Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Almsgiving of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

During Lent we recall the duties of every Christian to apply themselves more fervently to almsgiving. In pre-revolutionary France it was for the King and the Queen to give an example to everyone else in this regard. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette took this duty seriously and throughout their reign did what they could to help the needy.

At the fireworks celebrating the marriage of the young prince and princess in May 1774, there was a stampede in which many people were killed. Louis and Antoinette gave all of their private spending money for a year to relieve the suffering of the victims and their families. They became very popular with the common people as a result, which was reflected in the adulation with which they were received when the Dauphin took his wife to Paris on her first "official" visit in June 1773. Marie-Antoinette's reputation for sweetness and mercy became even more entrenched in 1774, when as the new Queen she asked that the people be relieved of a tax called "The Queen's belt," customary at the beginning of each reign. "Belts are no longer worn," she said. It was only the onslaught of revolutionary propaganda that would eventually destroy her reputation.

Louis XVI often visited the poor in their homes and villages, distributing alms from his own purse. During the difficult winter of 1776, the King oversaw the distribution of firewood among the peasants. Louis was responsible for many humanitarian reforms. He went incognito to hospitals, prisons, and factories so as to gain first-hand knowledge of the conditions in which the people lived and worked.

The King and Queen were patrons of the Maison Philanthropique, a society founded by Louis XVI which helped the aged, blind and widows. The Queen taught her daughter Madame Royale to wait upon peasant children, to sacrifice her Christmas gifts so as to buy fuel and blankets for the destitute, and to bring baskets of food to the sick. Marie-Antoinette took her children with her on her charitable visits. According to Maxime de la Rocheterie:
Sometimes they went to the Gobelins; and the president of the district coming on one occasion to compliment her, she said, "Monsieur you have many destitute but the moments which we spend in relieving them are very precious to us." Sometimes she went to the free Maternity Society which she had founded, where she had authorized the Sisters to distribute sixteen hundred livres for food and fuel every month and twelve hundred for blankets and clothing, without counting the baby outfits which were given to three hundred mothers. At other times she went to the School of Design also founded by her to which she sent one day twelve hundred livres saved with great effort that the rewards might not be diminished nor the dear scholars suffer through her own distress. Again she placed in the house of Mademoiselle O'Kennedy four daughters of disabled soldiers, orphans, for whom she said, "I made the endowment."
The Queen adopted three poor children to be raised with her own, as well overseeing the upbringing of several needy children, whose education she paid for, while caring for their families. She established a home for unwed mothers, the "Maternity Society," mentioned above. She brought several peasant families to live on her farm at Trianon, building cottages for them. There was food for the hungry distributed every day at Versailles, at the King's command. During the famine of 1787-88, the royal family sold much of their flatware to buy grain for the people, and themselves ate the cheap barley bread in order to be able to give more to the hungry.

Madame de la Tour du Pin, a lady-in-waiting of Marie-Antoinette, recorded in her spirited Memoirs the daily activities at Versailles, including the rumors and the gossip. Her pen does not spare Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, which is why I find the following account to be of interest. Every Sunday, Marie-Antoinette would personally take up a collection for the poor, which the courtiers resented since they preferred to have the money on hand for gambling. The queen supported several impoverished families from her own purse. As Madame de la Tour du Pin describes:
We had to be there before seven, for the Queen entered before the chiming of the clock. Beside her door would be one of the two Curés of Versailles. He would hand her a purse and she would go around to everyone, taking up a collection and saying: "For the poor, if you please." Each lady had her 'écu' of six francs ready in her hand and the men had their 'louis.' The Curé would follow the Queen as she collected this small tax for her poor people, a levy which often totaled as much as much as one hundred 'louis' and never less than fifty. I often heard some of the younger people, including the most spendthrift, complaining inordinately of this almsgiving being forced upon them, yet they would not have thought twice of hazarding a sum one hundred times as large in a game of chance, a sum much larger than that levied by the Queen. (Memoirs of Madame de la Tour du Pin: Laughing and Dancing Our Way to the Precipice, p. 74)

Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette contributed a great deal throughout their reign to the care of orphans and foundlings. They patronized foundling hospitals, which the Queen often visited with her children. Above is a picture of an occasion in February, 1790, after their removal to Paris, when the king, the queen and their children toured such a facility, where the nuns cared for abandoned babies and little children. As is reported by Maxime de la Rocheterie, the young Dauphin, soon to be an orphan himself, was particularly drawn to the foundlings and gave all of his small savings to aid them.

The king and queen did not see helping the poor as anything extraordinary, but as a basic Christian duty. The royal couple's almsgiving stopped only with their incarceration in the Temple in August 1792, for then they had nothing left to give but their lives.

(Sources: Memoirs of Madame de la Tour du Pin, Marguerite Jallut's and Philippe Huisman's Marie-Antoinette, Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette, Antonia Fraser's The Journey, Madame Campan's Memoirs, Mémoires de madame la Duchesse de Tourzel, Maxime de la Rocheterie's The Life of Marie-Antoinette)


Uncomfortable Truths About Iran

From Ambassador Nikki Haley at the New York Times:
Last week, the United Nations published a report with news a lot of people don’t want to hear. A panel of experts found that Iran is violating a United Nations weapons embargo — specifically, that missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.

The mullahs in Iran don’t want to hear this news, because it proves Iran is violating its international agreement. Die-hard defenders of the Iran nuclear deal don’t want to hear it because it proves, once again, that the Iranian regime can’t be trusted. And some members of the United Nations don’t want to hear it because it is further proof that Iran is defying Security Council resolutions, and the pressure will be on the U.N. to do something about it.

Yemen is the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today. After three years of brutal civil war, 75 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The government has virtually ceased to exist. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are exploiting that lawlessness to pursue their barbaric agendas. (Read more.)

The Parkland Massacre and the Air We Breathe

From Peggy Noonan at the WSJ:
A way to look at the question is: What has happened the past 40 years or so to produce a society so ill at ease with itself, so prone to violence? We know. We all say it privately, but it’s so obvious it’s hardly worth saying. We have been swept by social, technological and cultural revolution. The family blew up—divorce, unwed childbearing. Fatherless sons. Fatherless daughters, too. Poor children with no one to love them. The internet flourished. Porn proliferated. Drugs, legal and illegal. Violent videogames, in which nameless people are eliminated and spattered all over the screen. (The Columbine shooters loved and might have been addicted to “Doom.”) The abortion regime settled in, with its fierce, endless yet somehow casual talk about the right to end a life. An increasingly violent entertainment culture—low, hypersexualized, full of anomie and weirdness, allergic to meaning and depth. The old longing for integration gave way to a culture of accusation—you are a supremacist, a misogynist, you are guilty of privilege and defined by your color and class, we don’t let your sort speak here.

So much change, so much of it un-gentle. Throughout, was anyone looking to children and what they need? That wasn’t really a salient aim or feature of all the revolutions, was it? The adults were seeing to what they believed were their rights. Kids were a side thought.

At this moment we are in the middle of a reckoning about how disturbed our sexual landscape has become. This past week we turned to violence within marriages. We recently looked at the international sex trade, a phrase that sounds so 18th-century but refers to a real and profitable business.
All this change, compressed into 40 years, has produced some good things, even miraculous ones. But it does not feel accidental that America is experiencing what appears to be a mental-health crisis, especially among the young. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported as many as 20% of children 3 to 17 have, in any given year, a mental or emotional illness. There is research indicating depression among teenagers is worsening. National Public Radio recently quoted a 2005 report asserting the percentage of prison inmates with serious mental illness rose from less than 1% in 1880 to 21% in 2005. Deinstitutionalization swept health care and the psychiatric profession starting in the 1960s, and has continued since. The sick now go to the emergency room or stay among us untreated. In the society we have created the past 40 years, you know we are not making fewer emotionally ill young people, but more.

