Do Good By Stealth, And Blush To Find It Fame


In 1773, the Hotel-Dieu, the most ancient hospital in Paris, was burnt down. Marie Antoinette donated money to the sufferers, as she told her mother in a letter:

"All the newspapers have spoken of the terrible fire at the Hotel-Dieu. They were obliged to remove the patients into the cathedral and the archbishop's palace. There are generally from five to six thousand patients in the hospital. In spite of all the exertions that were made, it was impossible to prevent the destruction of a great part of the building; and, though it is now a fortnight since the accident happened, the tire is still smoldering in the cellars. The archbishop has enjoined a collection to be made for the sufferers, and I have sent him a thousand crowns. I said nothing of my having done so to any one, and the compliments which they have paid me on it have been embarrassing to me; but they have said it was right to let it be known that I had sent this money, for the sake of the example."

Further reading:
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge

Follow Me On Twitter


Hello everyone,

I took the plunge today and finally joined Twitter. Follow me @giorgiahaot to keep up with what I'm up to, as well as the latest history news. I look forward to chatting with you all!

Historical Reads: Mary Boleyn And Henry VIII


Over at the Anne Boleyn Files, Claire Ridgway discusses Henry VIII's relationship with Mary Boleyn. To quote:

It appears to have been a known fact that Henry VIII had slept with Anne’s sister, but this doesn’t help us to date the relationship in any way. Most historians date the relationship to the 1520s, beginning in 1522. This is because at the Shrovetide joust of 2nd March 1522 Henry VIII rode out with the motto Elle mon Coeur a navera, or “She has wounded my Heart”, embroidered on the trappings of his horse. A woman had obviously rebuffed his advances, but we cannot be sure that it was Mary, who, by this time, was married to William Carey. Mary could well have been just a one night stand when Elizabeth Blount, the King’s former mistress, was pregnant with the King’s son in 1519, they may not have had a long-lasting affair at all but the King still needed to declare the impediment whether the relationship had been one night, two nights or many nights.

Evidence that is used to back up the idea that Mary was Henry VIII’s mistress from 1522, during her marriage to William Carey, and that one or both of her children were fathered by the King, is the list of grants and offices that Carey was granted between 1522 and his death in 1528. Carey was indeed awarded many lucrative grants and offices, including keeperships and manors, and he also kept his post of Gentleman of the Privy Chamber through Cardinal Wolsey’s 1526 purge, the Eltham Ordinances. However, Carey was related to the King and was a favourite. Henry Norris, another Gentleman of the Privy Chamber at this time, also survived the Eltham Ordinances, being promoted to Groom of the Stool, and was granted a host of royal grants, keeperships and offices, but nobody suggests that his wife, Mary Fiennes, was sleeping with the King or that his children, born between 1524 and 1526, were the King’s bastards. Henry VIII was generous to those who served him and William Carey was a loyal servant to him. We can’t read too much into these rewards.


To read the entire article, click here.

Madame Elisabeth Of France (Part 3)


In July 1793, the revolutionary government decided that the Dauphin should be separated from his family. Marie Antoinette fought like a tiger to prevent it, but to no avail. When they threatened her daughter too, she gave in. The distraught Queen would spend hours at a little window hoping to see a glimpse of her son, but even this consolation was soon denied her. In early August the Queen, who had sunk into depression, was taken away too. Elisabeth begged them to let her go with her sister-in-law to the Conciergerie, but her request was refused.

Elisabeth was now left alone with her niece and, convinced she would be next, tried to prepare the young girl for life on her own. She taught her how to make her bed, dress herself, keep her room clean, and told her to exercise her legs in their small cell. On 6 October 1793, the two women were interrogated about some incestuous allegations that the Dauphin had made against his mother and aunt. Elisabeth was horrified and so was her niece, although the younger girl was too naive to understand what they were talking about exactly. The interrogation was in preparation for Marie Antoinette's trial but aunt and niece were never told that. Nor were they told about her execution.


As the Terror became more ruthless and the hatred of the aristocracy and royals grew more violent, life for the two prisoners became even worse. They were regularly insulted and searched for small belongings that were then taken away from them. Even their candles were removed, forcing them to go to bed as soon as the sun went down. And their food was meager and unappetizing. Elisabeth talked to her niece about better days, but also gave her practical advice that she would need once alone, such as making sure she was always dressed in the presence of the guards, and, at night, refuse to let them in until she was fully clothed and out of bed.

On 9 May 1794, at 9 o'clock in the evening, the guards came to take Elizabeth away. The princess kissed her niece goodbye and tried to comfort her, but was then dragged out of the room by her hair. She was taken to the Conciergerie, the antechamber to the guillotine. Her trial was held shortly after her arrival at the Palais de Justice. Elizabeth was accused and found guilty of assisting the King's flight and supplying money to the emigres. She was condemned to die the next day.


Later, when she was brought back to the prison, Elisabeth found out, from one of the women who were to die with her on the scaffold, that her sister-in-law, Queen Marie Antoinette, had been guillotined seven months before. It was a hard blow for Elizabeth, who had believed her to be still alive. The pious princess was also refused her last request: to see a priest. There was nothing for her to do but quietly wait for death with her companions.

The next morning, 10 May, the executioner and his assistant roughly cut her hair and tied her hands behind her back. Then, Elizabeth, together with the other prisoners, mounted on the cart that was to take them to their execution. Robespierre had been against killing Elisabeth, fearing it would turn her into a martyr. He was proved right. Although the people hated the aristocracy and the royal family, they remembered Elizabeth's many charitable and good deeds, her piety and kindness. They were disgusted that such a virtuous woman should be so unjustly executed.

The princess remained calm and composed, showing no sign of fear. She tried to comfort the women who were to die before her. They all curtseyed and kissed her before they were executed. Eventually, they were all gone. It was now Elizabeth's turn. Refusing the executioner's help, the princess went up the steps to the scaffold. When she was being tied to the wooden plank, her shawl fell off and exposed her neck. Elizabeth cried to the executioner: "In the name of your mother, Monsieur, cover me!" They were her last words. Then, the blade fell down.

Further reading:
Madame Elizabeth Part 1
Madame Elizabeth Part 2

Death Of Prince Albert


On 14th December 1861, Queen Victoria lost Prince Albert, the love of her life. A few days later, on the 20th, the Queen poured out her grief in a letter to their uncle, King Leopold Of Belgium:


Osborne, 20th December 1861

My own dearest, kindest Father,—For as such have I ever loved you! The poor fatherless baby of eight months is now the utterly broken-hearted and crushed widow of forty-two! My life as a happy one is ended! the world is gone for me! If I must live on (and I will do nothing to make me worse than I am), it is henceforth for our poor fatherless children—for my unhappy country, which has lost all in losing him—and in only doing what I know and feel he would wish, for he is near me—his spirit will guide and inspire me! But oh! to be cut off in the prime of life—to see our pure, happy, quiet, domestic life, which alone enabled me to bear my much disliked position, cut off at forty-two—when I had hoped with such instinctive certainty that God never would part us, and would let us grow old together (though he always talked of the shortness of life)—is too awful, too cruel! And yet it must be for his good, his happiness! His purity was too great, his aspiration too high for this poor, miserable world! His great soul is now only enjoying that for which it was worthy! And I will not envy him—only pray that mine may be perfected by it and fit to be with him eternally, for which blessed moment I earnestly long. Dearest, dearest Uncle, how kind of you to come! It will be an unspeakable comfort, and you can do much to tell people to do what they ought to do. As for my own good, personal servants—poor Phipps in particular—nothing can be more devoted, heartbroken as they are, and anxious only to live as he wished!

Good Alice* has been and is wonderful.

The 26th will suit me perfectly. Ever your devoted, wretched Child,


Victoria R.

The Queen wrote to him again on Christmas Eve:


Osborne, 24th December 1861.

My beloved Uncle,—Though, please God! I am to see you so soon, I must write these few lines to prepare you for the trying, sad existence you will find it with your poor forlorn, desolate child—who drags on a weary, pleasureless existence! I am also anxious to repeat one thing, and that one is my firm resolve, my irrevocable decision, viz. that his wishes—his plans—about everything, his views about every thing are to be my law! And no human power will make me swerve from what he decided and wished—and I look to you to support and help me in this. I apply this particularly as regards our children—Bertie, etc.—for whose future he had traced everything so carefully. I am also determined that no one person, may he be ever so good, ever so devoted among my servants—is to lead or guide or dictate to me. I know how he would disapprove it. And I live on with him, for him; in fact I am only outwardly separated from him, and only for a time.

No one can tell you more of my feelings, and can put you more in possession of many touching facts than our excellent Dr Jenner, who has been and is my great comfort, and whom I would entreat you to see and hear before you see any one else. Pray do this, for I fear much others trying to see you first and say things and wish for things which I should not consent to.

Though miserably weak and utterly shattered, my spirit rises when I think any wish or plan of his is to be touched or changed, or I am to be made to do anything. I know you will help me in my utter darkness. It is but for a short time, and then I go—never, never to part! Oh! that blessed, blessed thought! He seems so near to me, so quite my own now, my precious darling! God bless and preserve you. Ever your wretched but devoted Child,


Victoria R.

What a Xmas! I won't think of it.


Note:
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's daughter. She passed away on the anniversary of her father's death, in 1878.

Further reading:
The Letters of Queen Victoria, Volume III

Book Reviews: Back From The Brink & Living With Your Body And Other Things You Hate

Hello everyone,

today we're gonna take a break from history. Instead, I'd like to talk about two books dealing with two issues very close to my heart: depression and poor body image. If you suffer from them or know someone who does, I highly recommend you check them out.

Back From The Brink: True Stories And Practical Help For Overcoming Depression And Bipolar Disorder by Graeme Cowan
Having suffered from depression on and off for most of my life, I know all too well the stigma attached to it. There is a misconception that depressed people are simply weak or lazy and should just get themselves together and get on with it. A lot of depressed people feel that way too, which is why they find it so hard to admit they have a problem, let alone ask for help, and prefer to just auto-medicate themselves with alcohol and drugs (which, of course, just makes things worse) or retreat from life altogether. The worst thing about depression, though, is the loss of hope and the  feeling of being completely alone.
In this book, Graeme Cowan, who suffered from such a bad bout of depression that he tried to commit suicide four times, shares his experience with "The Black Dog", as Churchill used to call the disease (guess I can't stay completely away from history after all, lol). He also interviewed a few people from all walks of life, such as former US Representative Patrick Kennedy, TV host Trisha Goddard, and former tennis pro, Cliff Richey, who were affected by either depression or bipolar disorder. Although these people are all very different from me, I could relate to and understand very well what they had been through (and, if you've been, or are still going, through it, you'll do too). It made me feel less alone, which is why I wish I had this book when I was a teenager, and was suffering from one of my worst bouts of depression ever.
By telling these stories, Cowan doesn't just shows depressed people that they aren't alone but also that, with proper help, it is possible to get better and lead a normal, fulfilling and successful life. What this book does is give you hope, which is what depressed and bipolar people need the most. Without it, they would never ask for the help they so much need.
Cowan also discusses the various types of depression, what causes the disease, how to recognize if you (or a loved one) is suffering from it, and how it can be treated. Too many doctors are too quick to put those who suffer from a mental illness on antidepressants or mood stabilizers, and, while they undoubtedly help, curing depression and bipolar disorder usually requires a lot more than that. Therapy, exercise, a healthy and balanced diet, meditation, doing fulfilling work, and having a supporting family and encouraging friends are all very important too.
The book also dispels some myths about depression and bipolar disorder. For instance, not all people who have depression stay in bed doing nothing all day. Some depressed people may actually do the opposite and keep themselves super busy, always running around doing this or that, until their bodies can't take it anymore and have a breakdown. Depression can affect anyone, it can manifest itself in several different ways, and there is not one treatment that works for everyone. Finding a treatment that works takes trial and errors, but it is worth doing. Depression is just an illness, not something to be ashamed of. And it can be cured.
If you're suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, know someone who do, or simply want to know more about them, you should pick up this book. Depression is the most disabling illness in the Western World and is predicted to become the one most disabling illness in the world by 2020. Understanding this illness is therefore more important than ever.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Living With Your Body And Other Things You Hate by Emily Sandoz, Kelly G. Wilson, and Troy Dufrene
What woman has never hated her body? And, of course, men can hate theirs too For some people, the constant worry over their appearance can literally affect every aspect of their life, preventing them to living it to the full, be happy and chase their dreams. If that's you, you have probably tried everything you can think of to stop hating your body, but without success. In this case, I encourage you to pick up this book.
The book offers a different approach to body image issues. It's called ACT (which is pronounced as a word, not as letters) and stands for Acceptance And Commitment Therapy. ACT is revolutionary because it never tells you that the way you feel and think about your body is wrong. It doesn't offer tips for you to stop this negative thinking. Instead, it helps you acknowledge that you will have negative thoughts about your body sometimes and teaches you how to accept them without letting them dominate, and ruin, your life.
It's an unusual and quite odd approach, isn't it? And yet, it works. Well, it may not work for everyone, because we are all different and what works for one person may not work for another, but the techniques addressed here will surely help a lot of people. And if you have already tried everything without success, what have you got to lose? However, be warned: this is not an easy read. The authors have provided exercises that can be quite difficult to do. Difficult because they can be painful, bringing back memories you may prefer would remain hidden and forgotten forever, and summon unpleasant feelings you may not want to deal with. But if you stick to the therapy, the rewards will be worth it.
To help you do the exercises, there are some audio tapes you can download. I recommend you do it because they are very helpful. Unfortunately, the book doesn't come with a journal or some blank pages at the end where you can write, which is a shame because pretty much every exercise asks you to write something down. So, if you're serious about them, have paper and pen at the ready.
This approach doesn't just work with body image issues. If, after you've completed the book, you feel much better about your body and the way you look, you can use the ACT approach to target any other problem you may have. ACT is used to treat anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and pretty much anything else you can think of. Even if you're skeptical, give it a try. After all, you never know what works for you until you try it.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Will you pick up these books?

Disclaimer: I received these book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Movie Review: The Madness Of King George


King George III is remembered for two things: losing the American colonies and going mad. It's his first bout of madness that is the subject of "The Madness of King George". Although described as a comedy (and it does have lots of funny and witty scenes in it that will make you laugh out loud), it often feels more like a tragedy. Nigel Hawthorne does an excellent job at portraying the irascible and moral, stubborn and modest King as he descends into madness.


Hawthorne's portrayal is very nuanced and vividly expresses the ranges of emotions, from anger to confusion and pain, the King experienced as his illness degenerated, as wells as the suffering and humiliation he felt as he submitted to the strait jacket and the harsh treatments his doctors employed to try and cure him. And, unlike the real King George, whose submissive and obedient wife became despondent and depressed at the first signs of his illness, Nigel's King has a devoted Queen, brought to life by the brilliant Helen Mirren, who is determined to do what it takes to make him well. And when she is prevented from even seeing him, her pain is heartbreaking.


The Prince of Wales, played by Rupert Everett, is cast as the villain. Pleased at the King's malady, he is busy conniving with politicians to be proclaimed regent and rule in his father's place, and enjoying his time with his morganatic Catholic wife Maria Fitzherbert. I though this one-sided portrait of him quite lacking, as it didn't show the viewer the conflicting feelings Prince George experienced at this time. In him, the genuine concern for his father was at war with the ardent desire to finally exercise some real power. In the movie, the frustrated prince keeps asking his father for something meaningful to do, but the only reply he gets is: "Smile and wave to the crowd, it's what you' re paid for!". It's quite hilarious.


Despite several inaccuracies, lots of attention is paid to detail to ensure that the court and the world George III inhabited were represented in as much an authentic way as it is possible. The costumes, complete with wigs, and the customs and etiquette of the time are fairly accurate. Overall, this is a wonderful movie that deals with some important themes, such as mental illness and the harsh way the patients were treated in the past, the loss of power and its shift from monarchy to parliament, and family feuding. Highly recommended.

At Last He Grew So Enormously Corpulent


In his later years, Henry VIII, due to the large amount of food he ate at banquets and a nasty wound in his leg that prevented him from exercising, grew fat. Here's how historian Lingard described the King and the problems his obesity caused him:

"The king had long indulged without restraint in the pleasures of the table. At last he grew so enormously corpulent, that he could neither support the weight of his own body, nor remove without the aid of machinery into the different apartments of his palace. Even the fatigue of subscribing his name to the writings which required his signature, was more than he could bear; and to relieve him from this duty, three commissioners were appointed, of whom two had authority to apply to the paper a dry stamp, bearing the letters of the king's name, and the third to draw a pen furnished with ink over the blank impression. An inveterate ulcer in the thigh which had more than once threatened his life, and which now seemed to baffle all the skill of the surgeons, added to the irascibility of his temper."

Further reading:
The Town by Leigh Hunt

Historical Reads: An Educational Game of Vice & Virtue, 1818


Two Nerdy History Girls have discovered a nineteenth century board game created to teach children morality. To quote:

This is the playing board for The NEW GAME of VIRTUE REWARDED and VICE PUNISHED, published in London in 1818. The goal of the game was to teach morality to children, with bad qualities like Sloth, Hypocrisy, and Impertinence alternating with desirable behavior, such as Patience, Hope, and Diligence. There appear to be more bad things to be avoided than good ones to emulate (true to life, I suppose), plus some vivid consequences of badness like the Stocks and the House of Correction. The ultimate goal in the center is Virtue – and unlike today, Luxury is considered a negative in 1818.

To read the entire article, click here.

Madame Elisabeth Of France (Part 2)


Madame Elisabeth's tranquil and pious life was marred by tragedy in 1787, when her niece Sophie, the youngest daughter of her brother Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, died. The royal couple lost another child in June 1789, the Dauphin Louis-Joseph. They were devastated. Madame Elisabeth tried to comfort the grieving parents, unaware that pretty soon they would all be facing more harrowing trials.

The following month, the Bastille fell. The French Revolution had started. At first, not much changed at Versailles. It was clear to everyone that some important changes should soon be made, but life carried on as normal. But the people, made poor by the bad economic crisis affecting the country and fed propaganda lies by the revolutionaries, were stirring into more, violent action. And on 5 October 1789, a big group of women marched on Versailles. The mob managed to enter and storm the palace, determined to kill Queen Marie Antoinette, who luckily escaped in haste through an hidden door.


Upon hearing the terrible news, Elizabeth run to her sister-in-law. When she saw she was well, only shaken, she ordered her own rooms be used to treat the wounded. She herself helped care for them. But soon, it was time to go. The mob had succeeded in forcing the royal family to settle in Paris. The journey to the capital, which usually took only an hour and a half, among the jeering and insulting mob, lasted 8. The royal family were tired, dirty and sad when they arrived at the Tuileries. The palace was cold, damp, abandoned and not fit to house them.

Yet, the royal family settled in it and, after a while, a small court formed around them. Surrounded by guards day and night, they lived a simpler existence. The royal family now spent a lot more time together. The adults helped the children with their homework, and Elizabeth spent hours playing with them in the garden or reading and embroidering with her sister-in-law. She also painted a lot, which relaxed and distracted her. However, they had to put up often with the insults and affronts heaped upon them by their jailers.


The King had first had tried to work with the revolutionaries, but all his attempts failed. The new government was becoming more radical. Louis XVI finally saw no other option but to flee Paris so that, once free, he could get back the reigns of government and help his people. Preparations were made so secretly that Madame Elisabeth, her little niece and nephew weren't told until the last moment. The night of 20 June 1791 the royal family boarded the carriage that was supposed to take them to Montmedy. But it never made it there. The royal family was recognized at Varennes, and brought back with Paris.

The journey back, which took three days, was a nightmare. The royal family was forced to travel with two envoys from the National Assembly, Barnave and Pétion, who conceitedly believed Madame Elizabeth had developed a crush on him. The coach was surrounded by jeering and threating mobs demanding the blood of the Queen. When they returned to Paris, Elizabeth sent Madame de Tourzel a book, "Meditations on Death." Had she realised what the revolutionaries had in store for them? Even if she did, her courage never left her. And she would soon need it.


Once back, the royal family was guarded more closely and strictly than ever. But the mob, on 20 June 1792, still managed to broke into the Tuileries Palace. Elisabeth, who was standing near her brother, was mistook for the Queen. Although the princess, ready to sacrifice herself for her sister-in-law, begged her attendants not to undeceived them, soon the mob learned her true identity, leaving her physically unhurt. That day, not much harm was done. But less than two months later, on 10 August, the Tuileries was sacked and, to save their lives, the royal family had to escape the palace and ask refuge at the National Assembly. The family spent 16 hours, without food and little to drink, in the tiny space reserved to the editors of newspapers. When the battle outside ended, the French monarchy had fallen.

After a night in the monastery, the royal family was incarcerated in the tower of the Temple prison. At first, life was quiet and simple. Elisabeth read, worked with her needle, had meals with the rest of the family, walked in the garden and even taught her niece how to be independent and do things by herself, something she would need in the near future. Then, in winter, the King was separated from the rest of the family, while he awaited trial. He was found guilty and condemned to death. He was finally allowed to see his family on 20 January 1793, the day before his execution. It was a touching, desperate scene. The King, on parting, assured them he would see them again in the morning. But when the time came, he couldn't go through with it.


A little after 10 o'clock, the royal family heard the guns announcing the death of the King. Everyone was devastated. Elisabeth raised her eyes heavenwards and exclaimed: ‘The monsters, so they’re satisfied now!’. But the monsters weren't satisfied. They demanded more blood and would soon get it.

A Few Conundrums


What did people do for fun before the television and the internet were invented? A popular pasttime was trying and guessing riddles and conundrums. These could be quite complicated and take ages to solve, like I discovered when I came across a few conundrums in an old magazine. Fancy having a go at them too?

I picked the easiest ones, but a few of them can be quite challenging all the same. The answers are at the bottom of the post, but don't look them up just yet! Try to solve them on your own! And let me know how well you did in the comments! And don't beat yourself up if you didn't do as well as you hoped. I only guessed a couple right!

1. What is that which we never hear; but of whose existence we have no means of judging but by our ears?
2. Why is a proud lady like a music book?
3. What is that which is above all human imperfections, and yet shelters the weakest and wisest, as well as the wickedest, of all mankind?
4. How can you add to 9 so as to make it 6?
5. The Emperor of Russia banished one of his nobles, for misconduct, to where God himself could not have banished him; where could that have been?
6. What burns to keep a secret?









































Answers:
1. Silence.
2. Because she is full of airs.
3. A hat.
4. Why, put an S to IX.
5. From his presence.
6. Sealing wax.

Book Reviews: The Cambridge Verdi Encylopedia & Redefining Girly

Hello everyone,

here are two more book reviews for you. Enjoy!

The Cambridge Verdi Encyclopedia by Roberta Montemorra Marvin
"Di Verdi non si butta via niente," say the Italians. That means "you don't throw away any of Verdi's (music)". His operas, such as Il Rigoletto, Aida and La Traviata, are still frequently performed all over the world and are as popular as ever. His popularity is partly due to his distinctive musical innovations, but in Italy he is also regarded as a symbol of patriotism and Italian unification, which he strongly supported.
This encyclopedia, written by a groups of experts on Verdi under the editorship of Roberta Montemorra Marvin, covers every aspect of the composer's personal and professional lives. The longest entries (4-5 pages) are about his operas. In addition to a brief synopsis, the encyclopedia explains where he took his inspiration from, whom he collaborated with, the problems he encountered with the censors, and how they were received.
Briefer entries, sometimes even just a couple of lines long, are dedicated to the singers that performed his works, the impresarios, musicians, librettists and other professionals he worked with, his friends and family, his non-operatic works, and the places associated with him. Musical terms are also explained.
At the end of the book, there are appendixes that list all of Verdi's known works (including unpublished ones), the characters in his operas and the singers who gave life to them on the stage, and a brief chronology of the composer's life. This is not the easiest book to read (no encyclopedia is), but it is a great starting point for those who want to know more about Verdi and a great resource for scholars or die-hard fans who will be able to quickly look up any information or detail about the composer.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Redefining Girly by Melissa Atkins Wardy
When a few years ago Melissa Wardy went shopping for clothes and other essentials for her baby girl Amelia, she noted a disturbing trend. Almost all of the products aimed at girls were pink, fluffy, glittery and plastered with images of princesses. Worse, they were becoming sexier and sexier. As that wasn't enough, they were also separated by boys' stuff, which came in bright, primary colours and decorated with dinosaurs, pirates and athletes.
All of this sends a worrying message to children. It reinforces stereotypes about genders, telling young girls that they are only valued for their appearance. The distinct separation between toys for girls and toys for boys may even prevent the two genders from playing together (because "boys can't play with dolls" and "girls can't play football"), thus eliminating precious opportunities for them to get to know each other and appreciate their strengths and differences. This distinction can also lead to girls being bullied for liking boy's stuff and vice versa.
Melissa Ward has nothing against pink and princessy stuff (at least as long as it doesn't send out sexual messages), but she believes that every girl is different and should be allowed to express her girlhood in her own way. There are lots of ways to be a girl, after all. So, she decided to do something about this issue. She became an activist for children's right to a non-stereotyped and non-sexualized childhood, started a company, Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies, who sells more appropriate and empowering apparel for children, and a blog where she discusses the issues close to any parent's heart. She also wrote a book, Redefining Girly, about gender stereotypes, sexualization, marketing and childhood. Redefining Girly is not a boring essay. Instead, it is an inspiring and practical guide full of useful tips parents can use to raise girls in an age where the media, and the disturbing messages they send, are everywhere.
How do you keep your young daughter from hating her body? What do you do when she asks you to buy her an inappropriate toy that all her friends have? Or when a friend or relative buys her a dress you don't think is suitable for her age? Or when she's invited to a birthday party where she's gonna be given a makeover, participate in a fashion show, and be offered an alcoholic cocktail while driving around in a limo? How do you withstand the pressure from your loved ones who think that you are uptight and making a huge issue out of nothing? What do you do when it is your pediatrician that makes demeaning comments about your daughter's body? Or when it is her teacher that reinforces stereotypes about gender? And how do you let brands know your feelings about an inappropriate item they sell?
These are just a few of the questions covered in Redefining Girly. If you've ever wondered how to deal with these issues, you should pick up this book immediately. The author explains just what you have to do to protect your daughter in all these situations, to start conversations with her about media and body image issues and for refraining the way we speak to them. Wardy never preaches to you. Reading the book feels like talking to a fellow parent that shares your worries (which is just what Wardy is).
But you don't have to be a parent to read it. Everyone has children they love in their lives (they can be your stepdaughter, your cousin, your best friend's kid, your young students) and the way you behave around them can influence them in a positive or negative way. This book will teach how to talk to them and offer them a positive example to imitate.

Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Are you planning to read these books, or have already?

Disclaimer: I received these book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

The Execution Of Catherine Howard


On this day in history, 13th February 1542, Queen Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, was executed at the Tower of London. Her crime? She was found guilty of having committed adultery with Thomas Culpeper and hiding her colourful past from the king. This meant that, even if Catherine, like she swore, had never cheated on the King, her sullied reputation would be enough to cast doubts on the paternity of any future royal children. Therefore, she was a traitor and, as such, she was condemned to death. Lady Rochford, George Boleyn's widow, found guilty of helping the two lovers, was condemned to die on the same day too.

To prepare herself for her execution, the night before, Catherine asked that the block be brought to her so that she would know how to place her head on it when the time came. The young woman was beheaded the next morning, at around 9 o'clock. London merchant Otwell Johnson, who was present at the event, thus described it in a letter to his brother:

"From Calleis I have harde nothing as yet of your sute to my Lord Gray: and for news from hens, know ye, that even according to my writing on Sonday last, I se the Quene and the Lady Retcheford suffer within the Tower, the day following, whos sowles (I doubt not) be with God, for thay made the moost godly and christyan’s end, that ever was hard tell of (I thinke) sins the worlds creation ; uttering thayer lively faeth in the blode of Christe onely, and with goodly words and stedfast countenances thay desyred all christen people to take regard unto thayer worthy and just punnishment with death for thayer offences, and agenst God hainously from thayer youth upward, in breaking all his commandements, and also agenst the King’s royall Majesty very daungeriously: wherfor thay being justly condempned (as thay sayed) by the Lawes of the Realme and Parlement, to dye, required the people (I say) to take example at them, for amendement of thayer ungodly lyves, and gladdly to obey the King in all things, for whos preservation thay did hartely pray; and willed all people so to do: commending thayer sowles to God, and emestly calling for marcy upon him: whom I besieche to geve us grace, with suche faeth, hope, and charite at our departing owt of this miserable world, to come to the fruytion of his god-hed in joy everlasting. Amen.

Your loving brother

Otwell Johnson."

Catherine never uttered the words "I die a Queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpeper". Instead, after living a reckless life, she died with dignity.

Further reading:
Original letters illustrative of English history by Ellis Angleterre

The Belgian Royal Family On Board The George Washington


In 1919, King Albert I of Belgium, his wife Queen Elizabeth, and their son Crown Prince Leopold, boarded the "George Washington" ship. They were going to the United States for a state visit. Pierre Goemare, who travelled with the royal family, left us a first-hand account of their journey.

As has often been said before, the King expresses himself with great deliberation, but his choice of words is extremely judicious. He knows the proper word; his sentences are so regularly constructed that they could be written as well as spoken. One is aware of a remarkable power of attention on the part of our Sovereign. Whether he is talking with two or with ten people, he follows each individual's opinions carefully and discerns their exact shades. He looks at the speaker with his blue eyes in a way which is singularly keen and penetrating without being aggressive. As his conversation shows great erudition, the conclusions which he draws reveal uncommon intellectual power.

The life of the royal guests on board the "George Washington" was simple and quiet. The captain of the ship had attached a gunner of the marines to the King's person as well as to that of the Queen and Prince. These marines were ordered to follow the august passengers wherever they went, keeping five feet behind them. The very first hour the King asked to be freed from this pomp which was doubtless very ornamental but entirely superfluous to a sovereign who has not the traits of a Hohenzollern. The Queen expressed the same desire. As for the Prince, whom we wanted to nickname the little Prince of Melancholy, he hardly seemed to have noticed the man who silently dogged his footsteps.

The King wore the undress uniform of a general. No braid, no trimmings distinguished him from the officers of his suite. This simplicity of appearance delighted the American officers, who also admired his fine physique. [...] When the King was not reading, he would walk about the deck, wandering here and there like a mere idler, stopping to talk to anybody he happened to meet, whether officer or plain sailor. He frequently walked up and down alone, being fond of solitude.

The simplicity of dress which the American officers admired in our King was also apparent in the Queen. She always appeared dressed in white, wearing a woolen gown in the morning and a silk one in the evening. Her manner was always charming and unaffected. She smiled amiably at all whose glance met hers. It was Queen Elizabeth's smile that won the hearts of the huge American crowds later. [...] Queen Elizabeth showed a particular liking for the different games on board. Her skill at quoits was remarkable. It was a charming sight to see that little Queen, so light and slender in her white dress, clap her hands for joy over a successful shot. [...]

Prince Leopold did not care much for the games. He watched them at a distance with the air of sadness which I have already noted. He is also a dreamer by nature like his father. Being rather tall for his eighteen years, he is at the awkward age at which a youth finds that it is difficult to know what to do with hands and feet. Timid by nature, he blushes easily. During audiences he observes his father's attitude attentively. He is visibly anxious to learn the business of being a king. He shows himself desirous of an intimate knowledge of all matters, He walked all over the ship, from bow to stern, paying attention to everything with which he was unfamiliar.



Goemaere described the George Washington ship as a "floating city":

In addition to a store where all articles necessary to the toilet are sold, together with accessories such as cigars, cigarettes and candy, there are a tailor's shop on board, a laundry, a dental parlor, and a drug-store, next to which is a hospital with a surgical room. Next to the post-office and the purser's office is the hairdresser's where three barbers are continually at work. [...] The passengers were very much delighted when they got out of bed in the morning to receive their morning paper. It was the ship's newspaper which came to us still damp from the press. This press provided the bills of fare, the programs of concerts and other entertainments, as well as the visiting-cards which were seen on the door of every cabin giving the names and titles of everybody on board from the King down.

The paper, called "The Hatchet" and having as its motto "I cannot tell a lie," gets its news by wireless and tells its readers what is happening all over the world. The King and his suite were thus able to follow events in Belgium as well as in Italy. They read about d'Annunzio and Fiume, and the defeats of the Bolsheviks with the first rumors of the death of Lenin. Different subjects are also treated in "The Hatchet," literary, historical and philosophical. [...] Every night after din- ner there was a moving-picture performance in the great hall of the "George Washington." [...]

My meeting with this valet gave me the idea of undertaking a secret exploration through the apartments destined for Their Majesties. I went hurriedly down into the heart of the ship. How elegant and luxurious was the suite which had been decorated for royalty! It consisted first of a private salon and dining-room. In the salon were musical instruments, books and portraits by American artists. Opposite the King's bedroom was a study where, among other apparatus created by American ingenuity, I noticed a wireless telephone which carried three hundred miles.

The Queen's apartment was more coquettish. There was a bedroom with mahogany wainscoting upholstered in old rose. All the furniture was of mahogany. There was also a pretty boudoir with furniture covered with red flowered tapestry. On the tables were electric lamps with shades decorated with painted flowers and branches. Among the masses of fresh flowers I noticed a special preponderance of red dahlias, particularly popular in America. The suite pre- pared for Prince Leopold was also charming and was finished in lemon-wood.


Further reading:
Across America With The King Of The Belgians by Pierre Goemaere

Historical Reads: Elizabeth Lady Holland


Heather Carroll remembers Elizabeth, lady Holland. To quote:

When it came time for Elizabeth to marry, her parents settled upon a baronet in England, Sir Geoffrey Webster who just happened to be 23 years older than fifteen year old Elizabeth. The teen was carted away to the opposite hemisphere to become mistress to the imposing Battle Abbey, it must have been quite the shell shock for a plantation girl from Jamaica.

