Tag Archives: English history

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.

663px-wedgwood_-_anti-slavery_medallion_-_walters_482597

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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Filed under English colonies, slavery

Blog Hop-Mint Sauce: An EnglishTradition

The End of Dinner by Jules-Alexadre Grun, 1913 (Wikimedia Commons)

by Lauren Gilbert

Mint sauce has a long history in England, traditionally served with roast lamb. Mint sauce consists of mint leaves, finally minced, and mixed with vinegar and some sugar. This is very different to the mint jelly served with lamb when I was growing up in America. This type of “sweet and sour” sauce goes back to medieval times, and similar mint sauces were very popular in France and Italy where mint was more widely used. Traditional has it that, in an effort to slow consumption of lamb and mutton to protect the wool trade (less lamb eaten meant more sheep to shear), Elizabeth I decreed that lamb and mutton could only be eaten with bitter herbs. Mint is one of the bitter herbs, and cooks discovered quickly that it pairs well with lamb and mutton. Clarissa Dickson Wright considered mint sauce to be the last culinary link with the Crusades. At any rate, mint sauce has been a favorite condiment with lamb and mutton since the 16th century. As with any popular food product, mint sauce has been tweaked over the centuries. While regular mint sauce seems to be considered essential for lamb, other sauces have been devised for use with other meats, such as a gooseberry and mint sauce recommended for port and goose.

In 1200 ENGLISH RECIPES by Ethel Meyer, she took 2 T of finely chopped mint leaves, 1T of granulated sugar (American) or castor sugar (British), and 6 T vinegar. After mixing the mint and sugar, the mixture must sit for an hour; then the vinegar can be added added gradually, mixing well between each addition. (This quantity is recommended for 4-5 people.) This seems to be the basic recipe. Some add a squeeze of lime or lemon. Some use white wine vinegar; I found another using malt vinegar. Some specify spearmint leaves, while others go with peppermint. Several recommended that the finished sauce have the consistency of thick cream. As you can see, this is a very flexible recipe and can be easily adapted to personal taste.

Sources:

“20 Quirky Facts About British Food.” https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=interesting+british+food+facts

Love to Know. “List of Bitter Herbs.” http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/List_of_Bitter_Herbs

Meyer, Edith. 1200 ENGLISH RECIPES. Originally published 1898: Murray, London. Published 2010: Salzwasser-Verlag, Bremen, Germany. GoogleBooks: https://books.google.com/books?id=Sb5LF9ztzFgC&pg=PA199&lpg=PA199&dq=how+to+make+traditional+english+mint+sauce&source=bl&ots=xeAyxn309w&sig=0Mg9MmYR6OlWKVJHtlLrHdDrHog&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBDgoahUKEwj2j6f9xpfIAhWOuB4KHV9RA_U#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20make%20traditional%20english%20mint%20sauce&f=false

Dickson Wright, Clarissa. A HISTORY OF ENGLISH FOOD. 2011: Random House Books, London.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f1/Gr%C3%BCn_-_The_End_of_Dinner.jpg/640px-Gr%C3%BCn_-_The_End_of_Dinner.jpg

Celebrating A New Release!

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, Volume 2
Edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

I am so honored to be included in this volume!

Purchase links:

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817

Castles, Customs and Kings, Volume II

Castles, Customs and Kings, Volume II

Visit these fantastic sites in the Blog Hop (they are coming live at different times so check back if you can’t find it the first time!):
1. Whisky vs Brandy http://huntersjones.com/2015/09/29/whiskey-vs-brandy/
2. Hunting the Wren in Wales and Ireland http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/hunting-wren-in-wales-and-ireland.html
3. Archery in Tudor England http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8960148
4. A Curious Variant on Wassail http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8960621
5. 17th Century Marriage Day Customs http://www.shapingthefacts.blogspot.com/
6. Harvest Moons and Customs http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962474
7. 17th Century Medicine http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961953
9. A Quirky Look at the History of Nursery Rhymes http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962600
9. Animals on Trial http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961874
10. What was it like to live as a 16th century nun? http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962444
11. Historical Custom: The Flitch of Bacon Custom http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961380
12. Michaelmas in Medieval Britain http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962619
13. The Peculiar Custom of Electing Kings http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962286
14. Queen for a Day-of Bride Crowns of Gold and Myrtle https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/queen-for-a-day-of-bridecrowns-in-gold-and-myrtle/
15. Deadly Cat Customs http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/deadly-cat-customs.html
16. “Name that Member”: Weird Parliamentary Customs https://alwayswantedtobeareiter.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/name-that-member-weird-but-wonderful-british-parliamentary-customs/
17. Sweating with the Mohocks http://www.madamegilflurt.com/2015/09/sweating-with-mohocks.html
18. The Evil Eye and Vampires: Superstition in the Ottoman World http://www.kathryngauci.com/blog-06-feb-11-2015-evil-eye-vampires-superstition-ottoman-world/
19. Megaliths in the Popular Imagination http://mark-patton.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/negotiating-with-unexplained-megaliths.html
20. Odd Medieval Celebrations http://lanawilliams.net/home.html
21. The Unusual Marriage Customs of Medieval Ireland http://empowell.blogspot.com/2015/09/polygamy-divorce-more-unusual-marriage.html

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Filed under Blog Hop, Cooking, recipes

Smuggling in Jane Austen’s Time

The real cause of the present high price of provisions, or, a view on the sea coast of England, with French agents, smuggling away supplies for France by James Gillray

Smuggling could be the effort of individuals seizing an opportunity, or a professional, large-scale planned venture. The majority of fines and penalties were, unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, paid by the opportunists, who could come from any class-a desperate individual, a shop keeper willing to become part of a distribution chain, or a fashionable lady unable to resist the lure of hard-to-find fabrics or trimming. Professionals frequently had the backing of well-heeled sponsors and could afford to consider fines the cost of doing business. A new ship could be purchased after a few successful runs.

Smugglers brought in goods subject to tariffs and taxes-silk, lace, brandy, etc.-for sale. Import restrictions and blockades made certain goods hard to come by, and taxation was heavy on those goods that were available legally. Individuals in all classes would take advantage of a consignment filled by smugglers to avoid paying these heavy duties. Once a cargo was landed, it was brought overland in well-planned routes that made it almost impossible to know if an item was smuggled or legitimately obtained by the time it reached a market place.

All coastal areas were affected by smuggling, including the Scilly Isles, Kent (especially Romney Marsh), Cornwall, Sussex, and Whitby in Yorkshire. Some communities along the coast were in league with smugglers, with an entire community potentially dependent on smuggling, first to obtain goods not otherwise available to them, and then as participants in the landing, concealing and moving the goods. Foreign smugglers also contributed, such as the Dutch smugglers who brought gin and other goods into Whitby. Ultimately, smuggling was virtually a national industry, and involved numerous gangs, moving alcohol (gin, wine and brandy, among other beverages), tea, silk, lace, tobacco and other popular items. It is not impossible that the shops frequented by Jane Austen in London may have carried smuggled goods.

Smuggling went both ways during Napoleonic wars with refugees, goods and information moving into England, while escaped prisoners, money and information moved into France. In the last years of the war, Napoleon accommodated smugglers in Dunkirk and Gravelines, and encouraged them to make the trips back and forth. (Such a journey could be accomplished in 4 or 5 hours, weather and other conditions permitting.)

Politicians and the monarchy were acutely aware of a depleted treasury (war and the Prince Regent were both very costly), and worked hard to suppress smuggling. Taxes of course were no more popular in Jane Austen’s time than they are today. The wars drew away troops, leaving fewer available for the preventive service for much of the coast, although fears of a French invasion kept attention focused on the coastline, especially the south-east coast-it’s no coincidence that militia units were stationed in coastal areas such as Brighton (the possible deterrent to smugglers may have been as much a motive as a deterrent to invasion).

