A Closer Look at “A Touch of Love: Book 6 of the Realm Series”

Originally, I thought the Realm series would be three, mayhap four novels. I thought the books would cover the adventures of James Kerrington (book 1), Brantley Fowler (book 2) and Gabriel Crowden (book 4). For the other four men of the Realm, I thought I would write novellas. All that changed as the series grew. Soon each of the gentlemen had their own stories. 

In A Touch of Love, we meet Sir Carter Lowery, who is the second son of Baron Blakehell. Sir Carter is the youngest of the seven members of the Realm, but he is being groomed eventually to take over their particular unit of the Home Office. Sir Carter receives a baronetcy in book 1 when Sir Louis Levering emotionally attacks the Prince Regent and loses his position in Society. Carter’s back story shows a young man always attempting to prove himself worthy to his father, who favors the older brother, Lawrence Lowery. Lawrence and Carter are close, but his father Baron Blakehell offers Carter no encouragement. Fresh off the Waterloo battlefield, such was the reason Carter joined the Realm and why he is so driven. 

As a side note, Lawrence Lowery appears twice in this series. Early on in Book 3, he assisted his brother’s friends by escorting the Aldridge sisters’ uncle, Viscount Averette, from the picture, providing time for the Realm to rescue Velvet Aldridge from a crazy Balock assassin. In this book six, he plays a supporting character to Sir Carter’s efforts to thwart a group of smugglers. Lawrence Lowery has his own book, His American Heartsong, which serves as a companion to the series. 

We first meet Lucinda Warren, the heroine of book 6, in book 2 of the series. Lucinda’s late husband, Matthew Warren, served with Brantley Fowler for a time, and they were school chums. When Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, encounters Lucinda at a museum showing, it thinks it would be wise to choose another other than Miss Velvet Aldridge upon whom to spread his attentions. Lucinda is only a passing fancy for the duke, and nothing of importance happens between them, but something of note passes between her and Sir Carter at Lady Eleanor Fowler’s Come Out ball. It is something quite profound, but it takes the duke bringing the two back together that sets Carter and Lucinda’s steps on the same path. 

Lucinda’s situation greatly deteriorates after her brief encounter with Fowler. She lives on her widow’s pension, but one day she returns home to find an abandoned child upon her doorstep. The boy is Jewish, and he has a note pinned to his clothes saying that he is her late husband’s child, and that Matthew Warren had been married to a Jewess on the Continent before he married Lucinda. The woman was not dead when Warren pronounced his vows to Lucinda. Moreover, Warren is a Jew himself — a Jew that had been raised up as a Protestant. If Lucinda was never married to Warren, she has no means of support, and so she calls upon Fowler for assistance. As Sir Carter is the one with the most knowledge and connections in the Realm, Fowler recruits his friend to assist Lucinda. Little do they know that Matthew’s deception lies deeper than a bit of bigamy. Warren’s double life puts both Lucinda and Sir Carter in danger.

ATOL3.jpg A Touch of Love: Book 6 of the Realm Series

[historical fiction; Regency romance; adventure; romantic suspense; mystery]

The REALM has returned to England to claim the titles they left behind. Each man holds to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love and home, but first he must face his old enemy Shaheed Mir, a Baloch warlord, who believes one of the group has stolen a fist-sized emerald. Mir will have the emeralds return or will exact his bloody revenge.. Aristotle Pennington has groomed

SIR CARTER LOWERY as his successor as the Realms leader, and Sir Carter has thought of little else for years. He has handcrafted his life, filled it with duties and responsibilities, and eventually, he will choose a marriage of convenience to bolster his career; yet, Lucinda Warren is a temptation he cannot resist. Every time he touches her, he recognizes his mistake because his desire for her is not easily quenched. To complicate matters, it was Mrs. Warrens father, Colonel Roderick Rightnour, whom Sir Carter replaced at the Battle of Waterloo, an action which had named Sir Carter a national hero and her father a failure as a military strategist.

LUCINDA WARRENs late husband has left her to tend to a child belonging to another woman and has drowned her in multiple scandals. Her only hope to discover the boys true parentage and to remove her name from the lips of the tons censors is Sir Carter Lowery, a man who causes her body to course with awareness, as if he had etched his name upon her soul. Cruel twists of Fate have thrown them together three times, and Lucinda prays to hold off her cry for completion long enough to deny her heart and to release Sir Carter to his future: A future to which she will never belong.

The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout.Publishers Weekly

Kindle   https://www.amazon.com/Touch-Love-Book-Realm-ebook/dp/B00GFDGYZQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Kobo    https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-touch-of-love-4

Amazon    https://www.amazon.com/Touch-Love-Realm-6/dp/0615893597/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

CreateSpace    https://www.createspace.com/4456047

Nook    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-touch-of-love-regina-jeffers/1117314758?ean=2940149545155

Enjoy this Excerpt from Chapter 2:

Lucinda wiped at the moisture accumulating on the inside of the thin windowpane. For nearly two months, she explored every resource at her disposal in determining what she might do to survive her nightmare.

“My efforts would prove more profitable if I could explain why I wished to know more of Mr. Warren’s service in Spain,” she grumbled under her breath. She wore several layers to keep warm. Coal cost more than Lucinda could afford, and she and the boy wore much of their respective wardrobes to ward off the chill and the dampness. Turning to the child, she announced, “The rain stopped. We should see to our errands and a bit of air while we might.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” The boy obediently retrieved his jacket. The garment was already too small for the lad. She wondered how she was to provide for the child. Lucinda knew she could always turn Simon over to the authorities, but the thought of the sensitive, frail boy in one of the orphanages fortified her resolve to find a means to save him. She considered swallowing her pride and begging her uncle for assistance, but Lucinda doubted the Earl of Charleton would take kindly to her asking for funds to raise a Jewish child belonging to her late husband. No, Lucinda would delay the rumor of ruin awaiting her on the earl’s steps for as long as she could.

Thirty minutes saw her approaching the small park she and the boy frequented when the weather permitted. Mrs. Peterman presented Simon with a small ball, and the boy enjoyed working it up and down a low hill with intricate footwork that Simon must have learned in his former home. Lucinda brushed off a bench with a handkerchief.

“You must stay where I may see you,” Lucinda cautioned. She always worried on how other children might treat the child. “I shall rest here while you enjoy yourself.”

Simon smiled largely. The boy’s spontaneity surprised her. He was usually so serious-faced. The gesture made him more childlike.

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

Lucinda watched him go. The well-worn ball twirling through the brown grass. There were days she cursed the boy’s appearance in her life, but she never cursed the child. It was no fault on Simon’s part for what had occurred. “Likely someone would discover Captain Warren’s perfidy before long,” she murmured. Lucinda took to thinking and speaking of her late husband as either “Mr.” or “Captain” Warren. It was her means to distance herself from everything for which Matthew Warren stood.

“Mrs. Warren?” Lucinda looked up to observe a freckled-faced young man standing before her. Hat in hand, he bowed awkwardly to her.

A familiar face. Lucinda laughed easily.

“Lieutenant Worsley? My goodness. To think we meet again after all these years.” She patted the bench beside her. “If you have a few moments, please join me.” After Matthew’s death and that of her father, Lucinda quickly came to the conclusion she had no true friends, only a string of acquaintances, who waltzed in and out of her life. The man standing before her was one such acquaintance.

“I would be honored, Ma’am.” With a blush of color on his cheeks, the young lieutenant sat stiffly on the other end of the bench. “I could not believe my eyes when I crossed the street and spotted you upon this very bench,” he said on a nervous exhalation.

The man was several years older than she, but his actions said otherwise. The former lieutenant was quite discomfited.

“How long have you been in London?” she asked in politeness.

“We only arrived this week.” Worsley nervously ran his finger along the line of his cravat.

Lucinda felt sorry for him. She did not know Lieutenant Worsley well, but she always noted how he stumbled over his words when he was in the presence of a woman. She assumed him quite naïve, but that was years prior. Should not the war have given the man more confidence?

“We?” she inquired. “With your family or your wife or betrothed perhaps?”

She could not erase the teasing tone from her words. Since coming to London, Lucinda knew very little company, and it was good to speak to an acquaintance with the easy of joined memories.

Worsley fingered his hat.

“Oh, no, Ma’am. I am not the one betrothed, but my sister made a fine match with Sir Robert O’Dell. Mother insisted we come up from Surrey to commission a trousseau for the nuptials. Mama seems to think I should take in some of the entertainments. She believes I require a wife to ease my way into Society.” Lucinda doubted a wife would cure the man’s bashfulness.  He swallowed deeply. “Is Captain Warren in London also? I would enjoy an evening with someone who speaks of all I we shared upon the Continent. It is sometimes difficult for others to accept honesty in my responses.”

Lucinda knew immediate regret. Perhaps, more than shyness plagued the man. Those who served suffered, even if they survived the devastation.

“I fear Captain Warren met his Maker a year before Waterloo. I am alone in the City. I only recently left behind my mourning weeds for Mr. Warren and for the colonel.” In hindsight, because of her late husband’s betrayal, she wished she never mourned Matthew’s passing.

“Your father also?” Worsley said in incredulity.

“Yes, at Waterloo.” Lucinda would not tell him how foolishly she responded when the French approached. Sometimes, she wondered if her father would have survived if she did not act so uncharacteristically.

They sat in companionable silence for several minutes before the lieutenant said, “You must pardon my familiarity, Ma’am, but I do not understand how you could be permitted to live without the guidance of a man.”

Lucinda knew many males would not approve of her actions.

“As you have said, Lieutenant Worsley, those who were not on the Continent cannot understand the conditions under which we lived. Even the women who followed the drum hold a different perspective of what is important in life. I fear an afternoon tea with companions speaking of frills and lace holds no attraction for me.”

“Are you one of those bluestockings?” Worsley snarled with displeasure. The man must learn to curb his tongue if he meant to find a wife. Where had the lieutenant’s timidity gone? Had it all been an act? Or was it she who erred? Her experience with men came from the confines of war. She had no means of knowing when to speak her mind and when to temper her words.

She said calmly, “I always was a reader, but I am far from advocating universal suffrage. Moreover, I must insist my life is my own concern.” Lucinda reached for her gloves.

The lieutenant stood quickly.

“Please forgive me, Ma’am. I spoke from turn.”

