Wednesday 29 January 2014

Pug Dogs and Things Pugnacious

“Poor pug was caught, to town conveyed,
There sold. How envied was his doom,
Made captive in a lady’s room.”
John Gay 1728

I have a confession to make.
I’ve developed a fondness for pug dogs.
This is unsettling for two reasons: Firstly, I’m obsessed with cats and secondly, breeding of dogs with ever shorter snouts is reprehensible and undoubtedly causes suffering – that said, they are rather cute!
Pugs are an ancient breed and their roots can be traced back to China in 300 BC. However, their rise popularity in England can be dated quite precisely to 1688 with William of Orange bringing pugs with him to England from Holland. Prior to William’s accession to the throne, the dog most associated with the monarchy were the Stuart’s spaniels. Perhaps it suited the mood of the country to have a change of favourite dog along with the dynasty – but by the first half of the 18th century the breed was established as a favourite with the English aristocracy.
It was William III (seen here outside Kensington Palace)
who was attributed with introducing pugs to England
The association between the Netherlands and pugs is an ancient one but was solidified around 1573 when the then Prince of Orange was awoken by the scratching and crying of a pug, alerting the prince to a night attack by the Spanish and thus saving his life.
“The Prince, to show his gratitude, until his dying day, kept one of that dog’s race…These animals were not remarkable for their beauty, being little white dogs, with crooked noses, called camuses [flat-nosed].”  Sir Roger Williams writing in 1618.
A portrait by Gourlat Steell (1867) of
Queen Victoria's pugs. 
The dogs remained popular at the English court well into the 19th century, indeed during her lifetime Queen Victoria owned 36 pug dogs. In 1884 the queen also employed one belonging to Master John Strugnell to catch rats around the palace. Apparently afterwards, Mr Strugnell had a line added to his business card “Rat-catcher to Queen Victoria.”
Compare the snout (or lack of!) with those depicted in the Steell portrait above.
The pug was also a favourite of the French queen, Marie Antoinette. When in 1770 she married the future King Louis XIV, the morning after the wedding night the Dauphine was found rolling on the floor with a puppy. She missed her pug, Mops, and wanted the dog brought to Versailles from Vienna. However, the guardian of her moral welfare, the Abbe de Vermond, was a real kill joy and wrote to the Empress warning her that Marie Antoinette love of dogs and frivolity perplexed the Bourbon court. Such was the antagonism that her mother wrote in 1771, admonishing Marie Antoinette in these terms:
Such are the ties which attach you to them [pet dogs] in preference to your master….in the long run will make you an object of ridicule, neither loved nor esteemed.”
Undeterred Marie Antoinette continued to walk along the terraces with her pet dogs, distracting the spaniels belonging to the Swiss Guard who were trained to scent out intruders.
A sketch of Marie Antoinette on the way to
the guillotine in 16 October, 1793

In the last months of her life, whilst Marie Antoinette was imprisoned during the Terror, she had the comfort of a pug in her cell. After her execution, the man given in her cell, Monseighenur de Salamon, also benefited from the companionship of the same dog – albeit in an unusual way. He persuaded the jailer to open the door each morning and allow the dog in.
“..This was the Queen’s dog…treated with the greatest care. The dog’s object in coming in…was to smell his mistress’s mattresses. I saw him behave in this way every morning at the same hour, for three whole months, and in spite of all my efforts I was never able to catch him.”
Self portrait - William Hogarth, with his dog, Trump.
Another famous pug was Trump, the dog belonging to William Hogarth. Indeed, Hogarth likened both the dog’s looks and character to his own and included Trump in a self-portrait. From a veterinary point of view I find Trump’s picture interesting – you may note Trump has a distinct muzzle and nose, so much longer than the squash faced pugs of today. As mentioned at the beginning, the modern trend to breed dogs with ever flatter and more babyish faces, has led to BOAS or ‘brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome’, a catalogue of deformities in the respiratory tract that mean the poor dogs struggle to breath. So, much as I’m falling in love with the delightful nature of most pugs, I won’t be encouraging breeders by buying one…

PS - You are cordially invited to the FB Launch Party for The Ringmaster's Daughter - this Saturday:
If you love reading historical fiction or historical romance you won't want to miss it - there will be giveaways galore! 

