Why Did Pauline Bonaparte Cover Her Ears?

Pauline Bonaparte was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time, and she knew it. She loved to show off her body by wearing sheer dresses that didn't leave much to the imagination but one thing she always kept covered, even when posing for paintings or sculptures such as the Venus Victrix statue shown above, was her ears. But why?

When Pauline was 19, she decided to attend a magnificent ball given by Madame Permon. All the fashionable world of Paris would be there and Pauline straight away decided she would outdo all the other female guests. Her costume was kept secret until she entered the room just at the moment when the music had stopped. All the assembled guests turned to look at her, and what a beautiful sight she was! Her muslin dress was bordered with golden palm leaves. On her head, she wore four leopard-skin patterned bands supported by little clusters of golden grapes. An engraved gem kept a golden band in its place just under her breasts and everywhere she was covered with cameos. Only her arms, wrists and hands were left bare. Pauline had succeeded in outdoing everyone.

This annoyed Madame de Contades, another guest and a woman of remarkable beauty too, who up until that point had enjoyed the attentions of both the men and women at the party. Now everyone deserted her in favour of Pauline and so she decided to get her revenge. She, too, approached the couch where Pauline was reclining and stared at her. Then, she turned to her escort of the evening and said, loud enough for everyone to hear: "What a pity! She really would be lovely if it weren’t for THAT!". Everyone asked her what she was seeing in Pauline that was so ugly, but she just kept saying things such as "What a shame!" and "Surely, you must see that, it is so obvious!". At this point, Pauline too started to get really worried and agitated. Finally, Madame de Contades revealed the little mystery. "“Why, her ears. If I had such ears as those I would cut them off!”, she said. Pauline covered her ears and fled.

From then on, Pauline would always hide her ears by wearing her hair low or a band. The irony is that there really wasn't anything wrong with Pauline's ears. They were small and flat, but they were nice-looking and not odd or deformed. It really is a shame that she let such a snide remark affect her so much.

Further reading:
Imperial Venus: The story of Pauline Bonaparte-Borghese by Len Ortzen
Paolina Bonaparte: L'Amante Imperiale by Antonio Spinosa

A Mother's Advice To Her Daughter

A few weeks ago, I shared some of the advice Madame de Lambert, Marquise de Saint-Bris, a woman very interested in education, gave to her son in her book A Mother's Advice To Her Son And Daughter. Today we're gonna have a look at the advice aimed at her daughter. Undoubtedly a lot of it is outdated. The book was written in the eighteenth century and thus exhorts women to cultivate virtues appropriate to the domestic duties to which they were destined. But the author also regrets how women's education has always been neglected and considers intellect and culture two virtues desirable in women. Here are some of her advice:

3. A young person on entering the world, has a high idea of the happiness which it is to yield - she seeks to enjoy it: this is the source of her inquietudes - she runs after her own idea - she hopes for perfect happiness: this it is which makes her fickle and inconstant. The pleasures of the world are deceivers: they promise more than they give. They give us uneasiness in their pursuits, fail to satisfy us in their possessions, and throw us into despair by their loss.

4. To give consistency to your desires, expect neither solid nor durable happiness. Honours and riches confer but a momentary pleasure - their possessions create new desires - habit renders pleasures worthless. Before tasting them, you can pass them without regret: instead of this, possession renders that necessary which was superfluous: you are less contented than you was before. In possessing, you have accustomed yourself to possession, and in losing, you feel a void and a want. That which is most severely felt, is the passage from one condition to another: it is the interval between ah unhappy, and a happy season. As soon as habit is established, the sentiment of pleasure vanishes. We should be gainers, if we could, at once, draw from our reason all that is necessary to our happiness. Experience turns us inward upon ourselves; spare yourself what it costs you, and speak of happiness in a firm and determinate tone. True felicity consists in peace of mind, in reason, and in the fulfilment of our duties. Never let us think ourselves happy, my child, save when we feel our pleasures spring from the bottom of our soul. - These reflections are too serious for a young person, and belong to riper years: I believe, however, that your capacity is already sufficient. We cannot engrave too deeply within us the maxims of wisdom: the impression which she leaves is always faint; but it must be allowed that, those who reflect, and who fill their hearts with principles, are nearer virtue than those who reject them. If we are unhappy enough to fail in our duty, at least we ought to love it: let us use these principles, my child, as a continual aid to virtue.

7. Shame is a sentiment, from which, with good management, great advantages may be drawn: I do not speak of that false shame which only troubles our repose, without turning to the advantage of our manners: I speak of that which preserves us from evil by the fear of dishonour. It must be confessed, that this shame is sometimes the most faithful guardian of the virtue of women: - very few are virtuous for virtue's sake.

30. Accustom yourself to the exercise of your judgment, and to make more use of this than of your memory. We fill our heads with unconnected thoughts, and draw nothing from its proper funds. We fancy ourselves to have advanced greatly, when we have filled our memory with anecdotes and facts; but this fulness seldom contributes to the improvement of the mind. You must accustom yourself to thinking: the mind enlarges and expands by exercise. Few persons make use of what with us is an idle talent, the art of thinking. Neither historic facts, nor the opinions of philosophers, can defend you against pressing misfortune; yon will not find yourself the stronger. If affliction comes upon you will you, have recourse to Seneca or Epictetus? Is it by their reason you are to be consoled? ought not your own to undertake the charge. Sustain yourself with your own treasures - make provision in times of scarcity for times of trouble which await you: you will be much better supported by your own reason than by that of others.

34. When you ardently wish for any thing, begin by examining the thing desired; observe the good it promises you, and the evils which attend it. Remember that passage in Horace. "Pleasure marches foremost, and conceals her train." You will cease to fear as soon as you cease to desire. Believe that the wise man does not run after felicity, but bestows it on himself; it must be your own work; it is on your hands. Remember that little is wanting for the necessities of life, but much for those of opinion; that it will be easier to set your desires on a level with your fortune, than your fortune on a level with your desires. If honours and riches could give satisfaction, it would be well to amass them; but the thirst increases with the acquisition: he that most desires is most poor.

36. Our self-love conceals us from ourselves, and lessens to us all our faults: we live among them as among the perfumes that we wear, and are equally insensible to each: they incommode others only: to see them in their true point of view, we must behold them in our neighbours. See your own imperfections with the same eyes with which you see your neighbours. Do not relax from this rule, it will accustom you to equity. Examine your character, and turn all your defects to advantage; there are none which are not connected with, and favourable to some virtues. The object of morality is, not to destroy, but to preserve Nature. Are you proud? - Let this sentiment serve to elevate you above the weaknesses of your sex, and to save you from the faults by which it is abased. To every error of the heart, there belongs a pain and a shame, which solicit you to abandon it. Are you timid? - Turn this weakness to prudence, that you may be prevented from injuring yourself. Are you dissipated? - Are you fond of giving? - It is easy out of prodigality to form generosity. Give with selection and propriety - do not neglect the indigent - take care of the poor - lend to those who want; but give to those who cannot return: by these means you will gratify your sentiment, and do good actions. There is no error, of which, if you will, virtue may not make some use.

42. The first duty of civil life is to remember others; those who live for themselves only, fall into contempt and neglect. When you ask too much of others, they refuse you every thing; friendship, sentiment, and service. Civil life is a commerce of mutual assistances; the most virtuous bring the greatest share: in seeking the good of others you insure your own. Nothing is more detestable than people who live only for themselves. Self-love, when incensed, commits great crimes; some degrees below this, it enters into vice; but in its most innocent state, it weakens the virtues and harmonies of society. It is impossible to connect ourselves with persons, in whom self love is prevalent and manifest: nevertheless we cannot free ourselves from this disposition. In the same degree that we hold to life, we hold to ourselves. We believe that we elevate ourselves by abasing our fellows; this it is that renders us slanderous and envious. Goodness does more service than malignity: do good when you can, speak good of every body, never judge with rigour; these acts of goodness and generosity, often repeated, will acquire for you, in the end, a great reputation. Every body becomes interested in praising you, in lessening your faults, in exalting your good qualities. You should found your reputation on your own virtues, and not on the demerits of others. Remember that their good qualities take nothing from you, and that you can attribute to no one but yourself the failing of your reputation.

43. One thing that renders us very unhappy, is that we reckon too much upon mankind: this also, is the source of your injustice; we quarrel with it, not for what it owes us nor for what it has promised, but for what we have hoped from it. We make a right of our hopes, and its turns to our discontent. Do not be precipitate in your judgment; never listen to calumnies, even resist first appearances, and never be in haste to condemn. Remember that there are things resembling truth, that are not true; as there are truths that do not look like truth. In private judgments, we should imitate the equity of public. Judges never decide without having examined every thing, heard every thing, and confronted the witnesses with the accused. But to us, who without commission, render ourselves arbiters of reputation, any proof suffices, any authority is good, when we have an opportunity for condemnation. Actuated by private malignity, we believe that we bestow on ourselves what we take from others; and hence arise hatreds and enmities. Let there be equity, then, in your sentences; the same justice which you give to others, will be rendered to you. Would you be thought and spoken of with respect? - Never then, speak ill of any one.

Further reading:
A mother's advice to her son and daughter by Anne Thérèse de Marguenat de Courcelles Lambert (marquise de)

Historical Reads: Mary Tudor And Fashion

Mary Tudor Renaissance Queen Blog explores Mary Tudor's relationship with fashion. To quote:

Mary adored clothes and jewels. During her years of disgrace (1533-1536), a number of her fine gowns and jewels were taken away in punishment over her refusal to recognise her new demoted status. She complained bitterly and was reduced, the imperial ambassador claims, to ‘send[ing] a gentleman to the King, her father, begging him to provide her with the necessary articles.’ Her subsequent vast expenditure on clothes, namely as queen, was in some respects a way of compensating for that experience. Yet there was also a sense of sheer joy in fashion. In 1554 the Venetian ambassador remarked that Mary 'seems to delight above all in arraying herself elegantly and magnificently.’ She ‘changes every day’. In the later years of her father’s reign, when she was back in favour, she would pay great attention to her inventory of jewels. We find her hand in the inventory of 1542-46, carefully documenting all the items bestowed upon her. The pleasure was not only in receiving. Mary indulged in the customary practise of awarding articles of jewellery and clothing as gifts.

To read the entire article, click here.

Madame Vigée Le Brun on Marie Antoinette

Madame Vigéè Le Brun was one of the most famous and sough-after portraitists of her time. She was also a favourite of Marie Antoinette and, over the years, Madame Vigéè Le Brun, would paint numerous portraits of this tragic Queen. Her paintings have become so iconic that, when we think of Marie Antoinette today, we conjure up images of her holding a rose in the gardens of the Palace, wearing a simple muslin dress and a straw hat, or sitting down surrounded by her children (and an empty cradle). All portraits painted by Madame Vigéè Le Brun. And while they may not be the most realistic representation of her likeness, the Queen's charming personality and elegance certainly shines through in these paintings. But let's see what Madame Vigéè Le Brun has to say about the Queen in her memoirs, shall we?

We went to Marly-le-Roi, and there I found a more beautiful spot than any I had seen in my life. On each side of the magnificent palace were six summer-houses communicating with one another by walks embowered with jessamine and honeysuckle. Water fell in cascades from the top of a hill behind the castle, and formed a large channel on which a number of swans floated. The handsome trees, the carpets of green, the flowers, the fountains, one of which spouted up so high that it was lost from sight – it was all grand, all regal; it all spoke of Louis XIV. One morning I met Queen Marie Antoinette walking in the park with several of the ladies of her court. They were all in white dresses, and so young and pretty that for a moment I thought I was in a dream. I was with my mother, and was turning away when the Queen was kind enough to stop me, and invited me to continue in any direction I might prefer. Alas! when I returned to France in 1802 I hastened to see my noble, smiling Marly. The palace, the trees, the cascades., and the fountains had all disappeared; scarcely a stone was left. [...]

This reminds me that in 1786, when I was painting the Queen, I begged her to use no powder, and to part her hair on the forehead. "I should be the last to follow that fashion," said the Queen, laughing; "I do not want people to say that I adopted it to hide my large forehead." [...]

It was in the year 1779 that I painted the Queen for the first time; she was then in the heyday of her youth and beauty. Marie Antoinette was tall and admirably built, being somewhat stout, but not excessively so. Her arms were superb, her hands small and perfectly formed, and her feet charming. She had the best walk of any woman in France, carrying her head erect with a dignity that stamped her queen in the midst of her whole court, her majestic mien, however, not in the least diminishing the sweetness and amiability of her face. To any one who has not seen the Queen it is difficult to get an idea of all the graces and all the nobility combined in her person. Her features were not regular; she had inherited that long and narrow oval peculiar to the Austrian nation. Her eyes were not large; in colour they were almost blue, and they were at the same time merry and kind. Her nose was slender and pretty, and her mouth not too large, though her lips were rather thick. But the most remarkable thing about her face was the splendour of her complexion. I never have seen one so brilliant, and brilliant is the word, for her skin was so transparent that it bore no umber in the painting. Neither could I render the real effect of it as I wished. I had no colours to paint such freshness, such delicate tints, which were hers alone, and which I had never seen in any other woman.

At the first sitting the imposing air of the Queen at first frightened me greatly, but Her Majesty spoke to me so graciously that my fear was soon dissipated. It was on that occasion that I began the picture representing her with a large basket, wearing a satin dress, and holding a rose in her hand. This portrait was destined for her brother, Emperor Joseph II., and the Queen ordered two copies besides – one for the Empress of Russia, the other for her own apartments at Versailles or Fontainebleau.

I painted various pictures of the Queen at different times. In one I did her to the knees, in a pale orange-red dress, standing before a table on which she was arranging some flowers in a vase. It may be well imagined that I preferred to paint her in a plain gown and especially without a wide hoopskirt. She usually gave these portraits to her friends or to foreign diplomatic envoys. One of them shows her with a straw hat on, and a white muslin dress, whose sleeves are turned up, though quite neatly. When this work was exhibited at the Salon, malignant folk did not fail to make the remark that the Queen had been painted in her chemise, for we were then in 1786, and calumny was already busy concerning her. Yet in spite of all this the portraits were very successful.

Toward the end of the exhibition a little piece was given at the Vaudeville Theatre, bearing the title, I think, "The Assembling of the Arts." Brongniart, the architect, and his wife, whom the author had taken into his confidence, had taken a box on the first tier, and called for me on the day of the first performance. As I had no suspicion of the surprise in store for me, judge of my emotion when Painting appeared on the scene and I saw the actress representing that art copy me in the act of painting a portrait of the Queen. The same moment everybody in the parterre and the boxes turned toward me and applauded to bring the roof down. I can hardly believe that any one was ever more moved and more grateful than I was that evening.

I was so fortunate as to be on very pleasant terms with the Queen. When she heard that I had something of a voice we rarely had a sitting without singing some duets by Grétry together, for she was exceedingly fond of music, although she did not sing very true. As for her conversation, it would be difficult for me to convey all its charm, all its affability. I do not think that Queen Marie Antoinette ever missed an opportunity of saying some thing pleasant to those who had the honour of being presented to her, and the kindness she always bestowed upon me has ever been one of my sweetest memories.

One day I happened to miss the appointment she had given me for a sitting; I had suddenly become unwell. The next day I hastened to Versailles to offer my excuses. The Queen was not expecting me; she had had her horses harnessed to go out driving, and her carriage was the first thing I saw on entering the palace yard. I nevertheless went upstairs to speak with the chamberlains on duty. One of them, M. Campan, received me with a stiff and haughty manner, and bellowed at me in his stentorian voice, "It was yesterday, madame, that Her Majesty expected you, and I am very sure she is going out driving, and I am very sure she will give you no sitting to-day!" Upon my reply that I had simply come to take Her Majesty's orders for another day, he went to the Queen, who at once had me conducted to her room. She was finishing her toilet, and was holding a book in her hand, hearing her daughter repeat a lesson. My heart was beating violently, for I knew that I was in the wrong. But the Queen looked up at me and said most amiably, "I was waiting for you all the morning yesterday; what happened to you?