Lucinda noted the remorse upon the man’s countenance. “I am not annoyed with you, Lieutenant,” she said dutifully, although she was embarrassed to admit how she came to this moment.

Worsley’s Adam’s apple worked hard.

“I truly meant no disrespect, Mrs. Warren. England changed much in the decade I was away. I am often at sixes and sevens it seems.”

“As are we all,” she said compliantly.

He shuffled his feet in place.

“Would it be?” Tentativeness returned. “Would it be acceptable for me to call upon you while I am in London?”

Lucinda stood also.

“Your offer is greatly appreciated, Lieutenant, but we should each find a means to return to English society. It would be wrong of us to seek comfort in each other.” Her words sounded foolish, but Mr. Worsley nodded his agreement.

“You speak with reason, Mrs. Warren. The captain would be proud to call you his wife,” he declared.

Lucinda kept the scorn from her expression, but not totally from her tone.

“I am certain Captain Warren rewarded his wife with his devotion,” she said enigmatically. She spoke the truth: Mr. Warren devoted himself to his wife; the only exception was she was not that woman. She extended her hand to the lieutenant. “I wish you well, Mr. Worsley. Find your happiness and seize it tightly to you.”

A look of confusion crossed the man’s countenance He accepted her hand and bent to kiss her glove.

“I pray I know the happiness you did with Captain Warren, Ma’am.”

Lucinda withdrew her fingers from the man’s grasp. As a squire’s son, Mr. Worsley would do well among the genteel sect.

“I pray you know happiness beyond what you observed in my stead.”

* * *

Carter frowned as he read the missive. Much had happened since he saw his parents aboard The Northern Star. First, he led an operation, which confiscated a large supply of opium entering England: then he set about dismantling the vessel to search for clues to the whereabouts of Murhad Jamot, a known enemy of the Realm. Gabriel Crowden reported seeing Jamot aboard The Sea Spray when the Realm staged its take over, and although Carter initially declared his disbelief in the marquis’s account, he knew the Marquis of Godown would never say as such if it were not true.

Thinking on the marquis’s report brought Carter a moment of regret, and he prayed he did not permanently damage his relationship with Lord Godown. His actions were a great mistake. It all started when Carter fished Lady Godown from the water. The woman and the marquis’s elderly aunts had been taken prisoners; however, the marquise escaped. Godown’s wife attempted an impossible swim for shore in the icy waters off England’s coast. Thinking the lady was a cabin boy, Carter captured her and brought Lady Godown into his small boat. Realizing who she was, Carter turned the ship toward shore and where her husband awaited. Even so, as Carter carried Lady Godown to Crowden’s waiting arms, an unusual loneliness invaded Carter’s heart.

He lifted the marquise into his arms before light-footing his way from the small boat to the lower planking.

“You do that very well, Sir Carter,” Lady Godown murmured from where her head rested below his chin. “I imagine you are an excellent dancer.”

The woman’s words brought a smile to Carter’s lips. It felt a lifetime since he experienced the teasing tone of a handsome woman. He admitted, if only to himself, to enjoying the warmth of Lady Godown’s breath against the base of his neck. At the time, Carter wondered how it would feel to carry his own wife into his bedroom and to know the happiness the other of his unit had discovered. Without thinking, he kissed the soft fuzz at the crown of Lady Godown’s head.

“I will not fail you,” he whispered hoarsely as he climbed the irregular steps leading to the main docks. “In truth, I will prove myself an excellent partner. Promise you will save me a dance at the first ball of the Season.” A gnawing longing caught in his chest. Carter looked up from where his lips grazed Lady Godown’s hair to view Crowden’s approach.

Carter gave his head a mighty shake to drive the memory away.

“Almost as great an error as that fiasco at Waterloo,” he chastised. The missive he held in his hand would only add to the chaos of late. It was from his assistant at the Home Office: Rumors of “Shepherd’s” leaving his post sooner than expected spread quickly among Lord Sidmouth’s staff. Carter frowned. Unlike many of those not of the “inner circle,” he was well aware of Shepherd’s, whose real name was Aristotle Pennington, interest in the Marquis of Godown’s Aunt Bel: Rosabel Murdoch, the Dowager Duchess of Granville. Carter even held hopes that those in power might consider him for Pennington’s replacement. He wondered how Pennington’s leaving would affect the Realm. If Carter did not earn the post, he was not certain he wished to follow another’s orders.

“How would someone else know as much as Shepherd?” he murmured. “Shepherd possesses knowledge beyond the field. He defined the Realm’s role in the world.”

Carter stared out the window at the harbor. He had remained in Liverpool since before Twelfth Night, and he was exhausted by the tedium. It was odd: he was the youngest of their band, but it was he who assumed the duties of King and country. The remainder of his group sought relief in home and family, while he looked to his occupation to fill the long hours.

“Somehow, Kerrington, Fowler, and Wellston proved more successful than I,” he told the empty room. “I thought I had the right of it…”

The sound of the explosion sent Carter diving for protection. The smell of gunpowder filled the air. Splinters of wood flew past as he covered the back of his head with his hands. He landed face down on the dirt floor of the warehouse, which the Realm had procured as his headquarters while in Liverpool. A whish of hot air brushed his scalp.

“Sir Carter!” Symington Henderson called as he rushed into the room. Carter did not move, mentally checking each of his limbs for injury. The young man knelt beside him. “Sir Carter?” Henderson said anxiously. “Are you injured, Sir?”

Carter slowly lowered his hands and pushed upward to sit on his knees. His ears still rang from the impact, and the smell of heated smoke brought back images he worked hard to quelch. He retrieved his handkerchief to wipe his face and hands. Over his shoulder, a gaping hole loomed in the side of the building, which looked out upon the busy dock.

“I appear to be in one piece.” Carter’s voice trembled, and his breath came in short bursts. A crowd had gathered on the other side of the opening to peer into the small office.

Henderson supported Carter to his feet. He swatted away the dust on Carter’s shoulders.

“I sent agents to investigate,” Henderson assured.

Carter nodded his gratitude.

“Have them ask if anyone saw a stranger in the area.” His voice held more authority than he expected.

“I will see to everything, Sir.” Henderson began to gather the papers strewn about the room. “Perhaps you should call in at the Golden Apple and refresh your things,” Henderson suggested cautiously.

Carter raised an eyebrow in dissatisfaction.

“I do not require a nurse,” he said adamantly, but a small voice in his head said, But my mother’s presence would be soothing. Why is it, he thought, we wish our mother’s comfort when the world sends us its worst? He heard more than one soldier, while lying wounded upon the battlefield, calling out for his mother.

Henderson halted his efforts.

“But, Sir. You must feel the ticking clock,” he declared. “On balance, this is your third encounter with death in a little more than six weeks. You cannot think to remain invincible forever.”

* * *

Lucinda permitted the boy to choose two new books at the makeshift lending library. It was an expense she tolerated. Although but five years of age, Simon devoured books, and they had come to a routine of sorts: she read several chapters of a compelling adventure to the child at night, and the next day, the boy would reread the pages, sounding out the words he did not recognize immediately. Young Simon often carried the book to her and asked Lucinda to pronounce a difficult word. As foolish as it sounded, she believed the child memorized the passages.

She glanced down at the boy. He was an odd one–so mature and yet so innocent. Simon never questioned why someone deposited him upon her doorstep. He never complained about the pallet she made for him before the fire nor of the less than palpable meals she managed to place before him. Lucinda supposed the child’s good nature was the reason she tolerated Simon’s obsession with books. Books and the carved wooden horse, which was among the child’s belongings when she discovered him alone in the world.

Early on, Lucinda attempted to question the boy on what he could recall of his previous life, but whoever sent Simon to her schooled the child well. Lucinda would not even consider the possibility Simon held no memories of what came before: the child was too intelligent.

Lucinda set her key to the lock of the double rooms she let in the Peterman’s household, but the door stood ajar. Instantly, she was on alert. Lucinda knew, without a doubt, she had locked the door. She handed the two books she meant to return to the lending library to Simon to hold while she pulled the door closed and gave the lock a solid shake before releasing it.

“Stay here,” she whispered sternly to the boy, who went all wide-eyed. “If you hear anything unusual, run for assistance. Do you understand me?”

Simon nodded several times.

Lucinda swallowed hard and stood slowly. She caught the latch in her trembling hand and edged the door open. Through the narrow crack, she could see her few belongings strewn about the room. Her heart clutched in her chest. She wished she possessed some sort of weapon.

Glancing back to where the boy clung to the wall opposite, she mouthed, “Be prepared. I mean to check what is inside.” Simon appeared less frightened.

Slowly, she turned to face the slender slit. With the palm of her hand, she shoved hard against the flat surface, and the door swung wide to bang against the inside wall. Both she and the child jumped with the sound. Catching at her heart with her hand, Lucinda stepped into the dimly lit space.

Whoever had entered her rooms pulled the drapes closed to block the view from the buildings across the way. Lucinda edged forward, circling the room, her back to the wall. Carefully, she sidestepped over the blocks scattered upon the floor. Without turning her head from the room, she caught the heavy drape and carried it backward to permit the late afternoon sun to invade the space before tying it off with the ribbon she found discarded upon the floor.

She looked up to observe Simon clinging to the doorframe. Motioning the boy to remain in his place, Lucinda executed a more serious search. Even though she thought it foolish to do so, Lucinda knelt to peer beneath the bed. Next, she searched the wardrobe and behind the standing screen; finally, she moved through the small dressing room, which ran the width of her one large room.

Finding nothing unusual, other than the disarray, Lucinda released the pent up breath she did not realize she held.

“Simon, would you ask Mrs. Peterman to come to our rooms. We should speak to the constable.”

The boy’s voice wavered, but he agreed. When Simon disappeared into the house’s passageway, Lucinda scrambled to her secret hiding place. She quickly worked the board free under the small side table to retrieve her bag of coins. Peeking inside, she knew relief to find the coins still in the cloth bag.

The sound of approaching footsteps set her in motion. She would count the coins later, when the boy went to sleep. Shoving the bag into the small opening, she slid the board into place just as Simon burst through the open door, followed closely by Mrs. Peterman.

“Oh, my Girl,” the matron wailed as she clutched a handkerchief to her lips. “I never…” The landlady braced her stance by clasping the back of a chair.

