Historic Sights Part Nine
Published on October 14, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2251

Caerphilly Castle is a medieval fortification in Caerphilly, South Wales.  The castle, which encompasses thirty acres, was constructed in the 13th century and is surrounded by manmade lakes.  Caerphilly Castle is considered the second largest castle in Britain, second to Windsor Castle.  The castle is said to have introduced the concentric castle defense, which is described as a castle nestled inside another, with an outer wall protecting the inner wall.  The castle is also known for its huge gatehouse.  Originally, the gatehouse could only be reached by two drawbridges.  Caerphilly featured a network of moats and dams that were said to be the most elaborate water defenses in Britain, and inspired by Castle Kenilworth, which I spoke of in a previous post.  Caerphilly was a masterpiece of military strength and design.

Alcázar of Segovia is a stone fortification located in the city of Segovia, Spain.  The castle is built upon a rock cliff above the rivers of Eresma and Clamores.  Segovia Castle is shaped like the bow of a ship, making it distinct from other castles.  The fortification first began as an Arab Fort, which was built atop the remains of a Roman fort.  The castle is believed to have been built in the 12th century, after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands. The palace was enlarged and added to during the next four centuries.  During the middle ages the castle served as a royal palace.  It has also served as a state prison, a royal Artillery College, and a military academy.  In 1862 a fire destroyed much of the structure and it was rebuilt two decades later in a more romantic style.  Segovia Castle is one of the castles that inspired Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

Margam Castle is a mansion built in Margam, Port Talbot, Wales.  The first human habitation of the site dates back 4000 years.  The site held an abbey in the 11th century.  Margam Castle is a revival castle that was built in the 19th century during the Gothic Revival in architecture.  The castle was commissioned by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot and was constructed from the years 1830-1840.  The palace was sold in 1941 but soon fell into disrepair.  In 1977, a fire caused substantial damage and soon after restoration on the castle began.  Today the castle is listed as a historic landmark.  The castle has been shown on paranormal programs and is believed to be haunted.  According to a Margam County Park reporter, “The number of paranormal stories coming from the castle on a regular basis could make this property a contender for the most haunted house in Britain.”

Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th century Romanesque Revival palace located on a rocky ridge in Bavaria, Germany.  The palace was intended for the reclusive King Ludwig II of Bavaria.  King Ludwig II had been fascinated by the medieval legends in Richard Wagner’s operas.  Motifs for Wagner’s operas are seen in paintings and murals throughout the interior of the castle. Unfortunately, Ludwig did not live long enough to see his dream castle completed, but he did spend eleven nights in the castle before his suspicious death in 1886.  Ludwig II had wished to create a private refuge, but only seven weeks after his death, the castle was opened to the public.  The complex consists of several individual structures decorated with towers, turrets, and sculptures.  The castle was created to look older than it was, and unlike authentic castles, Neuschwanstein Castle had luxuries such as indoor plumbing and forced air heating.  The castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany and is known as the fairytale castle.

Following Your Roots and My Native American Sweat Lodge Experience
Published on September 26, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1660

Over the last several months, I have been spending some of my time delving through documents and research to construct my family tree. I had help from some of my family that came before me, and I use the Ancestry.com template to follow my lines.  Unfortunately, there are family lines I could not follow, my paternal grandfather being orphaned at a young age is making discovery difficult.  For now, I’ve focused on my maternal grandfather.

I have always known we had Native American Heritage in our family tree.  I did not however know that my 6th generation great-grandfather was Tecumseh, who married White Wing Cornstalk, giving birth to my 5th generation great-grandmother, Skwato, who married Irish early American settler, William Rainey.  They were Shawnee Indians and once I found this line, I had to keep digging.  When I followed Tecumseh’s wife’s line, I realized White Wing Cornstalk had a mother of German decent.  Her German mother, Elizabeth See, married Native American, Young Peter Cornstalk, his family also of the Shawnee.  When I followed this line, which goes a long way, I come to Thomas Pasmere Carpenter from Devonshire, England, who married Pride Chalakahatha, my 11th generation great-grandmother.  Her mother was Namontack; she’s the sister of Pocahontas, who married John Rolfe.  Which in turn makes their father, Wahunsonacock Chief Powhattan, my 13th generation great-grandfather and that also brings us to the years 1545-1618.  My amazement didn’t come from finding my Native American heritage, but rather the great importance of my forbearers.  I am impressed and proud of the histories I have read in regards to my ancestors.


