Friday, April 17, 2015

History of the British Flag, the Union Jack

The flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is referred to as the "Union Jack or “Union Flag.”

The Union Jack as we know it was born from the union of Ireland and Great Britain in 1801.  However, before 1603, the British flag was very different than today’s flag. England, Ireland, and Scotland were different countries, each having their own individual flags. England’s flag honored the patron saint of England, St. George with his emblem of a red cross on a white field and had been the official flag of England since the Medieval times.
Flag of England

That changed when Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was unmarried, named, on her deathbed, expressed her desire that her cousin, King James VI of Scotland, succeed her. So King James ruled both nations. In Scotland, he was King James VI. In England, he was King James I. At that time, King James called his two countries the "Kingdom of Great Britaine." To further show his desire that the countries be considered one, King James made a proclamation in 1606 that his countries’ flags, the red cross of Saint George, who was the patron saint of England, and the Saltire of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, be combined to represent the joining of these two countries. (Wales was not represented in the Union Flag by Wales's patron saint, Saint David, because at that time, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England.

Flag of Scotland
King James’ flag did not become official until the reign of Queen Anne, when England and Scotland united their parliaments to give birth to the new nation of Great Britain. In 1707, Queen Anne officially adopted King James I’s flag as the national flag. This new combined flag was used for 101 years.

However, changes did not stop there. In 1800, Ireland became part of Great Britain in the Act of Union with Ireland, passed by both the Irish and British parliaments despite much opposition. It was signed by George III in August 1800 to become effective on 1 January 1801.

Flag of Ireland
In 1801, the Union Flag was redesigned to include the Cross of St. Patrick (which has a red, diagonal crosss), the patron saint of Ireland. It is in this form that the British flag exists today. 

There is some disagreement as to the origin of the the term 'Union Jack.' One source cites it evolving from the 'jack-et' of the English or Scottish soldiers. Another alternative is that it’s a shortening of Jacobus, the Latin version of “James." It may also have been derived from the term  'Jack' which once meant "small" as evidence by the nickname “Jack” which once meant “little John” or “John Jr.” A proclamation by Charles II required that the Union Flag be flown only by ships of the Royal Navy as a “jack,” which is a small flag at flown at the bowsprit. 

If you are a Brit, you probably learned this in school. But as an American, I found this history fascinating, and I hope you do, too. 

BTW, I found a great figure of the four flags superimposed upon one another on Enchanted Learning: 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Riding in Style in the Regency

By the start of the 1800's one of the biggest innovations in horse fashion had arrived--the Thoroughbred.  Three founding stallions--the Darley Arabian "Manak," the Godolphin Barb, and the Byerley Turk--had been brought to England in the early 1700's.  When these light, fast Arabians were bred with the larger, cold-blooded English mares, the cross produced a horse with size, speed and stamina.

With the Thoroughbred established as a breed, horse racing also became a more popular, and a better regulated, sport.  In 1711, Queen Anne had established regular race meetings at her park at Ascot.  Gentlemen also organized races for themselves, often "matching" particular horses against each other, and by 1727 a Racing Almanac began to be printed.

Around 1750, the gentlemen who regularly met at the Red Lion Inn at Newmarket started the Jockey Club.  By 1791, the Jockey Club had issued the "General Stud Book", and by the early 1800's Jockey Club stewards attended every racing meet and race, including the Derby, first held in May of 1779, the first Derby was held.  Racing now became a fashionable and expensive sports.

Assize-week was the time for races, for that was when the gentry came into the chief town of the shire for trials and selling harvest.  Meets sprang up, and still run, at Newmarket in April and October, York in May, Epsom, Ascot in June, Goodwood, Doncaster, Warick, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Cheltenham, Bath, Worcester, and Newcastle.

Flat and jumping races were also held for women only.  Mrs. Bateman wrote in 1723, "Last week, Mrs. Aslibie arranged a flat race for women, and nine of that sex, mounted astride and dressed in short pants, jackets and jockey caps participated. They were striking to see, and there was a great crowd to watch them.  The race was a very lively one; but I hold it indecent entertainment."  Some women--such as the infamous Letty Lade, who reportedly swore like a coachman--rode and drove to please themselves, and made their own fashion statement by bucking the trends for demure ladies.

But racing could be a ruinous expensive sport, as stud fees increased in price for the most successful sires.  Before the Prince Regent quit the racing scene in 1807, his racing stud farm cost him an estimated 30,000 pounds a year.

The less wealthy, however, could still enjoy equine sport through presence fox hunting.  For while expensive Thoroughbreds hunters might also be seen in the hunt field, farmers also rode their heavier draft horses, such as the Suffolk Punch, and children might well be mounted upon handy Welsh Cobs or Welsh Ponies.  The hunt field was where skill mattered more than social position, and even a man in trade, such as Gunter, the confectioner who ran the famous London shop which sold ices, could ride next to lords--and a few ladies, too.

By the 1780's, fox hunting had replaced the more ancient sport of stag hunting.  The Enclosure Acts of the 1700's had also changed the sport from its early form of gallops across open land into races over fences, ditches and field.

November to March was, and remains, fox hunting season, starting after the fall of the leaf, when the fields lie fallow, and ending after the last frost, just before the first planting.Hunt territories varied widely.  The fifth Earl of Berkely hunted an area from Berkley Castle to Berkley Square, stretching 120 miles. There were two methods for being able to hunt with a pack.  One could hunt by invitation of the hunt master, or one could pay a fee to hunt with a subscription pack.  By 1810 there were 24 subscription packs.  However, this would double, so that by the mid-1800's hunting had become more a matter of subscribing in exchange for the right to hunt with the pack.

The golden age for hunting in Leichesterchire is considered to be 1810 to 1830.  During this time, there were as many as 300 hunters stabled in Melton Mowbray--with some gentlemen keeping up to 12 hunters.  A gentleman could hunt six days a week with the Quorn, the Cottesmore, the Belvoir, and the Pytchley, and to do so would need at least two mounts every day to keep pace with the master and the pack of hounds.

Ladies, while not generally found in the hunt, also rode to hounds.  Mrs. Tuner Farley hunted for 50 years.  Lady Salisbury was master of the Hatfield Hunt from 1775 to 1819.  She hunted old and blind, in her sky blue habit, with a groom leading her horse and yelling at her to, "Jump, damn you, my lady."  From 1788 to 1840, Lord Darlington hunted his own hounds four days a week in Yorkshire and Durham, with his three daughters and his second wife, all in their scarlet habits.

However, between late 1700's to about mid 1800's, when the jumping pommel was invented for the side saddle, ladies were more likely to be advised to "ride to the meet and home again to work up an appetite."
It should be noted that a few ladies chose to ride astride. This was not common, but it was done, particularly by those who didn't really give a fig about what anyone thought of them.
Prior to 1835, a side saddle had only one or two pommels.  One turned up to support the right leg, and some had a second pommel which turned down over the left leg.  The 'jumping' pommel did not exist in Regency times.
A lady's riding habit also had to be cut so that it draped down over the horse's side, covering ankle and boot in a lovely flow.  This drape required that a loop be attached to the hem, so that, when dismounted, a lady could gather up the extra length of skirt.  The fabric for a habit was usually a heavy cotton, twill or wool.  Due to its cut, a habit provided any woman as much freedom as breeches did for a man.
Riding habit styles often copied military fashion, with close cut coats, cravats, and military shakos.  Ladies always wore gloves, both to preserve their hands, and to improve their grip upon the reins. The side saddle requires the rider to sit with a straight back and with hips and shoulders absolutely even.  Slightly more weight should be carried on the right hip to compensate for the weight of both legs on the left.  Any tilting to one side, leaning or twisting eventually results in a horse with a sore back.
Side saddles have a broad, flat and comfortably padded seat.  The right leg goes over a padded leather branch which turns up (the top pommel).  The left leg is in a stirrup that is short enough to bring it firmly up against a second pommel which turns down.  If the horse plays up at all, the rider must clamp both legs together, gripping these pommels.
On a comfortable horse, riding side saddle soon begins to feel a bit like riding a padded rocking chair.  It's far less tiring than riding astride for the only effort is to sit straight and still. The important factor in riding side saddle is the horse.  A comfortable stride and good manners are essential.  This does not have to be a placid horse, but should not be a horse with a rough or bumpy stride.

Betty Skelton, author of Side Saddle Riding, found that...."As a teenager in the 1920's, side saddle riding was second nature to me.  I found it comfortable and I did not fall off as often as I had done from a cross saddle."  In teaching side saddle, Ms. Skelton has found that a beginner rider can often be comfortably cantering during her first lesson, which is far more progress than most can manage when riding astride.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Depicting sex and satire in Georgian London

© Cheryl Bolen
            Between 1770 and 1830 some 20,000 satirical or humorous engravings were published in London's print shops. The three most prominent artists (whom we think of as caricaturists) were, chronologically, James Gillray (1756-1815), Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), and George Cruikshank (1792-1878).

Titled "Fashionable Jockeyship," Cruikshank's satirical cartoon depicts the Price of Wales (future Regent) being carried on Lord Jersey's back to Lady Jersey's bed, with the prince holding up two horns as the sign of the cuckold.
Because these dealt with politics, international affairs, and scandals and satire of London's social elite, those who figured in the graphic satire and those who flocked to the print shops to purchase them for a shilling or more came from the middle and upper class.

            British historican Vic Gatrell uses his study of the 60-year era of graphic satire to show that before the Victorian era, London was a city of sex and laughter. The result of his interest is the stunning City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London, a nearly 700-page tome featuring 289 of these "cartoons" published (in the U.S) in 2006.

            Man, how these illustrations demonstrate sex and satire! Many of these illustrations have never before been reprinted, partly because of the bawdy subject matter.

            Since many of the social situations which inspired these satirical illustrations are unknown to most of us, Gatrell has kindly provided text to explain the background. His research and knowledge of Georgian London are astonishing.

            These 700 pages are crammed with interesting tidbits. Some examples:

·       Bachelor Prime Minister Pitt (the younger) "was stiff to everyone except a woman."

·       Public hangings were moved from Tyburn to the gate of Newgate prison in 1783.

·       Piccadilly was the first street to be lit by gas—in 1809.

·       Sedan chairs did not go out of fashion until 1820.

·       Women wearing powdered wigs washed their heads every three months.

·       Bagnios (public baths/brothels) were located in the Charing Cross area near Charles I's statue.

·       Doors to Haymarket opened at five.

·       Drury Lane boxes cost 5 shillings, and upper gallery seats could be had for a shilling.

            Because the artists slightly changed the actual names or omitted letters, the artists and printers did not get sued.

            One print, for example, shows Lady Worsley washing her naked body in the bathhouse at Maidstone while her husband, Sir Richard Worsley,  stands outside, hoisting a man up to the small window near the roof to get a peek. The story goes that Sir Richard tapped on the bathhouse door to notify his wife he was going to give Bissett a peek. Apparently, Sir Richard was an accomplice in his wife's many adulteries. The text on the drawing reads:

Sir Richard Worse-than-Sly, Exposing his Wife's Bottom – O Fye!

Many of the illustrators accepted bribes. George Cruikshank (whose father, Isaac, was also a noted caricaturist) accepted £100 from the regent to strop satirizing him. Gillray earned a £200 annual pension from George Canning in 1797 to produce propaganda against the Foxite Whigs.           

"Bums, Farts, and Other Transgressions" is the title of one of the chapters. If you ever wondered how to illustrate a fart, this is the book for you. Part of another chapter on libertines deals with the erotica Rowland illustrated from 1790 until 1810. Some of the erotica is truly graphic, even pornographic, except Gatrell explains that because they are humorous they do not meet the criteria for pornography. (Warning: Keep book out of reach of young children.)

Some of Rowlandson's erotica was costly to purchase and was prized by wealthier Londoners. These prints were also shared with women.

London in Regency times was the richest and most economically dynamic city in the world, and its residents were undoubtedly the most debauched.
Of the couple of hundred Regency research books in my library, this volume will now rise to the top five in breadth of knowledge imparted.—Cheryl Bolen’s second book in the House of Haverstock series, A Duchess by Mistake, releases on April 7 and can now be preordered.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spotlight on Regency Fashion: the pelisse

By Donna Hatch

Ladies in Regency England had more reasons to change clothes than the modern-day woman would ever believe. They had special clothes for relaxing at home, walking, riding, going for a drive in a carriage, afternoon gowns, evening gowns, ball gowns, etc. And the number of accessories is even more mind-boggling.

But one of the Regency ladies' fashion accessories was practical as well as fashionable. It was the pelisse. Generally lightweight, Regency ladies wore this long over-garment to protect her clothes from dust and dirt. Since many roads were unpaved, walking and riding in a carriage produced dust and dirt that would sully a gown. And since fashionable ladies often wore white or light colors as a status symble, keeping clothing clean in a not-so-terribly clean environment must have proved challenging. Big cities such as London were even dirtier with all the soot polluting the air from burning coal.

Wearing a pelise became an indespensible part of fashion, as well as a necessary garment, outside one's home. Though pelisses didn't generally take the place of a warm coat or cloak, they also added a layer of warmth in the event the weather took a sudden turn.

I have additional pictures of pelisses and gowns on my Pinterest Regency and Jane Austen Page.

Donna Hatch is a noted Regency researcher, enthusiast, and historical romance author. You can visit her website at
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Friday, March 13, 2015

Regency Posting Inns and Post Coaches

Over the centuries in England, post houses existed along the roads, many of them constructed at first to provide horses for the Royal Mail. The type of business determined its name: ale houses served ales, taverns served wine, inns provided rooms for travelers.

The post houses came to be known as posting inns, unlike the coaching inns that would provide carriage for hire. Eventually, public houses, which came to later be called “pubs” and were different from private houses or clubs, came into being might serve food and drink. All these establishments held to a long tradition of a memorable name, preferably one that might be made into a sign that would be easy for an illiterate person to identify. Common names included: the Blue Lion, the Pheasant, the Rose & Crown, the Feversham Arms, the Bell, Castle House, the Boar's Head, the Peacock, the Kings Head, the White Hart, the Swan, the George (a popular name after the Hanoverians took the throne). More unusual names might include the Running Footman, the Honest Layer, the Cock and Bull, or the Eagle and Child.

Initially, these posting inns or post houses provided only horses, but as the Royal Mail was changed in the late 1700’s to use mail coaches, the coaches, horses, and drivers were all supplied by contract. There was much competition for this lucrative business—a contractor earned not only a fixed regular income for the postal service, but could also charge fares for any passengers on the coach, and an inn could also hope for extra income from quick refreshments sold to passengers.

On Monday August 2, 1784, John Palmer's first coach left the Rummer Tavern in Bristol at 4:00 PM, carrying the mail and four passengers (which later became seven passengers, with four inside).  As noted, Palmer had long advocated postal reform and expansion—increased commerce, industry, and population demanded it.  After his friend William Pitt became Prime Minister, Palmer got authority to try his reform ideas. Palmer's Mail Coach reached Bath at 5:20 PM, and arrived in London at the Swan with Two Necks well before 8:00 the next morning to deliver mail to the Chief Post Office in Lombard Street.  The coach had traveled 119 miles in under sixteen hours, an incredible feat at the time.  Palmer received public acclaim and bureaucratic stone-walling, including a record of criticism which ran to three volumes of copperplate.  However, Palmer's Mail Coaches began to take hold.

In 1787, the Post Office adopted an improved mail coach design patented coach by John Besant and John Vidler. The two men soon held a monopoly on the supply of Royal Mail coaches, including their upkeep, and servicing, and all the coaches took on the distinct black and scarlet colors of the Royal Mail, with the stage number painted on the back side pannel.

From 1801 to 1808, England also had numerous private posts to carry letters between towns and manor houses.  Rates could vary from 1/2d to 1d or more for delivery.  From 1808 on, local delivery standardized at 1d per letter and post towns began to use the stamp P.P. for Penny Post.  The private posts, however, tended to be notoriously slow and unreliable.  Postmasters often went bankrupt, ending their service without much warning.  Those to whom speed carried more importance than money kept to the old practice of sending letters via servants, by the Common Carriers, or by private courier.

By 1811, approximately 220 mail coaches ran on regular schedules from London to various major cities.  These coaches used the main post roads and cross roads (post roads that did not pass through London, but which crossed the main roads), which could support the light, fast coaches.  The new process for macadamizing roads created excellent paved surfaces on the main roads, but other dangers existed, including: poor drivers (on the road and on the mail coaches), bad light from the lack of any moon at night, snow drifts, flooded rivers that had to be forded, collapsed bridges, thunder and lightning that might spook the horses, heavy fog, and rain that could be blinding. On steep hills, passengers might have to climb out and walk beside the coach going up and down to better save the horses for their primary job of delivering the mail. In addition, dust was always a problem on the road in the summer, and any lady who traveled generally wore a veil not to protect her identity, but to save her delicate skin.

Toll roads were constructed during this time period—roads that were the enterprise of local contractors or postal concerns, and the toll was meant to pay for the construction work. Mail coaches had the advantages of not having to pay tolls, which could be worth as much as six pounds to the contractor.

The Royal Mail coach was faster than any stage as the mail only stopped for delivery of mail, and sometimes did not stop at all but only slowed to allow the mail to be exchanged with a quick toss. The coaches were drawn by a team of four, and had seating inside for four passengers, and outside for two or three more to sit with the driver. A seat inside for the Royal Mail from London to Bristol cost about 2 pounds and 10 shillings, while one outside cost about 1 pound.  In general, Royal Mail ticket costs were about one penny (1d) per mile more than would be charged by a privately operated stage. (Stage fares averaged about 2d  to 3d a mile for an outside seat, and 4d to 5d for an inside seat.)
Mail coaches averaged 7 to 8 mph on hard summer roads, and up to 10 mph on a good, straight road with no hills, but in poor winter conditions this speed went down to about 5 mph. Fresh horses were supplied every 10 to 15 miles. Unlike stage coaches, which were operated by private companies, the limit on passengers and luggage on the mail prevented the common danger of overturning due to excessive or top-heavy weight. The mail coaches also traveled mostly at night when roads were less busy and the coach might make better time.

But the heyday of the posting inns and mail coaches wasn't long. In the 1830's the first delivery of mail by rail took place between Liverpool and Manchester, and by the early 1840's London-based mail coaches were being withdrawn from service. The last mail coach service to London ended in 1846--the age of rail had taken over. Many posting inns closed as traffic moved from road to rail. A few regional mail coaches continued active service into the 1850's, but these, too, were being replaced, and many posting inns fell into ruin, with only those in the main towns surviving

Friday, February 27, 2015

Palmerston Papers Rival Bosworth's, Walpole's in Historical Significance

© Cheryl Bolen

The second Viscount Palmerston (1739-1802), whose son served as Prime Minister in the 1850s and 1860s, exemplified the late Georgian aristocracy. He served for many years in the House of Commons and was at the center of society. He traveled extensively abroad, always with an eye to adopting Continental architecture and artifacts into his own beloved Broadlands, his country home in Hampshire.
In the late1700s the 2nd Lord Palmerston hired both Robert Adam and Capability Brown to "modernize" his beloved Broadland, located in Hampshire.

What makes him stand apart from other effulgent aristocrats of his day, though, is the rich legacy of letters (1,400), travel journals and appointment books (100 books) he left behind — some million words in all, a sixth of which is presented in Connell’s work.

It was through a most circuitous path that these papers saw publication. Since the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston had no legitimate issue, Broadlands fell to the second son of Palmerston’s wife, the widow of Lord Cowper, whom Palmerston did not marry until she was fifty. That son, William Cowper (said to have been sired by Palmerston), left no issue, so Broadlands passed to the second son of his niece, Evelyn Ashley. The estate eventually passed to Ashley’s granddaughter, who became the Countess Mountbatten.

The Countess Mountbatten found the papers at Broadlands in the mid 1900's while renovating the mansion and asked Brian Connell to edit them. His labors resulted in Portrait of a Golden Age: Intimate Papers of the Second Viscount Palmerston, Courtier under George III, published in 1958.

Critic Virginia Kirkus said their discovery “rates with the Boswell papers and the Walpole letters, and that recaptures a personality and period as vividly as does Cecil’s Melbourne.”

From Palmerston’s engagement diaries, it is possible to know with whom he had dinner every night of his adult life. His range of friendships included an astonishing roster of the great names of his era from Voltaire to Lady Hamilton to Prinny. His works are rich with records of prices he paid for items as well as serving as a glossary of medicinals of the era. Palmerston himself prefaced his diaries, “As these books may be considered as the anals of a man’s life, and may be of use even after his decease, they ought by all means to be preserved.”

Few of the entries are intensely personal, but the following one chronicles the death of his first wife, who died in childbed two years after their marriage:

Lady Palmerston was taken ill with a feverish complaint. Two days afterwards she was brought to bed of a dead child. She was tolerably well for some days, but a fever came on suddenly which made a most rapid progress and on the fatal 1st of June terminated the existence of a being by far the most perfect I have ever known; of one who possessing worth, talents, temper and understanding superior to most persons of either sex, never during my whole connection with her spoke a word or did an act I could wished to alter.

These diaries shed so much light on the practices of the day. For example, weddings were no big deal. Families often did not attend. The well-placed Lord Palmerston wrote the following to his mother prior to his first marriage:

I should have wrote to you a little sooner but could not have given you any certain notice of the time of my being married, but have the pleasure to tell you that before you read this, you will in all probability have a most amiable daughter-in-law, as I believe I shall be married tomorrow.

We should all give thanks to Countess Mountbatten and to Brian Connell for giving us such a work.
Her Broadlands—which the 2nd Lord Palmerston so lovingly restyled in the Palladian manner favored by the Georgians—has been closed for several years for restoration. It now belongs to her grandson, Lord Brabourne and will reopen to the public during the summer of 2015. Many of the family archives have reportedly been sold to the University of Portsmouth. What a privilege it would be to see both Broadlands and the archives!—Cheryl Bolen's second book in the House of Haverstock series, A Duchess by Mistake, releases on April 7 and can now be preordered.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Regency Spring

It's spring--almost! With Valentine's day here, you can read up on a History of Valentine's Day over at Jane Austen's World.

But let's look ahead to March and the coming of spring.

January was not always the beginning of the year—an older tradition began the year in March.

In March, Lady Day, March 25, was the traditional day for planting and hiring farm laborers for such work. In the church calendars, this day was set as the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to tell her about her upcoming role. This was also the traditional day for when yearly agreements might end or need renewal—it was the old day for the first day of the year. This made it one of the main quarter days.

The quarter days were when servants were hired, rents were due, and assizes were held in the Assizes Towns, over Assizes Week. Assize comes from the Old French and meant that judges traveled the seven circuits of England and Wales, setting up court.

The English quarter days (also observed in Wales and the Channel Islands) are:

March 25       Lady Day
June 24         Midsummer Day
Sept 29          Michaelmas
Dec 25           Christmas

Cross-quarter days that fall between the quarters, adhere to older Celtic holidays:

Feb 2              Candlemas
May 1             May Day
Aug 1             Lammas
Nov 1              All Hallows

In Ireland, prior to 5th century AD, the old Celtic quarter days were observed:

Feb 1              Imbolc
May 1             Beltaine
Aug 1             Lunasa
Nov 1             Samhain

The old Scottish term days, and the quarter days in northern England until the 18th century, were:

Feb 2              Candlemas
May 15           Whitsunday
Aug 1             Lammas
Nov 11           Martinmas

(For more information on quarter days and cross-quarter days, visit

St. David's Day, the Welsh patron saint, came on March 1, and tradition held that all good Welshmen should wear a leak—a vegetable readily available from winter fare.

March also brought Lent, and very often Easter (in March or April).

You may think that colored eggs and rabbits are modern inventions, but these are actually ancient traditions associated with Easter. (It’s only the chocolate Easter bunny and the bunny with eggs in its basket that are new.)

Eggs have been associated with fertility and new beginnings for a very long time. And the hare is also an ancient symbol used since the Middle Ages by the Church. In 1290, King Edward I of England actually ordered 450 eggs to be gold-leafed and colored for Easter gifts.

Pace Eggs are hard boiled eggs with patterned shells, and are traditional made in northern parts of England.

At Biddenden in Kent at Easter, the Biddenden Dole—bread, cheese, beer, and cake—is distributed. Since the late 1700’s, the cake given out bears an image of two women said to be the founders of this charity, a pair of Siamese twins who were born in 1100 and died within a few hours of each other at thirty-four.

Hot Cross Buns are also an old tradition in England. It is said they were made by Saxons to honor their goddess Eostre, with the bun represented the moon and the cross the moon's quarters. But at Easter the cross symbolizes the crucifixion. They’re traditionally served warm on Good Friday.

In Shropshire and Herefordshire, Simnell Cakes made with saffron were made for the Easter season. But in many parts of England, the Simnell Cake is made at the end of Lent, the period of forty days before Easter (starting with Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday).

In the 17th century, Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, became the day when those in service were allowed a day off to go and visit their mothers. Girls would bake their mothers a Simnell cake as a gift.

In England, Maundy Thursday, is the beginning of Easter celebrations and commemorates the Last Supper. The name comes from the Latin, mandatum (relating to Jesus’ commands to his disciples). Up to 1689, the king or queen would wash the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey. Food and clothing were also handed out to the poor. Maundy coins—specially minted—were also given out to pensioners.

From the fifteenth century on, the amount of Maundy coins handed out, and the number of people receiving the coins, was tied to the years of the Sovereign’s life and given to celebrate specific events. The Yeomen of the Guards carry the Maundy money in red and white leather purses on golden alms trays on their heads.