Did Catherine Of Aragon Suffer A False Pregnancy?


Everyone knows that poor Mary I had two phantom pregnancies. Little known, instead, is the controversy that surrounded her mother's first pregnancy. Maybe that's because the records are sketchy. But they do hint at the possibility that Catherine of Aragon may have suffered a false pregnancy as well.

Catherine had married Henry VIII on 11 June 1509 and got pregnant shortly afterwards. Obviously, the King and the whole country rejoiced at the news that soon a new heir to the throne would be born. But then, something went wrong. On 31 January 1510, the Queen went into premature labour and gave birth to a still-born girl. Catherine and Henry were devastated, but, at first, seemed to hang onto the possibility that Catherine had actually been pregnant with twins and was still carrying one of them.

Why? Well, after the labour, Catherine's abdomen, rather than decreasing, remained rounded and even seemed to grow bigger. Although today we know that could have been a symptom of an infection, the medical knowledge of the time was still rudimentary, leading the doctors to believe the Queen was still pregnant with a child. They didn't change their minds even when Catherine began to menstruate again. Apparently, only Luiz Caroz, the Spanish ambassador, who admittedly had just arrived in England and hadn't heard of the January miscarriage, thought this was ridiculous.

At the end of February, the King gave orders to refurbish the royal nursery in anticipation of the birth, and, the following month, Catherine entered her confinement. But the baby never came. Instead, the swelling decreased. It was now obvious that everyone had been fooled. Only then, a sad and embarrassed Catherine wrote to her father, King Ferdinand of Aragon, that she had just miscarried. It was a lie, but one said probably because she was scared of disappointing her father, like she had disappointed her husband. It seems, in fact, that Henry was angry at her over this embarrassing situation.

Further reading:
Catherine of Aragon: Henry's Spanish Queen by Giles Tremlett

Henry VIII's Love Letters To Anne Boleyn


Henry VIII hated writing letters, which is why very few of his survived. But when he fell in love with Anne Boleyn, he didn't hesitate to pen her love letters in his own hand. There were 17 in total and they are all undated, but they still provide some fascinating insights into the beginning of their tumultuous relationship. Unfortunately, Anne's replies haven't survived. If we still have Henry's letters is only because they were sent (probably after being stolen during the time of "the King's Great Matter") to the Vatican Library.

Here are my favourite letters. Let's start with what historians consider the first one he wrote. In it, Henry asked Anne to be his official mistress:

In turning over in my mind the contents of your last letters, I have put myself into great agony, not knowing how to interpret them, whether to my disadvantage, as you show in some places, or to my advantage, as I understand them in some others, beseeching you earnestly to let me know expressly your whole mind as to the love between us two.

It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail of finding a place in your heart and affection, which last point has prevented me for some time past from calling you my mistress; because, if you only love me with an ordinary love, that name is not suitable for you, because it denotes a singular love, which is far from common. But if you please to do the office of a true loyal mistress and friend, and to give up yourself body and heart to me, who will be, and have been, your most loyal servant, (if your rigour does not forbid me) I promise you that not only the name shall be given you, but also that I will take you for my only mistress, casting off all others besides you out of my thoughts and affections, and serve you only. I beseech you to give an entire answer to this my rude letter, that I may know on what and how far I may depend. And if it does not please you to answer me in writing, appoint some place where I may have it by word of mouth, and I will go thither with all my heart. No more, for fear of tiring you. Written by the hand of him who would willingly remain yours, H. R

In the 4th letters, Henry complains about her absence:

My mistress & friend, my heart and I surrender ourselves into your hands, beseeching you to hold us commended to your favour, and that by absence your affection to us may not be lessened: for it were a great pity to increase our pain, of which absence produces enough and more than I could ever have thought could be felt, reminding us of a point in astronomy which is this: the longer the days are, the more distant is the sun, and nevertheless the hotter; so is it with our love, for by absence we are kept a distance from one another, and yet it retains its fervour, at least on my side; I hope the like on yours, assuring you that on my part the pain of absence is already too great for me; and when I think of the increase of that which I am forced to suffer, it would be almost intolerable, but for the firm hope I have of your unchangeable affection for me: and to remind you of this sometimes, and seeing that I cannot be personally present with you, I now send you the nearest thing I can to that, namely, my picture set in a bracelet, with the whole of the device, which you already know, wishing myself in their place, if it should please you. This is from the hand of your loyal servant and friend,

H.R.

In the 5th, thought to be written in July 1527, Henry thanks Anne for a beautiful present she sent him:

For a present so beautiful that nothing could be more so (considering the whole of it), I thank you most cordially, not only on account of the fine diamond and the ship in which the solitary damsel is tossed about, but chiefly for the fine interpretation and the too humble submission which your goodness hath used towards me in this case; for I think it would be very difficult for me to find an occasion to deserve it, if I were not assisted by your great humanity and favour, which I have always sought to seek, and will seek to preserve by all the kindness in my power, in which my hope has placed its unchangeable intention, which says, Aut illic, aut nullibi.

The demonstrations of your affection are such, the beautiful mottoes of the letter so cordially expressed, that they oblige me for ever to honour, love, and serve you sincerely, beseeching you to continue in the same firm and constant purpose, assuring you that, on my part, I will surpass it rather than make it reciprocal, if loyalty of heart and a desire to please you can accomplish this.

I beg, also, if at any time before this I have in anyway offended you, that you would give me the same absolution that you ask, assuring you, that henceforward my heart shall be dedicated to you alone. I wish my person was so too. God can do it, if He pleases, to whom I pray every day for that end, hoping that at length my prayers will be heard. I wish the time may be short, but I shall think it long till we see one another.

Written by the hand of that secretary, who in heart, body, and will, is, Your loyal and most assured Servant,

H. aultre A.B. ne cherse R

In the 8th, dated by historians in June 1528, Henry, a notorious hypochondriac, worries about Anne's health and even wishes he could bear half her illness:

There came to me suddenly in the night the most afflicting news that could have arrived. The first, to hear of the sickness of my mistress, whom I esteem more than all the world, and whose health I desire as I do my own, so that I would gladly bear half your illness to make you well. The second, from the fear that I have of being still longer harassed by my enemy. Absence, much longer, who has hitherto given me all possible uneasiness, and as far as I can judge is determined to spite me more because I pray God to rid me of this troublesome tormentor. The third, because the physician in whom I have most confidence, is absent at the very time when he might do me the greatest pleasure; for I should hope, by him and his means, to obtain one of my chief joys on earth — that is the care of my mistress — yet for want of him I send you my second, and hope that he will soon make you well. I shall then love him more than ever. I beseech you to be guided by his advice in your illness. In so doing I hope soon to see you again, which will be to me a greater comfort than all the precious jewels in the world.

