How To Clean Shoes And Boots

In the past, cleaning shoes and boots was a job for the maid-of-all-work. Here's how it was done:

Q. How do you clean gentlemen's boots and shoes?
A. I first scrape off the dirt with a piece of wood shaped something like a knife (but a real knife must never "be used for the purpose), and then—the boot or shoe being perfectly dry—I thoroughly brush off the rest of the dirt, as well between the upper leather and the sole as from every other part. Then, with a piece of stick with a little bit of sponge, or of rag, at the end, I put a very small quantity of blacking on the blacking-brush, and rub it over a part of the shoe or boot.

Q. Why do you not rub it over the whole at once?
A. Because the blacking would then get too dry to receive a proper polish.

Q. Well?
A. As soon as I have applied the blacking to the first part of the shoe or boot, and while it is yet damp, I take the polishing-brush, and rub it briskly, but lightly, till a brilliant gloss is produced. Then I proceed in the same manner with the other part, till the whole is done.

Q. When you have finished your boots and shoes, what do you do with them?
A. I hang them on the boot-horse, in the bed-room, or set them against the door, as I may be told.

Q. I hope you take care never to set wet or damp boots or shoes very near the fire, for them to get dry; because that shrinks, cracks, and spoils them?
A. Yes, ma'am; I always keep them at a distance.

Q. And how do you clean ladies' boots and shoes, and gentlemen's dress-boots and shoes, which are now generally made of the patent prepared polished leather?
A. Mostly they require very little cleaning—the chief care is not to scratch the polish.

Q. But what is your method?
A. Should they be very dirty, I carefully wipe the edges of the soles, and also the upper leather, with a wettish piece of cloth—afterwards with a dry piece—and then I rub a few drops of pure sweet oil over the polished leather. But, generally, the wiping of them with a bit of cloth slightly damped is sufficient, adding a few drops of oil.

Q. But should the polish happen to go off, either by wet or any other accident?
A. Then it may be renewed by preparations for the purpose, sold by boot and shoemakers.

Further reading:
Household Work, Or, The Duties of Female Servants by J Masters

Book Review: Six Women Of Salem By Marilynne K. Roach

I must admit that, before reading the Six Women Of Salem by Marilynne K. Roach, I didn't know much about the Salem witch trials. I only knew that some poor women had been accused of being witches, condemned to death, and burned at the stake. Actually, turns out I knew even less than I thought because none of the victims were burned to death. They were hanged. It was more merciful, I guess. But how the trials started, how they ended, who the victims and the accusers were were all things I ignored.

Six Women of Salem answers these questions and more. In the book, Roach skillfully tells the story of the trials, focusing in particular on six women involved in them: Tituba, the slave who, with her accusations, started it all; Rebecca Nurse and Bridget Bishop, two old women found guilty of witchcraft and condemned to death; Ann Putnam, the mother of one of the accusers, a little girl who claimed she could see the spirits of the "witches" hurting people; Mary English, a rich woman accused of witchcraft which managed to flee from prison; and Mary Warren, who went from accused to accuser.

The book is divided into three parts. The first tells us who these women were and what they did before the witch hunting madness swept through Salem. This section is full of dates and genealogy trees so can be quite dry at times. But if you make it through it, you won't be able to put the book down anymore. The second part tells the story of the trials. Each chapter begins and ends with a short fictional account about one of the six female protagonists. Through this device, Roach really brings the trials to life and reminds us that these women were once real and alive, and it's impossible for the reader not to relate to them and feel sorry for them.

All of them, even the accusers. They too were just women of their time who were caught up in the mass hysteria caused by superstition, fear and prejudice. Even the judges at the trials were infected with it. The most flimsy and dubious evidence was accepted in court. Usually, all it took to condemned a poor and innocent woman to death was the word of a little girl who claimed to have seen her spirit hurt someone. As a result, 20 people were executed and five women died in jail. Many more were accused. Finally, the last section tells us what happened to the women who survived and to the families of those who didn't.

Six Women Of Salem By Marilynne K. Roach is one of the best books that I've read in a long time. It is accurate, well-researched and very informative, but is also very emotional. The story is told in an engaging style that makes the reader feels like he or she too is in Salem while this horrible page of history is being written. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the Salem witch trials.

Six Women Of Salem by Marilynne K. Roach tells the harrowing story of the Salem witch trials, focusing on the lives of six women involved in them. Some of these women were accused of witchcraft, while others were their accusers. But they all were victims of the superstitions and prejudices of their time. Informative and accurate, the story is interspersed with bits of historical fiction where the author tried to imagine what these women were thinking, feeling and living at the time. This gives a personal edge to the story, which is very emotional. Only at the beginning, when introducing the protagonists and their family histories, the book is at times a bit dry. Overall, this is a wonderful read that I highly recommend to anyone interested in the Salem witch trials.

Available at: amazon and book depository

Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Lady Elizabeth Craven

Lady Elizabeth Berkeley was born near Trafalgar Square, in the City of Westminster, on 17 December 1750. She was the third child of the 4th Earl of Berkeley. On 30 May 1767, aged only 17, she married the Honourable William Craven, who became the 6th Baron Craven two years later. But Elizabeth didn't want to be just a boring wife whose only job was to conceive and give birth to children (she would have seven). She had a passion for writing and, throughout her life, penned several books, plays (which were often performed, and favourably received, in London), and, of course, a memoir. Her literary efforts led her to become friends with the likes of Horace Walpole and Samuel Johnson.

But Elizabeth didn't want to be a boring writer either. She certainly wasn't one of those authors who need seclusion and retirement to compose their works. No, Lady Craven was a real party girl. She went out a lot, drank, gambled and had several affairs. Her lovers included the French ambassador the Duc de Guines and Christian Friedrich Karl Alexander, the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and grandson of the King of Prussia. Eventually, it all got too much for her husband (who was no saint himself and often cheated on his wife too) and the couple divorced.

While Lord Craven consoled himself by building "Craven Cottage" on what used to be Anne Boleyn's hunting grounds, Elizabeth kept partying and writing, but this time on the continent. The result was a book titled "A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople". In 1791, both Elizabeth's ex-husband and Alexander's wife died. The two lovers didn't lose any time to tie the knot. The couple lived in style, but, because of their scandalous past, they were ostracized by high society (she was also snubbed, among others, by King George III and Queen Marie Antoinette).

Elizabeth wasn't even allowed to share her husband's title and rank, although she was called Margravine in Europe. She was only granted, a couple of years after her marriage, the morganatic title of Princess Berkeley, bestowed upon her by Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. Undeterred, Elizabeth kept up her partying and writing lifestyle, and scandalized people even more by appearing at the theatre alongside Mrs Abington, on the stage! In 1806, Alexander died. Elizabeth retired to Naples in a house called Craven Villa. She died in 1828.

Further reading:
Memoirs of the margravine of Anspach

Tea Just Over Or The Game Of Consequences Just Begun

Consequences was a very popular game in the Georgian and Regency eras. Players are required to fill in the blanks of a story, then fold the paper over and pass it to the next player, who'll have to continue it without knowing what has just been written. Anything you could happen in these stories, and they often were hilarious. But this is not the game of consequences James Gillray portrayed in this satirical print. What you are seeing here are the consequences of one little piece of snuff.

Here's how the print is described in English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. How they Illustrated and Interpreted their Times by Graham Everitt:

"The 'consequences' of one gentleman sneezing are the following: he jerks the arm of the lady next him, the result being that she pours her cup of scalding hot tea over the knees of her neighbour, a testy old gentleman, who in his fright and pain raises his arms, jerking off with his cane the wig of a person standing at the back of his chair, who in the attempt to save his wig upsets his own cup and saucer upon the pate of his antagonist Another guest, with his mouth full of tea, witnessing this absurd contretemps is unable to restrain his laughter, the result of which is that he blows a stream of tea into the left ear of the man who has lost his wig, at the same time setting his own pigtail alight in the adjoining candle. All these disasters, passing in rapid succession from left to right, are the direct “consequences” of one unfortunate pinch of snuff."

Historical Reads: "The Best Way To Mend A Broken Heart Is Time And Girlfriends."

Madeleine Doak explains how, after the death of her beloved husband, the Princess de Lamballe became friends with Marie Antoinette. To quote:

For better or for worse, the Princess' heartbreak over the death of her husband, who died in her arms, led to her friendship with Marie Antoinette. In her own words, "It was amid this gloom of human agony, these heart-rending scenes of real mourning, that the brilliant star shone to disperse the clouds, which hovered over our drooping heads… it was in this crisis that Marie Antoinette came, like a messenger sent down from Heaven, graciously to offer the balm of comfort in the sweetest language of human compassion. The pure emotions of her generous soul made her unceasing, unremitting, in her visits to the two mortals (she and her husband's grieving father) who must else have perished under the weight of their misfortunes…. From that moment I became seriously attached to the Queen of France."

To read the entire post, click here.

Queen Victoria's 18th Birthday

Nowadays, turning 18 marks the start of freedom and independence. You are no longer a minor in the eyes of the law, you are allowed to vote and can finally get your driving license. You leave high school behind and prepare for life in the real world. It's scary, but exhilarating at the same time.

Princess Victoria of the United Kingdom must have experienced mixed feelings too, although she had different cares from the young people of today. She was preparing to become queen and was already taking her role very seriously.

Here's what she wrote in her diary on 24 May 1837, the day of her 18th birthday:

Today is my 18th birthday! How old! and yet how far I am from being what I should be. I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study with renewed assiduity, to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and to strive to become every day less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wills it, I'm someday to be!... At half past three we drove out... the demonstrations of locality and affection from all the people were highly gratifying. The parks and streets were thronged and everything looked like a Gala day. Numbers of people put down their names and amongst others... good old Labache inscribed his... We went to the ball at St. James's Palace. The courtyard and the streets were crammed... and the anxiety of the people to see poor stupid me was very great, and I must say I am quite touched by it, and feel proud which I always have done of my country and of the English nation.

Less than a month later, Victoria would become queen.



A lady writer of distinction says of salutations: "It would seem that good manners were originally the expression of submission from the weaker to the stronger. In a rude state of society every salutation is to this day an act of worship. Hence the commonest acts, phrases and signs of courtesy with which we are now familiar, date from those earlier stages when the strong hand ruled and the inferior demonstrated his allegiance by studied servility. Let us take, for example, the words 'sir' and 'madam.' 'Sir' is derived from seigneur, sieur, and originally meant lord, king, ruler and, in its patriarchal sense, father. The title of sire was last borne by some of the ancient feudal families of France, who, as Selden has said, 'affected rather to be styled by the name of sire than baron, as Le Sire de Montmorenci and the like.' 'Madam' or 'madame,' corrupted by servants into 'ma'am,' and by Mrs. Gamp and her tribe into 'mum,' is in substance equivalent to 'your exalted,' or 'your highness,' madame originally meaning high-born, or stately, and being applied only to ladies of the highest rank.

"To turn to our every-day forms of salutation. We take off our hats on visiting an acquaintance. We bow on being introduced to strangers. We rise when visitors enter our drawing-room. We wave our hand to our friend as he passes the window or drives away from our door. The Oriental, in like manner, leaves his shoes on the threshold when he pays a visit. The natives of the Tonga Islands kiss the soles of a chieftain's feet. The Siberian peasant grovels in the dust before a Russian noble. Each of these acts has a primary, an historical significance. The very word 'salutation,' in the first place, derived as it is from salutatio, the daily homage paid by a Roman client to his patron, suggests in itself a history of manners.

"To bare the head was originally an act of submission to gods and rulers. A bow is a modified prostration. A lady's courtesy is a modified genuflection. Rising and standing are acts of homage; and when we wave our hand to a friend on the opposite side of the street, we are unconsciously imitating the Romans, who, as Selden tells us, used to stand 'somewhat off before the images of their gods, solemnly moving the right hand to the lips and casting it, as if they had cast kisses.' Again, men remove the glove when they shake hands with a lady—a custom evidently of feudal origin. The knight removed his iron gauntlet, the pressure of which would have been all too harsh for the palm of a fair chatelaine; and the custom, which began in necessity, has traveled down to us as a point of etiquette."


Each nation has its own method of salutation. In Southern Africa it is the custom to rub toes. In Lapland your friend rubs his nose against yours. The Turk folds his arms upon his breast and bends his head very low. The Moors of Morocco have a somewhat startling mode of salutation. They ride at a gallop toward a stranger, as though they would unhorse him, and when close at hand suddenly check their horse and fire a pistol over the person's head. The Egyptian solicitously asks you, "How do you perspire?" and lets his hand fall to the knee. The Chinese bows low and inquires, "Have you eaten?" The Spaniard says, "God be with you, sir," or, "How do you stand?" And the Neapolitan piously remarks, "Grow in holiness." The German asks, "How goes it with you?" The Frenchman bows profoundly and inquires, "How do you carry yourself."

Foreigners are given to embracing. In France and Germany the parent kisses his grown-up son on the forehead, men throw their arms around the necks of their friends, and brothers embrace like lovers. It is a curious sight to Americans, with their natural prejudices against publicity in kissing.

In England and America there are three modes of salutation—the bow, the handshaking and the kiss.


It is said: "A bow is a note drawn at sight. You are bound to acknowledge it immediately, and to the full amount." It should be respectful, cordial, civil or familiar, according to circumstances. Between gentlemen, an inclination of the head, a gesture of the hand, or the mere touching of the hat is sufficient; but in bowing to a lady, the hat must be lifted from the head. If you know people slightly, you recognize them slightly; if you know them well, you bow with more familiarity. The body is not bent at all in bowing; the inclination of the head is all that is necessary.

If the gentleman is smoking, he withdraws his cigar from his mouth before lifting his hat to a lady, or if he should happen to have his hand in his pocket he removes it.

At the moment of the first meeting of the eyes of an acquaintance you bow. Any one who has been introduced to you, or any one to whom you have been introduced, is entitled to this mark of respect.

The bow is the touchstone of good breeding, and to neglect it, even to one with whom you may have a trifling difference, shows deficiency in cultivation and in the instincts of refinement. A bow does not entail a calling acquaintance. Its entire neglect reveals the character and training of the person; the manner of its observance reveals the very shades of breeding that exist between the ill-bred and the well-bred.


A gentleman walking with a lady returns a bow made to her, whether by a lady or gentleman (lifting his hat not too far from his head), although the one bowing is an entire stranger to him.

It is civility to return a bow, although you do not know the one who is bowing to you. Either the one who bows, knows you, or has mistaken you for some one else. In either case you should return the bow, and probably the mistake will be discovered to have occurred for want of quick recognition on your own part, or from some resemblance that you bear to another.


The manner in which the salutation of recognition is made, may be regarded as an unerring test of the breeding, training, or culture of a person. It should be prompt as soon as the eyes meet, whether on the street or in a room. The intercourse need go no further, but that bow must be made. There are but few laws which have better reasons for their observance than this. This rule holds good under all circumstances, whether within doors or without. Those who abstain from bowing at one time, and bow at another, should not be surprised to find that the person whom they have neglected, has avoided the continuation of their acquaintance.


Having once had an introduction that entitles to recognition, it is the duty of the person to recall himself or herself to the recollection of the older person, if there is much difference in age, by bowing each time of meeting, until the recognition becomes mutual. As persons advance in life, they look for these attentions upon the part of the young. Persons who have large circles of acquaintance, often confuse the faces of the young whom they know with the familiar faces which they meet and do not know, and from frequent errors of this kind, they get into the habit of waiting to catch some look or gesture of recognition.


If a person desires to avoid a bowing acquaintance with a person who has been properly introduced, he may do so by looking aside, or dropping the eyes as the person approaches, for, if the eyes meet, there is no alternative, bow he must.


Bowing once to a person upon a public promenade or drive is all that civility requires. If the person is a friend, it is in better form, the second and subsequent passings, should you catch his or her eye, to smile slightly instead of bowing repeatedly. If an acquaintance, it is best to avert the eyes.


A bow should never be accompanied by a broad smile, even when you are well acquainted, and yet a high authority well says: "You should never speak to an acquaintance without a smile in your eyes."


A young lady should show the same deference to an elderly lady that a gentleman does to a lady. It may also be said that a young man should show proper deference to elderly gentlemen.


The words commonly used in saluting a person are "Good Morning," "Good Afternoon," "Good Evening," "How do you do" (sometimes contracted into "Howdy" and "How dye do,") and "How are you." The three former are most appropriate, as it seems somewhat absurd to ask after a person's health, unless you stop to receive an answer. A respectful bow should accompany the words.


Among friends the shaking of the hand is the most genuine and cordial expression of good-will. It is not necessary, though in certain cases it is not forbidden, upon introduction; but when acquaintanceship has reached any degree of intimacy, it is perfectly proper.


An authority upon this subject says: "The etiquette of handshaking is simple. A man has no right to take a lady's hand until it is offered. He has even less right to pinch or retain it. Two young ladies shake hands gently and softly. A young lady gives her hand, but does not shake a gentleman's unless she is his friend. A lady should always rise to give her hand; a gentleman, of course, never dares to do so seated. On introduction in a room, a married lady generally offers her hand; a young lady, not. In a ball-room, where the introduction is to dancing, not to friendship, you never shake hands; and as a general rule, an introduction is not followed by shaking hands, only by a bow. It may perhaps be laid down that the more public the place of introduction, the less handshaking takes place. But if the introduction be particular, if it be accompanied by personal recommendation, such as, 'I want you to know my friend Jones,' or if Jones comes with a letter of presentation, then you give Jones your hand, and warmly, too. Lastly, it is the privilege of a superior to offer or withhold his or her hand, so that an inferior should never put his forward first."

When a lady so far puts aside her reserve as to shake hands at all, she should give her hand with frankness and cordiality. There should be equal frankness and cordiality on the gentleman's part, and even more warmth, though a careful avoidance of anything like offensive familiarity or that which might be mistaken as such.

In shaking hands, the right hand should always be offered, unless it be so engaged as to make it impossible, and then an excuse should be offered. The French give the left hand, as nearest the heart.

The mistress of a household should offer her hand to every guest invited to her house.

A gentleman must not shake hands with a lady until she has made the first move in that direction. It is a mark of rudeness not to give his hand instantly, should she extend her own. A married lady should always extend her hand to a stranger brought to her house by a common friend, as an evidence of her cordial welcome. Where an introduction is for dancing there is no shaking of hands.


This is the most affectionate form of salutation, and is only proper among near relations and dear friends.


The kiss of friendship and relationship is on the cheeks and forehead. In this country this act of affection is generally excluded from public eyes, and in the case of parents and children and near relations, it is perhaps unnecessarily so.


The custom which has become quite prevalent of women kissing each other whenever they meet in public, is regarded as vulgar, and by ladies of delicacy and refinement is entirely avoided.


The kiss of respect—almost obsolete in this country—is made on the hand. The custom is retained in Germany and among gentlemen of the most courtly manners in England.

Further reading:
Our deportment by John H. Young

Book Review: Queen's Gambit By Elizabeth Freemantle

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth—Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen.

Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

We've been inundated with Tudors novels lately, haven't we? I can't blame anyone who feels like they need a break from them. But, please, if you must, take one only after you've read Queen's Gambit, Elizabeth Freemantle's first, and excellent, effort at historical fiction. Beautifully written and (mostly) historically accurate, Queen's Gambit tells the story of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's last queen.

When her second husband dies, Katherine Parr, who would rather live out a quiet existence in the country, is briefly summoned to court. Here, despite her better judgment, she falls in love with the dashing Thomas Seymour and hopes to marry him. But the King has other plans for her. The old, fat and ailing Henry VIII, still smarting after the betrayal of his fifth young wife, Catherine Howard, is looking for an older wife with good nursing skills. Katherine perfectly fits the bill.

Katherine can't refuse to marry the King. While her brother is ecstatic at the prospect of wealth and advancement for the Parr family, Katherine realises she will have to pay a high price for it. She won't just have to set her feelings for Seymour aside, but she'll enter a world of power and intrigues where losing means death. Katherine is not ambitious, but smart, canny and interested in religion. A fervent religious reformer, she hopes to influence her husband, who is slowly reverting back to Catholicism, to continue his work to reform the English Church.

Although Katherine is good at manipulating Henry, her outspoken behaviour and protestant leanings attract her the enmity of the Catholic faction, then on the rise at court, and almost have her arrested as an heretic. Freemantle does a great job at depicting the atmosphere of fear Katherine, and the rest of the court, constantly lived in, knowing that their lives depended on the whim of a king who was becoming more irrational and paranoid as his health worsened.

Fremantle also makes the court, with its smells, its sights, its intrigues hidden behind its magnificence, come alive. The reader truly feels like he/she's right there, next to Katherine, as her story unfolds. We also get to see her story through a different perspective, that of her maid Dot. Dot is a poor and illiterate servant who became very close to Meg, Katherine's stepdaughter, when they were held hostage during the Pilgrimage of Grace, a tragic event that left deep scars on all three women. Katherine has come to consider Dot, despite their difference in rank, as a daughter.

Of course, Fremantle takes, every now and then, artistic license to fill up the gaps in Katherine's life. Although I don't always agree with her interpretations and plot twists, they are realistic (apart from one instance in the end where I thought she went a bit too far) and make the story even more interesting. The book is also very well-researched and chockfull of details about life at the Tudor court, but these are woven into the story so seamlessly that they enhance it rather than bogging it down. I only found the stylistic choice of using the present tense to tell the story a bit weird. It works here, but I guess I'm just not that used to read historical fiction written in this way.

Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle is a beautifully written, and meticulously researched, fictional account of the life of Catherine's Parr, Henry VIII's last queen. Freemantle really brings the characters, which are all well-rounded, and the Tudor court, to life. Although the author takes artistic liberties, her plots twists, save for one occasion, are realistic enough and make the story more interesting. The book is written in the present tense, which is a weird choice, but one that works.

Available at: amazon, barnes & noble and book depository

Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Henry VIII's First Jousting Accident

On 10th March 1524, King Henry VIII had his first serious jousting accident. George Cavendish, Cardinal Wolsey's gentleman-usher, related the event thus:

On 10 March the king, having a new armor made to his own design and fashion, such as no armorer before that time had seen, though to test the same at the tilt, and ordered a joust for the purpose. The lord marquis of Dorset and the earl of Dorset and the earl of Surrey were appointed to be on foot: the king came to one end of the tilt and the duke of Suffolk to the other. Then a gentleman said to the duke: 'Sir the king is come to the end of the tilt.' 'I see him not,' said the duke, 'by my faith, for my headpiece blocks my sight.' With these words, God knows by what chance, the king had his spear delivered to him by the lord Marquis, the visor of his headpiece being up and not down or fastened, so that his face as quite naked. The gentleman said to the duke: 'Sir the king is coming.'

Then the duke set forward and charged with his spear, and the king likewise unadvisedly set off towards the duke. The people, seeing the king's face bare, cried hold, hold; the duke neither saw nor heard, and whether the king remembered his visor was up or not few could tell. Alas, what sorrow was it to the people when they saw the splinters of duke's spear strike the king's headpiece. For most certainly the duke struck the king on the brow right under the guard of the headpiece on the very skull cap or basinet piece to which the barbette is hinged for strength and safety, which skull cap or basinet no armorer takes heed of, for it is always covered by the visor, barbette and volant piece, and thus that piece is so protected that it takes no weight. But when the spear landed on that place there was great danger of death since the face was bare, for the duke's spear broke into splinters and pushed the king's visor or barbette so far back with the counter blow that all the King's head piece was full of splinters. The armorers were much blamed for this, and so was the lord marquise for delivering the spear blow when his face was open, but the king said that no one was to blame but himself, for he intended to have saved himself and his sight.

The duke immediately disarmed and came to the king, showing him the closeness of his sight, and he swore that he would never run against the king again. But if the king had been even a little hurt, his servants would have put the duke in jeopardy. Then the king called his armorers and put all his pieces of armor together and then took a spear and ran six courses very well, by which all men could see that he had taken no hurt, which was a great joy and comfort to all his subjects present.

Further reading:

Birth Of Victoria, Princess Royal

On 21st November 1840, "a dark, dull, windy, rainy day with smoking chimneys", Queen Victoria gave birth to her first child, Princess Victoria. In her diary, the Queen claimed that she wasn't nervous at the approaching birth at all: “Just before the early hours of the morning of the 21st I felt again very uncomfortable & with difficulty aroused Albert . . . Tried to get to sleep again, but by 4, I got very bad & both the Doctors arrived. My beloved Albert was so dear and kind. . . Locock said the Baby was on the way & everything was all right. We both expressed joy that the event was at hand & I did not feel at all nervous."

With her were only her dearest Albert, who hardly left her side and held her hand, Charles Locock, her chief obstetrician, and a nurse-midwife. Sir James Clark, the Queen's physician and two assisting doctors were in the antechamber, just in case they were needed. Everyone else, including the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury, eagerly listening for any new sound, were relegated in a room beyond. The Queen didn't want anyone who couldn't provide neither help nor support during her accouchement.

Finally, at around one fifty in the afternoon, the baby was born. Her sex was a disappointment to both her parents, who were, however, grateful to have a beautiful and healthy daughter. When she was told she had given birth to a girl, the tired Queen had said: "Never mind, the next will be a Prince." Later, the new mother wrote: " [A]las! A girl and not a boy, as we had so hoped & wished for. We were, I am afraid, sadly disappointed, but yet our hearts were full of gratitude, for God having brought me safely through my ordeal, & having such a strong healthy child." The new father instead, wrote to his brother Ernest: "I should have preferred a boy, yet as it is, I thank Heaven".

Although disappointed by her sex, both Victoria and Albert doted on their daughter and were very proud of her. Although the Queen didn't personally take care of her (it wasn't customary at the time, plus Victoria wasn't particularly fond of babies), she loved to show off little Vicky to her ladies-in-waiting, ministers, and anyone else who visited the court.

The baby was baptised on 10 February 1841, the first anniversary of her parents' marriage. Everyone was very impressed that she remained awake, and didn't cry, throughout the ceremony. According to her father, this meant that she was "very intelligent and observing". He was right.

Further reading:
An Uncommon Woman by Hannah Pakula
British Newspaper Archive Blog

Historical Reads: The Edwardian Gamekeeper

Author Evangeline Holland shares an interesting article explaining how an English gamekeeper lived during the Edwardian era. To quote:

The position of a gamekeeper in England is a curious one. Admittedly he is among the most skilled and highly trained workers of the The country-side. His intimate knowledge of wild life commands respect. Often he is much more than a careful and successful preserver of game—a thoroughly good sportsman, a fine shot. His work carries heavy responsibility; as whether a large expenditure on a shooting property brings good returns—and on him depends the pleasure of many a sporting party. On large estates he is an important personage—important to the estate owner, to the hunt, to the farm bailiff, and to a host of satellites. His value is proved by the many important side-issues of his work—dog-breeding and dog-breaking, or the breaking of young gentlemen to gun work. Yet, in spite of the honourable and onerous nature of his calling, he is paid in cash about the same wage as a ploughman.

The actual wages of a first-class gamekeeper may be no more than a pound a week. A system has sprung up by which he receives, in addition to wages, many recompenses in kind, while his slender pay is fortified by the tips of the sportsman to whom he ministers. This system has bred in him a kind of obsequiousness—he is dependent to a great extent on charity. With a liberal employer he may be well off, and all manner of good things may come his way; but with a mean employer the perquisites of his position may be few and far between.