(French Bulldog - the anatomy similar to the pug)
'Too much meat in the box'
The skull is the box and the tongue, soft palate and tonsils are the meat
Sadly, whilst the nose has shortened, the soft tissues remain the same size
which causes a serious obstruction at the back of the throat. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014

King Charles I at Carisbrooke Castle

The imposing entrance to Carisbrooke Castle
This January it is 365 years since King Charles I was executed. Last week we retraced his final steps to the scaffold outside the Banqueting House, London, but this week we visit Carisbrooke Castle, where the doomed king was imprisoned for 10 months from 1647 – 1648.
King Charles I
            After his defeat in the English Civil War, Charles surrendered to the Scots. But after months of negotiation with the English, the Scots handed the king over to parliamentary commissioners in January 1647 in exchange for £100,000. Charles was held prisoner at Newmarket, Oatlands and Hampton Court. However, Charles escaped from the later and made his way to the Isle of Wight, perhaps with the intention of fleeing to France. The king made contact the governor of the Isle of Wight, Colonel Robert Hammond, who although was a parliamentarian Charles believed he had sympathy with the royalist cause - but he was wrong. Hammond confined Charles in Carisbrooke Castle and informed the parliamentary authorities.

The view from the ramparts.
Charles regularly walked along the ramparts for exercise.
            Initially, Charles was housed comfortably in the Constable’s Lodging and allowed the freedom to  roam, but plots to renew the war and escape attempts meant he was placed under closer supervision. Even so, Hammond treated him as an honoured guest and imported furniture from Hampton Court for the king's comfort, as well as dozens of servants. Charles held 20 course meals in the Great Hall and a bowling green created on the field used to drill troops.
This field (with the white tent) was the drill ground for the castle militia.
It was converted to a bowling green for Charles. 
            Charles' first escape attempt was to climb through the window of his bedchamber – but he suffered the indignity of getting stuck in the bars. He was moved to different rooms in a part of the castle built 60 years before by a cousin of Elizabeth I, and placed under armed guard.
Every chance was taken to ridicule Charles -
shown here stuck in the window
 Undeterred, with the aid of his page (with the magnificent name of Henry Firebrace), he made two more attempts. On the night of 20th March 1648 Charles successfully climbed of a window – to be betrayed by two guards who had taken money to let him escape and then turned him in.
This is the window that Charles successfully escaped from -
only to be betrayed by two guards in his pay.
            Whilst at Carisbrooke, Charles continued plot and scheme – broking a secret treaty with the Scots – they undertook to invade England of Charles’ behalf and restore his throne, in exchange for establishing Presbyterianism in England. 
Part of the correspondence (in cipher) between Charles
and the Scots.
The ensuing skirmishes were put down by the New Model Army and the Scots finally defeated August 1648 at the Battle of Preston.
Charles' bedchamber November 1647 to April 1648
These are not the original furnishings -
but are similar to what Charles had brought from Hampton Court.
            The only option left open to Charles was to negotiate with Parliament. On 5 December 1648, the majority voted to continue negotiations but Oliver Cromwell wasn’t prepared to take the risk of people uniting behind their one time monarch . Cromwell purged those sympathetic to Charles from Parliament, leaving those who would eventually put him on trial and send him to be executed on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House, London – 30 January 1649.
The post about Charles' execution can be found here:
London Then and Now: Charles I's Execution

And finally....10 days to release on 1st February - look who's taking a sneak peek at an advance review copy of The Ringmaster's Daughter!

Wednesday 15 January 2014

London Then and Now: King Charles I's Execution

The statue of King Charles I - in memory of his execution.
           The end of this month marks the 365th  anniversary of the execution of King Charles I. He was put on trial on January 1st, 1640 and died on to 30th - charged with:
[being a] tyrant, traitor and murderer; and a public and implacable enemy to the Commonwealth of England.”
The statue is mounted above the entrance to
the Banqueting House, Whitehall

 Last summer I visited the Banqueting House, Whitehall and noticed a memorial statue to the dead king. It transpired that the scaffold on which he died was erected outside the Banqueting House and his final moments were spent inside that building. That gave me a real sense of being close to history and in this post I share some of the pictures I took – along with how things looked in Charles’ day.   
The Banqueting House in the modern day
 Cromwell was the victor in the English Civil War and his Parliamentarian army imprisoned the reigning monarch, accusing him of treason.
“Out of a wicked design to erect and uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people of England.”
However, in English law there was nothing applicable to deal with the trial of a king and so Cromwell called in a Dutch lawyer Isaac Dorislaus. The later used a precedent in ancient Roman law which stated a tyrant (the king) could be legally overthrown by a military body (the government).
The Banqueting House - 30th January 1649
            The Chief Judge was John Bradshaw (it appears he feared assassination because he made a special hat lined with metal to protect his head from attack.) Charles refused to acknowledge the legality of the court and refused to remove his hat. To some people, this confirmed the king’s arrogance that even when on trial for his life, he thought himself superior.

            Charles was found guilty and sentenced to execution on Tuesday, 30th January, 1649. He had a last meal of bread and wine, and took a short walk around St James’ Park with his favorite dog. One story says that his black cat, Lucky, went missing on that day (not so lucky…)

            Neither an executioner nor the executioner’s block could be found, so a stranger had to be enlisted – he was paid £100 and allowed to wear a mask to protect his anonymity. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon Charles was led through the Banqueting House, through a window and onto a scaffold draped in black, in Whitehall. The king wore thick underclothes because he was worried if he shivered with cold, the crowd would think him frightened.
Inside the Banqueting House -
The last landing that Charles I saw before he died.
He conducted himself with composure and gave his cloak to Dr Juxon, the Bishop of London, saying.
“I go from to corruptible to an incorruptible crown where no disturbance can be.”
He lay full length, placed his head on a low block and with one strike the executioner severed his head from his body.
            When he died a great groan went through the crowd.
“Such a groan by thousands then present, as I never heard before and I desire I may never hear again.”
Inside the Banqueting House -
Charles would have used these very stairs in his final journey on
his way to execution.
            The dignity with which the king conducted himself on the scaffold and the realization that God’s anointed sovereign had died by human hand, caused a great wave of sympathy for the dead monarch. He was later recognized as a martyr and 30 January remembered as  Charles the Martyr day.
[With thanks to the Historic Royal Palaces organisation - ]
A statue of Charles I in Whitehall
All photographs taken by the author.
Next week - Charles I's time imprisoned on the Isle of Wight.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Welcome! Maria Grace -author of Regency Romance

I am probably the odd one out. I actually love the research process. It is probably one of my favorite things about writing historical fiction. As a kid, I loved to read reproductions of old cookbooks—and honestly I still do. Vintage cookbooks often offer insight into daily household activities from eras long past. Knowing what the spaces people lived in and how they cooked, ate, cleaned their homes, their clothes and themselves, the medicines they prepared and the maladies they prepared them for all paint such a vivid picture for me of what life was like, I feel a little transported to that era myself.

Top 100 Regency romance!
That is the crux of world-building, a skill every writer must have whether they are creating their worlds, whether fantastical ones or recreating a historical ones. So I indulge my researching-itch with period references whenever I can. Digitized period books have made my efforts so much easier. I now have hundreds of such references on my hard drive, with access on my phone if I really want. Sometimes it is a bit of a head trip, referencing a 1794 cookbook for instructions on cleaning fruit juice stains from silk using the WiFi connection on my cellphone! The things writers do for their craft!
Top 100 historical
I frequently find myself searching out little details that I could otherwise gloss over, since, really, they aren’t THAT important to the story. Things like specific decorative items or furnishings of rooms, what was served at meals or teas, what did they taste and smell like. Were they just place on the table, or was there some particular way they were presented? Were there special serving vessels used or just everyday dishes and did those dishes communicate anything about the host or hostess. These are little things which don’t necessarily carry the plot, but they can transport the reader into the story world and that is important to me.

In my most recent book, my characters spend a great deal of time in London, necessitating research into what kind of homes people occupied in Regency London. I would love to share with you some of what I learned.

Georgian Terrace Houses

Terrace houses dominated the London landscape during the Regency. Almost the entire London population, rich and poor alike, line in one or another version of the terrace house. The term terrace was borrowed from garden terraces and described streets of houses with uniform fronts and height that single elevation to the street.

The design of these houses varied little whether located in London, Bath, Dublin or Edinburgh though the exterior facades might differ with local stone or brick, stucco or fancy ornamentation. Georgian terraces built along main urban thoroughfares often incorporated ground-floor shops with residences in the upper stories.    

History of Terrace Houses

The Great Fire of London in 1666 brought about the first of a series of Building Acts (1667, 1707, 1709 and 1774). These acts set building requirements to reduce the risk of fire spreading. Although they regulated London buildings specifically, they also influenced building style in many other cities.

The initial 1667 Act required brick or stone to be used for all external and party walls eliminating the typical timber fronts of the Tudor and early Stuart houses. The 1707 Act eliminated thick timber cornices. The 1709 Act required that window frames be set back behind the building line. The 1774 Act required the use of stone or brick, specified street width, the size and layout of the houses, floor to ceiling heights and controlled decoration on facades even more rigidly.

This final building act also divided terrace houses into four classes, defined by the number of stories, ceiling heights, road widths and wall thicknesses. At the very bottom of the scale, fourth rate houses were those built in large numbers by speculative developers from the late eighteenth century in response to industrial development in towns like Liverpool and Manchester. These houses were often built back-to-back in tiny yards pressed behind street frontages. In contrast, some of the wealthiest people in the country owned palatial, first rate terraced houses in prestigious locales like Belgrave Square and Carlton House Terrace.

