Monday, April 30, 2012

The Joy of Blogging

Blogging is something I actually resisted for quite a long time, although my husband and others encouraged me in that direction. I cannot remember anymore what my objections were. I guess I thought it would be too hard since I was a dunce when it came to computers. However, I saw the need to defend the stances I took in my novels by sharing my research and discussing my sources. When I finally decided to take the plunge, I was surprised at how many people actually came to read the blog. My book sales picked up, and I began to meet dozens of interesting individuals. Life would never be the same again.

This blog has been a means of reaching out to others, since it starts a lot of conversations. It has led to some wonderful speaking engagements, the most exciting of which was the trip to New Zealand in 2009. It has been educational, for myself and others. I have had to read many books not only for book reviews but to check on my own historical conclusions. The blog has been a source not only of pleasure and entertainment but it has encouraged me to reach a little farther, work a little harder, overcome shyness, and discipline myself into a routine of writing and researching a little everyday. In the six years since the blog started, I feel more and more blessed in many ways, especially as a writer. And isn't that what happiness is?

Please visit BlogHer's Life Well Lived page to see how other women feel about blogging. And if you are interested in one of the great BlogHer sweepstakes, please visit HERE. Share

Hungary and the EU

Hungarians want sovereignty. (Via A Conservative Blog for Peace.)
In under two years, Viktor Orbán’s regime has reduced the Hungarian budget deficit, reduced personal income taxes, returned the GDP to growth and proclaimed sovereign primacy over supranational diktats. Adopted at the beginning of this year, Fidesz’s new national constitution finally overthrows the Communist era law of 1949. Hungary is the last former East Bloc nation to have achieved this. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that 300,000 Hungarians marched to support their government when the reforms came under fire from the EU in January. It was the biggest demonstration in Hungary since the regime change. The message was clear: Fidesz’s democratic mandate is as mighty as ever and Hungarians want sovereignty.
This is bad news for anyone bent on a macro-managed, uniform European society. Whereas a big national debt and a powerful, unaccountable civil service are required for Brussels to maintain its grip, Hungary’s new constitution shrinks the public sector (in real terms – not David Cameron terms), and stipulates that budgets may only be adopted provided that they do not lead to an increase of the state debt. Desperate to find some legitimate reason to punish the Hungarian regime, Orbán’s critics test the waters here and there with little success. The Commission protests that Hungary brought retirement ages for judges in line with that of other civil servants, although similar moves attracted no animosity elsewhere. The BBC whipped up criticism of ‘Soviet-style’ media laws, which turned out to be nothing more than a competitive tendering process (beyond government control), in which a Socialist radio station lost its bandwidth. ALDE’s Sophia in ’t Veld fumed that schools are being handed from the municipalities to the Church and students introduced to morning prayers. Others have whined that the constitution’s conservative approach to marriage, abortion, and contraception are not consistent with ‘European values.’ (Read entire post.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How to Dress Like a Queen

 An article in The Wall Street Journal discusses Her Majesty's unique style.
When you deconstruct the formula, it's a simple, foolproof approach to getting dressed that, with a few small tweaks and some updating, we could all benefit from. And so without further ado—and with great respect to the world's leading example of good grooming, in the year of her Diamond Jubilee—here's my guide to dressing like the queen.

Below the knee. Please. Her Majesty (HM) never deviates from this one; neither can I find any pictorial evidence to suggest that, since being crowned, she ever has. Hemlines may have risen and fallen, but the queen's skirt and dress length has remained resolutely and strictly the same. Very sensible: flattering and safe in one go....

Get a day coat—same length as your dress or skirt, sometimes matching (see Jil Sander), often coordinated, always demure. The best summer coats are, hands down, Prada (pictured). OK, so Mrs. P (another style icon) showed hers mostly with crop tops. The queen won't wear that and the chances are, neither should you, but you get my drift.

Wear sugary or strong colors. Go for something that looks deeply unfashionable and stands out. It's a hard one this season, because everyone seems to have followed the queen's lead (hence most colors that would have looked outmoded now appear to be the last word in style)....

If you must wear a print, make it a standout. A recent British Vogue pictorial survey of the queen's sartorial year suggested the monarch wears prints roughly 13% of the time. And what prints they are. Think garden parties on acid....

White only for evening functions. OK, HM sometimes also wears a bit of ivory, but, generally speaking, keep it pale and work the older debutante look. I like what Valentino did this season—note the long sleeves. Very E II R. The queen would never do sheer, of course, but she might consider Louis Vuitton's tweedy coat and silk/satin ¾-length dress combo for cocktails.

Black shoes, with EVERYTHING. Yes, even sometimes for the evening, the queen wears a sensible, slightly blocky heel and an oval or slightly squared toe. It works when you get your head round it, though some fashion commentators would tell you that black shortens the leg, especially when worn with a knee-length dress or skirt. But then the queen, like so many of us, requires a uniform, and shoes are almost always a punctuation mark, underlining what goes on top....
Sensible handbag (also black for day). Boxy, short-handled and discreet, the queen's handbag is almost always the same shape—sometimes with a gold buckle or clasp, and sometimes in patent rather than what looks to be calfskin. Go for something English, like the bags of the newly crowned business woman of the year, Anya Hindmarch (try the "Carker," pictured, or "Lautner"), or Mulberry's "East West Bayswater." At night, HM ventures into silver and gold; try Lulu Guinness's gold, snakeskin "Fifi" clutch, or Hindmarch's "Maud" clutch, created especially for the Diamond Jubilee, complete with a paper crown and instructions for queenly waving.
Always wear a color-coordinated hat. Nowhere is it more apparent that the queen commands the sort of style leeway that everyone else can only dream of than with HM's hats. She has sported everything from fur, to turbans, to weird spaghetti and floral numbers—and, frankly, many of them have been hideous. No matter, because the queen is, in modern-day parlance, "rocking a regal look" and for that we will forgive her anything....

Wear a brooch, on the collarbone. The location is more important than the content; the queen switches from right to left, but she is rarely without one (if she's being really snazzy, she clips it onto her collar). This is as far as the queen will go in terms of daytime "bling." It's a shame more of her subjects don't follow her lead on this one...(Read entire article.)