At the best, he may live in a comfortable cottage, rent free. His coal is supplied to him without cost, and wood from the estate. Milk is drawn freely from the farm—or he may have free pasturage for a cow of his own. A new suit of clothes is presented to him each year. He may keep pigs for his own use, usually at his own expense, but this is a small item, and even here he may be helped out by a surplus of pig-food from the kitchen of the house or from the farms. He has a fair chance to make money by dog-breeding and exhibiting. Then there is vermin and rabbit money which he earns as extra pay, and useful sums may flow into his pocket from the hunt funds.

To read the entire article, click here.

Princess Charlotte Of Wales Turns Down The Hereditary Prince Of Orange

Charlotte, Princess of Wales, was one of the few lucky royal ladies to have married for love. But before she tied the knot with her beloved Prince Leopold, she had been briefly engaged to William, Hereditary Prince Of Orange. That marriage, however, was arranged for political reasons. William's father had been contemplating an alliance with Britain since 1807. Napoleon had kicked him off the throne, giving it to his brother Louis, and he knew that, without help, he would never get it back. The British had a lot to gain from the match too: Holland laid between Britain and Hanover (then ruled by the same king), and an alliance would have made their country stronger. Plus, combining the British Navy with the Dutch fleet would have made Britain invincible on the sea.

So, Prince William was duly dispatched to Oxford to get an English education, and in 1811 he entered the British army. But by the spring of 1813 things were changing. Napoleon's luck turned and he was eventually defeated. The exiled monarchs regained their thrones, but the project of a marriage between the Hereditary Prince of Orange and Princess Charlotte didn't vanish. Holland, a new buffer state between France and Prussia, was created to maintain peace in Europe. The British, hoping to influence its politics, still pushed for the marriage.

Too bad no one had bothered to tell the intended bride and groom. Charlotte, however, suspected it. Too many rumours were flying around for it not to be true. The Princess had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, she knew that her mother detested the Orange family, but on the other, she declared she was prepared to give him a chance and judge for herself whether she could be happy with him.

After all, he may offer a chance to change her life for the better and get some freedom. Her father still treated her like a child and she was sick of it. But when the prince was summoned to London, Charlotte declined to attend any event where she might meet him. She was curious enough to ask about him, though. She was told that he was very thin and plain, but danced well and behaved like a gentleman. After a month, the prince left without being introduced to Charlotte. They were both relieved.

But the plan wasn't dropped. On 14 October, Charlotte was asked what she thought about the Hereditary Prince of Orange. She replied that she would never marry him, and much preferred the Duke of Gloucester, a nephew of King George III, instead, hoping this would scare them into renouncing the affair. When news reached the Prince Regent, Charlotte's father, he was furious. Charlotte, though, kept playing for time. But time was running out. The Hereditary Prince of Orange was coming to England again. The Prince Regent, changed tactics. He started being nicer to his daughter, in an attempt to influence her into marrying Prince William.

But eventually, it was Charlotte's duty, and the realization that the marriage was in her country's interest, that convinced her to give the prince a chance. She would finally meet him at a dinner party on 11 December. That morning, the Prince Regent came to her house and put extra pressure on her, telling her that after the dinner, she was to give him an answer "one way or the other". Charlotte, dressed in a beautiful violet satin gown trimmed with black lace, arrived at the dinner party pale and agitated. She sat down next to Prince William, and, despite her misgivings, had a lovely time.

She later wrote to her friend Mercer: "He struck me as very plain, but he was so lively and animated that it quite went off... It is really singular how much we agreed together in allmost everything." Once the dinner was over, the Prince Regent approached his daughter to get his answer. Although Charlotte didn't commit, she said that she had liked "his manner very well, as much as I have seen of it". The Prince Regent took that as a yes and, summoning Prince William, he joined his hand with Charlotte's and gave them his blessing. It was too late now to turn back.

The engagement was, however, to be kept secret for the time being. The Prince was allowed to visit his betrothed and the very next day, went to her house. Left alone with her (but with the door open for propriety's sake) he already made her cry. Charlotte was distraught at learning she was expected to spend two to three months a year in Holland. As the future Queen of England, she didn't feel she could do that. Besides, she loved her own country and had no desire to leave it. The Prince was sympathetic and promised her that maybe she would be required to spend only two or three weeks in Holland after all, and that she could take all the ladies she wanted with her. This made her feel a little better. After much discussion, though, Charlotte had her way: the marriage contract, which she signed on 10 June, stipulated that she would never have to leave England against her will.

Charlotte, however, still had reservations about her engagement. She was mad at her father for having trapped her that night, leaving her with no choice. The Radicals Whigs were against the marriage too. For years they had embarrassed the Prince Regent and his government by exposing the cruel way in which Princess Caroline, Charlotte's mother, was treated (she was banned from court and was allowed to see her daughter only for a very few short hours every now and then) and didn't want to lose this political weapon. So, they warned the young princess that if she married, her mother wouldn't have a reason to remain in England anymore. Her husband may even bribe her to go. And with Caroline out of the way, support for her in England would wane, and the Prince Regent would be able to divorce her quietly and remarry. His new wife may then give him a son, which would inherit the crown in her place. It was thus her duty not to marry.

Charlotte used this as an excuse to get out of her engagement. She summoned Prince William to her house and told him that she would marry him only if her mother would always be a welcome visitor in their home, a condition she knew he would never accept. He begged her to reconsider, and left. That night, she sent him a letter telling him that "from recent circumstances that have occurred I am fully convinced my interest is materially connected with that of my mother... After what has passed upon this subject this morning between us (which was much too conclusive to require further explanation) I must consider our engagement to be totally and for ever at an end. I leave the explanation of this affair to be made by you to the Prince..."

Prince William refused to tell the news to the Prince Regent so Charlotte had to write to him herself. She did so, blaming her ex-fiancé for the breakup: "He told me that our duties were divided, that our respective interests were in our different countries... Such an avowal was sufficient at once to prove to me Domestick happiness was out of the question." But that wasn't the end of it. The Prince Regent still tried to force his daughter to marry Prince William. He treated her harshly, dismissed her ladies and confined her home, keeping her in isolation as much as possible. Charlotte had to run to her mother's house, hoping to live with her.

Princess Caroline had other ideas. She wanted to travel on the continent instead than staying at home with her daughter. Eventually, Charlotte was prevailed upon to go back to her own home, but not before writing down a declaration that said "if ever there should be an announcement of such a match, it must be understood to be without her consent and against her will". Then, six copies were made. She signed them all and gave them to the people present. That wasn't enough to deter the Prince Regent either and Charlotte was starting to despair that nothing would make him back down.

She would eventually be released by the Hereditary Prince of Orange. Realizing that Charlotte wouldn't have him, he had become engaged to the Grand Duchess Anne, the Tsar's youngest daughter. In the meantime, Charlotte had met her soulmate, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Soon, they too would be married.

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

History And Other Thoughts Turns 2!

Today History And Other Thoughts turns 2! I can hardly believe it. Times flies so fast! I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for making these two years of blogging such an amazing experience. Thanks for visiting, for reading my thoughts, for your comments, your emails... I really appreciate all your support. This blog wouldn't be the same without you!

Elizabeth Linley Sheridan

Elizabeth, or Eliza as she was commonly called, Linley was born, in 1754, into a musical family. Her father was the famous composer Thomas Linley, who was said, at the time, to have restored the sublime music of Handel. Thomas and his wife Mary raised 12 children, all of whom were musically gifted. "A nest of nightingales," the family was called. Their son Thomas, who died aged only 24, was an excellent violinist and a friend of Mozart. But the true star of the family was Eliza. By the time she was 14, she was a talented Soprano who attracted crowds to her own shows.

Nicknamed "the Fair Maid of Bath", Elizabeth was also beautiful. Tall and slender, with dark hair and pale porcelain skin, she drew the attention of men, including the King who, according to Walpole, "ogles her as much as he dares to do in so holy a place as an oratorio, and at so devout a service as 'Alexander's Feast.'" But it was the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a friend of the Linley family, who won her heart. How could Eliza resist a man who wrote her beautiful poems, in which he professed her love and devotion to her? "Dry that tear, my gentlest love; Be hushed that struggling sigh; Nor seasons, day, nor fate shall prove More fixed, more true than I. Hushed be that sigh, be dry that tear; Cease boding doubt, cease anxious fear; Dry be that tear," he penned for her.

But Thomas wanted her to marry a certain Walter Long, a rich man who was old enough to be her grandfather. Not only would the marriage bring wealth to the family, but it would also prevent Eliza from pursing a career on the stage. Eliza, however, had other ideas. Rumour had it that she begged Long to break off the engagement. Now free, Elizabeth eloped to France with Sheridan. The couple was married in a little village near Calais in March 1772. The marriage, however, wasn't valid as both the bride and the groom were underage.

Neither of their fathers approved the match, but, eventually, Thomas capitulated. To save his daughter's reputation, he begrudgingly gave his blessing to the union and the couple was married again in London in April 1772. Eliza quit her job and moved with her husband to East Burnham. The poor girl suffered from ill health and miscarriages throughout their marriage. But in 1775, she gave birth to a son, Tom.

Unfortunately, her husband's constancy didn't prove as longlasting as he had vowed in his poem. He started cheating on her and, eventually, the couple began to live separate lives, appearing only occasionally together in public. Devastated and lonely, Eliza succumbed to the charms of the good-looking Lord Edward Fitzgerald. When she became pregnant with a daughter, she couldn't hide the affair from her husband anymore. But rather than casting her out, Sheridan, who felt guilty for cheating on her and neglecting her, supported his wife throughout her difficult pregnancy.

After the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth suffered from tuberculosis. Sheridan took her to Bristol, hoping the wells would improve her health. It didn't work. She died on 28 June 1792. Sheridan was distraught and went mad with grief. But he wasn't the only one to mourn his wife. The carriage at her funeral could barely proceed along the street to Wells Cathedral because of the large crowd of people who had come to say goodbye to the Fair Maid Of Bath. Elizabeth's daughter Betsy, who Sheridan had accepted as his own, would follow her mother in the grave a few months later.

Further reading:
Some Old Time Beauties by Thomson Willing
The Duchess Of Devonshire's Gossip Guide To The 18th Century

Book Review: Am I Beautiful? By Chine Mbubaegbu

Am I beautiful? That's a question every woman asks herself. We all long to be seen as beautiful by others, and when we think we aren't, our self-esteem plummets to the ground. But what does beautiful mean? According to the media, beautiful means young, tall, sticky thin but with big breasts. They bombard us daily with airbrushed images of how a woman should appear, but their standard of beauty is so unrealistic that it is impossible to achieve. And as a result, many women feel they don't measure up.

They feel worthless. Ashamed. They start hating themselves. And this prevents them from living a happy and fulfilled life. Even Christian women, who are told they are beautiful because they are made in the image of God and that He cares only for what's in their hearts and not their outwards appearance, are affected by it. Only by taking back their beauty and realizing their own real value they "can be the culture-making, injustice-fighting, Christ-reflecting women they were created to be".

But this is easier said that done, as Chine Mbubaegbu, author of Am I Beautiful? knows very well. Like all women, Mbubaegbu too has suffered with body image problems. And she bares them all in the book. But this is not a biography nor a manual. It's a bit of both and more. Am I Beautiful?, in the words of its author, "is really a journey". By sharing her experiences, and the stories of other women, Mbubaegbu tries to explain what makes so many of us feel inadequate and find solutions to address the problem. She reminds us that it is in ourselves, and in God, not in a mirror, nor in a man's opinion, that we are going to find true beauty and worth.

Mbubaegbu challenges women to get out of their comfort zone, and gives them advice on how to feel pretty. Because when we do, when we feel comfortable in our own skin, and don't waste time worrying about our cellulite or the size of our thighs, we can just be ourselves. We stop hurting our bodies with crazy diets or hardcore exercise regimes. We refuse to stay at home, sulking or gorging on fast food, while our friends are having fun at the beach. We don't give up on our dreams, believing we're not pretty enough to achieve them. If we believe in ourselves, we are free. Free to do whatever we are supposed to do.

Am I Beautiful? is a raw, emotional and inspiring book. Mbubaegbu exposes herself and talks to you, not at you. Reading the book feels like talking to a friend, one I wish I had while I was growing up. The book challenges society's view of what is beautiful, makes you reflect about what really is important in life, and helps you feel beautiful, and special, even when you don't feel like it. This is a book that every Christian woman should read. I'm a bit hesitant to recommend it to non-Christians, even though its message is universal, because of the many Bible quotes the author uses to make her points.

But after you've read it, you can talk about it with all your friends, regardless of their religion. Because this is an issue that affects us all, and we can only solve it together by questioning what our society teaches us about beauty, and realizing that our worth has nothing to do with our physical appearance.

Am I Beautiful? by Chine Mbubaegbu is a raw and inspirational book that questions society's idea of beauty and helps women find their true worth so that they can be free to live their lives the way they are supposed to. The author shares her own struggles with body image, and offers tips on how to overcome them. As this is a book addressed to Christian women (and one they all should read), Mbubaegbu often quotes passages from the Bible to support her points. However, its message is universal.

Available at: Amazon UK

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Marie Antoinette Acknowledges Madame Du Barry

Marie Antoinette first saw Madame du Barry, King Louis XV's mistress, at a dinner at La Muette. It was the day before her wedding to the Dauphin, and the mistress' presence at the event had caused a lot of discontent. Not that the King cared. “She’s pretty and she pleases me,” was all he would say when people complained to him about Madame du Barry. And pretty and charming she was indeed. Marie Antoinette noticed her and asked the Comtesse de Noailles who she was. The embarrassed Comtesse replied that "the lady was there to give pleasure to the King"*, to which the young Dauphine exclaimed: “Oh, then I shall be her rival, because I too wish to give pleasure to the King.”