First rate houses faced streets and lanes, were worth over £850 per year in ground rent and occupied over 900 square feet of ground space. Keep in mind, these houses usually had four stories, plus a basement so they were frequently more than 4500 square feet on the inside. Second rate houses faced streets, notable lanes, and the River Thames. They were worth between £350 and £850 in ground rent and had an exterior foot print of 500-900 square feet.

Third rate houses faced principal streets, rented for £150-£300 and occupied 350-500 square feet ground space. The most humble terrace houses, the fourth rate house, was worth less than £150 per year in rent and occupied less than 350 square feet of land. These houses might be only three stories instead of four and stood in yards and courts, apart from easy street access.

Terrace House Design

Whatever the size of the terrace house, the general plan was always the same. There would be one room at the back and one at the front of each floor with a passage and staircase at one side. The rooms were sometimes divided into smaller units.

Basements All except the poorest houses had basements. Most of the service rooms would be in the basement which was often accessed through an open area in front with steps leading down to it. The open area would give light to the kitchen windows and opened onto storage vaults under the pavement. Small wells around the house would allow for windows to light other subterranean rooms including back staircases and household offices.

A variety of offices might be housed in the basement include the scullery (a small room for washing and story dishes and kitchen equipment); pantry and larder for food storage; butler's pantry and quarters, safe, and cleaning-room for the silver; housekeeper's-office; still-room for drying and preparing foods and herbs for storage, medicinal formulations, soap, ect; servants'-hall where servants might eat and socialize; a wine-cellar and a closet for beer; laundry and housemaid's-closet for linen storage; quarters for housekeeper, cook and possibly men-servants; and vaults for coals and dust. Even in the largest of house not all these rooms might be present and if present, they could be very small, with many of them packed tightly into the limited basement space.

A lift, also called a dumbwaiter, might be employed to bring food and other items up from the basement to the principle floors of the house. The lift might be located in a back stair well rather than opening directly into a room of the house.

Ground Floor The best rooms in a townhouse were on the ground and first floor and faced the back of the house, away from the dirt and noise of the street. These included drawing rooms, parlors and dining rooms.

Drawing rooms were a place near the front door for accessibility in greeting visitors. The women of the house and their female guests would also use the drawing room as a place to retreat after dinner, so they would be near the dining room as well. In contrast, the more modest parlor was a private room for the family’s enjoyment.

In large houses, the ground floor might also house an entrance hall, cloak-room, storage closet, and library or office. These would be more likely to face the street side of the house.

The first floor The first floor contained large rooms for entertaining. The rooms might be used for card paying, parlor games and dancing. Large or folding doors might connect smaller rooms so that they could be opened to create larger spaces. Principle bedrooms might also occupy this floor, usually located in the front (street side) of the house.

The second floor The more modest second floor featured secondary bedrooms for children, or perhaps a lodgers or guests. The rooms on this floor would be more simply furnished and decorated than those on lower floors. Bathing rooms, closets and linen storage rooms for both cleaned and soiled lines might also be located on this floor.

The attic The rooms on the highest floor were reserved servants, who often used beds that were let down from the wall like murphy beds. Nursery suits and storage rooms might also be located here. These rooms were cheaply painted and furnished.

Outbuildings Large townhomes might also include outbuilding behind the house. Stables and carriage houses might also feature quarters for coachmen and grooms for the horses.

Even though there was a great deal of similarity between the terraced homes, the differences were important reflections of the wealth and status of the occupants of these home and offer a delicious variety of details for world building and story crafting.

Characteristics of the Georgian Town House
The Ideal House
Kerr, Robert. The Gentleman's House (1871, 3ed.)
Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen and Food. Hambledon (1995)
Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels. Harry N. Abrams (2002)
London Architecture
Parissien, Steven. Regency Style. Phaidon Press Limited (2000)
Sabor, Peter (editor). The Cambridge Edition of the Juvenilia. Cambridge University Press (2006)
Spencer-Churchill, Henrietta. Classic Georgian Style. Collins & Brown (1997)
Summerson, John. Georgian London. Yale University Press (2003) Town Houses
Yorke, Trevor. Georgian & Regency Houses Explained. Countryside Books (2007)
Yorke, Trevor. Regency House Styles. Countryside Books (2013)  

You can find my most recent book
Twelfth Night at Longbourn 
Amazon Paperback available soon

Connect with Maria Grace

Twelfth Night—a night for wondrous things to happen.

