Gorgeous Worth Gowns

On King Charles X Of France And Maligned Royals

In a letter to her niece, Princess Victoria, Leopold I of the Belgians remembers the unfortunate King of France Charles X and muses on the injustices history, newspapers, and ignorant politicians do to royals:

Laeken, 18th November 1836

... Poor Charles X. is dead, it is said of the cholera. I regret him; few people were ever kinder to me than the good old man. He was blinded by certain absolute ideas, but a good man, and deserving to be loved. History will state that Louis XVIII was a most liberal monarch, reigning with great mildness and justice to his end, but that his brother, from his despotic and harsh disposition, upset all the other had done, and lost the throne. Louis XVIII was a clever, hard-hearted man, shackled by no principle, very proud and false. Charles X an honest man, a kind friend, an honourable master, sincere in his opinions, and inclined to do everything that is right.

That teaches us what we ought to believe in history as it is compiled according to ostensible events and results known to the generality of people. Memoirs are much more instructive, if written honestly and not purposely fabricated, as it happens too often nowadays, particularly at Paris.... I shall not fail to read the books you so kindly recommend. I join you a small copy of our very liberal Constitution, hitherto conscientiously executed—no easy matter. You may communicate it to your Mother; it is the best answer to an infamous Radical or Tory-Radical paper, the Constitutional, which seems determined to run down the Coburg family. I don't understand the meaning of it; the only happiness poor Charlotte knew was during her short wedded existence, and there was but one voice on that subject, that we offered a bright prospect to the nation.

Since that period I have (though been abused, and vilified merely for drawing an income which was the consequence of a Treaty ratified by both Houses of Parliament, and that without one dissenting voice, a thing not very likely to happen again) done everything to see England prosperous and powerful. I have spared her, in 1831, much trouble and expense, as without my coming here very serious complications, war and all the expensive operations connected with it, must have taken place. I give the whole of my income, without the reservation of a farthing, to the country; I preserve unity on the Continent, have frequently prevented mischief at Paris, and to thank me for all that, I get the most scurrilous abuse, in which the good people from constant practice so much excel....

The conclusion of all this—and that by people whose very existence in political life may be but of a few years' standing—is scurrilous abuse of the Coburg family. I should like to know what harm the Coburg family has done to England? But enough of this. Your principle is very good; one must not mind what newspapers say. Their power is a fiction of the worst description, and their efforts marked by the worst faith and the greatest untruths. If all the Editors of the papers in the countries where the liberty of the press exists were to be assembled, we should have a crew to which you would not confide a dog that you would value, still less your honour and reputation....

Further reading:
The Letters of Queen Victoria, Volume 1 (of 3)

Eustace Chapuys

Ambassadors to foreign courts are rarely remembered, but the name Eustace Chapuys is familiar to any lover of Tudor history. A champion of Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary, Chapuys has left behind him lots of letters and dispatches about one of the most tumultuous periods of English history. Although often easily dismissed as biased and unreliable (and to an extent, that's true), his reports also chronicle the events of Henry VIII's reign and the gossips that were circulating around his court, which is why they are a wonderful resource for anyone interested in this period.

But who was Eustace Chapuys and how did he end up at the English court? The second son of notary Louis Chapuys and Guigone Dupuys, Eustace was born between 1490 and 1492 in Annecy, then in the duchy of Savoy. He studied at the university of Turin, which had an excellent law department. He remained there for 5 years, and then studied at the University of Valence, and later, at the Sapienza University of Rome. There, he became a doctor of civil and canon law, and received the Pope's blessing.

In 1517, Chapuys was ordained and became an official of the diocese of Geneva, where he worked for the bishop and the Duke of Savoy. In 1522, he was granted the deanery of Vuillonay. Four years later, as the Duke of Bourbon's ambassador, he was at the court of Charles V in Granada. That same year, 1526, he also made his first visit to England. The following year, the Duke of Bourbon died at the sake of Rome. Chapuys then joined the imperial service, working under Nicholas de Perrenot.

In 1529 he was back in England. His job was to advise the Queen, Catherine of Aragon, in the negotiation regarding the annulment of her marriage. Throughout her ordeal, to the very bitter end, Chapuys offered the unfortunate Queen all the support, both legal and emotional, she needed. He prepared her formal protest when she was summoned to a special court in May 1533, supported a military plan to help Catherine and, shocked just as much as she was by the eventual break with Rome, listened to the poor woman confessing she blamed what had happened on her stubborn refusal to fight for her, and her daughter's, rights. When Catherine died, Chapuys believed she had been poisoned.

Chapuys was also a supporter of the Princess Mary. He drew up a protest against the Act of Succession, which excluded Mary from the inheriting the throne, and made plans to help her escape from England (although the Emperor vetoed those). Chapuys really cared for Mary and her well-being and she, in turn, came to rely on him during some of the most difficult years of her life. Henry has started treating his daughter very harshly, determined as he was that she too should recognize that his marriage to Catherine had been incestuous and unlawful. Mary stood firm against the bullying and threats, but Chapuys, worried about what could happen to her, convinced her to submit to her father.

