Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dining in Old Virginia

From Under the Gables:
When I visited Mount Vernon about more than a decade ago, I was thunderstruck by the color that the small dining room was painted--a deep, very vibrant green. In previous years the dining room had been painted a calmer, more neutral color, but research on the walls showed that the Washingtons had the walls painted the far more attention-getting green that is there now. (Read entire post.)

Walsingham and Anti-Catholicism

A book review by R.J. Stove.
This grand confusion can readily be observed, in any period, among those who spend too much time in secret police work. In a sense, it redounds perversely to Walsingham’s credit that even as his tactics involved recruiting agents, suborning double-agents, and if need be hiring the occasional triple-agent, his strategy remained clear: keeping Elizabeth alive and the “Whore of Babylon” at bay. He defended in theological terms not only the common-or-garden pursuit of recusant priests, but also the celebrated forgeries by which he destroyed Mary Queen of Scots: “I see the wicked creature,” he assured the Earl of Leicester, “ordained of God to punish us for our sins and unthankfulness.” (Read entire review.)

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Great Fire of London

King Charles II rose to the occasion.
The King straight away ordered to tear down the houses to contain the fire (something the Lord Mayor had hesitated to do until then because he was worried of the high rebuilding costs), but the wind was blowing so strongly that it was difficult to create a clear zone. The King also sent his guards to help, and later he too, together with his brother, went to the site of the fire. The royal brothers traveled by royal barge all the way to Queenshithe, stopping once to watch the fire from the roof of a tall building. The Duke took charge of the fire-fighting operation while Charles too gave orders, imperiling his life in the effort. But the fire wasn't quenched. The flames, now headed to Cheapside. The smoke could be seen from Oxford and Londoners had begun to flee to the open spaces of Moorfields and Finsbury Hill. (Read entire post.)

Communism Comes To America

Let's go back eighty years. From LRC:
Enough has been written elsewhere about this idea of communists in the Roosevelt administration. I can add nothing to this. I will only comment that I can find no satisfactory explanation as to why the U.S. sided with Stalin as opposed to Hitler – to say nothing of why side with either. In 1938, writing of Roosevelt and the New Deal, Garet Garrett wrote in The Revolution Was:
There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.
At the end of the first year, in his annual message to the Congress, January 4, 1934, President Roosevelt said: "It is to the eternal credit of the American people that this tremendous readjustment of our national life is being accomplished peacefully."
(Read entire article.)
(Via Serge.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Monseñor: The Last Journey of Óscar Romero

I was privileged to receive a screening copy of this heartrending documentary about the life of the late Archbishop Óscar Romero. I was in my last year of high school  in 1980 when we read of his death in Newsweek. At the time it was one more death in an endless bloodbath in El Salvador that somehow our country was involved in. I understood a lot more about the situation when I later viewed 1989 movie Romero, starring Raul Julia. It was an excellent film but one which deeply depressed me for the horrors it portrayed. The new documentary, released by First Run Films, does not skimp on the tragedy which befell the people of El Salvador, but amid the nonfiction accounts of unspeakable atrocities is the actual voice of the brave Archbishop, along with footage of him walking fearlessly and calmly among his suffering children. His gentle, reassuring voice and manner filled me with the same hope that he once gave to his people.

According to CD Universe:
In El Salvador in the late Seventies, one man was the voice of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the Disappeared - all struggling under the corrupt Salvadoran government. Appointed Archbishop in early 1977, Monsenor Oscar Romero worked tirelessly and in constant personal peril until the day he was assassinated in March 1980. Romero broke off ties with the military and aligned himself with the poor, delivering messages of hope in weekly sermons which became national events. Encouraging direct action against oppression, Romero's speaking impacted political events in El Salvador that still have meaning to this day. With rare recordings and film footage from Romero's own collection and a wide range of interviews from those whose lives were changed by Archbishop Romero, including church activists, human rights lawyers, former guerrilla fighters and politicians, Monsenor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romero is a timely portrait of one individual's quest to speak truth to the rich and powerful forces which dominated his government.

Filmmakers Juliet Weber and Ana Carrigan present this documentary profile of Monseñor Óscar Romero, the brave soul who dared to defend the oppressed and disenfranchised people of El Salvador in the late 1970, and paid the ultimate price for standing up to a corrupt government. As the Salvadoran government grew increasingly tyrannical, Romero turned his back on the military, encouraging his followers to fight for their freedom in a series of empowering, impassioned sermons. In March of 1980, however, that powerful voice of hope was forever silenced by an assassin's bullet. Now, his legacy lives on as Weber and Carrigan present vintage footage taken from the archbishop's personal archives, and offer interviews with the Salvadoran people whose lives were forever changed by both his bravery, and his inspirational message of hope.
As Alma Guillermoprieto writes in The New York Review of Books:
Archbishop Romero made a long journey to arrive at his death. Hardworking and conscientious, he rose through the ranks and eventually became bishop of the diocese of Santiago de Maria, maintaining all the while a strict distance from Liberation Theology and what he called the left’s “mysticism of violence.” By then, however, the insistent defense of human rights by the new generation of radicalized priests and nuns, and the murderous government’s determination to violate those rights, particularly in the case of the landless peasantry, had created a small army of conscripts for the guerrilla organizations, which promised an equal and just world order born of socialist revolution.

During the presidency of General Arturo Molina (1972–1977), the army and security forces were essentially transformed into death squads: Romero watched in horror as campesinos in his parish were displaced, threatened, terrorized, and, increasingly, shot, stabbed, or hacked to death by underfed, underage soldiers wielding machetes against their own kind. He began speaking out against these atrocities and received his first death threat (from General Molina himself, who wagged a finger at him and warned that cassocks were not bullet-proof). And then, in 1977, just weeks after Romero had been ordained archbishop, the Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande, a close friend of Romero’s who had been organizing landless peasants, was shot down on a country road along with two of his parishioners.

All Romero’s contradictory feelings about Church and duty, repression and human dignity, his native distrust of radicalism and politics, his caution and, no doubt, his fear, appear to have resolved themselves at that moment. With the same methodical determination that seems to have characterized his rise to the archbishopric, he spent the next three years organizing human rights watchdog groups, asking President Jimmy Carter to suspend military aid to the murderous junta, and speaking out—plainly, but never unreasonably—against the government. “It is sad to read that in El Salvador the two main causes of death are: first diarrhea, and second murder,” he would say. “Therefore, right after the result of malnourishment; diarrhea, we have the result of crime; murder. These are the two epidemics that are killing off our people.”

...Those were the days before the Internet or even faxes, and the lone opposition newspapers, El Independiente and La Cronica del Pueblo, were more or less gagged. The murders and disappearances carried out by death squads, army officers, and a notorious security force called, for inexplicable reasons, the Treasury Police were unreported, but Romero took to reading a detailed account of the week’s brutalities. The sermons were broadcast over the Catholic radio station, and campesinos all over the country gathered around a radio to listen to them. So did the military.

The once conservative archbishop, who had been trained and nurtured not in his homeland but in Rome, became the government’s most visible opponent. Later he would say that when he saw the corpse of Father Rutilio Grande a few hours after his murder, he thought, “If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.”
The new film carefully explains the history of events, tracing the path which the Archbishop had to walk to his death. It was not walked in vain, for not only did Monseñor Romero give glory to God and hope to his people, but he is even now a vehicle of grace to the world.


A Scientist Speaks on the Shroud

From Zenit:
At the very beginning of my involvement with the Shroud, I was very skeptical about its authenticity. I had no emotional attachment to Jesus and the subject matter because I was raised as an Orthodox Jew.  The main thing I knew about Jesus in those days was that he also was Jewish, and that was about it.

Examining the Shroud, I knew quickly that it wasn’t a painting because when you are up close and you see it, you can tell it’s not a painting.  But as far as its authenticity, it took another 18 years after we finished our examination and all the papers were published.

I still wasn’t completely convinced until one of our fellow team members, Allen Adler, another Jewish man who was a blood chemist, explained to me why the blood remained red on the Shroud.  I felt that old blood was supposed to be black or brown. The blood on the Shroud is a red-crimson color. So that was a deal breaker for me for a long time. But ultimately, when that was explained to me and especially from my friend Al Adler, may he rest in peace, who also was involved in this not so much from a religious point of view as from a purely scientific point of view, he was the one who put the last piece of the puzzle in for me. It was a shock to me when I came to the conclusion after almost 20 years that this piece of cloth was authentic. And I got there based solely on the science. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Grotto and the Belvedere

In the gardens of Trianon. (From Vive la Reine.) I am interested in the bridge the lies between them; I never noticed it before. Share

The War on Men

From Kathryn Jean Lopez:
I am offended that the Catholic Church has been attacked as being anti-woman; this is a church in which strong women such as Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton built a world-class school and hospital system for immigrants and the poor in a less-than-welcoming environment. I am offended that my government would penalize these women in the future, telling them they cannot be who they are called to be and telling them their consciences will be what the state dictates is proper. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paying the Bills

The Queen had to pay her bills like everyone else. Above is a voucher from the household accounts of Marie-Antoinette. (From Vive la Reine.) To quote:
The manuscript document, in French, is addressed to Marc Antoine Francois Marie Randon de la Tour, Treasurer General at the House of Finances, and demands that he pays her nine Grand Foot valets, who have served during the last quarter of October, November and December, the sum of 270 livres, being 30 livres each, in consideration of their services. The document concludes ‘This letter to you should suffice as a note for a sum of 270 livres to be allowed and allocated as an expense against our account by our dear and beloved treasurer of the King, our honoured Lord and Husband in Paris….’ The document bears a secretarial signature of Marie Antoinette at the conclusion, alongside which she has added her authentic signature.

Charlemagne's Clock

I never knew he had one. This is quite interesting. (From Daniel Mitsui.)
Gifford, in his History of France, thus describes Charlemagne's clock: But what particularly attracted the attention of the curious, was a clock worked by water. The dial was composed of twelve small doors, which represented the division of the hours; each door opened at the hour it was intended to represent, and out of it came the same number of little balls, which fell one by one, at equal distances of time, on a brass drum. It might be told by the eye what hour it was by the number of doors that were open; and by the ear, by the number of balls that fell. When it was twelve o'clock, twelve horsemen in miniature issued forth at the same time, and marching round the dial, shut all the doors. (Read entire post.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Genesis of "Bloody Mary"

Author Nancy Bilyeau discusses Mary I of England.
But it wasn’t Elizabeth who ensured that Mary would be detested for centuries. The first person to push her toward infamy—hard—was John Foxe, the Protestant author of The Book of Martyrs. Most English people did not witness the burnings of condemned heretics. But thanks to Foxe’s widespread book, first published in 1563, the horror of being burned at the stake was made starkly clear. These descriptions make for harrowing reading, then and now.

It was Foxe who wrote, “The next victim was the amiable Lady Jane Gray, who, by her acceptance of the crown at the earnest solicitations of her friends, incurred the implacable resentment of the bloody Mary.” But the nickname did not take hold then—in fact, it did not spring up until a century later.The succession crisis over James, Duke of York, directly led to the vilification of Mary Tudor. Fear that James, who converted to Catholicism, would succeed his brother, Charles II, gripped much of England. Should a Catholic become king, one politician warned, the kingdom would see persecutions as “bloody or bloodier than the ones in Mary’s reign.” An anonymous ballad in 1674 declared that after Edward VI died “Then Bloody Mary did begin/in England for to tyrannize.” She was used as a threatening memory of tyranny and death and slavish devotion to the Pope. This was the genesis of Bloody Mary. (Read entire post.)

Ancient Irish Rhetoric

Rhetoric of myth, magic and conversion.
Ancient Ireland presents an interesting case for rhetorical study. While the island is usually considered a part of geographic Europe, it long resisted the influence of cultural Europe. Unlike Britain, for example, Ireland was never conquered by Rome, and its pre-literate culture flourished beyond the fall of the Empire. Consequently, the Irish maintained a mythopoetic rhetoric based in narrative. Their stories recounted not only the deeds of their heroes, but also their words. And, like ancient Greece, ancient Ireland also had a class of sophistic rhetors, the Druids. When Patrick arrived around the end of the fourth century, he eschewed the Ciceronian rhetoric of Augustine and instead adapted Christian theology to fit Irish rhetoric. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The King's Agent

There are books which have a special richness due to the fact that the author has traveled to the places in the story so that they later come alive in dramatic detail. The King's Agent is one such novel; historical novelist Donna Russo Morin takes readers on a journey not only through Renaissance Italy but through Dante's Divine Comedy. Written in a florid, colorful style which conjures up the sights and sounds of a world long gone, The King's Agent combines fiction with fantasy as well as art history with mysticism. Battista della Palla is the agent of François I of France, commissioned by the king to gather the most unique art treasures for the royal collection, which at times means breaking into palazzos in search of legendary statues and paintings. During one heist he meets an unusual young lady, sheltered and naive but well-versed in art and Dante. Lady Aurelia, as she is called, becomes Battista's guide in search of a rare three-paneled icon which he must find for his master. With the Divina Commedia holding the key to the quest, Aurelia becomes Battista's Beatrice, leading him through many puzzles and ordeals towards their goal. As the goal becomes more attainable, Aurelia becomes less so, even after she has surrendered her virtue to him. Battista, realizing that she is more of an enigma than ever, wonders if she can ever be his.

This sumptuous novel features famous Renaissance art works and artists such as Michelangelo and his David. The author paints a portrait of the age with its political factions and invading kings, along with lavish banquets and boisterous feast days. Now all has passed but the great works of art remain, speaking to us of pain, joy, sorrow, sin, redemption and holiness, pointing the way to riches which cannot be seen or possessed on this earth.

Here is an article by Donna Russo Morin about her travels and discoveries in Italy. She writes about Florence, HERE.

(*NOTE: The King's Agent was sent to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.)


The Middle Class Family

Have American children become too dependent and helpless?
The researchers theorize that stems from a tendency in U.S. society to adapt to and focus on the children, rather than teaching children to focus on others. And, Americans tend to encourage children to pay attention to objects more than faces, emphasizing colors and shapes, for instance, over people, says Dr. Ochs. In Samoa, children are expected to be attentive to others from a very young age, and parents stress focusing on facial expressions, says Dr. Ochs.

Researchers are also examining how U.S. parents view family life and work. Parents tended to describe a "very prescribed way of being together," says Dr. Kremer-Sadlik.

They commonly used terms like "family night," "family movie," or "family breakfast," and it was understood that the activity was meant to be child-focused time and not include others outside the family. This same vision of "family time" wasn't seen in Italian families, for instance, the researchers found in work published in the journal Time and Society in 2007.

