Monday, 19 June 2017

Gadding About All Over

From saucy kings to Jane Austen, wild boys and insane monarchs strapped to punishment chairs, I'm talking about all thing long 18th this year; come along and have a listen!

Catherine's Forthcoming Events 

The Scandalous George IV, Cannon Hall, West Yorkshire, 7th July TICKETS

Join me for an evening of tales delving into the scandalous life of George IV. It has everything with its illegitimate children, scheming mistresses and even a strapping Italian solider. Lots of scandal and “three people in this marriage” as another Princess of Wales once said…

An Evening with Jane Austen, Jane Austen Festival, Bath, 10th September 2017 TICKETS
A magical evening with Jane Austen’s most memorable characters, from the comic absurdity of the Dashwoods to the heartfelt passion of Wentworth and Anne, not to mention the charming duplicity of the notorious Mr Wickham! With Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis, alongside period musical entertainment from  Rosie Lomas and Camilla Pay. The evening will be introduced by historian and author, Catherine Curzon.

Jane Austen and the King of Bling, Jane Austen Festival, Bath, 11th September 2017 TICKETS
This lively talk delves into the sometimes shocking, always scandalous, private life of ‘the first gentleman of England’. It suggests why Austen boldly declared she ‘hated’ this monarch even after she was his honoured guest at London’s most prestigious address. The other side to this saucy Sovereign was a man who championed Jane Austen and her works which secured the Regent his very own dedication from the author he adored.

The Mad King and the Coronation ChairStamford Georgian Festival, 23rd September 2017 TICKETS
The madness of George III is legendary. Restrained, gagged, blistered and plied with leeches, the king suffered humiliating and brutal treatment at the hands of those who were charged with his care. In a country wracked by upheaval both at home and abroad, the monarch’s madness left Britain in turmoil whilst, imprisoned at Kew, he ranted and foamed at the mouth.

The Curious Story of Peter the Wild Boy, Stamford Georgian Festival, 24th September 2017 TICKETS
In 1725, hunters led by King George I captured a feral child in the forests of Germany and took him home as a pet. Nicknamed ‘Peter the wild boy’ the little boy became a novelty at court and was brought to England to entertain and amuse the royals. Living in palaces, adored by princesses and heralded as a celebrity, Peter was a curiosity to thrill seekers and scholars alike. Yet when the glamour faded, what became of Peter the wild boy and, more to the point, where did he come from?

An Evening with Jane AustenStamford Georgian Festival, 24th September 2017 TICKETS
Join us for a magical evening in the company of Jane Austen’s most memorable characters introduced by Catherine Curzon and performed by actors Caroline Langrishe, star of such BBC favourites as Lovejoy and Judge John Deed and Adrian Lukis, a familiar face from the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and ITV’s Downton.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Scandalous George IV

Join me for a look at the scandalous love life of George IV in the gorgeous Cannon Hall!
Join us for an evening of tales from author Catherine Curzon on the marriage of George IV and his wife. It has everything with its illegitimate children, scheming mistresses and even a strapping Italian solider. Lots of scandal and “three people in this marriage” as another Princess of Wales once said…

Includes a glass of Prosecco, Paid Bar
£12 per person
14+ Parental Guidance


July 7 
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

An Orphan of the Regiment

It's my pleasure to welcome Jude Knight, to discuss the fate of children born to camp followers in the Peninsular War. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win an eBook of A Raging Madness!


