Sunday, March 26, 2017

Editor's Weekly Round-Up, March 26, 2017

by the EHFA Editors

Enjoy this week's round-up of historical articles.

by Annie Whitehead

by Wendy J. Dunn
(Editors's Choice from the archives)

by Maria Grace

And a timely post from the archives...

by Katherine Pym

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Teething: A leading cause of infant mortality?

by Maria Grace

Anyone who has dealt with young children knows the misery teething can bring, not just to the baby, but the entire household. Modern parents expect teething to begin at about five months, ushering in fussiness, sleep disruption and drooling, but nothing more difficult or dangerous than that.

Twenty four hundred years ago, though, Hippocrates warned parents of the fever, diarrhea and convulsions teething could produce. 18th century Scottish physician John Arbuthnot estimated one tenth of children died while teething. (Mims, 2005) Others estimated up to one third of infant mortality was due to teething. (Day, 2013)

Dreaded Dentition

18th century French physician Jean Baumes (1783) wrote “All experience teaches that dentition is to be dreaded.”

Why the dread? In layman’s terms, the irritation of the gums and possibility that teeth might fail to break through could upset a child’s fragile nervous system. Obviously, right? Such disruption could lead to convulsions or even death. Buchan (1838) suggested “These symptoms are in a great measure owing to the great delicacy and exquisite sensibility of the nervous system at this time of life, which is too often increased by an effeminate education. Hence it comes to pass, that children who are delicately brought up, always suffer most in teething, and often fall by convulsive disorders.”

In other words, it was probably mom’s fault. Of course.

Still some children cut teeth without significant issues. This Baumes attributed to healthy parents and good quality care of the child. A woman who “restrained her passions during pregnancy” and “retained a tranquil mind” helped insure her child would have successful teething. But errors of diet and “abuses of regimen” could lead to feebleness of constitution, an imbalance of fluids, and “organic disorders of bodily systems.”

According to period physicians, dentition contributed to two major groups of illnesses: digestive and nervous. Digestive ills included diarrhea (which killed many infants no matter what caused it) constipation, vomiting (also potentially deadly), cough, colic and hiccoughs. Even more dreaded were the nervous complications: restlessness and fitful sleep which could lead to exhaustion, derangement and convulsions. Cases of “dental paralysis”, especially upon the eruption of the canine teeth, were even reported. All of these could lead to death.

A Charm Against Teething Evils

Regency medicine was more medieval than modern, so superstition and ancient beliefs still held powerful influence over treatments. Medicinal amulets to ward off evil were every bit as reliable and quite possibly as effective as the doctors of the era. (And probably a good deal less dangerous … just saying.) Many relied upon the protective power of coral.

Belief in coral was steeped in centuries old traditions. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed coral would ward off a variety of infantile illnesses. Plato wrote of the value of wearing coral amulets and hanging them in cradles and nurseries. Ancient Egyptians believed coral would ease teething pain. By the 16th century, coral beads became a common christening gift among the wealthy classes.

(Total aside here, it is interesting to note that coral beads were a very fashionable accessory for young ladies of the Regency era. It does make one wonder about them as possibly infantilizing young women as well… but back to teething now…)

Coral teething sticks became popular as well. And then as now, whatever is popular tends to become fashion statements and, well just plain overdone.

Artisans designed elaborate teething rattles for their wealthiest of patrons. Usually fashioned out of silver and gold (both considered to have supernatural powers of course) these odd looking accessories would have a whistle on one end and the coral sticks on the other. Bells, silver ones in particular, would be hung around the base of the whistle, their pure tones repulsing evil spirits and drawing in good ones—and distracting the baby as well. A ribbon allowed them to be suspended from the baby’s neck or tied at the waist. (Yet another great idea, right?)

Less ornate teething ‘corals’ were also available, but not nearly the status symbols the elaborate ones were. Still though, they provided the same benefits. Corals provided a tough, but safe substance for babies to bite down on and gave parents the peace of mind they were doing something to protect their baby through a difficult and dangerous time.

Teething Treatments

When teething corals did not provide sufficient relief, physicians and superstitions had numerous treatments to offer. (And if you ask me, I think, in this case I’d go with the superstitions…)

Since babies drool during teething, saliva was though to soften the gums. If it was insufficient to the task, a number of preparations were available to help nature along. Parents were told to rub chicken grease or fresh hog’s lard lightly and frequently over infant’s gums. A somewhat less palatable alternative was to use hare’s brains for the same purpose. Yum.

When a family could not afford coral, ivory, wolves teeth or bone might be given to a child to bite on. If those were not available, a child might be given a dry bread crust, a lump of sugar wrapped in cloth, licorice sticks dipped in honey, carrot sticks or wax candles.

I just heard my dentist friends gnashing their teeth.

Baumes (1783) discouraged the uses of gum rubs as vulgar. Furthermore, he thought giving children hard substances to bite as they would harden and callous the gums, making teething harder rather than easier. I see you rolling your eyes, but wait, it gets better.

Instead he recommended standard era treatments including enemas, purgatives, emetics, bleeding, blistering, plasters, cauterization and leeching. Buchan (1838) gives us a sound scientific explanation why: “Difficult teething requires nearly the same treatment as an inflammatory disease. If the body be bound, it must be opened either by emollient clysters or gentle purgatives; as manna, magnesia alba, rhubarb, senna, or the like. The food should be light, and in small quantity; the drink plentiful, but weak and diluting, as infusions of balm, or of the lime-tree flowers; to which about a third or fourth part of milk may be added. If the fever be high, bleeding will be necessary; but this in very young children ought always to be sparingly performed….Purging, vomiting, or sweating, agree much better with them, and are generally more beneficial.”

Of course, this makes perfect sense. But wait, there’s more.

Under the most severe of circumstances, era surgeons might go so far as lancing an infant’s gums. Baumes (1783) warned though that a simple incision was not always enough. The gums needed to be lanced down to the teeth and skin flaps excised to fully liberate the teeth. In the most extreme cases, the tooth socket might be broken or tooth extracted.

Would you believe that it was only at the turn of the 20th century that medical science disavowed the use of lancing to treat teething?

A few medicinal preparations were available to soothe babies’ pain and help them sleep. The most basic was to give them a cloth soaked in brandy to chew or suck on. (Then again, after all this stress and worry, mom might be the one more in need of that.)

On a more commercial level, a number of preparations became available, like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. Most of the concoctions were solutions of alcohol and morphine, possibly with various herbal components. A few boasted calomel, a mercury-based compound, as well.

So let’s review, leeches, bleeding, lancing, alcohol, opiates and mercury versus lard and hare’s brains. There’s a reason I suggested superstition was a safer alternative for teething babies.

No wonder teething was such a cause of infant mortality!


Baumes, Jean Baptiste Timothée. A treatise on first dentition and the frequently serious disorders which depend upon it. Translated by Thomas Emerson Bond. New York: Raetas & Kelley, 1841.
(French version written by Jean Baptiste Timothee Baumes published in 1783).

Buchan, William. 1838. Domestic Medicine: Or, A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines: with Observations on Sea-bathing, and the Use of the Mineral Waters. To which is Annexed, a Dispensatory for the Use of Private Practitioners. J & B Williams, London.

Day, Nicholas. "Your Baby’s Teething? Rub a Minnow on It." Slate Magazine. April 17, 2013. Accessed March 16, 2017.

Hunter, Sonja. "Rethinking "Teething" Deaths." Rethinking “Teething” Deaths. March 01, 2013. Accessed March 10, 2017.

Kane, Kathryn. "Corals: Protection for Teething Babies." The Regency Redingote. January 09, 2014. Accessed March 6, 2017.

Mims, Robert. "S.L. DOCTOR EXAMINES THE MYSTERY OF PIONEER INFANTS' `TEETHING' DEATHS." December 22, 1991. Accessed March 10, 2017.

Stempniak, Marty. "TBT: In the 1800s, One Opium-Laced Drug Helped Moms Soothe the Pains of Teething Children." H&HN. March 31, 2016. Accessed March 16, 2017.


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. 

After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

Click here to find her books on Amazon. For more on her writing and other Random Bits of Fascination, visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Torn Between Two Queens

by Wendy J. Dunn

There’s a chorus of an old song that I’m sure most people have heard at least once in their life:

Torn between two lovers,
feelin' like a fool,
Lovin' both of you
is breakin' all the rules.

I’m not torn between two lovers, but I have to admit to feeling torn between Tudor queens. Yes – I have my fair share of Anne Boleyn replica jewellery, an Anne Boleyn Iphone case, Anne Boleyn note paper and even devoted years of my life giving voice to Anne Boleyn in my fiction, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I feel just as devoted to Katherine of Aragon. I even have an unpublished manuscript to prove it – a novel that focused on her childhood in Castilla, which I had hoped to be the first work of a planned trilogy about her life.

Now that my young adult Tudor novel, The Light of the Labyrinth, has stepped out into the published world, I have been thinking about returning to this work. It is actually crying out to me to return to it. That’s not surprising; I spent three years of my life committed to putting Catalina’s story onto the page. Since putting the work aside over four years ago, I have had a lot of time to think about why it didn’t hit the bull’s eye, and what I should do to start again.

So many people think of Katherine of Aragon as a Spanish princess, but she wouldn’t have described herself in that way – not really. It was the marriage of her father and mother, King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabel of Castilla, two monarchs who ruled over different parts of what is now known as Spain, that resulted in the gradual union of their two countries that became one of the most powerful dominions in Christendom.

As a daughter of King Ferdinand, Katherine was a princess of Aragon. Her mother – the Queen of Castilla, a far more powerful country than Aragon – could have made it very difficult for her husband, but her great ability in diplomacy was apparent even on the home front. She chose to wield her power in such a way that always included her husband. Her immense gifts as a ruling monarch makes me wonder if this was the reason history renamed her Isabella – a name, it is believed, the English brought into being when they wanted to belittle the grandmother of Mary I, as well as in response to the Spanish Armada (Liss 2002).

Born on the sixteenth day of December in 1485, Katherine of Aragon, or Catalina as she was known at her mother’s court, was the fifth and last child of these two monarchs. At three, Katherine was betrothed to Prince Arthur, the first-born son of a new royal English dynasty: the Tudors.

Extremely intelligent, pious and educated by the best tutors her mother could find, Katherine was also trained – like her three older sisters – by her mother to be a devoted and obedient wife who was able to be a good helpmeet for their husband. Katherine was not only able to care well for her husband’s stomach, but also was an excellent embroiderer and maker of manly shirts. She would one day anger Anne Boleyn when she refused to stop making shirts for Henry VIII. As his wife, it was her duty to make them (Fraser 1998).


There are many stories from the pages of history about Katherine I can visualise as a fiction writer. One story I especially love - when Wolsey visited Katherine during the time of "The King's Great Matter". Busy sewing with her women, Katherine doesn’t invite him into her chamber, but speaks to him at the door, with skeins of threads over her shoulder and I suspect a needle in her hand. Like Anne, Katherine did not like Wolsey, especially in this time when she was being pressured to step aside as Henry’s Queen. Did she feel tempted to accidently brush against Wolsey and prick him with her needle? Make him bleed, because she saw him as one of the reasons her husband now rejected her, making her own heart bleed.

Katherine arrived in England just before her sixteenth birthday, after a long and perilous journey from her mother's kingdom of Castile. The sea journey was even more dangerous, with her ships being driven back once by terrible storms before venturing out to sea again. A chronicle of the period said:

It is reported that this lady Katherine thought and feared such an unhappy chance might come, (the death of her husband, Prince Arthur) for when she had embraced her father and taken leave of her noble and prudent mother, and sailed towards England, she was continually so tossed and tumbled hither and thither with boisterous winds that what with the raging of the water and the contrary winds her ship was prevented many times from approaching the shore and landing (2014 Primary Sources, online).

Katherine met her future husband and his father at the Bishop’s palace at Dangerfield in Hampshire. At this palace – against all Castilian custom, a custom historically influenced by the Moors – Henry VII insisted on lifting the veil of his son’s bride. He saw a pretty girl with grey eyes. Her skin colour appeared to be what is still described of as the English rose, which she inherited from her English ancestors. Katherine’s grandmother was Catherine of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt (Fraser 1998). Katherine’s greatest beauty was her thick red/gold hair, hair that cascaded past her waist. When she first met Henry VII and Prince Arthur, her hair would have flowed free – as a symbol of her virginity. Sigh. I always feel somewhat cross when I see Katherine of Aragon recreated in movies or television shows as a woman with black-hair. She wasn’t. Thomas More said of her: ‘There is nothing wanting in her that the most beautiful girl should have’ (2014 Historic Royal Palaces, Online source).

Arthur Prince of Wales
The King and Prince Arthur expressed themselves fully pleased with Katherine. Arthur wrote later about his joy at first seeing ‘the sweet face of his bride’ (Fraser 1998, p. 24). But Arthur’s happiness was short-lived. Within only a few months of marriage, the fifteen-year-old prince was dead and Katherine fighting for her own life. They had both been stricken with one of those sudden deadly illnesses of the period – probably the English sweat - that struck fast and hard.

Katherine was pious and honest. After Arthur’s death, Katherine said, over and over, that their marriage had never been consummated. Her father wrote, in 1503, ‘It is well known that the princess is still a virgin’. But he was also a wily politician. In arranging Katherine’s betrothal to Prince Henry, her husband’s younger brother, her father asked the Pope to write up the dispensation in a way that made the question of her virginity unimportant and would safeguard Katherine’s later marriage. Henry VII also protected his own child and son, not forgetting his political back – the marriage would only go forward when Henry the younger was old enough to agree to the match.

Katherine endured seven dreadful years after Arthur’s death. A political pawn – in the hand of a father-in-law who often acted towards her like an utter miser – she was kept short of funds, as well as powerful friends. I agree with Antonia Fraser that these years of deprivation shaped her in such a way that made it impossible for her to bend when Henry VIII later sought to take a new wife (Fraser 1998). In that future time, Katherine probably remembered her time of triumph after seven years of hell while a widow. It is possible that she thought that all she needed to do was to keep faith and God would answer her prayers again.

I also find myself wondering if this time of deprivation impacted upon her health. Katherine spent many hours praying and days fasting during these bleak years. Perhaps this led to some kind of physical damage that caused complications during her pregnancies, making it difficult for her to bear living children. Alison Weir also suggests this in Henry VIII, King and Court, that Katherine’s deep piety and habit of fasting – behaviours reinforced during her widowhood – may have caused reproduction problems (Weir 2001).

Just before Henry VII died, a desperate Katherine contemplated taking the veil. She was saved from this destiny for another destiny when the King died in 1509 and she married – just weeks later – his son, Henry VIII.

During the early years of Katherine's marriage to the young Henry Tudor, the English court had a reputation for learning as well as piety. I have no doubt that Katherine influenced and encouraged her husband's better traits. Greatly respected for her intelligence, Katherine acted as her father’s ambassador during the early years of her marriage to Henry. Henry VIII also had no hesitation in entrusting his Kingdom to his wife whenever he decided to ride off to war with France, his country's traditional enemy.

Katherine did her very best to provide Henry with a royal heir. She believed she had done her duty by giving her husband their daughter, Mary, the only child of their union to survive infancy and live to adulthood. Perhaps if the fates had been kinder – if her husband hadn’t convinced himself that their marriage was accursed, and indeed was no marriage after his hopes for a son had been dashed time after time by the birth of yet another dead or soon to be dead baby – Mary could have been a valid answer to the English succession.

18 Year Old Henry in 1509
Katherine took her responsibilities as Queen very seriously. She gave money to the poor, was a patron of scholars and poets, and enriched religious orders not only with her presence, but also with her wealth. As the events of the Evil May Day, in 1517, proved when she begged for four hundred lives of those who had rioted in London, protesting against foreigners making their livelihoods in London, she was willing to stand up to her husband for those deprived of power. Her actions on during that terrible May were long remembered in a ballad:

What if (she said) by Spanish blood,
have London's stately streets being wet,
Yet will I seek this country’s good
And pardons for their children get;
Or else, the world will speak to me,
And say, “Queen Catherine was unkind,”
And judge me still the cause to be,
These young men did misfortune find.
And so disrobed of rich attire,
With hair unbound she sadly hies,
And of her gracious lord required,
A boon, which hardly he denies…

For which, kind Queen, with joyful heart,
She heard their mothers’ thanks and praise;
And so from them did gently part,
And lived beloved all her days…
(Luke 1971, p.195).

Henry VIII may have rejected her as his wife, but England never rejected her as one of their most beloved Queens. To this day, also like Anne Boleyn, flowers are placed on her tomb.

Sometimes, I find myself imagining Katherine and Anne, alone together, in a heavenly, Tudor garden. The sun shines brightly as they sit close together, heads bent, their hands busy at completing exquisite embroideries. They murmur and laugh together, and I hear the often-repeated name of Henry: a man they both loved until their last living breath. I think, in Heaven, free of life’s sorrows and the battles to live and to love, Anne and Katherine would at last discover their common ground and find an eternal friendship.


Fraser, A, 1998, The six wives of Henry VIII, Arrow Books, London
Weir, A, 2001, Henry VIII, King and court, Ballantine Books, New York
Luke, M. L 1971, Catherine, the Queen, Paperback Library, New York

Liss, P. K 2002, “Isabel, Myth and History”, in Isabel la Católica, Queen of Castile: Critical Essays, David A. Boruchoff (Editor), 2002, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

2014. Primary Sources: The death of Prince Arthur Tudor, 1502. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 September 2014].

2014 Historic Royal Palaces: Hampton Palace, viewed 17 September 2014,

[this is an Editors' Choice post, first published on 19/09/2014]


Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel.

While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter—named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne.

Wendy tutors at Swinburne University in their Master of Arts (Writing) program. She also works at a primary school as a literature support teacher.
For more information about Wendy J. Dunn, visit her website at 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

An Overview of Laud and Strafford – Charles I’s ‘Evil Councillors’

by Annie Whitehead

William Laud and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford: these men are perhaps less well-known than some other characters during the time of political upheaval which ultimately led to the first of the English Civil Wars, and the intention of this article is to give, in the constraints of a blog post, only an overview of their careers.

Both Laud and Strafford did much good for England, but their attitudes and characters contributed greatly to their unpopularity and ultimately towards their downfall. Their careers invite comparison.

William Laud (7 October 1573 – 10 January 1645) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633, until his execution in 1645. His career began in the reign of James I, but progressed slowly. James said of him that "He hath a restless spirit, and cannot see when matters are well, but loves to toss and change, and to bring things to a pitch of reformation floating in his own brain." It has been said of Laud that he did more than any other single man to provoke the Civil War. Charles I shared many of his 'qualities', and once Charles acceded, Laud's rise was rapid. In 1626 he became Bishop of Bath and Wells, in 1628 Bishop of London and Chancellor of Oxford University in 1630.

Along with Strafford, Laud dominated Charles' government during the eleven years' personal rule, and his chief aim was to 'stop the rot' in the Church of England, suppressing all traces of Puritanism.

William Laud

Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford (13 April 1593– 12 May 1641) served in Parliament and from 1632–40, served as Lord Deputy of Ireland; he was condemned to death by parliament and executed in 1641. Early in his political career he was an opposition MP. He joined in the attacks on the king's favourite, Buckingham, and he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea 1627-8 as one of the 76 who refused to contribute to the forced loan for Buckingham's pro-Spanish policy. His career changed direction after the assassination of Buckingham, and when given the choice between increasing the power of the king or the people, he chose the king.

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
Archbishop Laud was an Arminian, and this religious attitude alone was enough to gain him unpopularity. He was feared by the parliamentarians, who believed that he intended to lead the king and the country back to Catholicism. Laud brought about further conflict when he declared that bishops should have more political power, and that they should become involved in local government as Justices of the Peace.

Laud was not a popular man with parliament, and he went on to upset the bishops when he decided to reform the Church. He declared that the Church was dishonouring God, and he wanted the Church to work towards uniformity and conformity. Laud was determined to stamp out Church abuses such as: Simony (the buying of offices), Nepotism (obtaining positions for relatives) and Pluralism (holding more than one office, which led to non-residence). He made himself unpopular with the bishops who were opposed to his reforms. They would not earn as much, and they could no longer put people who would support them in influential positions. Some of Laud's ideas were less contentious; he ordered closer examination of candidates for the priesthood and encouraged more honest and dedicated clergymen.

Unfortunately for Laud, his religion made him unpopular, and his reforms of the Church led people to fear him. Laud was stubborn and would take advice from nobody, and parliamentarians felt justified in believing him evil. It was reported that he was unable to keep a check on his temper during meetings.

Strafford had very similar problems to those of Laud’s. He upset parliament when in 1628 he changed sides, because he was not fully committed to the radical ideas of parliament, who were at the time totally opposed to the monarchy. He was never trusted by the parliamentarians or the king and, like Laud, his character made him enemies. He was arrogant, stubborn, and ruthless. He was an efficient administrator, and Charles moved him from London, appointing him President as the Council of the North. He revived the decaying administration there and rooted out corruption. In 1632 Strafford went to Ireland as Lord Deputy, and there he removed corruption and set up a prerogative court. He encouraged industry and investigated land ownership.

Unfortunately, whatever the merits of their ideas for reform, Laud and Strafford  were not likeable as characters, and they were feared by parliament for the power they held. Their reforms, necessary or not, would never have been welcomed by parliament, the landowners, or the clergy.

The trial of Laud

Besides facing almost impossible tasks, Laud and Strafford were ruthless to the point of cruelty while they were carrying out their plans. They both pursued the Policy of Thorough, which consisted of a belief that a higher standard of efficiency and honesty was needed to put the country in order.

The trial of Strafford

In 1630, Leighton, a clergyman, published Sion’s Plea against Prelacy, an attack on the bishops. For this, he was punished by Laud; he was tried in Star Chamber, imprisoned, and he lost his ear. In 1637, William Prynne, John Bastwick, Henry Burton, and John Lilburne were involved in writing and publishing an attack against the bishops. Laud had Lilburne flogged through the streets of London, while the other three men lost their ears and were sent to the Tower.

John Lilburne

Strafford was perhaps less cruel than Laud, but he was certainly determined to achieve his aims no matter what. While he was President of the Council of the north, he humbled the great northern families and ordered the Yorkshire weavers to work according to rule, which brought less money in for the workers. In Ireland, Strafford forced the convocation [of bishops] to accept the 39 Articles* of the English, although the Irish Church had remained predominantly Catholic.

Laud and Strafford were not likeable characters. Their ideas were bound to have been met with resentment. No Englishman would welcome efficient administration and tax collection, and many influential men would resent the reform of the Church and the government of the North and Ireland.

Strafford on his way to execution, being blessed by Laud
Strafford was impeached by the Long Parliament, but despite numerous complaints against him, including from those with whom he'd had dealings in Ireland, there was no proof of treason. His enemies then issued a Bill of Attainder, and Strafford was executed on 12th May 1641.

Laud was accused of treason by the Long Parliament and was imprisoned in the tower. Prynne, with good reason, was a personal enemy, but others were inclined to let old age despatch the unpopular archbishop. Like Strafford before him, he faced a trial in which it proved impossible to prove any specific act of treason, but Laud was executed on Tower Hill on 10th January, 1645.

*Read about the 39 Articles Here

and for further detail about the careers of these two men:

Archbishop Laud - Hugh Trevor-Roper
Archbishop Laud - Arthur Stuart Duncan-Jones
Strafford - C.V. Wedgwood
Strafford in Ireland 1633-1641: A Study in Absolutism - Hugh F. Kearney
The King's War, 1641-47 - C.V. Wedgwood

[all above illustrations are in the public domain, and sourced from Wiki Commons]


Annie Whitehead is an historian and novelist who writes about the Anglo-Saxon era, although she has a keen interest in the seventeenth-century. The author of two award-winning novels set in Anglo-Saxon Mercia, she was also a contributor to 1066 Turned Upside Down, a re-imagining of the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings. She is a member of the Royal Historical Society and an editor of the EHFA blog. Currently she is working on a contribution to a non-fiction book to be published by Pen & Sword Books in the summer of 2017.

Editors Weekly Round-Up, March 19, 2017

by the EHFA Editors

Enjoy this week's roundup of articles.

by Mary F. Burns
(Editor's choice from the archives)

by Deborah Swift

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Rose - Emblem of England

By Deborah Swift
The rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meaning that by now it hardly has any meaning left: Dante's mystic rose, and 'go lovely rose', the Wars of the Roses, rose thou art sick, too many rings around Rosie, a rose by any other name, a rose is a rose is a rose...'
Umberto Eco : Reflections on The Name of the Rose.1983 

The Symbolism of the Rose

For centuries, flowers appeared in Western Art primarily for their symbolism. In the case of roses, these usually revolved around ideas of heavenly and earthly love. Early roses had only five petals, and legend says the original colour was always white. The ancient Greeks believed that roses only turned red after Venus chased after her lover, Adonis, and pricked her finger on a thorny rose bush in her lust to catch him.

Another Christian legend is, that the blood of the crucified Christ spilled down onto a white rose bush which grew at the foot of the cross, and since then, the roses there grew red instead of white. Red and white roses were also symbols of the Virgin Mary, representing sacrifice and purity, and rosary beads (a rosary is a rose garden) are still associated with Mary. Rosary beads refer back to the 11th century, when, the story goes, Godgifu ( Lady Godiva) gave a set of beads as an offering to the Virgin Mary at St Mary’s Abbey, Coventry (later Coventry cathedral). 

This portrait shows the 26-year-old Elizabeth I dressed in coronation robes upon which the rose emblem is fiercely evident. This particular image was used as the basis for coins and seals, hence the reason she is shown full face. The portrait is based on a now lost original which dated from 1559. Elizabeth's long flowing hair was traditional for a coronation. and her elaborate gown is made from woven gold and silk thread and was also used by Mary I, five years earlier. The decoration of Tudor roses and fleurs-de-lis refers obliquely to the English sovereignty and the English claim on French land.

What is the Tudor Rose?
The Tudor rose, one of the most distinctive and unmistakable flowers in England, has been in use as the country’s emblem since the Tudor Era. It is a representation of the merging of two warring houses, and the end of years of conflict.

This illustration in the painting at the top of this post is by Albert Payne from 1910, and depicts The Plucking of the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens - an event that supposedly happened in the mid-fifteenth century but was probably a fiction - invented by Tudor propagandists and popularised by Shakespeare. Do Read the scene here - it's wonderful and very dramatic! The scene in the painting represents both the dynastic struggle for the throne, and the bringing about of unity with the rise of the Tudors.

The years of armed conflict, sometimes known as the Cousins’ War (both Richard, Duke of York, and Henry Tudor were directly descended from Edward III and therefore cousins), are most commonly known as the Wars of the Roses which came to an end with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. King Richard III was defeated by the Lancastrian claimant, Henry Tudor, who ascended the throne as Henry VII.

Their marriage united the two warring houses, and so Henry VII introduced the Tudor Rose, which combined the red rose of Lancaster with the white rose of York. The Tudor Rose was adopted as the national emblem of England, and became a symbol of peace and unity in the period after the long civil war.

The Tudor Rose is a common sight in England even today. It can be seen as a symbol on a number of old buildings, most notably Hampton Court Palace, which was built during the reign of Henry VIII. The badge is found on the uniforms of the Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London, on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, and also on the back of our 20p coins. It is a common emblem in stained glass in public houses and palaces all over England.

The Popularity of Roses in Tudor Gardens
Because of this, cultivated roses in the Tudor garden were very popular. Roses were used in cookery, for making rosehip wine and also for perfumes, cut flower arrangements and pot pourri mixtures to keep rooms smelling sweet. In a London where people lived very closely together without any proper sanitation or drainage, the smell in summer could be unbearable, and roses, with their strong scent, were used to allay the stench. Levinus Lemnius, a Dutchman visiting England in 1560, was impressed by the English use of herbs in the home; 
their Chambers and parlours strawed over with sweet herbes, refreshed mee, their nosegayes finely entermingled with sondry sortes of fragrant floures in their bed chambers and privie roomes, with comfortable smell cheered me up, and entirelye delighted all my sences.
Because of the new interest in rose varieties, in gardens as a status symbol, and added to this the fact that new roses were also arriving from abroad, a great deal of 'rose lore' was published in the Tudor era. Some of this lore was useful; some of it deluded by our standards today. 

Harking back to the York/Lancaster division, Thomas Hill's book ‘The Gardener’s Labyrinth’ of 1577 suggests that you can turn white roses red by placing the white flowers in the mouth of a pot filled with the best redde wine, close to, but not actually touching the wine. Then, by keeping the pot tightly-stoppered all day the roses will have become red by the evening!

He also suggests you can turn red flowers white by holding them over
‘the smoke of brimstone beaten into a fine powder and burnt on a new tile stone'
Another of his ideas, of how to have fresh roses at all times of the year was equally suspect, involving gathering half-open rosebuds at sunset, 
'touche them not with a hande in gathering, with a sharpe knife properly gather them'
 After that you had to put them in a jar stoppered with horse dung, and bury the pot underground.

A bestseller in the field or herbal advice was Hugh Platt's The Jewell House of Art and Nature which contains a whole section devoted to the art of distillation of flowers. He advises his ladies to collect rose petals, spread them out on on clean linen to dry them, or to put half-opened roses in shallow boxes of washed and dried sand, to sprinkle them with another fine layer of sand and to build up four or five layers of drying roses and leave them in the sun.  
'and so you may have rose leaves and other flowers to lay about your basons, windowes and court cupboards, all the winter long.'

Echoes of the past
There is something quintessentially English about roses. Partly it is because of our gardens, lavishly furnished with traditional rose-beds, partly it is because of fairy tales we remember like Snow White and Rose Red and The Sleeping Beauty. Much of it is also because of the way our royal family has adopted the Tudor Rose to convey the absence of division, something as a nation we should all aspire to. In the early part of  the 20th century, and still surviving in rural England to this day, (picture above from the Edwardian era) the ceremony of the 'Rose Queen' was very popular. In early summer, processions were led by a young woman, who had been crowned the "Rose Queen" for the year. In some communities, the Rose Queen and May Queen have become indistinguishable, but in some villages they are still distinctly different ideas. The Rose Queen may be particular to a church, but can also represent the whole village or community. Her duties are often as an ambassador at local fetes or charities, where her presence acts as a kind of blessing. The rose and royalty, and the link to sovereignty and the land are still strong in our customs and folklore.

Pictures from wikipedia, unless linked.
The Rose - Jennifer Potter
Culpeper's Herbal
Elizabethan England - Dodd
The Tudors - Terry Breverton
Deborah Swift  worked as a set and costume designer for film and TV before publishing her first novel. She also developed a degree course in Theatre Arts at the Arden School of Theatre, where she taught scenography and the history of design. In 2007 she took an MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, and since then has juggled writing with teaching. Her first novel, The Lady's Slipper, about the wild flower of that name, is available for free download here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Prehistoric Orkney: The People of the Lochs

By Mark Patton.

In my previous blog-posts, I looked the the earliest human colonisation of the Orkney Islands, between 4000 and 3700 BC; and at the development of small farming communities on the islands, often with communal tombs, between 3700 and 3300 BC. In this, the final posting in this series, I will focus on one specific community that flourished between 3300 and 2200 BC, around a narrow peninsula of land that separates the saltwater Loch of Stenness from the freshwater Loch of Harray, on the largest island of the archipelago (Mainland).

The Brodgar Peninsula. Photo: Jim Richardson.
The Heart of Orkney World Heritage Site. Image: Islandhopper (licensed under GNU).

When I first visited the islands, as a Cambridge undergraduate, in the winter of 1983/4, I cycled back and forth across this peninsula many times: to the north was the great stone circle of the Ring of Brodgar; to the south, the Stones of Stenness, less well-preserved, but no less impressive; and the passage grave of Maes Howe, the largest of Orkney's megalithic monuments, which reminded me of similar sites that I had seen, for example at Gavrinis and Barnenez, in Brittany, and at La Hougue Bie in Jersey.

The Ring of Brodgar. Photo: Renata (image is in the Public Domain).
The Stones of Stenness. Photo: Stevekeiretsu (licensed under CCA).
The passage grave of Maes Howe - the passage is aligned towards the Winter Solstice sunset. Photo: Rob Burke (licensed under CCA).

The concentration of these particularly impressive monuments in such a small area suggested the emergence, in the late Fourth and early Third Millennia BC, of a community on an altogether larger scale than those represented by the earlier settlements of the Knap of Howar, or Barnhouse. One of my university tutors, Professor Lord (Colin) Renfrew, who had excavated several of the islands' prehistoric sites, interpreted this as evidence for the evolution of a powerful chiefdom, and I was already beginning to formulate a similar hypothesis to explain the development of megalithic monuments in the Channel Islands.

Not far to the north of the Brodgar Peninsula, where all of these large-scale monuments are located, is the most remarkable prehistoric settlement on the Orkney Islands, the coastal village of Skara Brae. There are few trees on the Orkney Islands, but the local sandstone splits into flat slabs deal for building, so that features such as hearths, beds, and even elaborate "dressers" are preserved.

The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae. Photo: Dg-505 (licensed under CCA).
Neolithic house at Skara Brae. Photo: John Allan (licensed under CCA).

The Australian archaeologist, Professor Gordon Childe, who had excavated Skara Brae, was a "diffusionist," who believed that most cultural change could be explained in terms of the movement of people and the spread of ideas: generally from the south and east, to the north and west. "The sole unifying theme of European prehistory," he argued, "is the irradiation of European barbarism by Oriental civilisation." Renfrew thought nothing of this theory, and neither did I, and we seemed to have the (relatively) new scientific evidence of radiocarbon dating on our side.

Professor Gordon Childe. Photo: National Library of Australia (image is in the Public Domain).

We were both unaware, however, as Childe had been before us, of what lay in the unexcavated ground beneath our feet. Over the past few years, archaeologists have been revealing the remains of an elaborate complex of stone buildings on the northern side of the Brodgar Peninsula, the site known as the Ness of Brodgar. Unlike Skara Brae, this does not seem to have been a settlement, but rather a temple complex, with many phases of construction, dismantling, and reconstruction. This seems to have come to an end in around 2200 BC, when the remaining buildings were systematically dismantled in an elaborate ceremonial, involving the slaughter of around 400 cattle.

Excavations at the Ness of Brodgar. Photo:

The people who built the Ring and Ness of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness, and Maes Howe, clearly had connections that extended well beyond their islands. Similar stone circles appeared across much of Britain in the later Neolithic period, and people as far apart as Orkney and Wiltshire were using the same type of pottery ("grooved ware"). Passage graves comparable to Maes Howe are found in Ireland, and on Anglesey, sometimes with the same astronomical alignments.

The Rollright stone circle, Oxfordshire. Photo: Ian Freeman (licensed under CCA).
Grooved ware pottery (image is in the Public Domain).

These connections led the makers of a recent BBC documentary, "Britain's Ancient Capital - Secrets of Orkney," to conclude that the culture that gave us Stonehenge might well have originated in Orkney, but this suggested reversal of Gordon Childe's diffusionism (from west and north to south and east, rather than vice versa) seems to me to be premature: archaeologists have yet to reach or date the earliest levels at the Ness of Brodgar, and the dating evidence from stone circles across the British Isles, is patchy, at best.

The excavations at the Ness of Brodgar are among the most exciting currently in progress anywhere in the world, and there can be little doubt that much remains to be discovered.


Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Abbot’s Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey

by Mary F. Burns

Nearly all the information is this post taken from a printed pamphlet displayed for public education in the Abbot’s Kitchen on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey, which I photographed while I was there on a research trip in September 2014. Although the kitchen doesn’t play a crucial role in my book, The Spoils of Avalon, just sitting inside it and learning about it helped me imagine how life went on there nearly 500 years ago. While there, I attended a workshop on Gregorian chant which was held in the Abbot’s Kitchen. Nearly 30 people from all around the Glastonbury and Somerset area gathered there all day to learn and sing the Office of St. Dunstan, one of the early abbots of the place. It was an unforgettable experience. Visiting Glastonbury was part of a three-week tour of the places in England in which I had set my novel, the first in a new mystery series, and which is structured to tell two stories: one that occurs in 1877 and a parallel story in 1539, at the very end of the time of Henry VIII’s destruction of the monasteries and abbeys. You can see more photos and information about my research tour at my mystery blog:

The Abbot’s Kitchen – One of the best preserved medieval kitchens in Europe.

“The kitchen for the abbot and guests should be separate, so that when guests arrive at unforeseeable times…they may not disturb the brethren.” (The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 53)

The Abbot’s kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey was built in the earlier 1300s to provide meals for the abbot and his guests. As head of the richest monastery in England after Westminster, the abbots lived and dined in great splendour. The kitchen was a statement of his and the abbey’s wealth and influence.

It was part of a wonderful suite of rooms, including the abbot’s house, a great hall, chapel and guest rooms. Other service buildings included a bakehouse, brewhouse and buttery.

This model of Glastonbury Abbey as it existed in 1539 shows the Abbot’s Kitchen, lower right, as it was placed next to the Abbot’s house (on its left) and the Great Hall, above and slightly to the left of the house. The monks’ dining hall (refectory) and dormitory is appended to the Great Church, surrounding a cloistered garden and walk, and looking out to one of many graveyards in the complex. In front of the Great Church is the Lady Chapel, and the blackish spot in the graveyard is the site of the grave of King Arthur and Queen Guenevere, discovered in 1191 by monks digging in the yard.

The monks had their own kitchen and dining room. Their diet was plain and the eating of meat was restricted, but the food served at the abbot’s table was far more elaborate.

Cooking in the Abbot’s Kitchen

“It is all built of stone, and hath not so much as a peg of wood about it, for its better security from fire.” (Thomas Hearne, 1722)

The kitchen is built entirely of local stone. The finer masonry was brought from the abbey’s quarries at Doulting. The four corner fireplaces create an 8-sided interior and the magnificent vaulting rises to a central lantern. The roof outside is stone tiled and each corner hearth would have had a tall chimney. [The remnant of stone walls in the foreground of the photograph is the only remaining corner of what was once the Abbot’s Great Hall.]

The lantern in the centre of the roof was designed to ventilate the kitchen by drawing in fresh air and expelling smoke through air vents. When the famous architect Augustus Pugin measured and drew the kitchen in 1833, he wrote: “The construction of this lantern is exceedingly ingenious, being well calculated for relieving the kitchen from excessive heat or smoke.”

Hospitality was a very important part of Benedictine life. Glastonbury abbots welcomed many high ranking visitors. When Edward III and Queen Philippa visited in 1331, the abbey spent £800 (about £350,000 today) on food, accommodation and ceremonies.

On feast days, special meals and delicacies were cooked for the abbot’s table. Accounts of 1538 record that on Lady Day (25th March), the cook provided six salted salmon with sugar, pepper and saffron, on Easter Sunday six lambs and Easter eggs and at Corpus Christi (a moveable feast in May or June) meat pasties, spices and malted barley.

The Kitchen’s design enabled catering on a grand scale.

Glastonbury Abbey owned huge estates in Somerset and beyond. The abbey’s farms, fishery, orchards, vineyards and deer parks supplied the monastery with all its basic food. Supplies to the cooks were managed by different monastic officers: the cellarer had overall responsibility for food and drink; the granger supplied cereals and beans; the gardener provided herbs, vegetables and fruit.
The abbey’s garden and orchard within the precinct supplied 3 tuns of cider, 4 barrels of wine and 2000 cloves of garlic to the abbot’s kitchen in 1333-34.

The kitchen was designed for mass catering and arranged according to different cooking methods. Each fireplace had a separate function:

• In one corner large cauldrons were hung over the fire to boil liquids. Several parts of a meal could be cooked in cloth bags in the same cauldron.

• Meat was roasted in another corner. Here servants turned the spits, while the fat was caught in pans below.
• In another corner pastries were baked. A long-handled ‘peel’ was used to slide the food in and out of the oven. Bread was baked in a separate bakehouse.
• In the last corner there is a large drain over which all the washing up was done.

The kitchen would have been extremely busy. Meat was carved, vegetables chopped and all kinds of food was prepared at large tables. Servants brought in firewood and carried water in wooden buckets. Lighting on dark days was provided by rushlights or “cressets” burning animal fat.

Conserving and Interpreting the Kitchen

“It is an extraordinary and curious building…a wonder work and has kept entire to this day.” (Sir Stephen Glynne, 1825)

The Abbot’s Kitchen is the only abbey building to survive intact. It escaped destruction when the abbey was dissolved in 1539. It was later used as a fuel store, cider house, animal shelter and for a short time in the 1670s-80s, it became a Quaker meeting house.

In 2013 a programme of archaeological recording was undertaken, before conservation of the building and installation of under-floor heating. Conservation involved the removal of damaging materials used in earlier repairs, re-pointing of masonry and the repair of damaged stonework.

Peter Brears, a specialist in traditional English cookery, visited the kitchen and suggested how it might be better interpreted. He suggested an arcaded gallery once stretched across the kitchen from the evidence of two stone piers in the north and south walls. Here the head cook may have surveyed the work below and shouted orders to his kitchen staff. The modern steel structure shows the position of the former gallery and enables lighting and heating in the kitchen, without damaging the fabric of the building.

Images by Mary F. Burns

This post is an Editor's Choice, and was originally published in January 2015.


First in a series of historical mysteries, The Spoils of Avalon introduces two unlikely detectives and life-long friends—beginning as young people on the verge of making their names famous for the next several decades throughout Europe and America: the brilliant and brittle Violet Paget, known as the writer Vernon Lee, and the talented, genial portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

Mary F. Burns is the author of Portraits of an Artist (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2013), a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. A novella-length book, Isaac and Ishmael, was also published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2014. Ms. Burns’ debut historical novel J-The Woman Who Wrote the Bible was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders). Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood.