Sunday, 30 September 2012

THE FEMINISED FLEET - Guest post by J.D. Davies

This week the Hoydens are thrilled to welcome J.D Davies as our guest blogger. David is a historian and author and a wonderful resource on matters nautical. Being landlubbers, the Hoydens are very excited to have David with us and to hear about our favourite period of history from a nautical perspective.

The recent publication of Merivel, the sequel to Rose Tremain’s brilliant novel Restoration, and the continuing interest in the women of Charles II’s court, proves – as if proof were needed – that interest in ‘the Merry Monarch’ and his mistresses is as strong as ever. At first sight, the frenzied sexual politics of the court would seem to be a different world from that which I’ve been writing about for the last twenty-odd years, firstly as an academic historian working on, and more recently as the author of fiction set in, the naval history of the age. After all, naval history – ships, battles, dead admirals and so forth – hasn’t traditionally been regarded as a field with many obvious feminine connections. In reality, though, there was an astonishingly deep and complex set of female influences at work in Charles II’s navy. Indeed, it might not be an exaggeration to say that until very nearly the present day, when women go to sea equally with men and command warships, the Restoration Navy witnessed one of the strongest feminine presences in naval history.

To begin by stating the obvious: King Charles II loved women. He loved a lot of women. But he also loved the navy, and almost from the beginning of his reign, he found ways of combining his loves. There was soon a fleet of royal yachts (a type of vessel that was new to England, ‘imported’ from the Netherlands at the Restoration), and these were effectively at the private disposal of the people after whom they were named: thus the Fubbs Yacht was named after his mistress, Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, ‘Fubbs’ being the king’s pet name for her chubby naked form. The poor hard-done-by Queen, Catherine of Braganza, had her own warship, the Saudadoes – a Portuguese bird, a name chosen by her – and selected its captain herself. Women also influenced the names of many of the greatest warships of Charles’s reign. Several were named after his female relations, such as Henrietta and Mary after his sisters, Anne after his sister-in-law; but it might be a significant comment on the king’s frosty relationship with his mother that he never named a warship Henrietta Maria after her. When the Lenox was launched in April 1678, Charles went down to Deptford by boat and performed the ceremony in the company of the Duchess of Portsmouth and their young son, the Duke of Richmond and Lennox, after whom the ship was named. (As far as the Royal Navy is concerned, the practice of having only women to launch warships only finally became de rigueur in the second half of the nineteenth century.)

Launch of the Lenox in April 1678, with Charles II and the Duchess of Portsmouth shown in the barge alongside the ship*.

The royal women also visited the fleet itself, even in wartime. When the fleet was preparing to sail into battle against the Dutch in May 1665, its preparations were interrupted by the arrival of the Duchess of York, the king’s sister-in-law, and her retinue, who stayed for a fortnight. It was said of this interlude that ‘countess, courtesan and country wench jostled one another both in cabin and in forecastle’; I used this event as the backdrop for a confrontation between two of my characters in The Blast That Tears The Skies, the third novel in my series, ‘the Journals of Matthew Quinton’. A rather more positive influence was that of Charles’s sister, Henrietta, who was married to King Louis XIV’s brother. When, in 1668-70, Charles moved towards a secret alliance with Louis, Henrietta served as the intermediary, and much of their correspondence focused on naval matters. Henrietta’s letters show that she possessed a keen grasp of strategic issues and had her own ideas about the implications of her brother-in-law’s huge programme of naval expansion for her brother’s own navy and for the prospects of an alliance.

Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, sister of Charles II

Perhaps surprisingly, women sometimes played an important part in the logistical support for the fleet, and some even took a more direct role in naval warfare. Elspeth Browne was one of the owners of the Scottish privateer Margaret, while Anne and Mary Powlet received letters of marque and reprisal (authorising them to fit out a privateer) to avenge their dead husbands and reclaim some of the £21,000 of losses that the Dutch had allegedly cost them. Several other women had equally proactive roles in naval warfare. In 1653 Joan Chudleigh was running her late husband’s shipwright’s business at Kinsale, and giving the navy estimates for the repair of its warships; Mary Harrison was a ship painter at Portsmouth for over twenty years from 1676. Margaret Browne was the chief supplier of lead to the yard at Deptford in 1659, while in later years ‘widow Braman’ was the lockmaker at Deptford, and Martha Bradford and ‘Widow Evans’ were borne on the books of Chatham yard as, respectively, the keeper and water-carrier of the payhouse. Susanna Beckford was the supplier of ships’ iron work to both Deptford and Woolwich dockyards, having carried on her husband’s business after his death in 1675; her letters are very well written, suggesting that she was well educated. Anne Pearson had perhaps the least likely, and least ‘ladylike’, job of all – during the 1670s she had the official contract for poisoning the rats at Deptford and Woolwich dockyards!

