Jo here, talking about marble memorials. I've always been interested in gravestones and the memorial plaques found in churches, not because I'm morbid, but because they often, especially the ones in churches, tell a story about the deceased. A beloved daughter who died young after a lingering illness. I wonder which illness and think that possibly today she would have lived. A son who died in battle far too young -- but that's a sadness still with us today.
Memorials play a part in my August book, Seduction in Silk. When my heroine Claris arrives at Perriam Manor she find evidence of the Perriam curse in some poignant memorials.
"A graveled path led along the side of the house, and ahead stood a dense green hedge.
“Yew?” she guessed, but was puzzled. It was six feet high, but not very long. “A maze?”
“I wish it were.”
When they passed the hedge, she found it was one of three walls around a grassed area containing five stone plinths. On each plinth lay a white marble shape—the shape of a small, sleeping child entirely covered by a sheet.
No, not sleeping.
“Five?” she said, but then wondered why she’d asked that particular question.
“There was a daughter, never mentioned.”
She went toward the nearest one and saw the name engraved on the stone. “Giles Perriam,” with dates. He’d been two months old. On the next, “Giles Perriam.” And on the next. “Was he mad?”
“This isn’t his work, though the naming probably was. The last boy is Charles because when he was born his older brother still lived, though not for long. The girl was Beatrice. They are all the children of Giles’s first wife, Louisa Forbes, and this is her work.”
“Poor, poor lady. Are they actually buried here?”
“No, they lie in the churchyard. I’m told Louisa created this after the last child died, Giles number three. She followed him the next year.”
“Heartbroken. But I thought there were two more wives.”
“As soon as it was decent Giles married again. That wife, Amelia Shaw-Cobham, had the good fortune to be barren but the bad fortune to succumb to the smallpox. His third wife conceived but never brought a babe to life. After a series of miscarriages and two stillbirths, she went mad. She took her own life, here among these memorials, just over a year ago.”
“More things you didn’t tell me.”
He spread his hands. “I had my own necessities, and none of this affects you.”
“No? Isn’t the curse supposed to be passed on with the manor?”
“If you believe in the curse, then believe that our marriage has appeased your aunt. That’s what your mother promised.”
Claris opened her mouth but closed it, unable to think what to say. Her mother had been obsessed. She’d have said anything."
about marble memorials at this time. A visit to Westminster Abbey shows her the impressive work of a man called Henry Cheere. One of his most famous is the monument to Captain James Cornewall, richly decorated to reflect his naval career. It impresses her young twin brothers.
The one that impresses her is the memorial to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale, who apparently died of a miscarriage brought on by a lightning bolt. It shows her husband, Sir Joseph, trying to fend off both lightning and fate. It is by Louis-François Roubiliac, a protogee of Cheere's.
The subject affects both Claris and Perry because of the tragedies haunting the manor, but the quality of the work gives Claris an idea. She seeks Sir Henry Cheere's workshop, which is close to the Abbey.
Sir Henry Cheere was a real person (1703–January15, 1781). He was a poor boy made good, rising from an apprentice to become knighted in 1760. You can read more about him here. In the 18th century, there were many examples of people from very ordinary backgrounds rising high with talent, a little help, and hard work.
Seduction in Silk won't be out for a few weeks, but I've just e-published a novella in which Perry plays a small but crucial part. A mother fleeing scandal with her children finds herself homeless on a cold November day. A passing gentleman offers her refuge which she can't refuse, but why is he so secretive, and why does he live in seclusion in a neglected house? When Lily discovers the answers she sees hope for herself and her children, if only she dare fight for it.
You can find out more about Dare to Kiss here.
I'm at the RWA conference in Atlanta, so I may not be able to get online to join in the comments, but I look forward to hearing whether you are fascinated by gravestones and memorials.
Have you seen any particularly interesting ones?
I'm not sure whether churches in "new world" countries go in for memorials on the walls as much as the older churches over here. Do they?
How would you like to be remembered. I have to say I rather like the benches at scenic viewpoints donated in memory of people.