This structured and idealized way of being together appears to pressure parents to achieve these moments and also avoid another instances that might ruin it, like a child's temper tantrum.

"We wanted to highlight to parents that they have a lot of other opportunities for this family time," when they can feel united, supported and connected, says Dr. Kremer-Sadlik. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

St. Louis, the Just Ruler

The business of being King. (From
Many a time it chanced in summer, that he would go and sit in the forest of Vincennes, after mass, and all who had business would come and talk with him, without hindrance from ushers or anyone. Then he would ask them with his own lips: “Is there anyone here, that has a suit?” and those that had suits stood up. Then he would say: “Keep silence, all of you; and you shall be dealt with in order.” Then he would call up my lord Peter of Fontaines and my lord Geoffrey of Villette, and say to one of them: ” Dispatch me this suit! ” and if, in the speech of those who were speaking on behalf of others, he saw that a point might be better put, he himself would put it for them with his own lips. I have seen him sometimes in summer, when to hear his people’s suits, he would come into the gardens of Paris, clad in a camel’s-hair coat, with a sleeveless surcoat of tiretaine, a cloak of black taffety round his neck, his hair well combed and without a coif, and a white swansdown hat upon his head. He would cause a carpet to be spread, that we might sit round him; and all the people who had business before him stood round about, and then he caused their suits to be dispatched, just as I told you before about the forest of Vincennes. (Read entire post.)

American Conservativism: Why has it Flopped?

 American conservatism "was a series of attempts to keep the current situation from coming about." (From A Conservative Blog for Peace.) To quote:
Rod Dreher links to Jim Kalb, apparently a paleocon.

It helps to define what you mean by American conservatism. The Pilgrims? The ‘Enlightenment’ deist founding fathers? Burkean? Kirkian? The Old Right? Libertarian? Neocons going back to CIA operative Bill Buckley’s Cold Warrior statism running the Old Right off? But except for the neocons it’s all in retreat (our Ron Paul Revolution’s blacked out and even if we won they’d probably throw out the election; cue Emma Goldman quote).
At bottom, conservatism is the desire to remain true to type. So American conservatism is the desire for America to remain American.
But what does that mean? WASPs/northern Protestants only? Whether or not, why shouldn’t WASPs like being WASP, Germans like being German, etc.? Nothing wrong with that. Or a concept not an ethnos, a propositional nation (but with a few English values that can be universal)? The Old Republic? Freedom, live and let live, as long as you don’t harm others? (Government limited to that phrasing of the golden rule so we can all get along. Works for immigration: welcome! We don’t want to turn you into Protestants but play by this one rule of ours, which is not exclusively any faith’s; if you don’t, bye.) (Read entire post.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

In Prison

Marie-Antoinette and her children in the Temple prison. (From Vive la Reine.) Share

La Bella Figura

The Italian way. (Via A Conservative Blog for Peace.)
In order to possess a bella figura, you must look put-together. If you’re a woman, your hair is perfect. You have a fresh manicure and pedicure. Your clothes are stylish and flattering; your makeup is flawless. Your bag, shoes, and jewelry are coordinated and tasteful. Needless to say, you have exemplary posture as you make your way through the city streets. If you’re a man, you’re wearing a tailored suit, an impeccably pressed shirt, and polished dress shoes. Your grooming is likewise impressive. You’re fit and you smell good.

But this is just the most basic level of the bella figura, the surface clues to a more complex outlook on life. Deep down, it means appreciating good design—combining beauty and necessity in the most harmonious possible way. It means caring about detail and quality. It means having poise, being hospitable, and appreciating those qualities in others. It means hope—because you’re noticing beauty everywhere you look. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Presentation of Marie-Antoinette

With Louis XV and the Dauphin
At the French court. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Christianity and American Conservatism

An intriguing historical analysis. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
The loss of religion’s formerly privileged place has led believers to confront a difficult choice. Now that we can no longer count on the state to promote and subsidize religion, we either need to convince government to take it seriously once more and act again as its patron, or we must find a new way, free from the state’s blessing, to understand the significance of faith.

Over the last 30 years, born-again Protestants have overwhelmingly backed Republican candidates in the belief that for religion to matter, it must influence not only what people do when they gather for worship but also what they do every other day of the week. Faith must reach beyond the walls and fellowships of churches into the halls of power. From secularists and liberals who fear a return to theocracy—as if even Old Testament Israel was run by the Aaronic priesthood—to the Religious Right, which thrives on complaints about a “naked public square,” arguments for taking religion seriously in politics have coincided with the resurgence of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Burnt by the Sun (1994)

The award-winning Russian film Burnt by the Sun is one of the few to expose the human cost of Communism in the Soviet Union, not by showing acres of corpses and torture chambers, but by portraying a happy family who have not the slightest inkling that Stalin's eye is upon them. We watch them in growing horror as slowly and subtly the veil is removed and in one stroke their world is burned away. The Revolution turned upon its own children during the Great Purge of the 1930's, in which Stalin sought to "purge" or annihilate any potential rivals, including the "old guard" Bolsheviks of 1917. Director Nikita Mikhalkov depicts one such hero of the Revolution who has found contentment with his wife and daughter, never imagining that he is seen as a threat to the "Workers' Paradise" he helped to create. The character of Kotov is a bit reminiscent of Yul Brynner's Major Surov in The Journey, except in Burnt by the Sun, the devoted Marxist has won and wed his lady.

The winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes as well as the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Burnt by the Sun brings to life a lost era of history. We see the inhabitants of a backward village celebrating a Communist holiday in their own way, showing that the rigidities of the Marxist system could not stamp out creativity and individuality. According to one review:
The setting opens in 1936, just before Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. Sergei Kotov (Nikita Mikhalkov), an idealistic communist and honored hero of the Russian Sivil War, is enjoying his day off in his wife’s family’s country cabin, or rather a pretty big summer house, “dacha”. His wife Maroussia (Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė), their daughter Nadia, and Maroussia's large and eccentric family of intelligent ex-nobles are shown very descriptively.
Into this idyllic day comes Mitya (Oleg Menshikov), a former family friend who was Maroussia's lover before his sudden disappearance. The family is rejoicing at his visit and a lazy, serene and happy summer day is moving on. However, soon we understand that despite his humorous, friendly nature Mitya has come to this house with a secret agenda. Mitya now works for the Secret Police, or NKVD, and has an order to arrest General Kotov under false charges of spying for the German and Japanese governments.

This is revenge to some extent, as the reason why he left Maroussia was that Kotov forcibly recruited him into the NKVD many years ago. Mitya was then sent to Paris to spy on Russian emigrants. As a result, Mitya hates Kotov, whom he blames for taking away both Maroussia and his own faith in God. Kotov, however, views Mitya as "a whore" who was "bought and paid for" by the Soviet State. He is certain that Mitya's plans to arrest him are nothing more than a personal vendetta. Because of his enormous popularity and his close relationship with Stalin, Kotov is sure that the regime will never dare to touch him.
 Burnt by the Sun would be comic if it were not for the searing reminders that the characters are living in Stalinist Russia. Kotov's assortment of in-laws and friends are like characters right out of You Can't Take It with You, from the various grandparents and eccentric aunts and uncles to the neurotic maid. Having survived war and revolution, all seem happy to be alive and together, even if the condition of safety is the marriage of the daughter of the family to a Bolshevik officer. Kotov, of peasant background, is perfectly at ease with his wife's aristocratic relations, who likewise seem at ease with him. The unifying factors are no doubt the successful marriage and its fruit, the irrepressible Nadia. The six year old is the heart of the household and her father's joy. Her confidence in him and the Soviet regime he fought for are overshadowed by the giant banner of Stalin that fills the sky at the end of the film. In the words of The Washington Post:
The story of a family and a people—it's about the scorching all too many suffered from the rising sun of socialism—the movie's a constant, rich tapestry of Chekhovian and Bergman-esque family life. It's also suffused with Mikhalkov's customary sense of irony and political symbolism.
With a running time of 134 minutes, and with no flagging of details or energy, "Sun" makes great demands on that rapidly diminishing commodity—the American attention span. But with sustained concentration, the experience is ultimately rewarding....

