One of my greatest joys in writing The Darcy Saga novels is uncovering tidbits of history. As much as possible, I try to weave the facts into the story in a fun and informative way. For some readers, this is too much like a history lesson! I wish I could apologize or say I won’t add history in the future, but I can do neither. In short, read another author if you are not a fan of history! For those who DO appreciate my research and how it enhances the reality of the Saga, which is as much about the amazing characters as it is about the world they inhabit, then hopefully these small bits of history will be enjoyed.
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Coldstream Guards Regimental Band
The Coldstream Regiment of the British Army is the oldest regiment in the world. It was formed in 1650 by George Monck–a General in Oliver Cromwell’s “New Model Army”–at the town of Coldstream just inside Scotland near Berwick-Upon-Tweed where the loyalists began their march toward London. In 1661, shortly after the restoration of the monarchy, they were re-commissioned by King Charles II as Household Troops.
From the earliest days, the Regiment had drummers, and beginning in 1742 a “Band of Music” consisting of eight civilian musicians who were hired on a monthly basis by Officers of the Regiment. The band primarily providing music for the Changing of the Guard at St.James’ Palace. In 1785, the musicians were asked to perform at an aquatic excursion to Greenwich, but they declined on the grounds that the performance was “incompatible with their several respectable and private engagements.” Disappointed with the scheduling conflict, the officers asked the Duke of York, who was Colonel of the Regiment, for a regular attested band. His Grace agreed and sent twelve musicians from Hanover in Germany, under the direction of Music Major C.F. Eley. That initial instrumentation, formed on May 16, 1786, consisted of two oboes, four clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, one trumpet and a Serpent.
In 1815, the year of the Regiment’s distinction at Waterloo, the total strength of the band was increased to twenty-two by the addition of flutes, key bugles, and trombones. In the same year, the band went abroad for the first time when it was ordered to Paris for duty with the Allied Army of Occupation.
The Band of The Coldstream Guards has now been in existence for over 200 years of continuous service which makes it one of the oldest Military Bands in the world. To this day, the band plays regularly for numerous ceremonial occasions and events, including but not limited to: Changing of the Guard, The Festival of Remembrance, Trooping of the Colour, and Beating the Retreat. The band also performs at various non-military events. The band is SO popular that they have recorded numerous albums and a basic search on YouTube yields dozens of snippets, the one below an example.
Website: Band of the Coldstream Guards
For two amazing references on the full history of the Coldstream Guards Regimental Band, Google Books provides these to read freely–
Horse racing has been a part of English culture for longer than recorded history. The earliest written mention of “running horses” is a record of Hugh, from the French House of Capet, gifting horses as a present to King Athelstan of England in the 9th to 10th century. The first record of horse race meetings occurred during the reign of Henry I at Smithfield in London during the annual St. Bartholomew’s horse fair. These, and other vague references hint at the intense interest in horses and racing in Britain, but there is no question that it was King James I who established the sport as it is now known.
In the early 1600s, while on a hunt, King James stumbled across an open stretch of heathland near the sleepy village of Newmarket. Already a lover of equestrian pursuits, he recognized its potential and built the first grandstand on the heath, as well as a palace and stables. After Charles II was restored to the throne, horseracing flourished and developed. An expert, passionate horseman schooled by the Duke of Newcastle, King Charles rebuilt and enlarged the Palace House, and in 1669 moved his entire court to Newmarket twice yearly for the racing season. Newmarket became known as the “unofficial” capital with affairs of state conducted alongside horse racing, womanizing, hawking, and cock-fighting!
The Newmarket Town Plate is the historic horse race instigated by King Charles II in 1666. The King won the first race, and declared it should be run “forever” and, indeed, the “Round Course” runs once yearly following the same three-mile, six-furlong course “on the outside of the Ditch from Newmarket … starting and ending at the weighing post, by Cambridge Gap, called Thomond’s Post.”
The specific rules set forth by Charles II for the Newmarket Town Plate include:
- “Every rider that layeth hold on, or striketh any of the riders, shall win no plate or prize”
- “Whosoever winneth the plate or prize shall give to the Clerk of the Course twenty shillings, to be distributed to the poor both sides of Newmarket, and twenty shillings to the Clerk of the Race for which he is to keep the course plain and free from cart roots”
- “No man is admitted to ride for this prize that is either a serving man or groom”
The Jockey Club was founded in 1750 by a group of influential English gentlemen as a social club due to a shared passion for horseracing. They met in London at the Star and Garter in Pall Mall primarily, but also in taverns located on St. James’ Street and near Hyde Park. The original purpose, other than friendly discourse, was to promote positive relations amongst racing and thoroughbred breeding enthusiasts. Quite quickly the Club gained authority and prestige, eventually evolving into the ruling body of British racing. The established rules ensured races in Newmarket heath were run fairly and proved so successful they were gradually adopted by all racecourses in England and internationally.
In 1752, The Jockey Club leased a plot of land in Newmarket where a Coffee House was constructed in the High Street as a specific, permanent meeting place. Very soon thereafter, the land was purchased and the building became known as The Jockey Club Rooms. Member John Pond published the debut issue of Kalendar in April of 1752, this the first written reference to The Jockey Club, which included the news of a race at Newmarket for “horses the Property of the Noblemen and Gentlemen belonging to The Jockey Club.” As the official magazine of The Jockey Club, Kalendar continues to be published on a regular basis and can be subscribed to and read online.
For over 250 years The Jockey Club Rooms have been at the heart of racing, a body of influence and source of sustained investment in racing. Records show that at least six Prime Ministers and many members of Parliament have been a part of the Club, some arguably spending more time on racing concerns than affairs of state! In the course of serving the sport, The Club and its members, like Government and its politicians, have become accustomed to having their decisions and policies scrutinized by an inquisitive media and public. However, throughout all of the peaks and troughs enjoyed and endured by racing and The Jockey Club, The Rooms themselves, set back from an invariably busy Newmarket High Street, have retained a degree of mystique.
In 1797 a young bookseller named John Hatchard, who had been plying his trade in the literary coffee houses of London since an adolescent, open a bookshop at 187 Piccadilly. Located right next to the century older Fortnum and Mason, Hatchards has remained continually in business at the same locale for over two centuries. Unquestionably now a London landmark on one of the finest and most famous streets in the world, Hatchards bears the distinction of being the oldest bookshop in London.
Firmly established in the Georgian Era, Hatchards has served customers of the highest literary, political, artistic, and social lions of their day, including Benjamin Disraeli, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, and Lord Byron. Since its inception, a link has been forged between the fine booksellers of Hatchards and the royal households of Britain and Europe. Three royal warrants have been granted (from Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales) and eight generations of customers have walked through the shop’s impressive front doors. While surely much has changed in 220 years, the essence of Hatchards is intact. A truly unique British institution!
Jonathan Meyer, Tailor
The modern company of Meyer & Mortimer has one of the oldest Saville Row pedigrees, tracing its heritage back to the 1790s when Jonathan Meyer, a tailor from Austria, established a tailoring and military outfitting business at 36 Conduit Street, at the north end of Saville Row.
A notable client from the early days was the legendary dandy George “Beau” Brummell, who set new standards of correct dress for gentlemen. At the beginning of the 1800s, Meyer worked with Brummell on an innovative design for trousers, which saw a loop worn underneath the foot to keep the legs pulled tight and neat. Another famous client of Jonathan Meyer was the Prince Regent himself. As proof, the lone account book which survived the destruction of the Conduit Street building in 1942 during the German blitz contains the tailoring orders from 1809-1824. Included in the ledger’s beautiful hand-written copy plate script are entries for The Prince Regent (later King George IV), Beau Brummell, and many other leading aristocrats and military commanders of the day. The book lists the uniform orders of many officers from the Peninsula campaigns and Waterloo. The Somerset family and the later Earl Raglan ordered uniforms for Waterloo with the firm. Major Henry Percy of the 14th Light Dragoons, famed for bringing Wellington’s dispatches, along with captured French eagles, back to London following the Battle of Waterloo was also dressed by Meyer.
In 1820 The Prince Regent succeeded his father, King George III. The new King George IV awarded Meyer a Royal Warrant for tailoring, the first in a long series that continues to the current monarch.
In Edinburgh, also in the latter decades of the 1700s, John Mortimer and family established a business specializing in military outfitting, supplying officers with swords, ceremonial dirks, and firearms. Many Mortimer weapons remain in existence today.
In the 1830s, Meyer joined forces with John Mortimer to create a new company, Meyer & Mortimer. The new business advertised itself in Edinburgh as “army contractors and tailors to His Majesty,” that being King William IV. The business was also known as the Royal Clan Tartan Warehouse, which specialized in supplying Scottish military officers. Among the modern company’s treasures are two books of examples of clan tartans, dating back to the days when vegetable dyes were used to dye cloth. The team of Meyer & Mortimer earned an uninterrupted stream of Royal Warrants, and proud of this achievement, all of them are on display in the showroom at No.6 Sackville Street when the company is now located.