To modern ears, the term camp follower may imply someone who follows an army in order to ply one of the oldest of trades.
For most of history, the meaning was far broader. A camp follower was any civilian who provided services to an army on the move. From the Crusades to the Crimean War, this group included blacksmiths, surgeons, cooks, launderers, nurses, and sutlers. And, for just as long, the wives of soldiers have filled at least the last four roles.
Anthonie Constantijn Govaerts - The Sutler

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, British Army regulations specified the number of wives of ordinary soldiers who could travel with the regiment and receive an army ration. The number may have varied by regiment—I’ve seen four wives per one hundred soldiers, and also six. In a regiment of 1500 men, that’s somewhere around 75 wives. Off to war with the men. 
In this post, it’s the children who interest me. Technically, wives with children couldn’t sail with the regiment, though some may have done so anyway. But wives and husbands in army camps do what wives and husbands do anywhere else, and in any posting of more than a few months, children would start to arrive. 
Their stories are hard to find. They were the sons and daughters, usually, of people who didn’t write letters or keep diaries, and they weren’t army, so were seldom referred to in military logs and dispatches. Their presence is hinted at with tantalising glimpses. For a start, they were assigned one quarter of the full ration given to a soldier. One ration for a soldier. Half a ration for his wife. One quarter for each child. No wonder the few brief mentions include stories of women and children falling behind the line of march.
One of the worst impediments to the free movement of the host came from the unhappy practice that then prevailed of allowing corps on foreign service to take with them a proportion of soldiers' wives…  They were always straggling or being left behind, because they could not keep up with the long marches the army often had to take. [Sir Charles Oman]
Pregnancy was seldom mentioned, unless women gave birth. For example, during the retreat from Corũna in the Peninsular War, a number of pregnant women gave birth, one to twins. 
 John Everett Millais – L’Enfant du Regiment
And tragic deaths might also get a line or a paragraph.
A soldier's wife had sought shelter beneath his (a dead drover's) cart, but she, too, was lying lifeless;· and the tragic part of it was that child, who was still alive, was whimpering and trying to find nourishment at her frozen breasts! One or two officers had the child taken from her, and wrapping it in a blanket, carried it away. [August Schaumann]
So what happened then?
The army had a system for sending widows back to England, though their half portion and their husband’s pay stopped as soon as the man died, and many widows chose to stay and speedily remarry (because in England they would be destitute). But the army didn’t offer such options to orphans.

The memoirs tell us that boys were sometimes adopted, by individual soldiers or by the regiment. But what happened to the daughters and the rest of the boys? A charitable fund , perhaps, if some officers’ wives took up the cause? And a trip back to England to an army orphanage? Or adoption by another camp follower with a kindly heart? That might be the best they could hope for, and a chance to grow enough to join the army as a boy soldier or the camp followers as a young  bride. 

A Raging Madness
Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return. 
Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 
In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.
About the Author
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Buy the Book
Kerridge was alone when she brought Ella’s evening dose of laudanum. Presumably Constance believed that Ella was still under the influence of the measure forced down her throat this morning, and would swallow Kerridge’s without offering a struggle. 
Constance was nearly right.
Even though Ella had managed to dribble at least part of what she secreted in her cheeks onto the pillow without Constance noticing, she was still mazed. Another dose would take her under, but Kerridge resented being forced to a task so beneath her dignity as a dresser, and would do no more than make sure the liquid arrived in Ella’s mouth. She would not insist on waiting until Ella swallowed, would not pinch her nose and hold her jaw shut.
Being too meek would be suspicious. Ella turned her head away from the spoon, her teeth clenched shut, but yelped at Kerridge’s sharp pinch and the dresser immediately forced the spoon into Ella’s mouth.
Glaring sullenly, she stopped struggling, and the dresser withdrew the spoon, stretching her thin lips into a smug smile.
“There, Lady Melville. This would go more easily for you if you would just do as you are told,” she said.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

A Regency Picnic at Claremont: 24 June 2017

On Saturday 24th June, the nineteenth century returns to Claremont Landscape Gardens for an epic, costumed evening of music, games and promenades. Bring a picnic and a bottle, and for the full experience, don your fanciest dress (or breeches!) and join the a parade around the lake.

If you remember Claremont's fêtes champêtres in years gone by, you'll know just how fun it is to spend the evening in fancy dress. Go the whole hog and make or hire a Regency dress, or keep it simple and make a hat from a mat. After all, a Regency soirée is a great excuse to indulge in a posh picnic just like the Georgians!

