Death Becomes Her: Victorian Mourning Clothing and JewelryThe Victorians cared very much about how outward appearances reflected inward sentiments and morality. One way they expressed themselves was through mourning clothes and jewelry. Queen Victoria famously wore black from the time of Prince Albert's death in 1861 till her own death some 40 years later. Mourning regulations were handy social signals to others. Deaths were announced via mourning stationary and sealed with black wax. Sally Mitchell, in Daily Life in Victorian England reminds us that, "Mourning clothes made other people aware of a loss and prevented intrusive personal remarks."
|Queen Victoria's Daughters in Mourning|
The Business of Mourning
According to Kristine Hughes (The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England), early in the nineteenth century ladies' magazines "regularly featured fashion plates depicting proper funeral attire, along with articles detailing proper etiquette for the occasion."
She goes on to tell us that linen drapers shops offered mourning departments. Why? It was big, big business. Who didn't know someone who had died? Women were limited to the colors black and then grey, but might creatively use different fabrics, textures, and styling to indicate status, wealth, and personal taste.
Hughes claims that, "one of the first categories of clothing to be mass-produced was mourning clothes." Believably so!
What to Wear
|Victorian Mourning Gowns|
Mitchell continues, "During the first year of mourning, widows were to conduct themselves as veritable social outcasts, forced to refuse all invitations, the only visits permitted being to close relatives or church services, including weddings and christenings." The parent or a child of the deceased was expected to mourn for a shorter period of time: Twelve months in whole, which eventually moved in color from black, to grey before the full color spectrum was allowed along with full engagement in social activities. Siblings mourned for six months.
Unless the death was a suicide, funerals usually took place in the morning. Mitchell says, "Among the gentry and prosperous middle classes, the coach was draped in black velvet and the horses wore black plumes," and, "Male friends or hired mourners called mutes walked alongside. Sometimes they carried the heavy black pall that was draped over the coffin. Everyone attending the funeral wore black garments made of wool and crepe. Men wore black gloves; flowing bands of black cloth known as weepers were tied around their hats. Even among the poorest, it was important for immediate relatives to wear black clothing."
No family? Few friends? No problem. Mourners would be hired. In fact, the British newspaper The Daily Express newspaper tells us that mutes, "looked tragic during the service and doubled as waiters for the wake. Dickens despised them and in the funeral in Martin Chuzzlewit he describes: 'Two mutes… looking as mournful as could reasonably be expected of men with such a thriving job in hand.'"
Black Baubles, Hair Rings and Pulled Teeth
|Jet Mourning Jewelry|
Items made of jet grew popular after the Queen wore it upon the death of Prince Albert, a custom she did not abandon clear to her own death in 1901. According to Kristine Hughes (The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England), "Jet jewelry has been associated with mourning for some time, though it was not mass-produced before the early 19th century. Jet is made from the fossilized driftwood of the monkey puzzle tree and is also found in the form of slate." Mitchell adds," Very close relatives might wear a brooch or watch-fob woven from the dead person’s hair."
Hughes tells us that, "Jewelry made from the hair of the deceased was popular from 1790 to 1840, and this, too, was incorporated into mourning jewelry, being given settings of black or white enamel, jet with gold, and often embellished with the words 'In Memoriam.'"
Sometimes they would take a tooth from a deceased and mount it in a ring or a necklace. They didn't eat much sugar then so contrary to current opinion, their teeth were pretty good. Just, perhaps, not pretty in the finger.
Memento Mori is Latin for, Remember... you have to die. During the early days of photography, the Victorians would take pictures of the recently deceased in their homes, gardens, or even beds, posed doing something they would have done while alive. Perhaps it was a macabre way to remind the survivors to think of the fleetingness of life, and to number their days. The oddest, most morbid photos included babies who had passed away settled neatly into their prams.
What's Old Is New Again
It's true that there is nothing under the sun, and mourning is big business again. Black still predominates, and while pictures of those passed are not popular, The Daily Express reports that, "Rent A Mourner, an Essex-based company providing sad people for funerals when (as its website delicately puts it) 'here may be a low turnout expected'. Bookings are also on the up because people want something more dramatic than a mousey British send-off. They want sobbing, hair tearing and breast beating, in the way of excitable foreigners."
Perhaps this is an answer to temporary job needs. As Assistant Editor Jennifer Selway puts it, "Yes, a career in professional mourning could be the answer. Short hours, free booze and all the ham sandwiches you can eat."
No hairy brooches required.
About Mist of Midnight
Publication Date: March 10, 2015 | Howard Books | Formats: eBook, Paperback | Pages: 384
Series: Daughters of Hampshire
In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.
Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her...and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca's name, but her home and incomes.
That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father's investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?
A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.
Praise for Mist of Midnight"Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series." - Publishers Weekly
“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)
“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we're trapped in the author's finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn't lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)
“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)
“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)
"Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!" (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)
“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)
“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)
“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)
“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)
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About the AuthorAfter earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.
Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.
A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.
Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
Mist of Midnight Blog Tour ScheduleMonday, March 2
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, March 3
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, March 4
Review at Library of Clean Reads
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Thursday, March 5
Review at Reading the Past
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Friday, March 6
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, March 9
Review & Giveaway at Historical Readings & Views
Tuesday, March 10
Review at Just One More Chapter
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, March 11
Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch
Thursday, March 12
Review at Book Drunkard
Spotlight at Books and Benches
Saturday, March 14
Review & Giveaway at Forever Ashley
Monday, March 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, March 17
Review at Layered Pages
Wednesday, March 18
Review at The Eclectic Reader
Thursday, March 19
Review at CelticLady's Reviews
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, March 20
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
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