The most touching element of all is the relationship between fictional (and real-life) father and daughter. The Mikhalkovs work together like Astaire and Rogers. He's a life-affirming Zorba the walrus, she's a delicate angel perched on his back. In her face, the movie memorably invests its doomed innocence and faith.


Women Artists: Royalists to Romantics

A review of the on-going exhibition of women artists from The Washington Post:
A few of the artists in the exhibition are familiar. Marie Antoinette helped secure Elisabeth Louise Vigee-LeBrun coveted membership in the prestigious Academy, and the queen also signed the marriage contract of Anne Vallayer-Coster, one of the most respected still-life painters at the time. Connections never hurt, and most of the artists, even the unknown ones, had some kind of access to larger artistic and cultural circles. Marguerite Gerard, represented in the exhibition by several paintings including a wispy portrait of the eminent and visionary architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, was the sister-in-law of the painter Jean-Honore Fragonard. Gerard also created illustrations for the racy bestseller of the age, Choderlos de Laclos' "Dangerous Liaisons."

Many of the women came from well-to-do or at least prosperous families, among whom art was a respectable avocation. Others were born into artistic families and took up the calling even though they were often encouraged to aim low and their artistic training was limited by decorum (practice by drawing unclothed models wasn't allowed). And yet the work in this exhibition consistently rises above the amateur watercolors and pencil likenesses one imagines Jane Austen's bored heroines were making across the Channel.

The challenge, for women, wasn't so much artistic accomplishment as professional status. Before the Revolution, the French Academy allowed four women among its limited membership, a small but meaningful participation in the highest echelons of artistic life. The Republican movement replaced the old "monarchical" Academy with a new, more democratic organization - which promptly limited women's membership to zero. Social values were also changing, with increased pressure on women to limit their horizons to the family and cultivate domestic virtue.

And yet women kept on making art. Shut out of prestigious schools, they sought instruction directly from the masters and taught each other. Marie-Guillemine Benoist studied with both Jacques-Louis David and Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun. Her career (and that of her politician husband) rode the ups and downs of royalist and revolutionary politics. She is represented in the exhibition by a large-scale 1809 hagiographic state portrait of Napoleon (painted a few years after the more famous and polished portrait by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres). But when her husband was appointed to the Council of State with the second restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1815, she gave up showing her work.

Particularly sad is the case of Constance Mayer, who studied with the romantic painter Pierre-Paul Prud'hon. She became so essential to Prud'hon that she ran his house for him after his wife was institutionalized with mental illness. Mayer collaborated with Prud'hon and is represented by "The Dream of Happiness," a moody allegory designed by Prud'hon and painted by Mayer. But Mayer also struggled with mental illness, and her suicide in 1821 may have been related to unfulfilled hopes of marriage to her teacher and partner.

Even after their deaths, the female artists' struggle for professional recognition continued.

"Many of these works were appropriated by male counterparts," says NMWA chief curator Jordana Pomeroy.

Unscrupulous dealers would pass of the work of lesser-known artists as the product of more famous and marketable artists, an indignity that has particularly confused the legacy of women. Rediscovering the accomplishment of female artists often means reevaluating work that has sat in the "gray zone" of major collections for centuries. (Read entire article.)

Details: Feb. 24-July 29 Information: 202-783-5000

National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jewish Communal Organization

In sixteenth century Polish towns.
From the beginning of the twelfth century we have evidence that Central European Jewry developed patterns of self-government reaching beyond the sole requirements of religious community life. This development coincided with the emergence of town communities as a new type of politico-legal corporation within medieval society. Subsequently in East Central Europe, and especially in the royal Polish towns, Jewish communities gained legal and political autonomy to a degree unknown elsewhere. This study aims to describe those Polish communities at the height of their power and importance, which they reached in the second half of the sixteenth century. In so doing it has to take into consideration – like any investigation made in the field of Jewish history – an internal Jewish aspect and an external non-Jewish one. Moreover, the aim of such an approach should always be to come to a kind of synthesis in terms of this twofold perspective, in which the interdependence of internal and external factors is described. (Read entire post.)

The Stigma of Self-Publishing

Award-winning author Ellen Gable describes her experiences and reasons for hope.
Another reason there may be a negative bias toward self-publishing could be the belief that self-published authors wouldn’t be able to get published by a traditional publisher or that perhaps they have already been rejected.  This may be true for some self-published authors. But consider the case of self-published millionaire, Amanda Hocking who was rejected by traditional publishing houses and who is selling 100,000 books per month on Kindle.

On the one hand, I understand why some newspapers, magazines and websites need to have a blanket rule in place for self-published books (since there are many poorly written self-published books).  On the other hand, I have also read extremely well-written novels by authors who self-published: Elena Maria Vidal, Gerard Webster, Christopher Blunt, Krisi Keley, Regina Doman, to name a few.
Although self-publishers have come a long way, we have not arrived yet with regard to “stigma” of self publishing. Despite the stigma, I don’t believe I would ever go the traditionally published route.  After self-publishing four books  (with lots of assistance) and after having 100 percent of the control, it would be hard to give my books to a publishing company.  For me, it would be like giving my baby away to someone else to raise. (Read entire post.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lost Fairy Tales

From The New Yorker:
Last week, the Guardian reported that five hundred unknown fairy tales, languishing for over a century in the municipal archive of Regensburg, Germany, have come to light. The news sent a flutter through the world of fairy-tale enthusiasts, their interest further piqued by the detail that the tales—which had been compiled in the mid-nineteenth century by an antiquarian named Franz Xaver von Schönwerth—had been kept under lock and key. How astonishing then to discover that many of those “five hundred new tales” are already in print and on the shelves at Widener Library at Harvard (where I teach literature, folklore and mythology) and at Yale, Stanford, and Berkeley.

Schönwerth—a man whom the Grimm brothers praised for his “fine ear” and accuracy as a collector—published three volumes of folk customs and legends in the mid-nineteenth century, but the books soon began gathering dust on library shelves. In 2010, over a hundred of the fairy tales culled from the archive were published by the Schönwerth champion Erika Eichenseer, under the title Prinz Rosszwifl. So the Guardians news wasn’t exactly new. To be sure, those tales have not yet been translated into English, and many stories remain in manuscript form. But there are enough of them available now to satisfy our curiosity: are they radically different from the fairy tales we know?

