Friday, March 28, 2014

British Architect--Vitruvius Britannicus


I have an inordinately huge interest in England's stately homes. I have studied them (both those open to the public and those which have been demolished) for many years. In my studies I  frequently ran across Vitruvius Bratannicus, (the British Architect) published first in 1715 by Scottish architect Colen Campbell (1676-1729). It was something I longed to see in a great library, like the British Library. 

Unbeknownst to me until recently, this volume has now been published in an oversized paperback by Dover Publications, which has reproduced it exactly as it appeared originally. The list price is $24.95, but my new copy was cheaper.  

The Newest Addition to Cheryl Bolen's Collection of Books on British Homes


The book features 100 fine plates depicting some of Britain's finest stately homes as well as some public buildings. The plates not only show the elevation of these buildings, but also many floor plans. Some contain renderings of the layout of the formal gardens, too. 

Campbell was a disciple of Italian architect Andrea Palladio, founder of Palladian architecture movement, which began to sweep the British Isles in the 17th century. Campbell's book is also full of praise for British Architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), citing Jones' Banqueting House (depicted in this volume) constructed in 1515 at Whitehall as "without dispute, the first room in the world." Not surprising, Jones was also a Palladian disciple. 
 
Many ducal seats are represented in Campbell's book, including ones for the Dukes of Argyle, Buckingham, Devonshire, Marlborough, Powis, and Queensbury. 

An interesting facet of the work is the list of subscribers, which was a common practice in Georgian publishing. The subscription list here is a veritable Who's Who of early Georgian times. Nearly every aristocratic family of the era is represented among the 300-plus names listed here. 

If I have a complaint about this invaluable resource it is that the manner in which Campbell presented the material is not user friendly. He gives all the property descriptions and dates completed at the very front of the book along with all the other descriptions--not connected to the relevant plates. Therefore, the reader must flip back and forth to read about the property. Another irritation is that there is no pagination or index, making searches difficult.

I am still delighted to add it to my collection of books on British homes.--Cheryl Bolen (More Articles at www.CherylBolen.com.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Regency Pistols and Duels




In Regency England, gentlemen could settle any disagreement with pistols, and might well be acquitted by a jury of any murder charge. Duels, and a lady's muff pistol, became key in my Regency romance, BarelyProper. The dueling information came from research, but the lady's muff pistol, complete with safety latch to prevent accidental shots, came courtesy of my uncle who collects flintlocks.

The notion of a duel of honor first appeared in England in the early 1600's. The duel between Sir George Wharton and Sir James Stewart was recorded in 1609. Prior to that time, an Englishman could settle slights and quarrels by hiring a gang of assassins to avenge any slight. Throughout the 1700's duels tended to be fought with swords. This was due, in part, to technology.

Hand guns date back to the late 1300's in Italy and appeared in England around 1375. These used gunpowder, a mixture of potassium nitrate, saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal. It would take another half century, however, for a mechanical device to appear to actually fire a hand gun.The standard flintlock gun came then came about in the early 1600's, and by 1690 flintlocks has become standard issue for the English army.

The flintlock had been developed in France as a more reliable improvement upon matchlocks and wheel locks. The principal was simple--a trigger released a lock that held a flint which would then strike a spark in the priming pan. This pan held a small amount of gunpowder. When ignited, it then would ignite the main gunpowder charge in the barrel, firing a lead ball.

In contrast, the match lock had used a "matchcord," a braided cord of hemp or flax soaked in a saltpeter and dried. The slow-burning matchcord would then be lit. Pulling the trigger caused the lit matchcord to be pressed onto the flashpan causing ignition.

The wheel lock improved on the matchlock with a system that worked rather like a cigarette lighter. Pulling the trigger caused a rough-edged steel wheel to strike a piece of pyrite held in a metal arm called a dog head.

