Friday, October 24, 2014

The Real Prime Minister of Britain in 1894

When writing historical fiction, there is a cautious line between fiction and fact. There are some historical people that cannot be ignored in my stories, yet even as I attempt to portray details of their lives accurately in my characters, at some point my assumptions of their personality takes over and they are characters of my imagination and are no longer the real person.  

Queen Victoria is certainly an example, and the First Minister, the Earl of Roseberry is another.

In my series, I take certain facts about the person, then create my own character, which is not the real person, but only a character inspired by certain details that intrigued me.

Today, I would like to share the real facts that led to the creation of my character playing the part of First (Prime) Minister of Britain in 1894.

True Facts of The Earl of Roseberry

Archie was a goal oriented Scotsman. Early in life he set upon 3 goals:
1) To marry an heiress
2) To win the Derby
3) To become Prime Minister

He achieved all three.
1) He married not just an heiress, but the richest heiress in Britain: Hannah, the only child of the Jewish banker, Baron Mayor de Rothschild. 
He described her to a friend as: "Very simple, very unspoilt, very clever, very warm hearted and very shy."  Clearly, he was in love...with the word 'very'. And in case you are wondering, they had a Christian wedding.

He was also hounded by the obnoxious John Douglas, the Marquess of Queensbury, who accused Archie of having a bi-sexual affair with his male secretary, Francis Douglas  (who had the misfortune to be one of John's sons). I'll discuss this Jerk in a later post. Right now, let's return to Archibald, the Earl of Roseberry.

Archie's second goal was to win the Derby.
Through his marriage to Hannah, he acquired some very fine race horses. With her money, he extended his stables. While he had winning horses in many prestigious races, he won the Epsom Derby three times: In 1894 he won with Ladas, 1895 with Sir Visto, and then after a ten year drought, 1905 with Cicero

His final goal was also achieved along side his first two Derby wins. In 1894, he became First Minister (Also known as Prime Minister) and held the title for a bit in 1895 as well. 

Can you imagine succeeding at such impressive goals? Thus, I made my  First Minister intolerably arrogant. But honestly, how could he not feel pride and arrogance? He had set high goals and achieved them beyond belief.

In real life, Archie's time as the First Minister was considered a failure and he quickly grew disenchanted with his position. He and his cabinet resigned in June 1895 and allowed the other party to take over. 

In the next book of my series, Archie resigns a bit earlier, and a fabricated minister not resembling any real prime minister takes over. This is necessary because the new minister is very bad and does shocking things that I hope no real minister has ever done. However given England's lack of protection of young girls, it is not beyond the credibility of belief that such a thing could happen. So in book 4 it does, but in real life there is no evidence that it ever happened. But it is an interesting tale of the difficulties when a man of power loses his mind and does horrible things.

But in book 3, I do incorporate many of the real Earl of Roseberry's astounding achievements into the story. However, my character remains a character and should be read thus.

And now I give you a scene in which Xavier & Archie have breakfast with the Queen:

Queen Victoria first acknowledged the First Minister, but only smiled when her focus turned to Xavier. “Finally, I am to meet Sherlock Holmes.”

Xavier’s jaw locked, preventing him from correcting the woman. Damn Doyle and his fictional character!

“Xavier Thorn,” the earl said.

The Queen ignored her First Minister and remained focused on Xavier. “I am pleased you have indulged me with this early morning breakfast. I wished to give you a more formal reception, but I was told it was inadvisable, although why, I cannot imagine.”

The earl’s owlish eyes fluttered in agitation, but he made no other response.

The Queen took her seat at the head of the table, nearest the fireplace and invited the men to select their breakfasts. One of the many servants brought her a plate.

Once they joined her, the earl to her right, Xavier to her left, she spoke. “While the earl insists I cannot recognize you publicly, I did want to commend you privately on saving all those young people from a life of horror and shame.”

For a moment, Xavier had no idea what she was talking about, but then he realized her error. “I fear you have called the wrong person to court then, ma’am. It is my partner, Victor Hamilton, who deserves the credit for rescuing the hundred servants. I was at death’s door at the time, requiring rescue myself. And due to Your Majesty’s willingness to send troops in to search for the lost servants, Victor gained clues needed to discover my whereabouts before I died from an infected bullet wound.” He then smiled. “So I should thank you for helping Victor save my life.”

The Queen’s eyes rounded at his words. “Well, that is most delightful.” She then glared at the earl. “Why did you not tell me I saved Sherlock Holmes?”

The earl ceased to eat and met her glare. “I was unaware of the connection.”

With a huff of dissatisfaction, she returned to Xavier. “Tell me exactly how I assisted in saving you?”

Xavier ran through the clues left in Dragons Cloud and how Vic had used them to find him in a tenement building nearby.

The Queen then repeated the story to the earl as a statement of fact, leaving no doubt he should have known it before.

Xavier had seen Archie burst into a temper for much less, but he held his tongue admirably. 
When she finished her lecture, Archie turned to Xavier and held up his glass of water in a toast. “You’ve trained the fellow most impressively.”

“He’s been exceptionally easy to train. He comes to the trade with natural ability.”

“Tell me about this young man,” the Queen demanded.

“He’s twenty-three years old, educated at Oxford—”
The Queen glanced at the earl. “Oh, that’s much better than Eaton.”

Xavier suspected she meant that as a jab, but Archie had attended both Eaton and Oxford.

“What is his name?” she asked. “Perhaps I know his parents.”

“Victor Hamilton. His parents died in a shipwreck as they traveled from their home in America to England. Madeline Hamilton took in the two children.”

The Queen frowned. “Hamilton…where have I heard that name?”

Archie stabbed a sausage with excessive energy. “She was a leader in the New Woman movement, demanding changes in estates laws and the right for women to vote.”

The Queen pressed her hand to her heart. “Oh dear!” She then looked at Xavier. “But the boy turned out all right, did he not?”

How shocked the Queen would be if she knew the truth. “He’s a very fine young man who has dedicated his life to helping others.”

If you haven't begun this fabulous series, now is a great time to begin.


  1. Fascinating post as always, Liza. I started the series, but had to reluctantly set it aside. Hoping to pick it back up as soon as work lets up. Can't wait to get to this book! I love Xavier and the Queen!

  2. Thanks Jenna. I love when the Queen tells Archie the facts she thinks he should have known.

  3. She seems very interested in Sherlock Holmes. I'm glad Xavier didn't correct her... she might act like a pouty child then. :) At least she was willing to hear that it was her help that saved Xavier.

    I have the first two books but haven't been able to begin yet. They keep me chained to my desk.

  4. Since they are addictive, it's best not to begin when chained to your desk.


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