Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Traitor's Fate

Until 1870, if you were a man (not a woman) convicted of high treason in Great Britain, the judge would pronounce sentence upon you as follows:
That you the prisoner, now at the bar, be conveyed hence to the place from whence you came, and that you be conveyed thence on a hurdle to the place of execution; where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down alive, that your privy members be cut off, your bowels taken out and burnt in your view; that your head be severed from your body; that your body be divided into four quarters; which are to be disposed of at the king's pleasure; and God of his infinite mercy have mercy upon your soul.
The penalty was called drawing and quartering, and it was pretty strong stuff. Perhaps that was why, at the urging of regency reformer Sir Samuel Romilly, the emasculation and disembowelment sections of the law were repealed in the Treason Act of 1814.

Thomas Harrison, one of the regicides who condemned King Charles I to death, and under Charles II received the full pre-1814 punishment for high treason. The diarist Samuel Pepys wrote of the 1660 execution, "I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition."
The 1814 law also left it to the king's discretion whether those convicted of high treason had to be drawn to the place of execution on a hurdle, and also whether "such person shall not be hanged by the Neck, but that instead thereof the Head shall be there severed from the Body of such person whilst alive." The law still specified, however, that whether the person was hanged to death or beheaded, the traitor should ultimately end up with his head cut off and his body divided into four quarters. High treason was the most serious crime a man could commit in Great Britain, and it was punished accordingly.

The last persons actually condemned to be drawn and quartered in England were the Cato Street conspirators, a group of regency radicals. They were followers of the late Thomas Spence, who had espoused the notion that "if all the land in Britain was shared out equally, there would be enough to give every man, woman and child seven acres each." With unrest in the country growing, radical "levellers" like the Spenceans worried the government so much that the Home Office planted spies in the group.

In February of 1820 one such spy, George Edwards, informed a leader of the group, Arthur Thistlewood, that government ministers would be holding a cabinet dinner at the Grosvenor Square home of Lord Harrowby. Thistlewood hatched a plan to storm Harrowby's house, kill the ministers, and then display the heads of Lord Castlereagh and Lord Sidmouth (the leader of the House of Commons and the Home Secretary respectively) on poles. The heads would be paraded through the poorer sections of London, and public buildings would be set on fire in the hopes of inciting the total overthrow of the government. To that end, Thistlewood and his followers rented a vacant stable and hayloft not far from Grosvenor Square, on a street off Edgeware Road called Cato Street.

The Cato Street Conspirators
An artist's rendering of the Cato Street raid, with Smithers the Bow Street Runner being run through.

On February 23, conspirators gathered in the Cato Street command post with guns, swords, knives, and a hand grenade. Across the street in a public house, a magistrate from Bow Street, Richard Birnie, assembled with a dozen Bow Street Runners and a government spy named George Ruthven. They stormed the stable to arrest the conspirators. Ruthven shouted, "We are peace officers. Lay down your arms." But when a Bow Street Runner named Smithers moved in, Thistlewood stabbed him with a sword. Smithers died soon after.

Several of the conspirators surrendered, several had to be overpowered, and several escaped. Unfortunately for the escapees, George Edwards had provided the government with the names of all the Cato Street participants. Eleven men were eventually brought to trial.

The government had learned from a previous trial against Spencean radicals--Thistlewood included--that their own spies made poor witnesses, since the counsel for the defense was able to portray them as agents provocateurs, agitators who incited citizens to commit crimes they otherwise might not have committed. In this case, Edwards had brought the cabinet dinner at Lord Harrowby's house to Thistlewood's attention. Prosecutors were able to persuade three of the conspirators to give evidence against the eleven defendents in return for dropping the charges against them. During the trial, James Ings testified that Edwards had drawn him unwittingly into the conspiracy, and, bursting into tears, said, "I am like a bullock drove into Smithfield to be sold...I hope, before you give your verdict, that you will see this man brought forward, or else, I consider myself a murdered man."

On April 28, 1820, all of the Cato Street defendents were found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. Thistlewood complained at his sentencing that the court had refused to allow him to "prove the infamy of Adams, of Heiden, and of Dwyer," the three chief witnesses against him, and George Edwards was never put on the stand at all.

Though the Cato Street conspirators were the last traitors in Great Britain sentenced to drawing and quartering, the sentence was afterward commuted to hanging and posthumous beheading, and six of the prisoners who had changed their plea from "not guilty" to "guilty" had their death sentences commuted to transportation.

A May Day Garland for 1820
Government figures dance around the severed heads of the Cato Street conspirators in a reference to their May Day executions, while in the background, spy George Edwards fiddles and says, "Dance away my friends, I have been the cause of all this fun by your help and money, 'Edwards the Instigator!'"

Executions were carried out swiftly in the early 19th century. On May 1, 1820, Thistlewood, John Brunt, William Davidson, James Ings and Richard Tidd were brought out before a crowd at Newgate. Ings began shouting the song "Death or Liberty," prompting Richard Tidd to tell him more than once to stop making noise. The men were then hanged--Ings and Brunt struggled for quite a while--and left on the gallows for half an hour before their bodies were lowered one at a time. A masked man cut the head from each body with a surgeon's knife. He passed the head in turn to the assistant executioner, Thomas Cheshire, who held it up for the crowd to see and proclaimed from each side of the scaffold, "This is the head of (name), the traitor!" The head and body were then placed together in a coffin.

It was all quite gruesome, even without the privy member removal and the burning bowels.

Alyssa EverettAlyssa Everett's upcoming regency romance, A Tryst With Trouble, includes a brief mention of the Cato Street conspirators and their fate. When it's released on September 23, it will join her current release, Lord of Secrets, and her debut regency, Ruined by Rumor. Alyssa hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Not-So-Secret Hero Material

The United States Secret Service gets a lot of attention (good and bad) for its role in protecting the President, the First Family, and presidential candidates on the trail. But that wasn’t their original intended role. The Secret Service was formed by Abraham Lincoln in April, 1865, days prior to his death, to combat the rampant counterfeit issue with US currency brought on by the Civil War.  A branch of the Treasury Department, the branch began investigating everything from bad money to murder because, at that time, no other apparatus of the federal government had the jurisdiction to do so except the US Marshalls and they were short on man power.

So how did an organization started to battle funny money become the protector of US presidents?  Here’s a short timeline of Big Moments in Secret Service History:
  • 1865 – The Secret Service is created
  • 1901 – Congress first informally requested the Secret Service provide protection following the assassinating of President William McKinley
  • 1902 – The Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for the protection of the president (the Uniformed Division)
  • 1968 – As a result of the Robert Kennedy assassination, Congress authorized protection of major presidential candidates and nominees (they may decline protection)
  • 1965 & 1968 – Congress authorizes lifetime protection for the spouses of deceased presidents (unless they remarry) and the children of former presidents until age sixteen, or ten years after the presidency
  • 2003 – Oversight of the department was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security
While some responsibilities have been siphoned off the Secret Service, they still do vastly more than protect presidential types. They are still involved in tracking and prosecuting counterfeiters as well as electronic or cyber crimes with regard to financial institutions and ‘critical infrastructures.’

Secret Service agents have served as romantic heroes in Hollywood since the 1950’s when Burt Lancaster starred in Mister 880, and most notably in1992’s The Bodyguard, which featured Kevin Costner as a retired agent protecting a music diva.  Most recently, Gerard Butler surfaced as hero material as Agent Mike Banning in Olympus has Fallen.  Can you say “eye candy”?

I recently started a new WIP that features a Secret Service hero, and the research has been so much fun! So which type of heroic agent turns the pages for you?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hero's Redemption Cover Reveal

Hello everyone. I'm excited to show you the beautiful cover for my July 29, 2013 release, 
Hero's Redemption.
I hope you love it as much as I do.

London, 1817

Devon, the Earl of Malton, is a hero for his deeds at the Battle of Waterloo. But he suffers terrible nightmares, and drinks himself to sleep most nights. A habit he vows to break when he awakes one morning to find a woman sharing his bed, no memory of how she got there, and her angry brother at his door.

Cathleen is mortified when her wastrel brother and his greedy wife propose a blackmail scheme involving the earl, but as a penniless war widow she's at their mercy. She goes along with the plan and sneaks into Devon's bed one night, and ends up comforting him through a night terror.

Charmed by her beauty and kindness, Devon determines that rather than pay the blackmail, he will offer his hand in marriage to Cathleen. Although she is deeply attracted to the stoic earl, Cathleen cannot understand why Devon would want to marry her. What she doesn't know is that Devon owes her a debt that can never fully be repaid…

34,000 words

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Medieval New York

I’ve always daydreamed about medieval castles and valiant knights, even a few damsels in distress. Fortunately when I traveled overseas for business several years ago I had time over the weekends to sight see.
I didn’t have to go overseas though, I could go to Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan, New York City and visit the Cloisters. The Cloisters and its gardens is rises proudly on the shores of the Hudson River.
The museum opened in 1936 and is devoted to medieval art and architecture. The building itself is not a copy but rather a composite design incorporating elements from Saint-Michel-de-CuxaSaint-Guilhem-le-D├ęsertBonnefont-en-CommingesTrie-en-Bigorre, and Froville from the 12th to 15th centuries.
 Interested in medieval art, George Grey Barnard, a sculptor and architect, gathered discarded fragments of medieval architecture from French villages before World War I. He established this collection in a church-like brick building near his home in Washington Heights, Manhattan in New York City. The collection outgrew its home.
The building and collection were purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1925.  Rockefeller, also an avid art collector, added to the collection. His most notable addition was the Flemish tapestries depicting The Hunt of the Unicorn.  The Hunt of the Unicorn   
In addition, Rockefeller funded the acquisition of nearly 67 acres that the Cloisters sits on today, north of Barnard’s original building, as well as an additional 700 acres across the Hudson River in New Jersey to ensure the view. Incorporating the various cloisters from Europe, Charles Collens went on to design The Cloisters we see today. The Cloisters is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The curators made every attempt to maintain the medieval appearance. The land surrounding the Cloisters has been planted according to horticultural information found in medieval treatises and poetry, garden documents and herbals. The Cloisters houses a wonderful collection of over five thousand works of art from medieval Europe, dating from the ninth to the sixteenth century. Works include tapestries, stained-glass windows, column capitals, exquisite illuminated manuscripts,  metalwork, enamels, and ivories all set in this unique context.
On a warm summer day you can find the grounds of The Cloister filled with sight seers and picnickers. While it may not be exactly the same a walking through the medieval buildings in Europe, it’s a close second!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Introducing A Dream Defiant!

I'll be taking a few months off from my series on titles and forms of address for the British aristocracy to celebrate my July 29 novella release, A Dream Defiant. Isn't the cover beautiful?

While this book is set in 1813 in the aftermath of the Battle of Vittoria, a cursory glance at the cover will tell you this isn't your typical Regency romance. Like most of my heroes, Elijah Cameron is a British soldier, one who's been in the army since his early youth and knows its ways well. But rather than leaving a village in England or Scotland as a lad, he grew up with his regiment. His parents, born in Virginia as slaves, ran away to the British lines during the American Revolution and spent the next twenty-five years as servants--free and fairly paid--of a senior officer in the regiment.

Growing up as he did, it's hardly surprising that Elijah became first a drummer boy and then a soldier. When his story opens he's content with his life, only to have it turned upside down when a dying comrade in arms entrusts him with a treasure to give to his soon-to-be-widow--a beautiful and quietly brave women Elijah has admired from afar for years.

So, what compelled me to write the story of a black redcoat in the Napoleonic Wars? Well, it started a few years ago, when I was reading about black Union soldiers in the Civil War on Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog. (See one such post HERE.)

I briefly considered writing my own Civil War story--it's an era I know almost as well as the Napoleonic Wars, after all. But I just couldn't get over the feeling that it was presumptuous of me to write a black Union soldier as a hero, given that I'm not only a white woman, I'm a white woman born and raised in Alabama and the great-great-granddaughter of a Confederate soldier from that same state. Put simply, I felt like I had no right to cloak myself in the mantle of the right side of a war where my ancestors were unequivocally on the wrong side.

(It's not that I feel guilty about my ancestry--I hardly chose it myself, after all--nor do I think my great-great-grandfather was a bad person. I don't know much about him, really, beyond that he was extremely fertile, fathering seventeen children with three wives in succession. He didn't own slaves--my family were poor Appalachian farmers right up through the Depression. He wasn't a moral giant enough to have challenged the values of his state and his culture, but how many of us are? Still, none of that changes the fact that the Civil War was one of those few conflicts with a clear right and wrong side, and my ancestor fought for the latter.)

So I decided to write about a black soldier in my era. I knew such soldiers existed, in both the French and British armies. They're mentioned in Swords Around a Throne, John Elting's encyclopedic book on Napoleon's army, and I'd run across occasional references in my research on the British army. While a black man in the British army was more likely to be in a West Indian regiment or to be part of a regimental band (that stereotype already existed, evidently), I never found any evidence that someone like my Elijah wouldn't have been permitted to enlist in a regular redcoat infantry regiment, so I gave my muse free rein. As for how well it turned out, in a little less than two months you can be the judge of that!

A Dream Defiant is already available for preorder at AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle, and the iTunes store, and will be available on the Carina site and other e-tailers as the release date draws closer.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Beguiling the Barrister

This month sees the publication in the second of my four-book Regency
series featuring the Forster Dynasty. In Beguiling the Barrister Flick - Lady Felicity Forster - takes her chance to shine. With three older brothers, including the head of the family Hal Forster, Marquess of Denby, Flick has been cossetted and protected for her entire life, and she's had just about enough of it.

She's getting impatient with her neighbour, Darius Grantley, as well. She decided at the age of twelve, when she fell out of an oak tree and he was there to pick her up, that she planned to marry her handsome rescuer. Seems Darius has different ideas, which is downright insulting. She knows Darius enjoys her company but he seems more interested in forging a career for himself, defending the rights of the underprivileged in the famous Old Bailey courthouse, than he is pursuing Flick. Well, there's only so much neglect a girl can take and, taking advantage of a brief respite in the watch her brothers keep over her, Flick persuades Beth to go with her to the courthouse and watch her beloved in action.

Here's how she gets on:-

“Are you telling the court that Mr. Fuller called on you to take tea?” Darius Grantley elevated his brows, an expression of incredulity gracing his handsome face. “Nothing more sinister than that?”
“Well, he does enjoy a nice biscuit an’ all.”
“No money changed hands in return for the supposed services you provide in the establishment where you reside?”
“Ain’t no supposed about it,” muttered some wit in the public gallery. “Been there meself so I know about what I speak.”
Laughter erupted and was as quickly extinguished when the judge banged his gavel, a mask of impatience and considerable ill-humour flitting across his countenance.
Flick suppressed a smile. She and her sister-in-law were observing the proceedings from the public gallery. “I don’t think the judge approves of Miss Adams,” she whispered to Beth.
“I shall clear the courtroom if there are any more interruptions,” his lordship boomed. “Pray, continue, Mr. Grantley.”
“I’m obliged to your lordship.” Darius Grantley, barrister at law, straightened his shoulders and turned his attention to the woman in the dock. “Please answer the question, Miss Adams.”
“What was the question again, sir? What with all the excitement, it clear went out of my head.”
“Did you do it for money, love?” the same heckler yelled out.
“Absolutely not!” Miss Adams’s hand fluttered against her breast. “The very idea. I’m a respectable woman, and that’s the truth.”
“He’s good, isn’t he?” Flick said.
“He seems to know what he’s doing,” Beth conceded. “But why is he defending a woman of…well, a woman of such questionable morals?”
“Darius believes that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law,” Flick responded loftily. “He’s very liberally minded that way.”
Darius Grantley’s star was very much in the ascendancy at the Old Bailey since he’d chosen to defend wretched creatures often forced by desperation into committing crimes. The great and good in the legal profession generally agreed that his talents were wasted on, and went largely unappreciated by, his motley collection of clients. Perhaps that was true, but Darius appeared determined to serve them regardless of the fact that principles and conscience alone singularly failed to pay the rent.
“From the evidence already presented, it seems his client is as guilty as sin, in spite of your Darius’s best efforts to confuse the jury,” Beth said.
“Shush!” Flick pressed a finger to her lips. “This is very interesting. I don’t want to miss anything.”
“Not much chance of that,” Beth whispered back. “Your eyes have barely left Mr. Grantley’s person since we got here.”
The object of Flick’s affections grasped the edges of his black flowing robe and affected an air of astonishment. “Are you asking the court to believe that the gentleman who complained about being overcharged was a personal acquaintance who stopped by for a cup of tea and stimulating…er, conversation?”
“That’s right, ducks. He’s a sprightly old gent. He can still manage to get it—”
“Thank you, Miss Adams,” the judge intervened, much to Flick’s irritation. She’d very much like to know what it was that old Mr. Fuller could still manage to do. With three overprotective brothers to contend with, her education in that respect was woefully incomplete. “Confine yourself to answering counsel’s questions.”
“I was doing until you interrupted me, wasn’t I? Mr. Fuller gets confused sometimes, bless his heart. Well, at his age, what else can you expect?”
Darius glanced up, as though seeking inspiration from the four brass chandeliers overhead, and his gaze alighted on Flick and Beth. His expression showed surprise, quickly followed by irritation.
“Blast, he’s seen us!” Flick, her features hidden behind her veiled hat, had hoped their presence would go undetected.
“I don’t know why you’re so surprised,” Beth said, smiling. “You don’t have it in you to blend in.”
“Nonsense, I’d make a first-class wallflower.”
“You!” Beth covered a splutter of laughter with her hand. “Hardly, my dear. Apart from being so much better dressed than everyone here, you’re so lovely that you naturally attract attention wherever you go. You don’t bear even a passing resemblance to a humble wallflower.”
Flick wrinkled her nose. “What you mean is that I never did learn to impersonate a statue. Miss Archer quite despaired of me but I told her that all that rigid etiquette—pretending not to listen to interesting conversations that aren’t supposed to be for one’s ears—is pointless. I mean, how else is one supposed to know what’s happening in the world?” She waved her fingers at Darius. He glowered back at her and returned to the questioning of his client. “Oh dear, he doesn’t look too happy to see us, does he?”
“What else did you expect?”
Flick glanced at the motley assortment of people watching the proceedings. Beth was right. The two of them really didn’t belong here, especially given the nature of the trial in question, and they were attracting considerable unwanted attention. It didn’t bother her but she could see that Beth felt quiet discomposed by it.
“Sorry,” she said, covering Beth’s gloved hand with one of her own. “We shouldn’t have come.”
“Never mind, we’re here now. Let’s see how your Mr. Grantley gets his client out of this one. Not that I think he will but you keep telling me he’s clever enough to achieve anything he sets his mind to. It will be interesting to see if you’re right.”
“You still have doubts about him?” Flick pouted. “How could you? He’s truly magnificent.”
The magnificent Mr. Grantley appeared to have lost his thread and passed his client over to counsel for the crown without asking any more questions.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Harris,” Miss Adams said when the man stood up. “I didn’t realize it was you sitting down there. How are you, ducks? Haven’t seen you for…er, a cup of tea, for a while.”
The courtroom erupted into guffaws of laughter.

Beguiling the Barrister - Available on pre-order from Carina Press  and all etailors