A Negligent Duchess

When, in April 1776, English author Fanny Burney met Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, at the park, she wasn't too impressed. Here's what she wrote to Samuel Crisp:

Mr. Burney, Hetty and I took a walk in the Park on Sunday morning, where, among others, we saw the young and handsome Duchess of Devonshire, walking in such an undressed and slaternly manner as in former times Mrs. Rishton might have done in Chesington Garden. Two of her curls came quite unpinned, and fell lank on one of her shoulders; one shoe was down at heel, the trimming of her jacket and coat was in some places unsown; her cap was awry; and her cloak, which was rusty and powdered, was flung half on and half off.

Had she not had a servant in a superb livery behind her, she would certainly have been affronted. Every creature turned back to stare at her. Indeed I think her very handsome, and she has a look of innocence and artlessness that made me quite sorry she should be so foolishly negligent of her person. She had hold of the Duke's arm, who is the very reverse of herself, for he is ugly, tidy, and grave.

Omai*, who was in the Park, called here this morning, and says that he went to her Grace, and asked her why she let her hair go in that manner! Ha, ha, ha ! Don't you laugh at her having a lesson of attention from an Otaheitan?

*A young Ra'iatean man who became the second Pacific Islander to visit Europe.

Further reading:
Journals and Letter by Frances Burney

The Armstrong Girl: A Child For Sale: The Battle Against The Victorian Sex Trade By Cathy Le Feuvre

In Italy, the age of consent is 14. I never questioned it. If anything I wondered why in the UK it was 16. Now I know. It is thanks to the efforts of many reformers, including William Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and inventor of the modern tabloids, who exposed the trade in young girls in Victoria Britain, and created a huge scandal in the process.

At the time, the age of consent was 13. This allowed innocent young girls to be sexually exploited, both at home and abroad. To demonstrate to the country how easy it was to buy a girl for the sex trade, and even smuggle her abroad to work in Belgian brothels, William Stead decided to purchase one of these unfortunate souls. He then featured her story in his revealing, shocking, and eye-opening series of articles, "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon". That forced the lawmakers, many of which were against reforms, to change the law.

But the story doesn't end there. Although Stead didn't hurt the girl he bought, but entrusted her to the care of the Salvation Army, he still ended up, together with his accomplices, in court, on trial for abducting her. Some were absolved, while others went to prison, and even died there, martyrs for justice.

The Armstrong Girl is a great piece of social history that should be taught in every school. It opens our eyes to a side of Victorian England that's still hidden in the shadows, enlightens us on how the problem was dealt with in the UK, and encourages us to reflect on what we can do today to end the sex trafficking trade, which, sadly, shows no sign of disappearing for good. Captivating and engaging, this is a book you can't miss.

Engaging and captivating, The Armstrong Girl is a great piece of social history that should be taught in every school. It enlightens readers about the horrors of the sex trade and what the Victorians did to fight it.

Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Was Mary Boleyn Really The Mistress Of King Francis I Of France?

Eric Ives once famously commented that everything we know about Mary Boleyn "could be written on the back of a postcard with room to spare". So, basically, we know nothing. Only a few random facts historians have been painstakingly trying, for centuries, to stitch together. One of these facts is Mary's relationship with King Francis I of Francis. She was his mistress. Not his official mistress, but one of his many lovers.

Or so all the history books say. But was that really true? Mmmm... When we start examining the evidence, we appallingly realise how flimsy it is. Let's take a look at it, shall we?

Evidence N°1: The Bishop Of Faenza's Letter

The oldest piece of evidence used to support Mary's sexual relationship with the French King is found in a letter written by Rodolfo Pio, the Bishop of Faenza, to Prothonotary Ambrogio, dated 10 March 1536. The Bishop said:

"Francis said also that they are committing more follies than ever in England, and are saying and printing all the ill they can against the Pope and the Church; that 'that woman' pretended to have miscarried of a son, not being really with child, and, to keep up the deceit, would allow no one to attend on her but her sister, whom the French king knew here in France 'per una grandissima ribalda et infame sopre tutte.'". (That's old Italian for "a great prostitute and infamous above all", by the way.)

