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Friday, July 3, 2020

Bow Street Runners

by Donna Hatch
Bow_Street_MicrocosmNext to Robin Hood’s Merry Men, few other groups inspire images of mystery and intrigue quite as well as Bow Street Runners. They were a unique and unprecedented fighting force that paved the way for London’s modern police, Scotland Yard. They are also no longer in existence, and very little is actually known about them. Hence the mystery. And the tragedy.

Before the Magistrate of Bow Street formed the famous Runners, there was no real organized police force and no true police procedures. Constables in London were virtually untrained and failed to do much to protect the innocent or bring justice to the guilty. A Night Watch made up on a rotating basis by the men in a particular district. However, most working-class men wouldn’t or couldn’t be up all night keeping watch. Besides, it was dangerous--ruffians and thugs they tried to arrest usually fought back. Some of these members of the Nigh Watch hired out others to take their turn. Often elderly men who needed the money because they could no longer work filled these roles. These night watchmen typically huddled in groups around the nearest light and hoped no one would harass them. Needless to say, they were an ineffective deterrence to most thieves.

Therefore, the average citizen performed most arrests. The citizen who’d been wronged had to gather all his own evidence, perform the arrest, drag the person before the magistrate (judge) and convince the magistrate this was their man. This citizen served as investigator, policeman, and lawyer all in one--a daunting task, to be sure. Although since the accused were considered guilty unless proven innocent, receiving a guilty verdict was usually a no-brainer. I'm sure some took advantage of this system to seek revenge for wrongs that had little to do with the law.

Into this ineffective chaos stepped the Fielding brothers. Henry Fielding was a magistrate who operated his office on Bow Street. In 1750, he organized an elite fighting force of highly trained and disciplined young men known as the Bow Street Runner. also nicknamed the “Robins Redbreasts” for their distinctive red waistcoats (sometimes spelled weskits because that's how it's pronounced). Bow Street Runners, who, according to research, preferred the term constables, were trained to conduct investigations including rudimentary forensics, and how to question witnesses and victims. They even carried handcuffs. How early they began carrying these restraints and wearing the red waistcoats is anyone’s guess, but in St. Ives by Robert Lewis Stevenson, written in 1897, described Bow Street Constables with handcuffs and red waistcoats.

In the early years, there were only six Bow Street constables in London. For some reason, that number was kept constant at first. But later, those figures grew and there was even a mounted patrol who protected the highways leading outside of London from the dreaded and dangerous highwaymen. This mounted patrol changed safety, and therefore nature, of travel.

CatostconspiratorsWhile the office of a magistrate belonged exclusively to gentlemen of the nobility or landed gentry, the Bow Street constables were working-class men. They were smart, skilled, well-trained, and cunning. The Fielding brothers hand-picked them for the position. Though the constables of Bow Street typically remained in the London area, there are accounts of them tracking fugitives as far as the Scottish border. They drew a modest salary from Bow Street, so most of their pay came in the form of a bounty or reward, usually paid by the victim or a group who had a vested interest in solving a crime. Runners were also hired out to conduct special investigations, and to act as bodyguards. I have found no evidence of foul play or bribes taken, suggesting that they were men of honor and that they had strong loyalty to their magistrate who was always a man of integrity.

Magistrates in other districts of London followed the Fielding’s example by having a specific group of effective investigators--for example, the Thames River Police--but none achieved the lasting acclaim that the Bow Street constables did.

In 1830, when Scotland Yard was organized, the Bow Street constables became obsolete. Much of Scotland Yard’s procedures evolved from those created by Bow Street, and I can only assume that many constables became investigators for Scotland Yard. Progress is usually a good thing, but I feel a sense of loss whenever something unique is swept away to make room for something "better."

In my newest book, Not a Fine Gentleman, the hero is a Bow Street Constable hired to hunt down a murder suspect and bring her to justice. But this assignment is different, and not just because sparks fly between him and the lady accused of murdering her husband. This romantic story of loss and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption, will leave you laughing, crying, and swooning. Sprinkled liberally with suspense, mystery, and heart-melting kisses, this is not your ordinary historical romantic suspense. Fans of Victorian and Regency Eras, and those seeking clean and wholesome romance with plenty of chemistry, will love this story!

Here is the link to buy your own copy of NOT A FINE GENTLEMAN. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited and also available in print.

Official back cover blurb:
Lady Margaret secretly yearns for love, but fate has exchanged wedded bliss for a lie. When she is caught hovering over her cheating husband's dead body, she is instantly doomed to hang for his murder. Without hope for justice, unless she takes matters into her own hands, Margaret flees into the night alone.

A cynical Bow Street Constable, Connor Jackson, vows to bring the fugitive Lady Margaret to face the law—but, he doesn’t expect sparks to fly between them. Could the strong yet tender lady truly be a killer?

