Friday 2 February 2024

A Hurricane Of Love


Let’s get a dog, we said. It’ll be fun, we said. Let’s get a puppy.

It’s not exactly as though we are without experience. We’ve had five other dogs, all raised from puppy, so you would think we would be prepared for the onslaught that is Rosie. OK, we are quite a bit older now, but still…

The mistake we always make is that of thinking the new dog is going to be like the old one who just passed away. We miss our old dog; she was easy, and at fourteen, let’s face it, she didn’t have that much energy left.

Enter Rosie, a red (they call it ‘ruby’) cavapoo. Now don’t make the mistake of thinking a fluffy, curly-haired little sweetie. This one has long legs a long snout, and a long body. And is, so far, smooth haired. We think there may be a hint of ‘feathers’ on her legs and tummy, and she certainly has fluffy ears, so we await developments. Not your typical cavapoo, then.

Enter a whirlwind of needle-sharp teeth and hypodermic claws, ideally suited to pulling at clothing, and biting people. We have given up trying to look smart for the time being, reassuring ourselves that it will pass. She’s only a puppy. Currently I have jumpers with threads pulled, a pair of gloves which are wearable only to take the dog for a walk, skirts with pulls and hems unravelled. And people who come to our house wearing good clothes, leave looking just as dishevelled as we do!

So, you’ve seen her picture. Butter wouldn’t melt, right? Wrong! Anything that comes within range is chewable, including lumps of concrete, stones, and pieces of wood from the log store in the garden and the log basket in the house. In no time they are in pieces, and our newly vacuumed floor looks like I haven’t bothered in months! Also coming in for chewing is any item of clothing she can find lying where you just dropped it, and the woollen blankets I have used as protective covers on the sofas. One has a particularly unattractive hole in the centre. And they both have the fringes chewed.

Time passes, and discipline comes into play. Someone suggested a rolled-up newspaper to make a noise. We slapped it (no, not on the dog!) on the furniture. Sudden and absolute obedience! For the first couple of times. Obviously, use sparingly. But it does stop her mugging visitors in the hope of a fuss. As for the teeth, (no, we didn’t have them all pulled out, although the thought did cross my mind!) but we put in place a ‘no teeth on skin’ rule and dumped her unceremoniously on the floor when she broke the rule, with a loud shout of ‘No’ or even ‘Owww!’ as we dived for the box of sticking plasters in the cupboard.

Now she has stopped chewing us, she is quite lovable if she can stay still long enough. Like yesterday. She was so pleased to see me when I came in. I thought we had got the whirlwind greeting out of her system and dared to sit in the easy chair in the kitchen with a cup of coffee when she suddenly launched herself at me and jumped straight onto my lap. Hot coffee sprayed up the white wall, over the little side table, over my lap, and over the dog who, to my shouts of protests, shot into her ‘crate’ and pretended it was nothing to do with her!

She’s nearly four months old now. I take her for walks in the park, where her favourite thing is to mug everyone there for a fuss. I think of the mud stains she dawbs on their clothes, and the pulled threads, too, and try desperately to call her back to me. She comes. Eventually. (She has good recall when she isn’t distracted.) Thankfully, most people are good-natured about it, as they can see she is a puppy, and they all give her some leeway.

I thought, therefore, it would be a good idea to take her to a country lane near where we live where there are hardly any people. And it worked. No people to molest, not near a road. Good, I thought, I’ve cracked it! I found out my mistake when we came to the first muddy puddle, and by the time we got back to the car the mud was half way up the dog. The recent rain had turned the place into a quagmire in places and a marsh in others.

Well, it’s all a work in progress, and she is progressing very well. She learns quickly. The jumping up, though, has to go, so that is something we are still working on.

Someone said recently that puppies are like a whirlwind of love. More like a hurricane of love! Worth it? Oh yes. Most of the time.

Thursday 7 December 2023


How often we do things and do not think of the consequences. We put things in our mouths and it doesn't enter our heads to question whether it is safe or not. In fact, we don't think of them at all. But chemicals are not made for the body, so it is not surprising that sometimes our bodies eventually react in unpleasant and, perhaps, even fatal ways.

18 months ago I developed an arrhythmia in my heart. It was called pre-ventricular contraction, or PVC, which meant that my heart would beat twice at once, and then miss a beat to make up for it. It manifested itself to me in chest pains, a thudding in my heart which was painful on its own, breathlessness, weakness, dizziness, lowered blood pressure which made me feel faint. At its worst I could not even walk around the garden. If I took the dog out, I had to stop walking every few minutes to catch my breath and calm my heart. It was very distressing.

I was a hospital job, and on the ECG it looked like my heart rate had dropped to as low as 30. It should be between 60 and 80. They put me on beta-blockers which made things even worse. I did not think they would let me out in time for the Memorial last year. But they did, although I was still very unwell. More tests followed. My doctor took me off the beta-blockers and things improved marginally. I had a very unpleasant MRI scan at Papworth. And they could not find the cause. No blocked arteries, etc.

