This London based historical fiction is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Sinclair is the eponymous hero but there are strong female leads including the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street. Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.
A generation has been lost on the Western Front when this London based historical romance gets started. The dead have been buried. A harsh peace forged, and the howl of shells replaced by the wail of saxophones as the Jazz Age begins in London. Ghosts of the summer of 1914 linger tugging at the memory of Martin Rilke and his British cousins, the Grevilles.
Everyone at Abingdon Pryory wants to forget the past. The old values, social codes, and sexual mores have been swept away. Martin Rilke throws himself into journalism. Fenton Wood-Lacy is exiled in faraway army outposts. Back at Abingdon, Charles Greville recovers from shell shock. Alexandra is caught up in an unlikely romance.
Circles of Time captures the age in the midst of one of England’s most gracious manor houses, in the steamy nightclubs of London’s Soho, and the despair of Germany caught in the nightmare of anarchy and inflation. Lives are renewed, new loves found, and a future of peace and happiness is glimpsed—but only for a moment.
The Forsyte Saga is John Galsworthy’s monumental chronicle of the lives of the moneyed Forsytes. As London based historical fiction goes you really could do no better.
The Forsytes are a family at war with each other. The story of Soames Forsyte’s marriage to the beautiful and rebellious Irene and its effects upon the whole Forsyte clan run through the series.
The Forsyte Saga is a brilliant social satire of the acquisitive sensibilities of a comfort-bound class in its final glory. Galsworthy spares none of his characters, revealing their weaknesses and shortcomings as clearly as he does the tenacity and perseverance that define the most influential members of the Forsyte family.
In his autobiography, Anthony Trollope called the Palliser Novels “the best work of my life,” adding “I think Plantagenet Palliser stands more firmly on the ground than any other personage I have created.”
These London based historical novels centre around the stately politician Plantagenet Palliser, but the interest is less in politics than in the lively social scene Trollope creates against a Parliamentary backdrop.
Trollops’ keen eye for the subtleties of character and “great apprehension of the real” impressed contemporary writers from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Henry James, and in the Palliser Novels we find him at his very best.
This is a masterful portrait of Victorian society and politics with a profoundly human touch.,
Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London’s grandest postcode.
Set in the 1840s, this London based historical romance starts when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is peopled by a rich cast of characters and begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 at the Duchess of Richmond’s new legendary ball, one family’s life will change forever, but you’ll have to read the book to find out whose it is.
The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off and All Change
Howard offers a classic English country-house saga, in this impressive London based historical saga covering the late 30s to late 50s. As the various members of the upper-middle-class Cazalet family circle are hatched, matched and dispatched against a background of the changing times Howard keeps the family and the story together. Her characters are forensically interrogated to reveal their strengths and their weaknesses. This historical fiction is based on her own experience, giving Howard’s characters a ring of authenticity that is rare. The war looms large and alters lives. It is the social history of this class of people who would disappear with the modernity and taxes of the 1960s.
Julia Herdman writes historical fiction.
Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle Also available on:
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Writers of influence – Hilary Mantel
Anne, The Princess Royal, married the hunchback William of Orange in 1734.
Princess Anne, or the Princess Royal as she was known, was the eldest daughter of George II. The title Princess Royal is a substantive title customarily (but not automatically) awarded by a British monarch to his or her eldest daughter. There have been seven Princesses Royals. The daughter of Queen Elizabeth II is currently holds the title. The title Princess Royal came into existence when Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–1669), daughter of Henry IV, King of France, and wife of King Charles I (1600–1649), wanted to imitate the way the eldest daughter of the King of France was styled “Madame Royale”. Thus Princess Mary (born 1631), the daughter of Henrietta Maria and Charles, became the first Princess Royal in 1642. Anne,the daughter of George II was the second Princess Royal.
Anne was born into what we would call an extremely dysfunctional family in May 1709. George II was the only son of the German prince George Louis, elector of Hanover (King George I of Great Britain from 1714 to 1727), and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. George, I had divorced and locked Sophia Dorothea in a castle in Celle for her adultery with a Swedish cavalry officer and taken their children, which include the boy who would become George II away from her. George II had, of course, never forgiven his father for his cruel treatment of his mother.
George II’s daughter Anne was a remarkable woman in many ways. She was criticised and praised in equal measure by contemporary chroniclers. Some said she was arrogant others that she was accomplished.
Although Anne was an English princess, she was born at Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover. Her mother was Caroline of Ansbach. According to a recent biography of Caroline, The First Iron Lady: A Life of Caroline of Ansbach By Matthew Dennison, she was the real power behind George II. When she arrived in England in 1714, she became the first Princess of Wales since Prince Henry married Catherine of Aragon in 1509. She was blonde, buxom and above all, intelligent. Anne was one of the couple’s four children.
Her parents’ relationship with King George I was a troubled one. Her mother, Caroline of Ansbach, had been brought up in the Prussian Court where she had been treated as a surrogate daughter to the Prussian King and had been well educated.
When she married, she joined the Hanoverian Court, which was by comparison boorish. How much that experience influenced her opposition to George I in England we do not know, but the two did not get on. One wonders if Caroline suspected her father-in-law of having her mother-in-law’s lover killed? There were always rumours surrounding the disappearance of her Swedish lover.
Political differences between George I and his son the Prince of Wales led to factions in the court. The family dispute came to a head following the birth of George and Caroline’s second son, Prince George William in 1717. At the baby’s christening, the Prince of Wales publicly insulted the Duke of Newcastle one of his father’s allies. This so infuriated George I he banished his son and daughter-in-law from St James’s Palace, but he kept their children, including Anne under his guardianship at Leicester House.
The Prince and Princess of Wales were sent packing without their children. George, I kept them separated until 1720 when Anne’s brothers were returned to the care of her parents, but the girls remained the wards of the King.
Smallpox and Variolation
In that year, Anne’s body was ravaged by smallpox; she was 11 years old. The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans a year during the closing years of the 18th century.
Smallpox had no respect for wealth or rank, anyone could catch it. Her own father had suffered from the disease in the first year of his marriage. Her personal near-death experience and the experience and her father led the family to support the introduction of variolation (an early type of immunisation against smallpox), which had been witnessed by Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Charles Maitland in Constantinople.
Variolation or inoculation was the method first used to immunise an individual against smallpox (Variola) with material taken from a patient or a recently variolated individual in the hope that a mild, but the protective infection would result. The procedure was most commonly carried out by inserting/rubbing powdered smallpox scabs or fluid from pustules into superficial scratches made in the skin. The patient would develop pustules identical to those caused by naturally occurring smallpox, usually producing a less severe disease than naturally acquired smallpox. Eventually, after about two to four weeks, these symptoms would subside, indicating successful recovery and immunity.
To test the process, Caroline ordered six prisoners who had been condemned to death to take part in the trial. They were offered the chance to undergo variolation instead of execution. They all agreed, and they all survived, as did the six orphan children who were also part of the test. (There were no medical ethics committees then). The tests convinced Caroline of variolation’s safety, and the Queen had her two younger daughters, Amelia and Caroline, inoculated. Royal patronage of the process was a boon to the doctors who were prescribing the process, and variolation began to spread amongst the upper classes.
On 22 June 1727, George I died making Anne’s father king. The following year, her elder brother, Frederick, who had been educated in Germany, was brought to England to join the court. Father and son had not seen one other in 14 years, and when they did, the fireworks began. Their relationship was even more tempestuous than the one between George I and George II especially after 1733 when Frederick purchased Carlton House and set up what George II considered to be a rival court.
As a daughter of the future British King Anne’s marriage was always going to be a dynastic one. But, as a princess requiring a protestant marriage, her options were limited, most of the continent was ruled by Catholic princes. The government hit on the idea of a union with the rather lowly William, Prince of Orange-Nassau to sure up their anti-French alliance.
George II was not enamoured with the proposal, and Anne was concerned herself. The Dutch Prince William had a well-known physical deformity. Anne wanted to know more about his deformity before she agreed to see him, so she dispatched Lord Hervey, a close confidant, to report on its extent. Hervey said that William was no Adonis. William suffered from a pronounced curvature of the spine, which was probably the result of sclerosis, the same condition suffered by the English King Richard III. or Kyphosis the hunchback disease.
A normal thoracic spine extends from the 1st to the 12th vertebra and should have a slight kyphotic angle, ranging from 20° to 45°. When the “roundness” of the upper spine increases past 45° it is called kyphosis or “hyperkyphosis”. Scheuermann’s kyphosis is the most classic form of hyperkyphosis and is the result of wedged vertebrae that develop during adolescence. The cause is not currently known and the condition appears to be multifactorial and is seen more frequently in males than females. The condition must have made life very hard for William who apart from the problem with his spine was considered an attractive, educated, and accomplished Prince.
Having taken Hervey’s report into consideration and the inferiority of William’s territory, Anne decided she would take him. She was 25 years old, and it seems she did not want to end up an old maid surrounded by her warring relatives. When they married in 1734, her mother and sisters wept through the ceremony, and Lord Hervey described the marriage as more sacrifice than celebration.
As an outsider and British, Anne was not popular in the Netherlands. Her life must have been a lonely one because she did not get along with her mother-in-law, and her husband was frequently on campaign. France was an ever-present threat to William’s protestant country and his power base dependent on his ability to protect the states of the Dutch Republic from its enemies.
In these lonely years, Anne concentrated her efforts on literature and playing the harpsichord; she was an accomplished, artist, musician, and lifelong friend of her music teacher Handel.
Producing the required heir was problematic too. In 1736, she gave birth to a stillborn daughter and another in 1739. Her first live birth came in 1743 with the arrival of Princess Carolina of Orange-Nassau who was followed by another daughter, Princess Anna two years later. Her only son arrived in 1748 when she was 39 years old.
Anne became a widow in 1751 at the age of 40 and was appointed as Regent for her 3-year-old son, Prince William V. She was given all prerogatives usually given a hereditary Stadtholder of the Netherlands, except for the military duties of the office, which were entrusted to Duke Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg. To say that she took to the role like a duck to water would not be an exaggeration. Finally free to exercise some power of the own, in true Hanoverian style, Anne used her wit and her determination to secure her personal power base and with it the dominance of her family and the Orange dynasty.
As Regent she was hard-working, but she remained unpopular. The commercial rivalry between the Dutch and the British East India Companies was part of the cause, her Dutch subjects were never entirely sure she was on their side because she pursued a foreign policy, that favoured the British-German alliance over alliance with the French. Another reason was the constitution of the United Provinces. But what made her most unpopular was that she seized the opportunity to centralise power in the office of the hereditary Stadtholder over the traditional rights of the Dutch states, particularly the State of Haarlem.
Ultimately, as a woman, she was reliant on the men around her, and it is fair to say that her husband and her son were fighting a losing battle against the tide of history at the end of the 18th century. Even Anne, with all her skills, could not realise the ambitions of the House of Orange on her own. She ruled the Netherlands for eight years. She died of dropsy (an accumulation of fluid in the body that leads to heart failure) in 1759. Her son was twelve and still too young to take the reins of power.
Anne was replaced as Regent by her mother-in-law, Marie Louise of Hesse-Kassel and when she died in 1765, Anne’s daughter, Carolina, was made Regent until her younger brother William V turned 18 in 1766.
Anne was a remarkable woman in many ways. Her beauty was shredded by smallpox, but she took on the world and won. (I am sure she took the opportunity to show herself in the best light in her self-portrait above.) She accepted and made a success of her marriage, which on the face of it held little prospect for personal happiness. She was an intelligent if haughty woman who endured years of loneliness, the pain of giving birth to two stillborn children and then she was widowed. Anne exercised the role of Stadholder (chief executive of the Dutch Republic) as effectively as any man and the centralisation of power she created laid the foundations of the Dutch state and its royal family. Her grandson, William I became the first king of the Netherlands in 1815.
Picture: Self Portrait
George II: King and Elector By Andrew C. Thompson, 2011, Yale 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 and on Kindle.
Sinclair is available of Amazon. Click here to get your copy.
Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street. Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.
Also available on:
Amazon New Zealand
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Princess Sophia Dorothea the Uncrowned Queen of Britain
A Labour in Vain – The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte Augusta
Caroline’s Early Life
Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born March 16, 1750, in Hanover, Germany. Her father, Isaac Herschel, was a talented army oboist. At the age of ten, she was struck down with typhus, the effect of this often fatal disease was stunted growth; she never grew taller than four feet three inches, and her eyesight was impaired too. Caroline made an inauspicious start to becoming one of the leading women in the history of women in science.
Her father, did his best to give Caroline and his other children the best education he could without having any proper education himself. He taught his children astronomy, music, and philosophy and Caroline soaked them up. Her mother believed that her daughter would ever marry and decided she should become a household servant discouraging the girl’s education whenever she could. However, after her father passed away in 1767 when Caroline was just 17, she decided to take greater control of her life and took up dressmaking courses and started to train to be a governess. The combination of her demanding mother and the demands of her studies led Caroline to leave Hanover and join her brother, William, who was working as an organist in Bath in 1772.
Caroline the musician and astronomer
For 10 years brother and sister worked together, William playing the organ and Caroline singing. When William decided to abandon his musical career, Caroline followed. In addition to assisting her brother in his observations and in the building of telescopes, Caroline became a brilliant astronomer in her own right, discovering new nebulae and star clusters. She was the first woman to find a comet (she discovered eight in total) and the first to have her work published by the Royal Society. She was also the first woman in Britain to get paid for her scientific work, when William, who had been named the king’s personal astronomer following his discovery of Uranus in 1781, persuaded his patron to reward his assistant with an annual salary.
After William’s death in 1822, Caroline retired to Hanover. There she continued her astronomical work, compiling a catalogue of nebulae. The Herschels’ work had increased the number of known star clusters from 100 to 2,500. Caroline died in 1848 at age 97 after receiving many honours. She was the first woman to be awarded a Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1828), and to be named an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society. The King of Prussia presented her with a Gold Medal for Science on the occasion of her 96th birthday in 1846. In her journal, autobiographical writings and letters to relatives Caroline complained a great deal about her lot, she had spent a great deal of her life caring for her brother and her family. She neither meekly accepted nor publicly challenged the demands they made on her, but she was was delighted by the formal recognition she received later in life.
Sources: Wikipedia, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Caroline-Lucretia-Herschel, Rebekah Higgitt, lecturer in history of science and formerly a curator at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich writing in the Guardian 16/3/2016.
Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle
Also available on:
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Witch or Saint ? Maria Gaetana Agnesi
Nursing by Numbers
Physicist Dies in Childbirth
Between 1780 and 1810, many French women painters reached impressive heights of artistic achievement and professional success. They achieved this despite a cap on the number of women admitted to France’s prestigious Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, and restrictions that barred women from the life drawing classes. At the end of the eighteenth century, women ranked among the most sought-after artists in Europe.
One such was Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. Le Brun was born in Paris on 16 April 1755, the daughter of a portraitist and fan painter and a hairdresser. Her early childhood was spent in the country where she attended a residential convent school until she was eleven. When she returned home, her father recognised his daughter’s natural skills and ability to paint and gave her access to his studio to develop her skills. Unfortunately, her father died a couple of years later, but luckily her mother married Jacques Le Sèvre, a highly successful jeweller a year later and the family moved to the Rue Saint-Honoré, close to the Palais Royal where Elisabeth continued to paint. By the time she was in her early teens, Elisabeth was painting portraits professionally although ran into trouble with the Paris artists’ guild for practising without a license.
Elisabeth married Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun, a painter and art dealer in 1776 and the pair began what was to become a very successful business and family life. Four years later Elisabeth gave birth to her first and only child, a daughter, Julie and a year after that she set off to tour Flanders and the Netherlands with her husband to paint members of the Dutch aristocracy. While Elisabeth was there, she was inspired by the paintings he saw in the homes and galleries she visited and decided to adopt some of their techniques. In 1787, she caused a minor public scandal with a self-portrait, that showed her smiling which was at the time considered outrageous as no Greek statue ever showed their teeth!
Her growing fame won her an invitation to the Palace of Versailles and the patronage of Marie Antoinette. Le Brun painted the queen and her children more than thirty times for six years. Le Brun supported the queen’s campaign to present herself as a doting mother, and in return, the queen supported Le Bruns’ application to France’s most prestigious academy, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. She was admitted in 1783 on the same day has another female artist, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard giving the press an opportunity to cast the two women as rivals, pitting Le Brun’s “feminine” style of loose brushstrokes, high-toned colour, and flattering renderings of her sitters against the more “masculine” characteristics of crisp, muted tones, and truth to nature of Labille-Guard’s work. Although many critics applauded the women’s prominence, others lambasted them for immodesty and pamphleteers frequently depicted them naked.
Royal patronage was fine until the outbreak of the revolution in 1789 when association with the royal family was tantamount to a death warrant so Le Brun, who was now separated from her husband, took her daughter and fled to Italy where she lived and worked from 1789 to 1792. From Italy, she moved to Austria where she worked for three years then to Russia where she painted the portraits of aristocrats until 1801.
After a sustained campaign by her ex-husband and other family members to have her name removed from the list of counter-revolutionary émigrés, Le Brun was finally able to return to France during the reign of Emperor Napoleon I in 1804. In spite of being no longer labelled as émigrée, her relationship with the new regime was never totally harmonious, as might be expected given that she was a staunch royalist and the former portraitist of Marie Antoinette.
Much in demand by the élite of Europe, she visited England at the beginning of the 19th century and painted the portrait of several British notables, including Lord Byron. In 1807 she travelled to Switzerland and was made an honorary member of the Société pour l’Avancement des Beaux-Arts of Geneva.
She published her memoirs in 1835 and 1837, which provide an interesting view of the training of artists at the end of the period dominated by royal academies. Still very active with her painting in her fifties, she purchased a house in Louveciennes, Île-de-France, and lived there until the house was seized by the Prussian Army during the war in 1814. She stayed in Paris until her death on 30 March 1842 when her body was taken back to Louveciennes and buried in the Cimetière de Louveciennes near her old home. Her tombstone epitaph states “Ici, enfin, je repose…” (Here, at last, I rest…).
Katharine Baetjer, Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Illustrations: Self portrait with Julie. Marie-Antoinette with her children.
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 £2.29 Also available on:
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Maria Cosway the Artist who Captured the Heart of Thomas Jefferson
Against the Grain – 18th Century British Art
Mary Moser – Founding Member of London’s Royal Academy
Astronomy, mathematics and physics were popular fields of study for many of the brightest 18th-century women with access to money and books. Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil was one such woman. She was the daughter of the French court’s chief of protocol and her father rather unusually for the time encouraged her education. By the time she was twelve she was fluent in Latin, Italian, Greek and German.
Gabrielle-Emilie was a precocious teenager as well as a child genius; she liked to dance, was a passable performer on the harpsichord, sang opera, and was an amateur actress. Being short of money for books, she used her mathematical skills to devise highly successful strategies for gambling. Her mother Gabrielle-Anne was horrified tried to have her clever daughter sent to a convent.
In 1725 Gabrielle-Emilie married the Marquis du Chatelet at the age of 19 and lived the life of a courtier at the French court. She bore her husband three children, but at age 27 she began studying mathematics seriously and then branched into physics. This interest intensified when she started an affair with the philosopher Voltaire. Their friendship, if not their relationship, was lifelong and one of mutual respect and admiration.
Her philosophical magnum opus, Institutions de Physique or Foundations of Physics, was published in 1740 when she was 34. It was an immediate success, circulated widely, and republished and translated into several other languages within two years of its publication. With a growing reputation in the world of men, she participated in the famous vis viva debate concerning the calculation of the motion of orbiting bodies – the planets. However, Du Chatelet’s most lasting contribution to science was her French translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia, which is still in use today.
At age 43, she fell in love with a young military officer and became pregnant; she died following complications during the birth of their child. Posthumously, her ideas were included in the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert.
Sources: Smithsonian Magazine, Wikipedia, Illustration: The Granger Collection, New York.
Iona McNeal, is a character in my new novel, Sinclair. Iona is a bright young woman, the daughter of the head of Edinburgh’s medical school. She studies mathematics, physics and astronomy at home. You can find out what happens to her in my latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 and on Kindle
Also available on:
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From Housemaid to Commit Catcher – Caroline Herschel
Witch or Saint ? Maria Gaetana Agnesi
Nursing by Numbers
Byron’s Daughters – A Tale of Three Sisters