The Lady's Slipper
"The novel grips from the opening lines and carries the interest
throughout. The several plot-lines are seamlessly blended and come
together in a wholly satisfying conclusion. Her characters are so real
that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf.
Highly recommended."Historical Novels Review Magazine
"it is a genuinely engrossing story, with characters you can get
"This is more than a story about a rare orchid. It is a story about the
Quaker movement in England and about prejudice. The Lady's Slipper
is about the unchecked desire to possess something rare and beautiful.
Swift has written a novel that will stay with you. I highly recommend."
Ann Weisgarber, Orange Shortlisted author of "The Personal History
of Rachel DuPree."
Cypripedium calceolus - England's rarest wild flower
Photo: Jim Horsfall
"In 1917, the lady's slipper orchid was officially declared extinct. The mania for orchid-
collecting during Victorian times, it seemed, had simply been too much for it. But then,
in 1930, on a hillside in Yorkshire, a wandering botanist stumbled upon (not literally,
one hopes) a solitary specimen of this strange and glorious flower. Since then, the lady's
slipper orchid has held the dubious - and dangerous - distinction of being Britain's rarest
flower." - The Guardian
More about the orchid's battle for survival here.
When I was out walking one summer I came across this beautiful orchid. It is so rare that it was being guarded night and day by a volunteer from English Nature, and was being propagated in secrecy by botanists at
Few people realise how long it takes a book to reach the shelves after it has been accepted for publication. Since I wrote The Lady's Slipper in 2007 I am delighted to report that the Species Recovery Programme has now been able to reintroduce the lady's slipper orchid back to the wild. The year before last it was still being guarded by the police. Last year some specimens flowered in Gaitbarrows Nature Reserve near my home, and this year (2012) they can be seen flowering on an Open weekend on the 19th and 20th May.
A picture I took of a lady's slipper in its natural limestone habitat. This specimen is one of the first to be reintroduced to the wild by the staff of English Nature. All have been planted out by women, a lovely gesture in honour of its name.The plants are protected from slugs by copper collars and a liberal sprinkling of pellets. Slugs are more of a threat to its survival these days than greedy botanists!
Inspiration - 17th Century Flower Painters
Just a few of the images by Maria Sybilla Merian, a 17th century flower painter. Often her images contained caterpillars, butterflies or other insects all rendered in intricate detail. Women like her inspired the character of Alice,an artist, in The Lady's Slipper.
Images from The Smithsonian Institute Library.
Persecution and oppression - The Early Quakers
The character of Richard Wheeler is based on my research into early Quakers, or the Society of Friends. The picture shows Quakers being led to execution in the 17thCentury.
"There is a principle placed in the human mind which is pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no religionnor excluded from anywhere the heart stands in perfect sincerity."
Where I live,there are many examples of early Friends meeting houses, and Quakerism was particularly strong in this area of Westmorland.
It was a hard path to choose, and one that led many men and women to persecution or imprisonment. Their unique attitude towards peaceful protest was way ahead of its time, though sadly at odds with the prevailing ideas of the 17th century.