Researching The Hard Way

I just finished the first draft of book 6 in the Countess of Harleigh series. (Hooray!) For me, first drafts are short and mostly made up of plot points and dialog, and perhaps most importantly, sidebar comments noting everything I need to research. There are usually dozens of those comments. I arrived at this point for book 4, A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder around October of 2019. I had expected to take a research trip to London in September of 2019, but an illness in the family put an end to that plan. No problem, I thought, I’d go in the spring of 2020.

I’m sure you all know how that worked out.

When you can’t go to a place, you have to get creative with your research. Much of what I needed; a history of the Romanov family, theater in the late Victorian era, information about the Prince and Princess of Wales, all could be found in biographies and historical websites. But there were two locations I use in this book that I have never visited. That could pose a problem.

Two scenes in the book take place inside Marlborough House, which in 1899 was the residence of the Prince of Wales. One of the reasons I wanted to visit London in September of 2019 was that Marlborough House, now home to the Commonwealth Foundation, is only open to the public during London’s Open House Festival in September. I had really hoped to see it in person, but I consoled myself with the reminder that it is now used for a completely different function and wouldn’t be furnished or decorated as it was in 1899.

I was fortunate to find photographs and the notes of others who have been there. At this website Marlborough House, Royal Castles, Homes, AVICTORIAN.COM the writer actually describes moving from room to room which is very helpful in getting a spatial sense of the place. And I would never have known how large the murals were without this fabulous photo of the staircase.      4b62f18709da5cac0081b7fa459b8d86.png (1291×665) (pinimg.com)

The Royal Opera house is another location I had hoped to visit. Even though it was closed due to Covid, there was video after video on their YouTube channel (25) Royal Opera House – YouTube as well as some historical films which show the grand staircase and images from the royal box.

Of course, I wish I could have traveled to London to see these locations with my own eyes, but when that just isn’t possible, I’m so glad others have documented their travels so well.

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