Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Mr Darcy's Home County.

So here we are in Derbyshire - Mr. Darcy's home county!

Derbyshire is a mix of High Peaks and glorious dells where rivers wend through steep valleys to reveal undulating slopes and flat river plains. In like to much of England, the county has numerous bridges from small pack horse bridges to the grand multi-span arched bridges. Often as not the moorland and peaks are shrouded in mist which lends the upper slopes to sense of a Gothic landscape erring somewhat creepy and mysterious to strangers, and can lead to finding oneself lost even with modern road signs. Whereas, in the Georgian era there were but milestones and no doubt as today, they were part shrouded in moss or ground ivy because locals knew their way around and no one bothered to clear away the creeping flora! Wooden signposts on high ground were prone to collapse in high winds of yesteryears, unlike the later mid-Victorian Iron signposts.   


There are several grand estates within Derbyshire, not least the country seat of the Duke's of Devonshire at Chatsworth House, and Hardwick Hall, both houses within the Cavendish family hands at that time!

Painting of Chatsworth circa 1785

Chapter 43 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen:

Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation, and where at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.
     The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of the lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.
     Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for a half-a-mile, and there found themselves at the top  of a considerable eminence, where  the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground , and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. It banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned.

In my JAFF novel I chose Buxton as the main country spa town nearest to Pemberley, in part because Jane Austen mentioned High Peak which is a long way north of Matlock. And although it is claimed Jane Austen stayed at The Rutland Arms in Bakewell, thus Mrs. Gardiner's Lambton is based on Bakewell, Buxton seemed closer to Pemberley's imagined location; based on the fact it couldn't be Chatsworth as Elizabeth and the Gardiners' had ventured to see Chatsworth and other en route.    

Chatsworth today. 

 Chapter 42 Pride and Prejudice JA.
In that county there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong affection. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, and Dovedale, or the Peak. 

All in all Jane could have used several small market towns as her template for "Lambton" but Buxton gives greater scope for novelists due to its link with the 5th Duke of Devonshire. Aside from which, if Mrs. Gardiner's parents were of trade, as was Mr. Gardiner, the chances were they had dealings with Chatsworth, as would tradespeople of Bakewell (either Bakewell or Buxton = Lambton), both places in relative proximity to Chatsworth, barring a closer relationship betwixt Buxton and Chatsworth. 

A beautiful Crescent was built within Buxton by the 5th Duke of Devonshire. At the rear was a grand stable complex with a dome. The latter was built to house horses and equipage of the rich whilst the aristocracy who resided within the crescent partook of the Buxton waters, just as many people partook of the waters in fashionable Bath & Cheltenham, and other spa towns. It was essentially the Bath of the North, at its highest elevation of approx 1,000 feet above sea level

The Devonshire Dome. 

Derby itself is south of the county. 

Derby's Georgian heritage is apparent within its architecture!

And Matlock through which Jane Austen travelled, and here one can see older architecture mingling with Victorian Gothic. 

Needless to say, wherever authors choose to set their JAFF characters, north of the county seems best for P&P, close to Chatsworth and close to High Peak.  

If you wonder why I do larger text it's because many people have said they can't read small or faint text on blogs. So please forgive me if your sight is very good... 


Sunday, 11 November 2018

Travel in Jane Austen's day!

It's all too easy to imagine travel of yesteryear as a time consuming mediaeval plod, and yet, in some respects travel during the latter half of the 1800s and early 1900s was expedient when it came to mail coaches, post-chaises, and private drag companies;  the latter who were paid to ply the highways and byways of Georgian Britain on commissioned travel by clients, as did private drags owned by wealthy gentlemen and the aristocracy. Strange as it may seem, many wealthy men thoroughly enjoyed driving their own conveyances equally as well as their coachmen. It was also fashionable to drive curricles (high-top ) or a low-slung Tilney. 

For example, the mail coach runs! 

Travelling by mail coach from London to Bath, the average time on the road inclusive change of four-in-hand horses every 10-15 miles was 11 hrs. The greatest contributing factor to speed was ostlers at inns, who prided themselves on fast-changeovers of horses, thus the relief team were already harnessed ready to go, and the switch of horses could and was achieved in twelve minutes or less depending on weather conditions.    

From Exeter in Devon to Hyde Park Corner: the travel time of the mail coach was 15 hrs.

Private and Post Chaise Horses required two hours of rest per forty miles driven at a more leisurely pace than that of mail coach teams.   

Lighter weight chaises with two-in-hand (pair) were capable of matching mail coaches for speed but again required an hour of rest per 20-25 miles depending on terrain.

There's a bit of a myth on the author circuit teams of horses were for hire to anyone who stopped at any inn (or horse for hire establishment) and wished to change horses and drive onward, hence that statement is factually incorrect unless the owner of said horses was familiar with the person wishing to hire one and that person had credibility. What some inns, and often as not a local smithy (blacksmith/farrier) hired out, were emergency horses with a postilion if a horse had gone lame etc., and that postilion would later return with the horse/s when the conveyance was driven to its destination. Horses were extremely valuable during the time of the Napoleonic wars, and notably in short supply due to acquisition of equines for military service to replace those killed in action or shot when need be. Horse breeders of quality equines tended to be the aristocracy, or those providing horses for the Royal Mail and coaching companies.   

All coaching companies paid dues to keep a string of teams at various coaching inns en route, and canny innkeeper's kept a few spare horses if their inn was located close to a steep hill. Brake horses were ridden to the top of steep hills when coaches were due, and before descending the hill the brake horses were attached to the rear of the coach, the postilion in a position to assist the coachman with extra brake power. Likewise on the same hill ascending, two extra horses were attached to the pole to assist the team and then unhitched on reaching the top, especially important during inclement conditions and snowfall. Some farmsteads offered the same service of brake horses, the times of coaches passing through was pretty much on schedule barring mishaps.

