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Friday, August 25, 2017

Treasure Houses of England: Hatfield House

Hatfield House
Note: Cheryl is writing a series on the ten Treasure Houses of England, which have been selected for their grandeur, architecture, furnishings, landscape, and historical significance. See the website at

© Cheryl Bolen


Queen Elizabeth I spent much of her childhood at Hatfield Palace, which had been home to the Bishops of Ely since the Middle Ages.  It was here that she learned she was the new queen, following the death of her half-sister Queen Mary.  All that remains of the 1480 palace is a red-brick hall where banquets are still held.

Beginning in 1607, Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury and younger son of Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister William Cecil (Lord Burghley), began constructing the present Jacobean mansion, using many of the red bricks from the demolition of Hatfield Palace. Robert Cecil had succeeded his father as a minister to Queen Elizabeth I, and after her death he served as chief minister to James I. It was from James I that Robert Cecil obtained Hatfield Palace. 

The king, much taken with Cecil’s Theobalds in Hertfordshire (now gone), offered to exchange Hatfield for Theobalds. Hatfield’s new construction took five years to complete and cost £11,000. Robert Cecil died in 1612, just after the completion of Hatfield House. He is buried at the old parish church adjacent to the property.

In the reign of George III, James Cecil (1748-1823) was created the 1st Marquess of Salisbury. The 3rd Marquess (1830-1903), served three times as Prime Minister to Queen Victoria.  As chairman of the Great Eastern Railway, he was instrumental in getting the Hatfield Rail Station located just beyond the gates of his family home. Lord David Cecil (1902-1986), a noted scholar, historian, and author, grew up at Hatfield House. The house is still owned and occupied by the present Marquess of Salisbury and is one of the 10 Treasure Houses of England.


With the advent of the railway, Hatfield’s entrance was reoriented to the north, where visitors now enter. The original south entrance was designed by Inigo Jones, who received £10 for his drawing. The original entrance is much more impressive with its long loggia flanked by ogee-topped double towers and a clock tower at the center.

Hatfield House, comprised of 223 rooms, is considered the finest and best known Jacobean house in England. The marble hall on the ground floor, so named for its checkered floor of white and black marble, has retained its Jacobean appearance. Original, intricately carved wooden screens stand at either end of the chamber. The hall features a minstrels’ gallery and huge Belgian tapestries. World leaders today still gather around the long table that can seat 70. 

A climb up the grand Jacobean staircase (with original wooden dog gates) brings visitors to the first floor and the James I drawing room adorned with rich, deep greens and reds. Despite its large size, the room looks cozy with its intimately gathered conversation areas. A life-size statue of James I is incorporated into the overmantel. Walls are sheathed in tapestries which serve as a backdrop to a collection of priceless paintings, including those of Elizabeth I and of the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury and others painted by Reynolds and Lawrence. A trio of tall bayed windows floods the room with light.

A 180-feet long gallery connects the James I drawing room on the east wall with the library on the western wall. The library is among the finest in England. A large fireplace is center point to the symmetrical room. Its north and south walls feature galleries that are balustraded in gilded iron and are accessible by handsome wood steps. The library houses many rare manuscripts, including letters from Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.

The winter dining room was constructed in the early 19th century from two smaller rooms. Far more intimate than the hall, this dining room seats 14.

Original to the home, the marble-floored chapel was remodeled in Victorian times but still retains the early 17th century stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes.

A tour of the house (guided on weekdays) includes the long, ground-floor gallery/loggia that is used as an armory and the massive original kitchen, which has been restored to look as it did in 1832.


The 14-minute walk from the rail station is mostly through alleys of trees and alongside the broad lawn leading up to the present entrance. The 1,000-acre park offers vineyards, parterre gardens, a wilderness garden, a children’s play area, picnic sites, the 16-acre Broadwater, and park walks.
Closest to the house is the West Parterre Garden, designed in Victorian times by the 3rd Marquess’s younger daughter, Gwendolen Cecil, and still meticulously maintained.  It is bordered by verdant arbors, and perfectly sculpted shrubs guard the entry points. The Scented Garden (another parterre) lies beyond the West Parterre, and the knot garden backs up to the Old Palace. Another well-maintained formal garden faces the original south front of Hatfield House.  Though it is not open to the public, it can be photographed from a viewing bay.
Hatfield's Knot Garden adjacent to the Old Palace

Visitors can pick up a free leaflet from the gift shop or the garden kiosk that will give them a map of three separate walks through the grounds. The walks are 1, 2, or 3.2 miles.  Some oak trees in the park have been dated to over 700 years old.  The original oak where Queen Elizabeth I learned of her accession to the throne is now gone, but in 1985 Queen Elizabeth II planted another at what is believed to be the original site. A children’s play area is located north of the Elephant Dell picnic site. For those not bringing lunches, a restaurant is available in the old stable yard northeast of Hatfield House. (No picnickers allowed here.) 

One of the loveliest features on the grounds is Broadwater, formed by a dam in the River Lee. The castle folly dates to 1780, but the wall around the secret garden was built much earlier, in 1633.--Cheryl Bolen's newest release is a Regency Romance titled Miss Hastings' Excellent London Adventure. See book list, excerpts, and articles on Regency England at

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Art of Self-Defense by Katherine Bone!

Katherine, here! I’ve been researching historical forms of self-defense for my September 7th release, The Mercenary Pirate. My hero is inspired by Wolverine as part of The Heart of a Hero Series. To create more riveting and historically correct fight scenes, I decided to learn more about language and terms of the times, hand-to-hand fighting techniques, and how women protected themselves in the 19th Century. (My heroine is a combination of Storm and Rogue for this series, which reimagines superheroes in the Regency era! And I'd like to mention that the first book in the series is absolutely FREE!)

Today, I’d like to share some great books I found on the subject.

This book includes ancient systems of salle d’armes (methods of defense) in battle and affairs of honor: Spanish knife, German schlager, French quarterstaff, rapier, sword, bayonet, lance, dagger, cloak, staff, cane, saber, and so forth, originating in Europe and Asia. The antiquated techniques were expanded upon by fencing masters of the times, men like Swedish fencing-master Ling, German born Maȋtre d’Armes Frederick Rohdes, famous boxing champion William Thompson, also known as ‘Bendigo,' and French fencing master Augustin Grisier.

Colonel Monstery trained well-known actors Junius Brutus Booth and his brother Edwin Booth, older brothers of John Wilkes Booth. He also mentored the greatest 19th Century Spanish swordswoman that ever was, Ella Hattan, known as ‘Jaquarina.'

Fighting styles of the era included the German Turner system, British purring (shin-kicking), Welsh jump-kicking, Danish head-fighting, and grappling, kicking, biting, scratching, and eye-gouging that made up the brutal American style. Every technique took incredible physical and mental concentration, vigor and power.

Self-Defense Terms to remember:

Advance: “Double the distance between the feet… And then bring up the rear foot to ‘Guard’ distance.

Chancery: To get an adversary ‘in chancery’ is to get him in a head-lock or a choke hold.

Cutting: “A malicious way of striking,’ effective only when used with gloves, “as it forces aside the padding of the glove, and the blow comes with the edge of the hand, made harder by one fold of leather.”

Espadoning: “An improvement on the moulinets, as it simulates the blows more closely… Espadoning is borrowed from the sword exercise, and is meant to stimulate the blows exactly. It accustoms the pupil to keep his hand high in striking, and to end his blow with the point lower than the hand in all high cuts.” The word ‘espadon’ is taken from the obsolete French, and refers to a broadsword or saber.

Evasion: Moving “out of the line of an enemy’s blow … faster than the blow can be sent,” while at the same time coming “within striking distance of the opponent without danger to yourself.”

Feint: Feints are “simulated attacks made at various points in order to draw the perry, while the real attack is directed at the opening left by it.”

Guard: “This is the position best calculated for attack and defense, and is that which a sparrer assumes in front of an antagonist.” In fencing, this refers to the “position of person and weapon which the most ready for both attack and defence.”

‘The Mark’: “The pit of the stomach.”

Moulinet: A circular cut with the broadsword or saber. Depending upon the type of weapon used and the style of fencing, moulinets could be executed from the wrist, elbow, or shoulder.

Parry: “The movement of the weapon which wards off or stops a thrust or cut.”

Purring: A British style of fighting characterized by shin-kicking, sometimes (but not always) utilizing grappling holds, and typically practiced while wearing heavy clogs or iron-toed boots.

Retreat: “Double the distance between the feet by stepping back with rear foot, then drawing back the forward foot to ‘Guard’ distance.”

Rough-and-Tumble: A no-holds-barred, historical style of American fighting characterized by punching, kicking, grappling, hair-pulling, scratching, biting, and eye-gouging.

Savate: A form of French street fighting that developed in Paris and Marseilles during the 19th Century. Also known as Boxe Française.

Spar: “The correct definition of the word Boxing is striking with the fist. That of Sparring is the practice of improving the art. This term is also applied to those habitual motions of the arms during a contest, while watching an opportunity to strike.” Also, “To make the motions of attack and defense with the arms and closed fists; use the hands in or as if in boxing, either with or without boxing-gloves; practice boxing.”

Whipping: A method of striking, effective only when used with gloves, “executed with the end of the fingers after a blow has been parried, with a flirting motion of the wrist over the guard, so as to catch the opponent’s face with the leather of the glove, and graze the skin.”

Here are some other books I’m digging into:

Old Sword Play, Techniques of the Great Masters by AlfredHutton, a cool little book originally published in 1892.

The Fencing Master, Life in Russia by Alexandre Dumas, originally published in three volumes in 1840. I have yet to read through this masterful work. And another book on my list is Alexandre Dumas’s The Black Count: Glory, Revolution,Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. The book is about Alexandre’s father, General Alex Dumas, and is set in 1806 (my period). Can’t wait to read this! General Dumas was the basis for Alexandre’s Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo.

Pugilistica: The History of British Boxing Containing Lives of the Most Celebrated Pugilists by Henry Downes Miles, a reprinted version from 1906. This book lists the prize-winning boxers throughout the early to mid-19th Century, 1814-1835.

Pugilistica mentions gambling sums and details where these fights were held (The Fives Court, Castle Tavern, Wimbledon Common are examples). I can’t wait to read this book!

Writing action/adventure romance set in the Regency period, usually involving swashbuckling pirates. And I’m always in the market, as it were, to learn as much as I can about fighting to enhance a reader’s experience.

What are some of your FAVorite fight scenes via movies, television, or books?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Regency Habits of Economy

     Farthing, guinea, crown, shilling and pence. To an American, the monetary system of 1800's England can seem a foreign language.  But a Regency housewife--a responsible, frugal housewife--had to know where the pennies went and how to keep household accounts.
     Maria Rundell in her book Domestic Cookery notes, "Instances may be found of ladies in the higher walks of life, who condescend to examine the accounts of their house steward; and by overlooking and wisely directing the expenditure of that part of their husband's income which falls under their own inspection, avoid the inconvenience of embarrassed circumstances." She goes on to state that a "great readiness at figures" is one of the most useful things a woman can know.

     So what did a woman know about money?
     The basic values were known by everyone, and included:
·         Half-farthing - eighth of a penny
·         Farthing - quarter of a penny (4 farthings to a penny)
·         Halfpenny (or haypence) - half of a penny, or 2 farthings
·         Penny (or pence) - twelfth of a shilling
·         Shilling (or Bob) - 12 pence, or one twentieth of a pound
·         Half-crown - 2 shillings, 6 pence
·         Crown - 5 shillings (60 pennies)
·         Pound (quid, or sovereign) - 20 shillings (240 pennies)
·         Guinea - 21 shillings (252 pennies)

     Gold coins had values of five guineas, sovereign, two guineas, guinea, and half-guinea, but gold was also in shortage and so there were not many of these coins minted in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Silver coins values were crown, shilling, sixpence, fourpence, threepence, twopence, and penny. Copper coins included the halfpenny and farthing.
     When noting expenditures pence would be marked as "d" for denarius or denarii from the Latin, and shillings written as "s" for solidus. Denarius has been a small value Roman coin, and twelve denarii made up one solidus. Solidus is also the name of the slash used in fractions, and so "/" was also used to mark shillings. The pound symbol '£' also came from the Latin word libra for pound. So six shillings could be marked as 6s or 6/ and six shillings and two pence could be 6s2d or 6/2.
     About now the American system of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars begins to seem wonderfully simple by comparison.
     Paper money existed in the 1800's as Bank Notes, but many preferred to deal with coins for the amount of copper, silver or gold minted equaled the face value. You actually had a guinea's worth of gold in your hand, a concept lost in our modern world in which coins are made of alloys.

     Today we regard ten pounds as pocket change, but in the 1800's that sum could be a year's wages. What £10 bought in 1800 would have cost £395.39 in 2002 (conversion from Economic History Resource.)
     Rapid inflation until 1812 also had prices rising drastically in England, but wages remained low. The cost of wheat alone went up from between 47/ to 54/ a quarter in the early 1790's to between 114/ to 160/ by 1800. England's population was also moving from the country, where food could be grown and household items made, to cities, where everything had to be bought.  As noted by Reay Tannahill in Food in History, "In 1800 Manchester had 75,000 inhabitants; fifty years later, 400,000....The number of people living in London multiplied by four in just over a century."
     A woman in 'embarrassed circumstances' might well have to focus only on how to stretch her pence for food. In the city she would have to buy meat scraps rather than full roasts. There would be no funds for luxuries such as butter. The cheapest bread would be coarse, adulterated with alum, which cost less than flour. She might be able to afford wool for knitting gloves and scarves and undergarments, and fabric to make clothes, or she might have to make do with purchasing used clothing from a street fair. Feathers to go inside pillows would come from the ducks and chickens she bought and plucked, if she could afford the luxury of a whole hen. Shoes would need to be bought, and tinkers paid to mend pots and sharpen knives. With the added expense of rent, anything such as costly tea would be a luxury, as would any servants or services.
     In the middle class, a woman could count on more luxuries. She would have staff to do the work, and could afford beeswax candles that did not drip (or smell of beef fat), and fine milled soap.  There would be funds for silk shoes at 10/, sarsnet for gowns at 7/ a yard, and a fancy cap for a pound and six. Entertainment could be had: 10/6 for the rent of an opera box, 5/ for a concert ticket, another 10/6 for a book seller subscription, and 2 guineas for ball subscriptions in Bath.
     Of course, there would also be the washer woman to pay, school fees for her children, coal and wood to buy to heat her house, servant's wages, money for charity, and coins to hand out as tips when she visited.
     For a woman of great income, all this jotting down of expenditures could be left to a house steward, a secretary, or a housekeeper. A woman with a rich family or husband might not even handle any money for items could be purchased on account, and bills would be sent to the father or family. However, there are numerous stories of servants who filled their pockets by padding the household account books, writing in more than was paid to the merchants and keeping the difference.
      Women could also loose fortunes at the gaming table. Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, died with well over ten thousand pounds of gambling debt, which would have ruined a lesser family than the powerful Cavendish clan.

     Of course other costs could ruin a family. Coming of age parties might cost from £300 to £6,000. Board and tuition at Eton or Harrow cost between £175 to £250 a year. While a London season would demand at least £1,000 to rent a house in Mayfair and then another ten thousand or more for food, drink, a suitable wardrobe and parties.
With such budgets to handle, launching your children into the world could be rather like managing a small corporation. No wonder parents expected such investments would pay off with alliances that brought influence and money back into the family. No wonder, too, at the appeal of living quietly in the country where such demands were not made upon the purse.

In the country, a large estate was expected to produce. This mean not just income from farms let to tenants, but milk, butter and cream from a dairy, ale from the ale house, fruits and vegetables from gardens and hot houses, herbs from a kitchen or herb garden, meat from pigs, beef, pigeons in the dovecotes, eggs and meat from chickens, wild game from the woods, fish from the local streams, and even wool for weaving fabrics. All of this, of course, takes a huge staff for management, but it means that an estate could provide for itself.
The lady of the estate would be expected to know how to use her still room to dry herbs, create ointments, cures, cleansers, and more. These recipes were often included in the very popular cookbooks of the era.

A smaller manor might lack extravagant lands for hunting, but even a few acres provides land for farming, growing, and raising live stock. The smaller manor would also have staff to handle these outside chores: a groom, a gardener, a cook, and so on.
Produce from an estate also provides goods that can be sold, allowing for the purchase of luxury items such as chocolate, sugar, tea and coffee (all imports).
In this era when we purchase so much of what we need, we have to stop and remember this is a modern habit. Two hundred years ago the habit was really to grow and make what was needed. To mend and reuse. At one time, only the very rich could waste money on spending for every whim.