As more suspects—and even more condemning evidence—surface, the less certain Connor is of his duty. He must choose between his growing feelings for Lady Margaret and the demands of justice. Will the truth tear them apart or set them free to find love?

NOT A FINE GENTLEMAN is free on Kindle Unlimited and also available in print.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Breakfast in the 18th Century by Jenna Jaxon

I’ve recently discovered a YouTube Channel called 18th Century Cooking with John Townsend and have become fascinated with cooking from the Colonial period, which was also about the time my House of Pleasure series was set. I also live about 20 minutes from Colonial Williamsburg, so I am somewhat vested in the subject so I’d like to share my findings about food in the next several posts, beginning what was eaten for breakfast.

Breakfast was not a formal meal in the 18th century unless you were part of the aristocracy. Laborers ate either bread and cheese
or perhaps porridge at first light before hurrying out to work. Men and women of the upper classes, however, would break their fast later than dawn, perhaps between 9:00 and 10:00, with quite a variety of viands.

Most commonplace would be spiced breads, cakes, or buns. In the late 18th century muffins (what we in America specify as “English muffins”) became very popular. All of these could be spread with butter, marmalade, honey, or jams made from a variety of fruits like raspberries, cherries, or apples. John Townsend has found some delicious breakfast recipes from cook books of the period such as toast, bacon, and a poached egg, eggs scrambled in a quarter
pound of butter with a dusting of nutmeg, pancakes, and something called Bacon Fraze which amounts to bacon fried into pancake batter. I’ve actually made this dish and my family is calling for more.

When speaking of the breakfast the aristocracy ate, a quote from Samuel Johnson in 1776 always comes to mind. He wrote about taking a “simple breakfast” breakfast in London at which was served “oatmeal with sweet cream, smoked herrings, sardines with mustard sauce, grilled trout with white butter sauce, cold veal pies, grilled kidneys, sausages with mashed potatoes, with hot horseradish sauce, and ‘enough bacon to feed a hungry army.’” He also had his choice of seven types of bread, with butter, marmalade, jams, jellies, washed down with Spanish and French brandies, fresh apple cider, tea, and coffee. To say that the Georgians could be lavish at their breakfast tables is an understatement.

A well-trained cook was indispensable for the upper classes and some households sent their cooks to France to enhance their cooking skills. The number and variety of cook books surviving from the 18th century attests to the necessity for cooking, both plain and fancy in all households.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Lover’s Eyes Jewelry—The Fashion Statement of the 18th Century by Jenna Jaxon

Although fashion trends have been around as long as fashion itself, one of the most interesting I have found is the affinity Georgians had for wearing lover’s eye jewelry. These tiny miniature portraits of one’s lover’s eye adorned countless pairs of lovers during the latter end of the 18th century.

The trend was started in the mid-1780s by none other than George, Prince of Wales, soon to become the Prince Regent or “Prinny” and eventually George IV. But in the late 18th century, George was a man in love—with the wrong woman. She was Maria Fitzherbert, a Catholic widow who he was forbidden to marry due to the Act of Settlement. This decree did not, however, deter George. In 1785 he sent his love a picture of his own eye, painted in water colors on a tiny piece of ivory along with a marriage proposal, stating, “I send you a proposal and at the same time I send you an Eye.”

The couple were wed—illegally—shortly afterward, and thus began a mania for these small likenesses, called Lover’s Eyes. They were usually painted on ivory and made into all kinds of jewelry: lockets, rings, pins, charms, brooches. As the pieces were all no bigger
than a pinkie nail even when embellished with priceless gems, they were perfect as secret tokens of one’s undying love. All one had to do was keep the tiny portrait close and you could look into the eye of your loved one anytime of the day or night.

Why the craze for a single part of a portrait? Why not the entire likeness? Hanneke Grootenboer, a student of the artistic eyes, and
author of the book Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Late Eighteenth Century Eye Miniatures that “people were desperate to give each other not just images of themselves, but part of themselves.” The tiny eyes were small enough to cradle in a hand and could evoke the illusion of one’s lover staring lovingly up at them.

For some unknown reason, the fashion was a short lived one. By 1830 lover’s eyes had been supplanted by the newest fad: photography. With the advent of true portraits, the paintings of the lover’s eyes ceased almost overnight and they were largely forgotten until just after the year 2000 when researchers began to uncover their history. Only about 1000 lover’s eyes are still in existence. The best collections are those in The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Gotthadrt, Alexxa. “The Mysterious History of Lover’s Eye Jewelry.” Visual Culture. January 4, 2019.
Roderick, Kyle. “Lover’s Eyes: Jewelry’s Sexiest Sub-Genre, Luxuriously Reinterpreted by Ana Katarina.” Forbes, March 8, 2019.
Silver, Carly. “19th Century Lover’s Eye Jewelry Was the Perfect Accessory for Secret Affairs.” Atlas Obscura, February 15, 20127

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Widows in Regency England by Jenna Jaxon

The Regency period had very strict decorum for women, especially regarding behavior. There were rules that applied to unmarried girls, to betrothed women, to married women, and to women who were widowed. Let’s look at some of the strict codes of behavior widows would have had to abide by once they became widows.

