Philip of Spain Arrives in England

At 37 years old, Mary I of England was finally going to get married. She couldn't wait but her betrothed, Prince Philip of Spain, wasn't as enthusiastic about the match. His reasons for the marriage were entirely political. He needed English support for his war against the French and hoped to reunify the English Church with that of Rome. But he wasn't in any hurry and kept postponing the date of his departure for England. When he finally managed to assemble his retinue at the Coruna, his sister, which was going to act as Regent of Spain during his absence, fell ill. So, Philip decided to make a last-minute tour of his properties in Segovia, Madrid and Toledo, and squeezed in a visit to his grandmother, the "Crazy" Queen Juana, at Tordesillas, too.

At the beginning of June, Philip's Spanish household, which comprised of about 9000 people, both noblemen and servants, and 1000 mules and horses, sailed to Southampton in a fleet of 125 ships. The fleet, which also carried three million gold ducats, arrived in 5 days. Only Philip was missing now. A month passed and still no news of his arrival came. Mary was frantic with worry, fearing something bad had happened to her betrothed. Finally, on 12th July, Philip embarked on the "Espiritu Santo" at La Coruria and, suffering from sea-sickness, spent the entire voyage closed in his cabin. Luckily for Philip it was a short journey and, two days later, the ship reached its destination, dropping the anchor three miles out of Southampton. Here, Philip received a deputation of nobles led by Admiral Lord William Howard and, the next day, he was visited by young men looking for a place in his household.

On 19th July, the rest of the Spanish fleet arrived and the Prince's ship could finally enter the harbour. On board, he was greeted by a committee of English lords, led by Arundel, who invested Philip with the Order of the Garter. After dinner, Philip was finally rowed to shore, in pouring rain. When he set foot on English soil, he was greeted by a salute of cannon fire, serenaded by minstrels and given a horse caparisoned in crimson velvet and gold. It was a present from Mary. He was also informed that his father, the emperor Charles V, had elevated him to the same rank as that of his wife by ceding to him the kingdoms of Naples and Jerusalem. He was then officially welcomed by Bishop Gardiner and Sir Anthony Browne.

Philip knew he had to win over the hearts of his new people and so behaved impeccably. He went to the Church of Holy Rood to give thanks for his safe arrival and then, he was finally taken to his lodgings. That evening, a banquet was given in his honour. Here he said: "I have not left my own country to augment my estate or the greatness of my power; on the contrary God has summoned me to be the husband of the Queen your mistress, and I will not refuse His divine will. For this purpose I have crossed the sea to live with that lady and with you. As long as you are faithful subjects, I will be your good prince." Then, he turned to the Spanish noblemen and told them they should follow English customs. The English applauded him.

He spent three days in Southampton, where he received members of the Council. On the 23rd, he finally rode to Winchester to meet his bride-to-be. He entered the city at about 6 o'clock and went straight to the cathedral, where he was welcomed by Gardiner. From there, he was led to his lodgings. Here, he ate and changed into a suit of white kid with a surcoat embroidered in silver and gold and a hat with a long plume. At 10'oclock, Philip, together with 12 Spanish and Flemish gentlemen, finally went to Wolvesey Palace to meet his future wife, Mary.

She was wearing a gown of black velvet with a silver underskirt and lots of jewels. "Modestly, she kissed her own hand before taking his, but he smiled and kissed her on the mouth 'in the English fashion'"*. Philip took his betrothed by the hand and led her to the presence chamber, where they talked for half an hour, while sitting on their thrones. Before leaving, he asked Mary to teach him how to say goodbye to the English lords, which positively impressed them. All too soon, Philip was gone. Two days later, they were married.

*Children of England by Alison Weir, chapter 13.

Further reading:
The children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Fashions For April and May 1832

Hello everyone,

today we're gonna take a look at what fashionable English women would have worn in the spring of 1832. In addition to the usual prints featuring walking and ball dresses, we also have some interesting images of a wedding dress, a court dress and a simple dress women would have worn in the privacy of their own homes. I think they are all very pretty. And you?



A dress of olive green satin. The corsage is of velvet, and shaped en corset. This body is of an entirely new description, and has only been executed by the first dressmakers in Paris. A particular degree of skill is necessary in the disposition of the whalebones, so as to give it a graceful shape and style of fit. A few folds en Sevigne, are sometimes placed across the bust, and a standing ruff of blonde, a la Midicis, complete this novel and elegant dress. Long sleeves of blonde. Turban of white cachemire ornaments, with ostrich feathers.


Of rose-coloured watered gros de Naples. The corsage is plain, and very open in front, to display the blonde chemisette. In front the pelerine ends in two points en fichu, but it is closed behind, like the corsage, and trimmed round the top with a row of single bows and ends of gauze ribbon. Long ceinture tied on one side; the ends are brought across the front obliquely, and terminated with two bows of ribbon. Coiffure a la Flore; consisting of a spiral wreath of roses, tastefully dis posed among the bows and curls.


A robe of white satin trimmed with blonde, flounces set diagonally; each finished with a bunch of moss roses. The body is profusely ornamented with blonde and pearls. On each shoulder is placed a rose similar to those which decorate the skirt. Train of ponceau satin richly embroidered with embossed silver; it is fastened on round the waist with a band of pearls, from which depends a cordeliere finished by two tassels of pearls. Head dress: diamonds and emeralds, with a lume of ostrich feathers, and mantilla of blonde. White satin gloves; shoes of silver tissue.



A high dress of jaconot muslin, the ainage is very full, and finished round the throat by a narrow round collar, edged with a quilled net. A rich embroidery surmounts the hem at the bottom of the skirt. Over this dress is thrown a loose robe, a l'orientale, composed of a tissue of light wool, striped and figured with silk; the lining is of blue taffeta. Cap of embroidered net, trimmed with blue gauze ribbon, pantoufles of black velvet.


Pelisse of sea-green gros des Indes. - The corsage is set in deep plaits; which are confined on the shoulder by three bands, each finished by two beautifully wrought silken buttons. The collar is square, and vandyked; the epaulettes, similarly vandyked, have a division in the middle, which is partially reunited by two buttons. A row of buttons closes the skirt in front, and a deep vandyke forms the revers; trimming round the bottom. Hat of lavender satin, with bows of pink gauze ribbon, two satin languettes edged with blonde, issue from the top of the crown; their points unite near the brim on one side, where two bunches of pink acacia are fastened, the one pendant over the brim, the other placed nearly upright on the opposite side.


This costume is remarkable for its richness, and exceeding simplicity; it is composed of a white satin dress; the corsage uni, cut very low on the bust, finished with a double cordon of gold and satin rouleaux twisted alternately. The bosom is shaded bv a tucker of tulle, a la vierge. The skirt is very ample, and set round the waist in deep double folds; it is cut of an ordinary length in front but gradually increasing on the sides, so as to form a sort of train behind. Its only trimming is a cordon, similar to that round the bust, and sleeves. Zone of mosaic gold and plain gold bracelets. The coiffure is of a corresponding simplicity, merely dressed in full bows and braids; with a wreath of white roses, and mantilla of blonde.


A dress of straw-coloured Levantine; or, watered gros de Naples. The body is plain, and is slightly gathered into folds on the bosom, by Sevigne brooch. The cap is scalloped, and edged with two rouleaux; it is pointed en fichu in front, increases in width on the shoulders, and is continued straight across the back, with but a slight diminution in its width. A row of scallops and rouleaux surmount the flounce, which is of tulle, and gathered in at the bottom, in bouillon. Beret of white crape printed in a fanciful pattern of gold and flowers. A small bunch of marabouts is placed over the curls on the right side, and a larger bunch falls on the other side over the brim, which is shaped en coeur, and edged with a rouleau of green satin. Necklace of emeralds and pearls.

