Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

It is claimed that Memorial Day originated in a small town called Boalsburg, not too far from where we live. Share

Not One of the Guys

Yesterday after church I was sitting with my family in a restaurant. The young waitress addressed us collectively as "you guys," as young people are wont to do. It was not really her fault; it is a sign of the times. No offense was intended, I'm sure. My husband gave me an amused look since he knows how being called a "guy" grates upon my sensibilities. I am not a guy. I do not remotely resemble a guy. How did we come to this place in our society where everyone is labeled a "guy" as if gender did not exist?  "Everyone being called 'guy' is a bit like everyone being called 'citizen' during the French Revolution," my husband observed to me after the waitress had left.

He has a point. There has been a gradual and not so subtle distortion of language in American society. "Guy" has become an androgynous appellation which disregards distinctions of gender and marital status. In the Revolution, there was a leveling of society so that people were stripped of their social standing. Now people are being stripped of their very gender. Gender is an intrinsic part of how we identify ourselves and being deprived of it in public is an abasement of basic human dignity.

What is the answer? I am trying to remember how a family group was addressed when I was a small child in Maryland, before everyone became a guy. I think that in casual situations, people were called "you folks" but the most common designation was "y'all." We forget that the word "you" was originally intended as formal and plural, whereas in old English the intimate, familiar and singular adress was "thee" and "thou." The language has drastically changed, of course. However, "you" is still plural when speaking to more than one person so the addition of "all" or "folks" or "guys" is redundant, I think. Still, when out with my family, "you folks" or "you all" is highly preferable to being called "you guys" as if we were a bunch of men in a sports bar. Share

The Making of a Catholic President

Kennedy vs. Nixon, 1960. R.J Stove reflects. Share

Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Invitation

 They decided to sit in the pavilion a few minutes so the Dauphin could rest. In the spring, the beds were full of blue hyacinths, the Queen’s most cherished flower, as well narcissi, daffodils, and tulips. In October, most of the summer flowers had withered. Only the marigolds, geraniums, asters, and chrysanthemums were holding their own. The beds were bordered by low, manicured hedges and an occasional clipped yew tree. ~from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal
I received an interesting invitation which I have been asked to share with readers of this blog. The American Friends of Versailles are having their annual benefit at the palace and in various spots around Paris, June 23-28, 2010. It seems that donations from Americans have kept Versailles in repair for many years. Lately the Friends have been trying to raise money to restore the Pavillon Frais, the little pavilion used by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette on summer evenings in the French-style gardens of Petit Trianon. Here is an article about last year's benefit, which says:
Today marked the launch of the American Friends of Versailles’ week of festivities to raise funds for the planned restoration of the Pavillon Frais (also called the Salon Frais or Pavillon du Treillage) which was constructed during the reign of Louis XV between 1715 and 1753.

The Pavillon was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel who was also responsible for the Petit Trianon complex as well as the Versailles Opera and the Place de la Concorde (originally the Place de Louis XV). In its time it was used on warm days of spring and summer by the Queen and the ladies of the court as a private diningroom. The interior was decorated with walls of boiseries sculpted with garlands and flowers, mirrors, a chimney and a Savonnerie carpet. Napoleon did away with all of it in 1810 and the parterres and basins surrounding three years later. Restoration began in 1980 but because of lack of funds it fell into disrepair. American Friends of Versailles has taken on the task.

The American relationship with Versailles began in the days of the American Revolution when the Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, influenced by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, allied themselves with the armies of George Washington. The French aid to the Americans is often referred to as one of the main elements in the economic disasters of the government of the monarchy that led to the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy.
The invitation has this to say:
Versailles more than any other secular monument outside the United States, is directly related to our nation, both politically and historically. This relationship commenced with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. The French extended their friendship and financial support to our American Revolution, which would never have been realized without their support; these negotiations took place at Versailles....Treaties of world consequence have been signed at Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles, ending the First World War, was signed in the Hall of Mirrors on June 28, 1919. Versailles continues to be a stage where the French greet American presidents and where heads of state hold meetings. France gave us the Statue of Liberty and the restored Trois Fontaines Bosquet, our first project, stands out in the same tradition as a lasting symbol of our friendship.Versailles is the largest museum in the world and more than two million Americans visit the Palace and its magnificent gardens each year (which is more than any other nationality, other than the French themselves). More Americans visit Versailles annually than almost any other individual museum within the United States. UNESCO has declared Versailles an international world treasure. Versailles, for three centuries, has inspired the world on every level in the historic, political and cultural arenas.

The gardens of Versailles are the most important example of French classical garden design in the world and the Trois Fontaines Bosquet represents one of the most charming and significant parts of the entire park. The American Friends of Versailles was the catalyst for restoring and funding this bosquet to its 17th century splendor and to creating a lasting tribute to the Franco-American friendship. It was officially re opened on June 14, 2004. Its beauty will inspire many generations to come. The American Friends of Versailles has taken on a new challenge, that of restoring the Pavillon Frais, which was demolished under Napoleon in 1810 and its parterres and basins in 1813. The Pavillon and its gardens were scheduled to be restored in 1980, but due to the lack of funds only the stone structure was done (without the garden, interiors, trelliswork and adornment). It has since fallen into disrepair and longs to be restored. America and France will, once again, unite within the cultural arena to help preserve Versailles’s history and beauty for future generations. With your help, interest, support and dedication, we hope to successfully complete the restoration of this historical jewel, the Pavillon Frais.
 For more information visit the American Friends of Versailles website. Some lovely photos, HERE. Reply card, HERE.

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Smile or Die

How positive thinking fooled America. Share

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Katrina Cottages

As many of you know, I have long wanted to return to Frederick County, Maryland, where I grew up, and some circumstances have arisen that will enable us to move there. I think it is important to be near one's extended family, especially for children. It look like we will be able to live out in the country, right where I spent my childhood. But it takes a lot of planning to have a simple country life, which is our dream and which we hope is not too far in the future. My husband and I are thinking of building one of the Katrina cottages, so I am gathering all the information I can, and was glad to find this article.

We were also wondering about building from a Ross Chapin design, all of which are utterly charming, but might be beyond our budget.

And there is nothing like wisteria for a cottage garden. We plan to raise chickens, too. Share

Dark History

In the City of Light. Share

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sequel?

People have been asking for a sequel to The Night's Dark Shade. I really had not planned on writing one. After the new edition of Madame Royale is published this summer, I plan to finish my book about Irish settlers in Canada. Then I am going to write a novel about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II. After that I was going to write about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the '45. And at some point, I want to do a novel about the Comte d'Artois and his fatal love affair with Madame de Polastron.

