Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Movie: The Young Victoria

While this movie has yet to reach my area, I am really looking forward to it! I have a fascination with European history, especially monarchs within England. My release over this past summer, Love Will Bloom included a small snippet with Queen Victoria in it. Naturally, when I heard there was a movie coming out about her, I was excited, and its a romance which makes it even better. As you all know I'm also a history buff. An interview with Sarah Ferguson (producer of the movie and current Duchess of York) showed that she made it very clear the true history was told, and not any frivolous scenes thrown in for entertainment.




From the press release.... The Young Victoria is written by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Vanity Fair) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y.). Producers on the film are Graham King, Martin Scorsese, Tim Headington and Sarah Ferguson.

Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) delivers a stunning performance as Queen Victoria in the turbulent first years of her reign. Rupert Friend (Pride & Prejudice) portrays Prince Albert, the suitor who wins her heart and becomes her partner in this spectacular romance. The film also features Paul Bettany (Iron Man, The Da Vinci Code), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Jim Broadbent (The Damned United, The Chronicles of Narnia), Thomas Kretschmann (Valkyrie), and Mark Strong (Tristan & Isolde, Oliver Twist).

The Young Victoria chronicles Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne, focusing on the early turbulent years of her reign and her legendary romance and marriage to Prince Albert.

Here is the trailer:





The Duchess of York, gave an interview and I thought, you all might be interested in a few particular things she had to say...

Did you have any hesitations with your daughter, Princess Beatrice, taking part in the film? Whose idea was it for her to get involved?

Both of them are so proud about this film that they of course loved sitting going on set and when they were on set of course it was then decided that Beatrice could go and do that and she jumped at it with both feet. She came from school where she did drama so for her it was just big dresses and just being on set. What this film has taught me just is how hard Hollywood works. Hollywood is not just entertainment, it’s about the behind the scenes, what everyone does. I’ve never seen such hard work. It’s really extraordinary and has to be heralded. I often took myself, go to the cinema and look at the big screen, walk out and go yeah that’s good but never contemplate just what it takes. I think it’s incredible. I’m happy with whatever both girls decide to do because I believe a real mother should be there to guide, be a role model, and to listen, but never to preach or teach.

What is Beatrice’s impression of the whole experience?

I think Beatrice would like to be in that century and I keep trying to tell her well it’s not going to happen dear. She really is so responsible; she was born to be a princess. She’s got it in her blood. She just has a sense of duty and responsibility that I’ve never seen in another human being.

You’ve written two novels about the life of Queen Victoria – is there a particular connection you feel you have with her?

I find her sense of cheekiness. I find her sense of humor. I find that she’s so strong and bold and I often have days when I allow people to push me around and I often think what would she do. There’s no way she’d put up with it so why am I?

Actress, Emily Blunt, who play Queen Victoria had this to say...

How much of this was a character study, compared with taking creative license?

It’s funny cause I felt like I had a free reign with her because nobody knows about the youthful side of Queen Victoria, the love and the passion and I felt like no one really knew about that so I think there was an element of me sort of saying well prove it to me, prove to me that she wouldn’t have sat like this or said that, said something in that tone of voice, but I think I wanted at the same time to do her justice cause it was very well documented, that whole side of her life. So everything that I read about her wouldn’t necessarily been read about by most people but, but I thought it was important to do justice to what I had read which presented her as this remarkable girl who had such strength and fire in her and literally everything that you see in the movie, virtually everything was true almost to the word.

You were allowed access to Victoria’s private diaries and letters – how did that help you form the basis for your role?

The diaries were the most helpful because she was so open in them and you know very expressive and would go into great detail about people or what she thought about them and who she hated, who she liked, and even with Albert she’d talk about the way he looked in such such detail. The curl of his mustache…was like she’d rapture about it for a paragraph and so it was really helpful to me to delve into that cause I could start to hear her voice in a way.

What other special research/training did you do to prepare?

I learned to side saddle a horse ride and I learned how to waltz. Both of them were frightening experiences but I overcame them in the end. It was a bit of a task but we did alright.

(I wanted to pop in here and say that even writers have to do this sort of thing. The best way to write a scene is to experience it in some way, whether that be through actual practice, lots of reading, interviewing or watching videos.)

Is there one scene in the film that you are particularly fond of?

It’s funny, I really like the scene where she meets the privy counsel for the first time where she addresses the room full of sort of 60 old men who are there to judge her really, and doubtful of whether this young girl can..is up to the task. As an actress when there’s so much to play with that you know she’s terrified, she needs to assert herself, this is a huge moment for her, she knows that they doubt her, she’s feeling very vulnerable about the fact that her dearest uncle has just died and it was so much to play with that I really enjoyed that scene, I just really enjoyed it. I thought it was her really coming into her own. I think on the day that I read about it in biographies, she really did surprise them and they talked about the strength and the femininity but also that she was someone that was quite hard to read and I found that interesting that she was actually quite an ambiguous girl. You couldn’t quite figure out what she was thinking so there’s something quite powerful in that. That’s the thing and that’s what I loved about the film. You see the private side and the public side and she lead such a duel existence as you know so many of the monarchs do.

Actor, Rupert Friend who plays Prince Albert, was interviewed as well. Here are few things he had to say...

It seems as though you enjoy working on period pieces (The Young Victoria, Pride and Prejudice, The Libertine, The Last Legion, etc.) - what attracts you to these types of films? Do you prefer period pieces to modern day films?

I think it’s just the stories that have come my way that have interested me and in a sense there’s an element of kind of I guess time travel about it that I really like. Being able to really go back in time and see how people lived in other periods is really exciting for me. As different as it can be from my own experiences the better.

To prepare for the role of Prince Albert, you took dancing, calligraphy, archery lessons, and even worked with a vocal coach to capture an accurate German accent. Out of all the lessons, what did you find the most challenging to learn? What was the easiest to pick-up?

The hardest was the piano because I had to learn a piece of Shubert which Albert plays for, well he doesn’t actually play it for her but he plays it in the movie, and that was really really hard but the most rewarding as well because when I cracked it, it was the best feeling ever, so that was the hardest. The easiest in a way actually was the archery. The guy who was teaching me was amazing and he made me my own bow and my own arrows. It came weirdly quite naturally the whole sharp shooting thing.

I leave you withthis particular scene in The Young Victoria that reminds me a great deal of another great queen who also struggled with being a woman and holding the crown...




Can you guess which queen I speak of?

I hope you all enjoy the movie, I'm chomping at the bit to see it!

Cheers,
Eliza

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Sword of Christendom by Mary McCall


The Sword of Christendom: Vowed to the Riding
The trail is through dolour and dread,
Over crags and morasses;
There are shapes by the way,
there are things that appall or entice us:
What odds? We are Knights of the Grail,
We are vowed to the riding.
~Louise Imogen Guiney (1861—1920)


They say a little truth suspends disbelief in fiction. Watching the film First Knight, one gets a sense of medieval customs when Lancelot kneels before the chapel altar prior to receiving his sword. The medieval knight spent a significant amount of time in fasting, prayer, and other rituals prior to being inducted into service. When one reflects on the Ten Commandments of Chivalry, the modern mind is sometimes appalled by “VI: Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation, and without mercy.”

This was not a concept held only by knights, whom we moderns might accuse of being ignorant or cruel. In his De laudae novae militiae (Of the New Knights, referring to The Knights Templars whose rule he wrote), the learned mystic and scholar St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote:

But in truth the knights of Christ fight the battles of their Lord with all tranquility of conscience, fearing neither sin by the death of their enemy nor the danger of their own death, because death inflicted or suffered for Christ’s sake bears no trace of crime and often brings the merit of glory... For he bears not the sword without cause; he is the minister of God for the punishment of evil and the exaltation of good. When he kills a malefactor, it is not homicide, but, so to say, “malecide,” and he is clearly considered the avenger of Christ in the case of those who do evil, and defender of Christians. Moreover, when he himself is killed, it is understood that he has arrived in eternal glory... (Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 182, col. 924).

Heady words, but before we are too easily repelled or self-righteous, let’s remember that both the crusading efforts of the knights and the missionary works of the friars were complimentary. Also, those of us in America are taught to praise as heroes the men, who by force of arms, built and sustained our nation. That included the vanquishing of French and Spanish Catholic culture in Mississippi and the Great Lakes areas, and in the Southwest; the transportation in miserable conditions of thousands of slaves into a life of servitude, the murder and persecution of thousands of Loyalists during the revolution for the heinous crime of supporting the government they and their fathers knew and loved against men who in their eyes were traitors. Dare I mention what our heroes did to the American Indian Nations, those noble people whose love of this land that was literally stolen from their Great Spirit, and their tribes made subject to wholesale slaughter and dishonored treaties. This list can go on. The point I am making is that the medieval knights did what was perceived as right and moral for them in their world. It is not wise to cast stones and neglect the debauchery of society today. I dare say the medieval knights of God would be raising their sword against most of us.

In any case, it is important also to see that the medieval knights attempted to pattern themselves after heavenly patrons – Saints of Chivalry. In them they saw not merely prototypes as warriors, but as men.

Interestingly, their principle patron was not a man but an angel – Saint Michael the Archangel. In his struggle against Satan at God’s command, when first the cry of revolt was raised in heaven, medieval chivalry saw its first example. “Who is like unto God?” was both St. Michael’s war-cry and name. He was called the Standard-bearer of Heaven and held the honor in Christian postmortem liturgy of leading the souls of the Faithful to Heaven. Most of the mountaintops of Europe were consecrated to him from the Dawn of the Church through the Middle Ages.

So too was St. George a patron, not just in England but across Europe. In this soldier, martyred under Diocletian, our fathers found the perfect image of knight and crusader. He also showed us a perfect example of how the best of Eastern and Western Christendom met in reveling the saints and fighting the infidel. As a result of the Crusades, St. George became a sort of patron-general for Chivalry.

Many and varied were other patrons of chivalry. “The Seven Defenders of Christendom”: St. George for England, St. Denis for France, St. David for Wales, St. Andrew for Scotland, St. Patrick for Ireland, St. James for Spain, and St. Anthony for Italy. They would often be invoked together under this one head by knights from various countries charging the Saracens.

Another list of heroes the knights attempted to emulate were the Nine Worthies. Three were pagans: Hector of Troy, paragon of loyalty; Alexander the Great, who became of demi-Christian hero for his ability to conquer the then known world; and Julius Caesar, founder of the Roman Empire, of which our ancestors believed Christendom to be the continuance of politically.

Three of the Worthies were Jews: Joshua, who defeated the Canaanites; King David, who made the Jews mighty and defeated Goliath; and Judas Maccabeus, who led the resistance against the Syrian pagans. Lastly, there were three Christians: King Arthur, Roman leader of Briton’s resistance against the pagans; the Emperor Charlemagne, re-establisher of the Roman Empire. And last was Godefroi of Bouillon, leader of the first Crusade, Liberator of the Holy Land, and considered to be the very flower of Chivalry. Godefroi was at once a courageous warrior and very devout and pious. He founded one of the largest Christian orders of chivalry (of which there were many) – the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. This order exists to this day.

So why would I pick this topic during Advent as many are already celebrating the Christmas season? For the answer, I’ll introduce you to one of the most beautiful ceremonies in the history of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Until the Postcounciliar (Traditional Roman Catholics separate Church time as Precounciliar and Postcounciliar, according to the time of Vatican II) changes in the liturgy in the 1960’s, the ceremony of the Sword of Christendom was celebrated at 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The Sovereign Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, blesses, in His name, a Sword and Helmet, which are to be sent to some Catholic warrior who has served well of the Christian world. In a letter addressed to Queen Mary of England and to Philip, her husband, calling her husband to Rome, Cardinal Pole explains this solemn rite. The sword is sent to some Prince, whom the Vicar of Christ wishes to honor in the Name of Jesus, who is King: for the Angel said to Mary: The Lord will give unto him the Throne of David his father (Lk. 1:32). It is from him alone that the power of the sword comes (Rom. 8:3,4); for God said to Cyrus: I have girded thee with the sword (Is. 45: 1,5); and the Psalmist thus speaks to the Christ of God: Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most mighty! (Ps. 44:4). And because the sword should not be drawn save in the cause of justice, it is for that reason that a sword is blessed on this Night, in the midst of which rises, born unto us, the divine Sun of Justice. On the helmet which is both the ornament and protection of the head, there is worked in pearls, the Dove, emblem of the Holy Ghost; and this is to teach him who wears it that it is not from passion or ambition that he must use his sword, but solely under the guidance of the divine Spirit, and from a motive of spreading the kingdom of Christ.

How beautiful is this union of energy and meekness under the one symbol and ceremony! The power and blending and harmonizing the varied beauty of distinct classes of truth that is to not to be found save in that Christian Rome, which is where God has established the center of Light and Love. The ceremony we have been describing… What a grand list it would be, had we the names of all those glorious Christian warriors, who were thus created Knights of the Church, at this solemn hour, when we would celebrate the birth of Him who came to vanquish our enemy!

At Rome, if there be in the Holy city a Knight, who has received the sword and helmet, blessed as we have described by the Sovereign Pontiff, the fifth Lesson is given to him to sing, because it speaks of the great Battle between Christ and Satan in the glorious mystery of the Incarnation. [Note: This was truly an honor. Until the first recipient, Gofefroi, this Lesson was restricted solely to the Pope, and is one of the few times in the medieval period that a member of the laity was permitted to approach the Holy Altar and the only time a sword was permitted to be drawn within the sanctuary]. Whilst the Choir is singing O magnum mysterium, the Knight is taken by the Master of Ceremonies to the Pope. Standing before the Holy Father, he draws his sword, thrice sets its point to the ground, thrice brandishes it in the air, and then wipes the blade on his left arm. He is then taken to the Ambo or reading desk, takes off his helmet, and, having vested the cope, over his armour, he sings the lesson. Theses ceremonies of Holy Mother, the Church of Rome, were drawn up in days when might was not right and brute force was made subservient to moral power and principle. The Christian warrior, cased in steel armour, was resolved, as indeed he was bound, never to draw his sword save in the cause of Christ, the conqueror of Satan… (Gueranger: Liturgical Year, Vol. II, p. 127-128)

The prayer used at the imposition of the Sword of Christendom, remained unchanged in the Roman Pontifical until its removal by John XXIII. The following prayer was also used by local episcopates when blessing knights for secular rulers within their Episcopal jurisdictions at the imposition of the sword and expresses perfectly the medieval view of knighthood as a vocation.

Receive this sword in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; use it in defense of thyself and of the Holy Church of God, for the confusion of the enemies of the Cross of Christ and of the Christian faith, and never unjustly to the injury of any man, so far as human frailty will permit; which he deign to grant who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

For the medieval knight, the Feast of the Incarnation (Christmas) held special significance. The art of war was not merely a preserve for the nobleman and mercenary, but something which may call to its trumpet all manner of men through knighthood, holy orders and lesser orders as members of the Earthly Church Militant (Church Suffering = Purgatory; Church Rejoicing = Heaven). For the combat of the Christian Knight was not primarily with flesh and blood but with supernatural principalities and powers. The great dragon (the serpent of Eden) lurked in his world (and still does in ours), seeking whom he may devour. The true Christian warrior conformed to the society standards in which he lived that were considered akin to Christ and His Church.

I will close with a medieval blessing: May the miracle of the Incarnation reign in your heart and protect you from the dragon.




***
Mary McCall is an award winning writer of historical romance. Visit her at: http://marymccall.wordpress.com/

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Taste for Ale, by Nancy Lee Badger

Research is a big time-consumer when I write a historical romance novel. I set my adventures in ancient Scotland and the marvelous bits of information, found in books and the internet, get me excited. Researching beer and ale for a story set in 1598 Scottish Highlands, I thought about the area skirting the eastern shore of the North Sea. Did the harsh climate let them grow the necessary ingredients?

In order to answer my questions, I scoured the internet and came across an interesting website. I have asked John DeMasi of www.ProhibitionHomebrew.com to help me understand more about this naturally made beverage.

Nancy: Thanks for joining me John

John: Hi Nancy, I’m glad to be here.

Nancy: Tell us a little bit about your business.

John: Prohibition Homebrew is an online retail store for home brewers and home vintners, as well as those interested in adopting the hobby. We have the ingredients and equipment necessary to brew your own beer and wine, as well as information on how to brew it.

Nancy: My research shows Scotland has produced beer and ale for thousands of years. Is there a difference between beer and ale?

John: Well, yes and no. An ale is a type of beer. In the most rudimentary sense, “beer” is broken down into two broad categories: ales and lagers. An ale is a type of beer which is created using top-fermenting yeasts, while a lager is produced using bottom-fermenting yeast. There are numerous subsets of each, and even hybrids between the two. There are Belgian ales, Brown ales, Pale ales and of course-- Scottish ales! Similarly, Lagers include various Pilsners, American Lagers, and Bocks to name a few.

Nancy: I was amazed to hear Scotland’s method of using bittering herbs is older than Europe’s. I read where organic remains found inside pots gave modern brewers the ability to recreate today’s ale with the same taste. Are any of your products able to recreate something akin to ancient Scottish brews?

John: Yes. Unfortunately, we do not have a specific “ancient Scottish” brew kit (containing all the ingredients for a specific recipe). However, we carry many of the ingredients which were used in ancient Scottish brews. Before the advent of hops in beer a variety of different herbs and spices were used. The heather plant is common to the Scottish countryside. Its tips were, and still can be, used to add a floral and aromatic character to beer. Similarly, sweet gale is a deciduous shrub found abundantly in the Northern Hemisphere, especially on the Scottish moors and bogs. It was historically used for beer flavoring before hops. We also carry herbs used in European brewing before the use of hops.

