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Friday, April 24, 2009

King Philip II of Macedonia

King Philip led many campaigns across Greece before confronting the Persians. He was a stern man, a believing strength came from discipline.
Philip allowed the sons of nobles to receive education in the court of the king. Here the sons would not only develop a fierce loyalty for the king, but it was also a way for Philip to, in a sense, hold the children hostage to keep their parents from interfering with his authority. He also gave more people positions of power and more of a sense of belonging to the kingdom.

His primary method of creating alliances and strengthening loyalties was through marriage. In 357 BC he married Olympia, from the royal house of Molossia, and a year later they had a son, Alexander. (Later became Alexander the Great)

Philip created and led the League of Corinth in 337 BC. Members of the League agreed never to wage war against each other, unless it was to suppress revolution. Philip was elected as leader (hegemon) of the army of invasion against the Persian Empire.

In 336 BC, when the invasion of Persia was in its very early stage, Philip was assassinated, by one of his seven bodyguards. His son took command and continued his father's campaign.

Philip raised a great army of full time soldiers who were paid well and battle ready at all times. The monies came largely from gold and silver mines conifscated after battle.

The introduction of the phalanx infantry corps was one of his biggest innovations. A phalanx was the poistioning of the army in a rectangular formation which guarded against loss from the enemy. Those in front and in back were armed with very long spears, called a sarissa. 15 feet long, the sarissa had bronze/iron leaf shaped spear heads at the end and a "foot" or shoe along the shaft so the spear could be mounted into the ground (also known as a butt-spike) that would allow it to be anchored to the ground to stop charges by enemy soldiers.

This shoe also served to balance out the spear, making it easier for soldiers to wield. The advantage to this weapon was the enemy had to get past the sarissas to engage the soldiers. However, outside the tight formation of the Phalanx the sarissa would have been almost useless as a weapon as it was bulky and difficult to carry on the march.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Medieval Underwear

Medievalists know very little about underwear worn in the Middle Ages. What we know about clothing comes from the few extant pieces that have survived the years, carefully preserved in museums with controlled climate and lighting, but with underwear—being what it was—we have little to go by. The Chartres statues, for instance, represent outer garments, so we can only guess, from representations on pottery and drawings, at what was worn beneath. Dating from early Rome, there are representations of women participating in games that show them wearing something that looks much like a bikini, a small lower piece and a binding wrap at the top.
When full skirts came into use, it's doubtful women would lift layers of cloth and then have to untie something to answer nature's call, although something like men's loincloths may have been worn during certain times of the month.
Women wore undergowns, or chemises, beneath their outer gowns. In the picture, this woman has her outer gown tucked into her belt, perhaps to allow a bit of air to pass through her chemise, but this was the furthest she'd go.
Men, in early Middle Ages, wore loincloths like what is shown. Laborers in the field thought nothing of stripping down to their loincloths in hot weather. At other times, the clothes were colorful and part of everyday outer garb, as the picture suggests, and men at sea had no compunction about stripping naked during daytime chores on the ship, unless there were women aboard.
We know more about the hose they wore, as that garment is visible in statues and paintings. Hose were made of two woven pieces of fabric sewn together, usually of wool. Their wool was a soft weave because of the manner in which it was made, nothing like our wool today which would be a bit itchy, at least to this writer. Later, hose (hosen) worn by armored knights were made of sturdier material and called chausses, an item worn beneath the armor.
In the late Middle Ages and Early Modern period, hose became a significant part of everyday outer garb and were frequently colorful and made of fine fabrics.
There are several good reference books on the subject, but be careful to steer away from costume books used for Hollywood productions. Some are not true to the period, but look better on screen. A good little overall guide, one I have on my reference shelf and which gives a good idea of the construction of medieval clothing, is Medieval Costume in England and France: the 13th, 14th, and 15th Centuries, by Mary G. Houston. At least it's a place to start your research on this fascinating subject.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Interview with Historical Author Miranda Neville

H.H: What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?

I write historical romance. I've always loved historical novels since I was a teenager devouring Georgette Heyer and Jean Plaidy. I guess I've always had a hankering to write one myself. Last year my father was moving out of my childhood home and I found a box of my old high school stuff that included several unfinished regencies. (They weren't any good!) I've never really considered writing contemporary fiction.

H.H: Tell us about your book, Never Resist Temptation.

Never Resist Temptation, set in Regency England, starts with that old romance staple, the e who is lost at cards by her wicked uncle. Jacobin, being a feisty lady, runs away and goes to work as a pastry cook at the Brighton Pavilion. Then her uncle is poisoned by a dessert she made and she’s on the run again. The good news is she’s been offered another job; the bad that her new employer is the winner of that card game. Anthony, the Earl of Storrington, has his own reasons for employing a pastry chef. He’s unaware of her true identity but things soon heat up between them and he is torn between his growing attraction and his plan to use her for his own ends. Jacobin has to overcome her distrust and team up with Anthony to prove her innocence.

H.H: And it's a great book, too, I must say! So, when did you start to write and how long did it take you get published?

It took about five years between starting my first novel and finding a publisher--for my third. Manuscripts one and two will likely never see the light of day.

Historical Hussies: So, tell us a little about yourself? What is your typical day like?

I grew up in England but I've lived in the United States for almost thirty years. These days my home is a traditional style New England house in beautiful rural Vermont. I own a small business which runs smoothly enough to give me time to write, especially now my daughter is in college.

I wish I could describe a brilliantly disciplined writing schedule. Up at 6 am and four pages before breakfast. That kind of thing. Alas, I am pretty haphazard, though I do try to write SOMETHING, even a paragraph, every day. I do spent a lot of time planning the next section or chapter of my WIP in my head: while driving, walking, making dinner etc. Then, when I'm ready to write it down it comes out pretty easily.

H.H: Tell me, how do you write? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?

I am very much a plotter. I have a chapter-by-chapter plan before I start a book. Which isn't to say things don't change, a lot. But I prefer to know just where I am going even if I end up taking detours.

I tend to begin with the idea for a story. Then I work on characters who will meet the demands of the plot. Once the characters are set they control things. Changes to my original idea are almost always character driven. "That won't work because he wouldn't behave like that." Most annoying!

H.H: That sounds like a great way to do it. And what are you working on now?

I have a two book contract with Avon for a series surrounding a group of Regency rare book collectors. I used to work in the rare books department of Sotheby's auction house so I'm drawing on my own background here.

H.H. Wow, that’s cool! Well thank you for being our guest here today. It’s been fun chatting with you. I look forward to you next book.

Miranda Neville’s debut romance, Never Resist Temptation, was published by Avon in March.

Interview with Hanna Rhys Barnes

Historical Hussies: Today we’re interviewing Debut Wild Rose Press author Hanna Rhys Barnes.

Hanna Rhys Barnes: Hi. Thanks for having me here at Historical Hussies.

HH: So, tell us a little about yourself?  What is your typical day like?

HRB: Well, I just got back from a trip to the Southwestern coast of Wales. It was fabulous. I took a million pictures, a few of which are posted on my blog, Never Too Late For Love I got to visit castles everyday, including the one in which I've set the manuscript I'm currently working on. I’m living in beautiful Portland, Oregon at the moment. Right now I am one of the vast and growing mass of unemployed. So I spend part of my day job searching, part of my day writing, and part of my day promoting my debut novel, Widow’s Peak which is due to be released in September from The Wild Rose Press.

HH: What influenced you to write?

HRB: I used to be a member of a Renaissance guild and spent summer playing at Renaissance Faires around Southern California. My first attempt at writing was inspired by my adventures at Renn Faire.

HH: What inspired you to write romance?

HRB: I’m a late comer to Romance. I picked up my first Romance around four or five years ago. It was Kinley MacGregor’s A Dark Champion. I read everything she had written and then started in on other authors. Then I thought, “I can do this too.” So I sat down and started writing what I thought was a Romance. Eventually I learned about the craft of Romance Writing and was able to convince my editor Amanda Barnette to take a chance with me.

HH: When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published? 

HRB: I started writing fiction about five years ago. I started writing Romance about two years ago. Once I learned the difference between Literary fiction and Romance, I sold within a few months of rewriting my entire manuscript.

HH: What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?

HRB: I LOVE History. Especially the Medieval and Renaissance Periods. So I write Hot Historical Romance set in those periods, but in locations like Southwest Wales, Northwest England, Gaul, and the Lowlands of Scotland.

HH: What difficulties do writing this genre present?

HRB: The hardest thing for me was learning to write dialogue using period language. Finding that balance between not sounding modern, yet not overwhelming the reader with language they won’t understand. It’s ok for me to have a dictionary by my side, but I don’t want my reader to have to look up meanings for every other word.

HH: How do you write?  Are you a pantser or a plotter?  Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?

HRB: I am definitely a Panster. By far, my plots are character driven. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with one of my characters telling me “That’s not the way it happened! Write it like this.” It’s their story so whenever I can, I write it their way.

HH: How do you choose your characters' names?

