Sunday, 30 November 2014

A November Countdown

To celebrate five hundred posts here at the Guide a few weeks ago, I put together a top five countdown of the most popular posts since I opened the salon doors. I hadn't intended the countdown to become a regular feature but it seemed to appeal to quite a few readers who got in touch and let me know that they would like to see a rundown of the most popular posts from each month. I've decided, therefore, to dedicate the last day of each month to a top five of the most popular posts of the weeks just gone. I hope you find something to catch your eye!

5. A Sick Syphon
This isn't quite as gruesome as it sounds, but instead offers a closer look at a regular feature in the Georgian sick room!

4. Life in the Georgian Court
Further details about my contract with Pen and Sword Books and my forthcoming work, Life in the Georgian Court.

3. The Death of the Man in the Iron Mask
The tale of the final days in the life of a mysterious prisoner whose identity remains a mystery.

2. The Goose and Gridiron
A look at the pub where Sir Christopher Wren and the Freemasons met, and more on why a pub sign wouldn't feature writing.

1. Captain Cook Sights Maui
The tale of the famed explorer's sighting of Maui, his efforts to land vexed by weather and coastline.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Life in the Georgian Court

As you may have guessed, I have something of a passion for sharing tales of the Georgian era and for more than a year, that's what I have been doing on a daily basis here at the Guide. Today's post is a little different though because I have a rather happy announcement to make.

I am pleased as the proverbial punch to announce that a long-held dream has come true for me and I have signed a contract with Pen and Sword Books! 

Pen and Sword have graciously agreed to publish my book, Life in the Georgian Courta breathless romp through the world of Georgian nobility in the company of the crowned heads of Europe. Stops along the red carpet will include the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the Georgian era, the House of Hanover. 

The book, released on 30th June 2016, will give an insight into the defining moments of European royal life in the long 18th century, from happy marriages to forced unions and scandals that rocked society, via kings who barely left a mark on the world they ruled and those who ended their days on the guillotine or even the toilet!

I would like to say an enormous thank you to everyone that has visited the salon whether as a reader, guest writer, commentator or typo-spotter. I shall, of course continue to share tales from the long 18th century here, as well as keep you all updated on my progress. 

Once again, an enormous merci for your encouragement and support, I raise a glass to you all!

Edit: This is just an edit to say thank you to everyone for your lovely words and congratulations; I am overwhelmed!

Order Links:

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Friday, 28 November 2014

A Fatal Fall: Johann Peter Salomon

Johann Peter Salomon (Bonn, Germany, baptised 20th February 1745 – London, England, 28th November 1815) 

Johann Peter Salomon

Today we mark the death of Johann Peter Salomon, composer and violinist. Salomon was born in the house in Bonn that would later see the birth of a certain Beethoven, and from childhood prodigy, rose to the heights of musical excellence.

Salomon excelled as a violinist from a young age and before he was even twenty, was a leading light at the Prussian court. Not content with playing music, he was soon composing too and as his star rose, he travelled across Europe to settle in London.

It was here that Salomon found celebrity, both as a violinist and for the works he wrote for the Royal Opera to perform. Hayden came to England at the invitation of Salomon and the two men shared an enduring friendship, championing one another's works.

Salomon met a sad end in his seventieth year, just two years after he was instrumental in the establishing of the Philharmonic Society. Whilst taking a summer ride in 1815 he fell from his horse and sustained injuries that would later lead to dropsy. Confined to his bed in 70 Newman Street, the much-loved composer declined swiftly and passed away on 25th November. His funeral took place the following week, when he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Witches and Wicked Bodies

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of accompanying Willow C Winsham to the British Museum to view their Witches and Wicked Bodies exhibition. As a blogger on all thing witchy, weird and wonderful, Willow was certainly in her element and as one who has always enjoyed the more esoteric side of things, I had a wonderful time too. It was particularly lovely to see some choice items of Georgian art with a witchcraft theme on show, perfect for me!

The exhibition gathers drawings, prints and some original literature and pottery from the British Museum's own collection, as well as a number of other institutions and private collectors. It traces the depiction of witches in art from the Renaissance to the Victorian era and features works by iconic artists including Goya, Rossetti and Delacroix.

In the evocatively lit gallery one becomes immersed in images that have become part of our folklore. Here witches ride on broomsticks and stir heavy iron cauldrons, there demonic women tempt pious men, animals spit and hiss in the thrall of their mistresses and the devil himself leers out of the pages of texts intended as a moral warning to the curious.

It was a thrill to see works by Dürer, so familiar from years of reproduction, and trace the earliest depictions of witches from tempting beauties to hook-nosed hags who have become the familiar Halloween costumes of the twenty first century. The exhibition also tells the stories of witchcraft's place in history through the ages, addressing the matter of criminality, punishment and hysteria that so often accompanied reports of sorcery. There is a strong focus on the biblical origins of witch myths such as Lilith and those of ancient history, including Medea.

It is fascinating to watch as these mythical figures of temptation go full circle through Goya's hideous hags and emerge into the nineteenth century as glamorous figures of mystery once. This is an exhibition that tells a story and one that I heartily recommend; if you are in London before the exhibition closes on 11th January 2015, don't miss it!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Captain Cook Sights Maui

We have met Captain Cook several times here at the salon. Here we have read of his trips to Botany Bay and Possession Island, learnt the story behind a famed portrait and even been present at his most gruesome death. Today we welcome the good Captain once more and though this story might have been one of another landing on foreign soil, Cook found his plans beaten by weather and tide.

In November 1778, Cook's ship, HMS Resolution, was continuing her second voyage under the Captain's command. The eventful expedition had been underway since July 1776 and would, of course, be Cook's last adventure though for now, he knew nothing of the fate that awaited on Hawaii. this was a voyage of exploration, a time to discover new lands and, in particular, the famed Northwest Passage. 

Captain James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776
Captain James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776
After a difficult voyage beset with illness and problems with their vessel, the crew of the Resolution spotted land on 26th November 1778. As the first Europeans to lay eyes on Maui, Cook resolved to land there and explore but found his plans vexed by nature itself. With no natural harbour and high waves, he eventually had to face defeat and abandon his plans to land. With no other option he sailed onwards, leaving Maui so that another might one day make the first landing.

That day would not come until nearly ten years later and the first European to set foot on Maui was French explorer, Jean-François de La Pérouse. He arrived on the island in May 1786, by which time Captain Cook was dead, though his name and voyages were anything but forgotten. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Goose and Gridiron

Growing up in Nottinghamshire, we made regular family jaunts to Clumber Park to enjoy a picnic and take a stroll. One of the main attractions of these outings, other than weir which always fascinated me, was the chance to see unsuspecting people, not local to the area, being menaced to distraction by the somewhat fearsome geese that roamed the area. They always seemed singularly cheeky to me though and perhaps that's why this pub sign appealed to me so much!

The Goose and Gridiron tavern sign

Sign makers in the 18th century had to contend with the fact that many people who used shops and taverns were unable to read. The most beautifully written sign would be no of no use to anyone if the customers of a business were unable to read it and for this reason, sign makers naturally gravitated towards pictorial signs.

As we have already learnt, St Paul's Churchyard was home to a tavern named The Goose and Gridiron. It was here that the Grand Lodge of Freemasons had its first meeting in 1717 and had served as a meeting point for Masons long before that, under the leadership of Sir Christopher Wren. 

The inn had previously been a music-house named The Mitre and when it became a tavern, the name Goose and Gridiron was chosen. In 1878's Old and New London: Volume 1, author Walter Thornbury suggests that the name was intended as a parody of Swan and Harp, a popular name for music-houses. This seems a peculiarly specific joke and Thornhill thinks so too, offering the alternative suggestion that it is simply a somewhat earthy take on the coat of arms used by the Company of Musicians that would have hung above the door at the Mitre. To suggest that this is no longer a house of music, instead of the swan and tressure the tavern has adopted the goose and gridiron. 

Whatever the explanation, the sign perfectly suggests the name of the establishment and its purpose by simply depicting a goose and gridiron. With a wordless sign such as this , the innkeeper could be sure that customers would easily find their destination, regardless of their literacy skills!

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Sailor's Valentine

It is not unusual for the Guide to feature the occasional grisly story, with executions, crime and one to two gruesome deaths cropping up now and again. I am, however, not entirely without a heart and it is my pleasure to feature a nautical, romantic keepsake today in the colourful form of this sailor's valentine.

This valentine was auctioned in New York eight years ago for over $13000. It dates from the early nineteenth century. Quite unlike the rather more mundane paper valentine cards so popular today, this is a double mahogany frame in which dozens of shells have been carefully arranged to send a message of love to a lucky recipient. 

A Sailor's Valentine

On the left, the shells form the shape of a heart topped with a rose, a pair of symbols that can hardly be misinterpreted as anything but adoring. However, should there be any room for confusion the artist has decided to be absolutely clear in the message they wish to send and really highlights the point in the opposite frame. Here on the right, the message Forget Me Not has been carefully picked out in colourful seashells with another heart to seal the deal, leaving this is a most romantic token to be gazed at and cherished whenever the lovers concerned are parted. 

