On This Day in History

Frothy Petticoats!

Frothy Petticoats!

I love history. Obviously, or I wouldn’t write in a historical time period. Typically I think about the fun facts of history. Beautiful silk and lace gowns, lots of petticoats that swish and shush and froth around a lady’s legs. Hair curled and piled high, anchored with combs and pins embellished with jewels.


And of course, my Duchess tiara.


Then I think about the heroes. Oh. The heroes. (Sorry, I must pause here and fan myself, as a Duchess never gets hot and bothered). Romance heroes come in all shapes and sizes and, well, hotness levels. Highwaymen, pirates, smugglers. Lords and princes, alpha men from the rookeries who rise up despite all odds, and those rough men from the Colonies who make an English lady weak in the knees (among other things). I love all those parts of history and romance writing.


But history still comes down to people. People lived in 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900—and all the centuries before that. They lived and breathed and laughed and loved. They bore children, they buried children. They worked hard to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. They suffered toothaches and stomach aches and colds. After all, the cold virus didn’t start a few years ago.

Dry Stone Wall, Yorkshire

Dry Stone Wall, Yorkshire…I don’t want my small boy jumping off of this.


Can you imagine that? This winter you had a cold, blew your nose, and suffered through sinus pressure. Two hundred years ago, ladies did the same thing, without the joy of cold medicine and tissues with lotion to help them. I worry about my 5 year old when he jumps off the top step of the deck and I worry about my husband when he starts using a chain saw. I imagine ladies in 1100 AD worried about their boys jumping off stone walls and husbands heading off to sword practice.


Decade to decade, century to century, millennium to millennium, we all have the same hopes and fears. We all love and we all laugh. Family is family, for good or ill. And everyone mourns and grieves.


So when I read this entry in the London Gazette, April 19, 1814, my heart grieved:

“The Prince Regent has also been pleased to command, in the name of and on behalf of His Majesty, that those badges which would have been conferred upon the officers who fell in, or have died since the battle of Vittoria, shall, as a token of respect to their memories, be transmitted to their respective families…

1st Regiment of Foot
To be Captains of Companies

Lieutenant D. McQueen, vice McNicol, killed in action. Dated April 12, 1814
Lieutenant L. Grant, vice Parvis, died of his wounds. Dated April 13, 1814
Lieutenant P. McGregor, vice Westerall, killed in action. Dated April 14, 1814”


These gentlemen’s lives were honored by being posthumously awarded a promotion, though that doesn’t make the loss of life easier.


There is always a connection, past to present to future. And that connection is humanity. The basic human connection of mother to son, father to daughter, husband to wife—none of that has changed. Perhaps, in the days where a mother might bear ten children and lose six in infancy, there was an easier acceptance of death.


But I doubt it. The death of a husband or brother or father—or child—is no easier to bear in 1814 as it is in 2014.


I think history is about humanity and relationships. People are people, with all the emotions that complicate and strengthen love. So I grieve for the families of 1814 as much as the families of 2014. And I wonder, what joys and heartaches did my ancestors experience?


So tell me, what joys and trials have your ancestors borne that reminds you we’re all human, whether it’s 1000 AD or 2000 AD—or the winter of 2013/2014 that I swear has still not ended here in Michigan.


Me, without frothy petticoats.
Photo courtesy of Allie Gadziemski, who made me look halfway decent.


Alyssa Alexander writes about lords turned spies and ladies turned smugglers. Her next release features a Waterloo widow and the spy who loves her.


Petticoats: By Tranquil Garden (Own work) CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Dry Stone Wall: By Gpmg (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


on “On This Day in History
11 Comments on “On This Day in History
  1. I don’t think I’ll ever forget seeing all the plaques on the walls of Salisbury cathedral about all the young men who died in wars that were far away from their homes.

    As I’ve been looking into my family geneology I’ve seen many instances of young children dying. One of my great-grandfathers was one of six but the only one to survive to adult hood – then he died at age 37 leaving his widow and three young children. I’m trying to find information about how he died.

  2. It’s both sad and fascinating to think about how our lives connect to the lives of others in the past. Geneology is hobby I don’t dare take up, as I’d end up lost in the research and never get any writing done. Thanks for stopping by, Diane!

    • Thanks, Wendy! I love my history! But I also tend to focus on the fun parts and forget the tough parts. So I try to remember every now and again!

  3. Your words hit home with me. Moms earn their “badges” throughout time. We should learn from our past and hopefully make our future better. My son has Type 1 diabetes and I thank God everyday that diabetes is explored and new discoveries are made each day. I also want to say I LOVED “Smuggler Wore Silk” and can’t wait for mew one in December. Thanks you for the other world your book sent me to.

    • Oh, thanks for your kind words about The Smuggler Wore Silk! So glad you enjoyed!

      The strides in medicine are one of those subjects where we learn new things each day and build on the discoveries from before. Best wishes to you and your son! Type 1 is a tough one! Here’s hoping for more medical break-throughs!

  4. It is amazing to think of how TOUGH our forefathers (and mothers!) had it. I always tell my husband I’m born in the wrong era, to which he says, “Uh, no you weren’t.” He’s right? Laundry by hand? No thanks!

  5. My son will be 19 in June. He has always struggles with his diabetes but has been living with it since he was 7. He lives with his dad in Alabama and I miss him. I am the MEAN parent! I love historical romances but I love learning and having to Google with a book. I really like this blog. That is a high praise from me because I only like 5 blogs now that I have added y’all. Have a great Bunny Day!! Happy Easter!!

  6. Alyssa, my grandfather died at 42 of a heart attack. This was before all the modern medicine and treatments for heart disease we have today.

    And I’m with you on the flush toilets and hot showers. We are such wimps. LOL

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