Friday 30 October 2020

Piracy & Plunder

 17th century piracy and plunder! (from my own article archives)

The above words, alone, convey the atmosphere of tall ships fully-rigged, canting to the wind, their gunwales kissing the water. It’s all too easy to envisage one vessel given to the chase, the other in flight. Let’s not forget the white skull and crossed bones emblazoned upon a black flag, the very quintessence of a pirate ship one sees at the movies.

When you stop to think, truly think in terms of strategy and the ultimate goal of a buccaneer-cum-pirate captain, it stands to reason that if a pirate ship weaves back and forth across a trading route, it will, eventually, encounter a ship or two, and maybe the captain and crew will strike lucky on worthwhile booty. Ha, all sounds a bit hit ‘n’ miss, though, does it not? And yet, small fleets of pirate ships plying plotted courses often caused mayhem on the Spanish Main. But who were the original buccaneers? The name itself is a loose term applied to pirates in general, and authors across the centuries have attributed the title to almost any man who sailed the seas and plundered ships, ports, and ran the gauntlet in the face of Navy vessels hunting them down.

The original buccaneers (boucaniers) were the native inhabitants of the West Indies, who, over the centuries had discovered they could preserve meat by roasting it on a barbecue and curing it with smoke. The barbecue consisted of a fire pit and grating (a buccan), the meat thus referred to as boucan. Over time, escaped slaves, criminals and indentured servants formed clans of likeminded souls who were hell-bent not only on survival but revenge on past masters. The Caribbean & Bahamas became their base, from which they gained prominence any-which-way they could. Robbery, murder and mayhem on a quayside brought forth fortune with stolen ships and wares, and once they had set sail they sought their own havens amidst the scattered islands. And so the buccaneer had come of age.

On the other hand, the privateer, was indeed a very different kind of pirate, and in some respects, the name pirate was insulting to his self-esteem. He was a man who owned, or had loan of a heavily armed ship, itself manned by officers who were equally commissioned by governments and by kings and queens for war service. Whether as a reader or movie buff - have you ever thought how much plotting, planning, intrigue and spying truly occurred within the world of the privateer? Hence, some pirates and privateers were more successful than others.

In getting away from the extremely famous Elizabethan privateers/buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake et al) and the later notorious 18th century pirates (Blackbeard etc), I’ve always been a little intrigued by the likes of those who were plying the oceans throughout the period of the English Civil Wars and the early years of The Restoration: this being my favoured period in history.

To name but one - of wealthy lineage - Henry Morgan (Sir), one might assume the knighthood bestowed by Charles II was Sir Henry Morgan’s only claim to sense of wealth and status. After all, he was but a privateer: a pirate! Well, yes, that’s true, but he came from a distinguished family known as the Tredegar Morgans’. It is said the Morgans’ were more of a clan and had cadet branches all over South Wales.

Now, is that not a handsome young man of his day?

Indeed, methinks Henry Morgan cut a dash with the best of his ilk. So, let’s start at the beginning with a bit of the Tredegar Morgans’ history. There were once three brothers, Thomas, Robert and Edward: the family thus torn apart by the English Civil Wars.


Henry Morgan’s Uncle Thomas, became Major-General Sir Thomas Morgan, 1st Baronet (1604–79). He served as a Commonwealth/Parliamentarian officer English Civil War (1642-49). He was appointed Governor of Gloucester in 1645. He fought in the Low Countries, and when wounded 1661 he retired to his estate at Kynnersley, Hertfordshire. He was also instrumental in the restoration of Charles II. In 1665 he was recalled by Charles II to become Governor of Jersey, he died at St Helier in April 1679.

Old Court

Henry Morgan’s father, Robert, (born circa 1615) was the Squire of Llanrhymny, (now Rhymney) which lies three miles from Tredegar. Someone had to run the family firm! Or maybe being the piggy-in-the-middle brother, Robert Morgan couldn’t decide which side of the divide was for him and instead sat on the fence.

Henry Morgan’s Uncle Edward, became Colonel Edward Morgan (born circa 1616) Edward served as a Royalist officer during the English Civil Wars (1642-49). He was Captain General of the Kings forces in South Wales. After the King's arrest and execution, he fled into exile along with Charles II and the royal court.

Tredegar House

Many families were torn asunder by the English Civil Wars, sometimes father, sons and brothers were on opposing sides. Henry Morgan was born around 1635, thus by 1650 he was 15 yrs old. His virgin voyage was to Barbados in 1655 as a junior officer of an expeditionary force sent there by Oliver Cromwell. But when did Henry first enlist with the Parliamentarian forces, and was he influenced to do so by his Uncle Thomas, or was he a Royalist spy under the influence of his Uncle Edward (Cavalier)? Well, it seems he enlisted as a Pikeman. He once said in the writings of an official report when serving as privateer under marque from Cromwell and later Charles II: “I have been more used to the pike than the book".

Whatever his ultimate aim, at the time of his enlistment and exploits at sea, he learned fast from his masters, the likes of Venables (General) and Christopher Mings (Commodore). Morgan was a soldier first before becoming a master of the seas. As time passed Morgan found his feet as a captain and was clearly a strategist. Spies became key to successful missions, and let’s be honest Cromwell’s spy network bettered that of the Elizabethan spy network, hence Thurloe (Cromwell’s spymaster) always seemed as though one step ahead of Royalist thinking.

And so it was, after the taking of Jamaica and many other less noted ventures, along with a flotilla of privateers, Santiago (Cuba) was plundered. Morgan also commanded a vessel in the attack on the Mexican coast 1663: their target Campache. In the raid 1100 men who were described as privateers, buccaneers and volunteers sailed more than 1000 miles. Campache was a town defended by two forts and a regular garrison of Spanish troops. The town fell after a day of fighting and fourteen Spanish ships were sailed away from the port.

Henry had his failures, too, embarrassing ones, and his life did indeed seem charmed whilst ashore and threatened when at sea. He often turned disaster into triumph, and being a soldier first over that of his role as a sea captain, he once yomped men 50 miles across land to sack a town, only to return to his ships to discover the Spanish had captured them. Undaunted, he captured two Spanish ships and four coastal canoes and continued on his epic voyage of 500 miles of exploration and plunder. He had one ship blown from beneath him by crewmen who either lit candles or were smoking too close to the gunpowder store, and another ship he lost on a reef.

The above is a scant example of Morgan’s daring adventures. After the sacking of Panama he was recalled to England to account for his actions, re a peace time atrocity. Fortunately, for Henry, Charles II slapped him on the shoulder with a sword and Henry walked away as Sir Henry Morgan.

And of course, ending on a romantic note: after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Henry's uncle Edward was sent to Jamaica as lieutenant governor. By then, already famous in Jamaica, Henry courted and married his uncle's oldest surviving daughter, Mary Elizabeth. Henry remained faithful to his wife until his death in 1688. They never had children.

Thursday 2 July 2020

English County Law & Order 17th -18th- early 19th centuries.

Before the introduction of Robert Peel's Peelers in the City of London 1829, many parts of the countryside in England and within the City of London and other notable cities were hives of lawlessness barring when a local Constable was keen on Law & Order. In modern terminology, if a Constable in the countryside rocked up on your doorstep he had good cause, and if you were a poacher, God help you when you went up before the Magistrates bench.   

In brief: 

County Court or Market Town - “Quarter Sessions”.

County and large Market towns boasted a Constable and several officers of the court. The Constable had the power of arrest, to charge immediate fines, impound goods or animals and impose restrictions, imprison offenders, investigate crimes such as poaching, rustling, rape etc, and then set offenders before the local Justice of the Peace (Magistrate) usually a local squire/lesser aristocrat (baron) at the Quarter Sessions held four times a year. A Constable often called on local county militia to assist in cases of smuggling, riots, and other where armed soldiers were required to keep the peace.

For centuries, Justice of the Peace also had local administrative responsibilities, upkeep of roads and bridges etc. Those appointed to the Courts Commission were usually substantial land owners whose social position and economic power meant their authority would not be questioned. Also as landowners, the JPs had the reputation of being particularly tough on poachers. Usually JPs’ study of the law was rudimentary. 'Stipendiary magistrates' were introduced in the mid-eighteenth century in London. They were legally qualified, either as barristers or solicitors.

County Court – Standard Assizes.

When it came to murder, highway robbery, and other more serious criminal acts outside of London, the offenders were kept in custody until the local “Assizes” were held within a “county town” and attended by “Circuit Court Judges”. CCJs were men trained in the law (lawyers), thus circuit court judges could preside over legal matters brought to court in any location. CCJs travelled from London or other large cities such as Bristol, second most important city port in the 17th -18th centuries. Sentences were often harsh, hanging, transportation to the colonies as bond slaves, etc.

In trial cases where lawyers were not present, judges also played a major role in conducting trials. They examined witnesses and the accused. Their summing up of the case often clearly stated their views on what the potential outcome should be. Sometimes judges would also place pressure on the jury, asking them how a verdict had been reached or asking them to reconsider it. A Jury consisted of 12 persons with no former criminal past.

County Court – Royal or Parliamentary Assizes.

In cases of Rebellion against the Crown (Treason & High Treason, County Assizes were unpleasant events: hanging, drawing, and quartering, and worse. Look up Judge Jeffreys and the Monmouth Rebellion. I cover that in my book s “Love & Rebellion” and “Lady of the Tower- Monmouth’s Legacy.”

Thursday 16 April 2020

Why should Historical Romance be less educational than Historical Novels?

For some die-hard romance readers historical input is irrelevant in their little book of reference as to what constitutes a romance novel, the more fancifully romantic the better as far as they are concerned. Other more historically minded readers expect some historical relevance as the backdrop, in other words history adds to the setting, the time, the place in which the romance unfolds. What is a grand house or merely London, Paris, or other (landmark) without some aspect of the period as a true mark of who the characters are and what is going on around them. Some authors and readers will say yes but who wants to read about war, and poverty, give us a fairy tale romance and no historical facts please. They often put forth Jane Austen's works as fanciful and how romance should be written with no violence, no sex, and history itself has no part in HR. But just one moment, Ms Austen was writing "contemporary" to her time, escapist romance. She was not writing historical romances, because everyone reading her novels in her lifetime and shortly afterwards were well acquainted with the period and daily experienced the shortages of imported goods, not that I will venture to that in depth here (tea coffee, brandy, wine, cloth etc). After all, war was raging across the channel in Europe, and England was at war with America 1812. Aside from that, all manner of things became costly, were in short supply, and all due to war! Even after Waterloo and the final defeat of Napoleon it took a great deal of effort to maintain peace across and between nations. Nothing was quite as it seemed - all rosy on the surface! Hence a little of underlying mistrust between the once allies at Waterloo began to emerge, and here's a taste of that underlying unrest from To Play for a King, in which the heroine ventures to Vienna!                     

“And if I say I have been a spy, and that my largesse as a maestro has been that of a convenient mask, would that heighten or lessen my esteem in your eyes?”
Quite taken aback and mindful of the enormity of what he had said, required sage thought.
“Aaaaaaaaaaah” exclaimed he. “I thought it would be safe to tell you my secret, and now you are wondering who I spied for and for what reason.”
“No, not especially curious, and I promise your secret is safe with me. Presumably your interest has and does remain with Austria. Although Austria allied with England and other armies against the French there have been differences and breaches in diplomacy at times. I believe several treaties between Napoleon and Austria within Italy infringed allied agreements, as father mentioned from time to time, thus Napoleon reneged on those treaties and drove you out of Italy. But please understand— all those things are irrelevant to me, for we are all now at peace.”
He swung round to face her and gripped both her hands in his. “That is how it is meant to appear on the surface, that we are all allies, whilst beneath the diplomatic smiles and greetings no one fully trusts the other. Every country has its ambitions one way and another, as happened in who should decide the fate of France after the second defeat of Napoleon. Much argument arose as to what was best for neighbouring states and became of prime importance. Argument as to whether to reinstate the French monarchy or embrace the notion of France as a republic also arose. Austria’s main desire was to see the throne reinstated in France, and to regain Lombardy, Veneto, and surrounding regions in Italy. That very notion was met with disdain amidst the Italian aristocracy, to them rightly so. Many who survived the wars had prior despised us as Austrian overlords, almost as much as despising Napoleon when he declared himself King of Italy and his viceroy, his step-son Eugène de Beauharnais became as good as Prince of Italy.”
“But Austria regained the most northern territories, and are you saying there is threat of war simmering below the surface somewhere?”
We aristocrats in Austria now have to contend with Prussian German ambitions since General Blücher’s victory at Waterloo alongside the Duke of Wellington, all with our help of course. Never let it be said Prussians are magnanimous in victory, for they are annoyed by Austrian influence across the Continent in the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat. The Dutch too, and many principalities and duchies are aware of active Prussian agents, not least here in Vienna, but from Venice to Rome and to Naples, and from France to England.”
“Beg pardon for asking, but why?”
“Empirical ambitions are underway to create a deeper alliance of which lesser Prussian houses will become equal to greater Germanic speaking duchies and neighbouring principalities. Naturally we Austrians are averse to other than close alliance during war against a greater enemy such as the French, whom we fought long before the allied Prussian army marched on France. For us Vienna is the nucleus of the Austrian Empire and the duchies of Königsberg nor Brandenburg, shall dictate terms. Damn it all, the French be-headed our grand duchess Marie Antoinette, therefore we had a greater axe to grind against that upstart Corsican General Bonaparte and his French cohorts than any other neighbouring state.”
He drew her hands to his chest and half chuckled: “See how angered I become when others seek to undermine us when we Austrians have regained sense of pride in peace and stability once more. Heavens to mercy, for here you are, a delightful and wondrous being, and I am spoiling your birthday.”
“Oh no, for all that you have put forth bears merit, and I am so very pleased you felt able to trust me and confide elements of your past and present. All of which I would never have envisaged a maestro capable of. Though I can now see how music is the perfect guise for a spy. Besides, I’ve had a wonderful birthday, but may I ask one topical question?”
A jolly chuckle ensued, and then: “Ah— will I be able to answer with absolute honesty?”
“Do you fear the Prince Regent seeks to usurp Austrian dominance in the Germanic speaking duchies and principalities? I had heard father talk of such and he was given to thoughts of a Germanic Federation not unlike the United Kingdom of Scotland and England along with the Principality of Wales. He said Austria would like as not fight tooth and nail to prevent such a federation if of a mind to.”
“It is not beyond possibility for allies one day to become enemies the next, and whilst many Austrians trust Count Metternich to see right by Austria, there are those who look on him as a collaborator to a greater alliance in which he mistakenly concedes more ground than is good for us. We of the old families do not want a Federation of Germanic states which could lessen Austrian influence, and enhance outside influence over Austrian territories?”
“Oh my goodness— and you say Austria is at peace?”
“For the moment, yes, and perhaps for many years to come with diplomacy and cunning, though I sense a weakening of Austrian aristocratic impulse to do more than enjoy life and leave politics to ministers of state who are ambitious in their own right, as are their minions. That is oft where revolutionary mindsets begin seeding discontent, and latterly seek ways to seize power from the upper elite with help from traitorous factions. It happened in England when Parliamentary forces seized power from the king. It happened in France, and it could happen almost anywhere, thus we must guard against corrupt mindsets who will seek support from citizens with false promises of equality.  Dear heaven, what starts as a peasant revolt can end with an emperor such as Napoleon, a common man who places a crown to his head and embraces all that he supposedly abhorred at the outset. Aside from which the English king and his regent are of the House of Hanover and keen to expand their Germanic reach far and wide, not least here on the Continent. Never underestimate the English, who will embrace revolution abroad if it is of benefit to the English. Austrians are of like mind and will not cede to another without a fight, whether in war or by diplomatic measures.”
“Are you then spying against the English? After all, I am English and such would be unsettling for me.”
“Precisely my angel, you are English, the Hanovarians are not.”
“Oh but the Prince Regent is as English as could be, and are you not a friend of his?”
“Indeed I am, and as I said, a friend one day can become an arch rival the next. The Prince Regent is far from blind to ministerial mischief though it seems he is easily persuaded with extremes in flattery. It is known he complies with notions when formerly averse to the very same, barring a sentence or two altered within papers. He peruses them with flair though with lack of due diligence and applies his signature in haste to vacate his duties and engage in pleasurable pursuits elsewhere.”
“Lady Constance once said his vanity masks a shrewd man beneath the finery, but feed the man well and ply him with cherry brandy and he will agree to almost anything one desires.”
Sebastian fell to laughter. “Ah yes, that is very true of the man. Though once crossed he will cut a person out of his circle and look upon them as a traitor, as he did with Brummell. I hasten to say— I pray he and I will remain friends.”

Saturday 4 April 2020

New Series - Bath Tangle

How in the deuce did one book inspire a second, and the second inspire a series?
 I'll tell you why- books are like an Aladdin's Cave, one antique gold chain, a sparkling diamond ring, and who wore it sets the mind alive with possibilities, probabilities, and surety of Love and Romance, and Ghosts, yes Ghosts.       

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My new series the "Bath Tangle Series" for the greater part is set within and around the City of Bath. In the first book (the prequel) two leading characters venture to France during the time of the French Revolution, and all is not well at Versailles. The leading characters in book one are: 

Press on images to see enlarged version. 

At this time women wore lavish gowns and often powdered their hair as did the men folk who chose not to wear wigs but nonetheless wore high-heeled shoes/boots: the very height of fashion for the male wardrobe during the early Georgian period.   