Snippet of earlier history: The First stagecoach started up in 1610 from Edinburgh to Lieth. During the years of the English Civil War travel by coach averaged 7-8 days from London to Exeter. But as time progressed and Charles II was restored to the throne, more coaching routes were developed and travel times were lessened with better design of coaches and the renowned Flying Machine. In the years 1667-1670 announcements were commonplace:

"All those wishing to pass from London to Bath (to take the waters) or to any other place on their road, let them repair to the Bell Savage on Ludgate Hill London and the White Lion in Bath, at both places which they may be received in a Stage Coach every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which performs the whole journey in Three Days (if God permit), and sets forth at five in the Morning.
Passengers to pay One Pound five Shillings each, who are allowed to carry 14 Pounds Weight - for all above to pay the halfpence per Pound."  

Wars involved men travelling the length and breadth of the British Isles and overseas, not least those who became mercenary soldiers in the 30 yrs war, and those who fought in the Spanish, the French, and Dutch wars within the Low Countries on the Continent.
Thus the distance between "Land's End" at the most southern point of England in the far southwest of Cornwall, and to "John o' Groats" at the most northerly aspect of Scotland, represents the whole length of the main island of Great Britain. By road and highway it is 874 miles (1,407 km) betwixt the two and takes modern-day cycling enthusiasts 10 to 14 days; the record for running the route is nine days. 

Not all travel by horse was taken along highways! 

Dorset Ravine

A man and horse taking more diverse routes across country via bridleways, drover roads (ravines), and along old Roman roads in the 1800s and early 1900s matched that of the cyclists of today, and  with no change of horse en route. Hence the distance between the two extreme ends of the Island of Great Britain could be achieved in less time than imagined in yesteryear Britain. 

Pack-horse Drover Bridge

Although the main Roman roads ceased at the border between England and Scotland (Hadrian's Wall), where old drove roads and bridleways had afforded relative safety for lone travellers, so too the same sense of safety was preferable to riding the main highways with the threat of highwaymen. 

Many Drover roads were ancient track-ways traversing north, south, and east across England, and to the far west across Wales. Thus riding these routes across country, and over moorland, saved valuable journey time as opposed to conventional roads and highways.  

The same feats on horseback today require long diversions due to modern road systems, many of the original tracks are long since built on, and old Roman roads such as Ermine Street/Dere Street, known today as The Great North Road on which Dick Turpin rode with his famed Black Bess, now lie beneath tarmac. 

This is part of Watling Street (Roman way)

Part of Old Watling Street -
 registered as a green lane and bridleway.

Part of the Old Foss way  

Of other Roman roads there are many, not least The Foss way (220m), and Watling Street (200m), again great stretches now major modern roads. Of famous bridleways-cum-drove roads the most famous is The Ridgeway, an ancient track-way dated pre Roman times stretching longer than 87m, which is merely the wild section running along the Ridge of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Downs, above the famous Uffington White Horse. The Ridgeway remains as a track-way from start to finish. 

Although much of a second track-way, the Inkfield Way was built upon in more modern times and all but disappeared within the Home Counties, but in 1972 by slight deviations it was re-connected to The Ridgeway, hence once again providing a route almost as its original route from the Dorset coast to East Anglia. So, all in all, travel for lone riders, even troops of soldiers, much greater distances could and were travelled along the old track-ways than the more conventional routes which traversed town to town, city to city. 

Whilst coaching inns provided provisions for travellers, so too, along these old routes were taverns and inns aplenty in small villages. It's quite astonishing to think  Oliver Cromwell's great feat of marching his army and heavy cannon from Scotland to Worcester, covering 25 miles a day (1651). This feat is well documented. Whereas his cavalry and foot marched 40-50 miles a day to catch up with and to trail Charles II's Royalist forces from Scotland to Worcester. Charles had a head start of several days, thus the mammoth feat of Cromwell's men, all told, was one of endurance riding and marching, much of it along ancient routes and the great North Road (Dere Street), and thence to engage in battle within less than twelve hours of respite. And, what is more, Cromwell's men won the Battle of Worcester. 

Map of Roman Roads traversing England.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Latest Release A Fun JAFF novel

A Traditional Sweet Regency Jane Austen Fan Fiction Novel -
A Pride and Prejudice Sequel.
Believe me, this was hard work and I admire any author who picks up the gauntlet and writes a JAFF novel. I explain why in the Introduction to the book!

Book's blurb/premise.

~ Nothing is ever quite as one might imagine ~

The new mistress at Pemberley is quite sure all Darcy’s friends, and his neighbours, will be keen to make his wife’s acquaintance. But several weeks later and no callers, who is Belle, and can it be true, Darcy has a mistress and a love child? As tensions rise and turmoil ensues, the three married Bennet sisters are reunited at Pemberley and duly set out to unravel the mystery of Darcy’s past. But when Belle and Bonnie arrive at the house, Darcy steals the ground from beneath Elizabeth’s feet. Likewise a letter from Longbourn heralds such favourable news everyone falls utterly speechless: until Lydia explodes “Heavens above, what a giggle!” 
I confess I have never aspired to emulate any other author's writing voice (style) and for me this was a fun exercise in writing a Jane Austen Fan Fiction novel which I am of mind has become one of French Farce proportions, and dare I say, it's a modest Homage to some of Jane’s delightful characters from Pride and Prejudice, characters beloved by readers across the globe so I pray I've not in any way besmirched the names Bennet, Darcy, or Bingley.  

