Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth — An Uncivil War

For various reasons, I have been thinking on the nature of Hollie and Lije Babbitt’s wary relationship…. on abusive childhoods, and on how abused children grow into damaged adults. The brief background to Hollie’s, is that he was brought up by his strict godly father, after the death of his mother. And as he grew […]

via Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth — An Uncivil War

Elizabeth Bourchier – Mrs Oliver Cromwell

I do love Elizabeth…

Good Gentlewoman

Most of what we know about Elizabeth Cromwell is based on propaganda written either by disaffected Parliamentarians or triumphant Royalists.  During her lifetime she received an inordinate amount of bad press, criticised and lampooned, accused of being both parochial and immoral.

In Newes From the New Exchange published in January 1650 she was said to have “run through most of the Regiment, both Officers and Souldiers.”  

Yet following her husband’s elevation to Lord Protector Elizabeth was berated for using her husband’s position to acquire ill-gotten gains, often reselling gifts, accepting bribes and cash for honours whilst allegedly running the protectoral court in a mean and parsimonious way, keeping cows in St James’s Park to cut the household cheese and butter bill.

Lucy Hutchinson, wife of the regicide judge Colonel John Hutchinson, said Elizabeth was ill suited to the socially elevated position she held – and apparently her dress sense…

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Fifty Shades Of Darker Gray – when characters fight back

Writing as my darker side…

An Uncivil War


Marston Moor really is going to be a grim book.

(With much humour in it, but I very much fear that it will be a sort of grisly, Babbitty battlefield humour.)

Today I have been much thinking about Gray. It’s no spoiler that Gray is a woman; we’d call her genderqueer now, but in the 1640s cross-dressing women were sufficient of a menace that King Charles went public about his disapproval of such wenches in the Army, issuing a proclamation in 1643 to prevent the horror of it all.

There will be probably one day be a Gray story, because she intrigues me, too, but I’m not always sure I like her, never mind understand her.

This all comes from a remark about Tom Hiddleston – an actor who’s doubtless a mighty fine actor, but who doesn’t float my boat – one of those daft little memes that goes…

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The Voyage of Odysseus by Glyn Iliffe

When this man writes a review, wise people listen…

Historical Fiction reviews


The War is over.  The Horse came through.  The Skaen Gates have fallen and Priam’s Pride is a smoking ruin.  Time to load up the loot and slaves and head on out for a leisurely cruise back to kith, kin and kingdom ruling.  Ah, but wasn’t there something about a 10 year waiting period before the kith, kin and kingdom stuff?  A tumultuous 10 years and a journey that will test everything in a man; courage, loyalty, faith and friendship.  Odysseus, mastermind of the Greek’s long awaited victory, is no longer a favorite of the gods, try as he may to appease them; no longer the confident King as he is threatened by those he has lead all those years; no longer does his vaunted intellect and cunning prove effective or wise.  This journey back home to Penelope, a wife under siege by those who would replace the rule of…

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Now our revels all are ended?

Masthead cover
Well, actually, they’re not.
Our revels are only just beginning.

However, it’s been a bit of rollercoaster.
I finished A Broom At The Masthead. My original intent was that Masthead should go to a publisher, and the Uncivil Wars books would stay with me, and – well, I only really meant that Masthead should be a standalone adventure.
Yeah, right it would. Thomazine Babbitt, meekly saying yes, of course, I will go quietly into domestic obscurity – and more to the point, the rest of that ill-assorted brood she’s acquired going with her? Ha! I say.
So, there will be a second, and it will be called An Effusion Of Blood, and so far it seems to be about the battle of Dunbar and the Scots prisoners of war and the horrible things that happened in Durham cathedral, and more to the point what happened to them after Durham. Deported, or dead, or worse.
(There seems to be something of a theme of women who will not quit in my books, because Mara Gillespie wouldn’t give up, either.)

And the fact that there are two, and one is Masthead and one is – what it is – well, it’s a series, now.  Which means, of course, that there has to be a name for the series, and that’s where it got tricky.

Russell – who does possess a sense of humour, when he’s allowed to – used to sign his letters from furrin parts as ‘Caliban’, in reference to his disfiguring scar. So I wanted to reference that, but at the same time it had a certain science fiction feel to it that I didn’t care for. So I dismissed the Caliban Papers as a bit too Dr Who. Likewise, the Tempest Papers and the Sycorax Papers – Caliban being, of course, the monstrous hslf-human son of the witch Sycorax in Shakespeare’s play.

Thomazine’s Classical nickname in the books is Penthesilea – Queen of the Amazons –  but I can’t spell that twice the same way, so that was out.


And then someone said,  Russell refers to himself as Caliban, but is he also his own Prospero?

Well, at the end of The Tempest Prospero means to drown his books and renounce magic.

And poor Russell means to renounce his intriguing – no, he does, really, he does –

So my series has a name.

The Drowned Books.


The Punishment Of A Common Bawd

being a counterblast, as they say in all the best pamphlets, to my friend Cryssa’s thought-provoking blog post on the Puritans’ rendering sex illegal.

Given that my hero is a Puritan who has sex – quite a lot, actually, and occasionally in moving conveyances on a public thoroughfare – it’s a matter of some importance to me that there is this heaving misconception that the Puritans were down on sex.

Here’s the actual legislation – May 1650: An Act for suppressing the detestable sins of Incest, Adultery and Fornication:

But even aside from the practical aspect of how Puritans meant to make more Puritans if they’d outlawed sex – it’s all right, they didn’t, don’t expect the knock on the door any day now – have a read of it for yourself.

Adultery, in 1650, is a felony, punishable by death. Harsh? Well, in 1707 – almost 60 years after the Interregnum – Lord Chief Justice John Holt was still stating that a man having sexual relations with another man’s wife was “the highest invasion of property” and claimed, in regard to the aggrieved husband, that “a man cannot receive a higher provocation” (in a case of murder or manslaughter). And 100 years later The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert, Vol. 1 (1751), also equated adultery to theft writing that “adultery is, after homicide, the most punishable of all crimes, because it is the most cruel of all thefts, and an outrage capable of inciting murders and the most deplorable excesses.”

What’s interesting is that I haven’t been able to find any instances of seventeenth-century executions of adulterers. It seems that prosecutions went through the roof as the courts were flooded with spouses and neighbours airing their sexual grievances.(1)

On 18 June 1658 a Middlesex justice bound over Priscilla Frotheringham:

for being a notorious strumpet, a common field walker and one that hath undone several men by giving them the foul disease, for keeping the husband of Susan Slaughter from her ever since December last and hath utterly undone that family, and also for threatening to stab the said Susan Slaughter when ever she can meet her, the woman being a very civil woman, and also for several other notorious wickednesses which is not fit to be named among the heathen.

He bound her over. His language expresses his disgust and contempt for Mistress Frotheringham – but he didn’t execute her, he did not brand her, he did not send her to a house of correction. The magistrate in question, Thomas Hibbert,  was an Independent lay preacher who had already penned a diatribe attacking those who paid merely lip-service to piety while failing to act against vice and profanity – and it seems that both the Frotheringhams, husband and wife, appeared regularly in the sessions records.

Which makes me wonder if the Act was intended as a deterrent to antisocial and destructive behaviour, rather than as a moral diktat?





1 –  Bernard Capp, ‘Republican Reformation: Family, Community and the State in Interregnum Essex, 1649-60’, in Helen Berry and Elizabeth Foyster (eds), The Family in Early Modern England, p. 50.




The World of the Russells

A strange world, of unspeakable horrors, where the mummified heads of traitors like Henry Ireton stare impaled on spikes above Westminster Hall, and beggars scrabble in unpaved streets for a crust, or a farthing.

And yet at the same  time a world of wonders, where the Royal Society can marvel over the legs of a flea under a microscope, and muse on the nature of cells: where Nelly Gwynne shows off her legs on the stage in plays, and Messrs Rochester and Marvell write dirty poems about it.

Where Sam Pepys worries that he will become blind, through his office work in ill-lit rooms, and who uses his new spectacles to ogle the ladies in church when he gets them.

Welcome to 1665. Pull up a chair. The Russells won’t be long.