In Search of a Hand #HistoricalResearch
If you read my latest novel, Fated Hearts, you know that one of the characters lost a hand in the Battle of Waterloo.
That character is making a reappearance in my work-in-progress. In fact, he’s the hero, Tristan Hamilton Howton, Major in the King’s Household Guard and Earl of Rudgwick.
And so, I’ve been researching amputations and prosthetics.
I wanted my character to have a prosthetic hand made in England, so I dipped into the book, One Leg, about the first Marquess of Anglesey (written by his descendent, the seventh Marquess of Anglesey). I love this book for its deep research and rich detail.
Anglesey, if you remember, lost a leg at Waterloo:
“In the months which followed, Anglesey’s stump gave him excruciating pain. It was well into 1816 before the wound was properly healed. ‘Your account of Paget is upon the whole satisfactory’, wrote his mother to Arthur Paget on April 1st, ‘though whilst there is the appearance of another splinter, poor soul! he cannot be without pain. It is quite dreadful what he has gone through.'”
Anglesey eventually wore an articulated leg invented by James Potts of Chelsea, and patented as the Anglesey Leg.
But what about hands?
One of the most famous amputees of the Napoleonic Wars is Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lost his right arm and is always depicted with his empty sleeve tucked into his coats.
That was an option for my hero, but I wanted him to have use of the limb (instead of tucking it). After all, he lost the hand, not the whole arm. I also discarded the notion of giving him a hook. He’s an earl, not a pirate.
As it turns out, history has recorded other warriors who lost hands and went on to wield shields and swords with the help of prosthetic hands. A Roman general, Marcus Sergius had an iron hand made to replace his right hand, lost in battle.
In the sixteenth century, a German knight had an iron hand made. The hand, with movable fingers, attached to his armor and allowed him to hold the reins of his mount and weapons. In the same century, a Turkish pirate, Horuk Barbarossa replaced his right hand with an iron prosthesis and returned to battle.
The spring-loaded Pare hand, pictured above also dates to the 16th century. It was designed by French military surgeon Ambroise Pare.
In Historical Development of Upper Extremity Prosthetics, Thelma Wellerson reports that in 1818, “A Berlin dentist, Peter Baliff, appears to have been the first to introduce the use of the trunk and shoulder girdle muscles as sources of power to flex or extend the fingers.”
Appears to have been…
Did you notice that phrase used in Wellerson’s report? My story takes place in 1816. I’m mulling over my hero having a prosthesis that allows for the features in the Baliff design. Might Baliff have obtained the design from English designer, James Potts?
This story is coming along slowly, but look for it to arrive in autumn 2021.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons