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Friday, June 22, 2018

It's About the Muffins

JACK. How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
ALGERNON. Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
JACK. I say it's perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.
     Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. Act II, p. 60

This play has all kinds of references to food as many of the scenes take part during the English teatime: cucumber sandwiches, muffins, teacakes, and crumpets. Inspector Montalbano in the mysteries written by Andrea Camilleri spends a lot of time eating and describing Sicilian foods so that the food almost becomes a character. But even a small reference to food—a mere soupçon—can give authenticity and interest in a historical novel.
Afternoon tea at Prestonfield House, Edinburgh, Scotland
But, as you’re aware, we do need to do research for the time period and country. In the scene above, for example, they’re talking about English muffins, not American muffins, but our readers may not know this unless we give them some hints. We can Google information, but we can also find old documents and books from the time period, some of which I’ll mention below.

If we’re writing about Europe in say, the Middle Ages, there would be no tomatoes or potatoes in any of the dishes. Those did not appear in Europe until the 16th century with the discovery of the Americas. So Ireland had no potatoes, and what did the Italians eat without tomatoes? Europe would have eaten mostly corn. (A trick reference! Corn in Britain means grains [wheat, oats, barley] as in the Bible and you may have encountered it in a Regency novel with a reference to the Corn Exchange, a place where merchants sold their corn. It has no relationship to American corn which is typically called maize in Europe and usually fed to animals.)

In those days the staples were grains, milk, cheese and game (venison, etc.) and domesticated animals. (Do you know why there are two words in English for certain domesticated animals? It goes back to 1066. Sheep, cow, pig are the “on the hoof” words from Anglo-Saxon as the English peasants took care of the animals while the Norman conquerors, i.e. elite, ate the animals, hence mouton [mutton], boeuf [beef], and porc [pork]. There are depictions of banquets in the Bayeux Tapestry which celebrates the Norman Conquest; it wasn’t just the battle.)

A book I own, The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black, not only has history of food and culture, but recipes translated from Middle English. It surprised me that they use a lot of saffron which is a really expensive spice made from the stamens of a particular crocus. And they also used quite a few spices which were imported from far away places. In fact, spices were so important to Europeans, there was a fifty-year war fought between the Dutch and Portuguese in the 1600s. Other explorer countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain vied for control of the spice trade too. The discovery of America came about when Columbus tried to find a quicker route to the Far East to outwit the Venetians' hold on the spice trade.

Black’s book mentions several people who put together household and cooking guides during this time period, one was the English poet, Chaucer, and another known as the Goodman of Paris. The latter “employed Dame Agnes, a woman of the charitable society called the Beguines, to act as chaperone-housekeeper to his young wife. Dame Agnes comes across in his comments as a careful and pleasant guide for an adolescent girl in the new experiences which marriage might entail” (p. 12). Black has given several recipes from this household.

Savarin named after a French gourmand
We can glean information about what people ate during various time periods by searching cookbooks compiled by various chefs and housewives. France’s Marie-Antoine Carême became the first celebrity chef in the late 1700s-early 1800s who was a codifier of French haute cuisine (high cuisine). His fame spread to other countries such as Britain which is why it families in high society had to have a French chef to show their status. During the Victorian/Edwardian period, Auguste Escoffier became a celebrated chef who published Le Guide Culinaire which still influences chefs throughout the world. I used to have a copy of this, but never used it; it was much too complicated though I still own a copy of Larousse Gastronomique.

Also in Victorian times, if you want to find out about British cooking, Isabella Beeton published Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management in 1861. My 1970 edition fell apart but I now have a Kindle version. This book is also useful because it gives hints not only on cooking, but cleaning, childrearing, and entertaining during that time period. Fanny Farmer was the American equivalent of Isabella Beeton. She published her best-known work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, in 1896. As writers of historical fiction, you may already be aware of this book, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England. And, of course, there’s a lot you can glean from the Internet.

In my current WIP set in 1813 Scotland, I use food as one way to emphasize the difference between common folk and high society. I’ve found that researching cooking throughout the ages and in various countries, can lead to the discovery of fascinating facts that adds interesting and authentic touches to a historical novel.