Mother and Daughter Conflict

How to keep the peace.
Here are some ideas for how mothers and daughters can improve their relationship.
Daughters, when you speak to your mother, speak as an adult. Remind yourself that you are not 10 years old and always in trouble, and remind your mother, too. ('It's interesting you always think I am late. I haven't been late since 1974.') Hear what your mother is saying at face value, not through the filter of the past.
Tell your mom how you do things. Explain that you will ask for her advice if you need it.
Don't lie to your mom. It puts distance between you. And she always finds out: She has eyes in the back of her head— remember?
Mothers, ask your daughter, 'What do you need help with?' Don't assume you know. 'Asking is the most important thing that the mom can do, because it gives credibility to the daughter as an adult,' says Mikki Meyer, a marriage and family therapist.
• Tell your daughter what your mother was like. Share how she treated you and how it made you feel. 'This is very interesting for the daughter to hear,' Dr. Meyer says.
• Ask, 'What are we are really fighting about?' Does your daughter feel disrespected? Is Mom mad that you never call? Discuss what is really wrong.
Examine your contribution to the problem. Are you passive-aggressive? Overreacting? Passing blame? Accept responsibility.
Explain your anger; don't show it. Better yet, leave it at the door. 'You can pick it up on the way out,' says Lisa Brateman, a licensed clinical social worker and family therapist.
Be willing to be vulnerable. Say, 'The tension is upsetting me. I miss you.'
Find something fun and mutually satisfying to do together instead of the negative pattern. Art? Hiking? Antiquing? Couples who try new activities together are happier. It can be true of moms and daughters, too.
Imagine a satisfying relationship. 'You can only have it if you can picture it in some way,' Ms. Brateman says. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Maternity Clothes

Of times past.



The amazing health benefits.
Many researchers consider DHA to be the most important fat found in the human brain, and the unusual concentration of this omega-3 fatty acid in salmon helps explain the research-documented benefits of salmon and omega-3 fish intake for thinking and the decreased risk of certain brain-related problems that accompanies omega-3 fish consumption. Intake of omega-3s and omega-3 containing fish is associated with decreased risk of depression, decreased risk of hostility in some studies of teenagers, and decreased risk of cognitive decline in older persons. Some studies have shown an association between IQ and omega-3 intake, and also between IQ and intake of omega-3 fish.

Especially interesting in this area of fish intake, DHA, and brain function is the relatively recent discovery of protectins. Protectins are special compounds made from DHA and preliminary research studies have shown them to have a potentially important role as anti-inflammatory regulatory molecules, especially when produced by nerve tissue. (When protectins are produced by nerve tissue, they are typically called "neuroprotectins.") Researchers have speculated that at least some of the brain-related benefits from omega-3 fish intake may be due to conversion of the DHA in these fish to protectins that can help prevent excessive inflammation. (Read entire article.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Still Alice

I will forget today, but that doesn't mean that today didn't matter. ~from Still Alice by Lisa Genova
 As someone who has worked with dementia patients, I found Lisa Genova's best-selling novel Still Alice to be a poignantly candid portrayal of the ordeals suffered by a woman with Alzheimer's. Dr. Alice Howland is a Harvard professor at the height of her career when she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's syndrome. We watch her struggle to remember things even as she plots to commit suicide before her mind is completely obliterated. She cannot imagine life without her career, her friends and her independence. Most of all, she dreads what she sees as being the inevitable loss of the relationship with her husband John.

However, as the illness takes hold and Alice slides into dementia, her courage seems to grow and with it her capacity to love and enjoy the little things in life. She sees what she had sought so feverishly in the world was not what matters most to her. In spite of her growing infirmity she finds that the relationships with her children become richer and deeper. She is finally able to reach her youngest daughter in way she could not when she was well. On the other hand, she realizes that she is not her husband's main passion and as her mind fades he must seek to fill his life.

The book offers a great deal of food for thought. For instance, when it is found that Alice's daughter Anna has the Alzheimer's gene, Anna decides to make certain that any children she conceives do not have the same gene. Since Anna in impregnated through IVF, the embryos carrying the Alzheimer's gene are discarded. Alice sadly realizes that if she had done the same thing then she would never have had Anna. Science can create as many problems as it solves.

Still Alice is a novel of tender beauty and heartrending power which portrays a woman stripped of everything that makes life worth living and yet in losing herself she finds herself. We learn with her that the essence of her personality can never be destroyed; it rests in an immortal soul. Anyone who has ever cared for a loved one with a degenerative illness needs to read this book. For that matter, it is good for any person who is sick or facing old age.


Orgel, Orgel Über Alles

R.J. Stove reviews two new musical books for Crisis, saying:
Every decade or so the Cone of Silence that normally encloses organists, as once it enclosed Maxwell Smart, is penetrated by a brightly written book which makes organ-playing seem generally, if briefly, attractive. One such book is All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and its American Masters, by New York Times correspondent Craig Whitney.  With the improbably named Bach’s Feet, we shall have, with luck, another.

The author of Bach’s Feet, David Yearsley, is a Cornell professor who originally had sections of his monograph printed in (of all improbable locales) Counterpunch. Several high-quality CDs contain Dr. Yearsley’s solo playing; but even if they did not, every sentence of his prose would still bespeak the accumulated wisdom of a practical recitalist. This performer-centric approach is increasingly common in musicological literature, and most agreeably so, not least for its implied threat to that monstrous regiment of blowhards who spent the late 20th century parlaying their Marxist and feminist rages into pseudo-scholarly careers without possessing enough practical know-how to play Chopsticks. Nowadays such blowhards have largely exhausted even the Ivy League’s patience – how long ago it seems since über-blowhard Susan McClary could extort scholarly kudos by interpreting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in terms of rape! – and by far the most prominent of them in 2012 has neither gained nor sought collegiate employment: England’s Norman Lebrecht, whose recent journalistic output comprises no more than the pursuit of Netanyahuism by ostensibly musical means, and can thus be safely ignored by all Western readers outside the specialist disciplines of abnormal psychology and political policing.

Dr. Yearsley’s title could well seem a puzzler. Why Bach’s feet? Why not Bach’s hands, his fingers, or what Pogo Possum would have called “his own special brain”? And why Bach, rather than some other outstanding figure in the organ’s annals? These questions are best answered simultaneously in point form.
First, Bach remains, 262 years after his death, organ music’s supreme master. The organist who cannot perform Bach is as intrinsically absurd as is the solo pianist who cannot perform Beethoven, or the Lieder singer who cannot perform Schubert.

Second, part of Bach’s supreme mastery lies in the enterprise which he brought to writing for the organ’s pedal-board. In this enterprise he had numerous heirs, but few genuine successors and still fewer precursors. To this hour, certain of Bach’s organ pieces – above all his Trio Sonatas – daunt all interpreters, however hardy, thanks to  their pedal lines’ exuberant independence. They have not been made one whit easier by all the mechanical developments which overtook the instrument between 1800 and 1950. (Read entire article.)


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Madame Elisabeth and the Revolution

Madame Elisabeth of France provides milk for poor children at her estate at Montreuil
From Nobility:
The correspondence is full of pious and exalted thoughts. One might say that the sister of Louis XVI already foresaw the approaching tempests, and was asking Heaven for strength to face them, with alarm. In many of the letters there is a sort of anticipation of her heroic endurance. It is easy to see that this young girl was no ordinary person; that deep in her heart lay hidden treasures of resignation, piety, and courage. Touching reflections, wise counsels, Christian meditations, abound especially in her letters to Madame Marie de Causans….