A widow would not usually attend the funeral of her husband. This custom began because emotional outbursts were frowned upon during the Regency. Neither men nor women were supposed to show emotion in public. Therefore, since many women feared they would not be able to restrain their tears at the ceremony--hence shaming both themselves and their families--many chose not to attend. Records show that some women did attend the funerals, but the majority did not.

Widows could not marry for a year after they were widowed. The period of mourning a husband’s death was one year, both to show proper respect for him and to make sure there was no child forthcoming as a possible heir. If she remarried quickly, then discovered she was pregnant, it could muddy the waters about who was the father of the child. It also would have created a scandal that she might not have recovered from socially.

During her mourning period, a widow had to wear black for the first six months. Clothing made of crepe was common—a cloth with no
sheen. Bombazine was also popular as it was also dull. The only jewelry she could wear was onyx, amber, black enamel, or jet and that sparingly. She also refrained from any appearances in public other than those absolutely necessary or church. After six months, the widow moved on to half-mourning and somewhat lighter but dull colored clothing—gray, lilac, purple, and lavender. Now she could also wear pearl, diamond, and jewelry fashioned from the hair of the deceased. She might also attend small, informal gatherings at the homes of friends or relations.

Once a widow’s mourning period had ended, she could resume her social life if she so chose. Many widows, truly grieving their late
spouse, never remarried. Some chose not to marry for financial reasons. If her jointure was sufficient, she might enjoy her independent status and remain single for the rest of her life.

The strict moral code impressed on innocent, unmarried girls was thus somewhat relaxed for widows. As long as they were discrete,
they might engage in close friendships with a gentleman or conduct illicit affairs without seriously jeopardizing their reputations. The key was keeping such goings on out of the public eye.

The widows in my Widows’ Club series tend to forget that particular admonishment. If you’re interested in second chance romances, my widows are eager—a bit too eager, perhaps—to get back on the marriage market. If only they weren’t so scandalous in doing so! If you’d like to check them out, you’ll find Charlotte, Elizabeth, Fanny, and Georgie’s stories on sale during the month of May! Try Amazon for four passionate tales of women who want to love again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Japanese love affair with cherry blossoms

We are just at the "Hanami" season in Japan. Hanami literally means "look at the flowers", but this simple translation does not do justice to the country's largest spring event that celebrates its national flower – the Sakura, or cherry blossoms. Millions of people gather with friends and families under Sakura trees to enjoy a picnic, to sing, to drink and above all admire the very temporary display of beautiful Sakura flowers.
The Japanese affair with Sakura goes back centuries. It is believed to have started in the Nara Period (710 – 794), but it was during the Heian Era (794 – 1183), Sakura was given a pride of place in the Japanese culture, alongside the chrysanthemum. An important fact of the Heian period was the establishment of the capital in Kyoto, where it would stay for the next 1,000 years.
The Heian period is considered a high point in Japanese culture. It was the Japanese Renaissance (aka Kokufu Bunka), a time when the country emerged from below the wing of China and established an identity as an independent nation. Sponsored by the Imperial House and the aristocracy, the Japanese arts, literature, poems, architecture, music, and any other form of human creativity expression of love and beauty, flourished and expanded.

Modelled in the Chinese capital of Chang'an, the new capital city Heian, or Kyoto was a masterpiece, built in a geometric grid with straight roads extending from north to south, east to west.
The Sakura blossoming that sustained the Buddhist teachings of beauty and ephemerality was well placed to stir the wave of new writers, poets, and artists. Mentioned in the country's first historical annals (Kojiki) and in the oldest collection of Japanese poetry (Manyoshu), Sakura became the staple of the Japanese simplicity and transient feelings of sadness and happiness. It inspired and depressed; gave life and called death; seduced and rejected; teasing with antagonism an entire nation that revered with adoration its huge varieties of white to dark pink coloured flowers. When they bloomed, it was a sign from the Kami that it was time to plant rice.
The great unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi was one of Sakura's staunch admirer. In 1594 he held a five-day hanami party for 5,000 in Nara Prefecture. Four years later, another hanami bash followed for 1,300 people at Kyoto’s Daigo Temple, where 700 cherry trees had been planted. An estimate of 490,000 cherry trees are planted today along roadsides throughout Japan. The attached image is a Hiroshige woodblock print of cherry blossoms with Mount Fuji in the backdrop. It belongs to the collection of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (ca 1840).
Clockwise from top left, Sakura themed goods: Starbucks frappuccino, the 100 yen coin, the traditional noodle soba, sundry snacks, Kit Kat chocolate, Coca-Cola sakura favoured beverage, and McDonald Sakura Menu.
Local people and tourists enjoying the "hanami" under sakura trees. Unfortunately, due to the spread of Covid-19, this scene will be severely reduced in 2020 

The epic saga of the oldest, continuous hereditary monarchy in the world (2600) years – the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan can be read in my book "The Goddesses of Japan" sold on Amazon.

