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Including Important Events, Scientific Discoveries, The Lives of Significant Personalities, Cultural Milestones, and Sundry Oddities.

The following is the second part of an excerpt from “Incidents and Scandals of the Ghastly Age”, to be part of the upcoming hard-copy edition of the “Ghastly Affair” role-playing game. As with all the other parts of “Incidents and Scandals” series, the most shocking and lurid interpretation of events is the one given – perfect inspiration for a Gothic Game of Romantic Horror!

Also see Incidents and Scandals of the 1810s – Part I (1810 – 1812)

Hon. Augusta Leigh

Augusta Leigh, Half-sister of Lord Byron

The Seething Year

  • February 3: Journalist Leigh Hunt is sentenced to Surrey County Gaol for printing unflattering information about the Prince Regent (later George IV). Since the jail is run for profit, Hunt is able to purchase comfortable lodgings, and is visited by many well-known figures (including Lord Byron), in what amounts to a prison Salon.
  • February 28: Prussia formally turns against France, and allies with Russia.
  • May 2: Napoleon wins a Pyrrhic victory against a combined Russian-Prussian army near Lützen.
  • May 21: Napoleon wins another Phyrric victory against the Russian and Prussian armies, at Bautzen.
  • June: The first edition of Lord Byron’s poem “The Giaour” is published. Taking its title from a Turkish slur word for non-Muslims, this Orientalist tale of forbidden love, cruelty, and bloody revenge is notable for a passage describing the titular character being cursed to become a vampire.
  • June 21: General Arthur Wellesley leads a combined British, Spanish, and Portuguese force to victory against King Joseph Bonaparte’s army near Vitoria, Spain.
  • June 26: Lord Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh arrives in London to meet him. He brings her to a dinner in honor of Madame de Staël, now living in England. Byron and Augusta begin a sexual relationship soon after.
  • July: English fashion icon “Beau” Brummell has a public falling out with his former close friend the Prince Regent. The famously corpulent George doesn’t acknowledge “Beau” at a party, and in return Mr Brummel turns to William Arden (Baron Alvanley) and asks “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?”
  • July 5: In response to insults from her lover Lord Byron at a party, Lady Caroline Lamb slashes herself with a broken wineglass and pair of scissors.
  • August 12: Declaration of war against France by the Austrian Empire.
  • August 31: British, Spanish, and Portuguese soldiers pillage and destroy the Spanish city of San Sebastian.
  • October 7: General Wellesley’s army enters France from Spain.
  • October 19: Austrian, Prussian, Austrian and Swedish forces defeat Napoleon and his allies at Leipzig in Saxony. Over 600,000 men fight in the three-day long battle. About 100,000 are killed. Napoleon retreats to France.
  • November 21: After French forces leave the country, three Dutch noblemen seize power and declare the “Principality of the United Netherlands”. They invite William Frederick, son of former Stadtholder William V, and currently in exile in England, to become Prince.
  • December 17: United Grand Lodge of England formed, combining the rival Grand Lodges of Freemasonry in the United Kingdom.
  • December 20: An Austrian army crosses the Rhine into France.
  • December 31: London’s Westminster Bridge is now lit with gaslights.
  • The Waltz, considered scandalously erotic, is introduced to England. The dance at this time is fast-paced and lively, in contrast to the slower version which will becomes popular later in the century.
  • Work is finally finished on scandalous author and MP William Beckford’s fantastic home, Fonthill Abbey. The Gothic-revival house is dominated by a central tower 300 feet high. Work on the house had been ongoing since 1796, and the central tower had twice collapsed during construction.

Horace Vernet - La Barrière de Clichy

” La Barrière de Clichy” by Horace Vernet, depicting Paris on the eve of occupation

The Year of the Exiles

  • January 1: A combined Russian and Prussian army crosses the Rhine into France.
  • February 1: Publication of Lord Byron’s “The Corsair”, an instant best-seller.
  • March 31: Paris is occupied by Coalition soldiers.
  • April 11: Napoleon abdicates as Emperor of the French.
  • April 13: Napoleon is exiled to the island of Elba, to rules over its 12,000 inhabitants. Before he leaves France he tells supporters he will “return with the violets”. The violet become the emblem of support for the dethroned Emperor, and Bonapartists in France wear violets to identify each other.
  • April 15: Birth of Augusta Leigh’s daughter Elizabeth Medora, who bears a striking resemblance to Augusta’s half-brother Lord Byron.
  • May 3: The tyrannically-minded Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI, arrives in Paris with a pompous procession to the Tuileries Palace.
  • May 11: General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington, is made the 1st “Duke of Wellington”.
  • May 12: Madame de Staël returns to Paris, after ten years of being exiled from the city by Napoleon.
  • May 30: Treaty of Paris reduces France to its 1792 borders. Venice returns to Austrian rule.
  • July 21: The Spanish Inquisition is re-established. Everybody expects it.
  • July 28: Sixteen-year old Mary Godwin (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft) runs off to France with her already-married lover, Percy Shelley, and her stepsister Jane (later known as “Claire”) Clairmont. Both Mary and Percy are proponents of Free Love, and Mary had wanted herself, Percy, and Percy’s wife Harriet to live as a threesome. The current Mrs. Shelley (who had been encouraged to take lovers by her husband) was not amenable to the idea of sharing her husband.
  • August: A rain of small frogs fall with a storm in Fremon, France.
  • August 7: Pope Pius VII restores the Society of Jesus to official existence.
  • September: Representatives of the powers of Europe begin meeting in Vienna. In their spare time between lavish dinners, dancing parties, and sex, the representatives at the “Congress of Vienna” discuss and plan the future balance of power on the Continent. The reactionary dystopia they envision for Europe restores the absolute monarchies and brutal social order that existed before the French Revolution.
  • October 17: In London, a massive flood of beer pours from Meux’s Brewery on Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. At least 8 people are killed, and many more injured. The area smells like beer well into 1815.
  • December 2: Death of the Marquis de Sade at Cherenton Asylum. Shortly thereafter, his son burns his father’s unfinished manuscripts.
  • December 24: Great Britain signs a peace treaty with the United Sates of America.
  • The Roman Inquisition re-starts.

Plate P from 'An Historical Account of the Campaign in the Netherlands' by William Mudford (1817)

From “An Historical Account of the Campaign in the Netherlands” by William Mudford, depicting the dead being buried at Waterloo

The Year of Last Stands

  • February 17: A Spanish force embarks from Cádiz to re-establish Spanish control over the rebellious American colonies.
  • February 26: Napoleon Bonaparte escapes Elba on the ship Inconstant, accompanied by 1,000 troops.
  • March 1: Napoleon lands in France, at Golfe-Juan in the Côte d’Azur. He proceeds to march to Paris, gathering supporters along the way. Army units sent to apprehend him defect to his side instead.
  • March 19: King Louis XVIII flees Paris for Lille, but eventually leaves France altogether and settles in Ghent.
  • March 20: Crowds in Paris welcome the return of Napoleon to the city.
  • March 25: The United Kingdom, The Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Russian Empire pledge to send 150,000 troops each to depose Napoleon.
  • April 10: Mount Tambora, on the island of Sumbawa (east of Java), erupts and explodes. Nearly 10,000 people in the surrounding area die as a direct result, with many perishing later from the after-effects and famine. Global temperatures plummet.
  • Spring: Mass mobilization begins in France. By May the French armed forces swell from 56,000 to 198,000.
  • June 15: Napoleon attacks the British and Prussian forces in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (modern day Belgium).
  • June 18: Napoleon is defeated near the village of Waterloo by the combined force of a British army commanded by the Duke of Wellington and a Prussian army commanded by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. Throughout the campaign, Blücher is convinced that a French soldier has impregnated him with an elephant. Blücher’s other delusions include the belief that his staff are French agents who are trying to kill him by super-heating the floor wherever he stays. Accordingly, he walks on tip-toe when indoors.
  • June 22: The Duke of Wellington’s account of the Battle of Waterloo is published in the London Gazette.
  • July 8: The Duke of Wellington’s army re-imposes King Louis XVIII on France. The Royalist “White Terror” begins. Bonapartists are purged from government and imprisoned. Prominent former supporters of Napoleon are assassinated. Royalist mobs begin lynching and massacring Bonapartists. Far-right terrorists intimidate electors into voting for Royalist candidates in the August 14th elections for the Chamber of Deputies.
  • July 15: Napoleon Bonaparte surrenders to Great Britain aboard the HMS Bellerophon, anchored off Rochefort.
  • September: An article in the European Magazine mentions “The Curious Vault at Stanton in Suffolk”, another case coffins moving inside a sealed burial vault in a manner similar to those in the “Chase Vault” of Barbados. The incident supposedly happened in the late 18th century, but few details are given.
  • September 26: The Russian Empire, Austrian Empire, and Kingdom of Prussia form the so-called “Holy Alliance” to oppose democracy and secularism in Europe. Rumors imply that Czar Alexander I was moved to propose such an alliance under the influence of sentimental novelist turned itinerant mystic, Julie de Krüdener.
  • October 7: In France, the new Chamber of Deputies is seated. Due to election tampering, the body is so improbably dominated by far-right Royalist that an embarrassed King Louis XVIII calls it the “Chambre introuvable” (Unobtainable Chamber).
  • December: Polish aristocrat and author Jan Potocki kills himself with a silver bullet blessed by a priest.
  • December 10: Lord Byron’s wife Anne Isabella gives birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada. In hopes of preventing her from becoming like her father, the girl’s mother forbids her from having anything to do with poetry. She is encouraged to study mathematics and science instead. In 1835 she will marry William King-Noel, the Earl of Lovelace. In the 1840s Ada Lovelace will work with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine, in the process creating the theoretical basis of computer programming.
  • In Vienna, Franz Schubert composes his first version of the lied (piano song) “Der Erlkönig” (“The Erlking”, or “The Elf-king”), based on a poem by Goethe. The poem depicts a father doomed attempt to save his son from supernatural assault by the titular fairy.
  • Venice is joined to the newly created “Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia”, with Austrian Emperor Francis I as its King.
  • First publication of Robert Kirk’s 1691 manuscript treatise on Scottish beliefs about fairies and second sight, “The Secret Commonwealth”.