Nancy: I found one website selling something called Froach Heather Ale. They state leann fraoich means heather ale, made from boiling malted barley, sweet gale, and then adding flowering heather. Anything like this in your catalog?

John: Unfortunately, not at this time. We carry the ingredients necessary however and a simple Google search for “Heather ale” will bring up tons of different recipes which other home brewers have posted on homebrew forums.

Nancy: ‘Drop Your Kilt’ Scottish Ale caught my eye as it is promptly touted on your webpage. You share the recipe with readers. Do you sell all the ingredients? Can anyone make this at home?

John: We sure do. One of the recipe kits we sell is our ‘Drop Your Kilt’ Scottish Ale. Like all our recipe kits, it contains all the ingredients (hops, grains, yeast, etc.) that you need to make a batch of beer as well as detailed instructions on how to brew it. Truly anyone with the ambition can make it at home! However, there is some basic equipment you will need. You can check out the ‘Equipment Kits’ section of our website to get a better idea of some basic kits and general pieces of equipment you will need.

Nancy: Second only to single malt Scotch Whisky, my husband loves a product from a local brewery with a Scottish name. It is not a true Scots product, and he was thinking of trying to brew his own. Do you carry everything he needs?

John: We should. If there is any particular item your husband cannot find already on our website he, or anyone else, can email us at: Customers@prohibitionhomebrew.com and we will do our best to special order it. I am also happy to answer any questions, and can be reached directly at: John@prohibitionhomebrew.com.

Nancy: How long until his homebrew would be ready to taste?

John: Going back to your original question, it will depend on what style of beer your husband is trying to make. The temperature of fermentation and the quality of yeast will determine when a beer will taste its best. However, it takes around four weeks for many types of ale.

Nancy: Any other interesting things you can tell us about your business? And where are you located?

John: We are located in Greensboro, North Carolina. We are working on a recipe-sharing forum, known as the Speakeasy, so that home brewers can trade their own recipes, as well as a custom label making section so that individuals can make customized labels right within our site. Our staff loves home brewing and is very knowledgeable. We are willing to answer any questions people may have and no question is too great or too small. I hope your article sparks some interest in potential future brewers because this is an incredibly enjoyable hobby. The Scottish ale has a deep copper color. The hardy, rich character of this ale is much a reflection of its own people and it is not surprising that after thousands of years these characteristics have endured.

Nancy: Wow! You sure have raised my interest in the possibility of home brewing. I am still in awe that flowers and bits of shrubbery work together with yeast and come up with such a worldwide favorite like ale. My research shows it was a staple of life in the less-than-hospitable Highlands of Scotland, where I base some of my stories. Thanks for helping me understand the language and I hope my readers will visit your website. Make-your-own beer kits sound like a great gift idea!

Nancy Lee Badger lives with her husband in Raleigh, NC. She loves everything Scottish and still volunteers annually, with her family, at the New Hampshire Highland Games. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, and Celtic Heart Romance writers. Her first novel will be published under her pen name, Nancy Lennea, in early 2010. Visit her websites and blog for updates and excerpts.

www.nancylennea.com
www.nancyleebadger.com
http://RescuingRomance.nancyleebadger.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry was a long embroidered cloth that depicted the events leading up to, and the battle itself of the Norman Conquest, which made William the Conqueror King of England. This video (posted on youtube) below was shared with my RWA chapter Celtic Hearts, by a woman who is always a valuable resource for historical lovers! I thought I'd pass the video on to you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Guest Blogger: Kimberly Killion Fiction vs. Fact: Did a woman’s virginity raise her worth on the slave market?

Fiction vs. Fact: Did a woman’s virginity raise her worth on the slave market?

This is the question I posed to Award-winning author, Kimberly Killion, who writes sexy Medieval romances for Zebra Books.

After reading HIGHLAND DRAGON, I immediately emailed Kimberly about the book. She had me held captive literally from the first sentence. No kidding, I was sitting in Starbucks with a girlfriend, and I kept tapping her arm and reading to her. She has such a vivid and intense way of writing. I really felt like I was there, experiencing everything that Calin and Akira experienced. The characters are so well-crafted they appear to be real people, with real emotions. Not to mention Calin is a hot-blooded Highlander—you can’t beat that! Verra, verra nice… I cried, laughed, held my breath, chewed off my nails, sighed…the whole nine yards. I told Kimberly this, and I’ll tell you all too, I haven’t read a book this good in a long time. She rivals with some of my old favs, Julie Garwood and Jude Devereux to name a couple. And OF COURSE, she has a great bit of knowledge on history and weaved all the details and facts into the story in a way that it just flowed off the page. I like history with my romance, I like travelling back in time.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

A love born of fire… A desire that defies all limits… and a love that was meant to be…

Scotland 1502. Akira Neish has been raised as a peasant, her belly often empty and her family subject to the cruel whims of her clan's laird. To the clan’s children, the horned shaped birthmark she bears means she is a witch. But she is neither peasant nor witch—and now the man who knows the truth has returned to claim her for his own.

Calin MacLeod has kept Akira's secrets and to avenge his father, the sensual young laird must marry her. He is more than a match for the fiery nature of the woman he adores. Yet the passion they share—and truths that can no longer remain hidden—could rip all of Scotland apart...
*******************

There was one scene in particular that intrigued me was the “auction scene”. The heroine, a captive, is led onto a dais to stand before the bidders. The auctioneer asks, “Is she a virgin?” She replies, “Aye, I am a virgin. And I intend to stay that way.” Well…short of me recapping, here’s what happened next…

*****************

EXCERPT of HIGHLAND DRAGON by Kimberly Killion

The auctioneer stiffened his grip on his gavel. He flashed a wicked smile at a woman standing behind him. “Nattie, fetch the oils.”

The crude spectators roared even louder and, though it seemed impossible, the narrow space of the tent tripled in attendance, as if the bastards outside could smell a virgin. The shrill sound of heckling amplified with every passing second. Two more guards wormed their way through the crowd collecting added compensation.

A flush of uneasiness crept over Kendrick’s face. “What’s amiss?”

“These men pay extra to witness the sale of a virgin. The coin goes to the chieftain who turns a blind eye to such an atrocity. I fear my bride is not only going to cost me far more than I intended to pay, but she’s to provide the entertainment as weel.” The dark tone of his voice matched the outrage of his thoughts. “I suspect your sister has nay idea what her pride is about to cost her.”

Calin offered a silent prayer for Saint Boniface to aid him, then hollered, “Twenty groats.”

“Twenty groats I am offered,” cried the auctioneer. “Who’ll offer more?”

“Thirty-fi’,” proffered another, tripping over a foreign language.

“Fifty.”

“Seventy-five.”

The bids escalated at a startling pace, quickly reaching three hundred. Calin intended to win, even if it cost him every coin he’d brought. The fires of Hades would be doused before he let another man touch his woman. He’d waited far too long to secure the alliance and avenge his father’s blood.

“I bid five hundred groats,” Calin hollered.

Curious whispers hissed through the crowd as hundreds of eyes studied him. The bid shocked the crowd and Kendrick as well. “Have ye that much siller with ye, mon?”

“Aye,” Calin answered briefly then awaited any challenge, his heart hammering in his chest. He’d never been one to flaunt or squander the MacLeod coin, but the survival of Clan MacLeod depended on his retrieval of this woman. His woman.

“Who’ll give me more than five hundred groats?” the auctioneer shouted, but no response came. The smack of his gavel ended the bidding. “Sold!”

Calin’s men waited with the haversacks of siller. With the dip of his chin, he ordered his seneschal to complete the bill of sale with the bailiff. He parted the crowd to stand at the edge of the raised dais as all the other buyers before him had done, but instead of tossing Akira over his shoulder, the guards backed her to the furthest edge of the platform.

A blue-flame of energy surged within him—a possessive desire to protect, to claim, to kill. Fingers balled into fists primed for battle.

“Bring out the bed. Bring out the bed,” the crowd chanted.

The auctioneer gave orders for preparations to begin. The guards pulled back moth-eaten drapes revealing a rusty frame holding a straw-filled mattress. The woman, whom the auctioneer referred to as Nattie, reappeared with a steaming pail of oil.

Calin held the auctioneer’s stare as he spoke with contempt. “My seneschal has finalized the sale. I demand ye relinquish this woman unto me!”

“She’ll be delivered accordingly, but as clearly defined in the precepts of your bill of sale, nay woman leaves Tigh Diabhail with her maidenhead intact.”

*****************

The scene was written with such realism that I emailed Kimberly and asked, So, is it true a woman’s virginity raised her worth on the slave market in the Highlands?