This is an utterly beguiling little artefact that marks a moment in history. Though we cannot know the story of this shell-studded valentine, I do hope it ended more happily than some of the tales I tell here at the Guide!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Sick Syphon

It is my pleasure to take tea once more today with Dr Dillingham of Edinburgh and hear his medical tales. I must admit that, when I first encountered the item that has caught my eye today, I was rather misled by its name; happily though, the sick syphon is not quite the gruesome instrument I took it to be!

Upon my initial reading of the name of this rather fine implement, I found myself wondering how on earth it worked. How could such a thing be used to syphon vomit form a patient? My mind fairly boggled at the many, varied and ever more unpleasant methods by which it might be employed and yet, as the good doctor quickly assured me, it has nothing to do with vomit.

In fact, the sick syphon is rather more like a very elaborate, very well turned out straw. Its shape allowed it to be placed in a vessel such as a bowl or mug and even the weakest patient could then carefully suck up whatever (mostly liquid) foodstuff was on offer.

This particular syphon is dated 1790 and was made by silversmiths Edward Robinson and Thomas Phipps. In its fine case it makes for a most unusual medical curiosity; if only it could talk!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Victims of the National Razor

I have, it would appear, acquired something of a reputation for liking the more grisly aspects of history. Perhaps it is my prized miniature guillotine, perhaps the number of salon visitors who ended their days beneath the blade of that iconic instrument of death, I can hardly tell! Whatever the cause, these past months I have received a few queries from readers who would like an easy way to track down all the guillotine posts here at the Guide.

I always aim to help if I can and for this reason, I have introduced a new guillotine tag for just such an occasion. To make things even easier though, here are the links to all of those guillotine posts - I hope they prove ghoulishly diverting!

A model of the 1792 guillotine
A model of the 1792 guillotine

To kick us off, who better than Joseph-Ignace Guillotin? This gentleman championed the guillotine, little imagining just how often it would come to be used!

The French Court During Revolution

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette: The iconic king and queen of France.
Princess Élisabeth of France: A loyal sister to the end.
Madame du Barry: Mistress to a king.
Anne d'Arpajon: The woman mocked as Madame Etiquette by Marie Antoinette.
Lamoignon de Malesherbes: The man who defended Louis XVI at his trial, forced to watch his family die before his own execution.

The French Revolution

Maximilien Robespierre: The Revolutionary politician who presided over the Terror.
Charlotte Corday: Assassin.
Jean-Sylvain Bailly: Architect of the Revolution.
Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just: This confidante of Robespierre died alongside him.
Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins: Powerhouses of the Revolution who fell foul of the Jacobins.
Olympe de Gouges: An ardent revolutionary and thinker who rethought her politics as the Reign of Terror took hold.
Friedrich von der Trenck: Spy, adventurer and man of action.
Adam Philippe, Comte de Custine: The military man better known as Général Moustache.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Friday, 21 November 2014

History as a Character in Historical Romance by Regan Walker

Once again it is my pleasure to welcome a guest author to the site to share tales of writing and history. Without further ado I shall leave you in the delightful hands of Regan Walker and the fascinating topic of history as a character in historical romance.


For me, writing historical romance must include real history—and it’s a character in each of my stories. What do I mean by that? First, the historical element is not just setting or “background.” Rather, the historical events of the time are woven in along with real historical figures. Unlike historical fiction, because I write romance, there is always a main love story in the foreground and a happy ending.

Typically, I begin with an idea, a scene or a character. For the first in the Agents of the Crown trilogy, Racing With The Wind, it was the character Lady Mary Campbell. I have always believed that women in past times were no different in character, hopes and dreams than women are today. There have always been women who were happy to conform to the expectations of their times and there have always been women who did not. Perhaps because of their intelligence and curiosity, those who do not conform become bored with the role carved out for their sex and so they push the envelope of what is acceptable. I wanted to take a woman like that and look at her through the lens of Regency England. What would she do differently than the women of her age?

Racing with the Wind

While Regency England (the period from 1811-1820), was characterized by a Prince Regent who lived a debauched lifestyle where courtesans might have been treated better than the wives of arranged marriages, still a young lady of the nobility would be raised in a certain manner with certain expectations of proper behavior. My heroine is one of those but she will rebel. She will ride astride in men’s clothes (as some, in fact, did); she will be educated and read the classics; and she will be adventure seeking. So armed with that information, I went looking for history that would make for an interesting setting. And I found it in Paris in 1816.

