Fashions For August 1832

Hello everyone,

as we are in August now (I know, it's the last day, but it's still August) I thought it'd be interesting to see what fashions were popular this month in 1832. I find the ball and evening dresses very charming, particularly the child's one. The poor little girl must have been very uncomfortable in the dress, but its bright colour and style are gorgeous indeed, don't you think?


BALL DRESS

A dress of tulle over white satin; the skirt trimmed rather high, with a row of gauze ribbon points, each point terminating with a rosette. To each rosette of the lowest row is fastened a wreath of convolvulus, set diagonally, and reaching to the bottom of the hem. Cartage uni of blue satin, pointed, and open in front, and laced with a row of pearls; it is cut square round the top, and finished round the bust with a tucker a l'Italienne. The hair is dressed in rich plaits and ringlets; pearl jewellery, white satin gloves and shoes.

PROMENADE DRESS

An open dress of fawn-coloured figured silk; the body is crossed in front, and only half-high. Simple gigot sleeve, very full. Pelerine en mantille of blonde or embroidered tulle; tied round the throat with a fichu of ribbon. Hat of white moire, trimmed with fumee gauze ribbon beautifully figured, and a bunch of blush roses; a single rose is placed within the brim, on one side of the curls. 


EVENING DRESS

Of white satin. Corsage pointed à la Marie Stuart; with a Sevigne drapery of tulle across the bust, confined by five straps of satin, finished by a beautiful bouton of silk; a row of cogues of white satin ribbon heads the sleeve, which is of tulle, over a short beret sleeve of satin; the cuff is of plaited satin, edged with a rouleau, and a narrow blonde manchette; the trimming of the skirts, which is placed rather low, consists of separate bends of three rouleaux, with a bow of satin ribbon at each end. Beret of blue crape, cut en carur on one side; the front of the brim is turned up, and fastened backwards with a diamond or pearl brooch, from which issues a bunch of feathers, which fall gracefully on either side.

CHILD'S EVENING DRESS

A frock of pink mousseline de soie, embroidcred in black floss silk; the corsage is cut very low en coeur, and the cape, which has five deep points on the shoulder, is embroidered to match the skirt. Tucker of muslin, confined by a pink ribbon. Black satin shoes, and echarpe of crape.

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

Short Book Reviews: Into The War, Di Buona Famiglia & Canale Mussolini

Hello everyone,

today I'm reviewing three novels from three Italian authors. Enjoy!

Into The War by Italo Calvino
Into The War is a trio of interlinked short stories about what life during the war was like for those who were too young to fight. In the first, Italy has just entered the war. A young man is called to help the refugees who had to flee their homes. He's bossed around and told what to do all the time, and realises that war is very different from what he expected. The second story is the one that impressed me the most. A group of young men go to a French town occupied by the Italians during the war and pillage it. Everyone bar the protagonist raids the houses, stealing anything that could be worth something to them and smashing the rest. The protagonist recoils from this behaviour but he's made to feel such a fool for not doing the same that he's tempted to succumb to pressure. Will he? This just made me realise how war brings out the worst in everyone, even in young guys who don't see anything wrong with stealing from the enemy, knowing that if one day those people will come back, they will be completely destitute as absolutely everything they had to leave behind has been taken away or broken. In the third, two young men are supposed to be looking after a school at night, but finding it boring, decide to go roaming around the streets instead. It is the funnier, less serious story out of the three. This is not Calvino's best work, but these stories are all based on his direct experience of the war, and thus provide some very interesting insights on the daily life of those who remained at home during the war. It's a very short book and well-worth a read.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3/5

Di Buona Famiglia by Isabella Bossi Fedrigotti
Di Buona Famiglia, which can be loosely translates as "from a good, respectable family", tells the love/hate relationship between two sisters, who are now very old. Clara, the older sister, is a quiet, thoughtful, meek girl who has always stayed at home, letting life pass her by and is now full of regrets. Virginia, the younger, is a restless, independent woman who's lived life to the full. She had the guts to make her own choices and her own mistakes and has paid for them too. These two women may be sisters but their personalities and life choices are just too different for them to ever be able to understand each other. And because they come from a respectable family where secrets were always hidden, matters never discussed, they avoid confrontation, even when it may lead to understanding and, maybe, even happiness. It is a very well-written, insightful but very melancholy story that evokes a world and a way of living now gone.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Canale Mussolini by Antonio Pennacchi
This historical novel tells the story of the Peruzzi, a big share-croppers family, who, finding themselves in a dire financial situation, decide to move from Veneto to the newly drained Agro-Pontino region. Here, with sadness and regret for what they lost, and also grateful to the Fascist regime who's given them some land to farm, they start a new life. The Peruzzi family had met Mussolini before he became the Dux. They had become friends and, when they needed help, the Fascists helped them so their loyalty to the regime is understandable. Telling the story of this family also gives the author an opportunity to talk about the birth, rise to power and the fall of Fascism, the wars in Africa, trade union fights, and just the history of Italy from the beginning of the twentieth century till just after world war II. He realistically describes the life of the farmers and the poorer classes of the population during Fascism, with its joys and tragedies, its mistakes and fights, its hopes and rages. In other words, he describes life as it truly was, without that veil of political correctness bent on twisting the historical truth and separate the good people from the bad ones. In fact, as the book often repeats, everyone has their reasons for behaving like they do. No side or group is always right or always wrong, always good or always bad. There are just people trying to do what they think is best. The book is very long, but well-worth a read for everyone interested in Italian history of the first half of the 20th century.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

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

Wyatt's Rebellion


Mary I's decision to marry Philip of Spain was very unpopular. The English, in fact, feared that Philip would be their ruler and turn their country into "another Habsburg milch cow"*. These fears were also shared by Parliament, who tried to dissuade the Queen from the match and convince her to marry Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, instead. But Mary wouldn't change her mind and soon, it became clear to her opponents that the marriage could only be stopped by force. And so, on 26 November 1553, a group of man including Thomas Wyatt, a hot-headed ex-soldier and Catholic whose father had once been a suitor of Anne Boleyn, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Sir Peter Carew, Sir James Croft and William Thomas, met in London to plot a rebellion.

It is unclear whether, as people believed at the time, the rebels also planned to depose Mary and give the crown to Elizabeth and Courtenay instead. That's what De Noailles certainly wanted and Wyatt did write to Elizabeth hoping to get her support, but if this plan had been approved, no definite evidence has survived. A plan that was definitely vetoed instead was that to assassinate Mary, which had been proposed by William Thomas. In December the rebels, which by this time included also Courtenay and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, Jane Grey's father, devised a plan. It was decided to orchestrate four different uprisings in different parts of the country on Palm Sunday, 18 March 1554: Wyatt would raise Kent, Croft Herefordshire and the Welsh Marshes, Suffolk the Midlands and Carew and Courtenay Devon. The four armies would then march to London and prevent the wedding.

However, the government knew that trouble was brewing. Courtenay panicked and, hoping to save his own skin, confessed everything to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, on  21 January. Upon learning of Courtenay's betrayal, the rebel leaders realised that they had to act immediately. On 25 January, they sprang into action, but the results were very disappointing. Without Courtenay as their leader, the people were unwilling to rise. Suffolk's attempt to raise the men of Kent failed, and he was forced to go into hiding, Carew, disguised as a servant, managed to flee to France, while Crofts simply returned to London without having done anything. Only Wyatt posed a serious threat.

He raised his standard at Maidstone and marched to London with an army comprising of 500 rebels. The Queen sent an army to squash the rebellion, but many of her men deserted and joined the enemy instead. The rest fled. Refusing to flee London, Mary then rallied her troops with a rousing and inspiring speech and, when Wyatt reached the city on 3 February 1554, he found it well-barricaded and defended. Things now started to go wrong for him. London Bridge had been destroyed to prevent the rebels from crossing it. In addition, the rebel's artillery became a hindrance and had to be abandoned. Wyatt's troops were "allowed" to reach Ludgate, only to find the gates barred. They were forced to retreat and head to Temple Bar, where Mary's troops were waiting for them. Wyatt had been lured into a trap. His men surrendered and so did he. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower.

Thomas Wyatt the Younger was tried at Westminster Hall, found guilty and executed, along with William Thomas and about 90 rebels. He always refused to implicate Elizabeth in the rebellion. The Princess was too clever to involve herself directly with the rebels, but was still imprisoned in the Tower for a while as a precautionary measure. But as there was no proof against her, she was eventually released. Croft was tried, found guilty and later pardoned. Carew was imprisoned and later released. Throckmorton was found not guilty and thus, released. Courtney was exiled. Henry Grey was executed. Because of his involvement in the rebellion, his daughter Jane and her husband Guilford Dudley suffered the same fate.

