Historical Reads: The Jigsaw Or Dissecting Puzzle


Over at Jane Austen's World, Vic discusses the history of the jigsaw puzzle

At the turn of the 18th century, British companies began to make toys that are still favorites today: toy soldiers, farmyards, wooden building blocks, steam engines, and kaleidoscopes. The toymaking industry began to boom, making mass-produced toys cheap enough to afford. By the start of the Regency Period, people had become accustomed to purchasing them and they became educational in nature as well, such as puzzles. Many sources claim that John Spilsbury, a teacher in England, created the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767. He glued a map of England and Wales to a flat thin piece of mahogany board and used a fine saw (fretsaw) to cut along the borders of the counties, which made up the separate pieces. The “dissected map” became instantly successful.

Early puzzles did not come with an image that helped people to solve them, and a careless movement could ruin hours of painstaking work.


To read the entire article, click here.

"15 Minutes With Elizabeth @ Scandalous Women


For the third installment of the 15 Minutes With series, I'm very thrilled to introduce to you to Elizabeth K Mahon. Elizabeth has always been interested in women's history. Her passion has led her to create a blog and a book, both called Scandalous Women, dedidcated to "history's most fascinating and flagrant women." To find out more about her, read on:

1. If you could live in any era of history, what would it be, and why?
I used to think that if I could chose an era to live in, it would be the Victoria era, but I’m a huge fan of the 1920’s. Women in the United States received the vote in 1920, it was the era of the flapper, jazz, silent films. I adore the clothes, although they would look horrible on me, but great designers like Chanel and Vionnet were designing.. It was an era when women really began to break free of the repression and restrictions of the previous era. Bobbing their hair, wearing make-up in public, short skirts. The United States had just come out of WWI, during which women had entered the work force in great numbers, to help free up the men to fight. Once the war was over, many of them were reluctant to go back to the status quo. More and more women were also attending college. There was a great flowering of literature and art during the 1920’s, experimentation with form. The 1920’s also was the era when we have the start of the consumer culture. Of course, there are some things in the twenties, I can live without, namely segregation!

2. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
That’s a hard question, because there are so many fascinating women, I would want to invite to dinner. I would have to say Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Parr, if only I could find out from the horse’s mouth, what it was really like to be married to Henry VIII.

3. Three books everyone should read?
The Diary of Anne Frank, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and I, Claudius by Robert Graves

4. Who’s your style icon?
I’m a big fan of the clothing of the 1940’s and 1950’s, so I would have to choose Grace Kelly, and Dita von Teese.

5. What are you watching on TV?
I just finished watching the second series of Mr. Selfridge on PBS. I have to say that I’m much more interested in the people who work for Selfridge than the man himself. I don’t know if that’s because of Jeremy Piven or the writing. The costumes are gorgeous however.

6. What’s the soundtrack of your life?
That’s another really hard but great question. I’m a total ‘80’s chick, so I would have to say any song from that era. "Holding out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler, "Alone" by Heart are two of my favorite songs.

7. What’s your favorite holiday, destination and why?
London! What’s that famous Samuel Johnson quote that if an Englishman is tired of London, he is tired of life? I’ve never grown tired of London. The museums, the architecture, the theatre, and now the food. I went there for the first time when I was 16, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend a semester abroad there in college, and also to study drama there. I try to go every year if I can.

8. What inspires you?
All the amazing and fascinating women that I am lucky enough to get to write about. Every time I turn around, I find yet another incredible woman that not many people have heard about. I enjoy celebrating the accomplishments and the lives of women throughout history.

9. One thing on your bucket list?
I’m dying to visit Australia. I blame Colleen McCullough and The Thorn Birds.

10. Something about you that would surprise us?
I’ve been studying International Latin ballroom for several years.

Thank you Elizabeth!

Don't forget to check out Elizabeth's blog, Scandalous Women. You can also find Elizabeth on Facebook and Twitter, and buy her book, Scandalous Women on Amazon.

Marie Antoinette's Jewels


Marie Antoinette loved jewels, and often got in trouble for it (even when she refused to purchase them!). During the years, she had amassed a sumptuous collection, most of which was unfortunately lost during the French Revolution. The pieces which Marie Antoinette managed to save with the help of faithful and trusted friends, and some of which were later returned to her daughter Marie Therese, were afterwards either recut and fashioned into new creations and cannot be traced anymore, or now belong to private collections, where only a select lucky few can see (and maybe still wear) them.

Here are a few glimpses of a once vast and stunning collection:

Luckily for us, not all those who purchased Marie Antoinette's jewels kept them for themselves. These beautiful diamond earrings ended up (possibly after the French crown jewels were sold; it is believed that the pear shaped earrings Napoleon III gave his wife Eugenie, who was fascinated by Marie Antoinette, were these same ones that had belonged to that unfortunate Queen) in the possession of the Grand Duchess Tatiana of Russia, from whose family Pierre Cartier bought them in 1928. The earrings were then acquired by Miss Marjorie Merriweather, whose daughter Eleanor Barzin donated them to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington (thanks Eleanor!). Said to be the Queen's favourite earrings, they were a present from her husband, King Louis XVI. Apparently, they were taken from her when she was arrested.

This blue heart shaped diamond belonged to Marie Antoinette's private collection. The Queen had it set in a ring, which she then gave to her friend Princess Lubomirska in 1791. But the poor princess too was put on trial and condemned to death during the Terror. It then passed to her daughters. It changed hands several times afterwards, but was finally sold at auction at Christie's in Geneva in 1983. Sadly for us, it is now in a private collection somewhere in Europe, rather than in a museum where it could be admired by everyone.


Marie Antoinette used this big diamond, called the Regent, to decorate a large black-velvet hat. The diamond has a very colourful story. In 1701, a slave discovered the diamond, which was originally a 410 carat stone. He stole it, hiding it in bandages of a leg wound, and offered half its value to a sea captain in exchange for a safe passage on his ship. But the captain got greedy: he killed the slave and stole the diamond. He sold it for a pittance and then he felt so guilty he hung himself. The diamond was then cut into smaller gems, the biggest of which is 140.50 carats! In 1717, it was purchased by Philip II, Duke of Orleans and then Regent of France, from whom acquired its name. The gem was first set in the crown Louis XV wore at his coronation, and then, once removed, worn as a hair ornament by his Queen.

The gem then disappeared in 1792 and was found again, 15 months later, in a hole in an attic in Paris. In 1797, it was pledged for money to help Napoleon's rise to power. The French emperor then had it mounted on the sword he carried at his coronation. After his fall, it was taken by his wife Marie Louise and returned to France by her father. After the fall of the last royal house, most of the Crown Jewels were sold, but the Regent was instead exhibited at the Louvre. It was then hidden again when the Nazi invaded France during the Second World War and returned to the museum after the end of the conflict.


How gorgeous is this necklace? Only the pearls belonged to Marie Antoinette, though. The unfortunate Queen gave them to Lady Sutherland, the wife of the British ambassador Leveson-Gower, right before her departure in 1792, when the embassy's hurried withdrew for the country. Why her? Two reasons. One, because she was the wife of the British ambassador, Lady Sutherland enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Anyone without it, should have been found in the possession of these jewels, risked severe punishment. Two, this lady could be trusted to return the pearls to Marie Antoinette should she have managed to escape from her imprisonment. Unfortunately, that never happened. The pearls, together with the diamonds Marie Antoinette also gave to Lady Sutherland, were then mounted on this necklace.

Apparently this beautiful watch was given by Marie Antoinette to the Duchess De Tourzel, governess to the children of France, during the French revolution for safekeeping. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out anything else about it. If you have any information on it, please share it in the comments. :)

What do you think of Marie Antoinette's jewel collection? Which piece if your favourite?

Angelica Kauffman

Self-portrait

Born on 30 October 1741 at Chur in Graubünden, Switzerland, Angelica Kauffman was the daughter of an artist. Her father had originally gone to Chur to paint some frescoes in a church, had fallen in love with Cleophea Lutz, married her, and settled there. They had only one daughter, Angelica. The young girl soon showed a talent for painting and music. Her father was her first art teacher, while from her mother she learnt several languages (she could speak German, English, Italian, and French). By the time she was 12, Angelica was already famous for her artistic abilities, with nobles and bishops posing for her.

Detail Of Angelica Kauffman Between Music And Painting

After her mother's death, she travelled with her father to Austria and then to Milan. In the following years she would visit other Italian cities, such as Bologna, Florence, and Rome, were she was admired and feted for her charm and talent. German archeologist Winckelmann, who sat for Angelica in Rome, wrote that "she may be styled beautiful,” he adds, “and in singing may vie with our best virtuosi." She also went to Venice, where she met Lady Wentworth, the wife of the British ambassador, who asked her to go to London with her. The young girl accepted. In London she painted portraits of the rich, influential, and artistic personalities of the time, such as David Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Sir Joshua Reynolds

It was probably thanks to Reynolds that Angelica was among those who signed the petition to the king for the establishment of the Royal Academy. However, her friendship with Reynolds attracted criticism too, and made her the victim of vicious satires. From 1769 until 1782, she exhibited at the Academy, contributing as many as seven pictures, usually on allegorical or classical subjects, every year. Although Angelica created all kinds of portraits, she was first and foremost a history painter. History painting could be challenging for a woman. It didn't just require an extensive knowledge of Biblical and classical literature, history and mythology, and art theory, but also anatomy and practical training in painting nude men and women. Such training was considered inappropriate, and thus usually denied, to women.

Miranda and Ferdinand, from The Tempest

Despite this, Angelica managed to carve herself a successful career as a history painter. The art critic Kugler thus explained her popularity: "An easy talent for composition, though of no depth; a feeling for pretty forms, though they were often monotonous and empty, and for graceful movement; a coloring blooming and often warm, though occasionally crude; a superficial but agreeable execution, and especially a vapid sentimentality in harmony with the fashion of the time—all these causes sufficiently account for her popularity." Yet, there were others that thought her works were graceful, but weak and unoriginal. Although successful, Angelica was also frustrated at British people's preference for landscapes and portraits.

Kauffmann as a Muse of Classical Antiquity in Characters Of The Muses In The Temple Apollo by Richard Samuel

But if her professional life thrived, her personal life was about to take a turn for the worse. After refusing several suitors to her hand, Angelica had fallen in love with an adventurer who impersonated the Count de Horn, and who managed to convince her that their marriage should remain secret. But one day the young woman confided her secret to Queen Charlotte, who had been sitting for the painter and had always been very friendly towards her. The Queen graciously invited the Count to court, and that's where the whole deception was finally revealed. Angelica was distraught. But she had meant her marriage vows so, at first, she decided to stay with him. But then it also came out that he was already married to another woman. Angelica was thus free of him once and for all.

Goethe

For the following years, Angelica was wholly dedicated to her art. But, at 40, she married again. Her new husband was Antonio Zucchi, a Venetian artist then resident in Britain who had long been in love with her. Like his wife, he was also a member of the Royal Academy, and they both shared a passion for art and intellectual pursuits. The two settled in Rome, where they were at the centre of the artistic and literary circles of the city. Here, she befriended, among others, Goethe.

Portrait of Ferdinand IV of Naples, and his Family

Angelica's father died in 1782, and her husband in 1795. Angelica was deeply saddened at his death and, for a while, left Rome. Although till then she had been indefatigable, she now produced little. Angelica Kauffman died on 5 November 1807 in Rome. Her funeral, which was organized by the sculptor Casanova, was attended by all the members of the Academy of St. Luke, who also followed the procession, in which her latest pictures were born, to Sant'Andrea Delle Fratte, where she was buried.

