The Geffrye, Museum Of The Home

So, what does a history nerd do when she moves to London? Goes museum hunting, of course. And, here, museums abound. But they aren't all famous like the British Museum or National Portrait Gallery. Some are smaller, tucked away in some busy, little known corner of this metropolis.

Such is the case with one of my new favourite museums, the Geffrye. An oasis of peace in the hectic heart of Hoxton, the Geffrye Museum is a museum of the home. Its mission is to show its visitors how much homes have changed in the past 400 years.

The Short Life Of Anne Leighton

In late 1591, Elizabeth Knollys, a descendant of the Boleyns, and her husband, professional soldier Sir Thomas Leighton, welcomed a daughter into the world and their family. They named her Anne, and gave her an education befitting her status. The girl was taught sewing, housekeeping, and all the skills needed to manage a Tudor household. She also shared a tutor with her brother. William Bradshaw was a Puritan preacher, with uncompromising beliefs that courted controversy.

Her childhood was spent between Hanbury, in Worcestershire, where the Leightons had their family seat, and Guernsey, where her father acted as Governor. But one day, she would have to leave both, and move to her husband's place. Her father arranged her a match with John St Jones, the younger brother to the heir to the St Jones' fortune. When both his parents died, he was made a ward of Sir Thomas by Queen Elizabeth I.

A Negligent Duchess

When, in April 1776, English author Fanny Burney met Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, at the park, she wasn't too impressed. Here's what she wrote to Samuel Crisp:

Mr. Burney, Hetty and I took a walk in the Park on Sunday morning, where, among others, we saw the young and handsome Duchess of Devonshire, walking in such an undressed and slaternly manner as in former times Mrs. Rishton might have done in Chesington Garden. Two of her curls came quite unpinned, and fell lank on one of her shoulders; one shoe was down at heel, the trimming of her jacket and coat was in some places unsown; her cap was awry; and her cloak, which was rusty and powdered, was flung half on and half off.

Had she not had a servant in a superb livery behind her, she would certainly have been affronted. Every creature turned back to stare at her. Indeed I think her very handsome, and she has a look of innocence and artlessness that made me quite sorry she should be so foolishly negligent of her person. She had hold of the Duke's arm, who is the very reverse of herself, for he is ugly, tidy, and grave.

Omai*, who was in the Park, called here this morning, and says that he went to her Grace, and asked her why she let her hair go in that manner! Ha, ha, ha ! Don't you laugh at her having a lesson of attention from an Otaheitan?

*A young Ra'iatean man who became the second Pacific Islander to visit Europe.

Further reading:
Journals and Letter by Frances Burney

The Armstrong Girl: A Child For Sale: The Battle Against The Victorian Sex Trade By Cathy Le Feuvre

In Italy, the age of consent is 14. I never questioned it. If anything I wondered why in the UK it was 16. Now I know. It is thanks to the efforts of many reformers, including William Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and inventor of the modern tabloids, who exposed the trade in young girls in Victoria Britain, and created a huge scandal in the process.

At the time, the age of consent was 13. This allowed innocent young girls to be sexually exploited, both at home and abroad. To demonstrate to the country how easy it was to buy a girl for the sex trade, and even smuggle her abroad to work in Belgian brothels, William Stead decided to purchase one of these unfortunate souls. He then featured her story in his revealing, shocking, and eye-opening series of articles, "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon". That forced the lawmakers, many of which were against reforms, to change the law.

But the story doesn't end there. Although Stead didn't hurt the girl he bought, but entrusted her to the care of the Salvation Army, he still ended up, together with his accomplices, in court, on trial for abducting her. Some were absolved, while others went to prison, and even died there, martyrs for justice.

The Armstrong Girl is a great piece of social history that should be taught in every school. It opens our eyes to a side of Victorian England that's still hidden in the shadows, enlightens us on how the problem was dealt with in the UK, and encourages us to reflect on what we can do today to end the sex trafficking trade, which, sadly, shows no sign of disappearing for good. Captivating and engaging, this is a book you can't miss.

Engaging and captivating, The Armstrong Girl is a great piece of social history that should be taught in every school. It enlightens readers about the horrors of the sex trade and what the Victorians did to fight it.

Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Was Mary Boleyn Really The Mistress Of King Francis I Of France?

Eric Ives once famously commented that everything we know about Mary Boleyn "could be written on the back of a postcard with room to spare". So, basically, we know nothing. Only a few random facts historians have been painstakingly trying, for centuries, to stitch together. One of these facts is Mary's relationship with King Francis I of Francis. She was his mistress. Not his official mistress, but one of his many lovers.

Or so all the history books say. But was that really true? Mmmm... When we start examining the evidence, we appallingly realise how flimsy it is. Let's take a look at it, shall we?

Evidence N°1: The Bishop Of Faenza's Letter

The oldest piece of evidence used to support Mary's sexual relationship with the French King is found in a letter written by Rodolfo Pio, the Bishop of Faenza, to Prothonotary Ambrogio, dated 10 March 1536. The Bishop said:

"Francis said also that they are committing more follies than ever in England, and are saying and printing all the ill they can against the Pope and the Church; that 'that woman' pretended to have miscarried of a son, not being really with child, and, to keep up the deceit, would allow no one to attend on her but her sister, whom the French king knew here in France 'per una grandissima ribalda et infame sopre tutte.'". (That's old Italian for "a great prostitute and infamous above all", by the way.)

As it is obvious, Pio was no fan of the Boleyns. A papal nuncio at the French court, Pio was obviously against the religious reforms the Boleyns helped promoting, and Henry VIII's break with Rome.

Historical Reads: Cheating Valets and Tricks of the Trade

Valets knew many tricks to enrich themselves at the expense of their masters. Author Geri Walton shares a few:

Valets, similar to a household steward, used a variety of tricks to enhance their income. One trick was to complain to those they patronized—tailors, bootmakers, milliners, laundresses, and so forth—about the exorbitant amounts they charged. At the same the valet would then try and get his master to pay as much as possible. This then allowed the valet to pocket the difference.

Another trick valets used was to convince those they patronized of their importance. They accomplished this by claiming that their masters were fanatical and impossible to please. They also claimed that because of their (the valet's) influence, they were able to keep patronizing the less than perfect shop owner. Such claims resulted in the valet being granted discounts, concessions, or allowances that financially benefited them.

When valets worked for a master that was careless about his wardrobe, valets used other tactics to get money. For instance, valets were known to "commit sad depredations on the wardrobe." These depredations allowed valets to acquire articles that they could keep for themselves or they sometimes sold them. They accomplished this because they made friendships with wardrobe dealer who would purchase what they brought to sale.

To read the entire article, and discover many more tricks, click here.

Hair Fashions In Ancient Rome

(C) Shakko

The 1816 edition of the Belle Assemblee featured a very interesting article about the headdresses of some of most famous women in ancient Rome, and how hair fashions changed throughout the centuries. Here it is:

She knew how to arrange her hair in the most elegant manner, without any high toupet, and without even the ornament of an aigrette. A very narrow bandeau divided her hair in front from that behind, where it was tied underneath, the bow negligently appearing towards the uncovered ear; and two little bows of rib band fell on the nape of the neck behind. The front hair waved seemingly without art, and four braids of very long hair was wound in a kind of serpentine wreath all over her head, all equally divided, without touching each other; neither the roots or ends could be discovered, and seems plainly to shew that she was indebted to art for this ornament. If the reports of Claudieu may be credited, it was customary to shave the heads of every prisoner taken in battle, who was of distinguished birth, as a symbol of his loss of liberty; and Sidonius asserts, that this hair was scut to Home, to be fabricated into head-dresses for women of quality.