Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2014 will be a wonderful year for you all, full of love, health and happiness.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank you all for all your support. Thank you for visiting my little blog, leaving comments, and for your friendship. It means a lot to me. History And Other Thoughts wouldn't be the same without you.

I hope you'll stick around for the new year too!

Linen For The Wash

If the family washing be done at home, the duty will either fall upon the maid, or she will have to assist the washerwoman who may be engaged for the purpose. In some families, everything is washed at home; in others, only the coarse things, such as sheets, towels, &c., are washed at home, and the rest are sent out to the laundress; and in others, again, everything is sent to the laundress.

In either of these cases, the maid will probably have to collect and sort all the dirty clothes, and to make out a list, or lists, of the different articles for the wash, and to see that everything is right, in state and number, when the washing and ironing are over. In some families, the mistress, or one of her daughters, likes to make out the list, or lists, as .the maid calls the things over.

Q. What are the preparations you have to make for the wash?
A. I must first collect all the sheets, towels, pillowcases, and toilet-cloths, from the bags in the bed-rooms; all the gowns, petticoats, chemises, handkerchiefs, caps, shirts, collars, cravats, waistcoats, light trowsers, and stockings, all the table-cloths, dinner-napkins, coarse cloths and towels from the kitchen, and throw them on the floor of the room used for the purpose.

Q. What next?
A. Then I sort them into heaps, such as bed-room towels in one heap, coarse towels in another, sheets, shirts, gowns, waistcoats, each in a separate heap. The stockings I draw one into the other, to keep them in pairs.

Q. And what then?
A. I examine' each article separately, to ascertain what may require mending.

Q. Well?
A. The most economical way is to have such things as may require mending, excepting stockings, mended before they are washed, that they may not receive further injury in the washing; but some ladies prefer having them tied up by themselves, washed, roughdried, mended afterwards, and then finished by folding and ironing, or mangling.

Q. But if sent to the laundress, how should this be arranged?
A. They should be sent to the laundress separately, with instructions for her to wash and rough-dry them, send them home to be mended, and then to receive them again to be finished.

Q. Well, having sorted all the things properly, what do you do next?
A. I make out a list of them, naming the articles and the number of them in each: as, 3 table-cloths, 5 napkins, 2 gowns, 7 shirts, and so on. And if the things are to be sent to the laundress, I make a copy of the list, and give it to her; and then, when she brings them home, I can ascertain, by my own list, even should she have lost hers, whether the return is right.

Q. Is there not a better method of managing this?
A. Yes, ma'am; if you please to buy one of the Improved Family Washing Books, which are sold by most stationers, some trouble may be saved, mistakes will be less likely to occur, and the book may always be kept for reference.

Q. What is the plan?
A. Each page of these books has two printed lists of all such washing articles as are used and worn in families; and between the two lists is a scroll or cheque. Having written down the number of every article you send to the laundress, against its name in the lists, you have only to cut off one list, through the cheque, and give it to the laundress, letting the other list remain in the book. Then, when the linen is brought home, and the different articles are called over by the list, it is seen in an instant whether anything be missing.

Q. Well, should there be anything missing, what do you do?
A. I make a mark in the list of the article missing, and either apprise you, ma'am, or desire the laundress to bring it home.

Q. What do yon do after all the linen has been properly got up, or sent home from the laundress's?
A. I take care that everything is properly aired; and then I place all the different articles in the bed-rooms of the parties to whom they belong.

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

Historical Reads: Peg Woffington

Heather Carroll remembers the 18th century actress Peg Woffington. To quote:

Not only did Peg show a skill in playing breeches roles, which she was given quite frequently, but she took to playing aristocrats well. An interesting fact considering her voice was described as "harsh." Peg quickly gained the reputation of being a leading comic actress and began having friends in high places such as the Gunning Sisters and one of the most famous actors in history, David Garrick. In fact, a love bloomed between the two thespians and they lived together (in sin!) for a while. The couple had planned to wed but Peg ended up dumping him.

She went on to have numerous public affairs with men in high places such as the Earl of Darnley and MP Charles Hanbury Williams but managed not to have any children. A smart tart, I say! Actually she was known for being a kind, genuine person, however tart-like. In fact, she was so well-liked she was even the president of Thomas Sheridan's Beefsteak Club in Dublin. Normally clubs were a place for men to gamble and and be debaucherous so women were not allowed. Peg was actually the only woman member in the Beefsteak Club as well as President.

To read the entire article, click here.

Best Posts Of 2013

Hello everyone,

the year is almost over. That means it's time to take a small trip down memory lane and reminisce about some of the topics we've discussed this year. Here we go:

Le Bon Genre: a series of prints depicting the lives, pastimes and interests of the Parisian middle class at the beginning of the 19th century.

The World's First Sex Therapist: Dr James Graham was a pioneer in sex therapy, a medical entrepreneur, a quack and a brilliant showman. He created The Celestial Bed, an electromagnetic bed that was supposed to help couples conceive. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and her husband used it.

Was Anne Boleyn Beautiful Or Ugly?: Anne Boleyn's appearance still remains a mystery. We only have one authenticated picture of her and lots of contradicting descriptions. So, what's the truth?

Mary Eleanor Bowes: an ancestor of the Queen Mother, she was one of the wealthiest heiresses in England. She was the victim of domestic abuse and was even kidnapped by her violent husband. She managed to escape his clutches but her reputation never recovered from the scandals surrounding her divorce proceedings.

Catherine Of Aragon's Pregnancies: if Catherine of Aragon wasn't able to give her husband Henry VIII's an heir, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying. Unfortunately, most of her pregnancies would end in miscarriages or still births. Only one daughter, the future Mary I, would survive to adulthood.

Georgiana, The Trendsetter: Georgiana was the Queen of fashion of her time. Whatever she wore, everyone else soon copied. Check out this article to discover some of the trends she launched.

Marie Bashkirtseff: Marie was a famous and popular Russian painter. Despite suffering from tuberculosis, she worked incessantly, egged on by her desire to do something worthwhile in art that would live after her. Sadly, a large number of her works were destroyed during World War II.

Marriage A La Mode by William Hogarth: one of Hogarth's most famous works, this series of prints depicts the disastrous consequences of arranged marriages, a very widespread practice among the upper classes at the time.

Princess Louise Of France, Blessed Thérèse of Saint Augustine: Princess Louise, one of the daughters of the womanizer king Louis XV was a very pious and devoted woman who decided to leave the splendors of Versailles behind and become a nun. But she would still use her royal connections to help the causes she believed in.

Elizabeth Chudleigh: Elizabeth lived a very scandalous life that defied all the conventions of her time. A bigamist, Elizabeth would try hard to deny her first marriage had ever happened, which would be her downfall. Despite this, she was also a generous woman who never lost her zest for life.

Armand de Gontaut, Duc de Lauzun and Biron: a brave soldier and a womanizer, the Duc was a supporter of the Revolution, believing it would bring freedom to the country. He also fought for it, and participated in the repression of the uprising of the Vendee, but this wasn't enough to save him. Like many noblemen, he too lost his head.

Marie Antoinette's Wardrobe: Marie Antoinette had a huge and luxurious wardrobe. This article explains how it was organized, and how the Queen decided what to wear.