Written by that secretary, who is, and for ever will be, your loyal and most assui’ed Servant,

H. (A B) R.

What do you think of these letters? Do you have a favourite one?

Book Reviews: A Very British Murder, Remake Remodel, & This Is How You Pitch

Hello everyone,

today I'm reviewing three books that, in a way or another, have something to do with the media, a subject I've always been very interested in. The first one is from one of my favourite historians, Lucy Worsley. It's about the British's fascination with murder, in which the media played a big part. The second is a study on women's magazine, while the third book is an entertaining manual about how to succeed in the world of PR. Let's get started:

A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley
The British have always been fascinated with crime and murder. Although it has always been in their blood (and probably in that of most people, regardless of their nationality), the Ratcliffe Highway Murders of 1811 created an obsession with murder, where panic mixes with morbid attraction, that is still in full swing.
The book begins with an essay, written by Thomas De Quincey, "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" and ends with a discussion based on George Orwell's piece "The Decline of the English Murder". In the middle, Worlsey explores real and fictional murders. Famous murderers such as Constance Kent, Maria Manning and Jack the Ripper not only shocked the nation with their actions, but they also provided inspiration for fictional and theatrical works. Wolsey examines how crime literature has changed, from the gruesome "Penny Novels" and the Newgate Novels, which glamourized the lives of criminals, to the rise of the detective's story, where detectives such as Sherlock Holmes and Poirot, focused on solving the crimes rather than describing them in sensationalist and crude details. But this genre had limitations that eventually led to its decline and the rise of the thriller novel. Each genre, though, developed in a particular time period and Wolsey does a great job at describing why that happened and what their appeal was.
The book also discusses how both types of murder, real and fictional, shaped and changed people's perceptions and the way crime was dealt with. The author discusses the founding of the police, the use of private detectives, and the forensic discoveries that have made it more and more difficult for criminals to get away with murder.
A book on murder could very easily be gloom, grim and boring. But Wolsey's chatty and witty style prevents it from being so. Instead, this is a book that, while being respectful of murder and its victims, is entertaining, informative and even thought-provoking. It flows so easily and is just a pleasure to read.
However, this book is not a comprehensive study on murder. If that's what you're expecting, you will be disappointed. Instead, it provides an excellent starting point for anyone interested in this topic. It's also perfect for casual readers interested in a light, non-depressive read about British's fascination with murder.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Remake, Remodel by Brooke Erin Duffy
What is a magazine? It seems like a pretty easy, straightforward question to answer, doesn't it? And yet in this technological age where magazines are moving online, creating apps, TV shows, ecommerce website and lots more, the definition of a magazine as a published print-book guide with a distinct voice and content aimed at a particular audience doesn't fit anymore. It's become too limited. So, what's a magazine, then?
That's the question Brooke Erin Duffy tries to answer. Drawing on hundreds of studies, trade press reports and interviews with women's magazine producers, Duffy chronicles how magazines have made the shift from object to brand. The author reveals how new technologies, the rise of fashion bloggers and social media, the increasing pressures of advertisers, and reduced budgets, to name just a few trends, are reshaping the magazine and changing the roles of those who work in the industry. Employers are often asked to be jacks-of-all-trades and work longer hours, while the increased demands for exclusive content, which is highly influenced by both advertisers and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is sacrificing accuracy, blurring the lines between editorial and advertorial, and inhibiting the creativity of professional workers. Yet, if these new changes bring with them numerous problems, they can also be exciting and open up new opportunities.
The book is a real eye-opener about the women's magazine industry, but its formal language, which can at times be a bit dry, may put some readers off. But then this is not a book for casual reading. It is a study aimed mainly at those who work or are interested in the media, such as publishers, journalists, bloggers and academics. Also, as the industry is changing at a very rapid pace, some of the trends examined in the book may be outdated in a couple of years or so. Still, Remake, Remodel provides some interesting food for thought in the debate between print vs digital media, and how women's magazines are affected by it.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

This Is How You Pitch: How To Kick Ass In Your First Years of PR by Ed Zitron
As a blogger, I'm very interested in the world of PR. Working with a nice PR person is always enjoyable and rewarding, but you also often get some awful pitches that you just want to delete straight away. In this little book, Ed Zitron teaches aspiring PR people how to create a great pitch and send it to the right people so that the message your client wants to convey can smoothly reach its desired audience.
PR isn't easy. And it is not glamorous. Forget parties, freebies and exclusive events. PR takes a lot of hard work and determination. And you will face many nightmares in your careers. Sooner or later, some of your clients will make a mistake and it will be your job to help them fix it, as well as their tarnished reputations. Easier said than done. The key to success, though, is to be nice to people and care about them. PR, after all, is the business of public relations, and it is the relationships with your clients, your audience, your colleagues, and reporters that you will have to nourish to succeed.
Although very informative, the book is written in a very colloquial and entertaining way. You'll feel like you're talking with a friend or colleague about your jobs over a glass of wine. And at the end of the conversation, you'll leave with a better understanding of the PR world and lots of new ideas of how to get better at your job.
Overall, this is a great book about PR and I highly recommend it not just to those who are starting out in this field, but also to those who have worked in it for some time with only average results, and to anyone else who wants to know about this world.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Have you read these books? If so, what do you think of them? If not, will you?

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

Readers' Feedback Survey 2014: The Results


Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill in my Readers' Feedback Survey 2014. I really appreciate it. Your feedback has been mostly positive (thank you!), and I'm really glad to know that you are enjoying my little blog. Thank you also for the suggestions about what you'd like to see featured more on History And Other Thoughts.

Most of you want to see more posts about Medieval history and the Victorians, although other historical periods have their fans too. So, I try and cover those two areas more, without neglecting the others too much.

As far as reviews are concerned, you seem to be more interested in all kinds of history books (obviously! - they're my favourite too), and in particular in non-fiction titles. I won't stop reviewing books that belong to other genres entirely (in fact, I have a few reviews already planned), but I will try to keep these to a minimum.

I also thought you would be as tired as me of this old layout, but you all seem to like it. I was thinking of changing it to something more modern, but I'm not sure anymore at this point. The layout could use some sprucing up, though, as some of you have said, so I'll see what I can do.

Thank you again for all your feedback and your help! And if you have anything else to say, or any new suggestions or requests, feel free to leave a comment on the blog or email me (you can find my email in my blogger profile) at any time!

William Hogarth Paints David Garrick


David Garrick was one of the most famous actors of his time. One of the roles that helped to establish his reputation was that of Richard III. His friend William Hogarth, a skilled portraitist as well as a witty satirist, painted him in the character of the last Plantagenet king. To be precise, the painting depicts the moment, on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field, when Richard wakes up, all shaken, from a dream in which he has seen the ghosts of the people he had murdered.

