Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Lost September

Like a dream of a dream. (From Vive la Reine.)


The Role of Hierarchy in Human Life

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand pleas with confused Catholics.
Like all decadent societies, we have lost sight of the crucial importance of hierarchy in human life. We have in mind not only the ontological hierarchy placing the Creator above creatures, angels above men (except for the Blessed one among women), man over animals (challenged by Peter Singer: a healthy whale ranks higher than a crippled baby), but also of the epistemological hierarchy of revealed truth above all other truths, of veritates aeternae over empirical truths, and last but not least, of the solemn command to abstain from committing murder. This was formulated by St. Augustine. He tells us that man’s first duty is to abstain from moral evil (I.e. sin); the second is to do as much good as possible. By sin, we mean an offense of God – the infinitely Holy one – which also stains the soul of the sinner, endangering his eternal welfare, and in the majority of cases harms his neighbors....
Moral evil is the cancer of any society and history teaches us that all great nations that have disappeared from the face of the earth, were morally decadent. Money never has and never will save a nation.
My husband gave hundred of talks in seventeen countries in four languages. A couple of years before his death, he delivered his very last talk in Orange, California. It was after Roe and Wade (which made him exclaim that “The 'defeated' Hitler won the war” for the Nazi poison (ruthless disrespect for the dignity of human life) had penetrated into the soul of the “conqueror.” This justifies the words of Plato: “… many a victory has been and will be suicidal to the victor …” (Laws, 19)
Dietrich von Hildebrand’s very last words uttered with a trembling voice were, “A country that legalizes murder is doomed.” That should give us food for thought. To vote for a President who fully endorses abortion, is to vote for death. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Entertaining in the Old Regime

From the Recollections of Baron de Frénilly:
 There were many agreeable houses where hostesses received either constantly or on fixed days. And what superior talent they showed—talent all the greater as it was less apparent! To captivate their guests—to direct, prolong, resume, or abridge a conversation—to have a look and a word for everyone, to introduce a third person into a familiar chat by means of a glance or a word, to put him or her into relations with others, to make them known without either mention of names or an introduction—what a charming, delicate art! (Read entire post.)
A late supper.

Dyeing to Knit

Artisan yarn on Maryland's Eastern Shore. To quote:
The Verdant Gryphon, located in a roomy warehouse in Easton’s Industrial Park, is not a retail yarn shop; instead, it is an independent yarn dyeing company. “We don’t have a regular walk-in business,” Gryphon explained. All the yarn is hand dyed in the warehouse, wound into individual hanks, and sold online.

“It is artisan work,” she said as we walked to the production area where spools of yarn in its natural state sat waiting to be turned into separate skeins and then dyed a multitude of colors. Gryphon has invented these colors; currently, a database stores 265 color recipes.

Two of her four staffers were “cooking the yarn,” the term used for dyeing the skeins in big pots of boiling water with a little acid. Four skeins were processing in each pot where the staffer had adroitly poured the color and now was stirring the boiling yarn to produce a rich color with some variegation.  Once the skeins are cooked, they are soaked in a bath of soapy water, which sets the colors and prevents bleeding. (Read more.)

Songs of the Free and the Brave

A new look at The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
If Wilder's pioneer families are resourceful, government is depicted as meddling and incompetent—a contrast that emphasizes the importance of providing for oneself. Indeed, Washington's bungling is blamed for the Ingallses' forced departure from Indian Territory in "Little House on the Prairie," and in "The Long Winter" a family friend denounces politicians who "tax the lining out'n a man's pockets" and "take pleasure a-prying into a man's affairs." Fear of debt hangs over these stories like a dark cloud; to be "beholden" to anyone is a mark of shame. The only respectable path to subsistence—let alone comfort—is hard work. "Neither [my parents] nor their neighbors begged for help," Wilder explained in a 1937 speech. "No other person, nor the government, owed them a living."

But no man in Wilder's stories is an island. When people fall on desperate times—and they do constantly—Wilder's pioneers exhibit one of those other "values of life": "helpfulness." There is a sacred code of neighborliness, and Wilder's heroes are those who forgo their own safety to the benefit of others. In "The Long Winter," for instance, Almanzo and a friend make a near-suicidal trip to find wheat for the starving residents of De Smet. In "On the Banks of Plum Creek," a prairie fire threatens to destroy the family's home. Knowing Pa is away, a neighbor, Mr. Nelson, rides to the farm to help Ma, beating back the fire with wet sacks. After he leaves, Ma remarks: "There is nothing in the world so good as good neighbours."

Wilder told these stories because she thought New Deal-era America needed the pioneers' "old-fashioned character values . . . to help us over the rough places." These values are timeless and highly relevant today, when questions of dependency and self-reliance have become urgent in American political life. (Read entire post.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Dark Side of Monticello

This article from the Smithsonian is not so much about Jefferson's "dark side" as it is about the dark side of the society into which he was born, a society marked by slavery.
The very existence of slavery in the era of the American Revolution presents a paradox, and we have largely been content to leave it at that, since a paradox can offer a comforting state of moral suspended animation. Jefferson animates the paradox. And by looking closely at Monticello, we can see the process by which he rationalized an abomination to the point where an absolute moral reversal was reached and he made slavery fit into America’s national enterprise.

We can be forgiven if we interrogate Jefferson posthumously about slavery. It is not judging him by today’s standards to do so. Many people of his own time, taking Jefferson at his word and seeing him as the embodiment of the country’s highest ideals, appealed to him. When he evaded and rationalized, his admirers were frustrated and mystified; it felt like praying to a stone. The Virginia abolitionist Moncure Conway, noting Jefferson’s enduring reputation as a would-be emancipator, remarked scornfully, “Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do.”

Thomas Jefferson’s mansion stands atop his mountain like the Platonic ideal of a house: a perfect creation existing in an ethereal realm, literally above the clouds. To reach Monticello, you must ascend what a visitor called “this steep, savage hill,” through a thick forest and swirls of mist that recede at the summit, as if by command of the master of the mountain. “If it had not been called Monticello,” said one visitor, “I would call it Olympus, and Jove its occupant.” The house that presents itself at the summit seems to contain some kind of secret wisdom encoded in its form. Seeing Monticello is like reading an old American Revolutionary manifesto—the emotions still rise. This is the architecture of the New World, brought forth by its guiding spirit.

