Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It Started at Waterloo

It Started at Waterloo
The more I learn about the battle, the more there is to learn! I have two novellas coming out in June, so I hope you'll indulge me by letting me talk about them. First is "It Started at Waterloo."
Waterloo was where a lot of modern surgical practices started. So many things were discovered, and not least was the beginnings of proper clinical practice. Unfortunately, much of the surgery practiced during the campaign was of the "cut and run" variety. Limbs were lopped off on the premise that it was better to save the person than save the limb. The surgeons became proficient at quick surgery, so as to minimize the effects of shock, but many patients died, nevertheless.
I don't go into too much detail in "It Started at Waterloo," because after all, this is a romance, rather than a treatise, but I do indicate how difficult it was for the surgeons at the battle. My hero is a civilian surgeon, of which there were quite a few. He didn't join the army, because then he might have had to admit his real name, and he prefers to operate under a less exalted one, but when the war is over, he finally has to face the prospect of his new life, even though his greatest desire is to continue his surgical career.
His new wife has no choice but to work with him. Thrust into an unfamliar situation, she has to cope as best she can.
It Started At Waterloo
Does she love him enough to let him go?
After three straight days working beside surgeon Will Kennaway to treat the wounded of Waterloo, Amelia Hartwell collapses on the nearest bed to sleep. Surely she can be forgiven for not caring that the warm body sleeping next to hers is Will’s.
Amelia’s status-hungry mother, however, couldn’t be more pleased to have an excuse to get the painfully shy, socially awkward Amelia married off, albeit to a less-than-ultra-rich husband.
Will doesn’t keep his title a deep, dark secret. His little-known earldom simply affords him the financial freedom to focus solely on healing the sick. But now that he has a wife to think about—and to admire, thanks to her unstinting bravery at Waterloo—he reluctantly takes up the mantle of earl to do his duty.
Missing her meaningful work as a nurse, Amelia finds herself floundering in society’s glaring spotlight, wondering if Will regrets being forced to marry. Perhaps it might even be better to give him his freedom, even if doing so will break her heart…
Product Warnings
Steamy, battlefield kisses under a tent canvas lead to steamy scenes in the bedroom.
You can pre-order the book at Samhain here, and it will be on sale at Samhain and all other outlets on June 16th

Thursday, May 07, 2015

A Seaside Writing Retreat!

From September, writers and history lovers will have the opportunity to book a gorgeous Regency seaside villa in Lyme Regis for their writing retreats. Belmont, which once belonged to Mrs Eleanor Coade, has been renovated by the Landmark Trust and will be taking bookings from July.

Eleanor Coade was born in 1733 and built up a hugely successful business manufacturing Neo-classical statues, architectural decorations and garden ornaments. These were made from high quality stone and graced such buildings as the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and Carlton House in London. Latterly her business was by Royal appointment to George III and the Prince Regent.

Eleanor came from a line of successful businesswomen. Her grandmother Sarah Endmarch ran a textile business in Devon and her mother, also called Eleanor, ran a linen business in London. In contrast to the successful female entrepreneurs in the family, Eleanor’s father went bankrupt twice. She however, went from strength to strength, managing her own artificial stone factory in Lambeth. As a proponent of women’s rights she left sums of money to female friends in her will as well as to charities, stating that her friends’ husbands had no control over the money she had bequeathed.

Eleanor’s uncle gave her Belmont, a two-storey Georgian seaside villa built in 1774. It is lavishly
decorated with Coade stone from her own factories. After years of decay, the house has been painstakingly restored to feature its original elegant Georgian windows, a parlour with sea views and a first storey sitting room with an iron veranda accessed in the Georgian style via a sash window.

Eleanor was not the only famous resident of Lyme to live at Belmont House. John Fowles wrote and published The French Lieutenants Woman whilst living there. It was his wish that the house be restored so that other writers could stay there and be inspired!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Foundling Museum: the children’s story

Recently, I visited the Foundling Museum which celebrates the history of the Foundling Hospital founded in 1739 by the redoubtable sea captain, Thomas Coram, who was horrified by the sight of starving and abandoned infants on the streets of London. Without clean drinking water or a proper sewage system, the streets, particularly in the poorer districts, were filthy and disease-ridden. 75% of the children died before they were five and, amongst the poor, it was 90%.