Give me another horse, —bind up my wounds, —
Have mercy, Jesu!—Soft; I did but dream.—
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!—
The lights burn blue!—is it not dead midnight?
Cold, fearful drops hang on my trembling flesh.—


These are the words that Richard/Garrick utters just at this moment in the play. Hogarth skillfully captured the feelings of fear, concern, guilt and shock in his face and demeanor. Behind him stands a crucifix, next to which is placed his crown. His sword is unsheathed at his hand, while his armour lies on the floor. Richard will need them all for the battle ahead. The picture also has a moral message: all the riches and crowns in the world are worthless compared to an innocent conscience. They can not buy serenity, happiness and peace of mind. No matter how high a man may rise, if he has a guilty conscience, he will never rest.


Hogarth also painted a portrait of Garrick with his wife. However, this time the two friends, as related in Hogarth's London, quarreled:

"The portrait of Garrick writing the prologue to Foote's comedy of Taste, with Mrs. Garrick behind him taking the pen from his hand, is interesting on account of the anecdote connected with it. The actor found fault with the picture. Hogarth, in a fit of irritation, drew his brush across the face of Garrick, and the picture remained in his possession till his death. Mrs. Hogarth sent the portrait to Garrick after the painter's death. At Mrs. Garrick's sale in 1823 the picture was bought by Mr. Edward Hawke Locker of Greenwich Hospital for 75, 11s. Mr. Locker sold it to George iv., and it is now at Windsor. Mr. Austin Dobson, who gives this account, quotes from Mr. F. G. Stephens (Grosvenor Gallery Catalogue, 1888) the corroboration of Hogarth's supposed action: 'The eyes of Garrick being coarsely painted, ill-drawn, and evidently by another hand than Hogarth's, attest the truth of this story.' It is related by Murphy that Hogarth saw Garrick in Richard III. on one night, and on the following night in Abel Drugger. He was so much struck that he said to the actor, ' You are in your element when you are begrimed with dirt or up to your elbows in blood.'"


Further reading:
Hogarth's London by Henry B Wheatley
The Works of William Hogarth

Historical Reads: False Teeth In The 18th Century


In the 18th century, missing teeth began to be replaced. To quote:

For those who could afford it, the European diet grew sweeter during the 18th Century as the use of sugar became more widespread. This exposure to sugar meant more instances of tooth decay. These dietary changes were a major factor in the development of dentures. Dentists began to experiment with ivory in order to create a better foundation for dentures. Due to advances in technology, dentists could also add gold springs and plates to the new dentures. False teeth were a novelty that was mostly unheard of in earlier centuries. Previously, problematic teeth were pulled but almost never replaced. Ivory dentures were popular in the 1700s, made from natural materials including walrus, elephant, or hippopotamus. For the wealthy, human teeth were high in demand as the preferred material for the creation of dentures. However, the teeth used in 18th Century dentures eventually rotted. There was a high demand for teeth that were deemed healthy, such as from criminals.

To read the entire article, click here.

Movie Review: Sense And Sensibility (1995)


Sense And Sensibility is, after Pride and Prejudice, my favourite Jane Austen book. That's why it took me so long to watch this movie. That may seem a contradiction to some of you, but film adaptations often ruin the books, twisting or taking out important events and characters, and sometimes even replacing them with new ones that don't add anything to the story. Thankfully, this doesn't happen here.


The movie is mostly accurate, diverging from the book only on minor points. For instance,  Edward almost tells Elinor about his secret engagement with Lucy Steele, but is interrupted by his sister. Some minor characters, like Lady Middleton, have been cut out, but their presence isn't really missed. The liberties taken with the story are so small that they hardly change it at all. Instead, they enhance it. The pace too is just right. It isn't too slow, but it isn't rushed either.


Emma Thompson, who plays Elinor (and who wrote the script, for which she won an Oscar), may have been too old for the part. In the book, Elinor is younger, and yet I can hardly imagine anyone doing a better job at portraying the sensible and reserved older sister. Kate Winslet was amazing too in the role of Marianne. The exuberant Marianne has a very romantic spirit, which Winslet vividly brought to life. Apparently, the actresses lived together for a while so that they could better portray the sisterly affection between their characters, and it really shows. You could easily be forgiven for thinking they were sisters in real life too.


Alan Rickman played Colonel Brandon. I thought that it'd be weird to see him play the unlikely hero cos, to me, he'll always be Professor Snape. But he made me forget all about the dark magic teacher pretty soon. Rickman is a very talented actor and you can't fault his performance.Huge Grant also did a great job at portraying the very shy and socially awkward Edward Ferrars. His character is also more developed than it is in the book, allowing you to get to know him better. And when you do, you can't help but fall for him too.


Minor characters, such as Mrs Jennings and the Palmers, are very funny and bring a much needed comic element to the movie. All the characters in the movie were very well-cast, and they all wore costumes that, if not that pretty (let's face it, the Regency style of clothing really wasn't very elegant and didn't do most women any favours), were quite accurate. And so were the breathtaking setting and gorgeous music.


This is one of the best adaptations of one of Jane Austen's works and one the whole family can enjoy. Although the language can be a bit difficult at first, you soon get used to their way of talking. More importantly, the language, nor anything else in the movie, is ever inappropriate. No bad language. No sex. The lovers don't even kiss. And yet you can distinctly feel how much they love each other. Charming and entertaining, the movie is a must-see. I just regret not having watched it sooner!

Louis XV And His Daughters


Madame Campan remembers:

Louis XV saw very little of his family. He came every morning by a private staircase into the apartment of Madame Adelaide. He often brought and drank there coffee that he had made himself. Madame Adelaide pulled a bell which apprised Madame Victoire of the King's visit; Madame Victoire, on rising to go to her sister's apartment, rang for Madame Sophie, who in her turn rang for Madame Louise. The apartments of Mesdames were of very large dimensions. Madame Louise occupied the farthest room. This latter lady was deformed and very short; the poor Princess used to run with all her might to join the daily meeting, but, having a number of rooms to cross, she frequently in spite of her haste, had only just time to embrace her father before he set out for the chase.

Every evening, at six, Mesdames interrupted my reading to them to accompany the princes to Louis XV.; this visit was called the King's 'debotter',—[Debotter, meaning the time of unbooting.]—and was marked by a kind of etiquette. Mesdames put on an enormous hoop, which set out a petticoat ornamented with gold or embroidery; they fastened a long train round their waists, and concealed the undress of the rest of their clothing by a long cloak of black taffety which enveloped them up to the chin. The chevaliers d'honneur, the ladies in waiting, the pages, the equerries, and the ushers bearing large flambeaux, accompanied them to the King. In a moment the whole palace, generally so still, was in motion; the King kissed each Princess on the forehead, and the visit was so short that the reading which it interrupted was frequently resumed at the end of a quarter of an hour; Mesdames returned to their apartments, and untied the strings of their petticoats and trains; they resumed their tapestry, and I my book.

