Fact Versus Fiction
As always, when I am writing a “more historical” historical romance, I try to blend as much fact as possible with fiction. While many Americans are blissfully unaware of the War of 1812, most of us, myself included, are absolutely ignorant as to the reason for the war, the extent of the actual fighting, the loss of lives and the war’s duration. Some of the reasons for the war I have suggested—internal politics were as significant as fear of British domination, free trade, impressments and the agrarian agenda to expand into Canada. Loss of life was terrible, and the war was really under way by 1811, although the Chesapeake Affair was in 1807! The war did not end until February 1815, although a peace was concluded the previous December.
All battles alluded to in The Prize are historical fact. Devlin’s fifteen-minute victory over the USS Independence is wholly bases on the exploits of Captain Philip Broke of the Shannon, who sent his sister ship away, lured the Chesapeake out of Boston harbor and demolished her in fifteen minutes. Fortunately the British failed to carry out their invasions of Norfolk, Virginia; as unfortunately, the massacre at Hampton and some of the atrocities I have described were committed and were even worse.
I have loosely based the naval career of Devlin O’Neill on that of Thomas Cochrane, the eldest son of a Scottish earl, his family and old and distinguished one without means. He was one of the greatest British fighting naval captains ever, a man at once notorious for his exploits at sea in battle and for his unorthodox strategies and his innovative naval thinking. He was also well known for his insubordination and lack of respect for the admirals ranked M.P.—a fervent champion of the poor and the oppressed. I am not the first to base my fictional hero upon his life; the hero of Patrick O’Brien’s best-selling seafaring series is also based on the life of this truly amazing man.
As many of you already know, Devlin is the descendant of Liam O’Neill and Katherine Fitzgerald (The Game). While the Earl of Adare and his sons are descendents of Rolfe de Warenne (The Conqueror). I feel sure that most of you must be asking how Liam’s family lost their land and fortune, and how the de Warenne wound up in Ireland. The history of England and Ireland from the Conquest to the Regency is one of extreme political turbulence and the rise and fall of family dynasties. The British conquest of Ireland happened over centuries, in stages. Fortune-hunting landless younger sons fought in Ireland for the crown, and were rewarded for their triumphs with land taken from the original Celtic kings and nobleman, who were defeated and then dispossessed. Many of the Norman and English settlers became as Celtic as their native forebears in the earlier years. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the final subjugation and colonization of Ireland was completed—by time of her death, very few Catholic Irish lords owned their ancestral lands, most of it being in the hands of the Anglo Protestant interlopers. Some of these lords intermarried with the original Celtic families; most preferred to wed into a British family. Being Irish and Protestant was second-class, being Irish and Catholic far worse. It had now become criminal to be a Catholic.
Clearly one of Rolfe’s grandsons sought his fortune in Ireland, establishing the de Warenne dynasty there. Clearly the O’Neill’s fought one rebellion to many against their English overlords, resulting in their dispossession. And as for Devlin being Catholic (Liam was Protestant), his great ancestress Katherine FitzGerald was also Catholic.
Websites of Interest
Explore the history section of this website it is full of archives with a timeline dating back to the year 897 with King Alfred fighting the Danes.