You can let your hair down like an aristocrat with a game of Pall Mall on the amphitheatre, whilst nine-pins and quoits will also be provided for your pleasure. There’ll be live music throughout the evening and a chance to take a scenic row across the lake. If that’s all a little too energetic, sit for a portrait in front of Princess Charlotte’s tea-house.

At half past six, ladies and gentlemen in costume are invited to take the air on a grand promenade around the lake before taking supper, though budding Mr Darcys are requested to refrain from taking a dip!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Mistress by Sophie Turner: Competition Winners

I'm delighted to announce that Rayvness79 and Rae Stricklin are the winners of the Mistress by Sophie Turner giveaway! Please comment below with your email addresses (these won't be made public) so Sophie can arrange to get your prizes to you.

Congratulations and thanks to all who entered the giveaway.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Mistress: A Pride and Prejudice Variation

It's a pleasure to welcome Sophie Turner, to discuss the matter of Jane Austen's widows; don't forget to comment for your chance to win a copy of Sophie's book!


Thank you so much for hosting me here, Catherine! I’m really excited to do my first guest post on your blog and share what it was like to write Elizabeth as a widow in my new book Mistress: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, with Parts Not Suitable for Those Who Have Not Reached Their Majority.

Mistress is a story that essentially ate my brain over the course of November, 2015, to the point where I almost unofficially did National Novel Writing Month (the story at that time fell short of true novel length, but in the time since, the gaps left during that flurry of initial writing have been filled in).

I had been considering writing a Pride and Prejudice variation with more adult content for some time, but I wanted it to be something different than what we often see in this genre and in romance generally – the experienced man and the virgin young lady. In order to do that without giving her some sort of ruinous present or past, that meant Elizabeth needed to be a widow.

But making her a widow created its own set of complexities that I needed to work through. Austen’s work includes an array of widows: Would Elizabeth be left near genteel destitution, like Mrs. Bates? Would she revel in her position, money, and power, a la Lady Catherine de Bourgh? She certainly didn’t seem the type to become a scheming Lady Susan, but perhaps circumstances would have required her to do so. Circumstances could even have required her to follow Mrs. Clay’s arc, and become a mistress.

None of these was quite the path I took Elizabeth down. Yes, Mistress does encompass both meanings of the word, but not in a Mrs. Clay or Lady Susan sort of manner.

The thing about widows during that time was that they could run a full gamut, from those who had married for financial security and entirely lost it after the death of their husbands, to those who possessed complete security and freedom. This was a time when any fortune and property a woman possessed went to her husband upon their marriage, and when women themselves were considered to be the property of their husbands. This makes marriage sound rather unappetizing, but married women at least had greater freedom to travel and to be in the company of men than unmarried women.

Truly the most free, in Georgian society, was the widow who had been left in good financial circumstances. She had control of her own money, she could be alone in the company of a gentleman, she could correspond with a gentleman without being engaged to him, and she could even embark upon an affair with minimal consequences, provided she was discreet. When Mr. Darcy takes a widowed Elizabeth out driving in his phaeton for several days in a row, there is no scandal, merely gossip to feed the rumor mill. This would have been very different for a Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

And it was this sort of widow I wanted Elizabeth to be – one with power, fortune, and control over her own choices. She is a rarity in that she is a young and beautiful widow with these things: death due to childbirth made widowers of her age far more common than widows. With the Longbourn estate now in her hands, she does not need to – indeed, she adamantly does not intend to – remarry. She’s had a very miserable time of it in her first marriage, having been required to submit to the will of someone who does not respect or appreciate her.

All of this means that even the deepest love may not be enough to compel her to marry, and I found this gave her courtship with Darcy a different power dynamic. She has a secure future, and control of her own life, which brings a great degree of risk to any prospect of remarrying. Yes, Darcy still has Pemberley to offer, but this is a different offer to a woman worth 40,000 pounds (the value of Longbourn), rather than 1,000 pounds. Once marriage vows were said in that era, they were generally for life: only the rich could afford divorce, and even then, it was quite scandalous and could only be brought forward by the husband.