Bon appétit!
Karen Edwards Pierotti

Isabella Beeton, Wikipedia
Black, Maggie. The Medieval Cookbook, (1992), New York: Thames and Hudson.
Marie-Antoine Carême. Wikipedia.
Auguste Escoffier. Wikipedia.
Fanny Farmer. Wikipedia

Pittenweem, the setting of Joy to My Love
Author Bio: I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland (Welsh father/Scots mother) but lived in various places in the UK and Gibraltar (Spain) as my father was in the RAF (Royal Air Force). I've done a lot of traveling in Europe. I joined the LDS church while working in Lugano, Switzerland then came to the United States to study at BYU. After several years, I received a MA in rhetoric. In the meantime, I married an American and had four children; I've lived in Utah for about 40 years. I worked at BYU for 29 years as secretary/admin assistant in various departments and after my MA, taught first-year writing part-time. I am a family history consultant and in auditing a creative writing class to help write biographies, I discovered I enjoyed writing novels. My WIPs: a completed historical novel, Joy to My Love, set in 1813 Scotland and which I will self-publish after a professional edit; a sequel in NaNoWriMo-mode, i.e. a mess; a contemporary romance set in France which I'm rewriting to include two POVs; and, the beginnings of a YA historical novel set in Algeria and NYC (not sure if I can write YA, but experimenting). I'm also writing biographies of my two grandmothers and my husband's.  I'm on Facebook and am in the processing of creating a website. I have a blog: Musings which, for the past year or two, has focused on thoughts about writing.  (BTW: boireannach means woman in Scottish Gaelic which is different than Irish Gaelic.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Land Wars (England vs Ireland 1790-1880)

Hello! I’m a new blogger to Historical Hussies, and I’m excited to be here and share my research with you. During my writing career, I’ve published 34 historical romances from as early as England 1192, and as late as Chicago 1920’s. Needless to say, I’ve done a lot of research for every book I've written. Today I’m going to be talking about what I researched while writing my latest release, a historical western romance, 1885.

Several years ago, I had an idea for a story after watching the sequel to Gone with the Wind – Scarlett. If you’ve not seen the TV miniseries, she travels to Ireland to meet her relatives on her father’s side. While there, she sees the struggles between the English landlords and the way they treat the Irish rebels. This struggle was real and started back in 1760. Wealthy English men purchased land in Ireland and rented it out to the Irish tenant farmers. From the articles I’d read, the English treated their tenant farmers as poorly as the southern US states treated slaves during this era. For years, the Irish struggled to keep their lands, but the English landlords kept raising the rent, and eventually, the tenant farmers were thrown from their homes. Another movie that portrays this issue in Ireland is “Far and Away”.  

In 1880, a general election was held and a law was passed, but it seemed that this law brought more fighting between the Irish rebels and the English landlords. It still took a few more years, and more battles to bring this issue to a close. Finally, by 1885, The Ashborne Act started a limited process that allowed tenant farmers to buy portions of the land using government loans. 

My story, “Surrender Your Heart”, takes place in Savannah, Georgia. A portion of the plot focuses on the Irish rebels who were trying to punish the Englishmen for the battles that were happening across the sea in Ireland. 


Marie Higgins is a best-selling author of 50 sweet romance novels that have you on the edge of your seat. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease", because of all her twists and unexpected endings. Visit her website to discover more about her – 

Land War articles:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hyde Park, THE place to see and be seen

by Donna Hatch

During the Regency, going to the park wasn't just for children; gentlemen and ladies of fashion frequented the parks in London to ride, walk, and make a fashion a statement. Regency ladies and gentlemen often chose Hyde Park as favorite place to ride on horseback to get some fresh air and exercise. However, it was most popular as a place to drive in open carriages to show off clothing, or the latest rig, or horses. It was THE place to see and be seen.

According to some sources, the "fashionable hour" was, in fact three hours; from four thirty to seven thirty in the evening, though most ladies didn't appear until about half past five. By seven thirty, it was time to return to one's townhouse or lodgings and change into evening dress for dinner. The Ton, or members of the 2,000 aristocratic families at the height of English society, as well as a few social climbers trying to fit in, promenaded at Hyde Park, peacocking and flirting with others drawn to the park to take part in this social ritual.

A brick wall enclosed Hyde Park in 1660 at the order of James Hamilton, the Keeper of the Park under Charles II. The avenue fashionable for disporting oneself in Georgian Times was Rotten Row. The name Rotten Row is believed to be a corruption of La Route du Roi, or King's Road, which was its original name. Another likely possibility as to the name comes from the materials of the road made of a mix of gravel and crushed tree bark to create a firm, yet pliable surface. Some definitions of "rotten" are "friable," "soft" or "yielding" which describes the surface ideal for horses' feet and legs. Think of the tracks which runners use, firm yet slightly springy--perfect for running without causing undue strain on athletes' bones, muscles, and tendons. Recently, I heard another possible explanation for the name: Rotten Row led to Eton College, and since French was commonly spoken among the aristocracy then, they called it Rue d'Eton - easily corrupted into Rotten. That doesn't explain how Row came into use, however.

Hyde Park section of "Improved map of London for 1833, from Actual Survey. Engraved by W. Schmollinger, 27 Goswell Terrace"
Regardless of its origin, on Rotten Row a Regency lady or gentleman one could flirt, greet friends, and show off beautiful driving clothes and equipage or mount. Gentlemen wearing the ankle length drab coat and yellow striped blue waistcoat of the Four-in-Hand club were sprinkled in the passing cavalcade.

Carriages bearing the painted and gilded family crests of the ton and the living ornament of a Dalmatian coach dog and liveried servants glide by in spotless splendor. The pair of footmen riding at the back of the coaches are as well matched as the teams of horses in their coloring and six-foot or better height. Among the carriages are those of courtesans bearing faux crests meant to remind them of the crests of their titled lovers.

C. J. Apperley writes of the fashionable hour in Hyde Park, "on any fine afternoon in the height of the London season…he will see a thousand well appointed equipages pass before him…Everything he sees is peculiar, the silent roll and easy motion of the London-built carriage, the style of the coachmen - it is hard to determine which shine brightest, the lace on their clothes, their own round faces, or flaxen wigs - the pipe-clayed reins - pipe-clayed lest they should spoil the clean white gloves…not forgetting the "spotted coach-dog, which has been washed for the occasion…such a blaze of splendor…is now to be seen nowhere but in London."

The movie An Ideal Husband shows a scene of a Victorian drive in Hyde Park, and many of my heroes and heroines go driving or riding in Hyde Park. When I walked these hallowed (in my mind) grounds during my visit to England, I could easily imagine fine ladies and gentlemen in all their splendor promenading this ancient bit of pastoral land nestled deep in the heart of a world-renown city.

Bellamy, Joyce, Hyde Park for Horsemanship. London: J.A. Allen, 1975
And the many careful researchers and fellow history geeks at the Beau Monde chapter of RWA.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Romance and Marriage in Georgian England

The institution of marriage made a drastic change during the 18th century and it seems that the early romance novel may have had a hand in switching the focus from power and money to love.

Early in the 18th century, marriages were arranged affairs as they had been from ancient times. Couples were brought together usually as a business deal to secure wealth, title, and status between families. What’s love got to do with it? Absolutely nothing in most cases. Love was thought to be a bad thing for a marriage, because passion and love led to erratic behavior and could keep the couple from focusing on important things, like social, military, and financial duty.

By the 1760s, however, there were as many marriages for love as there were by arrangement. And the trend continued until the end of the century, when most marriages were made based on love rather than worldly considerations. Why this shift?

One cause seems to be the up-and-coming middle class. As more and more middle class families gained substantial wealth, usually through trade, they attracted the attention of impoverished nobility. However, middle class families usually placed greater significance on a love match in marriage rather than monetary gains. So if daughters of this class married “up,” they often did it for love.