During the summer season the King sometimes came to the residence of Mesdames before the hour of his 'debotter'. One day he found me alone in Madame Victoire's closet, and asked me where 'Coche'[Piggy] was; I started, and he repeated his question, but without being at all the more understood. When the King was gone I asked Madame of whom he spoke. She told me that it was herself, and very coolly explained to me, that, being the fattest of his daughters, the King had given her the familiar name of 'Coche'; that he called Madame Adelaide, 'Logue' [Tatters], Madame Sophie, 'Graille'[Mite], and Madame Louise, 'Chiffie'[Rubbish]. The people of the King's household observed that he knew a great number of such words; possibly he had amused himself with picking them out from dictionaries. If this style of speaking betrayed the habits and tastes of the King, his manner savoured nothing of such vulgarity; his walk was easy and noble, he had a dignified carriage of the head, and his aspect, with out being severe, was imposing; he combined great politeness with a truly regal demeanour, and gracefully saluted the humblest woman whom curiosity led into his path.


Further reading:
Memoirs Of The Court Of Marie Antoinette by Madame Campan

Book Reviews: Elizabeth Of York, Caesar's Emissary, & Beethoven

Hello everyone,

today I bring you three more book reviews. Two are reviews of biographies, while the third of an hilarious historical novella. Here they are:

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World by Alison Weir
I usually devour Alison Weir's non-fiction works. They are entertaining, informative and never boring. Until now. Well, I guess there must be a first time for everything. Although, in this case, the author is not entirely to blame. Writing a biography of the first Tudor Queen is no easy task for anyone. Elizabeth of York united, with her marriage to Henry Tudor, the houses of York and Lancaster, finally ending the wars of the roses and bringing peace to England. She also gave birth to Henry VIII, who became famous for his tyranny and his six wives. But not much more than that is known about Elizabeth.
Alison Weir has definitely done her homework. The book is very well-researched and extensively noted, but the truth is there is not enough information on Elizabeth of York to fill a 600+ pages book. Therefore, Weir had to include every little mundane detail even remotely connected to Elizabeth and the people she knew. We are told what she bought and how much it cost. Her clothes and the palaces she inhabited are described in minute detail. A huge chunk of the book is also taken up by her husband, Henry VII. In fact, so much space is dedicated to him that you sometimes wonder whether this is a biography of Henry instead than of his wife. At the end of it, there are two appendixes. The first discusses all the images of Elizabeth that survive to our day, while the other is a list of all the women who served the Queen, with very scarce biographical information on each of them. All these details, rather than giving you a better understanding of Elizabeth, only bog down the book. And once you've reached the last page, you'll be disappointed to discover that the real Elizabeth, the woman behind the crown, still remains elusive.We get glimpses of the scared and ambitious teenager who struggled for survival during the war, of the devoted wife and mother, and of her friendly relationship with her mother-in-law, the formidable Margaret Beaufort. But that's all they are. Glimpses.
I know my review has been quite negative so far, but the book isn't bad. It's just too long. But it is also very well-written and very informative. Weir did the best she could with the information she had, which wasn't much. I wouldn't recommend this biography to people who want a light historical read, but it's a great resource for historians, writers of historical fictions or anyone else who wants to know more about the world she lived in or discover little-known facts that are never included in other books about this historical period.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Caesar's Emissary by Alex Johnston
If you've enjoyed Caesar's Ambassor, you're gonna love its sequel, Caesar's Emissary. After almost getting killed when acting as Caesars' ambassador in Gaul, Marcus Mettius now accepts his request to go to Alexandria to check out the stability of Rome's grain supply. Accompanying him on his journey are Apollonios, who has bought his freedom, and Nephthys, a gorgeous slave girl. Nephthys was about to be sold, so, before they leave, Marcus had to use his wits to save her from her new, depraved, owner.
And so, they eventually arrive in Alexandria. The biggest city of its time, Alexandria had an exciting nightlife and a riot-prone population. It was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty whose members, when not marrying among themselves, kept killing one another off to gain the throne. One of the funniest scenes in the novella describes an ancient Rodney Dangerfield-like comedian making fun of the Ptolemies. It will crack you up laughing. Dealing with the Ptolomies, though, can also be dangerous, like Marcus will find out for himself.
Marcus is as fun as ever. Clever and witty, like the good salesman that he is, he knows how to work a crowd and solve any problem life throws at him. Like I've said in my review of Caesar's Ambassador, it's not easy to create well-developed and likeable characters when writing a short story, but Johnston has achieved just that. If anything, he's got better at it.
The story is told using modern slang, but when talking, the characters often use words and expressions the people of their times would have used. The result is an interesting mix of anachronistic and ancient languages that works really well. Very entertaining is also the humorous tone that pervades the entire story.
I also appreciate that, at the end of the book, Johnston tells us from what historical facts the story is inspired from and what events he has instead made up. That way, if you're not familiar with ancient history, you'll learn something new. And in a very entertaining way too. I highly recommend Caesar's Emissary to anyone who enjoys a good and funny story.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Beethoven: The Man Revealed by John Suchet
Are you a fan of Beethoven? Do you want to learn more about the man without reading a boring biography bogged down by musical theory and scores you can't understand? Then, I highly recommend you pick up this book. It's written by John Suchet, an authority on Beethoven. He's written six books about the famous composer, so he definitely knows what he's talking about.
In Beethoven: The Man Revealed, Suchet paints a vivid portray of Beethoven's life. Key to understanding it his deafness, which started to afflict him in his mid '20s. One of the greatest musical geniuses of all time, Beethoven, despite his illness which he never allowed to get in the way of his work, gave us some of the most beautiful and dramatic music ever written. Yet, he was notoriously slovenly, liked in squalor and, especially in later life, was often mistaken for a tramp or madman by people who didn't know him.
Beethoven, though, never was the easiest person to get along with. He was socially awkward (something his deafness enhanced) and had a rigid moral code that often led him to argue with his family and his closest friends. He also fell in love very easily, but he never married. Instead, after his brother's death, he started, and won, a bitter and cruel battle for the custody of his nephew Karl, with disastrous consequences for everyone involved.
Of course, Suchet also discusses Beethoven's work, but he's more interested in what inspired them and the anecdotes connected with them, than with musical theories and terms. This makes the book accessible to anyone. It will also make it easier for the reader to connect to Beethoven's music. And for an even better experience, make sure you play the pieces while they are being described in the book. You'll appreciate them even more.
The book is also very well-researched. Suchet draws his information from a wide variety of sources, including the conversation books Beethoven used to communicate with others. But he also makes up some scenes (always clearly stating it when he does so). For example, while he's talking about a particular event or a discussion the composer had, Suchet imagines how it all went and what words they spoke. Rather than cheapening the book, though, this device enhances it, making the reader feel like he/she was really there.
Overall, this is a charming, informative and entertaining book that every Beethoven fans, regardless of how extensive their musical knowledge is, will greatly enjoy.
Available: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Have you read these books? If not, are you planning to pick up one (or two, or three)?

