Jun 27 2017

Don’t serve your coffee from a chocolate pot!

What makes a chocolate pot different from a teapot or coffee pot?


 

Because anything induced by chocolate MUST be a good idea, its time for another chocolate-induced dive down the research rabbit hole!

Just to refresh your memory a bit, during the regency era, there were three particular luxury drinks: tea, coffee and chocolate. (I talked about tea recently, you can find that HERE. The first chocolate article is HERE.) They were in high demand, but expensive to acquire and, in the case of chocolate, difficult to make. 

Preparing drinking chocolate took at least thirty minutes and (ideally) a number of specialized tools for both preparation and serving. But people haven’t changed much in the last several hundred years. Those who couldn’t afford all the special tools still drank chocolate, making do with what they already had in their kitchens. They also drank chocolate out of whatever they had available, even tankards. (Given the size of some of those chocolate cups, a tankard doesn’t really sound like such a bad idea to me…)

All of that aside, what tools were needed?

To start, a specialty chocolate grater would be used to shave chocolate from a solid and very hard tablet of chocolate and spices like cardamom, aniseed, cloves, and bergamot. I’ve got to admit, that latter one has me a little skeptical. There is a reason why chocolate-covered fruit loops aren’t a thing. (If you’re not familiar with it, in my humble opinion, bergamot tastes just like fruit loops) But I suppose whatever floats your boat, right? For me, I’ll take cinnamon in my chocolate.

The powdered chocolate would be added to a large pan or chocolate pot containing water, milk or possibly a mixture of water and wine or brandy and brought to a boil, while constantly stirring to prevent scorching. (No small feat when you consider that we’re talking about cooking over fire, not the carefully controlled heat of a gas or electric stove.) A special tool, known in England as a chocolate mill (in France a molinet, in Spain a molinilla) would be used to beat in thickening agents and create froth on the top. 

There is a knack to using a molinet. You roll the handle between your hands to spin it in the chocolate rather than using a traditional stirring motion. That allows the tool to move much faster and introduce more air into the chocolate. It also tends to splash when you do this, so you may just end up wearing a great deal of your chocolate if you’re not careful.

Below are a few examples of the molinet. 

Once the chocolate was ready, special pots, known in France as a chocolatière, were designed just for serving it. At first, when chocolate was a luxury limited to only the most elite, chocolate pots were made exclusively of silver with fine hardwoods or ivory used for the finials. In the early 1700’s, porcelain chocolate pots were made in China for export to Europe. Later, sturdier (and less expensive) pots were made of pewter or earthenware.

Chocolate pots tended to be tall and relatively slender, looking a lot like coffee pots, but with a few significant differences in the lid, the spout and the handle.

The lid

Drinking chocolate was very thick and tended to settle, so it was essential to continue whipping it with the molinet. To accommodate the molinet, a chocolate pot had a very distinct lid.

The top of a chocolate pot had a hole for the molinet handle to extend from, allowing the hostess to stir the chocolate without splashing herself or her guests. The hole might remain uncovered, but in many cases a special hinged or swiveling finial would cap the hole and help preserve the heat in the chocolate. Sometimes the finial might be attached by a chain to the pot so it would not get lost.

The vigorous action of the molinet left delicate porcelain chocolate pots at risk for breakage, so their lids were often made of silver or pewter to reduce the chance of damaging the pots during use.

The spout

Spouts on chocolate pots were wide and set high on the pot. Both qualities relate to the froth on the top of the chocolate. Since the froth floats on top of the chocolate, locating the spout high helps to capture the foam. Similarly, a wide spout facilitates getting it into a serving cup.

A high spout also helps to keep the undesirable sediments that settled to the bottom out of the serving cups.

The handle

The earliest chocolate pots had handles set at right angles to the pot. Usually these were made of wood, with a bit of a knob at the end. After the later part of the 1730’s chocolate pots with looping handles in line with the pouring spout were produced.

Why the two different types of handles? Actually it was difficult to suss out a clear and definitive reason.

The best I could find was that the loop shaped handles were easier for women with weak wrists to pour.

The handle at 90 degrees (thought to be a bit more popular) required two hands to pour, one to man the handle and the other to keep the lid from falling off. I have read this also allowed for stirring the chocolate as you poured it, but I can’t for the life of me picture how that worked. However, I have also read that this sort of handle makes it easier to pour the upper half of the vessel, which is where the most desirable foam and drinking chocolate would reside, and easier to keep the undesirable gritty bits at the bottom in the pot.

