Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Renaissance Festival Celebration

Every year my husband and I take our kids to the Renaissance Festival (and if we can get away from them, we'll go again just the two of us!)

It is this time during the year that I can immerse myself, literally, in the time period I love, and mingle with others who are just as obsessed with history, royals, mead, turkey legs, jousting, etc... While I don't dress up (yet), I do dress up my little pretties. 

This year, we wanted to get our entire family involved, and we did pretty well! Since one of our daughters has a September birthday, we invited the whole family to join us in celebrating her birth at the Renaissance Festival. We had 7 of our family members take us up on it! It was a blast, and I can say it was probably one of the most fun times I've had at the festival because I was able to share my love of history and festival activities with more people.

For my post today, I thought I'd share with you some of the pics I took. Have you been to a Renn Fest lately?

Me and the DH being silly (yes he is the Queen and I am the King)

My and my girls after the three of them were presented to Henry VIII's court.

The oldest princess on a pony

My husband and oldest princess in the front, and his brother and my youngest princess in the back--riding and elephant (My husband is VERY tall--his brother is about 6 ft., we made fun of how my B-I-L looked so small next to him.)

My sister, her sig and my 2nd princess on an elephant.

The DH in the stocks :)

Baby Birthday Princess was WIPED out. She slept for about an hour as the rest of us continued our festival fun.

Couldn't get this pic to turn... but that is a giant sundae :)

The 2nd Princess in the stocks for being a gossip :)


Eliza Knight is a multi-published author of historical romance and erotic romance. Visit her at www.elizaknight.com

Available now! A Lady's Charade -- An I-Books (I-Tunes/Apple) Top 100 Popular Romance Novel!

From across a field of battle, English knight, Alexander, Lord Hardwyck, spots the object of his desire--and his conquest, Scottish traitor Lady Chloe.

Her lies could be her undoing…

Abandoned across the border and disguised for her safety, Chloe realizes the man who besieged her home in Scotland has now become her savior in England. Her life in danger, she vows to keep her identity secret, lest she suffer his wrath, for he wants her dead. 

Or love could claim them both and unravel two countries in the process…

Alexander suspects Chloe is not who she says she is and has declared war on the angelic vixen who's laid claim to his heart. A fierce battle of the minds it will be, for once the truth is revealed they will both have to choose between love and duty.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Something about Welsh

As you have no doubt noticed over the past months, I have a particular preference for any and all things Welsh. So, as a treat, I am going to give a short lesson on the Welsh language. I thought you might enjoy learning a few phrases to slip into your conversations when you visit this country so that you can impress your hosts.

One of my favorite idioms is dros ben llestri: literally, 'over heads of dishes'. When someone goes dros ben llestri, they've gone over the top. Pronounced pretty close to the way it looks: drohs ben llestri - double L is aspirated: put your tongue at the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth and force the L sound out in a hiss.

Another saying is cadw cwn a chyfarth ei hun: keeps dogs and barks himself. This describes someone who won't allow anyone to help him, has to be in control of situations. Sound familiar? This phrase is pronounced cah-doo coon ah chyvahrth eye heen - ch is as in loch - aspirated.

When it seems that all good things (or bad) seem to end up in someone else's life, you could say i'r pant rhediff y dwr: to the gully runs the water. Sounds like 'ear pant rhediff uh doer'. Rh is aspirated. In English, some of us say an H in front of the W in words like when, why, where. This is never a heavy sound, more like an exhaled sigh. It's the same in Welsh. A soft H in front of the R.

These days, a lot of people around the world are ar y clwt, literally, on the rag - destitute. Remember that W and Y are both consonants and vowels in Welsh. In this case, the pronunciation is close to what it looks like: ahr uh cloot.

Greeting people in Wales with Shw mae? is always acceptable. It's like asking What's up? or How goes it? Shw is a corruption of sut (sit) which means how. Mae is a form of the verb bod = 'to be'. Shw mae (shoo my) means 'how is'.

All Welsh vowels are Italianate - open and strong which is why Welsh is such a lovely language to sing. If you'd like to know more about Welsh folk music, the National Museum of Wales has a fantastic archive. You can also see examples of Welsh music at Cronfa. The American, Phyllis Kinney, has dedicated her life to Welsh folk music. She and her husband, Meredydd Evans, are renown for their academic work in Welsh traditional music.

People always ask me if I found Welsh hard to learn. Since I've now spoken it on a daily basis, I have to answer No, but in my first days and weeks, I couldn't get my tongue around words like rhwngwladol at all. One of the best ways to learn any language is to sing in it. In my forthcoming novel, The Gatekeeper, Gwennan teaches Jehan-Emíl to sing a simple song to help him learn her language. Learning Welsh for me was one of the most life-altering things I've ever done - for one thing, I would never have written Traitor's Daughter.

Trac is a good place to begin an exploration of Welsh traditional music and dance. This organization is also on Facebook so you can get to know the people who are promoting: The future of the tradition and the tradition of the future.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Seminoles in Florida and Beyond

In 1513, Spain claimed the land now known as Florida.  At that time, more than 200,000 natives lived on the peninsula.  By the time of the American Revolution in 1776, disease and warfare had reduced the native population to less than 40,000.  More thousands had been made into slaves by English settlers starting in 1704.