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

King Louis XVII By Victor Hugo


The French poet Victor Hugo wrote a moving poem about King Louis XVII, the young son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who died in the Temple prison.

The golden gates were opened wide that day,
All through the unveiled heaven there seemed to play
Out of the Holiest of Holy, light;
And the elect beheld, crowd immortal,
A young soul, led up by young angels bright,
Stand in the starry portal.

A fair child fleeing from the world's fierce hate,
In his blue eye the shade of sorrow sate,
His golden hair hung all dishevelled down,
On wasted cheeks that told a mournful story,
And angels twined him with the innocent's crown,
The martyr's palm of glory.

The virgin souls that to the Lamb are near,
Called through the clouds with voices heavenly clear,
God hath prepared a glory for thy brow,
Rest in his arms, and all ye hosts that sing
His praises ever on untired string,
Chant, for a mortal comes among ye now;
Do homage—"'Tis a king."

And the pale shadow saith to God in heaven:
"I am an orphan and no king at all;
I was a weary prisoner yestereven,
My father's murderers fed my soul with gall.
Not me, O Lord, the regal name beseems.
Last night I fell asleep in dungeon drear,
But then I saw my mother in my dreams,
Say, shall I find her here?"

The angels said: "Thy Saviour bids thee come,
Out of an impure world He calls thee home,
From the mad earth, where horrid murder waves
Over the broken cross her impure wings,
And regicides go down among the graves,
Scenting the blood of kings."

He cries: "Then have I finished my long life?
Are all its evils over, all its strife,
And will no cruel jailer evermore
Wake me to pain, this blissful vision o'er?
Is it no dream that nothing else remains
Of all my torments but this answered cry,
And have I had, O God, amid my chains,
The happiness to die?

"For none can tell what cause I had to pine,
What pangs, what miseries, each day were mine;
And when I wept there was no mother near
To soothe my cries, and smile away my tear.
Poor victim of a punishment unending,
Torn like a sapling from its mother earth,
So young, I could not tell what crime impending
Had stained me from my birth.

"Yet far off in dim memory it seems,
With all its horror mingled happy dreams,
Strange cries of glory rocked my sleeping head,
And a glad people watched beside my bed.
One day into mysterious darkness thrown,
I saw the promise of my future close;
I was a little child, left all alone,
Alas! and I had foes.

"They cast me living in a dreary tomb,
Never mine eyes saw sunlight pierce the gloom,
Only ye, brother angels, used to sweep
Down from your heaven, and visit me in sleep.
'Neath blood-red hands my young life withered there.
Dear Lord, the bad are miserable all,
Be not Thou deaf, like them, unto my prayer,
It is for them I call."

The angels sang: "See heaven's high arch unfold,
Come, we will crown thee with the stars above,
Will give thee cherub-wings of blue and gold,
And thou shalt learn our ministry of love,
Shalt rock the cradle where some mother's tears
Are dropping o'er her restless little one,
Or, with thy luminous breath, in distant spheres,
Shalt kindle some cold sun."

Ceased the full choir, all heaven was hushed to hear,
Bowed the fair face, still wet with many a tear,
In depths of space, the rolling worlds were stayed,
Whilst the Eternal in the infinite said:

"O king, I kept thee far from human state,
Who hadst a dungeon only for thy throne,
O son, rejoice, and bless thy bitter fate,
The slavery of kings thou hast not known,
What if thy wasted arms are bleeding yet,
And wounded with the fetter's cruel trace,
No earthly diadem has ever set
A stain upon thy face.

"Child, life and hope were with thee at thy birth,
But life soon bowed thy tender form to earth,
And hope forsook thee in thy hour of need.
Come, for thy Saviour had His pains divine;
Come, for His brow was crowned with thorns like thine,
His sceptre was a reed."


Further reading:
Poems by Victor Hugo

Leopold I, King Of The Belgians, On His Second Wife


On 9th August, Leopold I, King of the Belgians and Queen Victoria's maternal uncle, married Louise Marie, Princess of Orleans, daughter of King Louis Philippe of France. A few weeks later, Leopold wrote about Louise to his niece:

Laeken,10 31st August 1832

My dearest Love,—You told me you wished to have a description of your new Aunt. I therefore shall both mentally and physically describe her to you.

She is extremely gentle and amiable, her actions are always guided by principles. She is at all times ready and disposed to sacrifice her comfort and inclinations to see others happy. She values goodness, merit, and virtue much more than beauty, riches, and amusements. With all this she is highly informed and very clever; she speaks and writes English, German and Italian; she speaks English very well indeed. In short, my dear Love, you see that I may well recommend her as an example for all young ladies, being Princesses or not.

Now to her appearance. She is about Feodore's* height, her hair very fair, light blue eyes, of a very gentle, intelligent and kind expression. A Bourbon nose and small mouth. The figure is much like Feodore's but rather less stout. She rides very well, which she proved to my great alarm the other day, by keeping her seat though a horse of mine ran away with her full speed for at least half a mile. What she does particularly well is dancing. Music unfortunately she is not very fond of, though she plays on the harp; I believe there is some idleness in the case. There exists already great confidence and affection between us; she is desirous of doing everything that can contribute to my happiness, and I study whatever can make her happy and contented.

You will see by these descriptions that though my good little wife is not the tallest Queen, she is a very great prize which I highly value and cherish....

Now it is time I should finish my letter. Say everything that is kind to good Lehzen, and believe me ever, my dearest Love, your faithful Friend and Uncle,

Leopold R

Note:
*Victoriaìs half-sister

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

Historical Reads: Lady Letitia Lade


Heather Carroll remembers the infamous Lady Letitia Lade. To quote:

We can infer that she came from humble origins which led her to employment in seedy London as a servant in a brothel. It is here that the young Letitia met the first of her movie-worthy lovers, John Rann. Rann was a dashing highwayman, and we know how irresistible those can be! But bad boys are never good for the long haul.

Sixteen String Jack was captured and sentenced to death in 1774. Not one to go down without a show, he came out in a custom green suit, joked around with the executioner and crowd, then danced a jig before he was dropped through the floor. Letitia recovered from her loss and moved on from her romantic bad boy to a rich aristocrat, the Duke of York.

Climbing the social ladder proved to work out well for Letitia. Her connections with the Duke helped her form even more. Soon she was modeling for Reynolds under the name of "Mrs. Smith," the portrait of which was exhibited at the 1785 Royal Academy exhibition.


To read the entire article, click here.

Corisande Armandine Sophie Leonie de Gramont


The charming Corisande Armandine Sophie Leonie de Gramont was the daughter of Aglaé de Polignac and granddaughter of Gabrielle, Marie Antoinette's best friend. Born in 1783, for the first few years of her life she enjoyed a carefree and privileged existence in France.

Then, the Revolution broke out. Corisande escaped with her family to England, where she found refuge in the household of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was a good friend of Gabrielle. Corisande was brought up alongside Lady Caroline Ponsonby (later Lamb), and the two soon became good friends.


It seems that during this time Georgiana's only son Hart fell in love with the pretty Corisande. But he had a rival: Augustus Foster, the son of her mother frenemy Elizabeth Foster. However, because she was at least seven years older than Hart, no marriage between them was seriously considered them. Foster too would have his heart broken.

Instead Corisande, despite her poor financial situation but thanks to her family's good connections, still managed to find a good eligible husband and, in 1806, married Charles Augustus Bennet, 5th Earl of Tankerville. The couple had two children: Lord Charles Bennet, the future 6th Earl of Tankerville and Lady Corisande Emma Bennet, who would marry the Earl of Malmesbury. Corisande died in 1865.

Readers' Feedback Survey 2014


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Book Reviews: The Venetians, The Millionaire Map, & Profiting Without Producing

Hello everyone,

today I'm gonna review three books that have all, in a way, something to do with money and economy. The first is on the history of Venice, one of the first great economic empires in the world; the second is a sort of autobiographical manual that gives some valuable advice on how to manage your money; while the third is a study on financialization. So, let's get started:

The Venetians: A New History: From Marco Polo to Casanova by Paul Strathern
Sometimes, titles can be deceiving. It's the case with this book. I thought it would be filled with short biographies of famous Venetians and, in a way, it is. But it is so much more than that. It is a history of Venice and its empire, from its ascendancy in the 13th century to its demise in 1797, told through the actions of the famous people who made its history. And not all of them are Venetians.
Some, like Galileo Galilei and Francesco Petrarca were born abroad but, during their lifetime, spent long periods in Venice, where they managed to leave an impressive, and sometimes infamous, mark. Some were artists, like Vivaldi and Titian, who often had to go and look for work abroad. Some were generals, such as Lamba Doria and Niccolò Pisani, who led important naval battles with either successful or disastrous outcomes. Some, like Marco Polo, were merchants and explorers who helped, with their initiatives and enterprises, to make the city flourish into a powerful empire, while others, like Casanova, who witnessed its decline, are better remembered for their amorous conquests.
Other figures are still very little known. It's the case of Caterina Cornaro, the tragic Venetian Queen of Cyprus, and Francesco Lupazzoli, who lived 115 years during which he married five times and fathered more than 100 children (many of which were illegitimate, though). Sections of the books are also dedicated to particular categories of people, like women and Jews, which, although relegated in the ghetto, played a very important part in the success of the empire. In the background, Venice shines.
The book is very well-written and flows easily. It's informative yet entertaining, and very readable. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of Venice and its people.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Millionaire Map: Your Ultimate Guide to Creating, Enjoying, and Sharing Wealth by Jim Stovall
This is another book with a somewhat misleading title. Rather than a book of instructions, it is more of a biography with some few added tips on how to manage your money. In the '80s Jim Stovall and his wife had 6-figures’ worth of debt. Not being able to pay for a loaf of bread at the supermarket gave him the push he needed to turn his life around and now he's worth over $10mil. He definitely knows what he's talking about. And that's one of his tips. If you want to know how to manage your money, make more or simply get out of debt, you need to ask someone who's been there and done that. It seems such obvious advice, and yet most people don't follow it.
The Millionaire Map doesn't provide you with a map of instructions to follow. That's because every person has their own map and their own journey. What the book does is give you the right mindset to accomplish your goals. Stovall debunks some myths about millionaires, who aren't all evil ogres nor showoffs who waste everything they have on expensive stuff they don't need, but mostly generous folks who focus on creating products that solve problems and produce value. Millionaires make a difference in people's lives. That's the key to success. Also, being a millionaire to Stovall doesn't mean to have a lot of money in the bank, but to have the freedom to do what you want to do with your life without money being a limiting factor.
The book also offers some advice on how to develop the right habits to succeed in your endeavors and how to manage your money so that you'll never find yourself in debt again. None of it is revolutionary or groundbreaking, yet, put it all together in one book, it makes for an inspirational and encouraging read. If you're happy with your life, this book will be useless to you. But if you're longing for a different life that you feel it is out of your reach, I highly encourage you to read it. It will make you realise that your dreams aren't impossible and give you the tools to make the first steps in the right direction.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All by Costas Lapavitsas
Ah, finance. We all know it is to blame for the economic crisis that has hit us all in 2007, but very few know how exactly. I picked up this book in the hope of getting a better understanding just on that. Unfortunately, the first half of the book turned out to be quite complicated for someone who has only a basic knowledge of economic and financial matters, making this book more suitable for experts than the general public at large. Still, with a bit of patience, you can make sense of it.
Stovall discusses the definition of finance and its rise, explains what derivatives are and examines different economic theories as well as the different ways banks and other financialized institutions make money and exploit people. The second half of the book, which is much easier to understand for everyone, though, is about the causes of the current economic crisis and the way in which different countries have reacted to it. Particular attention is dedicated to Europe and the limits of both the European Union and the euro to explain just why the old continent seems unable to recover from the crisis, while other countries, like the US, are slowly getting back on their feet.
While I found the book an interesting read that provides some food for thought, it is important to note that the author provides a Marxist interpretation of the current economic crisis. Because of this, he has a too simplistic and populistic view of financialization and capitalism. I would have liked a more unbiased analysis of the phenomenon because, while it is undeniable that there are lots of problems with financialization that need to be addressed, finance is not all bad and understanding how it works can give us a better understanding of capitalism.
If you're interested in a more in-depth review of this book, check out Tony Norfield's at Economics of Imperialism.
Available at: book depository
Rating: 3/5

Have you read these books or would like to?

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

The Divorce Of Napoleon And Josephine


This month, in 1810, Napoleon divorced his first wife, and the love of his life, Josephine. Napoleon had met the recently widowed Josephine in September 1795 and had been instantly smitten with her. The following March they had tied the knot, but their marriage had been stormy from the start. Soon, it had become clear that Josephine didn't love her husband as much as he loved her, and they both started affairs with other people. Jopsehine was also hated by her husband's family and the many long months at a time Napoleon spent away fighting certainly didn't help either.

