Saturday, 8 June 2013

Truth and Fiction

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and I can't help but agree with the ubiquitous them. Take the Victorians. A finer example of sanctimonious moral standards it's hard to imagine at any time in British history. But beneath all the covered furniture legs and concealing clothing, were they really any different to the generations that went before, or have followed on since?

Prince Albert was a strict father and disciplinarian, and yet there was a darker side to him. I was raised on the Isle of Wight, close to Osborne House, Queen Victoria's Island retreat. The principal rooms are open to the public and have been left pretty much the way they were in the queen's day. Prince Albert's private bathroom is a testament to Victorian plumbing...and his eclectic tastes. In other words, one wall is completely covered by a pornographic mural! Double standards or what?

I lived for many years in Crystal Palace, South London, where the architecturally adventurous building that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851 was rehoused when the exhibition closed and Hyde Park reopened for business as usual. There are still ruins of the building that burned down under mysterious circumstances in 1936.

The Exhibition caused controversy as its opening approached. Some conservatives feared that the mass of visitors might become a revolutionary mob, whilst radicals such as Karl Marx saw the exhibition as an emblem of the capitalist fetishism of commodities. King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, shortly before his death, wrote to Lord Strangford about it:

The folly and absurdity of the Queen in allowing this trumpery must strike every sensible and well-thinking mind, and I am astonished the ministers themselves do not insist on her at least going to Osborne during the Exhibition, as no human being can possibly answer for what may occur on the occasion. The idea ... must shock every honest and well-meaning Englishman. But it seems everything is conspiring to lower us in the eyes of Europe.

The largest diamond in the world, the Koh-i-Noor, was gifted to the queen as head of the British Empire by loyal Indian subjects. Naturally, this caused great controversy and when plans were made to show it off at the exhibition, security must have been a nightmare. Indeed, plots to steal the stone were foiled.
In Saving Grace, the first in my Victorian Vigilantes series, I fall back on my little bit of background knowledge about Queen Victoria and fond memories of my years in Crystal Palace by speculating about who might have wished to steal the stone, and why.

1851 The year of the Great Exhibition in England. The largest diamond in the world has been gifted to Queen Victoria. Plans are afoot to steal it and the Home Secretary calls in Jacob Morton, the Earl of Torbay, and his highly-trained band of vigilantes to prevent the theft causing a diplomatic incident.

Lady Eva Woodstock is trapped in a loveless marriage to the man behind the plot. Throwing in her lot with Jake and his compelling associate, Lord Isaac Arnold, her dormant passions are awoken beneath Isaac’s skilful hands. But she will never be free of her husband, nor will she gain custody of her daughter, Grace, unless she can find the courage to face up to William and beat him at his own game.

How far will a mother go to secure her child’s future and protect the man she loves…

Saving Grace by Wendy Soliman Now available from Amazon for just $1.99

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