Moore wants to “challenge two preconceptions about this period” – one, that it was only the famous flashy women who mattered, and two, “that the civil wars were all about masculinity” rather than “soft power, friendship, family and loyalty”. These are, to some extent, straw (wo)men, as the work of Antonia Fraser, Ann Hughes, Diane Purkiss and many others in Moore’s references show, but she demonstrates that Ann was “a heroine” of her times “as surely as any bloodstained soldier”.
This was not just the passive heroism of endurance – though anyone who bore 20 babies, and lost 15 of them, as Ann did, was good at that – but also the active work of upholding civility and sustaining networks through godparents or the exchange of gifts and receipts. The poet Hester Pulter imagined her tears at Charles I’s execution acting as “a cordial to my friends” and it is that sense of salving home and country that one gets from the Receipt Book.
Moore’s structure is both chronological and thematic. Each chapter gets a year and a recipe, so the first – “1643: For the Greene Sicknes” – takes Ann, a “hoyting” (wild) daughter of a customs officer to the Royalist court-in-exile by way of women’s inventories, some military history, some death (including Ann’s “dear brother William”), satirical pamphlets and the threat of unmarried women, who had their own ailment: green-sickness, or “the Virgin’s Disease”, now known as hypochromic anaemia, which was then assumed to be a physical manifestation of sexual frustration. Ann’s remedy included nutmeg, aniseed, pennyroyal and “the dust of the purest Spanish Steele”.