After Waterloo ended the war in 1815, there was an upsurge in smuggling due to men being released from military (especially from the navy) unable to find jobs. (A lack of excitement after wartime may have also been a factor.) However, it was reduced by the 1820’s due to activities of Customs, Preventives and Coast Guard. Smuggling methods had to adapt (contraband had to be concealed-hidden under a legitimate cargo or in clever hiding places). The Coast Blockade established on land on the east Kent coast 2 years after Waterloo consisted of land patrols that were an effective deterrent, in spite of clashes with smuggling gangs, and the temptations of bribery.

Sources include:

Adkins, Roy & Lesley. JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND. 2013: Viking, New York, NY.

Blue Anchor Corner. “A bullish attitude towards smuggling in the 18th century,” posted by Philip Atherton 12/11/2014. http://seasaltercross.com/2014/12/11/a-bullish-attitude-towards-smuggling-in-the-17th-and-18th-centuries

Border Force National Museum. Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 24. “History of Smuggling.” (PDF) Last revised May 2010. http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/pdf/24-History-of-smuggling.pdf

English Historical Fiction Authors Blog. “The Lesser Known Smugglers of the North” by Nick Smith, posted 9/17/2014. http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-lesser-known-smugglers-of-north.html

Regency Reflections. “Smuggling in Regency England,” posted by Naomi Rawlings, 4/23/2012. http://christianregency.com/blog/2012/04/23/smuggling-in-regency-england

Smugglers’ Britain. “Britain’s Smuggling History Expansion…and Defeat.” (No author or posting date shown.) http://www.smuggling.co.uk/history_expansion.html

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Filed under 17th century England, Georgian England, History, Jane Austen, Regency era, Smugglers

Guest post: White Women in the North African Harem

by Sheila Dalton

Le Harem by Fernan Cormon

Le Harem by Fernan Cormon

While researching my 17th century historical novel, Stolen, in which a young woman’s parents are kidnapped by Barbary corsairs and taken to the slave markets in Morocco, I came across several blogs where people questioned whether such raids had ever really occurred. They were especially doubtful that white women ended up in Northern African harems.

Certainly, in popular culture, the possibility was too tantalizing to pass up. Many of us have heard of the somewhat notorious Angélique and the Sultan by Sergeanne Golon, in which a 17th-century French noblewoman is captured by pirates and sold into the harem of the King of Morocco. She stabs him when he tries to have sex with her, and stages a daring escape.

Then there’s The Lustful Turk, or Lascivious Scenes from a Harem, a British novel published in 1828, in which the harem is a sort of erotic finishing-school for a number of Western women forced into sexual slavery in the service of the Dey of Algiers.

No wonder people started to wonder if there was nothing more to these ‘white women in the harem’ stories than the fevered imaginations of Western men!
But the scenario also shows up in more serious Western art. For instance, in Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio a Spanish man tries to rescue his beloved from the harem of the Sultan Selim, where he believes she has been sold by pirates; in Voltaire’s Candide, an old woman tells of being sold into harems across the Ottoman Empire.

As I delved further, I found what seemed to be legitimate historical records of such abductions. One that stood out was the story of Helen Gloag, a young Scottish woman with red hair and green eyes, who, at nineteen was kidnapped at sea by Barbary pirates, and sold in the slave markets to a wealthy Moroccan who ‘gifted’ her to the sultan. She lived in his harem, and ultimately became his fourth wife, mother of two of his sons, and Empress of Morocco.

Even though Gloag was able to write home, and was visited in Morocco by her brother, thus seeming indisputably ‘legit’, I still came across a piece in Scotland Magazine that mentioned doubts over the story’s veracity. However, as one of Helen’s direct descendants stated in the same article, “Why would anyone make all that up? The voyage is accurate. It is well known that piracy off the Moroccan coast was prevalent at that time.”
Why, indeed?

In Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, Prof. Robert Davis writes, “The pasha … bought most female captives, some of whom were taken into his harem, where they lived out their days in captivity. The majority, however, were purchased for their ransom value; while awaiting their release, they worked in the palace as harem attendants.”
In White Gold, the Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves Giles Milton writes, “Capturing large numbers of white slaves was part of a strategy to gain leverage over ‘the great powers of Christendom’. English females, it seems, were sometimes ransomed for more than £1,000.” And others, he maintains, were taken into harems.

