Happy New Year!

Hello everyone,

as the year is quickly drawing to a close, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support. Thank you for stopping by and reading my posts. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and have a quick chat about history. Thank you for your tweets, emails, and most of all, your friendship. It means a lot.

I hope 2014 was a good year for you, and may 2015 be much better! I wish you and your families lots of happiness, health, and joy. May all your dreams come true!

Book Reviews: Rich Dad Poor Dad, Living Recovery, Blind Ambition, & Winners Dream

Hello everyone,

today I want to share some inspirational stories with you. Enjoy!

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
Rich Dad, Poor Dad is one of those books you are going to either love or hate. That's because it dismisses most of the advice our families, friends and school taught us about money, encouraging us to look at the topic from a different perspective. One that completely challenges our current beliefs. It's our beliefs about money, more than our situation in life, that determines how financially successful we can be. And if you're not ready to change them, this book will piss you off. And your life will stay the same.
In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Kiyosaki shares what he learned from his two dads. His biological dad did what everyone else did. He went to school, got a job, bought a house, and struggled financially all his life. His best friend's dad instead was a school drop out who who became a self-made multi-millionaire. That's because he was trained to see opportunities where other people only saw risks. That's because, unlike most people including the author's real dad, he didn't consider rich people greedy and evil (we all say we'd like to be rich, but would we really try to become wealthy if that meant others hated us for it?). That's because he knew the difference between assets and liabilities. Most people, for instance, think of their first house as an asset. It isn't. Yes, it'll go up in value in a few years, but that's good for you only if you decide to sell it or rent it. But you won't as you'll be living in it, all the while paying for mortgage, bills, and repairs. That's why financially successful people postpone buying a house until they have made enough money through their investments to afford one without taking on a big mortgage. Instead, they use their pay-check to invest in real estate, businesses, stock market, and other opportunities that allows their money to grow. That can be risky. That's why you should never stop learning. Kiyosaki is not a big fan of the traditional school system, but he believes that we should never stop learning. And the more you learn about money and the different investment options available to you, the easier it will be to make the right financial decisions.
Kiyosaki doesn't preach. Instead, he shares both his experiences and actions and those of his two dads to show us how they shaped their financial, and as a consequence personal, lives. That way, the reader can better relate to the author and his advice, and learn in a more enjoyable and helpful way. The author also has a gift for simplifying complicated financial concepts, explaining them in such a clear way that everyone will be able to grasp them immediately.
The only failing of this book, if it can be so called, is that it only provides an overview about how your beliefs about money can affect your life, either positively or negatively, rather than a step-to-step guide on what to do to make money. It will make you reconsider the way you view financial issues, leaving you eager to try new things. But it doesn't give you precise instructions on how you can implement your new ideas. For that you will have to read another book or come up with your own way of doing stuff.
Thought-provoking and well-written, Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a must read for everyone who wants to start thinking like a rich person, and act like one.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Living Recovery: Youth Speak Out on "Owning" Mental Illness by Joann Elizabeth Leavey
Adolescence is a difficult period for everyone. Your body is changing, you are taking over more responsibilities and starting challenging the society in which you live, all the while trying to figure out who you are. It's even worse when you're suffering from mental illness. These diseases, and the stigma attached to them, can completely isolate teenagers, thus interrupting their development. Although mental illness in adults is quite well documented, there is as yet not much information about how they affect teenagers and what treatments work best at this difficult time of life.
Joann Elizabeth Leavey is trying to change this. Realizing that mental health services aren't adequately supporting teens, and eager to find new ways to help them, she decided to ask them what they need. She interviewed 26 young adults between the ages of 16 and 27 in Canada, Australia, and the US. Living Recovery shares the finding of her study.
Although the sample is small, common themes and a pattern emerge. After the emergence of the illness, all teenagers went through stages of loss, adaptation, and recovery. Mental illness can be scary, not just for the affected person but for everyone around them. There are a lot of misconceptions about these illnesses. Affected people are often labelled as lazy, good-for-nothing, weird, or dangerous, and as a result, they lose friends, the support of family members, their jobs or, in the case of young adults, precious school years as they are forced to take time off to get better, and the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. These losses are usually followed by self-isolation, often used by patients to deal with a world they are perceiving as more and more hostile and scary. The last stage is recovery, which can happen, however, only if help is sought. Luckily, all the young adults involved are on their way to recovery, but, if we improve support for this age group, we can help them better and faster.
By giving these young adults a voice, Leavey allows professionals (the book is aimed at them; others may find its academic tone a bit dry at times) to better understand the challenges young adults face and come up with alternative therapies and support systems that can help both diagnose these diseases as soon as possible and treat them effectively.
Overall, this is a wonderful and insightful read that will hopefully inspire other researches to continue Leavey's work.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Blind Ambition: How to Envision Your Limitless Potential and Achieve the Success You Want by Patricia Walsh
Diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor, Patricia Walsh became almost blind at the age of five. As a teenager, she went off the rails, falling into a downward spiral into depression. Until one day she had an epiphany. Refusing to let her limits define her, she decided to turn her life around and became an award-winning engineer, a champion paratriathlete, and an IRONMAN world record holder. How did she manage to achieve so much?
Her incredible inner strength, belief in herself, and determination not to be defined by what happened to her certainly helped a great deal. And so did her Fuel/Fire/Blaze approach to achieving any goal. Your fuel is your base goals, all those small day-to-day tasks that help you achieve your higher goal. Your fire are the important milestones that you have to reach along the way to make your dream come true. And your blaze is your most ardent dreams, dreams that can come true only when you add fuel to the fire. Patricia also stresses the importance of failing gracefully. Everyone experiences some failures and setbacks, but it's only when we use them as lessons to learn what went wrong rather than as excuses to give up that we can truly succeed.
Although undoubtedly effective, Walsh's Fuel/Fire/Blaze approach is nothing revolutionary. It's just a new spin on the same old advice on goal setting. But the real strength of this book is not so much the advice itself, but Patricia's story. By sharing how her approach has helped her overcome her limitations, Wash inspires readers to go after their dreams. She's living proof that with the right mindset and techniques anyone, no matter what blows life has dealt them, can accomplish everything they have ever dreamt of. Well-written and highly motivational, I recommend it to anyone who doesn't believe in themselves and their ability to change their lives and accomplish their goals. You'll change your minds afterwards, and you'll be eager to put her tips in practice.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office by Bill McDermott
Who doesn't love a good rags-to-riches story? Bill McDermott, now SAP's CEO, was born in a lower middle class family that always struggled financially. But his parents were always supportive and encouraging, and taught him that he could do anything he set his mind to. Armed with a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, and a determination to succeed, McDermott set out to make his dreams come true.
After working as a paper boy as a child and starting his own deli to pay his way through school, McDermott was hired as a salesman by Xerox. After a series of promotions, he decided to quit. Looking for a company he could feel proud working for, he eventually landed at SAP and became its CEO. In this book, McDermott explains just how he did it. His tendency to see opportunities where others saw risks, his ability to motivate his staff, his penchant for selling, and his willingness to review his performance to always get better and better, brought him immense success during his career. By sharing his experiences, the reader learns some powerful lessons that will help him/her succeed professionally, such as figure out who your customers are, what they want, and what you can give them that your competitors don't, trust your employees and build a sincere rapport with them as well everyone else you meet, and find a way to reach your goals without compromising your values.
While I find the book highly inspirational, I was disappointed McDermott decided to share so little information about his personal life. His siblings, parents, wife, and sons make sporadic and short appearances. Instead, McDermott prefers to share information about Xerox and SAP, which, at times, makes for some dry reading. I can see the reasoning behind this decision though. Winners Dreams is not so much a personal biography, but an inspirational read for all those who want to be successful in corporate America. If that's you, you'll find lots of inspiration, motivation, and practical tips to reach your goals here.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