Further reading:
The Royal lady's magazine, and archives of the court of St. James's, 1832

Short Book Reviews: The Ranch, The House On Hope Street & The Kiss

Hello everyone,

if you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that I'm not a big fan of Danielle Steel, yet I have quite a lot of her books. Why? Well, I read a couple of her older books in high school and thought they were quite good so my family and friends starting giving me her newer novels as birthday and Christmas presents. Only that while usually writers get better and better the more they write, the same can't be said for Danielle Steel. Her recent books are all very rushed and short, and it seems that now that she's successful and rich she can't be bothered to write a good novel anymore.

I didn't have the heart to tell my loved ones to stop giving me her books, especially because a part of me hoped it was just a bad phase and Steel's writing would improve again, and so the books, and the disappointments, kept coming on. I rarely get one of her books these days but I decided to reviews the ones I have here anyway in case someone may be interested in them. So let's get started:

The Ranch by Danielle Steel
As it often happens with Danielle Steel's books, The Ranch has an interesting but poorly-executed plot. It tells the story of three women who used to be best friends in college, but, as it often happens, have lost touch over the years. Now, they have decided to reunite and go on holiday together at a ranch in Wyoming. Mary Stuart is a housewife. She has dedicated her entire life to her family, but after her son's suicide, her marriage is falling apart. Tanya has become a very successful and rich singer and actress and now has to deal with all the problems celebrity brings like the attention of the press and the difficulty of finding a man that can put up with all the pressures her life is subjected to. Zoe is a doctor at an AIDS clinic. She never married but has recently adopted a child. At the ranch, the three women renew their friendship and find the strength to face their problems. It is a book full of important themes like suicide, AIDS, celebrity, friendship, death and hope, but sadly none of them is explored in-depth. The writing style is very rushed and full of repetitions, which really spoils what could potentially have been a really good book.
Available at:
Rating: 2/5

The House On Hope Street by Danielle Steel
My review of this book is pretty similar to the one above. It includes some very interesting themes like the sudden loss of a loved one and how children can react to their parents remarrying, but their execution leaves a lot to be desired. Again, none of these themes is developed and before you know it the book is over. It's actually very short and can be read in a couple of hours. But what is it about? Liz and Jack have been happily married for 18 years when one Christmas day he's killed. His family is devastated but, just before Labour Days she meets a doctor and they start dating, which doesn't go down well with Liz's children. Now, this is a very modern and common problem and it would have been interesting to see it explored in-depth, but tough. That's not what Danielle Steel does. Overall, this is more of a short story than a novel, but I'm sure Steel's fans will still appreciate it.
Available at:
Rating: 2/5

The Kiss by Danielle Steel
You probably guessed it by now. Interesting plot, rushed execution. Isabelle is married to a cold man who never loved her. All he saw in her was her wealth and connections. They had two children, a daughter and a desperately ill son. His father can't stand Teddy because of his illness and so Isabelle has spent all the years since he was born at home caring for him. She rarely left the house but on one of these occasions she has met Bill. He's handsome, rich, smart, caring, and his marriage too is a sham. They decide to spend a couple of days in London, but one night, as they are kissing, the car they're travelling on has a horrific accident and the two are seriously injured. Now their secret is out and they will have to fight not just for their lives but to stay together as well. This is my favourite book out of the three reviewed today. It's very emotional but sadly poorly written and full of repetitions that drag the book on unnecessarily.
Available at:
Rating: 2/5

Have you read these books? What do you think of them?

Edith Cavell

"Brussels will be haunted for ever by the ghost of this noble woman, shamefully murdered. I thought no act of our enemy could surprise me further. I was mistaken. This foul deed will live when great battles are forgotten."

That's what King Albert I of the Belgians uttered when he learned English nurse Edith Cavell had been executed. Up to the last, he thought the sentence wouldn't be carried out. Both he and his wife Elizabeth did all they could to try and get her released since she was arrested, but it was all in vain. The Germans wanted to make an example of her. On 12th October 1915, Edith Cavell was executed in Brussels, an act that shocked the entire world.

Edith Luisa Cavell was born in Swardeston, a village near Norwich, on 4th December 1865. She was the eldest child (she had three siblings) of Reverend Frederick Cavell, vicar of Swardeston. Although the family wasn't rich, they always shared what they had with those less fortunate than them and, from an early age, the children were taught to care for others. Edith also visited the poor with her mother and even become a Sunday School teacher. This need to help other people had a big influence on her life.

After she finished her education (she was educated at home first and, when she was about 16, attended several local and boarding schools where she learned French), she first became a governess. She worked for several families and they all seemed to like her. In the late 1890s she inherited a small amount of money and decided to take a trip to Austria and Bavaria. Here she visited a free hospital run by Dr Wolfenberg and, impressed with what she saw, donated some money to it. Then, she briefly resumed her governess work before returning home to nurse her sick father.

It was at this point that Edith decided she wanted to become a nurse and got her qualification at the London Hospital. The work was hard, the hours long and the pay bad, but nonetheless Edith showed she had a natural gift for the profession. She was awarded the Maidstone Medal for her work during a typhoid outbreak in Kent and in 1900 was appointed superintendent of Highgate Infirmary. In 1907 she was asked to run L'École Belge d'Infirmières Diplômées, a Belgian school for nurses. The profession wasn't considered to be a suitable one for women in Belgium at the time and most nurses there weren't trained.

Edith accepted the job and introduced strict discipline, insisting on punctuality and cleanliness. She set very high standards and her hard work paid off. The school produced well-trained nurses for the country and was given the royal seal of approval when Queen Elizabeth asked for a nurse from that establishment when she broke her arm. Three years later, Edith launched a nursing journal called L'infirmière. She was visiting her widowed mother in Norfolk when World War I broke out. She went back to Brussels where she and her fellow nurses were busy taking care of all the soldiers that flooded into the hospital.

After the German occupation of Belgium, Edith helped British and French soldiers and young Belgian men to leave the country. She would often shelter them in the cellar of her own house until a trusted guide could be found to lead them to safety. She also invented ruses for getting them safely across. Soon an underground organization developed. Edith helped to save over 200 refugees before she was betrayed. On 3rd August 1915 she was arrested. She was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated but she revealed nothing. So, the Germans decided to trick her. They told her that her friends had confessed and that if she made a full confession they wouldn't be executed.

Edith naively believed them and confessed to have helped men escape to a country at war with Germany. According to German military law, this was a crime and its punishment was death. She was then court-marshalled. Her trial lasted only two days and the only other incriminating evidence was a postcard an English soldier sent Edith to thank her for her help. Edith was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. The British government couldn't help her. "Any representation by us will do her more harm than good," said Lord Robert Cecil, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Spain and America, both neutral countries in the war, tried to intercede pointing out that Cavell's execution would only further damage Germany's reputation, but the Germans decided to carry out the sentence anyway.

Edith seemed to accept her fate. The night before her execution she told the Reverend Stirling Gahan, the Anglican chaplain who had been allowed to give her Holy Communion, "patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone." On 12th October, she was killed. Her execution was a propaganda disaster for Germany. Although the Germans believed she had been given a fair trial and Edith herself said "I expected my sentence and I believe it was just", she was hailed as a martyr and the Germans as murderous monsters. When the war was finally over, her remains, which had been buried next to St. Gilles Prison, were taken back to Britain. After a memorial service at Westminster Abbey, her body was brought back to Norwich and laid to rest at Life's Green.