Notes:
* Ian W. Archer, ‘Wyatt, Sir Thomas (b. in or before 1521, d. 1554)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

Further reading:
The children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Madame Necker


Suzanne Curchod was born in 1737 at Grassier, on the frontier of France and Switzerland. She was the daughter of Louis Antoine Curchod, the village pastor, and his French wife Magdelaine d'Albert de Nasse. Although the family was quite poor, Suzanne received a good education. Her father taught her history, sciences, languages and the classics. But the lively Suzanne wasn't renowned and admired only for her wit, she was also beautiful. She had fair hair, sparkling blue eyes, a brilliant complexion, regular features, and a slender and well-proportioned figure. She also had refined manners, was good-tempered, had strong religious principles and was determined to always do her duty.

Such a beautiful and accomplished girl soon attracted the attention of the opposite sex. One of her suitors was the historian Gibbon. He was so smitten with her that he even wished to marry her, but his father was averse to the match and, in the end, nothing came of it. In 1760 Suzanne's father died and, to support herself and her mother, she became a teacher. Three years later, her mother died too, leaving Suzanne, who was nearly 24, alone. In 1764, Madame de Vermenou, a widow of a French officer, visited Geneva and met Suzanne. She was so charmed with the orphaned girl that she decided to take her under her wing and brought her back to Paris with her.

Madame de Vermenou had received a marriage proposal from Jacques Necker, a rich banker. But when he met Suzanne at her house, he fell in love with her. She reciprocated his feelings and a few months later, the couple got married. They would only have one daughter called Germaine, better known as Madame de Staël. However, Suzanne found that life in Paris was different from how she had imagined it and was often homesick. "When I arrived in this country," she says, "I thought that letters were the key to everything, that a man cultivated his mind by books alone, and was great only in proportion to his knowledge."* But she found this was not true, and the sort of conversation she liked wasn't fashionable at the time and, as a result, she often didn't have much to say in company.


Language and cultural differences were also barriers: "Gilled upon by my sex to fascinate men's minds, I was entirely ignorant of all the different shades of self-esteem, and I offended it when I thought to flatter it. What we used to call frankness in Switzerland became egotism in Paris; negligence in trifles was non-observance of the proprieties here; in a word, for ever out of tune with my surroundings and abashed by my blunders and my ignorance, never able to find the right word."* To a friend, she also wrote: "from the day of my arrival in Paris I have not lived for a single instant on the stock of ideas that I had previously acquired; I except the matter of morals, but I was obliged to make my mind over entirely new with respect to the human character, with respect to the circumstances of life, and with respect to conversation."*

Overtime, however, she managed to create a salon attended by some of the the most eminent men of letters of her time, such as Buffon, Marmontel, Grimm, Diderot, d'Alembert and Morellet. Morellet thus remembers Madame Necker's salon: "The conversation there was very well, although somewhat constrained by the rigid morality of Madame Necker, in whose presence many subjects could not be mentioned, and who was especially distressed by liberty of opinion in religious matters. But on literary subjects the conversation was very interesting, and she herself talked very well indeed."*


Monsieur Necker sometimes attended her wife's salon too, but he was more of an observer than a talker and "emerged from this silence only on rare occasions, with some sharp sally, some malicious or joking sentence with which he marked as it passed a blunder or an absurd remark."* The success of Suzanne's salon also helped Monsieur Necker's career. In 1776, he became Controller-General of Finances, head of the French finance ministry. Suzanne used the opportunities his role afforded her to do good. For instance, she founded a hospital where each patient had his/her own bed. This is normal for us today, but at the time it was common to put several patients in the same bed.

Madame Necker was also a writer, although, of all her works, only two, Mémoire sur l'Etablissement des hospices (1786) and Réflexions sur le divorce (1794), have survived. It seems that her works were full of high moral and literary values, but written in an obscure, complicated style that was at times hard to understand. However, she never pursued her interest in writing as much as she would have liked, and dedicated her time instead to the education of her daughter.

In 1781, Monsieur Necker was dismissed from his office, only to be called back a few years later to help solve the disastrous economical situation the country was in. The people saw him as a saviour, but a man alone couldn't stop the Revolution. Necker convinced Louis XVI to summon the Estates Generals in 1789, but failed to address the matter of voting. There was still one vote by Estate instead of a vote by head and in the end, the King fired him again. When his popularity started to fade, the Neckers left France and returned to Switzerland. Suzanne died at Beaulieu Castle (Lausanne) in Vaud, in 1794.

Notes:
* Portraits of the eighteenth century; prehistoric and literary by Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin

Further reading:
Portraits of the eighteenth century; prehistoric and literary by Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin

Historical Reads: History Of The Roller Skate


Roller skating is a very popular and fun pastime, but who invented it? The Virtual Victorian investigates:

The first known pair of roller skates were created by the Belgian, John Joseph Merlin, in 1759 – and what a demonstration he gave when, in 1860, he burst through the doors of a London ballroom whilst skating, and playing a violin, after which he very nearly died when being unable to stop the wheels and crashing into a mirror. Sadly the violin did not survive.

To read the entire article, click here.

Marie Therese Of France: Exile


Marie Therese of France had been brutally separated from her family during the French Revolution. Her parents, her little brother and her aunt Elisabeth had all been killed, while the luckiest members of the family had managed to escape abroad. The forsaken princess had spent endless months in her Temple prison wondering what had happened to them all, and once freed she was sent to Austria to meet relatives she had never really known. She would spend 3 years there before finally being allowed to rejoin her Bourbon relatives in 1799. She must have felt very thrilled yet nervous when she boarded the carriage that would take her to Mitau, where her family resided.

She was taking with her one of her most treasured possessions, which had just found its way into her own hands: the chemise her father Louis XVI had worn to the guillotine. For the rest of her life, it would never leave her side. Marie Therese had just arrived at the outskirts of Mitau, when she was met by her uncle Louis XVIII, his wife and her fiancé, the Duc D'Angouleme. The princess threw herself at her King's feet and sobbed: "I see you at last. I am so happy. Here is your child; please be my father." They all embraced and continued their journey to Mitau Castle, where Marie Therese was greeted with cheers. As she looked at her old friends and family members assembled in the room, she finally felt at home.

On 10 June 1799, Marie-Therese finally married the Duc D'Angouleme. Louis XVIII had a very special present for the couple: his brother Louis XVI's wedding ring. At this time, people started writing their own memoirs and recollections of the Revolution and the King prompted his niece to do the same. So, poor Marie-Therese spent the first few months as a newly-wed being constantly reminded of the horrors she had faced in those terrible years. No wonder people commented that she didn't look happy! In January 1801, the French royal family received another blow. The tzar Paul, who had just turned its back on the allies, ordered Louis XVI to leave his kingdom. Marie-Therese could stay but she decided to go with her uncle.


It would be a very tough journey. It was the middle of winter, the weather was ruthlessly cold, the snow deep and the family had little money and no clear destination. At first, they took refuge in Warsaw, where Marie Therese was very loved and praised for her charity to the poor, and after Paul's death, they went back to Mitau. But this time they lived in a smaller house, and their pension was smaller too. In the meantime, Napoleon declared himself Emperor of the French and started waging war against all of Europe. Marie Therese, together with the Abbé Edgeworth, who had been with Louis XVI during his last hours, nursed the wounded soldiers that arrived at Mitau from the Prussian and Russian fronts. As a result, the Abbé contracted typhoid and Marie Therese insisted on nursing him till the end. She was at his side when he died on 22 May 1807.

The Russian Emperor now decided to sign a peace treaty with Napoleon, so it was time for the French royal family to move again. This time, they went to England. Here, they resided at Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire. The English country life suited Marie Therese. She went to church, took care of the flower and vegetable gardens, went horse riding, read books in the library, did needlework and enjoyed simple meals with her family and their guests. She also enjoyed her social life. She attended balls, had the place of honour at the parties given by the Prince Regent, travelled through the country, and enjoyed the spas at Bath.

Bad news, however, continued to arrive. Marie Therese lost two people dear to her. Count Fersen had been murdered in Sweden by political enemies, and her aunt Marie Josephine, Louis XVIII's wife, died of dropsy. She was also very sad to learn that Maria Louisa, the Austrian Emperor's daughter, with whom she had often played back in Vienna, had married Napoleon. Soon, she gave him a son. The future of the Bourbon dynasty was now more uncertain than ever. But Napoleon's success couldn't last forever and after his invasion of Russia failed, he had no choice but to abdicate. When Marie Therese learned that she was finally going back to France, she cried for joy.

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

Old St. Paul's Cathedral


St Paul's Cathedral is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. But the gorgeous church we see today, designed by Christopher Wren in the seventeenth century, is very different from the Old St Paul's that was destroyed in Great Fire of London in 1666. In his book, The Town, Leigh Hunt tells the story of the old church:

AS St. Paul’s Churchyard is probably the oldest ground built upon in London, we begin our perambulations in that quarter. The cross which formerly stood north of the cathedral, and of which Stowe could not tell the antiquity, is supposed by some to have originated in one of those sacred stones which the Druids made use of in worship; but at least it is more than probable that here was a burial-ground of the ancient Britons; because when Sir Christopher Wren dug for a foundation to his cathedral, he discovered abundance of ivory and wooden pins, apparently of box, which are supposed to have fastened their winding-sheets. The graves of the Saxons lay above them, lined with chalk-stones, or consisting of stones hollowed out: and in the same row with the pins, but deeper, lay Roman horns, lamps, lachrymatories, and all the elegancies of classic sculpture. Sir Christopher dug till he came to sand and sea-shells, and to the London clay, which has since become famous in geology; so that the single history of St. Paul’s Churchyard carries us back to the remotest periods of tradition.

