Thursday, June 30, 2011

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The archduke whose murder provoked World War I.
In the years since, many have tried to portray the Archduke as spoiled, aloof and uninformed but that could not be farther from the truth. He was wealthy, having inherited the fortune of his cousin the Duke of Modena and he was more of an avid sportsman than an intellectual but he was also well educated, well traveled and took his position as heir to the throne seriously. He devoted a great deal of his time to studying the problems of Austria-Hungary and how he might one day solve them, looking to examples from history and the world around him for ideas. He traveled extensively across Europe and around the world visiting Australia, Japan and Canada on one trip alone. He served in the army and was found to have a natural talent for organization, eventually becoming inspector general of the Imperial & Royal armed forces in 1913. His personality was such that he could seem a bit authoritarian at times but this was certainly not his character as his private life clearly shows. (Read entire article.)

A Wedding in Monaco

I believe it's the day after tomorrow. Here is some interesting background from the Mail Online, with lots of pictures. Share

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Elizabeth I and Style

Fashion under the Virgin Queen.
In private Elizabeth dressed quite plainly, in simple gowns, and I love to imagine her retiring to her chambers and throwing off layers and layers of official finery before collapsing by the fire. However, in public Elizabeth always dressed to impress and carefully cultivated an image that spoke of power, majesty, splendour and generosity.

The Queen’s coronation portrait clearly shows her iconic red hair (which she later maintained using wigs) and her love of luxurious fabrics and jewels. As well as being enjoyed for their own sake, such materials were an obvious way of demonstrating class and status. The Elizabethans lived within a strict framework of ‘sumptuary laws’ designed to control behaviour and maintain a rigid class system. These laws reserved some fabrics and colours for royalty alone (including ermine and scarlet outerwear), allocated some to lesser nobles (such as fox and otter fur), and then prescribed further restrictions for each class of person. (Read entire article.)

The On-Going Crisis

Fr. Blake reflects, saying:
If anything I think we have gone backwards, there is less pastoral care of clergy than there was before the "abuse crisis" broke. There is a tendency for some bishops to regard their clergy as potential liabilities, causes for the inflation of insurance premiums, rather than disciples or co-workers in the Lord's vineyard, or co-cross carriers. A previous generation might have introduced fast days or litanies or a feast of Our Lady into the calendar for the healing of the Church and all victims, but we,we just produce more paper. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Foods that Fight Stress

Some advice from Parents magazine.
As a dietitian, I often give moms advice on feeding their family and themselves healthfully. With three young children myself, I know how tough it can be to balance nutrition, convenience, and taste. Moms often tell me they tend to often reach for sugary, fatty comfort foods, and there's a physical reason for it: When your body is under stress, it releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Both cause blood sugar to spike but then eventually plummet, leading to a craving for sweets. However, certain healthier foods may help your body deal better with the various physical effects of stress, and others may actually improve your mood. Of course, food alone won't do the trick, since so many variables affect the way we feel. But proper nutrition is one of the few factors that we can control, points out Parents advisor Connie Diekman, R.D., director of University Nutrition at Washington University, in St. Louis. So put down the bag of chips and read on. (Read entire article.)

Pregnant Women under Attack?

I was shocked to read that many women who lose their babies through accidents are being prosecuted. Yet women who abort their children are within the law. (Yes, it is true that women should not drink or do drugs when they are pregnant.)  Here is a very disturbing article on how even a very good law, one designed to protect women and their unborn children, can be abused.
Amanda Kimbrough is one of the women who have been ensnared as a result of the law being applied in a wholly different way. During her pregnancy her foetus was diagnosed with possible Down's syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, which Kimbrough declined as she is not in favour of abortion.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section prematurely in April 2008 and died 19 minutes after birth. Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with "chemical endangerment" of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy – a claim she has denied.

"That shocked me, it really did," Kimbrough said. "I had lost a child, that was enough."

She now awaits an appeal ruling from the higher courts in Alabama, which if she loses will see her begin a 10-year sentence behind bars. "I'm just living one day at a time, looking after my three other kids," she said. "They say I'm a criminal, how do I answer that? I'm a good mother."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Corpus Christi in Pre-Reformation England

Stephanie Mann posts on how the feast of Corpus Christi was kept in England in the days before the break with Rome. From the high Middle Ages until 1955, Corpus Christi was celebrated with an octave, so for the inhabitants of Catholic Europe it was for many centuries part of the midsummer cycle of festivities, all of which had some basis in the liturgy. Sometimes I feel that I have lived through a modern Reformation; when I was a small child Corpus Christi was a Holy Day of Obligation (and still is) but now in the United State it has been transferred from Thursday to Sunday so is barely a blip on the radar screen. It was not so in Merry Old England. According to Mrs. Mann:
Before the Reformation in England, it was a day of great ritual, with processions comparable to Holy Thursday and the performance of the Mystery Plays, which enacted salvation history from Creation to the Second Coming. This Feast was introduced in England during the early 14th century (1318) with the Office by St. Thomas Aquinas, but it gained almost immediate popularity among the English, according to Eamon Duffy and Miri Rubin. The English expressed their devotion to the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist with the formation of Corpus Christi Guilds to prepare for the annual celebrations. The cycle of Mystery plays also required months of preparation and fundraising for the decorations, so in York and other cities, the Catholic community worked together. Anthony Esolen interprets the Wakefield cycle of plays here.

Adoration and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was essential to pre-Reformation Catholic spirituality in England. The Corpus Christi was the center of the entire Paschal Mystery of Incarnation, Redemption and Resurrection. For the individual Christian, Christ's Real Presence in Mass and in adoration outside of Mass, symbolized their participation in that Mystery--even though they in the normal course of the liturgical year received Holy Communion rarely.