"I am sorry to say, Your Majesty," I replied, "I was so ill that I was unable to comply with Your Majesty's commands. I am here to receive more now, and then I will immediately retire."

"No, no! Do not go!" exclaimed the Queen. "I do not want you to have made your journey for nothing!" She revoked the order for her carriage and gave me a sitting. I remember that, in my confusion and my eagerness to make a fitting response to her kind words, I opened my paint-box so excitedly that I spilled my brushes on the floor. I stooped down to pick them up. "Never mind, never mind," said the Queen, and, for aught I could say, she insisted on gathering them all up herself.

When the Queen went for the last time to Fontainebleau, where the court, according to custom, was to appear in full gala, I repaired there to enjoy that spectacle. I saw the Queen in her grandest dress; she was covered with diamonds, and as the brilliant sunshine fell upon her she seemed to me nothing short of dazzling. Her head, erect on her beautiful Greek neck, lent her as she walked such an imposing, such a majestic air, that one seemed to see a goddess in the midst of her nymphs. During the first sitting I had with Her Majesty after this occasion I took the liberty of mentioning the impression she had made upon me, and of saying to the Queen how the carriage of her head added to the nobility of her bearing. She answered in a jesting tone, "If I were not Queen they would say I looked insolent, would they not?"

The Queen neglected nothing to impart to her children the courteous and gracious manners which endeared her so to all her surroundings. I once saw her make her six-year-old daughter dine with a little peasant girl and attend to her wants. The Queen saw to it that the little visitor was served first, saying to her daughter, "You must do the honours."

The last sitting I had with Her Majesty was given me at Trianon, where I did her hair for the large picture in which she appeared with her children. After doing the Queen's hair, as well as separate studies of the Dauphin, Madame Royale, and the Duke de Normandie, I busied myself with my picture, to which I attached great importance, and I had it ready for the Salon of 1788. The frame, which had been taken there alone, was enough to evoke a thousand malicious remarks. "That's how the money goes," they said, and a number of other things which seemed to me the bitterest comments. At last I sent my picture, but I could not muster up the courage to follow it and find out what its fate was to be, so afraid was I that it would be badly received by the public. In fact, I became quite ill with fright. I shut myself in my room, and there I was, praying to the Lord for the success of my "Royal Family," when my brother and a host of friends burst in to tell me that my picture had met with universal acclaim. After the Salon, the King, having had the picture transferred to Versailles, M. d'Angevilliers, then minister of the fine arts and director of royal residences, presented me to His Majesty. Louis XVI. vouchsafed to talk to me at some length and to tell me that he was very much pleased. Then he added, still looking at my work, "I know nothing about painting, but you make me like it."

The picture was placed in one of the rooms at Versailles, and the Queen passed it going to mass and returning. After the death of the Dauphin, which occurred early in the year 1789, the sight of this picture reminded her so keenly of the cruel loss she had suffered that she could not go through the room without shedding tears. She then ordered M. d'Angevilliers to have the picture taken away, but with her usual consideration she informed me of the fact as well, apprising me of her motive for the removal. It is really to the Queen's sensitiveness that I owed the preservation of my picture, for the fishwives who soon afterward came to Versailles for Their Majesties would certainly have destroyed it, as they did the Queen's bed, which was ruthlessly torn apart.

I never had the felicity of setting eyes on Marie Antoinette after the last court ball at Versailles. The ball was given in the theatre, and the box where I was seated was so situated that I could hear what the Queen said. I observed that she was very excited, asking the young men of the court to dance with her, such as M. Lameth, whose family had been overwhelmed with kindness by the Queen, and others, who all refused, so that many of the dances had to be given up. The conduct of these gentlemen seemed to me exceedingly improper; somehow their refusal likened a sort of revolt – the prelude to revolts of a more serious kind. The Revolution was drawing near; it was, in fact, to burst out before long.

Further reading:
The Memoirs of Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun

Fashions for February 1832

Hello everyone,

I've found some more prints of pretty clothes and thought I'd share them with you. Unfortunately one is in black and white but I hope you will still like it. My favourites though are the two morning dresses. That green one must have looked so beautiful in real life. The sleeves are big but not overly so and I really love the foliage detail down the front. What do you think of these dresses?


Walking dress of Sontag-green gros de Naples. It is made en redingote, with a rich trimming of foliage down the front of the skirt. Corsage made uni, and without trimming, It is finished at the neck with a triple quilling of tulle, fastened in front with a bow of rose-coloured satin ribbon. The sleeve is full from the elbow to the wrist, where it is confined by a broad gold bracelet. The upper sleeve is very full, and is confined round the arm by a band cut into six or seven points, from whence proceed an equal number of broad straps, which reach from the hand, round the arm, to the shoulder, where they terminate in points, and are fastened to the corsage by corded knots. Bonnet of pale blue velvet, made open in front, and trimmed with velvet ribbon. It is worn over a morning cap of fine lace, which is tied under the chin with rose-coloured gauze ribbon.


Morning dress of rose-coloured merino. The skirt has a broad hem at bottom, headed by doubled languettes, the points of which cross each other, and form a novel and pretty style of trimming. The sleeve is cut into long transverse straps, half way up the arm, interlacing each other so as to fit very closely. The top of the sleeve is very large, and is supported by an under-sleeve of stiffened net.The body of the dress is cut in a point nearly to the waist. A double cape, set in very full quills on the shoulders, and crossing the bust en schall, before and behind. A richly worked cambric chemisette is worn with this dress. The hair is dressed in soft curls in front, and in one large bow on the crown of the head. Caprice of British blonde, tied under the chin with white gauze ribbon. The comb worn with this head-dress is of gold, with a very high back. Shoes of black satin.
The mantilla thrown over the chair in this plate, is of purple satin, lined and trimmed with white plush. It is cut very short behind not more than half a yard deep from the waist downwards, and becomes deeper towards the front, where it forms an acute angle, reaching almost to the feet. The points are terminated by rich bullion tassels. It is an appropriate and elegant finish for an Opera dress. The beret above the mantilla is intended to be worn with it. It is made of white satin, with noeuds of striped gauze ribbon, tastefully disposed inside the brim. Three soft white feathers fall over the crown on the right side.


Pelisse of aventurine satin. The skirt is made very full, and rather long. It is trimmed down the front with a deep revert of satin, cut in progressive murals, decreasing in size as they ascend. The body is made plain, close up to the throat, with a large square collar, and has a double cape, set on en coeur. The upper cape is narrow, and cut in five points on the shoulder; the lower cape is considerably deeper, and not pointed, but falling in folds over the sleeve. Both capes are quite narrow at the waist. The sleeve is as close to the arm as possible from the elbow downwards, but very large at the upper part, appearing still more so by the addition of a broad piece of satin, set on full from the elbow to the shoulder. Noeuds of corded satin are placed at equal distances down the centre of this appendage. The bonnet accompanying this dress is of avenlurine satin, lined and trimmed with deep blue velvet, and rich ribbon. It is small and peculiarly becoming. Boa of swans down. Gloves of blue kid, or gros de Naples. Boots of aventurine cloth, lined with sable.


Carriage dress of pink and green shot gros de Lyons. A very pretty garniture finishes the skirt of this dress: it is composed of lozenge-shaped pieces, set on a corded band in groups of three, and so disposed, that the centre lozenge of each group shows the corded band passing through it, and seems to confine that on each side of it. The corsage is high behind, and partially open in front. A fluted trimming proceeds from the waist, across the shoulder to the bottom of the back. The clochettes forming this trimming become larger from the waist towards the shoulder; and smaller from thence backwards. The upper part of the sleeve is large, and divided in two parts lengthwise, each part turning back, and forming a full revers, which are laced together, but not quite closed. The lower sleeve is tight to the arm, and is finished at the wrist with a deep pointed cuff, trimmed with quilled net. Collarette of clear net, edged with a double quilling, and fastened in front with a noeud of gauze ribbon. Bonnet of green plush, lined with Isabella coloured satin, and trimmed with gauze ribbon to match. The crown slopes forward, and is surmounted by a beautiful plume of ostrich feathers. Gloves of Isabella kid. Shoes of black satin.

Further reading:
The Royal Lady's Magazine, February 1832

Book Review: Lily by Patricia Gaffney

A beautiful British lady is forced by circumstance to become the maid of a handsome and brooding gentleman in this historical romance from the author of "Sweet Treason" and "Fortune's Lady".

In pretty much any book, the heroine has to face and overcome some trials and tribulations, but rarely as many as Lily. Bad luck seems to follow her everywhere, which after a while can be really frustrating to read. But let's start from the beginning. When her father dies, Lily's uncle tries to force her to marry his son. When she refuses, he threatens to accuse her of theft. A row ensues in which Lily knocks her uncle out. Thinking she's killed him, she panics and flees, with barely no money and no clothes. She finds a job as a scullery maid in a big Devonshire mansion. The work is hard, the hours long, the pay very low and, to make matters worse, the housekeeper is an evil woman who severely punishes the servants even for the most insignificant and minor faults or mistakes. At times, she beats them up too.

One night, Devon, the master of the house and hero of the story, sees her emerging naked from a lake and decides to seduce her. But she doesn't want to be just another notch on his bedpost. Devon can't understand her refusal. To him, she's just a servant and so, to no avail, he persists. Then, Devon gets wounded while helping his smuggler brother escape justice and Lily takes care of him until he gets well again. No one must know that Devon is wounded, let alone why and so noone understands why the master won't let anyone else near him. Soon, the servants become convinced that they are lovers and start treating her differently, whispering and making fun of her behind her back. But nothing has happened between Lily and Devon yet. They are falling in love, but Lily still refuses to become his mistress.

And then, the evil housekeeper accuses Lily of stealing. Devon doesn't believe in her innocence. Devon's wife had run away with another man, taking their only son with her only for them to become ill and die soon afterwards. From then on, he has stopped trusting women. Things change when the housekeeper, emboldened by the fact that Devon has believed her lie, beats Lily up very badly. He kicks the housekeeper out and, once Lily is well, the two become lovers. Then one night, Clay, Devon's smuggler brother, get shot in the head. Near his body, a small piece of paper where Lily is accused of the crime is found. Lily, after facing Devon's fury, leaves. You'd think we're almost at the end of the book, but we're only halfway through and there are lots of things that I left out.

Basically, Lily is a lovely but very unlucky girl. Bads things keep happening to her over and over again. When things seem at their worst, they get even worse. At first, it makes for an exciting and engrossing read but, after a while it just starts to get annoying. I personally feel that the plot is just too long and lots of elements and secondary stories should have just been kept out of it. They don't add anything to the book but just drag it along. Devon, on the other hand, is not your typical hero. He actually behaves like a total jerk to Lily for most of the book but she just keeps forgiving him everything. I understand the experience with his first wife left deep scars in him, but that's no reason to treat people so badly. In the end, though, Lily finally sticks up for herself and Devon starts behaving properly. Overall, it's a nice story, just wayyyyy too long.

Lily by Patricia Gaffney is a well-written book full of twists, turns and subplots. While all this makes for an engrossing read at the start, as the book progresses they become repetitive and far-fetched. All kinds of bad things seem to befall Lily all the time, which both makes the reader feel sorry for her but also annoyed. As for Devon, he's not a bad person, but he does behave really badly most of the time so the reader can't really root for him.

Available at: Amazon US, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble

Rating: 3.5/5

Edda Ciano Mussolini: Countess Ciano (Part 1)

The new Count and Countess Ciano spent their honeymoon on the Capri island, where they were triumphantly received by a big crowd. The couple was staying in a four-room suite at the Hotel Quisisana, and, upon their arrival, they found a telegram from Mussolini, who wanted to be the first person to salute them in Capri. The couple spent a few happy days visiting the isle and dining in their bedroom. They were followed around both by the press and the secret police that would report their every move to Mussolini, but Edda and Galeazzo wanted to be alone and see no one. They only made an exception for Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist movement. Pretty soon, it was time to go back home.

Galeazzo was working at the Italian embassy in the Vatican city. After the wedding, he was sent to China, where he would act as general consul. He was really happy to go back to that country. He had already lived for a while in Pekin and loved it, because there, unlike in the Vatican where he had to behave like a saint (or at least pretend to), he could just be himself. Edda would obviously go with him and, on 11th September 1930, the couple embarked on the ship that was to take them to China. The temperature on board was really hot, even during the night and because Galeazzo, who was very sensitive to the cold, would forbid Edda from opening the portholes, the couple started sleeping in two different cabins. The ship finally arrived in Shanghai. Edda was in love with the city, its sparkling lights, the exciting atmosphere, the luxurious lifestyle of the rich European and American businessmen and diplomatics residing there.. it was a far cry from the provincial Rome she came from.

Soon, her lifestyle became hectic. She drank, played poker (losing big sums and piling up debts), and just generally had a good time. Her house became a salon for intellectuals, journalists, diplomatics and everyone who was anyone in China. More importantly, she wasn't under her father's control anymore. Sure, he would often send her telegrams and letters full of recommendations and instructions, but he was still many miles away and Edda felt free to finally be herself and, although she was never allowed to forget who her father was (this would prove beneficial especially for their job there), she enjoyed a great deal of independence. She would host sumptuous dinners to enhance the image and prestige of Italy, and to try and improve business deals and relationships between the two countries. This way, they even managed to turn those who disliked Italy and Mussolini, such as English journalist Woodhead, into a fan of both the countess and Italy.

Her stay in Shanghai wasn't always peaceful and serene, though. In those days, China was fighting a war against Japan. At one point, the Japanese soldiers arrived at the outskirts of the city. The city could fall at any moment but Edda, unlike many diplomatics who were quickly leaving the city with their families, decided to stay. This decision was partly due to her love for taking risks, partly to a good deal of recklessness and partly to her innate drama sense. Part of the press praised her for it. Woodhead excitedly exclaimed: "The First Lady of Shanghai doesn't leave the city!", which ended up in the papers. Edda not only stayed in Shanghai but she also visited the battlefield, where she admired the efficiency of the Japanese army and pitied the poor Chinese soldiers.

When the danger was over, Edda went back to her usual lifestyle. And seventeen months after the wedding, Edda gave birth, at home, to the couple's first child. It was a boy and they named it Fabrizio, against Mussolini's wishes, who preferred Giorgio or Guido instead. Pretty soon, though, the baby was nicknamed Ciccino. Despite being so far away from home, Edda kept receiving Mussolini's letters regularly and kept herself up to date on Italian news. She also didn't hesitate to express her political opinions to her father, telling her that, according to her, fascism was turning Italy into barracks, which she blamed on the new party secretary Achille Starace. "Sergeants may be necessary, but I don't love them," she wrote. Mussolini replied that he would keep her opinions in mind. Edda may have been right in her observations, but she also had personal reasons not to like Storace. She had hoped her husband would have become the new secretary of the Fascist Party instead of him, despite the fact that Galezzo wasn't interested in (and probably didn't have what it took to fulfill) that role.

Edda loved Shanghai and didn't want to leave it. But Mussolini had other plans. He missed his daughter and wanted her back, and he communicated it to her in September 1932. Edda was furious. She didn't want to leave her beloved Shanghai and to make things worse she discovered she was pregnant again. She wasn't happy about it. She really didn't want any more children after Fabrizio and especially not so soon. But the two things just couldn't be changed and, after two yeas and eight months in Shanghai, the Ciano family arrived in Brindisi in late June 1933.

Further reading:
Edda, Una Tragedia Italiana by Antonio Spinosa

Empress Elizabeth I of Russia And Death Penalty

Death penalty was used extensively in the Russian Empire. In 1649, there were 63 crimes punishable by death and under Peter I's, that number doubled. After his death, his daughter Elizabeth seized power. She had a very different attitude to the death penalty, which she showed even before she seized the throne. On the eve of the coup, she promised "not to execute anyone" and to the granadiers vowing to kill her enemies, she replied that, if any blood was shed, she wouldn't lead them. The coup was successful but the new Empress didn't abolish death penalty straight away. She decided to proceed with caution instead.