I did place this at Amazon as a pre-order copy with a temporary unedited draft whilst the novel was in the hands of my editor, and come the deadline day to upload the edited copy Amazon had a glitch on the system and the previewer was down as well. The problem being the uploads (enacted several times) would not overwrite the draft copy. To cut a long saga short the book went live with the wrong file, and Amazon tech guy couldn't upload the file either. I was advised to unpublish and republish, which I have now done. Typically a reviewer sought to point out the fact it  was republished, and assumed it was solely to negate two negative reviews at Amazon com. Well I would have been foolish to lose several reviews, two of which were 5 and one a 4 star on the UK site. Aside from that I have since been granted the Jane Austen Readers' Award. So am a bit chuffed!            

This a sample chapter  from the paperback illustrated edition with differing letter text than the e-book version. Each letter has differing text.
As the blurb header states - this story isn't quite how it seems and I guess it's a little moral tale in how easy it is to judge a person without having met them face to face.  


Derbyshire, England 1812:

Two months at Pemberley with his new bride, the rigours of marital obligations had taken its toll on Fitzwilliam Darcy. There was every reason to concentrate on estate matters which had fallen short in many quarters, not least the bi-monthly review of accounts and expenditure. Thus serious deliberation in a moment of absolute quietude whilst partaking of breakfast had determined he must afford Pemberley his undivided attentions for today, and make time to catch up with friends and set precedence for the introduction of his wife to the Derbyshire set. After all, the natural consequence of marriage and unencumbered indulgence of pleasurable asides, which could not be denied as essential to man’s inner desires, life at Pemberley was now wholly different than imagined. Hereafter, timely observance of his wife’s needs may indeed ensure against misapprehensions.
    Heaven forefend worst case scenario involving cataclysmic personality clashes would arise in the presence of Mrs. Reynolds, or that of the head footman, Porter. Nonetheless, the memorable incident of his first encounter with Elizabeth still plagued him. The very thought of argumentative friction at Pemberley set him on edge, though it was Elizabeth’s very propensity to irk a man to vexed intolerance, the very same having drawn them together in verbal combat more than once prior to marriage.
    There was no doubting he had indeed married a firebrand of sharp wit and clever retort in tongue. To a great extent she was a young madam easily affronted by the arrogance of the inner man; why then had she sought to wed him after her initial rebuttal despite his lengthy letter in the wake of Wickham’s improprieties? No doubt she had pondered the why of his need to redeem himself, and what man will ever admit to the truth that physical desire has the propensity to overrule common sense. Aside from which, despite her love for Pemberley, a novel could hold Elizabeth enraptured for lengthy periods of time.
    To all intents and purposes she had oft seemed oblivious to her husband seated across the room, one desirous in occupations befitting a gentleman of means. What was done could not be undone, and marriage was no excuse for ignoring the wont of another. But what was a husband to do, say for that matter, other than retreat to a study or ride the estate. Far from immune to her desire to be Mistress of Pemberley, the notion marriage itself was seemingly secondary to her, gave rise to doubt he matched her expectations. Thus it was incumbent upon him to accept the inevitable consequence of foolhardiness in the heat of unrestrained desire and proclamation of love. After all, marriages involving masters of Pemberley were of necessity to sustain entitlement and dutiful guardianship of Pemberley to a Darcy heir, and Elizabeth seemed content with that notion.
    Was he at fault, for although the begetting of a son was indeed the prime purpose of marriage, and God willing, news of that nature would be short in the coming; surely he and Elizabeth could find common ground in other ways. The truth of the matter, they had never talked of pastimes, sporting or otherwise, so engrossed were they in redeeming each in the eyes of the other.
    Inwardly vexed and having justly excused self from his wife’s company to gain semblance of former duty to his birthright, and having strode back and forth along the upper corridor in momentary reflection, he turned and hastened to his private study. Nonetheless, a little prick of conscience struck, and flesh tingling whilst unlocking a drawer in the desk, inner longing to peruse a copy of an earlier letter set him ill at ease. Written shortly after his last proposal to Elizabeth, when doubt lingered, all but momentary, he had duly dispatched the letter to Farthingly. Belle his confidante and one of sage mind.

Dearest Belle,
I shall endeavour to pay visit as soon as can be set in place, and explain more. It is with sincere regret I have to inform you wedlock to a Miss Bennet has transpired. How talk of marriage arose reflects my stupidity in frequenting Longbourn in company with Bingley. Damnation –as one would say in person– for my impeccable hide is finally besmirched by insanity, as some will no doubt speak of me. The sheer joy of walking out in company with others, I had avowed to self as the safest measure to prevent any notion of compromise by any ladies. No onlooker could surmise the devil’s hand at play, though most certainly I fell to foolish unaccountable notions whilst visiting at Longbourn and later at Rosings, where rejection befell me and justly so in the circumstance of blunder and unbidden desires as oft befalls man when least expected. Why then did I again countenance Miss Bennet’s company when playing gallant, and then to dawdle in pace and indulge in her fanciful notions, my own vague utterances thence part taken out of context? I shall not mince words, for that damnable Wickham is the cause of my present dilemma. If you will forgive me for this bluster I shall bear your scorn with fortitude when next I am able to attend upon you at Farthingly. Alas, I am now looked upon as akin to a ridiculous gallant of old from within Morte de Arthur, or some such nonsense tale. What can I say in despairing of this situation from which there is no escape, when affections thought of as sincerely cast in my direction are now seemingly cast abroad as easily as a kiss placed to one’s cheek in passing? Dash it all, for now committed to Mrs. Darcy, the young madam I recklessly admired for her intellectual wit, I must live with the consequence of rash indulgence to provide Pemberley with the requisite heir. What is more, my daunting aunt, Lady de Bourgh, will mark me a cad of the worst order, but you are aware of that former promised fiasco. Aside from family commitments, to say I barely recognised the juncture whereby it was presumed I had offered for Elizabeth, and I must have, it was so rapidly announced to all afterwards I am unsure it was the right thing to do. I trust you will understand marriage will in no way curtail my visits to Farthingly. Be assured, the love you and I share will be no lesser than the past five years of indulging Bonnie at every given opportunity. After all is said and done, Farthingly is but a short ride from Pemberley.
With sincere affections,

    Secreting the letter once again to the locked drawer, he then riffled through a stack of letters awaiting perusal, and there, as hoped, finally a reply from Belle. With speed he unlatched the wafer and there to his consummate pleasure, read:

My dearest Fitz,
How could you think I would be other than forgiving, albeit informed of your betrothal after the event? Whilst marriage has always been a rather contentious issue, for you, I never expected otherwise. It is the way of life and to continue as a bachelor when you have Pemberley; it is, as your aunt has proclaimed on several occasions, sorely in need of an heir. So dearest man, aside from any sense of immediate guilt that may arise as you settle to your new life, you will embrace the new found existence with a deal of familiarity in no time at all, and on occasion inner wails of despair will arise when things go awry as happens within marriage. You will survive those days and look back on them with enlightenment. In the meanwhile, never doubt my understanding of your situation, for it is quite probable your wife and events will curtail planned excursions without notice, thus I shall miss your company dreadfully on those days though never to the extent of making life difficult for you. Should I ever have cause to send for you in haste, I shall dispatch a stable hand with a perfectly innocent errand of seeking your advice on a matter of equine interest at Farthingly. Whilst responsibility for Bonnie rests solely upon my shoulders, and at five years she is quite the handful, I am much in admiration of your generous allowance for all her needs. There is no cause to prevaricate on the bond we both share from the day she was born. It exists, and will in the years to come deepen. In spite of everything, love, the magnitude of which you bestow upon her gladdens my heart, for with each day that cometh she ceases to amaze me with her beauty. Evidence of her sire is apparent from the moment of setting eyes upon her, as mutual acquaintances of ours remark with knowing nods from the gentlemen, and much fluttering of fans by the ladies. So my dearest Fitz, I shall bid a fond adieu until next we meet.
Your affectionate confidante,
    Heart palpitating he desired to oblige immediate reply, though pondered the daring of it for Elizabeth was apt to intrude without warning, privacy a thing of the past. Her affections, although most gratifying, a man had need for moments alone, in particular when occasioned to indulge in correspondence. More to the point, a clandestine meeting required time-managed escape from Pemberley. One glance at the Louis XV ormolu mantel clock; he wagered he was spared the time it would take his wife to complete her toilette and dress for their planned carriage outing. Thus he settled to write:

Dearest Belle,
I beg your forbearance in matters of marital duty required of a husband, and hasten to add, perhaps, in a month or so, you will oblige with a visit to Pemberley. Your presence would be most pleasing to self, immensely so, therefore further embellishment is wholly unnecessary. The mere purpose of a visitation will reassure you there is no threat to our continued association?
Nonetheless, Elizabeth is observant of others, quick to judgement of one’s character, and lo and behold, she and I were at odds as soon as introduced, and thereafter for a goodly while. But such is life when Wickham, up to his old tricks, had suddenly eloped with Elizabeth’s younger sister. To my chagrin I became embroiled in the Bennet family’s distress as events unfolded at a rather fast pace and most inopportune moment, hence that hasty letter at the time to warn you of delay in my return to Pemberley. Whilst I felt it my duty to intervene in the Bennet family’s unfortunate cir-cumstance, at best to rescue a silly young flibbertigibbet, my efforts were sadly to no avail. Simple country girl that Lydia is, she was quite unknowing of Wickhan’s roguish bent. So besotted was she by his dashing persona, I knew well enough he would like as not abandon her when it suited his purpose. In that, I was wholly correct, and therefore availed myself to do business with Wickham. The damnable blighter was in debt to the sum of two-thousand guineas and pounds besides, and the arrogant miscreant was quite of mind to resign his commission and take flight to the Continent, paying no mind to Lydia or the consequences that would surely have transpired in due course. Needless to say, his monetary crisis I discharged, and upon standing witness at his wedding to said Miss Lydia Bennet, the latter thus his saving grace in feigned decency. Whilst the matter of marriage delighted Lydia, Wickham bore the look of a man shackled. Though such is his artifice the reckless young miss remained oblivious to his imperfections, thus I fear he will break her heart at a later date. Forgive me if I wrote of this at the time, for my mind was, and remains somewhat preoccupied, which brings me to the present dilemma of calling by at Farthingly. I shall endeavour to arrive two days hence at around eleven of morn.
Sincere affections
     On the point of sanding the ink, the patter of shoes and swish of heavy satin skirts set his heart to the gallop, for Elizabeth was almost upon him as he dragged a spare sheet of paper across to conceal the letter.
    “Oh. Were you busy with correspondence?” enquired she, her attention given to his hasty action.
    “Tedious business matters, Elizabeth, which required immediate attention.”
    “You did say to come directly,” marked she, whilst donning fine white gloves.
    Drawing a deep breath it was impossible to avert his eyes from her blue wool wrap hanging loose about her shoulders, thus enhancing her gown of a glorious flesh-coloured hue. Draped from her wrist was a bonnet adorned with dainty blue silk flowers and matching ribbons.
    “You are a fetching picture of summer in bloom, my dear, albeit October is stalking ever closer.”
    “The hat has bluebells, Darcy, markedly that of late spring.”
    In gaining his feet he supposed he would become accustomed to her admonishing barbed remarks in the months to come; his tongue little better if of a mind to put a person down a peg or two. “Bluebells, harebells, both are blue, both pretty wild flowers.”
  “No Darcy, Campanula rotundifolia is representative of late summer, being that of the common harebell. But of course, north of the border it is referred to as the bluebell.”
    “And the botanical for common English scented bluebell?”
    “Hyacinthoides non-scripta.”
    Ah, she thought herself of superior knowledge.
    “Are you familiar with the Greek myths?”
    “A little,” replied she, “though I fail to see the connection.”
    “Ah, then,” said he, ushering her away from the desk and toward the doorway, “allow me to enlighten you. It is a long story to retell in full, suffice to say, Prince Hyacinthus perished due to a blow to the head from Apollo’s discus; that particular sporting pursuit his forte. Devastated by Hyacinthus sudden death, Apollo shed tears of grief, his tears thus spelling alas on the petals of a hyacinth flower, which apparently sprang forth from the blooded ground. The drooping of the flowers thereafter thus referred to as the tears of Apollo, and non-scripta distinguishes the flower from all others of its namesake.”
   “A tragic tale,” remarked Elizabeth, eyes downcast simply because he had outsmarted her, whilst she plied finger tips between fingers to secure tenure of her gloves with considerable and agitated force. Her final retort: “The Greek myths are but myth.”
    “Next you will tell me the Greeks were as mythical as their Greek tragedies.”
      A little smile curled her lips. “Oh no, they did exist, as did the Romans. Though Darcy, do you in all honesty believe a nonsensical story such as that: Apollo’s tears?”
   “Are you saying sentimental and fanciful stories are for children?”
      “Are you being deliberately obtuse?” said she, as they crossed the upper gallery in readiness to descend to the ground floor. “As to your question; yes, I do indeed believe the less learned are inclined to fanciful notions of imagined romance and mythical knights of old.”
       He had sparked a touch paper, and whilst descending the grand half spiral staircase, it was true to say, despite she was the most outspoken young madam he had had the misfortune to encounter next to Caroline Bingley, he had nonetheless taken Elizabeth as his wife. It was further true to say, her appreciable attributes when sparks flew ignited physical desires and stirred a longing to tame her unbridled spirit as only a man was able: in so far as the master of the marital abode had the right to perform that task.
   Far from fanciful in nature, she was a rare creature of contemptuous witty retort, and had proved herself worthy of consideration as the Mistress of Pemberley. After all, the house required a woman of confidence in matters pertaining to its management, a woman clearly enamoured by its grandeur, a woman who would be content to take charge in his absence. And last but not least, be a willing participant in the bedchamber. As to the latter aspect of wifely duty she was fulfilling his inner needs with a hint of shy reserve. Nonetheless, the delights begotten from a gentleman’s bed was clearly appreciable to her, and with good fortune their indulgences would soon bear the fruit of his loins.
      As soon as stepping outside she paused in consideration of the chestnut horse and the Tilbury awaiting them. She then placed her bonnet to head and tied the ribbons whilst casting a brief glance to the glorious vista of the parkland. “Are we to escape the confines of the estate?” asked she, whilst stepping to the low-slung two-wheeled conveyance, and when it wobbled whilst ascending, sense of panic prevailed. “Are you sure this contraption is safe?”
       In striding to the far side he chuckled to self, for if nothing else it was a fast contraption with Matlock to the harness, and the master was of devilish spirit this day.

Available worldwide at Amazon in paperback format: 

Amazon UK     Amazon com

Thursday, 6 September 2018

A Much maligned Man

Many times when reading non fiction and supposed biographies by lauded historians and famous authors, I ponder how far they truly researched their subject matter, and why they chose to perpetuate what was writ before as though their own writings are mere carbon copies of former works! Thus I find it incredibly difficult to write on any subject and avoid overwhelming impassioned desire to uncover truths from lies and look at supposed infamy with a detective mindset - after all, it's easy to read other's works and judge which best suits one's ideal of the past and events of the day - in other words - biased leanings in a political sense relevant to self in one's own time as opposed to non partisan leanings, similarly in moral tones. 

Hence, here I attempt to redeem the reputation of a  much maligned man subject to envy of his service in the Dutch regiment of Holland (The Buffs) whilst on campaign with Charles II, and their close covert connection, and why fear within another cabal, namely James II's followers (Catholic conspirators), essentially set out to defame Robert and his cousin Lucy Walter/s by false declarations, scandalous rumours, and falsification of papers/dates/other to prove he was the father of James Duke of Monmouth. But of course, since then DNA samples have proved the Duke of Monmouth was indeed Charles II's son.  So was handsome Robert a cad of the first order or a true gentleman and loyal family friend to a much maligned lady cousin?      

Robert Sydney (1626-1668) 4th son - 2nd Earl of Leicester
buried at Penshurst Place

Throughout his service in the Low Countries Robert was maligned by leading chroniclers of his day - not least accusations he and his elder brother Algernon had shared the Duke of Monmouth's mother. Robert was also marked as a spy for Cromwell, his brother Algernon a staunch Parliamentarian and true Protestant. Was Robert a double agent, or did that cap fit Col Thomas Howard (Master of the Horse to Mary of Orange) - another wonderful character to place within the hands of a person with a detective mind set, for he too was in Cromwell's pay!  

What is never disclosed is the family connection of the Sydney family to Lucy Walter, nor is it ever disclosed that Lucy was a 7th cousin removed from Charles II. Considering John Evelyn's scathing comments about Lucy as "a woman of mean birth" he clearly knew nothing of her family connection to the Howard family (Duke's of Norfolk) via Catherine Howard.

Strange as it may seem, the movements of Lucy Walter and the fact she was in Paris long before she arrived in The Hague never appears in biographies, nor do chroniclers (Evelyn's Diaries) mention Lord Glamorgan (Lucy's uncle) and Mr. Barlow/oe, Lucy's uncle, as taking passage aboard "named" ship that anchored off Jersey to there join with Charles II  - thus after the defeat of the King Charles I armies, the Prince of Wales sought shelter first on the Isles of Scilly, then took flight to Jersey April-June 1646. When Charles moved to Paris, Sir Edward Hyde remained on Jersey for two more years, and therefore was not in Paris to witness Lucy and Charles second marriage ceremony, (legal or otherwise and much talk on the event). Rarely is Hyde's residency on Jersey mentioned. In that same year of 1646 Lord Glamorgan was dispatched to Ireland on a second sortie to raise a Catholic Army in support of Charles I (another story).

Nor do official chroniclers record Lucy and Lord Glamorgan when put ashore on Jersey, whilst Mr. Balow/oe of Slebech, Pembrokeshire, proceeded onward to The Hague. A Mr. Barlow disembarked at The Hague with a letter destined for Charles II's sister - Mary of Orange.     

Algernon Sydney - (1623-1683) tried for Treason (Rye House Plot)

Algernon was equally maligned as having taken Lucy as his mistress, which according to family writings he never did, but did indeed rescue her during a raid in which he was commander of operations on a house in Devon (Brock House) demolished in the reign of James II post Monmouth Rebellion.  Brock House is where Charles II (then Prince of Wales) was hiding prior to sudden flight to the Scilly Isles. Had news not arrived of Parliamentarian forces en route to arrest him, who can say what the result would have been. Someone, but who, had tipped off the royal party? Either way, it was a mad scramble to get out to sea, and Lucy and others were at the house, the owner her uncle, family to her mother. 

All that is official re Parliamentarian Army records, is that Lucy was escorted back to London along with her mother and siblings, whilst others were arrested for harbouring the prince. Bear in mind Lucy already had a brother serving in the Parliamentarian Army - Richard Walter who became High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire during the Interregnum. Lucy never set sail for The Hague - no warrant to travel overseas was ever issued nor a named ship's passage. What she did do was retreat to Wales (Roche Castle) to her father, (did her mother approve?) and once there plans were put into action to get her to Jersey, or perhaps plans were already set in motion. Was it possible Lucy was recruited as a spy for Parliament in the first instance, and could it be, Lucy fell in love with Charles? If the former bears any sense of possibility, was it she who revealed evidence of Colonel Thomas Howard (Master of the Horse to Mary of Orange) as a traitor to the royalist cause - in the pay of Parliament, and was he the mysterious "Walter" sending coded messages to Thurloe?  It would account for why he escaped imprisonment when Lucy and Robert Sydney were arrested shortly after her return to London with her two children, even though Col Thomas Howard travelled with them? Which of the two men was sent by Charles to guard Lucy and the children, and why would she and the children be received and treated as royalty by loyal royalists who were covertly raising and providing funds for Charles cause?         

The Rye House 

But back to Robert - the handsome and dashing blade! He continued to serve in the Low Countries as an English officer of an English regiment after Charles II was restored to the crown 1660.  

But come the disbandment of the Regiments in Holland -1665, the Dutch authorities decided to honourably discharge the English and Scots troops serving in the regiments and replace them with Netherlanders. Those Englishmen and Scotsmen who were prepared to swear the oath of allegiance to The Dutch republic were re-admitted into the regiments. The discharged officers and men were given no assistance from the English government for their repatriation, which the better off in society could afford inclusive much loved horses. For the others Sir George Downing, British Envoy, paid for their passage to England and gave them letters of recommendation.

The 3 Scots regiments were converted into 3 nominally Dutch regiments and the 4 English regiments were replaced by only one Dutch regiment. Those English officers who remained in Holland were placed in the 3 former Scots regiments. 'The States General, on 14th April, ordered that all the transformed English and Scottish companies, now of service within the Netherlands companies, thus drums would thereafter beat the Holland March on guard mounting, and on all other occasions. The sashes and badges of the officers were then orange-coloured, similar to those worn by the Dutch officers, and green coats.'

In England:
Charles II's Change of Heart, or should that be shamed by the officers who also assisted common soldiers with transport to home shores!  

And so, in 1665 the discharged officers and men began to arrive back in England and the King was more or less advised to reconsider the question of reinstating some or all of the soldiers for service to King and Crown. Subsequently, a list was compiled, dated 11th April 1665. 

All in all 17 subalterns arrived along with officers. Clearly all loyal to the English crown. Thus, on the 20th April a warrant was issued to reinstate said men into the King's pay at a reduced rate, 3 shillings a day for lieutenants and 2 shillings and sixpence for ensigns. Captains were given 5 shillings a day.

The Appointment of Col Robert Sydney, 31st May 1665, raised a few eyebrows, but many were unaware of Robert's covert closeness to Charles (spy extraordinaire).

The King had the officers and men formed into a regiment and issued a commission to Colonel Robert Sydney to be 'Colonell of Our Holland Regiment of Foot, raised or to be raised, for Our service.' 

Hardly surprising as Robert Sydney (Sidney), had commanded one of the English regiments in the Dutch service, and was 4th son of Robert 2nd Earl of Leicester.  He was as stated a handsome man and many thought due to scurrilous rumours put about by John Evelyn, Killigrew, James Duke of York and Col Thomas Howard, he was the real father of the Duke of Monmouth. (The reasons for this assumption were that Robert's mistress was at one time the King's mistresses/wife (?), I'll not venture farther into the rumours because it's a story in itself, and it comes to light a great deal within my English Civil War series of novels - The Royal Series! 