Misfires with matchlock and wheel locks had been common. And the effort to reload consumed time. While flintlocks still loaded the main gunpowder charge and ball from the front, the only addition work was to then pour a little gunpowder into the flash pan.

Around the 1750's, the practice of carrying a small sword or dress sword also died out, and with the advances in gun making, pistols became the standard for duels. Dueling pistols developed into matched weapons with a nine or ten inch barrel. Most were smooth bore flintlocks.

However, pistols could be as individual as the maker, or the owner. Jean-Baptiste Gribeauval made a pistol for Napoleon Bonaparte around 1806 that had a twelve inch long barrel. And a set of dueling pistols made around 1815 by W. A Jones and given to Duke of Wellington by the East India Company boasted saw-handled butts, which made it easier to steady the pistols, as well as "figured half stocks, checkered grips, engraved silver and blued steel furnishings."

By the mid-1700's London was well-known for its excellent gunsmiths. George Washington patronized a London gunsmith named Hawkins. As with many of the pistols from this era it offers silver decoration.

In the late 1700's, and during the Regency, Joseph Manton became one of the best and most fashionable gunmakers. Manton's shooting gallery on Davis Street was where a gentleman went to practice before he might use one of Manton's pistols in a duel. And an apprentice of Manton's left in 1814 to strike out on his own with a business in Oxford Street. James Purdey's company is still renown for its shotguns.

Part of Manton's success came from his first patent, taken out in 1777. Manton went on to open his shop in 1793 and was soon known for shotguns and pistols. His fame came from guns that "were light, trim, well balanced, fast handling, and impeccably fit and finished. Stocks were slender and of fine English walnut with a hand rubbed oil finish."

In the early 1800's, a new development came along when a Scotsman named Forsyth patented the percussion lock. This did away with the flashpan and flint. Instead, an explosive cap was used, so that when the cap was struck by the pistol's hammer, the flames from the exploding fulminate of mercury in the cap move into the gun barrel and ignite the main charge of powder.

With the advent of the percussion cap, guns with revolving chambers became reliable weapons. The revolving principle for a gun had been around for as long as the invention itself. "...There were repeating matchlocks as early as 1550, some capable of firing as many as eight shots with multiple barrels, each fired by a separate flash pan and operated by a sliding trigger mechanism....Both French and Italian gun makers as early as 1650 had developed magazine-fed muskets."

The "pepperbox pistol" had between two to six barrels that revolved upon a central axis. Examples of such pistols that still exist include a double-barreled turn-over flintlock pistol, a six-shot flintlock had been made in France in the late 1700's, a three-shot Venetian pepperbox dates back to the mid 1500's, and Twigg of London had even made a 7-barrel flintlock pepperbox in 1790. A three- barrel design made by Lorenzo some time in the 1680's exists that carries the Medici Arms upon it.

However, the pepperbox pistol was notorious for the mechanism jamming. Or worse, all the charges in the barrels might be ignited at once time by a flint strike, resulting in the entire pistol discharging at once--or blowing up in your hand. The first accurate chambered weapons date from the latter part of the Regency, around 1810 to 1820.

Multiple shot pistols, however, were not allowed in any duel.

The elegant matched sets of pistols manufactured for a gentleman might boast silver filigree or gold inlay. Their balance was paramount, for a pistol that could not be easily held up at arm's length might mean an inaccurate aim and shot. Also, the "hair trigger" or a trigger that responded to the slightest touch could mean the difference in being the first to get off a shot.

In the 1800's duels might be fought for honor, as in the case of a duel fought in Hyde Park in March 1803 between two officers, and reported to have been held to avenge a sister's dishonor. Or it might be an absurd affair, as in the duel fought in London on April 6 that same year. This second affair involved Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery of the 9th Regiment of Foot and Captain Macnamara of the Royal Navy, and was reported to have started when the two men, both riding in the park and each followed by a Newfoundland dog, had their dogs start to fight. This led Montgomery to exclaim, "Whose dog is that? I will knock him down." That set off an argument that resulted in a meeting at seven that evening near Primrose Hill.

Even the Duke of Wellington fought a duel. During the Peninsular War, Wellington had been known to frown on dueling among his officers. However, in 1829, Wellington's support of the Catholic Relief Bill angered the Earl of Winchilsea, who then made public a letter that disparaged the duke accusing him of having, "...insidious designs for the infringement of our liberties, and the introduction of Popery into every department of the state." Wellington pushed for reparations, and would be satisfied with nothing less than a meeting over pistols at Battersea Fields.

"At the word 'fire,' the Duke raised his pistol, but hesitated a moment, as he saw that Lord Winchilsea had kept his pistol pointed to the ground." Wellington then fired at random, as did the earl. The press did not approve and reported, "...all this wickedness was to be perpetrated -- merely because a noble lord, in a fit of anger, wrote a pettish letter....Truly it is no wonder that the multitude should break the law when we thus see the law-makers themselves, the great, the powerful, and the renowned, setting them at open defiance."

Illegal as they were, duels were numerous, and were often not prosecuted unless proven fatal.

In the duel between Macnamara and Montgomery fought over their dogs, both were wounded, Montgomery fatally so. Macnamara recovered and was tried for murder, and his arguments for his motives being that of "proper feelings of a gentleman" carried enough weight that the jury returned a not-guilty verdict, even though the judge asked them to find Macnamara guilty of manslaughter.

Times and sentiment changed, however and in 1838 when a Mr. Eliot shot and killed a Mr. Mirfin in a duel, the jury returned a verdict of willful murder. The trial smacked of class prejudice, for in 1841 when Lord Cardigan was tried in the by his peers in the House of Lords for dueling, he was found not guilty.

By 1843, an Anti-Dueling Association had been formed and by 1844, Queen Victoria was discussing with Sir Robert Peel how to restrict duels in the army by "repealing an article of the Mutiny Act, which cashiered officers for not redeeming their honor by duel."
The Regency by then had long passed, and so had the era of pistols for two at dawn to settle affairs of honor, and so had the art of the elegant and deadly dueling pistol.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Regency Pirate by guest blogger Regan Walker

