Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Marie-Antoinette's Love for Louis XVI

With all the fervid speculations over Marie-Antoinette's relationship with Count Fersen, people forget that she saw herself first and foremost as the wife of Louis XVI, and mother of his children, the Enfants de France. There were many times she was witnessed expressing wifely affection and concern for him. Furthermore, Marie-Antoinette could have escaped without Louis and saved her life, but she refused to desert him. She sacrificed herself to remain with him, and that looks like love to me.

After the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, Louis XVI went to Paris to reconcile with his subjects. Marie-Antoinette dreaded that he would be killed. When he returned safely, a contemporary writer, Lemaire, described her reaction:
This princess, as virtuous as she was amiable, whom monsters later on accused of having never loved her husband, was absolutely in despair. As soon as she heard the King's carriage entering the Cour Royale she ran towards him holding the Dauphin in her arms, then breathless and almost fainting she fell into those of the King who was no less moved than she was. Holding out one hand to his children who covered it with kisses, with the other wiping the tears from the eyes of Marie-Antoinette and Madame Elisabeth, Louis XVI smiled again...he kept on repeating: "Happily no blood was shed, and I swear that not a drop of French blood will ever be shed on my orders."
~ Histoire de la Revolution Francaise (3 vol.) by M.H. Lemaire, 1816

Holy Fools

Terry Nelson reflects upon the Russian tradition of the Holy Fool.
According to Christian ascetic tradition, “foolishness” included consistent rejection of worldly cares and imitating Christ, who endured mockery and humiliation from the crowd - who even declared he must be insane. More deeply, the spiritual meaning of “foolishness” stems from the early ages of Christianity and was associated with the penitent’s rejection of ordinary social conventions that consisted of prevarication, hypocrisy, brutality and thirst for power, riches, and honor.

The hermit, St. Anthony the Great said the following concerning the end times: “There will come a time, when people will behave like madmen, and if they encounter any one who does not behave as they do, they will condemn him and say: “You are mad” - because he is not like them.”


Vigil of the Ascension

Let us live as if we were already There.
Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with Him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to Him? While in Heaven He is also with us; and we while on earth are with Him. He is here with us by His divinity, His power and His love. We cannot be be in heaven, as He is on earth, by divinity, but in Him, we can be there by love.
~ St. Augustine, Sermon for the Ascension Share

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Fersen Myth in Literature

Surfing the internet anyone can see that the Fersen myth is deeply entrenched in the public mind. This is due to major publishers yearly churning out sensational biographies and novels, which focus on the legend rather than on the facts, scouring letters and diaries for the slightest indication that Marie-Antoinette and Count Fersen may have slept together. At best, such books harbor the notion of a great and spiritual love between the Queen and the count, such as in Sena Jeter Naslund's Abundance. At worst, they are romance novels like Carolly Erickson's The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, which has the Queen going on a journey to Sweden with Axel von Fersen. It is a fabrication which should qualify that particular novel as fantasy rather than as historical fiction.

Excellent books by serious French historians, which attempt to look at the cold unromantic facts of the matter, such as Marie-Antoinette l'insoumise by Simone Bertière and Marie-Antoinette: Epouse de Louis XVI, mere de Louis XVII by Philippe Delorme, are not translated into English. Instead biographies such as Evelyn Lever's Marie-Antoinette, which focus on the possibility of a romance with Fersen, are the ones which find their way into American book stores. Older books like those by Hilaire Belloc, Desmond Seward, and Nesta Webster, all of which present clear evidence that there was little possibility of an affair, are not reprinted. However, Stefan Zweig's Freudian analysis is continually on the bookshelves. There is no great conspiracy here. Publishers know that stories of adulterous love affairs sell more books than do stories of chaste and faithful marriages. And so they give the public what they think they want.

Antonia Fraser's popular biography, like Evelyn Lever's, both admit that there is no solid evidence of an affair. Nevertheless, Lady Fraser gives as her reason for thinking that there was indeed a liaison the fact that it is human nature to give into passion. This may be her theory but it is not historical evidence.

Although Marie-Antoinette was always the subject of gossip and rumors, the myth of Axel von Fersen as her lover evolved after the deaths of both the count and the queen. According to Fersen’s biographer Francoise Kermina, the count himself carelessly sewed the seeds of the legend when once upon hearing an opera favored by the queen he sighed, “Ah, those memories….” In 1822 an Irishman named O’Meara published Napoleon in Exile in which he repeated gossip that had been rampant at Bonaparte’s court, about Fersen and the queen, which were attributed to the queen’s maid Madame Campan. The rumor was proved to be false by British historian John Wilson Croker, who in October 1822 wrote in the Quarterly Review that Madame Campan had not been present at court when certain allegations were said to have occurred.

For many years following, most historians and biographers, including Carlyle, the Goncourts, Imbert de Saint-Amand, de la Rocheterie, Bimbinet, Lenotre and de Nolhac did not take the Fersen story seriously and ignored it. When the letters of the queen and Count Fersen were published by his great nephew Baron de Klinckostrom in the late nineteenth century, they proved the nature of the queen and Fersen’s relationship to be principally a diplomatic one.

In certain of the letters, mainly those from the queen to Fersen, passages have been erased and are indicated by rows of dots in the printed text. The Coursacs, Webster, and Delorme believe that Fersen erased certain passages himself. The erasures of Fersen were most likely sensitive diplomatic issues, not declarations of love, as authors such as Lever have claimed. They concealed allusions to the queen’s disagreements with her brothers-in-law Artois and Provence, or references to the Duc d’Orleans and other revolutionaries, or even mentions of spies or persons whose families would have been compromised had the letters fallen into the wrong hands. We do not know.

In 1907 a certain Monsieur Lucien Maury published in Revue Bleue what he claimed to be a fragment of a love letter of the queen to Fersen. Lever quotes it in her biography: “Tell me to whom I should send my letters to you, for I cannot live without that. Farewell most loved and most loving of men. I embrace you with all my heart." The letter had no signature, was not in the queen’s handwriting, only in the cipher she used, jotted down by Fersen in cipher. There is no proof it was from the queen but could have been from one of the many ladies with whom Fersen dallied over the years. And yet Lever includes this fragment among verified letters of the queen, giving the impression that it is evidence of a great love. Webster, however, dismissed it.

