Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Duchess Flees Bordeaux

The daughter Louis XVI exhorts the troops at Bordeaux before having to escape Napoleon.

As readers of Trianon and Madame Royale well know, Marie-Thérèse of France, the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, was at times forced to flee from wars and revolts. Above is a picture of the princess during her flight from Napoleon Bonaparte in March 1815. Bonaparte, hearing of her attempt to raise an army against him, hailed Marie-Thérèse as "the only man in her family," which was a bit unfair to the Duc d'Angoulême, who had hastened to rally his forces to cut off Bonaparte's march on Paris. The Duc and Duchesse d'Angoulême had been in Bordeaux celebrating the restoration of the Bourbons when news came of Bonaparte's escape from Elba. Although Napoleon admired the daughter of Louis XVI, he would like to have made a prisoner of her. Marie-Thérèse left for England only because to stay behind would have endangered the citizens of Bordeaux. Below is an excerpt from Chapter Sixteen of Madame Royale, describing the scene:
Thérèse and her entourage left Bordeaux in a swirling rain shower, darkness, and mud. Yet the voices of the saints seemed to pierce the curtain of rain. There was always hope. If only she knew if her husband was safe. They travelled all night, their coaches slipping and bumping along in the blackness. By morning they reached Pauillac, with its port and ship which would take them away from France. Thérèse hardly thought about where they were going. She heard Mass in the parish church, then went to board an English ship called The Wanderer. Her military escort assembled on the peer to bid her farewell, as the rain continued to pour. Where were the vast crowds? Where were those who had flung themselves weeping at her feet? Never again would she lavish a single, splintering thought on human honor and praise. It was all less than nothing. The faithful few begged for some tokens; she gave them the feathers from her bonnet, and the green and white ribbons which bound her hair. "Bring them back to me in better days!" she cried, the wind and rain blowing around her. "And Marie-Thérèse will show you that she has a good memory, and that she has not forgotten her friends at Bordeaux!"

The vessel carried
Thérèse over rough waters to Spain, and then across the channel to England. It was a tumultuous crossing; most of her ladies were morbidly seasick, besides being distressed over their belongings left behind at the Tuileries for the Buonaparte clan. When Thérèse and her party finally arrived at the royal French embassy in London, she was greeted with the news that her husband had been captured, and was a prisoner of Napoleon Buonaparte.

~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Ch. 16, "The Heroine," copyright 2000 by E.M. Vidal

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Peacocks and Swans

From author Katherine Ashe:
While the cottagers and townsmen were celebrating Christmas with roast goose, the lord of the manor, if he was wealthy enough, was feasting upon peacock pie or roasted swan. When it wasn’t holiday feasting time, the grandeur of the seigniorial manse was secured by these ornamental birds floating in the moat or preening upon a balustrade.

[...]


Swans figure in the mythologies of northern countries, particularly Russia and Germany. There is the swan of Lohengrin, the knight of Hohenschwangau. And there is the Russian tale of the prince ravished with love for the enchanted Odette who has been turned into a swan. When the wicked sorcerer magically replaces Odette with his own daughter, Odile, at the prince’s presentation of his betrothed to his parent, the prince discovers the deception and in grief drowns himself in the Swan Lake. (Read more.)
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marie-Antoinette as "Goodness" with Pelican

According to my friend Hyacinthe Desjdek: Robert-Guillaume Dardel (1749-1821) Marie-Antoinette in the guise of kindness, 1785 Terra cotta, white marble adorned with gilded bronze - 49 x 22 x 13.5 cm, Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
This is an extraordinary statue which shows the Queen dressed almost as the Virgin Mary. Beside her is a pelican, which according to legend fed its young from its own bosom. The pelican is a symbol of the Eucharist. Via Vive la Reine. Share

Less Happy

From Aleteia:
In 2009, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers published an intriguing article called The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness in which they document a pervasive, downward shift in female self-reports of happiness since the early 1970s. This shift has occurred "absolutely" – meaning, women report being less happy today than they did in the early 70s. It has also occurred "relative" to men – as in, women today report being less happy than men do, whereas in the early 70s men reported being relatively unhappier than women. These are major population-based findings – results that summarize statistics from large random samples of people. Further, these findings appear to be consistent across all of the available survey data that can measure changes over time in how people report that they are doing. Which means these aren’t accidental findings. They are probably measuring something real.

Women really are – or at least they really feel that they are – doing worse today than they were in the early 70s.

If this is true, the "Allure" cover headline “Life is one big party, and you’re all invited” seems either insensitive or ignorant. Or else, as I suspect, the editors at "Allure" don’t want to tell the truth about reality, because the truth about reality doesn’t sell magazines. This is why they persist with the Photoshop madness and the airbrush fantasyland –because we have a stubborn attachment to mythological narratives, both sacred and profane. "Glamour" and "Allure" peddle in the profane.

But this is profoundly unhelpful to ordinary women, for at least two reasons. First, because profane mythologies – about becoming like Cara Delevingne – do little more than highlight and reinforce our fallen human nature: pride, vanity, narcissism, jealousy, sensuality – the quest for perfectibility in the material realm. Ultimately this leads to despair because we really can’t have any of it. And as we flip through the pages we risk becoming sadder than when we started. We looked for hope and inspiration but we found instead that we were becoming a statistic: far less likely than before to say that we were happy. (Read more.)
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art, Talent, and Beauty

An engraving from the early 1780's showing Marie-Antoinette honored by the muses of art, talent and beauty. It is sad to think that at the same time hideous pornographic pamphlets were also being circulated.

The Getty Museum has an article about Marie-Antoinette's artistic eye and her contributions to the world of  furniture design, HERE.

One of four such pieces now at the Getty, this giltwood side chair formed a suite of eight side chairs and eight armchairs delivered to the Petit Trianon by master craftsman François II Foliot in 1781. Designed by Jacques Gondoin, they were used to furnish the salon du rocher, or rock salon, of an octagonal garden pavilion known as the Belvédère.
Marie-Antoinette invited her inner circle to take a seat on these chairs while enjoying music and tea in the salon du rocher, which looked out onto an ornamental lake and grotto. Carved torches emerging from ivy-bound sticks form the chair’s stiles, or vertical sides, and are reminiscent of those used to illuminate the Belvédère and other garden features for evening receptions. Marie-Antoinette’s brother, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, and the future Czar Paul I of Russia and his wife were received at Trianon in this manner.
- See more at: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/three-reasons-to-love-marie-antoinette/#sthash.wpT9g9qP.dpuf

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"Living and Breathing"

Brigit's Lorica
A review of The Paradise Tree from The Book Drunkard. To quote:
I also had Irish ancestors who came to Canada (and French ones, also), so that made the story  all the more meaningful to me.  It gives great insight into what immigrants went through once they came here.  It was not easy!  Those that survived had to have come from strong stock and Daniel O’Connor was tough.  I feel luckier after reading this book, knowing what they went through, in order for us to have what we have today.

Perhaps because this is based on a true story of her ancestors, but I felt a lot of emotion reading Daniel’s story.  The author has a knack of bringing out these feelings in the characters and in the reader.  The people in the story felt so real to me and almost like they could have also been my ancestors.  She brought them to living and breathing life on the pages and I laughed and cried along with them.  On top of that, the historical details add so much to the story and it appears that a lot of research went into the book.  I found it completely fascinating from beginning to end.

If I wasn’t a fan of Elena Maria Vidal before(I was), I definitely am now.  She knows how to evoke strong feelings from the readers of her books.  She makes them feel and think and live other lives through the people she writes about.  When I keep thinking about a book after I’ve finished it, that’s a win. (Read more.)
The Paradise Tree is available internationally from Amazon.

In order to win a free copy, visit Passages to the Past!


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England Adopts the Gregorian Calendar

From History Today:
In 1750 England and her empire, including the American colonies, still adhered to the old Julian calendar, which was now eleven days ahead of the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and in use in most of Europe.

Attempts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to adopt the new calendar had broken on the rock of the Church of England, which denounced it as popish. The prime mover in changing the situation was George Parker, second Earl of Macclesfield, a keen astronomer and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was assisted in his calculations by his friend James Bradley, the astronomer royal, and he gained the influential support of Philip Dormer Stanhope, the sophisticated fourth Earl of Chesterfield (of letters to his son fame), who squared it with Henry Pelham’s initially reluctant government.

In 1751 Chesterfield introduced in the House of Lords ‘an Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use’, gracefully commending it, with Macclesfield in support. According to Chesterfield, Macclesfield spoke ‘with infinite knowledge and all the clearness that so intricate a matter could admit of; but as his words, his periods, and his utterance were not near so good as mine, the preference was most unanimously, though most unjustly, given to me.’

The bill passed through Parliament easily enough and George II signed it in May. It provided for Wednesday, September 2nd, 1752, to be followed by Thursday the 14th and for New Year’s Day to move from March 25th to January 1st, as already was the case in Scotland. The City of London flatly refused to pay taxes early, so the financial year was altered to start on April 6th, as it still irritatingly does. The changes affected festivals, saint’s days and birthdays, including that of Dr Johnson, as well as the dates of payments of wages, rents and interest, contracts for delivery of goods, military discharges and prison releases. It was all carefully explained in the media of the day under the slogan ‘The New Style the True Style’.

The change was thoroughly unpopular with people who deplored it as popery, disapproved of John Bull’s ways being altered to conform with those of foreigners or who simple-mindedly thought that eleven days had been taken out of their lives. Some claim that mobs gathered to bawl ‘Give us back our eleven days’, there were riots in Bristol and quite a few country people insisted on observing Old Christmas Day on January 5th. (Read more.)
Via Stephanie Mann. Share

Monday, October 20, 2014

Giveaway

Here is a review from the San Francisco Book Review that will soon be live on their site:
The Paradise Tree
By Elena Maria Vidal
Mayapple Books, $9.99, 246 pages, Format: eBook
Star Rating: 5 out of 5

"This is a beautiful book. It follows Daniel O’Connor as he grows up in Ireland, moves to Canada to pursue fortune and freedom, starts a family, and grows old surrounded by those who love him.

Taking place in the nineteenth century, the story covers a period of political and religious unrest in Ireland, creating very exciting early chapters. There is a lot of tension, as the main characters must hide their traditions while still facing systemic prejudice for their beliefs. Vidal firmly establishes Daniel’s love for his family and makes his family feel warm and welcoming. This makes the scene where Daniel decides to leave extremely painful, even as the political history justifies his decision. The entire book is full of these moments, where you sympathize with the characters while wishing they could act differently. It makes for a very human story.

What takes The Paradise Tree to another level, however, is the way that Vidal brings the settings to life. I can so vividly picture the O’Connor Christmas celebration in their small cabin in the Canadian forest that it feels like I was in the room with them. Vidal has a way of describing only the most important aspects of a scene but of describing them in such a way that the whole thing comes to life. It is fascinating.

This precision of focus works for the overarching story as well. Parts of Daniel’s life are glossed over entirely while others are narrated in rich detail. The parts that Vidal focuses on, however, are the exact parts that are most important. Learning how to be a doctor must have been interesting, but it isn’t nearly as important as meeting your wife. Vidal emphasizes the moments of connection, of family, and, in so doing, creates a very personal story. It feels like we know the characters as friends rather than acquaintances. This is a stunningly lovely book, the perfect thing to get lost in for an afternoon."
Win a free copy of The Paradise Tree from Passages to the Past.


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