Saturday, August 20, 2016

Roan Rose~~Tragedy at Bosworth Field

On August 22, 1485, England would be conquered for the last time by a foreign invader. 

The final battle of the Wars of Roses, the moment when the long-lived Plantagenet dynasty came to a bitter end, was fought by a small number of soldiers compared to the earlier bloodbaths that had taken place at Towton, Wakefield, and Mortimer's Cross--just to name just a few.

Henry Tudor styled himself a Welshman and flew the ancient  banner of the Pendragons. His army was comprised mostly of French mercenaries. Although an anointed King of England would die in battle on this day, if truth be told, Henry did not win by force of arms. The Battle of Bosworth Field was, for Henry, the culmination of long  years of intrigue.

Treason! said to be King Richard's final cry as he "fought bravely in the midst of his enemies" was the true reason for Henry's victory.

Here, Rose tells what she saw :


In the gray which proceeds dawn we came upon the king’s pickets at the rear guard. Here, my soldier friends went in and I stayed among a little group of women of the army waiting in an orchard. In the camp, the lords were arming. There were gay banners and the flash of metal on the hill above.

From that distance I heard canons begin to boom and heard the distant thud of gun stones. Into the summer dawn rose a black smoke, as if hell had opened a gate. There came next the battle roar. At last, in the valley behind the hill, I began to hear the terrible cries of the wounded.

Some of the women simply stayed under the trees. Myself and a few others, pale and full of fear at what we knew in our hearts—we went forward—to help, to look for our men. In dread we skirted the hill which had been the king’s camp.

A mob of ravens had already gathered, a murderous racket in the trees. Hearing them, the hair on my neck prickled.

There were three ravens sat on a tree . . .

 The grim old song! Crossing myself, I began to walk. If they gathered so eagerly, there were none left to do me harm...

Down, down in yonder green field

There lies a knight, slain ‘neath his shield...

        The dead lay everywhere. I stepped among them and then over them. Of the first lords I saw was one who lay belly down, arms extended, hands still gripping his battered, emblazoned shield. A trail of gore marked his progress through the crushed grass. He had been crawling, stubbornly refusing to release his arms. The shield was dented and crushed, the corners actually hammered out of shape. One heraldic quartering had been obliterated, but the other was still identifiable. It was my Lord Duke of Norfolk, ever true to the house of York.

As I approached, the ravens flew up with a chorus of caws and a funereal clatter of black wings. They did not go far, just rose, circled, and then landed again in the nearest tree, confident of their feast. It took my breath way to round the hill and come upon this rare work of men—strong bodies now broken and dead horses, the fallen, trampled standards, the greasy sheen of blood upon long August grass.

A haze hung in the air and the wind was rank with dust, black powder from the hellish guns, and that slaughterhouse stink. I crouched to see if any still breathed, but stiffening death was all I saw. On every side lay Richard’s men, men I knew, tabards emblazoned with the boar, now soaked with their own entrails...

~~Juliet Waldron

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

A little bit about a Butterfly...

A snippet from a WIP I'm hoping to finish soon:
Butterfly Bride
Sequel to Hand-me-Down Bride
Set in post Civil War Pennsylvania


Here, Elfie -- Sophie's little sister-- attends the first big event of the summer in the valley--the Ice Cream Social.

She's been invited by the Schwans, whose nephew, the Reverend "Wash", has taken an interest in the pretty newcomer.

When the reverend is distracted by church business, she spends the day with other young people, first, a pair of wealthy neighbors, Ripley King and his cousin 'Dina, and later with Sam and Mellie Moonshine, who are from a big extended farm family that live atop the nearby ridge.

At the very end, Washington finds her again. He's disappointed at the way the day has gone.  Big Sister Sophie's story...

The sun lowered, the shadows grew long. Tomorrow would be another work day. People were packing up their picnic baskets, collecting straying children and dogs, and preparing to return home. Washington held Elfie’s arm as they walked back to his wagon.

“I’m sorry to have stayed gone for so long.” Elfie thought she’d better take the bull by the horns.

“Well, never mind. All’s well that ends well.” Elfie was about to sigh with relief, when Washington added, “You are rather a butterfly, aren’t you, Miss Neiman?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”  They turned to face one another. He looked, she thought, rather critical, one of those “I’m older and wiser” kind of faces that she resented.

“I had hoped,” he said calmly, “to spend a little more time with you today.”

“Well, um, ah, yes! And I was also looking forward to that as well, but um…I was so hoping to see the lake and Mr. King and Miss Wildbach were so kind as to invite me...” Her mind had darted about looking for an answer which would—she hoped—mollify him. She rather hoped a non-apology would do.

After all, this was not her fault, was it?
A reverend had to deal with those committee men upon whom his permanent appointment to the pulpit might depend, so, really, what else should she have done? Stayed with his aunt and her middle-aged friends and talk about knitting, or folks she didn’t know and a mob of babies when she’d finally escaped her sister’s house? Good Lord!

Still, she knew she’d disappointed him. She didn’t like to think about herself that way, and thought she ought to try to make it up to him. He was really a very pleasant, genteel fellow.
How much my dear lost Papa would have liked him…

Along the way back to the carriages, ‘Dina and Rip crossed their path. Behind them trailed Mrs. Green and Judge Markham and a pair of tired looking maids. When, from a little distance, Mrs. Schwann called to Washington to “go get our conveyance, my dear, I’m simply walked off my feet,” and he excused himself and walk away again, Elfie lingered.
Soon, the truant threesome had drifted together again.

“Ah, good! You’ve found the Schwann’s,” ‘Dina said, catching her hand. “We weren’t sure where you’d got to.”

“Like a sleek little duckling, Miss Elfie always comes up paddling.” Rip grinned. He was still damp and not, Elfie noted, entirely steady on his feet. He blew a big kiss in her direction.

“She’d better learn to swim, if she’s going to live ‘round here,” said ‘Dina, giving Elfie a woman-to-woman look. It was clear that she was, to some extent, was supporting Rip. As they stood together, Elfie caught the scent of bourbon. Ripley must be even worse for wear than he’d been earlier!

As if to confirm her suspicion, close by, a disapproving elder was heard to say: “Young fella’s thoroughly corned…”

“Come along, Miss Neiman!” Aunt Schwann had turned back and again raised her voice. Elfie thanked heaven that Washington had gone ahead, for their wagonette.   She spun about to respond with a bright wave.

 “Um, yes, Ma’am. Comin’ right away!” Quickly turning back to her new friends, she added, “Good-bye, Miss Wildbach. ‘Bye, Mr. King. Thank–you so much for taking me across the lake!”

'Dina winked and said, “Run fast, or the old goose will leave you behind, I swear! What a sour puss!” At the same time, Ripley made a dramatic gesture of farewell and said something that sounded like: “Pray do not absquatulate, m’dear  Miss Neiman…”

Whatever that meant! He was an endearing figure, playing the clown, and remaining so appealing with his bright hair, blue eyes, and young body.
He and 'Dina really were like matching bookends, so blonde, so well-dressed and ever so gay! 

“See you soon, Miss Neiman,” said ‘Dina. “Come along now, Mr. King, you great booby!”

Elfie had to grab the brim of her hat and dash after the receding figures of the Schwann party. By the time she caught up, the step stool had already been placed and Aunt Schwann was being helped into the back...

~~by Juliet Waldron

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Saturday, August 6, 2016


While baby #3, Alexander Junior, stirs in his sleep beside his mom, Daddy is awake and making big plans...    Books by Juliet Waldron  A Master Passion  

...Betsy awoke. The newest baby, Alexander, grumbled in bed beside her, but her husband was gone. She knew he was not far, though, for she could hear him nearby. Lifting her head, she saw his outline against the moonlit window.

He was thinking aloud. Or, more properly, trying out a speech. Like the Iroquois, he often composed orations in this way, creating without benefit of pen and paper.

“Congress stands in a very embarrassing situation,” Alexander spoke into the darkness. “On the one hand they are blamed for not doing what they have no means of doing; on the other, their attempts are branded as encroachments and lust for power. It is the duty of all those who have the welfare of the community at heart to direct the attention of the people to the true source of the public disorders—the want of efficient government—and to impress upon them that the States must have a stronger bond of Union, one capable of drawing forth the resources of the country. This will be a more worthwhile occupation than complaining about a weakness which is built into the current constitution...”

He turned towards her, having divined that she was listening.

“I shall go to the Annapolis Convention after all. Something could happen, something that could finally pull this country together. We can’t leave untried any possibility.”

He returned to their bed, and took a seat beside her.

 “My Betsy.” He stroked her hair, “I shall soon be leaving you again.”

She slipped her hand through the open nightshirt to touch his chest. It was hard not to be cross. He seemed happy when he was home with her and the little ones, but he was also gone a great deal; he arranged his life that way.

She had a premonition that like his tenure in the Continental Congress, he’d return to her from this latest Convention in a state of rage, boiling over, like a neglected kettle...

The spectacle of thirteen states, creating trade barriers, warring over boundaries, with differing currencies and laws, all while the Continental army remained unpaid and with a huge war debt coming due, was not one which inspired confidence in either foreign lenders or in America’s more thoughtful citizens.

Hamilton and his father-in-law agreed that without a central government which paid its debts and soldiers, they were sure to come to grief. Some land-grabbing European power could easily appear on the scene to fragment and then gobble up the weak, separate states...

Autograph cover in his best secretarial hand

~~Juliet Waldron, A Master Passion

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Saturday, July 30, 2016


You’d never know, at first glance, that Mrs. Hamilton was a Leo. When you first learn of a shy girl, “the best tempered girl in the world,” -- an 18th Century way to praise one who is not a great beauty – you can’t imagine any sort of classic Leo female. Such women radiate energy, flaunt their good looks and always have something clever to say.

Still, according to General Washington’s ADC, Tench Tilghman, who met Betsy Schuyler during a war time visit to Albany, she was “…A Brunette with the most good-natured dark lovely eyes that I ever saw, which threw a beam of good temper and Benevolence over her entire Countenance…” Later, during that same visit, three ladies and three gentlemen took a picnic “of Sherbet and Biscuit" to the Falls at Cohoes, north of Albany.

The Falls at Cohoes, low flow
They went for a climb up the rocks in order to get a better view—or at least, Betsy and Tench Tilghman did—and she astonished the Marylander by climbing unaided right alongside him, for “she disdained all assistance and made herself merry at the distress of the other Ladyes.”  This gives us a far more Leonine, picture of Miss Betsy—of a healthy, able-bodied creature, who was used to and thoroughly enjoyed physical activity—even if it wasn’t  considered “ladylike.”   

And she could fascinate in a Leonine way, too, when it suited her. Here follows a sweet story told by one of the elder children of the Ford Mansion, the stately home where Washington’s military family was housed for the winter. In order that teen-age Timothy might go see his friends in the Village of Morristown, he was given the nightly countersign so that he could pass the sentries posted around the house after dark. One night, as he approached the sentinel, he heard the call for the countersign, but the young officer who’d been trudging ahead of him through the snow couldn’t seem to remember it. The sentry, following orders, presented his bayonet.

The absent-minded officer was Alexander Hamilton, who had been leaving headquarters almost every night to spend time with Miss Betsy, now staying with her Aunt and Uncle Cochran at a farmhouse nearby. Timothy and the sentry both knew Lieutenant Hamilton, of course, but the sentry didn’t dare disobey orders. In the end, Hamilton took Timothy aside and asked for the password, which he then presented to the still dubious guard. This is the only story concerning absent-mindedness I’ve ever read about the sharp-as-a-tack Hamilton, and I give the Leo in Miss Betsy all the credit.

Later on in the marriage, after her husband's sordid affair with Maria Reynolds, nosy biographers as well as novelists like me, would love to know how Eliza reacted.  (As they grew older, Hamilton's pet name for his Elizabeth changed to one more dignified.) However, with the strong desire for privacy evidenced by many 18th Century wives of famous men, Mrs. Hamilton, like Konstanze Mozart and Martha Washington, two other notable contemporary examples, doubtless burned any and all written evidence of recrimination. To quote the astrologer, Linda Goodman, on the bravery of Leo* "...there's no one who can bear more in stoic dignity, or adjust more courageously to depressing conditions with sheer faith and optimism...". 

This perfectly describes Elizabeth. She lived for more than fifty years after her "dear Hamilton" had died and never ceased to love him and defend his memory. She worked to preserve his vast, scattered written legacy, and fought to maintain his reputation in the face of his longer lived, formidable (Adams, Jefferson) but relentlessly jealous enemies.

Although she had to scrape to raise her children, Elizabeth made her mark in the world, being one of the co-founders of the first orphanage in NYC, a project dear to her heart because through this she honored her husband, who'd also been a fatherless child.

The train of disasters, financial and emotional, which beset this lady never kept her spirits down. Quoting Linda Goodman once more on Leo: "It's hard to sway them from a set path...They accumulate only so they can distribute to others...when a real emergency falls on Leo's strong shoulders..." they will "never shirk ... duty...they will help "the defenseless" and "protect the frightened."   

@ New York Historical Society

For information and inspiration for this blog, I am indebted to:

*Women of Colonial and Revolutionary Times by Mary Gay Humphreys 
*Life of Major General Schuyler by Bayard Tuckerman
*Sun Signs by Linda Goodman

~~Juliet Waldron ~ All my historical novels :

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Possum Goes on Retreat

Rumination after a return from the woods. 

The possum has been at a retreat in the woods, in company with a lot of other creatures, bears, snakes, turtles, birds of every hue, wolves, rabbits, frogs, monkeys, mice, dogs, as well as some highly verbal cockroaches, dread-locked dragons, and reclusive cats, all meeting, greeting, contemplating, and studying the ways of balance and peaceful co-existence. It was very hot and very sweaty because it was July, and the animals slept in tents, walking some distance to reach showers or potty. That is, when they weren't dancing, singing, creating art, forming friendships, or meditating.

One of the finest sights is only on view during middle of the night rambles to the necessary: the Milky Way, our local galaxy, now nearly invisible to the more domesticated animals who live in the vast sprawl of cities. At the same time, grandmother moon grew fat, her face glowing through the tall straight trees, the oak, tulip poplar, beech, swamp maple, as well as the trees that grow with a hula-hoop twist, like sassafras, or flowering shrubs like mountain laurel and witch hazel.  All the creatures did a lot of walking through the woods and down along the creek, which was now singing a very soft tune as it ran over  the red and gray earth bones because it hasn’t been raining much.

What goes down must come up again, and this is true, not only for rain, but for all of us, especially if we wanted get back up again, away from the Hemlock Hole where we had been swimming, to our tents, or to the open pavilion where delicious meals are served, or to visit the forest cathedral. Worship took place in the open air. You don't need to go inside a building to hear the sacred words-or to sing hymns to Creator. If you wonder at that, remember the sermon on the mount--and if that's not your creed, recall the great Black Elk, who simply said: "The holy land is everywhere." 

Cell phones do not work in this place, although occasionally, standing on the hill by the contemplative labyrinth—stones laid into the ground, wildflowers—you could get a signal. Some creatures, suffering from electronic withdrawal, could sometimes be seen standing up there, arms extended, waving little glowing rectangles at the heavens, like devotees of some new sect, praying for even the smallest sign from the brutal cacophony which lay on the other side of the ancient blue mountains.

The possum returned home after a week of study, peace, mutual respect, and concord to a world convulsed with shootings and military coups, as well as the usual work-a-day torture, sexual slavery, famine, drought, injustice, greed, and cruelty. A few mass murders in the name of God were tossed in for good measure. Sound bite solutions to complex problems were trumpeted by the servants of Mammon--and by many accepted--easy-way-out notions which, when examined for longer than a minute, shouldn’t convince a flatworm, much less any self-respecting creature who (in vain) calls itself homo sapiens.
Humble Possum was shell-shocked. She had left the Holy Isle and re-entered the electric mad house. 

~Juliet Waldron

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