Category Archives: History
I can’t wait to see this film which opens today. Apparently it was inspired by a painting that resides in a country house I’ve been to – so I’ve seen it!
There is another reason it is interesting this is coming out now as it coincides with something else I’m hopefully doing next week – so watch this space I shall be back to talk about it later…
Here’s the trailer for those of you that are interested in seeing Belle. A true story that you couldn’t possibly make up.
Some exciting news here – I’ve just had my first article published in The Leopard Magazine.
Entitled ‘The Curious Case of the Colonel’s Missing Legs’ you can find it in the latest edition, which is March 2014.
Needless to say, it’s an historical article – and it’s about Charles Mackenzie Fraser of Castle Fraser’s experience of being wounded among some other intriguing things.
Let me know if you’ve read it and what you think. You can also email me about the legs in question via this blog if you wish.
I’m very excited to welcome the lovely Marguerite Kaye to my humble blog this week in order to celebrate the release of her latest book – Rumours that Ruined a Lady.
We’re often talking about books and historical research, so what better subject to have a natter about here! Take it away Marguerite…
Hi there, and thank you so much for inviting me to talk about one of my favourite subjects, historical research.
I read a LOT, though what I don’t read a lot of are traditional ‘history’ type books. I do have those so I can check up on dates and times and key events, but it’s the detail of history I enjoy most, and the gossip, and for those two things, you can’t beat letters and diaries.
I first came across Lady Hester Stanhope in The Oxford Book of Letters (ed Frank Kermode and Anita Kermode). Lady Hester acted as her uncle, Pitt the Younger’s political hostess, before heading off to a colourful and ultimately tragic life in Arabia. It was many years later that I returned to her letters for inspiration when I was writing an Arabian-set romance, but that goes to show that nothing is wasted. The Oxford Book of Letters is one of those anthologies that are perfect for dipping into when you have a spare half hour. There is a letter from Fanny Burney to her sister which describes her mastectomy in a great deal of blood-curdling detail. What struck me though, was the strength of Burney’s personality that shone through, and the depth of the bond between the siblings that allowed her to be so frank. And that’s what I really love about this book. The letters are intimate. They not only give a real sense of the personalities involved, but they give a real sense of time and place, and for me, that’s what makes the history embedded in them memorable.
Historically, marriage is much more about property than love. I first came across Lawrence Stone’s books on marriage at university, little thinking that they would be of use so many years later. My much-thumbed copy of Uncertain Unions and Broken Lives is a fabulous source of material. Lawrence covers the full range of courtship, marriage, divorce and separation in England (which is quite different to Scotland). There are endless permutations of clandestine marriage, for example, that would make endless variations on plots for a romance. What has always struck me, particularly from reading some of the case studies he uses, is how relatively easy it is to get married, and how very, very difficult it is to get divorced – particularly for women, and particularly with the freedom to marry again. In fact, so difficult that I almost had to give my latest hero and heroine an unhappy-ever-after because I couldn’t find a historically-accurate way of getting her out of her first marriage.
I do like a good scurrilous history, and Julie Peakman’s Lascivious Bodies is just that. If you want to know the tricks of the trade employed by courtesans in the Eighteenth Century, or if you’re interested in finding out the range of specialist brothels Covent Garden had to offer, then this is your book. Molly Boys, cross-dressers, sexual toys and contraception, it’s all here, in bawdy yet authentic detail – some of which I included in my short, Behind the Courtesan’s Mask.
For ‘straight’ research, my current favourite was recommended by the very person who hosts this blog. Scotland’s Lost Houses by Ian Gow is a beautiful glossy produced by the National Trust for Scotland, of just some of the stately homes that are now lost to us forever. I ‘borrowed’ Hamilton Palace, exterior and interior, for Crag Hall, my hero’s home in Rumours that Ruined a Lady. The lush illustrations in Gow’s book inspired me to have my hero and heroine tour the house, and the photograph of the Golden Bed of Brahan (from Brahan Castle) inspired another scene in my book – though I added a mirror!
As usual, I have a huge ‘tbr’ list, but two books are top of the heap. First off, Antonia Fraser’s Perilous Question, on the drama surrounding the 1832 Reform Bill. It’s a subject I know little about, and I know, because I think I’ve read everything else Antonia Fraser has written, that she’ll bring not just the history but the characters to vivid life. It also helps that I am honoured to have managed to get my hands on a signed copy. Since I’m immersing myself in the 1920s for my next couple of stories, the other book is Mary S Lovell’s The Mitford Girls. I adored Lovell’s biography of Lady Jane Digby, so I don’t doubt I’ll enjoy this, and that it will give me loads of ideas.
But no matter how big my ‘tbr’ pile may be, I am of the very firm belief that you can never have enough books. So if you have any recommendations, do share them with me, I’d love to hear them.