And yet, Napoleon and Josephine still loved and respected each other and had so been able to stay together and overcome all their difficulties. But there was one problem that couldn't be solved. Josephine had been unable to give Napoleon, now Emperor of the French and desperate for an heir to succeed him on the throne, a son. Now, at 46, it was painfully obvious that she never would. Therefore, Napoleon decided that Josephine had to go.


It mustn't have been an easy decision for him, and yet, as he appeared to be grieving for the inevitable end of his marriage, he was already looking around for a new, royal, and fertile young bride. His choice would fall on the Austrian archduchess Marie-Louise, a niece of Marie Antoinette. But that's still in the future. First, Napoleon had to obtain a divorce.

On 15 December 1809, the couple announced their decision to end their marriage. Napoleon gave a speech in which he explained how much this had cost him and that he still cared for Josephine:

"God knows what such a decision has cost to my heart! But there is no sacrifice that is beyond my courage if it is shown to be for the good of France. I must add that, far from having any reason for reproach, I have nothing but praise for the attachment and the affection of my beloved wife: she has graced fifteen years of my life; the memory of them will remain engraved in my heart. She was crowned by my hand; I desire that she retain the rank and title of crowned empress, but more than this, that she never doubt my feelings and that she value me as her best and dearest friend."

Next, it was Josephine's turn. Her speech was very moving, but her tears prevented her from finishing it:

"With our most august and dear husband's permission, I must declare that no longer holding out any hope for a child that could satisfy both his political needs and the good of France, I give to him the greatest proof of attachment and devotion that has ever been given on this earth. Everything I have comes from his greatness; it is his hand that crowned me, and up on this throne, I have received evidence of nothing but affection and love from the French people.

I acknowledge these feelings in agreeing to the dissolution of this marriage, which from this moment on is an obstruction to the well-being of France, depriving it from the joy of one day being governed by the descendants of a great man clearly chosen by Providence to eradicate the evils of a terrible revolution and re-establish the altar, the throne and social order. Nevertheless, the dissolution of my marriage will change nothing of the feelings in my heart: the Emperor will have in me always his greatest friend. I know how much this act, called for by politics and greater interests, has pained his heart; but glorious is the sacrifice that he and I make for the good of our nation."

The following January, the distraught Josephine and the distressed Napoleon signed the official documents, in front of the court. It was a heavy blow for Josephine. That night, she went to her now ex-husband's room where they both cried and mourned the end of their marriage, which had lasted over 13 years. The next day, Josephine left for her residence, the chateau of Mailmaison. Before her departure, Napoleon, bringing with him his secretary Meneval, went to say goodbye to his ex-wife.

Once again, Josephine was overcome by her distress and, crying, threw herself in his arms, where she fainted. Napoleon, distraught and embarrassed, kissed her goodbye before handing her carefully to her secretary and quickly leaving the room. The emperor, however, was unable to separate himself from Josephine completely, and the couple remained friends for the rest of their lives. It is said that when he died, his last word was "Josephine". Hers was "Napoleon".

Further reading:
Napoleon.org

Parasitic Relatives


"I want to know how many they are and how much money they siphoned out of me!," said Mussolini to De Cesare, his secretary. He was talking about his relatives. Tired of their continuous requests for money, offices, and privileges, Mussolini ordered, towards the end of 1942, an inquest on all those relatives who had knocked on his door asking for favours. It took months to his officials to come up with all this information and compile it into separate files, one for each relative.

Due to the war, though, Mussolini never saw these documents, which remained forgotten in the archives for years. There are 334 files in total: 229 refer to Mussolini's relatives, most of whom were unemployed, illiterate or poor farmers, while 105 are dedicated to his wife Rachele's family members. Among them, there were three noblemen. Even three priests appear in the files. Only the closest family members, such as Mussolini's sisters and her immediate family, were left out of the investigation.

So, who were these parasitic relatives, what did they want and what did they get? Here are a few examples:

Giovanna Campanini
Giovanna was married to Guglielmo Caprincoli, who was the brother of Pietra, who had married Alcide, the brother of Alessandro, Mussolini's father. She asked for an allowance, but neither Mussolini nor his wife Rachele, who considered Giovanna an opportunist, wanted to help her. In the end, though, she was given 150 lire in 1934, 200 lire in 1937, 250 lire in 1940 and 200 lire the following year "to help repay a debt of 700 lire contracted by her husband who is a tenant farmer and has 6 children to support."

Corrado Artusi
As we've seen above, Corrado was married to Rachele's sister and was, thus, Mussolini's brother-in-law. A closer relative, but not one towards whom Mussolini was better disposed. Corrado, a lover of wine, often visited Mussolini's offices with a card inscribed with the words "Cav. Corrado Artusi - the dux's brother-in-law". Once there, he asked for one favour or another for him or his friends and relatives. At first, Mussolini simply asked his officials to admonish him. But it didn't work. Corrado became involved in some fishy endeavors and was thus sent to a psychiatric hospital in Imola.

Augusta Guidi
Corrado's wife Augusta wasn't any better than him. Like her husband, she often asked for favours and recommendations. When her requests were reported to Mussolini he succinctly commented "Sister-in-law, Yes - Recommendations, No". In 1941, she incurred in some problems with the law for having sold some spoiled hams. The Prefect of Forlì asked Mussolini what he should do about it. The Dux told him to act "according to the law and without worries."

Livia Gervasi
A niece of Rachele, she wrote to her aunt asking for "a little something, considering that she is poor, her brother is unemployed, and that she's about to get married." Mussolini agrees to send her 1000 lire.

Francesco Gervasi
Another brother-in-law of Mussolini, Francesco had married one of Rachele's sisters. He wanted to become the tenant of a farm called "Filichetto" in Villa Carpena, but Mussolini replies that's not possible. When a few years later, someone suggests to give him another farm because "Rachele would be pleased with it," Mussolini replies that that's a lie. He will only obtain some money for his stay in a clinic.

Domenica Gervasi
Domenica was luckier than her father Francesco. Her aunt Rachele helped her to continue her studies to become a teacher at the "Buon Pastore" school in Forlì. After her graduation, she asked her uncle for a bike. He obliged. He would also help her to study at university and even agreed, in 1942, to grant 12 more days of leave to her boyfriend.

Venusta Mussolini
A cousin of Mussolini, she's the daughter of Alcide, one of the brothers of Alessandro, Mussolini's father. She asks for 20.000 lire to pay some debts, but Mussolini only wants to give her 5.000. Eventually, to avoid his name to appear in the papers, he relents and agrees to pay her debts. He also ordered his officials to prevent her from doing business again.

