Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Mysterious Manuscript

A fifteenth century book written in a code that has yet to be broken. Although Dan Brown's books are foolishness, people in the past often hid messages in complicated codes and ciphers. Marie-Antoinette wrote in cipher a great deal. To quote:
The Voynich Manuscript, an enigmatic book that has frustrated codebreakers and linguists for a century, contains a genuine message, according to a new computer analysis. The study analyzed the unintelligible scripts that fill the about 250-page-long manuscript and extracted clusters of “keywords” which could serve as a good starting point in cryptographic attempts.

Described as “the world’s most mysterious manuscript,” the book takes its name from the rare-book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who discovered it in 1912 in the Villa Mondragone near Rome. He claimed the book had belonged to the 16th-century Habsburg emperor Rudolf II.

Radio carbon dating established the manuscript was penned on 15th-century parchment pages.
The book’s estimated 250,000 characters are totally alien and make “The Da Vinci Code” pale by comparison: arranged in groups like words and sentences, some resemble Latin letters and Roman numerals; others are unlike any known language. (Read entire article.)

The Supression of Roche Abbey

From Once I Was a Clever Boy:
For the church was the first thing that was spoiled; then the abbot’s lodging, the dormitory and refectory, with the cloister and all the buildings around, within the abbey walls. For nothing was spared except the ox-houses and swinecoates and other such houses or offices that stood outside the walls – these had greater favour shown to them than the church itself. This was done on the instruction of Cromwell, as Fox reports in his Book of Acts and Monuments. It would have pitied any heart to see the tearing up of the lead, the plucking up of boards and throwing down of the rafters. And when the lead was torn off and cast down into the church and the tombs in the church were all broken (for in most abbeys various noblemen and women were buried, and in some kings, but their tombs were no more regarded than those of lesser persons, for to what end should they stand when the church over them was not spared for their cause) and all things of value were spoiled, plucked away or utterly defaced, those who cast the lead into fodders plucked up all the seats in the choir where the monks sat when they said service. These seats were like the seats in minsters; they were burned and the lead melted, although there was plenty of wood nearby, for the abbey stood among the woods and the rocks of stone. Pewter vessels were stolen away and hidden in the rocks, and it seemed that every person was intent upon filching and spoiling what he could. Even those who had been content to permit the monks’ worship and do great reverence at their matins, masses and services two days previously were no less happy to pilfer, which is strange, that they could one day think it to be the house of God and the next the house of the Devil – or else they would not have been so ready to have spoiled it. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Madame Oberkampf's Gown

From Ornamented Being:
Interesting story behind this gown courtesy of KCI: A gown made from a stunning textile featuring multi-colored bouquets and fur patterns elaborately interwoven into the ground textile canelé. This textile with its complex weave pattern also features a variety of different threads including chenille, silk floss and twisted yarn for motifs. It shows of the outstanding skills made in Lyons, famed in the height of quality and design.
This garment was worn by Madame Oberkampf, whose husband established the modern printing industry in Jouy-en-Josas in the suburbs of Paris, when she had an audience with Queen Marie Antoinette in 1775.

(Via Tiny-Librarian) Share

Zombies in Popular Culture

Where did the grotesque fascination with the undead come from?
Mansfield University Professor of English Dr. John Ulrich studies pop culture and teaches a course in monster literature. I asked him about zombie popularity.

According to Ulrich, zombies first staggered into American culture in the 1920s and '30s. After the U.S. military occupation of Haiti, soldiers and journalists brought back stories of Haitian zombie folklore. "W. B. Seabrook's 1929 book on Haitian 'voodoo,' The Magic Island, includes a short chapter on zombies called 'Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields,' and many commentators see this text as a key player in transferring the zombie from Haitian folklore to American popular culture," Ulrich says. By the early 1930s, zombies had made their way to both stage and screen. In 1932, the play Zombie ran on Broadway, and the film White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi, was released.

Both are set in Haiti, Ulrich explains. Zombies were not flesh eaters, but mindless automatons controlled by a zombie master.

"The more familiar flesh-eating zombies of contemporary popular culture first appeared in George Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead," Ulrich says. Romero was influenced by the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth, adapted from Richard Matheson's 1954 novella I Am Legend. Although both I Am Legend and The Last Man on Earth depict a post-apocalyptic U.S. overrun by vampires, not zombies, both feature a survivor defending himself in a boarded-up home, and the vampires act like today's zombies, congregating around the house and trying to break in.

"Romero invented the flesh-eating concept, added graphic scenes of zombies feasting on human body parts, and then -- brilliantly -- focused on the tension and conflict among the survivors," Ulrich explains. "Night of the Living Dead is the foundational text for all subsequent zombie films and literature; everything that follows consciously imitates it or deliberately deviates from it."

The genre has steadily grown in popularity because of the indeterminate, malleable nature of zombies as a cultural sign, Ulrich says. "More than any other kind of monster, the zombie is a virtual blank slate, a screen upon which we can project a variety of meanings. At its most elemental level, of course, the zombie represents our fear of death."

The zombie, Ulrich says, is a walking, desiccated corpse whose sole purpose is to consume human flesh. They force us to confront the material reality of our inevitable demise, that we will be consumed by death. (Read entire article.)


Friday, June 28, 2013

Grand Duchess Maria

A moving portrait of the third daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra. From Madame Guillotine:
It would be impossible not to be charmed by the Grand Duchess Maria anyway – always chubby with huge blue eyes (known within the family as ‘Maria’s Saucers’, rosy cheeks and softly curling brown hair she was perhaps the prettiest if not the most classically beautiful (that would be Tatiana with her almost austere Russian high cheekboned beauty) of the sisters and was exceedingly sweet natured also – winsome, contentedly placid and well behaved right from the start. In fact so well behaved was she that when she was later apprehended stealing a handful of biscuits (she could also be rather greedy) from her mother’s tea tray, her father refused to have her punished for this transgression, saying laughingly that he was ‘always afraid of the wings growing. I am glad to see she is only a human child.’

Within the family, it was Maria’s rôle to be the peacemaker, pouring oil over troubled waters and soothing stormy situations whenever she could. While her elder sister, Tatiana was especially close to their mother, Maria was her father’s particular pet and would stay close to him whenever the family was together. Within her sibling group, it was Anastasia that she was closest to as together they formed the ‘Little Pair’, wearing identical clothes, sharing lessons and treats and sleeping in the same austerely furnished room. Although Anastasia was the younger of the two, she was also the noisier and more bossy which suited sweet natured Maria just fine. Her more strong minded elder sisters would never have been at someone else’s beck and call and certainly not that of a younger sister but Maria was content to let Anastasia boss her about and take the lead in their games. (Read entire post.)