Another influence that comes to bear and that has been cited as a possible cause for love matches are romance novels such as Samuel Richardson’s
Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, in which the maid, Pamela, fends off the unwanted advances of her employer, Mr. B, until he realizes he loves her and asks her to marry him. When Pamela realizes she is in love with him, she agrees, and they are married. Written in 1740, the novel was wildly popular, a best-seller of its time, and may have begun people thinking about the advantages of a love match.

Later in the century, in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play The Rivals, first performed in 1775, the heroine, Lydia Lavish, has based her requirements for marriage on the heroes she has encountered in a myriad of romance novels. She wants a purely romantic, love-based match with a poor soldier, as so often figures in the romances she reads. The man she loves, however, ends up being a wealthy, titled man and she has to reconcile herself to that, but love is stronger than principle, so she marries him.

In my just released Georgian romance, Only Seduction Will Do, set in the middle of the 18th century, Miss Alethea Forsythe has been seduced by a married peer and must submit to an arranged marriage to escape a ruined reputation. She, however, manages to arrange the marriage between herself and the man she loves. Unfortunately, the gentleman in question doesn’t return her sentiments and marries her only out of a sense of honor. So Alethea sets out to seduce her husband, to create a love match so they can have a happy ever after, just like a romance novel should.

Only Seduction Will Do is available at Amazon, B & N, Kobo, iTunes, and Google.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Crime in Regency England 1816

NOTE: *This post was originally scheduled for March, but I made a mistake in scheduling it and it ended up as a draft. So here is my research on robber gangs in Regency England*

When I began writing my most Regency romance, To Woo A Wicked Widow, I came upon a scene in which my hero needed a reason to be recalled to his primary estate in Kent. It needed to be a grave enough reason that he would put off wooing his particular widow to attend to it. So I began researching crime in 1816 Regency England to see what might indeed be a viable plot point.

What I discovered was that by the summer of 1816, there were a lot of very desperate men in England. The end of the Napoleonic wars with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 had resulted in “discharged sailors and disbanded militia-men” returning to the private sector to find themselves without any means of supporting themselves or their families. The “exhaustion of British capital, the unavoidable consequences of the weight of taxation, the depression of agricultural stock, the want of markets for native and colonial produce, had produced that paralysis of industry which marked the latter months of 1815 and the beginning of 1816.” And as there was a surplus of labor in every corner of the country, many of the disenfranchised abandoned their homes and fled to the city, only to encounter a similar dearth of employment.

The result was a “rebellion of the belly” a term coined by Francis Bacon, in which these disenfranchised men took matters into their own hands in order to feed themselves. Workers following “General Ludd,” called Luddites, went around England smashing machinery, especially in textile manufactories, trying to save their jobs.

Instances of burglaries and highway robbery rose during this period, despite the harsh sentence meted out by the English courts of death by hanging for these crimes. Even petty thievery carried this sentence, so that not even children of less than ten years of age were spared. Still the crime rate rose substantially in 1816.

With all these facts and statistics running around my head, I came up with the idea that a gang of robbers (disenfranchised sailors and soldiers with a few agricultural workers) had been terrorizing the neighboring county and now had moved into Kent to rob the hero’s tenant farmers. A neat fit with the landscape of unrest in England in 1816.

If you’d like to read about my robber gang in action, To Woo A Wicked Widow is available in print and e-book at Amazon, B&N, and iTunes.

Martineau, Harriet. The History of England During the Thirty Year’s Peace: 1816-1846, Vol. 1. Charles Knight, 1849.
Rule, John and Roger Wells. Crime, Protest and Popular Politics in Southern England, 1740-1850. The Hambledon Press, 1997.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

18th and 19th century London Rookeries

by guest blogger Laura Beers

During the 18th and 19th century, London’s slums were commonly referred to as rookeries. These areas were synonymous with overcrowded, unsanitary, and squalid living conditions. Poorly constructed, blackened dwellings were crammed together, forcing out natural light, thus creating gloomy streets and alleyways. Open sewers lined the narrow streets, strewn with carcasses of dead animals, where rats commonly scurried about uninterrupted.