Cleonice Mussolini
Venusta's sister, Cleonice regularly asked Mussolini for money, which she often got (although not as much as she would have liked). However, he refused to give jobs to the people she recommended to him. In 1941, she asked for even more money because "due to name I bear, I am obliged to do some charity work simply to please the people...". For that, she received 1000 lire, but Mussolini made it clear that the money was a private gift from his wife.

Tullio Mussolini
Venusta and Cleonice's brother Tullio wasn't different from the rest of the family. A sergeant in the aviation, he asked, and obtained, money (800 lire) to enroll at an university. After that, he left for Rome without permission, for which he was punished. That year, he also asked for 5000 lire for private goods and medical bills. Mussolini refused, so Tullio replied that was going to the clinic anyway and, when well again, he would simply refuse to pay the bill. To avoid a scandal, his cousin gave him 2500 lire. In all, Mussolini gave him 15.000 lire before, tired of his requests, he threatened him: "If you don't stop, I'll have you arrested." Of course, he didn't stop. Mussolini didn't arrest him, but he only gave him as little help as possible.

Antonio Agnoletti
Antonio was the illegitimate child of Ernesta Agnoletti, the sister of Augusta Agnoletti, who had married the count Pio Teodorani Fabbri. Pio's adopted son had married into the Mussolini's family so Antonio called the Dux "dear uncle" and kept asking him for money. In his letters, he complained that the Teodorani's family didn't help him, but their arrogant tone made a bad impression on Mussolini. He kept asking money, and was given some, for years, until 1941, when he was called to arms. He wrote to his "uncle" claiming he was ready to die for Italy and Mussolini, instantly, told his officials "send him to fight. Immediately!". He'll end up fighting in Libya.

Some things never change, do they?

Historical Reads: Manly Slang From The 19th Century


The Art Of Manliness remembers some colourful words and phrases used by men in the 19th century. To quote:

Bully Trap. A brave man with a mild or effeminate appearance, by whom the bullies are frequently taken in.

Flying Mess. “To be in Flying Mess ” is a soldier’s phrase for being hungry and having to mess where he can.

Gentleman of Four Outs. When a vulgar, blustering fellow asserts that he is a gentleman, the retort generally is, ” Yes, a Gentleman Of Four Outs”—that is, without wit, without money, without credit, and without manners.

Keep a Pig. An Oxford University phrase, which means to have a lodger. A man whose rooms contain two bedchambers has sometimes, when his college is full, to allow the use of one of them to a Freshman, who is called under these circumstances a PIG. The original occupier is then said to Keep A Pig.

Pocket. To put up with. A man who does not resent an affront is said to Pocket it.

Sit-upons. Trousers.

To read the entire article, click here.

Muffs: A Winter Must-Have Accessory


These days, we don gloves. But, in the past, when the temperatures fell and the cold winds started blowing, fashionable ladies (and men) would wear muffs to keep their dainty little fingers warm. Muffs were made of fox, ermine or mink fur, or of shirred silk that was then lined with flannel or satin and padded liberally, or even of feathers, usually of swans. They could also be dyed in different colours or decorated with embroidery.

When they first became popular, in the early 18th century, muffs were small and cozy, but overtime, their size increased, until it almost reached the knees! What started as a practical fashion accessory became a very cumbersome thing to carry around with you! With your muffs, you could go anywhere. You could use them to go for a walk, to the opera, or even just to warm your hands in your cold sitting room.

Here are a few examples:













Happy Epiphany!

Marie Antoinette At The Conciergerie


The Queen descended from her carriage. She was weak, but erect. The close heat of the night and her sleeplessness and her fatigue had caused great beads of sweat to stand upon her forehead. Up river along the quays there had already showed, as she crossed the bridge on to the Island of the Cité, a faint glimmer of dawn, but here in the courtyard all was still thick night. The gates of the Conciergerie opened rapidly and shut behind her.

Her gaolers led the way down a long, low, and dark corridor, stiflingly close and warm, lit here and there with smoky candles. She heard the murmur of voices, and saw at the end of the passage a group of the police and of magistrates at the door of the little room that was to be her cell. She entered through the throng, saw the official papers signed at the miserable little table, and heard the formal delivery of her person to the authorities of the prison; then they left her, and in their place came in a kindly woman, the wife of the porter, and with her a young girl, whose name she heard was Rosalie. The Queen sat down on the straw-bottomed chair and glanced round by the light of the candle beside her.


It was a little low room, quite bare: damp walls, the paper of which, stamped with the royal fleur de lys, hung mildewed, rose from a yet damper floor of brick set herringbone-wise; a small camp-bed covered with the finest linen alone relieved it, and a screen some four feet high, between her and the door, afforded some little shelter. Above her a small barred window gave upon the paving of the prison yard, for the dell was half underground. Here Custine — who had lost the North and was to be executed for the fall of Valenciennes — had been confined till his removal but a few hours before to make way for the Queen. Here is now the canteen of the prison.

It was very late. The new day was quite broad and full, showing the extreme paleness of her face and her weary eyes. She stood upon a little stuff-covered hassock, hung her watch upon a nail, and began to undress, to sleep if she might sleep for a few hours. A servant of the turnkey's, a girl called Rosalie, timidly offered her help; the Queen put her gently aside, saying: "Since I have no maid I have learnt to do all myself." They blew their candles out and left her to repose.

On the fourth day, the 6th of August, they came again and took from her further things which a prisoner might not enjoy; among them that little watch of hers in gold. She gave it to them. It was the little watch which she had worn when she had come in as a child to Compiegne on her way to the great marriage and to the throne. It was the last of her ornaments.A routine began and lasted unbroken almost till August ended. [..]


All day long a corporal of police and his man sat on guard in a comer of the room. All night her door, in spite of its two great bolts, was guarded. For the rest her wants were served. She asked for a special water from the neighbourhood of what had been Versailles, and she obtained it. They hired books for her. They permitted her good food and the daily expense upon it of a very wealthy woman.

The porter's wife and the maid were very tender to her. They put flowers on her small oak table and they marketed at her desire. Her other service wounded her; first an old woman who was useless, the turnkey's mother; next a young virago, Havel by name,
whose rudeness disturbed her. They would let her have no steel — not even the needles with which she was knitting for her little son, nor a knife to cut her food; but more than all there sank into her the intolerable monotony, the fixed doubt, the utter isolation which made the place a tomb.

The smallest incident moved her. She would watch her gaolers at their picquet and note the game, she would listen to distant music, she would greet with a dreadful reminiscence of her own the porter's little son, and cry over him a little and speak of the Dauphin — but this last scene was so vivid that at last they dared no longer bring the child. She kept for consolation all this while, hidden in her bosom, a little yellow glove of her boy's, and in it a miniature of him and a lock of his hair.

Further reading:
Marie Antoinette by Hilaire Belloc