St James’s Palace
Published on July 7, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 3977


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.


Falconry
Published on June 7, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2722

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: 2953


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.


Dancing in Regency England
Published on May 20, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 3122

Dancing is a way to let go and to move your body in a manner that may seem silly to some, but it’s a wonderful form of exercise and self-expression.  Whenever I’m at a function where there’s dancing, I find myself completely entertained by watching the dance moves of others.  Dancing, of course, has evolved through the years, but people have been using different forms of dance since prehistoric times.  Dancing is depicted on tomb walls in India and Egypt from as earlier as 3300 BC.

Dancing in Regency England was a large part of the courting process.  Gentlemen would often ask young ladies to dance so they could speak without being overheard by the lady’s chaperone, which was not easily accomplished otherwise.  This courting process made dancing an important skill to learn and it was considered a necessary accomplishment.

The great country homes held lavish balls and many gentile towns had an assembly room for dancing.  One of the most well known assembly rooms in London was Almack’s.

See blog on Almack’s.    http://www.lahilden.com/index.php?categoryid=6&p2_articleid=72

At Almack’s people had to purchase a subscription and obtain a voucher to be admitted, and only the influential were permitted.  So if you were to make a good match for marriage, it was important that you learned how to dance.  To achieve this end, dancing masters were hired and dance studios opened.  From the waltz to the cotillion, the dance floor is where flirting and lively conversation thrived and where two young people could find love.

In the early part of the Regency era, up until 1810, the country-dance, the cotillion, and the scotch reel dominated the ballroom.

The country-dance was a dance performed with a line of couples facing each other.  These dances often began with each paired couple dancing from the top of the line to the bottom and then returning to their place back in line.  Depending on the number of people dancing, this could take an hour to complete.  The leading lady, who was considered to be in a position of honor, would decide the steps and music to be danced to.

The cotillion was a patterned dance imported from France, which was performed with four couples in a square formation and used elaborate dance steps.  The changing of partners within the square occurs during this dance, which allowed for introductions, and of course, more flirting.  The cotillion was introduced to England around 1766.  It reached America by 1772.

The scotch reel was popular in folk music.  All reels have the same structure, but reels are distinguished from a hornpipe by having primarily even beats.  The scotch reel is a lively dance.  There were many reels, such as the Foursome reel or the Axum reel.  Reels usually have two parts and in most reels each part is repeated, but in some they are not.  The dancers alternate from solo dancing by facing each other with intertwining progressive movement.  The threesome reel is said to date back to the late 16th century and it looks much like the traditional Irish step dancing of today.

In the 1810’s things began to heat up on the dance floor as English dance began a transition with the arrival of the quadrille and the wicked waltz.

The Waltz was introduced around 1810, but it was in no way considered an acceptable form of dance.  A person embracing another on the dance floor was a scandalous concept.  The waltz was not readily accepted in England until continental visitors, in celebration after the Napoleonic wars, took to the dance floor to perform the waltz.  Although I should point out that anti-waltz diatribes continued in the form of jokes and caricatures.

The quadrille was first imported from France by Lady Jersey (one of the leading patronesses of Almack’s) and it was a shorter version of the earlier cotillions.  Dancers were assembled into five or six figures.  The changing of partners was left out, producing shorter dances.  These dances became quite popular and a lady could find herself dancing many quadrilles before the night was through.

There were many dances that came into being during the Regency period as dancing masters began to invent new forms of the country-dance, while borrowing forms from the quadrille.  Some of these dances had exotic names, but most of these new dances held minor variations from the classic form.

Regency dancing did not die out with the era for there are many groups around the world who partake in English period dances.  One place Regency dance has gained in popularity is at science fiction conventions.  Is anyone else as surprised by this as I am? John Hertz, a SF fan, lawyer, and fanzine author, has made Regency dance a tradition at the SF conventions in the US since the 1980’s and it continues to this day.  This allows the SF community, who often wear costumes to the convention, to enjoy the period clothing and costume of the Regency Era.  In these reconstructed ballroom settings, one can dance the night away to Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn.  All three of these men wrote dance music, but that’s a topic for another blog.


We Are What We Read?
Published on May 1, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 983

Books are believed to have the power to change us and influence how we see the world and others.  We know that pictures, music, and even simple words can evoke feeling and memories, and so it makes sense that stories would influence us as well.  Novels have the ability to make us laugh and make us cry, but do they really have the ability to change how we behave?

According to a recent study of 500 people in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology done by Geoff Kaufman, Tiltfactor Laboratories at Dartmouth College and Lisa Libby of Ohio State, “the act of identifying with a fictional character also means we subconsciously adopt their behavior.”  Kaufman and Libby claim this happens most often in first person narratives.  So in essence, we become more like the characters we read.  Have you ever been reading a book and thought, yep, I’d have behaved in the same way as this character if that were to happen to me.  Or perhaps you are in a real-life situation and you ask, what would (insert latest kick-butt heroine you read) do?  I certainly believe learning can be gained from reading novels of all sorts and I believe some of the knowledge can be used in daily life.

Brain scans have also been conducted in this research.  The research showed that as we read fictional stories our brain is stimulated, in turn this stimulation could change the way we act.  Experts suggest that reading becomes a way to exercise our real-life social skills.  Scientists, Dr. Oatley (University of Toronto) and Dr. Mar (York University-Canada), along with several other scientists, reported that “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.”

When we look at the New York Times or USA Today’s Best-Seller List it becomes easier to see what people are reading, but are they connecting with these characters in a phenomenon called “experience-taking?”

Since 50 Shades of Gray is an erotica that captured worldwide attention and sat on the N.Y.T. Best Seller List for many weeks, this had me thinking.  Books are a type of escapism, where voyeurism plays a part in creating fantasy, but do we really believe we can make fantasy a reality?  In many ways I’d have to say yes, if you believe in something or wish to participate in quilt making after reading about it, then I’m sure you can make that happen.  Manifestation of anything is a huge part of getting what we want in life.  Hence, you can in part, live in the shoes of the character you love. We had some good laughs on Goodreads over what this research means for murder, thriller readers.  Although books may influence, we should never allow them to lead us into trouble or negative behavior.

Another positive in the study was the influence novels have on changing readers’ views in regards to minorities and gays.  In the study, those who read the gay narrative had a more favorable attitude toward homosexuality after their reading, leading the researchers to believe that environment also plays a role.  This type of attitude shift can be seen in television as well with shows like Modern Family, which aid to move public view in a nonjudgmental direction.  Of course there are films, movies, and books that do the complete opposite by instilling and resurrecting racism and intolerance.

The Journal’s study suggests that having a deep connection to fictional characters can have an impact, but their research does not claim these changes in the reader are long lasting.  Kaufman claims the reason this doesn’t hold true with television is because “you are a spectator, and so it is harder to imagine yourself as the character.”  I find myself disagreeing with this conclusion for I can often imagine myself in the shoes of the characters I watch on television, and the previous example of Modern Family, tends to prove that even if we can’t imagine ourselves as an on screen character, that does not mean we don’t empathize with the drama unfolding.

But what about non-fiction?  According to the studies, we read non-fiction with a shield of skepticism, but we drop our guard when reading fictional stories and become more moved emotionally.  They conclude that changes of thought occur more often in people who read fiction when compared to non-fiction.

My opinion is that books do have the ability to shape the way we think and treat others, but for the majority of books we read, their influence is short lived.  I remember being fascinated by Dante’s Inferno in my English Literature class at U of M.  When I read The Divine Comedy and we discussed the many possible meaning for Dante’s words, I likely did view things differently, but many years have passed since then and all I can recall of the story is the different rings of hell.  Yes, I should reread it, but it is very unlikely.  I have far too many books waiting to be read.  My point is that our memory becomes faulty and we don’t remember the stories and characters as clearly as we once did, which lessens their influence.  Plus our thoughts evolve through our real-life experiences, thus changing our views.  I do believe books like The Divine Alignment by Squire Rushnell have the ability to change views and encourage spirituality, which is a positive and I recommend you read it, even if its influence is short lived.  The stories Rushnell shared in the novel often moved me to tears and I found myself logging onto the Internet for more research on all manner of things when I finished the book.  To me a sign of a good book is one that not only moves me emotionally, but one that makes me think.  Research consistently shows that fiction molds us, and the deeper involved we become in the story, the more potential the story has to influence.

 

A special thank you to: Anne Murphy, Your Brain on Fiction. Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


A Short History of the Regency Period
Published on April 11, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2244

The Regency happens to be one of my favorite times in history, which is likely the reason the majority of my books take place during this time.  The Regency era in the United Kingdom is the period between 1811-1820.  This is the period when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales, ruled in his father’s proxy as Prince Regent.  The prince became King George IV upon his father’s death.

I should also note that the term Regency Period sometimes refers to a larger time frame in history from 1793-1837, which includes the beginning of the war with France and William IV’s reign.  Regardless of the time frame, the Regency Period is noted for its elegance and achievements.

Although an era of excess and decadence for the aristocracy, the time was also one of uncertainty caused by the Napoleonic wars, periodic riots, Catholic emancipation, rapid industrialization, and fear of England falling in the way of the French Revolution.  Despite the social, political, and economical changes occurring at the time, the Regency was a period of great refinement and accomplishment, shaping the future of Britain’s society.

The Prince Regent was a great patron of the arts and the upper class flourished in a type of mini-Renaissance under his rule.  With the help of architect, John Nash, the Regent commissioned the Brighton Pavilion and the refurbishing of Carlton house with a lavishness that his people found extravagant.  He ordered the building of numerous public works and architecture, but unfortunately he used the treasury for his exuberant projects, in turn passing the costs onto his people.

The affluent continued to flourish, but the downtrodden continued to struggle to rise above their plight.  There was a wide gap between rich and poor, while simultaneously England saw a rise of the middle class in the form of merchants, bankers, and shipping companies.  In the seedy areas of London, thievery, womanizing, gambling, alcoholism, and rookeries were a part of the everyday.  From 1801 to 1820 the population boom increased from under one million, to one and a quarter million.  The squalor that existed in these areas bared a striking difference from high Society and the Regent’s social circles.  Poverty was rarely addressed and with the retirement of King George III, the more pious and reserved society had given way to a more frivolous one, in part due to the Regent’s influence.  The Regent was kept away from military and political strife by his ministers and he allowed them full charge over government matters.  This led to the prince seeking his own pleasures and entertainments.  He accomplished this by overindulgence, be it wine, women, gambling, spending, and revelry, the Regent seemed to care little for the debt he accrued and many of his people were distressed by his over-the-top expenditures.  It is believed the Regent’s hatred for his father is what drove him to ally himself with the Whig opposition in Parliament.  The Regent also involved himself in a secret marriage with Maria Fitzherbert in 1785, which was deemed invalid.  In 1795 he married Princess Caroline of Brunswick, though he loathed her on sight.

Taxes were rife during this era.  People were not only expected to pay taxes to the Government and King, but also to the Church. The wide-ranging extent of taxes was extreme, for example, a window tax expected from anyone with a window.  These taxes rose in proportion to the number and size of your windows.  As a result, those who could not afford the tax were forced to brick up their windows.

Due to the industrial revolution, people began to leave the farms and countryside to find work in the cities factories.  This shift from rural to urban life, led to the growth of slums and pollution.

Technological advances at this time included the steam printer.  In 1814, The Times adopted steam technology and increased production capabilities.  In turn this sparked the production of popular novels, in which many rumors of the aristocracy were often hinted between the pages.  Authors like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens began social commentaries on the people and classes of their time through fictional novels that were based on truths.  Due to the large gap in the hierarchy of society, the upper classes were often viewed with wonder and awe, and novels sold well, in part due to this interest.  The invention of steam engines, railroads, gas lighting, and even stethoscopes, altered the landscape of everyday Regency life.

The Regency is often described as a time of British decadence, an era of lavish parties, mistresses, and lecherous behavior.  And yet at the same time it encompassed a society of strict rules and proper decorum.  It was a time when men copied the dress of Beau Brummell (see previous article on Brummell http://www.lahilden.com/index.php?categoryid=6&p2_articleid=91) and ladies followed the latest fashions of La Belle Assemblée.

London was the epic center of the Regency universe.  The aristocracy flocked to the city during the Season, which was from March until June, when Parliament was in session.  The aristocracy held themselves to a stringent moral code of conduct and expected it to be followed.  A young lady could easily find her voucher to Almack’s revoked if she failed to curtsey at the appropriate depth to the leading patronesses.   And although young hopeful ladies entered Society in search for a husband, marriages were seldom based upon love.  Marriages were often arranged, and a good match was usually based upon a person’s title, income, and placement in society.  Young ladies did not have careers, their goal was to wed and anything less portrayed them as a failure.

