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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

 

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The Authorized Version

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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Kishanda Fulford Talks About Her New Book

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ April 6, 2023

It is always a special delight to welcome Kishanda Fulford to “The Authorized Version.” This is a special occasion, indeed, because Kishanda’s book The Spite of Fortune, The Fabulous Story of an 18th-Century Heiress (who was a Fulford ancestress) has just been released to rave reviews. The book is based on years of painstaking research on both sides of the Atlantic which Fulford undertook after a chance encounter with this heroine from her husband’s family tree. 

  Kishanda with Louisa, Photo The Telegraph

Kishanda tells it like this: 

Some years ago, I said to my husband I have nothing to read.  He went to a bookshelf in the library and said, ‘Here, you might enjoy this’.  I held in my hands a slim leather-bound volume entitled ‘Desultory Thoughts’ by Louisa Carolina Colleton.  I was gripped.  At the end of the book, Louisa refers to her ‘biographer’, whom she said, would write her story ‘when I have been dust a hundred years’.  Fate determined that would be me.  However, it is exactly two hundred years since Louisa was buried so I am, by her account, a bit late.   

I did not know then, that to research a figure unknown in the history books is painstaking and extremely addictive.  

Instead of starting at the beginning of my research process I will start at the end. Imagine my delight when my publisher rang to say the book had gone to the printers.  And imagine my horror when two days later I chanced upon a miniature of Louisa, one I had not seen before.  How could I have missed it?  I thought there was no stone I had left unturned.  But I had.  The picture (above) by Richard Collins, ‘Principal portrait-painter in enamel to George III’, had gone to auction in 2005. Here was Louisa - the same tilted nose, the hairline unaltered, and still a beauty at the age of forty-one.  How can I date the picture?  Well, around her neck is a thin black ribbon from which hangs a mourning locket. 

  Research notes 

To go back to the beginning, it has been like a walk along a riverbank.  I kept on wanting to discover what was around the next bend, and what lay beneath the surface.  There were many times when reading letters or documents led me to delve into one person, and that in turn led to another.  I have to admit to becoming thoroughly distracted by other people’s diaries of the time, such as those of Richard Lygon, who travelled to Barbados shortly after the English Civil War, and the fascinating memoir of the Duchess of Kingston’s butler, (the Duchess was a notable bigamist and character of the times) who alleged that the Duchess would blame her farts squarely on her footmen. A book belonging to Louisa's mother, Ann Fulford, from the library at Great Fulford

As well as distractions there were frustrations.  One of these was the fact that many of Louisa’s family papers were destroyed in the American Revolution, as were portraits.  Of the English papers, one descendant of Louisa’s family, I learnt, was so appalled with the contents of letters in a trunk, ‘gambling and illegitimacy and such like’, that she felt compelled to burn them, but I later heard that as she was ‘hard up’ she had a change of heart, and without informing her family sold the letters to an American University.  Perhaps somewhere in the basement of a University library lays this trunk?  Another problem was researching Louisa after she married.  She of course became a ‘femme convert’, unable to manage her own affairs.  And her married name was ‘Graves’.  The internet has been invaluable in my research, but when I put the name Graves’ into the search engines of record offices or old newspapers I very often had to wade through numerous references to actual graves…  The Colleton's charming family house in Exmouth, Rill Manor, later re-named Elm Cottage.  It no longer stands.

As Louisa was ‘Sovereign Lord Proprietress of the Bahamas’ I went to Nassau, to the record office.  I asked for a book, an account of letters going back and forth from the governments of England and the Bahamas in the early 18th century.  The book was produced, but together with the archivist, we decided it was so fragile, having suffered from the humid climate over all those years, that we did not open it for fear the pages would crumble in our hands.  I also went to South Carolina, where I trod over the ruins of Louisa’s plantation house, Fairlawn.  Amongst the weeds and walnut trees were the foundations, and a well-worn doorstep.  As a memento I brought back to England a brick, blackened on the edges by the fire that destroyed it.  I have just been told the local council has approved plans for building a ‘condo’ right up the edge of the site.  

I have had adventures of my own, not least running over an alligator, which fortunately was already dead, when on my way to Savannah, to see the famed ‘Devil’s Elbow’ plantation that Louisa once owned.  There is also no greater pleasure than sitting in hallowed libraries, such as the Bodleian and British Library, turning the pages of letters which in all probability have not been read by anyone since they were acquired. 

About the Author: 

Photo Credit The Telegraph

It’s little wonder that the research which underpins every account in the thrilling adventure that is the life of Louisa Carolina Colleton is so thorough. After all, Kishanda Fulford was a journalist many years ago before a whirlwind romance with Francis Fulford in 1991 propelled her to becoming Lady of the Manor of one of the great country houses in England, and eventually the mother of four children. 

Great Fulford credit The Telegraph

Considering the Fulford lineage (The de Fulford family is first recorded as resident at Fulford during the 12th-century reign of King Richard I) there must be dozens (hundreds?) of fascinating stories lurking in the family tree. I asked the author of The Spite of Fortune if she was likely to take on another.

Kishanda Fulford said, “As to other Fulfords in history, I am leaving them to my husband!” 

My review of The Spite of Fortune: 

Spiteful Fortune, Indeed. 

Kishanda Fulford’s superbly researched, in-depth biography of her husband’s ancestress could have come from the pen of Ann Radcliffe or Maria Edgeworth—except that the misfortunes Louisa Carolina Colleton faced would surely have overwhelmed the heroine of any 18th century Gothic novel. Not so, the indomitable Louisa: Born in South Carolina, at an early age she was sent back to England with her mother who abandoned her; she lived with a kind uncle—who soon died; asleep in a house that caught on fire, she saved the house and other occupants. She returns to the father she adores in South Carolina—he dies; she inherits vast plantations in South Carolina and the Bahamas—they are ravaged by war; she petitions congress to have her estates restored—to no avail. At this point she is not yet 20. 

I lost count of the number of her Atlantic crossings under unthinkable conditions: unchaperoned; beset by tornado; stranded without rations for 3 months; taken by a French privateer… The last could have made its own novel as she single-handedly saved the life of the English captain by distracting searchers with her amazing long hair looped over her arm, before managing to escape the French… 

Louisa was true to the husband who squandered her inheritance, supported the half-brothers to whom she may not have been related at all, and was kind to the companion who mistreated her. In an age when women, especially those of the upper classes, were supposed to be meek and submissive adornments for society, Louisa Carolina Colleton stands out as a model of the invincibility of a determined human spirit. 

Final Thoughts: 

After reading the story of such a remarkable woman who much deserves her long-awaited place in history, I asked her biographer: "Would I be wrong in thinking that you share some personal qualities with your heroine, such as indomitability (if that is a word), and the ability to run at things head-on as they are?"   

Kishanda Fulford replied: “Can’t really answer that !!” 

I think she was being modest. Author photo from book 

Other Kishanda Fulford articles on “The Authorized Version”: 

Frankenstein and Family Roots in Great Fulford

Kishanda Fulford, Janeite?”

On Reading Jane Austen, Ghosts, and Life in a Stately Home

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

Read More: Kishanda Fulford

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Reader Comments:

Kishanda, thank you so much for your fascinating insights! And congratulations on the much-deserved success of your book.
-Donna, April 6, 2023

What an amazing "walk by a riverbank"! She sounds a fascinating person.
-SheilaDeeth, April 11, 2023

She is, Sheila, and very generous. I hope we can meet in person someday. My friend Fay Sampson actually got to research at Great Fulford and found Kishanda very helpful.
-Donna, May 10, 2023

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