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


Friday, November 4, 2011


Hearts Through History RWA chapter has revamped its website, and in doing so, the Seduced by History blog has moved.  Check out our new home HERE.

Our monthly contests will continue there, so be sure to comment often on the posts...the more you comment, the more chances of winning goodie bags or workshops!

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Blog Moderator

Friday, October 28, 2011

American Pie

Jack O' Lantern is making his annual visit. We'll soon see him with his glowing toothy grin leering from porches and windows across America. Jack's name reveals his Celtic origins. He may have come to this country from Ireland, but he acquired his round, orange countenance right here. On the ould soil, he was carved from turnips and rutabagas.
Pumpkins are native to the Western Hemisphere. It was cultivated in Central America as early as 5500 B.C, as a staple of the Native American diet. They introduced it to European settlers who soon added it to their diet as well. The Europeans learned the versatility of the pumpkin, roasting its seeds, using it in stews, soups and breads, cutting the dried shells into strips and weaving them into mats. They used the leaves and blossoms raw or fried as vegetables. Pumpkins served medicinal purposes as a remedy for snakebite, a cure for freckles, and its seeds were considered a protection from prostate cancer.
The early European settlers made pumpkin pies by hollowing out the shell and filling it with milk, honey and spices before baking it. Whether this recipe came from Native Americans or not is unknown.
Whether you puree the remains of your Halloween pumpkin or take a can off the shelf, here's my favorite pie recipe for this season.
1 c. solid pack pumpkin
1 c. apple butter
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. undiluted evaporated milk
9 inch deep dish pie shell
 Streusel topping: Combine 3 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional).
 Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine filling ingredients in order given; pour into pie shell. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted two inches from center comes out clean. Top with streusel topping. Bake for additional 15 minutes.
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.
Note: Cover pie crust with foil pieces or cut 9 inch circle of foil; cut out center leaving 1 inch wide ring of foil, place foil halo over crust edges. 

Barbara Scott is the author of  West of Heaven, Cast a Pale Shadow, and Talk of the Town

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rasputin, The Tsarina and the fall of the Autocracy

By Emma Westport

In July 1904, the cannons of the Peter and Paul fortress fired 300 times to announce that, after four daughters, Alexandra had given birth to a son.  Russia had a Tsarevich.  The imperial couple was overjoyed but, within six short weeks, that joy turned to pain.  Something was wrong.  The slightest bump, the smallest pinch and the baby’s skin bruised.  The bruises did not heal.  The child cried with pain and neither his mother nor his doctors could offer him relief.  Alexei was a hemophiliac. 

For Alexandra, the news was devastating.  She’d already lost a brother and uncle to the disease and she knew what the future held.  Her beautiful boy had almost no chance of surviving to adulthood and, even if he did, he’d never be live or play like a normal child.  There was nothing conventional medicine could do. 

Alexandra looked elsewhere.  In 1905, friends introduced her and her husband to Rasputin.  Neither priest nor monk, the uneducated peasant had already earned a repuation as a starets or spiritual teacher.  He was also known as a healer and prophet.  Did he provide relief to the young Tsarevich?  His worst critics admit he did.  He also helped the Tsarina deal with her unbearable guilt and suffering--but that help came at a price.

Rasputin's gifts were offset by his drinking and womanizing.  Scandal was his constant companion.  As his power grew, so did his faults, his behavior becoming increasingly outrageous.  Nicholas ignored it—Alexandra denied it—but the scandal was always there.  And the stink of it threatened the autocracy.  Many believed there was more to the relationship between Alexandra and Rasputin than the sharing of spiritual comfort.   

The situation became especially ugly in 1910 and 1911 when Rasputin seduced a woman serving as nurse to the Imperial children.  The governess, on hearing the story, objected to Rasputin’s familiarity with the Grand Duchesses.  She insisted the Tsarina ban him from the girls’ bedrooms.  The Tsarina refused.  The nurse and governess were dismissed.  Rasputin was now free to come and go as he pleased and the rumors that spread through St. Petersburg now included the young Grand Duchesses.

Nicholas was ineffective in dealing with Rasputin.  Unwilling to upset his wife, he ignored police reports and the advice of friends.  He even ignored photographs.  After a night's carousing, a drunk and naked Rasputin had been photographed surrounded by a circle of nude women.  Blackmailers told Rasputin he had a choice.  Leave St. Petersburg or the pictures would be given to the Tsar.  Rasputin took the photos to Nicholas himself, saying he’d sinned and begging for forgiveness.  Nicholas forgave him.  But the behavior continued.

In 1914, the first attempt was made on Rasputin’s life.  A former prostitute, disfigured by syphilis, disguised herself as a beggar woman and followed Rasputin to his home in Siberia.  She asked him for money and, when he stopped to help her, she stabbed him, nearly killing him.  Rasputin recovered but his drinking increased.     

In 1915, Rasputin tried to seduce a woman at the famous Yar restaurant in Moscow.  When the lady refused his efforts a drunken, outraged Rasputin went berserk.  He smashed the furniture and mirrors in the private dining room, shouting all the while about his relationship with the ‘old woman,’ the Tsarina, and bragging how he did “with her what I want!”  He exposed himself and was finally dragged away by police, fighting and hollering the Tsar would protect him and threatening to get even.  The event was witnessed--and publicized--by a journalist who was present.  

Alexandra had failings but being Rasputin’s lover was not one of them.  Unfortunately, letters she’d written to Rasputin convinced people otherwise.  The Tsarina’s flowery language was deliberately misinterpreted and pornographic caricatures of the Tsarina and Rasputin began to circulate.

All this occurred at a time when Russia was experiencing defeats at the front and serious problems at home.  With Nicholas taking over command of the armies, Alexandra took a more active role in the government and her decisions were guided by Rasputin.  It was a recipe for disaster. 

In November 1916, Vladimir Purishkevich, a conservative member of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, gave a speech in in which he spoke of spoke of the “filthy, depraved, corrupt peasant” the Tsarina all but worshipped.  Rasputin was seen to be at the center of the ‘Dark Forces’ destroying the country. 

In less than a month, Purishkevich joined with Prince Felix Yusopov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and a few other conspirators.  Together, they would plot the infamous and successful assassination of the starets. 

Rasputin was murdered on December 29, 1916.  His assassins hoped Rasputin's death would turn things around but it was already too late.  

For his part, Rasputin expected assassination.  He'd allegedly warned Nicholas and Alexandra that if his death came at the hands of the nobility, neither they nor their dynasty would last more than two years.  In that, he was correct.  Nicholas abdicated the throne on March 15, 1917.  He, his wife and five children were murdered in July 1918.  

The 300 year old dynasty had come to an end.  

(All dates are new style.  The quotes are from Brian Moynahan’s biography, Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned. The photo is from wikimedia.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A New Kind of Sheriff in Town

Hello there, Christina here today. I've been wanting to write this post for a while but really wanted to do it justice as it speaks of a legacy of strong women during a time when it would have been too easy for the so-called weaker sex to lie back and allow men to control their surroundings.

Have you ever dug into your family ancestry? I have. I do it all the time. I find it's a wonderful way to escape from the modern world and delve into the past. And every now and again I come across a real gem.

Allow me to introduce you to my great great great grandmother Estella Gates. She was a sheriff in Benzie County Michigan. She was, in fact, the first female sheriff in Michigan, elected in 1916 after having served as a deputy for several years under her husband, William Moore Gates.

I found one article that tells a few of her feats as sheriff.

"Oh! I didn't do so much. The people elected me sheriff. The work had to be done and I did it."
The article goes on to say how she stopped two murderers from escaping her jail cell and "jailed the most notorious of the river rats".

Another newspaper article, one from Oklahoma, claims this same woman was their first female sheriff as well. Eventually her and her husband moved to Texas before they returned to Michigan where she died of pneumonia at the age of 80.

I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but after speaking with second cousins who grew up under her tutelage, they say she was the sweetest and kindest lady they'd ever known. I can only imagine what it would have been like to spend my summers with Sheriff Gates. One has to wonder what kind of woman it took to keep the peace and what kind of man stood at her side while she did it. I've been told the pair were very much in love. Of course, I know their lives weren't always filled with roses as one of their sons, my great great grandfather, died a tragic death and caused a great mysterious scandal, but that's a blog post for another day and another time as the event continues to affect those still among the living.

Here are a few pictures from one of my cousins. As you can see, the picture of William Gates is a campaign advertisement. I think he kind of looks like Kurt Russell from Tombstone.

This is the gun Estella used during her time as sheriff. I'm sure she kept it handy after her service too. I was a little suprised at its size. I figured as well as Grandma was able to keep the peace in her once boisterous jurisdiction she would have carried something a little bigger. But then I guess a bullet is a bullet when it's well placed.

This next picture is of a nighstick, whether it belonged to her husband or to Estella nobody is real sure, but I thought you'd like to see it.

Looks like it's been well used. Maybe on a few hard skulls of all those lumberjack Estella had been known to keep under control.

By changing a few details here and there, Estella's life would make a wonderful historical romance. Just think, a female sheriff, rough and rugged lumberjacks, river rats, murderers and a hero who looks like Kurt Russell and is confident enough in his manhood to accept her chosen occupation.

Yeah, I think it's a story I'd love to read.

Do you research your ancestry? Have you ever come across really interesting tidbits?

Friday, October 21, 2011

We're Moving!

Hearts Through History has launched aq new website and the Seduced by History blog will be moving to the website.  Some blogs have already been posted there, so stop by our new site and say hi!


Anna Kathryn Lanier
Blog Moderator

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sightings of Anne Boleyn's Ghost

Ghosts and the places they haunt are interesting but not usually included in historical biographies. One exception is The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by, Alison Weir. Weir discusses some of the sightings of Anne Boleyn noting that sightings of Anne Boleyn occur on the anniversary of her beheading May 19, on Christmas Eve.

Second wife of Henry VIII, Anne failed to produce a live male heir to secure the Tudor dynasty. After Catherine of Aragon’s death, and Anne’s miscarriage of a son, Henry used allegations of Anne’s adultery to behead Anne for treason in 1536. The most probable reason for Henry’s dubious charges against Anne was the need to secure the succession of the English throne with a male heir. For that task, Henry needed another wife, and he had already selected Anne’s successor, Jane Seymour, before Anne’s treason trial.

Perhaps the trumped up charges against Anne, the fact that Henry was already courting Jane Seymour, and the brutal trauma of the beheading caused Anne’s ghost to haunt not one but seven places.

Blickling Hall in Norfolk was the probable birthplace of Anne Boleyn. Although the existing house was built in the seventeenth century, Thomas Boleyn owned the property. On May 19, Anne returns to Blickling Hall in a carriage drawn by six headless horses. She sits inside the carriages with her severed head either on her lap or by her side.

Hever Castle, built in 1272, purchased by the Boleyns and rebuilt into a Tudor residence, is Anne’s childhood home. Henry courted her under the great oak still standing today. Every Christmas Eve Anne’s ghost is seen crossing the bridge over the River Eden within the castle grounds. Sometimes her ghost is observed standing under the tree.

At Hampton Court Palace, one of her royal residences during her reign, Anne’s ghost wears a blue dress and walks slowly through the halls with an air of great sadness.

At another royal residence she inhabited, Windsor’s castle, her ghost appears at the window of Dean’s Cloister.

Anne still haunts the Tower of London in several places. Her ghost has been sighted in the White Tower, the Queen’s house where she supposedly stayed the night before her execution then again during her imprisonment. In 1817 a sentry patrolling the White Tower encountered Anne’s ghost on the staircase. The sighting caused a fatal heart attack. In 1864 while guarding the outside of the Queen’s House, another sentry stated he saw Anne’s faceless ghost wearing a Tudor dress and a French hood. When he thrust his bayonet through her, a fiery flash ran up his rifle and shocked him.

In the nineteenth century a Captain of the Guard claims to have seen Anne’s ghost in a strange spectacle recorded in “Ghostly Visitors” by Specter Stricken, London 1882. He had seen a suspicious light coming from the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula where Anne was buried. After leaning a ladder against the chapel wall and peering in one of the windows to investigate, this is what he claimed to have seen:

Slowly down the aisle move a stately procession of Knights and Ladies,

attired in ancient costumes; and in the front walked an elegant female

whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled

the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having

repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession together with the

light disappeared.

Anne’s ghost is also said to haunt Salle Church where it is reported her bones were later buried, but no specific details emerge from the sightings.

She is haunts Maxwell Hall’s Yew Tree Walk where Henry VIII and Jane supposedly strolled while planning their wedding. Rumors have it that Henry married Jane privately at Maxwell Hall on May 19, 1536 after news of Anne’s execution reached Henry via a line of beacons.

Needless to say, Anne’s hauntings were the basis for my ghosts Lady Anne and Desdemona in Wanted Ghostbusting Bride.

For more information on Anne Boleyn’s ghosts see Alison Weir’s Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn and http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-ghost-of-anne-boleyn/4859/

Margaret Breashears


Friday, October 14, 2011

Wandering Pearl

La Peregrina is one of the most famous pearls in the world.  Found by a slave in the Spanish colony of Panama, circa mid-sixteenth century, it was delivered to King Philip II of Spain.  At that time, the jewel was the largest pearl ever discovered, pear-shaped and weighing nearly fifty-six carats.  The king gave it to his affianced wife, Mary I of England, (shown above) sometimes called "Bloody Mary."

Quite the blushing bride, isn't she?

The pearl was eventually returned to Spain upon Mary's death.  This is astonishing, given her sister-successor's penchant for fine jewelry.  You may recall Elizabeth was to later bid against the Queen Mother of France, Catherine de Medici, over the spoils left behind by Mary Queen of Scots.  Some of those spoils included rare black muscades--pearls of a deep purple color.  La Peregrina, in contrast, went back to Phlip "The Prudent" and became part of the Spanish queen consorts' collection, until she began the second leg of her eventful journey.

In 1808, Napoleon installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as king of Spain after a successful invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.  Throughout his reign, the elder Bonaparte accomplished little besides orchestrating his own abdication in an effort to return to the more salubrious throne of Naples.  Finally deposed, he took with him part of the Spanish crown jewels, among them La Peregrina.  Some of the jewels he sold while living in the United States.  La Peregrina he willed to his nephew, Bonaparte III.  The Emperor's wife Eugenie was a known connoisseur of pearls but during the couple's exile in England, they were forced to sell La Peregrina to James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn, direct ancestor of both Diana, Princess of Wales and her sister-in-law Sarah, Duchess of York.

While in the duke's possession, La Peregrina did not have to go far to become completely lost to the world, at least temporarily.  His wife Louisa Hamilton wore the pearl on a necklace.  It was too heavy for the setting and fell out twice.  Once in a sofa in Windsor Castle and the other at a ball in Buckingham Palace. 

Can't you just imagine His Grace's remonstrations:
"What the devil?  You've lost the blasted thing twice now."
"But my love," his wife replied with asperity, "it was you who insisted we buy it.  And all because you wanted to impress the French empress."
"Fustian," he stammered.  "The merest trumpery."
The Hamilton family eventually sold La Peregrina to Richard Burton, a movie and stage actor.  I have it on very good authority that he was, and I'm quoting, "the best looking man that had come down the pike in a long time."  $37,000 was the price the pearl fetched at Sotheby's and soon found its way, via Valentine's Day, into the possession of someone another authority has declared unequivocally to be the "most beautiful woman in the world."  The pearl was as intrepid in Elizabeth Taylor's possession as it had been in Her Grace of Abercorn's.  The actress lost it in the Burtons' suite at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.  Miraculously, it was found unharmed in her Pekinese dog's mouth.  He was chewing on it like a bone!

Here Ms. Taylor is wearing La Peregrina in the 1969 movie production, Anne of a Thousand Days.

Like history?  Fall in love with it!  Visit Angelyn's blog at www.angelynschmid.com
for forays into the Regency era and historic buildings throughout the United Kingdom.