So why do I love a period so bogged down by rules and moral structure?  I would have to say it is because of the excitement that can occur when one breaks the rules.  When there are so many rules, are they not then often broken?  And when they are broken, what are the consequences?  Can the results from breaking the rules be overcome by our natural inclination of love for another, regardless of circumstance?  For me, bringing a hero and heroine together amidst these obstacles can be very dynamic and the history that I find fascinating serves to further demonstrate the power of a great passion and unstoppable love.

Thank you to the University of Southern Queensland and An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England.


Historic Sights Part Six
Published on March 26, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2661

Ashford Castle is a medieval castle located on the Mayo/Galway border in Ireland.  The castle was built in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman, de Burgo family, following their military defeat of the native O’Conners of Connaught.  Although the de Burgo’s built several castles throughout the province, Ashford Castle became their stronghold.  After more than three and a half centuries in their family, and after a fierce military battle, Ashford Castle, by truce, fell into the hands of the English Lord Bingham, the governor of Connaught, who proceeded to add a fortified enclave to the castle.  In 1715 the French style chateau was added to the castle’s architecture.  By 1852 Ashford Castle was owned by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, who extended the estate to include 26,000 acres as well as adding two large Victorian style extensions to the castle and installing roads and planting numerous trees.  John A. Mulcahy bought the castle in 1970.  He renovated and expanded the castle to twice its size.  Mulcahy also built a golf course on the grounds and added to the gardens.  In 1985 a group of Irish America investors purchased the castle and turned it into a grand, five star hotel.  In 2008 the castle was repurchased for €50 million by Galway businessman Gerry Barrett.  Ashford Castle is considered to be one of Ireland’s finest luxury hotels and sits on 365 acres.  Currently the castle is back on the real estate market for half the price paid for it five years ago.


Château de Chenonceau is a French chateau located in the village of Chenonceau, in the Indre-et-Loire department of the Loire Valley in France.  The chateau was built on the site of an old mill on River Cher sometime before the 11th century.  The original castle was torched in 1412 to punish the owner Jean Marques for the act of sedition.  Marques rebuilt the castle and the mill in the 1430’s.  In 1513, in the hopes of pulling himself out of debt, Marques’ heir sold the castle to Thomas Bohier (Chamberlain for King Charles VIII of France).  Thomas Bohier destroyed the castle, but kept the keep standing.  He built a new residence on the property between 1515 and 1521.  The castle was seized from Bohier’s son by King Francis I of France for unpaid debts to the Crown.  After Francis’ death in 1547, King Henry II gifted the chateau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers.  In 1555 Poitiers commissioned a bridge to join the chateau to its opposite bank.  After the death of King Henri II, his widow ousted Diane Poitiers, and Chenonceau became Catherine’s favorite residence.  As the Regent of France, Catherine de Medici spent a fortune throwing parties at the castle, as well as adding extensive gardens and fruit trees.  The castle is an architectural mix of Gothic and early Renaissance.  It is the most visited chateau in France, after the Chateau de Versailles.



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.


Regency Home Remedies: Leeches and Bloodletting
Published on February 28, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1994


It is likely you have tried a few home remedies when you were ill.  Perhaps some hot tea with lemon and honey, or a saltwater gargle to soothe your sore throat.  I’m sure when you were concocting your remedy that the thought of leeches never entered your mind.  And yet bloodletting was the most common practice performed by a physician until the late 19th century.  Leeches have been used for bloodletting for thousands of years, and records indicate that the Egyptians used leech therapy over 3,500 years ago.  Leech therapy was a common practice and used throughout the world.  Of course bloodletting was also done by cupping and cutting, but for now we shall stick with the leeches.

In the 16th century, apothecaries sold leeches, both to physicians and to patients.  Leeches were gathered in the spring by netting them in the fresh waters or by making yourself their meal and wading into the water with bare legs.


By the 18th century, leeches were a commodity, with the prices of leeches fluctuating from 25 to 50 cents apiece, which made them too expensive for the lower classes.  Leeches underwent a kind of golden age in the early 19th century, as a type of cure all, and although this craze was centered in France, the demand for leeches happened throughout Europe and Asia.  It was said that the leech farms were not able to keep up with the high demand.  In 1833, over 41,500,000 leeches were imported into France, with only 9-10 million exported.  A decade later, England imported six million leeches in one year from France, since their own leech production was insufficient.

Leeches were used for dentistry in 1817.  When placed onto the patient’s gum, these water worms can drain an abscessed tooth.

To apply a leech: according to author Kristine Hughes in Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England.

Leeches must be kept out of water for a half an hour before applying.  The skin they are applied to must be washed and rubbed dry.  A little sweetened milk will make them bite.  When placing them on the patient, put the tapering end, which is their mouth, against the patient.  Do not pull off leeches.  They will naturally fall off when they are done.  Never put leeches directly over a vein.  A leech will drink blood weighing as much as itself within 15 minutes and consume between 2.5-5.5 grams of blood.  Leech bites were bathed in cold water and covered with linen.  If the bleeding doesn’t stop, then vinegar, silver nitrate, and hot wires were applied. Fed leeches were often put onto a plate of salt where they’d proceed to vomit the blood they consumed.

Leeches leave visible scars, which is why the smaller variety was popular to use of the face and neck.  Leeches can be used over and over again, however a leech used on an infected person could transfer disease to another.  The species Hirudo medicinalis has three jaws with approximately 100 sharp teeth on each outer rim.  The saliva carried by the leech renders the bite virtually painless.

By the end of the 19th century the golden age for the leech had reached its end.

Leeches made a comeback in the 1980’s and are still used today, yet only under certain circumstances.  The Federal Food and Drug Administration consider leeches to be medical devices.  The leeches most commonly used for healing are Hirudo medicinalis, the European medicinal leech species.  There are more than 600 species of leeches identified, but only 15 of the species are used for medicinal purposes.  They are particularly useful in reattaching fingers and attaching flaps of skin in reconstructive surgery because they reestablish blood flow.  Leeches can clear up congestion to prevent blood clots and prevent tissue from dying.  Leech saliva contains an active anticoagulant component protein called hirudin.  We now use this protein through laboratory methods called Recombinant DNA, which is a way used to bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that could not otherwise be found in biological organism.  There are also poisonous leeches that are green in color and they are known to cause fever and paralysis, don’t use these.

Although in the 21st century we may now find this practice abhorrent or consider the treatment from an uninformed era, this is simply not true.  It is easy to understand why people and physicians of ancient times found this method effective, because sometimes bloodletting had the right results.  If a person suffered from hypertension, and leeches were applied, the patient’s blood pressure would drop due to the reduction in blood volume, and in this case, the leeches were beneficial.  Leech therapy was used for a wide range of symptoms, from headaches to ear infections and melancholia to fever.  And bloodletting was believed to help patients balance the body’s humors, such as phlegm, blood, or yellow and black bile.  Of course over time we learned that bloodletting was often damaging to the patients.  In 1828, Pierre Charles Alexandre Louis was one of the first physicians to openly criticize bloodletting for the treatment of disease.  In his research he found 44% of his pneumonia patients died if they were bled in the first four days, compared with 25% who were bled later in their illness.  He deduced that bloodletting was useless in treating pneumonia.  We know that bloodletting could lead to the patient’s death, case in point, the first President of the United States, George Washington had died in part from a bloodletting procedure gone wrong, seemingly five pints of blood were removed from him in less than sixteen hours. 

By nineteenth-century standards, thirteen pints of blood taken over the space of a month was a large amount, but not an exceptional quantity.  The medical literature of the period contains many accounts of bloodletting procedures-some were successful, some were not.  Today it is well established that bloodletting is not effective for most diseases.  Indeed it is often harmful, since it can weaken the patient and facilitate infections. With the backing of modern science, we have come to realize in fuller detail how these aquatic worms can provide improvement to our health and lives.  In some instances, these bloodsuckers are very useful.

Special thanks to John M. Hyson, Leech Therapy: A History and White McKenzie Wallenborn, M.D, Papers of Washington.



Historic Sights Part Five
Published on February 27, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 1798


Enniskillen Castle is located in Enniskillen, County of Fermanagh, in Northern Ireland.  Originally built in the 16th century, this castle played a large role in Ireland’s rebellion against English rule.  Enniskillen Castle was taken after an eight-day siege.  The castle consists of two sections, a central tower keep, and a curtained wall fortified with small turrets.  In the 17th century it became an English garrison fort and later served as military barracks.

Baddesley Castle is located in the historic town of Warwick in England.  The house is believed to have been established in the 13th century by Thomas de Clinton.  In the 15th century, the house was fitted with gun-ports and possibly a drawbridge.  The east range is flanked by two-story gatehouses. In the 16th century, Baddesley became of refuge for Catholic priests after the Reformation, and secret passages, and hiding places called “priest holes” were created for their concealment. These hiding places were believed to be created by Saint Nicholas Owen, who was eventually caught and tortured to death by the Protestant English government.

Berkeley Castle is a castle located in the town of Berkeley, in the county of Gloucestershire in England.  The castle dates back to the 11th century and it has been home to the Berkeley family for 850 years.  The castle remained in the Berkeley family except for a period of royal ownership by the Tudors.  Berkeley Castle was possibly the location to where King Henri VIII took Anne Boleyn to honeymoon after their secret marriage.  Over 24 generations of Berkeley’s have transformed the Roman fortress into the home it is today.  Berkeley Castle is believed to be the scene of the murder of King Edward II in 1327.  King Edward II was confined in a windowless cell near the dungeon.  The fortress is irregular in style and has various keeps and embattled buildings surrounding the court.  The keep is nearly circular, having one square tower and three semicircular ones.  Originally this castle had a moat and bailey.

Craigievar Castle is a 14th century castle located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The castle stands seven stories tall and is pinkish in color due to it being a harled castle, which is a special surfacing technique, used to provide a long-lasting weather shield.  The castle sits amongst the rolling foothills of the Grampian Mountains and was the former seat of Clan Sempill.  The castle was designed in an L plan, though built upwards instead of sideways.  Craigievar Castle boasts multiple turrets and gargoyles and is noted for the craftsmanship of its plasterwork ceilings.  Craigievar is an example of Scottish Baronial architecture and was completed in 1626.  During WWI the castle was used for wounded Belgium soldiers.  William Forbes purchased the castle in 1610 from the Mortimer family who found themselves in financial straits.  The Forbes family resided here for 350 years until 1963, when the property was gifted to the National Trust of Scotland.


The Marylebone Cricket Club
Published on February 18, 2013 by lahilden | Views: 2513


The Marylebone Cricket Club is the world’s most famous cricket club, which was established in London, England in 1787.  Like hunting, boxing, and fencing, cricket was considered a gentlemen’s pursuit and provided men with plenty of gambling opportunities.  Before Marylebone opened, aristocrats and noblemen played cricket in White Conduit Fields in Islington, London.

As London’s population expanded, crowd control to watch these matches began to bother the players.  The players claimed their matches were “too public.”  Trying to find a more private venue near London, some nobles approached Thomas Lord.  Thomas Lord was a professional bowler at White Conduit Fields in Islington, and the members encouraged him to set up private grounds for the matches, guaranteeing him no financial loss.  Thomas Lord leased Dorset Fields in Marylebone and the gentlemen’s club moved there, renaming themselves “the Mary-le-bone Club.”  The first staged match pitted Middlesex versus Essex, thus the Marylebone Cricket Club came to be on May 31, 1787.

A year later the members constructed a Code of Laws detailing the game.  Marylebone Cricket Club remains the framer and copyright holder of the Laws of Cricket and those laws apply to cricket around the world.

In 1810 Thomas Lord’s lease on Dorset Fields expired.  He was forced to relocate the club to Regent’s Park.  Efforts were made to transfer the Dorset Fields’ turf to the new site, but the ground was not popular with the players. After keeping the cricket matches at Regent Park from 1811-1813, Thomas Lord moved the site again when the proposed Regent’s Canal development was going to cut through the cricket site.  Thus Thomas Lord moved the club to its final location in St. John’s Wood in 1814.  Again the turf was transferred to the new site.

The cricket matches brought in many spectators and players, and due to its success, Thomas Lord built a pavilion and refreshment stalls to cater to the crowds.  In 1805, the nobles wished to see their sons playing the game and the schools of Eton and Harrow had a match, which began an on-going tradition that still remains.  In 1825, at the age of 70, Thomas Lord sold the ground to the Bank of England Director, William Ward.  Also occurring in the year 1825, the original pavilion burned down, destroying scorecards, records, and trophies.  A new pavilion was constructed and opened the following year.

At one time, the wicket was prepared before a match by allowing sheep to come and graze on the grass.  However, the club acquired mowers and its first groundsman in 1864.  The original colors were sky blue, but this changed in Victorian times to red and yellow, now recognized around the world.

An interesting side note: Females were refused membership to the club well into the 1990’s, due to the difficulty in gaining the two-thirds majority needed to approve female membership.  In September 1998, 70% of the members eventually voted to allow female membership, ending 212 years of male exclusivity.  Until that time, the Queen, as the club’s patron, was the only woman permitted to enter the Pavilion during play, with the exception of female staff.