Friday, February 28, 2014

The Selling of the American Dwelling

From The New Yorker:
The evolution of the American home, from those days to contemporary times, is the focus of a fascinating exhibition called “Selling the Dwelling: The Books that Built America’s Houses, 1775-2000,” on display and open to the public in New York’s Grolier Club, a private establishment for book collectors and scholars.

The collection of domestic architectural pattern and plan books, pamphlets, and shelter magazines is not only splendid to peruse; it also tells the story of the American housing boom that set the stage for the real-estate crisis from which the United States is still recovering. Eric J. Holzenberg, the Grolier Club’s director, and the exhibit’s curator, Richard Cheek, spent more than a decade putting the exhibit together, tracking down more than three hundred items of architectural ephemera at flea markets, in garage sales, on eBay, and from antiquarian book dealers. (Read more.)

The New Catholic Culture War

"These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth."
(Rev 11:4)
Is it now Francis vs. Benedict? I have always loved the traditional Mass and liturgy. What I do not like is the name-calling on both sides. I love both popes and they are the last people to want to cause more division. I personally think we should all start examining our own lives and relationships with God and not be worrying over every single thing the Pope says and does. He has to answer to God for his life and each of us have to answer for ours. Here is another excellent reflection from Fr. Angelo Mary of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. To quote:
 The Catholic culture war continues to heat up.  John Allen from The Boston Globe has recently noted the that there is a possible “right wing” backlash to the Franciscan pontificate that will pit a majority of “Francis Catholics” against “Benedict Catholics.”  I believe he is right, though I would say that the backlash is well underway. (Read more.)
In the meantime, my friend Fr. Mark writes why he and his community have chosen to take the privilege granted by Benedict XVI of offering the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form, HERE and HERE. Father makes many learned and poignant observations worth noting. To quote:
 No one at the grassroots level was prepared to deal with the multiplicity of options set out in the Missale Romanum of 1969. Very few of the clergy, long accustomed to a dry rubricism with little mystagogical catechesis, could manoeuvre their way through the options of the Novus Ordo Missae intelligently.  It was a blueprint for liturgical chaos. The Introductory Rites alone presented a bewildering array of options.  Reading article 48 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani one discovers, for example, that there are four or, some would say, five options for the Introit alone. There are, moreover, six different ways of executing the four or five options. In the end, concretely, what happened in the vast majority of parishes?  The Introit disappeared altogether, and so too have the other elements of the Proper of the Mass. I am no Professor Anton Baumstark, but I have formulated my own law of degenerative liturgical evolution. It is this: elements of the rite tend to be neglected and, in the end, disappear altogether, in direct proportion to the number of options by virtue of which they may be replaced or modified. (Read more.)
 Fr. Angelo discourses on the possibility of union with those in schism, HERE. Share

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Madame du Barry in Deshabille

A Greuze painting of Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, in loose morning attire. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

The Return of Jim Crow?

From Daniel McInerny of Aleteia:
Describing our society as multicultural and pluralistic might have been suitable in the 1950s. At present the better description is that of a wilderness of warring tribes which band together under loose alliances. This situation is the result of deep social fragmentation, at bottom a moral and spiritual crisis to which the legal system is not immune.

In such an environment, rights in general, and particularly rights of conscience, will be increasingly and ever more stridently invoked. When people of whatever cultural tribe believe their very way of life is under threat, the customary reaction is to man the defenses.

So should the owner of a photography studio be able to refuse service to those representing a way of life anitthetical to his own? Would the legal protection of such refusal mean a revival of a Jim Crow era of discrimination? (Read more.)
Matt Walsh laments the new tyranny, saying:
Make no mistake: this is tyranny. Tyranny is not injured emotions, hurt feelings, and minor inconveniences. Tyranny is the government compelling a man or woman to conform to a dogma or bow to an idol. Tyranny is when you are forced to abandon your beliefs and fall in line.

And tyranny is still tyranny, even when it comes wrapped in tolerance and “human rights.” (Read more.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Queen in Scarlet

A portrait of Maria Carolina of Austria, Queen of Naples and Sicily, and favorite sister of Marie-Antoinette. (Via Anna Gibson.) To quote from the finale of Season 4 of Downton Abbey: 
 "You should try not to sound so much like the sister of Marie Antoinette." Isobel Crawley
"The Queen of Naples was a stalwart figure. I'll take it as a compliment."
Dowager Countess

The Propers of the Mass: Then and Now

Fr. Mark discusses the sacred liturgy. To quote:
Allow me to formulate a principle, perhaps even a law of liturgical evolution.  It is this: elements of the rite tend to be neglected and, in the end, disappear altogether, in direct proportion to the number of options by virtue of which they may be replaced or modified.

To my mind, one of the most urgent tasks of what has been called The Reform of the Reform is the suppression of the provision for an alius cantus aptus, and the restoration of the traditional texts of the Proper of the Mass, taking care, at the same time, that the texts given in the Missale Romanum correspond to those in the Graduale Romanum. (I would also argue for the restoration of the text of the Offertorium [Offertory Antiphon] to the editio typica of the reformed Missale Romanum.)  The replacement, in the current Missale Romanum of the venerable sung texts of the Graduale Romanum with texts destined to be read, was an innovation without precedent, and a mistake with far reaching and deleterious consequences for the Roman Rite. (Read more.)

Chinese Baby Hatches

Well, at least it's better than abortion and infanticide. From Smithsonian:
According to the South China Morning PostChina's lack of a unified welfare system or a medical scheme children adds to the problem. Each year, an estimated 10,000 children are abandoned in China, and it’s not just newborns who are left at the so-called “abandon baby islands, says SCMP. They range in age from babies to six-year-olds. Contrary to stereotypes, more boys have been left than girls, the paper says.

China, however, is not alone in this practice. Some nations that do have welfare and more readily equipped medical systems also provide baby hatches. Germany, for example, has over 80 baby hatch facilities—also known as Babyklappen. Switzerland had just one baby hatch serving in the country in 2012, but has recently installed three more, Swiss Info reports. In Switzerland, the biological mother or father can reclaim their child for at least a year, until the point that it is adopted by a new family.

The United Nations, however, has raised concern about the growing number of baby hatches in Europe. According to the Guardian, the U.N. argues that “that baby hatches violate key parts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which says children must be able to identify their parents and even if separated from them the state has a ‘duty to respect the child's right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent.’”