This brings me to my experience in September, when I was invited by my shaman to participate in a Native American Sweat Lodge.  I of course said yes for what better way to connect with my heritage.  The sweat lodge was a wonderful, healing experience.  It’s as black as pitch inside the dome structure, and the door flap is raised four times to bring in more heated stones according to the ceremony’s purpose.  Picture sitting in complete darkness, the sound of the drum thrumming through your insides as the words of Native American songs seem to echo from the shaman, while the sweat pours off your body like never before.  I moved to the beat of the drum in my cross-legged position, seemingly knowing the words to the songs and wishing to sing them, but I assumed the people inside the structure with me would surely wonder what I was about.

The experience of the sweat lodge is something I will always remember, and will likely participate in again.  I’m also likely to start collecting Shawnee artifacts as well, but that cannot be helped.  I’m curious to know where the other Native American lines fit into my tree and who these people were, but for now I’m continuing with the lines that are there for me to follow.  Louis the Pious and Charlemagne were two of my great-grandfathers, which takes me all the way back to the medieval period.  And yes, now I’m amazed all over again.  I know everyone does not have time to research their past ancestry, but if you do have the opportunity, I believe you will uncover some fascinating details that will amaze you too.

As of right now I am Welsh, English, Irish, Scottish, German, Italian, French, and Native American, yes it is a hodgepodge of nationalities, but I love it.  I now know that my ancestors through my maternal grandfather’s line were some of the first American settlers, and I know there are tons of stories waiting to be written about these people.  Perhaps one day I shall shift my focus from Regency England, but that day is not yet here, which means it’s time for me to go back to work on my new Regency novel in the Wintergale Orchard series.

Mitakuye Oyasin (we are all one)

Drugs and Addiction in Regency England MAGIC MUSHROOMS
Published on September 23, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2413


Liberty Cap (Psilocybe Semilanceata) and Fly Agaric (Amnita Muscaria)

Many plants and fungi’ were used by ancient tribes and civilization as a means to enter the spiritual world.  Ritual use of psychedelic mushrooms dates back to the Neolithic age (9500 B.C.).  Cave art from Northern Italy depicts mushrooms being used by shamans and for use in sacred ceremonies.  In Guatemala, a group of “mushroom statues date back to 500 B.C. and have been interpreted as evidence that the ancient people once worshipped the mushroom.”  Ancient Druids of Ireland used Liberty Caps and Celtic warriors drank potions with the mushrooms before going into battle.  Central and South America cultures built temples to mushroom gods.  At the time of the Spanish invasion of Mexico in the 1500’s, the Liberty Cap was held sacred by the Aztecs.  The mushroom gets its common name from its resemblance to the Phrygian cap.

Phrygian cap

The mushrooms contain the psychoactive compound of psilocybin.  The Liberty Cap is one of the most widespread “magic mushrooms” in the world.  They can grow solitary or in groups and can be found in pastures, fields and grasslands in the fall.  The mushrooms produce an altered state of consciousness and hallucinations.  The psychoactive in the mushroom will cause intoxication if eaten.

A documented report of magic mushroom intoxication involved a British family in 1799. The family prepared a meal with the mushrooms they picked from London’s Green Park.  According to chemist Augustus Everand Brande, the family experienced symptoms with ingestion, pupil dilation, laughter, and delirium.

