Friday, February 26, 2010

Resistance hero

World War II was coming to a close when Kriegsmarine (Navy), Heinz Stahlschmidt was approached by resistance fighters in France. They promised him sanctuary and a life in France if he would help them. It was apparent axis loss was inevitable, so he weighed the words of his contact with what he knew.

The allies were advancing and the Germans needed a strategic retreat. In order to put distance between them, Port Bordeaux was to be destroyed. Heinz was ordered to prepare for its destruction. It was the best way to ensure the Germans could regroup to continue the fight by pulling ahead of advancing allied troops.

Heinz Stahlschmidt had a choice, continuing to fight would only lead to more deaths, on both sides. The war was lost and the death toll was too high already.

Instead of bombing the port, he set off explosives in a bunker holding supplies and fuses for the planned demolition. He was labeled a traitor in Germany though he saved an estimated 3, 500 lives. Heinz struggled to gain recognition in his adopted country though he lived there the remainder of his life, serving as a Port fire fighter.

In a rare 1997 interview with Reuters, Heinz was quoted as saying: "I acted according to my Christian conscience...I could not accept the port of Bordeaux be wantonly destroyed when the war was clearly lost."
In 2000 he received the French Legion d'Honneur . He died the 25th of February, this year, at the age of 91.

The mayor of Bordeaux has said Heinz will be buried at the Protestant cemetery where a representative of city hall will be in attendance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Kilt or Not to Kilt




Linda Banche here. Historical Hussies is delighted to host guest blogger Amanda Forester. Amanda writes historicals set in medieval Scotland, and Sourcebooks will release her debut novel, The Highlander's Sword, on March 2.

Today she talks about the reason most of us read Scottish historicals--Men In Kilts! Sourcebooks will give away two copies of The Highlander's Sword. Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one. Amanda will select the lucky winners. Please note that Sourcebooks can mail only to addresses in the USA and Canada.

Welcome Amanda!

Why did I decide to write a Scottish historical romance? That’s an easy one – KILTS! Is there anything in this world sexier than a rugged, broad-shouldered, brogue-speaking Highland warrior in a kilt?

When I began the research for my current book, THE HIGHLANDER’S SWORD, I started with two ideas. One was that archetypal Highland warrior who occasionally visits me in my dreams. The other was the beginnings of a story line in which a young woman who was promised to the convent, has her world turned upside down when she is married off to a Highlander instead. Now, came the fun part – all the research. I read lots of books, scanned lots of articles on the internet, and was intrigued by the Battle of Neville's Cross.

Time for a little history - the fourteenth century was a tumultuous one for Scotland, being frequently at war with their more powerful neighbor, England. In 1346, the Scots went on the offensive under King David II (son of Robert the Bruce) and invaded Northern England. After some initial successes, the Scots met the English army at Neville’s Cross. The English brought out the Welsh long-bow and harassed the Scot line until they were forced to attack. According to legend, Graham urged the Scots to charge before the bowmen took position shouting, “Give me but a hundred horse and I will scatter them all!” The Scots faltered and the Welsh bowmen were able to get in position. Graham charged but was followed only by his own men and suffered heavy casualties under the longbow.

It is in this setting that my story begins. I wondered what happened to the Grahams after this devastating loss and what would happen if a daughter, let’s call her Aila, was left the only surviving heir. They would be vulnerable to attack and Aila would need to marry a warrior to provide protection from their enemies.

For my hero, I envisioned a Highland warrior, scarred by betrayal, looking for redemption, and honor bound to provide protection for his clan. Can you picture him? He’s tall, broad-shouldered, his great plaid wrapped around him forming the traditional kilt of the Highlander, his two-handed sword strapped to his back. But wait [insert screeching sound here], as I did more research I discovered Scots of the 14th century didn’t wear kilts. What? No kilts?

Now wait just one minute here. I know my Scottish history. I watched Braveheart. That movie was based on the life of William Wallace who lived at the turn of the 14th century, and I can tell you, Mel Gibson was most definitely wearing a kilt! So I did some more research and discovered, much to my dismay, that the movie got it wrong. No kilts.

Back to the drawing board. Trouble was, my hero, Padyn MacLaren, refused to be dressed in anything else but a kilt. Have any of you ever had trouble with your hero? Well MacLaren is a wee bit stubborn, so once I had him in a kilt, I couldn’t quite get him out of it.

