Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Prince Regent’s Infamous Wife, Caroline, Princess of Wales


The Prince of Wales’s hatred for his wife is legendary. The young Caroline, Princess of Wales, was a lively, good humored, impulsive, playful, stubborn, and not always wise woman. In later life, after she left England, she grew increasingly fat, eccentric, and outrageous. But those later years can combine with the Regent’s well-recorded antipathy to create a false impression of the woman who had the misfortune to marry this sulky, spoiled, self-indulgent, narcissistic, vain, and breathtakingly selfish prince. So here are ten things most people don’t know about Caroline, Princess of Wales:

1. Caroline was a gifted linguist. She is mocked because her English always retained a heavy German accent, but she was fluent. In addition to her native German, she was also fluent in Italian and French, and frequently preferred to converse in French.

2. Caroline was a gifted and unusually proficient pianist. She continued lessons with masters well into her twenties, working with M. Fleischer eighteen hours a week up until the time she left Germany. In England she also studied the harp and took instruction from singing masters.

3. Caroline was artistic. Most young women of her class and age were taught watercolor. But Caroline continued to enjoy painting her entire life, and while in London she also took instruction in clay sculpture.

4. Like many young women of her age, Caroline received little formal education. But she developed a serious, enduring love affair with books, and spent her life reading classics, histories, and memoires in English, French, and German. She was particularly fond of Shakespeare. The diaries and letters of people who met the Princess frequently mention that they spoke with her of books. In her later life she began a novel, which has been lost.

5. Prinny didn’t like Caroline’s looks, but in her youth she was actually considered attractive, with lovely skin and curly golden hair. The Prince preferred his women delicate (and older, interestingly), whereas Caroline was broad shouldered and plump. But the Prince’s contemporaries described her in their diaries and in letters to their spouses as pretty, with fine eyes, a lovely mouth, and good teeth. While it is less commonly noted, Caroline didn’t think much of the Prince’s looks, either. When they met and the Prince famously, loudly, and rudely said, “Harris, I am not well; pray get me a glass of brandy,” Caroline said to the same gentleman (later, and quietly), “Mon Dieu! Est-ce que le Prince est toujours comme cela? Je le trouve trรจs gros, et nullement aussi beau que son portrait.”

6. When the Prince’s envoy, Lord Malmesbury, first met Caroline in Brunswick, he described her as not as clean as she could be. But as they journeyed through Germany toward London, he took great pains to impress upon her the importance of cleanliness, and she did pay attention to him. No one ever remarked on her lack of cleanliness again. However, Caroline continued to have a tendency to scramble into her clothes, and she never did care too much about her appearance. In later life while living estranged from the Prince in Italy, her clothing choices were definitely eccentric (as was her behavior).

7. The Prince of Wales forced his bride to accept his well-known mistress, Lady Jersey, as one of her ladies in waiting, and actually sent Lady Jersey to meet Caroline when her ship docked in England. Not only did Lady Jersey deliberately arrive hours late with the carriages, she also attended the wedding and even dined with them on their wedding night. At one point the Prince gave Caroline a pearl bracelet, only to take it back a few days later and give it to Lady Jersey, who then delighted in wearing it around the Princess.

8. Prinny passed out drunk on their wedding night and did not, ahem, perform well. He always blamed Caroline.

9. Caroline did not have an illegitimate child in England. A charitable woman who loved children, the Princess did pay to foster some 8-10 poor children with farm families, and once took in a ten-month-old baby girl found abandoned on the heath. In the infamous “Delicate Investigation,” in which the Prince tried to accuse Caroline of adultery and treason so that he could divorce her, he paid an unscrupulous, heavily-indebted couple named Douglas to testify that the Princess had actually given birth to one of the children she took in, a boy named Willy Austin. In truth, Willy was adopted from an impoverished couple when his father lost his job; the child’s birth took place in a hospital and was recorded, and his mother had continued to visit him. Not only was the mother able to testify before the investigation, but many other of Lady Douglas’s statements were also proven to be false. Unfortunately, those who write about Caroline continue to give far too much credence to the patently ridiculous testimony given by Lady Douglas at that inquiry. (For her pains, the Prince paid Lady Douglas 200 pounds a year for life.)

10. Caroline loved to travel and in later life was able to visit many of the sites she had read so much about. After she escaped the Prince and England, she traveled throughout Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, as well as Tunisia, Greece, Turkey, and Palestine. Her behavior on those journeys might have been precisely calculated to embarrass the Prince Regent—and perhaps it was. He earned it.


Friday, April 29, 2016

WHISPERS OF HEAVEN


Before I started the Sebastian St. Cyr series, I wrote seven historical romances. The last four of those historicals will eventually be available again both as ebooks and in print. I'm beginning with WHISPERS OF HEAVEN, set in Tasmania in 1840, which was never available as an ebook. The Kindle release is this Monday, 2 May, but I will eventually get the other formats organized, too. Here is the cover copy:

“A wonderful novel rich in emotion” –New York Times bestselling author Jill Marie Landis

Tasmania, 1840: Jesmond Corbett returns home from school in London determined to conform to the expectations of her aristocratic family and marry the childhood companion to whom she is betrothed. But Jessie is a woman filled with restless longings and unacknowledged needs. And nothing in her sheltered life has prepared her for Lucas Gallagher, an Irish rebel doomed to a lifetime of suffering and humiliating servitude.

For Jessie’s island home is a place of brutal contradictions, its genteel lifestyle and gracious estates based on the soul-crushing labor of the convicts who toil under the British penal system. Haunted by a tragic past but fiercely proud, Gallagher has vowed to escape this living hell or die trying. But he can’t resist the dangerous desires stirred by the vital, troubled young woman to whose family he has been assigned. And although they know their love can have no future, the star-crossed lovers inevitably succumb to a forbidden passion that threatens to destroy both their lives and Gallagher’s last chance to reach for freedom.

Filled with the masterful blend of vividly drawn, memorable characters and high adventure for which Candice Proctor is renowned, here is a unforgettable tale of love and triumph that deftly combines the mannered elegance of Downton Abbey with the excitement and raw Australian beauty of The Thorn Birds.

“Rich, unusual, and classic—like reading Woodiwiss again for the first time.” New York Times bestselling author Jill Barnett.

And here is the Amazon link since the old Ballantine issue comes up first if you go to their site:
http://www.amazon.com/Whispers-Heaven-Candice-Proctor-ebook/dp/B01E0MUG2U/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1461950903&sr=8-3&keywords=whispers+of+heaven


Friday, April 22, 2016

The London of Sebastian St. Cyr: St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell


The area of London known as Clerkenwell plays an central role in WHERE THE DEAD LIE, #12 in the Sebastian St. Cyr series (coming in the spring of 2017). I'll have more to say about the area in the future, but today I'm just concentrating on St. John's Gate.


Built in 1504 as the entrance to the Priory of the Knights of St. John--the Knights Hospitallers--it is one of the few parts of the monastery still in existence. At one time it was the workplace of Samuel Johnson; it was also the childhood home of William Hogarth, whose father opened a coffee house there. This is what it looked like in Sebastian's day (as seen from the south side; the photo above is taken from the north):


It isn't anywhere near as solid as it looks. Built of brick surfaced with stone, it was in pretty bad shape by the end of the 19th century--as this late 19th century watercolor below clearly shows:


Thank heavens someone realized its value and rescued it in the nick of time. What  you see today is heavily reconstructed. But it's actually pretty amazing that it's still standing.



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Three More Sebastians!


I can finally announce that I have accepted an offer from Penguin Random House for three more Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries: #13, 14, and 15 (#12, WHERE THE DEAD LIE, will be out next spring).



I won't deny that with all the firings and cuts at PRH these last ten months or so, I've been just a wee bit tense. I lost my long-time editor last summer, and then a few weeks ago news broke that they were cutting twenty mystery series--and that was only the beginning. So I'm even more excited about this contract than I normally am. And the three-book offer is a nice surprise--in the past I've only signed two-book contracts.


They assure me they're more behind the series than ever before. So now I can relax, take a deep breath, and get back to writing WHY SOMETHING SOMETHINGS!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The London of Sebastian St. Cyr: Pickering Place


I have news about THREE different developments I've been hoping I could announce this week (don't get too excited; only one of them is about Sebastian St. Cyr and no, it's not a film deal). But since my ability to talk about them keeps getting delayed, I thought I'd put up a post about Pickering Place.

Pickering Place is a tiny, totally enclosed square in London, just off St. James Street. It can only be entered through this tunnel-like passageway that's still lined with its original, 17th century oak paneling:

The square itself still has all its 18th century Georgian buildings. In Sebastian's time it was a pretty rowdy place, home to gambling dens and brothels and bear-baiting. It's also said to be the site of the last duel ever fought in London, when two bucks got into a quarrel in Whites and crossed the street to have it out in Pickering Place. Seems a pretty crowded spot to me, but then, one assumes they were drunk. 

The above tunnel runs between two old 16th century shops on St. James Street. One of them is Berry Brothers and Rudd, the famous wine merchants whose cellars run under the entire area. Berry Brothers is also the site of the large coffee scales where the Prince Regent and Beau Brummell used to weigh themselves. 


Sebastian has ventured into Pickering Place a few times in earlier books, but the square plays a key role in book #12, Where the Dead Lie, which is currently working its way through production and will be released in March 2017. 

Hopefully next week I can put up the first post about my news!