31 July 2008

Famous People: Henry Winstanley

By Lisa Marie Wilkinson

A fictional interview with inventor Henry Winstanley by Lisa Marie Wilkinson.

Lisa Marie: I've selected you for inclusion in the "Famous People" category of the Unusual Historicals blog because you designed and oversaw the construction of the famous Eddystone Lighthouse. The lighthouse stood 14 kilometers off the coast of Plymouth, England until it was swept away during a violent storm in 1703. What other interesting facts do you feel make you a worthy "Famous People" candidate?

Henry Winstanley: My inventions weren't limited to lighthouses. I was an engraver, an architect, and I'd always had a fascination for hydraulics and all things mechanical. I had a house built in Littlebury for the purpose of housing some of my inventions for exhibition. My "Mathematical Water Theater," combining fireworks and fountains, was a popular attraction in London's Piccadilly during the 1690's. I was called the "Jester of Littlebury," because my house was filled with all sorts of oddities, including trap doors and chairs that came alive and ensnared those who sat in them.

Lisa Marie: Would you object to my quoting a section from my historical romance novel, FIRE AT MIDNIGHT, which describes my heroine Rachael's first impression of your lighthouse?

Henry Winstanley: No, not at all. I'm very proud of my design.

Lisa Marie: Quoting passage from FIRE AT MIDNIGHT:

Sebastién battled a strong crosswind as he steered the tiny rowboat in choppy seas. They came close enough to the great foundation of rock to which the Eddystone Light was anchored that Rachael was afforded a glimpse of its underpinnings: iron rods of at least twelve feet in length in a stone base some two dozen feet tall.

This was no ordinary lighthouse. She squinted up at the high tower as they stepped onto the landing platform that led to the front entry. The ten-sided upper section bore an artist’s impressions of the sun and moon, plus various inscriptions, mostly in Latin, Post Tenebras Lux ("After Darkness, Light"), Salutem Omnium ("For the Safety of All"), Pax En Bello ("Peace in War"), and, Glory Be To God.

Directly below the great lantern with its massive glass windows was a skillfully engraved shower of stars and the inscription, Anno Dom in bold work, flanked by a reference to the reign of William the Third.

Sebastién urged her forward, whispering that he expected to find the decor of a Parisian bordello inside. As they passed through the main door, she glimpsed another engraving in Latin, this one a proclamation that the lighthouse had been designed and constructed by Henry Winstanley.

The interior of the tower upheld the lavish style promised by its exterior. She had expected to find steep, rust-corroded spiraling stairs, drafty landings, and hard pallets tossed onto cold floors. Sebastién, evidently expecting the same, gave a low whistle when he opened a door and discovered an attractively appointed bedchamber. The room was richly gilded, with a large closet, and a small chimney. While he noted the barred outside shutters with a grunt of approval, she marveled at the fine woodwork and the quality of the tapestry rugs.
Lisa Marie: You also met my hero in a later scene, the Frenchman by the name of Sebastién Falconer.

Henry Winstanley: I'd rather not be reminded of that.

Lisa Marie: Why is that, Mr. Winstanley?

Henry Winstanley: Because I hate French privateers! When I was hard at work constructing the foundation for the first light tower to stand on the Eddystone rocks, my crew and I were attacked by French privateers and taken as hostages to France. If not for Louis XIV, I might have languished in France forever. But Louis simply ordered me returned to England, saying that, "France is at war with England, not with humanity."

Lisa Marie: Did you say, "the first light tower?" How many have there been?

Henry Winstanley: There have been a total of five. But I believe mine was the best, because it was the most beautiful design, with an octagonal tower and splendid furnishings within.

Lisa Marie: Would you share your most famous anecdote concerning the Eddystone Lighthouse with us?

Henry Winstanley: I used to say I yearned to be inside my lighthouse during the greatest storm there ever was. The lesson to be learned there is: be careful what you wish for.

Lisa Marie's closing note: Henry Winstanley and several workmen had sailed out to the Eddystone Lightouse on the night of November 27, 1703, to do repairs on the lighthouse. This was the night of what would come to be known throughout England's history as "The Great Storm." Winstanley and his crew perished when the lighthouse was swept away during the storm.

30 July 2008

Famous People: The Stephensons

By Michelle Styles

The modern world owes a great debt to a self made English man and his son. Although George Stephenson did not invent the railway or the locomotive, he was directly responsible for the creation of the public railway in the world and his technical improvements enabled the locomotive to become a workable reality. His efforts proved that steam engines could provide reliable transport and he pioneered many of techniques of railway building. Later his son, Robert, improved on his father's work and along with Isambard Kingdom Brunel provided most of the transportation infrastructure for Great Britain. A variety of his bridges including the High Level bridge at Newcastle remain in use today.

Born into abject poverty in 1781, George Stephenson is a classic example of 'self help' and betterment. One of his earliest jobs at age ten was that of a 'picker' or someone who picks the debris from coal. By age fourteen he had become a horse driver at a pit in Black Callerton. When he was around 18, he began to gain a reputation for his ability to mend machinery. Also around this time, he started to go to night classes and within a few years had achieved basic literacy skills, but he received no formal education and his engineering skill came through practical application. George Stephenson was simply interested in machines and how they worked.

Despite or perhaps because of his own lack of education, he became determined that his only son, Robert would have the best education available. Among other things, he ensured that Robert joined the Literary and Philosophical Society and had access to its extensive library. In 1816, father and son built a sun dial which now adorns their old home of Dial Cottage, West Moor, near Killingworth.

In 1815, George Stephenson became embroiled in a controversy with Sir Humphrey Davies. Both had invented safety mining lamps independently of each other. Davies accused Stephenson of stealing his idea because he did not believe that a man without formal education was capable of creating such a thing and a furious row erupted. After an inquiry, Stephenson proved that he had indeed created his own lamp. Despite the Davy lamp being popular elsewhere, the Geordie lamp with its glass cylinder around the flame was in the North East. One of the original geordie lamps is on display at the Lit and Phil.

However, George Stephenson made his biggest mark with locomotives and railways. In 1814, he created one of the first traveling engines--My Lord. He also experimented with various types of iron to make the rails, eventually coming to realize that wrought iron was necessary. In 1821, he served as a consultant to Edward Pease and was instrumental in the construction of the Stockton Darlington railway, the first public railway in the world.

The Rainhill trials of October 1829, cemented both Stephensons’ reputations when the Rocket outperformed all other competitors and was chosen as engine of choice for the Liverpool to Manchester railway. On 15 September 1830 when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened, George Stephenson was at the controls of the Northumbrian as it pulled a train load of the rich and famous including the Duke of Wellington, Earl Grey and Fanny Kemble. Unfortunately cabinet minister William Husskinson alighted too early and stood in the wrong place. He became the first railway fatality. But despite the tragedy, the railway age had become and railway building mania son took hold. Both Stephensons' fortunes were made.

It is said that Robert Stephenson refused a knighthood after the London to Edinburgh line was opened because his father had never accepted one. George Stephenson became the first president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He died in 1848 near Chesterfield Robert Stephenson worn out from overwork died eleven years later and is buried at Westminster Abbey. Between them, they changed the face of the world.

29 July 2008

Famous People: Lucheni and the Empress

By Jennifer Linforth

I swore to myself to kill some high-placed person or another, prince, king or president of a republic--it's all the same. They are all made of the same stuff.

Those were the words of Luigi Lucheni, a twenty five year old Parisian-born Italian, as he sat in a police station in Geneva. Shortly after he finished that statement, the phone rang announcing the woman he stabbed died of her wounds.

All hail to anarchism! Lucheni replied.

Luigi Lucheni would make his mark in history as the murderer of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. His original intent was to kill the King of Italy, but lacking the cash to travel the distance to Rome, he set his sites on Elisabeth instead.

How does a young man who was a respected and decent soldier in the Italian army, a musician and a hired valet for the Prince of Aragona, end up one of the most famous anarchists of all time? No one really knows. But what is known is that Lucheni was very proud of his act and made no small affair of it while in prison. He wrote several letters while awaiting trial to many prominent newspapers calling the ruling classes 'bloodsuckers of humanity,' insisting that just retribution would repeat with frequency against kings, president and ministers or anyone who suppresses humanity for their own benefit.

Oddly enough, Lucheni received more letters than he wrote--most in favor of his deed. Still, those who opposed him opposed him with vehemence:

Murderer, beast, monster, rabid animal! The women and girls of Vienna long to revenge the horrible crime which you committed against our beloved Empress. Rabid animal, do you know what you deserve? Listen you monster: we want to stretch you out on a table and we, who are so soft-hearted, want to look on while both your arms and feet are hacked off.

The investigation into Lucheni's crime was a public one and the search for accomplices long. When asked if he had any he replied, "I have none. My accomplice is here," pointing to himself. The courts wanted to show that this act was a conspiracy, yet they could not. Luigi Lucheni was a model for anarchist assassins even up to today. He alone wished to carry the deed to martyrdom.

Naturally Lucheni was convicted of this crime, being that he flat out and proudly admitted to the deed. His sentence was lifelong imprisonment to which he shouted, "Long live anarchy! Death to aristocracy!"

Six months later Lucheni admitted to being a part of a bigger conspiracy of two other Italians--one armed that day with a revolver the other a dagger. Lucheni killed Empress Elisabeth with a slender file sharpened to a deadly point. Running up to her he blocked her afternoon stroll with her lady-in-waiting. Stumbling in front of her and peering beneath her parasol to make certain he would kill the correct woman, he punctured her heart. So small was the wound that she lived for sixty minutes afterward and initially did not even know she was injured.

On October 19, 1910, eleven years after his crime Lucheni, hanged himself by his belt. A famous anarchist--suddenly forgotten.

Letters and quotes researched from The Eagles Die by George R. Marek, Harper and Row Publishers, New York.

28 July 2008

Famous People: Hollywood Fame

By Penny Ash

Hollywoodland. A name that conjures up images of glamor and fame, glitter and excitement, and even seediness and the shabby. Place of the fantastic, where a lowly waiter or maid could suddenly be "discovered" and rocket to stardom, like Lana Turner did. In Hollywood, you could stop in at a restaurant and maybe see your favorite star. Along with Las Vegas, it's a place you can mention practically anywhere in the world and find it recognized.

It started out as a planned community built where the old Spanish ranchos had been and flourished until a lack of water made it necessary to annex it to Los Angeles. Then in 1911 the first film studio arrived, The Nestor Company. Cecil B. DeMille and D. W. Griffith arrived soon after and the boom began. The area was perfect for making movies, with it's open spaces and good climate. The sign arrived in 1923 to advertise a real estate development. The arrival of the thousands of people it takes to make movies meant everyone needed a place to live.

By 1949, the sign had badly deteriorated. The Chamber of Commerce took over, fixed it up, and removed the last four letters. It wasn't long before Hollywood became the trademark for an entire lifestyle. But it didn't last. As the world changed and movie making began to compete with TV, the condition of the sign deteriorated again.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, another push was launched to "Save the Sign." People like Hugh Hefner campaigned to repair the icon, and people like Alice Cooper bought letters. It was vandalized several times and used to make political statements through the 1980s.

The sign and its condition has always been a metaphor and a mirror for the condition of the town, a beacon for those wanting fortune and fame, glamor and glitz, and fantasy. It will continue to draw people as long as people are dazzled by fame.

27 July 2008


We have a winner for Erastes's SPEAK ITS NAME giveaway:


Contact Erastes to give her your address. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Guest Blogger: Kayla Gray

Hello! Welcome to another Promo Sunday, this time featuring Zebra Debut author Kayla Gray and her novel ROGUE.

Waking up on a ship in the middle of the high seas, Bailey Spencer is shocked to discover she's being held prisoner by Captain Cole Leighton--a handsome rogue who plans to use her as a pawn in his pursuit of vengeance. In all her life, Bailey has never met a man so seductive. She must escape, but his smoldering gaze and caressing touch are irresistible...

Now that he's found the missing piece in his plot for revenge, Cole has no intention of setting Bailey free, though he is intrigued by her unassuming beauty and courageous spirit. But, torn between his searing passion for Bailey and his vow for vengeance, Cole may not be capable of putting his precious jewel in danger--or of ever letting her go...

Where did you grow up and was reading a big part of your life?

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia with an older brother and sister. Reading was definitely a big part of my life and I can vividly remember some of the books I read even in kindergarten. Trips to the local book-mobile were a hugely anticipated event, and I would always have a hard time trying to narrow down my stash of borrowed treasures.

Who or what were your influences when you began to write and when did you start?

I've been writing something or another for almost as long as I've been reading. Mostly poems and songs, but as I got older, I'm pretty sure my powers of writing endlessly scored me better grades on those essay tests in history and literature than I deserved. At that time I don't think I had an influence, I was just doing what came naturally. In high school when I discovered romance novels, my early influences were Kathleen Woodiwiss, Jude Devereaux and Heather Graham to name a few.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Well, to be honest, some days are definitely more enjoyable than others. *G* But seriously, I think for me it's just something I have to do. I know I'm not happy when I'm not writing. But when you break it down into the process itself, I think it's so much fun to create a vivid, complex story out of an initial spark of an idea. Plotting it out and seeing the characters come to life is exciting. And every time I finish a book I have the most amazing feeling of accomplishment.

Where did you get the idea for Rogue?

I actually came up with the hero first. His life, his backstory, the intense pain of betrayal he felt was what sparked the whole book. From there, I tried to come up with a heroine who would be the worst possible match for him. And then to top it off, I had to make him fall in love with her.

How did you choose the setting?

The setting for ROGUE was kind of pre-ordained. Being my first attempt at a novel, I decided that I should stick with a setting that I was at least slightly familiar with. Growing up in the south and having a lot of Colonial history surrounding me, I figured the research would be less tricky. Besides that, I adore the ocean and some of my favorite early romance reads were settings with pirates and sea captains. For me, there's just something inherently romantic about a warm, salty sea breeze and a bare-chested suntanned man, standing with his strong legs braced on the deck of a big ship. Am I right, or what? *G*

Was it difficult to sell a historical that some consider an "unusual setting?"

