Two hundred years ago, today, began the single most violent and explosive volcanic eruption ever to occur on this planet in recorded history. Though this volcano erupted halfway around the world from Great Britain, and few there were aware of the event, in the years that followed, this eruption would have disastrous effects on the climate of not only the British Isles, but all the way round the globe, for a period of over three years. Beyond the immediate physical horror wrought by the actual eruption, and the climatic devastation which followed, this event would also be responsible for a pair of fictional horrors which are with us to this day.
When Mount Tambora blew its top and changed the world . . .
Never was an email more welcome than the one I got earlier this week. This has been the worst, most snowiest winter ever in Boston this year. And even now, though the calendar says it is spring, the temperatures are significantly below normal, and we are still getting snow! Then, on Monday, I got an email from Captain Roger Street with the schedule for the Dandy Chargers 2015 riding season. A sure sign of spring, which gives me hope that one day, maybe soon, all that white stuff in my yard will finally melt!
In the meantime, let me tell you where the Dandy Chargers will ride their dandy horses this year . . .
Last week’s article was about the ancient Forest of Hainault. Within that forest stood an enormous oak tree which was centuries old by the Regency and had become an important local landmark. Known as the Fairlop Oak, annual events had taken place beneath its spreading branches for at least a century. In addition, any number of impromptu events happened there on the spur of the moment throughout the Regency. And yet, even before the Coronation of George IV could take place, the Fairlop Oak had been swept away and all that now remains is its name.
This week, the story of the venerable Fairlop Oak . . .
The great Fairlop Oak and the ancient Forest of Hainault which surrounded it have both been swept away by the ravages of time. But during the Regency, the massive oak stood tall in the large remnant of the primordial forest in which it had grown for centuries. Traditional events took place beneath the spreading branches of the old oak right though the Regency. Since it was only about twelve miles out from London, either the forest or the oak might make an interesting setting for a scene or two in a Regency novel when a country setting within reasonable proximity to the metropolis is required.
This week, the story of the primeval Forest of Hainault . . .
The protection of money in the form of coins by slipping them into ceramic vessels dates all the way back to ancient China. Known in England from at least Tudor times, these vessels were called money boxes or sometimes money jars, since few of them were actually square. Over the centuries, many working-class people kept their meagre savings in these ubiquitous ceramic containers. A wide range of these money boxes was still in use during the Regency, primarily by servants and working class children. Though they were not especially glamorous, these small vessels would have been ubiquitous in a great many Regency households and despite their humble appearance, they would have been very precious to their owners.
Pottery money boxes in the Regency . . .
To mark the release of the print edition of my debut Regency romance, Deflowering Daisy, I want to expand on the details of one of the flower history snippets which appears in the story. This particular snippet involved the hero’s work as a spy for the Crown after Waterloo, and is also related to last week’s article about Bonaparte’s escape from Elba. For, you see, it was Napoleon Bonaparte himself who was known by his supporters as Caporal La Violette.
The story of Napoleon and violets . . .
Two hundred years ago, yesterday, Napoleon Bonaparte, reduced from Emperor of the French to the Emperor of Elba, left his tiny island kingdom. He set sail for the south coast of France with over a thousand men under his personal command, intent on regaining his former title and power. His arrival in Paris three weeks later marked the beginning of the "Hundred Days," which would culminate that June on the battlefield of Waterloo.
The how and why of Napoleon’s escape . . .