Gothic Revival


From the late 18th century to early 19th century, one of the most popular architecture styles was The Gothic Revival, which takes its name from the medieval Gothic architecture it imitated. Many palaces and churches were decorated with typical elements of the Gothic style, such as turrets, pointed-arched windows and crenellated parapets, but the materials weren't the same as those used in the Medieval Age. For instance, stone was replaced with stucco. And this new style wasn't limited to architecture either. Furniture, clocks, mirrors.. many artefacts now sported Gothic details and were used to decorate Georgian and Regency houses.

Let's see a few examples, shall we?









I'm a big fan of the Gothic style and, although some of these pieces are over-the-top, I wouldn't mind to see another revival of it, especially in architecture. What do you think? Do you love or hate this style?

The Execution Of Mary, Queen Of Scots


After 19 years of imprisonment, on 8th February 1857, Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed at Fotheringhay Castle. Here's an account of the execution, written by Robert Wynkfielde:

Her [Mary queen of Scots] prayers being ended, the executioners, kneeling, desired her Grace to forgive them her death: who answered, 'I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles.' Then they, with her two women, helping her up, began to disrobe her of her apparel: then she, laying her crucifix upon the stool, one of the executioners took from her neck the Agnus Dei, which she, laying hands off it, gave to one of her women, and told the executioner he should be answered money for it. Then she suffered them, with her two women, to disrobe her of her chain of pomander beads and all other her apparel most willingly, and with joy rather than sorrow, helped to make unready herself, putting on a pair of sleeves with her own hands which they had pulled off, and that with some haste, as if she had longed to be gone.

All this time they were pulling off her apparel, she never changed her countenance, but with smiling cheer she uttered these words, 'that she never had such grooms to make her unready, and that she never put off her clothes before such a company.'


Then she, being stripped of all her apparel saving her petticoat and kirtle, her two women beholding her made great lamentation, and crying and crossing themselves prayed in Latin. She, turning herself to them, embracing them, said these words in French, 'Ne crie vous, j'ay prome pour vous', and so crossing and kissing them, bade them pray for her and rejoice and not weep, for that now they should see an end of all their mistress's troubles.

Then she, with a smiling countenance, turning to her men servants, as Melvin and the rest, standing upon a bench nigh the scaffold, who sometime weeping, sometime crying out aloud, and continually crossing themselves, prayed in Latin, crossing them with her hand bade them farewell, and wishing them to pray for her even until the last hour.

This done, one of the women having a Corpus Christi cloth lapped up three-corner-ways, kissing it, put it over the Queen of Scots' face, and pinned it fast to the caule of her head. Then the two women departed from her, and she kneeling down upon the cushion most resolutely, and without any token or fear of death, she spake aloud this Psalm in Latin, In Te Domine confido, non confundar in eternam, etc. Then, groping for the block, she laid down her head, putting her chin over the block with both her hands, which, holding there still, had been cut off had they not been espied. Then lying upon the block most quietly, and stretching out her arms cried, In manus tuas, Domine, etc., three or four times. Then she, lying very still upon the block, one of the executioners holding her slightly with one of his hands, she endured two strokes of the other executioner with an axe, she making very small noise or none at all, and not stirring any part of her from the place where she lay: and so the executioner cut off her head, saving one little gristle, which being cut asunder, he lift up her head to the view of all the assembly and bade God save the Queen. Then, her dress of lawn falling from off her head, it appeared as grey as one of threescore and ten years old, polled very short, her face in a moment being so much altered from the form she had when she was alive, as few could remember her by her dead face. Her lips stirred up and down a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off.

Then Mr Dean [Dr Fletcher, Dean of Peterborough] said with a loud voice, 'So perish all the Queen's enemies,' and afterwards the Earl of Kent came to the dead body, and standing over it, with a loud voice said, 'Such end of all the Queen's and the Gospel's enemies.'

Then one of the executioners, pulling off her garters, espied her little dog which was crept under her clothes, which could not be gotten forth but by force, yet afterward would not depart from the dead corpse, but came and lay between her head and her shoulders, which being imbrued with her blood was carried away and washed, as all things else were that had any blood was either burned or washed clean, and the executioners sent away with money for their fees, not having any one thing that belonged unto her. And so, every man being commanded out of the hall, except the sheriff and his men, she was carried by them up into a great chamber lying ready for the surgeons to embalm her.


Further reading:
Tudor Primary Sources

Historical Reads: The Life Of A Working-Class Girl


Author Evangeline Holland gives us an insight into the life of a working-class girl during the interwar years. To quote:

I left the factory for a short break and went into service when I was fifteen. Mother would have preferred me to be placed in ‘good service’ as she had been in her time, but I went as a ‘maid of all work’. I was expected to wait at table, getting my own meals when I could, there being no alloted times for the servant. I took the food into the dining -room and was given a plate with mine served ready to eat, which I would take back into the kitchen and eat standing up by the draining board, or at least attempt to, because by the time I had taken the vegetables round to the other diners at the table and returned mine was invariably cold. There was no point in my sitting down because in about ten or twelve minutes the bell would ring for the sweet to be brought in. Before I could start on my sweet, the bell would ring again for me to clear the table.

These conditions were the norm for a general servant or ‘generals’ as we were called. Many of my school friends became ‘skivvies’ by the fact of being females and there being very little other work for them, other than in one of the factories. It used to amuse me when factory girls looked down on us as inferior, calling us ‘drain ‘ole cleaners’. Some maids, after a long period in service, acquired the accents of their employers and, in their turn, looked down on factory girls and thought them ‘common’.

A ‘general’ was expected to do all the housework, preparing the vegetables and the cooking. I had to be up at six-thirty in the morning and clean the master’s shoes and get the children’s clothes ready for school. I was small for fifteen and their own daughter, who was thirteen, had reached pubescence and I had not; I was treated as a child in any way, or even as a young person.

When my master or mistress went out at night, I was expected to stay up in case one of the young children woke and called. I was left plenty of ironing to do and silver to clean just in case I got sleepy; then up again next morning early.


To read the entire post, click here.