Schönwerth’s tales have a compositional fierceness and energy rarely seen in stories gathered by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault, collectors who gave us relatively tame versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” and “Rapunzel.” Schönwerth gives us a harsher dose of reality than most collections. His Cinderella is a woodcutter’s daughter who uses golden slippers to recover her beloved from beyond the moon and the sun. His miller’s daughter wields an ax and uses it to disenchant a prince by chopping off the tail of a gigantic black cat. The stories remain untouched by literary sensibilities. No throat-clearing for Schönwerth, who begins in medias res, with “A princess was ill” or “A prince was lost in the woods,” rather than “Once upon a time…”

Though he was inspired by the Grimms, Schönwerth was even more interested than they were in documenting the oral traditions of Bavaria. He hoped to preserve remnants of a pagan past and to consolidate national identity by capturing in print rapidly fading cultural traditions, legends, and customs. This explains the rough-hewn quality of his tales. Oral narratives famously neglect psychology for plot, and these tales move with warp speed out of the castle and into the woods, generating multiple encounters with ogres, dragons, witches, and other villains, leaving almost no room for expressive asides or details explaining how or why things happen. The driving question is always “And then …?”

Our own culture, under the spell of Grimm and Perrault, has favored fairy tales starring girls rather than boys, princesses rather than princes. But Schönwerth’s stories show us that once upon a time, Cinderfellas evidently suffered right alongside Cinderellas, and handsome young men fell into slumbers nearly as deep as Briar Rose’s hundred-year nap. Just as girls became domestic drudges and suffered under the curse of evil mothers and stepmothers, boys, too, served out terms as gardeners and servants, sometimes banished into the woods by hostile fathers. Like Snow White, they had to plead with a hunter for their lives. And they are as good as they are beautiful—Schönwerth uses the German term “schön,” or beautiful, for both male and female protagonists. (Read entire post.)

The Real-Life Abbeys

Was "Downton Abbey" once a monastery? Most likely, yes.
Then there was the reality of the monasteries. The abbeys and convents were more than houses of prayer. They were magnets for local towns and regions. In them were schools. Often, there were hospitals, at least as such were known in the 16th century. In the monasteries, the poor found relief. They were centers of worship and devotion. Finally, many abbots sat in Parliament.

If unchecked, the monasteries very likely could frustrate the king as he sought to change religion in England. So, he instituted a policy to dissolve the monasteries. It was an amazing, stupendous undertaking, as if Congress today ordered the closing of every college and university in this country. Brute force played a role. Resistance varied. For example, among the first martyrs of those days were Carthusians from an abbey. They would not acknowledge the king’s order separating the Church from Rome, so they were executed.

Less edifying, some monks thought that if they accommodated the king, they could keep their monasteries intact. The Benedictine monastic community at Westminster Abbey fell into this category. They were wrong. Even if religious followed the king away from Rome, he closed their abbeys.

As a result, the king in a relatively short period of time had at his disposal huge areas of land, once occupied by the monasteries, along with everything that the monasteries had owned.  A few of the monasteries were kept as Anglican churches, although the monks were expelled. Westminster Abbey is an example.  In many other cases, the king simply seized whatever had belonged to monasteries as his own. Then, on some occasions, he gave the land to nobles whom he wished to placate. Some real-life English nobles today own and occupy land once the site of a Catholic abbey. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Madame Auguié

Adélaïde Genet, Madame Auguié (1758-1794) was one of the last maids of Marie-Antoinette, a sister of Madame Campan. She tried to save Marie-Antoinette's life but later took her own. (From Madame Guillotine via Vive la Reine.)
Madame Vigée-Lebrun, who knew both Madame Auguié and her sister, Madame Campan very well described Adélaïde thus: ‘I have known few women as beautiful and as agreeable as Madame Auguié. She was tall with an attractive figure; her face, with its complexion of peaches and cream, was fresh, and her pretty eyes shone with gentleness and kindness.’

Marie Antoinette was very fond of Adélaïde Auguié and referred to her by the nickname ‘my lioness’, in tribute to her unusual height and proud bearing. The Queen’s fondness for her femme de chambre was fully repayed on the night of 5th October 1789 when Adélaïde was one of the two ladies who kept vigil outside the Queen’s bedchamber and raised the alarm when the mob broke into the palace. It was Adélaïde Auguié who ran to the guardroom to see the blood covered guardsmen there then ran back to her mistress’ bedchamber to wake her up with the cry ‘Madame, you must get up at once!’ before helping the bewildered Queen from her bed and escaping with her down the corridor that led to the King’s apartments. In gratitude for her services on that night, Marie Antoinette bestowed on Madame Auguié one of the splendid and immense nécessaire cases that were made for the escape to Varennes.

Along with Madame Campan, Adélaïde remained with the royal family until the very end, leaving only in  August 1792 when they left the Tuileries and were taken to the Temple. Faithful, loyal Madame Auguié’s final act for her mistress was to slip her 25 Louis, knowing that money would now be in short supply for the beleagured, unfortunate Queen.

Sadly, Madame Auguié was so distressed and overset by the execution of her former mistress, Marie Antoinette and so terrified by the prospect of her own inevitable arrest that she committed suicide by self defenestration on the 26th July 1794, leaving two young daughters: Aglaé (1782-1854) who would marry the celebrated Marshal Ney on the 5th August 1802 and Adèle, later Madame de Broc, who was to be best friends with Hortense de Beauharnais. (Read entire post.)

More HERE.

Madame Auguié working in Marie-Antoinette's dairy at Trianon


Why Civility Matters

I read a wonderful article on civility in the latest AARP newsletter that my mom receives. I was happy to find it online. To quote:
Civility is more than polite courtesies. Derived from the Old French and Latin term for “good citizen,” civility enables us to live respectfully in communities; it is the glue that binds our society. It can be the difference between life and death–as, for example, when health care professionals bully subordinates, cover mistakes, and create mistrust. It is an essential component of our human sustainability, enabling us not only to survive but thrive.

Reversing the current course of incivility is a challenge for our times. Until a rudeness vaccine is developed, we must dig into our civility tool kit. There are compelling reasons why we should. A life is not defined by a single act, and few of us will ever achieve national acclaim or perform deeds that change the course of history. However, there is a “greatness” in treating others with respect, compassion, kindness, and generosity. With this, we can make a difference in the lives of many. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The God Box

The review of a book on the power of prayer.
Mary Lou Quinlan talks about how she discovered a bunch of little boxes that her mother stored away secretly throughout her lifetime. These contained years of accumulated bits of papers with prayers written on them. Her mom wrote prayers for everyone she knew; short- almost on-the-run little notes that she carefully folded into minute bitsies and put in these ‘God boxes’. The ‘letting go to God to take care of things’- experience in itself is what is also amazing about the whole process.

Mary Lou learned about her mother’s strengths, care, love and ultimate faith through this legacy her mom left behind for her. Beautifully written, I loved reading this book. Inspiring and refreshing, this idea to leave it upto God by physically writing out prayers and releasing them into the God Box for Him to take care of sounds so... relieving. (Read entire post.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

If Catholic Hospitals Close....