The Last Frost Fair

This Fair will long be remembered by thousands who had the courage to venture upon the ice on the Thames, during its continuance, large quantities of which had floated up the river on Sunday the 30th of January, and on the return of the tide it came down again in such masses, that at London bridge the arches were not wide enough to enable it to pass; in consequence of which it completely chocked up the Thames between London and Blackfriar's bridges.

In a very short time after one o'clock a man ventured to cross from Bank-side to the City, although the ice was then moving about in large pieces, but before the tide could return, it became wedged so close together, that it was immoveable, and on Monday morning the 31st, several adventurous persons crossed the river, and their example was followed by a multitude of men and boys, that reached in a continued line from Queen-street stairs to Bank-side.

The bridges were covered with crowds of people, expecting every moment to see them all go to the bottom, but it remained firm, and it drew on others, who ventured nearly over every part from London to Blackfriar's. A few places nearest Blackfriar's being still too weak to bear weight, some few fell in; after this it was thought so secure, that no one who had the least curiosity thought of danger; only how they could make up one of the thousands, men, women and children moving backwards and forwards in every direction. There was a complete path or grand street from Bankside to Queen-street, and Queenhithe, with a board nailed on a flag staff, calling it the New City-road, and each person that passed paid the watermen a penny to go down a plank upon the ice.

There was another principal path from Bridge-street side of Blackfriar's bridge, to the centre arch of London bridge, in a serpentine or zig-zag direction: these two paths were filled with persons as thick as they could walk; there were also paths from other stairs, but not so fully attended; in these there were about thirty booths, hoisting the flags of all nations, and painted with Cherokee taste, erected for the sale of porter, spirits, gingerbread, and other eatables; most of the booths had some sort of entertainment besides eating and drinking, some with a fiddler, dancing, others at skittles, &c., and all with fires; in the principal paths were a great many shops and stalls for the sale of all sorts of toys, trinkets, gingerbread, books, and low gambling such as the E O tables, Te-totum, Rouge et Noir, wheel of fortune, the garter, &c.

There were several printing presses, both for letter press and copper-plate printing, which found plenty of customers to buy their labours both in prose and verse. One of these stainers of paper, addressed the spectators in the following terms:—" Friends, now is your time to support the freedom of the press. Can the press have greater liberty? Here you find it working in the middle of the Thames, and if you encourage us by buying our impressions, we will keep it going in the true spirit of liberty during the frost."—One of the articles printed and sold, contained the following lines:

"Behold the River Thames is frozen o'er,
Which lately ships of mighty burden bore;
Now different arts, and pastimes here you see,
But Printing claims superiority.

"Printed to commemorate a remarkable severe frost which commenced December 27,1813, accompanied by an unusual thick fog, that continued many days, and was succeeded by a tremendous fall of snow, which prevented all communication with the northern and western roads for several days. The Thames presented a complete field of ice between London, and Blackfriar's bridges, on Monday the 31st of January, 1814.—A fair is this day (February 4, 1814) held, and the whole space between the two bridges covered with spectators." [...]

Every vender of the different commodities gave his customer some token printed for the occasion. On Thursday the 3d, a sheep was roasted, or rather burnt, nearest to Bankside, over a charcoal fire, in a large iron pan. The admission to the booth where this culinary skill was displayed, was sixpence each. There was also two swings on the ice, which met with a few customers; there was a barge almost oil one side, near the centre arch of London bridge, fixed in the ice; it was taken possession of by a party with a fiddler; they hoisted a flag, and made merry; others did the Fame; but the ice being so rugged and dangerous nearer the bridge, few ventured to the edge; some however did, and even got on the starlings of the centre arch, although it was covered with ice like glass; two of them, however, paid for their temerity, by slipping off, and were with much difficulty saved: after this others ventured on the same expedition, to write their names and date under the arch.

Skating was impssible, it was so very rough; here and there a small slide was made, but the masses which had been united were composed of large lumps of snow frozen together; many places they had only joined at the top; and when they were broken through, were really dreadful to look at. On this day (the third) a plumber named Davis, attempting to cross near Blackfriar's-bridge with some lead in his hand, sunk between, two masses as above described, and rose no more. Every hour increasing the numbers of visitants and amusements, on the 5th the newspapers began to warn the people of the danger of a sudden thaw, upon the then state of the tide, and the Lord Mayor also issued orders for all booths to be struck on the Saturday evening; in consequence many had withdrawn, though several remained to a very late hour.

On Sunday morning February the 6th, at two o'clock in the morning on the flowing of the tide, a dreadful explosion took place, and those who had not paid attention to the Lord Mayor's orders, or the caution given by others, shared a fate that few pitied, although, as fortune would have it, not a single person was lost: nothing could describe the crush; in a moment every tiling flew the same way as if a sudden blast of gunpowder had exploded. Barges, lighters, wherries, and every kind of vessel on the Thames was dashed to pieces; several barges lying off Queenhithe, Paul's Wharf, and the Three Cranes, were broken in two; their sides crushed in, and the immense large piles, full 18 inches square, that they were fastened to, were snapped as short as a match, and splintered to bits.

Mr. Lawrence of the Feathers, in Timber-Street, Queenhithe, had erected a booth opposite Broken wharf, for the accommodation of the curious. At nine o'clock at night he left it to the care of two men, taking away all the spirits and liquors, except what little he left for the two men for their own use; when the explosion took place at two o'clock the booth was hurried along with the quickness of lightning towards Blackfriar's-bridge. There were seven men in the booth at the time, and in their alarm at the violence of their progress, they neglected the fire and candles, which communicated with the covering, which had cost 40l., being a very large tarpauling, and get it instantly on fire.

They succeeded in getting into a lighter which had broken from its moorings; but immediately after this, it was, dashed to pieces against the arch of Blackfriar's-bridge. The poor fellows, with difficulty, saved themselves, by getting hold of the balustrade, five of them reached Puddle-dock, and the other two a barge, after being nearly lost. The Thames, at nine o'clock, resembled the desolate prospect of the northern seas, wrecks, and masses of ice floating, and driving about in the greatest fury: every thing left of the fair was vanished. [...]

Among the casualties on the river, on Friday, was one in which the interposition of Providence was most strikingly manifested. About five o'clock, three persons, an old man and two lads, having ventured on a piece of ice, above London-bridge, it suddenly detached itself from the main body, and was carried by the tide through one of the arches. The persons on the ice, who laid themselves down for safety, were observed by the boatmen at Billingsgate, who, with laudable activity, put off to their assistance, and rescued them from their impending danger. One of them was able to walk, but the other two were carried, in a state of insensibility, to a public house, where they received every attendtion their situation required.

Friday a fair was held upon the ice at Chiswick. A great number of booths and shows of every description, were splendidly fitted up on the Thames. On Saturday, a fisherman's boy, of the name of Carter, incautiously ventured, at low water, on a large sheet of ice, near Westminster-bridge, which, from the turning of the tide and the thaw, suddenly separated from the side and carried him up the middle of the river, towards Milbank, where his cries attracted the notice of a waterman, who put off to his assistance, and fortunately, by the application of his oars, relieved him from his perilous situation.

Further reading:
The (Kirby's) Wonderful and scientific (eccentric) museum, Volume 5

Best Posts Of 2014

Hello everyone,

as the year is slowly coming to a close, we all reminisce about the good things it has brought to us. I thought it would be nice if we all took a trip down memory lane to remember what we talked about here on the blog. Here we go:

Was Count Fersen Really Marie Antoinette's Lover?: No, he wasn't. There is no evidence they were ever lovers, yet a lot of people think they were. This post discusses why that is, and why nothing ever happened between them.

The Scandalous Affair Of Queen Caroline Matilda Of Denmark: not all Queens were as faithful to her husband as Marie Antoinette. Queen Caroline of Denmark, sister of the prude English King George III, created a huge scandal when she took her lover and tried to rule the country with him.

Who Killed Anne Boleyn?: Everyone has his/her own theory on who killed Anne Boleyn. Was her death Henry VIII's or Cromwell's fault? Or was someone else responsible? Here are my thoughts on the matter.

The Tragic Case Of Beatrice Cenci: this story took place in the Reinassance, but the same happens too often even today. Abandoned by the authorities, a victim of domestic abuse decides to defend herself by killing, with the help of her family, her persecutor. She was sentenced to death for it.

Did Catherine Of Aragon Suffer A False Pregnancy?: Queen Mary I of England suffered two false pregnancies. But did her mother go through the same thing?

The disastrous marriage of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick: George IV and Caroline of Brunswick had one of the worst royal marriages in history. They never even tried to give their marriage a go, preferring to make each other's life a hell from the very beginning.

The Amazing Escape Of Princess Henrietta: Princess Henrietta was still a toddler when she had to escape from her native England to France during the Civil War. It was a long journey that almost cost her governess her life.

The May Queen: Marie-Jose of Belgium was called the May Queen because she reigned in Italy only for a month. It's a shame, cos this wonderful woman did and could have done much more good to her adopted country.

Giovanna Of Italy: Marie-Jose's sister-in-law lost her crown too. She was married to the Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria, a country that suffered greatly during the Second World War and under Communism.

Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate, The Artist Nun Princess: a sister of the dashing Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate was a talented artist who decided to follow, much to her family's chagrin, her vocation to convert to Catholicism and take the veil.

Rosalie Filleul: a popular French pastellist who lost her head during the French revolution for showing sympathy towards the royal family, which was considered a crime by the new regime.

Gorgeous Worth Gowns: Worth was a very talented couturier who created some stunning gowns. Here are a few examples.

Robes A La Francaise: more pretty clothes! A few beautiful examples of robes a la francaise.

Lord Chesterfield's Advice To His Son: Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, wrote a lot of letters to his illegitimate son Philip, giving advice on all kinds of matters, from deportment to morals, from etiquette to books. A lot of the advice is still very useful and relevant today.

What was your favourite post of 2014?

Merry Christmas!

Loyalty Repaid

When Cardinal Wolsey lost the favour of Henry VIII he was despised by the great, and hated by the people. Fitz-Williams, a man whom the cardinal had highly favoured when in power, was the only one who attempted to defend the cause, and praise the talents and great qualifications of the disgraced minister. He did more; he offered Wolsey his country-house, and begged him to pass one day there at least. The cardinal, sensible of his zeal, went to Fitz-Williams's house, who received his master with the most distinguished marks of respect and gratitude.

The king being informed of the reception which this man only had not been afraid to give such a man as Wolsey, ordered Fitz-Williams to be brought before him, and asked him, with much emotion, and an angry tone of voice, from what motive he had the audacity to receive the cardinal at his house, who was accused and declared guilty of high treason?

"Sir," replied Fitz-Williams,"I feel the most respectful submission for your majesty; I am neither a bad citizen nor an unfaithful subject. It is not the disgraced minister, nor the state criminal, I received at my house; it is my old and respected master, my protector, him who gave me bread, and through whose means I possess the fortune and tranquillity which I now enjoy; and should I abandon in his misfortunes this generous master, this magnificent benefactor? Ah! no, sir; I should be the most ungrateful of men."

Surprised and full of admiration, the king at that moment conceived the highest esteem for the generous Fitz-Williams. He instantly knighted him, and shortly after named him a privy counsellor.

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

Book Reviews:The Pity of War, The King's Sister, Ever Yours, & Reclaiming Canadian Bodies

Hello everyone,

here are this week's book reviews. Enjoy:

The Pity of War: England and Germany, Bitter Friends, Beloved Foes by Miranda Seymour
For the past 400 hundred years, England and Germany have been close friends and bitter enemies. The connection between the two countries started in 1613, when a Stuart princess married a German prince, thus uniting Europe's two great Protestant powers. Their Hanoverian descendants ruled England for centuries, and still do, albeit, since the First World War, under a different name, Windsor. During the centuries, the two countries have greatly influenced each other's culture, art, literature, and politics, creating profound bounds as well as bitter rivalries between their people.
It's their stories that Miranda Seymour tells in this book. Unlike most authors, she doesn't just limit herself to royal history. The German and British royal families surely played a big role in the intertwined history of the two countries, but the book focuses mostly on the life of private, little known individuals - ambassadors, charlatans, painters, poets, soldiers, nurses, bankers, bakers, etc - who had ties with and equally loved both countries. Most of them were completely unknown to me, but their stories are fascinating and deserved to be told. Drawing from their diaries, letters, and personal interviews, Seymour compelling does so. We all know the history between the two countries, especially the tragic events and wars of the last century, but experiencing them through the eyes of those who lived in it, and were torn by the divided loyalty they felt towards both countries, makes it all more real and poignant.
Seymour writes beautifully. Although she packs a lot of information and details in a short space, The Pity Of War flows easily. A very compelling read, once you've started it, you won't be able to put it down.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The King's Sister by Anne O'Brien
As the daughter of John of Gaunt (son of King Edward III of England) and cousin to King Richard II, Elizabeth of Lancaster is destined to make a strategic marriage that will improve her family's fortune and standing. But she doesn't like the choice of husband her family made for her. Elizabeth rebels and marries the man she loves, the charming and ambitious Sir John Holland, half-brother to King Richard II. Elizabeth's happy and, at first, this marriage seems as advantageous as the one she rejected. That's until her brother, Henry of Bolingbroke deposes King Richard and seizes the crown for himself. Her husband, loyal to his brother, plans to put him back on the throne. Elizabeth is thus put in an impossible position, forced to choose between her husband and her brother. Should she reveals what she knows to the new king and send her husband to his death? Or should she side with her husband against her own brother, knowing that if the plot succeeds Henry will be killed?
It's impossible not to feel sympathy for Elizabeth. Spoiled and selfish at times she may be, but her love for both her husband and her brother is genuine, and having to make a choice tears her apart. John's decision to betray the new king isn't less agonizing either. He's no hero. He's ruthless and ambitious and there's not much he wouldn't do to further his career at court, but he genuinely loves Elizabeth and like her, he has to choose between his brother and his spouse.
O'Brien poignantly explores the themes of forbidden love, loyalty and betrayal, pulling at her readers' heartstrings and forcing them to wonder what they would have done in the same situation. It provides a great insight into a very turbulent time into English history and the difficult decisions people had to take at the time. And it's beautifully written, bringing the character and the world they lived in vividly and accurately to life. I highly recommend it to all fans of historical fiction and, in particular, to those who want to know more about Elizabeth of Lancaster and her family.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Ever Yours: The Essential Letters by Vincent van Gogh, Leo Jansen (Editor), Hans Luijten (Editor), Nienke Bakker (Editor)
Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh was a prolific and tireless letter writer? More than 800 letters have survived to our days, and they make for some fascinating reading. Complete, and annotated, editions of his letters exist, but for those who only want to read the essential ones, Ever Yours is the collection they need.
What makes the 265 letters in Ever Yours essential? Well, they give us an insightful glimpse into Van Gogh's life. The first letters focus on his search for his true passion and job. Van Gogh did several jobs before dedicating his life to painting and, at some point, he even went through a religious phase during which he harboured ambitions to become a clergyman like his father. When he finally found his calling, he struggled for recognition. His paintings didn't sell and he lived a life of poverty, depending for money on his brother. He was often misunderstood by people, even close loved ones, including his father, with whom he had a difficult relationship. But his bond to his brother Theo was very tight and reading their letters is so touching. Van Gogh also loved literature and in his letters he often talked about the books he read. He also beautifully described the places and things he saw and the paintings he made, and decorated his sketches with beautiful drawings, which are reproduced in the book.
Ever Yours gives the readers the opportunity to get to know this great artist better and realise what a difficult life he led. The last letters, written after he became mentally ill, are particularly touching, expressing his frustrations at his illness and the inability to work, and the loss of hope in a full recovery and better life in the future. But Van Gogh's letters don't just give you an insight into the painter's mind. They also help you better understand the world he lived in and the art movements of his time.
The letters, most of which are addressed to his brother Theo, are accompanied by a short biography of Van Gogh, that will help the reader better understand the contents of some letters, and photos of his family.
Although Ever Yours only features the essential letters, it is a very long book, totalling more than 700 pages! That's because Van Gogh wrote a lot. Most of his letters are several pages long. Because of it, this is not something you'd want to read all in one go, or even one week. It's better savoured a little at a time. Unless you are a hard-die fan who can't wait to read all the letters as soon as possible. In any case, I hope the length won't put you off this fascinating collection. Every Van Gogh fan should have it in his/her library.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Reclaiming Canadian Bodies: Visual Media and Representation by Lynda Mannik (Editor), Karen McGarry (Editor)
Why is it that some body types are promoted as ideal and others are marginalized and excluded from media representation? The author of Reclaiming Canadian Bodies asked themselves this question and, with the help of detailed empirical and ethnographic research, have tried to find an answer. As the title suggests, the authors specifically addresses this issue in a Canadian context. But that doesn't mean that people from all over the world won't find it interesting. You may not be familiar with all the Canadian personalities mentioned in the book, but the way the media works in Canada is not so different from the way it works in the rest of the world, making this a fascinating and insightful read for all those interested in media literacy and the impact the representation of human bodies in the media has on the population.
The book is divided into three sections. The first is called Embodied Ideals and examines what characteristics a body needs to have to be upheld as an ideal of Canadianess, and to what lengths Canadians go to comply with them. The second section, The Embodiment of "Others" deals with body types that aren't considered Canadian. Very interesting is the study on emigrants, and how they are either perceived as good and in need of aid or evil and dangerous according to the way the media portrays them and their situation. The last section, Embodied Activism and Advocacy, focuses on the representation in the media of particular groups of people such as First Nations people and homosexuals.
The book is written in an academic tone and yet it is highly readable, making it accessible to a broad audience. I highly recommend it.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Will you read these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Queen Victoria's Christmas

For weeks before Christmas the cooks at Windsor are busy preparing the Queen’s dinner for Dec. 25. The principal dishes are all prepared at Windsor, as the kitchen accommodation at Osborne is totally unequal to the task. The Queen’s plum pudding is the triumph of Windsor cookery. In an enormous caldron are placed the usual ingredients, well soaked in fine old Madeira or rum, and all the cooks take their turn in stirring round this huge mass — over 200 puddings are made at Windsor — and occasionally privileged persons are permitted to be present as spectators.

The duly mixed mess is divided into the required number of puddings, which are then boiled for twelve hours. One of these puddings is sent to every one of the Queen’s immediate relatives and descendants. The mincemeat also involves considerable preparation; it is made according to a recipe of King James I.

The ox from whose carcass the baron of beef for the royal table is to be cut is specially fed up, and in Christmas week the enormous joint is handed over to the tender care of the cooks. So big is it that it is placed before a roaring fire at 8 o’clock in the morning and exposed to the heat until 8 at night, when it is pronounced “done”. Afterward the royal monogram in shredded horse radish is imprinted on the joint, which is served cold. It does not appear on the table, but stands on the sideboard.

The boar’s head always figures in the menu. Both the German Emperor and the King of Saxony invariably send a boar’s head to the Queen as a Christmas present, but the chef finds that an ordinary bacon head cooks better, so the tusks of the wild boar are fastened on to the head of a tame pig, whose appearance is further "made up" by fierce eyes and painted gums. The game pie is a huge pasty, in whose bowels is concealed a savory compound of woodcock, game, pork, bacon, eggs, spice &c.

