Marie Therese Of France: Restoration


On 18 June 1815, Napoleon was defeated once and for all at the battle of Waterloo. The French royal family could now return home again. But although the King, Louis XVIII, requested his niece Marie Therese to be at his side when he entered France on 8 July, she didn't return until the 27th. And when she did, she did it without pomp nor ceremony, and with a deep disgust for the cowardly way her uncle had fled the country without even trying to put up a fight against Napoleon. Marie Therese now decided that she wanted to have a say in the governing of France.

She went on a tour of the country to consolidate her support, helped his uncle decide what ministers to appoint to his court, took charge of protocol and ordered the removal of all the bees, eagles, Ns, and other symbols Napoleon had had plastered all over the royal palaces. Marie Therese now refused to have anything to do with any Bonapartist and even convinced her uncle to banish the Orleans branch of the family, who had never been too supportive of his return to power, from French soil (although the ban wouldn't last for long).

There was another matter to settle: the succession. Louis XVIII was getting older and his marriage hadn't produced any children. That of his niece and nephew, Marie Therese and the Duc D'Angouleme, was childless too. Thus, it was decided that the Duc D'Angouleme's brother, the Duc De Berry should get married as soon as possible, but to whom? The choice fell on the 17 year old Princess Marie Caroline of Naples, the granddaughter of Maria Carolina of the Two Sicilies, Marie Antoinette's favourite sister. The couple married on 17 June 1816. The Duc de Berry was instantly smitten with his bride, but Marie Therese wasn't too impressed. She considered her frivolous, silly and poorly educated. However, she softened somewhat when Marie Caroline became pregnant.


Her first daughter and her first son, born about a year apart, both lived only for a few short hours. But in 1819, she finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl called Louise. She was pregnant with a son, Henri, when her husband was stubbed to death by a fanatical Bonapartist outside the Opera on 13 February 1820. Marie Therese and her uncle, the Duc D'Artois, blamed the King's minister, Decazes and his liberal policies for the murder. Marie Therese threatened to leave Paris if he didn't dismiss him. The relationship between uncle and niece hadn't been good lately. Marie Therese was a fervent royalist and absolute monarchist, while the King was more pragmatic and realised the French people didn't want to go back to the old ruling system. He was also jealous of her popularity, fearing she could threaten his position. And so in the end, he relented and got rid of Decazes.

The following year, Marie Therese purchased the estate of Villeneuve-l'Etang, in Marnes, near Paris. It was a place where she could be with only a few close friends and where her nephew and niece could play and have fun. Maria Carolina loved to travel, party and generally have fun and so her children were often left with Marie Therese who was like a second mother to them. She supervised their education, appointed their tutors and instilled in them the belief in the divine right of kings. In the spring of 1824, Louis XVIII's health began to deteriorate and it was clear he would never recover. Marie Therese ran at his side and wouldn't leave it until his death. She was there when he died on 14 September. The Duc D'Artois was now King and Marie Therese Dauphine.


At first, the King Charles X, who swore loyalty to the Constitutional Charter, was very much loved by his people. However, he was a fervent royalist, just like his niece and, in the spring of 1829, he began to make reactionary decisions that caused unrest in the country. On 26 July he made the disastrous decision to repel the Constitutional Charter. Paris was in turmoil again. Marie Therese, who was in Macon at the time, upon hearing this news remarked "It is the worst pity that I was not in Paris." She knew the end of her uncle's rule was near and hastened back to his side. The King was forced to abdicate. Both he and his son, the Duc D'Angouleme, signed a document relinquishing their rights to the throne in favour of little Henri. Some historians argue that for 20 minutes, the time that passed between the two signatures, Marie Therese had been Queen of France.

But little Henri would never become King. The family had to hastily leave France after the abdication. Before doing so, Charles X had asked his cousin, the Duc D'Orleans to read the declaration of his abdication before the Chamber of Deputies. The Duc did so but omitted the part that named Henri as successor and was thus elected King himself. Charles, who had been the one to insist on a reconciliation between the two branches of the family, was shocked at his cousin behaviour. Marie Therese instead wasn't surprised at all. She had always distrusted the d'Orleans family. On 16 August, Marie Therese and the rest of her party embarked on a ship that would take them to Great Britain. She would never see France again.

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

Garden Seats

Hello everyone,

I was just browsing the 1816 edition of the Repository of Arts, Literature and Fashion, when I came across these images of two very peculiar garden seats. The first one reminds me of a merry-go-round while the second design resembles a circus tent. I think they are very whimsical and fun, although I'm not sure I would want them in my garden...


The form of [this] design is in imitation of those buildings in India that were frequently erected for monumental or devotional purposes, and nearly resemble an umbrella: the stem and beams of it are intended to be made of light work in iron, and the roof filled in with copper sheeting. The stem being fastened firmly into the ground, the wind would have very little effect upon it, particularly as it would possess a certain degree of flexibility; and with very little trouble the whole might be removed from one spot to another, and there fixed as in the first instance.


[This] design is of the marquee character, and the covering is supposed to be of such cloth as is generally used for them, the devices being either woven in the cloth itself, or painted upon it. This is supported upon an iron framing, and from which it is farther extended by cords. By preparing sockets in several parts of the grounds, so fitted to the stem or the upright as to receive it, the whole might be removed and fixed in a few minutes; and in winter it could be put away, as the ribs of the top might be prepared to fold into a small compass, and the covering packed up as is usual with officers' tents.

What do you think of these garden seats? Do you love them? Hate them?

