Joanna’s blog of three weeks ago, set me thinking about Pauline Borghese’s house in Paris. Joanna was talking about her visit to the Villa dei Mulini where Napoleon lived during his first exile. She described an enormous gilt mirror flanked by busts of Napoleon himself and “a woman in antique dress”. Tradition has it that the woman is Pauline Borghese.
Well, I thought that was odd. Maybe it would have been impolitic to take a bust of Josephine. But surely Napoleon had fallen out with Pauline (not for the first time) because she disliked his second wife, Marie Louise of Austria. Why would he want a bust depicting a family he had fallen out with?
So I dug about a little. And it seems that, after her brother’s first defeat, Pauline sold up everything and went to live in Elba. Apparently she was the only one of his siblings to visit him during that time. Continue reading →
Napoleon signs his abdication, April 1814 by Bouchot
I was reading Louise Allen’s book, The Earl’s Marriage Bargain, this week—much recommended—and it reminded me of the Elba intermission because the story starts in the summer of 1814, after Napoleon’s abdication. It’s such a useful period for Regency authors. It allows us to bring war heroes home and confront them with all sorts of society dilemmas that they’ve been missing.
In the Peninsula and then France, they’ve been in largely male company and they’ve been subject to the rigours of war. They’ve seen death and destruction. They’ve seen horrors that they can never share with their loved ones. And they’ve suffered fierce heat, bitter cold, privations and hunger, too.
At home again, they have to try to be the kind of tonnish gentlemen who can make idle conversation with ladies in the ballroom. Yes, I know that Wellington insisted his young men should dance well. And I also know that there were females around, not all of them camp followers. But society, in the Peninsula, was not the same as coming back to Society, with a capital S, in England. Continue reading →
Creating a whole new world is one of the things I love about starting a new book.
The Mappa Mundi in Hereford Cathedral
I love that moment when a story is forming in my head. The whole world is my oyster.
And yes, I admit food and wine are often involved in the initial creation process….
The past few weeks while I have been working on my new book have been particularly fascinating. It always involves lots of daydreaming as I think of plots and characters, but one of the most enjoyable parts of starting a new story is the setting.
When and where will my characters live in this new world?
This week I had a great treat. I visited Buckingham Palace Gardens. For the first time they are open for members of the public to explore on a so-called “self-guided tour”.
The idea has been so successful that demand for tickets outstripped supply. So there are now additional ticket for dates throughout July to September.
Indeed, it looks as if even the newly released tickets have already sold out. But they urge you to check back for possible cancellations. Given the uncertainty of British Weather – that great Cleopatra, as Charles Lamb called it – I should think there may be plenty
Life is getting difficult for writers of Georgian and Regency romance
Shave? Our Regency heroes have traditionally been clean shaven. In fact a quick flick through Mills & Boon’s book of cover designs, The Art of Romance, has only one cover with any facial hair on a man. It is a small, neat moustache. I confess I haven’t read the book, but I am not convinced that he is the hero. However, a quick look in any street or on social media will tell you that beards are now becoming fashionable. Designer stubble is already creeping in, will full beards follow?
My latest Harlequin/Mills & Boon release is set in the Highlands in 1746, so I think we can get away with a small amount of facial hair…
Those who follow this blog will know that I often bang on about cover failings. I want my covers to be historically accurate. For me that means: no Regency heroes with beards or designer stubble; no twirling round the dance floor wearing knee-high boots; ladies in Regency costume that isn’t swathed in a tablecloth (see left); and hairstyles and accessories appropriate for the period.
It also helps if the cover models look vaguely like the characters in my story, but that’s a rant for another day 😉
Historically accurate backgrounds?
I’ve recently been mocking up a cover for a book I’m writing. It’s set in London in the period between Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814 and his return the following spring. My hero is a serving soldier who’s enjoying his first leave for 5 years.
I thought it could be good to show uniformed soldiers in the background on my cover. I found the image shown right.
In this occasional series on costume, we’ve featured a lot of day wear, but never what ladies wore when they went riding. The image above shows the Berrington Hall stables and a green riding habit on a mannequin. The waist is around the normal place and it doesn’t have full upper sleeves, so it probably dates from the late 1820s or early 1830s though it could be Victorian.
The development of the riding habit
Judging by the Paris prints, the riding habit changed a lot in the early part of the 19th century. In the Regency period, they looked pretty much like pelisses, except with much more skirt. Here are two, dating from 1816 and 1817, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection.
Just before the start of the first lockdown — and doesn’t that seem a lifetime ago? — I spent an afternoon in the jewellery galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in London. What struck me was how much of the fabulous bling on display was royal, or had royal connections. At the beginning of the 19th century, a lot of money went on bling. And the ladies of consequence were happy to flaunt it.
In 1806, Emperor Napoleon was intent on securing an alliance with the Prince-elector of Baden as part of the Confederation of the Rhine. To cement the alliance, Napoleon arranged a marriage between his adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, and the elector’s heir. Napoleon presented the bride with this beautiful set of emerald and diamond jewellery. Continue reading →
You may have seen the image above in my blog about pelisses, a few weeks ago. I’m repeating the picture here because of that parasol. Or is it an umbrella? It rather looks like one. In fact, apart from that tassel, the proportions look very modern.
Parasols : for the sun, not the rain
Parasols, especially early in the Regency period, had different proportions, as you can see from the examples below, all courtesy of the Hereford Museum costume collection.
On the left is a pale pink silk parasol, very small, with a long handle, a neat metal ferrule and a tassel. On the right is a pale pink lace parasol, again with a long handle. If you look closely — click on any of the images to enlarge them — you’ll see that the long ivory handle of the lace one is carved. Its ferrule has a ring rather than a tassel.
Both Pale pink?
Do you begin to see a theme here?
There’s another one — also pale pink, but with a fringe this time — below. Continue reading →
It’s winter. Dark and gloomy. Though, here in UK, it’s still quite warm. Or at least not as cold — yet! — as winter sometimes can be.
We have houses with central heating and double-glazing to keep out the cold and the draughts. Back in the Regency, they weren’t so lucky. Though, to be honest, I remember a house we bought in the 1970s that was incredibly draughty. I used left-over curtain material to sew a draught-excluder in the shape of a snake for the gap under the sitting-room door.
And I grew up in a non-centrally-heated house with a draught screen as part of the standard furnishings, about six feet high and with four brocade-covered panels. We had draughts and we definitely needed it. Continue reading →