Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

Turquerie was the fashion for all things Turkish. It started in the late sixteenth century and lasted well into the nineteenth. unconcerned with the realities of life in the east it was rather a product of European fantasies about the luxuries of the Orient. Turkey was a supplier of exotic goods such as coffee, perfumes, spices, and tea.

First diplomatic relations with the far east started near the end of the sixteenth century with Sir Robert Shirley going to Persia in 1599 to train the Persian army in the ways of English military warfare.

The West had a growing interest in Turkish-made products and art, including music, visual arts, architecture, and sculptures.

This fashionable phenomenon became more popular through trading routes and increased diplomatic relationships between the Ottomans and the European nations, exemplified by the Franco-Ottoman alliance in 1715 when Louis XIV received the first Persian ambassadors to France.

European portraits of the 18th century were used to portray social position and wealth. Dress, posture, and props were carefully selected in order to communicate the appropriate status. Choosing the exotic turquerie style to express one’s elite position in society involved wearing loose, flowing gowns belted with ornate bands of embroidered cloth. Some sitters donned ermine-trimmed robes while others chose tasselled turbans. Scandalously, most have abandoned their corsets and attached strings of pearls to their hair. (There has always been one law for the rich and one for the lower classes when it comes to letting one’s social hair down.) Many portraits have Turkish carpets displayed on the floor, woven with bright colours and exotic designs. The loose clothing and the unorthodox styles added to the lewd perceptions of the Ottomans.

At the same time portraits of real Turkish people by European artists were a la mode. They were often depicted as exotic, and it was rare that portraits were painted without wearing their traditional cultural clothing.

Perhaps the most influential transformation into the turquerie vogue in Europe was done by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Montagu went to Turkey in 1717 when her husband was posted as ambassador there. Her collected letters while there, describing Turkish fashion were distributed widely in manuscript form. They were then printed after her death in 1762. These letters helped shape how Europeans interpreted the Turkish fashion and how to dress. This phenomenon eventually found its way across the Atlantic and in colonial America, where Montagu’s letters were also published.

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:

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The Jacobites – Romantic or Despotic?

The Jacobites – Romantic or Despotic?

Rebellion

The Jacobite movement started when the Stuart King, James II was deposed in 1688.

Parliament, not wanting a Roman Catholic king gave the throne of Great Britain and Ireland to his daughter Mary II and her husband and first cousin William of Orange.

King James and his family left England and went into exile. The Stuarts were not without their supporters, however. There were people who thought that Parliament had no business interfering with the natural line of succession. These people became known as Jacobites – the supporters of James.

Jacobite support was strongest in parts of the Scottish Highlands, lowland northeast Scotland, Ireland, and parts of northern England. In England, support for James came mostly from Northumberland and Lancashire. James also had some supporters in Wales and southwest England.

To be a Jacobite supporter was a very dangerous game. The stakes were high. If you were discovered you would be guilty of treason, and the death penalty would undoubtedly await you. Expressing allegiance, therefore, had to be done covertly through secret rituals, secret symbols, and secret messages.

The Jacobites had many secret symbols, including the sunflower to symbolise loyalty, as a sunflower always follows the sun and moths or butterflies whose emergence from a chrysalis symbolised the hope for the return to power of the Stuart family. The Merovingian bee was adopted by the exiled Stuarts in Europe, and engraved bees are still to be seen on some Jacobite glassware.

The Jacobite White Cockade

In the years leading up to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 Jacobites were forced to meet and plot in secret, and the white rose or white cockade (a flower made from ribbon, often worn on a hat) was a way of identifying those who supported the cause.The emblem of the Jacobites was the White Cockade.

All 69 Scottish Nationalist Party members of parliament wore white roses in their lapels at the swearing-in ceremony of the Scottish parliament a few years back. When asked about the significance of the Nationalists wearing of the white rose Scotland’s First Minister at the time, Alex Salmond, denied that the flower was a reference to the Jacobites. Instead, he cited the poem “The Little White Rose”, written by the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and claimed the rose stood for “all of Scotland”. MacDiarmid (1892-1978) was a committed Nationalist. In 1928 he helped found the National Party of Scotland, the forerunner of today’s Scottish National Party.

Rosa x alba grows all over Scotland. It is a bushy shrub-like rose with dark, grey-green foliage and a small five-petalled flower, similar to a dog rose, which can be white or pale pink. They only flower in spring and have a beautiful scent with notes of citrus. The plants are hardy, thrive in poor soil, can tolerate shade and drought and are for the most part resistant to disease.

The origins of the rose as a symbol are somewhat lost in myth and legend. It is said that one of the earliest references refers to the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart, son of the deposed King James II, who was born on 10th June in 1688, said to be “the longest day of the year in which the white rose flowers”. Another legend tells how Bonnie Prince Charlie plucked a white rose from the roadside and stuck it in his hat as he made his way south from Glenfinnan to start the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

English, Irish and Welsh Jacobites

Jacobitism was attractive to members of the English aristocracy who had chosen to remain Catholic after the Reformation.

About 2-3% of the English population remained Catholics at the time of the Glorious Revolution in 1688. The highest concentration of Catholics was in the north of England.

The movement also found support in the Catholic populations of Ireland and rural Wales because they hoped the return of a Stuart king would end their exclusion from many aspects of civic and political life under the Recusancy Acts.

In Ireland, James was supported for his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, The Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience. This declaration promised an Irish Parliament.

Scottish Jacobites

Catholic country gentry tended were James most ideologically committed supporters. Drawing on almost two centuries of suffering as a religious minority persecuted by the state they rallied enthusiastically to the Jacobite cause.

Highland clans such as the MacDonnels and MacDonalds of Clanranald, Keppoch, Glengarry and Glencoe; the Clan Chisolm, and the clan Ogilvy were largely still Catholic. Other clans, such as the powerful Camerons, were Episcopalian, and as staunch in their Jacobitism as their allies the Catholic MacDonalds.

Scottish Episcopalians provided over half of the Jacobite forces in Britain. As Protestants, they could take part in Scottish politics, but as a religious minority, they were repeatedly discriminated against in legislation which favoured the established Presbyterian Church of Scotland.  About half the Episcopalians supporting the Jacobite cause came from the Lowlands, but this was obscured in the risings by their tendency to wear the Highland dress.

In the Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highland clans, Jacobites were known as Seumasaich. The clan chiefs ran their own private armies and there was often conflict between them. This conflict was more about political power and money than religion as most were Catholic.

A significant source of friction was the territorial ambitions of the Presbyterian Campbells of Argyll. Another was James VII’s sympathetic treatment of the Highland clans. Monarchs since the late 16th century had been antagonistic to the Gaelic-Highland way of life but James had worked sympathetically with the clan chieftains. He had put in place the Commission for Pacifying the Highlands but that had now been abandoned. Some Highland chieftains, therefore, viewed Jacobitism as a means of resisting hostile government interference in their territories. These private armies would go onto provide the bulk of Jacobite manpower in both the 1715 and 1745 rebellions.

Although most support for the Stuart cause came from Tories there were some notable Whig exceptions most notably the Earl of Mar. Most sympathetic Whigs were merely keeping their options open in case the Stuarts returned.

Jacobite Romance

Jacobites were definitively romantic. They were the underdogs in the battle with the British state. They fought heroically for their rights and their country. They were brave and dashing in their Highland garb but they weren’t what would pass as the good guys today. They were distinctly unenlightened and un-democratic.

They believed in:

• the divine right of kings and the accountability of Kings to God alone;
• inalienable hereditary right; and the unequivocal scriptural injunction of non-resistance and passive obedience to the crown.

 

Sources:
Scotland, A Concise History, Fitzroy Maclean, Thames and Hudson
Bonnie Prince Charlie, Fitzroy Maclean, Canongate Books Ltd.
The Jacobites, Britain and Europe 1688–1788, Daniel Szechi, Manchester University
The Myths of the Jacobite Clans, Murray G. H. Pittock, Edinburgh University Press

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:

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Horse Racing – An 18th Century Growth Industry

Horse Racing – An 18th Century Growth Industry

Horse racing is the second largest spectator sport in Great Britain, and one of the longest established, with a history dating back many centuries. It generates over £3.7 billion for the British economy, and the major horse racing events such as Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival are important dates in the British and international sporting and social calendar.
In the early 18th century, Queen Anne kept a large string of horses and was instrumental in the founding of Royal Ascot where the opening race each year is still called the Queen Anne Stakes. The first published account of race results was John Cheney’s Historical list of all the Horse Matches run, and all plates and prizes run for in England and Wales which dates to 1727. In a later work, published in York in 1748, the result is recorded of a race run in September 1709 on Clifton and Rawcliffe Ings, near York, for a gold cup of £50.

By 1740 was proving so popular that Parliament introduced an act “to restrain and to prevent the excessive increase in horse racing”; this was largely ignored, and in 1750 the Jockey Club was formed to create and apply the Rules of Racing. The Jockey Club was founded as one of the most exclusive high society social clubs in the United Kingdom, sharing some of the functions of a gentleman’s club such as high-level socialising. It was called ‘The Jockey Club’ based on the late medieval word for ‘horsemen’, pronounced ‘yachey’ and spelt ‘Eachaidhe’ in Gaelic. The club’s first meetings were held at the Star & Garter Pub at Pall Mall, London before later moving to Newmarket; a town known in the United Kingdom as “The Home of Racing”.

Soon racecourses were springing up all over England and many of the classic tracks and races we know today were established such as The St Leger, the Oaks and the Derby were all founded between 1776 and 1780.
The Whitsun meeting was a popular event in the Georgian horse racing calendar. Here is an extract from my novel Sinclair, which is partly set near Beverley in Yorkshire. Beverley was the first racetrack to have a Jockey Club grandstand built to enable spectators to get a better view of the race in 1767 at the cost of £1,000.

” Three days after his father’s funeral, John Leadam and his mother Charlotte was packed into a pony cart by his uncle for the journey to York. They travelled in silence for many dull miles before his uncle spoke. “I’m sorry things turned out as they did, me lad. We had such plans, you know, your father and me. We fancied a day at the point to point.”
“Father would have enjoyed that,” said John.
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nowt like the thrill of a race. I’ve spent a right few bob on horses in me time as I’m sure your aunt has told you. Lucy loves horses just like me. I’m of a mind to get me hands on one of them thoroughbred mares, but I’ll have to go up north to Bedale or Masham to get one. There’s plenty as wants a good racer or a good hunter in these parts.”
“Would you breed racehorses then, Uncle Robert?”
“Oh, aye, I do already, but they ain’t Arabians. I had great hopes for Blaze. He had a coat as shiny as a conker, but he fell in the first steeplechase I put him in, and I had to shoot the poor bugger. Cost me near fifty guineas. Mariah were furious with me, but when have women known anything about having a bit a fun, eh, John?”
“I heard that, Robert Leadam,” his mother retorted with feigned coolness. “And I’ll ask you not to go corrupting your nephew with ideas about gambling and horses.”
“Now I’m in trouble with your mother,” his uncle chuckled. “I expect you’re more like your dad, John. I bet you’re a sensible boy who works hard at that grammar school you go to in London. It never appealed to me, all that Greek and Latin. What does a farmer need with it? Now, your dad were a different kettle of fish. If the old man hadn’t insisted on educating me there would’ve been enough to send your dad to Oxford, or some such place.”
John looked at his uncle. “I think he would have liked that.” Then he noticed his mother staring out across the frost-covered fields, and said, “But then he wouldn’t have met Mother and everything would have been different.” His mother turned her head and smiled at her son. Robert rattled on, oblivious of the deep emotion that was passing between his passengers, and pushed the piebald ponies on with a swish of his whip.
“Aye, lad, fate’s a funny thing.None of us knows what’s in store for us or how the choices we make will turn out. We just have to make the best of what we’ve got, don’t we?” Charlotte Leadam nodded her head and pressed her hand into her son’s under the blanket, reassuring him of the unbreakable bond between them.”

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:

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Royal Ascot – Horses, Hats and Lots of Money