Although still shaken, Lucinda’s ever practical self said, “I think it best we contact the authorities.”

Mrs. Peterman frowned dramatically.

“I am certain this is an anomaly; there is no reason to involve the constable.”

“Someone invaded my room,” Lucinda said in amazement. “A person climbed two flights of stairs, worked my lock free, and then shuffled through my belongings.” Lucinda’s voice rose quickly as her pulse throbbed in the veins of her neck.

The landlady glanced about the room to the disarray.

“Are you certain you locked the door?”

Lucinda swallowed her retort. Despite the disaster of the moment, the rooms were reasonably price.

“Ask the boy.” She kept her countenance expressionless. “He held my package while I secured the door.” Lucinda caught her personal wear from a pile on the floor and shoved the items into a now empty drawer. “Someone targeted my room,” she insisted.

Mrs. Peterman waved away Lucinda’s protest.

“I imagine whoever it was simply tried all the doors until he found one he could manipulate. I cannot say I am surprised. I warned Mr. Peterman we should lock the main door to the house at all times. There are so many men without occupations roaming the streets these days.”

Lucinda’s shoulders slanted defiantly.

“Then you mean to do nothing?”

The landlady pulled herself up to her full height.

“I mean to send Mr. Peterman to repair the door. Unless you lost a fortune, Mrs. Warren,” the woman said threateningly, “calling on the authorities would waste their valuable time and show poorly on my household. I shall not have word upon the street that I do not keep a secure establishment.”

Lucinda bit the inside of her jaw to keep from speaking out against the injustice. Instead she said, “If you will ask Mr. Peterman to a look about the place, I shall be satisfied.”

Mrs. Peterman smiled falsely.

“Naturally, my girl.” The landlady gestured to the clutter. “After you set the rooms aright, you and young Simon should join me for tea. I always enjoy your conversation.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” Lucinda said respectfully. She thought she discovered a place where she and the boy could live out their middling lives. For all she knew, the culprits could easily be the Petermans, rather than an outsider. Lucinda reminded her foolish self never to trust anyone. She trusted her parents to arrange a comfortable marriage for her, and she trusted Matthew Warren to act the role of husband. She would learn her lessons well: No one would know her loyalty ever again.

* * *

The nightmare had returned, only this time with a twist. As always, the blood was everywhere, and the acrid smell filled Carter’s lungs. Screams of pain echoed in his ears, but the smoke parted, and the boy was there. His cheeks covered with mud, the youth cringed behind the fallen horse. The French had charged their position, and Carter knew real fear. He was not supposed to be at Waterloo; he had sold his commission to join the Realm some fifteen months prior, but when Wellesley personally asked for Carter’s assistance, Carter readily agreed.

“You men, form a line along the ridge!” he shouted above the noise of the cannons.

Although Carter no longer wore a military uniform, the voice of authority remained. British soldiers scrambled to do his bidding. Men limped and crawled to a defensive position with the hill at their backs. Whoever was these men’s commanding officer had made a strategic error: They were too exposed.

“Come with me,” he commanded as he reached for the lad, who did not move with the others.

The youth’s cinnamon-colored eyes were the most compelling ones Carter ever saw. “My father?” the boy’s voice squeaked.

Carter looked about him: Nothing but bodies and destruction everywhere. Why would any father permit his son to view the slaughter that was war? The French advanced with a flourish, and time was of an essence.

“Your father would expect you to live,” he said defiantly. Catching the lad by the arm, he dragged the youth along behind him. When they reached the line, Carter shoved the boy behind a tree. “Stay hidden!” he ordered. “I will come for you when this is over.” Without looking back, Carter strode away to oversee the rag-tag group of soldiers.

They were outnumbered five to one, but as the French broke into a run, Carter rallied the men.

“No hoity-toity Frenchie is to cross the line. Do you hear me? No Frenchies beyond this point. They are soft. They possess half the heart of an Englishman. Now do your duty. For King George and Country and for your loved ones in England! Do it now, or you will see your children speaking French!”

As the squares formed, Carter glanced to where he left the boy. A bit of the youth’s shirt showed behind the tree, and Carter wondered if either of them would survive the day.

“It was the last you saw of the boy,” Carter whispered in bitter regret. He had taken a bullet in the leg and was removed from the field at the battle’s end. What with the blood loss and the fever, he was weeks in recovery. When learning of Carter’s injury, Shepherd whisked Carter away to a safe house, where he had spent countless days and nights reliving each harrowing moment of the battle. By the time he walked away from the secret facility, Carter held no idea where to search for the youth.

Somehow, the unit of which he assumed command lost only five good Englishmen during the melee, while the French suffered over a hundred before sounding a retreat. Theirs was but a single skirmish in a chaotic campaign, but Wellesley proclaimed Carter a hero.

“Never felt the hero,” Carter grumbled as he swung his legs over the bed’s edge. “I failed the boy.”


To Learn More of the Other Books in the Series, Visit…

A Touch of Scandal: Book 1 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Velvet, Book 2 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Cashémere, Book 3 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Grace, Book 4 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Mercy: Book 5 of the Realm Series

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My Memories of the Marshall University Plane Crash

Memories-of-Marshall-ex-player-says-shock-of-crash-never-ends-2.jpgThis is not a post based on Jane Austen and her writing or on the Regency Period in England as you would customarily find on my blog. Rather it is a a moment in time when I stood witness to the true human spirit, and like so many others, I must speak of it. November 14 is the anniversary of one of the most tragic events I ever experienced, and I hope you will allow me to take you into my life, and by doing so, you will understand more of what makes me the person I am, as well as comprehend why I look to the simplicity of reading and writing romance for my release. When I think back to the moments in my life, which defined me as a person, one I must choose is my senior year in college. I attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Marshall Univ. Crash www.check-six.com

Marshall Univ. Crash

On November 14, 1970, the Marshall faithful followed the team to East Carolina University for a closely contested game. Returning to Huntington after the 17-14 loss, Flight 932, a chartered twin-engine Southern Airways DC-9, struck a tree on a hill 5,543 feet west of the runway. The plane cut a path 95 feet wide by 279 feet long through the tree line, even clipping an abandoned house. It crashed, nose-first, in a hollow 4,219 feet short of the runway. The plane, essentially, came apart. A fire melted most of the fuselage. All 75 people aboard, including the entire football team (37 players), coaches, team doctors, the university’s athletic director,  25 supporters (many prominent citizens of the town), and a crew of five, died. Even today, the cause remains uncertain: weather (fog and rain) or too low of a descent or improper use of cockpit instrumentation data.

Other than being a MU student and part time waitress, I also spent some time with a volunteer medical unit, one stationed close to the accident. (I later taught at one of the high schools in the area.) At the time, I thought I might become a nurse. I was certified in basic first aid, and I was not of the nature to panic when I encountered danger. Previously, I assisted several people in car wrecks and the like.

Upon my arrival at the scene, those in charge pressed me into combing the hillside for the bodies, one of the most horrendous experiences of my life. With flashlights and flares used for light, those of us determined to be of service began to gather what we could salvage. We each thought to discover someone clinging to life, but no such scene ever occurred. In the movie, We Are Marshall, there is a line that says something to the effect of “There are no survivors.” It always brings me to tears (even as I type this piece).

We were instructed to take our finds to a temporary morgue at the National Guard Armory at the airport. I recall the terrible moment when we realized we didn’t have enough body bags. It was a taste of reality that shook me to my core. If one looked to the hillside hosting the crash scene, he would find small fires that burned for hours. Only the jet’s engine and a wing section were recognizable to the investigators trying to piece together an explanation of a disaster.

Pieces of bodies were scattered throughout the area. White plastic was used to block the view of “interested” onlookers who rushed to the scene. What we could recover, we placed on sheets laid on the armory’s floor. I remember that, ironically, S. S. Logan Packing Company, distributor of the Cavalier meat brands, provided a cooling unit to preserve the bodies until they could be identified.

plane crash | West Virginia travel queen wvtravelqueen.com

plane crash | West Virginia travel queen

Over the next week and a half, I attended 13 funerals, three in one day alone. An “instant” snuffed out the lives of the young who still held “potential” before them (the players) and those who greeted life as a partner (mothers, fathers, business leaders, doctors, lawyers, coaches). A 52-minute flight changed a town and changed me. A grief impossible to explain gripped the area. It was not only that we lost a football program. In reality, we were not a powerhouse at the time, but we were one of the first schools to recruit Black athletes, a statement of change following the Civil Rights movement. And like every young person, I held my hopes set on a brighter tomorrow. The crash was a gaping hole waiting to be healed.


Nate Ruffin and Jack Lengyel via The Herald Dispatch – Anthony Mackie portrayed Nate Ruffin and Matthew McConaughey portrayed Coach Jack Lengyel in “We Are Marshall”

The fictional character of Annie Cantrell in the movie commemorating this event says of the grief: Those were not welcome days. We buried sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, fiancés. Clocks ticked, but time did not pass. The sun rose and the sun set, but the shadows remained. When once there was sound, now there was silence. What once was whole, now was shattered.


1969 Marshall University football team via herald-dispatch.com

Despite our common anguish, things happened to keep the hope alive. The NCAA permitted Marshall to play freshmen, something never allowed previously, and with the insistence of Nate Ruffin, a man who later served on the university’s Alumni Board, as did I, the program became whole again. Walk-on players stepped up, and a team resurfaced.

I would like to tell you that the program miraculously became automatic winners, but that would be a lie. For my birthday weekend, the first game in 1971, I was among those in the stands at Morehead State University watching the “Young” Thundering Herd; and although MU lost, many of us saw it as a victory for the university and the town. The next weekend, I was again among the throng crowded into Fairfield Stadium for the team’s first home game. And miracle of miracles, God answered the combined prayer of a crazed crowd – from those who pleaded for a sign that He had not forsaken them. I am not one to beg God for winning lottery numbers or for an unexpected inheritance, but I admit to adding my silent prayers for a win and was granted a last-minute one over Xavier. For hours afterwards, we remained in the stands, hugging strangers who shared the joy of seeing hope resurrected.