Besides, readers expect their Highlanders to be kilted… and so do I. So I decided to leave him in the kilt. But wait, I have a rationale, a reason why this was the right decision [clap your hands to the beat while I do my tap dance]. The kilt in the Highlands of Scotland represents the attributes of my hero, the spirit and essence of his character. The kilt stands for Scottish independence, for national pride, for the determination to never give up, to never be subdued. Even statues of the iconic William Wallace have him clothed in a kilt. It is no mistake that in the 18th century after England’s defeat of the Scots at the battle of Culloden, the wearing of the kilt was banned. I believe that is why people picture 14th century Highlanders in kilts, because though it is historically inaccurate, it is true to the spirit of the Scots who fought so courageously, against such great odds, for their basic freedom. And besides, would Braveheart have been such a great hit, and winner of five academy awards including best picture, if Mel Gibson had been wearing… pants?

Have you ever had trouble with your hero or heroine (either real or fictional)? Have they ever refused to do what you thought they needed to do? Let me know your tale of woe, trust me, I understand. Also, come visit me at www.amandaforester.com - there’s videos and contests and all sorts of fun stuff!

Amanda, thanks for coming by today. Come back any time.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day, the History

As a romance author and hopeless romantic, I cannot possibly ignore Valentine’s Day. I admit I really didn't know the real history behind Valentine’s day except it was to honor a Christian named Valentine who was martyred for marrying people in secret. Which really didn't make sense to me. Was he martyred because he was Christian? Or because he was marrying people? To my surprise, I found the answer to be a bit of both. Maybe. Although no one really sure who, exactly he was and so much is couched in myth and speculation, here's some fun history, sprinkled liberally with legend.

This much appears to be factual: In Rome 270 C.E. the Emperor Claudius II put out an edict saying no man could marry. Ever.

??????

Talk about a stupid law!!!! No marriage? At all? And sex outside of marriage was considered to "prostitution" which was illegal. Talk about a bunch of unhappy people. And how were children to be brought into the world? Did he think it was okay for his entire country to become extinct in a couple of generations? Clearly, this brainless emperor didn’t think that one through.

But he apparently did have a reason for it. He felt that marriage made men "soft" and therefore unreliable soldiers. Men wouldn’t want to leave his wife and child AND die for his country, and because Emperor Claudius needed a massive army to maintain his vast empire. So, he outlawed marriage. Clearly he wasn't worried about becoming unpopular with his crazy law.

I Into this confusing chaos steps Valentine who was the Bishop of Interamna who invited all young lovers to come secretly marry and, in turn, converted quite a few people to Christianity. Clearly this man was intelligent – much smarter than the Emperor because while getting his way of converting people to Christianity, he was also seeing to the needs of disgruntled lovers. Aw, isn’t that sweet? Or it might have been a ploy to convert the heathens. Either way, the Emperor inevitably found out, and had Valentine arrested.

The odd thing is, Valentine may not have been condemned for going against the Emperor's edict. Some accounts suggest it was because he refused to renounce Christianity and convert to Roman ways AND even attempted to convert the Emperor to Christianity. Talk about pluck! According to legend, while Valentine was awaiting execution, he befriended a girl who was the blind daughter of the jailer. While in jail, Valentine restored her eyesight through his faith. Some people believe he fell in love with her. Then he supposedly wrote her a farewell letter on the day that he was stoned (or beaten, according to some sources) and beheaded. (Ewww! I guess one wasn’t good enough and they needed to do both?!). Another account reports he simply died in prison, probably of typhus, or jail fever. At any rate, Valentine reportedly signed his love letter, "FROM YOUR VALENTINE."

We have been using his name, and even that phrase, ever since.

Also, there appears to have been anywhere from three to seven men who bore that name and were martyred, or died while in service to the church. Apparently one helped a number of Christians escape prison where they were being beaten and tortured and was caught and executed. Another was a missionary in Africa, but little is known about him. Or, it’s possible, they were all the same men, but accounts of his death have been muddied. However, we do know that Valentinus, or Valentine, was a very common Roman name.

Though the marrying Valentine was executed on February 24, (according to some sources, anyway) 270, the Christian church chose to honor him and all the Valentines – who all supposedly died on or near February 14 – on February 14th because they wanted to replace a Roman rite of passage to the God of Lupercus. Part of the festival included men running around and slapping young women with a strap dipped in blood with the idea it was supposed to make them fertile. Another practice in that festival involved putting the names of virgins in a box (I wonder if they were willing or unwilling?) and drawn by not so virginal men (ARE there any virginal men?) in a lottery. Whichever girl was drawn, she was then assigned to "pleasure" the lucky man until the next lottery, which was a year later. (poor girl!!!) Sounds like a premise for a book, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the church was appalled by this pagan holiday so they chose to substitute it with a close second. Well, okay, maybe by the men’s standards it wasn’t such a close substitute. But Valentine’s Day appealed to the love aspect of the ritual instead of the sex. I’m sorta surprised the men went for it, men being what they are. But I guess pleasing his wife, or the girl whom he hopes will be his wife someday, in the hopes he’ll get lucky (ahem) was the best substitute a good Christian man could hope for.

