What ever happened to that actress and the prince?

 

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Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact (No, this isn’t the cover.)

You’ve heard the news. Here’s the Royal announcement:

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A prince is engaged to an actress! Why would an American like me have any interest in such news at all? Actually, I do have interest and an announcement of my own.

I have interest because there was another time –200 years ago– when an actress took up with a prince who was third in line for the throne. Her name was Dora Jordan. She was Great Britain’s most famous comic, and I’ve written a novel about her. I just signed a contract for it with Rouge Phoenix Press. The e-book will be published in September, 2018 with paper backs available a little later.

Here’s the synopsis:

In 1832,Grace Clare works at the Royal Institution under the direction of the well-known chemist Michael Faraday. But science isn’t all she has on her mind. She learns that her birth mother was famous comic actress Dora Jordan. Grace is dangerously drawn into the tale of Dora’s mysterious, unjust death after her twenty-year relationship with the prince who now occupies the throne–a man who betrayed his life partner and mother of his children. As the only child free to do so, Grace travels to Paris for work and to view her mother’s lonely grave. Awash with the injustice of the cruel betrayal, will Grace be doomed to a tragic life of seeking revenge for her mother or like her mother will she be laughing in the end?

 

This novel is different from my others in that it’s written in third person –an appropriate point of view for the British Empire. The protagonist is more emotional and more vulnerable than my others. And, in keeping with the times–1832–the book is less absurd. The science is 100% realistic–based in 1832.

It’s filled with historical name dropping. Have you heard of any of these people?

Charles Babbage

Evariste Galios

Samuel Finley Breeze Morse

William IV and Queen Adelaide

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They’re all in Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based On Fact.

My previous novels had two-word titles. How did I get this long title for my third one? Here’s the story: Dora Jordan and Prince William lived on an estate in Bushy Park, famous for its fine deer. There was no retiring or resting for this actress. She worked to support the prince’s lavish tastes. She spent lots of her hard-earned cash fixing up the dilapidated estate, only to be tossed to the wolves and the house given to the Queen who replaced her. Dora’s not the only one thrown to the wolves in this novel. My heart bled all over the pages as I read about the betrayals suffered by the lower classes during this era. There were lots of “deer” and fewer but more powerful “wolves”.

How much of this book is based on fact? I did plenty of research on Dora’s life and times. I read letters she wrote (the best I could, her handwriting was difficult to decipher). I read plays she was in. Some such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It are old favorites. Others such as She Would and She Would Not are still published with the long S, (This was used at the beginning and middle of words but rarely at the end and can be found in typography before 1803.) Try reading that.

I became an amateur expert on Dora Jordan. I even found a sketch of her that her biographer had never seen. I have a Pinterest Board dedicated to herI’ve written about her before. I purchased old newspaper clippings about Dora and even have one of her theater handbooks. I discovered that she was prone to telling tall tales. She was skilled at her own PR. Her lover, the Prince, acted as her agent and manager. It was difficult to tell truth from the fiction surrounding her. I put all of my data together and came up with the best story I could. Due to gaps and inconsistencies in history, I was compelled to fill in the blanks. I made up my own theories about her, logical and in keeping with how theater folk were expected to act at the time. As they said in the 1800s, it’s “a tale based on fact”, but it is, indeed, a tall tale of my own–a logical one created from the information gathered, but still, a tale. And it goes against the historical record, which I considered highly fabricated.

I also did research on Michael Faraday that included reading his biography and some of his letters. He took a trip to Paris and that helped me create the Paris of 1832. So did a British guide to Paris dated 1831.

For William IV, I read his biography and that of Queen Adelaide. The Diaries of Charles Greville provided some upper crust gossip–describing William as “something of a blackguard and something more of a buffoon.” And forgive me, mathematicians Babbage and Galios, I researched you too,  and I’ve painted you as eccentric.

Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact is an 85,000-word historical novel that re-examines history and provides a happy ending along with tongue-in-cheek fun, early 19th century-science, and mild social commentary. I hope you’ll love it.

 

 

 

 

 

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How I met Mrs. Jordan

“Mrs Jordan as the Comic Muse” by J. Hoppner in 1785.
Dora (front) as the comic muse while a creep looks on

My blog post about Dora Jordan is up on Sheroes and it’s my birthday. What could be more magical? But how did I, who tends to write about science, become a fan of this famous comic actress? I met her through Michael Faraday, England’s greatest chemist. I had planned to write a short story with him in it–having previously written one with Isaac Newton— and in preparation read his biography. The man was born poor, worked incredibly hard, invented the electric motor, discovered electromagnetic inductance and several elements, and still, I learned from his biography, as he grew older he had finances to worry about because of his lowly birth status. Several people championed his receiving a pension from the government because of his scientific contributions. The King at the time was William IV and one of Faraday’s champions was Lady Mary Fox, identified in his biography as the illegitimate daughter of the King with actress Dora Jordan. This intrigued me. I read Faraday’s correspondence and there Mary was, writing to him and receiving his reply. There was a story here and a Faraday contemporary. I researched Mary’s mother, the actress. Thus I met the hard working Mrs. Jordan–quite a bit more lively than Faraday and someone who also could have used a royal pension for her service.

She was nearly written out of history. Imagine Amy Schumer, Carol Burnett, or Lucy just disappearing. That unsolved mystery along with my family’s involvement in a Shakespeare Festival means it was like catnip for me to uncover more about her. Not to mention that the whole story points out the capriciousness of social status.

I was entranced by her industriousness, her strong female roles, and ability to work while bearing numerous children–ten born to the prince who unexpectedly became king. There were condoms back them but…

She lived before photography and was a genius with costumes and make-up. Thus, it’s hard to know exactly what she looked like. She had a beautiful singing voice and played several instruments but, alas, before recordings. Known to be a quick study with a jolly laugh, she was much admired. Even Jane Austen was a fan. And she elevated comedy to rival tragedy, which was considered the more “literary.”

Her mysterious death in which she seemed to fade into the cosmos has fascinated people for two centuries, along with the odd dealings with the statue of her commissioned by the repentant King and meant to be put in the Hall of Queens. But the statue notion was really not that odd if you know what scientists did in that day. When Mary Somerville was denied entrance into the Royal Academy of Sciences because she was a woman, her supporters had a bust of her placed inside as a protest. Putting a statue in a spot where a woman wasn’t allowed was a statement and the sculptor Chantrey made the Somerville bust and sculpture of Dora. Like most things associated with William IV, things didn’t go as he planned and the statue was hidden away from public sight for 130 years until being reinstated by the current Queen Elizabeth.

I have an extensive Pinterst Board up for her…with a few of my own theories and opinions tossed in. This one belongs to someone else but contains a fair number of cartoons, first slamming her for taking up with the prince, then slamming him for leaving her and the children as he chased wealthy young women. The excuse for the later was that he needed an heir but in all honesty, there were plenty of other princes (he was the third son) and in fact, one of them fathered Queen Victoria. Since William and Dora had a son who might have been a splendid King, Victoria et al had a vested interest in getting rid of Dora’s memory and in getting rid of women’s rights all together.(However, she was fair to her illegitimate cousins. Some historians say it was because the royal family owed Dora.)

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Silhoette of Dora
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The famous statue of Dora and two of her children showing comedy mask and pan pipes at her feet. Motherhood does tower over career, doesn’t it? Even the statue almost fell out of history but God Bless the Queen (Elizabeth) for putting it in Buckingham palace 135 years later than it was scheduled. Photo from http://www.douglasjennings.co.uk/images/mrs-jordan-02.jpg

There’s something “researchy” to digging up things about a woman who was once nearly wiped from history. I can’t believe that I even found and bought a theater handbook of hers. For someone that the palace tried to censor, there is a lot of memorabilia about her. And as I have mentioned before, like her I have struggled for my family and known the sting of betrayal despite my generosity and hard work. All I can say is, women have more options now.

I’ve never bought the story of her death and took the liberty to re-write history and fictionalize her story in a novel.

As for Michael Faraday, he got his pension and later Queen Victoria offered to knight him and give him a house. He declined the knighthood but took the house. One can’t help speculating that Lady Mary knew all about the troubles that come to commoners when there is no social safety net and how much they are at the mercy of the whims and  of the powerful no matter how much they work or donate to the Kingdom.

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This simple sketch is one of my favorites.