Sunday, 24 November 2013

17th Century Musings - Guest Debra Brown

The Hoydens are delighted to welcome Debra Brown to be our guest this week. Debra is the webmistress and doyenne of a fellow blog, the English Historical Fiction Authors Blog as well as being an author in her own right.

The contributors to this blog have come together to produce a gorgeous book with a luscious cover:  CASTLES, CUSTOMS AND KINGS (buy links are at the end of this post) - the perfect Christmas present for a lover of history. Contributors include our own Hoyden, Deborah Swift.

I am in a position I dearly love as the owner of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Though I have a restless mind, running the blog makes me focus on a daily dose of British history written by numerous learned authors.

At this writing, we have nine hundred fifty two posts in the line-up. This means I have read around nine hundred fifty luscious, English/British history posts. Can you imagine? Finally those dates I memorized in school have events connected to them, and I even know something about the events.

It is exciting to have released an historical anthology this fall—a select group of posts from the first year of the EHFA blog titled Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales byEnglish Historical Fiction Authors. It contains a wide variety of topics which are organized in the chronological gamut from the Roman era to World War II written by fifty-five authors.
Here on Hoydens and Firebrands, the focus is on the 17th century—so allow me to share some interesting Stuart era points from the book.

Margaret Skea wrote about The Three Weddings of James VI and I (But Only One Wife). Most of us only get married once, she said, and that to the same person.

Anne of Denmark
James chose Anne, Queen of Denmark, saying she pleased his subjects and God—who had “moved his heart in the way that was meetest”. Margaret confesses she is not sure whether James’ understanding of God’s will was influenced by the fact that Anne was eight years younger than himself while the other candidate, Catherine of Navarre, was eight years older and looking her age. Anne first married James by proxy with George Keith, Earl Marishchal standing in.

Anne left Denmark to meet her man with a small fleet, but storms battered the ships, endangering her life. The Admiral concluded this was the work of witches and sought safe haven in Norway. Witch trials followed in both countries.

James, to bypass concerns for his safety, sneaked off to Norway on ships paid for by the Lord Chancellor of Scotland. Their second wedding took place in Oslo, and finally in January 1590 for the benefit of the Danish royal family, they married a third time at the castle of Kronborg in Denmark.

James I was obsessed with daemonology and witches, according to Deborah Swift. In her essay called A Witch’s Lair Found Buried Under a Mound, she tells about a house that was uncovered just before the 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch trials in 2012. In the walls of the house in what was called the wild and lawless region of Lancaster, an area “fabled for its theft, violence and sexual laxity, where the church was honoured without much understanding of its doctrines by the common people”, was found a mummified cat.
Concealing things in old buildings was common in the 17th century, Deborah says. Some 1,700 shoes concealed shoes have been found, not just in Britain, but also in Germany, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Perhaps the shoe was thought to trap the spirit of the wearer.

Sam Thomas wrote So You Say You Want an Execution. As you might expect at such a well-attended correction of everything gone wrong from theft to murder, prayers were said, sermons preached, and speeches delivered.

However, Sam tells us, some executions had all the dignity of a three-ring circus. Peddlers strolled through the crowd crying their wares, and the crowd ate, drank, and socialized.
One pamphlet from 1696 shows a preacher delivering an execution sermon on one platform while behind him one can see not only the condemned offering up his last prayers, but a magician performing on an adjacent stage. Sam claims to prefer, in this case, to be the opening act rather than the headliner.

Read Sam’s article in Castles,Customs, and Kings to learn why one judge attacked a soon-to-be-killed prisoner.

Nell Gwyn
As most of us know, before the Restoration female roles in plays were performed by men. Charles II, however, had been to the theater in France during his exile where he saw women performing, and, Karen Wasylowski informs us in her post The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons, he noted that it had caused neither outcry nor panic in the streets. A new career path for unprotected British women opened up: Actress.

The first “bombshell” actress was the King’s mistress, Nell Gwyn. She was sexy and funny, and she made use of the wardrobe malfunction in her portraits to enhance her notoriety. Unfortunately for serious actresses, by the mid-eighteenth century brothels had developed amidst other businesses around the theater district, increasing the connection between theater and sex, acting and prostitution.

In the second half of the 18th century, to bring greater legitimacy many full length portraits were made by famous artists, providing dignity and a positive image of their roles. Karen says, “A refined, gentle sort of eighteenth century Paparazzi mentality had begun.”

You will want to read Linda Collison’s essay Lloyd’s: Lifeblood of British Commerce and Starbucks of its Day to see how a coffeehouse developed into an insurance market, philanthropic efforts, and the creation of a fund for wounded soldiers and the dependents of those killed in battle.

Not all has gone well for Lloyds. They insured the “unsinkable” Titanic. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the attack on New York’s World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, and Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami cost them. Linda says, “The history of Lloyd’s is a fascinating one, and still evolving. Wherever there is risk and money to be made you’ll find the name Lloyd’s.”

I have barely touched on a few of the nearly two hundred posts in this large, beautiful book. Readers have said, "It was literary comfort food – a recollection of childhood, warm and satisfying." "I found the approach charming and reassuring." "Despite the length, there is no encyclopedia feel and each author's voice is well preserved." "This book is a scholarly treasure trove with a wide appeal."

You can settle down for an evening with this book or pick it up during a coffee break. The topics are but a few pages each, and you can go from place to place in the book as your mood dictates. Castles, Customs, and Kings, edited by myself and M.M. Bennetts, is a wonderful gift for any lover of history.

Debra Brown is the author of the early Victorian novel The Companion of Lady Holmeshire.
WebsiteM.M. Bennetts, an early 19th century specialist, is the author of May 1812 and Of Honest Fame Blog

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Seventeenth-Century Rape Laws

"Rape is the carnal abusing of a woman against her will. But if the woman conceive upon any carnal abusing of her, that is no rape, for she cannot conceive unless she consent."
Sir Henry Finch, Law or Discourse Thereof (1627)

Finch died in 1625, making his book posthumously published, but his cruel legacy lived on. Most recently, some modern politicians have argued the same point. During the 17th century, scientists debated whether humans were formed from an egg, or if a baby was already fully formed from a man's "seed" merely to grow once inside the womb. In order for a woman to conceive, the belief was held that she must enjoy the sex act. Hence, Finch's law that a woman could not have been raped, if she had conceived.

Later in the century, Sir Matthew Hale uttered his infamous declaration:

"It is true that rape is a most detestable crime, and therefore ought severely and impartially to be punished with death; but it must be remembered, that it is an accusation easily to be made, hard to be proved, but harder to be defended by the party accused, tho innocent."

No words have severely affected modern women more. Even though the crime of rape has been shown to have no more false accusations than any other crime, Hale's statement, warning jurors that women are liars, has been repeated throughout courtrooms for centuries. In the U.S., the words weren't stricken from the courts until the 1970s.

In the 17th century, a woman who brought the charge of rape against a man was automatically regarded with suspicion. A girl's sexuality was controlled by her father, and once she was married that power shifted to her husband. Also according to Hale, a husband could not rape his wife: "But the husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract." In other words, she was his property, and he was allowed to use his property in anyway he saw fit.

If a woman had been raped, her "protector" would bring the charges to the authorities. Women with no male protector were often looked upon as being unchaste and thought to readily consent their virtues to any man.

The American colonies adopted English Common Law in regard to rape. In Virginia, rape was a capital offense. Unfortunately, most of the colony's records have been lost, but existing General Court records reveal that no conviction for rape or attempted rape were successful before 1670. One record has been uncovered at a county level. Women were hesitant to accuse a white man of rape because they risked losing their homes, places in the community, punishment, or retaliation.

Due to the Quaker influence in Pennsylvania, rape became a noncapital offense in 1682. Men convicted of rape were to be whipped and forfeit one-third of their estate to the victim. Supposedly, they were also to receive a prison sentence for one year with a second conviction carrying a life sentence. In reality, all rape accusations were reduced to lesser crimes until the 18th century.

In Puritan Massachusetts, fourteen men were tried for rape and three men for attempted rape between 1630 and 1692. Like other areas, women were unlikely to report sexual assaults because the patriarchal system frequently blamed the victim. All in all, in many ways, little has changed from the 17th century. Rape survivors rarely reported the attacks, and the assailants, if prosecuted, used the defense that the sexual activity was consensual, and oftentimes, the victim's reputation was brought into question. Even now, many believe Hale's myth that women are liars and therefore, are vindictive. After 400 years, it seems more progress should have been made.