So, happy Valentine's day! And be grateful we aren't Roman!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gorgeous Men in Tight Breeches and Ruffled Shirts II


What's Wrong With This Picture/Excerpt?

In Part I, we discussed Regency men's clothes. Although the era saw the birth of modern menswear, Regency clothing is not exactly the same. Errors abound in many romances. In this post we'll discuss three common errors in the portrayal of the Regency gentleman’s wardrobe.

What's wrong with Gorgeous Gentleman #1's clothes? The problem is his shirt. Men's shirts didn't button all the way down the front until the end of the nineteenth century. The front was open to about halfway down the chest, much like a present-day man's polo shirt. There may or may not have been one or two buttons to keep the collar closed. And a gentleman always wore a cravat to keep his shirt top closed.

The only way GG#1 could show off that great set of washboard abs in a historically correct shirt was to pull the shirt over his head. Or, the heroine could tear it off him in a fit of passion--the modern version of the bodice ripper.

The shirt GG #2 is wearing is correct. But what's wrong here? His shirt is correct, and our hero even has ruffles at his cuffs (oh, I do like ruffles on a man!). The answer--GG #2 is wearing a belt. Regency men held up their breeches (generic term for what they wore on their lower bodies) with braces, also called suspenders.

My third example is a passage from Miss Lockharte's Letters by Barbara Metzger:

"And I saw you trying to corner her in the choir loft. If you ever managed to keep your pants buttoned, we wouldn't be in half this mess."

The error here? The word "pants" is an Americanism, first found in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, around 1840, according to dictionary.com. An Englishman would refer to the garment as "trousers". And if he were in the presence of a lady, he would call them his "unmentionables", if he referred to them at all.

I found lots of pictures of gorgeous gentlemen as I searched for images for this post. But I hit the jackpot with GG#2. Unlike some writers, I don't use a picture of an actor or model as inspiration for my hero. But when I saw GG#2, I knew I had found Richard, the hero of Lady of the Stars, my Regency time travel and 2010 EPIC EBook competition finalist.

GG#2's hair is a little too long, he's wearing that belt, and he would never appear before a lady without a cravat, waistcoat and coat (jacket). I like to think he's in his bedchamber, early the morning after he met Caroline, the heroine. He's thinking about her, and already falling in love.

And here's our Happily Ever After.

Thank you all,
Linda

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Welcome Sharon Lathan--The Court of St. James


Linda Banche here. We at Historical Hussies are again delighted to host Regency author Sharon Lathan. Today, Sharon blogs about The Court of St. James , the English royal residence in Regency times.

Welcome, Sharon!

The Court of St. James

By Sharon Lathan


Among the many surprises this American author uncovered while researching was the fact that Buckingham Palace has only been the royal residence since 1837. The familiar image of that sprawling palace of grey stone with stoic guards standing at attention is indelibly etched upon my brain. In a country where traditions hold for centuries and structures erected hundreds of years ago are still occupied, it certainly is logical to think that Buckingham Palace has been the seat of power forever!

Once upon a time there was a hospital for leprous women dedicated to St. James the Less. The religious foundation, and home to nuns and brethren of the faith, happened to sit upon a wide expanse of stunning greensward. In 1531 Henry VIII set his covetous eyes on this area and, well it isn’t hard to fathom what he wanted! It was the year of his marriage to Anne Boleyn and his devotion to the church was waning – to say the least. In short order the hospital was destroyed and a manor house constructed. (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Built of red brick in the Tudor style with turrets and a lofty gatehouse encompassing four courtyards, St. James’s Palace evolved over several decades. The dwelling place of Henry and his queen was modest compared to the later structure, but the original gateway remains intact today. State apartments faced St. James’s Park and the gardens. Receiving rooms, such as the Tapestry Room, Presence Chamber, Great Council chamber, drawing rooms, and the apartments dedicated to the Yeoman of the Guard, were noted to be spacious and commodious, but not particularly imposing or elegant compared to most royal palaces. A number of private residences were built along Pall Mall and the adjacent land, all part of the Court itself, to house the aristocracy, royal dowagers, visiting nobility, and Lord Chamberlain.

Henry VIII divided his time between St. James, Westminster, and Whitehall, as well as numerous country abodes. The vast woodland and fields surrounding St. James were teaming with game and offered everything the outdoorsy Henry and his queens loved. In his lifetime court was primarily held at Whitehall, which was the seat of administration until destroyed by fire in 1698, but as the decades proceeded St. James’s Palace grew steadily in importance. William III moved permanently into St. James’s Palace and transferred the administrative center of the monarchy as well.