That devotion is also expressed in the allegorical Corpus Christi Carol:

Lulley, lully, lulley, lully,
The faucon hath born my mak away.
He bare hym up, he bare hym down,
He bare hym into an orchard brown.
In that orchard ther was an hall,
That was hanged with purpill and pall.
And in that hall ther was a bede,
Hit was hangid with gold so rede.
And yn that bede ther lythe a knyght,
His wowndes bledyng day and nyght.
By that bedes side ther kneleth a may,
And she wepeth both nyght and day.
And by that bedes side ther stondith a ston,
"Corpus Christi" wretyn theron.

The Feast and the festivities associated with it were suppressed, of course, by order of the government, although revived briefly during Mary I's reign. Celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi was forbidden early in the reign of Edward VI in 1548. The last record of any performance of the plays dates to 1569, although they had been adapted to suit the new religious order. (Read entire article.)

Rebuilding the Russian Family

They need babies in Russia.
The awful truth behind these Russian trends is confirmed by provisional figures from the country’s 2010 census. The population has declined from 145 million in 2002 to just under 143 million -- less than half the population of its rival superpower, the United States (322 million), and far behind the rising powers of China and India to the east and south. If it were not for growth in immigration from former Soviet republics, the figure would be even worse...

In the creative corner there was the Year of the Family in 2008, with July 7 nominated a Day of Family, Love and Fidelity -- a new national holiday. For at least part of the year there was a ban on abortion propaganda in the media and even, in the Black Sea city of Novorossiysk, a “week without abortion” timed to coincide with the Russian Day of Motherhood on the last Sunday of November. During this pro-life lull the city provided open days in which psychologists and gynaecologists gave encouraging talks about motherhood, and universities screened films demonstrating the detrimental effects of abortion....

Novorossiysk also led the field with the somewhat crude instrument of a day devoted to “child making”, the city administration ordering that people be let off work early for the purpose of going home to boost the population. In the city of Ulyanovsk, Lenin’s birthplace, this day was timed patriotically to be exactly nine months before the Day of Russia. 

Another encouraging sign is the slow march of “children’s villages” across the country -- the sixth is under construction -- providing group foster home care to the country’s abandoned children as an alternative to its dismal orphanages. 

Earlier this month a draft law to restrict abortion was debated in the Duma, a sign of a growing opinion against this inhuman and socially damaging “solution” to underlying problems -- opinion which the President’s wife, Svetlana Medvedva, apparently shares. In a forum last year, according to the New York Times, she made references to the “rights of a child to life” and about economic and social pressures that drove women to abortion. “The state must help women keep their babies,” she said. 

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been vocal about the demographic problem and the need for financial compensation for women. As president in 2007 he introduced a maternity allowance of 250,000 roubles (about $10,000) to encourage women to have a second child. Current president Dimitry Medvedev has promised to make another existing birth incentive, non-cash “maternity capital”, available this year to pay home mortgages. Although fertility has risen somewhat over the past decade it is not clear whether these schemes have had much influence on the birth rate.
It has to be said, though, that Russia is only doing what the rest of the developed world has done -- going through what is euphemistically called “the second demographic transition” -- although in the worst possible circumstances: with a Soviet hangover seen in the rejection of family responsibility (Papa Stalin/Big Brother would look after everything if you just toed the line) and in the demoralisation of men (in particular); and within a political and economic system that is still unstable. 

In any case, it is in the area of values that the most important work remains to be done, and not only in Russia. This is the reason that the World Congress of Families is meeting in Moscow at the end of this month to hold a demographic summit on Family and the Future of Humankind. The New York Times has tried to write it off as exporting anti-abortionism, but as WCF managing director Larry Jacobs says, it is about much more: “Late marriage, cohabitation and the culturally induced desire for small families are among the many factors that have led to a 50 per cent decline in birthrates worldwide since the late 1960s.” 

Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has endorsed the summit, saying: “Since the creation of the Universe the family has a special purpose; by renouncing it the human race endangers the very foundations of its own existence. I am convinced that all the healthy forces of society must unite to preserve the institution of the family and moral values.” (Read entire article.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Glimpse of the New Film

Now I have had my first glimpse of stills from the upcoming film, Farewell, My Queen, on a German site, HERE. It is based upon the novel by Chantal Thomas. Diane Kruger is playing Marie-Antoinette. (Via Vive la Reine.)


The Three Rivers of France

...And the red wines of Gaillac. I love the mention of Fronton and the Knights Hospitaller. To quote:
Downstream from Gaillac, as the Tarn heads toward the Atlantic, it approaches the Garonne just north of Toulouse, forming a triangle of land into which are squeezed the terraced vineyards of Fronton and Villaudric. Fronton’s roots are as ancient as Gaillac’s, and the area boasts a close connection with the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, now known as the Knights of Malta, the famous order of knights that dominated much of the region during the Crusades. Local lore has it that the principal grape of the Fronton appellation, known as négrette for its dusky skin, originated in the order’s domains in Cyprus. It’s a romantic story that the locals would love to perpetuate, but researchers now believe the grape is of local origin and is closely related to the tannat grape of Madiran and the auxerrois of Cahors. But whatever the truth, the négrette is almost unique to the vineyards of Fronton, and the wine it produces is a great favorite with the residents of Toulouse, who have been drinking it for centuries. These days, the négrette is likely to be blended with cabernet sauvignon, syrah or auxerrois to give the wine balance and a certain je ne sais quoi which, in the right hands, can make Fronton wines among the most elegant in the southwest. No white wines are produced in Fronton, but now there is a subtle rosé that accounts for around a fifth of Fronton’s output. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Princess from Savoy

The Mad Monarchist shares the story of Marie-Clotilde of Savoy, who married one of Napoleon's obnoxious nephews.
 From the time she was quite young Princess Maria Clotilde was known for her modesty, piety and good nature. Her mother was a very devout Catholic woman and impressed upon her the importance of religion, the Church and good moral character, lessons she learned well. However, the Princess did not have much time for childhood. As was the fate of princesses everywhere her marriage was soon the subject of political considerations. At this time, the French Second Empire was the largely dominant power on the continent and King Victor Emmanuel II had it impressed upon him constantly that the goal of a united Italy required the good will of the French Emperor Napoleon III. A Savoy-Bonaparte marriage seemed like just the thing to help bind Paris and Turin together; something which the House of Savoy at least would have thought absolutely unthinkable in the past. Arrangements were soon being made for Princess Maria Clotilde to marry Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, son of Jerome Bonaparte the one-time King of Westphalia.

