Monday, November 28, 2011

Will I ever finish?

I have had this project ongoing for some time now. Years in fact. And I am beginning to wonder if I will ever finish.  I never have that problem with finishing my stories, but this, well it would be a great shame not to finish it now and have it framed, don't you think? (And I have a few more that I would like to tackle too.)

Seeing the NaNoWriMo excitement, I thought I would try to give myself a bit of encouragement.  I am going to post my progress from time to time. Once a month.  Here is a picture of where I am at the moment.

The thing is, it is dreadfully fiddly counted cross stitch and its hard to see if you are making any progress at all.  This is only the top one third of the whole piece.

All of the cross stitch is done, now we are embellishing.

Next, I have to finish the outside border, there is some outlining to be done around the very edge and then that criss cross stuff you can see that stops before it reaches the top, and then there are beads to add. Anyway, by this time next month, I hope to have the outside border completely finished and then I can start on outlining the greenery and finishing off the peacock inside the large picture panel.

It will be interesting to see if this helps motivate me to get this done.  One year. That is what I am aiming for.

More about the Regency next time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daphne Du Maurier

You may recall that my first book with Harlequin, The Rake's Inherited Courtesan,  won the 2010 Daphne, or as the full title explains, the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, Historical Category (Awarded by RWA's Kiss of Death Chapter.)  

Daphne Du Maurier, pictured left as a teen,  wrote suspense novels. Several of her novels have been made into films, including The Birds and Rebecca. The story that interested me most was Jamaica Inn.

  Jamaica Inn,  was almost set in the Regency, 1820 in fact, and it is a romance.  The story is classified as  a gothic romance and tells the tale of a young woman who gets tangled up with a gang of wreckers. (Men who used lanterns to misdirect ships on to the rocks of the Cornish coast, kill the crew and steal the cargo.) The heroine encounters many harrowing adventures.

Jamaica Inn, where she set her story  exists today, and is still a pub, but is also a museum to both the author and the smuggling history of Cornwall.

Last summer we visited Cornwall, and naturally Jamaica Inn was a must see.

As you can imagine, while I was interested in the author and her life, I was more taken with the artifacts and information relating to smuggling which I am going to share with you. here.

The picture on the left known as landing the goods and there is little more to be said.  On the right are tools and weapons used on both sides of the law. For example the pig sticking knife and the wooden farm flail were used by smugglers, since they were not army or navy weapons a man could carry them with impunity.  The swords and cutlasses were carried by excisemen or naval officers. 

Here is an assortment of lanterns, handy for smugglers to carry or signal with.

Down in the right hand corner is something really interesting. It is called a scuffling iron.  Now this is the technical term for what the last man of the train of smugglers used to hide their tracks.  It was a reverse horse shoe, and with one hand he would sweep away the track of the horsed with a tree branch and with the other would stamp the scuffling iron (which was attached to something like a broom handle) into the ground, thereby confusing anyone trying to follow.

Not exactly high tech, and not likely to fool too many people either I think, but who knows?

The Jamaica Inn is on Bodmin Moor, not that close to the sea, so it would have been used as a place to hide contraband, I would think.  And a very lonely place it is too, even today, as you can see from the pictures I took from the parking lot.

There will be more on smuggling another time, but for now, Happy Rambles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy (Continued)

Holiday Contest Reminder

Just a reminder to check back for details, either here or on my website on November 29 when the annual Harlequin Historical Contest begins. There are all kinds of prizes from each author every day, plus a grand prize of a Kindle Fire (where available) and an equivalent where it is not.
I will also be posting on twitter and facebook too.

Back to William Bankes 


The Philae obelisk.

Made of pink granite, the obelisk was first seen by William Bankes in 1815. It arrived in England in 1821, after almost sinking to the bottom of a river in Egypt, and was transported overland to Kingston Lacy on a gun carriage offered by the Duke of Wellington. The foundation stone was laid by the Duke in April 1827.

Can you imagine what your family would say if you brought this sort of souvenir home from your holiday?

As mentioned earlier. William Bankes's travels came to an end  in 1820. He did not inherit Kingston Lacy from his brother Henry until December 1834 and spent the next few years embellishing Soughton in Flintshire, instead writing up the details of his travels, sadly for us, I think.

Once he inherited, he began the task of altering Kingston Lady to suit his own tastes. Personally, I wish he might have left it as it was but that is purely selfish. I would not expect anyone to tell me I couldn't update my house.

Unfortunately, William was forced to leave England in 1841 after a second charge of  "indecently exposing himself with a soldier of the Foot Guards in Green Park". The possible punishments were dreadful at the time and his reputation in society would have been ruined. He jumped bail and fled to Italy. The rest of his life he continued to fit out the interiors of Kingston Lacy with the help of his sister Lady Falmouth.  There is some evidence that he did pay secret visits to the house on which he lavished so much care, but as a fugitive from the law, the family could never openly admit it. I certainly hope he did get to see his home from time to time.

There is more to know about the family and the house, and it is well worth a visit, for the grounds are simply spectacular, but for my purposes, all things 'regency', it is done.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy (Continued)

William Bankes traveled the east en grand seigneur in a noble barge with a cabin, not because he wanted to, but because it was expected. He also visited Lady Hester Stanhope, a fascinating lady who lived on Mount Lebanon.

After his travels he returned to Syria where he carried out clandestine nocturnal excavations with other English gentlemen who were also in the area at the time. He was one of the first Europeans to reach Petra famous for its rock cut architecture  and water conduits system. Imagine being among the first to see a sight like that pictured to the left.

Established sometime around the 6th century BC Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans and is to be found east of the Dead Sea. I must say I am greatly resisting the temptation to delve deeper, but no. This is about William, not Arabia.  He really did have adventures. William went to Petra dressed as a Bedouin Arab.   He also went because he was so skilled in drawing and was to use his talent to capture the sights on paper, there not being any photographs at the time.  But you knew that didn't you.

Next he went up the Nile, leading Henry Salt's flotilla in his fourteen-oared canja among whom were artists and Belzoni,  a hydraulic engineer who had once been a strong man on the stage of Sadler's Wells. Williams plan of the temple at Luxor corrected that of the French antiquary Vivant Denon. He discovered the table of the kings now in the British Museum at Abydos. Amd at Abu Simbel William discovered a Greek inscription at the great temple of Rameses II which helped date the monument, while inside he and his companions copied all the wall paintings by the light of candles standing on ladders (and without their shirts because it was hot, so scandalous it deserves a mention).
After visiting Byron in Venice and then at Ravena where they "buffooned togther very merrily" he returned home in April 1820.  He collected all kinds of things, but never did anything to organize them or document them, nor did he ever write the promised book about his travels.  Too much like hard work, one wonders? He enjoyed the "doing" part. 

This is such a brief summary, of his adventures, it merely give a flavour of what he was up to while he was gaining his reputation as "the Nubian explorer".  My imagination is certainly taking flight.

Back at home he was lionised by society who gobbled up the  stories of his travels.  So much so that he had to be persuaded not to pursue his affair with Lady Buckinham, who wanted him to take her to Africa disguised as a boy, so they could search for the source of the Nile together.  Instead he devoted himself to his British inheritance.  Shades of a romance novel anyone?

We will finish up his story next time.   In the meantime a reminder about the upcoming contest to win a Kindle or a Kindle Fire along with daily prizes, which will be posted here and on my website, so don't forget to check back for the rules of how to enter the contest.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Bankes's of Kingston Lacy

The Bankes family owned Kingston Lacy from around 1636 (at first known as Kingston Hall, the King part relating to its one time ownership by the King and the Lacy part from its medieval ownership by the de Lacys).

The Bankes owned Corfe castle, not far away, which was eventually destroyed by Cromwellian forces and which was returned to the family in the restoration. They of course never lived there again and devoted all their attention to Kingston.

Since the period we are most interested in spans the long regency, I wanted to talk a bit about the two prime figures during that period. Sir Henry Banks, 1757 - 1834 and his son William Banks 1786-1855 who added many interesting artifacts to the house and whose travels and life were exceedingly interesting.

Sir Henry, having undertaken the grand tour, married a wealthy and beautiful woman, undertook major modernization of the house between 1784 and 1791. As mentioned in earlier posts, much of those changes were swept away in the 1830's by his son William, but we have looked at the parts that were in place during the regency.  When the renovations were complete it was celebrated with a ball. Around 140 people danced from nine in the evening, sat down to supper at midnight and danced again until seven in the morning. Entertainment on the grand scale.

William was Sir Henry's second son. From Harrow, he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1804 and became Lord Byron's (yes that Lord Byron) friend for life.

He was one of the leading lights of the 1812 London season, something I must put in a book one of these days. This miniature was completed in that year by George Sandars in this year. During this year, he proposed to Annabella Milbanke, the bluestocking heiress who later married Byron. It was William who gave her his copy of Childe Harold.  She married Byron in 1815.

In the meantime, William followed in Byron and William Beckford's footsteps traveling to Portugal and Spain in 1812 and spending two years there acquiring paintings and living the Bohemian life. He also served as an Aide de Camp to Wellesley (Later the Duke of Wellington) during this time.

He went from there to Egypt and then to Italy in 1814 and back to Egypt in 1815. Kingston Lacy houses one of the sole surviving gentleman's collection from the early days of British Egyptology. More about this to come. Until then Happy Rambles.