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Category: Risky Regencies

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!

January 31, just a few days ago, was the 418th anniversary of the execution of Guy Fawkes. You know. Guy Fawkes, who has his own Guy Fawkes Day on November 5 each year where folks in the UK celebrate.  But who was he?

Guy Fawkes was one of the zealot Catholic conspirators in 1605 who plotted to blow up Parliament and all the lords attending and King James I, effectively putting an end to the existing government. November 5 was the opening day of Parliament that year and all the important governmental men would be in attendance. Someone snitched, however, and the cellar beneath Parliament was searched. Guy Fawkes, the fellow who was supposed to light the fuse to blow up 36 kegs of gunpowder, was discovered, arrested, tortured sufficiently that he ratted on the co-conspirators and told all about the plot.

The BBC website has some neat stuff about Guy Fawkes and the celebration of his Day, not so much about his execution.

Did you know that one of the reasons what is known as the Gunpowder Plot did not succeed was because of the Plague?

Well, it seems that Parliament was originally supposed to open October 5, but was postponed a month to make certain the Plague was gone from London. By delaying a month, more conspirators became involved in the plot, increasing the chance that somebody would snitch. What’s more, the gunpowder, sitting around all that time, separated into it various compounds and would have merely fizzled had Guy lit the fuse.

Now if he’d lit that fuse on Oct 5….Read about how history would have been changed for want of a few plague germs.

Guy Fawkes was the last of the conspirators to be executed. On January 31, 1606, Fawkes and three others were dragged from the Tower of London and taken to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they wanted to destroy. After the three others were hanged and quartered, it was Fawkes turn. He was so weakened by torture that he needed assistance to climb the ladder to the noose. Rather than be hanged properly, though, he either fell or jumped, breaking his neck. Nevertheless, his body was quartered and his body parts were displayed throughout the kingdom as a warning to future would-be traitors.

Every year since November 5 has been Guy Fawkes day. By the Regency boys would dress up an effigy of Guy Fawkes holding a lantern and matches. They’d beg for money, calling out, “Remember Guy Fawkes!” At night bonfires would be lit and the effigies would be tossed in the fire. This tradition continues.

Do you like books or films that present an alternative history, like what would have happened if, say, Hitler won WWII? Or if there hadn’t been a plague in 1605 and the gunpowder would have ignited?

Diane

 

“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.  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-humber-58559814

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.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Observatory,_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)

Desiree_(1954_movie_poster)

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: https://www.tatler.com/article/ruby-wreath-tiara-crown-princess-mary-napoleon-tiara-of-the-month

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

Happy holidays, to everyone who celebrates them!

That’s the title of the Christmas anthology with my novella, The Major’s Christmas Return, still on sale so hurry and order your copy now!

The Major’s Christmas Return tells of the reunion of Nash and Caroline who, because of an illness, are unwittingly trapped in their friends’ country house with only a few young servants, orphans who’d never experienced a proper Christmas. As Nash and Caroline contrive to give the orphan servants the Christmas they deserve, they discover the love and passion they’d lost years before — when Nash left Caroline at the altar.

Through Nash and Caroline I was able to show several Christmas traditions that would have been followed in the Regency. Here they are!

House decoration

No Christmas trees during the Regency, but evergreens were gathered and the house was decorated with them.

Yule log.

A yule log was a large log brought in on Christmas eve and kept burning in the fireplace during the Christmas season. Before it was lit everyone made wishes for the new year.

Christmas Candle

A large candle was also lit on Christmas eve. If it went out before Christmas day, it was very bad luck.

Plum Pudding

On Stir-up Sunday, at the beginning of Advent, the pudding was mixed and steamed and hung up to age for Christmas dinner.

Wassailing

Wassailing usually meant a group of people going from house to house singing Christmas carols and being rewarded with wassail, a spiced ale or cider. Nash and Caroline devise their own version in the house.

Mince pies

The traditional Christmas dinner dessert

Mistletoe

No Regency Christmas novella would be complete without the mistletoe or kissing bough. That’s how Nash and Caroline rediscover their love for each other!

 

Here’s wishing all of you a very happy holiday. What holiday traditions are your favorites?

 

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