My Favourite Chick Lit Movies

Hello everyone,

although this blog is called History And Other Thoughts, I didn't post much of these other thoughts in my first year, did I? Well, it's high time to start and I thought I could begin by sharing something about me so that you can get to know me better: my favourite chick lit movies. I'm not a big fan of the genre and I don't rush to see any new chick lit movie that's released, but every now and then I feel the need to watch something light and fun and, when this type of movie is done well, they can be highly enjoyable and entertaining. So, here are my favourites:

1. THE NOTEBOOK
This is one of my favourite movies ever. It's very romantic and makes me cry my eyes out whenever I watch it. It starts with an old man reading a story to an old woman in a nursing home. The story is about the romance between Noah and Allie. They fell head over hell in love as teenagers but Allie comes from a rich family and they don't think that Noah is good enough for her. So they get separated until years later, Allie sees a picture of Noah in a paper and realises she has to see him one last time. And when she does, they pick up just where they left off. But Allie is now engaged to someone else and she will have to decide who she really wants to be with. Noah and Allie have to face a lot of obstacles, and they also have bad fights, but in the end, they always manage to sort out their differences because of how much they love each other. Theirs is the kind of love we are looking for. And Rachel McAdams is just amazing in it. She became one of my fave actresses after I watched her in this movie.

P.S. I LOVE YOU 
This is another movie that will make you cry buckets. Holly loses her husband Gerry to an illness. But before he dies, he writes a series of letters to help her get over the pain of his death and live the rest of her life without him. It is truly an heartbreaking story and, although most spouses don't leave such letters behind when they die, still I believe most people will be able to relate to the pain of losing someone they love. If you haven't seen it yet, do so, but keep a handkerchief at the ready, you'll need it!

3. LEGALLY BLONDE 
Elle Woods is a bimbo with a penchant for pink. When her boyfriend Warner dumps her because she's not serious enough, she decides to go to Harvard School with him, show him what she's capable of and win him back. Although everyone underestimates her, once she realises her looks won't get her far at Harvard, Elle starts to work really hard to do well in her class. And she does so by remaining herself. Elle is both gorgeous and smart and teaches us that we can achieve everything we set our minds to. It's a very empowering story, and very funny too. The sequel instead was very disappointing. Elle Woods hires a private detective to find the mother of her dog so that she can attend her wedding? I feel like they've turned Elle back into an idiot again. Watch the first movie if you haven't, and the musical too, but forget the sequel was ever made.

4. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA 
Andrea is a simple girl who wants to be a journalist. Because she has to start somewhere, she becomes the second assistant of the powerful and ruthless Miranda Priestly, the executive of the Runway fashion magazine. Andrea's job is very demanding and she knows nothing about fashion either. But as she becomes fashionable and more confident in her job, her private life suffers. Her boyfriend, family and friends don't recognize the woman she's turned into anymore. Eventually, Andrea will have to decide whether her new career is really worth the price. Melanie Streep, one of my favourite actresses, is marvellous in this movie and so is Emily Blunt in her role as Miranda's assistant.

5. THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE
Henry has a genetic anomaly that makes him travel through time. It can happen at any time and at any place and he never knows where he's gonna end up either. It's on one of these travels that she meets his future wife, Clare, when she's still a child (but of course nothing happens until she's of age). The two fall in love and try to build a life together but, because of the complications Henry's consideration implies, it isn't easy. The time-travelling device is done really well, in an easily believable way and did I mention how much I love Rachel McAdams?

6. MEAN GIRLS
Cady Heron attracts the attention of The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, who invite her to be a part of their group. But when she falls for the Queen Bee's ex-boyfriend, the clique decides to ruin her life. The movie describes how female cliques in high school operate and, although some aspects are clearly exaggerated, it is still realistic enough for every schoolgirl to relate to, and well explains that being popular comes at a very high cost. The script, written by Tina Fey, is also very witty, over-the-top and full of drama. The acting is very good too.

7. NOTTING HILL
A charming, heartwarming and romantic comedy I just have to watch every time it's on TV. William, a regular guy who owns a book shop, one day bumps into Anna Scott, a very famous actress. The two fall for each other, but will their relationship survives the pressure of fame? The story is quite predictable, but entertaining and funny. The acting is very good too. This movie really is one of the best examples of his genre.

8. LOVE ACTUALLY
A collection of interconnected stories about a group of people falling in love. The movie really portrays all kinds of love: unrequited, unspoken, puppy love, married love, lust, love that's blossoming or is betrayed... you name it, it's there. A charming little movie that shows that love really is all around us. Always.

What are your favourite chick lit movies? And would you like to see more posts like these or should I just stick to history and book reviews?

A Letter To The Dauphin Louis


As Marie Antoinette left Vienna, her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa decided to write a letter to her son-in-law, the dauphin Louis:

Your bride, my dear dauphin, has just left me. I do hope that she will cause your happiness. I have brought her up with the design that she should do so, because I have for some time forseen that she would share your destiny.

I have inspired her with an eager desire to do her duty to you, with a tender attachment to your person, with a resolution to be attentive to think and do every thing which may please you. I have also been most careful to enjoin her a tender devotion toward the Master of all Sovereigns, being thoroughly persuaded that we are but badly providing for the welfare of the nations which are intrusted to us when we fail in our duty to Him who breaks sceptres and overthrows thrones according to his pleasure.

I say, then, to you, my dear dauphin, as I say to my daughter: 'Cultivate your duties toward God. Seek to cause the happiness of the people over whom you will reign (it will be too soon, come when it may). Love the king, your grandfather; be humane like him; be always accessible to the unfortunate. If you behave in this manner, it is impossible that happiness can fail to be your lot.' My daughter will love you, I am certain, because I know her. But the more that I answer to you for her affection, and for her anxiety to please you, the more earnestly do I entreat you to vow to her the most sincere attachment.

Farewell, my dear dauphin. May you be happy. I am bathed in tears.