A Regency Pirate
 by Regan Walker

With the end of the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic wars in 1815, an unprecedented wave of piracy swept the American seaboard and the Caribbean when some of the hundreds of captains who were privateers in the wars, now with free time on their hands, began preying upon the growing numbers of merchant vessels. Although some of these pirates, like Jean Laffite, were American, many came from farther south and Latin America.
 Roberto Cofresí was one of them. Born on June 17, 1791 in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico as Roberto Cofresí y Ramírez de Arellano, he became Puerto Rico's most famous pirate, better known as El Pirata Cofresí.” Cofresí's father is believed to have been Austrian, Franz Von Kupferschein, who changed his surname to Cofresí because it was easier for the people of Puerto Rico to pronounce. Just as I have portrayed him in my latest novel, Wind Raven, Cofresí was a tall, blond hunk with piercing blue eyes, and he wore dangling silver and diamond earrings any woman would covet.
Surprisingly, Cofresí was educated at a private school under Professor Don Ignacio Venero. He learned catechism and geography (his favorite subject), as well as literature and arithmetic. In his book “Cofresí, Historia y Genealogia de un Pirata,” Enriquez Ramirez Brau writes that at an early age, Cofresí sailed the waters of Mona Passage against the advice of his older brothers who discouraged his maritime adventures.
There are many legends about why Cofresí turned to piracy. Some believe it was his desire for independence from the Spanish regime (he is remembered as sometimes giving his prize ships to Simon Bolivar to help the cause of independence in Venezuela and Latin America). Some say Cofresí’s sister was raped by a group of sailors and others say he was slapped in the face by an English captain. Perhaps it was for all those reasons. In my novel, he has motivation enough. 
Cofresí began attacking ships in 1818, when he was twenty-seven, going after any merchant ships sailing under flags other than Royal Spain. His first ship was named El Mosquito. Wielding his hatchet, Cofresí would be the first to jump aboard the ships he seized. His audacity, commanding voice and his own acts encouraged his men, who followed him blindly. Later, he sailed a fast schooner named the Ana after his wife, Juana Creitoff. (In my story his ship is called the Retribución.) 
In response to his acts of piracy, Spain looked the other way, even encouraging his piracy against other nations—at least until 1824, when Captain John Slout of the U.S. Navy, aboard his schooner the USS Grampus, engaged Cofresí in a fierce battle. Cofresí was captured and bowing to pressure from its allies, Spain executed him. Cofresí’s wife died a year later, leaving their 5-year-old daughter Maria an orphan. 
Cofresí was famous for his generosity, sharing his booty with the poor so that he became a kind of Puerto Rican Robin Hood, idolized and admired by the people. The Puerto Ricans protected him and he had a network of spies who worked for him as well. In Ponce, it was a rural schoolteacher; in Mayaguez, a canteen waitress; and in Arecibo, the parish priest informed him of the civil guard and military activities. 
For all his piracy, Cofresí was kind to women, children and the elderly. It was said that after the boarding of one ship, he severely punished his crew for not showing proper respect for the old and the women and children on board. He was known for saving young ones taken from a prize ship to give them into the care of Catholic priests with money for their room and board. 
Contrasted with this, other writers say he was merciless and arrogant and never took prisoners. According to these reports, he scuttled the ships he seized and killed the crews or let them drown. Some even say he nailed hostages to the deck of El Mosquito, and he once captured a Danish ship and killed all aboard. (A scene in my story is based on this, though I have him attacking an English ship.) 
Some biographers have said he was a revolutionary, a patriot and a pioneer of Puerto Rico’s independence movement. Perhaps it is so for he flew the flag of the Free Republic of Puerto Rico, not that of Spain’s. 
Today there is a monument to Cofresí in Boquerón Bay in Cabo Rojo, and the town of Cofresí west of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic is named after him. Many poems, songs and books have been written about him for he is now consigned to legend.
Author Francisco Ortea wrote of Cofresí, “For his boldness and courage, he was worthy of a better occupation and fate.” Alas, I do agree. 

I hope you enjoy my pirate romance and that Wind Raven does justice to this legendary pirate.




Regan’s website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com/
Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)

Friday, February 28, 2014

London's Devonshire House--Gone


Though it was demolished 90 years ago, Devonshire House was one of London's most fabulous aristocratic homes for a couple of centuries. One of the things that set it -- and a handful of other aristocratic homes -- apart from typical town homes of the nobility was the plot of land that surrounded it. While many of London's grandest houses were terraced (what Americans might refer to as "row houses"), Devonshire House sat on three choice acres on Piccadilly, with a view of Green Park from the front and a view to the garden of Berkeley Square from the rear (across the gardens of Landsdowne House).
 
     Devonshire House in 1896
 
As with Melbourne House (now Albany), Burlington House, and Landsdowne House (all now significantly altered), Devonshire House was entered through gates large enough for a carriage to pass, and gardens and outbuildings were located within its walls.
 
This 1746 map shows the extensive gardens behind the Piccadilly mansion, stretching almost to Berkeley Square.

Today, the gates of Devonshire House have been relocated across Piccadilly to serve as an entrance to Green Park.
    Cheryl Bolen, with relocated Devonshire House Gates
(In the 2013 photo above, I'm seated within Green Park with the Devonshire House gates behind me.) A London underground ticket office now lies beneath what was once Devonshire House, and now the Ritz is across the street.
 
(In the photo above, taken from Green Park, the French-looking Ritz Hotel is on the right, abutting Green Park, and the office building that replaced Devonshire House in the 1920s is the larger building in the picture. The white structure in front of it houses ticketing for the Underground.)

Home to the Dukes of Devonshire, the Palladian house was completed in 1740 for the 3rd Duke, with William Kent serving as architect. This structure replaced the former Berkeley House, which burned. Berkeley House, bordered by Piccadilly and Berkeley Street, had been built in 1665-1673 by Lord Berkley and was later the residence of Charles II's mistress, Barbara Villiers, before the 1st Duke of Devonshire bought the classical mansion.

Though the exterior of Kent's Devonshire House was plain, the interiors were said to be sumptuous, with a 40-foot long library the highlight of the three-story house. It also housed what was said to be the finest art collection in England. Many of these paintings can now be found at the current duke's opulent country house, Chatsworth House.

Devonshire House was famed in the late 18th century as the nucleus of Whig politics, presided over by the duchess Georgiana, wife to the 5th duke. A hundred years later a grand dress ball to celebrate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee was held there. Also during Victorian times, the house was altered by James Wyatt, who was one of the most fashionable architects in the late 19th century.

Following World War I, Devonshire House was abandoned in 1919 as the 9th Duke was the first to be required to pay high death duties. These amounted to £500,000 (approximately $16 million today). The 9th duke sold off much of his fine library, including a Caxton and many first editions of Shakespeare. In 1921, he sold Devonshire House and its three-acre garden for $750,000. The house was demolished in 1924, and an office building--also called Devonshire House--now stands on the site.--Cheryl Bolen. See www.CherylBolen.com for more articles.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring Holidays in Regency England

Spring is in the air--almost. It's certainly coming and spring holds many holidays for Regency England. But let's look first at the very important quarter days and the overall English calendar year.


The most ancient of calendars are based on solar and lunar events. This gives us, in England:

            * Winter solstice, also known as midwinter, Yule, or Alban

            * First cross-quarter day, also known as St. Bridgid’s Day, Imbolic, or Brigantia

            * Vernal equinox

            * Second cross-quarter day, also known as May Day, Walpurgis, or Beltaine

            * Summer solstice, also known as midsummer, or Samradh

            * Third cross-quarter day, also known as Lammas, or Lughnasadh

            * Autumn equinox, also known as Mabon

            * Fourth cross-quarter day, also known as All Hallows or Samhain

These dates were important for farming and rural life since they were based on the seasons; religious holidays were formed around these dates, including those of the church.

In March, Lady Day, March 25, was the traditional day for planting, and hiring farm laborers for such work. In the church calendars, this day was set as the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to tell her about her upcoming role. This was also the traditional day for when yearly agreements might end or need renewal—it was the old day for the first day of the year. This made it one of the main quarter days.

The quarter days were when servants were hired, rents were due, and assizes were held in the Assizes Towns, over Assizes Week. Assize comes from the Old French and meant that judges travelled the seven circuits of England and Wales, setting up court.

The English quarter days (also observed in Wales and the Channel Islands) are:

March 25       Lady Day
June 24         Midsummer Day
Sept 29          Michaelmas
Dec 25            Christmas

Cross-quarter days that fall between the quarters, adhere to older Celtic holidays:

Feb 2              Candlemas
May 1             May Day
Aug 1             Lammas
Nov 1             All Hallows

In Ireland, prior to 5th century AD, the old Celtic quarter days were observed:

Feb 1              Imbolc
May 1             Beltaine
Aug 1             Lunasa
Nov 1             Samhain

The old Scottish term days, and the quarter days in northern England until the 18th century, were:

Feb 2              Candlemas
May 15          Whitsunday
Aug 1             Lammas
Nov 11           Martinmas

(For more information on quarter days and cross-quarter days, visit: http://www.almanac.com/content/quarter-days-and-cross-quarter-days.)

St. David's Day, the Welsh patron saint, came on March 1, and tradition held that all good Welshmen should wear a leak—a vegetable readily available from winter fare.

