Monday, January 30, 2012

Searching for Regency England

All right, so I love castles.  Don't forget that the castles scattering Great Britain today scattered them equally during the Regency. Our lords and ladies saw them then, just as we see them today. Well, perhaps not quite, because work to make them accessible has happened more recently. But they were there.

We found Wardour Castle an English Heritage site in Wilshire quite by chance when we were driving out to one of the great houses. Of course we could not resist taking a peek.

The castle was destroyed during the English civil war and although the Arundells managed to come through it all in the end, in the mid 1700's they built a new castle (really a palladian manor house) and the castle was left to grace the estate as a kind of folly.

The old castle is unique in Britain, having been built as a six sided structure in  the late 14th century, mimicking those the owner, Lord Lovell had seen in France.  So you can see the actual shape of it, I am including an artists impression of how it looked when it was built.

You will not doubt notice the little clump of daisies beneath the sign.

So my interest is in the castle as a ruin, since that is how it would have been for our Regency ladies and gentlemen visiting this part of the country, and who knows, perhaps they stayed with Lord Arundell.  But if you like castles or earlier periods of history, no doubt you will also enjoy looking at the ruins.

Next time we will take a look around the castle and its grounds and a sneak peek at the New Cast5le.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Regency Fashion

January 1812. We are still in the first year of the Regency and here is what the ladies were wearing in January.

Lady’s Monthly Museum
Cabinet of Fashion

A plain muslin dress, made high to fit the bosom with a plaited ruff; the front of the dress confined with coral clasps; earrings and necklace to correspond. Hungarian mantle, with double capes, trimmed with white swansdown, and fixed at the throat with cord and tassels. A small eastern turban, the same colour as the mantle, with white feathers; buff gloves and shoes.

I really like the modesty of this first gown. It has an elegance about it that appeals to me. And the ruff is very Elizabethan/Tudor. Note the hairstyle. She is sporting one, which always appeals to me, the long tress or curl coming over one shoulder.

The second figure is:

A riding dress of fine Georgian cloth, of a green colour, ornamented with frogs militarie in front and finished at the pocket holes with the same. Hat of green velvet, trimmed with white fur. Buff boots and gloves.

Pocket holes, an interesting way to describe them. I always like the idea of military styled riding dresses for ladies, but this view shows the train to perfection. This would ensure the lady's legs are well covered once she is sideways on the horse. I don't know what Georgian cloth is, do you?

So here we see what the ladies were wearing as we approach the end of the first year of the Regency.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Monday, January 23, 2012

What did Happen During the Regency?

Continuing  snippets of the news two hundred years ago to celebrate and 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Regency era.

  • May 22: - several peoplewere  killed by a house falling at Seven Dials.  
    • This was in one of the poorest and most notorious regions of London in the Parish of St Giles where one also found the worst of the rookeries.  A dangerous place for any Regency buck or miss to wander at any time of the day, but even worse for those that lived there. 
    • Near to Covent Garden, it was called Seven Dials because of the way the streets and alleys come together in one intersection which originally had a sundial in the centre. The first plan in 1690  was for six  streets, but the developer Thomas Neale who planned this to be a smart end of town with large fronted shops, added a seventh in the final plans in order to increase his income from rents.  It never achieved its potential. After his death, the houses were subdivided and quickly became slums, renowned for  gin shops. At times, the area threatened to descend into the undesirable depravity of the St Giles "Rookery" to the north, but it was predominantly a working neighbourhood, with woodcarvers, straw-hat manufacturers, pork butchers, watch repairers, booksellers, pubs and breweries.
    • At one point each of the seven apexes facing the Monument housed a pub, their cellars and vaults connected in the basement providing handy escape routes should the need arise.These days it is very different. It has boutique style shops and a new sense of community. Over 25% of its buildings are "listed" (protected) and many date back to the 1690's. Clearly not the one that fell on these poor people.
  • June14: -The proceedings of the House of Commons state the number of French prisoners in England to be near 50,000.
  • Aug. 21: - A comet made its appearance above the horizon. The Great Comet of 1811.  It is estimated that this comet comes around once every three thousand plus years, so I won't be around to see it the next time. The drawing is by William Henry Smyth in 1811.
  • Sep.11: - Discovery made at the Queen's house that her majesty's court dress had been stolen. Really, how bad is that?
  • November unrest: -- Bands of men appear wearing masks and armed with muskets, pistols and hatchets and break into the small hosiery workshops scattered thoughout country villages. Hammermen carrying hung heavy iron sledgehammers smashed open the doors of the workshops and beat at the wide stocking frames until they are destroyed. E.g. Nov 4 6 frames broken at the village of Bulwell on November 4, a dozen at Kimberley a few nights later. November 13 70 frames smashed in a single attack at Sutton-in-Ashfield. Claimed allegiance to “General Ludd”. Magistrates cannot police the rural jurisdictions. A military force, a squadron of dragoons, the Mansfield Volunteers, two troops of Yeomanry were ineffective.
That is it for now, I hope you enjoyed this peek of life in the first year of the Regency. Until next time Happy Rambles.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What No Pirates?