Further reading:
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge

Short Book Reviews: Three Blind Mice And Other Stories, The Labors Of Hercules & Double Sin And Other Stories

Hello everyone,

I hope you like Agatha Christie because today I'm reviewing three of her collections of short stories. Here we go:

Three Blind Mice And Other Stories by Agatha Christie
This is one of the best collections of short stories written by Agatha Christie. The first, and longest, story is called Three Blind Mice, which was turned into the world's longest running play The Mousetrap. It's about a group of people who, due to a snow blizzard, have been completely isolated from the outside world. Among them, there's a killer. I couldn't figure out for the life of me who the culprit was. This is definitely one of those stories that I highly recommend to anyone, but the others are very good as well. They were all written at different times in Christie's carrier and feature all her most popular detectives such as Poirot, Miss Marple, and Mr Quin and Mr Satterthwaite, who will have to solve different types of crimes. The stories are well-crafted and intriguing and the identity of the culprit is always a surprise. Overall, a great introduction to Christie's world.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 4/5

The Labors Of Hercules by Agatha Christie
One of the best (if not the best) collection of short stories by Christie, featuring my favourite detective, Poirot. He decides to close his career by accepting only 12 cases he thinks both interesting and challenging. And they all mirror the labors performed by his mythological namesake. These labours involve murders, thefts, religion sects and even the kidnapping of a... dog. Christie was very clever and creative in finding counterparts for each mythological labour. The stories are all well-plotted and executed and flow easily. But because they are so short, the suspects only a few and plots had to be reminiscent of myths, some of the culprits are quite easy to guess, but that didn't spoil the fun for me this time. This is just a delightful collection that I highly recommend.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 4.4/5

Double Sin And Other Stories by Agatha Christie
A collection of short stories, most of which feature Poirot, a few Miss Marple and a couple no detective at all! These last two actually feature a supernatural element and, although they're not Christie's best work, they will make you feel uneasy. I feel they are out of place in the collection because they don't really feature any crimes to solve, but are just creepy. They're more goth/horror stories. If you like that sort of thing, you'll enjoy them, but I expected some detective stories and was thus disappointed. The other stories are more traditional: they feature murders, thefts and other crimes that Christie's famous and skilled detectives ably solve. Well-written and well-plotted, this unusual collection of short stories still a nice way to spend an afternoon.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Do you like Agatha Christie? Have you read any of her books?

The Picture Hat


Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was one of the fashion icons of her day. One of the most popular fashions she launched during her "career" was known as "The Picture Hat". In 1783, Thomas Gainsborough painted a portrait of Georgiana wearing a black, wide-brimmed hat decorated with a sash over the crown and feathers she had designed herself. When the picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy, the hat became so popular that every woman who could afford it rushed to her milliner to order the "picture hat". The popularity of the "picture hat" continued well into the Victorian and Edwardian eras but it was now called the "Gainsborough Hat". Here are a few examples:






Madame Tallien


Passionate and headstrong, rich and kind, impulsive and beautiful, Madame Tallien was very much a product of her time, and lived her life to the full, doing what she pleased without caring what other people thought about her. Born Juana María Ignazia Teresa de Cabarrús y Galabert in Madrid on the 31st July 1773, she was the daughter of a rich aristocrat and Spanish finance minister. Theresa (as we'll call her from now on) was very close to her father, who spoiled her rotten and instead, never felt much love for her mother. Therese's fortune, together with her good looks and lively personality, attracted many suitors to her hand. At only 14 years of age, she married the unattractive and mean Marquis de Fontenay, a counsellor of the Parliament of Bordeaux.

After the marriage, the Marquis de Fontenay insisted on leaving Spain and brought his wife to Paris, where she threw herself into the fashionable life of the time. She even went to court where she was introduced to Queen Marie Antoinette. Her marriage however was a disaster. Her husband dissipated her fortune, constantly cheated on her (it is said that he brought one of his lovers to his home only days after his wife had given birth to her first child, although it's not certain he was the proud father of the infant!), and abused her. When the French Revolution broke out M. De Fontenai, tired of his wife and fearful for his life, divorced Therese (but not before he demanded she gave him all her jewels) and left the country.


Like many aristocrats of her time, Theresa was interested in the revolutionary political scene of the time. She hosted a salon, received many prominent revolutionary figures (and was rumoured to have had affairs with some of them) and attended la Fete De La Revolution. But when, during the Terror, being an aristocrat became a death sentence, Therese managed to get a passport for Bourdeaux, with permission to sale thence for Spain. But once arrived at Bordeaux, she was arrested as a suspicious person and sent to jail.

Here Jean Lambert Tallien, a representative of the people and a national commissioner, saw her and struck by her beauty, fell in love with her. He managed to get Therese released, which caused him to be recalled to Paris to explain his actions to the Committee of Public Safety. Theresa never liked Tallien. He had voted for the King's death and had committed many acts of cruelty during his mission as a representative of the people. Despite this, she returned to Paris with him and agreed to marry him out of convenience. Thanks to her lover, in fact, Therese managed to get other state prisoners released.


However, her actions attracted the attention of the Committee of Public Safety and Therese was arrested again. She was first imprisoned at La Force and then moved to Carmes, where she met Rose de Beauharnais, which is best known to history with the name of Josephine, who would go on to marry Napoleon and become Empress of The French. But now, she was just a prisoner fearing daily for her life, just like Therese, and the two soon became friends.

It is said, but how true this is isn't certain, that Theresa played an important part in the fall of Robespierre. Apparently, Theresa would later tell people that it was a letter she had managed to send to Tallien, in which she accused him of being a coward for not helping to prevent her trial and her subsequent execution, that prompted him to bring about the fall of Robespierre the very next day. True or not, a grateful Therese, married Tallien on the 26th December 1794. Shortly afterwards, she gave birth to a daughter christened Thermidor Tallien. Now that the Terror was over, Paris rejoiced. Therese became the leader of fashionable society. She went out every night scantily dressed in muslin gowns, with nothing underneath, but covered in diamonds, rubies, sapphires and other precious stones, and wearing pink and gold wings on her head.