As it is obvious, Pio was no fan of the Boleyns. A papal nuncio at the French court, Pio was obviously against the religious reforms the Boleyns helped promoting, and Henry VIII's break with Rome.

Historical Reads: Cheating Valets and Tricks of the Trade

Valets knew many tricks to enrich themselves at the expense of their masters. Author Geri Walton shares a few:

Valets, similar to a household steward, used a variety of tricks to enhance their income. One trick was to complain to those they patronized—tailors, bootmakers, milliners, laundresses, and so forth—about the exorbitant amounts they charged. At the same the valet would then try and get his master to pay as much as possible. This then allowed the valet to pocket the difference.

Another trick valets used was to convince those they patronized of their importance. They accomplished this by claiming that their masters were fanatical and impossible to please. They also claimed that because of their (the valet's) influence, they were able to keep patronizing the less than perfect shop owner. Such claims resulted in the valet being granted discounts, concessions, or allowances that financially benefited them.

When valets worked for a master that was careless about his wardrobe, valets used other tactics to get money. For instance, valets were known to "commit sad depredations on the wardrobe." These depredations allowed valets to acquire articles that they could keep for themselves or they sometimes sold them. They accomplished this because they made friendships with wardrobe dealer who would purchase what they brought to sale.

To read the entire article, and discover many more tricks, click here.

Hair Fashions In Ancient Rome

(C) Shakko

The 1816 edition of the Belle Assemblee featured a very interesting article about the headdresses of some of most famous women in ancient Rome, and how hair fashions changed throughout the centuries. Here it is:

She knew how to arrange her hair in the most elegant manner, without any high toupet, and without even the ornament of an aigrette. A very narrow bandeau divided her hair in front from that behind, where it was tied underneath, the bow negligently appearing towards the uncovered ear; and two little bows of rib band fell on the nape of the neck behind. The front hair waved seemingly without art, and four braids of very long hair was wound in a kind of serpentine wreath all over her head, all equally divided, without touching each other; neither the roots or ends could be discovered, and seems plainly to shew that she was indebted to art for this ornament. If the reports of Claudieu may be credited, it was customary to shave the heads of every prisoner taken in battle, who was of distinguished birth, as a symbol of his loss of liberty; and Sidonius asserts, that this hair was scut to Home, to be fabricated into head-dresses for women of quality.

Book Reviews: Rome's Revolution & 365 Reasons To Be Proud To Be A Londoner

Hello everyone,

I have two history books, one more engaging than the other, to introduce to you today. So, let's get started:

Rome's Revolution: Death of the Republic & Birth of the Empire by Richard Alston
On March 15th, 44 BC a group of senators killed Julius Caesar, hoping this way to save the Republic. Instead, they unleashed a revolution that plunged Rome into civil war and led, eventually, to an absolute monarchy. How was this possible?
In his new engaging book, Alston tries to answer that question. Using primary sources whenever possible, he provides fascinating insights into the minds of the men involved in this process of change, both the main figures and leaders such as Augustus, Octavian, Brutus, and Cicero, but also the soldiers and common people who, over the course of the years, became more and more accepting of an absolute monarchy. He also investigates the events that have prompted these people to act the way they did, and sets the record straight on some of the myths that still circulate about this period.
This was a brutal and complex time in the history of Rome. Alston skilfully manages to convey the violence and uncertainty of the period. And he does so in an engaging, almost friendly tone. This is no boring history book. You can feel how passionate Alston is about his subject. It shows through every page.
If you want to know more about this brutal but fascinating period in Roman history, I highly recommend you pick up this book. You won't be able to put it down until you've reached the last page.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

365 Reasons to be Proud to Be a Londoner: Magical Moments in London's History by Richard Happer
London is my favourite city in the world. It's exciting, fascinating, and steeped in history. Wherever you turn, you can see a piece of the past. Having just moved to London, I see one or two of them daily, but I don't always know what they are and what they mean. There isn't always a plaque to tell you. But since picking up this book, I discovered the history behind a few of them. And a lot more.
The book features 365 historical events and people that made London special. One for every day of the year. Each entry is short (only a few lines), but concise, straight-to-the-point, and funny. This is not a book for academics (at least not for those academics without a sense of humour). It's aimed at the casual reader who wants to know more about the British capital in a fun way that won't put him to sleep after a couple of minutes. If that's you, you'll love this book.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Are these books tempting you?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

The Lady Mary Submits To Her Father

22 June 1536 was a black day for the Lady Mary, the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She finally submitted to her father's request to accept him as the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and, even worse for the young girl, the invalidity of her parents' marriage.