However, if there continues to be a demand for a sequel to The Night's Dark Shade then I might consider it. I would send Lady Raphaëlle and her husband on crusade to the Holy Land with King St. Louis and Queen Marguerite. Raphaëlle could get captured by the Moors and see what life is like inside a harem. Someone will rescue her eventually but in the meantime she will rely upon her wits to survive. There will be several other adventures as well. It will be a much longer book.

It would be so much fun to explore something as controversial as the crusades, especially since film makers are intent upon showing them in a totally negative light. It would be exciting to portray St. Louis in his role as crusader, which was a valiant effort but an utter failure. I must say, I am tempted.... Share

The Rise of Witchcraft

Author Julianne Douglas reviews a novel which shows how the rise of witchcraft in sixteenth and seventeenth century England coincided with the dearth of the Catholic religion and doctrine, with the ritual and mysticism which it provided. Share

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reverence or Ruination

How the Fourth Commandment is necessary for civilization. Some insights from Monsignor Charles Pope. (Via Argent)
The Fourth Commandment is  Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you. (Ex 20:12) 
Lack of Respect – One of the Key maladies of our day is a lack of respect of the young toward their elders. I remember when I was young that my Father would not allow us to watch the Flintstones. He banned it because he said that it made adults look stupid (it did) and that viewing it would not help us children to respect our elders. Children today of course are expose to much worse. A regular theme of sitcoms is that children run the show and parents and adults are all a bunch of idiots. Music from the 1960s on has produced a steady diet of anti-authoritarian themes which question and undermine the wisdom of elders and the past. Many children today are bold toward their parents, teachers and other elders. They often act as though they were speaking to a peer or an equal. Much of this comes from a culture that has largely jettisoned the insights of the 4th Commandment. 
Reverence or Ruin: One of the most essential fruits of the fourth commandment is to instill respect. Respect is essential for there to be teaching. For if a child does not respect his elders, how can he learn from them? If he cannot respect, he cannot learn. And if he cannot learn then the wisdom of the past including the faith, cannot be communicated to him. And if the these cannot be communicated to him, he is doomed to error-ridden and misguided life fraught with foolish decisions. When this happens broadly in a society to children in general, (as it has in ours), civilization itself is threatened as whole generations loose the wisdom of the past and are condemned to repeat major errors and take up behaviors long ago abandoned as unwise and destructive. Without heartfelt reverence being instilled we are doomed to continue seeing an erosion in the good order and the collected wisdom necessary to sustain any civilization. 
But reverence must be instilled. It must be insisted upon and their should be consequences for rejecting its demands. Too many parents today do not command respect. They speak of wanting their children to be their friends. But children have plenty of friends. What they need are parents, parents who are strong and secure, firm in their guidance, loving and consistent in their discipline, and not easily swayed by the unreasonable protests of children. No one will follow and uncertain trumpet and children need firm, clear and certain direction. If we want children to rediscover respect for their elders then we must insist upon it and command it of them. 
What are some of the implications of the 4th commandment? The Catechism is actually quite thorough in describing them in Paragraph #s 2214-2220: 
The Origin of respect – Respect for parents derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love, and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. “With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?” (Sirach 7:27-28)
Obedience - Respect is shown by true docility and obedience. “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 6:20)… As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”(Col. 3:20) Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so. As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them.  
Honor and care in old age – The fourth commandment also reminds grown children of their responsibilities toward their parents. As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress. “Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure. Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard. Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother.”(Sir. 3:2-6). 
Wider family implications – The fourth commandment also promotes harmony in all of family life; it thus concerns relationships between brothers and sisters. Finally, a special gratitude is due to those from whom they have received the gift of faith, the grace of Baptism, and life in the Church. These may include parents, grandparents, other members of the family, pastors, catechists, and other teachers or friends. 
Societal ImplicationsThe fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. [But] It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it. (Catechism # 2199) 
Another important key in instilling respect is for those in authority to be “respectable.” Parents and all those in authority have obligations and duties that flow from their status. To overlook or ignore these obligations places significant burdens upon children, subordinates, and others. This in turn can lead to bewilderment and contributes to an undermining of the respect and honor which ought ordinarily be paid parents, elders and those in authority. Thus, while parents and lawful authorities ought to be respected it is also true to say that they must conduct themselves in a manner that is respectable and observe their duties with care. What are some of these duties? The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a fine summary of them and the text is largely reproduced here.
The duties of parents – Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God’s law…They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service…self-denial, sound judgment, and self- mastery are learned…Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them…Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies…parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church…Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. (Catechism 2221-2231).
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Publishing with Lulu

It is good to know that other authors have had the same experience as I have. (Via Media Bistro) More on Lulu's services for already-published authors HERE. Share

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Learning to Use Social Media

The internet often reminds me of the wild west, where there are only a few laws upholding an ephemeral code of conduct, with no long-standing tradition of behavior. It cannot be helped; it is a totally new medium of human interaction which grows and changes daily. I think that we tend to embrace social media with certain expectations and presumptions about the behavior of others, forgetting that everyone's motives for being online are different.

Take Facebook, for instance. For many it is strictly recreational and a way to have fun with family and friends. For others, it is a way to network with those who share beliefs, causes, or professions. We need to remember that some people's Facebook pages are more or less public places. Even if we regard the person as a close friend, sometimes it is wise not to share private jokes and engage in teasing which may be misunderstood by those who are mere acquaintances. It depends on the situation and so discernment must be exercised. I have a friend who was sharing a fact about her dead father on Facebook. Another "friend," being unaware the father was dead, turned the anecdote into a joke, which did not go over well with my friend's family, since it gave the impression that the dead father was being ridiculed.

Facebook has to be used with prudence and discretion, not to mention wisdom and kindness. Facebook is a place for being especially polite, to make certain that our intentions are not misunderstood. Those who are willing to invite us into their lives do so with a certain degree of trust that should not be abused by making intrusive and presumptuous remarks, just because we have the ability to write on someone's wall. It can become a form of harassment and even of cyberbullying. I found an article on cyberbullying which expresses some of the problems and their causes. Here is an excerpt:
It is human nature that if we think we can get away with something, we probably will go ahead with it. And, if we don’t get caught, chances are we will do it again. With young and old alike, behaviors rarely change on their own...Perhaps, we can begin to fill the vacuum of morality left behind by technology with an awareness and understanding of the impact our behaviors have on another living soul.... 
Most of us desire a life in which we feel valued. Our self-worth and esteem are integral pieces of our personas. We each have a need to feel acceptance, significance, and successful. At different stages in our lives and to varying degrees, much of that value is attached to our reputations (ie. how other perceive us and how we perceive ourselves) as well as our various roles.