Further reading:
Angelica Kauffman: A Continental Artist in Georgian England by Wendy Wassyng Roworth
Miss Angel: The Art and World of Angelica Kauffman, Eighteenth-Century Icon by Angelica Goodden

Book Reviews: Secrecy, The Lost Art Of Dress, & The Time Bandit Solution

Hello everyone,

ready for today's reviews? Let's get started then:

Secrecy by Rupert Thomson
Secrecy is an unusual novel. Set in Florence at the end of the 17th century, when both the Medici dynasty and the city were in decadence, it tells the story of Gaetano Zumbo (or Zummo). Zumbo was a real wax sculptor who specialized in macabre works depicting people affected by terrible illnesses, like the plague, during the last moments of their lives and after their deaths. His work appeals to the Grand Duke Cosimo III, who calls him to Florence to work with him. Cosimo has three children, none of which are fit to inherit his role, from his marriage to a French princess, who left him years ago and is now living out her life in a convent. Cosimo has a special and secret commission for Zumbo. The sculptor will have to be very careful and discreet in executing it, without getting into trouble.
And that's not easy, because Zumbo has made a powerful enemy: the Dominican priest Stufa. The confessor of Cosimo's mother and her protegee, Stufa believes himself untouchable, and makes life difficult for Zumbo, his friends, and the girl he's in love with, Faustina (who happens to have a very damning secret of her own too).
Thomson does a great job at bringing Florence, with both its beauty and ugliness (the author doesn't spare us the most gruesome and disgusting aspects of life at the time), come to life. The scenes were Zumbo is modelling his creations are beautiful too. Unfortunately, the characters aren't convincing. Most of them tend to be one-dimensional. Maybe that's because Zumbo often stops the narration to recall events from his past life. All these jumps disrupt the narration and prevent the characters from fully developing. The prose is beautiful, though, and it's obvious that Thomson did his research well. If you're interested in this historical period, I think you may enjoy it.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski
According to historian Linda Przybyszewski, American women don't know how to dress well anymore (if you ask me, most women all over the world, don't). We're told to wear that brand to be cool, or that tight dress to be sexy, but there's not much information out there about what styles, colours, and fabrics suit different body shapes and complexions, or how to look elegant or refined. It wasn't always like that, though. In the first half of the 20th century, the Dress Doctors (professors of Home Economics all over the country) believed that the principles of art should be applied to fashion. They told women how to make, and choose, timeless clothing suitable for their silhouettes and the occasions they attended, how to dress well on a budget, and how to age gracefully, wearing outfits that emphasized your worldliness and life experiences. They also stressed the importance of practical fashions. Skirts that were difficult to walk in or pretty shoes that hurt your feet were, in their opinion, a waste of money.
Although the book offers lots of tips on how to dress well even today, this is not a fashion guide. Instead, The Lost Art Of Dress chronicles the history of American fashion from the early 20th century to our days, explaining how they, together with society's values, changed and how they affected women. And it is beautifully illustrated. It features lots of images of old-fashioned and more modern clothes, giving the younger readers the chance to see for themselves how thing changed.
Younger readers may roll their eyes at some of the passages, though. The author is quite conservative and, although she obviously tried to restrain herself, it is obvious she strongly disliked most of what happened in the fashion world after the '60s. Although I was born in the early '80s, I found myself agreeing with Przybyszewski many times.
The book is also a bit dry in places. Although the author tried to make it accessible to both casual and academic readers, the writing style leans more towards the academic side of the spectrum. Because of it, casual readers who don't have a strong interest in fashion, or simply expect a light read, may find it hard to reach the end. As for me, I devoured it. I found the history of the Dress Doctors fascinating, and I think we could still learn a lot from them.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Time Bandit Solution by Edward G Brown
How often do you set down to complete a task but can never seem to finish it on time because you're constantly interrupted by your boss, your colleagues, your children, etc? These people are your Time Bandits. Although they don't steal your time with malicious intentions or on purpose, they do make you wish you could say no to their many requests without offending them, so you can, for once, finish all the jobs on your to-do list.
In this little book, Edward G Brown will teach you how to do just that. Not only your Time Bandits won't be mad with you for not fulfilling their requests straight away, but they will also be grateful for it! Sounds too good to be true? It's not. Brown has tried the techniques explained in this book, such as time locking (you decide a time during which you're not available to anyone, and won't receive any visitors nor even answer any calls), in many business firms with astounding success. Some people were sceptical (like you probably are now), but after they've tried it, they were amazed at how much time they had saved and how much more they had got done.
But the worst time bandit of all is you yourself. So, Brown will also teach you how you can stop wasting time and concentrate on what you're doing. Everything is explained clearly, although Brown does tend to repeat himself several times. He addresses mostly business owners and employees, but the advice in this book could be used by parents, freelancers, teachers... anyone who's often interrupted and feels frustrated because of it should pick up a copy.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Would you like to read these books?

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

The Lady Mary Writes To Thomas Cromwell


The Lady Mary, the only daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, had always blamed Anne Boleyn for her parents' divorce and the subsequent ill-treatment she had received from her father. On 26th May 1536, a week's after Anne's execution, Mary wrote to Thomas Cromwell, asking him to intercede on her behalf with her father. Unfortunately, the letter is damaged, and not all of it is legible anymore. Here's what survives:

“Master Secretary,

I would have been a suitor to you before this time to have been a mean for me to the King’s Grace to have obtained his Grace’s blessing and favor; but I perceived that nobody durst speak for me as long as that woman lived, which is now gone; whom I pray our Lord of His great mercy to forgive.” Is now the bolder to write, desiring him for the love of God to be a suitor for her to the King, to have his blessing and leave to write to his Grace. Apologises for her evil writing; “for I have not done so much this two year and more, nor could not have found the means to do it at this time but by my lady Kingston’s being here.

Hunsdon, 26 May.”

But the letter didn't work. Henry VIII would keep be mean to his daughter until she acknowledged, very reluctantly, that their parents' marriage had never been valid.

A Hairdo Fit For Sleigh Drives


The Correspondance Secrete, on 9 January 1775, reported the hairdo worn by Marie Antoinette on her sleigh rides:

The Queen has invented for her sleigh drives a headgear which combines well with the Ques aco but which brings into fashion a feminine head-dress of a prodigious height. These head-dresses represent high mountains, flowery meadows, silvery streams, forests, or an English garden. An immense crest of feathers supports the edifice at the back. These crests, which are renewed daily, called the King's attention the other day; and to show the Queen, as gallantly as possible, that they displeased him, he presented her with a diamond aigrette, saying: I beg you will limit yourself to this ornament, even of which your charms have no need.  This present should please you the more that it has not increased my expenditure, since it is composed of diamonds I possessed when I was Dauphin.'

Further reading:
Rose Bertin The Creator Of Fashion At The Court Of Marie Antoinette by Emile Langlade

Interview With Anne Clinard Barnhill, Author Of Queen Elizabeth's Daughter



Today, I'm very excited to bring you an interview with author Anne Clinard Barnhill. For the past twenty years, Anne has written books, short stories and articles. Her latest work is Queen Elizabeth's Daughter, a novel of Queen Elizabeth I and her ward Mary Shelton.

Elizabeth considers Mary as a daughter and, like any good mother, wants what's best for her. In Tudor times, that was a good marriage to a wealthy and powerful man. But Mary falls in love with someone completely unsuitable: John Skydemore, a widower and a Catholic. Elizabeth forbids them to marry, but the young woman defies her, unleashing her wrath...

Queen Elizabeth's Daughter shows a different facet of Queen Elizabeth's personality, a softer and maternal side that we don't get to see that often. It also brings to life a not well-know figure of the Elizabethan court, Mary Shelton. Not only she was a real person, but she's also one of Barnhill's ancestors.

In this interview, Anne talks about her book, her new projects and more. Enjoy!

1. What inspired you to write Queen Elizabeth's daughter?
Years ago, I became fascinated with Tudor history, partly because I read The Concubine, by Norah Lofts as a teen and partly because my grandmother told me we were related to Anne Boleyn. We are descended from the Shelton family and, as I did research, I learned that a couple of my ancestors left a nugget of a story behind—I wanted to investigate their stories and use the basics to create a novel. I also wanted to explore the idea of loving a child not your own and how the bonds of love can create tension between parents/children and what might be the result of such tension if there is a big imbalance of power—such as Queen Elizabeth and Mary.

2. Elisabeth and Mary have a mother/daughter relationship in your book. Does that reflect the relationship they had in real life?
I think it’s possible they had that sort of relationship—Mary was orphaned and Elizabeth would have been her guardian, as the queen was guardian for every orphan of rank. We know Mary was at court as a teenager because there are records. The age difference would have been about 20 years, to that’s about right for the mother/daughter thing to have developed. We also know that, in her later years, Elizabeth depended very much on Mary for help and friendship. However, I don’t imagine Mary spent her childhood at court, as she did in my book—although it’s possible. William Cecil had several wards, enough to run a little school—so there were children around. I do think Elizabeth had motherly longings but felt she had to give those dreams up in order to rule effectively. She was fond of her ladies and certainly corrected them for improper behavior. We’ll never know whether she had a tender spot for Mary, but I like to think she did—for both their sakes..

3. Your Elizabeth is a very complex woman with many facets. She's jealous, selfish, and even cruel, but she's also merciful, motherly, and torn between her love for a man she'll never be able to marry and her duty to her country and subjects. What sources influenced your portrayal of her?
Oh, I’ve read so many nonfiction books about Elizabeth and, of course, I’ve seen all the movies from Bette Davis to Cate Blanchett. I’d say Alison Weir’s books and Anne Somerset’s Elizabeth I were two important influences and sources for the novel. Online, the Anne Boleyn Files, the Elizabeth Files and On the Tudor Trail are great sites for Tudor lovers.


4. Not much is known about Mary Shelton. Did that hinder your writing process or help your creativity?
In many ways, it helped. I was able to create the kind of character I wanted—one that would have been brought up by the queen and would have learned how to be imperious if need be—an independent woman. On the other hand, I would have loved discovering more about the ‘real’ Mary—it would be great to run across new information about her.

5. Have you made any fascinating discovery during your research that didn't make it into the book?
Not really. I tend to work in reverse—for example, I wrote the first few chapters, making Mary Shelton an orphan. I continued researching and discovered she was, indeed, orphaned at around age 7 or 8. That has been the strange part for me---I write something and then discover what I’ve written is correct—makes me wonder about reincarnation!

6. I believe your family is connected to the Sheltons. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Yes, and I hope this will be easy to follow: Queen Anne Boleyn’s father, Thomas, had a sister named Anne. This Anne married Sir John Shelton. They had a bunch of children, one of whom was Margaret Shelton—she is the main character in my first book, AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN. Her brother, Sir John, married Eleanor Parker. They had a daughter named Mary and she is the main character in QUEEN ELIZABETH’S DAUGHTER. So, Margaret was first cousin to Anne Boleyn and Mary was second cousin to Elizabeth I. Mary’s brother, John, had a son named Ralph, who came to the New World in the mid-1600’s. That’s the way our family got started here in America. However, there are some who believe there is no relation between the American Sheltons and the British Sheltons. They claim there are no records of Ralph’s marriage. But in my view, things were not completely settled at that time—the records could easily have been destroyed or lost. I do think the connecting is valid, based on a Shelton book I have and stories passed by word of mouth.

7. Is the Tudor era your favourite historical period?
Yes, that and the Colonial period in American history.

8. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite?
Oh, I’d have to invite, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I—a little family reunion. I imagine there would be a lot of strained silences, don’t you?

9. What are you working on now?
I’m working on a novel set in the Southern Appalachian Mountains in 1960. There’s an old granny woman who dreams the future, a young girl who has been used as a bet in a poker game, a motor-cycle riding woman searching for her missing cousin and a doctoral student trying to find peace and quiet to compose the music that is to be her dissertation. Oh, and there is a man with over 100 guns, whose idea of fun is to shoot them off at various times of day or night. When these folks converge, I hope it will be pretty compelling.

10. Have you got any tips for any aspiring novelists?
Keep on keeping on! Never give up! It’s a long, often tedious process but you can do it!

Thanks so much for having me at your site.

Thank you for doing the interview Anne!

You can buy Anne's latest book, Queen Elizabeth's Daughter on Amazon. And don't forget to check out her website too!

The May Queen


Marie-Jose of Belgium was brought up to become Queen of Italy, but she only stayed on its throne for 35 short days, which gained her the affectionate nickname of May Queen. The last Queen of Italy was born on 4 August 1906 in Ostend. She was the only daughter and youngest child of King Albert I of Belgium and his Queen, Elizabeth, Duchess of Bavaria. Her parents were very devoted to each other and Marie-Jose grew up in a tight, close family.


Her peaceful existence was disrupted by the First World War. The 8 year old princess was then sent, for her safety, to school in England, while her parents stayed in their country, sharing the hardships of its people, and her older brother Leopold, then just a teenager, served as a soldier. The princess, though, was allowed to visit her family. During these visits, she witnessed the horrors of the war and helped her mother in her hospital work, tending to the wounded soldiers.


When the war ended, Marie Jose was left with a deep distrust for the Germans, who had violated her country's neutrality. But the war also had another consequence on her life: it considerably narrowed down her choice of husband. The only Catholic prince left for her to marry was Prince Umberto of Piedmont, the heir to the Italian throne. Prince Umberto was a very good-looking man, and the dream of many girls. Marie-Jose thought of him as the ideal prince charming, an image that was reinforced by her parents and all those around her.


Their marriage may have been arranged, but her parents hoped that, if Marie-Jose could fall in love with Umberto, her life would be happy. But Marie-Jose and Umberto were very different people. While the Belgian princess received a liberal education, the Italian crown prince was raised to be a soldier. Marie-Jose came from an affectionate family that openly displayed their love for one another. The Savoys were colder and more reserved. Marie-Jose grew up in a relatively informal court, while Umberto in a rigid one where etiquette was strictly followed.


Nothing in her education and upbringing had prepared Marie-Jose for her new life at the formal court of Savoy. Her wedding, celebrated on 9 January 1930, was a sumptuous and lavish affair meant to awe the Italians. Marie-Jose, unlike her husband, would have preferred something simple. It didn't take long for the princess to realise that Umberto was different from how she had imagined him, and that they barely had anything in common. The only things they shared were their devotion to the Italian people, which they hoped to help when on the throne, and to their religion. They did their duty, though, and had four children: Maria Pia Louise (1934), Vittorio Emanuele (1937), Maria Gabriella (1940) and Maria Beatrice Caroline (1943).


She also felt stifled at the Savoy court, and at its formality. Yet, the free-spirited princess didn't always conform. For instance, she refused to Italianize her name, and dressed in a more fashionable way than the more classic and matronly styles worn by other members of the royal family. She also surrounded herself with liberal and artistic people who shared her same ideals of freedom and beauty. Neither Umberto nor his family understood Marie Jose and her unconventional ways. As for Mussolini, he couldn't stand her. And the feeling was mutual. Mussolini was coarse, liked to show off and loved war, all things the crown princess despised.


Of course, the Fascist press constantly criticized her, as well as her husband, who was guilty of not being very supporting of the regime. Marie-Jose wasn't supportive of it at all, so the press accused her of being a traitor to her new country. But they didn't go so far as to publish scathing attacks in the papers. They knew the Italian people wouldn't stand for it, so they used more subtle tactics, spreading stories about her that eventually reached the ears of the people.


Marie Jose had always disliked the alliance between Italy and Germany, and followed with apprehension as Europe approached another World War. When Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law, learned the Germans were, once again, planning to invade Belgium, he told the crown princess, who could then warn her brother, King Leopold III of Belgium. But its small army could do little and the country soon fell in German hands. Soon, Italy was at war too. Marie-Jose, who was the President of the Italian Red Cross, and the other royal ladies tended to he wounded soldiers. She cultivated contacts with the anti-Fascists and liberals, tried to arrange, through the Vatican and without the King's knowledge, peace talks, and even attempted to convince Hitler to release the Belgian prisoners of war. But her efforts didn't achieve much and, eventually, she was sent with her children to a location close to the Swiss borders, from where they could easily escape should they need to.


They did cross the border when, towards the end of the war, Italy was divided in two: the Allies occupied the South, while a puppet Fascist republic backed by the Nazi resisted in the north. But even during her exile, the princess continued her fight against the Fascists and Nazis but smuggling weapons and other supplies to the partisans. The King, in the meantime, had finally been able to get rid of Mussolini, and Italy had switched sides. It now fought with the Allies. But the King's reputation was in ruins. After the war ended, he abdicated.


On 9 May 1946, Umberto and Marie-Jose became the new King and Queen of Italy. By now, though, the only thing that united the couple was their duty towards their people. But their reign didn't last long. The Communists might have hated the Fascists, but they didn't hesitate to use their old lies and propaganda to discredit the royal couple. The royal family hoped their Allies, the US and Britain, would help them, but in vain. In the end, the Italian people were asked, in a referendum, whether they wanted to keep or abolish the monarchy. Unfortunately, the monarchy lost. There were rumours that the republicans had manipulated the vote in their favour. The royalists urged their King to fight the results, but Umberto refused to cause a civil war. The King and his family therefore left Italy.


But there was now no need for Umberto and Marie-Jose to remain together. So, although the couple never divorced (they were staunch Catholics, but also hoped the monarchy could be restored), they now lived separate lives. Umberto settled in Portugal, while his wife moved to Switzerland, and later to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to be near her daughter Marie-Beatrice and her children. The former Queen spent her time writing books, including a history of the House of Savoy. Only after her husband's death was she allowed to visit Italy again. She died of lung cancer in Geneva on 27 January 2001. She was 94. It is a shame that Marie-Jose and Umberto were never really allowed to rule Italy. They were both honest people devoted to duty and they would have done a great deal to improve the lives of the Italians.

Further reading:
La Regina Incompresa by Luciano Regolo
The Mad Monarchist

Marie Antoinette And The Chevalier D'Assas


In his biography of the unfortunate Queen of France, Charles Duke Younge recalls how Marie Antoinette remembered and paid homage to a fallen war hero:

In the Seven Years' War, when the French army, under the Marshal De Broglie, and the Prussians, under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, were watching one another in the neighborhood of Wesel, the Chevalier d'Assas, a captain in the regiment of Auvergne, was in command of an outpost on a dark night of October. He had strolled a little in advance of his sentries into the wood which fronted his position, when suddenly he found himself surrounded and seized by a body of armed enemies. They were the advanced guard of the prince's army, who was marching to surprise De Broglie by a night attack, and they threatened him with instant death if he made the slightest noise.

If he were but silent, he was safe as a prisoner of war; but his safety would have been the ruin of the whole French army, which had no suspicion of its danger. He did not for even a moment hesitate. With all the strength of his voice he shouted to his men, who were within hearing, that the enemy were upon them, and fell, bayoneted to death, almost before the words had passed his lips. He had saved his comrades and his commander, and had influenced the issue of the whole campaign.

