Posts Tagged ‘Alyssa Alexander’
The internet, I have decided, is a time warp. I sit down to research one quick item. Something simple. It will only take a moment. For example, I use my Google-fu skills and search for “opera gown 1816” and I end up looking at a lovely hand-colored fashion plate by Ackerman. Then I become curious about the gloves, so I search the history of opera gloves. Which got me using my ninja Googling abilities to search out menswear, formal and daytime. This led me to military uniforms, specifically during the Battle of Waterloo.
Notice I said time warp? A half an hour has slipped through my fingers, and I have yet to write a single word on my manuscript.
So where do I end up? Researching the Waterloo Medal. I had no idea such a thing existed! I found the Wikipedia page easily enough (apparently the medal is not obscure, I was simply living under a rock).
The Waterloo Medal was awarded not just for the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, but also to those who fought in the Battle of Ligny on June 16, 1815, and the Battle of Quatre Bras on June 17, 1815.
It was awarded to all ranks that fought in the battles, not just officers. This was unprecedented at the time. Interestingly, it was issued to non-commissioned officers at the urging of Wellington himself. He wrote in one of his dispatches, “…… I would beg leave to suggest to your Royal Highness the expediency of giving the non-commissioned officers and soldiers engaged in the Battle of Waterloo, a Medal…” See here.
It was approved by Parliament on March 10, 1816. In War Medals and Their History, by W. Augustus Steward (1915), the author notes that in October, a notice appeared in the London Gazette stating “a medal shall be conferred upon every officer, non-commissioned officer, and soldier present on that memorable occasion” and that “the ribbon issued with the medal never be worn but with the medal suspended from it.” Mr. Steward describes the medal as being made of silver, with the Prince Regent’s head on one side and the figure of Victory on the other. It hung from a crimson and blue ribbon, which apparently often broke and required fixing by a jeweler. Each medal was imprinted with the recipient’s name and regiment on the edge of the medal.
Unfortunately, though I found an account written by the actual minter (sp? Mintner? Person who mints medals?), when I began writing this post, I couldn’t find the account again. Lesson for all Duchesses and Duchess followers: If you find an interesting link on the internet, write it down before you move on. You will never find it again.
I did locate a firsthand account of receipt
of the medal. I have a book called Private Wheeler: The Letters of a Soldier of the 51st Light Infantry during the Peninsular War & at Waterloo by William Wheeler. (Thank you to my sister, who gave it to me for my birthday). The book was first published around 1837 and contains Private Wheeler’s letters dating from 1808 to 1828. I was so excited to find this reference to it…but then realized it was quite anti-climatic. From his letter dated June 23, 1816 (p. 185):
“The men received their Waterloo Medals at Brighton. Colonel Mitchel died when the regiment lay at Chatham in 1817 and Lieutenant Colonel Rice succeeded to the command of the corp. In former letters the writer has often expressed his opinion strongly against soldiers marrying, however it appears he has been caught, having at Plymouth led to the Altar of Hymen a buxom lass some four years younger than himself.
Well. You can tell how excited about the medal Private Wheeler was. Upstaged by a buxom lass! (Note, I thought there was some kind of euphemism there, but with a little searching I did determine it was an actual altar in a church. No fooling. Also, the letter is dated 1816, but he’s referencing 1817. Either Private Wheeler added this bit years later, or there is a mistake. This just goes to show that history is never what it seems.)
The neatest part, at least to this history geek, is that a list of all the Waterloo Medal recipients is maintained at the Royal Mint Museum, including a list of those who lost their medals and had to ask for a second one or simply claimed their medal late. You must, really must click on the link for the roll and zoom in on the picture of the handwritten entries. It’s an amazing piece of history! And it effectively gives you a list of every man in Wellington’s army at Waterloo.
If you can’t make a trip to the UK, however, you can buy the entire list of recipients in book form here. Or, if you belong to the Ancestry.com website and have fun with genealogy, you can search for your relatives by name. How cool is that? Imagine finding a long lost great-great-great grandfather that fought at Waterloo!
Alyssa Alexander likes good food, good books, sleep and yoga. And bacon. She lives in Michigan with her two heroes (one adult male, one small boy) and writes historical romantic suspense. Her debut, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, releases on January 7, 2014 from Berkley. Come find her on Twitter and Facebook!
I love writing romance with an added bit of swashbuckling and adventure. Give this girl a pirate, a smuggler, or a spy any day. After all, who doesn’t love a bad boy? And I always gift my bad boys with equally feisty heroines. This means I end up arming my feisty heroines…which leads me to the fun research: historical weaponry!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a weapons expert. I’m not even halfway knowledgeable. I have never touched or fired a present-day gun, let alone anything historical. Nor have I handled any kind of knife beyond a butter knife. But I have researched weapons for my heroines, which I’m going to share with you today. Mostly because I thought they were so neat I couldn’t help myself. Still, in the scheme of things, this is only a very basic primer on a few interesting weapons. If you want more information, there are many, many experts and enthusiasts that would gladly share their knowledge.
So. Without further do, the weapons. It is quite difficult to conceal a weapon if you are an 18th or 19th century society lady. A lady doesn’t run around London with a huge pistol in her reticule such as this 9 inch pistol circa 1800. It wouldn’t fit. And a 9 inch pistol does not accessorize well.
What does a girl do? Invest in a pocket pistol, so called because it could fit in a great-coat pocket (which is not useful for my heroine unless she intends to rely on the hero–which of course, she does not). It will also fit inside a ladies’ muff (which is quite useful for my heroines, assuming it’s winter when the book takes place). The size of a pocket pistol varies. Here are a set of pistols circa 1800 that are about 7.5 inches long.
Here is a French pocket pistol that is 5.75 inches long. The handle is a carved bird, which is both interesting and disturbing. Look at the wonderful details in these pictures!
My favorite, the pistol set to the left is only 4.5 inches long–very easy to conceal!
Of course, in the late Regency, my heroine would most likely carry a flintlock pistol, though percussion pistols were beginning to be available around 1820. Thus, many of the caveats of flintlock pistols apply. They don’t fire in rain or damp weather as the powder will be too wet. Also, they frequently misfire. This is bad. One wouldn’t want to accidentally shoot an eligible bachelor while dancing!
But what about knives? Less chance of misfire and still concealable, so perhaps this would be an ideal weapon for my heroines. Knives can be made to any length and any size, and their shapes change based upon their purpose. The stiletto, for example, which is long and slim with a sharp point is meant for thrusting. At the risk of being too blood-thirsty, a stiletto is meant to pierce deeply, not to have sharp edges for cutting. (Ick.) It dates back to the late 1400’s in Italy.
And last but not least, a bodice is another place to hide a knife. Though I imagine it would be a bit uncomfortable (and sharp!) if you move just wrong. Still, there were such things as bodice daggers in the Medieval times, when both men and women regularly carried daggers for eating and self-defense.
And now we are coming to my very favorite knife. The salvavirago. A Spanish knife which is also called a “chastity knife.” Guess who gets to use this knife? Yep. Feisty heroines. I couldn’t find a lot of information on this knife beyond that Andalusian women carried it in their garters or bodice. It was smaller form of the navaja, which was a larger Spanish folding knife. Here is a picture of a navaja knife fight, and here is a picture of a salvavirago.
I don’t think hiding a knife in a bodice would work quite as well in the Regency as in earlier times, however, when the bodices were so short! But I’m betting an ingenious female spy might figure out a way to make that work!
Alyssa Alexander writes historical romantic suspense about spies and smugglers and nefarious villains. She avoids even the dullest of kitchen knives. Watch for her debut release The Smuggler Wore Silk coming from Berkley in early 2014.
There’s always cause to drink champagne with the Duchesses.
Duchess Debuts, Bestsellers, dreams made and kisses sealed forever. Today, we celebrate five new authors, eleven delicious books, a parcel of good news, and the brisk smoothing of skirts that got us here.
Please join us in raising our glasses, and our teacups, to the indomitable duchess spirit within us all.
We love good news. Divulge yours in the comments and share the bubbly.
Now that our Dashing Country House is filled with such illustrious guests, other questions must be asked. How long does one stay? And what does one do a country house party?
According to The Habits of Good Society (1863), “a week is the limit for a country visit, except at the house of a near relation or very old friend.” Though typically, the time is provided by the hostess. “It will, however, save trouble to yourself, if, soon after your arrival, you state that you are come “for a few days,” and, if your host wishes you to make a longer visit, he will at once press you to do so.”
Of course, all of our dashing guests must stay for as long as they would like. Read the rest of this entry »
Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, ‘Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!
– A Smuggler’s Song by Rudyard Kipling
I was perhaps 13 when I was first introduced to English smuggling in Watch The Wall, My Darling by Jane Aiken Hodge, which takes its name from Rudyard Kipling’s poem A Smuggler’s Song. I was fascinated by the smuggling aspect of the book–or perhaps I should say the smuggling hero! Of course, the book was dramatic and romantic and just the thing to pique a fledgling romance
Now, I’m well aware smuggling is illegal, and smugglers aren’t glamorous or romantic in the least. But technically, neither are pirates. And look at Captain Jack Sparrow! (OK, I just had to throw that picture in because, well, yum.)