Kim Murphy

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Savoy Hospital and Chapel

Continuing the story of John of Gaunt's Magnificent lost palace on The Strand

The Savoy Hospital
The Savoy Hospital

Henry VII, the last Lancastrian heir, founded the Savoy Hospital for the poor in 1502, and although he died before construction began, left complicated instructions for its management in his will. King Henry bequeathed 10,000 marks so that 100 poor men could be accommodated every night. At that time ‘hospital’ was more like a hostel for the homeless, the medical aspect was developed in later years as by the 18th Century there was a medical staff. Dedicated to the Blessed Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist, it was finally opened in 1512.

King Henry VII

A ‘Master’ governed the running of the house, with four chaplains who exercised the functions of seneschal, sacristan, confessor, and hospitaller. Then two priests, four altarists engaged to assist in the services in the chapel, a clerk of the kitchen, a butler, a cook, an under cook, a door-keeper and an under doorkeeper, a gardener, a matron, and twelve women. The master received a stipend of £30 a year, each of the chaplains £4 and the priests £3 6s. 8d. The uniform of all officials, male and female, was blue with a Tudor rose in red and gold embroidered on the breast.

Every evening an hour before sunset, the hospitaller, the vice-matrons and others stood at the great door and received the poor, who proceeded first to the chapel to pray for the founder, and then to the dormitory, where the matron and some of the women allotted them beds.

Four other women prepared the baths and cleansed their clothing. The hospital only provided a lodging for the night except in the case of the sick, who were allowed to remain and were tended by the doctor and surgeon and the sisters.

William Holgill, the first master, received a larger salary than future master, and in spite of the statute forbidding the acceptance of other offices, he acted as surveyor to Wolsey. The income of the hospital, £567 16s. 3¾d. in 1535. This came from rents of assize in London manors, including Kennington, Shoreditch, Goldbeaters and others.

That these monies were barely sufficient to meet expenses came to light when the price of food rose, Holgill had to draw on the reserve fund, and the commissioners who under Sir Roger Cholmley, visited the hospital in 1551, found the revenues fell short of expenditure by £205 4s. 2d.

The house was dissolved in 1553, and its lands given by the king to Bridewell and St. Thomas's, Southwark, but in 1556 it was endowed afresh by Queen Mary, whose maids of honour provided the beds and other furniture.

This new foundation had been in existence only a few years when it was almost ruined by Thomas Thurland, the master, who was removed in 1570, having burdened the hospital with his private debts by a misuse of the common seal, granted unprofitable leases, taken away the beds, and disposed of jewels and other treasures of the house.

During the Civil War the place was used for the accommodation of sick and wounded soldiers, and the master was superseded by a governor or overseer. At the accession of Charles II, the hospital was restored to its former state, but some of the buildings were taken by the king in 1670 for the use of the men wounded in the Dutch war, and the promise to give them back was not fulfilled either by him or his successors.

In the reign of James II a colony of Jesuits was established in the Savoy under one F. Palmer, as rector. He opened schools which numbered some four hundred pupils, half Catholics and half Protestants; and adjoining the schools was a printing-press. The main rule was that the pupils would be taught, ‘truth, learning and virtue’ free of charge other than buying of their own pens, ink, paper, and books. Both Catholic and Protestant students attended and no master or scholar  was allowed to persuade any student from his own religion.

When King James was deposed in 1688, the schools died out, and William III allowed the families of poor French Huguenots who had escaped France when the Edict of Nantes made Protestantism illegal, to take up residence at The Savoy Hospital. Their presence was objected to as they were allowed to follow their trades, silkmakers, goldsmiths etc outside the London guilds which adversely affected their livlihoods

A commission under William III shows that the hospital had outlived its usefulness, and Lord Keeper Wright removed the chaplains because they had omitted take the oath on appointment and had not lived within the hospital. As no master had been appointed since Dr. Killigrew's death in 1699, the hospital closed in 1702 and in the 19th century the buildings were demolished.

The Savoy Chapel

The Savoy Chapel
Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Protector of England during the boy Edward VI's short reign, destroyed the church of Our Lady in the Strand. He promised the parishioners he would build them another on a different site. However the disputes over the royal succession ended with many nobles losing their heads, including Somerset's, and this was forgotten. Until then, the Master of the Savoy offered the hospital church for the use of the parish.

Although it was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, it was given the old name of St. Mary, which it still retains. A new church of St. Mary was afterwards built in the Strand, but the Savoy chapel and its services are still maintained by the Duchy of Lancaster. 

An Anglican church, it is a private chapel of Her Majesty The Queen in right of her Duchy of Lancaster, and not subject to the jurisdiction of a bishop. The Duchy still maintains and fully funds the costs of the chapel, and appoints the chaplain. Although at all services the National Anthem is sung,  the lyrics are amended to say “Long Live Our Noble Duke”

In the 18th century, it was a place where marriages without banns could occur outside usual ecclesiastical law, and was referred to in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited as 'the place where divorced couples got married in those days—a poky little place'

In the 19th Century, the ruined hospital buildings were demolished to allow construction of an approach road to Waterloo Bridge, and the only part to survive was the chapel -  the first church lit by electricity in London (1890). Most of the stained glass windows were destroyed in the London Blitz during World War II.

The Savoy Chapel
One which survives, is a triptych depicting a procession of angelic musicians dedicated to the memory of Richard D'Oyly Carte (who was married at the chapel in 1888) unveiled by Sir Henry Irving in 1902. After their respective deaths, the names of Rupert D'Oyly Carte and Dame Bridget D'Oyly Carte were added.

The Savoy is remembered in the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre which stand on the site. Many nearby streets are also named for the Savoy: Buildings, Court, Hill, Place, Row, Street and Way.  
The Chapel even has it's own Facebook Page -

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Soul is Symphonic: The Music of Hildegard von Bingen

Born in the Rhineland in present day Germany, Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179) was a visionary nun and polymath. She founded two monasteries, went on four preaching tours, and wrote nine books addressing both scientific and religious subjects, an unprecedented accomplishment for a 12th-century woman. Her prophecies earned her the title Sybil of the Rhine.

Over eight centuries after her death, Hildegard was canonized in May 2012 and on October 7 was elevated to Doctor of the Church in October, a rare and solemn title reserved for theologians who have made a significant impact. Hildegard is only the fourth woman in the history of the Church to receive this distinction.

But to most people today, Hildegard is known best for her soaring ethereal music.

The first composer for whom we have a biography, she composed seventy-seven sacred songs, as well as Ordo Virtutum, a liturgical drama set to music.

Her melodies are completely unlike the plainchant of her era—or anything that has come before or since. Likewise her lyrics are highly original and feel fresh to us even today. She was the only 12th century writer to compose in free verse.

A Benedictine superior, Hildegard and her nuns sang the Divine Office eight times a day. She believed that song was the highest form of prayer—the mystical power of music reunited humankind to the ecstasy and beauty of paradise before the fall, connecting the singer directly with the divine, and joining heaven and earth in a great celestial harmony.

Singing the divine praises was absolutely central to Hildegard’s identity as a nun. But late in her life, the great composer and polymath was silenced.

Hildegard and her nuns were subject to an interdict, or collective excommunication, when they refused to disinter a supposed apostate buried in their churchyard. As punishment for their disobedience, they were forbidden the sacraments, the mass, even forbidden to sing the Divine Office.

It was the prohibition against singing that hit Hildegard the hardest. She wrote a passionate letter to her archbishop in protest. “The soul is symphonic,” she told him. She also warned him that by forbidding her and her daughters from singing God’s praise, the archbishop himself risked going to an afterlife destination where there was no music, ie hell.

Hildegard’s words seemed to give the man pause for thought. He lifted the interdict just a few months before her death in 1179.

“There is the music of heaven in all things,” Hildegard wrote. “But we have forgotten to hear it until we sing.”

I find her song Caritas Abundant in Omnia (Divine Love Abounds in All Things) to be particularly stirring. Hildegard conceived of Caritas, or Divine Love, as a feminine figure, an aspect of the Feminine Divine:

                         Caritas habundat in omnia

  Divine love abounds in all things.
  She is greatly exalted from the depths to the heights,
  Above the highest stars,
                        And most loving towards all things,
                        For she gave the highest King the kiss of peace.