Tag Archives forRegency Romance

How to Use “Hestia’s Blood” in Your Tea…


“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,

Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

Never heard of this before?

You must be thinking this is some kind of witch’s spell, right?

A nefarious potion boiled under the full moon as a hag throws all kinds of bizarre ingredients in a bubbling cauldron…


Yeaaah…Not exactly!

Sorry to disappoint you!

These few lines were actually written by William Shakespeare. In Macbeth, to be specific.

Now, I can’t really say what Shakespeare did in his free time, but I’m pretty sure that potions and outlandish-sounding witchcraft weren’t among his list of hobbies.

In fact, the above quote from Macbeth isn’t witchcraft at all!

I know, I know. Toes of frogs and tongues of dogs are not exactly the ingredients you’d want your daily green smoothie to include. And well, that “hell-broth” part doesn’t really create a good first impression.

But hear me out!

Chances are, you have been using “eyes of newt” and “lizard’s legs” for years!

Traditional Folk Names for Common Plants

No doubt some country folk in the Middle Ages thought these names were literal, given that witch hunts were a favorite sport at the time. In fact, in addition to midwifing babies, having knowledge of herbs and plants was reason enough to accuse a woman of being a "witch."

Witches were persecuted to hell and back, especially in England, during the infamous Witch Hunts. Thousands of women -and men- died horrible deaths at the hands of self-proclaimed witch hunters and “priests.” If you’d like to read an article on the matter, click here!

Medicine women, with their vast knowledge of herbs and their medical properties, very often found themselves on the receiving end of extraordinarily harsh punishment for practicing their trade.

And the strange names given to plants certainly played a part in that.

Medicine was and still is a difficult field to master.

Back then, with their very limited resources, people had to rely on the gifts offered by Mother Nature herself in order to cure their ailments. At some point, some laurel in a pot of boiling water along with some lemon and honey and poof! A cure for headaches.

Of course, in the absence of labs and test bottles, people had to rely on experience to decipher which plant helps with which ailment. And that, my dear fellow, was quite dangerous!

Some plants can be toxic if consumed in certain forms, others can kill a grown man if the dosage exceeds a certain amount. Others are not fit for human consumption in any way, shape or form.

And that’s when medicine men and women said, “Enough is enough! We need to do something so that people without any knowledge won’t meddle in our affairs and get themselves killed!”

Enter the peculiar names for common plants that to this day, we use in our cooking, our medicine, our drinks.

And here are a few that you might recognize!

Adder’s Fork: Adder’s Tongue

Eye of Newt: Wild Mustard Seed

Toe of Frog: Bulbous Buttercup Leaves

Tongue of Dog: Hound’s Tongue

-“Eye of Newt”


Chamomile: Blood of Hestia

Valerian: Bloody Butcher

Cedar: Blood of Kronos

Yarrow: Devil’s Nettle

Parsley: Devil’s Oatmeal

Rosemary: Dew of the Sea

Foxglove: Fairy’s Finger

Motherwort: Lion’s Ear

Shepherd’s Purse: Mother’s Heart

-“Devil’s Nettle”


Common Stonecrop: Mouse’s Tail

Dandelion Leaves: Priest’s Crown

Field Clover: Rabbit’s Foot

American Valerian: Ram’s Head

Fern: Skin of Man

Flowering Spurge: Snake’s Milk

Knotweed: Sparrow’s Tongue

Wild Lettuce: Titan’s Blood

False Unicorn: Unicorn’s Horn

Rowan: Witchbane

-“Unicorn’s Horn”


When a specific part of an herb needed to be used, they were referred to usually as a body part.

Inner part of a blossom: Eye

Leaf: Paw, Foot, Leg, Wing, or Tow

Roots and stalk: Guts

Seeds: Privates

Dried Herbs: Hair

Stem: Tail

Flower: Head

Petal: Tongue

A bud or seed: Heart

-“Witchbane”


Phrases such as those mentioned above could have been and probably were used to name the plant by using a descriptor that would be easy to remember, and easy to teach to others. Other plants were given names descriptive of their uses; still others, for something they generally resembled.

The bottom line is…

Next time someone asks you for an herbal tea or a leafy cocktail, you know how to name them…

“Hi, darling! Can I have a cup of chamomile tea?”

“Oh, certainly! Just let me see where I put that jar of Hestia’s Blood…”

Written by Hanna Hamilton

How do Chocolates Relate to the Celebration of Valentine’s Day?

Hello, my sweetie!