HRB: My favorite reference book is Names Through Time by Teresa Norman. It’s set up by time period within each country. Once I decide on my setting, I look at names in use during the time period I’m writing in. Sometimes I go by the meaning of the name. Sometimes I just pick the one that the character wants.

HH: Tell us about your newest book

My first book, Widow’s Peak will be coming out September 23rd from The Wild Rose Press. I’m so excited. It’s the story of an assassin and an older widow who accidentally cross paths and fall in love. Here’s an excerpt:

      Laine stood clutching the washstand with one hand as his head began to spin. “Wait, my lady. Would you help me, please?”

“How may I be of service to you?” Her back was to him but her head tilted down.

“I think I must sit or I shall fall.”

She drew a sharp breath and forgetting her modesty, rushed toward him, grabbing a chair as she passed the table.

Laine felt his knees buckle, and he fell into her arms.

With no great effort, she lowered him into the chair and hurried to grab the coverlet from the foot of the bed. She draped it over his legs.

“You should not be up yet,” she chided as she knelt beside him and pressed her palm against his brow and cheeks.

“I need to be up, my lady.” He smiled weakly at her. “‘Twill do me no good to stay abed. I must leave soon.” The luxury of a few days peace had been a boon, but he knew if he stayed much longer danger would come. When the Spider discovered his escape, another assassin would be sent.

“Well, you have no fever.” Her voice softened a bit. “Still you cannot go until you can ride, and you cannot ride until you can walk. And for now, you cannot walk…without some help.”

She was right. He had barely been able to stand for the little time it took to walk to the washstand.

“Where is it you must go?” She stood and brushed a lock of hair back from his forehead. “I could send word of your delay.”

Laine looked up into a beautiful face. A compassionate face. He took her hand and pressed it to his lips. “Thank you, my lady, for your kindness and generosity. I owe you my life.”

“‘Tis only what should be expected for any who came to me the way you did.” Lady Barnard slid her hand from his and retrieved the pitcher from the table. She filled the washbowl, and the steam that rose from the hot water filled the room with the scent of lavender. She took the cloth from his hand and began to wash his body as if he was a small child.

Thoughts of assassins and leaving quieted as he closed his eyes and let himself enjoy her ministrations. The firm pressure as she wiped away the grime and sweat of his illness. The touch of her fingers against his scalp as she soaped his hair.

She stopped and he opened his eyes to find her wiping her hands on the cloth.

“Tilt your head back.”

Laine nodded, then raised his chin toward the ceiling. Rivulets of warm water streamed over aching muscles, and the lavender scent enveloped him like a cocoon as she poured first the washbowl and then the remainder of the water in the ewer over his head.

Laine looked down at the heavy wetness in his lap. “Your coverlet is ruined.” She had not removed the decorative piece, but merely worked around it.

“Nay. A time with the laundress will mend it. Now that you recover, I shall have the bed renewed.”

She went to a trunk at the end of the bed and pulled out a shirt, a short tunic and a pair of trews. “Have you enough strength to put these on?”

“Aye, my lady.”

“I shall fetch your boots.”

She left him alone to dress himself. The clothes were not his and were several years out of fashion, but they fit fairly well. A loud knock at the door announced her return.

“Master de la Vierre?”

“Please enter, my lady.”

She carried his cleaned boots and surprised him when she knelt down to help him pull them on. Most noble ladies would not soil their hands this way. This simple kindness made him want to know more of her.

She looked up and smiled. She had taken off the apron and the yellow of her simple linen gown framed her face, making her skin seem to glow.

He wanted to reach out and stroke her cheek, but decorum restrained him. He could not recall a more beautiful woman than the one kneeling before him.

“There, now.” She stood, extending her arm. “Would you like to try to walk with me?”

Laine smiled as he looked into her pale brown eyes. “Yes, my lady. I think I would like that very much.”

She helped him from the chair, and he took her arm. They took a few tentative steps and then walked to the door and back before he was too tired to continue. His side and legs ached by the time she sat him at the small table.

“You did well,” she chimed. “We will do more anon.” She reached out and touched his shoulder. “You rest and I shall bring you some dinner.”

As she closed the door behind her, Laine thought her unlike any lady of the court. She was a step above in both manner and beauty. Sir Thomas de Barnard had been a very lucky man indeed 

HH: An assassin. Sounds like your hero has an interesting past. I can't wait to find out what happens to these two. What are you working on now?

HRB: Right now I’m finishing up the second book in this trilogy. The sequel to Widow's Peak is called Kissed By A Rose.  It’s about Lady Amye’s son, Jamie. He’s mentioned briefly in Widow’s Peak, but we get to learn a lot more about him in Book 2.  Book 3 in the trilogy will be about Lady Amye’s daughter, Marie.

HH: Thanks so much for joining us today, Hanna.

HRB: Thanks again for having me. I just started my new blog Never Too Late For Love. I would love to hear from all you wonderful Historical Romance fans and authors. I’m running weekly contests through mid-May in honor of my new blogging venture and my upcoming birthday. Stop by at to see what I’m up to.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hyde Park, the Place to See and be Seen

Like cruising in the 80’s, Hyde Park was a favorite place to ride open carriages or horseback to show off clothing, or the latest rig, or horse. It was THE place to see and be seen.

According to one source, the fashionable hour was three hours; from four thirty to seven thirty though there aren't many ladies in evidence 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. However, I don’t beleive dinner was quite that late until perhaps the last years of the regency or the time of George IV. The Ton, or members of the 2,000 aristocratic families at the height of English society, promenaded peacocking and flirting with the others drawn to the place to take part in the social rituals.

A brick wall was built to enclose 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, a corruption of La Route du Roi, or Rotten Row.

On Rotten Row one could be seen, flirt, greet friends, and make others pea green with envy for your 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 are 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 bearing faux crests meant to remind one of the crests of titled lovers whose Lady these courtesans will never be.

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.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bronze Age Badasses

The Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians grew powerful armies with superior arms and technologies. Even though Assyria was the undisputed super power, Persia, Greece and Egypt refused to yield.

Armies surged onto the battlefield in horse drawn chariots. Three men stood in the the chariot, two of which were armed witih bow and arrows.
Armor was used and improved upon as the bronze age smelted into the iron age. Early bronze armor was welded into ringlets around the body giving the soldier the look of the michelin tire guy. this armor was effective against the flaming arrow and sword strike but the warriors own movements were restrained.

Chariots were widely used, the Assyrians being the first to organzie calvalries who rode into battle, aggressively charging the targets to be overcome. Surge machinery was widely used in the forms of catapults and the seige engine: a wooden tower mounted on four wheels. Archers manned the top of the tower while one to two battering rams were mounted upon its pedestal.. Wet leather protcted the engine from flame arrows.
The siege engine was pushed from behind with the rest of the calvalry armed with sword and shield to continue the battle.

The battles took to the seas as well, boats using oar power rammed enemy vessels in the hope of sinking them. Grapnel hooks were used to pull a ship closer to the invader so it could be boarded. Men lined the mast and decks armed with javelins and bows, even stones were thrown to cover those invaders passing from ship to ship. Once on board, the battle would take place with sword and dagger.

Weapons have improved over the years but basic battle strategy has not. As towns grew, fortresses were built to lend protection to the towns and its inhabitants, which necessitated strategies to override town security.

I have to wonder where the diplomats and peace makers were in all of this, my research hasn't uncovered any so far. My next blog will be on famous warriors and battles as we progress through time.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Costume Saga

Continuing with the Medieval Costume Saga, so now I had my muslin pattern for my tunic. It fit, and I made sure the neck opening was large enough for my head, which was a concern. There were no zippers in medieval times, of course, just laces, and I knew I didn't want to deal with laces and hand-made buttonholes, so had to make sure I could pull the garment over my head.
Now it was time to buy the material. SCA members, for the most part, are a knowledgeable bunch when it comes to their garb, and I wanted to be able to wear this to SCA events too. I knew by now what color dyes were used, and that colors were limited. Another caveat: I couldn't wear purple (reserved for royalty) and I didn't want white (soils too easily). I called around town, and found no one had any linen. (Synthetics, by the way, are of course not period). Even JoAnn Fabrics had no linen. I looked on ebay, and Voila! I could get five yards (more than enough) of moss green, which was a good color. I bid, and won, so for less than $20 I got some lovely linen.
The next day, I laid it out on my cutting table (actually the bar counter in my kitchen) and used my Black & Decker cutters (a Christmas gift which I love) to cut out my tunic. After cutting it out, I decided it needed some glitz and glitter. Green linen can look awfully drab.
I went back to ebay, and this time got a scrap of copper-toned linen for neckline and sleeve trim. Halfway through the sewing, I knew I wanted something else, some kind of dressy trim on the copper linen. All the patterns showed trim, and I found some that was green and copper. I sewed it on, and then decided I wanted a few sparkles. The Costume Pageant at the Historical Novel Society conference is at night, after all, so I decided on some teensy Swarovski sew-on crystals.
Except for whipping down the collar and cuffs, and hemming the floor-length tunic, I'm finished. My hat, though, is the most fun—and another story altogether. To read about the HNS conference in June, go to

Friday, April 3, 2009

Werewolf - Legend or Real? You Decide.

While flipping through the TV guide, I happened to see that Jack Nicholsen’s movie “Wolf” is on tonight. This is what spurred the idea of posting a blog article about werewolves.

As a child, I loved being scared by Lon Chaney when he played his wolfman character in the movies. Of course, when I’d go to bed, it seemed the eerie shadows cast against my bedroom wall by the moon’s rays were the werewolf coming to bite me. Like any frightened child, I hide under the covers—afraid to shut my eyes.

I suppose there’s a penchant in all of us that like being frightened. And perhaps this is why we’ve seen a revival in the popularity of werewolves and vampires in novels and on the big screen. (Don’t we all wish we’d written “Twilight?”)

The link between the werewolf of myth as been reshaped by Hollywood, with a medical condition known as lycanthropy, in which the patient develops a taste for raw meat and shows a tendency to howl and run around naked. At the time when the moon was full, anyone being bitten by the werewolf was eternally doomed to sprout a hairy pelt, howl at the moon, and run around scaring the bejeebers out of people.

But, where did the idea of werewolves and vampires originate? Let’s go all the way back to the wolf. Of all animals the wolf is perhaps the most feared in terms of superstition, being a favorite disguise of the Devil, and linked with evil. In times gone by, the mere sight of a wolf was supposed to be enough to render a man dumb, assuming that the wolf saw the man first. Even saying the world “wolf” risked an imminent encounter with one. According to Welsh legend the wolf was created not by God buy by the Devil and the creature has retained its association with evil ever since, being blamed for attacking livestock and humans alike.

This brings us to the werewolf. In pan-European superstition a man, who in certain circumstances, would change into a wolf and then hunt down and feed on human prey. Fear of werewolves is very ancient. People likely to become werewolves are said to include those who were born out of wedlock or had birthdays on Christmas Eve, and anyone who had unusually hair hands and flat fingers or eyebrows that met over the bridge of the nose. In legend some people could control their transformation, becoming wolves by donning wolfskin coats or belts.

Like the vampire, the werewolf was invulnerable to many forms of attack and could only be killed by a silver bullet, which should ideally have been blessed by a priest. Rather more simply, the infected victim may be cursed by calling out three times the Christian name of the person who had been transformed.

So, here’s a question for you. What actually is a werewolf or lycanthropy? Is it fact based on concrete evidences? Is it myth, fabrication of feeble minds? Is it an exaggeration of the wildly superstitious? If you have no answers to these questions—neither do I. All these questions have been puzzling mankind for the last 5 centuries.

Nonetheless, the werewolf phenomenon hasn’t perished yet; recent werewolf sightings are still being reported. You know, I just had a thought—I don’t recall ever reading about women who had become werewolves—only men. Hmmm?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice

My love of the Regency period stems from reading Georgette Heyer's books when I was very young and then in my early teens reading all of Jane Austen's books. Writing in the Regency period means you can include everything from high society to the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars.
All my published books have been set in this time, the heroines are gentry the heroes sometimes aristocrats but all, apart from one, ex-soldiers. It was Bernard Cornwell's wonderful Sharpe books that inspired me to include military gentlemen in my tales. When the books were turned into television films and the gorgeous Sean Bean played Richard Sharpe I had a template for all my heroes.
However I've always wanted to know more about Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley and this year decided to write what I thought might have happened to them during the difficult year they were apart. The book, Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley, is now available on and will be on general release in a few weeks.
Flicking through my ancient copy of Pride and Prejudice I came across some fascinating information about the publication of this book. It was first offered to the publisher Cadell on November the first 1797, as "a manuscript novel comprising three volumes, about the length of Miss Burney's Evelina ... I shall be much obliged ... if you would inform me whether you choose to be concerned in it, what would be the expense of publishing it at the author's risk, what you will venture to advance for the property of it, if on perusal it is approved of.'
Cadell didn't take it and the book was shortened and revised and eventually went to Thomas Egerton of the Military Library in Whitehall for £110 ( it seems that Jane asked for £150). The first printing was around 1500 copies and sold at 18 shillings in boards and appeared in January 1813; it sold out. The second edition appeared in November. The third edition was published by John Murray in 1817. Jane Austen had to wait 16 years before her book was published - imagine if it hadn't been taken? A world without Darcy doesn't bear thinking about!!
On another loop we have been discussing how long it takes nowadays for a new writer to find a publisher. Some of us took only a year others 10 years, but as far as I recall none of the authors waited as long as Jane did to see their book in print.
Fenella Miller