Saturday, June 30, 2012

Les Dames de Trianon

A new exhibit at Versailles. (Via Vive la Reine.)
In addition to rulers from Queen Maria-Theresa of Austria to Empress Eugénie of France, portraits of women in the royal or imperial family – mothers, sisters, daughters and granddaughters – are on display in the gallery. Beside them, you can see paintings of women whose lives were interwoven with power – princesses and royal favourites – and of lesser-known figures: ladies of the royal court and women in the service of queens and empresses.

A procession of three centuries of women in French history streams past the eyes of visitors, who can observe changing tastes in fashion and portraiture in famous works by Gobert, Rigaud, Nattier, Gérard, Gros and Winterhalter.(Read more.)
 Marie-Caroline of Naples, Duchesse de Berry, appears to be the mascot of the exhibit.


Selfishness as Virtue?

From The American Interest (via Joshua Snyder):
Klinenberg is rarely explicit about his convictions, which saves him the trouble of seriously assaying their implications, but he finally gets to the point directly in his conclusion, asserting that “living alone is an individual choice that’s as valid as the choice to get married or live with a domestic partner. . . . [I]t’s a collective achievement—which is why it’s common in developed nations but not in poor ones.” Klinenberg cites Sweden as a model to be emulated.

This is a novel position, to be sure, considering that no known civilization in human history has lauded solitary living as a social ideal. Either the extended family or, since the Industrial Revolution, the nuclear family variant of it, has been a universal social norm for at least the past 10,000 years and arguably much longer than that. And you don’t need data to see why: Society needs children and children need families.
What the Founders knew, but so many contemporaries seem to have forgotten, is that the well-being of any society turns not just on its capacity to procreate but on its ability to transmit a tradition of moral reasoning, and the values that attend it, to future generations. Drawing from the Hebrew prophets and the Greek philosophers, they recognized that values are in flux as virtuous or venal cycles reverberate across generations. Not that moral development is to be feared, or that change is in principle to be disparaged, but development and change has to be carefully nurtured by sentries on the lookout for indulgence, corrosion and selfishness. The Founders understood that the good life can only be safeguarded by a good society, and that this indelible connection bestows obligations on individuals to invest in the acculturation of future generations. (Read entire article.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Madame Elisabeth on Providence

From a letter of Madame Elisabeth of France to a priest friend, dated June 25, 1792, a month and a half before the fall of the monarchy:
The future seems an abyss, from which we can only issue by a miracle of Providence. Do we deserve it? At that question I feel my courage fail me. Which of us can expect the answer, “Yes, you deserve it”? All suffer, but alas! none are penitent, none turn their hearts to God. As for me, what reproaches I have to make to myself! Swept along by the whirlwind of misfortune I have not asked of God the grace we need; I have relied on human help; I have been more guilty than others, for who has been as much as I the child of Providence? But it is not enough to recognize our faults; we must repair them. (Read entire post.)

The Real Edmund Burke

He was Irish, in case you were wondering. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
Let us visit him there, late on a summer afternoon, the burble of hawfinch and warbler in the close walls of the woods, the keening of kite and hobby overhead. The tea is ready; he leans back in his battered chair, a gift from one of the men who work his farm; he runs a hand through his hair, bright red until the end of his days; he adjusts the spectacles he has worn since he was young; he says with a smile that at dusk he is due at the big house for dinner with his beloved Jane and their boy Richard and two or three esteemed guests from London; but for an hour shall we converse, shall we talk, shall we let loose our minds to ramble free, and ride ideas where they take us? “The roving flight of genius,” Hazlitt called Burke’s speech, “never [more] himself … but when … forgetful of the idle clamours of party, and of the little views of little men.." (Read entire post.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Last Mass of Louis XVI

On the feast of St. Agnes, January 21, 1793.
When they returned to the King’s chamber, Cléry had prepared everything for Mass, with a chest of drawers as a makeshift altar. The Abbé vested for Mass in Cléry’s room. He had asked only for the essentials necessary for the saying of Mass, but the commissary had brought much more—candles, altar linens, full vestments, even incense. “I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts,” Our Lord had said to Sr. Marguerite-Marie. The Abbé said the Mass of the virgin-martyr Saint Agnes. 
~from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal

Jack Daniel's

An old Welsh recipe? Really?
Businessman Mark Evans, 54, was researching his family history when he discovered the recipe in a book of herbal remedies. It was written in 1853 by his great-great grandmother who was called Daniels and was a local herbalist in Llanelli, South Wales. Her brother-in-law left the Welsh town at about the same time to move to Lynchburg Tennessee where the Jack Daniel's distillery was opened three years later. And the Jack Daniel's website states the founder of the distillery was from Wales. Mr Evans says the ingredients in his great-great grandmother's recipe match what goes into the best selling whiskey in the world. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

12 A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness--

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

~from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
(Artwork by Edmund Dulac)

The Real Jane Grey

Author Susan Higginbotham shares her thoughts.
When I set out to write a novel about Jane Grey’s mother, Frances (Jane’s mother-in-law wormed her way into the book later), it was never with the intention of denigrating Jane Grey or of knocking her off a pedestal, but of seeing Jane through the eyes of my characters. When I did that, I saw Jane as an outspoken, even arrogant young woman, one whose intelligence might well lead her to regard more ordinary women, like her own mother, with contempt. I saw her as a young woman who was more at home corresponding with scholars than having to make small talk with her peers, and who wouldn’t have any bones about saying so. I saw a young woman who was prone to self-righteousness and to making harsh judgments about others, to seeing things in terms of black or white. I saw a young woman who might even be willing to stretch the truth at times—as when she hinted to Queen Mary that her mother-in-law had tried to poison her. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Real Gabrielle

Gareth Russell sketches the character of Marie-Antoinette's best friend in his own inimitable way, saying:
Within the palace, the reasons for her unpopularity sprang mainly from jealousy. With Gabrielle monopolising Marie-Antoinette's time and affection, no-one else could climb the social ladder and become the Queen's new favourite. Many a failed socialite would utter the cry of the insidious and vile Madame de la Motte, who complained in her memoirs, "To be sure, one could hope for presentation to the Queen only through the Polignac clique, but the Duchess, jealous and fearful of losing the royal favour she monopolised, disdainfully repulsed any outsider who sought so much as a smile or a glance from the Queen... I was outraged by the attitude of this haughty and imperious woman. Well could I remember the Polignacs in Paris when they were impoverished nonentities". Gabrielle therefore became a useful scapegoat for any aristocrat who wanted to say they didn't enjoy the Queen's favour because the Duchess controlled all access to her; not because they themselves were too boring, annoying or unpleasant to actually win Marie-Antoinette's much-coveted friendship. (Read entire post.)

The Real St. Thomas More

Stephanie Mann sifts through myths and rumors.
 Beyond the issue of St. Thomas More and the persecution of heretics, how can a man be called "fussily pious" and "stiff-necked" who expresses the hope that he and his judges will meet merrily in Heaven?--"More have I not to say, my lords, but that like as the blessed apostle Saint Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, was present and consented to the death of Saint Stephen, and kept their clothes that stoned him to death, and yet be they now twain holy saints in heaven, and shall continue there friends forever: so I verily trust and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your lordships have now in earth been judges to my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to our everlasting salvation." 
Desiderius Erasmus, who could not abide fussy piety, would certainly disagree with Mantel's characterization of "More"--"Friendship he seems born and designed for; no one is more open-hearted in making friends or more tenacious in keeping them, nor has he any fear of that plethora of friendships against which Hesiod warns us.... Nobody is less swayed by public opinion, and yet nobody is closer to the feelings of ordinary men." (Read entire post.)


Monday, June 25, 2012

The Storming of the Tuileries, June 1792

Louis XVI dons the Bonnet Rouge
Madame Royale describes the storming of the Tuileries palace on June 20, 1792 and how her family escaped death:
On the 20th of June, about eleven o'clock in the morning, nearly all the inhabitants of the faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau, where the populace chiefly lived, marched in a body to the National Assembly, to go from there to the garden and plant the liberty-tree. But as they were all armed, which gave reason to suspect bad intentions, my father ordered the gates of the Tuileries to be closed. The Assembly showed great dissatisfaction, and sent a deputation of four municipals to induce the king to order the gates to be opened. These deputies spoke very insolently; said they exacted the opening of the gates in order that those who had come to plant the tree, the sign of liberty, might return that way, inasmuch as the crowd in the rue Saint-Honoré was too great to allow them to pass. My father, however, persisted in his refusal, and they then went and opened themselves the gates of the garden, which was instantly inundated by the populace; the gates of the courtyards and the château still remained locked. 

An hour later this armed procession began to defile before our windows, and no idea can be formed of the insults they said to us. Among others, they carried a banner on which were these words: 
"Tremble, tyrant; the people have risen;" and they held it before the windows of my father who, though he was not visible himself, could see all and hear their cries of "Down with Veto!" and other horrors. This lasted until three o'clock, when the garden was at last freed. The crowd then passed through the Place du Carrousel to the courtyards of the Tuileries, but quietly, and it was generally thought they were returning to their faubourgs. 

During this time our family were in the rooms on the courtyard side, absolutely alone and observing all that went on; the gentlemen of the suite and the ladies dined on the other side. Suddenly we saw the populace forcing the gates of the courtyard and rushing to the staircase of the château. It was a horrible sight to see, and impossible to describe–that of these people, with fury in their faces, armed with pikes and sabres, and pell-mell with them women half unclothed, resembling Furies. 

Two of the ushers wishing to run the bolts of my father's door, he prevented it and sprang himself into the next room to meet the rioters. My aunt followed him hastily, and hardly had she passed when the door was locked. My mother and I ran after her in vain; we could not pass, and at that moment several persons came to us, and finally, the guard. My mother cried out: "Save my son!" Immediately some one took him in his arms and carried him off. My mother and I, being determined to follow my brother, did all we could against the persons who prevented us from passing; prayers, efforts, all were useless, and we had to remain in our room in mortal anxiety. My mother kept her courage, but it almost abandoned her when, at last, entering my brother's room she could not find him. The persons who, on her own order, had carried him away lost their heads, and in the confusion, took him up higher in the château, where they thought him in greater safety. My mother then sent for him and had him brought back to his room. There we awaited, in the silence of profound anxiety, for news of what had happened to my father. 

Returning to him, I must resume at the moment when he passed through the door which was then locked against us. As soon as he thought the danger passed the king dismissed his suite, so that no one was with him but my Aunt Élisabeth, [Maréchal de Mouchy (who in spite of his 77 years and my father's order persisted in remaining), two old ushers, the brave Acloque, commander of the division of the National Guard, an example of fidelity in the uniform of rebellion], 1 and M. d'Hervilly, lieutenant-colonel of the new King's-Guard, who, seeing the danger, ran to call the Guard and collected about twenty grenadiers, but on reaching the staircase he found only six had followed; the others had abandoned him. My father was therefore almost alone when the door was forced in by one sapeur, axe in hand raised to strike him, but [here] by his coolness and imperturbable courage my father so awed the assassin that the weapon fell from his hand,–an event almost incomprehensible. It is said that some one cried out: "Unhappy man, what are you about to do?" and that those words petrified him; for my part I think that what restrained that wretch was Divine Providence and the ascendancy that virtue always maintains over crime. 

The blow having thus failed, the other accomplices, seeing that their leader had let himself be cowed, dared not execute their evil designs. Of all this mass of the populace, there were certainly very few who knew precisely what they were expected to do. To each had been given twenty sous and a musket; they were sent in drunk with orders to insult us in every imaginable way. Their leader, Santerre, had brought them as far as the courtyard, and there he awaited the success of his enterprise. He was desperate on learning that his stroke had missed, and he came near being killed himself by a man in the château, who aimed for him, and was prevented from shooting only by remonstrances as to the danger to which he exposed my father; for if Santerre were sacrificed the brigands would surely avenge him. 

My father was nevertheless obliged to allow all these wretches to go through the rooms of the château, and, standing himself in a window with my aunt, he watched them pass before him and heard the insults with which they overwhelmed him. It was on this horrible day that my father and my aunt each made a memorable speech. At the moment of the greatest danger a soldier came up to the king and said to him, "Sire, fear nothing." My father took his hand and laid it on his own heart. "Does it beat hard, grenadier?" he said. Shortly before, my Aunt Élisabeth, being mistaken for the queen, saw herself exposed to the utmost fury of the brigands; some one near was about to make her known. "Do not undeceive them," cried my aunt with sublime devotion. 

This dreadful situation lasted from half-past three in the afternoon till eight at night. Pétion, mayor of Paris, arrived, pretending to be much astonished on hearing of the danger the king had run. In haranguing the people he had the impudence to say: "Return to your homes with the same dignity with which you came." The Assembly, seeing that the stroke had missed, changed its tone, pretended to have been ignorant of everything, and sent deputation after deputation to the king expressing the grief it feigned to feel for his danger. 

Meantime my mother, who, as I said, could not rejoin the king, and was in her apartment with my brother and me, was a long time without hearing any news. At last, the minister of war came to tell her that my father was well; he urged her to leave the room where we then were, as it was not safe, and we therefore went into the king's little bed-chamber. We were scarcely there before the rioters entered the apartment we had just left. The room in which we now were had three doors: one by which we had entered, another opening upon a private staircase, a third communicating with the Council Chamber. They were all three locked, but the first two were attacked, one by the wretches who were pursuing us, the other by men who came up the little staircase, where we heard their shouts and the blows of their axes. 

In this close danger my mother was perfectly calm; she placed my brother behind every one and near the door of the Council Chamber, which was still safe, then she placed herself at the head of us all. Soon we heard some one at the door of the Council Chamber begging to enter. It was one of my brother's servants, pale as death, who said only these few words: "Madame, escape! the villains are following me." At the same instant, the other doors were forced in. In this crisis my mother hastily ordered the third door opened and passed into the Council Chamber, where there were, already, a number of the National Guard and a crowd of wretches. 

My mother said to the soldiers that she came to take refuge with her son among them. The soldiers instantly surrounded us; a large table standing in the middle of the Chamber, served my mother to lean upon, my brother was seated on it, and the brigands defiled past it to look at us. We were separated from my father by only two rooms, and yet it was impossible to join him, so great was the crowd. We were therefore obliged to stay there and listen to all the insults that these wretches said to us as they passed. A half clothed woman dared to come to the table with a bonnet rouge in her hand and my mother was forced to let her [Page 236] place it on her son's head; as for us, we were obliged to put cockades on our heads. It was, as I have said, about eight o'clock when this dreadful procession of rioters ceased to pass and we were able to rejoin my father and aunt. No one can imagine our feelings at that reunion; they were such that even the deputies from the Assembly were touched. My brother was overcome with fatigue and they put him to bed. We stayed together for a time, the room being full of deputies. An hour later they went away, and about eleven o'clock, after having passed a most terrible day, we separated to get some rest . . . . 