Organizational Change: The Young Thundering Herd | Paul Ress ... www.linkedin.com

Organizational Change: The Young Thundering Herd | Paul Ress …

Marshall won only one more game that season, and for over a decade the university and the town suffered through numerous losing seasons; yet, even with those losses, people remembered the Xavier win. Often one heard someone say, “Were you here when the plane crashed?” Meaning, “Do we have a shared identity?” In the mid-80’s, MU won a I-AA National Championship and in the 90s it won more games than any other Division I team. Like every other school, MU has its good seasons and its rebuilding ones, but football is not the lesson here.

What did I learn from this tragedy? First, life is short. Embrace each day as if it is your last. Secondly, hope never dies. Even when faced with complete devastation, some moment, no matter how brief, tells a person that the phoenix will rise from the ashes. That man can step into the light once again. Lastly, true love is the most compelling of tasks. It is what sees us through the darkness.

November 14, 1970, serves as a defining date in my life. Like many who experienced this tragedy first hand, I am forever changed. However, the release of the 2006 movie We Are Marshall filled that gaping hole. I cried the first time I saw the film – the memory still too raw even after 35 years, but with each subsequent viewing, the hurt has lessened. Instead of death, I now view the resiliency of the human spirit. That resiliency and that need for hope and love are the subject of my writing.HOCrE7-AnLc.movieposter


This is the Marshall Plane Crash Memorial Fountain found on Marshall’s college campus. This fountain pays tribute to the 75 people Marshall loss on that sad day. https://www.theclio.com/web/entry?id=26776

The Memorial Student Center Fountain was dedicated to the memory of the plane crash victims on November 12, 1972. Each year on the crash’s anniversary the water is turned off until the next spring. Its creator Harry Bertora said, “I hoped the fountain would ‘commemorate the living – rather than the dead – on the waters of life, rising, receding, surging, so to express upward growth, immortality, and eternality.'”

BookSigning.jpg As a footnote to my tale, I would also like to point you to a new book on the tragedy, but one written by a man NOT on that fateful flight. November Ever After comes to us at the hands of Craig T. Greenlee, a man who left the Marshall football program in 1969 for personal reasons, but returned to rebuild the program after the plane crash. You can learn more of Mr. Greenlee’s story HERE

61k6eBeDbEL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg November Ever After: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph in the Wake of the 1970 Marshall Football Plane Crash

The legacy of the players who perished in the 1970 Marshall football plane crash transcends wins and losses. Their tragic deaths squashed the likelihood of a bloody race riot on campus. Students at Marshall University had no idea that the horrific events on the night of November 14 would change their lives forever. The team’s plane crashed into the side of a mountain, and there were no survivors among the 75 passengers. Unless you were there, you could never comprehend the full gravity of grief that engulfed a college town in the days following the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports. I know a lot about it. For two seasons, I was a Marshall football player. But for personal reasons, I decided that 1969 would be my last hurrah. As things turned out, it proved to be a life-saving choice. Had I not walked away from the game, I know it could have been me on that plane. When the school started to pick up the pieces of the football program, it was a no-brainer for me to return and become part of the rebuilding process in the spring of 1971. Media projects devoted to the Marshall football crash generated well-deserved exposure. Even so, there are glaring omissions in those presentations. Through this book, the record is set straight. Former Marshall defensive back Craig T. Greenlee provides insights and recollections that you simply will not find in other media accounts about the tragedy and its aftermath.

Posted in American History, film, real life tales, sports history | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Jane Austen’s Connections to the Stoneleigh Barony

For a chapter I did for a recent release, I explored questions of inheritance and the custom of primogeniture. Naturally, I could not do so without looking at Jane Austen’s family. 

41HXYQ13bBL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg It is said Austens family knew something of questions of inheritance for Jane Austens mother, Cassandra Leigh, was a distant relative of Sir Thomas Leigh, the Lord Mayor of London under Queen Elizabeth I. For assisting the Royalists against Cromwell in the English Civil War, Leigh was created a baron in 1643. Previously, he had succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his grandfather, 1st Baronet, of Stoneleigh in Warwickhshire, but his term was interrupted when King Charles chose to rule without parliament for some eleven years. Unfortunately, the titles became extinct on the death of the 5th Baron Leigh in 1786.


Stoneleigh Abbey, open to the public, http://www.stoneleighabbey.org

As a young man, Edward Leigh, 5th Baron Leigh, collected art, books, and furniture for Stoneleigh Abbey, but somehow, beyond what could be considered reasonable in current times, he was declared a lunatickby John Munro, a doctor from Bedlam Hospital. According to the proceeding before the House of Lords regarding the Leigh Peerage, Leigh was committed to the guardianship of his sister Mary and his uncle. He did not appear in public after this event. In 1786, he died unmarried and without heirs, leaving the barony dormant. In 1839, the poet Chandos Leigh was created 1st Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh. His bloodlines traced back to Rowland Leigh, the eldest son of the aforementioned Sir Thomas Leigh. The Stoneleigh estate became the largest in Warwickshire, but its future was in question in 1806 when its then owner Mary Leigh died without children. A possible inheritor was the Rev Thomas Leigh, of Adlestrop in Gloucestershire – and this news arrived just while Jane Austen, her mother and sister were visiting him. They had traveled to Gloucestershire after Reverend Austen’s death. They all set off immediately for Stoneleigh.

Mrs Austen wrote to her daughter-in-law of the house. She, Jane and Cassandra stayed at Stoneleigh for some ten days. Mrs. Austen spoke of the house being  so large that they she and her daughters kept getting lost in its passageways. “I had expected to find everything about the place very fine and all that, but I had no idea of its being so beautiful,” she wrote.  “The Avon runs near the house, amidst green meadows, bounded by large and beautiful woods, full of delightful walks.”

The Austens’ financial security was uncertain following Reverend Austen’s recent death. The visit to Stoneleigh was likely a delightful diversion in the mix of so many misgivings. Eventually, the Austen ladies departed, leaving their cousin to learn more of his inheritance claim.  “Jane never revisited, but Stoneleigh and its ancestral history does resurface in her novels. Some of her characters are named after Leigh family connections, such as Willoughby, Woodhouse, Wentworth and Osborne. In Mansfield Park the description of the fictitious Sotherton Court has many resonances of Stoneleigh Abbey, including details of the chapel, grounds and nearby village with almshouses, and Northanger Abbey is set in an old abbey which has become a country home, like Stoneleigh which was founded in 1154 by Cistercian monks.”

 In 1792, 14 years before Jane Austen’s visit to Stoneleigh, Mary Leigh who owned the abbey and much surrounding land presented Jane’s clergyman brother James with the living of Cubbington, a village near Leamington. The income, however, was insufficient to tempt James away from his Hampshire parish, so he hired a curate for Cubbington to do the job for him, a common practice at the time.


Cubbington Parish Church

Amy Patterson writes of Stoneleigh Abbey. “Sir Thomas was instrumental in deferring the accession of Elizabeth I so that the politically sensitive issue of realigning the English monarchy’s sympathies from Catholic to Protestant would not result in anarchy. As Lord Mayor, Thomas arranged and led Elizabeth’s coronation pageant in January 1559 and gained a knighthood for his efforts. 

“His wife, Sir Rowland Hill’s niece Alice Barker, was 11 at the time of their marriage – he was 31. They had several children, and she outlived him by 32 years. She was notable not only for her long life, but for the almshouses she founded in the village, which still stood as of the Victorian times. …and this grandson had quite a history. When Jane, Cassandra, and their mother visited in 1806 I’m sure they would have seen the portraits of this Sir Thomas and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Egerton, and would most likely have heard of their involvement with history. In fact, one wonders if Cassandra Austen née Leigh ever subjected the girls to an evening in which she “ followed the history and rise of the ancient and respectable family, in the usual terms: how it had been first settled in Cheshire; how mentioned in Dugdale, serving the office of High Sheriff, representing a borough in three successive parliaments, exertions of loyalty, and dignity of baronet, in the first year of Charles II., with all the Marys and Elizabeths they had married…” 


Amy Patterson 

Jane Lark has a nice piece on Stoneleigh Abbey and the renovations made there. 

Seeking Jane Austen 

Posted in architecture, book release, books, British history, Georgian England, Great Britain, history, Inheritance, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On the Character of Clergymen in Jane Austen’s Novels & the Regency, a Guest Post from Alexa Adams

Alexa Adams shared this post with our followers on Austen Authors in June 2016. I thought it a worthy piece to share with you. 

David Bamber ar Mr. Collins, 1995

“My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding, but permit me to say that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom — provided that a proper humility of behaviour is at the same time maintained. You must therefore allow me to follow the dictates of my conscience on this occasion, which leads me to perform what I look on as a point of duty. Pardon me for neglecting to profit by your advice, which on every other subject shall be my constant guide, though in the case before us I consider myself more fitted by education and habitual study to decide on what is right than a young lady like yourself.”

Ah, Mr. Collins: Austen’s biggest buffoon. Her most famous clergyman does not reflect well on his profession. Based on Pride and Prejudice alone, it would be easy to conclude Austen thought rather poorly of churchmen. After all, the only character who even considers entering the church is Mr. Wickham. Yet in her other novels she provides several examples of excellence in the calling. Nearly half her heroes are clergymen, and Henry Tilney, Edward Ferrars, and Edmund Bertram are all precisely what one would wish for in a spiritual guide: sincere, compassionate, and capable. In them Austen shows us what a good parish rector ought to be. In contrast, Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton are revealed as thoroughly undeserving of their preferment, a situation that was all too common in her time.

senseandsensibilitylrg4.jpgDan Stevens as Edward Ferrars, 2008

A man of genteel birth but not enough income to support himself had three options in the Regency world: he could join the military, study law, or take orders. It also happened to be a time in which the duties of the parish rector were being hotly debated. At issue was the custom of pluralism, or the holding of more than one living at a time. A living was the assignment (usually gifted) of a parish to a rector, which included a house and annual salary. There was a shortage of livings, which were typically held for life or until retirement, and the salaries attached to them were often not enough to live upon. About 1/5th of gentlemen in orders would spend their lives as poorly paid curates, while those that held livings often had more than one and still struggled to support their families.* As the daughter of a clergyman and the sister to two more, it is no wonder that Austen voiced her opinion on the subject in her novels.