When she wasn't dictating fashions, Therese helped those who were still prisoners, which gained her the nickname of Notre Dame des Thermidor. Her husband Tallien was ordered to empty the Parisians prisons, which were still full to the brim, and through him, Therese obtained the release of many state prisoners as well as securing a safe return home to the emigrees. The marriage, which had been one of convenience, didn't last long. She could never love nor admire a man who had committed so many acts of cruelty and when, in 1795, he had 950 Royalists soldiers who were sill prisoners shot, she didn't want anything to do with him anymore. "He has too much blood on his hands", she said, disgusted. However, the couple didn't divorce straight away. As Tallien was sent to Egypt, Therese began a series of affairs with different men.

Among her lovers were numbered the Count de Ribbing, a Swedish nobleman nicknamed the Beau Regicide for the part he had had in the murder of the Swedish King Gustavus III, and from whom she had a son, Paul Barras and Gabriel Ouvrad. Napoleon Bonaparte was said to be enamoured with her too, but she spurned his advances and instead presented him to her friend Josephine. Instead than being grateful to her for it, Napoleon banned Josephine from seeing her again because of her loose morals ( she had children - ten in total - with different men and two or three husbands still living). Josephine, however, would secretly sneak out to meet her and the two would remain friends for the rest of their lives.

When Tallien returned in 1801, Therese asked him for a divorce. At first he refused, complained, reproached and threatened her but the next year, he finally gave in. After her divorce, Therese met and fell in love with the Comte de Caraman, later Prince de Chimay. The two were married on the 22nd of August 1805 and had three children. Therese's life had now gone full circle: she was back in the class she had been born in. At Chimay, her husband's seat, she held a little court, inviting famous musicians of her time such as Luigi Cherubini and Daniel Auber. Therese died in Chimay on 15 January 1835.

Further reading:
Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France

Historical Reads: Myths About Lady Jane Grey's Execution


Author Susan Higginbotham sets the record straight on some myths about Lady Jane Grey's and Guildford Dudley's executions. To quote:

1. Philip of Spain, Queen Mary’s fiancé, insisted upon Lady Jane’s execution before he would marry the queen.

Philip’s supposed insistence upon Jane’s death before he would wed Mary has often been used in novels and in the film Lady Jane to depict Mary as a pathetic, aging hag so desperate for love that she would sacrifice a young girl’s life to keep from losing a prospective husband. Mary’s council did indeed urge the queen to execute Jane, and Simon Renard, the imperial ambassador, was clearly pleased at her decision to do so. But there is no evidence that Philip or his father, the Emperor Charles, demanded Jane’s death as a precondition to marriage or indeed that they even had a chance to do so, given the short period of time between the collapse of Wyatt’s rebellion (the uprising which sparked the decision to execute Jane and Guildford, who had been sentenced to death the previous year) on February 7 and the executions on February 12. Indeed, the decision to execute the couple appears to have been taken before the rebellion had even ended: Renard, writing to the emperor on Thursday, February 8, to report the collapse of the rebellion, believed that Jane and Guildford’s executions had been ordered for the previous Tuesday—February 6—but did not know whether they had been carried out. Renard’s letter to Charles on February 13 mentions Jane’s and Guildford’s deaths the day before almost offhandedly: “Since then it has been discovered that 400 or 500 gentlemen and others had a share in the plot, so the prisons will not suffice to hold them all. Yesterday Courtenay, chief of the conspiracy according to Wyatt, was committed to the Tower, and the Lady Elizabeth set out to come hither. She is expected to-morrow with an escort of 700 or 800 horse, and it is believed that she will soon be sent to the Tower, where Jane of Suffolk was yesterday executed, whilst her husband, Guildford, suffered in public. To-day 30 soldiers, men of some standing, were executed as an example to the people.”

Mary may or may not have been reluctant to execute Jane and Guildford, but she was certainly capable of resisting imperial pressure, as her refusal to execute her sister Elizabeth despite Renard’s urgings shows.


To read the entire article, click here.

Book Review: Marie Therese, The Fate Of Marie-Antoinette's Daughter by Susan Nagel


Marie Therese Charlotte de Bourbon was the only child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to survive the French Revolution. It is thus surprising that not much has been written about this fascinating historical figure. And when she is mentioned in her mother's biographies she is usually dismissed as either haughty and arrogant or "mentally inert". Susan Nagel in her biography, "Marie Therese: The Fate Of Marie Antoinette's Daughter" attempts to bring the real Marie Therese to life and set the record straight on the myths that surround her.

Marie Therese was born into the luxurious and decadent world of Versailles, where life was strictly regulated by etiquette and rank. Her parents had been married for seven years before the Queen finally fell pregnant and, when it happened, she didn't give birth to the long-awaited heir but to a mere girl instead. But even if the country was disappointed, her parents were over the moon. Marie Therese was always very close to her father, while the relationship with her mother was more problematic. She also loved her siblings, particularly Louis Charles, who would die during the French Revolution. Her brother Louis Joseph and her sister Sophie died in childhood too, which deeply affected the young Marie Therese.

Her privileged childhood ended in 1789 with the outbreak of the French Revolution. Although the King tried to work with the revolutionaries, granting them many concessions and calling a national parliament, it was too late. As the most radical revolutionaries took power and hatred for the monarchy increased, the royal family was imprisoned and one by one, all its members who had remained in France, with the only exception of Marie Therese, were murdered. Finally, when she was 16, the Terror ended and Marie Therese was released and sent to her Austrian relatives.

Marie Therese would spend the rest of her life serving the Bourbon cause. She married her cousin, the Duc d'Angouleme cos she believed her parents would have wished it, remained at the side of her uncles, Kings Louis XVIII and Charles X, when the monarchy was restored and she was the only one who put up a fight against Napoleon when he returned from his exile. The Bourbons would be restored again, but only for a short time. Marie Therese would die in exile. Yet, despite everything she had suffered during the Revolution and afterwards, Marie Therese never stopped loving the French people and consider France her home. Nagel emphasizes how it was her Catholic faith that sustained Marie Therese throughout her trials and tribulations. She was also very chartable, helping the poor and needy whenever she could.