The princess was less than overjoyed at the news she was to marry Bonaparte. In fact, she was absolutely horrified by the prospect and with good reason. She was an intensely religious, innocent, petite girl of barely fifteen. Her husband-to-be was a very large, very anti-clerical and worldly man of more than thirty-seven. She was so young in fact that the wedding had to be postponed for a time and the Piedmontese were less than impressed with how anxious the lumbering Bonaparte was to come and scoop up their dear little princess. The two were married in Turin on January 30, 1859 in what some onlookers described as the union of a gazelle and an elephant. (Read entire post.)

The Gladiator's Grave

How tombstones talk. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
The story the tombstone tells took place about 1,800 years ago when the empire was at its height, its borders stretching from Hadrian's Wall in England to the Euphrates River in Syria. Gladiator games were popular spectacles, many of them pitting two men against each other. Although deaths from wounds were common, the battles were not the no-holds-barred fights to the death depicted by Hollywood, said Carter.

"I believe that there are a number of very detailed rules involved in regulating gladiatorial combat," Carter said.

Though the exact rules are not well understood, some information can be gleaned from references in surviving texts and art. (Read entire article.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

True Grit (2010)

  Mattie Ross: You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.True Grit (2010)
The Coen brothers 2010 production of True Grit is as different from the 1969 version as two movies could be. Although they roughly share same dialog and storyline, at their hearts each film is like day and night. While the John Wayne classic is a rollicking adventure with glorious vistas and a rousing score, the new version is a dark morality tale told with grim purity amid muted hues and revival meeting hymns. Indeed, there are few colors other than shades of brown or grey in the film, which make reds of the bloodshed stand out with stark clarity.

There is an overwhelming emphasis on death throughout the movie, from Mattie the heroine spending the night in a corpses left hanging on trees to be bought and sold by passersby. It is not death without hope, however, because of the copious amounts of Scripture quotes which uphold a sense of the presence of God. Even condemned criminals recite Bible verses while being mindful of the eternity which awaits them. Death, judgment, Heaven and Hell are omnipresent, keeping the earthly events in perspective. Most of all it is fourteen year old Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld), combining faith and action as nimbly as Joan of Arc, who provides a strong moral undertone in an otherwise lawless setting.

According to Steve Greydanus:
In 14-year-old Mattie Ross, though, the Coens have a protagonist whose adamantine sense of purpose defies both halves of that 19th-century aphorism. Arriving in Fort Smith to identify the body of her slain father, Mattie is single-minded in her determination to see justice done for her father’s murder. She has a good lawyer whose name she deploys to considerable effect, she knows the difference between malum prohibitum and malum in se, and she is confident that Providence is with her.
“My father would want me to be firm in the right, as he always was,” she resolves, quoting the 23rd psalm (“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”). “The Author of all things watches over me,” she concludes, “and I have a good horse.”
...Smart, shrewd, fundamentally upright, and preternaturally self-assured, Mattie is the Coens’ most admirable protagonist since Fargo’s Marge Gunderson. 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, in tight pigtails and broadbrimmed hat, negotiates her character’s varying toughness, naivete, enthusiasm and verbal virtuosity with uncanny aplomb.
 Mattie's presence is as unflinchingly chaste as it is sternly determined. Her austere yet maidenly behavior, along with her tough innocence and dedication to duty, inspire the best in her comrades. Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn is willing to sacrifice his life for her, finding himself becoming chivalrous after a life devoted to wild times, wild women and plenty of whiskey. Matt Damon's LaBoeuf goes from being ridiculous and arrogant to genuinely heroic. Mattie, knowing that "nothing is free except the grace of God," is prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to bring her father's killer to justice. Of course, she cannot foresee what she will be forced to give up, but when an accident maims her she accepts it with stoicism.  Even in the final scene, as she walks away from the graveyard, there is no doubt that Mattie possesses true grit.

(Images) Share

On Cohabitation

A rant from The Crescat, who says: "Not only are you, dear girls, not getting paid for your maid services and sexual favors... you are now giving away your hard earned money to some man who's going to treat you like a housekeeping whore."(Read entire post. )

When are young women going to start having some healthy self-respect? Share

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The War Against Girls

Unnatural selection by means of abortion is destroying the female population in some parts of the world. Author Mara Hvistendahl speculates what a world full of men will be like in her new book, reviewed in The Wall Street Journal, HERE.
Ms. Hvistendahl argues that such imbalances are portents of Very Bad Things to come. "Historically, societies in which men substantially outnumber women are not nice places to live," she writes. "Often they are unstable. Sometimes they are violent." As examples she notes that high sex ratios were at play as far back as the fourth century B.C. in Athens—a particularly bloody time in Greek history—and during China's Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century. (Both eras featured widespread female infanticide.) She also notes that the dearth of women along the frontier in the American West probably had a lot to do with its being wild. In 1870, for instance, the sex ratio west of the Mississippi was 125 to 100. In California it was 166 to 100. In Nevada it was 320. In western Kansas, it was 768.

There is indeed compelling evidence of a link between sex ratios and violence. High sex ratios mean that a society is going to have "surplus men"—that is, men with no hope of marrying because there are not enough women. Such men accumulate in the lower classes, where risks of violence are already elevated. And unmarried men with limited incomes tend to make trouble. In Chinese provinces where the sex ratio has spiked, a crime wave has followed. Today in India, the best predictor of violence and crime for any given area is not income but sex ratio.