February 9, 1786, she wrote to Madame Marie de Causans: “Let us turn simply to God. May faith be given us to see that he never abandons his children! If we feel too weak for his service, if we are discouraged, let us not rely on ourselves alone; let us say to him: ‘Thou, O God, seest all my heart; it is wholly Thine. I do not know whether Thou acceptest all the sacrifices which I make and intend; but Thy Son died in atonement for my faults. Look upon Him, O God, and even on the Cross, where our cruelty and sins fastened Him; hear Him who intercedes for us, who consoled the penitent thief. I would imitate him, O God, and recognize Thy sovereign power, and believe that, whatever may befall me, Thou wilt not desert me.” Madame Elisabeth ascended the scaffold; but as she climbed the steps, the God of mercy did not desert her, and death was rather an entrance into glory than a punishment….(Read entire post.)

Betrayal of Trust

There are reports of women being raped at both Annapolis Naval Academy and West Point. In a perfect world, if a young woman had one too many drinks while alone with a young man in his room, he would not take advantage of her but allow her to pass out unmolested. But we are not in a perfect world. Although people laugh at the idea of chaperones since we are now beyond all such primitive behavior which once was supposed to protect young girls from men with ignoble intentions, we are still shocked when a girl or two is assaulted for being alone and drunk at night with a man in his room. Personally, I think that women used to be protected much more than they are now. The situation appears to be deteriorating. To quote:
Marquet and Kendzior are not alone. Reports of sexual assault at West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, are up nearly 60 percent, and according to the Department of Defense, of the 65 reports investigated, only one resulted in a court-martial. And it's that rise in reports of sexual assault that has the top man at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, changing the rules.

"We've got to train commanders to understand that when these complaints are brought, they've got to do their damnedest to see that these people are brought to justice," Panetta told CNN's Kyra Phillips in an exclusive interview.

Panetta could not comment on Marquet's and Kendzior's cases specifically because of privacy issues, but he made clear that blaming of the victim needs to stop. "I think that's part of the syndrome that we're dealing with, which is that once a decision is made that somehow this prosecution is not going to move forward then you basically turn on the victim who brought that complaint," Panetta said. "That syndrome is what we have to break out of."

Just last week, after the CNN interview, Panetta announced he has created a Special Victims Unit to investigate sexual assault allegations, and that sexual assault allegations will be dealt with at the level of colonel instead of slowly making their way up through the chain of command. But the changes in policy have come too late for Karley Marquet and Annie Kendzior. Their military careers are over. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Edward VIII

Prince, Playboy, King, and Duke. According to the Mad Monarchist:
After the war he traveled frequently around the British Empire representing the King and became a huge celebrity. The handsome young (and single) prince cut a dashing figure and was reputedly the most widely photographed public figure of his day. The media attention that he inspired was not dissimilar to that which Prince William has been subjected to in recent times. However, when not undertaking royal duties, the Prince fell in with a rather bad crowd, the forerunners of the jet-set elite with more money than morals who went from one party to another, one nightclub to another, getting involved in all sorts of dalliances quite out of place with the respectable values King George V and Queen Mary tried always to embody. He became known as a womanizer and for viewing his royal status as a terrible burden rather than a sacred duty he had to make himself worthy of. His parents were often frustrated by his behavior which stood in marked contrast to that of his younger brother Albert who had settled down, married and had two daughters.

Of course, the Prince of Wales was not the first to put off marriage and lead a rather colorful lifestyle but it was the type of people he surrounded himself with and the fact that several of his affairs were with married women that was considered beyond the pale. At times, the Prince would speak of certain new ideas and new approaches he would pursue when he was king but, for the most part, he expressed dislike for having been born into royalty at all and bristled at having to sacrifice his own wants and desires for the sake of duty to the monarchy. His relationship with his family, particularly the King, deteriorated because of all of this, especially after he began a relationship with a married American woman who already had one divorce under her belt named Wallis Simpson (who, it was learned later, was also having an affair with another man at the same time). The attachment of the two only grew over time and began to worry many people in the halls of power even after Mrs. Simpson divorced her husband and began seeing the Prince of Wales exclusively. The Church of England still took a hard line on the subject of marriage and this was still during the era when royals did not marry common people, so a common-born, twice divorced American woman was a combination of everything a British monarch was NOT supposed to look for in a wife. (Read entire post.)
HERE is a discussion of Edward VIII on the Tea at Trianon Forum. Share


Research shows that most young women still make motherhood a priority.
It happens that the Center for American Progress also released a report this week that makes clear many mothers currently in the labor force have not “chosen” that route. It’s been an economic necessity.
“In 2010 there were more female breadwinners in the United States than in any year since data began being collected. This is partially due to women’s record rate of employment, men’s continued high rates of unemployment, and men’s declining wages,” says the report. (E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote more about that report in The Post.)

But the harsher realities of family life have not doused the expectations and priorities of the younger set. While majorities of both men and women surveyed by Pew cited career as a top priority, many more cited being a good parent and having a successful marriage as important.

In fact, younger women, cited family and parenting as a higher priority than ever before. The share of young women who rate parenting as a top priority has increased 17 percentage points in recent years. “Thus, the increased importance women are now placing on their careers has not come at the expense of the importance they place on marriage and family,” according to Pew. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An Inconvenient Princess

Edward IV,  Elizabeth Woodville and family visit Caxton's workshop
What really happened to Princess Bridget of York, the youngest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville? Author Nancy Bilyeau explores the question. To quote:
Rather suddenly, Elizabeth Woodville retired from public life to a suite of rooms in Bermondsey Abbey, a Benedictine order in the London borough of Southwark. Some believe her son-in-law forced the duplicitous queen dowager into monastic life because he thought she was plotting against him, though there is no evidence of it. Said one biographer, "Nineteen years as queen had cost her three sons, a father, and two brothers sacrificed to the court's bloody politics. Elizabeth Woodville now sought solace and peace in service to her God."
But what about Bridget? Did she go with her mother to the abbey--or find a place with her sister the queen or another sibling? No one knows. The next time Bridget appears in historical record is in 1490, when she, too, left the public arena for religious life. But the youngest child of Edward IV was sent to live not at Bermondsey but at Dartford Priory, a Dominican order in Kent. No one knows if this was because of her own piety, her mother’s wish to devote a child to God or the sad fact that Bridget had become an inconvenience to her family. (Read entire post.)

When Atheists Judge You

Some insights from author Amanda Borenstadt.
When I was pregnant with my first child I was young, unmarried, and because I was so liberal, rather proud of myself. I had a feeling she would be a boy. Yes, she. I was totally wrong. But at the time, I was convinced she was a boy. I was in college at the time--literature major--and many of the professors were man-hating Christian-hating, loaded with "white guilt," liberals. My history professor was one of the worst. "White, Christian males are bad. They're responsible for all of the ills of the world." When you're hormonal, thinking you're carrying a white male in your belly, this is hard to take. My unborn baby had already been judged unfit. Maybe it was all of the tears I'd shed after that class, but the liberal scales started to fall from my eyes. These people who always said Christians were judgmental, well, weren't they being judgmental themselves? (Read entire post.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blessed Vilmos Apor

A Hungarian bishop who gave his life for his sheep.
In late March 1945 the diocese of Gyor was occupied by the Russians. Being aware that they were coming, Vilmos urged his priests and religious to prepare for what was to come. A siege was imminent. Those needing shelter came to Vilmos and he sent them to as many safe places as possible. Food was stockpiled. Russian soldiers wanting the women in hiding came to the bishop’s house. They were drunk and not pleased at being stopped. Yelling at the Russians to get away from the entrance to the cellar door attracted the attention of the Russians to Vilmos, and one of them shot him down. It was Good Friday, 1945. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

To Marry An English Lord

On November 6, 1895 at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in New York City, a groom waited at the altar for a bride who appeared to be delayed. The groom was no ordinary groom, but Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough; the bride he waited for was the American railroad heiress, Consuelo Vanderbilt. The wedding was considered a triumph for both families, since the Duke would be delivered from his debts by Consuelo's millions, while Consuelo would gain a noble title. It was all the work of Consuelo's mother Alva, who coerced her teenage daughter into agreeing to marry the Duke. Now there have been many arranged marriages between well-to-do people in the history of the world, but usually they were intended to form necessary political alliances. The Marlborough-Vanderbilt marriage had as its main purpose the exaltation of Alva's vanity by enhancing her social status. As for Consuelo, she kept her groom waiting at the altar for twenty minutes as she cried her eyes out in sheer misery.

In the re-release of their book To Marry An English Lord, Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace include the stories of many wealthy American girls who went to England in pursuit of a titled husband. Unlike Consuelo Vanderbilt, most were eager to marry into British high society and some, like Jennie Jerome, who married Lord Randolph Churchill with whom she had fallen in love, were very eager indeed. The book traces the tendency of American heiresses to marry abroad to the rigidity of the old New York Knickerbocker aristocrats who would not tolerate new money families like the Vanderbilts, the Jeromes, the Leiters, the Iznagas to join the ranks of the established Four Hundred. All the money in the world could not force certain exclusive doors to open. However, the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, liked American girls; he appreciated their expensive clothes, their willingness to gamble, their pert innocence, and their spontaneous wit. His Royal Highness encouraged the marriages between his subjects and American millionaires' daughters; many a dilapidated country seat was restored to its former grandeur due to money made on Wall Street and in American industries.

The troubles which the heiresses had in adjusting to English life as ladies of the manor is described in detail ranging from the hilarious to the tragic. While some marriages, such as Mary Leiter Curzon's, were spectacular successes others, like Alice Thaw's, were disasters. Throughout the narrative, the Prince of Wales makes his appearance; reading the book is like being at a ball where he suddenly arrives. To Marry An English Lord was an inspiration for Julian Fellowes' Downton Abbey. I now have a great deal more insight into the marriage of Lady Cora and her earl as well as into the world of Downton Abbey in general. I also have a deeper understanding of Edith Wharton's and Henry James' novels. Everything from rules of etiquette to life in the servant's hall to the political highlights of the age are explored. Most interesting to me are some of the American heiresses, such as Jennie Jerome Churchill and Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough, who ultimately found fulfillment not in bearing a noble name but in political, cultural and charitable activities. As for Consuelo, she eventually walked away from it all, knowing, as she always knew inside, that money cannot buy a happy marriage or peace of soul.

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


Father George Leo Haydock

A post on a great English Scripture scholar. (I highly recommend the Haydock Bible for its truly remarkable footnotes.)
George studied first at Mowbreck Hall, Wesham and then at Douai, escaping from France in 1793 when Great Britain declared war against France. He resumed his seminary studies at Crook Hall in County Durham two years before his ordination in 1798. After remaining at Crook Hall until 1803 as a professor, he was assigned to a poor parish in Ugthorpe in Yorkshire, former home of Blessed Nicholas Postgate, Popish Plot martyr, where he worked on a commentary for a new edition of Catholic English translation of the Holy Bible, the Douai-Rheims Bible. His brother Thomas published it, starting in 1811--the Haydock Bible. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Elizabeth Barton and Henry VIII's "Reign of Terror"

Author Stephanie Mann on the Nun of Kent and all the other people Henry killed:
I was browsing through Father Philip Hughes' A Popular History of the Reformation, in the old Doubleday Image paperback edition (95 cents). [There were several pages of book descriptions at the back of the book, including everything from Summa Contra Gentiles to Marie de Chapdelaine.] I read the two chapters he dedicated to the English Reformation.

Father Hughes provides an excellent chronological narrative of events, describing the influence of the Lutheran Reformation in England before Henry VIII's Break from Rome. He then traces the events leading up to the Break, the Reformation Parliament and "the deed of blood" that was a turning point:
The deed of blood was the condemnation by attainder (i.e., by an act of Parliament, without any trial) and the execution at Tyburn of "the Nun of Kent" and four priests condemned as her accomplices. "We now enter on a period which is happily unique in the annals of England, a period of terror. It lasts from [1534 to 1540]. --quoting H.A.L. Fisher's History of England from the Accession of Henry VII to the Death of Henry VIII (1918).
I was impressed by the quotation Father Hughes selected and the use of the term "period of terror" like the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. As Father Hughes goes on to comment by April 20, 1534 Sir Thomas More and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester are imprisoned--even though they escaped being included in the attainder because of their contact with Elizabeth Barton.