March also brought Lent, and very often Easter (in March or April).

EASTER

You may think that colored eggs and rabbits are modern inventions, but these are actually ancient traditions associated with Easter. (It’s only the chocolate Easter bunny and the bunny with eggs in its basket that are new.)

Eggs are associated with fertility and new beginnings. And the hare is also an ancient symbol used since the Middle Ages by the Church. In 1290, King Edward I of England actually ordered 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and colored for Easter gifts.

Pace Eggs are hard boiled eggs with patterned shells, and are traditional made in northern parts of England.

At Biddenden in Kent at Easter, the Biddenden Dole—bread, cheese, beer, and cake—is distributed. Since the late 1700’s, the cake given out bears an image of two women said to be the founders of this charity, a pair of Siamese twins who were born in 1100 and died within a few hours of each other at thirty-four.

Hot Cross Buns are also an old tradition in England. It is said they were made by Saxons to honor their goddess Eostre, with the bun represented the moon and the cross the moon's quarters. But at Easter, the cross symbolizes the crucifixion. They’re traditionally served warm on Good Friday.

In Shropshire and Herefordshire, Simnell Cakes made with saffron were made for the Easter season. But in many parts of England, the Simnell Cake is made at the end of Lent, the period of forty days before Easter (starting with Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday).

In the 17th century, Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, became the day when those in service were allowed a day off to go and visit their mothers. Girls would bake their mothers a Simnell cake as a gift.

I’ll to thee a Simnell bring
‘Gainst thou go’st a mothering,
So that, when she blesseth thee,
Half that blessing thou’lt give to me
.’
            --Robert Herrick, 1648

In England, Maundy Thursday, is the beginning of Easter celebrations and commemorates the Last Supper. The name comes from the Latin, mandatum (relating to Jesus’ commands to his disciples).
Up to 1689, the king or queen would wash the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey. Food and clothing were also handed out to the poor. Maundy coins—specially minted—were also given out to pensioners.

From the fifteenth century on, the amount of Maundy coins handed out, and the number of people receiving the coins, was tied to the years of the Sovereign’s life and given to celebrate specific events. The Yeomen of the Guards carry the Maundy money in red and white leather purses on golden alms trays on their heads.

Of course spring also meant a return to London for the start of the Season and all it's social whirl.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pirate ships and the Queen Anne's Revenge

During the golden age of piracy, most pirate ships were of the smaller variety, such as the sloop and the schooner. These vessels were built for speed and could easily sail in shallow water—an advantage when evading larger warships that required deeper waters. However, when I wrote my pirate regency romance, The Guise of a Gentleman, I patterned my hero’s ship after the vessel sailed by the nefarious pirate, Blackbeard.
Blackbeard’s flagship was a 300-ton English frigate built in England in 1710 christened Concord. A year later, the French captured her, modified her for larger cargo capacity, and gave her a new name, La Concorde de Nantes.
About six year later, she was captured and found herself the property of the widely feared and certainly fearsome pirate known as Blackbeard. It is commonly believed that the true identify of Blackbeard was Edward Teach, although I've read enough experts who question this theory that no one appears sure who he really was. Regardless of his real name, the pirate Blackbeard added additional cannon, since he preferred to attack with the power of a warship rather than with stealth and speed preferred by most pirates. All these modifications changed her silhouette to more closely resemble ships built by the Dutch during that era. Once again, she was given a new name—this time, she became know as the Queen Anne's Revenge a feared name indeed. 

Different theories circulate as to the reason for this unusual name. It might have come from Edward Teach's reported years of service in the Royal Navy during a war known as the War of the Spanish Succession, which the American colonies called the Queen Anne's War, in which Blackbeard had served. Perhaps he felt some sympathy or loyalty to the last monarch of the Stuarts. After studying him, I doubt sympathy was in his nature; it was probably some kind of cruel joke.