Jane, Duchess Of Gordon: Jane was the Tory version, and rival, of Georgiana, Duchess Of Devonshire. Very active in politics, she once even kidnapped a man to secure a seat for one of her friends!

Was Gabrielle De Polignac A Loyal Friend Or A Greedy Social Climber?: Gabrielle was Marie Antoinette's best friends. The friendship earned her (and her family) lots of money, perks, and titles, but also a reputation as a frivolous and greedy social climber. But who really was Gabrielle?

I hope you've enjoyed these articles!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are with your family, loved ones and friends, and are all having a lovely time.

And to those who don't celebrate it, have a wonderful day!


After sixteen years of marriage, several miscarriages and two healthy daughters, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, finally gave birth to a long-awaited heir. The happy event took place in Paris, on 21st May 1790, during the French Revolution. Georgiana had gone to Spa, in Brussels, where it was hoped the warm climate and calm atmosphere would help her conceive.

That seems to have done the trick, but once pregnant, the journey back to England had been deemed too dangerous for a woman who had miscarried several times before, so she had moved to Brussels where, a few days before the birth, the revolutionary Belgians, suspicious of her royal links, had kicked her out of the country. So, she had gone to Paris, where she had given birth to a healthy son.

News soon reached Derbyshire, England, where the church bells rang all day in celebration. The baby was named William, but everyone called him Hart, short for Marquess of Hartington, the title bestowed on him upon his birth. Soon, mother and baby were back in England. However, Hart didn't enjoy the company of his mother for long. Georgiana had embarked on an affair with Charles Grey. When she became pregnant, her husband forced her to choose between her family and her lover and their unborn child.

Georgiana, who couldn't stand even the thought of being separated from her three children, chose her family, but the Duke still banished her. Hart was one year old, and kept screaming, "Mama gone, Mama gone!". He was inconsolable. Georgiana was finally allowed to returned two years later and by then, the young toddler had forgotten her. Whenever she tried to touch him, he would scream. Georgiana was devastated.

Eventually, though, mother and son became very close. Hart, who had been educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, grew up into a handsome and shy man. He had lost most of his hearing, due to an infection, as a child, which probably contributed to his shyness and lack of confidence. Hart fell in love with his cousin Caroline (her mother was Harriet, Georgiana's sister). Caroline turned him down and married William Lamb instead. Poor Hart was devastated.

So, Hart remained a bachelor all his life. That gained him the nickname The Bachelor Duke. But, of course, that didn't mean he had sworn off women. He still kept several mistresses. He also dedicated a lot of his time to redecorate and improve his eight houses, including Chatsworth, the family's country house, where he entertained his friends, which included Charles DIckens, Czar Nicholas, and the Prince Regent. When he became king in 1821, Hart carried the Orb at his coronation.

Hart was a good businessman and managed to pay off his parents' debts after their deaths. He then gracefully got rid of Bess, his father's second wife, who had demanded titles and money. He was also Lord Chamberlain of the Household between 1827 and 1828 and again between 1830 and 1834. In 1826, he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Russian Empire on the coronation of Czar Nicholas I, and a year later, he was made a Knight of the Garter. Hart died at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, on 18 January 1858. His title was inherited by his cousin, William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Burlington.

Further reading:
The Duchess by Amanda Foreman

John Bull In Clover & John Bull Done Over

In 1819, England was facing an economic crisis. The conditions of the country were summed up in a double print, "John Bull In Clover" & "John Bull Done Over", published by Fores on 9th January.

In the first print, a fat John Bull is having a great time. He's smoking a pipe and drinking a glass of port which, he says, "enables one to go through the fatigues of business". His dog, in the corner, is enjoying his dinner too. On the floor, lie scattered the invoices of goods dispatched by him to customers in Spain, in Russia, and in America.

On the walls, hangs a picture of "Good Queen Bess," who had ruled the country over an age of prosperity. Underneath her portrait, John has pinned several of his favourite patriotic ballads: "The Land we live in," "Oh, the Roast Beef of Old England!," and "May we all live the days of our life." John Bull is prospering and is praising the government policies that allow his business to thrive.

But those policies weren't too sound after all, cos a few years later John Bull is done over. John has now become very thin and his clothes are old and torn in several places. He has also lost his shoes. His dog too has become skeletal. In vain, he asks his master for food, but John has nothing to give him. The only food in the room is an onion.

On the floor, the Gazzete announces his bankruptcy. His invoices are replaced by tradesmen's bills. John is so desperate that he is thinking of committing suicide. He's reading a treatise on it Next to the book, lies a razor, while, on the back of his chair, is a coiled rope.

And yet, the government is demanding even more money from him. At the window, a tax gatherer who has come to collect his property tax, ascertains whether John is at home. The poor man sighs, "Why, there's very little of me left, sure enough you need not trouble yourself to call anymore. For that will be gone soon."

On the wall, the pictures of Queen Elizabeth I has been replaced with that of John Bellingham, the assassin of the British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. The patriotic ballads too have gone. In their place, doleful ditties, such as "Oh, dear, what can the matter be!" and "There's nae luck about the house," are pinned on the wall.

Short Book Reviews: Leaves On The Line, 365 Reasons To Be Proud To Be British, & Blest By The Dark Angel

Hello everyone,

today's first two books are light, entertaining and perfect for Anglophiles. The third is instead a very emotional and powerful memoirs about clinical depression. I hope you will enjoy these reviews, and let me know if you've read these books, or plan to.

Leaves On The Line by Martin & Simon Toseland
The British often say one thing but mean another. And they do that in every walk of life, from politics to sports, from relationships to work. Even something as simple as "nice weather we're having" can have a double meaning. To help you navigate, and make sense of, this secret language, Martin & Simon Toseland have written Leaves On The Line, a short volume full of expressions the English use everyday. Then, the authors explains, in a witty and satirical, way what they really mean. It's a good laugh, but also very accurate and truthful. If you plan to visit the UK, love all thing British, or simply want to know what the heck they are talking about, check out this book. It offers a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

365 Reasons To Be Proud To Be British by Richard Happer
The British may like to boast, but they certainly have many reasons to be proud of themselves. Richard Happer chose 365 of them, one for every day of the year. They range from Margaret Thatcher's contribution to ice cream, to the shortest war in history (it lasted 38 minutes), from stereo sound to the longest running science fiction show. It's a short collection of trivia that will make you realise how creative, adventurous and inventive the British people really are. However, every entry is really short. You only get the bare facts, which I thought was a shame. I understand that this is supposed to be a short and entertaining trivia book, but still there were many times when I would have liked more information on a certain discovery or tradition. There were also a few errors here and there, but overall, I would still recommend the book to all Anglophiles out there. It's a fun read with lots of interesting facts about their favourite country.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3/5