Roundabout the end of August last year I had a mild 24 hour fever, and didn't feel like eating. All my heart symptoms vanished! I felt I was on to something here, so when I felt better, I began introducing food one thing at a time. If I ate a certain food that disagreed with me, within half an hour I would be getting my arrhythmia again.

In time I found a whole list of food I could not eat. (Including bread, which was very inconvenientIt didn't help that I reacted to Gluten-free bread.) But most of all I reacted to additives in food. I made absolutely everything by hand. I thought I'd cracked it. My diet became very restricted, and I scrutinised absolutely every ingredients label. And some days I would be well. But most days I would react to something.

But then the days when I was well became fewer and fewer, and in the end I had no respite days at all. This year in September we went on a self-catering holiday. When we came back, I picked up a glass for a drink of water and noticed a smell - a lemony smell. It was dishwasher rinse-aid. On holiday we had washed up by hand, so I expect that was why I noticed the smell. And suddenly I wondered, 'Could it be rinse-aid?' After all, nearly everything I put in my mouth had been touched by something cleaned in the dishwasher.

I re-washed all the cutlery in the drawer and rinsed absolutely everything else before use.

End of symptoms!

Foods that I had cut out I started to reintroduce, one at a time. That's on-going. I have been two months now with no symptoms. I still avoid chemical additives in food. And that is another subject. But who would have thought that the residue of rinse-aid on cutlery, cups, glasses, plates and cooking equipment would make me so ill? I have since switched to a different brand of dishwasher detergent that does not contain rinse aid in its capsules or tablets.

I am telling you this in case anyone else is suffering and it helps them. It took me well over a year to discover what the problem was, and the solution was simple in the end - without the help of the medical profession who did not have a clue, although they tried.

Evelyn Tidman.

Saturday 11 April 2020

It's All Lost in Translation

Not only do I write historical novels, I also read them, and I am particularly fond of Regency romances many of which are ably penned by American authors.

There is a problem, however, with the difference between American English and British English. Whilst in a modern setting a Brit can use any amount of Americanisms, for we’ve all learnt them from Hollywood, for a historical novel we need to be especially careful. Although a writer could escape detection if his/her audience were all Americans, he/she will not escape even the casual scrutiny of a British reader. For British writers, too, affected as we are by the American culture, it is good to make sure of the language that we use.

The most useful tool a writer can have is access to an on-line dictionary, like Lexico powered by the Oxford English Dictionary ( Looking up a suspect word will not only give definitions, but at the end of each entry there is usually a brief etymology of the word providing its origins and history. I find it helpful when I am not sure how old a word is and whether my protagonists would have used it in the time period I am writing about.  

Here I have listed some of the pitfalls for American and British writers. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, and I may well add to it later.

Grammar and general:
Gotten. As in ‘I have gotten…’ Brits do not use the word, although ‘uneducated’ Brits and children might use it. Just ‘got’ will do (without the ‘have). However, we do say ‘forgotten’ and ‘begotten’. There are many who feel the verb ‘to get’ has no place in literature anyway, and should be replaced by another verb.

‘Fit’ in the past tense. ‘It fit her perfectly’ is imperfect English to Brits. The past tense of the verb ‘to fit’ is surely ‘fitted’. ‘It fitted her perfectly.’

The past tense of ‘to spit’ is ‘spat’.

Wash-up. To ‘wash up’ for Brits is to ‘do the dishes’. ‘I am going to wash up’, or I am going to do the washing-up’ is to wash the dishes. To wash oneself, we say, ‘to have a wash’, or simply, ‘to wash’.

Snuck. Please – the past tense of ‘to sneak’ is ‘sneaked.’

‘As is’. No. Brits say, ‘as it is’.

‘Is all’. Not an English phrase. But we might say, 'that is all I am saying on the subject.'

Visit. British people do not visit with someone. They go to visit someone. No ‘with’. So one would not say, ‘I have been to visit with Susan.’ But rather, I have been to visit Susan’, or ‘I visited Susan’. ‘I am going to visit Aunt Sarah’. ‘I enjoyed visiting Diana’. ‘Thank you for your visit.’ To say you are going to ‘visit with Susan’ implies that you are going to take Susan with you when you go to visit someone else!

Different from. In Britain it is ‘different to’. ‘The bonnet was different from the one she wore yesterday’ should be ‘The bonnet was different to the one she wore yesterday.’ A dead giveaway. However, we do say, ‘differ from’. ‘Julia’s dress differed from Syliva’s.’

‘Trash’ or ‘garbage’. We have ‘rubbish’ in Britain, not ‘trash’ and not ‘garbage’. Our ‘trash can’ is actually a ‘rubbish bin’ or, historically, sometimes an ‘ash bin’, owing to the fact that the contents were mostly made up of ash from the fire. Hence, also, ‘ash-heaps’, often called ‘middens’.

‘Thinking on’ – in Britain we say ‘thinking of’ or ‘thinking about’.