Elizabeth was worried that abolishing the death penalty, with the fear such a punishment inspires, would increase the numbers of crimes committed. But that wasn't the only reason that held her back. Elizabeth was the only one who wanted to abolish the death penalty. The Synod would happily have released the Empress from her promise, and even the Russian people wouldn't understand why she wanted to give mercy to criminals. The Senate too was against it. They had just approved a law that, in addition to the usual forms of death penalty (including burying alive, drowning and even forcing people to drink liquid metals), recommended two new ones: hanging by the rib and being torn apart by horses. The Empress refused to approve that law.

In the end, Elizabeth never officially abolished the death penalty. Instead, she approved the Senate's report "On Not Abolishing The Death Penalty For Thieves, Bandits, Murderers and Counterfeiters". But she ordered that all the death sentences should be submitted to her for her "imperial approval". And she never approved any of them. This way the death penalty was de facto, if not de jure, abolished during her reign. But what happened to those sentenced to death? They remained in prison "until further orders", and in 1754, an edict was passed that commuted the punishment to hard labor but only after being flogged, branded and put in shackles for the rest of their lives. Although the de facto ban of the death penalty was a remarkable accomplishment for the time, the Empress never thought of abolishing torture too. That was still widely used and those subjected to this harrowing ordeal often died.

Further reading:
The Emperors And Empresses of Russia by Donald J. Raleigh and A. A. Iskenderov.

Historical Reads: The First Queen Of The Belgians

The Cross Of Laeken shares some interesting facts about Louise-Marie d'Orleans, first Queen of the Belgians and King Leopold I's second wife. To quote:

She adored her father, the controversial Louis-Philippe, Duc d'Orléans (later "King of the French") but was even closer to her mother, the universally revered Marie-Amélie of Naples. She inherited much of her mother's piety and charity, along with a certain amount of her father's political liberalism.

She was very tender-hearted, abhorring bloodshed and capital punishment, even in the case of would-be assassins who had attempted her beloved father's life. When Leopold teased her about leaving her as Regent of Belgium while he was abroad, she insisted she would never sign anyone's death warrant. (A striking contrast with her grandfather, the French revolutionary, Philippe Egalité, who was infamous for voting for the death of his cousin, King Louis XVI!).

To read the entire post, click here.

Book Review: The Lady In The Tower by Alison Weir

I’ve always been fascinated by Anne Boleyn and her tragic story. After refusing to become king Henry VIII’s mistress, she eventually married him after causing a schism in the Church only to be executed three years later for crimes that she (very probably) never committed. The story of her fall is as interesting, and a lot more mysterious, than that of her rise and although many books about Anne and the Tudors talk about it, never before had a book been entirely dedicated to it.

So, when I found out that Alison Weir was gonna release a book, called The Lady In The Tower, about Anne's fall, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The book covers every aspect of Anne Boleyn’s fall: its possible causes and who wanted her dead, the men accused to have committed adultery and have conspired against the king with her, theirs and Anne’s trials and executions, who was on the jury that condemned her, how her contemporaries reacted to the scandal and how it affected her daughter Elizabeth. Nothing is left untouched.

I wouldn’t say this is a groundbreaking book as none of the theories examined in it are really new, but nevertheless it is still an interesting book that tackles all the questions one might have on the subject. Why was Anne accused and condemned? Did Henry, tired of his wife and convinced that their marriage displeased God, organize her murder? Or was Anne the innocent victim of a well-orchestrated plot against her and her faction planned by Thomas Cromwell, who argued with the Queen on political and religious issues and was afraid she would have destroyed him? Or was she, simply, guilty as charged?

And also, how was the investigation conducted and what proof did the accusers have against her? Was her trial fair? Why was she found guilty and why was an executer from France called to England before the trial was over and Anne found guilty? How did Henry act during all this? To answer all these questions, Weir examines all the available pieces of evidence (taking most of her information from contemporary primary sources whenever she can) and how reliable they are, allowing the reader to follow the events and make up his/her own mind on what happened.

However, I have a couple of gripes about this book. First of all, I wish she hadn't dedicated a small section about the “legends” associated to Anne Boleyn, that is the occasions when her ghost was apparently seen. It was just superfluous in my opinion, especially in a scholarly work. This space could be better dedicated to exploring the culture and society of this time, something that lacks in this book. After all, to understand how this scandal and murder could have happened, we need to understand the English society in the Tudor era during Henry VIII’s reign.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is well researched and long but it flows easily, the writing is clear, accessible and fascinating. Highly recommended to all those who are interested in Anne Boleyn and the Tudors.

Overall, The Lady In The Tower by Alison Weir is a fascinating read, especially for those interested in Anne Boleyn, her fall and Tudor history in general. In it, every aspect of Anne's fall is covered. The theories examined aren't groundbreaking, but they are backed up and supported by historical evidence, with particular emphasis on primary sources. Although long, it is also well-written and flows easily. However, information on Tudor society at the time is lacking and I thought that the section dedicated to the ghost of Anne Boleyn was superfluous. I'm sure some people will enjoy that too though.

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones

Rating: 4/5

Colonel Ponsonby Survives The Battle Of Waterloo

Colonel Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby was the second son of the 3rd Earl of Bessborough and Harriet Spencer, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire's sister. He joined the army and was one of the officers who fought in the battle of Waterloo. Badly wounded, he was given for dead on the battlefield and it really seems a miracle that he managed to survive the battle. Here's the account of his harrowing ordeal:

The weather cleared up at noon, and the sun shone out a little just as the battle began. The armies were within eight hundred yards of each other, the vedettes, before they were withdrawn, being so near as to be able to converse. At one moment I imagined that I saw Bonaparte, a considerable staff moving rapidly along the front of our line. I was stationed with my regiment (about 300 strong) at the extreme of the left wing, and directed to act discretionally: each of the armies was drawn up on a gentle declivity, a small valley lying between them. At one o' clock, observing, as I thought, unsteadiness in a column of French infantry (50 by 20 - 1000 - or thereabouts), which were advancing with an irregular fire, I resolved to charge them. As we were descending in a gallop, we received from our own troops on the right a fire much more destructive than theirs, they having begun long before it could take effect, and slackening as we drew nearer: when we were within fifty paces of them, they turned, and much execution was done among them, as we were followed by some Belgians, who had remarked our success.

We had no sooner passed through them, than we were attacked in our turn, before we could form, by about 300 Polish lancers, who had come down to their relief. The French artillery poured in among us a heavy fire of grape-shot, which, however, for one of our men killed three of their own: in the melee I was disabled almost instantly in both of my arms, and followed by a few of my men, who were presently cut down (no quarter being asked or given), I was carried on by my horse, till receiving a blow on my head from a sabre, I was thrown senseless on my face to the ground. Recovering. I raised myself a little to look round (being, I believe, at that time in a condition to get up and run away), when a lancer passing by, exclaimed, "Tu n'es pas mort, coquin!", and struck his lance through my back; my head dropped, the blood gushed into my mouth, a difficulty of breathing came on, and I thought all was over.

Not long afterwards (it was then impossible to measure time, but I must have fallen in less than ten minutes after the charge,) a tirailleur came up to plunder me, threatening to take my life. I told him that he might search me, directing him to a small side-pocket, in which he found three dollar, being all I had; he unloosed my stock and tore open my waistcoat, then leaving me in a very uneasy posture; and was no sooner gone, than another came up for the same purpose, but assuring him that I had been plundered, already he left me; when an officer, bringing on some troops (to which probably the tirailleurs belonged), and halting where I lay, stooped down and addressed me, saying, he feared I was badly wounded. I replied that I was, and expressed a wish to be removed into the rear: he said it was against the order to remove even their own men, but that if they gained the day, as they probably would (for he understood the Duke of Wellington was killed, and that six of our battalions had surrendered), every attention in his power should be shewn me. I complained of thirst, and he held bis brandy-bottle to my lips, directing one of his men to lay me straight on my side, and place a knapsack under my head: he then passed on into the action, and I shall never know to whose generosity I was indebted, as I conceive, for my life - of what rank he was I cannot say. he wore a blue great coat.

By and by another tirailleur came, and knelt and fired over me, loading and firing many times, and conversing with great gaiety all the while; at last he ran off, saying, "Vous serez bien aise d'entendre que nous allons nous retirer; bon jour, mon ami". While the battle continued in that part, several of the wounded men and dead bodies near me were hit with the balls which came very thick in that place. Towards evening, when the Prussians came, the continued roar of the cannon along their's and the British line, growing louder and louder as they drew near, was the finest thing I ever heard. It was dusk, when two squadrons of Prussian cavalry, both of them two deep, passed over me in full trot, lifting me from the ground, and tumbling me about cruelly: the clatter of their approach, and the apprehensions it excited, may be easily conceived; had a gun come that way it would have done for me. The battle was then nearly over, or removed to a distance; the cries and groans the wounded all around me became every instant more and more audible, succeeding to the shouts, imprecations, outcries of "Vive I'empereur" the discharges of musquetry and cannon; now and then intervals of perfect silence, which were worse than the noise - I thought the night would never end.

Much about this time, I found a soldier of the Royals lying across my legs, who had probably crawled thither in his agony; his weight, convulsive motions, his noises, and the air issuing through a wound in his side, distressed me greatly, the latter circumstance most of all, as the case was my own. It was not a dark night, and the Prussians were wandering about to plunder (and the scene in Ferdinand Count Fathom came into my mind, though no women, I believe, were there); several of them came and looked at me, and passed on; at length one stopped to examine me. I told him as well as I could (for I could say but little in German), that I was a British officer, and had been plundered already: he did not desist, however, and pulled me about roughly before he left me. About an hour before midnight, I saw a soldier in an English uniform coming towards me; he was, I suspect, on the same errand. He came and looked in my face; I spoke instantly, telling him who I was, and assuring him of a reward if he would remain by me. He said that he belonged to the 40th regiment, but had missed it, He released me from the dying man: being unarmed, he took up a sword from the ground, and stood over me, pacing backwards and forwards.

At eight o'clock in the morning some English were seen at a distance; he ran to them, and a messenger was sent off to Hervey. A cart came for me. I was placed in it, and carried to a farmhouse, about a mile and a half distant, and laid in the bed from which poor Gordon (as I understood afterwards) had been just carried out: the jolting of the cart, and the difficulty of breathing, were very painful. I had received seven wounds; a surgeon slept in my room, and I was saved by continual bleeding, 120 ounces in two days, besides the great loss of blood on the field. The lances, from their length and weight, would have struck down my sword long before I lost it, if it had not been bound to my hand. What became of my horse I know not; it was the best I ever had. The man from the Royals was still breathing when I was removed in the morning, and was soon after taken to the hospital. Sir Dennis Packe said, the greatest risk he ran the whole day wag in stopping his men, who were firing on me and my regiment when we began to charge. The French make a great clamour in action, the English only shout. Much confusion arose, and many mistakes, from similarity of dress. The Belgians, in particular, suffered greatly from their resemblance to the French, being still in the very same clothes they had served in under Bonaparte.

Further reading:
Repository of arts, literature, fashions &c, September 1817

Short Book Reviews: The Game, Dark Fires, and Blue Moon Bayou

Hello everyone,

for someone who isn't that much into historical romances, I've read quite a few lately so here are three short reviews. They are all quite old books but I hope you still enjoy reading them (the reviews I mean, the books aren't that good). Let's get started:

The Game by Brenda Joyce
The Game is set in England and Ireland at the time of Elizabeth I and in particular during the Irish rebellion. Katherine Fitzgerald is a young Irish noblewoman sent to a French convent after her bethrothed died. It was supposed to be a short and temporary stay, but years passed without Katherine receiving any news nor money from her family. When her best friend at the convent is called back home in England to get married, Katherine convinces her to take her along. But their ship is attacked by a pirate who takes Katherine prisoner. He wants to make her his mistress but she refuses. A head-strong and stubborn girl, she wants to marry a nobleman and have children and doesn't change her mind even when she's told that's never going to happen. Katherine's father, once a rich and powerful nobleman, has been declared a traitor by the Queen and his properties confiscated. The plot is further complicated by the Irish rebellion. The crown is beginning to regret its treatment of Fitzgerlad as the new leader of the rebels, FitzMaurice, is a fiercer and more dangerous enemy. Liam decides to help Katherine's father to get back his title and riches but has to be careful in its actions as he's playing a very dangerous game that could lead him to the scaffold.. I don't wanna give too much away but there are lots of intrigues, plots and machinations in this book that make the story interesting and never dull. But while I enjoyed the plot, I really disliked the heroine, and she's the reason why my rating is so low. We are constantly told throughout the book that she is a clever, fiery woman but she's really just a spoilt, whining child that throws a tantrum whenever things don't go her way. She just screams and storms off without ever giving people the chance to explain their reasons and actions, and she's also very self-centered. She puts Liam through so much crap that I can't really see why he bothers with her. Overall, The Game is a nice story, weakened by the irritating main female character.
Available at: Amazon.com
Rating: 2/5

Dark Fires by Rosemary Rogers
Dark Fires is the sequel to Sweet Savage Love. Unfortunately I didn't know that when I first started it, but it soon became obvious because of the frequent references to the first book. The story can be easily followed and understood even if you haven't read the prequel so I kept reading it but it's obviously recommended that you read Sweet Savage Love first. As I didn't enjoy this book though, I'm not sure I will. At the beginning of Dark Fires, we find Ginny and Steve in Mexico at the time of the Revolution. Pretty soon, though, the couple separates and ends up spending most of the novel apart, which is unusual for a historical romance novel. The book is divided into two parts: the first focuses on Ginny and her life with her second husband who gets her addicted to laudanum to better control her and make her do his bidding, while the second focuses on Steve and his temporary loss of memory which leads him to work for, and become the lover of, a woman without any scruples. The two stories don't really have that much in common, apart from the characters of course and I felt like I was reading two different books instead than just the one. And because I didn't really like the second part (too overdone), I would have been happier if the end of part one had been the end of the book too. But what I really didn't like about the book was the characters. Steve is simply a jerk. He's selfish, arrogant and just does whatever he wants without caring one bit about the consequences and who he hurts in the process. He doesn't do bad things for a good purpose, but simply because he wants and can. It's hard to believe that someone like that could fall in love and he's not a hero I can relate to, let alone like. Ginny's ok but she seems to always be getting raped/hit/abused/used.. after a while, it gets kinda repetitive. She is also supposed to be a free spirit and a fighter, but when told her marriage to Steve is null and void she just accepts it instead than trying to meet him and work things out. But then Steve has pretty much the same reaction to the annulment. And when they meet and talk, they are just incredibly mean to each other. Really, the whole thing would have been easily resolved and a lot of pain spared if they just set down and talked civilly instead than being too stubborn to admit they still have feelings for each other, but then I guess that wouldn't have made a good story and the book would have been a lot shorter.. The plot has lots of twists and turns and, although I didn't like it, the main characters make Dark Fires a somewhat unusual historical romance.
Available at: Amazon.com
Rating: 2/5

Blue Moon Bayou by Catherine Compton
Blue Moon Bayou is set in Louisiana just before the American Civil War. Adelaide (Delia) Abernathy is a beautiful but spoilt young lady who enjoys to shock the good society of the town she lives in. She thinks she can do whatever she wants without paying the consequences because her grandmother Agatha is extremely rich and basically owns the town. But the old lady has had enough and tells Delia that if she doesn't get married and settles down within six months she won't inherit a penny. As part of their pact, the future bridegroom has to be approved by Agatha. And so she hires Cord Kibedeaux, a dark Cajun she's sure her grandmother would never accept in the family, to pretend to be her fiancé. At first Cord refuses but then accepts because being with Delia will give him the opportunity to mingle in high society and find out who framed him and sent him to jail years ago. Blue Moon Bayou feels more like a Disney movie than a historical romance to me: there is the beautiful rich girl who falls in love with a poor man, the outcast and poor boy who turns out not to be so poor after all and ends up with the beautiful rich girl, the villain who tries to harm him, an old lady who lives in the swamp and dabbles in magic who helps the hero and heroine and a happy ever after. If Dark Fires is too complicated, Blue Moon Bayou is too simple and predictable. A nice story, just don't expect too much..
Available at: Amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

Have you read these books? If so, what did you think of them?

