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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome Susan Higginbotham and THE STOLEN CROWN

Linda Banche here. Historical Hussies is delighted to host guest blogger Susan Higginbotham. Susan's latest historical novel is The Stolen Crown, set in 1400's England during the Wars of the Roses.

Welcome Susan!

Hi Linda, thanks for hosting me!

The Stolen Crown, my novel about Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham and his wife, Katherine Woodville, opens with a secret marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, Katherine’s older sister. But although Edward chose to marry Elizabeth in secret, he pulled out all of the stops the following year, when he gave her a grand coronation on May 26, 1465. Fortunately for the historical novelist, a detailed description of the ceremony exists and was printed by George Smith in 1935 in a book entitled, aptly enough, The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville.

Though references to my hero and heroine are relatively scant before 1483, when Buckingham first helped Richard III to the throne and later rebelled against him, we know, thanks to this document, that both Harry and Kate were present at the 1465 coronation. At the time, Harry was nine, and Kate was probably around seven. Since Kate is named in the record as “the yong Duches of Buk” (the elder duchess was Harry’s grandmother), she and Harry were probably already married. The youthful couple had a unique vantage point from which to view the ceremonies: both children were carried in the procession upon the shoulders of squires. For the sake of the squires, one hopes that Harry and Kate were not hefty children.

Kate, like all of the other duchesses and countesses, was clad in a surcoat of red velvet and ermine. The queen herself, naturally enough, wore a mantle of purple.

Unless the nature of small boys has changed drastically over the past five hundred years, Harry was probably thoroughly bored by the ceremony, but there was one compensation: he and his younger brother, Humphrey, had been made Knights of the Bath as part of the festivities leading up to the coronation.

Elizabeth’s mother, Jacquetta Woodville, the Duchess of Bedford, was one of the ladies following the queen, but Edward’s mother, Cecily, Duchess of York, was notably absent, perhaps because she did not approve of her son’s marriage to a commoner. Edward’s brother George and his sister Margaret were present, however. The king himself was absent, but this should not be taken as a snub: it seems to have been the custom for a fifteenth-century English king to stay away from his queen’s coronation, or at least to conceal his presence. Some rather arcane explanations have been offered for this, but I like to think that the reason could be more simple and pleasant: by staying out of view, the king allowed his spouse to have center stage on her very special day.


On May Day, 1464, six-year-old Katherine Woodville, daughter of a duchess who has married a knight of modest means, awakes to find her gorgeous older sister, Elizabeth, in the midst of a secret marriage to King Edward IV. It changes everything—for Kate and for England.

Then King Edward dies unexpectedly. Richard III, Duke of Gloucester, is named protector of Edward and Elizabeth's two young princes, but Richard's own ambitions for the crown interfere with his duties...

Lancastrians against Yorkists: greed, power, murder, and war. As the story unfolds through the unique perspective of Kate Woodville, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone is wholly evil—or wholly good.


Susan Higginbotham is the author of three historical fiction novels. The Traitor's Wife, her first novel, is the winner of ForeWord Magazine's 2005 Silver Award for historical fiction and is a Gold Medalist, Historical/Military Fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. She writes her own historical fiction blog and is a contributor to the blog Yesterday Revisited. Higginbotham has worked as an editor and an attorney, and lives in North Carolina with her family. For more information please visit and her blog,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Regency Men's Clothing; pants, breeches, pantaloons, oh my!

Any well-heeled gentleman knows the importance of being well-turned out, if he hopes to catch the ladies' eyes, or even be accepted among their peers. Here are what Regency Romance Novel heroes would wear, based on what they really wore in Regency England.

Breeches, (pronounced britches) by the Regency era were considered old-fashioned. They are very baggy through the hips and seat. The exception was buckskin breeches, which are made of leather, and were quite tight, even being well molded to the body, like Levi's. That actually paints a nice visual, doesn't it? ;-)

Most breeches had a front fall which is a flap that covers the front opening. Early in the era the flap was a wide fall, going all the way across from hip to hip (think of the outer seam of the pants we wear today). Later, the fall narrowed, going only from hip-bone to hip-bone. Both falls worked in exactly the same way; the waistband buttoned, usually with 2-3 buttons, then the fall closed like a bib over the otherwise open front area of the pants.
Side by side drawing of wide and narrow falls which comes from:

There was a style called the "French fly", which is a simply a center front fly, but most Regency Englishmen didn't wear this style because they felt the French fly was somehow indecent and shouldn't be seen. In the painting "Passer Payez", Boilly c. 1803. The gentleman in the center is wearing breeches with a "French fly" which, isn't a suprise since it's a French painting. I think it's more flattering. This picture was taken from

Men in Regency England didn't use belts. Instead, pants of all types would have been held up by "X" crossed braces (suspenders). In England it had to do with the length of the waistcoat. When the waistcoat was long enough to cover the front of the trouser, you saw both front-fall and French fly configurations. When fashion shortened the waistcoat, the front-fall was the most popular method of closure. Personally, I don't see much difference in modesty but at the time, it mattered. Shrug.

A pair of breeches, front view, close, c. 1770s.

Back views of same. See how baggy it is?

Buckskin breeches, c. 1790s

1790s breeches, with a close up of the fastening which hides a pocket.

These are the slimmest breeches I've ever seen, and these were made by a reenactor. See how they are still much baggier through the hip than pantaloons?

These breeches are from Sense and Sensibility. Note now baggy they are, and how the fall gapes when the man bends over; Edwards are baggier than Willoughby's, Edward being more conservative in manners and dress, so that's a nice detail.

Buckskin breeches were the jeans of the 19th century. They were comfortable and generally fairly form-fitting, so in my humble opinion, flattering. This is circa 1815. In the detail shots that the waistband comes up higher than the fall, and that the knee has both buttons and ties. This one is my favorite.

On my next post, we'll discuss pantaloons for the Regency Gentleman. 'til then!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Medieval Headwear

The earliest head coverings were probably rough clothes or skins designed to protect the wearer from the elements. Through the years, head covers evolved to reflect the status and culture of the wearer.
During the early Middle Ages, women wore simple coifs, wimples, and veils. Coifs were just close-fitting caps, as in this picture, a later painting of young Edward VI by Holbein. Edward wears a coif of cloth-of-gold beneath a feathered hat. Essentially, a, a coif is very similar to a baby's bonnet.
Wimples were cloth head coverings, much like that worn by nuns to this day. However, the cloths could be elaborately folded and starched to become an attractive framework for the face of a medieval woman.
Veils have been worn since early times. In the 13th century B.C. their wear was restricted to noblewomen. Commoners and prostitutes were forbidden to wear them. Later, veils were worn by all women, and it became common for ladies to cover their hair and face when in public.
I’ll be covering 14th and 15th century headgear in future blogs. A good overview of medieval costume and accessories is Medieval Costume in England and France, by Mary G. Houston.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Is Everyone Named George?

Many unique factors define a historical period--technology, politics, wars or the lack thereof. Social manners and mores also define an era, including the names parents give their children. The English Regency (1811-1820) was no exception.

In England, the name of the reigning monarch was always popular with the parents of newborns. In the Regency, as for the previous 100 years since George I ascended the throne in 1714, that name was "George" (George III pictured). George Washington, born in 1732, took his name from George II (reigned 1727-1760). George Gordon Byron, the famous Regency poet, Lord Byron, (born 1788) was named for George III (reigned 1760-1820). Girls were not exempt from the trend--Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, born in 1757, was named, like George Washington, for George II.

The name "George" was so important and so popular that the entire era preceding the Regency, from the start of the reign of George I (1714) to 1811, was named the Georgian era.

After "George", the names of kings and queens from the Norman Conquest onward were popular, especially among the upper echelons of society. For boys, popular names were John, William, Richard, Henry, Charles, James, Edward, and the Saxon kings' names Harold and Edmund. Girls' names included Elizabeth, Mary and Anne, monarchs in their own right, as well as the kings' consorts, Charlotte (George III), Catherine and Jane (Henry VIII), Emma (Canute the Great), Eleanor (Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II).

Caroline, the name of the Prince Regent's wife, was also popular, as well as the names of the Regent’s sisters, the princesses Sophia, Augusta, and Amelia, and his brothers, the princes Frederick, Alfred, and Adolphus.

Biblical names, with a few exceptions, such as Susanna and Sarah, were not popular with the Beau Monde. A footman might be named Joseph, but his master, the earl, would not share the name.

Here are a few links for finding Regency names:

Jo Beverley's site:

And here's a Regency name generator:

Thank you all,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Interview with Regency Romance Author, Sarah M. Eden

Sarah Eden's new book is a must-have among readers who like historical, and anyone who loves funny, quirky, lovable characters. Her new book, "Courting Miss Lancaster" pairs her deliciously snarky humor with her gift for raising the heart rate of her readers.
But I'll let Sarah explain.

Donna: Your wit kills me. Does it have a traceable source, like family?

Sarah: My family has lived in the arid deserts of Arizona since before the invention of air conditioning. So insanity runs in my family. Not something most people would include on a resume, but it's great for an author. Writing requires a certain degree of mental instability. And a tendency toward insomnia. I write a lot at night and while my kids are at school and any time I am supposed to be cleaning my house. My 6-year-old describes my books this way: “Kissy, romantic books where the people lived a long time ago and talked funny.” Yep, pretty much. I write clean romances that take place in Regency England (think the first two decades of the 1800s: Napoleon, Jane Austen, Mad King George). The endings are always happy, the characters are usually funny and my mom thinks they are amazing.

Donna: So do I, and so do a whole bunch of other people! So, where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

Sarah: Perhaps the single greatest source of inspiration for me lies in the fact that writing gives me an excuse to avoid responsible things. “Wow, I have very large piles of dishes on the counters (yes, plural) of my kitchen. Sorry. I need to write.” “The PTA is hoping I will bake 6 dozen cupcakes for the bake sale in a half-hour. Sorry. I need to write.” “What is that, children? You want dinner? There are frozen waffles in the freezer. Mom needs to write.” Inspiration? Check.

Donna: Do you have any challenges to getting your thoughts on paper?

Sarah: I have a deep and unshakable need to consume large quantities of unnecessary and useless calories (and by this I mean Cheetos). This need creates another need—to exercise my backside, hips and gut off. These very real needs often get in the way of my writing. To my joy, I have managed to invent, in many different versions, a contraption made up of very large books, packing tape and the back of the sofa in my living room which allows me to type while spending some quality time with my elliptical machine while burning calories to which I'd rather not become too permanently attached. I would take a picture, but it's pretty embarrassing. Embarrassingly awesome! I am also developing a system by which I can type and eat at the same time. I call it “Click, click, click, chew.” Fascinating. I'm thinking of writing a book about it.

Donna: Where do you begin a book, plot or character?

Sarah: My books always begin with a character, oddly enough. The plot and setting develop around him or her. I write romances, so the next step is deciding what kind of person would be the love-interest for that character. Then I flesh out where and exactly when within my time period these people live, their circumstances, etc. Those things which come in the way of their being together are usually obvious at this point—if not, I figure that out. So, my ideas come from people. This is probably the primary reason I have no friends — everyone is afraid they'll end up in my next book. It probably doesn't help that I tell them about this possibility.

Donna: Tell us about your most recent Regency Romance novel, Courting Miss Lancaster.

Sarah: About 200 pages.
Oh... wait. I get what you mean. Let me refer to the oh-so-handy back of the book:
Harry Windover adores blonde, green-eyed Athena Lancaster, but alas, a penniless man like himself has no hope of winning a young noblewoman's hand. To add insult to injury, Athena's brother-in-law and guardian, the Duke of Kielder, has asked Harry to assist Athena in finding the gentleman of her dreams. But the lovesick Harry is cunning as well: as the weeks pass, he introduces Athena to suitors who are horrifically boring, alarmingly attached to their mothers, downright rude, astoundingly self-absorbed, and utterly ridiculous.
Athena can't comprehend why she is having so little success meeting eligible and acceptable gentlemen. Indeed, her circle of admirers couldn't be less admirable--nothing like the loyal, gentle friend she's found in Harry.
But how long can Harry's scheme be hidden before it is discovered? And what will Athena do when she uncovers Harry's deception?

Donna: I love it!! Tell me, what are you working on right now?

Sarah: I am currently writing a sort-of-sequel to Courting Miss Lancaster. It follows the misadventures of another Lancaster sister — timid and uncertain Daphne — as she attempts to find love despite almost overwhelming obstacles. She comes up against snooty Peers, selfish matrons and even the dreaded “Love Triangle!” Now, that's gonna be an amazing story!

Donna: Oooh, that sounds great. Other than writing, what else do you do with your time.

Sarah: When my daughter was in preschool, she made me a Mothers Day card in which she answered several questions about me. Her answer to the question “What does your mom like to do most?” was “Not cook.” So, there you go.
I also enjoy reading and music and not sleeping (though “enjoy” isn't precisely the right word for that last one—more like “accept begrudgingly”).
In all my free time, (rolling my eyes), I am a regular contributor at, a presenter at various writing conferences, a Mommy-Taxi and an interviewer-extraordinaire for my recurring blog segment “I Need Friends Friday” at

Donna: Where can readers buy Courting Miss Lancaster?

Sarah: Courting Miss Lancaster can be found at Deseret Book stores and Seagull bookstores. A link to purchase online can be found at my website,

Donna: "Courting Miss Lancaster" sounds like great fun and I hope people will hurry and get a copy. I know they'll be glad. The trailer is at