While in command of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard terrorized the seas from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean and he took 18 ships as his prizes. The Queen Anne's Revenge is the largest known, and certainly the most infamous, pirate ship that sailed the Spanish Main and played the staring role in the historical stage of piracy in the Americas. 

Because my hero, Jared Amesbury, was such a feared and well-known pirate in my Regency romance novel, The Guise of a Gentleman, I decided to pattern his ship after Blackbeard’s. In fact, Jared, known as Black Jack, and his crew spread many rumors of his cruelty to those to defied him to instill fear and inspire surrenders. Some of these atrocious tales which Jared invented were in fact those that Blackbeard and his crew reportedly committed. My hero never commits those acts he claims to have done, and, in fact, has a high code of honor regarding the treatment of prisoners and the protocol of boarding ships. After studying pirates, I doubt many pirates actually held to such high ideals. Still, pirates have always captured my imagination. Arrgh, matey!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Barbaric Practices in the Name of Medicine


"I was obliged to send for the Apothecary, who bled me very plentifully, but, tho' it made me faint, it has reliev'd me wonderfully. Tonight I feel languid and stupid." Those two sentences were written around 1800 by Lady Harriett Bessborough to her lover, Granville Leveson Gower. (A couple of days later, she came down with the chicken pox.)

As those of you familiar with the 18th and 19th century know, the aforementioned blood-letting was a common occurrence up until the 20th century. It was only one of the idiotic practices that were inflicted upon well-educated people by medical practitioners whose knowledge of  the human body--by today's standards--was nonexistent.

In my reading of journals and letters from the era, I'm quite often shaking my head in disbelief over the barbaric treatments subjected upon patients by apothecaries, physicians, surgeons, oculists, and dentists. Here are some of these bizarre treatments I've underlined in my readings.

Take Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, sister of Lady Bessborough. When her eye swelled up, the surgeons were summoned. Among these oculists was Senior Surgeon-Extraordinary to King George III.  One of these so-called learned men almost strangled her to death in an effort to flush the blood up to her head. They also "broke" her eye, rendering her deformed for the rest of her life.

Bear in mind, there was no anesthesia at the time; so, most of these procedures were done on patients who were awake.
 
One wonders how people survived at all. Of course, we know life expectancy was quite low, and many early deaths must be laid at the door of these quacks. These medical practitioners had no medical training. They studied astronomy, thinking that the human body's "humours" were affected by astronomy.

Another case of misguided doctoring occurred with the young son and heir of Lord Elgin (of Elgin Marbles fame). The sickly lad suffered from asthma, so it was recommended to have him drink mercury. His doting mother, thinking she was spurring her son to good health, kept dousing him with the toxic mercury.

Needless to say, the lad never inherited his father's title for he died young after suffering a lifetime of very poor health. (His father's title passed to a son from Lord Elgin's second wife, after he divorced the lad's Scottish heiress mother.)

In her memoirs Mary Elizabeth Lucy, the mistress of Charlecote Park, tells of a tumble she took as a girl around 1810. It loosened her teeth. Her concerned mother took her from their home in Wales to consult a dentist in Liverpool who was known to be very clever. He immediately recommend removing every tooth in her mouth, setting them in gold, and putting them back. He said if he didn't do that, all the teeth would drop out.

A panicky Mary Elizabeth entreated her mother not to allow the dentist to remove all her teeth. And at age 80, all her teeth were still intact.
 
Mary Elizabeth also tells of the three doctors who attended her daughter, who'd suffered an attack of tetanus. "They cut off all her beautiful hair, blistered her poor head and nearly her whole body and applied such hot bottles to her feet and legs that they made them perfectly raw." Remarkably, she survived that treatment, but her lifespan was less than half of her mother's.
 
Reading these accounts deglamorizes the life of the rich and famous of Georgian England and makes me ever so glad I was born when I was. -- Cheryl Bolen, whose newest Brides of Bath book, Love in the Library, released this week