Little children, or “street urchins,” ran through the muddy streets, skirting animal dung and dressed in tattered clothing. Women wore shapeless, faded dresses, grateful to have any clothes at all. People of all ages went to work but earned just enough money to survive.
Jacobs' Island
The most notorious slum areas were situated in East London, which was dubbed darkest London. However, slums existed in other parts of London, as well. Some examples are the Devil's Acre near Westminster Abbey, Jacob's Island, and Pottery Lane in Notting Hill.
The only available drinking water came directly from the River Thames, whose water was hideously filthy and gave off a terrible stench. At times, the Thames was so dirty that the top layer of water became a thick, black scum.

Recognizing the rookeries’ dire situation, a Parliamentary Committee was set up in 1816 to discuss the problems of the London slums, and explore what could be done to ease their suffering. Professionals were called in to give evidence and to share their firsthand experiences of the rookeries.

One London doctor, William Blair, had this to say:
“Human beings, hogs, and dogs, were associated in the same habitations; and great heaps of dirt, in different quarters, may be found piled up in the streets. Another reason of their ill health is this, that some of the lower inhabitations have neither windows nor chimneys nor floors, and were so dark that I can scarcely see there at midday without a candle. I have actually gone into a ground floor bedroom, and could not find my patient without the light of a candle.”

Unfortunately, many believed the rookeries were a result of idleness, sin, and the wicked behavior of the lower classes. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century, that journalists and social researchers began rallying support for an immediate public action to improve the slums’ living conditions.

Slowly, they garnered support in Parliament, only after they argued convincingly that the slums were caused by unemployment, lack of access to education, poverty, and homelessness.

Despite their efforts, the higher social classes mostly overlooked the people residing in the rookeries, but I doubt those inhabitants dwelt on it for too long. They were just trying to stay alive for another day.

-Written by Laura Beers
A Regency Spy Romance Author

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

“Let the Punishment Fit the Crime”: Crime and Punishment for Peers in Regency England

Last month it was robber gangs, this month it’s more crime and punishment. But I was doing research on punishments for peers for my just finished WIP, and what I found was rather fascinating.

With the exceptions of treason and murder, peers could not be prosecuted for crimes. John Palmer, in his 1830 work entitled, “The Practice in the House of Lords, on appeals, writs of error and claims of peerage,” affirms that, with some exceptions, that peers and their widows and peeresses in their own right, are “protected from Arrest, in all Civil Suits, either in the first instance or after judgement…Nor are they liable to be attached for non-payment of money, though they are not exempt from attachment for not obeying the processes of the Court.” Apparently there was a process that allowed for someone to sue a peer for their debts, but it had to be done at the King’s Bench or before the King’s Justices in Westminister. The caveat was, the peer in question had to be present in the court. And although you could, theoretically, get a court summons to compel the peer to appear, practically it just wouldn’t happen.

After 1547 if peers or peeresses were convicted of a misdemeanor crime, such as non-payment of a debt, they could claim “privilege of peerage,” if they had no prior convictions and escape punishment. This privilege was invoked five times, and finally abolished in 1841.

Peers could, however, be prosecuted and convicted of the crimes of treason and murder. The most famous murder trial of a peer may have been that of Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers, tried and convicted of murder of his land-steward during an argument. Ferrers went to the gallows at Tyburn on May 5, 1760, the last peer to die so.

Other punishments, even more severe, could be meted out to peers. If a noble was found guilty of treason or murder, he would be served with a bill of attainder, an act of legislature that declared the peer guilty of his crime and affixing him with the verdict of “corruption of blood,” a metaphorical stain on the peer, whereby he would lose not only his life, but his property and titles, for it stripped him of the right to pass them on to his family or heirs. They instead reverted to the crown, rendering the titles extinct.

The peerage may have had its privileges, however, no one was completely free from the long arm of the law.

“Earl Ferrers.” Capital Punishments, U.K. n.d.
Lee, Emery. “A Peer’s Privilege.” Georgian Junkie, November 28, 2010.
Milan, Courtney. “Crime and Punishment.”