Blest By The Dark Angel by Ann Keiffer
Ann Keiffer had it all: an exciting career, a loving family and close friends. And yet, she became clinically depressed. In this memoir, Keiffer talks candidly and honestly about her illness and how she eventually was able to overcome it. Not only that, but she came to consider her depression a blessing that helped transform her life for the better. Keiffer's story is unfortunately very common. What's not so common is the outcome. There is still a stigma attached to depression that prevents many people even from admitting they have a problem and seek treatment.
By sharing her story, Keiffer hopes to help other people who are suffering from the same illness, showing them that there is hope at the end of the tunnel, and that healing is possible. If, instead, you know someone who is suffering from depression, the book will give you a better understanding of what it is they are going through, of that hopefulness, sorrow and deadness they feel inside that prevents them from enjoying every aspect of their life. And even if you don't know anyone who is clinically depressed, the book is still an informative and insightful read. Depression is something that can happen to anyone, at any time. That's why it's important to know what it is and talk about it, so that we can finally consider it as the illness that it is rather than something to hide and be ashamed of.
Keiffer, with the help of her photographer son, has also created an exhibition about depression. The pictures, together with the accompanying poems written by Keiffer herself, are also included in the book. They were my favourite part of it actually. They're so raw and true and perfectly capture what depression is about. In addition, you will also find some common facts about depression (including symptoms, statistics and busted myths) at the beginning of the book. Overall, an insightful and emotional read that I recommend to anyone who wants to know more about depression.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

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

How To Sit In A Victorian Bustle

Have you ever wondered how Victorian women managed to sit down in those beautiful gowns that were so full at the back? This fullness was provided by the bustle, a type of framework that also supported the weight of the drapery of the back of the dress. During the 1870′s and 80′s, they became the height of fashion.

Sitting down with that kind of cage around your body must have been impossible, you think. Wrong. Bustles folded up, allowing them to be lifted whenever a woman needed to sit down or just pass through a narrow space, like this video demonstrates:

Table Manners And Etiquette

It is of the highest importance that all persons should conduct themselves with the strictest regard to good breeding, even in the privacy of their own homes, when at table, a neglect of such observances will render one stiff and awkward in society. There are so many little points to be observed, that unless a person is habitually accustomed to observe them, he unconsciously commits some error, or will appear awkward and constrained upon occasions when it is important to be fully at ease. To be thoroughly at ease at such times is only acquired by the habitual practice of good manners at the table, and is the result of proper home training.

It is the duty of parents to accustom their children, by example as well as by precept, to be attentive and polite to each other at every meal, as well as to observe proper rules of etiquette, and if they do so, they need never fear that they will be rude or awkward when they go abroad. Even when persons habitually eat alone, they should pay due regard to the rules of etiquette, for by so doing they form habits of ease and gracefulness which are requisite in refined circles; otherwise they speedily acquire rude and awkward habits which they cannot shake off without great difficulty, and which are at times embarrassing to themselves and their friends.

In private families it should be observed as a rule to meet together at all meals of the day around one common table, where the same rules of etiquette should be rigidly enforced, as though each member of the family were sitting at a stranger's table. It is only by this constant practice of the rules of good behaviour at home, that good manners become easy when any of them go abroad.


At the first meal of the day, even in the most orderly households, an amount of freedom is allowed, which would be unjustifiable at any other meal. The head of the house may look over his morning paper, and the various other members may glance over correspondence or such books or studies as they are interested in. Each may rise and leave the table when business or pleasure dictates, without awaiting for the others or for a general signal.

The breakfast table should be simply decorated, yet it may be made very attractive with its snowy cloth and napkins, its array of glass, and its ornamentation of fruits and flowers. Bread should be placed upon the table, cut in slices. In eating, it must always be broken, never cut, and certainly not bitten. Fruit should be served in abundance at breakfast whenever practicable. There is an old adage which declares that "fruit is gold in the morning, silver at noon, and lead at night."


In many of our large cities, where business prevents the head of the family from returning to dinner until a late hour, luncheon is served about midday and serves as an early dinner for children and servants. There is much less formality in the serving of lunch than of dinner. It is all placed upon the table at once, whether it consists of one or more courses. Where only one or two are at luncheon, the repast is ordinarily served on a tray.


The private family dinner should be the social hour of the day. Then parents and children should meet together, and the meal should be of such length as to admit of the greatest sociality. It is an old saying that chatted food is half digested. The utmost good feeling should prevail among all. Business and domestic cares and troubles should be, for the time, forgotten, and the pleasures of home most heartily enjoyed.


The knife and fork were not made for playthings, and should not be used as such when people are waiting at the table for the food to be served. Do not hold them erect in your hands at each side of your plate, nor cross them on your plate when you have finished, nor make a noise with them. The knife should only be used for cutting meats and hard substances, while the fork, held in the left hand, is used in carrying food into the mouth. A knife must never, on any account, be put into the mouth. When you send your plate to be refilled, do not send your knife and fork, but put them upon a piece of bread, or hold them in your hand.


To put large pieces of food into your mouth appears greedy, and if you are addressed when your mouth is so filled, you are obliged to pause, before answering, until the vast mouthful is masticated, or run the risk of choking, by swallowing it too hastily. To eat very fast is also a mark of greediness, and should be avoided. The same may be said of soaking up gravy with bread, scraping up sauce with a spoon, scraping your plate and gormandizing upon one or two articles of food only.


Refrain from making a noise when eating, or supping from a spoon, and from smacking the lips or breathing heavily while masticating food, as they are marks of ill-breeding. The lips should be kept closed in eating as much as possible.

It is rude and awkward to elevate your elbows and move your arms at the table, so as to incommode those on either side of you.

Whenever one or both hands are unoccupied, they should be kept below the table, and not pushed upon the table and into prominence.

Do not leave the table before the rest of the family or guests, without asking the head, or host, to excuse you, except at a hotel or boarding house.

Tea or coffee should never be poured into a saucer to cool, but sipped from the cup.

If a person wishes to be served with more tea or coffee, he should place his spoon in his saucer. If he has had sufficient, let it remain in the cup.

If by chance anything unpleasant is found in the food, such as a hair in the bread or a fly in the coffee, remove it without remark. Even though your own appetite be spoiled, it is well not to prejudice others.

Always make use of the butter-knife, sugar-spoon and salt-spoon, instead of using your knife, spoon or fingers.

Never, if possible, cough or sneeze at the table.

At home fold your napkin when you are done with it and place it in your ring. If you are visiting, leave your napkin unfolded beside your plate.

Eat neither too fast nor too slow.

Never lean back in your chair, nor sit too near or too far from the table.

Keep your elbows at your side, so that you may not inconvenience your neighbors.

Do not find fault with the food.

The old-fashioned habit of abstaining from taking the last piece upon the plate is no longer observed. It is to be supposed that the vacancy can be supplied, if necessary.

If a plate is handed you at the table, keep it yourself instead of passing it to a neighbor. If a dish is passed to you, serve yourself first, and then pass it on.

The host or hostess should not insist upon guests partaking of particular dishes; nor ask persons more than once, nor put anything on their plates which they have declined. It is ill-bred to urge a person to eat of anything after he has declined.

When sweet corn is served on the ear, the grain should be pared from it upon the plate, instead of being eaten from the cob.

Strive to keep the cloth as clean as possible, and use the edge of the plate or a side dish for potato skins and other refuse.

Further reading:
Our Deportment, Or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society by John H. Young

Historical Reads: Louis XVI And The French Revolution By Alison Johnson Review

Anna Gibson reviews a new book about Louis XVI and the French Revolution. To quote:

One of the themes apparent in Johnson's book is to rectify some of the more popular conceptions of Louis XVI, such as the popular depiction of Louis XVI as an intellectually shallow man. Even the comte de Saint-Priest, who of the king said that "never was a man less fit to reign," admitted that Louis XVI might "have filled other roles" in life because he was "well-versed in literature, knew several languages, had some astronomical knowledge, and had an extensive knowledge of geography and marine affairs." Louis was also heavily involved in scientific endeavors, such as the exploration of the comte de Lapérouse.

Many aspects of the king's character as it related to his family, his people and his desire to reform and improve the government of France are discussed in the book. Johnson has included examples from many contemporary journals, memoirs and letters which reveal a more complex view of Louis XVI than is usually held in historical study--together, it reveals a man who was intellectually gifted, driven by justice, kind, humble, and who had a sincere personal care for his people--but who was, ultimately, the right kind of king at the wrong time.

Despite the book's title, I do feel as if the book is more of an analysis of the king's public and private character rather than an analysis of his role in the revolution itself. I do think this aspect of the book is very worthwhile because it does reveal aspects of the king's character that are often ignored or overlooked in other studies about him.

To read the entire review, click here.

The Chapel Of St Peter Ad Vincula

In my post "Anne Boleyn Places: Where She Lived, Where She Died", I barely mentioned the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where the unfortunate queen of England was buried. I think it's time to remedy that and share a bit more about it, don't you?

Anne Boleyn died, unjustly, as a traitor and was thus denied a proper burial with Christian service. Instead, after her death, her sobbing maids wrapped her head and body in a white cloth, took them to St Peter ad Vincula, the Tower Chapel, and placed her remains in an old elm chest which had once been used to store bow staves.

Although a chapel had been standing there since before the Norman conquest, the building in which Anne was buried, and which has survived to our days, was rebuilt in 1519-20 by Sir Richard Cholmondeley Anne isn't the only queen buried there. In the following year, her cousin Catherine Howard and Jane Grey were executed at the Tower of London and laid to rest in its chapel too.

Over the century, it fell into disrepair until, finally, during the reign of Queen Victoria, restoration works began. During these works, the body of Anne Boleyn was found. It was identified by Dr Mouat, who described them thus:

The bones found in the place where Queen Anne Boleyn is said to have been buried are certainly those of a female in the prime of life, all perfectly consolidated and symmetrical, and belong to the same person.

The bones of the head indicate a well-formed round skull, with an intellectual forehead, straight orbital ridge, large eyes, oval face, and rather square full chin. The remains of the vertebrae, and the bones of the lower limbs, indicate a well-formed woman of middle height, with a short and slender neck. The ribs show depth and roundness of chest. The hand and feet bones indicate delicate and well-shaped hands and feet, with tapering fingers and a narrow foot.

Since then, there's been some controversy over whether these bones were really Anne's, but that's a topic for another post. For know, suffice it to say that the Victorians dug where they expected to find her and Dr Mouat's conclusions seem to fit in with what we know of Anne Boleyn. But we can't tell for sure the bones are hers.

The Chapel can still be visited today but, because it is also a place of worship, you should either go after 4:30pm or visit it on a guided tour.

Photo source:
MattHucke of http://www.graveyards.com

Wilhelm II's Birth

On 27 January 1859, Victoria, Princess Royal of Great Britain, gave birth to her first child, the future Wilhelm II of Germany. It was a traumatic breech birth that left the poor boy with a withered left arm. This injury would have a huge impact on the formation of his character.

Childbirths, back then, were dangerous affairs even when such complications didn't arise, and a very worried Queen Victoria had recommended to her daughter the services of Dr Eduard Martin, the first German gynecologist to have used chloroform anesthesia on women in labour. She also sent Vicky her midwife, Mrs Innocent, her doctor, James Clark, and a bottle of chloroform, of which the Queen, who had given birth to nine children, was a big fan. Of course, Vicky had also other German doctors by her side.

Two days after the birth, Victoria's husband Fritz wrote to his parents-in-law to give them an account of the event:

"After Vicky had been visited by pains of an unusual nature in the few days prior to the 27th, which had more than once given us a false alarm, she experienced sharp pains shortly before midnight on the 26th, and soon thereafter wetness, which induced me to call in Mrs Innocent. She soon informed me quietly that the time had come, but advised Vicky to try and get a little sleep.

This was no loner possible, as the above-mentioned pain recurred a short time later, & sir James was informed & Wegner and Countess Blucher summoned. Vicky put on some warm loose clothes and placed to and fro for several hours supported by Countesses Perponcher and Blucher and myself, desperately clutching us or at a table whenever the pain set in. At around 1/2 past 2 in the morning, I went to my parents to announce that it had begun, and Vicky went into the bedroom, which had meanwhile been prepared for the decisive event; & there, she spent the night either walking or lying in the chaise lounge.

The pains gradually increased, & by daybreak were no longer by any means negligible. At around 9 a.m., she lay down on the bed, the very place where my father was born; only somewhat later did Dr Wegner notice by chance as he examined her that the position of the baby was not quite the normal one."

It was at this point that a footman was sent to fetch Dr Martin. He found the doctor just as he was about to leave to deliver a lecture. Dr Martin had actually been summoned with a note the night before but, because a palace servant had put it into a mailbox rather than have it directly delivered, the doctor didn't receive it until 10:00. When the doctor finally arrived at the palace, the situation in the birthing room was tragic. The doctors were convinced that both mother and baby would die. In his "Report on the delivery of a child to Her Royal Highness, Princess Friedrich Wilhelm, Princess Royal of Great Britain", the doctor wrote:

"At 10 1/2 I discovered the cervix to have dilated to around 1 1/2 inches; it was nonetheless taut. The right buttock of the child could be seen, the anus was pushed to the left and back. As the contractions were very painful and yet ineffective,... in other words they were being impeded by convulsions causing cramp-like pain, the patient, now in advanced labour, was given one grain of ipecacuana at 11. After vomiting once as a result, the contractions seemed to improve, although they were still decidedly painful; I therefore recommended moderate inhalations of chloroform, which also alleviated the Princess's extreme agitation."

Fritz vividly described his wife's agony:

"Vicky's pain, as well as her horrible screams and wails, became even more severe; however, whenever she was granted a respite from her suffering, she would ask for forgiveness from everyone for her screaming and impatience, but she could not help herself. When the final stage of labour began, I had to try with all my might to hold her head in place, so that she would not strain her neck over much. Every contraction meant a real fight between her and me, and even today [29 January] my arms still feel quite weak.

To prevent her from gnashing and biting, we made sure that there was a handkerchief in her mouth at all times. Occasionally, I had to use all my strength to remove her fingers from her mouth, & also placed my own fingers in her mouth. With the strength of a giant, she was at times able to hold off 2 people, & thus the awful torture escalated until the moment of birth was so near that complete anesthesia with chloroform was undertaken... Vicky was laid at right angles on the bed; she let forth one horrible, long scream, & was then anesthetized."

Because the contractions were not sufficiently strong, in the last stages of birth, Vicky was also given secale cornutum (or ergot). This made the contractions come less often and with less pain, "but were all the stronger and more expellent as a consequence". Dr Martin, then, delivered the baby, as he described in his report:
"At 2.45 p.m. the buttocks emerged from the genitals, with the Prince's legs thrust up over his abdomen and chest. As the pulse in the umbilical cord was now only weak and slow, indeed intermittent, a heavier dose of chloroform was administered in order to perform the operation that had now become necessary to ensure that the patient should be quite motionless and insensible during the final stage.