Further reading:
Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions &c

Short Book Reviews: Rosehaven, Midnight Angel & A Pirate Of Her Own

Hello everyone,

today I'm briefly reviewing three historical romance novels. Enjoy!

Rosehaven by Catherine Coulter
Catherine Coulter is one of my favourite historical romance writers, but this book really isn't one of her best. Just before his death, the Earl of Oxborough forces his only daughter and heir, Hastings, to marry Severin of Langthorne to protect her and her lands from evil pretenders who want her only to squander her fortune. But the couple has problems from the very start. Hastings is a naive and caring girl. She would like to get along with Severin, but he just doesn't get her. Several is a typical macho man, a strong warrior who just doesn't know how to deal with women. He never had to and he can't really see that there's more to a being a husband than protecting her and sleeping with her. In return, he expects her to obey his every order and when she doesn't, he screams at her and punishes her. No wonder Hastings is miserable for most of the book! I really disliked Severin for his insensitivity, although I suppose his behaviour was considered absolutely normal in the Middle Ages, when this novel is set in. But what really put me off the book is that the couple seems to think that sex (and there's a lot of it in this book) is a panacea for all their problems. Maybe in historical romances it is, but in real life you need a lot more to make a marriage work. However, Coulter's writing style is fairly good and the story flows easily.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas
Anastasia, a Russian princess, is framed for the murder of her fiance. She was found near his body, but can't remember anything about that night. She's thrown in jail to await her execution, but manages to flee to England to start a new life. Here Lord Luke Stockenhurst hires her as a governess for her daughter. But just when it seemed she's finding happiness again, the past comes back to haunt her. I really love the idea of this book, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. After an intriguing beginning that will have you quickly turning the page to know what's gonna happen to Anastasia, the book begins to lose pace. It does pick it up again in the later part of the book, but some of the things that happen are either predictable or a bit far-fetched. Overall, the book is really not engaging enough. I would recommend it only to fans of Lisa Kleypas, but if you've never read a book by this author, then you shouldn't start with this as it will only disappoint you.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

A Pirate Of Her Own by Kinley MacGregor
Another average historical romance novel. The book is set in America in 1793. Serenity James, who works for her father's printing press, has written an article about a ship's captain who frees America impressed sailors from the British navy. She doesn't name him, only using the nickname Sea Wolf, but reveals enough information to make him suspect she knows his real identity. So, through a series of mistakes, she's kidnapped and brought on his ship and the two fall in love. Obviously they will have to face several problems before they can be together, but none of them will engage your attention. Like Midnight Angel, A Pirate Of Her Own quickly loses pace, becoming predictable and boring. The characters aren't well-developed either. Serenity has some feminists ideas and wants to write for a living against her family's wishes but when she meets Morgan, the hero, she turns into a doormat and learns coquetry and other typical feminine arts to entice him. It was such a disappointment! I would recommend it only to those who are into historical romances with pirates.
Available at: Amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

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

At Her Vanity

Diane De Poitiers by Master of the Fontainebleau School, c. 1590

Lady At Her Toilet by Gerard Terborch, c 1660

Woman At Her Toilet by Francois Boucher

La Toilette by Francois Boucher, 1742

The Toilette Of Venus by Francois Boucher, 1751

Marquise de Pompadour at the Toilet-Table by Francois Boucher, 1758

Femme à sa Toilette by Guillame Voiriot, 1760

 Lady at Her Toilet by Louis-Léopold Boilly

Le Petit Lever by Eva Gonzalès

Y La Toilette by Garreta Raimundo De Mandrazo

Woman At Her Toilette Hair by Edgar Degas, 1895-1900

Madame Poupoule At Her Dressing Table by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1899-1900

Girl Combing Her Hair by William MacGregor Paxton, 1909

Woman Seated By The Dressing Table by Richard Edward Miller

Reflections by Richard Emil Miller, 1915

Woman in Blue Seated at Dressing Table by Richard Emil Miller, 1916

Bessie Potter Vonnoh At Her Dressing Table by Robert Vonnoh 

At The Vanity by Everett Lloyd Bryant

The Coronation Of Henry VIII And Catherine Of Aragorn


Henry VIII became King of England at the young age of 18. A few weeks later, on the 11th of June 1509 he married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragorn and, on the 24th, the couple was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Here's how Tudor chronicler Edward Hall relates the event:

The following day being a Sunday, and also Midsummer's Day, the noble prince with his queen left the palace for Westminster Abbey at the appointed hour. The barons of the Cinq Ports held canopies over the royal couple who trod on striped cloth of ray, which was immediately cut up by the crowd when they had entered the abbey. Inside, according to sacred tradition and ancient custom, his grace and the queen were anointed and crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of other prelates of the realm and the nobility and a large number of civic dignitaries. The people were asked if they would take this most noble prince as their king and obey him. With great reverence, love and willingness they responded with the cry 'Yea, Yea'.

When the ceremony was finished, the lords spiritual and temporal paid homage to the king and, with the queen's permission, returned to Westminster Hall - each one beneath his canopy - where the lord marshal bearing his staff of office ushered all to their seats. Each noble and lord proceeded to his allotted place arranged earlier according to seniority. The nine-piece table being set with the king's estate seated on the right and the queen's estate on the left, the first course of the banquet was announced with a fanfare. At the sound the duke of Buckingham entered riding a huge charger covered with richly embroidered trappings, together with the lord steward mounted on a horse decked with cloth of gold. The two of them led in the banquet which was truly sumptuous, and as well as a great number of delicacies also included unusual heraldic devices and mottoes.

How can I describe the abundance of fine and delicate fare prepared for this magnificent and lordly feast, produced both abroad and in the many and various parts of this realm to which God has granted his bounty. Or indeed the exemplary execution of the service of the meal itself, the clean handling and distribution of the food and the efficient ordering of the courses, such that no person of any estate lacked for anything.

.....

The following day the aforementioned defending team, lady Pallas's scholars, presented themselves before the king ready for the tourney. All on horseback and armed from head to foot they each had one side of their armor-skirts and horse-trappings made of white velvet embroidered with gold roses and other devices, and the other made of green velvet embroidered with gold pomegranates. On their headpieces each wore a plume of gold damask.

At the same time the other side rode in, the aforementioned eight knights fully armed and dressed, like their mounts, in green satin embroidered with fine golden bramble branches. Following them, blowing horns, came a number of men dressed as foresters or gamekeepers in green cloth, with caps and hose to match, who arranged a set like a park with white and green fencing around it. Inside this paddock were fallow deer and artificial trees, bushes, ferns, and so forth. Once set up before the queen the paddock gates were unlocked and the deer ran out into the palace grounds. Greyhounds were then let loose which killed the deer, the bodies of which were then presented to the queen and the assembled ladies by the above-mentioned knights.

Crocheman, who had brought in the golden lance the previous day, then declared that his knights were the servants of the goddess Diana and whilst they had been indulging in their pastime of hunting had received news that lady Pallas's knights had come into these parts to perform feats of arms. Thereupon they had left off the chase and come hither to encounter these nights and to fight with them for the love of the ladies.

He added that if lady Pallas's knights vanquished them or forced them to leave the field of battle then they would receive the deer that had been killed and the greyhounds that slew them. But if Diana's knights overpowers their opponents they were to be given the swords of those knights and nothing more.

Hearing this, the queen and her ladies asked the king for his advice on the matter. The king, thinking that perhaps there was some grudge between the two parties and believing that to grant the request might lead to some unpleasantness, decided not to consent to these terms. Instead, to defuse the situation, it was decided that both parties should fight the tourney but that only a limited number of strokes would be permitted.

This was done and the two sides then left the field. The jousts then came to an end and the prizes were awarded to each man according to his deserts.


Further reading:
Tudor Primary Sources

Historical Reads: Birth, Misogyny and Female Space in Tudor England


Writer Amy Licence explores the role of women in Tudor England. To quote:

The rituals, practices and superstitions of birth remained a traditional female preserve throughout the Tudor period. This automatically made it suspect, a source of fear and insecurity amongst those excluded from its secrets. Placed within the wide-spread mistrust of women, childbirth highlighted the tensions that permeated every aspect of women’s lives, although it provided one of the few opportunities where female supremacy was grudgingly acknowledged. Irrepressibly, women found outlets for expression and mutual reliance in those domestic spheres that punctuated their days and life-cycles. That is not to suggest any sort of proto-Feminist consciousness in Tudor England, rather a solidarity forged through common experience or suffering. Women did band together to share chores and objects such as nursing duties and childcare, childbed linen and medicinal herbs, as well as emotional support. When some were mistreated by their husbands, others stepped in to offer shelter and even physically interposed themselves between husband and wife. Female identities were a complex function of their relations with other adults, their children, the church, the neighbourhood and its social codes. As such, there seems to have been an almost floating, oral female culture invoked whenever occasion arose, in and out of which women moved, dependent on need.

To read the entire post, click here.

Book Review: Queens Consort by Lisa Hilton


With few exceptions, such as the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine and the She-Wolf Isabella of France, Medieval Queens have been relegated to footnotes in history books. But those whose names and deeds have survived the centuries haven't fared much better. Their reputations have been shaped by hostile writers who used their stories to demonstrate why women should never rule over men, but always be subordinate to them. Their job was to take care of their husbands and children, not meddle in politics.

Queens Consort by Lisa Hilton tells the stories of all medieval English Queens, from Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William The Conqueror, to Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII, and examines how the role, duties and influence of queenship changed throughout the centuries. I was very surprised to find out that Norman Queens had a lot more power and freedom than Tudor ones. The first Medieval Queens had the right to own property, grant lands, settle disputes and sue and be sued. Overtime, their role started to become more and more symbolic. For instance, by interceding with the King to spare the lives of men he had condemned to death, the Queen allowed him to revoke a decision he regretted without losing face. Instead, he, like his Queen, was praised for his mercy and clemency. By Tudor times, Queens were expected to just provide the kingdom with a heir and a spare, and were only rarely involved in the affairs of the realm.

Hilton portrays all the Queens, most of whom were young foreign princesses who had to adapt to a new life and a new role, in a fair way. She often emphasizes the double standards they were judged with by their contemporaries (characteristics that were considered desirable in a man such as strength, both physical and of character, were considered dangerous in a woman for instance). Despite this, she doesn't idolize them nor does always justify their behaviour. She portrays them as the women they were, praising their virtues and good deeds, and criticising their flaws and most ruthless acts.

However, there are two main problems with this book. First, the editing. It was very rushed and there are glaring mistakes both in the genealogical charts and text that even those who aren't very acquainted with this history period can quickly spot. The second is the writing style. It is very flat and dry. Besides, at times I felt like the lives of these Queens were just used as a pretext to talk about the history of England in Medieval times. It is true that there is a wealth of information on all the Queens, which I really enjoyed, but there is a lot more on their husbands and children.

Most of the book actually focuses on English politics, which although fundamental to understand the time, culture and society these women lived in, are narrated in such a rushed, often convoluted way, that's quite hard to follow. I had to reread quite a few paragraphs a couple of times to understand them properly (something the many mistakes didn't make easier), which really spoiled the book for me. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it. It is a fascinating study on Medieval queenship in England, but it needs to be read in small doses, and only those who are really interested in the subject matter will make it to the end, which is really a shame.

Summary:
Queens Consort by Lisa Hilton is a fascinating study on medieval queenship and how the role, its duties and the level of power it afforded changed throughout the centuries. Hilton portrays all the Queens fairly, dedicating to each of them the space they deserve. However, the politics of the time, which take up most of the book, are discussed in a brief but convoluted way that's hard to understand. The writing style is quite dry and there are lots of errors in the book. Because of this, I recommend it only to those who are very interested in this subject. It's definitely not a book for history novices.

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

Rating: 3.5/5

Fashions For Autumn 1832

Hello everyone,

today we're gonna talk about fashion. Fashions for Autumn 1832, that is. I've found some beautiful images of dresses that would have been fashionable at the time and I hope you'll like them. I have to say I'm not a fan of the huge sleeves that were so popular in that year, but I love the colours of the dresses and the details and ornaments of the skirts. Aren't they pretty?

SEPTEMBER


EVENING DRESS

A dress of rose-coloured satin broché, the corsage is drapé, and finished round the bust with a chemisette of blonde; the epaulettes consist of points of satin like the dress, each terminating in a bunch of five leaves. A row of corresponding points and leaves heads the flounce, which, like the sleeves, is of rich blonde. The coiffure consists of a pink crape beret, trimmed with two alles of blonde; the one within the brim, on the left side, is supported by a bunch of moss-roses; a smaller bunch is placed on the opposite side, mingling with the curls: the second blonde aile is placed above the brim, so that its edge only is seen in front; and another bunch of roses placed over it close to the edge of the brim, completes this elegant head-dress. Collier de perles fines a la Bayadere; earrings and bracelets to match. Satin shoes.

WALKING DRESS

Dress of Parma violet gros des Indes; corsage uni made high, and covered by a double pelerine en fichu, pointed behind and on the shoulders; the ends in front are so long as to cross over the bosom, and tie behind at the waist with a short rosette. Hat of green satin trimmed with a bunch of hops, and figured gauze ribbon. Bottines of kid and green reps; ruff of tulle; light green gloves and gold bracelets. 


BALL DRESS

A white crape dress over white satin; the skirt is set on in bunches of small folds; the hem is not very deep, and is cut in scalloped points, edged with a gold tissue rouleau, and surmounted by a wreath of jessamine embroidered in white floss silk with gold foliage. Corsage uni and low; it is partially covered by a deep pelerine of white satin, edged with gold rouleau and blonde; a cordon of white satin and gold rouleaux twisted, with a crape chemisette, finishes it at the top. Coiffure en cheveux, without ornaments. The jewellery should be pearls or diamonds.


BALL DRESS

Dress of oiseau de paradis gauze over satin to correspond. The corsage is very low, cut square and plain, and is covered by a pelerine of blonde open in front, and bordered round the top by a row of satin points; the pelerine consists of two falls of blonde; the first so deep as to cover the sleeves and back part of the bodice, the second less deep is caught upon each shoulder by a white rose. The hem of the skirt is low, and trimmed above with a row of arabesque satin ornaments edged with blonde, each sup porting a full-blown Provence white rose, with a profusion of foliage: the hair is dressed behind in two low horizontal bows, supporting a natte a jour, from which issues a bunch of ringlets Necklace of gold chain and cameos; satin shoes; white kid gloves.

OCTOBER


EVENING DRESS

This dress is composed of chaly, printed in large sprigs on a white ground. The corsage is cut low en coeur, and plain; a pelerine of a novel form nearly covers the corsage; it has three broad folds, which are fastened down in front and at the back with a short strap; these folds and the pelerine itself are in one piece. Short beret sleeves; the hair is dressed in a simple style, with pearl ornaments. Shoes of satin, of a colour corresponding with the pattern of the dress. Kid gloves; pearl bracelets.

EVENING DRESS

Of celestial blue moire; the corsage is very low, and plaited in deep horizontal folds; it is finished round the bust by a torsade of blue gauze ribbon, and a blonde chemisette. Two long bows are placed on the shoulders, and two small ones in front and at the back. The skirt is plaited en colonnes, and is trimmed at the hem with a torsade of ribbon and long bows; a double fall of rich blonde covers the sleeves. The hair is dressed in short curls, with a single large bow behind, and a natte twisted round with ribbon. Coques of ribbon are placed as to form a wreath round the head, and ending with a bow above the curls on the right side, leaving a small open space on the forehead. Jewellery of gold and precious stones. Satin gloves and shoes.

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

Book Review: O'Malley Saga By Bertrice Small

Don't ask me why I read this awful saga. I shouldn't even have finished the first book and instead I've read all six of them. Maybe I did because my mom is a fan and I wanted to see what the hype was about (and as she has them all, I didn't really spend a cent on them). Maybe I was curious to see if the author's writing improved with time. Or maybe I'm just a masochist. In any case, I've read it and I'm now telling you why you shouldn't. Unless you're an erotica fan. Then you may just like it.