A high level of male births has other, far-reaching, effects. It becomes harder to secure a bride, and men can find themselves buying or bidding for them. This, Ms. Hvistendahl notes, contributes to China's astronomical household savings rate; parents know they must save up in order to secure brides for their sons. (An ironic reflection of the Indian ad campaigns suggesting parents save money by aborting girls.) This savings rate, in turn, drives the Chinese demand for U.S. Treasury bills.

And to beat the "marriage squeeze" caused by skewed sex ratios, men in wealthier imbalanced countries poach women from poorer ones. Ms. Hvistendahl reports from Vietnam, where the mail-order-bride business is booming thanks to the demand for women in China. Prostitution booms, too—and not the sex-positive kind that Western feminists are so fond of.

The economist Gary Becker has noted that when women become scarce, their value increases, and he sees this as a positive development. But as Ms. Hvistendahl demonstrates, "this assessment is true only in the crudest sense." A 17-year-old girl in a developing country is in no position to capture her own value. Instead, a young woman may well become chattel, providing income either for their families or for pimps. As Columbia economics professor Lena Edlund observes: "The greatest danger associated with prenatal sex determination is the propagation of a female underclass," that a small but still significant group of the world's women will end up being stolen or sold from their homes and forced into prostitution or marriage. (Read entire review.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Emperor and the Saint

The Wall Street Journal reviews a new book called The Emperor and the Saint by Richard F. Cassady. To quote:
The lives of Frederick II and St. Francis of Assisi overlapped for some three decades in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, but the Holy Roman Emperor and the founder of the Franciscan Order never met. If the two men ever thought about each other, those thoughts are not recorded. The men's interests and destinies were poles apart.

Frederick was a worldly polymath and one of the most powerful and ruthless rulers of his time: German emperor, king of southern Italy and Sicily, and nominally king of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem. "Stupor Mundi" (the "wonder of the world") is what a contemporary chronicler called him, and the label has stuck. By comparison, Francis was a reclusive visionary with little understanding of the world and no desire to acquire more. His posthumous reputation is due mainly to the very beautiful legends crafted by his companions and to the achievements of the Franciscans after his death.

If mismatched in history, Frederick and Francis are paired by Richard F. Cassady in "The Emperor and the Saint," a book that seems intended as both dual biography and a touring guide to places associated with the men. Mr. Cassady devotes about 10 times as much space to Frederick as he does to Francis, which is probably fair enough. But the switch from one life to the other can still come as a shock, a bit like advertisements interrupting a movie. And the appearance of the touring-guide mode is even more abrupt—usually announced with some artifice such as "It is pleasant to think that Frederick might have stopped off at X" (in fact, he took another route) or Francis "would not have seen Y" (because he never went there or it was built only after his death).

Yet there is a certain poetry in the juxtaposition of these two very different lives. Frederick II was the last of a line, not just dynastically but in a broader and more important sense. He was the last Holy Roman Emperor of the medieval period to try to unite Germany and Italy in one realm and one of the last to entertain a truly international vision of his office. Charlemagne, the ninth-century founder of the empire, had envisaged a universal monarchy for European Christendom and perhaps for all Christendom—the successor of Imperial Rome. Frederick II lived this myth. (Read entire review.)

Accused Priests

They have no legal protection even when falsely accused. An eye-opening article. To quote:
I have researched and written extensively about the case of one falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned priest from the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire who was one of the subjects of the mediated settlement described above. Father Gordon MacRae writes weekly for a remarkable Catholic blog, These Stone Walls ( . He could have left prison over 14 years ago had he actually been guilty and willing to say so. Father MacRae will remain in prison for sixty-seven years unless his case can be overturned with new evidence. That’s ironic given that he was convicted with no evidence at all beyond the word of someone who walked away with $200,000 from the priest’s diocese. In one of the most egregious subversions of due process I have seen, the Diocese of Manchester issued a press release declaring him guilty before his trial.

One of Father MacRae’s accusers recanted this year, and provided a disturbing account of how he was enticed by others into falsely accusing the priest with the promise of a vast windfall of money. It is in fact money – not sex, not abuse, and not celibacy– that has driven the scandal since 2002 and sabotaged the civil liberties of accused priests. Father John Corapi’s superiors should reveal any financial demand brought by his accusers as well as their history of settlement of such demands. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Death of Baby Sophie

Vive La Reine reminds us of the death of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's youngest child, HERE. The portrait below was originally supposed to be a happy one, of the Queen and her children preparing the cradle for the new baby. The Queen is wearing a maternity dress. However, by the time the painting was completed the baby, Madame Sophie, had died and so the artist, Madame Lebrun, had to cover the cradle with black crêpe. Here is a quote from a letter of Madame Elizabeth's:
The queen is very kind to me just now; we are going together to Saint-Cyr, which she calls my cradle. She calls Montreuil my little Trianon. I have been to hers the last few days with her, without any consequences, and there was no attention she did not show me. She prepared for me one of those surprises in which she excels; but what we did most was to weep over the death of my poor little niece [Madame Sophie.]
The Empty Cradle 

Guide to Self-Publishing

Some advice from award-winning author Ellen Gable.
Nowadays, because it is so easy to publish your own book, first-time self-publishers often don't realize that many people are involved in the production of a good quality book: editors, cover designers, proofreaders, copy-editors. Writing a book is only one step in a long process. It's important for self-published authors to embrace the virtue of humility during this process. (Read entire article.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Order in His Court

While following the Casey Anthony murder trial I have become more and more impressed with Judge Belvin Perry, Jr. Therefore I was happy to find an article which gives some background about his extraordinary career.
Perry knows how it feels to be isolated, and not just because his profession dictates a certain level of exclusion from the public. While growing up in Orlando, he wasn’t allowed to even buy a hotdog at the downtown Woolworth. As an 8-year-old boy sitting where he shouldn’t on a city bus, the sting of prejudice was delivered with a backhand.

For some years his father, one of Orlando’s first black police officers, could neither carry a gun nor arrest white people.

“Segregation was a way of life,” says Perry, who made it all the way through law school without ever sitting in a classroom with a white student. “There were no dinner table discussions about how wrong it was, or why it was that way.”

But after he returned to Orlando in 1977 from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, Perry realized the full extent to which racial bias would impact his life. Dreaming of a lucrative corporate law practice, he had to settle for pumping gas to support his young family because his dark skin didn’t sit well with the gray suits in Orlando’s law offices.

“Me and my wife, LaDrean, we get back home. I’ve got my resumes, and I’m looking for work,” Perry recalls while sitting in his office. “The next couple of weeks it’s one disappointment after another. I have a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s degree in student personnel services, and I have a juris doctorate, and nobody will hire me. Finally, a lawyer with a very significant law firm, he tells me,  ‘Unless you graduated from Harvard or Yale, nobody’s going to touch you here. The only place you’re going to be able to find a job is with Legal Aid as a public defender, or maybe the State Attorney’s Office.’ ”

The last thing Perry wanted to be was a prosecutor. But when an article in the Sentinel Star said the State Attorney’s Office was expanding, he picked up the phone. They said they weren’t hiring.

Perry seethed.

“I said: ‘To hell with Orlando. I’m going back to Houston.’ ”

Afraid his oldest son would leave and never come back, Belvin Sr., by that time retired, did something he almost never did. He called in a favor.  He arranged for his son to meet with Eagan, the chief prosecutor. Eagan, now 82, remembers that first meeting.

“My secretary said there was someone to see me, and in walks this young man. He’s got an Afro haircut, a goatee, and tinted shades. He said he wanted to apply for a job as a prosecutor.”
Appearances aside, Eagan eventually hired him as an assistant state attorney in the traffic division. Perry reported to work with short hair, a coat and a tie. He would go on to become one of Eagan’s toughest prosecutors, known for his exhaustive casework and convictions that stood up even under intense scrutiny.
Perry’s work ethic stems from his late father’s counsel about the burden of inequality. Belvin Sr. told him that a black man must work three times as hard as a white man to be considered just as good. From his mom, a retired schoolteacher, came his serious-minded approach to getting the job done and doing it well.(Read entire article.)

And the Light Shone in the Darkness

 An article on Saint Pio's fifty year persecution, during which he persevered in his priestly vocation.
Evil rumors were spread by certain village women, jealous of what they perceived as preferential treatment by Padre Pio of others. Those rancorous villagers told scurrilous stories to harm their "rivals," without concern for the harm done to Padre Pio. The unhappy result was a besmirching of Padre Pio's immaculate conduct.(Read entire article.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Flight of Mesdames Tantes

Madame Adelaïde de France, aunt of Louis XVI
Lauren reports on how the surviving daughters of Louis XV decided to flee in 1790 after the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was passed. Madame Adelaïde and Madame Victoire would not receive Holy Communion from a priest who had taken the oath to the Revolutionary government, denying the papal supremacy. (Neither would Marie-Antoinette, but she refused to leave Louis XVI's side.) Share

Solzhenitsyn on Churchill and Roosevelt

The great Russian writer on how Eastern Europe was handed over to the Communists. To quote:
In their own countries Roosevelt and Churchill are honored as embodiments of statesmanlike wisdom. To us, in our Russian prison conversations, their consistent shortsightedness and stupidity stood out as astonishingly obvious. How could they, in their decline from 1941 to 1945, fail to secure any guarantees whatever of the independence of Eastern Europe? How could they give away broad regions of Saxony and Thuringia in exchange for the preposterous toy of a four-zone Berlin, their own future Achilles' heel? And what was the military or political sense in their surrendering to destruction at Stalin's hands hundreds of thousands of armed Soviet citizens determined not to surrender? They say it was the price they paid for Stalin's agreeing to enter the war against Japan. With the atom bomb already in their hands, they paid Stalin for not refusing to occupy Manchuria, for strengthening Mao Tse-tung in China, and for giving Kim Il Sung control of half Korea! What bankruptcy of political thought!(Read entire article.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nesta Webster Revisited

Years ago, while researching Trianon, I read Nesta Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette before the Revolution and really appreciated it for the masterful character study of the royal couple. Every contention is carefully documented while written in a stirring yet composed style. I decided long ago that Mrs Webster's dual biography was the one I would wanted to have written myself.

Having recently finished the second volume of the biography, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Revolution, I felt inspired to write a review. I dutifully googled Nesta Webster and to my horror saw her on many websites accused of being "a fascist and an anti-semite." She also appears to be the Queen of Conspiracy theories. She is certainly a cause of much cyber-polarization; she is either praised as being one of the greatest historians who ever lived or else dismissed as an obscurantist fanatic and a believer in reincarnation. Most biographical accounts I have found are written by those who detested her, so I do not know how balanced they are. I see her as being a bit like the Lord Darlington character in the Merchant-Ivory film The Remains of the Day. Many in the British upper and middle classes in the 1930’s saw fascism as a political solution and a viable response to the proposed Communist takeover of the world.

Similarly, there were Americans in the 1920’s and 30’s who were infatuated with Communism and saw “Uncle Joe” Stalin as a great guy, oblivious to the thousands whom he and Lenin had already murdered. Looking back, there is so much more we now know about the Communists, Nazis and other socialist and fascist groups than their contemporaries did at the time. Any association with Nazism, even from a distance, can taint someone’s research for all posterity, which is what has happened to Nesta Webster.

For a general history of the French Revolution, I have found Simon Schama’s Citizens to be very reliable. Webster’s two volume work on Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, however, cannot be ignored by any serious student of the revolutionary era, even if one finds assertions of Masonic conspiracies to be laughable, as many scholars do.

Of Louis XVI Webster writes: “As Soulavie says again, under former kings the monarch was the idol of the nation, under Louis XVI, on the contrary, the nation was the object almost of adoration of the King.” She discusses the painting by Hersent of “Louis XVI relieving the Afflicted” of which an eye-witness later said that art completely imitated reality in that case.

Webster lists the many reforms of Louis XVI which began in 1774 at the beginning of his reign, including the abolition of torture, civil rights for Jews and Protestants, the abolition of servitude and lettres de cachet, and many more. By July of 1789, with the problems with the Estates-General and the death of his oldest son, he was essentially having a nervous breakdown. Indeed, the King had a series of physical and mental collapses in the last turbulent years of his life; it is amazing he was able to function at all. The queen became his strength, and therefore Marie-Antoinette more than ever became the target of the pamphleteers and of those who wanted control of the throne. Louis XVI did not want to leave his people in the hands of extremists and the queen, of course, would not leave his side. “I will die at his feet” she was heard to say repeatedly, when it was suggested that she try to escape on her own.

Webster shows how on several occasions, when attacked by the mob, it had been the hope of the revolutionary leaders, especially the Duc d’Orleans, that the royal couple would either flee or be killed. The fact that Louis and Antoinette were able to ride the tide of total upheaval for four years can be attributed to their courage, which gained the respect even of those intent upon tearing them to pieces. The king and especially the queen had the gift of turning enemies, such as Mirabeau, Barnave, and Toulan, into friends. As the revolutionary leader Barnave found, according to Beaulieu, “the Queen treated him with that affectionate politeness which had led her to being given the title of ‘Mary, full of grace (Marie, pleine de graces).’” Webster shows how the blunders of the far right (the émigrés abroad) led to the destruction of Louis, Antoinette and their family as much as did the malice of their enemies on the left. Nevertheless, the king, queen and Madame Elisabeth were distinguished for their profound courtesy, kindness and forgiveness, even in the most desperate situations.

Their trials forged Louis and Antoinette into one, as Webster demonstrates throughout her work with many citations. At the beginning of their imprisonment in the Temple in August 1792, the queen shed tears, saying to her husband: “I weep less for myself than for you.”

Louis XVI replied: “Our eyes were not given us to weep with, but to look up to Heaven, the source of all our consolations….”
At these words, the queen dried her eyes and faced the situation with the magnificent courage that sustained her to the end. It was now that she entered the fifth phase of her life. Once, a light-hearted child—then a pleasure-loving woman—a mother—a politician—she fulfilled her tragic destiny to the last and became that great figure revered by all noble minds of posterity—the Queen Martyr.

Catholic Arts and Letters Awards

The finalists are announced by the Catholic Writers Guild. Share

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Duchesse d’Angoulême

This portrait of Marie-Antoinette's daughter is new to me. It is from a site about Marnes and Villeneuve-l'Étang, HERE. (Via Vive la Reine.)
Château de Villeneuve, country estate of the Duchesse d’ Angoulême

Interview with Prince Albert and Charlene

From the Mad Monarchist:
Albert II: We cannot wait to get married, but we have so many things to do before. My work continues despite our upcoming marriage. I don’t feel any particular stress upon the approach to our marriage. We are very relaxed.

Charlene: I’m in the same state of mind that any woman feels upon her marriage. We’re committed to life, it is not something to take lightly. Some brides stress. Others, do not. I feel calm… (Read entire interview.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Slave Family

In Georgia in 1860. Share

History of Pockets

Some history from author Joyce Moore. To quote:
In the 18th century, pockets were underneath ladies' petticoats, as seen in photo at the right. Men's pockets were sewn into coat and breeches' linings, much as they are today.

Because there was less privacy in previous centuries, when families frequently shared rooms, people sometimes kept their personal possessions in their pockets.

Before handbags came into general use, pockets were used as a carryall, where ladies could carry common articles like thimbles or scissors, as well as money, snuff boxes, smelling salts, or even food and a bottle of gin. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting to Happy

I read Getting to Happy as a BlogHer Book Club reviewer. Although the novel is well-written with vivid characters and situations both comic and tragic, I cannot heartily recommend it since there is an overall lackadaisical attitude towards gross immorality. What I liked about the book and what I learned from it can be found in my review, HERE.

BlogHer Book Club Reviewer

Marie-Antoinette: Modern Interpretations

The legend of the Queen of Glamor and Tragedy is manifested differently in every generation.

A costume from the 1938 production, HERE. Share

International Criminal Court

Justice or menace? Mary Jo Anderson ponders the question, saying:
Kenya’s is not the first case where the manner and model of the ICC has been questioned. President Bill Clinton signed the ICC treaty on behalf of the United States on his way out of office in January 2000. Worried that the ICC had rough edges, he decided not to “recommend that my successor submit the treaty to the Senate,” as the nation needed “the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the Court before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.” President George W. Bush decided against any diminishment of U.S. sovereignty and rescinded the presidential signature. The treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Congress. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

French Dynasties

Gareth Russell lists all the kings and queens of France, saying:
I thought I would post a genealogical table (of sorts) of various monarchies over the next few weeks. Traditionally, the French monarchy was seen by most people in Europe as the premier throne in Christendom. A view, understandably, rejected by the Hapsburgs at every available opportunity for eight consecutive centuries. In any case, because of her early conversion to Christianity, the French kings were entitled to be addressed as "His Most Christian Majesty," an honorific which later moved the kings of Spain and Portugal to such jealousy that they petitioned the Pope to grant them something similar (they got "His Most Catholic Majesty" and "His Most Faithful Majesty," respectively.)

The monarchy in France lasted over fourteen centuries and, even today, it still continues to provoke fairly heated debate. For purposes of clarity, I have excluded the Merovingian dynasty of kings, who ruled France between the fifth and eighth centuries A.D. Although some of that family bore the title "King of the Franks," the monarchy's power was in such a state of flux in that period that they often had to resort to the more honest title of "King of Paris."  I have chosen, therefore, to start with the Carolingian dynasty and continue up to the deposition of Louis-Philippe in 1848. I have not included the two Napoleons who used the title of "emperor" in the nineteenth century. Although they had the title, they were not technically monarchs and few royalists today would accept the Bonaparte family's claim as a legitimate one. In any case, they were "emperors", not "kings". (Read entire article.)