It's no wonder then that Chapuys always strongly disliked Anne Boleyn, whom he called the Concubine and, sometimes, even putain. Yet, when Anne was condemned to death for incest and treason, Chapuys was among those convinced of her innocence. The King by this time was in love with Jane Seymour, and wanted to marry her. Therefore, Anne had to go. Chapuys remained as an ambassador to England until 1539, when he was summoned to the Netherlands. But his stay there was brief and pretty soon he was back to England. That same year, he also began suffering from gout.

Chapuys was involved in the negotiations for an alliance between Henry VIII and Charles V, which lead to them declaring war on France. The ambassador then accompanied Henry's men to France. His health continued to deteriorate and, in 1544, he asked to be relieved of his post. Instead, he was asked to help his successor, Van der Delft learn his job, and then was sent to Bourbourg, near Gravelines, for some negotiations. In July 1545, he was finally allowed to retire. That same year, he recognized Cesar as his legitimate son, but, sadly, the boy died four years later.

Chapuys spent his retirement in Louvain, where he founded a college. He also founded a grammar school at Annecy. In 1555, he decided to use his English pension to set up a scholarship for English students at Louvain. Eaustace Chapuys died on 21st January 1556. He was buried in the Chapel of Louvain College.

Further reading:
Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the writings of the Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys by Lauren Mackay

A Satirical Look At The Queen Caroline Affair

To say that King George IV and his consort, Caroline of Brunswick had never got on well would be an understatement. The two separated soon after their wedding, but never stopped trying to make life hell for each other. George, in particular, was keen on getting rid of his wife and tried several times to divorce her or annull their marriage, but without luck. When he became King in 1820, he was adamant Caroline, who had technically become Queen, wouldn't stand at his side.

After trying to bribe her to stay away, but without success, he got Parliament to introduce the Bill of Pains and Penalties to dissolve the marriage. There was a trial, in which Caroline's infidelity was proven. The bill was then passed, by a small majority in the House of Lords, but it dropped because of its unpopularity. A large section of the press and public, in fact, were appalled at George's behaviour and sided with his slighted Queen.

Caricaturists obviously had a field day covering what became known as the Queen Caroline Affair. Here are a couple of prints that were published at the time:

The Secret Insult, or Bribery and Corruption Rejected

Among the caricatures on the popular side in connection with the queen’s trial in 1820, we find one by Robert*, entitled, The Secret Insult, or Bribery and Corruption Rejected, which has reference to the overtures which, as we have seen in the previous chapter, were made to her by the ministers in the hope of avoiding, if possible, a public exposure; and here Lord Liverpool is represented in the act of offering to Her Majesty a purse. “Abandon,” he says, “your claim to the throne, change your name and the livery, and retire to some distant part of the earth, where you may never be seen or heard of any more; and if £50,000 per annum will not satisfy you—what will?” To which the queen (who assumes an appearance of virtuous indignation) replies, “Nothing but a crown.” Brougham turns his back, saying, “I turn my back on such dirty work as this,” the fact being, as we have seen, that he had really entered into negotiations with the ministers on the queen’s behalf, which she afterwards angrily repudiated. The devil pats him on the back. “Well done, Broom,” he says; “you have done your business well.” By the side of the queen stands a figure, possibly meant for Alderman Wood, carrying “a shield for the innocent,” and “a sword for the guilty”; behind her in the distance is a ship, bearing the title of “The Wooden Walls of Old England.”

Preparing the Witnesses—a View in Cotton Garden

Those who saw them before they were housed in Cotton Garden, describe them as swarthy, dirty looking fellows, in scanty ragged jackets and greasy leathern caps; at the bar of the House, however, they looked as respectable as fine clothes and soap and water could make them. To this a caricature of Robert’s, entitled, Preparing the Witnesses—a View in Cotton Garden, refers. Three dirty foreigners are being washed, with no satisfactory result, in a bath labelled, “Waters of Oblivion,” “Non Mi Ricordo,”** and “Ministerial Washing Tub.” One of the operators (probably the Attorney-General, Sir Robert Gifford) remarks that “he never had such a dirty job in his life”; seated around are a number of equally dirty foreigners awaiting their turn.

