Baroness Lehzen, Victoria’s Governess

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(Drawing of Louise Lehzen 1835 by Princess Victoria from Wikimedia Commons)

I have a post up on the English Historical Fiction Authors Blog. Today, I am discussing an important and formative influence on Queen Victoria: her governess and friend, Baroness Louise Lehzen. Please check it out by visiting the English Historical Fiction Authors. While you are there, please be sure to check out other great posts!

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Guest Post: Inspiration and the Earl of Ormonde by Nancy Blanton

I am privileged to host author Nancy Blanton, author of Sharavogue and her newest work The Prince of Glencurragh. Today, she is going to tell us about the source of inspiration for her new work. Over to Nancy…

I first started reading historical fiction as a teenager. I only dreamed I would one day be writing it, not believing the dream could come true. But I’ve since learned that inspiration can come from anywhere, and often the drive with it.

While researching 17th century Ireland for my second historical novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, I was stopped in my tracks by an arresting portrait of James Butler, the 12th Earl of Ormonde and the 1st Duke of Ormonde. I knew right away I had to find out more about him, because he was going to be featured in the book.

When I learned he had ascended to earldom in 1634 at just 24 years of age, I realized he was a contemporary of the characters I was already constructing. This earl became quite powerful, and led the passionate Royalist stand against English dominance under the boot of Oliver Cromwell and his army. He seemed to embody the ideal of beauty, money, and power.

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1st Duke of Ormonde by Sir Peter Lely (circa 1665) Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

This portrait captures Ormonde looking magnificent in ceremonial robes. He wears white satin trimmed in red and blue. Delicate hands grasp lance and sword; his jaw is proud, his eyes soulful and knowing. The long golden locks affirm his noble stature and remind me of a young, proud-faced Roger Daltrey, out to change the world in his own particular way – perhaps with similar sexual energy but without Daltrey’s penchant for fisticuffs.

No less appealing would have been James’s enormous wealth and power. He was born into a family tracing back to the Norman Invasion in the 12th century. The family seat became the great Kilkenny Castle from which they controlled the vast kingdom of Ormonde (including counties Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick).

Educated in London, James learned the Irish language, which was to serve him well later in life; and also met his cousin Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Sir Richard Preston, Earl of Desmond. Their marriage in 1629 ended the long-standing feud between the two families Butler and FitzGerald. In 1661, King Charles II created him the first Duke of Ormonde.

Biographer C.V. Wedgwood describes James Butler as a “high-hearted” nobleman: “Handsome, intelligent and valiant, he was also to the very core of his being a man of honor: loyal, chivalrous and just.”

And let’s not leave out dauntless. When the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, ordered that the wearing of swords in Parliament would not be permitted, Ormonde told the official who tried to take his sword that the only way he’d get it was if it was “in his guts.” He ultimately won the argument.

In my novel, Ormonde brings his significant power and influence, his chivalrous mindset, and his own agenda to the story, along with a fierce belief in fairness, justice, and love.

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The Prince of Glencurragh, published in July 2016, is the three-time award-winning story of an Irish warrior who abducts a young heiress to help restore his stolen heritage and build the Castle Glencurragh. He is caught in the crossfire between the most powerful nobles in Ireland, each with his own agenda. The book is the stand-alone prequel to my first historical novel, Sharavogue, which begins with the arrival of Cromwell in Ireland, and follows the protagonist’s experiences on an Irish sugar plantation of Montserrat. Both books are available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other online retailers. Find more information and links on my website, nancyblanton.com.

You can find the novel for purchase HERE.

Visit these fine blogs for more:

Jennifer B. Duffey HERE.
Andrea Patten HERE.
Janette Fudge Messmer HERE.
Nancy Blanton HERE.

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Filed under 17th century Ireland, Blog Hop, historical novels, James Butler, Earl of Ormond, Nancy Blanton

My Favorite Books Blog Hop: Alas, Babylon

Welcome to the My Favorite Books Blog Hop! I’m glad you stopped by. Throughout the month of April, we’ll be hearing from bloggers and fellow bibliophiles about a topic we can’t say enough about — books! Old books, new books, fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is encouraged to participate. This hop originates with author Jennifer P. Duffey HERE

Each Tuesday, Jennifer will be adding a post about a book that resonated with her in some way, and looks forward to hearing from all of us.

