Research … AARGH!!

One of the best parts of being a writer is learning new things. However, one of the worst parts of being a writer is researching those new things. As I am sure everyone on this site may attest, I have spent hours and hours and hours searching for a fact that turns out to be less than one paragraph in my novel, but if I do not make an effort for accuracy, some astute reader will surely call me on it. Sometimes, I must even educate my editor on Regency facts. For example, when I wrote, “…a figure wrapped in a long black cape and sporting a beaver,” my editor changed it to “a long black cape with a beaver lining.” I had to explain to the young lady that a beaver was a man’s top hat in the Regency period. So, for this blog, I thought I might introduce our visitors to some of the tidbits of information, one now finds floating about in my head and intricately manipulated into my books.

The Peterloo Massacre: In 1819, a group of leading radicals formed the Manchester Patriotic Union Society. The group sought parliamentary reform. On August 16,1819, they planned a public gathering of reformers, including Henry Hunt and Richard Carlile, to meet at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester. Unfortunately, the local magistrates feared a riot, so they ordered reinforcements in the form of four squadrons of cavalry of the 15th Hussars (600 men), several hundred infantrymen, the Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry (400 men), a detachment of the Royal Horse Artillery and two six-pounder guns, the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry (120 men), and all Manchester’s special constables (400 men).
Estimation of the crowd’s size varied, but some believe as many as 50,000 people were at St. Peter’s Field by noon. Afraid, the local magistrates sent the 400 special constables to form two continuous lines between the hustings of the speaker’s stage and a house on Mound Street where the nine magistrates took cover. At 1:20 P.M., various members of news organizations escorted the afternoon’s speakers to the stage. William Hulton, chairman of the group of magistrates, ordered Joseph Nadin, Deputy Constable of Manchester, to arrest Henry Hunt and the other demonstration leaders. Nadin realized he could not control the crowd with just the constables, so he asked for help from the military. Many members of the Manchester Yeomanry group were reported to be drunk when they entered the field.
Needless to say, the crowd took offense with the military’s presence and with the attempt to arrest Hunt and the other leaders. When the onlookers closed the pathway to the stage, the yeomanry used their sabers to cut their way through the crowd. Additional military units were dispersed, and by 2 P.M., the crowd had been driven from the site. Eighteen people were killed and another 500, including 100 women and children, were wounded. James Wroe of the Manchester Observer dubbed the incident Peterloo because many former soldiers said it reminded them of Waterloo’s destruction (
The Peterloo Massacre is a pivotal scene in “His Irish Eve,” a novella depicting the life of Adam Lawrence, a character in The Phantom of Pemberley. Adam must, literally, fight his way across the park to save the woman he loves.

Saturation Bombing and Chemical Warfare: Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane, the 10th Earl of Dundonald, proposed a revolutionary idea to the Prince Regent (George IV) in March 1812. Cochrane, who earned 75,000 pounds sterling in prize money as a member of the British Navy and who had been dubbed “le loup des mers” (the sea wolf) by Napoleon, detailed two innovative weapons. The first was referred to as “temporary mortar” or an “explosion ship.” The second was called “the sulphur ship” or “stink ship.” For the temporary mortar, Cochrane suggested a hulk, with the decks removed and a reinforced inner shell. In the bottom of the ship, a layer of clay was placed. Into this layer, scrap metal and obsolete ordnance would be embedded. The “charge” in the form of a layer of power came next, followed by laid rows of shells and animal carcasses. The explosion ship would be towed into the vicinity of anchored enemy ships and detonated. The “mortar” would spread out over a wide area and smother the enemy in a deadly torrent.
The “stink ship” was an attack on land fortifications. Again, using a hulk, one where the upper deck remained in place, Cochrane suggested that the British cover that deck with a layer of charcoal. That would be followed by sulphur (equaling 1/5 the volume of the fuel). The hulk would be floated up against a shore battery or fortification and then the winds did the job. Clouds of “noxious effluvia” were carried inward. Cochrane also used a mixture with coke and coal tar involved.
The British government saw this as a possibility, but Prinny’s advisors worried that the French might retaliate in a similar fashion. Therefore, the proposal was rejected. Cochrane’s plan was revisited many times, most specifically during the Crimean War. Eventually, the plans were sealed away on the shelves for confidential materials at Whitehall. In 1908, Lord Palmerston’s correspondence opened the secret vaults. A decade later, ( “sulphuric yellow clouds of mustard gas ravaged thousands in the trenches of France.”
In Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, Frederick Wentworth stumbles across a plan being purported by Cochrane’s followers and must set his own strategy in action to thwart the schemes.

Thoroughbreds: When Arabian horses were sent as gifts to European heads of state, a different type of horse became the standard in Great Britain. The Godolphin Arabian was imported into England in 1730. Before that time, the Brits were introduced to the Byerley Turk (1683) and the Darley Arabian (1703). It is believed that the Thoroughbred’s ancestry traces back for more than 400 years to these three stallions. ( These Arabian stallions were bred to the stronger, but less swift, native English mares: The result was the thoroughbred. A thoroughbred horse could carry weight with sustained speed over extended distances. The British Stud Book, begun by James Weatherby in 1791, traced 350 mares to these three horses: Eclipse (a descendant of the Darley Arabian); Matchem (a grandson of the Godolphin Arabian); or Herod (a great grandson of the Byerly Turk).
In both “His American Heartsong” and A Touch of Cashémere, the main characters show an interest in raising thoroughbreds. Arabella Tilney even rides in a race in place of Lawrence Lowery in “His American Heartsong.”

Baobhan Sith: These creatures are sometimes referred to as “The White Women of the Scottish Highlands.” They are a type of female vampires, similar to the Irish banshee. A baobhan sith is a beautiful woman in a green dress. She uses her seductive powers to capture her victims. Legend has it that the baobhan sith approached a group of travelers. The men built a fire and began to openly wish for female company. Four lovely baobhan sith appeared and enticed and danced with the men until dawn. Then the creatures attacked. One of the men hid between two horses, and the iron in the horses’ shoes protected him from the creatures. If a man refuses the seductive power of the baobhan sith, she must serve him for ten years.
This legend is the basis of the vampire curse on the Darcy family in Vampire Darcy’s Desire. A Baobhan Sith enticed Lord Thomas (Arawan Benning), but Lady Ellender D’Arcy gives the seductress Seorais Winchcombe in Thomas’s place. Seorais Winchcombe is Scottish for George Wickham.

Skunks: There are no skunks in England. They are exclusively “New World” animals. In the “Old World,” we find relatives of the skunk: weasels, such as the ermine mink, and the zorilla.
Much to my chagrin, I made this discovery as I was writing a “most delicious” scene in which Arabella, an American, is sprayed by a skunk. However, that scene went into File 13, better known as my trash can. In Regency times, skunks were not a possibility for a novella entitled “His American Heartsong.”

Cernunnos: Cernunnos is a Celtic god associated with horned male animals and is often portrayed with a stag. He has with him a serpent with the horns of a ram. He is usually portrayed as a man with long hair and a beard; He wears a torc about his neck to denote nobility. Some believe it is upon Cernunnos that we base our image of Satan, a man with horns.
Those of you who have read Vampire Darcy’s Desire will now note the torc and the snakes and the emblem in Wickham’s house, as well as Elizabeth’s dream of the stag with Darcy’s eyes.

“Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender”: This traditional Scottish folk song was also known as “The Brown Girl,” “Fair Eleanor,” or “Fair Ellinor.” There are nine different versions, with three alternating melodies, document by Francis Child.

Lord Thomas was a bold forester
And the lodge-keeper of the king’s deer
Fair Ellender was a lady gay
Lord Thomas, he loved her dear.

Lord Thomas spoke a word in jest
And Ellender took it ill
“Oh, I will never marry me a wife
Against my family’s will.”

“If you will never wed thee a wife
A wife will never wed thee!”
So he rode home to tell his mother
And knelt upon his knee.

“Mother, come mother, come riddle to me,
Come riddle it all in one
And tell me whether to marry Fair Ellen
Or bring the Brown Girl home.”

The Brown Girl she has house and land
Fair Ellender she has none
And there I charge you with the blessing
To bring the Brown Girl home.”

He dressed himself all in his best
His merry men all in white
And every town that he passed through
They took him to be some knight.

“What news have you brought, Lord Thomas?
What news have you brought unto me?”
“I’ve come to ask you to my wedding,
A sorrowful wedding to be.”

She turned around and dressed in white
Her sisters dressed in green
And every town that they rode through
They took her to be some queen.

Thomas took her by her lily-white hand
When leading her through the hall
Saying fifty gay ladies are here today
But here is the flower of all.

“Is this your bride, Lord Thomas?” she said.
“She looks most wonderful brown
You might have had a fair a woman
As ever trod England’s ground.”

“Despise her not, fair Ellender, he said.
“Despise her not to me
Much better do I like your little finger
Than I do her whole body.”

The Brown Girl she was standing by
With knife ground keen and sharp
Betwixt the long ribs and the short
She pierced Fair Ellender’s heart.

“Oh, what’s the matter?” Lord Thomas said.
“You look so pale and wan
You used to have so fair a color
As ever the sun shone on.”

“Oh, are you blind, Thomas?” said she.
“Or can’t you very well see?
And can’t you see my own heart’s blood,
As it trickles down to my knee?”

Lord Thomas he was standing by,
With knife ground keen and sharp,
Between the long ribs and the short,
He pierced his own bride’s heart.

He head the grip against the wall,
The point against his breast,
“There is the going of three true lovers,
God send our souls to rest.”

“Oh, father, oh, father, go dig my grave,
Go dig it wide and deep,
And place fair Ellender in my arms
And the Brown Girl at my feet.”

This is the folksong upon which I based the Darcy curse in Vampire Darcy’s Desire. The Brown Girl was a girl with dark hair, as opposed to the blonde Ellender.

Like each of the writers on this site, I spend hours trying to verify facts to make my story lines sing of the truth, and maybe along the way, I introduce a reader to something of which he was unaware.

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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