Social Networking Gone Wrong

Some tips from Lisa Hendey.
Anonymity online doesn’t really exist. Do not post anything online that you wouldn’t want God, your parents, your pastor or your future employer or spouse to see. Any one of your friends or contacts online can print or inappropriately share the information you convey to them. Your communications online should be above reproach. (Read entire article.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Royal Commission

A commission from King Louis XVI for a Scottish officer.
On the eve of the Revolution, the French monarch commissions Stuart Jean Bruce as an infantry captain, to serve under the commander of the King's household guard. Military Appointment signed "Louis" as King of France and Navarre, Versailles, 1788 July 1. Official wax seal in lower right corner. Pronouncing his complete confidence in the value, courage, military experience, faithfulness and affection of Stuart Jean Bruce, the King appoints him a Captain of Infantry in the French household guard commanded by the King's cousin, the Prince of Condé.
When King Louis XVI signed this document, his realm was already in an acute financial and political crisis which would develop into the French Revolution, and result in Louis' dethronement, trial, and execution (on January 21, 1793). In August 1788, the royal treasury emptied by the cost of its wars (including the American Revolution), France stopped payment on its debts. Hoping to raise new taxes, Louis called a meeting of the Estates-General, the first since 1614, and the dynamic leading to the French Revolution and to Louis' downfall was set in motion.
A biography of Stuart Jean Bruce is unavailable, but Scots held a venerable place in the traditions of the French Army. The claymore-wielding Scottish Guard, dating from 1418, was the most prestigious company of French royal household troops. (As an infantry captain, Bruce would not have been assigned directly to the Scottish Guard, a cavalry unit, but there were several other companies of royal body guards whose numbers included many of foreign origin.) The guards of the royal household were not merely ceremonial. They were elite soldiers who fought in the forefront of France's wars until the Revolution. Since the Union of the English and Scottish thrones in 1603, France - traditional ally of independent Scotland - had been a natural destination for Scottish opponents of English rule. The failure of the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, fought to restore the House of Stuart (Stewart) to the English throne, brought many more Scots to France.
The Royal Household Guard was commanded by Louis Joseph de Bourbon (referenced in this document), Prince of Condé, cousin of Louis XVI. With Louis' downfall, the Prince took soldiers loyal to the monarchy abroad to serve as the Army of Condé in the ranks of the enemies of revolutionary France, first Austria, then England, and finally Russia. It was disbanded in 1801, but Condé and his supporters returned to France after the defeat of Napoleon

Genocide in the Ukraine

The horrors of 1932 and 1933
Unfortunately, few writers in the USSR dared put on paper any account of the suffering and privations of that year. They could not, for even a mention of the famine brought swift retribution by murder from the NKVD, or slave labor in Siberia. 
For, officially, there was no famine. Stalin very graciously refused all offers of aid from foreign countries, assuring them that no famine existed in the Soviet Ukraine: the whole USSR lived in the utmost contentment and abundance. Communist papers abroad, ever-willing slaves of Moscow, outdid each other in spreading this convincing reply throughout the world. 
Yet, in 1941, when the Germans entered Ukraine, they found in the Academy of Science in Kiev the true statistics of the crops harvested in 1932. These figures proved, statistically, that the yield was sufficient to feed the Ukrainian population for 2 years and 4 months. There was no natural cause of this famine; it was purposely created to break the resistance of the farmers to the collective farm system. 
All the grain of 1932 was loaded into special trains as soon as it was threshed, and it was immediately appropriated by the government. The carloads rolled northward to feed the bureaucrats of Moscow, or to be exported to finance plans for communist revolution in China and other countries. The Ukrainian farmer received only the screenings from the threshing machines. 
During the latter part of 1932, the farm women added potato peelings, weeds, anything to stretch the loaves of black bread. With the coming of 1933, even these meagre additions were unavailable. People ground the bark of trees, scratched roots from the frozen ground, searched hopelessly for any substance which would keep body and soul together. 
Helpless, despairing, they died by thousands, by tens of thousands, yes, by millions. The statistical bureaus were ordered to register the deaths as resulting from prevalent "digestive ailments", not from starvation. 
Peasants who could still stand on their feet, gathered their few belongings and flocked to the cities. Here a person could exchange an artistically embroidered shirt, a most highly-prized possession, for a single loaf of bread. Beautiful priceless rugs, heirlooms through generations, could be bought for a few pounds of flour. The Russian elite covered their walls and floors with such treasures. 
Through the streets of Kiev, Kharkiw, Dnipropetrowske, Odessa and other cities, the miserable hulks of humanity dragged themselves along on swollen feet, begging for crusts of bread or searching for scraps in garbage heaps, frozen and filthy. Each morning wagons rolled along the streets, picking up the emaciated remains of the dead. Often even the undershirt had been stripped from the corpse, to be exchanged for a slice of bread. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Empress Alexandra

A study in pictures, by Madame Guillotine.


Facebook and the French Resistance

Matthew Fraser, a Paris-based journalist and professor at the American University of Paris and Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, looks at Facebook has made inroads everywhere.
When Facebook and Twitter first surfaced several years ago, the French showed relatively little interest in these online networks. A French alternative to Facebook, called Skyrock, was more popular. But Facebook’s global success was unstoppable. Today, it has three times more members than Skyrock in France.

If Skyrock were still the biggest online social network in France, however, it’s a good bet that regulators would not have banned its mention on TV and radio shows. French national pride would take precedence over strict application of laws. The Minitel, in its day, was not banned from promoting commercial services. Officious micro-regulations are reserved for foreign -- and, in particular, American -- services and technologies.

Can we say this is an example of overt anti-Americanism? Probably not. But it is not entirely irrelevant to situate this latest French obstacle to American technological and cultural influence within the longstanding animosity between France and the U.S. in these spheres. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This Amazing Gown...

...Was worn by Queen Elizabeth II during a trip to Paris. Melanie has the details and more photos, HERE.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Daughters of the Tsar

A collection of photographs.


