Friday, April 30, 2010

The Young Victoria (2009)

Prince Albert: You're the only wife I've got or ever will have. You are my whole existence, and I will love you until my very last breath. ~The Young Victoria (2009)
 After waiting a very long time, I was able to see The Young Victoria at last. With so much in the news and in the movies about men and women tearing each other apart, it is utterly heartening to see a film about a pair of young lovers who save each other, politically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Victoria and Albert each completed the other in body, mind and soul, becoming truly one as spouses are meant to be. Prince Albert was sent to his cousin Victoria by their uncle as a pawn in a complicated political game. Albert, however, turned out to have a mind of his own. After meeting Victoria he decided not to be a pawn but to be her champion, which he was until the day he died. He put his relationship with her ahead of everything else but he did so with intelligence and integrity, as well as passion. As he loved her, he loved her country, he loved her family, and helped to restore the damaged relationship with her mother.

In the case of Victoria, she is portrayed as a young girl who, after gaining freedom from a stifling childhood, must learn the difference between strength and stubbornness. Her infatuation with charming Lord Melbourne, played to perfection by Paul Bettany, and her growing love for Prince Albert, are conveyed more by lighting and music than by words. Most especially her love for Albert and his love for her seems to slowly flood the film like the sun in the morning, until it becomes a blinding reality. The viewer is as convinced as Albert and Victoria that their love will last beyond time; it is heartbreaking to ponder the long bereavement which Victoria will endure when Albert dies so young.

The Young Victoria is a work of art and, as others have said, it could be easily watched with the sound off, merely for the spectacle. Likewise, the soundtrack is exquisite; I have been playing the DVD over and over again  as background music. My only complaint is that the wedding scene was all of five seconds; the bridal party was not shown; I did not even get to see Victoria's gown, which I have no doubt was magnificent. I suppose, however, that nothing less than a recreation of the entire wedding ceremony would have made me happy.

Any minor historical lapses are made up for by the powerful performances. Jim Broadbent and Harriet Walter are delightful as King William and Queen Adelaide; I would not mind a movie just about them. William's tirade at Victoria's mother at his birthday banquet is priceless, as are Queen Adelaide's calm and wise discussions with the headstrong younger queen. Rupert Friend is superb as Prince Albert; he captures the German mannerisms with ease. Emily Blunt's Victoria is a restless child, as determined to be a good queen as she is not to be ruled by anyone. Miranda Richardson is Victoria's mother the Duchess of Kent, who is easy to dislike but, by the end, is made lovable by Albert's respect and kindness.

This is a must-see film for those of a romantic inclination. Anyone who loves history will enjoy it as well. The struggle for political power is an almost insurmountable force in the chess game of life. Love, however, is an overwhelming force as well, capable of changing the fate of nations and even the history of the world.

Queen Victoria: [to the Council] I am young, but I am willing to learn, and I mean to devote my life to the service of my country and my people. I look for your help in this. I know I shall not be disappointed. Thank you. 

Please visit Melanie's blog for pictures of the real Victoria and Albert. Share

The Maid of Kent

Who was the visionary executed by Henry VIII? Share

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two Dominican Saints

Catherine Delors writes of her patroness, St. Catherine of Siena, who spoke truth to power.

And Terry reminds us that yesterday was the feast of St. Peter of Verona, who was murdered by the Cathars. According to one account:
Saint Peter Martyr was born in the year 1205 at Verona in Italy. His family belonged to a religious sect called the Cathars meaning "pure ones", which were popular in the region of Verona at that time. The Cathars were perceived as dangerous as they spread the word that Rome had betrayed and corrupted the original purity of the message of Christianity. Peter of Verona (Peter Martyr) received a good education and attended a Catholic school and went on to study at the University of Bologna where he met met Saint Dominic and then joined the Dominican Friars, forsaking the beliefs of the Cathars and adhering to the traditional Catholic Faith. His preaching was so successful that he attracted the attention of Pope Innocent III. Pope Innocent III had come to power in 1198 and had been determined to began a programme of conversion for the Cathars. By 1229 Inquisition he established an Inquisition to discover the leaders and followers of Catharism. Pope Innocent IV became Pope in 1243 and in 1252 appointed Peter Martyr the Inquisitor for Lombardy. Cathars who refused to recant were dealt with severely and punishments ranged from being sentenced to galley slaves or burned at the stake. In 1252 St. Peter Martyr was murdered by the hired Cathar assassins of two noblemen of the Venetian States whom he had handed over to the secular authorities accused of adhering to Catharism, and who, in consequence, had been imprisoned. St. Peter Martyr was attacked with an axe receiving wounds to his head and then stabbed in the heart.

Is History Repeating Itself?

Did a volcanic eruption in Iceland in 1783 precipitate the economic and agrarian disasters which helped to bring about the French Revolution? According to Euronews:
A French historian says it has happened before.

Emmanuel Garnier argues that a volcanic eruption in Iceland in 1783 brought freak weather conditions in Europe that indirectly led to the French Revolution.

“Without a doubt, repeated episodes of eruptions, droughts and floods across Europe played a not insignificant role,” he said. “In France, in particular, in July 1788, there was a storm which destroyed all the main regions which produced wheat for Paris. The next year, in May 1789 to be precise, just at the beginning of the Revolution, we see that the first revolts were not outside Versailles, but outside the bakeries. And that is no coincidence.”

Rigorism, Past and Present

That's how the devil works -- goading us to and fro between a laxness that makes Faith bland and meaningless and a rigor that renders Faith unlivable and implausible....

In the early Church, Gnostic Christians called for universal celibacy, rejecting marriage and procreation. In medieval France, the Albigensians revived this doctrine. So, more recently, did the Shakers -- a sect that survived for centuries by adopting the children of non-Shakers, which now consists of a few old ladies and one lonely male convert. The Church duly condemned each of these Rigorist attacks on the holiness of marriage....

So let's state the matter baldly: Each Rigorist heresy that arises -- from open borders globalism to Christian socialism, from Albigensianism to pacifism -- is more than a threat to the prudent governance of human society. It is a direct attack on the truth of the Christian claim. If Christ had meant the evangelical counsels to apply literally to everyone, the Church He founded would have been the enemy of the human race, and Christianity would be false. The Pharisees would have been right, and Judas a hero. That healthy gut realization, and not some drunken love affair with Prudence, is why we Catholics fight the Rigorists with all the fervor our ancestors displayed against the Albigensians.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Promenade

A popular eighteenth century pastime. Share

Blogging, Now and Then

Whether exchanged orally in a café, scribbled on a scrap of paper, or combined as paragraphs in a newssheet, anecdotes operated as the primary unit in a system of communication. Many of them found their way into print. They were picked up by famous writers like Voltaire, but more often they appeared in anonymous tracts known as “libelles.” The spiciest “libelles” —works such as Anecdotes sur Mme la comtesse du Barry and Vie privée de Louis XV—became bestsellers. If you read them carefully, you find that they contain a great many passages that were lifted from one another or from common underground gazettes. They were really collages pieced together from pre-existing material and whatever new items that were available—just like today’s blogs, which serve up compilations of tidbits collected from around the web. Instead of imagining this literature as a corpus of books written by distinct authors, you should think of it as a shifting repertory of anecdotes, which were endlessly rearranged as they passed from one form to another.
The anecdotes constituted the early-modern equivalent of a blogosphere, one laced with explosives; for on the eve of the Revolution, French readers were consuming as much smut about the private lives of the great as they were reading treatises about the abuse of power. In fact, the anecdotes and the political discourse reinforced each other. I would therefore argue that the early-modern blog played an important part in the collapse of the Old Regime and in the politics of the French Revolution.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Red-Headed Stepchild

Why it is stylish to hate the South.
Are you puzzled and irritated by the  viciousness and falsity  of most of what is being published these days about the South and Southern history?   The beginning of all wisdom on this subject is to know that in American public discourse  and so-called scholarship there is usually no effort to understand the South, like any other human phenomenon, as it is.  Rather the South is raw material in a morality play about American, that is, about Northern righteousness.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"A Book I Just Couldn't Put Down"

Suzanne of the 4Real Forums Book Club recommends The Night's Dark Shade, saying:
I finished The Night's Dark Shade by Elena Maria Vidal about a month ago and absolutely LOVED IT.   Vidal also wrote Madame Royale and Trianon, which I highly recommend!

Here is the Amazon Link.

This is a book I just couldn't put down and loved every word.   It's the story of a young heroine, Raphaelle....a noblewoman and orphan in the Languedoc region of 13th century France at the height of the heresy of Catharism. She is a faithful Catholic, but discovers her Uncle's castle is actually a Cathar-stronghold.

One month later, I still find myself thinking of Raphaelle. I love how the author gives words to Raphaelle's internal struggles and grapples with her duties and virtue. This is an amazing 13th century-middle-ages, historical novel!

It's also interesting to think about our pro-life issues of abortion, euthanasia, issues back then and how it related to the Church and this heresy.

