My apologies today to both Sarah Hegger and you for being a week off schedule. Like half of the universe, it seems, I was hit by that holiday flu. But I'm on the mend, and Sarah's guest post has had a week to percolate happily in my inbox. I'm very excited to have the wonderful and funny Sarah Hegger on the blog today. Sarah is both a contemporary and historical romance author (YAY!) and this week she's sharing her tale of researching the city of London, which is, in many historicals, a character unto itself. Thanks for coming by Sarah!
Hi Victoria, we look forward to welcoming you to the historical fold. Like you, I write in both historical and contemporary, and I love being able to time jump between the two. My latest historical, Sweet Bea, a medieval romance, is actually on sale now for 99cents in all formats.
I’m not really sure how I ended up in medieval, as I had visions of being the modern day Georgette Heyer, but there has always been something about the rough, tough and grittiness of medieval times that fascinated me. The church played a leading role in everyone’s lives, but this was before etiquette and social affectations governed behavior and it pretty much was survival of the fittest.
I set myself an interesting challenge with Sweet Bea. Beatrice and Garret race to London—along with Bea’s friend Tom and assorted stragglers they pick up along the way—to warn Bea’s father that the family is in danger.
This was the time just before the Magna Carta was drawn up and the barons had taken London with their Army of God in opposition to King John. Bea’s father, Sir Arthur, was one of these rebel barons for the purposes of my story.
So, I have the group racing for London, and I stop. Medieval London was so not modern London. Stating the obvious, I know, but questions started to circulate.
It began my fascination with medieval London, and it was an amazing place. Parts of it are still standing in modern day London, if you can believe that.
The city has been called “The Great Wen” by William Cobbett, a passionate ruralist who disparaged the city, and later, “The Big Smoke” for her suspect air quality. But London has always been an amazing city.
I stumbled across a wonderful book by Peter Ackroyd called “London: The Biography” and it traces the history of the city from ancient times right through to London today. If you have a tendency to get lost in the past and keep following one little trail after another, like I do, this is a great book.
This is a little of what I discovered:
Medieval London, did have walls, and was much smaller than the current city, which now incorporates the city of Westminster. At Sweet Bea’s time, the cities of Westminster and London were separated and the easiest way between them was the Thames.
London at the time I wrote her, was marked by the monasteries at her boundaries with the Tower of London on her eastern edge.
Sadly, the old London Bridge, the one Sweet Bea would have crossed was pulled down by the ever efficient Victorians in 1831, which was a great pity on some ways. It was a hive of activity, with buildings and whatnot stacked all along its span. The bridge was 26 feet wide, and 800-900 feet long and by 1358 (years after Sweet Bea) had about 138 shops along its span. There was a drawbridge in the center for tall ships and defensive gatehouses at both ends. And apparently at least one, multi-seated public latrine overhanging the parapets and discharging into the river below. There were also a number of private latrines (doesn’t really bear too much thinking about).
This bridge wasn’t the origin of the children’s rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down though. That bridge came before even this one. The one Sweet Bea crosses was actually completed in 1209 and had taken 33 years to complete.
The rebel barons and their Army of God occupied London but many of them based themselves at Westminster Palace. The current Westminster Palace is the Houses of Parliament. The old one, the one Sir Arthur was staying in, is also and very sadly, long gone.
London was dirty, busy, extremely smelly and for those times packed with people. Interestingly enough even then it was a city filled with people from all over. Traders and merchants from far away worlds made their way up the Thames to trade in London.
London is probably my favorite city in the world. Spending time in medieval London only made her more interesting for me. I’m going to leave you with those immortal words by Samuel Johnson:
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London, all that life can afford.”
Is anything sweeter than revenge?
Curious about Sweet Bea? Here's a morsel for you.
In a family of remarkable people, ordinary Beatrice strives to prove herself worthy. When her family is threatened with losing everything, she rushes to London to save them. Unfortunately, she chooses as her savior the very man who will see her family brought low.
Garrett has sworn vengeance on Sir Arthur of Anglesea for destroying his life when he was a boy and forcing his mother into prostitution for them to survive. He has chosen as his instrument Sir Arthur's youngest daughter, Beatrice.
Can Beatrice’s goodness teach Garrett that love, not vengeance, is the greatest reward of all?
About Sarah Hegger
British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.
Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.
She currently lives in Draper, Utah, with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.
She loves to hear from readers and you can find her at any of the places below.