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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How to End a Marriage in Sixteenth Century England

                                                                                               By Carol Pratt Bradley

While writing my 16th century novel about historical figure Anne Askew, Fire of the Word, I reviewed the written summaries of her life. Many of the discussions centered on Anne’s efforts to obtain a divorce from her husband, citing her contemporary King Henry VIII’s marriages as an example. My research took me into the marriage customs of that time period. Turns out, severing a marriage tie during that time was very different from what we know in ours. 
According to 16th century English law, a marriage could be dissolved only if it could be proven that the marriage was not a legal union. The criteria were: if the marriage partners were too close in kinship, if the marriage was never consummated, if either partner was under the age of consent, or if either partner had already contracted to someone else previous to the marriage.
                When Henry VIII wanted to dissolve his marriages to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, he sought for an annulment. In Catherine’s case, he sought to prove that his marriage to her was invalid according to biblical law, which forbade a man to marry his brother’s widow. To rid himself of Anne of Cleves, he claimed that the marriage had never been consummated. In his efforts to rid himself of wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, Henry accused them of adultery, and had them executed. Contrary to modern interpretations, he did not end any of his four marriages by divorce.
But what if you were not a king and sought to end a marriage? You did not have many options.
In the case of an annulment, matters became complicated. If the marriage were annulled in the courts, the wife would lose her dower rights, in the event that she became a widow, which included the right to typically one third of the property owned by her husband. Plus, any offspring of the marriage were declared illegitimate (as in the case of Henry’s daughters by Anne Boleyn, Mary and Elizabeth). This would make life very difficult for a woman and her children.
In Anne Askew’s case, at age fifteen her father had forced her to marry Anne’s dead sister’s fiancé. When her husband cast her out of his house for her Protestant beliefs, she sought for legal grounds to end her marriage and found little to help her case. In order for the courts to dissolve her marriage, she could not claim to be under the age of consent, (which was age twelve), and since she had born two children, the marriage had certainly been consummated. She was not too close in kinship to her husband Thomas Kyme, or had previously consented to marry someone else.
The best Anne could do was to seek from the courts “a divorce from bed and board.” In this case, the couple remained legally married but were permitted to live apart. The wife could keep her dower rights and any offspring remained legitimate. But neither partner was free to marry again.
If I had simply accepted modern interpretations that Anne had sought to obtain a divorce, I would have been mistaken. Knowing these historical facts enabled me to more accurately portray the circumstances of her life.

Carol Pratt Bradley is a historical novelist with an MFA in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University. She has three novels from WiDo Publishing:

Light of the Candle 2015
Fire of the Word 2016
Waiting for the Light 2017

Available on Amazon and WiDo Publishing's website

Friday, June 22, 2018

It's About the Muffins

JACK. How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
ALGERNON. Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
JACK. I say it's perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.
     Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. Act II, p. 60

This play has all kinds of references to food as many of the scenes take part during the English teatime: cucumber sandwiches, muffins, teacakes, and crumpets. Inspector Montalbano in the mysteries written by Andrea Camilleri spends a lot of time eating and describing Sicilian foods so that the food almost becomes a character. But even a small reference to food—a mere soupçon—can give authenticity and interest in a historical novel.
Afternoon tea at Prestonfield House, Edinburgh, Scotland
But, as you’re aware, we do need to do research for the time period and country. In the scene above, for example, they’re talking about English muffins, not American muffins, but our readers may not know this unless we give them some hints. We can Google information, but we can also find old documents and books from the time period, some of which I’ll mention below.

If we’re writing about Europe in say, the Middle Ages, there would be no tomatoes or potatoes in any of the dishes. Those did not appear in Europe until the 16th century with the discovery of the Americas. So Ireland had no potatoes, and what did the Italians eat without tomatoes? Europe would have eaten mostly corn. (A trick reference! Corn in Britain means grains [wheat, oats, barley] as in the Bible and you may have encountered it in a Regency novel with a reference to the Corn Exchange, a place where merchants sold their corn. It has no relationship to American corn which is typically called maize in Europe and usually fed to animals.)

In those days the staples were grains, milk, cheese and game (venison, etc.) and domesticated animals. (Do you know why there are two words in English for certain domesticated animals? It goes back to 1066. Sheep, cow, pig are the “on the hoof” words from Anglo-Saxon as the English peasants took care of the animals while the Norman conquerors, i.e. elite, ate the animals, hence mouton [mutton], boeuf [beef], and porc [pork]. There are depictions of banquets in the Bayeux Tapestry which celebrates the Norman Conquest; it wasn’t just the battle.)

A book I own, The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black, not only has history of food and culture, but recipes translated from Middle English. It surprised me that they use a lot of saffron which is a really expensive spice made from the stamens of a particular crocus. And they also used quite a few spices which were imported from far away places. In fact, spices were so important to Europeans, there was a fifty-year war fought between the Dutch and Portuguese in the 1600s. Other explorer countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain vied for control of the spice trade too. The discovery of America came about when Columbus tried to find a quicker route to the Far East to outwit the Venetians' hold on the spice trade.

Black’s book mentions several people who put together household and cooking guides during this time period, one was the English poet, Chaucer, and another known as the Goodman of Paris. The latter “employed Dame Agnes, a woman of the charitable society called the Beguines, to act as chaperone-housekeeper to his young wife. Dame Agnes comes across in his comments as a careful and pleasant guide for an adolescent girl in the new experiences which marriage might entail” (p. 12). Black has given several recipes from this household.

Savarin named after a French gourmand
We can glean information about what people ate during various time periods by searching cookbooks compiled by various chefs and housewives. France’s Marie-Antoine Carême became the first celebrity chef in the late 1700s-early 1800s who was a codifier of French haute cuisine (high cuisine). His fame spread to other countries such as Britain which is why it families in high society had to have a French chef to show their status. During the Victorian/Edwardian period, Auguste Escoffier became a celebrated chef who published Le Guide Culinaire which still influences chefs throughout the world. I used to have a copy of this, but never used it; it was much too complicated though I still own a copy of Larousse Gastronomique.

Also in Victorian times, if you want to find out about British cooking, Isabella Beeton published Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management in 1861. My 1970 edition fell apart but I now have a Kindle version. This book is also useful because it gives hints not only on cooking, but cleaning, childrearing, and entertaining during that time period. Fanny Farmer was the American equivalent of Isabella Beeton. She published her best-known work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, in 1896. As writers of historical fiction, you may already be aware of this book, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England. And, of course, there’s a lot you can glean from the Internet.

In my current WIP set in 1813 Scotland, I use food as one way to emphasize the difference between common folk and high society. I’ve found that researching cooking throughout the ages and in various countries, can lead to the discovery of fascinating facts that adds interesting and authentic touches to a historical novel.

Bon appétit!
Karen Edwards Pierotti

Isabella Beeton, Wikipedia
Black, Maggie. The Medieval Cookbook, (1992), New York: Thames and Hudson.
Marie-Antoine Carême. Wikipedia.
Auguste Escoffier. Wikipedia.
Fanny Farmer. Wikipedia

Pittenweem, the setting of Joy to My Love
Author Bio: I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland (Welsh father/Scots mother) but lived in various places in the UK and Gibraltar (Spain) as my father was in the RAF (Royal Air Force). I've done a lot of traveling in Europe. I joined the LDS church while working in Lugano, Switzerland then came to the United States to study at BYU. After several years, I received a MA in rhetoric. In the meantime, I married an American and had four children; I've lived in Utah for about 40 years. I worked at BYU for 29 years as secretary/admin assistant in various departments and after my MA, taught first-year writing part-time. I am a family history consultant and in auditing a creative writing class to help write biographies, I discovered I enjoyed writing novels. My WIPs: a completed historical novel, Joy to My Love, set in 1813 Scotland and which I will self-publish after a professional edit; a sequel in NaNoWriMo-mode, i.e. a mess; a contemporary romance set in France which I'm rewriting to include two POVs; and, the beginnings of a YA historical novel set in Algeria and NYC (not sure if I can write YA, but experimenting). I'm also writing biographies of my two grandmothers and my husband's.  I'm on Facebook and am in the processing of creating a website. I have a blog: Musings which, for the past year or two, has focused on thoughts about writing.  (BTW: boireannach means woman in Scottish Gaelic which is different than Irish Gaelic.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Land Wars (England vs Ireland 1790-1880)

Hello! I’m a new blogger to Historical Hussies, and I’m excited to be here and share my research with you. During my writing career, I’ve published 34 historical romances from as early as England 1192, and as late as Chicago 1920’s. Needless to say, I’ve done a lot of research for every book I've written. Today I’m going to be talking about what I researched while writing my latest release, a historical western romance, 1885.

Several years ago, I had an idea for a story after watching the sequel to Gone with the Wind – Scarlett. If you’ve not seen the TV miniseries, she travels to Ireland to meet her relatives on her father’s side. While there, she sees the struggles between the English landlords and the way they treat the Irish rebels. This struggle was real and started back in 1760. Wealthy English men purchased land in Ireland and rented it out to the Irish tenant farmers. From the articles I’d read, the English treated their tenant farmers as poorly as the southern US states treated slaves during this era. For years, the Irish struggled to keep their lands, but the English landlords kept raising the rent, and eventually, the tenant farmers were thrown from their homes. Another movie that portrays this issue in Ireland is “Far and Away”.  

In 1880, a general election was held and a law was passed, but it seemed that this law brought more fighting between the Irish rebels and the English landlords. It still took a few more years, and more battles to bring this issue to a close. Finally, by 1885, The Ashborne Act started a limited process that allowed tenant farmers to buy portions of the land using government loans. 

My story, “Surrender Your Heart”, takes place in Savannah, Georgia. A portion of the plot focuses on the Irish rebels who were trying to punish the Englishmen for the battles that were happening across the sea in Ireland. 


Marie Higgins is a best-selling author of 50 sweet romance novels that have you on the edge of your seat. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease", because of all her twists and unexpected endings. Visit her website to discover more about her – 

Land War articles:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hyde Park, THE place to see and be seen

by Donna Hatch

During the Regency, going to the park wasn't just for children; gentlemen and ladies of fashion frequented the parks in London to ride, walk, and make a fashion a statement. Regency ladies and gentlemen often chose Hyde Park as favorite place to ride on horseback to get some fresh air and exercise. However, it was most popular as a place to drive in open carriages to show off clothing, or the latest rig, or horses. It was THE place to see and be seen.

According to some sources, the "fashionable hour" was, in fact three hours; from four thirty to seven thirty in the evening, though most ladies didn't appear 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. The Ton, or members of the 2,000 aristocratic families at the height of English society, as well as a few social climbers trying to fit in, promenaded at Hyde Park, peacocking and flirting with others drawn to the park to take part in this social ritual.

A brick wall enclosed 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. The name Rotten Row is believed to be a corruption of La Route du Roi, or King's Road, which was its original name. Another likely possibility as to the name comes from the materials of the road made of a mix of gravel and crushed tree bark to create a firm, yet pliable surface. Some definitions of "rotten" are "friable," "soft" or "yielding" which describes the surface ideal for horses' feet and legs. Think of the tracks which runners use, firm yet slightly springy--perfect for running without causing undue strain on athletes' bones, muscles, and tendons. Recently, I heard another possible explanation for the name: Rotten Row led to Eton College, and since French was commonly spoken among the aristocracy then, they called it Rue d'Eton - easily corrupted into Rotten. That doesn't explain how Row came into use, however.

Hyde Park section of "Improved map of London for 1833, from Actual Survey. Engraved by W. Schmollinger, 27 Goswell Terrace"
Regardless of its origin, on Rotten Row a Regency lady or gentleman one could flirt, greet friends, and show off 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 were 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 of courtesans bearing faux crests meant to remind them of the crests of their titled lovers.

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, and many of my heroes and heroines go driving or riding in Hyde Park. When I walked these hallowed (in my mind) grounds during my visit to England, I could easily imagine fine ladies and gentlemen in all their splendor promenading this ancient bit of pastoral land nestled deep in the heart of a world-renown city.

Bellamy, Joyce, Hyde Park for Horsemanship. London: J.A. Allen, 1975
And the many careful researchers and fellow history geeks at the Beau Monde chapter of RWA.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Romance and Marriage in Georgian England

The institution of marriage made a drastic change during the 18th century and it seems that the early romance novel may have had a hand in switching the focus from power and money to love.

Early in the 18th century, marriages were arranged affairs as they had been from ancient times. Couples were brought together usually as a business deal to secure wealth, title, and status between families. What’s love got to do with it? Absolutely nothing in most cases. Love was thought to be a bad thing for a marriage, because passion and love led to erratic behavior and could keep the couple from focusing on important things, like social, military, and financial duty.

By the 1760s, however, there were as many marriages for love as there were by arrangement. And the trend continued until the end of the century, when most marriages were made based on love rather than worldly considerations. Why this shift?

One cause seems to be the up-and-coming middle class. As more and more middle class families gained substantial wealth, usually through trade, they attracted the attention of impoverished nobility. However, middle class families usually placed greater significance on a love match in marriage rather than monetary gains. So if daughters of this class married “up,” they often did it for love.

Another influence that comes to bear and that has been cited as a possible cause for love matches are romance novels such as Samuel Richardson’s
Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, in which the maid, Pamela, fends off the unwanted advances of her employer, Mr. B, until he realizes he loves her and asks her to marry him. When Pamela realizes she is in love with him, she agrees, and they are married. Written in 1740, the novel was wildly popular, a best-seller of its time, and may have begun people thinking about the advantages of a love match.

Later in the century, in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play The Rivals, first performed in 1775, the heroine, Lydia Lavish, has based her requirements for marriage on the heroes she has encountered in a myriad of romance novels. She wants a purely romantic, love-based match with a poor soldier, as so often figures in the romances she reads. The man she loves, however, ends up being a wealthy, titled man and she has to reconcile herself to that, but love is stronger than principle, so she marries him.

In my just released Georgian romance, Only Seduction Will Do, set in the middle of the 18th century, Miss Alethea Forsythe has been seduced by a married peer and must submit to an arranged marriage to escape a ruined reputation. She, however, manages to arrange the marriage between herself and the man she loves. Unfortunately, the gentleman in question doesn’t return her sentiments and marries her only out of a sense of honor. So Alethea sets out to seduce her husband, to create a love match so they can have a happy ever after, just like a romance novel should.

Only Seduction Will Do is available at Amazon, B & N, Kobo, iTunes, and Google.