With Napoleon exiled to St. Helena and Louis XVII restored to France’s throne, much was happening in Paris. The allied troops were still encamped around the city and the officers frequented Louis’ Court. Knowing what I do about governments, I knew there would be spies as well as statesmen. And that brought me to my hero. He had to be strong enough to handle Lady Mary Campbell, and wise enough to appreciate her unique personality. Of course, while drawn to her beauty and spirit, he would find her independent nature most troublesome. Enter the Nighthawk, a mysterious figure—a legend in France during Napoleon’s reign—who stole secrets in the dead of night, secrets that were at the heart of Napoleon’s military campaigns.

Then I had to have other characters, a best friend for Mary, a colleague or two for the Nighthawk, also known as Hugh, the Marquess of Ormond. The interesting thing to me was that I found a woman who actually lived in Paris at that time who was so like Lady Mary that I decided to incorporate her into my story. Thus, the real person of Germaine de Stael became a friend and mentor of sorts to my fictional heroine. And the rest, of course, is the romance!

Germaine de Stael
Germaine de Stael

For the third in my trilogy, Wind Raven, a seafaring Regency, I started with the hero, Jean Nicholas Powell, a sea captain and an arrogant Englishman who gave up on love (and virgins in particular) some years ago. Now he loves only his ship, his crew and his life at sea. For this man, I needed a woman he would come to respect who would defy convention and give him a major run for his money.

Wind Raven

Enter the American patriot, Tara McConnell from the shipbuilding family of privateers who built the Boston Clipper ships that helped America run the British blockades in the War of 1812. Tara, who grew up on her father’s ships, disdains the English even though the war has been over for a few years. Yet she was forced by her father to spend a year in London with her aunt, a dowager baroness, and to have a Season. I had a real, historic model for Tara in Anne Chamberlyne, a scholar’s daughter and member of the gentry who, declining offers of marriage in 1690, at the age of twenty-three, donned a man’s clothing and joined her brother’s ship to fight the French off Beachy Head. Tara was just such a woman. Once Tara becomes a passenger on Nick’s ship, the sparks start to fly. She wants to act a member of his crew and he wants her far from the action.

It was important to me that I get all the ship scenes correct and use all the right terminology, particularly since both Tara and Nick well understood the workings of a schooner. I read my 4-inch thick Sailor’s Word Book and studied drawings of schooners of the period until I was seeing them in my dreams. I also took a ride on a schooner of the period, the Californian (pictured below) to get a feel for the movement of the ship—and in doing so, I found a friend and my consultant in the person of the ship’s gunner to whom the book is dedicated.


I did extensive research for this book. It included not just schooners of the period and the War of 1812, but what was happening on Bermuda (where Nick makes a stop and they dine with real historic figures living there in 1817), how a schooner would weather a major storm at sea, and, most importantly, the real pirate Roberto Cofresi, who is a character in the story and falls in love with Tara. A tall, blond giant of a man from Puerto Rico, Cofresi preyed on merchant ships not flying the flag of Royal Spain. And he had reason to do so, as you’ll see in my story. While you are reading a romance, you are also learning something about a real pirate who plagued the seas at the time.

My latest novel, The Red Wolf’s Prize, is a medieval set in England in 1068, two years after the Norman Conquest and features the Siege of Exeter, the Battle of York and a love story for the ages.

The Red Wolf's Prize

About the Author

Bestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” In each of her novels, there is always real history and real historic figures.

Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

Written content of this post copyright © Regan Walker, 2014.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Death of Caroline of Ansbach

Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (Ansbach, Holy Roman Empire, 1st March 1683 – London, England, 20th November 1737)

Caroline of Ansbach by Jacopo Amigoni, 1735
Caroline of Ansbach by Jacopo Amigoni, 1735

Just a couple of days ago, we peeked in at the final hours of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and today we once again the share last moments of a queen. Caroline of Ansbach was, of course, the wife of George II, and had enjoyed several successful periods as regent. These periods won her the admiration and respect of the English people and she remained popular throughout her ten years as queen.

Like so many women of her era, Caroline underwent no small measure of trauma during her ten pregnancies and it was to be a trauma to her womb that would eventually kill her. Although she began to suffer a number of ailments as she grew older, the fatal blow came on 9th November 1737 when she attended a reception and was struck down by a terrible pain in her abdomen.

Despite the agony the queen tried to carry out her duties she was forced to retire to her private rooms at St James's Palace where the royal physicians descended, led by Dr John Ranby. The doctors decided that Caroline's womb had ruptured and set about treating her in their tried and tested way. When bleeding produced no solution they attempted surgery and the queen endured these unaesthetised procedures without complaint, growing weaker with every passing day.

Eventually Caroline and George told the doctors that, many years earlier, the queen had suffered from  an umbilical hernia. With this knowledge, Ranby could finally take action and went to work on the hernia, which over the years had caused part of her bowel to decay. In the gruesome operation that followed, the doctors sliced out the decayed flesh, completely opening her bowels and causing catastrophic damage. From that day on her fate was sealed; raw excrement oozed into her abdomen and out through the surgical wounds as Caroline clung weakly to life, suffering untold agony with every moment.

For a week the queen lingered on, well aware that her death was swiftly approaching. She begged her husband to marry again once she was gone but he refused, saying that he may take a mistress, but never another wife. In his eyes, no woman could truly match her and as she faded from life, he maintained a vigil at her side.

At ten o'clock on the evening of 20th November 1737, attended by her husband and daughter, Caroline's unimaginable suffering came to an end. She took George's hand and told him with her final breath, "I am going."

As she had been so many times, the queen was proved right. Plunging the public, court and her own family into mourning, Caroline of Ansbach passed away. She was buried in Westminster Abbey and when her husband joined her in death, their coffins were placed side by side and the sides removed, so that they might rest together for eternity.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Death of the Man in the Iron Mask

One of the most intriguing mysteries in French history apparently reached its final act on this day in 1703. Deep within the walls of the Bastille a man breathed his last but as he passed away, he ignited centuries of speculation, conspiracy theories and a host of fanciful and fictional tales. That near-legendary prisoner, face hidden by black velvet, has found his identity in the austere title of the Man in the Iron Mask.

Anonymous, 1789
Anonymous, 1789

The masked prisoner had been incarcerated since approximately 1680, held in the more or less permanent custody of Bénigne d'Auvergne de Saint-Mars at Pignerol. When Saint-Mars found a new billet at the Bastille in 1698 he took the mysterious figure with him, where he took up residence alone in the Bertaudière tower. Treated well and clad in velvet, not iron, the unnamed prisoner passed his years in the Bastille in relative calm and died a peaceful death by all accounts on 19th November 1703.

The following day the masked man was laid to rest under the name, Marchioly, apparently aged somewhere in his mid-forties. His cell was stripped back to the bricks and all trace of him erased from the world, if not from history. Indeed, efforts to keep the prisoner anonymous fuelled the fire that raged around him and now, more than two hundred years after he breathed his last, we still remember the Man in the Iron mask. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

My Wonderful Salon Guests!

I thought the time was right to sing the praises once more of my wonderful salon guests, who have visited the Guide to share their stories with us. As new guests visit, you will find the page listing their contributions updated but I why not peruse the list below and dip into their wonderful historical worlds! Should you wish to share a guest post here at the salon, do let me know!

Although the Guide never strays far from history, those who write on the subject of the long 18th century in both fact and fiction are always welcome! If you are a fan of historical fiction, you will enjoy Judith Arnopp's post on writing for the genre, whilst Jacki Delecki let us in on the secrets of turning her fiction into an audiobook. 

Anna Belfrage offers an insight into faith and David Ebsworth does likewise in a very different way, examining the life of a remarkable military lady. Somewhat less dangerous was the Regency love of flowers as discussed by Kathryn Kane, whilst Maria Grace remains at home with a look at toys and games of the long 18th century and Sarah Shaw invited us to join a Georgian picnic in 2014! Should you be in more of a mood for a night on the town, why not visit Vauxhall Pleasure gardens in the company of  Grace Elliott or Alicia Rasley for a Georgian masquerade?

Further from the safety of home and hearth, CW Lovett brings the Siege of Louisbourg to life and Sarah Murden and Jo Major  lift the scandalous lid on a spy, traitor and trigamist! Also scandalous was Marie Antoinette's approach to etiquette, as discussed by  Ginger Myrick, whilst Laura Purcell brings us the somewhat less polarising life of Charlotte of Mecklenbug-Strelitz.

If you prefer things a little calmer, join  Christine Plunkett for her tale of the restoration of Ralph Allen's tomb or perhaps take a stroll in a Georgian garden in the heart of Sheffield in the company of Adam Smith. Still outdoors, though not quite pastoral, is Willow C Winsham's Halloween tale of a ghost ship whilst Nick Smith talks pirates, though not of the ghostly kind!

Last but not least we come to the Pitts in the company of Jacqui Reiter and Stephenie Woolterton, whose multiple posts on this remarkable family make for fascinating reading!

Jacqui Reiter
Mary Elizabeth, Countess of Chatham 
The Collapse of the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords 
John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham

Stephenie Woolterton 
Re-thinking the Death of William Pitt the Younger: His Legacy
 Humphry Repton’s Memoirs of Two British Prime Ministers 
Happy 255th birthday, William Pitt the Younger: Remembering Hayes Place 
Lady Hester Stanhope on Board the H.M.S. Salsette     

I hope you find something to enjoy, it's an honour and a privilege to feature so much wonderful work!

Monday, 17 November 2014

The Death of Queen Charlotte

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; Mirow, Holy Roman Empire, 19th May 1744 – Kew, England, 17th November 1818) 

Queen Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1789
Queen Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1789

There is something about Queen Charlotte that I have always found utterly fascinating. My interest in her was sparked years ago by a portrait that I have since featured here at the Guide and it has never abated. She strikes me as a most graceful lady and one who faced the challenges of her marriage with dignity and forbearance. 

Charlotte married George III in 1761 and was a devoted wife to her husband. Throughout the long years of their marriage, with all the well- documented health problems both physical and mental that George suffered, Charlotte remained his loving and most protective companion.

As she entered her seventy fourth year, though, the queen was growing more frail with every passing day. She attempted to continue her duties even as her health worsened but, in spring 1818, was forced to retire from public life with a final appearance at the Mansion House in London.

Hoping to eventually take up residence at Windsor with her husband, the ailing queen entered seclusion at Dutch House (now Kew Palace) where, she hoped, she would be able to regain her strength. However, she was destined never to see her husband again and, as the year wore on, rather than gain in strength she deteriorated swiftly. Hidden away with her children, Charlotte suffered terribly as her legs swelled and joints grew sore and eventually she contracted pneumonia. 

On 17th November 1818 Charlotte settled in a comfortable armchair with her children around her and, with her son, George, holding her hand, the queen passed quietly away. She was buried at Windsor on 2nd December and her husband, suffering from dementia and many other conditions, never learnt of his beloved wife's death.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Byron, Blidworth and Beer Gardens!

Since opening the doors of the salon, I have been asked on several occasions how I write, why I started and what the future holds. In this post, originally posted at Linda Collinson's wonderful blog, Sea of Words, I chat a little about where my inspiration came from and why my granddad remains such an influence on my life.

As I spend the weekend at the British Museum's Witches and Wicked Bodies exhibition, I hope you will find something illuminating in this and never fear, we are back to history tomorrow!

Update: Since this was published, I'm thrilled to announce I've signed a contract with Pen and Sword books to bring your Life in the Georgian Court. To learn more, click here!


Ever since I can remember, my life has been full of tall tales. Throughout childhood I sat at my granddad’s knee in his cottage on the edge of Sherwood Forest and listened with relish to tales of outlaws and highwayman, of willow the wisps in the trees and, somewhat improbably as I later realised, the full-blooded tale of Lord Byron’s ghost who, he claimed, haunted the rural pub in whose beer garden we passed many happy weekend afternoons.

Those stories have never left me and whether bawdy, bloodcurdling of just plain silly, my granddad’s tall tales made an indelible mark on my life. Add to that a fateful children’s toy brought for me during a pre-school shopping trip and you have the makings of who I have since become. As a child my sister and I loved paper cutout dolls and we made our own though my sister was always the more artistic of the two so imagine my delight when we were both treated to a Marie Antoinette paper cutout doll set, featuring the iconic queen and a whole host of bewigged flunkies. I fell in love with everything about the queen and her retainers from the fine clothes to the powdered hair, the glittering jewels and, best of all, my granddad’s spirited retelling of the gruesome fate that befell her.

My love affair with Marie Antoinette gradually began to expand and grow, as these things do, and before too long I was nursing a fascination with the long 18th century. Growing up where I did, I was lucky enough to pay regular visits to Chatsworth, Haddon and Hardwick and in each of these places I would picture my fine ladies and dashing fellows, filling the houses with a thousand childish stories of my own making. Eventually I began to tell stories of my own though these weren’t period pieces, unless you count a novel I wrote set in 1957, but all the time the glorious Georgians were nagging at me.

For all the love and support of my colonial gentleman , he is not quite as fascinated with Georgian history as I and after several years of marriage, it became achingly apparent that I really needed an outlet for the 18th century stories that were clogging up my brain and, so, A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life was born.

