Month: January 2014

Welcome to Bedlam

BedlamObservant readers of my blog will have noticed something missing over the last few months. Why is there no longer a page dedicated to God Save the King? Where have all the buy links gone?

Well I’m finally able to tell you the best news EVER. My novel about Queen Charlotte has been picked up by a publisher!

I’ve been lucky enough to sign a contract with the fabulous Myrmidon Books who have published such titles as Mrs Lincoln and The Garden of Evening Mists. Renamed as Queen of Bedlam, my book will be out on 10 June 2014.

Read more from the official press release:

Myrmidon has acquired the rights to Queen of Bedlam, the debut novel from Laura Purcell, based on the tragic life of Queen Charlotte, wife of “mad” King George III of England which will be the first in a series of novels based on the lives of royal women from the Georgian period.

“Queen of Bedlam is a heartbreaking story of lost love and a life dominated by duty,” said Ed Handyside, publisher. “Laura Purcell vividly brings to life the contrast of a private and loving marriage to the royal court acting like a prison to a woman terrified of her husband and his episodes of madness.”

Previously self-published, the novel has already acquired interest from film makers, and British author Laura Purcell, an expert on the Georgian royal family, has appeared on PBS. Myrmidon has commissioned leading artist Larry Rostant for the cover artwork and will be supporting the launch with a national PR campaign by FMCM. Myrmidon acquired world rights to Queen of Bedlam directly from the author and will publish in original paperback and ebook in June 2014.

Suffice to say, I’m blown away. It all feels strangely surreal and, whilst wonderful, also very nerve-wracking. I began research for this book in December 2009! After all this time, my dream has come true – and now more hard work begins!

I’ll try not to go all fan-girl on you, but this really is an amazing achievement for me. Every time I see a Myrmidon book in Waterstone’s at the moment, I squeal. I’ve seem preliminary work for the cover and I can tell you it’s GORGEOUS.

I hope you’ll forgive me if the blog sees a bit of neglect over the coming months. As well as working on my new book, I will have edits and promotion to occupy me – as well as that pesky desk job that keeps interfering with my writing life! However, I will be writing some articles for my Historical Fiction Virtual Blogtour between 9 and 28 of June, which I’ll be sure to share with you.

Here’s to George III and an exciting future.

madking

A Nervous Disposition

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Today I have the lovely Maria Grace in my Georgian parlour, talking about a subject close to my heart: nerves. We all remember Jane Austen’s Mrs Bennet and her whimsical illnesses, but what of those who suffered genuine problems? What were the treatments available and how were they viewed at the time?

It’s interesting to see from Maria’s article that some modern day stereotypes date back to the early nineteenth century. It seems some doctors considered those affected by panic attacks to blame – they were “indolent” and didn’t go out in “cheerful company” enough. How infuriating!

Take it away, Maria.

Nervous conditions

The fine sensibility prized by women in the 18th century gave rise to an epidemic of nervous disorders in the early 19th century.  Maladies of affluence and sophistication, nervous disorders paraded one’s wealth, refinement and sensibility. Women were particularly susceptible to nervous because of their ‘more delicate physiological network’.  In fact, ‘Nerves’ were a woman’s claim to superior social status, the mark of being a lady.

The wealthy and indolent were not the only suffers though.  Given that during the early 19th century people lived in a world where a small ache or upset stomach could be the harbinger of something far worse, or even fatal, it is not really surprising that hysterical diseases, hypochondria and melancholy—what we would call depression—were prevalent, especially when legitimized as disorders by respected doctors.

While doctors agreed that they existed, “there’s no Disease puzzled Physicians more than the Vapours, and Hysterick Fits. These complaints are produced by so many Causes, and appear in so many various Shares, that ’tis no easy Matter to describe them.” (Tennet) “The Annual Review” said that after doctors started taking nervous disorders seriously, everyone was taking medication for them, outdoing each other with exaggerated symptoms and buying an array of medical equipment to deal with them. How strangely 21st century it all sounds.

Symptoms and Types of Nervous conditions

According to William Buchan in his book  Domestic Medicine, 1790, “Of all diseases incident to mankind, those of the nervous kind are the most complicated and difficult to cure. A volume would not be sufficient to point out their various appearances. They imitate almost every disease; and are seldom alike in two different persons, or even in the same person at different times. Proteus-like, they are continually changing shape; and upon every fresh attack, the patient thinks he feels symptoms which he never experienced before. Nor do they only affect the body; the mind likewise suffers, and is often thereby rendered extremely weak and peevish.”

The symptoms of nervous disorders were often thought to begin in the stomach which was thought to be the center of the nervous system. Buchan suggested, “They generally begin with windy inflations or distensions of the stomach and intestines, the appetite and digestion are usually bad; yet sometimes there is an uncommon craving for food, and a quick digestion. The food often turns sour on the stomach; and the patient is troubled with vomiting of clear water, tough phlegm, or a blackish colored liquor resembling the grounds of coffee. Excruciating pains are often felt about the navel, attended with a rumbling or murmuring noise in the bowels.”

These symptoms might be accompanied by difficulty breathing; violent palpitations of the heart, sudden flushes or a sense of cold in various parts of the body, pains throughout the body, variable pulse, fits of crying and convulsive laughing, poor sleep and night-mares.

Progression of the disease would bring headaches, body cramps, mental disturbances including terror, sadness, weak memory and failure of judgment. “Nothing is more characteristic of this disease than constant dread of death. This renders those unhappy persons who labour under it peevish, fickle, impatient, and apt to run from one physician to another; which is one reason why they seldom reap any benefit from medicine, as they have not sufficient resolution to persist in any one course till it has time to produce its proper effects.” (Buchan)

By the beginning of the 19th century, hysteria was no longer attributed to a wandering womb, but the nervous system. Other forms of nervous conditions were also recognized including: melancholy, nightmare, swoons, low spirits, hysteric affections and hypochondriac affections.

Causes of Nervous Disorders

Doctors did not agree as to the cause of nervous conditions.  Some, like Tennet, argued the stomach was at core of the disorder. “Because the Stomach is suspected to be much in Fault, I would have That cleans’d in the first Place, with a Vomit of Indian Physick; the next Day, purify the Bowels, but a Purge of the same; which must be repeated 2 Days after.”

Others, including Buchan believed the causes more complex.  Indolence and other things that relaxed or weakened the body like drinking tea, frequent bleeding or purging could lead to nervous disorders. While those things which hurt digestion could contribute to the problem, unfavorable postures of the body and intense application to study were equally likely to cause difficulties. “Indeed few studious persons are entirely free from them. Nor is this at all to be wondered at; intense thinking not only preys upon the spirits, but prevents the person from taking proper exercise, by which means the digestion is impaired, the nourishment prevented, the solids relaxed, and the whole mass of humours vitiated. Grief and disappointment likewise produce the same effects.” (Buchan)

Treatments for Nervous conditions

In many ways, the recommended treatments for nervous disorders were quite progressive. They included a multipronged approach that included diet, exercise, and adjustments of daily routine as well as medication.

Since digestive troubles were considered a large contributor to nervous disorders, careful attention to diet was a major part of treatment.  “Persons afflicted with nervous diseases ought never to fast long. Their food should be solid and nourishing, but of easy digestion. Fat meats, and heavy sauces, are hurtful. All excess should be carefully avoided. …Wine and water is a very proper drink at meals: but if wine sours on the stomach, or the patient is much troubled with wind, brandy and water will answer better…All weak and warm liquors are hurtful, as tea, coffee, punch, &c. People may find a temporary relief in the use of these, but they always increase the malady, as they weaken the stomach and hurt digestion.”

As some doctors argue today, exercise was seen as superior to all medicines. Horseback riding and walking were considered ideal, but simply being quick about one’s business and active in their chores was recommended as well. When these were too much, even riding in a carriage could produce beneficial effect.

“A change of place, and the sight of new objects, by diverting the mind, has a great tendency to remove these complaints. For this reason a long journey, or a voyage, is of much more advantage than riding short journeys near home. Long sea voyages have an excellent effect; and to those who can afford to take them, and have sufficient resolution, we would by all means recommend this course.” (Buchan)

Patients were also advised to avoid great fires and seek cool dry air to brace and invigorate the body, though chills were to be avoided. Regular cold baths as well as frequently rubbing the body with a special brush, or a coarse linen cloth should be incorporated into the patient’s routine. Further, “they ought likewise to be diverted, and to be kept as easy and cheerful as possible. There is not anything which hurts the nervous system, or weakens the digestive powers, more than fear, grief, or anxiety.” (Buchan)

Though not seen as actual cures, a number of medicines might be recommended to render the patient’s life more comfortable. Mild purgatives to relieve constipation were recommended as were elixirs to improve digestion and strength the stomach.

Though laudanum was easily available, doctors cautioned against their overuse as opiates “only palliate the symptoms, and generally afterwards increase the disease (and) habit render them at last absolutely necessary.”

Avoiding Nervous Disorders

Not only were doctors concerned with treating nervous conditions, they also advised in how these disorders might be avoided. “Excessive grief, intense study, improper diet, and neglect of exercise, are the great sources of this extensive class of diseases…Grief indulged destroys the appetite and digestion, depresses the spirits, and induces a universal relaxation and debility of the whole system… (While) misfortunes indeed are not to be avoided, but surely their effects, by a vigorous and proper exertion of the mind, might be rendered less hurtful…

The effects of intense study are pretty similar to those occasioned by grief. It preys upon the animal spirits, and destroys the appetite and digestion. To prevent these effects, studious persons ought… never study too long at a time; nor attend long to one particular subject, especially if it be of a serious nature. They ought likewise to be attentive to their posture, and should take care frequently to unbend their minds by music, diversions, or going is to agreeable company.” (Buchan)

Attention should be paid with regard to proper diet, which avoided extremes of all forms. Regular exercise and fresh air should be a part of one’s routine. “BUT the most general cause of nervous disorders is indolence. The active and laborious are seldom troubled with them. They are reserved for the children of ease and affluence, who generally feel their keenest force. All we shall say to such persons is that the means of prevention and cure are both in their own power. If the constitution of human nature be such, that man must either labor or suffer diseases; surely no individual has any right to expect an exemption from the general rule.” (Buchan)

References

Buchan, William. Domestic Medicine: Or, A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines, 11th ed. , 1790

Parissien, Steven. Regency Style. Phaidon Press Limited (2000)

Sales, Roger. Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England.  Routledge (1994)

Shoemaker, Robert B. Gender in English Society 1650-1850 Pearson Education Limited (1998)

Tennet, John . Every Man his own Doctor: or, The Poor Planter’s Physician,   Williamsburg, VA, 1736.

Wilson, Ben. The Making of Victorian Values, Decency & Dissent in Britain: 1789-1837

The Penguin Press (2007)

Wiltshire, John   –   Contrib. to Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge University Press (2005)

Author Bio

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful.

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects and notes for eight more writing projects in progress. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.

She can be contacted at:

email: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com.

 Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorMariaGrace

Find her books on Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/mariagrace

Visit her website Random Bits of Fascination

On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace

Maria Grace

Don’t mess with Queen Caroline

The Hanoverian dynasty boasts two Queen Carolines, both remarkable in their own way. Trust me when I say you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of either of them. The second Queen Caroline, estranged wife of George IV, would probably spread vicious rumours about you then burn your effigy in the form of a wax doll. But this blog post concerns the first Queen Caroline, consort to George II. She was more to be feared, due to her superior intelligence and endless patience. Like a hunting cat, she knew how long to lie in wait, and when to pounce.

Caroline surrounded by angels

Despite her overall good-nature, revenge was Caroline’s specialty. She punished her father-in-law, George I, for stealing her children by making a lively court and winning the hearts of his subjects away from him. She managed to have Lord Chesterfield, who mocked her in private, banished to the Hague on an ambassadorial mission by telling her husband he was having an affair with his mistress. When Caroline’s daughter Anne became so haughty that she kept a servant reading by her bed until the unfortunate woman fell asleep on her feet, Caroline gave Anne a taste of her own medicine. Caroline made Anne read by her own bed until the girl wept to sit down.

In my work in progress, Mistress of the Court, Henrietta Howard finds out just how cold Caroline’s shoulder is. As both a Woman of the Bedchamber and mistress to Caroline’s husband, Henrietta was a woman the queen wanted to keep firmly in her place. When Henrietta started to get above herself, Caroline insisted that she kneel to her in the morning to present a basin of washing water. It is testament to how devastating Caroline’s manner could be that the famously cool and controlled Henrietta lost her temper on this occasion, refusing to kneel. But Caroline, ever poised, laughed at her and treated her like a child. Predictably, the queen got her way in the end.

Henrietta_Howard

Indeed, Caroline had much practice at keeping her cool. Her King was a fiery man, stubborn in his opinions and wary of being influenced. Lord Hervey records how many times the King shouted at Caroline and put her down in public. Yet Caroline “could work him by degrees to any point where she had a mind to drive him…with great caution; for he was never to be led but by invisible reins”. She had a knack of agreeing with the King’s opinions at first, then “made him imagine any change she wrought in them to be an afterthought of his own”. A skill all us wives must envy! However, Hervey acknowledged all this required “a superiority of understanding, thorough knowledge of his temper and much patience of her own”.

As a sensible queen, Caroline knew when to let go of a grudge.She famously supported Sir Robert Walpole as First Minister, despite the fact he’d betrayed her in the past and called her “a fat bitch”. Hervey records that Caroline believed “wise princes always made their resentment yield to their prudence, and their passion to their interest; and that enmity as well as friendship in royal breasts should always give way to policy”.

The incident I particularly wanted to share was Lord Stair’s remonstrance to Queen Caroline on the Excise Bill. The Bill, proposed by Sir Robert Walpole, caused great unrest. Initially intended to put an end to wholesale smuggling and lower the land tax by converting customs on tobacco and wine into excises, the Excise Bill soon became a byword for tyranny. Gossip and general ignorance made people fearful Excise officers would burst into their houses and loot. Lord Stair begged an interview with Caroline to inform her of the public view.

John_Dalrymple_2nd_Earl_of_Stair_(1673-1747)_General_and_Diplomat

Now, I’ve read many accounts of lords speaking to Caroline, begging favours and remonstrating with policy. But reading Lord Stair’s words made my mouth hang open. He was so disrespectful and warm I expected Caroline to finally lose her temper. Knowing her pride and her character, all I could think as I read was, “Why would you say that to her?” and “Oh God, what is she going to do to him?” Here are some of Lord Stair’s most inflammatory sentences.

Your Majesty knows nothing of this man [Walpole] but what he tells you himself…His power being thus universally dreaded, and his measures universally disliked, and your Majesty being thought his protectress; give me leave to say, Madam, the odium incurred by his oppressions and injustice is not entirely confined to his own person. If your Majesty thinks the English so degenerated, and the minds of the people so enslaved, as to receive chains without struggling against those who endeavour to fasten them…you are right to persevere in the maintenance of this project. That [Walpole] governs your Majesty nobody doubts, and very few scruple to say. No greater proof can be given of the infinite sway this man has usurped over you, Madam…for what cannot that man persuade you to, who can make you, Madam, love a Campbell [Lord Isla and his brother the Duke of Argyle]?

Caroline’s response was superb. She stopped him at one point to remind him he was talking to the King’s wife, and when Lord Stair dwelt upon his conscience she laughed and said “Ah, my lord, do not speak to me of conscience, you make me faint!” She then responded with:

Surely, my lord, you think you are either talking to a child or one that doats… You have made so very free with me personally in this conference, my lord, that I hope you will think I am entitled to speak my mind with very little reserve to you… I am no more to be imposed upon by your professions than I am to be terrified by your threats.

Caroline then demolished both his arguments and the reasons he had given for them, delivering a thrust to Lord Stair’s honour by turning his accusation of betraying the country back on him.

Remember the Peerage Bill, my lord. Who then betrayed the interest of their constituents?The English Lords in passing that Bill were only guilty of tyranny, but every Scotch Lord was guilty of the last treachery; and whether you were one of the sixteen traitors, your own memory, I believe, will serve to tell you without the assistance of mine.

Caroline then laid waste to Lord Stair’s pretensions of political intelligence by stating he got his system of politics from the newspaper The Craftsman and his sentiments from Lord Bolingbroke and Lord Carteret “two worthless men…the greatest liars and knaves in any country”. The queen finished her devastating response with word of advice:

If you are a friend to the King, detach yourself from his enemies; if you are a friend to truth, take your intelligence for the future from those who deal in it; if you are a friend to honest, do not heard with those who disclaim it.

I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly want Queen Caroline on my side in an argument!

The Year of the Georgians

We’re a whole week into 2014 and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy new year! It looks to be an exciting one, both personally and historically.

Whilst we mark a tragic centenary in remembering the start of World War I, there are also happier anniversaries. Chief amongst these for me,  of course, is the tri-centenary of the Hanoverian ascension to the British throne. That’s right; it was a whole three hundred years ago that the House of Stuart handed the reins (or reigns, if you’ll excuse the pun) over to a brand new dynasty. However, that wasn’t the last we heard of the Stuarts – they certainly weren’t going without a fight!

Actually there is some doubt as to whether Queen Anne really wanted to settle her country on the Hanoverians. She didn’t hold a high opinion of her intended successor’s son – later George I – and she fell out with the House of Hanover over the Treaty of Utrecht. There was enough prevarication to make the Hanoverians anxious Anne would change her mind before she died. Indeed, many Jacobites were later to claim Anne repented of her decision on her death bed, but didn’t have time to alter the legal succession. If that’s true, it’s very lucky for me!

A monarch from the House of Hanover sat on the British throne between 1 August 1714 and 22 January 1901: George I, George II, George III, George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria. Although the name of the royal house changed with Victoria and Albert’s son, our current royal family remain descendants of the Hanoverians.

There have been tantalising rumours about Victoria, which suggest she was actually a bastard child and not Hanoverian at all. With this particular theory, the visual evidence speaks for itself. I only have to look at a portrait or a photography of Victoria, no matter her stage in life, and I see the House of Hanover stamped all over her face. She has the protruding eyes, fleshy chin and high forehead characteristic to the family. She often reminds me of her grandfather George III, or her cousin Princess Charlotte of Wales.

I look forward to sharing more stories from the lives of  these fascinating monarchs with you over the coming twelve months. Remember to celebrate the anniversary by visiting Historic Royal Palaces, who are planning many events!

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