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Author Archives: Gail Eastwood

About Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood is the author of seven Regencies that were originally published by Signet/Penguin. After taking ten years off for family matters, she has wobbled between contemporary romantic suspense and more Regency stories, wondering what century she's really in and trying to work the rust off her writing skills. Her backlist is gradually coming out in ebook format, and some are now available in new print editions as well. She is working on the start of a Regency-set series and other new projects. Stay tuned!

Just a quick visit to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day! Since we “Riskies” all write romance, it did not seem right to let this day focused on celebrating romance go by without posting something here.

Black & white woodcut engraving of a Regency couple. She is seated, wiht one hand on her breast, looking excoted, while he kneels in front of her and is kissing her hand. Very romantic!

Regency lovers, woodcut 1815

The World’s Oldest Love Poem:

While this is neither a Regency poem nor something that would have been known of in the Regency period, I still think you might be interested to read about the “world’s oldest love poem“, so here is a link to read about it.

A love match between an ancient king of Sumeria and his people’s Goddess of Love sounds like it could be a good plot for a book, following ancient mythology. Not sure it could be made to fit into a Regency –well, unless it was an “alternate-reality” Regency, and some of those have been great fun!  Anyone up for a tale where the ancient goddess is still around, desperately in love with an unsuspecting Regency rake?  <g>  Feel free to pursue this, if you’re a writer –I already have too many other stories on my to-do list to add any new ones!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“Dropping the ball” in the modern sports-inspired idiom means failing to carry through on some task or responsibility, which seems appropriate given my failure to post this article sooner. I fully intended to post it at the beginning of the month, but life got in the way (my husband got a pacemaker implant and needless to say my attention was mostly on him!). But if your January has sped by as fast as mine, it should not seem long since New Year’s Day, LOL!

I bring up ball-dropping because on New Year’s Eve it has become a “time-honored” custom (since 1907) to drop a giant electronic time-ball from a tower in Times Square, NYC, to welcome in the new year. But did you know that the “ball drop” tradition ties back to maritime England in 1818? Yes, solidly within the Regency period.

Wikipedia says the ancient Greeks used a ball drop to help track time, but the first “modern” time ball was created and installed in Portsmouth, England. Here’s a quote from the article:

“The first modern time ball was erected at Portsmouth, England, in 1829 by its inventor Robert Wauchope, a captain in the Royal Navy.”
The BBC News website has an article referencing Wauchope with interesting details (would you expect me not to follow this rabbit hole?). According to that article, Wauchope’s first idea was a system of flags that would be visible at sea to help mariners calculate their position by knowing the accurate time.

He first began soliciting interest in his “modernized” idea in 1818. His proposal, Plan for ascertaining the rates of chronometers by signal, described the time-ball, a large hollow metal sphere rigged on a pole and attached to a mechanism so that it might be dropped at an exact time each day.  The ball installed in Portsmouth was the first test of his idea.

Wikipedia says: “Others followed in the major ports of the United Kingdom (including Liverpool), and around the maritime world.” The one on the Nelson Tower in Edinburgh is shown below.

A round stone tower of five stories with a cross-shaped support pole on the roof with a gold time ball resting at its base. The Nelson Tower in Edinbourgh

“One was installed in 1833 at the [Greenwich Observatory] in London by the Astronomer Royal, John Pond, originally to enable tall ships in the Thames to set their marine chronometers, and the time ball has dropped at 1 p.m. every day since then.”,_Greenwich)

Semi-octagonal brick tower at the Greenwich Observatory with a small white wooden clock tower above at the right side, surmounted by a cross-shaped pole with a large gold ball at the base, resting at the roofline.

Except in windy weather, according to a source in the BBC article. The pole in Greenwich is relatively weak and strong wind is a hazard. In 1853, the Greenwich pole broke and the huge ball crashed to the ground! (In this photo it looks to me as though the pole may have since been reinforced!)

When American and French ambassadors visited England, Wauchope also submitted his idea to them. The United States Naval Observatory was established in Washington, D.C., and the first American time ball went into service there in 1845.

Wikipedia describes the process: “Time balls were usually dropped at 1 p.m. (although in the United States they were dropped at noon). They were raised half way about 5 minutes earlier to alert the ships, then with 2–3 minutes to go they were raised the whole way. The time was recorded when the ball began descending, not when it reached the bottom. With the commencement of radio time signals (in Britain from 1924), time balls gradually became obsolete and many were demolished in the 1920s.”

New York City’s contemporary version of the time-ball has been used since 31 December 1907 at Times Square as part of its New Year’s Eve celebrations. Quoting Wikipedia again, “At 11:59 p.m., a lit ball is lowered down a pole on the roof of One Times Square over the course of the sixty seconds ending at midnight. The spectacle was inspired by an organizer having seen the time ball on the Western Union Building in operation.”

The article also says only 60 of these time balls still remain in locations around the world –I found it interesting that eight are in the United Kingdom, seven are in Australia, including one at the Sydney Observatory (shown below), three are in the United Sates and three in New Zealand.

Belated wishes for a Happy New Year, everyone!

The Sydney Observatory is a large granite stone building with a central tower of four stories. Affixed to the roof of the tower is the typical cross-shaped support pole with a large golden ball resting at its base.

P.S. A shorter version of this article was posted on Facebook, in the readers’ group “Regency Kisses: Lady Catherine’s Salon.” I’ve mentioned the group here before –it is focused on “sweet/low heat” Regency romances and authors, so if you are on FB and read all types of Regencies, you might like to take a look. It is a great place to discover new authors to try, while waiting for the next books to release from your “Risky Regency” writers here!

A section showing four young women wearing tiaras and fancy dresses from Jacques-Louis David's large painting of Napoleon's coronation

Young ladies attending Josephine at Napoleon’s coronation (Jacques-Louis David)

For me, reading stories in the Tatler (which I think of as Britain’s version of People magazine), often feels like what I can imagine a Regency heroine’s mother doing: catching up on the recent doings of society’s leaders and celebrities of interest. But an article in the November 7th issue particularly caught my eye, because anything that relates to our favorite time period, the Regency era, always does. Who here wouldn’t be curious about an article titled, “Tiara of the Month: the 200-year-old Danish headpiece crafted for Napoleon’s coronation”?  (deep rabbit hole warning!)

The tiara in question was crafted for the wife of one of Napoleon’s marshals. The article describes it as “dazzling pavé set diamond leaves which support clusters of ravishing rubies styled as berries,” originally part of a parure. (You can see a photo of its modern incarnation in the article, linked at the end of this post.) The article’s author, Emma Samuel, points to Napoleon’s “understanding of impressive decorative symbolism” and writes that Napoleon “apportioned funds to his trusted marshals and their wives so they could attend his crowning in splendid attire.”

The particular marshal-husband in this case was Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (1763-1844).

portrait of a dashing young French officer in a resplendent uniform

Bernadotte as a Marshal of the Empire; copy of an 1804 portrait by François Kinson

The son of petit-bourgeois parents, he was a 26-year-old sergeant in the French army at the start of the revolution in 1789. Like another ambitious young man (Napoleon Bonaparte), Bernadotte distinguished himself and rose quickly during the revolutionary years, becoming a brigadier-general by 1794. He advanced his political connections greatly when in 1798 he married Désirée Clary, a young woman who had previously been affianced to Napoleon (until he met Josephine de Beauharnais) and whose sister Julie had married Napoleon’s brother Joseph. (Two novels have been written about Clary’s life and two films, one French and one American, have been made.)

Colorful old movie poster (1954) advertising the film "Desiree" starring Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons (also with Merle Oberon and Michael Rennie)


The tiara of the Tatler article, known as the “Ruby Wreath Tiara,” was created for her in 1804. Is it what she is wearing in this portrait?

Portrait of Desiree Clary Bernadotte c 1830, wearing a wreath-like tiara

Portrait of Desiree c 1830’s by Frederic Westin

Hard to say, since the piece apparently was restyled numerous times.

Désirée was among the young women attending Josephine at the coronation in 1804, so perhaps David’s famous depiction of the event shows her wearing it as one of these (pictured at top).

But how did this French tiara come to be known as a Danish headpiece?

Ah, that’s where the crossovers and connections that thread through all of Europe’s royal families come into play.

Before the tiara became Danish, it first became Swedish!

Bernadotte reaped rewards from his military accomplishments and his connection to Napoleon. He became Prince of Pontecorvo in 1806, and was serving as the governor of northern Germany in 1808 when he first impressed Swedish troops stationed there. Among them was a young lieutenant, Baron Carl Otto Mörner who also happened to be a courtier to the Swedish crown.

When Bernadotte was about to become the governor of Rome in 1810, he was invited to become the Crown Prince of Sweden instead. Mörner had advocated for his selection when the existing crown prince died unexpectedly, leaving the ailing Swedish king Charles XIII without an heir. In fact, Mörner had overstepped his own authority and extended the offer to Bernadotte without waiting for the government to first approve or act, for which insubordination he was imprisoned!

Gray-scale engraved portrait of the Swedish courtier Baron Carl Otto Mörner, with high Regency coat collar and shirt points up to his cheeks

Baron Carl Otto Mörner

Was his move merely youthful enthusiasm, or a calculated gamble? Even deeper research might never answer this question. Fortunately for the baron, either way his action worked. The Swedish government subsequently did approve and act on his recommendation.

No doubt Napoleon thought having his own man in Sweden would prove useful. Bernadotte sought and received Napoleon’s permission to accept. He was formally adopted by the Swedish king under the name Charles John and was elected Crown Prince of Sweden all in the same year.

Astute as well as ambitious, he worked at gaining influence and popularity while the king still lived. He saw that with Russia in control of Finland, Sweden needed to follow a pro-Russian foreign policy. This caused new friction with Napoleon and after more Napoleonic actions against Sweden’s best interests in 1812, led to a formal split between the countries.

Sweden joined the Allies in 1813. Bernadotte (Charles John) led the Swedish military against Napoleon in the last years of the wars, and after Napoleon’s defeat Sweden was rewarded with the annexation of Norway. King Charles XIII died in 1818 and Charles John became the new king, reigning until he died in 1844. He founded the royal House of Bernadotte, from which the current royals in 2023 are still descended.

But what of Désirée and the ruby tiara?

Désirée Clary was the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant, barely 18 years old when she became affianced to Napoleon Bonaparte. Her sister Julie, with whom she lived and was very close, married Joseph Bonaparte and ultimately became the Queen of Naples and Spain. But Eugénie Désirée was a homebody at heart, not interested in politics or position, devoted to her family and happiest when living in Paris. She was 21 when she married Bernadotte in 1798, and perhaps unprepared for becoming a political pawn between her husband and the rapidly advancing Napoleon.

Bernadotte knew the importance of social connections and had his young wife taught dance and etiquette suitable for a position in high society. Through her sister, Désirée maintained a good relationship with the Bonaparte family. She escaped having to be a lady-in-waiting to Josephine and lived a comfortable, enjoyable life in France, mostly absent from her husband, although she had given him a son, Oscar, in 1799. It was a shock when she learned she would be expected to reside in Sweden when he became the Crown Prince there.

She delayed and arrived there in winter with her 11-year-old son and French courtiers, hating the snow so much she cried. She could not adjust to the strict etiquette required in the royal court and did not attempt to learn the Swedish language. The Swedish royals found her constant complaints and pining for France wearing despite trying to like her. Her French entourage did nothing to endear her to anyone there. She returned to France in the summer of 1811, but was not allowed to take Oscar with her. As his father’s heir, he was to become a Lutheran and live in Sweden to be trained in the ways of royalty.

She lived once again in her beloved Paris, incognito under the pseudonym Countess of Gotland for political reasons. She did not meet her son again until 1822, when he came to central Europe to choose a bride. Ironically, Oscar chose Joséphine of Leuchtenberg, a granddaughter of Napoleon and Désirée’s old rival Empress Josephine Bonaparte. Désirée returned to Sweden to celebrate her son’s wedding in 1823, accompanying her daughter-in-law. She never returned to France despite her intentions to do so, and the ruby wreath tiara passed to Joséphine.

Oscar and Joséphine had a true marriage, despite infidelities on his part, and they had five children. As their only daughter never married, two of their sons died without issue, and one son had only sons, the ruby wreath tiara eventually went to Princess Louisa, Joséphine and Oscar’s only granddaughter through their eldest son Charles (Carl Ludvig Eugen, King Charles XV of Sweden). And there at last we come to the connection to Danish royalty, for Louisa married Prince Frederick of Denmark in 1869 when she was 18 and he was 25.

Side-by-side early photo-portraits of Louisa and Frederick in fancy engraved ovals

Frederick of Denmark and Louisa of Sweden

He became King of Denmark in 1906, only 6 years before he died. But between 1870 and 1890, he and Louisa produced eight children who were connected to royal houses around Europe, including sons who became the kings of Denmark and Norway, and royal families of Belgium and Luxembourg descended from their daughter Princess Ingeborg of Denmark (born 1878), who married Prince Carl of Sweden, her mother’s cousin, in 1897.

Did you get all that? I admit this blog article is probably one for the extreme history nerds, or those who enjoy following the tangled threads of royal relationships by marriage. But the deeper I went down this rabbit hole, the more interesting characters showed up in the story! The ruby wreath tiara remains in Denmark, where, according to the Tatler, it is “one of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark’s favourite diadems.”

Do you like sparkly things? To see a photo of it in its current form, check out the article here:

All pictures used in this post were sourced from Wikimedia Commons and are copyright free.

Happy holidays, to everyone who celebrates them!

Do errors or modern phrases bump you out of a historical story you were enjoying? Or as an author, do you find that despite your best efforts those kinds of errors creep in when you’re not paying attention? Well, if so, here’s good news: Writing Regency England has released! It is the culmination of two years of meticulous hard effort honing and focusing, choosing what to include (the topic could be an encyclopedia unto itself, of course!), writing, re-writing, fact-checking, digging for illustrations–all the work.

