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Category: Risky Regencies

 I am thrilled to announce that I have a new release coming this month! The Lady Behind the Masquerade will be released in paperback and ebook on July 25.


Here’s the backcover blurb:


The ton’s newest member
Is not all she seems…

Diplomat Marcus Wolfdon can’t forget the alluring woman he met in Paris, the passionate night they shared or that she stole his money and disappeared! A year later, Wolf meets Juliana again in Brighton, seemingly a member of the ton. She begs him to keep their former liaison secret, and the emotion in her eyes compels him to agree. Desire still flares between them, but first Wolf must uncover the lady behind the masquerade.

From Harlequin Historical: Your romantic escape to the past.


The Lady Behind the Masquerade is Book 2 in A Family of Scandals series. Marcus Wolfdon, “Wolf” to his friends and family, is the younger brother of Eliza, now the Marquess of Hale, and heir to their father’s baronetcy. Rather than deal with his parents’ drama, Wolf has dedicated himself to a diplomatic career, lately in Paris, where he has his unforgettable encounter with Juliana. His father’s near-fatal illness brings him back to England where he must face his family obligations–and Juliana, who now is not an alluring French woman, but a lovely lady, cousin to Wolf’s friend’s mother. Never sure precisely what Juliana’s truth is, he cannot resist both loving her and protecting her but never trusting her.

Be on the lookout for the reviews and read and excerpt.

And you can preorder now!

Like millions of others around the world I was riveted to my TV on May 6 watching every moment of the coronation of King Charles III. And like any Regency aficionado, I could not help comparing it to the coronation of George IV.
With the death of his father, George III, on January 29, 1820, the Prince Regent for whom “our” era is named, became King George IV. King Charles’s coronation took place seven months after he acceded to the throne. George IV’s coronation, however, did not take place until July 19, 1821. It was originally scheduled for August 1820, comparable to Charles III, but it was postponed until the parliamentary proceedings aimed at divorcing his wife, Queen Caroline, and depriving her of her titles, could be completed. The bill to accomplish this was abandoned by November 1820 so no divorce, no stripping of titles. Instead she was simply written out of the coronation ceremonies.

Undaunted, though, on Coronation Day, Caroline attempted to enter Westminster Abbey anyway, but literally had the door (several doors) slammed in her face. She always had a great deal of support from the people, but lost much of it after this display.

Contrast this with the coronation of Charles III and Camilla. Charles deeply wanted Camilla to be his queen and, before her death his mother, Queen Elizabeth gave her approval. Camilla was crowned Queen Consort at the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

In 1821 George IV wanted his coronation to outdo Napoleon’s. Always flamboyant, his coronation outfit cost more than £27,000, and he insisted participants dress in Tudor and Stuart period dress. His red velvet robe had a train 27 feet long. Charles III, on the other hand, chose to wear previously worn garments. For the investiture, King Charles III wore the Robe Royal part of George IV’s coronation robes.

Charles and Camilla wore crowns that were already in the Royal collection. George IV, of course, commissioned a new crown. His coronation crown contained jewels that were worth almost £25,000 in that time period. The jewels were merely on loan for the crown and Parliament declined to purchase the crown as George IV wished. The crown was dismantled in 1823. Devoid of its jewels it is now part of the Royal Collection on view in the Tower of London.

Then there was the Coronation Banquet. George IV’s banquet was held in Westminster Hall. The hall was lit by 2,000 melting candles and the guests were occasionally pelted with hot wax falling from the chandeliers. The crowd was so huge that the dinner had to be supervised by horseback. Twenty-three makeshift kitchens had to be built to produce the food. Afterwards the spectators from the galleries were allowed down on the hall floor and proceeded to help themselves to everything–the leftover food, the cutlery, the crystal, silver platters. The gold coronation plates were saved by Lord Gwydyr and armed soldiers prevented the kitchens from being ransacked.

In contrast, Charles III had a private family luncheon after the coronation and later a coronation concert.

I must say, had I lived in the Regency, I would have wanted to be one of those spectators in the gallery. I would have wanted to see every minute of all that pomp, drama, and extravagance.

Would you?

Did you know the first “photograph” was made during the late “extended” Regency period? Its inventor, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, is the second of my “real Regency heroes” to hail from France rather than England. My justification is that scientists who studied and experimented with technological advances at this time worked and shared on both sides of the channel.


Niépce developed other innovations as well, but according to correspondence with his brother, he captured the first permanent live camera image in 1824. This first effort was lost in further experimentation. But in 1826, Niépce created the same image again—a view out of the window from his studio—and this image still survives today, the world’s first (if rather indistinct) photograph. 


Buckle in for a story that shows how luck and timing and good PR, or the lack of them, make a huge difference in scientific success.

Born in 1765, Niépce was the second son of a wealthy lawyer. He and his older brother Claude excelled in studying science and after graduating Niépce became a professor at the Catholic Oratory college where he studied in Angers. The order’s colleges were shut down in 1792 by the Legislative Assembly of France’s New Republic, and some teachers became active supporters of the revolution. Niépce briefly joined the army under Napoleon and served as a staff officer in Italy and Sardinia until ill-health forced him to resign and accept a position as the Administrator of the district of Nice. He also married at this time.

 In 1795 at the age of 30, Niépce left that position in order to pursue his scientific interests, partnered with his brother Claude. They researched ideas for an internal combustion engine, living in Nice until they returned to their family estate in Chalon in 1801. Reunited with other family members, they lived there as gentlemen farmers while exploring a variety of scientific interests. In 1806 they presented a paper to the Institute National de Science, the French National Commission of the Academy of Science, which explained the workings of their engine, which they called a Pyréolophore.

A color cut-away diagram showing the internal combustion engine invented by Niepce and his brother.

Diagram of the first internal combustion engine, the Pyreolophore, of 1806. (public domain)

In 1807 they built a working version of their engine and demonstrated its success by powering a boat up the River Saone. They received a ten-year patent from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

Unfortunately, in the same year Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz also built an internal combustion engine. The de Rivaz engine was hydrogen-powered, whereas the Niépce engine ran on various experimental fuels such as mixtures of Lycopodium powder (the spores of clubmoss) and coal dust, or resin, all of which proved expensive.

France under Napoleon was at war for nearly all of the years of the Niépce patent. During those years, the brothers also developed a hydraulic pumping machine (but too late to obtain the government contract they aimed for) and the first fuel injection engine. But they were not able to attract sufficient investments or subsidies for their Pyreolophore, so their engine patent expired in 1817.

Unwilling to release the project, brother Claude traveled to England and settled at Kew. He obtained a patent consent from the British Crown in December of 1817, but for the next ten years he pursued many ill-advised and unsound schemes to promote the engine. He was said to have “developed delirium” (probably some form of dementia) and squandered most of the family fortune.

Meanwhile, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce had already turned to new interests, among them building a velocipede (early bicycle) that he rode around Chalon. Starting around 1816, another interest was combining the process of lithography, invented in 1798, with the idea of capturing photographic images using a camera obscura. Today the process he invented is known as photo-lithography.

The problem with camera obscura images, long used as an aid to artists, was that no one had found a way to capture them in a permanent form other than drawing them. Dissatisfied with the results obtained with silver oxide-coated paper, Niépce turned to bitumen, used on the copper plates for making engravings. He developed a process he called heliography, which allowed him to copy existing engravings by laying them in the sun on a lithographic stone or a sheet of metal or glass that had been thinly coated with bitumen dissolved in lavender oil, leaving a reproducible impression on the plate.

Attempting to capture a camera image on such a plate was not a huge leap. Niépce set up a camera obscura in the window of his studio and in his first try, projected the image onto bitumen-coated stone. His second version was projected onto bitumen-coated pewter, and that is the image that survives to this day. At one time the exposure time was thought to have been eight hours but further recent research has shown in fact the exposure took several days, which is why the sunlight in the image does not come from only one direction!

Enhanced image of the buildings, light and shadows captured in Niepce’s original photograph.

Niépce traveled to England to see his seriously-ill brother late in 1826. While he was at Kew, he met botanical illustrator Francis Bauer and showed him the heliography prints and the photograph. Bauer encouraged him to share his discoveries with the Royal Society. However, the paper Niépce presented to the Society was rejected because he was too reluctant to divulge the details of his work.

Niépce left his samples and his paper with Bauer and returned to France, where he partnered in 1829 with Louis Daugerre, who was also investigating ways to capture camera images. But Niépce died suddenly of a stroke in 1833, so impoverished that the French government paid for his burial. When Daugerre presented his own process, the “daugerreotype” to the world in 1839, he claimed the recognition as the inventor of photography, over the protests of Niépce’s son. Bauer managed to have Niépce’s work exhibited at the Royal Society, but nonetheless Niépce was mostly forgotten until the modern age.

In 1952, a pair of photography historians, Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, managed to track down what had become of Niépce’s photograph and acquired it. Their collection was purchased in 1963 by the University of Texas. Niépce’s reputation has finally been restored, and his original first photograph can be seen today on display at the university’s Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. Did you have any idea that photography had such an early beginning?

(all images used with this post are public domain)

We’ve been talking about private weather diaries from the extended Regency period, particularly the hand-written volumes that have been preserved in the library archives of the UK’s Meteorological Office. Several have been digitized:

My initial interest was specifically a diary by John Thomas Swanwick of Derbyshire, kept 1793-1828, but it grew exponentially from there (see Part 1 of this article, posted March 13).


The next set of diaries records 80 years of weather in Modbury, Devonshire, 1788-1868, at the opposite end of the UK from Gordon Castle in Scotland. The diaries were kept by a father, John Andrews Sr., to 1822, and by his son John Andrews to 1868. Handwritten notes at the front of the diary indicate that the diaries were “offered to the Meteorological Society” by the son and accepted in June of 1868.

Only informal notes fill the first two months, but starting in March, 1788, Andrews recorded barometer and thermometer readings in hand-drawn columns along with commentary. The handwriting is not so fine a hand, and readings are not reported consistently. At the end of 1789, he reported the days, month-by-month, that “Moore’s Almanac” predicted rain or snow would fall, within a day one side or the other. We assume this was so he could compare for accuracy?

These diaries each cover two years. In 1790 Andrews began to be more regular about including the barometer readings and began to record twice daily, at 8am and 10pm, although temperatures are still missing. He clearly doesn’t have all the weather-recording instruments that some of the other diarists use. On December 14, 1790, he began to include temperatures again, but notes his dissatisfaction with the accuracy of the thermometer. By 1791, Andrews was including three barometer reports each day, at 8am, noon, and 10pm, and had shifted the format from using the pages normally to a vertical form running down two pages turned sideways.


On March 15, 1790, he begins to include hygrometer readings (humidity), which were also included in Dr. Hughes’s Stroud diary. Andrews notes how he has kept a separate account of it since October when it was first put up, and has noticed it shifting “considerably” towards the “0” marking the median between moist and dry on the dial. He does not say what kind of hygrometer it is, but it seems likely it might have been one of the whalebone and human hair types invented by either Jean-Andre Deluc or Horace-Benedict de Saussure, who both developed them around 1783, just seven years earlier (pictured below). The metal ring appears to be the “dial” with measurement markings on it.

A small, narrow reddish colored box shown placed vertically with the cover open to the left, displaying a whalebone frame with a metal ring at the top, inside the box.

Deluc’s c. 1783 whalebone and hair hygrometer, By Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 fr,

The later diaries also appear to be hand-made or created using pre-lined accounting books. One kept by a woman, Caroline Moleworth, in Cobham, Surrey, 1825-1867, includes notes on barometer readings and two thermometers, “in the vestibule” and “in the window of the library”—which tells us she was well-to-do to own the equipment and also have a large enough house to include a library.


Storm Glasses

Interestingly, Caroline also had a “storm glass,” an old method of predicting storms via chemical solution inside a glass globe. She proudly calls hers a “Tagliabues storm glass.” Cesare Tagliabue Jr. (1767-1844) expanded his family’s instrument business by opening a firm in London in 1799 to produce thermometers, barometers, and hydrometers (which successive generations expanded further), so this is likely the source.

Storm glass 1825 advertisement (By Jeffery Dennis -Public Domain,

In 1825, Caroline was using it well before the fad for them in mid-century led by Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy of the HMS Beagle, who used a storm glass extensively on his sea journey explorations and promoted their use.  Her diary includes occasional observations when she notes changes in its appearance.


Storm glasses are still available today. Fitzroy is credited with popularizing the accepted “reading” chart still in use.

He is considered a “pioneering meteorologist who made accurate daily weather predictions, which he called “forecasts”. In 1854 he established the Met Office, and created procedures to pass weather information to sailors, fishermen and other mariners for their safety.” (Quoted from Wikimedia Commons)

A list showing the various readings for interpreting the storm glass appearances

storm glass chart

The accuracy and the method by which these storm glasses work are still debated today. One theory is that the earlier glasses were not well sealed and were affected more by air pressure, like a barometer, and today’s tightly sealed ones are affected more by changes in temperature. A good source for more information on these (besides Wikipedia) is:

a vertical glass tube on a wooden base, with a white froth of chemical crystals in the bottom

Storm glass picture (By Brudersohn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


John Thomas Swanwick was born in 1792 in Derby, so it seems certain that it had to be his father, Thomas Swanwick, a schoolmaster, who first started keeping that Derbyshire weather diary. Thomas, born in 1754, would have been 39 years old when he began it. John Thomas, the middle child of three, no doubt grew up watching his father enter data into that diary faithfully every day. At some point, John Thomas, the son, had to have taken it over, for his father died in 1814 at the age of 60 and the diary continues for another 14 years.

At age 41 in 1833, John Thomas Swanwick married a widow, Isabelle Hall. At the time of his marriage his occupation is listed as schoolmaster, like his father. Did he step into his father’s shoes professionally as well as in taking over the weather diary? Did he postpone marriage while tending to his mother?

Derby was a major market town in Derbyshire, with a population of 11,000 in 1801. The family attended All Saints Church, which later became Derby Cathedral. Derby School (aka Derby Grammar School), founded by Queen Mary Tudor in 1554, stood in St Peter’s Churchyard.

Old Derby -All Saints (public domain)

Did the Swanwicks teach there? Since we don’t know where either Swanwick taught, we also cannot know if it was a full-time occupation or whether they were gentlemen farmers on the side. The diary stops in 1828, five years before John Thomas Swanwick married.

This diary is fragile and has not been digitized. I was fortunate to obtain some pdf images of the pages I needed through the kindness of the Met Office library archives staff, Mr. Duncan Ball in particular. It does seem the printed templates of the Swanwick diary were custom-designed by the writer and commissioned privately from the printer—none of the other diaries are so elegant.

Did the son faithfully recopy his father’s data into a new book, one he had pre-printed with templates that captured all the categories roughed out in an earlier version? Or did the father have it done? The printed headers say Thomas Swanwick up until 1802, and then John Thomas Swanwick after that. The handwriting does appear to change at that time, and is not as perfect. John Thomas would have been 9 years old. Was he deemed old enough for his father to start teaching him to keep the diary then?

1805 sample summary page from the Swanwick diary (, public domain)

Perhaps the schoolmaster bartered some lessons in return for the extravagance of the custom printing job. Or perhaps Thomas Swanwick was highly paid. The beautiful quality of the father’s handwriting in addition to the finely detailed organization and presentation of that particular diary certainly suggest a high level of training and competence.

I had less luck tracing information about the other diarists. Two John Andrews of similar age lived in Modbury, Devon, baptized within 6 years of each other and married to different women within two years of each other. I could not pull marriage records in detail that would have told me their professions.

Dr. Thomas Hughes of Stroud was probably a clergyman who died in 1815, but there is almost no record of him other than his marriage “c. 1780.” Another Thomas Hughes of Stroud left a will probated in 1813, so he died that year or earlier. He was a surgeon, so at that time would not very likely have been recognized as “Dr.” or been as well-educated as a clergyman, but I would need access to the will to know more.

