Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

In celebrating the 4th of July, I thought I would bring out some of my old history articles. Plus it helps me cheat by not thinking up something new to post, considering I was so late in posting today. (Day job sucks!)

Did you know...
Deborah Sampson Garnnett's husband had the dubitable honor of receiving the first "widower's pension" ever awarded by the U.S. government. At age eighteen, Deborah dressed in men's clothing, then later signed up with the Massachusetts Regiment as Robert Shurtlieff. She, oops, Robert fought in four battles during the American Revolution.

Did you know...
At the beginning of the Revolution War, the best-selling pamphlet, Tom Paine’s Common Sense, sold 500,000 copies (over 5% of the colonial population).  With today’s population in the United States that would be over 12 million copies.  

Did you know...
During the 1800s, teeth became a profitable business.  Enterprising thieves invaded battlefields and extracted teeth from dead soldiers and sold them to dentists.  The false teeth, also called “Waterloo teeth,” were worn by many Regency dandies.  Even during the American Civil War, barrels of teeth were shipped to Europe.

Did you know...
Six servants were required to prepare Edward IV’s bed each night.  In a ritual of covering the bed with bleached linen, a soft bolster, and an ermine bedspread, they finished it with a sprinkle of holy water.

Holy water or not, Edward was known to seduce many women, married or single.  One tale was that Edward, crazy for Elizabeth Wydville, tried to rape her and she responded by placing a dagger to her breast, claiming her honor was more important than her life.

Did you know...
In the 10th century, the emperor of Constantinople, Constantine VII, used monasteries to punish murderers and traitors.  He encouraged them to serve their life sentences as monks.  The same for prostitutes as nuns.

Did you know...
During the 18th century, London started lighting their streets with the use of poor quality oil or fish blubber in tin vessels that were placed beneath glass globes. The light helped "thief takers" (bounty hunters paid for each felon apprehended) as well as trouble making dandies such as Mohawks (enjoyed breaking strangers' noses) or Blasters (reveled in exposing their privates to women).

Did you know...
Even in 1924, most good apothecaries had a pot of “mummiya” on their shelves, and the pharmaceutical company E. Merck had on their price list “mumia vera Aegyptica.” What is that stuff? It’s a pine resin that had been used in embalming and thought to have great healing powers (read between the lines - they actually grounded up mummies and sold it as a medicine).  


You are rich, your father is the Earl of Flanders, and you have highborn French, English and German ancestors.  If that isn’t enough, you’re beautiful and well educated for a sixteen-year-old woman.  Your world is perfect, right?  Wrong!

You have an ambitious cousin trying to court you without your father’s permission.  Why should he care about consanguineous laws?  When you finally tell him to get lost, that you’re in love with a nice young Englishman, what does he do?  He attacks you as you come out of church one morning, rips your best gown, throws you on the ground and leans over to slap you several times for emphasis.  Instead of kidnaping you, so you two could marry, what does he do?  He just rides off, the bastard (figuratively and literally)!

Who are the young lovers?

Matilda and her soon-to-be-husband, William the Conqueror.  


You stutter and frequently fall off your horse during your daily stag hunting.  Your Scottish subjects have kidnapped you twice and enjoy calling you the “Wisest Fool in Christendom”.  Though you married and had nine children, you prefer the company of your current favorite, George Villiers, and call him “my sweet child and wife”.

You are?

James VI of Scotland and, later, crowned James I of England.  James spelled his last name the French way, Stuart, instead of Stewart.  He opposed smoking tobacco and authorized the new translation of the Bible, known as the King James’s Bible.


You are a beautiful Roman noblewoman and your name means “white shadow.”  Your father gives you, along with a piece of furniture, to his political ally.  Then, you not only betray your husband by having a fling with his champion, but also plot to betray him with his son, an incestuous conceived child of your husband’s half-sister.

You are?

Guinevere, also called Gwenhwyfar.  Wife of King Arthur, lover to Sir Lancelot du Lac and co-conspirator with Mordred.


You’re thirty years old and just had your marriage of fifteen years annulled.  It’s rumored that you had affairs with your uncle and your soon-to-be father-in-law.  Hey, you don’t care what people are saying.  You have plenty of money, land, and the looks to go with it.  You left two daughters in your ex-husband’s care and plan to run off with your future nineteen-year-old husband as quickly as possible.  Time is short, you’re five months pregnant and two men have already tried to grab you for themselves.