It's a good one for high school readers....girls and boys alike. Although, maybe the "love story" within would be a bit too "girly" for the boys. But, there are several male-reviewers on Amazon.

Some Follow up Topics and Posts having to do with the book....backgrounds about the battles, sieges, castles, etc.

Thank you, Suzanne! Share

News and Events

 On May 16, 2010 at 2 pm in Gardiner Social Hall of the Activities Center of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College, PA. I will be giving a talk about being a Catholic novelist in contemporary society. The discussion will be accompanied by a reading and book signing. Coffee will be served.

I will also be speaking at the Catholic Writers Conference Live during the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show, August 4-6, 2010 in King of Prussia, PA at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge. I'll post more details about dates and times as I receive them.

The ebook of the Catholic Writers Conference Online 2010 is now available. I am honored to have my presentation included in it. Go HERE and click on the DONATE button on the right-hand side (third topic down). Donations of $10 or more get the e-book. Share

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Queens

Here is an article with information about the friendship between Marie-Antoinette and Queen Charlotte. To quote:
Both queens never met but maintained a life-long pen and paper friendship, they had a lot in common, both were from German speaking countries, ‘removed’ to marry a foreign king, both admired Mozart, Marie Antoinette knew him in Austria before her marriage and Mozart dedicated his Opus Dei to Charlotte who sang an aria with him, and both queens were great philanthropists and patrons of the arts....

With the advent of the Revolution, Charlotte prepared apartments in London for the French Royal Family, only to be left horrified at their execution and repulsed that such a cruelty could happen so close to Britain, this only accumulated to the strain that she was feeling because of George. (Read more.)

The Tea Party Tribe

"Adversity and abuse increase the awareness of separate identity and accelerate the secession of peoples from each other."

More HERE. Share

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Unconquered (1947)

A review of the action-packed DeMille film Unconquered, starring Paulette Goddard and Gary Cooper. According to Classic Movies Digest:
The storyline presents Goddard’s character with one torrid and dangerous adventure after another, including being stripped and beaten in public, stripped and tied to an Indian torture stake and going hurtling over a treacherous waterfall among other things. The actress is also involved in one of deMille’s famous bathtub scenes, this time in a wooden barrel, cleavage and all parts concealed by soap suds non existent in pre-Revolutionary times, but the censors would not be silenced. All this brouhaha caused the film to be known as “The Perils of Paulette” around the Paramount lot where at the time another film under production was the Betty Hutton vehicle The Perils of Pauline.

National Biometric ID Card

What are the implications? Share

Friday, April 23, 2010

Contaminated Childhood Vaccines

Even the FDA agrees.
“U.S. federal health authorities recommended … that doctors suspend using Rotarix, one of two vaccines licensed in the U.S. against rotavirus, saying the vaccine is contaminated with material from a pig virus,” CNN reports.
The Rotarix vaccine, which is made by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the FDA in 2008, has already been given to about 1 million U.S. children along with 30 million worldwide. The vaccine was found to contain DNA from porcine circovirus 1.
“The FDA learned about the contamination after an academic research team using a novel technique to look for viruses in a range of vaccines found the material in GlaxoSmithKline's product and told the company,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told CNN.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

ONCE upon a time in the middle of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen sat at a window sewing, and the frame of the window was made of black ebony. And whilst she was sewing and looking out of the window at the snow, she pricked her finger with the needle, and three drops of blood fell upon the snow. And the red looked pretty upon the white snow, and she thought to herself, "Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame."
~Little Snow White or Schneeweißchen
The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, made famous by the Brothers Grimm and later by Walt Disney, originated in the Middle Ages, with several versions of the tale cropping up in various lands and cultures. According to Sur La Lune:
Although the most famous version of the tale today is Disney's classic animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has existed in many versions in the centuries preceding Disney. The Grimms collected the tale from two sisters--Jeannette and Amalie Hassenpflug--who lived in the town of Cassel. The tale was well known before the Grimms collection however and appeared with little variation from Ireland to Asia Minor to Central Africa (Opies 175).

Except for one Portuguese tale which appeared in Brazil, the tale did not apparently travel verbally to the Americas. The earliest literary versions of the tale can be found in Giambattista Basile's Il Pentamerone, especially the tale traditionally titled "The Young Slave." A link to the tale is available on the Tales Similar to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs page. Both Stith Thompson and the Opies believe that Basile's literary version influenced the versions which followed (Thompson 124).

