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Mortuary Swords

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Basic cut-and-thrust broadswords favoured by cavalry officers and used throughout the Civil Wars were made in England between 1625 and 1670.  They had a wooden or corded grip,  a metal basket-hilt to protect the hand and usually a two-edged blade between thirty-three and thirty-four inches long.  In 1645, two hundred of them were made for the New Model Army at a cost of five shillings each – hard to believe these days.

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The main point of interest in these swords lies in the basket-hilt.  These were frequently decorated in some form or other; a coat-of-arms, a man in armour, intricate patterns of leaves – presumably whatever the purchaser wanted and was willing to pay extra for.  (It is reasonable to assume that the five-shilling ones, being mass-produced, were plain.)
But following the execution of Charles l in January 1649, a new trend was born.  Basket-hilts started to be engraved with small portraits of long-haired men with pointed beards; faces bearing a striking resemblance to the late King.  And these blades – which were only made in England – soon became known as mortuary swords.

It’s impossible to know how many were made but authentic 17th century examples are now very rare. However, a few days ago I was lucky enough to acquire one – to be honest, something I’ve wanted for years but never expected to own – so hence my excitement and this post.

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When you hold a significant piece of history in your hand, it’s hard not to speculate about its own particular story.  I know that my sword would have been made around 1650 and that it almost certainly belonged to a cavalry officer.  I can guess that its first owner was probably a Cavalier because it seems unlikely that the Roundheads wanted Charles l memorabilia.  And because my sword has seen some action – though not a great deal – I can wonder if it was at Dunbar in 1650 or Worcester in 1651.
Its edge is still extremely sharp, its point thoroughly wicked … and it is still capable of doing a great deal of damage.  And the weight of it gives me a healthy respect for the strength and stamina of the men who wielded weapons like this whilst on horseback.

 

Farewell 2016 … Welcome 2017

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2016 may have been a lousy year on the world-wide stage but it’s been an exceptionally good one for me.
In May, I published the long-awaited fourth book in the Roundheads & Cavaliers series – Lords of Misrulewhich I’m delighted to say made it on to Caz’s Best of 2016 List at All About Romance as well as Wendy Loveridge’s list at Romantic Historical Reviews.

But the biggest adventure of my year was the transformation of four of my titles into audiobooks – something which, back in 2015, I’d never have dreamed was possible.  And along the way, I had the privilege and absolute pleasure of working with Alex Wyndham who, as anyone who has ever listened to him knows, is incredibly talented.  He’s also a thoroughly nice guy.

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The Rockliffe books … The Parfit Knight, The Mesalliance and The Playerwere recorded back-to-back in the spring and released by April.

Once again, I’m delighted to announce that – thanks to brilliant Alex – all three Rockliffe audios made it on to the Best of 2016 at AudioGals and also at Ladeetdareads.  I’d like to say a huge THANK  YOU!  to those reviewers whose ratings and kind remarks put them there.

And last but by no means least, A Splendid Defiance also made it into audio (by the skin of its teeth!) before the end of the year and therefore managed to join the Rockliffe series on the AudioGals Best of  2016 and find a place on Caz’s list at Romantic Historical Reviews.

So … an eventful year for me and a very successful one. I’m currently working on Rockliffe FourThe Wicked Cousin – which I hope to complete by the spring.
Meanwhile, I’d like to wish all my readers, reviewers and friends – and particularly those who are all three – a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2017 filled with everything you wish for yourselves.

LORDS OF MISRULE – R&C book 4

Still tied to his desk in the Intelligence Office, Colonel Eden Maxwell has become disenchanted with both Cromwell and his own existence; and with the advent of new Royalist conspiracies, he despairs of ever getting away.
Then a brick hurled through the window of a small workshop sets in motion a new and unexpected chain of events. After all, who would want to hurt Lydia Neville – a young widow, giving work and self-respect to maimed war veterans? But when the assaults in Duck Lane threaten the life and remaining limbs of some of Eden’s former troopers, finding the culprit becomes personal.
With reckless Cavaliers lurking around every corner and a government still struggling to find its way, Lords of Misrule is set against the early years of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate.

What the readers say of Lords of Misrule

“If there were more than five stars, this series would certainly rate them!”

“The books excel in so many ways – the superbly handled historical framework, the engaging characters,the witty dialogue, the fluent writing, the page-turner plots and of course the romance.”

“This is one for history buffs, but as always with this author the writing is polished and the characters vivid. Great story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The Trial of Charles 1 – a dramatic reconstruction!

Some months ago, I was asked to write a play.
Something suitable to be performed in Sandwich’s ancient courtroom
during both the annual Festival and Arts Week.
This, since I’ve never written a play before, was a bit scary … but here is the result.

MAN OF BLOOD OR MARTYR OF THE PEOPLE?

The cover of our programme

Every member of the cast is portraying a real person and all the language in the actual trial sequences is authentic … words spoken by the King himself and by the various officers of the court. Even my own additional scenes feature people who were really there.  (For my sins, I’ll be playing the part of Anne Fairfax!)  If you’ve ever wondered what really happened during those four days in January 1649, it’s in our play – warts and all, as someone who shall be nameless once said.


Our beautiful courtroom, dating from the reign of Elizabeth 1

To our amazement and delight, tickets for both August performances sold out within five days.  But anyone who missed out will have the chance to catch this unique performance when we repeat it on September 17th & 18th for Sandwich Arts Week.