Tag Archive | Miracle at St. Bruno’s

A Word About the Status of Catholics in Regency England


“Sorry, but King Henry says your religion, which until very recently was King Henry’s religion, as well as our religion, as it had been for 9 centuries, is alien and un-English”

It wasn’t until recently when I read Philippa Carr’s Miracle at St. Bruno’s that I began to feel the English people’s pain as they were forced from Catholicism to Protestantism to Catholicism again and then finally back to Protestantism at the whim Henry VIII and his offspring. The heroine’s devout Catholic father must either accept his sovereign’s “reforms”—devised solely for the purpose of enabling him to divorce his wife—or offer his head on the block. Following Henry VIII’s death, his eldest daughter—granddaughter to the originators of the Inquisition, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain—demanded that everyone revert back to Catholicism or likewise suffer the severing of their heads. When Bloody Mary died and was replaced with her Protestant sister Elizabeth, Catholicism was abolished. No more of this religious switching back and forth, chopping off heads of devout people who happened to align themselves with the “wrong” religion.

Sir Thomas More (by Hans Holbein): refused to accept Henry VIII as Head of the Anglican Church, was convicted of treason and beheaded

Unfortunately, that meant many years of religious persecution for the Catholics. Masses had to be said it secret. Priests had to be trained abroad, and if they were caught, it meant execution for them and those who harbored them. “Priest holes” or secret hiding places were constructed in homes harbor them in case of a search.

Persecution eased a bit when Charles II took the throne; he had a Catholic wife. By the 18th century there was much more social acceptance of Catholics—they were allowed to worship at the Embassies of Catholic nations in London, for example. In 1785, the Prince of Wales (later George IV) illegally married a divorced Catholic woman, Maria Fitzherbert (never officially acknowledged). Catholics were excluded from Parliament, magistristracies, military commissions, and universities, but most other fields were open to them. Catholic worship became legal in 1791, so Catholics no longer had to have masses performed secretly in their homes.

During the Regency, a Catholic could be an officer in the army or navy, but not hold a seat in Parliament. Catholic marriages had to be performed in an Anglican church with an Anglican minister in order to be valid, although a Catholic ceremony could be held afterward (doing it first could leave them open to fines). A mixed marriage with a Catholic wife was more easily accepted in Society than one with a Catholic husband. (Although, to be fair, the Catholics didn’t approve of mixed marriages either.) The Protestant husband had to take an oath abjuring the Pope, and generally, the children were to be brought up Protestant, although in some cases, the boys were Catholic and the girls Protestant.

Catholics could go about their business much the same way as Protestants, although there was still plenty of prejudice against them. Generally, most Protestant families steered their marriageable children away from Catholics, and vice versa.

In Lost and Found Lady, Catalina, born and bred in Spain, is a devout Catholic. Rupert has promised his father he will choose a “suitable wife,” so when sparks begin to fly between him and the lovely girl who saved his life, he has to keep his emotions in check because Catalina is in no way the sort of wife his father would accept. But as their relationship grows, Rupert finally realizes that his heart has already made the choice for him.

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About Lost and Found Lady

On April 24, 1794, a girl child was born to an unknown Frenchwoman in a convent in Salamanca, Spain. Alas, her mother died in childbirth, and the little girl—Catalina—was given to a childless couple to raise.

Eighteen years later…the Peninsular War between the British and the French wages on, now perilously near Catalina’s home. After an afternoon yearning for adventure in her life, Catalina comes across a wounded British soldier in need of rescue. Voilà! An adventure! The sparks between them ignite, and before he returns to his post, Rupert promises to return for her.

But will he? Catalina’s grandmother warns her that some men make promises easily, but fail to carry them out. Catalina doesn’t believe Rupert is that sort, but what does she know? All she can do is wait…and pray.

But Fate has a few surprises in store for both Catalina and Rupert. When they meet again, it will be in another place where another battle is brewing, and their circumstances have been considerably altered. Will their love stand the test of time? And how will their lives be affected by the outcome of the conflict between the Iron Duke and the Emperor of the French?

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Spotlight on Philippa Carr

Philippa Carr is a pseudonym of Eleanor Hibbert (1906-1993), who also wrote under the names of Jean Plaidy (historical fiction), Victoria Holt (gothic romance), and Eleanor Burford (contemporary romance), among others.

philippa2Eleanor worked in a jewelry store until she married George Hibbert, who was twenty years older, whereupon she was able to quit her job and begin writing “in earnest.” Her first efforts did not meet with success, but that changed after she took the advice of an editor and began writing romantic fiction. She published 32 contemporary romances under her maiden name before turning to historical fiction, which she wrote under the name of Jean Plaidy. Later, she wrote Gothic-style romances under the name of Victoria Holt and then she produced a series called The Daughters of England (historical fiction) under the name Philippa Carr.

My first introduction to Hibbert’s work was in the late 1960’s and 70’s when I would devour all the gothic romances I could find. Victoria Holt was my favorite; she couldn’t write fast enough for me! In 1973 I discovered Jean Plaidy’s historical fiction; she became my next obsession; I didn’t realize the two were the same person until years later, but I knew I couldn’t get enough of their writing. I don’t recall when I discovered Philippa Carr, but I’m sure by then I was aware of her true identity. And her books went to the top of my TBR list along with the rest. Several years ago, by trolling eBay, I was able to acquire a complete collection of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr books for my personal collection.

Good News: Open Road Media is reissuing these titles for today’s historical fiction lovers. The digital version that I received from NetGalley is a collection of the first three titles in The Daughters of England series: Miracle at St. Bruno’s, The Lion Triumphant, and Witch From the Sea.

From the Publisher

Miracle at St. Bruno’s

During the tumultuous reign of King Henry VIII, Damask Farland, named after a rose, is captivated by the mysterious orphan Bruno. Discovered upon the abbey altar on Christmas morning, then raised by monks, Bruno becomes the great man whom Damask grows to love—only to be shattered by his cruel betrayal.

The Lion Triumphant

While the rivalry between Inquisition-torn Spain and Elizabethan England seethes, Captain Jake Pennlyon thrives as a fearsome and virile plunderer who takes what he wants—and his sights are set on Catherine Farland. Blackmailed into wedlock, Cat vows to escape. Fate intervenes when she’s taken prisoner aboard a Spanish galleon . . . unaware that she’s a pawn in one man’s long-awaited revenge.

The Witch from the Sea

Linnet Pennlyon, proud daughter of a sea captain, finds herself in a vicious trap: Pregnancy has forced her to marry the cunning Squire Colum Casvellyn. Once their baby is born, she devotes herself to their son. Yet, little by little, against her will, Linnet finds herself drawn to her passionate, mercurial husband. Dark secrets lurk in their castle, and when a beautiful stranger washes up on the shore, Linnet suddenly finds she’s no longer in control of her family—or her life.

Susana Says: Riveting Reads, 4/5 Stars

SusanaSays3Damask, Catherine, Linnet, Tamsyn…are the strong, independent female protagonists in this fascinating saga of The Daughters of England. The first clue that these stories are more along the lines of historical adventures than romances is the use of the first person. The reader’s knowledge of the thoughts of the other characters comes directly from the narrator’s thoughts and beliefs—and because she is sometimes mistaken, the reader finds herself equally astonished when certain truths are revealed.

Damask comes from a wealthy family; her father is a devout Catholic who watches Henry VIII’s gradual power grab from the Church with concern. These are dangerous times for men with consciences, for anyone who disagrees openly with the king may soon find himself bending over a chopping block. Damask, like all girls, must marry, and she finds herself with a choice of her worthy distant cousin and another young man, whose birth was said to be miraculous, and who, unbeknownst to her, harbors lofty ambitions.

Her daughter Catherine finds herself on the Spanish island of Tenerife, the victim of a revenge plot. With little hope of rescue, she tries to make the most of her situation, and when her liberation is finally at hand, she is horrified by the direction it takes and fears that there will be worse problems ahead. Great description of the events leading up to and following the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Linnet is well on her way to becoming the wife of a worthy businessman when she suddenly finds herself wed to a cocky brute eerily reminiscent of her own father. Although theirs is a volatile relationship, they share a passionate nature, and Linnet is content. But then a beautiful Spaniard washes up on the shore, and suddenly Linnet begins to have doubts about her marriage…and her husband’s mysterious occupation.

witchThese books will take you through a hundred years of English history as though you were there living it yourself. I’d forgotten how much I liked the first-person point of view, since it’s fallen out of fashion in recent years, but in these stories, its use strengthens the link between the narrator and the reader, to the point where you feel you are Damask, Catherine, Linnet, and Tamsyn.

This volume is a bargain at $9.99 for three full-length novels and a series of exciting adventures to the past. I’m already dusting off the remaining books in this series because I disliked seeing it come to an end.

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