By 1813, the United States had plans to clear lands for new settlement.  The natives were in the way.  The Creek War in Alabama forced the Creeks to give up millions of acres.  Many Creek Indians fled to Spanish Florida where they joined with native tribes living there. The combined tribes became known as the Seminoles.  This name means “wild people” or “runaways.”  Many slaves who ran away from Southern plantations also found a home with the native people in Spanish Florida.  

Their hope for safety did not last long.  By 1817, the U. S. military entered Florida to protect new American settlers on Indian land.  They also searched for the runaway slaves. These battles fought under General Andrew Jackson became known as the Seminole Wars.  For the next forty-one years, conflicts between American troops and the natives of Florida continued.  

This time of war was marked by several unsuccessful treaties.  The 1823 Ft. Moultrie Treaty required the Seminole to cede all their lands except for a small central reservation. The treaty of Payne's Landing nine years later set the timetable for removing the entire tribe west of the Mississippi River. Heavy resistance to this treaty under the leadership of Tribal leader Osceola lead to the second Seminole War in 1835. This war lasted eight years with 1500 American troop deaths including the massacre of 100 men in one battle. The number of Seminole deaths in unrecorded. 
The Seminole Nation removed to the West became part of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory. When they agreed to outside settlement in the territory in 1908, the Nation numbered 2,138, many with mixed blood of the escaped slaves who found refuge with them in earlier years. A separate number of "Seminole Freedmen" was counted at 986.  A refuge band of Seminoles of mostly former slave blood settled in Mexico across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas. 
During that time, Florida became a United States territory. In 1843, it became the 27th state.  More than 5000 of the Seminole people had been forced west of the Mississippi after being hunted down with bloodhounds They were herded like cattle onto ships to New Orleans and up the Mississippi River.  About 200 to 300 of them were able to flee into the swampy wilderness of the Everglades.  There they managed to survive alligators, mosquitos, snakes, suffocating heat and malaria to stay hidden until the 1890s.  Today more than 2000 Seminoles live on six reservations in Florida.

My Question for September contest: What future president earned fame during the Seminole Wars?

BIO: Barbara Scott is the author of several romances includingCast a Pale Shadow, Haunts of the Heart, and Listen with Your Heart. Her most recent West of Heaven earned the following quote from Romancing the Book: "Barbara Scott blends the perfect amount of suspense, romance, history, and humor into a wonderfully engaging novel. I definitely recommend this novel with 4 stars (Lovely Rose!) and two thumbs up! "  Barbara's next release Talk of the Town is a contemporary romantic comedy due out October 1, 2011.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Clovelly is a very old fishing village in Devon clinging to the side of a cliff. A place where the people clung to life equally perilously as they harvested fish in all kinds of weather.

This is the Red Lion hotel where we stayed and as you can see we were blessed with lovely weather. It was once several fishermen's cottages and was joined together to form an inn a great many years ago.

Early records of the village date back to Saxon times, but  it has been around in something like its present form since the 16th century.  If you haven't visited Clovelly, then hopefully these pictures give you a sense of this charming spot.

The population in the village in 1801, my interest being the Regency, was 714 people and a great many of these would have been children, since families were large and the number of cottages is quite small.

The hillside is very steep so you must have to go up very slowly and you will have to take lots of breaks, but first may I suggest a small libation at the bar in the Red Lion.  We also had a crab sandwich for lunch, which was delicious.

To get down to the hotel by car (as only hotel guests are permitted to do), we used what is called The Turnpike road, which in the old days was very steep and very rough and it is this way that the supplies were delivered to the village at the very bottom of the hill, only to be have to then carried up to the houses.

This is the cobbled alleyway that leads from Turnpike at the back of the Red Lion to the harbour side of the pier.

And here is the harbour as it appeared to us the day we arrived. You can see that the tide is out.

I have to say that we were enchanted with this village which looks across to Wales. 

My question for you is, do you have any idea how they would have brought goods from the bottom of the hill or the harbour up those steep roads to the town?

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Monday, September 26, 2011

Historical Romances: Likes and Pet Peeves

I had a great post for you from the suggestion of one of our readers who said the Liturgical Year would make more sense if people understood the Liturgical Day. Unfortunately, it’s on a flash drive at home and I’m not there. However, I thought we could have some fun today talking about likes and dislikes, as well as things that just create wall-bangers for some of us. I’ve mentioned a few of mine on the HHRW General Loop a few times. One of my main dislikes is obviously someone trying to cast 20th century mores in an 11th century world; writers who don’t understand the historical ramifications of Last Rites using them as a plot tool and creating the ultimate sinner; people who say, “You won’t use a word that works because someone told them it is too new…” Sorry, I don’t speak Old French and I doubt most would understand Old English or Latin. These are only a few, but I didn’t want to take them all and leave none for you.

I have likes too! I love an Historical Romance that takes me through the gamut of emotions and doesn’t read like a history lesson. I love historical situations that drive the plot, so that I’m not reading a book that could be written in any era and still turn out the same way. I don’t have a problem with the historicals of the late 70’s and 80’s that many call bodice busters… Except for one, and I won’t name the title but the book took the hero and heroine around the world by ship and put them in some of the most ridiculous scenarios that the nearly 500 page (or was it 600?) took me forever to read.
So have fun and share with us today, whether reader or writer, let us know what you like or dislike.

Mary McCall

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Musée de Cluny

Awesome is too tame a word to describe the wonder of Musée National du Moyen Age (aka/Musee de Cluny). Located in the 5th District of Paris near the Sorbonne, it was originally built in the 14th century as a town house for Benedictine Abbots, on the site of Gallo Roman baths. In 1843 the building became a National Museum of Medieval and Renaissance treasures.

With our love of European history, Cluny was on our must see list of places to visit during last fall's trip to Paris. From our apartment in Les Halles, we took the Metro to the Cluny La Sorbonne station, with its artistically rendered mosaics and signatures of famous authors, poets, philosophers, artists, and statesmen adorning the ceiling. From there we walked a few blocks to a Starbucks where, seated amid masses of studying and debating college students, we breakfasted on coffee and croissants.

Another short walk in the cool October air took us to the Cluny museum. After checking our coats, we walked through the gift shop and stepped into the first of a multitude of galleries filled with medieval masterpieces.

For hours we strolled through room after room of art and artifacts - paintings, chalices, statues, and ornamentation of the medieval churches.

A large room with black walls and dim lights holds the Lady and Unicorn tapestries, a series of six Flemish tapestries woven from silk and wool in the late 15th century. Each tapestry depicts one of the senses - taste, hearing, sight, touch, and smell. The sixth depicts love or desire. We stood in silence, in wonder, and in awe.

Another room held an intriguing relic, a unicorn's horn, so stated on the small sign below it. Other galleries held knights' armor, chainmail, and weapons.

In an adjoining building but still within the museum, we came to the ruins of the Gallo-Roman baths and other statues dating from the 3rd century.

Although the guidebooks say to allow one hour to tour Cluny, we were there for well over three hours and could have stayed the entire day. If you have a love of medieval history, I urge you to find a way to visit Musée de Cluny. It will remain in your heart forever.

Debra K. Maher
Stringing Beads

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Idaho Hotel-Silver City

Backside of the hotel and other buildings
When Lauri Robinson approached me about writing a “sisters” book together I jumped on the idea. As we chatted back and forth establishing their background and how the story would end we needed a town that the family would be traveling to at the start of the book. Preferably a mining town between where your two sisters would end up.

Tink on the Idaho Hotel porch
After some digging I came up with Silver City, Idaho. It was up and running in the time frame we needed. A discovery of gold on War Eagle Mountain in 1865 started the influx of miners and merchants. The failure of the Bank of California, which funded most of the mines, caused the mines to stop work in 1875. But some carried on until and there was a short revival in 1890. Mining didn't come to a complete shut down but irrigation and agriculture increased in the lower valley around the Snake River and the mountain towns dwindled.

Only a few people remain in Silver City today and mostly during the summer because the road to the mountain town is closed by snow from October to May.

When Lauri and I decided on using this town in our book, Tink(my dog) and I took a road trip to see how the stage coaches approached the town and what it looked like in the small valley near the top of the mountain.

old stamp mill
There are still some original buildings. The one that impressed me the most was The Idaho Hotel. It has a welcoming wide front porch that spans fifty-eight feet, it's three stories tall, and has beautiful woodwork inside. The current owners are restoring it to its original condition.

When it was built it was considered one of the best hotels in the Idaho Territory. It boasted a large dining room, kitchen, fifty guest rooms and a beautiful mahogany bar. It had a bath house and the backside is up against Jordan Creek. That back area was a Chinese laundry. Running water was piped into the hotel in 1869 and in 1878 the owner built an electric plant on Jordan Creek to illuminate the hotel and other businesses.

In 1871 a bar and additional rooms were added onto the east end. On July 4th in 1873 the townsfolk shot off a cannon in celebration and chattered a third of the window glass in the hotel. This gave the owners the nudge to remodel. The enlarged and improved by adding a woodshed, a large kitchen and two rooms over the barroom. In 1874 they add the costliest and handsomest mirror to ever travel to Silver City in the bar.

The hotel was also the depot for all the stage and express lines.

For a Sister's Love blurb:

Lorelei and Maggie Holmes make a desperate vow to reunite after an Indian raid on their wagon train leaves them orphans. Eight-year-old Lorelei is taken in by an impoverished family headed to a Colorado mining town and ten-year-old Maggie finds herself on the way to Portland, Oregon to live with a woman widowed during the Indian attack.

Ten years later, Lorelei’s adoptive father gambles away her birth mother’s locket and her only connection to her lost sister. Believing she needs the locket and to find Maggie, she sets out after the gambler and ends up in the company of a citified lawyer searching for the same man.

While cleaning a hotel room, Maggie discovers her mother’s locket in the possession of a gambler. Fear for her sister increases Maggie's determination. Never one to give up, she dogs the gambler until he agrees to help her find her sister.

Two sisters, two adventures, will they find one another or will the men helping them be their destinies?