Here is the scenario:
And, where health care is concerned, Catholic institutions are definitely a force to be reckoned with. For example, they provide care to one in six patients treated in the United States every year. During 2010, America's more than 600 Catholic facilities treated well over 100 million patients, including 19 million emergency patients, and 5.5 million inpatients. And much of the care received by these patients was provided at a loss. Of the 5.5 million inpatients treated by these hospitals during 2010, 3.3 million were covered by Medicare or Medicaid, both of which pay less than the amount it costs to provide treatment. Of the 19 million emergency patients treated at Catholic hospitals, a large percentage paid nothing at all.
So, what happens if the Catholic hospitals simply refuse to abandon their principles and decide get out of the health care business? This possibility is not as remote as some may believe. Don't forget what happened in Massachusetts when Catholic charities faced a similar choice relating to adoption. Rather than abandoning their principles they simply stopped offering adoption services. If they take the same course in health care, the effect on our medical delivery system will be disastrous. Not all of the Church's 600 hospitals would disappear, of course. Some would be bought by large for-profit chains, like HCA. Others would be picked up by big not-for-profit systems. But at least a third would probably go out of business.

And that third will consist mostly of rural and inner city hospitals that treat the nation's most vulnerable patients. These institutions will never show a positive bottom line because most of their patients are covered by government insurance or none at all. They are only open at present due to the good graces of the Catholic Church and its members. Once those good graces are withdrawn, there will be no buyers and these hospitals will be forced to shut their doors. Where will their patients go for care? The rural patients will have to travel for hours, in some cases, to access care. And many will die on the way. The inner city patients will go to hopelessly overcrowded safety net hospitals where patients already die in the waiting rooms.

Would the Church really withdraw from U.S. health care? In a recent letter to all the Catholic bishops of the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote, "We have made it clear in no uncertain terms to the government that we are not at peace with its invasive attempt to curtail the religious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans. We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it." In the same letter, Cardinal Dolan quotes supportive words from the Pope: "We recall the words of our Holy Father Benedict XVI to our brother bishops on their recent ad limina visit: 'Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.'" (Read entire post.)
(Via A Conservative Blog for Peace.) Share

The King's Great Matter

Some books about the marital tribulations of Henry VIII.
Set against the backdrop of war-torn Renaissance Italy, Our Man in Rome weaves together tales from the grubby underbelly of Tudor politics with a gripping family saga to reveal the extraordinary true story behind history’s most infamous divorce. Through six years of cajoling, threats and bribery, Casali lives by his wits. He manoeuvres his brothers into lucrative diplomatic postings, plays off one master against another, dodges spies, bandits and noblemen alike. But as the years pass and Henry’s case drags on, his loyalties are increasingly suspected. What will be Casali’s fate? Drawing on hundreds of hitherto-unknown archive documents, Our Man in Rome reconstructs his tumultuous life among the great and powerful at this turning point for European history. From the besieged Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome to the splendours of Greenwich Palace, we follow his trail in the service of Henry VIII. Lavish ceremony and glamorous parties stand in contrast to the daily strains of embassy life, as Casali pawns family silver to pay the bills, fights off rapacious in-laws and defends himself in the face of Anne Boleyn’s wrath. This stunning book will make you think anew about Tudor history. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Description of Mary I

From an eyewitness account:
Besides woman's work, such as embroidery of every sort with the needle, she also practices music, playing especially on the clavichord and on the lute so excellently that, when intent on it...she surprised the best performers, both by the rapidity of her hand and by her style of playing. Such are her virtues and external accomplishments. Internally, with the exception of certain trifles, in which, to say the truth, she is like other women, being sudden and passionate, and close and miserly, rather more so than would become a bountiful and generous queen, she in other respects has no notable imperfections; whilst in certain things she is singular and without an equal, for not only is she brave and valiant, unlike other timid and spiritless women, but she courageous and resolute that neither in adversity nor peril did she ever even display or commit any act of cowardice or pusillanimity, maintaining always, on the contrary, a wonderful grandeur and dignity, knowing what became the dignity of a sovereign as well as any of the most consummate statesmen in her service; so that from her way of proceeding and from the method observed by her (and in which she still perseveres), it cannot be denied that she shows herself to have been born of truly royal lineage. (Read entire post.)

The Divorce Dilemma

This excellent article was painful for me to read since there is a lot of divorce in my family. (Via The Pittsford Perennialist.)
Finally, moral horror at divorce can easily slide into moral horror toward other people. If there’s a plan that can prevent divorce, then making the “wrong” choices allows everyone to I-told-you-so as they feel better about themselves and their own decisions. People have a deep-seated thirst for self-righteousness, and in a culture where most of the old expressions of moral distaste are themselves stigmatized, we find new outlets for our crueler needs for self-comfort.

This self-comfort is exercised partly at the expense of the divorced. A friend of mine recently spent a great deal of time talking online with a group of older women, most of whom are widowed or divorced, and the contrast between how those two groups are treated socially is hard to exaggerate. The generosity and gentleness we rightly extend to the bereaved are matched by a ferocious stigma applied to the divorced. It’s all too easy for the anti-divorce culture to become uncharitable, unforgiving, and ridden with unkind assumptions about who gets divorced and why.

We also comfort ourselves at the expense of people planning marriages that don’t fit the rules. Couples who refuse to cohabit or who marry young are scolded, warned that they’re setting themselves up for divorce, and held up as bad examples.

A culture of love can’t be built on a foundation of rejection. The path forward doesn’t include further stigmatizing divorce, or bringing back stigma against unmarried childbearing. Lack of charity in these areas will only lead to less marriage (in the case of stigma against divorce) and more abortions (in the case of stigma against unmarried childbearing). What young people need is hope: a sense that marriages can last, not because the spouses were smart enough on the front end but because they were gentle and flexible enough during the long years after the wedding....

Four decades after the divorce revolution, we know how to fear. What we need to learn is how to hope. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Esther the Queen

The Jewish heroine who became Queen of Persia and saved her people.
One of the most famous women, and perhaps the most famous queen, in Jewish history is Queen Esther, consort to a King of Persia and a great heroine to her people. Her story is, or at least should be, well known to all Jews and Christians (if they read their Old Testament). As with almost anyone from Biblical times, there are a great many details about Queen Esther than remain a mystery, however, the important points are clearly recorded. She was born with the name Hadassah, we know not when or where. Her story begins with that of the man who would be her husband, there being some debate as to his identity. The Bible identifies him as Assuerus, “who reigned from India to Ethiopia over a hundred twenty-seven provinces” with the city of Susan as his capital. So, a big shot in Persian history without question. Traditionally it was thought this referred to King Xerxes I of the Achaemenid empire but more recent scholars have theorized it to have been a king of the later Sassanid empire.

In an effort to show off his greatness, King Assuerus held the party to top all parties, inviting all his regional governors and all the great men of Persia to party hardy for nearly 200 days. Of course, no such display could be complete without showing off your smoking hot trophy wife so King Assuerus, after getting gloriously drunk, called for his queen, Vashti, but she refused to come. Somewhat astounded, the King was warned by his advisers that such defiance might provoke a wave of feminism which would leave all the great men of Persia frustrated and sleeping on their sofas. So, Queen Vasthi is given the boot and King Assuerus starts the hunt for a new royal consort. Every province was to send their most beautiful virgins for his inspection, with each undergoing a full year of preparation to make them suitable choices for the ruler of most of the known world at the time. After making his inspection, King Assuerus chose a famously beautiful Jewish girl named Esther, previously known as Hadassah. It is said that she was an orphan who had been raised by her cousin, a man named Mordecai. Hailing from the tribe of Benjamin she had stayed with her cousin, who was more like her father for all intents and purposes, even after Cyrus had allowed the Jews to return home to Jerusalem. (Read entire post.)