Fly Agaric grows all over the world and is stronger than the Liberty Cap mushrooms.  Fly Agaric’s contains ibotenic acid.  Shamans of N.E Asia and Siberia used this type of mushroom.  Currently, Fly Agaric use is rare, but Liberty Caps are still popular.

Although the hunting for these mushrooms does occur, people not familiar with identifying Liberty Caps may eat the wrong kind of mushroom, which could be fatal.  The strength of a magic mushroom depends upon the size, age, and storage, making it impossible to know the potency.  Hallucinogens affect everyone differently and once you take these mushrooms, you have about nine hours to deal with the effects because a “trip” cannot be stopped.  Even the smallest of mushrooms can be deemed the most potent, which is why they are deemed illegal in many countries, including the US, Canada, and all of Europe.  Whether the mushrooms are fresh or dried, they have the same Class A drug status as heroin, LSD, and cocaine.

A special thanks to Fungusfun.com and Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon’s, Book of Poison.

Gentlemen Clubs in Regency England
Published on September 2, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1866

Gentlemen Club’s were social gathering places for many men in Regency England.  Unlike the clubs in the U.S. today, there were no exotic dancers.  Women were not allowed.  Men in Regency England often belonged to one or more of these establishments.  Nevertheless, these clubs were more than just places to escape female society and partake in gaming and gossip.  These clubs served as meeting places for business, political strife, or social climbing.  Party leaders, artists, poets, publishers, barristers, and people with many common interests met in these places to speak “off the record” and to network with like-minded individuals of influence.

In my time travel, Destiny Series, the three lords purchased an old coffee house and refurbished it into The Back Room Gentlemen’s Club.  Inside one of the club’s rooms, there lies a time portal.  This portal brings travelers from the past and future and drops them in the center of the men’s club in the early 19th century.

These establishments were luxurious with rich upholsteries, marble fireplaces, and thick carpets.  The club was a place filled with gambling, gossip, and indulgent behavior.  Where the food is top quality and the membership is exclusive.

The three most famous clubs of Regency England were White’s, Brook’s, and Boodle’s.  The common denominator between these three clubs is the fact that they were the clubs that allowed gambling.  All clubs had their own bylaws and rules on conduct and behavior, which had to be followed or you could lose membership and be permanently blackballed.

But like all establishments, these top three clubs were each known for certain clientele.

White’s is the oldest and most exclusive gentlemen’s club in London.  The Italian immigrant, Francesco Bianco, originally established the club off of Curzon Street in Mayfair in 1693.  It was called Mrs. White’s Chocolate House and they sold hot chocolate.  The club began to sell tickets to events in town for the King’s Theatre and the Royal Theatre on Drury Lane.  This selling of tickets led to the transformation of White’s to an exclusive club by 1736.  In 1753, White’s relocated across the street after the original club burned down.  White’s was moved to 37-38 St. James Street, and from 1783 it was known as the unofficial headquarters for the Tory party.  Due to its growing popularity, a second club was formed called the Young Club, the two clubs merged in 1781.

The structure is built of Portland stone with a slate roof.  Consisting of three stories, it is the Victorian version of the Palladian style, with French elements.

White’s was perceived as the intellectual leader and the most exclusive of the three.  Although White’s was also considered by some to be the bane of the aristocracy, for many men lost more than they could afford to lose, bringing shame and poverty to their families.  While, White’s catered to the Tory party, Brook’s catered to the Whig party.  There were, however, some men that belonged to both clubs.  Members were elected and voted upon by using a system of white and black balls secretly deposited into a special box at each election.  A single black ball denied you membership, hence the term to be blackballed.  The Prince of Wales once favored White’s until his friend Jack Payne was blackballed.

In many romance novels, I have read of White’s infamous bow window and the table that sits there.  This window was added to the structure in 1811, and this privilege seat is mentioned in one of my novels.  It was a table that could be seen by passer-byers and used by the club’s most socially influential.  Beau Brummell was known to be a constant ornament to this special table until he moved to the continent to avoid debtor’s prison.  Lord Alvanley took the honor after Brummell’s departure.  I should also mention the infamous White’s betting book, where men bet on sports, political developments, and who’d beget the first heir between friends.  Brook’s also had a betting book, and I’m sure other clubs recorded similar wagers.

The members of White’s deemed whist a dull game and gambled deeply in hazard, faro, and other games of chance.

Brook’s Gentlemen’s Club was founded in March 1764, by twenty-seven prominent Whig nobles.  The clubhouse was built in yellow brick and Portland Stone in a Palladian style.  The interior is neoclassical in design.  It is located on St James Street, London, England and is one of the oldest gentlemen clubs in London.

Brook’s was known to have a political atmosphere, due to the young, founding members whose fathers’ were deeply entrenched in the Whig party.  Through fatherly influence, these twenty-something year olds were indoctrinated in politics and the concept of liberalism from an early age.  As you can imagine, hopeful Whig politicians began to flock to Brook’s, and within a few years it was an unofficial headquarters for the Whig party.

Due to the vastness of the founders’ wealth and influence, Brook’s gained a reputation for wild behavior and excessive gambling.

The Prince of Wales joined Brook’s so that he could talk to Charles James Fox and enlist his support in Parliament, which speaks of the clubs political influence.

Boodle’s was founded by Lord Shelburne, the future Marquis of Lansdowne and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in 1762 and located at 49-51 Pall Mall, London.  The club was moved in 1782 to the clubhouse at 28 St. James Street, London, England.  The club’s namesake is taken from the headwaiter that worked there named Edward Boodle.

Boodle’s is second to White’s as London’s oldest gentlemen’s club.  This club was said to have been frequented by country squires and the fox hunting set.  Heavy gambling took place at Boodle’s, but the club was not associated with a political party.


Other Regency Clubs

The Royal Society was known as a meeting place for scientists, engineers, explorers, botanists, and astronomers of their day.  It was also frequented by soldiers, poets, bishops, musicians, and writers.

Alfred Club was said to attract men of letters and writers.  Lord Byron was a member of this club to which he found it, “Literary, pleasant, and sober.”  In 1811, the Alfred Club had 354 men on their waiting list.

Four Horse Club was known to cater to the younger set who knew how to handle the ribbons of horses with expert skill and they tended to race around recklessly at high speeds.  At its peak, the club only held 30-40 members.

Watier’s was founded by the Prince of Wales chef in 1807.  The club was known for its fare and deep gambling, but closed in 1819.  From what I’ve surmised, the closing was due to the high level of gambling.

A special thanks to Venetia Murray, An Elegant Madness

Drugs and Addiction in Regency England
Published on August 15, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 7949



I’m researching book one in my Wintergale Orchard series, titled When Love Wins.  In this story, the hero is addicted to laudanum.  Laudanum is an opium tincture made with 10% opium and 90% alcohol and then flavored with cinnamon or saffron.  The tincture is reddish-brown in color and has a bitter taste.  Laudanum is known as a “whole opium” since it historically contained all the opium alkaloids, this includes morphine and codeine. (A Swiss-German alchemist found that alkaloids are more soluble in alcohol than water.) Obviously this was a potent medicine.

Opium was known in ancient Mesopotamia five thousand years ago and its medicinal properties were recorded on cuneiform tablets.  So opium has been here a while.  (I shall keep this article focused on England’s usage of laudanum and save the East India Company, China, and the Opium Wars for other articles).

During the Regency Period, opium was used to aid mild pain.  According to The Writer’s Guide to Everyday in the 1800’s by Marc McCutcheon, “In 1868, it is estimated that 100,000 people from all stations of life were addicted to the drug, which was sold openly in drugstores in pill form or as laudanum.”

Since laudanum was cheaper than beer or wine, it was affordable for even the lowest paid workers.  Nevertheless, it was purchased by all classes in society.  Laudanum was prescribed for many diseases as well as being used as a sleeping aid. Although the addictive qualities of opium were known at the time, it was still the ingredient added to most medicines of the day.  This meant laudanum was prescribed for ailments from colds to meningitis to cardiac disease, in adults and children.

Due to laudanum’s potency, accidental or deliberate overdose could occur in a single dose (2-3 teaspoons).  Suicide by laudanum was not uncommon in the mid-19th century.  Side effects with laudanum are similar to those of morphine and include euphoria, dysphoria, sedation, respiratory depression, as well a psychological dependency, and the list goes on…  People who became addicted to the tincture were often referred to as “Opium Eaters”.  This was to differentiate themselves from the opium smokers.  Thomas De Quincey wrote an autobiographical account of his laudanum addiction and its effect on his life in his book, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which was published in 1822.

In 1919 England, the production and export of opium was prohibited and a law in 1928 banned its use.  Some notable laudanum users were John Keats, Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, Edgar Allen Poe, William Taylor Coleridge, and many more.  The drug was seemingly popular as it was readily available.  During the Victorian Period laudanum was even recommended for women to relieve menstrual cramps.

When looking at the old bottles of laudanum, I cannot help but wonder why anyone would wish to drink from a bottle that is clearly labeled poison with a skull and crossbones.  But throughout history, human beings seem to have a compulsion to enhance their perceptions and alter their moods.  Unfortunately, addictions can also ruin and cost lives.

Currently, laudanum is considered a Schedule II drug and recognized as an addictive substance.  Its use is strictly regulated and controlled throughout most of the world.  Laudanum is still prescribed in the US and the U.K. and is used to alleviate pain, treat diarrhea, and ease withdrawal symptoms from people addicted to heroin or other opiates.  It should be mentioned that the laudanum of today differs from the laudanum of the 1800’s.   Due to current drug processing, laudanum today is not a tincture of opium, but rather a tincture of morphine.


A special thank you to All About Heaven, http://www.allaboutheaven.org and The Heroin of the 19th Century, Frank Sanello

Historic Sights Part Eight
Published on July 20, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 3566

Swallow’s Nest is a decorative castle located on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine.  The castle was built between 1911-1912 by a German noble and is perched on top of Aurora Cliff.  Swallow’s Nest was constructed in a Neo-Gothic style, designed by Russian architect Leonid Sherwood.  The castle overlooks the Cape of Ai-Todor of the Black Sea.  An observation deck rings the building, providing a view of the sea and Yalta’s shoreline.  The building is compact in size and is one of the most popular destinations for people visiting Crimea.

Duart Castle is located on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland.  The castle dates back to the 13th century and is the seat of clan MacLean.  The fortress sits on a crag at the end of a peninsula on Mull.  It has fortified walls and stands guard over what was once one of the most important water crossways in western Scotland.  A ship couldn’t pass without the occupants of Castle Duart being aware.  Sir Fitroy Maclean, the 26th Chief of clan MacLean, restored the castle in 1911.  The home currently serves as the home of the 28th Chief of clan MacLean, but it is open to the public.

Chateau De Pierrefonds is a castle located in the commune of Pierrefonds in the Oise department of France.  The castle carries the characteristics of a defensive military structure from the Middle Ages, although major restoration occurred on the castle in the 19th century.  The castle was built in the 12th century and two centuries later King Charles VI turned the County of Valois, which includes Pierrefonds, into a Duchy and gave the fortress and surrounding land to his brother Louis, Duke of Orleans.  The chateau was rebuilt during 1393-1407.  The castle was later besieged and torn down by Louis XIII at the beginning of the 17th century, but due to the enormity of the task, much of the castle remained with the exception of the roofs and the holes made in the towers and curtain walls.  For nearly two centuries the castle laid in ruins, until Napoleon I bought it in 1810 for less than 3,000 francs.  The fortress was restored and declared a national historic interest in 1848.  The BBC used the castle for their filming of the series, Merlin.  The castle was also used in the filming of Highlander series and a cut scene of the castle was used for Disney’s, Wizards of Waverly Place.

