Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Victorian Christmas by Maggi Andersen

An English Christmas during the 1900s

By Maggi Andersen

The first known Christmas Tree was erected at Queen's Lodge, Windsor, by Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of George III, for a party she held on Christmas Day, 1800, for the children of the leading families in Windsor. Her biographer Dr John Watkins describes the scene:

In the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked around and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore together with a toy and then all returned home, quite delighted.
Christmas trees were an established Royal institution in Britain long before the custom spread to the general populace. Queen Adelaide always had one and the young Princess Victoria recorded her delight at the Christmas tree at Kensington Palace in 1832. 

Prince Albert, who is often wrongly credited with having brought the Christmas tree to Britain, certainly did most to encourage its general adoption, The Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle was featured in The Illustrated London News of 1848 and this inspired the imitation. Albert also presented large numbers of trees to schools and Army barracks at Christmas.
(From The Royal Windsor Website)

Santa Claus's first appearance in British society was not until the reign of Queen Victoria  when the wealthy middle class, generated by the industrial revolution, changed the face of Christmas forever.

Father Christmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival, normally dressed in green, a sign of the returning spring. The stories of St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas in Holland) came via Dutch settlers to America in the 17th Century. From the 1870s, Sinter Klass became known in Britain as Santa Claus with his bag full of gifts and toys distributed by reindeer and sleigh.

Inspired by Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol published in 1843, the wealthy gave money and gifts to the poor at Christmas. Christmas Day and Boxing Day became holidays. Boxing Day was so named because the poor opened the boxes containing gifts and money from their wealthy benefactors. The railways allowed those now living and working in the cities to return to the country for Christmas.

With factories came mass production, which produced less expensive games, dolls, books and clockwork toys than the handmade variety. Children of poorer families might have found an apple, orange and a few nuts in their Christmas stocking, which became popular from around 1870.

A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dickens' A Christmas Carol where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchitt a large turkey. Turkeys originated from America and had been in Britain for hundreds of years before the Victorian era. The turkey appeared on Christmas tables in England in the 16th century, and popular history tells of King Henry VIII being first English monarch to have turkey for Christmas. The 16th century farmer Thomas Tusser noted that by 1573 turkeys were commonly served at English Christmas dinners. The tradition of turkey at Christmas rapidly spread throughout England in the 17th century, and it also became common to serve goose which remained the predominant roast until the Victorian era. (it was quite common for Goose "Clubs" to be set up, allowing working-class families to save up over the year towards a goose before this). 

The pudding course of a British Christmas dinner may often be Christmas pudding, which dates from medieval England.
Trifle, mince pies, Christmas cake were also popular, but along with chicken, they were too expensive at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. Roast beef was traditional fare in northern England, and in the south, goose was eaten. Queen Victoria and family in 1840 enjoyed both beef and a royal roast swan or two. 
 By the end of the century, most people feasted on turkey for their Christmas dinner.

 The “Penny Post” was first introduced in Britain in 1840 by Rowland Hill. The idea was simple, a penny stamp paid for the postage of a letter or card to anywhere in Britain. This simple idea paved the way for the sending of the first Christmas cards. Sir Henry Cole tested the water in 1843 by printing a thousand cards for sale in his art shop in London at one shilling each.

Tom Smith, a London sweet maker in 1846 invented crackers. The original idea was to wrap his sweets in a twist of fancy colored paper, but this developed and sold much better when he added love notes (mottos), paper hats, small toys and made them go BANG!

Carol Singers and Musicians “The Waits” visited houses singing and playing the new popular carols:
1843 - O Come all ye Faithful
1848 - Once in Royal David’s City
1851 - Amid the Winter’s Snow
1868 - O Little Town of Bethlehem
1883 - Away in a Manger 

I have a Regency Christmas short story on offer. After Lady Catherine Bellingham appeared in What a Rake Wants, I was inspired to give her own story. This is one special Christmas Night. A Forbidden Love affair. 
Lady Catherine's Scandalous Christmas

(Free on Smashwords and Goodreads) 

Widow Lady Catherine Bellingham thought she was content with her life. Then one Christmas night, Gerard, Earl of Berwick, showed her how wrong she was.

For those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas and for the rest Happy Holidays and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Best Wishes,


Images: Wikipedia

Saturday, December 13, 2014

#Review What a Rake Wants - The Spies of Mayfair Book 3

Review of WHAT A RAKE WANTS - The Spies of Mayfair series Book 3

Widow Althea Brookwood has been left virtually penniless, with the exception of a small bit of her dowry and Owltree Cottage. Lord Montsimon starts showing interest in Lady Althea, although he is known to be a rake and has always proclaimed to be against marriage. Althea tries to avoid the man; for although she knows this to be the case she finds she is developing feelings for him. Neighbor Lord Crowthorne suddenly is interested in Althea's Owtree Cottage and tells her that if she won't sell it to him, he'll take it from her and make her his mistress in the deal. 
Frightened, she goes to a family friend, but he is immediately murdered. A second friend is of no help and she finds the only one left to help her is Montsimon.

This is a wonderful adventure story within an adventure! The king sends Montsimon on a quest that seems separate from the trouble in which Lady Althea finds herself. It seems that no matter where Althea goes, trouble follows or just precedes her. She is a likable character in spite of her temper. Montsimon is the antithesis of Althea. He is levelheaded, even in affairs concerning the fair lady. The backdrop for the story is beautiful England and the scenery is described brilliantly. 
Brenda Wilson 
Ind'Tale Magazine

A Regency Christmas Short Story.

A Regency Christmas short story.

 Available free on Smashwords

Lady Althea Brookwood speculates about her Aunt Catherine’s past in WHAT A RAKE WANTS – The Spies of Mayfair. I wanted to give Lady Catherine Bellingham a chance to shine in this VERY SHORT STORY. I hope you enjoy an episode in Catherine’s life which takes place several years before Althea and Flynn’s story.


London, 1816

Lady Catherine Bellingham had never minded spending time alone. But this Christmas, with her niece, Althea, absent from London, the empty corridors of Catherine’s manor house in Hampstead echoed under her feet. For some reason, she had been restless since she’d returned from a sojourn on the Continent.

Catherine had long since come to terms with the passing of her beloved husband. Bellingham had been a quiet man, but tonight, his absence seemed to speak louder than his presence ever did. Although she had never been blessed with children, she had been fortunate enough to have a generous companion who gave her respect and affection.

She paused at a Vermeer oil painting hanging on the wall. Without giving it her full attention, Catherine knew the picture to be a pleasant, domestic Dutch scene depicting a contented woman going about her daily tasks. Marriage should bring contentment. Her thoughts turned to her niece, Althea, trapped in a bad marriage to Brookwood. Althea had looked so pale and wan of late that Catherine had grown alarmed about her.

Like her niece, Catherine had entered into an arranged marriage with an older man when she was barely out of the schoolroom. If she was honest, she had never experienced true passion with Bellingham, and now that she was in her forties, it was unlikely to happen.

Thoroughly sick of her own company, she fingered the silver-edged invitation that her dear friend Marina had sent her.

“Please come to my Christmas ball, Catherine. Tonight is for lovers of romance!”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

LOVE IS BLIND ~ BRIDELOPE ~ The earliest word for a marriage custom by Maggi Andersen

BRIDELOPE dates back to A.D. 950 when it was called brydlopa. Part of this custom, called the ‘run for the bride-door,’ was an ancient tradition in which the bride was both symbolically and physically swept off on horseback to her husband’s home by him and sometimes a helper who was later known as the ‘best man’.
The Anglo-Saxon root word wedd (‘to gamble, wager’) first referred to livestock or other payment by the groom to the bride’s father, as a more civilized alternative to abduction.

In the 17th Century, before it became associated with romantic images, elopement was a legal term for the act of a woman who leaves her husband and ‘dwells with the adulterer, by which she shall lose her dower’. (Thomas Blount Glossographia 1656.)
As a symbol of resistance, the well-prepared Saxon bride’s wedding attire often included knives, which she ‘gracefully hung from her girdle’.
John Heywood listed other bridal equipment in his 1545 work The Four Ps:
Silke swathbonds, ribbands, and sleeve-laces,
Girdles, knives, purses and pin-cases,
Fortune dothe give these knives to you,
To cut the thred of love if’t be not true.

Bridesmaids were originally a maid’s closest friends who might attempt to defend her from an unwanted groom and make sure she didn’t panic and run off, especially in arranged marriages. In a custom known as ‘charming the path,’ the bride was hidden or disguised when the groom’s party came for her.
‘This was a common practice at old-fashioned weddings in Wales, among other places. The bride is generally expected to make a great show of resistance to her departure, and to lament loudly.’
(Burne, Charlotte S. The Handbook of Folklore. London 1883)

As late as the 18th Century, a custom that often accompanied weddings in Wales was a race by the male members of the wedding party to the couple’s future residence, with food or a silk scarf (originally the bride’s garter, a potent love charm) typically awarded to the winner.

At Scottish country weddings, a related custom, to ‘ride the brose,’ with the first to arrive receiving a ‘cog of brose,’ or ‘good fat broth made for the occasion.’ (John Jamieson. An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language 1808)
 ‘The boast of the winner was how far on with the brose he was before the rest of the company arrived.’


The Folly at Falconbridge Hall is a Victorian marriage of convenience story.
Nominated for the Rone Award, it is an Amazon bestseller. 

Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Left penniless after the deaths of her artist father and suffragette mother, Vanessa Ashley draws on her knowledge of art, politics and history to gain employment as a governess. She discovers that Julian, Lord Falconbridge, requires a governess for his ten-year-old daughter Blyth at Falconbridge Hall, a huge rambling mansion in the countryside outside London. Lord Falconbridge is a scientist and dedicated lepidopterist who is about to embark on an extended expedition to the Amazon in search of exotic butterflies. An enigmatic man, he takes a keen interest in his daughter's education, but Vanessa feels that he may disapprove of her modern methods. As she prepares her young charge to enter into the modern world, Vanessa finds the girl detached and aloof. As Vanessa learns more about Falconbridge Hall, more questions arise. Why doesn't Blythe feel safe in her own home? Why is the death of her mother, once famed society beauty Clara, never spoken of? And why did the former governess leave so suddenly without giving notice?


1894 Clapham, England
Chapter One
Vanessa Ashley planned to arrive at her destination cool and composed, but she felt like a wilting lily. She dabbed her handkerchief at the sweat trickling into her collar as heat gathered
beneath her chip-straw bonnet. Clapham High Street Railway Station was a noisy and smelly hub of activity, luckily the residence that was to be her new home lay in the countryside.
A short, bearded man approached her and politely touched his hat. “For Falconbridge Hall, miss?”
“Yes, I’m Miss Ashley. Thank you . . . Mr.?”
“They just call me Capstick, Miss Ashley. This way.” He led her to a trap. After he’d loaded her trunk and her bicycle on board, they seated themselves. He slapped the reins and told the horse to walk on. “You’re the new governess?”
She smiled. “Yes.”
“Another one,” he muttered and shook his head.
Startled, Vanessa stared at him. “How many have there been?”
“A few. They don’t stay long.”
“But why?”
Capstick declined to comment. He just grunted and shook his head.
“Well, I intend to.” Vanessa straightened her shoulders. It was true she had never wished to be a governess. Even though she was still quite young, her wish for children of her own now seemed unlikely, and if this was to be her fate, she intended to make the best of it. A person without funds, indifferent looks, and a lack of grace had no other course open to them.
“Good luck to yer, then.” Capstick grinned at her, revealing a large gap in his front teeth.
With reassuring skill, he negotiated around a horse-drawn tram as they passed the bandstand on the common and then drove down tree-lined avenues. Villas were soon replaced by streets of gracious homes set amid beautiful gardens. A sign, reading Clapham Park Estate, appeared, followed by larger country houses on acreages.
They passed the last of the houses and were out in the countryside now. Green fields crisscrossed by hedgerows stretched away to a line of forest in the distance. The trap followed
the road beside a high brick wall for about a mile until they came to a pair of impressive wrought iron gates with Falconbridge Hall emblazoned on them in gold lettering. Capstick drove through,
and a house appeared above the trees. Many chimneys rose from the massive slate roof.
Ahead of them, a stocky dark-haired man rode a magnificent bay horse across the lawn and vaulted a hedge. Vanessa had a glimpse of dark, gypsy eyes and a white smile beneath a black moustache. Before they drew level, he turned the animal and rode towards the woods.
“Who was that?” she couldn’t help asking, watching him disappear into the trees.
“That’s the groom, Lovel, exercising the master’s horse.” Capstick shook his head. “The gardeners will not be pleased.”
The gravel drive bordered by lime trees curved around through formal gardens to the front of the house where he left her, disappearing with her trunk and bicycle toward the rear
entrance and, she presumed, the coach house and stables.
The sprawling red brick house had sandstone trim around the windows and a tower at one end, ivy covered its walls. It was older and far bigger than those they’d passed on their way from
the station. The house had settled into its surroundings, and she had the feeling it had been here for a very long time while the urban sprawl of Clapham edged ever closer.
Conscious that she looked rumpled and untidy, Vanessa smoothed the skirt of her olive green linen dress and straightened the limp white collar with travel-stained cotton gloves. She picked up her bag and stepped up to the paneled door flanked by stout white columns.
Before she could knock, a maid wearing a mobcap and a white apron over her grey floral dress opened the door. “Miss Ashley? Please come in.”
Surprised not to be met by a butler in such an establishment, Vanessa stepped into the wide entrance hall. One of those new inventions, the telephone sat on a table. A fine Persian carpet ran the length of the parquet floor, pale green satin papered the walls, and fringed and tasseled emerald velvet drapes hung from the windows. Potted ferns clustered in corners, and a gracious staircase led upward. Despite fractured light filtering down from a stained-glass window above the stair, the house was so gloomy inside dusk might have fallen.
“The master’s in his study, miss. Please wait here while I announce you."
Vanessa sank gratefully onto the edge of a straight-backed chair. It had been hours since she’d had a drink, and her mouth was horribly parched. Now her knees had developed a worrying tendency to tremble. To distract herself, she studied the remarkable flesh tones on the naked woman’s torso of the oil painting hanging on the opposite wall. A Fran├žois Boucher if she was not mistaken. More flesh than was decent, surely.
Her father had preferred the sea and boats as his subjects. He considered the naked body
to be soft pornography and not fine art but altered his opinion after nudes became an important asset to any wealthy man’s collection and began to fetch high prices. More than once, Vanessa
had come across nude models posing in his studio, barely covered by drapery and, sometimes, wearing nothing at all.
At the thought of her father and their home in Cornwall, a wave of homesickness passed over her; she had never envisaged such a drastic change in fortune. She swallowed and focused her mind on the letter and the offer that had brought her here.
In his fine script, the viscount had been brief and to the point. He was a widower with a young daughter in need of tutoring. An associate of her uncle’s had approached him on her behalf. She’d read his words with disquiet. He sounded so business-like and … unsympathetic.
He had been informed that her mother and father died from the influenza, but his few words of condolence failed to make her more confident of what lay ahead.
The maid’s head appeared over the banister rail. “The master will see you now.”
Vanessa walked up the wide oak stair to where the maid awaited outside a door. A deep voice answered her knock. Vanessa turned the knob thinking how she would have liked to wash before meeting her new employer; it was difficult to appear cool and in control when so hot.
The room she entered was also gloomy. A gas lamp glowed where a man sat in shirtsleeves and braces, his dark head bent over a desk. She took two uncertain steps and paused
in the middle of a crimson Persian rug. Vanessa clasped her hands together and inspected the room. Shelves of leather-bound books lined one wall. Heavy bronze velvet drapes, pulled halfway across the small-paned windows, framed a narrow but magnificent view of parkland
where broad graveled walks trailed away through well-grown trees. She suffered a sudden urge to walk across, pull the curtains back and throw open a window.
Lord Falconbridge put down the butterfly under-glass he had been examining and pushed back his leather chair, rising to his feet. As she edged closer, he donned his coat and came to shake her hand. “Miss Ashley.”
“How do you do, my lord?”
He motioned her to sit then sat himself.
He would be in his mid-thirties, she guessed. His good looks made her feel even more untidy. His dark hair swept off a widow’s peak, and he had a deep cleft in his chin. He removed his glasses, and his eyes were a similar bright blue to the butterfly. Dark brows met in an absentminded frown as if she was an unwelcome distraction. “Welcome to Falconbridge Hall. I hope you had a good journey?”
“Yes, thank you, my lord.”
“You’ve come quite a long way. You must be tired.”
“I broke my journey with an aunt in Taunton, my lord.” Her aunt was quite elderly, and Vanessa had slept on the sofa, but she didn’t feel at all tired. She expected fatigue would strike once the initial rush of excitement had faded.
“My sympathies for your loss, Miss Ashley.”
“Thank you.”
“You have had no experience as a governess, I believe.”
“Do you like children?”
“Very much, my lord.”
“Then you have had some involvement with them.”
“Yes, I was very fond of my neighbors’ children. I minded them quite often as their parents were both in business.”
“You had no opportunity to marry in Cornwall?”
“I had one offer, my lord.” The widowed vicar, Harold Ponsonby, had offered, in an attempt to rescue her from the heathenish den of iniquity in which he found her.
He eyed her. “And you refused him?”
Might he think her imprudent? “Yes.”
“Do you have a particular skill, Miss Ashley, which you can impart to my daughter?”
“No, my lord.” She drew in a breath. She had not expected such a question. “Sadly, I did not inherit my father’s artistic talent, but I have my mother’s enquiring mind and her interest in history and politics.”
“Politics?” He stared at her rather long, and she wished again that she’d had time to tidy herself. “We shall see how you get on. The rest of the day is your own. We will discuss your duties in the library tomorrow at ten. Mrs. Royce, my housekeeper, will show you to your room.”
With an abstracted glance at his desk, he rose and went to pull the bell.
The mahogany desktop was completely covered with pens and papers, a microscope, a probe of some kind, a set of long-handled tweezers, a large magnifying glass and a small handheld
one, tomes stacked one on top of the other in danger of toppling, and the butterfly in its glass prison, its beautiful wings pinned down, never to soar again. Caught by its beauty and premature death, Keats’s poem Ode to a Grecian Urn, rushed into her head. 

“Thou, silent form,
dost tease us out of thought…As doth eternity.”
The viscount swiveled, and his eyebrows shot up. “Pardon?”
Vanessa jumped to her feet as heat flooded her cheeks. She'd said the words aloud. She must have had too much sun. “Keats, my lord.”
“Are you a devotee of the Romantics?”
“Not especially.” Annoyed with herself and, irrationally, with him for pursuing it, she said, “Forgive me, it was a random thought.”
He folded his arms and studied her. “You are given to spouting random philosophical thoughts?”
She tugged at her damp collar. “Not usually. I’m a little tired, and it’s been so hot.”
Hastening to change the subject, she stepped over to the wall covered in framed butterflies of all sizes and colors. One particular specimen caught her eye. “Exquisite.”
She felt his presence disturbingly close behind her. “Which?”
She pointed. “This one, with patches of crimson and deep blue on its wings.”
“You have a good eye. That’s a Nymphalidae from Peru. Do you know much about butterflies?” She looked at him, finding his blue eyes had brightened.
“Very little, I’m afraid,” she said, aware her contribution to this discussion would prove disappointing. “We get many orange ones with black spots in Cornwall.”
“Dark green Fritillary.” The interested light in his eyes faded.
“That can’t be. They’re orange,” she said.
“That is their name, dark green Fritillary.”
“Why would they call it dark green when …?” Her voice died away at the impatience in his face.
“That species is common and of little interest.” He studied her. “Unless you took notice of some interesting aspect of their habitats?”
“No, not precisely, my lord … uh, they seemed to gather in trees and grasses ….” She nipped at her lip with her teeth, as he nodded and turned away. Would a governess be required to know much about butterflies or botany? Beyond Cornwall, her knowledge of flora and fauna was barely worthy of comment.
A woman entered the room, her neat figure garbed in black bombazine, with a lacy cap over her brown hair and a watch pinned to her breast. A large bunch of keys jangled at her waist.
Vanessa thought her to be in her early-forties. She had a pointed nose and sharp eyes that looked
like they would miss little.
“Ah. Mrs. Royce, this is the new governess, Miss Ashley. Please give her a tour of the
day nursery and school room and introduce my daughter to her before you take her to her quarters.”
“Yes, milord.”
“Miss Ashley.” His lordship nodded. “I shall see you here again at ten o’clock tomorrow.
We’ll discuss your plans for teaching my daughter. I’m extremely keen that she becomes proficient in mathematics, the French language, and botany.”
“Botany, my lord?” Vanessa’s fears were realized. Completely unprepared, she looked around wildly at the books lining his shelves. Might she have time to bone up on it? She read
some knowledge of her discomfort in his eyes and lifted her chin. “Surely English and history are equally as important?”
“That goes without saying.” He turned back to his desk. “Tomorrow at ten.”
Summarily dismissed, Vanessa followed the housekeeper along the corridor. Did she catch a satisfied gleam in his eye before he turned away? Her mind filled with questions. Was it going to be difficult to work for him? Might it be why governesses did not stay long here?

Source: Forgotten English Jeffrey Kacirk, Quill William Morrow NY.S
Further reading:
Thomas Blount recognized that many of the new words entering the English language were those spoken in the street. He saw that tradesmen and merchants were collecting words as well as wares on their journeys overseas. And therefore many of these new words, such as coffee, chocolate, drapery, boot, omelette or balcony, were those used in shops or other public places - drinking houses, tailors, shoemakers or barbers.
Charlotte Burne (1850–1923) served the Folklore Society (FLS) for forty years. She was editor of the massive Shropshire Folklore (1883–6), and the second revised edition of the FLS's only official guide, The Handbook of Folklore (1914). She authored over seventy folklore papers, notes and reviews in Folklore and its predecessors, as well as several articles in newspapers and magazines; she was the first woman editor of this journal (1900–08) and the first woman President of the FLS (1909–10). This appreciation is the first part of a two-part study of her life and works. The second part will be a provisional bibliography of her published works.
John Jamieson FRSE (3 May 1759 – 12 July 1838) was a Scottish minister of religion, lexicographer, philologist and antiquary.