one driver, and a seat facing the rear of the carriage that could fold down for two passengers. Originally named a dog cart due to the ventilated box under the seat to keep hunting dogs when they drove to the fox hunt, this box also created an ideal place to stow cargo. There were both two- and four-wheeled versions. Another vehicle called a dog cart was a small four-wheeled cart pulled by dogs, generally to transport containers of milk or other cargo.

Family coach: a closed carriage that comfortably seated four passengers. The driver sat up front, way up high. It had windows, curtains, lanterns and usually storage compartments for refreshments and supplies. They also normally featured small desks for writing the many extensive letters Regency people were so mad about sending and receiving.

Gig: much like the dog cart, often popular with country doctors, is a two-wheeled vehicle with a seat wide enough for one or two people.

Governess cart: also called a “jaunting cart,” sometimes driven by ladies but most often by children. It was small and light, and pulled by one pony or donkey.
Hackney Coach 1800 @wikimedia commons

Hackney (pictured): like the modern day taxi cab, these could be carriages of any kind, but typically those that were closed, and driven by the cab driver, called a jarvey. They were most often used in London. One could hail them from the street, or go to a hackney stand where the jarveys hung out until they found a paying passenger.

Hansom: a two-wheeled carriage used as a cab. Most sources date its usage beginning with the Victorian Era. If this is true, it would not have been around during the Regency.

Landau (pictured): an open carriage with folding hoods that could be raised to protect the passengers. Like the Barouche, it was ideal when one wanted to see and be seen. It, too, had a driver up front and was pulled by four horses. Cinderella's carriage reminds me of a Landau.

Phaeton(pictured): a smaller two-seater used by owners who drove themselves. It had a roof, but the front and sides were open, although some pictures show it as having a folding hood. The front two wheels were smaller than the back wheels. Often the seat was very high, so much so that one required a ladder to reach it. It was also often referred to as the high-perch phaeton. It was considered stylish and rakish.

Post Chaise: technically any carriage that could be hired out  by someone who wished to travel privately and not with a group of strangers such as a stage coach or mail coach. By the Regency it was usually  small, chariot-style carriage which could be pulled by two or four horses, (but usually four) often painted yellow, and had one seat, which seated two. It also had an outside, rear facing seat for servants and a platform in front for luggage. The driver, called a postilion, rode on the backs of the left lead horse instead of on a bench on the carriage.
There were also stage coaches and mail coaches, which were public transportation for the person who didn’t mind (or were forced by the size of their purse) to travel with other passengers. They followed select routes and stopped at inns for food and for changing out the team of horses. The mail coach was the cheapest way to travel, and the most uncomfortable because its primary function was to carry mail rather than passengers. Sometimes, passengers were obliged to ride on top, and there are stories of that proving a fatal way to travel.

Traveling in Regency England was so difficult and dangerous, I'm honestly surprised people did it at all. But I suppose our ancestors will look back at us and how many car accidents and traffic jams occur in our era, and will wonder the same about us. It all boils down to a need to get somewhere, and the means at one's disposal for getting there.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Fancy