However, the book is not without faults. Not all of the claims Nagel makes are sufficiently supported by historical evidence. For instance, Nigel claims that Louis XVI had a brief fling with a servant in the early years of his marriage because he wanted to see whether he, or his wife, were at fault for not conceiving any children yet. It was the first time I had ever heard of it and I'm still sceptical about it as such a behaviour would have been totally out of his character. For the same reason, I also find it hard to believe that he had a child with the Duchesse De Polignac, Marie Antoinette's best friend. I guess everything is possible, but when such claims are made, they should be well-sustained and I don't think these are. More extensive footnotes would have been very helpful, allowing the reader to verify the claims and make up his/her own mind.

The book is also interspersed with passages about "the Dark Countess", a mysterious figure believed by many to be the real Marie Therese. According to a conspiracy theory, Marie Therese had become an imbecile during her imprisonment and so, on leaving France, had switched places with her half sister Ernestine, a young girl who had been adopted by her parents, and went on to live the rest of her life in seclusion in Germany. Although both in the preface and afterwards, Nagel dismisses the rumour, I wish she had dedicated less space in the biography to a story that even she doesn't believe to be true. As it is, it can be somewhat confusing for the reader, especially those who had never heard of this rumour before.

Despite these shortcomings, I really enjoyed the book. It is very dense and chock-full of details about Marie Therese, her family and the political situation of the time, yet it flows easily. The portrayal of the royal family that emerges from it is overall positive, yet Nagel doesn't ignores their faults and mistakes. Well-written, entertaining and thought-provoking this biography is a must read for anyone interested in Marie Therese Charlotte of France and what happened to her after the French Revolution.

Summary:
Marie Therese, The Fate Of Marie Antoinette's Daughter, is a well-written, thoroughly-researched and dense, but by no means boring, biography of the only child of Louise XVI who survived the French Revolution. The author skilfully brings Marie Therese, with all her faults and good qualities, trials and triumphs, back to life again. However, the author makes some questionable claims that aren't sufficiently backed up by proof.

Available at: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble and Book Depository

Rating: 4/5

Queen Victoria On Napoleon III, Emperor Of The French


In 1855 Napoleon III, Emperor of the French visited England. Afterwards, Queen Victoria wrote her opinion of the Emperor in a memorandum:

Buckingham Palace, 2nd May 1855.

The recent visit of the Emperor Napoleon III to this country is a most curious page of history, and gives rise to many reflections. A remarkable combination of circumstances has brought about the very intimate alliance which now unites England and France, for so many centuries the bitterest enemies and rivals, and this, under the reign of the present Emperor, the nephew of our greatest foe, and bearing his name, and brought about by the policy of the late Emperor of Russia, who considered himself as the head of the European Alliance against France!

In reflecting on the character of the present Emperor Napoleon, and the impression I have conceived of it, the following thoughts present themselves to my mind:

That he is a very extraordinary man, with great qualities there can be no doubt—I might almost say a mysterious man. He is evidently possessed of indomitable courage, unflinching firmness of purpose, self-reliance, perseverance, and great secrecy; to this should be added, a great reliance on what he calls his Star, and a belief in omens and incidents as connected with his future destiny, which is almost romantic—and at the same time he is endowed with wonderful self-control, great calmness, even gentleness, and with a power of fascination, the effect of which upon all those who become more intimately acquainted with him is most sensibly felt.

How far he is actuated by a strong moral sense of right and wrong is difficult to say. On the one hand, his attempts at Strasbourg and Boulogne, and this last after having given a solemn promise never to return or make a similar attempt—in which he openly called on the subjects of the then King of the French to follow him as the successor of Napoleon, the Coup d'État of December 1851, followed by great ... severity and the confiscation of the property of the unfortunate Orleans family, would lead one to believe that he is not. On the other hand, his kindness and gratitude towards all those, whether high or low, who have befriended him or stood by him through life, and his straightforward and steady conduct towards us throughout the very difficult and anxious contest in which we have been engaged for a year and a half, show that he is possessed of noble and right feelings.

My impression is, that in all these apparently inexcusable acts, he has invariably been guided by the belief that he is fulfilling a destiny which God has imposed upon him, and that, though cruel or harsh in themselves, they were necessary to obtain the result which he considered himself as chosen to carry out, and not acts of wanton cruelty or injustice; for it is impossible to know him and not to see that there is much that is truly amiable, kind, and honest in his character. Another remarkable and important feature in his composition is, that everything he says or expresses is the result of deep reflection and of settled purpose, and not merely des phrases de politesse, consequently when we read words used in his speech made in the City, we may feel sure that he means what he says; and therefore I would rely with confidence on his behaving honestly and faithfully towards us. I am not able to say whether he is deeply versed in History—I should rather think not, as regards it generally, though he may be, and probably is, well informed in the history of his own country, certainly fully so in that of the Empire, he having made it his special study to contemplate and reflect upon all the acts and designs of his great uncle. He is very well read in German literature, to which he seems to be very partial. It is said, and I am inclined to think with truth, that he reads but little, even as regards despatches from his own foreign Ministers, he having expressed his surprise at my reading them daily. He seems to be singularly ignorant in matters not connected with the branch of his special studies, and to be ill informed upon them by those who surround him.
 

If we compare him with poor King Louis Philippe, I should say that the latter (Louis Philippe) was possessed of vast knowledge upon all and every subject, of immense experience in public affairs, and of great activity of mind; whereas the Emperor possesses greater judgment and much greater firmness of purpose, but no experience of public affairs, nor mental application; he is endowed, as was the late King, with much fertility of imagination.

Another great difference between King Louis Philippe and the Emperor is, that the poor King was thoroughly French in character, possessing all the liveliness and talkativeness of that people, whereas the Emperor is as unlike a Frenchman as possible, being much more German than French in character.... How could it be expected that the Emperor should have any experience in public affairs, considering that till six years ago he lived as a poor exile, for some years even in prison, and never having taken the slightest part in the public affairs of any country?



It is therefore the more astounding, indeed almost incomprehensible, that he should show all those powers of Government, and all that wonderful tact in his conduct and manners which he evinces, and which many a King's son, nurtured in palaces and educated in the midst of affairs, never succeeds in attaining. I likewise believe that he would be incapable of such tricks and over-reachings as practised by poor King Louis Philippe (for whose memory, as the old and kind friend of my father, and of whose kindness and amiable qualities I shall ever retain a lively sense), who in great as well as in small things took a pleasure in being cleverer and more cunning than others, often when there was no advantage to be gained by it, and which was, unfortunately, strikingly displayed in the transactions connected with the Spanish marriages, which led to the King's downfall and ruined him in the eyes of all Europe. On the other hand, I believe that the Emperor Napoleon would not hesitate to do a thing by main force, even if in itself unjust and tyrannical, should he consider that the accomplishment of his destiny demanded it.

The great advantage to be derived for the permanent alliance of England and France, which is of such vital importance to both countries, by the Emperor's recent visit, I take to be this: that, with his peculiar character and views, which are very personal, a kind, unaffected, and hearty reception by us personally in our own family will make a lasting impression upon his mind; he will see that he can rely upon our friendship and honesty towards him and his country so long as he remains faithful towards us; naturally frank, he will see the advantage to be derived from continuing so; and if he reflects on the downfall of the former dynasty, he will see that it arose chiefly from a breach of pledges,... and will be sure, if I be not very much mistaken in his character, to avoid such a course. It must likewise not be overlooked that this kindly feeling towards us, and consequently towards England (the interests of which are inseparable from us), must be increased when it is remembered that we are almost the only people in his own position with whom he has been able to be on any terms of intimacy, consequently almost the only ones to whom he could talk easily and unreservedly, which he cannot do naturally with his inferiors. He and the Empress are in a most isolated position, unable to trust the only relations who are near them in France, and surrounded by courtiers and servants, who from fear or interest do not tell them the truth. It is, therefore, natural to believe that he will not willingly separate from those who, like us, do not scruple to put him in possession of the real facts, and whose conduct is guided by justice and honesty, and this the more readily as he is supposed to have always been a searcher after truth. I would go still further, and think that it is in our power to keep him in the right course, and to protect him against the extreme flightiness, changeableness, and to a certain extent want of honesty of his own servants and nation. We should never lose the opportunity of checking in the bud any attempt on the part of his agents or ministers to play us false, frankly informing him of the facts, and encouraging him to bring forward in an equally frank manner whatever he has to complain of. This is the course which we have hitherto pursued, and as he is France in his own sole person, it becomes of the utmost importance to encourage by every means in our power that very open intercourse which I must say has existed between him and Lord Cowley for the last year and a half, and now, since our personal acquaintance, between ourselves.

As I said before, the words which fall from his lips are the result of deep reflection, and part of the deep plan which he has staked out for himself, and which he intends to carry out. I would therefore lay stress on the following words which he pronounced to me immediately after the investiture of the Order of the Garter: "C'est un lien de plus entre nous, j'ai prêté serment de fidélité à votre Majesté et je le garderai soigneusement. C'est un grand événement pour moi, et j'espère pouvoir prouver ma reconnaissance envers votre Majesté et son Pays." In a letter said to be written by him to Mr F. Campbell, the translator of M. Thiers's History of the Consulate and Empire, when returning the proof-sheets in 1847, he says "Let us hope the day may yet come when I shall carry out the intentions of my Uncle by uniting the policy and interests of England and France in an indissoluble alliance. That hope cheers and encourages me. It forbids my repining at the altered fortunes of my family."

If these be truly his words, he certainly has acted up to them, since he has swayed with an iron hand the destinies of that most versatile nation, the French. That he should have written this at a moment when Louis Philippe had succeeded in all his wishes, and seemed securer than ever in the possession of his Throne, shows a calm reliance in his destiny and in the realisation of hopes entertained from his very childhood which borders on the supernatural.

These are a few of the many reflections caused by the observation and acquaintance with the character of this most extraordinary man, in whose fate not only the interests of this country, but the whole of Europe are intimately bound up. I shall be curious to see if, after the lapse of time, my opinion and estimate of it has been the right one.

Victoria R.

Further reading:
The Letters of Queen Victoria, Volume III (of 3), 1854-1861

Short Book Reviews: Gentle From The Night, No Other Woman & I Thee Wed

Hello everyone,

today I'm reviewing three historical romance novels. If you like the genre, read on:

Gentle from the night by Meagan Mckinney
This unconventional Victorian romance novel is set in Yorkshire. John Damien Newell, the master of Cairncross Castle, hires the young Alexandra to teach his brother, who had been abused and traumatized as a child, to speak again. Here she will not only find love with a man who has been deeply scarred by his past, but will become entangled in a web of lies, secrets and mysteries. I really like Alexandra. Unlike most heroine of romance novels, Alexandra is smart, sensible and even though she doesn't run away from trouble, she doesn't go looking for it either. Damien on the other hand is one of those dark heroes who often cross the line between good and bad. That can be both fascinating and offputting, depending on whether you like really bad boys or not. I don't particularly like them, but still I was intrigued by his relationship with Alexandra. Another main character is Cairncross Castle. Its gloomy and oppressive atmosphere is the perfect setting for such a dark romance novel. Instead, what I really didn't care about was the supernatural element in the story. The reader is left wondering whether something spooky is really happening or if there's a sick person trying to scare people in the castle, and the end doesn't explain the mystery in a satisfying way, which was quite frustrating. Overall, it's a well-written, well-plotted story that I recommend to those who are looking for an unconventional, supernatural historical romance novel.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

No Other Woman by Shannon Drake
Laird David Douglas comes back from the dead to figure out if the beautiful Shawna MacGinnis was the one who betrayed him years earlier, causing him to lose everything he ever had. David doesn't tell many people he's back because he's convinced that only secrecy will enable him to discover what he really wants to know. But his quest for the truth is full of obstacles and, to make matters worse, he also needs to protect Shawna. Some cloaked figure seems, in fact, determined to kill her. This is a book full of mysteries and secrets, but unfortunately I found the plot quite weak and at times unconvincing, which, together with the forced seductions, really spoiled the book for me. I think that it is, overall, a nice story that should have been better developed. I'm sure Drake fans will love it, but it isn't one of her best works.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