The Idolatry of Marilyn

A new look at the sex goddess. (Via Serge.) I always felt sorry for her, as I do for anyone so intent on self-destruction. To quote:
So that is the real Marilyn Monroe. She wasn’t a “little girl lost” in the least. She was a lascivious, wanton woman who connived to use her body in advancing her career. She enjoyed being an object and manipulated it to her full advantage. She used men as much, or more, than they ever used her.

Whatever one thinks of this practice, immoral or empowering, it is not reflective of a woman “looking for love” in all the wrong places. Marilyn found true love—and she wholeheartedly rejected it in favor of sex and influence. (Read entire article.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Damian Thompson visits a remarkable country house, saying:
Mapledurham House, an imposing Elizabethan mansion in south Oxfordshire, is one of Catholic England’s best-kept secrets. Which is appropriate, in a way – for it went to enormous trouble to keep its Catholic allegiance secret during times of persecution, when it was a safe house for fugitive priests.
That said, I think it’s high time that Mapledurham was better known: by rights it ought to attract thousands more visitors than it does. We live in an age when fans of The Da Vinci Code and other thrillers rush to historic locations to stare at “clues” to bogus mysteries. In contrast, the owners of Mapledurham House kept a genuine secret during the Tudor persecution and for decades afterwards: their fidelity to the Roman faith. But the clues had to be subtle – to the extent that, even now, its current owners, John and Lady Anne Eyston, are still making discoveries.
The most recent priest hole, for example, lay undiscovered until 2002 – though it’s in such an inaccessible upper bedroom that it can’t accommodate crowds of tourists. The hole is hidden underneath a sliding hearth, and it might better be described as an elaborate escape shaft. (Read entire article.)

The Birth of Religion

National Geographic cites recent archaeological findings which appear to indicate that the urge to worship sparked the growth of civilization.
Archaeologists are still excavating Göbekli Tepe and debating its meaning. What they do know is that the site is the most significant in a volley of unexpected findings that have overturned earlier ideas about our species' deep past. Just 20 years ago most researchers believed they knew the time, place, and rough sequence of the Neolithic Revolution—the critical transition that resulted in the birth of agriculture, taking Homo sapiens from scattered groups of hunter-gatherers to farming villages and from there to technologically sophisticated societies with great temples and towers and kings and priests who directed the labor of their subjects and recorded their feats in written form. But in recent years multiple new discoveries, Göbekli Tepe preeminent among them, have begun forcing archaeologists to reconsider.

At first the Neolithic Revolution was viewed as a single event—a sudden flash of genius—that occurred in a single location, Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now southern Iraq, then spread to India, Europe, and beyond. Most archaeologists believed this sudden blossoming of civilization was driven largely by environmental changes: a gradual warming as the Ice Age ended that allowed some people to begin cultivating plants and herding animals in abundance. The new research suggests that the "revolution" was actually carried out by many hands across a huge area and over thousands of years. And it may have been driven not by the environment but by something else entirely.

After a moment of stunned quiet, tourists at the site busily snap pictures with cameras and cell phones. Eleven millennia ago nobody had digital imaging equipment, of course. Yet things have changed less than one might think. Most of the world's great religious centers, past and present, have been destinations for pilgrimages—think of the Vatican, Mecca, Jerusalem, Bodh Gaya (where Buddha was enlightened), or Cahokia (the enormous Native American complex near St. Louis). They are monuments for spiritual travelers, who often came great distances, to gawk at and be stirred by. Göbekli Tepe may be the first of all of them, the beginning of a pattern. What it suggests, at least to the archaeologists working there, is that the human sense of the sacred—and the human love of a good spectacle—may have given rise to civilization itself. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An English Garden

Marie-Antoinette loved English gardens and would have appreciated this one in Connecticut, featured in Veranda magazine.
On an estate in Connecticut, James Doyle has created a wondrous pleasure garden replete with alluring horticultural delights — herbaceous borders, rose garden, folly, maze, chess set, orchard, parterre, topiaries, water features — and all set about with tropical plant specimens in summer. While pleasure gardens are traditionally public amusement park affairs, this enchanting setting is private and brings joy and happiness to all involved, from owners to caretakers and, immeasurably, to Doyle, the landscape designer who conceived it and attends its evolution. "Old Mill Farm is one of the last great estates in Greenwich, a 1926 landmark treasure," he notes. "My clients and I have tried to create a balance between architecture and horticulture." They have succeeded spectacularly.

Child Brides

A report from National Geographic. To quote:
Child marriage spans continents, language, religion, caste. In India the girls will typically be attached to boys four or five years older; in Yemen, Afghanistan, and other countries with high early marriage rates, the husbands may be young men or middle-aged widowers or abductors who rape first and claim their victims as wives afterward, as is the practice in certain regions of Ethiopia. Some of these marriages are business transactions, barely adorned with additional rationale: a debt cleared in exchange for an 8-year-old bride; a family feud resolved by the delivery of a virginal 12-year-old cousin. Those, when they happen to surface publicly, make for clear and outrage-inducing news fodder from great distances away. The 2008 drama of Nujood Ali, the 10-year-old Yemeni girl who found her way alone to an urban courthouse to request a divorce from the man in his 30s her father had forced her to marry, generated worldwide headlines and more recently a book, translated into 30 languages: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.
In Pakistan, Christian girls are often kidnapped and forced to marry their attackers, as the Orthodox Church News reports, HERE. (Via Pedes Christi)

Meanwhile, will sexual slavery be legalized in Kuwait? The Bad Catholic reports, HERE.

Let us pray for our sisters around the world. Share

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Jane Austen Education

Here is my BlogHer Book Club review of A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz. To quote:
While Austen’s novels were the very last books in the world that Deresiewicz wanted to read, he discovered that not only do they supersede stereotypical romance novels for deep characterizations and complex and unexpected plot twists, but in each book we are forced to confront unpleasant aspects not only of human nature in general but of our own psyches in particular. (Read entire review.)
BlogHer Book Club Reviewer