Sunday, 22 June 2014

Hoydens Round Up...

With three new members of the Hoydens and Firebrands team we thought it timely to do a little catch up on our recent releases and forthcoming news.

Starting with our newest members:


Nothing much to report on my books, except I'm formatting a Kindle version of my third book into a paperback version. It's my nonfiction book, The DYERS of London, Boston, & Newport.
Find out more about Christy at 

The Golden Shore, the final mss for my Herodias Long trilogy, is coming together nicely. It should be ready to publish next spring, if I don't let playing bass clarinet in several community bands distract me!
To read more about Jo Ann visit

My teen/adult novel 'Shadow on the Highway' - will be published by the UK's Endeavour Press. It is the first of a series of books based on the life of notorious Highwaywoman Lady Katherine Fanshawe, and is set at the end of the English Civil War. Great fun to write - you can read more about Lady Katherine here: 

'A Divided Inheritance' is now available as an audiobook and in large print. 
 Meanwhile, I am continuing work on my novel based around Pepys's Diary and on the sequel to 'Shadow on the Highway'.


My English Civil War, castle siege story, CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART came out in January to some lovely reviews. For more information and to read an excerpt visit my website:
In a change of pace (or period), my first foray into Regency, a regency romantic suspense, LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR was published with Escape Publishing (and imprint of Harlequin Australia) in May.
I may have some other, really exciting news but I can't say anything yet... curses!

ANITA DAVISON - Some really big news...

I have two novels being re-released with Books We Love under the titles, The Rebel's Daughter and The Goldsmith's Wife.

The Rebel's Daughter

Helena Woulfe, the daughter of a wealthy Exeter nobleman leads a privileged life. 
However, as King Charles II's reign comes to an end, so does her innocence.
Rebellion sweeps the West Country and when her family is caught in its grip, 
she finds herself on the road searching for her missing Rebel father and brother after the Duke of Monmouth’s bloody defeat in battle at Sedgemoor.
King James II wants revenge on those who opposed him and their lives are further torn apart when soldiers ransack her home. 
The family estate is confiscated by the crown and given to their bitterest enemy.
Feeling bereft and abandoned, they go to London. Helena hopes the city will overlook 
their past and she can make a new life for herself, and perhaps find love. 
Only, there are others lurking, willing to do harm to a traitor's daughter.
Before she can find happiness with Guy, the man who offers her the security and 
respectability she seeks, she learns her family’s allegiances can snatch away her 
safety at any time.

The Goldsmith's Wife

It is 1688 and in London, and Helena has what she always wanted, respectability and security, although her brothers remain a worry - Aaron schemes in Holland with the Prince of Orange to depose the reigning King James II, and Henry carries his own sorrow, pining for another man's wife.
Prince William arrives in England to re-establish the Anglican Church,and when anti-Papist riots break out in London, Helena is forced to flee from her home – again.
 While Helena strives to keep what she holds dear, can she and her brothers attain what they desire and above all, will they ever learn the fate of their missing Father, who disappeared after the Battle of Sedgemoor?


I had an excellent interview in The Atlantic for I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civi War.
And my second book in The Dreaming series Wind Talker will be released in the fall. Like Walks Through Mist, it will be a mix of the modern and 17th-century Virginia.

MARY SHARRATT reports she is between books at the moment and ANDREA ZUVICH is in the throes of moving house when all life stops... 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Saint George’s Charm Against the Night-mare

George is the patron saint of England and his feast day is still celebrated on April 23 with the displaying of the English flag, which bears George’s red cross.

In medieval tradition, Saint George was the Virgin Mary’s champion knight; England itself was regarded as the Virgin’s dowry.

Saint George’s cult had both elitist and earthy aspects. On the one hand, he was the saint of nobility and monarchs. To join the Guild of Saint George, one had to own a horse, which made it exclusive indeed, because in the medieval and Early Modern period, as now, horses were expensive and only the wealthy could afford them. Poorer folk relied on oxen to pull their carts and ploughs.

On the other hand, the name George means farmer. In his more populist aspect, George was the patron of horses and the low born people who looked after them for their wealthy masters.

The following is a late medieval charm against the night-mare, which was believed to be a hag that entered the stable by night in spirit form and rode the horses until they were exhausted. This superstition was very long lived. Margaret Pearson, arrested in the Pendle Witch Trial of 1612, was accused of bewitching to death a mare in the village of Padiham, Lancashire.

 "Bewitched Groom" by Hans Baldung Grien

A Charm Against the Night-mare

Saint Jorge, our Lady Knight,
He walked day, he walked night,
Till that he founde that foule wight; (foul spirit)
And when that he her founde,
He her bete (beat) and he her bounde,
Till trewly ther her trowth she plight (till she finally made her vow)
That she sholde not come by night
Within seven rod of lande space
Theras Saint Jeorge y-named was.
St. Jeorge, St. Jeorge, St. Jeorge.

This rhyme was written on a piece of paper or parchment, then tied into the horse’s mane. To ensure full power, an amulet or piece of flint with a natural hole was also hung over the stable door. Earliest reference to this charm dates back to 1425-50, but it appeared in a book on witchcraft as late as 1584.

From C. and K. Sisan (eds.), The Oxford Book of Medieval English Verse, Oxford, 1973.

What happened to Margaret Pearson after being convicted of bewitching a horse to death? Unlike the other Pendle Witches who were hanged at Lancaster, she was spared the noose since she had only supposedly killed a horse and not a human. Instead she was pilloried on four consecutive market days in Padiham, Whalley, Clitheroe, and Lancaster, and sentenced to a year in Lancaster prison.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Banqueting House Whitehall

I have to hold my hands up to the fact this blog isn’t mine – but made up of extracts from a series of blog posts of someone I always wished had been a closer friend, but who left us two years ago. I have not forgotten Caroline Riikonen, who wrote some lovely articles based on the historical houses she visited in and around London. Caro gave her friends pseudonyms which add to the character of her prose, and here she describes with her usual charm her visits to the Banqueting House in Whitehall.
Banqueting House Circa 1810
It has been several years since the Brimstone Butterfly has alighted at the Banqueting House, Whitehall. Recently I had another chance to see Inigo Jones' masterpiece. On my very first visit as a schoolgirl I witnessed with awe my friend Cristobel mount the English throne until I launched a coup d'état and told her to get off as I wanted a turn sitting on the red velvet chair beneath its canopy of state.

The original Palace of Whitehall dates back to the reign of Henry VIII. Cardinal Wolsey had built a sumptuous residence for himself near Westminster which he named York Place. This residence rivalled the palaces of the king himself for sheer opulence. Henry was quick to help himself to York Place just as he had to Hampton Court when Wolsey fell from royal favour. 

Henry renamed the palace Whitehall and set about enlarging the palace and pleasure grounds to include a cockpit, bowling green and tennis court. I was once fortunate enough to view an extant turret and walls of the double storey covered Tudor tennis court, complete with large leaded window, concealed within a modern office complex. That was when modern Whitehall regularly threw open its doors to the public as part of the London Open House weekend.

When Tudor monarchy entertained foreign ambassadors and put on a show, they had a temporary banqueting hall erected built of timber. Clearly they had not forgotten the fabulous temporary hall of timber and glass Henry VIII had built for the Field of Cloth of Gold, to get one over the King of France, who had to make do with a mere tent, albeit one fashioned from the finest materials and no doubt furnished with an equally splendid interior. After all, a king like Francois I, who kept Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" on display in his bathroom at Fontainebleau, was hardly likely to skimp on things affecting his own creature comforts.

When it came to holding grand receptions, the Stuart kings wanted to announce to the world at large the arrival of a new dynasty on the throne of England. The first structure King James I had built was destroyed in a fire so he commissioned his surveyor of works, Inigo Jones, to come up with a new design. The Queen’s House at Greenwich for James’ wife, Anne of Denmark was also inspired by Inigo Jones' visits to Italy and that great Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.

Jones’ double cube Banqueting House is two stories high, 110 feet in length and 55 feet wide. The pillars of the undercroft bear the weight of the Hall above which owes more to Ancient Rome and Greece than to the medieval Great Halls of England with their hammer beam roofs and gothic windows. The exterior was refaced with Portland stone in the 19th century but in keeping with Inigo Jones’ original design. Unfortunately this meant that the effect of three different hues of stone on the façade as planned by Inigo was lost forever.

The Banqueting House was completed by the end of March 1621, its undercroft the scene of raucous drinking parties between James and his male favourites and hangers-on. One pastime they would not have indulged in would have been cadging a smoke off one another. James was a virulent anti-smoker and even published a pamphlet lambasting the habit in 1604 called 
“A Counterblaste to Tobacco” in which he roundly condemned the weed as being:

James I
"A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse".
The upper hall, reached by a flight of elegant stairs, was the scene of more sedate pastimes such as grand receptions for foreign ambassadors and masques, the early mixture of opera, dance and theatrical spectacle so beloved by the Stuarts . It was also where hoi polloi got the chance from the upper gallery to gawp at the king dining in public. To ensure they stayed at more than arm’s length the gallery could only be accessed by separate external stairs. In more recent years an internal staircase was built to link the ground floor of the hall with the gallery but it was not open to the general public when I popped by.
Inigo Jones found himself roped in to produce stage designs for court masques in collaboration with the noted playwright Ben Jonson.  A recurring theme was the world plunged into chaos until the Stuart monarchs restored harmony and order to the world; a conceit which found expression in the ceiling panels. 
Charles I
King Charles I, son of James I, commissioned Rubens in 1635 to glorify his father and the House of Stuart in a sequence of 9 paintings which culminated in a central painting showing James ascending into Heaven. Other panels signified the union of Scotland and England with the accession of the Scottish Stuarts to the throne of England or else promoted, in allegorical form, the divine right of kings.

It can be no coincidence that Parliament chose to erect a scaffold outside the Banqueting House upon which to execute King Charles I on Tuesday 30th January 1649. The hapless monarch was forced to walk under the Rubens ceiling which exalted his own family and the divine rights of kings before stepping out of a window on the second story to face his own frail mortality on the block outside. With the execution of the sovereign and the earlier execution in 1645 of the king's own Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, Dr Juxon discreetly retired into private life. Following the Restoration he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by the late king's eldest son, Charles II. . 
Charles' I Execution 30th January 1649
With the return of King Charles II to the throne the Banqueting House was again used for royal receptions. John Evelyn described a less than happy visit to the Jacobean undercroft on 19th July, 1664 where he took park in a lottery with Charles II, his wife Catherine of Braganza and his father's widow, Henrietta-Maria:  
John Evelyn
"To London, to see the event of the lottery which his Majesty had permitted Sir Arthur Slingsby to set up for one day in the Banqueting House at Whitehall, I gaining only a trifle, as well as did the King, Queen-Consort, and Queen-Mother, for nearly thirty lots; which was thought to be contrived very unhandsomely by the master of it, who was, in truth, a mere shark." 

The Banqueting House stopped being used as a reception saloon and became instead the Chapel Royal after the rest of the palace of Whitehall burnt down in 1698. In the late 19th century it was in danger of being divided up. Fortunately it was spared such a fate and became a museum instead, which itself closed in the 1960s. Nowadays, like so many other historic buildings, the Banqueting House pays its way by serving as a stylish venue for concerts, conferences, weddings and receptions.

The Banqueting House, Whitehall is to be found opposite Horse Guards Parade, though it is probably best neither to attempt to sit on the throne nor smoke a pipe lest you attract your own counterblast from the staff on duty.

Caro’s Blog is still live and can be found here