It wouldn't be long before Marie Antoinette discovered how Madame Du Barry exactly pleased the King. And when she did, she refused to speak to her. This was due, in part, to her Catholic upbringing and prudish and chaste nature. The court of Maria Theresa was very different from Versailles. At Vienna, men, including the Emperor, had mistresses, but they didn't parade them so openly in front of everyone. Marie Antoinette was disgusted at the behaviour of the French and felt sorry for the King's weakness for his mistress.

In vain, Count Mercy explained to her that things were done differently in France. Marie Antoinette, egged on by the King's daughters, who despised Madame Du Barry, remained stubborn. The young Dauphine, alone and lonely in a foreign court, spent a lot of time with her husband's aunts and was easily led by them. The old ladies weren't particularly fond of Marie Antoinette, whom they called L'Autrichienne, either, and they were all too happy to led her "into offending Louis XV by simply upholding decency"*.

But Marie Antoinette couldn't afford to offend the King. Her husband still refused to consummate the marriage, which left her in a vulnerable position. Her mother Maria Theresa and Count Mercy realized how important it was for Marie Antoinette to be in favour with the King, and that meant acknowledging Madame Du Barry. They pointed out to her that, by refusing to even greet her, she was publicly questioning the King's behaviour. All she had to do was say a few words to her.

At last, Marie Antoinette was prevailed upon to give in, but the King's daughters weren't willing to let her do so easily. Minutes before the brief greeting was about to take place, they summoned the young Dauphine to join them, providing her with a good excuse to avoid Madame Du Barry.

But on New Year's Day 1772, Marie Antoinette finally surrendered. She approached Madame Du Barry, amid a big crowed of courtiers, and, speaking in her direction, remarked “There are a lot of people here today at Versailles.” The deed was done, the King pacified.

Marie Antoinette, though, was furious she had to give in and vowed never to speak to the courtesan again. She wrote to her mother than she had addressed Madame Du Barry, sacrificing "all her prejudices and repugnances", only to avoid a rift between the French and Austrian royal houses, and only after she had been reassured that there was no dishonor in her gesture.

Marie Antoinette kept her resolution and, in the future, whenever Madame Du Barry was present, she would make general remarks in her direction. She may not have been speaking directly to her, but she wasn't avoiding her either, and this ambiguity was enough to please the King. And this made the young Dauphine realize how the King's daughters weren't always right, and how dangerous it could sometimes be to follow their advice.

*Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser

Further reading:
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser

The Poissardes Demand Money

During the French Revolution, the poissardes freely went round demanding money from both wealthy aristocrats and foreign travellers, as Mary Berry, an Englishwoman who visited Paris in 1791 discovered at her own expense.

Mary Berry was surprised and shaken in the spring of 1791 to find a group of six or seven poissardes, market women, demanding entrance to her room, ostensibly to give her a bouquet but in fact to demand money of her. She gave them six francs, "which they desired to have doubled", and one insisted on embracing her. Afterwards, she discovered that her experience was fairly common. Travellers, who the women knew would have ready money on them, were frequent targets, although even the king's brother had been accosted in this way. "It seems these ladies now make a practice of going about where or to whom they pleased... and neither porters nor servants dare to stop them.

Further reading:
Liberty: The Lives And Times Of Six Women In Revolutionary France by Lucy Moore

Historical Reads: Anne Boleyn's Last Secret

Why was the queen executed with a sword, rather than an axe? Historian Leanda De Lisle explains:

"As Henry’s sexual inadequacies were paraded during the trials, he responded by advertising his virility, staying out all hours, banqueting with beautiful girls. In private, however, he comforted himself in a different way, obsessing over the details of Anne’s coming death. In Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Guinevere was sentenced to death by burning. Henry decided Anne would be beheaded with a sword — the symbol of Camelot, of a rightful king, and of masculinity. Historians argue over whether Anne was really guilty of adultery, and whether Henry or Cromwell was more responsible for her destruction. But the choice of a sword to kill Anne reflects one certain fact: Henry’s overweening vanity and self-righteousness."

To read the entire article, click here.

Georgiana, The Trendsetter

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was a fashion icon. Whatever she wore, regardless of how absurd or uncomfortable it was, became instantly fashionable. Women rushed to copy her, while men ridiculed her. Georgiana took it all in her stride and, undeterred, she kept setting trends. Here are a few she launched:

Hair Towers
When French women started wearing their hair arranged high above their heads, English ladies soon followed suit. But Georgiana didn't just copy the trend. She expanded it. The Duchess began wearing a three-foot hair tower that required two hairdressers and several hours of work to arrange! These huge hairdos were created by sticking, with the help of a scented pomade, pads of horse hair to natural hair. Then, Georgiana would decorate the top. To do this, she would sometimes use small ornaments, while at other times she would sport something more bizarre like a ship in full sail, stuffed exotic birds, or even a pastoral tableau complete with little wooden trees and sheep!

Soon, women started competing with each other to create the tallest head tower. To be fashionable, women were willing to sacrifice comfort. Not only they couldn't make quick movements while wearing all that stuff on their heads, but they also had to sit on the floor of their carriage not to ruin their hairdos! And they were laughed at because of it. One night, Georgiana wore a big headdress of red and white flowers to the opera. On her next visit, the celebrated singer Signor Lovattini came on the stage wearing the same, enormous headdress on his head! The crowd burst out laughing. Far from being offended, Georgiana turned to the singer and made him a low bow. Impressed, the people cheered their approval.

Ostrich feathers
Next, Georgiana started wearing an ostrich feather which she would attach in a large arch across the front of her hair. Lord Stormont, the British ambassador in Paris, gave her one that was four feet long! Georgiana wore it, and, of course, every woman wanted one too. These very long feathers were, however, very difficult to find and, as a result, very expensive. Poor people were outraged at this new fade. According to Lady Louisa Stuart, "the unfortunate feathers were insulted, mobbed, hissed, almost pelted wherever they appeared, abused in the newspapers, nay even preached at in the pulpits and pointed at as marks of reprobation".

This didn't faze Georgiana, not even when a crowd of people almost attacked her because of her hairstyle. The Morning Post once wrote: "The Duchess of D-e has a fashionable coat of mail; impregnable to the arrows of wit and ridicule; many other females of distinction have been made to moult, and rather than be laughed at any longer, left themselves featherless; wile her Grace, with all the dignity of a young Duchess is determined to keep the field, for her feathers increase in enormity in proportion to the public intimations she receives of her absurdity. Her head was a wonderful exhibition on Saturday night at the Opera. The Duke is quoted as saying she is welcome to do as she likes as long as she doesn't think it 'necessary that I should wear any ornaments on my head in compliment to her notions of taste and dress.'" Eventually, Queen Charlotte banned the feathers from court, and this fad quickly disappeared.

Georgiana would still be portrayed in satirical prints donning her infamous tall ostrich feathers long after she had ceased wearing them. But it wasn't only satirical artists and newspapers that made fun of Georgiana's fashion sense. Once, a couple appeared in the stalls of the Haymarket Theatre. The man was wearing an oversized petticoat with a ducal coronet and jewels on his head, while the woman enormous breeches that extended all the way up to her armpits and ostrich feathers in her hair. The attack was more directed to the Duke of Devonshire than his wife. He had never been a popular figure, while Georgiana had become a big celebrity just months after their wedding!

Pictures hats & Devonshire brown
When Georgiana posed for Gainsborough, she wore a huge black wide-brimmed hat decorated with a sash over the crown and feathers she had designed herself. Soon, the hat would become known as the picture hat and any lady who could afford it rushed to her milliner requesting one. Georgiana also seemed to favour a shade of brown. It was called Devonshire brown, but unfortunately that's all that we know about it now.

What do you think of these trends? Would you have worn them?

Further reading:
Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Taste In High Life

Mary Edwards of Kensington, a young heiress, was considered eccentric. She had married a son of the fourth Duke of Hamilton, but dumped him when she realised how profligate he was. Mary was more careful with money and often wore old-fashioned clothes. Tired of being ridiculed for it, in 1742 Mary commissioned Hogarth to paint a picture that mocked what she thought were the real ridiculous and superficial fashions and manners of the upper class.The result is a humorous painting called Taste In High Life.

In the centre of the painting there is an old lady holding a small tea cap between her thumb and finger. Its companion saucer is in the hands of the gentlemen standing next to her. The two gaze at the small objects in admiration, enamoured with their beauty. At the time, it was fashionable for the rich to collect porcelain.

The lady is wearing a sacque of stuff brocade embroidered with roses and expanded by a large hoop that gives her an unnatural and weird pyramid shape. The gentleman, thought to be Charles "Beau" Colyear, 2nd Earl of Portmore because of the opulent outfit said to be just like that worn by him at Court, wears a large muff, black stock, a feathered chapeau, a long pigtail and carries a cane that's dangling from his wrist. Clearly, he's a fop.

On the left, another woman is holding the chin of a black page boy wearing a turban and playing with a pagoda. The young boy is said to represent Ignatius Sancho, a black actor and composer. He was the first black person to vote in Britain and campaigned for the abolition of slavery. The page, who was a slave, also mocks the fashions and frivolities considered so important by their masters.

In the foreground, a monkey, wearing a sumptuous cuffed robe with ruffles, a bag-wig and a laced hat, is, with the help of a magnifying mirror, reading a dinner menu offering "cox combs, ducks tongues, rabbits ears and fricasey of snails". The room is decorated with a big china jar and a pyramid made with cards, while on the floor lies a bill, inscribed "Lady Basto, Dr to John Pip, for cards,—£300."

The walls are ornamented with pictures showing the transitory nature of fashion. These include the Medicean Venus, who is wearing stays and high-heeled shoes, and holding before her a hoop petticoat larger than a fig-leaf; a Cupid who uses a bellows to blow up a fire to burn petticoats and wigs; and a woman trapped in a sedan chair filled up by her hoops. Oh, what people are willing to do in the name of fashion!

Book Review: The Venetian Ghetto by Riccardo Calimani

On 29 March 1516, the Venetian Senate approved a law that ordered all the Jews in the city to reside in la Corte de Case, a part of Venice surrounded by high walls, whose doors were constantly guarded. Thus, the Venetian ghetto was born. While the Jews could freely leave the ghetto during the day, they had to return to their homes, and remain there, at night. Only doctors, and a few others with a special permit, could leave after dark.

The Jews were indispensable to the economy of Venice, then a small but powerful state that relied on maritime commerce. At first, the Jews, who paid very high taxes to be able to reside in the city, ran pawnshops. The conditions of the loans were decided by the Venetian government, but, despite this, the business was very lucrative in the beginning. Later on, they were also allowed to become merchants. This, together with the religious freedom they enjoyed in Venice, attracted there many Jews who were persecuted in their own countries.

Being able to practice their religion freely was one of the few rights (citizenship wasn't one of them) the Jews enjoyed in Venice. This also meant that the government would protect them from the Inquisition. Several Jews were tried, but it was those who pretended to have converted to Catholicism but still practiced Judaism in private, or that were baptized several times, that were severely punished. Venice was full of marranos (Jews who had converted to Christianity to escape persecution), so it wasn't always easy to determine what beliefs some of the accused had. The trials in Venice were scrupulous and fair and only 18 people were condemned to death. More, though, were condemned to other types of punishment, like Giuseppe Francoso who, found guilty of having been baptized several times, was sentenced to "forced labor in the galleys" for twenty years, and exile thereafter. Harsh surely, but compared to other cities, where the death penalty was used more often, Venice was lenient.

The relationship between Venice and its Jews changed with the economic situation. When Venice prospered, the Jews, who with their hard work and taxes contributed to its success, were granted more liberties and left in peace. But as soon as the economy took a turn for the worse, they were used as scapegoats. Their freedoms were curtailed and they were often threatened of being kicked out. They were usually allowed to remain, though, by agreeing to paying higher taxes.

For centuries, these high taxes and restrictions on the professions Jews were allowed to practice, weren't too big a problem. Pawnshops and commerce were lucrative activities that allowed the Jews to prosper. But in the eighteenth century, when Venice lost its maritime supremacy and the economy declined, they weren't able to pay such exorbitant amounts of money anymore. Now, they were the ones who needed help.

The Jews were eventually freed by Napoleon. His troops conquered the city and, on 7 July 1797, the ghetto was abolished. Now they could freely live among the Venetians. But the history told in The Venetian Ghetto doesn't end there. Riccardo Calimani also briefly mentions what happened to the Jews from their liberation to modern times.

In addition, the book also describes the religious ceremonies of the Jews, their buildings and monuments, and their daily habits. The author also shares the stories of some of the Venetian Jews. Some were ordinary citizens whose trace remains in trial papers or business documents. Others were famous personalities of their time, such as the poetess Sarah Coppio Sullam and the rabbi Mosé Chaim Luzzatto. To me, these stories were the most interesting part of the book, as they help the reader relate to the bigger, but general, story of the Venetian Jews, breathing life into it.

If I had to be honest, I expected the book to be somewhat dull and dry, but it wasn't at all. A couple of chapters may have drawn on a bit longer than necessary, but overall the book is well-written and well-paced, making it flow easily. It is also well-researched and very detailed, but not so much as to overwhelm the reader. This book is a joy to read. If you're interested in the topic, I highly recommend it.

The Venetian Ghetto by Riccardo Calimani tells the story of the ghetto of Venice, from its creation in 1516 to its abolition in 1797, plus a brief summary of what happened to the Venetian Jewish community afterwards. The book discusses the customs, daily habits and religious ceremonies of the Jews, and shares the stories of some the inhabitants of the ghetto. Well-researched, well-written, and detailed, the book flows easily and is never dry nor boring (although a couple of chapters are a bit longer than necessary).

Available at: amazon and book depository

Rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.