Monday, April 26, 2021

A Female Paul Revere?

If you travel to Putnam County, New York, you will hear the story of Sybil Ludington. You will see a larger than life statue of a wild-eyed girl on horseback erected in honor of her, and you will see signposts along the roads indicating her possible route on 26 April 1777. On that night, some believe that the 16-year-old Sybil volunteered when her father, Colonel Henry Ludington, learned that the British were headed toward Danbury, Connecticut to seize or destroy colonial military provisions. Her father, lacking a more appropriate messenger, sent his daughter to ride through dangerous country to raise the alarm.

A young woman could encounter many dangers in the middle of the night on the tree-lined country roads of a nation at war. That April night is reported to have been stormy with driving rain and terrible conditions for travel. Yet, Sybil is believed to have ridden approximately 40 miles announcing to each household she approached, ‘The British are burning Danbury. Join my father at Ludington’s Mill.’

Danbury was burned, and the supplies destroyed. However, the gathered militia was able to drive the British back to Long Island before they could raze their next target. The lack of successful mission has not made Sybil’s story less intriguing. She is remembered as a brave young woman who was willing to risk her life for the American cause of liberty.

After the war, Sybil was married on 21 October 1784 to Edmund Ogden, who had also served in the Revolutionary War. When he died, Sybil applied for a pension based on his service, never mentioning her own activity. Even when it was necessary to appeal the denial of her pension, Sybil did not mention her midnight ride. This is one of the facts that has led some historians to question whether or not it ever happened.

The first mention of Sybil’s midnight ride is found in Martha J Lamb’s 1880 History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress. It was then elaborated upon in Willis Fletcher Johnson's biography of Sybil's father, Colonel Henry Ludington. It was Johnson who gave Sybil star power by claiming, ‘There is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere.’

According to historian Paula D Hunt, Sybil’s current fame can be traced back to a local effort to increase tourism in Putnam County, New York that resulted in the aforementioned historic markers. In her article, Sybil Ludington, The Female Paul Revere: The Making of a Revolutionary War Heroine, Hunt demonstrates that other books, pamphlets, articles, local events, and even commemorative statues grew from the historic route markers until no one any longer questioned whether Sybil’s ride actually happened. 

In a growing age of feminism and diversity, Sybil’s story is included among those of the Founding Fathers to demonstrate that women were just as important as men during the birth of the nation. Sybil’s story is simple and undefined, making her malleable to a host of historical social issues. Her name has been used to encourage local tourism, survival skills, patriotic pride, and countless other causes. Maybe the important thing is not whether or not Sybil really rode those 40 miles on 26 April 1777 but the fact that she could have.

Many women were compelled to step up and perform courageous acts that they would not have done otherwise during the American Revolution. Like Sybil, they filled a need, took on a role that would have normally been filled by a man, and did what was necessary for the sake of their country. Some of their stories are better documented even if they do not enjoy the level of fame that Sybil enjoys today.

Through the eight years of armed conflict, it is safe to assume that every woman in America was tested, had their life changed, and was forced to do something they might not have otherwise done. There can have been few whose daily lives were not touched by the hardships of war.

Some women, like Sybil, have become the stuff of legend. Betsy Ross, who may or may not have designed and sewed the American flag that we all recognize today, has become a similarly romanticized figure. Molly Pitcher, who is most likely a compilation of women who stepped in to assist men at the front, is another. So many other stories remain largely untold.

Women in America led varied lives before the American Revolution and took on just as varied of roles during the war. Some are remembered as heroines. Some paid the ultimate price. Many are not remembered at all. It is for those that the legend of Sybil Ludington lives on, inspiring generations of women to do more than they thought themselves capable.


Read more about Sybil Ludington and the theories about her famous ride in
 Women of the American Revolution
 by Samantha Wilcoxson from Pen & Sword. Available now. 

Also available at Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, and your favorite bookseller.

Now you can listen to Women of the American Revolution at Audible or!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Discovering Lamphey Palace in Tudor Wales


It is my pleasure to welcome Tony Riches today. He is taking us on a virtual trip to Lamphey Palace, which is featured in his new novel, Essex: Tudor Rebel. At a time when many of us have been stuck at home more than we prefer, Tony's post and photos are a special treat.

Welcome, Tony!

~ Samantha


Discovering Lamphey Palace in Tudor Wales

Guest Post by Tony Riches

One of the surprise discoveries made during the research for my new book, ESSEX – Tudor Rebel, was that he spent his formative years at Lamphey Palace, just twenty minutes from where I live in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Originally home to the medieval bishops of St David’s, Lamphey Palace was built by Henry de Gower, who was bishop of St David’s from 1328 to 1347. Some thirty miles from St David’s Cathedral, the bishops used Lamphey as a country retreat, and within the walls were a grand great hall, fishponds, fruit orchards, gardens and a 144-acre deer park.

The western Old Hall and undercroft date to the early thirteenth century, with other buildings constructed throughout the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, with later alterations.

In the woods on the western edge of the palace are the earthworks of four fish breeding ponds, and between this and the walled eastern court are the remains of a series of substantial fish holding ponds.

For me, the most interesting residents of Lamphey Palace were the early Tudors. The mysterious Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and father of King Henry VII, used the palace as his base in Wales.

On 1st November 1455, the 26-year-old Edmund Tudor married the twelve-year-old wealthy heiress Lady Margaret Beaufort at Lamphey Palace. It was said she wore a wedding gown embroidered with seed pearls in the shapes of daisies.

Edmund knew he could only secure his young wife’s vast inheritance once their marriage was consummated, so it is possible that his Palace at Lamphey was where the future King Henry VII was conceived.

I found it easy to imagine the teenage Lady Margaret walking in the shaded palace gardens. A devout Catholic, she would have appreciated the opulence of the bishop's chapel, with its vivid wall paintings and statues of saints. Even by Tudor standards she was young to be carrying a child, and her slight build meant the delivery would be a dangerous time for her and her baby.

Earl Edmund never saw his son, as he was captured and imprisoned at nearby Carmarthen Castle. After his untimely death (murder?) he was buried in the Greyfriars Priory and his tomb was moved to St David’s Cathedral by his grandson, King Henry VIII, during the dissolution.

Lamphey Palace became the home of another Tudor noble family, the earls of Essex, through the ill-fated Sir Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex, and the first husband of Lettice Knollys. Sir Walter’s son, Sir Robert Devereux, was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, yet, as I explore in my new book, he led a ‘rebellion’ against her.

During World War II, Lamphey served as a barracks for American servicemen as they prepared for the Normandy Landings. Today the ruins are a scheduled ancient monument which secured Grade I Listed building status in 1970. Surrounded by countryside, well-tended lawns the site has free parking and admission, with a small visitor centre run by CADW, the Welsh Government's historic environment service.

ESSEX - Tudor Rebel: Book Two of the Elizabethan Series

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. 


Connect with Tony

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author Tudor historical fiction. He lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the lives of the early Tudors. As well as his new Elizabethan series, Tony’s historical fiction novels include the best-selling Tudor trilogy and his Brandon trilogy, (about Charles Brandon and his wives). For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Childhood in Tudor England

Have you ever wondered what childhood was like for Tudor children? Author Karen Heenan is my special guest today with some wonderful insight into what it was like to be a child in Tudor times as part of her blog tour celebrating the release of Songbird.

Welcome, Karen!

~ Samantha


Childhood (and lack thereof) in Tudor England

Guest Post by Karen Heenan

Children, pre-1532, Wikimedia

Bess Llewelyn is a child—just two days shy of her tenth birthday—when her father sells her to the king of England. While this is certainly an eye-catching hook for a story, it’s also true, at least for the most part. Henry VIII is documented to have at least once purchased a child, and the general assumption is that the child would have been intended for the Chapel Royal Choir. (I took a sidestep with Bess and made her a singer in the King’s Music because I wanted to write about a girl, and that eliminated the choir option).

The thought of selling/buying a child is horrifying to our 21st century sensibilities, and in some respects, it probably wasn’t much better then. But it did happen—whether for actual cash, in the case of Bess, or into service or an apprenticeship. In the case of the child who inspired Songbird, the seller received £40. The modern equivalent would be in the range of $50,000*, which could certainly change the lives of everyone in that family, with the knowledge that if the child were valued so highly by the king, they would certainly have a good life at court.

Childhood as we know it wasn’t a concept in Tudor England. The birth of a child was an event to be celebrated, and in noble and royal families, parents started thinking about marriage contracts almost before the midwife had left the building.

The Cholmondeley Ladies, circa 1600, Wikipedia

It was the custom for babies to be swaddled, and while this is again a trend, swaddling was serious business in the 16th century. It was assumed that swaddling would encourage a child to grow straight, so they were firmly wrapped from birth until nine to twelve months. A swaddled child could then be attached to a board, which could either be worn on the back if the child needed to be carried, propped in a chair, or even hung on a wall! Children couldn’t crawl or run around, but they certainly were part of the life of the house, absorbing everything that went on around them.

I wonder if they spoke earlier or more clearly, simply because of the amount of words they must have overheard, while hanging about waiting to be older.

While Tudor children were small and presumably cute, the resemblance to modern children ends there. Once they were unswaddled, they became miniature adults, put into miniature adult garments and given miniature adult responsibilities. Poor children worked alongside their parents at whatever their labors might be. In the case of Bess, her mother did fine laundry for the brothels of Southwark, so Bess learned to wash clothes and handle an iron, in addition to delivering the finished product. Country children would have been in the fields with their parents, working just as hard, with no thought of a future beyond what had always been.

Wellborn children weren’t much better off. They weren’t expected to work, at least not in the same way, but they weren’t children, either. Their miniature adult clothes were far grander, which means they got into far more trouble for playing and messing them up. They were more likely to be educated, either at home or in the home of another noble who would have shifted their own children to yet another house. This “musical chairs” approach was a way of building relationships between noble families, whether or not those relationships led to marriage, and training children to know what would be expected of them as adults.

Wellborn children were often sent to court at a very young age, where, whether they served a noble lord or their noble sovereign, they certainly had to learn a code of conduct even more regimented than they would have followed at home. Elizabeth I had maids of honor as young as twelve, though the more usual age was sixteen, as their purpose—beyond being entertaining and ornamental—was to find a husband while in the queen’s service.

Francois I and Mary Stuart, 1558

Royal children were pawns in the marriage market from birth, though not every match made it to the altar. Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, was betrothed multiple times, but acquired her first husband at the age of thirty-eight, when she became queen in her own right. Elizabeth Tudor escaped the marriage game as a child, being delegitimized after her mother’s execution.

Mary Queen of Scots was queen twice over by the age of sixteen—first in her own country, and then, when the King of France died, she and younger husband, Francis, became King and Queen of France. (Which did not stop her from looking toward England, but that’s another story entirely. Which I’m writing.)

There is conjecture that because of the sheer number of children who didn’t survive childhood, parents did not love their children. My personal belief is people will see what they want; in Tudor times, familial relationships were more formal, and perhaps on the surface appear to be less affectionate, but on the whole, people haven’t changed all that much, and despite an uncertain future, most parents loved their children. To me, one of the purposes of historical fiction is to bring the past and its people back to vivid life.

Even if parents wrapped their kids like mummies and hung them on the wall.

Songbird (The Tudor Court, Book 1)

She has the voice of an angel...

But one false note could send her back to her old life of poverty.

After her father sells her to Henry VIII, ten-year-old Bess builds a new life as a royal minstrel, and earns the nickname "the king's songbird."

She comes of age in the dangerous Tudor court, where the stakes are always high, and where politics, heartbreak, and disease threaten everyone from the king to the lowliest musician.

Her world has only one constant: Tom, her first and dearest friend. But when Bess intrigues with Anne Boleyn and strains against the restrictions of life at court, will she discover that the biggest risk of all is listening to her own stubborn heart?

Available NOW on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo

Also available as an audiobook narrated by Jennifer Summerfield:

AudibleAuthors DirectNookHooplaApple BooksKobo ScribdGoogle PlayAmazon

Connect with Karen

Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She fell in love with books and stories before she could read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams—which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing. 

She lives in Lansdowne, PA, not far from Philadelphia, with two cats and a very patient husband, and is always hard at work on her next book.

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Monday, April 5, 2021

The Men of Operation Pied Piper


One of my favorite things about being part of Coffee Pot Blog Tours is meeting new authors and being introduced to tidbits of history that I might not have learned about otherwise. Today, Keith Stuart is my guest with some insight into his new book, Pied Piper.

Welcome, Keith!

~ Samantha


Men's Health in Pied Piper

Guest Post by Keith Stuart

As the Pied Piper story arc unfolded and developed, two key events shaped the narrative through which I was going to explore my two principal themes – the nature of close male friendship and the issue of mental health in men. The latter is an increasingly significant contemporary topic but, of course, it’s not new and I wanted to consider how it might have manifested itself at a time when men were even less open in their expression of emotions than they might be now.

To explore both issues, as triggers, two events in the story took me into matters relating to health care – simple, physical health care, not mental health care. At the time of the story, mental illness was either denied or treated with contempt and care was either non-existent or crude and cruel. I had two events where illness or injury had real significance: they are key to the main character’s story.

In 1939 there was, of course, no national health service. Never mind the absence of mobile phones, few had a phone in the house from which to call for help. The 999 service was only introduced in London in 1937 but not for an ambulance. There was no A&E to offer painkillers, swift diagnoses, and treatment. All these historical details were good for my story but managing it, and getting the facts right, required some research. How were certain conditions treated in 1939 (I’m desperately trying to avoid spoilers here!) and what facilities were available? What is now ‘free’ was either simply not available or incurred a direct and immediate cost. What happened when someone couldn’t meet such costs?

I didn’t need minute detail but did need to get the broad picture right: I didn’t want any to have the story’s credibility destroyed for a lack of accuracy. The story isn’t about health care in the 1930s or the establishment of the NHS which, after all, didn’t come for another ten years after my story is set, but what wasn’t available, what couldn’t be done for someone sick or injured, was significant to the story.

It is really hard to imagine the grief that was experienced during the two World Wars. Few if any families will have been untouched by grief and the scale and duration of events is impossible for subsequent generations to grasp. I can’t. The COVID crisis of 2020/21 has given me the closest idea in my lifetime of the sense of national anxiety, fear of losing those closest to you, of the care available to us and of our resources generally being overwhelmed and exhausted. The quantity and quality of support for mental health issues have been questioned for some time and are now seen to be woefully inadequate. They are going to be sorely tested and likely overwhelmed in the coming months and years, as the consequences of the pandemic unfold. But what happened in 1939, when there were none, when there was little understanding of grief and anxiety and no expectation of anything more by way of help than “Pull yourself together” and “Move on”?

As I did not need fine detail, internet searches regarding access to and types of treatment were enough and I do hope that no one with far more historical or, indeed, medical knowledge finds errors. There’s poetic licence but there is a duty to get it fundamentally right, I think. The historical backdrop to Pied Piper provided the canvas on which to paint issues that I wanted to explore.

Pied Piper by Keith Stuart

In September 1939 the British Government launched Operation Pied Piper. To protect them from the perils of German bombing raids, in three days millions of city children were evacuated - separated from their parents.

This story tells of two families: one whose children leave London and the other which takes them in. We share the ups and downs of their lives, their dramas and tragedies, their stoicism and their optimism. But. unlike many other stories and images about this time, this one unfolds mainly through the eyes of Tom, the father whose children set off, to who knew where, with just a small case and gas mask to see them on their way.

Available on Amazon US, Amazon UK,

Amazon CA, Amazon AU

FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

Connect with Keith

Keith Stuart (Wadsworth) taught English for 36 years in Hertfordshire schools, the county in which he was born and has lived most of his life. Married with two sons, sport, music and, especially when he retired after sixteen years as a headteacher, travel, have been his passions. Apart from his own reading, reading and guiding students in their writing; composing assemblies; writing reports, discussion and analysis papers, left him with a declared intention to write a book. Pied Piper is ‘it’. Starting life as a warm-up exercise at the Creative Writing Class he joined in Letchworth, it grew into this debut novel.

Connect with Keith on Facebook and Instagram.