Today is the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. On August 16, 1819, a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Field near Manchester to demand parliamentary reform. The period after Waterloo was rife with unrest. Unemployment was high, the Corn Laws created hardship and famine, and the people were demanding parliamentary reform.
A demonstration was planned for August 16 and the great radical orator, Henry Hunt, had agreed to speak. Before the event, a letter to Hunt was intercepted and was misinterpreted by the magistrates that an insurrection was planned.
On the day a crowd of 30,000 to 60,000 had gathered. The members of the crowd represented many radical positions, but they were a peaceful, organized crowd. Even so, when the crowd cheered Hunt’s arrival, the alarmed magistrates ordered sixty cavalrymen of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry (some reports said they were drunk) to arrest the leaders.
The yeomanry charged into the crowd and panicked. They started using their sabres against the demonstators. The 15th Hussars also charged into the crowd and the 88th Regiment of Foot stood with bayonets fixed, blocking the crowd’s main exit route.
Within ten minutes the crowd had dispersed, but eleven people were dead and anywhere from 300 to 600 injured.
The leaders were arrested and jailed; the yeomanry were acquitted, and the event led to the passing of The Six Acts, imposing even more repressive measures on the citizens to stamp out any further threats of unrest. But Peterloo, along with other protests, including the Cato Street Conspiracy (which intended to blow up the Cabinet), galvanized public outrage and a dozen years later led to the desired reforms.
My September book, Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress, deals with the issue of social unrest after Waterloo. Marian, the heroine, is the secret force behind a demonstration of unemployed former soldiers, and the politically ambitious Allan Landon, is employed by Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, to arrest the protest leader for what potentially could be a hanging offense. My demonstration was fictitious, but the unrest of that period led to the Peterloo Massacre.
My hero and heroine are direct opposites: protest leader vs the protest “police”. Can you think of other hero/heroine combinations that are perfect opposites? The classic example is arsonist vs arson investigator.
Don’t forget to visit Diane’s Blog on Thursday. I think I’ll start a new contest there….
And next Sunday Michelle Willingham and I are going to be talking about our new September releases! (and giving away signed copies)
Aloha, Diane! Your hero and heroine naturally bring “conflict” to the story – looking forward to reading Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress!
As far as “opposite” combinations, look no further than the movie Princess Kaiulani – the real life story of a Hawaiian princess who finds herself in love with Clive Davies – the son of a businessmen who advocated the overthrow of the Hawaiian royalty for pure profit (not one of the US government’s better moments in history).
If anyone ever wonders – I did for years! – the reason it’s called ‘Peterloo’ was because of the perceived resemblence to another recent battle, Waterloo.
Loved Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress!!
I’ve read a few where the hero was a cattleman and the heroine was a vegan. In each one, I’ve been impressed that the hero was not expected to be vegan himself.
Thanks, Alison, for that extra tidbit.
St. Peter’s Field in Manchester. There’s a monument (and a plaque) on the site today.
I find the most disturbing premise of the romance novel direct opposites is the rape scenes and or the “forced seduction” .The idea that people can enjoy being raped or forced and/or will fall in love with their rapists as a consequence of the rape. More often than not, the rapist turns out to have acted out of pure love, or winds up loving his victim emotionally too.
Anon, I find those types of stories disturbing as well.
What a fascinating set-up for a plot! Can’t wait to read it 🙂
Kim, Kaiulani and Clive sound like characters in a romance novel for sure!
Alison, thanks for adding the origins of the term “Peterloo.”
Judy, thanks for the kind words about Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress!
A vegan and a cattleman? Now that is opposite!
Sarah, I stand corrected!!! in Manchester.
Anonymous, I know that forced seduction has made a bit of a comeback, but hopefully not like the romances of the ’70s. It is a scenario I can’t work with…so the aggressor vs victim opposites don’t work for me either. I personally find it more sexy for the hero to control himself, out of consideration for the heroine.
Amanda! Thanks for the nice words!
There’s a book by Emma Darwin, “The Mathematics of Love”, that deals in part with the Peterloo Massacre. The book takes place in England in alternating sections in the 1970s and the late Regency. I loved the Regency parts but did not care for the contemporary story nearly as much. Having read so many Regency Romances, it was interesting to see a romance set in the same period in a work of literary fiction. It does have the requisite HEA, while the modern story is more ambiguous. I wonder if Darwin would have been able to sell the Regency story as a standalone or if it would have been rejected precisely because of that HEA and needed the other story to make it acceptable as literary fiction.
BTW, Darwin is Charles Darwin’s great-great (possibly another great) granddaughter.
Next Sunday should be interesting.
Thank you for an informative and interesting post.
I like your cover for CHIVALROUS CAPTAIN.
jewel thief and police investigator.
Quaker and military man
Bookworm and adventurer