Canada, too, has its own version of baby hatches, called baby boxes. Two hospitals in Alberta recently installed baby boxes, CBC News reports, and the country’s first baby box facility opened in 2010, in Vancouver. So far, however, the boxes have largely remained empty. Unlike China, as of May 2013 only one child had ever been left in the original Vancouver baby box. (Read more.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Aristocratic Diana

Marie-Joséphine-Louise de Savoie, comtesse de Provence as Diana by François-Hubert Drouais. 1773.
Many noble and royal ladies of the old regime had themselves painted as Diana or Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt. Anna Gibson says:
Allegorical portraits were a popular choice among the upper classes society for centuries. The 17th and 18th centuries saw a significant revival of interest in the ancient world, and portraits depicting their subjects as mythology-based allegorical portraits became widespread.

Diana, goddess of the moon and the hunt, was an especially popular choice for noble women. The portraits of these aristocratic "Dianas" usually depicted them at rest or in a traditional portrait style with the varied trappings (bow and arrow, a crescent moon headdress, hunting dogs, and so on) of their chosen goddess. Some women, such as the comtesse de Provence, even had themselves painted as Diana more than once! (Read more.)

Tolkien and Gnosticism

Fr. Angelo Mary of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate explains why, contrary to what some claim, the author J.R.R. Tolkien was thoroughly Catholic, and not gnostic. To quote:
As a good Catholic, Tolkien believed in the power of divine providence, present throughout history, stemming from the “unexpected” turn of the Resurrection.  And so while many times history seems to be a long defeat we know the story that really matters and is woven into the fabric of our existence “begins and ends with joy,” that is, with Christmas and Easter.  Myth has truly entered history and has transformed it.  It is beyond our wildest imagination and hope, and yet it has “the inner consistency of reality.”  Tolkien writes:
There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.
So even when we feel trapped, or are convinced quite justly that the world around is a “dangerous place” we have reason to know that loyalty is more determinative, and that there is a “glimpse of victory” couched even in the “fool’s hope.”  Joy will have the last word.  That is our hope against hope (Rom 4:18), and the lesson of Tolkien’s work. (Read more.)

Monday, February 24, 2014


The newly-widowed Marie-Antoinette and her daughter share a moment of shock and mourning following the death of Louis XVI. (Via Anna Gibson.) Share

Last of the Original Von Trapps

 From A Conservative Blog for Peace:
Maria von Trapp, who happened to have the same name as her stepmother on whose life The Sound of Music was based, has passed away at her home on Trapp Mountain in Vermont. She was 99.
Known as Mitzi, Maria was the youngest of the original seven von Trapp Family Singers, who emigrated with their parents to America.

Von Trapp was the last surviving member of the Austrian family of seven brothers and sisters and died in her sleep at her Vermont home. "It was a surprise that she was the one in the family to live the longest because ever since she was a child she suffered from a weak heart," family friend Marianne Dorfer told the
Austrian Times.

"It was the fact that she suffered from this that her father decided to hire Maria von Trapp to teach her and her brothers and sisters," she continued. "That of course then led to one of the most remarkable musical partnerships of the last century." Von Trapp's first visit back to Austria after escaping was in 2008.
Much to say both about the history and the musical.

The history I’ve learned over the years:
  • The world would have been better off if the Central Powers had won World War I. Capt. Georg von Trapp was made a nobleman because of his wartime service to Catholic Austria-Hungary as a submarine captain.
  • He wasn’t like the character in the show. Always was nice. He used a bosun’s whistle (smart!) to call the children when they were far away on the grounds.
  • The elder Maria wasn’t sent out of the abbey for being a lovable troublemaker. She was sent to work at the von Trapps because of her health; she was sick from moving to a lower altitude from the mountains she was used to.
  • She was hired at first just to be the younger Maria’s tutor, not the children’s governess.
  • She wasn’t in love with Georg von Trapp but he apparently was with her so she married him for the children’s sake.
  • They started singing because he lost his fortune in the Depression.
  • The one who encouraged them to sing was actually the family’s priest. Max Detweiler the agent was fictitious.
  • Maria wasn’t nice but she was sincere, very devout.
  • The family was profoundly Catholic. Not only did they perform but up at their ski lodge in Vermont they had a liturgical life, being a schola cantorum.
  • Because of that, it’s true than von Trapp was anti-Nazi. But because he needed the money, he considered the German government’s job offer to serve as a U-boat expert in their navy. The Germans were nice about it; they didn’t try to force him.
  • Because von Trapp was born on part of the Adriatic coast then Austrian (why they used to have a navy!) but part of Italy after World War I, he was an Italian citizen.
  • The show’s timeline is wrong. The von Trapps married in the 1920s.
  • So is the geography. Salzburg isn’t on the border with Switzerland but with Germany.
  • Anyway, that part of the show is made up. The von Trapps didn’t have to sneak out. They just moved, leaving Salzburg by train.
  • Von Trapp died early on in Vermont, I think in the late ’40s.
 (Read more.)

Noah's Ark Discovery

Most ancient cultures have a flood story but only the one in the Bible is part of the Christian faith. From CNN:
The people who wrote down the Flood narrative, in any of its manifestations, weren’t reporting on a historical event for which they had to get their facts straight (like what shape the ark was). Everyone reshapes the Flood story, and the ark itself, according to the norms of their own time and place. In ancient Mesopotamia, a round vessel would have been perfectly reasonable in fact, we know that this type of boat was in use, though perhaps not to such a gigantic scale, on the Mesopotamian rivers.

The ancient Israelites, on the other hand, would naturally have pictured a boat like those they were familiar with: which is to say, the boats that navigated not the rivers of Mesopotamia but the Mediterranean Sea. This detail of engineering can and should stand for a larger array of themes and features in the flood stories. The Mesopotamian versions feature many gods; the biblical account, of course, only one.

The Mesopotamian versions tell us that the Flood came because humans were too noisy for the gods; the biblical account says it was because violence had spread over the Earth. Neither version is right or wrong; they are, rather, both appropriate to the culture that produced them. (Read more.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Carmelite Nun

Terry Nelson at Abbey-Roads is wondering who this French Carmelite nun might be. It is from the early 1700's. We think it might be Louise de La Vallière, one of the early mistresses of Louis XIV, who later became a Carmelite. I contacted Sandra Gulland, author of Mistress of the Sun, and she also thinks there is indeed a resemblance.

Louise is an example of how an innocent young person of conscience can suffer unspeakably when getting sucked into a certain kind of lifestyle. Louise, born in 1644, came to Versailles as a maid of honor to Louis XIV's sister-in-law, the lovely "Minette" (Henrietta-Anne of England). Louise, virtuous and devout, fell in love with the king as he fell in love with her. She tried to resist his advances but eventually succumbed. She ran away to a convent in order to get away from him; he brought her back. She was a rare mistress, for she did not seek wealth and favors for herself or her family. She bore the king four children.

The fleeting happiness Mademoiselle de La Vallière shared with Louis was nothing compared to the overwhelming humiliations and torment inflicted upon her by courtiers, by the queen, and by her own conscience. Louis gradually lost interest in her and became involved with Madame de Montespan. Because Madame de Montespan was married, Louis forced Louise to maintain the pretense of being his mistress. She had to be constantly in the company of La Montespan so that when the king came to visit his new mistress it would appear that he was visiting Louise. However, the entire court knew the truth and Louise had to bear the scorn heaped upon a fallen, discarded courtesan. She became ill and almost died, but when she recovered she went to confession and became reconciled with God. She publicly knelt before the queen and begged forgiveness. Then, she entered a Carmelite monastery as Sister Louise of Mercy.

Louise spent the rest of her life in penance and prayer, praying especially for the king's conversion, which was realized when he married Madame de Maintenon, who was a friend of Louise. Both the queen and Madame de Maintenon came to visit her at the Carmel. Later Madame de Montespan visited as well, seeking spiritual guidance. Louise de La Vallière died in 1710. Share

Fake Hate Crimes

There are plenty of genuine crimes motivated by hatred. Why does the press so often focus on the bogus ones? From Matt Walsh:
Here’s how it works: some desperate con artist invents a story of racism and/or sexism and/or homophobia and/or transgender discrimination out of whole cloth, and distributes the lie on Facebook and Twitter. Within minutes, national media outlets, with their rigorous ethical standards, take the questionable tale of prejudice and, without verifying anything, or following up with anybody, or questioning anything about any part of the clearly contrived narrative, they report the lie as fact. Immediately, the Mindless Mob carries the lie all the way to the viral promised land.

Then, inevitably, a few days later the truth comes out. The lie was a lie. The lie always sounded like a lie, and smelled like a lie, and looked like a lie, and that’s all because it was, in fact, a lie. But the truth never goes viral, so the lie metastasizes in the public conscience, and we all go about our days further convinced that we live in a country where gays, blacks and women simply can’t catch a break. (Read more.)

Saturday, February 22, 2014


From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Madrazo was famous during his lifetime and painted portraits for wealthy French, American, British, and Argentine patrons. He was also known for his skillful and often flirtatious genre scenes, such as this painting in the Lehman Collection. In this scene, a couple dressed in extravagant costumes share drinks in a quiet conservatory after a ball. The male leans across the table, gazing at the coquettish blonde female whose face is hidden behind a black mask. She drapes her fingers across her chest, one of many gestures and details in the painting that Madrazo uses to evoke a playfully suggestive subject. The artist further entices the viewer with his beautiful painterly effects seen in the way that he conveys extraordinary material—satin, fur, porcelain, glass, feather, and velvet, all bathed in light.

William Henry Vanderbilt bought this painting in 1878, the same year that Madrazo won the first-class medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris and was elected to the French Academy. This painting probably showed at the exposition in this year. (Read more.)

Nine Components of Mental Health

From Catholic Exchange:
Many people believe that mental and emotional problems are genetic.  This is not strictly accurate.   We now know that the parenting environment (and indeed, the overall environment as well) in which a child grows up releases different chemicals in the brain that lead to certain genetic expressions. This is called “epigenetics”  (i.e., the study of how our environment impacts the development of genetic traits).  Different parenting environments literally release different chemical responses in the child’s brain leading to different genes being expressed and different traits being developed.  We no longer can meaningfully talk about nature vs. nurture.  The discussion has evolved from this to be more about how the dialog between nature and nurture  ultimately results in certain traits and behaviors being expressed.

–So, if I don’t have one or more of these qualities, how do I get them?

The techniques a therapist uses in counseling–including the therapeutic relationship itself–have been shown by neuroimaging studies to actually heal physical damage to the social brain and promote healthy brain functioning.   For instance, cognitive-behavioral techniques help the brain develop healthy top-down/left-right integration so that I can both understand and control my emotions more effectively.  Mindfulness-based approaches to therapy–which promote a person’s ability to observe themselves from a healthy, third person perspective–have been shown to enhance insight, emotional regulation, and whole-brain functioning.  Relationship-based therapies and spiritually-based therapies have been shown to promote empathy, moral functioning, and attuned communication especially.   The therapeutic relationship itself–rooted as it is in radical acceptance, affirmation and gentle correction–is a milieu that promotes healing of wounded attachment bonds.

Thanks to the development of empirically-based interventions (i.e., techniques rooted in research rather than philosophy), well-trained therapists have a clearer sense of what therapeutic techniques promote each of the nine components of mental health.  As research develops, mental health professionals will be able to make even clearer connections between the specific techniques in their toolbox and the specific mental skills a client needs to heal psychological wounds and promote optimal mental health. (Read more.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Marie-Antoinette's Mantilla

Here is the veil the Queen wore at Mass, particularly on feast days when she received Holy Communion. (Via Louis XX.) It is kept at the shrine of Notre-Dame de Bétharram near Lourdes. 

Is the Duchesse de Berry wearing it, here?

And is Marie-Antoinette's daughter wear the same veil, here? Share

Mental Illness and St. Francis de Sales

Some wise words from a great saint. To quote:
“While I am busy with little things, I am not required to do greater things.”  In other words, don’t create more anxiety and depression by beating yourself up with too high expectations.  Little efforts are good enough.

“Have patience to walk with short steps until you have wings to fly.” In other words, work on your problems a little at a time.  There’s no need to grit your teeth and spend hours trying.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”  No explanation needed.

Finally this.  (I left in the endearments to his sister-directee so you can benefit from the gentleness of his tone).