And here, to me, is the problem. A nation has an atmosphere. It has air it breathes in each day. China has a famous pollution problem: You can see the dirt in the air. America’s air looks clean but there are toxins in it, and they’re making the least defended and protected of us sick. Here is one breath of the air:

Two weeks ago the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks. Exceptions were made—the life of the mother, incest and rape. Twenty weeks—right up to the start of the sixth month—seemed reasonable. But Democrats said it was an assault on women’s rights. So as far as the Senate is concerned, you can end the life of a 6- to 9-month-old baby that can live outside the womb, that is not only human but recognizably and obviously human.

And even if you are 100% for full-term abortion—even if you think this right must be protected lest we go on a slippery slope and next thing you know they’ll outlaw contraceptives—your own language might have alerted you along the way to your radicalism.

Imagine you are pregnant, in the last trimester, and suddenly feel movement in your belly, a shift from here to there. You say, “Oh my God, feel,” and you take the hand of the father, or of another intimate, and you place it on your stomach. You don’t say, “The fetus lurched,” or “A conglomeration of cells is making itself manifest.” You say, “The baby moved. The baby’s moving.” You say this because it is a baby, and you know it. You say it because in your wonder at it, and at life, you tell the truth.

I should add who used that example with me. A great liberal journalist who sees right through his party’s dishonesty on this issue.

The failure to ban late-term abortion is one of those central things we rarely talk about. And I’ll tell you what I think a teenager absorbs about it, unconsciously, in America. He sees a headline online, he passes a television in an airport, he hears the quick story and he thinks: “If the baby we don’t let live is unimportant, then I guess I am unimportant. And you’re unimportant too.” They don’t even know they’re breathing that in. But it’s there, in the atmosphere, and they’re breathing it in. And it doesn’t make you healthier.

The National Rifle Association too fears their slippery slope, and their fear means nothing common-sensical can be done regarding gun law. Concede anything and it will mean they’re coming for your hunting rifle.

Congress has been talking, at least recently and to some extent, of a trade on immigration. New protections for Dreamers on one hand versus increased border security on the other. This would be a good deal. Dreamers are integrated into American life, and a good many work in education and health care. And America is a great sovereign nation with not only a right but a responsibility to control its own borders.

Compromise is often good.

On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used, because of the numbers, power and contributions of gun owners and the NRA. Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion because of the numbers, power and contributions of the rising left, feminists and Planned Parenthood. The idea: Trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure. In both cases the lives of children would be saved. (Read more.)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lent at Versailles

Versailles is not usually associated with Lenten penance, but fasting and abstinence, as well as some mortifications, were observed there by many during the old regime. For one thing, there would be no plays or operas performed; all the public theaters were closed in France during Lent. The daughters of Louis XV were known for their scrupulous observance of fasting and abstinence, although Madame Victoire found such penance especially trying. According to Madame Campan:
Without quitting Versailles, without sacrificing her easy chair, she [Madame Victoire] fulfilled the duties of religion with punctuality, gave to the poor all she possessed, and strictly observed Lent and the fasts. The table of Mesdames acquired a reputation for dishes of abstinence....Madame Victoire was not indifferent to good living, but she had the most religious scruples respecting dishes of which it was allowable to partake at penitential times....The abstinence which so much occupied the attention of Madame Victoire was so disagreeable to her, that she listened with impatience for the midnight hour of Holy Saturday; and then she was immediately supplied with a good dish of fowl and rice, and sundry other succulent viands.
Their nephew Louis XVI was also known for his fastidious observance of Lent, as recorded once again by the faithful Madame Campan:
Austere and rigid with regard to himself alone, the King observed the laws of the Church with scrupulous exactness. He fasted and abstained throughout the whole of Lent. He thought it right that the queen should not observe these customs with the same strictness. Though sincerely pious, the spirit of the age had disposed his mind to toleration.
Some of the King's tolerant behavior included the permitting of certain games at court during Lent. During the Lent of 1780, the Austrian ambassador Count Mercy-Argenteau was shocked to discover Louis XVI playing blind man's bluff with Marie-Antoinette and some members of the Court. Count Mercy described the scandalous scene to the Empress Maria Theresa:
Amusements have been introduced of such noisy and puerile character that they are little suited to Lenten meditations, and still less to the dignity of the august personages who take part in them. They are games resembling blind man's bluff, that first lead to the giving of forfeits, and then to their redemption by some bizarre penance ; the commotion is kept up sometimes until late into the night. The number of persons who take part in these games, both of the Court and the town, makes them still more unsuitable ; every one is surprised to see that the King plays them with great zest, and that he can give himself up wholly to such frivolities in such a serious condition of State affairs as obtains at present.
Given the long hours that Louis XVI devoted to affairs of state and the fact that people often complained that he was too serious and reserved, it seems that Mercy should have been pleased to see the King come out of his shell a little and take some recreation. But then, Mercy often tried to cast Louis in an unfavorable light. As far as the Empress was concerned, however, Lent was not the time for any games. Louis' devotion was sincere all the same; he was constant in prayer and good works, observing the fasts of the Church for Lent and the Ember days even throughout his imprisonment.

The King's sister, Madame Elisabeth, also steadfastly kept the discipline of Lent in both good times and bad. In the Temple prison, the jailers mocked the princess' attempts to keep Lent as best she could. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's daughter, Madame Royale, who shared her aunt's imprisonment, recorded it thus:
Having no fish, she asked for eggs or other dishes on fast-days. They refused them, saying that in equality there was no difference of days; there were no weeks, only decades. They brought us a new almanac, but we did not look at it. Another time, when my aunt again asked for fast-day food they answered: "Why, citoyenne, don't you know what has taken place? none but fools believe all that." She made no further requests.
As for Marie-Antoinette herself, she did not fast and abstain through every day of Lent as Louis did; her health did not permit it. However, after baby Madame Sophie died in 1787, it was noted that the Queen became more fervent in her devotions, especially during Lent. Jean Chalon in Chère Marie-Antoinette (p.235) notes that in 1788 she gave orders that her table strictly comply with all the regulations of the Church. Even the Swedish ambassador remarked: "The queen seems to have turned devout."

(Photo: http://www.cyrilalmeras.com/)


Young Black Conservative Women

From The Western Journal:
These women want to bring home a message of empowerment, not only to black women across the country, but also to the black community at large. Women such as Antonia Okafor, the founder of gun rights advocacy organization EmPOWERed, Ayshia Connors, a senior policy adviser to a Pennsylvania congressman and president of the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association and Candace Owens, the director of Urban Engagement for Turning Point USA, all work tirelessly in advocating for their community and to make black conservative voices heard.

“Essentially, I believe in this day and age, for whatever reason, there is a largely ignored, growing group of voices which is essentially black conservatives. We’ve been largely dismissed and de-legitimized in the media as something that is not allowed to exist,” Owens, who labels herself an independent thinker, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Owens is currently working on creating the first black leadership summit for Turning Point USA with the intent to bring young black conservatives from across the country to hear from other black leaders on how to become trailblazers and entrepreneurs within their community. Owens especially wants these young black conservatives to hear from fellow black leaders who don’t carry with them the same message the mainstream media does. Okafor and Connors are also trying to make big strides within the conservative movement. (Read more.)

When Societies Fall

From Tremr:
Published in a highly underrated 1934 book called "Sex and Culture," the anthropologist J.D. Unwin found a universal correlation between monogamy and a civilization's "expansive energy." His aim in the book was to test the Freudian thesis that advanced civilizations were founded upon repression of sexual desire, and a re-channeling of this energy through a defense mechanism Freud called "sublimation." 

A non-Christian, and as relativistic as any modern anthropologist, he insisted that he offered "no opinion about rightness or wrongness" concerning sexual norms. Nevertheless, among the 86 different societies he studied, he not only found monogamy to be correlated with a society's strength, but came to the sobering conclusion that "In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence." (Read more.)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Recipes for Late Afternoon Tea

From Victoria:
A plate of distinctively shaped sandwiches creates a hearty mix of options that will satisfy late-afternoon appetites. Clockwise from bottom right: Wrapped in thin strips of English cucumber, rectangular Roast Beef Tea Sandwiches are layered with provolone cheese and Horseradish Cream. Egg-and-Olive Salad mixed with whole-grain mustard is spread between triangles of pumpernickel bread garnished with egg slices and fresh dill. Round Smoked-Salmon Tea Sandwiches topped with fresh oregano feature stacked bread slices slathered with creamy dill spread and pancetta. (Read more.)

Why Trump’s Right

From The Conservative Tribune:
Hilario Yanez, a native of Mexico, a man who was brought to the United States at the age of 1, and a DACA recipient, blew a hole on Saturday in the mainstream media’s narrative about President Donald Trump, telling “Fox & Friends” interviewers that Trump had shown “leadership and compassion” towards those affected by the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. What’s more, Yanez had a few choice words for those “compassionate” Democrats the media wants us to believe are out there. Yanez’s praise for Trump centered around Trump’s work to find a solution to the plethora of issues DACA recipients face in the United States, an issue Democrats claim to champion. (Read more.)

How Leftist Intolerance is Killing Higher Education

From The Washington Examiner:
In 2015, Evergreen hired a new president. Trained as a sociologist, George Bridges did two things upon arrival. First, he hired an old friend to talk one-on-one to members of our community — faculty, staff, and students. We talked about our values and our visions for the college. But the benefit of hindsight suggests that he was looking for something else. He was mapping us, assessing our differences, our blind spots, and the social tensions that ran beneath the surface. Second, Bridges fired the provost, Michael Zimmerman. The provost, usually synonymous with the vice president for academics, is the chief academic officer at an institution of higher education. Zimmerman would have disapproved of what Bridges had in mind and would have had some power to stop it. But he was replaced by a timid (though well-liked) insider who became a pawn due to his compromised interim status and his desire not to make waves.

Having mapped the faculty and fired the provost, Bridges began reworking the college in earnest. Surprise announcements became the norm as opportunities for discussion dwindled.
The president took aim at what made Evergreen unique, such as full-time programs. He fattened the administration, creating expensive vice president positions at an unprecedented rate, while budgets tightened elsewhere due to drops in student enrollment and disappearing state dollars. He went after Evergreen’s unparalleled faculty autonomy, which was essential to the unique teaching done by the best professors.

All of this should have been alarming to a faculty in which professors have traditionally viewed administrative interference in academic matters with great suspicion. But Bridges was strategic and forged an alliance with factions known to be obsessed with race. He draped the “equity” banner around everything he did. Advocating that Evergreen embrace itself as a “College of Social Justice,” he argued that faculty autonomy unjustly puts the focus on teachers rather than students, and that the new VP for Equity and Inclusion would help us serve our underserved populations. But no discussion was allowed of students who did not meet the narrow criteria of being “underserved.” Because of the wrapping, concerns about policy changes were dismissed as “anti-equity.” What was in the nicely wrapped box turned out to be something else entirely. (Read more.)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Lost Glories of the Paris Ritz

From The Daily Mail:
Opened in 1898 by Swiss hotelier César Ritz, it was bought in 1979 by Egyptian billionaire Mohamid Al Fayad and underwent four years of renovation before re-opening in 2016. The objects going on sale no longer fit the new set-up of the hotel, favoured by A-list stars and royalty from around the world.

Among the items is the first bathtub installed at the hotel, estimated to fetch between 800 and 1,200 euros (£700-£1,057). A gold sofa set from a salon named after the writer Marcel Proust is expected to fetch more than £1,200, while a pair of black lacquered decorative Chinese junk sailboats from the Coco Chanel suite will be on offer at 2,000 euros (£2,202).  

In it's 118-year history, the legendary hotel was called 'the most romantic hotel in the world,' by Sophia Loren and during the Second World War, the Nazis took over several floors when they occupied Paris during World War II. Auction house Artcurial, who are organizing the sale said the 10,000 pieces in the catalogue have been separated into 3,500 lots ranging from €100 to €5,000. (Read more.)

Guns at School, Thirty Years Ago

From PJ Media:
The millennial generation might be surprised to learn that theirs is the first without guns in school. Just 30 years ago, high school kids rode the bus with rifles and shot their guns at high school rifle ranges. After another school shooting, it's time to ask: what changed? Cross guns off the list of things that changed in thirty years. In 1985, semi-automatic rifles existed, and a semi-automatic rifle was used in Florida. Guns didn’t suddenly decide to visit mayhem on schools. Guns can’t decide.

We can also cross the Second Amendment off the list. It existed for over 200 years before this wickedness unfolded. Nothing changed in the Constitution. That leaves us with some uncomfortable possibilities remaining. What has changed from thirty years ago when kids could take firearms into school responsibly and today might involve some difficult truths. Let’s inventory the possibilities.

What changed? The mainstreaming of nihilism. Cultural decay. Chemicals. The deliberate destruction of moral backstops in the culture. A lost commonality of shared societal pressures to enforce right and wrong. And above all, simple, pure, evil. (Read more.)
And why turning to prayer should not be mocked. From The Federalist:
 The evidence for God’s existence is overwhelming. And contrary to what some say, evil and suffering don’t undermine belief in God. On the contrary, the presence of evil affirms the existence of good. Without good, we’d have no concept of evil. Our visceral revulsion to a gunman murdering 17 people in a high school points to a moral law that defies any Darwinian explanation. We know what happened was evil and tragic. We know it. We know it because our Creator wired that moral awareness into our very soul. You can’t have a moral law without a Moral Lawgiver. (Read more.)
 Meanwhile, atheism  and faith battle for the souls of our schools. From The American Thinker:
In the ongoing struggle for religious liberty, constitutional conservatives like to say the Constitution was written by those fleeing from religious persecution and that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion and not freedom from it.  The FFRF begs to differ, insisting in repeated legal actions against Christians that the Creator the Declaration of Independence says endowed us with our unalienable rights is not to be given thanks in the public square. The atheist group's latest target is the athletes at West Branch High School in Beloit, Ohio, who like to gather in prayer at their games to give thanks to that Creator, rather than take a knee in protest of something or other like their less thankful older professional counterparts:
A southern Mahoning County school district is no longer saying a prayer before sporting events.The school's superintendent says it all stemmed from a local complaint that got a national organization involved. West Branch [s]uperintendent Tim Saxton said he received a complaint letter from The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an anti-Christian organization, based out of Madison, Wisconsin. The letter claimed [that] a prayer performed at a public school sporting event violates the constitution and does not provide for a separation between church and state.
 The FFRF is on a crusade to expunge religious expression from the public square, and the group gets the meaning of "separation of church and state," a phrase that appears nowhere in the Constitution, all wrong.  This isn't the first time the FFRF's target has been high school football. (Read more.)

A Genocide of Baby Girls

From Life Site:
A government report shows India has an alarming imbalanced ratio of boys to girls: For every 100 females born in India, there are 107.6 males birthed.  The natural average is 105 to 100. Girls are “notionally...unwanted,” India’s Economic Survey 2017-18 states.  Boys traditionally ensure parental economic care, while girls traditionally leave the family and cost a dowry.  

“Couples’ tendency to keep trying until a boy is born has led to the birth of as many as 21 million...unwanted...girls,” CNN reported on the matter. “The preference for boys and the availability of sex-selective operations, although illegal in India, means there’s a gender gap of as many as 63 million girls, classified in the report as ‘missing.’" As LifeSiteNews has reported, “missing,” like “sex selection operations” are euphemisms for abortion. Targetting females for abortion is rampant across the nation, even though it is technically illegal.