One of the most toxic trends that has been exacerbated by the advancements in technology is the emergence of the highly narcissistic persona behind technology. It is one that carries with it an inflated sense of self, a false but bigger-than-life sense of worth, and the delusion of an expert voice on matters from the weather to nuclear disarmament. We can be whoever and whatever we want – because we matter. And we can do whatever to whomever we want – because we can. We are entitled.

And in a society where it is so important to belong, if it means that we need to create a mean, tough, or cruel reputation in order to get the worth we so desperately crave, then we do so. Unfortunately, the internet and social networks have made it so much easier for us. We can hide behind the computer screen with an alias while randomly posting violations of one another. With the stroke of a key or the press of a button, we have the ability to rob others of their dignity and grace, to redefine their worth and reputation, and relinquish them to foreign places and positions. We can seek out and strike whenever, wherever we want, and then we can run and hide.
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La Princesse de Montpensier

Renaissance scholar Julianne Douglas reports on a new film that made a big splash at Cannes. Share

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Mother's Review

My gratitude to Wendy Haught of In Haught Pursuit for writing a review of The Night's Dark Shade from a parent's perspective. To quote:
Amidst all the turmoil, the story examines the role of romantic love in finding a suitable mate. Yes, romance is a wondrous thing, but what are the beloved's intentions? Is he "dallying" with your affection? This book is a fabulous stepping stone for mother-daughter, heart-to-heart discussions. At the same time you learn all about the Albigensian heresy and will recognize parts of it in today's culture.

I highly recommend it for mature teens and all people who don't mind staying up til midnight to finish a rousing good, solidly Catholic story.

In this interview by Catherine Delors, Elena Maria Vidal gives the background of the story.
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Cosima Wagner

The Lady of Bayreuth. Dragon Lady, that is. Share

Monday, May 24, 2010

For the King

Summer will soon be upon us. Long summer afternoons of sitting on the porch, in the park or on the beach are when I have traditionally caught up on my reading. There are few things I enjoy more than getting lost in a really good book. For those who enjoy such pursuits, a book I cannot recommend highly enough for getting lost in is Catherine Delors' new novel For the King. A soul-stirring epic, replete with authentic detail, For the King sets a new standard of excellence for historical fiction. Madame Delors has raised the bar. The flow of vivid descriptions and lively characterizations seamlessly spring forth. Opening with an act of terrorism that resembles the atrocities of our own time, the novel inspires horror without indulging in the grotesque. Similarly, the intimate encounter between the hero and his lady is intensely passionate without being voyeuristic. The writing combines power with beauty and realism with genuine pathos in order to capture the essence of an era of upheaval.

To quote from the book's website:
The Reign of Terror has ended six years earlier, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers. On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explores along Bonaparte’s route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel’s investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women. For The King takes readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris. It is a romantic thriller, a tale of love, betrayal and redemption. 
 Caught in a searing love affair with a lady who has much to hide, Roch Miquel has to learn the difference between love which endures and love which is mere escapism. As the reader accompanies Roch through the streets of post-Revolutionary Paris, with its colorful mix of sights and smells, both delicious and repulsive and everything in between, the city gradually surrenders its secrets. For as Roch seeks to unravel the plot to assassinate Napoleon, the mystery of his own life is slowly revealed. Roch is an appealing character, with a sense of honor and duty that come from his peasant Auvergnat upbringing, as well as the shrewdness to see behind the many façades of his world. Nevertheless, much remains hidden to him, such as the identity of the royalist agent with the code name of  "For the King."

One of the most striking aspects of the book is the study of how devout, conservative people too often prove to be their own worst enemies. By descending to terrorism in order to murder Napoleon, the royalists not only destroy lives but bring shame upon their cause. While the royalist cause is not unsympathetic to me (I write all about it in Madame Royale) it is easy to become disgusted with the royalist plotters, who demonstrate yet another example of Catholics Behaving Badly. Redemption, however, is offered to all who open their hearts to truth and to personal conversion, one among many subtle threads in Madame Delors' political thriller.

For the King will be officially released in July; Amazon is accepting pre-orders.

*Note: I will be interviewing Catherine Delors when the book is released, so stay tuned.

** This review is based upon a review copy of For the King sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. Share

A Phantom Pregnancy

The tragic case of Mary Tudor.
Historians frequently state that Mary suffered from Pseudoycesis, that is phantom pregnancy, a biological and psychological condition whereby a woman exhibits various symptoms of pregnancy yet is carrying no child. Mary suffered from this on two occasions and ultimately died childless. Why she suffered from this remains a mystery, as indeed the condition is regarded with uncertainty by medical experts today. In her biography on Mary, Judith Richards provides detail on modern discussion on Pseudoycesis to better our understanding of the condition Mary probably suffered from. This is undoubtedly interesting, but what of contemporary attitudes to false pregnancy? How did Mary’s contemporaries understand this condition; how common was it back then?
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mademoiselle de Sombreuil

One of the most chilling tales from the Reign of Terror. Share

Is Henry VIII in Hell?

Some reflections on the power of a martyr's prayer from a highly unusual source. To quote:
If Henry VIII is saved (an open question perhaps) it will be at the prayers of John Houghton. If any persecutor is saved it is at the prayers of their victim. If humanity is saved, it is by the grace of the cross of Jesus Christ and all those martyrs who have followed in his path. 
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cradle of Napoleon's Son

Magnifique! (Thanks to Leah Marie Brown)
The only legitimate son of Napoleon I (1769-1821) he was known as LAiglon, the Eaglet, and had the title King of Rome (1811-1814) conferred on him at his birth. His mother was Marie Louise (1791-1847), daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (later Emperor of Austria as Francis I.) who belonged to one of the oldest families of Europe, the Habsburgs. She married Napoleon I on April 2, 1810. The French were delighted when it was announced Marie Louise was with child. On March 20th of 1811 the child was born in Tuileries Palace. The people of France awaited the canon fire announcing the event: twenty one shots if a daughter, one hundred one for a son. At the twenty second shot cheers burst out; Napoleon had a son. The child slept in a magnificent cradle produced by the collaboration of Thomire, Odiot, and Prud'hon.
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A Cottage Vacation

Some great places to go. Share

Execution of Anne Boleyn

Whatever one thinks of Anne, Gareth Russell's moving account is not to be missed. Share

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Puritans and Slavery

Slavery in this country began in the North. The Puritan Cotton Mather had very strict rules for the conduct of the African slaves.
VII. We will, as we have Opportunity, set our selves to do all the Good we can, to the other Negro-Servants in the Town; And if any of them should, at unfit Hours, be Abroad, much more, if any of them should Run away from their Masters, we will afford them no Shelter: But we will do what in us lies, that they may be discovered, and punished. And if any of us, are found Faulty, in this Matter, they shall be no longer of us.

VIII. None of our Society shall be Absent from our Meeting, without giving a Reason of the Absence; And if it be found, that any have pretended unto their Owners, that they came unto the Meeting, when they were otherwise and elsewhere Employ'd, we will faithfully Inform their Owners, and also do what we can to Reclaim such Person from all such Evil Courses for the Future. (Read More)
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Serendipity and Madame Le Brun

Leah Marie Brown gives a charming account of her early encounter with the court artist of Marie-Antoinette. Share

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grace Kelly on Motherhood

Some interesting reflections:
While discussing Princess Grace, though, I wanted to post this article, published July 30, 1971 in Life magazine. Grace's remarks on motherhood highlight some aspects of her personality that are perhaps apt to be neglected in all the racy biographies and speculation on her private life. Her words ring even truer today than they did 39 years ago.

On a visit to Chicago last month, Princess Grace of Monaco, mother of three, came out firmly for motherhood- and against quite a few other things. Appearing at a convention of La Leche League, a women's group organized to encourage breast-feeding, she urged other mothers to take up the practice, to be "happy in their role and aware of its importance." She breast-fed each of her children for two months, starting with Caroline, born in 1957. "I couldn't think of having a baby without feeding her myself," she said.
The princess also advised breast-feeding as a means to help "combat the current wave of public indecency. Nothing is sacred anymore," she said, "anything goes. Watch some of the commercials on television or listen to some of the songs. Everything is being debased, made cheap. But in the family, if a mother nurses her baby, the other children can see the wholesomeness of sex, the naturalness of it. And that helps them prepare for what they'll see outside the home."
A Roman Catholic, she is firmly against abortion-"any kind, legal or illegal." She fended off questions on women's liberation, but had little good to say about some of the movement's goals-such as day-care centers. "It's a pity," she said, "There seems to be a great tendency to get rid of children, even among mothers who don't work."
The princess, who presumably does not have any baby-sitter problems of her own, is opposed to mothers sharing the child-rearing chores, even with fathers. "Why should they help?" she asks. "It's against nature. With animals you don't see the male caring for the offspring. It's a woman's prerogative and duty, and a privilege." This feminine uniqueness extends to the delivery room. In her own case, the princess asked Prince Rainier not to attend. "I didn't want him there," she said. "I had to concentrate on the business at hand."
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Real Templar Secrets

Fr. Angelo Mary shares some hymns beloved by the Knights Templar, including a Templar version of the Salve Regina. Share

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Recent Talk

Last Sunday I gave a talk at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College, PA. Afterwards there was a wonderful discussion. It was a lovely time. Here is the transcript of the talk:
“Writing the Faith in the Modern World”

People always ask about my pen name: My legal name is Mary-Eileen Russell but I write under my Spanish grandmother’s name to honor her. I have been around the world and around the country but this is the first time I have been invited to talk about my books right here in the town where I live. I would like to thank Monsignor Lockard for inviting me and for having this series on the Arts. Thanks to everyone here at OLV.
As Pope Benedict XVI said last year in his "Address to Artists":
Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality….
The novel is certainly an art form. I write historical fiction and I try to see my books as a window into the past, as paintings which come to life and bring history to life for the reader. As Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1999 “Letter to Artists”:
Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.

The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God.
In this modern world we are surrounded by negative images, images which can seduce and disturb the soul, generating despair. As Pope Benedict said:
Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy.
This is particularly true of novels and historical fiction, which often use false interpretations of history to attack not only the church, but to subvert morals and promote an anti-Christian agenda. I am thinking particularly of Dan Brown’s books which use bogus history to promote a false image of Christ and Christians. Such novels are now legion. The back lash of this is to write a Catholic novel where all the Catholics are saints and all the non-Catholics are horrible people. But that is not real either.

The Church has always been a hospital for sinners and the so-called “bad Catholics” have always been with us, and probably will be until the end of time. A genuine portrayal of the past will reflect that fact. One of the challenges of my new book The Night’s Dark Shade is that it shows Catholics Behaving Badly. Should we gloss over historical truth? I think that if we stay faithful to the truths of our faith as well as being faithful to historical accuracy, the faith will shine through. In the darkest times, there were always saints, there were martyrs. As I wrote in the preface of Trianon: "The darkness of the night makes the stars shine with an ever greater resplendence.” But prayer and research must accompany our journey, thorough prayer and thorough research.

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Powerful Beauty

Some unique photographs of Versailles. Share

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

History's Slave

My friend Gareth Russell informed me yesterday that he referred to my novel Trianon in his dissertation at Oxford University a few years ago. Gareth also tells me that both Trianon and Madame Royale are to be found at Bodleian Library at Oxford. I am overwhelmed! Below are some excerpts from Gareth's brilliant exegesis that he has kindly shared with us.
From: HISTORY’S SLAVE: THE POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION OF QUEEN MARIE-ANTOINETTE By Gareth Russell B.A. Oxon (Saint Peter’s College, University of Oxford, Trinity Term 2007. Supervised by Dr. R. Gildea, Fellow of Worcester College, University of Oxford.)

From Section II - FULL OF GRACE: The Cult of Marie-Antoinette, “the martyr-queen”

Incredible as it may seem, given that the reverse is true for their long-term political fortunes, it is the sanctified image of Marie-Antoinette created by royalist dévots and Catholic populism at the beginning of the nineteenth century that has endured with far greater strength and appeal than the republican-manufactured image of a debauched and cruel adulteress. For some die-hard monarchists, the spectral figure of Marie-Antoinette remains ‘the incarnation of The Cause’ and the politico-religious significance of her death is, for them, undiminished: ‘In Marie-Antoinette lived and perished one of the most gracious martyrs of the Faith ... [she] died for having wanted to remain an obedient daughter of the Church, a preserver, as far as it depended on her, of Christ’s presence in the realm of France and as loyal as she could be to Him as who saved her by the Cross.’ (Ref 2.19, J.M. Charles-Roux, “Marie Antoinette: The Martyred Queen of Christian Europe,” The Royal Stuart Society, 1988, Vol. 6., No. 3., 55 – 62, The Royal Stuart Society and Royalist League, Huntingdon.)

In 1997, American author, Elena Maria Vidal, published a novel based on the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, entitled “Trianon.” The novel in itself is interesting beyond being a work of literature because it preserves a particularly Catholic version of the fall of the monarchy and the personality of Marie-Antoinette in particular. Appearing on Catholic network television in the United States, the novelist criticised the ‘general impression that most people do [have of her], the kind of decadent feather-head who, you know, didn’t really care about the people’ and discussed the machinations of the Comte de Provence and the Duc d’Orléans, which were felt to have been largely responsible for the destruction of Marie-Antoinette’s initial popularity amongst the Parisians. The opening inscription of “Trianon” was a quote from the Marquise de Gouvion Broglie Scolari who, at the height of the royalist cult of Marie-Antoinette, had proclaimed, ‘Never a saint more merited to be ranked in the long list of martyrs than Marie-Antoinette.’

