Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Long-term Consequences of a Failed Scottish Marriage

by Anna Belfrage

These days we’ve grown quite accustomed to the fact that if a marriage doesn't work, we can simply get a divorce. No big deal, in this modern world of ours, and unhappy couples separate legally and are free to find happiness elsewhere. Happiness, of course, is just as elusive now as it always has been, but at least the modern man and woman can attempt to try anew.

Not so the people of the past – or so we believe. Once married, they were permanently tied to each other, their union impossible to break. But in reality, things weren't all that different in the past to how they are now: people with money and clout could always wiggle themselves out of uncomfortable situations – such as an unhappy marriage.

Back then, most of the people with money and clout were men, so it follows it was the wife who was put aside, either because her spouse discovered they were more closely related than he had known, thereby falling within the forbidden circle that required Papal dispensation (how convenient), or through assorted creative methods, one of which was forcing the wife to take the veil.
However, divorce before the 20th century was rare. Very rare. Consanguinity, pre-contract or lack of consent were essentially the only acceptable grounds. So most married couples did, in fact, live together until parted by death. Once again, quite often the wife was the one who did the departing, mainly due to the strains of childbirth.

A marriage that worked?
James V and Marie de Guise
From our advantage of hindsight, we can shake our heads and shudder at the barbarity of arranged marriages, and there is no doubt that now and then these marriages were horribly unhappy, but just as often they were not. One must remember that the men and women of the previous centuries (except for the latest one) did not necessarily expect to be happy. They aimed for content and safe, settled for someone who would help them raise their children, someone who somehow added to their families’ overall standing and fortune.

In England, acquiring a divorce remained a messy thing well into the 20th century. The accepted grounds for divorce were essentially adultery, but further to that, a spouse had to prove cruelty and abuse of some kind or another to be free of the philandering partner. In Scotland, however, things had been much, much easier since back in the 16th century. Personally, I think John Knox deserves a pat on the back for this – but then I am quite ambivalent to this fascinating man, on the one hand vilifying female rulers in his tract “First Blast of the Trumpet”, on the other a man who clearly enjoyed the company of women – and respected them.

So what did Scotland do back in the 16th century? Well, they decided to allow divorce, that’s what those savvy Scots did. Furthermore, the issue of divorce was transferred out of the ecclesiastic courts to be handled by lawmen rather than priests – which makes a lot of sense when one considers that most marriages at the time were contractual arrangements that involved property moving hands. (This is not to say the powerful Scottish Kirk did not keep a beady eye on proceedings – it most certainly did!) However, divorce was still a last remedy, and was essentially only granted for two reasons, one of which was adultery.

These Scots were progressive types, very much into gender equality (well…) How else to explain their decision that both men and women could demand a divorce on account of adultery – quite unheard of in a world where a man’s indiscretions were just that – indiscretions – while a woman’s adventures with another man than her husband were a sin, a grievous, grievous sin, very much in keeping with the female lack of morality and propensity for uncontrolled lust.

Interestingly enough, no law was ever passed confirming the right to divorce due to adultery. Instead, it was assumed that the prohibition against divorce on account of adultery went out of the window together with the allegiance to the Pope, and a decade or so later, divorce due to adultery was an established common law practise.

A rousing Reformation sermon with John Knox

Had the Scots left it at that – divorce on account of adultery – it would have been an improvement, but maybe not a major improvement. However, due to the antics of two people with that intoxicating combination of money and clout, Scottish divorce legislation came to recognise another reason for divorce, namely desertion by either party. This had the benefit of being much easier to arrange – and prove – plus it did not tar one of the parties as being an unfaithful git. But let me introduce you to the main protagonists in all this, namely the Earl of Argyll – Archibald Campbell – and Lady Jean Stewart, one of James V’s many by-blows.

Little Jean might have been born out of wedlock, but her royal father was well-practised in handling such sensitive issues and in general took good care of his offspring. On her mother’s side, she was related to the Beatons – a powerful family which counts among its more (in)famous members Cardinal David Beaton. He was the Archbishop of St Andrews who instigated the trial and execution by burning of religious reformer George Wishart, and who some time afterwards was assassinated by William Kirkcaldy and a couple of aggravated Leslies. Beaton’s body was hanged from the window of his castle for everyone to see, and in many ways his handling of Wishart was the fuel that led to the roaring bonfire that was the Scottish reformation.

Enough about David Beaton (a man who deserves his own post, what with his relaxed attitude to celibacy, his constant focus on Number One – this being Davie, not Our Lord – and his strong Catholic and political convictions). Suffice it to say that little Jean was of good lineage on both sides, no matter what side of the blanket she was born on.

Archibald was no royal bastard, but his family was wealthy and among the most powerful in Scotland. Very early on, our Archie became an ardent Protestant. During the long regency that followed James V’s death, he, together with James Stewart – yet another of James V’s bastards, later to be Earl of Moray – became a vociferous opponent to Marie de Guise and her pro-French policies, fearing that the little Queen’s mother had every intention of keeping Scotland a loyal member of the Holy Roman Church. Probably a correct assumption, but Argyll’s decision to seek help and support from the English was not to endear him overmuch to his countrymen.

Jean was very fond of Marie de Guise. The Queen Mother treated her husband’s bastards with kindness, and she was very protective of Jean, the young queen’s only sister. Jean was raised at court and became one of Marie’s most trusted maids, living in close familiarity with the beleaguered regent.

Marie de Guise
Archie and Jean were married in 1553. Maybe they disliked each other on sight. Maybe their differing opinions on matters religious drove an immediate wedge between the young spouses, at the time still in their teens. Whatever the case, the marriage very quickly deteriorated, with Archie living openly with various mistresses, fathering a number of illegitimate children while Jean remained childless. And things were definitely not helped when Archie became a prominent member of the Lords of Congregation, the Protestant faction that led the rebellion that resulted in the Scottish reformation in 1560. Jean couldn’t forgive her husband for siding against her beloved Marie de Guise.

Jean decided to get her own back by taking a lover. The Campbell clan roared in anger at this dishonour to their chief, and Jean was effectively held prisoner. Through the efforts of her – and Archie’s – extended family, the couple achieved some sort of reconciliation in 1561, very much at the hands of John Knox, who seems to have had quite the vested interest in this couple’s marriage.

A very young Mary, Queen of Scots
In 1561, Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland from France, and Jean quickly became a favoured lady-in-waiting while her husband was one of the Queen’s chief political advisors. This didn’t help the marriage. Things went from bad to worse, one could say, with Jean complaining to the Queen, who was quite torn between her loyalties to her sister, and her dependency on the Earl of Argyll to maintain peace in her realm.

John Knox and Queen Mary -
not seeing eye to eye
In 1563 the Queen decided to rope in some help in attempting to heal the breach between Archie and Jean. She contacted John Knox. Picture this scene for a moment: The devout Catholic queen turns to her foremost adversary when it comes to matters of faith and asks for a tete-a-tete. In a low, concerned voice, she expresses that something must be done to save the fragile thing that is Jean’s marriage. John Knox agreed, and in 1563, the Queen and the Reformer had a number of sessions with Jean and Archie - you know, a very early version of present day marriage counsellors. Ultimately, it didn't help – but it was nice that they tried!

Archie was becoming desperate. He needed an heir, and whether it was because Jean refused him access to her bed (in itself no mean feat in the 16th century) or because she was barren, so far there had been no reconciling patter of little feet. Plus, the two spouses obviously hated each other’s guts. So Archie offered Jean a settlement if she would agree to a divorce on the grounds of adultery, with him taking the blame. She refused – as the so called injured party she could.

The Queen was deposed, the realm was in upheaval, and in all this chaos Jean took the opportunity of fleeing for ever from her husband’s tender care. In 1567 she ran away from him, and the couple’s very public separation forced the Scottish Kirk to attempt to deal with it. Archie needed a full divorce, not a separation. He wanted to be free to wed again and beget children. Jean had no intention of making anything easy for him, and so the Kirk’s leaders – such as John Knox – sucked in their lips and mulled this little conundrum over.

Earl of Moray
In 1573, the Earl of Argyll succeeded in having the Scottish Parliament pass an Act that allowed divorce on the grounds of desertion. This time, when he pushed Jean for a divorce, she didn't protest. Her position was far too shaky at present with her sister imprisoned by the English and her brother, the powerful Earl of Moray, busy with other matters. And so, in August of 1573, Archibald Campbell became a free man again, hastening to re-marry. Unfortunately for him, six weeks later he was dead… Unfortunately for his hapless widow, Jean decided the time was ripe to protest the divorce, insisting she had been forced.

After endless squabbles, a final settlement was made some years later. Jean retained the title of Countess of Argyll (very important to her, apparently), received a generous lump sum and retired to live out the rest of her life at her Canongate residence in Edinburgh, busying herself with her famous button collection. I’m thinking she laughed all the way to the bank, our Jean – or maybe she didn't. Maybe now and then she felt genuine regret for what could have been a marriage and never rose above a constant bloody strife.

The legal outcome of all this was that in 1573, Scotland implemented an Act that allowed for spouses to be divorced, assuming they could prove desertion by the other. Suddenly, all those unhappy marriages had a “get out of jail” card. Not a bad thing, all in all, even if divorce continued to be rare in the following centuries. A failed marriage was a stigma – especially for the woman, who, as we all know, probably was to blame for its failure to begin with. After all, either she was a nag, or she was barren or, worst of all, she was a lewd and immoral creature, far too tempted by carnal sin, as demonstrated by Eve when she yanked that apple off the branch!

This is an Editor's Choice and originally published on September 24, 2014

Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. 

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. And yes, Hugh Despenser plays a central role.The first book, In The Shadow of the Storm was published in 2015, the second, Days of Sun and Glory, was published in July 2016.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she's probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.

More about Anna on her website or on her blog!

Friday, September 23, 2016

#EHFA Celebrates Our Fifth Anniversary!

by Debra Brown

Thank you all for still being with us! The EHFA community is pleased to have posted five years of fascinating British history and introduced many historical fiction authors and historians (and their books) to time travelers everywhere.

There were changes afoot this year. I left off full time management of the blog and related work thanks to the assistance of a team of editors, Annie Whitehead, Anna Belfrage, EM Powell, Char Newcomb, and Cryssa Bazos. They have put many hours into keeping things going, for which the rest of us are most grateful. All but Annie and I met up at the HNS Conference in Oxford to deal with the stress....

Warrior in the woods
Copyright Matthew Harffy

Our most popular new post of 2016 was Swords, Seaxes and Saxons by Matthew Harffy. Do read it if you have not already, assuming you are intrigued by seventh century battle gear.

Our all time most popular post has not changed in three years. Seven Surprising Facts About Anne of Cleves by Nancy Bilyeau has had 51,950 views, far surpassing the second, Little Ease and the Tower of London, also by Ms. Bilyeau with 11,529. Other hot topics include Who Placed the Earliest Roman Footprint in Scotland? by Nancy Jardine, Stand And Deliver ... Your Tolls? The Rise and Fall of the Turnpikes by J.A. Beard, Victorian Violence: Repelling Ruffians by Terry Kroenung, and Tudor England's Most Infamous Villain: Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich of Leez by Beth von Staats. Nancy Bilyeau has two more posts in the top ten, both Tudor tales. I'm seeing a definite lust, here, for Tudors and violence. And Nancy Bilyeau.

When I think back over the years, the post that stands out most in my mind is Old English - The Language of the Anglo Saxons by Richard Denning, mainly for the eerie video of the Lord's Prayer in Old English (yup, I just had to go play it again), but also because I learned something about the meaning of the names of English towns and locations. Fascinating!

Thank you to those who have bought Volumes One and/or Two of our anthology, Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, published by Madison Street Publishing. Both volumes are now also available as lengthy audio books narrated by Ruth Golding. To quote Steven A. McKay, "Talk about value for money!" These are 25+ hours of fascinating listening while you do the laundry or commute.

Please join in the celebration of our five years by leaving a comment telling us what posts you remember, what authors you have discovered and loved, or anything. We'd like to hear from you and chat about your experiences with EHFA. And we are giving away two free audio books of Volume Two, names to be drawn in one week from those who comment below by a very disinterested party.

Thanks, and join us for another great year!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

St. Wigbert: A 2nd Chance to Spread the Gospel?

by Kim Rendfeld

As the pagan Continental Saxons burned their way through East Francia in 774, the residents of the Abbey of Fritzlar feared for their church and their lives. When they left, they took a cherished possession with them to the hilltop fortress of Büraburg: the relics of Saint Wigbert.

The fortress also attracted refugees from smaller settlements in the area. Help for the Franks was far away. Their king, Charles (Charlemagne) had taken the army to Italy last fall to save Rome from the Lombards and ensure his young nephews would not have a claim to the Frankish throne. The Franks who were left behind had known it was only a matter of time before Saxons sought to avenge their defeat in 772, the one that destroyed their sacred pillar.

As the Saxons attacked Büraburg and burned houses outside it, I can imagine the Christians praying to the saint for protection. The fortress withstood the attack, and the Saxons proceeded to Fritzlar and tried to destroy the church. If we are to believe the Royal Frankish Annals, the Christians in the fortress beheld a miracle: two young men on white horses appeared and struck terror into the invaders, who fled. Later, the Franks found a dead Saxon beside the church. He was squatting on the ground and looked like he was about to blow on fuel to set the church afire.

The martyred Saint Boniface, who had consecrated the church, had prophesied it would not be burned. He was the one to appoint Wigbert as the abbot of Fritzlar. The annals don’t say which saint the faithful credited with the miracle, but it’s possible they believed their act of faith in preserving Wigbert’s relics played a part.

The remains of the southeastern gate of the Büraburg (JGALoewi at the
German language Wikipedia, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Today, we don’t know much about Wigbert, especially his early years. More than one churchman in this era had this name, and the variant spellings add to the confusion. His hagiography was written about 90 years after his death. With scant information, this post amounts to my best guess of who this saint was.

Wigbert likely was a native of the Saxon kingdom of Wessex, the same area as fellow missionaries Boniface and Lioba. Wigbert’s birth year is unclear; sometime between 655 and 665 is as good an estimate as any, if the missionary to Frisia and abbot of Fritzlar are the same person. He was older than Boniface, who might have been born between 676 and 679, and Wigbert was “venerable” when Saint Willibrord was in Ireland from 678-690.

Because Wigbert was later appointed abbot, we can surmise he likely came from a noble family. He embraced the monastic life at a young age and spent time in Ireland with Bishop Egbert. Both had forsaken homeland and family and lived cut off from the world but close to God. Wigbert had lived as a hermit and was a learned man. In the 680s, Egbert sent Wigbert to Frisia to convert pagans to Christianity.

Perhaps they had heard that the Frisian ruler, Aldgisl, had been a gracious host to Bishop Wilfrid and allowed missionaries to preach. When Wigbert arrived, Aldgisl might have been out of power, and this was not good news for Wigbert. Missionaries needed support from the people’s leaders, who would provide protection for someone telling the populace what they believe is all wrong. And if the ruler converted, his followers often did as well.

Instead, Wigbert had to deal with Radbod. We don’t know what transpired between the two men, but there is no doubt Radbod was hostile to Christianity. According to legend, Radbod once had his toe in the baptismal font and asked if he would see his pagan ancestors after he died. Told he would not, Radbod refused the rite, saying he’d rather be with his family in hell than his enemies in heaven. The details probably are a dramatization, shall we say, but the gist is accurate. After two fruitless years of preaching to the Frisians and to Radbod, Wigbert returned to Ireland.

What happened in the following decades is hazy. The Venerable Bede says Wigbert gave up missionary work altogether. If he couldn’t persuade strangers, he would benefit his own people by serving as an example and living a holy, quiet life.

Or maybe Wigbert thought that at first. Bede wrote his history in 731 and died four years later, about the same time as Wigbert’s next chapter. Or I should say his next known chapter.

Photo by Catatine (GFDL
or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0,
via Wikimedia Commons)

Enter Boniface, a disciple of Willibrord. Both men had missions to pagan lands. Boniface might have heard of Wigbert through his mentor or one of his relatives in Wessex. A letter from someone named Wigbert to monks in Glastonbury describes the warm welcome he received from Boniface upon his safe arrival in Germany, and the writer asks the monks to convey the news to Mother Tetta and her nuns at the double monastery of Wimbourne, also in Wessex. Tetta was an ally of Boniface’s and allowed nuns from her abbey to carry out Boniface’s mission on the Continent.

The year was 734, and Wigbert would have been an old man, even by our standards. The question that comes to my mind: is the missionary to Frisia and the abbot of Fritzlar the same person? The best answer I can give is: it’s possible, even though about 50 years had passed since his last mission. Age alone would not be a detriment, and he was still healthy enough to fast. Boniface needed a knowledgeable, learned man to lead the new monastery at Fritzlar, and a grandfatherly priest who had preached in foreign lands before might have filled the role well.

What went through Wigbert’s head? Did he yearn for that second chance? Did he worry about failing again? Or did he reason circumstances were different this time? Boniface’s mission, and by extension Wigbert’s, had the support of Charles Martel, the Frankish mayor of the palace and the most powerful man in the realm.

Apparently Wigbert did well at Fritzlar. Three years later, Boniface asked him to lead the monastery at Ortdorf as well.

Later, ill and sensing his end was near, he resigned his government of the abbeys. He died about 747 and was buried in the church at Fritzlar.

Six years after the scare in 774, Archbishop Lull had Wigbert’s relics translated to Hersfeld, and his shrine was adorned with silver and gold. A church was built there in 850 but burned in 1037. A new church was constructed, but a fire consumed it in 1761, taking the relics with it. A sad fate for the relics the monks in Fritzlar risked their lives to save. Sadder still is how little we know about the saint for whom they took that risk.


"St. Wigbert" by Klemens Löffler, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

"St. Egbert" by George Phillips, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909.

Letters of Saint Boniface

Lives of Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler

Alcuin’s The Life of Saint Willibrord

Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England: A Revised Translation with Introduction, Life, and Notes, translated by A. M. Sellar, G. Bell, 1907, pg. 319

St. Cuthbert, His Cult and His Community to AD 1200, by Gerald Bonner, David W. Rollason, Clare Stancliffe

Handbook of Dutch Church History, edited by Herman Selderhuis


Thanks to research on this blog post, Kim Rendfeld has new material for her work in progress, Queen of the Darkest Hour, a novel about Charlemagne’s fourth wife, Fastrada.

Kim's debut, The Cross and the Dragon, in which a Frankish noblewoman must contend with a jilted suitor and the fear of losing her husband, was rereleased August 3, 2016, in print and ebook formats. You can order the book at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and other vendors. Until Sept. 25, 2016, you can enter the giveaway for The Cross and the Dragon.

Kim’s second book, The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar, about a mother who will fight for her children after losing everything else, will be rereleased in Nov. 2,  2016. Preorders for ebooks are available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Dangerous Duellist: Charles, Baron Mohun

by Margaret Porter

The 4th Baron Mohun
Charles Mohun, the 4th Baron Mohun, was born about 1675 to the 3rd Baron Mohun of Okehampton and his wife Lady Phillipa Annesley. Through the latter the infant was grandson of the 1st Earl of Angelsey, who served as Lord Privy Seal and produced political and religious treatises. Pepys referred to Anglesey as 'one of the greatest knaves in the world,' and during his life little Charles would exceed his grandsire's reputation.

His father had inherited substantial lands in Cornwall and Devon--as well as considerable debts. The marriage to Lady Phillipa was entirely mercenary, she was a termagant, and the union neither prospered nor lasted. Shortly after his heir's birth, the 3rd Baron served as Lord Cavendish's second in a duel with an Irish officer. At the conclusion of the contest Mohun insulted his friend's opponent, resulting in a second swordfight, and the brawling baron died from his severe wounds.
The infant 4th Baron and his two-year old sister Elizabeth were left to the care of a cruel, careless, and quarrelsome mother. His upbringing was hardly the sort to bestow virtue, patience, and manners. Unlike most young men of noble birth, he did not attend university. He married in 1691, aged just fifteen. His bride was Charlotte Orby, his guardian's daughter and the niece of his close friend Lord Macclesfield, and she had no dowry. In November of 1692 she bore a stillborn son.

Several weeks after this distressing event, the sixteen-year old baron fought his first duel. After a night of drinking he quarreled with Lord Kennedy, four years his senior. King William III, hearing of it, feared that a duel might ensue, and commanded both young gentlemen to remain at home. They chose not to obey their monarch's edict. In the course of their battle, each received a minor wound.

Two days later Mohun assisted his closest friend, the equally wild Captain Richard Hill, in the failed abduction of the actress Mrs Bracegirdle. Hill, who regarded actor William Mountfort as his rival for the lady's affection--quite mistakenly--ran him through with a sword late at night in the middle of a London residential street. Hill fled the country. Mohun was arrested. His response: 'Goddamme, I am glad he's not taken, but I am sorry he has no money about him, I wish he had some of mine. I do not care a farthing if I hang for him.'

The magistrates charged him with murder but after a single night in jail his bail was paid and he was released. Judged a flight risk by the House of Lords, he was confined to the Tower of London to await his fate.

In a sensational trial, the House of Lords tried the baron as an accessory to the crime, and in February 1693 he was acquitted and released. Either the weeks of his imprisonment impaired his health, or his celebrations after gaining his freedom, because by October that year it was reported that he 'lies very ill at Bath.' Mountford's outraged widow attempted to appeal what was, from her perspective, a most unjust verdict. Her father had recently been convicted of a capital crime--clipping coins--and by dropping her intended action she was able have her parent sentenced to transportation rather than execution.

Recovered from his ailment and back in London, Mohun returned to form. Drawing his sword against a hackney coachman, he was prevented from slaying the man by a member of Parliament, whom he then challenged to a duel which never actually took place.

Deciding to use his fighting instincts in the service of king and country, he joined the military. On March 10, 1694 the diarist Luttrell records, 'The Lord Mohun is made a captain of a troop of horse in Lord Macclesfield's [sic] regiment.' Three days later he noted, 'The Earl of Macclesfield goes with his majestie to Flanders, as a major general, and the Earl of Warwick and Lord Mohun as volunteers.' Warwick was one of Mohun's cronies, a partner in drinking and debauchery.

Whatever discipline the baron absorbed in the ranks, it didn't improve his behaviour. In spring 1695, he battered a member of the press in a London coffee house. Two years later his next duel took place in St James's Park. His opponent, Captain Bingham, survived the encounter--park keepers intervened--and Mohun sustained a wound to his hand.

In September of that same year, 1697, at the Rummer Tavern in Charing Cross, he engaged in a drunken quarrel with a Captain Hill. This was not the perpetrator of the Mountford murder, but another of that name and rank serving in the Coldstream Guards. Mohun stabbed him and fled; the captain later died. Mohun took refuge in the Earl of Warwick's house, where the constables seized him. At the coroner's inquest he was judged guilty of manslaughter.

According to a contemporary account, 'Yesterday [27th November] the lord Mohun appeared upon his recognizance at the King's Bench bar, and there being an indictment of murther found against him by the grand jury of Middlesex for killing Capt Hill, the court committed him to prison in order to be tryed for the same.' His place of confinement was not to his liking or  suitable to his status, and on the 13th of December 'the lord Mohun petitioned the house of peers to be removed from the King's Bench where he was committed last term for the murder of Captain Hill, to the Tower, which was granted.'

This time, however, he avoided trial--most likely because he'd reached his majority. Now twenty-one, he was entitled to take his seat in the House of Lords, and the King needed his support. At the 11th hour he received a royal pardon, which he duly presented to the House. Within days he was seated with his fellow peers as a Whig lord with good reason to approve all of His Majesty's demands for additional war funding.

Never one to learn from past crimes, Mohun committed another in late October of the very same year:

On Sunday about 3 in the morning a quarrel happened at Locket's [a tavern] near Charing Crosse between Captain Coot [sic] son to Sir Richard Coot, and Mr French of the Temple, who thereupon went and fought in Leicester Feilds. The Earl of Warwick and Lord Mohun were for the first, and Captain James and Ensign Dockwra for the 2d. Coot was killed upon the spott, and it's said French dangerously wounded but made his escape with the rest.

The House chose to try Mohun and Warwick separately, but it was uncertain which of the five men present at the altercation had struck the fatal blow. In January Mohun returned to the Tower to await trial and remained there for several months. On 28th March, 1699, 'the earl of Warwick and lord Mohun were brought by the lord Lucas from the Tower to Westminster the axe being carried before them they are now on their tryalls on account of the death of captain Coot [sic] which is like to last long.' On that day the earl was convicted of manslaughter and given the mildest of punishments: a cold branding iron in the shape of 'F' for 'felon' was applied to his hand, leaving no permanent mark upon it. The following day Mohun was unanimously acquitted but received a severe warning from Lord Chancellor Somers that he could not expect mercy in future if he continued on his disastrous path.

In 1701 the Act of Settlement designated the Protestant Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and her heirs as William III's successors to England's crown. Lord Macclesfield was the King's choice to deliver a ceremonial copy of the decree, and Lord Mohun accompanied him to Hanover. Within days of their return to London, Mohun stood at his gravely ill friend's bedside. The earl's death on 4th November was followed by the discovery that he'd disinherited his entire family in Mohun's favour.

James, 4th Duke of Hamilton
As possessor of a fortune between £40-100,000 and now a visible, active, and useful member of the House of Lords, Mohun's problems ought to have been behind him. Unfortunately, he had an enemy--James, the Scottish 4th Duke of Hamilton, husband of another of Lord Macclesfield's nieces. The duke, in desperate financial need, felt entitled to Macclesfield's estate, and legal battles ensued. Bills were filed. Chancery suits were begun. The King died. A Queen was crowned. Under the new regime, Hamilton's sometime support of the Catholic Pretender did not work in his favour. As for Mohun--he was a Whig, and Queen Anne a staunch Tory.

In 1711, Mohun, by then a widower, took his mistress as his second wife. She was Elizabeth Griffith, widow of a colonel and a daughter of Sir Thomas Lawrence, a physician to the Queen. He had hardly installed her in his residence, Macclesfield House, than he departed it to take up lodgings in Great Marlborough Street.

Not until 8th February, 1712, was his inheritance dispute with Hamilton heard by the Committee of Privileges in the House of Lords. A tie vote resulted--Mohun voting in his own interests, Hamilton absent. When proxies were counted, Mohun prevailed in a vote of 40 to 36. And still they waited for the ruling from Chancery.

But it wasn't the courts that put an end to a dispute. It was, of course, a duel. Not a polite, mannerly affair between a pair of nobleman who deemed honour at risk. What occurred in Hyde Park on the early morning of 15th November was a brutal and decisive battle between bitter adversaries.

When the Duke of Hamilton, Lord Mohun, and Macartney [Mohun's second] came to the place agreed on them to fight, the Duke and Lord Mohun had no sooner drawn their swords than Macartney drew his, as Colonel Hamilton did the same . . . he [the Colonel] striking down Macartney's sword...closed with Macartney and took his sword from him, by which time Lord Mohun was down on the ground and His Grace upon him. The Colonel, the better to help the Duke up, flung both swords upon the ground . . . Macartney came with a sword in his hand, and gave a thrust into the duke's left breast . . . the Duke at the same time saying, I am wounded, and whilst the said Colonel Hamilton was helping him Macartney escaped.

A representation of the doubly fatal duel in Hyde Park

The stab wound to the duke's chest was superfluous; one of Mohun's blows had severed the artery in his wrist. The two enemies lay dead, their blood seeping into the grass.

The Colonel stood trial, was convicted of manslaughter, branded with the cold iron, and went free. General Macartney fled England and tried to exonerate himself through pamphlets. While in Europe he gained an ally in the future George I and wished to follow the new King to England. He sought to have his outlawed status altered in order to belatedly stand trial for his role in the duel.

Two years later, when the case was finally heard, Hamilton said he couldn't swear that the accused had actually murdered the duke. Macartney likewise received a non-branding and went free--as the bad baron had done so many times in the course of his duelling career.


Margaret Porter is the award-winning and bestselling author of twelve period novels, whose other publication credits include nonfiction and poetry. One notorious incident in which Lord Mohun participated appears in A Pledge of Better Times, her highly acclaimed novel of 17th century courtiers Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans. Margaret studied British history in the UK and the US. As historian, her areas of speciality are social, theatrical, and garden history of the 17th and 18th centuries, royal courts, and portraiture. A former actress, she gave up the stage and screen to devote herself to fiction writing, travel, and her rose gardens.
Connect with Margaret:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The First Tudor Prince

Arthur Tudor
Prince of Wales
by Samantha Wilcoxson

With the birth of the first Tudor prince a sparse eight months after the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, few would have prophesied the problem of begetting heirs that would plague the short-lived Tudor dynasty. His name spoke of the high expectations that his parents, and indeed the kingdom, had for Prince Arthur. After decades of war and familial infighting, Prince Arthur would solidify the peace that had begun with the marriage of his Lancastrian father and Yorkist mother.

Born on September 20, 1486, Prince Arthur was the embodiment of God’s blessing upon the first Tudor king and queen. In contradiction to some accounts, particularly in historical fiction but not absent from works of nonfiction, Arthur Tudor was not treated as a sickly child unexpected to survive until adulthood. It is easy to assign these descriptions to him in retrospect based upon his early demise, but contemporary accounts and events in his life demonstrate that Arthur was fully expected not only to survive, but to rule. As an infant, he was described as ‘vital and vigorous.’

In 1489, shortly following his third birthday, Arthur was made a Knight of the Bath in preparation for his investiture as Prince of Wales the following February. In 1491, he was made Knight of the Garter. This same year, Arthur welcomed a younger brother, Henry, whose birth was celebrated but not with the exuberance that Arthur’s had been. There is no indication that Henry was expected to take his brother’s place as heir. While Arthur was raised up away from court and included in the governing of Wales from a young age, Henry was kept near his mother with his other siblings.

Ludlow Castle, Shropshire
Established at Ludlow in 1492, Arthur would have hardly known the brother whose name would forever come before his own. Arthur was expected to be king, and great effort was expended toward obtaining for him a royal wife. Henry would have likely looked forward to a leading role in the church to support his brother, perhaps as an Archbishop.

The negotiations for Arthur’s marriage had begun when he was a toddler. More than anything else in his life, he would be remembered for being the first husband of his brother’s wife. Katherine of Aragon insisted until her dying day that this marriage had never been consummated because of the briefness of their time together and Arthur’s failing health. During the decade of haggling over details of the match, Arthur’s health is one of few things not counted as a concern by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, further evidence that Arthur’s early death was unexpected. In fact, the Spanish ambassador, who would have no incentive to mislead his king and queen, described the young Arthur as ‘taller than his age would warrant’ and ‘of remarkable beauty and grace.’

The power couple of Spain were not afraid to make demands. Due to their concerns that Arthur’s rule be unchallenged, two executions took place. Perkin Warbeck, who had claimed to be the younger of the Princes in the Tower and therefore the Queen’s brother, was put to death after an attempted escape from the Tower. If these charges were questionable, Warbeck had undoubtedly performed other acts of treason. The scandal was the partner that was executed shortly after him.

Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick
by Edward Harding
National Portrait Gallery, London
Edward of Warwick was one of those pesky Plantagenet sons who made it easy for those who were unimpressed with Tudor rule to think of a possible substitute. Not that Edward himself had ever challenged Henry the way others, such as the de la Pole brothers, did. Son of George of Clarence and brother of Margaret Pole, Edward had been imprisoned since early in Henry VII’s reign. He was not necessarily mistreated, but neither was he allowed to truly live a life where he could become the center of rebellion for disillusioned Yorkists. His sister, Margaret, was married to a Tudor supporter, and she served in a variety of roles, serving Arthur at Ludlow and later Princess Mary. However, Edward, kept under lock and key since childhood, was seen as too much of a risk. Including him in the dubious charges against Warbeck, Edward was executed in 1499 to clear the way for Arthur and Katherine’s marriage. Certainly, this is not an action that one would undertake for a Prince not expected to survive to rule.

Coat of Arms
Arthur Tudor Prince of Wales
Arthur had been educated and raised to be king in a way that was not mirrored in the treatment of his brothers. While Arthur was made Duke of Cornwall at birth, Earl of Chester in 1489, and Prince of Wales in 1490, his brothers received titles reserved for younger sons. Henry was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1492, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1493, and Duke of York in 1494.

Arthur was sent to govern Wales with Jasper Tudor, his father’s most loyal supporter, as the head of his council. We have every reason to believe that, with the help of his experienced council, Arthur excelled in the governance of Wales during his time there. Contemporaries praised his intelligence and demeanor.

The fact that Katherine of Aragon insisted that she and Arthur never consummated their marriage is not necessarily evidence that he was already suffering from a long-lasting illness. While couples their age were not kept from the marriage bed, they knew the dangers that young couples faced, especially mothers, but Katherine’s brother had recently died at age nineteen, a disaster that was blamed on his libido. Travel and pageantry that took place during the couple’s short marriage also kept them from sharing a bed more than a handful of times. Therefore, it is possible that, even if Arthur felt well at the wedding ceremony, business and later sickness could have kept him from his wife’s bed.

Katherine of Aragon
National Portrait Gallery
Katherine also became bed-ridden with sweating sickness at this time. It is possible that Arthur died from one of many possibilities that have been suggested: tuberculosis, pneumonia, testicular cancer, or other wasting disease. However, it seems likely that he succumbed to an illness that attacked many people of this time, rich and poor, and that could have just as easily claimed his young wife.

One of the most touching scenes documented of a man reputed to be cold and calculating is Henry VII’s anguish over the death of his firstborn son. He and his wife were shattered, as any parents would be, and there is no evidence that Arthur was raised under the shadow of eminent death based upon their shock and grief. His parents decided to attempt to have another child after Arthur’s death, a step they had not taken two years earlier after the death of his younger brother, Edmund. Arthur’s death was unexpected and the royal couple’s reaction could indicate that the Tudor fear for a lack of sons was beginning to take root.

The first Tudor prince had been welcomed to the world with great acclaim and was mourned in devastation. Let us not dismiss him as a sickly child who was quickly replaced by the charismatic brother but remember him as a life full of promise, extinguished too soon.

Photo Credits:
Portrait of Arthur Tudor by Anonymous Artist: Public Domain
Ludlow Castle: Ian Capper [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Arthur Tudor's Coat of Arms:
Edward of Warwick: National Portrait Gallery, London
Katherine of Aragon: National Portrait Gallery, London

Additional Reading:
Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn

About the Author:
Samantha Wilcoxson is a first generation American with British roots. She is passionate about reading, writing, and history, especially the Plantagenet dynasty. Her novel, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York has been recognized as a Historical Novel Society Editor's Choice. The Plantagenet Embers series continues with Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole and will conclude with Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I in 2017.

Samantha has also published two middle grade novels, No Such Thing as Perfect and Over the Deep: A Titanic Adventure.

When not reading or writing, Samantha enjoys traveling and spending time at the lake with her husband and three children. You can connect with Samantha on her blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Booklikes, and Amazon.

Book Links:

Giveaway: The Cross and the Dragon by Kim Rendfeld

From Monday, Sept. 19, to Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, you can enter the giveaway for Kim Rendfeld’s rereleased debut, The Cross and the Dragon. Kim is giving a signed paperback (U.S. only) and an ebook (international, readable on most devices including Kindle, via a 100 percent coupon from Smashwords).

Francia, 778, the tenth year of Charlemagne’s reign: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon's vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge—a novel reviewers call “addictive,” “a delightfully entertaining and thrilling read,” and “a powerful tale.”

For a chance to win, leave a comment below and say which format you would like. Don't forget to leave your contact details.

The draw will close at midnight on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016 (Pacific Time).

How Cnut Established Himself as Full King in England

By Annie Whitehead

Nearly one thousand years ago, in November 1016, Cnut became king of England. How did he establish himself, a foreigner, with full authority?

For a contemporary account of the reign of Aethelred II, it is natural to look to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In it, we find the closing years of the reign fraught with difficulties; those of fending off Danish raiders. It would be easy to agree with the Chronicler who, writing with hindsight, concludes that the slide towards Danish rule in England was inevitable. The payment of the Danegeld might at first sight seem like sheer folly, yet the policy appears in the short term to have worked.

Aethelred’s problem was that paying off one Viking force would not necessarily keep another one away from his shores. The Chronicler blames the military failure of the English on the cowardice of the military leaders. But while the squabble between Brihtric and Wulfnoth caused the loss of a hundred ships in 1009, we also know that Brihtnoth’s actions at the Battle of Maldon in 991 were those of courage and loyalty, that the army of 1009 left in 1010 without tribute, and that Aethelred was assured of the loyalty of Ulfcytel in East Anglia.

King Aethelred II

If things were not as bad before 1009 as the Chronicler would have us believe, there is little doubt that the armies of Swein Forkbeard (Cnut's father) widened any existing cracks in the morale of the English. Within a year, Swein had established himself as full king. But with his death in 1014, the Witan (king's council)) sent to Normandy for Aethelred, and accepted him back as their king “if he would govern them more justly than before.” In the same year, Aethelred’s ravaging of Lindsey drove Cnut’s forces away. With further hindsight than the Chronicler had to offer, and perhaps with less bias, it is probably fair to say that it was far from inevitable that Cnut would succeed Aethelred as king of the English. We must therefore look elsewhere to find the reasons for his ultimate success.

It is hard to find a source which places emphasis on the military prowess of Cnut; most in fact, praise his piety and generosity to the Church. He was driven back to Denmark in 1014, and his reputation as a warrior must have suffered as a result. So his success in England must be attributed to something other than military superiority. While it might be rash to say  that luck was on Cnut’s side, there is no doubt that circumstances helped him a great deal.

King Cnut

Before he left Denmark, Cnut was allowed by his brother King Harald to raise an army. He was fortunate to have the support of Eric of Hlathir, who had played a great part in the overthrow of Olaf Tryggvason, and who was to prove invaluable to Cnut in England. Before Cnut set sail, he was joined by Thorkell the Tall*. It is possible that Thorkell was seeking revenge for the death of his brother at the hands of the English, although it is possible, but not universally accepted among historians, that this revenge was sought earlier, and was in fact the reason for Thorkell’s invasion of England in 1009. Whatever his reason, Thorkell’s presence was a bonus for Cnut; he now had with him an accomplished warrior who knew England and the English.

The champion of English resistance was Aethelred’s son, Edmund Ironside. He had procured the support of the Danelaw by marrying the widow of Sigeferth, murdered by Eadric Streona (ealdorman of Mercia) probably at the behest of Aethelred. Cnut could not therefore be certain that the Danes in England would submit to him, and he landed in the south and began ravaging Wessex. Edmund and Eadric were raising forces, but they separated before they met the enemy. Eadric joined Cnut, and within four months Cnut was in firm control of Wessex, and had the resources of the Mercian ealdormanry at his command.

Edmund Ironside

Cnut was aided elsewhere in England by Edmund’s troubles. His army in the Danelaw dispersed after demanding that the London militia should join them. Having lost his opportunity here, Edmund joined forces with Uhtred of Bamburgh. Cnut was quick to seize the chance he had been given, and invaded the Danelaw, whence he proceeded towards Northumbria. Uhtred hurried back from the midlands and submitted to Cnut. Soon afterwards he was murdered, and Northumbria was left in the capable hands of Eric of Hlathir. Cnut was free now to turn his attention to the south east.

Edmund had joined his father in London, and when Aethelred died in 1016 the men of London chose Edmund as his successor. Within a few days of Aethelred’s death, however, a more representative assembly at Southampton swore fealty to Cnut in return for a promise of good government. Cnut was again helped by Eadric Streona’s amazing capacity to vacillate. He went over to Edmund’s side, and then took flight during the definitive Battle of Ashingdon. Cnut, as victor, came to terms with Edmund, and the result was a division of the kingdom. Edmund was given Wessex, and the rest of the country beyond the Thames Cnut took for himself. This was obviously a dangerous situation, in which conflict could easily flare up again. As Stenton pointed out, it imposed a divided allegiance on all those noblemen who held land in both Mercia and Wessex. [1] But circumstances once again favoured Cnut when, less than two months after the Battle of Ashingdon, Edmund Ironside died, and the West Saxons accepted Cnut as their king.

King of all England now, Cnut was by no means secure in his position. Good fortune and opportunity had helped him thus far; now he had to rely on his judgement and ability. He eliminated any chance that Richard of Normandy might support the claims of Aethelred’s children by Emma, by marrying the lady himself. For military rather than administrative reasons he divided the kingdom into four: Wessex he controlled himself, Eadric Streona was appointed to Mercia, East Anglia went to Thorkell, and Eric of Hlathir remained in Northumbria. In the same year, 1017, the atheling Eadwig was exiled and subsequently murdered. The Anglo-Saxon aristocracy also lost at least four of its prominent members, among them Eadric Streona. ('Streona' means 'The Grasper' or the 'Acquisitive' and the name first appeared in Hemming's Cartulary, an 11th-century manuscript, pictured below.)

Cnut set out to win the respect of the English church, and in this he was successful, being fully prepared to accept the traditional responsibility of being an agent of God with the duty to protect his people. He claimed to be occupying a throne to which he had been chosen at Gainsborough in 1014, and at Southampton in 1016. Though in reality much was changed during his reign, Cnut sought to establish himself by emphasising the importance of continuity. There was not such a large scale change in land ownership as was to occur in 1066, nor was there a great change in the personnel within the leadership of the Church. Archbishop Wulfstan drew up Cnut’s lawcodes drawing on those he’d written for Aethelred. The lawcodes themselves stressed continuity; very little in them was new.

Cnut (top centre)

Before the end of 1017, with Eadric Streona dead, and the alliance with Normandy secured, Cnut dismissed his fleet, retaining only forty ships. Its dismissal showed that henceforth he intended to rule as the chosen king of the English. At a council at Oxford it was agreed that the laws of Edgar (Aethelred's father, whose reign of 959 to 975 was already beginning to be looked upon as a golden age) should be observed.

In 1018 the military rule was relaxed. Two earldoms were re-established in Wessex, and in Mercia the earldoms of Herefordshire and Worcestershire were re-established. Stenton says that it was then that Cnut's reign began in earnest. [2] But throughout his reign the presence of the huscarls (housecarls) and the distribution of the heregeld (military tax) to them made it difficult for the English to forget that they were being ruled by a conquering alien king. There is no doubt though that by this point Cnut had established himself, for afterwards he felt sufficiently secure to leave the country in four separate expeditions to the north.

Cnut had invaded a vulnerable country in 1015, a country which was war-torn and weary. There were no clear dividing lines of loyalty; Edmund's army included Danes, Cnut’s included Englishmen. There can be no doubt that Cnut benefited considerably from the untrustworthiness of Eadric Streona, and from the dispersal of Edmund’s army in the Danelaw. For Cnut, the death of Edmund Ironside was nothing short of a blessing. Thereafter, his success rested on the fact that he did not conspicuously behave as a conqueror, stressing the importance of continuity, and keeping to the path that the pious King Edgar had trodden.

King Edgar

This emphasis must have taken attention away from the changes  his reign brought about. Keeping his military forces for less than a year Cnut reduced feeling among the English that they were a conquered people. Cnut made good use of his opportunities. By 1018 he had successfully established himself as full king of the English.

[1] Anglo-Saxon England - FM Stenton p387
[2] Op cit p 393

*Some historians, Campbell among them, argue that Thorkell did not join Cnut until 1016/17

Further reading/Bibliography:
The Anglo-Saxon Age - DJV Fisher
The Laws of Cnut & The History of Anglo-Saxon Royal Promises - P Stafford in Anglo-Saxon England 10
Encomium Emmae Reginae - Ed Campbell
The Chronicle of Thietmar of Merseberg EHD
The Sermon of the wolf to the English “ “
King Edgar and the Danelaw - Niels Lund, Med Scand 9
The Diplomas of Aethelred the Unready - Simon Keynes
Wulfstan and the Laws of Cnut - D Whitelock EHR 63

(all the above images are in the public domain)


Annie Whitehead is a history graduate and prize-winning author. Her novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, who came to be known as the Lady of the Mercians. It was long-listed for the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Book of the Year 2016 and has been awarded an indieBRAG medallion. Her new release, Alvar the Kingmaker, which tells the story of politics, intrigue, deceit and murder in the time of King Edgar, is available now. She has recently contributed to 1066 Turned Upside Down, an anthology of short stories in which nine authors re-imagine the events of 1066 and ask 'What If'.
Annie's Author Page
Alvar the Kingmaker
To Be A Queen
Annie's Website
Annie's Blog
1066 Turned Upside Down

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Editors' Weekly Round Up - September 18, 2016

by the EHFA Editors

If you missed the posts to the blog during the week, check out our weekly round-up:

by Simon J Cook

We are also running a giveaway until midnight Sunday September 18th:

The EHFA Editorial Team: Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Debra Brown, Charlene Newcomb, Annie Whitehead

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Surrealist Sisters: Artistic Resistance to Nazi Occupation

by Mark Patton

In an earlier blog-post, I introduced the topic of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War. Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm were the only parts of the British Isles to fall under Nazi control. Armed resistance of the sort that took place in the occupied territories of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands was really not possible on such small islands, but the residents, both native Channel Islanders and a handful of immigrants, did what they could to undermine the occupying forces and their morale. By the time the Germans arrived in 1940, most men of military age had already joined the British forces, and all but a handful of the islands' Jewish population had taken refuge on the UK mainland.

The artists, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, were not native islanders but Frenchwomen, and they were also Jewish. Cahun had been born Lucy Schwob; Moore as Suzanne Malherbe; they met as teenagers, became a lesbian couple, and adopted deliberately gender-ambiguous names. Their families, both from Nantes, knew each other well, and, when Cahun's father married Moore's widowed mother, they became, technically, step-sisters.

Claude Cahun, by Marcel Moore, Jersey Heritage Collections
(reproduced under fair usage protocols).

Marcel Moore, by Claude Cahun,
Jersey Heritage Collections
(reproduced under fair usage protocols). 

Before the outbreak of war, Cahun and Moore had lived in Paris, where they collaborated in the creation of art-works that combined photography, poetry and performance. Instinctively attracted to the Surrealist movement, they struggled against the misogyny and homophobia of many of its leading members, but participated in the International Surrealist Exhibition at London's New Burlington Gallery in 1936. They were also actively involved in Contre-Attaque, a group of artists and intellectuals protesting against the rise of Hitler, and the spread of fascism in France.

Flyer for the International Surrealist Exhibition (image is in the Public Domain). Organisers included Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Andre Breton and Man Ray. "Happenings" occurred all across London: Salvador Dali donned a diving suit to give a lecture, almost suffocated, and had to be rescued by the poet, David Gascoyne, who used a spanner to remove the helmet. 

In 1937, Cahun and Moore moved to Jersey, where they had enjoyed family holidays in their youth, buying a property in Saint Brelade's Bay, close to the hotel in which they had previously stayed. As war loomed, they made the brave and surprising decision, despite their Jewish ethnicity and their sexuality, to remain on the island.

Saint Brelade's Bay, Jersey. Photo: Snapshots of the past (licensed under CCA).
This is a pre-war postcard: the Germans later built a concrete tank-proof wall,
and a series of fortifications, along the top of the beach.

Bob Le Sueur, a native islander who taught me at secondary school, and who, as a young man on the island, helped to hide Russian and Spanish slave-workers escaping from the Nazis, said of the two women: "They lived as art ... everyone knew they were Jewish, but nobody turned them in." He described watching from a distance as they walked a cat on a leash along the beach, the creature squealing as the waves swept closer.

In the final year of the war, with the islands cut off from the continent, and both the German garrison and the local population on the brink of starvation, they embarked on a programme of active, but non-violent, resistance: producing leaflets and distributing them to German troops. The leaflets included excerpts from BBC broadcasts, and encouraged troops to mutiny. Karen LeRoy Harris, who curated a recent exhibition of Cahun's work in London, wrote:

"Moore spoke fluent German, a secret kept from the Nazis. The leaflets were written as if by a German officer, and signed 'The soldier without a name.' They distributed the notes themselves, on buses, in soldiers' pockets, in staff-cars ..."

In October, 1944, they were arrested and sentenced to death, but the sentence was never carried out: by this stage it was obvious that Germany was losing the war; and senior officers, fearful of prosecution as war criminals, did not want to be caught with the blood of civilians on their hands. They spent the remaining months of the war in prison, and were liberated by British troops on the 9th of May, 1945. Cahun died in 1954, her health, many believe, broken by her treatment in prison. Moore committed suicide in 1972. They are buried together in Saint Brelade's Churchyard, close to where they lived.

The grave of Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe at Saint Brelade.
Photo: Man Vyi (image is in the Public Domain).

In the aftermath of the war, Cahun's and Moore's artistic works were largely forgotten. All this changed when, in the early 1990s, a local collector on Jersey showed some of their works to my then colleague, and Curator of Art at the Jersey Museum, Lucy Marder. She organised a major exhibition: "Surrealist Sisters - An Extraordinary Story of Art and Politics;" and the museum went on to acquire a substantial body of their work, which has formed the basis of subsequent exhibitions in the UK, France, and the USA.

The cover of a book by Louise Downie (Lucy Marder's successor as Curator of Art at the Jersey Museum).
Most works by Claude Cahun will remain in copyright until 2024:
a Google search will reveal many of them, but they may not be reproduced.

In 2007, Claude Cahun received this tribute from David Bowie, who exhibited reproductions of some of her works in the United States:

"You could call her transgressive, or you could call her a cross dressing Man Ray with surrealist tendencies. I find this work really quite mad, in the nicest way. Outside of France, and now the UK, she has not had the kind of recognition that, as a founding follower, friend and worker of the original surrealist movement, she surely deserves."

Mark Patton blogs regularly on aspects of history and historical fiction at His novels, Undreamed Shores, An Accidental King, and Omphalos, are published by Crooked Cat Publications, and can be purchased from Amazon. He is currently working on The Cheapside Tales, a London-based trilogy of historical novels.