Egekov Castle is located in Southern Funen, Denmark.  The castle is Europe’s best-preserved Renaissance water castle.  Egekov Castle was constructed by Frands Brockenhuus in 1554.  The castle is located in a small lake, which was originally only accessible by a drawbridge.  The structure consists of two long houses that connect by a double wall.  This allowed defenders to abandon one section of the castle and continue fighting from the other building.  The double wall is over a meter thick and has secret stairwells and a water well to supply the needed sustenance during a siege.  The outer walls have machicolations for dropping solids or liquids on enemies below.  According to legend, it took an entire forest of oak trees to build the defensive fortress, hence the name Egekov, which means oak forest.

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My Current Projects
Published on July 14, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 794

At the moment, I’m rereading A Vengeful Earl before sending it to my editor.  AVE is book two in the Bewildering Love series.  This story focuses upon The Earl of Sinclair and his plan to ruin Lady Lydia Witley and her family.  Of course the earl realizes he has erred in his plan for vengeance and falls hopelessly in love with Lydia.  The third book in this series is called The Lady Charmer and it is finished.  TLC is a story about the abused heroine Kate Bancroft and the arrogant, but ever so charming Marquis of Geary who comes to her rescue.  TLC begins in America, but detours to the pirate island of Watling’s, before ending in England.

I’m a quarter of a way through a rough draft for book two in the Wintergale Orchards series, titled Love With Purpose, which is yet to be released.  I shall continue work on this novel as soon as I finish proofreading my next releases.

I’m tweaking book three in my time travel Destiny series.  I may release this time travel before my next historical, but I’ve yet to decide.  This is the story about Phoebe Bennett, the Tudor lady who finds herself in Regency England.  I’ve titled it, A Tudor Displaced.  Phoebe is a feisty heroine who is bound to drive the Earl of Insley crazy.  I have also started book four in this series, but the time traveler is a surprise and I don’t want to give any spoilers.  Because these books overlap, I need to make sure everything flows well from one book to the next.  This is the reason these stories can take longer to publish.

I’ve written my own Cinderella story called The Wallflower’s Godmother.  I absolutely love it, but it is still a work in progress.  This story has more of a spiritual aspect to it that I will likely turn into a series.  After all, the heroine does have a younger brother.

I started working on book two of The Courtesan series.  For some reason, I’m not yet sure where I wish to take this story and so I’ve stepped away from it for a while.  It will come to me.

Lately, I’ve blogged articles about Falconry, Regency Dances, and St James’s Palace. Aside from that, I’m enjoying the summer with my family and I recently returned from a fun trip to Nashville.  And now I should likely get back to work.

St James’s Palace
Published on July 7, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 3488

St James’s Palace is located in the City of Westminster in London, England.  The palace was commissioned by King Henry VIII on the site of a former leper hospital for women.  The hospital was dedicated to Saint James the Less, who was one of the twelve Apostles of Christ.  When the inhabitants of the hospital died from the Black Death, the buildings were leased to various occupiers until 1439, when King Henry VI granted the hospital along with the surrounding land to Eton College.  In 1531 King Henry VIII took the hospital and lands from the college in trade for royal lands elsewhere. The hospital was eliminated in 1531 and construction for King Henry VIII’s secondary palace took place from 1531-1536.  The palace was commissioned as a hunting lodge, close to the official royal residence of Whitehall Palace as well as the Royal Deer Park.  King Henry VIII enclosed 300 acres of land for his hunting preserve, this enclosure survived as St James’s Park.  St James’s Palace is one of London’s oldest palaces and is steeped in history. It was the residence for many kings and queens over the centuries.

The palace was constructed in the Tudor style with red brick, and in time, the structure spread to include four courtyards.  These courtyards are currently known as Ambassadors’ Court, Engine Court, Friary Court, and Colour Court.  The palace’s gatehouse is one of the surviving elements from the Tudor Period and is located on the north side, flanked by polygonal turrets with mock battlements.  The Chapel Royal, the gatehouse, and two Tudor rooms in the State Department still survive.  In one of these rooms there is a fireplace that still bears the love-knot initials of Henry and Anne Boleyn.  The palace was one of the grandest buildings of its time and Henry VIII’s insignia, the letters HR surmounted by a crown, can still be seen upon the gatehouse.

King Charles I took up residence at the palace upon his marriage.  After being defeated for a second time in the English Civil War in 1649, the doomed king decided to spend his last night at St James’s Palace so he would not have to listen to the noise of his scaffold being built.  He took his last Holy Communion in the palace’s Royal Chapel the morning of his execution.

In 1689 the palace became the principal residence for King William III and Queen Mary II after Whitehall Palace (the former principal royal residence) was destroyed in a fire.  From then on, St James’s Palace became the administrative center for the monarchy.

In 1809, St James’s Palace suffered through a fire causing the destruction of the monarch’s private apartments.  These apartments were not replaced, in turn leaving the Queen’s Chapel in isolation.  Marlborough Road now runs between the two buildings.

The State rooms were restored in 1813.  The Prince Regent was living at Carlton House at this time, but four of his brothers were provided houses within St James’s Palace walls.  The Prince Regent became King George IV and later married Caroline of Brunswick at the palace.  Queen Victoria also married Prince Albert in the Chapel Royal in 1840.

George IV’s third son, King William IV was the last sovereign to use St James’s Palace as a residence.  The palace remains the official residence of the sovereign, since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, although the sovereign currently lives at Buckingham Palace.  St James’s Palace is used for official functions and for ceremonial purposes, and is not accessible to the public.  The Queen’s Guard, consisting of regiments of the British Army, are responsible for guarding the palace.  The changing of the guard ceremony takes place in the Friary Court everyday in the summer at 11:00 am, and on alternate days in the winter.


A special thank you to British History Online and The British Monarchy.

Published on June 7, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2586

My favorite animal happens to be the hawk, although the falcon is a close second.  Birds of prey fascinate me.  I find myself stopping my car often to take pictures of hawks that I see in the wild.  Hunting with raptors is believed to have been initiated in Mesopotamia as early as 2000 BC.  Falconry is believed to have been introduced to Europe around 400 AD.

Falconry is an art that requires long hours, devotion, and skill.  Training a bird to fly free, hunt for quarry, and return to captivity isn’t easy and there are texts dating back as far as the 12th century that cover the subject.  Birds of prey were one of the most sophisticated and sought after means of hunting for food.  (A European Goshawk can catch up to 20 game birds a day.  Hares and pheasants are the game often taken by raptors.)

Falconry became a popular sport and a symbol of status among the nobles of Medieval Europe, the Middle East, and the Mongolian Empire.  The reason falconry became a noble pursuit was due to the time commitment, money, and space needed to house the raptors.  Falconry became a status symbol long after the practice fell out of favor.  The richest nobles were expected to keep a full falconry, with different birds meant to hunt different kinds of prey.

In the 14th century, falconry was so widespread that inns provided perches for the birds of prey to sit, since some falconers did not wish to part from their raptors.  A good falconer was hard to find and noble households likely partook in bidding wars to gain the best services.  Henri VIII was known as an avid falconer and his falconry mews were claimed to be larger than his stables.  Mary Queen of Scots had loved to fly merlins.  Shakespeare also tended to like fitting falconry into his plays.  Raptors were often given as gifts to kings.  This gift was usually the Gyrfalcons, for they were the most costly.

Perhaps an everlasting gifting custom.

According to The Boke of St. Albans’ in the 15th century, different raptors were assigned to people of different ranks in society.  A person could not fly a bird of higher rank than them.  The hierarchy seems to have evolved around the price of the raptors and it is not known if this list was strictly followed.

Emperor - Eagle or Vulture (FYI, vultures were not used in falconry and yet they are on this list, I assume this is because they are considered a bird of prey)

King- Gyrfalcon

Prince - Peregrine Falcon

Duke - Falcon of the Rock (another name for Peregrine)

Knight - Saker or Sakeret

Squire - Lanner or Lanneret

Lady - Merlin

Youngman - Hobby

Yeoman - Goshawk

Priest - Sparrowhawk

Holywater Clerk - Musket

Knave/ Servant - Kestrel

In England, falconry reached its peak in the 17th century, but loss favor in 18th and 19th centuries due to firearms becoming the weapon of choice.  It was much easier to look after a gun than a raptor and the gun provided more food.  Although the UK did see a rise of interest in falconry during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this was believed to be the result of a large number of falconry books published at the time.

In 1801, Joseph Strutt of England wrote, “the ladies not only accompanied the gentlemen in pursuit of the diversion (falconry), but often practiced it by themselves; and even excelled the men in knowledge and exercise of the art.”  Seems the ladies of the Regency Period may have been bird whisperers.  A lady’s bird of choice was usually the merlin, a small falcon.

Although, I’d love to own a hawk or a falcon, I’m happiest when I see them flying high above.  Currently, there are an estimated 4,000 falconers in the US, with roughly 5,000 birds.  Falconry, nowadays, refers to anyone who flies a bird of prey.  The Harris Hawk is used often today, since this species flies in groups, allowing falconers to fly several at a time.  Falconry is also known as hawking.

A special thank you to Joseph Strutt, Sports and Pastimes of the People of England.

Historic Sights Part Seven
Published on June 3, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2829

Eilean Donan Castle is located on a small island in Loch Duich in the western Highlands of Scotland.  The castle is situated on the island at the point where three great sea lochs meet.  This picturesque castle was built in the mid-13th century, although people inhabited the island around the 6th century.  During the 13th century, the castle walls enclosed much of the island.  Eilean Donan provided a strong defense against Norse expeditions.  At a later date, the castle became a stronghold for the Mackenzie clan.  The castle has undergone four different versions of itself, having been built and re-built.  It was partially destroyed in a Jacobite rising in 1719 and laid in ruins for 200 years.  Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and restored the castle.  He had an arched bridge constructed to allow easier access to the castle.  Eilean Donan Castle is reputed to be the most photographed castle in Scotland and is open to the public.


St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island (meaning its connected to the mainland by a causeway) off the Mount’s Bay coast of Cornwall, England.  The island is united with the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway created of granite setts, which are passable at mid and low tide, and by boat at high tide.  A medieval church and castle are the oldest buildings on this rocky island and they date back to the 14th century.  These monastic buildings were built after an earthquake in 1275 destroyed the original priory church.  St Michael’s Mount is one of 43 tidal islands that can be walked to from mainland Britain without a bridge.

Gravenstein Castle in located in Ghent, Belgium.  Count Philip of Alsace built the current castle in the Middle Ages in 1180.  The structure was modeled after a castle Philip encountered while on his second crusade in Syria.  The castle is situated in the heart of Ghent, where the battlements overlook the city.  A 9th century fortress built by Count Boudewijn had originally sat upon the site.  The name Gravenstein stands for “castle of the count” in Dutch.  The Gravenstein Castle has been a coin manufacturer, a prison, and a textile factory.  It is now open for the touring public.

Saint Vitus Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Prague.  It is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague.  Coronations of Czech kings and queens also took place here.  The cathedral displays Gothic architecture and is the largest and most important church in the country.  Located within Prague Castle complex, the cathedral contains many tombs of Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. The cathedral was built upon the site of a rotunda from the early 10th century.  The present day Gothic Cathedral was founded in 1344.  The cathedral is the third church built on this site, all dedicated to St. Vitus.  Saint Vitus Cathedral is owned by the Czech government.