At least for other people.

In the months after her sisters' weddings, nothing has gone well for Kitty Bennet. Since Lydia’s infamous elopement, her friends have abandoned her, and Longbourn is more prison than home. Not even Elizabeth's new status as Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley can repair the damage to Kitty’s reputation. More than anything else, she wishes to leave the plain ordinary Kitty behind and become Catherine Bennet, a proper young lady.

Her only ray of hope is an invitation to Pemberley for the holidays. Perhaps there she might escape the effects of her sister’s shame.

Getting to Pemberley is not as simple as it sounds. First she must navigate the perils of London society, the moods of Georgiana Darcy, and the chance encounter with the man who once broke her heart. Perhaps though, as Catherine, she might prove herself worthy of that gentleman’s regard.

But, in an instant all her hopes are dashed, and her dreams of becoming Catherine evaporate. Will Kitty Bennet's inner strength be enough to bring her heart's desire?

On an ordinary night perhaps not, but on Twelfth Night, it just might be enough.

Author bio

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects and notes for eight more writing projects in progress. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

London Then and Now: Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

An overview of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in the 18th century.
Photo courtesy of the Foundling Museum
Ever since visiting an exhibition about the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens at The Foundling Museum, the history of the gardens has fascinated me. So for my first foray of the New Year, I visited the site of the old Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens to see if any of the great 18th century attraction has survived to the present day.
'You are Here' - arriving at Vauxhall tube station.
The site of the old pleasure gardens just a short walk away.
On the south bank of the Thames, the gardens' popularity peeked in the Georgian era. Under the proprietorship of Jonathan Tyers, they grew from the equivalent of a pleasant (well, if you ignored the prostitutes and pickpockets!) country walk near a tavern, to a trendy place of entertainment with sensational lights, exotic buildings, first class music, dancing and romantic walks. Tyers was an entrepreneur and ahead of his time because he had a canny talent for advertising and marketing. 
The Grand Walk, Vauxhall - as portrayed in this
painting by Canaletto.
Arriving at Vauxhall station, my first task was to orientate myself. Needless to say the area looks hugely different to in Jonathan Tyers day. Part of the reason for Vauxhall's success was that the gardens were an earthly 'Elysium' - a verdant paradise away from the hustle, smells and congestion of an expanding city. This is the sight that greeted me...
Here I'm standing with my back to the current entrance
and facing towards the Thames. The railway line is visible leading
to the station on the left of the picture.
The current entrance is view an innocuous pavement with two tall columns (not at all sure what the significance of the columns are -it's almost as if someone thought they were a good idea at the time)
Standing in the gardens facing the new entrance.
Note the two tall columns marking the entry.
However, in the 18th century the main entrance was through the Proprietor's House, along what is now Goding Street.
The original entrance ran parallel to the modern railway line (see pic above)
Visitors passed through the main entrance to the Proprietor's House
which is the building to the left of this painting.
The original gardens closed in mid-Victorian times and housing was built on the area. These estates were badly bombed in the Second World War  and in the 1950's a decision was made to convert some of the land back to greenery in tribute to the Pleasure Gardens. Because of this, nothing of Tyers gardens remains, but using a variety of old maps (from 1813, 1850) and a present day map, I found as best I could, the equivalent locations. As you will see, things don't compare favourably.

This approximates to where the Proprietor's House was,
and also the Grand Walk (as shown in the Canaletto painting)
The 'Grand Walk' January 2014
What never ceases to surprise me about London is just how close everything is. From the modern gardens you can see the Shard.
The Shard - centre - as seen from Vauxhall Gardens
And turning around to face the Thames are a number of modern landmarks including MI6's 'secret' offices.
MI6 -to the right of centre.
Indeed, the 18th century visitor from London would cross from north of the Thames on a special wherry and land very close to what is the modern MI6 building. (Hubs, who was with me, got very nervous about me taking photos of MI6...)
As close as I could find to the original slipway on the Thames.
MI6 to my left ,with the gardens behind me.
Standing on the same spot but turned through 180 degrees.
The gardens are behind the 'bathstore'.
An 18th century visitor landing by wherry,
to visit the gardens.
It's not all bad!
Standing on the slipway, facing the Thames but with the camera pointing
to my right.
And finally, Jonathan Tyers loved his creation - the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. He was a London man and when he died was buried near his birthplace in Bermondsey. No marked grave exists and so his memory continues in a number of streets in Vauxhall that carry his name

[The gardens are featured in Verity's Lie. They are also the inspiration behind my new series based on the fictional Foxhall Gardens. #1 The Ringmaster's  Daughter is released on February 1st, 2014.]