Kimberly: I have no idea. I made up the auction scene. After all, this is fiction, right? If Shana Ab can have her dragons, then I can have my auction, right? Ok…I’m not exactly comparing apples to apples. Shana Ab’s Smoke Thief was obviously paranormal and actually HAD dragons in her book, where the only “dragon” in HIGHLAND DRAGON is the feisty inner spirit of the heroine.

Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t do my research on the auction scene. I simply “altered” it. What I do know is that in the 16th Century, a Romani child sold for the equivalent of 48. By the 19th Century, slaves were sold by weight, at the rate of one gold piece per pound. Treatment of the slaves included flogging, shredding the soles of the feet with a whip, cutting off of the lips, burning with lye, and wearing a three-cornered spiked iron collar called a cangue. Gypsies have also been enslaved at different times in other parts of the world. In Renaissance England King Edward VI passed a law stating that Gypsies be "branded with a V on their breast, and then enslaved for two years," and if they escaped and were recaptured, they were then branded with an S and made slaves for life. During the same period in Spain, according to a decree issued in 1538, Gypsies were enslaved for perpetuity to individuals as a punishment for escaping. Spain had already begun shipping Gypsies to the Americas in the 15th century; three were transported by Columbus to the Caribbean on his third voyage in 1498. In the 16th century, Portugal shipped Gypsies as an unwilling labor force to its colonies in Maranho (now Brazil), Angola and even India, the Romas' country of origin which they had left five centuries earlier. They were made Slaves of the Crown in 18th century Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, while in Scotland during the same period they were employed "in a state of slavery" in the coal mines. England and Scotland had shipped Roma to Virginia and the Caribbean as slaves during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Eliza: I did some looking around too and it was pretty difficult to find specific information on sex slave auctions, even though you know they happened. But I suppose since it was done mostly underground its hard to get the real deal hard facts about it. The topic is just fascinating, albeit gruesome… Auctions were open to the public and private. Flyers would be posted listing who was available for purchase. Private viewings were even held before the auction so buyers could preview the merchandise. I found out that virgins and blondes were highly sought after. Women were stripped or wore barely there chemises so their bodies could be viewed.

Even in prude Victorian Britain, a 13 year old girl was purchased for 5 pounds, by the editor of The Pall Mall Gazette—in fact trafficking of women apparently rose to its peak at that time. I also came across the issue of bridenapping too. Women bought and forced into marriage.

So, how did you come up with the name of your seedy venue? How about what price to start the bidding? And was Calin not afraid he'd be recognized?

Kimberly: I like to torture myself on occasion and this includes thumbing through an English to Gaelic dictionary. I found the translation for Devil and House which produced this line in the book: “Tigh Diabhail was hell’s den and appropriately named the Devil’s House.” So, in short, the auction place is the Devil’s House in Gaelic. As for the price, I estimated what chattel were going for, horses, cattle, general livestock, and took it from there…And Tigh Diabhail was located in the outer Isles and Calin was from closer inland. This wasn’t a place he often frequented, so I didn’t worry about recognition. In a place like this, the bidders are paying attention to the man beside them, they are more concerned with the “flesh” on the auction block.

Eliza: LOL, I like to torture myself too. Ah, the lengths we go to for authenticity. I love the name and how you came up with it. Just fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing! If you have read a Kimberly Killion book yet, I highly recommend you do. You’re in for an awesome adventure!

Award-winning author, Kimberly Killion, writes sexy Medieval romances for Zebra Books. Her debut book, HER ONE DESIRE, was a RITA® nominee, and her second book, HIGHLAND DRAGON, went into a second printing before release. RT Book Reviews dubbed Killion as an author who writes “captivating romance with excellent pacing and characters who are honorable, intelligent and full of humanity.” Aside from writing, Killion teaches graphic/web design and serves as the President of the Missouri Romance Writers of America. She lives in Illinois with her husband, two children, a dog, three cats, and two dozen chickens. Please visit Kimberly’s website at: www.kimberlykillion.com for news, reviews, and more.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Elizabeth I & Her Lovers

Immediately upon taking the throne, the question on everyone’s tongue was who would she marry? There were numerous proposals, but Elizabeth did not accept them.

It could be said that one of the reasons Elizabeth never married was she saw what went on around her. From the time she was born, Queen Catherine pushed aside and died alone, her own mother executed, and so forth. Plus with her supposed affair with Thomas Seymour, she saw in Catherine Parr what can happen to a wife when she sees her husband straying.

It is also said that the man she truly loved Robert Dudley, she could not marry, he was already wed. When his wife died, in 1560, mysteriously a few years later, Dudley was implicated. He was not in attendance at the house, Cumnor Place where she was staying. But it was thought that he ordered her murder, so he could marry the queen. However, it is also assumed that Robert would have been smart enough not to consider or sanction such an act as it would look badly on him and then disrupt any notions he had of marrying Elizabeth.

Another speculation is that the death was ordered by William Cecil who did not want the queen to marry Robert. He was also falling out of favor with Robert rising. He could have ordered it to ruin Robert’s chances and bring himself back to favor, which is what happened. But there is no evidence to prove it. At any rate, Amy was a ill a lot of the time and it is now suspected that she had cancer and porous bones. So she could have really just fallen and broken her neck. On the day of her death, Amy insisted on all of the servants going to a fair, even though it was Sunday. Some say she was also so depressed at being ignored by her husband, that she threw herself down the stairs, committing suicide.

Robert sent someone to the estate to report the circumstances back to him, but he did not attend her funeral.

Although he was cleared, the scandal it would have caused if Elizabeth had married him was too great. He was also the son of Northumberland who had been executed for treason, and he himself had been put in the tower for a short time with the Jane Grey situation.

Upon his proposal of marriage, and that she needed a mate Elizabeth responded with: “I will have here but one mistress and no master.”

For multiple decades Elizabeth was able to play her pursuers and gain alliances and wealth just from the possibility of marriage. This was Elizabeth’s speech to parliament about marriage:

In a matter most unpleasing, most pleasing to me is the apparent Good will of you and my People, as proceeding from a very good mind towards me and the Commonwealth. Concerning Marriage, which ye so earnestly move me to, I have been long since perswaded, that I was sent into this world by God to think and doe those things chiefly which may tend to his Glory. Hereupon have I chosen that kind of life which is most free from the troublesome Cares of this world, that I might attend the Service of God alone. From which if either the tendred Marriages of most Potent Princes, or the danger of Death intended against me, could have removed me, I had long agone enjoyed the honour of an Husband. And these things have I thought upon when I was a private person. But now that the publick Care of governing the Kingdom is laid upon me, to draw upon me also the Cares of Marriage may seem a point of inconsiderate Folly. Yea, to satisfie you, I have already joyned my self in Marriage to an Husband, namely, the Kingdom of England. And behold (said she which I marvell ye have forgotten,) the Pledge of this my Wedlock and Marriage with my Kingdom. (And therewith she drew the Ring from her Finger, and shewed it, wherewith at her Coronation she had in a set form of words solemnly given her self in Marriage to her Kingdom.) Here having made a pause, And do not (saith she) upbraid me with miserable lack of Children: for every one of you, and as many as are Englishmen, are Children and Kinsmen to me; of whom if God deprive me not, (which God forbid) I cannot without injury be accounted Barren. But I commend you that ye have not appointed me an Husband, for that were most unworthy the Majesty of an absolute Princess, and unbeseeming your Wisedom, which are Subjects born. Nevertheless if it please God that I enter into another course of life, I promise you I will doe nothing which may be prejudicial to the Commonwealth, but will take such a Husband, as near as may be, as will have as great a Care of the Commonwealth as my self. But if I continue in this kind of life I have begun, I doubt not but God will so direct mine own and your Counsels, that ye shall not need to doubt of a Successour which may be more beneficial to the Commonwealth than he which may be born of me, considering that the Issue of the best Princes many times degenerateth. And to me it shall be a full satisfaction, both for the memorial of my Name, and for my Glory also, if when I shall let my last breath, it be ingraven upon my Marble Tomb, Here lieth Elizabeth, which Reigned a Virgin, and died a Virgin.

Another of Elizabeth’s suitors was the Duke of Anjou, brother to the King of France. Negotiations went on for about a decade. She nicknamed him her “frog.” It was widely an unpopular choice for her, and also during this time she found out that Dudley had married her cousin, Lettice Knollys, widow of Robert Devereux. Lettice was the daughter of Catherine Carey, who was the daughter of Mary Boleyn. Portraits of Lettice are often confused with Elizabeth. Is it any wonder if he couldn’t have Elizabeth he may have chosen a look alike?

Elizabeth banned her favorite, from court and never again accepted Lettice in court, even nick-naming her, the “she-wolf.” It was also at this time another secret marriage by Robert was brought to light, that of Lady Sheffield. He denied the marriage, but Lady Sheffield had a child, naming him Robert Dudley, in 1573. Lucky for him it could never be proved, since Queen Elizabeth threatened to have him rot in the tower if it had been true.

During her lifetime, Elizabeth would have 26 different marriage proposals to consider, of which about five of the suitors had multiple proposals, and the Duke of Anjou’s would take up about a decade of time. She was proposed to by Philip II, King of Spain, Prince Eric of Sweden, the Archduke Charles (son of Emperor Ferdinand), the son of John Frederic Duke of Saxony, the Earl of Arran, the Earl of Arundel, Sir William Pickering, were among the suitors. Elizabeth’s council was good at stringing the men along while weighing in on their options and taking advantage of what they could.

Here’s a list from http://www.elizabethi.org/

Early Years (1534-1557)
~1534 Duke of Angoulme (third son of Francis I)

~c1542 A Prince of Portugal

~1543 Son of the Earl of Arran

~1544 Prince Philip (Philip II)

~1547 Sir Thomas Seymour

~1552 Prince of Denmark

~1553 Courtenay, Earl of Devonshire

~1554 Philibert Emanuel, Duke of Savoy

~1554 Prince of Denmark

~1556 Prince Eric of Sweden

~1556 Don Carlos (son of Philip II)


As Queen (1558-1584)
~1559 Philip II

~1559 Prince Eric of Sweden

~1559 Son of John Frederic, Duke of Saxony

~1559 Sir William Pickering

~1559 Earl of Arran

~1559 Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

~1559 Robert Dudley

~1560 King Eric of Sweden

~1560 Adolphus, Duke of Holstein

~1560 King Charles IX

~1560 Henry, Duke of Anjou

~1566 Robert Dudley

~1568 Archduke Charles

~1570 Henry Duke of Anjou

~1572- 1584 Francis, Duke of Alencon, later Anjou.

So did Elizabeth have lovers or was she really a virgin? Was Robert Dudley her lover? Elizabeth denies that they were ever anything more than friends. In fact she points out that how could anything circumspect ever happen when she is surrounded by people and eyes are always watching. Although after making that proclamation she said “Although, if I had the will…I do not know of anyone who could forbid me!”

Many of the courtiers of England and foreign princes flirted with her and professed their love. Throughout her life she would encourage them and even entertain them by engaging in similar behavior, yet she would never commit to one person. Her anger at others for loving and marrying proved that she herself was jealous of what she’d forsaken. None of her ladies were allowed to marry without her permission which was rarely granted. In one case, she made the couple wait ten years before granting them leave to wed.




Source: http://www.elizabethi.org/, http://www.tudorhistory.org/, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, by David Starkey

Friday, November 13, 2009

Scottish Proverbs, Vol. I, by Nancy Lee Badger

Please join me in welcoming back guest blogger, Nancy Lee Badger. Nancy knows quite a bit about Scottish history, you'll recall her previous articles, The Origin of Scottish Mythology and Highland Games: Then and Now.

Today she'll be presenting Scottish Proverbs, Volume I. Come back on 2/12/09 for Volume II.
Take it away Nancy...and Happy Birthday!

I think of proverbs as simple, popular sayings. The Oxford English Dictionary explains a proverb as: “a pithy saying in general use", and the Longman Dictionary says it is: “a short well known phrase or sentence, which contains advice about life.” Often repeated, proverbs express a truth based on common sense. Proverbs are wise words of wisdom, said in a hidden way. In many cases, we heard them given as advice or as warnings.

Proverbs are handed down generation-to-generation, country to country, and through more than one language. The ‘Bible’s’ ‘Book of Proverbs’, and medieval Latin, have played a large role in distributing proverbs across Europe, although almost every culture has examples of its own.

Everyone has heard proverbs, in one form or another, retold over and again by the people who influenced their lives. Sage expressions such as hast makes wast, willful waste makes woeful want, and penny wise, pound fool were meant to guide us in our younger years. Spouted by our parents, schoolteachers, and clergy, we children were taught to use them wisely upon reaching adulthood. Recalling their words make us pause when faced with an important decision.

I write Scottish historical novels and my research has uncovered several interesting tidbits. I am amazed at the vast number of proverbs linked to Scottish origins. Many of these I found in literary texts written before 1600! Several of these old adages sounded familiar!

My favorites among the proverbs I recorded for this article are the ones that mention our furry or feathered friends. Please bear with me. I believe they will also ring true, even though their translations from Scottish dialects to English sound funny!

Waken not sleeping dogs. I agree. Good advice! I like owning ten fingers. Ye cannot make a silk purse of a sows lug. I felt this way when in my younger years, until the braces came off. Love me, love my dog. My sister, the veterinarian, lives this. A given horse should not be lookt in the teeth. I never let on which wedding gifts were God-awful-ugly! A few eventually found their way into one of our yard sales. Better a fowl in hand nor twa flying. I have always had a problem with taking ready cash and investing it in order to make more. With the all-too-recent economic downturn, this became a wise choice. Ane may lead a horse to the water, but four and twenty cannot gar him drink. I married a man just as stubborn! I find it best NOT to give him a choice about anything. And, this last one made me break out laughing, especially when I remember awkward family dinners! Fidlers, dogs and flies, come to the feast uncalled. (Just kidding, Mom and Dad)

Born a Scorpio, I have also used several adages from my childhood to tame my temper and found it TRUE that the higher up, the greater the fall. No one loves a bitch. What about all is not gold that glitters? Many instances in my life have shown me the truth in these words, especially when I recall our first home. It looked like a castle to our young first-time homebuyers eyes. What a money-pit.

As a volunteer EMT, I often responded to an emergency scene and arrived first. I learned many hands makes light work and always breathed a little easier when my squad showed up to back me up. Of course, my mom used that same proverb around my sisters and I quite frequently! And, a new bissom sweeps clean is recognizable in any language. Maybe we ignored her words at the time, as it goes in at one ear, and out the other, but I remember her wisdom years later.

You can find oodles of Scottish Proverbs in a vast selection of printed books, on-line resources, and even T-shirts! How have proverbs passed through time and space to guide our thoughts and actions? Family stories, one generation to the next, is the most common method. When you find yourself pausing before acting on some impulse which may change your life forever, think back on those little Scottish proverbs. And remember: no door ever closed but another opened. When you do, you may be delighted to find that all is well that ends well.

For more information on Scottish Proverbs try:
http://www.compassrose.org/
www.worldofquotes.com/proverbs
http://www.cafepress.com/
http://www.rampantscotland.com/


Nancy Lee Badger lives with her husband in Raleigh, NC. She loves Scottish Highlanders, chocolate-chip shortbread, and bagpipes. She volunteers at present day Highland Games while writing of ancient Scotland. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Sisters In Crime, FF&P Romance Writers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers. Visit her website at http://www.nancyleebadger.com/

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Lori Brighton on India During the Regency

As a child, I dreamt of traveling and seeing the world. Its why, in college, I majored in Anthropology. But traveling to exotic places is a lot easier in your imagination than in real life. With writing, I realized I could travel from the comfort of my home. This is how my career as a writer began.

A few years ago my son was watching the Disney cartoon Tarzan. Around the same time I saw a documentary on feral children. Authors will tell you that their story ideas usually start with a “what if?” After watching Tarzan for the tenth time, I started to wonder…what if my hero had been lost in the jungles as a child? I love those alpha males and you couldn’t get much more alpha than that. But the question remained, where would he have been lost? My husband had been to India for work and with that Country fresh in my mind, it was the perfect place for my hero, Leo, to live. I didn’t need to know much about the history of India for Wild Heart, my debut book, as Leo ends up moving back to England but I knew the second book would take place entirely in India.

And so I started to research. Sure, there were plenty of books on India, but most were inadequate for what I needed. A travel guide on the best places to visit, a history on politics and wars…nope. What I needed was real stuff. What did they eat? What sort of plants and animals would a visitor come across? What was the weather like? How did they live?

It’s no secret that up until recently, the British were deeply entrenched in India. Why did the British feel the need to visit such a far away land? It started the way it always does; someone found something they could make money off of. And so in the 1600s the British started traveling to India. Silk, tea, and opium were just a few of the coveted things found in India.

Of course resentment between Natives and Foreigners quickly flourished. Pick up a book on India and you’ll find information on the tense political climate. But I was writing a romance and romances are about life; the everyday life of men and women. And yes, there were women there. Officers brought their families and wives with when they traveled. In the 1800s in particular, people, especially women, were traveling. Fortunately a couple of these amazing women wrote down their accounts.

There was Mary Sherwood, the daughter of a clergyman, who lived in India for about ten years in the early 1800s. She traveled to India, like most women, because her husband was in the military. Mrs. Sherwood left accounts of her travels as well as her beliefs and fears. Upon arrival poor Mary worried that her unborn child would be born somewhere where he/she wouldn’t be able to be baptized. Because of Mary, we get an idea of what life was like for a woman moving into a culture so unlike her own. And although some of her fears may seem silly to us now, one can’t help but feel for Mary.