In designing the mansion, Jefferson followed a precept laid down two centuries earlier by Palladio: “We must contrive a building in such a manner that the finest and most noble parts of it be the most exposed to public view, and the less agreeable disposed in by places, and removed from sight as much as possible.”
The mansion sits atop a long tunnel through which slaves, unseen, hurried back and forth carrying platters of food, fresh tableware, ice, beer, wine and linens, while above them 20, 30 or 40 guests sat listening to Jefferson’s dinner-table conversation. At one end of the tunnel lay the icehouse, at the other the kitchen, a hive of ceaseless activity where the enslaved cooks and their helpers produced one course after another.

During dinner Jefferson would open a panel in the side of the fireplace, insert an empty wine bottle and seconds later pull out a full bottle. We can imagine that he would delay explaining how this magic took place until an astonished guest put the question to him. The panel concealed a narrow dumbwaiter that descended to the basement. When Jefferson put an empty bottle in the compartment, a slave waiting in the basement pulled the dumbwaiter down, removed the empty, inserted a fresh bottle and sent it up to the master in a matter of seconds. Similarly, platters of hot food magically appeared on a revolving door fitted with shelves, and the used plates disappeared from sight on the same contrivance. Guests could not see or hear any of the activity, nor the links between the visible world and the invisible that magically produced Jefferson’s abundance. (Read entire article.)

Objectivity and the Rule of Law

Archbishop Mamberti's intervention at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 26, 2012.
In its second paragraph, the preamble of the United Nations Charter underlines the need to "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights". The word "faith" usually indicates the transcendent, something which does not depend on feelings, concessions, recognitions, or accords. It may however be grasped by philosophical reasoning, a process where we ask ourselves about the meaning of human existence and of the universe and about what offers a true and solid basis to the rule of law, insofar as we are capable of grasping the existence of human nature which is prior and superior to all social theories and constructions, which the individual and communities must respect and must not manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled (ibid.), and it is only in this way that we can speak truly of the rule of law. Instead, as explained above, positivistic reasoning excludes and is unable to grasp anything beyond what is functional, and can at best give birth to the "rule of rules", a system of norms and procedures built merely upon pragmatic and utilitarian reasons; a tautology which, insofar as it is deprived of permanent values, is liable to manipulation. On the other hand, faith in the transcendental dignity of the human person, or better recognition of his transcendence, becomes the fundamental and indispensable key to understanding the rights codified in the founding documents of the United Nations and a sure guide for their effective care and promotion.

It is well known that, at the international level, there are interest groups present who, by means of formally legitimate procedures, are impacting on the policies of states in order to obtain multilateral norms which not only cannot serve the common good but which, under the guise of legitimacy, are in fact an abuse of norms and of international recommendations, as has been seen in the recent financial crisis.

Similarly, the attempt to promote, in the name of democracy, a materialistic vision of the human person united to a mechanistic and utilitarian vision of law, is also well known. It is here that, notwithstanding the apparent rule of law, the will of the powerful prevails over that of the weakest: children, the unborn, the handicapped, the poor, or as was seen in the financial crisis, those deprived of the right information at the right time.
On the contrary, the transcendent value of human dignity offers a secure basis to the rule of law because it corresponds to the truth about man as a creature of God’s making; while at the same it allows the rule of law to pursue its true purpose, that is, the promotion of the common good. These conclusions lead to the unavoidable premise that the right to life of every human being – in all stages of biological development, from conception until natural death – be considered and protected as an absolute and inalienable value, prior to any state’s existence, to any social grouping and independent of any official recognition.

To this basis of the rule of law should be added all the other components of human rights, without distinction, as envisioned by the principle of indivisibility, according to which "the integral promotion of every category of human rights is the true guarantee of full respect for each individual right" (JOHN PAUL II, World Day of Peace Message 1999, 3). This is a principle which in turn is linked to universality, thus making it possible to say that the integral promotion of all people, without exception as to time or place, is the true guarantee of the full respect for everyone.

All other fundamental human rights are evidently connected to human dignity, as the basic norm, and thus to the rule of law, including the right to a father and a mother, the right to establish and raise a family, the right to grow up and to be educated in a natural family, the right of parents to educate their children, the right to work and to equitable redistribution of the wealth generated, the right to culture, to freedom of thought and to freedom of conscience.

Among these rights, freedom of religion merits a particular mention. The response to the great questions of our existence, man’s religious dimension, the ability to open oneself to the transcendent, alone or with others, is an essential part of each person and to some degree is identifiable with his or her very liberty. The "right to seek the truth in matters religious" (VATICAN COUNCIL II, Dignitatis Humanae, 3), without coercion and in full freedom of conscience, must not be treated by states with suspicion or as something merely to permit or tolerate. On the contrary, the guarantee of such freedom, apart from its actual use, is an inalienable hinge of the rule of law for believer and non-believer alike. (Read entire article.)

Les Rois Maudits

Some commentary on the superb novels by Maurice Druon about the last Capetian kings and the television series based upon the books.
It is the 1972-3  production of the marvellous series of novels by Maurice Druon (1918-2009)  Les Rois Maudits  about the political history of France between 1314 and 1340, and the origins of the Hundred Years War. There is an introductory article about them here.

As historical novels they are well researched, and come with end notes as to the sources used. Druon may take the most dramatic interpretation of events, but he produces a comprehensive and compelling narrative. The grand sweep of events is conveyed, but very much as the result of human choices and actions.

I think we can see more to the origins of the Hundred Years War than just the machinations of Robert of Artois, but the idea of the interplay of individuals makes for compelling reading or viewing. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coronation of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon

According to a contemporary account:
The following day being a Sunday, and also Midsummer's Day, the noble prince with his queen left the palace for Westminster Abbey at the appointed hour. The barons of the Cinq Ports held canopies over the royal couple who trod on striped cloth of ray, which was immediately cut up by the crowd when they had entered the abbey. Inside, according to sacred tradition and ancient custom, his grace and the queen were anointed and crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of other prelates of the realm and the nobility and a large number of civic dignitaries. The people were asked if they would take this most noble prince as their king and obey him. With great reverence, love and willingness they responded with the cry 'Yea, Yea'. (Read entire post.)

Shakespeare as Historian

The plays reflect the events of the time in which they were written. To quote:
I caught up today with an article in last Friday's Daily Telegraph by Allan Massie, inspired by the apparent discovery of the mortal remains of King Richard III making the fair point that for most people their image of fifteenth century English kings is one derived from Shakespeare's plays. His article can be read here.

However I think it can be argued that  Richard III is more than just a play about the events of a century earlier. Like Macbeth it is a play about tyranny as a medieval or sixteenth century audience would have understood it. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Some portraits of Louis XVI's sister Clotilde de France who became Queen of Sardinia and a Venerable of the Church. To quote:
She was overweight and nicknamed “Gros-Madame” when she was younger, which caused worry that she would have difficulty bearing children and gave rise to jokes that her future husband was being given two brides instead of one. Apparently though, her husband was not bothered by this and is said to have remarked he was “Given more to worship”. The couple became very devoted to one another, but ultimately had no children.

