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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Seventeenth Century Funeral Customs in Early Massachusetts: Gloves and Mourning Rings

I recently completed another manuscript, based on the family of Anne Hutchinson, the famous dissident in early Massachusetts. While researching, I ran across some fascinating seventeenth century funeral customs. Puritan funerals were simple affairs, small and private, no sermon over the graveside, only silence. But after the funeral for the leader, John Winthrop, in 1649, they grew larger and more elaborate.
Following the traditions of England, it was customary for the family to give gifts to family and friends in honor of the person who had died. The most important guests were gifted first: family and close friends, pallbearers, and then maybe other attendees.

Funeral Gloves

The family of the deceased sent a pair of gloves as an invitation to the funeral. The more important the person, the more gloves were sent. The attendee would wear the gloves to the funeral and at the graveside. These would be kept as a remembrance of the one who had died.

Mourning Rings

Rings were also given, sometimes designed by the deceased before they died. This ring contained a lock of hair from the deceased. These became treasures that were passed down through the generations. This custom was usually reserved for the wealthy.

In 1741, in order to bring down the exorbitant cost of funerals. Massachusetts Puritan leaders placed a monetary fine of 50 pounds for the giving of rings, and only allowed gloves to be given to pallbearers and clergymen. In 1742, they banned altogether the giving of gloves and rings, and the custom began to die out.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Autumn, Fall, Feast of Mabon.

by Donna Hatch

Though signs of autumn are already starting in many parts of the US, September 23, 2018 is officially the first day of Autumn, or "fall" as we Americans call it.

Long ago, when the air cooled and the leaves turned gorgeous shades of gold, red and burgundy, people did more than don sweaters, switch their clothing to darker colors, and decorate their homes with autumn leaves and pumpkins.

Anciently, the Autumn Equinox or Harvest Home was called Mabon, pronounced 'MAY-bon', after a Welsh god called Mabon ap Modron which literally means 'son of mother.'

One Mabon Celtic ritual was taking the last sheaf of corn harvested and dressing it in fine clothes, or weaving it into a wicker-like man or woman. Apparently, they believed the sun was trapped in the corn and needed to be set free. So they burned it and spread the ashes on their fields.

Mabon is also known as the Feast of Avalon, derived from the word Avalon which means 'the land of the apples'.  It was also traditional at Mabon to honor the dead by placing apples on burial cairns as a symbolism of rebirth. It was also a way for the living to anticipate being reunited with their loved ones who had passed on.

Many people often associate autumn with being melancholy and facing the end of the liveliness of summer and the beginning of the bleakness of winter. Grey skies cause many people to retreat, both physically and mentally. Autumn is the time of year when the celebrated English poet, John Keats, wrote his most acclaimed poem, "To Autumn" which has a distinctly melancholy beauty.

The ancient Celtics, however, used this time to reflect on the past year as well as celebrate nature's bounty by having a feast and a celebration. I imagine those were the roots for the Thanksgiving feast that Americans celebrate.

In my novella, Unmasking the Duke, I chose an autumn setting to add color to the story, but also to give it a dimension of a wistful longing. Don't worry, like all my romances, this has a swoony happily ever after ending!

Unmasking the Duke
The last thing Hannah Palmer wants to do is flirt with men in a crowded ballroom, but when her sister, the Countess of Tarrington, throws a Masquerade Ball, Hannah can’t say no to the invitation. Taking comfort behind her disguise, she dances with a charming masked gentleman, matching him wit for wit. When the glorious evening culminates in a kiss, and the two remove their masks, Hannah is horrified to discover she’s been flirting with all night with her most despised neighbor, the Duke of Suttenberg. No matter how charming the duke was at the ball, and how wonderful the kiss, he is the last man she could ever love.

Unmasking the Duke is available in ebook and paperback

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Men's fashions in the 1800's

There have been several blogs that talk about how to dress Regency women or Victorian women, but there aren't many blogs about how to dress a man in the 1800's, so I decided to give it a try from the research I've done over the years.

Last month my blog was about writing a Pinkerton Detective Agency story, and I'd mentioned how this story was about a woman agent. During my research, I also found how my hero is supposed to look in America, 1871. I've always enjoyed historical movies - mainly to see the clothes the men and women wear - but I'll admit, I enjoy seeing a sharply-dressed man just as much as a beautiful ball gown worn by a woman.

The late 1800's had the men changing their appearance from top hats and cravats and breeches, which was what they wore in the early 1800's.  So let's do a little comparison to see how the years changed the fashion.

Early 1800's - the tall, elegant style of hats expressed a look of wealth and decorum.

Late 1800's - the top hat shrunk a little, and they became rounder and more square. Wool caps were even making their grand appearance, and a lot of men thought this was a great fashion trend. Men were rarely seen without a hat, because - just as in the early 1800's - wearing a hat somehow turned them into a true gentleman.

YUM-ME, right? Regency guy
Coats vs Suits
Early 1800's - men's coats were tailored to fit the gentleman. They were mostly solid colors and had padded shoulders to help make the man's waist slimmer. (can you believe it??)

Late 1800's - the suits were a big fashion hit with the men in those days. There were many different styles, which were worn during different times of that day (pretty much like a woman's gown). These suits added a variety of colored fabrics, fancy stitching, and the fashion even dared to use stripes or plaid. The suits were more colorful, as well, which of course made them more appealing. Combined with the standing collared white shirt and necktie (instead of a cravat), and decorative sewn vests, women found that men were more attractive and confident in their new fancy duds.