The first authentic account of the existence of a Christian church on this spot is that of Bede, who attributes the erection of it to King Ethelbert, about the year 610, soon after his conversion by St. Augustine. The building, which was probably of wood, was burned down in 961, but was restored the same year—a proof that, notwithstanding the lofty terms in which it is spoken of by the old historian, it could not have been of any great extent. This second church lasted till the time of William the Conqueror, when it, too, was destroyed by a conflagration, which burned the greater part of the city. Bishop Maurice, who had just been appointed to the see, now resolved to rebuild the cathedral on a much grander scale than before, at his own expense. To assist him in accomplishing this object, the King granted him the stones of an old castle, called the Palatine Tower, which stood at the mouth of the Fleet River, and which had been reduced to ruins in the same conflagration.

The Bishop’s design was looked upon as so vast, that “men at that time,” says Stowe, “judged it wold never have bin finished; it was then so wonderfull for length and breadth.” This was in the year 1087; and the people had some reason for their astonishment, for the building was not completed till the year 1240, in the reign of Henry the Third. Some even extend the date to 1315, which is two hundred and twenty-eight years after its foundation; but this was owing rather to repairs and additions than to anything wanting in the original edifice. The cathedral thus patched, altered, and added to, over and over again, with different orders and no orders of architecture, and partially burned, oftener than once, remained till the Great Fire of London, when it was luckily rendered incapable of further deformity, and gave way to the present. It was, indeed, a singular structure, and used for singular purposes.

“The exterior of the building,” says an intelligent writer, himself an architect, “presented a curious medley of the architectural style of different ages. At the western front Inigo Jones had erected a portico of the Corinthian order; thus displaying a singular example of that bigotry of taste, which, only admitting one mode of beauty, is insensible to the superior claims of congruity. This portico, however, singly considered, was a grand and beautiful composition, and not inferior to anything of the kind which modern times have produced: fourteen columns, each rising to the lofty height of forty-six feet, were so disposed, that eight, with two pilasters placed in front, and three on each flank, formed a square (oblong) peristyle, and supported an entablature and balustrade, which was crowned with statues of kings, predecessors of Charles the First, who claimed the honour of this fabric. Had the whole front been accommodated to Roman architecture, it might have deserved praise as a detached composition; but though cased with rustic work, and decorated with regular cornices, the pediment retained the original Gothic character in its equilateral proportions, and it was flanked by barbarous obelisks and ill-designed turrets.

“The whole of the exterior body of the church had been cased and reformed in a similar manner, through which every detail of antiquity was obliterated, and the general forms and proportions only left. The buttresses were converted into regular piers, and a complete cornice crowned the whole: of the windows, some were barely ornamented apertures, whilst others were decorated in a heavy Italian manner, with architrave dressings, brackets, and cherubic heads. The transepts presented fronts of the same incongruous style as the western elevation, and without any of its beauties.”



In its original state, however, old St. Paul’s must have been an imposing building. Its extent at least was very great. The entire mass measured 690 feet in length, by 130 in breadth, and it was surmounted by a spire 520 feet high. The spire was of timber. It bore upon its summit not only a ball and cross, but a large gilded eagle, which served as a weathercock. But the church having been nearly burned to the ground in June, 1561, owing to the carelessness of a plumber who left a pan of coals burning near some wood-work while he went to dinner, it was hastily restored without the lofty spire: so that in Hollar’s engraving, given by Dugdale, of the building as it appeared in 1656, it stands curtailed of this ornament. Only the square tower, from which the spire sprang up, remains. “The old cathedral,” says Mr Malcolm, on the authority of a note with which he was furnished by the Rev. Mr Watts, of Sion College, “did not stand in the same direction with the new, the latter inclining rather to the south-west and north-east; and the west front of the Old Church came much farther towards Ludgate than the present.”

When Jones began the repairs and additions of which his portico formed a part, in 1633, the rubbish that was removed was carried, Mr Malcolm informs us, to Clerkenwell fields, where, he suggests, “some curious fragments of antiquity may still remain.” The very beauty of this portico, surmounted with its strange pediment and figures, and dragging at its back that heap of deformity, completed the monstrous look of the whole building, like a human countenance backed by some horned lump. But this was nothing to the moral deformities of the interior. Old St. Paul’s, throughout almost the whole period of its existence, at least from the reign of Henry the Third, was a thoroughfare, and a “den of thieves.” The thoroughfare was occasioned probably by the great circuit which people had been compelled to make by the extent of the wall of the old churchyard—a circumference a great deal larger than it is at present. [...]

"The notices of encroachments on St. Paul’s, in the same reign*, are equally curious. The chantry and other chapels were completely diverted from their ancient purposes; some were used as receptacles for stores and lumber; another was a school, another a glazier’s shop; and the windows of all were, in general, broken. Part of the vaults beneath the church was occupied by a carpenter, the remainder was held by the bishop, the dean and chapter, and the minor canons. One vault, thought to have been used for a burial-place, was converted into a wine-cellar, and a way had been cut into it through the wall of the building itself. (This practice of converting church vaults into wine-cellars, it may be remarked, is not yet worn out. Some of the vaults of Winchester Cathedral are now, or were lately, used for that purpose.)

The shrowds and cloisters under the convocation house, ‘where not long since the sermons in foul weather were wont to be preached,’ were made ‘a common lay-stall for boardes, trunks, and chests, being lett oute unto trunkmakers, where, by meanes of their daily knocking and noyse, the church is greatly disturbed.’ More than twenty houses also had been built against the outer walls of the cathedral; and part of the very foundations was cut away to make offices. One of those houses had literally a closet dug in the wall; from another was a way through a window into a wareroom in the steeple; a third, partly formed by St. Paul’s, was lately used as a play-house; and the owner of the fourth baked his bread and pies in an oven excavated within a buttress.

Old St. Paul’s was famous for the splendour of its shrine and for its priestly wealth. The list of its copes, vestments, jewels, gold and silver cups, candlesticks, etc., occupies thirteen folio pages of the Monasticon. The side aisles were filled with chapels to different saints and the Virgin; that is to say, with nooks partitioned off one from another, and enriched with separate altars; and it is calculated, that, taking the whole establishment, there could hardly be fewer than two hundred priests.


Notes:
*Elizabeth I's reign

Further reading:
The Town by Leigh Hunt

Classic Books: Watership Down & Alice's Adventures In Wonderland And Through The Looking Glass

Hello everyone,

I hope you're all having a wonderful day. Today I want to share with you my impressions and thoughts about some very famous and still popular classic children's book. Let's get started:

Watership Down by Richard Adams
I had put off reading this book for the longest time because I thought it'd be quite boring. How interesting can a story about rabbits be after all? Very, as it turns out. Knowing their warren is about to be destroyed, an adventurous group of rabbits decides to flee and look for a new home. During their journey they will have to face all kinds of dangers such as predators, diseases, men and even other rabbits who have decided to bargain freedom for safety. The characters are rich and I love how Adams has given them their own culture, traditions and even language, yet they retain their animal characteristics. This leads to interesting analogies to human life and really makes you care for the characters, yet you never think of them as humans. They are rabbits and they remain rabbits. Watership down is a story of survival, perseverance and friendship that's a joy to read. But you have to hang in there at first. The book starts quite slowly, which tempted me to put it down a few times, but I'm glad I didn't because after the first few chapters it really picks up speed and you'll fall in love with the story. I highly recommend it to everyone, children and adults alike.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 4/5

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Who is not familiar with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? I loved the Disney movie when I was a child. It was one of my favourites and I've lost count of how many times I watched it. It was only years later, when I was in high school, that I decided to read the book too, and I loved that even more. We all know the story. Alice sees a white rabbit and down a hole she goes. She'll then live some amazing adventures in a magical world of wonders. In Through The Looking Glass, which is a darker, less known book, Alice passes through a looking glass and find herself in the backwards world on the other side. You'd think that Alice has gotten used to these adventures but no. The sense of wonder is still present as she tries to figure out the worlds she has suddenly found herself into. They're both charming books full of wit and great humour, although I missed a lot of the puns the first time I read them. You need to reread these a few times to fully understand and appreciate them. Just don't expect them to have a clearly though-out plot. These are clearly meant to be dreams, to capture the readers' imagination and they do so wonderfully. I recommend these to everyone, but especially adults as they'll be able to understand the humour better than children.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 4/5

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

Eleanor Of Provence


Born in 1223 at Aix-en-Provence, Eleanor was the second daughter of Ramon Berenguer V, Count of Provence and his wife, Beatrice of Savoy (1205–1267). The couple had three more daughters, Marguerite, Sanchia and Beatrice, all of which were destined to become Queens. Together with her sisters, Eleanor, who was renowned for her beauty, grew up at the Provençal court. Her father was a patron of troubadour literature and minstrels, tournaments, music, dancing, and the courtly love culture were all an integral part of her upbringing and life. Like her namesake Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of Provence too was a child of the South.

So imagine how lost she must have felt when, at the tender age of 12, she married the 28 year old English King Henry III. England at the time was quite a provincial country compared to her own cosmopolitan native land, but luckily for Eleanor, Henry tried to make the move easier for her. Fearing she would consider the royal palaces too shabby, he built or improved apartments for her in nine of them, created gardens for her at Claredon and Windsor, and appointed two of the courtiers she had had the most contact with before coming to England, John of Gatesden and Robert de Mucegros, as her wardrobe keeper and steward. This way, she would be welcomed by some familiar faces, which hopefully made her feel less lonely.

Despite Henry's efforts, adapting to her new life as a Queen and wife wasn't easy for Eleanor and she relied heavily on her Savoyard relatives, who had followed her to England. Because of this, the English people never warmed up to Eleanor. The young girl became a wife, in every sense of the word, from the very beginning. Henry started sleeping with Eleanor straight away. This horrifies us today, but may very well have saved Henry's life back then. One night, in fact, a madman managed to break into the King's room, holding a knife in his hand and demanding the crown. But the room was empty as the King was sleeping with his wife and it was one of her ladies-in-waiting, Margaret Biset, who raised the alarm when she noticed the madman roaming around the palace in search of his royal victim.


In 1239, Eleanor gave birth to her first child, Edward. His birth also marked the start of her political career, in which she was at first guided by her uncle, Peter of Savoy. Henry was preparing a military expedition to Poitou and, to straighten his infant son's position against that of Richard of Cornwall (Henry's younger brother), the King decreed that in the case of his death all his castles would go to Edward and thus end up under the control of the Queen and her relatives, while Richard was completely left out of his nephew's regency. To sweeten the pill, the royal couple despatched Peter to negotiate a marriage between Richard and Eleanor's sister Pancha, which would unite their interests. This however, didn't go down well with the English people who feared the Queen had too much power and that from then on they would be ruled by Eleanor and Sancha.

In the following years, Eleanor gave birth to four more children, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund and Katherine. As the royal family grew, so did the complaints against Eleanor. When Henry started to allow English noblemen to marry Savoyard girls, the English magnates began to worry they wouldn't be able to contract advantageous marriage for their own daughters, and blamed the Queen for it. Savoyards also enjoyed royal patronage and, a few of them also received lands and huge amounts of money, which enraged the English magnates even more. Despite being politically clever and astute, Eleanor was never able to ralate to the English magnates and their problems. She also didn't seem to be bothered about her unpopularity. It has been suggested that the reason for this was because the Savoyards served as a counter-faction to the Lusignans, Henry's stepsiblings (Henry's mother Isabelle had had five children from her second husband Hugh de Lusignan), with whom Eleanor had never got on well.

In 1258, the English magnates were fed up with this situation. Parliament, which was held at Oxford, called for a new form of government, "consisting of three annual Parliaments, an elected council of fifteen seved by twelve representatives from the baronage"*, and all castles to be held by Englishmen. They also wanted to institute a committee of five to decide "the sale of wardships in the King's gift"* and "in which areas the tariff of queens-gold should apply"*. Eleanor was affronted by this attack on her prerogatives, and, although both she and the King swore an oath of allegiance to them, in reality they had no intention of respecting it. Again it was Eleanor that was entirely blamed for the King's repudiations of these reforms. And by the next summer, the south-east of England was rebelling against their King.

The Queen now couldn't ignore the hatred the people felt against her anymore. When she tried to travel from the Tower, where she had taken refuge, to Windsor where her son Edward was, she was mobbed on London Bridge by a vicious crowd who insulted and threw rubbish at her. She was forced to go back to the Tower, but her husband wouldn't let her in. In the end, she took refuge in the home of the Bishop of London. The royal couple would meet again three days later and, in the meantime, Henry had agreed to the barons' terms. Eleanor then tried to raise an army to reinstate the prerogative of the crown with force but nothing came of it. In 1272 King Henry III died and was succeeded by his son Edward. Eleanor was now isolated. Most of her Savoyard relatives were dead and her children were abroad. She spent the rest of her life raising her grandchildren and in the end retired to the convent of Amesbury, where she died on 24 June 1291.

Notes
*Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens by Lisa Hilton

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

The Lady's Receipt Book, Vol. 01


I was perusing The Ladies' Pocket Magazine of 1829, when I came across a series of articles called The Lady's Receipt Book featuring homemade recipes to make cosmetics, cleaning products and other concoctions that may have been useful to women at the time. I thought it may be nice to share some of them with you (of course this is just for fun, to see how things were done in the past; I'm not suggesting you try them at home).

EAU DE COLOGNE

A domestic economy is very commendable in all ladies; - those who are in the habit of using Eau de Cologne will find the following substitute not only very trifling in its cost, but far superior to most of the mixtures sold for the "genuine article".
To one pint of alcohol, add sixty drops of lemon, sixty drops of bergamot, sixty drops of essence of lemon, and sixty drops of orange water. The alcohol may be purchased at any chemists, and the remainder at most perfumers.


TO TAKE STAINS OUT OF SILK

Grease, and other spots in silk, may be easily removed by gently rubbing the part with a linen rag dipped in the following composition: - One ounce of essence of lemons, and half an ounce of oil of turpentine, mixed together, and kept corked for use.


TO MAKE ROSE WATER

Put some roses into water, and add a few drops of vitriolic acid: the water will soon assume both the color and perfume of roses.

Further reading:
The Ladies' Pocket Magazine

Historical Reads: The Household of Elizabeth Tudor


Author Claire Ridgeway has written a very interesting post about the people who made up Elizabeth Tudor's household. To quote:

Sir John Shelton

Sir John Shelton was married to Anne Boleyn, sister of Thomas Boleyn and aunt to Queen Anne Boleyn. The couple were in charge of the households of Mary and Elizabeth from 1533 and were the parents of Margaret and Mary Shelton, maids-of-honour to Anne Boleyn. Sir John was the steward of Mary and Elizabeth’s combined household and was, therefore, in charge of expenditure and keeping the accounts. Lady Anne Shelton was one of the ladies appointed to serve Anne Boleyn during her imprisonment in the Tower in 1536.
In “From Heads of Household to Heads of State”, J. L. McIntosh, writes of how, during the crisis in Elizabeth’s household after Anne Boleyn’s execution when money from Cromwell was not forthcoming, Shelton “most likely authorized a Ralph Shelton (presumably a relative) to set up a poaching scheme involving several of the
steward’s servants in the parklands surrounding Hatfield. No wonder Elizabeth’s high table had such “dyvers metes.”
In 1537, John Shelton was replaced as steward by William Cholmely, and in 1539 Shelton died. However, his family remained important to Elizabeth throughout her life. She visited them on numerous occasions and Shelton’s granddaughter, Lady Mary Scudamore, was a member of Elizabeth’s Privy Chamber when she was queen.

Katherine Champernon (Kat Ashley)

Katherine Champernon (or Champernowne) was appointed to Elizabeth’s household in July 1536 and became her governess in 1537. Elizabeth knew her as “Kat” and later said that she took “”great labour and pain in bringing of me up in learning and honesty”. Kat, who married Sir John Ashley in 1545, was a close confidante to Elizabeth and was appointed First Lady of the Bedchamber when Elizabeth became queen.
Kat was highly educated and seems to have been in charge of the princess’ education between 1536 and 1544.
Trivia: Kat’s loyalty to Elizabeth was tested when she was arrested and imprisoned in 1549 on charges of being involved in Thomas Seymour’s plan to marry Elizabeth. She refused to implicate her mistress and was released after a few weeks.

Wiliam Grindal and Roger Ascham

Elizabeth was educated by Kat Ashley (who had advice from Roger Ascham) until 1544 when the Humanist and Protestant, William Grindal, became Elizabeth’s tutor. Grindal was part of a circle of men who were all part of the influential Humanist movement at Cambridge University. This group included the likes of Matthew Parker (Anne Boleyn’s chaplin), John Cheke (Edward VI’s tutor), Anthony Cooke, Roger Ascham (Elizabeth’s future tutor), John Dee and William Cecil – all men who played a part in Elizabeth’s life.
William Grindal died in 1549 and his position as Elizabeth’s tutor passed to Roger Ascham who continued what Grindal had begun, i.e. ensuring that Elizabeth’s education was a Protestant one and was of the “new learning”.


To read the entire post, click here.


Mary I Marries Philip Of Spain


On Wednesday, 25 July 1554, Mary I of England married Philip of Spain at Winchester Cathedral. The cathedral, which was decorated with rich tapestries, was packed with courtiers and dignitaries, while the common people were waiting outside. Philip, preceded by his nobles, was the first two arrive, at about 10am. He then went to sit in a side-chapel where he waited for Mary. The Queen, with her Privy Council, ladies and peers, arrived half an hour later wearing a French style dress made of "rich tissue with a border and wide sleeves, embroidered upon purple satin, set with pearls of our store, lined with purple taffeta"*. Her train was borne by Lady Margaret Douglas and the Marchioness of Winchester.