Thomas Corum (1668-1751)

The problem was twofold: first the Elizabethan Poor Law, set up to relieve poverty at parish level, was woefully inadequate to deal with a city of over a million inhabitants. Second, contemporary social attitudes saw poverty as a sign of moral weakness and helping abandoned babies as encouraging immorality. 

In order to set up a Foundling Hospital, Coram needed a Royal Charter, as well as enough money to build, equip, and run it. It took him seventeen years of dogged persistence to get it.

The original Foundling Hospital, 1745

Coram’s story deserves a post of its own, but, as a novelist, I found myself thinking about the abandoned infants, how did they fare? What exactly happened to a baby whose mother couldn’t support it?

Under the Foundling Hospital’s early 19th century guidelines, the foundling had to be illegitimate, under two months old, and healthy. The mother must be Protestant and to have been of good character before her fall. It was felt that ‘in addition to the protection of the Child, they had an opportunity of saving the Mother from shame, and of enabling her to return to her proper Situation in life, which the acknowledgment of an illegitimate Child would prevent her from doing…’

The mother left a token, often a swatch of material, but sometimes, a coin, a bracelet, or even, in one case, a hazelnut, to identify her child if she were ever in a position to take her child back. 

Two of the tokens

The Hospital billet book noted each baby’s possessions and any distinguishing features. For example, (I have italicised the hand-written notes beside the typed clothes list) Mary Lamas, baby No. 10,125, admitted in 1758, had a ‘white sarsen ribbon’,  a cap ‘with a muslin border’, a plain biggin (a child’s cap), a forehead cloth, a gown ‘blue and white checke’ (sic), a blanket ‘bound with white ferret’ (narrow woollen tape), a neck cloth, a roller (a bandage), a waistcoat ‘diaper’  (linen cloth woven with flowers), shirt ‘Irish trimmed’ (linen), and two clouts (nappies – also ‘Irish’.) It noted that the baby was female and had been christened. Interestingly, what the billet book didn’t note that she was black.


Female Orphans by Emma Brownlow, 1860s

Every baby was given an identity disk which they wore at all times, and a new name to signify a fresh start. Some of the names chosen were questionable, to say the least; for example, Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel. The real life Warbeck and Simnel pretended to be the ill-fated Princes in the Tower. Both were caught; Simnel was pardoned and made a scullion in Henry VII’s kitchen and Warbeck was hanged - hardly role models for the unfortunate boys given their names.

Two other foundlings were named Tom Jones and Sophia Western after the hero and heroine of Henry Fielding’s picaresque novel, Tom Jones. There was also an Oliver Cromwell and a Julius Caesar. It seems as if the authorities had no objection to a little levity at the foundlings’ expense.

The Foundling Museum today. It incorporates the original Court Room, Picture Gallery and the Boys’ Staircase.

So, the child was renamed. What happened then? The babies were sent to respectable foster parents in the country and had a wet nurse until they were weaned. A lot of care was taken over this and a local reputable person kept an eye on them. In most cases, this was the nearest the child ever got to having a proper home.

When they were five, they returned to the Foundling Hospital and sent to either the boys’ wing or the girls’ wing. They were also inoculated against smallpox – very forward-thinking at the time, but practical, too. A child who had been vaccinated would be valued more when he or she went out into the world.  

The Boys’ Staircase

Their education was far in advance of what most working-class children received. Both boys and girls were taught to read and write and they learnt practical skills too, like needlework. They were expected to contribute towards the running of the Hospital – their work was on sale to visitors, for example, and older children helped to dress the little ones, did the cleaning, drew water, and tended the vegetable garden.

Their diet, comprising meat, potatoes, dairy products and bread was certainly adequate, if monotonous. Fruit and vegetables were not, at that date, considered important, so scurvy, poor eye-sight and rickets were common.

Handel by Louis Fran├žois Roubiliac, 1739

But it was the inclusion of music that made the Foundling Hospital’s education special. One of the Hospital’s first patrons was the composer Handel whose annual benefit performance of The Messiah was a Society highlight. And, from the 1760s on, all musically gifted children were taught choral singing. The standard was extremely high and they gave successful benefit concerts in the chapel. Musical boys also had the opportunity to learn a brass instrument; later, many of them went into the army via regimental bands.


Subscriber’s ticket to a concert at the Foundling Hospital

The creation of the Picture Gallery became an important and elegant venue for the Hospital to entertain the aristocracy – their potential patrons. The first artist to donate a painting was William Hogarth, who gave his magnificent portrait of Thomas Coram. He also persuaded other eminent artists to donate their own paintings; and the spectacular rococo plasterwork in the Court Room was donated by the plasterer, William Wilton.


The Picture Gallery

The musical and artistic life of the Foundling Hospital ensured that it swiftly became the place to see and be seen in. Aristocratic ladies and gentlemen of the 18th century prided themselves on their Sensibility. Supporting Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital meant that they could express their finer feelings, and, at the same time, enjoy Mr Handel’s music or admire the latest works of art in the Court Room and Picture Gallery.


Court room. Note the appropriate picture, ‘Suffer Little Children’, and the plasterwork 

But what about the children? They left the Hospital at fourteen. Boys either joined the army or navy, or became apprentices. The girls mainly went into carefully vetted domestic service – no bachelor households! - though a few were apprenticed as calico printers. Foundling children had the reputation of being humble and hard-working, and were welcomed by prospective masters or employers, and inspectors followed their progress to ensure that they were treated properly. It is pleasing to note that the Hospital looked after disabled children throughout their lives.


‘Leaving for Work’ by Emma Brownlow, 1860s

However, in spite of the undoubted excellence of the Foundling Hospital’s charitable work, one cannot help feeling sorry for the children. By modern standards, their emotional needs went unrecognized. They were not encouraged to value themselves and they must have become institutionalized; they always wore the regulation uniform, for example. Still, I like to think that a spirited child could find some way to emerge with a sense of their own worth.

Nowadays, The Coram Foundation continues to work with and for children in need. To find out more, go to

Elizabeth Hawksley  

Monday, May 04, 2015

Inspiration can come from anywhere!


A very short blog this time, because I seem to have been doing non stop promotion for A LADY FOR LORD RANDALL, the first book in the Brides of Waterloo Trilogy (books 2 and 3 are by Annie Burrows and Louise Allen respectively). So it is most likely that you have heard something about this series!

So just a little trivia for you about how I created Lord Randall. Inspiration can strike any time, anywhere and Randall "grew" from a variety of sources –I imagine him looking like a young Peter O'Toole and in temperament he is serious, uncomfortable around women (think of Gregory Peck's Hornblower).


I was also inspired by a song that sums up his character perfectly – "I Won't Send Roses" from the musical Mack & Mabel, based on the true story of Hollywood director Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand, who became one of the biggest film stars of the early 20th century. Mack is a grumpy authoritarian character and he tries to warn Mabel not to fall in love with him. The link is here to Robert Preston singing if you want to hear it.

Randall is a tough, no nonsense career soldier who commands an artillery unit made up of villains and criminals. He has, quite literally in some cases, whipped them into shape and turned them into a crack fighting force. As Annie Burrows puts it, a Dirty Dozen in breeches! Such a unit needs a strong leader and Randall has no time for anything but his job. That is, until he meets Mary, a fiercely independent schoolteacher who is opposed to everything Randall stands for. 

The action takes place in the weeks leading up to the battle, but we also follow Randall onto the battlefield itself, while Mary must remain in Brussels waiting for news.

 Annie Burrows' book, A MISTRESS FOR MAJOR BARTLETT is published in June, and Louise Allen's A ROSE FOR MAJOR FLINT is published in July.

Happy Reading!

Sarah Mallory