My approach to blog writing is very disciplined and, since I publish a new tale every single day, it has to be. I gather notes, inspiration and stories from everywhere and keep them logged in a spreadsheet by date then, every so often, I dive right in. I take myself off to my favourite coffee shop, where my order of a sparkling water and pot of tea is ready before I even ask for it, sit at my computer and absorb myself in the world of the Georgians. In the space of a few dedicated hours and with a steady supply of tea and music, I might write a dozen first draft posts. I’ll then hone them over the coming days, sure to keep a few scheduled and ready to go at any one time.

If I get to my blog and see one or two posts there, then it’s time to buckle down and really get to it; I love sharing stories of the Georgian era so it’s really no chore. When I started blogging I really thought that it might be fun for a couple of months and hoped, if I was lucky, that a few dozen people might visit the site and perhaps lose a couple of minutes there. Instead I’ve been blessed to meet readers, writers and history enthusiasts from all over the world. Over the year and a bit that I’ve been publishing the site I’ve featured guest posts from some favourite authors, read advance copies of their work and even advised on the state of French roads in 1792!

All of this has been an enormous boost of confidence as I work at my own latest novel, The Mistress of Blackstairs, in the determination that, unlike my three unpublished non-historical works, it will not go unread by all but a few trusted friends! I am on the second draft of Blackstairs right now and the coffee shop is the same, as is the tea and water, the music and concentration. The only difference is that this is fiction, just like those stories granddad used to tell me of Lord Byron’s restless ghost and a pub in Blidworth Bottoms!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Founder of the House: People from Another Time

It is my pleasure to host the Founder of the House blog tour today, with a post on the matter of writing fiction for people from another time!


Reading historical fiction fires our imaginations in the same way as a visit to a museum or art gallery. We feel we are among the people who came before us. Like us in many ways, but very different in others. Although we share some of the same joys and fears, much of our experience and theirs is determined by the times in which we live. The author Naomi Jacob was from another time to ours, and her life was shaped by the events of that era. With The Founder of the House, she chose to write about people from a different age to her own, who were equally affected by the times in which they lived.

Naomi Jacob was born in Ripon, Yorkshire in 1884. Her mother's family had a centuries-old association with the town; her grandfather was twice the mayor of Ripon and owned a local hotel. Her paternal grandfather was a Jewish tailor who had fled to England from a pogrom in Western Prussia, during which his parents were brutally murdered. Jacob was greatly influenced by her part-Jewish heritage, and spoke out against anti-Semitism in her work and personal life.

When Jacob was a young woman, the music hall was at the peak of its popularity. She was drawn to the music halls of Leeds, where she met the actress and singer Marguerite Broadfoote. This introduced her to the theatrical world, and star names such as the Du Mauriers, Henry Irving, Sarah Bernhardt and Marie Lloyd. Jacob began acting in West End and touring productions, once playing opposite John Geilgud.

Politics was another passion of hers. She joined the Women's Social and Political Union in 1912, campaigning  for women's suffrage, and later she stood, unsuccessfully, for Parliament.

Bad health took Jacob to Italy, where she set up home in a villa on Lake Garda. During the Nazi occupation she was forced to leave for a time, and returned to England where she joined the Entertainments National Service Association, entertaining the British armed forces.

The Founder of the House, which was written not long before the Nazis came to power in Germany, is the first in a seven-novel series, The Gollantz Saga, about several generations of a Jewish family. It begins in early nineteenth century Vienna, and follows the coming of age of Emmanuel Gollantz, the founding father of the House of Gollantz.

The Gollantz family are well-respected and run a celebrated antiques business, but as Jews they are prohibited from Viennese high society. Emmanuel's father, Hermann, is acutely aware of this prejudice, and goes to extreme lengths to protect the honour and good name of his family. Emmanuel, meanwhile, falls in love with a member of the royal court's inner circle. He risks great danger and scandal, but also unwittingly finds himself at the centre of royal life. The cast of characters in The Founder of the House includes greedy, unprincipled in-laws; idealistic young friends; loyal servants; impetuous royals and fickle lovers. Jacob entertains with a tale of vice and virtue during a fascinating time in European history.

The Gollantz family are people from another time, but their lives encompass universal themes with which most of us can identify. The Founder of the House is a compelling, often witty, observation of family life, love and honour, told against a captivating historical backdrop.


02_The Founder of the House Cover
Publication Date: August 23, 2014
Corazon Books
eBook; 320p
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Set in nineteenth century Paris, Vienna and London, this is a novel about family ties and rivalries, love and ambition.

The Founder of the House introduces us to Emmanuel Gollantz, the son of a Jewish antique dealer, Hermann Gollantz.

Hermann lives his life according to the principles of loyalty, honesty and honour instilled in him as a child. But these ideals are ruthlessly exploited by his wife's family, threatening everything that is important to him. Protecting his beloved wife, Rachel, from the truth carries a great cost.

As a young man, Emmanuel, becomes involved with the inner circle of the Viennese Court, where his passion for the married baroness, Caroline Lukoes, has far-reaching consequences both for himself and the House of Gollantz.

The Founder of the House is the first book in the bestselling Gollantz Saga - an historical family saga tracing the lives and loves of the Gollantz family over several generations. This seven-novel series explores how one family's destiny is shaped by the politics and attitudes of the time, as well as by the choices and actions of its own members.

The Gollantz Saga Titles

Book One: Founder of the House

Book Two: That Wild Lie

Book Three: Young Emmanuel

Book Four: Four Generations

Book Five: Private Gollantz

Book Six: Gollantz: London, Paris, Milan

Book Seven: Gollantz & Partners

Praise for The Gollantz Saga

"Recommended. Ms Jacob writes skilfully and with that fine professional assurance we have come to expect of her." The Times

"Impressive." London Evening Standard

"A good family chronicle." Kirkus Reviews

"Besides the interest of the plot, Miss Jacob's book has much to recommend it. The style of the novel is unimpeachable, marked by sincerity, dignity and a sense of the dramatic. I can safely recommend "The Founder of the House." Western Mail (Perth)

Buy the eBook

Amazon US

Amazon UK

About the Author

03_Naomi Jacob Author

Naomi Jacob (1884-1964) was a prolific author, biographer and broadcaster. She is perhaps best known for her bestselling seven-novel series, The Gollantz Saga, which traces several generations of the Gollantz family in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Jacob had a mixed heritage, which influenced her life and work. Her paternal grandfather was a Jewish tailor who had escaped the pogroms of Western Prussia and settled in England, while her mother's family had strong Yorkshire roots. Her maternal grandfather was the two-time mayor of Ripon in Yorkshire. He also owned a hotel in the town. Her father was headmaster of the local school.

Jacob loved the theatre and became a character actress on stage and in film, notably opposite John Geilgud in The Ringer (1936). She also associated with the Du Mauriers, Henry Irving, Marie Lloyd and Sarah Bernhardt.

She published her first novel, "Jacob Usher" in 1925. It became a bestseller.

In 1928 she appeared for the defence of Radclyffe Hall’s "The Well of Loneliness", and developed a friendship with Hall and her companion Una Troubridge.

After suffering with tuberculosis, in 1930 she left England for Italy, where she lived for most of the rest of her life. She lived in a villa in Sirmione on Lake Garda, which she called "Casa Mickie" (she was known to friends and family as "Mickie").

In 1935 she was awarded the Eichelberger International Humane Award, for outstanding achievement in the field of humane endeavour, for her novel "Honour Come Back". She rejected the award when she discovered that another recipient of the award had been Adolf Hitler, for "Mein Kampf".

Jacob was involved in politics – she stood as a Labour PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) and was a suffragette.

In 1940, she was evacuated back to England when Italy entered the Second World War. She joined the Entertainments National Service Association, becoming famous for her flamboyant appearance— crew cut hair, and wearing a monocle and First World War Women’s Legion uniform.

She returned to Sirmione before the end of the war, helping Jewish refugees in the town. Over the years, she frequently returned to the UK, and in the 1950s and early 1960s was regularly to be heard on the BBC radio programme "Woman's Hour".

She wrote the seven-novel Gollantz saga about several generations of a Jewish family, tracing their path from Vienna in the early nineteenth century to establishing a life and antique business in England in the twentieth century. It is a saga about family loyalty, honour and love, while also reflecting on the politics and ideals of the era.

The Founder of the House Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 10
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 11

Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, November 12

Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book
Spotlight at Literary Chanteuse

Thursday, November 13

Guest Post at Madame Gilflurt

Friday, November 14

Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Sunday, November 16

Review at Unshelfish

Monday, November 17

Excerpt at Mina's Bookshelf

Tuesday, November 18

Spotlight at Mel's Shelves

Wednesday, November 19

Guest Post at Passages to the Past

Thursday, November 20

Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Sunday, November 23

Review & Interview at A Bibliophile's Reverie

Monday, November 24

Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, November 25

Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, November 26

Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Thursday, November 27

Review at Book Nerd

Friday, November 28

Review & Excerpt at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

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