Stoop or stoep. I've seen this several times in Regency novels. We do not have, nor ever have had, a front stoop or stoep. We have a doorstep, a front doorstep and a back doorstep. Even in Regency times. 

Porch. While on the subject of buildings, we may have a porch. This is not the American ‘front porch’ that everyone sees in a wild-west film, but is a very small covering to the front door.

Nor do we have vestibules. When one goes in the front door, one is in the ‘hall’. Be it ever so small and narrow, or big enough to fit a London bus in, it is always a hall. Unless one is in a cottage in which case one enters straight into the living room, or front room.

Floors. Now this one is enough to get anyone in a tangle. In America, the ‘first floor’ is what we Brits call the ‘ground floor’. That makes the American ‘second floor’ the ‘first floor’. And so on. Got it? No, neither have we! To make matters worse, we will often refer to the ‘floors’ as ‘storeys’. ‘He had a room on the second storey.’ Which in American is the third floor! ‘They live in a three-storey house’ means the house has three floors – a ground floor, a first floor and a second floor. This is also true in public buildings such as hospitals and hotels where there are lifts. Useful to know if you are travelling to Britain.

Turn in. While British people may now use the phrase ‘turn in’ when they mean ‘go to bed’ (after all, we’ve been watching westerns and other Hollywood offerings for decades), it is not a British phrase, and would not be used by a lady or gentleman in 19th century Britain (or before).

Regency dressing table 1800-1810
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons 
Vanity. We do not have a ‘vanity’ or ‘vanity units’. (Or, at least, we do, but they are cupboards with a sink or basin in the top, often in the bathroom.) It is a ‘dressing table’, please! A woman will sit at the dressing table as she puts on her makeup, does her hair, or her maid does her hair, etc. Usually there is a mirror on the dressing table, either free-standing or integral. A dressing table will  have drawers on either side, with a space between for the owner to sit relatively near and not have her knees or feet impeded. Sometimes there may be a shallow drawer in the middle, too.

Don’t forget that other piece of equipment in a bedchamber, namely a wash-stand with ewer and basin. Also, a bedroom would have a commode. Hah! Regency Britain did not have water closets or bathrooms, or bathing rooms. Sorry. Filthy old lot they were! A bath would be of the tin variety, placed in front of the fire in the bedroom, and filled with hot water from the kitchen range brought up by the servants. Needless to say, it did not happen often.

Bedding. We do not have ‘comforters’ in Britain and never did. Except sometimes a baby will have a ‘comforter’ or ‘dummy’ to suck, which is not what Americans mean by ‘comforter’, I think. These days, what Americans call a ‘comforter’, the sort you have on the bed, we call a ‘quilt’. It used to be called a ‘Continental quilt’, but now just quilt. It is filled with hollow-fibre, and loosely quilted, and always plain white. We put on it a ‘quilt cover’ which can be removed and washed, but which is a pig to put on, especially if the quilt is large (think extra-large pillowcase). The quilt covers the bed and hangs over the sides and bottom, and snuggles all around the sleeper.

In the past, a quilt used to be called an ‘eiderdown’ because it was filled with feathers from the eider duck (or more likely chickens, but we’ll let that pass!) loosely quilted, and might be of the patchwork variety, or maybe embroidered, etc. but with no separate cover. The feathers worked their way out of the cover through the material, and had a habit of pricking a person. (I remember it well.) A bed was made up with perhaps a blanket on the mattress (optional), a bottom sheet, a top sheet, layers of scratchy, itchy, black, grey or cream coloured blankets, depending on season, a ‘bedspread’ historically called a ‘counterpane’, and, if it were really cold, an eiderdown. The sheets and blankets were ‘tucked in’ under the edge of the mattress (hence, one was ‘tucked into bed’) and the weight of it all anchored the sleeper in the bed! A long person might find that his feet were pinned into the bed, and he would have to kick the blankets out in order to free them. Bedspreads were usually a single layer of fabric meant to ‘dress’ the bed, to make it look pretty, and could be loose on the bed, being tucked in at the foot end if there was a foot board, or draping loose all around, and covering the pillows, so it might be on top of the eiderdown, or it may be beneath, depending on the state, or decoration, of the eiderdown. Sometimes they matched the curtains. We have quilted bedspreads today, to pretty up the bed, but not everyone has them. I remember as a child the heaviness of those ‘bedclothes’ (which is what they were called) and still I wasn’t warm in bed! No central heating in those days, and if a person was lucky enough to have a fire in their bedroom (or bed chamber) the heat from it very likely didn’t reach more than six feet from the fire. We often woke up to ice on the windows on the inside which stuck the curtains to the glass. Oh, the blessings of central heating and a light, warm, modern quilt!

‘Drapes’. We call them ‘curtains’.

Corn. To Americans, corn is, well, corn. We call that sweetcorn these days. But historically, in Britain, corn could refer to wheat too, as sweetcorn was relatively unknown until the middle of the 20th century.

Grains. No Brit, even today, will refer to ‘grains’. We say ‘cereals’ or ‘cereal crops’ and the term includes, wheat, oats, barley. Historically, that was about it in the cereal cultivation.