Sir Geoffrey himself was no prize. He was a depressed fellow (quite opposite from his young bride) who was prone to jealousy, drink, and gambling. Children followed the marriage but so too did physical abuse. It wouldn't be risky to say this could have been the result of Elizabeth's stubborn, acid-tongue ways. She was not the type of lady to refrain from defending herself or at least stating her opinions! Sir Geoff also came with baggage: his mother. Elizabeth hated the old bag. The feeling was reciprocated. Open warfare soon developed between the two Lady Websters. Elizabeth would inquire daily as to whether the "old hag was dead yet." Harsh! She would also try and scare her out of the house with ghostly pranks. There is even a story of Elizabeth going so far as to stage a prank that the French had invaded the cost, employing friends and such, dressed as commoners, to run toward the abbey with carts, screaming bloody murder. The dowager Webster invited them in for food and drink and told them to let the French know they would be treated the same and she could be found there until her death. Ha!


To read the entire article, click here.

Madame Elisabeth Of France (Part 1)


Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène de France, the younger sister of future King Louis XVI, was born on 3rd May 1764. Her parents, the Dauphin Louis of France and his second wife Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, were devoted to each other and often showed their affection in public, something that was frowned upon at the time. Elisabeth was their last child and was so frail at her birth that she was hastily baptized for fear she wouldn't have long to live. But thanks to the loving care and attention of Marie-Thérèse Hecquet, her wet-nurse, the baby survived.

It was her father, the Dauphin Louis, who would die, only 18 months later. He had succumbed to consumption, which also claimed the life of his inconsolable widow only fifteenth months later. Their five children were now orphans. The youngest, Elisabeth, was a lively but stubborn young girl who preferred to play, with her dogs and siblings, in the garden of Versailles than attend her lessons. Her stubbornness only increased as she grew older and so her governess, Madame de Marsan, not knowing what to do with the disobedient princess anymore, took her and her suster Clotilde to the convent and school at Saint-Cyr.


Elizabeth enjoyed her time at the convent. She asked to see the kitchen, saying she had never seen one before, and played hide and seek in the garden. But it was the good influence of her friend Angelique, daughter of the Baronne de Mackau, who shared her lessons, that curbed the princess' stubborn streak somewhat. She was also struck, as a young child, by how happy her favourite aunt, Louise, had become after being allowed to become a nun. When she visited her aunt, now called Soeur Thérèse de Saint-Augustin, at her convent, she declared that, when she grew up, she would take the veil too.

The Princess was only 6 when the young archduchess Marie Antoinette arrived at Versailles to marry her eldest brother, the Dauphin Louis. Despite the age difference, Elisabeth and Marie Antoinette quickly became good friends. Both girls had a lively personality and felt out of place at Versailles, preferring a simple quiet life away from court. Just like Marie Antoinette would later escape the rigid court etiquette at the Petit Trianon, Madame Elizabeth would seek refuge at Montreuil, an estate in the country were the young princess spent many happy hours during her childhood.


As a child, though, Elisabeth would have a great time with her siblings and their friends. They'd form a tight knit group who loved to play games and have picnics in the palace gardens and generally had a great time together. She had even started enjoying her studies, although, to keep her interested in the subject, her teachers needed to turn their lessons into amusing activities. Shortly after her 10th birthday, though, the court was shocked by the death of king Louis XV and the accession of the young, and unprepared, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the throne.

A few weeks after the King's coronation, Madame Clotilde left France to marry the Prince of Piedmont. Elisabeth was devastated. She was very close to her sister and she knew she would probably never see her again. Marie Antoinette, who had said goodbye to two of her sisters before leaving her home to get married as well, tried to console her. But it was in her faith that now, as in the future, that Elisabeth relied for consolation and strength. Clotilde was also Madame de Marsan's favourite charge and, after her departure, she resigned. Her place was taken by the Princess de Guémenée, an intriguing and frivolous woman who squandered her fortune away.


The new governess believed her young charge to be too serious and encouraged her to attend parties and balls, but Elisabeth wasn't too keen on them, nor on the Princess de Guemenee. Instead, Elisabeth preferred to spend time with her close family and friends, and particularly enjoyed gardening, painting, reading, and even mathematics! Yet, Madame Elizabeth came to regret even Princess de Guemenee when she was replaced with the rapacious and malicious Diane de Polignac, the sister-in-law of Gabrielle, Marie Antoinette's favourite. Elizabeth and her new governess never went along well.

In 1781, the Prince de Guemenee was declared bankrupt. Louis XVI, on request of his wife who wanted to help her friend the Princess as well as please Madame Elizabeth, purchased their country estate, Montreuil as a gift for his younger sister. Although she was forbidden from sleeping there until she turned 25, the princess was delighted with her gift and spent many happy days in her new house. She redecorated it, redesigned the gardens, and did embroidery and charity works. A very thrifty young girl, Elizabeth preferred to spend her money to help the poor rather than to purchase expensive luxuries she didn't need.

But Elizabeth's idyllic existence was about to come to an end. The people were restless, discontented and starving. Soon, the Revolution would break out.

The Man Of Fashion


Let's face it. Etiquette manuals can be very a bit boring, can't they? Well, not The Laws Of Etiquette by A Gentleman. Published in 1836, it is written in a very witty and satirical tone that, while explaining the laws of etiquette, also highlights how absurd they can sometimes be. In Chapter 14, the author discusses the man of fashion, as opposed to the gentleman, and shares some anedoctes about Beau Brummell, the dandy par excellance:

Fashion is a tyranny founded only on assumption. The principle upon which its influence rests, is one deeply based in the human heart, and one which has long been observed and long practised upon in every department of life. In the literary, the religious, and the political world, it has been an assured and very profitable conclusion, that the public, "Like women, born to be controlled, Stoops to the forward and the bold."

"Qui sibi fidit, dux regit examen," is a maxim of universal truth. Pococurante, in Candide, was admired for despising Homer and Michel Angelo; he would have gained little distinction by praising them. The judicious application of this rule to society, is the origin of fashion. In despair of attaining greatness of quality, it founds its distinction only on peculiarity.

We have spoken elsewhere of those complex and very rare accomplishments, whose union is requisite to constitute a gentleman. We know of but one quality which is demanded for a man of fashion,--impudence. An impudence (self-confidence "the wise it call") as impenetrable as the gates of Pandemonium--a coolness and imperturbability of self-admiration, which the boaster in Spencer might envy--a contempt of every decency, as such, and an utter imperviousness to ridicule,--these are the amiable and dignified qualities which serve to rear an empire over the weakness and cowardice of men.

To define the character of that which is changing even while we survey it, is a task of no small difficulty. We imagine that there is only one means by which it may be always described, viz., that it consists in an entire avoidance of all that is natural and rational. Its essence is affectation; effeminacy takes the place of manliness; drawling stupidity, of wit; stiffness and hauteur, of ease and civility; and self-illustration, of a decent and respectful regard to others.

A man of fashion must never allow himself to be pleased. Nothing is more decidedly de mauvais ton than any expression of delight. He must never laugh, nor, unless his penetration is very great, must he even smile; for he might by ignorance smile at the wrong place or time. All real emotion is to be avoided; all sympathy with the great or the beautiful is to be shunned; yet the liveliest feeling may be exhibited upon the death of a poodle-dog. At the house of an acquaintance, he must never praise, nor even look, at the pictures, the carpets, the curtains, or the ottomans, because if he did, it might be supposed that he was not accustomed to such things.

About two years ago, it began to be considered improper to pay compliments to women, because if they are not paid gracefully they are awkward, and to pay them gracefully is difficult. At the present time it is considered dangerous to a man's pretensions to fashion, in England, to speak to women at all. Women are voted bores, and are to be treated with refined rudeness.

There is no possible system of manners that will serve to exhibit at once the uncivility and the high refinement which should characterize the man of fashion. He must therefore have no manners at all. He must behave with tame and passive insolence, never breaking into active effrontery excepting towards unprotected women and clergymen. Persons of no importance he does not see, and is not conscious of their existence; those who have the same standing, he treats with easy scorn, and he acknowledges the distinction of superiors only by patronizing and protecting them. A man of fashion does not despise wealth; he cannot but think that valuable which procures to others the honour of paying for his suppers.