Mary had stubbornly refused to do so for years, enraging her father who, as punishment, had refused to see her and prevented her from having any contact with her sick and dying mother. If Mary now agreed was because members from her father's council had started threatening her and even arrested a member of her household.

Even Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador and her and her mother's champion, had advised Mary to make the sacrifice and submit. He was worried for Mary's safety and that some harm may come to her if she kept refusing. Bitterly and with a heavy heart, Mary signed her submission:

Moste humbly prostrete before the feete of Your most excellent Majestie, your most homble, faythefull, and obediente subjecte, which hath so extremely offended Your most gratyous Highnes, that my heavie and fearfull hert dare not presume to calle you Father, ne Your Majesty hathe any cause by my desertes, saving the benignetye of your moste blessed nature dothe surmounte all evelles offences and trespasses, and is ever mercyfulle and redy to accepte the penytente callynge for grace, in any convenyente tyme.

Havinge receaved this Thursdaye, at nighte, certene letteres from Mr. Secretary, aswell advisyng me to make my homble submyssyone immedyatly to your selfe, which because I durste not, without your gracyous lycence, presume to doe befor, I latly sente unto him, as sygnefyenge that your moste mercyfull harte and fatherly pyttye had graunted me your blessyng, with condissyone that I should persevere in that I had commenced and begoone; and that I should not eftsones offend Your Majesty by the denyall or reffusalle of any suche artycles and commaundementes, as it maye please Your Highenes to addresse unto me, for the perfite triall of myne harte and inward affectyone, for the perfait declaratyon of the bottome of my herte and stomake.

Fyrste, I knowledge my selfe to have most unkyndly and unnaturally offended Your most excellent Highenes, in that I have not submytted myselfe to your moste juste and vertuous lawes; and for myne offence thearin, which I must confesse wear in me a thousand folde more greevous, then they could be in any other lyving creature, I put myselfe holly and entyrely to your gratyous mercy; at whos handes I cannot receave that punishment for the same, that I have deserved.

Secondly, to opene my herte to Your Grace, in theis thinges, which I have heartofore refused to condiscend unto, and have nowe writtene with myne owne hand, sending the same to Your Highenes hearwith; I shall never beseeche Your Grace to have pyttye and compassyon of me, yf ever you shall perceave that I shall prively or appertly, vary or alter from one pece of that I have writtene and subscribed, or refuse to confyrme, ratefy, or declare the same, wher Your Majesty shall appointe me.

Thurdly, as I have and shall, knowinge your excelent learnynge, vertue, wisdome, and knoledge, put my soulle into your directyone; and, by the same, hathe and will, in all thinges, from hence foarthe directe my consyence, so my body I do holly commyte to your mercye and fatherlye pyttye; desiringe no state, no condissyone, nor no mannore degre of lyvinge, but suche as Your Grace shall appoynte unto me; knoledging and confessynge, that my state cane not be so ville, as ether the extremyty of justice wold appoynte unto me, or as myne offences have required and deserved.

And what soever Your Grace shall comaunde me to doe, touchinge any of theyse pointes, ethere for thinges paste, presente, or to come, I shall as gladly doe the same, as Your Majestie cane comaund me.

Moste homblye, therfor, beseeching your mercy, most gratyous Soveraine Lord and benigne Father, to have pyttye and compassyon of your myserable and sorowfull child; and, with the aboundance of your inestymable goodnes, so to overcome my iniquitie towardes God, Your Grace, and your holle realme, as I maye feele some sensyble tokene of reconsyllyation; which, God is my judge, I onely desyre, without other respect, to whome I shall dayly praye for the preservation of Your Highenes, with the Queenes Grace, and that it may please him to send you issue. From Hownsdon, this Thursdaye, at 11 of the clocke at nighte.

Your Graces moste humble and obedient Daughter and Handmayd,


Further reading:
Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5