Women were also present on board ships. It was accepted practice for them to be aboard during the early stages of a voyage, before the ship lost sight of land; the naval chaplain Henry Teonge, writing in the 1670s, noted how on ships in coastal waters it was common to find female legs dangling suggestively from hammocks! But this tradition led to tragedy in 1665 when the great man-of-war London mysteriously blew up in the Thames Estuary. Many women were killed in the blast, although Pepys recorded how twenty-four men and one woman miraculously survived when the part of the ship they were in was simply blown clear. Recent archaeological work on the wreck site has revealed the remains of several women, a subject that I discussed on BBC TV last year. Some women even went much further afield. Captains sometimes tried to take their wives on voyages, although this was officially frowned upon; Captain Sir William Jennens was dismissed the service in 1671 for taking his wife with him on a Mediterranean convoy. Even so, it gradually became accepted practice for admirals to have their wives aboard their flagships. The practice lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century. One of the last admirals to take advantage of it was Sir Edward Owen, commander-in-chief in the Mediterreanean from 1841-5; the presence of his wife aboard ship caused particular difficulties both because the Admiralty wanted to stamp out the practice and because Lady Owen was generally regarded as insane. The Restoration navy also provides an early example of the oft-quoted instances of women in disguise actually serving on warships or in army regiments. Anne Chamberlyne, the twenty-three year old daughter of a lawyer, served aboard the Griffin Fireship, commanded by her brother Clifford, during the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690; ‘a second Pallas, chaste and fearless’ was how her memorial inscription in All Saints Church, Chelsea, put it. A second-hand report of 1692, which might possibly have been a conflation of Anne Chamberlyne’s story, claimed that another gentlewoman had served in the fleet during the battle of Barfleur (1692).

Finally, Charles II also gave Britain, and the Royal Navy, one of its greatest icons – and a female one at that. In 1667 he was in pursuit of the exceptionally comely Frances Stuart, who modelled as Britannia for the king’s new coins; she has remained on British coinage ever since. In 1682, Charles bestowed the name Britannia on the last great First Rate ship-of-the-line built in his reign, the first time the name was ever used for a British warship. Although the last ship of the name, the Royal Yacht Britannia, was taken out of service in 1997 (and is now preserved as a museum at Leith), the principal training base for future officers of the navy remains the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and every year the audience at the Last Night of the Proms, one of Britain’s most famous cultural events, still belts out Thomas Arne’s rousing battle hymn, ‘Rule, Britannia! Britannia, Rule the Waves…’. So the influence of the women of Restoration naval history is still very much felt today!

J D Davies is the author of ‘the journals of Matthew Quinton’, a series of naval historical fiction set in the Restoration period. The first and second titles, Gentleman Captain and The Mountain of Gold, have been published in the UK and US, and the third, The Blast That Tears The Skies, in the UK; the fourth book, The Lion of Midnight, will be published in spring 2013. David is also a leading authority on the navy of the period: his non-fiction book Pepys’s Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89 won the Samuel Pepys award for 2009, and his other books include Blood of Kings: the Stuarts, the Ruthvens and the Gowrie Conspiracy. He is the chairman of the Naval Dockyards Society and a former vice-president of the Navy Records Society. Visit his website at and his blog at   

*Attribution:  Reproduction of the Launch of the Lenox used with consent of Richard Endsor

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Traffic Jams on London Bridge in the 17th Century

When I was writing THE GILDED LILY, one of the things that struck me the most about London was that there was only one bridge over the river Thames - London Bridge, which was the same bridge that had stood there since 1209. The only other way to cross the river in this period was by boat.

The money for the original construction of the bridge was raised in part by allowing the land on the bridge to be sold for dwellings. By Stuart times there were more than two hundred buildings on the bridge, both residential and commercial. Some stood up as high as seven storeys and overhung the river by several feet. This picture shows just how far out they protruded.

In the middle of the bridge was a Chapel to St Thomas Becket, built by King Henry II, which became the official start of pilgrimages to Becket's shrine at Canterbury. This chapel actusally took 33 years to complete, and was not finished in Henry's lifetime. King John had to license out more building plots on the bridge to help recoup the costs of Henry's repentance.

Looking at these pictures of London Bridge you can see that the buildings were truly monumental.

So tall-ships could pass upriver there was a drawbridge, and there were defensive gatehouses at both ends, one of which supported a tower on which traitor's heads used to be displayed on iron spikes. This  practice was finally stopped in 1660, following the Restoration, presumably so as not to remind the King of the fate of his father! You can see traitors heads on this print by Visscher from 1616, which was the nearest image I could find in my research with detail of the bridge, although there is doubt now as to its accuracy as it was copied (with a degree of artistic licence) from an earlier drawing.

The buildings on London Bridge were a major fire hazard and in 1212, perhaps the greatest of the fires broke out on both ends of the bridge, trapping many in the middle as the flames at each end raged towards each other, resulting in the death of an estimated 3,000 people. Houses on the bridge were also burnt during the Peasants Revolt in 1381. As for the period I am interested in, a major fire had destroyed a third of the bridge in 1633, but this was fortunate as it formed a firebreak that prevented further damage to the bridge during The Great Fire of 1666.

The width of the actual bridge was about 4 metres, and it was divided into two lanes, so that whichever way you went, whether in a coach and horses, with a wagon or on foot, you had to negotiate a road only 2 metres wide. No wonder the bridge was congested and crossing it could take up to an hour! Those who could afford the fare might prefer to cross by ferry but as I discovered, the actual bridge structure made passing under it by boat quite dangerous.

To support this amount of wood and masonry nineteen arches had been made, none of which were the same dimensions because the river bed was tidal and the foundations uneven, so the 'legs' or piers were built onto boat shaped structures called "starlings" set into the river-bed. The narrow arches and wide pier bases restricted the river's tidal ebb and flow so, that in hard winters, the water upstream of the bridge became more susceptible to freezing. In The Gilded Lily I use the frozen Thames, and the Frost Fair upon it, as one of the settings. 

Old London Bridge model; seen from the East with part of the Pool of London shipping in the foreground, in about 16th century. This view of London Bridge shows St. Magnus Martyr church on the north bank and Nonsuch House in the foreground - Nonsuch house replaced the medieval drawbridge gatehouse.

John B. Thorp 1901-1939
By the 17th century the flow was further obstructed as waterwheels had been installed under the two north arches to drive water pumps, and under the two south arches to power mills and granaries. At the time my novel is set there was a difference in water levels on each side of the bridge. Negotiating it meant braving rapids with a drop of almost two metres. Most boats stopped on one side, allowed passengers to alight, and then they had to pick up a boat further downstream.

Because the river flowed much more slowly above the bridge it often froze. In the 17th century because temperatures were lower and it was known as The Little Ice Age it froze several times.The tidal nature of the river meant that plates of ice formed and then the level of the river would rise again and create vast layered platforms or glaciers of ice. This picture by Hondius of 1677 shows London Bridge in the background and the amazing glacial landscape of the Thames in the foreground.

File:The Frozen Thames 1677.jpg

"Thousands and thousands to the river flocks,
Where mighty flakes of Ice do lye like Rocks,
There may you see the Coaches swiftly run
As if beneath the Ice were Waters none,
And sholes of people every where there be
Just like to herrings in the brackish Sea."

Excerpt from a long poem about a  Frost Fair from a Print of 1684.

THE GILDED LILY is out now, here's the trailer - enjoy!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

In Search of the Appamattuck Indians

In Virginia and for those who study the American Civil War, Appomattox usually means the town where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, ending a long and bloody war. However, the name of the town comes from an Algonquian speaking Indian tribe that lived nearby. While writing the sequel to The Dreaming: Walks Through Mist, I began a quest in search of the tribe. In the first book, I had a little easier time locating the modern day areas of the tribes mentioned because both tribes, the Paspahegh and Arrohatteck, had a re-creation of their towns near where they had lived at Jamestown Settlement and Henricus Historical Park.

Initially in my search for the Appamattuck, I had two 17th-century maps. In the beginning, I found it difficult correlating where the tribe had lived to present-day locations. Fortunately, I discovered a couple of historical markers through a web search. Opposunoquonuske was a weroansqua (female chief) in 1610. After the destruction of the Paspahegh, her men ambushed English soldiers. They retaliated by burning her town and seized the land for their own.

The Appamattuck moved their settlement until the English attacked them again, where they relocated yet again to the area along the Appomattox river. A hillside that is now home to Virginia State University was an English fort in the 17th- century, and nearby, I found a river trail that at one time was the northern most part of a Native American trail that ran all the way to South Carolina. Here, I traveled to find the Appamattuck.

Except for a few birds singing and dragonflies hovering about, the river banks were quiet, but I could easily imagine the mat-covered houses and people bustling with their everyday chores. Because I visited in summer, the men would have likely been hunting or fishing, and the women foraging for greens and berries, unless they were in town weeding.

The scene would have been completely shattered in 1644 when the Powhatan chiefdom was defeated, and the tribes, including the Appamattuck became subjects to the King of England. In 1645, Fort Henry was built across the river from the tribe, and it was the only point where Indians could legally travel eastward into white territory and vice versa. Virginia Indians had to wear a badge of striped cloth to show they had been allowed into the territory or risk being killed.

During Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, the Appamattuck town was once again destroyed, and few of the tribe remained. In 1691 the weroansqua, Perecuta requested permission to live among the English. By 1705 only seven families remained, and the tribe vanished from the historical records.

Kim Murphy

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Jane Lane – The Girl who Saved the English Monarchy by Gillian Bagwell

Jane Lane
While researching The Darling Strumpet, my novel about Nell Gwynn, I read Derek Wilson’s book All the King’s Women, about the numerous women important to Charles II.  As all of us who know anything about Charles II are aware, he liked women.  His mistresses were many and famous, whether loved by the people like Nell Gwynn or hated like Louis De Keroualle.

So I was intrigued to read his account of Jane Lane, an ordinary Staffordshire girl who played a starring role in an extraordinary part of Charles’s life – his six-week odyssey after the Battle of Worcester trying to escape to safety in France.

The Battle of Worcester took place on September 3, 1651.  Charles and his ragged and outnumbered army knew that all their hopes rested on that day, and the 21-year-old king believed that the outcome for him would be “either a crown or a coffin.”  Cromwell triumphed, and the bloody rout ended the Royalist cause.  Once Charles had been convinced that the best he could do was survive, he fled as his supporters made a last ferocious stand, and legendarily dashed out the back door of his lodgings as the enemy entered at the front, slipping out the last unguarded city gate.
Broadsheet 166o

From that disastrous night until he finally sailed from Shoreham near Brighton on October 15, he was on the run, sheltered and aided by dozens of people – mostly simple country folks and very minor gentry.
One of Charles’s companions during his flight from Worcester was the Earl of Derby, who had recently been sheltered at a house called Boscobel in Shropshire.  He suggested that the king might hide there until he could find a way out of England. 

Jane Lane, a young woman of about 25 years old, lived at Bentley Hall in Staffordshire, not far from Boscobel.  She became involved in the king’s flight because she had a pass allowing her and a manservant to travel the hundred miles to visit a friend near Bristol – a major port where the king might board a ship.  In a story that sounds like something out of fiction, the 21-year-old king disguised himself as Jane’s servant, and Jane rode pillion (sitting sidesaddle behind him while he rode astride) along roads traveled by cavalry patrols searching for Charles, through villages where the proclamation describing him and offering a reward for his capture was posted, and among hundreds of people who, if they recognized him, had every reason to turn him in and none – but loyalty to the outlawed monarchy – to help him.

It was an improbable scheme.  Charles was six feet two inches tall and very dark complexioned, not at all common looking for an Englishman of that time.  But time after time he rode right under the noses of Roundhead soldiers without being recognized.  He narrowly eluded discovery and capture so many times that the whole event eventually became known as the Royal Miracle.

Jane Lane played a much more important part in great events than women usually did in those days, especially women who were not monarchs. The fugitive king had been proclaimed a traitor, and anyone who was found to have helped him would be executed for treason.   What Jane did took great bravery, as she was not only risking her life but the lives and lands of her family. 

I was convinced by the evidence Wilson presented that Jane and Charles became lovers when they were in each other’s company, in close physical contact, and in perilous circumstances from September 9 to September 18, 1651.  Jane remained in touch with Charles until he was restored to the throne in 1660.
A Snuff Box given to Jane by Charles II

Then she became famous, and Charles rewarded her richly, awarding her a pension of £1000 pounds a year – quite a lot of money then – as well as giving her a watch that had belonged to his father, paintings of himself, and many other personal mementoes.  He also offered her brother a title and gave her family the right to add the three Lions of England to their coat of arms.

The time that Charles spent on the run was an enormously formative experience, he told the story for the rest of his life, and Jane was clearly someone who he regarded with respect and affection until his death.  He When Jane returned home she married a neighbor, Sir Clement Fisher, who she had likely known before embarking on her adventures with Charles.  But she had no children, and towards the end of her life she declared that her hands would be her executors, i.e., that she would spend all she had.  She did more than that, and because her pension was not being paid on time, she was in debt and died with an estate worth only £10.
A Glove Charles left at Whiteladies

If Charles had been caught, he would certainly have been executed, and it is an open question whether the monarchy would have been restored as it eventually was in 1660, after the death of Oliver Cromwell.  So Jane’s courage had far-reaching results and her story deserves to be remembered. 

Gillian Bagwell’s novel The King’s Mistress, the first fictional accounting of Jane Lane’s adventures with the young King Charles, was released in the U.K. on July 19. (It was published in the U.S. in 2011 as The September Queen). Her first novel, The Darling Strumpet, based on the life of Nell Gwynn, is a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award for Best First Book. Her third novel, Venus in Winter, about the formidable four-times widowed Tudor dynast Bess of Hardwick, will be published in the U.S. in July 2013. Please visit Gillian’s website,, to read more about her books. Gillian’s blog Jane Lane and the Royal Miracle recounts her adventures researching the book and the daily episodes in Charles’s escape after Worcester.

Available under the title 'The September Queen' in the US. 'The King's Mistress' will be released in the UK in July 2012