Monday, 23 November 2009

Lady Ann Fanshawe 1625-1680

Ann Fanshawe [nee Harrison] and John Fanshawe
The eldest daughter and 4th child of Sir John Harrison of Balls Park, Hertfordshire, and Margaret Fanshawe, Ann had three older brothers, John, William [killed in 1643] and Simon, and one younger sister, Margaret. When Ann was 15, her mother died, and her father, whom Ann describes as 'a handsome gentleman, of great natural parts', subsequently remarried, and had a son and a daughter with his second wife.

Sir John declared for the King in 1642 and Roundhead soldiers arrested him at his house. While ostensibly retriving some important papers, he took the opportunity to slip out of the house. He fled to join King Charles at his exiled court in Oxford, sending for his other children to join him.

The Harrisons lived in genteel poverty in Oxford during the Civil War years before Oxford was seized by Parliament, living in a garret above a baker’s shop. Ann began a friendship with Catherine Howard, Lady D'Aubigny, the young widow of Lord Heorge Stuart, and the notorious Lady Isabella Thynne, wife of Sir John Thynne who inveigled Ann into dressing in an angel costume, and a page and a singing boy, serenaded the ‘gigantic, choleric, woman-hating Dr Kettle’, President of Trinity College on his lawn.

Whilst at Oxford, Ann grew close to her Royalist cousin, Richard Fanshawe, who served as secretary to the Council of War, Ireland, between 1639 and 1641, and was appointed King's Remembrancer in 1641, and Secretary for War to the Prince of Wales in 1644. They married at Wolvercot Church in May 1644, the only guests apart from family were Edward Hyde, later Lord Clarendon, and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. The genial bridegroom who was of "more than the common height of men," and so popular that everyone, even the King, called him Dick. They began married life on 20 pounds and the forlorn hope of their Sovereign's promise of eventual compensation.

In March 1645, Richard went to Bristol with the Prince of Wales, leaving Ann at Oxford, in delicate health, with scarcely a penny and a dying first-born. She relates how she was sitting in the garden of St. John's College breathing the air for the first time after her illness, when a letter came from Bristol, to her "unspeakable joy" containing fifty gold pieces and a summons to join Mr. Fanshawe.

Thus began the long series of separations, reunions, hardships, and extraordinary adventures with the exiled Charles I and then Charles II. Ann seems hardly ever to have gone to sea without being nearly "cast away." From Red Abbey in Ireland she and her babies and servants had to fly at the peril of their lives through "an unruly tumult with swords in their hands." On the Isles of Scilly she was put ashore more dead than alive, and plundered of all her possessions by the sailors. At Portsmouth she and her husband were fired upon by Dutch men-of-war, and another time they were shipwrecked in the Bay of Biscay.

Once, Ann borrowed . . . 'a cabin boy's blue thrum-cap and tarred coat for half a crown' to stand beside her husband on the deck when they were threatened by a Turkish galley on their way to Spain. After the Battle of Worcester, where Sir Richard was made a prisoner, during the wettest Autumn ever known, Ann walked along the sleeping Strand early each morning to stand beneath his prison window on the bowling-green at Whitehall. She wrote that "the rain went in at her neck and out at her heels."

Sir Richard was released on parole by Cromwell, and for seven years, the Fanshawes lived in comparative retirement until after the Lord Protector’s death in 1658 they went to join Charles II in Flanders. Richard Fanshawe was appointed Latin Secretary and Master of Requests, and was knighted at Breda. Charles II gave Sir Richard his portrait framed in diamonds, and sent him first on an embassy to Portugal to negotiate his marriage to Catherine of Braganza, and then appointed him Ambassador to Spain. On June 26, 1666, he died at Madrid of fever at the age of fifty-eight. Ann set off overland to Calais with her baby son, four daughters under 14, and the body of her husband.

