The Strange Death of Queen Caroline Part 2

I promised in my previous post about The Strange Death of Queen Caroline that I would keep you updated with the evidence I found.  I’ve unearthed many interesting facts, but as always with Caroline, the truth is unclear.

In support of a suicide theory, we have the opinion of her contemporaries. Henry Edward Fox certainly thought her capable of harming herself, during the trial for adultery in 1820, when he wrote: “Poor maniac! They say she means to kill herself. I should not be surprised.” We also have the rather gruesome information that Caroline’s body was swollen and black a few hours after death. One of her physicians, suspecting poisoning, wanted to open the body and establish the cause of death. He was told the Queen herself had forbidden any post-mortem. That, in itself, suggests she had something to hide.

Her physicians suspected a blockage in the bowels. They specified “a blockage of magnesia”. Given the paste-like mixture of magnesia and laudanum Caroline had forced down shortly before her illness, this seems very likely. Did that hideous do-it-yourself medicine, which her ladies urged her not to take, end her life? If it caused the blockage that the physicians diagnosed, then the answer seems to be yes.

The records say Queen Caroline seemed “much surprised” to discover her illness and asked “Do you think I am poisoned?” While I can’t discredit the idea that she was genuinely shocked, I don’t trust Caroline. The question is so inflammatory, so aimed at her husband. It seems typical that, whether she was dying through natural causes or her own intervention, she would make sure to implicate George in a scandal.

Historians agree that she was mentally unbalanced around the time of her death, and even refer to her as “the manic-depressive Queen Caroline”. But would she really, through motives of vengeance, go so far? The correspondence that could answer our questions has, frustratingly, disappeared. As foolish at it was, Caroline wrote to Pergami frequently during her trial for adultery with him. It seems to me that, while Caroline loved and had a hope of returning to Pergami, she would be unlikely to commit suicide. But life wasn’t that simple.

Despite her new Queenly allowance, Caroline had to remain in England following her trial, as she was too deep in debt to travel back to Italy. She was separated for goodness knew how long from the man she loved. If in fact, she did still love him. It’s bizarre to consider that through the delirium during the last hours of her life, she never mentioned Pergami. She mentioned his daughter and the children of Alderman Wood. But no Pergami. Is it possible the pair had quarrelled? Had she ceased to think of him with affection? Or had she simply trained her tongue not to mention him?  There is always the possibility, of course, that the witnesses to her death lied. They were her most loyal supporters. Still, I would expect at least one source to creep out if Caroline had actually talked about Pergami when she died.

We also have to balance Caroline’s motives for suicide against a long history of stomach spasms and cramps. About two years before her death, she was suffering acutely with pain in that area. This would suggest a slow-forming blockage or tumour. As I mentioned before, Caroline faced her death with remarkable calmness. Perhaps she had suspected the illness for some time and felt it increasing. Perhaps she had hastened it. Or perhaps she was just showing the Brunswicker courage that remains of her more loveable characteristics.

The verdict I have come to is that Caroline was partly to blame for her own death. It appears she originally became ill through natural causes, but she lost the will to fight against the disease. I also believe she did all she could to make it worse and hasten the inevitable, through her strange medicines and her failure to consult a doctor early on. Whatever the truth, we can be sure her end was sudden and painful. I sincerely hope the “unruly Queen” is now resting in a well-deserved peace.

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An Interview with David W Wilkin

It’s always nice to hear about other authors,  but especially ones who dabble in the Regency! Today I’m lucky enough to have David W Wilkin on my blog. Although David writes in many genres, he’s been kind enough to focus on his Regency writing for us.

1)What moved you to become an author?

Well, I have always liked stories for as long as I can remember. I don’t really remember the first adult reading experience, but when I was 12 I went to summer camp and my counselor recommended the Lord of the Rings back then. What a great book, and this was 38 years ago, 1974. Long before we had the animated movie, or the more recent movie (which a high school friend was the producer on!) It didn’t change my life, but it certainly gave me an appreciation of wanting to turn my stories into stories for everyone.

So when I graduated college, I had already sold an article for a gaming magazine. I started playing around with longer work. My short stories have always been hard for me. I just have something to say and it takes a lot of words to say it. (I think maybe I am a little verbose.) I sat down and wrote Tranquility Hilton. The story of the first moon colony, where the hotel franchise is to the Hilton chain. Yet, what happens when a wealthy couple, fallen on bad times, also sees their very valuable diamonds and other jewelry stolen from the vault on opening weekend.

They have to be wealthy, since it isn’t cheap to go to the moon and be tourists there (though with the way sales are going for spaceshots, there are a lot of rich people.) I wrote that, and now, in hindsight over 25 years later on with a lot of classes on writing and a lot more practical experience. I know why it was rejected and what it needs to be made viable. I even managed to transfer the digital data from many computers and backup systems so I still have access to it. (The real main theme of a novel about those living and manning the first hotel on the moon isn’t the robbery. It is the longing for Earth that they are separated from.)

As I mentioned in some other interviews, the reason I write Regency Romance is all about Cheryl, my wife. We met at a Regency dance and wooing her involved my writing a few pages of a story and sending it to her, until I won her heart.

 2) Tell us about your current novel.

The current novel that I am excited about and think that everyone should come and get a copy, is Jane Austen and Ghosts. I wrote it very quickly because the idea came to be quickly and the story was just all there. Then nuance came as I started typing.

There are a host of novels about Jane and our Regency/Victorian era writers and novels now meeting the supernatural, zombies, sea monsters, and of course the very timely favorite Vampires. I had never read any of these, having read through Dracula twice in my life. That is quite a tale, and I tackled my project and then delved into one of the others. I can see where there is a fascination for the material.

But the inspiration came to me because of the success of this sub-genre and my cousin who finds ideas to make movies. Well the whole cult of these books and success of Twilight and others in the field suggested that Patrick was going to buy, or someone who did Patricks job at another studio, these stories and make a movie. And with my friend Mark (of Lord of the Rings Success) as well making successful movies, what would happen if one studio cornered the rights and had to now make that movie. Oy Vey! Jane like Billy Bigelow in Carousel should be allowed to come back to Earth…

Or even come back with a few friends. And in Hollywood, there are a lot of those who have passed to the next life that Jane might now know who could come back with her and provide inspiration on how these novels really should be made into movies.

 Though the authors of the novels within the novel are caricatures, like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet for instance, or Lady Catherine. The detail of Hollywood and the parallel plot lines to Jane’s work should provide anyone who likes Jane’s work with some fun along the way.

 3) How did the story begin to develop in your mind?

As I mentioned, the things that came together were the current fad in Regency and Victorian era writing with the supernatural and the realization of these movies coming out. But I did not just weave that into the story alone. Studios and production companies have more than one iron in the fire, else they won’t be able to go into production on the next project.

So as the main plot of our novel, to begin work on the screenplay for the Jane project is being discussed with the authors of these special novels, there is another movie project about to start shooting the next week. Not to say that Adam Sandler features in it, since he is a public figure. But that a character based on Adam and a project for him is a sub plot seemed like a lot of fun to also weave into the story.

That along with the succession plan of the production company which speaks to mirroring the success that Elizabeth Bennet might find with Darcy and his ten thousand a year.

 4) What did you find most challenging about this book?

Weaving in and out of the studio like feel to the novel. Setting the scene. The dialogue and interaction of the characters came nicely, as did the plot and subplots. But to give it a tone of Hollywood, (And I used to work for Dick Clark Productions many years ago) was the challenge.

 I try and take the reader on a journey that will keep them entertained and certainly make them feel they are getting bang for their buck. I lace my novels with humor, and maintain that my characters act consistent in the way I have established them. That they be true to themselves in their time. With Jane Austen and Ghosts that is easily done as it is modern era. With the Regencies I write, my characters can think philosophically of a world where slavery is no longer allowed, since Wilburforce was working towards that goal. Where the vote is for all men, and even women to an extent, since we have had the revolution, though even in America, only holders of land could vote. The Terror in France shows that giving away too much power to an uneducated proletariat could have a devastating effect, so my heroes can not be as modern of thought as democracies are today. (But then they will not be as corrupt then as politicians are today.)

 5) How did you choose your publishing method?

A few years back I started and completed a NaNoWriMo book. The one where you write 50,000 words in November. Except I write novels of one hundred thousand words. About 330 pages. And I completed that many words in November as well. But the point was I spent a month writing the book, and then a few weeks later, with the help and feedback of my writer’s group editing it.

They all thought it was at the level finally ready for publication. This was when the world of publishing was really changing. And where I found I could make about 30% to 70% publishing on my own, instead of splitting that with an agent, the publishing companies, the graphic artist, the promotion people. I did some research, and then thought I would see what would happen. After I did put this I found that several others were doing well with this method. And then the feedback I got after my first book went to press, speaking to reader’s groups, interviews on the internet. Good reviews. It made it worthwhile

 6) Tell us a little about yourself?

Well, I was 6 ft and almost 1 inch. Now I’m shrinking.

That was probably too little.

I’m a man writing Regency Romances. That has to be a little different.

So why? Why do I like the Regency?

I have written elsewhere about how Southern California at one time started a craze in Regency Reenactment. With that craze came the locals running a monthly dance practice so all would be ready for the two big events each year that are held. A Regency Ball held in Fall called the Autumn Ball, and then A Regency Assembly where the group would go to a hotel and take it over for a full weekend of activities, dancing, and another Ball.

A friend, thinking they had a woman to introduce me to, urged that I go to this dance practice, and though I did date the young lady once, I went back to the practice at various times because others knew of it. It was a good way for my friends and I to have fun doing these dances, and as time went on I became quite good and taught them, as I also did the dances I had mastered in my Medieval/Renaissance reenactment group.

I further became hooked on Regencies when one of my closest friends told me to read Georgette Heyer’s Frederica. Once into that and Heyer’s use of language I devoured a dozen more. (Well I didn’t eat them, but you understand.) Then I met Cheryl at the Autumn Ball. I had been writing in other forms, so as we maintained a long distance romance for a few months, I began to write her a Regency Story/Novel a few pages every few days until we were together.

My writing group thought that it was some of my best work and better than the Science Fiction I was sharing at the time, so I grew into Regency Romance.

 7) What is your next work, and beyond that, what do you want to work on.

My next Regency is Beggars Can’t Be Choosier. I have been looking for readers because I tackled some issues as a male writer I have needed women to ready. Basically if I handled a miscarriage and also childbirth correctly. I haven’t been in labor, so I wrote based on my interaction with women on the subject. It would still be good to have others tell me if I nailed this or not. So I am still looking to find that feedback. (Any Volunteers?)

But I want to put this through my editing cycle as well as Two Peas in a Pod, a humorous look at Regency Twin look a likes, as well as some mad cap humor. (I always want to capture a certain Beatrice and Benedict repartee in my hero and heroine.)

If I could do this full time, then I am sure we could see 4 new Regencies a year as well as several fantasies. I have two ideas for series that I want to develop. One in the early Regency era, when France is on the verge of the Terror, and then another much later. A Ruritanian Romance series.

 8) In the current work, is there an excerpt to share? Your favorite scene, a part of your life that you put into the work and think it came out exceptionally well that you would like to share.

In Jane Austen and Ghosts there is a reveal that takes place near the end. I don’t know if everyone can guess at it, but one can see how tricky I make my Jane as a Ghost. A little bit more of the willfulness we see in Elizabeth Bennet that we don’t see in many other of the Heroines of Jane’s.

It is so common for so many to have imaginary friends when we are young and a few times those friends have been portrayed as ghosts, well perhaps I linked that idea together, though as the late Robert Jordan would say RAFO! (Which means Read and Find Out) Designed to propel sales of the book. I think far more fun will be to look at the past Hollywood Icons and Legends who journey back over to visit us at DeMille Brothers Studios. Some of whom are not only famous, but infamous, and some you may have to be immersed in Hollywood lore and legend to identify.

I will say that the last few paragraphs I had a great deal of fun with and hope my readers appreciate it.

 9) Who do you think influenced your writing, this work, and who do you think you write like.

Well Jane Austen of course. For Regencies I am also influenced by Georgette Heyer. I have a few modern day writers of Regency Mysteries. The Beau Brummel and Jane Austen Mysteries. The late Kate Ross. If you love Regencies, run, don’t walk to find these 4 gems. (Oh and now, Galen Beckett but this series is got Fantasy elements, the prose is dynamite though.)

After that, I think Robert Heinlein and Charles Dickens helped to form me as a writer.  The late Brian Daley, the Late Robert Asprin, the Late Robert Jordan (There really isn’t a theme. I am just younger than the writers I read and whom I like and return to reading. For those who take a look at my Fantasy work and other work, they may see how I am influenced.

10) Who do you read? What are the things that a reader can identify with that you have grounded yourself in.

Aside from my influences, who I listed, this last year I have read Burt Golden who has a mystery dealing with the March Madness tournaments. Burt was a former College Basketball coach so knows that area pretty well. Nathan Lowell who has written a science fiction series reminiscent of playing the Traveller role-playing game, Patrick Rothfuss whose second book is not nearly as strong as his first book.

Dave Poyer who is a delight in Modern Naval fiction, ER Burroughs who I thought had written better when I read him as a teenager, and Michael J. Sullivan whose first two books were much better crafted than the third where he through in traditional fantasy elements without regard to logic.

11) When writing, what is your routine?

I spend way too much time in front of my computer writing. Somedays I will sit and come up with well over 30 pages. I have sprints where I want to work on 100 pages a week. And then I have distractions where I have to take breaks and work on the website, or the blog.

It takes a good hour to come up with 3 pages in first draft, an about an hour to edit ten pages. In a three hundred page work then, that is about 100 hours to write the first draft. Thirty more to go through my edit. Then I enter the edits. At least another thirty and about a week of prep. About 200 hours? That seems low. If I sat here and was not distracted and got paid for that time, could I do a book every five weeks? 10 a year? Well probably. But then how much should I get back for each book?

Is $8 worth your time to read for two to three hours what took me 200 to write and polish and work on? So far, I think that my take on providing story, my interpretation of Boy meet Girls, Boy loses Girl and Boy then gets Girl, will take you on a journey you’ll enjoy.

12) Do you think of yourself as an artist, or as a craftsman, a blend of both?