Many authors scour Fersen's diary for every and any hint of his love for the Marie-Antoinette. While he may have loved the queen on some level, his diary, as pointed out by Francoise Kermina, shows him to be a rather shallow person. The Queen actually is mentioned very little compared to his accounts of his various adventures with many other women, especially his beloved Eleonore Sullivan, the lady with whom he was having an affair all the while the queen was suffering in the Tuileries and in prison.

In the 1930’s Alma Soderhjelm published the letters of Count Fersen to his sister Sophie, hoping to prove from those letters that the Count and the queen had had a love affair. It is upon Soderhjelm’s book that most of the modern romances about Marie-Antoinette are based. Now in the spring of 1790, Fersen was having his passionate affair with Eleonore. She was kept bya certain Monsieur Crawford in an elegant house in Paris, where she had a maid named Josephine, and a hideaway for Fersen in the attic. Later authors would surmise that when Fersen mentioned “Josephine” in his letters, it was really a code name for Marie-Antoinette. While it is possible that Fersen may have at times used that nickname to refer to the Queen in his secret diplomatic correspondences, one must take into account the fact that in other letters Fersen gave “Josephine” menial instructions about a stove; in such a case he was more than likely referring to Mrs. Sullivan’s maid and the cold room in the attic.

Likewise, the woman Fersen writes ardently about to his sister at this time, who is honored by Sophie’s attentions, is most likely Mrs. Sullivan, whom he refers to as “El” or “elle.” Some try to make the queen the subject of his ecstatic passages, but why would the queen of France, in the midst of so many political intrigues, threatened by death, have wanted to ingratiate herself to Fersen’s sister? "Elle” (capitalized), however, is what Fersen uses when referring reverently to the queen, la Reine, whom he usually mentions in conjunction with the King. Baron Klinckowstrom quotes Fersen’s letter to his father in Feb 1791, in which he writes of his service to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette: “I am attached to the King and the Queen and I owe it to them for the kindness they showed me when they were able, and I should be vile and ungrateful if I deserted them now that they can do nothing for me….” (see Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette During the Revolution)

The fact that Fersen was not mentioned at all at Marie-Antoinette's trial by her enemies, who were looking for anything to pin on her, except for his role in the royal escape, is quite telling. Instead, they trumped up the accusation of incest, which shows how desperate they were for charges against her, no matter how far-fetched. A queen has few secrets; her foes would have discovered a liaison, if one had existed.

There was a great nobility in Count Fersen, especially in his efforts to save the royal family. However, to make his friendship with Marie-Antoinette into a great and lofty romance is to ignore his reality and hers. For while Fersen was with his Eleonore, the Queen of France was losing her husband, from whom she refused to be parted even to save her life. She had to watch her children and sister-in-law being terrorized, as she herself had to prepare to die. For something much more powerful and glorious was going on than a love affair; it is called martyrdom. Share

Buckley Revisited

Father George Rutler sets the record straight on the late William F. Buckley.
It annoyed him to be thought arbitrary in religion. The line attributed to him, "Mater, Si; Magistra, No" was not his, and while he even published in a book his difficulties with some doctrines, he proved Newman's point that a thousand difficulties do not make one doubt. By his own admission, the Lourdes pilgrim never knew one moment of lost faith and was precise in moral obedience, as when he wanted to do exactly the right thing about extraordinary care when Pat was dying.


Rogation Days

Scott Richert explains what they are, since most of us have no idea. Rogation Days are one of those many things that the Second Vatican Council did not abolish but made optional, which then, for some reason, led to them being completely forgotten. Share

The Future of Catholic Fiction

I stumbled upon this insightful article, followed by a lengthy, lofty (and at times quite hilarious) discussion about Catholic novels. What is a Catholic novel, anyway? I had no idea that the subject was so fraught with complications, and am relieved to be a lowly writer of historical fiction. I was glad to see mention of David Athey's new novel Danny Gospel, which I am presently reading and enjoying very much. Share

Monday, April 28, 2008

Atonement (2007)

The destruction caused by a single false accusation is the theme of the 2007 film Atonement, starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, based on the novel by Ian McEwan. A family tragedy, occurring one summer night at an English country estate, spirals into the horrors of World War II, almost as if the private debacle leads to the international conflagration. Of course it does not, but the film clarifies the message that personal sins have resounding consequences from which the innocent suffer.

The lie which separates young lovers Robbie (McAvoy) and Cecilia (Knightley) is precipitated by a variety of circumstances which could have been prevented. For one thing, the youngsters of the household, those visiting and those in residence, seemingly receive little supervision. If someone had been watching the twins, it would not have been so easy for them to run away. And why were two young girls like Briony and Lola permitted to run through the woods alone in the dark? Something terrible was bound to happen.

Of course, if Robbie and Cecilia had chosen to fornicate in a pantry or a closet rather than right there in the library, especially in a house full of guests and children and servants, much harm would have been avoided. Briony’s thirteen year old, morbid imagination is blamed for making so much of it. No doubt there are plenty of old married women who would be startled if they happened upon two people copulating in the book shelves. Glimpsing Lola being raped in the woods a few hours later was too much for the sensitive and sheltered girl, who then vents her turmoil upon poor Robbie.

In fact, Briony is made into quite the villainess although she is only a child, a bright child with an overactive imagination, left to her own devices. We hear constantly about “Catholic guilt;” perhaps Protestant guilt is far worse. If Briony had been able receive some spiritual direction from a confessor, hopefully she would have been told at some point to clear Robbie’s name, freeing herself from the consuming self-reproach. As she matures it becomes clearer to her that she had borne false witness, that she had misunderstood what she had seen in the woods. The deep implications of her lie sink into her soul so that she is prevented from blossoming as a woman, and remains even into old age an adolescent with a deer-in-the-headlights expression. She embraces the vocation of nursing out of guilt rather than from the desire to heal. She deprives herself of love, existing in the dream of Robbie and Cecilia’s thwarted romance. She is as much a victim of the crime as they are.

Subtly crafted, with every scene a work of art, the film flows from the chintz-draped manor house with its lush gardens to the blistering shores of Dunkirk. Keira Knightley must be the most emaciated actress who ever lived, but her diction is lovely and dark eyes, expressive. What a talented actor James McAvoy is, although I usually find him homely; in Atonement he is quite handsome. The costumes are perfection; the musical score hauntingly punctuated with the clicking of Briony’s typewriter. Or is it Robbie’s typewriter? The lewd note which he mistakenly sends to Cecila is a major disaster, especially in the wrong hands. Private pecadilloes and weaknesses are pebbles precipitating an avalanche in which all is lost. Share

St. Thérèse’s First Communion

Aeternus has a post on one of the greatest saints of modern times and the beautiful day of her First Holy Communion. Share

Father Faber on True Devotion

Don Marco had a couple of posts about St. Louis Grignion de Montfort's True Devotion and Father Faber's translation. Fr. Faber says in the introduction:

Jesus is obscured because Mary is kept in the background. Thousands of souls perish because Mary is withheld from them. It is the miserable, unworthy shadow which we call our devotion to the Blessed Virgin that is the cause of all these wants and blights, these evils and omissions and declines. Yet, if we are to believe the revelations of the saints, God is pressing for a greater, a wider, a stronger, quite another devotion to His Blessed Mother. I cannot think of a higher work or a broader vocation for anyone than the simple spreading of this peculiar devotion of the Venerable Grignion De Montfort.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Boris Godunov

When I first met my husband in the early 90's, he had a cassette tape with the coronation scene from Moussorgsky's Boris Godunov on one side, and Delibes' Coppélia on the other. Such an intriguing combination not only convinced me to marry him, but introduced me to some amazing music. Boris Godunov is based on a play by Pushkin about the tumultuous life of a Russian tsar who reigned from 1598 to 1605. Boris Godunov, descended from an old Tatar family, seized the throne from a feeble-minded ruler, and tried to hold Russia together in the dark years after the dark reign of Ivan the Terrible. The music and drama of Mussorgsky's opera captures the turmoil, intrigue, and violence of the era, as well as the mystical destiny of Holy Russia, always bleeding, always in search of redemption. According to World of Opera:
Boris Godunov is one of several 19th-century Russian operas that tackle complex, historical themes. Mussorgky's own Khovanschina is another, along with Borodin's Prince Igor and Glinka's A Life for the Czar. But Boris is the only one that still has a consistent place in the repertory – perhaps because it's far more than a historical drama.

In many ways, the opera is a sort of musical psychoanalysis — with more than one subject. The title character is one of them. Few operas pry more deeply into any single character's private emotions. The opera also presents a psychological portrait of the Russian people, which comes through in Mussorgsky's extensive and powerful use of choruses. The people are also represented by the Holy Fool – a unique and eerie character who turns up in the final act, and is left on stage alone at the opera's bleak conclusion.

Boris is a tsar particularly haunted by guilt; the score reveals his inner anguish which power and success cannot sooth. He eventually falls into madness. Considered to be the most majestic of Russian operas, regarded as revolutionary in its day, Boris Godunov explores the human conscience which, although it may sleep, never gives peace to those who betray it.


The Waters of the Seine

Historical novelist Catherine Delors has an article on the Seine River in eighteenth century Paris.
The Seine River was everything to Paris. Barges brought essential merchandises from distant provinces. Often they went no further than in Paris, to be dismantled in the spot and sold as wood. One embankment specialized in the commerce of wheat, another was dedicated to the wine trade. The embankments were not the paved, clean ones we see now. At the time, they were muddy or sandy, depending on the location. Indeed the Roman name of the city, Lutetia, is said to be derived from the Latin lutum, “mud.”


Terry Nelson discusses the year of Revolution.
In 1968 both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Race riots broke out in cities across the country, while anti-war protests increased, and Women’s liberation groups were organizing and coming to power. I also think 1968 was a defining moment for the sexual revolution we now take for granted. I’ll be posting on 1968 at this blog and my other blogs once in awhile - it is amazing how much happened in that year, how we have changed, and yet how much we have remained the same.Did you know 1968 is the year Virginia Slims was introduced - a cigarette that celebrated the modern woman with the phrase, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”? It was also the year the pantsuit came out for women. In fact, Nan Kempner, a NY socialite was not permitted to enter a posh restaurant in NYC because she was wearing an evening pantsuit. Undaunted, she removed the trousers and entered the restaurant wearing the elongated coat as a dress. The rules quickly changed after that.

There Was a Man

Mary Jo Anderson writes about Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. of Georgetown University. Share

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Queen Guinevere

The legend of King Arthur's queen Guinevere and her fatal love for the knight Sir Lancelot was extremely popular in the Middle Ages when most people had arranged marriages, even peasants. Although the Cathar-influenced troubadour culture in the south of France tended to glorify love outside of marriage, the basic plot of the legend is that adulterous romance has heavy consequences. The dalliance of Guinevere and Lancelot led to the destruction of Camelot and ruined many people's lives. According to the old legends, both Lancelot and Guinevere entered monasteries and ended their days in prayer and repentance.

The story was taken up by subsequent generations. Although Tennyson captures the intoxication of the initial infatuation in one of his poems, he also shows the many tears and repentance after disaster has overtaken the lovers and the kingdom.

Here is an excerpt from Tennyson's "Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere:"
Then, in the boyhood of the year,
Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere
Rode thro' the coverts of the deer,
With blissful treble ringing clear.
She seem'd a part of joyous Spring;
A gown of grass-green silk she wore,
Buckled with golden clasps before;
A light-green tuft of plumes she bore
Closed in a golden ring.

Here is Tennyson's rendition of the queen's repentance.

Our Lady of Good Counsel

Thank you, Our Lady of Good Counsel, for many favors received. Terry has a beautiful meditation on this miraculous picture of the Holy Mother of God. Share

Good Legislation

Feminine Genius has a post about the attempt to ban pornography on military bases. Share

Friday, April 25, 2008


When Abundance: A Novel of Marie-Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund first debuted in October 2006, it was difficult for readers of Trianon not to make comparisons. The two novels, however, should not be compared, since Abundance is an epic approach to Marie-Antoinette’s life, entirely in the diary/memoir format. Trianon, on the other hand, focuses upon how each member of the royal family faces death and loss, as well as the underlying spiritual struggles in the country, in the court and in the hearts of the protagonists.

is told from several points of view, not just from the queen's, so that the reader can get a sense of what was going on in politics, in Paris, in the prison, etc. It is difficult to limit oneself just to Marie-Antoinette’s perspective, although Victoria Holt did it masterfully. In Abundance, Marie-Antoinette comes across as intensely self-absorbed and introspective, albeit sweet and loving.

I did think it interesting how Dr. Naslund chose, as I did in Trianon, to use the passing on of a rose as a symbol of the relationship between Marie-Antoinette and her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth. The author of Abundance likewise constructed a scene of the queen being painted by Madame Vigée-Le Brun, which is how Trianon begins. In Trianon, it was intended as a way to convey to the reader that the story about to unfold was a living portrait of the queen, beginning with surface qualities but journeying into the depths of the soul. Dr. Naslund’s novel has a much different emphasis. There are some graphic erotic episodes which, of course, Trianon does not have, since I wanted it to be accessible to young readers.

I admire very much that Dr. Naslund did not give into the temptation to portray the queen as having a sexual affair with Count Fersen. She obviously did her homework and found that there is no proof a liaison. She depicts Marie-Antoinette as having a platonic love for the Count, never consummated, with the queen always putting her husband and children first. I did think it inaccurate to have Marie-Antoinette wrapped in Fersen fantasies while awaiting death, when from the queen’s own hand we know that she was preoccupied with the torments her little son was enduring, as well as with the misery of the other members of her family.

For that matter, even before the dark days of the Revolution, Marie-Antoinette’s letters contain barely a mention of Fersen. Rather, she is full of advice on matters of health, preoccupied with her husband, her children, her adopted children and the Polignac family. During the Revolution she was taken up with politics. When she did write to the Count, it was because of the dire needs of her family; Fersen was one of the only people able to help. All in all, she was an outgoing lady and, although she enjoyed her hours of solitude, she was not always given to deep reflection. The insistence of authors to write novels about her in the introspective diary format is becoming old hat.

Although the Marie-Antoinette of Abundance is a lovely, chaste soul, she is an insipid one. Her personality does not expand and rise to the heights of heroism and martyrdom as the testimony of her actual letters bears witness that she did. She is shown as sweet but clueless; we know from her private correspondence that although Marie-Antoinette was sweet she was not saccharine and she was anything but clueless.

Nevertheless, I commend Dr. Naslund for her efforts and for her attempts at an honest rather than a sensationalist portrait of the Queen of France. The novel is loaded with details about life at Versailles, and with actual portions of Marie-Antoinette's letters. Those interested in the ancien-regime can glean a great deal of information from this book. Share

American Heiresses

Edwardian Promenade has a delightful and informative article about how wealthy American women have long tried to snare European aristocratic husbands in order to gain a noble title.
Between the years 1870 and 1914, hundreds of American heiresses flooded the shores of Continental Europe. To this day, their influence (and lineage) can be traced through many noble European households, and even some royal ones (Princess Diana was descended from New York heiress Frances Work and the mediatized House of Croÿ is lead by the grandson of an American heiress). Despite protestations to the contrary, Americans have always been fascinated by titles, whether royal or noble, and prior to the massive influx of American girls in the late Victorian era, there was a little wave of Anglo-American matches in the colonial and Federal eras (1780s-1830s). In 1798, the governor of Pennsylvania married the Marquess de Casa Irujo, the Spanish minister to the United States, and John Jay, the first US Chief Justice, had two granddaughters who married successively, the 6th Viscount Exmouth. Three Caton granddaughters, descendants of a co-signer of the Declaration of Independence, married the 7th Duke of Leeds, the 8th Baron Stafford, and the 1st Marquess Wellesley, brother of the Iron Duke, and the first royal-American match was made between Betsey Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte, future King of Westphalia.
The Caton girls were the granddaughters of Maryland patriot Charles Carroll of Carrollton. It amuses me how revolutionaries like the Bonapartes also snapped up royal and aristocratic titles, only a few years after such antiquities had been supposedly abolished in France. But poor Elizabeth Patterson, she was not good enough for them! Share

From Russia With Love

John Laughland describes life in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Ana Braga-Henebry is rediscovering the classics of Russian literature. I have always thought that there is no tragedy quite like a Russian tragedy. Share

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mystery of the Martello Tower

Next month will see the American debut of the children's novel The Mystery of the Martello Tower by Canadian writer Jennifer Lanthier. Jennifer is my cousin; our grandmothers were sisters in a large Irish-Canadian family. Almost every summer while I was growing up my parents would make the eight hour drive from our home in Maryland to Ontario. My father's relatives had some cottages at a lake, close to the old family homestead. There we would visit with various aunts, uncles and cousins. My siblings and I always looked forward to spending time with those distant cousins who were close to us in age. Although there were some things about which we disagreed (and still do) the similarities and shared interests outweighed the differences. We found our cousins to be bright and creative; overall we had more in common with them than we did with many of our peers in school. Reading Jennifer's book, which is about a group of cousins who have a summer adventure, brought back many past summers to me so that I laughed and cried.

The Mystery of the Martello Tower tells of a sister and brother in modern times who embark on an odyssey rich in discovery and mischief. There are layers of mystery which young Hazel and Ned must uncover, from an international art theft scandal to the enigmas of their own past. I was reminded a little of old fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel, in which children would find themselves in a desperate situation but escape through their wits and ingenuity. Hazel and Ned leave the big city, where they are being raised by a single parent in rather isolated circumstances. They journey to the region of the Thousand Islands and encounter a lively extended family. The bringing together of the long lost relatives is the catalyst for mysteries being solved, as well as for the healing of old wounds and memories.

The characters spring to life in the first few paragraphs as the story moves rapidly along into danger and intrigue. The author is able to deftly see the world from a youthful point of view, conveying the fears, the hopes and the boundless energy of that brief time in life. Recommended for ages ten through fourteen, it is a grand book to bring along on a summer adventure. Share

Pope Benedict and the Scandal

Here is an article which has a balanced approach to a sad topic which weighs on the hearts of all Catholics. Share

A Pilgrimage to Paray-le-Monial

Christine has a marvelous photo essay with commentary on the Burgundian pilgrimage site. My husband and I visited the charming town, remarkably clean and friendly, in 1999. That September we went to Paris for a few days, then took the train down to Lourdes, then to Toulouse. We rented a car in Toulouse and drove north through eastern France. After a misadventure in Le-Puy-en-Velay in the beautiful mountains of Auvergne, we finally made it to Burgundy. Each town we passed was more interesting than the one before but, since we were trying to catch a plane in Paris, we could only stop in a few places. Paray-le-Monial was a top priority. I am so glad we stopped there, and would like to have lingered. Perhaps someday. Share

Is Marxism Dead?

I hope so, although I keep running into people (in other regions) who claim to be Marxists. I think that the Marxist view of history in terms of a class struggle has colored a great many modern perspectives, probably more than most of us are aware of. Vox Nova has an article which explores such issues. I do not know how dead Marxism is, but it definitely has failed. Share

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Queen Louise, the "Beautiful Enemy"

Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of Prussia, became a Protestant icon to the foes of Napoleon Bonaparte, even as Marie-Thérèse of France was the Catholic icon. According to Susan Nagel in Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror, Louise and Marie-Thérèse were friends, their mothers having been raised together. Louise's mother, Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt, who died when Louise was a small girl, corresponded with Queen Marie-Antoinette, so that the two girls felt a certain kinship. Both Louise and Marie-Thérèse were among the few people who did not feel the need to cower before Bonaparte and his army; each made a heroic stand. Napoleon referred to Queen Louise as his "beautiful enemy." He tried to ruin her prestige by destroying her reputation but succeeded only in making the Queen more beloved by her people.

The painter Madame Vigée-Lebrun described Queen Louise as only an artist could:
But here my pen must remain powerless for it cannot convey the impression
Art Page 56
that my first meeting with the Princess made upon me. Her charming and heavenly face shone with an expression of gentle virtue and she possessed the finest and most regular features....She was in deep mourning and wore a crown made with spikes of jet which, far from unbecoming, gave her palid cheeks a certain radiance.
After her untimely death in 1810 at the age of thirty-four, Queen Louise became a romantic figure in the century that followed. She was painted posthumously many times, her portrait appearing even on china. The legacy of Queen Louise, however, is not her physical beauty but her refusal to give in to fear. She learned that not being afraid is half the battle; her infectious courage gave heart to a nation.

St. George's Day

Fr. Mark has a beautiful post on the martyr St. George.

Saint George is venerated with a special cultus in Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, England, Georgia, Greece, India, Italy, Lebanon, and Russia. Among the Proper Offices for Matins of the feast of Saint George the Martyr one finds several "dragon" responsories drawn from the Apocalypse of Saint John. Think what you will of Saint George and the dragon, I find it salutary to recall the old legend. We are all, in one way or another, locked in spiritual combat with the ancient dragon, our hateful foe. (Read more.)

Fr. Blake
has some inspiring words as well.

I love saints like St George, whose true story is lost in myth. In both stories George becomes a Christian "everyman". The first legend reminds us that despite every attempt to overcome him by God's grace George endures and survives all, and even in death is victorious. The second story draws on apocalyptic imagery, the dragon is the symbol of evil, the power of sin, but here it is to be contrasted with the pure virgin. I am reminded of St Athanasius' struggle for twenty years in the tomb against demons. In all of us there is the pure virgin and the dragon.George, here takes on the attributes of St Michael (Michael means "Who is like God"), in his struggle he overcomes evil which then becomes subject to purity.
(Artwork St George and the Dragon by Sydney Meteyard) Share

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What Did the Pope Hope to Accomplish?

Scott Richert looks back at the amazing week that was. The Holy Father's words to us will be fruit for pondering and prayer for many months ahead, if it is even humanly possible to digest it all. Scott also provides an excellent photo gallery of Pope Benedict's visit. Share

Sir Walter Scott and Religion

Roman Christendom has an interesting post about the great Scottish author. Share

Mary Surratt

Mary Jenkins Surratt was the first woman in American history ever to be executed by the federal government. She was accused of participating in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln because her son and one of her tenants were marginally involved. Mary was condemned by a military tribunal on flimsy evidence, but then the tribunal did not require as much evidence as a civilian court.

Mary was a Catholic and a Marylander, educated at a young ladies' boarding school in Virginia. She married a much older man and they raised a family, ran a tobacco plantation, with a tavern and a grist-mill on the side. Although Maryland was nominally part of the Union, many Marylanders were sympathetic to the Confederacy.

Mary was arrested in April, 1865 and imprisoned in inhumane conditions. She was guarded at all hours by four men who kept her heavily manacled, with a canvas bag over her head. Even if she was guilty beyond all doubt, she should not have been treated that way. She never ceased to protest her innocence and after being condemned to death by hanging she spent the last few hours of her life in the company of a priest. Anti-Catholic sentiment being strong, it was thought by many that Lincoln's murder was the result of a papal conspiracy; Mary, a devout Catholic, was an obvious scapegoat. Her last words as she died were "Don't let me fall!" She was 42 years old. Share

Monday, April 21, 2008

Marie-Antoinette and Style

Author Caroline Weber offers some interesting insights into Marie-Antoinette's clever use of fashion in this article. Here is an excerpt:

Needless to say, the use of clothing to enhance one’s symbolic power had been an effective political tactic at least since the days of Louis XIV. As historians from Voltaire to Louis Marin have rightly emphasized, the Sun King’s thoughtful and extravagant manipulations of costume did much to bolster his absolutist grip on an unruly nation. In this context, it may not be incidental that while still a teen-ager, Marie Antoinette declared Louis XIV her favorite French king—“because he is so great,” she is said to have informed her tutor, the Abbé de Vermond. In fact it is telling that, shortly after her accession, when she was, as she admitted to her brother Joseph II, anxious to cultivate “the appearance of credit” she enjoyed with her newly crowned husband, Marie Antoinette commissioned Louis-Auguste Brun to paint her portrait “riding like a man.” Brun complied, and depicted the young consort heroically straddling a rearing steed, outfitted in shocking male breeches and riding habit. Unconventional in the annals of royal Frenchwomen’s equestrian portraiture (in which subjects tended to strike a ladylike, sidesaddle pose), the Brun painting bears a startling resemblance to the great representations of Louis XIV on horseback. I cannot think of a single commentator who has dismissed the Sun King’s strategically deployed equestrian posturing as that of an immature youth endeavoring “to be thought cool.” Yet Marie Antoinette’s recourse to a similar iconographic strategy somehow fails to register—with the likes of Coppola and Thurman—as anything but garden-variety teenage rebellion, notwithstanding the fact that the young queen, still childless, had good cause for wishing to appear untouchable and strong.


Amazing and Sacred

Miss Kelly describes what it was like to be in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium for the Pope's Mass.

Here is the Pope's farewell address at the airport. (Via Rorate Caeli) Of his visit to Ground Zero, Pope Benedict said:
My visit this morning to Ground Zero will remain firmly etched in my memory, as I continue to pray for those who died and for all who suffer in consequence of the tragedy that occurred there in 2001. For all the people of America, and indeed throughout the world, I pray that the future will bring increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Pope's Mass

The Holy Father's Mass at Yankee Stadium today was truly a glorious experience to watch, even on television. The New Liturgical Movement has pictures. And seeing the Pope at Ground Zero is something we are still absorbing. Share

The Holy Father to Young People

Fr. Mark offers some reflections on Pope Benedict's powerful words. Here are thoughts on the beautiful Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral as well. And Father Mark has a quote from the Pope's writings:
A Church which only makes use of 'utility music' has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. She too becomes ineffectual. For her mission is a far higher one. As the Old Testament speaks of the Temple, the Church is to be the place of 'glory', and as such, too, the place where mankind's cry of distress is brought to the ear of God.The Church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level; she must arouse the voice of the cosmos and, by glorifying the Creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable, and beloved.
~Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger

Blessed Kateri

Her cause for canonization is finally going forward. (Via The Western Confucian) Share

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Queen Marie Leszczynska

Marie Leszczynska (1703-1768) was the queen of Louis XV, and the grandmother of Louis XVI. She was the last Queen of France before Marie-Antoinette. According to Jean Chalon, the author of Chère Marie-Antoinette, Queen Marie tightened up the rigorous court etiquette that Marie-Antoinette later relaxed because it was so suffocating. The daughter of a dethroned monarch and wife of a blatantly unfaithful husband probably needed the highly ritualized pomp to boost her morale and her rank more than did the "daughter of the Caesars." Yes, Marie Lesczynska's father was the dethroned king of Poland and her early life was complicated by upheaval and exile. Yet for this very reason, she was chosen to be the bride of the teenage Louis XV, because she had no political entanglements at all. Her father Stanislaus Leszczynski was delighted when asked for his daughter's hand, as is related here:
A messenger arrives from Versailles with a letter for Stanislaus. Shock! Delight! He rushes to where his wife and daughter sit talking and working at their needle-crafts.
"Down on our knees in thanks to God!"
"Are you restored to the Polish throne?"
"Heaven is still more gracious: you are queen of France."
They embraced with tears, and knelt to thank God for having delivered them from their trials.
At age 22 Marie married the 16 year old king. She was pretty and very devout. They were happy and in love for about a decade; the queen gave birth to ten children. Later, she was blamed for throwing Louis XV out of bed on certain holy days, but that may be just gossip. Perhaps she had a health problem, who knows? At any rate, Louis began a career as a womanizer, his most famous mistress being Madame de Pompadour, who ruled France at his side.

Queen Marie quietly devoted herself to her faith and her family. Courtiers mocked her Polish ways and called her La Polonaise even as later they would call Marie-Antoinette L'Autrichienne. All of Marie's children were as religious as she was; her youngest daughter Madame Louise became a Carmelite nun and a Blessed of the Church. Some of her grandchildren were quite pious as well, especially Louis XVI, Madame Clothilde, and Madame Elisabeth. Clothilde was declared a Venerable and Louis XVI and Madame Elisabeth can be regarded as martyrs in that they would not surrender their religious principles. When she died in 1768, Louis XV sincerely mourned the mother of his children, and we hope he regretted causing her such pain with his infidelities.

The Pope's Visit

I believe the Holy Father's visit to be an occasion of grace for our country. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to watch every minute of it, and have found every bit to be inspiring. Some of the music at the outdoor Mass in Washington, DC was not entirely suitable but it was a magnificent event nevertheless.

Terry Nelson reflects on the dangers of being overcritical. There are legitmiate criticisms of anything which can be voiced with charity and reason. However, to be consumed by a critical spirit can poison the soul. It can blind the soul with bitterness so that even the most innocent persons and events are viewed with contempt. I have seen such contempt of others too often in so-called traditional circles.

Meanwhile, we are watching the papal Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral. The music is beautiful; they are using a lot of Latin. How splendid to see the great cathedral overflowing with people! Share

The State as Kidnapper

William Norman Grigg on the El Dorado, Texas fiasco. (Via LRC) Share

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blessed Marie of the Incarnation

Today is the feast of Blessed Marie of the Incarnation, Barbe Acarie (1566-1618). She was a happily married wife and mother, very well-off. Her husband did not like it that she was reading romance novels all day and encouraged her to read spiritual books instead. She became very devout and was instrumental in bringing the Discalced Carmelite Nuns into France. She later became a widow and then a nun herself. She was a Carmelite lay sister and humbly performed all the menial tasks of the monastery, in spite of her past privileged life. Share

Frederick Visitation to be Sold

The Frederick Visitation is going to be sold. My husband and I were blessed to have been married in the chapel. For over a hundred years, the Academy educated many young girls, forming them in the Catholic faith and molding them into Christian ladies. But all things are passing.... Share

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Queen's Sacrifice

In the early spring of 1793, after her husband's murder, Marie-Antoinette was given an opportunity to escape from the Temple prison. Monsieur Jarjayes and the guard Toulan had a plan for her to get away, but she declined to leave her children and sister-in-law, although she knew that to stay meant her probable death.

The following is a passage from the biography by Charles Duke Yonge:
But such a flight was forbidden alike by Marie Antoinette's sense of duty and by her sense of honor, if indeed the two were ever separated in her mind. Honor forbade her to desert her companions in misery, whose danger might even be increased by the rage of her jailers, exasperated at her escape. Duty to her boy forbade it still more emphatically. As his guardian, she ought not to leave him; as his mother, she could not. And her renunciation of the whole design was conveyed to M. Jarjayes in a letter which did honor alike to both by the noble gratitude which it expressed, and which was long cherished by his heirs as one of their most precious possessions, till it was destroyed, with many another valuable record, when Paris a second time fell under the rule of wretches scarcely less detestable than the Jacobins whom they imitated.[4] It was written by stealth, with a pencil; but no difficulties or hurry, as no acuteness of disappointment or depth of distress, could rob Marie Antoinette of her desire to confer pleasure on others, or of her inimitable gracefulness of expression. Thus she wrote: "We have had a pleasant dream, that is all. I have gained much by still finding, on this occasion, a new proof of your entire devotion to me. My confidence in you is boundless. And on all occasions you will always find strength of mind and courage in me. But the interest of my son is my sole guide; and, whatever happiness I might find in being out of this place, I can not consent to separate myself from him. In what remains, I thoroughly recognize your attachment to me in all that you said to me yesterday. Rely upon it that I feel the kindness and the force of your arguments as far as my own interest is concerned, and that I feel that the opportunity can not recur. But I could enjoy nothing if I were to leave my children; and this idea prevents me from even regretting my decision.[5]" And to Toulan she said that "her sole desire was to be reunited to her husband whenever Heaven should decide that her life was no longer necessary to her children."

~from Charles Duke Yonge's The Life of Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, 1876

The Pope's Words to the American Bishops

The Vespers service in the crypt of the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was stirring to watch. My husband and I went there the day after we were married in 1996, for the Latin Mass celebrated by Don Marco. It was moving to see Pope Benedict in a place which is so personally special to us. I did not catch every word that the Holy Father said and so am glad that Zenit provides the full text. I think everything he said is worth some quiet pondering. This is what he said about prayer:
Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon us from every side. Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the Eucharistic celebration (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 66). Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15). Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that the whole of our day is sanctified and it continually reminds us of the need to remain focused on doing God's work, however many pressures and distractions may arise from the task at hand. Thus our devotion helps us to speak and act in persona Christi, to teach, govern and sanctify the faithful in the name of Jesus, to bring his reconciliation, his healing and his love to all his beloved brothers and sisters. This radical configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd, lies at the heart of our pastoral ministry, and if we open ourselves through prayer to the power of the Spirit, he will give us the gifts we need to carry out our daunting task, so that we need never "be anxious how to speak or what to say" (Mt 10:19).


Andrew Cusack provides some reflections and photos on the new film Valkyrie, which is about the plot of Count von Stauffenberg to overthrow Hitler. Share

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One Year Ago

This day last year my cousin's husband was shot at Virginia Tech. He survived by the grace of God. Thanks to everyone who prayed.

UPDATE. Part II of article. Share

Pope Watch

The Washington Post is covering this historic event very thoroughly.

The Amercian Conservative discusses the audacity of the Pope.
Ratzinger is thought to have chosen his papal name in honor of St. Benedict, the founder of the monastic order that re-energized the evangelization of Europe. Benedict XVI has visited Poland, Germany, France, Turkey, and rapidly modernizing Brazil. In addition to his venture in America, he will also go to Australia in 2008. It is clear that Pope Benedict’s priority is to fight the growing secularism of the developed world. And to do that, he needs America’s loyal army of Christian soldiers, both Catholic and Protestant.

That said, American religiosity is very far from conforming to what the pope would consider the Christian ideal. A recent Pew survey found that Americans switch religion almost as readily as they move home. Most worryingly for Rome, one in every ten U.S. citizens is a lapsed Catholic. Among those who do practice, there is an energetic and devout core of faithful followers, yet many self-described Catholics make little attempt to live their lives according to the teachings of their Church. Benedict XVI naturally finds this lax approach to the faith disturbing. Before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger said that he would rather the Church was a smaller community of devout believers than a large mass of vague and uncommitted Christians.

Yet Benedict’s message to Americans will not be pessimistic. This is a pope whose last encyclical was entitled Saved in Hope. And it is quite possible that he thinks of America, despite all its flaws and foreign policy failings, as still the last best hope of earth.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Darkest Pennsylvania

Yes, we're all bitter here, clinging to our guns and our religion. Pat Buchanan explains. (Via A Conservative Blog for Peace) Share

Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror

Marie-Thérèse: Child of Terror by Susan Nagel is a greatly anticipated biography which provides an overview of the turbulent life of the courageous daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Rare anecdotes and little-known incidents are pulled together into one volume to make for a consuming read. I would especially recommend it to the readers of the novel Madame Royale since it fills in many gaps which the novel, being a novel, did not cover. The Duchesse d'Angoulême, who was in looks and personality a total blending of both parents, is portrayed as emerging from a tragic situation to become one of the most powerful women in Europe. The reader shares in her triumphs, in her falls, in her heartbreaks.

I had reservations when first hearing that the new biography covered the Dark Countess legend, but since the story that Madame Royale was switched with another girl is all over websites and discussions boards, the author really had no other choice but to deal with it. Nagel presents the mystery of the Dark Countess and Dark Count (yes, there was a “Dark Count,” too) in a way that is intriguing, while making it clear that Madame Royale and the Duchesse d'Angoulême were unquestionably the same person. (Not that any doubt ever crossed my mind.)

I also must admit that in the opening chapters of the book I was a bit put off by the insinuations that Louis XVI had an affair with Madame de Polignac, Marie-Antoinette’s best friend. Not in any biographies of either Louis or Antoinette have I ever come across such an assertion, which includes Louis’ fathering of little Jules. Of course, I have not read everything and nothing is outside the realm of possibility, I suppose. It is known that Louis was close to Madame de Polignac and wrote her many letters, bestowing marks of honor upon her that he showed to no other lady. As outrageous as an allegation of an affair may be to those who are familiar with Louis XVI’s life, at least it goes against the stereotype of Louis as an impotent, asexual drone. However, I have to draw the line at the book’s claim of the king begetting a child with one of the servants. The image of Louis XVI chasing a helpless chambermaid produces too much cognitive dissonance. The biography is not footnoted as extensively as it could be, especially when otherwise unheard of claims are being made.

In most other respects, Nagel quotes directly from the various memoirs to produce a highly favorable portrait of the royal family, although their foibles and faults are not ignored. I do think that the scheming Louis XVIII is portrayed a bit too positively, though. The Revolution is seen mostly from Madame Royale's point of view, and her view is understandably not very benign, since as a young child she was forced to witness bloodshed and social chaos. One by one her immediate family members were led away to die. In the prison she could hear the tormented cries of her little brother but was not allowed to comfort him or visit him when he was sick. Did she hate the Revolution and all symbols of it? Yes.

With sensitivity and insight, Nagel does not hesitate to demonstrate how the faith of Marie-Thérèse sustained her through so many sorrows. The books also makes it clear that Marie-Thérèse was dedicated to France in almost the same way as a nun is dedicated to her vows. For Madame Royale, no sacrifice, personal or otherwise, was too great, if it benefited her country. She married, not out of love, but out of what she saw as her duty to France. Contrary to many past biographies, Nagel produces evidence that the marriage of Marie-Thérèse to her cousin the Duc d'Angoulême was indeed consummated. (It makes one feel more sorry for her; Angoulême was so unappealing.)

Rising above personal disappointments, Marie-Thérèse led a life rich in love, full of friends and devotion to the poor. I learned a great deal about her friendships with people such as Queen Louise of Prussia, Napoleon’s “beautiful enemy,” Louise’s mother being a childhood friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette’s. The Duchesse d’Angoulême’s love of simplicity and her ability to relate so well to small children are qualities of which ample evidence is given. Most remarkable was her talent for stealing the show at certain crucial events, when she would appear magnificently dressed, with jewels and plumes that heightened her regal bearing, leaving no doubt in the minds of onlookers that she was the greatest princess of all.

Marie-Thérèse’s struggles with her memories and sad feelings are explored and might have been explored a little more. The emphasis is on her energy and dynamism, which were certainly outstanding aspects of her character. The search for what happened to her brother and the various pretenders is touched upon, not exhaustively, but then there are other books which deal specifically with those phenomena. Many fascinating details of the life of the Duchesse d'Angoulême are included, most of which are taken from primary sources, and for those aspects I found it an enjoyable read. If a person is not an admirer of Marie-Thérèse and her family, they might find it all tiresome, but I hated for the book to end.

(*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.) Share

Monday, April 14, 2008

Le Temple de l'Amour

The Temple of Love is one of the most unforgettable places in the gardens of the Petit Trianon, on a little island directly behind the house. Queen Marie-Antoinette commissioned the architect Mique to design and build the neo-classical structure in 1778. The Temple of Love was not built to celebrate the queen's mythical love for Count Fersen, as some authors have hinted; Fersen was was a mere acquaintance at the time. Lady Antonia Fraser in Marie-Antoinette: The Journey maintains that it was built to celebrate the love of the king and the queen for each other and the consummation of their marriage, delayed for many years.

The consummation took so long because Marie-Antoinette was a mere child when she was married; she was fourteen but looked as if she were much younger, and Louis was not a pervert. He was a gentleman, and waited for her to mature. He also approached his bride in a restrained manner because his aunties had inculcated in him the dangers for France when a king became enthralled by a woman, as had happened to his grandfather Louis XV. Louis could probably see himself becoming quite easily enthralled with Marie-Antoinette, and so he held himself back. Also, as author Simone Bertière speculates in L'Insoumise, there may have been a physical problem with Marie-Antoinette which made marital relations difficult at first. In their early twenties, however, the young couple found their bonheur essentiel, their "essential happiness," as Marie-Antoinette wrote to her mother. It became a marriage which all the forces of hell could not sunder.

(Photo by Eugene Atget, Le Temple de l'Amour, Versailles, c.1923-24) Share

Clerical Titles

Roman Christendom provides some background. Share

The Pope is Coming!

Washington, D.C. is getting ready to welcome the Vicar of Christ. They have special banners and ads on the buses, and everything. Tomorrow he arrives. If blogging is limited this week, it is because I am watching the Pope, and praying for his safety.

Here is the chalice the Pope will use at one of the big outdoor Masses.

Meanwhile, rumors are flying. We shall see what happens. Share

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mildred Pierce (1945)

You think just because you've made a little money you can get a new hairdo and some expensive clothes and turn yourself into a lady. But you can't, because you'll never be anything but a common frump, whose father lived over a grocery store and whose mother took in washing. With this money, I can get away from every rotten, stinking thing that makes me think of this place or you!
~"Veda" to "Mildred" in Mildred Pierce (1945) 
 Mildred Pierce, a 1940's film noir which has been described as "just about the most glittering piece of trash ever made," contains amid the melodrama some hard truths, not only about modern American society, but about the fatal repercussions of inordinate attachments. Mildred's neurotic need to win her child's approval and affection by lavishing material possessions upon her does nothing but create a monster. Part of this was an attempt to remedy her own deprived childhood by making certain that her daughter has everything she wants; Mildred is not the first nor the last to pursue this course of folly. Once again it is seen that money cannot buy happiness; in Mildred Pierce it buys only misery.

Mildred is a gifted businesswoman who makes a fortune with honest toil but she is totally hapless in her choice of men. For one thing, her choosing and discarding of husbands and boyfriends is too often colored by Mildred's primary obsession with pleasing Veda rather than her genuine feelings for the gentlemen involved. While it is beautiful for a mother to make sacrifices for her children, if Mildred's love for Veda had been more balanced, she would have given her the needed correction before the little vixen got out of control.

But for all of her errors in judgment, Mildred has a sense of honor, which gives her infinitely more class than spoiled Veda could ever have. Mildred might indeed be "a common frump whose mother took in washing" but she is more of a lady than that smug and condescending snob. Perhaps the gist of Mildred Pierce is that there are few things in this world that are more repugnant than an ungrateful child.