Putting Your Trust In Princes

“No,” Russell says, very firmly. “I will not countenance it.”
Hollie sniffs. “Oh, straighten your face. Call it a starburst, if you like, instead of an arsehole.”
The marred lieutenant closes his eyes and looks pained. “I will not countenance it. I am not – it is not funny!”
“Why do you care? Do you carry ’em?” Hollie wants to know, and then says nothing, very smugly.

Luce is trying not to laugh, not very successfully.
See, it’s a bit like this. They had colours, previous. Quite inconspicuous colours, they were, a rather discreet shade of madder-red quartered with a white cross on a black background: several previous careful owners. It was possibly His Majesty’s musketeers at Marston Moor that finished them altogether – that, or the red mare’s habit of pivoting in circles on her own axis, at a point when the said colours were underneath her. (So, to be fair, was Lucey. Not one of his better days.) Or, possibly, the dog’s tendency to sleep on them. Whichever. By the end of the Yorkshire campaign, Hollie’s colours were in rags.
And then Hollie decided –
“I did not decide!” he says indignantly, “Henrietta decided I should have summat a bit more befitting!”

So Het decided to make something that was more befitting to her husband’s status as a respectable senior officer.

“That wench wants her sight tested, she thinks you’re respectable,” Captain Venning – whose own troop colours are an unremarkable blue and bear neither the form of a fish nor a pie, to Hollie’s disgust – mutters darkly.

They began life as Het’s best company silk skirt, a garment she has possessed since her girlish youth. Hollie is prepared to be indignant about the sacrifice of the said garment, until Luce points out that anything that fitted her in her girlish youth is unlikely to be a comfortable fit after two years of marriage, a daughter, and provisioning the bottomless likes of one Colonel H. T. Babbitt.
“Are you suggesting that my wife has increased?” Hollie says, and Luce raises his eyebrows.
“She’s my auntie, sir. Ihave known her some time. And, well, you are known to be a good solid trencherman, when the mood is on you. She was ever possessed of a competitive streak.”
“I dunno where he puts it all,” Venning mutters, not quite under his breath, “he never seems to get no fatter.”

It’s a sunburst. It’s a black sunburst, a black sun with spiralling black arms, on that silvery birch-green background.

“You’d have to be some kind o’ special to have an arsehole looked like that!” – Venning’s determined to make the best of it, and Hollie is determined that having found a device that will give alarm and distress to the more proper members of his company he’s sticking to it.
Russell won’t even look at it if he can help it, which is going to make following it into battle awkward. Luce giggles every time he looks at it.

“Lot o’ work she put into that,” Hollie says smugly, and there is a shy tenderness in the way his hand lingers over the silk.

But a motto? That’s going to be difficult.
Baiser mon cul, is Hollie’s suggestion.
Luce favours Classical allusion, if they must -Contritionem praecidit superbia. Arrogance goes before contrition – pride before a fall.

But in the end they go with Russell’s preference, as much as to shut him up as anything else.

Put not your trust in princes.

A SONG – A Counterblast to the Bawdy Works of the Earl of ROCHESTER

 

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THE COLONEL TO HIS LADY, WHEN ABSENT AT WAR 

ABSENT from thee as salt from meat

Then ask me not, why seek I battle?

Thy choiceless lover must retreat

To wander ‘midst the cannons’ rattle

(Lucey if you think 32 pound shot rattles you whelk you need to stand a bit closer – H.)

 

Dear from thy board then let me fly

From all the pleasures of my home

From bread not stale, and mutton pie –

Thy absence I endure to roam.

 

Far from my love I find my duty

Midst maids more fair, or finely dressed

Yet fix’d is my idea of beauty

On thy comfortable breast

 

For H___, though your love is no poet (his bloody cornet is tho’,  more’s the pity – H.)

Though flattered much, and tempted less,

He has, thank God, the wit to know it –

And the sense to love what he has, best,

Spring, and tulips

I know it’s only January 2nd, but that’s all right, here in west Cornwall it’s almost half past four and it’s still daylight and I have seen the sun today, so as far as I’m concerned it’s spring.

Next month I will be in Brugge, in pursuit of the Russells. (And, in passing, in pursuit of a young Hollie Babbitt in Amsterdam. I don’t know quite how he’d feel about the Kalverstraat now. When he lived there – and he lived in Amsterdam for a goodly part of his adult life, poor lamb – the Kalverstraat was the flesh-market, it was the place you went for the spring and autumn beast sales. It was where he bought his black horse Tyburn, as a two year-old, for a ridiculously small sum of money. Yes, Tib was bought as meat on the hoof. It’s the posh end of Amsterdam now – the touristy end.)

It’s a funny thing: one of the things that grieves me about modern gardening is how low-maintenance it is, one can either have scent or beauty but not usually both, and everything is meant to be easy to grow and easy to care for, and in the days of Tulipmania men sold small wrinkled bulbs for the price of a small estate , and it was the work of a team of gardeners to care for them as if they were babies. (The tulips, that is, not the gardeners.),

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This beauty is Amiral de Constantinople, one of the only two varieties of parrot tulip to survive from the seventeenth century.

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And this is Zomerschoon – and this is the painting by Balthasar van der Ast of the Zomerschoon tulip of the height of Tulipmania.

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And this – the Tulip Museum – is where I’m headed for an afternoon in Februar.

Wish me luck….

 

 

The Addiction Of Non-Fiction – the pitfalls of writing history….

I’m doing quite a lot of work at the moment on a non-fiction book, a biography of Sir John Arundell, “Jack For The King” – the man who held Pendennis Castle for the King, aged 70, against everything Thomas Fairfax and the Army of Parliament could throw at him.
He’s an absolutely fascinating chap, and the main thing I’m discovering is that there’s an awful lot of rubbish written about him.

As an instance: one source has him down as having five sons, three of whom died young in the service of the King.
Another one has him down as having four.
A contemporary sexton’s account has one of John’s sons as an ensign who died at the battle of Windmill Hill, in Launceston, in 1643, and being buried there.
One of his sons turns up recorded as a brother in some accounts.

And all of that’s interesting – it’s fascinating – to unpick, but the problem is that when I’m not unpicking the tortuous genealogy of the Trerice Arundells, I’m a novelist.

So okay. I’m assuming, if you read my blog, you either read or write historical fiction, so I’ll give you a scenario.

Three members of a family die within eight weeks, one long summer: a mother, a son and a daughter.
Plague is reported in neighbouring parish records, but mortality bills aren’t kept in the parish where they’re buried.
Father is away at the time with two of his other sons, about twenty miles away in a castle under siege.

Now you could extrapolate a number of things from that. You could interpret it to mean that one son hadn’t gone with his father and his brothers to the castle’s defence, and that perhaps the family were intending to not put all their eggs in one basket, leaving at least one of the male line on the family estate to make sure that no roving Roundheads settled themselves there while all the handy Arundells were locked up inside Pendennis keep.
You could interpret it that all three died of the epidemic that we know was rife in the locality (although we don’t know what it was.)
You could interpret that after burying her eldest son and her daughter in the space of a month, unsupported by her husband and her other sons, worn out by war and worry – Mrs Arundell died quietly two weeks after her firstborn.

You could, and a novelist probably would, and a historian can’t.

It’s interesting to try and keep a narrative in your head when you’re writing a biography, but it’s also tempting to attribute thoughts and feelings to the people in it. (We assume that Mrs Arundell loved her husband and her children, and that their absence, and loss, would have grieved her. We don’t know it, because we have no evidence to support it: none of their correspondence survives. Although the fact of six children implies a degree of familial affection, doesn’t it?And again, with my novelists’s head on, I interpret a lack of correspondence to mean that he didn’t spend prolonged periods of time away from her, if he could help it.)

It’s out there. The information that’s going to make up a coherent whole is out there. It’s just piecemeal, and the trick is to find the pieces that are in the original jigsaw, and not the pieces that have been put in two hundred years later by someone with an agenda of their own. And I know what the picture looks like.
At the moment, it’s as if someone’s jumbled up two or three separate jigsaws, all equally interesting. (Little brother Thomas. And that’s all I’m going to say. Little brother Thomas deserves a monograph of his own, if only to blow a particular persistent myth about the Civil War in Cornwall right out of the water…)

I think I’ve got the corners. I think I’ve got eight corners, actually – John and little brother Thomas – and that’s all right, because let’s just say that you’re not going to mistake one for another in their particular avenues of activity during the 1640s.

Thomas’s picture is significantly different than John’s, and that’s going to make things easier, too.
But for now, it’s back to looking for straight edges.

Making Provision for Those That Shall Be Maimed In This Present War – Medical Care in the English Civil War

Originally blogged on the English Historical Fiction Authors website, a year ago today:

Making Provision For Those That Shall Be Maimed In This Present War

But on this anniversary of the battle of Edgehill, I think it bears re-blogging.

After the first battle of the English Civil War at Edgehill on 23rd October 1642, the people of Warwickshire found themselves with an estimated butcher’s bill of between one and two thousand men injured in the fight.

Camp-followers and soldiers’ wives who followed the Army were able to care for their injured menfolk, but a casualty list of such magnitude was beyond either their capability or their resources. Most sword-cuts were not able to penetrate the sleeve of a buff-coat – but not every soldier owned a buff-coat. A musket-ball was an ounce of lead, and would break thinner bones, such as ribs; thicker bones, such as limbs, tended to be shattered on impact. Not, as you can imagine, the sort of injury with which the ordinary woman – or, indeed, the ordinary medic – would be greatly familiar with from a civilian existence!

It is not known whether either Army’s medics operated a triage system. What is known, however, is that after Edgehill as many casualties as possible were removed to a more stable environment to provide the best care. In the Army of Parliament both Lord Brooke and the Earl of Essex are documented as having provided funds for the ongoing care of their casualties by local people: a receipt presented by Katherine Hobson of Warwick, after the battle, shows that she received £25 for the care of around 150 men. (Kington being Kineton, ie Edgehill)

These are to certifie to all those whom these may any wayes concerne
That I Katherine Hobson of Warwicke dureing the time of wars imployed by the Lord Brooke in the Attendinge & dressing of the wounded soldiers that came from Kington battel (wh[i]ch said Souldiers were in number aboute Seaven score & the said battell was in The year of our Lorde God 1642) I say Rec[eive]d of Mr Richard Lacell then Bayleff of Warwicke the sume of Twenty five pounds, for the buying Of necessarys for the said Soldiers

It is not known whether the King’s troops enjoyed a similar care: the wholesale destruction of His Majesty’s always-lackadaisical administrative paperwork after the surrender at Oxford means that it is impossible to say with any certainty. It may be guessed from contemporary Royalist sources that perhaps it was not always the case; it was conceded by many that the Parliamentarian medical services were far superior to the King’s, despite having men such as the physicians Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) “the English Hippocrates”, and Richard Wiseman (1625-1686), the greatest English surgeon of his day, in the ranks. These practitioners fought in opposing camps. Sydenham was a cavalry officer for the Parliamentary forces, whereas Wiseman was an ardent Royalist. Moreover, Wiseman became a personal friend of King Charles II, just as the pre-eminent physician William Harvey (1578-1657) had been a good friend (and hunting partner) of King Charles I.

Sydenham was enrolled at Magdalen College, Oxford, at the beginning of the war, and qualified as a Bachelor of Medicine in 1648 – presumably using some of the experience and knowledge gained in active service, in his practice. Wiseman wrote a book on field surgery, Several Surgical Treatises, and was an advocate of early amputation on the field of battle as well as an expert on gunshot wounds – also, presumably, using his field experience! He was of a similar age to Sydenham, but had entered the ranks of Barber-Surgeons just before the Civil War. (One of the main differences between doctors and barber-surgeons was that doctors were academically trained, and barber-surgeons were apprenticed.)

Edgehill seems to have been significant not only for the aftercare of its soldiers but for the fortunate coincidence of cold weather conditions which saved the life of many left on the battlefield unattended. The eminent physician to Charles I, William Harvey, who was present at the battle of Edgehill reported:

… that Sir Adrian Scrope was dangerously wounded there, and left for dead amongst the dead men, stript; which happened to be the saving of his life. It was cold clear weather, and a frost that night; which staunched his bleeding, and at about midnight, or some hours after his hurte, he awaked, and was faine to draw a dead body upon him for warmth-sake.” Harvey was also familiar with the best way of raising body temperature: “I remember he kept a pretty young wench to wayte on him, which I guess he made use of for warmth-sake as King David did, and he took care of her in his Will.

On 25 October 1642, within hours of the stalemate at Edgehill, Parliament passed an Act that for the first time acknowledged the State’s responsibility to provide for the welfare of its wounded soldiers and also for the widows and orphans of those killed -“An Ordinance of both Houses, declaring their Resolutions of making provision for those that shall be maimed in this present war, who are in the service of Parliament; and for the wives and children of those that shall be slaine“. Three weeks later, on 14th November with the pressure for care for the wounded rising, Parliament formed “The Committee for Sick and Maimed Soldiers” to rationalise the organisation and implementation of its aftercare arrangements.

Edgehill was significant not only as the battle which began the English Civil War, but, to a degree, the battle which began the concept of state responsibility for those hurt in its service. Diverse wounds and missing limbs often prevented returning soldiers from earning a living – these survivors seem to have been given a lump sum of £2 (in context, a colonel of horse in the New Model Army, three years later, would have received wages of a pound a week: £2 was a hefty lump sum, but not enough to retire on!) whilst a regular pension was agreed on. Significantly, widows and dependents of soldiers were also allowed to enter a claim for maintenance, provided they were able to provide relevant war records. Many of these widows were also in the position of having cared for injured soldiers who were wholly unrelated to them, after battle: Hester Whyte cared for wounded Parliamentarian soldiers after Edgehill, “who continued at her house in great misery by reason of their wounds for upwards of three months. She often sat up night and day with them, and in respect of her tenderness to the Parliament’s friends, laid out her own money in supply of their wants.” (Petition to the Committee of Safety for Warwick and Coventry)

There is much, much more to be said on the matter of Parliamentarian care of its soldiery – the hospital structure, the diet of sick and hurt soldiers, the value of opportunities afforded for women to be recognised in paid employment outside the home. In 1657 four women were interviewed for the single position of ward Sister at a London soldiers’ hospital. A nursing post in one of the London soldiers’ hospitals would have attracted a wage of 5s per week, with accomodation and food provided. (Set that against the widow’s pension of 4s per week, and it’s a much less impressive deal.)

That, however, is for another day entirely. On this anniversary of the battle of Edgehill, let us raise a toast to the Committee for Sick and Maimed Soldiers: the first of its kind in England.

A Plain Russet-Coated Author

For reasons which are not mine to speculate on, the Historical Novel Society is no longer undertaking indie book reviews at the current time

And a very dear friend of mine has suddenly become a Kindle bestseller.

It’s rather given me food for thought – because, you know, I’ve never achieved more than mid-list success (albeit consistently – that’s not a complaint!), the reviewers are not beating a path to my door, there’s no possibility of a Rosie film.

-There’s the distant possibility of A Cloak of Zeal making it to the silver screen, but that’s different.

The most successful, most widely-shared blog post I’ve ever written, even more so about the one about being mental, was about a bloody Royalist.

My publisher says I’m a good writer, but he’s not keen on the historical definition.

And yet…

That’s what I am. That’s what I do.

My thing is the period 1608 to – currently – 1681. I know it, I occasionally live in it, I can tell you about it easier than I could tell you the Top 10 music charts. (Do we still have a Top 10? Is Dowland still in it?)

I like the 17th century. It is, if you like, my abiding fire.

I’ve done the research. I know people would rather read about the Napoleonic wars – which, frankly, bore the arse off me, line on line of regimented redcoats ordered about like toy soldiers – or medieval mayhem. And historical romance is where the bulk of the historical readers are, and God knows there’s precious little of that going on in my books, not in any traditional boy-meets-girl sense.

And yet I’m still stubbornly writing, and even more stubbornly selling books.

And I think that’s the thing. I love that people discover them – and I get, absolutely, that I am a niche thing and an acquired taste – and most of all I love that I have enough people buying my books that I can put fuel in the car and keep the cats in biscuits, but that I pretty much know my readers.

Not only demographically, but I can poke one and say – hey! Ms X! What do you actually think about…

I can put people’s dogs into my books – Tinners and Malley, they’re real, they were loved – and their people know.

I reach a lot of new readers on Twitter. I do use Twitter a lot.

I am, I think, one of the reenactment world’s writers of choice, especially the Parliamentarian end of the proceedings, because I know what it’s like doing the operational stuff, and they know it. (I’ve marched the march, for want of a better word.)

I’m in various wonderful supportive Facebook groups and we have a laugh and we cover each other’s backs but…not sure they sell books.

And on balance, I think that’s kind of okay.