Philip instead was "elegantly attired in one of the outfits she** had sent him, a full-length robe of cloth-of-gold lined with crimson satin and banded with crimson velvet and pearl buttons, with matching doublet and breeches"***. As the Queen entered through the west door into the choir, Philip went to join her and, together, they ascended the five steps and knelt in front of Bishop Gardener. The Bishop started the service by announcing that Charles V had ceded the kingdoms of Naples and Jerusalem to Philip, who would now become, thanks to his marriage, King of England too. He then officiated the ceremony, both in Latin and English. The Earls of Pembroke, Derby and Bedford gave the bride away on behalf of the nation, while the ring that Philip put on her finger was a plain hoop of gold. Mary had chosen that ring because that's how maidens were married in old times.****

"The Earls of Derby and Pembroke, bearing swords of honour, led Mary and Philip, who walked hand in hand, through the choir to the high altar, Their Majesties processing under a canopy of estate borne by four knights."*** Once they were back at their places, Gardiner celebrated high mass. When the service was over, the Garter King of Arms announced, to the sound of trumpets, the titles of Mary and Philip in Latin, French and English: "Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol."*

At 3 o'clock, the couple left the cathedral amid the sound of fanfares and the shouts of the people, who congratulated them and wished them joy. They went to Wolvesey Palace where a sumptuous banquet was awaiting them. The banquet, which lasted three hours, was held in the East Hall, which had been decorated with hangings of silk and cloth-of-gold for the occasion. While the royal couple ate (Mary off gold plates while Philip off silver ones), minstrels sang and royal heralds distributed alms to the poor. Then, the couple started the dances and, at nine, they retired to their private rooms. Each of them ate alone in their own room and then met again for the public bedding ceremony, which was attended only by a few selected courtiers. After Gardiner blessed the bed, Mary and Philip were left alone, for the first time, to consummate the marriage.

Notes:
* Mary Tudor: The First Queen by Linda Porter
**she: Mary I
*** The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
**** Chronicle of Queen Jane and Two Years of Queen Mary

Further reading:
Mary Tudor: The First Queen by Linda Porter
The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
Chronicle of Queen Jane and Two Years of Queen Mary

Fashions For Summer 1832

Hello everyone,

today we're gonna take a look at what fashionable English women would have worn in the summer of 1832. I have to say I don't care much for the carriage dresses. There's just too much going on with them, although the colours are pretty. But the other outfits are simply gorgeous, don't you agree?

JUNE


BALL DRESS N. 01

A dress of tulle over white satin, the corsage is a l' enfant, not very low, and is trimmed round the top with a fall of blonde, over which is placed a fancy pelerine of blue satin, finished by a ruche of tulle; short loose sleeve, that of the slip being carefully plaited and set out. The skirt is finished by abroad hem, surmounted by a wreath of the forget-me-not in artificial flowers.
The coiffure of this costume is extremely simple; the hair in front is curled in soft ringlets, while the back part is formed into plaits, intermingled with a wreath of forget-me-not; two small sprigs are also made to mingle with the curls in front.

BALL DRESS N.02

This costume consists of delicate rose-coloured satin and blonde. The robe it very short, and open in front, the edges being cut in inverted scallops, trimmed with a double rouleau of satin, and a deep flounce of blonde finishes the bottom of the skirt. The lower part of the corsage is of satin, pointed in front; the upper part is of blonde, lined with satin, and finished by a pink rouleau, and narrow edge of blonde. The sleeves consist of two rows of scallops, their points are united by rows of pearl or satin rouleaux, forming openings, through which the sleeve of tulle is visible.
The hair is dressed in full boucles crepees, with bows behind, and a plume of pink and white ostrich feathers.

JULY

CARRIAGE DRESS N. 03

A dress of pink striped gros de Naples and jaconot muslin; the corsage of the pelisse fits close to the shape, it is very open in the front, displaying a simple chemisette of cambric. The lapels, which fall back, are divided on the shoulder, square across the back, and are edged by a torsade of pink and white silk, and a white rouleau. The jockey is of the same material as the dress, and falls over the upper part of the full white sleeve in deep points edged with white. The skirt is left very open; it is trimmed down the front with a torsade, a white rouleau, and a row of points, increasing in depth gradually downwards, and should be left short enough to show the bottom of the embroidered flounce of the under dress. Hat of straw-coloured moire, trimmed with gauze ribbon, delicately striped with brown; a bow is placed near the hair on each side, an end of each is brought across the brim, and united on the upper part within an inch of the edge, where they form another bow, a little on one side. The ornament on the crown is of cut ends and bows, imitating a flower with its leaves.


CARRIAGE DRESS N. 04

A dress of pea-green printed Chaly, corsage half high, sleeves very tight to the elbow and full above, finished at the wrist with a manchette of tulle. The skirt, above the hem, is trimmed with festoons of three rouleaux, gathered together at regular intervals by a strap and three leaves. This trimming is of gros de Naples or satin, and should be a shade or two darker than the dress, or it will not tell from the pattern of the gown. Pelerine of net, edged with blonde and a satin rouleau; it has long, round ends, closed down the front by small bows of white satin ribbon. Three bows are placed on each shoulder. Hat of rice straw, with a chaperon of small roses round the crown. One rose is placed within the brim, just over the curls on the left side. Gloves of flesh-coloured kid - bronze kid slippers, without bows. 


BALL DRESS

A white crape dress over a white satin slip; the corsage fits close to the shape, and is cut en coeur, very low in front, and is finished with a fall of blonde gathered round the bust by a wreath of small white Provence roses; the sleeves are full and loose; they are trimmed with blonde, and two small roses which are placed close to the arm so as to lift the blonde. A wreath of roses with a bouquet at each end forms the elegant garniture of the skirt; this wreath begins on the right side, at a small distance from the bottom of the hem; and rising gradually as it goes round, terminates on the left side, rather higher than the middle of the skirt. Ceinture of emerald green gauze ribbons, tied on one side with a double rosette and long ends; the hair is dressed in full bows and ringlets; a short wreath goes round the back of the head, and ends among the curls on each side of the face. Gloves and shoes of white satin.

DINNER DRESS

This dress is of sapphire blue moire; the corsage close, cut square round the bust, and finished by a chemisette a l'Italienne of blonde. Short beret sleeves, with jockeys of blonde. The skirt is trimmed with a hem en revers, cut in inverted scallops; on the point of each is placed a raised fan-like ornament cut rather wavy, or confined by a silken button, from which issue two sprigs of leaves, embroidered with delicate piping turban of blue gauze, figured in gold, divided in the middle by a magnificent diamond aigrette, from which issue two beautiful drooping white feathers, of the lightest and most airy description. Echarpe of blonde net, embroidered in gold. Black satin shoes.

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

Short Book Reviews: The Hostage Bride, Chances Are & Ravished

Hello everyone,

today I'm briefly reviewing three historical romance novels, one of which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I hope you will enjoy reading the reviews too:

The Hostage Bride by Jane Feather
This is the first book in a trilogy about 3 unconventional women who vow they will never marry only to change their minds when Mr Right sweeps them off their feet. This book tells the story of Portia, an outspoken young girl who grew up in taverns and behaves like a man. When her alcoholic and gamester father dies, she goes to live with her uncle, the Marquis of Granville and his daughter. The poor girl is supposed to be kidnapped by Rufus Decantur, the Marquis'arch-enemy, but his men make a mistake and capture Portia instead. They two fall in love but will have to overcome many obstacles (Portia even joins the army) before they can be together. I did enjoy reading about how the relationship between the hero and heroine developed as neither of them wanted to have anything to do with the other at first, but I honestly found it really hard to relate to them. Another thing I enjoyed was the setting. The story takes place during the English civil war, and there's a lot of warfare talk as Rufus and the Granville fight on opposite sides, which I found very interesting. However, not even that was enough to make me enjoy the book. I found the story very cliche, although nicely-written, and I really couldn't care for the characters, which is something that always spoils a book for me. Overall, I would recommend it only to those who are interested in romance novels set during the English Civil War.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 2/5

Chances Are by Robin Lee Hatcher
Although pleasant and nicely-written, Chances Are is a very unoriginal story. After she was deserted by her husband, Faith Butler joined a travelling acting company to feed her two children. But at Dead Horse, Wyoming, her daughter falls ill. Keep travelling with the troupe means certain death for the poor little girl. So, Faith decides to stop at Dead Horse, a very desolate, God-forsaken place where she manages to find a job as a housekeeper for Drake Rutledge. He's the richest man in town, but very dark, solitary and moody. He doesn't want anything to do with Faith and the children (nor with anyone else for that matter), but their presence will warm his heart and teach him to live and love again. The two fall in love and then Faith's husband comes back. Overall, a very cliche story that reminds me of Beauty And The Beast (Drake has also been disfigured in an accident): poor little girl in need of protection falls in love with the rich, mysterious man everyone considers to be evil, a villain tries to keep them apart and in the end love conquers all. As I said, a pleasant, very simple story. If you like this kind of thing, give it a read, but don't expect too much.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

Ravished by Amanda Quick
Ravished is one of my favourite historical romance novels and the reason why I keep reading this kind of books. You come across lots of crappy stories but every now and then you find a real gem. The main reason why I like this book is the heroine, Harriet Pomeroy. She's not a stubborn, selfish girl that's interested in jewellery, clothes and getting her way all the time, like most heroines are. Instead, she's quite plain, but very intelligent and interested in fossils. When she finds out that a band of thieves is using her beloved cave to hide their stolen treasures, she writes to Viscount St. Justin, the lord over the region in which she lives, to help her bring the criminals to justice. He's considered to be a beast who seduced and caused the suicide of the rector’s daughter. This has embittered Gideon, who's a very temperamental and stubborn man (and is disfigured too). Yet, Harriet doesn't believe in these rumours and treats him just like a normal human being. She's adorable and Gideon can't help but falling for her. Overall, this too is in a way another take on The Beauty And The Beast story, but with very interesting characters, lots of twists and turns, and fun dialogues. Also, the author is really good at bringing the historical period back to life and describe the society in which the protagonists move. Overall, the reason why I love Ravished is because, although the story may be full of cliché, it is also different from the hundreds of bodice-ripping novels out there. It is well-written, quite historically accurate for a romance novel, and the heroine is a clever girl more interested in science than husband-hunting.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

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

Queen Elizabeth's War Work


During World War I, the King and Queen of the Belgians did everything they could to help their people. While King Albert was busy leading his troops into battle, Queen Elizabeth, at the head of the Red Cross, personally took care of the wounded soldiers. Their wounds and sufferings were horrific but the Queen never shrank from what she considered to be her duty. She visited almost all the hospitals in Belgium, helping to dress the soldiers' wounds and take care of them in any way she could. She also had sweet and soothing words for every soldier, which helped cheer their moods:

"As the field hospitals travelled from place to place where they were most needed, the Queen did her utmost, and inspired others to do their utmost, too, to find suitable buildings in which they could carry on their magnificent work. She was intensely anxious that there should be full equipment for both the wounded and the staff. Often bedding was impossible to procure in sufficient quantity, and the wounded slept on straw. Her Majesty organized house-to-house collections for bedding, and, when the hospital was at Fumes, she gave twenty beds with spring mattresses for the use of the most serious cases.

Once when it had proved exceptionally difficult to get supplies, the Queen, attended by only one lady-in-waiting, went from house to house to see what could be obtained. The inhabitants of the place were for the most part more than willing to give, but the exigencies of war had left them with little. Few recognized the slender, gentle-voiced lady, who pleaded for the wounded soldiers, as their Queen. One good woman, who had given all but the bed on which she herself slept, was so overcome when she learned of her visitor's identity, that she hurried after her up the street, dragging her one mattress behind her as a final offering!

The Queen visited the hospital at Furnes twice regularly every week, and her visits were made without ceremony of any kind. She was never accompanied by more than one lady and, as a rule, by a Belgian medical officer. Her interest in the patients was felt and appreciated by everyone in the hospital. Her thorough knowledge of surgery and medicine made her able to understand and appreciate the methods of nursing, and she never failed to pay due tribute to the staff for their efforts and for the extraordinary ingenuity with which they carried out serious operations with wholly inadequate materials.

From bed to bed the Queen would pass, a slight figure always plainly clad, usually in black, with a word for each of the men who had suffered in her country's cause. To each she spoke— to Belgians, French, and Germans (for there were usually a few Germans brought in with the rest), as Her Majesty made no distinction. They were suffering ; they had made the supreme sacrifice for what each believed to be the right, and in that place of pain at least there was no room for bitterness.



At a later stage in the War, the Queen took a deep interest in the marvels of plastic surgery, which enabled so many poor fellows to take up their work in the world after leaving the hospital. At one hospital some very severe facial cases were being treated, and the head surgeon, anxious to spare the Queen some terrible sights, begged her not to visit that particular ward. Her Majesty was not, however, to be deterred by the awful disfigurements. "They suffered for their country," she remarked, "and the Queen of that country should be the last to shrink from them." She spoke to each man in turn, pressing his hand in kindly sympathy before she turned away.

As all the world knows, the Red Cross was no defence against the enemy's fire, Germany tried to excuse her shelling of hospitals on the ground that war must be conducted in a logical manner. Therefore, said the enemy, to wipe out the medical staffs, who help to fit men once again for the battlefield, was quite a logical feature of the campaign, just as, of course, German officers considered it was "logical" to take cover behind a living shield of Belgian women. In one instance the Queen was actually visiting a hospital when it was set on fire during an air-raid. The staff were naturally anxious to get Her Majesty out of the buildings into a place of safety, but the Queen refused firmly to consider her own security and took part in assisting the wounded into cover.

When the raid was over and things had quietened down, the doctor in charge of the hospital ventured to compliment Her Majesty on her courage, "My courage!" answered the Queen with the smile that had grown so rare in those days, "In what way did it differ from that of your nurses? When you make your report, if my presence is mentioned, it must be as one of them—no more.""


The Queen didn't forget the soldiers' families either. She organized events to raise money for their wives and children, and offered them a few consoling words whenever she met them. As she travelled from one hospital to the other, Queen Elizabeth often met with refugees who were fleeing their homes carrying their few poor possessions of their backs or on a small carts. There was nothing she could do for them, but she still stopped to speak to them, offering a few words of comfort, caressing a child and donating a few coins to a poor woman.

Queen Elizabeth also created the Queen's Orchestra, which was formed by musicians belonging to various regiments. They would play on the different war fronts to encourage and cheer the soldiers. The Queen didn't care to be recognized for all her efforts. Very often, she never disclosed her identity to the people she helped. She was an amazing, heroic woman who shared in the suffering and privations of their countrymen and women, which gained her their respect.

Further reading:
Albert The Brave by Lucas Netley

A Present Gone Wrong


The Duke of Penthievre, Princess De Lamballe's father-in-law, adored his grandchildren and often gave them presents. The Duke was usually very punctilious in his choice of gifts, but there was one he didn't examine very carefully before giving it to his little granddaughter, which caused him great embarrassment:

There were no New Year's gifts this year about which more has been said than about those which Monsieur le Due de Penthievre sent to Mademoiselle d'Orleans, his granddaughter. This is the story: Having deigned himself to visit all our great toy-shops, his Highness decided finally on a beautiful little palace, which in every respect seemed worthy of his preference. The idea was a novel one, and its workmanship was as elegant as ingenious; thanks to the play of a spring, easy to handle, all the windows of the palace opened one after another and there were seen innumerable numbers of the sweetest dolls in the world. This gift, carried to the little princess at the convent of Belle Chasse, soon became an object of admiration to all the nuns, who gathered around to see it. One of the youngest nuns in particular could not keep from looking at it. After examining it in detail and trying all its springs she finally perceived a small secret button which had not yet been touched; her finger quickly pressed it. Great heavens, what a strange surprise! All the dolls, which until then had appeared, were at once replaced by piquant figures of the Aretin*. The scandal throughout the entire community was great, no doubt, but it is said that even the piety of the Mother Superior could not prevent her from smiling when she saw what hands the devil had dared to use in order to play such a trick. The toy merchant was deservedly censured, but he protested his innocence, and, impertinent as the whole conception was, it was easily proved that chance alone was to blame.

Notes:
*These were explicit erotic pictures that accompanied a sex book published in Italy during the Renaissance, whose original edition was destroyed by the Catholic Church.

Further reading:
Madame De Lamballe by Georges Bertin

Historical Reads: Sarah Bernhardt


Author Elizabeth Mahon has written a very interesting post about the actress Sarah Bernhardt. To quote:

A baby was inconvenient for Sarah's mother, so she was shuttled off to relatives, and later sent to a convent school where she thrived, at one point she considered taking vows after converting to Catholicism. Fortunately fate had other ideas. From childhood, Sarah was intense and dramatic, throwing temper tantrums or falling ill when she was unhappy or thwarted. When a family panel was convened to decide what to do with Sarah whens he was 15, the Duc de Morny suggested that she enroll at the Conservatoire to become an actress, an idea that hadn't occured to her before. Sarah later claimed that she had never even seen a play before!

At the conservatoire, she threw herself into her studies, although she later rejected most of what she was taught there, considering the training to be old-fashioned. They had too many rules and Sarah hated rules. One of the biggest was that no actor should turn his back on the audience. Well Sarah made that one of the features of her acting during her long career. Thanks once again to the Duc de Morny, Sarah was automatically accepted into the Comedie Francaise upon graduation. However, she was not a success. Despite making her debut in 3 roles during her first year, she was hardly noticed by the critics or the audience. She also suffered from intense stage fright that would plague her during her entire career. After she slapped a senior actress for insulting her younger sister Regine backstage, Sarah was fired.


To read the entire post, click here.

Marie-Therese Of France: Life in Austria


On 19th December 1795, Marie Therese, the only surviving child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, finally freed from her prison, boarded a carriage that was to take her to her relatives in Austria. The journey was full of danger, forcing the august passenger to travel incognito. It was feared that anti-royalists would try to kidnap and kill her, but the carriage was also followed by spies at the service of her uncle Louis XVIII, the Austrian emperor Leopold Franz II, and Spanish King Charles IV. Marie-Therese, in fact, was a very important prize: her hand in marriage could lead her husband to the throne of France. At the time, there were two candidates to her hand: her cousin Louis-Antoine, Duc d'Angouleme of France, the son of the Comte D'Artois, supported by Louis XVIII, and Archduke Karl of Austria, Franz's brother, supported by the Austrians, who hoped thus to control France.

Marie Therese knew of Franz's plans, but she had resolved to marry her cousin Louis-Antoine because she believed in her heart that that was what her parents would have wanted. She had decided to remain in Vienna only until she was allowed to go to Rome, where her father's aunts lived. The Princess arrived at the Hofburg, the imperial palace in Vienna, on 9th January 1796. Here she met her cousin, the Emperor Franz II, and his wife, Maria Theresa of Sicily. Franz believed that Marie Therese would have wanted to exact revenge on the people of France for murdering her family, but he was wrong. She still cared deeply for her country and its people and she had every intention of doing what was good for them, and not for Austria.


So Franz decided to "austrify" her. He sent away Hue and Clery, two loyal servants of her poor late father, and her entire French entourage, and instead granted her unlimited access to her Austrian family. She was treated like an esteemed member of the family, given beautiful and lavish clothes and a very generous allowance and was invited to balls and parties where she enjoyed herself very much. But she still had no intention to cooperate with the Emperor's plans, much to his chagrin and frustration. He now decided to keep her under close surveillances and control her correspondence, which she expected. Still, she believed he was a good man at heart and that, with time, he would respect her wishes and let her marry the Duc D'Angouleme. In the meantime, her uncle Louis XVIII had already received from the Pope permission for the two cousins to marry. The Duc's rival then left the court. He was called to lead the imperial forces against Napoleon’s army, who had already conquered Italy and was now fighting on the Rhine.

Still, Louis XVIII was concerned Marie-Therese may change her mind and marry the Archduke Karl. It seems that Karl, in fact, really and deeply cared about Marie-Therese, and had been full of attentions towards her, whether Louis-Antoine had never even written to her once. So, Louis suggested to her niece that the Duc D'Angouleme was in love with her too, but being too shy to reveal his feelings needed some encouragement. She wrote to him and the two started a correspondence that was however friendly, not romantic or charming. Deciding to marry her cousin was not the only way in which she was serving the Bourbon cause. She constantly pleaded their cause with the Emperor, and, when she came in the possession of some of the money her father had given to a certain Gouverneur Morris for safekeeping, sent it to the emigrees.


In April 1797, the Duc D'Angouleme arrived in Blakenburg to be nearer to Marie-Therese. But Napoleon was getting too close to Vienna and so Marie-Therese was sent to a convent near Prague where her aunt Maria Anna would take care of her. She left the tranquillity of the convent in September, when the Emperor decided to negotiate peace with Napoleon. While dealing with the French, he also loosened the surveillance on Marie Therese and she was now able to meet, for the first time in years, a member of her French family, the Duc D'Enghien, which had a profound effect on her. She could also again receive Hue and Cleary and have contacts with the French emigrees.

But this joy was tarred by rumours that started to circulate about her little brother, Louis XVII. People started to say that the unfortunate little boy hadn't died in prison after all and men pretending to be Louis Charles started to appear. Marie-Therese always investigated these claims, which pained her very much, but these men always turned out to be impostors. Louis Charles was dead. Marie Therese, instead, was destined to live a long life. But not in Austria. In 1798, the Emperor finally agreed to let Marie-Therese marry the Duc D'Angouleme. She was gonna be reunited with her French family at last.

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

Dinner Etiquette


REQUISITES FOR THE DINING-TABLE

Table-Linen, etc.--Table-cloths of white damask, double or single, as fine as the owner's purse admits, are used for the dinner-table, with large square white napkins to correspond. The table should first be covered with a mat of double-faced cotton flannel wide enough to fall six inches below the edge of the table, all around. This under mat greatly improves the appearance of the table-cloth, which can be laid much more smoothly over this soft foundation. Besides, the mat protects the table from too close contact with hot dishes. Small table mats for the purpose of protecting the cloth are not fashionable at present, though many careful housekeepers retain them rather than risk injury to fine table linen.

Carving-cloths are used when carving is done at the table, but are not needed when dinner is served à la Russe. Napkin rings are discarded by many who hold that a napkin should be used but once, and must be re-laundried before reappearing on the table. Practically, such a fastidious use of table linen would exhaust most linen supplies, and overcrowd the laundry. The neat use of a napkin renders this extreme nicety superfluous as a rule of home dining, Care should certainly be taken to remove all soiled table linen. Nothing is more disgusting than a dirty napkin, but the snowy linen that comes spotless through one using may, with propriety, be retained in the ring to be used several times.

This, of course, refers to every-day dining at home. On formal occasions no napkin rings appear on the table; the napkins are always fresh, and used for that time only. At the close of the dinner they are left carelessly on the table; not rolled or folded in any orderly shape. Small fringed napkins of different colors are used with a dessert of fruits. Fancy doylies of fine linen embroidered with silk are sometimes brought in with the finger-bowls; but these are not for utility, the dinner napkin doing service, while the embroidered "fancy" adds a dainty bit of effect to the table decoration.

China, Glassware, Cutlery, Silverware, etc.--Chinaware for the dinner service should be of good quality. Fashions in china decoration are not fixed; the fancy of the hour is constantly changing, but a matched set is eminently proper for the dinner table, leaving the "harlequin" china for luncheons and teas. Artistic glassware is a very handsome feature of table furnishing. Carafes and goblets for water are always needed at dinner; wine glasses, possibly; and the serving of fruits and bon-bons gives opportunity to display the most brilliant cut-glass, or its comparatively inexpensive substitutes, which are scarcely less pretty in effect. Fine glass is infinitely more elegant than common plated-ware, and though more liable to breakage is less trouble to keep in order.

The best dinner-knife is of steel, of good quality, with handle of ivory, ebony, or silver. Silver-plated knives are much used; they do not discolor so readily as steel, and are easily kept polished. They answer the purpose for luncheon, but they rarely have edge enough to be really serviceable at dinner or breakfast. The condiments are left on the sideboard, and handed from there in case any dish requires them, the supposition being that, as a rule, the several dishes are properly seasoned before they are served. Individual salt-cellars are placed on the table, and may be accompanied with salt spoons; if these are omitted, it is understood that the salt-cellar is emptied and refilled each time that it is used.

On the family dinner-table the condiment line is not so severely drawn; vinegar in cut-glass cruets, mustard in Satsuma pots, and individual "peppers"--in silver, china, or glass, and of quaint designs--are convenient and allowable. A table covered with white damask, overlaid with sparkling china and cut-glass, and reflecting the white light of polished silver, is a pretty but lifeless sight. Add one magic touch--the centre-piece of flowers--and the crystallized beauty wakes to organic life. In arranging the modern dinner-table, when the service is to be à la Russe, floral decorations are almost indispensable. Without something attractive for the eye to rest upon, the desert stretch of linen looks like the white ghost of famine mocking the feast.

The shape of the table, the available space, and the nature of the occasion decide the quantity and distribution of the flowers. It is a matter in which wide latitude is given to individual taste and ingenuity, original designs and odd conceits being always in order, subject only to the law of appropriateness. For a square or extra wide table a large centre-piece, either round or oblong, is usually chosen, with endless varieties in its component arrangement. In early autumn, in country homes or in suburban villas, nothing is more effective than masses of golden-rod and purple asters, gathered by the hostess or her guests during their afternoon drive, and all the more satisfactory because of the pleasure taken in their impromptu arrangement. Wild flowers should be neatly trimmed and symmetrically grouped to avoid a ragged or weedy appearance.



THE FORMAL ARRANGEMENT OF THE DINNER-TABLE

The mat is first adjusted upon the table, and the table-cloth smoothly and evenly laid over it. The cloth should fall about half-way to the floor all around. The floral accessories are then put in place. Carafes containing iced water are placed here and there on the table, at convenient points. The next step is the laying of the covers; a cover signifying the place prepared for one person. For a dinner in courses a cover consists of a small plate (on which to set the oyster plate), two large knives, three large forks (for the roast, the game, and entrées), one small knife and fork (for the fish), one tablespoon (for the soup), one oyster-fork.

The knives and forks are laid at the right and left of the plate, the oyster-fork and the spoon being conveniently to hand. A glass goblet for water is set at the right, about eight inches from the edge of the table; if wine is to be served the requisite glasses are grouped about the water goblet. The napkin is folded square, with one fold turned back to inclose a thick piece of bread; or, the napkin may be folded into a triangle that will stand upright, holding the bread within its folds. This is the only way in which bread is put on the dinner-table, though a plate of bread is on the sideboard to be handed to those who require a second piece. It is entirely proper to ask for it, when desired.