* Cruikshank
** I don't remember

Further reading:
English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century by Graham Everitt

Book Reviews: Empress Of The Night, London's Strangest Tales: Historic Royal Palaces, & Clash of The Financial Pundits

Hello everyone,

it's review day again. Here are today's books:

Empress Of The Night by Eva Stachniak
Empress Of The Night is one of those books that you will either love or hate. What's so divisive about it? It's writing style. The idea of the book is simple and poignant. Catherine II, Empress of All the Russias, is dying. In her last moments, she reminisces about her life and the decisions she's made. If you're expecting a regular, structured plot, with its own beginning, events in chronological order, and end, with the occasional flashback thrown in, you're gonna be very disappointed. Although the book follows some sort of chronological order - the first section describes a young Catherine arriving at the Russian court and her rise to the throne; the second her love for Potemkin; and the third her relationship with her grandchildren, especially her designated heir Alexander - the narrative is very disjointed and incoherent. There's a reason for that. In your last moments, you remember all sorts of things. Dreams. Mistakes. Ambitions. Aspirations. Regrets. Hopes. Loved ones long gone. Loved one you'll leave behind. Your life will pass you by, but will it do so in a clear way, and in a chronological order, or as hazy memories that chase one another? I believe the latter is true, which is why I think Stachniak made the right choice in writing the book the way she did. It wasn't easy to get into it, though. At first, the incoherence annoyed me a lot, but 1/3 through the book, I started to really enjoy it. I finally started relating to Catherine, understanding her choices and what made her act the way she did. By the time I reached the end, I couldn't put the book down. And when it was over, I wished Catherine had shared more memories with us, so the book would have lasted even longer.
However, I also wish Stachniak had put more emphasis on her political machinations and polices. Instead, the focus is more on her love and family life. Other people may actually appreciate this insightful view into Catherine's feelings rather than her political affairs. After all, so many books focus on the latter. The job of a novelist instead is to make her characters come to life with all their flaws and merits. Oh, and although Empress Of The Night is a sequel to Stachniak's previous work about Catherine II, The Winter Palace, you don't need to read that as well to follow this new story. But if, like me, you loved this book, you will want to pick that one up too. I already did. :)
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

London's Strangest Tales: Historic Royal Palaces by Iain Spragg
Being both a Londophile and a history geek, I obviously couldn't pass up the chance to read this little volume, chock full of strange and fascinating tales about the five historic royal palaces in the British capital: The Tower of London, The Banqueting House, Hampton Court, Kensigton Palace, and Kew Palace. In its page you'll encounter spiders and kangaroos infestations, a disappearing mosque, a misplaced sceptre, bold escapes from the Tower, ingenious thefts and much more. Each story takes up only one or two pages, so if it's the minute details about every occurrence that you're interested in, you won't find them here. But that's not what this book is about. Instead, this is simply a collection of trivia, written in a very engaging and witty way, that will allow you to spend a pleasant afternoon and show off your knowledge to your friends next time you visit one of these palaces together. Because of the colloquial and funny writing style, which will make you laugh out loud a few times, the book will attract both history nerds and causal readers who are into unusual, but real, stories. A must read for any London and history fan.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Clash Of The Financial Pundits by Joshua M. Brown and Jeff Macke
If you're thinking of investing your saving, or already are, then this book is a must read. Investing always carries with it an element of risk but, with the right knowledge, you can mitigate it and reap the maximum benefits. But in this day and age, in which we are bombarded with all kinds of contradicting information at every hour of the day and night, how do we figure out what information is useful, and which one misleading or false? Enter financial experts Brown and Macke. In this small book, the authors explain the history of punditry, how pundits operate, how to distinguish the ones who are really knowledgeable and dedicated to give you the best financial advice they can from those who are just interested in making a quick buck at your expense, and how to evaluate the information you come across every day. The book also features several interviews with financial experts such as Jim Cramer, founder of theStreet.com and Henry Blodget, editor and CEO of The Business Insider, who share their own experiences and stories about being a pundit. Their answers shed an interesting light on the financial world and how oundits deal with the challenges they face and the mistakes they make. After all they're people, just like us. Overall, this book does a great job at educating the average Joes and Janes about the finance world and, particularly, finance media, so that they can make the best decisions about how to invest their savings and reach financial independence. Highly recommended.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Which one of these books would you like to read?

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

5 18th Century Inspired Commercials

I'm not a big fan of commercials. In fact, when they come on the telly, I usually change the channel. But recently I came across a few clever and creative 18th century inspired adverts that I just had to share with you. Enjoy!

What's your favourite commercial? I love the cheese one. So fun, luxurious, and decadent!