Apparently there are, since they stole my blog post before it was done. Apologies for the double post.
Behind the Book
Let me start by saying, I've always had a soft spot for pirates. I know lots of people don't and that's fine. But I loved Treasure Island as a child. Definitely had a soft spot for Long John Silver, such a great villain. And what's not to love about Johnny Depp. Oh there were others before him too, including a moving with Gina Davis that I really liked.
 HMS Kent battles a French Privateer c. 1800 (from Wikipedia)

Anyway, you can imagine my disappointment when research revealed that by the Regency, the Golden Age of pirating was done.  I mean there were pirates, in the China sea and off North Africa, but they weren't quite right dashing around off the coast of Britain and popping up in the English countryside. But I wanted to write a pirate story, I whined.

But there were privateers.

Privateers were men who owned and or captained ships and fought for their country, but not in uniform. Needless to say it was a profitable if dangerous occupation, since they got to keep their prize as long as it was deemed legitimate under their Leter of Marque. Privateering had gone on since at least the 16th century, inded it had been greatly encouraged before their were navies as we know them today, and was  still legal up until around 1856.

So how did privateering work? Governments would issue A Letter of  Marque to a ship owner. They were given permission to capture ships of the enemy, usually within a certain area, if they had reason to suspect the ship was aiding the enemy's war effort, such as carrying arms or soldiers, or supplies. Which pretty well seems to cover all possibilities.

They were a bit like sea going mercenaries I supposed and were originally called Private Men of War (shortened to privateer). They had to be careful, because governments could revoke the licence just as quickly as it was handed out, or make unexpected peace with the enemy, which left the privateer left footed if they didn't know.  If they operated without their license, they were considered pirates. Quite often an enemy would consider them a pirate, even if they did have their government's license.

If a privateer was caught by the enemies navy, the seamen were usually given the option of join the opposing navy as a sailor or be treated as a prisoner of war. A rather horrid fate.

Privateers did a great deal of damage to the opposing side and many of them came home rich.  Their pay was based on the prize system.

What sounds like a pirate, acts like a pirate, but isn't a pirate?  Why, a Regency Privateer. So I got to write my pirate story after all. and Captured for the Captain's Pleasure is it. This book is set right at the end of the war of 1812-1814 and my hero has actually been working under an American licence.

One of these day I might get to write one about a real pirate. It just won't be a Regency story.

Until Next Time, Happy Rambles

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year

I had planned to write long before this, but after New Year I came down with a horrible cold that seized my brain. But I am back now and raring to go.

Captured for the Captain's Pleasure is in stores now and to celebrate I am going to give you a little excerpt that you won't find elsewhere.  Enjoy with my compliments.

“Drink your wine, Miss Fulton.” He gestured at her glass. “Come a toast.”
To humour him, she picked up her glass.
“To success,” he said.
“Yours or mine?”
“Mine.” He drank deeply. He seemed lost in his thoughts.
The skin on her scalp tightened the way it did before a lightning storm. Somehow she had to end this tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte on a friendly note.
She picked up her glass and carried it to the window. Her legs felt rubbery, like the first moments on land after a long voyage. Unfortunately, this voyage would continue and a storm loomed on the horizon.
She gazed out into the dark, breathing in the warm salt air. “Thank you for a pleasant evening.”
As quiet as a cat he appeared behind her, his face reflected in the glass over her shoulder, his lips curved in a sweet almost boyish smile. A trick of the light, no doubt, but the memory of those firm demanding lips on hers, his hard body pressed against her, fired off a storm of heat. A demented blush from head to toe. Thankfully, hidden in the dark reflection.
“You were right about me,” he said, his voice low, his body warm at her back. “Once, I also had all the advantages of wealth and position.”
She resisted the urge to sympathize despite the sorrow in his voice. “Did you lose your money in one of London’s hells? Is that why you prey on ships? Stealing what you lost?”
His reflected gaze skewered her like a blade. “I will never replace what I lost.”
The depth of pain in those words swept across her skin like the sand of a desert storm. “You lost the family estate? It happens all the time. Fortunes won and lost in a night.” Men who committed suicide in the cold light of the following day.
At least Father preferred the comfort of brandy. She shuddered.
The silence stretched taut and painful. The urge to fill it, to pretend thing were normal brought words to her lips. “What will you do when the war is over? When there are no more letters marque? No more ships to be taken. What are your plans for peace?”
The long exhale of breath, a sigh of longing he probably wasn’t aware of. “I plan to return to England. I have unfinished business there.”
“You think you will be welcome?”
“I think you have lied to me all evening, Miss Fulton.
  © Michele Ann Young

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Until Next Time, Happy Rambles