However, it would be wrong to paint “Trianon” as a resurrection of purely Catholic polemicism in a modern commercial guise. It did not attempt to erase, for instance, instances of the Queen’s extravagance or various political mistakes made by the monarchical establishment in the years immediately pre-dating the Revolution. It was, in short, a far more nuanced characterizations than we might expect if we were simply to crudely label Miss Vidal’s work as “Catholic” and attempt to draw a straight line from it back to the explosion of popular veneration associated with Marie-Antoinette in the immediately post-Restoration era. The atmosphere and tone of “Trianon” is thus what we might describe as “emotionally Catholic,” but is neither panegyric nor polemical and this is an important development. As we shall see, the links between “Trianon” and Catholic sentiment about Marie-Antoinette are revelatory and indicative of a wider historiographical trend – for they are strong, but they are not prohibitive or controlling, nor have they negatively affected the tone of the novel and it is this kind of long-term links, persistent yet evolutionary, which characterises the relationships between the earlier and the later cultural manifestations of Marie-Antoinette’s posthumous reputation....
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Robin Hood (2010)


It sounds like a perfectly dreadful film. Steve Greydanus reviews it, HERE. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal says:
Robin Hoods have come and gone, at least one of them wondrously zestful (Errol Flynn's) and one of them woefully zonked (Kevin Costner's). Up to now, the only absurd retelling of the evergreen legend has been Mel Brooks's send-up, "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." Yet Ridley Scott's new version achieves an absurdity all its own. It's an ersatz epic about men in fights—grim fights, grinding battles, clanking combats that are repetitive and, in a movie that runs 140 minutes, all but endless. Russell Crowe fights against Brian Helgeland's turgid script—although, as the star and one of the producers, he must have been complicit in its development. Still, he's thwarted by the production's almost total, and truly absurd, absence of fun.

"The more the merrier," Robin says at one point. If only. The sole merriment outbreak occurs, perversely, at the very end, when all battles have ceased and Robin and his men are regrouping in the forest. Until then, this phenomenally monotonous "Robin Hood" dwells on Robin's beginnings as a commoner who impersonates a knight, takes up arms against ruthless King John and his treacherous henchman, unifies Albion against a French invasion and, as if that weren't enough, is mainly responsible for drawing up the Magna Carta. (Except that the king refuses to sign the darned thing, so where does that leave England now?)
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Death of Abbé Edgeworth de Firmont

On May 22, 1807, Abbé Henry Edgeworth, the last confessor of Louis XVI, died in what is now Latvia with the exiled Bourbon court. The daughter of Louis XVI, Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France, was at his side as he drew his last breath. The scene is described in the novel Trianon.
The town of Mitau was bright with snow in the sunshine of a May morning, and cold winds whipped around the little palace which His Imperial Majesty the Tsar of All the Russias had generously loaned to the impoverished, exiled Bourbons. In a small, sparsely furnished room of the palace, an aged priest lay dying. In a chair beside his bed sat a young woman, not quite thirty, in a maroon, high-waisted wool dress, with a white linen apron. Under a close fitting white cap, her amber-colored hair, in a grecian knot, framed a strong, solemn face with piercing blue-gray eyes. Dipping a cloth into a basin of water, she sponged the forehead of the sick man, whose chest shuddered and heaved. At first glance, no one would guess that she was Madame Royale, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, their Mousseline la sérieuse, now the Duchesse d’Angoulême. With closer examination, no one with her dignified, albeit rather stiff bearing could be anything but a princess. She radiated a cold majesty to those who did not know her, but in her eyes burned the fires of deep emotions; her frigid manner was from sadness, not apathy or scorn. ~from Trianon: A Novel of Royal France by Elena Maria Vidal

(Image Source)
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A Writer's Contradictions

The Life of Irène Némirovsky is reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
The literary lives of the French writer Irène Némirovsky (1903-42) include a posthumous one: In 2004, more than six decades after her death at Auschwitz, the manuscript of a novel that she had left behind in her adopted homeland of France was published to an acclaim even greater than her work had garnered in the prewar days. The book also complicated her reputation in ways that no one who knew her earlier work could have expected.

"Suite Française" consisted of two novellas: "Tempête," which caustically captured the hurly-burly of Paris as the Nazis occupied it in 1940; and "Dolce," which pictured the strangely normal French life that managed to persist in a nearby village. Readers of "Suite Française," even if unaware of Némirovsky's fate in the Holocaust, cannot fail to be held by the strength of her vivid portraiture and her measured, limpid prose. As if out of nowhere, Némirovsky gave 21st-century readers an almost palpable sense of what it was like to be alive on the verge of one of the 20th century's major cataclysms. The reasons for the delay in the book's publication were at once mundane and moving: Thinking that the manuscript was a diary kept by their mother, Némirovsky's two daughters—who survived the war, shielded by a nursemaid— had simply been unable to bring themselves to look at it....

Messrs. Philipponnat and Lienhardt begin "The Life of Irène Némirovsky" by describing her end—at Auschwitz, located roughly midway between her birthplace in the Ukraine and her adopted spiritual home in France. The authors believe that she died of typhus, as the Nazi records have it, rather than in a gas chamber.
Her ultimate fate was so tragic that it softens whatever harsh feelings one might have about her earlier, rebarbative views. It is possible, as some have done, to see her victimization at the hands of the Nazis as an ironically just fate, given those views—a kind of cosmic justice. But of course her fate was shared by millions—and there was no justice to any of it. In any case, the Nazis denied everything most precious to Némirovsky and her fiercely wrought identity: her Catholicism, her artistry, her Frenchness, her individuality, her humanity.
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Anne's Faith

What exactly did Anne Boleyn believe? Gareth Russell tackles the question.
During Cromwell’s visit the previous day, he and Kingston had doubtless discussed the Queen’s request that the Sacrament be brought to her Oratory; she had made that request on the day of her arrest, but it had still not been fulfilled and, today being Sunday, this had once again focussed Her Majesty’s attention on the fact that the Sacrament was missing from her rooms. She had also been without spiritual comfort in the form of a priest since the last time she had heard Mass - in her rooms at Greenwich, five days earlier, on the morning of the arrest.

The problem with a priest being allowed to visit her was that Anne was quite specific that she wanted her own confessor, Father John Skip, who at Easter had launched a blistering sermon at Court, in which he likened Cromwell to the biblical villain, the genocidal and duplicitous Haman. Kingston was thus understandably nervous about asking Cromwell to dispatch the fire-breathing padre; when he did finally pass the request along, he diplomatically referred to Father Skip as a man “who she supposeth to be devout”. At least that way, Kingston himself could avoid giving any of his own opinions on the troublesome cleric.