Street Etiquette

A gentleman should remove his hat upon entering the auditorium.
When visiting a strange church, you should wait in the vestibule until an usher appears to show you to a seat.
A gentleman may walk up the aisle either a little ahead of, or by the side of a lady, allowing the lady to first enter the pew. There should be no haste in passing up the aisle.
People should preserve the utmost silence and decorum in church, and avoid whispering, laughing, staring, or making a noise of any kind with the feet or hands.
It is ill-mannered to be late at church. If one is unavoidably late, it is better to take a pew as near the door as possible.
Ladies always take the inside seats, and gentlemen the outside or head of the pew. When a gentleman accompanies a lady, however, it is customary for him to sit by her side during church services.
A person should never leave church until the services are over, except in some case of emergency.
Do not turn around in your seat to gaze at anyone, to watch the choir, to look over the congregation or to see the cause of any disturbing noise.
If books or fans are passed in church, let them be offered and accepted or refused with a silent gesture of the head.
It is courteous to see that strangers are provided with books; and if the service is strange to them, the places for the day's reading should be indicated.
It is perfectly proper to offer to share the prayer-book or hymn-book with a stranger if there is no separate book for his use.
In visiting a church of a different belief from your own, pay the utmost respect to the services and conform in all things to the observances of the church—that is, kneel, sit and rise with the congregation. No matter how grotesquely some of the forms and observances may strike you, let no smile or contemptuous remark indicate the fact while in the church.
When the services are concluded, there should be no haste in crowding up the aisle, but the departure should be conducted quietly and decorously. When the vestibule is reached, it is allowable to exchange greetings with friends, but here there should be no loud talking nor boisterous laughter. Neither should gentlemen congregate in knots in the vestibule or upon the steps of the church and compel ladies to run the gauntlet of their eyes and tongues.
If a Protestant gentleman accompanies a lady who is a Roman Catholic to her own church, it is an act of courtesy to offer the holy water. This he must do with the ungloved right hand.
In visiting a church for the mere purpose of seeing the edifice, one should always go at a time when there are no services being held. If people are even then found at their devotions, as is apt to be the case in Roman Catholic churches especially, the demeanor of the visitor should be respectful and subdued and his voice low, so that he may not disturb them.

On entering the hall, theater or opera house the gentleman should walk side by side with his companion unless the aisle is too narrow, in which case he should precede her. Upon reaching the seats, he should allow her to take the inner one, assuming the outer one himself.
A gentleman should, on no account, leave the lady's side from the beginning to the close of the performance.
If it is a promenade concert or opera, the lady may be invited to promenade during the intermission. If she declines, the gentleman must retain his position by her side.
There is no obligation whatever upon a gentleman to give up his seat to a lady. On the contrary, his duty is solely to the lady whom he accompanies. He must remain beside her during the evening to converse with her between the acts, and to render the entertainment as agreeable to her as possible.
During the performance complete quiet should be preserved, that the audience may not be prevented from seeing or hearing. Between the acts it is perfectly proper to converse, but it should be done in a low tone, so as not to attract attention. Neither should one whisper. There should be no loud talking, boisterous laughter, violent gestures, lover-like demonstrations or anything in manners or speech to attract the attention of others.
It is proper and desirable that the actors be applauded when they deserve it. It is their only means of knowing whether they are giving satisfaction.
The gentleman should see that the lady is provided with a programme, and with libretto also if they are attending opera.
In passing out at the close of the performance the gentleman should precede the lady, and there should be no crowding or pushing.
If the means of the gentleman warrant him in so doing, he should call for his companion in a carriage. This is especially necessary if the evening is stormy. He should call sufficiently early to allow them to reach their destination before the performance commences.It is unjust to the whole audience to come in late and make a disturbance in obtaining seats.
The gentleman should ask permission to call upon the lady the following day, which permission she should grant; and if she be a person of delicacy and tact, she will make him feel that he has conferred a real pleasure upon her by his invitation. Even if she finds occasion for criticism in the performance, she should be lenient in this respect, and seek for points to praise instead, that he may not feel regret at taking her to an entertainment which has proved unworthy.

In visiting picture-galleries one should always maintain the deportment of a gentleman or a lady. Make no loud comments and do not seek to show superior knowledge in art matters by gratuitous criticism. If you have not an art education you will probably only be giving publicity to your own ignorance. Do not stand in conversation before a picture, and thus obstruct the view of others who wish to see rather than talk. If you wish to converse with any anyone on general subjects, draw to one side, out of the way of those who want to look at the pictures.

In visiting a fancy fair make no comments on either the article or their price, unless you can praise. If you want them, pay the price demanded, or let them alone. If you can conscientiously praise an article, by all means do so, as you may be giving pleasure to the maker if she chances to be within hearing. If you have a table at a fair, use no unladylike means to obtain buyers. Not even the demands of charity can justify you in importuning others to purchase articles against their own judgment or beyond their means.
Never appear so beggarly as to retain the change, if a larger amount is presented than the price. Offer the change promptly, when the gentleman will be at liberty to donate it if he thinks best, and you may accept it with thanks. He is, however, under no obligation whatever to make such donation.
Be guilty of no loud talking or laughing, and by all means avoid conspicuous flirting in so public a place.
As a gentleman must always remove his hat in the presence of ladies, so he should remain with head uncovered, carrying his hat in his hand, in a public place of this character.

