Friday, October 24, 2014

Every Inch a Princess

Her Royal Highness, Madame the Duchesse d’Angoulême. (Via Tiny-Librarian.)

Ernest Daudet's biography of Madame Royale quotes a description of the princess by her uncle, Louis XVIII:
The portraits you have seen of our daughter...cannot give you an accurate idea of her; they are not in the least like her. She so closely resembles both her father and her mother that she recalls them absolutely, together or separately, according to the point of view from which one looks at her. She is not pretty at first sight; but she becomes so as one looks at her, and especially as one talks to her, for there is not a movement of her face that is not pleasing. She is a little shorter than her mother, and a little taller than our poor sister. She is well made, holds herself well, carries her head perfectly, and walks with ease and grace. When she speaks of her misfortunes her tears do not flow readily, owing to her habit of restraining them, lest her gaolers should have the barbarous pleasure of seeing her shed them. It is no easy task, however, for her listeners to restrain theirs. But her natural gaiety is not quenched; draw her mind away from this tragic chapter of her life, and she laughs heartily and is quite charming. She is gentle, good-humoured, and affectionate; and there is no doubt that she has the mind of a mature woman. In private with me she behaves as our poor Elisabeth might have behaved with my father; in public she has the bearing of a princess accustomed to holding a Court. She not only says courteous things to everyone, but she says to each individual the most suitable thing that could be said. She is modest without being shy, at her ease without being familiar....(Read more.)
Read more about the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in Madame Royale. Share

Socialism in Venezuela

From TFP:
Resource rich Venezuela, which boasts of having some of largest oil reserves in the world, has now reached an all time low in petroleum production. The exportation of crude oil used to account for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings until, the late socialist savior, Hugo Chávez began to re-distribute the country’s wealth in the form of cash subsidies. Now Venezuela's petroleum minister, Rafael Ramirez, is considering importing Algerian oil in a desperate attempt to shore up their devastated economy to thwart bankruptcy.

Venezuela has always had to deal with the problem of extra heavy crude oil from the Orinoco Basin. This region produces a crude oil that is too dense to be transported through pipelines to local ports and then exported abroad. To deal with this problem, the heavy crude oil is usually diluted with super light sweet crude oils. However, this issue is insignificant when compared to the poor management of the state owned oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anónima (PDVSA).

Venezuela can produce light oils needed to dilute Venezuela’s heavy crude. However, production has been curtailed by a lack of investment, abandoning the exploration of light crude and the nationalization of companies that formerly produced light crudes. This is the result of the government-run oil giant that is now being controlled by inexperienced bureaucrats who are obsessed with taking disproportional amounts of money out of the coffers. In modern parlance, it is called killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

The Venezuelan government is now asking foreign companies to invest in upgrading facilities that help make heavy crude oil exportable from the Orinoco Basin. No foreign companies want to take that risk because they fear expropriation or minority ownership under Chávez’ socialist rules. Even though oil prices have risen from $9 to $100 per barrel in the last few decades, past president Chávez and current president Maduro have managed to destroy their cash cow.

When Chávez took office in 1999, PDVSA was still in private hands, employed 51,000 people and was able to produce 63 barrels of crude a day per employee. After 15 years of socialism, PDVSA was nationalized by the state, now has 140,000 employees and produces 20 barrels of crude a day per employee according to an August 14 report by the France Press news agency. This equals a stunning 69 percent loss of efficiency in 15 short years. (Read more.)

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


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.)

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.)

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.
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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!