Month: January 2017

The De Lisle Files

Another interesting coincidence has occurred in the Duchy of Charnwood project. This augers well for my ImagiNation, I think. Today, through the post, has come the quarterly of the Victorian Military Society, “Soldiers of the Queen” (I’ve been a member for 3 decades now). Within the issue is an article on “A Leicestershire Naval Officer”, the officer in question being Lt Rudolph Edward Lisle March Phillipps De Lisle of the Royal Navy.

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Lieutenant Rudolph De Lisle RN

Lt De Lisle was born at Gracedieu Manor which is the inspiration for my fictional Duke of Charnwood’s country seat. The excellent article goes on to describe the young man’s life and tragically early death in the Sudanese desert (of all places for a young naval Lieutenant), at the brutal battle of Abu Klea. He was with the Naval Detachment’s Gardner Machine Gun when it jammed at a crucial moment. Sudanese warriors rushed up and before they were turned out of the British square, Lt. De Lisle was one of the casualties being ‘covered with more than fifty spear wounds’.

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The battle of Abu Klea, 1885.

Of his early life, it says;

“[Rudolph’s father] gave up Gracedieu in favour of his eldest son… and prepared to move to Garendon Hall, then undergoing refurbishment. During the interim of 18 months, home became Longcliffe in the Charnwood Forest, where Rudolph learnt to shoot and began to demonstrate his ability to draw and sketch picturesque views.”

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Garendon Hall, sometime home of the De Lisle family.

Nice to think of the real-life equivalent of my fictional Gracedieu family sketching the hills around Charnwood. In a recent post in fact, I used the name De Lisle for the baronet and colonel of the 1st Charnwood Grenadiers; Sir Arthur De Lisle. The real-life namesake De Lisle entered the navy and briefly joined HMS Victory in 1868 which was permanently moored at Portsmouth.

Which leads to another curious little coincidence. On board the HMS Victory around this time was an ancestor of mine. He was a 17-year old youth from Leicester who had the curious distinction of being the only trainee from the English midlands on board ship, (the remainder being boys from neighbouring sea ports and towns). I’ve always wondered what on earth my ancestor was doing on board HMS Victory; though they came from very different social strata, perhaps there was some link to this other Leicestershire resident, the young Lt Rudolph De Lisle…?

Too much demands upon my time of late to finish off the Charnwood Grenadiers I’ve been painting, much less turn my attention to the new Swithland Fusiliers. I hope, however, to post with some fresh soldiery sometime in the coming weeks…

Ober-Bindlestiff and Saxe-Schweinrot: Reasons for starting an Imagi-Nation

Of the many ImagiNations which have inspired this blog, one in particular had a very impressive amount of detail on the nation’s history, geography and personalities. The delightful blog’s country was:

“Ober-Bindlestiff, an electorate somewhere in Germany, [which] has a history, has an army, a government, and a many and varied population. It has a government based on the more lurid versions of the Court of Versailles and the Electorate of Saxony, only without the poisoning”!

With its’ three counties named Hither, Thither, and Yon, it was populated with highly detailed amusing and outrageous tales characters such as its jovial Elector Karl XI and his sexually voracious and sadomasochistic Electress, Marie.

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Empress Marie of Ober-Bindlestiff…?

One early post in particular provided, I thought, a good list of reasons for starting an imaginary nation (not that one is at all needed, in my opinion!).

His reasons were:

  1. I get to design the country the way I want to. I don’t have to worry about a past history, or other historical baggage that might get in the way of enjoyment. This means I get to write the history, and it can be as serious, or as absurd as I wish it. And the country can contain as many odd little ins and outs as I want. It is, after all, my sandbox, and there were more than 300 tiny little German countries in the 18th Century. Who’s to say this couldn’t have happened?
  2. When I design the country I can do as many stupid and silly things as I want; for example, have a Royal Mistress’s Regiment with their pink coats. Or have clerks who mismanage the paperwork in creative and amusing ways.
  3. I get to design the uniforms. This can be great if you like fanciful uniforms. Or it can be as simple as settling on white, and coming up with regimental names. By the way, I chose the latter. Though there might be an English contingent, probably expatriates. They aren’t Irish, so they aren’t Wild Geese. Oh, let’s try something else. All right, these are the Wild Robins who left England (it’s before 1708 so it isn’t Great Britain) because of…well, that’s their secret.
  4. I can be a monarch, at least in my own mind. This strikes some people as dangerous fantasy. But why is this worse than pretending you are the Doom Warden of the Western Marches in a D&D game. I know, that’s a game. So is this. Only this doesn’t have any rules; I make those up as I go along. But being a monarch means being as extravagant as possible (Louis XIV). For example: the army is such a bother — feed me, pay me, clothe me, always me, me, me! Never a thought for their poor ruler with his three palaces, a mistress, and all of the other obligations of royalty.
  5. I can write the history (which I’ve done). That can be entertaining in its own way.
  6. It gives me an excuse for wargaming. As if I needed one anyway.

All of which are excellent reasons. Though I don’t do the last activity, I do enjoy painting and this blog is a good motivation to keep on doing it.

Ober-Bindlestiff had a rival to fight, of course. This nation was Saxe-Schweinrot, “whose flag features a red pig.” All of which gets me thinking – I need to spend some time thinking about the rivals and history for the Duchy of Charnwood. I’ve already floated a couple of possibilities in an earlier post (the Bishopric of Cannock and the Electorate of Belvoir) and it seems that the Duchy has an ally in the form of the neighbouring Marquisate of Bosworth. It seems I need to get to work on filling in some more detail on the Duchy…

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Note: Ober-Bindlestiff appears to have been sadly dormant for some years now, having diversified into other areas of the author’s interest. However, the blog is still live at time of writing:

http://oberbindlestiff.blogspot.co.uk/

Fusiliers and Bigwigs

Fusiliers and Bigwigs

Through the post has come a number of figures to swell the ranks of Charnwood’s fledgling army! Quickly cleaned and primed, here they are:

Generals:

Two mounted officers arrived from Front Rank Figurines, the first I’ve purchased from this manufacturer. These personalities represent two British officers; the Marquis of Granby and another senior officer. For the Duchy of Charnwood, I think they may represent;

  • Left: Sir Arthur de Lisle – baronet and colonel of the 1st Charnwood Grenadiers. He is a flamboyant leader of men who doesn’t always take his duties completely seriously,  Sir de Lisle’s chief interests being the pursuit of both ladies and foxes (though, to his regret, never at the same time). His somewhat carefree attitude to soldiering has yet to cause any friction with the Duke hitherto. Both men get along famously and the baronet has always displayed astonishing degrees of both luck and skill on the battlefield.
  • Right: Captain Normanton-Turville, the 1st regiment’s adjutant. The captain is as serious and diligent a soldier as his colonel is an inattentive one. Consequently, the Captain is held in high regard by his grateful C.O.  The Normanton-Turvilles are a local family of strict Calvinists renown for their puritanical attitudes. In this regard, Henry is typical family member. His personal and moral austerity however are compromised by one shameful indulgence; a small hip flask of gin always secreted about his person (to keep out the cold, he assures himself).

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Swithland Fusiliers:

My other purchase is from Crusader Miniatures, suppliers of my first regiment in the Duchy of Charnwood project. The first regiment comprised grenadiers, but these new figures will go to make up the second regiment; the Swithland Fusiliers.

As a comparison, below is a grenadier and fusilier side by side. The grenadier is nicely sculpted as being slightly taller, an effect exaggerated by his taller grenadier cap. Grenadiers were intended to be big, imposing men in an elite unit; conversely, the fusiliers were smaller men with a speciality in skirmishing and marksmanship.

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I’ll reveal more about this 2nd regiment in a future post as they begin to get painted, but for now there’s the beginnings of a dedicated page available here.

 

A Serendipitous Gift

A Serendipitous Gift

I received a most useful gift from my brother (who currently lives in Hong Kong). When he visited England in the summer he bought for me an antique 1940s (war issue) map of the Charnwood area for me. It was kept aside as a Christmas present for me by my mother and was consequently received on Christmas Day 2016.

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Christmas present: 1940 War Revision of an OS map
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Charnwood Forest!

The fact that this old map shows Charnwood is entirely coincidental! I’m neither a collector of maps nor had I even had the notion to develop The Duchy of Charnwood until very recently.

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The 1940s map will provide me with lots of names, places and ideas to develop the imaginary version. From this, small villages may become capital cities, innocent towns a source of menace, minor hamlets could provide the names of princes!

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New Year at Gracedieu Hall

A Happy New Year from the Duchy of Charnwood!

The day after the New Year ball, the Charnwood Grenadiers returned to their barracks with the pleasing news that the Marquisate of Bosworth had awarded the regiment some hand-stitched fabric oak-leaves to wear on their caps (oak leaves being a feature of the Bosworth family Coat of Arms). These had been made personally by the Marchioness and her ladies. The Duke pronounced himself delighted with the kind gesture and instructed that local seamstresses should make more as the regiment fills its ranks.Furthermore, the Charnwood Grenadiers would henceforth be always required to wear them when on parade.

Lady Eleanor had enjoyed the experience immensely until she was finally found by her governess asleep on a duchesse brisée chair, long before the end of the dancing. Her mother, the Duchess, was reportedly also found similarly exhausted on another chaise longue just prior to the evening’s conclusion, being attended to by a number of gallant male guests.

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Lady Eleanor’s impromptu bed.

The Duke, meanwhile, couldn’t resist talking politics throughout the evening and showing off his new grenadiers to impress visitors from neighbouring states.

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The Duke spent New Year’s Day meeting with a delegation from the Chamber of Commerce amongst a number of other mundane administrative chores. Her Grace the Duchess, Charlotte Augusta, spent a far more pleasant day by riding out with the Earl of Rutland who had stayed over at the Duke’s residence after the ball. The Duchess was well-known for enjoying riding with many other gentlemen. Indeed, Charlotte would frequently spend most of the day in this activity, returning (it is said) quite exhausted at the close of day…

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The Duchess

Meanwhile, the training of new recruits to the Charnwood Grenadiers continues apace…