Taken together, the evidence suggests all of these diary keepers (except for Caroline Moleworth) were educated, well-to-do men with a scientific, scholarly interest in studying weather rather than the purely practical interest of those managing the land. Further research into the identity and lives of each of these diary writers might not prove that conclusively—all we can do is speculate. Caroline was clearly interested in weather science as well as other natural phenomena –her diary includes notes about animals seen and flowering plants in bloom as well as weather.

Advances in weather forecasting were slower than progress in some other fields. As late as 1888 and 1889 the Council of the Meteorological Office requested lectures to be given at various British ports on the use of the barometer for seafarers. In 1890 the lectures were published as “Weather Forecasting for the British Islands by means of a barometer, the direction and force of wind and cirrus clouds”.

The Meteorological Society to whom the Modbury diaries were donated wasn’t formed until 1850, well after the Regency period and just four years before the national government office was established. It was granted a royal charter in 1866, and went on to become the Royal Meteorological Society in 1883.

However, the fifteen science-minded men who founded it were also astronomers and versed in other overlapping sciences as well. Many were Regency-era members of the Astronomical Society of London, which was founded in 1820. Interest in science blossomed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and that interest included weather. Who knows how many other weather observers in those early periods were watching and keeping records that are lost to us now?

Many thanks to the Library & Archives of the UK Meteorological Office for helping me with research and setting me off down this deep rabbit hole. I hope those of you who read all this have enjoyed the trip! If you did, perhaps you’d be so kind as to leave a comment.  🙂

In story-telling, we are always warned not to start with the weather. That is exactly the recurring joke in the Peanuts cartoon when pup Snoopy’s novel always begins, “It was a dark and stormy night”(although doesn’t that at least make you expect something dramatic is going to happen?). But weather plays an important role in story settings, and can be an effective tool to drive events in plot. Ignore it and your story can fall flat.

Weather forecasting today is a fine science we all rely on and I dare say also often take for granted until storms or other potential disasters threaten. Obviously, in the Regency period there was no such service anyone could turn to. And given the agricultural basis of Great Britain’s economy at that time and the importance of sailing ships, weather played a very crucial role in the daily lives and the prosperity of the nation.


The Industrial Revolution had begun by Regency times, but it would not reach full sway until Queen Victoria’s era. Weather might not affect the factories springing up in the north counties, but farming the land was still the backbone of both the economy and society at this time. Landowners and tenant farmers alike were dependent on getting the greatest yield they could from the acres under their care. That was very much tied to weather along with the fertility of the soil. And weather could certainly affect the transportation of goods from those factories in the north, or the safety of anyone in the path of floods or storms.

Were a reliance on folklore beliefs and an ability to “read” current conditions the only methods they could employ to predict what weather might lie ahead and to plan accordingly?

Research for my current wip, Book Four in my Little Macclow series set in Derbyshire (HIS LADY TO LOVE), has led me down a new rabbit hole to share with you—private weather diaries. There is a fine collection of these hand-written volumes that have been digitally preserved in the library archives of the UK’s Meteorological Office:

My initial interest was specifically a diary by one John Thomas Swanwick of Derbyshire kept 1793-1828. (My story happens in August of 1815). Comparing the August weather recorded in flawless handwriting across all those years gave me a good view of what it should be in my story. But I quickly became more interested in the diary itself, the man who kept it, and what it said about his discipline and daily habits. Also, this particular diary has what are clearly custom-printed templates, for both the yearly comparisons and the monthly observations. Was keeping a “weather diary” a special hobby, or a regular part of normal record-keeping? (click on photos to enlarge)

Sample page and printed headings in the Swanwick weather diary

I wanted to know–did Mr. Swanwick design this book and have it privately printed, or were such blank diaries available from printers for customizing? If the latter, then keeping weather diaries was something enough people did for printers to make a profit by offering such books. If the former, then Swanwick had to be a man of enough means to be able to afford such a bespoke product.

These questions led me to examine some of the other diaries in the Met Office archive collection that are available at the link above.

The earliest one dates from 1755-1775 in Exeter. A typewritten note in the front says it is probably the earliest extent account of twice-daily barometer and thermometer readings. The 12-column format of all the pages suggests that it might have been a type of readily available accounting book that the diarist, one S. Milford, adapted to his own use.  Milford’s headings are: day, hour, bar., ther., wind, and “weather” (i.e. fair, cloudy, stormy, showery, rain), a much simpler system than Swanwick’s. Milford fit two days’ data across a single page.

Exeter Weather diary Aug 1756

Barometers and Thermometers

It is interesting to note that Milford and the other diarists generally owned both expensive barometers and thermometers and had the education to interpret them. Some seem to have also had hygrometers and sophisticated wind-measuring instruments. The barometer was invented in 1643 by an Italian physicist to measure atmospheric weight or pressure. Improvements by several more scientists turned it into the first “weather globe” and ultimately the more familiar barometer. The first thermometer was invented by Galileo, but a mercury-filled one similar to modern ones was invented in 1714 by physicist and inventor Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Jean-Andre Deluc, Swiss scientist who lived in England from 1773 until his death in 1817, was an advocate of the mercury thermometer over Galileo’s earlier alcohol-based versions. We don’t know which kind the diarists were consulting.

The next oldest diary goes from 1771-1813. Observations kept by Dr Thomas Hughes at Stroud, Gloucestershire, include other noteworthy events such as “storms, floods, earthquakes, aurora sightings and other geophysical data and occasional phenological remarks,” all indicating a man of some education. The book’s columns are ruled by hand, and the pages are set up to run vertically across two pages of the horizontal book turned sideways. The summary says his casual notes (kept in a dedicated column at the far right) “include reference to a number of historical events including the victory at Trafalgar and subsequent death of Admiral Nelson in the action.”

Sample page from the Stroud weather diary

More often, those notes expand on the “weather” observations. For instance, on January 3, 1771, he recorded cool and cloudy in the morning, then stormy with thunder and wind. The casual note says “a vessel on the Severn damaged by lightening.” On April 6, he noted snow still on some hills, the ground dry and grass withered “except in some moist places.” Hughes possessed a hygrometer in addition to his other instruments, reporting humidity readings among his other data.

From 1781-1825 a set of diaries was kept at Gordon Castle in Moray Speyside, Scotland, “complete except for June and July 1812.” Who made the notes, the (original) 4th and 5th Dukes of Gordon themselves or more likely staff members assigned to the duty? This book, too, is hand-ruled, set up with five narrow columns at the left and a large space more than 2/3rds of the page reserved for the actual weather observations. Perhaps it is not surprising, given the Scottish location, that this diary includes first among its narrow standard columns the one labeled “Rain,” used to record the measured amounts.

Gordon Castle  By John Claude Nattes 1804- National Library of Scotland Digital Gallery Shelfmark ID J.134.f, Public Domain, Rebuilt in 1769 for the fourth Duke of Gordon, the central four-storey block incorporated a six-storey medieval tower called the Bog-of-Gight, and was flanked by a pair of two-storey wings.

Also interesting—for the first year there is no barometrical data, and only wind direction. But starting in January of 1782, seven columns report date, rain, barom., therm (at 8am), wind (divided into direction and “force”), and therm again at 3(pm). Perhaps a barometer and some new wind measuring instrument had been gifts or purchases at the end of the previous year?

Gordon Castle diary sample page

There is a note at the end of this first month mentioning an “alteration” in when some of the data is noted and the addition of the wind force, but no mention is made of adding the barometric readings. By the next month, the 8am thermometer readings are marked “in” and “out” –did they acquire more thermometers, too? If “in” means inside, it is notable that the temperature in the castle runs generally only about 7-8 degrees warmer than outside, until the summer months when it is about the same, or cooler on the warmest days.


In Part Two (DEEP rabbit hole!): more diaries, more equipment, and investigations into the diary writers themselves. (will be posted on Thursday March 16)


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