Snuff and Nonsense

Before people had the handiness of paper-rolled ‘cigarettes’ for their tobacco intake, there was ‘snuff’ – where the tobacco was ground into a powder which was then inhaled (or “snuffed”) into each nostril. Snuff-taking was wildly popular in Georgian and Victorian England, albeit a rather middle-class activity (all the rich kids were of course taking […]

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 (#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 […]

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 – […]

Hidden historical heroines (#04: Peg Woffington)

  Margaret “Peg” Woffington (18 October 1720 – 28 March 1760) was a celebrated Irish-born actress during Georgian times.   Peg was born in Dublin in 1720. Her father – a bricklayer – died when she was young, leaving her family penniless and destitute . Her mother took in laundry, while little Peg sold watercress […]