The Palazzo del Re – Home of the Stuarts in Exile

The Palazzo del Re – Home of the Stuarts in Exile

The Palazzo del Re was home to the exiled Jacobite court and the Stuarts in Rome. Owned by the Muti family, it was rented by the Papacy for the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart. Both James’s sons, Charles Edward (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) and Henry Benedict, were born in the palace. The event depicted here is a celebration organised in honour of Henry’s appointment as a cardinal deacon on 3 July 1747. James, wearing the blue sash of the Order of the Garter, is shown greeting his younger son, who is dressed in the black coat, scarlet stockings and shoes with red heels often worn by cardinals in the eighteenth century. The palace itself has been lavishly ‘dressed’ with temporary architectural decoration, somewhat like a theatre set.

During their long exile, the Stuart dynasty commissioned a steady stream of portraits and subject pictures as propaganda for the Jacobite cause. The Portrait Gallery has an extensive collection of images of the deposed King James VII and II and of his son Prince James and grandson Prince Charles Edward (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’), many of them of high quality by the leading artists of the day. This picture occupies a special place among this wealth of material. It is large, colourful and celebratory but the apparently joyful mood here belies some harsh political truths. In reality, the painting captures a moment when the Jacobite ambi­tion of re-establishing a Stuart monarchy in Great Britain was effectively at an end.

After their disastrous defeat at Culloden in 1746, the Stuarts were left politically isolated and vulnerable. In Rome, Prince James, the Old Pretender, finally acceded to the desire of his younger son Henry to become a Cardinal, immediately guaranteeing not just a degree of status but also much-needed financial security for the family. But for Henry’s older brother, Charles Edward, this pragmatic move was a catastrophe. By linking the Stuarts so closely to the papacy, it was clear that any hope of reviv­ing Jacobite sympathy back in Britain was now fatally undermined. Charles Edward refused to return to Rome and never saw his father again.

Our picture was commissioned to celebrate Henry’s appointment as Cardinal in 1747. In the foreground, James, wearing the bright blue Order of the Garter, stands with his court outside his residence, the Palazzo del Re, to greet his son, shown in a cardinal’s costume of black coat and scarlet stockings. A recent papal regulation required that new car­dinals should decorate their home with a false façade and provide a fete for the local populace. In the background, the palace is dressed with temporary architectural decoration to create an elaborate backdrop for the celebrations, with the arms of the English monarchy and the papacy promi­nently on display on top of the palace. The foreground is filled with incident to evoke a festive if somewhat unruly mood among the onlookers. Alongside the fashionable courtiers here are parading soldiers, beg­gars scrambling for coins and even some figures fighting. Elsewhere, musicians are preparing to play while food for a banquet is carried into the palace.

Until comparatively recently, the identity of the maker of this work was uncertain and it carried a traditional attribution to Giovanni Panini, the great Italian painter of topographical views. After it was acquired in 2001, an examination in the Gallery’s conservation studios indicated that more than one artist was involved in painting the figures as well as the background, and it now appears to be the work of three minor artists. It is nonetheless a fascinating document in which pomp and theatricality, colour and noise, mask the poignant significance of the event for a dynasty now destined to remain permanently in exile.

This text was originally published in 100 Masterpieces: National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2015.

How to Write a Good Love Letter

How to Write a Good Love Letter

How to Write a Good Love Letter

Benjamin Franklin wrote a good love letter. In 1779, Benjamin Franklin fell in love with Anne Catherine Helvétius, the widow of the Swiss-French philosopher, Claude-Adrien Helvétius. He was serving as the U.S. envoy to France at the time.

Nicknamed “Minette”, Anne maintained a renowned salon in Paris using her dead husband’s accumulated wealth. Among its habitués were France’s leading politicians, philosophers, writers, and artists.

Courting her attention, Franklin sent her many letters expressing his love, admiration, and passion. In one, he claimed that he had dreamed that their dead spouses had married in heaven and that they should avenge their union by doing the same on earth!

He wrote In another passionate plea: “If that Lady likes to pass her Days with him, he, in turn, would like to pass his Nights with her; and as he has already given her many of his days…she appears ungrateful never to have given him a single one of her nights.”

Boris Pasternak gives his character Dr. Zhivago so pretty racy lines in his letters to his lover Lara.

Don’t be upset. Don’t listen to me. I only meant that I am jealous of a dark, unconscious element, something irrational, unfathomable. I am jealous of your toilet articles, of the drops of sweat on your skin, of the germs in the air you breathe which could get into your blood and poison you. And I am jealous of Komarovsky, as if he were an infectious disease. Someday he will take you away, just as certainly as death will someday separate us. I know this must seem obscure and confused, but I can’t say it more clearly. I love you madly, irrationally, infinitely.

I think you’ll agree that’s powerful stuff but how would you feel if you got a letter like that? Would it please you or make you run a mile? I think I’d make a run for it. So what should you write to your love? Well if want to woo your love successfully science has some tips for you.

Yale psychologist Robert Sternberg’s theory of love, suggests that the ideal love letter should include the following components—intimacy, passion, and commitment. To test this hypothesis Donelson Forsyth and Kelli Taylor constructed a number of letters and asked people what they thought of them.

They discovered that, when it comes to love letters, commitment conquered all. The letter that proclaimed, “I know we will be happy together for the rest of our lives” and “I couldn’t imagine a world without you in it,” was rated much higher, in terms of expressing love, than one that made no mention of commitment.

Adding language that spoke of closeness and caring increased the letter’s good impression with readers, but it was a commitment that left readers feeling loved and in love.

As to expressing passion in a letter; frisky letters, which went on for too long about the sender’s sexual passions, were viewed generally negatively by both genders; perhaps because they were more about lust than love.

They also discovered that a message of commitment need not be delivered in a traditional love letter or a card; a simple email will do which is lucky as so many of us have lost the art of putting pen to paper. However, research shows that people think that letters are more trustworthy, and a handwritten letter shows effort and care too.

Therefore, if you want your love letter to get results you need to write it yourself, show your commitment to the relationship and put it in an envelope. Call me old-fashioned but a bunch of flowers wouldn’t go amiss either.

 

For more see:
The Science of Love Letters
Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

 

Bonnie Prince Charlie and Toad Escape Dressed as Women

Bonnie Prince Charlie and Toad Escape Dressed as Women

Bonnie Prince Charlie and Toad – What do they have in common?

It is a surprising thing to say but Bonnie Prince Charlie and Kenneth Graham’s character Toad, (Wind in the Willows, 1908) have much in common. Both were good-natured, kind-hearted and not without intelligence but they were also spoiled, reckless and obsessive. Although one is a character of fiction and the other of history and legend they both escaped the forces of law enforcement dressed as a woman –  a washerwoman in Toad’s case, and the Bonnie Prince as an Irish seamstress, Betty Burke. Both left a trail of destruction behind them but of course the Bonnie Prince’s was real.

Copy of the Declaration of Miss MacDonald, Apple Cross Bay, July 12th 1746

Miss Mc. Donald, Daughter in Law of Mc. Donald of Milton in Sky, [Skye] being, by General Campbell’s order, made Prisoner for assisting the eldest son [Bonnie Prince Charlie] of the Pretender in his escape from South Uist, & asked to declare the Circumstances thereof, says, That about six weeks ago, she left her Father in Law’s house at Armadach [Armadale] in Sky, & went South to see some friends.

Being asked, if she had any Invitation from those who persuaded her to do what she afterwards ingaged [engaged] in for the young Pretender or any Body else, before she left Sky; answered in the Negative, and says that at the time of her leaving Sky, she did know where the young Pretender was, but only heard He was Some where on the long Island: that she stay’d at (what they call) a Sheilling [small hut or cottage] of her brother’s, on the hills, near Ormaclait [Ormacleit] the house of Clan Ronald; and that, about the 21of June, O Neil, or as they call him Nelson, came to where she stay’d, & proposed to her, that as he heard she was going to Sky, that the young Pretender should go with her.

With her in Woman’s cloathes [clothes], as her servant which she agreed to. O Neil then went and fetched the young Pretender who was on the Hills not far off, when they settled the manner of their going.
Miss MacDonald says, that after this she went & stay’d with Lady Clan Ranold [Ronald], at her House, three days, communicated the scheme to her, & desired that she would furnish cloathes for the young Pretender, as her own would be too little. During Miss MacDonald’s stay at Ormaclait, O Neil came frequently from the young Pretender to Clan Ronald’s House to inform her where he was, what stepps had been taken for their voiage [voyage], and at the same time to hasten her to get her affairs in Readiness for going off.

Miss Mac Donald says, that the 27th past, she, Lady Clan Ronald, her eldest Daughter, & one John MacLean, who had by Lady Clan Ronald’s order, acted as Cook to the Pretender, during his stay on the Hills, went to a place called Whea where they expected to meet the young Pretender; but not finding him there, they went on to a Placed called Roychenish, where they found him, taking with them the women’s Apparel furnished by Lady Clan Ronald, he was dressed in. Here they heard of General Campbell’s being come to South Uist, & that Captain Fergussone was within a mile of them. When they got this Information, they were just going to Supper. But then went of very precipitately, & sat up all night at a Sheilling call’d Closchinisch.

Saturday, June 25th: the Cutter and Wherrier, which attended General Campbell having got from Bernera [Berneray], near the Harris, through the last side of the long island, & passing not far from them, put them again into great Fears, least anybody should land there. However, they continued there ’till about 9 at Night, when the Young Pretender, Miss Mac Donald, one MacAchran, with five men for the Boat’s crew, imbarked [embarked] & put to sea, Lady Clan Ronald having provided Provisions for the voyage.

The 29 about 11 in the Morning they got to Sky near Sir Alexander MacDonald’s House. Here Miss Mac Donald and Mac Achran landed, leaving the young Pretender in the Boat, they went to Sir Alexander Mac Donald’s House; and from thence Miss MacDonald sent for one Donald Mac Donald, who had been in the Rebellion, but had delivered up his arms some time ago. She imployed this Person to procure [get] a Boat to carry the young Pretender to Rasay, after acquainting him with their late voyage & where she had left the young Pretender . Miss Mac Donald stay’d & dined with Lady Margaret Mac Donald, but Mac Donald & Mac Achran returned to the Boat, to inform what was done.

Miss Mac Donald being asked why Rasay was pitched upon for the young Pretender to retreat to, she answered that it was in hopes of meeting Rasay himself, with whom he was to consult for his future security.

After dinner, Miss Mac Donald set out for Portree it being resolved that they should lodge there that Night; but on the Road overtook the young Pretender & Mac Anchran of Kingsbury. She told them she must call at Kingsbury’s House, & desired they would go there also. Here, Miss Mac Donald was taken sick, & therefore with the other two, was desired to stay all night, which they agreed to. She had a Room to herself; But the young Pretender & Mac Achran lay in the same Room. At this time he appeared in women’s Cloathes, his Face being partly concealed by a Hood or Cloak.

Being asked, if while they were at Kingsbury’s House, any of the Family inquired who the disguised Person was; answers, that they did not ask; but that she observed the People of the Family whispering as if they suspected him to be some Person that desired not to be known and from the Servants she found they suspected him to be Mac Leod of Bernera, who had been in Rebellion. But, being pressed to declare what she knew or believed of Kingsbury’s knowledge of his Guest, owns, that she believes, he must suspect it was the young Pretender.

The 30th of June, Miss Mac Donald set out on Horseback from Kingsbury’s House for Portree, having first desired the young Pretender might put on his own cloathes somewhere on the Road to Portree, as she had observed that the other dress rather made him more suspected. Miss got to Portree about 12: at night, where she found Donald Mac Donald, who had been sent before to procure a Boat then The young Pretender & Mac Ancran arrived about an Hour after. Here he took some Refreshment, changed a Guinea [twenty-one shillings], paid the Reckoning [bill], took his Leave of Miss Mac Donald & went out with Donald Mac Donald, but who, after seeing him to the Boat returned. She believes he went to Rasay [Raasay, an island between the Isle of Skye and the mainland of Scotland], but cannot tell what is become of him since.

Source: The National Archives

 

Six Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

Six Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

Six Rules for Writing Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Historical fiction is an umbrella term; though it is commonly used as a synonym for describing the historical novel. Historical fiction also occurs in other narrative formats – the performing and visual arts like theatre, opera, cinema, and television, as well as video games and graphic novels.

An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the period depicted. Historical fiction writers frequently choose to explore notable historical figures in these settings, allowing readers to better understand how these individuals might have responded to their environments. Some subgenres such as alternate history and historical fantasy insert speculative or ahistorical elements into a novel.

Works of historical fiction are sometimes criticized for lack of authenticity because of readerly or genre expectations for accurate period details. This tension between historical authenticity, or historicity, and fiction frequently becomes a point of comment for readers and popular critics, while scholarly criticism frequently goes beyond this commentary, investigating the genre for its other thematic and critical interests.

When Wolf Hall won the Booker prize some commentators suggested that the term “historical fiction” was itself becoming a thing of the past. So many novels these days are set prior to the author’s lifetime that to label a novel “historical” is almost as meaningless as to call it “literary”.

1. Small details matter more than large ones. 

The art of fiction is, in large part, the art of small-scale illusions. Focus on the things that set the period and the character – the snap of a fan, the recoil of a rifle, the sound of the hurdy-gurdy playing in the street. In this quote from The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Moss we are whisked immediately back to the 15th or 16th century with the mention of the lute, viol, and citole, the title of the story tells us it is set at Christmas and the drinking and goose fat glistening on merry faces lets us know everyone is feasting.

‘It is my wedding day. I should be happy, and I am.

I am happy, yet I confess I am anxious too. My father’s friends of wild. Their cups clashing against one another and goose fat glistening on their cheeks and their voices raised. There has been so much wine drunk they are no longer themselves. There is lawlessness in a glint of their eyes, but they are not so far gone us to forget their breeding and manners. Their good cheer echoes around the old oak hall, so loud I can no longer hear the lute or viol, or citole s set out for our entertainment.’

2. Period characters require more than period clothes. 

Similarly, just as the exterior world requires research to establish believable, small details, the interior world of a character requires research as well. Good historical stories promise to not only transport readers to a historical setting but to reveal the interior life (the mind, heart and aspirations) of a character. For me, some of the large questions here had to do with interior perceptions: You need to find out how people viewed love and romance in your chosen period. What do your characters expect or want from life.

3. Use common names, not technical ones. 

It’s all very well knowing the technical terms for the clothes and accoutrements of the past but if your reader is going to have to Google everything you mention it will spoil the story for them. Remember you’re writing a story to entertain not a history textbook.  Let your characters engage with both historical details and their place in society. Not only have them interact with the politics or religion of the day – but allow them full use of their senses to recreate their environment, the smells, sounds and feel of their surroundings is just as important as having them know who was King at that time.

4. Immerse yourself in the culture. 

To write historical fiction of any kind – short stories or not – you need to be able to close your eyes and have the past blaze up around you. Always remember research takes time. Research is an investment; you draw on it when you need to. Use it like capital and keep most of it in the bank. Historical accuracy is like quicksand. Stay too long in the same place and it will suck you down and there will be no movement, no dynamism to the story. Too much attention to factual detail is undoubtedly an impediment to literary art. Adam Foulds’s The Quickening Maze is described on the Booker prize website as “historically accurate but beautifully imagined”, as if “historically accurate” implied a literary problem. In some respects it does. Ask a historical author: how do you stop that facts getting in the way of the story? And the novelist, driven by his or her imagination, will offer a wealth of answers. The historian will assure you that the facts are the story.

5. Find experts.

Have fun with research, but do your homework. Use reference books, watch films, read novels of the period. Make sure you’re comfortable with all aspects of the time from politics to illnesses, from food to fashion, from local geography to language (even if you choose not to use it.) Hand in hand with double-checking comes evaluating your sources. If something seems a bit improbable or sketchy, it probably is. Look for another source to back it up. Use the internet wisely. We are so blessed nowadays with the amount of information at our fingertips, the access we have to old maps and stats is amazing. But ALWAYS triple check your facts, be aware of false information and never rely solely on Wikipedia! Use a good mix of primary and secondary sources for both perspective and immediacy and double-check everything. Bad mistakes will reflect on your work even if it is the fault of your source.

 6. Historical facts are not the storyline. 

Anyone who has tried to make a story out of historical narrative will know it’s impossible. History is the context out of which fiction grows. Fiction is the examination of the human heart as individual characters move through scenes that test – or perhaps change – their souls. History is just the backdrop. Of course, if you’re writing about a real historical person it is necessary to stick to the facts.

18th Century Smuggling Fact and Fiction

18th Century Smuggling Fact and Fiction

Pirates and Smuggling Fact and Fiction

In the 18th century, the British government collected a good deal of its income from customs duties – tax paid on the import of goods such as tea, cloth, wine, and spirits.

The tax on imported goods could be up to 30% so smuggled goods were a lot cheaper than those bought through official channels. Smugglers operated all around the coasts of Britain. They worked in aggressive, well-organised gangs along the south coast, only a night’s sail from France. The gangs were often too big for the Customs officials to deal with as with the death penalty was a certainty if they were caught so the smugglers were prepared to use violence.

Many ordinary people approved of smuggling or took part in it. Labourers could earn more in a night’s work carrying brandy barrels up from the beach than they could in a month’s hard work in the fields. Others left their barns or cellars unlocked and didn’t ask questions about what was put in there.

Quite respectable people were involved: sometimes for money, sometimes because they didn’t regard smuggling as a crime.

Britain’s most infamous smuggler

Born in 1778 Britain’s most famous smuggler was a man called Rattenbury. He started his life at sea as a fisherman but soon progressed to the more interesting and lucrative trade of defrauding the king.

When he was fifteen he was part of the crew of a privateer but was captured and was taken prisoner by the French, and thrown into gaol. Rattenbury escaped and got back to England.

Rattenbury’s journal recounts many adventures including one where he tricked his drunken French captures into believing they were heading back to France when all the time he was steering the ship to England. As they approached the coast he made his escape by diving into the sea and swimming into Swanage harbour. Once ashore, he raised the alarm and notified the customs authorities that there was a hostile French ship in the harbour!

When Prime Minister William Pitt lowered duties in the 1780s, smuggling became less profitable and gradually the trade began to fall away. Further removal of duties in the 19th century put an end to the kind of smuggling which went on so openly in the 18th century. It seems to be the case that smuggling is always with us. Whenever governments try to stop, or tax, the movement of goods people really want, smugglers will move in no matter how high the stakes.

Fictional Smugglers

Smuggling and smugglers have been a vast source of inspiration for fiction writers. Perhaps the most famous fictional smuggler being, The Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn by Russell Thorndike. The idea for the novel came from smuggling in the 18th century Romney Marsh, where brandy and tobacco were brought in at night by boat from France. Minor battles were fought between gangs of smugglers, such as the Hawkhurst Gang and the Revenue, supported by the army and local militias in South Kent and West Sussex.

The first book, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh was published in 1915.  Three film adaptations have been made of Dr. Syn’s exploits.Doctor Syn (1937) featured noted actor George Arliss. Captain Clegg (1962) known as Night Creatures in the U. S., was produced by Hammer Film Productions with actor Peter Cushing in the lead role; and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963) starring Patrick McGoohan in the title role.

Modern Smuggling

Smuggling today is probably just as risky as it was in the past, if not more so. Smugglers today use their bodies as a vehicle for drugs and put their own lives on the line in the same way as the smugglers of old.

The number of swallowed drug packages recovered by customs officers at Heathrow airport is usually between 80 and 150 a year. The drugs are wrapped in condoms, balloons or cling-film, forming neat packages about the size of a large grape, and swallowed with syrup to make them more palatable. Couriers take a constipating agent before they embark and tend not to eat during the flight.

In March 2015 the Daily Telegraph online reported on a strange case of modern smuggling. A man was caught trying to enter Spain through Madrid airport with a suspiciously large bulge between his legs in much the same vein as the fictional Derek Smalls played by Harry Shearer in the film Spinal Tap. In this case, the hidden appendage turned out to be half a kilo of cocaine whereas Smalls’ turned out to be cucumber if I remember it rightly.

 

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

Amazon New Zealand

Amazon South Africa

Amazon USA

Also on Smashwords

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Writing

5 Ways to Improve Your Writing

5 Ways to improve your writing

So you’re thinking about writing – for your blog, for your company, for industry publications, or maybe just for fun. Maybe you’ve never considered writing but you’re quickly realising you’re going to have to do it and do it well, for your career.

If you’ve not done much writing before you may think you’ve just got to wait for the muse to strike you like the poets of old, or you may think you have to be born with some special, innate talent. You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write well. Of course, some great writers wait for the muse and some may have innate talent but most of us have to get by working at it. Learning to write is like anything else in life it is a process of trial and error. Anyway you know what they say about genius – it’s 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. So, here are five tips that will help you develop your writing skills whatever or whoever you’re writing for.

1. Take advantage of the world around you, use it for inspiration—your walk to the subway, the stories in your Facebook newsfeed, your interaction with the cashier at Starbucks in the morning etc. As writer Henry Miller once said, “Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself.”

2. Take control of your own destiny. Know where you write best. For some people, it’s peace and quiet, while others need music or the chaotic hubbub of co-workers milling about. Different places suit different people and different types of writing. When you have to write for work, you may need to put in your headphones and listen to the crooning of Lana Del Rey, but when you’re blogging, you may prefer curling up on your couch with a glass of wine. Instead of trying to force yourself to write at a specific location, try out a variety of different spaces until you find what works for you. Then, recreate that cozy, creative environment every time you need to write.

3. Read it out loud. This tip is twofold. First, in most cases, you should write like you talk. Even if you, tend to use a casual tone, that’s OK—it will help you sound more realistic and understandable to your readers. Try recording yourself talking for two minutes then transcribing it. You can correct obvious mistakes later. Writing that reflects the way you speak often showcases the most authentic version of yourself. Secondly, once you’ve written something down, actually read it out loud. As silly as you may feel, it’s the best way to make sure what you’ve written makes sense. Anything that doesn’t flow is confusing, or is missing a word or two will quickly make itself apparent.

4. Take advantage of opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge. Most people baulk at the idea of standing in front of a room full of strangers and baring their soul to the world, but joining a writing workshop can be immensely beneficial – and a lot of fun. Meet up with a friend or colleague who wants to write and share your work. You don’t need to have an unfinished novel hidden away in your desk drawer to join a workshop. These days, content marketing meet-ups and professional development groups are popular. Join one of the many content marketing groups on LinkedIn to meet like-minded writers. Pick a topic, write something, listen to the feedback from the group, and then revise it.

5. Seek and respond to feedback from potential readers. Many times, you are your own worst critic. So, when you’re writing, it’s really important not to judge what you write, at least at first. Even experienced writers don’t often crank out a perfect first draft, so setting your expectations too high from the outset is unrealistic not to mention discouraging. A good exercise in nonjudgmental writing is to set a timer for 10 minutes and just write. Write down what you know, what you feel, or whatever’s on your mind. Don’t try to write too carefully or too intelligently or too accurately. Writing goes much better when you don’t work so hard at it or criticise your every word.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her debut novel is available on Amazon.