But by far the most interesting account of travel was left by a woman named Fanny Parkes; a woman who stayed over twenty years in India. Not only did she write about everyday life, but she wrote about women, a subject sadly lacking in most accounts. Her book, Wanderings of a Pilgrim, is well known with historians. Fanny left for India in June 1822 with her husband. She smoked cigars, traveled without her husband camping in tents, navigated rivers and waterways of India. She was completely outspoken, and talked about every subject under the sun; from elephant-fighting, famine, plague and poverty.

But she also wrote about everyday details; and it’s these everyday details that are jewels for a writer. I was able to find information from Ms. Parkes books that I never would have found in a book on Indian culture/history. “The floors are entirely covered with Indian matting, than which nothing can be cooler or more agreeable.” Fanny’s entries are done by months, which provide the reader with a great reference for climate and change across time. For instance, in December she writes that the weather is wonderful. In March the weather is very uncertain; beautiful one moment, the next moment filled violent rainstorms. Food, weather, wildlife… everything is discussed in Fanny’s journal.

The typical history books we read in school are great for general knowledge. They give us the basics on the dates of war, conflict, political strategies. But history books are written by men and often lack that simple humanity that we, as authors, need in order to write our books. It’s often to women we turn, women like Fanny who kept detailed accounts of everyday life. How about you, where do you like to find your pieces of history?

Leave a comment. Two people will win a copy of my debut romance, Wild Heart.



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Friday, October 23, 2009

Guest Blogger Donna Goode on The French Lady's Maid



Today we have special guest blogger, Donna Goode with us. She'll be talking about the fascintaing world of the French Lady's Maid...I can't wait! I give you Donna...



Hello! My name is Donna Goode and I'm a writer of historical romance set in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War period and pre-Revolutionary War period. I grew up in the Land of Enchantment but my husband took me away from all that. I've been married—to the same guy—for the past 38 years. He’s a retired Naval officer and we've lived all over the United States. We built our home in the beautiful hills of Northeast Tennessee about eleven years ago and this is where we’ve lived happily ever after. My wonderful husband is my hero—the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. We have one daughter who’s married with a young son of her own and living in a galaxy far, far away—in Northern California. She’s also an author and an RWA member!

I’m a registered nurse and have practiced Pediatric nursing for the past twenty years. Pediatrics is my first (nursing) love as historical romance is my first writing and reading love. I’ve been reading it since—pre-birth! My first book was Anderson’s Fairy Tales! My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. Happily, my copy of it is leather-bound. Unhappily, I’ve read it so many times I’ve nearly worn the gold lettering off its cover! I’m not joking, by the way. I’ve read it at least once each year—and sometimes more than that since I purchased it—in 1977!

History has pretty much always been a passion of mine and the Revolutionary War period is perhaps my favorite and is, thus, the setting for my books. Welcome to my world!



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There were various classes of ladies’ maids—and it pretty much depended on who you were as to the class you hired. There were fine maids and lowly maids, intelligent maids and maids without any affectation of ingenuity. “There were maids who were their mistress’s ‘right hand’ as it were, coadjutors in all that concerns the interest of the household; and maids who were mere automatons, who performed the duties required of them in a mechanical manner” and who were more concerned with their own interest than that of the lady they served (gasp).

The French lady’s maid was usually hired by the highest ranking ladies in society: ladies who “went out a great deal” and who spent a great deal of money on their wardrobes. This, of course, suggests a large home with many servants. It was said that “a Parisian maid out of her orbit is not a treasure”.

In other words, she could make your life quite miserable if she should be hired to serve out of her element. And, don’t even expect her to remain! Let’s consider the task of hiring one of these, shall we? It hardly needs be said that you will be a lady with a nearly unlimited budget for clothing and hiring the best household staff money can buy. And please…remember that your schedule must be full. She will expect it!

She will rank second in importance to your housekeeper in the household servants’ hierarchy. She will answer to nobody at all except you—just in case you have a house steward who dares to think he’s actually in charge of her. She will expect to have under-lady’s maids under her command who perform the menial tasks of cleaning your bed-chamber, and sewing, mending, hand laundering and starching your clothing. She will assist you in selecting them if you are not yet in possession of qualified individuals.

You may expect her to have a thorough knowledge of dressmaking although she will not actually sew any but your shifts, nightgowns and other intimate garments and your less expensive dresses for day wear—you will, of course, have your couturière design and sew your evening wear. You may certainly expect her to possess experience in doing needlepoint and fine embroidery, washing your fine linen, starching your tiffanies, caring for your delicate needlepoint laces and mending it all when necessary—although she may not perform these tasks herself but assign the task to her under-maids.

Possessed of the highest standards, your French lady’s maid will be an accomplished coiffeuse so that you will never be expected to seek the services of another for this service and her skillful application of make-up will leave you looking perfect, no matter the occasion. You will be entirely cared for by her and her staff: your skin, your nails, your bathing, your hair will all receive her personal attention and leave you nothing at all to complain of. She will be on hand to lay out every piece of your complicated wardrobe requirements for the next activity in your busy schedule and will supervise your dressing. She will anticipate your return from your appointment and be on hand to assist you to change for the next one on your schedule. Your chambers will have been cleaned and put into good order in anticipation of your arrival…she will have seen to it. She will assist you to change and bathe before your evening engagements. You will be coiffed and your make-up will be delicately applied to show your best features and hide any flaws—should your perfect complexion possess any. Your perfectly cared-for precious jewels will be brought out for your approval and will be put on you before you leave your chambers. She will also be on hand with at least one assistant when you return in order to assist you to change out of your clothing and prepare you for bed…and your lord’s pleasure. Before she retires she will put away all your clothing and jewels and neaten your dressing room.

You may trust her to supervise your entire personal staff and all your belongings. Woe be it to any hapless under-lady’s maid who begs ignorance of one or another of these tasks for she will be certainly be instructed in it! Who would consider hiring such a person for such a coveted position if she didn’t already possess the required skills, I ask you?

When you are ill or confined by your pregnancy, she will play music for you and perhaps even sing for you if her voice is pleasant. She will read to you for your amusement. She will be utterly discreet and keep all your secrets—your illnesses, your personal failings (should you possess any, of course), your failed love affairs are all safe with her.

If you choose to keep a pet dog or dogs she will see that they are washed, fed and walked. You may assure yourself that she will share your fondness for your dogs!

You will certainly not wish to advertise in a newspaper for your lady’s maid! No lady in any landed household would consider doing such a thing. No, you will request an agency to place a discreetly worded advertisement in The Times and they will find a number of applicants for you to interview in the privacy of your sitting room. Your house steward will send a letter to her previous employer on your behalf to seek her ‘character’. You need not fear that she will see any portion of it. Some of the questions that will be asked of her include:
* Is she thoroughly trustworthy, sober and honest?
* Is she quick and obliging and kind in illness?
* Is she a handy dressmaker, blouse maker and renovator, a careful packer and handy traveller?
* Has she a good memory and is she tidy and methodical in her work and duties?
* Has she a good temper or is she easily irritated?
* Is she thoroughly discreet and not inclined to make friends all over the place, and is she really reliable?
* Is her health good and has she good eyesight?
* Do you know if she is engaged to be married?


The results of this enquiry will determine her fitness for the coveted position she that will be hers should her character be determined to be satisfactory to you.

Before you engage her to your staff you must not forget to settle your expectations of her, including her wages, perquisites, dress and hours. If she is to be given your cast off clothing to wear she may only wear them on her afternoons off. She may also sell them to increase her wages. If you choose not to permit this arrangement for your own personal reasons then she will expect to be compensated for the loss of the perquisite. You will find that it is commonly expected by them. You must establish your schedule with her and she will expect to be informed of any changes to it. You must inform her in sufficient time to pack your luggage before your trips to visit friends or family for house parties. She will accompany you to these, of course as will your husband’s valet. It goes without saying that she and her assistants will form part of your retinue when you and your lord retire to your country estate for the summer. She will expect to have her afternoons free while you are engaged upon your appointments so you must not fail to inform her ahead of time if there is a change to your schedule.

You will, of course, expect your French lady’s maid to dress stylishly, but simply. You will, of course, not wish her to be as fashionable as you are. She must be pleasant in her appearance at all times. When she accompanies you on your afternoons out nobody must mistake as the mistress.

Now admit it, ladies. Doesn’t the employment of a French lady’s maid sound like a lovely prospect?

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Sources for this article:
The Duties of Servants: A Practical Guide to the Routine of Domestic Service
Keeping Their Place: Domestic Service in the Country House, by Pamela Sambrook
The International Guild of Professional Butlers
Not In Front of the Servants, by Frank Dawes

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Historical Book Review: Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

I had the pleasure of reading Hilary Mantel’s latest release, Man Booker prize for fiction winner, Wolf Hall, and a truly genuine pleasure it was. I am now a great fan of Ms. Mantel and will be perusing her other works in the very near future.

Jacketflap Blurb:

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power.

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

Author Bio:

Hilary Mantel is the author of nine previous novels, including A Change of Climate, A Place of Greater Safety, and Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. She has also written a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize, she reviews for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and the London Review of Books. She lives in England.

My Review:
To read Wolf Hall is to be a fly on the wall of the Tudor court, and the very very close friend and confidant of one Thomas Cromwell, a man who came from nothing to becoming one of the most powerful and influential men in King Henry VIII’s court. The reader is drawn into his world, privy to his intimate thoughts and memories… Ms. Mantel paints a perfect picture of the Tudor era and its people. Tapestries with vivid colors, textures and scenes grace the walls, jewels, fabrics, clothes, meals all drawn out so you as a reader “see” what Cromwell sees, taste what he tastes, hear what he hears, and feel what he feels. We have a realistic view of what happened—not sugar coated like a marzipan doll. There was sickness, death, fickle leaders, religious fanatics, the constant worry of whether or not you were in favor. You had to have your eyes and ears focused at once in front of you, but never take your focus from behind either.

Her study of the real life characters is obvious in their gestures, facial expressions and words. It’s almost as if while reading, you travel through time and experience the story for yourself. As a person obsessed and enthralled with history, the Tudor era in particular, I was impressed to say the least.

I liked her depiction of Cromwell. From most sources, both fiction and non-fiction, he often comes off as a cold, hard figure, calculating, which he was, but he was also a person. In Ms. Mantel’s point of view, he is still all of those things yet mindful of others. He cares for his family, for the people of London and beyond. He is charitable, a patron of the arts, a lover, father, friend. In her version of Thomas Cromwell, he works for himself, but also has the constant question on his lips, whether he voices it or not, “Do I look like a murderer?” Having this thought makes him infinitely more human.

Each time I sat down to read, the pages flew by as I was quickly drawn in and held captive by the eloquent, yet dark, starkly real and sometimes bawdy words written by Ms. Mantel. She is a literary genius with a writing style I haven’t seen done in a long time, if ever. It was like watching a realistic play, acted out on a stage inside my mind. Her voice is alive and unique, her research well done, her story intriguing, characters superb.

Wolf Hall is filled with dozens of life-like characters, based on courtiers from Henry’s court. They take you through an epic journey across almost six-hundred pages. Ms. Mantel is bold in her ability to build these characters and their actions through research and her creative writing talents.

I highly recommend Wolf Hall to readers of historical fiction, especially those as enchanted with Tudor history as I am. In fact, this book will remain upfront and center on my bookshelf—I plan on reading it again and again.

Buy link

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Want to learn more about a medieval noble's life?

Dates: October 5, 2009 – October 30, 2009
Class: A Noble’s Life in Medieval Times
Instructor: Eliza Knight

Register: www.elizaknight.com/noblelife.aspx

Class Description:

Life in medieval times was so much different than the way we live today. When readers sit down with their favorite medieval historical romance, they are taken away to another time and place.

For most readers, this is where they learn about medieval times, and it is the duty of the author to be as authentic as possible. That being said, you don’t want your book to be a history lecture either, but to just flavor it enough.

This workshop will teach you how people, particularly nobles, lived in medieval times, in order for you to be truer to the era you write about. This is an open discussion workshop, questions and comments are welcome and encouraged. There are five lessons, each of which are broken down daily. This class provides photos, video links, research links, exercises and opportunities to share your work for critique. The lessons will be presented as follows:

Lesson One: The Medieval Castle
Lesson Two: Medieval Entertainments
Lesson Three: Day in the Life of a Medieval Lord and Lady
Lesson Four: Medieval Medicine
Lesson Five: Medieval Clothes


Instructor Bio: Eliza Knight is a best-selling author of multiple steamy Regency and erotic Highlander time travel romance novellas published by The Wild Rose Press. She is a freelance copy editor, professional critiquer and President of the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers signature chapter of the RWA. Eliza's novellas have received outstanding reviews, even being nominated and voted Best Book of the Week by Long and Short of It Reviews. She also volunteers her time as a contest judge, coordinator and chair. Eliza is the author of the award-winning blog, History Undressed and has published numerous articles in various newsletters. She presents workshops on history and researching techniques to writing groups online. For more information on Eliza, please visit her website at, www.elizaknight.com or www.historyundressed.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What did nobles do for fun in the middle ages?



When there wasn’t a huge celebration, or entertainments going on, nobles still did things for fun, just like we do. Has your power ever gone out? What did you do for fun? Believe it or not, what they did for fun is a lot like what we do today for fun, without the technology and electricity.

Here’s a list of some things they might do:

  • Read quietly or aloud
  • Write – poetry, theology, philosophy
  • Art – painting, drawing, sculpting
  • Sewing – tapestries, embroidery
  • Music – playing, singing, listening, dancing
  • Gardening (flowers, herbs, picking fruit and berries)
  • Walking
  • Horseback riding
  • Mock fights (men – unless you have a feisty woman)
  • Hunting – there were a lot of types of hunting. Hunting was done on horseback with either/both hounds and hawks (falcons too). They would hunt deer (stag), wild boar, fox, and any other wild animal that caught their fancy. Women hunted too. Hunting was a dangerous and exhilarating sport. If you recall, Henry VIII injured his leg quite badly in a fall while hunting.
  • Talking
  • Playing cards (triomphe, piquet, vingt-et-un)
  • Playing board games (chess, checkers, draughts, dice, backgammon, tabula)
  • Watch or participate in a play
    Outdoor games: Bocce, Bowling games, Tennis, In France/Italy a form of football was played called la Soule
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Bobbing for apples
  • Wrestling
  • Treasure hunts
  • Christmas Game – “King of the Bean” a bean was baked into a bread or cake, whoever found it was king of the holiday feast
  • Riddling – making up riddles people had to figure out (popular among knights as well—kept their wits sharp which was just as important as keeping their bodies in shape.)
  • Puzzles
  • Gambling
  • Blind Man’s Bluff

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Guest Blogger Nancy Lee Badger on The Origin of Scottish Mythology

Welcome back guest blogger, Nancy Lee Badger! She is here today to tantalize us with the origins of Scottish mythology.

Take it away Nancy...

Scottish mythology is actually quite entwined with the Irish. One such example expounds on how settlers from Greek Asia Minor sailed across the sea to a place they called “the mountain of Ireland”. These settlers warred with Picts, invaded an area known as Britain, conquered the people, and renamed the land ‘Scotia’. When the Gaelic world assimilated the Picts into their fold, some history was lost and subsequently filled-in with myths and folklore. The people of present day Scotland grew from a diversity of cultures and their individual influences.

Myths are often considered an aspect of folklore, but not all. Mythology might include the belief in the supernatural, where as folklore and folk tales derived when people had the need to explain mysterious events. Pre-Christianity might have had a hand in old world myths and folklore. A people’s yearning to believe in the hereafter, or in some type of entity, lived on through stories passed generation to generation. Once Christianity became widespread, mythological creatures, such as the “Fairies”, faded away.

Scotland has a rich Celtic History going back over 2,000 years, at a time when superstition was rife and where unusual events were ‘explained’ by legends and whimsical stories. It is therefore not surprising that Scotland has an extensive heritage of myths and folklore. Many objects, including castles, have accumulated their share of myths and legends, such as circles of stones or cairns. These standing stones, and megalithic remains, highlight these reminders of the ancient inhabitants of Scotland.

Some believe that religion was an adaption from stories and memoires or evolutionary biology. In other words, religion evolved as byproduct of psychological mechanisms that evolved for other reasons. These mechanisms might have told early people how to watch for things that could cause them harm (omens). This morphed into an ability to come up with causal narratives for natural events (folk tales) while other people had minds of their own with their own beliefs, desires and intentions (mythology and the precursors of organized religion).

Unexplained observations (thunder, lightning, movement of planets, and other complicated events of nature) were the basis of stories. These word-of-mouth explanations changed with the frequency of their telling which is why one myth could have many different descriptions or endings.

The distinctive features of Scottish Folklore are filled with the characteristics of Scotland’s varied scenery. The serene lap of the deep mountain loch, the trickling of a tiny creek, the harsh splendor of the mountains, the solitude of the moor, reflect in their folk tales and myths. The fairies, the brownies, and the bogles of Scotland are similar to those the Irish believe live in their own hills. Their Irish nooks and crags, streams and meadows might be different, but many legends are told with similar aspects except, maybe, for how they dress.

An example of the similarity between the land of the Highlands and the land of the four-leaf clover is the legend of the Selkie. In Scotland, this mythical Selkies are shy marine creatures in the shape of a seal, usually found near the islands of Orkney and Shetland. A female can shed her skin and come ashore as a beautiful woman. If found, a man could force her to be his wife. Of course, as the legend goes, if she recovered the skin, off she’d go. Male Selkies are said to be responsible for storms. What better explanation for the sinking of a ship?
Selkies of Irish lore are said to come from Co. Donegal in Ireland, which happens to be where many people made their living from the sea. Living by the sea might cause people to craft stories as a way to explain its mysteries. The Irish considered the Selkies to have the same characteristics as those of Scotland, even though they considered other sea creatures more malevolent. Most scholars believe the seals and sea lions from which these myths evolved had sweet, non-threatening dispositions. This might have allowed them to easily be transformed by myth into non-threatening Selkies. At least, the females!