Fashion is so completely distinguished from good breeding, that it is even opposed to it. It is in fact a system of refined vulgarity. What, for example can be more vulgar than incessantly talking about forms and customs? About silver forks and French soup? A gentleman follows these conventional habits; but he follows them as matters of course. He looks upon them as the ordinary and essential customs of refined society. French forks are to him things as indispensable as a table-cloth; and he thinks it as unnecessary to insist upon the one as upon the other. I

f he sees a person who eats with his knife, he concludes that that person is ignorant of the usages of the world, but he does not shriek and faint away like a Bond-street dandy. If he dines at a table where there are no silver forks, he eats his dinner in perfect propriety with steel, and exhibits, neither by manner nor by speech, that he perceives any error. To be sure, he forms his own opinion about the rank of his entertainer, but he leaves it to such new-made gentry as Mr. Theodore Hook, in his vulgar fashionable novels, to harangue about such delinquencies. The vulgarity of insisting upon these matters is scarcely less offensive than the vulgarity of neglecting them. Lady Frances Pelham is but one remove better than a Brancton.

A man of fashion never goes to the theatre; he is waiting for the opera. He, of course, goes out of town in the summer; or, if he cannot afford to do so, he merely closes his window-shutters, and appears to be gone. Fashion makes all great things little, and all little things great. It is commonly said, that it requires more wit to perform the part of the fool in a farce than that of the master. Without intending any offence to the fool by the comparison, we may remark, that qualities of an elevated character are required for the support of the role of a man of fashion in the solemn farce of life. He must have invention, to vary his absurdities when they cease to be striking; he must have wit enough to obtain the reputation of a great deal more; and he must possess tact to know when and where to crouch, and where and when to insult.

Brummel, whose career is one of the most extraordinary on record, must have exercised, during the period of his social reign, many qualities of conduct which rank among the highest endowments of our race. For an obscure individual, without fortune or rank, to have conceived the idea of placing himself at the head of society in a country the most thoroughly aristocratic in Europe, relying too upon no other weapon than well-directed insolence; for the same individual to have triumphed splendidly over the highest and the mightiest--to have maintained a contest with royalty itself, and to have come off victorious even in that struggle--for such an one no ordinary faculties must have been demanded.

Of the sayings of Brummel which have been preserved, it is difficult to distinguish whether they contain real wit, or are only so sublimely and so absurdly impudent that they look like witty. We add here a few anecdotes of Brummel, which will serve to show, better than any precepts, the style of conduct which a man of fashion may pursue. When Brummel was at the height of his power, he was once, in the company of some gentlemen, speaking of the Prince of Wales as a very good sort of man, who behaved himself very decently, considering circumstances; some one present offered a wager that he would not dare to give a direction to this very good sort of man.

Brummel looked astonished at the remark, and declined accepting a wager upon such point. They happened to be dining with the regent the next-day, and after being pretty well fortified. with wine, Brummel interrupted a remark of the prince's, by exclaiming very mildly and naturally, "Wales, ring the bell!" His royal highness immediately obeyed the command, and when the servant entered, said to him, with the utmost coolness and firmness, "Show Mr. Brummel to his carriage." The dandy was not in the least dejected by his expulsion; but meeting the prince regent, walking with a gentleman, the next day in the street, he did
not bow to him, but stopping the other, drew him aside and said, in a loud whisper, "Who is that FAT FRIEND of ours?"

It must be remembered that the object of this sarcasm was at that time exceedingly annoyed by his increasing corpulency; so manifestly so, that Sheridan remarked, that "though the regent professed himself a Whig, he believed that in his heart he was no friend to new measures." Shortly after this occurrence at Carlton-House, Brummel remarked to one of his friends, that "he had half a mind to cut the young one, and bring old George into fashion." In describing a short visit which he had paid to a nobleman in the country, he said, that he had only carried with him a night-cap and a silver basin to spit in, "Because, you know, it is utterly impossible to spit in clay."

Brummel was once present at a party to which he had not been invited. After he had been some time in the room, the gentleman of the house, willing to mortify him, went up to him and said that he believed that there must be some mistake, as he did not recollect having had the honour of sending him an invitation. "What is the name?" said the other very drawlingly, at the same time affecting to feel in his waistcoat pocket for a card. "Johnson," replied the gentleman. "Jauhnson?" said Brummel, "oh! I remember now that the name was Thaunson (Thompson); and Jauhnson and Thaunson, Thaunson and Jauhnson, you know, are so much the same kind of thing."

Brummel was once asked how much a year he thought would be required to keep a single man in clothes. "Why, with tolerable economy," said he, "I think it might be done for L800." He once went down to a gentleman's house in the country, without having been asked to do so. He was given to understand, the next morning, that his absence would be more agreeable, and he took his departure. Some one having heard of his discomfiture, asked him how he liked the accommodations there. He replied coolly, that "it was a very decent house to spend a single night in."

We have mentioned that this dreaded arbiter of modes had threatened that he would put the prince regent out of fashion. Alas! for the peace of the British monarch, this was not an idle boast. His dangerous rival resolved in the unfathomable recesses of a mind capacious of such things, to commence and to carry on a war whose terror and grandeur should astound society, to administer to audacious royalty a lesson which should never be forgotten, and finally to retire, when retire he must, with mementos of his tremendous power around him, and with the mightiest of the earth at his feet.

Inventive and deliberate were the counsels which he meditated; sublime and resolute was the conduct he adopted. He decided, with an originality of genius to which the conqueror of Marengo might have vailed, that the neck of the foe was the point at which the first fatal shaft of his excommunicating ire should be hurled. With rapid and decisive energy he concentrated all his powers for instantaneous action. He retired for a day to the seclusion of solitude, to summon and to spur the energies of the most self-reliant mind in Europe, as the lion draws back to gather courage for the leap.

As, like the lion, he drew back; so, like the lion, did he spring forward upon his prey. At a ball given by the Duchess of Devonshire, when the whole assembly were conversing upon his supposed disgrace, and insulting by their malevolence one whom they had disgusted by their adulation, Brummel suddenly stood in the midst of them. Could it be indeed Brummel? Could it be mortal who thus appeared with such an encincture of radiant glory about his neck? Every eye was upon him, fixed in stupid admiration; every tongue, as it slowly recovered from its speechless paralysis, faltered forth "what a cravat!" What a cravat indeed!

Hundreds that had, a moment before, exulted in unwonted freedom, bowed before it with the homage of servile adoration. What a cravat! There it stood; there was no doubting its entity, no believing it an illusion. There it stood, smooth and stiff, yet light and almost transparent; delicate as the music of Ariel, yet firm as the spirit of Regulus; bending with the grace of Apollo's locks, yet erect with the majesty of the Olympian Jove: without a wrinkle, without an indentation. What a cravat! The regent "saw and shook;" and uttering a faint gurgle from beneath the wadded bag which surrounded his royal thorax, he was heard to whisper with dismay, "D--n him! what a cravat!" The triumph was complete.

It is stated, upon what authority we know not, that his royal highness, after passing a sleepless night in vain conjectures, despatched at an early hour, one of his privy-counsellors to Brummel, offering carte blanche if he would disclose the secret of that mysterious cravat. But the "atrox animus Catonis" disdained the bribe. He preferred being supplicated, to being bought, by kings. "Go," said he to the messenger, with the spirit of Marius mantling in his veins, "Go, and tell your master that you have seen his master."

For the truth of another anecdote, connected with this cravat, we have indisputable evidence. A young nobleman of distinguished talents and high pretensions as to fortune and rank, saw this fatal band, and eager to advance himself in the rolls of fashion, retired to his chamber to endeavour to penetrate the method of its construction. He tried every sort of known, and many sorts of unknown stiffeners to accomplish the end--paper and pasteboard, and wadding, shavings, and shingles, and planks,--all were vainly experienced. Gargantua could not have exhibited a greater invention of expedients than he did; but vainly.

After a fortnight of the closest application, ardour of study and anxiety of mind combined, brought him to the brink of the grave. His mother having ascertained the origin of his complaint, waited upon Brummel, who was the only living man that could remove it. She implored him, by every human motive, to say but one word, to save the life of her son and prevent her own misery. But the tyrant was immoveable, and the young man expired a victim of his sternness.

When, at length, yielding to that strong necessity which no man can control, Brummel was obliged, like Napoleon, to abdicate, the mystery of that mighty cravat was unfolded. There was found, after his departure to Calais, written on sheet of paper upon his table, the following epigram of scorn: "STARCH IS THE MAN." The cravat of Brummel was merely-- starched! Henceforth starch was introduced into every cravat in Europe. Brummel still lives, an obscure consul in a petty European town.

Physically there is something to command our admiration in the history of a man who thus lays at his mercy all ranks of men,--the lofty and the low, the great, the powerful and the vain: but morally and seriously, no character is more despicable than that of the mere man of fashion, Seeking nothing but notoriety, his path to that end is over the ruins of all that is worthy in our nature. He knows virtue only to despise it; he makes himself acquainted with human feelings only to outrage them. He commences his career beyond the limits of decency, and ends it far in the regions of infamy.

Feared by all and respected by none, hated by his worshippers and despised by himself, he rules,--an object of pity and contempt: and when his power is past, his existence is forgotten; he lives on in an, oblivion which is to him worse than death, and the stings of memory goad him to the grave. The devotee of fashion is a trifler unworthy of his race; the mere gentleman is a character which may in time become somewhat tiresome; there is a just mean between the two, where a better conduct than either is to be found.

It is that of a man who, yielding to others, still maintains his self-respect, and whose concessions to folly are controlled by good sense; who remembers the value of trifles without forgetting the importance of duties, and resolves so to regulate his conduct that neither others may be offended by his stiffness, nor himself have to regret his levity. Live therefore among men--to conclude our homily after the manner of Quarles--live therefore among men, like them, yet not disliking thyself; and let the hues of fashion be reflected from thee, but let them not enter and colour thee within.

Book Review: Becoming Josephine By Heather Webb


Synopsis:
A sweeping historical debut about the Creole socialite who transformed herself into an empress.
Readers are fascinated with the wives of famous men. In Becoming Josephine, debut novelist Heather Webb follows Rose Tascher as she sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris, eager to enjoy an elegant life at the royal court. Once there, however, Rose’s aristocratic soldier-husband dashes her dreams by abandoning her amid the tumult of the French Revolution. After narrowly escaping death, Rose reinvents herself as Josephine, a beautiful socialite wooed by an awkward suitor—Napoleon Bonaparte.


In her debut novel, Becoming Josephine, Heather Webb chronicles the life of Martinique-born Marie-Josephe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie de Beauharnias, the events that have shaped her life, and the "joys, pains, deeds and failings" that transformed her into the empress Josephine, Napoleon's first wife. Josephine was a survivor. She lived in tumultuous times and was forced to start anew and reinvent herself over and over again to make her way in the world.

At 16, Josephine, or Rose, as she was then called, left Martinique for France, where she married the aristocrat Alexander de Beauharnais. But her romantic illusions were soon shattered. Alexander turned out to be an unfaithful, inattentive and even cruel husband who constantly left Rose alone to purse his own pleasure. Tired and humiliated, Rose separated from him and used her wits and connections to support herself and their two children. Then, the Revolution broke out. Rose tried to keep her opinions to herself not to attract the attentions of the revolutionaries, but when her patriotic husband is arrested, she is sent to jail too.

Prisoners were kept in appalling conditions, and Rose came close to death. The fall of Robespierre saved her just in time. Now free, Rose longed for security, both for herself and her children and, much like Scarlett O'Hara, of whom Josephine often reminded me, she was willing to do whatever it was necessary to achieve it. At 31, though, her charms were beginning to fade. It's then that she met an awkward, arrogant and intense general, Napoleon Bonaparte. Little did she knew when she agreed to his marriage proposal that they would rule France together.

Because the book covers 30 years, Webb had to omit or take liberties with some of the events in Josephine's life. There are times when the book moves a bit too fast, and you'll be left wanting to know more about certain issues or episodes. However, Webb had a very good reason to do this. It allowed her to concentrate on those facts that better serve to illustrate how Josephine grows and changes. And that's what the novel is about. It's not a love story or simply the chronicle of the life of one of the most intriguing women in history. It's a story of self-discovery, of the journey a woman went through to find her true self.

Josephine doesn't transform from a romantic, flighty and pleasant-loving young teenager into a devoted mother and a generous, politically-savvy empress overnight. No, it happens gradually, as she realizes her own strengths and her own failings. But it's only when Bonaparte divorces her that Josephine's metamorphosis is complete. Only then she is able to be truly herself, the mistress of her own destiny.

Webb dis a great job at bringing the captivating and lively Josephine to life. You will root for her as she tries to realise her dreams, ache for her when she is used and betrayed by men, and be inspired by her determination to survive. The author also beautifully and vividly described the world Josephine lived in, giving the reader the impression they are just right there beside her too.

The writing style is entertaining and accessible. A bit too modern, maybe, but it works. The book is a pleasure to read, moves at a good pace, and is detailed enough to bring the characters and their world alive without bogging it down. Overall, I highly recommend it to all fans of this historical period and to those who wants to know more about Josephine.

Summary:
Written in the first person narrative, Becoming Josephine is a story of self-discovering. Chronicling her life from her humble beginnings to her divorce to Napoleon, Webb shows us how events, and the way she reacted to them, have shaped Josephine. Although the book is not always accurate, and the writing style a bit too modern, the characters are well-drawn and captivating, and, together with their world, really come alive. The story moves at a great pace and is just a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.

Available at: amazon

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Robes A La Francaise

Robe a la francaise ca. 1770-79, from the Victoria & Albert Museum

One of my favourite styles of dress is the Robe A La Francaise, which was very popular during the 18th century. Here's how the Met Museum describes it:

The robe à la française was derived from the loose negligee sacque dress of the earlier part of the century, which was pleated from the shoulders at the front at the back. The silhouette, composed of a funnel-shaped bust feeding into wide rectangular skirts, was inspired by Spanish designs of the previous century and allowed for expansive amounts of textiles with delicate Rococo curvilinear decoration. The wide skirts, which were often open at the front to expose a highly decorated underskirt, were supported by panniers created from padding and hoops of different materials such as cane, baleen or metal. The robes à la française are renowned for the beauty of their textiles, the cut of the back employing box pleats and skirt decorations, known as robings, which showed endless imagination and variety.

These dresses are quite cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear, but I love how feminine and flattering they look on everyone. Here are a few examples:

 Robe a la francaise ca. 1770’s-80’s, from the Arizona Costume Institute

English Robe a la francaise ca. 1765, from Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Robe a la francaise 1740, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wedding robe a la francaise ca. 1760’s, from the Digitalt Museum

Robe a la francaise ca. 1770, from the Nordiska Museet

Robe a la francaise, 1770-80, from the Mint Museum

Robe à la française, 1750-1775

Robe a la Francaise, 1750–75

Robe à la Française, France or England ca. 1760-1765, from Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Do you like the robes a la francaise? Have you ever worn one? I haven't yet, but I'd really love to! One day, maybe!

Reliquies Of Old London Suburbs North Of The Thames

In the last years of the 19th century, T.R. Way published a series of volumes illustrating the historical houses and "reliquies" , once inhabited by royals, artists, poets and other famous figures of their times, that could still be seen in London. Here are a few that adorned the suburbs north of the Thamas:

CROMWELL HOUSE, HIGHGATE


This fine old house appears to have been built at the beginning of the seventeenth century by Richard Sprignell, who was created a baronet in 1641, and it is probable that an old stone, once the boundary of the garden, inscribed "a.d. 1614," really fixes the exact date of the building. The Sprignell family were long connected with Highgate, and names of members of it are found in the registers after they had ceased to reside at this house.

It is not known how the house came into the possession of Oliver Cromwell, but he is supposed to have presented it to his eldest daughter, Bridget, on her marriage, January 15, 1646-47, with Henry Ireton. As General Ireton was soon after appointed Lieutenant-General and Governor-General of Ireland under the title of Lord Deputy, and died at Limerick on November 26, 1651, he could not have resided long at this house, although its internal decoration bears evidence of his military tastes. The handsome staircase is ornamented with carved figures of soldiers of the army of the Commonwealth, and the balustrades are filled with devices emblematical of a soldier's occupation.

A fire on January 3, 1865, destroyed the upper floors and the ceiling of the drawing-room, on which the arms of Ireton were displayed. Ireton was an afting Governor of the Highgate Grammar School, and his signature appears three times in the records. This is good evidence of his residence, and there can be little doubt but that this building should be called Ireton House rather than Cromwell House. Curiously enough, a similar misnaming of a house in Nottinghamshire is recorded.

The Iretons were a Derbyshire family, and held property at Little Ireton, from which village they took their name. German Ireton, the father of Henry and John, was living at Attenborough, Notts, when his two sons were born. Henry was the future general, and John became Lord Mayor of London and was knighted by Cromwell. A house now used as a farmhouse is either the original dwelling of German Ireton modernized, or a later building on its site. It is known among the villagers as Cromwell House, although there is no evidence of Cromwell having had anything whatever to do with it.

After General Ireton's death Major-General Harrison lived at the Highgate house, and he was visited here by Ludlow after he had fallen into disgrace with the Protector. The turret covered with cement and crowned with a dome is a modern addition, and replaces the old platform on the roof. Early in the present century Cromwell House was occupied as a boy's school. It is now the Convalescent Home in connexion with that valuable institution, the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street.

GROVE HALL LUNATIC ASYLUM, BOW


The visitor to this interesting old house has a surprise in store for him. He passes out of the Bow Road into Fairfield Road, and, after walking by some small suburban houses, he comes to a high wall on the right-hand side of the road. He rings the bell and is admitted at the gate. He then sees a large lawn and garden with shady trees, and in the far distance the imposing outline of Grove Hall. When he comes up to the front, he finds a handsome specimen of a late seventeenth-century house, whose wings have been added in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.

On entering the house he comes into a hall which fills the whole depth of the building, and he finds that the original front was that which is seen in the drawing and looks upon the river Lea. This front is certainly superior to the other in architectural effect. Within there is a fine old wooden staircase, but this has been placed at the side of the house, and is not made a feature of the interior.

There is much good oak carving and handsome mantelpieces in the different rooms, but the oak has been thickly painted over and grained in imitation of oak. The oak panelling has also been spoiled by having wall-paper pasted over it. This is a fine specimen of a merchant's mansion, when Bow was a highly appreciated residential neighbourhood.

No. 4, CHEYNE WALK, CHELSEA


This terrace of houses by the river-side, with its red-brick buildings and row of trees in front, is a veritable relic of the Queen Anne period. It has always been a favourite resort of artists, and the story of Turner's sojourn during the last days of his life at the small house (No. 119) is too well known to be repeated here. Cheyne Walk (as also Cheyne Row, the residence of Carlyle for nearly fifty years) is named after Charles, Lord Cheyne, lord of the manor of Chelsea, who died in 1698. The name is always pronounced as a dissyllable, and in some old writings is spelt Cheyney.

The original embankment of the river was completed about the end of the seventeenth century, and Faulkner, the historian of Chelsea and other western suburbs, says that the manorial records show how the keeping of it in repair and good order was a constant subject of vexatious dispute between the lord of the manor and the tenants. The present Chelsea embankment, which has done so much to improve Chelsea, was opened in 1874. The ornamental gardens were formed on the space gained from the muddy foreshore of the river.

The old house shown in the picture was the residence of the great painter, Daniel Maclise, R.A., and here he died on April 15th, 1870. After him the well-known Oriental scholar and numismatist, W. S. W. Vaux, Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, lived here for a time. Mr. Vaux subsequently resided at the Society's house in Albemarle Street, and No. 4 was taken by Mr. John Walter Cross, who married the great novelist, " George Eliot," on May 6th, 1880, but Mrs. Cross's residence in this house was short, for on December 22nd of the same year she died here, and was buried in Highgate Cemetery.

The Rev. A. G. L'Estrange, in his "Village of Palaces," records a peculiarity in this house. There is a shoot or opening from the top of the house to the basement, and Mr. Vaux surmised that it was intended for throwing down stolen goods in case of surprise, as such shoots have been found in houses where highwaymen and other thieves have resided.

QUEEN'S HOUSE, No. 16, CHEYNE WALK


This very fine house was previously called Tudor House, there being a legend that it had been lived in by the Princess Elizabeth Tudor, but this can hardly have been founded on fact. Henry VIII. built a large mansion which stood on Cheyne Walk, and extended from Winchester House on the west to Don Saltero's Coffee House on the east; the latter building is said to have been No. 18, so that it is quite possible that Tudor House may have been built on part of the gardens of the king's mansion, and, also that the very fine mulberry tree which stood in its garden may have been the same which Elizabeth is said to have planted.

In the king's building Queen Anne of Cleves died, and it has been suggested that the present name is due to this incident. The present building is probably not much older than the reign of Charles II., and his queen, Catherine of Braganza, is said to have resided in it. It has also been understood to be the house which Thackeray describes as the residence of the old Countess of Chelsea in "Esmond."

But it was during its occupation by Dante Gabriel Rossetti from 1862 that Queen's House reached the great point in its history. Few houses in London have had gathered together within their walls such a group of artistic talent as this one. Mr. George Meredith, Mr. Algernon Charles Swinburne, Mr. W. M. Rossetti, and Mr. Frederick Sandys lived in it for a time with Rossetti. Himself a king amongst men, a pioneer and leader in painting and poetry, he gathered a most brilliant company round his table, men who excelled in many walks of life, and the meetings, although not to be described exactly as Bohemian, were marked by the most genial conviviality.

At the back of the house was a great garden (now much curtailed), overlooked by his studio, which gave suggestions for the charming vistas seen in mirrors in the background of his pidtures. In this garden was at times erected a great tent, sometimes used as a dining chamber, sometimes as a place to adjourn to after dinner to spend the summer evenings. At other times, one has a picture of Rossetti curled up on a great sofa in the splendid drawing-room overlooking the river, whilst G. A. Sala spun yarns, and gathered round would be Ford Madox Brown, William Morris, Burne-Jones, and Mr. Whistler; Mr. Philip Webb and Jekyll the architects; J. E. Boehm, then prince of sculptors; Mr. Stillman, and Mr. Val Prinsep, and his father-in-law, F. R. Leyland, merchant-prince and patron of them all; whilst over them presided a brilliant and sympathetic mind drawing the best from each.

Such is an inadequate account of the picture Dr. Whistler has described to me of his frequent personal experiences of the life in Queen's House before Rossetti's health broke down. After his death in 1882 the house was tenanted for some years by the Rev. H. R. Haweis, who put the small flying Mercury on the top.

Nos. II AND 12, KENSINGTON SQUARE


Kensington was a suburb which early became a favourite among men of taste. In the Domesday Survey the manor of Kensington is described as having been in the possession of one Edwin. Soon afterwards it belonged to Albericus de Ver, who held it under the Bishop of Coutances. In course of time the De Veres managed to turn their property into freehold. One of the De Veres being under obligations to the Abbot of Abingdon, obtained permission of his father and the next heir to cut off a part of the manor as a gift to the Abbots of Abingdon. All this is recorded in such names as Earl's Court and St. Mary Abbots.

Sir Walter Cope purchased the manor of St. Mary Abbots, and was one of the earliest residents of importance in Kensington. It was, however, William III. who brought the place into fashion when he purchased Nottingham House in 1689. Kensington Square (first called King's Square), however, was commenced before this time, and the south side was called King's Parade. Mr. Loftie says that there is an old tradition how King Street and James Street were named after James II., and Charles Street after Charles Harmston, the son of the carpenter who built it, and not after Charles II.

Thomas Young, who gave his name to Young Street, built a large part of the square. (He died in 1713.) In George II.'s reign Kensington Square was at the height of its popularity, and it was then difficult to obtain houses or apartments. It is said that an ambassador, a bishop, and a physician were found at one time in the same house. It was here that Colonel Esmond entertained the Old Pretender.

Thackeray's presence, in fact, pervades the whole place. The whole aspect of the houses tells us of a time which the great novelist had made entirely his own. In Young Street, Thackeray lived from 1847 to 1853. His house, No. 13 (now 16), with its bow windows, looks into the square, and seems almost a part of it. Here he wrote "Vanity Fair," "Pendennis," "Esmond," and portions of the "The Newcomes."

The square is full of old-world houses, but the two in the picture, which are situated in the south-west corner, are of special interest. The left-hand one has a handsome canopy over the door, and probably the right-hand house had a similar one, which was taken away in the early part of this century, when a debased taste prevailed.

HOGARTH'S HOUSE, CHISWICK


The connection of Hogarth with Chiswick continued for several years, and when he died on October 25th, 1764, his body was buried in Chiswick churchyard, where the marble tomb erected in 1771 is a prominent object. [...] This old-fashioned red-brick house in Hogarth Lane was used as a summer residence by Hogarth from the year 1748. It is said that it was previously the residence of his father-in-law. Sir James Thornhill. The principal room on the first floor has a projecting bow window of three lights, which the late Mr, Tom Taylor believed was added by Hogarth. His painting-room, however, was over the stable at the end of the garden.

Hogarth had many pets, and tablets to the memory of his birds and dogs were let into the garden wall, but they have now disappeared. Of his habits at Chiswick Tom Taylor wrote in his little book on "Leicester Square" (1874): "Besides his favourite amusement of riding, he used to occupy himself in painting and superintending the engravers whom he often had down from London, and to his Chiswick cottage he now came after his bitter bout with Wilkes and Churchill, bringing some plates for retouching. He was cheerful but weak, and must have felt the end was not far off, when in February, 1764, he put the last touches to his 'Bathos.'"

On October 25th he travelled from Chiswick to Leicester-fields, and arrived there in a very weak condition. In the same night he died, after two hours' struggle. His widow continued to live in the Chiswick house till her death in 1789. The house with its large garden and high wall still remains, and is in the occupation of a gardener, but it is hemmed in by small houses, and is very different in appearance from what it must have been when Hogarth inhabited it. A later resident was the Rev. H. F. Cary, the translator of Dante.

Further reading:
Reliques of old London suburbs north of the Thames