I carefully eased out the Prince's legs from their upward-pointing position, and, as his life was seriously endangered, manouvred his [left] arm, which was thrust up behind his head, out of the birth canal in the accepted manner. The narrowness of the birth canal meant that this process involved considerable force.

By means of the same [arm], I then rotated the child's trunk according to the established rules, thus freeing the right arm, which was also thrust up and back, and finally the head, following Smellie's wise rule of rotating the face toward the mother's sacral cavity and then carefully bringing it out. As the faltering pulse in the umbilical cord had already indicated when only his buttocks had protruded, the Prince was suffering to a high degree from foetal asphyxia."

Martin then writes how "on administration of the usual means of revival he began to breathe", but it was actually Fraulein Stahl who saved the Prince's life. When the baby was born, he didn't utter a sound, causing everyone to believe he was stillborn. Then, the midwife threw etiquette to the wind, and as she later recalled, took "the young Prince under my left arm" and "taking a wet towel in my right hand I began to apply the traditional method, although the doctors grumbled and everyone present in the room was shocked." Then, she started slapping the Prince, "first softly, then more vigorously, slap, slap, slap," until at last "a weak cry escaped his pale lips".

"The sound cut through me like an electric shock," later wrote the proud father. He then "staggered, in a half-faint, into the next room where the baby was in a bath, & first I fell into Mama's arms, & then I sank to my knees."

Further reading:
The birth of Kaiser William II (1859–1941) and his birth injury by M G Jacoby
Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859-1888 by John C. G. Röhl

Book Review: The Plantagenets By Dan Jones

These days, it's all about the Tudors. But the dynasty that preceded it is just as interesting, if not more. The Plantagenets ruled England from 1154, when Henry II ascended to the throne, till 1485, when Richard III was killed at the battle of Bosworth Field. But that's not mentioned in The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones. The author stops his narration in 1399, the year Richard II was deposed. There are a couple of reasons for that. First off, the following Plantagenet monarchs belonged to a different branch of the family (Lancastrian). The second? Including all the Plantagenet kings would have made what is already a very long book, even longer.

But long doesn't mean boring. Jones has chosen the format of narrative history, which means few dates, quotes and citations. But also a lively narrative that reads like a novel. The story begins in November 1120 when the White Star, a large boat carrying the heir to the English throne, sank. England was left without a successor and when Henry I died, the country was plunged into a civil war fought between the king's daughter, Matilda, and his nephew, Stephen. The winner? Matilda's son, who became Henry II.

Henry II ruled over a vast empire that comprised England and most of France. Married to the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, he had to spend the last years of his reign fighting his own children, who had rebelled against his rule. Two of these children would eventually follow him on the throne. Richard I, better known as the Lionheart, fought in the crusades and barely spent any time in England. His brother King John exercised power arbitrarily and cruelly and was therefore forced by his barons to sign the Magna Carta.

The reign of Henry III saw the beginning of what we now know as Parliament, while his son Edward I, nicknamed Longshanks, is famous for the harsh way in which he conquered the Welsh and the Scots. He was followed by Edward II, who surrounded himself with a few privileged favourites to whom he was incapable of denying anything, which eventually led to discontent and political unrest. He was deposed by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, who seized the throne in the name of her son, Edward III.

Edward III wanted to reconquered the French lands his ancestors had lost. He started the Hundred Years War and, together with his son Edward, nicknamed The Black Prince, won many important battles. Unfortunately, The Black Prince died before his father and so the throne passed to his son, Richard II, who played a major part in the repression of The Peasant's Revolt. The event scarred Richard who became more and more paranoid, and therefore, more autocratic. He was finally deposed by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke.

Jones makes the Plantagenets and their world vividly come to life. His writing style is entertaining and enjoyable, and the story is never bogged down by unnecessary details. It is also straightforward. Dan clearly explains how each monarch influenced the rule of his successor and shaped the country, developing "aspects of English law, government, architecture, art and folklore that survive to this day".

However, given the vastness of the topic, the author cannot go into too much detail into each king and his reign. Only the main events are highlighted. Therefore, if you are familiar with this dynasty, you won't find much here that you didn't know already. But for everyone else, this is a wonderful and insightful introduction to this medieval royal dynasty.

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones is an entertaining and insightful introduction to the Plantagenets. Written in the format of narrative history, the book lacks citations, most dates and notes. But it makes up for that by painting a vivid picture of the Plantagenet kings, bringing them to life and explaining, in a straightforward manner, how they influenced their country in ways that still affect us today.

Available at: amazon, barnes & noble, and waterstones

Rating: 4/5

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

Princess Louise Of France, Blessed Thérèse of Saint Augustine

Born at Versailles on 15 July 1737, Princess Louise of France was the youngest daughter of King Louis XV and his Polish Queen Marie Lescinska. The baby wasn't raised at the splendid court of Versailles, but was instead sent to the faraway Abbey of Fontevraud, where she joined her older sisters Madame Victoire, Madame Sophie, and Madame Therese (who died aged 8). One day, little Louise reminded one of the nuns that she was the daughter of the King. Undaunted, the nun simply replied: "And I am the daughter of God". The stay at the abbey would have a profound impact on the young girl.

Madame Louise was destined from birth to a prestigious marriage, but all her father's attempts to find her a suitable husband failed. Louise was very relieved. The devoted princess preferred the quiet and religious life of a nun to the luxurious one of a married princess. When rumours started circulating that her father may betroth her to Charles Edward Stuart, more famously known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, Louise supposedly asked: "Should I not be very anxious since I am destined for a husband, I who want no other than Jesus Christ?"

In 1750, Louise returned to Versailles, where she lived for 20 years. But court life wasn't for her. So, to the amazement of everyone, she asked her father permission to become a nun. The King had always opposed her daughter's wish but, in 1770, he finally relented and granted it. So, shortly after the young Archduchess Marie Antoinette of Austria arrived at the French court, Louise left it to join the convent at Saint-Denis, a very rigorous and poor Carmelite monastery.

On 10 September 1770 she took the habit and the following year, on 1 October, she gave her vows. She also took the name of Thérèse of Saint Augustine. The princess always insisted that she be treated just like all the other nuns. She even refused assistance when she had to kneel, something that was difficult for her due to an injury sustained as a child. In 1773, she became prioress of the convent. She served in that role until 1779, and, again from 1785.

Therese didn't hesitate to use her royal connections to help the causes close to her heart. For instance, she interceded with the King to allow the Austrian Carmelites persecuted by the Emperor Joseph II to enter France. After her father's death, she also often petitioned Marie Antoinette for dowries for poor ladies who wanted to become nuns. Her frequent requests exasperated the Queen, who called her "the most scheming little Carmelite in the kingdom.”

Louise died at Saint Denis on 23 December 1787. Her last words were: "To paradise! Fast! Full gallop!". She was interred at Saint Denise where her tomb, together with those of other royals, were desecrated during the French Revolution. On 19 June 1873, Pope Pius IX declared her Venerable.

Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington

Born Margaret Power at Knockbrit, near Clonmel, in the county of Tipperary, in 1789, she was the second daughter of a dissolute landowner with a nasty temper, which only grew worse as the years went by. Maybe it was because of this that Marguerite found comfort in books. The pretty and sensitive child loved browsing the family's library and, pretty soon, she started making up her own stories which she would recite to other children.

Marguerite and her sister Ella were later sent to live with one of their rich relatives. When they returned home, the education they had received set them apart from that of the ordinary Irish country girl, whose accomplishments and toilet usually amounted to "two washing gowns and a tune on the piano." Marguerite, on the other hand, was well-educated, clever, well-dressed and a good dancer. She was very beautiful too.

The sisters started attending all the parties and amusements their town could offer and, soon, Marguerite attracted the attention of Captain Maurice Farmer who was stationed there with his English regiment. Against her will, she was forced by her father, who was attracted by the Captain's fortune, to marry him. She wasn't even 15 years old yet, while her husband was old enough to be her father. The marriage was a disaster that made the young girl very unhappy. Just like her father, her husband too had a violent temper. He was often cruel to his young bride, kicking her and locking her in the house for days on end. Marguerite hated him.

After six months, he was sent abroad. Margaret refused to follow him. Maurice didn't care. He claimed he was "glad to get rid of the brat". Marguerite went back to her father's house, but he refused to help her. For the next nine years, Marguerite would just live with friends. She moved in with the family of the sympathetic and literary sea captain Thomas Jenkins. It was he who introduced Marguerite to her second husband, the widower Charles John Gardiner, second Earl of Blessington. The Irish earl was seven years older than Margaret, had money, looks, little wit and four children.

In late 1817, Maurice, intoxicated by alcohol, fell out of a window of the King's Bench prison, where he was confined on a charge of assault in a drunken row, and died. Margaret and Charles didn't lose any time. Four months later, on 16 February 1818, the couple married at St Mary's, Bryanston Square, Marylebone. Marguerite and her husband lived in style in a beautiful house, where they liked to entertain lavishly. But she also very generous and devoted to her friends and family, helping them whenever they needed it. For instance, she adopted and educated her little sister Marianne who became her travelling companion and, later, her biographer.

But Marguerite hadn't forgotten her literary dreams. She published two books, "The Magic Lantern" and "Sketches and Fragments", about London society which, however, didn't sell well. Instead, it was "Conversations with Lord Byron", whom she had met in Genoa in 1823, that was an instant success (the book was published in 1834, when Marguerite was in financial straits). After Genoa, Marguerite, together with her family, went to Naples and Florence. It was also in Italy that Harriet Gardener, Lord Blessington's only daughter by his first wife, married Count D'Orsay, a close friend of Marguerite.

The newly-wed couple and the bride's parents moved to Paris towards the end of 1828. The following year, Marguerite became a widow for the second time when her husband died of an apoplectic stroke aged only 46. The family returned back to England when D'Orsay, now separated from his wife, continued to live with Marguerite. In their home, they entertaining the literary, artistic, political and fashionable personalities of their age. Louis Napoleon was a frequent guest during his years in exile. Other guests included William Thackeray, Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston.

However, her income had decrease considerably during the years so, to pay the bills, she resorted once again to literature. In addition to "Conversations with Lord Byron", she also published "The Idler In Italy" and "The Idler In France", journals of her trips in Italy and France. She also wrote romance novels with weak characters and plots that, however, painted a fair picture of the society she lived in. She sold well at first, but when the public tired of her works, Marguerite, who didn't seem able to retrench her expenses, had to sell her belongings to repay her debts.

Then, Marguerite returned to Paris where she joined the Count, who had already fled there to escape his creditors. She died there a few months later, in 1849. The cause of her death was a burst heart. When her body was examined, her heart was found to be three times the normal size. Marguerite was buried at Chambourcy, near St. Germain-en-Laye, the residence of the Duc and Duchesse de Grammont, the sister and brother-in-law of Count D'Orsay.

Further reading:
A journal of conversations with Lord Byron. With a sketch of the life of the author by Countess of Marguerite Blessington
Some Old Time Beauties by Thomson Willing
The Idler in France by Countess of Marguerite Blessington

Historical Reads: Dorothy Jordan

Heather Carroll on Dorothy Jordan, the 18th century famous actress who had a relationship with King William IV. To quote:

Meanwhile, she had become one of the biggest names in acting. She was a leading comic actress and was working out of Drury Lane. Because she had hot legs she would get cast in many cross-dressing roles, known as "breeches' roles, which were usually written just as an excuse to show off actresses' legs.

Maybe it was those famous legs that attracted William, Duke of Clarence, and later King William IV to Dorothy. The two fell in love and began their live-in relationship, which would last over 20 years and produce 10 children. Despite the scandal, the common-law couple lived became the examples of domestic bliss. Even stuffy King George didn't seem to mind the scandalous couple because they were the model of loving, functional couple. Soon satirical prints veered from cracking jokes at Dorothy's promiscuity to how she was, shockingly, a good parent.

To read the entire article, click here.

Mary Darby Robinson's Wedding

When she was 16, Mary Darby, the actress who would become known as Perdita, succumbed to pressure from her family and married Thomas Robinson, an articled clerk who claimed, falsely, to have an inheritance. Mary wasn't in love with her husband, and their union was unhappy.

In her memoirs, she describes as their union came about and her wedding day:

During the remainder of the evening Mr. Wayman expatiated on the many good qualities of his friend Mr. Robinson: spoke of his future expectations from a rich old uncle; of his probable advancement in his profession; and, more than all, of his enthusiastic admiration of me.

A few days after Mr. Robinson paid my mother a visit. We had now removed to Villars Street, York Buildings. My mother's fondness for books of a moral and religious character was not lost upon my new lover, and elegantly bound editions of Hervey's "Meditations," with some others of a similar description, were presented as small tokens of admiration and respect. My mother was beguiled by these little interesting attentions, and soon began to feel a strong predilection in favour of Mr. Robinson.

Every day some new mark of respect augmented my mother's favourable opinion; till Mr. Robinson became so great a favourite that he seemed to her the most perfect of existing beings. Just at this period my brother George sickened for the smallpox; my mother idolised him; he was dangerously ill. Mr. Robinson was indefatigable in his attentions, and my appearance on the stage was postponed till the period of his perfect recovery. Day and night Mr. Robinson devoted himself to the task of consoling my mother, and of attending to her darling boy; hourly, and indeed momentarily, Mr. Robinson's praises were reiterated with enthusiasm by my mother. He was "the kindest, the best of mortals!" the least addicted to worldly follies, and the man, of all others, whom she should adore as a son-in-law.

My brother recovered at the period when I sickened from the infection of his disease. I felt little terror at the approaches of a dangerous and deforming malady; for, I know not why, but personal beauty has never been to me an object of material solicitude. It was now that Mr. Robinson exerted all his assiduity to win my affections; it was when a destructive disorder menaced my features, and the few graces that nature had lent them, that he professed a disinterested fondness; every day he attended with the zeal of a brother, and that zeal made an impression of gratitude upon my heart, which was the source of all my succeeding sorrows.