Modernity's Debased View of Women

From Joshua Snyder:
Leaving aside the reality that "women’s reproductive rights" had the deeper effect of liberating men from their social and moral responsibilities towards women and children, giving them license to act like pigs, does "the fact of equality between men and women" (undisputed) really depend on recent advances in technology? (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Temple Door

The Royal Family enters the door of the Temple prison. (From Vive la Reine.) At the end of the ordeal, only one of them would be alive. Share

Contraception and the Cross

This is one of the best posts on contraception that I have yet read. Yes, it is really, really hard sometimes to be a Catholic. I am not a Catholic because it makes me feel good but because the truth of the Catholic faith is so evident to me that to deny it would be living a lie. And there is a joy which goes with being a practicing Catholic that is beyond the daily mood swings. My friend Cathy says:
Regarding contraception and Church teaching, I need to say this. It is a HARD teaching. I was pregnant eight times. I had one miscarriage and gave birth to seven children, including one who died as a baby. I loved and wanted each of my children. And every single time I found out I was pregnant, I felt completely and utterly frightened and freaked out.

I know what it is like to see a positive pregnancy test and think that my life is over. I know what it is like to cry tears of relief and guilt when a late period finally arrives. I know what is like to believe that there is absolutely no way that it is a good idea to have a baby right now.

I also know that NFP is annoying sometimes. It's not always rainbows and butterflies and "Wow, isn't this great for our marriage?". Did I mention it is a HARD TEACHING?

Some Catholic women have been writing lately about how joyful and wonderful the Church teachings are, and how they are a gift to embrace. In fact, I've been one of those women. But it would be a lie to say that I haven't struggled with this. And it would be wrong not to acknowledge that many, many women suffer because of it....

But hey, there is hope.

There's Jesus. He's the only reason I even try to follow this teaching or any other. He is the only one who gives me the strength to try. I believe with all my heart that He loves me and wants the best for me. I really do in fact actually believe that the Catholic Church is a gift from Him, and that He wants me to be obedient. I trust Jesus, with my will, not my feelings. I give everything to him, including my fertility and my pride and my selfishness....What we are called to live as wives and mothers can be a heavy cross. (Read entire post.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Madame de Noailles

People often forget that in spite of France being an absolute monarchy there were many things over which the sovereign had no control. For instance, when choosing members of the nobility for various court offices, the King or Queen traditionally could not choose whoever they wanted but had to make the appointment according to heredity and prestige. When fourteen year old Marie-Antoinette arrived in France the lady singled out to be her guide was not a warm, motherly person but the one who was next in line for such an exalted office. It was Anne Claude Louise d'Arpajon, Vicomtesse de Noailles, who had been the first lady-in-waiting to the late Queen Marie Lesczynska and was therefore a stickler for etiquette. The Polish Queen had been strict about etiquette since she was the daughter of a dethroned king and later a neglected wife so she needed the rules to maintain respect. Madame de Noailles tried to maintain the same standards in the household of the young Dauphine but to no avail.

As Madame Campan shrewdly describes in her memoirs:
While doing justice to the virtues of the Comtesse de Noailles, those sincerely attached to the Queen have always considered it as one of her earliest misfortunes not to have found, in the person of her adviser, a woman indulgent, enlightened, and administering good advice with that amiability which disposes young persons to follow it. The Comtesse de Noailles had nothing agreeable in her appearance; her demeanour was stiff and her mien severe. She was perfect mistress of etiquette; but she wearied the young Princess with it, without making her sensible of its importance. It would have been sufficient to represent to the Dauphiness that in France her dignity depended much upon customs not necessary at Vienna to secure the respect and love of the good and submissive Austrians for the imperial family; but the Dauphiness was perpetually tormented by the remonstrances of the Comtesse de Noailles, and at the same time was led by the Abbe de Vermond to ridicule both the lessons upon etiquette and her who gave them. She preferred raillery to argument, and nicknamed the Comtesse de Noailles Madame l’Etiquette.
Marie-Antoinette rebelled against the stringency of the etiquette, which she did not think was necessary, and as Queen she changed some of the rules. She also chose people for offices not from the usual noble families but based upon her liking of them and whether she thought them capable. It would amaze us how much resentment she caused among the nobles, resentment which her enemies put to work against her. Nevertheless, Madame de Noailles and her husband were loyal monarchists and died on the guillotine during the revolution. Share

The Plight of Christians in the Middle East

I am overwhelmed by sadness whenever I think of what our brethren are suffering. (Via Gareth.)
The trauma of those priests is now commonplace among Middle Eastern Christians. Their share of the region's population has plunged from 20% a century ago to less than 5% today and falling. In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death. Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer. As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they've inhabited for centuries.

The only place in the Middle East where Christians aren't endangered but flourishing is Israel. Since Israel's founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Marie-Antoinette's French Grandmother

Marie-Antoinette technically had more French blood than anyone in her husband's family.
Marie Antoinette’s French grandmother, Élisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans was born to Monsieur and Liselotte on the 13th September 1676 at the Château de Saint-Cloud, which had been perfected by her father over the years and had a commanding view from its terrace towards Paris. Later, this beautiful summer château would cause controversy when it became the personal possession of Marie Antoinette, but at the time of Élisabeth’s birth it was still, along with the Palais Royal in Paris, the primary seat of the Orléans family.
As niece of Louis XIV, the little girl was one of the first ladies in France and was given the courtesy title of Mademoiselle de Chartres, which she would use until the marriages of her elder half sisters, the daughters of Henrietta of England were married and she was given the title of Madame Royale to signify that she was now the premier unmarried princess in the country. (Read entire post.)

Ernest Dowson

He is by far one of my favorite English poets.
*From the third stanza of "Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae":

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

St. Joan's Military Genius

It was of divine origin. (From Nobility)
“At the age of eighteen Joan possessed the same military genius as Condé when he was twenty,” writes one of her biographers.

Those who were her nearest friends have expressed themselves in a similar way.

The Duke of Alençon says that Joan was very experienced in all things military, whether it was a matter of handling a lance, assembling the army, or of the use of the new weapon of the times—the artillery. Dunois says the same more than once….

It has been shown that in any case she never held a command. When she acted it was always on impulse or by divine guidance, and at such times she placed herself above all human calculations, estimates and agreements….

All this is so astounding, so irrational, that it is only because we possess definite documentary evidence that we can believe it at all. True, Dunois always chivalrously recognizes her genius and especially her own importance, but when at the age of fifty-one he was questioned about her contribution to Orleans, where he himself held the supreme command, these were his words:

“Asked if he thought it probable that Joan was sent by God to intervene in military matters rather than she was impelled by human motives, he replied that he thought she was sent by God and that her military contribution depended on divine rather than on human inspiration.”

It could not have been put better. (Read entire post.)

(The above quote is taken from Sven Stolpe's biography of St. Joan which is the best biography about her that I have ever read.) Share

Blessed Germain Gardiner

Bishop Gardiner's nephew.
...Blessed Germain Gardiner was left as the scapegoat to suffer for the plot, while Henry VIII, still valuing Bishop Stephen Gardiner's efforts in supporting both Henry's "Great Matter" and his more "conservative" reformation of the Church, spared his uncle.

Along with Gardiner, Blessed John Larke, friend of St. Thomas More and former rector of Chelsea (More's parish) and Blessed John Ireland, also connected with St. Thomas More and Chelsea, were executed for denying Henry VIII's Supremacy. Robert Singleton, a parish priest, was also executed under a charge of treason, but he has not been beatified. John Heywood, the playwright and grandfather of John Donne was also on the scaffold at Tyburn sentenced to death, but he recanted and was spared. He also had connections to St. Thomas More and survived the ups and downs of the Tudor succession until Elizabeth I's reign. Then he went into exile in Mechelen, Belgium where he died around 1580. (Read entire post.)

Friday, March 9, 2012


Armand Louis de Gontaut, Duc de Lauzun, later Duc de Biron (13 April 1747 – 31 December 1793) was a military hero and author of a memoir as well as being a courtier at Versailles during the reign of Louis XVI. He could easily have been the model for Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons in that no woman was free from his advances, not even the Queen of France. Sarah Tytler's biography has the best summary of his interaction with Marie-Antoinette:
Armand Louis de Gontant Biron, Duc de Lauzun, was born in 1747, and thus was eight years older than the Queen. He had been reared in the boudoir of Madame de Pompadour, and on account of a difficulty in choosing a tutor for him, a lackey of his late mother's taught him to read. At twelve years of age, he too entered the regiment of the Swiss Guards, knowing that he would succeed to an immense fortune. At nineteen, he married a charming young girl, grand-daughter and heiress of the Maréchal de Luxembourg. Her graces and- virtues won all hearts except her husband's. He came to Versailles when he was twenty-eight years of age, and found the Queen on intimate terms with his friend the Princesse de Guéménée, who procured him the introduction which he coveted, and he received some kindness from Marie Antoinette. A race, in which his horse was ridden by a child, made him fashionable; and at the Queen's request, other races were arranged.
Lauzun was a French Lovelace, an avowed womankiller, with all the immoderate vanity and odious heartlessness of such a character. He ran after those women who were much in the public eye—grandes dames, famous beauties, celebrated actresses. To throw on queens themselves bold looks—to make the proudest hearts beat, were it only with indignation —to cause the most glorious eyes to shine, if but with anger—to excite the jealousy of the salon, the envy of the men, the ecstacy of the women, was his chief ambition. And this very fine gentleman had the weaknesses of a fine lady, and carried them off admirably. He could weep ostentatiously, without looking ridiculous; he changed colour like the Comtesse Diane, who had an inconvenient habit of blushing like a school-girl; he even fainted when it was desirable to produce a sensation.
Marie Antoinette had no great liking for Lauzun, yet she regarded his vices with a certain foolish interest and curiosity—feelings which such mauvais sujets, as she knew him to be, are apt to excite in women like her. Mercy wrote of him as one of the dangerous young fools to whom the Queen gave too free access; but the Comte added no hint that could support the outrageous fatuousness of the Duc de Lauzun's assertion of the Queen's favour. Lauzun, on his part, had no special regard for Marie Antoinette; but the role of admirer of the first woman in France pleased his coxcombry, and, as he fancied, mortified les grandes dames.
Suddenly a lively sensation was excited at Court by the incident of "the heron's plume," told in two very different ways. One day Lauzun appeared at Madame de Guemenee's in uniform, with a snowwhite heron's plume in his casque. Some evenings afterwards, the Queen showed herself with the same unique plume in her head-dress. Lauzun's vapouring statement was, that the Queen had said to Madame de Guéménée that she, Marie Antoinette, was dying to have the heron's feathers, which he sent to her accordingly through his obliging ally. The Queen, he added, not only wore the plume, but appealed to him as to what he thought of it in her head-dress, and declared she had never found herself adorned so much to her mind. The Duc de Lauzun then wrote down a cock-and-bull version of an interview he had with the Queen, when she insinuated her attachment to him, and, but for the restraint he put upon himself, .would have expressed her regard openly.

Madame Campan's explanation has the merit of being credible. The Queen had rashly admired the rare plume, when the Duc de Lauzun at once offered it to her through Madame de Guéménée. The offer embarrassed Marie Antoinette, who did not see how she could refuse it, or accept it without presenting Lauzun with an equivalent—a course to which there were many objections. On the whole, it seemed the best plan to take the feathers as a matter of course, let their former owner see her wear them once, and then suffer the subject to drop. But her imprudent condescension to such a man bore its natural fruits. The Duc de Lauzun solicited an audience, and Madame Campan, who was in the next room in the performance of her duty, again heard the Queen's voice raised in anger. "Go, sir," were the words she said this time, and when her dismissal was obeyed, she protested to her bed-chamber woman," That man shall never again come within my doors." As an established fact, the Queen from that date testified her displeasure and dissatisfaction with the nobleman. When the Maréchal de Biron died, the Duc de Lauzun, the heir of his name, desired the post of colonel of the French Guards, but the Queen prevented his nomination, procuring the commission for the Duc de Chatelet. For that matter, Lauzun had been unmasked to her by Mercy and the Abbé as early as 1777. Lauzun was overwhelmed with debt, in consequence of his reckless life and prodigal extravagance; though he had started with a hundred thousand crowns rent, he owed two millions. Madame de Guéménée importuned Marie Antoinette in vain for lettres d'etat, to save the spendthrift from his creditors. It is equally well known that the disappointment of his unwarrantable expectations threw the Duc de Lauzun into the faction of the Duc d'Orleans, and converted the Queen's pretended admirer into a bitter enemy both of her and the King.

....It is saying little to note that [Marie-Antoinette] had many enemies. She had managed to pique and alienate some of the representatives of the greatest houses in the kingdom—such as "the Montmorencies, the Clermont-Tonnerres, the Rochefoucaulds "—by the constant injudicious display of her preference for her private friends; above all, for Madame de Polignac and her set—a line of conduct against which Mercy had warned the Queen to no purpose. For some time, as her old friend and adviser had not failed to point out, her weekly balls, when the Court was at Versailles, had been ominously ill-attended. The great families did not care to come from Paris and find the Queen so engrossed by a bevy of favourites and her own amusement as hardly to take the trouble, in spite of her naturally gracious manners, to "hold a circle," and take due notice of her guests. Besides, these offended magnates were by no means without skeletons in their own cupboards, and felt further insulted by some painfully honest speeches of the young Queen's, such as, "I do not care to receive wives who are separated from their husbands."
There is no question that the first calumnies against the Queen arose in the salons, and tempted every unworthy fine gentleman, who listened to the sneers and doubles entendres, and believed in them, to profess insolently to appropriate Marie Antoinette's frank smiles and ready kindness.

The Duc de Lauzun fought well in La Vendée against the defenders of the altar and the throne; but his comrades could not forget or forgive his birth and assumption of superiority. He was guillotined on the 1st of January, 1794. It is said that on the scaffold he declared, "I have been false to my God, to my order, and to my King." The Duc de Lauzun, like the Baron de Besenval, left behind him memoirs, the authenticity of which, though at first questioned with indignation by his greatest friend, Talleyrand, is now universally admitted. The only testimony against the good name of Marie Antoinette which could be for a moment entertained by any reasonable person, is contained in the malicious inferences and vindictively-garbled statements of these two noble braggarts, who proclaimed to the world what, if true, it would have been the height of treachery in them to reveal, but which, as it is, bears its foolish falsehood on its brazen face. (Marie-Antoinette, the Woman and the Queen by Sarah Tytler, pp. 95-98)
More on Lauzun from Madame Guillotine and Lauren.

The Duc de Lauzun, a soldier of the Revolution