Three of the most significant dates in British history have happened in years ending in 15. And two of the three were in June! Consider: 1215 was the signing of the Magna Carta on 15 June. It was October 25, 1415 when Henry V won the battle of Agincourt, and June 18, 1815, was Waterloo. For such a small island, they certainly have learned how to condense things! Other ‘15’ years had interesting happenings, too, it’s a fun search, but they don’t begin to compare to these three.
I once had an ‘up-close-and-personal’ encounter with one of the original four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. In 1986, England’s Salisbury Cathedral sent their copy on a world tour with a double purpose. One was to show off this precious artifact, and the other was to raise funds for the Cathedral itself, which was in need of restoration.
In 1987, this copy came to the Western Reserve Historical Society located in Cleveland’s University Circle area, a place that usually concentrated on events from the Eastern United States, particularly Connecticut and Ohio. Because of the great historical significance of the Magna Carta on governments world-wide, it was entirely appropriate for this wonderful piece of history to appear there. I determined I would see it. At that time I had no idea I’d ever go to England, and this might be my only chance. (However, I have since made that trip three times!)
The outer room featured artifacts from the Barons of Runnymede, who banded together to quite literally force King John into agreeing with them and signing into law, the rules laid out in the Magna Carta. This poster of the Barons, as well as the window from the Cathedral caught my attention.
But it was in the hushed and darkened room adjacent that I promptly burst into tears! This small fragment of history (at that time 772 years old) was so small for all its magnificence. Out of its case, it measures approximately 18 by 18 inches. The document itself was in a wooden cabinet, under glass in the small chamber lit by seven candlepower. Yes, seven! It was very difficult to really see and of course the handwriting was very small and dense, not to mention in Olde Englishe!
There were two guards in the room, along with multiple signs commanding NO FLASH PHOTOS. This was to protect the ancient parchment from damage by light. My heart fell to my feet. I desperately wanted a photo of it, and had brought my SLR camera minus flash with me. I asked the guard if I might take a photo, considering I had no flash. I did have a lens with a very slow shutter speed, and fast ASA 1600 film. The guard was very kind and said that if I didn’t get in the way of other viewers, he would let me take a couple of photos. I still choke up when I see them. They’re not the world’s best photos, to be sure, but they’re extremely meaningful to me.
There is also a personal connection to the event in 1415 – when Henry V won the Battle of Agincourt. I fell in love with his queen, Catherine of Valois, and the very first piece of writing I ever completed was a one-woman play about her, earlier in the year of 1987. It was originally meant to be a book, but somehow was derailed before making it that far.
The other ’15 event is of greater importance to the Regency community as a whole, considering it marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars, at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. To honor this anniversary, a group of Regency authors will publish an anthology of novelette length stories in which Waterloo plays a part.
I asked Susana Ellis -- the spark plug for this idea, “How did the Waterloo anthology get started?”
She replied: I was at a meeting of the Maumee Valley Romance Writers (which has had to dissolve at the end of the year due to inability to seat a board according to RWA’s new regulations) where Kim Jacobs of Turquoise Morning Press was our speaker. She said that TMP has had great success getting notice for their authors through anthologies, where all authors are working to promote the work at the same time.
I’d been thinking of doing something along those things for quite a while, more for the fun of it than anything else. But it occurred to me during this presentation that with the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo coming up, it would be an excellent theme for a Regency-set anthology. So I mentioned it on Facebook and caught some interest, and the next week, when I attended the RWA Conference in San Antonio, I sought out sessions on projects such as this and came back with a lot of information.
With our deadline January 1st, we are all busy scrambling to finish our manuscripts, but once they are submitted to our editor, our committees will start working on things like promo and covers. Our goal is to have the volume out in digital form by April 1st.
We have some authors experienced in self-publishing and covers and such, and others who are just learning. It’s a fun process! I hope our readers enjoy the product!
Authors and titles of the stories:
Sophia Strathmore (untitled)
Aileen Fish: Captain Lumley’s Angel
Heather King (untitled)
David Wilkin: Not A Close Run Thing At All
Victoria Hinshaw: Folie Bleue
Christa Paige: One Last Kiss
Jillian Chantal: Jeremiah’s Charge
Téa Cooper: The Caper Merchant
Susana Ellis: Lost and Found Lady (??? Title subject to change)
I’ll have more information about this fascinating project in January, March and May. Stay tuned! And thank you for reading!
Hetty St. James