Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The strange byways of research!

We've all said it before and no doubt we will say it again - research can take you in some strange directions sometimes!

Last week I was researching "the beautiful Lady Craven", the flamboyant and some would say rather wayward wife of the 6th Baron Craven. In 1780 the couple built a house called Craven Cottage, a villa on the Thames at Fulham, with the proceeds of lottery winnings. The site of the villa was later to become Fulham Football Club and it was said that the original house was on what is now the centre circle. Lord and Lady Craven lived at Craven Cottage for two years before separating in a scandalous case that riveted London society. Lady Craven discovered that her husband was openly keeping a mistress. He in turn accused her of having an affair with the French ambassador.

Amongst all the salacious details in the book I was reading was something that caught my eye. Apparently the Cravens and their guests used to go hunting, play bowls and also play a game called "tlachtli" which was based on a ritual game invented by the Aztecs! Even more startling were the details of the game - players had to score a ball through a hoop using only their hips! This set me wondering how on earth tlachtli came to be played by the aristocracy in England and whether it was considered rather daring to play such a physical and even rather suggestive game!

After the death of Lord Craven, his widow went on to marry the Margrave of Anspach and to entertain on a vast scale at Brandenburgh House. Snubbed by some of the ladies of Regency society and by King George III himself because of her rather racy reputation, she ended her colourful life in Naples in 1828.


Anonymous said...

Fantasic, Nicola! I look forward to seeing details of the Aztec game in your next book!

We do have a hard life, don't we, having to read "salacious" details!

Melinda Hammond

Jane Odiwe said...

I am constantly surprised by the events of the 'past' and have my ideas on what it was like, challenged, to say the least. It seems to me that human nature really doesn't seem to alter very much, however long we are on this planet - fascinating reading, Nicola!

Nicola Cornick said...

I am tempted to put the Aztec game in my next book - it's the sort of thing my heroine would play!

There are certainly plenty of salacious details in the life of Lady Craven but if you read her autobiography she comes up smelling so strongly of roses you could choke!

Jan Jones said...

Oh, Nicola, this SO sounds like something a heroine of yours would play. Or even an anti-heroine.

Anonymous said...

Oh those 18thcentury ladies.A wild bunch werent they...^^

What is this "book" you mention in this post? An autobiography? I would like to know the name and title please.