Monday, May 21, 2012

To the Heirs of My Body...Introduction to the laws of succession

Is everyone sitting up straight, pen in hand, ready to take notes? This blog came about following some comments I received on a recent contest entry that led me to think that the English laws of succession may not be well understood. Only fair...most lawyers don’t understand them either.. However I am (or used to be) a member of the legal profession so hopefully I can provide some information in usable format that may prove helpful.

The English aristocracy depended for survival on the devolution of their estate from one generation to the next and by the mid thirteenth century the common law had set in place certain rules of inheritance which determined who could inherit based on a “parentelic” calculus (now there's a phrase that just rolls off the tongue!) ie who could trace their blood directly to the deceased. Rather than split the ever diminishing estate between your children (as is the case in many European countries), it was determined you should only have one heir. Bearing in mind that male descendents would always be preferred to female...the law decreed that your estate went first to children or grandchildren or in the absence of those then to brothers, cousins, nephews etc.  If the deceased died leaving daughters but no sons, then the parentelic calculus (I do like saying that) would allow the daughters to inherit over say a brother or a cousin. If there were multiple males in the line then the law of “primogeniture” it went to the first born. These basic rules of inheritance lasted into the twentieth century.

Spouses, younger siblings, illegitimate children and daughters could only be provided for during the life of the father. As nothing in the law prevented a newly inherited heir from selling off his land, to prevent a youthful heir from squandering his inheritance, family settlements, away from the will, became common. One way of disposing of property was to make a gift (generally on marriage) to the couple and their progeny eg “To H and W and the heirs of their bodies begotten”...or the “male heirs of their bodies begotten”. This gift could not then be disposed of until there were no heirs when the gift would revert to the donor. This was called the “fee tail”...or to use the word more common in our writing “entailment”.   Entails in stories we are familiar with are Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice.  For the direct family line to maintain a hold in the land, it was desirable one of the girls marry the heir...always good fodder for a story viz Matthew/Mary and Mr. Collins/Lizzie.

I won’t go into the complications and machinations that lawyers devised to “bar the tail” ie remove the tail from estates to allow the land to pass freely according to the general laws of inheritance. Succession law kept lawyers and courts busy (and still does) for years and years. Didn't Dickens write a novel on the subject? (Choccie frog for the person who can tell me which novel and what the dispute was about).  It is probably surprising to note that the basic laws of inheritance and entailment did not change until the Property Law Act of 1925.

A quick word on dowers and jointures. For the reasons stated above, a wife was outside the laws of inheritance - your estate passed to your children or through the entail. Husband and wife were counted, at law, as one person so a husband could not make a gift to his wife during his lifetime with one notable exception. A gift from husband to wife on the day they married, at the church door could take effect on the husband’s death if he predeceased her. This was “dower” and was subject to the supervision of the church. The dower lands were nominated before the marriage service, and after the husband had given his wife the ring saying “With this ring I thee wed”, he gave her tokens symbolising dower with the words “With this dower I thee endow”. The effect of the dower was to give the wife an interest for her life in the nominated lands. This evolved into the common law so as to give to a widow one third of her husband’s estate, independent of any specific dower. However if the bulk of the estate passed outside the will through the entail, there may not have been much for the widow or other children.

There was also a practice of settling land on husband and wife jointly so as to entitle the wife to an estate called a “jointure” instead of a dower.  A wife could elect to take their common law dower or her jointure but not both.

What if a man married an heiress? If his wealthy wife predeceased him, the widower was allowed, by law to continue to enjoy her estate for his life, providing there was a child of the marriage capable of inheriting. So in effect the husband held the land on trust for his child. This was called “tenancy by curtesy”.

Still awake? Well done, you have reached the end of this short legal lecture - Laws of Succession 101. For the contest judge who couldn’t understand why, in my story,  Lord Somerton’s widow could not inherit his estate, hopefully this has helped explain the situation (and why Lady Somerton has a very nice dower house to move into).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Historical Hearts Good News

More great news for our Historical Hearts members.
This week we congratulate...

Alison Stuart
who has a fantastic new cover
for her September release with Lyrical Press
Gather the Bones
Alison also finaled in the
with her manuscript
Lord Somerton's Heir

And if Alison wasn't busy enough
she has also print published her
collection of short stories
Tower of Tales
through Lulu.
Congratulations Alison!

Anne Brear's novel
The House of Women
available from Knox Robinson Publishing
reached number 1 on the
Amazon free kindle historical romance bestseller list.
Congratulations Anne!

Erin Grace
has signed a 6 BOOK DEAL
More details of these fantastic stories to come.
Congratulations Erin!! Fantastic news!!

Tamara Gill
has sold her first single title manuscript
A Stolen Season
to Crimson Romance.

Tamara will also be celebrating the release of her
Regency romance novella
A Marriage Made in Mayfair
Available June 15
by holding a month long blog hop.
You can read more details of the hop at her blog here.

And last but certainly not least
Danielle Lisle
has two wonderful new covers to show off
for her manuscripts
The Rose's Bloom
The Virgin at Goodrich Hall
Available soon from Total E Bound

Congratulations Danielle! They're fantastic!

And that wraps up our good news this week.
Thanks for celebrating with us.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A snippet into Dutch History.

By Danielle Lisle

There are a number of things that pop into my mind when I think of the Netherlands or Dutch history. First of all - windmills, the slow and steady turn of the old sails as they grind the flour to make those delectable pastries, the flaky and sugary texture as it touches your lips sending one into a moaning mess of pleasure, ignoring the calories running to your hips as your tastebuds dance in rapture. Or perhaps the clank of the wooden clogs jumps to your mind as you see blonde, busty women in little maid outfits such as I now wear for Oktoberfest, and while not likely historically correct, it is still what first jumps to mind.

Second to that is Amsterdam, and all its red light fun! One of the (if not the only) places in the world where cannabis and prostitution are legal. The home of live sex shows and the ‘Red Light District’ a place where, if one is so inclined, can for 30 Euros, find pleasure in the arms of a willing woman before talking the walk of shame, the whistles and cat calls following you as you exit your lovers door and zip up your fly, all before the eager eyes of the tourists smoking and drinking in the cafes.

Yet like any place or moment in time, it was not always as you see it today.
There is a dark and somewhat chilling history surrounding a place that is now known to house such willing pleasure. A murky past during the Holocaust, Anne Frank’s diary is a chilling reminder of that, as well as the poverty that was faced by the lower and middle classes in the days gone by.

For some reason when I think of the struggles of poverty, I conger up images of Oliver Twist asking for more, his smudged cheeks and tattered clothes at the forefront of my mind. Was this always the case? I don’t know but I wanted too. It was then I found a fellow author, R. A. Padmos who actually writes Dutch historicals. She was kind enough to lend me some insight by allowing me to review her latest manuscript, UNSPOKEN. She was also nice enough to allow me to interview her, see below;

You’ve set your latest release UNSPOKEN in 1935, in a unnamed ‘Dutch city’. What motivated you to write about that time and place?

R: Simply told, it’s where I grew up as a child in the sixties, my own grandparents are roughly of the generation of the main characters. Though the characters, and their story, are of course as fictional as can be.  

What research did you undertake and did you try to focus on the history and accuracy of the time, or did you let your creative mind as an author rule the world you produced in UNSPOKEN?

R: I actually didn’t have to do much research for this story. As I child and teenager I heard countless stories of my grandparents about the Depression and the German occupation (they always called it “the war”) And what they most talked about, of course, were the details of daily life and how they managed with a growing family and my granddad out of work half the time.
As for the gay part: I always thought it’s important for any gay person to be aware of our history, so by the time I was ready to write this story, I had most knowledge I needed already in my head. It goes without saying that this is a work of fiction, not one of science, and I’ve taken some liberties for the sake of the story.

You main characters resolve around the Dutch working class, with your hero actually commenting on how close he and his family were to starvation, how his body looked malnourished. Why did you choose to focus on this class of people adverse to the commonly portrayed gentry, like so many other authors?

R: I come from a working class background. I studied social history. And as a gay woman I can’t help but notice that working class people seem to be underrepresented in (romantic) historical gay fiction, except as “rough trade” or as more “authentic”, but also somewhat primitive “real” men, observed and lusted after by the more refined, but also less manly middle and higher class men. Both, of course, tell only half of the truth.

As for the poverty: the Doffer family manages to keep themselves fed and clothed, thanks to Marije being a hell of a housewife and Stefan handing over every cent he brings home. But it’s on a level that’s always one or two steps away from real hunger. Things like paying the rent on time, making sure the family was properly dressed was a matter of pride. There didn’t seem to be much envy of what the middle class could afford, but to deteriorate to the level of the ones who had already given in to their poverty was a constant fear. You don’t want to know how often my grandmother corrected even the slightest improper or incorrect use of language of her children and grandchildren, and she had left school when she was 13.

 At first the German occupation didn’t seem so bad and even with a complex system of rations, there was enough food for everyone. But that changed after a while and became downright dramatic during the winter of 1944, when no food, fuel or medication was allowed into the western part of the country as retaliation against a big railway strike against the Germans. Later the canals and rivers were frozen and it was simply impossible for the inland ships to get food to the people, even when the Germans allowed it.  

The relationships in your story UNSPOKEN are so complex. You show us the struggle the hero found when he discovered desires towards another man. Did you find this aspect difficult to write, weighting the ‘expected’ behaviour for a man of the time in addition to the hero’s love and responsibilities towards his family and devoted wife?

R: You’re right, they are complex, because reality is complex. Homosexuality was for the most part invisible in those days. There was a strong idea that a homosexual man was essentially female in nature, so any man who didn’t recognise himself in that picture might well have thought he couldn’t be “that way”. Combine that with the tendency for working class men to marry young and it’s no surprise Stefan finds himself in a marriage without even having the slightest idea about his true sexuality until he actually meets a man he feels so attracted to. He learns there’s a huge difference between the amicable, but essentially passionless relationship with his wife, and what he feels for his male lover. He fights that knowledge, but in the end, there’s no denying the facts.

What have you found, as a published author, to be the hardest hurdles in writing an historical romance?

R: In this case, translating very specific Dutch situations and words into something outsiders hopefully can relate to. Not only the physical stuff, but also the way of thinking, the culture.

I wonder if we, with internet and TV making homosexuality so visible for so many people, can truly understand how deep and total the silence was for the majority of (working-class) gay men. For that reason, I can’t say in honesty that Stefan is bisexual or gay-for-that-one-man. Had he been of his grandchildren’s (my) generation, he would have known as a teenager, experimented a bit with a few boyfriends (perhaps even one time with a girl) to finally meet the love of his life. And I bet he and Marije would have been the very best of friends.

To experience more into Dutch History during the 1930’s, R. A. Padmos will be giving away a copy of her latest novel UNSPOKEN to a lucky commenter. Comment below for your chance to win! The winner will be announced Sunday 20th of May, Australian time here! Please leave your contact emial to go into the draw.

Danielle can be contacted on her Facebook and Twitter accounts or alternatively comment below.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

19th CENTURY ENGLISH FOOD by Maggi Andersen

Recipe for Pea Soup with Bacon and Herbs 1811
Serves 8-10
1 PT (2 ½ cups) old peas, shelled
4 PT (10 cups) stock
¼ LB piece bacon
1 LB sorrel, coarsely chopped
2 endives, sliced
1 ½ oz. (1/2 cup) spearmint, chopped
2 oz. (4 TBS) butter
4 TBS (1/2 cup) cream

Boil the peas in the stock with the bacon, sorrel, endives and spearmint. “When the peas are tender, remove the bacon and chop it into small dice. Put the soup through a food mill or coarse sieve and return it to the cleaned pan. Reheat, stir in the butter and cream, add a little pepper and then put back the chopped bacon. Pour into a tureen and serve.
The impressive machinery of the Victorian kitchen with the emphasis on utilitarian rather than decorative. 

The nineteenth century opened with the Napoleonic Wars and short harvests, and the peace of 1815 brought no relief.

In a working man’s cottage fresh meat was a luxury seen only on Sunday, and then only enough for a meat pudding or toad encased in suet crust and boiled. Butter was replaced by lard flavoured with rosemary.

In 1846, the Corn Laws were repealed, lowering the cost of bread and other staples. The huge industrial growth and the development of scientific farming outstripped the experimental methods of the previous century. Farmers could double their crops with chemical fertilizers and utilize new ways of feeding cattle during the winter months with cottonseed, linseed cakes and similar concentrates.

The demand for cheap food and the growth of free trade ended English agriculture based on wheat forever. Within fifty years, most of the English were eating food they had bought, rather than grown or reared themselves – the greater part of it imported. Spices came from India. Australian beef began to arrive, posing a few problems in the kitchen.  It was tougher than homegrown English cattle and not refrigerated until Scottish immigrant in Australia, James Harrison made a practical ice maker in 1880.  

Replacing the sailing ships by steam trawlers improved the fish supply. Salt and pickled herrings gave way to fresh fish as the railroads improved.

A method of preserving food in glass bottles by heat-processing was discovered by a Frenchman, Nicholas Appert. Bottled sauces became popular.

The love apple, or tomato first grown as decoration, arrived as a food from North Carolina. Vegetable marrows and pumpkins appeared.     

These and other changes changed the English diet dramatically.

While some old-fashioned people stuck to the eighteenth century breakfast of cold meat, cheese and beer; the majority of English adopted porridge, fish bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade that have appeared on English breakfast tables for a hundred years.

The old supper disappeared, to be replaced by luncheon in the middle of the day, which began as a glass of wine and a biscuit and developed into a full meal.
Dinner at seven underwent a change too. Since Medieval times the course of an English dinner had been spread out on the table, all the dishes of one course at the same time. Dishes, called removes, near the ends of the table could be replaced, but the others remained until the course ended.

The rich variety of foods hawked on the streets of London in the mid-19th century were: oranges, nuts, watercress, pickled whelks, oysters; hot eels, sheeps’ trotters, pea soup, fried fish, ham sandwiches, hot green peas, kidney puddings, boiled meat puddings, beef, mutton or kidney pies, baked potatoes, tarts or rhubarb, currants, gooseberries, cherries, apples, damsons, cranberries and mince pies, plum duff (dough) and plum cake, gingerbreads, Chelsea buns, muffins and crumpets, candy rocks, sticks, cough drops and ices and ice creams, tea coffee, coca, ginger beer, hot elder cordial or wine, lemonade, curds and whey, rice milk, and milk straight from the cow in the parks.  

The Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton, first serialized in the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine and published in book form in 1861, is possibly the most widely known of English cookery books. 

The resplendent formality of Mrs Beeton's supper table. From the 1895 edition.
Isabella Mary Mayson was the eldest of twenty-one children siblings and step-siblings. Her step-father, Henry Dorling, was the manager of the grandstand at Epsom in its heyday. The family actually lived in the grandstand. 

In 1855 Isabella married the publisher of Domestic Magazine.  Isabella worked as an editor. The Book of Household Management has proved a great source for social historians. Hers was the first cookery book to include colonial dishes – Indian and Australian – and it has seasonal menus with lists of dishes keyed to available produce.

Overwork and childbearing wore Mrs Beeton out; paying her husband’s debts and bearing her fourth child led to her death in 1865 at the age of twenty-nine. But her book, now over one hundred years old, with a facsimile published in 1968 sold in America as well as England, now carries on her good work.

Maggi Andersen

The Reluctant Marquess available on Amazon
Seven Centuries of English Cooking – A Collection of Recipes by Maxime de la Falaise Grove Press NY.
The Victorian Home, Jenni Calder, B T Batsford Ltd, London.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Georgian Chamber Horse

by Cheryl Leigh

For the Georgian gentleman, riding was a favorite activity to keep fit. But what if the weather turned inclement, as British weather was inclined to do? Those fortunate to own a chamber horse had the perfect solution for indoor exercise.

Chamber Horse 1790-1820 from the V&A

The chamber horse was probably the first prototype for today's home exercise machines. This device, which resembled a concertina, consisted of a raised leather seat that contained tiers of springs separated by boards. The user would sit on the chair, grip the arms and bounce up and down in simulation of horse riding.

George Cheyne (1671-1743), the pioneering Scottish physician, believed exercise helped cure various ailments. He recommended the machine to his patient, the writer Samuel Richardson, who suffered from 'spleen' (hypochondria), an eighteenth-century form of depression. Cheyne happily reported that Richardson could still read, direct servants or dictate letters while exercising on the chamber horse - much like many twenty-first century writers use treadmill desks.

George Cheyne 1671-1743

The first advertisement for a chamber horse appeared in the London Daily Post and General Advertiser in March 1739 with Henry Marsh of Clare Market claiming to be the inventor. The machines' popularity continued as shown by Thomas Sheraton's illustration in 1802 in his Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, and in the 1823 edition of the London Chair-maker's Book of Prices, which detailed how to make a chamber horse.

Most chamber horses were kept in bedrooms, but John Wesley liked to keep his in his dining room. Even Lady Denham, a character in Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon, mentions a chamber horse: "There is the sea, and the downs, and my milch asses: and I have told Mrs. Whitby that if anybody enquires for a chamber horse, they may be supplied at a fair rate (poor Mr. Hollis's chamber horse, as good as new); and what can people want more?" (Memoir of Jane Austen by James Edward Austen-Leigh, 1871.)

During the eighteenth century, exercise played an increasingly significant role in the maintenance of health. The chamber horse and rocking horse were designed for adults and children with this in mind. George Cheyne blamed the rich food and high life of many of his well-to-do patients as the cause of the "English Malady", a type of nervous disorder. Cheyne himself suffered depression due to his weight of 32 stone (203 kg). He went on a strict diet with the result he promoted physical activity and a vegetarian diet as a treatment for melancholy. He believed the body and spirit were linked and diet and exercise, such as using a chamber horse, was the best treatment for a range of illnesses.

This video from Edward and Eva Pinto's Bygone Collection, shows how to ride a chamber horse. The actual section starts at 01:16, but there are several fascinating items throughout the clip.

Gloag, John. A Short Dictionary of Furniture. London: George
Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1952

Edwards, Clive D. Eighteenth-Century Furniture. Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1996

BBC Radio 4. George Cheyne and His Work.