In brief it was said Lucy Walter/s (aka Mrs Barlow), and Charles II's son Duke of Monmouth, so closely resembled Robert (Sydney) he must be the father, but the fact most ignored or purposefully attempted to mask, was the truth that Robert and Lucy were cousins!   

Aside from which, it is most unlikely Charles II would have asked Robert Sydney to raise a new Hollander regiment, if he thought for one moment his first born (James Duke of Monmouth) was the other man's child. Nor would Charles have ever treated the DoM as a prince of the blood, as did - oddly enough - Queen Henrietta Maria, an act neither applied to other of Charles' bastards. 

The reinstatement of  Holland Regiment, 23rd June 1665

The official date of the raising of the Holland Regiment for His Majesty's service was the 31st May 1665 the day Colonel Robert Sydney's commission was confirmed, but the other officers received their commissions 3 weeks later on 23rd June. The 21 officers included Major Alexander Bruce who was the only officer of the Scots regiments to refuse the oath of allegiance to the Netherlands. Thus the regiment was fixed at 6 companies of 106 NCOs. Field officers acted as captains to the first 3 companies. 

The 1st Company had Colonel Sydney as captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, 2 sergeants, 3 corporals, one drummer and 100 private soldiers.

The 2nd Company was commanded by Lt-Col Thomas Howard - another spy extraordinaire (double agent) during the ECWs, and Master of the Horse to Princess Mary, wife/widow Prince William of Nassau.   

The 3rd Company by Major Alexander Bruce, 
The 4th Company by Capt Sir Thomas Ogle
The 5th Company by Capt Henry Pomeroy
The 6th Company by Capt Baptist Alcock

All the officers in the regiment had served in the English-Dutch regiments except the surgeon. The very fact all the officers and the returned men had refused to take the oath in Holland they were in effect out of commission kicking their heels in civvy street. Nonetheless, their loyalty to the English crown had been proved. 

In the meanwhile the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot (The Lord High Admiral's Regiment), had been raised the previous autumn. It was decided the Holland Regiment, would primarily serve at sea as a maritime/land unit - effectively Marines! On the 11th July the cost of these two regiments was ordered to be charged to the Navy. And the Holland Regiment remained on the naval establishment until May 1667.

All the above is accumulated research across many years of study into this period in history, a fascinating period of political turbulence, religious intolerance, social change, and last but not least, royal shenanigans involving treachery, jealousy, hatred, revenge, and lust and romance. 

To cite all my sources would entail a list an arms length in respect of 50 yrs of studying history, and still new things come to light as private papers, ecclesiastical and state papers are discovered within national or private archives and placed within the public domain! Though many personal family archives contributed to the writing of The Royal Series. 


Monday, 20 August 2018

Jane Austen's Meryton - where was it?

Before I pose the theory Jane Austen did as many authors do today, and indeed shuffled the location of Meryton and Longbourn, thus placing it a county removed, she probably did so out of politesse to relatives and friends. After all, she had numerous connections within Berkshire, not least the Leigh side of the family. She also attended a boarding school in Reading, which was markedly different than Reading of today. She no doubt made friends, some better liked than others, a quite natural consequence of boarding establishments. It was known she was fond of Windsor and Wargrave, and Windsor itself was markedly different in her day. It was much smaller and rural in extremes, aside from the castle, as were other well known market towns and villages once situated outside London and now part of Greater London. Jane was an intrepid traveller as can be seen from reading her letters, and the distance between Reading, Wargrave, and Windsor pretty much traverses Berkshire. So with that in mind, hold that thought...   

This water colour of Jane Austen was painted by her sister, Cassandra. That much we do know!

But, there are several portraits purportedly that of Jane Austen, and not one of those portraits can truly be verified with absolute surety they are that of Jane Austen. I suppose desire to see the lady's face probably inspired artists to create impressions from descriptions, and while it may seem odd to us that there is no definitive record or extensive collection of Austen family portraits thus depicting Jane and Cassandra, one has to remember portraits were jolly expensive items in her day.       

Nonetheless she has become the most admired lady authoress of contemporary fiction - yes contemporary novels set within, and penned within her own lifetime. One can only ponder what Jane would have felt if she had become as popular in her own lifetime as has been her latter literary fortune since the mid 20th century and now into the 21st century, therefore, does not the word "ecstatic" leap to mind?   
Press images to see full size.

The original Lambourne House had Stuart connections - so what did Jane think of it? 

Now to the teaser questions that have puzzled Jane Austen fans for simply ages:

a) where is Meryton and where is Longbourn situated? 
b) was it wholly fictional, or did such a place exist in her time? 
c) did she change the name to disguise the places mentioned

This is a house once situated near Bath but no longer exists, and it was two counties distant to Berkshire, but Jane probably looked upon it with some regularity when passing by on her way to or from Bath. So much of old England is gone, the landscape changed from the days of the Georgian period, but as authors today search for houses and interiors suitable for depicting the lifestyle of fictional characters, Jane probably utilised those of which she was already familiar, or those she could only admire from a distance but readily suited to her fictional families.    

Rather than beat round bushes and lengthen suspension, or mayhap stir disbelief, I'll come out and say it, for I believe she pulled the same stunt as I do within my novels. by locating houses in differing places and changing the names. 

Is it not likely Jane Austen swapped the setting of Longbourn from Berkshire to Hertfordshire, thus she protected the occupants of the house she had used as inspiration for Longbourn. She had family connections within Berkshire, knew it extremely well. Perhaps mini anagrams exist and one day a clever person will unravel a puzzle Jane posed as a teaser game - find Meryton you'll discover Longbourn, or vice versa.     