You can see all my reviews, fiction and non-fiction, on my Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/MargueriteKaye. There’s more about my books, their inspiration and lots of other stuff on my website: http://www.margueritekaye.com. Or why not just come and chat to me about books and life in general on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/margueritekayepage
SPOTTED: LONDON’S FAVOURITE FALLEN HEIRESS, TAKING UP WITH THE ROGUE MARQUIS!
Amongst the gossip-hungry ton no name has become more synonymous with sin than that of Lady Caroline Rider, cast out by her husband and disowned by her family. Rumour has it that the infamous ‘Caro’ is now seeking oblivion in the opium dens of London!
There’s only one man who can save her – notorious rake Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow. Soon Caro is installed in his country home, warming his bed, but their passion may not be enough to protect them once news of their scandalous arrangement breaks out…
Thank you again for popping by Marguerite, and as a special treat, there is also a chance to win a print copy of Rumours that Ruined a Lady. All you have to do is tell us about your favourite book in the comments section, and then Marguerite will pick her favourite answer.
My own review will be appearing on the blog very soon, and why this book is particularly special to me
I also can’t resist adding that I’ve just been to my local bookshop and purchased Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England by Sarah Wise (I loved her book on grave-robbing) and The Search for Richard III: The King’s Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones (I’m a massive Richard III fan). All this in my very own Yeadon’s bookshop Books Are My Bag…bag! I think you’d like the Wise one, Marguerite!
Since I went to Apsley House back in July, I’ve become a tad obsessed with all things Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo – not that I wasn’t interested in them before.
I love the story of Lady De Lancey – so I must get Lady De Lancey at Waterloo: A Story of Duty and Devotion by David Miller and re-watch the DVD of Waterloo which I saw years ago and has great battle scenes.
I’ve acquired these great books so far:
- Waterloo: A Near Run Thing by David Howarth
- Ladies of Waterloo – original accounts from Charlotte Eaton, Magdalene De Lancey and Juana Smith
- To War with Wellington by Peter Snow
- Dancing into Battle A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo by Nick Foulkes
I’m pleased to finally say that after 4 years Leith Hall has now re-opened! Some of you may remember I did manage to visit before the closure and found it a lovely little treasure house. Sadly, it has not been able to open until now.
Massive improvements have been made in the house, tea-room and garden and the Hall opened to the public for the first time on Friday, the main celebration happening yesterday (Sunday).
Do pop along to show your support and see all the good work that’s been done. I’m off to see it as soon as I can – when I last saw it I was helping to pack the collection away for the imminent building works…
It was so good to get back to London for a week!
I managed to see awesome members of family and fabulous friends to catch up and check out what they had been up to (my Aunt has taken to making awesome gemstone jewellery, which I’ll share some pictures of later as I bought some of her unique pieces).
Good people, good food – caught up with one of my fabulous fellow writers from Tuscany, AND I managed lots of revisits, sightseeing and shopping!
Places included –
- National Gallery
- National Portrait Gallery
- Tate Britain
- Westminster Abbey
- Sir John Soane Museum
- British Museum
- Apsley House
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Hyde Park
- City of London
Here are a few highlights:
It occurred to me recently that though I had tweeted about this, I hadn’t mentioned it on the blog.
Miss Elyza of the Castle fame wrote journals about her travels. We are well aware of their existence of course, but only some of us had travelled to see them in the local archives.
At the moment as part of an exhibition at the University of Aberdeen Library you can see several of Elyza’s journals on display – among many other documents. So do pop by and see her!
Not a house that I’d particularly heard about before, but a friend suggested we go over for the Open Day tour to Hospitalfield House, Arbroath.
Before we went to the main house however, we stopped off at the Fraser family, later Allan-Fraser mausoleum (or mortuary chapel), which is in the Western Cemetery and not too far away. Let me tell you it is an astounding place! I’ve seen a few mausoleums, mostly in pictures – but never anything like this. Built in the neo-Gothic style it has a frankly strange mixture of architectural styles and looks large enough for the average family to live in. A must visit – especially on Doors Open Day, which is normally September time where you can actually go inside. Maybe I’ll do that next year.
Hospitalfield House itself, as the name suggests, was actually built originally as a hospice run by monks from Arbroath Abbey (which you can also visit the ruins of). In the Seventeenth century however, it was bought by the Fraser family and from then on until the late nineteenth century was used as a family home.
When viewing the house now, it retains much of its Victorian décor – which it owes to its’ final owners the Allan-Frasers, also its art collection. Patrick Allan, later adopting the name Allan-Fraser – having no children – Patrick and his wife Elizabeth Fraser decided that if Patrick outlived her, he would leave the house in a trust to provide young people with training in art.
This happened in 1890, and though much of the original estates have been swallowed up to continue the trust’s work – Hospitalfield continues with this work to this day.
You can study and attend events at Hospitalfield House, and do think about booking for the next Open Day.