The enemy, whose well-planned enterprise his self-devotion had baffled, paid a cordial tribute of praise to his heroism, Ferdinand himself publicly expressing his regret at the fate of one whose valor had shed honor on every brother-soldier; but not the slightest notice had been taken of him by those in authority in France till his exploit was accidentally mentioned in the queen's apartments. It filled her with admiration. She asked what had been done to commemorate so noble a deed. She was told "nothing;" the man and his gallantry had been alike forgotten.

"Had he left descendants or kinsmen?" "He had a brother and two nephews; the brother a retired veteran of the same regiment, the nephews officers in different corps of the army." The dead hero was forgotten no longer. Marie Antoinette never rested till she had procured an adequate pension for the brother, which was settled in perpetuity on the family; and promotion for both the nephews; and, as a further compliment, Clostercamp, the name of the village which was the scene of the brave deed, was added forever to their family name.

The pension is paid to this day. For a time, indeed, it was suspended while France was under the sway of the rapacious and insensible murderers of the king who had granted it; but Napoleon restored it; and, amidst all the changes that have since taken place in the government of the country, every succeeding ruler has felt it equally honorable and politic to recognize the eternal claims which patriotic virtue has on the gratitude of the country.


Further reading:
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge

Movie Review: Gigi


I adore musicals, especially those made during the Hollywood's golden era, in the 1940s and 1950s. One of my favourite is Gigi. Based on Colette's novella, it tells the story of a teenager groomed to become a courtesan, who is to be sold to the rich Gaston Lachaille, the man who saw her grow up. Put it that way, the plot is very creepy, especially for our modern sensibilities. But Gigi is also a great love story that can teach us some important lessons.


The lively and lovely Gigi (played by Leslie Caron) has been brought up by her grandmother, Madame Alvarez (Hermione Gringold) and her sister Alicia (Isabel Jeans), both of which are retired courtesans. They expect Gigi to follow in their footsteps and teach her all the things that are important to succeed in their trade, such as how to eat difficult foods like lobsters, how to pour tea with elegance, how to sit down properly, and how to distinguish valuable jewels from second-rate stones.


A regular visitor to their house is the pompous and easily-bored Gaston (Louis Jourdan), whose uncle Honoree (Maurice Chevalier), who also happens to be the narrator of the story, had been romantically involved in the past with Madame Alvarez. It is to relive the boredom of his luxurious existence, with its conventions and sycophants, that Gaston spends so much time with Gigi and her grandmother. Gigi is carefree, spontaneous, and cheerful. She's respectful of her family and obedient to her grandma, but she is also a free spirit who chafes at etiquette and conventions.


Gaston treats Gigi like a child. Until, one day, he realizes that she's all grown up. While he wasn't looking, she turned into a beautiful woman. That means, her grandmother declares, that Gigi won't be able to be seen in public and unchaperoned with Gaston anymore, or her reputation will be ruined. If he's interested in her, Gaston must make an offer. Shocked, he realizes he's in love with Gigi, and makes her an offer. He wants to take care of her beautifully, he tells her.


Gigi is young, but not stupid. "When say you want to take care of me, you mean you want me in your bed," she replies. Until that moment, the movie emphasized the romantic aspect of such a relationship, with night walks in the moonlight, fancy dinners, compliments and whispered vows, and beautiful presents. But Gigi knows all too well the price she'll have to pay for that. When Gaston tells her he's in love with her, Gigi gets even madder. How could he make such a proposal, with all the shame and heartbreak that it entails, to a woman he says he loves? She knows that such a relationship has no future, and that, when he'll eventually tire of her, she'll end up with her reputation ruined anyway. So, she turns him down.


That shocks Gaston even more. No one had ever turned him down before. So, to save his pride, he convinces himself that she's just negotiating for better terms. Although clever, Gigi is also in love. And young. An often fatal combination. So, she relents and agrees to be Gaston's mistress. If she has to be miserable, she tells him, she'd rather be miserable with him than without him. A happy Gaston then takes his new mistress out to dinner. But when she behaves like all the other courtesans, he's horrified. He drags her back home and leaves. Gigi is devastated. But then, Gaston comes back, with a very different proposal. He asks Gigi to be his wife.


Gaston is a spoilt rich man who thinks that he can buy whatever (and whoever) he wants. He's outraged when, early in the movie, his beautiful mistress cheats on him with a ski instructor. He's not so much bothered by her lies, but by the fact that she is in love, not with the man who buys her beautiful and expensive things, but with someone poor who can't offer her much. It just goes to show that you can buy someone's body, but not their love. But that's a lesson Gaston hasn't fully learned yet.


That's why he offers Gigi to become his mistress. He doesn't really know yet what love is. To him, love his just an arrangement, in which the man pays a woman beautifully for her favours. But Gigi is different. She's not interested in his money, or the jewels, cars, clothes, and whatever else his money can buy her. And she has the guts to stand up to him. It's her free spirit and her disregard for material things that made Gaston fall in love with her, so it is no wonder that when Gigi turns into the perfect courtesan, he is instantly bored of her. The Gigi he bought is not the real Gigi. The real Gigi he can have, he realizes, only if he offers her the love and respect she deserves. And so, he proposes marriage.


Another theme of the movie is artifice. The seedy aspects of the story, the prostitution, the greed, and the hypocrisy of Parisian society are hidden behind lavish costumes, cheerful songs, and beautiful settings. Until Gigi, in the refusal scene, brutally exposes them. Gigi is an amazing character, and the most modern thing about the movie. Everything else hasn't unfortunately aged well. Society today is very different from how it was back then, and very few people will be able to relate to the story. Most audiences today will find it dated, old-fashioned and even creepy. But if you want to be transported to the demi-monde world of the Parisian Belle Epoque, with its decadence and elegance, its hypocrisies and romances, then you much check it out. I think you will enjoy it too.

Anne Boleyn's Execution


When dawn broke on the morning of 19th May 1536, Anne Boleyn was already awake, hearing the Mass and receiving the Sacrament from John Skip, her almoner, for the last time. She probably didn't get much sleep at all the night before, preferring to spend her few remaining hours on earth preparing for her imminent death. She needed to strengthen her resolve, which had been shaken the day before when Kingston, the Constable of the Tower Of London, had told her the execution had been postponed because the swordsman Henry VIII had summer from Calais before her trial had even begun hadn't arrived yet.

