Happy Leap Day! It’s the 29th of February 2016 and my second Choc Lit novel has just been released today. The Girl in the Painting is a ghostly timeslip (rather apt for the Leap Day!) and involves Daisy, a Victorian girl who obsessed somewhat over the very lovely Lizzie Siddal – the world’s first supermodel and the redheaded ‘stunner’ who posed for Millais’ iconic Pre-Raphaelite portrait Ophelia. Daisy’s diary may or may not hold the clues to blow one of the most famous Pre-Raphaelite stories out of the water but I won’t tell you what happens. I will leave it to Cori, the modern day heroine to unravel that one.
Rather, I’m going to talk a bit about Leap Year traditions instead. When I was doing the research for the novel I discovered it is well-documented that Lizzie and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were married in St Clement’s Church, Hastings in May 1860 and if I’m not mistaken there is a memorial to them in the church.
It’s interesting (to me anyway) that 1860 was a Leap Year and one of the Leap Year traditions is that a woman can ask a man to marry her. I haven’t found any evidence yet to suggest Lizzie proposed to Rossetti, but as I understand it he felt a little pressurised to do the decent thing when he discovered that Lizzie was very ill. However, Lizzie recovered, and I kind of suspect Rossetti didn’t expect that – but that’s another story I guess!
And a few other traditions for the 29th of February according to Wikipedia include:
A 1288 law, supposedly instigated by Queen Margaret of Scotland required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation was a pair of leather gloves, a single rose, £1 and a kiss.
Women looking to take advantage of their opportunity to propose were expected to wear a scarlet petticoat.
In America, February 29 is often referred to as “Sadie Hawkins Day” signifying a gender role reversal, such as a day when a woman proposes marriage to a man.
In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on Leap Day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt.
And finally, In Greece, it is considered unlucky to wed in a Leap Year.
I suspect Lizzie and Rossetti didn’t know about that one…