Christmas in 17th Century Ireland

(Reblogged from my guest post on Mary Anne Yarde's Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots)

Could it be possible that anyone would actually cancel Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year? Considering the tumultuous nature of the 17th century, perhaps it’s no surprise that the celebration of Christmas would also have its ups and downs—so much so that at one point Christmas truly was banned.

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In Ireland, Christmas first began as a pagan celebration around the time of the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year and the beginning of a new cycle. From these ancient times came the custom of decorating homes with holly, with its evergreen leaves suggesting the magical power to protect against the winter.

Another pre-Christian ritual that survives is the Wren Boys Procession. You can perhaps still see this event on the Dingle Peninsula and other towns on Ireland’s west coast. Taking place on St. Stephen’s Day, December 26, obviously it has taken on some Christian significance. Boys and young men dress, perhaps birdlike, in full suits and conical hats specifically made of oat straw. Historically, it was a day to hunt the wren, a bird of omen to the Druids, and blamed as well for the betrayal of Christian martyr St. Stephen. The killed birds were bound to the end of sticks and carried from house to house, where the carriers demanded money with the chant, “Give us a penny to bury the ‘wran’”. The money was then used for the celebration. (Read more about the wren and its mythology here.)

King Henry II

King Henry II

The English king, Henry II, is credited with bringing the first Christian Christmas to Ireland in 1171. He hosted celebrations in a palace built specifically for him the year after Dermot MacMurrough and Strongbow(Richard de Burgo) took control of Leinster and most of Ireland’s east coast. Here Henry entertained Ireland’s leaders in high royal fashion:

“The feast of Christmas was drawing near, very many of the princes of the land repaired to Dublin to visit the King’s court, and were much astonished at the sumptuousness of his entertainments and the splendour of his household; and having places assigned to them at the tables in the hall, by the King’s command, they learnt to eat cranes which were served up, a food they before loathed.”
~ Giraldus Cambrensis, Welsh Chronicler

The Christmas season would have followed the Catholic liturgical calendar starting with the 40 days of Advent, then Christmas Eve on December 24, and ending January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night. Some believe the December 25th date for Christmas came from the Romans who used that date for the solstice festival. The date also falls nine months from the Annunciation, the Christian celebration of the day the angels told Mary she would conceive and give birth to Jesus. It is a topic of great controversy with many other dates suggested as being more likely.

king henry vi

king henry vi

King Henry VI proclaimed Christmas a public holiday in 1448, and the feasting, festivals, nativity plays, caroling and gift giving became solid traditions in both England and Ireland. But some thought Ireland took the feasting to an extraordinary level. Fynes Moryson was a propagandist traveling in Ireland during the early 17th century when it was useful for refined English nobles to think of the Irish as no better than savages. His description, to be taken with a healthy dose of salt, feeds that notion:

Yea, the wild Irish in time of greatest peace impute covetousness and base birth to him that hath any corn after Christmas, as it were a point of nobility to consume all within those festival days. They willingly eat the herb shamrock, being of a sharp taste, which, as they run and are chased to and fro, they snatch like beasts out of the ditches.”

Times and traditions were soon to change.

In the 16th and early 17th centuries, Ireland was predominantly of Catholic faith, but the plantation of Munster and Ulster under Queen Elizabeth and James I, new Protestant settlers, Protestant government officials, and the implementation of anti-Catholic laws altered that demographic.

The king of England was also the king of Ireland and supreme head of the Church of England, after all. Anyone who did not attend Protestant church services was fined as a recusant. In extreme cases, to celebrate Catholic Mass was an act of treason for which people could be arrested, fined, and imprisoned or executed. To devout Catholics in Ireland, it seemed equally risky to denounce their faith and face excommunication and damnation.

king charles I

king charles I

Meanwhile, Puritanism was marching to a powerful majority. King Charles I began to press his own form of Protestantism, leading to the Bishops Wars with Scotland. Then came the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641, and the English Civil War of 1642. Finding the lavish celebrations for Christmas and other holidays vulgar and imprudent, in 1644 the Puritans made sure that Christmas was banned entirely. By 1650, soldiers were sent from house to house to enforce this ban and arrest any revelers.

And yet, people would not give up their beloved religious celebrations. Catholic households willing to host secret Mass would place a candle in their window just before it was to start, as a signal and call to other Catholics. To people not in the know, the candles seemed like nothing more than a modest decoration.

Oliver cromwell, protector of the commonwealth

Oliver cromwell, protector of the commonwealth

Ultimately, the English Parliament executed King Charles. Oliver Cromwell crushed the Irish rebellion with excessive cruelty. Protestants took possession of properties confiscated from Irish Catholics, and the religious majority shifted. Cromwell ascended as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, the uncrowned Puritan king of England. By the time he died in 1658, English subjects were eager to restore the monarchy.

king charles ii

king charles ii

King Charles II did indeed bring back Christmas celebrations in 1660 as part of the Restoration, and he became known as “the merry monarch.”

Today, Christmas celebrations in Ireland are similar to those of the U.S. and other countries, with decorated trees, shopping and gifting, caroling, dancing and feasting. You may still see the holly wreaths on doors and windows, and the welcoming candles in the windows. Each symbol has its history.

Irish Christmas traditions

In closing, here are some continuing Irish Christmas traditions to adopt for your own:

  • Put up your Christmas tree after December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. And go shopping on this day, with all the family along.
  • Place candles in your windows, a sign of welcome and safety.
  • Make Christmas pudding the traditional way, a rich fruit mixture with animal fat, wrapped in muslin and steamed.
  • Celebrate “First Footing” on New Years Day, when visitors to the homes of friends and family bring a bag holding a lump of coal, a piece of cake and a coin, with the wish that the family may never be cold, never be hungry, and always be prosperous.
  • And on Twelfth Night, January 6, celebrate Mother’s Day Off, traditionally the only day of the year when mothers were freed of their responsibilities. Thank goodness that has changed!
(all images are wikimedia commons public domain)

__________

Buy someone a PRINCE for Christmas this year!

The Prince of Glencurragh is a four-time award winner, set in 1634 prior to the great rebellion of 1641. Purchase now or on Amazon, B&N or your favorite online bookseller.

Have a great holiday season!

 

Romeo Butler & Juliet Preston

A match made in Ireland

Shakespeare’s tragedy of Romeo and Juliet finds a happy ending in the 17th century story of James Butler and Elizabeth Preston. These two members of feuding Anglo-Irish families were actually cousins, and made an unlikely couple until events shifted, ultimately allowing a marriage of choice rather than arrangement.

King_Charles_I_after_original_by_van_Dyck

During the reign of King Charles I (1625-1649), normal practice in society required parental control over a marriage arrangement. It was nothing more than family discipline, considered the best guarantee of public order, and in King Charles's court, order was paramount.

From the time that a child was born, parents began calculating potential marriage matches that would improve the family’s bloodline, elevate their social status, increase their wealth, solidify a mutually beneficial business alliance, consolidate or expand real estate holdings, and preferably all of the above. Both the bride and the groom were expected to bring something to the table.

Ireland_1450

In the 17th century, land ownership was power. Historically, the Butler family held the Earldom of Ormonde, controlling a huge tract of land in Ireland, basically from Waterford to Limerick. The FitzGeralds (known as the Geraldines) held even more land, with two branches bordering on each side of Ormonde: the Earldom of Desmond, roughly including the modern-day counties of Cork and part of Kerry, and the Earldom of Kildare, on the east side of Ormonde and adjacent to the Pale, the area surrounding Dublin.

Disputes over property lines and ownership waxed and waned at least from the 14th century, the two neighboring earldoms fighting one another in skirmishes and outright battles. Many schemes attempted to heal the feud, from the famous handshake through a hole in a door at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1492, to the marriage of Joan, the widowed Countess of Ormonde, to Gerald Fitzgerald, the 15th Earl of Desmond, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. But the feud roared up again when Gerald had a dispute with Joan’s son, Thomas, the 10th Earl of Ormonde.

A famous quote is attributed to Gerald after being wounded on the field in the Battle of Affane in 1565. While being carried from the field on the shoulders of Ormonde soldiers, an Ormonde commander triumphantly asked, “Where is now the great Lord Desmond?” And Desmond is said to have given his quick reply, “Where but in his proper place, on the necks of the Butlers?”

After the Desmond Rebellions, which by 1603 had left all of Gerald’s male heirs either dead or attainted, the Desmond earldom was extinguished. But it was not the end of the story.

Thomas, the 10th Earl of Ormonde, a great uncle of James, sought a suitable marriage for his only daughter Elizabeth. Rejecting a suit by the second son of the fourth Earl of Thomond, he brokered a more lucrative match with Richard Preston, a Scot and a court favorite with King James I. When Thomas died in 1614, the king saw it as an opportunity to settle the long-term feuding and so, when they married he named Preston the first Earl of Desmond, third creation, and awarded most of the Ormonde estate to Elizabeth. Since properties belonged to the husband upon marriage, thereby he combined the estates of Desmond and Ormonde.

But that only produced another problem, because Thomas had no surviving sons, and had named his nephew Walter, James’s grandfather, to inherit the Ormonde earldom and estate. Walter began a series of complaints and legal actions to regain the land he believed was rightfully his, and the proper inheritance for his own son Thomas, who should have been the next earl of Ormonde. Walter's disputes annoyed the king and landed him in prison for eight years.

About the same time, Walter’s son Thomas had married and James was born, but this Thomas drowned in a shipwreck on the Skerries, a series of rocky islets off the shore of Wales (and also off Northern Ireland), when James was quite young. The titles that should have gone to Thomas would now pass to James.

1stEarlOfHolland

A few years after James was born, Richard and Elizabeth Preston had their first child, a daughter also named Elizabeth. Richard betrothed her to a nephew of another court favorite, the powerful and wealthy Duke of Buckingham. But, by strange coincidence she was also orphaned in 1628 when her father drowned in a shipwreck on his way from Dublin to England (probably also on the Skerries), and in the same year Buckingham was assassinated. The king placed young Elizabeth in wardship with the Earl of Holland.

Her father’s death meant that Elizabeth was now an heiress who could choose her own husband. However, she was just fourteen years old. Lord Holland got busy trying to arrange a lucrative match for Elizabeth that also would benefit him – one of the happy consequences of having a royal wardship.

Elizabeth first met her cousin James at London court when he was studying the Irish language and living with his aged grandfather who’d been released from prison. James was 18 years old and, according to all accounts, immediately fell in love with her. The affection was returned, but Lord Holland stood in the way.

Somewhat in the role of Shakespeare’s Friar Lawrence, Scottish kinsman Patrick Wemyss, who managed Elizabeth's estates, arranged secret meetings for James and Elizabeth in her home or in London churches, where James arrived disguised as a peddler.

In order to court her openly, James, now known as Viscount Thurles—a courtesy title that had been his father’s—had to clear his way with a bribe of £15,000 to Lord Holland.

DukeofOrmonde_sizeedit_npglicensedimage

The couple wed with the king's consent in 1629, and all of the Ormonde ancestral lands were returned to the Ormonde earldom. Their union put an end to the long-term feud by creating a strong family alliance. When Walter, the 11th earl, died in 1633, James became the 12th earl of Ormonde.

Instead of drinking a death-simulation potion like Romeo and Juliet, they must have found instead a love potion, for they had 10 children, five of whom survived to adulthood. They also became a very powerful couple. James the Earl became leader of the Confederate forces against the Parliamentary army after the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641.

After Parliament executed King Charles I in 1649 and Oliver Cromwell ascended to power, Ormonde lived in exile in France, in service of King Charles II and his family until the monarchy was restored in 1660. It was Elizabeth, however, who returned to Ireland to save the Ormonde family estates.

For his loyalty and service to Charles II, the king named James Butler as the first Duke of Ormonde in 1680. Both highly respected and revered, Elizabeth died in 1684, and James in 1688.

The portrait of James Butler graces the cover of my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, as a symbol of the 17th century ideal, a man of honor, grace, wealth and nobility, and a true statesman.

Note: There are numerous and conflicting accounts of this story, with possibly some confusion arising from the two Elizabeths and two Thomases. I’ve made every effort for accuracy but if you see something that seems incorrect, please comment with source information. Thank you!

TPOG_Cover2017The Prince of Glencurragh is an award-winning novel of hope during the sweeping change preceding Ireland's Great Rebellion of 1641. Available on amazon, B&N, and other online retailers.

For other books and more information please visit my website at nancyblanton.com, and while you are there please sign up for my newsletter to receive notification of my upcoming book, The Earl in Black Armor.

 

Do indie authors need mission statements?

As an independent author, you might think, “Hey, I write books. That’s my mission. Why do I need a statement about it?” But I’m here to tell you, if you are serious about your products, you might want to be equally as serious about your personal brand that represents them. WomanThinkingAuthors who pay attention to their personal brand have a leg up on the competition by making themselves more memorable in the minds of their readers, and helping those readers to believe in and trust the quality of their books. A mission statement is a vital part of a serious personal brand.

And, to do it well, you’ll want to get serious about it. Some people believe they can create their brand simply by drawing a logo, or having a friend design one, and “Voila!” Others chose pictures, colors or phrases that represent interests and feelings, and call it a brand. These approaches are fine exercises as far as they go, but they will not serve you well for the many demands that will come to the committed author, and they won’t stand up for the long-term.

A personal brand that defines your values, your vision and mission delivers the same strength and attributes of a multi-million-dollar corporate brand. Corporations know that investment in their brand will establish them in the mind of their customers, distinguish them against the competition, and help them grow for the long run. Putting some rigorous thought into your brand just as you do your products will cost you little, and help you much.

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement captures your values, defines what you do, defines WHY you do it, and can also define what you do for your community and for the world, for that matter. It helps you stay on track when distractions tug at you. It helps you understand your own purpose, and stick to it.

Have you ever been at a book signing, a festival, or any kind of event where someone made a statement or asked you a question, and it stuck in your mind? And then you heard it again somewhere else, or maybe read it in a blog post, or heard someone say it in a movie or news program. Maybe you shrugged these repetitive messages off. But maybe, just maybe, the messages were meant specifically for you.

In my case, I write historical fiction set in 17th century Ireland. Why? Because I love Ireland and I love history. This makes my work feel not like work, but like something richly rewarding. When I first started promoting my books, wherever I went and whenever I talked to readers or potential readers, I heard something like this: “Oh, I never thought about the 17th century.” Or this: “I enjoyed this book and learned a lot, but I never would have thought of reading something from this period.”

Then I read a survey of historical novel readers produced for the Historical Novel Society that ranked the 17th century 7th among periods this particular audience was likely to choose. Seventh? Really?

In the words of J.P. Sommerville, author and University of Wisconsin history professor, the 17th century is “probably the most important century in the making of the modern world.” And according to historian Christopher Hill, “What happened in the 17th century is still sufficiently part of us today, of our ways of thinking, our prejudices, our hopes.”

The more I read about this period, the more devoted I became.

And so my mission almost wrote itself. It was not only to create and sell a collection of books based primarily in Irish history that illuminates, entertains, informs and inspires readers, but also to elevate understanding of the importance of the 17th century.

How do you spell success?

This mission really comes into play when I am clear about how I define my own success as an indie author. Think about this:

Is your success based on volume of sales? If it is, your mission statement will help you be specific about it and set goals to take you where you want to go. It becomes both an affirmation and a battle cry. Everyone wants to be a bestselling author. But selling books can be hard work for an indie. You’re up against the proliferation of other books, the pressure for buyers to choose “bestsellers,” the credibility issues around indie books, the time and expense of reaching a wide audience, the borrowing and sharing of books, and the websites that offer “free” books. These obstacles may not be insurmountable for you, but still toughen your way. So, if you fall short of your sales goals, does that make you a failure?

Is your success based on fame? How will you measure it? Can you get Oprah to recommend you? Can you get Starz or Netflix to produce a series based on your books? And if they don’t, does that make you a failure?

Is success based on awards? I’ve won several of them. They contribute to your credibility and help confirm that you’re on the right track. But how many are enough? Which ones? Do they translate into sales or loyal readers? What if they aren’t forthcoming, or if you always come in second-best? Would that mean failure?

No. Sales, fame, and awards are marketing goals, and while they may be part of your mission, they should not define you. They don’t say anything about what you do for your reader, and why you do it. To get to the sales, fame and awards, and to experience the joy of success, you have to consistently and repeatedly offer something of value. Make THAT your mission.

Let’s go back to my mission statement and my readers. Am I entertaining, informing and inspiring them? Am I getting the 17th century story out? Success. I hear the comments and see the reviews, and even if they are not by the hundreds, the message is the same. “A wonderful and compelling historical novel.” “A compelling story rich in detail.” “I thoroughly enjoyed this story.”

In addition, readers say things like, “The 17th century in Ireland is a period I knew little about so I was fascinated to learn so much while being happily carried along with the engaging story.”

So, I know I am accomplishing my mission, bit-by-bit, reader-by-reader, one day at a time. It is gratifying to be fulfilling what I believe is my true purpose, and it carries me through all the inevitable ups and downs of marketing.

Should you have a mission statement? Only if you want to work like a professional, stay focused on your purpose, and get a sense a fulfillment you never knew you needed.

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_crop

Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps is a DIY guide to creating a strong and lasting personal brand. And you can do it, yourself!

Find it on amazon or b&n, or look me up on my website.

Best,

Nancy

 

Royal Branding – King Charles II, Opportunities Tossed

1-charles_brightenedCertainly a sympathetic character early in his life, this week’s monarch of Royal Branding, England’s Charles II, does much through his actions to wreck the glowing personal brand with which he ascends to the throne, but by the same personal brand he later resurrects himself. Charles was only a teenager when he learned that his father, King Charles I, was literally losing his battle against Parliament’s New Model Army for control of the government. In 1646, young Charles the heir was sent away for safety, and lived in exile with his mother in France. After his father was executed by Parliament in 1649, a devastated young Charles had to depend on the generosity of Royalist friends and relatives throughout the Interregnum, when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of England’s Commonwealth.

In spite of great expectations, Cromwell’s government and his strict Puritan policies were not popular. In the mid-1650s, even Christmas was banned. When Cromwell died in 1658, his son and heir Richard drew little confidence. The leaders of Parliament “had come to the painful realization that, by attacking what they saw as the excesses of the rule of the new King’s father, they had actually undermined their own power and then been obliged to look on as people they saw as fanatics experimented with the ever more distasteful rigours of godly rule. The Royalist gentry were now determined to reassert their traditional rights, and a traditional monarchy seemed the best means to guarantee these.”

Charles_II_(de_Champaigne)

Young Charles, now 30, was at last invited to return to England for coronation—as long as he promised not to punish those who had fought against his father.

Here was an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize on England’s love for its monarchy, to demonstrate to all the world the grandeur and prestige of king and kingdom, to restore faith in royal government and be loved throughout the country for restoring the traditional merry English lifestyles that had long been prohibited. Charles could define himself clearly in the eyes of his people and distinguish himself as a light leading forward, away from the troubled past.

His coronation was designed for exactly that, with “dazzling pageantry” for which no expense was spared:

  • Fountains ran with wine, soldiers wore red, white and black plumes
  • The horse of state had a saddle worked with gold and pearls, the stirrups decorated with 12,000 jewels.
  • The king’s robes were cloth of gold, red velvet and crimson satin. He wore golden high-heeled shoes to stand above the others. Images, poems, architecture, and sermons celebrated Charles’ heroic return.
  • He was the new Solomon. The Golden Age had returned.

But a brand of such high aspirations required significant care and maintenance.

Royal Brand Values

Strong personal brands are based on values. Charles II valued many things, including art, architecture, ships and science, but above all he had “an absolute commitment to his own survival.”

He wanted to reestablish the monarchy as an effective political power, and assigned Edward Hyde, his trusted Lord Chancellor, to manage it for him.

Charles_II_(laurel)He wanted to be respected as a wise and sober man. While most of his courtiers dressed in brilliant pastels, Charles chose somber shades of brown and dark blue, and chose his signature fashion of long, fitted and embroidered coats “that emphasized his height and, in a strange way, his self-contained isolation.”

Charles wanted to restore what his father had died fighting for: the Divine Right of kings to summon and dismiss parliaments, to create peers, bishops and judges, to declare war and make peace, and to “embody in himself the majesty of state.” To this end he was wary and mindful, acted “with caution and charm,” but also tended toward duplicity, to pursue two different and conflicting policies.

Charles, whose exile years had involved much idleness, resentfulness, drinking and physical pleasures, perhaps lacked the drive to support these values. Observers considered Charles capable of hard work and concentration, but "would increasingly show himself as easily distracted and indolent." The French King Louis XIV considered him lazy.

Nell_gwyn_peter_lely_c_1675

Inevitably, conflicts with Parliament arose over religious unity and tolerance, who could hold public office, who could decide about the sale of public property, who could declare a trade war with the Dutch, and more. While leaving most of the business of government to his councilors, Charles descended into debauchery and sexual excess. He is known for his many mistresses, such as Lady Castlemaine and the actress Nell Gwyn. In 1661 Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary, “at court things are in very ill condition, there being so much emulation, poverty and the vices of swearing, drinking and whoring, that I do not know what will be the end of it but confusion.”

Times were disastrous. There was war, famine, an outbreak of bubonic plaque that killed 30,000, and the great fire of 1666 that consumed more than 13,000 London houses. Rumors circulated that the sins of court had brought such retribution. Making matters worse, Charles’s wife was unable to produce an heir, and Charles’s brother James, the next in line to the throne, was Catholic. Catholicism had been widely feared and hated in England since the time of Henry VIII.

When a false threat of a Catholic assassination plot stirred both government and citizens to hysteria, a savvy Parliamentarian, the Earl of Shaftsbury, used all of these elements to his advantage to manipulate and take control of the government, and even to change the king’s own plan of succession. He pushed Charles to the brink his father had known, threatening to destroy forever the Divine Right in which Charles so strongly believed and had vowed to protect.

Brand Undermines Crisis

But, as so many good stories end, when things reached crisis point the protagonist remembered his core values and strengths, and successfully brought them to bear.

Charles II summoned the last Parliament of his reign. At the entrance to the hall his Sergeant of Arms called for silence, and members found their monarch seated on his throne, wearing the voluminous robes of state, the crown of England shining on his head.

Charles_II_of_England_in_Coronation_robes

“A wave of awe fell across the room. Charles was no longer the shifty, manipulative and fallible man the Whigs believed they had in their grasp. He was arrayed in the sumptuous pageantry of a quasi-divine power. He was the Lord’s anointed, vested with a holy authority and incorruptible. Where the dismayed Whigs drew their arguments from reason he drew his power from God, and it was with this assurance…that Charles now spoke…” ~ Stephen Coote, Royal Survivor

Charles gave a speech that recalled the king he had intended to be, his words “subtle and crafty,” his tone firm but reasonable. “He would uphold traditional constitutional decencies in the face of what appeared to many to be the Whig desire for absolute power.”

In a time of crisis, King Charles returned to the basics of his brand established at his coronation, and in the process he was giving his audience just what they wanted and needed: a powerful leader divinely guided. At the last, the elements of Charles’s personal brand and its symbols of power saved him.

Gems from the Crown

Charles II's story is long, varied and complex, but there are important lessons to be learned for any personal brand:

  • Once you define your true brand values, treasure them, support them and exemplify them consistently. They engender respect.
  • In times of crisis, use those values and the symbols of them. Once imbued with the meaning of your brand, the symbols themselves project the values in your presence or in your absence. They carry and support the unseen power of your brand.
Thanks to: Stephen Coote, Royal Survivor; Christopher Hill, The Century of Revolution 1603-1714; Wikipedia Creative Commons, images in public domain.

Create your own royal brand:

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Royal Branding: King Charles I

King_Charles_I_after_original_by_van_Dyck For personal branding, where other monarchs have provided lessons for success, King Charles I of England provides more of a cautionary tale. Had he hired a personal branding coach in his time, he probably would have ignored the person’s warnings.

Like Henry VIII, Charles was a second son who became heir to the throne when his older brother died from disease. His father, King James I, was king of Scotland, and heir to Queen Elizabeth I. When she died in 1603, James ascended to the throne and united the two kingdoms.

King James is best known for being the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was executed by Elizabeth I; for formalizing the Royal Mail service that maintained communication between London and Edinburgh; and for creating the famous King James Bible, an English translation for the Church of England that was completed in 1611.

His son Charles was a sickly youth and diminutive, only 5’4” compared to the blustering King Henry VIII at 6’2”. Still, Charles would have no trouble distinguishing his reign from his father’s, or leaving an unforgettable legacy.

(c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

When James arrived in London to take his throne, he brought with him the lifestyle and beliefs he’d acquired in Scotland, which, at the end of the Elizabethan period, were far more crude, coarse, debauched and extravagant. He had strange notions and lacked the polish one might expect of a king. Some accounts say he never washed his hands but only rubbed his fingertips on a wet napkin; he had a passion for fruit and gorged himself on it; he was always hiccupping, belching, scratching himself and fiddling with his codpiece. In his rather squalid court, young men drank heavily and frolicked about, trying to get the king’s attention and favor.

Anthony_van_Dyck_-_Charles_I_(1600-49)_with_M._de_St_Antoine_-_Google_Art_Project

But Charles, having visited the court of King Phillip in Spain, had very different notions. His court would be “decorous, orderly, elegant and ceremonial…with minute regard to drill-like and unchanging custom.” He would allow his beloved wife her Catholic faith and all the pageants and parties she desired. And, he would become one of the most famous art collectors of all time.

“Every day the King’s table…was provided with twenty-eight dishes, brought in to a fanfare of trumpets that temporarily stilled the less strident notes of his private orchestra.”

~ Christopher Hibbert, Charles I

CharlesinblueShared values provide the basis for a strong personal brand. In Charles’s case, his values centered around one core belief: that the king ruled by divine right—meaning that he was royal by blood, and had come to the throne by God’s will. His motto, “Dieu et mon droit” – God and My Right – came down from Henry V and Henry VII. Therefore, it was his right to rule by his own conscience and his direct contact to God. He did not need Parliament to tell him what to do. This belief was his strength, and ultimately his downfall.

The imagery of his brand supports this core belief:

  • His portraiture showed usually shows calm facial expression and the unconcerned, perhaps sad eyes of a scholarly, wise man.
  • His clothing is stylish to the times; the heavens hover above his head; servants look up to him as if to a heavenly being.
  • Family imagery indicates opulence, beauty, and sound structure: the royal lineage is secure.

Anthony_van_Dyck_-_Five_Eldest_Children_of_Charles_I_-_Google_Art_Project

Charles loved art, music, his wife Henrietta Maria, their children, and his solitude—values that others could appreciate. But Charles did not use them to advantage. Instead of connecting with his subjects on common ground, he created barriers. He collected art with great extravagance even when the royal purse was nearly empty. He taxed people without their consent and dissolved Parliament rather than working with the members to gain their support and votes for funding. While allowing the queen to maintain her Catholic faith, he imposed the use of a common prayer book that infuriated the Presbyterian Scots. He expanded the plantation system in Ireland, taking fertile lands and displacing Irish clans.

He surrounded himself with loyal advisors and administrators who supported Divine Right and who were widely unpopular. His favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, was assassinated, and his chief administrator, the Earl of Strafford, was executed by Parliament.

Long story short, after a bloody civil war King Charles I also was executed, on a scaffold outside of his own Banqueting House where he’d decorated the ceiling with magnificent paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. His death not only ended his 24-year reign, but also temporarily ended the monarchy, as Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell stepped into the role of Protector of England’s Commonwealth.

Gems from the Crown

  • King Charles’s legacy is reflected in the danger of arrogance and ignoring public opinion.
  • His values could have helped him connect in a personal way with his subjects, to ameliorate conflict.
  • Things in life that are rigid are either dying or dead. With flexibility and collaboration, Charles might have been able to address the concerns of his realm, but he remained inflexible on the core issue of Divine Right, which led to his demise.
Thanks to Christopher Hibbert, Charles I; Pauline Gregg, King Charles I; Wikipedia; Creative Commons public domain images.

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropNancy Blanton is the award-winning author of historical novels and the personal branding book, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, based on lessons learned from ancient royalty and today's corporate practices. Find her and all of her books at nancyblanton.com

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Royal Branding: Queen Victoria

QueenVictoria6It would be difficult to improve on a personal brand for which an entire era was named: the Victorian Era. Continuing my study of the kings and queens who were the first to use personal branding, I focus this week on Queen Victoria, who inherited the throne at age 18 and ruled for 63 years and seven months – longer than any of her predecessors and only recently surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II.

To gain the love and respect of Britain’s people, Victoria had a monumental task. In addition to her youth and her sex, she was quite small in stature, only 4’11”—hardly the bristling oversized picture of manhood that we saw in Henry VIII. Her situation was made even worse by the behavior of her predecessors:

“The Hanoverian kings who ruled in the 18th and part of the 19th century were regarded within and without the Royal Household as deeply flawed; the last three (George III, George IV, William IV) were understood to be respectively gravelly ill or insane, a debauched bigamist, and “excitable, undignified [and] frequently absurd.” ~ Cele C. Otnes, Pauline Maclaran, Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.”

On top of all this, the role of the monarchy had changed. The United Kingdom had become a constitutional monarchy, in which mostly Parliament and the Prime Minister ran the government. The sovereign had little direct political power. In Victoria’s time, the monarch retained only "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn,” according to British journalist Walter Bagehot.

In spite of such odds, Victoria became a powerhouse in a diminutive package, similar perhaps to Napoleon Bonaparte, but she used her power in strategic ways and avoided the pitfalls that plagued the French emperor.

She had a bumpy start, including a dust-up with Parliament expectations, a palace scandal, and even an assassination attempt, but she quickly established herself as strong-willed and outspoken. When she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840, things began to improve. In a time when people were starting to question the value of having a monarchy at all, the royal couple redefined its purpose and elevated its influence based on their own personal values and interests. Together they developed what has been labeled a “heritage brand.”

According to Otnes and Maclaran, such brands have five characteristics:

  • Track record, or ability to deliver over a long period of time
  • Longevity
  • Core values that guide policies and actions
  • Use of symbols
  • History important to their own identity

Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter_Family_of_Queen_Victoria

Victoria and Albert’s core values began the rise of “family values.”

  • Victoria and Prince Albert shifted the paradigm of royal persona from monarch-centric to family friendly. Albert was one of the first to use the phrase “Royal Family,” and they used photography to project image of queen and consort as adoring couple surrounded by obedient and subdued children.
  • A 14-photo set featuring the Royal Family sold more than 60,000 copies, and marked the beginning of photographic celebrity culture. More people could see and own images of the royal family; women tried to replicate Victoria's fashions while some men copied Albert's hairstyle and moustache.
  • Victoria became patron of 150 institutions, including dozens of charities, while Albert supported the development of educational museums.
  • They set a high moral code with values that supported sexual repression, low tolerance of crime, and a strong social ethic. People referred to arms and legs as limbs and extremities.

The symbols used also related to values:

  • Public rituals, like changing of the guard, were laden with aesthetic material elements: castles, brightly colored regimental uniforms, well-groomed animals and musicians.
  • The Victoria Cross honored acts of great bravery during the Crimean War and was awarded on merit instead of rank.
  • The Queen began new royal traditions when she attended the first State Opening of Parliament in the new Palace of Westminster, arriving in the Irish State Coach. Every British monarch since has followed the protocols.
  • Romantic and sexual feelings were mostly discussed in the language of the flowers

And for her identity history, Victoria had a large genealogical chart, “Coronation Stone,” that traced the queen’s roots through 124 generations, all the way back to Adam and Eve.

Add to these brand elements her vast influence on fashion. The 1830s style followed Victoria’s close-fitting bodice and bell-shaped skirt with embellishments of jewels, ribbons and floral trimmings; and tailored riding habit with a small plumed hat that is still worn today.

Queen_Victoria_bwThe strength of Victoria’s brand weathered intense negative periods, such as the 1845 potato famine in Ireland, when over a million Irish people died and Victoria was labeled "The Famine Queen"; and controversy over the expansionist policies of prime minister Benjamin Disraeli that led to wars. Her popularity also declined after Albert died at age 42 and she fell into deep mourning. She wore black for the rest of her reign.

Victoria’s reign was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire, with Victoria embodying the empire as a benevolent matriarchal figure. She and Albert had nine children who married into royal and noble families across the continent, earning her the sobriquet "the grandmother of Europe." Places named after her include Africa's largest lakeVictoria Falls, the capitals of British Columbia (Victoria) and Saskatchewan (Regina), and two Australian states (Victoria and Queensland).

GEMS FROM THE CROWN:

What lessons can personal branders learn from Queen Victoria?

  • Be willing to adapt: With a monarchy in danger of becoming irrelevant, instead she became a strong influencer, modeling family life, values, and morals.
  • Live the Brand: Under a growing media presence, the royal family maintained a consistent visual identity because the brand was based on authentic values. They did not have to act or pretend.
  • Use events and align with or incorporate existing traditions to establish relevance with your audience.
Thanks to: Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture, by Cele C. Otnes and Pauline Maclaran. University of California Press, 2015; BBC Timelines, by Kate Williams (http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/ztn34j6); Fashion and Queen Victoria, Vintage Connections, Brenda Sneathen Mattox (http://www.vintageconnection.net/QueenVictoria.htm); Wikimedia commons, public domain.

Create your own royal brand:

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropBrand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps gives you lessons learned from some of the strongest royal brands, and walks you through the process to create your own unforgettable brand, including vision and mission statements, persona and positioning, colors and tagline, and much more, plus communications planning to put your new brand into action. Available in soft cover and ebook.

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Andrea Patten on The Inner Critic Advantage

Today I am featuring an interview with fellow author Andrea Patten, who wants to help writers everywhere to overcome that crippling struggle against our inner critics. Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 10.43.25 AMLike many of us, Andrea has been writing books — at least imaginary ones — since she could first hold a crayon. A favorite place to play was her grandmother's desk with its endless supply of scrap paper from Gram's classroom projects. “I’d spend hours on my stories, adding colorful covers and carefully stapling each masterpiece together. I loved writing “by Andrea Patten” in my best version of fancy handwriting on those covers.”

So, of course, one of the places her writer’s journey frequently took her was to ghostwriting. So much for the byline, huh?

“I worked for several people whose vision was far more inspiring than their ability to share it. I’m not sure how it happened the first time, but it was never uncommon for my immediate supervisor or her boss to stop by my desk and ask me to 'have a look' at a speech, an article, a letter, or a memo before sharing with a wider audience."

But those experiences helped her learn to write in different styles and voices: a CEO’s speech to motivate the staff required different writing chops than persuading legislators to provide funds for homeless teens.

"I wrote curricula and reports, financial disclosures and direct mail pieces... Brochures, classified ads, grant applications, staff bios, and company histories. It was excellent training and helped me appreciate the impact good writing can have," says Patten.

Eventually, Andrea started to discover her voice as a writer. It’s honest, straightforward, and often funny.

"I worked in human services for a long time and wanted to continue to help people. I realized that part of that might come from sharing some of the fascinating ideas I’d picked up along the way. What Kids Need to Succeed is a book I wrote for parents, but it includes wisdom from the business world: when setting goals and making plans, start with the desired outcome in mind. Part of that book's purpose was to help parents stop getting discouraged with day-to-day challenges and think about the bigger picture: raising future adults."

Her latest release has similar roots. “Everybody talks about the Inner Critic, but most of the available advice doesn't work. You can try to ignore “that voice” until you’re blue in the face but that's not enough: the name of the game is to get it on your side…to make it an ally. You can learn to use its’ energy to your advantage.”

And, to anyone who has struggled with an Inner Critic (or Inner Editor or Inner Bully) this is very good news, indeed.

Here's an excerpt from The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten

AndreaOutlineA few million years ago, when the inner alarm bell sounded, all stress was short-lived: prehistoric primates either responded and escaped or became part of the predator’s buffet. Period. Either way, intense stress did not last long.

Modern stress is different. It’s cumulative — and from the lizard brain’s point of view — relentless. From the jarring sound of the alarm to the gloom and doom news report that accompanies morning coffee, there’s no break. Commuting. Car horns. Caffeine. Kardashians. And that’s even before you get to work.

Most of us don’t pay attention to regular, vanilla stress. It gets stuffed because we think we should be able to handle it. We tamp it down or ignore it and assume we should be able to just power through.

Can you imagine the impact this has on the primitive part of the brain? From that perspective, we’re ignoring death threats which tends to make it cranky. Louder. More insistent. No wonder it wants to take over — you’re not paying attention and giving it relief.

Remember, the survival center’s job is to alert us to potential threats: it is NOT for deep thinking, nuance, delicate wording or high-level negotiation.

Continuing to ignore the needs of our primitive brains can lead to chronic stress, making us unreasonable and sometimes causing arguments. I don’t think that’s what it intends to do — it’s really just the old brain’s way of trying to get your attention.

To help you. When trying to get along with people at work or seeking compromise with a loved one, we need to get that thing tucked in.

Despite the problems it has caused for you, there’s much to respect and appreciate about that old brain. It:

  • loves you and wants to keep you safe,
  • is part of your hardwired survival mechanism,
  • constantly scans your environment for threats, and
  • will not back down until it has been heard.

It takes hard work and a special sort of mindfulness to turn an Inner Critic into an ally, but do you have what it takes to turn it into an advantage?

Check with your local indie bookstore for the softcover version of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head by Andrea Patten. It is also available in e-book or softcover on amazon.com  

 

How personal branding helps authors, artists and business owners

2STRIPED_schooloffish_edited-1Branding is a powerful way of defining yourself that distinguishes you from a sea of others. It helps you to create a lasting impression in the minds of your audiences, and ultimately builds trust. Authors, artists and business owners who want to build customer relationships and sell books and other products can benefit greatly by creating a strong personal brand. But how can you create a personal brand and use it to advantage?

Start by defining who you are and what you are all about. What do you love? Why do you do what you do? What aspects of your personality are most prominent? What interesting facts about your personal or professional background stand out, and how can you use those aspects to connect with your audience?

As an author of historical fiction who also has a background in corporate branding, I’ve studied the strategies used by some of the first personal branders, kings and queens. For centuries, the world’s monarchs created personal brands for the same reasons corporations use branding today—mainly to be memorable and likable to their people, and to differentiate themselves from their predecessors or pretenders to their thrones. You may be surprised to learn that today's corporations still use those centuries-old strategies and tactics -- because they work.

Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_Portrait

Think of one of the most famous queens of England, Elizabeth I, for example. At a disadvantage from the beginning because she was female, Protestant, and the daughter of the executed Anne Boleyn, she was also coming into power after the death of her half-sister Mary, aka “Bloody Mary.” Elizabeth needed to establish a firm base of power that her people could respect and accept. In her case, because she faced the likelihood of Catholic assassins, a strong personal brand was truly a matter of life or death.

Elizabeth knew what she wanted: increased world trade, supreme naval power, religious unity, and economic prosperity. To those ends, she positioned herself as a strong and just ruler, a most noble and formidable king in a gentle woman’s body. She based her claim to the throne on history, descending from the Trojans, linking to King Arthur and Henry VIII. This history became the background to her many symbolic portraits, and to these she added color choices, iconography, and especially consistency.

In spite of many difficulties during her reign, Elizabeth remained popular with the majority of her subjects, and was praised as the ruler of a golden age.

I call this personal branding, because even though she was the figurehead of a powerful government much like a corporation, her image was built around a single person whose actions could make or break the success of the brand.

The structure of personal branding is much the same as corporate branding. A strong identity is created to represent the entity, and to suggest the value in products or activities of that entity. If the entity commits to that value and consistently delivers it, customers learn to recognize and trust the entity. Over time, the symbol of the entity can by itself trigger a feeling of trust. And trust, in turn, generates more business.

But there are also significant differences between corporate and personal branding.

Corporations typically generate many products and may have whole families of brands that fall under one overarching brand, like Microsoft or Kraft. Managers of these brands struggle to create a personal connection with customers in hopes of building brand loyalty, but often fail because they focus on the products.

As an author, artist or business owner, you also may be selling multiple products, but you are always selling yourself—who you are. You are the face of the brand.

Using authors as an example, readers are attracted to your own values and personality, and the qualities you bring to your work. On this basis many readers may try one of your books, and then look for anything published in your name to continue reading your voice, your style and your command of storytelling. It’s the consistency of quality that will keep them coming back, because they trust that you will deliver. When readers approach you at a book signing or book festival, they won’t ask about your book so much as they will ask about you. Maybe it is your background that interests them, your work style, the settings you choose, your inspiration or heritage, or your quirky personality. They are looking for a personal connection.

How can a personal brand help you?

Selling books, artwork and other products is not easy for independents. You need to reach a lot of people. As much as you might want to or try to, you can’t physically meet all of your potential customers and talk to them directly, right? Personal branding helps you communicate who you are more quickly, broadly and efficiently to the people you do meet, and then makes it possible for your brand to go places you cannot, such as a poster in a window, an ad in a magazine, your business card, your website and all across the various social media accounts.

The goal is always to be likable and memorable, and the key is in the consistency of what you present.

Personal branding does not mean that you sit down and design a logo for yourself. A well-made logo is the great workhorse of branding, because in a single symbol it can communicate the brand and the business. And designing a logo seems like the fun, easy part of branding. But believe me, good logo design is not easy. What makes a logo effective is all the meaning that is embedded in it, and the design comes only after the meanings are clearly defined, understood and supported.

The imagery of your brand should be based on serious soul searching and groundwork. Once that is done, the rest of the elements of your brand fall into place more easily and naturally because you have a basis on which to make solid decisions and follow them consistently. Then you don’t have to reinvent your look and feel every time you need a new promotional product. Your brand strengthens your presence and creates efficiency for you.

And in truth, for an author or artist, your name is your logo. You may choose a pen name, and you may choose a special typeface to consistently show your name in a recognizable way, but remember, it is always yourself you are selling.

What is your brand? Who are you?

Some people define a brand as a concise and compelling statement about what you do and how your products are better than any others. And that is one way of doing it. But the strongest and most enduring brands in the world go deeper. Their brands are based on values. Instead of telling customers what you do (they already know that), tell them what drives you. What is that belief deep in your core that stokes your passion and makes you work so hard? From that will flow your vision, mission, position, persona, tagline, colors, communications plan, content, and all the things that go into creating your personal brand platform.

The big thing to remember is to maintain consistency across all media. I know that every time I go to a Starbucks and order a mocha, with few exceptions I will get exactly what I expect and, therefore, I trust Starbucks. I look for the green mermaid, and even though it is expensive I go there. Stay true to the elements of your brand. Use the same words over and over even if you are tired of them. If your persona identifies your interests as horseback riding and cooking, don’t confuse your audience by blogging or tweeting about golf and scuba diving. Be authentic, be consistent, and you will, over time, build trust.

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropMy award-winning handbook, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, will guide you through the process of creating your own personal brand, taking advantage of lessons learned through the ages. I also provide workshops, presentations and consulting.

Please sign up for my newsletter for notices of upcoming events and publications.

Find all of my books on my website, nancyblanton.com

My Favorite Book: GWTW

When people ask me about my favorite book, I scratch my head and wonder. There are so many that I love, choosing one is nearly impossible. For the purpose of this post I’ll focus on a book that has special meaning for me, but start with the first runner-up. My mother always made a point of taking my sisters and me to the public library. She never directed us, but let us roam freely until we found something that interested us. She, by the way, was doing the same. One day I found what was to be my first novel, in a pink cloth cover. It was a Victorian story about a woman named Cassandra who gives a young girl a jewel necklace she calls The Wishing Star. The gem is intended to give the girl confidence until she realizes she has it within.

GWTWpromopicI  have not been able to find the book again because there are several with The Wishing Star title. I loved it and did not want to return it to the library when the due date came. I checked it out several times just to have it. This book was my first introduction to historical fiction, and my first real love of story. But it is not my all-time favorite book, because my heart was stolen by another: Margaret Mitchell's 1939 novel, Gone with the Wind.

I am sure I join a long line of readers in choosing this book, especially since it was brought to life on screen by David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming, and all the magnificent actors: Vivienne Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen, Everett Brown and so many more.

The book was bursting with interesting characters and dialogue that became classic (“As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again” or “I can’t think about that now, I’ll think about it tomorrow” and of course “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”)

The lead character, Scarlet O'Hara, became one of my heroes in life. I loved her strength, her spark, her resourcefulness and hopefulness. She was real, human, made mistakes and suffered from her flaws and bad decisions. She never quit, never gave up.

GWTW

But something very special makes me choose this book. It was the first time I went to my mother for advice about what to read. I was bored, I suppose. She led me to the bookshelf in our living room, which was fairly jammed with volumes. She was an avid reader, always having a novel or two on her reading table. She scanned the shelves for just a moment before pulling out the fat book in its blue cardboard cover.

I don't remember what she said exactly, but something about that book keeping me busy for a while (it did), and that she thought I would like the lead character, Scarlet O'Hara (sure enough). I loved the adventure I had with this book. It remains one of my greatest treasures. And, it cemented my love for historical fiction. My mother knew that, but I don’t think she took credit where it was certainly due. Since then I have never been bored.

The reason this former journalist now writes historical fiction is because all of my reading over the years gave me the confidence to do it myself. The love of historical fiction is, in fact, my wishing star.

Happy reading!

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Tracking the Prince: Adare

Part 16 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. And so we have arrived, like the last point on an itinerary for a grand adventure, at the last entry in this series. Appropriately, it is Adare. The name comes from the Irish “Ath-daar,” meaning a ford of the oaks, perhaps a coming together of things. And though Adare did not make it into The Prince of Glencurragh as a scene setting, a visit to Ireland is not complete without setting foot here.

adarethatchedcottagesIf you are traveling north from Cork to Limerick or Shannon Airport, you’ll find Adare just before the N20 and N21 converge. It is called “Ireland’s Prettiest Village,” and though there are so many pretty villages in Ireland it would be hard to pick just one, if you look at the images you’ll probably have to agree.

To walk along the road in front of several quaint thatched cottages, you might believe you are in an ancient neighborhood, and perhaps wish that you were. Definitely shop here. And at the end of the cottages the beautiful Adare Park invites you for a rest.

I first visited Adare at the age of 14 when traveling with my family. It was the night before we would catch our flight home at Shannon, and we stayed at Dunraven Arms Hotel. It was a splurge for us at the time, and I recall especially the splendor of the bedding. I returned as a college student and was equally impressed. My father had made a point of visiting every year, either at Christmas time, or to ride in a hunt, or to select from Ireland’s famous hunter-jumpers in the area. Once he actually shipped one home.

dunravenhunterbar

My most recent visit was at the end of this research trip in 2015. My father had passed away years before, but the owner and Maître de remembered him. He had always stayed in the same room, they told me. And once during Christmas time, when a violent storm had cut off the hotel’s electricity, he joined them in the Hunters Bar and by the light of the fireplace they all sang Christmas carols – my father’s was one of the strongest voices, but I think a considerable amount of Irish whiskey was involved.

The biggest attractions here are Desmond Castle (also called Adare Castle), the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort, the Trinitarian monastery, and the thatched shops. The Adare Heritage Center is always packed with tourists but you can get snacks, buy tours and souvenirs, and go through the heritage museum so it is worth a visit.

Desmond Castle dates from the 12th century, though artifacts found at the site go back to the Norman Conquest. Sources conflict over who may have been the original builder, but agree that in the 13th century the Kildare family owned it.

desmondcastle_geograph-248064-by-peter-craine

The beauty, fertile land and location on the banks of the River Maigue must have been especially desirable, for many battles were fought for this castle over the centuries. In 1329, Edward III granted the lands and castle to Sir John Darcy, stepfather to the Earl of Kildare, and at this time the castle was described as having “a hall, a chapel with stone walls and covered with thatch, a tower covered with planks, a kitchen covered with slates, and a chamber near the stone part covered with thatch.”In the 16th century the castle passed from Kildare to the Earl of Desmond. In 1578 it was taken by the English Sir Nicholas Maltby after a siege of eleven days, and then was garrisoned.

“Desmond made every effort to recover the castle in 1580. He resorted to several stratagems, one of which was to send a beautiful young woman to the constable, by whose means he hoped the castle might be betrayed. But upon hearing from whence she came, the officer tied a stone around her neck and threw her into the river.” ~C.L. Adams

lifeatdesmondcastle

Many battles ensued with many changes of ownership until the end of the Desmond Rebellion. Ultimately Cromwell’s soldiers ruined the castle in 1657. (The ruins can be visited only via tours from the heritage center.) It passed through the hands of 10 families until Thady Quin purchased it in 1669, and later constructed the first section of the Adare manor house. His descendent, Valentine Richard Quin, became the first Earl of Dunraven.

Adare Manor

adaremanor2

interioradaremanorIn 1785, this earl made major additions and changes to the manor house, which received praise as "a very noble structure with fine and extensive demesnes." The second earl converted it into a large, three-story Tudor Revival manor fine enough to entertain the royal family. In 2015, Limerick businessman J.P. McManus purchased the manor, and the site is now an exclusive 840-acre hotel and golf resort.

5276_dunraven_arms_hotelWould that my budget had allowed a stay there. The interior of the manor is nothing less than sumptuous. Instead, I followed my father’s footsteps to the Dunraven Arms Hotel. Built by the Earl of Dunraven in the 19th century, it is also sumptuous, to a somewhat more affordable degree. Run by the Murphy family, it is comfortable, well maintained and has many wonderful places to relax and read, as well as activities and conference rooms.

The Abbey

adaretrinitarianabbey_geograph-248039-by-peter-craine

The Adare Trinitarian Abbey is a beautiful site just a block away from the hotel. Built in the 13th century, the abbey was dissolved in 1539. Ownership passed through a couple of hands before the 2nd Earl of Dunraven, Wyndham Quin, gifted the abbey ruins to Catholic Parishioners in 1824. He also began the restoration that was continued by his heir. The abbey is noted for its fusion of medieval and 19th century Gothic Revival architecture.

Adare and Desmond Castle may yet find their way into my writings, because they will remain in my thoughts. Somewhere near, along the banks of the river, my father’s ashes were scattered. Adare would always be the place where he was happiest in his later years, in the county of our ancestors. I know I will always feel closest to him, and to them, when I visit Adare and stand upon that rich Irish soil.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure with The Prince. Though this brings an end to one particular series, as always there is more to come. Baaaaaaaaah.

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Thanks to C.L. Adams, The Ancient Castles of Ireland, 1904; britainirelandcastles.com; Monastic Ireland; Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort; Dunraven Arms Hotel; Wikipedia; Creative Commons.

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

Part 6 – Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 – Timoleague Friary

Part 8 – Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

Part 9 – Coppinger’s Court

Part 10 – Drombeg and Knockdrum

Part 11 - Liss Ard, Lough Abisdealy

Part 12 - Skibbereen

Part 13 - Baltimore

Part 14 - Mallow Castle

Part 15 - Mitchelstown Cave

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

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OR, try this universal link for your favorite ebook retailer: books2read.com

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Tracking the Prince: Mitchelstown Cave

Part 15 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end.

 

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While traveling through southwest Ireland, I took a side trip from my planned itinerary to see the Mitchelstown Cave. I’d noticed a sign along the M8 roadway between Cahir and Mitchelstown and thought it worth a look. It was to satisfy my own curiosity because I’d never been inside a cave before. I hadn’t intended to use a cave in The Prince of Glencurragh, but as I’ve said before, you never know from where inspiration will come.

Caves can conjure several kinds of images: the womb-like comfort that sheltered our cave-dwelling ancestors from the elements; the mystical and magical hiding places of wizards, faeries, dragons and the like; and a toothy, cavernous mouth with an endless throat to swallow you into hell.

I ended up using a deep, dark cave similar to what I saw at Mitchelstown in a scene where a ruthless killer has taken our heroine, the heiress Vivienne. Readers will, I hope, grant me license for the reference to Mitchelstown Cave. This is a beautiful and dramatic cave that has been explored extensively since it was discovered in 1833, when a Michael Condon accidently dropped his crowbar into a crevice while quarrying for stone.

mitchelstown-caves

The explorers who came after him found long, low corridors, cathedral-like chambers, and dramatic stalactite caverns. But, if these explorers remain correct, no one could have accessed the caves in 1634, when my story takes place:

“…no bones, either of existing or extinct animals, have as yet been found within the cavern; nor indeed is it likely that any such will be discovered; as, until accidentally perforated through the quarry, it would appear to have been altogether impervious, and therefore inaccessible as a den or place of shelter…” ~ Prof. Apjohn, Dublin Geological Journal, 1834 (from Dublin Penny Journal)

However, there are many caves in Ireland that probably were accessible to humans and animals, the deepest in County Fermanagh, and the longest in County Clare. (Photographer and blogger R. Mulraney offers some stunning images by County.) Apparently there is another cave near Mitchelstown that was called “Desmond Cave” because the Earl of Desmond may have taken refuge there during the Desmond rebellions. This cave is not open to the public because it is too dangerous, but it and others like it could have served for the fictional scene.

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The public tours of the Mitchelstown caves provide great exposure to the dark and strange cave interiors, their sparkling beauty, their enormity, and their treacherous pathways. No one could have prepared me for the chill that ran up my spine when my tour guide had everyone turn off his/her lights. Even in a room full of tourists, it is an eerie kind of darkness. In 1895, the Rev. Canon Courtenay Moore, Mitchelstown Rector, described the cave this way:

dublinpennyjournal_mitchelstown“There is no foulness or tumult in its straight and silent street; only the strength of rock and the finished setting of stones grey with the age of countless centuries. Then a stillness as of death itself pervades the place, which is almost painfully oppressive to ears accustomed to the constant and varied sounds of life in the world above, which you have only quitted so recently.”

To put the size of some of these caves in perspective, the largest chamber of Mitchelstown Cave is called Tir Na Nog (meaning “land of the young”), measuring 61m × 49m and 18m high, making it more than twice as large in floor space, and its ceiling three times as high, as King Charles I’s Banqueting House at Whitehall, London. In other words, you could almost fit a 747 jet in there. The largest column, called Tower of Babel, is nearly 30 feet high.

It seemed there was nothing that could compare to the dramatic setting of a cave like Mitchelstown for a frightful and deadly scene in a book.

Thanks to Journal of the Cork Archaeological Society, 1894; mitchelstowncave.com; showcaves.com; ‪Caves of Ireland; The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1, 1872

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

Part 6 – Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 – Timoleague Friary

Part 8 – Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

Part 9 – Coppinger’s Court

Part 10 – Drombeg and Knockdrum

Part 11 - Liss Ard, Lough Abisdealy

Part 12 - Skibbereen

Part 13 - Baltimore

Part 14 - Mallow Castle

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

HARDCOVER PAPERBACK E-BOOK

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Tracking the Prince: Mallow Castle

Part 14 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. img_1663Massive and beguiling, the ruins of Mallow Castle claim a grassy rise above the Blackwater River, about a 30-minute drive north of Cork City on the N20. Misshapen now from centuries of decay, it still resonates with legend and power. I found it on a dark rainy day, but another photographer captured it in the sunlight that highlights its beauty.

interior_mallow_castle_co-_corkBearing signs of Tudor architecture over the remains of an earlier fortress, one source has the great castle passing from the Roche family to the FitzGeralds of Desmond at the end of the thirteenth century. The Tudor structure most likely was built by the 14th Earl of Desmond, James FitzGerald, the Lord High Treasurer of Ireland who died in 1558.

img_1673The castle stood three stories high with octagonal corner turrets at the front, one in the middle for the entrance, and another for the stair. It has large mullioned windows, loopholes for muskets, and fireplaces in each room that stir the imagination. Who once warmed their hands or dried their clothes there, and what did they think about?

In The Prince of Glencurragh, Mallow Castle is the English-owned and pivotal meeting place where in 1634 Faolán Burke pleads to the Earl of Clanricarde for marriage to Vivienne FitzGerald and an appropriate settlement of her inheritance. Clanricarde is visiting the castle to hunt the famed herd of unusual white fallow deer (a gift to the castle park from Queen Elizabeth years before). At this time, the castle belongs to English General William Jephson.

Two Desmond Rebellions

In 1584, however, the castle belonged to the 15th Earl of Desmond, Gerald FitzGerald, and was inhabited by his brother John, military leader of the clan. The Desmonds, who had long enjoyed distance and autonomy under England’s rule, rebelled against the exertion of control by King Henry VIII, a policy furthered and fortified by his daughter, Elizabeth I.

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Elizabeth had imprisoned both Gerald and John in the Tower of London for an illegal quarrel with her cousin, Thomas Butler, the Earl of Ormonde. In their absence, a military leader James FitzMaurice FitzGerald led a bloody rebellion in the province of Munster that succumbed to English terror and scorched earth tactics led by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1573.

When Elizabeth released the FitzGerald brothers from the tower allowing them to restore their devastated territories, resentment grew across the land under England's brutal suppression tactics. Another rising erupted in 1579, complicated by famine and plague. In 1583, Gerald was hunted down in the mountains near Tralee and murdered. But before that, John was killed as a result of betrayal.

An excerpt from The Prince tells the story:

Faolán reined his horse, stopping in front of us. “Vivienne, Lord Cork has withheld from you your own history. Mallow Castle once belonged to the FitzGeralds. Sir John lived here. It was he, the Earl of Desmond’s brother, who led the men into battle during the great rebellion.”      “What became of him?” Vivienne asked.      “He was cruelly betrayed,” he said. “The FitzGeralds fought the English for control of their own clansmen and lands, and John was known for uniting the clans against them. One day he set out on this very road, but he and his men were surprised by a band of English horsemen. They tried to escape, but one man among the English—once Sir John’s own servant—recognized Sir John and shot him in the throat. He died as they carried his body back to Cork, and they chained it to the city gate.”      Vivienne turned pale, her lips parted. “And what of the earl?”      Faolán jutted his chin at me. “Tell her, Aengus.”      “He was betrayed as well. A local farmer took a thousand silver pieces in exchange for the earl’s location in the mountains near Tralee. When the English soldiers found him, crippled and broken in the corner of an old cabin, they murdered him and sent his head to London as a trophy for the queen.”      “Aye, and that’s not the end of it, Aengus,” Faolán said.      I nodded. “On a dark November night in the glen where he was killed, you’ll see a company of horsemen and the great earl, wearing his silver brocade and riding a white horse. And if a lad asks to shoe his horse, the earl will toss him a purse with a thousand silver pieces.”      Vivienne sat stiffly, looking toward Mallow. “Now I’m afraid to enter this castle.”      Faolán shook his head. “On the contrary, love. You are a FitzGerald. The Desmond spirits will rise up and rejoice when you set foot on the stones. It is just.”

img_1666A new rebellion and Irish Confederate War started throughout Ireland in 1641. Mallow Castle withstood attacks by Lord Mountgarret in 1642, but it was severely damaged after being captured by Lord Castlehaven in 1645. In 1689 the castle burned. The Jephson family built a new 12-bedroom manor house on the foundation of the old castle stables. In 1928 the castle became one of Ireland’s national monuments. The last Jephson, Commander Maurice Jephson, sold the castle to the McGinn family of Washington D.C. in 1984.

Thanks to http://www.britainirelandcastles.com, Ancient Castles of Ireland by C.L. Adams, Wikipedia and various other sources. Interior image of castle by The Speckled Bird, Creative Commons. Gilbert image is public domain. Other images belong to the author.

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

Part 6 – Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 – Timoleague Friary

Part 8 – Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

Part 9 – Coppinger’s Court

Part 10 – Drombeg and Knockdrum

Part 11 - Liss Ard, Lough Abisdealy

Part 12 - Skibbereen

Part 13 - Baltimore

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

HARDCOVER PAPERBACK E-BOOK

OR, try this universal link for your favorite ebook retailer: books2read.com

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Tracking the Prince: Baltimore

Part 13 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. From Skibbereen in County Cork, a 15-minute drive southwest along the scenic R595 will bring you to the town of Baltimore. On the 17th century Down Survey map, Baltimore sits on the tip of a peninsula reaching toward the sea—a perfect location for fishing, boating and a bucolic agrarian lifestyle.

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In the early 17th century, it was an English settlement pursuing exactly such industry:

“In Southwest Munster, where planters both introduced inshore ‘seine’ netting and invested considerable sums in shore-based facilities for salting and barreling the catch, the export of pilchards rose significantly, at least in the 1620s and early 1630s. The industry was characterized by small-scale plantation-type development, and the trade, which was based on Kinsale, Brookhaven, Baltimore, Bantry, and Berehaven, was dominated by English and continental shipping.” ~ F.X. Martin, F.J. Byrne, A New History of Ireland: Early Modern Ireland, 1534-1691. Oxford Press, 1987.

On the same map, just above Baltimore is a notation for Rathmore, meaning large fort. This is the name I used for the Earl of Barrymore’s fictitious coastal castle in my book, The Prince of Glencurragh. It is to this castle that the book’s main characters are going, so that Barrymore can take them under his wing and negotiate a suitable marriage settlement for Faolán Burke and Vivienne FitzGerald. Today, a bed and breakfast by that name offers a gorgeous hilltop view at the mouth of the River Ilen.

img_0657 On a more recent map, you might see Old Court, a site at which I believed there was an ancient castle. I’d hoped to explore it, because this is where I’d imagined Barrymore’s castle would be located. If you go there today you’ll see a boat building and storage business, but it is indeed set among the ruins of a castle or fort, and a stone window still looks out over the water. We found it on a cool, rainy day in June, and so instead of ancient stones beneath our shoes we had a bit of mud that only served to make the experience its most authentic.

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img_0645 American readers will recognize the name Baltimore and maybe even Old Court. The City of Baltimore, founded in 1729 in the state of Maryland, started as and English colony in 1661, displacing the Piscataway tribe of Algonquians who had inhabited the lands for centuries. The city was most likely named for Lord Baltimore of the Irish House of Lords, Cecil Calvert, and his family’s Baltimore Manor in County Longford. Maryland was considered a safe haven for Irish Catholics hoping to escape religious persecution, and Calvert had obtained permission from the king to establish the colony.

This Baltimore has enjoyed a high percentage of Irish in its population because it drew a large number of Irish escaping Ireland's famine of 1845-1853. They settled in southwest Baltimore and found work on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Today, on the Baltimore Metro Subway, you can catch a ride to Old Court Station on Old Court Road in Lochearn, Maryland.

But the Ireland Baltimore has a much more troubled history. In my last post I mentioned that the town of Skibbereen gained population and importance when settlers moved inland from Baltimore to escape Algerian pirates. A terrible raid in 1631 devastated Baltimore, as described in detail by Des Ekin in his book, The Stolen Village.stolenvillage

The site of Baltimore had been purposely chosen for an English settlement because of its remoteness, allowing greater religious freedom. It also had a reputation for smuggling, especially when it was in the hands of the O'Driscoll clan.

“In would come fine wine and brandies, silks and spices, tobacco and salt. Out would go wool, linen, leather goods…and the occasional fugitive fleeing the hangman’s noose.” ~ Des Ekin

But such remoteness also had its vulnerability, and on a dark June night of that year, three ships arrived carrying Algerian pirates who stormed ashore, killing two of the town’s residents and capturing 107 men, women and children. These captives joined 17 French captives already aboard the ships, and then all were taken to Algiers to be sold as slaves. A French priest observed:

“It was a pitiful sight to see them put up for sale. For then wives were taken from husbands and children from their fathers. Then, I declare, they sold on the one hand the husbands, on the other the wives, ripping their daughters from their arms, leaving them no hope of ever seeing each other again…” ~ Father Pierre Dan

Most of these poor souls were never seen again, because the ransoms were too high, and though King Charles I was petitioned for relief, his councilmen advised against paying, stating that it would only encourage the pirates. And to make matters worse, rumors circulated that the town had been set up for the raid by Sir Walter Coppinger, who wanted the settlers removed so that he might have the land and the lucrative pilchard business for his own (for more about this see my post, Coppinger’s Court).

The terrible event remains a stain on Baltimore’s past, but the town has revived as a summer haven for fishing, swimming and sailing, and as a base for exploring Cape Clear, Sherkin Island and Lough Hyne, Ireland's first marine nature reserve. And you can rent a 4-bedroom cottage called Old Court at Skibbereen.

img_0654 Thanks to Eddie and Teresa MacEoin, Trinity College Down Survey, Des Ekin’s The Stolen Village, Irish Central News, Irish Railroad Workers Museum, Old Court Boats, and Wikipedia. Except for the map, all images belong to the author.

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

Part 6 – Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 – Timoleague Friary

Part 8 – Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

Part 9 – Coppinger’s Court

Part 10 – Drombeg and Knockdrum

Part 11 - Liss Ard, Lough Abisdealy

Part 12 - Skibbereen

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

HARDCOVER PAPERBACK E-BOOK

OR, try this universal link for your favorite ebook retailer: books2read.com

Learn more and sign up for  updates via my newsletter at nancyblanton.com

 

 

Tracking the Prince: Skibbereen

Part 12 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. Of all sites visited along this journey with The Prince of Glencurragh, the one I’ve feared to write about most is this, the town of Skibbereen. How would I ever do justice to a town so sunny-gold in my memory, and yet tarnished gray by events in history? Refuge for settlers, home for fishermen, famed as of one of the worst affected by The Great Famine, Skibbereen survives and thrives in its colorful, splendid way. Each time I visit, it looks like some familiar place I’ve never seen.

skibbereenarrival

mapIn the far southwest corner of County Cork, Skibbereen lies where the N71 meets the River Ilen (pronounced like "island"), just a few miles northeast of Baltimore. In fact, Skibbereen began to gain importance after Algerian pirates raided Baltimore in 1631, and survivors moved upstream for safety. Before that, Skebreen (as it is spelled on 17th century maps) was mostly overlooked by cartographers of the time, though it was at the center of three castles held by the powerful MacCarthy clan.

The fate of the castles is not clear, though they may have been lost during the Nine Years’ War against English rule in Ireland, or after the Battle of Kinsale. Today, north of the river and west of the town center is a residential area known as Glencurragh, with nice family houses along Glencurragh Road. In my book, this is where I sited Faolán Burke’s home, among the ruins of his father’s Castle Glencurragh. It is always sunny there, in my mind, with only the occasional soft shower at the most appropriate times to keep the lush foliage a proper shade of green.

Which is not to say The Prince knows only happiness. His adventures are fraught with danger, frustration, and heavy rain. But home is home, and this is where his dreams are rooted, and where he hopes to raise his family. I think readers will like it there as well.

Originally I imagined the castle to be north and east of the Ilen Street Bridge near the present-day site of an old railway station, but my friend Eddie explained that the ground there was too marshy to support a castle. It’s fiction, you might say, so who cares if it is too marshy in reality? Eddie and I cared, wanting the book to be as real as possible. You never know when actual events might come into play in historical fiction. If the site had come under attack, the marshy ground would have played a role.

Glencurragh was better suited and would have been the choice of actual builders, and the name itself inspired me. Coming from the Irish meaning ‘a place for boats,’ I imagined a mullioned window overlooking the commerce along the river.

riverilen_skibbereen02

Coming south to us from the Mullaghmesha Mountain, she lay in bronze repose with her misty veil close at her surface. She was the very river who nourished every fox and sparrow from above Bantry and all the way out to sea at Baltimore. At Skebreen she abruptly turned west as if she’d simply changed her mind, and then south again as if to wrap a gentle arm about us. Sometimes flowing narrow and peaceful, she was our meandering ribbon of sweet dark nectar yielding trout in the spring and salmon in summer. With the winter rains she swelled at her seams, as anxious and irritable as a new mother; and, yes, wasn’t the earth at her flanks the most fertile? ~ Description of the River Ilen from my novel Sharavogue

Mostly a small and quiet town, in the mid-17th century Skibbereen had fewer than 150 residents as counted by the census. By 1841, that number had slowly climbed to 5,000. But soon that would change.

The Great Irish Famine wiped out about 8.5 million people in Ireland between 1846 and 1851, and more than a million more people emigrated for a chance of survival. Skibbereen was among the areas hardest hit.

“The average population loss in the Poor Law Unions of Cork was 24.2% but Skibbereen Poor Law Union came in with the highest loss in all of Cork, losing 36.1% of its people. It is therefore not surprising that Skibbereen became synonymous with The Great Famine, featuring prominently in its historiography." ~ Tim Kearney, The Great Famine and Skibbereen

The nightmarish stories of suffering and death are too numerous to report here. Kearney’s article is a fine detailed overview, and I also highly recommend The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith. This book brought me to tears and fury. The good news is that the situation in Skibbereen also attracted numerous writers, journalists and historians, and because of the resulting coverage the town “played a pivotal role” in affecting relief efforts.

skibbereentowncenter

There are several famine memorials in Skibbereen, and at the town center The Maid of Erin commemorates those who suffered in the famine as well as the heroes who fought for freedom in the Irish rebellions. Another memorial is inscribed with lyrics from the song, Dear Old Skibbereen, that Eddie taught me years ago and I’ve never forgotten:

Oh son, I loved my native land, with energy and pride / Til a blight came over all my crops, my sheep and cattle died / My rent and taxes were to pay, I could not them redeem / And that’s the cruel reason why I left old Skibbereen.

skibbereenbookshop01

Thankfully, my memories are of happier times. When I first visited Skibbereen and stayed with Eddie’s family, I remember walking to the local hotel for dinner to celebrate his mother’s birthday: the raucous bantering of six brothers and sisters, everyone full of excitement and cheer, Mrs. MacEoin's coy smile. Then the breakfast in the warm kitchen, the laundry drying on lines across the high ceiling above us; the squabbling over the tin of fresh scones; and quiet Mr. MacEoin escaping the noise and frenzy by tending his beehives in the back yard.

Sometimes I could kick myself for not taking more pictures and recording every detail in my journal, but frankly it was all too much fun to write.

Thanks to Eddie and Teresa MacEoin and family; Dear Old Skibbereen; Journal, Skibbereen District and Historical Society, Vol. 7; and www.technogypsie.com. Images of the town belong to author and are several years old. 

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

Part 6 – Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 – Timoleague Friary

Part 8 – Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

Part 9 – Coppinger’s Court

Part 10 – Drombeg and Knockdrum

Part 11 - Liss Ard, Lough Abisdealy

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

HARDCOVER PAPERBACK E-BOOK

OR, try this universal link for your favorite ebook retailer: books2read.com

Learn more and sign up for  updates via my newsletter at nancyblanton.com

Tracking the Prince: Liss Ard, Lough Abisdealy

Part 11 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. liss-ard-estate-gallerysizediska007-jpg2Just west of Castletownshend and less than four miles from Skibbereen, there once was a ring fort high on a hill. All but gone now, the place still bears the name, Liss Ard, meaning “high fort.” Turning off the main road, instead of discovering a ruin you’ll come to an attractive high-end resort near the tranquil waters of Lough Abisdealy.

Here, along its lush banks, I found the very tree I needed for an exciting scene in The Prince of Glencurragh. It is here that protagonist Faolán Burke sets his trap for the bad guy who stalks him, Geoffrey Eames. Eames ends up tied to the tree, his feet at the water’s edge, and is left to his own devices to get himself free. Appropriate, perhaps, because by at least one source Lough Abisdealy means “lake of the monster.”

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maploughabisdealy-copyOn a map, the shape of Abisdealy looks to me like a giant sperm whale with its tail flipped up. While the lake is a favorite spot for some who fish for pike or carp, it has also produced sightings of another kind of monster, the conger or horse eel—giant eels in the likeness of the Loch Ness monster, as described in another location:

When the normally gushing waters linking lakes and rivers became reduced to a pathetic drizzle a large horse-eel was discovered lodged beneath a bridge by Ballynahinch Castle. The beast was described as thirty feet long and “as thick as a horse.” A carpenter was assigned to produce a spear capable of slaying the great creature but before the plan could be carried through rains arrived to wash the fortunate beast free. ~ Dale Drinnon, Frontiers of Zoology

And in 1914 at Lough Abisdealy, author Edith Somerville reported sighting “a long black creature propelling itself rapidly across the lake. Its flat head, on a long neck, was held high, two great loops of its length buckled in and out of the water as it progressed.” 

I saw no snakes, eels or monsters when I visited the lake, but what I did see was a visual feast of trees, their forms twisted, curved and swayed as if they were dancing.

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If you have an extra €7,500,000 handy you can pick up the estate for your very own. The real estate sales listing describes the “truly remarkable” 163-acre residential estate as a pleasure complex with Victorian mansion (6 bedrooms), Mews House (9 bedrooms) and Lake Lodge (10 bedrooms), plus tennis court, private 40-acre lake, and the Irish Sky Garden designed by artist James Turrell where you might “contemplate the ever-changing sky design.”

While it is not from the 17th century when my novel is set, the location does have some history to it:

“The Mansion house was built by the O'Donovan Chieftain of the O'Donovan Clan circa 1850 and a summer house, a moderately large house, was added to the estate circa 1870. This Summer House now referred to as the Lake Lodge.”

From the lake, the characters in The Prince... are just a few more miles from their destination, Rathmore Castle at Baltimore, and an important meeting with the Earl of Barrymore.

Thanks to Eddie and Teresa MacEoin, Dick Raynor, Exploring West Cork by Jack Roberts, Dale Drinnon and the Frontiers of Zoology, Liss Ard Estate.

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

Part 6 – Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 – Timoleague Friary

Part 8 – Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

Part 9 – Coppinger’s Court

Part 10 - Drombeg and Knockdrum

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

HARDCOVER PAPERBACK E-BOOK

OR, try this universal link for your favorite ebook retailer: books2read.com

Learn more and sign up for  updates via my newsletter at nancyblanton.com

Tracking the Prince: Drombeg and Knockdrum

Part 10 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. The hills and bluffs of southwest Cork are not only beautiful, but also magical. It seems at every turn you may find something ancient to fascinate you. Just a short distance from Coppinger’s Court along the Glandore Road, we parked on a narrow dirt road to climb the grassy hill to Drombeg Stone Circle.

img_1545This place had interested me from afar. I didn’t intend to use a stone circle in The Prince of Glencurragh, but this one happened to sit along the travel trajectory and, despite several earlier trips to Ireland, I had never actually visited a stone circle.

I wonder if everyone who visits them secretly hopes to have some kind of mystical experience? Perhaps not of “Outlander” proportions where the novel’s heroine is transported back 200 years, but at least some kind of physical or spiritual sensation. I wonder how many actually do? For me there was just the simple thrill of being there, touching something so old and at one time sacred, and imagining the people upon whose footsteps I walked.

img_1537Also known as “The Druid’s Altar,” archaeologists say this 17-stone circle was in use 1100 to 800 BC. The stones slope toward its famous recumbent stone that seems to align with the winter solstice. Depressions and a cooking area (fulacht fiadh) may have been in use until the 5th century AD.

But I’ve got news for archaeologists: visitors to this site are using it still, based on the tokens and offerings they leave behind. Countless prayers must have been uttered here, and it feels almost intimate, the circle small and cloaked within a soft Irish mist. We were there in June, but had we been there at sunset in December, I’m sure we would have heard the spirits singing…

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img_0684From there we passed Glandore where we would later eat a spectacular dinner at a waterfront restaurant, and Union Hall where I saw the view of the harbor that has enchanted people for ages (and is captured so creatively by the artists in the book, The Old Pier, Union Hall, by Paul and Aileen Finucane).

But my destination now was Knockdrum Fort, a few miles farther west. Knockdrum is one of Ireland’s many Iron Age stone ring forts, but this one was reconstructed in the 19th century. It has massive stone walls four to five feet high, arranged in a ring to provide protection as well as a 360 view of the surrounding area. Historians say that while it looks like a defensive fort, its purpose may have been sacred instead. The standing boulder just inside the entrance is inscribed with a large cross.

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img_0670Through my research I learned the fort had a souterrain with three chambers cut from solid stone, one having a fireplace and flue. One source said the underground passage went all the way down to the sea.

If this was so, I would indeed plan to use this site for a scene in my book. On paper it seemed the perfect location for a pursuit, a setup, a trap, and then a wily escape through the souterrain. And this is why actual site inspection is so important for an author.

Especially for historical fiction, readers want to learn something of the history as they read, and so, while characters and their actions can be fictional, readers expect a high level of accuracy in locations and historical events. I could not portray the location truthfully and still use it in the story because it was set high on a promontory, creating an unnecessary and unrealistic difficulty for the characters. And, if the souterrain was used for the escape route, it would have been quite a long way almost straight down to the sea, with the only advantage being if you had a seaworthy vessel waiting at the bottom.

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The souterrain was gated off so I could not see inside it, but I had seen enough to know that, while a remarkable site to explore, it would not serve the story well. Perhaps it will find a home in another story one day. The fort’s impressive size and appearance, and the view from all sides, is unforgettable.

Looking northeast of the site as we left it, we saw the “Five Fingers,” or rather three of them. These are megalithic stones jutting from a hill, looking like the skeletal fingers of a giant reaching for the sky—a high five for our explorations that day.

But I still needed a location for that scene in my story. And for this, the Liss Ard would serve quite nicely; coming up next week.

Thanks to Megalithic Ireland, Exploring West Cork by Jack Roberts, Irish Archaeology, abandonedireland.com, Irish Archaeology, The Old Pier, Union Hall, by Paul and Aileen Finucane.

Part 1 - Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 - Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 - Barryscourt 

Part 4 - Ormonde Castle

Part 5 - Lismore Castle

Part 6 - Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 - Timoleague Friary

Part 8 - Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

Part 9 - Coppinger's Court

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

Learn more and sign up for my newsletter at nancyblanton.com

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Tracking the Prince: Coppinger’s Court

Part 9 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end.  I first discovered Coppinger’s Court as a notation on a West Cork tour map. I was seeking a route that my characters in The Prince of Glencurragh would travel from Timoleague to Clonakilty and west along the coast to Baltimore. I wondered if it might become a stopping place along their way, but instead the manor house was so dramatic it inspired another scene altogether.

img_1555Coppinger’s Court, also known as Ballyvireen, is located along the Glandore road about two miles west of Rosscarbery. Described as a fortified manor house in the Elizabethan style, the structure has three wings off of a central court, creating nine gables, and each exterior wall has large mullioned windows that would have ensured good natural light.

Considered a place of opulence in its day, the house was said to have been “the finest house ever built in West Cork,” and is credited with having “a chimney for every month, a door for every week, and a window for every day of the year.”

coppcourtmapWith a description like that, I had to see it. And I already knew it would become the model for the fictitious Rathmore House, the seaside home of the Earl of Barrymore located near the town of Baltimore.

In The Prince of Glencurragh, Faolán Burke, his abducted/intended bride, and accomplices are rushing across Ireland’s south coast toward Baltimore. There they must meet the Earl of Barrymore who has promised to negotiate the marriage settlement. The story takes place in 1634, just three years after the town of Baltimore has been devastated by an attack and raid by Algerian pirates.

This attack was a real and violent event. Most of the town’s residents were abducted, a small number of them were ransomed, and the rest were killed, sold or used as slaves. The few survivors moved inland to Skibbereen for safety. I placed the Earl of Barrymore’s house, Rathmore, at a cove between the two settlements.

img_1556And I soon discovered a close and perhaps sinister connection between Coppinger’s Court and the town of Baltimore, centered on the builder of the great house, Sir Walter Coppinger. Sir Walter took pride in his Viking bloodline, and descended from a mercantile family well known in Cork for centuries:

“In 1319 Stephen Coppinger was mayor of the city, and several of his descendants held this position as well as becoming bailiffs and sheriffs of Cork. The Coppingers remained Roman Catholic and could therefore only afford to build a relatively modest residence at Glenville, of two storeys and five bays fronted by a semi-circular courtyard with a gate at either end.” ~ The Irish Aesthete

Sir Walter, however, was far from modest. He was a businessman, lawyer, landowner, and moneylender, who acquired many of his properties from borrowers who defaulted on their loans. Several sources support his reputation for ruthlessness, and perhaps unscrupulousness.

“Sir Walter Coppinger is remembered, probably wrongly, as an awful despot who lorded it over the district, hanging anyone who disagreed with him from a gallows on a gable end of the Court.” Abandoned Ireland

Sir Walter wished to own Baltimore for its castle and properties, and lucrative pilchard industry. He was involved in legal battles for ownership, but in 1610 he and other claimants agreed to lease the town to English settlers for 21 years. By the end of the lease, Coppinger had brought a case before the king’s Star Chamber, claiming the town as his own and asking to evict the English settlers. But he grew frustrated when the chamber members were reluctant to decide the case, and reluctant to evict prosperous families who had made improvements to the properties. And then came the pirates.

“There is no concrete evidence that Coppinger had any role in organising the Algerine raid of 1631. But it conveniently removed the only obstacle to his total control of Baltimore.” ~ Des Ekin, The Stolen Village

If he was responsible, it seems Karma won in the end. Coppinger was not to benefit from his long-coveted Baltimore. The town’s vast annual pilchard run suddenly disappeared, and by 1636 he had leased out his new castle and village. Sir Walter died in 1639. Then came the great Irish rebellion of 1641. Coppinger’s Court was ransacked and burned, and then confiscated by Oliver Cromwell in 1644. By 1690 after years of disuse, the great house was on its way to becoming another beautiful ruin.

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Thanks to The Irish Aesthete, Exploring West Cork by Jack Roberts, The Stolen Village by Des Ekin, abandonedireland.com,

Part 1 - Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 - Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 - Barryscourt 

Part 4 - Ormonde Castle

Part 5 - Lismore Castle

Part 6 - Bandon, Kilcolmen

Part 7 - Timoleague Friary

Part 8 - Castle Freke, Rathbarry, Red Strand

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

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Tracking the Prince: Rathbarry and the Red Strand

Part 8 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end.  Sometimes, though sand and water wash away the past, research and imagination still can resurrect it.

castlefreke

From Timoleague, Clonakilty is nearly a straight shot west along the R600. Heading south from there are rolling hills, green bluffs and marshy expanses leading toward Dunnycove Bay. On most driving and tour maps you’ll see a notation for Castlefreke.

Built by Randall Oge Barry in the 15th century, the fort was lost to the English after the Battle of Kinsale, was besieged and later burned during the Rebellion of 1641. A tower house was built on the site in 1780, which was remodeled in 1820, burned down in 1910, and at the time of my visit it was being remodeled as an event venue. However we did not visit Castlefreke itself, because it was not my destination. Instead, I wished to see Rathbarry Castle, the Red Strand, and just a little farther west, Coppinger’s Court.

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Featuring characters from the Barry family in The Prince of Glencurragh, I sought locations where they might have met or slept. I was to find little remaining of the castle, but enough to stir my imagination, and even more so, the illuminate larger forces that had been in play in the region.

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Thanks to my friends Eddie and Teresa, who introduced me to their friend Pat Hogan, I was able to visit and learn much about Rathbarry, and it became a landmark in the book, near the cottage of the mysterious healer Pol-Liam.

img_1519The castle Rathbarry existed on the site of what is now Castlefreke, bearing the family name of Freke for the current owners. Far out on the roadway, the gateposts marking the entrance to the castle grounds with their large spherical tops were said to be true remnants of the 17th century. Just one wall of the ancient stables and carriage house remained, and a new stable house had been built within it remodeled as a private residence. We were treated to a peek inside this structure to get a feel for what home life was like there.

img_1503From the upper wall of the ruin, crumbling stone stairs led down to an ancient watergate, a stone passage leading directly from the castle to the water, where boats would have come to deliver food and supplies. But, except for a small, enclosed pond, there was no water. From the top of the steps I could see the bay, maybe half a mile distant. How, I wondered, could the castle have been served from such a distance?

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512px-lisbon_1755_tsunami_travel_times

As Mr. Hogan reminded me, the landscape had changed dramatically since the 17th century, and events at the global level could have affected Ireland’s coastlines. In fact, in 1755 the Great Lisbon Earthquake and tsunami are believed to have done so. Considered one of the deadliest earthquakes in history, it is estimated to have hit the 8.5 to 9.0 range on today’s scale of magnitude, killed thousands of people and nearly devastated Lisbon. The tsunami’s impact was far-reaching.

“Tsunamis as tall as 20 metres (66 ft) swept the coast of North Africa, and struck Martinique and Barbados across the Atlantic. A three-metre (ten-foot) tsunami hit Cornwall on the southern English coast. Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, was also hit, resulting in partial destruction of the "Spanish Arch" section of the city wall. At Kinsale, several vessels were whirled round in the harbor, and water poured into the marketplace.” ~ Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, 1830 

img_1485Gigantic waves were reported as well in the West Indies and Brazil. Could these environmental events have shifted sands and reshaped Ireland’s coastline? Undoubtedly.

Almost within view of Rathbarry was another site I wished to visit: the Red Strand. Also likely to have been altered by the tsunami, this sandy beach was called “red” because the sand contained fossilized sea creatures or “calcareous matter,” which was believed to have a healing effect and also promote fertility. As late as the 19th century the sand was being collected for use in fertilizing crops some 16 miles away.

The only red I saw during my visit was in the clumps of seaweed washed ashore; still, the strand fascinates, bounded on one side by stones, and on the other by bluffs and stream. The strand and the story behind it served my imagination for a deadly scene in the book.

Next time: Coppinger’s Court.

Thanks to: Library Ireland, Exploring West Cork by Jack Roberts, Castles.nl, Pat Hogan, Eddie McEoin, Wikipedia and other sources.

Part 1 - Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 - Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 - Barryscourt 

Part 4 - Ormonde Castle

Part 5 - Lismore Castle

Part 6 - Bandon/Kilcolman

Part 7 - Timoleague

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

https://books2read.com/u/4N1Rj6

http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Glencurragh-Novel-Ireland-ebook/dp/B01GQPYQDY/

Tracking the Prince: Timoleague

Part 7 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous post links below. img_1559Driving south from Bandon on R602, you will arrive at the town of Timoleague in about 20 minutes, and see immediately the great landmark of Timoleague Friary. For the Prince of Glencurragh, traveling on horseback, at night and over rugged terrain, it would have taken at least three hours to reach this first stop on Faolán Burke’s path to destiny.

In the 17th century, local parishes were required to maintain their roads, especially in market towns. In 1634, a new act of Parliament allowed for a tax levy to cover the costs. But it would be decades before Ireland’s road systems were noted for improvements. A Scotsman traveling through Ireland in winter around 1619-1620 described his horse as “sinking to his girth” on boggy roads, his saddles and saddlebags destroyed.

img_1564Timoleague Franciscan friary would have provided a most welcome shelter to travelers, even it its ruined state. It remains a massive and impressive structure, the walls of the various rooms still intact so that you can recognize the floor plan and how each room was used. The roof is long gone, and some sources say that parts of the structure were carted away for use in other buildings.

img_1579From the mullioned window in the chorus, one would be hard-pressed to find a view more peaceful and contemplative. This is the spot where my heroine, Vivienne, considers her circumstances, having been abducted by three strange men, however benevolent they might have seemed. It’s the place where narrator Aengus recalls a treasured time with his father. And it is where he and Vivienne first realize a common bond.

Scenes in the book came alive for me as I entered each room and walked the same paths of monks and soldiers, and imagined conversations echoed in my mind.img_1578

Timoleague is an Anglicization of the Irish Tigh Molaige, meaning House of Malaga for St. Malaga who is believed to have first brought beekeeping to Ireland. Foundation of the friary is attributed to the McCarthys in the 13th century, and also to William de Barry and his wife Margery de Courcy in the 14th century. Unfortunately, its position along the beautiful River Argideen and overlooking Courtmacsherry Bay made it vulnerable to Algerian pirates who sometimes cruised Ireland’s coastline in search of hostages and plunder.

img_1570However, pirates may have seemed a minor threat compared the friary’s fate in the hands of the English. In King Henry VIII’s time, the structure was seized and as part of the Reformation the monks were dispersed. The monks returned in 1604, and then the English soldiers returned in 1612 to sack the buildings and smash all the stained glass windows. Then in 1642, English soldiers fighting the great Irish rebellion burned both the friary and town.

Many headstones dot the friary’s hillside, and large stone tombs in the nave are so ancient the chiseled inscriptions are no longer legible. Yet, the ruin is still an active cemetery for the local community.

Thanks to Timoleague Friary, Roaringwater Journal, Monastic Ireland. Photos belong to the author.

Series posts:

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle           Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt                 Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle           Part 6 - Bandon, Kilcolmen

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

https://books2read.com/u/4N1Rj6

http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Glencurragh-Novel-Ireland-ebook/dp/B01GQPYQDY/

See all of my books and other information at

nancyblanton.com