Christmas presents for the Queen frequently take the form of delicacies for the royal table. The Czar of Russia keeps up the custom of his late father and sends a royal sturgeon. The Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin always forwards a splendid paté-de-foie-gras encased in pastry, and resembling an enormous pork pie. The Crown Princess of Greece sends her grandmamma a case of fine currants and spices and the Empress Frederick some German gingerbread, of which her father was very fond. The Emperor of Austria forwards a dozen bottles of his priceless Tokay wine.

All these presents are sent to Windsor, and forwarded to the Isle of Wight, along with the other Christmas fare. The Royal yacht used for conveying provisions to Osborne when the court is there, is irreverently called “the milk cart” by the young Princes and Princesses. The Christmas fare is sent across Southampton Water in time to reach Osborne on Christmas eve. Such dishes as are to be served hot are either warmed up or prepared wholly at Osborne.

Dinner on Christmas Day, as on other days, is served at 9 P.M. All the Queen’s splendid gold and silver plate is used. After the most substantial dishes have been disposed of Stilton cheese is served, and then comes dessert, which consisting of all the rare fruits of the season, is served on the famous Sevres set of plates and dishes, valued at £50,000. Music is provided by the royal band.

Further reading:
The New York Times

Interview With Anne O'Brien, Author Of The King's Sister

Today I'm very excited to bring you this interview with one of my favourite historical novelists, Anne O'Brien. An ex-history teacher with a passion for gardening (she has an herb patch constructed on the pattern of a Tudor knot garden and enjoys cooking with the proceeds) and water-colour painting, Anne was inspired to write by her love of reading, especially historical fiction novels.

Her latest novel is The King's Sister, and tells the story of Elizabeth of Lancaster, a headstrong and passionate Plantagenet Princess who married King Richard II's half-brother, John Holland. But when her own brother overthrows the King and takes the crown for himself, Elizabeth must choose between the two men she loves the most. What will she do?

I'll review The King's Sister soon. In the meantime, read this interview to find out more about Elizabeth, the novel, and its author:

1. What inspired you to write The King's Sister?
It all began when I discovered the 'Princess tomb' in a tiny rural church in Burford which is in Shropshire, not far from where I live in the Welsh Marches. Being a recent 'incomer' to the area, I had no idea that Elizabeth of Lancaster was buried there.
I knew about her of course: her Plantagenet connections, her illustrious parentage as daughter of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. She had a sister who became Queen of Portugal, and Katherine Swynford had been employed as her governess. But I knew little detail of her life.
And then I saw her tomb and she took my breath away. I think I knew that I must write about her as soon as I saw her effigy. Clad regally in red with a purple cloak trimmed with ermine, she is every inch a Plantagenet Princess. Her hair is fair, her face oval and her nose long. She wears a ducal coronet and her hands are raised in prayer. Two angels in red and white support her pillow and a little dog is holding the edge of her cloak in its mouth. She is quite lovely.
So there she was: the subject of my novel - if my research could come up with a dynamic and interesting life to make her a true heroine.

2. Elizabeth of Lancaster has gained the reputation of being "frankly wanton and highly sexed". Why is that, and do you think it is deserved?
Elizabeth certainly earned the reputation in her own day. In a time when religion and morality were both important forces in everyday life, and a certain standard of behaviour was expected of a daughter of a noble family, her actions were shockingly scandalous. Elizabeth repudiated her first marriage and was already pregnant before engaging on her second. But saying that, her first marriage had its own problems, (no spoilers here!) and her second appears to have been a love match, and lasting until her husband's death. This comment by a 20th century historian does not do justice to the turbulence of Elizabeth's life at the very centre of treason and betrayal.
I think we would be far more tolerant and compassionate today of the pressures put on her. But she was undoubtedly a feisty young woman.

3. Not much is known about Elizabeth of Lancaster. Did that hinder your writing process or help your creativity?
Something of both, I suppose. How I wish we knew more. All we have is a very sketchy outline of her life in which Elizabeth appears as daughter/sister/wife - but hardly ever as a woman in her own right. We rarely know where she is or what she is doing. But when we do, that is the key to her story. I discovered some very telling comments about her that made me realise the strength and complexity of her story. This made it a true family drama, a balance between friendship, duty and loyalty on one side, pain and treason and heart-breaking loss on the other.
And yes, I had to be 'creative' to put flesh on Elizabeth's bones and words into her mouth as I imagined the emotions, the fears and hopes that would drive her. I hope I have preserved her integrity as a woman of the 14th century, as well as my own as an historian.

4. Have you made any fascinating discoveries during your research that didn't make it into the book?
Most of the vital discoveries ended up in the book.
Saying that, none of the detail of Elizabeth's final marriage is included. It is a strange period, when Elizabeth took a step back into the shadows, which is not good material for a novel. But what we do know is again tragic and a time of great loss. Richard, her eldest son with John Holland, died in 1400 when he was eleven. Nor was that the end of it. In the summer of 1400 Elizabeth married Sir John Cornewall, a knight for the west country and a soldier of repute. Elizabeth gave birth to a son John, a boy who followed in his father's footsteps as a soldier, both of them taking part in the English battles in France in the reign of Henry V. Tragically again, the boy was killed at the siege of Meaux in 1421, fighting at the side of his father.
We can only guess at Elizabeth's grief at the death of these two sons. It is not on record.
Elizabeth herself died on 24th November 1425 at the age of 61 years at Ampthill, and was buried in the splendid tomb in the little church of St Mary in Burford in Shropshire.

5. Can you tell us about your writing process?
I am a morning writer, starting early - by 8.30 am - after I've cleared any urgent admin. Then I write through until lunch. I don't count words because first draft writing covers more ground than when I start editing and refining; here I work much more slowly. So I simply write for the time I have set myself. But even when my day's writing is over, the characters tend to live with me and keep me entertained - or anxious. I often find a need to make notes of what they might be saying, or directions of plot I had not previously thought of.
So how do I write?
1. An historical timeline is essential: to plot the known facts, dates and the general order of events. This is where the the main body of research takes place. This has to be the bedrock of historical fiction, otherwise it becomes merely fiction.
2. Next comes some characterisation. Some characters are well documented, some barely at all. My characters must be true to the traits they exhibited in real life.
3. Then I begin to write the novel, highlighting the scenes that are absolutely crucial to the telling of the story. I often write them first so that I have them in place and I can see the drama unfolding. I might even write the end of the novel at this stage.
4. By this time my characters are very familiar to me. This is the point at which I start at the beginning and write a full draft through to the end, linking all the main scenes. Then I have something that feels like a complete novel.
5.. Then - the most enjoyable part of all - I begin to add layers, polishing and refining the plot, adding connecting links, thinking what it is that I need my characters to say through mood and action. This is where the historical detail begins to influence the scenes - the costume, music, details on where and how they are living. This is where the book begins to come to life.
6. Altogether I write four drafts followed by a quick read through to test for pace and relevance. The whole process takes me about a year.
And the most exciting part, for me, of writing historical fiction? When I discover a crucial piece of evidence that directs the actions of my main protagonists. When I finally realise what it is that makes him or her tick, even if they lived six hundred years ago. Suddenly everything fits together and it is immensely satisfying.

6. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite and why?
I would have to invite three of my medieval heroines, simply to hear their views on the events through which they lived. And, perhaps even more important, to discover if I had interpreted their characters correctly from the evidence we have of their lives. It would have to be:
Eleanor of Aquitaine, who takes the leading role in Devil's Consort. Wife to Louis VI of France and Henry II of England, she was a truly formidable and meddlesome woman.
Alice Perrers, heroine of The King's Concubine. Mistress to King Edward III her life was scandalous from start to finish - but what an amazing business woman she was.
And Elizabeth of Lancaster of course, The King's Sister.
Three strong minded, forthright, ambitious women. Now that would be a dinner party to savour. I can't imagine I would have to do much talking - they would have no time for me!

7. What are you working on now?
I am writing about Joanna of Navarre, one of our little known queens of England, the second wife of King Henry IV. It was not a marriage of long duration, she had little influence on policy in England, but what a marriage it turned out to be - fraught with discord, misunderstandings and danger even though it appears to have been a love match. Joanna was a proud woman, enormously capable, but had some hard lessons to learn in her new role. Because I enjoy writing about relationships within families, this was for me the perfect material. And then there is an accusation of witchcraft to set the whole thing alight. Fascinating stuff.

8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Simply to write. Talking about it, planning it, making excuses to 'do it later' - this is all so easy and tempting rather than getting down to actually writing. So write:
- when you think you have no inspiration, sit down and write. You might be surprised.
- when you have very little time, find a half hour to keep up the momentum of your writing.
- write quickly to get down the ideas, the conversations, the characters, the story line. The polish can come later.
- be true to your characters. Don't allow them to step out of line.
- don't let rejection stop you. Develop a thick skin and keep trying.
And, most important of all, find enjoyment in bringing your characters to life. Let them live with you and talk to you. I promise that you will enjoy it.

Thanks Anne!

You can buy The King's Sister, as well as Anne's other novels on Amazon. Don't forget to check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with her.

Louise, The Rebellious Princess

Perhaps it is fitting that Princess Louise Caroline Alberta was born, in 1848, the Year of The Revolutions that shook most of Europe. The sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was the most rebellious, as well as the prettiest, of their offspring. She had a naughty side, and an inquisitive nature, which gained her the nickname "Little Miss Why". More shockingly, she preferred French to her parent's beloved German. The horror!

From an early age, Louise showed a strong artistic talent that her parents were happy to encourage. She had lessons with some of the best drawing masters of the age and, as a child, was rarely seen without her sketchbook. Drawing and painting were then considered arts suitable for women, but of course Louise, true to her rebellious nature, much preferred sculpture, a more masculine endeavour.

Louise was only 12 when her beloved father died. She did her best to soothe her mother's grief, and for a while she acted as her secretary and confidant. But it soon became obvious that her nature didn't make her suitable for such a role (Louise was bored stiff at the gloomy court of her mother, and thought the Queen took her mourning too far), so, after her marriage, such duties were taken over by her younger sister Beatrice.

After much pleading, Louise was allowed to attend the National Art Training School at Kensington. This was quite shocking at the time because no princess had, before then, attended any type of school at all. Still, a career in the art world wasn't an option for a princess. Her duty was to marry. Her choice of husband was quite revolutionary too. Foreign princes were out of the question. Victoria didn't want to lose another daughter that way. And Louise, who always wanted to be treated like an ordinary person, didn't want to marry a British prince. Instead, she fell in love with John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, heir to the Duke of Argyll, a nice and handsome man without a drop of royal blood in his veins.

Louise and John were married on 21 March 1871. At first the marriage seemed a success. But the couple had no children, and soon started drifting apart. When Lorne was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1787, Louise only spent a few years with him. She was very homesick and unhappy in her new country, so she eventually left. The couple would spend a lot of time apart during the years, but eventually reconciled in 1911. Her husband's health was by then failing. His last years were marked by illness and senility. Louise dutifully took care of him. When he died three years later, she was devastated.

Louise was never just a wife, though. The rebellious princess continued to work on her art, even creating several public movements. One of these is a statue of her mother at Kensington (picture above). More controversy, she supported women's rights to work and vote. Princess Louise died at Kensington Palace in December 1939, aged 91.

Further reading:
Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter by Jehanne Wake
The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley

Fashions For 1818 (Part 2)

Hi ladies,

curious to see what we would have worn in the spring and summer of 1818? Let's take a look:



Round dress of fine cambric muslin, superbly embroidered round the border in three distinct rows. Pelisse of rich Tobine silk striped, of Christmas holly-berry colour and bright grass green, trimmed round the collar, cuffs, and down the front with very broad swansdown. Cambridge hat of green satin, ornamented with white ribband, edged with holly-berry red, surmounted by a very full plume of white ostrich feathers. Triple ruff of fine lace; holly-berry velvet ridicule, with clasp and ornaments of gold. Limerick gloves, and white kid half boots.


Pelisse of celestial blue satin, fastened down the front with Brandenbourgs of polished steel. Toque hat of spotted blue velvet, the hat part crowned with a plume of white ostrich feathers; the cap part confined to the forehead by a bandeau of polished steel, with an elegant tassel of the same material on the left side. Triple raff of fine lace, lemon-coloured slippers of kid leather, and Norman gloves.



Castillian robe of pearl grey sarsnet, elegantly trimmed with pink satin, interspersed with crape and velvet: the petticoat worn under the dress is finished by a border of fine lace, which just appears below the robe: the sleeves are of fine figured net, with serpentine waves of rolled pink satin, continued close to the wrist, from whence depend two broad frills of blond made to fall over the knuckles. A fichu of the finest net, left open in front, and surmounted by a deep Spanish ruff, standing up a l'Elizabeth. Crown turban of white satin, net, and pearls, with tassels of the latter material, and crowned near the summit with a wreath of pink fancy flowers, and pearls. Pear pearl earrings, white crape fan, and white satin shoes.


White satin petticoat, trimmed round the border with a chevaux-de-frieze of crape, over which is a rich ornament of full blown roses; the sleeves full, and reaching near the elbow, terminating by two full rows of lace: the body made to display the bust, very low behind, and ornamented with crape en chevaux-de-frieze. Train of royal purple or Prussian blue satin, superbly trimmed with fine broad lace, and lined throughout with white satin. The hair dressed round the face in ringlets a-la-Ninon, and entirely divided from the forehead; the hair on the summit of the head raised in two rows of separate braids, twisted round with pearls; between these braids is a tiara of gold and pearls, to which are fastened the court lappets of the finest Brussels lace. Earrings and chain necklace of pearls, white satin shoes, and white kid gloves, ornamented at the tops with a rich embossment of white satin.