For nearly three hundred years the Court of St. James was the defining English Court. Every monarch lived there at least part of the time, a plethora of historical events occurred there, monumental decisions were made, and anyone of any importance was brought to the Court of St. James to be presented to the ruling monarch. Levees for men and drawing-rooms for women were highly formalized affairs, absolutely necessary, and the origin of proscribed fashion for all of Society.

All three of the Georges dwelt principally at St. James’s Palace. However, a severe fire in 1809 destroyed a large portion of the palace. It was rebuilt, but never managed to regain its past glory. In 1761 George III purchased Buckingham House as a private residence for Queen Charlotte. When the Prince Regent began his rule he also began the process of remodeling Buckingham House. His favorite architect, the famous John Nash, was enlisted to transform the manor into a palace. It was a job requiring over 10 years, several architects, two kings, and a staggering amount of money to accomplish. Finally, in 1837, Buckingham Palace was complete enough for Queen Victoria to transfer the royal residence.

Today the Court of St. James is the regimental headquarters of the sovereign’s guard, is where all visiting dignitaries are officially accredited, where each monarch is proclaimed, and where all formal ceremonies and receptions are performed. It remains the official administrative seat of the monarchy to this day. Royal christenings and marriages are still held in the Chapel Royal. I suppose that means some traditions are continuing in our ever-changing world. Rather comforting, isn’t it?

If your interest is piqued, this article has a ton of fascinating history with quotes from historic documents, all pertaining to St. James’s Palace: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45186

In my fourth novel, Romancing Mr. Darcy, due for release in October 2010, Georgiana and Lizzy Darcy are presented to the Prince Regent in a chapter that vividly details the extravaganza as it would have been. Something to look forward to! Thank you, Linda, for honoring me with a second appearance at Historical Hussies. It has been great fun and I hope your readers have enjoyed my mini-history lessons.

Linda here. Sharon, we're very happy to host you again. Come back any time.

Sharon's previous blog at Historical Hussies is The Regency, A Time of Change.

**Sharon Lathan is the bestselling author of The Darcy Saga series, a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice published by Sourcebooks. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, and My Dearest Mr. Darcy are available now in bookstores and online retailers. For more information about Sharon and her novels, come to her website: www.darcysaga.net

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gentlemen's Gloves

Gloves were as much a fashion statement as shoes or a hat, and just as functional, as well. To the best of my knowledge the gentlemen wore white gloves while inside a house. These were not the same gloves they wore against the cold, just outside, or when riding /driving, they were softer, lighter and white.

In this picture, the two gentlemen are wearing gloves,and one has the right one off, possibly to shake a hand. They are clearly dressed to the nines so they are possibly on their way to make a call or to attend a soiree.

How long they kept them on is a different story. They did not wear gloves when dining or when playing cards, of course. The etiquette about man's gloves was slightly different than that concerning women's gloves so there might be more times when they could go about without their gloves. For instance, gentlemen usually took off their gloves when they made a social call (they would be wearing outdoor gloves, and would leave them with their hat -- or hold them with their hat) while women would keep on their gloves unless eating or drinking tea. I think men were supposed to take off their glove to shake hands but women kept theirs on. Still, gloves were part of the man's evening and daytime attire. Of course, men and women both wore gloves when ever they went out of the house.


In this picture, the gentleman is dressed to go riding or hunting and has on the appropriate heavier leather gloves.

When a man came calling, his right hand glove always had to be removed because the gloved hand was never given to a lady, with the exception of dance. So when a gentleman arrived in a drawing room, he held his hat and single right hand glove in his left hand and would greet the lady with his right, ungloved hand. The whole idea of wearing only one glove and holding onto the hat is based upon the fact that it was a privilege to call upon a lady and unless she permitted him to place his hat and gloves aside, he was ready to leave in a moment's notice upon her request without being rude. Of course there were some jokes about that as well. That the hat was safer in one's hand depended upon who you were calling ;-)

Once the hostess invited the man to stay, both gloves were removed and the hat set down. On all other occasions, it appears that when in public (dancing, balls, opera), gloves were almost always worn by a man, except during dining.

Gloves bespoke of a man's wealth and character and were specifically tailored to a person's hand. So if there unusually large in appearance and did not fit well, people took note that a.) they were borrowed (heaven forbid!) or b.) funds were low (mothers beware!)

Gentlemen were expected to take their hats in with them into the drawing room and not to leave them on tables or benches in the foyer or hallway. Also says the man should put his hat under his chair with his gloves in it (one assumes the hostess has had the floors well dusted, swept.)