Her memoirs, dated May 1676, addressed to her only surviving son, Richard, are a vivid and fascinating account of the tragedy, poverty and loss which do not dilute the Fanshawe's passion for the Royalist cause. Between 1645 and 1665, Ann gave birth to fourteen children, of whom four daughters and one son lived to adulthood. Her account of her lost children is poignantly written in her own words:

My dear husband had six sons and eight daughters, born and christened, and I miscarried of six more, three at several times, and once of three sons when I was about half gone my time. Harrison, my eldest son, and Henry, my second son; Richard, my third; Henry, my fourth; and Richard, my fifth, are all dead; my second lies buried in the Protestant Church-yard in Paris, by the father of the Earl of Bristol; my eldest daughter Anne lies buried in the Parish Church of Tankersley, in Yorkshire, where she died; Elizabeth lies in the Chapel of the French Hospital at Madrid, where she died of a fever at ten days old; my next daughter of her name lies buried in the Parish of Foot's Cray, in Kent, near Frog-Pool, my brother Warwick's house, where she died; and my daughter Mary lies in my father's vault in Hertford, with my first son Henry; my eldest lies buried in the Parish Church of St. John's College in Oxford, where he was born; my second Henry lies in Bengy Church, in Hertfordshire; and my second Richard in the Esperanza in Lisbon in Portugal, he being born ten weeks before my time when I was in that Court. I praise God I have living yourself and four sisters, Katherine unmarried, Margaret married to Vincent Grantham, Esq., of Goltho, in the county of Lincoln, Anne, and Elizabeth.

Richard Fanshawe succeeded his father in 1666, and became the second Baronet. He is said to have been deprived of his hearing, and at length of his speech, in consequence of a fever, and to have died unmarried about 1695

Ann Fanshawe’s memoirs are available online at Project Gutenberg:

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Author Spotlight: Erika Mailman

Erika Mailman's novel, The Witch's Trinity, is set in a remote German village in 1507. Guede Mueller's world falls apart when her daughter-in-law accuses her of witchcraft. Guede plunges into a world of frightening visions, not knowing what to believe.

Mary Sharratt: What inspired you write about historical witches?

Erika Mailman: I have long been fascinated by the witchcraft persecutions of the past, both in the U.S. and Europe. I'm not sure why the topic so compelled me, but as a child I read everything I could get my hands on and can still remember a few library books that completely unnerved me. When it came time to write my novel, I withheld my research until I had written the bare bones of the story, and found that what I'd read as a child had stuck with me somehow even though I didn't consciously realize it--oftentimes, I'd come across a nonfiction witchcraft source that completely mirrored something I thought I'd been inventing.

The most uncanny thing was learning, while in the midst of writing, that I was in fact a descendant of an accused witch, Mary Bliss Parsons of Massachusetts. My family is very proud of its lineage but somehow none of us had known about her, although we knew much about her husband.

Mary Sharratt: What light can historical novelists such as yourself shed on this lost world of superstition and magical beliefs?

Erika Mailman: My hope is that The Witch's Trinity shows how absurd--and dangerous-- the belief in witchcraft is. I'm not talking about modern people who have reclaimed the word "witch" and practice a benign sort of nature worship, but rather the belief in people who have made a pact with the devil to wreak havoc on others. Distressingly, there are still places in the world today where people attack and kill others for being witches, or abandon their young children for the same "crime." I've been horrified and brought to tears by recent news accounts from India, Africa and Papua New Guinea. I've blogged about many of these events at, while my website focuses on my fiction. While I had thought my book looked at an outdated belief mode while casting light on modern-day scapegoatism, it turns out I was really writing about something current. The same sorts of accusations ring out today as they did centuries ago, hitting the themes of hunger, infertility, and the mundane occurrence of random bad luck.

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Gallant She-Soldier

(Kit Cavanagh 1706)
I have just finished reading my fellow-hoyden, Kim Murphy’s novel “Promise and Honour” set in the American Civil War. I hope I am not giving too much away when I say one of the secondary characters is a “girl soldier”, a young girl who disguises herself as a man to fight as a soldier. Well over 200 cases of these women warriors were recorded in the annals of the American Civil War and they followed a long tradition of “she soldiers” throughout history, beginning with the Amazon women of Ancient Greece.
Women have always followed armies and their lives and stories are inextricably woven with those of the men. For the whores, it provided a guaranteed source of clientele and until Florence Nightingale and the establishment of professional medical and nursing corps, the wives and mistresses of soldiers and officers followed the drums and between bringing up their children, performed the duties of laundry maid and nurse. And then there were those, like “Jo” in Kim’s book, who joined up to fight.
Why did they do it? For some it became an economic necessity, a way of ensuring a semi-regular form of income and even a pension for their families should they be killed rather than remain at home in poverty to become a charge on the parish and eke out their lives in a workhouse. Then there were those who were simply following their heart either accompanying or searching for their husbands or lovers. There are those like a certain Joan of Arc who had a higher purpose!
The English Civil war was no exception. Women played an enormous role in the defence of their homes and their towns and in the ranks of both royalist and roundhead there are cases of women standing shoulder to shoulder with men in the ranks. Unfortunately actual details of these women is hard to come by and one has to rely on contemporary ballads such as “The Gallant She –Souldier” of 1655 or “The Valiant Vergin” to gain some insight into the lives of these women. Disguise in the bulky clothes of the period would not have been hard and the sanitary conditions of the day would not have invited much speculation about the sex of their fellow soldier.
Some of the recorded cases of these “she soldiers” include a newspaper report of July 1642 (before the real fighting of the war began) of a young girl disguising herself to be near her lover and in November 1645 Major-General Poyntz of the New Model Army reports capturing a female corporal among the royalist prisoners. One of the best records concerns Anne Dymocke, who came from yeoman stock in Lincolnshire. In 1655, she disguised herself as a man in order to remain with her lover, John Evison. The match had been disallowed by her family so they ran off together and she and John posed as brothers for the next 2 years, travelling the countryside. Following John’s death in 1657, she enlisted as a soldier in the Army using John’s name and her disguise was only uncovered in Ayr in Scotland. Contemporary reports have only the highest regard for her “modesty”.
Although she doesn’t belong to the period of the English Civil War, perhaps the best known seventeenth century “she soldier” is Mrs. Christian Davies, known as Kit Cavanagh or Mother Ross. She was the subject of a biography by Daniel Defoe “The Life and Adventures of Mrs. Christian Davies, commonly called Mother Ross…Taken from her own mouth when a Pensioner of Chelsea Hospital”.
Born in Ireland 1667, Kit was, by her own account, something of a tomboy. However she married Richard Walsh and the two ran a pub together until, in 1691, Richard suddenly disappeared, apparently by force or choice, into the army. Kit left her pub and her children, disguised herself as a man by cutting her hair, wearing her husband’s clothes and padding her Waistcoat “to preserve my Breasts from hurt” and joined the English Army. There she served as an infantryman and fought at the Battle of Landen. Despite being wounded and captured by the French, she maintained her disguise and was exchanged without either side knowing her true gender. Following a duel (over a woman!) in which she killed her protagonist, “Mr. Welsh” was discharged from the Army but promptly re-enlisted as a dragoon and continued a sterling military career. Despite being wounded and having a prostitute claim that “he” was the father of her child, her gender went undetected. Her guile at concealing her disguise, even extended to a novel way of urinating standing up! After thirteen years she finally found her husband – with another woman! He agreed to keep her secret and she went back to soldiering. At the Battle of Ramillies in 1706 she was wounded again and this time her sex was discovered. So highly was she regarded that the Army continued to pay her and she took on the role as a “sutler”. After the death of her husband (she spent two days turning over the bodies of the fallen at the battle of Malplaquet in order to bury him) she married two more times and saw out her life as a Chelsea Pensioner. She was buried with full military honours.
I suppose I feel some affinity with these gallant warrior women as I served in the military forces for nearly twenty years, admittedly in a peace time army. It could not have been an easy life for them, but in some ways, compared to the hardships they faced if they remained at hearth and home, at least dressed as men, they were independent mistresses of their own destiny.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Chickahominy

During September 2009, I had the honor of attending the Chickahominy powwow. Chickahominy translates to coarse-pounded-corn people, and powwow comes from the Algonquian word pau wau, which describes the spiritual leader. The English of the 17th century thought the word referred to the event and over time, Indian tribes have come to accept the definition. Non-native people may think of a powwow as entertainment, but the event is very sacred to Native people.

Before a powwow begins, the dance circle is blessed and becomes sacred ground for the duration of the event. Anyone entering the sacred circle walks or dances in a clockwise direction, and exits in the same place as their entrance. This action shows respect. During portions of the powwow, picture taking and sound recordings are not allowed due to the sacred ceremonies. For that reason, I have not included pictures out of respect because I did not ask for permission during the parts that allowed photography.

After a Grand Entry procession, Chief Stephen R. Adkins greeted dancers and attendees, much in the way the Chickahominy have greeted travelers for over 400 years. In the 17th century, the tribe was allied with but independent of the Powhatan chiefdom. Although culturally they were very similar, at the time of the arrival of the English colonists, the Chickahominy were governed by a council of eight elders or religious leaders, called the mungai (great men).

During the first few winters of Jamestown, the tribe aided the colonists by trading food for other goods. They also helped teach them how to plant and grow crops. As the colonists' settlements expanded, the Chickahominy became displaced, and tensions grew. In 1610, when the Paspahegh were virtually annihilated, the Chickahominy were also raided. Some say the remaining members of the Paspahegh were taken in by the Chickahominy.

In 1614, the tribe signed a treaty with Sir Thomas Dale, Governor of Jamestown. The Chickahominy agreed to provide corn to feed the colonists and send warriors to defend the settlement in return for keeping their own government. The following year, disease and drought were prevalent. The tribes' harvest was poor, and the colonists took their corn by force.

Over the years, the Chickahominy have lost more and more of their land, but unlike the Paspahegh, the tribe has survived to modern day. Now, along with five other Virginia tribes, they are trying to achieve Federal recognition as sovereign Indian nations, like some of the better known Western tribes. Their rallying cry has been, "First to greet. Last to be recognized." As Chief Adkins eloquently stated, "400 years is long enough."

Kim Murphy

Sunday, 1 November 2009

"You lie!": fighting words!

. .
I'm not going to get into politics here, but simply point out some facts. In the past, the main cause for calling a duel was ...

Wrong: it wasn't over a lady (much as we'd like to think so). Historically, the main cause for a duel was if someone called you a liar.
In the seventeenth century, "liar" was a fighting word.

Apparently this happened often, for dueling killed off a shocking number of the aristocratic male youth during the 17th century. It was often outlawed — punishable by death in 1651 in France by Louis XIV, for example — but that didn't stop the boys. In France alone, over a 21-year period, 10,000 gentlemen died fighting for their honor. (One had to be a member of the aristocracy to qualify for the honor of fighting for your honor.)

In the early 17th century, the weapon of choice was the rapier, a long, heavy sword (heavier than modern cavalry sabres). Mid-century, blades got shorter and lighter, and with a sharper point. This favored the thrust, rather than the cut, which changed the dueling style. To protect the fingers, the cup hilt was created. A fight was often resolved with the use of a secondary weapon: a dagger.

(The advent of the pistol, of course, changed everything. No longer was the duel up close and personal — no longer could you see your adversary's eyes. Also, sword dueling allowed for fewer fatalities. You could ward off a thrust, but the only way to protect yourself from a man holding a gun was to shoot him.)

La Maupin (Julie d'Aubigny), a French cross-dressing opera singer, was a famous hot-tempered dueler. Her lover, a fencing master, taught her how to wield a sword. Apparently she was a good student. One night, after insulting a lady at a ball, she was told to leave by the lady's male friends. She agreed, but only if the men would go outside and fight. They did, and — according to legend — she killed them all and returned to the ball.

An excellent book on dueling is Gentlemen's Blood; A History of Dueling, from Swords at Dawn to Pistols at Dusk by Barbara Holland.

For a good website on the history of dueling: click here.

For an informative website on La Maupin: click here.