A tour of Rome

If you are a history lover, research can be very addictive, and I love it. Of course, you can follow me on Instagram or Like my Facebook Author Page to catch snippets of research but my recent journey to Rome gathered so much that I thought I’d share it here too.

 

My next historical series will follow a group of young poets who move on to begin a grand tour of the continent. I wish that I had the money and the time to dedicate to tracking the whole grand tour route which would be amazing and I am sure it would generate enough inspirations to write a hundred novels. But that not being an option, so I far I have picked one place to be a ‘tourist’ and research what the men of the 18th and 19th century would have experienced on their travels – Rome.

As I am fascinated by all aspects of history I listened to every bit of information about Roman history and much of it will be irrelevant as somethings were not known in the time of my fictional tourists or will be too detailed for a novel. But I think everything is fascinating enough to share on my blog and I will compare what you’ll see today in Rome with what was there in the time of the Georgian and Regency tourists.

But let me share my first impressions…

We visited the Roman Forum on the first day, without a guide, and just find our way around meant we looked at everything and read every information board so became very acclimatised to the area, but we went back three days later with a guide who added insights we hadn’t know. As I looked at it all the first time, it stood out to me how naked it all seemed. I have been to Pompeii before and walked around the Roman city at Petra both are mesmerizing when you walk on the roads and step into houses still decorated with painted plaster, or temples or early churches decorated in mosaics and shining marbles. The Roman Forum is like the carcass of an animal, it’s just the skeleton, apart from tiny remaining pieces all the skin and flesh had been stripped away.

 

Having seen other places, even in the UK, I had expected to be more intact and it was so much a skeleton it was really hard to imagine what the areas had looked like when they were whole. So while it was really interesting exploring every nook an cranny on our own and building up a full understanding the skill in the engineering and the size and scale when we went back with the guide she began to add flesh to the scenes in front of us.

And this carcass had become that literally because it had been picked over by scavengers through the hundreds of years since the Roman Empire collapsed. The flesh and skin were recycled again and again. The marble floors, columns and walls, the mosaics, statues and bricks all reused by rich and poor.

St Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, which the 18th and 19th Century tourists would have visited is lined with Roman marble.

The occasional remaining floor discovered beneath later buildings in the city, show the original floors that in other buildings had simply been lifted and reused.

Then when I looked through the open doors of buildings or even at the walls of buildings I saw lots of remnants spread around the city and so the body of old Roman was really still there, just elsewhere.

 

What was really useful was that in The Forum there were lots of pictures of paintings from the period I was researching, I’ll share those too soon.

 

The Marlow Intrigues

Discover hours of period drama (2)

 

The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel

The Illicit Love of a Courtesan  

The Passionate Love of a Rake

The Scandalous Love of a Duke

The Dangerous Love of a Rogue 

The Secret Love of a Gentleman  

The Reckless Love of an Heir 

The Tainted Love of a Captain 

Jane’s books can be ordered from booksellers in ebook or paperback

 

A bird’s eye view of historical London

I have worked in some wonderful historical venues for my day job as well as visiting places at the weekend for fun and to do research for the historical books.  But sometimes I work in a modern venue that still makes me think about the past.

A while ago now, I went to a meeting that was in a venue at the top of an office block close to the banks of the Thames in London near Vauxhall Bridge. When I looked out through the window it struck me just how small London was in the Regency and Victorian eras when my historical books are set.

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Three years ago I occupied one cold autumn evening that I had stayed over in London for work by walking down to the area where Vauxhall Pleasure grounds had once been. It is that small triangle of green on the far side of the river. You can see there is very little there now, I couldn’t even find any plants or trees that suggested there had been an aristocratic playground there once. But I walked there thinking about all the historical characters’ whose diaries and letters I had read, imaging them climbing into boats to cross the river to reach the excitement at the time when there was no bridge. I had set a scene there in The Passionate Love of a Rake and so I knew a lot about what it was like in its heyday.

The underpass to get from one side of the road to the other near the park is decorated with images to remind people today what people then would have been looking forward to. Men on stilts and tightrope walkers.

 

I was writing The Tainted Love of a Captain at the time I was in this high office building and I had recently researched how to obtain a licence to marry without the banns being read. I had set a scene in the book when a character travels to Lambeth Palace to obtain a licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s officials. So when I turned the other way in this office, with my camera, and took another picture, I was probably foolishly surprised to see Lambeth and Westminster Palace within easy walking distance to the boats to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

I thought of Harriett Wilson as I stood there looking out at London. I have shared her story on the blog. I thought particularly about the days she wrote of waiting in a carriage outside Westminster Palace for a lover to come out from a meeting of the House of Lords. Perhaps men left the House of Lords and travelled straight to the boats to ferry them over to the pleasure grounds. I also thought about Frances Bankes letters that talked about visiting her son when he was ill while at the boys’ school in Westminster. The element of her life story inspired an element of The Reckless Love of an Heir, as she sat on an upturned bucket beside his bed, did she dine at the pleasure gardens when they were in their townhouse.

Certainly, lots of the wealthy families owned houses in the area between Westminster and Vauxhall, as all the street names declare.

It was just fascinating for me to stand there and look down and it made my imagination run with ideas on how people lived in the past. That area of London would have been flooded with the best society.