That, in itself, makes widowhood very different during this era than it is today. In the Georgian era, while there were, of course, beloved spouses who died, the death of a spouse was the easiest (and for most the only) way to escape a bad marriage. Such is the case for Elizabeth, whose knees give out upon learning of her husband’s death; this is mistaken by the neighbourhood as a collapse in grief, not relief. Elizabeth may not hold Lady Susan’s callous attitude towards the death of a spouse, but she still feels the benefit of it.

Darcy certainly has his work cut out for him. In order to win Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, he has to win so many facets of her: her heart, mind, soul – and yes, body. The latter, as the adult-ness of this story indicates, proves to be the most challenging. And yet, because Elizabeth is a widow, this is far less scandalous than it would have been if she was unmarried. Instead of the experienced man and the virgin young lady, we have a well-read-but-minimally-experienced man and an experienced-but-it-was-a-bad-experience lady.

Will Darcy succeed, and convince her to embark upon a second marriage? The answer to that is at the core of Mistress.

Readers interested in learning more about the widows and widowers depicted in all of Austen’s works should give a read to this excellent analysis.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Jane Austen Project

It's a delight to welcome Kathleen Flynn, author of The Jane Austen Project, for a delve into the lives of Regency servants!


When I got the idea to write about some time travelers who go in search of Jane Austen, one concern was how her world would strike someone not native to it. What was the texture of everyday existence, and how could I depict it? 
One crucial difference is how so many tasks of daily life – heating and lighting our homes, keeping our bodies and our clothes clean, getting food on the table – have become infinitely less laborious in our world. We have electricity and running water; they had servants, at least people wealthy enough to afford them did. And even those pretty far down the economic ladder, like the Bates household in Emma, would have had at least a maid of all work. That would seem strange to many of us today -- having people around all the time who know such intimate details of your personal habits. True, lots of relatively well-off families have a nanny, or someone who comes by to clean the house, but this must have been considerably more intense. They’d be emptying your chamber pot, overhearing your conversations at dinner.  
How would my time travelers handle this? Arrived in 1815, they are posing as wealthy newcomers to London, an orphaned brother and sister in their 30s who have sold their family’s coffee plantation in Jamaica. When I visited house museums of the period, I tried to envision their house, and wondered about their imaginary servants. How many would they need; how would the household tasks be divided? And since they don’t know anyone and cannot get recommendations through word of mouth, how will they find them? What were servants paid, and how often? Did they all generally live in the house with their masters, even in town? 

I spent pleasant hours in the reading room of the New York Public Library with volumes like Housekeeping in the 18th Century and The British Abigail, but felt I was still nibbling around the edges of facts I needed. Then a blog post by a writer of historical fiction sent me on the trail of an out-of-print book not in NYPL’s collection, which I was able to find used through Amazon. 

When The Complete Servant arrived in the mail, I couldn’t believe my luck. A 1989 reprint of a work first published in 1825, it was written by two retired servants who’d started as footboy and maid-of-all-work, rising through the service ranks all the way to the top: house-steward and housekeeper. In its own time it was a guide both to servants and their employers, some of whom would have been new to wealth, unsure how to manage a household as large as the one they found themselves in charge of. For someone in the early 21st century trying to imagine domestic life of 200 years earlier, it was solid gold. 

After a modern introduction by a professor of economic and social history, there’s the original introduction by the co-authors with some heartfelt advice to both employer: “The mistress of a family will always recollect that, in all cases, the welfare and good character of her household depends on her own active superintendence” and employee: “The virtue of silence is highly commendable, and will contribute greatly to your ease and prosperity.”  

Then we get a series of chapters on each kind of servant, starting with the housekeeper and ending with the under gardener, dealing with, among others, the kitchen maid, the lady’s maid, the young lady’s maid, the servant of all work, the butler, the under butler, the valet, the footman and the hall porter – 33 such chapters, outlining the duties of each and the typical salary range. Of course, only the grandest houses would require 33 kinds of servants, so the book also suggests how some jobs may combine, like “Groom and Valet, or Footman.” 

Interspersed with descriptions of the servants’ duties is practical advice relevant to the job in question. The part devoted to the “Chamber Nurse” (which was not a full-time servant, but someone called in at times of illness) has sections on how to get rid of warts, how to “extinguish fires which may have caught the clothes” (a serious danger in a world of open flames and long cotton skirts) and “A method of restoring life to the apparently drowned.” The cook’s chapter has a list of “principal herbs, or vegetables used in English salads” (a sophisticated lineup including sorrel, watercress and chervil) and recipes for various sauces. It has advice about managing the fire: “Judicious cooks will perform their culinary operations with much less coal than those who erroneously believe that the greater the fire, the greater the dispatch.”

At this, and at many other points, I was struck by what a large array of practical skills have been effectively lost to time, though we like to imagine ourselves as much more advanced than the people of 1815.  Who could even start a fire with a flint and steel today, let alone cook an entire meal with the unpredictable heat of an open hearth? Impossible not to be amazed by all these forgotten people, our ancestors in possession of their now-forgotten skills, who kept the drawing rooms warm, the horses fed and shod, the wool carded, the butter churned and the stagecoaches running.

And this is not the end to the glories of The Complete Servant. Tables at the beginning offer guidance as to how many and what kind of servants one might be expected to have, according to a family’s income and size. My time travelers had to be wealthy enough to interest the gregarious London banker Henry Austen as potential customers as well as friends, yet not so rich that he would consider them too grand to introduce to his sister Jane, when she came to visit him in the fall of 1815. In the £1000 to £1500 annual income range, maybe, thus requiring something like:  “Four Females and three Men; viz -- A Cook, Two Housemaids, a Nursey-Maid or Other Female Servant; a Coachman, Footman, and a Man to assist in the Stable and Garden.”

Jane Austen’s novels are notable for being faithful to small details of everyday life and yet not getting bogged down in them. Her contemporary readers would have immediately grasped the significance of, say, Henry Crawford owning a barouche in Mansfield Park vs. Henry Tilney having a curricle in Northanger Abbey. (I would think of it as something like a Land Rover vs. a Mini-Cooper convertible.) They would have understood why Mrs. Norris of Mansfield Park was so pleased with the housekeeper at Sotherton because she did not serve wine at the second table and turned away two housemaids for wearing white gowns. (The second table was where the lower-ranking servants ate. To me, the most fascinating implication of this was that Sotherton’s more important servants apparently did expect wine with their meals. White gowns indicate that the housemaids were imitating the fashions of those above them in social rank, a tendency The Complete Servant also sternly warns against.) But even though most modern readers would miss such nuances, their enjoyment of Jane Austen’s wit and psychological insight is not decreased.
Anyone writing a story set in the distant past faces knows the challenge of capturing the flavor of its strangeness without over-describing. In my excitement after discovering The Complete Servant, I put in a great detail of fascinating (to me at least) details about household management that some early readers gently pointed out were excessive, and slowing down the action. I went back and took most of them out. Yet I had a sense I’d not before, of feeling more firmly anchored in the world of 1815, of having a sense of the world beyond the page. I can only hope readers will too.

The Jane Austen Project, due out on May 2, 2017, is available as an e-book, a paperback, and an audiobook. Here are some buy links:
On Twitter at @AustenProject, on the web at and on Facebook at Email newsletter signup at

About the author
Kathleen A. Flynn grew up in tiny Falls Village, Conn., the daughter of an electrician and a kindergarten teacher. Currently a copy editor at The New York Times and resident of Brooklyn, Flynn has taught English in Hong Kong, washed dishes on Nantucket, and is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The Jane Austen Project is her first novel.