Archive for September, 2009

I’ve heard this song on the radio (by Taylor Swift), but only just discovered that it has a part-historical romance video.

Take a look: the costumes are a bit odd. The man seems to be in regency, but the woman (Taylor Swift) is in Georgian….well still a good video anyway!


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Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour is a new four part TV series on Channel 4, and part 1 Kevin McCloud's Grand Touraired last Sunday evening. In the programme, Kevin retraces the steps of the early 17th & 18th century aristocratic adventurers, who were shipped off to Europe in the historical equivalent of the gap year to learn about life, love, sex and culture. Some of them, like Inigo Jones and Robert Adam, brought back ideas about architecture that had a lasting impact on cultural life in Britain. The classical design influences they soaked up on the Grand Tour are reflected in many of our most beautiful buildings, such as Banqueting House Whitehall, the Bank of England and Covent Garden Piazza, as well as numerous great houses and other buildings in towns and cities across the country.

The Grand Tour is often mentioned in historical romances, but rarely in detail, so this series is going to be fun to follow. The cost of the original Grand Tour was rather staggering, and therefore reserved for what Kevin McCloud describes as ‘young, posh and loaded’ gentlemen. The average cost of £300 (plus another £50 if accompanied by a servant) equates to £40,000 in today’s money. Then there are the funds for those little extras: wine, gambling and sex ;0) Apparently the English gained a reputation early on for partying hard!

In part 1, after a quick stop in Paris to spend a fortune on the latest fashions – there’s a very funny sequence where Kevin goes to a couturier and emerges dressed in the most outrageous outfit, just as the original Grand Tourists would have done – it was on to northern Italy, to Genoa, Vincenza and Venice. The programme was visually stunning and Kevin McCloud is a knowledgeable and engaging guide who never allows his presence to overwhelm the subject matter. I’ll certainly be tuning in to the rest of the series and buying the accompanying book 🙂

*photo of Kevin McCloud at Villa Lucia in Naples by Hugo Macgregor, published in RadioTimes 19-25th September 2009

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Last thursday was 9th September, a date that sparked a rush of weddings in Gretna Green. The special date (9/9/9) was predicted to be particularly popular with UK emergency service workers planning on getting married. (For those who may not know, 999 is the UK telephone number for fire, police and ambulance services)

47 marriages were due to take place on 9th September in Gretna, a number well up on the usual number of mid week weddings in the famous border town. There’s no excuse for the 47 couples who tied the knot in Gretna last Thursday to forget their anniversary *g*
A soupçon of history: Gretna Green is one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations, hosting over 5000 weddings each year. Gretna’s famous runaway marriages began in 1753 when the Marriages Act was passed in England. The Act was also known as Lord Hardwicke’s Act, as a reference to the Lord Chancellor of the time. The act stated that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, then consent to the marriage had to be given by the parents. The Act did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to get married at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent.

The Marriage Act put an end to irregular and clandestine marriages (including the famous, or infamous, Fleet marriages) and couples had to travel to the village of Gretna Green in order to escape the jurisdiction of English Law.

The Old Blacksmith’s shop in Gretna (see photo above*), built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal point for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith’s opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887.

Gretna Green was described by William Gilpin 1776, as ‘the great resort of such unfortunate nymphs, as happen to differ with their parents, and guardians on the subject of marriage. It is not a disagreeable scene. The village is concealed by a grove of trees; which occupy a gentle rise; at the end of which stands the church: and the picture is finished with two distances, one of which is very remote…

Of all the seminaries in Europe, this is the seat, where that species of literature, called novel-writing, may be the most successfully studied. A few months conversation with the literati of this place, will furnish the inquisitive student with such a fund of anecdotes, that with a moderate share of imagination in tacking them together, he may spin out as many volumes as he pleases. In his hands may shine the delicacy of that nymph, and an apology for her conduct, who unsupported by a father, unattended by a sister, boldly throws herself into the arms of some adventurer; flies in the face of every thing, that bears the name of decorum; endures the illiberal laugh, and jest of a whole country, through which she runs; mixes in the shocking scenes of this vile place, where every thing that is low, indelicate, and abominable presides; (no Loves and Graces to hold the nuptial torch, or lead the hymeneal dance; an inn the temple, and an innkeeper the priest;) and suffers her name to be inrolled (I had almost said) in the records of prostitution.

Wow. ‘Vile Place, where every thing that is low, indelicate, and abominable presides.’ I don’t think Gilpin was too impressed with Gretna and its association with the romance and scandal themes that appeared in popular novels ;0) As my teenage niece would say: way harsh!

* Photo of Blacksmith’s Shop, Gretna Green by Niki Odolphie, reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence.

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Loves Me, Loves Me Not - Front Cover

If you enjoy short stories, such as Elizabeth Hanbury’s Midsummer Eve at Rookery End (reviewed in the previous post), look out for Loves Me, Loves Me Not. It’s an anthology of short stories by members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary.

It’s a beautifully produced book with over forty stories in a variety of time periods and genres – something for everyone. The new Chair of the RNA, Katie Fforde, has written the introduction and has contributed a short story. Other contributors include Joanna Trollope, Adele Parks, Judy Astley, Rosie Harris, Anna Jacobs, Katie Flynn, Maureen Lee, Janet Gover, Victoria Connelly, Nicola Cornick and Sue Moorcroft, who also co-edited it.

It’s currently available in paperback from Amazon and the hardback is due in major bookshops from September 18. Great value for money and a book you can dip into over and over again!

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There is a great review of Elizabeth Hanbury’s anthology “Midsummer Eve at Rookery End” here:


Of course, here at E-Scape Press we loved Elizabeth’s stories as soon as we read them, so a good review just echo’s what we already knew!

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Festival Director Jackie Herring on the right

If you’re in Bath on 19th September 2009 between 11am and 12.30pm, you may be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported back to Regency times.

It’s the Grand Regency Promenade, a regular feature of the annual Jane Austen Festival, and this year there’ll be an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the ‘Largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes’.

This is the 9th Festival and it’s bigger and better than ever, with 44 events – including a real wedding, Regency style!

View the programme here. Wish I could go, but I’m book signing that weekend. Never mind, there’s always next year!

(Picture courtesy of the Jane Austen Centre website, showing Jackie Herring, Festival Director, and a Regency mannequin)

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