The more I read, the more it seemed incontrovertible that white women did end up in harems. I wanted to include this in Stolen, but in the least sensational manner possible, one which would not make the world of Morocco and the harem seem ‘things apart’ from the Western experience, impossibly ‘exotic’, incomprehensible — and titillating. It was a challenge with such dramatic material. In an early part of the book, I show a European man keeping an Englishwoman in seclusion, and using seductive techniques in an attempt to control her. True, he has had experiences in North Africa that influenced him, but I hoped to reduce the ‘distancing’ factor by setting this part of Stolen in England. It is an approach I used throughout the book, so that slavery in all its forms, including in the harem, could be seen to be endemic to the human race as a whole, not one specific nation or people.

I also tried to tell a roaring good story, and I hope readers find that I succeeded.

A little about Sheila:

Author Sheila Dalton

Author Sheila Dalton

Sheila Dalton has published novels and poetry for adults, and picture books for children. Her YA mystery, Trial by Fire, from Napoleon Press, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. Her literary mystery, The Girl in the Box, published by Dundurn Press, reached the semi-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and was voted a Giller People’s Choice Top Ten. Stolen is her first book of historical fiction.
Visit Sheila’s website at http://www.sheiladalton.weebly.com
Read about STOLEN…
“>Stolen (cover)

Devon, England, 1633: Lizbet Warren’s parents are captured by Barbary Corsairs and carried off to the slave markets in Morocco. Desperate to help them, Lizbet sets out for London with Elinor from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children, the only other survivor of the raid. The unlikely pair are soon separated, and Lizbet is arrested for vagrancy. Rescued from a public whipping by a mysterious French privateer, she is taken to his Manor House in Dorchester, where he keeps her under lock and key. Later, Lizbet is captured at sea by the pirate Gentleman Jake, and forced to join his crew. Her quest leads her to the fabled courts and harems of Morocco and the tropical paradise of Barbados.
Based on true events, Stolen is the story of a brave but very human young woman who perseveres in the face of incredible odds to establish her place in a new world.

Find STOLEN at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Sheila-Dalton-ebook/dp/B00SXBLCTQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430259938&sr=1-1&keywords=sheila+dalton

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Filed under 17th century England, corsairs, historical novels, pirates, slavery

Guest Post: Anna Belfrage-Legislating for Toleration

We are in for a great treat. Anna Belfrage, fantastic author, has released the sixth book in her Graham series, Revenge and Retribution. Set in colonial in Maryland, she has taken her characters and their story into new territory. Today, she gives us some background for the situation in which Matthew Graham finds himself. We also have an opportunity to take a peek!

Legislating for Toleration

In the 17th century, people were very much defined by their faith. Europe had splintered into a Catholic part and a Protestant part, and being a Catholic in Protestant England was as uncomfortable as it was being a Protestant in Catholic Spain. In both cases, unfortunates could be submitted to gruelling interrogations and torture, as the presumption was that people were more loyal to their faith than to their country.

The Civil War in England added further divides to the issue of religion: being a Protestant was no longer enough, now one had to be the “right” sort of Protestant, which as per the Westminster Assembly in the 1640’s was to be a Presbyterian (the assembly was very influenced by the Scottish Kirk). Not a unanimous opinion, and once Charles II was safely restored, the only right Protestant was an Anglican, while Presbyterians were persecuted. The one thing Presbyterians and Anglicans had in common was their hatred of the Catholics, who ended up at the bottom of the dog pile no matter who was on top.
Not everyone was as narrow-minded as the various church representatives. Some (and I’d include Charles II here) felt faith was very much a personal issue, not something to be meddled in by the state. And one man decided to do something about all this persecution, sickened by what his co-religionists were subjected to. It helped that the man in question was a peer, filthy rich and endowed with a colony of his own…

Lord Cecilius Calvert was gifted with the colony of Maryland in 1632, this despite the loud protests from neighbouring Virginia. Calvert was a Catholic, and in retrospect it is rather amazing that he was given the colony, but Lord Calvert senior had always been a loyal servant of the crown, and Charles I held no major beef against Catholics – after all, he was married to one. Lord Calvert senior died before the grants came through, and so it was Cecilius who became first proprietor of Maryland.

