Celebrating the Release of “Christmas Ever After” Anthology + a Giveaway

42793551_1807249935990583_8392144785309171712_n.jpgToday, Christmas Ever After will be available from Dreamstone Publishing. It is an anthology of Regency Christmas novellas from Victoria Hinshaw, Regina Jeffers, Emma Kaye, Cora Lee, Alanna Lucas, Janis Susan May, Arietta Richmond, and Becca St. John. Four of the stories on the anthology are “sweet” and four are mildly “sensual.” 

My contribution to this project is a lovely story entitled “Letters from Home.” I rarely toot my own horn, but I dearly love this piece, for it has a bit of angst, some light-hearted moments, and a very satisfying happily ever after.

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It also features a unique Yorkshire Christmas tradition. “The Devil’s Knell” is a Dewsbury tradition based on a tale from the 1400s. Supposedly, in 1434, a knight/landowner called Black Tom de Soothill became very angry when learning a servant boy did not attend Church, so angry that the knight threw the lad into a pond, where he drowned. To atone for his sin of murder, the knight donated a tenor bell to the church and requested it be rung each Christmas Eve. The bell would toll for each year that has passed since the birth of Christ. The ringing signifies the forgiveness of sins. “The tenor bell which was donated by the murderer was known as Black Tom. The bell was featured on a 31p stamp, part of a set issued by the British Post Office in 1986 — Traditions of England. The inscription on the bell reads ‘I shall be there, if treated just, when they are smouldering in the dust.’ The Bell Tower at Dewsbury Minister now has an octave of eight bells. They were recast in 1875 and rehung in 1964.” [Yorkshire Post]

Other versions of the tradition’s origin say the bells are rung because the Devil died when Jesus was born.

Originally, one of the unique things about the bell was how the ringing was timed to be completed within a 24 hour period. Nowadays, they start before midnight and end after midnight the following day, for they must be rung over 2000, but not so in my tale. I took some dramatic liberties with the ringing of the bells in my story, for I have three churches, in close proximity, each in turn, ringing a bell spaced equally apart to complete cycle. My story takes place in December of 1815, after the Battle of Waterloo and the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The belsl will, therefore, ring 1815 times.

Blurb: She is the woman whose letters to another man kept Simon alive during the war. He is the English officer her late Scottish husband praised as being “incomparable.” Can Major Lord Simon Lanford, 11th Earl of Clarendon, claim Mrs. Faith Lamont, a woman serving as a companion to her younger cousin, as his wife or will his rise to the earldom and his family’s expectations keep them apart? It is Christmas, and Simon prays for a miracle because in his heart he recognizes neither of them are as expendable as their families believe.

MDP eBook Cover This excerpt from chapter 5 of “Letters from Home” demonstrates how the Dewsbury tradition plays out in my tale.

When Simon returned to the drawing room, he joined in the planned parlor games and conversation and the lighting of the yule log at midnight, and through all the activities, like all in attendance, he ignored Mrs. Lamont. Not that he could truly ignore her, but he gave the impression of indifference because he knew such was the lady’s request.

However, his opportunity to speak to her again came at midnight through a gift of the village churches. “Ah, the bells have begun,” Lady Harvey-Patterson sang out from her place before the fire. “It is Christmas Day at last. Time for an old woman to seek her bed.”

“What bells?” Sir Boling inquired. “I heard no bells.”

“There are bells,” Simon assured. “Mr. Wickersham, might I implore you to open the windows.”

“Certainly, Clarendon.” Wickersham rushed to do Simon’s bidding.

“It is too cold to open the windows,” Miss DeLong complained.

“We will close them again momentarily,” Simon said with a twist of his lips in amusement. “Gather around and listen.”

As the various couples and chaperones made their way to the open windows, a bell rang out in the distance.

“I hear one,” Lady Sophia said in excitement. “But where are the others? Is there to be just one?”

“It is called ‘The Devil’s Knell,’ and the bells have chimed as such for some four hundred years.”

His guests gathered closer together before the windows while Simon explained, “The parish churches’ bells will toll once for every year that has passed since the birth in the sacred manger.”

“This is 1815,” Miss Mitchell declared in awe.

“Yes,” Simon continued. “The bells will chime one thousand eight hundred and fifteen times. There are three churches participating.”

“When will they end?” Lord Seton inquired.

“At midnight Christmas Day,” Wickersham explained. “I’ve experienced the tradition previously while staying at Clarence Hall. One time the previous Lord Clarendon and some of the others in attendance rode into the village to have a closer listen. It is quite remarkable. The locals time the bells so the last one is rung exactly at midnight on Christmas Day.”

“Twenty-four hours. I would go mad if I lived within the village,” Miss DeLong complained in her spoiled manner.

Wickersham ignored her. Instead he said, “Wait until you hear Mr. Eggleston’s service tomorrow. He times his points so the bells do not drown out his words. Quite remarkable to observe.”

“There is another,” Mr. Mitchell called. “Someone should time them. Fetch the mantel clock, Wickersham.”

As Wickersham followed the gentleman’s suggestion, Simon motioned those waiting behind him, including Mrs. Lamont, forward. When she joined the others before the window, he drifted in her direction as he shared, “The sound of the bells is meant to remind Satan that Christmas marks the end of the Devil’s reign on earth.”

“How long between each bell’s chiming?” Lord Seton asked. “It cannot be the same each year.”

“With the passing of a new year,” his aunt observed, “the chimes grow closer together. Fortunately, at Clarence Hall we cannot hear them clearly unless the conditions are right, and we can barely hear the ones from the church on the road to Leeds.”

Simon thought Aunt Josephine sounded very much of Miss DeLong’s nature, where he had always found the idea of the bells magical. When he was a child, he and his mother would sit up late, wrapped in blankets, and listen to the bells while the rest of the household slept. It was one of his fondest memories, one he would endeavor to replicate with his children.

“How far apart are they?” Seton reiterated.

Wickersham studied the clock. “Everyone remain quiet so we can listen carefully.

With the tone of the next bell, all in attendance held their collective breaths as the clock ticked away the seconds. Meanwhile Simon nestled behind Mrs. Lamont. He noticed how she silently counted the seconds. At forty-eight, another bell rang. By mutual consent, in whispered tones, the group began to count to forty-eight again. The third bell was fainter, but still discernible on the cold night air. Again, the count began.

Carefully, Simon nudged Mrs. Lamont’s hand with his note. For a few of the counted seconds, he thought she would refuse him, but, at length, her fingers wrapped around the paper, and it disappeared under her shawl and into the sleeve of her opposing hand, just as his guests shouted, “Forty-eight!” and broke into laughter.

Simon seized the moment, “Meet me in the library once the house has settled in,” he whispered in her ear as he pushed his way into the middle of those enjoying the tradition of the bells. “Enough counting,” he said in good-natured amusement. “If we do not lock up the windows, the drawing room will be covered in ice.” He looked upon his guests. “Thank you for embracing our Yorkshire traditions with such enthusiasm. I appreciate good company, and Lady Plankston has gathered some of the best here this evening. You are welcome to stay longer and enjoy the yule log, but I must claim my bed. Unfortunately, the French left me a fairing no man would want unless he was an old soldier, and such wounds marked his devoted service to the King. I must attend to my leg before I am too crippled to join you tomorrow for Christmas services and supper. Therefore, I bid you a good evening.”

As he walked from the room, Simon prayed Mrs. Lamont would take pity on him and come to the library. If not, he would find another means to spend time with the lady. She would soon learn how loneliness was a sign changes are required in one’s life.

Other Stories/Articles on Dewsbury’s “Devil’s Knell.”

The Devil’s Knell, West Yorkshire

Dewsbury Tolling the Devil’s Knell

York Minster Bells’ First Christmas Day Silence for 600 Years

GIVEAWAY: I have three eBook copies of Christmas Ever After for those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EST, Monday, October 22.

51fMvwZXGZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_   You can also purchase a PRINT copy of Beautified by Love, which includes two Christmas novellas: “Letters from Home” and “Lady Joy and the Earl.” A bonus story of “One Minute Past Christmas” from George T. Arnold and me can also be found in this edition.

“Letters from Home”

She is the woman whose letters to another man kept Simon alive during the war. He is the English officer her late Scottish husband praised as being “incomparable.” Can Major Lord Simon Lanford claim Mrs. Faith Lamont as his wife or will his rise to the earldom and his family’s expectations keep them apart?

“Lady Joy and the Earl”

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage.

Bonus Story:

“One Minute Past Christmas”

An Appalachian grandfather and his granddaughter are blessed with a special ability—a gift that enables them briefly to witness a miraculous gathering in the sky each year at exactly one minute past Christmas. The experience fills them with wonder, but they worry their secret “gift” will end with them because, in forty-four years, no other relative has displayed an inclination to carry it on to a new generation.

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Yorkshire Christmas Traditions Playing Out in “Letters from Home” and “Lady Joy and the Earl” + a Giveaway

Christmas traditions in Yorkshire date back to the time of the Roman invasion. For example, documentation shows that a celebration dedicated to Saturn, the god of harvest and agriculture, took place somewhere between December 17 and December 25 in York each year. During this time the Romans suspended the court proceedings, gambling was permitted, instead of frowned upon, those committing crimes, other than murder, were often given a lesser sentence, and masters ordered elaborate banquets served to their servants. 

Saturnalia was characterized by role reversals and behavioral license. Slaves were treated to a banquet of the kind usually enjoyed by their masters. Ancient sources differ on the circumstances: some suggest that master and slave dined together, while others indicate that the slaves feasted first, or that the masters actually served the food. The practice might have varied over time.

Saturnalian license also permitted slaves to disrespect their masters without the threat of a punishment. Everyone knew, however, that the leveling of the social hierarchy was temporary and had limits; no social norms were ultimately threatened, because the holiday would end. Gambling and dice-playing, normally prohibited or at least frowned upon, were permitted for all, even slaves. Coins and nuts were the stakes.  The Sigillaria on 19 December was a day of gift-giving. Because gifts of value would mark social status contrary to the spirit of the season, these were often the pottery or wax figurines called sigillaria made specially for the day, candles, or “gag gifts.” Children received toys as gifts.

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Saturnalia (1909) by Ernesto Biondi, in the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia#/media/File:Escultura_Saturnalia_de_Ernesto_Biondi.jpg

These winter celebrations gradually converted from a pagan ritual to a Christian one as the religion spread throughout the Roman Empire during the 4th Century. The idea that the final day of Saturnalia, the 25th December also marked the day of Jesus’ birth was first recognised by Pope Julius I when Christian ideology began to take hold towards the early middle Ages. The Anglo-Saxon influence marked the winter solstice on December 21. Yuletide came to last for twelve days, thus we eventually have “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

This establishment of a celebration in the third week of December swung heavily back toward religious purposes after the Norman invasion. The word “Christes Maesse” (Festival of Christ) was first used as a description for the festival around 1038. William the Conqueror declared himself King of England on Christmas Day 1066, which in his eyes was a further reason to celebrate.

turkey-crest_3500276a.jpgSince the 1400s a tradition called “The Devil’s knell” has taken place in the town of Dewsbury. On Christmas Eve the parish church bells toll once for every year since the birth of Christ. The peel is timed so the last bell is rung exactly at midnight on Christmas Day. Yorkshire has also made several contributions to the food we eat around Christmas time. The first turkeys were brought over to England from the Americas by Yorkshire explorer William Strickland in 1526. Originally from Marske on the North Yorkshire coast, he built estates at both Wintringham in Ryedale and Boynton Hall near Bridlington with the profits he made from selling these exotic creatures. The Strickland family crest, which adorns both of these residencies, is in the shape of a turkey, something which is widely acknowledged as the first ever depiction of the bird in Europe. Boynton village church lectern, a stand that supports the bible, is carved in the shape of a turkey instead of a traditional eagle in honour of Strickland. The custom of eating turkey on Christmas day would only become popular centuries after Strickland’s death in 1598, during the Victorian Period.

During advent in Haworth, around the time of the Bronte’ sisters, vessel maids would call from door to door carrying a box, called the “Wassail bob,” which contained nativity figures wrapped in a sacred cloth. The maids would unveil the figures at the cost of a penny to the household. It was considered unlucky if the vessel maids did not call round to your house during the run up to Christmas.

Sources: 

I’m From Yorkshire 

Saturnalia 

All of the above, except for the Saturnalia celebration, show up in either “Letters from Home” or “Lady Joy and the Earl,” for they are both set in Yorkshire in December 1815. The estates of Major Lord Simon Lanford in “Letters from Home” and James Highcliffe, Earl of Hough, in “Lady Joy and the Earl,” are only a few miles apart. In fact, Hough mentions one of the minor characters in “Letters…” to Lady Jocelyn Lathrop, his love interest in the novella. 

MDP eBook Cover

“Letters from Home”

She is the woman whose letters to another man kept Simon alive during the war. He is the English officer her late Scottish husband praised as being “incomparable.” Can Major Lord Simon Lanford claim Mrs. Faith Lamont as his wife or will his rise to the earldom and his family’s expectations keep them apart?

MDP eBook Cover

 

“Lady Joy and the Earl”

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage. Only the spirit of Christmas can bring these two together when secrets mean to keep them apart.

I have TWO Giveaways: 2 eBooks of “Lady Joy and the Earl” and 2 eBooks of “Christmas Ever After.” The giveaway ends at midnight EST on Thursday, October 18, 2018. 

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Celebrating the Release of “Beautified by Love” + a Giveaway

 

I am so blessed to bring you two fabulous Regency Christmas novellas. You learned something of “Lady Joy and the Earl” on Monday; today, I wish to concentrate on “Letters from Home,” which will be part of a Regency Christmas Anthology, “Christmas Ever After,” releasing on Monday. The anthology contains stories from Victoria Hinshaw, Emma Kaye, Regina Jeffers, Cora Lee, Alanna Lucas, Janis Susan May, Arietta Richmond, and Becca St. John. The anthology is only in an eBook format; therefore, I have chosen to place my “Letters from Home” in a print format, along with “Lady Joy and the Earl,” which is available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited, and a Bonus Story from George T. Arnold and me, entitled, “One Minute Past Christmas” in one volume. 

Beautified by Love: Two Regency Christmas Novellas from Regina Jeffers 

“Letters from Home”

She is the woman whose letters to another man kept Simon alive during the war. He is the English officer her late Scottish husband praised as being “incomparable.” Can Major Lord Simon Lanford claim Mrs. Faith Lamont as his wife or will his rise to the earldom and his family’s expectations keep them apart?

“Lady Joy and the Earl”

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage. Only the spirit of Christmas can bring these two together when secrets mean to keep them apart.

Bonus Story:

“One Minute Past Christmas”

An Appalachian grandfather and his granddaughter are blessed with a special ability—a gift that enables them briefly to witness a miraculous gathering in the sky each year at exactly one minute past Christmas. The experience fills them with wonder, but they worry their secret “gift” will end with them because, in forty-four years, no other relative has displayed an inclination to carry it on to a new generation.

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Excerpt from Chapter One of “Letters from Home” 

Chapter One

Friday, 22 December 1815

Major Simon Lanford shifted his weight to his good leg as he again scanned his Aunt Josephine’s drawing room—his drawing room now. His drawing room. His study. His library. His servants. His master chambers. His home. Had Clarence Hall ever truly been his home? Since he entered school, other than holidays, Simon had spent but a few dozen days at the Hall. And as quickly as he finished his tenure at Cambridge, his father had purchased him a commission, as was customary for second sons, and sent him off to the Continent to fight Napoleon.

Even when provided the opportunity to return to Clarence Hall, Simon had remained on the Continent, assisting Wellington or one of the others in charge. Just like his mother, Simon had been the expendable one. The spare. In his father’s lifetime, Lord Geoffrey Lanford had shown love to but two people while the man occupied this earth: his first wife, Lady Alice Lanford, and his heir, Lord Richard Lanford. Neither Simon or his mother, Lady Victoria Lanford, had known the previous earl’s favor.

As he looked about the room, Simon knew his father would despise the fact Simon was the new earl, for it had been Simon’s half-brother, Richard, who had been the anointed one, the one instructed in the ways of managing a large estate and the peerage, but Richard had, literally, choked to death on his own spew, too drunk to realize he needed to sit up in bed or die. Although Simon had never prayed for Richard’s demise, he had not grieved for the loss of his half-brother, a man he barely knew, but one he despised for all the right reasons.

“Home,” he whispered, as he steadied his stance and attempted to feel as if he deserved to be the new earl standing before the gentlemen and ladies with whom his aunt conversed. Simon had no doubt every eye in the room was upon him. After all, he was the 11th Earl of Clarendon, and many of the ladies in the room had set their caps for him, or so he had been told by Riggs, his valet, a man he admired for his stealth on the battlefield and for his cunning means of learning the latest gossip below stairs. 

Dear God, I despise this! he grumbled silently. The women his aunt had invited to spend Christmastide at the Hall were more to Richard’s taste than his. Only once had he and Richard agreed on the comeliness of a woman. Lady Gwendolyn Bastian had been Simon’s first and only love, but Richard could not resist the idea of stealing her away. And so his half-brother executed a seduction of the lady; however, Richard’s intentions, as was typical of his character, had not proven as true as were Simon’s, but that particular fact meant nothing to the lady. She wished to be the Countess of Clarendon, rather than The Honorable Mrs. Lanford. The last Simon heard of her, shamed by her loose morals, the Bastians had sent Lady Gwendolyn away to live with a distant relative in Ireland, while Simon had been sent to a certain death on the European Continent. But he had fooled them all. He had out lived his father and his brother and said “good riddance” to a woman so ambitious she would bargain her virginity to gain a title. No more. When he married, Simon would choose a woman of merit and a loving nature, title or not.

“We are pleased to have Clarendon finally return to us,” his paternal aunt, Lady Josephine, Dowager Viscountess of Plankston, said loud enough to draw Simon’s attention. She wished him to join her, so she might introduce him to yet another young lady. “Young” was the operative word, for he did not think any prospects gathered before him were older than nineteen. Simon was not but seven and twenty; unfortunately, what he had seen of the world made him feel ancient in comparison to so many fresh-scrubbed faces seeking his attention.

As he carefully picked his way across the room, he wondered, How many women in this room would recoil at the sight of my mangled leg? The answer was easy: All. Their sensibilities were too tender.

“You were saying, Aunt?” He bowed stiffly to the group seated before the fire.

His Aunt Josephine smiled courteously. “I was just telling Lady Mareau and her daughter Lady Sophia that it was a shame you did not arrive in England during the summer, so you could have partaken in all the festivities honoring those supporting Wellington and his great victory.”

More gore than glory, he thought, but he said, “I am simply thankful to be standing on English soil at last, Aunt.” He had learned of Richard’s death some three and a half months before Simon fell at the Battle of Quatre Bras, but before he could make arrangements to return to Yorkshire, Napoleon escaped Elba, and the planned victory celebration transformed into another military front. He supposed, in hindsight, he should have insisted upon returning to England, but as Richard had already passed, Simon could offer no succor to those who remained at Clarence Hall. He had always been the interloper here. The Hall offered him nothing but ill memories. Moreover, Simon was never one to leave an occupation undone.

“Your aunt speaks of your glorious connection to Wellington,” Lady Sophia said in what sounded of awe. “We certainly enjoyed the celebrations.” She glanced to her mother for approval of what she said. “It was quite reverential, viewing, of course, from a distance, both His Grace, the Duke of Wellington, and Prince George while in attendance. And the fireworks were quite spectacular, as was the burning of the Castle of Discord. However, the heat was quite unbearable, making all quite uncomfortable. And the streets were full of food vendors and filth. The odors were quite pungent. The air filled with smoke from the staged battles, and I found the sound of the parades quite thunderous.”

“Quite so,” Simon commented in reluctant amusement. The girl’s use of “quite” so often in her speech would surely drive him “quite” insane within a few days if he were foolish enough to claim her. Moreover, she contradicted herself. How could one enjoy something that was so unappealing?

The girl, rather say, any lady he might encounter in an English drawing room, would know nothing of one’s senses being bombarded by the worst of humanity: Dining on stirabout, a watery concoction of oatmeal. The sudden roll of drums along the whole of the enemy’s line. The burst of music from the bands of a hundred battalions. Great columns of infantry advancing over the brow of the hill and marching straight at a man. Two hundred guns firing at the same time. Shot and shell ploughing up the earth at one’s feet. The bagpipes of the Highland brigades. Mist and smoke filling the valley. The tremendous cannonade from two hundred and fifty French guns, firing in close succession. The noise fearful. Loud reports renting the air. A rolling cheer of victory and an equally loud gasp of defeat.

Yet, there was no one in this room who would willingly listen to his stories of undertakings being nothing more than futile feats of bravery. Therefore, he admitted with more calm than he felt, “Despite my exceedingly long stay in a Belgian hospital, I am glad to have missed the celebrations. My memories are too fresh to enjoy such a display.”

“No maudlin,” his aunt warned quietly. “It is nearly Christmastide, a time for hope and for faith’s renewal.”

Simon would soon need to do something about his aunt’s hold on the household. Perhaps both his father and his brother had accepted her tight-fisted maneuvering, but he did not. His Aunt Josephine had come to stay at Clarence Hall after Simon’s mother passed, and it had become evident to everyone that his father did not mean to marry for a third time. She remained to serve Richard in the same capacity, but Simon had never cared for the idea of another woman commanding the household that was once his mother’s domain. Even if he did not claim a bride soon, he would insist on his aunt returning to Derbyshire and her role as the Dowager Viscountess of Plankston, rather than serving as the chatelaine of his manor. Moreover, she had never once expressed an affection for him. Even now, she appeared to tolerate Simon’s presence at the Hall only for the sake of the earldom.

“I meant no offense, your ladyship,” he said dutifully.

Lady Mareau hinted tactfully, “I suppose your injury will keep you from the dance floor at the assembly on the eve of the New Year. I know Sophia had hoped for you to escort her to the floor for the first dance at the assembly.”

Simon glance to the girl, who could not be more than eighteen. He had a decade on the chit. How could his aunt think him so shallow? “I fear my dancing days are long removed, my lady, but I am certain Lady Plankston has invited a number of gentlemen to our Christmastide gathering who will gladly assist you in dancing the evening away.” He nodded his head in respect. “Now if you will pardon me, I note Mr. Thomas has sought my attention. Likely more guests have arrived.” With a curt bow, he carefully negotiated his way across the room, trying not to favor his ailing leg, but failing miserably.

What do I care, he told himself for the hundredth time, if the women gathered about the room look upon me with pity? In truth, the household was just coming out of full mourning for his brother. They should not be hosting a house party, but the invitations had been sent out before Simon had arrived, and there was little he could do without sending up an alarm in Society regarding his mental state. Therefore, beyond what was necessary as the host, he would have no use for the ladies his aunt thought worthy of becoming his countess. He had little doubt, thinking he would wish it, each prospective bride would tolerate his aunt’s presence at the Hall. Absolutely not. Simon had no desire to do the pretty and court any of them. Bloody hell! He was having difficulty even remembering their names, for none had made an impression on him. Some were blonde and some with dark tresses. Some with blue eyes and some with brown. But to Simon there was nothing unique about any. They were all patterns of the same well-bred woman.

As he entered the foyer, he noted Mr. Thomas was assisting another lady with her cloak. “How many bloody women does Aunt Josephine think I can entertain at one time?” he grumbled under his breath. This one would make eleven. Nearly one for each day of Twelfth Night. He did not possess Richard’s easy way with people. When he was still with the Army, Simon had made a conscious endeavor to praise his men’s efforts, but such was the extent of his “smooth” talk, and his speech used upon the battlefield would be termed far from smooth in an English drawing room.

“I must send someone to prepare your rooms, Miss DeLong,” Mr. Thomas explained to the girl as Simon approached.

“I pray they look out over the lawn or over the gardens. I despise a room without a view,” the woman declared with a majestic wave of her hand.

Before he could respond, another female, behind the demanding one, said politely, “All rooms with a window possess a view, Claire. One must simply discover the beauty presented in the world.”

Although Simon did not agree with the sentiment, for he had seen too much destruction over the past five years, he enjoyed the sound of the words: soft and melodic, the type to soothe a man’s soul. The idea had him stumbling in his wake, staying upright only with the aid of his trusted cane.

The one called Miss DeLong spun in his direction when Thomas murmured, “my lord,” and Simon worked to keep the frown from his features. The girl appeared to be another of the well-bred ornaments of Society, typical of all the women he had encountered since his return to England. She dipped a deep curtsey to display her assets. When she rose, she said, “My lord, I assume I am in the presence of Lord Clarendon.”

Perhaps the girl was not one of the pattern he had observed recently: Simon had not encountered so forward a woman previously, at least not one of the genteel sect. He considered himself liberal, especially when it came to the plight of women, but he had the feeling this one would prove beyond the pale. “I am, miss. But we should wait for a proper introduction before we converse. Perhaps one of your parents could perform the deed or, if not, permit me to send for my aunt.”

When no one stepped forward, Simon nodded to Thomas, who scurried away without a word. Secretly, he was thankful the soothing voice he heard earlier was not that of the girl’s mother or guardian, for the lady’s soft words had him thinking the right woman could ease his disappointment at his new situation.

Miss DeLong did not blush from her boldness, which he assumed was a purposeful ploy, nor did she wait for his aunt to appear. “My mother passed some six years removed, sir, and my father is too ill to attend country parties. He permits me to set my own social calendar.”

“I see.” Simon shot a glance over his shoulder in hopes of spying his aunt. “How liberating.” He was not one to stand on protocol. The military had taught him a man’s worth was more than his title or his education, but he would not wish to tie himself to such a girl by breaking with propriety too quickly. After a long awkward pause in which his aunt had yet to respond, Simon swallowed his trepidation. “I am Major Lord Simon Lanford, the Earl of Clarendon, lately of His Majesty’s service.” He executed a stiff bow, balancing his weight upon his cane.

The girl’s eyebrow rose as she looked upon him. He knew the exact instant she realized he required the cane for mobility, rather than it being a fashion accessory. Her features displayed her disappointment for a brief second before she recaptured her inviting expression. “I was not told you required a cane,” she said without much sympathy. “But I suppose such cannot be helped.”

“Claire, please,” the same soft voice as before pleaded, before he could offer his retort.

“Miss DeLong?” His aunt’s arrival surprised even him, for he had not heard her approach. “We were unaware you planned to join us for our festivities.”

“Certainly I planned to join you,” the girl said in petulant tones. “Was not an invitation sent to my father’s manor some months ago?”

Aunt Josephine shot Simon a look of alarm before saying, “Such was when poor Richard was alive. And I do not observe Lord DeLong in your company.”

“Father was too ill to travel,” the girl countered.

“I see.” His aunt took a deep steadying breath before making her decision, one he was certain would go against her better judgment. “Unfortunately, Lord Buchholtz’s party cancelled. Mr. Thomas, you will have someone see Miss DeLong and —”

“My cousin,” the girl supplied.

“At least DeLong did not permit you to travel alone,” his aunt hissed under her breath. Aunt Josephine’s tone spoke of her lack of respect for the girl, as well as the less-than-welcoming attitude she would practice with Miss DeLong. “Again, Thomas, you will see—”

The butler nodded his understanding and darted away before his aunt could finish. Simon suspected Mr. Thomas meant to speak to the housekeeper. Obviously, a young woman attending a party without a parent or guardian was a scandal waiting to occur. Mrs. Osborne would place the chit away from any of the gentlemen’s quarters.”

“While Mr. Thomas organizes the necessary rooms, perhaps you might conduct a proper introduction, Lady Plankston,” Simon suggested gently. “Although I will admit I have broken with propriety to make myself known to our guests.”

“Certainly, Clarendon.” Aunt Josephine’s shoulders stiffened. “My lord, this is Miss DeLong, daughter of Lord DeLong.” Nothing of may I give you the acquaintance. “Miss DeLong’s father holds a barony of the same name. The young lady was a particular friend of your late brother,” she said pointedly.

Ah, now the situation made sense. His brother had made promises to the girl, and Miss DeLong expected him to keep Richard’s pledges. If such were the case, the chit was in for a rude awakening. Now that he understood the situation, when he looked upon the young woman, Simon could imagine his brother taking a fancy to the girl. She possessed “the look” Richard preferred in his women: golden-haired, heart-shaped face, pouty mouth, svelte figure, blue eyes, and, likely, she was a plaguey nuisance.

“Miss DeLong, welcome to Clarence Hall. The party has gathered in the drawing room. Please feel free to join us after you’ve had time to freshen your things.” Realizing he ought also to welcome the girl’s companion, he glanced over Miss DeLong’s shoulder to discover the most enchanting creature looking at him with the appearance of steady intent. There was a sturdiness in her gaze.

Not a classical beauty, like her fair cousin, but delectable, just the same. Blondish-brown curls escaped the bonnet she wore. He imagined them to be soft and smooth and absolutely feminine. A small, straight nose covered with a sprinkle of freckles on golden cheeks, as if she had recently spent time in the sun. Not so thin as her cousin, but with a well-defined waist and ample breasts, against which a man might rest his weary head. Since arriving in England, everyone had reminded Simon of his duty to secure the earldom. He had ignored all reminders of his siring an heir until this very moment. “And your companion?” he murmured. “Would you please extend an introduction, Miss DeLong?”

The girl glanced to her cousin and back to him, and her brows drew together in obvious disapproval. Realizing he had betrayed his interest in the woman, Simon made himself smile on Miss DeLong. The girl’s features followed suit. At length, she said, “My lord, permit me to give you the acquaintance of my cousin, Mrs. Lamont.”

Missus. The word ricocheted through Simon’s body. The woman was married. Naturally, he thought. He knew of few men who would not rejoice at having a woman of Mrs. Lamont’s fine looks on his arm. He made himself say through his disappointment, “Welcome, Mrs. Lamont. I pray you do not find Clarence Hall wanting.”

“I am certain I shall not, my lord.”

With Thomas’s return, Simon said in dismissal, “Anticipating continuing our conversation later, I will release you into Mr. Thomas’s most capable hands.”

“This way, ladies.”

Even though he could not approach the most interesting woman attending his aunt’s house party, Simon watched as Mrs. Lamont gracefully climbed the stairs toward the guest quarters.

“Beware Miss DeLong,” his aunt whispered near his ear. “The chit means to claim a title. Richard led her to believe she might become his countess. Make certain you are not alone with her. And lock the doors to your quarters at night.”

“Perhaps if Napoleon had employed a female strategist,” Simon said with a sad chuckle, “he could have outwitted Wellington.”

“You make light,” his aunt reprimanded, “but do not underestimate a conniving woman. A female soldier would have taken note of the weather and realized cannons cannot move easily and quickly over wet ground,” she remarked. “Although Miss DeLong is young, she learned her arts from her mother, a former opera dancer who lured Lord DeLong in.”

“Then why was an invitation issued to Miss DeLong?” Simon inquired.

“That is a matter I must investigate. The girl was on the list of a previous party when Richard was still alive. It was when your brother first took her acquaintance and when he became quite enchanted by her independent spirit. Personally, I never cared for the family. People say the former Lady DeLong used some sort of aphrodisiac to trap the baron into marriage. Lady Smithson says her husband heard rumors at his club that DeLong has contracted—” His aunt broke off with a blush.

“I should say a woman of quality should know nothing of such matters, but I am not as antiquated as many of my fellow peers,” Simon said with a smile to ease her embarrassment.

“My dearest Plankston never treated me as a mere female,” she admitted.

“Then Lord Plankston was an oddity, but an oddity I wish to emulate in my own marriage. Thank you for the words of wisdom, Aunt. Now, we should return to our guests.”

Now for the Giveaway!! I have TWO eBook copies of Christmas Ever After and TWO eBook copies of “Lady Joy and the Earl” available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EST on Tuesday, October 16, 2018. 

Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, Christmas, customs and tradiitons, eBooks, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Living in the Regency, publishing, reading habits, Regency romance, research, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Unusual Christmas Customs and the Release of “Lady Joy and the Earl” + a Giveaway

Today, I celebrate the release of one of my two Regency Christmas novellas for this holiday season. “Lady Joy and the Earl” does not have the typical hero and heroine found in historical romances, for James Highcliffe, Earl of Hough, and Lady Jocelyn (Powell) Lathrop are middle aged. James and Jocelyn have known each other all their lives, for his family estate and hers march along together on one side. She was the pesky younger sister when James and her brother Emerson roamed the countryside as youths. However, by the time James was nineteen and Jocelyn, or “Joy” as her family calls her, was sixteen, they were in love. Unfortunately, when his father learned of the situation, Robert Highcliffe informed James that he was betrothed to Lady Louisa Connick from the time of her birth. Joycelyn’s father then bargains her away to Lord Harrison Lathrop to pay his gaming debts. Lathrop, a viscount, wanted her substantial dowry and the connection to Lord Powell’s marquessate, but he never cared for her as a person. 

When the story opens, James’s wife, Louisa, has been dead for some eighteen months, and Lathrop for a decade. Both James and Jocelyn have grown children and a boat load of misery to bring to the table. The question is whether their being forced to join their families together at his estate and the spirit of Christmas can finally place them where they always belonged: AS HUSBAND AND WIFE.

The story is set near Aberford, Yorkshire, in December 1815, some six months after the Battle of Waterloo. I chose Aberford because it was about halfway between London and Edinburgh on the Great North Road, and it was situated close to the town of Leeds. In the story, the hero, James Highcliffe, is attempting to demonstrate to Lady Jocelyn that they share many memories. He asks her to assist him in giving his family a real Christmas celebration, for his household has been in mourning for several years. They consider the “wassail bob,” “vessel maids,” and “Cristes Maesse.” 

The service, known as “Christ’s Mass,” eventually became a description for celebrations of Jesus’ birth throughout the world. The word Christmas has its origin from the old English term Cristes Maesse, meaning “Christ’s Mass.” (Celebrating Holidays)

Traditional Customs and Ceremonies tells us, “The demise of this custom shows how easily common traditions can be lost. So popular was the custom that it had a place in the 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica:

“What is popularly known as wassailing was the custom of trimming with ribbons and sprigs of rosemary a bowl which was carried round the streets by young girls singing carols at Christmas and the New Year. This ancient custom still survives here and there, especially in Yorkshire, where the bowl is known as `the vessel cup,’ and is made of holly and evergreens, inside which are placed one or two dolls trimmed with ribbons. The cup is borne on a stick by children who go from house to house singing Christmas carols.”

“In the 1800s up to around 1920s, local children around the midlands and northern England, County Durham, Lancashire, and particularly Yorkshire, would enact a curious custom like a mix between carol singing and May Dolls. The custom had many names, often localised Wesley Bob, a Wassail Bob, a Vessel Cup, a Pretty Box or a Milly Box. When the custom was done varied. Visitation days recorded in accounts in Yorkshire emphasize this variation, for example, in Thorpe Hesley it began at Christmas Eve and went on for two to three days. Whereas, Hoyland Common practiced it only on Christmas day morning. In West Melton and Hemingfield, it was Boxing Day, and in Rawmarsh, it was New Year’s Day. Generally though the tradition would begin at Advent or more often St. Thomas’s Day, although in some areas it was November, suggesting there is nothing new in the early celebration of Christmas!

51KCcr2ODoL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg 

“How the custom was organized differed from place to place. Sometimes it was a private form of begging and at others organized by the church. The basic approach was as follows: two girls would be the ‘vessel maids’ and they carried a box, decorated with evergreens and often fruit and spices, covered in a white cloth. At the people’s homes, the girls would sing a carol and solicit the homeowner for some money, usually a penny, to reveal what was under the sheet. This was a scene of the Holy Family.

Clement Miles in his Christmas in Ritual and Tradition notes that:

“At Gilmorton, Leicestershire, a friend of the present writer remembers that the children used to carry round what they called a “Christmas Vase,” an open box without lid in which lay three dolls side by side, with oranges and sprigs of evergreen. Some people regarded these as images of the Virgin the Christ Child and Joseph.”

MDP eBook Cover

 

“Lady Joy and the Earl: A Regency Christmas Novella”

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage. Only the spirit of Christmas can bring these two together when secrets mean to keep them apart.

The story is available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. 

Kindle   

This is how the use of these traditions play out in the story: 

He had spotted her in the upper gardens on his return to Hough House, and at that moment, James was thankful young Lathrop had insisted on examining the new mill James and Lord Powell had built together across the river separating their lands. Mr. Locke, James’s steward, had agreed to provide the Lathrop brothers a tour after the young lord began asking questions on the operation.

Dismounting, James left Sultan to munch the grass along the hedgerow and entered the garden off the nature trail to cross to where she studied one of the fountains.

“Good day, Joy,” he called as he came near.

“Oh, Lord Hough.” She jumped as if he had frightened her.

“Woolgathering, my dear?” he said with a smile.

“Simply considering something Lady Hough and your aunt mentioned earlier.”

“And what might that be?” An odd shot of desire crawled up James’s spine. Every time he looked upon Jocelyn, a primal demand overcame his good sense, and it was all he could do not to catch her up in his embrace and kiss her senseless.

“They spoke of your wife’s illness and of her slow death,” she confessed.

James frowned. “They should not have bothered you with the particulars of Louisa’s decline.”

As was typical for Jocelyn, she ignored his warning tones. Instead, she said, “I was astonished to learn of Lady Louisa’s propensity to—”

“To what?” he demanded.

Jocelyn hesitated, her gaze landing hard upon his countenance. “I have spoken from form. Your relationship with the late Lady Hough is none of my concern.”

James swallowed the retort rushing to his lips. If he expected to learn what occurred in her marriage, he must be more forthright in discussing his. He made himself respond in even tones. “I have nothing to hide. Louisa and I never fit. Despite what some may tell you, at least, in the beginning, I came to like her; she is the mother of my children, and for that fact, I owe her my kind regard. That being said, my wife and I held little in common. We were of the nature of distant cousins, each holding on to a relationship forced upon us and attempting to make the best of what we had been handed. I said earlier ‘in the beginning’ when I spoke of my caring for my countess. As time passed, we drifted further apart. Our attempts to make the best of our situation vanished. We differed on every point. If Meredith fell in the mud and soiled her dress, I would find my daughter’s actions amusing, praising her for her strong imagination and willingness to fight the dragon as fiercely as did her brother, whereas Louisa would look on the incident and my reaction with abhorrence.”

“Lathrop would have also found Lady Meredith’s actions repugnant,” she disclosed. “Poor Michael knew his father’s strap more than one time for returning home with muddy boots.”

James attempted to disguise his interest in Lathrop’s high-handedness. “Then Michael favors you in more than just his features,” he said cautiously, watching for Jocelyn’s reaction. “I recall your crossing muddy fields, chasing after Emerson or simply enjoying the day, your skirt tail three inches deep in mud.”

She laughed lightly. “My poor maid. Always scrubbing my petticoats. And, yes, Michael favors my temperament.” She looked past his shoulder as if expecting to see someone behind him. “Where are my sons?”

“I pointed out the new mill your brother and I had built at the mouth of the river. Mr. Locke rode out with us this morning, and he agreed to provide Andrew and Michael a tour of the facility. I believe young Lathrop hopes to borrow some of his uncle’s ideas for the Kent estate.”

She sighed heavily. “I am pleased Andrew seeks both your and Emerson’s advice, but I wish he would occasionally place his responsibilities for his title aside and simply enjoy a few days of family. Both of my sons, but Andrew, in particular, have difficulty separating Harrison’s exacting ways from those of the rest of the world.”

James wished to know more, but he had learned not to push Jocelyn for answers. She related more details each time they spoke, and he must practice patience. Instead, he used the opportunity to put forward his plan to bring her family and his together. “Then perhaps we can join forces to indulge our families, for I have promised Sebastian and Meredith a proper Christmastide celebration. Louisa’s long illness and eventual demise kept my household dark for four years. My children requested we celebrate in the manner of their youth, and I mean to see it done. Sebastian has recently met his majority, and Meredith is already asking for a Season. Soon they will claim their own families. I would have them carry happy memories of Hough House with them when they are elsewhere, not the ones of their mother wishing her life away. Please say you will seriously consider being a part of my plan. Surely you wish the same for Andrew and Michael.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “What did you have in mind?”

“The typical things: holly and mistletoe and a yule log, plus Yorkshire pudding and a turkey, as well as the annual hunt. All the things we had growing up here.” He spread his arms wide. “Anything we care to imagine. Tell me, Joy, what are some of your favorite memories of Christmastide at Powell Manor?”

She sighed dreamily. “Spiced cider and charades and visiting neighbors and children singing carols and a proper Yorkshire Christmas pie and the Wassail bob and ‘Cristes Maesse.’ Oh, I am certain some of these are no longer practiced; after all, I have been gone away for two decades, but you understand, do you not?”

James laughed conspiratorially. “I doubt if the new vicar would approve of vessel maids calling upon households and asking each party to pay a penny to view her unwrapping one of the cloth-covered figures of the nativity. Although I do understand the tradition is still accepted over near Haworth, the good people of Leeds and the surrounding area long ago abandoned the practice, despite the good fortune it is said to bring to the households which participate.”

“But you hold no objections to the others?” she insisted.

James’s expression softened when he looked upon her. “My dearest Jocelyn, if you wished for Lathrop and Michael to view the Wassail bob, I would hire a whole troop of vessel maids to entertain them.” He wagged his eyebrows at her. “Nothing is too lavish for such honored guests.”

Her frown lines deepened. “Do not be foolish, James. What kind of mother parades vessel maids before her sons?”

“None that I know personally,” he teased. “Although, I did hear of a most outrageous mother when I was still at university. The chaps spoke of her often. Some opera dancer who married a baron. DeLong, I believe the name was.”

“You are outrageous, my lord.” She laughed prettily. It was a sound James had longed to hear since they had become reacquainted. Her laughter was a sound that reminded him of all the things he missed about her.

“Then you promise to aid me in my quest?” he implored.

“You truly wish my assistance?” she inquired.

“Naturally, my mother will volunteer, but, I fear, even with Aunt Mary’s assistance, Lady Hough cannot handle all the preparations. She contracted consumption some four years removed. Although she thankfully recovered, my mother still tires easily.”

“Why do we not each create a list of favorites and then compare them? Certainly, the young people will also have favorites. We should not ignore their suggestions.”

James caught her hand and placed it on his arm. “It is chilly, and I believe my mother will have ordered tea by now. Let us go in and consult with Lady Hough. She will be thrilled with your involvement. And, of course, your mother will arrive later today. We will make a jolly group, will we not?”

Now for the Giveaway!! I have three eBook copies of “Lady Joy and the Earl” to giveaway to those who comment below. This giveaway will end at midnight EST,  Friday, October 12. 

 

 

Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, customs and tradiitons, excerpt, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, giveaway, historical fiction, holidays, Living in the Regency, marriage customs, publishing, reading, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Did Edward Oxford Really Shoot Prince Albert?

Edward_Oxford's_assassination_attempt_on_Queen_Victoria,_G.H.Miles,_watercolor,_1840

Edward Oxford shooting at Queen Victoria, June 10, 1840; the Queen and Prince Consort driving in a phaeton with four horses towards Constitution Hill; Oxford standing in front of the Green Park railings pointing a pistol in an attempt to assassinate the Queen, while a policeman runs towards him, one of the Queen’s attendants on horse at left. By G. H> Miles, 1840, British Museum. Watercolour, strengthened with gum This image is either reversed horizontally or inaccurate, as the carriage had the railings of the park on its right at the time of the attempt. ~ public domain ~ G. H.Miles (Life time: 1840) – Original publication: June-Dec, 1840 Immediate source: British Museum ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Oxford#/media/File:Edward_Oxford%27s_assassination_attempt_on_Queen_Victoria,_G.H.Miles,_watercolor,_1840.jpg

On Monday of this week, I added a post to the blog regarding Edward Oxford, the man who was the first to make an attempt on Queen Victoria’s life. However, afterwards, I was wondering if Oxford was the one who shot Prince Albert. After all, I have watched the movie Young Victoria many times, and I have witnessed Albert’s love for his wife and hers for him. Right? Even the TV show Victoria has included a like scene (without Albert being shot). Surely, the screenwriter and the director and the producer did not play havoc with history. (Smirk!!!)

In both the film and the television version of Queen Victoria’s life, when Oxford’s assassination attempt happens, Albert throws himself across his wife to protect her. In the film, he is hit by a bullet, sending Victoria into fits of worry. 

First, I wish to repeat a quote from Monday’s post..In a letter from Prince Albert to his brother, Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg, Albert explains what happened: 

12 June 1840: I saw a most disagreeable looking man leaning against the rail of Green Park only six paces from us, holding something toward us. Before I could see what it was, a shot cracked out. It was so dreadfully loud that we were both quite stunned. Victoria, who had been looking to the left, towards a rider, did not know the cause of the noise. My first thought was that, in her present state, the fright might harm her. I put both arms around her and asked her how she felt, but she only laughed. Then I turned round to look at the man (the horses were frightened and the carriage stopped). The man stood there in a theatrical position, a pistol in each hand. It seemed ridiculous. Suddenly he stooped, put a pistol on his arm, aimed at us and fired, the bullet must have gone over our heads judging by the hole made where it hit the garden wall. [Raymond Lamont-Brown, How Fat Was Henry VIII, The History Press, ©2008, page 147]

Notice, there is no words of his being wounded or his doing more that putting his arms about Victoria. According the website History House, this was the way things transpired:

The Times newspaper reported that Oxford,

“… presented a pistol and fired it directly, either at Her Majesty or Prince Albert, there being no person between him and the carriage. The Prince who, it would seem, had heard the whistling of the ball, turned his head in the direction from which the report came, and Her Majesty at the same instant rose up in the carriage, but Prince Albert as suddenly pulled her down by his side. The man then drew from behind his back a second pistol, which he discharged after the carriage, which proceeding at the ordinary pace, had … passed him a little.” 
The Times 11 June 1840, page 4.

“The day after the attempted assassination, The Times reported that Oxford was giving a different account saying that the Prince was even trying to get out of the carriage.

“Oh, I know to the contrary; for when I fired the first pistol, Albert was about to jump from the carriage and put his foot out, but when he saw me present the second pistol, he immediately drew back.” 
The Times, 12 June 1840, page 6.

“However, a witness at the later trial testified that Prince Albert had indeed pushed the Queen down,

“…the flash of the pistol came almost immediately over the Queen’s head – the Queen was crouching – she rather crouched, and the Prince stood – I think, to the best of my knowledge, the Queen first rose, and by what I observed, the Prince rather pressed her down; and it was immediately before the second pistol was fired that her Majesty crouched – it was the second flash which appeared to come over the Queen’s head.” [The Proceedings of Old Bailey: Edward Oxford]

“There is no evidence that Prince Albert received any injury. The scriptwriter for the film, Julian Fellowes, has admitted that the injury has been added to the film’s story for dramatic effect.” 

From The Daily Mail, this is Julian Fellowes take on the scene: 

“Fellowes immediately recognised he had been given a tremendous responsibility in having to recreate the story of a young Queen coming to the throne at 18, against considerable family plotting, as well as having to capture the manners, snobbery and strict class confines of Victorian England.

“‘I’ve tried to be truthful,’ he says. ‘I’ve only changed two elements of fact for the screen.’

“The first was an assassination attempt made on the young Queen as Victoria and her husband Prince Albert were riding in an open carriage up Constitution Hill. Spotting the gunman raise his pistol in the crowd, Albert immediately pushed his young wife down into the well of the carriage to protect her. By doing so the bullet injured Albert. But did it?

“Fellowes agrees there are differing accounts of what really happened. ‘One is that the bullet was fired, but missed him, and the other is that the gun jammed. But the event itself certainly happened.

“‘I felt that this was fantastically brave of Prince Albert and that if the gun had jammed, we would lose how brave his action was. I believe Victoria was so impressed that he was prepared literally to take the bullet, that it changed something in her.

“‘She realised how much Albert truly loved her. You see this change in her immediately after the assassination attempt, with her moving his desk into her own study at the Palace so they could be side-by-side throughout each day.

“‘I know I will be criticised, but in the end a movie has to deliver the right emotions. And I felt it would not be possible to represent that as the act of bravery and selflessness that it was, without showing the gun going off.'”

Posted in British history, film adaptations, Great Britain, historical fiction, history, kings and queens, marriage, Victorian era, weaponry | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Battle of the Bees: A Revolutionary War Skirmish Won by American Patriots and a Swarm of Bees

battle_of_the_bees

I live close to the town of Matthews, in the lower right-hand corner. The Battle of the Bees took place just a little north of Charlotte, about 7 miles, out Beattie’s Ford Road.

I live outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Battle of Bees plays an important role in the region’s history. Also known as the Battle of McIntyre’s Farm, the Battle of Bees was a Revolutionary War incident, which occurred on October 3, 1780. When the British commander, Lord Charles Cornwallis, left Charlotte on 12 Oct. 1780, after a 16-day occupation, he was heard to say that the defiant and rebellious town was a ‘damned hornet’s nest.”‘Although the British were figuratively stung by unrelenting hostility and violent ambushes, one foraging party was stung, both, literally and figuratively, by Patriots and by bees in the skirmish at McIntyre’s Farm.

Cornwallis had ordered Major John Doyle to lead a foraging expedition into the countryside surrounding the town of Charlotte (Note: Both the town and the county were named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, King George III’s royal consort.) Supplies were low, but the British did not take the mission lightly. Their 40 wagons were accompanied by 450 foot soldiers, as well as a cavalry detachment. Doyle’s contingent were trailed by 13 American patriots, under the command of Captain James Thompson. Thompson’s men kept out of sight as the British halted seven miles from town at McIntyre’s farm. There, some of the British remained behind to plunder the farm while Doyle and the rest of the party began to march on.

At the farm, some of the soldiers accidentally knocked over a beehive and were forced to scatter to evade the bees’ combined anger. Taking advantage of the situation, the Patriots attacked, killing a British captain, nine soldiers, and two horses. Because the Patriots fired from cover with great accuracy and constantly shifted their positions, it seemed to the startled Redcoats that they were under attack from a much larger force.

mcintyre_cabin

McIntye’s Cabin. Image from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. Available from http://www.cmhpf.org/Properties%20Foundation%20Reports/McIntyreFarm.html (accessed Sept. 3, 2018)

Thinking themselves under heavy attack and outnumbered, Doyle foolishly ordered his men to retreat. The Americans managed to kill some of the horses pulling the supply wagons, which created a road block, of sorts. A few of the British soldiers cut away the uninjured horses and made their escape. The American soldiers from the neighborhood took a turn at firing on the escaping Redcoats, creating more havoc. The Battle of McIntyre’s Farm was only one of several sharp clashes fought between Cornwallis and local Patriots around Charlotte. [The Battle of McIntyre’s Farm, NC Pedia]

Carolana.comCarolana.com provides a summary of this incident: 

After a week in Charlotte, Lt. General Charles, Lord Cornwallis needed to send out foraging parties to replenish his supplies. A large foraging party of 450 Provincials under the command of Capt. John Doyle moved out of Beattie’s Ford Road with sixty wagons. A local boy notified the McIntyre family that the Loyalists were coming.Then, the boy rode on and informed Capt. James Thompson of the local militia. Capt. Thompson quickly rounded up Capt. James Knox and thirteen farmers to harass Capt. Doyle’s troops, and then hid the riflemen in two locations at the McIntyre farm.

Capt. Thompson watched as Capt. Doyle’s men plundered McIntyre’s barns and raided their livestock pens. The Provincials tied their horses to the farm wagons while they went about their work. When the baggage wagons arrived they loaded bags of corn and oats onto them.

During the pillaging, the Loyalists accidentally knocked over some beehives and found themselves under attack by the swarming bees. One Loyalist officer stood in the doorway and laughed as the men swatted at the bees and ran from the danger.

As they were occupied, Capt. Thompson and his men approached the raiders. He yelled out that he would take out a captain he had spotted and that every man should quickly select their target. Capt. Thompson and a militiaman named Francis Bradley fired at the same time. Thompson’s shot found its mark and the man thought to be a captain fell dead. The enemy mounted their horses and formed a line, but Capt. Thompson and his men were able to reload and fire a second time.

Dogs were set loose on the Patriots and they pursued one group of Capt. Thompson’s men:

“The dogs came on the trail of these retreating men, and the leading one sprung upon the heels of a man who had just discharged his rifle. A pistol shot laid him dead, and the other dogs, coming up to him, paused, gave a howl, and returned.”

Capt. Doyle believed that his men were being attacked by a much larger force and ordered a speeedy retreat back to Charlotte. More of the local farmers showed up and began firing at the British from concealment, in a skirmish that resembled the start of the war at Concord, Massachusetts.

Later, Rev. William Henry Foote wrote:

“The leading horses of the wagons were some of them shot down before they ascended the hill by the branch, and the road was blocked up; and the retreat became a scene of confusion in spite of the discipline of the British soldiers, who drew up in battle array and offered to fight the invisible enemy that only changed their ground and renewed their fire.”

Capt. Doyle’s men rode so hard that “many of their horses fell dead in the streets.”

Eight Loyalists were killed, along with two horses. Twelve others were wounded.

Known Patriot Participants Known British/Loyalist Participants
Capt. James Thompson – Commanding Officer

Mecklenburg County Regiment of Militia detachment of two (2) known captains:
– Capt. James Thompson
– Capt. James Knox, with 13 local farmers:

Frank Bradley
Joh Dickson
Thomas Dickson
George Graham
James Henry
George Houston
Hugh Houston
John Long
Thomas McClure
John Robinson
Robert Robinson
Edward Shipley
George Shipley

Reinforced later by unknown number of more farmers

Capt. John Doyle – Commanding Officer

450 Provincials (likely the Volunteers of Ireland)

60 Cavalry (unit unknown)

40 Wagons

Posted in Act of Parliament, American History, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, research | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Edward Oxford, the First to Attempt to Assassinate Queen Victoria

There was a total of eight attempts to assassinate Great Britain’s Queen Victoria. The first came at the hands of Edward Oxford, a man who was considered to be a half-wit. On 10 June 1840, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria had called upon her mother, the Duchess of Kent. They were in a low carriage making their way along London’s Constitution Hill when the attack occurred. 

Edward_Oxford's_assassination_attempt_on_Queen_Victoria,_G.H.Miles,_watercolor,_1840

Edward Oxford shooting at Queen Victoria, June 10, 1840; the Queen and Prince Consort driving in a phaeton with four horses towards Constitution Hill; Oxford standing in front of the Green Park railings pointing a pistol in an attempt to assassinate the Queen, while a policeman runs towards him, one of the Queen’s attendants on horse at left. By G. H> Miles, 1840, British Museum. Watercolour, strengthened with gum This image is either reversed horizontally or inaccurate, as the carriage had the railings of the park on its right at the time of the attempt. ~ public domain ~ G. H.Miles (Life time: 1840) – Original publication: June-Dec, 1840 Immediate source: British Museum ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Oxford#/media/File:Edward_Oxford%27s_ assassination_attempt_on_Queen_Victoria,_ G.H.Miles,_watercolor,_1840.jpg

Born in 1822, Edward Oxford was the third of seven children. His father, George Oxford, made his living as a gold chaser, [While repoussé is used to work on the reverse of the metal to form a raised design on the front, chasing is used to refine the design on the front of the work by sinking the metal.] After attending school, Edward worked in a bar owned by his aunt and was later employed as a pot boy in other public houses. At the time of the attack he was barely eighteen years old, unemployed and living with his mother and sister in lodgings in Camberwell, having recently quit his job at the Hog-in-the-Pound in Oxford Street. Since his mother had returned to Birmingham on a regular trip to see family over a month before, Oxford was, in effect, living alone at the time of the event. [Edward Oxford]

It turned out that Oxford’s attempt was not a spur-of-the-moment lark. He had purchased two guns and a gunpowder flask the week prior to the attempt. He had even practiced shooting the weapons in a variety of shooting galleries. He purchased 50 copper percussion caps from a former classmate named Gray and asked where he might purchase gunpowder and bullets. Gray sold Oxford the gunpowder and recommended another establishment for the bullets. [The Newgate Calendar: Edward Oxford]

As the Queen, who was four months pregnant at the time, and Prince Albert had developed a habit of riding about in a phaeton in the late afternoon and early evening, and without proper protection from dissidents, and the like, it was not difficult to know something of their route on this particular evening. Oxford simply waited for their return from the Duchess’s residence. He fired both pistols, thankfully missing both times. He was immediately seized on by onlookers and taken into custody. Oxford openly declared: “It was I, it was me that did it.” [Edward Oxford]

In a letter from Prince Albert to his brother, Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg, Albert explains what happened: 

12 June 1840: I saw a most disagreeable looking man leaning against the rail of Green Park only six paces from us, holding something toward us. Before I could see what it was, a shot cracked out. It was so dreadfully loud that we were both quite stunned. Victoria, who had been looking to the left, towards a rider, did not know the cause of the noise. My first thought was that, in her present state, the fright might harm her. I put both arms around her and asked her how she felt, but she only laughed. Then I turned round to look at the man (the horses were frightened and the carriage stopped). The man stood there in a theatrical position, a pistol in each hand. It seemed ridiculous. Suddenly he stooped, put a pistol on his arm, aimed at us and fired, the bullet must have gone over our heads judging by the hole made where it hit the garden wall. [Raymond Lamont-Brown, How Fat Was Henry VIII, The History Press, ©2008, page 147]

When the authorities searched his room, after Oxford’s arrest, not only did they find more ammunition and other weapons, but they discovered the rules and regulations for a made-up martial society in which Oxford created officers and correspondence. The members were to be armed with a brace of pistols, a sword, and a dagger. [ The Proceedings of Old Bailey: Edward Oxford]

Because no spent bullets were found at the scene, the Crown could not prove that Oxford could actually harm another. Later, Oxford claimed there were no bullets in the pistols, only gunpowder. “Oxford appeared to be oblivious for most of the proceedings. The prosecution presented much eyewitness evidence, while the defence case consisted of various family members and friends who testified that Oxford had always seemed of unsound mind, and that both his grandfather and father were alcoholics who had exhibited signs of mental illness. This carried a great deal of weight, as it was thought during this time that both drink and hereditary influence were strong causal factors for insanity. Oxford’s mother testified her late husband had been violent and intimidating, and that her son was not only prone to fits of hysterical laughter and emitting strange noises, he had been obsessed with firearms since he was a child. Various eminent pathologists and physicians testified that due to “brain disease” or other factors, such as the shape of his head, Oxford was either a mental imbecile or simply incapable of controlling himself.” [Edward Oxford]

Oxford was imprisoned at Newgate and tried on a charge of high treason at the Central Criminal Court before Lord Chief Justice Thomas Denman. Sidney Taylor defended Oxford, and the man was found guilty, but was declared insane. Oxford was ordered to Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) for the insane at Moorfields. He spent 35 years in the facility. At age 52, he was released to travel to Australia. 

Edward_Oxford_c_1856

Henry Hering, photographer (1814-1893) – Bethlem hospital museum ~ public domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Oxford#/media/File:Edward_Oxford_c_1856.jpg

“Central Criminal Court, to wit.– The jurors for our lady the Queen, upon their oath present, that Edward Oxford, late of Westminster, in the county of Middlesex, labourer, being a subject of our lady the Queen, heretofore, to wit on the 10th of June, in the year of our Lord 1840, within the jurisdiction of the said court, as a false traitor to our lady the Queen, maliciously and traitorously, with force and arms, &c., did compass, imagine, and intend to bring and put our said lady the Queen to death. And to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason, and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms, maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he the said Edward Oxford then and there had and held in one of his hands at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen. And further, to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect his most evil and wicked treason and treasonable compassing and imagination aforesaid, he the said Edward Oxford, as such false traitor as aforesaid, afterwards, to wit, on the said 10th day of June, in the year of our lord 1840, aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the said court, with force and arms maliciously and traitorously did shoot off and discharge a certain other pistol, the same then and there being loaded with gunpowder and a certain bullet, and which pistol he the said Edward Oxford then and there had and held in one of his hands, at the person of our said lady the Queen, with intent thereby and therewith maliciously and traitorously to shoot, assassinate, kill, and put to death our said lady the Queen, and thereby then and there traitorously made a direct attempt against the life of our said lady the Queen, against the duty of the allegiance of him the said Edward Oxford, against the form of the statute in that case made and provided, and against the peace of our said lady the Queen, her crown, and dignity.” [The Newgate Calendar: Edward Oxford]

Wikipedia tells us, “Oxford lived out the rest of his life in Melbourne, Australia.  Oxford landed in Melbourne with a new alias, John Freeman. Setting out to reform himself and become a respectable citizen, Freeman became a house painter and joined the West Melbourne Mutual Improvement Society. In 1881 he married a widow with two children, and became a church warden a St Paul’s Cathedral. Under the pseudonym “Liber” he wrote articles for The Argus about the city’s slums, markets and racetracks, and these became the basis for an 1888 book, Lights and Shadows of Melbourne Life. Freeman died in 1900.

“His patient record at Broadmoor includes a letter sent in 1883 by George Haydon, a Steward at Bethlem, to Dr. David Nicolson. It includes an article from The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, which reports that on 4 May 1880, a “John” Oxford, identified as the man who shot at the Queen many years ago, and who had subsequently been a patient in an asylum before he was discharged to Australia, had recently been convicted of stealing a shirt and spent a week in jail. Upon his release, the prison governor requested the police to keep an eye on him, “in consequence of the old man’s eccentric conduct”. The police subsequently arrested Oxford for vagrancy, and he was reportedly remanded for further medical examination. There were no further updates to the record. It is not certain that this person was Edward Oxford.

“The connection between Oxford and “John Freeman” was established by F. B. Smith’s 1987 article “Lights and Shadows in the Life of John Freeman”. Freeman wrote several letters to Haydon, beginning in 1888 and apparently ceasing on Haydon’s death in 1889. Freeman’s wife and stepchildren appear to have been totally ignorant that he might be anyone other than John Freeman. Additionally, a photograph of John Freeman taken for the 1888 Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne matches a portrait of Oxford held in the archives of the Bethlem aslyum. Freeman’s correspondence to Haydon was donated to the National Library in the 1950s by the family. Stevens points out that the former Steward contributed nothing more to Oxford’s Broadmoor record about his progress beyond the troubling report published in the newspaper, and never confirmed that Oxford was the author of Freeman’s book. This may have been because Haydon was departing Bethlem at the time he began receiving the letters.”

 

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