During my illness Mr. Robinson so powerfully wrought upon the feelings of my mother, that she prevailed on me to promise, in case I should recover, to give him my hand in marriage. The words of my father were frequently repeated, not without some innuendoes that I refused my ready consent to a union with Mr. Robinson, from a blind partiality to the libertine Captain--. Repeatedly urged and hourly reminded of my father's vow, I at last consented, and the banns were published while I was yet lying on a bed of sickness. I was then only a few months advanced in my sixteenth year.

My mother, whose affection for me was boundless, notwithstanding her hopes of my forming an alliance that would be productive of felicity, still felt the most severe pain at the thought of our approaching separation. She was estranged from a husband's affections; she had treasured up all her fondest hopes in the society of an only daughter; she knew that no earthly pleasure can compensate for the loss of that sweet sympathy which is the bond of union betwixt child and parent. Her regrets were infinite as they were evident, and Mr. Robinson, in order to remove any obstacle which this consideration might throw in the way of our marriage, voluntarily proposed that she should reside with us. He represented me as too young and inexperienced to superintend domestic concerns; and while he flattered my mother's amour propre, he rather requested her aid as a sacrifice to his interest than as an obligation conferred on her.

The banns were published three successive Sundays at St. Martin's Church, and the day was fixed for our marriage–the twelfth of April. It was not till all preliminaries were adjusted that Mr. Robinson, With much apparent agitation, suggested the necessity of keeping our union a secret. I was astonished at the proposal; but two reasons were given for his having made it, both of which seemed plausible; the first was, that Mr. Robinson had still three months to serve before his articles to Messrs. Vernon and Elderton expired; and the second was, the hope which a young lady entertained of forming a matrimonial union with Mr. Robinson as soon as that period should arrive. The latter reason alarmed me, but I was most solemnly assured that all the affection was cherished on the lady's part–that Mr. Robinson was particularly averse to the idea of such a marriage, and that as soon as he should become of age his independence would place him beyond the control of any person whatsoever.

I now proposed deferring our wedding-day till that period. I pleaded that I thought myself too young to encounter the cares and important duties of domestic life; I shrunk from the idea of everything clandestine, and anticipated a thousand ill consequences that might attend on a concealed marriage. My scruples only seemed to increase Mr. Robinson's impatience for that ceremony which should make me his for ever. He represented to my mother the disapprobation which my father would not fail to evince at my adopting a theatrical life in preference to engaging in an honourable and prosperous connection. He so powerfully worked upon the credulity of my beloved parent that she became a decided convert to his opinions. My youth, my person, he represented as the destined snares for my honour on a public stage, where all the attractions of the mimic scene would combine to render me a fascinating object. He also persuaded her that my health would suffer by the fatigues and exertions of the profession, and that probably I might be induced to marry some man who would not approve of a mother's forming a part in our domestic establishment.

These circumstances were repeatedly urged in favour of the union. Still I felt an almost instinctive repugnance at the thought of a clandestine marriage. My mother, whose parental fondness was ever watchful for my safety, now imagined that my objections proceeded from a fixed partiality towards the libertine Captain--, who, though he had not the temerity to present himself before my mother, persisted in writing to me, and in following me whenever I appeared in public. I never spoke to him after the story of his marriage was repeated to my mother; I never corresponded with him, but felt a decided and proud indignation whenever his name was mentioned in my presence.

My appearance on the stage had been put off from time to time, till Mr. Garrick became impatient, and desired my mother to allow of his fixing the night of important trial. It was now that Mr. Robinson and my mother united. In persuading me to relinquish my project; and so perpetually, during three days, was I tormented on the subject–so ridiculed for having permitted the banns to be published, and afterwards hesitating to fulfil my contract, that I consented–and was married.

As soon as the day of my wedding was fixed, it was deemed necessary that a total revolution should take place in my external appearance. I had till that period worn the habit of a child, and the dress of a woman so suddenly assumed sat rather awkwardly upon me. Still, so juvenile was my appearance, that even two years after my union with Mr. Robinson I was always accosted with the appellation of Miss whenever I entered a shop or was in company with strangers. My manners were no less childish than my appearance; only three months before I became a wife I had dressed a doll, and such was my dislike to the idea of a matrimonial alliance that the only circumstance which induced me to marry was that of being still permitted to reside with my mother, and to live separated, at least for some time, from my husband.

My heart, even when I knelt at the altar, was as free from any tender impression as it had been at the moment of my birth. I knew not the sensation of any sentiment beyond that of esteem; love was still a stranger to my bosom. I had never, then, seen the being who was destined to inspire a thought which might influence my fancy or excite an interest in my mind, and I well remember that even while I was pronouncing the marriage vow my fancy involuntarily wandered to that scene where I had hoped to support myself with éclat and reputation.

The ceremony was performed by Dr. Saunders, the venerable vicar of St. Martin's, who, at the conclusion of the ceremony, declared that he had never before performed the office for so young a bride. The clerk officiated as father; my mother and the woman who opened the pews were the only witnesses to the union. I was dressed in the habit of a Quaker–a society to which, in early youth, I was particularly partial. From the church we repaired to the house of a female friend, where a splendid breakfast was waiting; I changed my dress to one of white muslin, a chip hat adorned with white ribbons, a white sarsnet scarf-cloak, and slippers of white satin embroidered with silver. I mention these trifling circumstances because they lead to some others of more importance.

From the house of my mother's friend we set out for the inn at Maidenhead Bridge, Mr. Robinson and myself in a phaeton, my mother in a post-chaise; we were also accompanied by a gentleman by the name of Balack, a very intimate acquaintance and schoolfellow of my husband, who was not apprised of our wedding, but who nevertheless considered Mr. Robinson as my avowed suitor.

On his first seeing me, he remarked that I was "dressed like a bride." The observation overwhelmed me with confusion. During the day I was more than pensive–I was melancholy; I considered all that had passed as a vision, and would scarcely persuade myself that the union which I had permitted to be solemnised was indissoluble. My mother frequently remarked my evident chagrin; and in the evening, while we strolled together in the garden which was opposite the inn, I told her, with a torrent of tears, the vouchers of my sincerity, that I was the most wretched of mortals! that I felt the most perfect esteem for Mr. Robinson, but that, according to my ideas of domestic happiness, there should be a warm and powerful union of soul, to which I was yet totally a stranger.

Further reading:
Memoirs Of Mary Robinson

Who'll Bid Me 15 Sous For The Head Of Olympe De Gouges?

Although the French playwright and political activist Olympe De Gouges was a republican, she was against the execution of King Louis XVI, whom she saw as a victim. "The blood, even of the guilty, eternally defiles a revolution," she said. "To kill a king, you need to do more than simply remove his head, for, in such circumstances, he will live a long time after his death; he would only be really dead if he were to survive his fall."

However, this didn't really go down well with the bloodthirsty Parisians. A mob with murderous intentions soon surrounded her lodgings. Olympe, instead than barricading herself inside, went downstairs to reason with them. When she appeared, the mob grabbed her by the waist and knocked off her signature white headdress.

From the hostile crowd, a man cried out: "Who'll bid me 15 sous for the head of Olympe De Gouges?". Undaunted, Olympe quickly replied, "I'll bid you 30, and I demand first refusal". The crowd was amused at her response, and, laughing, dispersed. But the Revolutionary government wasn't as easy to pacify. Her attacks against the new republican regime landed her in jail and, in November 1793, she was guillotined.