Everyone said it would be. I believe some even said "impossible." But I was so far into the manuscript when I finally started getting the feedback, I couldn't start all over. I just felt like I owed it to the story and to myself to finish it--even if it never sold. I looked at it as a learning experience but deep down I hoped it would find readers who love the setting as much as I do. Turns out, it really wasn't that difficult to sell. Of course, the universe was aligned perfectly that day I happened to meet with the most awesome editor of all time... *G*

What is your writing process like? Do you plot or fly by the seat of your pants?

Oh, I'm a plotter, no doubt about it. I don't even like to fly in airplanes, so I sure don't want to do it with a storyline. I use WriteWay, which is a writing program and for someone like me who needs notes and outlines and major organizing power, it's great. I like to get a good feel for my two main characters first, and then I focus in on the plot. I like to try to plot out the entire book before I get started, but sometimes that's just impossible. I do the best I can to get to the Happily-Ever-After, but things do change a lot along the way, so I end up plotting along the way, too.

Do you use any real-life men to inspire your heroes or are they purely in your imagination?

I do tend to get inspiration from some real-life sources, but only after I've developed the character pretty well. Sometimes it's a photo from a magazine, sometimes an actor, musician or some other celebrity and sometimes it's a combination of one or more men. Hey, what can I say? Sometimes a fictional hero just can't be summed up by one mortal man. *G* I won't name any names for my previous inspirations, though. I like for readers to be able to conjure up their very own mental image of the hero.

What are you working on now? How different is it from your debut?

I have another historical, SEDUCER, coming out in February 2009. It's similar in that I have another alpha sea-faring hero, but the time period is later--1774. The story unfolds in South Carolina and Virginia with some adventure on the high seas. The heroine in SEDUCER is similar in that she's had a tough life, but instead of a single tragic moment defining her, she has been dealing with a difficulty for a long time. She's tougher and more independent to begin with and the bad deal she is forced to make with the hero is due to her attempt to help a friend in need. I like her. She's more modern-minded than women typically were then and she gives the hero a good run.

How can readers find out more about you and your books?

I love to hear from readers! My website is kaylagray.com and I'm on Myspace too. Readers will find an excerpt from Rogue on my website, and sometime later this summer or early fall, I'll put up an excerpt from Seducer. I'm also getting a newsletter put together, so readers can sign up for that on my website too.



The way her proper name slipped off his tongue, like a caress in the dark, sounded so improper, it released a tingle down her spine. Then she felt the mattress sink with his weight and tightened her grip as though she would drop into the pit of hell if she dared let go.

"Stay above the sheet!" she ordered as she felt his weight settle next to her. Oh, Sweet Mary, maybe this was not such a good idea. Her body rolled into his as his weight bore into the mattress and try as she might, she couldn't press any closer to the wall than she was. Did he have to be so . . . big? And warm? She curled in a ball, but then her buttocks pressed firmly against some part of him and she heard him stifle a groan, so she assumed he was as displeased with the contact as she was.

After what felt like an eternity, Cole spoke, startling Bailey into an even more rigid posture. His deep voice rose above the sharp rain-patter, though a distinct chill filled each word. "You needn't worry. I gave up ravishing unwilling women long ago. And even the willing ones aren't worth more than a few hours of a man's time. Mostly harlots, clinging to a man's breeches while reaching for his coin as he tries to make his escape," he snorted. "I can do without the lot of you."

"Really? And which lot do you place me in, Captain? Come, come, please continue. I find your ideas fascinating. You obviously have an extensive knowledge of women. Enlighten me." Bailey hoped the sarcasm in her tone would make up for the fact that it was too dark for him to see her scathing glare, even if she could bring herself to roll over and face him.

"I do not claim to have extensive knowledge. I have my own experiences and that is all I need to make my observations. As for you, Bailey, I do not know where you fit. I haven't given you that much thought."

She was surprised at how deeply that comment cut her. "Good. Then you won't give much thought to my absence once we reach New Providence and I bid you and the Barracuda my most eager farewell."

"You won't be bidding anyone farewell until we are far away from New Providence. You might as well banish that idea right now."


Thanks for stopping by, Kayla! Readers, would you like to win a copy of ROGUE? Of course you would! Leave a comment or questions for Kayla and be entered in our drawing for a free signed copy. The winner will be chosen one week from today, so make sure to stop back. Good luck!

24 July 2008

Famous People: John Evelyn

By Anita Davison

The words 'diarist' and 'restoration' tend to conjure the name Samuel Pepys, but an equally prolific diarist of the time was John Evelyn (1620-1706). Sam Pepys wrote his diary over a period of ten years, but John Evelyn began his as a schoolboy and wrote it almost until his death. Whether he imagined his life was important enough to be recorded in detail is not certain, but he gives us a vivid picture of not only his domestic life, but Royal and political life in Restoration England. By the standards of his age, Evelyn was a man of dignity, philanthropy and loyalty. Samuel Pepys, who was usually regarded as a typical 17th century man, received bribes, (allegedly) deceived his wife and beat his servants.

Evelyn was an adult during the Civil War, lived through the Commonwealth, saw the return of Charles II, witnessed the Great Plague and the Fire of London, survived unscathed the reigns of James II, the Glorious Revolution, William III and Mary II, including the tragedy of Queen Mary's death from smallpox at the age of 32, and the beginning of Queen Anne's reign.

He was close friends with Samuel Pepys, the philosopher Robert Boyle and architect Sir Christopher Wren and also introduced the woodcarver, Grinling Gibbons to Charles II. Pepys, who occasionally found Evelyn conceited and some of his books boring, made a revealing observation of Evelyn by one of his friends, "he being a very ingenious man, and the more I know him, the more I love him," (29 April 1666).

As a Commissioner for Sick and Wounded Seamen, a post he refused to leave during the Plague Year, Evelyn was appalled at the number of maimed and destitute sailors and soldiers begging on the streets of London after the Dutch and Jacobite wars in Ireland and France. He and Samuel Pepys, Christopher Wren and Queen Mary II, founded the Greenwich Hospital where these men were offered a home for the rest of their lives. He was also a founder member of the Royal Society as well as a celebrated gardener and authority on trees.

John’s grandfather, George Evelyn, manufactured gunpowder during the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth I and grew wealthy on the proceeds. Richard Evelyn, was the only son of his second marriage, of whom George, the eldest son inherited the estate in 1640. A respected landowner, George Evelyn sat in Parliament under Charles II, and William and Mary.

In 1637, their second son, John, was admitted into the Middle Temple in London to study law and a year later went up to Balliol College at Oxford. Some of his almanacs survive and they show that, by our standards, he was barely literate.

In the years leading up the Civil War, although a staunch Royalist, Evelyn decided to: "absent my selfe from this ill face of things at home." He left England in late 1643 and spent the next few years exploring France, Italy and Switzerland and came into contact with the exiled court of Charles II. Evelyn met the king's ambassador to France, Sir Richard Browne and in 1647 married Browne's daughter Mary.