"One of the fancy, but not a fancy man...”  That was how Pierce Egan described his hero in Life in London; or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq., and his elegant friend, Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their Rambles and Sprees through the Metropolis.
Egan's Tom and Jerry appeared in 1821.  Prior to this, Egan wrote for various newspapers boxing and horse racing events in England, and published Boxiana; or Sketches of Modern Pugilism as a serial put out between 1811 and 1813. As shown in Life in London, no gentleman could consider him a sporting man if he could not box. Egan defined "the Fancy" in his Boxiana as: " simply means, any person is fond of a particular amusement, or closely attached to some subject."
In this case, to boxing.
Fist fighting had begun to replace sword or cudgel sports during George I’s reign.  Though it was illegal--for fights often became drunken brawls--betting made it enough of an attraction to draw nobility as well as common folks.  The first official champion of England was James Figg, who was also an expert swordsman and who later opened a School of Arms (called either Figg's Academy or Figg's Amphitheater).
Promoting "the nationality" of boxing, Egan even reported in Boxiana of female pugilism, quoting from a newspaper advertisement of 1722 which held a challenge from Elizabeth Wilkinson of Clerkenwell to Hannah Hyfield of Newgate Market to "box me for three guineas" and stating that "she may expect a good thumping!"
The science of boxing is generally attributed to Jack Broughton, champion of England from 1734 to 1750. Called “the father of British pugilism” Broughton drafted the rules that were used before and during the Regency.  (It was not until 1866 that the Queensberry Rules were developed by the Eighth Marquis of Queensberry and John G. Chambers.) Broughton also invented the “mufflers” or boxing gloves that were used for practice since all prize-fights were fought with bare fists. 
Broughton’s rules outlawed hitting below the belt, striking an opponent who was down (which included being on his knees). Wrestling holds were allowed only above the waist. Every fighter had a gentleman to act as umpire, with a third to referee disagreements. When a fighter was knocked down, he had 30 seconds to get up—or have help getting up—and then he had to be placed at the corner of a 3-foot square that was drawn in the center of the ring.
Egan reports that boxing was so popular in 1791 that the champion Dan Mendoza "was induced to open a the small theater at the Lyceum, in the Strand, for the express purpose of public exhibitions of sparring."
Many retiring champion boxers found more money to be had in sparring, or if they had business sense, in opening schools, as had Broughton and Figg. During the Regency, the most famous of boxing schools was opened John Jackson, who retired after winning the championship in a hard-fought match with Daniel Mendoza. Jackson opened the Bond Street School of Arms at Number 13, next door to his friend and fencing instructor Henry Angleo, who urged his students to alternate with lessons from Jackson—which made sense for Jackson advocated footwork and the science of targeting a hit.
Everyone went to Jackson’s, even Lord Byron, the lame poet. When tasked with keeping such low company Byron insisted that Jackson’s manners were “infinitely superior to those of the fellows of the college whom I meet at the high table.”
Egan wrote of Jackson in Boxiana, "In the pugilistic hemisphere, Jackson has long been viewed as a fixed star...To Nature he is indebted or an uncommonly fine person; his symmetry of form is attractive in the extreme, and he is considered one of the best-made men in the kingdom..."
Other boxing champions of the Regency era included: Jack Bartholomew, champion from 1797 to 1800.
Jem Belcher who often wore a blue scarf marked with white spots and blue centers around his neck, which became known as the Belcher neckcloth, and soon sporting mad young bucks were wearing any scarf of garish color with spots. “Hen” Pearce, “The Game Chicken,” who held the title from 1803 to 1806 when he retired. John Gully who won the championship in 1807 and retired in 1808 to open a racing stable. And Tom Cribb became the champion in 1808, winning a famous bout against African-American Tom Molineaux on December 18, 1810. Cribb went on to hold the champion title until 1822. (As an interesting footnote, Tom’s less famous brother, George had about five fights, and lost all of them.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Brief History of Clarence House

©By Cheryl Bolen

 Upon the 2002 death of his grandmother, the Queen Mother Elizabeth, Prince Charles moved into a newly remodeled Clarence House on London's Mall near Buckingham Palace and adjacent to Britain's most senior royal palace, St. James Palace, which dates to the 1500s. His son William lived at Clarence House until his marriage in 2011, and Prince Harry until 2012.
London's Clarence House

Clarence House has been a British royal residence since it was commissioned by the Duke of Clarence in 1827, three years before he became King William IV upon the death of his brother, George IV. The gracious white stucco structure was built by John Nash, a favorite architect of the Duke of Clarence's Regent brother. William IV preferred the four-storey house to the official royal palace of St. James. Upon his death, he passed it to one of his sisters, who enjoyed it the last three years of her life.

Queen Victoria then offered the house to her mother and following that to a succession of her many children.

The building was bombed during World War II and after repairs, housed the present queen before her ascension in 1953. Her daughter, Princess Anne, was born there in 1950. Upon the death of the queen's father, George VI, she swapped residences with her mother. Her maiden sister Margaret also moved to Clarence House before taking apartments at Kensington Palace, another of the royal residences in London.
The late queen mother lived there for half a century, edging out for longevity two of Victoria's sons, each of whom lived there for more than 40 years, non consecutively. It will be a very long time before any royal can ever exceed the number of years that centenarian resided at Clarence House.--Cheryl Bolen's passionate Regency-set novel, One Golden Ring, re-released in December after being out of print for many years. It won the Holt Medallion for Best Historical of 2005. Eloisa James wrote of it, "Who can resist a marriage of convenience between a couple who have nothing in common—but passion!"