During the French Revolution, one of her brothers (The future Charles X) along with her Aunts Madame Adélaïde and Madame Victoire, stayed with her and her husband’s family after escaping France.
In 1796, her husband ascended to the throne as Charles Emmanuel IV and she became Queen. Only two years later, the First French Republic declared war or Sardinia and her husband was forced to abdicate his territories and withdrawn to the Island of Sardinia. Marie Clotilde died four years later in Naples, and her husband was so affected by her death that he abdicated in favour of his younger brother. (Read entire post.)

Dependency Breeds Complacency

 Judge Andrew Napolitano speaks frankly on the painful truth:
Dependency breeds a sense of complacency and entitlement and fosters a government that – in order to stay in power – will further that dependency. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton agreed on little publicly, but they did agree that when the public treasury becomes a public trough and the voters recognize that, they will send to the government only those who promise them a bigger piece of the government pie. (Read entire article.)
(Via A Conservative Blog for Peace.) Share

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jackie Evancho Sings Handel's "Ombra Mai Fu"

An enchanting rendition of the Largo from Xerxes. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
    Ombra mai fu
    di vegetabile,
    cara ed amabile,
    soave più.

    A shade there never was,
    of any plant,
    dearer and more lovely,
    or more sweet.

Restrictions on Religion

The rising tide.
A rising tide of restrictions on religion spread across the world between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Restrictions on religion rose in each of the five major regions of the world – including in the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, the two regions where overall restrictions previously had been declining.

The share of countries with high or very high restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose from 31% in the year ending in mid-2009 to 37% in the year ending in mid-2010. Because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, three-quarters of the world’s approximately 7 billion people live in countries with high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion, up from 70% a year earlier.

Restrictions on religion rose not only in countries that began the year with high or very high restrictions or hostilities, such as Indonesia and Nigeria, but also in many countries that began with low or moderate restrictions or hostilities, such as Switzerland and the United States. (See sidebar on the U.S..) (Read entire report.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Photograph of Louise d'Artois

From Vive la Reine. Here is a rare photograph of the Duchess of Parma, Louise d'Artois (1819- 1864), granddaughter of Charles X, and grandmother of Empress Zita. Below is a painting of the Duchess with her children.

And with her eldest son Robert, the reigning duke. (More HERE.)


The Language of Symbols

Mother Mectilde de Bar and the seventeenth century Benedictine revival.
Mectilde be Bar had an understanding of the language of symbols, not after the fashion of contemporary anthropologists, but rather as a daughter of Church immersed in sacred signs and rites of the liturgy. She made use of symbols -- among them the lighted candle and the cord about the neck -- to express outwardly the mystical realities that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, she had apprehended inwardly. Even as such symbols give outward expression to what is essentially hidden, they engrave upon the souls of those who make use of them a vivid impression of what they signify. Fluency in this language of symbols has always been, and continues to be, integral to the pedagogy of monastic life. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Young Franz Josef

Some impressions of the Emperor written to Queen Victoria by her Uncle Leopold:
The young Emperor* I confess I like much, there is much sense and courage in his warm blue eye, and it is not without a very amiable merriment when there is occasion for it. He is slight and very graceful, but even in the mêlée of dancers and Archdukes, and all in uniform, he may always be distinguished as the Chef. This struck me more than anything, as now at Vienna the dancing is also that general mêlée which renders waltzing most difficult.... The manners are excellent and free from pompousness or awkwardness of any kind, simple, and when he is graciously disposed, as he was to me, sehr herzlich und natürlich.

He keeps every one in great order without requiring for this an outré appearance of authority, merely because he is the master, and there is that about him which gives authority, and which sometimes those who have the authority cannot succeed in getting accepted or in practising. I think he may be severe si l'occasion se présente; he has something very muthig. We were several times surrounded by people of all classes, and he certainly quite at their mercy, but I never saw his little muthig expression changed either by being pleased or alarmed.
(Read entire post.)

The Appearance of William the Conqueror

From Once I Was a Clever Boy:
He was a tough, at times ruthless, ruler, but disciplined and energetic - how else would he have achieved success in 1066 - and proved a highly capable ruler, willing to learn and adapt. However one interprets the Norman Conquest it is pivotal to English history and that of the British isles, and William is pivotal the events of invasion, conquest and government in the two decades following. His legacy is remarkable by any standards. I wrote some reflections upon it last year in my post 1066 and All That to which I would refer readers together with its links.
From what we can deduce of his appearance King William was an impressive figure. On the basis of the size of his one surviving thigh bone he was six foot or so in height, and in giving his eldest son Robert the nickname Curthose appears to have mocked him for his lack of height - Robert may have taken after his mother Queen Matilda, whose skeleton reveals her to have been very slight in build. In his later years he put on weight - a contributary cause to his death in 1087, but for much of his life he must have maintained very considerable fitness as a warrior and as a keen follower of the chase. Given his ancestry he may well have appeared more Scandinavian than French, and certainly one of his sons, King William II, was famously red haired, although King Henry I had black or dark hair. If the Bayeux tapestry is to be believed - and it is very detailed and near contemporary - William was brown haired and clean-shaven. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Impressionism and Fashion

A new exhibit. According to The Wall Street Journal:
The Paris version, called "Impressionism and Fashion," starts Sept. 25 and ends Jan. 20. It features 74 paintings, 37 period costumes, a range of fashion illustrations and such accessories as shoes, gloves, parasols and—of course—a corset. Next February the show will travel to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and then, in the summer, to the Art Institute of Chicago, where curator Gloria Groom first came up with the whole idea in 2008.

While the U.S. will see a different selection of clothing (the Paris pieces are too fragile to travel), for the first time Americans will get Paris's surviving fragments from Monet's enormous abandoned work, "Luncheon on the Grass" (1865-66). They are full of superbly dressed picnickers.

The show is breaking ground for the Musée d'Orsay, which has yet to mount the fashion-related shows that have proven such crowd-pleasers for its New York collaborator.

The Paris version draws on local collections of historical clothes, including the Musée Galliera, a city-run fashion museum. Before Coco Chanel's Little Black Dress, there were the big black dresses of early Belle Époque Paris—flowing cascades of perfectly dyed black silk, meant to show off the wearer's fashionably pale skin. The show overflows with black dresses, on canvas and on mannequins—from Édouard Manet's 1878 masterpiece "La Parisienne," on loan from Stockholm, to a circa 1878 organza dress by Parisian dressmaker Madame Roger. (Read entire article.)