In 1649, Evelyn bought Sayes Court, Deptford from his father-in-law; a run-down Elizabethan manor-house adjacent to the naval dockyards. An insalubrious location, but the available land and its proximity to London made up for it. Their eldest son, Richard, suffered a series of fits and a fever during an appalling winter of 1658 and died at the age of five. The following morning their fourth son, seven month old George, died too. Their second son had died as an infant and only the third, John, survived to adulthood. The impassioned account of Richard's life and death in John’s diary belies our belief that parents in an age of chronic infant mortality coped better with losing a child, as Evelyn and his wife were reduced to despair.

Evelyn was one of the first environmentalists, and after the Great Fire in 1666, he presented the King with a plan to rebuild the City. His tracts "Fumifugium" and "A Character of England" had already suggested removing the pollutive industries to more distant locations. Christopher Wren also planned a remodeled city, but neither plan was put into operation with the excuse that Londoners couldn't wait for the schemes of great men and simply built their houses back on their original footprints.

Evelyn had difficulty balancing his respect for Charles II with his outrage at the decadence of the Restoration court. The drinking, gaming, and parading of mistresses were "all dissolution" to him. When news came in January 1686 that Charles's most famous former concubine Nell Gwyn had been seen attending Catholic services, his comment was quoted as: "no greate losse to the Church."

"I saw this evening such a sceane of profuse gaming, and luxurious dallying & prophanesse, the King in the middst of his 3 concubines, as I had never before," (25 January 1685).

His diary shows that he loved his wife and children, and was concerned for the welfare of his servants. When his beloved daughter, Mary died at nineteen in 1685, he mourned her deeply. That same year, his seventeen year old daughter, Elizabeth eloped with a young man from the Navy Office. Evelyn immediately disowned and disinherited her and when she contracted smallpox just weeks later, he visited her sickbed with a minister so she might take the last sacrament and seek forgiveness for her actions.

When God "took her out of this vale of misery," Evelyn's diary states that, "My Child was buried by her sister on 2d September in the Church of Deptford." He appears not to have attended the funeral, sending his youngest daughter, Susanna, instead and his words at the time were that Elizabeth's fate was God's punishment. A harsh attitude perhaps, but disobedience of a father was a grave sin in the 17th Century when children, especially daughters, were regarded as the property of their parents.

During the reign of James II (1685-88) Evelyn reached his highest official post as a Commissioner of the Privy Seal. He avoided having to apply the official seal to documents that troubled his conscience, like the printing of "Popish Books," by not turning up at meetings. Luckily James II's reign was over quickly enough for this not to be an issue.

Evelyn died in his house in Dover Street in 1702, and his wife, Mary Evelyn, three years later. Of his eight children, four lived to adulthood and only Susanna, outlived her parents.

Many of his books are stored at the British Library Museum. Some of his furniture is at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Geffrye Museum in Bethnal Green. The monument to his son Richard and his daughter Mary is still on the wall of the church of St. Nicholas, Deptford. The private Evelyn chapel in Wotton church has been closed since 1992, when the stone sarcophagi on the chapel floor was hacked open and Evelyn's, and his wife's skulls were removed. They have yet to be recovered.

Evelyn's thoughts after the death of King Charles II:
"...He was ever kind to me & very gracious upon all occasions, & therefore I cannot without ingratitude deplore his losse, which for many respects (as well as duty) I do with all my soule," (2 October 1685).

Mary Evelyn Miscarries
"My Wife receiving a fall from a stoole, miscarried of a fine boy, to our greate trouble," (18 October 1660).

23 July 2008

Famous People: Queen Elizabeth I

By Marianne LaCroix

"I may not be a lion, but I am a lion's cub, and I have a lion's heart." ~ Queen Elizabeth I

Instead of rewriting or summarizing the life of this fabulous and legendary Queen of England, I am going to list seven interesting (more personal) facts about her. The movies Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, touch on the more well known facts about her life, even though they are sensationalized by Hollywood.

1. Elizabeth was extremely fond of horseback riding. She'd spend many hours riding fast around the palace grounds much to the disapproval of her council. They feared she'd fall and kill herself by accident. Even through to her sixties, she'd tire her ladies in waiting and ride hard and fast. At the beginning of her reign, she had her Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley, import horses from Ireland because of their power and strength.

2. Elizabeth enjoyed watching tennis and one time disguised herself as one of her ladies in waiting to watch her friend Robert Dudley play a match.

3. Elizabeth loved music and dancing. She would dance the difficult and demanding dance, The Galliard, to keep fit. She enjoyed dancing with her courtiers and was fond of The Volta.

4. Elizabeth loved literature and poetry. She even wrote poetry. The following is one of those poems, and probably her best known:
On Monsieur's Departure

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.
5. Elizabeth followed fashion and often wore plain, simple gowns in private. However, for public appearances, she dressed to impress. Expensive clothes were a status symbol, and no one was allowed to outshine the Queen--especially not one of her ladies in waiting. There is a story of her anger at one of her ladies who dared wear a gown much too fine in rival to the Queen.

6. Elizabeth's gowns were made of fine fabrics and heavily embroidered with colored threads. Jewels like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies were also decorated the gowns. (Can you imagine the fuss when a jewel fell off the gown?)

7. Elizabeth wore little makeup in her early years. After a smallpox outbreak in 1562, she wore heavy makeup made of white lead and vinegar upon her face to hide her smallpox scars. She also wore rouge upon her lips and painted her cheeks with red dye and egg white. Of course, the lead in her makeup was not healthy and did slowly poison her through the years. She also wore many wigs as was fashionable at the time.

Research source: http://www.elizabethi.org/

22 July 2008

Famous People: Rees Howell Gronow

By Erastes

Toward the end of his life, in the 1860s, Captain Rees Howell Gronow decided to write down his reminiscences, and I for one am absurdly grateful to him, because he lived, fought, and loved during some of the most turbulent years of the 19th Century.

Although he was not particularly tall (dubbed "No Grow" by his associates) he was a handsome man, impeccably dressed and very much the Regency Dandy. It is interesting to note that although Gronow is hardly mentioned in any other books of the time, written contemporarily, he certainly cuts a wide swathe through the ton in his own books.

Born in Wales, and educated at Eton (naturally!) Gronow was only 21 when he fought at Waterloo, as a Grenadier, which rather puts paid to the fact that Grenadiers all had to be very tall. For anyone interested in the period, and particularly of the battle itself--his work is vital, for he describes it as the maelstrom of horror it most certainly was.

It is said that he was just about the best shot in the country, with the possible exception of Captain Horatio Ross and was involved in very many duels, both as first--and as second. It was this aspect of his life that fascinated me, and I wove the good captain into STANDISH as a friend of one of the main protagonists. He stands as second for Rafe, and helps him out with correspondence and financial aid when Rafe's exiled to the continent after a homosexual scandal involving him explodes in London.

After the war he lived mostly in Paris for the rest of his life, and his insights into occupied Paris after 1815 are particularly acute.

He was careless of money, it seems, being made insolvent in 1823 and spent some time in debtor's prison--married twice and at his death he left his wife and his children "wholly unprovided for"--according to the newspapers of the day.

Another newspaper gave this epitaph: "He committed the greatest follies, without in the slightest disturbing the points of his shirt collar." Which I can't help but admire a great deal.

Sources: Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, Formerly of the Grenadier Guards and M.P. for Stafford, Being Anecdotes of the Camp, the Court, and the Clubs, at the Close of the Last War with France, Related by Himself, 1861;

Recollections and Anecdotes, being a Second Series of Reminiscences, by Captain R. H. Gronow, 1863;

Celebrities of London and Paris, Being a Third Series of Reminiscences and Anecdotes, 1865;

Captain Gronow's Last Recollections, Being the Fourth and Final Series of his Reminiscences and Anecdotes, 1866.

And Gutenberg has an online text here

21 July 2008

Famous People: Infamous Women of the Edwardian Era

By Evangeline Holland

Lady Randolph Churchill: Though known primarily as the American mother
of Sir Winston Churchill, the former Jennie Jerome is too dynamic a personality to be shunted to the footnotes of history as a mere mother. Despite the controversy that rages over her today (Did she neglect Winston? Was she promiscuous? A selfish spendthrift?), Jennie Jerome Spencer-Churchill Cornwallis-West Porch (though she preferred Lady Randolph Churchill) carved a place not only in a foreign society, but in a time where women had little rights if not little place in the public sphere.

Admired by all who met her, many people stated that had Jennie been a man, she could have ruled the world. So keen was she, it was rumored that she drafted many of Lord Randolph's rousing speeches--certainly Randolph did appreciate his wife's intelligence, and when he and other Conservative politicians formed the Primrose League in 1883, Jennie was there beside him, with her own exalted status within the organization. When Randolph died in 1895, her sons had reached their majority and they became closer. It was Jennie who was Winston's right hand as he fought his way to the top of the British Government, her political expertise and background handy for her scrappy, ambitious son. She however, passed away before she could see the fruition of the career Randolph threw away in an impulsive, foolish moment, in the form of Winston's leadership in during WWII and after.

Lillie Langtry: Born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton on the isle of Jersey, Lillie Langtry was both calculating and warm-hearted. Aware of her beauty and what she desired in life, her first step to achieving success in society was to marry the first man who ferried his way into her life on his yacht. Unfortunately Edward Langtry was an alcoholic who'd mortgaged his property to the hilt to fund his yachting. Lillie however, made lemonade out of lemons and if marriage couldn't achieve her wants, her beauty would, and it did, for her first foray into society created a furor, the artists dining with her nearly expiring over her beauty and a chance to paint it.

From there, Lillie went from strength to strength, culminating in a four year affair with the Prince of Wales. After their passion cooled, Lillie used her fame and beauty to launch a successful acting career which took her throughout Britain and America. With Edward's death in 1897 and a newly discovered talent for horse-racing, Lady de Bathe (for she had married a much younger baronet), Lillie became a leading owner in the horse-racing world before retiring with her husband, quite wealthy, to Monaco.

Daisy, Countess of Warwick: She was rich, she was scandalous and she was indiscreet. She also had the notoriety of being the Prince of Wales' mistress throughout most of the 1890s. Having inherited an estate worth 30,000 pounds a year, the beautiful Daisy Maynard was so eligible a parti, Queen Victoria had hopes for a match made between she and her son Prince Leopold.

Daisy settled for something a little less stressful, marrying her darling "Brookie," in 1881. Within a few years, Daisy's predilection for acquiring what she called "admirers" in her memoirs had taken its toll on their marriage and she and Lord Brooke went their own way, as most couples did in this period. Fortunately for her, her next admirer happened to be the Prince of Wales. With a hearty dislike of boredom, Daisy's wealth and high spirits were a perfect match. So great a match that in 1914, Daisy's ruined financial status lead her to attempt to blackmail the Crown with love letters written to her by King Edward. More so than her liaison with Bertie, it was her conversion to Socialism that earned her infamy. With her heart in the right place, Daisy founded schools for girls to learn needlework or other handy crafts, and a store where the items were sold. This earned her much scorn from her own social class, sneered behind her back as "Red Countess." She plowed on, however recklessly, tirelessly fighting for socialism and the Labour Party til her death.

Mrs. Patrick Campbell: She was difficult, mercurial and vain. But she was one of the finest actresses of the period, if not the history of British theatre. Born Beatrice Stella Tanner to an English father and an Italian mother, Stella was born for theatrics. Her father a natural schemer, moved to America early in her life hoping to strike it rich. He never did, and it was this memory of poverty, and the absence of her husband, he himself in South Africa trying to strike it rich, that enticed her to enter the stage.

By the 1890s, the theatre had become respectable, as did actors and actresses. It was this time when the domination of sappy plays and Shakespeare was shaken by the "problem play." Writers like Pinero, Galsworthy, Shaw, Ibsen, Wilde, etc put on plays that probed the mores of society and highlighted hypocrisies. It was in one of these plays that Stella, known professionally as Mrs. Patrick Campbell (for it was more respectable than plain "Stella Campbell"), became a star. Pinero's The Second Mrs. Tanqueray was shown in 1893 and it was an instant hit with the crowd, the lead actress with her ghostly pallor, deep-set black eyes and lustrous hair, and most of all, marvelous voice, moved the crowd so, it became one of the most successful dramatic works of its day.

Margot Asquith: She shocked society with her indiscreet memoirs and an apocryphal but typical story has her meeting the American film actress Jean Harlow and correcting Harlow's mispronunciation of her first name — "No, no; the 't' is silent, as in 'Harlow'." When Margot Tennant made her debut into 1880s society, she was no ordinary debutante. Due to her mother's vagueness and her father's social-climbing, she and her siblings were allowed great freedom to mingle with gentlemen and form opinions (and even speak on them) long before the age of 18.

Spurred by her intellectual pursuits, Margot wasn't content with the endless round of parties, balls, and house parties and formed a group of like-minded aristocrats known as the "Souls." But it was her marriage to Liberal politician Henry Herbert Asquith that changed her life. She was his "spur to ambition," using her wit and drive to pull him into the Premiership--a goal realized in 1908. Unlike her predecessors, Margot didn't intend her new position to slow her down. Margot's independence and ready tongue got her into a bit of trouble, as the time when she hosted a show of Paul Poiret's modish gowns at No. 10 Downing Street!

Nancy Astor: That an American woman would be the first female MP to take a seat in the Commons is slightly ironic. Though, those who knew Nancy personally wouldn't have found it unbelievable. A Langhorne of Virginia, she and her sisters were renowned for their beauty and this, combined with the recently-restored family wealth boded well for a meteoric rise. Divorcing her first miserable husband, Nancy went overseas, as did all wealthy Americans, and quickly conquered society with her saucy wit and restrained behavior. Soon after her entrenchment in British society, she married Waldorf Astor, the son of expatriate William Waldorf Astor (yes, those Astors) and began life as an elite hostess.

When her husband succeeded to his father's title in 1919 and moved to the House of Lords, Nancy took up the cudgel for the constituency and campaigned for her own election. This was a bold move as at no time had a woman taken public part in politics--and with her own platform. Though women had greater freedom, they were seen as too ignorant and led by emotion to exact justice. Nancy proved them wrong. In her day, she was either loathed or loved, and personal accounts written by those close show her to be a demanding, prejudiced and arrogant woman. In spite of these defects, or rather because of them perhaps, Nancy Astor did what she wanted to do without any thought to her sex.