Disney based his film on the Grimm's version of the tale. Disney actually resurrected some of the more gruesome aspects of the tale which had been edited out in previous versions intended for children, especially the queen's demand that Snow White's heart be delivered to her as proof of the child's death.
 There may be a connection with the tale of Snow White and a medieval myth about Charlemagne's mother Queen Bertrada. I found the myth in its entirety, HERE. It involves a princess betrayed by an older female relative and forced to take refuge with simple folk in the wilderness until her prince comes to find her. The Snow White story also has similarities to both the Cinderella and the Sleeping Beauty stories, sharing the wicked stepmother and sleeping princess themes. Envy on the part of a mother figure, more than anything else, is at the heart of Snow White's travails. It is an envy so intense that it does not rest until Snow White is perceived to be dead. As Terri Windling describes in her article "Snow, Glass and Apples":
...The murderous queen remains one of the most vivid villains in folkloric history. She orders the death of an innocent girl, demands her heart....What is stressed is the anger and fear that attend the queen's realization that as she and Snow White both get older, she must lose. That is why the major feeling invoked is not jealousy but envy: to make beauty that important is to reduce the world to one in which only two people count." 

....The queen's actions are attributed to vanity–run–amok, but perhaps also fear and self–preservation. She's a woman whose power is derived from her beauty; it is this, the tale implies, that provides her place in the castle's hierarchy.... In the Grimms' tale, an enchanted mirror serves not only as a clever plot device and a useful agent of information, but as a symbolic representation of the queen's insecurity, solipsism, and growing madness. Snow White, too, is a mirror — a reversed mirror of the queen, reflecting all she is not. Each day she becomes more lovely, more good — as the queen becomes the opposite....

In imagery old as Adam and Eve, the disguised queen comes one last time to tempt Snow White with a crisp, red apple. "Do you think I did not know her? . . ." writes Delia Sherman, explaining the princess's point of view in her heart–breaking poem "Snow White to the Prince." "Of course I took her poisoned gifts. I wanted to feel her hands coming out of my hair, to let her lace me up, to take an apple from her hand, a smile from her lips, as when I was a child." In Sherman's poem, Snow White is every abused child who ever longed for a parent's love.
 Snow White in her glass coffin always intrigued me as a child, especially since I knew she was not really dead but asleep. When I later discovered that there are in reality incorrupt saints who sleep in glass coffins, I wondered if the fairy tale had borrowed something from hagiography. In Snow White's case, she rested in a comatose state, to be revived by her prince, showing once again that while envy and jealousy can kill, only love can give life.

Regina Doman's Black as Night is a modern retelling of Snow White, heartily recommended for teens and young adults.

(Artwork: HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.) Share

Public Penance

In the light of the scandals which are rocking the Church, penance sounds good to me. Public sinners,  those responsible for giving scandal of any kind, even if they were kings or queens, once used to demonstrate that they were sorry by processing down the street in sackcloth and ashes, or kneeling at the doors of the church throughout Lent. I think every diocese should come up with something and that all Catholics be encouraged to participate, with the bishops leading the way. Everyone can learn to chant the Miserere for starters.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"This is Wild Country"

Enbrethiliel found the above picture of the Castle of Foix in her review of my novel. It is closer to what Mirambel may have looked like in The Night's Dark Shade than the present castle at Lourdes upon which Mirambel is based. Share

Russia Comes Clean

Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, was waiting there to pay his nation’s respects – and atone – for the terrible Soviet crime at Katyn.
In 1939, Stalin and Hitler invaded and partitioned Poland. Stalin sought to wipe out Poland’s national identity. The Soviet dictator ordered the NKVD secret police to murder 22,000 Polish officers, intellectuals and political figures at Katyn.
Soviets propaganda blamed this crime on the Nazis. The truth was only revealed in 1989 by Russia’s late president, Boris Yeltsin. One wonders how many other Nazi "crimes" were committed by the Soviets.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Strange Old Gardening Tips

Jackie of Weave a Garland has collected some quaint gardening tips while researching her historical novel. I know from experience that using the wood ash on lilies works quite well. Share

Popes and Princes

Justinian and the Ostrogoths. Share

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

 "Please don't get up. I'm only passing through." ~Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
The above quote distills for me the tragedy of Blanche DuBois, even more so than the famous line about the "kindness of strangers." Blanche tells a group of poker-playing, beer-guzzling men not to rise for her, as if the thought of rising for a lady would ever occur to them. It is a small but final degradation of many which Blanche experiences in the house of Stanley Kowalski. Yet the viewer is reminded again and again throughout the course of the drama that Blanche's own past behavior has led her to such an utterly sordid end. Not only Blanche's behavior, but her sister Stella's attachment to a rapist, have resulted in Blanche's being taken from the prison of chez Kowalski to the prison of the mental hospital. 

As with all of Williams' plays, the dialog sparkles and even enchants in spite of the undercurrent of depravity. The following is a plot synopsis from 
In the classic play by Tennessee Williams, brought to the screen by Elia Kazan, faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) comes to visit her pregnant sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), in a seedy section of New Orleans. Stella's boorish husband, Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), not only regards Blanche's aristocratic affectations as a royal pain but also thinks she's holding out on inheritance money that rightfully belongs to Stella. On the fringes of sanity, Blanche is trying to forget her checkered past and start life anew. Attracted to Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden), she glosses over the less savory incidents in her past, but she soon discovers that she cannot outrun that past, and the stage is set for her final, brutal confrontation with her brother-in-law. Brando, Hunter, and Malden had all starred in the original Broadway version of Streetcar, although the original Blanche had been Jessica Tandy. Brando lost out to Humphrey Bogart for the 1951 Best Actor Oscar, but Leigh, Hunter, and Malden all won Oscars.
When I watched A Streetcar Named Desire as a young person I found it dark and shocking, especially Blanche's proclivities which result in her utter destruction. All I could see was the crazy, drunken old slut; it was quite unappealing. It still is. However, now I am better able to see Blanche as she had once been. I can see the sweet and refined person whose mental and emotional stamina were destroyed by trying to hold onto her patrimony, without any help from anyone. (Stella was too busy romping with Stanley to save Belle Reve or take care of the dying old folks.) I can see the heartbroken wife who gradually awoke to the horror that her marriage was not really a marriage. I pity the fact that the shattered Blanche sought to ease her pain by adopting a promiscuous lifestyle, as have many before and after. In Blanche's case being a sexually "liberated" woman resulted in the further fraying of her psyche; I daresay the same thing has happened to other liberated women as well. All may not end up in the mental hospital, but a little of the soul dies and one's human dignity is tarnished by taking refuge in hedonism.

According to SparkNotes:
Blanche’s sexual history is in fact a cause of her downfall. When she first arrives at the Kowalskis’, Blanche says she rode a streetcar named Desire, then transferred to a streetcar named Cemeteries, which brought her to a street named Elysian Fields. This journey, the precursor to the play, allegorically represents the trajectory of Blanche’s life. The Elysian Fields are the land of the dead in Greek mythology. Blanche’s lifelong pursuit of her sexual desires has led to her eviction from Belle Reve, her ostracism from Laurel, and, at the end of the play, her expulsion from society at large.
Everyone raves about the ground-breaking, soul-searing sexuality that is unleashed in Streetcar, but it is not so much about sex as it is about lust and addiction. It is their addiction to lust that has landed both DuBois sisters in the squalid scenario where they are at the mercy of the brutish Stanley, who expresses his pleasure or displeasure by screaming in the street or by smashing china and light bulbs. Stanley is the complete antithesis of the gentlemen among whom the DuBois sisters were raised; he is a source of fascination as well as revulsion for them both. It cannot be forgotten that it was the DuBois gentlemen whose "epic debaucheries," by Blanche's account, led to the loss of the family fortune. Blanche, who seeks beauty and romance, is hounded by the result of debaucheries, her own and other people's, until the final moment of the play. 


Lest We Forget

Year Zero in Cambodia. Share

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Katherine's Jewels

 Gareth Russell on the glittering but tragic marriage of Katherine Howard. More HERE. Share


The arrival of the grace that transforms us. Share

The Secular Inquisition

It's worth asking why otherwise fairly intelligent thinkers get so dementedly exercised over the pope and the Catholic Church. What exactly is their beef? What are they objecting to? Very few (if any) of the pope-hunters were raised Catholic, so this isn't about personal vengeance for some perceived slight by a priest or nun. And despite their current lowdown, historically illiterate attempt to equate a priest fondling a child with a state's attempt to obliterate an entire people – under the collective tag 'crime against humanity' – the truth is that some of these pope-hunters don't really think child abuse is the worst crime in the world. In 2006, Dawkins criticised 'hysteria about paedophilia' and said that, even though he was the victim of sexual abuse at boarding school, he would defend his abusive former teachers if '50 years on they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers'. Yet now he wants to put abusive priests on a par with genocidaires.
Also, while of course one incident of child sexual abuse by a priest is one too many, it simply isn't the case that the Catholic Church is a vast, institutionalized paedophile ring wrecking the lives of millions of children around the world. One pope-hunting columnist describes the Vatican as an 'international criminal conspiracy to protect child rapists', yet the facts and figures don't bear that out. If these anti-pope crusaders really were interested in justice and equality, there are numerous other, even worse crimes and scandals that they might investigate and interrogate and try to alleviate.
Yet despite the lack of any obvious, sensible reason why they break out in boils at the mention of the words 'Benedict', 'priest' or 'Catholic', the pope-hunters' campaign has acquired a powerfully pathological, obsessive and deafeningly shrill character. It is screeching and emotional. It talks about 'systematic evil' and discusses the pope as a 'leering old villain in a frock'. It uses up almost all the intellectual and physical energies of men and women who consider themselves to be serious thinkers. What is going on here?