“Let us all belong to God, my daughter, in the midst of so much busyness brought on by the diversity of worldly things.  Where could we give better witness to our fidelity than in the midst of things going wrong?  Ah, dearest daughter, my sister, solitude has its assaults, the world its busyness; in either place we must be courageous, since in either place divine help is available to those who trust in God and who humbly and gently beg for His fatherly assistance.” (Read more.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Girl on the Golden Coin: A Novel of Frances Stuart

Frances Theresa Stuart by Peter Lely
The licentious court of the Merry Monarch is brought to life in the debut novel of Marci Jefferson. Girl on the Golden Coin dramatizes the tumultuous relationship of Charles II and his cousin Frances Stuart, with whom he falls in love even as she resists his advances. Frances, from a penniless branch of the Stuart clan, is determined to remain a virgin until she marries, hoping to marry well for the sake of her impoverished kin. She also fears that becoming the King’s mistress might cause her family secrets to be revealed. However, Frances is under a great deal of pressure from both the Dowager Queen Henrietta Maria and Louis XIV of France to influence Charles as much as possible. In order to protect her family, Frances must cultivate the King’s affections without succumbing to his charms, a challenge which becomes more daunting as Frances finds herself as deeply in love with Charles as he is with her.

In the meantime, Frances must deal with the jealousy of Charles’ official mistress, Barbara Villiers, and the plots of courtiers who seek to manipulate her. Although Frances is often judged to be a ninny, Jefferson portrays her as a clever woman who knows how to survive in a jungle of intrigues. As a Catholic, Frances also struggles with her conscience, and is never at peace when her virtue is compromised. This aspect adds a deeper layer to what is otherwise a tale of sexual politics. When the opportunity to become another Anne Boleyn presents itself, Frances must decide between her own happiness and what is best for England.

Written with spirit and insight, the novel reveals both the glamour and the dirt of court life while peering into the soul of a woman who is one of the unsung heroines of English history.

(*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the Historical Novel Society in exchange for my honest opinion.)


Yes, the Church Was (and Is) Right

From Business Insider:
Many people, (including our editor) are wondering why the Catholic Church doesn't just ditch this requirement. They note that most Catholics ignore it, and that most everyone else finds it divisive, or "out-dated." C'mon! It's the 21st century, they say! Don't they SEE that it's STUPID, they scream.

Here's the thing, though: the Catholic Church is the world's biggest and oldest organization. It has buried all of the greatest empires known to man, from the Romans to the Soviets. It has establishments literally all over the world, touching every area of human endeavor. It's given us some of the world's greatest thinkers, from Saint Augustine on down to René Girard. When it does things, it usually has a good reason. Everyone has a right to disagree, but it's not that they're a bunch of crazy old white dudes who are stuck in the Middle Ages. 

So, what's going on? 

The Church teaches that love, marriage, sex, and procreation are all things that belong together. That's it. But it's pretty important. And though the Church has been teaching this for 2,000 years, it's probably never been as salient as today.
Today's injunctions against birth control were re-affirmed in a 1968 document by Pope Paul VI called Humanae VitaeHe warned of four results if the widespread use of contraceptives was accepted:
  1. General lowering of moral standards
  2. A rise in infidelity, and illegitimacy
  3. The reduction of women to objects used to satisfy men. 
  4. Government coercion in reproductive matters. 
Does that sound familiar? 

Because it sure sounds like what's been happening for the past 40 years. (Read more.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

American Saint: The Life of Elizabeth Seton

American Saint is the biography of Elizabeth Bayley Seton, the first American citizen to be canonized in the Roman Catholic Church. Based upon thorough research, Joan Barthel recreates life in 18th-century New York City, where Elizabeth came of age in the highest circles of society as a devout Episcopalian. From early childhood, her path was marked by the deaths of key family members, a melancholy pattern which would continue until her own death from tuberculosis in 1821. Every sorrow only served to bring Elizabeth closer to God.

The book explores Elizabeth’s personal struggles, from her youthful temptation to suicide to her love for her friend Antonio Filicchi. As a fairly new convert to Catholicism, Elizabeth, a widow with five young children, took on the monumental task of founding a congregation of sisters and a school for girls in the wilderness which was Emmitsburg, Maryland. The drawback is the author’s attempt to portray Elizabeth as a forerunner of the contemporary “nuns on a bus,” inserting a modern spirit of rebellion into the life of a person who, in spite of her pioneer spirit, strove for obedience to her Church. Other than such anachronistic misunderstandings, it is a fine portrait of a courageous woman.

(This article originally appeared in the February 2014 edition of the Historical Novels Review.)

(*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the Historical Novel Society in exchange for my honest opinion.)


The War on Nature

Do not let social engineering determine your reality. From Crisis:
In support of such views, proponents say that “natural” has no intrinsic meaning, since all events are equally real, and there’s no point claiming some of them are more in accord with the way the world is constituted than others. On such a view, the distinction between natural and unnatural becomes a matter of social expectations. Expectations differ and change, so giving some of them authority because they are natural is really a matter of enforcing the expectations of the older and more powerful members of whatever groups are socially dominant. Others are likely to see that as oppressive: why should they be subject to the views of straight white male bitter clingers who fear change and hate those who differ?

For that reason, it’s thought that conceptions of what is natural should have no effect on public policy. That view seems plausible to many people today, so that references to unnatural acts or the natural family have come to seem downright bigoted, but in the long run is hard to take seriously. It’s impossible to do without a conception of natural functioning when we deal with immensely complicated adaptive systems like living organisms and human societies. We can’t discuss them the way we’d discuss a machine, because we can’t design them or understand fully how they work. Instead, we understand them by reference to the normal configuration and functioning of systems of that nature. Biology and medicine rely on such considerations when they speak of health. (Read more.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The King's Grave

The King’s Grave is a history-making book which I had trouble putting down. The final hours of Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king and her last king to die on the battlefield, are carefully reconstructed by historian Michael Jones. Richard’s life before his fateful meeting with Henry Tudor on Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485 is analyzed as well, accompanied by intense scrutiny of his personality and motives.

In addition to the historical narrative is Philippa Langley’s moving account of how she found King Richard buried under the car park in Leicester. Langley’s love for the King and her conviction of his innocence of the crimes of which he is so often accused add pathos to the story of the obstacles surmounted in her search for Richard. I was struck by the details about the past which literally surface in an archaeological dig, requiring a combined knowledge of history with forensic science in order to interpret them. Langley and Jones build a portrait of a man who was highly religious but shrewd in political matters; who loved justice but could be ruthless when the occasion demanded it; who put duty before personal feelings. Most of all, as a soldier his courage was praised even by his enemies, especially in his heroic stand on Bosworth Field.

(*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the Historical Novel Society in exchange for my honest opinion.)


Out-of-Date Movie Messages

From Crisis:
...One of the “lessons” imparted by Philomena concerns the harmful consequences of attaching social stigma to unwed pregnancies. Because of the moralistic climate in Ireland circa 1955, Philomena was pressured to give up her baby—an act she regretted for the rest of her life. That’s fine if you’re addressing your message to the conscience of a 1955 audience, but the filmmakers don’t seem to have caught up with the fact that we live in a changed world. Many of the problems we face today stem from the fact that there is practically no social stigma attached to illegitimacy. Indeed, there are numerous social incentives for unwed mothers to remain unwed. As a result, the incidence of out-of-wedlock births has skyrocketed and, along with it, rates of poverty, crime, drug abuse, child abuse, child neglect, and abortion. What followed in the wake of the new non-judgmental morality was a seemingly endless cycle of husbandless mothers and fatherless children. Moreover, the number of children forcibly separated from their mothers by court order far exceeds anything seen in previous eras. If the filmmakers were really serious about addressing the issues of the day, the blight caused by the sexual revolution would be one of their top priorities.

There should be no objection to a well-made movie that has a message to convey. But it would be refreshing for a change to hear a message that bore some relevance to the world we now live in, rather than to the world of sixty years ago. Consider the main event in Philomena: a child is taken away from its mother. That’s something that happens every day in the Muslim world. Islamic law and custom tend to favor males in cases of custody dispute, especially if the wife is non-Muslim. Is Philomena meant to be a veiled comment on Islamic practices? Not likely. The last time Hollywood dealt with the subject of Islam and abduction was the 1991 film Not Without My Daughter. Since then, however, the forces of political correctness have tightened their control on what can and cannot be said about Islam.

Betty Mahmoody (the real-life mother on whom the movie is based) is not the only American to undergo this experience. Last year, a Pennsylvania mother rescued her twelve-year-old son who had been kidnapped twenty months earlier by her Muslim husband while they were on a trip to Egypt. Kalli Atteya hired an agency to track down her husband, made several trips to Egypt and, finally, disguised in a niqab, grabbed her son as he got off a school bus in Alexandria, led him to a waiting car, and eventually escaped with him back to the U.S.

So, here is a true story about a stolen child, and his loving mother’s desperate search for him—a story not unlike that of Philomena. The story has plenty of drama, plenty of action, several twists and turns, and loads of human interest. The Daily Mail’s coverage of the story alone has sufficient detail to provide a good screenwriter with enough plot elements to start crafting an absorbing screenplay. Will the movie be made? Probably not. It might be considered offensive to the sensibilities of Egyptians and Muslims. And that, in the current scheme of things, counts far more heavily than the sensitivities of Irish Catholics. (Read more.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Captain Phillips (2013)

UKMTO Officer: Maersk Alabama, you should alert your crew, get your fire hoses ready. Chances are they're just fishermen.
Captain Richard Phillips: They're not here to fish.
~from Captain Phillips (2013)
I thoroughly enjoyed Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as the sea captain from Vermont who must match his wits against a band of Somali pirates. A skillfully crafted film, it has the air of a documentary with the tension that only a gifted director can infuse. Tom Hanks is better than ever before and for him not to receive an Oscar for his performance is a crime. The young men from Minnesota who portrayed the Somali pirates are quite convincing. In the movie, the pirates are junior criminals from a chaotic country, working for tyrannical bosses. Like many youth in our own country, they are trying to prove their manhood through violence. In the "Yankee Irish" captain they find a man whom they, under different circumstances, would want to have as their own leader. Instead they must work against him, and even kill him if the situation dictates. In the way he treats the pirates, and in the way he is always thinking of his own family in America, the fatherhood of the captain is at the heart of the picture. Although Phillips is their prisoner, the Somali pirates are more lost then he is because they have no strong and compassionate father, only bosses who use them.

 The New York Post gives an excellent summary of Captain Phillips:
Tom Hanks does his finest work ever in Paul Greengrass’ gripping docu-drama “Captain Phillips’’ — brilliantly playing  Richard Phillips, the abducted veteran skipper of the Maersk Alabama, held hostage for four days in 2009 by armed Somali hijackers after he foiled their determined attempt to capture his enormous cargo ship.

The story, which made international headlines, is brought to vivid life by Greengrass, who stages the complex but clearly depicted action on an actual cargo ship as well as on real Navy vessels, including one that was involved in the rescue mission.

The hijackers are a quartet of poor Somali fishermen who don’t know each other before they are recruited onshore, and frequently bicker as things go increasingly wrong. Muse (Barkhad Abdi) is the intense leader, who struggles to make a team of the hotheaded Najee (Faysal Ahmed), terrified navigator Elmi (Mahat M. Ali) and barefoot teenager Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), who clearly has no idea what he’s gotten himself into.

Phillips, helming a Norfolk, Va.-based ship, is transporting hundreds of cargo containers from Oman to Kenya and conducting an anti-piracy drill when he spots a couple of suspicious skiffs approaching from the Somali coast. Unarmed (per international maritime regulations at the time), Phillips orders whatever evasive measures are possible for his huge and slow-moving vessel, which uses water cannons to try to swamp the interlopers. (Read more.)
NPR has an interview with Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass:
Greengrass: Somali piracy is international organized crime, that's actually what it is. These young men with their AK-47s attack from the coast of Somalia, but this is activity that is financed and organized thousands of miles away in Kenya and Nigeria and ultimately in Europe and in some cases in the U.S.; it's a highly organized criminal activity. The young men who are the guys that actually attack the ships, they're just the triggermen in essence, and of course they come from a country that's everything you'd expect and associate with a failed state: collapsed central government, warlordism, crime, gangs, terrorism in certain parts of the country. It's everything you'd imagine and more, and what you want in this film is to portray something of that with authenticity, there's nothing more dangerous than a young man with a gun who's got nothing left to lose.