Winter wheat is a fairly recent thing.

We do not have wild chipmunks in Britain.

We do not have bluebirds in Britain.

We do not have skunks in Britain.

We do not have hummingbirds in Britain.

While we have recently re-introduced beaver into some parts of Britain, prior to that they have been extinct here since the 15th century. And wolves and bears have been extinct far longer, though this is not the case on the Continent. Do check up.

Squirrels were red, until the American grey squirrel came along. Worth doing research on timing for that one.

Bug. In today’s world, we Brits will use the word ‘bug’ when we mean insect or germ, simply because we have learned it off you Americans! However, no self-respecting Regency Brit would use the word ‘bug’. ‘Insect’, please. Or 'creepy crawlie' if you like.

Lady-bugs. And while we are on the subject, we call these creatures ‘ladybirds’. Yes, I know they are not birds, but there you go. Also, different regions have colloquial words for them. In Norfolk, for example, they are called ‘bishybarnabees’. Quite!

20th century 12 sided brass 3d. bit
By Welkinridge - Own work, Public Domain,
Until 15th February 1971 we had £ s d., or pounds, shillings and pence. There were 12 pennies to the shilling, and 20 shillings to the pound. A guinea was 21 shillings, or £1 1s 0d. as it was written (now it would be £1.05). No wonder we went decimal! Incidentally, guineas were usually made of gold. In the 18th century, a golden guinea was the equivalent of a louis d’or  and other foreign currencies. Worth doing research on if you are going further back in history. A pound coin was called a sovereign, made of gold. Half a penny was called a halfpenny, or ha’pence/ha’penny to one and all. A quarter of a penny was a farthing. Also in coinage, there were crowns (5 shillings), half crowns (2 shillings and six pence), a florin (2 shillings), a shilling (12 pence, remember?), a sixpence, and a  threepenny piece all of which were made of silver, although in the 20th century, the silver content was reduced. A threepenny piece or bit, was called a ‘thruppeny bit’ (pronounced ‘throopeny bit’) or  ‘thruppence’ (3d.), was a small coin. In the mid 20th century, the design was changed to a 12-sided brass coin. Then came the bronze coins consisting of a penny, ha’penny and farthing. There was not always paper money, either, which was invented in the 19th century, so do your homework. Many of us who are older can remember a pound note and a ten shilling note. A pound might be called a ‘nicker’ by a Londoner but not usually by upper class people, or a ‘quid’, but everyone used the word ‘bob’ for shilling. ‘Have you got a ten bob note, guv?’ There are lots of cant phrases for our coinage, especially among the lower classes, and especially too in London, too many to mention here, so again, research is required.
Queen Victoria silver 3d. bit
By .Hephaestos at en.wikipedia - Copied from from en.wikipedia to Commons by User:Sreejithk2000 using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Dates and numbers. Americans leave out the word ‘and’, as in ‘two hundred twenty-nine’. Brits say, ‘two hundred and twenty-nine’, and that goes for all numbers. ‘Fourteen thousand, three hundred and fifty three.’ For years too: ‘two thousand and seven.’ ‘Two thousand and nineteen’. ‘Two thousand and twenty.’ Or just ‘twenty-twenty, twenty-nineteen’, etc. In times past, it was ‘nineteen-o-nine’ but ‘nineteen fourteen’. I know it’s crazy, but there it is. Also, Brits put the day first, the month second and the year last. So, ‘15th February, 1971’, or  ‘15.2.71’ Historically, however, there does not seem to have been a set rule. The idea of using just figures for dates is relatively recent.

‘A fourth’. And while we are on the subject, ‘a fourth’ in Britain, is ‘a quarter’. ‘Three-fourths’, therefore, becomes ‘three-quarters’.

Time. To say, ‘eight forty-five’ is very recent for Brits, which we have learned off the Americans, and many of us older ones still do not use it much. Many of us still say the time the way our parents and ancestors did, so: ‘eight o’clock, five past eight, ten past eight, a quarter past eight, twenty past eight, twenty-five past eight, half past eight,’ etc. Once you are past the half past, you are going towards the hour, so it is not ‘eight thirty-one,’ but ‘twenty-nine minutes to nine’, ‘twenty-five to nine’, ‘twenty to nine’, ‘a quarter to nine’, ‘ten to nine’, ‘five to nine,’ etc. And even more archaically, but used still by the oldest generation, ‘five and twenty to nine’ or ‘five and twenty past eight’, which is what my mother (who would now be 103 if she were still with us) used to say. There was no twenty-four hour clock. And as far as most Brits are concerned, there still isn’t, though some do try to force us into that line. The older ones among us find we are always converting back to the old way of saying things. I’ve lost count of the number of American authors who have Regency people saying ‘dinner is at seven thirty.’ A dead give-away.

Seasons: 'Fall'. In Britain, we don’t have ‘fall’, we have ‘autumn’, and the adjective ‘autumnal’. No English person would ever refer to the ‘fall’. I am surprised American authors do not know this.