The next day Pétion came again to play the hypocrite, saying he had heard of more assemblings of the people and he had hastened to defend the king. My father ordered him to be silent; but as he still tried to protest his attachment, my father said: "Be silent, monsieur; I know your thoughts." (Read more.)
Marie-Antoinette, her children, and Madame de Tourzel face the mob

A Faithful Priest

Fr. John Trigilio on the trials and joys of priestly life.
There will always be temptations in every vocation and because priests influence so many people and can potentially save many souls, Satan goes out of his way to discourage, disappoint and demoralize Christ's ordained ministers. The Devil wants us to envy each other. He wants us to be resentful rather than grateful. Daily prayer and annual retreat are necessary and obligatory. But very helpful is cultivating priestly FRATERNITY.  The priests who have left, who have gone off the deep end, who have become recluses or eccentrics are the ones who have no good priest friends. When priests stay to themselves we can become idiosyncratic to say the least. Being odd is not good.

Let it be said that every priest and deacon needs some private time to himself. Some time for inner reflection and just to unwind and relax. Catching an occasional movie, playing a round of golf or a game of bowling, going to a concert or play, having a day off, are all wonderful safety valves. When a priest spends all of his free time alone, though, it can be dangerous.  He needs someone to encourage but also someone who can, when needed, give fraternal correction. He needs another voice and opinion to help give him balance. A brother priest knows the struggles and challenges. A lay friend is good to have and several are even better but a priest NEEDS some, one or more, GOOD and SOLID priest friends. Not someone who will commiserate and entice even more complaining and disdain, but someone who can provide healthy PERSPECTIVE and at times needed distraction. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Flight to Montmédy

Vive la Reine on some common misconceptions.
Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and the royal family were fleeing to the town of Varennes
The intended destination of the royal family was actually the royalist fortress of Montmedy.
Louis XVI intended to flee France
Louis XVI firmly refused to leave the country and, according to biographers such as Fraser, Webster, Hardman and more, turned down several flight routes to Montmedy which would have been much faster and safer because they briefly took him across the French border.
The coach which carried the royal family was recognized because it bore their royal arms/was too extravagant
The coach, presumably ordered by Axel Fersen, was large but not unusually so and was in fact based upon previously drafted plans for a Parisian’ companies carriage. It was not decorated with the arms of the royal family and, on the outside, was nothing out of the ordinary. The coach featured a variety of traveling amenities often used by those who could afford them - including a larder, cooker, fold-up table and chamber pots - because it was necessary for the flight to eliminate the need for its passengers to stop or leave the carriage. (Read entire post.)

More HERE.

The Royal Family returns to Paris after being captured at Varennes

The Kids Aren't Alright

It is always interesting when research affirms what common sense and tradition have long dictated.
The widely circulated claim that parents engaged in same-sex relationships do just as well as other parents at raising children—a claim widely known today as the “no differences” thesis—is not settled science. Two new peer-reviewed studies released this week by the academic journal Social Science Research challenge the claim that there are no differences in outcomes between children raised by parents who have same-sex relationships and those raised by their biological mother and father in intact, stable marriages. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Little Black Dress

Coco Chanel and the elegance of simplicity.
"Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future." Coco Chanel

...The little black dress, originally intended as an evening or cocktail dress, is attributed by most fashion historians to the brilliance of Coco Chanel in the 1920′s. As Chanel so wisely said, ”Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” These days the LBD has surpassed the role of evening wear and is a dress that can be worn at any time of the day….(Read entire post.)

The Queen's Pin

A hairpin that may have belonged to Catherine de Medici has recently been found.
According to the June 13, 2012 edition of the French newspaper La République, excavations in the Henri IV courtyard of the château de Fontainebleau unearthed a hairpin possibly belonging to queen Catherine de Medici.

The Henri IV courtyard, also known as the Cour des Offices, was built between 1606 and 1609 to house domestic and administrative services. Historians thought the area unimportant before construction of the buildings that enclosed it. However, two meters below the surface, archeologists discovered a former latrine that has yielded all sorts of discarded objects: bones, coins, crockery, a small gold cross. The most significant find has been a hairpin that probably belonged to the queen. Vincent Droguet, curator of the château, explains that the pin features two interlaced C's, the arms of Catherine de Medici. "It's a stunning find," he says, "as jewels belonging to Catherine de Medici are very rare." (Photo at the original article.) (Read entire post.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jane Avril

The muse of Toulouse-Lautrec.
A beautiful girl, though extremely thin, with pale skin and tresses of red gold hair, Jane Avril soon became infamous for performing the cancan at the Jardin de Paris, a fashionable dance hall in the Champs-Elysees....

Lautrec saw her as a woman rather than simply another dancing girl; more than a flame that flickered bright only in the demi-monde. Yes, he painted her in glamorous poses, but he also presented the graceful and melancholic Jane in the day to day routine of her life - paintings in which she often seems to be somewhat older than her years, looking frail and tired and nervous. (Read entire article.)

Shakespeare's Theater

It has been discovered.
England’s second permanent theater was built by the actor-manager James Burbage in 1576. Burbage called it …  The Theatre. (Look, they were making the greatest works of drama in the English language at the time: they couldn’t be bothered  to come up with a good name as well.)