However, whilst a tad awkward, the request for her confessor was not necessarily problematic; Cromwell simply ignored it. It was the Queen’s repeated insistence that the Sacrament be brought to her rooms which posed a plethora of problems for the government. (Read More.)
The Trial of Anne Boleyn, HERE. Share

Martyred Priests

Poland mourns 3000. Share

The Third Secret of Fatima

The Pope Speaks. Scott Richert reports:
Strangely, though, the secular media paid little attention to a rather interesting exchange during the Holy Father's press conference on his way to Portugal on Tuesday, May 11, 2010. This lack of attention is all them more remarkable considering that it concerned the only Catholic topic that the media seems interested in these days: clerical sexual abuse.
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Napoléon and Marie-Louise

Madame Delors discusses an exhibition dedicated to the Austrian archduchess who was the niece of Marie Antoinette as well as the cousin of Madame Royale.
In 1810 Napoléon was freshly divorced from Joséphine, who had been unable to produce an heir. He was intent on founding a dynasty. This prestigious union with a Habsburg princess was also designed to comfort his legitimacy in the eyes of the French and indeed all of Europe. His new bride was twice, though her father, Emperor Francis II and her mother, Maria Teresa of Naples, grand-niece of Marie-Antoinette.
And in 1770 a fourteen-year Archduchess Marie-Antoinette had been greeted at Compiègne by Louis XV and her fiancé, the Dauphin Louis-Auguste, future Louis XVI. Now, forty years later, Napoléon wanted to proclaim himself the equal of the Bourbons by meeting a bride of the same bloodline in the same palace.
No expense or effort had been spared to impress Marie-Louise and make her stay delightful. The  palace of Compiègne had been extensively redecorated for the occasion, works of art, chosen for their themes of love and fecundity, brought in from the Louvre, and furniture made to order for the arrival of the new Empress.

Napoléon is reported to have said that he was marrying un ventre, “a belly.” Marshall Berthier, dispatched to Vienna to bring the Archduchess to France, wrote his master, anxious to hear about her allurements, that Marie-Louise, “without being a pretty woman,” had “everything needed to make Your Majesty happy."
As for Marie-Louise, she had been terrified and repulsed at the idea of marrying the boogieman of Europe,  and considered herself a sacrifice. But Napoléon was immediately charmed by her, and would know in turn how to charm her. One of the secrets of his grip on power was his personal charisma. (Read More.)
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A Reminder

Tomorrow I will be speaking at 2 pm in Gardiner Social Hall of the Activities Center of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College, PA. The talk will be about being a Catholic novelist in contemporary society. The discussion will be accompanied by a reading and book signing. Coffee and tea will be served. I look forward to a lively discussion as well as some great conversations afterwards. It will be fun, so come if you can! Share

Anne Boleyn's Treatment of Princess Mary

 A closer look. To quote:
I think it is quite clear that Henry VIII was personally affronted with his daughter’s actions and enraged that not only would she defy him but she would side with her mother. It may be true that Henry had tears in his eyes when he spoke of his daughter’s defiance to the French ambassador who subsequently replied that Mary had nonetheless been granted an excellent upbringing (p. 81). But these were not tears for his daughter. For Henry, it was he who was the injured party here. It is quite clear that he was astonished by his daughter’s actions; angered and hurt. Though I do not suggest for one minute that we share his outlook, it was, nonetheless, his approach.

 Here is another review of the latest controversial book about Anne by G.W. Bernard. Share

Friday, May 14, 2010

The "Deluxe" Edition

The Night's Dark Shade is now available in hardcover, complete with a lovely dust jacket. I just think that every respectable book should have a hardback version of itself. Share

Strawberries

In late May and early June, when I was growing up there were wild strawberries in the woods and fields around our house. They were especially sweet and delicious; I had no idea how healthy they were. They have quite a history as well.
Strawberries have grown wild for millennia in temperature regions throughout the world. They began being cultivated sometime before the Christian era and were highly prized by many ancient Romans. Yet, after the fall of Rome, they seemed to have lost their favor until they reemerged in Europe in the Middle Ages. During this time, they began to be prized again, more so for their medicinal qualities than for their culinary value. Cultivation techniques of the European varieties, which were much smaller than the American varieties, were advanced at this time, although the resulting fruits were not as sweet and fragrant as the strawberries of today, and therefore, they did not readily gain widespread popularity.
It was not until the 18th century, when coincidence and the workings of Nature's mysteries coincided, that strawberries developed into the luscious fruit we know them to be and began to be more widely appreciated. In 1714, a French engineer sent to Chile and Peru to monitor Spanish activities in these countries "discovered" a strawberry native to this region that was much larger than those grown in Europe. He brought many samples back to France, which were subsequently planted. These plants did not originally flourish well until a natural crossbreeding occurred between this species and a neighboring North American strawberry variety that was planted nearby in the field. The result was a hybrid strawberry that was large, juicy and sweet, and one that quickly grew in popularity in Europe.
The strawberry, like many other perishable fruits at this time, remained a luxury item only enjoyed by the wealthy until the mid-19th century. Once railways were built and more rapid means of transportation established, strawberries were able to be shipped longer distances and were able to be enjoyed by more people. The strawberry is now the most popular berry fruit in the world. Currently, the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are among the largest commercial producers of strawberries.
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A Lost Face

What did Queen Margaret of Anjou look like? Author Susan Higginbotham shares her research for her latest historical novel.
Though contemporaries had a great deal to say about Margaret of Anjou, complimentary and otherwise, scarcely anyone troubled to write about such a mundane detail as her personal appearance. The most detailed description is a secondhand one, which appears in a letter from Raffaelo De Negra to Bianca Maria Visconti, Duchess of Milan, dated October 24, 1458: "The Englishman told me that the queen is a most handsome woman, though somewhat dark and not so beautiful as your Serenity."

Flattery aside, what exactly does "somewhat dark" mean? Did it mean that Margaret was a brunette? Did it mean that she was a dark blonde? Did it refer merely to her complexion in general? For the record, I know next to nothing about the Duchess of Milan, but it appears from her portraits that she had very fair hair and a very light complexion, so compared to her, many if not most women might have looked "somewhat dark."
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The First Queen of the Belgians


Louise d'Orléans, consort of Leopold I.
The first Queen of the Belgians, Louise d'Orléans, consort of Leopold I, is a figure I have long found fascinating and sympathetic. Since she was generally shy and retiring, died young, and was soon relegated to a vague, pious memory, she has been called la reine oubliée, the "Forgotten Queen." She certainly deserves to be remembered, though! Here are some facts about this lady; I hope they will show why she is intriguing and appealing...
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What to Pack

On a one week trip. It can be quite a challenge. Share

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Compliments Cause Grief

`Who's making personal remarks now?' the Hatter asked triumphantly. ~from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
The Wall Street Journal has a thought-provoking article about how compliments can hurt, saying:
Ah, compliments. We crave them, especially from certain people. We bridle when we don't receive them and chafe when they are backhanded. We often have trouble accepting them graciously. Yet we remember the good ones, and the backhanded ones, for a very, very long time.
As children, most of us were taught by our mothers and teachers that offering up a flattering remark to someone else is easy. Sadly, that was a lie. In the real world, there's a fine art to giving—and receiving—a well-tailored compliment.
 Advice is given on how to give a worthy compliment:
• Be sincere. (Enough said.)
• Be selective. Think Goldilocks: You don't want your compliment to be too big or too small. You want it to be just right.
• Be specific. Don't say: "You look pretty today." Say: "That sweater really brings out the color of your eyes."
• Show impact. Tell the person how they have positively affected you. So instead of "I like your column today, Elizabeth, try: "Your story made me run right out and compliment a stranger."
• Just say thank you. When you receive a compliment, be gracious, not self-deprecating. Take the remark for what you want it to be. And don't worry about praising the person in return. It's a compliment, not a volley.
It is good to keep in mind the old practice of being careful of not making remarks that are too personal, even kind remarks, to anyone, especially to those who are mere acquaintances. According to Emily Post:
  Personal compliments, however, are proper only from a close friend. No acquaintance, unless she is quite old, should ever make personal remarks. An old lady or gentleman might very forgivably say “You don’t mind, my dear, if I tell you how sweet I think you look,” or “What a pretty frock you have on.” But it is bad taste for a young woman to say to another “What a handsome dress you have on!” and worst of all to add “Where did you get it?” The young girl’s particular friends are, of course, apt to tell her that her dress is wonderful, or more likely, “simply divine.”
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The Last Letter of Anne Boleyn

Did she really write it?
There are, however, several anomalies within the letter that suggest it might not be entirely genuine. The first is the handwriting – as both James Gairdner and Agnes Strickland pointed out back in the 19th century, it is simply not neat enough to be Anne Boleyn’s. From a very early age, Anne’s style was defined by delicate, dainty strokes of the pen – compared to most of her contemporaries, she had extraordinarily neat and even handwriting, for which any historian studying her should be eternally grateful. Believe me.

Secondly, she refers to herself as “Anne Bulen.” When she used her maiden name, it was always as “Boleyn” or the Gallicised “de Boulaine.” The Boleyns had not used the earlier Anglo-Saxon variant of their surname, “Bullen,” for quite some time before Anne’s birth and for her to inexplicably revert to it here seems highly improbable. Moreover, since 1533, she had always signed herself as “Anne the Queen” and as the coming weeks would show, she was very keen to continue doing just that - any attempts to undermine her royal position within the Tower, she fought like a tigress protecting its cub.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A New Light

Florence Nightingale, the reluctant celebrity. (Via Hermes.)
When Nightingale returned from the Crimea in 1856, she was aghast to find she had become a celebrity, through newspaper accounts, sentimental engravings and the romantic Lady of the Lamp nickname, coined by the American poet Longfellow.

Her shock at the unwanted attention, which made her one of the first global media sensations, is one of the explanations put forward by biographers for a lifelong invalidity, which saw her largely confined to bed for the next half-century, until her death in 1910.
The estate is still partly occupied by her in-laws through a family trust, which has lent the letters, photographs and personal papers.

"Other places give the impression of this very stern public figure, devoted to duty and good works," said Philip Warner, the property's manager. "Here we have Florence Nightingale off duty, writing little notes to members of the household, including one very touching one sympathising with one of the servants who had lost her husband.

Although Nightingale's hundreds of books, essays and pamphlets, and thousands of letters, were mainly written from the bedroom of her London home, she spent long periods at Claydon, where she had her own bedroom and handsomely furnished sitting room. She organised an annual tea party at the house for the women from her school of nursing. One of the photographs shows them gathered on the lawn, while she appears, dressed in white — unlike most of her surviving gowns and known photographs which show her in severe black — in the window.
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Traditionalists and the American Founding

Now this is provocative. (Via Joshua Snyder)
George III was an essentially decent man with an inherited condition that made him first unstable and ultimately quite mad. He was a far more patriotic and honest ruler than any US president of the past 100 years. In my view, supported by considerable evidence, the American Revolution began as a project of conspiratorial Yankees who had been plotting treason for years. They only succeeded when the British government overreacted and created sympathy in the South for the Yankeee traitors. One branch of my family were Tories, not because they liked George III: In fact they did not regard him as legitimate–as indeed, he was not–but they were Scots who had given their word and they fled to Canada. Even some Scottish supporters of the revolution were rabbled and mistreated. (I too belong to a persecuted minority). There were elements of good and bad in the revolution, and it is as naive to claim that it was essentially conservative, as Russell Kirk did, as to insist that it was essentially radical, as leftists and some Catholics do. It was a very mixed bag. There were men of honor both in North and South, but there were also free-thinkers and libertines like Franklin.
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Monday, May 10, 2010

The Sack of Rome, 1527

The Mad Monarchist discusses one of the greatest atrocities of all time, perpetrated by Christians upon other Christians.
It was on this day in 1527 that one of the great disasters in modern European history occurred with the horrific sack of Rome by the out-of-control forces of the Holy Roman Empire. The violence was horrific, the cruelties committed were extreme and the desecrations unspeakable. It was certainly one of the most shameful episodes in the history of Europe and is generally considered as the end of the glorious Renaissance period. However, there was a shining example in this devastating atrocity and that was the immense heroism and sacrifice of the Papal Swiss Guard. All but a handful of these brave men were massacred, fighting to the death, overwhelmed and fighting up the very steps of St Peter’s Basilica; buying time with their lives for the handful that remained to escort Pope Clement VII to safety in Castel Sant’Angelo.
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Welcoming the Stranger

