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Masquerades & Massacres

In general, history was much as you will find on Wikipedia or any other reference source. The main differences are the existence of magic, fairies, the Kingdom of Northern England, and dragons.

Susanna Clarke's books Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu are both considered to be historical fact concerning magic, fairies and Northern England. Naomi Novik's books Temeraire and Throne of Jade are both historical fact concerning dragons- however the other books in her series are not (so there was no dragon plague, no central African dragon kingdom, no taming of feral dragons, no successful invasion of Britain, and so on).

Reading these books is definitely not compulsory for most characters; anyone who's read this page will know enough about the history to get by. On the other hand, anyone thinking of playing a character who uses Magic or is in the Aerial Corps should probably read the appropriate books...

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.)

Before the Roman invasion, Britain was an island of many fiercely independent tribes. It is said that this was a time when magic was wild and untamed. The Druids could perform some spells, but much remained unexplored or uncontrolled. Faeries, known as the Sidhe, are common in the legends talking of that time- sometimes appearing as rulers, sometimes as allies, sometimes as enemies. Like Magic, the Dragons of Britain were feral and unmastered except by a select few.

The Romans brought order and discipline to Britain, sweeping aside dissent with their legions and trained dragons. The faeries and their allies were exterminated, and magic was only permitted in a carefully controlled environment inside Roman temples. British dragon-eggs were taken to the continent, to be used to help the breeding of new dragons for the mighty Imperial Army.

Following the retreat of the Romans, Britian lapsed into a dark age. The control and order crumbled, their cities were abandoned, and their ways were lost. Both Magic and Dragons reverted to their feral states, and the Faeries again grew powerful. A few men tamed dragons or sought to control magic, but in general they were seen as dangers to be avoided, or threats to be destroyed by brave warriors. Saxons, Vikings and Normans raided and settled, until most of Britain became the new kingdom of England, and started to grope back towards civilisation.

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.)

In the year 1110, England was invaded by an army of the Sidhe, backed up by dragon-riders and commanded by a 15 year old boy.. Newcastle, Durham, York, Lancaster and Carlisle fell to the fairies within months. King Henry II mustered an army, and rode North. In January 1111 he was defeated in a great battle at Newark on the River Trent.

The boy, who later became known as John Uskglass or The Raven King, was a changeling. Following the death of his parents he had been adopted by the fairy king Oberon and educated in warfare and magic. He was already lord of two Kingdoms- one in Fairie, and one in a strange land said to be on the other side of Hell. He claimed he had now invaded England to gain recompense for the murder of his parents, and demanded in payment all the land between the Tweed and the Trent. Henry II had little choice but to agree.

John Uskglass ruled the Kingdom of Northern England for 300 years. During his reign, he taught his most trusted advisors magic, and started the Aerial Corps- warriors who could tame and ride dragons. Over time, Magic and Dragon-riding spread, as the Kingdom of Southern England desperately sought to keep up with their neighbour.

And then one day, John Uskglass rode out from his castle. He has not yet returned.

For a while, the North remained a kingdom separate to Southern England, governed by Uskglass's Steward. However the stewardship was a jealously desired role, and conflict broke out between the possible candidates. Due to inter-marriages, this also sucked in many of the senior aristocrats and people with a claim to the throne of Southern England- which lead to the bloody civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. By the end of the 15th century, the dust had settled. The Tudor dynasty controlled all of England, as Kings in the South and as Stewards in the North.

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1817 A.D.)

After the disappearance of John Uskglass, magic again declined in England. His pupils jealously hoarded their knowledge, and with each passing generation more wisdom was lost. By the time magicians began making written records of their knowledge, there was almost nothing for them to actual note.

The links to the Sidhe also grew weaker. During the reign of Uskglass, there were many Faerie Roads, where you could travel between England and Faerie. Over time, these became overgrown and the magic that created them diminished. It is said there are still a few places where the two worlds touch, a few fairies still meddle in human affairs, and some families still carry fairie blood. But the great links forged by the Raven King are gone.

These trends were reversed in 1807, when Mr Gilbert Norrell performed the first public act of English Magic for over two centuries- animating the statues of York Cathedral. This caused a great stir across England, especially when it was followed by Norrell's miraculous resurrection of Miss Emma Wintertowne, the fiancee of the Cabinet minister Sir Walter Pole. In 1809 a second magician, Mr Jonathan Strange, began studying as Mr Norrell's pupil. Together they accomplished much, including helping in the defence of England against Napoleon. Magic became a fashionable topic of conversation, and the two magicians became celebrities.

The two magicians quarrelled in 1815. Norrell claimed that John Uskglass had abandoned his people and that fairies were too dangerous for magicians to deal with. Strange, on the other hand, saw John Uskglass as the source of all English Magic and sought desperately to seek education in magic from a fairie. Strange fled to Venice, where it was rumoured he performed many dark and dangerous feats of magic, including the summoning of a tower of eternal night. Their disagreement was much discussed across England until 1817, when both magicians mysteriously disappeared.

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.)

Almost as soon as Strange and Norrell disappeared, reports flooded in about new Magicians developing powers, Faerie roads becoming again open to traffic, and weird occurances in many locations with historical links to John Uskglass. In the past four years these new Magicians have been seeking more and more knowledge, and have settled into two factions. The Norrellites tend to be more academic, searching through books seeking to unlock the secrets of old spells. The Strangeites tend to be more practical, trying new effects through trial and error. Many of Strange's followers also seek to summon Faeries to question them about magic- as yet, none are known to have succeeded. The loss of Norrell's library has hit English Magic hard, and many spells that Strange & Norrell are reported to have performed regularly are beyond the capabilities of modern magicians.

This resurgence in Magic has led to the creation of the New Dragownes- a modified version of the ancient magical justice system set up by John Uskglass, the Cinque Dragownes. The New Dragownes aims to regulate and control English Magic, particularly enforcing strict penalties against people performing magic that harms others & against people who claim to be magicians but are not.

There has recently been an influx of reported sightings of Faeries and other Unnatural Creatures. This may be due to the opening of the Faerie Roads, to Magicians casting spells of faerie summoning (although no magician has yet reported getting such a spell to work), or it may be mass hysteria bought on by the rise in popularity of the Gothic Tale- stories like "Frankenstein" and "The Vampyre". Alternatively, perhaps these tales are true eyewitness reports of recent horrors...

Unlike Magic, Faeries and Unnatural Creatures have not recently been officially recognised in England, and so the ancient court of justice of Folflures has not been re-established. As Faeries and other similar creatures are not officially recognised in law, it is widely debated as to whether killing them is legal or not. Under the laws of Folflures, killing faeries and other unnatural creatures was allowed- if you could prove due cause.

English Magic never spread abroad. Whilst England had a system of Magic based on the techniques taught to John Uskglass by Faeries, carefully regulated by the court of Cinque Dragownes, most of the rest of the world in medieval times sunk into Witchcraft- dealing with daemons and spirits of place to gain power. The religious & secular authorities and these Witches often clashed, leading to bloody persecutions. However Magic has survived in some foreign traditions, and many of these foreign practioners are now seeking to visit England and be part of the great English magical revival.

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.)

Dragons are giant flying lizards, that have lived wild in Britain since before the arrival of the Romans. They range dramatically in size from small fast couriers capable of carrying a single man to the super heavyweights that are over 120 feet long and carry far larger crews. Dragons with special abilities, such as spitting acid or breathing fire, are particularly valued. Traditionally each country has had a limited number of dragon breeds, each with known capabilities. However following Napoleon's defeat Britain and her allies seized many eggs from the French. These dragons have been bred to create many new cross-breeds.

The British Aerial Corps was instituted by John Uskglass, and the concept soon spread to Southern England. Captains of the Aerial Corps adopt a dragon as soon as it hatches, putting it into a harness to prevent it flying away. They form a close bond with their beasts, guiding it through it's education, and ensuring it learns to trust them & obey them unquestioningly. Obviously this creates a marvellously effective military unit, especially once the dragon has a full crew of gunners, bombers and so on. However it is hard on the officers, as it means they are effectively exiled from polite society- they have to live with their dragons in out-of-the-way coverts, so rarely visit cities. This means they tend to become more and more socially inept, until they are little better than their beasts.

Dragons normally fight in support of the Navy or Army rather than independently. They spook horses, so have to be careful guided away from areas of the battlefield used for cavalry. During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon brought in many reforms, including using dragons to carry troops (allowing rapid re-deployment) and favouring dragons over cavalry. Military strategists are still divided as to which of these reforms are valuable and which should be disgarded.

There are two current controversies surrounding the Aerial Corps. The largest is that it has recently been revealed that several Aerial Corps captains are female. It has profoundly shocked society that women are being exposed to such risk. Apparently the situation has arisen as some breeds do not accept male captains- notably the Longwings, Britain's acid-spitters. It was hoped that the new breeding program would eliminate this problem, however it appears that in fact many of the new breeds will also only accept female captains. There are numerous rumours concerning these female officers, and their wanton behaviour.

The other controversy is that since the end of the War, a growing number of Aerial Corps officers have started campaiging for the recognition of dragonic rights, to try and get dragons treated in the same way as humans. Obviously only the most radical of Whigs are supporting such blatantly absurd ideas.

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.)

The late Eighteenth Century was a time of great upheavals. Scientific progress and inventions were spiralling out of control, leaving the Lower Classes torn between almost feudal societies in the countryside or the grim factory life in the city. This lead to various calls for reform.

In France, the most violent revolution of all broke out. It started in 1789, escalated with the arrest of King Louis XVI in 1792, and descended into blood-thirsty madness with his execution in 1793 and the Reign of Terror from 1793-1794. During the Reign of Terror, up to 40,000 people were killed- and the Aristocracy was particularly targetted. Soon, the rest of Europe turned against France, and gathered their armies together. Over the next decade, France won victory after victory against numerous coalitions, and was practically unbeaten on land. This was largely due to Napoleon Bonaparte, a military commander who seized control of the country in 1799 and became Emperor in 1804.

Great Britain was steadfastly opposed to France, and her Aerial Corps & Navy under Horatio Navy won many famous battles, including the Battle of the Nile (1798) and the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). They also maintained patrols of the English Channel, turning away an attempted airborne invasion at the Battle of Dover (1805) and severing French links to their colonies.

In 1808, Sir Arthur Wellesley (who later became the Duke of Wellington) arrived in the Iberian Penisular. He led the British forces, including Jonathan Strange, in aiding the Spanish to gain their freedom. The Peninsular War lasted until 1814, and featured an amazing series of victories against the French forces. This, coupled with Napoleon's losses during his invasion of Russia in 1812, led to Napoleon's defeat, abdication and exile to Elba in 1814. It seemed Europe was once again safe.

And yet, less than a year later, Napoleon returned. He overthrew the restored Louis XVIII, and gathered a new army. Britain, Prussia, Russia, Austria and their allies marched against him, and on the 18th June 1815 at Waterloo he was finally defeated. He was forced to abdicate, and was exiled to the remote Atlantic island of St. Helena.

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.)

In England, reform occured slowly and gradually: Parliament increased its power, whilst the Monarchy declined. By 1810, Parliament was so powerful they were able to declare George III insane and nominate his son as Prince Regent. The Prince Regent is a fairly ineffective ruler, more interesting in food, wine and fashion than politics. Despite his youthful enthusiasm for the Reform-orientated Whigs, since he has became ruler he has tended to support the more conservative & respectable Tories led by Lord Liverpool. George III finally died in 1820, and the Prince Regent became King George IV. His official coronation service will take place the weekend before our event.

The end of the Napoleonic Wars has pushed Britain into an economic downturn. Famine and unemployment have became linked in the minds of some of the Lower Classes to the rise of industrialisation and the lack of votes. Unrest rocks the country- machines and whole factories are destroyed and the remains are painted with John Uskglass's Raven, whilst people seeking parliamentary reform hold massed rallies.

Only the rich and the landed elite have the vote, and parliamentary seats are generally divided up between historical counties and boroughs, with new cities, Wales, Scotland and Ireland considerably under-represented. Reformist protests have been violently broken up by government forces- the Radical War in Scotland (1820) and the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester (1819) are the most famous such events. Parliament and the Aristocracy are terrified, fearing a French-style Revolution. In response, they have bought in the Six Acts, giving them extraordinary powers to break up meetings "to prevent treason".

The Whigs are pushing for electoral reform, claiming that is the only way to bring Ireland and the other dissaffected people into line. Most people acknowledge that there are some parliamentary boroughs that need removing- Grampound in Cornwall was disenfranchised just last year- but whether new seats should be given to counties or cities is a major sticking point. Lord John Russell, fearsome Radical Whig that he is, is proposing to enfranchise Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham! Obviously the Tories are opposing him, but the Whigs seem to be gaining some support...

Meanwhile, Britain attempts to keep control over her international possessions. America has broken free, but they will not allow other colonies to fall. The British East India Company keeps a tight rein on India, whilst the colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand are all ruled by Governors appointed by the King. The Cape Colony was taken during the Napoleonic War, and immigration to South Africa is now rapidly increasing. With the only other major international power being Russia, the rest of the world looks warily at Britain...

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

Women are taking larger and larger roles in public life. Most women lead quiet and respectable lives, but increasingly it seems many are pushing for something more. Women are now political campaigners, military surgeons, inventors, novelists and even, in the Aerial Corps, Officers of His Majesty's Armed Forces.

The idea of women's rights is increasingly being supported. Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is a widely read and debated book, claiming co-educational schools should be used nation-wide and that all women should be given a rational eduction. Women are not even explicitly denied the vote- although no woman has yet been independently rich enough and chosen to try to vote. Those in support of women's rights say there is a long way to go; those against women's rights say they have far too many already...

Sex before marriage is frowned upon for men and utterly condemned for women- however adultery is less taboo, especially among the Upper Classes.

The most famous woman in England is undoubtably Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of the ex-Regent King George IV. She is famous for being lively, out-spoken and completely lacking in the traditional shy retiring manners of an Aristocratic lady- which has helped her capture the hearts of the British public. She is also a radical, popular with Whigs and others seeking Reform. Her husband has publically renounced her many times, and led smear campaigns to attempt to prove that she has committed adultery, however she claims she remains his devoted wife. The King's treatment of her has made the country outraged, and has cost him much popularity.

Ancient History (0-1100 A.D.) - The Raven King and the Kingdom of the North (1110-1500 A.D.) - The Decline & Revival of English Magic (1400-1821 A.D.) - Magic & Unnatural Creatures Post-Strange & Norrell (1817-1821 A.D.) - The Aerial Corps and Dragons (1110-1821 A.D.) - Reform, Revolution and Napoleon (1750-1821 A.D.) - Regency, Radicals & the Empire (1810-1821 A.D.) - Women (1800-1821 A.D.)

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