A few simple rules:

To participate, scroll down to the bottom, add your name to the list, and grab the link provided. Insert that into the blog post you wish to add.
Make sure the list of attendees is added to your blog post.
Be a good hopper and visit other blogs throughout this event. Be a great hopper and add some comments along the way!

ALAS, BABYLON

“This December Saturday, ever after, was known simply as The Day. That was sufficient. Everybody remembered exactly what they did and saw and said on The Day. People unconsciously were inclined to split time into two new period, before The Day and after The Day.”

Carrying on the theme set by my friend Jennifer Duffey, I’m going to talk about my favorite dystopian novel, ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank. Written in 1959, Mr. Frank wrote it when a friend of his posed a question regarding what Mr. Frank thought would happen if the Russians attacked the United States unexpectedly. Mr. Frank wrote the novel in response to that question. It is a powerful novel of survival and hope, yet it looks unyieldingly at the potential destruction of civilization as we knew it then.

The book was written in a clean, clear and direct style. Without using the overt sexual or violent language so common today, Mr. Frank still managed to bring to life the dilemma normal people found themselves in when a last case scenario became all too real. It was an unflinching, yet mostly positive view of people struggling to cope with a situation that we all fear yet hope we will never have to face. Even though our technology is very different, as the reader can see, when the electricity died, civilization went back to an earlier, much more primitive time. Mr. Frank presented a glimpse of what could happen when a group of people suddenly no longer have access to modern luxuries. In these uncertain time, it has a clear resonance for us today.

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I’m visiting Austen Authors blog today!

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I have an article posted on the Austen Authors blog today, titled The Significance of Books and Reading in Jane Austen’s Novels.  Please join me on their site at Austen Authors.

 

Illustration: Sir Roger Newdigate in the Library at Arbury, by Arthur Devis (18th Century) via Wikimedia Commons Here

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Filed under 18th century England, 19th century England, Jane Austen, Regency era

A New Treasure

New Treasure 001

 

I do enjoy old books, especially cookbooks, so you can imagine how pleased I was to find The Virginia House-wife by Mary Randolph on a Friends of Library sale shelf, waiting to go home with me.  This little gem includes a facsimile of the first edition of Mary’s cookbook as published in 1824, with supplemental material from the 1825 and 1826 editions.  Historical notes and commentary by Karen Hess, a culinary historian, which is extremely useful.  Being particularly interested in English history, it is fascinating to see recipes typical to 17th and 18th century English cookbooks still in use.  Even more fascinating is seeing these recipes amended and adapted based on other culinary influences (French, African Creole, etc.) and ingredients available in the colonies as well as typically English ingredients.  An interesting note is the number of vegetables for which she has recipes.  Her recipes are organized by food type (i.e. Port, Bee, Vegetables, etc.) so her book is fairly easy to find one’s way around.  One rather confusing matter is the inclusion of grains, fruits, desserts and mixed dishes in with vegetables, but the index at the front is very clear so they are easy enough to find.  At the end is a section entitled “Dishes for Lent,” making it simple for cooks to find inspiration on what to cook during this religious season of year.  This is a delightful little book, and one I will enjoy using as a reference.  I may even attempt one or two of Mary’s recipe’s.

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Filed under Cooking, English colonies, Old books, recipes, Special treasures

A New Passion for China

I have always had a fondness for china.  It just FEELS good when used.  Somehow food looks prettier on a porcelain plate, and tea definitely tastes better out of a bone china mug or cup.  However, I have not actually purchased any for quite some time.  Recently, the passion reared its head and the urge to buy was irresistible.  Even more peculiar, none of these recent purchases go with my existing sets.

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Cream and sugar Nippon (Morimura) c 1911

I fell in love with this Nippon hand-painted cream and sugar set.  It has a Morimura mark and is definitely hand painted.  The tag indicated it was made between the 1890’s and about 1920’s.  I checked on line, and did not find an exact match for this pattern, but did find some similar that were all dated to 1911, which feels right.  Cream and sugar sets are so appealing, and can be used in other ways (as well as a useful adjunct for serving tea, with all the different kinds of milks and sweeteners we use these days!).

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Royal Albert Symphony Series 1970’s

 

The next item I fell in love with was the cup and saucer in the Royal Albert Symphany Series, with the little roses on the pale green background.  It doesn’t match the Old Country Roses tea set, but coordinates nicely; it would definitely work as an extra cup, if needed!  Royal Albert produced variations of this pattern for some time.  It was not hard to find that this particular pattern, the Symphany Series, was produced in the 1970’s, and appeared in different colors.  I was very happy with the pale green, and snapped it up.