If you have occasion to visit an artist's studio, by no means meddle with anything in the room. Reverse no picture which stands or hangs with face to the wall; open no portfolio without permission, and do not alter by a single touch any lay-figure or its drapery, piece of furniture or article of vertu posed as a model. You do not know with what care the artist may have arranged these things, nor what trouble the disarrangement may cost him.
Use no strong expression either of delight or disapprobation at anything presented for your inspection. If a picture or a statue please you, show your approval and appreciation by close attention, and a few quiet, well chosen words, rather than by extravagant praise.
Do not ask the artist his prices unless you really intend to become a purchaser; and in this case it is best to attentively observe his works, make your choice, and trust the negotiation to a third person or to a written correspondence with the artist after the visit is concluded. You may express your desire for the work and obtain the refusal of it from the artist. If you desire to conclude the bargain at once you may ask his price, and if he names a higher one than you wish to give, you may say as much and mention the sum you are willing to pay, when it will be optional with the artist to maintain his first price or accept your offer.
It is not proper to visit the studio of an artist except by special invitation or permission, and at an appointed time, for you cannot estimate how much you may disturb him at his work. The hours of daylight are all golden to him; and steadiness of hand in manipulating a pencil is sometimes only acquired each day after hours of practice, and may be instantly lost on the irruption and consequent interruption of visitors.
Never take a young child to a studio, for it may do much mischief in spite of the most careful watching. At any rate, the juvenile visitor will try the artist's temper and nerves by keeping him in a constant state of apprehension.
If you have engaged to sit for your portrait never keep the artist waiting one moment beyond the appointed time. If you do so you should in justice pay for the time you make him lose.
A visitor should never stand behind an artist and watch him at his work; for if he be a man of nervous temperament it will be likely to disturb him greatly.

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

Interview With Vivien Shotwell, Author Of Vienna Nocturne

Vivien Shotwell is a very talented lady. A classically-trained singer, this year she had published her first novel, Vienna Nocturne. It tells the story of young soprano Anna Storace, a rockstar of her age. She's invited to sing in Vienna, where she meets the young but extremely talented composer Mozart. Although they are both married, they are attracted to each other. For her, Mozart writes some of his most beautiful arias. But while Anna's career soars, her personal life deteriorates...

In this interview, Vivien talks about Vienna Nocturne, her singing and writing, and more:

1. What inspired you to write Vienna Nocturne?
When I was a senior at Williams College, my voice teacher, Keith Kibler, gave me a Mozart concert aria to sing, "Ch'io mi scordi di te?" which Mozart had written for a young English soprano named Anna Storace. Anna had premiered one of Mozart's greatest roles, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, and for this concert aria he played the piano obbligato (the piano solo) himself. Anna was a rockstar of her day and had a fascinating and tumultuous life, and there has been some speculation that she and Mozart may have had a romantic relationship. Keith, who loves literature and poetry and knows a good story when he sees it, suggested that I might like to write about her. So I went home from this voice lesson and wrote the first paragraph of a short story, and sent it to my creative writing mentor, Jim Shepard. Jim was so encouraging and inspiring that I was able to finish the story quite quickly and include it in my senior thesis. That story is called "Amato Bene" and you can still find it listed in the Williams College library catalogue. After graduation I studied singing at The Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and then enrolled in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where "Amato Bene" got longer and longer. Finally I had to turn it into a novel.

2. Have you discovered any new fascinating facts during your research that didn't make it into the book?
One historical figure who compelled me was Thomas Linley the younger, sometimes called "The English Mozart." He was a child prodigy and a brilliant composer and performer, and he and Mozart met and became warm friends in Italy when they were both fourteen. Linley drowned in a boating accident when he was just twenty-two years old, and one can only imagine the operas he might have written had he lived longer. The Linleys and Storaces moved in the same circles and in early drafts of Vienna Nocturne there were scenes between Anna and Thomas. The finished book contains just a few lines mentioning him. There are a few other references like that to people or events like that: the former slave, the man who is executed, the story of Nannerl Mozart's marriage.

3. Sometimes writers must tweak events and facts to make their stories work. Did you change or invent anything while writing Vienna Nocturne? If so, what did you change and why?
I tried to stick to the historical timeline, though I made slight adjustments once or twice. The only major character who was entirely invented was Lidia, because it was frustrating to me to have Anna so surrounded by men. I wanted her to have a female friend.

4. What was most enjoyable, and what instead most difficult, about writing Vienna Nocturne?
The most enjoyable part was the writing itself -- I loved living with these characters and thinking about them every day. I loved the moments of discovery, of finding a solution to the puzzle. The most difficult part was finding the motivation to write the first draft; to take time every day and to make it my priority, when I did not know if I would be able to finish it, or if anyone would want to read it.

5. You are also a singer. How did that influence your writing?
For me, singing and writing are facets of the same jewel -- they are both concerned with the music of words and the power of the human voice. It was a pleasure for me to be able to use some of my experiences as a singer in writing about Anna.

6. Do you prefer to sing or to write?
I love them both.

7. Is Mozart your favourite composer? What do you like about him, and which of his works do you find most inspiring?
I could never name a favourite composer, or even a favourite work, but I compiled a playlist for Vienna Nocturne which you can find here: http://www.retreatbyrandomhouse.ca/2014/02/the-music-vienna-nocturne/. I love many things about Mozart -- for instance, how he was able to be so inventive and daring within the constraints of the Classical style and the time in which he lived.

8. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite and why?
What a difficult question! I would love to meet my father's parents, who died before I was born. My grandmother was a singer and my grandfather a sculptor and stage actor, and I'm sure we would have a lot of catching up to do. And it would be delightful to meet Mozart, of course.

9. What's next for you?
I'm looking forward to teaching writing and singing for a few weeks in Hong Kong this summer, and singing alto the solos in Handel's Messiah with Symphony Nova Scotia in December. I'm preparing for the fall audition season and having a lot of fun working on my second novel.

10. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
It's important to maintain a regular writing practice. Most writers recommend writing every day, or almost every day, at a certain time, usually first thing in the morning. Support independent bookstores. Read a lot. Don't be too hard on yourself. Write for the love of it and don't forget to have fun. Writing can be playful and exciting and pleasurable.

Thank you Vivien!

You can buy Vivien's debut novel, Vienna Nocturne, on Amazon. Maker sure you also check out her website, Vivienshotwell.com.

Princess Alice Of The United Kingdom

Princess Alice Maud Mary, the third child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was born on April 25, 1843, at Buckingham Palace. She was the best-looking of Victoria's daughters, but she was also kind and compassionate. She often visited the labourers who lived on the Royal estates, taking an interest in their lives and occupations. From her father, she inherited her practical nature. Prince Albert also devised her education, together with his close friend Baron Stockmar. The princess was taught, among other things, housekeeping, gardening, cooking, and even carpentry. Her childhood was spent travelling through the royal residences with her family. The young girl grew particularly close to her older brother, Bertie, and her older sister Victoria.

Her kind and practical nature made her a natural nurse. In 1861, she took care of her dying grandmother, and, later in the year, of her dying father. After his death, she spent months trying to console her desperate mother, who would go on to mourn her beloved Albert till her death in 1901, and act as her unofficial secretary. But if Victoria's married life was over, Alice's was just about to begin. A few months later, she accepted the proposal of Prince Louis of Hesse and by Rhine. The ceremony took place on 1 July 1862 at Osborne House and, because the court was still in mourning, resembled more a funeral than a wedding. It didn't bode well for the marriage, which turned up to be unhappy. Louis was a nice, kind man, but not as smart as Alice. Eventually, this took her toll on the relationship. There were other problems too. Alice also didn't enjoy her life in Darmstadt, which was marred by impoverishment and disagreements with her mother-in-law.

Still, that didn't stop the couple from doing their duty. They had seven children together: Victoria Mountbatten, Marchioness of Milford Haven; Princess Irene of Prussia; Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse; Prince Friedrich Wilhelm August Victor Leopold Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine; Princess Marie Victoria Feodore Leopoldine of Hesse and by Rhine; and the unfortunate Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of All the Russias, both of whom would be murdered by the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution (luckily, Alice didn't live long enough to witness the tragedy). Alice shocked her mother when she decided to breastfeed her children.

In the meantime, Alice continued her nursing work, establishing women's hospitals and nursing schools. She also became a good friend of Florence Nightingale. In 1873, Alice lost her favourite child Friedrich. The poor boy, who suffered from haemophilia, died after falling from a window. The princess was devastated. Four years later, her father-in-law died too. Alice was now Duchess of Hesse, but the title didn't make her happier. She still had problems with her husband, her relationship with her own mother was deteriorating (Queen Victoria didn't understand Alice's interest in breastfeeding and gynaecological matters and, happy in her deep mourning, hated her daughter's attempts to cheer her up), and the people in her new country had never warmed to her.

Alice found the duties attached to her new position a strenuous burden, but she didn't have to carry it for long. In November 1878, Louis and the children (apart from Elizabeth, who had been sent away), fell ill with diphtheria. Alice nursed them, but she couldn't save her daughter Marie, who died on 15 November. Alice herself fall ill almost a month later and died on 14th December, the 17th anniversary of her own father's death. She was only 35. She was buried at the Grand Ducal mausoleum at Rosenhöhe outside Darmstadt.

Further reading:
Princess Alice: Queen Victoria's forgotten daughter by Gerard Noel.
Victoria's Daughters by Jerrold M Packard

The Wedding Of Victoria, Princess Royal, & Frederick, Prince Of Prussia

On 25 January 1858, Victoria, Princess Royal and eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, married the lovely of her life, Frederick, the heir to the Prussian throne. In her excellent biography of the Princess, An Uncommon Woman, Hannah Pakula, describes the ceremony:

After breakfast, Victoria invited Vicky into her room to dress, and they had their hair done. For her wedding, Vicky wore a gown of white silk moiré over a petticoat flounced in lace and wreathed in sprays of orange blossom and myrtle. Her train was trimmed with white satin ribbons and lace. Her lace veil was held in place by a matching wreath, and she wore a diamond necklace, earrings, and brooch. The Queen, who had chosen lilac silk moiré with a velvet train, wore the crown diamonds and a royal diadem of diamonds and pearls.