Not far away, in Curtain Close, Shoreditch, another theater was built a year later, and dubbed The Curtain. This was used to try new shows or for lesser productions, and from 1597 to 1599 it became the home of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the theater company of William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet debuted there (it’s where the action in Shakespeare in Love would have taken place), as well as Henry V. Once the Globe was built, Shakespeare’s men left the Curtain for good.

The Curtain disappeared from the historical records by the 1620s, only to reappear last week.... (Read entire post.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Tudors, Season 2

Jeremy Northam as St. Thomas More
I just finished watching The Tudors, Season 2, which deals with Henry VIII's struggle to marry Anne Boleyn and the disasters which followed. I resisted having anything to do with the Showtime series for a long time but I must say that I am deeply impressed by much of it, especially by how the religious issues are handled. In fact, Season 2 would practically be a martyrology except that it is punctuated by scenes of frantic copulation which detract from an otherwise magnificent production. The sets, the costumes, the music, the banquets, the dances, the firelight are all a history lover's dream. The plot takes into account many intricate diplomatic and political matters which makes the occasional glaring historical errors all the more puzzling. The fact that John Rhys-Meyers' Henry remains muscular and svelte is a bit bizarre but then it probably reflects how Henry saw himself in his increasingly deluded mind. Natalie Dormer is the best Anne Boleyn ever. Katherine of Aragon is shown as the great and holy queen that she was. I sobbed my heart out when she died. The sorrows and humiliations endured by Princess Mary, Henry and Katherine's daughter, are portrayed for the first time in any production that I know of, making the future Mary I a sympathetic, stubborn and tragic character. We see, as never before, Henry VIII overturning heaven and earth in order to make Anne Boleyn his wife and his queen. We witness that jewels, titles, executions and laws of man cannot make a mistress into a wife and that it takes more than a crown to make a queen. Nevertheless, Anne is a mesmerizing personage, played with bewitching grace and subtlety. The scenes of the sufferings and executions of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are some of the most moving and deeply spiritual depictions I have seen in any drama. It is impossible not to be moved. It is strange that in these times inspiration is found in unlikely places. Share

Forced Abortions in China

Beyond tragic.
Mrs Feng and her 29-year-old husband, Deng Jiayuan, already have a child, a six-year-old girl. But, as farmers, they were entitled by Chinese law to have a second baby with the permission of their local family planning bureau.
When Mrs Feng was three months pregnant, officials said they visited her and asked her to fill in an application form and to change her hukou, a Chinese registration permit, to say she lived in the countryside.
It is not clear why Mrs Feng failed to fill in the forms and transfer her residence. She has complained on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, that she was not warned of the consequences until it was too late. But as her pregnancy progressed, local officials offered her family a deal: pay 40,000 yuan ($6250) to smooth the bureaucracy over.
When the couple said they did not have the money, Mrs Feng was taken from her home on May 30 by more than 20 officials and ransomed, her husband said. The officials held her for three days, apparently sending threatening text messages to members of her family, before giving the foetus a lethal injection on June 2. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seeing Jane Austen

From The New Yorker:
Last week, researchers unveiled new evidence suggesting that a long-disputed portrait does, in fact, depict a thirteen-year-old Jane Austen. The painting in question is a picture of a very pretty girl with dark eyes and pursed lips, wearing a cloudy-white Empire-waist dress. Since the late nineteenth century, members of a branch of Austen’s family have contended that it is a portrait of their famous ancestor—but historians have disputed the claim, saying that the style of the girl’s dress was not in fashion until Austen was twenty years old.

The new evidence comes from early photos of the portrait (taken in 1910, before the painting underwent several restorations) that reveal Austen’s name, the name of the painter, and the date 1789, at which time Austen was thirteen. If the girl in the painting really is Jane Austen then the portrait is the only professionally painted likeness of her—and it joins a sketch by Austen’s sister and, possibly, an unauthenticated drawing discovered last year by the Austen biographer Paula Byrne, among the only known portraits of the author created during her lifetime. These unearthed pictures, historical debates, and “Blow-Up”-style investigations reinforce the celebrity aura that has developed around Austen in recent years. (Read entire article.)

Aelfthryth, Queen of England

The story of a tempestuous Saxon queen.
Aelfthryth was born c. 945, the daughter of Ordgar who held numerous properties in southwest England. Her mother was a member of the royal family of Wessex and her brother Ordulf founded the abbey of Tavistock. Edgar was born c. 943 and became King in 959. He married a childhood friend, Aethelflaed when very young and had a son named Edward by this wife who appears to have died soon afterward. There is some confusion over whether he married his second wife or not. Her name was Wulfthryth and she had a daughter with Edgar who later became Saint Edith of Wilton but, there were no male heirs born. Eventually, Edgar disposed of Wulfthryth as his “wife” and began a search for another wife.

What happened next is the subject of debate. Legend says Edgar heard that Aelfthryth was exceedingly beautiful and Edgar needed allies in the part of the country where her father was ealdorman. He sent one of his courtiers, Aethelwald, ealdorman of East Anglia to visit Aelfthryth to determine if she was beautiful and suitable to be his queen. Aethelwald found her so astoundingly beautiful he married her himself, telling the King she was unsuitable. Edgar found out the deception and decided to judge for himself if Aelfthryth was beautiful. Alarmed, Aethelwald asked Aelfthryth to make herself unattractive for the King’s visit. She did just the opposite. Edgar was so enticed by her gorgeous looks he wanted her for himself and managed to have Aethelwald killed in a hunting accident so he could marry her. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Memories of Auckland

In April 2009, I had the privilege of speaking at the Eucharistic Conference in Auckland, New Zealand. The conference organizer John Porteous recently put the videos of my talks online. The first talk, about Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, is HERE. The second talk, about their children, is HERE. Share

The Origin of Snark

From Brain Pickings:
Snark is something we encounter — and possibly employ — daily, its permeating ubiquity and cultural givenness having eclipsed any sort of curiosity about its history and origins. But while snark might be a weapon from the modern hipster’s arsenal, the linguistic heritage of the word itself dates back many generations — to 1874, to be precise. Its first recorded occurrence in language is in the title of Lewis Carroll‘s nonsensical poem The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits), which he penned at the age of 42, nine years after Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Cue in some favorite and little-known illustrations for his masterpiece.) (Read entire post.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

City of Slaughter: A Novel

It is easy to forget, when surrounded by modern conveniences, what many of our ancestors went through in order to build a new life in North America. City of Slaughter by Cynthia Drew sheds light on the harsh realities of immigrant life in New York City in the early twentieth century. The story opens with a horrific pogrom in a Jewish village in Russia in what was known as "the Pale," the region where the Jews were compelled to live. Thirteen year old Carsie Axelrod witnesses her parents brutally murdered by Cossacks, an incident which sets her not only on the road to America but also propels her into radical politics, feminism and even emotional disorders. In case anyone ever wondered why so many Jews became involved in Communism and anarchism in the early 1900's, they have only to read a novel such as this one in order to see the injustices which persuaded people to join those movements.

Told with page-turning suspense, the book is replete with authentic descriptions as well as soul-searing drama. As Carsie and her little sister Lilia barely make it to America with their lives, they find their circumstances in New York as harrowing as anything they left behind in Russia. Miss Drew gives us balanced portrayals of the various characters; not all the immigrants are industrious  and some are drawn into crime and drug addiction. Many women are the sole support of their families as their husbands become bogged down in gangland plots and general degradation. On the other hand, there are any number of hard-working, responsible men who build businesses out of nothing, overcoming prejudice, exhaustion and illness. I enjoyed how the various characters and their stories are woven into the tale of Carsie and Lilia. It can be a challenge to go back in time and see the world through the eyes of another culture but the author has succeeded magnificently. A brilliant work of historical fiction, City of Slaughter is both heartbreaking and hopeful.

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


The Importance of Fatherhood

New data merely confirms what has been known from the beginning of time.
A father's love contributes as much -- and sometimes more -- to a child's development as does a mother's love. That is one of many findings in a new large-scale analysis of research about the power of parental rejection and acceptance in shaping our personalities as children and into adulthood. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Au Bonheur Public

A statue of the young sovereigns, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, dedicating themselves to the happiness of the people of France. Share

The Great Hypocrisy

Author Christina Croft looks at the Red Cross mission to Russia in 1917.
 Surprisingly, this ‘mission’ of 24 people comprised only 4 doctors and the rest were financiers, photographers and lawyers, and the mission leaders lived in the most expensive hotels, taking photographs and, no doubt, eyeing the resources of the country to which they had not had access under the Tsar.

In fact that mission, financed by J.P. Morgan (and probably donations from the sincere and well-meaning American people), had very little to do with the American Red Cross, which was actively working in a far more constructive way in various other countries. This mission, however, had a very different agenda – that of the Wall Street bankers and international financiers who had been involved in prolonging the war for financial gain, for access to the Russian oilfields and, of course, as part of their plan to dismantle all the autocracies of Europe....

What became of Wilson’s idea to ‘make democracy safe for everyone’? A grand imposing idea  that led to Hitler, Stalin and Trotsky (who, incidentally, had been driving round New York in a limousine before setting sail for Russia, and was released from captivity in Canada on the orders of Britain and America so that he could continue the revolution in Russia) and Lenin, who – great socialist that he was! – had been living in relative luxury in Switzerland before being funded by the financier Jacob Schiff and others, to cause such disruption in Russia.
Everything....everything we were taught about the First World War is a great myth and one that involves a good deal of hypocrisy! This is but the tip of the iceberg. I would go so far as to say that up until that time, it was the great crime ever committed against humanity, the greatest con in history and even to this day people believe the lie that it was an Imperial War led by kings and emperors. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Clothing in Ancient Rome

From History and Other Thoughts:
As mentioned above, women too wore a longer tunic. It was called stola and could have long or short sleeves, or even be sleeveless. It was kept in place by two belts, one around the waist and the other under the breasts, to enhance the figure. Underneath, they usually wore a longer tunic, called tunica interior, while over them, a palla, a sort of cloak that reached the knee. It was quite large and could also be used by women to cover their heads while walking in the streets. Unlike men's clothes, women's garments came in lots of bright and vivid colours and were often embroidered. Women's clothes were usually made from linen and wool like men's, but also of silk, which was very expensive as it was imported all the way from China and so worn only by rich women to showcase their wealth. (Read entire post.)

Fresh Eggs Every Day!

Author Gail Damerow on raising chickens at home.
Chickens can get along quite well in a small amount of space, provided they have adequate food and water, and their environment is kept clean. The main issue is finding things for them to do to keep from getting bored and picking on each other (like siblings cooped up in the back seat of the family sedan). The best chicken toys involve food that cannot be eaten quickly -- such as a head of fresh lettuce or cabbage hung from a string so the chickens can peck at it. (Read entire post.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Chest for the Dauphin

From author Leah Marie Brown:
This lovely, little chest was made for Marie Antoinette's second child, the dauphin, Louis Joseph, on the occasion of his birth. The interior of the chest is lined with white taffeta. The exterior is decorated in an allegorical style with mythological subjects and scenes of people rejoicing. The figures of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette crowned by Cupids have been painted on the lid.

One can't gaze upon this chest and not wonder about the treasures that once filled it.  Did a heavily pregnant Marie Antoinette place lace bonnets or silver rattles inside? (Read entire post.)

The Forgotten Atrocity

Of post-war Europe. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
Between 1945 and 1950, Europe witnessed the largest episode of forced migration, and perhaps the single greatest movement of population, in human history. Between 12 million and 14 million German-speaking civilians—the overwhelming majority of whom were women, old people, and children under 16—were forcibly ejected from their places of birth in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and what are today the western districts of Poland. As The New York Times noted in December 1945, the number of people the Allies proposed to transfer in just a few months was about the same as the total number of all the immigrants admitted to the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. They were deposited among the ruins of Allied-occupied Germany to fend for themselves as best they could. The number who died as a result of starvation, disease, beatings, or outright execution is unknown, but conservative estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people lost their lives in the course of the operation.

Most disturbingly of all, tens of thousands perished as a result of ill treatment while being used as slave labor (or, in the Allies' cynical formulation, "reparations in kind") in a vast network of camps extending across central and southeastern Europe—many of which, like Auschwitz I and Theresienstadt, were former German concentration camps kept in operation for years after the war. As Sir John Colville, formerly Winston Churchill's private secretary, told his colleagues in the British Foreign Office in 1946, it was clear that "concentration camps and all they stand for did not come to an end with the defeat of Germany." Ironically, no more than 100 or so miles away from the camps being put to this new use, the surviving Nazi leaders were being tried by the Allies in the courtroom at Nuremberg on a bill of indictment that listed "deportation and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population" under the heading of "crimes against humanity." (Read entire post.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sir Richard Rich

A poxy scum and wishy-washy Catholic. To quote author Stephanie Mann:
He betrayed both Bishop John Fisher and Thomas More, perjuring himself in the latter case (thus the title of the post). Rich took full advantage of the Dissolution of Monasteries as Chancellor of the Court of Augmentations to acquire great wealth, even though he was a Catholic. The Pilgrimage of Grace linked his name with Thomas Cromwell's in their umbrage against the suppression of the monasteries. As A.F. Pollard notes in the article linked above, "His religious predilections inclined to Catholicism; but he did not allow them to stand in the way of his advancement."

He also betrayed his master, Thomas Cromwell when his fall was near and he assisted in the torture of Anne Askew in the Tower of London. Rich consulted with Bishop Gardiner, whom he would later prosecute, in efforts to discover and punish heresy according to Henry VIII's desires.

Baron Rich served as an executor of Henry VIII's will and then as Chancellor for Edward VI. He aided Lord Somerset in the prosecution of the Protector's brother, Thomas Seymour and then switched sides to aid John Dudley, later Duke of Northumberland, in the trial and prosecution of Protector Somerset. Rich prosecuted the conservative (Catholic) bishops Gardiner and Bonner, and joined in the harassment of Mary to give up the Catholic Mass and conform to the new Book of Common Prayer.

Again, he switched sides when Northumberland's plot to place his daughter-in-law Jane Dudley (nee Grey) on the throne in 1553 appeared doomed to failure, and then he prosecuted Protestants and heretics during Mary I's reign.

He died on June 12, 1567, having again accommodated himself to the religious settlement under Elizabeth I. He did found a school in Felsted, Essex where he is buried most elegantly. (Read entire post.)


Outside the Abortion Clinic

A young mother reflects. To quote:
Yes, in my youth I was a pro-abortion advocate, and I thought that all pro-life advocates were crazy religious zealots who foamed at the mouth and spewed Bible verses like profanities…like a pro-life version of the Westboro Baptist Church. God Hates Whores!

This is a common stereotype that pro-abortion advocates have about pro-life folks because, honestly, this is how a lot of pro-choice supporters debate. I debated this way myself, by being louder and more vulgar than my opponent, who would just give up frustrated and walk away. I actually considered it “winning” when this happened.

So I can sympathize to some extent when I hear pro-abortion advocates vilify pro-lifers. Immediately it tells me two things about them: they have never honestly spoken to a pro-life advocate, and this is how they themselves debate. I can adjust my behavior accordingly and prepare myself for the verbal lashing.

So yes, I had decided that if I drove to the clinic and there were angry pro-lifers frowning at me and pelting me with Bibles, I would turn around and go home. In fact, on the drive there I actually prayed that there would be angry pro-lifers drunk on their own piety, waiting there for me…like vultures. Please please please, God, let there be Your people standing in between me and the door to the clinic.

In fact, I was so convinced there would be a pro-life presence I drove right by the place. Twice. It was such a quiet, unassuming gray building. This couldn’t be the place, I thought. But I drove by one more time and checked the number on the front of the building – it didn’t have the clinic’s name on the building or on any sign – before finally putting my car in park. Then I waited.

And waited. (You can read the rest here.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chesterton on Dixie

Some interesting reflections from author G.K. Chesterton:
Every age has its special strength, and generally one in which some particular nation is specially strong. Every age has also its special weakness and deficiency, and a need which only another type could supply. This is rather specially the Age of America; but inevitably, and unfortunately, rather the America of the Northern merchants and industrialists. It is also the age of many genuine forms of philanthropy and humanitarian effort, such as modern America has very generously supported. But there is a virtue lacking in the age, for want of which it will certainly suffer and possibly fail. It might be expressed in many ways; but as short a way of stating it as any I know is to say that, at this moment, America and the whole world is crying out for the spirit of the Old South.

In other words, what is most lacking in modern psychology is the sentiment of Honour; the sentiment to which personal independence is vital and to which wealth is entirely incommensurate. I know very well that Honour had all sorts of fantasies and follies in the days of its excess. But that does not affect the danger of its deficiency, or rather its disappearance. The world will need, and need desperately, the particular spirit of the landowner who will not sell his land, of the shopkeeper who will not sell his shop, of the private man who will not be bullied or bribed into being part of a public combination; of what our fathers meant by the free man. And we need the Southern gentleman more than the English or French or Spanish gentleman. For the aristocrat of Old Dixie, with all his faults and inconsistencies, did understand what the gentle man of Old Europe generally did not. He did understand the Republican ideal, the notion of the Citizen as it was understood among the noblest of the pagans. That combination of ideal democracy with real chivalry was a particular blend for which the world was immeasurably the better; and for the loss of which it is immeasurably the worse. It may never be recovered; but it will certainly be missed. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Simon the Cobbler and Louis XVII

From Vive la Reine:
There is evidence that the leaders of the Commune gave their tacit approval for Simon to go much further [in his abuse of Louis-Charles.] On July 3, 1793, Simon questioned his superiors quite bluntly about their aims.

“Citizens, what have you decided about the wolf cub? He has been taught to be insolent bu I shall know how to tame him. Hard luck if he dies because of it. I will not answer for that. After all, what do you want done with him? To deport him? To kill him? To poison him?”

The unequivocal answer from the members of the commune was, “We want to get rid of him!”
Inspired by these men, in the secret, hidden environment of the Tower, a pattern of abuse began to develop which, unchecked, grew worse and more terrible over time.
The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury

Queen Victoria's Journals

Catherine Delors links to the journals, now available online, saying: "Victoria was an excellent, lively writer. And what better way to know her than to listen to her voice? Various illustrations in Victoria’s hand are also available." (Read entire post.) Share

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ball Games at Weddings

I never heard of this custom but Gio has researched it.
What have ball games got to do with weddings, I hear you ask? Well, in some parts of North England, Scotland and France there was a tradition dictating that the bridegroom had to contribute either a football, or money to buy one, to the local youths or community. It sure sounds like a weird way to celebrate a wedding, doesn't it? But there's a reason for it. This custom seems to have derived from the traditions of "paying the footing", which dictated that someone joining a community (or removing someone from the community, as is the case in some weddings) had to make a donation to it. In this case, the ball was the donation required by the bridegroom to the community. Sometimes, it was the bride to give the ball to youths. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Abbé Magnin's Testimony

Lenotre's The Last Days of Marie Antoinette (1907) includes some revealing first hand accounts, including the testimony of the priest who, in spite of the great risks, was able to say Mass for the queen before her death. Abbé Magnin stated the following:  
The day of the sacred ceremony being agreed upon, the gaoler came to meet us during the night at a particular spot, and took us into the prison. I heard the Queen's confession. Mademoiselle Fouché was prepared to receive her Saviour and the two gendarmes assured me that they also were ready, and earnestly desired to communicate in these fortunate and unexpected circumstances.
I celebrated Holy Mass and gave the Communion to the Queen, who, as she fortified herself with the eucharistic bread, received from God the courage to bear uncomplainingly all the torture that awaited her. Mademoiselle Fouché and the two gendarmes were at the same time admitted to the divine banquet. Having undertaken to tell my story in few words, I cannot possibly dwell upon the emotion to which so touching a scene must give rise....