Some good points made HERE. Share

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Monet in the Spring

Under the Gables delights us once again.

Here is an interview with author Stephanie Cowell about her new novel about Monet. Share

Chantilly Lace

Some musings on the enchanting art of lace-making, with fabulous pictures. Share

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pampering Your Houseguests

If you are looking to improve your guest room, or any other room in the house, and if you live in the Washington, DC area, I encourage you to visit my friend Virginia's boutique Chartreuse and Company in Buckeystown, Maryland. Virginia has transformed the old milking shed on her grandparents' farm into shop of pure enchantment, as I have written before. I visited there last week; Virginia had just returned from Texas with some intriguing finds, including some woven Hungarian tablecloths. She is having a sale this weekend so stop by if you are able.

Before You Graduate

What every young adult should know about etiquette. According to etiquette consultant Patricia Rossi: "You are a walking autobiography. The way you stand, walk, and use body language says it all without you saying a word." Share

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Queen's Artist

As she delicately applied the paint, she continued to glance at her subject. The eyes, too, were also quite difficult, because of their color, blue—but which blue? Dark blue, of course, a blue which from far away gave the illusion that the eyes themselves were black or slate-colored. But was the dark blue a blueberry-blue or an amethyst blue or a deep sapphire blue? Madame Vigée-Lebrun had a few portraits ago decided upon the sapphire blue, and she hoped that she could once again create just the right hue.
~from Trianon: A Novel of Royal France by Elena Maria Vidal

Madame Delors has an excellent post about the court artist of Marie-Antoinette. More HERE. And HERE. Share


The history of political murder. Share

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Few figures in history have suffered as much as Marie Antoinette from the distorting influence of myths and lies. The very first thing that most people will say if you mention her name is ‘Let them eat cake!’, a cold-hearted and idiotic comment that almost certainly never passed her lips. But at least the last great lie in her story has never taken hold, and the myth of Marie Antoinette as child abuser was seen for just what it was. Revolutionary karma had an ironic sense of humour, and the old adage ‘what goes around comes around’ has never been truer than in this case. Less than half a year after Marie Antoinette’s execution, Hébert fell foul of Robespierre and was himself tried at the Revolutionary Tribunal. Legend has it he responded with far less dignity than Marie Antoinette, throwing his hat at his judges and trembling on the scaffold before a crowd clearly relishing every drop of irony. Fouquier-Tinville too fell from grace in 1795. He protested that “It is not I who ought to be facing the tribunal, but the chiefs whose orders I have executed. I had only acted in the spirit of the laws passed by a Convention invested with all powers.” His trial lasted 41 days, but ended in in the same journey to the guillotine endured by so many of those he had judged.
It is too easy to dismiss Marie Antoinette’s trial as an empty sham, too tempting to gloss over its details in the rush towards the tragic finale of her story. But to do so is too miss out on a rich insight both into Marie Antoinette’s character at this final stage in her life, and into the mentality and operation of a revolution spiralling rapidly out of control. Marie Antoinette remains a polarising figure, but whichever side you take, the squalid details of her trial and final days, and the unnecessary attempts to blacken the character of a woman already certain to die, serve as a chilling example of human cruelty.

More HERE. Share

Burn Those Hymnals!

We've had enough! Share

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Anne's Age

How old was Anne Boleyn? Gareth Russell explores the controversy. Share

The Duke of Marmalade

Some Haitian history. Share

Mean Girls

How women have long made life hell for each other, especially at school. What is worse is that now there are few shared standards of appropriate public behavior. 

Christopher Caldwell goes to the heart of the matter, saying: "In place of moralism we have nothing but the will to power and the desire to ostracise – a values system that differs from the old one only in its arbitrariness." Share

Monday, April 12, 2010

More About Marie-Antoinette's Adopted Children

I have already posted on Marie-Antoinette's adopted children so I was delighted to find an article with further information. Most people are unaware that the Queen adopted a young African boy and had him raised in the palace. To quote:
In 1787, Marie Antoinette was presented with an unusual gift from the famous traveller Chevalier de Boufflers, who had recently returned from Senegal. He offered the Queen a parrot (to join the vast and rowdy crew of pets that already terrorised Versailles) and a young Senegalese boy. Normal practice at the time would have been to dress the boy up and take him into service (much like the boy pictured in the above painting), but on this occasion Marie Antoinette had him baptised and renamed Jean Amilcar, and instructed one of her houseboys to look after him.

All three of these children remained with Marie Antoinette as the royal family was ousted from Versailles in October 1789, and moved to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. At this point, Jean Amilcar was placed in an institution for children at Saint-Cloud, and Marie Antoinette sent monthly payments to provide for his upkeep. When she was moved from the Tuileries to much tighter imprisonment at the Temple, she was unable to keep up these payments, whereupon it was said that the boy was cast out by the charity, and he starved to death on the streets.

After Wagner

Attacking the masters in the age of the idiot. Share

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Guillotine

On display in France.
Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, an anatomy professor from Paris medical school, had designed the device in 1791 as one which could end life without inflicting pain.

A unique mechanism involving a huge, slanted blade, pulleys and a hinged neck harness was effectively meant to cause instant death.

But this ‘humane’ approach was often called into question, with fears that the swift impact actually caused pain and suffering.

Decapitation was so swift, that the brain might take a few seconds to register decapitation, medics argued.

Post-mortems often revealed eyelids moving up and down, and that faces quivered.
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Turning Failure into Victory

Never be discouraged. Michael Hyatt has some superb advice. Share

Women and Silence

Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject, as also the law saith. But if they would learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church. ~I Corinthians 14: 34
This elusive verse, when not totally ignored, is a matter of controversy, as scholars and theologians try to explain it away. St. Paul, not caring a fig for political correctness, past or present, wanted it to be clear that women were not to usurp the functions of priests at the altar. On another level, the spiritual director at our Secular Carmelite meeting said that the verse is not to be seen as a negation of women but as a call, a call to silence, both interior and exterior. It is in the deep silence of the soul that spiritual warfare on behalf of the Church, her ministers and her people, is best waged. Many women have sought a life of prayer and have become prayer warriors, from the earliest days of the Church, when Our Lady prayed in the cenacle for the Holy Spirit to descend. Women have sought the contemplative life in great numbers, building monasteries that became centers of learning and culture, where kings and bishops went for advice. Sometimes it harder to fight a long hidden battle, a battle with no glory or outward appreciation, yet it is such battles that win graces for the multitudes.
As Dr. Alice von Hildebrand writes:
Because a woman by her very nature is maternal -- for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother -- she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them -- for maternity implies suffering -- is infinitely more valuable in God's sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.
When one reads the life of St. Teresa of Avila or St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one is struck by the fact that they constantly refer to their "weakness." The lives of these heroic women -- and there are many -- teach us that an awareness and acceptance of one's weakness, coupled with a boundless confidence in God's love and power, grant these privileged souls a strength that is so great because it is supernatural.
Natural strength cannot compete with supernatural strength. This is why Mary, the blessed one, is "strong as an army ready for battle." And yet, she is called "clemens, pia, dulcis Virgo Maria."
This supernatural strength explains -- as mentioned by Dom Prosper Gueranger in "The Liturgical Year" -- that the devil fears this humble virgin more than God because her supernatural strength that crushes his head is more humiliating for him than God's strength.
This is why the Evil One is today launching the worst attack on femininity that has ever taken place in the history of the world. For coming closer to the end of time, and knowing that his final defeat is coming, he redoubles his efforts to attack his one great enemy: the woman. It says in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman." The final victory is hers, as seen in the woman crowned with the sun.
Women like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who embraced a lifestyle of silence, are both regarded as Doctors of the Church, with St. Thérèse hailed as Patroness of the Missions. Thus the Church acknowledges that the struggle to seek and find God in silence is a struggle with far-reaching consequences for the entire world.

St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) describes the redemptive suffering of spiritual motherhood:
The difficult struggle for existence is allocated primarily to man and the hardship of childbirth to woman. But a promise of redemption is present inasmuch as the woman is charged with the battle against evil; the male sex is to be exalted by the coming of the Son of God. The redemption will restore the original order. The pre-eminence of man is disclosed by the Savior's coming to earth in the form of man. The feminine sex is ennobled by virtue of the Savior's being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to mankind....A woman should honor the image of Christ in her husband by free and loving subordination; she herself is to be the image of God's mother; but that also means she is to be in Christ's image. (Essays on Woman, ICS Publications, 1985, p.69)
I hope that someday silence will again be seen as grace-filled and life-giving rather than as oppressive. Strength and power can be found in acknowledging one's weakness and helplessness before God. Women can have great influence, not in sharing the ministerial duties traditionally given to men but in the battlefield of the spirit, where all real battles are fought.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Victoria and Abdul

Queen Victoria's "Dearest Munshi." (Via Hermes)

Queen Victoria had developed a fascination for all things Indian after she was made Empress of the country in 1876. For her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1887, she declared that she wanted someone at hand who could help her address the Indian princes who were due to attend the jubilee.

And so she wrote to her officials in India, asking for two Indian servants to be sent to her for a year's duration. One of those who was picked was a 24-year-old clerk from Agra - Abdul Karim - who was given a crash course in the English language, social customs and court etiquette - and fitted out with smart tunics and trousers.


The Underground Railroad

In a fury over freedom.
In one of history's rich ironies, the Fugitive Slave Act was virtually suicidal to the South, for it transformed Northern antislavery sentiment. By requiring all citizens to assist in hunting down suspected fugitives, it convinced Northerners that slavery was their problem, not just the South's. It prompted Brahmins to storm the Boston courthouse and ax open the door, in a failed attempt to rescue a fugitive slave who had been detained there. It inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Ulysses S. Grant concluded that the Fugitive Slave Act had triggered the Civil War: It was "a degradation" that Northerners "would not permit," for "they were not willing to play the role of police for the South in the protection of this particular institution." Had it not been for the slaves who continually fled North, and the people who helped them, war and emancipation may have been deferred indefinitely.

As We Persecute Ourselves

John Zmirak on the once and future Church.
Thanks to the sickening betrayal of innocent children in the past and innocent priests of the future by deluded or venal bishops, the faithful of the future will be largely bereft of priests, of beautiful churches, of reverent liturgy; and the Church will be publicly powerless, too disgraced to defend the innocent, a target for ridicule and abuse. Those Catholics will pick through the ruins left by a major persecution. Only this time, like some addict, we will have done it to ourselves. 
Taki defends the Pope against the likes of Maureen Dowd.
Turning to other weighty matters, we all know that all Irishmen turn Tory upon acquiring a horse, but one Irish-American old bag, Maureen Dowd, seems to have turned anti-Catholic the minute she became a horse’s ass. Which she always was. Dowd writes a column for the New York Times, a newspaper whose anti-Christian in general and anti-Catholic in particular agenda suits her meager talents perfectly. Dowd’s columns always seem strained, always desperate to impress, about as natural as Gordon Brown’s smiles for the camera. (Most Times columnists, alas, are as interesting as old issues of “Double Glazing” magazine, but that’s another story altogether.) Dowd has called his Holiness the Pope “ a sin-crazed Rottweiler,” secure in the fact that Catholics and Christians in general do not shoot old Irish hags up you know where when their religion is insulted. Dowd has also brought the holocaust into this, and quotes ardent Zionist clowns like Leon Wieseltier when they hurl abuse. One thing is for sure. We Christians have been taught to forgive, and this is the reason it is open season on our Lord Jesus nowadays. One vile person, an unfunny Jewish comedian by the name of Bill Maher, called our Lord “that Jewish zombie” on HBO television, and blamed all the world’s ills on religion. But none of the rabble I have mentioned will say a word about a religion that teaches to kill the infidel, Islam, because they know damn well what will happen. There will be a fatwa out on them quicker than they can say Mohammed, so they concentrate their vileness on a great man like Pope Benedict XVI. 
No one’s been more vigorous in cleansing the church of the effects of this sickening sin than this pope, but just because he won’t play ball with the media and the modernists, vile rotweillers like Dowd and Maher, and Dawkins and Hitchens, are taking cheap shots against an institution that will not fight back. We all know that the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ are more important than his divinity. The Catholic Church has made many mistakes in the past, some horrific ones in fact, but the good always has and always will outnumber them. The great contributions of the church in the fields of medicine, education, and charity the world throughout and over so many centuries often go unnoticed. The church is now being crucified by the media and is turning the other cheek. But it will be around long after the New York Times will be a distant and unpleasant memory. 

More HERE.