Before they left for the chapel, Vicky gave her mother a "very pretty" brooch with a lock of her hair, saying, "I hope to be worthy to be your child!" She was also daguerreotyped with her parents. This early photographic process required the subject to remain utterly still for between thirty seconds and one minute. Although Vicky came out quite well, Victoria trembled so much that her likeness was a blur.

It was a brilliant winter day, and the street were filled with thousands of people waiting since dawn to watch the procession that led from Buckingham Palace to St. James's Chapel. They were not disappointed. There were some eighteen carriages with outriders, over three hundred soldiers and 220 horses, along with carriage drivers and musicians. One carriage bore three of Vicky's sisters,* dressed in white lace over pink satin.

Her four brothers followed in Highland dress. Then, with drum rolls, trumpet flourishes, and cheers from the crowds, the last carriage appeared with Vicky and the Queen. At St. James's they joined the Prince Consort, Uncle Leopold, and Vicky's eight young bridesmaids for the traditional entrance down the aisle. In her journal, the Queen described it: "A procession was formed... Mama came last, just before me, then Lord Palmerston, with the Sword of State, Bertie and Alfred, I, with the 2 little Boys (on either side of me), which they say had a most touching effect, & the 3 girls following."

With the spectators in place, the participants entered, preceded by trumpets and drums. "[T]he effect was thrilling & striking as one heard the music coming nearer & nearer," said Victoria. "Fritz behaved with the greatest self-possession... bowing to us, & then kneeling down before the altar in a most devotional manner." He wore the dark blue tunic and white trousers of the Prussian Guards and carried his shining silver helmet in his hand.

"Last came the bride's procession," Victoria continued, "our darling 'Flower' looking very touching & lovely, with such an innocent, confident, & serious expression on her dear face. She walked between her beloved Father & dear Uncle Leopold, who had been present at both her christening and confirmation. My last fear of being overcome vanished, when I saw Vicky's calm & composed manner. It looked beautiful seeing her kneeling beside Fritz, their hands joined, her long train born [sic] by the 8 young ladies."

The bride and groom walked out of the chapel to the Mendelssohn "Wedding March," composed sixteen years earlier and played for the first time at a royal wedding.

*Alice, Helena, and Louise.

Movie Review: The Lion In Winter (1968)

My life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. Henry Fitz-Empress, first Plantagenet, a king at twenty-one, the ablest soldier of an able time. He led men well, he cared for justice when he could and ruled, for thirty years, a state as great as Charlemagne's. He married out of love, a woman out of legend. Not in Alexandria, or Rome, or Camelot has there been such a queen....

Christmas 1183. What should have been a joyous family occasion turned into a bitching-fighting tragedy. Like every year, King Henry II has reunited his family: his formidable wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, whom he keeps locked up in prison the rest of the time, and their three living sons, Richard, the eldest and Eleanor's favourite; John, the youngest and Henry's favourite; and Geoffrey, the middle son no one wants. What all the brothers want, though, is to be king, and with Eleanor now free to plot to put her favourite on the throne, against Henry's wishes (he'd like to be succeeded by his beloved but incompetent youngest son), the holidays become an occasion for Henry to face the past, the way he's lived his life, and how his deeds and mistakes will impact the future once he's gone.

Straight away, Henry and Eleanor start playing the old game so beloved by estranged spouses of who can hurt the other more. To do it, they don't hesitate to use their sons (who in their turn, plot with the French King Philip II, then at the English court to discuss the betrothal of his sister Alais), Henry's mistress and Richard's betrothed Alais (who had been raised by Eleanor like if she had been her own daughter; are you getting an headache now?), hurtful and probably false revelations about past affairs, and every other means at their disposal. In the end, Henry decides that he's had enough of his family. He's determined to get an annulment, declare their sons bastards, and get married to his mistress so that he can father more docile sons. Eleanor, of course, cannot allow this.

The Lion In Winter perfectly capture the tempestuous relationship between the royal couple. But while they were busy outwitting each other, and scheming for power, loss of which, as Eleanor all too well knew, could lead to imprisonment and death, is clear that the two still have feelings for each other. And yet they can't help but hurt each other at any given opportunity. How can such a strong and powerful love as theirs turn to such distrust and hate? That's the question that haunts Henry and, especially, Eleanor. And what's even worse s that they both know that it's too late to go back. Too much has happened in the past and, now that they've embarked on this destructive course, they must follow it to its very bitter end.

Katharine Hepburn, which played Eleanor, and Peter O'Toole, who gave life to Henry, were absolutely brilliant. Their performances were amazing, and so gut-wrenching. Both Eleanor and Henry were two formidable characters, and both actors stepped up to the challenge brilliantly, bringing to life both their strengths and vulnerabilities. Anthony Hopkins (Richard), John Castle (Geoffrey), and Timothy Dalton (Philip) were all great too. Instead, I found the performances of Nigel Terry, who played the annoying and useless John, and Jane Merrow, who played the dull Alais, less convincing. Merrow, in particular, was just ok. But maybe that just helps to emphasize how boring and safe Alais was compared to Eleanor and why, in his last years, Henry would find such a woman attractive.

