Monday, May 25, 2015

An English Spy in Paris During the American Revolution

By Regan Walker

When I write historical romance, I like to let the history lead me. In the case of my new Georgian romance, To Tame the Wind, the story of an English privateer and the daughter of a French pirate, it led me straight to a spy in Paris in 1782, the last year of the American Revolution. 
Edward Bancroft
Edward Bancroft was an American scientist born in Massachusetts in 1744 but raised in Connecticut. While growing up in Hartford, Bancroft studied under Silas Deane, a lawyer.

After some years, and a jaunt in Surinam, Bancroft went to live in London where he met Benjamin Franklin who was then the agent for several of the Colonies. They became friends and Franklin used Bancroft to spy on the British to support several of Franklin's colonial activities.

In June of 1776, Bancroft’s former instructor, Silas Deane was sent to France by Congress to induce the French to lend their financial aid to the Colonies, which were about to declare their independence. Just after Deane arrived, he sent a letter to Bancroft asking that he come to Paris, which Bancroft did. They met in July and established a close relationship, so that Deane confided to Bancroft the true nature of his mission.

Benjamin Franklin
Deane told Bancroft that he was attempting to obtain France’s aid for the Colonies and to motivate a Bourbon-Prussian coalition against England to force the British to redirect their power to a continental conflict and leave the Colonies alone. The Americans expected France to come to their aid, which they ultimately did. It may have seemed odd that the Americans would approach France. It had not been that long ago as British colonies they had fought alongside England against France. However, France was humiliated after its defeat in the French and Indian Wars. England was its enemy so France was happy to help America in order to check the British.

Toward the end of July 1776, Bancroft returned to London. Before he left, he agreed to provide Deane with intelligence gleaned from his contacts in England. But Bancroft’s new role did not sit well. He had always supported British interests while adhering to the belief that the Colonies and the crown had to come to some compromise. Now he realized that such a compromise was impossible and he worried that French entry into the conflict could destroy the British Empire.

In London, Bancroft met with one William Eden, a character in my story, who became England’s spymaster, presiding over its agents in Europe. They were joined by Lords Suffolk and Weymouth for a discussion on “the colonial rebellion.” It was at this meeting that Bancroft was recruited as a spy for the British. He later wrote of his decision:

I had then resided near ten years, and expected to reside the rest of my life in England; and all my views, interests and inclinations were adverse to the independency of the colonies, though I had advocated some of their claims, from a persuasion of their being founded in justice. I therefore wished, that the government of this country, might be informed, of the danger of French interference, though I could not resolve to become the informant. But… I at length consented to meet the then Secretaries of State, Lords Weymouth and Suffolk, and give them all the information in my power, which I did with the most disinterested views.

When Benjamin Franklin arrived in Paris in December 1776, Lord Suffolk told Bancroft to move to Paris and inject himself in Franklin's circle, which he did, becoming the secretary to the American Mission. In that role, Bancroft was privy to many secrets.

It was most interesting to me—and it is a part of my story—that, in order to communicate with the British, Bancroft was told to compose a series of letters about gallantry (ostensibly the writer's exploits with ladies), which he was to address to a “Mr. Richards.” He was to sign the letters as “Edward Edward.” (A bizarre moniker given his own name.) Between the lines of his letters, he was to write in secret ink the information he acquired. The letters were to be placed in a bottle in the hole of a certain box tree in Paris. A man working for Lord Stormont then retrieved these messages. (In my story, it is the hero, Simon Powell, who retrieves the messages.)

Using this method, Bancroft supposedly provided copies of hundreds of documents to his superiors in London. In one instance, the French-American treaty was in King George's hand a mere 48 hours after it was signed, courtesy of Bancroft.

Bancroft’s final work as “Edward Edwards lasted from the start of peace negotiations in the spring of 1782 to the signing of the preliminary peace accord on November 30 of that same year.

Whether Franklin knew of Bancroft’s perfidy is not clear. Franklin did not write about it and Bancroft's personal papers were later destroyed by a family member. (Bancroft’s missives were not discovered until seventy years after his death when the British government provided access to its diplomatic archives.)

In the end, while the British had effectively inserted a spy within the American Commission in Paris, even with Bancroft the British were unable to destroy the relationship Franklin had established with the French, nor diminish France’s considerable support that led to America’s victory and its independence.

