Hunter S. Jones introduces us to the team behind her latest book, Sexuality and Its Impact on History – the surprising story of the British between the sheets!
Everything begins with a thought. From there, thought becomes energy and concepts are created. Two years ago, I noticed that there was a murmur across social media platforms. People were asking why more women weren’t writing about history, especially why more women’s stories weren’t being shared by women. History is a male-dominated field—that is, more males are considered experts, even though more females teach history, at least in the US. Being an avid reader of both history and historical fiction, I mulled over the concept of bringing together a group of females to write about different eras and people throughout British history.
The thought became a project when I approached a group of authors that have always impressed me for their love of history and their writing skills. The authors are British and American, which makes their insights even more intriguing. Most have advanced degrees in history and we all have connections to the United Kingdom. Emma Haddon-Wright, Annie Whitehead, Judith Arnopp, Maryanne Coleman, and Gayle Hulme are British citizens. Jessica Cale and I married our British ‘Prince Charming’. Taking everyone’s expertise into consideration, I outlined a concept focused on sexuality and especially the role women have played in the history of Great Britain. The main areas of concentration are the Anglo-Saxon, Medieval Courtly Love traditions, Tudors (of course), Mary, Queen of Scots, the Crown and succession, and Victorian England’s cultural influence on women.
Pen and Sword Books, an English publishing house, accepted the book within days, and we set off on our journey. The book is now available in the UK, with plans to release it in the US later this year. As we watch our mutual project launch, I’d like to introduce you to each author and let them share with you a little of what they learned—something which surprised them while researching their essays.
Like most great friendships, Emma and I met on Twitter. Her love of all things historic is enhanced by her effervescent personality. Her vlogs sparkle with excitement as she shares the historical areas of interest she visits. She did a few Periscopes on Godiva one weekend. After seeing those, I knew she had to bring the story of this strong woman to our project. Emma’s essay is Godiva: Lady, Legend, Legacy. Sexuality and Its Impact on History is her first published work, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of her inaugural publication! Her insight on Godiva is one of the best I’ve ever read. Here’s what Emma had to say about her research:
‘I knew about the legend of Lady Godiva, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really given much thought to the origins of the story! When asked to delve a little deeper, I had no idea where her story would take me or the surprising things I would find out along the way. It was a real revelation when I discovered that she was mother to a queen, a founder of churches, a woman of means, and one of only three English names in the 1086 Domesday surveys!
Godiva, what a lady and what a legend!’
Annie and I met through the English Historical Fiction Authors group. I have always been impressed with her writing abilities, as well as her organizational capabilities. Her knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon era is remarkable, and she is a creative storyteller. I was elated when she agreed to write on Mercia for our project. Her essay is Rioting in the Harlot’s Embrace: Matrimony & Sanctimony in Anglo-Saxon England. It’s the story of a ménage a trois that changed the course of the Anglo-Saxon throne. Annie says:
‘What interesting nugget did I discover? I’ve written extensively about this period, and these two queens in particular. Their stories are at times unbelievable, fantastic even, and yet seldom told. Researching Queens Ælfgifu and Ælfthryth afresh for this project, I expected to find more detail about their supposed crimes and salacious actions but was still shocked to learn that even in those pre-CSI days, people were familiar with the idea of murdering in such a way as to leave no marks on the body!
These queens both feature in my novel, Alvar the Kingmaker, and, certainly in the case of Ælfthryth, they are pivotal to the plot. Anglo-Saxon noblewomen were able to play far more of a defining role in politics than is perhaps generally supposed. This will be obvious to anyone who has read my first novel, To Be A Queen, which tells the story of Alfred the Great’s daughter, Æthelflæd, who ruled a kingdom in all but name. I research thoroughly, and I know this period very well, but there is always something new to discover. I learned, for example, that flour dust is highly combustible. In a novel set in a country which did not know about gunpowder, explosions had to be caused by something else, and this new-found knowledge allowed me to blow something up in a crucial scene.
When the idea for Sexuality and its Impact on History was first mooted, I hesitated. This was, after all, non-fiction. But I reminded myself that not only had I written a dissertation as part of my history degree, I also blog regularly and am a contributor and editor for the EHFA (English Historical Fiction Authors) site, where, despite its title, all the articles are non-fiction. I’ve also won a non-fiction award and had articles published in magazines, so I decided that this was do-able. So much so that I have just completed a book on the history of Mercia for Amberley Publishing, which is due out in September of 2018.
It seems that, fiction or non-fiction, as long as I’m writing about history, I’m happy. And there is always something new to discover.’
Jessica Cale and I met through a few shared historical authors groups. I fell in love with her fun, intriguing blog, entitled Dirty, Sexy History (www.dirtysexyhistory.com). She is a gifted author, has a fantastic sense of humour, we have a mutual passion of history, and we both married British guys. Jessica’s Prince Charming is Welsh.
When I outlined the section for Medieval History, I knew Jessica was the one. Her insight into the era is extraordinary, and her writing style effortlessly handled the topics of LGBTQ in a way that isn’t in the least judgmental. Here’s what Jessica had to say about her essay, The Art of Courtly Love: The Ideal and Practice of Love in the Middle Ages:
‘Probably the biggest surprise was the difference in views on contraception. Because religion was such a major part of medieval life, we assume sexuality was totally restricted, but that’s not the case. Contraception did exist and was used with some efficacy by most women. The Church determined that life began at birth rather than conception, so even abortion was considered a relatively minor sin, particularly for poor women. In practice, the Church also turned a blind eye to sex outside of marriage between single people because any relationship with sex, love, and consent could be viewed as an informal marriage.’
Ms. Coleman is an elusive character and prefers to write. You won’t find her online, but you can find her chapter The Tudor Marriage Game, included as Chapter 4. She takes an in-depth look at the barriers to marriages during the era, and at the lengths some would go to in order to defy societal conventions and actually marry for love. It’s an intriguing read.
I’ve been a fan of Judith’s Tudor historical fiction for a while. When she said she would delve into the rumours of Anne Boleyn and Sir Thomas Wyatt, it seemed the perfect addition to the project. These Bloody Days: The Relationship between Anne Boleyn & Thomas Wyatt is an expertly detailed essay which analyses the relationship between these two. Were they family friends or star-crossed lovers, or possibly something in between? Judith seamlessly writes of the captivating Anne Boleyn and one of the many men of the Tudor Era who admired her.
Gayle and I are friends. I’ve admired her love for history and urged her to write about Mary, Queen of Scots for the project. She has a Facebook group which focuses on British Royalty, and she often does vlogs on her visits to Stirling Castle, Edinburgh, and the Tower. Since Gayle resides in Glasgow, she is the perfect addition to the book and brings a refreshing look at the thrice-married Scottish Queen. Gayle’s essay, The Marriages of Mary Queen of Scots, is also her first published work, and it is fabulous sharing her work via our project.
With her essay Succession, Confusion and Ramifications: Who Should Wear the Crown? Dr Lynne brings her academic insight into the complexities of the English and British Crown. Her story also explains why so many females have inherited the crown from Mary Tudor, her half-sister Elizabeth 1, to the current sovereign, Elizabeth II.
The final chapter is my own work. I’m enthralled by Tudor and Elizabethan History but wanted to delve into the Victorian Era. This period shaped cultural mores during and after the American Civil War. My essay is entitled Lips of Flame & Heart of Stone: The Impact of Prostitution in Victorian Britain and its Global Influence
I look into the global impact of the Empire and how the economic growth worldwide affected women, especially women who developed independent careers, whether it be through marrying well or other means. The biggest surprises I’ve found are that few know of Nashville, Tennessee’s ‘secret’ during the Union Occupation of the city, along with the influences of fashion and America’s first art form being shaped by the influences of the working girls of the late Victorian Era.
In Sexuality and Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare, you will discover the ménage that changed the course of the Anglo-Saxon throne, go undercover to explore Courtly Love, learn about the business of Tudor and Regency marriages, read of a possible dalliance involving Queen Anne Boleyn, and the controversial marriages of Mary, Queen of Scots and peek into the bedrooms of Victorian prostitutes. Each story provides shocking detail about what was at the heart of romance throughout British history.
It’s all here: Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom, ménage a trois, chastity belts, Tudor fallacies, royal love and infidelity, marriage contracts (which were more like business arrangements), and brothels, kept women, and whorehouses. Take a peek at what really happened between the sheets.
Hunter S. Jones is passionate about the history of romance, science, and music, a.k.a. sex, drugs, and rock & roll. She has a popular history blog and is a historian for Past Preservers Casting. When she isn’t writing, talking, or tweeting about kings, queens, and rock stars, she’s living the dream in Atlanta, Georgia with her Scottish born husband. Sexuality and Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare is her first collection of historical essays.