Easter in Early Modern England

The Lenten and Easter season in pre-Reformation England was rich in sights and sounds and smells. Shrove Tuesday was celebrated with pancakes and football games, plays and masquerades. Ash Wednesday brought the blessing of ashes and their application by the priest to the foreheads of the faithful with the injunction ‘Remember O man that thou are … Continue reading Easter in Early Modern England

Elizabethan Magpie Pickings

I have something of a magpie brain—I like to collect shiny bits of information, not necessarily immediately useful but interesting, to me at least. Over the past few weeks I have been heavily revising my current work in progress, The Bridled Tongue, and checking that I have no glaring anachronisms. These are some of the … Continue reading Elizabethan Magpie Pickings

More than just written words?

Yesterday was National Handwriting Day in a number of countries and wonderful images of pages handwritten by various people from the past were floating around the internet.  One was the the draft of a speech given by Elizabeth I to Parliament on 10 April 1563 responding to a House of Lords petition urging her to … Continue reading More than just written words?

Black Friday, 13 January 1939

It is 80 years today since the Black Friday bushfires which devastated the Gippsland area of Victoria. In 1989, on the 50th anniversary of those fires, my mother, Catherine Mary (McGrath) Merrick, put her memories of that day on paper . ~~~ 'What a dreadful day. The hills of East Gippsland and beyond Melbourne were … Continue reading Black Friday, 13 January 1939

An Unseasonal Christmas – Rain, Wind and Snow in 1878

In less than one hundred years of British settlement in Australia, settlers had developed certain expectations of Christmas -- the weather would be warm, dinner could be taken al fresco, the afternoon would be spent in outdoor activities. But 1878 was a year when the 'clerk of the weather' decided to show that he had … Continue reading An Unseasonal Christmas – Rain, Wind and Snow in 1878

‘It is an action like a stratagem in war where man can err but once’ – Choosing a spouse in 16th century England

During the 16th century, as in the centuries both before and after, marriage was a state that most aspired to - it gave both men and women status not only as full adults but, in the case of men, that of householder. Without marriage, women had few opportunities to independently support themselves. Except for those … Continue reading ‘It is an action like a stratagem in war where man can err but once’ – Choosing a spouse in 16th century England

Early Modern Children

We are fortunate that a number of portraits survive of children from the upper levels of society in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period. These give us a glimpse of childhood in that period and hint at the ways childhood, the raising of children, and even life itself differ from today. Infants were swaddled … Continue reading Early Modern Children

A Glimpse of Elizabethan Norwich

I am currently revising my next novel, The Bridled Tongue, which is set partly in Norwich. Although Norwich suffered extensive bombing during World War II, there are numerous areas where Norwich's history is still plain. In 2016 I visited Norwich and so was able to glimpse the streets and sights that would have been familiar … Continue reading A Glimpse of Elizabethan Norwich

One Minute Book Review – Girolamo Savonarola: The Renaissance Preacher by Samantha Morris

Girolamo Savonarola was a 15th century Dominican friar. For most people today, he is known either for his striking portrait by Baccio della Porta (Fra Bartolomeo) or for his association with the Bonfires of the Vanities in Florence where Savonarola’s supporters publicly burnt thousands of objects considered to be distractions from religious duties and possible … Continue reading One Minute Book Review – Girolamo Savonarola: The Renaissance Preacher by Samantha Morris

‘The great daunger of childbyrth’

While not an absolute rarity, portraits of pregnant women were not common in the Renaissance period. Surprisingly, there are  a number of late Elizabethan and early Jacobean portraits of women at an advanced stage of pregnancy, sometimes surrounded by their children, sometimes alone. Many of these were painted by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. When I … Continue reading ‘The great daunger of childbyrth’