Friday, October 29, 2010

The Travel Channel: Mysteries at the Museum

Linda Banche here. Today we have something a little different. Instead of history in books, this post talks about history on television, specifically, in museums across the United States.

The Travel Channel premieres a new historical program called Mysteries at the Museum next week.

In this show, the Travel Channel takes a look at the strange and curious remnants of America's past, often accompanied by scandal, mystery, and intrigue. The first episode, airing November 2nd at 9 E/P, features some of the nation’s most revered museums.

For a preview, see the sneak peak below:

If the video is not working correctly, link to the sneak peek here.

Additional information about each of the mysteries in this first volume is below.

Mysteries at the Museum: Volume 1

Our journey first takes us to the most inhospitable museum on the
planet: Alcatraz. In 1962 three notorious convicts conquered the
impossible--they escaped. With the help of newspapers, rain jackets, a
spoon handle, and real human hair, how did Alan West, Frank Morris, John
and Clarence Anglin conquer a masterful plan of deception? Did they
even survive?

National Museum of the U.S. Navy:
The National Museum of the U.S. Navy houses The Enigma Machine. It
resembles a typewriter, but was actually a cutting edge, top-secret
machine used to the Nazi’s advantage in the 1940s. Why did the fate of
the free world fell on solving the Enigma’s puzzle?

Mead Art Museum:
Amongst fine art and world artifacts, Amherst College holds one of the
world’s most disgusting looking creatures: The Feejee Mermaid. The
origin of these skeletal remnants are still unknown, but it’s head of a
monkey, body of a fish, sharp teeth, and nasty claws make for a
tantalizing sight.

NASA Space Center:
The Space Center in Houston, Texas is dedicated to the history of
NASA’s space program and holds a lifesaving piece of technology. On
April 11, 1970, NASA launched its third mission to land on the moon, but
two days later, the unthinkable happened. A large oxygen tank on the
space craft exploded, causing the Apollo 13 crew’s oxygen supply to leak
into space. How did a single grey canister save the lives of the crew
of this crippled spaceship?

Henry Ford Museum:
Can you imagine a house able to withstand an earthquake, is flood
resistant, and fire proof? The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan
holds the Dymaxion House that does just that. Coining the term
“sustainable living”, this “futuristic” home could have significantly
impacted how we live today, so why did it fail?

Walter’s Art Museum:
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of history’s most enduring
masterpieces. For generations, rumors have circulated that Walter’s Art
Museum in Baltimore, Maryland is where the original painting hangs
today, as opposed to the Musée du Louvre in Paris. As part of one of
the most shocking art thefts in history, was a copy of the famous
painting actually switched with the stolen original?

Find out the answers to these questions and more by tuning in to the
premiere of Mysteries at the Museum on Tuesday, November 2nd at 9 E/P.

Enjoy the stories, and the secrets that will be revealed!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guest Sharon Lathan: Bow Down to the Prince

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Sharon Lathan and the latest entry in her saga continuing the Pride and Prejudice story, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one of the two copies of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Sharon will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

Sharon selected the winners Diane Gibson and Karen Wasylowski! Diane and Karen, I don't have email addresses for either of you. Please contact me by November 7, 2010 at to claim your books or I will award them to alternates.

Welcome, Sharon!

In the history of monarch ruling countries being presented formally to the reigning monarch has always occurred and usually involved a fair amount of pomp. The wheres, whys, and hows varied from country to country and evolved from decade to decade but one fact was probably constant: It would have been a nerve wracking experience!

In my latest novel, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, it was time for Mr. Darcy’s sister Georgiana to make her debut into Society and during the Regency a lady or gentleman of circumstance was not fully accepted among the ton until presented at the Court of Saint James. Additionally, wives of the aristocracy or gentry were also required to bow before the Prince Regent if not having done so before, thus it was proper for the former Elizabeth Bennet to go through the process as well. Poor Elizabeth and Georgiana!

As you can probably imagine, one did not simply waltz into the palace! First off she had to be sponsored by a lady previously presented at court, this usually her mother or other close relative. The debutante’s name was submitted weeks in advance so that the preparations could be made. This was not so easy since the ceremonial dress was specifically dictated and must be created precisely, the cost of the garment enormous. This alone prevented many young women of modest means from entering Society. The French inspired gowns were voluminous with old-fashioned wide hoop skirts, long trains, heavy fabrics, and a multitude of ruffles, lace, and other adornments. The look was topped off with massive headpieces that always included long feathers. Simply standing in the outfit was often a challenge so imagine how tough it was to walk in. It took weeks to practice the deep curtsey and exact steps even though they were very simple and took less than 2 minutes to complete!

On the appointed day of the levee the debutante would gather with other ladies in the Tapestry Room of St. James’ Palace, often waiting hours in the crowded, airless chamber until her name was called. She would have her train smoothed by a waiting page while the Lord Chamberlain announced her to the Court.

Into the Presence Chamber she went, His Royal Highness sitting on his throne and the room crowded with various dignitaries. At a stately pace she walked toward the Prince, recited the short rehearsed phrase, and then curtseyed. Not a simple bob of the knee but a bend nearly to the floor, then a bow from the waist that must be held before rising to then do the whole thing over again to the luminaries on either side of the Prince. Whew!

But wait, there’s more! Next she had to pick up her train, gracefully drape it over her arm and exit, walking backwards. Yep, backwards! With her eyes constantly on the Prince, steps regulated and straight until out of his sight. Not sure about you, but I think walking barefoot over hot coals could not be worse.

An excerpt from In the Arms of Mr. Darcy:
Later, Lizzy would have the oddest recollections of the ethereal moment when she was presented to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent. She vividly remembered the crimson velvet and gold lace covered throne sitting upon the raised dais with a canopy of identical material surmounting. For all her life she would smell sweet violet and primrose and envision the bouquets artistically place about the throne room. She would retain only vague images of the numerous royal attendees and could not recall what His Highness wore, but she sharply saw the bright blue of his eyes that were similar to her husband’s and the faintly feminine mouth that lifted in a genuine smile.

He was rather ordinary in appearance, not handsome or remarkable, while also exuding a presence that was unlike anything she had ever experienced at the same time. There was power and majesty that rippled the air about him, an aura of ancient heritage and eminence that awed her. He did not seem as bored as she would have imagined he would be, the ceremony surely excruciatingly tedious from his perspective, and his eyes flickered with polite interest as he watched her execute the proper genuflection. Perhaps he hoped for at least one young lady to topple over, just to bring some excitement to the proceedings! Lizzy did wonder if this were the case as his eyes were distant when she rose, flickering briefly toward a small food laden table set into an alcove across the room. He did not move a muscle, waiting with regal dignity as she played her part flawlessly, spoke the well-rehearsed words, curtsied to the other royalties flanking the throne, and then swept the train into her right hand as she initiated her smooth retreat.
© Sharon Lathan, Sourcebooks Landmark, 2010


If only everyone could be as happy as they are…

Darcy and Elizabeth are as much in love as ever—even more so as their relationship matures. Their passion inspires everyone around them, and as winter turns to spring, romance blossoms around them.

Confirmed bachelor Richard Fitzwilliam sets his sights on a seemingly unattainable, beautiful widow; Georgiana Darcy learns to flirt outrageously; the very flighty Kitty Bennet develops her first crush, and Caroline Bingley meets her match.

But the path of true love never does run smooth, and Elizabeth and Darcy are kept busy navigating their friends and loved ones through the inevitable separations, misunderstandings, misgivings, and lovers’ quarrels to reach their own happily ever afters…

About the Author
Sharon Lathan is the author of the bestselling Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, and My Dearest Mr. Darcy. In addition to her writing, she works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides with her family in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. For more information, please visit, as well as the two group blogs Sharon contributes to: and

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marquis and Marquess

One of the most respected and often referred to sources of how to address a member of the peerage is Laura chinet. Her website is here:

She gives a clear and exhaustive example of each of the titles and their families and how they were addressed. Since I cannot improve upon perfection, I won't try, so I'll simply pass along the source in case you struggle with it.

However, there has been some discussion as to whether it was correct by the Regency to use Marquess or Marquis. I prefer to use Marquis. It just looks better to me—maybe because it looks French. Debrett's 1802 version, and most of the  peerage books published at that time, use Marquis. Debrett lists the plural as Marquisses. However, by 1828, Debrett changed the spelling to Marquess. The change may have resulted to popular use as in the way dictionaries keep up with modern terms and meanings, or Debrett may have caused the change. I do not have an original statement as to the wording when Wellington was created a Marquess so do not know how it was spelled, but The Royal Kalendar of 1815 says Marquises.

Somewhere I read that  between 1816 and 1828, the Marquises in the Kingdom decided that they preferred the form of Marquess, probably because it sounded more English. After a long war with France, that was probably a subtle way of declaring their independence and perhaps a sigh of relief that Napoleon did not conquer them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Robert Chambers's THE BOOK OF DAYS

I've always enjoyed the newspaper's This Day in History feature. Imagine my delight when I discovered Robert Chambers's The Book of Days.

The Book of Days: A Miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature, and oddities of human life and character (now there's a TITLE) is This Day in History plus, a la 1864 England.

Organized by the days of the calendar, each entry provides multiple tidbits of information about events that occurred on that day. The two volumes of the book are available in Google books Volume 1 here and Volume 2 here, but an easier-to-read, online searchable version is here.

As an example, here's some information from the entry for today, October 13. Each article starts, as my newspaper feature does, with those who were born and died on this date. Then, because The Book of Days is Victorian, the Feast Days come next.

On October 13, 1630, Sophia, Electress of Hanover and mother of George I of England was born. Also on this day in 1815, of interest to Regency authors like me, Joachim Murat, Bonapartist king of Naples, was shot and killed. Saints Faustus, Januarius, and Martialis, martyrs who died in 304, celebrate their Feast Day today.

Three essays follow: First, NOTES FROM AUBREY: ON ENGLISH MANNERS IN OLD TIMES, where we learn "The use of 'Your humble servant,' [as a greeting] came first into England on the marriage of Queen Mary, daughter of Henry IV of France to King Charles I." This article also explains the origin of the boar's head custom at Christmas and why certain dishes are eaten on feast days.

Next is the TRAGEDY OF THE GALAS FAMILY, a sad tale of French justice gone wrong, followed by the story of Mrs. Elizabeth Fry, who improved conditions among the prisoners at Newgate prison in London.

Today's entire entry is here:

Too bad I didn't blog on October 14, because the Battle of Hastings, which changed England from Saxon to French, was fought on October 14, 1066.

You learn something new every day. Enjoy.

Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Lost Colony

Most folklore in America is handed down from generations who lived elsewhere. The Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen and beloved story tellers we know from years gone by, usually hailed from across the Atlantic.

One genuine mystery is a story belonging solely to America.

In 1587 John White settled a British colony with 117 people off the coast of North Carolina on Roanoke island. Two years earlier, Sir Walter Raleigh set up a colony here, with intention of having a strong hold against Spain.

Ralph Lane was made leader of the colony, the military man led successful campaigns against the Irish back home, and used the same tactics toward the Indians. Despite an alliance, Lane decided to kidnap the chief's son in order to gain information about Indian military capacity in the area. The Indians reacted to this act of aggression by refusing further aid to the colonists. Once they had to depend on themselves for survival, the colonists began to starve. Had it not been for the arrival of Sir Francis Drake, they all would have died. The first colony was a failure, and Drake took them back home.

Raleigh was undaunted, his next choice as leader of a second colony was John White, an artist respected by Raleigh. White went to work to repair the damage Lane caused with the Indians.
He went with groups of ambassadors to mend the friendship lost between colonists and Tribe.
His efforts were successful with the Croatoan (who called themselves Pamlico). He befriended a Christian Indian called Manteo, who worked as a bridge between the two peoples to promote peaceful relations between them.
Manteo even went to England with White when his ship left for supplies. The new alliance pleased White. He knew the survival of the colony would be ensured with the help of the Indians.

In August, White's Daughter Eleanor gave birth to the first white baby born in the new world. She was named Virginia Dare. This gave White more incentive to assure the success of the colony and peace among island inhabitants.

Not all Indians were willing to trust the colonists after Raleigh's occupation. Colonist George Howe was found murdered in July.
White wrote "his head was smashed to pieces" Clearly, anger among Indians toward colonists still existed which frightened many. White spoke with tribal leaders promising the villagers had no intention of taking over Indian territory. They only wanted peaceful coexistence. Once he felt peace was established, he left for England.

White left instructions, before he left, if the village had to relocate due to distress; they were to carve a cross in a tree as a signal.

In 1590 Governor John White returned to the New World to discover the colony he governed emptied. There was no sign of any resident, nor clue left behind as to their whereabouts. There were no carvings of crosses, which meant the colonists were not in distress.

Only the word CROATOAN was found carved in a tree.

What did it mean?

He searched the village. Buildings were torn down or in disrepair. There were no graves or sign of war, there were no bodies littering the grounds. The colonists were simply gone.

White attempted to go to the people of Croatoan to find the missing villagers, but storms kept him from traveling,until brokenhearted, he went back to England where the colony was declared "lost."

White never wavered in his belief the colonists survived, and with them, his daughter and grand daughter. He knew in his heart the Indians took care of them.

What is well known is, 50 years later, descendants of the Croatoans began to reappear. Many bore European features and spoke English.

Did the protectors of the colonists have to go "underground" for a time to protect all concerned from hostile forces?

A search for The lost settlers still goes on today with DNA testing of tribal people in the Roanoke area. This search will prove White's faith to be justified.

Stephen King was inspired by this mystery when he wrote " A Perfect Storm"

The Croatoan virus is a prominent story line in "Supernatural" a TV show on CW.

the fun of history is the mystery, the use of tradition and culture to fill in the blanks.

Enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jean de Joinville

Jean de Joinville (John) is perhaps the most well-known of medieval chroniclers. Born to noble parents, John received his education at the court of Theobald, Count of Champagne, where he studied reading and writing.
At age sixteen, he want with the count to the French king’s court, and three years later, as the king was organizing the Seventh Crusade, John decided to take up the cross and go with King Louis IX on crusade.
John became close friends with the king, and acted as advisor and confidant. Their friendship continued, but when the king set out on another crusade in 1270, John refused to go, predicting a disastrous outcome.
King Louis died on the crusade, and the pope initiated an inquest for possible canonization. Because of John’s close friendship with King Louis, John appeared as a witness. King Louis, subsequently, was declared a saint.
In John’s later years, at the request of Jeanne of Navarre, queen consort of France, John wrote Historie de Saint Louis, and finished it in 1309. John died in 1317 at age ninety-three, fifty years after the death of his good friend, the now sainted king.

In The Tapestry Shop (October from Five Star/Gale), the heroine, Catherine, vows to join King Louis’ crusade.
“Adam, the women at Orleans … they will meet me at a monastery, a famed place of pilgrimage, where they will pray for the crusaders’ safety before going on to Aigues-Mortes.”
He reined in the mare. His expression conveyed desperation. “Where? What monastery?”
“In Arles. I tried to tell you before.”

