Rosa Bonheur

Portrait de Marie-Rosalie dite Rosa Bonheur by Édouard Louis Dubufe

Marie Rosalie Bonheur was born in Bourdeaux in 1822 into a poor but artistic family. Her mother was a piano teacher, while her father, Oscar-Raymond Bonheur, a landscape and portrait painter who believed that women should be educated as well as men. Raymond gave Rosa, as she was commonly called, and her three siblings, August, Juliette and Isidore, all of whom would become artists as well, drawing lessons. The young girl showed such a talent and promise for the arts that Raymond allowed her to give up her job (she had been apprenticed against her will to a seamstress) to follow her passion. To help support the family, that had in the meantime moved to Paris, Rosa sold small models and illustrations for books or albums.

Oxen pulling a cart

Rosa was especially good at drawing pictures of animals. Her love of animals was born when her mother, to teach her how to read and write, made her draw an animal for each letter of the alphabet. The artist first began her training by copying pictures of other artists, and later began to make sketches of animals from life. To study their anatomy, she often visited the stables of the Veterinary School at Alfort, the Jardin des Plantes and the abattoirs. The people working there greatly admired her works and treated her with respect. Despite this, these visits were really hard for her. She loved animals (she had several birds and sheep) and it was painful to her to see them put to death. She also spent quite a lot of time studying grazing herds in the country. During these outings, she was disguised as a boy (she even cut her hair short) and broke the hearts of several pretty girls who, not suspecting the truth, tried to flirt with her!

 Sheep by the sea

Rosa was criticized for wearing trousers but she didn't care. She wore them simply because, working with animals, they were more practical: "I was forced to recognize that the clothing of my sex was a constant bother. That is why I decided to solicit the authorization to wear men's clothing from the prefect of police. But the suit I wear is my work attire, and nothing else. The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me...." But direct observation wasn't the only method she employed to study the anatomy of animals. She also read illustrated books on the subject, obtained casts and even dissected dead animals! The girl was surely dedicated to her studies and never let a chance to further them pass her by!

Horse fair

All this hard work paid off. At 19, Rosa exhibited two of her pictures, "Goats and Sheep" and "Two Rabbits" at the Salon. These were well-received, so the next year she sent three more pictures. The artist continued to exhibit paintings at the Salon and, during the years, won 4 medals. In 1849, she won the gold medal with her painting "Cantal Oxen". By now, Rosa had become one of the most famous female artists of her time. Even the French government recognized her talents and gave her a beautiful vase of Sèvres porcelain. The Empress Eugenie also decorated her with the Legion Of Honour, which had previously been given only to men.

Weaning the calves

She also spent a lot of time in the mountains, in the huts of charcoal burners, huntsmen, or woodcutters, where she made sketches for several of her paintings, including "Morning in the Highlands" and "The Denizens of the Mountains". Once, she lived for six weeks on the Pyranees. For the whole time, her party and she saw no one apart from muleteers, who would dance national dances for them. To eat, they had only frogs' legs, black bread and curdled milk.

Chamois

After 1853, the year she exhibited one of her most famous paintings, The Horse Fair, which gained her worldwide fame, Rosa retreated from public life. She bought a house in Fountainebleau, where she lead a quite life first with her childhood friend Nathalie Micas and, after her death, with American painter Anna Klumpke. And a little menagerie of animals, of course! Rosa died at Thomery, France, in 1899, aged 77. After her death a collection of her works, including studies, etchings and pictures, many of which had never been seen by the public before, were auctioned off in Paris.

Further reading:
Rosa Bonheur: The Artist's (Auto)biography by Anna Klumpke
Women in the fine arts by Clara Erskine Clement

Book Review: Liberty: The Lives Of Six Women In Revolutionary France


"Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights," declared Olympe de Gouges in 1791. Unfortunately, the French Revolutionary government didn't agree with Olympe, and never granted women full equal and political rights as those enjoyed by men, believing their place was at home, raising their children to love their country and the republic. But this didn't stop many women from participating in every aspect of the French Revolution. Author Lucy Moore takes a look at the lives of six of these women during this turbulent time in French history.

These six women couldn't be more different from one another. They all came from different backgrounds and had their own ideas and hopes about the revolution. Germaine De Stael was an intelligent writer at the heart of Paris’ intellectual movement; Theroigne de Mericourt, a courtesan who had been abused by men all her life and now dreamed that the Revolution would finally free women from their subservient position in society, only to die in an asylum; Theresia Tallien, a passionate and decadent noblewoman imprisoned during the Terror, who boasted that her lover had brought on Robespierre’s fall to save her life; Pauline Leon, a working class, radical activist and a feminist; Madame Roland, a bourgeois woman, was an ardent republican and an influential member of the Girondist faction; and Juliette Recamier, a charming and beautiful lady who was very popular during the Directory period. All of them do have something in common though: they had believed in the Revolution only to see all their hopes crashed.

However, Liberty is much more than just a biography of these six women. The book tells the history of the revolution, and all its events, seen through women's eyes, giving us a different perspective, one often ignored by most historians, on this period. It is well-researched and well-written. The writing style is engaging and accessible, although sometimes the author tends to jump backwards and forwards in time and place, which can confuse readers, especially if they don't already have a basic knowledge of this period. Overall, Liberty a must-read for anyone interested in the French revolution.

Summary:
Liberty: The Lives Of Six Women in Revolutionary France tells the history of the French revolution through the eyes of six women, all from different social classes, backgrounds, dreams and ideals, who witnessed and participated in it. The book is well-written and well-researched, but, because it doesn't always follow chronological order, it can be a bit confusing for readers who aren't already familiar with this time period.

Available at: Amazon UK, Amazon USA and Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4/5

Marie Antoinette's Proxy Wedding


On 19 April 1770, the Archduchess Marie Antoinette married Louis, the Dauphin of France, by proxy. At 6:00 pm, the 14 year old bride, wearing a glistening and luxurious gown of cloth of silver, with a train carried by Countess Trautmannsdorf, entered the Church of the Augustine Friars, where her parents had got married too 34 years ago. Her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, led her up the aisle, before sitting down, next to her son Joseph, on a dais to the right of the altar.

The ceremony was officiated by the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Visconti. Marie Antoinette's proxy bridegroom was her brother the Archduke Ferdinand. His role was easy. Antonia Fraser, in her biography of Marie Antoinette, says that Ferdinand "simply had to take the Latin vow, 'I am willing and thus make my promise,' kneel beside his sister and enjoy the nuptial supper at her side." Then, the vows were taken and the rings blessed.

Once the ceremony was over, it was time to celebrate. Salvoes were fired outside, while trumpets and kettledrums started playing. At 9.00 pm, the party then went to dinner, which lasted several hours. Poor Count Khevenhüllern mustn't have enjoyed that very much though. He had to stand, behind the chair of the Emperor, throughout the dinner! Finally, everyone went to bed, but celebrations resumed the next day.

Two days after the proxy wedding, Marie Antoinette left Austria for France. She would never see her native country again.

Further reading:
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser

Fashions For 1829 (Part 5)

Hello everyone,

I've found two more fashion plates from the year 1829 and thought I'd share them with you. Aren't these dresses very pretty? My favourite is the second one. I love the style, the feminine colour combination and the many feathers in the hat. I just can't resist a nice feather hat. Here are the images. Enjoy!


Walking Dress

A dress of stone-colored gros de Naples, bordered by two flounces: the body plain, with sleeves a la Marie. A muslin pelerine is worn with this dress, trimmed round with broad lace, and surmounted at the throat by a full ruff of lace. The hat is of pink gros de Naples, trimmed with ribbon of the same color.


Evening Dress

A dress of rose-colored satin, with a very broad hem round the border, headed by points falling over, and trimmed round with narrow blond: over these are five very narrow stripes of black velvet. The corsage is a la Sevigne, with long white crape sleeves a l'imbecille, confined at the wrist by gold bracelets, fastened by a large Ceylon ruby set in gold, in a lozenge diamond. The head-dress is a beret of black velvet, tastefully adorned with pink ribbon and plumage.