You are?

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the ex-queen of France.  Her ex-husband was Louis VII of France and the nineteen-year-old husband would later be Henry II.


You're a handsome man that enjoys food, wine, women and song, not necessarily in that order.  You made the beach resort of Brighthelmstone (Brighton) very fashionable with the help of your friend George (Beau) Brummell.  At the age of 23, you secretly married a beautiful 28‑year‑old widow (why buy the cow, if the milk is free?  Smart girl!).  Your new bride is Catholic, thus making the marriage void in the eyes of Parliament.

You then agreed to marry your ugly, fat cousin so Parliament would pay off your debts.  On your wedding night, you proceed to get drunk on brandy and pass out.

Once your wife has finally provided an heir, she leaves for Italy and takes a lover (see other men desired her, sucker).  Rumors are that she had two illegitimate children (well, other men desired her at least twice) and danced topless in Geneva. (Hey, she apparently believed, if you got it, flaunt it.)  

You are?

George IV of England.  His wife was Caroline of Brunswick.


Being Married in London during the Year 1700
or the Single Life is for Me.

If you are a high-born lady wishing to marry your stable boy, an uncle wishing to marry his niece, or a young couple wanting to marry without consent, you would go to the alleyways known as the Rules of the Fleet near Fleet Bridge, not far from the river Thames.  All types of “plyers” would encourage you to come into their “marriage house” for the ceremony.  Most of the clienteles were craftsmen, innkeepers and the lower classes. 

One-ninth of England’s population lived in London during 1700.

Weddings were legal only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and noon.

A contract for marriage was official when the man provided the woman with a ring or presented her with half of a coin.

Males over the age of 14 and females over the age of 12 could marry with the consent of their guardian.  Both sexes could marry without consent at the age of 21. 

A single woman had many of the same rights of a man.  She could own property, leave a will, sue or be sued, but once married, her husband own her lock, stock and barrel.  Should she commit adultery, her husband could sue the man for trespassing on his “property.” 

Popular sex manuals of the time were Aristotle’s Masterpiece and Aretine’s Postures.  The man’s sexual organ was at times referred to as his “yard.” (Funny!  In his dreams!)  A midwifery book by a Mrs. Jane Sharp claimed the wife would not conceive if there was “no desire nor delight . . .”

A 5 shilling tax was paid on licenses and certificates of marriage.  Thus, the reason cheaper marriage houses married 1/3 of the London population.

A Fleet marriage to a stranger help legitimized a child and prevented the woman from being publicly whipped.

Neither a license nor posting of Banns was required in a Fleet marriage.
If a woman got heavily into debt, she could marry a prisoner and the debt would be considered cleared.  (You can’t arrest the husband for the debt when he’s already in prison, duh!)

Brides wore bright colors, preferably blue.  Blue was associated with the Virgin Mary.

Some brides wore gloves to bed.  A symbol of their virginity. 

Bundling was common.  A board was placed on the bed between a couple.  Many women used bundling as a way to catch a husband.

One-tenth of the English brides were pregnant before they married.
Knickers (underwear) had yet to be invented.

Condoms were made from sheep intestines and tied onto the “yard” by a ribbon.  They were very expensive.

If a man murdered his wife, he was hanged for the offense.  If a woman murdered her husband, the wife was burned alive.

Bachelors and widowers, over age 25, were taxed 1 shilling a year.

Due to the high mortality, late marriages, early death, the average maximum length of marriages was 17 to 20 years.  A quarter of marriages were second marriages.

A divorce could cost you more than 20 pounds sterling. 

London shopkeepers earned about 45 pounds sterling (roughly $72.00) a year and a housemaid 5 pounds sterling (roughly $8.00) a year.


Well, believe it or not, but that was less than half of the articles I wrote between 1999 and 2005. Hope you found some of it of interest. Be sure to always check your facts in two to three publications before using in your book.


Unknown said...

Neat stuff, Carla. Dandy :) Happy 4th.

Carla Swafford said...

Thanks, Meda.

Louisa Cornell said...

Wow! Those are some cool facts! Gives "Love is a Battlefield" a whole new meaning.

Carla Swafford said...

So true, Louisa. LOL!