Between 1534 and 1540, the king's terror did rage and the list of victims is long: The Carthusians of the Charterhouse of London, executed and starved to death; the Observant Franciscan Friars of Greenwich; More and Fisher; the rebels from the Pilgrimage of Grace, the abbots of Colchester, Reading, and Glastonbury, Anne Boleyn, the Knights of Malta, Catholic "traitors" and Protestant "heretics"--even Thomas Cromwell, Vice-Regent and Earl of Essex! I might extend the period of terror to 1541 or 1542 to include Margaret Pole, her family and Catherine Howard. Henry VIII had certainly terrorized the bishops in Convocation to get his way and his actions were definitely intimidating to many at his Court and in his family (his wife and daughter certainly experienced the threats and intimidation!). (Read entire post.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan

Reading the delightful book To Marry An English Lord  (which I shall be reviewing soon) led me to research one of the heiresses mentioned, Consuelo Vanderbilt. Consuelo, an American beauty, had been groomed from childhood to marry into European nobility to satisfy her mother's social ambitions. As a teenager she was forced to marry the Duke of Marlborough, although she was secretly engaged to someone else, and wept behind her wedding veil. Later, her marriage to the Duke was annulled by the Catholic Church and Consuelo was able to licitly marry a French aviator, Jacques Balsan. Throughout her marital ups and downs, Consuelo found peace and consolation in extensive charitable works, particularly on behalf of needy women and children. To quote from a review of Consuelo's autobiography, The Glitter and the Gold:
Despite not playing a part in the Suffragettes movement, [Consuelo Vanderbuilt] Balsan achieved a level of independence for herself...Her acts of charity, though maternal and feminine at heart in their seraphic care and devotion to the weak, allowed Consuelo to infiltrate the political sphere as one of the first women (the very first in the London County Council)...The fact that her role on the London County Council only comprises three pages out of the entire book, however, shows a reserve against excessive self-indulgence, which, in turn, depicts Consuelo as a woman who felt just as much need to write of society itself as her own story; most important to her was not her special roles, but how those roles allowed her to reform the wrongs she saw around her....

After the struggle of marrying for a second time, she did not stop her charitable work. As merely one figure among many in the Vanderbilt family account, she was said to have “withdrawn” from society to “live tranquilly.”[23] Her new home in Paris, true, held many tranquil and happy moments, but it was not long before the “cosmopolitan parties” and “wide circle of friends” began to bore her. After five short years of being “blissfully happy,” she began to “miss the work [she] was accustomed to in England” and helped to establish a hospital for the French middle-class.[25] Much as she did in England, she worked in her fullest capacity as a fund-raiser; and much as she was as Duchess of Marlborough, Madame Balsan held sway as respected speaker and activist—the President of France, when asked to come to a fundraiser event, announced, “If Madame Balsan comes to ask me I may consent.”[26] At these events, however, she never forgot her duty as wife and hostess, and she was still the one to “find arrangements to entertain” all the visitors.

Both entertaining and charity work continued when the Balsans built a summer house in Saint Georges-Motel near Paris. In this little town, Consuelo arranged and built a sanatorium where lived “some eighty young children who were recuperating from operations or in need of preventive care.”[26] Each day, she visited every child and sat with them to comfort them as well as note their progress; and when World War II came, her primary activity was to evacuate the children. In a way, it is difficult to imagine this simple and caring woman as the same who hosted so many society parties in England; her parties in France became simpler, as well. Rather the aristocratic guests who ran in the same circles as the Duke of Marlborough, the Balsans' parties consisted mainly of artists and family friends—more notably, Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Charlie Chaplin. The more political figures included merely the likes of Winston Churchill, who was family, and Lord Curzon and Lady Oxford, who were her friends and frequent guests in England. Though the circle of friends was wide and the parties many, they took on an informal feel; more common than five courses in the lush dining hall at Blenheim was a stroll around the village and a picnic luncheon on the lawn. Along with her husband and country, Consuelo changed the atmosphere in which she lived. (Read entire article.)

The Lindbergh Kidnapping Revisited

A new assessment of the tragedy. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
After Charles Lindbergh flew The Spirit of St. Louis from New York to France in 1927, completing the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight, he became America’s most admired hero. “The Lone Eagle,” as he was called, then helped develop aviation and married Anne Morrow, daughter of diplomat Dwight Morrow. Anne learned to fly, and she and Charles made spectacular intercontinental flights together. In 1930, the first of their six children, Charles, Jr. (left), was born, dubbed “the Eaglet” by the press. But tragedy struck on the windy evening of March 1, 1932. The child was snatched from his second-story bedroom. The kidnapper(s) left a crude note demanding $50,000 ransom. It bore a mysterious “signature”: overlapping red and blue circles, and three punched holes. On the ground outside, police found a chisel and homemade three-piece ladder. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Book of Jonas

"A murder remains a murder and goes on affecting people." This quote from the 1945 film Love Letters came into my mind after reading Stephen Dau's The Book of Jonas, as I sought for words to express the emotional desolation which lingered on after the final page. None of us live in a vacuum, and while the wars our country fights are far away from our homes, they touch us nevertheless. When a gifted writer such as Stephen Dau is able to impart the essence of  tragedy, telling with a minimum of graphic detail what it is to have one's soul lacerated as one is compelled not only to witness atrocities but to commit them, then the reader is left with a gutted feeling, as one who has not only heard but seen. Of all the bloody footage of massacres I have had the misfortune to glimpse, no picture is so seared upon my mind as the scene conjured by Dau of an eight-year-old girl in a white dress, playfully gathering pebbles, blissfully unaware that she is within range of hidden American troops who are about to attack her village in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. Even when many have died, sometimes it is one little life which tips the scales of justice, for no life is too small, and the smallest are often the greatest.

The novel is aptly named after the biblical prophet, for the main character Jonas, as he deals with the unspeakable, is in his very being a prophetic witness of both punishment and mercy. His coming to America after his village is destroyed by American troops is like coming into the midst of the enemy camp. As he struggles to understand his loss he encounters a grieving mother whose son was lost overseas. Jonas realizes that he knows the son and knows what became of him but whether he will be able to tell the truth or not is at the heart of the mystery of the story.

For a BlogHer discussion on The Book of Jonas, please visit HERE.

(*NOTE: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.)


At the Queen's Table

What were Marie-Antoinette's favorite foods? She was not constantly gorging herself on sweets as depicted in some films. On the contrary, she was quite abstemious and enjoyed good, plain food, as Anna describes in a post. To quote:
Privately, Marie Antoinette preferred foods which were much less extravagent than the court meals served at the grand couvert. She enjoyed meals of boiled or roasted white meat, especially chicken or fowl, accompanied by cooked vegetables. She was also fond of broths and simpler soups. She did not drink alcohol with much frequency, if at all, and preferred lemonade or water imported from Ville d’Avray for its purity. She also liked to dip small biscuits in her water or lemonade. She sometimes drank cow or donkey’s milk, especially for health purposes.

On the sweeter side, Marie Antoinette loved chocolate. Chocolate in the 18th century was primarily consumed in liquid form and would be quite thick, much thicker than the typical popular “hot cocoa” drink that is sold in stores today. Marie Antoinette especially liked chocolate which was fused with her favorite flavors, such as sweet almond, vanilla and orange blossom.

Marie Antoinette’s favorite foods, like simple meat dishes and morning hot chocolate, probably aren’t fun to sample as mountains of macarons and towers of champagne, but here are some suggestions for getting a taste of some of Marie Antoinette’s favorite meals:

Enjoy a private “Marie Antoinette” inspired dinner by complimenting some roasted white chicken meat with chicken broth, biscuits, and sweet lemonade. If you’re in a more “Trianon” mood, try a snack of fresh cow’s milk and fresh cheese. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Princess of Montpensier (2010)

Historical novelist Sandra Gulland shares her thoughts on the film:
Basically, I long to be taken back in time, and I would have liked this movie to have been a somewhat more accurate illusion. Horses galloping for hours arrive in a sweat, please. (It would be such an easy detail to recreate.) A lady would never have travelled alone. Indeed, our princess is rather too often alone — convenient, I know, for a love story, but unlikely in fact.

Also, no wigs?

Also, a woman hard galloping side-saddle for hours and hours? A functional side-saddle is said to have been introduced into France at that time, but it wasn't used universally and it wouldn't have been used for strenuous riding. (Read entire post.)

A Beautiful New Website for the Historical Novel Society

It is worth visiting. Every reviewer has their own page. Here's mine. Share

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Last Tsaritsa of Bulgaria

The Italian princess who had to deal with both Nazis and Communists. (Via Matterhorn.)
The new Tsaritsa was a very down-to-earth wife, astonishing the world when she revealed that personally cooked meals for herself and her husband, saying how the Tsar loved home cooking and that, “The secret of domestic happiness is to be found in the kitchen”. In 1933 the Tsaritsa gave birth to the couple’s first child, Princess Marie-Louise, and despite the promise Boris III had made to the Vatican, she was, as expected, immediately baptized into the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The Pope was rather upset at what he called “Balkan tricks” but nonetheless refrained from excommunicating the Italian Tsaritsa who remained a devoted Catholic throughout her life but always extremely reverent and respectful toward the Orthodox faith of her new country. In 1937 there were huge public celebrations, complete with torchlight celebrations, in honor of the birth of an heir to the throne, Prince Simeon. However, the happy mood of the Royal Family could not endure for long as the war clouds continued to gather across Europe. When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, Britain and France declared war and for the second time in the 20th Century the world came apart in a torrent of death and destruction. (Read entire post.)

The Murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer

The enigma lingers on. (Via Serge, who has some interesting commentary.)
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy began moving America in a dramatically different direction; he intended to end the Cold War through personal negotiations with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, who desired to do the same thing. The idea was that the United States and the Soviet Union would peacefully coexist, much as communist China and the United States do today. Kennedy’s dramatic shift was exemplified by his “Peace Speech” at American University, a speech that Soviet officials permitted to be broadcast all across the Soviet Union. That was followed by the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which in turn was followed by an executive order signed by Kennedy that began the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam.
Perhaps most significant, however, were Kennedy’s secret personal communications with Khrushchev and Kennedy’s secret personal outreach to Cuban president Fidel Castro, with the aim of ending the Cold War and normalizing relations with Cuba. Those personal communications were kept secret from the American people, but, more significantly, Kennedy also tried to keep them secret from the U.S. military and the CIA.
Why would the president do that?
Because by that time, Kennedy had lost confidence in both the Pentagon and the CIA. He didn’t trust them, and he had no confidence in their counsel or judgment. He believed that they would do whatever was necessary to obstruct his attempts to end the Cold War and normalize relations with Cuba – which of course could have spelled the end of the U.S. national-security state, including both the enormous military-industrial complex and the CIA. Don’t forget, after all, that after the disaster at the Bay of Pigs and after Kennedy had fired CIA director Alan Dulles and two other high CIA officials, he had also promised to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”
Janney’s book places Meyer’s murder within the context of the Kennedy murder, which had taken place 11 months before, in November 1963. The book brilliantly weaves the two cases into an easily readable, easily understandable analysis (Read entire article.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pearls and Cornflowers

Vive la Reine displays a plate from Marie-Antoinette's tea set which exemplifies the essence of the Queen's style, her love of nature and of simplicity. Share

Saint Hermengild

Martyred by his own family.
Leovigild, the Arian King of the Visigoths (569-86), had two sons, Hermengild and Reccared, by his first marriage with the Catholic Princess Theodosia. Hermengild married, in 576, Ingundis, a Frankish Catholic princess, the daughter of Sigebert and Brunhilde. Led by his own inclination, and influenced by his wife as well as by the instructions of St. Leander of Seville, he entered the Catholic fold.

Leovigild’s second wife, Goswintha, a fanatical Arian, hated her daughter-in-law and sought by ill-treatment to force her to abandon the Catholic Faith. Hermengild had accordingly withdrawn, with his father’s sanction, to Andalusia, and had taken his wife with him. But when Leovigild learned of his son’s conversion he summoned him back to Toledo, which command Hermengild did not obey.

The fanatical Arianism of his step-mother, and his father’s severe treatment of Catholics in Spain, stirred him to take up arms in protection of his oppressed co-religionists and in defence of his own rights. At the same time he formed an alliance with the Byzantines. Leovigold took the field against his son in 582, prevailed on the Byzantines to betray Hermengild for a sum of 30,000 gold solidi, besieged the latter in Seville in 583, and captured the city after a siege of nearly two years. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Vestments from the Queen's Mantle

Here are vestments made from a mantle that belonged to Marie-Antoinette. (Via Vive la Reine.) To quote:
France is a country where every village has a history and where all these stories have been the history of France. La Ferriere-aux-Ponds, small town of Orne in the Netherlands-Norman has, also, many accounts of this history that range from basement of his castle, built after the conquest of Normandy by William the Conqueror (part of which was excavated ten years ago), to the remains of its iron mine exploited industrially from the beginning of this century and closed in 1970.
Among all these traces ancestral one, though very little known so far and discrete dimension to its competitors archaeological, historical value and has an especially sentimental like no other: it is a mantle of Court of Queen Marie Antoinette of France that has been transformed, in the early nineteenth century, in liturgical vestments. These ornaments, classified as "Historic Monuments" in 1990 because of their rarity and beauty, were given to the parish of La Ferriere in 1859 after having been repeatedly worn by priests attached to the memory of the martyrdom of the Queen.
Recently, these ornaments were exposed twice to the public in 1982 at La Ferriere in 1993 and the castle of Chambord. On this occasion, it was found that, on the one hand, they required a restoration and, secondly, they undoubtedly deserve to be exposed continuously under all inside the church La Ferriere rather than remain locked and unknown in the chasuble of the sacristy. (Read more.)

The Years of the Locust

A testimony to God's mercy.
In all of my years in New York City -- years of bad mistakes, of humiliation, of foolhardiness -- I harbored the secret fantasy of moving somewhere far away where nobody knew me, a place where my life would be a blank slate and I could start over. I had all kinds of career plans in this fantasy, most of which involved buying a dilapidated old warehouse in a decrepit town like the one where I now live and turning it into a thriving arts center. To actually move away from the city, though -- and probably to actually move anywhere -- you need a good reason, and to turn old warehouses into arts centers you need a lot of cash, so my fantasy stayed a fantasy.

And then it happened -- part of it, at least. We moved far away to a place where I knew no one and no one knew me. And so here we are.

Every day my life here becomes different in ways both big and small. The big ways include things like adding another child to my family through adoption. The small things include learning to accept that "all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil," that, in other words, all is not as I longed for it to be since before I can remember -- that is, a life lived through, by, and for aesthetic values, dominated by beauty, and redolent with the variegated shades of meaning not stated outright, but only hinted at in the music that, over long years of study, became part of me. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Expectant Mothers in Art

From novelist Sandra Gulland:
When studying history, one thing is clear: women were often pregnant. So why is it so rare to see pregnant women in paintings? (Read entire post.)

Lynch Law and Mob Rule

The tragedy continues to unfold.
Lew Rockwell, I fear, is right, to suggest that "whatever happened that night, the obviously intelligent Zimmerman is probably doomed to be found guilty in a Soviet-style show trial, and murdered in a race-riven prison, to advance the racial divide-and-conquer strategy of the regime" — What George Zimmerman Looks Like.

"Trayvon is the victim here," says Pat Buchanan, "but George Zimmerman is beginning to look like a victim—of lynch law and mob rule" — Obama’s Zimmerman Problem.
 (Read entire post.) Share

In the Footsteps of the Apostles

All over the world, they are still drawing people in.
In the year 44 King Herod Agrippa I imprisoned and beheaded James the Greater, the first of the Apostles to die. In 64, when a great fire in Rome destroyed 10 of the city's 14 quarters, Emperor Nero, accused by detractors of setting the fire himself, pinned the catastrophe on the growing Christian movement and committed scores of believers to death in his private arena. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote: "An immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind … Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired." In the year 110 Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, was arrested by the Romans under Trajan, shipped to Rome, and condemned to death ad bestias—by beasts—at the public games. Bloody episodes like this would recur sporadically for the next two centuries.

Tradition holds that 11 of the Twelve Apostles were martyred. Peter, Andrew, and Philip were crucified; James the Greater and Thaddaeus fell to the sword; James the Lesser was beaten to death while praying for his attackers; Bartholomew was flayed alive and then crucified; Thomas and Matthew were speared; Matthias was stoned to death; and Simon was either crucified or sawed in half. John—the last survivor of the Twelve—likely died peaceably, possibly in Ephesus, around the year 100. (Read entire post.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Founding of the Templars

A remarkable order of chivalry.
The life of the Templars was full of contrasts. A contemporary describes the Templars as “in turn lions of war and lambs at the hearth; rough knights on the battlefield, pious monks in the chapel; formidable to the enemies of Christ, gentleness itself towards His friends.” (Jacques de Vitry). Having renounced all the pleasures of life, they faced death with a proud indifference; they were the first to attack, the last to retreat, always docile to the voice of their leader, the discipline of the monk being added to the discipline of the soldier. As an army they were never very numerous. A contemporary tells us that there were 400 knights in Jerusalem at the zenith of their prosperity; he does not give the number of sergeants, who were more numerous. But it was a picked body of men who, by their noble example, inspirited the remainder of the Christian forces. They were thus the terror of the Mohammedans. Were they defeated, it was upon them that the victor vented his fury, the more so as they were forbidden to offer a ransom. When taken prisoners, they scornfully refused the freedom offered them on condition of apostasy. At the siege of Safed (1264), at which ninety Templars met death, eighty others were taken prisoners, and, refusing to deny Christ, died martyrs to the Faith. This fidelity cost them dear. It has been computed that in less than two centuries almost 20,000 Templars, knights and sergeants, perished in war. (Read entire post.)

Spotlight on Mrs. Romney

From The Wall Street Journal:
Mrs. Romney used TV and Twitter to answer a Democratic lobbyist who dismissed Mrs. Romney's qualifications to address women's economic issues, characterizing her as a wealthy, stay-at-home mother who "never worked a day in her life." Further, added the lobbyist, Hilary Rosen, in a Wednesday night TV interview, Mrs. Romney's husband "does not view women as equals."

Mrs. Romney opened a Twitter account late Wednesday to fire back. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," she wrote, quickly drawing 10,000 followers, many furious at Ms. Rosen's remarks.

Democrats ran for cover. First lady Michelle Obama tweeted: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected." Top political adviser David Axelrod called Ms. Rosen's remarks "inappropriate and offensive." Ms. Rosen, after first seeking to explain, later apologized Thursday.

By the end of the day even the president weighed in: "There's no tougher job than being a mom," Mr. Obama said in a TV interview. "I haven't met Mrs. Romney, but she seems like a very nice woman who is supportive of her family and supportive of her husband." (Read entire post.)


By Conrad Richter (From Under the Gables.)
In 1928 the American author Conrad Richter and his family pulled up stakes and moved from eastern Pennsylvania to New Mexico in the hopes of improving his wife's health. Transplanted to totally unfamiliar territory, he set about to unearth the stories of the families who had settled there, digested old diaries and letters, and gleaned all he could from the local library on the history of the region and how the lives of its settlers and their descendants had changed over time. The most famous result of this work is his Sea of Grass, published in 1937, which centers on the conflict between cattle ranchers and homesteaders and the characters of both. But his first output from his yarn gathering was his collection of nine short stories, Early Americana.

Many of these stories revolve around the coming together of a young man and woman in marriage carve their place in the vast prairies west of Saint Louis, but the romance is always understated, if made explicit at all. Lives travel tracks that bring them together and the rest is assumed--except that the land and the difficulties of settling it present nearly insurmountable obstacles that are unimaginable today but that come to life under Richter's pen: gunfights on a betrothal night, drought that kills the cattle herd a young man had built up so he could marry, Indian attacks that destroy a young man's family. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In the Logographe

The Royal Family takes refuge in the National Assembly on August 10, 1792. Share

Medieval Lives

A new series.
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives: Episode 1 - The Peasant
Terry Jones discovers that the medieval peasant was in fact literate, emancipated, highly political, legally savvy, house-proud and healthy (albeit with terrible breath). (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Death of Prince Arthur

Because of the sudden death of a young boy the course of history was changed forever.
Although the Prince, who was fifteen remains a somewhat anonymous figure, his death was to prove one of the most momentous or portentous in English history. As a result the succession passed to his brother, the future King Henry VIII, and even more significantly, led to that King's marriage to Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon.

There is an online life of the Prince here and the Oxford DNB life by Rosemary Horrox can be read here.

From his surviving portraits the Prince sometimes appears, like his younger brother, to have taken after his mother's family in his appearance and as an adult King Henry VIII looks to have resembled King Edward IV. (Read entire post.)

The Night I Met Einstein

An account from Jerome Weidman.
When I was a very young man, just beginning to make my way, I was invited to dine at the home of a distinguished New York philanthropist. After dinner our hostess led us to an enormous drawing room. Other guests were pouring in, and my eyes beheld two unnerving sights: servants were arranging small gilt chairs in long, neat rows; and up front, leaning against the wall, were musical instruments. Apparently I was in for an evening of Chamber music.

I use the phrase “in for” because music meant nothing to me. I am almost tone deaf. Only with great effort can I carry the simplest tune, and serious music was to me no more than an arrangement of noises. So I did what I always did when trapped: I sat down and when the music started I fixed my face in what I hoped was an expression of intelligent appreciation, closed my ears from the inside and submerged myself in my own completely irrelevant thoughts.

After a while, becoming aware that the people around me were applauding, I concluded it was safe to unplug my ears. At once I heard a gentle but surprisingly penetrating voice on my right.

“You are fond of Bach?” the voice said.

I knew as much about Bach as I know about nuclear fission. But I did know one of the most famous faces in the world, with the renowned shock of untidy white hair and the ever-present pipe between the teeth. I was sitting next to Albert Einstein. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

By the King's Design

 I enjoyed Christine Trent's first two novels; in her latest book By the King's Design she surpasses herself once again. Not only are we treated to an in-depth description of how ordinary people lived in Regency England, as well as a remarkable portrait of the stormy politics of the time, but the author leads us in an exploration of addiction, and the various forms it can take. The new novel is a provocative blend of thorough research with good story-telling.

Our heroine, Annabelle Stirling, has inherited the draper's trade from her father; she runs her shop with great efficiency as well as profitable innovation, including a mechanical loom which weaves cloth on the premises. Her success rouses the anger of the local Luddites, who are against machinery in the cloth industry, fearing it will lead to the loss of many jobs. One night they raid her draper shop and begin to destroy the inventory. Belle discovers that the Luddite vandals are led by her fiancé and her own brother, Wesley. Disillusioned, Belle breaks off her engagement, closes her shop and moves her business from Yorkshire to London. Within months she finds success, due to the patronage of the Prince of Wales, who hires her to help decorate his Pavilion in Brighton. However, her financial independence comes at a heavy personal price.

Belle has a rather co-dependent relationship with her brother Wesley, in that in spite of his attempt to ruin her she gives him a job in her shop, although she has enough common sense to refrain from giving him any authority. Wesley resents working for his younger sister, and escapes from his dissatisfaction by falling into bad habits, including the smoking of opium. The gradual shattering of his personality through drug abuse is examined in heartrending detail.

A major character in the novel is the flamboyant Prince of Wales, who becomes George IV. While possessing  humor and charm which make him a likable fellow, George has many vices which he assiduously cultivates in direct rebellion to his staid and devout father. With two wives, many debts and a string of mistresses, George gives little thought to the scandal he gives to his people. George would now be considered a sex addict, since no one woman is able to satisfy his needs. Annabelle must eventually decide whether working for such a man is truly worth it.

As Belle climbs the ladder of prosperity, she is befriended by a young cabinetmaker named Putnam Boyce. Put tries to court her but Belle is so attached to the satisfaction of running her own business she deliberately shuts her heart to any possibility of marriage or romance. Belle seeks emotional refuge in her career and so the work she loves becomes a sort of addiction in itself, since she puts it before the people in her life. She discovers that the more she tries to shield herself from pain, the more it finds her.

In the meantime, there are those who would try to bring Revolution to England in imitation of the French debacle. This aspect of the novel I found extremely educational, since I have been unfamiliar with the politics of the time. As in her other novels, Christine Trent lavishes great attention on the details of living and working which  make it a fascinating read for anyone who loves the history of everyday life.

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


Books Set in Paris

I've only read the first one mentioned.
As a visitor it's almost impossible not to see the splendid Notre-Dame Cathedral through the eyes of Victor Hugo and his creation Quasimodo.

"When, after groping your way lengthily up the gloomy spiral staircase, which rises vertically up through the thick wall of the bell towers, you abruptly emerged at last on to one of the two lofty platforms, flooded with air and daylight, a beautiful panorama unfolded itself …" (Read entire post.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Generosity of the Duchesse d'Angoulême

The only surviving daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette imitated her parents' example of alms-giving to the poor. (From Vive la Reine.) Is that a brioche on the mantelpiece?


On the Path of Cathar Shepherds

A visit to Montaillou. I gleaned a great deal of information from Leroy Ladurie's book when I was working on The Night's Dark Shade. To quote:
Yesterday we walked through Montaillou.  It might seem a tiny and unremarkable village now, but it’s the place that’s maybe done most to contribute to our understanding of turn-of-the-14th century village life in the Languedoc when religious strife between the Catholics and the Cathars was at its height.  This is a big subject: it deserves more than passing mention: a future blog maybe.

I’d read le Roy Ladurie’s book on Montaillou more than 30 years ago,and never dreamed that I might one day live in what the tourist offices are pleased to call ‘Cathar Country’.  So it was the shepherds of Montaillou I was thinking of as we began our Sunday walk.  They would come to the annual fair at Laroque d’Olmes, a good 40 km from where they lived.  They would drive their flocks long distances for good pasture, and as national boundaries meant little in these mountain zones, their fellow shepherds whom they met in their travels would sometimes be Spanish. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dante and Roman Tradition

A fascinating commentary.
If Virgil represents the ancient tradition and Beatrice the new tradition and if, the threshold of the Terrestrial Paradise, Virgil disappears before Beatrice, Beatrice also disappears when the divine mystery is grasped by Dante in its immediate realization and what then remains, above and beyond the two traditions unified forever is, climactically, Rome. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Marie-Antoinette Receives Final Absolution

In the Conciergerie, a priest gives Marie-Antoinette absolution as he passes her cell before her execution. (From Vive la Reine.) Share

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Moral Catastrophe

America's prisons.
One wonders what Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky...would conclude from the fact that with "216,000 victims, not instances," "prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women," as reported by Christopher Glazek — Raise the Crime Rate. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Empress Titania

I found a new site about Sisi. Here is one of her poems:
Titania shall not go where people walk
This world, where no one understands her,
Where hundred thousand gazers her beleaguer,
Whispering and prying, “Look, the fool, look there!”
Where jealousy and envy seek her out,
To distort her every action,
She returns homebound to those regions,
Where allied, kinder souls abide.
~ Elisabeth, Empress of Austria

Preparation for Death

In the late Middle Ages.
The extent to which the plague can account for these representations of death is impossible to fully determine, but what is clear is that they stemmed from a fear of sudden death, which in itself stemmed from a fear of Hell and Purgatory. In order to ensure the eventual passage of their souls to heaven, everyone— rich and poor, clergy and layman—was expected to devote a significant portion of life to the contemplation of death, by viewing art and reading poetry, by visiting the sick and dying, and sometimes even by becoming deathly sick. (Read entire post.)