Windsor was estimated at 24 miles + from London in Jane's time ,  and Jane was not only acquainted with Windsor (fond of it and the castle), she had resided in Reading as a boarder (school), and stayed in Wargrave, all three places on several main coaching routes to Bath, Gloucester, and Holyhead. Her family connections in the county cannot be denied. Aside from which, numerous country houses and estate parkland she would have seen and probably paid visit to on occasion, many vanished (demolished) to make way for modern  rebuilds or municipal housing in later times, plus modern post WWII housing estates were built in and around original parkland and grounds of former glorious houses, often the original estate's name then utilised for road names in like to example: Manor Hill Drive, Manor Hill Crescent, Manor Hill Terrace.      

Add the extra snippets, how at fifteen years of age she wrote an account of history. It was a tad satirical and amusing, but she revealed a great and abiding interest and affection for the Stuarts - Mary Queen of Scots to Charles I and presumably to the remainder of the Stuart era. Could she therefore be deemed a Royalist sympathiser or was her interest nothing more than general observance of those troubling times? We shall never know, but the tragedy of the French Revolution and the guillotine impacted on the Austen's in a personal sense. And her immediate family were later affected by the Napoleonic wars as were no doubt others of her acquaintance and theirs. No wonder then she chose to pen escapist writing, of a lighthearted and amusing bent, not only to escape the dreadful realities of the war dead and the returning wounded, there was always the constant fear great loss could befall the family all over again.        

Might that sense of knowing Berkshire too well set Jane to sage thought of exchanging one county for another? Could it be Meryton and Longbourn reflect places she knew within Berkshire? No one can know for sure, but it adds a new dimension in the search for both places, and perhaps a county distant for the fictional setting eased her conscience in writing of places she knew inside and out! 

Goodnestone Park Manor, Kent, the very house and family Jane Austen's brother married into. 

Here's another thought on Rosings and Pemberley, for Goodnestone Park Manor House was built in 1704 by Brook Bridges. It is accepted as fact the house build was started in 1704 because a brick on the main front declares it thus. We also know from early paintings there were extensive formal gardens, which were redesigned in the 19th century when Sir Brook Bridges, the 3rd baronet and great-grandson of the builder, replaced the gardens with a landscape parkland setting in the fashion of the time, later turned back to smaller contained gardens. He married Fanny Fowler, co-heiress of the ancient Norman barony of FitzWalter, though it was much depleted by the 19th century. In earlier times a Fitzwalter was one of the men who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. The FitzWalters were renowned as courtiers (politicians too) and became Earls of Sussex with many cadet branches of the family. 

But back to J. Austen, for Brook and Fanny's daughter, Elizabeth, married Edward Austen, Jane Austen's brother, thus the pair's early married life was conducted at Goodnestone estate within the family fold until they removed to nearby Godmersham Park. There is a strange circumstance related to Edward Austen, for why did the Knight family adopt Edward from the Austen's and to later inherit the estate he had to change his name to Austen-Knight.  

Needless to say, Jane was a regular guest at Goodnestone in the early days of her brother's marriage. A significant factor therefore is that Jane began writing her first novel, Pride and Prejudice, immediately after staying at Goodnestone Park in 1796.

Did Jane utilise Goodnestone as Rosings, and Godmersham Park as Pemberley?  


She probably knew Brook Bridges (extremely wealthy) had bankrolled the marriage to Fanny by loans afforded to the ailing Fitzwalter estate. 
And of course Darcy's mother, Lady Anne and her sister Lady de Bourgh were "Fitzwilliams"! We know the fictional Fitzwilliam (colonel Fitzwilliam) and the earldom had fallen short in monetary quarters, i.e. the estate was run down as was the Fitzwalter estate. 

Hence Jane, again, no doubt set Pemberley in Derbyshire to allay any connection with houses she was indeed familiar. Added to which she does indeed say Elizabeth and the Gardiners ventured to great houses of Derbyshire, not least that of Chatsworth.

The truth of the matter, it's a little sad how TV dramas and Movies have effectively provided Mr. Darcy with houses he could only dream of. 
The Duke of Devonshire's income was £35,000 from his estate at Chatsworth, copper mines and coal mines. 

The following two pictures are houses that were featured as that of Pemberley within TV dramas, namely:


Dyrham Park too provided an income of 20, 000 + from 250 acres and business interests. Twice Darcy's income. 

Dyrham Park

Both Chatsworth and Dyrham are almost as large as Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Duke's of Marlborough, and all well in excess of Darcy's  Regency era income.

Blenheim Palace.    

Food for thought, what say you, in how Jane Austen rarely if ever ventures to great detail on houses and fashions etc., and here's a little teaser: 

Jane began writing Pride and  Prejudice in 1796 and it was first published in 1813. It is said PP is set in 1812, so did the publisher, as they're of wont today, suggest she update it to a later time-frame, because it was completed long before its publication day.  Remember Jane lived through the years of the French Revolution 1789-1799.

After all, two of her brothers were naval officers and both were involved in action at sea. Jane had a cousin, the Comtesse Elizabeth de Feullide, Elizabeth sought sanctuary back in the family fold when her husband the Compte went to the guillotine. Elizabeth later married Henry Austen, and no doubt this is why Jane sought escape from the horrors of reality. In retrospect her novels are not a true depiction of her day despite her social awareness and collective impressions of wealth Vs poverty and bettering one's prospects. She did indeed gloss and paint a picture of rural delights with happy carefree picnics, soirees and much dancing as though the country was not at war with France and in 1812, America.