This book is available at Kindle, Smashwords, and Nook for $.99




Friday, September 23, 2011

Alexandra: The Early Years

By Emma Westport


In June 1884, Princess Alix, from the small duchy of Hesse and by Rhine, came to St. Petersburg to celebrate the marriage of her sister, Ella, to the Tsar’s brother, the Grand Duke Serge.    The young girl was related to most of the nobility of Europe, many of whom she’d never met and all of whom were in attendance.  At a family dinner, she found herself seated next to her handsome, blue-eyed cousin, the sixteen-year-old Tsarevich, Nicholas Romanov.  Before dinner was over, Alix was in love.  So was he.  That night, Nicholas wrote in his diary.  “I sat next to little twelve year old Alix and I like her awfully much.” 

For the rest of her stay, Alix spent time with her cousin.  They walked in the parks around Peterhof, laughed together and etched their names in the window of the Italian House.  Nicholas gave her a brooch, which she at first accepted.  But before she left, she gave it back feeling, perhaps, she was too young for such an expensive gift.    

By the time Alix returned to Russia in 1889, it was clear to both families that there was something more than a childish infatuation at play.  The formidable Queen Victoria opposed the match.  She liked Nicholas well enough.  She thought him a charming young man.  But she did not want to see a favorite grandchild on the dangerous throne of Russia.  Nicholas’s grandfather had been brutally murdered by an assassin’s bomb and his father Tsar Alexander III had also been the target of assassination attempts.  No.  Victoria pressed Alix to marry ‘Eddy,’ eldest son of the Prince of Wales.  Victoria believed Alix would be a steadying influence on the young man and she wanted Alix to be Queen of England.  Alix refused the match.

Tsar Alexander III and his wife also opposed a marriage.  The Tsar felt Nicholas was already too timid.  He did not want to see his son married to a wife with the same failing.  Worse, Alix often hid her shyness behind a cold smile and curt manner.  The Tsarina, Maria Feodorovna, feared this would make Alix unpopular.  She would never be loved or accepted by the Russian people.

Thing changed when the Tsar became ill.  The prospect of his own death made the Tsar realize Nicholas needed someone by his side.   Queen Victoria continued to oppose their marriage but Nicholas now had his parents’ permission to at least court Alix.  Aided by Alix’s sister, Ella, wife of Grand Duke Serge, Nicholas began writing to her.

It did not go well.  Both wanted to marry but marriage to the Tsarevich would make Alix Russia’s Tsarevna and that meant she had to be a member of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Alix could not bring herself to renounce her Lutheran beliefs, not even for the man she loved.  Nicholas was stunned but Ella told him not to worry.  A solution would be found.   And it was.  Alix was told both churches held many beliefs in common.  No ‘renunciation’ was necessary.  She would simply join the Orthodox Church.   Alix accepted Nicholas and their engagement was announced.

The happy couple had a short time together before Nicholas had to return to Russia.  Alix went to England but, even as she traveled, she was followed by reporters and gawkers.  Everyone wanted a glimpse of the beautiful girl who would rule the Russian Empire.  She went to Harrogate under an assumed name, seeking privacy and treatment for the sciatica that would plague her throughout her life.  Her identity was soon discovered.  She wrote to Nicholas, and joked about the people who stared at her.  Next time, she said, she’d know to stick her tongue out at them. 

In fact, her new celebrity frightened the shy Princess.  Total strangers tried to peer in her windows, some using opera glasses.  She couldn’t go out her front door or take a carriage without being followed.  Shopping became impossible.  Any store she entered was instantly mobbed and it was not just the loss of privacy that made her uneasy.  Pain crippled her legs, limiting her mobility and confining her to a wheelchair.  There was no way she could escape if a crowd proved unruly.

Meanwhile, the Tsar’s condition worsened.  Nicholas telegraphed Alix, asking her to come.  Alexander III insisted on getting up from his bed to meet his future daughter-in-law and nothing but his full dress uniform would do.  But the man who used to bend steel bars to amuse his children was exhausted by the effort of standing and putting it on.  Barely able to breathe, he met Alix sitting down.  She came in and knelt before him.

The Tsar died on November 1, 1894.  After the state funeral, Nicholas took advantage of his mother’s birthday, a day when mourning was suspended, to marry Alix.  On November 26, 1894, the twenty two year old Princess became Her Imperial Majesty, Tsarina of all the Russias, Alexandra Feodorovna.   On the morning after her wedding night Alexandra wrote in her husband’s diary.  “Never did I believe there could be such utter happiness in the world, such a feeling unity between two mortal beings.  I love you—those three words have my life in them.” 

It was the start of one of the most tragic love affairs in history.

(For photos and images of Alexandra, please try the following links.  If they do not work, simply cut and paste them in your browser. 



The quote above is from Greg King’s biography, The Last Empress:  The Life and Times of Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia.  Carolyn Erickson’s Alexandra, The Last Tsarina is also very readable.)


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Historical Inaccuracies

One of the things I love most about writing historicals is the research, but it can also be the most irritating task. I have spent that last few months researching words, Kansas orphan laws, screen doors, cellars, stone houses, barb wire, Pinkerton Detectives, coal mines, railways and trains. Of course, I'm sure there are plenty more that I can't think of right now, like clothing, roofing and horses. Oh, I even researched dates for hymnals.

And wouldn't you know it that I didn't even consider whether or not peaches were in season during the manuscript I just submitted. Of course, this little tidbit didn't dawn on me until  a discussion occurred on one of my writer's loops, which brought up another fact that I had failed to research . . .

which Bible translation to use in my historical. I've never read anything other than New International. Who knew that the NIV didn't come into existence until the late 1960s? Certainly not me. Boy, was I embarrassed. But I have been assured by at least one person that my little faux pas won't cause the historically-accurate, lynching mob after me. 

So, have you ever discovered an inaccuracy after the fact? If so, what was it? What kinds of historical inaccuracies in books drive you absolutely nuts?

Happy Thursday,


Tuesday, September 20, 2011


“From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!”

Traditional Scottish Prayer

After watching this year’s Emmy Show I was surprised with how out of touch I have been with network television. I do have a few guilty pleasures on the small screen especially now as the days grow shorter and the weather becomes crisp with the promise of snow in the air. Two favorite shows of guilty pleasure are the Science Fiction channel’s GHOST HUNTERS and GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL. I tell myself I am only watching for ideas for paranormal plots but the truth is I want to believe there is tangible evidence of the paranormal. Though I have no supernatural abilities myself I do remember when I was 7 my father turning white at my brother’s christening party and my mother being scared. I later learned, while in the kitchen getting ice my dad was confronted by his mother, except my grandmother had just died two short weeks before. Seems she had come back to see that my baby brother and my family were fine before she could pass over.

On my first visit to Scotland back in 1994 I had planned to visit Roslyn Chapel near Edinburgh after reading THE SWORD AND THE GRAIL by Andrew Sinclair. I was fascinated with the then belief of the chapel’s connection to the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. After at least a week of tromping through graveyards looking for lost ancestors my husband willingly agreed going the Chapel would a nice change of pace. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way for my husband. We entered the Chapel and I was hit was a major sensory overload as to where to look, but after a while I realized my husband was nowhere to be found. I walked outside to find him smoking, weird because he had given it up years before. I asked him to come back in, as I wanted to show him the death mask of Robert Bruce but he refused. I could see he was upset so thinking I could come back later for a church service we left. Finally that night he admitted that he felt while in the chapel as he if he was being chocked and pushed to a dark corner of the chapel. He didn’t get relief until he left the chapel. Since then, I have returned four more times over the years, but he has flatly refused to not only to go in the chapel but refuse to enter the grounds.

Scotland rich in Celtic legends of fairy folk, brownies, kelpies, and witches is a vortex for all kinds of paranormal activities from ghost sightings, to hauntings, to Nessie and even UFO’s (Scotland has more sightings than anywhere in the world). As we approach the final month of the Celtic calendar I wanted to share two of my favorite haunted places in Scotland:

Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if you daur, left the sneck and draw the bar.”

Greyfairs Kirkyard and the Covenanters Prison:

I first visited here in 1994 on my first trip. Having been raised on all the old Walt Disney movies of the 60’s I had to see where the famous Greyfrairs Bobby was buried. For those of you who don’t know about this wonderful dog, when his owner died he would sneak into the Kirkyard and lay upon his owner’s grave. He was chased off daily but because of his unique loyalty to his owner even in death, he was cared for by the community and allowed to visit his master until he too died. In great Disney fashion, Bobby was buried near his master and the children of the US pooled their money to have a special monument erected for just for Bobby. At the time I first visited one couldwalk the grounds even in the grounds of the Covenanters Prison (17th century), which was turned into a graveyard.

However, all that changed in 1999. As the story goes a vagrant had somehow gotten into the Kirkyard, which was normally locked in the evening. Thinking to find a warm place to bed down for the night he entered George Mackenzie’s Tomb.

George Mackenzie, or “Bluidy Mackenzie” as he was later known, was Scotland’s chief Advocate for King Charles II and it was he who had over 1200 Covenanter prisoners (men, women and children) brought to Edinburgh and imprisoned in the field which is now the Kirkyard. Of the 1200 within 5 months of living out in the open, exposed to the Scottish weather only 257 remained alive. It is noted that Mackenzie took great pleasure in hanging and torturing the Covenanters hence his name.

Unfortunately while in the tomb, the vagrant fell through a floor in the tomb and landed on a mass grave of moldy bones, which were later determined to be plague victims. Scared out of his wits the man fled the tomb scaring the night watchman who heard the commotion. It was later learned that the vagrant had opened one of the caskets in the tomb probably looking for grave goods and in doing so it is believed he unleashed the spirit of Mackenzie. From 1999 forward over 400 members of the public have been attacked while on the Prison grounds. These attacks have included pushing, poking that left bruises and scratches, being knocked down and even knocked unconscious. Most of the attacks occur in or near the Black Mausoleum, which was once part of the prison but it is believed that these are the actions of the poltergeist of Mackenzie. The attacks have become so frequent that the Edinburgh Council has locked the Prison to visitors and is only opened for organized tours, which are not open to those with heart conditions or who are pregnant, those who are most often attacked. The mausoleum has been exorcized twice and one of exorcists died of a heart attack only two weeks after he performed the exorcism.

Hermitage Keep at Newcastleton, Scottish Borders... “SOD Off IN STONE”

The ruins of the Keep are a stark reminder of the type of stone keeps that scattered the Borders of Scotland from the 12th thru the 17th century Scotland. Though on the outside the keep seems to be in excellent condition, the interior has all but been destroyed by Border warfare and the elements. A keep or castle has been on the spot since the early 1200’s and the occupiers have been both Scottish and English, depending on the ebb and flow of warfare on the Anglo/Scottish Borders.

I visited the Keep in 2007 because the third book in my Scottish trilogy is plotted here. If you remember my post on Black Agnes last month you might remember that the siege at Dunbar was saved by Sir Alexander Ramsay and Hermitage is where he met his demise. In 1338, Sir William Douglas of Liddesdale captured the keep from the English commander Ralph de Neville and the Douglas family took control of the keep and surrounding area. However, King David II had decided to reward Sir Alex Ramsay by naming him sheriff of Teviotdale including Hermitage. Enraged by the slight from his King, Douglas lured Ramsay to the Keep where he threw him in the dungeon, which was a dank place with no air or sunlight and eventually starved him to death. Some of the ghostly sounds heard by visitors to the Keep are believed to be that of Ramsay as he attempts to claw himself out of the dungeon. Douglas was later named sheriff and suffered no penalty in Ramsay’s death. But Alexander isn’t the only ghost.

From 1274-1328 the keep was held by one Sir William de Soulis, who was reputed to be a practitioner of the black arts and was able to conjure up his familiar on Robin Redcap to do his dirty work. Soulis was said to have lured young children of the district and used their blood in his horrific rituals. The community was so fed up with the knight that they petitioned King Robert Bruce to remove him from the Keep, but Bruce tired of their complaints replied…

Boil him if you must, but let me hear no more of him.”

The people did just as the king wished; they captured him, wrapped de Soulis in lead and placed him head first in a boiling cauldron and kept him there until he died. Many visitors today believe that when they here the sobbing of young children while in the Keep the ghost of Solis is nearby.

And finally, for those of you who are into the Vampire Diaries, True Blood or the Twilight saga you won’t be disappointed to hear that Scotland has vampires too. Though I’m not a fan of vampire fiction I was surprised to learn that a vampire was sighted in the area around Lochmaben in Dumfries in recent years. Lochmaben once a keep of the Bruce family was the sight of a curse levied upon the Bruce family. In the 1200’s the Bruces were forced to move from Annan to Lochmaben because of a flood. The story is told of a visit by the Irish monk, St. Malachy who asked Lord Bruce to spare a thief from a hanging. Bruce complied or so the monk thought but as he passed by Lochmaben he saw the same thief hanging dead and placed a curse on the Bruce family. A curse that was taken seriously as they dedicated land in Annan with its rents went to pay for the upkeep of the shrine of St Malachy at the Cistercian house at Clairvaux. However, the area was to suffer from the plague in later years and many believe the vampire is a result of the curse and plague. The vampire seen in recent years is dressed like a monk but they know he is present when they find dead animal carcasses devoid of blood. The Scottish Ghost hunter Tom Roberston, has encountered the vampire at Lochmaben and has photos of the vampire in his book GHOST HUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE AFTER LIFE. For everyone who leaves a comment today you will have a chance to win a copy of his book.

But remember the words of Scottish writer J M Barrie..."A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night. "

Monday, September 19, 2011

This week in History

by Anna Kathryn Lanier
I usually wait until the last minute to do my blog. This week has been hectic, because my mother was hospitalized with pneumonia, so I let the blog get even further away from me.  

Anyway, as I need to slap something together for today, I turned to a new book I got a few weeks ago, “365 Great Stories From History For Every Day of the Year.” Anyone who reads my blog knows about this book, as I’ve used it a couple of times for recent blogs. It has a ‘what happened today’ in the past for every day of the year.  I looked at the stuff that happened in the next few days….my gosh.  What was I doing during history class? How did I miss this stuff?

Today, September 19, 1356, Edward, The Black Prince of England defeated King Jean II of France in one of the early battles of the 100 Year War and took Jean prisoner for four years. (Edward is pictured left)

September 20th, the start of the Great Papal Schism began when a group of Cardinals, irritated at Pope Urban VI, who went back on his promise to move the Papal back to Avigon from Rome, held a conclave on September 20, 1378 and elected their own pope, Robert of Geneva, who named himself Pope Clement VII.  The schism lasted 38 years and 309 days and through several anti-popes, sometimes with 3 or 4 different people claiming to be the pope at the same time.  On July 26, 1417, Martin V became the sole Pope when the Council of Constance deposed of one of the pretenders, Benedict XIII. 

September 21, 490 b.c. is something about the Greeks annihilating the Persians at Marathon. Yes, you can see, I’m not particularly interested in that, so, please, look it up yourself at The ORB: On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies  Just scroll down a bit to The Battle of Marathon – Preparations. 

September 22nd, “The most barbarous royal murder in history.”  Frankly, I think it’s one of the most barbaric ever…royal or otherwise. Warning: This is graphic, so skip to the next entry if you’re squeamish.  Queen Isabella of England wasn’t too fond of her wimpish husband, King Edward II (pictured right). 365 Great Stories From History says he was “handsome, silly, weak and dominated by male favourites.” Isabella and her lover, Roger de Mortimer overthrew him and exiled him to Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.  They placed the king in a small, cold cell and fed him scraps, hoping he’d just shrivel up and die.  But Edward was stronger than they thought and he did not decline as they’d hope.  So, on the night of September 21, 1327, three of the queen’s henchmen entered his cell and held him down on his bed. They then “thrust a red-hot spit up through his anus, burning his internal organs.”  Okay, they may not have liked the man, but really, couldn’t they have just poisoned him?  At the time of his death, his son was 14.  Isabella served as regent until Edward III was of age, three years later.  He, unlike his father, wasn’t a wimp.  He sent his mother into exile and, as a traitor to the crown, had Mortimer hung, drawn and quartered. Okay, that may be just as barbaric and what they did to Edward II, but at least Mortimer deserved it!  Oh, btw, Edward II is the young prince depicted in BRAVEHEART, the one who's lover is thrown out the window by his father, Edward I.  Geez, Isabella seems much nicer in that movie!

Also on September 22, 1692, six women and one man was hung in Salem, Massachusetts as witches.

September 23, 480 b.c. ….um, the Greeks knocked the snot out of the Persians again, this time in Salamis. Find out more at the same website as above, The ORB: On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies. Just scroll down to The Battle of Salamis.

 Okay, these are a few tidbits of history for the coming week. Do you have any you’d like to share with us?
 BTW, my mom should be fine. They have isolated the germ causing the illness and are giving her antibiotics.

Anna Kathryn Lanier

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To improve its annual Romance Through The Ages (RTTA) contest, the Hearts Through History chapter of RWA is asking for your opinion of contests in general, and the RTTA in particular. Please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZQ35NVC to take our short survey and be entered for a chance to win a free online workshop from Hearts Through History.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Impressions of Berg Nanstein, A Knight's Castle

For some historical romance novels, we authors place our heroes and heroines in castles. Just the word castle conjures up images of wealth and opulence. Those images are further enhanced by novels and movies. So I was delighted when I had the opportunity to visit Landstuhl Germany’s Berg Nanstein in person this summer. I wanted to discover the reality of living conditions for a medieval knight and his lady.

From my study of English castles, I knew were built as military structures to protect landed estates and offer a safe haven in time of war. Berg Nanstein was no exception. Begun in the middle twelfth century, Berg Nenstein reflected the aspirations of ambitious knights. The castle served many functions for its various lords. The castle was the lord’s living quarters along with his administrative, economic and court center. It also acted as a school, archive, treasury, arsenal, and if the castle contained a chapel a sacral function. But most importantly, it was an instrument of war – a place to launch war from, and a retreat or safe haven when war turned against the lord.

This castle is one of five castles built around Emperor Frederic Barbarossa’s Kaiserslautern administrative center. It guarded a strategic and important East-West trade crossing. This castle was a typical fortress built on a hilltop with an elongated tongue of walls that ran down the hillside to surround the city below.

When I walked the grounds around the German castle, I was impressed by the fifteen foot high walls with slits for weapons to be fired. Berg Nenstein, the knight’s strong house, was set on a mountain overlooking Laundstuhl. The sheer drop off to the town as well as its moat and imposing wall would have discouraged most enemies in the twelfth century. But when I wound my way up tight cramped spiral staircases to the top of the towers, I was surprised by the view. Berg Nanstein wasn't situated on the highest point around. That fact caused its defeat in 1523. Enemy cannons mounted on three surrounding peaks situated higher than the castle. The sturdy stone walls were no match for the bombardment, and the castle was destroyed. The castle’s surrender in 1523 during the Imperial Knight War marked the end of medieval castles' usefulness against the modern cannon.

Within the castle walls on top of the hill, all personnel and animals (war horses and hunting dogs) lived on the first floor in areas that resembled a tunnel opening into a large dark holding room with a fire pit at the end. The only private chamber belonged to the lord. All other living accommodations were communal. Public or reception rooms were located on the second floor.

What little light entered any room came from a gun chamber from which castle soldiers shot at the advancing enemy. Weapons were stored along the walls at the ready. All stairs exposed a person’s right side to a lethal rain of arrows from above. (Most fighter were right handed and held shields in their left hands making left spiraling staircases highly effective.)

Although carvings of the knight’s crest adorned the entry arch, the interior of the castle was sparsely furnished with small chairs or wooden block, trunks for mobile possessions, niches in the walls to hold personal objects, a stone hearth, a castle well and fountain. Ulrich von Hutten, a contemporary of the lord who surrendered the castle in 1523, described life in the castle as “not built for the comfort but for battle, inside of depressive narrowness squeezed together with cattle and horse stables, dark chambers and war equipment. The smell of gunpowder everywhere, the odor of the dogs and their excrement is not much more pleasant either.”

Unfortunately, my camera wasn't good enough to capture the interiors of the castle with any clarity. Needless to say, Berg Nanstein wasn't anything like the fairytale castles seen in the movies.

Margaret Breashears

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Wizard Lady of Branxholm

"The feast was over in Branksome tower, And the Ladye had gone to her secret bower; her bower that was guarded by word and by spell, Deadly to hear, and deadly to tell--"
--the Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott
Scott's opening lines to his seminal work introduced a new kind of heroine who had the power to bewitch Georgian and Regency readers and catapult her creator to instant fame. She was a true wizard lady, her presence shivering and felling the rational, elegant pillars of verse so prized by the classicists in the previous century.
The age of Romanticism had dawned with a spell.
I say Sir Walter Scott created her, but in truth the wizard lady of Branxholm was based on a true historical figure--Janet, Lady of Buccleuch and Branxholme (1519 - 1569). Her father was John Beaton, Laird of Creich, a Scottish border lord who, as the poem relates, bestowed on his daughter a keen interest in the occult. Whether this is true or not, it is absolutely certain that Janet had an almost supernatural power over men's hearts. Even as she grew older, her youthful looks remained remarkably preserved.
Witchcraft, it was whispered. Not Oil of Olay.
If she didn't cast spells, she certainly had enthusiasm. Janet married four husbands, the last one at the advanced age of sixty-one. She also had at least two affairs out of wedlock, both significant enough to be documented in court filings during litigation!
When Janet's first husband died, she married Sir Simon Preston, Lord of Craigmillar Castle. He was a busy man, rebuilding the castle after it was destroyed during England's "Rough Wooing" of Scotland during the minority of Mary, Queen of Scots. Janet was busy as well. She was divorced when Sir Simon discovered her infidelity with another man.
She then married her lover, a much older man known (alarmingly!) as "Wicked Wat," the Laird of Buccleugh and Branxholm. Like the poet, his name was Sir Walter Scott and was Janet's senior by twenty-four years. Perhaps it was his mortal hatred for the English which attracted her, for he was not the last man with this quality she was linked to. Together they had several children, including Margaret, the inspiration for Scott's Lady of the Lake.
According to some, Margaret was nothing like her mother, being rather insipid.
Sir Walter met his end at the hands of his hereditary enemies, the Kerrs in Edinburgh's High Street. He was still breathing after the attack, but was finished off by servants' daggers. The Queen Regent of Scotland, Marie of Guise, ordered the Kerrs to be banished.
Not to be satisfied, the widow of Buccleuch went after those who had supported the Kerrs. She set out with a party of some two hundred armed men after one of them, the Laird of Cranstoun. The hapless man fled at her approach, seeing sanctuary in a church called Kirk of the Lowes. He locked and barred the door. Undeterred, Janet took an axe and forced her way in. It is not too far-fetched to imagine the grief-wracked widow tearing the man from the altar with her own hands.
As they say, "Wicked Wat" was the love of the wizard lady's life.
Not to doesn't diminish her other romantic exploits: at the age of forty-three and having borne seven children, Janet ensnared another English-hater. James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, was "as naughty a man as liveth" and all of twenty-four at the time when they began their liaison. Hardly a secret, the affair became the subject of testimony during a lawsuit, of all things:
A man sued the wizard lady and demanded the judge be removed. On what grounds? he was asked. Because the judge, being the Earl Bothwell was "either quietly married or handfast" to the Lady of Buccleugh, disqualifying him from deciding the case. Any other grounds? You bet. There were "other causes of suspicion between them as is notoriously known."
I wish I had been there.
In any case, there were not the events that inspired the poem's claim that the Lady of Buccleugh could "bond to her bidding the viewless forms of the air." Janet had always been a respected member of the aristocracy, received at court by both Queen Mary and her mother when that lady was Regent. Indeed, others were suspected of witchcraft at this time. Mary Fleming, one of the Queen's attendants, was said to have cast Mary's labor pains onto Lady Margaret Reres, later wet-nurse to the baby prince.
Maybe the wizard lady wasn't up to that job. After all, Lady Reres was Janet's sister.
Janet's reputation as a witch began, ironically, right about the time the Queen's character was being sullied. Notorious placards calling Mary whore and murderess were circulated in Edinburgh, a city whose citizens were formerly captivated by the glamour of their queen. One of the pamphlets declared Janet had persuaded the Queen through witchcraft to marry Bothwell. It was a preposterous claim but widely accepted as truth. She was his former mistress, they said, and bound to do him a favor.
The date of the Queen's wedding was whispered to have been chosen by witches and sorcerers. "The people say that wantons marry in the month of May."
The brutal deposition of Mary from her throne cannot have failed to instill caution in even so intrepid a female as the wizard lady. Supporters of the former queen were hounded in the aftermath of the Queen's imprisonment. Janet had been her attendant and was almost certainly aware that there was a precedent for burning a witch to death, even if she were a noble one.
Who could forget the fate of Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis? She was the sister to the Earls of Angus yet that had not saved her from being burned as a witch on Castlehill in Edinburgh only decades before.
The wizard lady eventually returned to history's pages to be heartily welcomed by an audience hungry for castles, medievalism and the supernatural. She was the sensation of the Regency. Many fancied themselves caught up by her command to go to the "holy pile" of Melrose Abbey (pictured below) and "win the treasure of the tomb," a book of spells that would give her the power to wreak her vengeance.