Human Life International (HLI) India told LifeSiteNews that sex-selection abortion targetting girls is "prevalent.” HLI’s Milagres Pereira, who lives in India, shared an all-too-common scenario.  “A couple of miles away from my place a well educated and working couple killed three babies in a womb when they discovered they were girls,” he told LifeSiteNews via email. “The slogan ‘Pre-Natal Sex Scanning is a Crime’ is all over government hospitals with huge fines and imprisonment notices, but they do not scare anyone because our nation has been deeply rooted in abortion since its legalization in 1971.”

Female infanticide is a growing practice in the country as well. “Even now there are places where untrained village mid-wives have been known to put a spoonful of un-husked rice into the (newborn’s) throat, so the soaked rice expands and chokes the child to death,” Pereira related.  “As horrible as it may sound, this is the truth.  There are worse (means of sex selection) than what CNN has reported.” (Read more.)
 Meanwhile, in the Land of the Free, there is a form of slavery worse than death. From Zero Hedge:
 According to USA Today, adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States. Who buys a child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life.They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America. In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.

On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period of servitude. It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances. “Human trafficking—the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution—is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.,” said prosecutor Krishna Patel.

This is not a problem found only in big cities. It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation. As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out, “The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.” It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged child sex workers in the U.S. Every year, the girls being bought and sold gets younger and younger. Social media makes it all too easy for young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators. (Read more.)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hartwell House Revisited

The novel Madame Royale opens with the Bourbonic sojourn at Hartwell House. From Hello!:
First mentioned in the Domesday Book almost a thousand years ago, this hotel has a rich and fascinating royal history. In the early 19th century the stately home served as a royal residence when Louis XVIII, the exiled king of France, hid out there with his family for five years during the French Revolution. He was joined by his queen, Marie-Josephine de Savoie and his niece, Duchesse D'Angoulême, the daughter of his brother Louis XVI and sister-in-law Marie Antoinette, along with over one hundred courtiers.  Louis stayed there until 1814, when Napoleon was defeated and he signed papers of accession to become king. (Read more.)

Bedroom of the
Duchesse d'Angoulême

Dear America: Your News Media Absolutely Hates You

From The Federalist:
I wish this was an exaggeration. Witness this story from CNN today, with its dripping credulousness in attacking Mike Pence with a story sourced entirely to a diplomatic source close to the North Korean regime.
“The senior diplomatic source said Pence “degraded the image of the United States as a superpower” by meeting with North Korean defectors along with Otto Warmbier’s father, and by speaking strongly against North Korea on multiple occasions.

“Fred Warmbier accompanied Pence during his visit to South Korea. His son Otto was jailed in North Korea and died upon his return to the US last year after suffering extensive brain damage…

“The source also described as “undignified behavior” Pence’s decision to stay seated and to not applaud the unified Korean team at the opening ceremony, adding that the Vice President “took the low road instead of acting like a big brother.”
Let’s be clear about what this is: this is 15 year veteran reporter at CNN, Will Ripley, just straight up delivering North Korean propaganda whole cloth to an American audience, simply because it criticizes the Trump administration. Of course, Pence’s actions were intentional and bringing victims of this brutal regime to light was not taking the low road, it was showing North Korea what we think of them. But leave it to CNN to just parrot what any critic says about this country without a thought to context. (Read more.)

Lola's Story

A heartrendingly honest article which provides a great deal of insight into the psychology of slavery. From The Atlantic:
Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido. We called her Lola. She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine—my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding. (Read more.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;
Then, for the third part of a minute, hence;

Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,

Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,

To make my small elves coats, and some keep back
The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders
At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep;

Then to your offices and let me rest.

~from Shakespeare's
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 2, Scene 2
(Artwork by Arthur Rackham)
They are known by many names, the old folk, the good folk, the fae ("fae" is plural, "faery" is singular), as they find their way into innumerable legends and stories of many cultures, even to the present day. Needless to say, anyone undertaking to research the historical background of fairy stories will stumble upon any number of bizarre websites, so be forewarned if you ever decide to make such a quest. It is sad that such a hearty element of western folklore is now identified with the occult in some quarters, an identification which actually began with the Puritans. To the Puritans, the fairies were none other than demons from hell. On the other hand, the Theosophists of the last century incorporated fairies into their occultism.

It is not surprising then that in contemporary times fairies have lost the respectability won for them, rather undeservedly, by Charles Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy, the Brothers Grimm, and Cicely Mary Barker. I say undeservedly since in the oldest tales, fairies were not necessarily benign. Although they were not seen as belonging to the demonic order, they were perceived as being part of the natural world, and like nature, they could be cruel or kind but ultimately unpredictable. If they helped humans it was usually as a side effect of their own business, business which they saw as being far more important than any human affairs. William Shakespeare's fairies in A Midsummer's Night Dream are a prime example of such behavior. The elves of J. R. R. Tolkien also demonstrate traits typical of the fairies of Celtic and Norse folklore in that they are aloof from the world of men, or at least prefer to be aloof, immersed in their own pleasures, feuds and projects.

In the middle ages fairies were infamous for their mischievousness, and were generally regarded as troublemakers. Fairies were known to whisk people away into a dimension of their own, so that the victims would lose large chunks of time. In the last half century, stories of alien abductions have rather replaced the phenomena of fairy-kidnappings that used to figure prominently in Celtic fairy tales. In medieval and Celtic cultures there were various traditions of how to keep the fairies away, much of which degenerated into rank superstition. It seems they were allergic to certain herbs, and had something against bread. They had a love/hate relationship with bells, and stayed away from running water, and from iron. Some fairy-repellent substances varied from country to country. It was commonly held, however, that fairies did not possess immortal souls.

It should be recalled that at her trial for witchcraft St. Joan of Arc was carefully questioned by her judges about her habit of dancing around the local "fairy tree" with the other peasant children. Such was the sincerity and innocence of her answers that her judges, determined to find any pretext on which to condemn her, could not find her guilty of superstition and so had to move on.

Where did the tales of fairies originate? According to "Fairies of Folklore and Legend" by Carey Holmes:
The myth of the fairy was thought to have originated in Celtic and Norse regions. The fairy gave the Irish a sense of pride that they had never felt before. They had never had a folk story originate from their country and were proud to say that fairies were seen there first. Many countries after Ireland soon began to report the sightings of these magical beings, but in Ireland "fairies were almost a political and cultural necessity" (Silver, Carole. Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, 34). Many legends and stories originated from them and began to expand into the whole culture of Europe.
The oldest origin of the fairy was directly connected to the earth and the elements.... People in the Middle Ages believed that fairies were sacred guardians of nature and all the natural elements. The works of Paracelsus in the fifteenth century spoke of these beings and described them as "the sylphs of air, the salamanders of fire, the undines or nymphs of water, and the gnomes of the earth" (Silver 35). Paracelsus also said that these creatures could only live in the element into which they were born. To him, these creatures lived and acted just as humans but were without immortal souls. They could move at super-human speeds, had the ability to materialize and dematerialize when needed, and possessed the magical ability to influence the human world (Silver 35-39). The culture of the time held that "elemental fairies shaped our temperaments: ‘the spirits of nature have their dwellings within us as well as outside of us’" (Silver 39).
The most popular belief was that fairies were the fallen angels that chose not to take sides when God banished Lucifer to the bowels of hell. God punished these angels by sending them to live out the rest of their immortal lives as small people with some magical powers that were permanently banned to the earthly plane. Other believed that fairies were the spirits of un-baptized children that died at birth or that they were the souls of the dead that were not good enough to go to heaven or evil enough to go to hell, that they were permanently trapped on the earthly plane until God received them into His kingdom (Silver 37-9).
When it comes to Irish and Scottish fairy lore, one could write volumes. It is believed that the legend of fairies in Ireland came from the tales of the ancient and conquered people who once inhabited the island, the Tuatha De Danaan. When defeated by the Milesians, the Tuatha De Danaan took refuge in the mounds or sidhe. They were said to have been small in stature, which gave rise to the stories of the diminutive fae. Such speculation cannot be proved and remains one of the many mysteries of the myth.