From left to right: George Austen (Jane's father), ca 1764, his eldest son James, ca 1795, and his 4th son Henry, ca 1820. All artists unknown.
From left to right: George Austen (Jane’s father), ca 1764, his eldest son James, ca 1795, and his 4th son Henry, ca 1820. All artists unknown.

Jane Austen’s father held two livings, as did her eldest brother upon inheriting them. So do Mr. Morland in Northanger Abbey and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park. While offering no criticism of pluralism, she also clearly sympathizes with the plight of the curate, as illustrated in the struggles of Charles Hayter in Persuasion and, potentially, Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility. However, it is only in Mansfield Park that she explicitly develops the subject. Here Edmund acts as defender of the clergy, while Mary Crawford makes her case against it.

At length, after a short pause, Miss Crawford began with, “So you are to be a clergyman, Mr. Bertram. This is rather a surprise to me.”

“Why should it surprise you? You must suppose me designed for some profession, and might perceive that I am neither a lawyer, nor a soldier, nor a sailor.”

“Very true; but, in short, it had not occurred to me. And you know there is generally an uncle or a grandfather to leave a fortune to the second son.”

“A very praiseworthy practice,” said Edmund, “but not quite universal. I am one of the exceptions, and beingone, must do something for myself.”

Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram, 2007
Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram, 2007

“But why are you to be a clergyman? I thought that was always the lot of the youngest, where there were many to chuse before him.”

“Do you think the church itself never chosen, then?”

Never is a black word. But yes, in the never of conversation, which means not very often, I do think it. For what is to be done in the church? Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the other lines distinction may be gained, but not in the church. A clergyman is nothing.”

“The nothing of conversation has its gradations, I hope, as well as the never. A clergyman cannot be high in state or fashion. He must not head mobs, or set the ton in dress. But I cannot call that situation nothing which has the charge of all that is of the first importance to mankind, individually or collectively considered, temporally and eternally, which has the guardianship of religion and morals, and consequently of the manners which result from their influence. No one here can call the office nothing. If the man who holds it is so, it is by the neglect of his duty, by foregoing its just importance, and stepping out of his place to appear what he ought not to appear.”

You assign greater consequence to the clergyman than one has been used to hear given, or than I can quite comprehend. One does not see much of this influence and importance in society, and how can it be acquired where they are so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons a week, even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher to have the sense to prefer Blair’s to his own, do all that you speak of? govern the conduct and fashion the manners of a large congregation for the rest of the week? One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit.”

J.J. Field as Henry Tilney, 2007
J.J. Field as Henry Tilney, 2007

Interestingly, the worldly Mary is only restating the very criticisms that the bishops of the English church had been leveling at their underlings for years. If a rector held a plurality of livings and did not live in a parish, he might only see its members on Sundays, and then only on those when the curate wasn’t performing the honors. How can a clergyman be a shepherd to his flock if he never sees it? Concerns for clerical non-residence led to the Residency Act of 1803, which required clergymen to obtain a license in order to hold the living of a parish in which they did not live. The act was amended in 1809 and 1810 to assist bishops in keeping track of resident and non-resident clergy and further distinguishing between those who performed Sunday services and those who did not. Acceptable explanations for holding a plurality of livings included the parsonage being unlivable, the salary of a parish being inadequate to live upon, or the ill-health of the clergyman.* Sense and Sensibility provides examples of the first two cases: the parsonage at Delaford is uninhabitable until Colonel Brandon institutes repairs upon it, and the salary, at only 200 pounds a year, is not enough to support a family. Thus the Colonel estimates how the living might be improved, and promises further patronage (like using his influence to procure Edward an additional living). It is only Mrs. Ferrars’ gift of 10,000 pounds that provides Edward the means to marry Elinor Dashwood.

In Persuasion we have an example in Dr. Shirley, Rector of Uppercross, of how ill-health might permit non-residency. Hopes for the marriage of Charles Hayter and Henrietta Musgrove depend upon the former’s attainment of a living, and the young couple rest their best hopes on Dr. Shirley being so infirm that he will hire Charles as his curate and pay him unusually well. Henrietta even hopes he will be accommodating enough to retire to Lyme, leaving the parsonage available for their occupation. In the end, a better solution arises. Hayter is given the holding of a living until the young man for whom it is intended reaches an age to take orders. By that time, Dr. Shirley will presumably be conveniently dead and the living at Uppercross available.

Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton, 2009
Blake Ritson as Mr. Elton, 2009

Two of Austen’s heroes, Edmund Bertram of Mansfield Park and Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey, enter the clergy because their families hold livings for which they are destined. Despite this lack of a calling, both are well-suited to the profession and can be expected to prove model clergymen. Edward Ferrars’ decision to enter the church without any expectation of patronage, on the other hand, is extremely risky, perhaps even foolish. Edward is the only character in Austen who appears truly called to serve, and it is only Colonel Brandon’s generosity that saves him from being one of many hungry curates in need of a living. Other clergymen in Austen get lucky, too. We are not told by what means Emma’s Mr. Elton ascends to the living at Highbury (his lack of connection to the area suggests he was appointed by a bishop), but along with his additional “independent property” he is situated well enough to both marry and provide him with an inflated sense of his own importance. Certainly his callous behavior towards Harriet Smith proves he is ill-suited for the clerical life: his ego so in command that he wounds a parishioner to assuage it. Mr. Collins is even worse and even luckier, for at least Mr. Elton shows a degree of competence that can account for his preferment. Mr. Collins, on the other hand, receives ordination with no prospects on his horizon, yet just so happens to come almost immediately to Lady Catherine’s attention and rise to all the glories belonging to the Rector of Hunsford, all without doing anything to merit such fortune. That patrons like Lady Catherine had the disposal of livings in their power and would choose to bestow them on sycophants like Mr. Collins was a serious problem. It is no coincidence that the same book gives us an example in Mr. Darcy of the conscientious patron: one who will not leave the moral guidance and care of his tenants to wastrel like Wickham. That Wickham even attempts to secure a living – merely a means to an annual income, with no concern whatsoever for the welfare of the parishioners – illustrates the dangers of the system. I think it safe to assert that Austen thought the appointment of undeserving clergymen to parishes a bigger concern than pluralism.

Mr. Collins makes an impromptu speech at the Netherfield Ball, elucidating for both the readers and all the guests of the house the duties and obligations of a rector, as he understands them:

“The rector of a parish has much to do. — In the first place, he must make such an agreement for tithes as may be beneficial to himself and not offensive to his patron. He must write his own sermons; and the time that remains will not be too much for his parish duties, and the care and improvement of his dwelling, which he cannot be excused from making as comfortable as possible.”

Clearly, he does not belong to that category of clergymen receiving that iota of Mary Crawford’s approval for having the sense to not write their own sermons, instead utilizing those widely published by Hugh Blair. The parishioners of Hunsford have my heartfelt sympathy.

Hugh Blair by David Martin, 1775
Hugh Blair by David Martin, 1775. The famous sermon writer is portrayed wearing the same style of clerical collar sported by Henry Austen and Mr. Elton above.


*For more on this subject please read Celia Easton’s essay “‘The Probability of Some Negligence’: Avoiding the Horror of the Absent Clergyman,” published in 2010 in Persuasions: No. 32. It largely inspired this blog post.


Posted in Austen Authors, Church of England, family, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mudeford, an English Spa Favored by King George III + an Excerpt from “The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy”

With the onset of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the idea of a European Grand Tour for English aristocratic class lost its appeal. Instead, English men and women turned their sights on popular British destinations, such as Brighton, Margate, Lyme, and Weymouth. In England, inland spas, such as Bath, were the models of health spas. Among the early fashionable Georgian-Regency resorts (from approximately 1789 – 1815) was one favored by King George III, but Mudeford never achieved the popularity of the other tourist destinations.

Some believe the negative idea of “mud” used for health and medicinal purpose for the lack of development to the Christchurch district’s name. Mudeford was then part of southwest Hampshire. Also to the area’s detriment, Highcliffe was not adopted as a village name until 1892. Before that time, the local hamlets were known as Chuton, Newtown, and Slop Pond. The district’s other name was Sandhills.

In the summer of 1789, George III arrived in Weymouth to partake of the healing waters, a good sign for a concerned English population, which saw its King as a man going slowly mad. Each day, during his visit, as the King partook of his royal plunge into the salt waters, a band played “God Save the King.” Dips in the “curative waters” at Weymouth helped popularize the idea of “spa” towns.

At the time, Mudeford had caught the attention of other members of the aristocracy when a former British Museum curator and retired director of the Bank of England purchased large tracts of land in the area and began to invite members of the aristocracy to visit the area. Gustavus Brander (1720-1787) built a house on the grounds of Christchurch Priory and a summerhouse on Hengistbury Head. Later, the Brander family sold High Cliff estate to Pitt’s retiring Prime Minister, John Stuart, Lord Bute.

Bute retired to High Cliff in 1770. A botanist (co-founder of Kew Gardens), Bute hired the most famous landscape designer of the time, Capability Brown, to redesign the parkland on the High Cliff estate. The original house, built in a mediaevalist style to a Robert Adam design, set upon the cliff top “to command the finest outlook in England.” In fact, the house was so close to the cliff that it was necessary to dismantle it brick by brick when the cliff side crumbled away. Most of the estate was sold off following Bute’s death.

Bute Homage was the only house remaining on the estate. Lord Stuart de Rothesay, the 4thEarl of Bute, bought back the much of the estate in 1807 and began to build a grander manor than the former High Cliff. Not completed until 1835, the restored Highcliffe Castle sported stained glass windows from Rouen and other French art treasures “rescued” from the aftermath of the French Revolution.

In 1790, George Rose (1744-1818) became a MP for Christchurch. First, Rose, who owned Cuffnells Park in the New Forest near Lyndhurst, had been a Member of Parliament for Lymington (1788). He was a strong supporter of William Pitt the Younger. His youngest son, William Stewart Rose, became the second MP to serve Christchurch. George Rose resided at Cuffnells, where he wrote books on finance and policy and from where he attempted to run his cabinet post of Treasurer of the Navy. He also entertained both Pitt and King George in his home. George III stayed at Cuffnells in 1789, 1801, and 1803.


In 1785, Rose built a seaside house just east of Mudeford Quay, which he named Sandhills. The two Roses used Sandhills as their summer residences when not serving in Parliament.  Rose’s eldest son, Sir George Henry Rose, lived at Sandhills House while George Rose occupied Cuffnells, and William Stewart Rose lived in a row of seaside cottages (completed in 1796 on the Sandhills estate and just east of the main house). The house and the row of whitewashed seafront cottages would be named “Gundimore.”

The house sported one room designed to resemble a Persian tent and another room in Arabian Nights style because many of the Romantic poets of the time used exotic Eastern references in their poems. WS Rose was an amateur poet and translator. Robert Southey was among the many poets who visited the area and stayed in the cottages. So, while George Rose invited Pitt, Nelson, and the King to Gundimore, WS Rose held an interest in art and literature. Sir Walter Scott worked on “Marmion” while visiting at Gundimore, as well as on Waverley, Scott’s first historical novel. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Southey’s brother-in-law) visited in 1816. Coleridge planned a poem about the house, but his various ailments prevented him from working on it. Instead, WS Rose wrote a poem commemorating the visits of these writers, appropriately entitled “Gundimore.”

From “Our Forgotten English Resort,” we learn, “When Southey later became Poet Laureate, his mandatory memorial poem for his late patron George III was ridiculed by Byron and others, who felt Southey might just as well depict the King entering Heaven in a bathing machine. While George III’s favourite seaside resort had been Weymouth, he did visit Sandhills en route at George Rose’s bidding. Rose had him stop over at Cuffnells on his first journey to Weymouth, on 29 June 1789, and some sources say he also stopped at Sandhills. He also visited Sandhills on 3 July 1801, but better known is his 1803 official visit. In 1803 Rose arranged an official Royal ‘inspection’ style visit to Mudeford, complete with military parade, on another stopover by the royal yacht en route to Weymouth. The Christchurch Artillery fired a 3-volley salute echoed by another on Wight opposite, while detachments of the Scots Greys and the local Volunteers stood lined up on the beach. So that the King should not get his feet wet as he re-embarked on the royal barge, the pier-less resort’s three new bathing machines were laid end to end in the shallows. Sir Arthur Mee adds in his The King’s England guidebook series, ‘After that Mudeford brightened and increased the number of its bathing machines’ (apparently from three to seven). ‘…A picturesque little story which will, no doubt, ever be told of Mudeford,’ commented theBournemouth Times & Directory.

“Despite these claims, that was the end of George’s public patronage. The Prince Regent seems not to have visited either: generally, he tended to steer clear of anywhere his disapproving father might be found. The Prince had privately married the Catholic widow of the owner of Lulworth Castle, but in 1795 he had to put aside his secret Catholic wife and remarry to help pay off his debts. This arranged marriage was disastrously unhappy for both parties. His new Princess Of Wales, Caroline Of Brunswick, did stay at Sandhills in 1796 before she moved back to the Continent. The King’s brother, HRH Duke of Cumberland, also stayed with Rose on New Year’s Eve 1803 to inspect, and thank for their service, the Christchurch Volunteers who had lined up for his brother, although in the event rain cancelled the official parade. However after he became King, the former Regent did visit Gundimore and Mudeford, in the 1820s.

“An early Cooke’s guidebook of circa 1835 refers to this visit: ‘the admired spot, the favourite summer residence of numerous families of distinction … Muddiford, a beautiful village on the sea-shore, possessing every convenience for a watering-place, having good bathing machines, and a fine sandy beach. His late Majesty, George IV, honoured this spot with a visit, and his admiration of its scenery. The air here is salubrious…. These qualities were appreciated and emphatically remarked on by his Majesty George III, who with the royal family honoured Mr Rose with a visit at Sandhills.’”

Additional Sources: 

Highcliffe Castle     Highcliffe and Mudeford

Mudeford         Mudeford Quay


TMDOMD2coverThe Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy

by Regina Jeffers

Available from Ulysses Press

A thrilling story of murder and betrayal filled with the scandal, wit and intrigue characteristic of Austen’s classic novels

Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.

With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.


Excerpt from Chapter 7 of The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy

Elizabeth shivered involuntarily. As Darcy had directed, she had met with the Woodvine cook regarding the weekly menu. They had finished their task when dread had physically rocked Elizabeth’s spine. Despite the feeling of dizziness drowning her senses in its sweep, she desperately pushed the swirling sensation away.

“Is something amiss, Mrs. Darcy?” the cook asked with what sounded of true concern.

Elizabeth shook her head in denial. “Just one of those intuitive moments we women experience daily. Likely, Mr. Darcy has turned his ankle or one of my sisters have has spotted a snake along the road to Meryton.” She laughed at her foolish nature.

The gray-haired woman with the sparkling, equally gray, eyes pushed her spectacles further up her nose. “It be the way of women,” she said sympathetically. “Me boy, Arnie, be one of Mr. Darcy’s grooms. We both have served the old master for many years. Whenever Arnie gets himself kicked by one of them ‘ornery beasts, I knows before he ever shows himself on me doorstep and looking for some of my herbs to ease the pain.”

Elizabeth again wondered if something had happened to Darcy. Her husband had spoken of the possibility that the gypsy band had posed an unknown threat. At home, at Pemberley, she had often sensed Darcy’s presence before he appeared on the threshold of her sitting room, but this was different. The lingering dread which currently wrapped itself about her shoulders had nothing to do with the pleasant anticipation she often experienced when her husband surprised her in the middle of the day. This was a warning of danger. Bravely, she said, “I am certain it is nothing. Mr. Darcy’s cousin, a seasoned military commander, as well as Mr. Cowan, accompanied my husband. I am being foolish.”

Mrs. Holbrook’s eyebrow rose in sharp denial, but the lady wisely said, “If that be all, Mrs. Darcy, I’s best return to me duties.”

Elizabeth gathered her notes. “Remember, Mrs. Holbrook, no sauces on the meats. The colonel prefers his dishes plain. Serve the dressings in a separate dish.”

“Yes, Ma’am. I understand.”

Elizabeth stood slowly to follow the woman to the door. “I expected Mrs. Ridgeway to join us,” she said as nonchalantly as she could muster. In reality, the housekeeper’s absence had irritated Elizabeth. It was another affront to Darcy’s authority, and she planned to express her anger over the woman’s slight.

Mrs. Holbrook paused in her speech, as well as her step. The woman looked about quickly—as if she suspected someone could be eavesdropping on their conversation. “Mrs. Ridgeway sent word, Ma’am, that she be experiencing a megrim.”

“I see,” Elizabeth said knowingly. “I suppose a headache might keep Mrs. Ridgeway from her duties.”

Mrs. Holbrook smiled wryly. “I suspect that be true, Mrs. Darcy.” The woman disappeared into Woodvine’s apparently empty halls.

Elizabeth stood silently by the still open door and listened carefully to what were obviously exchanged whispers. Someone, or several people, concealed themselves in Woodvine’s late afternoon shadows. The thought of others watching her every move, on one hand, shook her resolve, but on the other, it irritated her. She would permit no one to intimidate her. After all, had she not withstood the imperious Lady Catherine De Bourgh? “We shall see how they perceive their positions when I have my say,” she said privately to fortify her resolve.

Then she was on the move, climbing to the house’s third level again. As she turned the corner, Elizabeth declared boldly aloud, “I know you have hidden yourself from my view, but I am aware of your presence. If you have any sense of self-preservation, you will disperse immediately and attend to your duties.” As she climbed, Elizabeth did not turn her head to observe which of Woodvine’s staff broke from his hidden security, but she was well aware of the sound of scrambling feet and the quick opening and closing of doors. “They have chosen to make me their enemy,” she declared. “But they do not know that I am well seasoned in the comings and goings of servants.”

She thought immediately of how Darcy had early on complimented her on her quick assimilation into the role of Pemberley’s mistress. Little had her husband known that at Longbourn, Elizabeth and Jane had equally shared in the running of their parents’ estate. Their mother had taught all her daughters of the responsibilities of an estate’s mistress. As she and Jane had matured, Mrs. Bennet had relinquished more and more of her duties to her eldest children.

Elizabeth had arrived on Pemberley’s threshold well versed in preparing menus, balancing expenses, and settling service disputes. Her transition into the role of Pemberley’s mistress had come easily.

She paused at the top of the stairs and set her shoulders in a stubborn slant. “You mean to frighten me, but I will not be alarmed. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me,” she declared to the empty passageway.

With renewed determination, Elizabeth entered Mrs. Ridgeway’s quarters unannounced. “I believe I requested to speak to you this morning,” she said tersely.

It did not surprise Elizabeth to find the woman dressed and working on an embroidery pattern. The housekeeper sprang to her feet. “Mrs. Darcy, I…I had…I had a severe headache,” she stammered. She tucked her sewing hoop behind her, but Elizabeth had observed the meticulous work of the pattern.

Taking a satisfyingly slow breath, Elizabeth’s mouth set in a tight line. “Evidently, you have recovered remarkably.” She gestured to the tea set upon a low table. “That being said, I will see you in my chambers in a quarter hour.” Elizabeth turned on her heels to leave.

However, Mrs. Ridgeway’s offer slowed Elizabeth’s retreat. “Why do we not share tea here?”

Elizabeth turned haltingly to the woman. “I think not. You will attend me. It is not acceptable for the mistress to attend those she employs. You did understand my husband has assumed control of this household?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Mrs. Ridgeway dropped her eyes.

The act infuriated Elizabeth. “Do not offer me a false face.” She turned again for the door. “A quarter hour, Mrs. Ridgeway.” To emphasize her indignation, Elizabeth launched the door against the wall. The sound echoed throughout the dark passageway.

Returning to her quarters, Elizabeth fought hard to rein in her temper. “It would not do to permit Mrs. Ridgeway to know how much I dread this interview,” she declared as she punched one of the pillows decorating the bed. “Concentrate, Elizabeth,” she chastised her image in the cheval mirror. “You must see this through for Fitzwilliam’s sake.” The thought of her husband brought an immediate smile to Elizabeth’s lips. “Everything he has done he had has done for me,” she thought.

When Lydia had inadvertently disclosed Mr. Darcy’s part in bringing about her sister’s match to Mr. Wickham, Elizabeth could not fathom how his regard for her had allowed him to act without pride. The vague and unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy might have been doing to forward her sister’s match, which Elizabeth had feared to encourage as an exertion of goodness too great to be probably, and at the same time dreaded to be just, from the pain of obligation, were proved beyond their greatest extent to be true: Darcy had followed Lydia and Mr. Wickham purposely to Town; he had taken on himself all the trouble and mortification attendant on such a research; in supplication had been necessary to a woman whom he abominated and despised, and where he was reduced to meet—frequently meet, reason with, persuade, and finally bribe—the man whom he always most wished to avoid, and whose very name it was punishment to Darcy to pronounce. He had done it for her. For a woman who had already refused him.

Even as she considered her husband’s benevolence in the matter, Elizabeth blushed with embarrassment. Every kind of pride must have revolted from the connection. She was ashamed to think how much. Though, at the time, she could not place herself as his principal inducement, she had perhaps believed in Darcy’s remaining partiality for her might have assisted his endeavors in a cause where her peace of mind must be materially concerned. “If Fitzwilliam could place his qualms aside, then I will follow his lead.” Darcy’s ability to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence would serve as her model.

When Mrs. Ridgeway arrived, Elizabeth bade the woman’s entrance in a perfectly calm voice. She motioned the woman to a chair across from where she sat at the small desk before setting the ledger, which she had used as a “stage prop” to make herself appear not to be awaiting the housekeeper’s appearance, aside. In reality, to compose her erratic heart and to soften her anger, Elizabeth had retrieved several of the notes, which Darcy had left for her over their few months of marriage. Beginning with the morning following their first night as man and wife, her husband had periodically presented her an eloquent reminder of their time together: a reminder of their one month anniversary and again to mark their first half year of marital bliss; one for the night they would spent apart when Darcy had been called away on business; and the one where he consoled her during the loss of the child she had not known she carried. Her magnificent husband had grieved silently for their lost child while she openly nursed her broken heart. Today, Elizabeth had read the two “anniversary” letters. They were full of love’s awe, and they had bolstered her spirits immensely.

Elizabeth did not permit Mrs. Ridgeway to speak. Instead, she had assumed the offensive. “I had expected better of you, Ma’am. When we first met, I presumed you to be a woman possessed of kindness, but also a woman well aware of her place in the world. I thought you possessed of an independent nature and capable of overcoming adversity.”

Mrs. Ridgeway asked earnestly, “And you no longer hold the same opinion, Mrs. Darcy?”

Elizabeth’s forthright nature never faltered. “You have proven yourself, Ma’am, to be a coward.”

“Do not think ill of me, Mrs. Darcy,” the woman challenged.

“How may I not?” Elizabeth asked aristocratically. She considered the possibility that Darcy’s air had found a new home in her. “Mr. Darcy gave specific orders for you to present yourself in the role of Woodvine’s housekeeper; yet, last evening, you made no appearance after our arrival, nor did you sit with me and Mrs. Holbrook this morning.”

“And did you find something lacking in your quarters? In Mrs. Holbrook’s attention to your needs?” Mrs. Ridgeway asked confidently.

Elizabeth’s chin rose with the challenge. This was her first real test as Darcy’s wife. Her transition at Pemberley had gone smoothly: partly because of her mother’s training, but partly because of Mrs. Reynolds’ guidance. Pemberley’s long-time housekeeper had brought Elizabeth along and had instilled the confidence of a fine lady in a country miss. “Do you dare claim to be the source of efficiency I have observed from certain members of the late Mr. Darcy’s staff?” Elizabeth would not mention those she suspected had found hiding places to shirk their duties.

Mrs. Ridgeway’s countenance betrayed a momentary lapse of confidence, but the woman quickly schooled her features. “And why should I not? Mr. Darcy blamed me for the deficiencies he discovered among those Mr. Samuel had hired. Why should I not glory in the household’s successes?”

If the older woman thought Elizabeth’s age would provide the housekeeper an advantage, Mrs. Ridgeway would discover otherwise. Elizabeth’s shoulders shifted, and she presented the Woodvine housekeeper with a look of scorn she had once seen displayed upon the countenance of Lady Catherine De Bourgh when the grand lady had instructed Mr. Collins on the state of the cleric’s gardens. “I am pleased to hear it, Mrs. Ridgeway.” The housekeeper’s forehead crinkled with disappointment, and Elizabeth knew satisfaction. She would definitely share her “disapproving” glower with Darcy when they were alone. She would ask her husband’s opinion of its effectiveness as compared to the one of his imperious aunt. “Then you will have no difficulty in overseeing a thorough cleaning of each of Woodvine’s rooms. I shall not have the Earl and Countess of Rardin finding Woodvine lacking. Lady Cynthia holds her uncle in loving regard. I will not tolerate having Her Ladyship’s memories of the late Mr. Darcy tarnished by finding Samuel Darcy’s home in anything but pristine condition.”

Elizabeth noted how the housekeeper recoiled, but the lady held her tongue. Elizabeth continued, “Every shelf will be dusted. Every rug beaten. Every piece of silver polished.” Elizabeth snarled her nose in disgust. “Cousin Samuel’s propensity for clutter will create additional responsibilities, but with your discipline, the staff shall rise to the challenge. You must inform me immediately if any of our current employees choose to seek other positions. As I have noted several among the staff who appear less than enthusiastic about fulfilling their duties, I assume we shall need to replace them. If you do not feel comfortable in making those decisions, I assure you I hold no such qualms. At home in Hertfordshire, I often dispensed with the servants.” That was a stretch of the truth, but Elizabeth would never permit the woman an advantage.

She stood to end the conversation. “I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to address Mr. Darcy’s perceived grievances. It shall make our stay more agreeable. Now, as I know you have many duties to which to attend, I shall excuse you.” Mrs. Ridgeway looked on dismay, but she managed a proper curtsy. Elizabeth led the way to the door. “Is this not more pleasant?” she asked sweetly. “To have a complete understanding between us?”

Mrs. Ridgeway spoke through tight lips, “As you say, Mrs. Darcy.”

* * *

Darcy had resumed his seat in the chariot. His cousin had pocketed the shell fragment, and they had reluctantly returned to their ride. Silence reigned as Mr. Stalling set the horses in motion.

Edward’s cross expression spoke of his cousin’s frustration. “Could the gypsy leader be sending you a message, Darcy? That if he cannot have the horse then neither can you.”

Darcy rubbed a weary hand across his face to clear his thinking. “Obviously, we should examine the American connection?” They did not speak for several minutes, each man lost in his thoughts. Finally, Darcy cautioned, “I would prefer Mrs. Darcy possessed no knowledge of today’s events. I would not worry my wife with news of this attack.” Another elongated silence followed. “I am thankful no one was hurt in this folly,” Darcy said sadly.

Cowan warned, “You must not permit your guard to become lax, Mr. Darcy.”

Darcy frowned noticeably. “I do not understand. Surely, you do not think this was more than a dispute about a horse’s ownership.”

The former Runner’s eyes scanned the passing countryside. “I believe, Mr. Darcy, that your insistence on discovering the disposition of your cousin’s estate has brought a warning. We might think the shooter made an unfortunate shot, but the bullet was placed in the animal’s neck. It was a admonition that a skilled marksman could easily achieve a smaller target. Say a man’s head.”

“You are saying someone wants me dead!” Darcy said incredulously. He felt the air rush from his lungs.

“I am saying, Sir, that someone knows desperation, and he holds no reservations about exercising mayhem in order to relieve himself of your interference.”

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Did Queen Victoria Marry John Brown?

ali-fazal-759.jpg Mrs_Brown_UK_theatrical_poster.jpg

I recently saw the film Victoria and Abdul, and it started me thinking more on the “supposed” relationship between Queen Victoria and her Scottish servant John Brown. (By the way, this relationship has also been explored in film. Again the movie starred Judi Dench as Queen Victoria. Mrs. Brown is a 1997 British drama film starring Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Geoffrey Palmer, Antony Sher, and Gerard Butler in his film debut. Although I enjoyed Victoria and Abdul, in my opinion, Mrs. Brown is the superior film.)

The news of 1866 carried a piece in the Gazette de Lausanne, a Swiss paper, that read, “On dit…that with Brown and by him she consoles herself for Prince Albert, and they go even further. They add that she is in an interesting condition, and that if she was not present for the Volunteers Review, and at the inauguration of the monument to Prince Albert, it was only in order to hide her pregnancy. I hasten to add that the Queen has been morganatically married to her attendant for a long time, which diminishes the gravity of the thing.” Most assuredly, no British paper carried such a tale, but once the word spread of the Queen’s supposed affair, there was no reining it back in. 

So exactly who was John Brown and how did he come to Queen Victoria’s notice? Brown was from Crathienaird, Crathie parish in Aberdeenshire. He was the second of 11 children of a tenant farmer John Brown and his wife Margaret Leys. He was educated at the local school and at age 13, he began work as a farm laborer and as an ostler’s assistant at Pannanich Wells. Later, he became a stable boy at Sir Robert Gordon’s estate at Balmoral and was on the staff when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Balmoral for the first time in September 1848. 

Queen Victoria’s journal holds a mention of John Brown for the first time in 1849. Brown was promoted to gillie, in Scotland, means a man or boy who attends someone on a hunting or fishing expedition. The royal family had visited Dhu Loch. Brown was close to both the Queen and Prince Albert over the years. By 1858, Brown was Prince Albert’s personal gillie. He served Albert until the prince’s death in December 1861. He was a staple of the royal family’s time at Balmoral. 

In 1864, Princess Alice, the Queen’s third child and Royal Physician Dr William Jenner and the Keeper of the Privy Purse Sir Charles Phipps took it upon themselves to bring Brown up to the Isle of Wight from Balmoral to aid the Queen in overcoming her depression after Albert’s death. They thought that Brown would remind Victoria of happier times. In December 1864, Brown arrived at Osborne House as a groom. Unsurprisingly, Brown’s brusque manner did the trick. Soon Victoria was riding daily. When the queen rheumatism bothered her too much to sit a horse, Brown took her out on a pony cart. She relished the manner in which he paid her strict attention.

Mrs-Brown-Riding.png  By 1865, Brown had become a permanent member of the Queen’s staff. He was given the title of “The Queen’s Highland Servant.” Over the years, he was awarded both the “Faithful Servant Medal” and the “Devoted Servant Medal.” His salary rose from £150 per annum to £400 (in 1872).

It was Alexander Robertson’s pamphlet “John Brown: A Correspondence with the Lord Chancellor, Regarding a Charge of Fraud and Embezzlement Preferred Against His Grace the Duke of Atholl K. T. of 1873” that first openly suggested that Queen Victoria and John Brown had married morganatically [relating to, or being a marriage between a member of a royal or noble family and a person of inferior rank in which the rank of the inferior partner remains unchanged and the children of the marriage do not succeed to the titles, fiefs, or entailed property of the parent of higher rank].

Citing one Charles Christie, ‘House Servant to the Dowager Duchess of Athole at Dunkeld House,’ Robertson claimed that John Brown was regularly noted as entering Queen Victoria’s bedroom when the rest of the household was asleep. Robert purported that Victoria married Brown at Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1868, with Duchess Anne standing as witness. The Duchess of Atholl vehemently denied Robertson’s allegations. Robertson also claimed that Victoria had given birth to John Brown’s child, identifying his source for this information as John McGregor, Chief Wood Manager on the Atholl estates. Robertson went so far as to say that the child was conceived at a secret rendezvous place on Loch Ordie. Again, Robertson involved the duchess by saying Duchess Anne served as midwife to the Queen when the child was delivered in Switzerland. Supposedly, the child was given to a “Calvinist pastor’ in the Canton of Vaud. Surprisingly, Robertson was never prosecuted for libel. [It should be noted here that Robertson had a running feud with the 6th Duke of Atholl regarding the payment of a toll to cross the seven-arched bridge across the River Tay at Dunkeld, Perthshire.] (Lamont-Brown, Raymond. How Fat Was Henry VIII and 101 Questions on Royal History. The History Press. 2009. 20-21)

There are other theories regarding the Queen’s relationship with John Brown. Some think that he served as her “keeper,” after all he was brought to Osborne House to “keep” Victoria from her extreme bouts of melancholy. Some went as far as to think her as “mad” as her grandfather, George III. 

Lamont-Brown (21 -23) tells us, “With Brown being a Highlander it was presumed that he had the phenomenon known as taibhseadaireachd the ‘Second Sight’ with all its psychic attributes. As Queen Victoria was obsessed with the morbid memory of Prince Albert, it was easy for gossips to conclude that the ‘psychic’ John Brown was her spiritualistic medium. All of these elements of gossip had deep roots and there were many willing to exploit them.

624.jpg“Although much of the gossip about John Brown and Queen Victoria was seen as ridiculous steps were taken to suppress information. For instance, when Queen Victoria died her daughter Princess Beatrice removed pages from the queen’s journal ‘that might cause pain…. It is clear, despite public gossip… there was nothing immoral in Queen Victoria’s relationship with John Brown. Queen Victoria would never have contemplated sex with a servant. Furthermore, she was never alone to carry out an affair having court ladies always within shouting distance. The significance of Queen Victoria’s attraction to John Brown was that he made a career out of her. He never married, had few holidays and devoted his life to the queen, and he was a walking encyclopedia of her like, dislikes, moods and needs. As a downright selfish person this greatly appealed to the queen…. She liked him because she needed to be fussed, cosseted and spoiled. He told her the truth, spoke boldly to her and importantly too; unlike her family and senior courtiers, he was not afraid of her. Above all, when Prince Albert died Queen Victoria needed a male friend — she never really made close friendships with women — and someone to lean on. John Brown supplied all that.” 

You might also enjoy these opinions: 

Letter from Queen Victoria points to affair with Brown https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/dec/16/monarchy.stephenbates

Victoria ‘did become Brown’  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1429127/Victoria-did-become-Mrs-Brown.html

Victoria and Abdul: The Truth About the Queen’s Controversial Relationship  https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/09/queen-victoria-and-abdul-real-story

Original Movie Trailer for “Mrs. Brown” from You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsnOyuU2o6A


Posted in British history, castles, film, film adaptations, Great Britain, history, Living in the UK, research, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Origins of the “Irish” Ballad, “Danny Boy”

a2303-1-72dpi.jpga2303-4-150dpi.jpgOkay, I admit it. “Danny Boy” is one of my favorite songs, but it is not because I am Irish (which I am, for I have strong Irish roots in my ancestral tree). I simply think that the melody of “Londonderry Air” is one that reaches into a person’s soul. Moreover, I have a half-brother named “Danny,” so it strikes a chord in that manner. 

That being said, a March 2017 article on Irish Central says “Danny Boy” is NOT an Irish tune. “In 2001, the Irish-American actor and writer Malachy McCourt took it upon himself to unravel the mystery of perhaps the most popular Irish song ever in his book ‘Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad.'”

Frederic_Weatherly_from_Lute_(April_1895).jpg First off, “Danny Boy” was written by an English lawyer and lyricist in 1910. Frederic Weatherly is estimated to have written the lyrics to at least 3,000 popular songs, among the best-known of which are the sentimental ballad “Danny Boy” set to the tune “Londonderry Air,” the religious “The Holy City,” and the wartime song “Roses of Picardy.” “The Holy City,” written in 1892 to music by the British composer Stephen Adams. The song includes the refrain “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!.” He wrote the song  while living in Bath in 1910. However, “the words were right but the tune was wrong, which is where Weatherly’s sister-in-law, Margaret Weatherly, comes in. Margaret Weatherly was an Irish immigrant who sailed to America with Fred Weatherly’s brother in search of silver in Colorado.  It was on a trip back to England in 1912 that Margaret Weatherly introduced Fred Weatherly to the ancient Irish melody, ‘The Londonderry Aire.'” (Surprising Origins of 100-year-old “Danny Boy”) The tune matched his lyrics almost perfectly. He published the now-famous song in 1913. His ballad “Roses of Picardy,” written in 1916 and set to music by Haydn Wood, was one of the most famous songs from World War I. 

Of his huge output of songs, Weatherly listed a selection of 61 titles in his Who’s Who entry. In addition to the above, they were: “Nancy Lee”; “The Midshipmite”; “Polly”; “They all love Jack”; “Jack’s Yarn”; “The Old Brigade”; “The Deathless Army”; “To the Front”; “John Bull”; “Darby and Joan”; “When We are Old and Grey”; “Auntie”; “The Chimney Corner”; “The Children’s Home”; “The Old Maids of Lee”; “The Men of Ware”; “The Devoted Apple”; “To-morrow will be Friday”; “Douglas Gordon”; “Sleeping Tide”; “The Star of Bethlehem”; “Beauty’s Eyes”; “In Sweet September”; “Bid me Good-bye”; “The Last Watch”; “London Bridge”; “The King’s Highway”; “Go to Sea”; “Veteran’s Song”; “Up from Somerset”; “Beyond the Dawn”; “Nirvana”; “Mifanwy”; “Sergeant of the Line”; “Stone-cracker John”; “Ailsa Mine”; “Old Black Mare”; “Coolan Dhu”; “Three for Jack”; “Bhoy I Love”; “The Blue Dragoons”; “At Santa Barbara”; “The Grenadier”; “Reuben Ranzo”; “Dinder Courtship”; “Friend o’Mine”; “When You Come Home”; “Little Road Home”; “Greenhills of Somerset”; “Danny Boy”; “As you pass by”; “Ships of my dreams”; “Why shouldn’t I?”; “When Noah Went-a-sailing”; “Time to go”; “Chumleigh Fair”; “Our Little Home”; “The Bristol Pageant, Music Composed by Hubert Hunt in 1924” and “Little Lady of the Moon.” (Frederic Weatherly)

Yet, I have digressed. “In the hands of the Limerick-born author-actor [McCourt], the musical story of “Danny Boy” has its roots way back in the terrible 1690 siege of Derry in Northern Ireland, and its colorful cast of characters includes Charles Dickens’ son and a Jack the Ripper suspect. In his quest to unravel the mystery, McCourt enlisted poet Seamus Heaney, actress Roma Downey, and even his Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Frank, to explain “Danny Boy”‘s enduring appeal. McCourt distorts everything we previously believed of our beloved song revealing that “Danny Boy” is not even a completely original song but a version among the 100s of different lyrics set to the tune of the “Derry Air.” The original air is believed by some to date back to Rory Dall O’Cahan, an Irish harpist who lived in Scotland in the late 17th century. Weatherly gave the song to the English opera singer Elsie Grffin, who introduced the song to a wider audience. The first recording was made in 1915 by the German vocalist Ernestine Schumann-Heink.” (Irish Central)

Check out The Story of the Song Danny Boy on You Tube HERE.

From a CBS News Article in March 2013, we learn…

“Fred Weatherly fused that haunting melody with his heavy-hearted words and something magical happened. “Danny Boy” became a hit. 

“He meant for it to be popular, he meant for it to be universal,” said music journalist Andrew Mueller. “There’s a very careful avoidance of specifics.”

“Mueller told CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata that world events were about to lend the song a terrible resonance. 

“One hesitates to call the first World War a stroke of luck, but I think for any work of art to endure it needs a stroke of luck and his lyrics for “Danny Boy” were published in 1913, a year before millions of people were finding themselves having to say goodbye to people who they hoped against hope that they might one day see again,” he said.  

“The theme of longing also struck a chord with many Irish emigrants who headed to America to escape the famine back home. Through the decades, the song became woven into the cultural fabric of the U.S. and beyond, often as a final farewell. 

“Elvis said he thought “Danny Boy” was written by angels and asked for it to be played at his funeral.  At Princess Diana’s church service, the words were different, but the haunting melody of “The Londonderry Aire,” the same.

“And after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the strains of “Danny Boy” rose from the memorial services of so many Irish-American police and firefighters who were among the victims.

“It’s not just the notion of loss, but of someday being reunited, that’s one of the reasons “Danny Boy” has never gone away.”

Celtic Women’s Version 

The Irish Tenors Version 

Caitlin Heaney Version

Oh Danny boy the pipes the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountain side
The summer’s gone and all the flowers dying
‘Tis you ’tis you must go and I must bide
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy oh Danny boy I love you so
But when ye come and all the roses falling
And I am dead as dead I well may be
Go out and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an ave there for me
And I will hear tho’ soft you tread above me
And then my grave will warm and sweeter be
For you shall bend and tell me that you love me
And I will sleep in peace until you come to me


Posted in ballads, British history, customs and tradiitons, England, history, Ireland, music, tradtions | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments