The Bibighar Massacre: The Darkest Days of the Indian Rebellion of 1857

Monument erected at Cawnpore in 1863 at the Site of the Bibighar Well.(Image via Leiden University)

Monument erected at Cawnpore at the Site of the Bibighar Well.
(Image via Leiden University)

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began on May 10th with a small-scale mutiny of sepoys in the town of Meerut, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.  Sepoys were the native, Indian soldiers who served in the army of the British East India Company.  This initial rebellion against British rule sparked similar uprisings throughout India.  Amongst these, none had such horrifyingly tragic results as the June 1857 sepoy mutiny in the town of Cawnpore (now Kanpur), which culminated with the senseless, mass killing of hundreds of British women and children who had been confined inside a small house known as the Bibighar.

(*Warning: This article contains some graphic details of the 1857 Bibighar Massacre and aftermath.  If such details might disturb you, I encourage you to skip this post.) Continue reading

The Scandalous Regency Era Criminal Conversation Case of Aston v. Elliot

Symptoms of Life in London, or Love, Law, and Physic by George Cruikshank,, 1821.(image via Wellcome Library.)

Symptoms of Life in London, or Love, Law, and Physic by George Cruikshank,, 1821.
(Image via Wellcome Library.)

In January of 1818, on the second page of a small Irish newspaper, was a brief article with the sensational headline: “Projected Divorce in High Life.”  This case, which would soon become notorious in both England and France, was not, in fact, a divorce.  It was an action for criminal conversation – a tort, long extinct, in which an aggrieved husband could make a claim for damages against the lover of his adulterous spouse.  These sorts of cases were always deliciously scandalous, and none more so than that of Aston v. Elliot – a case which involved noblemen, prostitutes, syphilis, a veteran of Waterloo, and some of the highest ranking members of the beau monde. Continue reading

Napoleon vs. Wellington: The Art of the Passionate Love Letter

Napoleon and Wellington Love LetterRanging from the desperately passionate to the treacly sweet, historical love letters are as informative as they are entertaining.  But who amongst our favorite figures of the 19th century penned the most heart melting missives?  Naturally, one would assume the honors for this would go to Byron, Keats, or Shelley.  Their love letters were sublime, there is no doubt.  However, if you have a yen to read truly smoldering love letters, might I suggest a gentleman who, when not busy conquering the world, expended his time writing scorching hot letters to his wife? Continue reading

A Soldier Writes Home: Letters from the Georgian Era through World War II

“The field of battle is a festival of honour; a sublime pageant.  But this is war!”    (Sir Robert Ker Porter, 1809.)

Summoned to Waterloo by Hillingford 1897

Summoned to Waterloo by Robert Alexander Hillingford, 1897.

Whether it is touched upon in conversation between those characters safe on the home front or dealt with directly via a character who has been in the military or is still serving abroad, war is a part of many historical novels.  Indeed, there aren’t many fans of Georgian and Regency fiction who could not recite to you the salient facts of the Battles of Trafalgar or Waterloo.  However, what makes us, as readers, invested in the characters does not come down to a mere recitation of facts on a timeline.  It comes down to emotional authenticity. Continue reading

Wartime Romance: Regency Era England and 1940’s America

A war on foreign soil.  Dashing heroes in uniform.  Plucky heroines who keep the home fires burning.  Sound familiar?  It should.  The very things that lend richness to romances set in Regency era England are also the backbone of the 1940’s romance novel.  Yes, I know.  1940’s America lacks that particular gentility of manners that we love in the Regency romance.  Also missing are the complex social rules, the titled lords and ladies, and the amusing turns of phrase (“I say!” and “To the devil with you!”) that make the Regency feel so authentic. Continue reading