header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); History Archives – Kristen Koster
Jul 032016
 
A widow's dress with shawl and mobcap for a Colonial Days presentation in 5th grade.

That was 8 years ago?!?

Once again, I’ve been scrambling to finish a dress and it managed to pull me away from both writing and social media for a while. Long-time readers of the blog may recall the purple widow’s dress I made for a 5th grade presentation… good gracious that was 8 years ago!

Anyway, this year, we needed a dress in time for Anime Expo in LA for a cosplay of Eliza Hamilton from the Broadway musical. Over the last few months, the cast album plays here non-stop.
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Dec 202015
 

Cover image for 3 YULETIDE WISHES, an anthology by Deneane Clark, Alanna Lucas and Charlotte RussellThere’s less than a week until Christmas Day and if you’re like me, you’re not done shopping yet! If you’ve got a reader of Regency Romance on your list, we’ve got something that might just be a perfect fit. Join us in celebrating the holiday release from Boroughs Publishing, 3 YULETIDE WISHES, an anthology by Deneane Clark, Alanna Lucas and Charlotte Russell. I know Charlotte and Alanna through The Beau Monde chapter of RWA® and I hope to get to know Deneane Clark better in the future. I’m looking forward to some holiday reading after downloading this to my e-reader and I hope you will too!

3 YULETIDE WISHES
an anthology by Deneane Clark, Alanna Lucas and Charlotte Russell

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Nov 112015
 
Poppy Installation at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

Poppy Installation commemorating the centenary of WWI at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Armistice Day. End of the war to end all wars.

Veteran’s Day.

My uncle turned 91 this fall and served as a WWII Marine. He’s always out every Memorial Day with the VFW selling poppies and impressing upon today’s youth (yup, that would be anyone younger than him!) the significance of the poppies and Flanders Fields. He’s genuinely disgusted when someone doesn’t know the importance of either. So if you’re asked to buy a poppy, be patient and appreciative for all the sacrifices our veterans have made over the years.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 3, 1915.

My uncle was just 18 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His brother (younger by almost two years) lied about his age and went into the Navy right after. My uncle refuses to go to DC through the Honor Flight program. I had to take photos of the WWII Memorial while there to send to him. He doesn’t want any thanks or special recognition for what he did (a sentiment many vets share, they were just doing their duty to their country), but he believes in not just marking the cost of freedom, but that the poppies serve as a reminder.

Lest we forget.

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National WWII Memorial, Washington, D.C. April 2011.

Jan 152014
 
Hyde Park section of "Improved map of London for 1833, from Actual Survey. Engraved by W. Schmollinger, 27 Goswell Terrace"

When talking about the Royal London Parks in the Regency, the first thing to remember the word “park” held different meanings from how we (especially Americans) typically think of them today.

So get those visions of benches, swing sets, picnic tables and those box-shaped grills on metal posts out of your head, because our Regency folks would often say a “park” refers to a large open tract of land that is often used for grazing cattle or a place where deer were hunted. You’ll often see the land surrounding a country manor house referred to as a park as well and the author just means that there is a lot of open land surrounding the place that may or may not be landscaped or fenced off.

London Parks in the Regency Era

Today, we’re going to talk a bit about some of the parks in London that Regency Era heroes and heroines might have visited. And I’m using Regency Era to mean the long Regency, which continues through the reigns of George IV, William IV and ends when Queen Victoria was crowned.
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Nov 052013
 

In Britain, today is Guy Fawkes Day. You might recognize him better as the face of Anonymous or that fellow in V for Vendetta. There’s a reason for that.

This post was originally published here on 11/5/2010, but I think it bears repeating in the current political and economic climates. People are unhappy and they’re always looking for someone to blame. Most will not take it upon themselves to act for the better of all, but some will take it into their heads that Fate has tapped them on the shoulder and they must act. Unfortunately, these aren’t the type of actions that will help. Many of us enjoy the right to vote. Some harder fought to gain than others. If you’ve got an upcoming election, exercise your right. If you don’t, take advantage of the opportunities to contact your elected officials and let them know how they’re doing and what needs doing in their area.


Guy Fawkes Day: Conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot: November 5, 1605
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!

I’d never heard of Guy Fawkes’ Day/Night while I was growing up in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. And, Bonfire Night was the night before Homecoming when an effigy of the other team was offered up as a ritual sacrifice to the almighty football gods. I do remember my mother often saying “Remember, remember, the 5th of November” on that day and seeing references to it in the Regency and Victorian romance novels I read over the years, so I was curious to what this holiday was all about since it’s cropped up in pop culture recently with movies like V for Vendetta and thanks to 4-Chan many different groups of protesters have adopted the traditional Guy mask as a show of solidarity and a way to preserve their anonymity.

So when I asked my 13 year old daughter, if she knew what today was, I got a blank look. So, in explaining how Guy Fawkes was the fellow who was caught in connection with the Gunpowder Plot, she was highly amused by some of the traditions the British have kept in celebrating this holiday.

“So, that was around the time of the Declaration of Independence?” She’s studying the American Revolution and Constitution currently, so she tries to relate everything to that. Nearly two hundred years earlier, the Gunpowder Plot planned to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605 in an effort to not just protest his stance on Catholicism but to assassinate King James I. November 5th was chosen because it was the day Parliament was scheduled to reopen and the King would be present.

“People celebrate this? Why? How?” The idea was that they were happy to have avoided the disaster and also serves as a warning to Parliament to keep the desires of the people in mind as they make their decisions and laws. In England and several former British colonies, like Australia, the night is marked by bonfires, burning effigies of Guy Fawkes or other current political villains, and fireworks.

“What?! Fireworks? Really? Silly Brits.” Remember, it was also to serve as a warning of what could have happened had it not been uncovered. She was unconvinced, claiming it was rather ironic to celebrate preventing a catastrophic explosion and fire by setting off intentional ones. And then I mentioned that in one town, Ottery St. Mary in Devon, they celebrate by carrying flaming barrels of tar through the streets and how the people carrying the barrels had passed the tradition down through their families. Such a stretch for her modern imagination.

“Don’t they celebrate Halloween?” These days, it’s becoming more popular to celebrate with trick or treating, American-style, but in the mid-1600s, Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical rule abolished All Hallow’s Eve and many other traditional celebrations and feasts that he associated with pagan ways. Many of the traditions such as the bonfire on November 1st was simply shifted to November 5th and stayed there. Despite the fascination of the occult, paranormal and gothic romances, the people of the extended Regency period, which gave birth to some of our most familiar Halloween icons: Frankenstein and the headless horsemen, would have been more familiar with bonfires celebrating Guy Fawkes Night and burning a “Guy”.

Guy, guy, guy
Poke him in the eye,
Put him on the bonfire,
And there let him die

“A guy? A real one?” No, not a real person! Sort of like a scarecrow dressed up to look like Guy Fawkes. Kids would make these, and in the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night, they’d sit out with them by the side of the street begging, “A penny for the Guy?” so they could defray their expenses in making this annual effigy. The practice eventually evolved into asking for money to be spent on fireworks, but modern sensibilities worry that the money will be misspent on more dangerous things and sales of fireworks to children have been limited.

So, I’m not sure I explained it well for my daughter, but she did get a taste of a different culture than the one she’s used to and I’ve been thinking about ways to incorporate it into a plot. But then I wonder if I could do it justice, not having experienced the tradition firsthand. Some day, maybe.

Sep 282012
 

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group was asked, “If you could do anything for writing research, what would you do?”

Honestly, this was a no-brainer for me. I’d head over to Suzi Love’s blog and pull up her category of posts for the Best Places to Visit that relate to Regency England and start mapping out an itinerary. Since the question seemed to imply that time and money weren’t obstacles, I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about leaving anywhere off the list.

Oh, and I’d definitely take my camera. So I could go back later and revisit everything. Although I might have to invest in a few more memory cards.

I’ve never been to England, but as you can imagine, would love to go. Getting me to come home might be a problem. Hopefully, I wouldn’t fall through a time portal or anything so melodramatic while I was there, but I’m sure I’d come home with a whole flock of plot bunnies.

Your Turn: So what would you do for research on your creative project?


And if you’d like to read how the rest of my accountability group would like to do in the name of research, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Kissing Games at LuvYA Today!

 Interviews & Guest Posts  Comments Off on Kissing Games at LuvYA Today!
Aug 282012
 

Click to read my KISSING GAMES guest post at Bria Quinlan's LuvYA blog.

A Guest Post on Kissing Games

I’m talking about the history of Kissing Games on Bria’s LuvYA blog today in celebration of Bria Quinlan and Valerie Cole‘s Month of Kisses and Kiss-Offs.

A Contest to Enter

Bria and Valerie have planned a whole bunch of fun ways to lead up to their KISS / KISS-OFF CONTEST and I’m tickled pink to be asked to join in! I hope you’ll stop by and check out the contest too, which opens on August 31st!

Jul 312012
 

I’m going to stray a bit from the typical Tuesday Regency Primer post, today. Last week, I attended the annual National Conference for the Romance Writers of America. The day before the official conference started, my online chapter The Beau Monde held its annual mini-conference which included breakfast, a general meeting, a variety of workshops. But the best part of the day was the Beau Monde soiree that evening, complete with refreshments, period dancing and card tables.

I managed to miss the breakfast and general meeting but made it for Candice Hern‘s workshop on Accessories in Regency Era fashion prints for everything from bonnets and caps to ridicules to muffs and shawls. I loved how it was organized by year and we got to see how the styles changed over the years. Everyone was laughing over the bonnet brims that looked like mail boxes around 1807.

After that, came lunch and Delilah Marvelle (she of the A Bit o’ Muslin blog fame) was our keynote speaker. Her story was amazing and emotional, but while I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room, she also inspired and encouraged each of us to work through our struggles and convinced us that they can only make us stronger, as people, as writers.

Image of Apron-Front gown before show & tell started =)After lunch, Isobel Carr’s presentation was on How Clothes Worked, and included a bit of show and tell. She passed around a pair of stays, which really were nothing more than a long bra/foundation and were much softer in construction than I had originally imagined, except for the busk (the ivory, bone, or metal insert that insisted on correct posture at all times). When we got to gowns, the static photo of an apron-front or drop-front gown with its multiple layers and numerous ties proved too much for pictures and a simple verbal explanation.

Isobel Carr dressing Delilah Marvelle in an Apron-Front GownDelilah volunteered to be dressed in one that Isobel had brought along. Her white dress caused a few to remark how she already had her chemise on and would be perfect for the part. The inner bodice pieces tied in the front in a double-breasted fashion. Then, the front of the gown has two long ties that go around the back and tie in the front, but get tucked inside the front of the gown.

 

Almost done, just need some pins! Finally, the part hanging down like a bib at that point, would be pulled up over those ties and the inner bodice pieces and pinned into place. This, Isobel explained, was most likely the type of gown worn by ladies who needed to dress themselves and the most easily lent type as it was very forgiving in matters of size, although length was more of an issue for Delilah than anything else. If you see the dress in pictures from the soiree, another member, Suzy Kue, is wearing the dress. She’s much taller than Delilah and said she was taking notes on what all she could and couldn’t do while wearing the stays with the busk under the dress.

 

The Beau Monde SoireeThat evening, we regathered for a soiree. As all good ton events must be, this was quite the crush. A dance mistress was brought in to teach and lead several country dances while a string ensemble played in the corner. Several tables were set up around the room and multiple games of cards ensued. A table of refreshments was also provided, and thankfully not a drop of weak lemonade was in sight.

The Beau Monde (Chapter) SoireeActually playing whist against three other humans instead of computer AI’s was exciting. Next time, I definitely need to be able to describe the why’s and how’s of strategy while playing, otherwise it’s a bit much like a modern game of SlapJack to see who had the highest card and take the trick. But all in all, it was a fantastic experience to be surrounded not only by over 2000 romance writers, but to mingle, rub elbows and socialize with that many Regency Romance writers who all had similar knowledge and appreciation for the genre.

Jul 032012
 
Fireworks display at Vauxhall Gardens, 1800.

With fireworks in the night skies this week as both Canada and the US celebrate their birthdays, I got to thinking about Vauxhall Gardens where fireworks were a common entertainment in the Georgian and Regency periods.

During the Regency, the relatively cheap price of admission (about 3 shilling and sixpence during the early 19th century) and a growing middle class drove the popularity of Vauxhall Gardens. You could go and listen to an orchestra play, see the fireworks, and find light refreshment or cold suppers served in one of the boxes or alcoves.

Fireworks display at Vauxhall Gardens, 1800.

Fireworks display at Vauxhall Gardens, 1800.

Like going to the fair today, the cost of such fare was not cheap. In 1817, a small dish of ham, two small chickens cost 11 shillings and dessert of assorted tarts, custards and cheesecakes were another four. Notably, the ham served was pronounced to be “as thin as muslin” or “able to read a newspaper through it”. The Gardens was also known for its arrack punch, made by mixing arrack (an Indian liquor derived from areca nut, a palm seed originating in India from the areca tree), rum and sugar.

One feature of note, especially to writers and readers of fiction in this era, was the practice of chartering boats from Whitehall and Westminster to reach the gardens located in Kennington, on the south bank of the Thames. This was an option for those who could afford it instead of crossing Westminster Bridge, which made the gardens accessible by road after 1750, and provided a way to show off their status.

Vauxhall GardensThe grounds of The Gardens were lush and expansive, decorated with waterfalls, stone and thatched pavilions, and a canal running through with two elegant cast-iron bridges, in the Chinese manner. A sham castle was also prominent and planted with several pieces of cannon, bowling greens, swings, and thatched umbrellas as a shelter from sudden rains and storms.

Another feature often mentioned in Regency Romances are the many paths illuminated by as many as 15,000 colorful glass lanterns hung among the trees. Most famous of these were the Grand Walk, a wide avenue lined with stately elms that was over 900 feet long, and the “Dark Paths”, a collection of less illuminated serpentine walks, which were far more suited to seduction and discreet rendezvous for the romantic leads.

By the Georgian era, The Gardens could accommodate crowds numbering above 60,000 for the jubliee celebration in 1786 with nightly entertainments that began in the month of May. In 1813, a fête was held on June 20th, to celebrate the victory at Vittoria. All sorts of people visited The Gardens ranging from families, to businessmen, to vendors looking to make a profit from visitors, to the cream of society wishing to be seen.

The wide variety of entertainments included acrobatics and tightrope acts, equestrian feats, and balloon ascents, and in 1827, the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted with 1,000 soldiers participating. But as the 19th century progressed, the gardens fell into disrepair and the crowds and entertainments became less reputable as well and the popularity of the gardens faded and closed in July of 1859.


To learn a bit more about the history from 1660 to the present of these pleasure gardens, Jane Austen’s World has a wonderful blog post, A Visit to Vauxhall Gardens by Tony Grant, that includes a detailed map of Vauxhall dating from 1800.

More information regarding a variety of other Regency-themed topics including other Regency London Landmarks can be found on my Regency Resource page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

Jun 292012
 

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group is sharing shout outs for the people and sites who make our lives so much easier in the research department. If you’re looking for fabulous resources for Regency research, check out the sites and people listed below.

Regency Research: 173/366 Hydrangea

THANK YOU! For bringing a bright spot to my day and making research fun, interesting and easier!

I’m not sure if everyone mentioned will see this post, but THANK YOU for your interest, your time and love of the Regency Era. You have definitely inspired me on many levels and I can only hope my own blog and pages here are as useful to others as yours have been to me. Again, thank you for all you do.

Useful Sites for Regency Research

The Regency Collection and especially for the section on Neckclothitania and how to tie Regency style cravats.

Jane Austen’s World is a wonderful blog devoted to, yup, the world of Jane Austen! Lots of great Regency resources and articles to be found here.
You can also follow Vic on Pinterest and twitter at @janeaustenworld.

The Regency World of Author Lesley-Anne McLeod
You can also follow her on twitter at @lesleyannemc.

Shannon Donnelly’s research articles on horses and everything related You can also follow her on twitter at @sdwriter.

Susanna Ive’s Regency research links You can also follow her on twitter at @SusannaIves.

Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher Nancy is the go to gal for answers on the Beau Monde chapter’s Facebook group and their member’s only forum.

Suzi Love’s Blog articles and her various Research Links. You can also follow her on twitter at @suzilove.

Angelyn Schmid collects The Assembly Room posts for the Beau Monde blog, but she also has a great Regency blog. You can also follow her on twitter at @AngelynSchmid.

David W Wilkin has a great blog over at The Things That Catch My Eye where he’s been doing a lot of Regency timelines, notable personalities and lexicon entries. You can also follow him on twitter at @DWWilkin.


I also have more links saved in my Regency Resources page (which looks like I need to update it again with some these!) so feel free to browse over there and see if you find anything interesting.

YOUR TURN: What are some of YOUR favorite places to do do research? Hint: it doesn’t have to be Regency or Writing related at all! I’m curious about all sorts of things.

And if you’d like to read about who the rest of my accountability group are highlighting, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney