HISTORICAL NOTES: DIE I WILL NOT
On this page you will find historical details, comments, and illustrations to help bring the world of Penelope Wolfe and John Chase to life. I will be adding content from time to time, so be sure to check back.
The Strand, Looking Eastward from Exeter Change, c. 1824. Much of the action of Die I Will Not takes place in and around the Strand, a major artery of London that becomes Fleet Street at Temple Bar. In the novel a masked man stabs a journalist at the Strand office of the fictional Daily Intelligencer—this Tory newspaper is loosely based on the Morning Post (Fleet Street was the home of Britain’s newspaper industry until the 1980s). The two churches pictured in the print, St. Mary-le-Strand and St. Clement Danes, are still in existence.
Charlotte Dacre (c. 1771-1825) was a poet and Gothic novelist, who also contributed to the Morning Post under the pseudonym “Rosa Matilda.” The daughter of a Jewish moneylender and radical, Dacre bore three children out of wedlock to conservative newspaper editor Nicholas Byrne before she married him in 1815. In creating my character Mary Rex Leach, I appropriated some biographical details from Dacre’s fascinating life.
Caroline of Brunswick, the much despised wife of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. The artist is Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was rumored to have been one of Caroline’s many lovers—an allegation Lawrence denied. The Prince of Wales and Caroline wed in 1795 after George had abandoned his illegal marriage to the Catholic Maria Fitzherbert. To describe the ensuing soap opera of George and Caroline is beyond the scope of this page, but the pair feuded publicly for years. Indeed, their battle in the press during the spring of 1813 is the backbone of Die I Will Not.
In 1820, this fiasco of a marriage ended in a trial in the House of Lords when George IV attempted to divorce his wife for adultery, sparking massive unrest among the multitude. We may think we have the market on sex scandals cornered in our own time, but we would be wrong!
It would hardly be fair not to include an image of the Prince of Wales on this page, and I wonder if readers will agree with me that this particular print catches him in a characteristic pose. Poor George, who was sensitive about his reputation, had to endure ceaseless ridicule from the caricaturists of the day. This image, from a James Gillray print of 1792, shows the Prince lolling in his chair and practically bursting out of his waistcoat. The title “A Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion” says everything Gillray wanted to convey about the Prince’s debts and his ruinously expensive habits. The Prince, in fact, was terribly unpopular with the nation. A man once thrust his head into the Prince’s carriage, demanding, “Prince, where’s your wife?” On another occasion, his carriage was pelted with stones.