A Parisian Flea Market

Some reflections on change from The Paris Apartment. Share

Waiting for the Wedding Night

The testimony of one young groom.
As anyone who’s read my abstinence column here at Fox News Opinion could guess, my wedding is something that I’ve looked forward to for quite some time. After having tied the knot at the end of August, I can now say beyond all shadow of a doubt, that it was everything I’d hoped and prayed that it would be since childhood. (I’d also prayed to be bitten by a radioactive spider and develop sticky hands, but… I was an idiot.)

Let me preface this column by saying this: my wife (I have to get used to saying that) and I not only waited sexually in every way (no, we didn’t pull the Bill Clinton and technically avoid “sex” sex,) but we didn’t shack up as live-ins and most importantly, we courted each other in a way that was consistent with our publicly professed values.

We did it right.

Feeling judged? I couldn’t care less. You know why? Because my wife and I were judged all throughout our relationship. People laughed, scoffed and poked fun at the young, celibate, naive Christian couple. We’d certainly never make it to the wedding without schtupping, and if we did, our “wedding night would be awkward and terrible,” they said.

Turns out that people couldn’t have been more wrong.  Looking back, I think that the women saying those things felt like the floozies they ultimately were, and the men, with their fickle manhood tied to their pathetic sexual conquests, felt threatened.

I think it’s important to write this column not to gloat (though I’ll be glad to), but to speak up for all of the young couples that have also done things the right way. When people do marriage right, they don’t complain so much, and so their voices are silenced by the rabble of promiscuous charlatans, peddling their pathetic world view as “progressive.”

Our wedding was perfect. Our wedding night was nothing short of amazing. I write this on a plane heading into a tropical paradise with the most beautiful woman to have walked the planet earth. I know everybody says that their bride was the “most beautiful in the world.”  They’re wrong. I win. (Read entire article.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

In Gilded Clothing

Marie-Antoinette in full court attire.

"The queen stood on thy right hand, in gilded clothing; surrounded with variety." Psalm 44 (The Vulgate) Share

America and the Katyn Massacre

Did the United States Government keep silence over a Soviet atrocity?
New evidence appears to back the idea that the Roosevelt administration helped cover up Soviet guilt for the 1940 Katyn massacre of Polish soldiers. Historians said documents, released by the US National Archives, supported the suspicion that the US did not want to anger its wartime ally, Joseph Stalin. They showed the US was sent coded messages suggesting the Soviets, not the Nazis, carried out the massacre. More than 22,000 Poles were killed by the Soviets on Stalin's orders.

Soviet Russia only admitted to the atrocity in 1990 after blaming the Nazis for five decades. According to a review of the documents by the Associated Press, they show that American prisoners of war sent coded messages to Washington in 1943 saying they had been taken to see corpses in an advanced state of decay in the Katyn forest near Smolensk, in western Russia. The group of American and British POWs had been taken by the Nazis against their will to witness the scene. What they saw convinced two Americans, Capt Donald B Stewart and Lt Col John Van Vliet, that the killings must have been carried out by the Soviets, rather than the Nazis, who did not occupy the area until 1941.

A statement from one, Captain Donald B Stewart, made in 1950, confirmed he sent a coded message, the gist of which was: "German claims regarding Katyn substantially correct in opinion of Van Vliet and myself." They were apparently persuaded by the advanced state of decay of the bodies - suggesting they must have died before August 1941, when the Germans seized the area. They also saw items found on the bodies, including letters, diaries and other items, none of which was dated later than the spring of 1940. And the good state of the men's boots and clothing suggested the men had not lived long after being captured by invading Soviet forces. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in Church

From Vive la Reine. They do not appear to be hearing Mass in the Royal Chapel at Versailles. Perhaps the King and Queen are assisting at Vespers or hearing a sermon at a church in the town of Versailles or in Paris. Share

Richard III: More Reflections

Gareth Russell ponders what kind of funeral Richard should be given.
On a purely pragmatic note, reburying Richard III with full state honours poses several problems in 2012. The first is that it would divide the country, not unite it; no matter what Richard's enthusiasts say, there is still a large cloud hanging over his involvement with his nephews and many - myself included - believe he was responsible for their deaths. Secondly, reburying a five hundred year old skeleton with the honours we would give to a recently-deceased royal, is wasteful and extravagant, particularly in the middle of a recession. Thirdly, Richard III died a practising medieval Catholic; he was killed thirty-two years before the Protestant religion even began. The official state religion of the United Kingdom today is Anglican Protestantism and the current Sovereign, who would need to grant permission for Richard to be buried on royal ground, is the head of that Church. Should we re-bury Richard III with the religious services of a church that he would quite probably have viewed as schismatic and heretical? Or should we compromise the spirit of the 1701 Act of Settlement and have a Catholic British state funeral? I don't think it's right that Catholicism is still being legislatively punished when it comes to the monarchy, but it's the law of the land. One way or the other, a state funeral would compromise the integrity of a monarch - if it's Protestant, Richard III; if it's Catholic, Elizabeth II. (Read entire post.)
A full biography of Richard III is HERE.

This post has made me do some brushing up on Richard III. I fell in love with Richard when I was 14 and read Rosemary Hawley Jarman's novel We Speak No Treason. Decades later, I try to be more objective than I was then. I still wonder, however, why Richard, who was known for his political shrewdness and his ability to work the system, would have done something so stupid as to have his nephews killed. Murders of that kind are hard to cover up, even in the Tower. It would have been a clumsy move for someone who had shown himself to be pretty astute.

The boys, even after being declared illegitimate, were still a possible rallying point for Richard's enemies, particularly the remaining Woodville faction, which is why he would never have shown them to the public. I think it is more likely that he hid them somewhere, probably in the Tower by keeping them from view. Or else he had them sent away for their own safety, and his. I think it more likely they were killed in the upheavals which followed Bosworth. The size of the skeletons which were found under the staircase do show the boys to have been around 11 and 14, which means they could have lived well into 1485 (unless they were just big for their ages).

In Richard's life, other than the alleged murder of his nephews, is there any solid evidence of his committing atrocities, such as there would be in the lives of Edward I, the Black Prince, and other Plantagenet rulers? No. Did Richard ever preside over the wholesale slaughter of civilians? No. He was accused of murdering most of the main players on the Wars of the Roses, but is there proof that he actually did any of it? No. Therefore, I see the murder of his nephews uncharacteristic of someone who knew how to play the game both militarily and politically without resorting to massacre and mayhem.

The skeleton at Leicester shows that Richard (if it is truly he) was struck from behind. It also shows that he had scoliosis, which made one shoulder higher than the other, not that he was hunchback. A hunchback would not have been physically able to have participated in the strenuous military campaigns which Richard took part in from his early teens until the moment of his death. He died struck from behind, knowing he had been betrayed, after leading a courageous charge into the heart of the enemy's ranks. He at least deserves a military funeral.


Royalty and the Press

Some reflections from author and historian Gareth Russell.
When she was first confronted with evidence of the libelles, the precursors to both pornography magazines and the lower-end tabloids, Marie-Antoinette simply refused to take them seriously. As far as she was concerned, they were nothing but trash written by trash; she failed to realise, until it was too late, the awful damage that these lies had done. That sublime royal self-confidence, and the refusal to acknowledge tawdry and seedy reality, has flowed inexorably from the mirrored halls of Versailles right the way down to the current incumbents of Buckingham Palace. To acknowledge something gives it credibility; therefore the best thing to do is to ignore it. The problem is, though, that it won't go away just because you want it to and, as Marie-Antoinette learned in 1789, when mud is flung, it usually leaves a stain - however undeserved. Whilst you can certainly over-egg the comparisons between Marie-Antoinette and Princess Diana, it's hard not to conclude that one thing they had in common was that they were both harried to their premature deaths by bad publicity. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Coaches of Versailles

A sketch of Louis XVI's coronation coach
There is a remarkable new exhibit at Versailles about the various kinds of conveyances used by the royal family, including the coronation coach of Louis XVI. To quote:
On 11th June 1775, Louis XVI was crowned in Reims. For the formal entrance into the city and procession to the Cathedral, a new royal carriage was ordered. Bélanger, an architect and decorator in the department of the Menus Plaisirs, was tasked with designing it. The coach he designed astonished his contemporaries, who deemed it “superb, unique and immense”. A veritable throne on wheels, laden with the emblems of royalty, this Berlin did not escape Revolutionary ire: it was condemned for destruction by the Convention in 1794, as a "monstrous assemblage of the gold of the people and the excess of flattery”. Can we see this action as Robespierre’s revenge? An engraving by Jean-Louis Prieur, who produced the bronzes that decorated it, hands a glimpse of it down to us, as does a miraculously saved door panel.

The palace website provides more information, including detailed articles on:

Louis XVI’s coronation coach

Carriages and Berlin coaches

Driving a coach

Children’s coaches


One of the Longest Reigns in History

King Michael of Romania, Queen Marie's grandson.
Today is the seventy second anniversary of the accession and coronation on the same day September 6 1940 of the King of Romania following the enforced abdication of his father King Carol II. King Michael is thus within a few months of equalling the length of reign of King Louis XIV, with, of course, the very regrettable caveat that unfortunately for both the King and for Romanian people, he has only been able to exercise his sovereign powers for a few of those years. If his period as King in the years 1927-30, about which I posted in The first accession of King Michael in July is included he has been a monarch longer than the Sun King was. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Queen Does Penance

Anne d'Autriche and her sons with St. Scholastica and St. Benedict by Philippe de Champaigne
Anne of Austria, the mother of Louis XIV, joined the Benedictine nuns in an act of penance and reparation.
That afternoon, la musique du Roi, Louis XIV"s own musicians, presented their homage to Jesus Christ, the Eucharistic King enthroned upon the altar. Then, before Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Anne of Austria advanced to the middle of the choir, knelt in adoration, and with a cord about her neck and a burning taper in her hand, read the Amende Honorable, or act of reparation, composed by Mother Mectilde. As the Queen gave utterance to Mother Mectilde's prayer, it was the voice of France that reached the ears of God, making reparation for the countless offenses, sacrileges, and outrages perpetrated against the Sacred Host.(Read entire post.)

9/11, Hope, and the Mystery of Iniquity

Some profound reflections on the disaster.
On the bright, blue morning of September 11th, 2001, I found myself pondering far less weighty matters, as I sped through the the rolling, mountainous countryside of central Pennsylvania, en route to a business meeting in Ebensburg, a scant 39 miles north of what would shortly become the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93, in Shanksville. As it happens, the client with whom I was meeting, L. Robert Kimball and Associates, designs and builds 911 dispatch centers, including those that received many thousands of the desparate — and often heroically inspiring calls for help that fateful morning. As the first surreal images of the twin towers and West side of the Pentagon engulfed in flames appeared on the conference room TV minutes after my arrival, Kimball CFO Sam Kearns observed — with prophetic understatement, "We're going to remember this day for a long, long, time."

Ten years later to the day, I returned to the site of the Flight 93 National Memorial to witness an extraordinary gathering of surviving family members, first responders (EMS, firefighters, police officers and others), active duty and retired military personnel, and thousands of just-plain-regular folks; humble souls of every imaginable age, creed and color who came from around the U.S. and beyond simply to pay their respects to the dead, and to stand in solidarity with the living. It  was a humbling and awe-inspiring experience to be counted among them.

More than anything else, I was overwhelmed by the sense of both the fragility and brevity of human life, and reminded of the heroic men and women — some of whose names and stories are forever emblazoned in our collective memory; but many more of whose names are known only to God alone. I thought about how grace builds upon nature, and how imperfect, ordinary, sinful human beings are capable of extraordinary, selfless and Christlike sacrifice. I thought about how many took our Lord's own words to heart on 9/11, and in the days, weeks and months that followed, as well. "Greater love has no man than than lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

I thought about Pope John Paul's assurance to us that "The Church testifies to her hope, based on the conviction that evil, the mysterium iniquitatis, does not have the final word in human affairs...The history of salvation, narrated in Sacred Scripture, sheds clear light on the entire history of the world and shows us that human events are always accompanied by the merciful Providence of God, who knows how to touch even the most hardened of hearts and bring good fruits even from what seems utterly barren soil."

That day in Shanksville, I prayed for the repose of the souls of those who perished, and for their families who lived on. I shot some photos. And I returned home a better man. (Read entire post.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Richard III: Found at Last?

The excavations at Leicester have yielded some fruit, as all the old controversies regarding the last Plantagenet King of England are revived. As the BBC reports:
The English king died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. A dig under a council car park in Leicester has found remains with spinal abnormalities and a "cleaved-in skull" that suggest it could be Richard III. The University of Leicester will now test the bones for DNA against descendants of Richard's family.
Professor Lin Foxhall, head of the university's School of Archaeology, said: "Archaeology almost never finds named individuals - this is absolutely extraordinary.