Religion changed much of the thinking of the people who listened or read the more popular beliefs which were often rammed down their throats by the hierarchy of a given land. Myths and folklore slipped to the back burner, but never disappeared. Many tales are quite popular today and have thousands of followers. Think of the legend surrounding the Blarney Stone in Ireland or the Loch Ness Monster. Even Girl Scout troops around the world call their youngest recruits ‘Brownies’ after helpful creatures that do good deeds.

Myths and folk tales live on because people need to believe in them. There are hundreds of wonderful stories out there about kelpies, fairies, banshees, and the like. I recommend the following websites if you would like a taste. You might even recognize one or two stories!

www.compassrose.org/folklore/scottish/Scottish-Folktales.html
http://www.sacred-texts.com/ where you click on
About Nancy Lee Badger:

A Scottish Highlander, chocolate-chip shortbread, wool plaid, dirks and bagpipes fill my life as I travel to and volunteer at present day Highland Games while dreaming of past pleasures. I live with my kilted husband in Raleigh, NC. I am a member of RWA, Heart of Carolina Romance writers, Sisters In Crime, the Celtic Heart Romance Writers, and FF&P.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Guest Author Blythe Gifford on Cross Dressing in the Middle Ages


Please join me in welcoming guest author, Blythe Gifford! Today she is here to tantalize us with her article, Cross Dressing in the Middle Ages.



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Joan of Arc may be the most famous cross dresser of the Middle Ages, but as I researched my September release from Harlequin Historical, I discovered she was hardly the only one.

I took heart from that when I wrote IN The MASTER’S BED. In it, my medieval heroine runs away from home disguised as a man in order to study at the University. At that time, women were not even allowed into the living quarters to do laundry, let alone into the classrooms to take courses. My heroine ends up living in the 14th century equivalent of a fraternity house, where she manages to maintain her secret for longer than you might expect.

Strictly fiction, you might say. But no. There is a reliable account of a woman in medieval Poland who attended the university there for two years before she was discovered. Her story had a happy ending. She was not punished, but, revered for her scholarship, joined a convent and became the abbess. Like my heroine, when she was disguised, this woman lived in an all men’s hostel and “behaved properly toward others, did not frequent the baths, and attended the lectures diligently.” (Note: I’ve listed the sources for this post below.)

This happened less than fifty years after my story is set, so I felt totally justified in thinking that it COULD have happened the way I wrote it.

In fact, the idea of a woman dressed as a man was not as foreign to medieval people as we might think. Marjorie Garber says the “transvestite female saints of the Middle Ages were legion as well as legend.” At least thirty have been counted. When the miracles started coming, some of these women were even graced with beards.

The common thread in the stories of these cross-dressing saints is that the woman suffers a personal crisis and reinvents herself as a man. In the words of St. Jerome: “As long as a woman is for birth and children she is different from man as body is from soul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman, and will be called man."

This is, of course, consistent with the medieval concept of the hierarchy of the universe: God, priest, man, and then, woman, who only reaches God when given permission by the two ahead of her.

The women saints who chose the path of pants were a colorful lot. One, a prostitute, converted to Christianity, changed her name, and dressed as a man. No one discovered her real sex until after her death.

Another, disguised as a monk and accused of fathering a child, refused to expose her true sex in order to prove her innocence. She was expelled from the brotherhood and, still living as a man, raised the child. Seven years later, she was accepted back into the monastery and lived as a man until discovered to be a woman after death. (No reports of who raised the seven year old child after that.)

Yet a third woman, prohibited from joining the monastery, dressed as a man so successfully that she was elected an abbot of the house. Then, accused of rape, she revealed her identity and proved her innocence by baring her breasts in the middle of the court before her father. (Freud, had he lived in medieval times, would have had a field day with that one. I have visions of the monks repeating this tale with relish over cognac and cigars after dinner.)

No male saints, apparently, felt it necessary to don a skirt to grow closer to God. Then, as now, it was more acceptable for a woman to don pants than the other way around.





That is not to imply that it was accepted. The book of Deuteronomy stated "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man” and medieval audiences took that literally. When Joan of Arc was condemned to death for heresy, her mode of dress was a key issue at her trial. Yet unlike so many of her fellow saints, Joan didn’t pretend to be a man. She just thought that riding astride at the head of an army was easier without a skirt in the way.

Of course, she was right, something even Thomas Aquinas, himself a saint, understood. He knew it was “sinful for a woman to wear man's clothes, or vice versa, especially since this may be a cause of sensuous pleasure.” But he allowed a pass under certain circumstances, stating that it might not be a sin if done “on account of some necessity, either in order to hide oneself from enemies, or through lack of other clothes, or for some similar motive."

And there are examples aplenty of such motives, such as ease and safety when traveling. There are also examples of women who dressed as men in order to save a husband’s life. Two such German tales tell of the wife disguising herself as a man to visit her imprisoned husband, who faces execution because he committee adultery. Dressed as a man, the wife then switches clothes with him and he escapes, leaving her in prison. (This is lauded as the epitome of wifely virtue. Twentieth century women can only ask What was she thinking?) In court, she reveals all, again, yes, by baring her breasts.

There are reports of women dressing as men during the Pre-Lenten carnival and sneaking into a monastery, though no report on what they did once inside. While this all sounds like good, Mardi Gras fun, the reality could be quite different. In Nuremberg, Germany, in 1481, a woman was put into the basement prison for her offense, presumably the standard punishment.

Earlier, the city had banished a woman for nine years because she “walked about in manly ways and wore man’s clothes.” Banishment was the lighter punishment under consideration. The other option was to bury her alive. Of course, this woman was also accused of “permitting her brothers and cousins to have sex with her,” so that might have been the burying offense.

But wait, you say. Were there no men who felt the need to cavort in women’s garb? Well, yes, there were. There are reliable accounts of Franciscan friars escaping the monastery, dressed as woman, to run through the streets. In Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, Margaret Shaus calls the practice “ubiquitous.” It tended to happen, however, during holiday celebrations, the Feast of Misrule or the Pre-Lenten carnivals, when it was practiced by “ebullient, usually youthful, male revelers.”

Exactly the type you would find in a university hostel.

At the University of Paris, those in charge complained that “Priests and clerks…dance in the choir dressed as women, or disreputable men, or minstrels.” There are repeated prohibitions by University governance bodies against loud singing and playing of music, dancing in the streets, and dramatics. The regularity of these pronouncements suggests their ineffectiveness. Then, as now, copious quantities of alcohol were necessary to higher education, and likely contributed to frolicking in the streets in various states of dress.

In discussing cross-dressing, I have not explored sexual preferences or gender identity.

There is a reliable report of a man at Oxford, who called himself Eleanor and worked as a prostitute. He was accused of practicing the “abominable vice” with “three unsuspecting scholars.” It is not clear from the records whether these “unsuspecting” innocents knew his sex at the time. They reportedly visited him “in the marsh,” so they may not have disrobed, but they also visited “Eleanor” often.

Often enough to know?

That, we will leave to the mists of history.

I hope you enjoyed this look backward at an “undressed” part of history and welcome your comments and thoughts.

Sources for this post include: Clothes Make the Man: Female Cross dressing in the Middle Ages, by Valerie R. Hotchkiss; From Boys to Men, Formations of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe, Ruth Mazo Karras; Vested Interests: Cross Dressing and Cultural Anxiety, Marjorie B. Barber; The Cambridge companion to medieval women’s writing, Dinshaw and Wallace; Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, Margaret Shaus; Obscenity: Social Control and Artistic Creation in the European Middle Ages, Jan Ziolkowski; The Seekers: The story of man’s continuing quest to understand his world, Daniel Joseph Boorstin; A Female University Student in Late Medieval Kraków, by Michael H. Shank, published in Signs, Vol. 12, No. 2, Reconstructing the Academy, Winter, 1987, pp. 373-380, and Wickepedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-dressing,_sexuality,_and_gender_identity_of_Joan_of_Arc#cite_note-6.org/wiki/Cross-dressing,_sexuality,_and_gender_identity_of_Joan_of_Arc#cite_note-6)
Picture of Joan of Arc, public domain, from Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, AE II 2490


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Author Bio: BLYTHE GIFFORD (http://www.blythegifford.com/)is the author of a four medieval romances from Harlequin Historical, three of which feature characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Her September release from Harlequin Historical line is IN The MASTER’s BED. When not nurturing her first love, writing historical romance, she feeds her muse with art, music, history, long walks, good food and good friends.


(Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved ®and T are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.)