While we are on the subject of seasons, summer in Britain rarely hits 90oF, well not before global warming at any rate. In winter, we usually do not expect much in the way of snow. But in Regency England, the winters were particularly harsh, and even the Thames froze over in 1814 so that there was a frost fair on the river ice. During most winters in Britain it is not possible, nor advisable, to skate on a pond, or venture onto the ice, as it is too thin.

Cars. Not autos. Not automobiles. Cars. Always. No, I know they will not turn up in a Regency novel, but just worthy of mention. We have a front and back 'bumper', not a ‘fender’. We have a ‘bonnet’, which is the cover in front for the engine, not a ‘hood’. We have a ‘boot’ not a ‘trunk’.

Carriages/Coaches. Historically, a carriage was pulled by horses. So was a coach, though the latter was more usually a public affair, such as the mail coach. Today, however, we have ‘carriages’ pulled by a train engine! I believe Americans call them ‘cars’. A ‘coach’ today is what Americans call a ‘bus’, but usually for private hire. (When I told my American friend that we went on an outing by ‘coach’ she thought I meant a carriage pulled by horses!) A ‘bus’ is public transport, like the red Routemasters which were a trademark of London (And yes, it is true that you wait hours for a bus, then three come along at once! I’ve experienced that many times!) Similar ones are seen and used all over the country. But we can have a minibus, which is a transit-type van converted to carry people with windows and seats in the back. Ah. It’s all lost in translation.

Don’t forget, Britain drives on the left, unlike almost everyone else. It has always been the case, even in the days of horse and carriage.

Picture by Renee Amusson, Pexels

A ‘biscuit’ in American is actually a ‘scone’ (pronounced ‘scone’ or ‘sconn’) in Britain. A British ‘biscuit’ is what the Americans call a ‘cookie’. ‘Shortbread’ is also a biscuit/cookie, and quite delicious.

‘Candies’ we call ‘sweets’. Historically, sweetmeats.

Table linen: ‘Table napkins’. They are (as was the case historically) placed beside the cutlery of a person at dinner. They are used for wiping one’s hands, or mouth, but never for one’s nose. These days they can be made out of layers of tissue paper, or some fabric. In good restaurants, linen or cotton napkins are the norm. Historically, whether at home or eating out, a napkin was made from fabric, usually linen, and could be embroidered. In the 17th century and before, they were large, and thrown over the diner’s shoulder. You need to check that up if you are thinking of using that, and also other etiquette at table for the times. Don’t forget that historically, nearly every household in the land used a white linen or cotton tablecloth for all meals which might well be embroidered. Many people still use them, as do restaurants. It was a matter of pride that one's table linen was spotless and snowy white.

For cutlery settings at a formal dinner, you need to look up the number and placement and uses of the various knives, forks and spoons, if you plan to use that.

Babies’ ‘napkins’ or, more commonly, ‘nappies’ are what Americans call ‘diapers’. A baby has a ‘bib’ placed or tied around its neck to catch dribble, food, etc.

British babies do not ‘spit up’. They may throw up, vomit, or ‘bring back’ their milk or feed, but no self-respecting British baby ‘spits up’!

No 19th century gentleman (nor even well into the 20th century come to that) would ever swear in front of a woman. No woman, whether highborn or lowly. And no child, either. Swear words that Americans do not view as profanity, and probably think are quite quaint, are for the English quite offensive. And some have originated too recently to be used in a Regency novel. There are many 'cant' phrases  and words that were current at the time, and that would add colour to speech, so please do some homework. A dictionary of historical slang, such as The Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang is a real help, showing when a word or phrase was current, what it actually meant, and its etymology. There are also many online helps and lists of historical slang. Do not leave it to chance. Look it up.

Also, I've noticed, Americans seem to think we use the word 'twit' to mean idiot or fool. While it used to be common in the mid 20th century, I don't think people use it that much nowadays. Historically, 'twit' did not come into use until the 1930's. To see it in a Regency novel makes me do a double-take. It is quite out of place. It has appeared in three different novels that I have read recently.

No doubt there are other Americanisms that escape me at the present, but these seem to be among the worst offenders. If a writer is 'in the head' of a British character, particularly in a historical setting, then their thoughts, and especially their speech should not contain Americanisms - well not if the writer would like to bring authenticity to their work. Mostly, the historical research is beautifully done, the story is excellent, and the characters are well-drawn, and it would be a shame to let down all that effort by a few misplaced words.

I hope this little exercise helps pick up some of those gaffs.

Friday 30 November 2018


Born on 31 December 1720, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart was the grandson of King James II of Great Britain, and should have been heir to the British throne.

Should have, but wasn’t. Because the British government got rid of James II in what came to be known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He and his wife Mary of Modena and their baby son James Francis Edward, (Charles Edward’s father) fled to France and settled ultimately in Rome. Whereupon the British offered the throne to James II’s daughter Mary (by his first wife Anne Hyde) and her husband William of Orange, who was James’ nephew.


James II’s big crime was to convert to Catholicism. By marrying his second wife Mary who was also Catholic, sent the British establishment into panic. No-one in England wanted a return to the fanatical Catholicism of a century previously, where Mary Tudor tried to bring the Inquisition to Britain and brought in a reign of terror. Not for nothing was Mary Tudor called Bloody Mary! Hundreds were burnt at the stake during her five year reign because they refused to convert to the Catholic faith. So James’ openly becoming a Catholic and marrying a Catholic set English hearts into meltdown.

As a result, he struggled against Parliament for the whole of his four year reign. The birth of his son, James Francis further upset the English establishment. Now there could be a succession of Catholic kings! That could not be allowed to happen. While they could tolerate James’ conversion to Catholicism if he behaved himself, they could not and would not put up with a Catholic succession. So they got rid of James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, putting William and Mary on the throne.

In 1701, James II died and his son James Francis claimed the British throne as James III of England and Ireland, and James VIII of Scotland. Not that it mattered. The establishment had no intention of allowing him the throne, despite the fact that he had the backing of his cousin Louis XIV of France and many Jacobite supporters in Britain. Perhaps he thought that when the throne became vacant in 1702, with no offspring of William and Mary, he would be given the throne. Not so. The government had foreseen that possibility and James Francis found himself out of the picture by the Act of Settlement which prohibited any Catholic sitting on the British throne.

Instead, the throne was given to Anne, James Francis’ half sister. Inconveniently, and despite having eleven children and many miscarriages, all Anne’s children pre-deceased her and when she died in 1714, Parliament sought a protestant heir to the throne. Disregarding James Francis, and no less than fifty other people who might have had greater claim, they settled on George of Hanover, a Protestant.

George was the great grandson of King James I through his daughter, Elizabeth of Bohemia.

In 1715, James Francis, now a man of twenty-seven came to Britain and attempted to retrieve the throne in the Jacobite Rising of that year, with no success. Narrowly avoiding capture he fled back to the Continent, where he married Maria Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of the Polish King John III of Beuburg.

They had two sons, Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Henry Benedict Stuart who became a Cardinal.

Understandably, both James Francis and his eldest son Charles believed the throne of Great Britain belonged to them by right. James even called himself James III of England and VIII of Scotland. With James becoming too old for the venture, Charles took up the cause, and aged twenty-four sailed for Scotland in 1745, raising an army from the clans of Scotland with a view to eventually marching on London and claiming the throne.

Charles Edward was indeed ‘bonny’. A good-looking young man, he had the ability to charm and to lead. When he arrived in Scotland the clans readily came to his call, and he had a formidable army. However, promised help from the French did not materialise. After some initial successes, his plans came to an abrupt end at the battle of Culloden in April 1746, where the government forces under the Duke of Cumberland, second son of King George II, routed the Scots in a devastating defeat.

For Charles, there was just one thing to do—flee!

And flee he did. His subsequent escape from the clutches of the British with the help of a Scottish lass is the subject of my book, Over the Sea to Skye, to be published soon.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Crime and Punishment in Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

We have all heard how in previous centuries a person could be hanged on the slightest pretext.  What crimes merited transportation? Or death? Or corporal punishment? Quite by accident, I came across the following information.

“Death Without the Benefit of Clergy”
 There were more than 160 offences which warranted the death penalty, the sentence being “death without the benefit of Clergy.” This term was attached to many sentences. What exactly was ‘Benefit of Clergy’?

Basically, Benefit of Clergy, privilegium clericale, came about in 1274 under Edward I in response to the high esteem in which the ruling classes held the church. It meant that: 
1.      Places consecrated to religious duties were exempted from criminal arrest. Hence, the idea that a criminal could claim sanctuary in a church.
2.      Clergymen were exempt from being brought before a secular judge in certain cases.
Later, anyone who could read could claim benefit of clergy. If a literate man were condemned to death, the bishop of the diocese had the option of claiming him as a clerk, and find him a place among the clergy as he saw fit. The prisoner at the bar was given a Latin book in black Gothic characters by the ordinary, from which he must read one or two verses. If the ordinary declared him to be ‘legit ut clericus’, that is ‘He reads like a clerk’, the offender was burnt in the hand. If he could not read, he suffered death.
Henry VII restricted the privilege in 1489, and in 1512 was abolished by Henry VIII with regard to murder and other serious crimes.
So what crimes merited the death penalty?

High Treason
High Treason was considered the worst civil crime, and was divided into seven different categories:
1.      Compassing (i.e. bringing about, scheming or plotting) or imagining the death of the king, queen, or heir apparent.
2.      Levying war against the king in his realm.
3.      Adhering to the king’s enemies and giving them aid in the realm or elsewhere.
4.      Slaying the king’s chancellor, or judge, in the execution of their offices.
5.      Violating the queen, the eldest daughter of the king, or the wife of the heir apparent, or eldest son.
6.      Counterfeiting the king’s great seal, or the privy seal.
7.      Counterfeiting the king’s money, or bringing false money into the kingdom.
The punishment for High Treason was:
“That the offender be drawn to the gallows, on the ground or pavement; that he be hanged by the neck, and then cut down alive; that his entrails be taken out and burned while he is yet alive; that his head be cut off; that his body be divided into four parts; and that his head and quarters be at the King’s disposal.”
However, women were only to be drawn and hanged, although previously, they were burned at the stake.

Petty Treason
Petty Treason was the offence of:
1.      A servant killing his master.
2.      A wife killing her husband.
3.      A person killing a prelate.
The sentence was death.

 Two kinds of felonies – public and private.
Public felonies were state felonies relating to:
1.      The coin of the realm.
2.      The king and his Counsellors.
3.      Soldiers and marines.
4.      Embezzling public property.
5.      Riot and sedition.
6.      Escape from prison.
7.      Revenue and trade.
Private felonies:
1.      Murder. When a murderer had been executed, his body was handed over for dissection, and his property was forfeited to the State (as was the property of a suicide).
2.      Manslaughter. A person who was guilty of manslaughter had his hand burned and his possessions forfeited.
3.      Sodomy. Punishment: Death.
4.      Rape. Punishment: Death.
5.      Forcible marriage. ‘Forcible marriage or defilement of women’ was an offence where the property was considered more important than chastity. It was a felony without the benefit of clergy to take away for lucre any woman having lands or goods, or being an heir apparent to an estate by force or against her will and to marry or to defile her. However, the forcible marriage or defilement of a woman without an estate was not punishable at all! Obviously wealth had a higher moral virtue!
6.      Polygamy. A statute of James I declared Polygamy to be a felony, but not excluded from benefit of clergy, so offenders were not subject to the death penalty, but were transported, although there are no records of polygamists arriving in New South Wales.
7.      Maiming. ‘Maiming, cutting the tongue, putting out the eyes of any of the King’s liege people, slitting the nose, cutting off a nose or lip, or cutting off or disabling any limb or member by malice forethought and by ling in wait with an intention to maim or disfigure’ was called ‘Mayhem’, and was subject to death.
8.      Simple Larceny. Divided into grand larceny and petit larceny. Grand larceny, punishable by death and the forfeiture of property, was “the felonious taking and carry[ing] away the mere personal property or goods of another above the value of twelve-pence [1 shilling].’ Petit larceny was taking of goods valued at less than twelve pence, and was punishable by imprisonment, whipping, or transportation, and the forfeiture of goods and chattels.
9.      ‘Mixt larceny’ was the taking of a man or goods from his house. If a person was previously threatened or assaulted, the crime was termed Robbery.
10.  Piracy
11.  Arson. Punishable by death without the benefit of clergy if someone set fire to corn, stacks of straw, hay, or wood, or rescuing any such offender; setting fire to a coalmine, windmill, watermill or other mill, or pulling down the same; burning any ship; burning the king’s ships of war, afloat or building, the dock-yards or any of the buildings, arsenals or stores therein. Threatening by anonymous or fictitious letters to burn houses, barns etc. But if someone burned their own house without injuring anyone else, it was only counted as a misdemeanour and punished by fine, imprisonment or the pillory.
12.  Burglary. Punishable by death for both perpetrators and those who were accessories before the event.

The following “domestic aggravations” or larceny were punishable with death without the benefit of clergy: Larcenies above the value of twelve pence:
1.      In a church or chapel, with or without violence or breaking the same.
2.      In a booth or tent, a market or fair, in the daytime or in the night, by violence or breaking the same, the owner or some of his family being therein.
3.      By robbing a dwelling in the daytime, any person being therein; in a dwelling-house by day or by night, without breaking, any person being therein and put in fear.
Larcenies to the value of five shillings:
1.      By breaking any house, outhouse, shop or warehouse belonging in the daytime.
2.      Privately stealing goods, wares, or merchandise in any shop, warehouse, coach house, or stable by day or night, though the same was not broken open, and though no person was therein.
Larcenies to the value of forty shillings [£2] from a dwelling house or its outhouses, although the same be not broken, and whether a person is therein or not, unless committed upon their masters by apprentices under the age of fifteen years.
Hanging outside Newgate - Wikimedia