How do we apply a basic tenet of Christianity in today's world, when some strangers might mean us harm? Dr. Zmirak explains:
The first major monastic order in the West, which preserved Western culture through the Dark Ages, was the Order of St. Benedict. Conveniently for this case, the Benedictines did more than simply embrace poverty, chastity, and obedience. They also took literally the very mandate we're considering here: "Welcome the stranger." Across the world, the Benedictines are famous for offering hospitality to visitors -- who, to this day, can drop in unannounced at Benedictine communities and receive a warm bed and hot meals, no questions asked.
You know what the Benedictines don't do? They don't let large groups of strangers move in permanently, flout the rules of the community, claim the status of monks, and help elect a new abbot. Had that been part of Benedictine hospitality, the Vikings wouldn't have needed to batter down the walls of places like Lindisfarne in order to steal all the sacred vessels. They could have simply turned up, moved in, eaten the monks' food and drunk their wine, and waited till they had the numbers to vote in Bjorgolf as abbot. Sure, he might change all the monastery's rules, loot its treasury, and divide its land among his warriors . ..
But that's the price of "welcoming the stranger" in the style that's being demanded of us today. In a mass democracy where new citizens can vote to raise our taxes, confiscate our property, subject us to discrimination through affirmative action, force us to adopt bilingual laws, and otherwise remake our life as a community, mass immigration threatens to transform America against the wishes of its citizens. And foreign governments are complicit in the process -- as Mexico purposely shoves across our borders the citizens with whom it doesn't wish to share the wealth. It's as if a mischievous fraternity had decided to flood a Benedictine abbey with its pledges, until they could vote in one of their members as the abbot, and turn the monastery into a really awesome gothic tequila bar. 
Australia is famously "girt by sea," and is a luckier country than the US with no shallow, fordable Rio Grande River for immigrants to cross.  Illegal immigrants are thus a minor element in Australian demographics. The real problem will always be those immigrants the Government allows and encourages to immigrate
Whence come these immigrants?
One thing for which we can be (slightly) grateful: in Australia, the U.S.-style family-reunification racket is no longer the juggernaut it was. Skilled migration has become much more prominent. There are even, mirabile dictu, attempts made to demand from skilled-migration candidates a certain proficiency in English. So far, so good.
But note how theory breaks down against the seemingly irresistible onrush of open-borders practice. Theoretically, as Dr. Wilkinson explains, overseas applicants for university study in Australia need to have passed Band 6 of the International English Language Test System (IELTS), which declares them to be "competent" in the tongue. But if a migrant is already here and wants the so-called Subclass 880 skilled-migrant visa, he need only pass IELTS Band 5. Two-thirds of those migrants who qualify for Subclass 880 are, in fact, stuck at the Band 5 stage. How very reassuring if you are forced to depend on them for preparing your tax return, or removing your brain tumor.
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Signed Books Available

For those friends and readers who have asked about getting signed copies of the newly revised edition of Trianon, they are now available HERE. Sorry for the delay! Share

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mary Tudor and Fashion

Like her mother Katherine of Aragon, Mary Tudor was truly a Renaissance queen, presiding in glittering array. To quote:
Mary adored clothes and jewels. During her years of disgrace (1533-1536), a number of her fine gowns and jewels were taken away in punishment over her refusal to recognise her new demoted status. She complained bitterly and was reduced, the imperial ambassador claims, to ‘send[ing] a gentleman to the King, her father, begging him to provide her with the necessary articles.’ Her subsequent vast expenditure on clothes, namely as queen, was in some respects a way of compensating for that experience. Yet there was also a sense of sheer joy in fashion. In 1554 the Venetian ambassador remarked that Mary 'seems to delight above all in arraying herself elegantly and magnificently.’ She ‘changes every day’. In the later years of her father’s reign, when she was back in favour, she would pay great attention to her inventory of jewels. We find her hand in the inventory of 1542-46, carefully documenting all the items bestowed upon her. The pleasure was not only in receiving. Mary indulged in the customary practise of awarding articles of jewellery and clothing as gifts. One ‘grene Tablet garneshed wt golde hauyng the Picture of the trinite in it’ was given to ‘my laday Elizabeth grace’, her half-sister, whilst she granted one Mistress Ryder a ‘rounde tablet blacke enamelled wt the Kings Picture and quene Janes [Seymour]’ on the occasion of this woman’s marriage. Philip also received gifts of clothing from his wife. For their wedding, Philip wore a mantle of gold cloth that Mary had given him. The mantle was set with numerous precious stones.
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Standing up for Mothers

Real men do not allow their children to be aborted. Cheryl Dickow offers some compelling thoughts.
A mother who cannot feed her children needs our help. She should not be in a situation where she sees abortion as an option. We should not be creating a nation in which a mother — regardless of her age and circumstances — feels that killing her child is the best of all alternatives.  But regardless of her feelings, our nation cannot continue to allow this legal murder.

There was recently an article in USA Today about how each side (pro-death and pro-life) would be ahead if the number of abortions was at least reduced. The argument was presented in such a way that a little win-win was better than nothing at all.

Having looked at those babies whose lives were snatched during the most vulnerable of times, I am certain that even one abortion is far too many and that no one wins when a baby’s life is taken. Too many mothers have had to wake the hard way to that sad reality. Thank God for the men who know it and who stand up for mothers.
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The Chance to be a Mother

Writer Amy Henry muses upon what Mother's Day cards never say.
 So while I hope that my daughter has every choice in life, I also hope that she has the chance to be a mother. And perhaps my task now is to make sure that when she is, no one can make her feel ashamed or diminished by making that choice. I hope to teach her that baking Barbie cakes and reading "Harold and the Purple Crayon" and sitting on her child's bed listening to stories about his day even though her back feels like someone went at her with a two-by-four—are, inconsequential as they seem at first blush, the very warp and woof of a mother's life.
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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why Brides Wear White

Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress, at least for the English speaking world. Share

Socialization

Homeschooled children are in the lead.
An unprecedented new study of adults who were homeschooled not only contradicts assertions they lack socialization but shows them far more likely than the average American to be civically minded and engaged in their local communities.

Parents who homeschool often are asked, "Aren't you concerned about your child's socialization?" notes the survey's author, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Now in Paperback

Trianon: A Novel of Royal France is now available in soft cover. I have edited the second edition; there have been some minor changes that make the depiction of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette even more authentic. It will be available from Amazon in a few weeks. As the back cover says:
The fruit of years of research, Trianon corrects many of the popular misconceptions about Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. The novel chronicles their resolution and dignity in the face of crushing disappointments, innumerable humiliations, personal and national tragedy, and death itself. Originally published in 1997, Trianon has received critical acclaim and gained an international following. Mayapple Books is happy to announce the third edition of this timeless portrait of one of the most enigmatic and tragic royal couples who ever lived.
"A meticulously researched work of historical fiction...." ~John Beeler, The Suburban and Wayne Times 
"What distinguishes this short and readable book from others is Vidal's examining their lives in light of their Catholic faith in a country that, until the Revolution, was the 'eldest daughter of the Church.'" ~Mike May, Pittsburgh Magazine, March 1998  
"Exhaustively researched and yet completely accessible for those who wish to understand the events from a very personal perspective."~ Genevieve Kineke, Canticle Magazine, May-June, 2007
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