Baroque Exploreations Blogsite link

Found this fun site to explore!      

Sandra Gulland's Baroque Explorations    - has tons of links to 17th century England, France, Spain, just a treasure trove of cultural history and events to look through.  Everything from 'Courtly Theater' to Baking a pie!  

Ghost Hunting and Whiteladies Priory

Last year I went on a 'San Diego Ghost Hunt' to an old cemetary and ruins of an old fort.   We didn't see any floating balls of mist, no ghostly pictures, but we all had digital cameras.  We were told to take pictures, and more than one from any place we felt like it, and then look at them at home on our computers.   At the time it seemed very quiet and a bit disappointing, with the major part of the effort being devoted to not tripping over things in the dark!

But then I got home and looked at the pictures on the camera, and it really did make the hairs on my arms stand up.  There would be the picture, in color of the neat modern cememtary lawn with the trees in the background, part of the walkway, and then, clear as you could ever wish to see these 'misty' obvious 'skull' shapes floating over the grass or in the black areas!   One picture had as many as 6 of them all floating around.  You can tell it's  not dust particles, light refractions or other things, and I certainly didn't see them when I was standing there that night. 

So if you have an old cemetary at hand and a digital camera - try it for yourself.  Just remember you won't see them in the little preview picture screen, it takes the large screen of your computer for the images to show up.  Of course I couldn't give King Charles a digital camera, but there are various accounts on the internet of people out ghost hunting at Whiteladies who report hearing the chanting - that suddenly stops when they try to look into the chapel where it seems to be coming from, so I incorporated that into my WIP.

WhiteLadies House - Shropshire, UK

I spent this weekend intensely researching the Priory of Whiteladies, offically known as the Priory of St. Leonard, and Whiteladies house for the starting of Charles escape adventures.  Whiteladies house is hard to find things on, but I found it supposedly was built at the eastern side of the priory and had a small walled garden.  Current visitors report a 'green gate' that lets you into the priory grounds.  They've removed the ivy that once covered the standing walls, but I found an old picture that showed it still on.

I did find a very neat story of a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that the Giffard Family found in the ruins of the priory and took into the house.  It seems to be rather large, and the Penderels ended up having custody of it.  Apparently it was in Whiteladies house at the time of Charles visit and was miildly damaged by the troopers who came to search not long after the King had departed.   Then I found a replica of the statue still exists at a church in Brewood, so now I have a picture of it even for my files!  Whiteladies Priory was where Guenivere of the Authurian legends supposedly came after King Arthur's death, and spent the rest of her life there.  She is supposedly buried somewhere nearby after dying at the priory, but no one knows where her grave is.

The priory itself there was more information to be found on, tons of pictures, and quite a number of recent 'ghost hunts' conducted at the site.  Reports of ghostly manifestations commonly include: small balls of light, seeing a human shaped figure made of mist, sharp screams, music, chanting, bells, whispering and other odd mists.  Can't use all of that, but I'll manage to work in something.  There are a number of grave markers that sit inside the priory walls, and there are three fish ponds on the far side from Whiteladies house.

Also researched Colonel Ashenhurst, mentioned in several old works about Charles' Adventure.  This turns out to be Colonel Edward Ashenhurst, of the Staffordshire militia who was appointed by the House of Commons to adjucate matters when needed and to act in the state's interest.   Yeah, he acted in the state's interest all right - he found a widow trying to get back her sequestered properly and bought it for himself.  Can't establish a birth or death date for him, but he seems to have had a child, John born in 1647 and a child, Marie born in 1648.

Local Legends involve an ancestor of Charles Giffard killing a panther that was about to pounce on a woman near his house (it was his escaped pet) He killed the beast with a magnificent shot from his cross bow, and thus his armorial shield was augmented... so apparently the story is true.

Also in the area, sightings of 'The Wild Hunt'... usually not before the LAST battle of a war, but before the SECOND to the last battle.   Wild Edgar seems to lead the Wild Hunt in Shropshire at times.  He is accompanied by dark clouds, thunder, lightening and the normal other accoutrements of the Wild Hunt.  Dresses in green.

Veteran trees - trees with a circumference of more than 8 feet are given this designation and would be at least 700 years old.  Brewood Forest probably had a number of them.  Many have special tales associated with them.  Still looking into those.

Also looked up what the Penderels do for a living as 'woodmen'.... 
Coppiced trees are ones that are cut off close to the ground leaving 'stools'.   New tree trunks start out of the stool and grow upwards fast and much fuller than normal for the variety tree.  This was the old way of 'reforesting' without having to grow from a seedling.  The new forming tree has the massive root system of the full sized tree that was removed, and so grows much fuller and faster than normal.  The taken section is then sold by the woodmen.  Coppicing is done on a rotational basis.  How long between harvests depends on the kind of tree.  Trees common to Shropshire consist of oak, ash, willow, birch, and hawthorne.  An area that has been coppiced will experience open areas with a profusion of wildflowers and dense bramble growth, while the thicker and more heavily shaded areas will have more clear forest ground.


At dawn or near dawn on Thursday, 4 September 1651, after saying he must now travel on his own to escape England .....   Charles went from Whiteladies House, through the ruins, and into Spring Coppice, about half a mile away where he spent the day with Richard Penderel.  It rained heavily, becoming a downpour while he was in the woods.  It was too wet for him to sleep, and soldiers were on the nearby roads, going back and forth.   They didn't venture into the coppice due to the rain, which while it was raining over the coppice very heavily, was not raining other places.  Being human creatures they followed the path of least resistance and searched for the king where it was NOT raining.  The moon calendar shows 4 Sep 1651 to be the full 'dark of the moon' phase, so the nights would  have been VERY dark.

Now to start writing all of this up in third person story form.......   :D

'The Boscobel Tracts'... and 'Woodstock' - Fact vs Fiction

My Rating as a 'useful reference'.... The Boscobel Tracts      *****       (five out of five possible)

Spent today downloading and reading 'The Boscobel Tracts' - Edited by John Hughes - available on the Internet.   Value - has the stories of Charles escape, as dictated to Samuel Pepys by Charles, as well as letters recounting the episode written by those people directly involved, or their children, as well as discusses the locations.  Included in the Boscobel Tracts is the volume titled 'Boscobel' that was written by Thomas Blount, who died in 1679.  These are primary resources then, the King telling the story, several people telling their part of it in letters they were writing to Chancellor Hyde who was collecting them.  The stories are pretty consistant, but some give more details than others. 

The Boscobel Tracts

All of these people had to wait almost 10 years to tell the stories.  Charles and his family and supporters who were exiled after his escape realized that if the names of the people and the places where he had been helped were known to Cromwell and his governement, those people would have been severely punished or lost their lives - so the story could not be told.  Nine years later, after the Restoration in 1660, suddenly it was all right to tell the story, and Blount's book 'Boscobel' quickly became a 'best seller' of the day in the book shops.

In the preface of the Boscobel Tract, which was published in 1830, I found the author and someone he was writing to discussed Sir Walter Scotts' novel by the name of 'Woodstock' - which is Scott's fictionalized version of Charles' escape.  (see link below).   So I spent this evening reading 'Woodstock' on the Internet as well.  It was a bit surprising - but it has some scenes with Cromwell .  I have to admit when he first showed up walking into a room, I laughed with delight - the general himself shows up, not just some lackey!

Overview of Sir Walter Scott's Novel: Woodstock
Woodstock the novel from Wikipedia)

The contrast between the 'factual events' as told by Charles himself and recorded in the Boscobel Tracts, compared to the fiction if Woodstock gave me a chance to see how different these two versions came out to be.   Scott fictionalized things to a terrible degree, even putting Charles far, far away from where he ever went - and by coincidence putting him at the place that after 1672, was Lord Rochester's home!  Overall though, I enjoyed the story, even though I did know how far away from the truth Scott had wandered.

I don't think I want to go that far off track myself - it was a bit distracting at times to realize how far, far, far away from the truth he went, but overall it was interesting.   The language was a bit hard to follow at times, but I seemed to get used to it after an hour or so and then didn't notice it.

An Internet image search for   'Charles II receiving the blessings of Henry Lee'   will bring up old mezzotint prints of what was an illustration in the book in 1830.  It was in interesting day's reading, to say the least!

Worcester 1651 by Malcolm Atkin / 2008 / ISBN 978-1-84415-080-9

My Rating  as a 'useful reference'....             *****                      (five out of five possible)
"Worcester 1651" finally arrived!  There are only 155 pages plus the notes, index, etc, but it is a true treasure!  Quote from Back of book:
Mr. Atkin is head of the Historic Environment and Archeaeology Service for Worcestershire and is considered one of the leading authorities on the English Civil Wars
. - and I have to say that this is one of the most informative little books I've ever seen.  It doesn't go years iand years before the Battle to explain every how and why they got there - and it doesn't go years after to show the long term effect, but it has tons of pictures, maps, diagrams, sketches, one page biographies of all the principal characters, even shows the views from the top of the cathedral and fort.   Good information on regiments, weapons and fighting experiece of men who were on the field that day.  Has an excellent map drawn to show the city ON that day, 3 September 1651.

Best of all he slows down to an hour-by-hour description of the battle itself, taking the time to tell what one general was doing, and then moving to what another was doing at the same time.  He does a fairly good job of staying neutral, although I'd have to say he leans a little towards Charles' side.  I haven't found any issues he sugarcoats on either side though, bad or good,  even down to Charles seeing Montroses' mutilated arm in Scotland, and the Scots at Upton Bridge failing to post a watch at the river crossing that lets the enemy practically waltz onto the field.

What I got most out of this is the time line, and the picture of a 21 year old, surrounded by a large group of experienced veteran commanders / versus what seems like the 'well-oiled machine' known as the New Model Army.  Most striking is the excellent portrayal of the 'little-by-little' slights, overlooked, failed, just-not-done' bits and pieces that happened day by day once Cromwell came up to Worcester.  You see all the Royalists and Scots doing this and that to prepare, even down to stripping the lead from roofs to make musket balls - and then there is this, and that, and the other that just lets Cromwell's hugly outnumbering forces get closer... and closer... and closer.

By the time they get to the actual fighting, I think readers would probably agree with me that King Charles' position was basically suicidal.  As a reader, you can't help but be most amazed that Charles managed to get out, much less that some of his men got out of the city itself with him.   There is a letter written by a soldier who was captured after the battle who claims that
"....had it not been for divine protection, the King should surely have perished that day..."
Before I read this book I chalked the statement up to a bit of exaggeration, and the bravado of a young man taken prisioner, trying to keep his own spirits up. Having read the book, I have to admit - the soldier was not exaggerating in the least, not so much as half a hair!

As for the WIP - I now have a much better idea of the 'despair' that must have filled the hearts of some men like David Leslie.... the utter confidence that Cromwell must have felt in his own heart - and you can tell that anyone in the town  in the short days and hours before the battle, must have felt a sense of increasing 'dread-&-doom' slowly stealing over the army within the city.  You couldn't help but feel it if you knew  how fast and easily Cromwell was moving up closer and closer on you.... how many places he could have been delayed or stopped and such efforts failed to happen or were so easily defeated.

This produces an attitude and atmosphere that I can use different characters to show, thoughts they can struggle with, even nightmares they can have long after the battle is over, as those who were there probably experienced.  This is the kind of situation where you would hope everyone of Charles' men had made out their Will & Last Testament before being caught up ... where you can't help by marvel at the 'thinness' of the 'threads' that kept Charles' younger brother James from inheriting the crown that day....

.... where you  are reminded of Custer's Last Stand at the Little Bighorn. 


Biggest Drawback - all pictures are in black and white!  Some need a magnifying glass to see teeny details.

Afternote:  Music to listen to while writing this might be 'Johnny has gone for a soldier'.... 'The King's Singers Greatest Hits' version of  'The Sound of Silence'  ....  'Freedom', from the Liberty album by Mark O'Connor-  look for more perhaps.

Digging into the Scrolls of Whitehall, UCSD, and other varied libraries...

Research - I honestly prefer to base my WIP about the Restoration era court of King Charles on fact.  But, having the misfortune of being born over 300 years to late to see it for myself and take notes as Pepys did, I have to settle for the often vague and teasing accounts or the dry and dusty words left by others who did get to see it all in person.

Right now I'm researching the 1651 Battle at Worcester and Charles 'escape afterwards.   It all happened 9 years before he was able to return to England, but I think it was a very significant event in his life.   All writers have to interpret the 'research' they do in order to turn it into story that others might want to read, and I see this event and the weeks he spent in peril afterwards as things that colored much he did as well as influenced his attitudes as King... and so, it is to the long ago battlefield of Worcester I must journey.

I'll record the research notes and sources I find here, any odd thoughts and plot points that occur to me as I work through the process.   Interesting?  Can't promise that - but it will be a nice place to keep track of my 'sources'!  I am very, very impatiently awaiting the arrival of the book titled 'Worcester' - you can follow the link to check it out.   Yes, I ordered it 6 days ago, live in the US and would greatly appreciate it if the thing would get here from the UK, as in like NOW please?    Oh well, at least it's not coming by square-rigged sailing ship, all the way across the Atlantic, around South America, and up to California.   but still...

Any who wish, feel free to explore with me - access to my time machine is free to all    :D