The Tapestry Shop has received glowing reviews, excerpts of which can be seen at Joyce's website.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Guest Abigail Reynolds: Social Classes in Regency England

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Abigail Reynolds, author of Mr. Darcy's Obsession, the latest of her Pride and Prejudice Variations. Today she discusses social classes, one of the major facts of life in Regency England.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of Mr. Darcy's Obsession which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Abigail will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

Abigail selected the winners Margay and Dee. Dee, please send me an email at to collect your prize. Margay, I've sent you an email. If I do not hear from you by October 12, I will award the books to alternates.

Welcome, Abigail!

There is a huge social gap between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice, which is why Darcy’s proposal to her is such a testament to the power of love. When I wrote Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, I wanted modern readers to feel the depth of Darcy’s love and devotion the way a Regency reader would have felt it in the original. I took the gap between Darcy and Elizabeth – practically insurmountable at the time - and made it even larger. In Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, Elizabeth’s father has died and the Bennets are displaced from Longbourn. They are taken in by family, but the accommodations are not what they were accustomed to. Elizabeth lives with the Gardiners as an unpaid governess for their children. Although the Gardiners treat her as part of the family, she feels unable to ask them for anything because they are already helping support the rest of her family. Her wardrobe becomes shabbier, and her time is not her own. She isn’t remotely suitable as a wife for Darcy.

But Elizabeth was always unsuitable for him in Pride & Prejudice, just like Cinderella was unsuitable for the Prince, but modern readers find it difficult to understand the nuances of the time. The simplest piece of it is money. To the gentry, keeping the estate intact was of primary importance. That’s why they didn’t divide up property between children, and why property was often entailed. It was part of the landowner’s duty to preserve the estate and to add to it if possible. Darcy’s estate is already facing a loss – 30,000 pounds for Georgiana’s dowry, to be precise – and he would be expected to bring home a bride whose dowry would at least compensate for that loss. He is failing in his family duty.

The social nuances are more complex. Despite their meeting at Netherfield, Darcy and Elizabeth would not ordinarily move in the same social circles, as the Bingley sisters make clear. As Darcy is presented as the future son-in-law of Lady Catherine; Elizabeth is a poor cousin of one of Lady Catherine’s dependents. Elizabeth would not be accepted among the ton, whose languid snobbery would be offended by her presumption. Darcy’s social status would fall if he married her. Worse yet, so would his sister’s. Georgiana’s marriage prospects would be significantly harmed by such a marriage.

Elizabeth also has low connections, including kin in trade. Being in trade was a mark of low upbringing, and children of tradesmen had a difficult time being accepted by the ton. This is why Darcy is seen as superior to Bingley, and why Bingley will never be seen as quite up to snuff in society. And Elizabeth, unlike Bingley, isn’t even stylish or well-to-do.

Those alone are enough to make it extraordinarily unlikely that a gentleman like Darcy would consider marrying so far below him, but that’s not enough for Jane Austen. She stacks the deck yet further by giving Elizabeth embarrassing relations and a disgraced sister. Darcy knows perfectly well that he will be the subject of mockery because of her family’s behavior, and he’s right. But his love for Elizabeth is more powerful than all those things. He is truly a man before his time.

The more he tries to stay away from her, the more his obsession grows...
“[Reynolds] has creatively blended a classic love story with a saucy romance novel.” —Austenprose

“Developed so well that it made the age-old storyline new and fresh…Her writing gripped my attention and did not let go.”—The Romance Studio

“The style and wit of Ms. Austen are compellingly replicated…spellbinding. Kudos to Ms. Reynolds!” —A Reader’s Respite

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Elizabeth is called away before Darcy proposes for the first time and Darcy decides to find a more suitable wife. But when Darcy encounters Elizabeth living in London after the death of her father, he can’t fight his desire to see and speak with her again…and again and again. But now that her circumstances have made her even more unsuitable, will Darcy be able to let go of all his long held pride to marry a woman who, though she is beneath his station, is the only woman capable of winning his heart?

About the Author
Abigail Reynolds is a physician and a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She began writing the Pride and Prejudice Variations series in 2001, and encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking “What if…?” She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit or