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.
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.
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