The Highwayman's Mistress was written years ago as one-off. But, in book two, the sons of the original characters have returned from Waterloo and Bath is not entirely where Mattijs de Boviere's romance had started, and for Randolph Courtenay, Viscount Somerton. it is the beginning: a peek into what lies ahead for him if he can convince a young lady he is a gentleman officer and not a dastardly rake in disguise.  The daughters likewise are all entering into the marriage mart. 

Thus The Runaway Duchess is Mattijs and Juliana's love story: Book 1.

Hence, a generation farther on than the Whitaker sisters and the men they fell in love with, it is 1817 and the Courtenay and de Boviere children begin melding with others as betrothals are sworn, upsets arise, and much else plays havoc with romantic notions.  

In book 2 it is Chloe de Boviere's story, and as did her cousin Randolph, she encountered her future destiny when least expected, and whilst on a ghost hunt!

In Book 3 it is the middle Courtenay sister who takes centre stage, and Lady Octavia is a young woman who, when she sets her eyes on a young man will apply every means at hand and feminine guile to steal him away from those she surmises as competition for his favour. But Major Harry Davenport understands her motives too well, and he sets her the greatest challenge of her young life!  

For someone who courts male admiration Octavia learns a hard lesson when Harry sets demarcation lines she must not cross! 

In book 4 it is the eldest Courtenay sister Lady April, who, in a brief encounter is smitten by a naval lieutenant. Little does she know he's smitten too and will do everything in his power to become acquainted and court her if given the chance. Unfortunately he's a Courtenay too, a distant cousin, one her mother thoroughly disapproves, thus the pair resort to clandestine meetings.    


 In book 5 Randolph Courtenay truly sets out to win Rachel Davenport. As did his sister April, he resorts to clandestine meetings at the outset, and daringly risks the wrath of his lady love's four brothers. 

If ever the Davenport four should catch him on the family estate and find him given to pleasurable pursuits there is no telling what they would do to him. But Randolph Viscount Somerton knows what he wants and will get it one way or another, and moves heaven and earth to achieve it.    

And there is a bonus and unexpected romance within this novel,
that of Jasper (youngest Davenport brother) and the wickedly naughty Mary Chambers - the oracle all things man's sexual bent!

In book 6 the youngest Courtenay sister Lady May, is a talented pianist, and although a little taken with an Austrian Maestro who arranges recitals and concerts for kings, princes, and grand dukes, never did she dream she would one day be gracing grand chateaux, fairy tale castles, and all the glories of Venice. 

Although her dreams have often revolved around Count Sebastian Waldburg, never did she think he looked on her as more than his young protege until the day he kisses her, the day of her awakening to womanhood.        

In Book 7 Margarite de Boviere has given her time as companion to her cousin Lady May Courtenay. On her final return to England she  faces the reality many chances for love and romance had come and gone whilst travelling on the Continent, She thus settles to family visitations and quite unexpectedly encounters a young man she neither knows, nor feels it appropriate to approach him but something about him appeals.         

Meanwhile the extremely young duke of Weare has noted Margarite and is quite taken with her, but his past youth has damned him and although he is a much changed young man the past haunts him. His greatest fear remains, the devil that once plagued him will destroy any hope of happiness with a young woman, more especially one as lovely as Margarite. Can he be all that he ought to be, an admirable suitor?

Clarence first appeared in the book "An Earl in Disguise" where he learned something about himself that stunned him and self destruct came easy to a young man who had lost his way. If not for another's compassion and forgiveness he may never have sought the healing required to turn his life around. 

Of course there is the second eldest Davenport brother too, who with his wife Rose, first appeared in two novels Infamous Rival and The Dark Marquis. (The Bath Series) a murder mystery series.       

Book 8 is Laurence & Sophia's story, both characters who were part of the Bath Tangle Set. 

Laurence is creator of Automata Dolls.

Sophia is Rich Heiress.


And what of the ghost, or ghosts who are ancestors of the above, who feature in book 2?

When writing a series of novels, there has to be a point where the writing ceases, but that said, I do intend writing the Ghosts' love story, because it is not quite as surmised by Brock Davenport who found a journal, one he failed to read in full when discovered. I say intend because at the present moment with a worldwide pandemic we have no choice but to take each day as it comes, and I am also in my dotage and may be pushing up daisies sooner than hoped for. Thus, on that happy note of eternal rest, I hope you've enjoyed perusing my charcoal etchings and cover paintings. The e-book versions will have the occasional etchings, the paperbacks far more when I get to them.    

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