After breakfast, Kingston told Anne she should get ready. But she already was. Wearing a robe of black (the colour of death) damask trimmed with ermine, a crimson (the colour of martyrdom) kirtle, and a gable hood on her head, Anne made her way to the scaffold. Kingston helped her climb the steps. Anne looked at the crowd below her, among which were many of her enemies, such as Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and Henry's best friend, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and the King's illegitimate son, and Thomas Cromwell.


As Anne stepped forward, the crowd feel silent to hear their fallen Queen's last words:

“Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here to die. For according to the law and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.”

Then, Anne's ladies took off her mantle and hood, and tucked her hair into a cap so that the swordsman would be able to do his job more easily. Anne paid the executioner, who asked her forgiveness for what he was about to do. She then knelt down, upright, in the straw, and began praying. "O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul. To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul," she repeated over and over again. Although Anne appeared calm and dignified, she was also nervous, and kept looking over her shoulder, fearing the executioner would strike too soon.

The executioner had concealed his sword. As he called out to his assistant to pass it to him, knowing that Anne would look that way, he quickly sneaked up behind her and, with one swift stroke, cut her head off. The Queen was dead. As the crowd dispersed, Anne's ladies wrapped her remains in white cloth and buried them in an old elm chest, which had once contained bow staves, in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Her grave, as was customary for traitors, was unmarked.

Further reading:
The Lady in The Tower by Alison Weir
The Life And Death Of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives

Historical Reads: Maria Duchess Of Gloucester


Heather Carroll remembers Maria, Duchess of Gloucester, a niece of Horace Walpole. To quote:

After three years of marriage Maria was a widow with three young children. In those three years she had also made a name for herself as a delightful society lady. Maria had become close friends with Lady Coventry and Horace Walpole delighted himself to report that the beauties would be mobbed by onlookers when they took walks in the park. However, she was still not thoroughly protected financially. She needed another husband, and there was no shortage of eager candidates. She had already rejected the Duke of Portland (a duke!) when Prince William, Duke of Gloucester became acquainted with her. A romance blossomed, but it was a forbidden romance for Maria's illegitimacy prevented William from being able to marry Maria.

His brother, King George would need him to form a proper attachment. Their chances of marriage approval diminished completely when the Duke of Cumberland enraged their brother by marrying a commoner. King George saw the marriage as a betrayal and made William promise not to do the same with Maria. William gulped, and agreed in an attempt to calm his brother's anger. When Maria became pregnant though, in 1772 he had to finally admit that they has been secretly married in 1766.


To read the entire article, click here.

15 Minutes with Susan @The Freelance History Writer


15 Minutes With is an interview series that allows us to get to know a bit better the bloggers behind our favourite history blogs. It's with great pleasure that today I introduce you to Susan Abernethy of The Freelance History Writer. In her blog, Susan shares her thoughts "on all kinds of history from Ancient to mid-20th Century", but her main interest is in the Tudor and Medieval periods. To learn more about Susan, read on:

1. If you could live in any era, what would it be and why?
If I could live in any era, it would be Tudor and medieval times. I’ve been interested in Tudor history since I was a teenager and from that developed an interest in medieval times. Lately I’ve been delving into Anglo-Saxon history. I’m learning a lot about the consolidation of England by the Anglo-Saxons.

2. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
Oh I love this question! I think Queen Elizabeth I would be a wonderful dinner guest. I’d like to know what makes her tick. She was a master at handling political situations and the men around her. My second guest would be William the Conqueror. Whether you love or hate him, how he managed to conquer a whole country took a lot of planning, guts and just plain willpower! My last guest would be one of my heroes, Alfred the Great. I’m fascinated by the mixture of warrior and educated man that he embodies.

3. Three books everyone should read?
As far as three books everyone should read, I’m going to mix it up a little. Of course everyone’s tastes vary, including my own. In keeping with my interest in Anglo-Saxon history, I’m going to recommend Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History of the English People”. It’s a primary source but a really fun read. Bede was quite a character. My second recommendation is a recent read. It’s “A Brief History of the Vikings” by Jonathan Clements. I found out through DNA testing my paternal heritage is Nordic Viking so I’ve started researching the Viking Age. This book is really well written and has a lot of historical depth. My third recommendation is an excellent biography of Victoria, Princess Royal, and daughter of Queen Victoria called “An Uncommon Woman” by Hannah Pakula. I read it years ago but I’ve always remembered how well written it was. Vicky was amazing and truly an uncommon woman. Really, any book by Pakula I would highly recommend.

4. Who's your style icon?
Sad to say I don’t have a style icon. My style is to be comfortable while I read, research and write about history!

5. What are you watching on TV?
My TV viewing is very eclectic. As far as history goes, I’ve really enjoyed “Vikings” on The History Channel and “Game of Thrones” on HBO. Because Victorian history is a secondary interest for me, “Selfridge” is a fun show on PBS. Really, I’ll watch anything on “Masterpiece” because it’s always quality TV. As a guilty pleasure, I’ll watch any show with master chef Gordon Ramsey.

6. What's the soundtrack of your life?
Not sure what the soundtrack of my life is. As far as what music I listen to, it’s New Age, Classical and a little bit of rock and roll.


7. What's your favourite holiday destination, and why?
My husband and I have been film buffs for years. Every other year we attend the Telluride Film Festival in the mountains of Colorado. It runs over Labor Day weekend and we see three to four movies a day from Friday through Monday making it a kind of film immersion. The old gold mining town of Telluride is located in an alpine box canyon in southern Colorado. Really, if you love movies and you love the mountains, it can’t be beat!

8. What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from reading books. Not electronic books but authentic books. I’ve been an avid reader since the day I learned to read. Reading can take you anywhere and to any time period. I love it.

9. One thing on your bucket list?
I’ve had a couple of people ask me in the last few years if I’m going to the medieval conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I’ve decided I’m going to go next year. What could be better than being with fellow medievalists, listening to lectures on medieval history? I’d also like to go to France and visit all the places I’ve learned about like Paris, Normandy and the medieval town of Carcassonne. I hope to mark that off my bucket list soon.

10. Something about you that would surprise us?
Something people might find surprising about me is I love watching professional sports! My favorite sports are basketball, American football and hockey. I attend NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey games regularly during the season here in Denver, CO.

Thank you for the interview, Susan! And if you haven't already, go check out The Freelance History Writer. You can also find Susan on Facebook and Twitter.

The Beauty Secrets Of A 19th Century Lady Of Distinction


The secret of preserving beauty lies in three things:—Temperance, Exercise, Cleanliness. [...] Temperance includes moderation at table, and in the enjoyment of what the world calls pleasures. A young beauty, were she fair as Hebe, and elegant as the Goddess of Love herself, would soon lose these charms by a course of inordinate eating, drinking, and late hours.

I guess that my delicate young readers will start at this last sentence, and wonder how it can be that any well-bred woman should think it possible that pretty ladies could be guilty of either of the two first-mentioned excesses. But, when I speak of inordinate eating, &c. I do not mean feasting like a glutton, or drinking to intoxication. My objection is not more against the quantity than the quality of the dishes which constitute the usual repasts of women of fashion. Their breakfasts not only set forth tea and coffee, but chocolate and hot bread and butter. Both of these latter articles, when taken constantly, are hostile to health and female delicacy.

The heated grease, which is their principal ingredient, deranges the stomach; and, by creating or increasing bilious disorders, gradually overspreads the before fair skin with a wan or yellow hue. After this meal, a long and exhausting fast not unfrequently succeeds, from ten in the morning till six or seven in the evening, when dinner is served up; and the half-famished beauty sits down to sate a keen appetite with Cayenne soups, fish, French patees steaming with garlic, roast and boiled meat, game, tarts, sweetmeats, ices, fruit, &c. &c. &c. How must the constitution sutler under the digestion of this melange! How does the heated complexion bear witness to the combustion within!

And, when we consider that the beverage she takes to dilute this mass of food, and to assuage the consequent fever in her stomach, is not merely water from the spring, but Champagne, Madeira, and other wines, foreign and domestic, you cannot wonder that I should warn the inexperienced creature against intemperance. The superabundance of aliment which she takes in at this time is not only destructive of beauty, but the period of such repletion is full of other dangers. Long fasting wastes the powers of digestion, and weakens the springs of life. [...]

Indeed, I am fully persuaded that long fasting, late dining, and the excessive repletion then taken into the exhausted stomach, with the tight pressure of steel and whalebone on the most susceptible parts of the frame then called into action; and the midnight, nay, morning hours, of lingering pleasure,—are the positive causes of colds taken, bilious fevers, consumptions, and atrophies. By the means enumerated, the firm texture of the constitution is broken; and the principles of health, being in a manner decomposed, the finest parts fly off, and the dregs maintain the poor survivor of herself, in a sad kind of artificial existence. Delicate proportion gives place either to miserable leanness or shapeless fat. The oncefair skin assumes a pallid rigidity or a bloated redness, which the vain possessor would still regard as the roses of health and beauty. [...]

My next specific, is that of gentle and daily Exercise in the open air. This may be almost always obtained, either on horseback or on foot, in fine weather; and when that is denied, in a carriage. Country air in the fields, or in gardens, when breathed at proper hours, is the finest bracer of the nerves, and the surest brightener of the complexion.— But these hours are neither under the midday sun in summer, when its beams scorch the skin and set the blood in a boil nor beneath the dews of evening, when the imperceptible damps, saturating the thinly-clad limbs, sends the wanderer home infected with the disease that is to lay her, ere a returning spring, in the silent tomb!—Both these periods are pregnant with danger to delicacy and carelessness.

The morning, about two or three hours after sun-rise, is the most salubrious time for a vigorous walk. But, as the day advances, if you chuse to prolong the sweet enjoyment of the open air, then the thick wood or shady lane will afford refreshing shelter from the too-intense heat of the sun.—In short, the morning and evening dew, and the unrepealed blaze of a summer noon, must alike be ever avoided as the enemies of health and beauty.

Cleanliness, my next recipe, (and which is, like the others, applicable to all ages,) is of most powerful efficacy. It maintains the limbs- in their pliancy; the skin in its softness; the complexion in its lustre; the eyes in their brightness; the teeth in their purity; and the constitution in its fairest vigour.

The frequent use of tepid baths is not more grateful to the sense than it is salutary to the health, and to beauty. By such ablution, all accidental corporeal impurities are thrown off; cutaneous obstructions removed; and while the surface of the body is preserved in its original brightness, many threatening disorders are put to the rout.

Further reading:
The Mirror Of The Graces by A Lady Of Distinction

Haydn's Parents


In his biography of Haydn, J Cuthbert Hadden rememebers the parents of the celebrated composer:

The composer's father, Matthias Haydn, was, like most of his brothers, a wheelwright, combining with his trade the office of parish sexton. He belonged to the better peasant class, and, though ignorant as we should now regard him, was yet not without a tincture of artistic taste. He had been to Frankfort during his "travelling years," and had there picked up some little information of a miscellaneous kind. "He was a great lover of music by nature," says his famous son, "and played the harp without knowing a note of music." He had a fine tenor voice, and when the day's toil was over he would gather his household around him and set them singing to his well-meant accompaniment.

It is rather a pretty picture that the imagination here conjures up, but it does not help us very much in trying to account for the musical genius of the composer. Even the popular idea that genius is derived from the mother does not hold in Haydn's case. If Frau Haydn had a genius for anything it was merely for moral excellence and religion and the good management of her household. Like Leigh Hunt's mother, however, she was "fond of music, and a gentle singer in her way"; and more than one intimate of Haydn in his old age declared that he still knew by heart all the simple airs which she had been wont to lilt about the house. The maiden name of this estimable woman was Marie Koller. She was a daughter of the Marktrichter (market judge), and had been a cook in the family of Count Harrach, one of the local magnates.

Eight years younger than her husband, she was just twenty-one at her marriage, and bore him twelve children. Haydn's regard for her was deep and sincere; and it was one of the tricks of destiny that she was not spared to witness more of his rising fame, being cut off in 1754, when she was only forty-six. Matthias Haydn promptly married again, and had a second family of five children, all of whom died in infancy. The stepmother survived her husband—who died, as the result of an accident, in 1763—and then she too entered a second time into the wedded state. Haydn can never have been very intimate with her, and he appears to have lost sight of her entirely in her later years. But he bequeathed a small sum to her in his will, "to be transferred to her children should she be no longer alive."


Further reading:
Haydn by J Cuthbert Hadden