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Friday, June 21, 2019

Who Died and Made Alexandrina Queen?

While I was watching the first episode of Victoria  this week, it occurred to me that there's a lot of stuff going on in the background that's hinted at, but not clearly explained, especially with some of the characters, like the old duke with the gnarly scar. The show makes it clear that he's somehow related to Victoria and that he's not happy about her getting the throne.

So, first things first: Queen Victoria's name is actually Alexandrina Victoria. (British monarchs get to choose their regnal name and she opted to drop Alexandrina.) Now on to the murkier and more interesting topic: how'd she get to be the queen of England?

In 1817, George III was king and his eldest son, George IV, was Prince Regent. The Prince Regent's wife, Caroline, had been estranged from him for years. Their only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, then died in childbirth that same year, leaving him without a legitimate heir.

This meant that his brother, Prince Frederick, the Duke of York and Albany, became his heir. However, Frederick and his wife also didn't have any children.

Several of George III's other children hurried to get married and produce heirs on the increasingly likely-chance that the succession came to them. William IV and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathern (George III's third and fifth children), both were married in 1818. Alexandrina Victoria was born the following year.

Both Prince Edward (Victoria's father) and George III (Victoria's grandfather) died in 1820. The Prince Regent became king.

In 1827, Prince Frederick, George IV's younger brother (George III's second child) and heir, died. Since Frederick never did have any children, their next brother, William (George III's third child) became George IV's new heir.

George IV died in 1830 and William IV became king. He was in his 60s by this point. William had several illegitimate children prior to his marriage to Princess Adelaide, but unfortunately they did not have any surviving children. Princess Charlotte (George III's fourth child) had died in 1828 without any living children, so as Prince Edward's daughter, Victoria became heiress presumptive to the crown.

And if you're still wondering about the old duke with the scar from the show? That's Ernest Augustus, George III's eighth child, making him Victoria's uncle. If it weren't for her, he would have been King of England. (He did, however, became King of Hanover* on William's death since they had a law preventing women from inheriting the throne.)

*This could be its own topic entirely, but essentially Hanover was a short-lived kingdom in the Prussia/Germany area created by the Congress of Vienna and given to George III.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ninja–the stealth warrior of Medieval Japan and their female counterpart–the Kunoichi

A Ninja in action
Not a day goes by without I reading or hearing the word "ninja". This extremely skilled secret warrior of Medieval Japan is today a contemporary Joe Bloke, who has some physical abilities and wants to prove it in front of the cameras. It is an American Twitch streamer, that is, an internet personality, who draws fourteen million followers. It is how four anthropomorphic turtles with Italian names are presented to lovers of cartoons, and one of the names most used by companies who want to associate their products with positive connotations.
Ninja are also analogised with modern-day secret agents, such as, James Bond and Jason Bourne.
Scanty extant records tell us that ninja, also known as "shinobi" were initially farmers, who had to learn how to defend themselves in the very disturbed swath of Japanese history, called "Sengoku Jidai" or Warring State Period (1467 – 1600). Therefore, many of their arsenals were farming tools that had been adapted for the purpose of fighting.
A "kusarigama" (lit. sickle-chain) – a farm
tool adapted by the ninja as a weapon
Ninja's iconic contemporary heroes were the "Samurai". The samurai class was regulated by the "Bushido" –  an honorary code that forbid tactics of espionage, sneak attacks and poisoning, but these schemes were fair play for a ninja. Hence, where a samurai could not finish a job, a ninja was secretly hired by the daimyo (warlord) and shogun. Before long, the ninja got organised amongst themselves, developed and perfected their weapons, created sophisticated techniques and became masters of espionage and deceit. Apart from effective use of toxins extracted from plants and animals, one of their masterly techniques was "hensojutsu" (the mutation technique), that is, they observed the nobles and emulated their demeanour, learned dialects, acquired accents to convince and play the part of another person and move amongst social groups to gather information and not be detected.
However, the high demand for their services was not only due to their arsenal of weapons, techniques and skills, ninjas were highly effective agents and would finish a job, even if it meant losing their own lives.
Their female counterparts – the "Kunoichi" – are lesser known historical characters. Yet, like the ninja, the kunoichi were secret agents who subjected themselves to a strenuous and long training (~6 years).  They conditioned their bodies to endure extreme heat or cold, dislocated bones to escape through narrow spaces and could sustain hunger and thirst for a length much longer than normal. They were also skilled martial artists, danced and sang to disguise themselves as geisha, were highly literate to be able to play any role the occasion demanded and practised seducers.
The most acclaimed group of kunoichi were trained by Mochizuki Chiyome. Chiyome was a kunoichi, turned aristocrat after marrying a samurai. She stemmed from the Koga Ninja clan, the pioneers of "kayakujutsu", the technique that used gunpowder to create explosives and smoke.
After the Second World War, the Ninjutsu, or the ninja's techniques were divulged world-wildly and foreign military institutions and secret services agents flocked to Japan to learn these millenary techniques.

Please visit my site to learn more about the history of the warriors of Medieval Japan–ninja, kunoichi, samurai, as well as the mythological Creation of the country and the long course of the legendary 2600 year old Yamato Dynasty.

The romanticised history of Japan, covering its Creation to its modernisation in the Nineteen Century can be read in my book "The Goddesses of Japan" sold on Amazon.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Love Letters During the Regency by Jenna Jaxon

Letter writing was a very popular occupation during the Regency period. Everyone, it seems, corresponded with friends, relatives, business associates—just about anyone with whom one wished to communicate.

Of course, this includes young ladies and gentlemen in love. However, there were lots of rules to letter writing, as I found out when plotting my current WIP, It Happened at Christmas, which depends greatly on the correspondence between the hero and heroine—who do not know one another.
One of the biggest hurdles to my plot was the circumspection of letter writing between the sexes. A young lady simply could not write to someone of the opposite sex unless it was her betrothed, her husband, or a member of her immediate family to whom she could not be married (father, grandfather, uncle—cousins were eligible partis and therefore forbidden), and as all correspondence sent through the mail went through the lady of the house, it was difficult at best (and mostly impossible) for a young lady in love to write to a gentleman for whom she had affection. I managed to find a way around this, but it was not easy!

Once a young lady was betrothed, she could write to her intended and have the missive sent by a private carrier, such a s footman, or through the regular mail service. By the time of the Regency, the post was quite well regulated, with mail delivery within the city occurring up to twelve times a day, according to one source. Mail was delivered to the country outside of London three times a day. In outlying larger towns, like Bath, the post could be delivered two to three times a day.

As I have written about letter writing in an earlier post, I will simply remind you, gentle readers, that letters of the period usually had no
envelopes, were often cross-written (written down the page, then the page was turned and written across again) and were closed with sealing wax. The recipient of the letter would have to pay the postage, a small price (anywhere from 3 pence to 12 pence depending on the distance the letter had to travel) to receive word from the one you loved.

Photo Credits:
Cross Written letter attribution By Jag Films - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Wax Seal attribution By User:Contrafool, CC BY-SA 3.0,