Elizabeth I's Education

Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was a very bright and smart child. Ever since she was a little girl, a lot of attention had been paid to her education. Her first tutor was Katherine Champernowne (who would later marry Sir John Ashley), who was simply called Kat by the little Elizabeth. A well-educated woman, Katherine was appointed governess to Elizabeth in the autumn of 1536 and led the foundation for her education. She taught Elizabeth to read and write, English and grammar. In addition, Elizabeth also learnt the rules of etiquettes, how to behave in polite society, subservience to her father and elders and embroidery, a very popular pastime for women at the time.

A precocious girl gifted with excellent memory, Elizabeth had a great grasp of the English language by the time she was five or six. It was now time for her to start studying foreign languages. Kat taught her the rudiments of Latin but pretty soon it became clear that the pupil had learned all her teacher knew and needed other tutors. Luckily, she was allowed to share her brother Edward's tutors: Jean Belmain, who taught French; Richard Cox, Provost of Eton who taught Greek and Latin, mixed with modern events such as Henry VIII invading France and conquering Bolougne, and was able to turn studying into a game; and John Cheke, regius professor of Greek at St. John’s College and a classic linguist who focused on readings of the Holy Scriptures, Cicero, Aristotle and Plato. Cheke quickly noticed Elizabeth's precocity and suggested to her step-mother Catherine (Parr), that the young girl should be given a private tutor.

The choice fell upon William Grindal, a twenty-something Cambridge student and Ascham’s pupil. In the mornings, he would teach Elizabeth Greek, focusing on readings of the New Testament and Greek classics. The afternoons were dedicated to Latin, with particular emphasis on the works of Cicero and Livius. She also studied theology, philosophy, maths, geometry, history and literature. She was particularly good at foreign languages and by the time she was eleven she was fluent in Greek, Latin, Italian, French and English (of course!).

In 1548, Grindal died and was replaced by Roger Ascham, a Yorkshireman who studied at Cambridge. Asham loved reading and discussing the old Greek and Roman classics with his bright students. Asham followed the daily routine set by Grindal, choosing texts that “best adapted to supply her tongue with the purest diction, her mind with the most excellent precepts, and her exalted station with a defense against the utmost power of fortune”*. He focused mainly on Cicero, Livio, Sophocles, Demosthenes, St. Cipriani and the Greek New Testament.

Apart from academic studies, Elizabeth was also taught all those arts befitting a lady of high rank and status, including embroidery, sewing, dancing and music. In addition, she also learned how to ride, hunt and even practiced archery. Overall, Elizabeth was a very bright and clever student who loved to learn new things. This, coupled with the excellent education she received, really helped her, once she was crowned Queen, to become a successful ruler.

*The First Elizabeth by Carolly Erickson, chapter VII

Further reading:
The First Elizabeth, by Carolly Erickson

Fashions For September 1831


in 1831, archery was a popular pastime for the fashionable and wealthy. The image below shows us what women would wear when trying their hand at this sport. Isn't that green dress beautiful? I really love that shade of green. Also, today we will see what every day clothes women would wear in September 1831. I'm not a fan of those style of dresses, but I love the young lady's dress. Isn't it adorable? Mustn't have been too comfortable to wear though. What do you think of these dresses?



A dress composed of changeable gros de Naples, green shot with white. The corsage, made nearly, but not quite, up to the throat, fastens in front by a row of gold buttons, which are continued at regular distances from the waist to the bottom of the skirt. The corsage sits close to the shape. The upper part of the sleeve forms a double bouffant, but much smaller than is usually worn. This is a matter of necessity, as the fair archer would otherwise cut it in pieces in drawing her bow. The remainder of the sleeve sits close to the arm. The brace, placed upon the right arm, is of primrose kid to correspond with the gloves. The belt fastens with a gold buckle; on the right side, is a green worsted tassel used to wipe the arrow; a green watered ribbon sustains the petite poche, which holds the arrows on the left side. A lace collar, of the pelerine shape, falls over the upper part of the bust. White gros des Indes hat, with a round and rather large brim, edged with a green rouleau, and turned up by a gold button and loop. A plume of white ostrich feathers is attached by a knot of green ribbon to the front of the crown. The feathers droop in different directions over the brim. The half-boots are of green reps silk, tipped with black.


A dress composed of white chaly, with a canezou of blue gros de Naples. The front of the bust is ornamented in the hussar style, with white silk braiding and fancy silk buttons; plain tight back. Long sleeve sitting close to the arm, with a half sleeve, a l'Espagnol, slashed with white figured gros de Naples. A row of rich white silk fringe is brought from the point of each shoulder in front round the back. Collerette of white tulle, of a novel form, fastened in front by a gold and pearl brooch. The belt fastens with a silver buckle curiously wrought; the accessories correspond in colour with the canezou. White gros de Naples hat, ornamented with white ostrich feathers, and a gold button and loop. Half boots of blue kid.



A round dress of mousseline de soie, striped in gris-lilas and white, and lightly figured. Corsage en coeur, the coeur formed by a triple lappel edged with pointed silk trimming, which surmounts a very deep single fall, set plain on the bust, and forming full macherons; the triple lappel forms a square pelerine behind. The sleeve is of the Medicis form, but terminating by a small turned-up cuff. The hat is of white crape, ornamented in front of the crown with round coques of green, white, and fawn-coloured tartan gauze ribbon. Two aigrettes of ribbon are placed behind this ornament in different directions. The coques which ornament the inside of the brim, and the brides, are of figured green gauze ribbon. The jewellery worn with this dress should be of or mat.


An organdy pelisse, lined with rose de parnasse sarsnet; the corsage is made en demi blouse. The sleeves are excessively wide, and equally so from the elbow nearly to the wrist. They terminate in tight cuffs, trimmed at the upper edge with the material of the dress. The skirt, open in front, is embroidered in detached sprigs round the border, which is lightly scalloped, and edged by a full trimming of the material of the dress. The ruche round the throat is composed of four rows of blond de fil. The bonnet is of the palest shade of straw-coloured moire; it is ornamented with two bouquets of exotics, which are placed in different directions on the crown, with a noeud of striped rose-coloured and white gauze ribbon between them. The ends of ribbon which trim the inside of the brim, and the brides, correspond.


The frock is composed of chaly; the colour, a new shade of geranium. The corsage is crossed in drapery before and behind. The ceinture, of a shawl pattern (the small turkish border) to correspond with the trimming of the dress, is edged with geranium-coloured silk fringe. The short loose sleeves are also edged to correspond. The skirt of the usual length, is terminated by two rows of shawl border and a fringe. White cambric pantaloons, and under corsage with beret sleeves; Pamela hat of Italian straw.

Further reading:
Belle assemblée, September 1831

Historical Reads: The Tragic Death Of Sir Richard Croft

Prinny's Taylor has an interesting post about the death of Sir Richard Croft, the doctor who attended Princess Charlotte during her fatal confinement. To quote:

Sir Richard Croft (9 January 1762 – 13 February 1818) is best known as the obstetrician who attended Princes Charlotte during her fatal confinement in 1817. Her death affected him deeply and he committed suicide in the following year.
An interesting aspect of his death is that there are different versions of the circumstances which are less shocking, and which were probably put about by his family.

In the same edition, the true inquest report was printed. In that, it becomes clear that Croft had planned his suicide for maybe a day or two, carrying around in his doctor’s bag the pistols loaded with ‘slugs and small shot’, which is a combination most calculated to blow one’s brains out.

To read the entire article, click here.

Sibyl, Queen of Jerusalem

Sybil of Jerusalem, the eldest daughter of Amalric I of Jerusalem and Agnes of Courtenay, was born in 1160. She also had a brother, Baldwin IV, and a half-sister, Isabella I of Jerusalem. Because her parents shared a great-great grandfather, the Church didn't consider the marriage valid, and so, when Amalric became king, it was annulled. Despite that, their two children were still considered legitimate. Sibylla was raised in a convent by her great-aunt, the Abbess Ioveta of Bethany, where she learned the scriptures and church traditions.

When it was discovered that her brother Baldwin had leprosy, the question of Sibyl's marriage became of paramount importance. Whoever married her, would one day become King of Jerusalem. At first, her father thought of bethroting her to Stephen I of Sancerre, only to change his mind after the young French nobleman's arrival in Jerusalem. He was sent back home. That same year, 1744, Amalric died and Baldwin became King. He was a minor so Raymond III of Tripoli acted as his regent. After creating Sibyl Countess of Jaffa and Ascalon, they arranged her marriage to William Longsword of Montferrat, a cousin of Louis VII of France and of Frederick Barbarossa. The marriage was short-lived. William died the following year, leaving his wife pregnant with their son Baldwin.

Sybil had now lots of suitors asking for her hand in marriage, hoping to inherit the throne of Jerusalem one day. The winner was Guy of Lusignan, whose brother Amalric was constable of Jerusalem. The couple was wed in 1180 and had two daughters, Alice and Maria. Baldwin IV appointed his brother-in-law regent but was soon offended by his behavior in his new role. Guy was deposed as regent in 1183 and Sybil's son crowned as co-king Baldwin V. This way the throne would have been inherited by his nephew instead than by Sibyl and Guy. Baldwin IV also tried to have her sister's marriage annulled but without luck.

In 1185, Baldwin IV died. He was followed in the grave by his nephew the following year. Sibyl was now Queen. Court members decided that they didn't want Guy to be their King so Isabella promised to have her marriage annulled as long as she was allowed to choose her next husband. Everyone agreed to this plan. The marriage was annulled and Sybil was crowned and outwitting the High Council, chose Guy as her new husband. The two were quickly remarried and Guy was crowned King. This was a smart move for Sibyl but bad for the Kingdom.

In 1187, just a year after their coronation, Saladin's armies invaded the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Guy and Raymond were unable to cooperate and so Saladin won the Battle of Hattin. From there, he advanced to Jerusalem. Sibyl helped defend the city but to no avail. Jerusalem was conquered but Sybil and her daughters managed to escape. Soon Guy joined them. Guy then participated at the Third Crusade, besieging the town of Acre for two years. While there, an epidemic swept through the military camp, killing Sibyl and her two daughters. It was the year 1190. Her successor was her half-sister Isabella, but for two years, until a general election was held, Guy refused to pass the crown to her.

Further reading:
Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr

Queen Victoria on Russian Emperor Nicholas I

In 1844, the Russian Emperor Nicholas I visited England. In a letter to her uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians, Queen Victoria relates a few details of the visit and her impressions on her important guest:

Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

Windsor Castle, 4th June 1844.

My beloved Uncle,—I gave Louise a long and detailed description of the Emperor*, etc. The papers are full of the details. A great event and a great compliment his visit certainly is, and the people here are extremely flattered at it. He is certainly a very striking man; still very handsome; his profile is beautiful, and his manners most dignified and graceful; extremely civil—quite alarmingly so, as he is so full of attentions and politesses. But the expression of the eyes is formidable, and unlike anything I ever saw before. He gives me and Albert the impression of a man who is not happy, and on whom the weight of his immense power and position weighs heavily and painfully; he seldom smiles, and when he does the expression is not a happy one. He is very easy to get on with. Really, it seems like a dream when I think that we breakfast and walk out with this greatest of all earthly Potentates as quietly as if we walked, etc., with Charles or any one. We took him, with the dear good King of Saxony**, who is a great contrast to the Czar (and with whom I am quite at my ease), to Adelaide Cottage after breakfast. The grass here is just as if it had been burned with fire. How many different Princes have we not gone the same round with!! The children are much admired by the Sovereigns—(how grand this sounds!) —and Alice allowed the Emperor to take her in his arms, and kissed him de son propre accord. We are always so thankful that they are not shy. Both the Emperor and the King are quite enchanted with Windsor. The Emperor said very poliment: "C'est digne de vous, Madame." I must say the Waterloo Room lit up with that entire service of gold looks splendid; and the Reception Room, beautiful to sit in afterwards. The Emperor praised my Angel very much, saying: "C'est impossible de voir un plus joli garçon; il a l'air si noble et si bon"; which I must say is very true. The Emperor amused the King and me by saying he was so embarrassé when people were presented to him, and that he felt so "gauche" en frac, which certainly he is quite unaccustomed to wear. If we can do anything to get him to do what is right by you, we shall be most happy, and Peel and Aberdeen are very anxious for it. I believe he leaves on Sunday again. To-morrow there is to be a great review, and on Thursday I shall probably go with them to the races; they are gone there with Albert to-day, but I have remained at home.

I think it is time to conclude my long letter.

If the French are angry at this visit, let their dear King and their Princes come; they will be sure of a truly affectionate reception on our part. The one which Emperor Nicholas has received is cordial and civil, mais ne vient pas du cœur.

I humbly beg that any remarks which may not be favourable to our great visitor may not go beyond you and Louise, and not to Paris. Ever your devoted Niece,

Victoria R.

*The Emperor Nicholas of Russia had just arrived on a visit to England.
**Frederick Augustus II.

Further reading:
The Letters Of Queen Victoria, Vol.2

Book Review: The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter

Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe, is a man besieged. He must have an heir. Thus he must first provide himself with the requisite bride. Alexandra Chambers, youngest daughter of the Duke of Beresford, has loved Douglas Sherbrooke since she was fifteen. Unfortunately, it is her sister, the incomparable Melissande, he wishes to wed. But life never ladles out what one expects, and Douglas finds himself wed to the wrong sister. If having an unwanted wife isn't enough, he is also plagued by The Virgin Bride, a ghost that is reputedly seen in the countess's bedchamber.

The Sherbrook Bride by Catherine Coulter is the first book in the Bride Trilogy. I haven't read the other books in this series yet but I plan to as I rather enjoyed this one. It's the story of Douglas Sherbrooke, Earl of Northcliffe, who needs a wife to sire an heir. He can't be bothered to go to London for the season to find a suitable bride, but instead his choice falls upon Melissande, a beautiful girl from a noble but impoverished family he met a few years before. But when the marriage is about to be celebrated, Douglas has to go away on a secret mission for the government. So, he decides to send his cousin Tony to wed Melissande by proxy. But when he comes back, he's shocked to find out that Tony has married Melissande for himself and wed his sister Alex by proxy to him.

Douglas is understandably furious at this betrayal. But, instead than annulling the marriage or trying to get to know his wife better and making the most out of a bad situation, he just humiliates and ridicules poor Alex at any given opportunity. It's not like he was in love with Melissande either. It's just that his pride is hurt and he needs to take it out on someone. And when the marriage is finally consummated, he blames her for making him lose control in bed (something that never happened to him before). At first, I really didn't like Douglas at all. He just behaves like a spoilt child and a jerk, but he gets better and a lot nicer once he has finally accepted Alex as his wife.

Alex agreed to marry Douglas because she had been in love with him for years. She is a lovely girl and pretty, just not as much as Melissande and, because of this, has lived in her shadow all her life. She doesn't consider herself to be anything special, is very meek and nice but also strong and stubborn. At first you just wanna slap he for putting up with Douglas and his horrible behaviour towards her, but then she comes round and decides she has had enough. The banter between her and Douglas at this point is quite funny. Alex is my favourite character in the book and the main reason why I enjoyed it. I liked that she's not one of those independent and modern heroines you often come across in historical romances but she's not overly-meek and is capable of standing up for herself and taking the initiative when needed.

At the end of the book, we find out more details about Douglas' secret mission, which didn't end as well as he thought. A Frenchman with a grudge against the Earl will come back wanting revenge. Although this twist adds an element of surprise and suspence at the end, it didn't add much to the book. The part that I really enjoyed was seeing Douglas and Alex getting closer and deciding to give their marriage a go. That was interesting enough for me without adding twists at the end. The ghost of the Virgin Bride didn't do much either and I really didn't see any need for it in the book. The book is well-written and overall, a very enjoyable read.

If you are a fan of historical romances, I think you will enjoy the Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter. The book is well-written and features a nice plot, a good dose of humour, intrigues and some twists at the end. The characters are interesting and three-dimensional. They are a bit annoying at the beginning but really come through as the book progress. The ghost is kinda pointless though.

Available at: Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Rating: 3.5/5