Requiem for Ballerinas

From Dr. Gerard Nadal:

Why do schools teach this, and why do parents pay for, approve, and cheer for it? Why have so many eschewed the femininity and physical strength of ballet for hip hop and jazz with x-rated moves danced to equally disgusting lyrics?

It has something to do with a sexual revolution that is 50 years old, guilty parents, a divorce rate over 50%, and 55 million abortions with 1 in 4 American women having had an abortion by middle age. Add to that empty churches on Sundays and we have the recipe for the cancer that is consuming the greatest, most enlightened civilization the world has ever known.

In short, the innocence of the innocents stands as a howling rebuke of their parents past and present sinful lifestyles. Adults lost and without hope of personal redemption find it easier at some level to inculcate their licentiousness in the children than to clean up their own acts. And what a show it is.

CDC reports that 25% of American girls will contract at least one STD before the age of 19. It goes up from there. For African American girls the percentage is a stunning 48%. Girls are pressured into appearing “hot” for the boys and must endure this added burden during the normal confusion and growing pains of adolescence. The dance schools begin the commodification as early as age three.

And we wonder why for the first time a majority of women prefer cohabitation to marriage. Perhaps because we have trained our sons to value girls as sex objects and not persons with a great intrinsic dignity.

Perhaps because the boys see the parents buying the micro-shorts, mini skirts and revealing tops for the girls.

Perhaps because the boys see the parents getting breast enhancements for the girls as teens.

Perhaps because of all of this the boys no longer fear the girl’s father as they once did.

Perhaps the girls see this betrayal as normative and we have succeeded in defining their dignity down.

By the end of college, many girls have been had by boys well into the double-digits. They have been used, diseased, impregnated, and abandoned. Repeatedly. By their early twenties. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Dark Side of Edwardian England

From the Daily Mail:
The historical discovery was unearthed by family-tree website A spokesman said: 'In order to enforce the 1902 Sale of Liquor to Habitual Drunkard’s Licensing Act, the Watch Committee of the City of Birmingham provided licensed liquor sellers and clubs with photos and descriptions of people deemed "habitual drunkards", who were not to be sold liquor.  

'The 82 persons in the book were convicted of drunkenness between 1903 and 1906, typically at the Birmingham City Police Court.' Many of the women featured on the list bore physical deformities and tattoos, which would have marked them out from respectable Edwardian society. However, most of them managed to hold down jobs, working as charwomen, wood-choppers, polishers or grease merchants. (Read entire article.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Queen of Hungary

The coronation of  Maria Theresa. Share

Margaret Roper, Scholar and Heroine

From Susan Abernethy:
Thomas More was living in his home called The Barge at Bucklersbury, off the east end of Cheapside about 500 yards north of the Thames. His first wife was named Joanna Colt and their first child Margaret was born at home sometime between August and October of 1505. She was baptized and turned over to a close neighbor, Mistress Giggs who was her wet nurse and had just had a child of her own, another Margaret. Mistress Giggs died shortly after giving Margaret back to her parents and Margaret Giggs was adopted by Thomas and Joanna and became Margaret More’s closest friend.

Joanna Colt was to have three more children, Elizabeth, Cecily and John before she died in 1511. Thomas married a wealthy widow, Alice Harper within a month of Joanna’s death. In the early days before he went to work for King Henry VIII, More was to teach his own children. Thomas believed strongly in education for everyone, including women. This education consisted of languages, history, philosophy and rhetoric. Margaret was taught reading at the age of three, studying Aesop’s Fables as her father had when he was a child. When Thomas couldn’t teach his children due to his duties, he hired William Gonnell to tutor his children full time. The school of children tutored by Gonnell included the two older Margarets, Margaret’s siblings and Alice Harper’s daughter Alice.

Margaret progressed well in her studies and soon became her father’s favorite. She was fascinated by geography and astronomy and became proficient in Latin. More relied on her to keep him updated about family news when he was abroad working for the King. Despite all of Margaret’s studies and learning, she was still expected to marry. By 1521, talks were initiated between the More family and the Roper family to marry Margaret to the eldest Roper son, William.

Margaret’s expected dowry would be about 200 pounds. Her father didn’t have the money so a contract was worked out where Margaret and William would receive free room and board for five years and the dowry would be paid at a later date. They were married in 1521. They did not have any children until 1533. Margaret was to have five children, the last one being born in 1544. In 1524, Thomas More decided to move his family from Bucklersbury to a new manor house in Chelsea, just down the river. Margaret and William moved with him. Margaret refused to leave her father’s house and always lived in his home or very nearby until his death. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Apartments of Louis XV

Some of the restored rooms of Louis XV at Versailles from Vive la Reine. Share

Revisiting "Ghosts on the Roof"

Whittaker Chambers and the Romanovs. (This is meant to be a commentary on Stalinist oppression and is not to be seen as reflecting the true thoughts of any Romanovs, living or deceased.) To quote:
TIME’s March 5, 1945, edition carried something unusual in its pages: a “political fairy story” called “The Ghosts on the Roof” — most recently cited as a top piece in Time: 85 Years of Great Writing (2008).
Seven ghosts settle on the roof of the Livadia Palace at Yalta, where they are accosted by Clio, Muse of History. “Madam, I am Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias…” “Nicholas—how nice to see you again! …Wherever have you been?” Once they catch up, however, History learns to her great surprise of the Tsar’s new political stripes…

As shockingly prescient and as wickedly funny now as it was nearly 70 years ago, please plunge pleasantly into “The Ghosts on the Roof.” (Read entire article.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Marie-Antoinette in Advertising

For all the fuss about Marie-Antoinette's expenditures, she has been making money for other people from the moment she first stepped on French soil. Anna has an excellent post about how the image of Marie-Antoinette has been used in advertising, even during her lifetime. To quote:
In one sense, Marie Antoinette has been used in advertising since her ascendant as the pivotal star of Versailles--fashion plates and even dolls bearing her likeness were not just demonstrations of the sumptuousness of the crown's wealth or a record of the Queen's appearance, but a figurative, flashing "Buy Me!" sign to all of the fashionable ladies who could afford to aspire to their sovereign's wardrobe choices.

By the time of the queen's death in 1793, however, her status as a walking billboard for the pricey marchande de modes had long since ended. But her death has not stopped her--or her story--from being used in advertisements that market everything from Victorian-era medicines to chocolates and even highlighter pens.

Marie Antoinette, like many historical figures, featured heavily on many 19th and 20th century advertisement cards. These cards were usually either printed as postcards or trading cards--both a potential way to advertise their product to the masses. (Read entire.)