It became important, from my point of view, to find young Somali actors to play those parts, and that was the real central challenge of the casting process. ... There's no Somali acting community in Los Angeles or New York or Chicago so we had to go to Minneapolis where the largest Somali community is and what we found there was a very vibrant and rich and storied community, filled with musicians, actors, filmmakers, writers. ... So what began as [what] I thought would be a very difficult endeavor became very quickly simple. We had 7- or 800 people turn up for the first casting and very quickly we identified Barkhad Abdi and his three friends, as it turned out. (Read more.)
Here is a fairly comprehensive article about how the film compares with the reality.  To quote:
As in the movie, Phillips received bulletins about recent hijackings in the surrounding waters but chose to keep his course. The Alabama sailed 300 to 400 miles from the Somali coast, in order to maintain a faster, more direct route, even though at least one warning cautioned that “vessels should consider maintaining a distance of more than 600 miles from Somalia coastline.” Most of the warnings were directed at all the ships in the area, but one was sent directly to Phillips. Unlike in the movie, Phillips didn’t hide the surrounding hijackings from his wife, Andrea, according to the book.

The hijackers’ first attack

The hijackers’ first, failed attack plays out in Phillips’ account much as it does in Greengrass’ film. But the Alabama wasn’t in the middle of a pirate drill when they were attacked—they were in the middle of a “fire and boat drill.”

Once they realized they were being pursued, Phillips says he radioed the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) about a “potential piracy situation.” The UKMTO, according to Phillips, said, “It’s probably just fishermen” and asked them to prepare. The U.S. emergency line didn’t pick up.

The detail about Phillips faking a radio communication with the U.S. military in order to scare off the pirates is also, remarkably, true to Phillips’ account. According to the book, he pretended to radio as “Warship 237”—to play the second voice, he lowered his voice and dropped his Boston accent—in order to suggest that a helicopter was on the way. The boats eventually turned away. (Read more.)

Ann Radcliffe, Queen of Gothic Novels

From The Guardian:
Radcliffe, whose novel The Mysteries of Udolpho was affectionately lampooned by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey, is known as a pioneer of gothic fiction and was one of the most popular writers of her time; Walter Scott called her a "mighty enchantress". Hardly anything is known about her personal life, however: the Edinburgh Review noted after her death in 1823 that she "never appeared in public, nor mingled in private society, but kept herself apart, like the sweet bird that sings its solitary notes, shrouded and unseen".
Rumours sprung up at the time that her terrifying writing had driven her into a lunatic asylum, and that she ate raw meat before bed to summon up the nightmares that would fuel her imagination. Christina Rossetti later abandoned a biography of the author because there was too little information available about her life.

Only two manuscripts in the world were thought to exist in her hand, one of those only a signature – until Greg Buzwell, a curator at the British Library, came across a letter to Radcliffe's mother-in-law believed to have been written by the author at the end of the 18th century, inside a volume of miscellaneous letters. (Read more.)


Sunday, February 16, 2014

The First Bourbon King of Spain

Louis XIV declares his grandson the Duc d'Anjou to be King of Spain. Share

La Soubrette

From Victorian Paris:
Of all the domestic employees in Paris, only a small percentage was the natives of the city. Parisians had always been naturally free-spirited and insubordinate. Employers seeking servants knew this and preferred to hire applicants from the provinces. These proved to be more dependable, obedient and steady.

Whether they come from Auvergne or Poitou, from La Vendée or Gascony, from Provence or even from Flanders, the servants of Paris scarcely ever lose the tone of their native places, the accent of their provinces, or the traces of their origin,” wrote Octave Uzanne in his book The Modern Parisienne (1912). Long working hours, little opportunity to socialize and the sense of being a miniscule clog in the crushing machinery of a metropolis forced the provincials to seek each other for moral support, to hang together, and to preserve their native culture. Of all the newcomers to Paris, servants were the least amenable to change their ways. Native Parisians, on the other hand—and pretty girls especially— sought to climb the social ladder. (Read more.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Memories of Pie

One of my neighbors is quoted in American Food Roots:
Kathy Bosin of St. Michael’s, Md., once knew a pie so special that she regularly ate it without a plate or fork while standing up. “Every spring, master gardener Dave Horton would bring a homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie made by hand from his own garden to the Bell Demonstration Garden – an urban community garden in north St. Louis,” Kathy writes. “Back in the early 1990s, we were a fledgling group, working together on vacant land to build community through growing food together. We didn’t have much – not many tools, resources – in fact, we never even had plates and forks to eat that pie. But it was a rite of spring, and we’d gather around as Dave cut slices with his pocketknife, and plunked them into our hands. Sweet, tangy, flaky and oh-so-special. It was a ritual celebrating the brightness and hope of spring – when everything seems possible.” Bosin writes about local food and life on the Chesapeake on her blog, A Chesapeake Journal. (Read more.)

Parisian Decorating Secrets

From Hip Paris:
Something old, something new. I’m a diehard fan of Paris flea markets and brocantes. For a California girl raised on sitcoms and takeout, the idea that you could buy 19th century candlesticks for the price of lunch is still unimaginably wonderful. Whether you’re outfitting a whole apartment or looking for a decorative souvenir, a weekend visit to les puces at Porte de Vanves or Saint-Ouen (Clignancourt) is a must. (Read more.)

Catholic Mourning Etiquette

We need to respect the need to grieve. To quote:
To name a few practices, the person in mourning does not go to large public functions, balls or dinner parties. Neither does he or she host parties or social functions during the mourning period. He/she does not dine in restaurants but can dine with friends at home. He/she may continue his/her favorite sport but the attire must be dark colored. A widow or a widower should not accept or offer attentions to the opposite sex for a year. I noticed likewise in further research that the other religions are also very adamant about this. If this rule is to be disregarded, all mourning clothing should likewise be discarded so as not to be pretentious to society. As to children who have lost a parent, they may continue with their activities like recitals and music lessons, community and church groups, sports events etc. However, dances and birthday celebrations are to be shunned for at least 3 months.

