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Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Edelweiss Pirates

Hi Hussies,

I was doing lots of research on guns and warfare and it was playing havoc with my inner peace.
We know for centuries men (let's be honest, most of them were) have studied ways to kill each other off. There have been some military minded women in the past, but the ratio is about one Bodecia per 5 Alexanders, or Alexander want to be's.

As nature strives to remain in balance, I would like to take a look at the peacemakers. Rebels for peace able to look the tyrants in the face and say "no thank you." often, at the risk of their own lives.

One group is the Edelweiss Pirates. Before and during WW2 Hitler Youth grew to be the biggest influence on kids and teens. The Boy Scouts were disbanded and church youth groups were no allowed. After a while participation in the Hitler Youth was mandated by the State. Parents were forced to put their kids in the Hitler Youth.

From working class neighborhoods, youth grew tired of the oppression filtering into their daily lives and they began to rebel. The Edelweiss pirates was born. Their motto:
Eternal war on the Hitler Youth. Some protests were violent, with rocks being thrown at the youth or fights erupting when the odds were good. Some protests were limited to graffiti, while others would sabotage the factories or work places.

Most of the rebels were teens under age 18. Once, 18 young men were conscripted into the army.
Himmler, the head of the SS, became so concerned he ordered the Hitler Youth to be protected from the gangs roaming the streets. Ringleaders were put to death if caught. No one is sure how many rebels there were, but their fight for freedom should not fall to the footnotes of history. They should be remembered and honored for their courage.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where to Elope in Regency England

In the Regency, common law marriages, which the Hardwicke Act outlawed in England and Wales, were still possible in Scotland. As such, the border towns of Scotland became famous for providing these marriages. No ceremony was required, and anyone could officiate, if so desired.

The most famous of the marriage border towns was Gretna Green. Weddings are still a thriving business in Gretna Green. The two pictures above are Gretna Green then (left) and now. Gretna Green also has its own website.

Gretna Green was not the only place for irregular marriages. Other towns, especially in the Eastern Borders of Scotland, also performed quick marriages. While Gretna Green was the destination of choice in the west, these next towns are in east Scotland.

Lamberton, Berwickshire was the most popular of the eastern destinations, since it’s the first Scottish town reached via the Great North Road, the main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh. The toll-keepers provided the marriages at the Old Toll House. Here’s a picture of the Old Toll House in 1890.

The toll-keepers at Paxton and Mordington, other border towns near Lamberton, and also close to the Great North Road, also performed marriages.

Another town is Coldstream, Scottish Borders. The couple would cross the river Tweed using the Coldstream Bridge, which links Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland to Coldstream. As in the other towns, the Toll House, here called the Marriage House, on the Scottish side of the bridge provided common law marriages.

Like Gretna Green, Coldstream still does a thriving business in marriages. Here’s their marriage website:

Who performed these marriages? Anyone who wanted to. Two people need only declare themselves married before two witnesses to be married. Thriving businesses provided a marriage ceremony of sorts, with witnesses and a clergyman, if desired, officiating. These ceremonies would also provide a certificate as proof of the marriage, for when the couple returned home.

Various laws in the early 1800’s changed and restricted these marriages, (, but many of these towns continued their clandestine wedding business almost up to the twentieth century. Nowadays, the most famous, like Gretna Green and Coldstream, still trade on their history as they provide legal marriages.

Thank you all,


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Regency Calling Cards

Calling cards were a considered more than an accessory during the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras. They were an intrical part of polite society. A gentleman or lady always carried them, and would give their card to the footman who answered the door, who would then announce their visit to the gentleman or lady of the house. They also used cards to inform others that they had arrived in town. A lady would wait in her carriage while her groom took her card and handed it in. The card was then presented to the lady of the house, who decided whether or not to receive. If the lady was 'not at home', she was rejecting her visitor. A reciprocal card may be given to the caller, but unless it was formally presented, she had no apparent desire to continue the acquaintance. If, however, a formal call was returned, followed by a formal call, the visiting lady could entertain hope for the relationship.

Gentlemen often place their addresses on their cards. According to an etiquette book of later in the century, the address of town house and main seat were included in the corners-- one in each corner. A married lady naturally placed her married name on her card, such as Mrs. James Jones. Days and times for “at home days” were also engraved upon cards.

Quality calling cards were made from a high-quality paper, often plain as ornamentation on a card was considered to be poor taste until later in the 19th century, and were engraved. They were kept in beautiful cases, which during the Regency era, were primarily of filigree, leather and tortoiseshell, but later in the century became more elaborate; ivory, tortoiseshell and woodwork. Late in the Victorian era, they were sometimes painted with views of castles or scenery. A gentleman’s card case was slightly smaller than a lady’s, since he had to carry it in his pocket.

Visits were most often made in the afternoon; as a general rule, new acquaintances between 3-4pm, frequent acquaintances between 4-5pm and close friends would after 5pm. Visits from acquaintances other than close family friends lasted no more than 15 minutes and their conversations seldom deviated outside of one's health and the weather. The custom became more and more elaborate as the century progressed, but the tradition of calling cards has lasted, evolving into business cards, which are seldom used outside of business.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Release

"Kindertransport" will be released by The Wild Rose Press on the seventh of August. Paste this link to the address bar to find it.


I filled a syringe with morphine.Could innocent blood ever be washed away?
Would my hands ever be clean again if I continued on this course?

The gas would make them choke, gasping for breath as life was strangled to nothingness. Morphine would make them euphoric, and an overdose would put them to sleep, peacefully, with no pain. A sleep from which they would not awake, but they would be safe from the evil that awaited them otherwise.

I filled the second syringe. I thought of each child as I punctured the rubber stopper, the needle sucking up the lethal fluid filling the tube. Little Wilhelm. My treasured leader of the pack. The braces on his legs never stopped his imagination from soaring.

Lara. An artist’s soul expressed with the one good hand she had. Art reflective of the beauty living in her heart.
The twins. Isn’t intelligence measured with creativity? I would sorely miss their energy.

My hand slipped., and the needle grazed the knuckle of my thumb. I swore and bit my lip. Perfect. I’ll kill myself before I get a chance to euthanize my children. Then, after I enter Heaven’s gate, if He lets me inside them, God can tell me I am an idiot and a murderer.

I rubbed my shoulders. They hunched with an invisible weight that made my back ache.

Constructing a Medieval Castle

Kent Dover Castle--late 11th Century--England

Building a medieval castle was quite a feat. Requiring literally armies of craftsmen, from stone cutters to woodsmen, the project would take many years.
Materials Used in Medieval Castle Construction

In the beginning, castles were constructed out of wood, stone and mortar. The earlier the castle, the more wood was employed. Early castles were built in the motte-and-bailey style. The builders would mound up dirt to create a flat-topped hill. This was edged on the top by a wooden fence called a bailey, and the castle and other outbuildings were housed inside.

Later castles replaced the wooden bailey with a stone wall, and many of the outer buildings were incorporated into the structure of the castle. Wood was used for framing, scaffolding, ceilings and floors, and stone became the material of choice for everything else. Local stone was used for the most part, with decorative pieces being shipped in for special uses. Metals like lead (used for roofing), tin and iron were needed as well.

The construction process for a castle involved a bevy of workers. Some were paid, and some were conscripted to work on the castle.

A variety of laborers and craftsmen were needed, including woodcutters, quarrymen, master masons, ditch diggers, miners, smiths, carpenters and carters.

Major construction was directly dependent on good weather, and most work was only done during the months between April and November. Castles managed to "grow" only by 8 to 10 feet of height per year.

The outer walls of the castle were first made of large timbers, but they rotted quickly and were susceptible to fire. Stone replaced wood as the material of choice for curtain walls, as they were called.

If possible, workers quarried down to the bedrock, and then leveled it off before setting the base row of stones for the wall. If they could not get to the bedrock, they dug large trenches, placed the stones and filled around them with rubble, which was then compressed.
Walls surrounding medieval castles ranged from 30 to 44 feet high and anywhere from 7 to 20 feet thick.

Windows were not built into the lower floors of medieval castles, as they were difficult to defend. Upper levels had window openings with seats built in. At first, they were open, covered only by heavy curtains. As time passed, they built larger windows that were closed with wooden shutters or heavy oiled parchment.

Glass was not used for a long time, and when it finally came into use in the later years of the medieval period, it was so expensive that the window glass was removed when the lord of the castle was not in residence.

Building a medieval castle was no easy feat. It took money, time and the effort of a very large crew of skilled and unskilled workers. It is amazing that so many castles were built in the medieval period when you take all of this into consideration. Those that remain are testaments to the skill and imagination of those who have gone before, and leave us with bit of romantic nostalgia for a time that has long disappeared. Lawmen and Outlaws Anthology now available a bookstores and

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Eloping in Regency England

The scene is a common one in Regency romance: the young lovers, denied permission to marry, flee to Scotland to take their vows. Most of the action derives from the pursuit by the outraged parents to prevent the marriage.

I don't know how many of these stories I read before I asked why did they go all the way to Scotland? Scotland is about 320 miles from London. Even on the Great North Road, the main thoroughfare from London to Edinburgh, the trip, at the average carriage pace of about 5-7 miles an hour (we’ll assume 7), twelve hours a day, would take about four days. And we’re not including stops to change the horses, eat, or other personal necessities. Why not run to the next town, find the nearest clergyman, and tie the knot there?

The answer lies in the Marriage Act of 1753, also called the Hardwicke Act. This law invalidated marriages if either or both of the parties involved were under twenty-one and did not have the consent of the parents or guardians.

The law’s purpose was to prevent scoundrels from eloping with heiresses for their money. Did it work? To some extent. But it also created a flourishing trade in quick Scottish marriages because the Hardwicke Act was law only in England and Wales.

People over twenty-one also eloped. The Hardwicke Act required the calling of the banns for three successive weeks before a marriage could take place, as well as a formal ceremony in a church. Alternatively, one could purchase a special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury in London, which allowed a marriage to take place at any time, in any place.

But a trip to Scotland was quicker than waiting three weeks, and cheaper than the special license, which cost five pounds sterling in 1811. Since a laborer at the time earned about 15-20 pounds a year, five pounds was an enormous sum for many. And the prospective couple would have to wait an unspecified time to receive their special license, if they went that route.

The destination of choice for many eloping couples was Gretna Green, in Dumfries and Galloway, the most famous of the Scottish towns for irregular marriages.

But Gretna Green was not the only Scottish town that trafficked in quick marriages. Other Scottish border villages that had a flourishing trade in quick marriages were Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton, Mordington and Paxton Toll.

More on these towns in my next post.

Thank you all,


Monday, August 3, 2009

Some lovely fashion plates from Regency England

This is evening wear from La Belle Assemblee, listed as Parisian Fashions, taken from a Group of Conversation Figures at the Frescati, in Paris.

The gentlemen look smashing, too, but only the lady’s gown is described.

A white Italian crape robe, over a white satin slip, ornamented round the bottom and drapery with a border of shells, painted to nature. Plain scolloped bosom cut very low, and made to sit close to the form. Waved sleeves, easily full, formed of alternate stripes of crape and pink satin. Hair, bound in smooth bands, confined on the forehead, and ornamented behind with wreaths of wild roses. Earrings and necklace of pearls. Shoes, pink satin, trimmed with silver. White kid gloves, rucked.

This is an interesting picture comparing 18th century fashion with the "new" Regency Style. The new is listed as a “July Gown.” Isn’t it charming? It’s very much in the classical style. The two silhouettes of the ladies are so different that the the older generation must have thought the new styles indecent. This appeared in the Ladies Monthly Museum as a Full Dress, yet description seems to have focused on the hair:

Hair fashionably Dressed ornamented with white Flowers and Ostrich Feathers. A Train of clear Muslin over a Dress of Lilac Sarsenet; round the Bottom of the Train a deep White Lace; the sleeves made very full, and looped up with a Diamond Button. White Gloves, and Lilac Ridicule.