I Thee Wed by Amanda Quick
This is not Amanda Quick's best work, but it's quite enjoyable anyway. Edison Stokes is looking for a thief who has stolen an ancient book of arcane potions, including one that can make a highly intuitive person see what others can't. When he realises the potion may work on Emma Grayson, he enlists her help. Thus, Emma faces two dangers: being harmed by the thief and falling in love with her boss, which, in Regency England, where reputation for a young and single girl is everything, is almost as dangerous. Emma, like most Quick's heroines, isn't a silly and vain idiot. Instead, she's clever, sensible, strong-willed and capable, and it's easy to see why Edison falls for her. The dialogue is also pretty witty and fun to read. However, I found the whole mysterious plot, including the Vanza society (a secret society where members are taught a particular philosophy and way of fighting, think Star Wars) a bit too far-fetched at times, which really spoiled the book imo. I would have enjoyed the story more without all the Vanza philosophy, but since this belong to a series that focuses on that society, it obviously just had to be included. But I won't read any other book in the series. I'd still recommend I Thee Wed though, if anything because the characters are interesting and the dialogue witty, which is more than you can say for most trashy romance novels on the market.
Available at: amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

Have you read these books? If so, did you like them?

Catherine Of Aragon's Childhood


Despite being heavily pregnant, Queen Isabella of Castile, wife of Ferdinand of Aragon, followed her troops at war with the Moors who had settled in the south of Spain. In the autumn, she finally decided to travel north and settle at Cordova to await the birth but, due to the inclement weather conditions, she never reached it. Instead, she sought refuge at the Archbishop's Palace in Alcala de Henares and here, on 16th December 1485, she gave birth to her last daughter, Catherine (or Cataline in Spanish). The baby was named after her maternal great-grandmother, the English princess Catherine of Lancaster.

Her parents, who were both sovereigns in their own right, already had four children; Isabella, Juan, Maria and Juana. Catherine didn't have a typical childhood. She spent the first years of her life travelling around Spain with her parents while they were attempting to drive the Moors out of Spain, saw them succeed in their mission and witnessed Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the New World.

Her mother Isabella was a patroness of culture who made sure all her daughters received a top notch education. She hired some of the most famous humanists of her time, such as Alessandro Geraldini and his brother Antonio, and Pietro Martire of Angera, as tutors for her children. They taught Catherine Latin, French, Greek, Spanish, history, canon and civil law, literature and the legends of King Arthur of the Round Table, heraldry, genealogy, the classics and religion. Like her mother, she was a very religious woman and throughout her life her strong faith would sustain her through all her trials and tribulations.

Catherine also learned music, dancing, drawing, embroidery, lace-making and needlepoint. However, she wasn't taught English, the language spoken by her future husband, Prince Arthur, heir to the English throne. That was odd, considering Catherine was betrothed to the English Prince at the tender age of 3. Luckily, Arthur was also well-educated and could speak Latin, so they communicated in that language. Their marriage however, would be short-lived. Arthur would die a few months after the wedding and doubts over whether the marriage was ever consummated would be used by her second husband Henry VIII to divorce her.

Further reading:
The Wives Of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

Prince Albert's Dedication To His Pregnant Wife


In her journal, Queen Victoria (speaking of herself in the third person) described her husband's devotion to her during her pregnancies:

During the time the Queen was laid up, his care and devotion were quite beyond expression. He refused to go to the play, or anywhere else; generally dining alone with the Duchess of Kent, till the Queen was able to join them, and was always on hand to do anything in his power for her comfort. He was content to sit by her in a darkened room, to read to her or write for her. No one but himself ever lifted her from her bed to her sofa, and he always helped to wheel her on her sofa into the next room. For this purpose he would come instantly when sent for from any part of the house. As years went on, and he became overwhelmed with work, this was often done at much inconvenience to himself (for his attentions were the same in all the Queen's subsequent confinements), but he always came with a sweet smile on his face. In short, his care of her was like that of a mother, nor could there be a kinder, wiser, or more judicious nurse.

If more fathers-to-be were like that!

Further reading:
Queen Victoria, her girlhood and womanhood by Grace Greenwood
queenvictoriasjournals.org

Historical Reads: Elizabeth Armistead


Mike Rendell has written an interesting post on Elizabeth Armistead, Charles James Fox's wife. To quote:

Elizabeth Cane was born July 11, 1750. Few will recognize the name but she was to become one of the most fascinating and notorious women of the century. Little is known about her early years but it is likely that she came to London when about sixteen, and either became a hairdresser or a hairdresser´s model. The one thing which is clear is that her talents extended far beyond a spot of back-combing, and within a few short years she had transformed herself into Elizabeth Armistead, high class courtesan and confidante of the Prince of Wales. She was one of the richest and most celebrated beauties of the Age – with a string of lovers from the upper echelons of the aristocracy. Two Dukes, an Earl, a Viscount – and the Prince of Wales – all succumbed to her charms. And each in turn lavished her with jewels and expensive gifts.

She knew her worth, and certainly was not going to waste what she had on one man alone. That is, until she was 33 and met the charming and enigmatic Charles James Fox. The Whig aristocrat was a couple of years her senior, and their love affair was to scandalize society and prove that love could overcome all obstacles.


To read the entire post, click here.

The Earl Of Malmesbury On Caroline Of Brunswick


In the autumn of 1794, the Earl of Malmesbury was despatched to Brunswick to escort Princess Caroline, who was engaged to the Prince of Wales, the future George IV, to England. He completed his mission but, from his first meeting with the Princess, Malmesbury started to doubt she would be a suitable wife for the fastidious Prince of Wales, who was admired for his fashionable clothes and courtly manners.

Caroline was the opposite. She was coarse, didn't take much care in her appearance and rarely washed herself. The Earl recalled that, when he met Caroline, her clothes were dishevelled, which suggested that not only she wasn't helped in getting dressed, but she wasn't even taught how to do so properly on her own. He wasn't impressed, but what could he write in his report home? In the end, he settled for a general, matter-of-fact description:

"Pretty face - not expressive of softness - her figure not graceful - fine eyes - good hands - tolerable teeth but going - fair hair and light eyebrows, good bust...*"


What about her personality? The Princess's father told Malmesbury that his daughter was "no fool, but lacks judgement". She also lacked discretion. She was very familiar with everyone and often said tactless things. She was even rumoured to have had several affairs. Malmebsury had to spend most of his time with her teaching her how a princess should behave, but she didn't seem to have profited much from these lessons. However, Princess Caroline had courage. When, on their way to England, they passed closely to the French lines (Revolutionary France was at war with Europe at the time) and heard cannonfire, Caroline wasn't scared.

But how could such a woman have been picked up as a wife for George, the Prince of Wales, especially when his mother and many other people at court preferred the other candidate, his cousin Princess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz? It was Lady Jersey, George's mistress, who influenced his choice in favour of Caroline, whom she knew wouldn't be a threat to her. In the words of the Duke of Wellington, she chose a woman "of indelicate manners, indifferent character and not very inviting appearance, from a hope that disgust with a wife would secure constancy to a mistress."

Of course the Prince of Wales wasn't much of a catch himself. He was fat, ugly, indulged in drinking and gambling and spent way too much... but that's a subject for another post. Here suffice it to say that the marriage never stood a chance from the start..

Notes:
Charlotte and Leopold by James Chambers, Chapter 1

Further reading:
Charlotte & Leopold: The True Story of The Original People's Princess by James Chambers

Fashions For 1816 (Part 2)

Hello everyone,

here are some more prints of clothes that were very fashionable in the last months of 1816. I find the ball dress delightful, but I'm not sure about the rest... Mmm.. What do you think?

OCTOBER


HALF DRESS

A GOWN of lilac sarsnet, cut low round the bust, which is trimmed with pink ribbon, disposed so as to form a wreath; the shape of the back is marked by bands of pink, and a large bow, in the French style, ornaments the middle of it at bottom. The back is full; a plain light front forms the shape in a most becoming manner. Long full sleeve, composed of clear muslin, trimmed at the wrist with a single row of lace, and finished by a pink bow. Fichu to correspond, very full trimmed round the throat with lace. The bottom of the skirt is edged with pink, and trimmed with a single flounce of blond lace, set on very full, and surmounted by a wreath of French roses. Cornette composed of tulle, finished by a quilling of blond round the face, and fastened by a pink bow under the chin; a bow to correspond ornaments it on the forehead, and a bunch of flowers is placed very far back on the head. The style of this cornette, though French, is so simply elegant and becoming, that we have not for some time seen any half-dress cap to equal it. Plain gold ornaments. White kid gloves, and white kid slippers with pink rosettes.


BALL DRESS

A gown, composed of white gauze, of an exquisitely beautiful and glossy texture: it is worn over a maiden-blush slip. For the form of the dress, which is in the highest degree novel and elegant, we refer our readers to our print. The trimming is a rich rollio of intermingled gauze and satin at the bottom of the dress, above which is a wreath of fancy flowers, and this wreath is surmounted by white satin draperies: the general effect of this trimming is uncommonly tasteful and striking. The hair is much parted on the forehead, and dressed very low at the sides; and the hind hair, brought up very high, forms a tuft. Head-dress, a wreath of French roses, placed so as apparently to support the hind hair. Necklace, bracelets, and ear-rings of pearl. White kid slippers and gloves.

We have to thank the condescension of a lady, one of our subscribers, for both the elegant dresses which we have given this month.

NOVEMBER

EVENING DRESS

A lilac and white striped gauze dress over a white satin slip; the bottom of the skirt is ornamented with five rows of white silk trimming, of a very light and elegant description: it has just been introduced, and the pattern has more novelty than any thing we have seen for some time: a single flounce of deep blond lace completes the trimming. The body is also very novel; the upper part is formed of lace, and the lower of gauze, to correspond with the dress: the latter is quite tight to the shape, but the former has an easy fulness, which forms the shape in a manner extremely advantageous, to the figure. The sleeve is short and very full; it is composed of lace, looped high, and finished by a trimming to correspond with that on the skirt. The hair is full dressed, without any ornament. Necklace, cross, armlets, and bracelets of rubies. White satin slippers, and white kid gloves.

DECEMBER

PROMENADE DRESS

A High dress of cambric muslin trimmed at the bottom with a single flounce of work. The body, which is composed entirely of work, fits the shape without any fulness. A plain long sleeve, finished by a triple fall of narrow lace. Over this dress is worn the Angouleme pelisse, composed of crimson velvet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed with a single welt of crimson satin, a shade lighter than the pelisse. The body is made exactly to the shape; the back is of course a moderate breadth, and without fulness; for the form of the front we refer our readers to our print; it is confined at the waist, which is very short, by a narrow velvet band, edged to correspond. A small collar, of a novel and pretty shape, stands up and supports a rich lace ruff, which is worn open in front of the throat. The sleeve has very little fulness, and that little is confined at the wrist by three narrow bands of puckered satin. Bonnet a la Rouale, composed of white satin, very tastefully intermixed with a large bunch of fancy flowers, and tied under the chin by a white satin ribbon, which is brought in a bow to the left side ; a full quilling of tulle finishes the front. Black silk ridicule, exquisitely worked in imitation of the ends of an India shawl, and trimmed with black silk fringe. White kid gloves, and black walking shoes.


CARRIAGE DRESS

A gown of pale faun - colour cloth, made a walking length, and trimmed round the bottom with four rows of rich blue silk trimming. The body, which is cut very low, is ornamented in such a manner as to have a novel appearance, with a similar trimming, but very narrow. The back, which is cut down on each side, is finished at the bottom of the waist by bows and long ends, trimmed to correspond. A very tasteful half sleeve over a plain long sleeve, made tight at the wrist, and hound with blue trimming; it is finished by a narrow ruffle composed of three falls of tulle; fichu of tulle, with a ruff to correspond. When worn as a carriage dress, the head-dress is a bonnet, the crown composed of white satin at top, and the middle and front of Leghorn; it is lined with white satin, and ornamented only by a white satin band and strings. An India shawl is also indispensable to it as a carriage dress, for which it is elegantly appropriate. Shoes and gloves pale faun colour.

Our dresses this month are both French; but, as our readers will perceive from onr prints, they are in the best style of Parisian costume. We have been favoured with them by a lady who has just returned from Paris.

Further reading:
Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions &c, 1816