Skye O'Malley, the first book in the O'Malley saga, tells the story of Skye, a beautiful, fiery Irish woman who's forced by her father to abandon the man she loves, Neill, to marry one she detests and who continually abuses her. When he finally dies and it seems like true love can triumph, she's captured by pirates and ends up in a harem in Algeri. By the end of the book, she's had several children by four different husbands and forged a love/hate relationship with Queen Elizabeth I.

SPOILER ALERT
All The Sweet Tomorrows is one of the worst books in the saga and the one that really pissed me off, mainly because of the horrible, sometimes senseless plot. This time it is Neill who ends up in a harem and of course Skye decides to rescue him. But the only way to enter the city is to become a sex slave to one of the inhabitants, who abuses her practically every second of every day. She puts up with that to save Neill, only that there's no way a sex slave can leave the harem so in the end, it's their friends who have to rescue them both. Talk about a crappy plan. Had they devised something cleverer, he would probably have been freed a lot sooner. Oh, and as soon as he is safe, he dies. And a few months later, she's already madly in love with someone else. Can someone tell me why I endured reading a crappy book and a half to see true love conquer all only to be told halfway through the second book that it wasn't true love after all as her soulmate was someone else entirely? After that, I could never warm up to the poor fella and always disliked him in the following books too even if he's not all that bad really.
SPOILER OVER


A Love For All Time tells the story of Conn O'Malley, Skye's little brother. A favourite of Elizabeth I, he caused such a scandal that the Queen forced him to marry the heiress Aidan and settle down. They fall in love but then, you guessed it, she ends up in a harem! At this point, this is getting quite ridiculous. I'm sure many European women ended up in harems throughout the centuries, but what are the chances of most of the women (and men) in a family ending up there (sometimes even twice)? I get it that the author is fascinated with the Orient and there's nothing wrong with that, but that doesn't mean she has to write about it in every book! It just stop being believable after a while. In any case, this is the best book out of the saga, mainly because unlike the other female heroines, Aidan is normal. She's not selfish, reckless and silly like the other O'Malley women. She's capable of brave deeds when the occasion warrants them, but the rest of the time she's quite calm and full of common sense.


This Heart Of Mine is instead the worst book in the series. We're told that Velvet is a smart, fiery lady, but to me she just seems a spoiled brat who throws a tantrum whenever things don't go her way. We're also told, at the end of the book, that she's apparently grown up and matured a lot after all she went through (yep, she ends up in a harem too, but this time in India) but she's just as reckless, selfish and spoilt as ever, possibly even more than her mother Skye. There is also some subplot at the end that is totally unnecessary and just contributes to make the book longer than it needs to be.

Lost Love Found tells the story of Valentina, Aidan's daughter. Remember her mother had ended up in a harem? Well, without giving away too much, she had slept with three different men, including her legitimate husband, in a short space of time and wasn't sure who the father of the baby she was carrying was. Upon learning that, Valentina needs to go to Istanbul to find out who her true father is. There's no point in telling her it's impossible to know for sure since DNA tests weren't available at the time. She must go. And guess where she ended up? At this point, I'm not even gonna rant about it. And of course her search is successful. Cos you know, who needs DNA tests to know for sure after all? In other words, the plot isn't really believable. Of course there's a lot of other stuff happening before the book ends, but I can't reveal too much. If you're interested, you'll have to read it.


Wild Jasmine is the last book in the series and tells the story of Jasmine, Skye's granddaughter. Brought up as a princess in the Orient, she's forced to escape from her country and go to live with her English family. Jasmine is the one who is more like Skye and the two share a special bond. Jasmine too will find love with several men before running away from the one she's truly destined to be with. I'm not really sure what more to add without revealing too much, even though if you've read the other books in the saga, you'll find there really isn't anything new here.

Bertice Small books aren't exactly historical novels. They're erotica novels set in the past (in this case, the sixteenth century). Sex takes up a huge chunk of the books, and it seems that the only reason so many of her heroines end up in harems is so that she can write about sex practices and perversions that took place in there. Although to be fair, some of the English villains can be just as perverted too. Of course not all the sex scenes are really bad, there is also a lot of "normal" lovemaking. But the thing that really bothers me is not the sex itself, but the fact that her heroines, although despising some of the men they are forced to have sex with, and not consenting to the act voluntarily, end up enjoying it. Because apparently, when a woman's body is touched in a certain way, it can't help but react and feel pleasure. Call me a prude or a moralist, but to me this is condoning and glamorizing rape. In those situations any woman would be scared, not aroused.


Historical accuracy is also lacking. There are so many mistakes in this book that I just can't list them all. And to make things worse, the author is so determined to show that she's done her homework (she does get a few things right too) that when she explains political situations and events it feels like you're reading a text book. Not to mention that every time a new character appears or is mentioned, we're told of the history of his entire family. Because when someone asks you who you are, it is normal to say what you, your parents, your uncles, your grandparents and everyone remotely related with you does. Sure, this kind of information may have been important in the past, especially when discussing marriage deals, but I wish it were done in a natural way that doesn't sound like a boring genealogy lesson.


In addition, there is no character development. In fact, the characters are described in a way and act in another. We're told that all the lead female characters are clever and intelligent, yet they keep acting impulsively without thinking of the consequences which always lands them in trouble. And they're also quite selfish, stubborn and spoiled. And of course they never age. Even after several pregnancies, they're still toned and thin. Also, the characters tend to be all black and white. The good ones being perfectly ok with women being independent, choosing their husbands, keeping control of their wealth and fortune even after marriage, preaching religious tolerance, and the bad ones being against all these things. Now I don't doubt that were people who really respected women and all religious faiths in the Tudor era, but things weren't really as black and white at all. It's all very anachronistic but I guess that historical romance readers are more interested in political correctness than historical accuracy.

