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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Suicide of Lord Castlereagh

© By Cheryl Bolen

Since I strive for authenticity in my Regency-era historicals, especially in my Regent Mysteries, I try to use many personages who actually existed. English Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh makes a few appearances in my A Most Discreet Inquiry (Regent Mysteries, Book 2).

Born Robert Stewart in Ireland in 1769, he was elevated to Viscount Castlereagh at the age of 26 when his father became the Earl of Londonderry. Two years earlier he had entered the English House of Commons, where he would serve until his death in 1822 and which he would lead for the last decade of his life.
Lord Castlereagh
The same year he entered the English Parliament, 1794, was also the year in which he married Amelia (Emily) Hobart, daughter of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire. Castlereagh's maternal grandfather (Francis Seymour Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford) as well as his father-in-law had both served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Lord and Lady Castlereagh were devoted to each other but never had children. Lady Castlereagh became well known in London as one of the patronesses of Almack's.

As Secretary of War in 1809, he challenged Foreign Secretary George Canning to a duel at Putney Heath. In the duel, he shot Canning in the leg and had to leave government for the next three years.

He returned in 1812, at the age of 43, becoming Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a position her held for ten tumultuous years, while also leading the Tories in the House of Commons. Despite that he worked tirelessly for his country to ensure a lasting European peace, he was extremely unpopular not only with the populace he served but also among newspaper editors and political cartoonists.

He succeeded his father as Marquess of Londonderry in 1821, but since it was a non-representative Irish peerage, he could still serve as leader of the House of Commons of Great Britain.

Two weeks before his suicide the next year he began suffering from paranoia, which could be attributed to the years of abuse by an angry citizenry and press, overwork, or even gout. He imagined himself persecuted from every quarter and became irrational and incoherent. His devoted wife continued sleeping with him but removed pistols and razors from his reach and kept in close contact with her husband's physician, Dr. Bankhead, who had cupped him.

Three days before his death he met with King George IV, who became upset over Castlereagh's mental state, as did the Duke of Wellington, with whom he was close. Knowing that he was losing his mind, Castlereagh left London for Loring Hall, his country estate in Kent.

The morning of his death he became violent with his wife, accusing her of being in a conspiracy against him. She left their bedroom to call the doctor. That was when her husband went to his dressing room with a small knife which he had managed to hide. He stabbed himself in the carotid artery. Just as Dr. Bankhead entered the room, he said, "Let me fall on your arm, Bankhead. It's all over!"

The nation was shocked. Even his bitter parliamentary opponent Whig Henry Brougham mourned him. "Put all their other men together in one scale, and poor Castlereagh in the other – single he plainly weighed them down," Brougham said. "Also he was a gentleman, the only one amongst them." 

Lord Byron did not agree. He wrote over his grave:

Posterity will ne'er survey
A nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss.

Despite the circumstances of his death—attributed to insanity—the longtime Foreign Secretary was buried in Westminster Abbey near his political ally and mentor William Pitt. –Cheryl Bolen keeps a blog,




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A DISTINCT FLAIR FOR WORDS, Book 3 of Love and the Library, Is Here!

A Distinct Flair for Words, the latest in my Regency Love and the Library series, is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and Apple.
Love and the Library - A celebration of the beginnings of love wherein four young Regency gentlemen meet their matches over a copy of “Pride and Prejudice” at the library. 

Book 3: Felicity and Frank

Every woman should have her own Mr. Darcy--unless she prefers Mr. Bingley.

Something strange goes on in that library.

Not one, but two of Mr. Frank Wynne’s friends found the ladies of their dreams at the library over a copy of “Pride and Prejudice”. Magic? Divine providence? Hardly. Coincidence or luck? Perhaps. And to prove or disprove the possibilities, he’ll go to the library and read “Pride and Prejudice”. Day after day after day. To his surprise, the book is funny, and he does like that Bingley chap. His lady doesn’t appear, though. Of course not. But still…

Miss Felicity White adores “Pride and Prejudice”. But while most ladies swoon over Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley is the man after her own heart. Happy, good-natured, cheerful, outgoing Mr. Bingley. She loves him so much, she even rewrote “Pride and Prejudice” from his perspective. Now, if she can only find a gentleman like him…

When Felicity and Frank run into each other, the enchantment of “Pride and Prejudice” and the library just might strike again.

A sweet, traditional Regency romance, but not a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice.” 45,000 words.

I write in the style of my favorite author, Barbara Metzger. If you like her Regency comedies, you may enjoy mine.


“I have the most wonderful news!” Felicity maneuvered herself and Frank to the only two seats together. Unfortunately, they were in the middle of the semicircle, with ladies on both sides
Frank sat on the edge of his seat. The chairs’ arrangement was unnervingly like a gigantic feminine claw, ready to snap shut on a tasty treat.
He stilled. Mayhap if he didn’t move, they would forget he was there. And pigs will fly.
Miss Barrett clapped and the murmuring ladies quieted. “Felicity, please tell us your news.”
Felicity popped up. “You know I have written Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Bingley’s viewpoint.” She gave a little bounce. “Mr. Blackmore of Blackmore Publishing has requested the manuscript!”
Feminine squeals reverberated around the room. Miss Barrett rose to shake Felicity’s hand. “Well done. Mayhap you will pave the way to the future, when others will want to read about the further adventures of the Pride and Prejudice characters.”
Miss Liddell, one of the ladies who had squinted when he entered, squinted anew. “I doubt anyone will want to read about Mr. Wickham’s experiences. Or Lydia’s.”
“Never say never.” Miss Nisbet, seated at Frank’s other side, sniffed. “Some people enjoy tales about villains. I daresay they like to see the blackguards receive their just deserts.” She leaned closer to Frank. “Have you read Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Wynne?”
Gazes on both sides of the pincer-like arrangement of chairs closed in on him. More perspiration broke out on his forehead. “Yes, I have.” Outnumbered. Perhaps he had better say as little as possible.
Miss Liddell squinted again. “You are unusual, sir. Most men do not read novels. Or at least, they claim not to.”
He flashed his most winning smile, the one that normally made the ladies melt. Almost-clergyman he might be, but that did not preclude him from appreciating the fairer sex. “I am not most men.”


Amazon US 

Also available in all the other Amazon stores.

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords (note, all formats are available on Smashwords):


Coming soon to Kobo.

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

Regency Food & Seasons

I recently taught a workshop for the RWA's Beau Monde chapter on Regency Food & Seasons. I was delighted to be awarded for Excellence in Teaching for the workshop. And so here is a bit of information from that workshop.

When talking about the Regency seasons, which includes holidays and seasonal food, we need to keep in mind a couple of things.

The first is that calendars have changed over the ages. We had the Julian Calendar in use from 45 BC on through the 1500's. By the 1500's this calendar was showing problems in not tracking days accurately. From the mid 1500's through 1752, multiple calendars were in place, and different New Years days were around—this is still a headache for historians.

In 1750, an Act of Parliament established the Georgian Calendar which went into effect in 1752. Days were lost and changed around and it took some time for some folks to adopt the new dates.

All of this matters because it affected what celebrations were held—meaning the very important feast days.

A good article on all this can be found here:

Now, by the Regency, the Georgian Calendar was well into effect. However, do keep in mind that this calendar change happened within living memory of those Georgians—it was only two generations in the past.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the world of the early 1800’s was a highly localized world: this is the era before mass production and well before mass information. This means that local traditions were deeply entrenched—folks in Devon would have a different set of traditions than folks in Yorkshire. Meaning different foods, recipes, and seasonal events.

The unifying force in all tradition, however, was the Church.

This started as “The” Church—the Catholic Church. The Church, in turn, adopted many of the holidays that were part of local pagan celebrations. This was a great conversion tool—it’s often hard to get someone to give up their feast days, so it was often easier to add in a Saint’s Day or set up a feast that could be a sanctioned Church holy day instead of trying to get the locals to give up their fun by disapproval. (Decking the halls with holy is an ancient Celtic tradition that made its way into the Church sanctioned Christmas tradition.)

Celtic and Nordic traditions also influenced Saxon ways and foods (as in pickled fish), which in turn influenced Norman ways. In general, you’ll find more Nordic/Viking influence along coasts of England and along major river ways—places where Viking raids were a regular occurrence. The Welsh, Scottish, and Irish held onto their Celtic influences, so their lands would be places where old Celtic traditions and foods were stronger.

After Henry VIII, the Church of England split from “Popeish” ways. The C of E did not toss out the holy days, but the idea of High Mass was dropped along with other trappings, and religious reform brought in yet a new influence. It also brought in new foods since a number of these Protestants held with plain fare. But traditions—the old ways—are still celebrated: as in the Celtic Holiday of Samhain (pronounced sa-win) became All Saints (or All Hallows, and All Hallows Eve became Halloween)—and with that came the feasts that went with those seasons.

A couple of good calendar of C of E saint’s days and movable feast days are:

(For some, it might be easier to look at the C of E calendar as the seasons set up for church celebrations:

Another good source of information is any Book of Days. For example, the Norwich Book of Days gives holidays and important dates and traditions for Norwich:

As we go through the workshop, we’ll talk more about other resources, but it’s good to remember that you’ll want to decide on your fictional character’s history; what are their local roots (if they have any), do they have a predisposition for adopting new foods coming into England? Or do they hold with traditional fare?

Always remember this is about research to build characters, and every person is more than an individual—a character has the influence of family, society, upbringing, and all the trappings of their world.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Regency Lady's Companion

by Donna Hatch

Lady's companions play an indispensable role in the proper English lady’s life in Regency England. They act as the guardian of a young lady and her reputation, which can be so easily sullied by even the appearance of untoward behavior. Even the simple act of walking around without a proper chaperon could call into question a lady’s reputation. A mother or father, of course, are preferred guardians. But if a parent is unavailable, a companion is the perfect solution.

A lady’s companion is an overlooked and under-appreciated member of the household. She can be a relative, or a poor relation, perhaps a widowed or maiden aunt who is relying upon the kindness of her family. She must be older than the lady—younger companions simple wouldn’t do for a gently bred young lady.  I have heard of younger companions for old spinsters who are no longer considered marriage material, but young companions are probably more for companionship and help, than truly to guard the reputation of an older lady.

They not be related at all.  They may simple be a member of the gentry, usually educated and have good manners. Since there were paid companions, they could have been ladies whose family has fallen upon hard times which has forced them to find employment. Because there were few acceptable employment options for a member of the gentry or aristocracy, becoming a teacher, a governess, or if they were older, a paid companion were their most likely occupations.

A maid or other lower born servant is never a proper companion. They can be too easily bullied or bribed to disappear and thus no be a reliable guardian for a young lady’s virtue.

So the next time you read in a Regency romance novel about a companion, spare them a kind thought for their vital role to the fragile reputation of their young charges.