Butter is not usually placed on the dinner-table, but is handed from the sideboard if the menu includes dishes that require it; as, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, etc. Small butter-plates are included in the "cover" in such cases. The oysters, which form the initial course, are usually on the table before the guests take their places. A majolica plate, containing four or six of the bivalves with a bit of lemon in the midst, is placed at each cover; or, oyster cocktails may be served. The soup tureen and plates are brought in to the side table. All is now in readiness.

THE ARRIVAL OF GUEST

While these preparations have been going on in the dining-room, the guests have been assembling in the drawing-room. It is proper to arrive from five to fifteen minutes before the hour mentioned in the invitation, allowing time to pay respects to the host and hostess, without haste of manner, before the dinner is announced. A gentleman wears a dress suit at dinner. A lady wears a handsome gown, "dinner dress" being "full dress;" differing, however, from the evening party or reception gown in the kind of fabrics used.

The most filmy gauzes are suitable for a ball costume; while dinner dress--for any but very young ladies--is usually of more substantial materials--rich silk or velvet softened in effect with choice lace, or made brilliant with jet trimmings. Each gentleman finds in the hall, as he enters, a card bearing his name and the name of the lady whom he is to take out; also, a small boutonnière, which he pins on his coat. If the lady is a stranger, he asks to be presented to her, and establishes an easy conversation before moving toward the dining-room.



THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF DINNER

When dinner is ready the fact is made known to the hostess by the butler, or maid-servant, who comes to the door and quietly says "Dinner is served." A bell is never rung for dinner, nor for any other formal meal. The host leads the way, taking out the lady who is given the place of first consideration; the most distinguished woman, the greatest stranger, the most elderly--whatever the basis of distinction. Other couples follow in the order assigned to them, each gentleman seating the lady on his right. The hostess comes last, with the most distinguished male guest.

If there is a footman, or more than one, the chairs are deftly placed for each guest; but if only a maid is in waiting, each gentleman arranges his own and his partner's chairs as quietly as possible. As soon as the company are seated, each one removes the bread; and the napkin, partially unfolded, is laid across the lap. It is not tucked in at the neck or the vest front, or otherwise disposed as a feeding-bib. It is a towel, for wiping the lips and fingers in emergencies, but should be used unobtrusively--not flourished like a flag of truce.

THE SERVING OF THE DINNER

The servant is ready to hand from the side-board any condiments desired for the oysters, which are promptly disposed of. It may be remarked at the outset, that everything at table is handed at the left, except wine, which is offered at the right. Ladies are served first. After the oyster-plates are removed, the soup is served from the side table--a half ladleful to each plate being considered the correct quantity. You must accept it (whether you eat it or merely pretend to), but you must not ask for a second helping, since to do so would prolong a course that is merely an "appetizer" preparatory to the substantials.

The soup-plates are removed, and the fish immediately appears, served on plates with mashed potatoes or salad, or sometimes both, in which case a separate dish is provided for the salad. The entrées follow the fish, hot plates being provided, as required. Dishes containing the entrées should have a large spoon and fork laid upon them, and should be held low, so that the guest may help himself easily. Again the dishes are removed. The roast is the next course. The carving is done at the side table. Guests are consulted as to their preference for "rare" or "well-done;" and the meat, in thin slices, is served on hot plates, with vegetables at discretion on the same plate, separate vegetable dishes--except for salads--not being used on private dinner tables.

Certain vegetables, as sweet corn on the cob, may be regarded as a course by themselves, being too clumsy to be disposed of conveniently on a plate with other things. The game course is next in order (if it is included, as it generally is in an elaborate dinner). Celery is an appropriate accompaniment of the game course. The salad is sometimes served with the game; otherwise it follows as a course by itself. The salad marks the end of the heavy courses. The crumb tray is brought, and the table-cloth is cleared of all stray fragments. A rolled napkin makes a quiet brush for this purpose, especially on a finely polished damask cloth. The dessert is now in order. Finger-bowls and doylies are brought in on the dessert-plates. Each person at once removes the bowl and doyley to make ready for whatever is to be put on the plate.

Ices, sweets (pastry and confections), cheese, follow in course; and, finally, the fruits and bon-bons. Strong coffee is served last of all, in small cups. Fashion decrees café noir, and few lovers of cream care to rebel on so formal an occasion as a dinner; but when the formality is not too rigid, the little cream jug may be smuggled in for those who prefer café au lait. Water is the staple drink of the American dinner-table. A palatable table water, like Apollinaris, well iced, is an elegant substitute for wine when habit or conscience forbids the latter. When wine is served with the different courses at dinner, the appropriate use is as follows: with soup, sherry; with the fish, chablis, hock, or sauterne; with the roast, claret and champagne; after the game course, Madeira and port; with the dessert, sherry, claret, or Burgundy.

After dinner are served champagne and other sparkling wines, just off the ice, and served without decanting, a napkin being wrapped around the wet bottle. While wine may be accounted indispensable by many, the growing sentiment in favor of its total banishment from the dinner-table has this effect on the etiquette of the case, that the neglect to provide wine for even a very formal dinner is not now the breach of good form which it would have been held to be some years ago. It is good form for a host to serve or not serve wine, as he chooses; it is very bad form for his guest to comment on his choice. When any one who is conscientiously opposed to wine-drinking, or for any reason abstains, is present at a dinner where wine is served, he declines it by simply laying his hand on the rim of his glass as the butler approaches. No words are necessary.



MISCELLANEOUS POINTS

Extra knives and forks are brought in with any course that requires them. The knife is held in hand as little as possible, being used only when cutting is actually necessary, the fork easily separating most vegetables, etc. In the fish course, however, the knife is used to assist in removing the troublesome small bones. In holding the knife the fingers should not touch the blade, except that the forefinger rests upon the upper edge not far below the shank when the cutting requires some firmness of pressure. The dinner knife should be sharp enough to perform its office without too much muscular effort, or the possible accident of a duck's wing flying unexpectedly "from cover" under the ill-directed stress of a despairing carver's hand.

The fork is held with the tines curving downward, that position giving greater security to the morsel, and is raised laterally, the points being turned, as it reaches the mouth, just enough to deposit the morsel between the slightly-parted lips. During this easy movement the elbow scarcely moves from its position at the side, a fact gratefully appreciated by one's next neighbor. Liquids are sipped from the side of the spoon, without noise or suction. In serving vegetables the tablespoon is inserted laterally, not "point first." Celery is held in the fingers, asparagus also, unless the stalks are too tender. Green corn may be eaten from the cob, a good set of natural teeth being the prime requisite.

The management of fruits in the dessert is another test of dainty skill. Oranges may be eaten in different ways. Very juicy fruit may be cut in halves across the sections and scooped out with a spoon. The drier "seedless" oranges are better peeled and separated. With a fruit knife, remove the tough skin of each peg, leaving enough dry fiber to hold it by, in conveying it to the mouth. Practice enables one easily to "make way with" an orange. Bananas are cut in two, the skin removed; the fruit is held in the fingers, or--preferably--eaten with a fork. Juicy pears and peaches may be managed in the same way, at discretion, the rule being that the fingers should touch as little as possible fruits that are decidedly mushy.

The finger-bowl stands ready to repair all damages of the nature suggested. The fingers are dipped in the water and gently rinsed, and then passed lightly over the lips, and both mouth and fingers are wiped upon the napkin. At a signal from the hostess, the ladies rise and return to the drawing-room. The gentlemen follow immediately, or remain a short time for another glass of wine, when such is the provision of the host.

DINNER-TABLE TALK

The conversation at the dinner-table should be general, unless the company is large, and the table too long to admit of it. But in any case, each one is responsible first of all for keeping up a pleasant chat with his or her partner, and not allowing that one to be neglected while attention is riveted on some aggressively brilliant talker at the other end of the table. No matter how uninteresting one's partner may be, one must be thoughtful and entertaining; and such kind attention may win the life-long gratitude of a timid débutante, or the equally unsophisticated country cousin.

Dinner-table talk should be affable. The host and hostess must be alert to turn the conversation from channels that threaten to lead to antagonisms of opinion; and each guest should feel that it is more important just now to make other people happy than to gratify his impulse to "floor" them on the tariff question. In short, at dinner, as under most social conditions, the watchword ever in mind should be, "Not to myself alone."

INFORMAL DINNERS

The informal dinner, daily served in thousands of refined American homes, is a much less pretentious affair than the name "dinner" technically implies. In most cases the service is but partially à la Russe, most courses, and all the entrées, being set on the table, the serving and "helping" being done by some member of the family; the presence of a waitress being sometimes dispensed with except at transition points; as, when the table is cleared before the dessert. This formality is the most decided dinner feature of the meal, which throughout its progress has been conducted more like a luncheon. Yet, in all essential points of mannerliness, the family dinner is governed by the same rules that control the formal banquet. At the informal dinner it is customary to seat the guests in the order in which they enter the dining-room, without assigning any place of distinction; all the places at table being held of equal honor--comfort and convenience being the things chiefly considered.


Further reading:
Etiquette by Agnes H. Morton