Wetlands to the Edge

Nunney Castle, Somerset

This is a continuation of the Who’s Who in one of Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles, Midwinter Nightingale, in which we looked at personages met on the Wetlands Express and the Tower of London, and those associated with HMS Philomela in the Thames Estuary.

This time we shall examine those people we encounter, in person or by repute, at Fogrum Hall and Edge Place. (However, Darkwater Farm, the Three Chapels and Otherland Priory will have to wait till a final post). As usual we shall see what flights of fancy and ingenuity Joan Aiken incorporates in her characters’ names, behaviours and natures.

Of course this is part of the usual series of posts following a review that I treat each instalment in the Chronicles — the link will take you to these so that you may peruse them at your leisure. Or not.

Fogrum Hall
A moated manor house in the Wetlands. The seat of Baron Magnus Rudh, for the duration of his imprisonment it was a boarding school run by Mr Pentecost

Baron Magnus Rudh
A homicidal loup-garou or werewolf whom we first met in the Tower of London. He has a distinguished ancestry, descended from a Midsylvanian family (he owns gold mines in that land) and from the king of the West Saxons, Vortigern Aelfred; he also has pretensions for the throne currently occupied by King Richard IV. He has had an extended life due to his condition but can only be hurt or killed by silver — especially, it will turn out, silver which had already injured him and, as a molten stream, will threaten him again.
In this portrayal of Magnus as a lycanthrope Joan Aiken has melded several motifs — silver pennies (in use in Britain until 1707) and sixpences; legends of the silver bullets of the Freischütz, the German ‘freeshooter’ or huntsman who makes a pact with the devil; and the supposed vulnerability of the werewolf to the metal. There’ll be more discussion of this in a future post.

18th century woodcut of a werewolf attack

Lothar, also known as Lot
Son of Magnus by Princess Adelaide. He was five going on six when Magnus was sent to the Tower and now, thirteen years later, he must be 18 or 19. His father’s werewolf blood will soon out, however.
Lothar was the name borne by two medieval rulers, father and son. Lothar I was Holy Roman Emperor and Lothar II ruled over a polity called after him Lotharingia, a territory which eventually shrunk to the extent of the modern French region Lorraine. It’s from here that the legendary knight Lohengrin originated. Apart from the regal name the cruel, self-centred Lothar Rudh of course bears little resemblance to these figures. The name derives from Chlothar, son of Clovis and an early Frankish king who eventually ruled over vast swathes of what is now France.

Self portrait (1554) by Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)

Princess Sophronisba
Supposed owner of a lost choker (it is King Alfred’s coronet that is in fact missing).
Possibly ‘Sophronisba’ a verbal tic by the Wetlands Express horsebox attendant; correctly Sophonisba, perhaps after Italian artist Sofonisba Anguissola or after a Carthaginian princess who took poison rather than be humiliated by Rome.

Sir Angus McGrind
Marshal of the King’s Wardrobe, Equerry of State for Domestic Affairs.
Sir Fosby Killick
The King’s physician. Both Sir Angus and Sir Fosby will reappear in The Witch of Clatteringshaws so only get a walk-on part here when they meet (but don’t recognise) Simon. King Richard regards them as “an ill-visaged pair”.
A killick is the name given to a mooring anchor, and a leading seaman in the British navy is also referred to as a killick after his rank’s insignia of a fouled anchor (one with a cable caught up round it).

Lady Adelaide’s maid, Lothar’s nurse; sister to Mara, formerly Jorinda’s nurse and now her maid.
Possibly the choice of name is influenced by Theda Bara, a star of silent films who was known as the Vamp from her roles as a femme fatale. The name is a shortening of Theodora, ‘God’s gift’.

Lady Adelaide
The late Princess of Thuringia, daughter of Commander Haakon Hardrada. At the age of 15 she married Magnus (giving birth to Lot). Six years later the marriage was annulled when Magnus’ werewolf mayhem resulted in him being sent to the Tower. She then wedded Richard Prince of Wales either just before he became king in 1835 (possibly 1836), or just after; by becoming Queen she ensured that the dispute with Hanover came to an end. She died, however, soon after a jack o’ lantern fell on her, though she may in fact have died of measles. King Richard never married again.
In truth there was a real Queen Adelaide of Britain: Adelheid of Saxe-Meiningen (1792-1849) was consort to William IV and her name was adopted for the Australian town of Adelaide founded in 1836.

Piers Ivanhoe le Guichet ‘Woodlouse’ Crackenthorpe
The son of Edwin and Maria Crackenthorpe. Edwin was British Governor in New Galloway, the capital of Hy Brasil, a South American country adjacent to New Cumbria (as we learnt in The Stolen Lake) and a three-month journey away from the Wetlands. Piers appears to be around 12 years old when he is seen to die in the moat of Fogrum Hall. There is mention of his name in The Witch of Clatteringshaws.
Piers’ capacity for curling up when being bullied results in the nickname ‘Woodlouse’; of his given names, Ivanhoe comes from Walter Scott’s romance of the same name and ‘guichet’ variously refers to the grill at a ticket office, the wicket used in the game of cricket, or a wooden gate. Crackenthorpe is also the name of an historic mansion in Cumbria.

Margaret ‘Minna’ Mortimer
Duchess of Burgundy, a “large and stout” woman, confidante of Magnus. Descended from Henry IX and a milkmaid called Polly Stone (who became the Duchess of Dee) and therefore related to King Richard’s great-aunt Lady Titania Plantagenet, Henry IX’s sister. Plots with Magnus and Lot to usurp the throne with the help of a Burgundian army.
The Mortimer family played prominent roles in the Wars of the Roses, ruling as Marcher Lords along the Welsh border, with certain members known from the 14th century as Earls of March (‘march’ here meaning borderland). Burgundy was a sizeable territory in the early medieval period, at one stage stretching virtually from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. It’s unclear what its extent is in this story.

Lord Herodsfoot
We first met Herodsfoot in Limbo Lodge, when he was Roving Ambassador to King James III with a commission to look for new games. Originally from Ireland, he was about 35 then (therefore born 1799×1800) and so now in his mid 40s. Then the Hon Algernon Francis Sebastian Fortinbras Carsluith was required back in London to divert the ailing king with the games he’d discovered, but now he is the ‘guest’ of the Baron, destined for a watery grave in the moat.
The title Herodsfoot comes from a Cornish village, originally Nanshiryarth (‘the stream of the long enclosure’, in Cornish, nans hir yarth) which over time led eventually to the English name meaning ‘the foot of Heriard/Herod’; Joan may have comes across the name in 1954 when she lived for a year in Cornwall.

Mr and Mrs Tim Dale
Gatekeepers at Fogrum Hall park lodge who help Dido escape from the estate.

Edge Place
Saxon homestead on Windfall Edge, not far from Clarion Wells. The home of Sir Thomas Coldacre. Possibly based on the Saxon royal site known as Cheddar Palace in the Mendips

Almack’s Assembly Rooms, London, 1827, caricature by Samuel William Fores (d 1838)

Sir Thomas Coldacre
The curmudgeonly master of Edge Place seems to be in his 70s: fifty years previously (in the 1790s) he had married Theodora, descended from the ancient Palaeologos family which had ruled the Byzantine Empire until the 15th century (their coat of arms bore the imperial double-headed eagle). Their daughter Zoë Coldacre had been seduced by Magnus Rudh in the mid-1820s but had died while giving birth to Jorinda. Sir Thomas remains Jorinda’s guardian until she comes of age. He is initially pro-Burgundian, having (according to Jorinda) once danced with Minna Duchess of Burgundy at Almack’s Assembly Rooms.
As a venue, these London assembly rooms were named after founder William Almack and opened on 13th February 1765 in King’s Street, St James for gambling and, during the Season, dancing — it was here in 1815 that the quadrille and the waltz were first danced in England.

Sir Thomas’ long-suffering manservant. Jorinda calls him a “tiresome old man”.
The name is Cornish, from ‘an Gribyn’, a promontory near Fowey.

Mrs Smidge
The housekeeper and cook at Edge Place, whose domain is the kitchen which Sir Thomas’ late wife Theodora had moved and remodelled closer to the standards she had been previously used to. Is as thick as thieves with Nurse Mara, with whom she gossips in the kitchen.
• A ‘smidge’ or ‘smidgen’ refers to something small or insignificant.

Dr Fribble Sir Thomas’ physician, and former object of Jorinda’s affections.
The term ‘fribble’ describes a foolish or frivolous person or action. In 1811 it meant “an effeminate fob; a name borrowed from a celebrated character of that kind, in the farce of ‘Miss in her Teens’, written by Mr Garrick.” In other words, a fop or the male equivalent of a coquette.

Illegitimate daughter of Magnus by Zoe Coldacre, daughter of Sir Thomas. Jorinda is about a year younger than her step-brother; we first encountered her on the Wetlands Express with her cat Malkin (when we learnt her name was linked to a Grimms fairytale about nightingales). She has returned early from her school in Bath where her English teacher was Miss Gravestone. Lord Hatchery, Master of Foxhounds, is Jorinda’s cousin.

Jorinda’s chambermaid at Edge Place. She admires Jorinda’s patchwork quilt but declares she herself hasn’t time to sew some new patches for it: “Mrs Smidge’d be after me like a rattlesnake did I stop my work for such a fribble.”

Marty Stokes-Belvoir
British Ambassador, Muscovy. Old friend of Sir Thomas who has promised delivery of Russian ‘electric boots’ to encourage the walker to move twice as fast.
In English usage Belvoir is pronounced ‘beaver’; beaver is also the name given to the visor in medieval knights’ helmets.

Lord Scarswood
Neighbour whose estates border Edge Place. He and Sir Thomas are in dispute over boundaries.
There is an actual Scars Wood on the northern slopes of the Mendip Hills, though I’ve no idea if Joan Aiken was ever aware of it.

Lord Lugworthy
The owner of High Edge Castle, further along Windfall Edge from Edge Place.
Lugworthy is the name of a Devon farm to the northwest of Dartmoor.

Pedlar woman
At Edge Hall Jorinda has to deal with a pedlar, “a tall bony woman with copious white hair swept back and pinned behind her head under a scarf. Her clothes and skin were wrinkled and brown, her eyes a brilliant grey.” She has the gift of prophecy, a gift which — perhaps not so oddly — she shares with Lady Titania Plantagenet.

Part 3 (and the final section) of this prosopography will appear in due course. Gluttons for punishment will rejoice that discussion of themes and the convoluted timeline of the Chronicles are also in the pipeline. All posts on the Wolves Chronicles in chronological order can be examined through this link

One thought on “Wetlands to the Edge

Do leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.