Further reading:

Madame C Condemened To Leave Russia

In his book, "In Russian And French Prisons" Russian revolutionary and anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin, relates the ordeal one of his friends Madame C, nee Koutouzoff, went through when the Russian authorities condemned her to be sent over the frontier. Her crime? She had opened an independent school for peasants' children. Her journey to the frontier was a nightmare but at least she was "lucky" because, knowing influential people in the capital, she was allowed to cross the border pretty soon. Most of her fellow prisoners would have to wait months in dishuman conditions before being freed:

She was found guilty of opening a school for peasants' children, independently of the Ministry of Public Instruction. As her crime was not penal, and as, moreover, she was married to a foreigner. General Gourko merely ordered her to be sent over the frontier. This is how she describes her journey from St. Petersburg to Prussia. I shall give extracts from her narrative without comment, merely premising that its accuracy, even to the minutest detail, is absolutely unimpeachable:

"I was sent to Wilno with fifty prisoners men and women. From the railway station we
were taken to the town prison and kept there for two hours, late at night, in an open yard, under a drenching rain. At last we were pushed into a dark corridor and counted. Two soldiers laid hold on me and insulted me shamefully. I was not the only one thus outraged, for in the darkness I heard the cries of many desperate women besides. After many oaths and much foul language, the fire was lighted, and I found myself in a spacious room in which it was impossible to take a step in any direction without treading on the women who were sleeping on the floor. Two women who occupied a bed took pity on me, and invited me to share it with them. . . .

When I awoke next morning, I was still suffering from the scenes of yesterday; but the female prisoners assassins and thieves were so kind to me that by-and-by I grew calm. Next night we were 'turned out' from the prison and paraded in the yard for a start, under a heavy rain. I do not know how I happened to escape the fists of the gaolers, as the prisoners did not understand the evolutions and performed them under a storm of blows and curses; those who protested saying that they ought not to be beaten were put in irons and sent so to the train, in the teeth of the law which says that in the cellular waggons no prisoner shall be chained.

Arrived at Kovno, we spent the whole day in going from one police-station to the other. In the evening we were taken to the prison for women, where the lady-superintendent was railing against the head-gaoler, and swearing that she would give him bloody teeth. The prisoners told me that she often kept her promises of this sort. . . . Here I spent a week among murderesses, thieves, and women arrested by mistake. Misfortune unites the unfortunate, and everybody tried to make life more tolerable for the rest; all were very kind to me and did the best to console me. On the previous day I had eaten nothing, for the day the prisoners are brought to the prison they receive no food; so I fainted from hunger, and the prisoners gave me of their bread and were as kind as they could be; the female inspector, however, was on duty: she was shouting out such shameless oaths as few drunken men would use. . . .

After a week's stay in Kovno, I was sent on foot to the next town. After three days' march we came to Mariampol; my feet were wounded, and my stockings full of blood. The soldiers advised me to ask for a car, but I preferred physical suffering to the continuous cursing and foul language of the chiefs. All the same, they took me before their commander, and he remarked that I had walked three days and so could walk a fourth. We came next day to Wolkowysk, from whence we were to be sent on to Prussia. I and five others were put provisionally in the depot. The women's department was in ruins, so we were taken to the men's. ...

I did not know what to do, as there was no place to sit down, except on the dreadfully filthy floor : there was even no straw, and the stench on the floor set me vomiting instantly. . . . The water-closet was a large pond; it had to be crossed on a broken ladder which gave way under one of us and plunged him in the filth below. I could now understand the smell: the pond goes under the building, the floor of which is impregnated with sewage. Here I spent two days and two nights, passing the whole time at the window. ... In the night the doors were opened, and, with dreadful cries, drunken prostitutes were thrown into our room. They also brought us a maniac; he was quite naked. The miserable prisoners were happy on such occurrences; they tormented the maniac and reduced him to despair, until at last he fell on the floor in a fit and lay there foaming at the mouth.

On the third day, a soldier of the depot, a Jew, took me into his room, a tiny cell, where I stayed with his wife.. . . The prisoners told me that many of them were detained by mistake for seven and eight months awaiting their papers before being sent across the frontier. It is easy to imagine their condition after a seven months' stay in this sewer without a change of linen. They advised me to give the gaoler money, as he would then send me on to Prussia immediately. But I had been six weeks on the way already, and my letters had not reached my people. ... At last, the soldier allowed me to go to the post-office with his wife, and I sent a registered letter to St. Petersburg."

Madame C has influential kinsfolk in the capital, and in a few days the governor-general telegraphed for her to be sent on instantly to Prussia. "My papers (she says) were discovered immediately, and I was sent to Eydtkunen and set at liberty."

Further reading:
In Russian And French Prisons by Peter Kropotkin

Historical Reads: Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany

Nineteen Teen has a very interesting post on Price Leopold, Queen Victoria's eight child. To quote:

Victoria was determined to keep her son more or less wrapped in cotton wool—a condition which Leopold gamely fought all his life, trying as hard as he could not to be an invalid despite his condition (which included, in addition to the hemophilia, occasional epileptic seizures). With his brothers’ help he fought to be allowed to attend Oxford, and though he wasn’t allowed to complete a full course of studies there, enjoyed a fair sample of university life and made many friends—including a certain Miss Alice Liddell, better known to the world as the heroine of Alice in Wonderland. He became a favorite uncle to his sister Alice’s children, and even visited his favorite sister Louise to tour North America while her husband served as Viceroy of Canada.

Leopold and his mother continued to rub each other the wrong way, but it didn’t keep Victoria from employing him as a private secretary, her interface with her ministers. Though the work eventually came to interest Leopold and he became especially good friends with Benjamin Disraeli, he wanted more from life than to be constantly at his mother’s beck and call, and again with the help of his brothers and sisters, convinced Victoria that he should be allowed to marry and live his own life apart from her. After a good deal of consideration (and, alas, some refusals from eligible princesses) he became engaged to Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont. They were married in 1882, just after Leopold’s 29th birthday, and though they were barely acquainted, quickly became devoted to each other. They had a daughter, Alice, in 1883, who incidentally was the longest lived of Victoria's’grandchildren, dying in 1981.

To read the entire article, click here.

Marie Therese Of France: Prisoner

After the monarchy had fallen on 10th August 1792, the royal family was transferred to the Temple Enclosure, which, as the Queen rightly guessed, would become their prison. The guards became even more insulting, singing offensive songs in front of the family and even threatening to kill the King and Queen, which greatly terrified the young Louis Charles. Marie Therese was also lodged in a room where indecent drawings were present, but the King succeeded in having them removed. Here the royal parents continued to supervise their children's education, under the scrutiny of the illiterate guards, many of whom believed that, when studying maths, they were actually writing in a secret code. The King also read a lot while the women kept themselves busy with needlework.

In the evenings, Marie Therese would dine with her parents after her brother had gone to bed, and, before retiring herself, she would often hug her father. At first, the children were also permitted to play in the garden. But after the September prison massacres, in which the Princess de Lamballe was brutally murdered, the situation of the royal family became even worse. They were moved into the great tower (Marie Therese shared a room with her mother), but the King was kept in a separate room from the rest of the family, who could see him only at dinner. Wax, paper and other utensils were also taken away from them, and they were forced to speak loudly so their jailers could hear every word.

In December, the King, who was now forbidden from seeing his family, was put on trial. He was found guilty and condemned to death, a news his family heard by a crier walking by the Temple Prison. On 20th January, he was allowed to see his wife, children and sister for the last time. Everyone was distraught and clung to Louis. Marie Therese became hysterical. She couldn't stop crying and fell to the floor. The following day, 21st January 1793, the King was guillotined. His surviving family, who deeply grieved for their loss, wouldn't be allowed to stay together much longer. In July, the revolutionaries took the Dauphin away from his loved ones. Marie Antoinette fought like a tiger to prevent this, but in vain. The following month, it was the Queen's turn. She was removed to the Concergerie, where she awaited her trial. Marie Therese was now left alone with her aunt Elisabeth. They cried themselves to sleep for weeks. Elisabeth taught her niece how to take care of herself, fearing she would soon be removed too. The young girl now also made her own bed and swept the floor. Both she and her aunt would both be searched daily by the guards, but were left alone most of time.

The revolutionaries planned to use Marie Therese to testify against her mother at her trial. Because of this she was allowed to see her brother and was shocked and alarmed by how ill and bloated he looked. Marie Therese was also interrogated about the flight to Varennes and about many other vile things her mother was accused of. The poor girl was aghast and cried for most of the interrogation, which lasted for about 3 hours, but steadfastly refused to dishonour her mother or name anyone involved in their failed flight. She was young, but not easily intimidated. But even without her false testimony, her mother was doomed. The Queen's trial was a sham and the verdict a foregone conclusion. On 16th October 1793, Marie Antoinette was guillotined. But no one bothered to tell Marie Therese, Louis Charles and Madame Elizabeth. In May 1794, Marie Therese was separated from her aunt too. Before she left, she told her nice to have firmness, courage and faith in God. A few hours later, this pious woman who had sacrificed everything to remain with her brother, sister-in-law and their children, was guillotined too. Again, no one told Marie-Therese.

Marie Therese was now alone and, for most of the time, completely isolated and cut off from what was happening in the country. But she received a few visitors. The first was a man whom she believed to be Robespierre. He examined her cell and her reading materials. The young girl, who now refused to talk to anyone until she was told of what had happened to her mother and her aunt, handed him a note that read: "My brother is sick. I have written to the Convention for permission to nurse him. The Convention has not yet responded. I reiterate my demand". Then, he left. The second visitor was Barras, a Jacobin and important member of the Convention. On 28th July, he decided to visit the royal children. He found the Dauphin in a very filthy room. He was ill, and just wanted to sleep and be left alone. Marie Therese's room, instead, was cleaner but the princess refused to speak to him. He gave orders to allow the children to get some free air and exercise and summon a doctor for Louis Charles. These orders weren't carried out but a new bed was provided for the Dauphin to replace his current, bug-infested one. A new guard was also put in charge of Marie Therese, and, although he couldn't tell her what happened to his family, acted with kindness towards her, even giving her some matches and candles to make the darkness less frightening.

In December, on her birthday, she received another visit from three commissioners who had come to see the royal children. Marie Therese was knitting by the window, dressed in a gray cotton dress that couldn't keep her warm. Her hands were swollen and nearly purple from the cold. She received another visit in February, but again remained silent. She was distressed and worried though that these officials could visit her at any time of the day and night. The fall of Robespierre changed the situation of the Orphans of the Temple, as she and her brother were known. The people were starting to wonder what would happen to them and the government was eager to be seen in a more human light. But for the little Dauphin it was too late. He had been left without medical attention and loving care for too long. In June, he died. Marie Therese was now the only survivor of her immediate family, but she didn't know it yet.

The people of France pitied her more than ever now and it became of immediate importance to the government that she should be allowed to leave France. They decided to send her back to Vienna in exchange for 9 French prisoners of war. They also appointed a companion for her. Her name was Madame de Chanterenne and, once again, she was forbidden to give Marie Therese any news of her family. But the young princess decided to talk to her anyway. It wasn't easy. She had barely talked for a whole year and now her voice was scratchy and quivering. In the meantime, Marie Therese was also allowed to resume her studies and paint. She obtained more books, clothes and permission to walk in the garden. The guards also gave her a baby got a as a pet.

By now, Marie Therese had grown very close to Madame de Chanterenne, whom she called "my dear Renete" and the woman finally told her that her family was dead. The princess was, obviously, distraught. The government now allowed her to receive visitors. Her meeting with her old governess Madame de Tourzel and her daughter Pauline was very emotional. They all wept together. Paper and pamphlets were smuggled inside the Temple so that Marie Therese could be on the latest political news and, as soon as she received pen and paper, she started writing her memoirs of her time in the Temple Prison, which she gave to Madame de Chanterenne in the eve of her liberation for safe keeping in case she did not survive the journey. Finally, on her seventeenth birthday, December 19 1795, at midnight, Marie Therese was freed. She had been in prison for three years, four months and five days.

Further reading:
Marie Therese: The Fate Of Marie Antoinette's Daughter

The Execution Of The Agasse Brothers

The Agasse brothers on the way to their execution, J.L. Prieur
The execution of the Agasse brothers caused a great sensation in revolutionary France. The Agasse were a respectable Parisian family and the two eldest brothers were the proprietors and publishers of the Moniteur newspaper. In 1790, they were accused of forgery of banknotes, found guilty and condemned to death by hanging. As it often happened at the time, the sentence was disproportionated to the crime and, because the people strongly sympathized with the brothers, it may have been natural to expect a pardon or at least a commutation of the sentence.

But it wasn't to be. The revolutionary government was eager to demonstrate in practice the principles of the new laws they had just passed on the equality and impartiality of justice and of the personal responsibility of a crime, which meant that only the offender was guilty and that no blemish or fault should be attached to or disgrace his/her family. Three days after the passing of this decree, the French revolutionaries, which often acted on impulse, went to great lengths to show their "friendship" to the Agasse family. John Crocker Wilson, in his History of the guillotine. Revised from the 'Quarterly review', relates what happened:

"Three days after the passing of the decree the battalion of National Guards of the district of St. Honore, where the Agasses resided, assembled in grand parade; they voted an address to M. Agasse, the uncle of the criminals, first, to condole with his affliction, and secondly, to announce their adoption of the whole surviving family as friends and brothers; and, as a first step, they elected the young brother and younger cousin of the culprits to be lieutenants of the Grenadier company of the battalion, and then, the battalion being drawn up in front of the Louvre, these young men were marched forth, and complimented on their new rank by M. de Lafayette, the Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by a numerous staff. Nor was this all: a deputation of the battalion were formally introduced into the National Assembly, and were harangued and complimented by the President on this touching occasion.

They were afterwards entertained at a banquet, at which Lafayette — then in more than royal power and glory — placed them at his sides, and frequently embraced them. They were also led in procession to St. Eustache and other churches, and paraded with every kind of ostentation, to the public gaze. A public dinner of six hundred National Guards was got up in their honour; numerous patriotic and philanthropic toasts were drunk, and then, in an "ivresse", not altogether of wine, the newspapers say, but of patriotism and joy, the two youths were marched back through half Paris, preceded by a band of music, to the house of the uncle, where the rest of the Agasse family, old and young, male and female, came forth into the street to receive the congratulations of the tipsy crowd. Can we imagine any greater cruelty than the making a show of the grief of these unhappy people, and thus forcing them to celebrate, as it were, - in the incongruous novelties of gold lace and military promotion, and public exhibitions, - the violent death of their nearest and dearest relations?"

This way, the revolutionaries congratulated themselves for having saved "a family from the menace of an unjust prejudice". According to the same book, the two brothers were also "led forth to execution in a kind of triumph", which only made the two men feel worse. They were hanged on 8th February 1790 and their bodies were returned intact to their family. Their hanging was also celebrated in a series of contemporary prints, together with other key events of the Revolution such as the Tennis Court Oath and the march on Versailles. In the words of Crocker, "we hardly know a stronger instance of the characteristic perversity with which the Revolution, in all its transactions, contrived to transmute the abstract feelings of mercy and benevolence into practical absurdity, mischief, and cruelty."

Further reading:
History of the guillotine. Revised from the 'Quarterly review' by John Wilson Croker

Short Book Reviews: The Father And The Foreigner, The Castle Of Crossed Destinies & I Giorni Dell'Altra

Hello everyone,

today I'm going to briefly review three books by three Italian authors. Enjoy!

The Father And The Foregner by Giancarlo De Cataldo
The Father And The Foreigner tells the story of Diego, a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Justice in Rome, and his friendship with the arab Walid. The two men come from very different worlds but have one important thing in common: they are both fathers of handicapped sons. But while Diego resents his son's condition and finds it hard to get to grips with it, Walid teaches him to accept and love his child the way he is. But that's not the only way their friendship will transform Diego's life. Walid leads Diego into an "another Rome" he never knew existed, into a city of immigrants, into a world of intrigue where people act beyond the law. The book explores some very interesting themes such as children's disability and how it affects their families, the relationship between two men who comesfrom very different cultures and the way immigrants live in big cities. However, none of these themes is explored in depth. The book is mostly a succession of facts and they are not always well-explained. This big intrigue Walid is involved in, for instance, is never revealed in detail. There is also very little psychological introspection so you don't get to know what the characters feel and, as a result, the reader finds it difficult to connect to and relate with them. Overall, a story with great and powerful, but poorly developed, themes.
Available at:
Rating: 3/5

The Castle Of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino
The Castle Of Crossed Destinies is a literary work based on tarots. The tarots are used by the characters, who find themselves dumb struck in a castle first and in a tavern later, to tell their own stories. The characters don't know what the symbols on the tarot cards mean. They simply interpret them as they need to to make them fit into their stories. And these stories are all quite fantastical and, sometimes quite dark and haunting. And they're all intertwined together. The overall effect is eerie and dreamlike. However, while I love the concept of the book, the execution, like the stories, are quite dull. I enjoyed the first few tales but after that, the book became quite boring. Overall, it's a nice literary experiment, but not a very engaging read.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 2/5

I Giorni Dell'Altra by Maria Venturi
I'm not sure if I Giorni Dell'Altra (which means The Other's Days) by Maria Venturi was ever translated into English (or any other language for that matter), but in any case you're not missing out much. The book tells the story of Caterina, a young woman who's living her first important love story. His name is Giacomo, a man who's much older than her, works with her father and is separated from his wife. Caterina's father owns a cosmetic company, but when the launch of a new product doesn't go as well as planned, he commits suicide, leaving the family to deal both with the pain and grief of his loss and the disastrous economic situation he has left behind. Caterina will have to find the strength to deal with all this and more. Her relationship with Giacomo isn't without problems either, but in this case I couldn't sympathize with Caterina. She's very jealous of Giacomo's ex-wife and of the fact that the two are still very good friends. She can't understand why his ex-wife would still confide his problems to Giacomo instead than cutting all ties with him and moving on with her life. A very modern point of view, which I have personally never agreed with. I believe that, although you can fall out of love with people, it's hard to cut them off from your life after they've been such an important part of it for so long, unless of course they've hurt you really badly. I've always found jealousy very petty and annoying and, although I'm not immune to it (how can you be when you love someone?), I think you should trust your partner and keep jealousy to yourself, and only act on it when you have a serious reason to do so. Just because two people have loved each other at some point doesn't mean they're ready to jump in bed together whenever they meet. Sometimes they've just remained friends so concentrate on your relationship instead than worrying about something that's happening only in your head. The book is also very short and narrated in a straightforward and rushed way. Just like The Father And The Foreigner, this too seems like a narration of bare facts, where the various relationships and events aren't explored in depth, which further contributed to spoil the book for me.
Available at:
Rating: 3/5

Have you read these books? What do you think of them?

Matilda Of Scotland

Matilda of Scotland, the fifth child and first daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and his wife, Saint Margaret, was born around 1080 in Dunfermline. The baby was called Edith and it seems that she showed her ambition to become Queen at her christening, when she grabbed Queen Matilda's veil and tried to pull it towards her own head. We don't know much about her childhood, but it seems to have been a happy time for Edith. Matilda taught religion to her children and Edith had a great regard for her. Matilda was a loving mother, but she could also be quite strict and use the rod if she thought it necessary. In her opinion, it was because of this if her children had good manners.

In 1086, Edith, together with her young sister Mary, left her family and went to live at the abbey of Romsey, to be educated by her Aunt Christina, who frequently beat her, scolded her and made her feel inferior and inadequate. Christina also forced her niece to wear a black veil, which would cause a lot of trouble for her in the future. Edith hated the veil: "that hood I did indeed wear in her presence, chafing and fearful... but as soon as I was able to escape out of her sight I tore it off and threw it in the dirt and trampled on it. This was my only way of venting my rage and the hatred of it that boiled up in me." The girls remained there for six or seven years and then, they were moved to Wilton Abbey to continue their education. Here, Edith learned Latin, perfected her French and read the Bible and the works of the fathers of the Church and Latin writers.

Her life suddenly changed in 1093. Edith was betrothed to Alan the Red, Count of Richmond. About the same time, Malcolm was coming to England to meet with king William Rufus II, son of William the Conqueror. However, their meeting didn't really go well. Alan and Rufus visited Edith at the convent and saw her wearing the veil. Assuming she had taken the vows to become a nun, Alan kidnapped King Harold's daughter Gunnhildr, who actually wanted to take the veil, but she died before they could get married. Malcolm was furious. He didn't want his daughter to take the veil and so brought her home. Shortly afterwards, he was killed, together with his eldest son Edward, in a combat against Rufus. Her mother was ill at the time and upon hearing this news, her condition worsened. A few days later, she was dead too.

Anselm the archbishop of Canterbury, who thought Edith really wanted to become a nun, ordered her to return to the convent but the girl, who had no such intention, refused. At this point, Edith completely disappears from the chronicles of the time for several years. It has been suggested that she went to the court of the English King, William Rufus, who may even have considered marrying her. Edith re-emerges from her obscurity in 1100 as the wife of Henry I, William's brother, who had just succeeded to the throne. And she had a new name too: Matilda. Although Henry had valid political reasons to marry Matilda (it enhanced its popularity with his subjects as Matilda was descended from the old English dynasty, and increased the chance of a truce on the Scottish border), it seems that he was actually in love with her. But there was an impediment to their union: the black veil.

So Edith organized a meeting with archbishop Anselm, who agreed to call an ecclesiastical council to decide on the matter. Matilda claimed that her parents never intended her to become a nun. She had been sent to the abbey to be educated and worn the veil only as protection "from the lust of the Normans", who has conquered the country a few decades earlier. The council ruled in Edith's favour and, on 11th November 1100, she married Henry and became Queen. In 1102, Matilda gave birth to a baby girl, also called Matilda, and the following year a boy named William followed. The couple had two more daughters, but they died young. However, even though Henry cared for his wife, he wasn't faithful to her, and fathered more than 20 illegitimate children! Poor Matilda seems to have "endured with complacency".

Matilda was the owner or substantial properties and estates, which she managed herself, thus setting a precedent for future Queens to follow. She acted as intermediate between her husband and archbishop Anselm during the English investiture controversy. She wrote letters to Anselm, who felt he had to leave England, asking him to return, and tried to influence her husband to reconcile with him. In the end, the King gave up the powers to invest prelates but retained the right to receive homage for "temporalities" (the landed properties tied to the episcopate). Matilda was nominated head of his council, issued charters and judgements, and often acted as regent of England during Henry's absence. She also had the first arched bridge in England built, was a patron of music and literature, and commissioned a biography of her mother, St Margaret of Scotland.

Matilda died at Westminster on 1st May 1118. The King gave money to maintain a perpetual light by her tomb and her brother David organized an annual memorial Mass. She had been a pious woman who cared about the poor and so was very beloved at the time of her death and soon, rumours started to circulated about miraculous signs occurring at her tomb. As her cult grew, pilgrims flocked to her grave. She was remembered by the people as "Matilda the Good Queen" and "Matilda of Blessed Memory", and for a while, sainthood was sought for her, though she was never canonised.

Further reading:
Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens by Lisa Hilton

Daily Life In An English Prison

A few months ago, I posted an excerpt from Six years in the prisons of England, in which an anonymous merchant described his time in prison. At that time, our merchant was in the hospital wing for a leg injury, which was so badly cured that in the end there was no choice but to amputate it. Once he recovered, he was allowed to leave the hospital and join the other convicts in the prison cells. Let's listen to him relate what life was like there:

My readers must now descend with me from the hospital, to what the convicts termed the twenty-four bedded room in the prison. In the cells and in the hospital, quietness reigned, but in the twenty-four bedded room it was different. Here the prisoners talked and conducted themselves very much as they felt inclined, and in the evenings the noise and tumult was sometimes beyond description. The inmates were constantly changing, some going upstairs to hospital, some coming from it, and every now and again there were fresh arrivals from other prisons. The daily routine observed here and in the similar wards was as follows:--

We started out of bed at half-past five a.m., summer and winter; washed, dressed, and made our beds, and two or three times every week assisted in scrubbing the floor. At six o'clock the officer opened the room door and counted us. At half-past six we had breakfast. About twenty minutes past seven we were ranked up in the corridor, and counted a second time. At half-past seven we were in chapel. At eight o'clock we were on parade and counted a third time. Those who worked outside and were receiving full diet went to their work. Those who worked inside walked on the parade until half-past eight. They were then ranked up and counted for the fourth time; and at nine o'clock all were at work.

At 11·45 we were counted for the fifth time, and at twelve o'clock we were at dinner. At 12·50 we were again ranked in the corridor and counted for the sixth time. At one o'clock we were on parade and counted for the seventh time, before exercise commenced. At ten minutes after two we were counted for the eighth time, and at two we were all again at work. When we left off work in the evening we were counted for the ninth time, amongst the party with whom we worked, and for the tenth time when we returned to the ward. At half-past five we got supper, and at half-past seven we were ordered to bed. At eight o'clock we were commanded to cease talking, and at nine o'clock the night officer counted us for the eleventh time and left us to repose. I used to rejoice when bed-time came, for I then could be alone and at home. Then there were no prison walls for me, for I had ceased brooding over the past, and endeavoured to peer into and prepare for the uncertain future.

In winter and spring, when the weather was cold, it used to be rather trying for me to stand so long on parade being counted. About an hour or an hour-and-a-half was spent in this way each day. Then the clothing of those of us who worked indoors was the same on the coldest day in winter as on the hottest day in summer. This was an excellent arrangement for keeping the hospital supplied with patients. I knew many who suffered from this cause, and some who attributed their death to the want of proper under-clothing. I felt the cold more perhaps than the others, as my hands were exposed holding my crutches, and my speed in walking could never get beyond that of a goods train, whilst my companions could run at express speed when it suited them.

Further reading:
Six years in the prisons of England by an anonymous merchant

Historical Reads: Gabrielle De Polignac

Author Gareth Russell has written a very interesting and insightful post on Gabrielle de Polignac, Marie Antoinette's best friend. To quote:

Within the palace, the reasons for her unpopularity sprang mainly from jealousy. With Gabrielle monopolising Marie-Antoinette's time and affection, no-one else could climb the social ladder and become the Queen's new favourite. Many a failed socialite would utter the cry of the insidious and vile Madame de la Motte, who complained in her memoirs, "To be sure, one could hope for presentation to the Queen only through the Polignac clique, but the Duchess, jealous and fearful of losing the royal favour she monopolised, disdainfully repulsed any outsider who sought so much as a smile or a glance from the Queen... I was outraged by the attitude of this haughty and imperious woman. Well could I remember the Polignacs in Paris when they were impoverished nonentities". Gabrielle therefore became a useful scapegoat for any aristocrat who wanted to say they didn't enjoy the Queen's favour because the Duchess controlled all access to her; not because they themselves were too boring, annoying or unpleasant to actually win Marie-Antoinette's much-coveted friendship.

Outside the palace, Gabrielle took the place of the royal mistress in public opinion. The French had a tradition of blaming all the mistakes of their government on the King's mistresses, rather than on the kings themselves. Even today, we have an ugly tendency to get angry when a woman, no matter how capable, seems too close to a powerful man - as poor Hillary Clinton found to her cost during her husband's presidency. However, both Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were too clean-living to provide the country with paramours to blame. In Marie-Antoinette's case, anti-monarchists responded by simply making up hundreds of accused lovers - including animals, children and transvestites. They also, increasingly, insisted that she was having affairs with Gabrielle de Polignac and another close friend, the Princesse de Lamballe. Marie-Antoinette, with rather touching innocence, wrote to her mother that she was mainly being criticised in the gutter press for having a taste for lovers and a taste for women. Which rather suggests to me that the sheltered young royal wasn't aware that she was actually being accused of combining the two categories.

To read the entire article, click here.

Lady Jane Grey's Education

Lady Jane Grey, also known as the The Nine Days' Queen, received a top-notch education. Her schooling, as was customary for the children of the nobility at the time, began at a very early age. At first, she was tutored, together with her sisters Katherine and Mary, by John Aylmer, a bishop and a Greek scholar. Unlike her sisters, Jane was intellectually precocious and soon showed she possessed a remarkable intelligence. Because of this, she was encouraged to study more than them.

Her lessons with Aylmer, who taught her Greek, Latin and Hebrew, took place in the mornings. In the afternoons, she was taught modern languages (French, Italian and Spanish) by Dr Harding, read the Bible or classics and received music lessons. Jane loved music and could play the harp, lute and cithern, although her parents didn't allow her to practice as much as she would have liked. After supper, Jane usually practised needlework or was given dance lessons from a visiting master, who also taught her deportment and how to write, all things that were considered an important part of a noblewoman's education.

This routine was very strict and didn't leave Jane much time to do anything else. But she enjoyed studying and, instead, disliked sports and going on hunting expeditions with her parents. When the scholar Roger Ascham, asked her, a day she had stayed inside to read Phaedon Platonis in Greek, why she hadn't gone hunting instead, she replied: "After salutation, and dewtie done, with some other taulke, I asked her whic she wold lose such pastime in the Parke? Smiling, she answered me: I wisse all their sport in the Parke is but a shadoe to that pleasure that I find in Plato. Alas! Good folke, they never felt what trewe pleasurement."

In the meantime, she was also imbibing the principles of the Protestant faith, to which she would remain faithful till the end of her life, from her tutor Aylmer and her father. At nine, Jane went to live with Katherine Parr, the Dowager Queen, to continue her education and learn manners and social graces. Jane also corresponded with the top scholars, humanists and reformists of her day, and was very praised by them. She was, in fact, considered a very gifted scholar by both Catholics and Protestants.

Further reading:
The children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Fashions For March 1832

Hello everyone,

I hope you're enjoying these fashion posts. Today we're going to see what fashionable ladies would have worn in March 1832. Aren't the ball and evening gowns absolutely gorgeous? I love the colours and the embellishments, so pretty. What do you think of them?


Walking dress of gros de Naples; colour, a light shade of wood-brown. The corsage is made high, with a mantilla pelerine, which is disposed in full plaits over the bust, and confined to the at the waist by a plaited band. The of the mantilla are long, and pointed in front, but rather shorter behind. The epaulette is large, and very full, and falls a considerable way down the arm. The sleeve is of the Amadis form, and large at the top. It is corded as high as the elbow en militaire, with a rich in silk. The hem at the bottom of the skirt is cut into deep vandykes, between the points of which are inserted double-pointed leaves, falling toward the bottom of the dress. Bonnet of blue terry velvet, of the bibi shape. At the summit of the crown is a plume of three curling ostrich feathers, falling over the front. A band of rich satin ribbon passes round the base of the feathers, and is tied in a small bow behind. The brides are fastened under the chin. The hair is parted in front, and arranged in close curls on each side. Gloves of blue kid. Bottines of brown gros de Naples.


Ball dress of white chalis, over pink satin. This beautiful dress has the skirt trimmed with leaves of pink satin. They are placed in close groups of six, three upward and the same number downward, at the head of a deep hem. A corded band goes round the skirt, crossing the centre of each group, and in the space between each set of leaves, the band itself is crossed en saltier by two smaller bands. The body is made quite close to the shape, and cut low in front with a very novel and becoming cape, which is fastened before with a small bow of pink satin, and tassels of the same colour. It is cut into six tabs on the shoulder, and falls over a short and very full sleeve, finished at the elbow with a broad band of pink satin. The bust is shaded by a tucker a l'enfant, of crepe lisse; and a scarf of pink and silver tissue is thrown over the shoulders. The coiffure is simple, but well suited to the rest of the costume. The front hair is plainly braided over each temple; and the back hair is rolled in a thick, broad plait at the back part of the head. The ends of the plaits are curled, and hung a little on one side. A wreath of small roses finishes the head-dress. Earrings of gold and large pearls. Necklace and bracelets of large round pearls, with gold and jacinth clasps. Gloves of white satin. Shoes of white satin, with rosettes and sandals of silver tissue. The mantle is of marguerite satin, embroidered in silk of a deeper shade. The mantle and its cape have a broad trimming of rich velvet. The lining is of apricot gros de Naples.


Carriage dress of fawn-coloured satin, made en redingote. The skirt is trimmed down each side of the front with a triple row of vandykes, diminishing in size up ward, and laid flat upon the skirt. The body is made to fit the shape very closely; and over it is worn a velvet pelerine, of the same colour as the dress. It is pointed at the waist, before and behind; cut wide on the shoulder, but the fulness is partially removed from three openings made from the armhole to the neck; these openings are then laced close. The part of the pelerine which forms the epaulette is left full, and falls over the sleeve in three large scallops. Three frills of vandyked satin stand up round the throat, and are fastened in front with a row of ribbon. The sleeve is large and full, but the fulness is confined at the wrist by a deep cuff, extending considerably up the sleeve at the back part, but much hollowed out in front of the arm. Chapeau of bright green moire, lined with satin. Round the brim is a deep fall of blonde de Cambray; and inside it is a bow of ribbon, placed close to the setting-in of the crown, from which passes a loop to a similar bow rather higher on the opposite side. The crown is made to slope very much forward, and is trimmed in front with a bow of velvet, or ribbon, and three sprigs of Persian lilac. The hair is dressed in ringlets, and falls low on each side the face. Buckle of pale gold. Gloves of blue gros de Naples.


An evening dress of light-blue gaze de Paris, worn over a slip of rich satin. The skirt of the dress is very wide, and is trimmed with flowers and foliage of blue velvet, edged with white satin, and set on in waves at the usual distance from the bottom. The corsage is made a la Victoire, with a narrow fall of blonde round the bust, headed by a small rouleau of white satin. The sleeve is composed of two pieces, each cut into alternate dents and hollows, which fit into each other, and form a full wreath of leaves round the sleeve. The bottom of the sleeve is plaited into a band of white satin, and finished with blonde. Ceinture of blue velvet, edged with white satin. The hair is braided in front, and gathered into a large roll of tresses at the back. A magnificent tiara of diamonds is placed on the summit of the head, and under it are seen two rows of large and costly pearls. Another row crosses the brow, having in its centre, an agraffe of pale gold, from which hang three large pear-shaped pearls. Necklace and bracelets of diamonds, and Venetian gold chain. Shoes of white satin.

Further reading:
The Royal lady's magazine 1832

Short Book Reviews: Parola Di Giobbe & Col Cavolo

Hello everyone,

today I'm reviewing two books by two famous Italian comedians. I'm usually not a big fan of these type of books, but everyone needs a laugh every now and then, and they were free anyway as I've found them in my mother's library. Unfortunately I'm not sure if these books were ever translated in other languages, but I hope you will enjoy the reviews anyway. :)

Parola di Giobbe by Giobbe Covatta
Giobbe Covatta is one of the most famous Italian comedians, both in his own country and abroad. He's also one the few who make me laugh, because he's very ironic, intelligent, and doesn't resort to vulgarity and bad words as much as most of his Italian colleagues do, which is something I don't find funny at all. Imo, if you can't make people laugh without being vulgar, then you should change job. However, I was a bit hesitant before reading Parola di Giobbe (Giobbe's Word) because, as the name suggests, this is a parody of the Bible. In particular of the Genesis, Exodus and the Gospels. I find satire on sacred subjects really tricky because, while on one hand it can be amusing and make some people curious to find out more about religion, on the other it can often and easily be offensive. Luckily, this is not the case. Te jokes were funny (even though some of them quite predictable which lowered the rating down) in an innocent way that didn't show any disrespect for the subject. Its aim is to make people laugh, not scandalise or offend. Throughout the book, you can also find some drawings to illustrate some of the funniest jokes. Overall, a nice way to spend an hour or two.
Available at:
Rating: 3.5/5

Col Cavolo by Luciana Littizetto
Luciana Littizzetto is an ex-teacher turned comedian. I never liked her much because, even though a lot of her satire is quite intelligent, her jokes are usually very vulgar. In Col Cavolo, which is a colloquial expression used to refuse something, Littizzetto explores all aspects of relationships, such as the first dates, holidays together, moving in, the friends of the couple and lots more. While I like the concept, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The jokes are all very predictable and, even though I really laughed out loud a couple of times, I pretty much kept a straight face for the rest of the book. It is basically full of the old, trite stereotypes associated with relationships, and like that wasn't enough, they are narrated in a way that's often vulgar. It was really hard to give this book a rating because we all have a different sense of humour and what one finds offensive or vulgar, someone else may find hilarious and, overall, I was expecting much, much worse as she's usually a lot more foul-mouthed. In the end, I decided to give it a 3 because it's a harmless read that I'm sure Littizzetto fans will love. But I'm not sure it will gain her new ones.
Available at:
Rating: 3/5

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

King Albert I As A Motorist

In his book, Albert The Brave, Lucas Netley relates several episodes of the Belgian King as a motorist. To quote:

He was swift to see the advantage of motoring, not only as a pleasant recreation, but also as a commercial asset in securing rapid transit of goods. Often he upheld worthily the chivalry of the road by coming to the aid of a fellow motorist. A car overturned in the neighbourhood of his Palace at Laeken brought the King and Queen quickly to the rescue. The King hurried off for medical assistance and the Queen rendered "first aid" to a woman who had been injured, and helped to carry her to a farmhouse.

There are many stories told of the King as a motorist. One which he relates himself occurred at Ostend. Muffled up and wearing goggles he was racing back to the Palace to be in time for dinner when he heard a shout behind him, and, pulling up his car with a grinding of brakes, he looked back to see a very irate policeman bearing down on him. In no uncertain language, this officer, not recognizing the motorist, asked him why he had not pulled up when signalled to do so. Contritely, King Albert pleaded that the street lamps reflecting on his wet windscreen had made vision difficult.
"All right," replied the policeman, "I'll let you go this time." Then sarcastically he added : "I'll see the King, and have the street lamps rearranged before you come this way again."

Another story which showed King Albert's kindness of heart is worth telling. One night, missing his car in Brussels, he told his equerry to fetch a taxicab from the rank. This official, disregarding the first vehicle on account of its dilapidated condition, signalled to the second one. At once the King stopped him. "Why not take the first one?" he asked.
"Because, sir, it is very old and dirty."
"Never mind," replied King Albert, "as it is such a dilapidated conveyance, its driver must be doing bad business; we must try and help him."

Further reading:
Albert The Brave by Lucas Netley

Victorian Riddle Rhymes

A type of rhymes very popular with children in the Victorian era was riddle rhymes, even though they could be quite difficult sometimes. I thought it'd be nice to post a few here so you can try and take a guess at them. If you think you have the answer to one or more of the riddles, post it/them in the comments, but don't cheat and look at the solutions at the bottom of the post (unless you've given up, of course)!

Ready? Let's get started then:

1) The cuckoo and the gowk, The laverock and the lark, The twire-snipe, the weather-bleak; How many birds is that?

2) Hoddy-doddy, With a round black body! Three feet and a wooden hat; What's that?

3) Riddle me, riddle me, what is that Over the head and under the hat?

4) A flock of white sheep On a red hill; Here they go, there they go, Now they stand still!

5) I've seen you where you never was, And where you ne'er will be; And yet you in that very same place May still be seen by me.

6) I had a little sister, They called her Pretty Peep; She wades in the waters, Deep, deep, deep! She climbs up the mountains, High, high, high; My poor little sister, She has but one eye.

7) Black within, and red without, Four corners round about.

8) Of flesh and blood sprung am I ever; But blood in me that find ye never. Many great lords bear me proudly, With sharp knives cutting me loudly. Many I've graced right honorably: Rich ones many I've humble made; Many within their grave I've laid!

1) Three, for the second name in each line is a synonyme. The cuckoo is called a gowk in the North of England; the lark, a laverock; and the twire-snipe and weather-bleak, or weather-bleater, are the same birds.
2) An iron pot. In the country, an iron pot with three legs, and a wooden cover, the latter raised or put on by means of a peg at the top, is used for suspending over a fire, or to place on the hearth with a wood fire.
3) Hair.
4) The teeth and gums.
5) The reflection of a face in a looking-glass.
6) A star.
7) A chimney.
8). A pen.

How many have you guessed correctly?

Further reading:
Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps

Historical Reads: Some Common Misconceptions About the "Flight To Varennes"

Vive La Reine sets the record straight on some common misconceptions about the royal family's flight to Varennes. To quote:

Louis XVI intended to flee France

Louis XVI firmly refused to leave the country and, according to biographers such as Fraser, Webster, Hardman and more, turned down several flight routes to Montmedy which would have been much faster and safer because they briefly took him across the French border.

The coach which carried the royal family was recognized because it bore their royal arms/was too extravagant

The coach, presumably ordered by Axel Fersen, was large but not unusually so and was in fact based upon previously drafted plans for a Parisian’ companies carriage. It was not decorated with the arms of the royal family and, on the outside, was nothing out of the ordinary. The coach featured a variety of traveling amenities often used by those who could afford them - including a larder, cooker, fold-up table and chamber pots - because it was necessary for the flight to eliminate the need for its passengers to stop or leave the carriage.

It’s very important, however, to note that even though the size of the coach and its amenities had an influence over the coaches speed, they were not the cause of the flight’s failure. The first stumbling block occurred when the harness of the carriage broke—bad luck and nothing unusual for travel at the time, but it caused a chain reaction. The mending of the harness caused the coach to become 2 hours behind schedule (it was already running late) which, in turn, caused the duc de Choiseul (who was waiting at a point with dragoons) to take his men back toward Montmedy, which meant that there would be no military escort waiting for them if (in reality, when) they needed it.

To read the entire post, click here.

Marie Therese Of France: Revolution

The royal family arrived at the Tuileries Palace on 6th October 1789, at around 10:30 pm, after a long and exhausting journey. Tired and bewildered, that night the family had to sleep on rags, chairs and tables. The Palace, in fact, wasn't ready for their arrival. It hadn't been inhabited since the time of Louis XV and it was thus dark, smelly and poorly furnished, which caused the little Dauphin to remark that he found the place very ugly. Later, some pieces of furniture, including Marie Therese's pianoforte, were brought from Versailles to the Tuileries, and overtime, life at the Palace approached a kind of normality. However, this would remain till the end a very distressing time for the family.

The King's bedroom was on the first floor, near to that of his son, while the women - Marie Antoinette, Marie Therese, Ernestine, Madame de Tourzel and her daughter Pauline - were on the second floor. A private staircase joined their rooms to those of the King and the Dauphin. The royal couple supervised their children's education, helped them study, and wrote letters to friends and family. On Marie Antoinette's suggestion, Madame de Tourzel sometimes invited guests to have tea with Marie Therese, Ernestine and Pauline to distract them from what was happening in the country. The family would have breakfast together, and, on Sundays, they would dine in public like they used to at Versailles. Other ceremonies, such as the King's lever and coucher (rising and goodnight) were resumed and the royal couple would still receive diplomats. It was a court, albeit a small one.

It was also full of spies. Although only 10, the little Marie Therese learned to be very careful when she talked, for fear that her words may be overheard, misconstrued or reach the wrong ears. The Queen also invented a special, secret code to communicate with her family. They were always closely watched and had no privacy. They had had little even before, but now they couldn't even spend a few carefree hours at the Petit Trianon. Marie Therese missed Versailles and the countryside. Her mother would sometimes take her and her brother to the public park, the Bois de Boulogne, but they had to go there as secretly as possible to avoid the crowds of people that would amass in the courtyards and outside the palace to see, sneer at and insult them.

In February 1790, the family lost one of their chief allies. The Emperor Joseph, Marie Antoinette's close brother and protector died. He was succeeded by their brother Leopold, who was less close to the Queen of France but still promised her his support. It was a hard blow, but life went on. The children were growing up and a couple of months later, Marie Therese was due to have her first Communion. Traditionally, this should have been celebrated in style, but due to the unstable and dangerous political situation it was a very subdued affair instead. Only five days later, the National Assembly declared that the Catholic Church would no longer to be the official chief religion of the country, which deeply affected and tormented the pious Louis XVI.

That summer the family managed to spend some time at Saint-Cloud, in the countryside, returning briefly to Paris for the Fete de la Federation, a great celebration to mark the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. At Saint Cloud the family enjoyed more freedom. They could hunt, walk in the garden and receive visitors. But the following year, this too was denied them. They were forcifully prevented to leave for Saint-Cloud at the very last moment. For the King, this was the last straw. Finally, he was coming to the conclusion his wife had reached long ago. They had to leave. But he wouldn't abandon his country.

He decided to head to Montmedy, a fortress in northeastern France, from whence he hoped to regain control of the country. Preparations were made so secretly that even Madame Royale didn't know of the plan until she was woken up by her mother at the very last moment, on the night of 20th June. The family mounted the carriage in disguise and carrying fake passport. But despite all their precautions, their flight failed. The family was discovered and captured at Varennes. Their journey back was harrowing. Although they had arrived in Varennes in only 24 hours, it took 3 days and a half to reach Paris. Throughout the journey back, the crowds would insult the family, try to overturn the carriage and even poke lances through its sides. The children were terrified. It was a journey that would hunt Madame Royale for the rest of her life.

This failed flight greatly undermined the prestige of the King, who was now seen as a traitor. The family was now more guarded than ever, and the Queen even had to ask the guards for permission to see her son, the Dauphin. In the meantime, Austria was harbouring the emigres, who had been condemned as traitors by the French government, and even gave them funds. France had no choice but to declare war on Austria. The hatred against Marie Antoinette grew now even stronger and, as the anniversary of the flight to Varennes approached, the family feared some act of violence. They were right.

On 20th June, the mob, with the excuse of wanting to plant some "liberty trees" in the garden at the Tuileries, stormed the Palace. The royal family was protected only by a bunch of loyal courtiers and grenadiers. The Queen got separated from the King and took refuge in a room with her children, as the people screamed for her head. At one point Madame Elizabeth, the King's sister, was mistaken for the Queen. When someone shouted she wasn't, the brave Elizabeth replied not to undeceive the crowd. She would have been willing to die to save her sister-in-law. The King and Queen were even forced to wear the bonnet rouge, the red cap of the revolutionaries, to please the people. Finally, late in the evening, after many of the royal family faithful troops had been killed, the officials of the National Assembly restored order and the family was reunited.

After this harrowing experience, Marie Therese tried to imitate her mother's behaviour and be as brave as her. The little Louis Charles instead stopped speaking and kept clinging to his mother. But worse was yet to come. A rumour reached Paris that an army was marching on the town to loot it and free the royal family. The King and Queen prepared for what was now inevitable. On 10th August 1792, the crowd attacked the Palace, defended only by the Swiss Guards, who were mercilessly slaughtered. The royal family sought refuge at the National Assembly. They were left standing for the entire day without neither food nor water, while some of the deputies accused the King and Queen of being traitors, and listening to the noises of the fight outside. Finally, the battle was over. The French monarchy had fallen.

Further reading:
Marie Therese: The Fate Of Marie Antoinette's Daughter