St. John the Baptist and the Knights of Malta

In the my novel The Night's Dark Shade there is a scene describing a 13th century St. John's Eve celebration in a bastide built by the Knights of St. John in the south of France. St. John the Baptist is still the patron of the modern Knights, known today as the Knights of Malta. Here is a homily by Fr. Mark Kirby to some Knights in Ireland:
Holiness cannot be stereotyped. Holiness comes in a splendid variety of forms, and colours. There is no age, no state in life, no occupation, no background, no place, nor race, nor culture that is, of itself, foreign to holiness. We, therefore have no excuse. God would have each us become a saint. To resist the call to holiness is to resist the will of God. "This is the will of God," says the Apostle, "your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

In the Order of Malta

The particular form of holiness to which you are called will be shaped, then, and coloured by your membership in the Order of Malta. What exactly does this mean? What might your holiness look like? Your charism -- that is to say, the special identifying grace that makes your Order what it is in the Church -- has been summed up in two Latin terms: Tuitio Fidei and Obsequium Pauperum, which I should like to render respectively as The Faith, Contemplated and Upheld, and The Poor, Served with All Devotedness. The second of these, The Poor, Served with All Devotedness, is motivated by and sustained by the first, The Faith, Contemplated and Upheld. For this reason, today, and in the context of the Year of Faith, I should like, for a moment, to consider the first of these terms: Tuitio Fidei.

Look, See, Contemplate

The Latin word tuitio is rooted in the verb tuere meaning, first of all, to look at; to see; to fix one's gaze upon; or, if you will, to contemplate. Our English word intuition -- a knowledge gained by looking deeply into something -- is derived from the same verb. Your first duty, then -- and what a sweet and life-giving duty it is -- is to gaze upon Christ in the mysteries of the faith; to look, not only at them, but into them; and then to be so changed by your contemplation, that you translate it, necessarily, into the devoted service of Christ in His poor.

How does one fix one's gaze upon the mysteries of the faith? Where does one find Christ in His mysteries so as to look upon Him? "We", you are undoubtedly thinking, "are not monks". We are people engaged in the frenzy and fury of a society increasingly hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; to the mission of His Church, one holy, Catholic, and apostolic; and to the expression of the faith in public life. All the more reason, dear brothers and sisters, to commit yourselves to the Tuitio Fidei upon which your vocation to holiness in the Order of Malta is founded, and by which it is quickened and sustained.

The Sacred Liturgy, Wellspring and Summit

The Tuitio Fidei (The Faith, Contemplated and Upheld ) begins and flourishes in the sacred liturgy; it bears abundant fruit in the Obsequium Pauperum (The Poor, Served with All Devotedness), and returns to the sacred liturgy. This is, simply put, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which called the sacred liturgy the wellspring and the summit of the life and action of the Church (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 10).
Your vocation to holiness, your summons to real sainthood as members of the Order of Malta, will be proportionate to your contemplation of Christ in His mysteries, and this by means of your actual participation in the sacred liturgy of the Church. Already in 1903 -- one-hundred-ten years ago -- Pope Saint Pius X called "active participation in the most holy mysteries" that is, in the liturgy, "the foremost and indispensable font of the true Christian spirit" (Motu Proprio, Tra le sollecitidini).

Today's Holy Mass is but one opportunity to do precisely this. It is an occasion of grace freely given you by God and by the Church to be quickened in your unique vocation as -- yes -- saints of the Order of the Malta. "I claimed thee for my own before ever I fashioned thee in thy mother's womb; before ever thou camest to birth, I set thee apart for myself" (Jeremias 1:5).

Under the Hand of God

We heard, concerning John the Baptist, in the Holy Gospel: "And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel" (Luke 1: 66, 80).

Submit to the hand of the Lord today, by placing yourselves humbly and willingly under the immense, and tender, and powerful liturgy of His Church. Open your eyes, your ears, and all your senses to every word uttered, to every note sung, to every gesture, and movement, and to the sacred silence which envelops this Mass and allows for the penetration of its particular grace into the most secret place of your souls. (Read entire post.)

Suicide at Notre Dame Cathedral

Anytime anyone takes their own life, I always suspect clinical depression no matter what they say their motives might be. From Crisis:
The Christian mind has long rejected the possibility of suicide as a good, ever since Augustine’s prominent discussion of it in the first book of The City of God.  In Chapter 22 of that discussion, Augustine denies that men who commit suicide can ever be admired for their greatness of soul. Given that Augustine’s prime task was to write “against the pagans,” this line of argument is understandable; he wants to discourage any admiration of individual pagans. I would like to suggest that this restriction be revisited. A Christian may admire the heights of pagan virtue without condoning its sinful aspects. After all, Augustine’s firm condemnation of all things pagan cannot be entirely reconciled with the Thomistic embrace of pre-Christian Greek philosophy in the High Middle Ages. Admiring Venner’s cause is not the same as condoning his self-annihilation.

Just maybe, there is something we can learn from the spirit of his deed, if not from the deed itself. It certainly seems clear that Venner did not mean for men of the West to follow his example and commit mass suicide; he meant for it to shake them out of their malaise. It was a cri-du-cœur against the modern age.
Dominique Venner was, from my understanding, neither Catholic nor formally pagan: his spiritual life was found in a kind of reverence for the heritage of Europe; that heritage includes both pagan and Christian religion, and so he admired both. His suicide in the cathedral was a final act of respect, as well as a powerful setting for the message he intended to convey. He saw the cathedrals of Europe as artistic manifestations of the genius of his people. In his suicide note, “Reasons for a Voluntary Death,” he explained,
I am healthy in body and mind… However, in the evening of my life, facing immense dangers to my French and European homeland, I feel the duty to act as long as I still have strength. I believe it necessary to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that plagues us. I give up what life remains to me in order to protest and to found. I chose a highly symbolic place, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, which I respect and admire: she was built by the genius of my ancestors on the site of cults still more ancient, recalling our immemorial origins. [Emphasis mine.]
Venner sees himself as the founder of something new, in defense of something old. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Marie-Antoinette in the Conciergerie

The Queen was given no privacy. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

An Offer of Pardon

From author Stephanie Mann:
Today is the anniversary of the martyrdoms of five Jesuit Popish Plot Martyrs on June 20, 1679, who died as a result of the false, perjurous claims there was a vast, Jesuit, Catholic-wing conspiracy to assassinate Charles II and bring the Catholic Duke of York, James, his brother to the throne. Oates convinced the Whigs in Parliament that he knew who was in on this plot and he was given the authority to round up the suspects. At the trials for his accused, any witnesses they brought forward would be discounted by the Prosecution and the Judge, because, of course, they were also Catholics and if not in on the plot were probably in favor of the plot! After one of these manifestly unfair trials, five Jesuits were martyred on June 20, 1679 at Tyburn Tree in London:

John Gavan
William Harcourt
Anthony Turner
Thomas Whitbread
John Fenwick

Fathers John Fenwick and William Ireland were arrested in September of 1678 and held in prison. Then Oates captured Fathers Thomas Whitbread and Edward Mico, who were ill with the plague and living in the household of the Spanish ambassador. By December that year Father Whitbread was well enough to join Fathers Fenwick and Ireland in Newgate Prison; Father Mico died in custody. Father William Ireland was executed in January of 1679 with the Jesuit laybrother John Grove, but Fenwick and Whitbread awaited their fate and another trial. They had given evidence that refuted Oates', so Oates needed more time to gather more evidence! Fathers John Gavan, William Harcourt, and Anthony Turner in the meantime had been arrested and they were brought together with Father Fenwick and Whitbread (tried for the second time--no double jeopardy in Charles II's courts for Catholics!)

At the trial, the defense produced plenty of  witnesses from Saint-Omer to testify that Oates hadn't even been in England the day he was supposed to have heard the Jesuits plotting to assassinate King Charles II--he was at the college in St. Omer's that day. But the Court told the jury to trust Oates' evidence over the Catholic witnesses. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, condemning the five Jesuits to die for treason.

The circumstances of their execution were quite dramatic. All five were standing in a cart under the scaffold, with their hands bound and the nooses around their necks. They had each spoken, each prepared themselves for death, when suddenly, a rider galloped up, crying "A Pardon, A Pardon!"

Charles II issued them a conditional pardon to spare their lives--all they had to was admit their guilt and tell him all they knew about the plot. Trouble was that they weren't guilty of any plot and they couldn't tell him what they knew because there wasn't any plot in the first place! They declined the pardon, protesting that they could not lie to save their lives--they could not risk their immortal souls to save their physical bodies.
(Read entire post.)

Pirates of Maryland

Maryland's time of trouble. To quote:
The complicated dispute between Claiborne and Calvert over Kent Island struggled through the courts in England and the colonies for over 40 years, not ending until Claiborne’s death in 1677. William Claiborne discovered Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay just east of current Annapolis in 1628. Considering it an ideal location for a fur trading post, he bought it, for twelve pounds sterling silver of his personal funds, from the Natives who lived there, named it Kent Island, and claimed it for the King of England. Beginning in 1631, Claiborne fortified Kent Island, planted crops and orchards, stocked it with cattle, and built a fort, church, trading post, living quarters for 100 men, and a plantation house for himself named Crayford.

When Lord Baltimore received a charter from the King to found Maryland, the charter specified that Maryland should have the unsettled land above the Potomac River and across the Chesapeake Bay. William Claiborne believed that Kent Island was exempt from the Maryland charter because it was settled and inhabited. Leonard Calvert took the position that Kent Island was NOT settled because it only contained a trading post, not permanent residents with families.

The preceding illumination of the controversy squeezes 40 years of courtroom drama into a few sentences, but the purpose here is to establish the events relative to William Pinley and Alexander Mountney. William Claiborne was a neighbor to Hannah and her husbands at Elizabeth City, Claiborne ran the Community Store/trading post from his estate at Strawberry Banks. Eventually, Claiborne claimed land and established the trading posts on the Eastern Shore as well, having founded the trading post that became Alexander Mountney’s Community Store at Kings Creek. In 1634, Mountney entered into a partnership with William Claiborne on the building projects and trading post at Kent Island. See the chapter on Alexander Mountney.

Lord Calvert offered to allow Claiborne to bring his plantation at Kent under Maryland’s authority and continue his operation there, but Claiborne stubbornly refused, insisting that Kent Island was already under the Virginia charter. When Calvert sent Robert Vaughn to the area with a militia, Claiborne’s Captain Thomas Smyth arrested the men as invaders. He eventually released them unharmed, but kept some useful commodities. Maryland issued a warrant for the arrest of Captain Smyth for piracy. In 1635, Maryland loyalist Henry Fleet, the sole survivor of the massacre of Henry Spelman and his men in 1623, seized Claiborne's prize ship, The Long Tayle. Fleet refused to accept the ship's license to trade because it was issued by Virginia instead of Maryland. Captain Fleet, a fur trader in dire competition with Claiborne, delivered the The Long Tayle and its crew to Calvert as a war prize. Calvert released the crew, forcing them to make their way back to Kent Island by a treacherous and long overland hike around the Chesapeake Bay. (Read entire article.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Parure of the Duchesse de Berry

 With figures from the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Share


And where to get it. To quote:
In our time, unlike any other, technology has made it possible for individuals to survive for quite a while without actually depending on each other -- and it's even possible for families to seem outwardly unified but inwardly all fractured. We've lost the knack for knowing what a family really is.

A lot of folks think a family is a sort of vehicle for mutual entertainment or shallow fulfillment. Ladies get caught up in the cuddly vision of babies, hardly realizing how small this aspect of babies turns out to be, in reality. Men think that video-gaming will continue as before. Having never worked on anything concrete (knitting? gardening? furniture-making? brewing? spackling? car repair?), many latter-day would-be adults think of life as the process of acquiring things.

Immature people, tricked by being detached from the true purpose of marriage, which is building a family, think that children are an interruption of life rather than life itself. The interruption seems intense but limited (I'm reminded of that funny line in Ghost Town when a girl exclaims over a birthing story, "Ten hours is a long time to wait for something!"), and the unsuspecting parents figure that they can endure some painful moments until, they hope soon, they can pass on the irritation of the day-to-day child-related drudgery to others. Increasingly, to the government. (Read entire post.)

Marie-Antoinette in America

From the Getty Center in Los Angeles:
This richly illustrated lecture by art historian Ronald Freyberger features 54 sumptuous works that originally adorned Marie-Antoinette's royal residences before the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. Japanese lacquer, exotic wood veneers, jewel-like gilt bronze, superbly carved and gilded wood, as well as porcelain from the royal porcelain factory at Sèvres, were used in crafting these magnificent and historically significant examples of furniture, decorations, and useful objects by Jean-Henri Risener, Georges Jacob, and other renowned names in the history of the decorative arts.

Exacting standards of aesthetic and technical virtuosity, which had never before been attained, inform these refined works of art, for which the original commissions can be traced to Louis XVI's extravagant, tragic, and ill-fated queen.

Post-1789 owners of furniture made for Marie Antoinette, including George Watson Taylor in England, the 10th Duke of Hamilton in Scotland, and Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt on New York's Fifth Avenue, are also discussed in the lecture.

Ronald Freyberger has published and lectured widely on 18th-century French decorative arts. His research helped establish Madame de Pompadour's original ownership of the so-called Dudley vases, now part of the J. Paul Getty Museum's collection. (Read entire post.)
The Getty Center
Date: Sunday, July 14, 2013
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Location: Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Admission: Free; reservations recommended. Call (310) 440-7300.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tsar Nicholas II: The Irony of Myth

Here is an insightful essay about the last Tsar by Gareth Russell. To quote:
The irony of the pervasive view that Nicholas II was chronically weak and indecisive is that it completely misrepresents Russian history - both the downfall of four hundred years of tsarism and the rise of eight fraught decades of Communism - because had Nicholas II been as malleable as Trotsky, Sandro and popular historiography suggests, his reign and the fate of the Russian monarchy would have been very, very different. In 1894, Nicholas dismissed calls for democracy in Russia as the agenda of "senseless dreamers." For an entire decade, despite mounting pressure, he maintained that position. It was only thanks to the near-total collapse of law and order during the riots of 1905, the assassination by nail bomb of his uncle Sergei and numerous government ministers, defeat in the war with Japan and the impassioned advice of his finance minister, Count Witte, that Nicholas gave way and granted Russia a constitution, a parliament and elections. He did so after much thought and under the assurance that this sacrifice would bring the uprising to an end. It did not and Nicholas never forgave Witte or the liberals for what he saw as an humiliating trick. Nonetheless, from 1906 until 1914, Nicholas stuck with the bastardized version of a constitutional monarchy that he and Witte had created. He was certainly as far to the Right as it was possible to go without actually being the wall, but he did not budge from that position. When it came to the matter of Rasputin, his wife's spiritual adviser ludicrously alleged to be her lover, Nicholas stuck to a middle course of allowing Rasputin access to the palace in order to pray over his haemophiliac son Alexei, which pacified the Empress and her clique, but refused to listen to Alexandra's increasingly-pious belief that Rasputin was in touch with the true will of the Russian people. Nicholas knew that his wife was on the verge of a near-permanent mental breakdown because of their son's health and that she blamed herself; her belief that Rasputin was a saintly, practically virginal, peasant man of God plucked from Siberia like the shores of Galilee was unshakable and although Nicholas did not agree with her, he always seemed to regard Rasputin as absurd but inoffensive and slightly quaint. He allowed Alexandra to talk about him, but until the final months of imperial rule, he never, ever listened to her too seriously. (Read entire post.)

Louis XVI's Wardrobe

From This is Versailles:
Louis XVI did not change much at Versailles but this particular room is an exception. The door is hidden and leads from the King's Bedchamber - it was created on the order of Louis XV in 1738 but was at this time half the size of the wardrobe it would become. The beautiful golden wood-work is the work of Jean-Siméon and Jean-Hugues Rousseau who would finish the room in 1788 (it would be their last work done to Versailles). The architect was Richard Mique. The wood-work includes emblems with symbols relating to the navy, trade, agriculture, science and the arts. The white and gold-style was very popular at this time which is why some of the other rooms looks similar to this one. (Read entire post.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Marriage of the Duc de Berry and Caroline of Naples

Via Tiny-Librarian.


The Capture of Ronda, 1485

An important victory in the history of the Spanish Reconquista. From Nobility:
A portion of the Christian army had in truth set out in the direction of Loja; but the main body, under the command of Ferdinand himself, the Marquis-Duke of Cadiz, and other great Castilian generals, only waited till this subterfuge should take effect to march on Ronda. With them went their deadly train of artillery; and soon the walls and towers were battered from three sides, without those within being able to retaliate. Breaches were made, and through these the Castilian chivalry rushed to the assault, driving before them up the streets the diminished garrison. At length a knight, more intrepid than the rest, leaping from roof to roof along the low white houses, planted his banner on the principal mosque. His action completed the enemy’s despair; and on Ferdinand’s offer of generous terms the inhabitants surrendered. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Elizabeth Woodville on BBC

Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville

BBC's Elizabeth and all the Woodvilles ( I love seeing the little sisters in the background.)
 From the BBC:
Emma Frost has had a spell in the writing chair for the award-winning Shameless on channel Four. Her latest project sees her take on a very different project for BBC One in the shape of the period drama, The White Queen - a lush adaptation of Philippa Gregory's best-selling historical novel series, The Cousins' War.

Set in 1464, one of the most turbulent periods in British history, amid the War of the roses - the long running battle between the Houses of York and Lancaster - the drama combines three of Gregory's novels, telling the story of love, deception, seduction and murder through the eyes of three very different, but equally ambitious women.

Elizabeth Woodville, an "unknown woman from history who has been rediscovered" by Gregory, has an "incredibly interesting story with real scale," says Frost. (Read entire article.)
A review from The New Statesman says:
The magnetism between Elizabeth and Edward is quickly established. Their first meeting, beneath the legendary Whittlebury oak, is touching and immediate. Small details add to the anticipation; her mother’s good luck charm, her son biting into a plum, the other waving on the King’s approach. Historical purists might object. It is unlikely to have happened like that in real life. Far from being a “way-side hussy”, Elizabeth had probably already encountered Edward in the Lancastrian court circles of their fathers, but this is an adaption of a novel for Sunday night viewing and the romantic legend makes for better television.

The on-screen attraction between the star-crossed lovers is real and believable. As Ferguson explained in a recent BBC interview, she and Irons “just clicked” with “amazing chemistry straight away”. Almost as convincing are the heavy-handed doubts of the Woodville men, whose early snarls and cynical warnings anticipate the image we have of Elizabeth “wading through blood” for this marriage, as her mother warns her.

At the start, her male relations have the feeling of caricatures, deliberate created as foils for the new young king, but as the episode progressed, they were prevailed upon by the wisdom of women to wear white roses. Alongside Jacquetta, played by the impressive Janet McTeer, “commoner” Elizabeth states she is a match for any man and the audience believe her. Through this first episode, it was the pairing of mother and daughter which really stole the show. In a trilogy which presents an alternative perspective of the era through female eyes, these two were radiant. (Read entire review.)
More on Elizabeth Woodville from the BBC, HERE.

For accurate information on the Plantagenets and the Woodvilles, I rely on author Susan Higginbotham, HERE. Susan's review of Gregory's The White Queen is a must-read for those interested in the historicity of the new series.