You may not know it, but while Saint Valentine's is rooted in the Roman era, the custom of donating sweets for his celebration is much more modern.

Ancient sources reveal that Saint Valentine, who lived during the Roman era and died on February 14, was not just one person, but many.

And none of them had anything to do with love! 

But, truffle hearts, pralines, and red heart-shaped boxes; these are Valentine's Day timeless symbols for all lovers of the world.

But how did chocolates turn out to be a tradition for the sweetest feast of the year?

Keep reading, sweetie! 🙂

Who was Saint Valentine?

Some say that the real Valentine was a priest who performed illegal marriages for Emperor Claudius' soldiers, while others that he was a man who signed a letter with the signature "Your Valentine" to his guardian daughter, whom he had cured of blindness.

But none of the above stories have ever been proved.

The celebration of Valentine's Day as the day of lovers actually emerged in the 14th century and probably came about thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer's poem in 1382.

The Middle Ages and the Victorian era

During the Middle Ages, there was a "tendency" towards illegal but pure love. And as sugar was a valuable commodity in Europe at that time, the knights confined themselves instead, to give the noble roses and songs that glorified their beauty.

By the early 1840 Valentine's Day had spread to almost the entire English-speaking world. It was the golden age of Valentine’s Day, during which, Victorians glorified pure love and offered cards and other gifts to the object of desire.

Just a few years later, in 1868, a crucial invention occurred that linked the celebration to the use of chocolates; Mr. Cadbury’s heart-shaped boxes. 

The intelligent Mr. Cadbury and his collectible boxes

Richard Cadbury, a descendant of a British wealthy family in the business of chocolate, and responsible for sales at a critical juncture in the company, appeared during this time.

Cadbury had recently improved the technique of chocolate making, to get pure cocoa butter from whole grains, creating a delicious chocolate drink that had nothing to do with what the British knew until then.

This process resulted in a huge amount of cocoa, which Cadbury used to make various varieties of what was then called edible chocolate.

Richard realized that this product was a great opportunity for the market and began selling his chocolates in nice boxes he designed. It didn't take long for the heart-shaped boxes, now known to all of us, to appear. Although Richard Cadbury never patented this design, he is believed to be its original creator.

This way, his products, wrapped in heart-shaped boxes and colorful ribbons, could be used to express love and affection. 

In fact, he made sure to present these boxes as dual-use boxes. After all the chocolates had been consumed, the box itself was so beautiful that it could be used again and again to store souvenirs of all kinds.

These boxes later evolved and became more elaborate until the outbreak of World War II, when sugar became a luxury again and celebrations of lovers' diminished.

Nevertheless, many Cadbury boxes from the Victorian era still exist and are kept as heirlooms or valuable collectors' items.

Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!

I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!

Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!

It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like...Surprise me! 

Written by Violet Hamers

The Vinegar Valentines in the Victorian Era

Hello, again, my dearies! 

Are you lovebirds getting ready for Valentine’s day?

In the late 19th century, Valentine's Day was more than an opportunity to express love to their mate by sending cards or gifts.

It was also the day to express their frustration, bitterness or even hatred to those who did not love them. And there was no better way to let someone know they were unwanted than with the ultimate insult: the Vinegar Valentine.

The Vinegar Valentines were postcards designed with caricatures and satirical images intended to mock or even annoy the recipient. They were sent anonymously, so the receiver had to guess who hated him or her and, as if this weren’t bruising enough, the recipient paid the postage on delivery. Can you imagine that?

They were available in stores from America to Europe and starred next to beautiful Valentine's Day cards with hearts and flowers. Commonly sold at a cost of only a penny each, they were very popular among the poor and working classes. However, the upper class was just as eager, if not more so, to insult their acquaintances via the use of such cards.

Back then, they were called mocking, insulting, or comic valentinesvinegar seems to be a modern description.

If you are interested in learning more then, my dears, keep reading! 😉

First Appearance

The tradition began in America around the 1840s and had been going on for an entire century.

Vinegar Valentines was once a booming business. They accounted for 50% of the cards sold each year on Valentine's Day. These cards featured an illustration and a short line or poem that, rather than offering messages of love and affection, insulted the recipient.

The cards were also used as a means to communicate hatred and frustration towards neighbors, enemies or even friends, and not just unrequited love. The design of the cards was based on cheap materials, so their low cost allowed everyone to express their feelings.

People's Reaction

These nasty cards were sometimes crass, always funny, and definitely mean. Anyone who received one of these surely got the point.

Even by Victorian standards, Vinegar Valentines were considered distasteful, vulgar and morally depraving.

Some did not hesitate to accuse card makers of inciting anti-social behavior and encouraging hatred.

Others complained that the value of Valentine's Day was waning.

Modern Years

There have been a few cases of overreacting to receiving these cards. People have committed suicides or homicides, as a result of receiving one! Not a strange phenomenon as there were cards that suggested or urged the reader to commit suicide. And many of them were written as though these negative thoughts were popular opinion.

In 1885, London’s Pall Mall Gazette reported that a husband shot his wife in the neck after receiving a vinegar valentine from her. Oh my!

This trend has gradually declined; the year 1940 was the last time Valentine's Day hate cards were exchanged. Surviving examples of actual Vinegar Valentines are scarce. For obvious reasons, recipients did not keep them. 

Well, dearie, your husband didn't get you the gift you wanted? Think that it could be worse like the message below! 😉

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

You’re fantastic 🙂

Written by Scarlett Osborne

Gretna Green: The Lovers’ Sanctuary


Ah, Gretna Green!

Who hasn’t heard of it?

No, seriously.

If you’ve read one Regency romance in your entire life, then chances are you’ve heard of Gretna Green.

The place of forbidden love.

The “nest” where lovers would go to get married, away from the scorn of society.

Do you have a secret lover that your parents disapprove of? Are they trying to push you into a marriage of convenience? Are you looking for a way out?

Time to get to Gretna Green, lovebirds!


In the middle of the 18th-century, lords approved new laws to tighten marriage arrangements. 

In 1754 a new law, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, was brought into force in England. This amendment required young people to be over 21 years of age if they wished to marry without their parents’ or guardian’s consent. The marriage was required to be a public ceremony in the couple’s parish, with an official of the Church presiding. The new law was rigorously enforced and carried a 14-year sentence of transportation to the colonies for any clergyman found breaking it.

The scottish law, however, was different: you could marry on the spot, in a simple “marriage by declaration”, or “handfasting” ceremony, only requiring two witnesses and assurances from the couple that they were both free to marry.


This marriage contract could be made wherever the couple liked, in private or in public, in the presence of others or no-one at all.

The ‘irregular marriage’ ceremony would be short and simple, something like:

“Are you of marriageable age?” 

“Yes.”

“Are you free to marry?” 

“Yes.”

“You are now married.”

A wedding in the Scottish tradition could take place anywhere on Scottish soil.

Such a relaxed arrangement within reach of England, soon led to the inevitable influx of countless thousands of young couples running-away to marry over the border. 

Why Gretna Green? Gretna Green was the first village in Scotland and conveniently situated on the main route from London into Scotland. Traveling to Gretna Green along the Great North Road was no mean feat back then. Today, it takes a little over 5 hours to travel the 326 miles from London to the Scottish border town. In 1818, it took an average of four days, with carriages traveling an average of 6 miles an hour. Frequent stops to change tired horses and rest for food and an overnight stop for a room at an inn added to travel time.


However, should a virginal heiress spend at least one night on the road, her reputation would be lost, even if she slept in a separate room from her paramour and was chaperoned by her maid.

Forbidden romance and runaway marriages were popularized in the fiction of the time. I’m sure you’re very well acquainted with ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen.

Even though the presence of a third party was not required, English couples usually preferred to keep some English marriage traditions and so looked for someone in authority to oversee the ceremony. The most senior and respected craftsman or artisan in the countryside was the village blacksmith, and so the Blacksmith’s Forge at Gretna Green became a favorite place for weddings.

The tradition of the blacksmith sealing the marriage by striking his anvil led to the Gretna blacksmiths becoming known as ‘anvil priests’. Indeed, the blacksmith and his anvil are now symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Gretna Green’s famous Blacksmiths Shop, the Old Smithy where lovers have come to marry since 1754, is still in the village and still a wedding venue.


Gretna Green is possibly the most romantic place in Scotland, if not in the United Kingdom, and this small Scottish village has become synonymous with romance and runaway lovers.

Which begs the question…

Who’s in the mood for a trip? 😉

Written by Patricia Haverton

The Ghosts of Warwick Castle


Ah, castles!

Who doesn’t love them?

No, seriously, do you know anyone who doesn’t love castles?

If you do, send them my way and I’ll have a word!

From the Middle Ages to today's world, planned communities and system of the social order of medieval life have become romanticized, transformed into a time of honor, chivalry, and other knightly virtues. Castles represent power and strength, safety and protection. They represent an era long gone, and legends of old that to this day capture our imaginations.

In three words…

CASTLES.ARE.AWESOME!

Do you know what else castles are?

No?

Can you guess?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s transparent, and it can pass through walls.

Ah!

You’re starting to see it, right?

Yep! Castles are breeding grounds for all kinds of ghost stories!

Hundreds of years old, the walls of castles are drenched in history and in the memories of the people that lived within them. Coupled with secret corners and squeaky noises after dark, it comes as no surprise that many people “see” all kinds of ghostly apparitions in the corner of their eye.

But we’re not here to talk about every castle today.

No! Today we’re here to talk about one specific gem of a fortress and its eons-old but very much “alive” tenants!

Welcome to Warwick Castle!


Warwick Castle, which proudly displays more than 1,000 pieces of arms and armor in the Great Hall, possesses an extensive history spanning more than 1,000 years. Warwick Castle was associated with various historic events including the Norman conquest of England, Hundred Years' War between England and France, and the War of the Roses. Following the War of the Roses, a peaceful existence began at Warwick Castle. Moreover, it served as the home to the mighty Earls of Warwick.

It does sound like the perfect place for a ghost, doesn’t it?

And this castle houses at least a few of them!

Roger de Beaumont

In 1088, Roger de Beaumont was made the 2nd Earl of Warwick. Later, in 1119, he established the Church of All Saints within the walls of Warwick Castle. However, the Bishop of Worcester was not very keen on the idea of a church being in a castle and had it removed in 1127; an act that pitted the nobility against the established Church.

In 1153, the wife of Roger De Beaumont made a huge mistake when she gave the castle to the invading army of Henry of Anjou—later Henry II—after they convinced her that her husband had been killed.

In a bizarre turn of events, a not-yet-dead De Beaumont died from shock upon learning what she had done.

Most inhabitants of Warwick Castle that followed after reported seeing the frustrated spirit of Roger, wandering the halls and lamenting his losses.

-https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Roger_de_Beaumont


Sir Fulke Greville

Sir Fulke Greville was granted Warwick Castle by King James I in 1604. At the time, the place had been unoccupied for 14 years and was in a ruinous condition. Fortunately, Greville, as well as a being a fine poet and playwright, was a rich and influential man, who slowly converted Warwick Castle into the most princely seat within the midlands part of this realm.

Seven years later, thoughts of his own mortality led Greville to draw up a will. He had never married and had no children, so he decided to make slight provision for his servant, Ralph Haywood. Haywood was not impressed with the paltry bequest and, in a fit of rage, stabbed his master while helping him dress at his house in London. It took the unfortunate Greville a month to die, his agony compounded by the surgeon's insistence on packing the wound with mutton fat.

He was brought back to Warwick Castle, and his tomb can still be seen in nearby St. Mary's Church. Greville's ghost returns to the castle to walk the room that was once his study. Here witnesses have reported catching fleeting glimpses of his sad shade staring at them from the dark corners, or feeling his presence.

-Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke, de jure 13th Baron Latimer and 5th Baron Willoughby de Broke KB PC

The Curse of Moll Bloxham

According to legend, Moll Bloxham was a witch who placed a curse on Warwick Castle.

After being caught stealing from the Earl, Bloxham was captured and sentenced to endure a publicly humiliating torture where she placed a curse upon Warwick. Soon after Bloxham was gone, a great beast began to prowl the grounds of the castle. The beast has been described as being a great black dog with piercing red eyes. The beast was eventually defeated after being coaxed into the river where it perished, yet Bloxham’s legend continues to live on. A ghost named the Lady in Gray who materializes throughout the castle grounds is believed by some to be Moll Bloxham.

The Haunting of the Dungeon


In the coldness of the castle’s depths rests its former dungeon. While haunted by the tortured souls who met their demise while imprisoned within these depths, a different kind of spirit is responsible for the majority of ghostly activity. A dark and aggressive presence in the dungeon is thought to be that of a former jailer. This sinister ghost has been sighted behind a metal gate in the dungeon and is responsible for poltergeist activity, growls, scratches and forming into a shadow figure.

In 2009 it was decided to build a new feature to the castle and that was the Dungeon attraction, where the idea was to create a torture chamber where workers from the castle dress up and basically scare the socks of the visitors.

During its construction Site manager Paul Woodfield was left petrified when he spotted a strange figure in the hallways at the site. He was so scared he immediately upped tools and ran away in fear.

-An iron maiden in the dungeons of Warwick Castle

Oh my!

It seems like Warwick Castle has a long and tumultuous history, and the ghosts to prove it!

So…

Care to visit? 😉

Written by Emma Linfield

The Charm of a Ballerina’s Bun

Well, ladies and gents!

It is no coincidence that this sleek cut, always flawless, has become an ultimate classic. Dance groups around the world, tapping on their toes, reveal why the Ballerina’s bun is the ultimate female hairstyle.

Although the hairstyle is synonymous with ballet, it has its roots in the women of Ancient Greece, who created a hairstyle known today as Greek knot. A simple, low-necked chignon, typically decorated with jewels, was a symbol of elegance for wealthy Greek women.

The bun returned to modern society during the Regency period of 1800. Anyone familiar with the movie adaptations of Jane Austen's books will recognize the stylish hairstyles that were popular among middle and upper-class women.

Women of the Regency era in England loved classical aesthetics which was associated with the fashion and hairstyles of Ancient Greece and Rome. The women began to wrap their long hair in a bun, but lift it higher than the Greek bun at the back of the head.

Well, keep reading, hun! 🙂

Victorian Era

The rise of the bun came in the Victorian period. In the 19th century, there were many variations of the bun.

"Apollo's knot" was a popular hairstyle during the 1820s and 1830s and consisted of a middle chignon and curls around the face and ears.

Another popular variant of the bun called "La Chinoise" resembled Princess Leia's famous hairstyle in Star Wars.

Queen Victoria

The "Victoria" hairstyle by Queen Victoria was a more conservative hairstyle that reflected a dark and serious Victorian England. Two braids on both sides were attached to a simple bun on the back of the head and hung around the ears.

Under the influence of Queen Victoria, the bun became a more elegant and serious hairstyle that is typically associated with the stereotype of an "oppressed" Victorian society. 

In all of these variations, however, the bun was an important symbol of the category of discrimination for many women and a reflection of the times.

Modern Years

As the Victorian bun transformed into the more relaxed and natural "Gibson Girl" chic of the 1890s, it’s dominance came to an end.

During the  1920s, fashionable ladies gave up complicated hairstyles for free buns. 

And yet the charm of the bun remains strong today and is still in vogue, signaling a classic kind of hairstyle.

In ballet, of course, it never left.

Thank you for reading this article of mine and write below your replies so that I can see them! 

And please let me know your thoughts—did you enjoy the topic? 

If there is anything else you’d be interested in reading about the Regency Era, feel free to let me know…

…and who knows? Maybe you will read about it soon!

Written by Olivia Bennet

Victorian-era Graffiti and Symbols You Didn’t Know About

Hello, my sweetie! 

From the Middle Ages to the present, the British capital has always been the metropolis of visual communication and one of the birthplaces of modern advertising.

By the Victorian era, labels of the type “Florist”, “Tavern”, “Smithery” had disappeared. They had been replaced by inventive names, puns that impressed upon the mind and fancy paintings.

In fact, some brands that are now established as representatives of specific stores have their roots in Victorian London.

Keep reading, sweetie! 🙂

The Red Stripe Roller

The red stripe roller that exists outside many barberries was established by the London barbers.

Before the 11th century, when medicine in England was still in its infancy, many barbers used to perform the duties of a dentist and surgeon, since regular scientists were kind of deficient. In order for people to distinguish those who provided these extra services, the barbers placed a red wrapped pillar outside their store.

The pole symbolized the wooden stake that the barber gave the clients to hold during the operations so that their hand remained steady and the blood flow consecutive. The red cloth symbolized the blood. 

Over the years, the barber's responsibilities have been limited to haircuts and shaving. However, the pole with the wrapped red stripe had been established and remained out of several barbershops, still.

Other Uses of Symbols

Similarly, the representation of Adam and Eve in the gardens of Eden became synonymous with the grocery store, the unicorn horn was adopted by pharmacists and a bag full of nails by ironworks. 

Each merchant adjusted the facade of his shop according to his style, but always with the use of visual aids. Thus, until the invention of photography and printing, the London markets had been transformed into a large and colorful canvas, made up of fancy inscriptions competing against each other on impressing passers-by.

For example, a representation of the Pompeii disaster seemed to be the ideal “barker” of a business that undertook cockroach insecticides and disinfection.

Illustrations of housewives over steamy pots adorned grocery signs. The importance of allegory and subconscious messages in advertising was theorized many centuries later. English retailers had done it long before marketing became a science.

The First Graffiti

During the same period, the first graffiti appeared.

Street art was born as a form of protest. One of the first recorded graffiti in London was a poem written in Latin. In the following decades, people of lower social classes and “children of the street” used to “mark” the walls of their area with their names.

Young people began to write slogans of social, religious and political content. By way of example, some of the graffiti one could encounter on the streets of the British 18th-century would write: “Christ is God”, “Damn the Duke of Richmond!” or “Murder Jews”! 

Graffiti Art

The prison walls were also full of graffiti. Curses, names of loved ones, and verses of the Bible were at the top of the prisoners' preferences for decorating their cells.

The beggars on the streets also left their mark. They used to carve the pavement or write on the walls behind them. “Can you help me?”

Artists selling their work on the street followed a similar pattern. “Everything is my own creation”, they carved the floor next to their works. 

So London was never a dull city. The buildings, the streets, the shops always had a story to tell, as the residents made sure to imprint it on them...

Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!

I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!

Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!

It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like...Surprise me! 

Written by Violet Hamers

Strange Pastimes from the Victorian Era

I’ll be honest with you; as much as I love the Regency and Victorian times and their gossip-loving nobility, I would not have thrived if I had been born back then.

Why, chances are, I would have given my parents’ a whole lot of things to worry about and I certainly would have ended up a spinster.

With lots of horses.

And cats.

And dogs.

Which doesn’t sound so bad right now, actually, but oh dear! It would have been a curse back then!

Daily life in the Victorian Era was strictly regulated, with very particular rules of etiquette that were not to be breached, even during leisure time. In the mid-1800s, visits to public parks, libraries and halls increased (always chaperoned, of course!), however, that did not mean that social rules got any laxer.

Unbecoming behavior, such as public meetings with unmarried men, lapses in decorum, or unsuitable attire were still very much undesirable and forbidden.

Do you know what else was considered unbecoming behavior?

Picking flowers!

(I want to make a flower crown, sue me…)

Having said that though, there was a number of indoor and outdoor pastimes that people of all ages and social standings liked to indulge in, some more than others. Obviously, most of these activities were only accessible to the upper classes, but these social restrictions weren’t enough to stop people from having some much-needed fun.

I’ll go as far as to say that some of these pastimes became “the rage!”

And some of them were weirder than others…

Cemetery Picnics

Sounds crazy?

It sure does!

But I’m telling you, this really used to be a thing!

With fewer parks, gardens, and museums to choose from, many Victorians sought to have a good time in graveyards.

Sprawling “rural cemeteries” began cropping up in Britain after 1830. Groups would pack lunches and have picnics among the tombstones. Afterwards, they might go hunting or have carriage races on the grounds. Cemeteries became such heavily-trafficked destinations that guidebooks were distributed to visitors at some of the most famous locations.

Croquet

Croquet was introduced in England in 1856 and was probably brought to America in the early 1860’s. It was considered particularly suitable for women since it required considerable skills but not too much strength or technique.

(Victorians believed women were deficient in both. Like my iron deficiency, huh?)

Although croquet was never a popular men’s game, it had both social and economic advantages: men and women could play together, and it required little equipment and no special clothing.

-A drawing in an 1870 edition of The Illustrated London News included plenty of croquet players at the All-England Croquet Club. Hulton Archive, via Getty Images.

Fern Collecting

In the 19th century, “fern fever” or pteridomania caught England by storm. It was so prevalent that it was even given an official name: pteridomania. The phenomenon took off in 1829 when a British botanist named Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward started cultivating the plants in glass cases (later known as Wardian cases; today we call them terrariums). Soon enough, Victorians around the country were hunting desirable ferns to grow in their own homes. The hobby was especially popular among women, perhaps because it offered them a socially acceptable excuse to be outdoors unsupervised.

-"Gathering Ferns" (Helen Allingham) from The Illustrated London News, July 1871.

Anthropomorphic Taxidermy

When it came to the taxidermy of creatures of the Victorian period, some had more dignified afterlives than others. Positioning stuffed animals in typically human scenarios became a popular theme within the artform—and it was indeed an artform. Popular taxidermists like Walter Potter and Hermann Ploucquet put an extraordinary amount of effort into making their scenes come to life. Memorable pieces from the era depicted ice-skating hedgehogs, a classroom full of rabbits, and a wedding attended by kittens decked out in highly detailed garb.

Consider me adequately creeped out…

-Walter Potter’s Museum of Curiosities: “A Schoolroom of Rabbits”

Making Scrapbooks…With Seaweed

You can add seaweed to the list of plants Victorians were obsessed with. After collecting the specimens, scrapbookers would paste the multi-colored strands onto sheets of construction paper. The designs were more aesthetic than educational, with the seaweed sometimes arranged to spell out words or form images.

Using Hair To Make Jewelry

Though using human hair in art and jewelry dates back to ancient Egypt, the practice soared to new heights with the Victorians. Snippets of hair were woven into rings, necklaces, pins, watch chains, and other unique pieces of ornamentation. A lock of hair taken from a living loved one acted as a very personal version of a friendship bracelet. Hair cut from the deceased, meanwhile, was often made into keepsakes for those coping with their loss.

And here’s a bonus fan fact, that might not be related to the Victorian Era but I still find it interesting!

Did you know that scientists nowadays can turn human hair into diamonds?!

Some Good Ol’ Ghost Talking

Ah, I saved the best for last!

These days, “seances” seem more like the stuff you see in teen horror films, with a group of unsuspecting teenagers breaking out the Ouija board and unleashing unspeakable evil upon the world. But during the Victorian Era, attending one was a major event. At the time, Spiritualism—a religious practice focused on contacting the dead—was extremely popular. Spiritualists would host intimate séances at home, or go out to see mediums perform otherworldly acts on stage. In addition to moving Ouija boards, mediums would summon disembodied hands, levitate tables, and cough up ectoplasm during communions with the dead. Or at least, that’s how it seemed to participants who bought into their tricks.

Yeaaah, thanks, but no thanks!

Phew!

Victorians sure did know how to have fun, didn’t they?

Why, what could possibly be more exciting that human-looking deceased animals or eating your lunch among the tombstones of strangers?

….

….

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On a second thought, I’ll stick with my books, thank you!

Written by Hanna Hamilton

The Fascinating Story of Gentlemen’s Clubs

Hello, again, my dearies! 

Every well-respected Regency novel should mention at least one Gentleman's Club. In my mind, when I think of those clubs, I picture staid facades hiding smoke-filled rooms and intrigue amid wallpapers, expensive carpets, leather and mahogany furniture...

The Gentlemen's Clubs started in London in the 17th century and were places where the men of high society in England were gathered. Every respectable Regency gentleman belonged to a gentlemen's club. 

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” All exclusive gentlemen's clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

But why did men of that time need special places like those? If we take a look at the conditions that prevailed then, we can see how these clubs came about.

If you are interested in learning more then, my dear, keep reading! 😉

How the Gentlemen Clubs Got Started

The gentlemen's clubs were born in England. The first club to operate and pave the way for their expansion was White's, in west London. Initially, it was a shop selling hot chocolate and tea. Not what we have in mind, uh?

The man who founded White's in 1693 was Francesco Bianco, an Italian immigrant. In just a few years White's had become a privately owned club consisting of exclusive members.

White's started out as a traditional English coffeehouse, where customers met and discussed business and current affairs. The noticeable difference from classic pubs was that they did not serve alcohol at the coffeehouse. So customers who would like to stay sober and discuss some business, would go to the White's. Can I have a brandy, please? 

As the years passed, White's reputation spread and it became increasingly difficult to become a member. It gained the reputation that it was the right place to gamble. It had become so famous that his customers were called "White's gamblers."

Brooks's was the second club to open, long after White's, in 1762. It was opened by three former White's members, who were excluded for life from entering the club, and decided to open their own.

In the 18th and especially in the 19th century, most clubs were divided according to the political preferences of the members. In the 19th century, clubs were associated with parties of the time. Few were members of two clubs that supported different parties.

White's was frequented by members and friends of the Tories party (today's Conservative party), while Brook's was more targeted by Whigs’ friends (whose evolution is the Liberal Democratic Party).

However, the more clubs opened, the more specialized their goal became. For example, there were gambling clubs or travel clubs.

The Acne of Gentlemen Clubs 

The popularity of gentlemen's clubs was increasing in England. According to historical records of the time, their number exceeded 400 (!) clubs, the most well known being Almack's, Carlton, and the East India Club.

In the mid-19th century, the British parliament passed a series of legislation (also known as the Reform Acts) that gave more and more men the right to vote. The number of gentlemen was constantly increasing. Their status required them to become members of one club, and this created the need for more clubs.

In the Victorian era, the rules of good behavior controlled the lives of both women and men. The clubs were a place where men could be more relaxed and away from the "politically correct" behavior of the time.

English men of the time were often forced to marry women of the same upper social and economic class. Many times these women were from another country. There have been cases where the couple first met on their wedding day. As was natural, the couple often suffocated and illicit relationships and scandals were flourishing at that time. However, a scandal could lead to financial ruin, social disintegration, and even disengagement from the club, so everyone made sure to keep those relationships as secret as possible.

In their spare time, Englishmen of the time were playing billiards, gambling, reading, discussing theater and music, as well as timeliness. At the clubs, they found everything they wanted for them to be comfortable. Some clubs even had beds, but only for their members to sleep, as women were strictly forbidden. Oh my!

In 19th-century England, gambling was allowed only in certain places, and the clubs served this purpose precisely: to allow the upper classes to play gambling.

Historians of the time say that gambling was the main occupation of the gentlemen's clubs. The most popular game was the whist, the precursor to today's wistful.

In most games the players and those who watched them made bets. The amounts of bets have often been mythical. An example is Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who allegedly wagered £100.00 each night on the whist. White's had become the second home for the wealthy Duke, who had been sleeping in the club for years. 

The situation went beyond the limits in many cases. For some men, the passion for gambling became an obsession. Various bets have been recorded, such as which raindrop on the glass would reach the bottom of the window first, or if the next member coming to the club would enter the club  with his right or left foot…Men, am I right?

Gentlemen Club Today

Over the years the number of clubs began to decline. The socio-economic changes that took place in the 20th century led many clubs to close down.

Nowadays, while the aristocracy in England—with its titles of nobility and vast fortunes—remains, the upper classes have changed form. Technology has also played a role in this, as the internet and virtual reality have come into our lives for good. Places like clubs, small cinemas, and video clubs tend to gradually disappear...

For example, gambling was one of the main ways to entertain club members. With the legalization of gambling in recent decades, there was no longer any need for gentlemen's clubs.

However, the gentlemen's clubs have not completely disappeared; although in most cases there are no longer any restrictions on gender or socio-economic status.

White's is still there, though it has now been moved to St. James street, and continues to be an attraction for the British aristocracy. Prince Charles and his son, Prince William, as well as other members of the British royal family are members of the club, which still retains its old style.

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

You’re fantastic 🙂

Written by Scarlett Osborne

The Secret Language of the Victorian Fan

Let’s be honest here.

There’s something exquisitely graceful about a beautiful, well-dressed lady waving her fan bashfully.

With uses ranging from the practical to the symbolic, fans have been playing the part of the link between cultures for thousands of years.

They can keep you cool in hot weather, serve in religious ritual, display sophistication and wealth, or function as an advertising medium. Perhaps the most enduring role of the handheld fan is as the symbol of wealth or Royalty, which stretches as far back as the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Babylon and continues even to this day.

However, there’s one lesser-known fact about fans that you probably haven’t heard of before.

Fans had and, to this day, still have their very own distinct language!

As it turns out, Regency and Victorian Era ladies were experts at it!

And today, I’m going to walk you through this unique code of courting, flirting and secret messages!

The Code of Fans

Carrying the fan, open, in the left hand: “Come and talk to me.”

Touching the tip of the fan with the finger: “I wish to speak to you.”

Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: “Yes.”

Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: “No.”

Drawing the fan through the hand: “I hate you.”

Drawing the fan across the cheek: “I love you.”

Presenting the fan shut: “Do you love me?”

-1886 feather opera fans and satin painted fan

Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are watched.”

Twirling the fan in the right hand: “I love another.”

To fan very slowly: “I am married.”

To fan very quickly: “I am engaged.”

To put the handle of the fan to the lips: “Kiss me.”

To open the fan wide: “Wait for me.”

-Vallotton, Félix Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

To place the fan behind the head: “Do not forget me.”

To do so with the little finger extended: “Goodbye.”

Carrying the fan in the right hand and in front of the face: “Follow me.”

To press the half-opened fan to the lips: “You may kiss me.”

Clasping the hands under the open fan: “Forgive me.”

To cover the left ear with the open fan: “Do not betray our secret.”

To hide the eyes behind the open fan: “I love you.”

To shut the full open fan very slowly: “I promise to marry you.”

Drawing the fan across the eyes: “I am sorry.”

Touching the tip of the fan with the finger: “I wish to speak to you.”

Number of sticks shown: Corresponding hour to meet.

Placing the fan near the heart: “You have won my love.”

-Eva Gonzales, Drawing, 43 x 28 cm, 1869, (Minneapolis Institute of Arts (United States))

Oh dear, how very exciting!

I’ve always been extremely interested in secret codes and this special use of such an unassuming item makes my senses tingle!

Now, doesn’t a heroine who uses this language deserve her own story? And a Duke?

Hmm….

Written by Patricia Haverton

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