Margaret Dickson was executed, survived, and pardoned, and because of it she was nicknamed “ill hangit Maggy Dickson.” Her story begins with her birth in Musselburgh, Scotland, near Edinburgh in 1702. When she was an adult, she married a fisherman and together they had several children. However, Dickson found herself practically single because her husband was impressed and went to sea aboard a warship.
In Scotland, at the time, any woman who committed fornication was punished publicly. The punishment occurred over three Sundays with the fornicator seated in the most conspicuous place in church and receiving a public rebuke from the minister. This spectacle resulted in people attending church who never attended just so that they could see offenders shamed. Female offenders found the punishment so embarrassing, some “destroyed the fruits of their amours, rather than be made a spectacle to all the inhabitants of the parish.” Continue reading →
On 5 June 1789, at Westminster-Hall, a case was brought by a son against his father in Standen versus Standen. If the son did not prevail, his father’s marriage to his mother would be discredited and the son would be “ruined and undone.” The case began when the son, Charles, produced the registry and showed that the entry of marriage had been made and signed by the clergyman. Continue reading →
From early times, mineral waters were used to remove or alleviate disease. Waters at watering-places were often ascribed to the occult and sometimes said to be miraculous in their abilities to cure disease, both chronic and acute. Some people had such belief in the mysterious agency of mineral waters they entertained exaggerated notions of their capabilities and power and used mineral waters whenever they were ill. However, other patients found that mineral waters did not alter or alleviate their sufferings, and these people tended to claim that such waters cured people because of a “mere change of air, scene, and mode of life.” Continue reading →
When King George III succeeded to the throne he decided it to take a wife. The wife he chose was 17-year-old Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. That was because he, his mother, and his advisors liked her because she had no experience with politics or party intrigues. In fact, when Princess Charlotte arrived in England, George III instructed her to avoid meddling in such things. Although Princess Charlotte spoke little English, she was happy to comply.
Charlotte arrived on 8 September 1761 and within six hours of her arrival, she and the King were married. Everyone was curious about the new Queen, and the famous art historian, man of letters, antiquarian, and Whig politician, Horace Walpole, wrote a letter to General Thomas Conway to satisfy his curiosity. At the time, Conway was visiting in Ireland and wanted to know everything about her. In the letter to Conway, Walpole provided some interesting tidbits. Here is his letter almost verbatim: Continue reading →
Grace Dalrymple Elliott was considered a great beauty in her times, but a bad omen accompanied her birth in 1754. She had been educated in France at a convent, returned to Scotland, and met and married Sir John Elliot,* a respected physician. Yet, despite being married, she fell in love with a Lord Valentia, whom she ran away with in 1774. Elliot was bitter over the affair and divorced her. Soon after her divorce, Grace found herself back in France at the convent, but convent life was not for her, and after a short stay, she returned to England.
It was around this time that the Prince of Wales saw a miniature of Grace. The miniature so enamored the Prince that when Grace arrived in England, he met her. He found to his delight a warm-hearted, well-mannered, and fascinating young woman. His interest in her also resulted in them having an affair and a daughter, who was born on 30 March 1782 and baptized at St. Marylebone as Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour.
The Russian ship Soleure (or Sojus) belonged to Solomon van Brienen and Vassiley Popoff, and it was lost at sea in 1803. At the time, it was insured through Lloyd’s of London. The ship’s owners filed a claim to receive restitution for their loss. Unfortunately, Lloyd’s of London received an anonymous letter alleging the shiphad been sabotaged, and, so, they refused to pay compensation to the owners. At the time, John Bellingham was working in Russia as an export representative. Van Brienen believed Bellingham had sent the letter to Lloyd’s of London and, therefore, he and Popoff took retaliatory action against Bellingham by claiming Bellingham owed them a debt of 4,890 rubles. Continue reading →
Among the émigrés scattered all over Europe during the Reign of Terror was a man by the name of Marquis of Albignac. The Marquis had lost everything, both fortune and family. He survived living “in London on a trifling pension allowed him by the English government.” However, the Marquis possessed one thing, determination. He wanted to be more than a fashionable beggar surviving in England.
One night as the Marquis of Albignac sat dining on his scanty daily meal, he noticed a nearby table occupied by five or six young English gentlemen. They noticed him too. At length one of the young men addressed the Marquis impertinently: Continue reading →
Similar to other people, fishermen had superstitious beliefs and believed certain things caused good or back luck. For instance, fishermen superstitions resulted in seafarers’s claiming a newborn’s caul would secure its wearer from drowning. There was also a belief that breaking up an old boat would bring bad luck and that those engaged in such a task were “sure to come to grief in some way or other.” Northern fisherman claimed it was positively “dangerous” to mention the word “horse” when at sea because bad luck would follow.
Despite a temporary peace that was achieved between France and Britain in 1802, the English remained on edge. They became more panicked when a new dispute with France broke out and resulted in Britain declaring war against France in 1803. Almost immediately rumors were rife about the ill effects Englishmen would suffer if Napoleon was victorious. In July of 1803, the rumors came to life when one concerned magazine published an article stating what they believed were Napoleon’s schemes.
According to the magazine, one of Napoleon’s main schemes was the confiscation of property, similar to what had happened in France during the first years of the French Revolution. Based on this idea of property confiscation, they also asserted that assignats (French money) were being prepared and would allow the bearer to bid for confiscated property as soon as the French set foot on English soil. Moreover, when the assignats were offered, Englishmen would have to accept them “on pain of death.” Continue reading →
One person wrote, “Ever since the world began, a laudable curiosity has excited all ranks of people in all countries, to know the events, vicissitudes, the turns of good or bad fortune.” Among those intrigued by the turns of good or bad fortunes were people living in the eighteenth century. Their fortunes were told to them by fortune tellers who used astronomy, physiognomy, palmistry, card tossing, or the reading of coffee dregs. However, one of the most unusual and interesting ways of fortune-telling was the examination of a person’s moles.
Georgian fortune tellers read moles because as one eighteenth-century writer put it, “[moles] bear a strong analogy to the events that are to happen to a person in the future.” When examining moles, fortune tellers looked at a variety of things. For instance, a mole with a few long hairs denoted the person’s undertakings would be prosperous but if the mole was hairy, misfortune was expected. Continue reading →