In the early 1800s, there were 3 periods of mourning: There is what is called as the heavy or deep mourning which requires all-black costume and no jewelry with colored stones. An all-white wardrobe is also considered as full mourning and may be worn in necessary social functions or in the country. This is followed up by the period called half mourning which requires black clothing with white touches or white with black touches. And the third period is the light or second mourning with clothing in black and white mixtures, grey, mauve, violet, lavender and similar colors, including patterned fabric.

As to children, those below 12 wore white during the summer and grey in the winter but to manifest the mourning, they were trimmed in black.

As to the periods of mourning, these rules from in Catholic Europe were exercised: A widow goes into one year of heavy mourning, followed by six months of half mourning, and six months of light mourning, for a total of two years. For a widower: one year of heavy mourning, six months of light, for a total of 18 months. Strange how rules for men are always lighter than those applied to the female gender. (Read more.)

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Mariinsky in DC

A friend of mine saw this spectacular performance. I chose the following article for the description of the performance, not for the PC diatribe. From the Washington Post:
This ballet was alive with rare clarity and coherence. A kind of magic lit the stage from the first act’s deep autumnal landscape, a magic conjured by timing and breath and a shared aesthetic of grandeur. If these dancers are not to the manner born, they are to the manner trained, and you saw it in the way they heard the Tchaikovsky in the same way and moved cleanly on the same impulses. Prince Siegfried’s drinking companions, his virtuosic trio of friends, the bejeweled ensemble of well-bred young ladies — they all moved in rising and falling crests and interleaving patterns whose musical sensitivity simply astonished.

All of the order, privileged ease and controlled feeling of the court that Siegfried will one day inherit was made plain in the shape and flow of the dancing.

And then he throws it all away.

And we completely understand why.

How could he resist Somova’s Odette? Captive to a magician’s spell, she unspooled a magic of her own. Somova is known — and derided, by some — for her extreme flexibility more than her artistry, but it’s time for a reassessment. First of all, she is blessedly free of affectation: no Gothic dramatics, no face-pulling. Secondly, this whisper-thin, leggy creature who looks like a child has upper-balcony star quality. There is something fascinating and watchable about her, the way Joan Crawford was not a classic beauty but she made you focus on her every move, every minute. (Read more.)

St. Valentine's Day

Saint Valentine was an actual martyr. Here is an interesting summary:
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270. Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole to his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini. The greatest part of his relics are now in the church of St. Praxedes. His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, the Roman Missal of Thomasius, in the calendar of F. Fronto and that of Allatius, in Bede, Usuard, Ado, Notker and all other martyrologies on this day. To abolish the heathens lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the fifteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day. (Read more.)
One morning I was perusing Michelle Lovric's exquisite anthology Love Letters and found a line from a letter of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her husband Robert Browning: "You have lifted up my soul into the light of your soul, and I am not ever likely to mistake it for the common daylight." I then went in search of her poems, still incomparable after so many years. Here is the most famous one:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Madame Royale in Vienna

Here is a print of the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, made perhaps while the princess was living in Austria before her marriage. Share

Marriage for Millenials

From Forbes:
Putting off marriage leaves more time for higher education and for taking high ROI career risks – both long-term income boosters –  that might not be possible if you’re worried about saving up for a down payment or budgeting to start a family. Instead of viewing marriage as a stepping stone to greater economic stability, it seems as if Millennials see economic stability as a prerequisite for marriage. And while most Millennials still aspire to take trip down the aisle, they aren’t putting much stock in it as an indicator of having a successful life. A scant 30% claim that a successful marriage is an important achievement for them, well behind priorities such as having a high-earning career or being a good parent. (Read more.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Marie-Antoinette's Parents

Here are the Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis Stephen with their eldest son, Joseph. The future Joseph II is dressed in Hungarian national costume. Share

Human Sacrifice in Carthage

They thought they were being socially responsible by killing their babies. We are beyond all this, of course. From The Guardian:
Just as ancient Greek and Roman propagandists insisted, the Carthaginians did kill their own infant children, burying them with sacrificed animals and ritual inscriptions in special cemeteries to give thanks for favours from the gods, according to a new study.

"This is something dismissed as black propaganda because in modern times people just didn't want to believe it," said Josephine Quinn, a lecturer in ancient history at Oxford, who is behind the study, with international colleagues, of one of the most bitterly debated questions in classical archaeology.

"But when you pull together all the evidence – archaeological, epigraphic and literary – it is overwhelming and, we believe, conclusive: they did kill their children, and on the evidence of the inscriptions, not just as an offering for future favours but fulfilling a promise that had already been made.

"This was not a common event, and it must have been among an elite because cremation was very expensive, and so was the ritual of burial. It may even have been seen as a philanthropic act for the good of the whole community."

Argument has raged on the subject since cemeteries known as tophets – after the biblical account of a place of sacrifice – were excavated in the early 20th century on the outskirts of Carthage in modern Tunisia, and then at other Carthaginian sites in Sicily and Sardinia.

The graves held tiny cremated bones carefully packed into urns, buried under tombstones giving thanks to the gods. One has a carving which has been interpreted as a priest carrying the body of a small child. Some archaeologists and historians saw the finds as proving ancient accounts of child sacrifice; others insisted they showed tender respect for cherished children who died before or soon after birth.

Quinn and her colleagues, a group of Punic archaeologists and historians from Italy and the Netherlands, who publish their findings in the journal Antiquity – where the argument has been rumbling on for several years – completely reject the latter theory.

"The inscriptions are unequivocal: time and again we find the explanation that the gods 'heard my voice and blessed me'. It cannot be that so many children conveniently happened to die at just the right time to become an offering – and in any case a poorly or dead child would make a pretty feeble offering if you're already worried about the gods rejecting it."

"Then there is the fact that the animals from the sites, which were beyond question sacrificial offerings, are buried in exactly the same way, sometimes in the same urns with the bones of the children." (Read more.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Comtesse d'Artois and Her Children

Here is a portrait of Marie-Antoinette's sister-in-law and her three children. Share

Devotion to Mary

From the writings of Mother Mectilde de Bar:
Love Mary, and you will not die without her having made you love Jesus. This is what she does best, and this is what she never fails to do, if are willing to correspond to the graces she presents to us.

When I encounter a soul who has what she ought regarding the Mother of God, it seems to me that I hold such a soul’s salvation in my hands; by this I mean that I take it as something assured. If all souls were persuaded of this, they would love her tenderly and have a total trust in her. One must never fear to give her too much, nor to go beyond what is due her, because nothing remains in her, and all returns to Jesus and in Jesus.

I would have much more to say if I could express the advantages of this devotion. It is certain that it opens the intelligence to the understanding of ineffable things concerning the sacred mysteries and the ways of grace. It teaches one to pray, to practice mortification. It sustains and consoles one in sorrows. It keeps one from falling in the hour of temptation. It chases away our enemies visible and invisible, and defends us against their wicked designs. (Read more.)

Ghosts of Rizzoli

We lament the closing of bookstores. To quote The New Yorker:
Many of the things that Rizzoli offered its customers (and its staff) are now easily obtainable online: international periodicals, European popular music, and books in foreign languages. But there is nothing online that will replace the ambiance of the place. With its vaulted atrium, marble flooring, and wood-panelled shelving units, Rizzoli looked like the private library of a Medici prince, the sort of place where an Umberto Eco character would hunt down an ancient secret. At times, I felt like I was working for the Medicis, too. Frequented by celebrities, top-name designers, wealthy New Yorkers, and foreign businessmen, the customers were, to say the least, demanding. The proximity to prominence—Hey, isn’t that Uma Thurman over there? Look out, Lagerfeld just walked in—and the baroque décor helped to compensate for the poor pay, the short lunch breaks, and the occasional verbal abuse from those we served. During my years there, Madonna, Michael Jackson, the Queen of Thailand, and Elton John all dropped in. Oriana Fallaci had an office on the sixth floor and would storm in and out as if war had just been declared. We learned to affect nonchalance in the presence of such glamour. When David Bowie came up to the register one afternoon, my colleague Lara Tomlin (now an illustrator whose work has appeared in The New Yorker) looked at the name on his credit card—David Jones—and quipped, “Hey, weren’t you in the Monkees?” (For the record, Bowie was a good sport. He laughed.) (Read more.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Face of Anne Boleyn

Here is a waxwork of Anne Boleyn made by artist Emily Pooley based upon surviving portraits and contemporary descriptions of Henry VIII's second wife. On the Tudor Trail has an interview with the artist, as follows:
As with any sculpture or piece of artwork, you have to know your subject and even more importantly – understand it. This meant months of research before any clay was even touched! I focused on Anne’s story and how she has been represented throughout the centuries, from historical accounts of her appearance and personality (notoriously difficult in Anne’s case) to modern day depictions of her through films like ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’ and ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and other artworks based on her image from Madame Tussauds’ waxwork to Royal Doulton’s toby jug. After attacking my 5000 word dissertation on this subject – writing has always been my nemesis – I settled on Holbein’s sketch of Anne as it has always been my favourite, and is by far the mostly realistic reproduction, in terms of skill, of her image from around the time.

The next stage is to choose a model as, of course, I could not simply ask Anne to supply me with her measurements – séance’s are scary business! Luckily, my friend at university looked remarkably similar to Holbein’s sketch. Numerous photographs were taken from 360 degrees around the model and hundreds of measurements recorded using calipers, so that the sculpt can be as accurate as possible.

And finally, the real work can begin. An armature is welded together to support the sculpt and the figure is slowly built up over a few weeks using clay– referring to the images taken and scrupulously following the measurements taken from the model. (Read more.)

The Truth Behind Baby Carrots

Useful information. To quote:
In order to create thinner vegetables, baby carrots are planted closer together than traditional carrots. In as little as 120 days from planting, the carrots are dug up and trucked to the processing house to be cut and peeled. But before packaging, all carrots receive a brisk scrub accompanied by a chlorine bath.

Wait, what? Chlorine, you say, as in the same chemical you put in your pools?
Borda says Grimmway Farms, whose labels include Cal-Organic, uses a chlorine solution on all its carrots – organic and non-organic -- to prevent food poisoning, before a final wash in water.   Grimmway says the chlorine rinse is well within limits set by the EPA and is comparable to levels found in tap water.

Ashley Bade, nutritionist and founder of Honest Mom Nutrition, says the chlorine bath is a standard practice in many pre-cut food items. “The chlorine-water solution is a needed step in the process to limit the risk of food-borne illnesses such as E.coli,” she says.
Yet the controversy over chemical rinsing has caused a minor uproar among organic communities and concerned parents wanting to rid their children’s lunchboxes of potentially dangerous chemicals. (Read more.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Marie-Antoinette's Farewell to Her Father

The Emperor Francis Stephen bade a moving farewell to his nine-year-old daughter Antonia before his final fatal illness. From Nobility:
The Emperor Francis, who was on his way to Innsbruck for the celebration of the marriage between Archduke Leopold—the future Leopold II—and the Infanta Maria Luisa, had gone to Schoenbrunn to embrace his children. But when he was a little way from the castle, on the same road now followed by the Dauphine, he had, perhaps, some presentiment of his coming death and stopped his coach.

“Go back for the Archduchess Antonia; I must see her again.”

He had gazed at her with indescribable tenderness, and for the rest of her life Marie Antoinette was never to forget that look. (Read more.)

The Mystery of Anne Boleyn's Second Pregnancy

From On the Tudor Trail:
In light of the evidence, it seems likely that Anne went into labour prematurely sometime between 26 June and 2 July, explaining why no records survive of the queen’s confinement. This leaves open the possibility that the loss was so devastating, so damaging, especially considering that Henry was still trying to prove to the world the righteousness of his marriage, that all present were sworn to secrecy and the whole incident erased from history.

Unless one has experienced such heartbreak, it’s difficult to imagine the overwhelming emotional and physical pain that Anne must have felt. The baby would have been well formed and the sex determinable, although, the details were not recorded. The king left Hampton Court in all haste and abandoned his grieving wife. Was the loss of an heir the reason for their extended and uncharacteristic separation? The silence of the royal nursery and the empty silver cradle, perhaps, too much for even a hardened king —and one well-versed in loss— to bear.

This event must have brought memories of Katherine of Aragon’s tragic obstetric history flooding back and sowed a seed of doubt in the king’s mind that would eventually grow to consume him. Anne had promised Henry sons and heirs but had only delivered a daughter and a stillborn baby. In the king’s eyes, she’d failed him; with Henry’s insecurities awakened, there would be no room for further disappointments. (Read more.)