Monday, 3 November 2008

Queen Anne - Part Three

Queen Anne Part Three

Princess Anne’s relationship with Sarah Jennings, the future Duchess of Marlborough, would last into her middle age.

Sarah, a year younger than Anne’s fifteen year-old stepmother, was the daughter of a landed gentleman and the younger sister of Frances Jennings, a maid of honour, appointed to serve Anne’s mother.

At the age of twelve, Sarah, who would play such a crucial role in Anne, the Cinderella princess’s life, was appointed as one of her attendants. Years later Sara wrote: We had used to play together when she was a child and she even then expressed a particular fondness for me. This inclination increased with our years. I was often at Court and the Princess always distinguished me by the pleasure she took to honour me, preferably to others, with her conversation and confidence. In all her parties for amusement, I was sure by her choice to be one.

Kneller’s portrait of the teenage Sarah reveals a pretty girl with an oval face, broad forehead, fair hair and confident blue eyes. Yet no portrait could reveal her vivacity and charm.

It is not surprising that the motherless, Cinderella princess living in the shadow of her older, cleverer sister, Mary, and the six daughters of her governess, Lady Frances Villiers, became deeply attached to Sarah.

Anne was pretty with plump features, red-brown hair and her mother’s elegant hands, of which she was very proud. However, she was shy, easily ignored and all too aware of her short-comings – her poor education did nothing to boost her confidence. As Sarah said years later: Your Majesty has had the misfortune to be misinformed in general things even from twelve years old.

Undoubtedly, there was no reason to provide Anne and her sister with a better education because it was likely that the Queen would provide an heir to the throne. In Anne’s day few women could read and write – perhaps as few as one in a hundred. For Anne it is probable that little more than dancing, drawing, French and music were required to prepare her for life at court. Her general education was neglected but not her intensive religious education which founded her life long belief in the teachings of the Anglican faith.

Anne and Mary lived apart from the court at Whitehall and their indulgent Roman Catholic father and step-mother. Expected to be virtuous, the sisters could not have been totally unaware of the licentiousness of their uncle’s court and that their uncle, the king, and her father had acknowledged illegitimate children. Indeed, their governess, Lady Frances Villiers, wife of Colonel Villiers, the nephew of the ill-fated Duke of Buckingham, a favourite of James I and his son, Charles I, was the daughter of the king’s notorious mistress, Barbara Castlemaine.

Lax though King Charles II’s morals were he took some interest in Anne, who played the guitar better than many professional musicians. She also had a pleasing voice and the king ordered the actress, Mrs Barry, to give Anne and Mary elocution lessons. These stood Anne in good stead when, as Queen, she addressed Parliament and no doubt later on when she and Mary took part in some of the plays popular at Court.

However, ‘Cinderella’ and Mary grew up in the company of clerics and women, secluded from Whitehall with little to entertain them. One can imagine the boring conversations, stifling closets (small rooms) and endless card games. Sarah declared: I wished myself out of Court as much as I had desired to come into it before I knew what it was.

In spite of the boredom and whatever storms lay ahead, Anne dearly loved her sister. So much so that when Mary married her Dutch cousin, William of Orange, in 1677 and Anne lay sick of smallpox, her father, who visited her every day, ordered that she should not be told her sister had departed for the Continent. The charade went as far as messages purported to be from Mary asking about her health being delivered to Anne.

While Anne’s tutor fretted in case Anne’s fanatical Roman Catholic nurse influenced her while Anne was ill, as soon as she recovered, Anne had to cope with the death of her governess. Fortunately, she still had Sarah’s companionship and enjoyed the vast grounds of Richmond Palace, leased by the king for both his nieces. However, this tranquillity would soon be disturbed by the so called ‘Popish Plot’. And it is not unreasonable to suppose that her mind would be occupied with thoughts of who she would marry.
Tangled Hearts set in Queen Anne’s England received five star reviews and is available now.

Monday, 4 August 2008

An Author's Garden in August

An Author’s Garden in August

I wish I could bottle the fragrance of my garden in Hertfordshire, South East England. When I open the windows, front or back doors the perfume of lavender and roses wafts through the air. I have introduced biodiversity into the garden which bees, butterflies and hoverflies visit.

Unfortunately slugs and snails also inhabit my garden. I garden veganically and combat their attacks on the vegetable patches by encouraging wildlife – flat stones on which thrushes can smash the shells of snails and a garden pond – an old bathtub sunk into the ground – where frogs breed and a bird table to attract blue tits and other birds that relish pests.

My garden is generous. I have three compost bins, the contents of which enrich the soil that produces and abundance of fruit, herbs and vegetables.

Yesterday, while I harvested blackberries I thought about kitchen gardens in times past and tossed ideas about a historical novel in which a garden is central. My heroine would be responsible for the kitchen garden with its seeds, fruit, vegetables, roots, pot herbs and medicinal herbs.

According to A Little History of British Gardening by Jenny Uglow my heroine would keep a Receipt Book in which, amongst other things, she would note the best times for sowing and transplanting herbs and vegetables. According to Elinor Fettiplace of Oxfordshire in the sixteenth century “in midsummer at the waning of the moon, one should sow ‘all manner of potherbs, and they willbee greene for winter; also Lettice seeds sown at this time and removed when they bee of a prettie bignes at the full willbee good and hard Lettice at Michaelmas’.” So far, I have not sown according to the waxing and waning of the moon but I have read modern advocates of doing so. One day I might not be able to resist trying this although I’d hate the neighbours to think I am some sort of modern day witch.

According to Jenny Uglow in Chapter Nine titled Wife into thy Garden, “Grandmothers and mothers handed on country skills…many women kept their own household books, filling the creamy pages over the years with recipes, details of cures and tip’s for the garden. An elegant version, purporting to be Henrietta Maria’s own (hardly likely) household book of secrets, was published as The Queen’s Closet Opened in 1655. Recently, I have been considering keeping a modern day Receipt Book. I would record the successes and failures in my garden and note recipes and the use to which I put herbs. For example, yesterday evening I was hungry and tired. I needed a quick meal before I popped round the corner to baby sit my daughter’s young sons. So I put some organic brown spaghetti into a saucepan of boiling water. While it cooked I liquidized fresh basil, parsley, marjoram and time with pine nuts, parmesan cheese, pepper and olive oil. When the pasta was ready I drained it and stirred in the sauce. A delicious meal that took me ten minutes from start to finish.

The herbs from my garden add taste and subtlety to most dishes and it gives me great pleasure to view them in their terracotta pots from my office window.

From the window I can see the path that divides the garden enclosed by a mixture of native English hedging and conifers which filter the wind. At the end of the path is bird bath which, as well as the bird table, attracts a large variety of my feathered friends, including fat wood pigeons that peck at the leaves of my cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli.

Despite the woodpigeons that are so fat that their chests wobble as the strut down the path or flutter onto the roof of the garden shed my cauliflowers are nearly ready to crop. As well as the cauliflowers I have enjoyed an abundance of different varieties of crisp lettuce, spinach and courgettes. My greenhouse is full of green tomatoes and the outdoor ones are doing well and so are the carrots, beetroot, brussel sprouts, carrots, greenhouse cumbers, French beans, leeks, mizuna and radishes.

The other day I wrote a shopping list and added fruit and vegetables to it. I shook my head and wondered why on earth I needed to buy any vegetables other than green peppers, which did not thrive this year, and tomatoes. As for fruit, there’s plenty of soft fruit in the garden and neighbouring hedgerows. There are two large bags of homegrown gooseberries in the freezer waiting to be made into gooseberry chutney, fruit fool, jam, and a pie. There are five pounds of succulent blackberries in the fridge with which, over the next two days, I shall make pickled blackberries – delicious with cheese and crusty bread – blackberry and apple jam and blackberry and apple chutney. Later in the month I will pick more blackberries and make blackberry cordial, blackberry and apple pies and fruit crumbles.

As a vegetarian my garden is very important. For the first time I am growing Chinese greens such as mizuna for stir fries and intend to increase the quantity of produce through the use of raised beds.

Why, you may ask, in this day and age do I grow my own? Well, if you’re not a vegetable gardener or if you don’t have a garden try growing a pot or two of cherry tomatoes in pots – you’ll be delighted by the superior taste. And you could also grown herbs from seed which is uncontaminated by chemicals. Today as it did in times past their fragrance delights the senses, they enhance our food – try crusty bread drizzled with olive oil with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and fresh basil – and contribute to health. Black peppermint tea tastes delicious and soothes the stomach.

By this time next year I hope to add a peach tree in a sheltered corner to my mini orchard, a cooking apple tree, three eating apple trees, two plum trees, two pear trees and a cherry tree. And I hope to add black currants, blue berries and more strawberry plants to my soft fruits – redcurrants from which I make redcurrant jelly – delicious on creamy rice pudding, on ice cream or plain yoghurt as well as in a sandwich – strawberries and gooseberries.

Today, with so many modern tools and aids gardening is much easier than it was for the heroine I think about while tending my garden. However, I am certain that both of us say Grace in thanksgiving for the bounty we receive, rejoice in our successes and mourn our failures and take equal pleasure in our gardens. To reinforce this I only have to walk along the path to the front door which is edged with fuchsias and geraniums in terracotta pots and look at the cottage garden behind them full of lavender, lupins, foxgloves, Californian poppies, nasturtiums, dainty cranesbill geranims and many other delights according to season,

Rosemary Morris.
Tangled Hearts set in Queen Anne’s England – 1702 -1714 available now.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Gardens Past and Present

My interest in gardening and history extends to Garden History and the effect of
changes in climate over the years.

At the moment I am reading A little History of British Gardening by
Jenny Uglow. It begins with a mention of the Iron Age in the first
Chapter: 'Did the Romans Have Rakes" and is a mine of information.

Ms Uglow describes gardens large and small, the plants and the
gardeners. She writes:

"I wish there were medieval monastic gardens for us to visit, to
wander from the cloister to the orchard, the infirmary to the fish
ponds, the paradise where flowers were grown to the rows of kale and
leeks. But even if we cannot visit them we know that the monks and
nuns enjoyed their gardens. At Winchester the clerk of works had a
private garden called 'La Joye'. And in 1108, on the day that he
died, the ailing archbishop of York walked in his garden to breathe
the air and the scent of flowers.'

Yesterday I too breathed the air at a large garden centre where I
bought a Hertfordshire Russet apple tree on dwarf stock because I live
in Hertfordshire, England, and because the shops don't sell russet apples, which are
crisp and sweet.

Unfortunately there was a frost last night and there will be another one
tonight so I'm afraid that the plum blossom will be affected and
there'll be a poor crop.

Today I tied up and fed my broad beans which I planted in the autumn
and now I can't wait for warm weather so I can plant other vegetables
some flowers and more herbs,

All the best,

Tangled Hearts available from,,, and in bookshops.

Tangled Hearts is set in the reign of the last Stuart monarch,Queen Anne (1702-1714)and has received five star reviews.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Butterfly Farm

Recently, I visited a butterfly farm forty-five minutes from my house, on the way to the university town, Cambridge, England. A writer's mind is never idle. I imagined the land as it was once was with wildflower meadows over which butterflies flitted. Alas
there are fewer of these beautiful creatures today due to chemical sprays.
As well as butterflies there are other creatures on the farm amongst which is a peregrine falcon. I am writing a novel set in the reign of Edward IInd and was pleased to have the opportunity to put a couple of questions.
Q. What is the purpose of the hood?
A. If a falcon sees another falcon in the sky it becomes excited. The hood keeps it calm and the same is true if the falcon is on the ground. Hence the expression, hood winked.
Q. How does the handler persuade the falcon to return?
A. Falcons are greedy. They will return to the gauntlet if there is food on it. Otherwise, if it is trained to a lure with meat on it, the lure is swung round. The falcon will return to the lure and the hood can be slipped on.
It's amazing how much material I gather for my novels while I'm out and about,

All the best,

All the best,

Tangled Hearts available from,,, barnesandnoble.comand soon in bookshops.

Tangled Hearts is set in the reign of the last Stuart monarch,Queen Anne (1702-1714)and has received five star reviews.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

That charming, plaguey Justin

Does anybody else live on 'Cloud Nine' when planning their novels? I
love this part of the process of novel writing.

But Justin, my new hero, is intrusive. He won't go away. He is so
demanding that when thinking of him I nearly burned the spaghetti
sauce while cleaning the dining room table. And his partner to be is
taking shape in my mind - both her characteristics and physical
appearance. Oh dear, amongst other things, Justin wants me to go on
a shopping spree with him to make sure I know what he likes and
dislikes. And he's so bossy he will soon be writing letters to me
to tell me all about himself, where he was born, who his parents are
etc., etc, but I'm sure it will be interesting

But please, pretty please, Justin and whatever your name don't wake
me up in the middle of the night again to ask my advice, I need my

All the best,


Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Queen Anne - Part Two

Queen Anne – Part 2

Princess Anne’s mother died and her father, James, Duke of York, had taken the unpopular step of becoming a Roman Catholic. Her uncle, the childless King Charles II, knew politics demanded his heirs, Anne and her elder sister, Mary, be raised in the Protestant faith. He appointed Lady Frances Villiers, a committed Anglican, as their governess and leased Richmond palace to Frances and her husband.

The princesses benefited from country air and were privileged to live by the Thames in those days when, due to bad roads, the river was of great importance.

Anne’s indulgent father visited his daughters regularly, showered them with gifts and often stayed for several nights at Richmond Palace. Yet all was not well with the family. In 1673, due to the Test Act, which excluded anyone who did not take communion in the Anglican Church from public office, James was forced to resign as Lord High Admiral and to give up all his other official positions. In that age of fervent religious allegiances, I wonder what effect religious controversy and on Anne, a stubborn child.

What did Anne think when her father married fifteen year old Mary? History relates that James was captivated by his bride. Looking at a copy of her portrait, I’m not surprised. She was tall with a good figure, jet black hair, a fair skin and large eyes that her contemporaries at court described as ‘full of sweetness and light’. The proud bridegroom introduced his new wife to his daughters as a ‘playmate’ but Anne formed a bond, not with her stepmother, whose children would be raised in the Roman Catholic faith, but with vivacious Sarah Churchill, who would have such a profound influence on Anne’s life.

Motherless Anne, a Protestant ‘Cinderella’ of her times, has all the ingredients of a fictional heroine, but what would she make of her life? After all, she belonged to the tragic Stuart family.

It is in ‘Cinderella’s life and times that I have set my novel Tangled Hearts and am setting my new novel, Tangled Lives.

Rosemary Morris

Tangled Hearts available from, Amazon and in bookshops.

Queen Anne - Part One

My novel, Tangled Hearts, is set in the reign of Queen Anne a ‘Cinderella’ princess of little importance during her childhood.

At he birth, neither her uncle, Charles II, nor her father, James, Duke of York, imagined she would become the last of the Stuart monarchs. After all, Charles’ seven bastards proved his virility and there was every reason to believe he and his queen of three years would have legitimate heirs to the throne. And in the unlikely event of their not producing one, his brother and sister-in-law, James and Anne, had produced an elder brother and sister for the latest addition to their nursery, Baby Anne.

In those days infant mortality was high. The son ‘Cinderella’s’ mother carried when she married only lived for six months. But Anne and her older sister, Mary, survived the Great Plague which broke out in the year of her birth. The little princesses grew up in their nursery but their brother James, another brother and two little sisters died. One can imagine the effects of these deaths on ‘Cinderella’, a small girl with poor health whose weak eyes watered constantly.

Doubtless, it was with the best of intentions that with the consent of ‘Cinderella’s’ uncle, the king, her parents sent the four year old to her grandmother, widow of the executed Charles I, who now lived in France.

As I write, I have before me a portrait of Anne as a small girl painted by an unknown artist at the French Court. She is plump and adorable, dressed in brocade and playing with a King Charles spaniel. Her eyes are wary set in an oval face with a mouth shaped in a perfect cupid’s bow.

In 1699, after Anne’s grandmother died, the little girl passed into the care of her father’s sister, Henrietta Maria, Duchess of Orleans, whom Anne’s uncle, the King of England doted on. In 1670 five year old Anne had to cope with yet another death, this time that of her aunt, whose husband, younger brother of the French king, was suspected of poisoning her.

Anne returned to England, her eyes only slightly improved, to be reunited with her parents. By then her mother was unpopular because she had converted to the Church of Rome and her father, who in 1699, gave serious consideration to his salvation took Holy Communion from a papist priest. Her parents’ decisions would have a long term effect on the young princess Anne’s future.