Summary:
Overall, the Sky O'Malley saga is truly awful. It lacks historical accuracy, character development and interesting plots as the same events keep happening again and again, only to different people. They're more erotica novels than historical romances really and some of the sex scenes may leave some people feeling really uneasy.

Available at: amazon UK and amazon US

Rating: 1.5/5

Book Review: The Children Of Henry VIII by Alison Weir


Let's start with a little rant. The title of this book, The Children of Henry VIII, is very misleading. This isn't a biography of Henry's children, but a recount of the events that happened after his death up to the ascension of Elizabeth I to the throne. We're told of how his heirs - his son Edward, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and his grandniece Jane Grey - struggled for power and how their brief reigns shaped and changed the nation. Because of this, its previous title, The Children Of England: Heirs of King Henry VIII was a much more appropriate title and I can't really figure out why they felt the need to change it. If they thought The Children Of England was too generic, they could just have removed that bit and kept only the second part of the title instead than changing it to The Children Of Henry VIII, which is only gonna cause wrong expectations that may prevent people from enjoying to the full a book that is otherwise insightful, informative, entertaining and very well-written.

And in a way, unusual. Historians usually pick one of these 4 figures and write a full biography on them, while their siblings and relatives are relegated to the background. But these people were all very closely related, they cared about each other, were distrustful of each other, argued with each other, laughed together and, although, because of their stations and ranks, they didn't have the classic brother/sister/cousin relationship "common people" have, they still had a great influence on each other's actions and lives, and contributed in shaping each other's personalities. And they all had very distinct personalities and beliefs, which greatly influenced their rules and, in turn, the lives of millions of British people, sometimes to this very day. So, to see their stories intertwined together, their lives told as they happened, was really fascinating.

Weir gives to each monarch the space they deserve. Edward's and Jane's lives and reigns are dealt with just as in-depth as those of their more famous relatives Mary and Elizabeth. I really appreciated this as most historians, due to the minority of the first and the brevity of the second's rule, have a tendency to relegate their reigns to footnotes, ignoring the importance they had on the country and on the other ruling figures of the time. Weir also paints all their portraits in a balanced and fair way. For instance, she's not as hard on Mary as many historians tend to be, pointing out that her actions were the result of the years of pain and persecutions she and her mother, Catherine of Aragorn, were subjected to. The book also clearly explains that even autocratic monarchs couldn't always do as they pleased. They had to deal with the aristocracy that was always plotting and conspiring in the background, and trying to lobby and influence their decisions. And sometimes, they had to give in to their wishes to avoid national crisis and maybe even deposition.

But the main reason why I love Weir's books is that she makes history easily accessible to everyone. Her books don't read like novels, but neither as boring biographies. They are full of interesting details, and quotes from first hand sources, which she manages to intertwine in the narrative in a way that enhances the book and makes it flow easily instead than bogging it down. The only downside is that footnotes in her books are often lacking, so it's not always easy for those who want to verify the sources to track them down. I'm not sure if this is her choice or the publisher's, but in any case adding notes would only improve the book and enhance the credibility of the author so I hope they will be included in her future works.

Summary:
The Children Of Henry VIII by Alison Weir focuses on the tumultuous events between Henry VIII's death and the ascension of his daughter Elizabeth to the throne. In the book, the stories of Henry's heirs - his children Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, and his grandniece Jane Grey, are intertwined together, showing the reader how each of them helped shape each other's personality and their country. It's a very insightful and informative book written in an easy-to-understand, entertaining way that flows easily. However, the title is misleading and footnotes are missing.

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

Rating: 4/5

Leopold I King Of The Belgians On Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria


In a letter to his niece, Queen Victoria, dated 3rd June 1853, King Leopold I of the Belgians shares his impressions on the Austrian Emperor, Francis Joseph. Here's an excerpt from the letter:

The young Emperor* I confess I like much, there is much sense and courage in his warm blue eye, and it is not without a very amiable merriment when there is occasion for it. He is slight and very graceful, but even in the mêlée of dancers and Archdukes, and all in uniform, he may always be distinguished as the Chef. This struck me more than anything, as now at Vienna the dancing is also that general mêlée which renders waltzing most difficult.... The manners are excellent and free from pompousness or awkwardness of any kind, simple, and when he is graciously disposed, as he was to me, sehr herzlich und natürlich.

He keeps every one in great order without requiring for this an outré appearance of authority, merely because he is the master, and there is that about him which gives authority, and which sometimes those who have the authority cannot succeed in getting accepted or in practising. I think he may be severe si l'occasion se présente; he has something very muthig. We were several times surrounded by people of all classes, and he certainly quite at their mercy, but I never saw his little muthig expression changed either by being pleased or alarmed.


Notes:
* Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria.

Further reading:
The Letters of Queen Victoria, Vol 2 (of 3), 1844-1853

Historical Reads: Birth of Louis XVI Of France


History Today remembers Louis XVI's birth:

The new baby had troubles from the start. His wet nurse had no milk, but it was difficult to get her replaced because she was sleeping with the minister in charge of the royal household, the only person authorised to dismiss her. Short-sighted and consumptive in his early years, Louis-Auguste was the odd one out in the family. He looked different from his brothers. He inherited his fair complexion and bulging blue eyes from his Saxon mother and he had heavy eyebrows and hooded eyelids, and a weightiness and clumsiness about him. Bourgogne was boisterous and bossy, Provence was lively and amusing and Artois had charm and good looks. Berry was slow and introspective. Timid and evasive, he spent his time dancing attendance on the assertive Bourgogne, who cheated him when they played cards.

The Dauphin and Dauphine were extremely close and in fourteen years of marriage she bore him eight children and miscarried eleven times. The Dauphin took pains with the education of his sons, who had an array of tutors for scripture, Latin, mathematics and physics, history and geography, fencing and dancing. Young Berry was taught metalwork, which he loved, and carpentry, which he did not. Specially written plays were put on for the princes, but they were so full of moralising that they gave Louis-Auguste a lasting distaste for the theatre. The children were steered clear of the Enlightenment ideas of leading French intellectuals, that would help to kill Louis-Auguste in the end.


To read the entire article, click here.

First Blog Anniversary!


Wow, I can't believe I've been blogging for a whole year already! It seems like yesterday that I've signed up for an account on blogger and published my first post. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who read and follow my blog. All your comments, emails and support are very appreciated and I hope you'll stick around for another year!

Marie Therese Of France: Return Home


April 1814 was almost drawing to a close, when crowds of cheering people assembled in Calais to welcome the return of the Borboun family. It was with some trepidation that Marie Therese set foot on her native soil again. The warm reception both moved and disconcerted her. She was obviously happy to be home but she also couldn't help thinking about the violence she had seen during the failed flight to Varennes. The family proceeded on their journey and, on the 28th, they arrived at Amiens. Here, the houses were belted in black cloth and their chimneys were black too. It was an unusual sight and when they enquired about the meaning of it, Marie Therese and Louis XVIII were told they were displays of mourning for Louis XVI. The townspeople had decorated their houses thus when he had been executed and, years later, they still remained untouched.

On 3 May, the King and Marie-Therese, wearing a simple white gown embroidered with silver leaves and no jewellery, finally arrived in Paris, where they were welcomed by shouts of "Vive Le Roi!". The Duchess managed to keep her composure until her arrival at Notre Dame Cathedral. Here, she collapsed on a prayer stool and cried. Then, she resumed her journey through Paris, her mind recalling all the horrors she had witnessed in that city during the Revolution. It was only natural, yet the Parisians were shocked the Princess didn't look happy. Finally, the carriage reached the Tuileries. Overcome by her emotions, Marie Therese fainted. It was at the Tuileries that Louis XVIII established his court. The Tuileries, unlike Versailles, wasn't associated with an exaggerated, lavish lifestyle. Besides, here, he could be closer to his people.


Marie Therese could hardly be happy about living in a palace where her family had suffered so much during the Revolution. To feel joy here was a sacrilege for her. Thus, she only established a small household and dressed modestly, which caused the King to worry her behaviour may upset the people. The King, in fact, was keen to show that now the royal family had returned home, all the past sins and mistakes were forgotten. This wasn't easy for Marie Therese to do. She found it hard to forgive her old friends who had thrived under Napoleon's regime. But the person she despised the most, and absolutely refused to see, was her cousin Louis Philip, the Duc D'Orleans, whose father had been responsible for her parents' death.

Marie Therese realised that one of the mistakes her parents had made was to remain confined at Versailles. She thought it would be good for the monarchy if she were to travel throughout the country, and see and by seen by her people. So, in August she took what would be the first of many such tours visiting, among other towns, Riom, Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon. It was here among her people that she was the most comfortable and happier. She hated being in Paris, a city that held so many horrific memories for her, and where she had to deal with the new aristocracy who had risen during the Empire, and feign a happiness she didn't feel. She preferred to spend her time with friends who had shared her misfortunes and had always remained loyal, visiting them privately. She also continued her charity work.


The Duchess D'Angouleme believed her family was now firmly back on their throne, but she was wrong. On 26 February 1815 Napoleon escaped from the Elba island. Marie Therese was in Bordeaux, on one of her tours around the country, when she heard the news. As her husband joined the army the King had dispatched against Napoleon, Marie Therese remained at Bordeaux where, every day, she would speak to the soldiers, encouraging and praising them. She also examined the list of volunteers at the town's hall daily, but when the people heard the King had fled the country after his army had joined the enemy, the numbers of men willing to fight lessened with each passing day. The Duchess was told by the King to flee too, but she refused. Napoleon now asked her to leave the country too under his protection.

He knew he couldn't hurt the "Orphan of the Temple" and this to him seemed the best solution for all. Marie Therese retaliated that she would never surrender. But when she realised that most of the men in her small army had no intention of fighting a civil war, she had no choice but to give up her effort and leave France. She had been the only member of her family who had tried till the end to put up a fight against Napoleon. This impressed the Emperor who proclaimed his admiration by saying of her: "She is the only man in the family!" Marie Therese went first to Spain and then to England, where she petitioned the Prince Regent for men and arms to fight Napoleon. Napoleon's rule would be short-lived and soon the Bourbons would be restored again.

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

The Devil Scares Thieves Away, And A Goat Sobers A Priest Up


No, I'm not going crazy. These two weird events really happened, in Berkishire and Wales respectively, in 1810. Here's how La Belle Assemblée magazine reported them:

Some thieves lately entered the gardens of a gentleman near Windsor, and took down a most beautiful and valuable statue of Venus de Medicis, made of copper, which they carried, however, only as far as another place in the garden where stood the statue of the Devil, at which they were so much affrighted, that they dropped the Venus, and made away as fast as they could, without any plunder at all. Thus, for once, the Devil stood the friend of beauty, and rescued her, by a look, out of the hand of her ravishers.

The late Rev. Rice Pritcharch, was for some time after his admission into the church, awfully ensnared by the sin of drunkenness; he was at length recovered from it in the following singular way; - He had a tame goat which was wont to follow him to the alehouse which he frequented; and he one day, by way of frolic, gave the poor animal so much ale that it became intoxicated. What particularly struck Mr. P. was, from that time, though the creature would follow him to the door, he never could get it to enter the house. - Revolving on this circumstance, Mr. P. was led to see how much the sin by which he had been enslaved, had sunk him beneath a beast, and from that time, he not only became a sober man, but an exemplary Christian, and a very eminent minister of the gospel.


Reality really is weirder than fiction sometimes, don't you think?

Further reading:
La Belle Assemblée, 1810

Short Book Reviews: Poirot Investigates, The Underdog And Other Stories & A Caribbean Mystery

Hello everyone,

today I'm reviewing three books from one of my favourite crime writers, Agatha Christie. Enjoy!

Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
Poirot Investigates is the very first collection of short stories featuring Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. Together, they will try and solve all kinds of crimes including a suspicious death in a locked room, the abduction of a Prime Minister, a missing will, a million dollar bond robbery and why a flat is so mysteriously cheap. Christie's short stories aren't as good as her novels, simply because they are, well... short. Because of lack of space, the plots, although creative, aren't overly-complicated and the characters are only a few so it's quite easy in most cases to guess who the culprit is. In fact, I'm surprised that even Hastings didn't guess right a few times. The best part of the book for me is reading about the relationship between Hastings and Poirot. They're such good friends and work so well together. It's a delight to spend time in their company. And Christie's writing is as wonderful as ever. Overall, this collection is a nice way for Poirot's fans to spend an evening with their favourite detective.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

The Underdog And Other Stories by Agatha Christie
The Underdog And Other Stories is a collection of nine short stories, all featuring Hercule Poirot, of which The Underdog is the longest (and in my opinion the best one too). This book is very similar to the one above so I'll keep this short. The stories are all well thought-out and plotted, but the lack of characters and length often make it easy to guess who the criminal is. All the stories are also well-written but if you're new to Agatha Christie, then know that her books are a lot better. I don't think her short stories are a great introduction to her work, but they are a wonderful introduction to Poirot as we get to know his work method and all his little peculiarities and characteristics.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
Miss Marple's newphew sends her to a Caribbean resort for a much needed holiday, but even there she stumbles onto a crime. The victim is old Major Palgrave. He's about to show Miss Marple the picture of a serial killer when something - or someone - catches his eye. He stops, then changes the subject. The next day, he's dead. Everyone seems to think he died of natural causes but Miss Marple is not convinced and starts to investigate. The book is full of red herrings, mistaken identities and false clues that should distract the reader, keeping them to wonder who the murderer is. However, if you've read a few Christie novels before, figuring out who the culprit is isn't too hard. The story is also more slow-paced and lighter than most Miss Murple mysteries, but is written extremely well and is a pleasure to read. It's not my fave Miss Marple book, but if you're a fan of this old lady, then you'll enjoy it very much.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 4/5

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

Book Review: Charlotte & Leopold by James Chambers


Charlotte of Wales and Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld are one of my favourite historical couples and thus I was very glad to see a book dedicated to their love story. The book is primarily the biography of this unfortunate princess who has now became a footnote in history books but whose premature death has changed the course of British history. But her relationship with Leopold takes up, obviously, most of it.

Charlotte was the daughter of the dissolute Prince Regent, who eventually became George IV, and his coarse wife Caroline of Brunswick. Their marriage was a disaster from the start. They separated almost immediately and did everything they could to make each other and, as a result their daughter, miserable. Despite this, Charlotte turned out well, and was very much loved by the people who hoped she would restore the image of the monarchy and the royal family.

Sadly, their hopes were too soon destroyed. Everyone rejoiced when Charlotte married her Prince. The couple cared deeply for each other and did everything together. But after a year and a half of marriage, Charlotte died after giving birth to a stillborn son. Leopold was distraught and even though he would go on to become King of the Belgians, and remarry, he never forgot his first wife. Had she lived, his niece Queen Victoria, would probably never have been born. Although George IV had several siblings, none of them had legitimate children, and, until this tragedy occurred, hadn't really shown any inclination to get married.

Chambers' biography reads more like a novel than a biography. It flows easily, is entertaining and is light without being shallow. However, it isn't in-depth. While we get to know Charlotte quite well, especially thanks to her correspondence which is amply cited in the book, we're not told much about Leopold. His life after Charlotte's death is summed up in just a few short pages, which is something that really disappointed me as I have a bit of a crush on Leopold and would have loved to know more about him.

Information on Regency England and the political and historical situation of the country at the time is also lacking, so if you're not familiar with this period you won't learn much from this book. It is true that too much information about genealogy, politics and economy can bog down a book and make it boring, but too little information is just equally bad. However, because of this, the book will appeal even to those people who aren't particularly interested in history but love a good, albeit tragic, love story.

Summary:
Charlotte & Leopold by James Chambers is a wonderful introduction to Charlotte's life and her marriage with Leopold, but if you're looking for an in-depth study about this often forgotten historical figure and the period she lived in, this book is not for you. The writing style is very entertaining, making the book read more like a novel than a biography.

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

Rating: 4/5