Edward IV presents his new Queen

Conspiracy Analysis

Has Edward Snowden told us anything new? To quote:
Seven years ago, during the Bush regime we learned that [the government] "has been collecting information on every phone call made in this country" — Government Monitoring About 200 Million Americans' Calls. Why is anyone surprise by what Edward Snowden has revealed?

From we learn that his revelations are simply part of a "program, which has been known for years, [that] copies Internet traffic as it enters and leaves the United States, then routes it to the NSA for analysis" — PRISM Is Just Part Of A Much Larger, Scarier Government Surveillance Program. From the same source, we learn of Naomi Wolf's growing suspicions — My creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be ...

This "leak" could be simply a way of prepping the public for an even more dystopian future, since, as my alma mater's Michael S. Rozeff notes, "there is not a rock hard super-majority that is against the surveillance state" — The Machinery of Oppression.
(Read entire post.)

How to Wrestle with a Difficult Decision

From The Art of Manliness:
When faced with a big question where you’re not sure what to do, find your answer by following the pattern of discovery that York laid out:

1. Sort through your motivations.
Before York could even consider what he needed to do, he had to make sure he honestly understood the motivations that had created the dilemma in the first place and were driving him towards each option. He knew he wasn’t scared of violence, and when he looked within he didn’t find that he feared being killed or resented having to leave his old life behind. He could truthfully say that it really was a matter of his faith conflicting with his patriotism.

Oftentimes, we come up with false reasons for settling on certain options. We say that a path just isn’t practical, when we’re really worried about disappointing our parents. We cherry-pick a religious justification as a reason for not doing something, when really we’re just scared to do it or can’t bear to put the responsibility for the decision on ourselves. But before we can choose between different options, we need to honestly understand and assess why we’ve chosen those possible paths in the first place.

2. Ask others for advice.
The first thing York did was to seek counsel about his dilemma from his pastor and mentor. But had he stopped there, with the man who headed the church that preached that war was wrong, his perspective wouldn’t have been very balanced. Instead, he also discussed the issue with Major Buxton, a man who had reconciled his faith with a professional military career. This gave York a look at both sides of the coin.

As you seek an answer to a difficult question, try to gather as much information about the situation and your options as you can. You want to make as informed a decision as possible. One part of this “research” phase is asking for feedback from friends, family, and mentors. They may have a perspective to share that you hadn’t thought of and can help you see your options and beliefs in a different light. If you can find someone to talk to who has been through a very similar situation, all the better. Other people can’t ultimately tell you what to do (and don’t let them – notice that York ultimately made the decision on his own), but they can add greatly to your understanding of the pros and cons and likely consequences of your decision, and what other people might do if they were in your shoes.

3. Study the question out.
Besides asking others for advice, the other part of the information-gathering phase is to study the question as much as possible. This may mean reading your scriptures like York did, and as well as reading the biographies of men who came to the same kind of crossroads. You may want to tuck into a treatise of philosophy, or read up on the city you’re thinking of moving to. If you’re grappling with a medical question, this will mean not only talking to your doctor, but getting a second opinion, and perhaps looking over research studies that have been done on the subject as well. Do your part to gather all of the relevant information available to you so that you can be sure you are making a completely informed decision.

4. Ponder what you have learned.
York spent hours walking through the woods and mulling over what he had studied and what others had shared with him. Do likewise. As you gather as much information about your different options as you can, take time to ponder what you’ve learned. When you read something or talk to someone, what leaves you feeling empty and confused? What feels like it illuminates your mind or makes your heart swell?

5. Pray/meditate in solitude to make the decision.
Even after months of talking it over, pondering, studying, and praying, York felt no clearer about what to do than when his draft card first arrived in the mail. This is typical of big decisions. The research phase of the process may make you better informed, but it won’t necessarily illuminate the right answer in neon lights. For this reason, people often get stuck in the information-gathering phase, both hoping that talking to just one more person will suddenly make things crystal clear, and also fearing to finally pull the trigger.

But once you’ve thoroughly examined the question from all sides, the research phase must come to an end. It’s time to make a decision.

Once you’re ready to receive your answer, you would be well served to follow York’s example of finding a place of quiet and solitude where you won’t be interrupted and can be alone with your thoughts. The stillness of nature provides a perfect setting. (Read entire article.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Robe en Fourreau

A lady wearing a sheath dress and a cadogan wig. To quote:
 Cadogan. - The cadogan (see also plate 180) was a man's wig with a single queue tied with a narrow ribbon and forming a bulge at its end.  Women borrowed the cadogan from men and wore it whether simple or, as here, double.

On this fashion Bachaumont recounted an amusing anecdote: "Lately the King, on coming back from the hunt, put on a chignon in the manner of women, and went thus to the Queen's apartments.  Her Majesty was taken very much in laughter and she asked him what was the meaning of this masquerade, if he had come back from a carnival.  -Do you find it ugly? said her august spouse.  It is a fashion that I want to bring out, I have never before instituted any.  -Oh! Sire, watch yourself here, it is frightful, replied Her Majesty.  -Nevertheless, Madame, replied the Monarch, the men must have some manner of dressing their hair to distinguish their sex: you have taken from us the plume, the hat, the cadenette,* the queue: today, it is the cadogan that remains to us, and that I find very ugly on women ..." The Queen heard what he wanted to say and having nothing nearer to her heart than the pleasure of the King, gave an order that everyone take them off on the spot and return to the chignon.

"Thus it appears that this fashion adopted with a fury in Paris, and very ridiculous indeed, will fall by means of the pleasantry of the King."

BACHAUMONT, Secret Memoirs, March 18, 1783


A Cure for the Vapors

From author Isabella Bradford:
It's not only clothing that goes out of style. Illnesses can fade from fashion, too, as medical science progresses and old terms become obsolete. The vapours is one of these.  A familiar ailment to 18th & 19th c. physicians, the vapours seems to us now to be something of a catch-all term with numerous symptoms - depression, nervousness, hysteria, lethargy, and indigestion, among them – depending on which medical book of the past is consulted. (Read entire post.)

Monday, June 17, 2013


Julius Caesar and his fleet enter the port of Alexandria where he will meet Cleopatra and the course of history will change. (Via Tiny Librarian.) Click on picture to enlarge.

Chemise à la Reine vs. Grande Robe Française

This simple style was introduced by Marie-Antoinette and, although she did not wear such a low neckline as shown in the fashion plate above, it still upset many people. The Queen intended the dress for quiet times at home. Via Tiny Librarian:
Chemise à la Reine with bound sleeves, the neckline trimmed with a frill, Marlborough Hat wrapped with a wide ribbon striped in black and colour. (1784)
“Chemises” belonged to the category of simple and comfortable dress which was in vogue from about 1781 overall due to Marie Antoinette.

At the time, one said that an upper-body garment was made en chemise when “the beginning of the sleeves ended in two pieces which were added” (Dictionary of the abbé Jaubert, 1778).  One frequently finds in the notes of Mlle Bertin mentions such as “a piece en chemise of Italian gauze”, “a fichu-chemise* of Italian gauze”, etc.  On the date of the appearance of the “chemises à la reine”, Bachaumont fixes it for us in writing about the portraits of the Queen and Madame, by Vigée-Lebrun, shown in 1783: “The two princesses are en chemise, a costume invented recently for women.”

And he added, “Many people have found it inappropriate that these august personages are offered to the public in a garment reserved for the interior of their palace.”
(Read entire post.)

This gown is an example of the most formal attire possible, which the Queen was trying to get away from. However, people were more displeased by her simple attire than by her grand formal costume. More HERE. Share

The Geraldines

The Fitzgeralds: their origins. To quote:
Few Irish families match the Fitzgeralds' contribution to the history of Ireland and the nation’s development from being a loose collection of warring and competing kingdoms and clans in Medieval Ireland, through subsequent conquest and occupation, until Ireland’s eventual emergence as a modern Republic (well, for three quarters of the island) in the aftermath of the War of Independence which was ended by a hard-won Treaty with the United Kingdom in December 1921.

The poem of the Irish Patriot, Thomas Davis, written during some of Ireland’s darkest days in the 1840’s tracks the story of the fabled “Geraldines” and their exploits since the beginning of the last millennium.
The Geraldines! the Geraldines!--'tis full a thousand years

Since, 'mid the Tuscan vineyards, bright flashed their battle-spears
When Capet seized the crown of France, their iron shields were known,
And their sabre-dint struck terror on the banks of the Garonne
Across the downs of Hastings they spurred hard by William's side,

And the grey sands of Palestine with Moslem blood they dyed;

But never then, nor thence, till now, has falsehood or disgrace

Been seen to soil Fitzgerald's plume, or mantle in his face.
(Read entire post.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Sack Back: 1770

A beautifully lined Robe à la Française. More HERE. Share

The Legend That Never Was

The phenomenal, unknown Vivien Maier. Share

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Silk Dress, 1780

Robe à la Française Share

Leprosy in Medieval Europe

From BBC News:
Leprosy was endemic in Europe until it almost disappeared in the 16th Century, explained another member of the research team, Stewart Cole from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, (EPFL).

"It's been proposed that [bubonic plague ("Black Death")] killed off a large part of the European population, including those suffering from leprosy.

"One of the interesting things about this paper is that the medieval and current strains are the same, whereas leprosy disappeared fairly rapidly from Europe.

"It's clear that leprosy has created a strong selective pressure on the immune system. The European Caucasian populations have acquired resistance to leprosy, they have certain characteristic mutations in genes that make them less susceptible," Prof Cole told BBC News.
(Read entire post.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Order of the Holy Spirit

The sash and badge of the boy-king, Louis XVII. Share

A Letter to Victoria's Secret

From a Father. To quote:
Dear Victoria’s Secret,

I am a father of a three year old girl. She loves princesses, Dora the Explorer, Doc McStuffins and drawing pictures for people. Her favorite foods are peanut butter and jelly, cheese and pistachios.

Even though she is only three, as a parent I have had those thoughts of my daughter growing up and not being the little girl she is now. It is true what they say about kids, they grow up fast. No matter how hard I try I know that she will not be the little ball of energy she is now; one day she will be a rebellious teenager that will more than likely think her dad is a total goof ball and would want to distance herself from my embarrassing presence.

I know that this is far down the line and I try to spend as much time as I can with her making memories of this special time.

But as I read an article today posted on The Black Sphere, it really got me thinking that maybe the culture that we currently find ourselves in is not helping the cause.

Recently I read an article that Victoria’s Secret is launching a line of underwear and bras aimed at middle school aged children. The line will be called “Bright Young Things” and will feature ” lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on them, green and white polka-dot hipsters screen printed with “Feeling Lucky?” and a lace trim thong with the words, “Call me” on the front.”

As a dad, this makes me sick. (Read entire letter.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Farewell, My Queen (2012)

The 2012 French production of Les adieux de la reine or Farewell, My Queen, based upon the novel by Chantal Thomas, is perhaps one of the most damaging of all films to the character of the real Marie-Antoinette. There are stunningly beautiful and atmospheric passages in the novel Farewell, My Queen which capture so perfectly the last tragic summer at Versailles. Some of that atmosphere made it into the film, which realistically shows the dirt and grime of the palace as well as its splendor, glimmering with an especial magnificence in the candlelight. Other than that, the film bears little resemblance to the book. With Diane Kruger's stunning portrayal Marie-Antoinette, more weight is given to the calumnious reports of the Queen as the cold-blooded, calculating, licentious and manipulative consort of a befuddled king. It is regrettable, because a radiant performance like Miss Kruger's could have given the world genuine insight into the real Marie-Antoinette if it had been entirely based upon history.

The movie centers upon a drab fictional character named Sidonie Laborde, who portrays a sort of junior Reader to the Queen during the days following the fall of the Bastille in July 1789. In the novel Les Adieux, Sidonie is a mature woman who goes to daily Mass; in the film she is a young girl, co-dependently fixated upon Marie-Antoinette and the Queen's relationship with Madame de Polignac. It is as if the story were built around Fragonard's painting "La Liseuse" or "A Young Girl Reading" (below) except in the movie the colors are muted and dismal. Sidonie has no life outside of being the Queen's Reader; perhaps this is an attempt of the filmmakers to make a comment upon the nature of monarchy, trying to infer that it robbed people of their personality. However, the film is such a mishmash of unrelated scenes that it is difficult to discern what the message might be, if there is one. One minute Sidonie is passionately kissing the gondolier in the pantry and the next she is gazing with curiosity upon the naked body of a drugged Madame de Polignac. There is little coherency from scene to scene. Similarly, Marie-Antoinette is shown obsessing over Gabrielle de Polignac and later is shown as a devoted wife, frantic about her husband.

Whereas the book mentions the recent death of the Dauphin Louis-Joseph, the movie leaves out the little boy completely. Neither book nor film take into enough account the intense grief which Marie-Antoinette was enduring at the time. She was not morbidly preoccupied with Gabrielle de Polignac, as the film depicts; she was mourning her son. Furthermore, the film hints at a lesbian relationship between the Queen and Madame de Polignac but there is no evidence that Marie-Antoinette had a carnal relationship with anyone but her husband. It is true the queen had a great capacity for friendship, and that she was not always prudent in her choice of companions. In regard to Madame de Polignac, the friendship had early on spilled over into an innocent girlish infatuation of a young inexperienced wife for an older one who was already the mother of a growing family. Louis himself encouraged and cultivated the friendship between his wife and Gabrielle, whose discretion he trusted immensely. No serious biographer of the queen gives the least credence to the scandalous stories; even Lady Antonia Fraser insists in her recent biography that there is not the slightest indication that Marie-Antoinette ever participated in homosexual acts. However, people with promiscuous backgrounds tend to judge others according to their own behavior. The French court, being the French court, was the kind of setting that shadowed the most innocent relationships with tawdry connotations. Marie-Antoinette, with her beauty, naiveté and sentimentality, was the perfect target for every sort of calumny.

I do not care for the portrayal of the Duchesse de Polignac in the film. Although Gabrielle is shown as a swarthy and swaggering strumpet, in reality she had delicate white skin, blue eyes and was known for her gracefulness and charm of manner. In other words, she was a Lady. By July 1789, she was also a grandmother, as well as already being the mother of four children, including a seven and a nine year old. As Governess of the Children of France, she had to be in constant attendance upon the Dauphin. Whatever went on her in her private life was discreet. She would not have ripped off an apron in disdain as she is shown doing in the film; the Queen and her ladies wore aprons at Trianon and Gabrielle is said to have influenced the Queen towards simple, rustic attire.

The film is at its best when it depicts events that really happened, such as the Queen reading her tearful petition to the National Assembly for permission to join the King if he were to be imprisoned, and for the moving farewell of Louis and Marie-Antoinette with their two surviving children at her side. Those scenes are so well done that it is heartbreaking that the rest of the film is such a disjointed and mediocre aberration. The filmmakers obviously hate the very memory of the French monarchy, as well as the long dead Marie-Antoinette. Farewell, My Queen is yet another creative twist of the knife into her reputation. For it is the reputation of Marie-Antoinette which must be destroyed by those who wish to continually justify the violent overturning of society known as the Revolution.

Lea Seydoux as the Young Reader

Fragonard's La Liseuse (Young Girl Reading)


Self-published Ebooks on the Rise

From The Guardian:
Self-published books accounted for more than 20% of crime, science fiction, romance and humour ebooks sold in the UK in 2012, according to newly released statistics. The figures, from Bowker Market Research, show that while self-published books made up a tiny proportion – 2% – of all books purchased last year, this figure increases dramatically, to 12%, when print books are removed from the equation.

When just adult fiction and non-fiction ebooks are looked at, self-publishing's share increases to 14% of the market, and in the crime, science fiction, romance and humour genres, self-publishing took more than 20%, according to Steve Bohme, UK research director at Bowker, which tracks book-purchasing trends by interviewing over 3,000 book-buyers a month. Only 3% of children's ebooks, by contrast, were self-published. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Little Boy's Jacket

Louis XVII's blue silk jacket. Share

Rickets and the Medicis

We forget that in past times the children of the wealthy often suffered from diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies, such as rickets. Peasants, due to being outdoors and eating raw foods and coarse grains, were generally healthier. Babies of the well-to-do were sent to peasant women to be nursed. Healthy children of all classes were described as being "healthy as a peasant's child." From The Daily Mail:
Being rich and powerful was little protection to the children of the Medicis who, to the astonishment of scientists, appear to have suffered from rickets. The Medicis were among the most powerful families of the Renaissance, being patrons to Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, but their children still suffered malnutrition, research has indicated. Rickets is closely linked to malnutrition and poverty yet the bones of the remains of nine Medici children analysed by osteoarchaeologists reveal that they also fell victim to the condition....

The Medicis, in common with many other wealthy families, kept their young children indoors which could have prevented them from absorbing enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Swaddling babies was also commonplace and this would also have reduced their expose to sunlight.

The research team wrote: ‘The present study clearly demonstrates how, even in the high social classes, children were at the risk of developing rickets as a result of prolonged breast-feeding and inadequate exposure to sunlight.

 ‘With this prolonged breast-feeding, vitamin D deficiency is highly expected to rise, in particular if the other main risk factor, inadequate sunlight exposition, is associated with this diet based on maternal milk.

‘Two hours per week is the required minimum period of exposure to sunlight for infants if only the face is exposed.

‘During the spring and summer months, infants were likely to be exposed to sufficient sunlight to prevent vitamin D deficiency, but during the colder winter months, they probably spent less time outdoors and were bundled in several layers of protective clothing, especially when they presented frequent health problems.

‘For example, according to historical sources, Filippo was a weak and unhealthy child, suffering from recurrent illness episodes and likely to have been frequently kept indoors.

‘Furthermore, in the Renaissance period, non-ambulant children were swaddled, leaving very little skin exposed.’

Newborn babies should have enough vitamin D from their mothers at birth but, researchers suspect, the mothers may also have suffered from vitamin D deficiency, perhaps as a result of being kept indoors or their practice of wearing thick make-up to prevent them getting a tan.

‘A pale ivory skin was considered a sign of health and elegance, which distinguished noblewomen from peasants engaged in field work,’ the researchers reported in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. ‘A white skin was highly desired so that women avoided exposure to sunlight and used white powder to achieve it; one of the most popular and well-known lightening creams was Venetian Ceruse, a white powder obtained by mixing vinegar with lead, which remained popular for about 300 years.’

The Medici women were also likely to have suffered low levels of vitamin D because of repeated childbirth. (Read entire post.)
(Via tiny-librarian.) Share

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Madame de Lamballe Writing

The Princesse de Lamballe writing at her secrétaire. Perhaps she is writing her famous memoirs. Share

Afternoon Tea

The origins. To quote:
Tea was first introduced to Europe by the Portuguese Jesuit, Father Jasper de Cruz, in 1560, and it was a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, the wife of Charles II, who introduced it to Britain. In fact, part of her dowry was a chest of tea from China. A lover of tea since her childhood, Queen Catherine brought tea drinking to the Court, helping to set a trend among the aristocracy of seventeenth-century England. From the nobility, tea spread to the gentry and the lower levels of society, quickly becoming a popular and national drink. (Read entire post.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dauphin Louis-Joseph by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty

A portrait of the older son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. This is one of the last portraits by the artist Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty, who painted several portraits of Marie-Antoinette and her family It must have been painted when the Dauphin (1781-1789) was about four or five years old, and is perhaps meant to commemorate his transition from skirts to trousers. The artist died in 1786, a year after the death of his acclaimed father, the engraver Jacques Fabien Gautier d'Agoty. Here are some paintings of Marie-Antoinette by the younger Gautier-Dagoty: