The Peterloo Massacre and “His Irish Eve” ~ Excerpt + a Giveaway

Previously, I introduce you to my novel, His Irish Eve. The events of that particular novel lead up to the hero and heroine being caught in the melee of the Peterloo Massacre. The year is 1819, and Adam Lawrence, Viscount Stafford, recognizes the need to leave the old ways of the aristocracy behind; however, his father, the Earl of Greenwall, is not so receptive to the changes sweeping across England after the Napoleonic Wars and on the edge of the Industrial Revolution. So, what exactly happened at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester?

A depiction of the Peterloo Massacre by Richard Carlile – Public Domain

A depiction of the Peterloo Massacre by Richard Carlile – Public Domain

On August 16, 1819, the Peterloo Massacre occurred at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester. A crowd of 60,000-80,000 gathered to protest the lack of parliamentary representation for the heavily populated industrialized areas.

With the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the Corn Laws exacerbated the famine of the Year without Summer (1816) and the growing unemployment problems. By the beginning of 1819 the pressure generated by poor economic conditions, coupled with the lack of suffrage in northern England, enhanced the appeal of political radicalism. In response, the Manchester Patriotic Union, a group agitating for parliamentary reform, organized a demonstration to be addressed by the well-known radical orator Henry Hunt.

Fearing the worst, local magistrates called on the military to dispense with the crowd. They also demanded the arrest of Hunt and the other featured speakers. The Cavalry charged the crowd with sabers drawn. In the melee, 15 people were killed and some 500+ were injured. The massacre was given the name Peterloo, an ironic comparison to the devastation found at the Battle of Waterloo. The Peterloo Massacre became a defining moment of the age. Unfortunately, the massacre’s immediate effect was the passage of the Six Acts, which labelled any meeting for radical reform as “an overt act” of treasonable conspiracy.

650px-peterlooredplaque1It also led directly to the foundation of The Manchester Guardian, but had little other effect on the pace of reform. In a survey conducted by The Guardian in 2006, Peterloo came second to the Putney Debates as the event from British history that most deserved a proper monument or a memorial. A plaque close to the site, a replacement for an earlier one that was criticized as being inadequate, as it did not reflect the scale of the massacre, commemorates Peterloo.

Information from Wikipedia 

Unknown-1When the Earl of Greenwall demands his only son, Viscount Stafford, retrieve the viscount’s by-blow, everything in ADAM LAWRENCE’s life changes. Six years prior, Lawrence released his former mistress Cathleen Donnell from his protection, only to learn in hindsight Cathleen was with child. Stafford arrives in Cheshire to discover not only a son, but also two daughters, along with a strong-minded woman, who fascinates him from the moment of their first encounter.

AOIFE KENNICE, the children’s cousin and caregiver, is a woman impervious to Stafford’s masculine charms, as one of England’s most infamous rakes. In truth, Aoife is not as immune as she pretends, but she cannot imagine herself as the object of more than a flirtation on the part of the viscount. On balance, they are world’s apart: Aoife is daughter of a minor Irish baron and the opposite of her beautiful cousin Cathleen, who possessed all the skills to lure in a handsome viscount. To make matters worst, Aoife maintains the family’s a sheep farm to support Stafford’s family. A “lady,” Aoife is not.

A battle begins: A fight Adam must win–a fight for the heart of a woman worth knowing, his Irish “Eve.”

______________________________________

Excerpt from part of Adam’s and Aoife’s struggles to reach safety during the melee known as the Peterloo Massacre. Adam’s plan to meet Aoife at the park and to propose transforms into a confrontation with soldiers and political reformation. 

…Sheltering the children before her, Aoife held her ground against those who would push her from the way. Jonesboro cupped her with his body, absorbing the elbows and jabs rather than permitting her to suffer. She was most grateful for the kindness of His Lordship’s valet.

Aoife wished she never agreed to meet Lord Stafford at this program. All along, she sensed  disaster lay dormant, just waiting to rear its ugly head. Early on, Aoife assumed her misgivings had to do with her parting from Lord Stafford; now, she held different ideas.

Apprehension ruled Aoife’s every thought as she surveyed the best way to maneuver the children from danger’s presence. She hoped that when the speeches started, the people would cease their jostling of others in order to listen, but that did not prove true. A quick look around solidified her resolve; fearing for the children’s safety, Aoife decided staying at the event detrimental for all concerned.

Even if Lord Stafford made no appearance, Aoife would not wait to hear Hunt and Richard Carlile. Her intuition warned that something was not right; she could feel it in her gut.

* * *

Expecting any second to see them, Adam looked up and down the street, but even with all the children in the crowd, none of them were his.

“Where are they?” he mumbled and worriedly examined his watch again. Twenty past the hour–five minutes longer than Adam intended to wait. Turning on his heels, he started towards the gate before hearing a familiar voice call out. Adam turned to see his footman hurrying towards him.

“Ferguson!” He rushed to meet the man. “Where are Jonesboro and my family?”

The footman made a quick bow.

“By the stage, Sir. Miss Kennice said the crowd was too large to bring the children through it.”

“By the stage?”

Adam’s eyes declared his panic.

“The authorities are sending soldiers to keep the peace.”

He was moving to the staging area with the others, pressing his way toward his family. Toward Aoife.

“Hurry, Ferguson, they are in danger.”

The crowd swallowed them as Adam led the way, an anxious dread filling his lungs as Adam squeezed between families and workers.

* * *

In concern, the crowd edged forward when the main speakers took to the stage. In addition to Henry Hunt, who was billed as the main speaker, Joseph Johnson, John Knight, and Richard Carlile moved to a position of authority upon the raised platform. In a counter maneuver, the constables, who formed two continuous lines between the hustings and some place along the street where they entered the park, pushed back in unison against the milling crowd.

To Aoife’s horror, those around her refused to move. The throng pressed Aoife, Jonesboro, and the children uncomfortably against the staging area.

Tempers flared and faded. Words of contempt and hatred exploded, and raised fists accented the anger. As a murmur of discontent rose from those around her, Aoife pulled the children closer. She bent to whisper to Daniel.

“If I tell you to move, I want you to take the girls and hide under the speaker’s stand.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

The boy’s eyes grew in size.

“The crowd is too large, but we must wait for Lord Stafford.”

She held no desire to frighten the boy, but Aofe thought it necessary for him to be aware of what occurred him.

“Stay close, Children,” she warned, standing again to survey the onlookers, protecting Lord Stafford’s children–her children, really–by closeting them close to her legs, her arms draped over the girls’ shoulders.

* * *

Adam cut a direct course to where Aoife reportedly stood, but the special constables shoved all comers away, including him. He thought of arguing, reminding these locals he was part of the aristocracy, but he had no time for reason, only for action.

“This way,” he called to Ferguson as they circled around the edge of the crowd, in order to penetrate the line.

When the speakers took the stage, the open space separating onlookers shrank dramatically. Adam squeezed between a man and his wife, offering words of apology as he went. His mind rested purely on the danger, which surrounded them.

He overheard one of the constables grumble, “Nadin is crazy if he thinks I am going to arrest Hunt before all these people. It would be suicide.”

The words spurred Adam to double his efforts, but no matter what he did, he could not escape the growing crowd surrounding him. People pressed him, choking every point of entry or exit–extinguishing his hopes of reaching Aoife before trouble began.

“Your Lordship.”

Ferguson caught his shoulder, staying Adam’s progress.

“Look.”

Adam turned his head sharply in the direction Ferguson pointed.

“Oh, my God!”

The words exploded. From the direction cleared by the constables, yeomen entered the area from Portland Street, sabers drawn against those who locked arms, closing the pathway created by the constables. As the yeomen breached the line of onlookers, Adam surged through the opening with Ferguson close on his heels.

* * *

Aoife noted the soldiers when they entered the field. Only moments before, yeomen pushed through the crowd. The one closest to her, when he passed, reeked of alcohol and sweat and fear.

Unfortunately, the spectators reacted before Aoife could do anything to protect the children. The peaceful crowd of a few minutes prior took offense at the authority’s intrusion and set up a wall of people to protect the speakers. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the lookers-on dared the irrational yeomanry to make a move in the direction of the “exulted” guests. The column, which created earlier by the constables, collapsed around the intruders, and pure chaos broke loose.

In terror, Aoife watched as the yeomanry pulled their sabers and hacked away at those closest to them.

“Disperse them!” someone behind her ordered.

“Aoife!” Elaine’s sweet voice held real urgency.

“I have you, Poppet.”

She caught the child around the waist and pushed her under the raised dais. Meanwhile, Jonesboro shoved Daniel and Aileen in the same direction.

“Work your way toward the center, and do not come out until I tell you to,” 
Aoife urged.

“Ma’am?” Daniel questioned.

“It shall be well, Daniel.”

Aoife squeezed the child’s hand and then shoved his head low so he could follow his sisters into the maze of wooden supports bracing the raised platforms. She saw him catch Aileen’s hand and lead them away from the melee.

Frightened, Aoife turned frantically to look where Jonesboro now tussled with a local law officer. Officers struck onlookers indiscriminately.

“Leave him alone,” Aoife charged forward, hands on her hips, taking an authoritative stance.

Without thinking, the officer swung his arm around as he tried wrestled Jonesboro to the ground. His upper arm caught Aoife on the butt of her chin, knocking her backward, sending her sprawling in a very unladylike “thump” to the hardened earth.

Shaking her head to clear it, Aoife rolled onto her side to right herself, pulling her knees up under her to fight her way to her feet again. Looking about her, she spotted the officer, who held Jonesboro in a strangle hold and who dragged His Lordship’s valet away from where Aoife waited. A distinctive strangled sound filled her with fear. Acting instinctively, Aoife covered the short distance to launch herself at the officer, jumping on the man’s back and pummeling him with her fists.

“Release him!” she screamed.

* * *

To Adam’s perturbation, a mounted officer charged into the fracas surrounding him.

“No!” Adam yelled, freezing those around him in a terrible tableau. However, the officer continued his assault. The man struck the woman who blocked his way: the baby she held flying from her arms. The child’s blanket unfurled, giving the impression of the infamous tales of flying carpets, and then the tiny body, suspended momentarily, crashed violently to the ground. A thud, which Adam felt in his bones as he bent to scoop the babe’s form from the ground. His heart pounded in his ears, as the broken frame hung loosely in his grasp. The child’s thin arms sagged without life at his side.

The woman rushed forward to snatch the child from Adam’s hold. Wailing disconsolately, she sank to her knees, tears streaming down her face as she clutched the baby to her breast. Adam reached for her, desperately wishing to offer his comfort, but his footman’s voice stayed his actions.

“Come!” Ferguson urged as he grabbed Adam’s arm.

Looking about a bit unhinged, Adam realized his goal remained unearned. Staggering to his feet, he spun toward the stage. Horror-stricken, he could see Aoife across the field, a hundred meters away.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for the opportunity to win an eBook copy of “His Irish Eve.” The giveaway will end at midnight Friday, August 21, 2015 EDST. 

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in British history, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, Peterloo Massacre, Regency era and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Peterloo Massacre and “His Irish Eve” ~ Excerpt + a Giveaway

  1. Jennifer Redlarczyk says:

    Regina, you must spend night and day at your computer. Every time I look you have a new book out. Love all the history you incorporate into your stories. Thanks for all you do. Jen Red

    • This book was originally included in with “His American Heartsong” in “His: Two Regency Novellas.” I reworked both titles, gave them new more compelling cover images, and released them separately. This one came out in May, but with the remembrance of the Peterloo Massacre, I thought to bring it to everyone’s notice.

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