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Queen Anne china (English), Regency pattern, 1940’s

My last find occurred in a delightful shop in Fernandina Beach.  It made me think of one of my favorite novels by Patricia Wentworth, SHE CAME BACK (American title), in which a main character  had “the familiar tea things-Queen Anne silver and bright flowered cups bordered with gold and apple green….” (1)  I was traveling and not expecting to make a purchase, but I could not resist.  It was a total impulse buy.  Again, it doesn’t match the tea set but tones with it beautifully in color and style.

None of these purchases were expensive, or intentional.  None are especially old or valuable.  However, all three were very satisfying.  While I doubt if I make any more purchases (at least for a while), I expect to enjoy using these new finds over time.  Unexpected pleasures!

(1) Wentworth, Patricia.  SHE CAME BACK. 1945: J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and New York.  P. 141.

Photos by me.

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In the news in July and August of 1808

by Lauren Gilbert

One of the articles I most enjoy in Jane Austen’s Regency World magazines provides snippets of news articles that would have appeared in England in Jane Austen’s time.  In the current edition, the following item intrigued me:

“By order of council, no licenses are to be granted to neutral ships to import French wines or French brandies.  This will operate to the advantage of the trade of Portugal and Spain, and quicken the sale of rums.” (1)

In view of the Napoleonic wars, the ban on the import of French wines and brandies by neutral countries made sense.  Since Spain requested aid from England against the French earlier in 1808 (and several English firms were vested in the wine trade in Spain and in Portugal which Spain had overrun with France), the desire to advance their trading interests was logical.  However, the desire to boost the sale of rums specifically caught my attention, and inspired me to look at that more closely.

England’s relationship with rum goes back to its colony on Barbados (1625) and to Jamaica (the British took Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655).  Rum was a by-product of sugar, and Jamaica especially made rum from molasses, producing a darker rum with a fuller taste.  As such, it was a product of England’s West Indian sugar plantations and slave labor.  Rum was introduced to England in 1714.  It was a popular ingredient in rum punch, which was made with rum, hot water, fruit, and spices.  The Royal Navy issued a ration of rum twice daily, mixed with water and lemon or lime juice to its sailors.  It was an important trade commodity, traded heavily with the American colonies, and competed with rum made in the French colonies (rhum agricole which was made from cane juice-it retained the flavor of sugar cane and was frequently  more expensive).

I wondered why the council would specifically consider the need to boost the sale of rum, as it would seem to have had a fairly secure place in British commodities.  I do not believe that it was a coincidence that this concern for the sales of rum arose at this particular time.

Abolitionists had been lobbying against slavery for decades.  In 1706, in the case of Smith vs Brown and Cooper, the chief justice indicated that a man may be a peasant in England but not a slave.  In spite of the fact that fortunes were made by English landowners who owned plantations in colonies worked by slaves, the issue would not die and in fact became more contentious.

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Pro-abolition consumers boycotted products made by slaves, including sugar from the British colonies.  Rum could have fallen into this category.  Sugar from the East Indies became a popular alternative (originally Dutch, but this too came under French control).  Finally in 1807, the slave trade was banned  to the extent that slaves could not be transported in British ships, nor could they be bought or sold in British territories.  The act stopped short of banning ownership, so the plantations continued operating with the existing population of slaves (and their children), even though tarnished in reputation.

Maybe I have the business of politics on the brain, but it seemed possible that the desire to boost the sale of rum had as much to do with improving the fortunes of the plantation owners (who also tended to be wealthy landowners involved in the British political world) as making a patriotic statement.  Certainly the guise of “doing down” the French at this time would tend to make a controversial product more marketable, at least to some consumers.  It would not be the first time, or the last, that an apparently logical and reasonable act in politics had a seamier aspect as well.  (If this seems unduly cynical, please blame it on my current surfeit of political campaign material.)

It’s important to note that slavery was finally banned in England in 1833.

(1) Jane Austen’s Regency World.  July/August 2016.  Lansdown Media Ltd, Bath, England.  p. 38

Illustration from Wikimedia Commons: Anti-Slavery Medallion ordered by Josiah Wedgewood from William Hackwood 1787.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wedgwood_-_Anti-Slavery_Medallion_-_Walters_482597.jpg

 

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