It should also be pointed out that while fairy stories were prevalent in Celtic culture, they were not more prevalent there than in other cultures, especially during the medieval period. According to Alaric Hall of the University of Leeds:
I have argued here that we can identify impressive cultural continuities from our medieval Irish evidence for the áes síde to more recent beliefs in Celtic-speaking regions: there is no doubt that Celtic-speakers have had strong fairy-traditions. However, in the medieval period they may have been no different in this from their English-speaking neighbours. There are clear ideological reasons why it suited scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to accentuate the differences between fairy-lore in the medieval Celtic-speaking regions and medieval Germanic-speaking regions. But the primary evidence more plausibly suggests similarities. Anglo-Saxon elves seem likely to have been magically powerful people living alongside normal human communities, just like the Irish áes síde....
Fairies continue to fascinate people, and have not been completely replaced by stories of aliens, since they continue to appear in popular films and children's tales. Perhaps the representation which has the most continuity with the old myths is Tolkien's in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and The Hobbit. As Gildor says to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring: "The Elves have their own labours and their own sorrows, and they are little concerned with the ways of hobbits, or of any other creatures upon earth." (Fellowship, p. 114) Nevertheless, Samwise Gamgee exclaims after meeting the fair folk for the first time: "Wonderful folks, Elves, sir! Wonderful!" (Fellowship, p.117) which perhaps sums up better than anything else the universal fascination with the fae.

(Artwork The Captive Robin and Court of Faerie, courtesy of Hermes)


A Black Republican in the Age of Obama

From Nation One News:
It was 2007, and I was watching the beginnings of the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. I thought to myself: “Wow, this was very different than what he said when he was a Senator.” And second of all, I said: “Who are you? Where did you come from? I haven’t seen this version of you.” I actually a have a tweet on the top of my Twitter page where Barack Obama is talking about immigration. It was very moderate, a 40 second video, that shows him speaking on C-SPAN about immigration. And he sounded just like Trump today. Exactly.

But when I saw him running in 2007, I said, “When did you change your tune?” Because it became very, very far-left. In fact, he was trying to position himself so far left that he was going to fall off the bench, because he was trying to get away from Hillary. So who was sounding more like Trump in that election? Hillary. She was right in the center. She was trying to go after every vote possible in the center, because she knew she was going to run against a Republican and she wanted to win the center. And she was forcing the party to stay there; she was trying to be like her husband. (Read more.)

Marie-Antoinette at Oxford

A discussion on Amazon has been brought to my attention, HERE. It is about whether or not my books Trianon and Madame Royale are truly at the Bodleian and whether or not any academics have ever "examined" my books. I must respectfully cite my friend, author and historian Gareth Russell, who shared with me that he referred to my novel Trianon in his dissertation at Oxford University a few years ago. Gareth is the author of several books and plays, including the recent acclaimed biography of Catherine Howard, Young and Damned and Fair. Gareth also is the one who told me that both Trianon and Madame Royale are to be found at Bodleian Libraries at Oxford. HERE are excerpts from his dissertation which he gave me permission to publish.

I was also more surprised than anyone else to find Trianon mentioned in a work about mother and daughter relationships, HERE. I have no idea why but I am glad the book was found useful. I discovered Madame Royale mentioned in Russia and Europe in the Nineteenth Century by Roy Bolton and Grigory Goldovsky, HERE, which is an honor indeed. So I just wanted to clarify the matter for those who think my novels belong with the Harlequins that there exist scholars who have thought otherwise. But honestly, I know of few other historical fiction novels that have undergone such scrutiny and treated as if they were post-graduate theses. Share

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mercredi des Cendres

From author Catherine Delors:
Ash Wednesday follows Fat Tuesday, and the mood could not be more different. Today, a day of fast and prayer, marks the beginning of Lent. The day of ashes on foreheads, and the admonition Memento, homo, quod pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris (“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”)

No better illustration of the contrast between Carnival and Lent than this work by the 19th century Bavarian artist Carl Spitzweg. Spitzweg, though classified as a Romanticist, admired and emulated the genre paintings of the 17th century Flemish school. His style is often humorous and down-to-earth (two qualities I find somewhat lacking in Romantic art.) (Read more.)

Who Are the Real Fascists?

From Townhall:
How come the left accuses the right of fascism? How does that make any sense? Dinesh D’Souza wrote a whole book about this, called The Big Lie. I spoke with him on the radio about it. He told me, “The big lie is the notion that fascism and Nazism belong on the right. And so, specifically, the big lie is that Trump is a fascist, the Republicans are a kind of a neo-Nazi party, that fascism is a right-wing phenomenon. This has kind of exploded in the public light since Charlottesville, and the media and the left have constructed this narrative that the left is the good guys that [are] fighting fascism whereas the fascists are all on the right end of the spectrum. That is the big lie. It’s untrue. It is exactly the opposite of the truth. Real fascism, real Nazism have always been on the left.”

D’Souza goes on to say that this predates Trump: “It was right after World War II and [was the doing of] the progressives coming to power in the academy and in the media and in Hollywood. They knew about the big lie. In fact, they’re the perpetrators and inventors of it. They decided to move fascism from the left-wing column, where they knew it belonged, to the right-wing column, so they could use it as a truncheon to beat up their opponents.”

Real conservatives, including Republicans, have nothing to do with fascism and Nazism. In reference to the neo-Nazi (Arthur Jones) running for office in Illinois, Tim Schneider, chariman of the Illinois Republican Party, stated, “The Illinois Republican Party and our country have no place for Nazis like Arthur Jones.” (Read more.)

Which communist regime is responsible for the most mass murders? Read about it HERE. Share

Repentance and the Religion of Beginning Again

From The Catholic Gentleman:
As human beings, we possess real freedom as creatures made in the image and likeness of God, and with this freedom comes true creative potential. That is, through an act of the will, we can bring into being new thoughts, words, and acts that have never existed before. In a real way, we can create an as yet nonexistent future through our choices.

Moreover, there is something about each human act that is irrevocable. Every word uttered, every action undertaken inevitably leaves an impression on the course of history. No action, no matter how badly one may desire it, can be undone or erased. And even deeds done in secret and hidden from the eyes of men, those acts seemingly without consequence, are seen by God and are present to him. Our choices have echoes both in time and eternity. The past cannot be undone.

This truth is at once comforting and terrifying. It is a hopeful thought in that every act of charity and mercy, even if unseen by men, is recorded forever in the mind of God. Love possess an eternal weight and significance; it is permanent in its effects. But likewise, it is a disquieting thought in that every evil thought or intention, every sinful action, every hurtful word, no matter how fleeting or insignificant, is likewise irrevocable. Scripture itself says we will give account for every idle word, a truth that should give us great pause. (Read more.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

La Duchesse de Berry Dedicates Her Daughter to the Blessed Virgin

From the Versailles collection. Please do click on the picture here and at the original link to see a fuller and more detailed version of the picture. Caroline, the Duchesse de Berry, is shown kneeling in widow's weeds after the assassination of her husband the Duc de Berry on February 13, 1820. She is offering her year old daughter Louise d'Artois to be consecrated by the priest to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Meanwhile, Caroline is pregnant with the future Henri, Duc de Bordeaux. Behind her kneels Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Behind the ladies kneels Louis XVIII, the Comte d'Artois (the future Charles X and grandfather of the little princess). The husband of Marie-Thérèse, Louis-Antoine, Duc d'Angoulême, stands beside his father Artois, hands clasped in prayer. Below is a picture of Louise d'Artois, Duchess of Parma, as a married woman with her own children. She was known to be very devout all of her life.


They Thought Nobody Would Ever Know

From The American Spectator:
An administration siccing the surveillance state on the opposition party’s presidential candidate based on dubious reports compiled by the favored presidential candidate’s campaign ranks as a terribly reckless strategy risking the future freedom of its architects for their future power, no?

“Not if you think you will win the election and no one will ever find out,” an animated Joseph diGenova tells The American Spectator. “That’s why they did it. They thought she would win and no one would ever find out.”

Alas, Hillary Clinton did not, as so many expected, win the presidency. So, the incoming administration, investigated by dubious means, got to see what the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and various Justice Department officials believed it would never see.

DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney and independent counsel tasked with investigating the George H.W. Bush administration’s accessing of candidate Bill Clinton’s passport file, believes the malfeasance surrounding the Department of Justice securing warrants to electronically surveil Donald Trump adviser Carter Page rose to a criminal level. And he thinks the conflict of interest inherent within tasking the Justice Department investigating criminal wrongdoing within the Justice Department strikes as just the type of situation imagined when the Office of the Special Counsel was created.

“There are a number of people in the high ranks of government in both civil service and political positions who have an animus toward the president and engage in activities that clearly violate the law,” diGenova tells The American Spectator. “It is my understanding that an investigation into the leaking has been ongoing.” (Read more.)

Feminism, Swedish Style

From The Gatestone Institute:
  • A Swedish court ruled against the parental rights of Alicia, a Swedish citizen, and handed over her children (also Swedish citizens) to a foreigner who is known to have raped their mother, in the context of an Islamic sharia "marriage," when she herself was a child.
  • Sometimes, when one points out these rules, people will respond: "Well, the Bible says such-and-such." The point is not that these things are written in Islamic scripture, but that people still live by them.
  • Swedish officials have not made any "mistakes" in Alicia's case. Every single action on their part has been rooted in a philosophy that they thoroughly understand and in which they deeply believe. They are, as they love to proclaim, proud feminists, whose ardent belief in sisterhood ends where brutal Islamic patriarchy, gender oppression, and primitive "honor culture" begin. That is feminism, Swedish style.
  • In practice, as it happens, this compulsion to respect the different priorities of other cultures is most urgent when the culture in question is the one in which female inequality is most thoroughly enshrined and enforced.
(Read more.)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pink Teas

 Pink Teas are an old Southern tradition where the color pink figures highly in the decor. From Southern Lady:
For Valentine’s Day—or any reason at all—gather your girlfriends for an afternoon of glamour and delight. Shades of pink and cream set the tone for this frilly affair, and a mix of vases holding single flower varieties double as centerpieces and party favors. Platters of Strawberry Sandwiches and artfully arranged Cobb Salad offer guests a light snack without detracting from the main event—dessert! Variety ensures there’s something for everyone, from Glazed Sweetheart Cookies to Almond Custard Tarts and Chocolate Truffles. Our Creamy Lemon Cheesecake becomes a showpiece amid the spread of sweets. (Read more.)
From Southern Living:
"People like to feel cozy, so too big of a space isn't good," Danielle says. "It's better to have more people in a smaller space." To keep your guests circulating, set up separate tables for food and drink. "I like to do two food tables: one for tea and sweets and one for savory appetizers. Be sure to set the tone for your party with a beautiful bar. It's like a tour guide with an umbrella—guests always start there." (Read more.)
 Pink Teas became politicized around the turn of the last century, HERE. Share

Obamanomics Is Dead

From American Greatness:
In most cases, the Democrats only do well when America is in dire straits. And, that’d be all right, if the Democrats were the turnaround party that they claim to be. Yet, when elected, the Democrats rarely change things for the better. Instead, they simply exploit the opportunity to further expand the administrative state, enrich their fellow partisans, and further weaken the country. Keep in mind that FDR’s treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., testified to Congress in 1939 that FDR’s economic policies had done little to reverse the Great Depression. Today, many economists believe that FDR’s programs prolonged the crisis.

Looking at what’s happening presently in the stock market, we see a similar thing happening. During the Obama years, we were told by former President Obama to accept the “new normal” of barely two percent growth rates and chronically high unemployment. For the entirety of the Obama Administration, the economy sputtered along with anemic growth such that the Federal Reserve had to artificially induce economic activity through loose monetary policy. The Fed kept interest rates low, allowed for unmanageable levels of borrowing, and kept printing money. This accounts for how the stock market soared during the Obama years in spite of wages being low, unemployment being high, and overall growth lagging. The eight years of Obamanomics benefited a handful of investors and harmed everyone else.

Since Donald Trump’s election, however, the White House has spearheaded an historic reduction in onerous government regulations; the markets reacted to Trump’s election with great exuberance and anticipation; unemployment has reached historic lows; a massive tax cut has spurred the expansion of businesses (and therefore opportunity unlike anything since the Reagan years), and wages have gone up to their highest point in 17 years. Whenever a White House engages in a strong fiscal policy of the sort that the Trump Administration has implemented, the Fed has to step in and raise interest rates. (Read more.)

Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral

From Vanity Fair:
Stories about Facebook’s ruthlessness are legend in Silicon Valley, New York, and Hollywood. The company has behaved as bullies often do when they are vying for global dominance—slurping the lifeblood out of its competitors (as it did most recently with Snap, after C.E.O. Evan Spiegel also rebuffed Zuckerberg’s acquisition attempt), blatantly copying key features (as it did with Snapchat’s Stories), taking ideas (remember those Winklevoss twins?), and poaching senior executives (Facebook is crawling with former Twitter, Google, and Apple personnel). Zuckerberg may look aloof, but there are stories of him giving rousing Braveheart-esque speeches to employees, sometimes in Latin. Twitter, Snap, and Foursquare have all been marooned, at various points, because of Facebook’s implacable desire to grow. Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR, and dozens of others are breathing life because they assented to Facebook’s acquisition desires. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg moved quickly to circumnavigate regulations before governments realized the problems that Facebook created—and certainly before they understood exactly how dangerous a social network can be to their citizens’ privacy, and to a democracy as a whole. (Read more.)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Joie de Vivre of Marie Antoinette


From Victoria:
With its encrusted borders and delicate buds, the Chas Field Haviland vintage pattern Marie Antoinette is ideal for showcasing confections. The masterful designs of New York pastry chef Amber Spiegel highlight this assortment. Her frosted cookies—flavored with orange zest, vanilla bean, and cardamom—reach their pinnacle with hand-piped icing bouquets, cameos shaped from gum paste, and accents painted with a mixture of gold luster dust and vodka. (Read more.)

Trolls on the Internet and Negative Reviews

 UPDATE: (2/11/18): This post has received so many updates and recent comments since it was first published on December 2, 2017 that I am reblogging it. Please scroll down to the end to see the latest.
Internet trolls come in all forms. Some use anonymity as an opportunity for rudeness and verbal abuse which that can be colored by expletives, or even by haughty erudition. Some are ignorant, some are educated, and some are alcoholics. Some use the same name and others use various pseudonyms. I am going to share my experience with an internet troll for the sake of other bloggers and authors who have had similar experiences. The troll who has harassed me on and off for ten years is actually a tenured professor at a highly-respected Catholic college in North Carolina.

About eleven years ago when I began this blog. I was a stay-at-home mother with a toddler. We needed money and I needed to have a job but did not want to leave my baby. So I started the blog as a way to help promote my already published works, Trianon and Madame Royale, which I had written before I became a mother. Now perhaps it was pretentious of me to dare venture into the realm of historical scholarship reserved for tenured professors and professional historians. But I figured a blog was just a blog and my books were just novels, with a small but devoted following. So I began to reach out to my readers and share my research from graduate school. I also began to write about Catholic Church topics and manners and history and art and just about anything else that interested me. People responded and the readership grew so that now I have about 90,000 hits a month. I have met so many wonderful and extraordinary authors, writers and scholars through the blog, and have been invited to speak in some fascinating places such as New Zealand. The blog also helped my long lost relatives in the Philippines to find me. Overall, it has been a joyful journey.

However, about ten years ago I began to receive blog comments from a man named Simon who identified himself as a drama professor at a Catholic college in North Carolina. It puzzled me, because I could tell from his comments that he leaned to the left and I had always heard that the college in question was an orthodox school. His comments were usually critical, and over the years I was unjustly accused of various ugly things including racism and antisemitism. I had not yet learned that people who visit one's blog only to criticize are not looking for a discussion but want to cause discouragement and disturbance. They are trolls.

Now, no one is forced to read a blog they do not like. When a person returns repeatedly to a blog just to criticize and accuse and be generally obnoxious and condescending, the blog owner has no obligation to publish their comments. I stopped publishing Simon's comments which only became more derisive over the years. I could see he had a very high regard for his own perceived genius; I could not understand why a professor at a prestigious institution of higher learning would take the time to harangue a stay-at-home mother. What kind of academic has so much free time? He certainly was not interested in educating me but in denigrating me. It's called bullying.

A few years ago, someone calling himself "Cantilever" began attacking me on Amazon over a review I had written about a book on the Romanovs. The same "Cantilever" then began to read my books, one after another, writing scathing reviews, full of disdain and ridicule. At one point he declared himself as the aforesaid Simon the drama professor. As soon as a new book would come out a belittling review would appear from Simon or "Cantilever" or other pseudonyms on Goodreads as well as on Amazon. Soon he was joined by another academic, a woman, and they seemed to delight in tearing my books apart. I have to say that my novels are not complicated stories; the negative reviews are more intricate and complex than the stories are. The reviews also contain a particular disdain for traditional Catholic devotions, such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Miraculous Medal. When Catholic educators manifest an aversion for Catholic devotions, is it any wonder our young people are leaving the Church?

 Let me just say that I never have had any connection to the college in question. I have never been there. (I used to hope my daughter would someday go to that school but no longer.)  I have never sought the advice of the trolling professor, or contacted him in any way. I have only contacted the Dean of Faculty to make certain that Simon the troll did not have a history of violence, since he was obviously obsessed with voraciously reading and publicly trashing my books, after almost a decade of harassing me on my blog. Why a tenured professor would be so intent on depreciating the literary aspirations of a homemaker with a blog remains a mystery.

There are reviews which are a genuine critique of the work which can actually help the author improve. I have had many such reviews and they have helped me to grow as a writer. But reviews of the one-star variety are not meant to help a writer become more proficient at his or her craft. One-star reviews are meant to destroy. They do not care about helping anyone's writing skill. They do not want the writer to ever write again. At one point on Amazon, "Cantilever" suggested that I should contact him. What use would there be in speaking to a troll who wants your work never read again?

I want to tell young writers not to be discouraged by such disparaging reviews. It takes courage to be published, to put your work out there for the world to read and criticize. It is a lot of labor for little or no money. It would be safer and more profitable to have a steady teaching job and never write again. But there is nothing like the joy of having your work read and enjoyed by those who appreciate what you have to say. You write for them, those who do not want your voice silenced. When people use ridicule as a weapon, they do so out of their own incompleteness, and that is very sad. They are to be pitied. As for writers, we must not be afraid to keep learning and growing in our craft, in spite of those who wish to tear us down.

UPDATE (1/1/18): It has been brought to my attention that the professor in question, alias "Cantilever," is now accusing me of stalking him, simply because I inquired of the Dean of Faculty at his college whether or not he "Cantilever" has a history of violence. Here is a link from Amazon. Thanks to reader R.M. for letting me know. I approached the Dean not because the reviews of my books were bad but because of the speed with which "Cantilever" read and reviewed one after another, like a man obsessed. I have trouble getting through a book I hate but it seems "Cantilever" is able to devour my so-called "bad" writing with unholy rapidity. With all the shootings going on today, I needed to have assurance from one of "Cantilever's" authority figures that he was not dangerous. Otherwise, I was going to the FBI. There is still so much hostility coming from "Cantilever" and the lady friend who joins him in his haunting of my books on Amazon. Plus they resent it when some of my readers defend the books, as if freedom of speech belonged only to critics. Yet "Cantilever" claims I am stalking him! Truly, as one person said, I would never have even heard of him if he had not sought out my books and my blog, presumably of his own volition.

UPDATE (1/3/18): More gladiatorial combats on Amazon, courtesy of Professor "Cantilever." Here, here, and here. The comments are backwards in time, with the recent ones first. Read it before Amazon takes it all down, because it has been flagged. The man cannot seem to tear himself away. The nice Jewish lady who is defending my books is really taking a lot of rudeness. But I think it is odd that Professor C. keeps calling her by my name, my real name, as if I were one of his students. And he keeps repeating my name, over and over again. Very weird. And I hate the "sweetie" bit. It reminds me of a psycho slasher film. Plus it is utterly condescending. And that man teaches young girls? Scary. Incidentally, I have indeed mentioned on my blog and Facebook page that I am of Jewish descent, from the Sephardim in Spain. Vidal is a Jewish name. But Cantilever always acts like he knows so much about me, which is very creepy, as I have never met the man, and have never even written to him.

UPDATE (1/4/18): I think we are dealing with a man who clearly likes to humiliate women, and wants to see them trapped and helpless. That can be seen from his use of the word "flailing." Not a pleasant image. And there is such outrage that anyone would even dare contradict him. Funny how liberals consider it abusive when anyone stands up to them. And what a tyrant. Notice how he keeps threatening to destroy me on Goodreads.

UPDATE: (1/5/18, early morning) And now we have the troll's lady friend trying to take down Madame Royale. I am posting a link to the review so everyone can see how pretentious some of our academics have become. Notice how she announces her advanced degrees before taking the plunge. You see, people who have never taught at a university, or even at a community college, should not dare to write about history. Especially if the person is a mother who writes so she can stay at home with her child. And readers have no right to enjoy her work! Unfortunately, the scholar in question (Ms. M) is wrong about the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and has not done as much research as she claims. Perhaps she should stick to her own field and leave audacious literary homemakers to our own devices.

UPDATE (1/5/18, late morning) And now Simon the Troll is writing to me on Facebook begging me to take down the comments by "Melanie" and "Robyn" under his bad reviews of my books, saying he will delete his comments if I delete theirs. Unfortunately for him, Amazon does not confer such power to authors. In his letter to me, the worst writer in the world, Professor Simon says that his Dean (whom I wrote to about him): 
...was bemused by an author who 1) puts her work out into the public marketplace upon a site which encourages reviews and then 2) is offended by a bad review. If you allow the work to be purchased, whether it is a book or hamburger, the customer also buys the right to review it. That's how capitalism works, Ms. Russell.
When will those elitists in their ivory tower in North Carolina realize that it is NOT the bad reviews that bother me. I am used to bad reviews. I have published five books! What bothers me and disturbs me is the obvious obsession that Simon/Cantilever has with my work in general, from the nasty accusatory comments on my blog (of which I have screen shots), to the attacking of my Amazon reviews of other books, to the rabid reading and trashing of my books in a brief time, which he cheerfully describes as being on a "Vidal jag." And then the attempts to intimidate my readers and myself on Amazon and Goodreads with threats, including joining forces with another professor, who see it as their mission to save the galaxy from me. Plus I always think it is strange when a man and woman band together to attack another woman.

Honestly, this is why people voted for Trump. People are tired of elitists in academia and the media telling them what they must think and believe. Simon the Troll and Ms. M are perfect examples of the liberals who have taken over college campuses, even Catholic colleges. Parents should be forewarned.

UPDATE (1/6/18): Now the great scholar Ms. M has taken on my new book, once again emphasizing the fact that she is a great scholar and I am a housewife who has no business writing about history, or writing at all. The problem with her reviews and those of Cantilever/Simon is that the personal disdain and animus towards me, whom they do not know, sullies any objectivity about the books themselves. But as I have said multiple times, it is not the bad reviews, but the obsession that is most disturbing. But as one friend wrote to me, "haters are going to hate." Also, the dynamic duo has carried their campaign over to Goodreads, where I found some interesting public exchanges, here, here and here. I am linking to this to show how determined and obsessed they are to bully and harrass me. It is psychological terrorism and terrorists need the light shown upon them. And here, they are accusing me of harassing them on Goodreads. I have not done anything to them on Goodreads, and neither have my readers, as far as I know. And here is the great Ms. M on Goodreads, attacking my readers. There is more to see, for anyone who wants to click around.

Meanwhile, this post has received almost a thousand hits. If Simon wanted to have fame, he certainly has it now.

UPDATE (2/8/18): I have been banned from Goodreads because of this post. Strangely enough, they left my books up but removed my reviews of other people's books. Even though I am banned, I can still see what transpires, and I am being discussed, HERE. Now this has nothing to do with the novel Trianon, but everything to do with my perceived character. Goodreads does not follow their own guidelines. It's funny how the Professor and his lady talk about me on Goodreads as if they were omniscient. Such a conversation should be banned by Goodreads since it makes personal judgments about the author instead of discussing the merits, or lack of, of the book. I am banned, however and cannot do anything about it. But let me clarify some of their errors. 1. I asked the Dean of Faculty at Belmont Abbey about *Simon* and whether or not he had a history of violence. I was not hysterical but I needed to know since he appeared to be obsessed with trashing my books on Amazon and had been harassing me on my blog for over a decade. Now he is spending a great deal of time trashing me on Goodreads with his woman friend. 2. Those who accuse me of having "socks" have several "socks" themselves, writing numerous bad reviews of the same book under different names. 3. Ms M says of me: "I have often wondered how Vidal--or Madame Vidal, as her sycophants call her--manages to reconcile her public, pious persona with her activities aimed at reviewers who fail to appreciate her books." Calling my readers "sycophants" is just plain ignorant and condescending. As for how I reconcile my "public, pious persona" with my "activities" (whatever that means) is that I go to confession like every other sinner. 

As for Goodreads, I am glad to be banned from it and wish they would take down my entire page. Several of my readers have been banished as well. But I am told there is a bias against Catholics and Conservatives. Alas, there is more nastiness HERE from the cabal and their sock puppets. Because I said to a reader: "Thank you for your kind words" I am accused of proclaiming myself a great scholar? Ms M. knows nothing about basic social skills. Oh and *someone* named "Alexandra" thinks I do not know what a troll is. My dear, I have seen too many trolls NOT to know. And *she* thinks that to call what I am going through "persecution" is an insult to the persecuted. But I have not used that word. Someone else did.

Is it time for me to write the President of the college?  

UPDATE (2/8/18): Belmont Abbey (which is the college in question) responded in the person of Maggie Scott, who is the infamous "Ms. M.". The following message was left on my Facebook page. They are bringing lawyers into it now. Maggie Scott said:
Go right ahead. The president, the dean, the department chair, and just about everyone else have already seen your various posts because anytime "Belmont Abbey" is mentioned the posts pop up. So they are prepared for your whining about trolls and harassment,, and will be more than happy to respond to you--once they stop laughing.

Should you wish to contact my employer and complain about me, I will cheerfully provide you with the appropriate contact information. My employer is a civil attorney, so his reaction to whatever you choose to say is not likely to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Keep this going as long as you like--thus far we've had quite a bit of fun.
I am glad you are being entertained, Ms. M. And the other illustrious scions of Catholic learning. But there are many parents who are not laughing.

UPDATE (2/9/18):Here is a letter I wrote this morning to Goodreads, asking them to please reinstate my reviews that they took down. I feel bad for the people whose books I reviewed. Some of them are new young authors who need all the reviews they can get.
Dear Goodreads support,

You deleted my account. I do not mind my account being deleted but I feel sorry for those authors whose books I reviewed, who sent me copies of their books in exchange for my honest opinion. I ask that you restore those reviews, since those other authors are innocent of any alleged wrongdoing. I will happily never post on Goodreads again.

Please be aware that Simon and Ms M have bullied and harassed me on other social media sites, which is the reason for the blog post, here: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2017/12/trolls-on-internet-and-negative-reviews.html Simon has been harassing me for over ten years.

Meanwhile, I ask you to review the screenshots to discern whether such character assassination is part of the Goodreads ethic. I do not mind if they discuss the merits of my writing but they are making personal judgments about me.

And please be aware that Simon/Cantilever has attacked me personally on my reviews of other books, before he even reviewed my own works, such as here, where he accuses me of being "UnChristian": https://screenshots.firefox.com/pxjYkFcwEUygMw49/www.amazon.com
Elena Maria Vidal
UPDATE (2/11/18): More screenshots.



Goodreads  obviously does not protect their authors and "reviewers" are allowed to indulge in behavior worthy of high school bullies. It is sad to see teachers acting in such a juvenile manner. Their comments go way beyond the merits or demerits of the books.

UPDATE (2/13/18): Oh dear, it seems I have been mistaken. Ms M. is not, absolutely not, the "lady-friend" of Simon/Cantilever. It seems they have no connection whatsoever other than the pleasure of making sport of me online, me the Catholic homeschooling mother with literary pretensions. They got me kicked off Goodreads; Amazon will probably be next. Fine, I will just give up writing and start raising chickens in the backyard. Then I can sell the eggs from door to door, and make more money than selling books, I can tell you that.

UPDATE (2/13/18, evening): I have been receiving the most beautiful letters and notes of kindness from various readers and social media friends from around the world. Thank you, my friends. One mother told me how my books have encouraged her daughter to want to study history. And then yesterday I received a letter from a lady which really lifted my heart. The following is an excerpt:

Firstly, I'd like to say that I found your books & recommended them to my mother after looking at your blog some years ago; my mother is Catholic & a fan of historical novels, & she has said that your books are the best books she has ever read. She loves you. She adores your books & they're the only of her books she's ever recommended to me (because I'm not a fan of romance stories, which most historical fiction is, so she typically doesn't recommend them, but she says I must read your books because they are so good).

Thanks to your blog, I read the last tear-stained letter of Marie-Antoinette & learned about the last promises Louis had to consecrate the country to the Sacred Heart had he lived.

It was so important to me because I went to public school, which of course glorifies the French Revolution as "the Enlightenment." It's very poisonous, & I think the reason my generation are a bunch of Communists is because we're taught explicit hatred of God & God's people, & nihilism in public schools & higher education by our teachers. So it is not surprising to me to see a teacher in even a Catholic college that harasses someone for her devotion.

So, reading the truth of who this King & Queen were & what happened... was actually very significant to me. It was restorative in a very profound way, not only of history, but of fitting together the views of myself & God & His Church. Very significant. 

So, what you've done is very important & good.
One such letter is worth all the condemnation the world can give. She recommended some psalms to pray. From Psalm 67 of the Vulgate:
Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee from before his face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. And let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness. 
This Psalm is perfect for today, the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus.

UPDATE (2/14/18): A discussion on Amazon has been brought to my attention, HERE. It is about whether or not my books Trianon and Madame Royale are truly at the Bodleian and whether or not any academics have ever "examined" my books. I must respectfully cite my friend, author and historian Gareth Russell, who shared with me that he referred to my novel Trianon in his dissertation at Oxford University a few years ago. Gareth is the author of several books and plays, including the recent acclaimed biography of Catherine Howard, Young and Damned and Fair, in which I am mentioned in the acknowledgments. Gareth also is the one who told me that both Trianon and Madame Royale are to be found at Bodleian Libraries at Oxford. HERE are excerpts from his dissertation which he gave me permission to publish.

I was also more surprised than anyone else to find Trianon mentioned in a work about mother and daughter relationships, HERE. I have no idea why but I am glad my book was found useful. I discovered Madame Royale mentioned in Russia and Europe in the Nineteenth Century by Roy Bolton and Grigory Goldovsky, HERE, which is an honor indeed. So I just wanted to clarify the matter for those who think my novels belong with the Harlequins that there exist scholars who have thought otherwise. But honestly, I know of few other historical fiction novels that have undergone such scrutiny as if they were post-graduate theses. Share