I had not been thinking of myself as an artist until recently. Then I realized that these stories and tales are art. And that while I have fun with them, they are as much art as some of those writers I read. Then there is craft to this as well. Knowing how to string words together. But to weave in plot points and subplots so the characters become more than one dimensional. That has taken time to learn and develop.

So so be successful at storytelling, I have become both. But it is a kick to be an artist.

13) Where should we look for your work?

I can be found at the iBookstore, and Amazon, Nook and other online places for eBooks as well as physical books. I have created one webpage that sums it all up which I humbly (proudly, arrogantly, annoyingly) titled David’s books:

http://davidsbooks.regencyassemblypress.com/davidsbooks.html

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That Wicked Princess on the Heath

Put a Queen on trial for adultery and you’re bound to create factions. Even today, Anne Boleyn is represented alternatively as a pure innocent and an incestuous witch with six fingers. Similarly, Queen Caroline, consort of George IV, gets an uneven treatment in the history books. There are those that see an affair lurking with any man she spoke to, and those that naively discredit some strong evidence. Either way, no one seems able to entirely acquit this Princess who, in her own servant’s words, was “very fond of f*cking”.

The scandals about Caroline date right back to her youth in Brunswick. She often met a little shepherd boy out in her walks and went back to his “hovel” with him to see how his family did. To me, this fits in perfectly with Caroline’s life-long obsession with children and general inquisitiveness. Moreover, she was always generous to the poor. But rumours flew about that this little shepherd boy was actually her son.

It seems likely that Caroline did have a love affair while at Brunswick, though I doubt she went so far as to  bear an illegitimate child. She was kept under close guard by her parents and watched constantly, lest she talk to and flirt with young men on the dance floor. There must have been a reason for this. Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick, were not the type of people to overreact and be needlessly strict. I imagine that Caroline’s winningly honest and open conversation got her into some early scrapes, from which they were keen to protect her in future.

Caroline spoke, with her usually lack of tact, of a man she had been very much in love with but was forbidden to marry, due to his low rank. Perhaps this was an Irish officer in her father’s army, who she was seen to be partial to. Or perhaps, as is often the case with Caroline, it was a blatant lie.  She said this to Lady Jersey, her husband’s mistress, almost immediately after her arrival in England, when Lady Jersey had openly insulted her. I consider it a proud backlash, a kind of “well, it doesn’t matter to me if the Prince loves you; he’s not my first choice.”

There was a Prince, however, whom Caroline insisted she had loved her whole life long. This was Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia. Her father wanted the match as badly as she did. But the Prussian suit, like so many others in Caroline’s teenage years, mysteriously dissolved. The very lack of evidence as to why the matches were given up is telling. It seems to me that there was some stain upon Caroline’s character that the European monarchies, once they discovered it, were unwilling to forgive.

George IV was later to state his conviction that Caroline was not a virgin when she came to his marriage bed in 1795. Unfortunately, his testimonies are about as trustworthy as Caroline’s. George’s friends admitted that, if he told a story often enough, he came to believe it was the truth. Not content with complaining about Caroline’s smell and generally horrid body, he insisted she was “not new” and mentioned that on the second night, seeing his suspicions, she mixed up some tooth powder and water to stain her nightgown. However, his only “evidence” of her experience is that she made a complimentary comment about the size of his wedding tackle (notice how George always manages to chuck in a comment about how great he is, even when slagging off others). One can’t help but feeling this is just a furious response to Caroline’s allegations that he was impotent. If Caroline did make the comment, I see nothing in it to suggest she wasn’t a virgin. It could either be another desperate attempt to win the affection of her stroppy husband or a natural remark of surprise; Caroline never was one to use the brain to mouth filter.

However, it was when Caroline moved to Blackheath, after her unofficial separation with George, that the rumours really started. Caroline delighted in pronouncing herself “that wicked Princess on the heath, she is such a rake, such a rioter, and such an irregular person, that she makes rebellions, and mutinies, in every well-regulated house – but she comes from abroad and so she is good for nothing”. It seems very natural that the affectionate Princess, who always was fond of flirting, went a little overboard when she found her freedom. Moreover, she loved to cause a scandal. But I don’t subscribe to the view that she pretty much humped anything in trousers during her years on the Heath. She had been told early on by Lord Malmesbury that she would incur the death penalty by committing adultery, and was clearly much struck by it.

George Canning, a promising Pittite MP, had known Caroline before her exile to the Heath and the pair were clearly in love. Some historians have decided the affair wasn’t very serious, given that he married another woman soon after. But Canning confessed that if he had not met his wife, Miss Scott, “I know not how I should have resisted, as I ought to do, the abundant and overpowering temptation to the indulgence of a passion which must have been dangerous, perhaps ruinous, to her who was the cause of it.” Apparently, Caroline and he agreed together that his marriage was the only “effectual remedy to all the danger and…our escape”.  Caroline continued friendly with the Cannings all of her life. When she was put on trial for adultery in 1820, Canning risked the fury of the King and refused to have anything to do with the proceedings.  His writing about escaping danger and ruin suggest that he and Caroline did not consummate their love, but there was clearly much foreplay. When she received a letter from George telling her they “should not be answerable to one another”, she showed it to Canning and asked what it meant. He told her it “freed her entirely” and they “took advantage of it on the spot”.

The next of Caroline’s lovers on the Heath was a dashing naval hero, Sir Sidney Smith. In character, he seemed much like Caroline and I am not surprised to two hit it off. But Smith came hand in hand with the friends he was staying with, the Douglases. And this is where it all gets a bit complicated.

The Douglases and Smith were Caroline’s bosom friends until, without much explanation, she threw them over and took up with Captain Mamby instead. The Douglases later insisted that Caroline had been pregnant and confided in them alone. But if that was the case, she would have kept thick with them. She may have been giddy, but Caroline was certainly not fool enough to tell someone such an explosive secret then make an enemy of them. It is my opinion that Caroline purposefully wound up the Douglases with tall tales, due to her own jealousy.

Her first attack on the Douglases was to send anonymous letters to Lord Douglas, featuring pictures of Lady Douglas and Sir Sidney Smith in amorous situations; or, as Caroline put it “Sir Sidney Smith doing your amiable wife”. Although Lady Douglas maintained that her husband always believed in her innocence, he didn’t act that way. He went storming over to Smith and demanded an explanation. Naturally, Smith denied everything – but was he telling the truth?

If Caroline had found out, mid-affair with Smith, that he was also a past or present lover of Lady Douglas, it would explain her sudden hatred of her friend. It would also explain why she purposefully infuriated Smith by playing footsie with Mamby at a dinner party. She was jealous, and wanted to make him jealous too. It seems that, after all the hoo-ha, she decided she liked Mamby better anyway.

The love-struck Caroline followed Mamby across the country to the docks of his ships and entrusted two of her “charity boys” to his care. She was later to claim that Mamby had smuggled an illegitimate son of her old flame, Prince Louis Ferdinand, across the seas for her. This was the boy Willy Austin, the “Deptford child”, whom the Douglases claimed was the Princesses own. I think both sides are lying here. I believe Willy was the son of Sophia Austin; Caroline, as always, loved making mischief and found she could do so here with a good excuse for trailing after Mamby.

It was around this point that George III reluctantly agreed to investigate her behaviour – “The Delicate Investigation” – and Caroline appears to have pulled her act together after this.  A few rumours circulated in the following years about Captain Hesse, who was courting Caroline’s daughter, Charlotte. Hesse followed Caroline on her Continental journey and remained a loyal attendant. Personally, I believe he was sincerely attached to the family and loved only Charlotte. But many people, Charlotte included, thought otherwise.

It was on this trip to the Continent that Caroline met the man who was to be her downfall: Pergami. This was the adulterous relationship she was put on charge for. She was lucky that, since it took place abroad, the death sentence could not apply. I, along with Georgian contemporaries, believe that the relationship was “pure in-no-sense”. But Caroline’s guilt or innocence was not what mattered to the mobs of the day; they were more concerned with humiliating the King.

But despite my belief in her guilt, I don’t think Caroline’s relationship with Pergami was as bad as it was represented. Her lawyer Brougham did a brilliant job of highlight that the witnesses against her were bribed for their evidence. They had been rehearsed for certain questions and answers and were completely clueless when asked things not on their script: “I do not remember” being a favourite answer. There were others who were downright liars. One mentioned riding beside Caroline’s coach, looking through the curtains and seeing her and Pergami with their hands placed on one another’s private parts. This was later exposed as complete nonsense; the man in question never rode beside the coach, the coach had blinds, not curtains, a third person always travelled with them and the set up of the coach made it impossible for anyone to sit in that position.

Brougham, who confessed to disliking Caroline, later decided that Pergami’s swift promotions through her household had more to do with his child than anything else. It is true that Caroline adored children and made friends with anyone who had them. Pergami’s daughter slept in her bed and called her “Mamma”. But while pictures of this little girl littered Caroline’s houses, so did pictures of her father. He was always moved into bedrooms near Caroline’s. And while his family were all invited to become members of Caroline’s staff, there was one glaring exception: his wife.

It is my belief that Caroline really loved Pergami and would have been happy living with her adopted Italian “family”. But her pride and her need to beat George IV summoned her back to England, where she ultimately died. She did not speak of Pergami at the end, although she wrote to him a few times while in England and remembered his daughter in her will.

As for the other lovers, I can’t be sure how far the relationships went. I am sure there was much kissing and, as Flora Fraser puts it,  “heavy petting” going on, but I’m not convinced Caroline would risk full on sexual affairs in England under the noses of her husband and uncle. But by the time she was with Pergami, free on the Continent and past the age where pregnancy was a risk, it was a different story.

Should she be condemned? England did not believe so; after all, her husband’s affairs were more numerous and sordid. And is it any wonder that a poor Princess, shunned and called ugly by the only man she was legally allowed to sleep with, was delighted to find others who thought her attractive? No; it seems quite natural to me that Caroline succumbed to Pergami and his wonderful moustachios.

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Prepare for Launch

I had to show you this beautiful screenshot from The Madness of King George. Not only does it capture the relationship between Charlotte and her husband; it is perfectly accurate to the smallest detail. There’s the King’s Windsor uniform, there’s the pearl bracelets Charlotte always wore, which are identical to the point of actually having George III’s portrait in them! Such a small, graceful touch. Did the costume designer have any idea there were geeks like me out there to pick up on and love these nods to the history books? It’s unlikely that many movie goers had even heard of, let alone studied, Queen Charlotte. But in went the bracelet anyway; firstly, as their homage to Charlotte and keeping her real, secondly because they believed there were people out there who would smile.

This brings me nicely on to the topic of this week’s blog post. I’ve been a little nervous about writing it, because I’m taking a bold move. As you know, God Save the King has been doing its round of queries over many months. I have to say I’m very pleased with its reception, even though I haven’t gained representation. I’ve had requests for more, praise of the characters and style, fascination with the subject matter. So why no agent?

The answer has come from the agents themselves: it’s a bit of a risk. I’m not saying there aren’t agents out there willing to take risks, but we have to remember times are difficult in the publishing industry. Many houses are only buying up sure sells, and for historical fiction, that’s mainly Tudors. If I’d written a book that just happened to be set in the Georgian period, I don’t think that would be a problem. But as I’ve gone into the depths others have only plunged with the Tudor, or more recently Plantagenet, royal families – who knows if it will appeal? Or, more importantly, sell?

I guess where others see uncertainty and risk, I see untapped potential. I think the only reason people don’t read about the Georgian royal families is that the books aren’t out there.  Personally, as a historical fiction reader, I’m bored to death of the same old stuff on the shelves. I leapt on Gillian Bagwell’s lovely The Darling Strumpet, because it was a different period with people I knew little about. While I love the Tudors, I’ve read about Anne Boleyn’s execution from every angle. I don’t need any more.

Now if I was thinking more of my writing career, I’d probably just dump the Hanovers and take up one of the ideas I have (and I have several!) for books set in the more popular Roman and Tudor periods. But I just can’t do that. I have a passion for the Georgian period and a strong belief in its relevance. I love these long dead women who I have spent literally years in the company of. I want their stories to be told. And I want to be the one to tell them.

Someone has to take a risk for the Georgians. If the agents and the publishers aren’t prepared to, it has to be me.  So with the help of the many professionals now available on the web, a lot of technical help from the husband and, I sincerely hope, your support, I plan to publish God Save the King as an ebook.

By doing so, I don’t mean to declare myself an irrevocable Indie author. In the long-term, I honestly want the support, imput, revisions, ideas and general wonderfulness of an agent and publisher. It is something I will aim for with each new book I write, and hopefully, by the time I’m midway through my series, I will have proved there is a market. So… here goes.

I’ve been doing some work in the background before announcing this, but I want to give myself plenty of time to make my product as perfect as it can be. With this in mind, my proposed launch date is 8 September 2012. This is a very special day indeed – George and Charlotte’s 251st wedding anniversary.

I will keep you updated with my progress, trials and tribulations. Thanks for reading. God Save the King!

Georgian Splendour

You often hear me whine about palaces and country houses that big up their Tudor and Victorian links, while virtually ignoring Georgian and other less “mainstream” periods. Not so with Historic Royal Palaces. I have to hand it to them, they do an excellent job of balancing the different eras of history associated with their buildings. Even Hampton Court, while clearly and quite rightly dedicated to Henry VIII, is rich in information about William and Mary, who started to renovate it, and the Georgians who held court there.

Kensington Palace is bursting at the seams with history, and in less capable hands, could easily have turned into a Victoria or a Diana fest. But while these wonderful Princesses are remembered and paid homage to, HRP are careful not to let them steal the show.

On Friday night, I attended a late night opening at Kensington for an evening dedicated to Georgian splendour. Tickets were a steal at £10 each and the entertainment lasted from 6 until 10. I was truly excited to find an event revolving around the Georgians; usually the best I can get is a Regency ball. Having said that, HRP are absolute stars and do Georgian dinners and talks at Kew Palace throughout the year; I REALLY want to attend the one on George III’s father, Prince Frederick, but with tickets at £100 a head it’s not likely to happen.

My plan was to amaze and astound you with photography of the great palace, but alas the combination of low lighting and a photographer with incredibly shaky hands (me, must have been the excitement) threw a spanner in the works. I’ll provide you with what useable photos I have, though, and talk you through my evening.

It would have been easy to merely run from talk to talk, so frequent were the pop up history sessions and workshops. Almost the moment we walked in the door (a little late, us office works can’t usually get anywhere before 7), we were viewing the “Trunk of Terror”, comically displayed by two charlatan “adventurers”. The worrying thing is such figures would be rife on the streets of Georgian London, with their “real” dragons, mummies and pickled embryos. My gentleman attendant, Kevin, proved himself extremely courageous and braved the mummy’s curse by touching it.

Next we were treated to a bit of gossip in the Queen’s apartments as a lady in a rather ravishing dress talked us through some of the Court’s secrets. I have to admit, as I’ve been focused on the later Hanoverians for my current projects, my knowledge of the early Georgians is sketchier than I would like. I was therefore thrilled to find out the woman at George II’s court who I’d instinctively felt I could write a book about, Henrietta Howard, was everything and more that I want in a “character”. I left almost desperate to put pen to paper and write her book. But of course she wasn’t the only interesting woman; Queen Caroline herself deserves a narrative, as does her predecessor, the lovely Sophia who was locked up in a remote castle for adultery.  You really couldn’t make up better storylines than the ones the Georgians actually lived through.

From here we went onto another talk – this one rather juicier. On the magnificent King’s Staircase, an “explainer” told us all about sex and the muckier aspects of life at a Georgian court.  I knew the men often urinated beside the fireplaces, but I hadn’t heard of the bourdaloue – a rather wonderful little pot shaped like a gravy boat that could go up ladies’ skirts for a discreet wee. Such contraptions were essential in a place where you couldn’t go anywhere without the Queen’s consent; we heard some mortifying stories of poor ladies who just couldn’t hold on and left truly gigantic puddles on the floor. Wetting  yourself in front of royalty; that has to be an all time low.

Of course the King’s staircase itself is a wonder just to look at, even if you aren’t listening to stories of Georgian wee at the same time. Kent painted it with the main characters from the court, some of which are still to be identified. The people who once traipsed or sallied up and down the stairs watch over you as you follow in their footsteps – how amazing is that?

Counting our blessings with modern lavatories, we went down the staircase straight into a dancing lesson. Having danced Tudor style for a few years, I managed to pick up the long set dance quite quickly and had the added advantage of a musician I was used to – my friend Lizzie Gutteridge on the fiddle, and I didn’t even realise she’d be there! My lord husband coped very well, I thought, and doffed his hat beautifully. Although it was tiring, I was quite relieved at the pace after my experience with quadrilles; those Regency girls must have had stamina!

After all that dancing it was time for a drink. Georgian inspired food and drink had been advertised but the only liquid I could see that seemed to fit the period was arrack punch. I took a glass in the gardens. It was lovely, but boy was it strong!  The gardens were just gorgeous, I wish we’d had time to explore them properly. Oh well, I suppose we’ll just have to go back….Shame!

There were plenty of other talks to listen to, but we chose to explore the King’s apartments for ourselves. This, dear readers, is where my photography skills truly failed. But I’m almost glad they did because it means you have to go and see it yourself! I loved the warren of rooms that wound deeper and deeper as you tried to approach the King in his innermost sanctum. My favourite for sheer beauty was the Cupola room; the very place where Prinny made poor Queen Victoria’s Christening an awkward business.

On display were some beautiful gowns and suits, complete with lappets (the essential headwear). I even saw King George III’s coronation robes. You know, the one from that famous portrait?  Many squeals from me, and groans from the long-suffering Kevin. Also of overwhelming interest to me was Prince Frederick’s chair, well-worn by time, holding court in the presence chamber.

As much as I enjoyed running around squeaking at Georgian things, I also took pleasure in the displays about William, Mary and Queen Anne. Perhaps the most poignant thing in the palace was Anne’s “Eighteen Little Hopes” – deserted chairs for her dead children. I’ve always fancied writing about Anne, but I think it’s one you have to build up to; there’s just so much tragedy to handle in the tale of the last Protestant Stuart. It was, of course, her failure to provide a surviving heir that opened up the throne for the House of Hanover.

But of all these wonders, I have to say, the thing that delighted me most was the amount of people who turned up. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people learning about Georgian history – and later Stuart history, for that matter – two periods often neglected. What’s more, they seemed to love it! I strongly believe people are interested in the eras, they just haven’t had as much exposure to them at school, or hit HBO shows like The Tudors, to point them in the right direction. While we still have Historic Royal Palaces, I can rest assured there are others out there defending “forgotten” history.

Click here to book your tickets for the next night of Georgian decadence!

The Strange Death of Queen Caroline

 

One of the joys of being a historical novelist is getting to sift through all the theories that have gone before, examine the evidence, and draw your own conclusions. When faced with the mystery of Caroline’s death, I can’t sit on the fence. I have to choose which version of “the truth” to put in my story and go with it.

Over the years, medical historians have tried to surmise the cause of Caroline’s death at the age of just 53. Stomach cancer, or a blockage of the bowels, are the most frequent diagnoses. There are good arguments for these, and it could be that Caroline’s demise was completely natural. But timed as it was, so soon after her victory at her trial and her shame at George IV’s coronation, I can’t help listening to the scandalous suspicions of the time. These are what I want to dwell upon today.

It is far too easy to cast George IV as the villain of the piece. I hope I show in my work that although he was one of the worst husbands ever to sully a marriage, he was generous and a good brother – even occasionally a good son, to  Queen Charlotte at least. I cannot credit the rumours that flew about, in true Regency style, that George poisoned his wife. Yes, he was conveniently out of the country when she died and prescribed the bare minimum of mourning for her – just three weeks. Undoubtedly he hated her with a maniacal frenzy. But poisoning just doesn’t seem like his style. Besides, what had he to gain?   He had already triumphed over her at his coronation, thwarting her attempts to gain access to the Cathedral while she was booed home. One might argue he wanted her out of the way to marry again – but he didn’t marry again. There was little in it for him but peace of mind, knowing she would not rear her ugly head again to make more mischief.

The person who stood to gain most through Caroline’s death was, bizarrely, Caroline herself. Which has led me to a rather disturbing theory: did Caroline, in fact, hasten her own death?

Perhaps I’m overly perceptive to signs of mental health, but it is safe to say Caroline was never completely stable. As early on as her exile at Blackheath, visitors reported her violent mood swings; prancing through the house in a wild conga one minute, despairing and repining over her lot in life the next. But it is not this aspect of her character which fuels my suspicions: it is her determination.

Contemporaries confirm that once she had set her mind on something, she would follow it through to the point of death. Worryingly, the things she set her mind on weren’t the products of careful deliberation. She was “caught by the first impulse”, “recklessness was central to her personality” and she would “risk solid  benefits” to gratify her desire to scandalise others whilst amusing and revenging herself. Could it possibly be that after the glory of her trial had faded away and she was nothing but a Queen snubbed at her own coronation, she took it into her head to revenge herself on George once and for all?

For Caroline’s popularity certainly did return with her death. Right up until her last breath, she was trying to get the sympathy vote from the people; she wanted her coffin to say “The Injured Queen of England”. Admittedly, it would be an extreme measure to go to. But this is the lady that sent obscene drawings by the penny post to revenge herself on a neighbour. Moreover, she was in a bad way.

For the first time in the many years of her horrid marriage, Caroline’s spirit was visibly broken.  She was disillusioned with even the victory of her trial, soon realising that no one had cared for her as “a poor forlorn woman”, but had followed their own political agendas. After being hissed away from her coronation (where, it is worth noting, her nervousness made her laugh hysterically) Caroline insisted on attending a pageant of the ceremony, performed at Drury Lane. Lady Anne Barnard, present at the show, reported the following:

“[The Queen] got up and curtsied to the manager, the pit, galleries and boxes in a manner so marked – so wild – with a countenance so haggard… I burst into tears to see royalty and pride so humbled and broken down.”

It was on the return from this performance that she began to vomit and her pulse grew fast and erratic. It could be that she had been unwell for some time and her body was finally breaking down at this stage. But the scenes that followed  remind me vividly of the end of Madame Bovary. She dosed herself up, without consultation, bleeding herself profusely, taking opium and enough castor oil “to turn the stomach of a horse”. Lady Anne Hamilton said:

“Her Majesty put on the semblance of unusual gaiety…but while she laughed, the tears rolled down her face – tears of anguish so acute that she seemed to dread the usual approach of rest.”

The Queen finally retired at 3am, taking a glass of water with a huge quantity of Magnesia and a few drops of laudanum. Lady Anne tried to stop her from taking such a strange concoction but she downed it with the use of a spoon.

The doctors called to consult on her later suspected she had, herself, caused a blockage with all her weird mixtures of medicines. Whether this was true, or intentional, we will never know. What we can be sure of is Caroline faced her death with a remarkable bravery and resignation. Perhaps I am just mistaking her strong courage and confusing it with the idea that she had planned to bring her death about all along. But the following exchanges are rather speaking.

“I am going to die,” she told her lawyer Brougham, “but it does not signify.” He assured her that the doctors were of quite a different opinion. “I know better than they,” she said. “I tell you I shall die, but I don’t mind it.”

Lord Hood observed:

“I never beheld a firmer mind, or anyone with less feelings at the thought of dying.”

A controversial theory, but one I am surprised no one seems to have put forward before. I will keep on with the digging and let you know what I find!

A Princess at War

As you’ve probably noticed by now, it’s the psychology of historical figures that really interests me. I’ve covered many “characters”, but I believe there are few as fascinating as Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of George IV and Queen Caroline.

Not only was Charlotte born in the midst of Revolutionary War, she entered life as a main playing piece in the battle between her estranged parents. Sadly for Charlotte, she took after both her mother and father and in different ways. Since they couldn’t live together happily, how was she supposed to juggle these irreconcilable personalities within herself? It wasn’t easy and there were few people to help her.

Both George and Caroline loved their daughter, but it was a love tinged with darker emotions. She was an instrument of revenge to use against the other. Moreover, she reminded them of their less than happy union. She looked very much like her father and her manners at times brought her mother vividly to life. Neither could love her without reserve.

Caroline doted on the young Charlotte. Throughout her life, she was obsessed with babies and children, but I can’t help feeling that as Charlotte grew up, Caroline’s interest waned. It was very clear that Charlotte was to be raised away from her “polluting influence” and though Caroline tried to gain more frequent access to her daughter, the struggle soon became more about annoying George than actually seeing Charlotte. Besides, Caroline had adopted countless other waifs and strays to live with her at Blackheath, all of a younger, cuter age. To some extent, poor Charlotte must have felt replaced.

In my post Sweet Caroline, I discussed how difficult it is to form an opinion of Caroline. It comes as no surprise to me that her daughter also struggled. On the one hand, Caroline was a slice of fun punctuating the dreary monotony of Charlotte’s school room life. It must have been blissful to be swept away from the dull aunts at Windsor to Blackheath’s riotous parties. Charlotte was soon telling her governess she didn’t mind showing her legs when she got into the carriage – she had nice legs, after all. This is pure Caroline talking; a sign that perhaps Charlotte looked up to her mother as a kind of role model, an outspoken woman amongst her more retiring aunts. But Charlotte was not solely Caroline’s daughter, and she began to doubt her mother was quite so wonderful as she first thought. The findings of the Delicate Investigation of 1806 shocked Charlotte to the core. She was enough of George’s daughter to disapprove strongly of her mother’s actions, and begin to question her motives.

Caroline had once helped Charlotte conduct a love affair with Captain Hesse, carrying correspondence for them. At this time, her mother probably seemed like a godsend, wanting her to find true love. It was only later that Charlotte began to wonder if her mother was trying to ruin her reputation, thus punishing George and the entire royal family. Her fears seemed justified when the time came to arrange her marriage. Charlotte asked her mother for advice about accepting the Prince of Orange, but Caroline refused to give any. She was far more concerned that Charlotte should cause a fuss about Caroline’s exclusion from the recent festivities at Carlton House. When, desperate to avoid the match, Charlotte fled her house and cast herself on Caroline’s protection, she was told to go back home! Soon after, Caroline quit the country and left Charlotte to cope with the fall out alone.

It was no easier to trust her father. Personally, I think that George did love his daughter and wanted to do the  best by her. But he had a remarkably short memory. As an heir to the throne who had chaffed under the strict education imposed on him, you would expect his rearing of Charlotte to be more liberal. Alas, he was so terrified of Caroline’s influence that he kept her on a tight rein. He made it very clear that Charlotte was to have “no will of her own”. I doubt anyone would like being told that, but for the spirited Charlotte it was doubly exasperating.  She began to see him as a jailor. Since he hated and banned visits to Caroline, they became a kind of illicit treat. Another rod George made for his own back was raising Charlotte with Whig values. As heir presumptive, he had subscribed to the party views, but the tables turned when he became Prince Regent. Not only were the Whigs infuriating him with their party squabbles but they were determined to end the war. For the sake of what he believed best for England, George was forced to break with his old party and stick with the Tories. This widened the gap between father and daughter; Charlotte burst into tears at dinner when he gave an anti-Whig speech.

We must remember that George hated Caroline with an almost inhuman frenzy. There were times when his daughter, as a reminder of that hated woman, was loathsome to him. It became far easier to spend time in Brighton with Mrs Fitzherbert and their adopted daughter, Minnie Seymour. Minnie was a winning child, dutiful and sweet – probably because she didnt have the Hanover genes in her. Once again, Charlotte was finding her place filled in a parent’s heart. She even began to suspect that George wanted her out of the country, married to a foreign Prince, so it would be easier to divorce her mother. In which case, he would probably marry again and produce an alternative heir to the throne. She stood to lose everything if she didn’t keep her father sweet – or, if she abandoned her mother. How was she supposed to do both?

Unsurprisingly, with all this pressure, Charlotte “played up”. She liked to be rough with her playmates, laugh loudly and swagger like an ostler boy. She delighted in a tom-boy image, yet never lost sight of the great situation to which she was born. When asked to close the door by her governess, she replied grandly, “Not I. If you want the door closed, ring the bell.” For a period of her childhood, she made herself as difficult as possible. Why not? Whatever she did, she was bound to displease one or other of her parents.

Charlotte did have true friends who cared for her, but she didn’t realise it. Her grandmother Queen Charlotte and the five of her daughters who remained in England were on her side. But as they all loved George, Charlotte suspected them of being nothing but his puppets. Moreover, they were all so boring to her youthful mind. She scarcely thought of confiding in them until much  later on in life. Meanwhile, her Aunt Royal frequently wrote from Wurttemberg with recommendations for Charlotte’s upbringing. If George had attended to them, Charlotte might have enjoyed a bit of an easier ride. The only one of the family Charlotte knew she could trust was her grandfather George III. They were devoted to each other. But the “madness” snatched him away from her so often, he was of very little use.

Charlotte did eventually find happiness with Prince Leopold, who she married. She calmed down from this point and truly seemed able to be herself. Her relationship with her father and aunts improved, and she wrote fondly to her mother on the Continent. It seemed she had at last reconciled some of the turmoil within. Yet when she was on the point of completing her own joy by adding a child to the family, and delighting the nation by giving birth to a Prince, Charlotte tragically died.

It seems so unfair that she was only able to enjoy a brief snatch of happiness. But from a literary point of view, it has the perfect symbolism. The rotten marriage of her parents tainted her luck throughout life. The only good thing to come of the union, like the marriage itself, broke down at an early age. Poor Charlotte. I often wonder what would have happened if she and her son had lived, thereby erasing the Victorian era. We will never know, but I certainly hope that she has found the peace she was seeking all that time, beneath this beautiful monument with her son and grandmother.

 

Sweet Caroline?

Crowds pack the street, waving flags and singing. People are so eager for a view of the procession that they hang out of windows, scramble onto rooftops. Every mouth, every banner proclaims ‘God Save the Queen’. Is it the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II? No; it is a far more infamous occasion: the trial of Queen Caroline for adultery.

To punish his estranged wife for returning to England and stealing the thunder of his ascension, George IV subjected her to the ultimate shame. Unfortunately for him, Caroline soon became a focus point for the common people and radicals to rally around. So why did the people of England love Caroline? She suspected their support had more to do with politics than the plight of an injured woman. But it cannot be denied that many people were caught by her frank, easy manners and found her a breath of fresh air compared to the stuffy monarchy they were used to. These are the same reasons I still find Caroline appealing in the 21st century. She was a determined woman who wasn’t afraid to be herself. Her sense of mischief makes her a joy to write. Yet I have to admit, if I was George, or even a lady in high society at the time, I would find her company less appealing.

For a start, she smelt. Several people testify that she hated to wash and seldom changed her underclothes. We also have a few anecdotes of her sitting on the floor eating raw onions, so I doubt her breath was enchanting. Her wit was coarse, she liked to flirt and she loved to shock. She would lie to people just for effect – even big lies, like telling her parents she was pregnant. I can’t say I’d want her as a friend. George, used to society darlings, certainly didn’t want her as his wife. Perhaps if he had tried more with her early on she would have improved, but I have my doubts. When Lord Malmesbury informed her of the virtues she would need as Queen of England, she pretty much argued them down.

Although the upper crust, who depended on the King for their patronage, shunned her when she returned to fight her cause, she found friends among the commoners. She played the part of a wronged heroine superbly, rallying the crowds to her side. But perhaps their enthusiasm had more to do with the eloquence of her radical supporters, using the case to further their own means, than her innate charms. It was also a case of the underdog against the establishment – we English are never able to resist that. And, perhaps most importantly, it was a cry against George, his ministers and their despised articles and taxes. Caroline was just the figurehead.

Bizarrely, the public who had shown so much support at the trial, turned against Caroline when she tried to storm George’s coronation. Her popularity only returned with her death. The sentiments of the nation towards this exceptional woman were confused – and so are my own. She was admirable – but was she likeable?

I can’t wait to get stuck into writing A Forbidden Crown and seeing what you guys think of her!

Telling others you write

I tend to forget that disappearing home every night and scrambling about on a keyboard isn’t normal. What with Twitter, Authonomy and all the author blogs I read, it feels like every man and his mother is writing a novel. I spend days psyching myself up to “Eye of the Tiger” and telling myself how fierce the query competition is. But then I go out and meet the general public…

People as a whole seem to realise how hard it is to get into the music industry. They also understand how actors struggle to get agents and auditions. But they seem to think being an author is simple. I’d like to share with you some comments that came up when I attended a friend’s wedding.

Now weddings are tricky, because you meet a lot of new people and they all ask you what you do for a living.  I answer “Oh. I’m an administrator.”
I have no interest in it, they have no interest in it (how could they) and it cuts the conversation dead. So then out comes the little gem.
“But what I really want to do is be an author. I write around work, it’s like a second job. One I don’t get paid for.”

The invariable response is “What, you’ve written a book? A whole book?” The fact that it’s a whole book always seems to impress them. I nod in confusion – I’ve been writing whole books since I was fifteen and it doesn’t seem that incredible to me. But at least it’s got the conversation going again.

Depending on the person you’re talking to, they’ll either ask this other question or jump straight into the next paragraph. The question is “What kind of books do you write?” I like this question – it’s always lovely to have people show interest in my work and I like to talk about it. The only problem is, when I reply “historical fiction”, very few of them know what I mean. I get a blank stare.
I try to expand.
“I take a historical figure and research about their life and their character. Then I turn it into a narrative, I mean a story. I try to bring them to life.”
More blank.
“Erm… have you ever read Philippa Gregory? Kinda like that I suppose…”
Only one of the people I spoke to had heard of Philippa Gregory. One. I wanted to kiss her.
The others tended to respond with “Oh, I don’t read many books” which rather left me wondering why they asked in the first place…

People may not know Philippa Gregory, but they do know one author: J K Rowling. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had to say something about her. Now I think J K’s alright, I enjoyed the Harry Potter books and stuff. I don’t understand the full amount of hype around her, because I don’t think she did much that was new – in fact, Ursula le Guin had already written some rather fabulous books about a boy who became a wizard before she even put pen to paper. But I detract from the point. The one sentence that everyone says when you tell them you write is this: “So you could be the next J K Rowling!”
Vain, hopelessly vain, to point out that she doesn’t write historical fiction. Even more useless to suggest you don’t aspire to be her.  Best to smile, nod and say “I don’t know about that.”

It’s around here I try to point out just how hard it is to even get a book published, let alone succeed. When I tell people my book is finished, they say “Are you going to send it off to publishers then?”
I have to explain about agents, the query process, partial submissions, full submissions, editorial suggestions from the agent before trying publishers, the rarity of getting a book deal, then working with the publisher’s editor…
Their eyes start to glaze over. I begin to think I’ve finally got through to them – this is a tough and gruelling business.  They open their gaping mouths and say “Well, I’m sure J K Rowling got rejected lots of times before she made it.”
Seriously, again with Rowling? Do they know any other authors?

I think people mention J K Rowling so much because she’s clearly made a lot of money from her writing. And sad as it is to admit it, people seem to see writing as that: a get rich quick scheme. Of course all us authors out there, starving in garrets, laugh in their faces, but they do really believe it. On the way back from said wedding, I popped into the W H Smith at the services. There was a guide on publishing your ebook which I decided to flick through. The contents made me recoil in horror.

It had, as I expected, many pages on formatting, the differences between Smashwords, Kindle etc etc. But it also had a chapter on writing your ebook. Choosing a subject. As if you’d decide you were going to do a book just for the hell of it without even knowing what it was going to be about. Nothing on editing, nothing on proofreading. It was coming up with a money spinning idea.

Now let’s do a reality check here. If  I was going to publish my own work in an ebook I would do these things: hire a professional editor, hire a professional copy editor, hire a professional cover designer and hire a professional type setter.  I would consider this the bare minimum. All these extra people working on making my  project perfect would cost me upwards of £1,000. Let’s say £2,000. And, being an unknown author, the most I could sell the ebook for and get sales would probably be around £2.50.  My goal would be to break even. And since this would mean selling 800 copies without any kind of professional marketing, I would consider this a rather unrealistic goal. At what point is this going to make me a millionaire?

It may be hard to make people understand, but my writing goals are these:

  • Write the best story I can
  • Give someone a book to read that they can’t put down and feel glad to have read
  • Do justice to my characters
  • In some small way spread awareness of Georgian history and its forgotten women

It would be wonderful if could make enough money from this to mean I could write full-time and give up the day job. But that’s not my writing goal; that’s my writing dream.

So perhaps for the moment I shouldn’t tell people that I write. I should just give them the link to this blog post.

Have you had any funny or frustrating conversations with others about writing? I’d love to hear them!

George IV and Henry VIII – BFF?

I went to great pains in my previous post, Less Henry, More George, to convince you the Hanoverians were at least as interesting (if not more interesting!) than the Tudors. Yet the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to see similarities between my two favourite periods.

As you may have seen from my Tweets, I’m deep in research for my next book, “A Forbidden Crown”, which revolves around Maria Fitzherbert and Caroline of Brunswick. I’m currently pouring over accounts of Caroline’s famous trial for adultery. In their political excesses, George’s enemies compared his behaviour throughout the whole with that of  Henry VIII.  My first response was to laugh at their exaggeration. But then I thought long and hard about the lives of these two monarchs… They have more in common than  you might think!

Both started life as remarkably handsome young men. Just look at the pictures at the top of the post! Henry was renowned for his jousting ability, athletic good looks and success with the ladies. As for young George, he was dubbed “the first gentleman in Europe”. He had it all: wit, brains and wealth. Is it any wonder they both thought so highly of themselves?

Each, in their way, was a mother’s darling. Henry was perhaps spoilt more by his grandmother, but he retained a great fondness for his mum Elizabeth of York too throughout life. Historians argue about George’s relationship with his mother, Queen Charlotte. It was tempestuous at times, but all the evidence suggests that she doted on him. She might not have been brave enough to take his part with the King on all occasions, but she spoilt him when she could. And although George III and Queen Charlotte prescribed a “plain” upbringing for their children, it was only simple in comparison to previous monarchies. I’ve seen George IV’s baby clothes and toys and there’s nothing plain about them!

Considering this, it’s interesting to examine Henry and George’s first marriages.  Both favoured an older woman, an almost maternal figure.  They also chose brides who raised religious issues and were not approved of by their families. Catherine of Aragon was Henry’s widowed sister-in-law, so the marriage required a Papal dispensation. This match was looked on unfavourably by Henry’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort. George also married a widow, Maria Fitzherbert, who was a Catholic in a Protestant country. Needless to say, his parents failed to endorse the match.

Both these remarkable women, Catherine and Maria, had the knack of keeping their boisterous husbands in check. It was when the Kings strayed from their safe, mothering  first wives that life became rather more complicated for them…

We all know the story of how Henry fell head over heels for Anne Boleyn, tore the country apart for her, but ended up executing his once beloved wife. But few people realise the impact George’s marriage to Caroline, and his attempted divorce from her, had upon the country.

To marry Caroline, George had cast aside his first wife, Maria. But sources indicate the separation was mutual – or pushed more by Maria – so we must not see her as a Catherine of Aragon pining away. In fact, it was probably a lucky escape for Maria. If the marriage was proven, George could have been removed from the throne and Maria executed.

George’s choice of second bride had none of the romance of Henry and Anne – he had never met Caroline when he proposed to her. But all the same, he pursued the idea of marrying her with a frenzy that reminded me of the besotted Tudor. He redecorated apartments for her and imagined many perfections she did not have. He pushed for the marriage to happen sooner than it possibly could. And when he met her – well, the fallout was highly reminiscent of Henry with Anne of Cleves. George’s account of the wedding night echoes Henry’s criticisms of Anne – he points out her stench, her flabby body and suspects she is not a virgin.

Sadly, both Anne and Caroline were doomed to displease their husbands, and became loads that needed dumping.  It is when I read the accounts of George’s desperation to get rid of Caroline that I think most of Henry. He was frantic, he did not eat, he did not sleep. He was obsessed with clearing his wife right out of his life. He wanted, more than anything, to try her for High Treason – the penalty being death.

It is possible Caroline committed adultery many times, but fortunately for her, the only instance with anything like proof occurred on the Continent. This lessened her offence and she could not be sentenced to death. As matters stood, the matrimonial fracas threatened to rip the country apart, with Caroline being used as a figurehead for radicals and the disenfranchised, so it would have been extremely unwise to execute her even if the law allowed it. But the main point that stands out to me is this: George would have executed a wife if he could. With less restraints on his power, could he have been another Henry?

The role of the monarchy had altered by the time George came to the throne – he couldn’t reek bloody revenge on the people who protested against him.  He was thwarted by parliaments in both his public and private life. His temper tantrums were less terrifying than Henry’s because he had less power. Admittedly, George frequently burst into tears instead of bellowing, but this needs to be seen in the context of the era. It was fashionable for men to cry – it showed a superior sensibility. I always considered Henry a popular monarch and George an unpopular one, but I’m not sure this is fair. After all, there were the northern uprisings and the Pilgrimage of Grace. If the Tudor people had the same freedom of speech and press as the Georgians, would they have hissed at their King and gathered round his wronged Queens, like with Caroline? We will never know.

From love of women, we move onto love of food. These guys were big eaters. It’s common knowledge Henry was immensely fat in his old age, but did you know George was actually heavier than the Tudor monarch when he died? Both turned to food for comfort and refuge from their shattered love lives and ailing bodies. It makes me sad to see them, aged, as in the caricatures at the bottom of this post. Actually, the picture of George is not from old age – he took care that all the portraits of him, even in advanced years, were flattering –  but it suggests what he would have looked like as an overweight dandy. It’s hard to believe, but even as old, fat men, both George and Henry were sexually incontinent. All their lives, they were vain men, believing themselves irresistible to the opposite sex. The truth was by old age, Henry had a rotting leg and George looked like a pantomime dame, but no one was going to tell them that. Certainly not their many mistresses.

As well as being connoisseurs of the palate, our Kings were great patrons of the arts. Henry was fond of music (possibly composing some songs of his own), he designed palaces and patronised Holbein. As for George – I literally cannot list his collections. No monarch has done more, in my opinion, for the royal collection or the national treasures. Sadly, it was all at the expense of the tax payer…

Of course there are great differences between Henry and George, in their characters as well as the tone of their reigns.  All the same, I hope you have found it interesting and thought provking to see  what their lives look like side by side. I like to think they would have been buddies. At least until Henry tried to have George beheaded for eating the last pie and he burst into tears 😉

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