Lady Lewson, “remarkable for her age and peculiarities”

“Lady Lewson”, born Jane Vaughan (1700 – 1816) was one of 18th century London’s more colourful characters, and the probable inspiration for Dickens’ famed eccentric spinster, Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Jane had the good fortune of marrying a rich, elderly merchant . She herself was just nineteen. She moved to his stately home in […]

Hidden historical heroines (#22: Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots)

Margaret Tudor (28 November 1489 – 18 October 1541) was the eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, an elder sister to Henry VIII. In her early teens she became Queen of Scotland; through her first marriage she was the grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots, and through her second, that of Mary’s second […]

Spend a penny

  You might, on occassion, have had cause to moan about the dearth of public toilets in your city, particularly London. The British Toilet Association claims that there is now only one public toilet for every 10,000 people in England but only one for every 18,000 Londoners (I’m not even making this stuff up). You may have […]

Hidden historical heroines (#21: Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians)

  Æthelflæd (868 – 918) was the eldest daughter of the beloved Saxon King Alfred the Great and was chronicled in the historical record as Myrcna hlæfdige, or ‘Lady of the Mercians’.   Born to Alfred, King of Wessex and his queen, Ealhswith of the House of Mercia, Æthelflæd (meaning “noble beauty”) knew only strife […]

The Mayor who hanged his own son

    Galway is a river-bounded city in the west of Ireland, founded by the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century. The modern name comes from the anglecisation of the original name of the river, Gaillimh, which legend holds to have been named for the daughter of an ancient chieftain who drowned in its waters. Her distraught […]

Hidden historical heroines (#20: Marie-Louise O’ Murphy)

  Marie-Louise O’ Murphy de Boisfaily (21 October 1737 – 11 December 1814) was the youngest child of an Irish army officer. She was a celebrated French beauty, one of the younger mistresses of Louis XV.  The youngest of seven, Marie-Louise was born to ex-Irish army officer Daniel O’ Murphy and his French wife. Daniel had […]

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Now this is going to be a difficult review. It would be absolutely unforgiveable if I gave away or hinted at even one of the enigmas and surprises of this beautifully layered and crafted story.   “Verity” is a British agent, captured in Nazi-occupied France, and has been systematically tortured into giving up the wireless […]

England’s “Black” Queens

  When you consider historical Queens of England, you probably picture sumptuous dresses, ropes of jewels, tumbling fair or chestnut curls and peaches-and-cream complexions. Would it surprise you to know that two queens of England are now considered by some historians and genealogists to have had “black” or Moorish ancestry? Interestingly, the two ladies – […]