Celtic History

LugobrujahouseI have just returned from a three week tour of what could be called the last outposts of Celtic settlement. (The term “Celt” comes from the Greek Keltoi—meaning barbarian. Since there is no soft “c” in Greek, the word should be pronounced with the hard “k” sound–unless you're a basketball team!)  I understand many archeologists disagree that these coastal communities descend from the same unique tribe, but I don’t draw dividing lines through the centuries. There are strong cultural, artistic, and linguistic links between the coasts of Portugal, Spain, France, Wales, and Ireland. (We didn’t go as far as Scotland, but those links to Ireland are well known) Standing stones abound in all these areas to mark ancient history, and the haunting music of the pipes and rhythmic foot dance might vary but have more similarities than disparities. (photo is a store that sells "brujas" –witches–in Lugo, Spain)


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Oranges and Lemons, Say the Bells of St. Clements

Raphaelle Peale (American artist, 1774-1825) Orange And A BookOranges and Lemons,

Ring ye bells at St. Clements.
When will you pay me,
Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey.
When I am Rich,
Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch.
     Tradtional Counting Rhyme 

There are any number of interpretations as to what this all means, but I see it mostly a reminder that poetry does not necessarily have to make sense.

Joanna here, talking about Regency oranges.

Those of us with a keen interest in botany will have noticed that oranges — not to mention lemons — don't thrive in the British climate.  Well, maybe down in south Devon where hopeful souls sometimes plant palm trees.  But citrus isn't plucked off the tree on Hampstead Heath or in the Welsh mountains.

What is an orange doing in an old, old counting rhyme?
Not to mention lemons.
How come?

Because the Regency and Georgian folks imported their oranges (and lemons) enthusiastically or grew them enthusiastically in greenhouses.  

Musee carnavalet orangerie exterior Paris 1


I'll just wander off track for a minute to point out that greenhouse in the Regency didn't mean a building all made of glass with a roof of glass panes.  That's Victorian.  In the Regency a greenhouse was a tall room with high windows, like this to the right.

Sometimes, they called them orangeries.
I think not.

In the Regency we're talking about three different species of oranges, just because life is complicated.

Our first guest orange  . . . the bitter one.

The oraOrangeBloss_wbnge is another of those marvelous botanical productions of the Orient, like lychees and tea and peaches.  They've been cultivated in China for four thousand years, in several varieties. The bitter or sour orange, Citrus aurantium— what we'd call a Seville orange — made a complicated journey overland to Europe, piggybacking its way from the Middle East to Italy and Spain with the returning Crusaders.

Here's a picture of an early orange in Van Eyck's Amolfini Portrait of 1434.  This picture records a
Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait full sizemarriage and it's just bristling with nifty references faithfulness and fertility. 

Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait detailSee those those oranges in the Van Eyck painting, over next to the window?  Symbolic as heck.

Oranges were symbolic of marriage, maybe because the plant bears its flowers and its fully ripened fruit at the same time, thus being both the potential fertility of the innocent flower and the fecundity of the plump fruit. 
Queen Victoria wore orange blossoms in her hair at her wedding.  Maybe some of the folks reading this today wore them too.  You can look at that Van Eyck and know the symbol is more than 500 years old.

As a totally unrelated side comment, Isobel Carr points out that the little dog in that picture might just be the earliest depiction of a pet animal in a European painting. 
Its name is Max.
. . . Okay.  I'm kidding about the name.

They called the bitter orange a 'Seville orange' because that's where they were grown and shipped from in Tudor times and beyond. 
Our English, French and other European folks used skin, juice, root, leaf and branch in
medicine and for making cordials and syrups and orange-water for scent
and flavoring.

"Nor can I blame you, if a drop you take,
of orange-water, for perfuming-sake."
John Breval

Seville oranges nowadays are used about exclusively for making that wonderful marmalade you can still pick up in the grocery if you go searching a while for the authentic stuff.  It's the same marmalade they made in Regency times.  When you spread it on your toast, you can think about Elizabeth Bennet doing pretty much the same, except she's sitting across the breatkfast table from Mr. Darcy.

Looking next at . . . 
. . .  Ahem. 
Eyes off Mr. Darcy, if you please.  Thank you.

Turning to this second type of orange, I hear you saying, "What about the sweet orange, Citrus sinensis, my supermarket orange, the ones that the lack of is like a day without sunshine, the ones Nell Gywn sold at Drury Lane?"

I will pause an instant to offer Samuel Pepys' take on orange juice:
"and here, which I never did before, I drank a glass, of a pint, I believe, at one draught, of the juice of oranges, of whose peel they make comfits; and here they drink the juice as wine, with sugar, and it is very fine drink; but, it being new, I was doubtful whether it might not do me hurt. "

Anyhow, these newcomer sweet oranges showed up in the 1500s.  They were called sweet oranges because, well, they were sweet, and China oranges to distinguish them from the Seville oranges which were not so sweet.  'China' because, unlike their bitter cousins, they didn't migrate slowly overland.  They arrived in style by ship, brought by Portuguese and Italian merchants directly from China. 

This is when the orange became a hand-eating f3 Francis Wheatley (English artist, 1747-1801) Cries of London 1792-1795 Sweet China Oranges, Sweet Chinaruit, sold in baskets on the street.  Nell Gywn, before she became mistress of King Charles II and presumably went out of the retail fruit business, was one of the scantily clad young women who sold sweet oranges in the Drury Lane Theatre (sixpence apiece,) for the refreshment of the patrons and as a handy means of expressing dissatisfaction with the performance.

In case you were wondering — as who has not — whether the orange fruit was named after the color,

("Oh look! There's a whole bunch of oranges up in the tree, and some reds over on this tree and look at all those blues down here on the bushes.")

or the color was named after the fruit.  I can set your mind at rest.
The color is named after the fruit.
The word orange meandered into English from the Sanskrit word for the fruit —nāranja — through Arabic, Old Provencal, Old French and Middle English.

Before the Fourteenth Century, folks had to refer to the color as geoluhread.  As in, "Wow. Love your geoluhread i-pod!"  Geoluhread would roughly translate as yellow-red and I am sure we are all grateful to Sanskrit for its intervention into what would have been a dismal shade with a long name.

How common were oranges in Georgian and Regency England?  How expensive? 
In the mid-1700s oranges sold on the street four a penny when hot cross buns were 'one a penny, two a penny'.  That doesn't seem outrageously expensive, does it — two oranges for the price of a bun? 

Zurbaran 1633 still life

lemons and oranges in 1633

Karl Phillip Moritz, about that time, wrote, "All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the
season, sees oranges to sell, and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny."

By 1828, one could speak of "The China, or sweet oranges, with which this country is now so amply supplied, and at such moderate prices that all classes of society enjoy them as perfectly as if they had been indigenous to the climate."  John S. Skinne


Francisco_de_zurbaran about 1630

a really annoyed cup, above

And our third orange? 

It was almost the blood orange.  I mean, there the blood orange was, in Italy, as a
mutation among sweet oranges in the 1600s.  Really no reason it couldn't have been a trade item.
I'd love to add it to the Regency table.

But it looks like they weren't imported.  Mention is made of blood orange trees brought into England as greenhouse curiosities in the 1820s. I suppose some intrepid traveller might have brought back a box of fruit for friends any time. 

Must have been a shock when that first blood orange was cut open at the table for everyone to see.

But the third of the Regency orange trio turns out to be the mandarin orange, the tangerine, our friend Citrus reticulata, which is technically a kind of orange rather than a separate fruit altogether, if we listen to those tricky botanists who dabble in such matters.  Trees were brought to England direct from China — the word mandarin is a dead giveaway — in about 1805. It settled into the greenhouses of England.  Not a fruit for the street crowd.  An exotic treat.  As late as 1817, a botanist could say it was a pity none of the countries exporting citrus to England had established the tangerine as a crop. 

After 1805, your Regency heroine might be offered a mandarin, sensuously peeled, by someone who owns a very fancy greenhouse.  A spiffy little factoid.

Seville orange leMoynCOME buy my fine oranges, sauce for your veal,

And charming when squeez'd in a pot of brown ale;
Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup,
They'll make a sweet bishop when gentlefolks sup.


The world would be a poorer place without oranges — and I happen to notice I've got a half-eaten clementine beside me as I write this post.

What's your favorite oranges recipe?  I used lemons to make a fancy syllabub not so very long ago, but I bet it'd be equally good with oranges.  And I love me some orange cake.  Also Benedictine-just-abour-anything.

One lucky commenter gets to pick a copy of any of my books.

Twelfth Night: An interview with Anne Gracie

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo 
I always love Anne Gracie’s books, but I especially love this new one, Bride by Mistake, so an interview with Anne about the book is a perfect ending to the Word Wench Christmastide posts about favorite things.
Not only did I hunt Anne down and beg to read it, but here’s a quote I forced on her after I read the manuscript:
BridebyMistake68kb"The always terrific Anne Gracie outdoes herself with Bride By Mistake. When a protective young English officer rescues a Spanish girl and marries her to save her from an abusive suitor, he never expects to live long enough for it to matter. Now the war is over, the annulment is denied, and Luke Ripton has a wife he'd almost forgotten. But at least since Isabella has been living quietly in a convent, she must be modest and obedient….

She isn't! I loved Bride By Mistake. Gracie created two great characters, a high tension relationship, and a wonderfully satisfying ending. Not to be missed!"
The Story

Now that I have the gushing out of the way….<G>  Anne, your Devil Rider books have been quite varied in tone and setting.  (I also particularly like To Catch a Bride, with a good bit taking place in Egypt.  Library Journal listed it among the best romances of 2009.  This is just one among Anne’s many awards and honors.)  What led you to Spain, the setting of most of Bride by Mistake?
AG: Thank you for the very kind words, Mary Jo, and for the interview. The Devil Rufus1Riders books are about four friends home from the war, trying to find a way to live again in peacetime. Luke, the hero of Bride By Mistake, is the last of them. All the way through the writing of the other books, he's been there, and I knew something had happened to him in the war, something that still haunted him, but it only became clear as I wrote this book.
The war was against Napoleon, but much of it took place in Portugal and Spain — and Catchabride40kEgypt— and Bride By Mistake was sparked by an incident in Luke's early days at war, when, as a 19 year old Lieutenant he comes across a young girl — my heroine, Isabella — being attacked. He saves her, then, finding she's fleeing from an unwanted, forced marriage, he marries her for her own protection, and leaves her with her aunt in a convent. As you explained above, he planned on an annulment, but as my story opens, eight years later, Luke's confronted with the unwelcome realization that the marriage is binding and he must go to Spain to collect his bride.

I'm told a lot of readers don't like books set in foreign locations, that Regencies should take place primarily in London or Bath, but there was a great deal of travel in that era, and with the war in Europe and the growth of the British Empire, I simply can't resist the occasional foray into other countries, especially when they connect with everyday Regency people.

The Anne Gracie Heroine

MJP:  Your first Regency romance was called Gallant Waif (I could list more awards Gallant Waifand honors here <G>), but as I think back over your books, I realized they could be entitled Gallant Waif 1, Gallant Waif 2,GF  3, 4….etc.  Tell us about the archetypal Anne Gracie heroine, and about Bella, the heroine of Bride by Mistake, in particular.  
AG: You know, I hadn't thought of that, but I suppose you're right. I tend to choose heroines who are more or less on their own and in a difficult position when the story starts. I like them to be smart, resourceful, loyal and courageous in an everyday sense, as well as vulnerable, with a heart secretly aching for love. They're often ugly ducklings, with the heart of a mother lioness.

Bella, my heroine, is all of these. As heiress to her late mother's fortune, an only child who lacks beauty, Bella was raised by her widowed father to be "almost as good as a son" — his highest accolade.

When the story starts, Bella's been in the convent for eight years. Of course, having been so romantically rescued at the age of thirteen, she's had a huge crush on handsome, Luke Ripton— tall, dark and as beautiful as an angel, a warrior angel — but as the years have passed, the crush has waned. Her school friends think she made him up, and they tease her about her imaginary husband.
MJP:  Excerpt, please!
AG: There's an excerpt on my website showing Bella being teased at the convent. 
     Below is the moment Luke and Bella meet again, after eight years.

     This, then was her husband. Isabella tried not to stare. 
     He was even more beautiful than she remembered. Eight years ago she'd seen him with a child's eye, and he was her savior and, she had to admit, she'd confused him in her mind a little with the angel of the statue. She had after all, only known him two days, not even that.
    But she was a child no longer and he was… he was breathtaking. Tall, dark, his skin burnished with the sun, a rich dark-gold flush along his cheekbones and such fine cheekbones they were. His nose was a strong, straight blade, his mouth, severe and beautiful. And his eyes, dark, so dark they looked black, but she knew from before they were the darkest blue she had ever seen. There was no sign of blue now.
     She swallowed and held her head higher, knowing what he would see, knowing they were ill-matched. The girls had done their best to make her look as beautiful as they could. It wasn't their fault she looked as she did. She knew she'd never make a beauty. She desperately wished she looked pretty for him. 
     But she could see in his eyes she didn't.
     Dear God but it was Mama and Papa again, Papa the handsome eagle soaring high and Mama the plain, dowdy little pigeon, bleeding with love for a husband who never looked twice at her.
     Mama's words rose unbidden to her mind. Guard your heart, my little one, for love is pain. Love is nothing but pain.
BrideByMistakeAustFinalMJP:  I understand that besides the American edition of BBM from Berkley, you’ll also have a simultaneous Australian edition, which I gather is unusual for single title historical romances from American publishers.  Can you tell us more about that?

AG: Yes, it's very exciting. Up to now, they've always imported my US editions and put them on sale 6 months after they came out in the US. But a wonderful person at Penguin Australia read some of my books and passed them around the office. They told me they then realized two things: 1) that my books had been selling well in Australia with virtually no publisher support and 2) I was a local author, so they decided to publish me simultaneously, in trade paperback with this beautiful cover. So I'm feeling very lucky.
MJP:  What’s next for you?  
AG:  I had planned to write Marcus's story, an offshoot of the Devil Riders series, and had started on it, with my editor's approval, but then my publisher saw my proposal for a new series and they wanted me to go ahead with that immediately and put Marcus aside. So now I'm working on a new series, about 4 girls in London. That's all I can say at the moment.
MJP:  A big Awwww! about Marcus, but I’m sure the new series will also be terrific!  Anne, thanks so much for letting me interview you, because that way I got to read the book early!  I understand you’re going to give away a copy to one lucky persoln who comments between now and midnight Saturday.
 AG:  Mary Jo, thank YOU for your support and enthusiasm and for the interview and the fabulous quote. Your words of praise mean a great deal to me.

MJP: It's easy to be enthusiastic about your books.  <G>  For you readers–who is your favorite gallant waif heroine?  You can choose one of Anne's waifs, or others that you like.  Smart, resourceful, brave heroines are such a pleasure to read!


Sorry I can't do the squiggly, but manana, manana, manana is the theme for today, especially as I'm in Spain! Yes, even Devon gets grey in January so we've escaped to Nerja on the southern coast of Spain.

Nerja So here I am, typing on the laptop near patio doors open to the sunny balcony (no, not the one pictured below), already beginning to worry that it'll be a bit too hot this afternoon. After all, I did get a touch of sunburn yesterday.

Not that I'm complaining. Not at all!

The pic on the left isBalcon from the Balcon de Europa, the sea front that is the heart of Nerja, a mere 10 minutes stroll from our apartment.

Perhaps it was the sun, or I just needed a good rest, but I zonked out last night. No problem. I often write my blog in the morning, as I'm 5, now 6, hours ahead of most of the Wench readers. Manana, you see? But then I slept in. I rarely sleep in. I'm a dawn chorus sort of person.

When I crawled out of bed this morning, it was 11 am! Manana's half over!

(I'm reminded of when we visited England a few years ago, exploring for our return, and rented a place. I switched on the TV, trying to figure out the Freebox stations, which wasn't easy as it wasn't working very well. Then I hit a screen that said, "Yesterday will return tomorrow at 8am."

I sat contemplating that with delight. It was like something out of Doctor Who. The Daleks have taken over and condemned the British people into a kind of Groundhog Day. But one in which today is strangely missing….)

I digress, as I love to do. Briana

Random thoughts on Spain and history.

Spain doesn't often feature in historical romance, but then, nor do other continental countries.

If I remember correctly, Spain was the setting for many Mills & Boon romances of my youth, along with Italy and especially Greece. Is Spain still a favoured setting in M&B or Harlequin Presents?

Medieval Spain is notable — El Cid (I must have seen the Charlton Heston film a dozen times — anyone else), Ferdinand and Isabella and such — but then not so. Perhaps it's the ascent of those gloomy Hapsburgs. Or am I wrong on that? Cid

Spain and Italy are similar in some ways but very different in others. Off the top of my head, the fact that italy is known for Dante's inferno, and Spain for Cervantes' Don Quixote has to mean something. Any idea what?

My butterfly mind is led to empires.

Italy was the base for the Roman Empire, a mostly land-based domination bulwarked with strong roads and efficient administration, which brought in taxes from distant points. The cause of its fall is heavily debated, but probably it simply over-extended, as all empires seem doomed to do. Interestingly, though Latin was once widespread, not much of the world now speaks Italian as the native language.

Spain had an empire, too, though not as formidable. It was based on ships and the sea, and on the gold brought back from the "new world." The empire involved land, from California and Florida down through South America. Spain controls none of that now, but Spanish is the language of many cultures.

Forbmag Can you find anything to comment on in the above chatter? Please try, because I'll award a copy of the new edition of Forbidden Magic to my random pick of the best.


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