Take a peek at what these different pots would look like.

Handles at 90 degrees:

Handles in line withe the spouts.

 

How did chocolate specifically differ from tea or coffee pots?

Teapots tend to be short and stout (remember the kids’ song?)  The round shape allows room for the tea to move in the pot, allowing it to seep more effectively. Their short spouts come from the center of the pot and sometimes have a grate behind to keep the tea leaves from clogging the spout.  The short length makes them easier to clean if leaves get trapped inside the spout.

Coffee pots are designed to help maintain the heat of the beverage, which preserves its flavor. The taller, narrow shape helps minimize heat loss. The longer, low-mounted spout helps keep cool air from circulating into the pot.

 A proper regency hostess would have been able to identify these pots at just a glance and probably would not consider serving chocolate from anything but a chocolate pot. For the rest of us though, chocolate served from another sort of pot would still be chocolate, right? And that has to be a very good thing indeed.

 

References

Deitz, Paula. “Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity.” The New York Times. February 18, 1989. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/19/arts/antiques-chocolate-pots-brewed-ingenuity.html.

Kane, Kathryn. “Regency Chocolate:   The Correct Accoutrements.” The Regency Redingote. August 02, 2011. Accessed May 24, 2017. https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/regency-chocolate-the-correct-accoutrements/.

Righthand, Jess. “A Brief History of the Chocolate Pot.” Smithsonian.com. February 13, 2015. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/brief-history-chocolate-pot-180954241/.

 

Jun 24 2017

Understanding Dragon Types: Dragon types and Bird Types

dragon-banner

Peek into Elizabeth Bennet’s world of dragons through her commonplace book as she seeks to understand dragon types.

 If you missed the start of grown up Elizabeth’s adventure with dragons, check out this post . If you missed the first installment in Elizabeth’s Commonplace Book, you can find it here.

 


September 1801

  Mama’s urgent errand turned out to be cutting flowers in the garden for vases in the drawing room. Guests were planned for dinner, though she did not bother to mention it to us earlier in the week. Perhaps it is because Papa does not prefer to have company and she would avoid hearing him complain about it. The company proved quite dull indeed, not a Dragon Mate among them. I should love to have a dinner party with just Dragon Mates and maybe even their dragons as well. What a delightful event would that be. I do not see that ever happening at Longbourn, though.

At last though, I am at leisure to return to the task assigned by Papa. He added to the assignment just this morning though. He asked me how dragons, that look very much like animals, were set apart from animals. It seems there has been some great debate amongst the Blue Order on the matter.

Truly, though, I do not understand what there is to debate about. Dragons are–what is the word, I just learnt it in my lessons last week–sentient! That is the word! It means: characterized by sensation and consciousness. In that dragons are like people.

Papa says some argue it is intelligence that sets them apart, or the ability to speak. But that hardly makes sense. Some people are very intelligent, and some most clearly not. Some people talk a never-ending stream of words, and some rarely speak at all. Dragons are the same. Some have precious little sense about them, but being stupid does not mean they are not dragons! Heavens, according to Papa, fully half of Meryton would not qualify as people if that criteria were applied to men and women. I have a feeling he would not like to hear me say that though. I should return my attention to dragon types.

In addition to Snake types and wyrm types, I know of two other major types of dragons.

 

Dragon Types  

 

Dragon types should really be called lizard types for the shape of their heads–and often the rest of them as well–resembles large lizards. But that is something one should never say to a dragon.

It is a very great insult to suggest a dragon resembles a lizard and an even greater insult to call a dragon a big lizard. It seems that such an insult was once considered a breach of the Pendragon Treaty, sufficient provocation to acquit the offended drake of assault against the man who said it.

Insulting a dragon is a very bad idea.

 

Fire Drakes

Fire Drakes are the largest, most spectacular of all the dragons. The highest ranked dragons are all fire drakes. I have heard tell, they might live up to 500 years! Though none remain who saw the Accords actually signed, Papa says that one of the Duges was hatched just after the time of the Accords and grew up, watching them implemented. I wonder if I might be permitted an introduction someday. How grand it would be to hear of those days from one who actually saw them.

Fire drakes are able to fly, though most only do so on moonless nights, lest they be seen by the dragon deaf. Such a sight would be difficult to persuade away. They can also breathe fire–the only type which can do so. I am told it is a fearsome sight indeed.

 

Drakes

Drakes are said to be the most common type of dragon, but I am convinced there are really more fairy dragons in England than drakes. But no one takes fairy dragons seriously–and they are often eaten by other wild dragon, birds of prey, cats and the like, so I suppose no one actually counts them.

Drakes are like wyrms, though I am told that is another thing one should not say very loud, in that there are both major and minor drakes. They can be nearly as large as a fire drake or as small as a large dog. The major ones are apt to insist that the small ones are really a different type altogether. The cranky ones suggest that minor drakes are truly lizard type dragons. I do not think I want to have that discussion with any of them.

Perhaps the notion has some sense to it though, as minor drakes may vary widely in their appearance. Some have frills that they can expand to look very large. Others have spikes along their heads or spines. Some, I am told have fins along their back and bony nubs on the ends of their tails. Rumblekins says that he has seen some with webbed feet. But I am not sure how much I can trust his reports. 

Wyverns

Longbourn is a wyvern, so this type should be of particular import to me. They are among the smallest of the major dragons and the weakest of them all. Wyverns have no titles, like most gentlemen. They are above only the minor dragons. I think this gives them a particular impatience with the deference smaller dragons show them. But that is only what I have heard. Perhaps I will learn differently when I meet Longbourn himself.

Despite their small size and low status, wyverns share similarities with fire drakes. First, they can fly. More interesting, they can breathe poison much in the way a fire drake breathes fire. 

 

Puks

Puks are the smallest of the dragon types. Some say they are lucky, but I think they are more mischievous than anything else. The size of a lady’s dog, they often pass themselves as pugs and other cute dogs, living in the house, often constantly as the mistress’s side. They have wing nubs, but not real wings, and a hood that stands up when they are angry or afraid.

Hoarders by nature, they are drawn to pretty, shiny baubles. Most content themselves with coins and buttons, but some prefer jewelry and are apt to steal what catches their eye. It can be a real danger for anyone who keeps a puk.

 

 

Bird Types

.

In all the reading I have done, there are no accounts of any major bird type dragons. It seems they are all minor dragons. But perhaps it is possible that there are major bird dragons that we do not know of yet.

In any case, all the bird type dragons have bird-like beaks. Some are very delicate, like hummingbirds, others are powerful like birds of prey. Bird-types also have wings, but since that is not their defining characteristic, I think it might be just a coincidence.

 

Cockatrice

The Cockatrice is a very odd beast. Males and females look entirely different. The males’ head and body resemble birds of prey in shape, covered with feather scales. Their wings are leathery and their tails long and serpentine. In size, they match the range of birds of prey.

Females, though are entirely different creatures. They are very rare, I am told, and very showy. With spectacular feather headdresses and tails, they resemble birds far more than the males of their kind.

Both males and females are said to be very aggressive and rarely deign to associate with creatures over whom they cannot assert dominance.

I think they sound rather disagreeable. But Papa says Uncle Gardiner has a cockatrice friend, Rustle, who is quite a decent fellow. I suppose I shall found out when I meet him.

 

Fairy Dragon

Of all the dragon types, these are the kind I most wish to have for a dragon friend. Though they are said to be silly and senseless, I do not believe those reports to be true. I am sure being preyed upon by so many creatures leaves them flighty and nervous.

The wild ones I have overheard in the fields talk ever so much about what has tried to eat them and how best to avoid them. No wonder they are anxious.

Still though, their plans can be quite clever. I am sure they are cleverer than most give them credit for being. They are certainly beautiful, dainty little things, sipping at flowers and feasting on fruits.

I am sure one would make a wonderful companion, if I should only have the chance to befriend one. I know Papa does not care very much for them, but perhaps he can be persuaded.

I hope that Papa is now convinced I know enough about dragon types and I can soon meet Longbourn. I think I must be growing as impatient as a wyvern for that day!


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Jun 22 2017

Heir of Rosings Park Chapter 11

Heir of Rosing Park iconIn which Mary has a very strong opinion.

 

Find additional chapters HERE


 Chapter 11

Icy, prickly cold descended in Charlotte’s little parlor. The kind of cold that frequented Longbourn when Papa had a bad day. The kind of cold that sent Lydia and Kitty running for cover and Mama making him tea with a liberal dose of brandy. The kind of cold that Lizzy had no choice but to put on a brave face for and withstand.

She could follow Lizzy’s example.

Collins stared dumbly at the doorway for a long moment. Mary clenched her fists in her lap, the feel of Charlotte’s eyes rasping her skin nearly too much to bear.

The front door squealed and thudded shut. Mary held her breath.

Collins rose slowly, without turning to face them, and stalked away, muttering about the need to write a sermon.

Mary counted silently. At thirty-five the door to Mr. Collins’ study ? closed with a measured snap. Mary closed the parlor door and pressed her back against it.

“What happened? What really happened after you ran from the house.” Charlotte probably did not intend to sound so accusing.

Mary covered her eyes with her hand. “I did not go seeking the colonel if that is what you are concerned about.”

“I hardly thought that you would.”

That was a lie.

Did Charlotte not realize how obvious a liar she was? What did Charlotte really think of her?

“I went to the spring well by the old shack. I thought no one would be there. With good reason, I might add. You know no one goes there. But for some perverse reason, the colonel appeared. He said he was on his way here to ask for help with Lady Catherine’s companion.”

“I do not know why as it is not on the way to the parsonage.” Charlotte pushed up from the couch and pressed her hands to the small of her back.

How much her belly had grown even these last few weeks. Thank heavens she had finally employed a proper midwife.

“What did you tell the colonel?” Her eyes narrowed with a distinctly uncomfortable accusation.

“Nothing, absolutely nothing. Do you really think so little of me to believe I would bother the colonel about a personal matter that is no business of his?” She turned her bruised cheek toward Charlotte. “But Charlotte, he is no fool. He could see this. He knew where this had come from without a word on my part. And yes, I begged him to leave the matter lie.”

Charlotte inched closer and inspected Mary’s face. “I know Collins has a bad temper. I suppose it is a trait with the men of your family.”

Was that inditement or commiseration?

“It is something with which I am not unfamiliar.”

“He has not been apt to behave that way with me. I do not know why—”

Truly, she had no idea that bowing to every whim and agreeing with his every declaration would render him more docile? What a coincidence that she managed to do all those things correctly then.

Mary clutched her temples with one hand. “Does it matter why he should find me so disagreeable? What is done is done.”

Charlotte harrumphed and pulled back. “I do not see why you are so disturbed. I know your father—”

“Charlotte! Are you actually defending them?”

 “I am merely being realistic.” Charlotte waddled to the window. “What else is there to be done? The law does not agree with you, and it is ours to endure and to be gentle and mild.”

Mama often espoused the same sentiments. “So I have heard, but I do not know that I believe it any more. I am not certain it has served any of us well. At the very least, it was gallant of the colonel to stand up on my behalf.”

“I would caution you, Mary. You must be careful of him.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Are you not suspicious of his expectations for your company?”

“Do not be ridiculous!”

“He is not the kind of man you are accustomed to.”

“And I am betrothed to his steward as well as sister to his cousin. Not to mention I am hardly a beauty, nor have I any fortune. There is no reason for him to pay any attention to me.” Mary wrapped her arms around her waist.

“A man does not reason beyond lust.”

“Charlotte! I cannot accept what you are suggesting.”

How annoying that the carpet should muffle her foot stomp.

“As you will.” Charlotte shrugged and tossed her head. “I am only concerned for you. You are my friend.”

Why did silence always have to be so awkward?

“Will you still be with me when the baby comes?”

“Of course I will. You need only send word, and I will be here. I have promised you that.”

“Do you want help packing your trunk?”

And be instructed on Lady Catherine’s way of folding gowns? No.

“You should rest. I think your ankles are swelling again. You need to put your feet up.” She led Charlotte back to the couch and arranged the stool for her feet.

“I will miss your company. Who will tell me to rest if you are not here?”

“I will call upon you regularly, I promise. You will hardly know I have gone. And I am sure Mr. Collins will be in a better humor without me. Here is a fresh cup of tea and a few sandwiches to keep up your strength. Close your eyes and rest for a bit after that. I shall not go without taking leave of you.”

“You are a very good friend.” Charlotte patted her hand and sipped her tea.

Mary slipped out and hurried upstairs, tiptoeing past Collins’ study as she went.

Her heart hammered in her throat. What was she to make of all this? Who did Fitzwilliam think he was, highhandedly managing her life that way? It seemed he was more like Darcy than Elizabeth knew. Perhaps that was a family trait shared among the Fitzwilliams. Lady Catherine certainly seemed to demonstrate her share of it.

She dragged her trunk to the middle of the room and flung it open.  Botheration, it still smelt musty. Would that scent never come out of it?

Getting out of Collins’ house was a blessing, full stop. The man was obsequious and shared in common all of Papa’s worst traits though filtered through his  vicar’s robes. He was only tolerable with the knowledge that she would soon be moving to her own establishment with Mr. Michaels. Maybe she should be glad to be getting away from him.

But the price was far too dear to appreciate.

Now she was stuck with Lady Catherine and the denizens of the manor. The servants would be turning to her as they had to Lizzy, the only practical head in the house. Effectively being mistress of a grand manor might be an amusing mental exercise, but it was in fact a great deal more work than she cared to take on, particularly when she could look forward to being questioned and meddled with at every turn.

And now she would be saddled with it, with no option to turn down the gracious offer.

How kind and generous of the colonel.

Why did these interfering men never bother to ask her opinion?  They simply decided for her as if she were some simpleton?

Still, she should be grateful. He had swept in, rather like a knight in armor, to protect her from a very real ogre. That was kind of him. And the way he looked at her at the well … how long had he been there, and what had he seen?

Oh! Gracious!

Her cheeks heated, and she pressed her palms to her face. Had he seen her indecorous display, water dripping down her décolletage? She winced. No doubt he had.

Could that explain the look in his eyes, the way he licked his lips as he stared at her?

Heat crept up her jaw and neck. No man had ever looked at her that way. Michaels certainly had not. Should it please her that he did not, or disappoint?

She should not like that Fitzwilliam did, but the memory of his eyes, his voice, sent a chill down her spine and a frisson to her belly. No, no, no! This was not how she should feel and not how she would feel.

She huffed out a jagged breath and then another. There, that was better. She would be in control; her sensibilities would not overwhelm her good sense.

Was it a good thing that Lydia made better sense to her now than she had ever had before? For the first time, her impulsiveness and the liberties she allowed to her person made a modicum of sense. Was that a good thing?

Great heavens—did Charlotte suspect? Was that why she had offered her warning? If she thought she saw something, did Collins suppose something as well? What about the colonel?

Oh goodness!

She sat on the edge of her bed, face in her hands, gasping for breath.

No, no. She was letting her imagination run away from her. Collins was too self-absorbed to pay attention to anything so subtle, and Charlotte? Surely it was mere coincidence. No doubt she found Mr. Collins very disagreeable and assumed all men were as he.

She shuddered. Those were thoughts she did not need in her mind.

Not at all.

Breathe, just breathe. The knots in her stomach eased.

Enough of this foolish speculation! She threw her clothes into the trunk. Lady Catherine would be appalled, but it would do to travel from the vicarage to the manor. She flung the trunk shut and donned her bonnet and spencer. After taking her leave of Charlotte, she would take the long way to the manor. The very long way.

 

So what is going to happen when Mary takes residence at Rosings? Tell me in the comments.


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Jun 20 2017

History A’la Carte June 2017

 

It can’t possibly be a surprise that I read tons of history articles each week. I just can’t help myself–I’ve got to share some of the fascinating things I’ve come across. Here are a few of my recent favorites: 

 

 


Caught out, or why expense fiddling is not a modern phenomenon

There was the occasion when “the late Lord Chatham”, as he was known, turned up four and a half hours late to a royal function; the newspapers po-facedly traced his lacklustre attendance at Board meetings while First Lord of the Admiralty. Even in private life he was a bit of a flake, and spent five weeks screwing up the courage to propose to his future wife, while everybody about him (including the object of his affections) got increasingly tetchy.

Good night, sleep tight, hope the buggs don’t bite….

Perusing back numbers of the Gentleman’s Magazine (as one does) I came across this helpful tip – I think nowadays I have to call it a “household hack” – from 1735. It is a remedy for eradicating “bed buggs” and is a reminder of the doggerel verse quoted in the title to this piece.

Georgian Chimney Sweeps

In Georgian England, chimney sweeps took boys from orphanages and homeless children from the streets as indentured servants and apprentices. What they looked for were small boys, usually between five and ten years of age, to clamber up narrow chimney flues and clean out the deposits of soot. Newer kinds of house design, taller buildings and regulations against house fires had resulted in flues twisting and turning as they avoided living spaces and becoming ever narrower as they rose higher.

Care of Infants 1837

Well into the 20th century, a great many children did not survive infancy. In this context, the idea of “strengthening” and “hardening” a child makes sense, though we may find some of the practices a little alarming.

–I think ‘alarming’ is putting it mildly–horrifying is more the way I’d put it.

 

A Victorian Era Criminal Leads Police On A High Speed Bicycle Chase

In September of 1896, British newspapers reported the remarkable use of a bicycle in a New Jersey murder case.  The case involved two men who had both emigrated to America from London in the early 1890s.  One of these men was a farmer named Mr. Haggett who settled down with his family on a farm near Somerville.  The other man was a fellow named Mr. Clossen who Haggett employed as a farm laborer.  Sometime in 1896, Haggett caught Clossen stealing.  In consequence, he not only fired him from his job, but also refused to pay him the thirty dollars in wages that Clossen believed he was owed.

How the meaning of ‘high speed’ has changed!

The Unpopular Tudor

On February 18, 1516, the Tudor court celebrated the birth of Princess Mary. After struggling to give her husband an heir, Katherine of Aragon was thrilled with the healthy baby regardless of her gender. King Henry VIII was pleased to have evidence of their ability to procreate, even if he would never grow comfortable with the idea of this little girl as a future queen. While Mary is at best ignored and at worst villainized in modern discussions of the Tudor era, she was looked upon more favorably during her own lifetime.

Tales of Louis XV’s Harem

Some years later, the name Parc-aux-Cerfs, which literally means stag park, began to be whispered at Louis XV’s court. Parc-aux-Cerfs, also known as the King’s Birdcage, was alleged to be where the King’s “harem” lived. Parc-aux-Cerfs was in a quarter of Versailles called Parc-aux-Cerfs, and it also happened to be the same neighborhood where Madame de Pompadour, the Louis XV’s favorite, settled after her physical relationship with him ended in 1752.

Complaining about doctors in the 12th century

This text began as a conversation between Ibn Jumay and the Sultan, in which the doctor talked about “why the art of medicine is effaced and obliterated and why its merits are erased and destroyed”, and ways it could be reformed. Ibn Jumay explained that in ancient times the medical practice had its high and low points, with famous healers like Hippocrates and Galen reviving the profession. The situation had deteriorated in more recent years, and Ibn Jumay offered these reasons why:

The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

KEEPING TIME IN THE VICTORIAN KITCHEN

For Molly Hughes’s mother, for Mrs Beeton, Henry Southgate and all the other cookery writers in the nineteenth-century, timing was the key to good food, well-planned meals and to a life well lived. With their increasing emphasis on timing and timekeeping, nineteenth-century cookbooks may not tell us everything there is to know about what people ate, but they can tell us an awful lot about what writers and their readers understood about the passage of time.

 

What can you say after that? Until next time!

 

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Jun 17 2017

Camp followers in the long Georgian era by Jude Knight

I’d like to welcome Jude Knight today as she shares a fascinating article on the role of camp followers during the the Georgian and regency era.


To our modern minds, it seems strange to think of civilians, including women and children, travelling into combat zones. Yet until the second half of the nineteenth century, civilians were an essential part of how armies worked. Collectively, anyone who followed the army that was not a soldier was called a camp follower. And every army had all kinds of followers.

camp followers The commissariat managed the supply chain

 First, the commissariat. This was a uniformed civilian service, funded by the Treasury and in charge of all non-military supplies, including food for army rations.

 The officers of the commissariat arrived at any war with the advance guard, as they did in the Peninsular War of 1807 to 1814. Their job was to roam the countryside, searching for supplies and for a place to store them. It can’t have been a risk free operation!

 Once established, a depot needed a storekeeper, and supplies needed to be brought for storage, so the commissariat had many employees and a budget for hiring or buying mules and carts. With these resources, the commissariat often had a role in storing and distributing military supplies, as well as non-military.

 Other civilian services lacked the central organisation of the commissariat. Some were semi-official, authorised by the local commander, drawing army rations, and provided with transport when the army moved. Some were unsanctioned or even illicit.

Tinker, tailor, beggar-man, thief

 Sutlers negotiated with locals and sold goods that were not supplied by the commissariat: tobacco, coffee, sugar, and other supplies. A sutler was usually authorised at brigade level, and the role in each brigade often went to the wife of one of the soldiers.

 Saddlers, tailors, shoemakers, and farriers might be soldiers (if someone with the right skills could be found) or civilians, but they were all essential to the operation of the army.

 So were medical staff. The Army Medical Department employed around one surgeon for every 250 soldiers. Military surgeons were not commissioned into the army, so were technically civilians, but they were on the payroll. They were assisted by soldiers with more or less medical training, gained on the job, and by camp followers, usually wives of soldiers.

 Wives and families on the marchcamp followers

 Wives and families formed the largest group of camp followers. In England, soldiers’ families lived around the barracks, as military families do today. When the regiment travelled overseas, regulations stated how many wives they’d take with them (one for every six soldiers was common). To be in the ballot, a woman had to be a wife of good reputation. Mostly, women with children were excluded. On long overseas postings, babies arrived anyway, often on the march or even during battles.

 Those not selected could seldom afford to follow their menfolk. They stayed in England and survived the best they could, often in a garrison city far from family, lacking work opportunities and not recognised as part of the local parish for poor relief.

 Those selected faced hard work and unknown risks, but—though they might not be an official part of the army—they were on the books. Yes, they had to have an officer’s approval to follow the army and they were subject to military discipline, but they received rations (a half ration for a wife and a quarter ration for a child) and they were paid for the work they did.

 Wives were not only sutlers and nurses. They were also responsible for many other important jobs that kept the army operating: laundering clothes, cooking food, sewing and mending, watching the baggage, looking after sheep and cattle (food on the hoof), and acting as servants to officers and their families.

 And, of course, they provided sexual services to their husbands. The rest of the soldiers in the unit would have to make other arrangements or go without. Wives who followed the army were, as I said before, women of good reputation.

 War brides and their particular problemcamp followerss

 Local women filled the gap, either on a temporary basis, as prostitutes, or longer term as mistresses or even wives. Locally acquired wives and families provided the same wide range of services as those brought overseas with the regiment, but the army didn’t hold itself accountable for transporting women and their children to England when the war was over, or when the soldier died, unless the woman could produce proof of a legal marriage, recognised by the Church of England.

…the return home meant a voyage by sea, this being something that for many of the women concerned constituted an insuperable obstacle. Thus, the authorities for the most part would only meet the cost of the journey in the case of women who were legally married, which most of the Spanish and Portuguese women were not. When the British army took ship at Bourdeaux in the wake of the fall of Napoleon, then, several hundred women found that they were to be left behind. Shocked by the news, a number of regiments appear to have raised subscriptions to help the women, the vast majority of whom were absolutely destitute, whilst a few men deserted rather than forsake their partners, but in general there was nothing to be done, the embarkation was going ahead amidst scenes of the utmost despair, the camp followers concerned eventually being sent back across the Pyrenees in the company of a brigade of Portuguese infantry.

What the future held for the 950 women concerned does not bear thinking about. Many had probably never been forgiven by their families for running off with British soldiers, while others had no homes to return to. A handful, perhaps, managed to find husbands in their wanderings, but the fact that few could have provided even the humblest of dowries could not but have told against them. Sadly, then, we may assume that, faut de mieux, many ended up as common prostitutes, and all the more so as the fact that had run off with foreign soldiers without contracting the bonds of marriage almost certainly precluded them from obtaining any of the limited compensation that was available from the state (in so far as this was concerned, in Spain, at least, it was decreed, first that pensions should be paid to the widows of men killed in the war, and, second, that girls who had been orphaned in the conflict should be provided with dowries; in practice, however, little money was actually paid out, in the first place because the Spanish state was all but bankrupt, and, in the second, because the countless women of whose husbands there was no trace had no means of proving that they were actually dead). (Women in the Peninsular War by Charles J. Esdaile (2014) pp. 219-220)

 

 


 

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

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About her latest book: A Raging Madness:

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Books by this author:

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