Mrs. Pankhurst: Widowed at 40, Emmeline continued the work she and her husband accomplished by continuing her involvement in politics. Disillusioned by the existing women's political organizations,in 1903 she founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). This changed the face of women's suffrage, for the traditional background of a suffragist was upper-middle class, professional ladies from comfortable backgrounds. From the first Emmeline the main aim of the organization was to recruit working class women into the struggle for the vote.

But it was in 1905 the break between the old guard (NUWSS) and the new guard (WSPU) ruptured: this was the rise of militancy. Pankhurst's tactics for drawing attention to the movement led to her being imprisoned 13 times between 1908 and 1914. Her daughters Sylvia and Christabel became prominent leaders in the movement, Christabel seeking temporary refuge in Paris to escape imprisonment under the terms of the Cat and Mouse Act. Hated by outsiders, Mrs. Pankhurst's ideals and actions created controversy within the WSPU, creating splits that included one from Sylvia. Her militancy did pay off, as women over 21 received the vote in 1918, and all women were enfranchised in 1928.

20 July 2008


We have two winners for Kimberly Killion's HER ONE DESIRE giveaway:


Contact Kimberly to give her your address. The books must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Book Party: Erastes

This week we welcome one of our regular contributors, Erastes, to celebrate the release of SPEAK ITS NAME, an historical anthology of homosexual love stories featuring Erastes' story "Hard and Fast."


Speak its Name
Major Geoffrey Chaloner has returned, relatively unscathed, from the Napoleonic War, and England is at peace for the first time in years. Unable to set up his own establishment, he is forced to live with his irascible father who has very clear views on just about everything--including exactly whom Geoffrey will marry and why. The trouble is that Geoffrey isn't particularly keen on the idea, and even less so when he meets Adam Heyward, the enigmatic cousin of the lady his father has picked out for him... As Geoffrey says himself: "I have never been taught what I should do if I fell in love with someone of a sex that was not, as I expected it would be, opposite to my own."

"Hard and Fast," your story in the anthology, is a Regency. STANDISH was a Regency too. Would it be fair to say that this your specialist era?

In a way--not really the Regency, but the 19th century I suppose. I've spent so many years reading books from that era, I've only just started to read modern fiction and am only now discovering new genres. But as I say, I spent so long reading "classics" that I feel most comfortable writing in a previous time. I would say that "Hard and Fast" is probably the most traditional Regency I've done so far, a drawing room match of manners and wit with a trip to Bath thrown in, but I don't want to be known only for writing Regencies. Not even gay ones. I don't want to be typecast and I like to stretch myself and try different eras. My second novel, Transgressions, is to be published by Running Press next Spring--and that's English Civil War. Oh, and I've just finished one which is based in the 1960s. And believe me, researching the 1960s was every bit as hard as the English Civil War!

How did SPEAK ITS NAME come to be?

Lee Rowan has been writing for the publisher (Linden Bay Romance) for a while now, and one day she suggested to me that her and I (and a writer called Charlie Cochrane who I hadn't met before) could do a novella each for one of LBR's "Trilogy" series. I had "Hard and Fast" started, but it had ground to a bit of a halt and this gave me the impetus to get it finished. We submitted the three stories to Linden Bay and they accepted them--we were lucky and I like to be lucky!

Was there any rationale regarding the differing eras?

We wanted to present a sweep in time--not to all write in the same era, so Charlie went for 1920s Oxford ("Aftermath"), Lee wrote a great Victorian spy story ("Gentleman's Gentleman"), and mine was Regency. I wouldn't mind doing the same kind of thing again one day, with perhaps stories from before the 19th century. There are so many eras unexplored in the realms of gay historical fiction, one only really needs to stick a pin in a calendar.

What's "Hard and Fast" about?

It's told from the point of view of Geoffrey Chaloner who is (considering he has difficulty expressing himself in speech) remarkably verbose in his own head! He's a major, and he's experiencing the first spring of peace in England. Unable to afford set himself on his own on his major's half pay, he's forced to live with his father who, naturally enough, wants his youngest and only single son to be married as soon as possible, now that Bonaparte has been defeated. Geoffrey is a little reluctant, but he's very much governed by his father and courts the lady his father chooses. The trouble is, the lady has a cousin, Adam Heyward, club-footed, rakishly handsome and with a vitriolic tongue. Geoffrey finds himself drawn to Adam in a way that he never expected, and he has to decide whether he'll follow his heart or his duty.

I tried to make it funny in parts. Geoffrey was so easy to use as a foil to spoof the ideals of the military. One instance is when Geoffrey describes how he was raised by his irascible father to know that he was destined for the battlefield; his nursery is swathed in bloodstained flags and pictures of glorious death, he has a rocking horse which is more like a charger, and had wooden swords and guns to play with. He reflects that if he were more sensitive, he would have been put off from war and only embarked upon it to save his comrades, but he admits he's not that sensitive, which is a sly dig at The Four Feathers and was great fun to write.

I can't see me changing in the near future. Perhaps I might start writing less "romance" and more just gay historical fiction, because the Happy Ever After that's required for "romance" is something I'm a little uncomfortable with, but gay historical fiction is so unexplored.

What's next for Erastes?

I'm finishing off another novella for Linden Bay at the moment--it's (yet!) another Regency, but this time it's nothing to do with ballrooms and drawing rooms. It's about an impoverished printer who has trouble making ends meet--and a large portion of the book is based around the 1814 Frost Fair which was fascinating to research.

Standish by ErastesOnce that's done, I need to get on with novel four. I'm planning a sort of sequel to STANDISH, where one of the minor characters flees to America. It's not a romance, more like gay Flashman meets the New World--each chapter a separate adventure, or that's the plan. I'm looking forward to it and dreading it by turns. Whilst my comfort zone is Regency London and Bath, researching early 19th century America is hugely daunting, and I'll be relying on my online friends a lot! After that, I'm not sure. I have several ideas percolating away: gladiators, Shakespearean actors, Victorian solicitors... *laughs* Too many ideas and I have only ten fingers.


Thank you for joining us, Erastes! If you'd like to try SPEAK ITS NAME for yourself, leave a comment or a question. You name will be entered in a drawing for a free copy, to be drawn next Sunday. Best of luck!

19 July 2008

Weekly Announcements - 19 July 08

Penny Ash has been offered a contract to expand CAESAR'S LOVE, to be paired in a two-story anthology with Jade Morrison for print in early 2009.


For a faery fun interview, take a look at ParaNormal Romance's Paraphernalia feature. This month Jacquie Rogers is one of the featured guest authors for Fae Month. She reveals how she built the Faery World for Faery Special Romances, and her plans for the star of the book, Keely. She also discusses her work with the Children's Tumor Foundation and why she is dedicated to raising neurofibromatosis awareness.


Speak Its Name by Erastes etc.Join us tomorrow when Erastes will be discussing and giving away a free copy of SPEAK ITS NAME, an anthology of homosexual historical stories set between the Regency Era and the 1920s.


We'll also draw the winners of Kimberly Killion's HER ONE DESIRE. Leave a comment for your shot at winning.


Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie. See you next week...

16 July 2008

Famous People: Flinders Petrie

Bonnie VanakBy Bonnie Vanak

He had the personality of a curmudgeon, was known for being eccentric (showing curious tourists at the Great Pyramid his pink underwear to scare them off), read Euclid and conducted chemistry experiments when he was just a lad of 15, and authored over 1,000 books and articles on the digs he conducted.

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, born in 1853 and died in 1942, is considered the "Father of Modern Archaeology." The British Egyptologist and archaeologist was the first to insist on careful, meticulous excavations and examining each handful of earth. He censured the crude methods of using dynamite to blast into ancient tombs. His scientific and mathematical method of measuring the Great Pyramid of Giza set the standard for pyramid measurement.

Before writing my first book, THE FALCON AND THE DOVE, I was researching ancient Egypt and the 18th dynasty pharaoh Akhenaten. In 1892, Petrie excavated Akhetaten, the city the pharaoh built to worship the god Aten. Petrie's work inspired me to include the dig in my book when the heroine, Elizabeth, becomes part of the historical excavation. In THE FALCON AND THE DOVE, Elizabeth, a rebel at heart, breaks Petrie's rules by riding a donkey to the dig site. History tells us Petrie ordered all his workers to walk there. He led a very spartan life while on site.

I'm so fascinated with Petrie that I decided to interview him.

Bonnie: Sir William, is it true your expeditions meant sacrificing luxury and comfortable accommodations while at the dig site?

Petrie: Pah! Who complained to you about that? Bunch of lily-livered saps. Need to buck up. Nothing wrong with sleeping in an old tomb, and eating canned meat. The work's all that matters.

Bonnie: I read that you stripped off your clothing when outside Khufu's pyramid and showed off your Calvin Kleins for the tourists to scare them off. Your PINK Calvin Kleins.

Petrie: Who is this Calvin Klein?

Bonnie: He makes men's underwear.

Petrie: Useless profession. Yes, I did and I detest tourists. Get in the way, the whole lot of them. Worse than the flea-bitten donkeys.

Bonnie: So you did measure the inside of the Great Pyramid nude?

Petrie: Damn hot inside, what else was I supposed to do? Wear a fur coat? Have you ever been inside one? Stuffy as a tomb. Considering it was a tomb.

Bonnie: You worked with Howard Carter on the dig at Akhetaten. He was working as an artist, but made some important discoveries. You're partly to thank for Carter's training that led him to discover the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

Petrie: Carter? Insignificant sap, told him he'd never be more than an artist. Never would make a good excavator. I trained many gifted archaeologists much better than Carter.

Bonnie: Amelia Edwards, who authored A Thousand Miles up the Nile, was a great admirer of yours. She funded the Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College, London. You had the distinct honor of being the first to take the chair.

Petrie: Yes, yes, Amelia, lovely woman, bequeathed her collection to the college. Intelligent and a very good author.

Bonnie: So where did you take it? The chair, I mean.

Petrie: (silence)

Bonnie: That was a joke.

Petrie: Pah! Are you quite done? I have work to do.

Bonnie: Almost. It's said you never did quite get the hang of Arabic. But you changed the way excavations were conducted, and as a result, archaeologists after you understood the importance of examining every bit of debris at a site, every single potsherd. You set the standard, and because of your sequence dating at Naqada, we now have the Predynastic Period of Egypt's history. You, sir, are to be commended for all your wonderful contributions to history.

Petrie: Thank you.

Bonnie: Afwan.

Petrie: What's that?

Bonnie: It's Arabic for "You're welcome."

Petrie, grumbling: Bloody show off!

15 July 2008

Famous People: Harriet Quimby

By Elizabeth Lane

I first read about Harriet Quimby in one of those educational biographies they used to put in the back pages of comic books. Even as a little girl, I was hooked. Harriet was the stuff of romance heroines--beautiful, independent, daring, mysterious, and ultimately tragic.

Harriet Quimby was born in 1875 to a Michigan farm family. It's not known whether she ever married or had children. She was never open about her personal life. What's known is that by the age of 25, she was in San Francisco with dreams of becoming an actress. But it was her ability to find a story and write it that caught on. Instead of an actress, Harriet became a successful reporter as well as a script writer for some early movies.

After San Francisco Harriet moved to New York City. From 1903 to 1912 she took photographs and wrote articles for Leslie's Weekly, a popular magazine of the day. She became a drama critic and eventually an editor. By then, her beauty, charm, talent and independence had made her the toast of New York. At a time when women had barely begun to come into their own, Harriet was earning a good living, supporting herself and her parents and even driving her own automobile!

In 1911 Harriet discovered aeroplanes. Fascinated, she signed up for flying lessons at the Moisant School on Long Island. A few months later she became the first American woman to earn a pilot's license. Her aviation skills, as well as her glamour, made her an instant celebrity. She fetched high fees at air meets--especially after she became the first woman to pilot a plane across the English Channel.

For public appearances, Harriet designed her own flying costume of plum-colored silk. It had a hood to cover her hair and a lower part that could be converted from knickers to a hobble skirt with the fastening of a few buttons.

Harriet Quimby stampsOn July 1, 1912, Harriet flew an exhibition near Quincy, Massachusetts. She and the exhibition manager were flying above the bay, at an altitude of about 1,500 feet, when the plane pitched forward. Harriet and her passenger were both flung out and fell through the air, into the bay. Harriet left behind a vision of courage, glamour and intelligence.

On the Wings of Love by Elizabeth LaneIf I hadn't become aware of Harriet at an early age, I probably never would have written my book, ON THE WINGS OF LOVE (Harlequin Historicals, January 2008). Harriet Quimby was the inspiration for my heroine, Alex. But as the writing progressed, I wrote Harriet herself into the story--first as Alex's idol and role model, then as a perceived rival. It's the news of Harriet's death that brings the story to its dramatic crisis.

One more thing--when my editor asked me for a dedication, I dedicated my book to the memory of Harriet Quimby, a true heroine.

14 July 2008

Famous People: William the Conqueror

By Lisa Yarde

William the Conqueror is one of the world's most famous bastards.

Not in the contemporary sense--though his enemies might have agreed--but because he rose above his birth to become Duke of Normandy and King of England. His impact on history is reflected in English law and language, and in the dominance of feudalism.

Image: William the Conqueror

Born in 1027, William was the only acknowledged son of Robert I of Normandy, alternatively known by the epithets "the Devil" or "the Magnificent" during his life. Allegedly, Robert first saw William's would-be mother Herleva from his castle at Falaise, Normandy, while she was dyeing leather. Robert promptly fell in lust and ordered the daughter of a local tanner to his bed. His mother's heritage haunted William all his life. In 1047, at William's siege of Alençon, a buffer state between Normandy and Maine, its people hung animal skins over the walls to taunt the young duke. When William captured Alençon, he cut off the hands of his tormentors.

This occurred many years after a fraught upbringing. William's father went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1035. Robert died on the return journey, but before he left Normandy, he had proclaimed his illegitimate son his heir. Raised by his paternal uncle, the Archbishop of Rouen and other guardians, William survived several assassination attempts even before he became an adult. He enjoyed the support of King Henry I of France during the early years, but rivalry between the two men led to warfare in 1054 and 1057.

William married Matilda of Flanders, who bore him four sons and at least four daughters. As with most events in William's life, his union with Matilda did not begin easily. His first envoys to the Flemish court received a stinging rejection from Matilda; as a descendant of Alfred the Great of England and the French kings, she refused to marry William because of his mother's low origins and his birth.

But William did not give up. Allegedly, he rode one summer to Flanders, pulled Matilda from her horse and beat her. Whatever her feelings about this episode, Matilda changed her mind about the bastard duke. Theirs seems to have been a long and happy union, altered only by the rebellions of their oldest son Robert against his father. Matilda died in 1083; when her bones were exhumed, she measured little more than four feet tall, one of England's smallest queens but a match for the strength of her husband.

William had connections to the English court through his great aunt, Queen Emma, the mother of England's Edward the Confessor. The English king had also spent several years in Normandy as a young man and emulated Norman dress and architecture. King Edward had married Edith, a daughter of the powerful Godwin clan. When he died childless, the succession was at risk.

His brother in-law Harold Godwinson claimed the crown, but so did William of Normandy, who claimed that not only had Edward the Confessor named him heir to the throne, but Harold had sworn an oath on holy relics to support the claim.

When William learned Harold had been crowned king in January 1066, he supposedly withdrew from an afternoon of hunting and spoke to no one for several days. But this depression did not last. He summoned a war council and planned an invasion. He arrived on England’s southern coast at an optimal time; Harold was north battling Harald Hardrada for the throne, the first of two threats the English would face that year. When Harold won his first battle, he rapidly marched his army south. The Normans and English met near Hastings in October 1066. William defeated his enemy and became King of England two months later.

Image: Battle of Hastings, from the Bayeux Tapestry

Not bad for an illegitimate son who started out with an uncertain future.

13 July 2008


We have a winner for Mirella Patzer's BLOODSTONE CASTLE giveaway:


Contact Mirella to give her your address. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Guest Blogger: Kimberly Killion

Hello! This Sunday we welcome Kimberly Killion, whose first novel, HER ONE DESIRE, is a Zebra Debut release from Kensington. We're doing things a little differently this week; instead of a Q&A, Kim is going to give us the low-down on all the grisly means of bringing about an official execution. Grim!


HER ONE DESIRE by Kimberly Killion
Astride a stolen horse, encircled by the shackled arms of Broderick Maxwell, a Scottish spy escaping certain death in the Tower of London, Lizbeth Ives rides to the north, hidden by the merciful darkness. By stealth and by cunning, the daughter of the Lord High Executioner has undone her father's cruel work, compelled to save the innocent man with her. There is no turning back--they are bound as one in his iron chains. Consumed by mortal fear, driven by passion, they disappear into the night...

A single raven follows them. Is it an omen? Or only the first of those who would capture them? They must ride on. If captured, they will face death together. But if they reach Scotland, he will claim her for his own...forever.

Kimberly Killion, author of HER ONE DESIRETORTURE and EXECUTION. Not two words you would associate with romance? No, they are not, which is what makes HER ONE DESIRE so unusual.

Lady Lizbeth Ives, the heroine in HER ONE DESIRE, is the daughter of the Lord High Executioner. A woman born to the Reaper of the Realm. I would ask you to form a mental picture of this man. Who do you see? A man in a black cloak with an ax who mercilessly takes the lives of both the guilty and innocent. While most of us might picture this man as grotesque, he was not a vigilante, but an officer of the court. The executioner was, no doubt, tormented by a profession that might have left him soulless, but it is also possible that he might have been a gentle man who loved his wife and his children.

Intrigued? I was when I started researching Lizzy’'s character. I walked with her through the cold corridors of the Tower of London, witnessed a beheading, and even felt what it was like to be pressed to death. *shiver*

So without further ado, let's talk about medieval torture. Probably the most common were BEHEADINGS. Severed heads were used as a means to deter criminals. Oftentimes, the heads were boiled in salt (ew) and displayed on pikes, as in London Bridge. A man or woman sentenced to death by means of beheading could only hope the executioner was skilled and the blade sharp. A good executioner could sever a head in a single blow, as was the case with Anne Boleyn. The strike was so abrupt her eyes and lips were still aflutter when the executioner held her head aloft for the crowd to see. It took three blows to end Mary, Queen of Scots' life, and 29 blows were required to decapitate Comte de Chalais in 1626.

Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, did not go quietly to the scaffold. Upon being led to Tower Green, on the grounds of the Tower of London, she declared she was no traitor. The executioner had to chase her down 'swinging wildly.'

WHIPPINGS were accepted forms of punishment for many crimes, not excluding impudence, violence, theft, lascivious thoughts, and lewd behavior. Floggings rarely resulted in death, but, once again, a skilled executioner could dislocate his victim's neck in a single stroke. In Russia, executioners used a knout--a wooden handled whip with braided thongs--which could be frozen or threaded with wire to increase the sting.

Another of the more interesting forms of punishment I discovered along my research was in the form of water torture. The DUNKING STOOL was used to torture women. She was bound to a stool or chair and lowered into the river repeatedly. The rapid descent into cold water caused fatalities among older victims. Of course, there were those who were boiled to death as well as those who were force-fed water as was the case with Scotsman William Lithgow. He was accused of spying in Spain in 1620 and was stretched on a rack at which point water was funneled down his throat expanding his stomach to painful proportions.

The device you see strapped to this woman's face is called SCOLD'S BRIDLE or a BRANK. It was a type of metal helmet that contained a gagging strap that prevented a woman from speaking. A 'scold,' you see, was a troublesome woman who was often angry. She disturbed the peace and was simply a nuisance. I for one can think of a handful of woman I would like to see sentenced to an hour or two in this contraption. Men too. *wicked grin*

Other forms of public humiliation used to punish criminals were the PILLORY, A device that held a person's head and arms immobilized, and the STOCKS--a similar contraption to the pillory except that the ankles are bound in place while the criminal is forced to sit atop a bench. One of the worst parts of being bound in the stocks was the constant tickling of the soles of the feet.

On a final note, I would like to introduce you to a form of punishment I found to be...well...breathtaking. PEINE FORTE ET DURE: Pressing to death. This form of torture was delivered upon a cell floor and used on a prisoner who refused to plead. A board was placed across the prisoner's chest and stomach and heavy iron weights were added to the board until submission or death. For 366 years, until 1772, pressing to death was a standard punishment in England.

If I've intrigued you, then don't miss my debut release: HER ONE DESIRE.

You can read an excerpt here.



Kim is offering to give away a copy of HER ONE DESIRE to TWO random commenters, which we'll draw next Sunday. Your task? Kim asks:

Would you prefer to be beheaded or suffer through the long drawn out process of 'pressing to death'?

None, you say? Good choice. But what if you had to choose one in order to save the man you love?