Dishabille round dress, finished at the border with open Vandykes and embossments of rich embroidery, over which are three rows of narrow tucks, two tucks in each row. Full sleeves a l'Eveque, finished at the wrists with a double ruffle of lace; the gown made partially low, and trimmed with lace next the bust; plain fichu of fine French lawn worn underneath. Village cornette of fine lace, ornamented simply with a broad satin ribband, of celestial blue. Kid slippers of Modena red.



Round dress of the new Parisian tissue silk, of a beautiful blush colour, trimmed round the border with Persian of the same hue, bouilloni in bias, confined by a narrow rouleaux of blush-coloured satin, and terminated by a plain satin rouleau of tea green. Bonnet of white Gros de Naples, trimmed at the edge with a broad blond; the crown low, ornamented on one side with a bunch of green foliage and white lilacs. Triple ruff of fine lace; black kid slippers, teacoloured kid gloves, and parasol of pearl grey.



High round dress of fine jacconot muslin, with three flounces of muslin in full quills; each flounce headed by embroidered Brunswick stars of grass-green, and each flounce edged with the same colour. Sautoir scarf, of Chinese silk, with a rich border of various colours. Transparent bonnet, of white net and lilac satin, crowned with a louqvet of French double poppies, and yellow everlastings. Lilac parasol, kid slippers of the same colour, and straw-coloured kid gloves.



Frock of white crape, Venetian gauze, or fine net, richly embellished at the border with small double Indian roses of a beautiful pink colour, and mingled with leaves of crape and pearls: the body finished in the Oriental style, with short sleeves, which approach nearer to the elbow than formerly, and which are finished by a trimming of broad blond. The head-dress consists of a double wreath of Indian roses, interspersed with the braids of hair that are wound round the summit of the head. White satin shoes and white kid gloves.

Which of these outfits is your favourite?

Further reading:
Belle Assemblée

Book Reviews: Fizz, The Woman Code, Science... For Her!, & The Management Of Luxury

Hello everyone,

it's that time of the week when I review the books I've been reading lately. Here we go:

Fizz: How to Drive Word of Mouth Marketing for Outrageous Success by Ted Wright
Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways to drive sales. A lot less expensive than advertising in traditional media, it provides much better results, albeit at an initially slower pace. This slower pace is one of the reasons why a lot of businesspeople are sceptical of its success and refuse to use this all powerful technique. But after reading Wright's book, you'll look forward to start your own word of mouth campaign.
The secret of its success? Influencers. For it to work, you must first find people who love your product and are willing to spread the word about it to everyone who will listen. And then you need to train them to do so in the most effective way. But of course, you also need to have a good product with an exciting story or feature that will make it easy for people to talk about and buy it. Giving out samples also helps. A LOT. But that's not all. Wright also debunks popular myths about word of mouth marketing and explains how to track the results of your campaign.
Although a bit repetitive at times, Fizz is full of case studies and interesting tips and tricks to help you harness the full power of word of mouth for your business. The writing style is quite colloquial and engaging. This is not your average boring business book. You'll love both reading it and implementing its tips.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Life Strategies You Need to Navigate Today's Challenges by Sophia A. Nelson
We all live life by a code, whether we realise it or not. It's the set of values that governs all our actions. If it is not solid and authentic, we'll make mistakes and hurt ourselves and others. We've all been there. We've all been through tough times, done things we regret, and questioned our self-worth. If that's you, this is book is for you.
Nelson shares her powerful code to help you lead a balanced and fulfilled life. This code unlocks your potential of being the best person you can be, and that already resides inside of you. You just have to find it, and harness its power. The code is made up of 20 principles divided in five sections: The Personal Codes, The Emotional Codes, The Spiritual Codes, The Professional Codes and The Relational Codes. The first, and most important one, is knowing your value. Others include being authentic, accountable, resilient, unafraid of aging, being ready to apologize when you make a mistake, refusing to engage in gossip, and lots more. When applied, the code helps you navigate life's challenges, both in your personal and professional life, go after your dreams, and build meaningful relationship with people.
None of the advice given here is groundbreaking. Some will say most of it simply good ol' common sense. But the tips are still effective and inspirational. When we lose our way, a reminder of what we can achieve when we stay true to ourselves and treat ourselves and others with respect is always welcome.
My only problem with the book is the writing style. Nelson never preaches. She's smart, wise, and compassionate, and yet I found it hard to relate to her. I didn't find her style particularly engaging, and yet I can't quite pinpoint why. It's annoying. But the book isn't. It's a useful and inspirational resource for all women, especially those who have lost their way.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Science ...For Her! by Megan Amram
I had never heard of Megan Amram before coming across her book, but from her credentials, she sounds pretty smart. She is one of Forbe's 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment, a writer for NBC's hit show Parks and Recreation, and one of the funniest people on Twitter. Her new book, Science... For Her! is described as a "politically, scientifically, and anatomically incorrect textbook, [...] a pitch-perfect attack on everything from those insanely perky tips for self-improvement to our bizarre shopaholic dating culture to the socially mandated pursuit of mind-blowing sex to the cringe-worthy secret codes of food and body issues," and a blend of "Cosmo and science to highlight absurdities", including subjects like "this Spring's ten most glamorous ways to die" and "what religion is right for your body type".
I wasn't sure what to make of that, but I hoped it would be a satirical funny book with some actual science, written in the style of, and poking fun at, women's magazines. Instead, I got neither science nor humour. Not only the book wasn't funny, it was very offensive. Now, I'm not one of those people who gets easily offended. I abhor political correctness, believing it to be a form of censure. I can easily laugh at things the politically corrected crew would find offensive, but one thing I will never laugh at, and I will always find offensive, are rape jokes. Seriously, this book is full of them! They have nothing to do with science and they just help to normalize rape and create a culture where this hideous crime is acceptable.
But even if someone had had the decency to remove the rape jokes, this book still wouldn't be funny. I get what Amram was trying to do. Science... For Her! tries to mimic the colloquial style used by women's magazines and, like them, is full of silly tips that make no sense. My problem is that she has taken the satire too far. The silliness, which permeates every page, is just over the top and exaggerated. For the first 10 minutes, it makes you laugh, but then it just bores you senseless. There is just no substance to it. Science... For Her is a lot more vapid than Cosmo will ever be, and because of that, the satire completely fails. Satire is a great way to bring out and challenge what's wrong with society. In this case, the belief that women know nothing about STEM and are not encouraged to pursue a career in those fields. But that isn't even addressed here.
While I love the concept of Science... For Her!, the execution is just bad and painful. So disappointing.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 1/5

The Management of Luxury: Strategy in the Global Luxury Market by Benjamin Berghaus, Sven Reinecke, Günter Müller-Stewens
Are you a manager for a luxury brand? Then, this book is for you. The Management of Luxury is a collection of 26 articles written by 51 individual contributors from around the world and edited by Benjamin Berghaus, Günter Müller-Stewens, and Sven Reinecke, that will help your company evolve with the times and stay competitive.
After defining what luxury is and who its customer are, the authors provide tips, backed by case studies and market research, on all aspects of the business. You'll learn what the most promising emerging markets for luxury are and how you can successfully start trading in those countries; how to create a brand that customers love and don't feel guilty purchasing from; how to create a business strategy that allows your business to grow and be successful; how to create luxury products responsibly, without damaging the environment; how to use social media to your advantage; how to hire the best employees for your brand; how to fight fakes; and lots more.
The book is very comprehensive and extremely useful, although somewhat boring. The writing style is very academic, and thus quite dry in places. As such, it has a very limited audience: managers of luxury brands. For them, the information in this book is highly valuable, regardless of the way in which it is presented. But for anyone else, the book just isn't entertaining enough to hold their attention for long.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.


Santa Clause by Thomas Nast

Betlehemes készülődés by Böhm Pál

Christmas Comes But Once A Year by Charles Green

Merry Christmas (Yuletide Revels) by William Glackens

Christmas customs in Norway by Adolph Tidemand

Christmas Carols in Little Russia by Konstantin Trutovsky

Christmassy table of gifts for a girl, author unknown

The Christmas Party, attributed to Robert David Wilkie

Die Kinder der Familie Buderus by Ludwig Rößler

Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family by Eastman Johnson

Movies Reviews: Sissi, The Trilogy

When I was a little girl, the trilogy about Sissi, the unfortunate Austrian empress, was shown pretty much every Christmas season. I would always watch it. I remember my fascination with the beautiful Romy Schneider, and the glitz and glamour of the imperial court. Everything looked like a fairytale.

I may not have felt like that if I had been allowed to watch them all in their entirety. But come 9:00 pm, my mom, ignoring my begging to stay up just a little bit more, would send me swiftly to bed. When I became old enough to stay up till late, the movies were rarely shown.

So, I finally decided to track them down and finally view them all. Despite the appalling Italian dubbing, I enjoyed the movies a lot. Here are my thoughts on them:

Sissi (1955)

Sissi, the first movie in the trilogy, focuses on the fateful meeting of the Emperor Franz Joseph and his beautiful bride, Elizabeth of Bavaria. Elizabeth had travelled with her family to Bad Ischl, where her sister was supposed to be betrothed to Franz Ferdinand. But when the young Emperor met Sissi, he fell deeply in love with her, and declared he would marry no one else. Elizabeth, a free spirit and still immature young girl, was reluctant to become empress and take up the many responsibilities that came with that role. Yet, within the year, the couple was married.

The film is a highly romanticized account of their early relationship, with Sissi loving Franz as passionately as he loved her. Yet, you can still see the clouds looming in the background, as the young princess is torn between her love for her betrothed and her fear at being imprisoned in a gilded case at the Austrian court. Sissi, played by the lovely and talented Romy Schneider, is lively, spontaneous, and a tad mischievous. No wonder Franz, played by Karlheinz Böhm, whose life is strictly regulated by court etiquette and imperial duties, falls for her.

His mother, the Archduchess Sophie, believes Sissi unsuitable for her role, clearly stating her disapproval for the match, and, when it is evident that Franz will have his way, trying to turn her future daughter-in-law into a "proper" empress. She often comes across as cold and heartless, but that's only because she anticipates the struggles her son and his bride will have to face in the future. Doesn't matter how much they love each other, the demands of their empire will always come between them. Sissi's family, instead, is, just like her, lively and spontaneous. The parents love each other and their brood of children very much and show their love at any opportunity.

The settings are beautiful. The mountain in Bavaria and Austria are breathtaking, and so is the imperial court with all its luxury and pageantry. Just like the costumes, the settings are as accurate as possible. I think this is the movie of the trilogy that I enjoyed the most as it perfectly captures the feelings of hope and joy that characterized the beginning of what turned out to be quite a tragic union.

The Young Empress (1956)

Elizabeth, now married, is doing her best to be a good empress. She's learning foreign languages, especially Hungarian, which she, like the country, adores, and has a captivating, open, manner capable of charming all her subjects, even the most rebellious. She is a great asset to her imperial family, but she could have made even a bigger contribution if she had been better supported by her family. Instead, Franz often leaves his wife alone, and his mother decides, with his approval to take her young granddaughter away from her mother and raise her herself.

That was a cruel blow to Sissi, and the real beginning of her problems with her husband, as well as the breakdown of both her physical and mental health. Although not mentioned in the movie, Sissi would become so obsessed with her looks to starve herself and undergo rigorous exercise regimes to maintain her thin waist and looks, probably feeling like her body was the only thing in her life that she could control. Instead, what the movie shows is Sissi who, unable to endure life at court, starts spending more and more time away from it.

Costumes and settings too are once again beautiful and accurate. As in the first movie, all the actors do an excellent job. Schneider, though, shines above them all, poignantly portraying the charm and sorrows, privileges and tragedies of one of the most beautiful and famous women in the world.

Fateful Years Of An Empress

In the last movie of the trilogy, Sissi continues to capture the hearts of all she meets. But her marriage is still struggling and her health deteriorating. Although the movie doesn't show the catalyst for her illness, which was the death of her first child, Sophie. Instead, throughout the movie, Sissi and Franz only have one child, Gisela. I understand the difficulties in telling Sissi's story in just three movies. Including everything is certainly not possible. But focusing a bit more on the tragedies the couple faced would allow the viewer to better understand the empress' illness and desperation.

Sissi gets so ill that doctors start despairing for her life. In the end, her mother Ludovika comes to her rescue. After her health is restored, Elizabeth starts travelling around Europe. But she still goes back to Franz, to be at his side when duty commands. One of this duties is the tour of the Italian regions annexed, against their will, to the empire. The imperial couple receives a cold, hostile reception, but once again Sissi, with her natural and unaffected charm, is able to win their love as well.

Fateful Years Of An Empress has the same pros as the other movies in the trilogy. Wonderful actors, stunning settings, and accurate costumes. Yet, it is the one that departs the most from history, which is why it is my least favourite. Even so, it's a shame that Schneider felt so trapped in her role as Sissi that she refused to take part in more movies about the Austrian empress. They would have been wonderful too, I'm sure. Overall, though, it was a nice ending to a trilogy that captured quite well the first years of the marriage of the ill-fated lovers Sissi and Franz Joseph.

Have you ever seen the trilogy? If so, what do you think of it?