Now a colony without colonists was not much good to anyone, and Calvert could not hope to populate his new lands only with Catholics. He needed intrepid settlers, no matter faith, and besides he was not all that convinced that there was any major difference between a Protestant and Catholic – after all, both believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Calvert therefore decided that in his colony everyone was welcome – as long as they held to one of the Trinitarian faiths.
This was a very novel approach. In Virginia, the powers that were preferred Anglican settlers, even if they received boatloads of deported Presbyterians as indentured workers. In Massachusetts, there was a clear preference for Puritan (Presbyterian) settlers. (To pre-empt any discussion about Puritans contra Presbyterians, let me just say that both are Calvinist creeds and that the influence of the Scottish Presbyterian Kirk on Puritan beliefs in the 17th century was huge) In fact, the approach was so novel that potential settlers hung back, not entirely sure they believed in this “religious freedom” nonsense.

To reassure his colonists, Calvert decided to draft a piece of legislation, converting religious freedom into law. This text was named the Act of Toleration and was approved by the Maryland Assembly in 1649. This innovative piece of legislation included some of the first attempts to curtail hate speech, and would in the fullness of time serve as a blueprint for some of the wording in the First Amendment of the American Constitution – but that was yet in the future.

from Wikimedia Commons

The English Civil War impacted the colonies as well, and Calvert lost control of his precious colony in the early 1650’s. One of the first things the representatives of the Commonwealth did was to repudiate the Act of Toleration in 1654, and the Puritan settlers took this as an invitation to attack their Catholic neighbours, submerging Maryland in religious violence.
Fortunately, Calvert very quickly regained control over his colony, and in 1658 the Act was passed yet again. This time, the Act of Toleration would remain in place until 1692, when in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution such fripperies as religious freedoms were firmly swept aside, forbidding Catholicism. Not, I fear, a development that made Lord Calvert all that happy, but by then he was safely in his grave, so maybe he didn’t care.

Religion plays an important part in my series The Graham Saga. My male protagonist, Matthew Graham, is a devout Presbyterian, a veteran of the Commonwealth armies and a man who, initially at least, tends to see the world as black or white. Which is why I gifted him with Alex Lind, an opinionated modern woman who had the misfortune (or not) of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, thereby being dragged three centuries back in time to land concussed and badly singed at an astounded Matthew’s feet.

Upon the restoration of Charles II, Matthew finds himself in the very uncomfortable position of being persecuted for his faith and as the pressure increases he takes the decision to leave Scotland behind and find a new home for his family elsewhere. He chooses Maryland, having heard of the colony’s open approach to various faiths.

In the recently published sixth book of the series, Revenge and Retribution, the formerly peaceful cohabitation between Protestants and Catholics is already a thing of the past. The increased tensions between Protestants and Catholics in England, as exemplified by the Popish Plot are coming to a nasty head – especially as the heir to the throne, the Duke of York, is Catholic.

“But with the Duke of York openly papist, God alone knows where all this will end,” Simon Melville said, receiving nods of agreement from the assembled men. The recently failed plot against the king and his brother, the duke, had left England heaving with religious conflict – again. Matthew shifted in his chair and caught the eye of Thomas Leslie. The latter smiled weakly. Both of them had fought for the Commonwealth back in the 1640s, and neither of them wished to see the country plunged into the devastating disaster of civil war again.

“There are rumours that the king himself holds papist sympathies,” William Hancock said, “and as to his wife, well, we all know she is.”

More murmurs. Catherine of Braganza was undoubtedly Catholic, and it was very fortunate from a staunch Protestant view that she had proved incapable of giving Charles II any children. Now it was too late, she being near on forty-six, but who knew what influence she exerted over the king?