Picture of the book, Writing Regency England, shown at an angle so the front cover and the spine are both visible. Co-author Jayne Davis and I both love our genre, and we hope this book may serve everyone with any interest in the Regency time and world. We both believe if you’re going to go to the trouble to set a story in a historical time period, creating an authentic sense of that time and world strengthens the story and the experience the reader will gain from reading it. Mistakes can lead to bad reviews, disappointed readers, and an overall bad rep for the genre! WRE is our effort to help fellow authors avoid that fate!

Available in print only, the book offers sixteen chapters of wisdom and information about the Regency time period focused on the “most commonly seen” errors that authors make. Designed as a guide, not a list of complaints, the book covers a wide range, from developing an ear for period appropriate language, avoiding modernisms and Americanisms, to simple facts about the landscapes, flora and fauna of England (no chipmunks! no skunks!), the correct use of titles for characters in the nobility (and who is or isn’t a peer), wisdom about naming your characters plus much more. If you write Regency-set fiction or even just enjoy reading about the period, this is a new resource with a unique slant that you might find invaluable.

Reviewers are giving it 5 stars and saying:

“The authors of Writing Regency England: A Resource for Authors have nailed all the things I grit my teeth over when reading Regency fiction: language that is inappropriate to the period, foods that were not eaten, incorrect use of titles, ignorance of mores and early 19th century life in general. This book covers everything: setting, flora and fauna, building styles, transportation, Great Britain’s old, confusing monetary units (shillings, pence, etc.), professions, the army and navy, and much, much more. I’ve done research for my own books since 2016 and am amazed at the scope of Writing Regency England. I wish I’d had a copy then.”

“If you’ve ever wondered whether what you were reading was accurate or not, then this is the book to tell you. …whether you’re an author or a reader, this book is highly recommended.”

“Thank you to Jayne Davis and Gail Eastwood for putting their heads together to write ‘Writing Regency England’. I do not know how much time I spend going down rabbit holes when I research the period, especially when I am looking for something specific. This book is a great resource for both writers and readers of the period who care about historical accuracy.”

“I’m impressed with the quality of the information and how easy it is to read the book. I’d recommend it highly to historical literature fans, readers and authors alike.”

Every author’s approach to authenticity is as unique as their writing style and voice, but there seemed to be a need for Writing Regency England. Others who write in the same period could certainly have done this book, but Jayne and I were the ones who were crazy enough to tackle it!

Do you think accuracy matters in historical fiction? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Rumor to the contrary, I did not fall down a huge rabbit hole and disappear, although I have been missing from this blog for a couple of months in a row (and that theory is not at all unreasonable)! Has anyone else felt time was racing past at a speed too fast to measure?

Where have I been ? What has been keeping me so occupied? Writing. I wish it was something more exotic, but that’s the truth. I have been working on three projects at once (well, there are also some other projects that aren’t writing ones–aren’t there always?).

Two of the writing projects are related to my Regency series, Tales of Little Macclow.

Book Four (His Lady to Love) is coming along. The heroine is Scottish –what the heck is she doing in Little Macclow, a tiny village in Derbyshire?

And the other related project is a series prequel. It will be free to my email subscribers. If you enjoy my blog posts here, are you on my list? I send chatty newsletters that I consider letters to my friends, but not more often than once a month (sometimes less). If you’d like to join my community, here’s a link to sign up: (You can get a free short story.)

Neither of these projects have covers yet, sorry! No pictures. I’m scouting for stock photos of attractive redheads, however, if you happen to have any favorites!  And the prequel takes place around 1780, so the images for that one are going to have to be quite different. (Anyone have a guess what it’s about?)

But ah, the third project. That has been sucking up the largest amount of my time, but is almost done!

I should have a release date (or announcement!) very soon! British Regency author Jayne Davis and I teamed up to write this guide to help our fellow authors. There are so many common mistakes an author can make when writing this sub-genre, especially if they’re not British, and since readers of Regency romances skew heavily to the American market, more American authors tend to write the books, too.

As Jayne and I explain in the book’s intro): “One problem all historical fiction authors share is not having lived during the time we are describing. But non-British authors also have the disadvantage of not being steeped in the language, culture and history of the country. And we all have the problem of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.”

Writing Regency England aims to help authors to get the language and setting right, and also some of the historical aspects that often trip up authors (laws on marriage and divorce were very different then, for example). It can’t cover everything an author needs to know (that would require an encyclopedic scope), but it casts light on many topics about language, setting, and society where errors are commonly made (including ones we’ve made ourselves) and gives a good starting point for further research.

Do you know anyone who might like to have this book? The holidays are coming –maybe it would make a good gift! I’ll give an update very soon. Meanwhile, I must get back to work!

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