Other Principle Capital Offences
1.      Stealing an heiress
2.      Forgery of deeds, bonds, etc.
3.      Bankrupts not surrendering, or concealing their effects.
4.      Highway robbery.
5.      Stealing bank notes, bonds, etc.
6.      Stealing linen from bleaching grounds, or destroying the same.
7.      Maiming or killing cattle maliciously.
8.      Stealing horses, cattle, or sheep.
9.      Shooting at a revenue officer, or any other person.
10.  Breaking down the head of a fish-pond, whereby fish may be lost
11.  Cutting down trees in an avenue, garden, etc.
12.  Cutting down river or sea banks, or hop binds.
13.  Taking reward for helping another to stolen goods.
14.  Returning from Transportation, or being at large in the Kingdom after sentence.
15.  Stabbing a person unarmed, or not having a weapon drawn, if he dies within six months.
16.  Concealing the birth of a bastard child.
17.  Sending threatening letters.
18.  Riots by twelve or more, and not dispersing in an hour after proclamation.
19.  Stealing woollen cloth from tenter ground.
20.  Stealing from a ship in distress.
21.  Challenging jurors above 20 in capital felonies or standing mute.
22.  Selling cottons with forged stamps.
23.  Deer stealing, second offence.
24.  Uttering counterfeit money.
25.  Prisoners under Insolvent Act guilty of perjury.
26.  Destroying silk or velvet in the loom, or the tools for manufacturing same, or destroying woollen goods, racks, or tools, or entering a house for that purpose.
27.  servants purloining their master’s goods, value 40 shillings.
28.  Personating bail, or acknowledging fines or judgements in another’s name.
29.  Escape by breaking prison;
30.  Sacrilege.
31.  Attempts to kill Privy Counsellors, etc.
32.  Smuggling by persons armed or assembling armed for that purpose.
33.  Robbery of mail.
34.  Destroying turnpikes or bridges, gates, weighing engines, locks, sluices, engines for draining marshes, etc.
35.  Mutiny.
36.  Desertion.
37.  Soldiers or sailors enlisting into foreign service.

Crimes not punishable by death
‘Single Felonies’ were punished by transportation, whipping, imprisonment, the pillory and hard labour in houses of correction according to the offence:
1.      Grand larceny, which was every sort of theft above the value of one shilling, not otherwise distinguished.
2.      Receiving or buying stolen goods, jewels and plate.
3.      Ripping or stealing lead, iron, copper, etc., or buying or receiving the same.
4.      Stealing or receiving ore from black lead mines.
5.      Stealing from furnished lodgings.
6.      Setting fire to underwood.
7.      Stealing letters, or destroying a letter or packet, advancing the postage and secreting the money.
8.      Embezzling naval stores.
9.      Petty larcenies or thefts under one shilling.
10.  Assaulting with intent to rob.
11.  Aliens returning after being ordered out of the kingdom.
12.  Stealing fish from a pond or river, fishing in enclosed ponds, or buying stolen fish.
13.  Stealing roots, trees, or plants of the value of 5 shillings or destroying them.
14.  Stealing children with their apparel.
15.  Bigamy, or marrying more wives or husbands than one.
16.  Assaulting or cutting, or burning clothes.
17.  Counterfeiting the copper coin.
18.  Solemnising marriage clandestinely.
19.  Manslaughter.
20.  Cutting or stealing timber trees.
21.  Stealing a shroud out of a grave.
22.  Watermen carrying too many passengers in the Thames, if any drowned.
23.  Perjury.
24.  Frauds by cheating or swindling.
25.  Conspiring to injure others.
26.  Stealing dead bodies.
27.  Stealing growing cabbages, turnips, etc.
28.  Cutting and stealing wood.
29.  Robbing orchards and gardens.
30.  Stealing deer from forests.
31.  Stealing dogs.
32.  Making and selling fireworks and squibs.
33.  Throwing the same on fire about the streets.
34.  Uttering base money.
35.  Embezzlements in the woollen, silk or other manufactures.
36.  Combinations and conspiracies for raising the price of wages.
37.  Keeping bawdy and disorderly houses.
38.  Escaping out of House of Correction.
39.  Committing the same offence, after being once punished as rogues and vagabonds.

Because the punishments were OTT to the crimes, often petty crimes went unpunished, and punishments when handed down were often not carried out.
Treaties on the Police of the Metropolis by Dr. Colquhoun in 1780 states:
“It generally happens in the metropolis that out of from 2,000 to 2,500 prisoners who are tried for different crimes in the various Courts of Justice, above five sixth parts are for larcenies, acts of vagrancy and smaller offences, where the Benefit of Clergy either attaches or does not apply at all. The major part are, of course, returned upon Society, after a short imprisonment, or some corporal punishment, so frequently to renew their depredations on the public. But a vast proportion are always acquitted.”
In the year 1795, out of 1,894 prisoners tried at the Old Bailey and the different assizes in the country, (not taking the smaller courts into account), 854 were acquitted because of no prosecutors.
“According to the present system, out of about two hundred and upwards who are, upon an average every year, doomed to suffer the punishment of death, four-fifths or more are generally pardoned, either on condition of being transported, or of going into his Majesty’s service, and not seldom, without any condition at all. Hence it is that, calculating on all the difference chances, encouragement to commit crimes, actually arise[s] out of the system intended for their prevention – first from the hope of avoiding detection and apprehension; secondly of escaping conviction, from the means to vitiate and suborn the evidence; thirdly, from the mercy of the jury, in considering the punishment too severe; and fourthly, from the interest of persons of rank or consideration applying for the interference of Royal mercy, by pardons.”
So the 18th century malefactor might get away with it. 
Or he/she might not.

Evelyn Tidman is the author of four historical novels.