Do you like these dresses?

Further reading:
The Ladies' pocket magazine, 1829


Historical Reads: Marie Antoinette's Boudoir At Fontainebleau


Author Melanie Clegg shows us Marie Antoinette's boudoir at Fontainebleau. To quote:

Marie Antoinette was never to become fond of Fontainebleau – it was enormous and sprawling, its stately edifice and richly painted interiors a reminder of its heyday in the sixteenth century when it had been the prefered residence of the Valois kings. There is something barbaric about Fontainebleau, with its dedication to the hunt and its rich, Renaissance interiors that would almost certainly have been extremely unappealing to Marie Antoinette, who felt isolated and desperately bored in her vast state apartment.

In an attempt to placate his occasionally petulant wife, Louis encouraged her to commission two exquisite rooms to either side of her state bedchamber – the salle de jeu and, hidden behind her enormous bed, the beautiful boudoir with its shimmering mother of pearl walls and sumptuous furniture, studded like fish scales with mother of pearl.

"Light spills from the mother of pearl to the framed mirrors which surround the room, and bathes the matt gold panels that complement the pearly sheen of the silver paintwork. These panels combine Pomeian motifs with the garlands of flowers that were famous for their ‘simplicity’. Naturally, they included rose buds, but also, more unusually, daisies, cornflowers and ears of corn entwined with ribbons and garlands. Like the feet of the Jacob chairs and the mother of pearl furniture, the gold panelling repeats the theme of iridescence festooned with ribbons."


To read the entire article, and look at the beautiful photos, click here.

Georgiana Spencer Marries The Duke Of Devonshire


News that the Duke of Devonshire, one of the wealthiest bachelors in England, was to marry the beautiful and charming Georgiana Spencer spread fast and created quite a sensation. The wedding was very publicized and, fearing the church would be crowded with curious onlookers, the bride's parents decided to keep the ceremony secret. So secret that even Georgiana didn't know about it until the very morning of her wedding day. But she didn't mind. She liked the idea of a secret wedding and, moreover, fancying herself in love with the Duke, she couldn't wait to marry him.

So, on the morning of the 7th June 1774, the 17 year old bride and the 26 year old bridegroom, together with the only five guests invited - Lord Richard Cavendish, the Duke's brother, Dorothy, Duchess of Portland, their sister, Lord and Lady Spencer, and Lady Cowper, Georgiana's grandmother - made their way to Wimbledon Park. In the parish church there, the ceremony was conducted. The bride wore a white and gold dress (of which we sadly have no pictures) and silver sleepers. Her hair was adorned with pearl drops. Her emotions could be seen on her face, while the Duke remained inscrutable as always.

Unfortunately, the marriage was unhappy. Georgiana was too naive to realise that the Duke was as cold on the inside as he was on the outside and his infidelities certainly didn't help. Just shortly before their wedding, his mistress Charlotte Spencer, a milliner who wasn't related to his bride, had given birth to their baby daughter Charlotte. Here's how Mary Granville, a friend of the Spencers, recalled the event:

"The great wedding is over, and at last a surprise, for this was the expected day; but they managed very cleverly, as they were all at the birthday, and the Duke and Duchess danced at the ball. It was as great a secret to Lady Georgiana as to the world. Sunday morning she was told was her doom; she went to Wimbledon early, and they were married at Wimbledon Church, between church and church, as quiet and uncrowded as if John and Joan had tied the Gordian knot. Don't think that because I have made use of the word "doom" that it was a melancholy sentence to the young lady, for she is so peculiarly happy as to think his Grace very agreeable. The duke's intimate friends say he has sense and does not want merit. To be sure the jewel has not been well polished. Had he fallen under the tuition of the late Lord Chesterfield he might have possessed les graces; but at present only that of his dukedom belongs to him. Nobody was at the wedding but the Duchess of Portland and Lady Cowper as fine and gay as the bride herself."

Further reading:
Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

On The Importance Of Fashion


"Neither Ceasar nor Epaminondas have spent so much thought upon the arrangement of their armies or the event of a battle, as is being spent by my contemporaries upon a pouf, or a well-adjusted ribbon, or a bouquet. Too much consideration is given to the inventors of fashion, whilst real merit is being neglected. We must be like the others, and avoid appearing peculiar and singular - this I admit. But we may at the same time try to be neat in our simplicity, noble in our tastes, and modest in our fashions. For fashion is a tyrant under whose rule only fools consent to bend."

Marquise de Crequi (1704–1803)

Book Review: Princesses: The Six Daughters Of George III By Flora Fraser


King George III had a big family, siring 15 children with his poor Queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. But it's only their flamboyant and extravagant firstborn, George, Prince of Wales, and his younger brother William, who succeeded him on the throne that are usually remembered. Their six sisters - Charlotte, Augusta, Elizabeth, Sophia, Amelia and Mary - are now only footnotes in history books about their more famous family members. Finally, someone has decided to write their stories.

At first sight, their lives may seem pretty boring and uneventful. Only 3 of them married, when they were already quite old, and no children were born from these unions. They spent most of their lives at home, enjoyed very little freedom and you'd be excused for thinking they spent their days only shopping for new gowns, gossiping and attending court balls. But from their letters, on which Fraser heavily relied for her book, a different picture emerges. The princesses fell in love and, one of them, Sophia, even gave birth to an illegitimate child. They also all had dreams of their own they tried to fulfill in whatever way they could, although their plans were often frustrated.

They had to deal with their father's mental illness, which not only grieved them but also put an end to their dreams of marriage and the freedom that would come with their new status, for fear the King wouldn't have been able, in the state he was in, to part with one of his beloved daughters, and have a relapse. Yet, they all loved their father very much. Only the oldest, Augusta, managed to get married while her father, then well, was still alive. They also lived in a time of political instability: America was fighting their war of Independence against Britain and the French would, a few years later, depose and murder their king and queen. However, the political and social situation of the time is barely touched upon.

Instead, the book focuses mostly on the private lives of the princesses, examining them in minute details. Although I usually love reading tidbits about people's lives, there are just way too many in this book. A lot of them don't add anything to the story, but just bog it down. At times it feels like you're reading an excerpt from a letter after another, and they are mostly about simple, mundane things that happened to them. Because of it, I found the book slow, tedious and hard to get into. And it's a shame because, to minutely record every little detail about the princesses' lives, the author only briefly touches upon more interesting topics, such as the relationship Sophia had with the father of her child or that of Amelia with the man she wanted to marry. From the book, it's clear that she was madly in love with him, but he's barely mentioned.

In addition, sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of all the people who appear in the book. However, this is understandable, given the size of theur family. Luckily, there's a genealogical tree at the beginning of the book, which I kept referring to. For these reasons, although this book is a delightful and informative read, I would recommend it only to those with a strong interest in the Georgian era and the British royal family. The casual reader may find it too dry and confusing to follow.

Summary:
Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III by Flora Fraser is an informative, delightful and detailed account of the lives of the British princesses. However, the many personal details about their daily life bog down the book somewhat, while the big number of people that appears in it can at times confuse the readers. Because of it, I would recommend it only to those who are very interested in these princesses. Casual, non-academic readers may find it too dry a read.

Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon USA

Rating: 3.5/5

Beau Brummel Quarrells With The Prince Regent


Beau Brummell, the arbiter of fashion in Regency England, was a good friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. Both men loved fashion, although Brummel favoured and made fashionable a sober style of clothing, while the Prince preferred luxurious outfits in bright colours. The Prince Regent also liked Brummell's personality: he knew how to tell a story, was a good conversationalist, and was very witty. His sarcastic remarks were, however, sometimes too honest and brutal and, in the end, some of them may have ruined their friendship.

No one knows for sure what the cause of their falling out was. The official version states the Prince took offence when Beau Brummell asked him to ring the bell. This version of events was denied by Brummell who, instead, stated that they had quarrelled over he having offended, in some way, Mrs Fitzherbert, the Catholic widow the Prince Regent had secretly married. Here's what William Jesse says of the affair in his biography of Brummell:

Not Withstanding the great disparity of rank, the intimacy that was formed between Brummell and the Prince of Wales continued for some years uninterrupted. He was a constant guest at Carlton House, and was distinguished by many marks, never pecuniary ones, of his royal friend's partiality for him. At length, however, a rupture took place, but it was not caused by the circumstance to which it is usually attributed. The story of" Wales, ring the bell!" was always denied by Brummell: indeed, he seemed indignant at its being generally credited; and I have heard him, in explanation of the subject, say, "I was on such intimate terms with the prince, that if we had been alone I could have asked him to ring the bell without offence; but with a third person in the room I should never have done so; I knew the regent too well." The vulgar impudence of the action itself, without Brummell's denial of it, makes the anecdote extremely improbable; and he was also too good a judge of his own interests, to run the risk of being turned out of the prince's society for the mere fun of enacting such a piece of tomfoolery.

Another version of the story is, that one evening, when Brummell and Lord Moira were engaged in earnest conversation at Carlton House, the prince requested the former to ring the bell, and that he replied without reflection, " your royal highness is close to it;" upon which the prince rang the bell and ordered his friend's carriage, but that Lord Moira's intervention caused the unintentional liberty to be overlooked.

This act of folly has, and I believe with more truth, been attributed to a young relation of Captain, afterwards Admiral Payne's," and under circumstances far more creditable to the prince's good taste and good feeling. Admiral Payne, a wit and bon vivant, was comptroller of the household; and, owing to the position he occupied, and his intimacy with the prince, this lad, a midshipman in the navy, was sometimes asked to dine at Carlton House. Of course, boy like, he boasted of the honour in the cock-pit; and one day, when rallied by his companions on the extremely easy terms that he represented himself to be upon with his royal friend, he made a bet, that, the next time he dined with the prince, he would tell him to ring the bell. A few days after he was again invited to Carlton House, and, having primed himself with champagne, actually did ask the regent to ring the bell. His royal highness immediately complied, and when the page in waiting, or some other subordinate, made his appearance, said good humouredly, "Put that drunken boy to bed."

Brummell, as well as his friends, attributed his quarrel with the Prince of Wales to a series of sarcastic remarks, in which he had indulged at the expense of Mrs. Fitzherbert; indiscretions that he was led into by foolishly espousing the part of a noble lady, her rival: but his talent for ridicule once enlisted in her cause, he did not spare even the prince himself. There was at that time a burly porter at Carlton House, nicknamed " Big Ben," who was so tall that he could look over the gates, and as the regent was then increasing in size, Brummell often designated the master, by the appellation of the servant— and Mrs. Fitzherbert, by that of "Benina." It is also said, that he annoyed her by various remarks of the same kind; and that, when desired by the regent, at a ball at Lady Jersey's, to call her carriage, he obeyed, but in doing so, substituted the word mistress for the usual one of Mrs., and laid a strong emphasis on the insulting epithet. If this anecdote is true, no wonder that, when it came to the lady's ears, as well as the prince's, with the allusions to their embonpoint, (upon which subject they were, as people frequently are, extremely sensitive,) such ill-timed jokes were resented; and that Brummell was dismissed: — he always, however, considered that the continuation of the regent's anger was owing to Mrs. Fitzherbert, whose absurd vanity in identifying herself with the crown of England—for it was that or nothing—made her peculiarly unforgiving on this subject; and her dislike to Fox renders it probable that Brummell's opinion was correct. Moore, however, in a parody on a celebrated letter from the prince regent to the Duke of York, on the 13th of February, 1812, gives the former the credit of all the indignation against Brummell, and adduces another well-known mot of the Beau's as the reason of it.

"Neither have I resentments, nor wish there should come ill
To mortal, except, now T think on't, Beau Brummell;
Who threatened last year, in a superfine passion,
To cut me, and bring the old king into fashion."

But, whatever the causes of offence may have been that led to the quarrel, the Beau treated the affair with his usual assurance; and waging war upon his royal adversary, assailed him with ridicule in all quarters, and affected to say, that he had himself cut the connection: it was in this spirit, no doubt, that he said to Colonel McMahon, "I made him what he is, and I can unmake him." Of course, after this break, the regent determined to take advantage of the first opportunity that occurred, of showing the world that he was no longer anxious to continue the acquaintance. An occasion for his so doing presented itself not long after in a morning walk, when the prince, leaning on Lord Moira's arm, met Brummell and Lord A, coming in the opposite direction, and, probably with the intention of making the cut more evident, his royal highness stopped and spoke to his lordship, without noticing the Beau—little thinking that he would resent it; great, therefore, must have been his surprise and annoyance, as each party turned to continue their promenade, to hear him say in a distinct tone, expressive of complete ignorance of his person, " A, who s your fat friend?" But Brummell was sometimes in a humour to adduce other reasons than the right one for the fracas, which led to his final rupture with the regent, and the favourite fiction that he then palmed upon his most eager listeners was, that they had been rivals in a love affair, in which the prince was of course the unsuccessful suitor.

When Brummell found that his royal highness had really closed the doors of Carlton House against him, he cultivated with greater assiduity the friendship that had always existed between himself and the Duke of York, who was never known, in good or ill report, to desert a friend; and his conduct, and that of the duchess, to the Beau in his exile*, were striking instances of the steadiness and sincerity of their friendship.


Note:
*Beau Brummell had to flee England in 1816 due to his heavy gambling debts.

Further reading:
The life of George Brummell, Esq., commonly called Beau Brummell by William Jesse

Two examples Of The Kindess Of Marie Antoinette

 
In her memoirs, Madame Campan, Queen Marie Antoinette's first lady-in-waiting, recollects several of her mistress' acts of kindness. Here are a couple:
A circumstance which happened in hunting, near the village of Acheres, in the forest of Fontainebleau, afforded the young Princess an opportunity of displaying her respect for old age, and her compassion for misfortune. A very old peasant was wounded by the stag; the Dauphiness jumped out of her calash, placed the peasant, with his wife and children in it, had the family taken back to their cottage, and bestowed upon them every attention and every necessary assistance. Her heart was always open to the feelings of compassion, and the recollection of her rank never restrained her sensibility.

Several persons in her service entered her room one evening, expecting to find nobody there but the officer in waiting; they perceived the young Princess seated by the side of this man, who was advanced in years; she had placed near him a bowl full of water, was stanching the blood which issued from a wound he had received in his hand with her handkerchief which she had torn up to bind it, and was fulfilling towards him all the duties of a pious sister of charity. The old man, affected even to tears, out of respect allowed his august mistress to act as she thought proper. He had hurt himself in endeavouring to bring forward some rather heavy piece of furniture which the Princess had asked him for.

Further reading:
Memoirs Of Madame Campan

Historical Reads: Arbella Stuart


The Eagle Clawed Wolfe shares the little-known story of Arbella Stuart, granddaughter to both Bess of Hardwick and Margeret Lennox, Niece of Mary Queen of Scots, and a descendant of Henry VIII’s sister.

Then in 1610 in another misguided act of impressive boldness she married, in secret, Edward Seymour’s younger brother William, a man twelve years younger than the now 35-year-old Arbella. It is unclear if this was a true love match, but even if Arbella herself had given up any pretensions to the throne, any offspring would be potential claimants should circumstances change. This marriage was illegal without the King’s permission and both were arrested, he imprisoned in the Tower and Arbella, after a while held in London, was due to be sent north to imprisonment in the care of the Bishop of Durham.

In a quite impressive feat, they both managed to engineer simultaneous escapes he escaped from the Tower, seemingly disguised as his barber, whilst she gave her female attendant the slip at Barnet after feigning illness on the way north.

She rode to the Thames and after delaying (fatally as it turned out) waiting for William who had missed their rendez vous was rowed out to sea by some watermen (who promptly doubled their fee during the short trip). Avoiding the attentions of our Phineas Pett and others she boarded a pre-arranged French barque under a Captain Corvé and, delaying again for William, set sail for France. The delays however had been crucial and with English shipping alerted for the fugitive, the Pinnace “Adventure” caught up to Corvé’s ship, fired “Thirteen Shots Straight into the vessel” (More again) which promptly struck their colours and Arbella and her party were captured.


To read the entire article, click here.

Movie Review: The Young Victoria


When we think of Queen Victoria, we think of a short and stout old lady dressed in black mourning gowns and old-fashioned hats, with a stern expression on her face. But Queen Victoria wasn't always liked that. When she was young, she was lively and fun, with a romantic disposition and a penchant for dancing. Many a night she spent partying into the wee hours of the morning after inheriting the crown. And she was in love with a dashing German prince who felt the same way about her. That's the Queen Victoria that's portrayed in The Young Victoria, and which can shock those who see her only as a sad, old widow.


The movie opens with Queen Victoria's coronation. Here, the young Queen starts reminiscing about how different her life was just one year earlier. She had lived a quiet, secluded, strictly controlled life at Kensington Palace (the poor girl couldn't even walk down the stairs without an escort holding her hand!). In addition, her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and her ambitious adviser had tried to make her sign a regency order so that they could govern for her, but she stubbornly refused. King William IV died just after her eighteenth birthday, making a regency unnecessary and Victoria was crowned Queen.


But life as Queen wasn't all fun and play and soon, Victoria found herself embroiled in political rows. She also realized she needed a husband and her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, arranges her marriage to her first cousin Albert. Although the marriage was arranged, Victoria and Albert loved each other very much. Their romance is handled very well. There aren't any passionate sex scenes, but instead the movie shows how they fell in love and how dedicated they were to each other. However, not much else really happens in the movie. For this reason, some may find it slow, even boring, but personally I enjoyed every minute of it as it is a fairly accurate portrayal of what really happened at the time. And let's face it, life in the nineteenth century was slow.


Of course there are some historical inaccuracies. Although several attempts were made on Victoria's life during her long reign, Prince Albert wasn't wounded in any of them. In the movie, instead, he takes a shot to protect his wife, which is a way to let the audience know how deeply he loved her. Also, King Leopold I of The Belgians wasn't as pushy or selfish as he is portrayed in the movie. He may have arranged Victoria's marriage but he was also an affectionate uncle who cared for her and often gave her advice. Overall, though the movie didn't take too many artistic liberties and I'm glad they didn't made up and twisted too many events in order to sensationalize the story and make it more appealing to our modern sensibilities. History is a lot more entertaining when it's left untouched imo.


I was a bit skeptical, instead, on the casting of Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria and Rupert Friend as Albert. Emily Blunt is one of my favourite actresses, but she's too tall and thin to resembled the short and stout monarch. But what she lacked in looks, she made up in her personality. Her Victoria is stubborn, lively and very convincing. Friend is wonderful too. He perfectly captures Albert's German mannerism, his love for his wife and his frustrations at being just the Queen's husband.


Like many people have commented, this movies is a feast for the eyes. The luxurious costumes, the marvelous settings... if the movie bores you, you could just turn the audio off and enjoy the beautiful images on the screen. Although then you will also miss out the soundtrack which is pretty good. Overall, The Young Victoria is a wonderful, historically accurate story of love and politics, with a great cast and amazing costuming that I highly recommend to all fans of costume drama fans.

Have you seen The Young Victoria? What did you think of it?

New Royal Palace of London


I was just browsing the June 1835 edition of The Lady's Magazine when I came across an article about the then newly built Buckingham Palace. Here it is:

NEW ROYAL PALACE OF LONDON

This is the legitimate title, we say, for the palace reared at the west end of the Royal Park of St. James's, upon the foundation of a Duke of Buckingham now forgotten, and only honoured by the adoption of it by George III. as his "Queen's House." To ancient companions of the "G. G. and S. Robinson," that red brick "house" was delightful, along with all the simplicity that attended it:

Sed, "Tempore mutantur,et nos mutamus,"&c.

We have now only to regard the completion of the new building, after so many variations in its erection, as it may now become for the reception of the court and fashionables; and to this effect we must, like our contemporaries, apply to the "sic cos uou nobis" principle.

The principal entrance door, in the centre of the building, opens into the grand hall, which extends to the right and left, but the length does not exceed one-third of the breadth; it is tesselated with white and gray veined marble, and surrounded on three sides by a flight of seven steps, which support groups of white marble double columns. Ascending the steps which face the entrance, the sculpture gallery is reached, extending 160 feet along the centre of the palace; the ceiling is supported by nine double columns, the floor inlaid with oak in devices; and at the extreme right is a circular alcove, with a mosaic star in coloured woods, containing the king's cipher. The centre door of the sculpture gallery leads to a large oblong room, with a semicircular projection, containing five long windows, looking into the gardens. The room is fitted up with bookcases of gilt trellis-work, lined with silk, and massively carved rosewood library tables; it is destined for the king's council room.

On the left of the council room are two reading rooms, similarly fitted up with bookcases, the doors of carved mahogany, and the chimney-pieces of yellow marble. Beyond these is the private dining room, which has three windows reaching to the floor; it is coloured a pale sea-green, and is devoid of any ornament except four marble pillars at each end. Returning to the council room, on the right is one of the queen's morning rooms, hung with dovecolour and flock paper, without moulding or cornice, and the ceiling perfectly plain. This was originally destined for George IV's bed chamber. Adjoining is the queen's sitting room, with three long windows, and hung from the ceiling to the floor with pale gray paper in shades, richly figured in wreaths of bright flowers, with birds and insects; the chimney-pieces are of white marble, and extremely small in proportion to the room: a peculiarity which attaches to all the fire-places throughout the palace.

The doors, of handsomely carved mahogany, lead to another sitting room nearly similar, beyond which is an ante-room and the bath room. The latter is very small; and the bath itself, which is of very limited dimensions, is made merely of painted metal to resemble marble. It is singular to see this apartment fitted up in such a common style, as in all foreign palaces the bath has been an object for the display of classic taste and highly-wrought sculpture. From the bath room a long narrow passage leads to one of the rooms for the ladies in waiting. This is papered down to the floor with a striped paper of deep jonquil-yellow, moulded with black and gold; the glare is extremely disagreeable. Beyond this apartment, in the wing next to the Green Park, is the private entrance for the queen; a very beautiful circular hall, with five windows.

The floor is of white marble, with small squares of black; and it is surrounded by gray marble pillars, the ceiling being tastefully carved. Beyond this hall there are four other waiting rooms, extremely plain and simple in their arrangement. Returning to the queen's second sitting room, on the right is her majesty's private staircase to the bed rooms, consisting of five flights of ten steps each, in white marble. The first room on the right is the royal bed chamber; a fine well-proportioned room, but plain in its decoration. Along the gallery are fourteen rooms of different sizes, destined for her majesty's wardrobe rooms. Immediately over the sculpture gallery, on the drawing-room floor, is the picture gallery, also measuring 160 feet in length.

It is lighted from the top by seventeen large square skylights, on each side of which is a row of the same number of circular lights in figured ground glass. The cornice descends in deep points of most elaborate work, which is also carried between the lights; and nothing can exceed the chaste grandeur of effect in this extensive ceiling, which will form an exquisite contrast to the manifold tints and gorgeous frames of the pictures when they are placed here. The floor is of oak inlaid, and there are five fire-places with chimney-pieces of white marble, each ornamented by an altorelievo bust of one of the old masters, supported by two angels. The centre door of the picture gallery opens into the drawing room, with a bowed front towards the garden. The floor is of light-coloured woods, inlaid in large wreaths of rosewood, each containing the king's cipher.

The ceiling, richly carved and gilt, is supported by scagliola pillars of brilliant purple; between these, high looking-glasses, with arched tops, are placed, which descend to the floor, and the intervals are filled with yellow silk. This is a very beautiful apartment, although not large; and the view from the windows, towards the gardens, is extremely cheerful. To the right and left of the drawing rooms are folding doors of looking-glass, with mahogany and gilt frames; the door on the right opens to the music room, which has three long windows looking to the garden. This room is surrounded by flat scagliola pillars of a rich crimson hue, the capitals carved and gilt; between the pillars, the spaces are hung with embossed silk of gold colour and white: the ceiling is magnificent, carved and gilt in rays round the chains of the three lustres: there are two white marble chimney-pieces, handsome doors of looking-glass, and the floor will be covered with crimson Axminster carpets, figured in bright wreaths.

The ball room is on the left of the drawing room, and has four windows, which are to be hung with crimson velvet curtains. The walls are decorated with round pillars of beautiful crimson scagliola, surmounted by gilt capitals; the space between having figured silk hangings, to correspond with the two foregoing rooms. The floor is of oak, inlaid with a deep border of flowers in rosewood; the ceiling elaborately decorated and gilt. The ensemble of this room by candlelight is really splendid beyond description; and if some marble figures were placed so as to relieve the heavy richness of the crimson and yellow, it would be as perfect as can be conceived. Next to the gorgeous ball room is the dining room; a calm, gravely-tinted apartment, after viewing the others.

It has three windows, and at the end a deep recess for the sideboard. The ceiling is an elliptic arch, carved in three bold rose ornaments, and descending on the walls in deep carved points; between these are medallions, bearing the king's cipher. The walls are painted a pearl colour, and the ornaments white; altogether it is scarcely rich enough for the banqueting room of a palace. Beyond the dining room are four rooms for the table decorators, and a private staircase leading to the culinary apartments below. Descending to the entrance hall again, on the left, is placed the principal staircase, which is broad, and for the first twenty steps, single. The landing-place, which is lighted from above, then divides into a double staircase of twenty-nine steps of white marble, like the first flight; the walls above are beautifully decorated with gilt wreaths and sculptured entablatures.

This is the entrance which will be used by those who attend the levees and drawing-rooms. The first ante-room is small and plain, containing nothing worthy of remark. The second room is the front saloon; a splendid, but somewhat sombre apartment, from its being hung with dark laurel-green satin, striped and watered; the compartments are marked by carved divisions. Next is the throne room, where the company will be received. This has four long windows opening on a balcony, and two fire-places. The ceiling is most splendidly carved and gilt to a great depth; the second range of cornice being decorated with painted coats of arms, about two feet high and four feet asunder. These bear, on coloured fields, the three lions passant, the white horse of Hanover, the English Hon rampant, and the harp of Ireland.

The four are repeated all round the cornice, which thus looks like an immense golden zone studded with coloured gems. Beneath this is a basso-relievo entablature of sculptured groups. Between the third and fourth windows a sort of division is formed by projections from each wall, which are met at top by a cornice. From each side an angel, in white marble, holds the ends of golden garlands, which hang, detached, in festoons along this cornice, and support in the centre a large medallion bearing the king's cipher. Under this will be placed the throne. The walls of the throne room are hung with the richest crimson satin, striped and watered, the divisions marked with very broad gold mouldings.

In addition to the rooms described, there are various suites of apartments for persons attached to the royal household; but there is nothing uncommon in their distribution or decoration worthy of comment. The view from the back of the palace extends over the beautiful grounds, and admirable rus in urbe westward; and from the front windows, through the arches of the marble gateway, the vista of St. James's Park produces a singularly striking effect, such as cannot be imagined but by those who have seen it.


Further reading:
The Lady's Magazine

Book Review: The Black Moth By Georgette Heyer


Synopsis:
The Black Moth is Georgette Heyer's first novel, written when she was 17 years old to amuse her sick brother. It features Jack Carstares—an Earl turned highwayman—and his enemy—the enigmatic Duke of Andover—who engage in an intense rivalry over society beauty Diana Beauleigh…
Seven years before our story opens, Carstares protected his brother by allowing himself to be disgraced for cheating at cards. His brother, suffering intense guilt, isn't aware that they played right into the hands of the Duke of Andover.
The disgraced Earl now roams the countryside until a confrontation with his rival thwarts the attempt to kidnap the lovely Diana. But now the Duke is more determined than ever to have Diana for his own, and the two men will meet at sword point before the Earl's name can be cleared and he can claim his fair lady.


If Venetia is one of Georgette Heyer's best novels, The Black Moth is one of her worst. But since this was the very first book she ever wrote, at the young age of 17, we can easily forgive that, don't you think? After all, all good writers need time and practice to grow and improve and Heyer soon became so good that not only she invented the Regency romance novel as we know it now, but also brought that world to life again. The author has always had a great eye for details and has always made sure that her characters talked, dressed and behaved just like people did in the Regency era.

Heyer's fans can't help but be disappointed by The Black Moth, but overall, as a first effort, it's not bad at all. To start with, The Black Moth is set in 1751, so we are in Georgian England instead than Regency England. Jack Carstares, Earl of Wyncham, is exiled from polite society, and his family, because he cheated at cards. Only that he didn't. His brother Richard did, and he took the blame. The reason? Richard was madly in love with Lavinia Belmanoir, and had he been caught cheating, he couldn't have married her. Years passed. Richard is married to Lavinia, but feeling guilty for what he did to his brother and anxious to make amends, while Jack has become a highwayman.

One day, pretty much halfway through the book, Jack saves Diana Beauleigh from the clutches of Tracy Belmanoir, Lavinia's brother and Duke of Andover, who's trying to kidnap her. He's in love with her and wants to marry her, but he knows that she'll turn him down so, in his mind, this is his only option. Lavinia instead falls in love with Jack but, being a highwayman, he can't marry her. Although they are their main characters in the story, their romance isn't nearly as interesting as that of Richard and Lavinia. Richard may have got the woman of his dreams, but he knows he'll lose her if he ever comes clean. Yet, he's feeling too guilty not to and in the end, he will have to choose between his wife and his brother.

The Duke of Andover is also a very intriguing character. He's nicknamed The Devil, which tells us what an amoral rake he really is, and how he doesn't hesitate to use whatever means necessary to get what he wants, but yet, he's not completely evil. There's still some good in him and, by the end of the book, the reader can't help but feel sorry for him. All the characters are actually likable and well-drawn. It's lovely to witness how they grow as the story progresses.

The Black Moth has a dramatic plot full of romance, adventure, melodrama and fun. The story is very well-written too, although the typical Georgian expressions used by the author can sometimes be difficult for the modern reader to understand, which slows the book down, but only slightly. Although in my review of Venetia I mentioned that was a great place to start exploring Heyer's works, I think The Black Moth would be an even better option. It may not be as good, but by starting at the beginning, you'll get a better sense of how the author's style has evolved during the years. You'll also enjoy this book a lot more if you haven't read her superlative ones yet.

Summary:
The Black Moth is Georgette Heyer's first novel. Set in Georgian England, it is packed with adventure, romance, drama, fun and intriguing characters. The story is very well-written but the use of typical Georgian expressions can slow down the book a bit if you're not familiar with them. Also, the subplots are actually more interesting than the main storyline.

Available at: Project Gutenberg

Rating: 3/5

Horsedriving Tips


Today, we learn to drive cars. In the past, men instead had to learn how to drive horses. There were different rules and techniques to do this, depending on whether they drove them for work or for pleasure. Henry William Herbert wrote a manual dedicated to horse-keepers that explained not just how to ride horses, but how to breed them and take care of them. Here are some of his advice on pleasure driving:

In Pleasure Driving the seat should be rather high, so that one may easily see over the dash-board of the carriage, but low enough for a direct pull on the bit when it is necessary. The feet should be firmly planted (avoiding an ungraceful or studied attitude,) in such a manner as to give strength to the pull, and security to the position, in case of a sudden jolt of the carriage. The legs and hips should be as firm and immovable, and the upper part of the body should be free and flexible, as possible, the principle being borne in mind, as in the ease of riding on horse-back, that while the seat should be perfectly secure, the security should not imply the least support from the reins, nor the least inability to do whatever may be necessary with the head or arms.

The eyes of the driver should be always on his horses, yet always about him. While he should see every strap and buckle within eye-shot, every movement of the horses' ears, every toss or shake of their heads, and every step that they take, he should also see every vehicle coming toward him, every object by the roadside, or elsewhere, which can possibly frighten his team, and every stone or uneven place in the road on which they are likely to step, or which may come in the way of the wheels. To sit in this manner, and to be thus watchful while driving a pair of lively horses, and at the same time to appear perfectly at ease, is no small accomplishment; still it may be attained by practice, and is essential to elegance in driving.

Driving a single horse is not at all difficult, and it requires only a good hand, a good temper, and a watchful eye. The horse's mouth should be ligthly felt, that he may be supported if he trip; and especially in going down hill, the driver should sit with his feet well braced and his hand ready to support the horse in a false step, which, if at all, is most likely to occur at this time.

Driving a pair of horses requires much more skill and care. It is thus described by Stonehenge: "In Driving a Pair, the great art consists in putting them together so as to draw equally, and to step together. To do this well, the horses must match in action and temper, two slugs being much better than a free-tempered horse with a slug; because, in this case, the whip applied to the one only makes the other more free, and as a consequence it is impossible to make them draw equally. In some cases where two horses are exactly equally matched, the coupling-reins must both be of equal length; but this is seldom the case; and when they do not do an equal amount of work, the coupling-rein of the free one must be taken up, and that of the idle horse let out.

In watching the working of the two horses the pole-pieces should always be the guide; and if both are slack, with the end of the pole steady, and neither horse shouldering it, the driver may rest contented that his horses are each doing their share; if, however, the pole is shouldered by either, that horse is a rogue, and is making the other do more than his share, keeping the pole straight by the pressure of his shoulder, instead of pulling at the traces. On the other hand, if either horse is pulling away from the pole, and straining at the pole-piece, he is doing more than his share, and his coupling-rein must be taken in accordingly. Sometimes both shoulder the pole, or spread from it, which are equally unsightly habits, and may generally be cured by an alteration of the coupling- reins of both horses, letting them out for shouldering, and taking them in for its opposite bad habit.

The reins are held in the same way for double-harness as for single. In driving a pair, it should always be remembered that there are two methods of driving round a curve, one by pulling the inside rein, and the other by hitting the outside horse, and these two-should generally be combined, graduating the use of the whip by the thinness of the skin of the horse. In all cases the whip is required in double harness, if not to drive horses when thoroughly put together, yet to make them pull equally ; and there are very few pairs which do not occasionally want a little reminding of their duties. A constant change from one side to the other is a prevention of those tricks and bad habits which horses get into if they are kept to one side only. The coachman should, therefore, change them every now and then, and back again, so as to make what was a puller from the pole, rather bear towards it than otherwise when put on the other side."

With respect to coupling four-horse teams, the heads, particularly those of the wheel-horses, should not be too closely confined. It looks well to see them with their heads close together running boldly up to their bits; but if you confine them too tightly, they cannot apply all their power to the collar. Wheel-horses should, in this respect, have more liberty than their leaders, not only on account of the pole, but to enable them to "quarter their ground" and bring them into a proper situation to hold back in going down hill, which they cannot do if their heads are confined. When the leaders' heads are well together, they are much easier driven; the least motion of the wrist will affect their mouths, and of course they are much safer on their feet; for, on the least false step they make, the support of the coupling-rein is immediately felt; without this, they would be down before they could receive assistance from the coachman's hand.

Of the two reins used for coupling, one must be upper-most at the crossing ; that one should be buckled to the horse that carries his head highest, otherwise he will be constantly annoying his partner's mouth. All attempts at directions for curbing coach-horses must be vain, and can only be regulated by their mouth, temper and disposition.


Further reading:
Hints to Horse-keepers: A Complete Manual for Horsemen by Henry William Herbert

Fashions For 1829 (Part 4)

Hello everyone,

today I bring even more plates showing the fashions that were popular in 1829. Enjoy!


Evening Dress

A dress of white striped gauze, over pink satin: the body a la Grecque, with short sleeves, edged round the arm with narrow blond: the border of the dress is of gauze, bouillone, headed by a white satin rouleau and fan ornaments, surmounded each by a puff, en ballon. The head dress consists of a hat of blue satin, ornamented with two tails of the Bird-of-Paradise. A sash is worn round the waist, of blue and pink ribbon, tying in front with long ends. The necklace is of pearls, fastened in front by a medallion— brooch of rubies. The ear-pendants of wrought gold, and very broad bracelets of the same.


Walking Dress

A round high dress of fine merino, the color of the marshmallow: one deep flounce, edged and headed by deep rouleaux of the same color in satin, forms the border of the skirt. The body is made plain, and buttons down in front by a row of buttons, set very close together; and the waist is encircled by a pointed zone. The sleeves are en gigot, with double cleft mancherons, and a gauntlet cuff at the wrists. A double ruff of lace is worn round the throat, fastened in front by a bow of colored ribbon. Over a blond cornette is a bonnet of black velvet, trimmed with black and blue ribbon.


Opera Dress

A dress of lilac gros de Naples, with one broad flounce, edged with a slight pattern of black embroidery: the body en gerbe. Long white crape sleeves, en gigot, over which are cleft mancherons of lilac silk; an ornament, en fleurs de lis of the same material, is placed on the outside of the wrist; and a very broad bracelet of gold confines the sleeve next the hand. Spanish velvet toque of ponceau velvet, striped with black, and ornamented with gold bows and tassels. Ear-pendants of gold, en girandoles, and necklace formed of twisted rows of pearls, fastened in front with a brooch of wrought gold. A white swan's-down long tippet is thrown over this dress.


Walking Dress

A pelisse of lapis-blue gros de Naples fastened down the front by rosettes of ribbon, of the color: the body finished by fichu robings, en gerimpe, and the collar surmounted by a narrow ruff of lace, tied in front by a rosette of ribbon: sleeves, en gigot. Black satin hat, with yellow and pink ribbons; and fastened with by a mentonniere of blond under the chin.



Promenade Costume

A pelisse of fawn-colored satin, fastened down the front of the skirt by gilt buckles. The sleeves, en gigot, confined at the wrist by a broad gold bracelet. The throat encircled by a ruff of fine lace, tied in front with blue ribbon. A small blond cornette is worn under a hat of gros de Naples, the color either pale pink, or straw color; this is tastefully trimmed with blue satin and yellow esprit feathers; and a veil of clear white striped gauze is worn over the face. A Chinese reticule is carried in the left hand, of blue satin, ornamented with white silk cordon, tassels, inc. 


Ball dress

Over a white satin slip, a dress of apricot-colored crepe Aerophane; two flounces, scallopped at the edges, ornament the border, the scallops finished by three rows of dark purple or apricot-colored satin, in bias-rouleau binding, and the upper flounce surmounted by three narrow dark purple or apricot-colored satin rouleaux: the sleeves short, and very full, with cleft mancherons: the body is made plain, and over it are Iberian bracers of apricot-colored satin, with a belt of the same, encircling the waist, finished by a rosette behind, with very short ends. The hair arranged in light curls next the face, and bows of hair on the summit of the head, ornamented by a wreath of large full-blown Provence roses.

What do you think of these dresses? Love them? Hate them?

Further reading:
The Ladies' pocket magazine, 1829

Historical Reads: When Fashion Set Sail


Over at Worn Through, fashion and textile historian Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell discusses the fashion of wearing ships on your head. To quote:

There is a tradition that these images depict Marie-Antoinette, and some historians have even claimed that they were circulated to publicize her shameful extravagance in the face of a very real military and economic threat.

While the queen clearly had no objection to wearing elaborate confections on her head, and these may have included ships, there is absolutely no evidence to support either the identification or the interpretation. On the contrary, ship hats formed part of a much wider expression of French support for the American cause. They were worn by many women, if only for a short period of time. Some may have questioned their taste, but in political terms they were perceived as being patriotically anti-British rather than problematically extravagant or anti-monarchist.

France’s fascination with America transcended fleeting fashion to have far-reaching consequences for both countries. Not only did the success of the American Revolution encourage the French people to throw off their own yoke of arbitrary power, but the debt the French government incurred in support of the American cause destabilized the economy to the point that this second revolution was unavoidable.

The French Revolution forever colored our view of the politics and propriety of wearing ships as hats. It wasn’t until after 1789 that the coiffure à la Belle Poule was added to the list of Marie-Antoinette’s transgressions, in heavily fictionalized memoirs of the ancien régime. Thus, the all-American, pro-democracy style was transformed into the sartorial equivalent of “let them eat cake”—another apocryphal but persistent piece of misinformation about the queen, which has persisted precisely because it so perfectly fits our received notions of her selfishness and naiveté.


To read the entire article, click here.

Elizabeth Chudleigh


Elizabeth Chudleigh was born on March 8, 1721 into an old Devonshire family who owned property but was neither rich nor titled. After her father died, her mother moved the family to May Fair, a then-new section of London, and took in a lady lodger to pay the bills. Not much is known about Elizabeth's life before she was appointed, thanks to her beauty and one of her mother's friends, as a Maid of Honour to the Princess Augusta of Wales in 1743, at the age of 22. Elizabeth soon attracted men's attention and among her admirers there were several lords.

Elizabeth fell for Augustus Harvey and after a very short courtship, he proposed. They barely knew each other. The marriage was celebrated at night, in secret, with only a few witnesses present, and quickly consummated as the groom had to leave the next morning for his naval duties. Her husband gone, Elizabeth realised she had made a mistake. Now that she was married, she would have to give up her position as Maid of Honour and, although she earned only 200 pounds a year, which was barely enough for her glamourous lifestyle, it was money she badly needed. Her husband's salary was even lower: only 50 pounds a year.


So, she decided not to reveal her new status. She even managed to give birth to a baby, who soon died, without attracting much attention,although, at this time, rumours started to circulate. She then started to avoid any communication with her husband, and the two soon grew apart and so hostile that they simply pretended they had never been married. There were only a few witnesses, and no paperwork, to prove the marriage had taken place anyway. Elizabeth simply carried on her life at court as normal, taking part in balls and masquerades. At one masquerade, she shocked everyone by turning up as "Iphigenia ready for the sacrifice." Although we don't know exactly what her costume looked like, it must have been pretty risqué as a guest commented she was "so naked ye high Priest might easily inspect ye Entrails of ye Victim".

It seems that at least one of her breasts was exposed as the King, George II, asked her if he could touch it! Undaunted, Elizabeth took his hand and replied, "Your Majesty, I can put it on a far softer place," and placed it on his head! The King was delighted, but from that moment on, the other Maids of Honour ostracized her, refusing even to speak to her. Elizabeth also started an affair with Evelyn Pierrepon, Duke of Kingston-upon Hull, whom she truly loved. In the meantime, Harvey had become next in line as Lord of Bristol. When Elizabeth heard this, she decided to have her marriage to Hervey registered in the parish church at Lainton. She was probably looking for security in case the Duke deserted her, but it was a decision she would regret bitterly in the near future.

In the meantime, Hervey had settled in England and decided he wanted a divorce. Elizabeth could finally have gotten rid of an unwanted husband, but, probably fearing the Duke wouldn't marry a divorcee, told the ecclesiastical court her marriage to Harvey had never taken place and so, they couldn't be divorced. The court ruled in her favour and within a month, she became the Duchess of Kingstone. But even though the court had declared her a spinster, and thus free to get hitched, everyone knew that the she was actually married to both Harvey and the Duke. Good society, both in the city and in the country, shunned her. It seemed that Elizabeth, madly in love with the Duke, didn't care much and was more than happy to spend her time with him instead.


Her marriage was short-lived. The Duke died only 4 years later. Elizabeth was devastated. But her woes weren't over. The Duke's relatives were outraged at the terms of his will: Elizabeth would inherit everything, provided she remained a widow, and only after her death, his property would pass to his sister's second son. So, the Duke's nephew initiated trial for bigamy against Elizabeth. During this time, she was under house arrest. This was due to her ill-health, otherwise she would probably have ended up in the tower of London. All fashionable society eagerly followed the trial, while the public read all about it in the papers, who portrayed her as a gold digger.

This time Elizabeth was found guilty. She lost her title (which however she kept using) but managed to avoid being branded on the thumb, which was the usual punishment for bigamy at the time. She however was allowed to retain her fortune, so the Duke's family brought in another suit against her to have his will overturned, claiming that at the time of its writing, he had been under Elizabeth's influence. Warned that the trial could last for years, Elizabeth hastened to leave the country and started travelling throughout Europe. She died in Paris on 26 August 1788.

Further reading:
Elizabeth, The Scandalous Life of an 18th Century Duchess by Claire Gervat

Queen Victoria Writes To Florence Nightingale



In 1856, Queen Victoria awarded Florence Nightingale a brooch for her services in the Crimean war. The brooch wasn't only decorative, but it was a sign of royal appreciation at a time when suitable decorations for female civilians didn't yet exist. Known as the Nightingale jewel, and designed with the supervision of Prince Albert, the brooch is engraved with a dedication from Queen Victoria, "To Miss Florence Nightingale, as a mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion towards the Queen's brave soldiers, from Victoria R. 1855". Here's a letter the Queen wrote to Miss Nightingale that same year:

Windsor Castle, [January] 1856.

Dear Miss Nightingale,—You are, I know, well aware of the high sense I entertain of the Christian devotion which you have displayed during this great and bloody war, and I need hardly repeat to you how warm my admiration is for your services, which are fully equal to those of my dear and brave soldiers, whose sufferings you have had the privilege of alleviating in so merciful a manner. I am, however, anxious of marking my feelings in a manner which I trust will be agreeable to you, and therefore send you with this letter a brooch, the form and emblems of which commemorate your great and blessed work, and which, I hope, you will wear as a mark of the high approbation of your Sovereign!*

It will be a very great satisfaction to me, when you return at last to these shores, to make the acquaintance of one who has set so bright an example to our sex. And with every prayer for the preservation of your valuable health, believe me, always, yours sincerely,


Victoria R.

Note:
* The presentation took place on the 29th of January. The jewel resembled a badge rather than a brooch, bearing a St George's Cross in red enamel, and the Royal cypher surmounted by a crown in diamonds. The inscription "Blessed are the Merciful" encircled the badge which also bore the word "Crimea."

Further reading:
The Letters of Queen Victoria, Volume III (of 3), 1854-1861

Short Book Reviews: The Lost Gallows, The Mysterious Affair At Styles & Murder On The Links

Hello everyone,

here are the reviews of three detective stories. Enjoy!

The Lost Gallows by John Dickson Carr
A car comes to a halt in front of the Brimstone Club. The driver is dead. He's not the only victim either. Jack Ketch (he was an infamous English executioner whose name has also become a synonym for the devil) before killing his victims, hunts them, sending them a miniature gibbet. French detective Bencolin is called to investigate. Although great at his job, Bencolin is not a very likable character. He just comes off as haughty and rather sinister. None of the other characters are particularly interesting either. The best character in the book, if it can so be called, is the atmosphere. It's gloomy and eerie and it makes reading the book a quite uneasy experience. The plot itself is full of turns and red-herrings and just when you think you have discovered who the culprit his, the author pulls in another twist that completely surprise. All in all, a very well-written book that will make you want to turn the page to find out what happens next. I just wish it featured a nicer detective.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie
This is the first novel written by Agatha Christie. It is also the first to feature Belgian detective Poirot, and his sidekick Captain Hastings. Hastings is invited by his old friend, John Cavendish, to stay at Styles Court. While there, John's step-mother, the rich Emily Inglethorpe is murdered. Poisoned with strychnine, while she is completely alone in her bedroom with all the doors locked from the inside. Poirot is called to investigate. There are lots of suspects but, thanks to its little grey cells, the famous detective straight away spots important clue that will lead him to the murderer. The reader instead, like poor Hastings, will often be confused by the many red herrings in the book. This is a very impressive, well-written and well-crafted first novel that I highly recommend.
Available at: Project Gutenberg
Rating: 4/5

Murder On The Links by Agatha Christie
Poirot is summoned by Monsieur Renauld. But when he arrives, the man is dead. Poirot decides to investigate. The French police is investigating too. Inspector Giraud is completely different from Poirot. While the Belgian detective uses his little grey cells to solve crimes, Giraud is instead very active, exploring crime scenes and looking everywhere for clues. The two detectives, who are working separately, are trying to outdo each other which results in some very funny scenes. The plot is quite complicated, full of twists, turns and false clues. The reader is hooked from the start and eagerly turns each page to discover who the culprit is. As always, the final revelation is a big surprise. Overall, this is a very entertaining read you won't be able to put down!
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

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The Eltham Ordinances


Henry VIII's court was attended by hundreds of people. As a result, his palaces were always dirty, the people out of control and wastes of money abounded. To solve these problems, Cardinal Wolsey devised a set of rules to regulate the functioning of the King’s privy chamber. Or so he claimed. In reality, with these measures Wolsey hoped to curtail the power of the gentleman of the Privy Charmber, who were gaining a big influence over the King, and increase his own. Named after the palace where Wolsey stayed while he drew them up, the Eltham Ordinances were implemented in January 1526.

The Encyclopedia of Tudor England thus sums them up:

The ordinances comprised 79 specific chapters designed to cut costs, improve decorum and restructure the privy chamber. The official size of the court and royal household was reduced, and the number of people who were accorded bouge of court (the right to food, drink, fuel and lodgings for themselves and a retinue) was similarly cut. The ordinances also tightened accounting and budgeting procedures, mandated staff inspections, and discharged anyone who was sickly or unneeded. Strict new rules likewise governed the conduct of those who attended upon the king, curbing boisterous or violent behaviour to protect both the royal person and the royal honour, banning dogs to improve cleanliness, and setting mealtimes to promote economies. In the privy chamber, Wolsey prescribed the type and number of servants who waited on the king - six gentlemen of the privy chamber, two gentlemen ushers, four grooms, a barber, and a page - a reduction of eight positions. Particular opponents of Wolsey, such as Sir William Compton, a long-serving groom, were pensioned off.


George Boleyn, Sir Francis Bryan and Sir Nicholas Carew were among the men who were dismissed too. The six remaining members of the privy chamber were to be at the said chamber at 7 o'clock in the morning, ready to dress the king "in reverent, discreet and sober manner". The persons appointed to the privy chamber shall be

"loving together, and of good unity and accord keeping secret all such things as shall be done or said in the same, without disclosing any part thereof to any person not being for the time present in the same chamber, and that the King being absent, without they be commanded to go to his Grace, they shall not only give their continual and diligent attendance in the said chamber, but also leave asking where the King is or is going, be it early or late, without grudging, mumbling, or talking of the King's pastime."

The duties and role of Henry's barber were also written down:

"The King's barber shall be daily by the King's uprising, ready and attendant in the privy chamber there having ready his water, cloths, knives, combs, scissors and such other stuff as he needs, for trimming and dressing the King's head and beard. And that the said barber take special regard to the pure and clean keeping of his own person and apparel; using himself always honestly in his conversation, without resorting to the company of vile persons, or of misguided women, in avoiding such dangers and annoyance as by that means he might do unto the King's most royal person; not failing this to do, upon pain of losing his room, and further punishment at the King's pleasure."



The pleasures of the noblemen were also curtailed:

"As hitherto, when the King has gone walking, hunting, or sporting, most of the nobles and gentlemen have gone with him, leaving the court deserted, and hindering the King in his sports, it is ordered that no one go with him at such times except those appointed by himself and warned by the gentlemen ushers."

So were expenses:

"It is ordeyned that the King's groom-porters and Queen's shall fetch noe waxe, whire-lightes, wood, nor coales, more then reasonable ought to be spent, by the oversight of the gentlemen ushers; and that the said groome porters doe dayly bring ia the remaine of torches and other waxe remaining overnight, by nine of the clock in the morrow; and for lack of doeing thereof to loose for every tyme one weeke's wages; the same to be overseen and executed by the clerk comptroller from time, to time."

"It is ordeyned that the King's gentlemen ushers and the Queen's, being in dayly wages, doe make daily records at meale tymes of bread, ale, and wyne, as it is spent in the said chamber; and the said recordes dayly to bring into the compting-house, according to the old custome of the King's house; and that they doe fetch livery for All-night for the King and the Queen, between eight of the clock and nine."


The court had to be kept clean:

"And for the better avoyding of corruption and all uncleaness out of the King's house, which doth ingender danger of infection, and is very noisome and displeasant unto all the noblemen and others repaireing unto the same; it is ordeyned, by the King's Highness, that the three master cookes of the kitchen shall have everie of them by way of reward yearly twenty marks, to the intent they shall provide and sufficiently furnish the said kitchens of such scolyons as shall not goe naked or in garments of such vilenesse as they now doe, and have been accustomed to doe, nor lie in the nights and dayes in the kitchens or ground by the fire-side; but that they of the said money may be found with honest and whole course garments, without such uncleannesse as may be the annoyance of those by whom they shall passe, and so to be brought up in that business, as they being chosen for that purpose may learne hereafter to be cookes; of which said scolyons, a certaine number alternately to be deputed shall daily, once in the forenoone and once in the afternoone sweepe and make cleane the courts, outward galleryes, and other places of the court, soe as there remaine no filth or uncleannesse in the fame, but that it be shortly remedyed, avoyded, and carryed away; the same to be overseene to be done by the serjeant of the hall, or some officer of the same by him to be appointed."


That meant that dogs had to be kept out too:

"The King's Highnesse alsoe straightly forbiddeth and inhibiteth, that no person, whatsoever he be, presume to keepe any grey-hounds, mastives, hounds, or other dogges, in the court, other then some few small spaniells for ladyes or others, nor bring or leade any into the same, except it be by the King's or Queen's commandment; but the said grey-hounds and doggs to be kept in kennells, and other meete places, out of court, as is convenient, soe as, the premises dewlv observed, the house may be sweete, wholesome, cleane, and well furnished, as to a prince's honour and estate doth apperteine."

Leftovers should be distributed to the poor:

"And because heretofore the relicts and fragments of such meate and drinke, as dayly hath been spent in the King and Queen's chamber and household, have not been duely distributed unto poore folkes, by way of almes, as was convenient; it is therefore the King's pleasure, that from henceforth speciall regard be had, that all the said reliques and fragments be saved and gathered by the officers of the almonry, and from day to day to be given to poore people at the utter court gate, by oversight of the under almnor; without diminishing, embesselling, or purloyning any parte thereof; and that neither in the chamber, nor other place where allowance of meate is had, the meate be given away by any sitting or wayting there; but the relliques to be imployed to the almes as is aforesaid."

However, not all these measures were successful. For instance, some of the courtiers who had been dismissed from the privy chamber were reinstated after a few months. I guess the King didn't like to be without his friends. Wolsey instead would fall from favour and die only a couple of years later.

Further reading:
Encyclopedia of Tudor England by John A. Wagner,Susan Walters Schmid Ph.D.
Liber quotidianus contrarotulatoris garderobae: Anno regni Edwardi I vicesimo octavo, A. D. 1299 et 1300