"Although we are far from certain yet, it is already astonishing."
A university spokesperson said the evidence included signs of a peri-mortem (near-death) trauma to the skull and a barbed iron arrow head in the area of the spine. Richard is recorded by some sources as having been pulled from his horse and killed with a blow to the head. The skeleton also showed severe scoliosis - a curvature of the spine. Although not as pronounced as Shakespeare's portrayal of the king as a hunchback, the condition would have given the adult male the appearance of having one shoulder higher than the other.

Philippe Langley, from the Richard III Society, said: "It is such a tumult of emotions, I am shell-shocked.

"I just feel happy and sad and excited all at the same time. It is very odd."

As the defeated foe, Richard was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars. This was demolished in the 1530s, but documents describing the burial site have survived. The excavation, which began on 25 August, has uncovered the remains of the cloisters and chapter house, as well as the church. (Read entire article.)
Here is a Tudor historian's view from
So far, the media has excitedly revealed that the skeleton ‘reveals a hunchback king’. This is inaccurate in more than one way, but if the skeleton does turn out to be that of Richard III, it can potentially reveal to us several crucial facts:

• Whether Richard had scoliosis – a type of spinal curvature – or kyphosis – the hunchback that Shakespeare gives him. There’s a distinct difference between the two. The former would have made one shoulder higher than the other, as More attested, and may also have made one shoulder blade prominent.

• How this might have affected both Richard’s appearance and his physical abilities. There’s always been a tension between Richard III’s renowned skill on the battlefield and the supposed extremity of his deformities.

• How exactly Richard died. The king’s martial prowess and the fact that he came within feet of Henry Tudor, whom he could easily have bested in one-to-one combat (no one would have put odds on the chance of a Tudor victory in 1485), mean that the only real way to explain his demise at Bosworth was that he was attacked from behind, as the skeleton initially seems to suggest.

But, finally and crucially, if the skeleton does turn out to be that of Richard III, it will hopefully prompt us to reassess not only Richard himself – we’re thankfully beyond seeing physical disability as some sort of evidence of a twisted soul – but the reputations of both Shakespeare and, especially, More.

Should we conclude that the sainted More, a man of integrity who died a martyr rather than swear against his conscience, was a liar? That can of worms may be even more controversial than the story of Richard III himself. (Read entire article.)
In my opinion, it is ridiculous to say that St. Thomas More "lied."  More was a child when Richard was killed; he was too young to form his own opinions about the king. From the ages of twelve to fourteen More served as a page to John Morton, the Bishop of Ely and later the archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop was a stalwart foe of the house of York and in his household the future chancellor of England and martyr would have heard all the exaggerations about Richard which political foes love to bestow on each other. Under Henry VII stability appeared to be restored to England and so the king whose crown he stole quickly became part if the fabric of fairy-tale lore used to scare naughty children. Not that Richard III was a saint, not by any stretch of the imagination. It is just that he was probably not the twisted,  evil Quasimodo-like caricature as he has been popularly portrayed for centuries.

In the meantime, other aspects of Richard's life, such as his marriage, are being revisited. Did Anne Neville marry the then Duke of Gloucester out of a long, enduring love or was she forced to do so as some, including Shakespeare, have claimed? A Nevill Feast explores the question, saying:
The marriage of the duke and duchess of Gloucester would seem, for the most part, to have been a successful one.  Whether they loved each other deeply or not, they suited each other in many ways.  Anne got the status and security she needed, Richard got the wealth and the reflected glory in the north of his late father-in-law.  Any thoughts he might have had about divorce (he was a childless king; he’d disinherited his brother’s children on the grounds of bastardy; his own marriage wasn’t quite as unchallengeable as he might have liked) need not imply that he didn’t care about her.  Business, as they say, is business.  Anne would have thought very differently about it, but her death overtook events and, in the end, that was one humiliation she didn’t have to face.

I think Richard did quietly grieve for his queen when she died – for lost opportunities; for the support she surely was to him in the turbulence of his reign; for their son, both her hope and his of immortality; and for the strength of mind and personality she must have had in order to instigate their marriage and pave the way for him to rule so successfully, as duke of Gloucester, in the Nevill heartland. (Read entire post.)

Saint Cloud

The saint, not the palace.
St. Cloud, called in Latin Chlodoardus, is the first and most illustrious saint among the princes of the royal family of the first race in France. He was son of Chlodomir, king of Orleans, the eldest son of St. Clotilda, and was born in 522. He was scarcely three years old when his father was killed in Burgundy in 524; but his grandmother, Clotilda, brought up him and his two brothers, Theobald and Gunthaire, at Paris, and loved them extremely. Their ambitious uncles, Childebert, king of Paris, and Clotaire, king of Soissons, divided the kingdom of Orleans between them, and stabbed with their own hands the two eldest of their nephews, Theobald and Gunthaire, the former being ten, the latter seven years old. Cloud, by a special providence, was saved from the massacre, and cut off his hair with his own hands, by that ceremony renouncing the world, and devoting himself to the service of God in a monastic state. He had many fair opportunities of recovering his father’s kingdom; but, young as he was, he saw by the light of grace that all that appears most dazzling in worldly greatness is no better than smoke, and that a Christian gains infinitely more by losing than by possessing it. (Read entire post.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Outrage of Agnani

Pope Boniface VIII is attacked.
The struggle between Boniface and Philip culminated in the outrage of Anagni, where Nogaret, the French lawyer, struck the aged pope. It was a brutal act, disgraceful only to the perpetrator. Unfortunately, it was followed by the migration, a few years later, of the papal court to the prison-palace of Avignon. This premature development of French absolutism was followed by years of war and anarchy; but from her misfortunes France rose up a consolidated monarchy. In England, aristocratic misrule and some forty years of intermittent civil war produced the same result. In Spain, and even in the German and Scandinavian principalities and kingdoms, different causes tended in the same direction. Thus grew up those monarchies, powerful at home, jealous of foreign interference, which contributed so much to the Reformation. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Edith Wharton's Other Career

Edith as interior decorator.
 Wharton was no dilettante. In 1897, she and the architect Ogden Codman, who had worked on her homes in New York and Newport, R.I., published “The Decoration of Houses,” a book that railed against the decorative excesses of the Gilded Age and called for a return to classical principles like symmetry. Wharton was championing nothing less than an American Renaissance, said Richard Guy Wilson, an architectural historian at the University of Virginia and the author of “Edith Wharton at Home: Life at the Mount,” out next week from Monacelli Press ($45). The book, which is illustrated with archival and recent photos of the estate (it currently serves as a cultural center, attracting 30,000 visitors a year), marks the 150th anniversary of Wharton’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the year the Mount officially left her hands. (Read entire post.)

Cambodia's Tragic Truth

Told through fiction.
Vaddey Ratner was 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge swept into power in 1975, claiming the lives of more than 1 million Cambodians, including most of her family. But while her first book, “In the Shadow of the Banyan,” is rooted in these events, it’s no memoir.

It instead uses fiction, telling the story of a precocious 7-year-old named Raami who begins her tale in a gated Phnom Penh estate before revolution arrives. “My first and foremost goal was always to honor my family with a work of art,” said Ms. Ratner, who fled Cambodia with her mother to the U.S. in 1981. “Fiction allowed me to step out from my own solipsistic concerns and limited memory and imagine the ordeals and fears of others more fully.”

Her family, composed of Phnom Penh intellectuals descended from a branch of the Cambodian royal lineage, was an early target of the anti-bourgeois “purges” and re-education programs that eventually subsumed the country. (Read entire post.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Science and the Medieval University

For people who think that the Age of Faith was opposed to scientific inquiry.
Prior to the monumental research on medieval science by Pierre Duhem in the first two dec­ades of this century, the title of this article would have evoked laughter and/or scorn. Any juxtaposition of the terms “science” and “medieval” would have been thought a contradiction in terms.­ Since Duhem’s time, however, and largely because of him and a series of brilliant successors, we have grown accustomed to the concept of medieval science, which has even developed into a significant research field. But now that historians of science have grown accustomed to the idea that there was indeed science in the Middle Ages, the time has come to risk laughter and/or scorn once again by proposing the prima fadae outrageous claim that the medieval university laid far greater emphasis on science than does its modern counterpart and direct descendant. It is no exaggeration or distortion to claim that the curriculum of the medieval university was founded on science and largely devoted to teaching about the nature and operation of the physical world. For better or worse, this is surely not true today. This paper will attempt to describe not only the origins of this incredible development, but to present the details that will substantiate the claim that the medieval university provided to all an education that was essentially based on science. (Read entire article.)

Two Florida Writers

An account of the friendship between Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zora Neale Thurston.
Lillios' account of the Thurston-Rawlings friendship is marred by superimposition of modern political correctness on both parties, although she gives Rawlings credit for changing her views and behavior toward African Americans. Rawlings was a product of her time, and we can be thankful that many people combined, via all kinds of pathways, to end segregation. But to me, Lillios' racial binoculars miss the point. Both Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Rawlings were women writers who had sought out community, loved their communities, and wrote about them in celebration. For both women, connection with and extension to others was paramount, the mother lode of human existence and therefore art. Their friendship was a natural, and we can be grateful that the pathways of these two Floridians crossed and that they drew sustenance from each other. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Burgundy: Behind the Scenes

From The Blender:
When our team traveled to Burgundy in search of inspiration for this month’s theme, we wanted to bring the region back to the home cook’s kitchen. The idea of “a cook’s tour” was born: we revisited the area’s enduring classics, exploring at the same time its fresh, seasonal, artisanal approach to cooking. We spoke to our food development lead Travis Rea to get the scoop, and he walked us through the highlights of the team’s visit to France.

In Burgundy, preparations are simple and people know where their food comes from. Food and other products aren’t just “made in France” — they are made of France. (Read entire post.)

Requiem for Manners

Can civilization be saved?
Today the idea that the cultivation of manners should be an essential part of one’s education has been nearly lost entirely. It seems to have followed in death its greatest modern advocate, Emily Post. “Manner is personality,” Post wrote, “the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.”  Proof of the demise of manners is all around us: the open use of foul language on the public street, not simply by unkempt, uneducated youths but by middle-age, well-groomed businessmen; the in-your-ear blaring of something incorrectly deemed to be music by its devotees out car windows;  the making of turns or changing of lanes by drivers without the courtesy of a turn signal; the routine violation of one’s personal space by passersby without the least expression of apology; and most obvious and appalling, the horrific decline in standards of dress everywhere. Indeed, T-shirts, jeans and sneakers have become standard attire for adults on “casual Friday” in the business world and, even more distressingly, at Sunday Mass. People venture out of their houses into public wearing their pajamas as they perform Saturday-morning errands. Today it is the lowest class of society that sets the standards of attire for everyone else; young people have adopted an exaggerated version of prison uniforms as their everyday attire, particularly excessively baggy pants, often worn so low that underpants and even one’s derriere is exposed for all to see. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Happened to the Princes in the Tower?

After so many years there is still speculation.
In 1483, the date of the last incontrovertible sighting of the princes, we are faced with two conflicting accounts, those of the French spy Dominic Mancini and the Great Chronicle of London. According to the latter the boys were seen ‘shotyng and playying in the Gardyn of the Tower by sundry tymys’ during the mayoralty of Sir Edmund Shaa which ran until 28 October, while according to Mancini they were simultaneously ‘seen more rarely behind the bars and windows, till at length they ceased to appear altogether’. If both reports are to be believed, the ‘sundry tymys’ would have had to be between 16 June, when young Richard of York joined his brother in the Tower, and the early days of July when Mancini left England. In fact the phrase ‘sundry times’ implies a longer period than about three weeks and one may well doubt the accuracy of Mancini’s informant(s). The fact that there were already rumours about the probable death of one or both of the boys need surprise no one. Imagination tends to run riot where rumours about royal personages are concerned, and the journalistic mind certainly pre-dated the media. (Read entire article.)

Saving Babies in China

An amazing story from China.
A woman has been hailed a hero after details of her astonishing work with abandoned children has emerged. Lou Xiaoying, now 88 and suffering from kidney failure, found and raised more than 30 abandoned Chinese babies from the streets of Jinhua, in the eastern Zhejiang province where she managed to make a living by recycling rubbish. She and her late husband Li Zin, who died 17 years ago, kept four of the children and passed the others onto friends and family to start new lives. Her youngest son Zhang Qilin - now aged just seven - was found in a dustbin by Lou when she was 82.

'Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me,' she said.
'I took him back to our home, which is a very small modest house in the countryside and nursed him to health. He is now a thriving little boy, who is happy and healthy.

'My older children all help look after Zhang Qilin, he is very special to all of us. I named him after the Chinese word for rare and precious.

'The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in.

'Watching her grow and become stronger gave us such happiness and I realised I had a real love of caring for children.

'I realised if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives,' she explained.

'These children need love and care. They are all precious human lives. I do not understand how people can leave such a vulnerable baby on the streets.' (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dreams of Trianon

Marie-Antoinette in nineteenth century art. Share

Scottish Women

And the Wars of Independence. To quote:
I have chosen to retell this moving story of an obscure Scottish peasant woman because it enables me to raise questions that historians have not frequently cared to raise. Although historians have occasionally discussed the participation of women in the Wars of Independence, no one has systematically examined the variety of ways in which women experienced a conflict that was in large part imposed upon them by their husbands and fathers, brothers and sons, lords, bishops and priests. Yet the role of women in the Wars of Independence should be of interest not only to social historians but also to students of Scottish literature and to feminist critics, for the memory of the varieties of women’s wartime experience was perpetuated in such works as Barbour’s Bruce and Blind Harry’s Wallace. (Read entire article.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Princess Kaʻiulani (2009)

Q'orianka Kilcher as Princess Kaʻiulani
The real Princess Ka'iulani
The last Crown Princess of Hawaii, the subject of a 2009 film starring Q'orianka Kilcher, is still beloved by the people of the fiftieth state. According to Aloha-Hawaii:
Born on October 16, 1875 during the reign of King Kalakaua, Victoria Kaiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiui Lunalilo was named for England’s Queen Victoria, a longtime friend to Hawaiian royalty. Her mother was Princess Miriam Likelike, sister to Kalakaua. Her father was Scottish-born Archibald Cleghorn, one-time governor of Oahu.

At birth, Kaiulani was given an estate in Waikiki by Princess Ruth Keelikolani, the last surviving member of the Kamehamehas. Called Ainahau, the estate was near the ocean and surrounded by trees and flowers. Peacocks strutted amongst the ponds and footpaths. As a child, Kaiulani spent many hours riding her white pony.

When she was 13, the princess met poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who had moved into the residence next door. The two became fast friends, with the famed writer mesmerizing Kaiulani with intriguing tales as they sat in the garden.

Shortly thereafter, Kaiulani was sent away to England to further her education. During her absence, the Hawaii’s monarchy fell on troubled times, including the unexpected death of King Kalakaua in 1891. His sister, Liliuokalani, ascended the throne as Hawaii’s queen. Among her first acts was naming Kaiulani as her heir apparent.

Kaiulani wanted to return home, but the queen would not permit it. So the princess bided her time in England, attending royal balls, theatrical events and other social functions. Tall, slim and beautiful, Kaiulani captured the hearts of all who met her.

Alas, by the time the princess returned to the Islands in 1897, her homeland was already a much different place. Liliuokalani had been forced to abdicate her throne four years earlier, and the monarchy was no more. Instead, Hawaii was about to be named a republic by U.S. President William McKinley.

“I must have been born under an unlucky star,” said Kaiulani, “as I seem to have my life planned for me in such a way that I cannot alter it.” Months later, while horseback riding on the Big Island, she was caught in a rainstorm and fell ill. The cold lingered for months. Finally, on March 6, 1899, Kaiulani died of pneumonia. She was only 23.
 With such a poignantly tragic life, the Princess is a ready-made heroine for a film, yet the 2009 one is disappointing in many ways. Although Princess Ka'iulani is well-acted and well-cast, with sumptuous costumes and magnificent sets, I wish the plot included more actual events from her life. Instead of showing her friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson, her talents in art, music and languages, her betrothal to her cousin, her migraines and her final illness the movie focuses on what appears to have been a fictional romance with the son of Ka'iulani's guardian, consisting mostly of dreamy beach scenes. In the hands of a more skilled director, and with a better screenplay, the film could have been much more haunting and powerful. Sadly, it did not do justice to the heart-wrenching epic of she whose Hawaiian name meant "the highest point of heaven." It does, however, introduce Princess Ka'iulani to many who perhaps without the film might never have heard of her. Share

A Journey Towards Marriage: A Personal Testimony

On September 8, 2012, the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Imre of Habsburg-Lorraine married Miss Kathleen Walker at St. Mary's Church in Washington, DC. Here is a quotation from a beautiful article on marriage preparation which the Archduke and his new Archduchess composed and released during their engagement:
Regardless of the rise of cohabitation as an alternative, the institution of marriage remains “a cornerstone of a successful society”.17 The family –through marriage–is indeed the primary place where children are loved by their parents, educated and able to learn about civic duties and good societal behavior. And as we have seen, cohabitation seems far from promoting this foundational institution. On the contrary, living together before a permanent commitment has proven to be detrimental to marriage.

In this sense, by harming the institution of marriage –“first cell of a society”in the words of Aristotle–, it is the society itself that suffers the dramatic consequences of cohabitation. Ironically enough, studies show it is often the children of separated or divorced parents who are more likely to engage in cohabitation as a ‘de-selection’process of their partners, which they hope will enable them to find the‘perfect’match to build a happy marriage.18 Like many young people, we both individually embarked on our dating lives with a goal of marriage. Now as we enter into our engagement, the next and last step to marriage, we would like to discuss some of our rationale for not only rejecting the increasingly de rigueur practice of cohabitation, but embarking on quite a different path. Like many millennial couples we see and feel the impact of rising divorce rates and the heartbreak of our friends and parents’friends suffering from the breakdown of their marriages.19

With this shared vision of marriage and the family in mind, when we began seriously contemplating our future together, we discovered that we both wanted a path that prepares us for a life marked by:

- service to each other, our children and our community;

- life-long, faithful and loving commitment to the health, happiness and personal growth of the other;

- responsibly discerning how our family can best build and contribute to our society.

We quickly decided that, far from cohabitation, these goals are best served living separately and focusing on self-discernment and improvement, and building a relationship based on friendship, love and communication before our wedding. (Read entire document.)
May God reward Their Imperial Highnesses with many blessings for the good example they have striven to give.

Some exquisite wedding photos are HERE. Share

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Dominican Prioress

From author Nancy Bilyeau:
At one time, like many others, I accepted a series of "truths" about life in the time of Henry VIII: people did not often live to old age; women were rarely educated outside of the royal family or high aristocracy; women outside of the court of the king, and the carnal grasp of the king, were not as interesting to our modern sensibilities; the monastic life was in decline, most likely corrupt, and deserved to be ended; and nuns were either forced to take vows or ended up in convents because they were not as "good" as the women who married--ie, they were rejects. 

My years of research revealed to me how wrong all of those stereotypes were.

The true story of one woman's life, Prioress Elizabeth Cressner, illuminates some of the complex truths.   A "good and virtuous woman," she was the leader of the priory in Dartford for 50 years; she died in December 1536 at somewhere between 75 and 80 years of age, just as Henry VIII was putting intense pressure on the monasteries to submit to his will.
Dartford Priory had been founded with great care by Edward III, although the idea of establishing a house for Dominican sisters is attributed to Edward II. Did he feel some obligation to carry out the wish of his deposed father? Impossible to know. Once the pope approved the founding of the order, four Dominican sisters were recruited from France, for whose expenses 20 pounds was paid from the Exchequer. (Read entire post.)