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

Book Review: Tudors By Peter Ackroyd

Tudors, the second volume in The History of England series by Peter Ackroyd, charts the Reformation of the English Church under Henry VIII and his heirs. Henry VII, who lived and died a Catholic, is only very briefly mentioned at the beginning. Actually, his death is. If you were expecting to read a "regular" biography of the Tudors, this may disappoint you. But, as the book focuses mostly on the impact the dynasty he founded had on the Church and, as a result, on society, leaving him out makes sense.

For the same reason, rather than describing all the events, big and small, that happened during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs, Ackroyd concentrates on the main ones, highlighting how they influenced the sovereigns and their religious policies. Ackroyd does a great job at describing the religious climate of Tudor England, the dissensions and rows among the clergy and the reception of the new religion laws by the populace.

If the author doesn't really discover anything new about the Tudors, he fills the books with details about the Reformation that are left out of most books on the Tudors. Usually, biographies deal with its main events, but don't really describe the differences of beliefs between Protestants and Catholics. Ackroyd does. He also explains all the different stages the Reformation went through, the religious policies of every Tudor monarch and their reasons for implementing them.

He doesn't stereotype nor judges according to modern standards the Kings and Queens and their actions. He doesn't shy away from recounting the most cruel and horrific aspects of the Reformation and the religious persecutions of the age, but helps us understand them. For the Tudors, the Reformation wasn't simply a religious matter, but a political and dynastic one. They weren't that interested in telling people what to believe, but were more concerned with maintaining unity and peace in their realm. In doing so, they transformed their country forever.

Not everyone finds the subject of religion fascinating or interesting. Yet, even they will enjoy this book. Ackroyd writes in an entertaining and straightforward style that makes the book a pleasure to read. It's well-researched, but never dry and boring. It's also easy to follow. You don't need to have any background knowledge to read it, which makes it suitable for both academic and casual readers alike. If you're interested in the history of the Reformation, definitely pick up this book. You won't regret it.

Well-researched and well-written, Tudors by Peter Ackroyd charts the Reformation of the English Church under Henry VIII and his heirs. Although it doesn't offer any groundbreaking theories, it helps us better to understand why the Tudors acted the way they did in matters of religion and how the Reformation changed their country forever.

Available at: amazon and waterstones

Rating: 4.5/5

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

Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe

Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe was one of the many victims of the French Revolution. Not much is known about her. We're not even sure of who her father was. Born on 18th July 1775 in Paris, Charlotte-Rose-Émilie Davasse de Saint-Amarand was rumoured to be the child of the Vicomte de Pons, one of the many lovers her beautiful mother had. What's sure is that the Vicomte was very fond of the little girl.

Madame De Sainte Amaranthe also gave birth to a son. Her husband was a Farmer General who loved gambling. When he lost all his money, he fled to Spain, leaving his family behind. Emilie's mother, Jeanne, managed to make another fortune by running a fashionable salon at her house and a gambling club, "Cinquante", attended by the wealthy and famous gentlemen of the time. Jeanne may also have worked as a courtesan at this time.

Emilie inherited her mother's good looks. She was considered to be the most beautiful woman in France, if not of her age. Madame Amandine Roland described her thus: "Never in the course of my long career, have I met so perfect a creature. Her figure was admirable and exquisitely proportioned: she was of medium height, and her bearing and her every attitude combined gentleness and charm with grace and dignity. There was a touch of archness in her smile that made it enchanting, and when it was accompanied by a certain movement of her head one’s emotion was even greater than one’s admiration. Her taste in dress was quite exquisite."

Emilie fell in love with François Elleviou, a famous singer. But her mother forced her to give him up. She duly did and instead married the Marquis Charles-Marie-Antoine de Sartine, who was 16 years older than her. In the spring of 1793, Emilie moved to the
château de Sucy-en-Brie, a beautiful palace purchased by her mother. But this was a dangerous time for wealthy and royalist people in France. During the Terror, Emilie, her husband, her mother and her brother were all arrested for their loyalty to the royal cause.

Rumours claimed that either Robespierre or Saint-Just, who had unsuccessfully courted Emilie, ordered her execution as a revenge for her rejection. However, this is probably false. In any case, Emilie and her family were imprisoned at Sainte-Pélagie. For a while, Augustin, Robespierre's brother and a friend of the family, managed to avoid their execution. But it couldn't last.

Eventually, the family was tried and found guilty of being part of a plot to kill Robespierre. The charges were false, but that didn't matter. Robespierre and Foucquier-Tinville had tried to save her, but Emilie refused their help. The young girl, only nineteen years old at the time, cut her own hair, saying it was the only legacy she had to leave to her friends, and begged a guard to keep it for them. It is said that Elleviou claimed it.

On 22 Prairial (17th June) 1794, Emilie, together with 53 other people, including her family, was guillotined. Emily and her family wore red chemises, as did all those sentenced to death for murder. Emilie commented that they all looked like cardinals. The family hugged one last time before being executed. Mme. de Sainte-Amaranthe had begged the executioners to kill her before her children but this was denied her. Her son Louis was killed first, and then it was Emilie's turn:

"Then Emilie appeared upon the platform; and when the red veil was torn from her shoulders her statuesque beauty was so transcendent that the devotees of the guillotine, who were paid to applaud, were struck dumb with admiration, and stood open-mouthed, with hands arrested. The executioners pushed her roughly upon the blood-drenched machine, and the third stroke fell."

Further reading:
A Gascon Royalist in Revolutionary Paris: The Baron de Batz, 1792-1795 (1910) by G. Lenotre, Maud Margaret Key Stawell , Rodolph Stawell

The Bad Taste Of The Town, Or Masquerades And Operas

Hogarth was an avowed patriot who was concerned about the spread of foreign fashions in England. In his print, The Bad Taste Of the Town, also known as Masquerades And Operas, he attacked the Italian operas and singers that were displacing classic English theater and the masquerade dances thrown by the Swiss impresario Heidegger, which he believed were degrading public morals.

The scene takes place in front of the Academy of Arts. Three men are walking beside its walls. The one in the center is the famous architect Lord Burlington, who favoured Italian styles; he's talking to Mr Campbell, another architect. The other man is Lord Burlington's postilion.

On the left, a banner is advertising an opera. The image is itself a satire that depicts the Earl of Peterborough kneeling to offer the singer Francesca Cuzzoni £8,000 to perform in London. Next to it, a board inscribed with the words, "Long Room. Fawks's dexterity of hand", is advertising a performance by the famous conjurer Mr Fawks. At the window of the palace, Mr Heidegger is trying to convince people to enter his establishment to see a masquerade.

A similar job has the man in the harlequin costume on the right. He's standing above the entrance of the theater where the pantomime "Dr Faustus" is about to be performed. It ran for two years and always attracted large crowds, while English plays were poorly attended.

In the middle of the road, a man is selling the works of the great English dramatists, such as William Shakespeare and John Dryden, as waste paper. Finally, the grenadiers at the gates hint at the patronage of King George I, a German who had recently inherited the crown but didn't speak one word of English.