I enjoy what I do, but although in my head I’d like to rock up to a book-signing and sell out, I’m not sure I actually would. I think not knowing my people – not being able to call my readers friends, even in the loosest Facebook-chums distant sense  – would make me a bit sad. I think I’m happiest where I am: a plain russet-coated author who writes what she knows, and loves whereof she writes, than that which is a bestseller and nothing more.

And I think that, if anything, is what I’ve learned about writing. Know what it is you want to get out of your work – and be comfortable with it.

Goring. Distinctly not boring.

Well. What a marvellous, wicked, wanton, dissolute, all-round menace of a caricature Cavalier he was, and now here he is, turning up in Fairfax’s South-Western campaign of 1645 just in time for me to make sport with him.

(An aside – he might have been a most rascally Royalist type, but there’s something strangely appealing about him…)

His early days should have tipped Charles Stuart off to the fact that he was a little bit fly.Lord Goring was a courtesy title only – probably more courteous, and possibly less well deserved, than “Take your hands off there sir!” Goring – as he was the son of the first Earl of Norwich. He had an enigmatic limp gained in his soldiering service at Breda, in the Low Countries . He had a reputation, to quote Clarendon, as a man who “would, without hesitation, have broken any trust, or done any act of treachery to have satisfied an ordinary passion or appetite; and in truth wanted nothing but industry (for he had wit, and courage, and understanding and ambition, uncontrolled by any fear of God or man) to have been as eminent and successful in the highest attempt of wickedness as any man in the age he lived in or before. Of all his qualifications dissimulation was his masterpiece; in which he so much excelled, that men were not ordinarily ashamed, or out of countenance, with being deceived but twice by him.

Officers stationed in York in 1641 proposed to petition the king and parliament for the maintenance of the royal authority. A second faction was in favour of more violent measures, and Goring, in the hope of being appointed lieutenant-general, proposed to march the army on London during the trial of the Earl of Strafford in 1641. This proposition not unreasonably being rejected by his fellow-officers, he dropped them nicely in it by betraying the plot in April 1641. (A nice example of taking one’s ball and going home.) As a result, he was called to give evidence before the Commons, who commended him for his services to the Commonwealth. Having been commended, he promptly declared for the King in August.

Now, this is where it gets whizzy. Appointed Governor of Portsmouth by people who should have known better, he surrendered the port to the besieging Army of Parliament in September 1642, and scuttled off to the Netherlands for a spot of light recruiting. (And, one assumes, a little light recreational drinking and whoring.) In December that year he returns, after what success is not recorded, and then some fool – oh! that will be the Earl of Newcastle! – appoints him to a cavalry command. He defeats Fairfax at Seacroft Moor, in one of his occasional flashes of brilliance, in March 1643, and then cocks it all up again in Wakefield two months later and is taken prisoner by Fairfax in an attack on the town. April 1644, he effects an exchange, and then – this is the man who’s handed over Portsmouth and then lost Wakefield, remember – some numpty gives him charge of the Royalist left flank at Marston Moor. Which commission he carries out initially with great success…. and then allows his troops to scatter in search of plunder. I am delighted to relate that Oliver Cromwell took full advantage of this shocking want of discipline and gave him a right pasting.

In August Rupert dispatched him to the south of England to serve as  as lieutenant-general of the Royalist horse. (God alone knows what Rupert was thinking.) His campaign in the south-west was so vicious that he and his men were cordially loathed by the local residents to the extent that after the battle of Langport in July 1645 the local Clubmen massacred as many fleeing Royalists they could lay hands to in revenge for the Royalist depradations. Which rather makes you wonder about the calibre of officers he attracted…. great minds thinking alike and all.

He made no further serious resistance to the parliamentary general, but wasted his time in frivolous amusements. In November 1645 he obtained leave to quit his disorganised forces and retire to France on the ground of health – possibly the threat to his own of his comrades being so sick and tired of his wanton viciousness, debauchery, and general excessive cavalier-ishness that they might have considered knocking him on the head.

There he is, ladies and gentlemen, Lord George Goring. I couldn’t have invented him if I’d wanted to.

An Abiding Fire – firefighting in the 17th century, by Nick Ezra

An Abiding Fire – firefighting in the 17th century, by Nick Ezra

So there you are, sitting in your parlour with your feet up in 1666 and you smell burning. After thinking “That idiot Farynor has left his buns in the oven too long again”, what could you expect in the way of help in protecting life and property?

Considering that most houses even in the major European cities were of timber and thatch, even if statutes said they should be of brick or stone,the answer is actually very little. London had had the forward-thinking Lord Mayor Henry Fitzalwin who, as far back as 1189, had decreed that all large houses should be equipped with long ladders and to have a barrel of water for firefighting placed nearby. Each ward was to provide a ”strong crook of iron with a wooden handle, together with two chains and two strong cords” for pulling down roofs and walls to make a fire break. Some of these crooks were about 30 feet long (10M) and the timber pole upwards of a foot thick (30Cm.) by the 1600s, so they had harness rings attached to allow horse teams to do the work.

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Fire Fighting in the fourteenth century –  note the town notables being of great assistance.

By the time of Shakespeare, the wards had also been given the responsibility to provide “good Leather buckets” by the Corporation and for about a hundred years the streets had been patrolled at dusk by “Bellmen” whose job it was to call out “Take care of your fire and candle, be charitable to the poor and pray for the dead”.Whether this was all at ince, and what good that did, I have no idea.

Luckily for the modern householder of 1660, progress was being made and the first “Fire engines” were starting to appear, the first were large syringes or “Squirts”. Most were held by two men with a third pushing and pulling the plunger.

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A Victorian photograph of a very early fire pump from around 1620

Together with the appearance of the first timber water mains, just below the ground so a hole could soon be made to create a small pond to use, large and crude fire pumps began to appear with a movable jet mounted on a cistern which was filled by the bucket chain of local volunteers. These large cumbersome machines were either on sleds or wheels, and dragged by the locals to where they were needed.
With no Fire Brigade it was necessary to have some form of command and control. In London this was the householder until the fire spread, then the ward Beadle took charge, which allowed for the use of Ward or Parish equipment and also to call for locals to help with bucket chains and later to pump the manual fire engines. If it became apparent that the fire was large enough it became necessary for operations to come under the command of the Lord Mayor. Outside London it seems much the same Parish-Town type system was employed, though it was often a case of the “Blind leading the blind”.

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King Charles I took a keen personal interest in firefighting and prevention. In 1637 he wrote to the Lord Mayor of London suggesting that he and the Aldermen make provision for more fire engines so as to ensure they were nearer to any fire and that smaller parishes should group together to share the cost of an “engin” – an idea not taken up until the 1920’s.
He also wrote to each of the other parishes in London not in the city suggesting they do the same.
Up until the Civil War negligence or poor building maintance were the primary cause of fire: I expect it was felt that the City had enough problems with a Civil War going on with its risk of arson. The Lord Mayor issued this Seasonable Advice in 1643:

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the pity is that if it had been followed the 1666 incident may have been prevented or at least mitigated. The same effect was felt during the “Blitz” 500 years or so later when a rather stretched London Fire brigade also had to deal with fires caused by poorly extinguished candles and cigarettes.

King Charles II was also very concerned by the lack of fire provision. In 1664, just a couple of years before the second Great Fire of London, he wrote to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of the City warning of the fire risks in London. He was so concerned by the economic impact a serious fire would have on the national economy that he gave Royal Authority for the imprisonment of anybody found to have contravened the building regulations, and also to give powers for the removal of any offending buildings.
At this time insurance against marine loss was common, but no one had thought of fire insurance –  this would come in 1680 with the formation of the first “fire insurance office” behind the Royal exchange. It had become quite common practise however for the Lord Chancellor to issue a “Fire Brief”, sometimes called a “King’s Brief”, after a serious fire: these were printed and distributed around the country to be read at churches.

These Briefs called upon “well-disposed Persons” to show charity by contributing to the collection authorised by the Brief. Very large sums could be collected by this system – Oliver Cromwell is recorded as having made a personal contribution to one such Brief of £2000 during the Protectorate.

Nick Ezra is a scruffy, dog owning, local historian and contextual genealogist. He is also involved in the preservation of commercial vehicles. One day he will finish his stories about Oliver Badcock an Essex Edwardian police constable and his brother in law John Shepard, Olympian and City of London Police sergeant.

Bibliography
The Fire Service Today – F Eyre & E C R Hadfield (Oxford University Press 1947)

London’s Fire Brigades  – W E Jackson (Longmans London 1966)
Images of Fire – N Wallington (David and Charles Newton Abbot 1989)
A History of the British Fire Service (Routlidge London 1957)
http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/

Photographs of Squirt and Pump

Nick’s own history of the Kelvedon fire brigade and other works can be obtained via

https://www.facebook.com/Feering-and-Kelvedon-Local-History-Museum-220173101477439/

 

 

How Soon Is Too Soon?

It must be said, I am a fairly prolific author.

(I’m lucky enough to have a publisher who encourages my profligacy, too.)

I have promised myself no more than two books a year – one Civil War, and one Restoration – or I’m going to run out of battles and that will make me very sad indeed. Almost as an aside, I cannot bear the idea that there is ever going to be a death scene for any of the characters I love. The idea of setting a book in, say, revolutionary America featuring the further adventures of Hollie Babbitt’s descendants – and it’s been suggested – I couldn’t do it, because that would be like admitting that Hollie does, at some point, die.

So I’m currently twiddling about with a pregnant Thomazine, her other half, and Aphra Behn, waddling over on the boat to Holland to indulge in a bit of mild chicanery c. 1666. (That’s book 2. You know about book 2.)

And I’m excited about it. I’m getting quite into Aphra Behn (but then again, who hasn’t? – says Thomazine) I’m planning a trip to Bruges, maybe, I’m poking about with 17th century ships and seamanship, and spying under the Commonwealth, but – here’s the killer – the first book’s not even out yet.

Part of me’s thinking, no, hang on, you’ve got to give your all to promoting the first one, you can’t be talking about writing the next one already. And part of me’s thinking well, no, people want to know that there is a next one, they want to know that there’s not going to be a thing at the end of Masthead that says…. To Be Continued. Not a matter of loose ends, but people – readers – are fond of the Russell household. I suspect I am not the only person who would be more heartbroken at the death of some of my characters than at the death of Little Nell.

(Not your sister Nell, Thomazine. I have her marked down for one of Drew Venning’s boys, eventually, but I think she will have a pretty comfortable life with the heir to the Diss salt-fish empire, and do little of bookworthy note.)

So readers, how do you feel, at the end of a book? Onwards and upwards – or, in the case of the Uncivil Wars books, on with the body count? Or – phew, I can relax, now, I know what’s happened?

I’d love to see some of your thoughts!

 

Getting Ahead Of Yourself

Getting Ahead Of Yourself

So it’s like this.

There is now a third book in the series. You know how it is….

I do actually have a timeline of my characters. It’s not a helpful one – could I tell you Thomazine’s actual birthday? no, no more than I could tell you her father’s – except that she was born in the early spring of 1644, while the aforementioned Colonel Babbitt was up to the backsides (as he would put it) in mud and arsy troopers at Nantwich. That particular revelation’s in “The Smoke Of Her Burning”.
And Russell had just turned twenty-one when he was blinded at Naseby, in June 1645 – and so the summer of 1645 is the first time he and Thomazine meet.

Yes, mathematicians, he is nineteen years older than his wife, and yes, she has been fairly consistently attached to him since she was all of eighteen months old. Give or take a wobbly patch after the Burford Leveller mutiny, when he disappeared without trace into the interior of Scotland and came back promoted, with an ADC with a suspiciously Lowlands accent, and a tertian fever. That’s beside the point. Hapless was born in mid-June 1624. Somehow I think the idea that he was a summer baby makes his early life that much the sadder…

But knowing birthdays makes it easier. I now know that Charles II created a Board of Customs in 1671, which would make our Hapless forty-seven at the time of its creation.
(“What? Me? Gerroff!”
“Why not?”
“Because I’m a bloody sheep-farmer, tibber! The hell has wool-smuggling got to do with me?”
“Think you just answered your own question, bright-eyes…”)

Makes Thomazine twenty-eight, too.
And means they’ve been married for six years.
(“No, Thomazine. Just. No. No. More. Babies. Three is a sufficiency. No.”
“Going to sleep on the floor, are you?”
“No! But – no! You are not a brood mare, to be put to – no!”
“I like babies, Russell.” There’s a pause, in which the author is going to discreetly look the other way, having known Thomazine’s ability to wind her stern, dignified husband round her fingers since – well, since around 1645. “I like your babies, Russell.”)

And now I know where I’m headed, in 1671, with the Board of Customs.

Essex. Mersea Island, to be specific.