“It must be terrible to have your own son plot against you,” Matthew said, thinking that Monmouth was an ingrate. Everything he had, the royal bastard owed to his royal father, and then to conspire against him, plan the murder of him no less…
Hancock shrugged. “All that need not concern us, but the situation here is becoming strained as well.”
They all nodded. Squabbles between neighbours acquired undertones of religious fervour. Protestants of all colours ranged themselves against the few Catholics that had made it this far north of St Mary’s City, and, increasingly, the protests against Catholic Lord Baltimore grew.
“We must rid ourselves of the papists,” one man Matthew didn’t recognise said. “Force them to leave lest they stab us in the back.”
“They came here for the same reasons we did,” Thomas reprimanded, “to live in accordance with their conscience. They’ve built themselves lives and families just as we have.”
“A Test Act, that’s what we need,” the unknown speaker went on, rudely ignoring Thomas. “Have them swear an oath by which they disavow themselves of all that papist heresy.”
“Papist heresy?” Matthew laughed. “It’s us that are the heretics, at least to them. After all, the Catholic Church came first.”
“For shame, Matthew!” William Hancock looked quite severe.
“Tolerance is a virtue,” Matthew said.
William shook his head. “Not always, not when it puts our faith at risk.”
Matthew chose not to reply, somewhat relieved Alex wasn’t present. His dear wife would by now have been most incensed, berating them all for bigotry while reminding them that they lived in a colony that had passed an Act of Toleration, allowing for all Christian faiths to live side by side.
“What?” Matthew was brusquely returned to the ongoing discussion by Thomas’ hand on his back.
“We were saying that at present we need do nothing,” Thomas said. “It’s not as if we’ve experienced much violence – at least not from our fellow colonists.”
“Ah, are you having problems with the Indians?” William asked.
Thomas pursed his mouth. “At times, but it’s mostly theft, no more. No, it’s the others that worry me more.”
“The others?” The unknown man leaned forward.
“Renegades: bands of white men that have lost much in the previous Indian wars and now compensate themselves as they can.” Matthew regarded his hands, fisted them a couple of times. Men like the Burley brothers, men who burnt and killed and ravaged.
“Papists.” The new man nodded. “See, I told you.”
“Papists?” Matthew said. “I don’t know about that, but it seems to me they’re not much concerned with religion anyway.”
R&R webstamp

All of Anna’s books are available on Amazon US and Amazon UK
For more information about Anna Belfrage and her books, visit her website!
For a somewhat more visual presentation of The Graham Saga,

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Filed under Calvert, English colonies, Religion, Stuart era, tolerance

An Almack’s Mystery: Who was Miss Pelham?

The First Quadrille at Almack’s

The Almack’s best known today is the “Marriage Mart” of the Regency era, with the Lady Patronesses at the helm: Lady Jersey, Lady Sefton, Lady Castlereagh, Mrs. Drummond-Burrell, Princess Esterhazy and Princess Lieven. We know of it from novels, for its mediocre suppers, stringently-enforced rules (no waltzing without the approval of a Lady Patroness), and highly prized vouchers. However, there was life at Almack’s before that. And it was somewhat different…

One cannot underrate the importance of assembly rooms in the Georgian and Regency periods. With the sharp divide between men’s and women’s activities, a free zone where both could be present was a necessity. Places to see and be seen, young people were closely chaperoned as they met, danced and conversed. Potential marriage partners were on display, and the rituals of courtship (or commerce) observed. Every town or city had its own assemblies during its social season. Of course, London had to have the most exclusive of all. One thing the assembly rooms have in common is gambling. Cards were offered for the entertainment of those who did not dance. This included women.

Almack’s Coffee House opened in 1763 in St. James’s Street, and, some years later, became known as the gentlemen’s club Brookes’s. (Coffee houses catered to men.) William Almack decided on a new venture, selected a site on King Street, St. James’s, east of Pall Mall Place, and built three very elegant rooms, offering a ball and supper once a week for twelve weeks for a subscription of 10 guineas. In 1768, he added another room for cards, decorated in blue damask. It did not take long for Almack’s to be firmly established and popular with the highest of high society, including Lady Sarah Lennox, the Duke of Cumberland (brother of George III), the Duchess of Gordon and other notables. It became known for high play, with fortunes lost and won, by women as well as men.

Almack’s Assembly Rooms, late 18th or early 19th century

On May 6, 1770, Walpole wrote to George Montagu about an innovation at Almacks: “It is to be a club of both sexes to be erected at Almacs, on the mode of that of the men of Whites. Mrs. Fitzroy, lady Pembroke, Mrs. Meynel, lady Molyneux, Miss Pelham, and Miss Loyd, are the foundresses.” I found the inclusion of two single ladies in such a leadership position interesting, and decided to investigate Miss Pelham. Who was she, and how did she get into this position at Almacks?

I cannot say unequivocally that I found her. However, I did find a likely candidate: Frances Pelham, daughter of Rt. Hon. Henry Pelham who served as Prime Minister during George II’s reign (Mr. Pelham’s brother was the Duke of Newcastle). Available data indicates that Frances was born in 1728, one of six daughters, and the second eldest of the four who survived into adulthood. The earliest mention I have of her so far is in John Robert Robinson’s biography of William Douglas, fourth Duke of Queensberry. Then Lord March, William Douglas took a house on Arlington Street in Piccadilly in 1752 next door to that of the Hon. Henry Pelham, then First Lord of the treasury. According this biography, the reason for his choice was “the bright eyes of Miss Frances Pelham, who had smitten the heart of this noble ‘macaroni’.”2 At this time, Frances would have been approximately 24 years old. According to this source, Lord March and Miss Pelham conversed through facing windows, as her father would not admit him. Supposedly, Lord March courted Miss Pelham upwards of seven years. Upon her father’s death in 1754, unaccountably, the couple did not marry. One speculation is that, with her father’s death, any hope of political assistance for Lord March died as well, but that idea is discounted in Mr. Robinson’s biography. Her father left her a life estate in Esher, Surrey.

The Right Honorable Henry Pelham, Prime Minister

Little information surfaces about Miss Pelham again, until mentioned in relationship to Almack’s, and gambling. In 1770, Frances Pelham would have been forty two years old and well past an expectation of marriage, a spinster of means and social status. Her being involved with such a venture as Almack’s is not an impossible or unlikely event. At any rate, at this point in time, the Miss Pelham of Almack’s was a gambler, who was famed for her fondness for deep play. By 1773, she was known for losing hundreds of pounds a night, and (with several of the other ladies) had moved away from Almack’s to other venues, and had earned the nickname of Miss Pell-Mell. There are indications that she dissipated her own fortune and required assistance from her relatives.

Miss Frances Pelham never married, and died the 10th of January 1804 at about age 76. According to The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics and Literature for the Year 1804, she had an excellent reputation. This reference indicates she was very rich, with a considerable estate. However, A Topographical History of Surrey is very specific that Mr. Pelham had left his possessions in Esher for her life by will and, at her death, the property devolved to her nephew. This in some ways supports my theory identifying Frances Pelham with Miss Pelham of Almack’s fame, as a life estate limited the inheritor’s ownership, and his (or her) ability to dispose of assets. She would have had a place to live and conceivably assets (or at least family) to support her after she had gambled away her disposable funds.

I am continuing my research, but we may never find incontrovertible evidence for the identity of Miss Pelham, founding patroness of Almack’s. I haven’t even been able, to date, to find a portrait of Frances Pelham, and she is not identified in The Peerage. However, I can’t help but feel that Miss Frances Pelham, spinster daughter of a Prime Minister of superior social standing, may have found some satisfaction and excitement in an alternative life as Miss Pell-Mell, gambler, for a period of time after other options faded away.

Notes:
1 Letters from the Hon. Horace Walpole, to George Montagu, Esq. From the Year 1736, to the Year 1770 (The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Oxford in six volumes. Vol. VI.) P. 434

2 Robinson, John Robert, ’Old Q’ A Memoir of William Douglas Fourth Duke of Queensberry K. T. P. 59.

Sources:
Chancellor, E. Beresford. Memorials of St. James’s Street and Chronicles of Almack’s. New York: Brentano’s, 1922.

The University of Nottingham. “Biography of Henry Pelham (c. 1695-1754: Prime Minister.” http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/collectionsindepth/family/newcastle/biographies/biographyofhenrypelham(c1695-1754;primeminister).aspx

Google Books. The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1804. “Deaths in 1804.” London: W. Otridge & Sons, et al, 1806. http://books.google.com/books?id=TdU7AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA464&lpg=PA464&dq=Miss+F.+Pelham,+The+annual+register+1804&source=bl&ots=ugJ5Qbg07d&sig=NF6zZzWbEHe65CVT5A8X-Wz8o7s&hl=en&sa=X&ei=gCbTUu_0HoinsQTl5YDIDA&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Miss%20F.%20Pelham%2C%20The%20annual%20register%201804&f=false

Google Books. A Topographical History of Surrey by Edward Wedlake Brayley, F.S.A., etc. London: G. Willis, 1850. http://books.google.com/books?id=wWnM-tMf85sC&pg=PA436&lpg=PA436&dq=frances+pelham,+topographical+history+of+surrey&source=bl&ots=5V6kaNl98D&sig=ZweRJpPbO9qY8aORj3ex9c0dpag&hl=en&sa=X&ei=cCPTUo6yLPLOsASZzoCYDQ&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=frances%20pelham%2C%20topographical%20history%20of%20surrey&f=false

Google Books. Letters from the Hon. Horace Walpole, to George Montagu, Esq. From the Year 1736, to the Year 1770 (The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Oxford in six volumes. Vol. VI.) London: Rodwell and Martin, 1818). http://books.google.com/books?id=ZCvnAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA443&lpg=PA443&dq=walpole+wrote+to+montagu&source=bl&ots=-JxOG2WTFW&sig=XCdeVrtoz-CR2rkwOys3q3HOqqk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5-zJUvCRE4bskAeHmYGoCQ&ved=0CEUQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=there%20is%20a%20new%20club&f=false

Google Books. ‘Old Q’ A Memoir of William Douglas Fourth Duke of Queensberry K.T. by John Robert Robinson. London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, Limited, 1895. PP. 58-61. http://books.google.com/books?id=BxEMAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA60&lpg=PA60&dq=%22Old+Q%22+and+Miss+Pelham&source=bl&ots=2cGiJt0Dog&sig=x6xMaGpc2NqwgfirEWBVzyNNnxE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=a_LSUq_vI5S1sASA6YD4Cw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Old%20Q%22%20and%20Miss%20Pelham&f=false

Google Books. Women, Sociability and Theatre in Georgian London, by Gillian Russell. Cambridge University Press, 2007. http://books.google.com/books?id=C-L61YcegI8C&pg=PA69&lpg=PA69&dq=Gillian+Russell+Miss+Pelham&source=bl&ots=SmhlUVXk5v&sig=2bG266CZ6l_kAJHrD00c-p2vJTk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=0_jSUuqNG_DLsQS0m4DAAw&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Gillian%20Russell%20Miss%20Pelham&f=false

All images from Wikimedia Commons.

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This Castles Blog Hop Giveaway is closed…

Haddon Hall copy (2)

My giveaway is now closed. A winner will be drawn and contacted. Good luck to all who left a comment. Watch this space for an announcement of the winner!

CASTLES, CUSTOMS, AND KINGS True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors was released last week on Monday, 9/23/13 (the second anniversary of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog). It’s a great book, and I’m very proud to be a part of it! Please take a look at it. You can see it here on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-Historical-ebook/dp/B00FCEJ10Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380747176&sr=1-1&keywords=castles+customs+and+kings+true+tales+by+english+historical+fiction+authors ) where it is available in print and Kindle formats. Don’t miss it!
Final Front Cover

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