The royal bloodline is traced back to the Creators of the Country and their descendants – the founders of the legendary Yamato Dynasty.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Naming English Houses

by Donna Hatch

The Holburn Museum, Bath Copyright Donna Hatch
As an American, I find it fascinating that so many historical houses—mostly in Europe—are named rather than simply numbered. The practice has charm and suggests history and longevity. Nowadays, it would seem a tad presumptuous, or at least eccentric, to name a home. However, in one of my favorite historical novels, the heroine goes to live in a place called Green Gables. Austen characters are well acquainted with places such as Pemberley, Longbourn, and Hartfield. Indeed, house naming has a rich heritage.

Anciently, the nobility named their houses, halls, castles, and lodges as a matter of practicality, since homes weren’t numbered until 1765. Usually, those names reflected their surnames, family titles, and locations. These led to names such as Belvoir Castle, Evesham Manor, Haynes Park, and Norfok House.

Homeowners sometimes named their abodes after places they enjoyed visiting such as Ambleside and Windermere. Many house names describe the building’s original use, giving rise to names such as Bedford Abbey. Over time, tradesmen named their houses after their use like The Barn, The Gatehouse, The Forge, Millhouse.
Dove Cottage copyright Donna Hatch
Another common practice was to name one’s house after trees or plants, or even animals frequently seen in the area. Quaint names include Rose Cottage, Birch Park, Dove Cottage (pictured), Fox Hollow, Robins Nest, and Squirrels Leap have cropped up.

Here are some hints to help you name your British house:

How big is it? A cottage, a lodge, a manor, a mansion?
What is your family name? Or, if you had a title, what would it be?
What do you see from the house? A valley, a park, a woods, a river?
What color is the house? Does it have colored gables or shutters?
Do plants or trees grow nearby? If so, what type?
How would you describe the weather in the area? Sunny? Windy?
Are local animals often seen in the area?
Was the building used for something else before it became a home such as an inn, a bakery or an abbey?
If I were to name my house, it might be something like Crepe Mytle End, or White Lodge, or Sunnyside.
What would you call your house?

copyright Donna Hatch

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Whirl of Courtship by Jenna Jaxon

During the Regency era there were very strict rules for courting couples. They could never be alone together unless they were chaperoned, were betrothed, were in an open carriage, or on horseback. With all these strictures, our modern sensibilities make us wonder how they ever found time to get to know one another. There were, however, several outings the couple could indulge in and not create a scandal.

A gentleman could, in all propriety, accompany a young woman to several public sightseeing landmarks without censure. Places such as the Tower of London, Hampton Court, Hyde Park, or the British Museum to see the Elgin Marbles. As long as the couple were in full view of the public, they could walk and talk together and preserve the proprieties.

Carriage rides were a very popular way for a couple to indulge in private time together while courting. The carriage had to be open, but could also be a sporty curricle or a high-perch phaeton (the sports cars of the Regency period). Rides were usually taken in Hyde Park during the most fashionable hours between 4:30pm and 7:30pm, the point being to see and be seen by everyone else in the ton.

One favorite outing was to go to Gunter’s Tea Shop, one of the most fashionable light eateries in London. Gunter’s was famous for
their ices and sorbets. Located in Berkley Square in Mayfair, it was another establishment where the ton came to see and be seen. The Georgian Index reports that it became popular to eat the ices outside. “Gunter's Tea Shop was the only establishment where a lady could be seen eating alone with a gentleman who was not a relative without harming her reputation. The ladies would remain seated in the carriages in the shade of the Maples. Their gentlemen escorts would step down from their equipages and come round to the passenger side of the curricle or barouche and lean against the Square's railings sharing the lady's company and the treat.”

Another outing, also very popular and a bit daring, was a trip to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. This was a vast park of several acres of land that had different kinds of entertainments at night, from musical presentation to fireworks. Vendors sold various wares and although the best lit place in London at night, it still boasted several darker pathways down which a couple might stroll for a bit more private conversation. Usually ladies formed parties to attend Vauxhall insuring chaperones for a couple until they had agreed to a formal engagement.

These outings were an approved part of courtship during the Regency. In many of my Regency romances, my courting couples make use of these excursions as they try to get to know one another, as did countless real couples of the period. Check out this social whirl in Heart of Desire or any of my Handful of Hearts novellas, all on sale during the month of April for .99 each.