Hubba-Hubba - Regency man
From what I could tell, there weren't a lot of differences in the way trousers had changed throughout the years. Some had button flaps on the front, some only had one button to fasten the flaps together to keep the family jewels discreetly hidden. But from the pictures I'd found, trousers seemed to become more relaxed in the later 1800's. Men didn't wear them so tight that they could be confused for the French acrobatic leotard (created in the late 1830's). Pinstriped trousers became more popular, as well.

Sadly enough, men kept the same undergarments throughout the 1800's, and into the early 1900's. They wore tight-fitting, knee-length flannel drawers, also called breeches and pantaloons. During the US Civil War, men wore union-suits - a one-piece, long undergarment that was long-sleeved and long-legged. Let's just hope they wore these during the cold winters because they'd cook to death during the summer!

Now that you know the difference, I bet you'll be watching those historical movies a little closer now, right? I remember when I first learned about everything a woman had to wear back in those days, but now... <groans>  Those poor men!

By the way... my favorite website to find these awesome historical clothing and very fine models is Period Images. Permission was given to use these watermarked pics.

Author’s Bio

Marie Higgins is an award-winning, best-selling author of clean romance novels; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt, to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. She has 51 heartwarming on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories and has broadened her readership by writing mystery/suspense, humor, time-travel, paranormal, along with her love for historical romance. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease" because of all her twists and unexpected endings.

Phone reading apps -  AND


Friday, September 7, 2018

Regency School For Girls

Embed from Getty Images 

I love the Regency era, and the majority of my writing takes place in the age the BBC has blessed us with via their incredible period pieces. As much as I've studied those few years in the greater Georgian period, I always have more questions. Lately, I've been studying up on how children were educated.

In Persuasion, we know that the younger Musgroves all go to school. We also find out the both the Bingley sisters attended school - presumably gaining their many "accomplishments." Did you know that Jane Austen was sent away to school for the first time when she was seven years old? She was sent to a different school not long after, and then brought home and never sent away again. Her father also took in young boys as boarders and educated them.

Boarding schools for girls were called Ladies' Seminaries. They were usually run by single women. Advertisements for these schools appeared at the beginning of each year, in January, in all the papers. Usually these ads would be prefaced by rather flowery expressions of gratitude. For instance, in the Bristol Mirror, January 8th, 1820:

The Misses Hewlett beg leave to offer their most respectful acknowledgements to those Friends who have already entrusted them with the Education of their Daughters.

And just beneath that advertisement, another:

Mrs. Emblin presents her warmest acknowledgements to her Friends, for the confidence with which she has been honoured so many years past; and begs leave, most respectfully, to assure them and the Public, that, with able Assistants, she will spare no effort in the conscientious discharge of her duty....

Mostly these announcements served to tell families when school would recommence.

What were these young ladies actually learning? In the Stamford Mercury, in August 1820, a teacher was sought who "must be capable of assisting to teach Drawing, and understand all kinds of Needle Work."

French was also a common subject, with "natural speakers" highly sought after. French, drawing, needlework "fancy and plain," reading, writing, and etiquette were commonly taught. Occasionally, schools would employ outside "masters" to teach other accomplishments, such as dancing and playing the pianoforte.

Boarding School attended by Jane and Cassandra Austen

I found several delightful articles about the education of women in that time period as well as how it's portrayed in Austen's books.

For further reading:
Education of Upper-Class Women in Regency Era
The Education of Young Men and Women in the Regency 
The Regency Boarding School - 1816
The Education of Girls in Jane Austen's England
19th Century Learning Academies and Boarding Schools: An Eyewitness Account


Sally Britton is a writer of Sweet Historical Romances, specializing in the Regency period. Her most recent title is The Earl and His Lady, a second-chance romance available on 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Bisterne Dragon

While I was writing a Christmas novella, I had the need for my hero and heroine to go on an outing out in the countryside, to some famous local place they could ride to on horseback. Research turned up the rather fun legend of the Bisterne Dragon, a piece of folklore from the New Forest near Lyndhurst, which is the place where the dragon was buried. A perfect outing for a hero to take his heroine. I thought I’d share it with you.

As the legend goes, long ago a “devouring dragon” had settled into a lair in the New Forest near Burley Beacon, at the village of Burley. The dragon would fly each morning to the village of Bisterne to terrorize the villagers and exact his payment of milk (thought sometimes listed as a maiden). The villagers appeal to the Lord of the Manor to save them.

The lord is usually given as Sir Maurice de Berkeley (or Sir Moris Barkly) “beinge a man of great strength and courage” who tried three times to slay the dragon. The first two attempts failed, but on the third attempt, he took his two dogs with him, Grim and Holdfast, sometimes said to be mastiffs. For their valor, the dogs are memorialized at Berkeley Manor, being carved onto the wings above the manor house. Sir Maurice constructed a hide on what is still called Dragon Field, near Lower Bisterne Farm. The knight also coats his armor with birdlime and shards of glass to injure the dragon if he grabs or bites him.

This third battle rages all around the New Forest, finishing up outside the village of Lyndhurst, where Sir Maurice managed to kill the dragon, whose body becomes a hill called Bolton’s Bench. In the process of vanquishing the dragon, the two dogs are killed and are buried on the hill.
Although not wounded physically, Sir Maurice does not escape unscathed. For thirty days and nights he cannot eat nor sleep, his mental faculties shattered by the battle with the dragon, and at the end of that time he returns to Bolton’s Bench and dies. From his body, and those of his dogs, there grow three yew trees that may be seen on the hill to this day.

I found this tale to be charming and utterly fascinating and my hero and heroine in my upcoming Christmas novella, A Match Made at Christmas, had a wonderful time talking about the legend and exploring Bolton’s Bench.