All Claire Donet knew was the world inside the convent walls in Saint-Denis. She had no idea her beloved papa was a pirate. But when he seized Simon Powell's schooner, the English privateer decided to take the one thing his enemy held most dear... her.

The waters between France and England roil with the clashes of Claire's father and her captor as the last year of the American Revolution rages on the sea, spies lurk in Paris, and Claire’s passion for the English captain rises.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Age Before Mass Chemical Cleaners

    Today we buy our cleaning goods and our remedies in ready-made bottles and cans and boxes. Prior to the era of mass manufacturing, which started after the Regency, all these items were manufactured in the household. This stands out at once in the household books from the late 1700's and early 1800's.
     The variety of 'tips' offered is astonishing, covering everything from cookery for the sick, to making pomades, to how to blacken fire grates and clean marble, to how to keep the rot off sheep. ("Keep them in pens till the dew is off the grass," advises Mrs. Rundell in her book on Domestic Cookery.)
     Some directions are quite straightforward. To keep a door from squeaking, "Rub a bit of soap on the hinges." Other directions can list either products not readily available today, such as the orris-root and storax listed in a recipe for potpourri, or the spermaceti (from whales) to be used to make ointment for chapped lips. Also, amounts are often inexact. For chapped lip, "twopenny-worth of alkanet-root" is also required--probably a small amount, unless alkanet-root came very, very cheep.

    Amounts are often listed as handfuls, as in the rue, sage, mint, rosemary, wormwood and lavender for a "recipt against the plague" given by Hanna Glasse in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy. She also offers not one, but two certain cures for the "bite of a mad dog, one of which is both given to the "man or beast" bitten as well as recommending to be bound into the wound.
     Within the household, items would be made for beauty as well as practicality. Recipes are given for Hungary Water (early cologne), which took a month to actually make. There is also Lavender Water, a recipe to prevent hair from falling out and thicken it which includes using honey and rosemary tops, a paste for chapped hands, and pomades for the hair.
     The time spent on making up these recipes could be considerable. To make black ink with rain water, bruised blue galls, brandy and a few other items meant stirring the concoction every day for three weeks. Other recipes, such as Shank Jelly for an invalid, requires lamb to be left salted for four hours, then brushed with herbs and simmered for five hours. Time passed differently in the 1800's.
     Sick cookery is an item of importance, from recipes for heart burn to how to make "Dr. Ratcliff's restorative Pork Jelly." Coffee milk is recommended for invalids as is asses' milk, milk porridge, saloop (water, wine, lemon-peel and sugar), chocolate, barley water, and baked soup.
     An interesting distinction is made in that recipes pertaining to personal appearance and sick-cookery address the reader--and owner of the book. However, recipes for household cleaning and those not related to a person--such as how to mend china--are listed under "Directions to Servants." This shows clearly the distinction that the mistress of the house also acted as mistress of the still room, tending to the really important matters, and leaving the heavy work to her staff.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A New Book on Regency-Era Fashions

©Cheryl Bolen

As an author of historcial books, I have found Jody Gayle's first book, Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen, an invaluable research resource. I have it both in print and ebook. Now I am delighted to have her newest release, Fashions in the Era after Jane Austen. Discerning readers won't find dramatic differences in the two eras since they are separated by just a few years. The first book covers 1809-1820; the second, 1821-1828.

Ms. Gayle has given us another gem. She goes directly to the source: Ackermann's Repository of the Arts, a popular woman's magazine in Georgian England. Moreover, each of these stunning fashion prints is accompanied by its original text, carefully presented with sometimes-archaic spellings that lend (if possible) even more authenticity.

"The illustrations need to be described in the language of their time," Ms. Gayle writes in her preface. "The words add a whole new depth to the illustrations and, most importantly, a glimpse into the culture."

I concur. One particularly vital reason for including these rather comprehensive written descriptions is that they describe what types of fabrics were used in each facet of the dress. This is of immense importance to historical writers.

In addition, each hairstyle depicted is described. Here's an example: "The hind hair is arranged in braids and bows, which do not rise much above the crown of the head. The front hair is brought very low at the sides of the face in light curls: the forehead is left bare, with the exception of a single ringlet in the middle. A coral wreath is placed rather far back."

Fabrics of gloves and shoes are also given, as well as explanations of jewelry worn.

An added bonus for us historical writers is little plugs—with locations—of various tradespersons associated with the dress.
The above is an illustration of Ms. Gayle's first book next to my last mass-market paperback, used to illustrate the size of Ms. Gayle's books.

The oversized paper-bound book features just about one hundred fashion plates, and these include morning dress, promenade dress, wedding dress, evening dress, ball dress, carriage dress, head dress (which features multiple prints of head wear), full dress, walking dress, and garden costume. The prints in this new book are of considerably higher quality than the ones in the first.

I am indebted to Ms. Gayle and to my fellow author of historical romance, Candice Hern, for making this book possible: Ms. Gayle, for dedicating herself to unearthing publications from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and bringing them to life; Candice, whose wonderful website inspired Ms. Gayle's passion for early nineteenth-century fashion.—Cheryl Bolen, whose newest release is Duchess by Mistake, a House of Haverstock book

Friday, April 17, 2015

History of the British Flag, the Union Jack

The flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is referred to as the "Union Jack or “Union Flag.”

The Union Jack as we know it was born from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.  However, before 1603, the British flag was very different than today’s flag. England, Ireland, and Scotland were different countries, each having their own individual flags. England’s flag honored the patron saint of England, St. George with his emblem of a red cross on a white field and had been the official flag of England since the Medieval times.
Flag of England

That changed when Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was unmarried, named, on her deathbed, expressed her desire that her cousin, King James VI of Scotland, succeed her. So King James ruled both nations. In Scotland, he was King James VI. In England, he was King James I. At that time, King James called his two countries the "Kingdom of Great Britaine." To further show his desire that the countries be considered one, King James made a proclamation in 1606 that his countries’ flags, the red cross of Saint George, who was the patron saint of England, and the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, be combined to represent the joining of these two countries. (Wales was not represented in the Union Flag by Wales's patron saint, Saint David, because at that time, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.

Flag of Scotland
King James’ flag did not become official until the reign of Queen Anne, when England and Scotland united their parliaments to give birth to the new nation of Great Britain. In 1707, Queen Anne officially adopted King James I’s flag as the national flag. This new combined flag was used for 101 years.

However, changes did not stop there. In 1800, Ireland became part of Great Britain in the Act of Union with Ireland, passed by both the Irish and British parliaments despite much opposition. It was signed by George III in August 1800 to become effective on 1 January 1801.

Flag of Ireland
In 1801, the Union Flag was redesigned to include the Cross of St. Patrick (which has a red, diagonal crosss), the patron saint of Ireland. It is in this form that the British flag exists today. 

There is some disagreement as to the origin of the the term 'Union Jack.' One source cites it evolving from the 'jack-et' of the English or Scottish soldiers. Another alternative is that it’s a shortening of Jacobus, the Latin version of “James." It may also have been derived from the term  'Jack' which once meant "small" as evidence by the nickname “Jack” which once meant “little John” or “John Jr.” A proclamation by Charles II required that the Union Flag be flown only by ships of the Royal Navy as a “jack,” which is a small flag at flown at the bowsprit. 

If you are a Brit, you probably learned this in school. But as an American, I found this history fascinating, and I hope you do, too. 

BTW, I found a great figure of the four flags superimposed upon one another on Enchanted Learning: 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Riding in Style in the Regency

By the start of the 1800's one of the biggest innovations in horse fashion had arrived--the Thoroughbred.  Three founding stallions--the Darley Arabian "Manak," the Godolphin Barb, and the Byerley Turk--had been brought to England in the early 1700's.  When these light, fast Arabians were bred with the larger, cold-blooded English mares, the cross produced a horse with size, speed and stamina.

With the Thoroughbred established as a breed, horse racing also became a more popular, and a better regulated, sport.  In 1711, Queen Anne had established regular race meetings at her park at Ascot.  Gentlemen also organized races for themselves, often "matching" particular horses against each other, and by 1727 a Racing Almanac began to be printed.

Around 1750, the gentlemen who regularly met at the Red Lion Inn at Newmarket started the Jockey Club.  By 1791, the Jockey Club had issued the "General Stud Book", and by the early 1800's Jockey Club stewards attended every racing meet and race, including the Derby, first held in May of 1779, the first Derby was held.  Racing now became a fashionable and expensive sports.

Assize-week was the time for races, for that was when the gentry came into the chief town of the shire for trials and selling harvest.  Meets sprang up, and still run, at Newmarket in April and October, York in May, Epsom, Ascot in June, Goodwood, Doncaster, Warick, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Cheltenham, Bath, Worcester, and Newcastle.

Flat and jumping races were also held for women only.  Mrs. Bateman wrote in 1723, "Last week, Mrs. Aslibie arranged a flat race for women, and nine of that sex, mounted astride and dressed in short pants, jackets and jockey caps participated. They were striking to see, and there was a great crowd to watch them.  The race was a very lively one; but I hold it indecent entertainment."  Some women--such as the infamous Letty Lade, who reportedly swore like a coachman--rode and drove to please themselves, and made their own fashion statement by bucking the trends for demure ladies.

But racing could be a ruinous expensive sport, as stud fees increased in price for the most successful sires.  Before the Prince Regent quit the racing scene in 1807, his racing stud farm cost him an estimated 30,000 pounds a year.

The less wealthy, however, could still enjoy equine sport through presence fox hunting.  For while expensive Thoroughbreds hunters might also be seen in the hunt field, farmers also rode their heavier draft horses, such as the Suffolk Punch, and children might well be mounted upon handy Welsh Cobs or Welsh Ponies.  The hunt field was where skill mattered more than social position, and even a man in trade, such as Gunter, the confectioner who ran the famous London shop which sold ices, could ride next to lords--and a few ladies, too.

By the 1780's, fox hunting had replaced the more ancient sport of stag hunting.  The Enclosure Acts of the 1700's had also changed the sport from its early form of gallops across open land into races over fences, ditches and field.

November to March was, and remains, fox hunting season, starting after the fall of the leaf, when the fields lie fallow, and ending after the last frost, just before the first planting.Hunt territories varied widely.  The fifth Earl of Berkely hunted an area from Berkley Castle to Berkley Square, stretching 120 miles. There were two methods for being able to hunt with a pack.  One could hunt by invitation of the hunt master, or one could pay a fee to hunt with a subscription pack.  By 1810 there were 24 subscription packs.  However, this would double, so that by the mid-1800's hunting had become more a matter of subscribing in exchange for the right to hunt with the pack.

The golden age for hunting in Leichesterchire is considered to be 1810 to 1830.  During this time, there were as many as 300 hunters stabled in Melton Mowbray--with some gentlemen keeping up to 12 hunters.  A gentleman could hunt six days a week with the Quorn, the Cottesmore, the Belvoir, and the Pytchley, and to do so would need at least two mounts every day to keep pace with the master and the pack of hounds.

Ladies, while not generally found in the hunt, also rode to hounds.  Mrs. Tuner Farley hunted for 50 years.  Lady Salisbury was master of the Hatfield Hunt from 1775 to 1819.  She hunted old and blind, in her sky blue habit, with a groom leading her horse and yelling at her to, "Jump, damn you, my lady."  From 1788 to 1840, Lord Darlington hunted his own hounds four days a week in Yorkshire and Durham, with his three daughters and his second wife, all in their scarlet habits.

However, between late 1700's to about mid 1800's, when the jumping pommel was invented for the side saddle, ladies were more likely to be advised to "ride to the meet and home again to work up an appetite."
It should be noted that a few ladies chose to ride astride. This was not common, but it was done, particularly by those who didn't really give a fig about what anyone thought of them.
Prior to 1835, a side saddle had only one or two pommels.  One turned up to support the right leg, and some had a second pommel which turned down over the left leg.  The 'jumping' pommel did not exist in Regency times.
A lady's riding habit also had to be cut so that it draped down over the horse's side, covering ankle and boot in a lovely flow.  This drape required that a loop be attached to the hem, so that, when dismounted, a lady could gather up the extra length of skirt.  The fabric for a habit was usually a heavy cotton, twill or wool.  Due to its cut, a habit provided any woman as much freedom as breeches did for a man.
Riding habit styles often copied military fashion, with close cut coats, cravats, and military shakos.  Ladies always wore gloves, both to preserve their hands, and to improve their grip upon the reins. The side saddle requires the rider to sit with a straight back and with hips and shoulders absolutely even.  Slightly more weight should be carried on the right hip to compensate for the weight of both legs on the left.  Any tilting to one side, leaning or twisting eventually results in a horse with a sore back.
Side saddles have a broad, flat and comfortably padded seat.  The right leg goes over a padded leather branch which turns up (the top pommel).  The left leg is in a stirrup that is short enough to bring it firmly up against a second pommel which turns down.  If the horse plays up at all, the rider must clamp both legs together, gripping these pommels.
On a comfortable horse, riding side saddle soon begins to feel a bit like riding a padded rocking chair.  It's far less tiring than riding astride for the only effort is to sit straight and still. The important factor in riding side saddle is the horse.  A comfortable stride and good manners are essential.  This does not have to be a placid horse, but should not be a horse with a rough or bumpy stride.

Betty Skelton, author of Side Saddle Riding, found that...."As a teenager in the 1920's, side saddle riding was second nature to me.  I found it comfortable and I did not fall off as often as I had done from a cross saddle."  In teaching side saddle, Ms. Skelton has found that a beginner rider can often be comfortably cantering during her first lesson, which is far more progress than most can manage when riding astride.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Depicting sex and satire in Georgian London

© Cheryl Bolen
            Between 1770 and 1830 some 20,000 satirical or humorous engravings were published in London's print shops. The three most prominent artists (whom we think of as caricaturists) were, chronologically, James Gillray (1756-1815), Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), and George Cruikshank (1792-1878).

Titled "Fashionable Jockeyship," Cruikshank's satirical cartoon depicts the Price of Wales (future Regent) being carried on Lord Jersey's back to Lady Jersey's bed, with the prince holding up two horns as the sign of the cuckold.
Because these dealt with politics, international affairs, and scandals and satire of London's social elite, those who figured in the graphic satire and those who flocked to the print shops to purchase them for a shilling or more came from the middle and upper class.

            British historican Vic Gatrell uses his study of the 60-year era of graphic satire to show that before the Victorian era, London was a city of sex and laughter. The result of his interest is the stunning City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London, a nearly 700-page tome featuring 289 of these "cartoons" published (in the U.S) in 2006.

            Man, how these illustrations demonstrate sex and satire! Many of these illustrations have never before been reprinted, partly because of the bawdy subject matter.

            Since many of the social situations which inspired these satirical illustrations are unknown to most of us, Gatrell has kindly provided text to explain the background. His research and knowledge of Georgian London are astonishing.

            These 700 pages are crammed with interesting tidbits. Some examples:

·       Bachelor Prime Minister Pitt (the younger) "was stiff to everyone except a woman."

·       Public hangings were moved from Tyburn to the gate of Newgate prison in 1783.

·       Piccadilly was the first street to be lit by gas—in 1809.

·       Sedan chairs did not go out of fashion until 1820.

·       Women wearing powdered wigs washed their heads every three months.

·       Bagnios (public baths/brothels) were located in the Charing Cross area near Charles I's statue.

·       Doors to Haymarket opened at five.

·       Drury Lane boxes cost 5 shillings, and upper gallery seats could be had for a shilling.

            Because the artists slightly changed the actual names or omitted letters, the artists and printers did not get sued.

            One print, for example, shows Lady Worsley washing her naked body in the bathhouse at Maidstone while her husband, Sir Richard Worsley,  stands outside, hoisting a man up to the small window near the roof to get a peek. The story goes that Sir Richard tapped on the bathhouse door to notify his wife he was going to give Bissett a peek. Apparently, Sir Richard was an accomplice in his wife's many adulteries. The text on the drawing reads:

Sir Richard Worse-than-Sly, Exposing his Wife's Bottom – O Fye!

Many of the illustrators accepted bribes. George Cruikshank (whose father, Isaac, was also a noted caricaturist) accepted £100 from the regent to strop satirizing him. Gillray earned a £200 annual pension from George Canning in 1797 to produce propaganda against the Foxite Whigs.           

"Bums, Farts, and Other Transgressions" is the title of one of the chapters. If you ever wondered how to illustrate a fart, this is the book for you. Part of another chapter on libertines deals with the erotica Rowland illustrated from 1790 until 1810. Some of the erotica is truly graphic, even pornographic, except Gatrell explains that because they are humorous they do not meet the criteria for pornography. (Warning: Keep book out of reach of young children.)

Some of Rowlandson's erotica was costly to purchase and was prized by wealthier Londoners. These prints were also shared with women.

London in Regency times was the richest and most economically dynamic city in the world, and its residents were undoubtedly the most debauched.
Of the couple of hundred Regency research books in my library, this volume will now rise to the top five in breadth of knowledge imparted.—Cheryl Bolen’s second book in the House of Haverstock series, A Duchess by Mistake, releases on April 7 and can now be preordered.