Get Stuffed: ‘Animal Furniture’, 1896

Last October, I looked at some articles from the monthly illustrated Strand Magazine which was launched in 1896: Child Acrobats and Stage Dancers; Educating the Blind; and The Battersea Dogs’ Home, 1891, and wrote posts about them.

A couple of days ago, I discovered a further copy of the Strand Magazine. It’s not in a good state; it lacks the back and spine covers and the last few pages have come unstuck – but it is complete. And it contains an extraordinary article: ‘Animal Furniture’

Albatross beak paper clip

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The Launch of ‘The Cabochon Emerald’ in e-books

The Cabochon Emerald, my 7th Elizabeth Hawksley historical novel, which comes out in e-books on Monday 2nd August, owes its existence to a lucky find in a second-hand bookshop: The French Exiles 1789-1815 by Margery Weiner. Weiner’s book absolutely grabbed me: she follows the lives of the some of the 25,000 émigrés who fled the French Revolution and came to England: who were they? Yes, there were aristocrats and members of the clergy (in 1793, the French Government abolished Christianity), but those fleeing for their lives also also included artisans who worked in luxury industries, like jewellers or couturiers, which made them more vulnerable to being arrested. Why did they choose to come to London – a Protestant country, after all; how did they get here; where did they live; and how did they manage to make a living?

The French Exiles 1789-1815 by Margery Weiner 

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Historical Writers Association and a Regency Hamper

Back in April, I wrote a blog about my good fortune in being invited to be one of the judges for the Historical Writers Association Gold Crown Award, and this week I’m writing an update. We have been busy! As soon as I’d said ‘Yes’, dozens of books thudded down onto my doormat, and this is what my study floor now looks like:

My study has turned into an Art Installation of books! There are about ninety Historical novels in alphabetical order, and the books standing upright are there to stabilize them. 

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Commemoration and Dissent

I visited the Museum of London this week – the first time for quite a while and, as I wandered round,  I found myself thinking that it might be interesting to look at how ordinary people chose to commemorate what was going on in their lives – for good or ill. So I shall begin in 1600 in London with a Delftware plate celebrating the long and prosperous reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabethan Delftware plate, 1600

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British Museum: The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial

One of the most splendid exhibits in the British Museum is undoubtedly the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial and its astonishing treasures, dating from the 7th century A.D. which was excavated 1938-9, as the country prepared itself for war.

The Bronze Helmet – fit for a King?

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My Mother’s Choice: Six Ornaments

Back in the 1950s, my mother found herself kitting out a small modern London flat from scratch. She decided to go for modern and went straight to Heals, the place for the best modern furniture and fittings. Once she’d bought the essentials, she decided that the flat (bedroom, sitting-room, bathroom, small kitchen, and a small entrance area) needed a few ornaments. At the time, Mr Heal prided himself on buying top quality items from across the world to sell in his famous shop.

Ceramics chosen by Mr Heal

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Freedom v Tyranny: The Afterlife of Thomas Becket

This week I’m following up on  the blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the murder in Canterbury Cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, in 1170. I looked at how the relationship between King Henry II and his former Lord Chancellor, which had once been so close, turned to bitterness and hatred, and ended in Becket’s violent death in front of the High Altar. The murdered Becket swiftly became a martyr and a saint – and, almost immediately, miracle cures, ascribed to Becket, were recorded.

Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’ on Pilgrimage to Canterbury c. 1387

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The e-book launch of ‘Crossing the Tamar’

I’m thrilled to announce that the e-book of Crossing the Tamar is due out on Monday – it’s one of my favourite Elizabeth Hawksley novels – and it did well. Not only was it reprinted, it went into large print both in the States and in the UK, and was translated into German as Jenseits des Stromes by Wunderlich Taschenbuch. I was also invited to talk on Radio Cornwall about it; I had to go to BBC Broadcasting House (exciting!) where I was ushered into what looked like the cockpit of a space rocket  – (scary – it was full of knobs and buttons which I didn’t dare touch) – and  eventually a voice from someone in Cornwall came over the air waves (this was in 1998) to interview me.

E-book cover for ‘Crossing the Tamar’ by Elizabeth Hawksley

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St Thomas Becket: Murder in the Cathedral

On a cold winter’s day, 29th December, 1170, three knights: Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy and Hugh de Morville arrived at Canterbury Cathedral. They were King Henry II’s loyal men and, time and again, they had heard him fume against the Archbishop Thomas Becket’s wilful refusal to obey him and side with the church instead. They vowed to ride to Canterbury Cathedral, capture Becket, and drag him back to face the King, so that the long and bitter quarrel between them could finally be settled.

They did not, at this point, mean to murder Thomas.

A reliquary casket showing the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. At the bottom, three knights, swords raised, are about to attack Thomas who stands in front of the altar. Two monks on the right raise their hands in horror

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A Spring Walk along Regent’s Canal (and what happened)

On Wednesday morning, for the first time in weeks, the weather forecast predicted that the sun would shine. I was desperate for a walk, so I put on my mac, (I was still sceptical about the forecast) grabbed my camera and left the house. The sky was bright blue. Hurray! I would walk down the Regent’s Canal towards King’s Cross and visit the Camley Street Natural Park, which I’d never visited, and where I hoped to see some evidence of spring: a few ducklings or goslings, perhaps. Would it be too early for dragonflies?

Sweet-smelling wild roses – which were almost over – had I missed spring completely?

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