AARRGGHH!! The Need for Historical Accuracy…

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 certain everyone who writes historicals or historical fiction may attest, spending hours and hours and hours searching for a fact that turns out to be less than one paragraph in the finished manuscript is a necessary evil, not only as a matter of personal pride, but also to prevent an astute reader from bringing it to one’s attention in a very public manner. Sometimes, it is necessary to educate editors and Beta readers of the history 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 working for my traditional publisher at the time 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 Observerdubbed the incident Peterloo because many former soldiers said it reminded them of Waterloo’s destruction.

hiethumbnail The Peterloo Massacre is a pivotal scene in His Irish Eve, a novel in which my go-to character, Adam Lawrence, Viscount Stafford, has his own HEA. 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.”

517vbabpw6l-_sy346_In Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion, 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).

51qc31w5zsl-_sx326_bo1204203200_ In His American Heartsong, Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep 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.

51amjgdxvml-_sy346_ 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.

51y7cf2bsvl-_sx322_bo1204203200_ Much to my chagrin, I made this discovery as I was writing a “most delicious” scene in which Arabella Tilney, 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.

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 many writers, 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.

Jews in King George’s England: In 1760, in imitation of the Deputies appointed to protect the civil rights of Protestant Dissenters, the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish population nominated deputados to oversee political developments of special interest to their well being and to approach the government on the group’s behalf when necessary. A standing committee was also appointed to express homage and devotion to the new sovereign.However, the Ashkenazi faction presented a formal protest, claiming neglect. The Ashkenzami group nominated their own German Secret Committee for Public Affairs to act on their behalfs. The administration refused to deal with two separate groups, saying they would communicate only to the Committee of the Dutch Jews’ Synagogues and the two factions must find a means to communicate. These deputados represented 6000-8000 Jews, the majority of which lived in London. Approximately 25% of the population belonged to the more anglicized Spanish and Portuguese element. The Ashkenazim, though more numerous, were less assimilated and, generally, belonged to a lower social stratum.

51wz7wk6k-l-_sx331_bo1204203200_ The Jewish factions become part of the plot line of A Touch of Love: Book 6 of the Realm Series because Lucinda Warren’s late husband hid his Jewish background in order to assimilate into the English gentry. He also hides his marriage to a Jewish girl from Lucinda.

PTSD: PTSD is not a new condition. It existed since the beginning of time. There are references to the “madness” in Shakespeare, Dickens, the Bible, Mahabharata, Aristotle, Homer, and the like. We are now more knowledgeable of the trauma that any life-changing event can cause a human (war, rape, natural disasters, etc.). But in the time of the Regency period in England, no one had a name for what surely must have claimed more than one man returning to “normalcy” after all the years of the Napoleonic War. Yet, it was 1980 before the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder entered the English vocabulary.

51zxcx1ka8l-_sx331_bo1204203200_ Over the years, the disorder with termed as nostalgia, melancholy, homesickness, soldier’s heart, hysteria, neurasthenia, ester root, railway spine, compensation sickness, combat exhaustion, shell shock, compensation sickness, and stress response syndrome. It was not until after World War II that psychologists classified the illness as a form of trauma. Unfortunately, early physicians thought of the illness as temporary in nature and returning home would solve the situation. In The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam suffers from “PTSD” and cannot recall his part in a series of murders. 

There are many more, but I must go back to my research for  In Bed with the British, arriving the summer of 2017 from Pen and Sword Publishers. 15302389_10211500469177885_623172374_o


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in British history, Great Britain, Industry News/Publishing, Living in the UK, Napoleonic Wars, real life tales, Regency era, Regency personalities and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to AARRGGHH!! The Need for Historical Accuracy…

  1. Loved the post. I know what you mean by research the heck out of something, and only using a tiny portion! Tweeted and shared.

    • Thanks, Ella. My current WIP has been the most difficult of the research. If I could go to England, it would be so much easier. LOL!

      • Probably. Having lived there, it makes it a bit easier for me. But I have to tell you that the book I wrote that is based down here, was a pain to research. So many of the documents have been lost.

      • One finds so much on the internet, which is pure garbage. Even when I find a fact I think I can use, I continue to research until I discover a more substantiated one.

  2. dmacsf says:

    “File 13” LOL! I actually love research, but it takes up so much time when I’m itching to write. I spent hours researching ships, ranks, navigation, just for an opening chapter in my novel, in which the hero is forced to retire from the Navy. All those halyards and ropes and things! Yikes.
    And I agree, it can be incredibly frustrating, when a key tidbit turns out to be anachronistic.
    Fascinating post, thanks!

  3. dwwilkin says:

    Reblogged this on The Things That Catch My Eye and commented:
    Research is one of the foundations we must have in our writing to make our stories come alive, and be true as well. Were I to write that Prinny were vibrant and Youthful and set my tale in 1828, I would be doing a disservice. Even now I have dates to check and facts to look at whilst I edit Cautions Heir. Here Regina Jeffers provides us with a great bit of detail that we must be attentive to in our stories as she is in hers. Astute readers of this blog will know we dedicated an entire post to the Peterloo Massacre as well.

    • With the Peterloo Massacre, David, I made certain of which streets were used by the approaching troops and which were used by those coming to listen to the speakers. It was one of my favorite scenes to write.
      In my current WIP, I am spending countless hours with legal proceedings in 1816.
      Thanks for the reblog of this post.

  4. Anji says:

    Fascinating post, Regina. I never cease to be amazed at the lengths most writers go to when preparing the background for a novel. A close friend is currently researching for his fourth novel and is asking my husband all sorts of legal questions as hubby is a retired lawyer.

    Anyway, my research is the exact opposite of yours when it comes to historical accuracy. If I read or watch something based on historical fact, I then have to look into it to see what was real and what was fiction. My history studies at school were finished by the age of 15, having had a succession of really not very good teachers, so I’ve been playing catchup ever since.

    Recently, it was the Wars of the Roses, having watched the TV series The White Queen, then reading all the novels in the series by Philippa Gregory, then researching the known history behind it. My current history kick is Regency/Georgian era medicine, sparked by Maria Grace’s Wholly Unconnected To Me, and relating that to what I know as a pharmacist.

  5. Laudanum plays a major role in the plot of my next release, A Touch of Honor (out the end of next week). Its many uses in the Regency and Victorian periods is amazing.

  6. Lynn Robb says:

    Bless you for “File 13” which contains everything I wish to keep so private as to be nonexistent. You have no idea how many of my pages got filed there before I figured out it was supposed to be “research, write, revise” not “write, research, revise.”

    • I called it “File 13” because of the habit of many buildings not to have a 13th floor. I figured if a whole floor of a skyscraper is nonexistent, then so be my many mistakes.

  7. Linda Govik says:

    Great post! It’s amazing how one can get completely snowed in on these details, and what lengths you will go through to get it Just Right – even if you basically know that in some cases, the reader won’t even care. I even did a rather extensive research on “popular” (yes, I know…) gravestone inscriptions during the 18th century, because hey – you don’t want that potential one in a million reader (who also happens to be a historical-gravestone-inscription expert) to call your bluff, do you? 😀

    • Oh, Linda, I can certainly sympathize. One other area of concern is the differences in spellings in the U.S. and England. With an American publisher, I use the American spellings, but often I am tempted to choose the English ones to see if anyone notices. LOL!

  8. Sophia Rose says:

    I have definitely benefited from all your ‘aarrgghh research’. Your books always fascinate me not only for the storyline, but the background detail. I’ve learned a lot. And you’re a great example of a writer who seems to have found the balance between historical accuracy and good storytelling. 🙂

  9. donjacobsoncarpediem says:

    Loved this post. As a historian I try to use the history to establish context and inform my characters. Used Peterloo in “The Keeper” to frame the culminating action.

    • Good day, Don. I am pleased you enjoyed the post. Peterloo was a fascinating bit to add to the story. Up until then, most of my pieces were centered around 1812 to 1815. Now, the book I am writing is set in the first years of George IV’s reign.

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