Although The Lion In Winter is clearly set in the past, with costumes and settings that recreate the medieval era quite faithfully, the story feels very modern. The struggle between the family members is something that most viewers will be able to relate to. That, together with Hepburn and O'Toole's performances, makes this movie a must-watch.

London Town, By Canaletto

Westminster Bridge, with the Lord Mayor's Procession on the Thames, 1746

London: Westminster Abbey, with a Procession of Knights of the Bath, 1749

The Thames and the City, 1747

Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750 – 52

London: The Thames from Somerset House Terrace towards the City

St Paul's Cathedral

London: Northumberland House, 1752

London: the Old Horse Guards and Banqueting Hall, from St James's Park, 1749

London Whitehall and the privy garden from Richmond House, 1747

Historical Reads: The Wedding Of Albert Edward, Prince Of Wales, And Princess Alexandra Of Denmark

Author Marissa Doyle remembers the somber wedding of the profligate Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. To quote:

Because the Queen was still in the deepest mourning, the wedding was held at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. The small venue meant that only Alix’s closest family members were invited, and Bertie was limited to inviting six friends. Holding the wedding at Windsor also denied Londoners the spectacle of the wedding of the heir to the throne, but the Queen would not hear of a more public wedding. Court mourning also decreed that female guests could wear only secondary mourning colors like mauve or grey, which must have been a bit of a disappointment.

Alix’s dress was of white and silver satin, decorated with garlands of greenery; Bertie wore a general’s uniform under his Garter robes. But most of the eyes were on the Queen in a balcony overlooking the altar; she seems to have played somewhat shamelessly to the crowds, making it clear that witnessing what was supposed to be a joyous event was terribly painful to her (“I dread the whole thing awfully, & wonder even how you can rejoice so much at witnessing what must I should think be to you, who loved Papa so dearly, so terribly sad a wedding,” she wrote to her eldest daughter Vicky a few weeks before the happy event.) The Archbishop of Canterbury officiated, operatic star Jenny Lind sang, and Bertie’s nephew, Vicky’s eldest son, four-year-old Willy (later Kaiser Wilhelm II), behaved very badly, crawling about and biting people.

To read the entire article, click here.

Madame Henriette De France

On 14 August 1727, Queen Marie Leszczyńska, wife of King Louis XV of France, gave birth to two twin princesses, Elisabeth and Anne-Henriette. The eldest daughters of the royal couple had very different personalities. While Elisabeth, the oldest, was cheerful and outgoing, the younger (or Madame Seconde, as she was called at court), Henriette, was shy and reserved. Nevertheless, the two princesses were obviously close and it was therefore a shock for them when their father announced they were to be parted forever. Elisabeth had to leave Versailles for Spain to marry the Infante Philip. She was the only daughter of Louis XV to tie the knot. All her sisters either remained spinsters or died young.

Already separated from her twin, Henriette was then also separated from her lover. The young princess had fallen in love with her cousin Luis-Philippe, Duc de Chartres, who belonged to the Orleans branch of the family. He reciprocated her feelings and asked the King for her hand, but was refused. Although Louis loved his daughter, he couldn't allow the match to happen. He had to part from his beloved Elisabeth so that Spain would forgive his previous dismissal of his ex-betrothed, the Infanta Marie-Anne-Victoire. The Orleans too had a claim to the Spanish throne and, although many considered it inferior to that of the reigning family (the latter were descended by Louis XIV, the former by his younger brother), Louis XV thought it wise not to reinforce it with a marriage. Had his son died without a male heir (due to Salic law women couldn't inherit the crown), the Orleans family may then have been strong enough to challenge the French succession rights of the Spanish King.

Therefore, Madame Henriette had to resign herself to remain a spinster. Instead, she dedicated herself to music. Her favourite instrument was the viola da gamba, which was taught her by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Forqueray, one of the most gifted musicians of her time. She was, however, briefly reunited with her eldest sister Elisabeth, when, in 1784, she paid a short visit to Versailles. Unfortunately, the two sisters, once so close, soon became estranged. Elisabeth enjoyed the company of Madame De Pompadour, the King's mistress, who was, however, hated by all her royal siblings for stealing their father from their mother. Eventually, though, the two princesses made up.

In February 1752, the young princess caught smallpox and died. She was only 24. She would be remembered fondly at Versailles for decades after her death. Many people were convinced that, had she lived, she would have exercised a positive influence over the King, entertaining him, and preventing him from becoming entangled with his last official mistress, the infamous Madame Du Barry. Henriette was buried at the Basilica of Saint Denis. Sadly, her tomb, like all the other royal tombs, was desecrated during the French Revolution.