The Sign of the Signet

Nicola here, and today I’m talking about a specific type of jewelry. Apparently, the signet ring is having a fashion moment. The popularity of TV shows such as One Day and Saltburn, where some of the main (male) characters have worn signet rings has drawn attention to it as a signifier of power and status, as well as an accessory.

The signet ring has been a considered a sign of wealth and status in British society for hundreds of years. A traditional one would be engraved with your coat of arms, family crest or initials. The picture shows the one that was given to me when I was born. I’m not an aristocrat but my parents thought it would be nice for me to have one. It’s tiny though, so it doesn’t fit me now, but it has a sentimental value.

The signet ring was originally designed not only to mark the wearer’s bloodline but also to seal documents with wax. The metal design would leave a permanent mark in soft wax or in clay and so was used on a multitude of legal documents. In its day, the stamp of a signet was considered more authentic than a signature, which could easily be forged. Seals were used as early as 3500BC and it was the Ancient Egyptians who attached a seal to a ring as a joint sign of prestige and legal power. The first signet rings were made from stone or from ivory but the Bronze Age was the beginning of the metal signet ring as we know it today. (The picture is an Egyptian Finger Ring from the Walters Museum.)

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AAW: Out My Window

Pat Rice here: Today, we’re going to play a little game called Looking Out My Window. The idea originally came from https://www.window-swap.com/Window at the start of Covid. Anne Gracie blogged about it.

We’ll turn the idea about a bit. Each of us has written a short piece about what we see from the window of our writing space—but I won’t name who wrote the piece. Instead, I have labeled them A, B, C, etc. Let’s have a little fun guessing who wrote which piece, and it would be lovely if you add what you see out your window!

A.

garden and wallThis is a bit tough. I can’t actually see out my office window unless I stand up. I can see the flash of raven shadows as they stop by for a drink from our birdbath. Locating my desk this way is deliberate. I’d never get anything done elsewise. But here’s what I see if I stand and look out. We’re going on vacation shortly, and our daughter is leaving at the same time, and consequently, we have no one to hand water the potted plants. So this is not the usual view. Most of the pretty plants have been moved to a corner where they’re not visible from this angle. We’ve set up a sprinkler to rain on that corner. The hardy geranium is the main pot you see, and the irrigation system should take care of it. There is no tomato in the tomato cage yet, but that’s a small corner of my husband’s vegetable garden. The orange tree is covered with oranges, although they’re hard to see from here. We’ve grown that immense staghorn fern on the fence since it was a little fella. Had to divide it at one point because it got too heavy. The clivia is getting way too much sun now that the carrotwood tree has been trimmed. I can’t see the blooms on the camellia, but I know they’re there. I’ll have to hope that back corner survives while we’re gone!

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The Attempted Theft of the Crown Jewels!

The Other Gwyn Girl by Nicola CornickNicola here, delving into a historical mystery behind my latest book The Other Gwyn Girl. A number of people who have read the book have asked if the attempted theft of the Crown Jewels really happened or whether it was novelistic licence. Well, I can confirm it really did happen although the involvement of Rose and Nell Gwyn is my imagination filling in the gaps in history.

Here’s the story. In May 1671 a most extraordinary attempt was made to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Never before or since had anyone attempted such an audacious theft although over the years various parts of the collection had been lost, sold or destroyed. King John had lost some of them in the waters of The Wash in 1215 (that’s another story!) but the most notable loss was in 1649 when Oliver Cromwell ordered them to be “totally broken” as a symbolic step after the execution of King Charles I. Some items were sold off, others melted down and only the 12th century coronation spoon remained from the medieval period.

When King Charles II was restored to the throne of England in 1660, he commissioned a whole new set of regalia from the royal goldsmith Robert Vyner for his 1661 coronation. As now, the Crown Jewels were stored in the Tower of London and people could view them by paying a fee to the custodian. In 1671 the Master of the Jewel House was 77-year-old Talbot Edwards whose domestic quarters were right next to the jewels in the Martin Tower (pic by Ethan Doyle White, Wikimedia).

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A Taste Of Marmalade!

Nicola here. I have a new timeslip novel coming out in a few weeks’ time, The Other Gwyn Girl. It tells the story of Rose Gwyn, the much less well-known sister of Nell Gwyn, actress, orange-seller and mistress to King Charles II. It’s also a fun co-incidence that this is the perfect time of year to make Seville orange marmalade, so this week I’ve been busy making some celebratory “Gwyn Girl” marmalade using my grandmother’s fabulous jam pan. I have to admit that I’s a bit of an irony but I am the only person in my family who doesn’t actually like marmalade! Everyone else is very keen and the Scots ancestors have a marvellous whisky version that is even more popular.

First, a bit of marmalade history, as I always like to research these things! The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese marmelada, which means “made of quince.” The first fruit preserves were made by the Greeks, who discovered that quinces cooked with honey would “set” when they were cool. Both the Greeks and the Romans made preserves out of quince with lemon, rose, apple, pear and plum. In 1524, King Henry VIII received a gift of a “box of marmalades” from a Mr Hull of Exeter. This was probably quince paste, as was the “marmalet” that was served at another Tudor wedding feast. It was said that “marmalado” as it became known, was a favourite with Anne Boleyn.

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