The Tragic Case Of Beatrice Cenci


Beatrice Cenci was a victim of domestic abuse. When she retailed, she was arrested and executed. She was only 23 years old. The tragedy happened in Renaissance Rome. Born on 6 February 1577, Beatrice was the daughter of Count Francesco Cenci, a horrible and violent man with a terrible temper, which he often took out on his family. He often beat his wife and children (Beatrice had two brothers, one of whom died with her on the scaffold) and humiliated them. There were also rumours, although they were never proven in court, that he sexually abused Beatrice too.

Everyone in Rome knew what was going on, but, as it is too often the case still today, they never tried to help, preferring to turn their heads away and pretend that everything was ok. Not even the authorities, to whom Beatrice had gone asking for help, intervened. His wealth and power made Count Francesco untouchable. Soon after this, the Count moved his family to his country site, the castle of La Rocca. Rumour had it that the real reason for the move was an illegitimate pregnancy. It originated from Beatrice's will, in which she left 1000 scudi, a considerable sum of money at the time, to a small boy who was being raised by a woman called Catarina de Santis. We'll never know whether there's any truth in the gossip, but Beatrice did have a lover, Olimpio Calvetti.

In any case, the family had had enough of the tyrant count. Knowing that no one would ever help them, they felt they had no other option but to murder him. The family sought the help of two loyal servants, including Olimpio, who agreed to kill Francesco. On 8 Semptember 1598, Lucrezia Cenci, Beatrice's step-mother, had given her husband a sleeping draught so that Francesco wouldn't oppose any resistance. Unfortunately for them, the effect of the potion ran off before the deed was done. The count fought back forcefully, but in the end, he was pinned down and his head battered. Then, a metal spike was hammered into his skull. Once he was dead, his corpse was thrown out of the window to make it look like an accident. No one was fooled.

By then, the screams and the commotion had alerted the locals, who made their way to the castle to see what was going on. Once there, the saw the count's corpse, which had landed onto the castle's rubbish tip. The Cencis were therefore arrested and taken back to Rome. The trial lasted for a year, but the two servants who had done the deed were killed before that. Olimpio had at first managed to escape, but was captured and beheaded by a bounty hunter, while the other died under torture.

The members of the Cency family, despite their aristocratic status were also tortured. Beatrice was said to have remained completely silent, but her elder brother Giacomo wasn't so stoic and soon accused her of being the one who had devised the plot. The people of Rome, knowing all they had endured at the hands of Count Francesco, pleaded the court for mercy. But they only managed to obtain a postponement. Unfortunately for them, aristocrats were being murdered way too often in Rome at the time, so Pope Clement had no intention of being merciful.

Beatrice, Lucrezia, and Giacomo were therefore sentenced to death. The younger brother, Bernardino, who was spared death probably because of his young age (he was only 12), was however condemned to work on a galley slave for the rest of his life. But, a year later, he was, mercifully, released. The rest of the family wasn't so lucky. On 11 Septmeber 1599, at dawn, the family was beheaded just outside the Castle St Angelo in front of a big but silent crowd which included Bernardino. Beatrice was said to have faced death with calm and courage. Her remains remained on display in the Piazza St Angelo until night, and were then buried in the church of San Pietro in Montorio.

Further reading:
Beatrice's Spell Hardcover by Belinda Jack

Maria Theresia von Paradis


In 1795, Maria Theresia von Paradis, the blind Austrian performer for whom Mozart may have written his Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, visited England. The Westminster Magazine wrote an interesting article about her accomplishments:

Mademoiselle Theresa Paralis, the the celebrated blind performer on the pianoforte, who is equally distinguished by her talents and misfortunes, is the daughter of M. Paradis, Secretary to His Imperial Majesty in the Bohemian department, and god-daughter to the late Empress-Queen.

At the age of two years and eight months, she was suddenly deprived of sight by a paralytick stroke, or palsy in the optick nerves. At seven years old she began to listen with great attention to the music she heard in the church, which suggested to her parents the idea of having her taught to play on the pianoforte, and soon after to sing. In three or four years time she was able to accompany herself on the organ in the Stabat Mater of Pergolesi, of which she sung the first Soprano, or upper part, in the church of St. Augustin, at Vienna, in the presence of the late Empress Queen, who settled a pension on her for life.

After learning of several masters at Vienna, she pursued her musical studies under the care of Kozeluch, whose lessons and concertos she plays with the utmost neatness and expression. At the age of thirteen she was placed under the care of the celebrated empytick Dr. Mesiner, who undertook to cure every species of disease by Animal Magnetism. He called her disorder a perfect Gutta Serena, and pretended, after she had been placed in his house as a boarder for several months, that she was perfectly cured; yet refusing to let her parents take net away, or even visit her, after some time, till by the advice of the Birons Stoerk and Weczel, Dr. Ingenhous, Professor Barth, the celebrated anatomist, and the express order of her late Imperial Majesty, she was taken out of his hands by force; when it was found that she could see no more than when she was admitted as Mesiner's patient.

Last year, Mad. Paradis quitted Vienna, in order to travel, accompanied by her mother. After visiting the principal courts and cities of Germany, she arrived at Paris early last summer, and remained there five or six months. When she arrived in England, the beginning of this winier, she brought letters from persons of the first rank to her Majesty, the Prince of Wales, the Imperial Minister, Count Kageneck, Lord Stormont, and other powerful patrons, as well as to the principal musical professors in London. Mess. Cramer, Abel, Salomon, and other eminent German musicians, have interested themselves very much in her welfare ; not only as their countrywoman, bereaved of sight, but as an admirable performer.

She has been at Windsor, to present her letters to the Queen, and has had the honour of playing there to their Majesties, who were extremely satisfied with her performance, and treated her with that condescension and kindness which all who are so happy as to be admitted into the presence of our gracious Sovereigns, in moments of domestick privacy, experience, even when less entitled to it by merit and misfortunes than Mad. Paradis. Her Majesty was not only graciously pleased to promise to patronize and hear her frequently again, in the course of the winter, but to afford her all the protection in her power; as did his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, to whom she has since performed, at a grand concert at Carlton House, to the entire satisfaction and wonder of all who heard her.

Besides her musical talents, which are indisputable for neatness, precision, and expression, particularly in the great variety of admirable pieces she executes of her master, Kozeluch, Mad. Paradis has been extremely well educated, and is very ingenious and accomplished: Being able with printing types, to express her thoughts on paper, almost as quick as if she could write. She understands geography by means of maps prepared for her use, in which she can find and point out any province, or remarkable city in the world; and is likewise able, by means of tables formed in the manner of draught boards, to calculate, with ease and rapidity, any sums or numbers in the first five rules of arithmetick.

She is likewise said to distinguish many colours and coins by the touch; plays at cards, when prepared for her by private marks unknown by the company; and in her musical studies, her memory and quickness are wonderful, as she learns in general the most difficult pieces for keyed instruments, however full and complicated the parts, by hearing them only played on a violin: and since her arrival is this kingdom, she has been enabled, in this manner, to learn to perform some of Handel's most elaborate and difficult organ fugues and movements in his book of lessons, as well as his Coronation Anthem, and more popular compositions.


Despite the magazine's praise, Paradis' concerts weren't as well-received in London as they were in Paris, so soon, the performer continued her tour of Europe, travelling to Hamburg, Berlin, and Prague. During her tour, she also started composing solo music for piano, pieces for voice and keyboard, cantatas and even operas. They weren't all successful, though, and after the failure of Rinaldo und Alcina in 1797, she dedicated more and more time to teaching. In 1808, she founded her own music school in Vienna where she taught singing, piano and theory to young girls. She continued to work there until her death in 1824.

Book Reviews: Victorian Murderesses, The Marriage Game, & Creating Business Plans

Hello everyone,

I have read and reviewed three more books for you. Enjoy!

Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes by Mary S. Hartman
If you're interested in gruesome crime tales, where every detail of the murders is minutely and vividly described, this book is not for you. If you're expecting a light, scandalous, and sensationalist account of each crime, you'll be disappointed too. Instead, you'll get something much, much better. In Victorian Murderesses, Hartman uses the stories of 13 British and French ladies accused of murder to take a close look at the role women had in Victorian society, what influence that society had on their lives, how this led to them being accused, something erroneously, of murder, and the impact society's view on women had on the outcomes of their trials. The result is fascinating and will completely change your views on women's lives in the 19th century.
The crimes are only briefly described. Instead, the author focuses on the backgrounds of these women to examine what kind of lives they led, and why they felt they had no option but to commit murder or why they were so easily, albeit wrongly, cast in the role of murderesses. The book is divided in six parts, each of which discusses two cases (one involved two women) that have similarities in common. The cases are listed in chronological order, which allows the readers to see how much the situation of women, and the problems they faced, changed throughout the course of the 19th century. This is also useful to understand how different life for women in England, were they began to emancipate themselves much sooner, and France was.
The book is beautifully written, meticulously researched, and extensively noted. It's a long, scholarly, read, but a very engrossing one too. Yes, it has poison, guns, sex, intrigue, and plots, but these were only small parts of the women's lives, and, unless they were a huge part of their motives, they remain firmly in the background.
Victorian Murderesses is definitely one of the most compelling books that I have read this year. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the lives of Victorian women as well as crime.
Available: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

The Marriage Game by Alison Weir
No one ever played the marriage game better than Elizabeth I. Although the Virgin Queen never had any real intentions of getting married, she was great at manipulating all her suitors, be they powerful foreign princes or ambitious English noblemen (including her beloved Robert Dudley), promising them her hand in marriage and then drawing out the negotiations endlessly as a means to secure peace and advantages to England. This is the subject of this book, which starts where The Lady Elizabeth left off, with a young Elizabeth just ascended to the throne.
The first couple of chapters were really boring and slow, with endless discussions about why Elizabeth should get married and very little else. I was almost ready to stop reading, but I'm glad I didn't. Although her councillors, especially Cecil, attempt till the end of her childbearing years to force her to get married to someone (anyone, really), all the problems and events that occurred during her long reign, such as the many plots to put Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne, the invincible armada, and Elizabeth's visit at Dudley's residence Kenilworth Castle, help speed the plot along and add drama and intrigue to the story.
But the book is also a love story of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, describing the blossoming of the amorous relationship, and its deterioration as Robert's resentment at Elizabeth's constant promises and refusals to marry him grew. But throughout their ups and downs, the two never stopped loving each other.
I also loved Elizabeth's portrayal. She's capricious, jealous, and selfish, but she's also loyal to those she loves and to her subjects and is always striving to do her best for them. She's a clever and skilled diplomat, but also a woman with deep emotional wounds and fears that prevent her from going through with a marriage plan even when it seems the best choice for her and her country. In the end, the choice to remain a Virgin Queen may have been the right one, but it is clear that has cost her a lot.
Although slow at the beginning, the book is well-written. Weir makes Elizabeth, Robert, Cecil, and the Tudor court, with its intrigues and plots, ambitious upstarts and faithful councillors, come to life. A few times, Weir slipped back into her non-fictional style, telling rather than describing what happened during a certain year. But these slips are, luckily, few and short. Weir tends to be quite faithful to the historical record, although, like all novelists, she takes a few liberties. When she did so, she explained her reasons in an appendix at the end of the book.
The Marriage Game isn't for everyone. If you like fast-paced novels full of plots, secrecy and intrigue, this will likely disappoint you. Instead, this is a novel of Elizabeth's relationship with Dudley, her endless negotiations with her many suitors, and her deeply-rooted fears of marriage. If you always thought someone should have written a novel about that, you should definitely pick up this book.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Creating Business Plans by Harvard Business Review
If you're thinking of starting a business or just proposing a new initiative within your organization, then you need a business plans. Without a good, well-crafted one, it's unlikely that you'll get much, if any, support. But creating a good business plan is a difficult, even daunting task. Where to start? By picking up a copy of Creative Business Plans. Part of the 20 Minute Manager series, this is a short book that covers all the basics, such as how to present your idea clearly, how to develop a good business plan, how to project rewards as well as risks, and how to anticipate any concerns your audience may have. It briefly but throughout explains what you should put in each section and then shows you an example of a business plan for a made-up company that you can use to model your own business plan on. Each chapter is straight-to-the-point, so you don't need to navigate through a lot of jibber jabber to find the information you need. Highly recommended.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Are you going to pick up any of these?

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

Fancy A Game Of Cribbage?


The game of cribbed, still popular today, is said to have been invented by Sir John Suckling, a 17th century poet and skilled gamer. The New Hoyle explained the rules thus:

This game is played with the whole pack of cards, generally by two persons, and sometimes by four. There are also different modes of playing, that is, with 5, 0, or 8 cards. But the games principally played are those with five and six cards.

EXPLANATORY TABLE OF THE TERMS USED IN PLAYING

Crib, are the cards thrown away by each party, and whatever points they make are scored by the dealer.

Pairs, are two like cards, as two aces, or two kings, &c. and reckon for two points, whether in hand, or playing.

Pairs royal, are three like cards, and reckon for six points, whether in hand or playing.

Double pairs royal, are four like cards, and reckon for twelve points, whether in hand or playing.

fifteens. Each fifteen reckons for two points, whether in hand or playing. In hand they are formed either by two cards, such as a five and any tenth card, a six and a nine, a seven -and eight, or by three cards, as a two, a five, and an eight.

LAWS

In dealing, the dealer may discover every card he has, if he pleases. But if he shows his adversary’s cards, the adversary is entitled to mark two points to his game, and demand a fresh deal if he thinks proper.

Neither party may shuffle or meddle with the cards, from the time they are dealt until they are cut for the turn-up card, under penalty of the adversary scoring two points to his game.

Either party scoring more points than he is entitled to, either in playing his cards, or marking his hand or crib, the adversary may first put back the points so marked, and score the same number to his

Either party touching their pegs, unless when necessary to mark his points, the adversary may score two points to his game.

Either party taking out their front peg must place it behind the other.

Any by-stander interfering, or speaking in the game, shall pay the stakes lost.

Either party scoring a less number of points than are his due incurs no penalty.

Either player has a right to pack his own cards, and should he place them on the pack, and omit scoring for them, whether hand or crib, he must not mark for them afterwards.

FIVE'CARD CB1BBAGE

Sixty-one points constitute the game, and the best mode of marking them is with a board pierced with as many holes, and two pegs for each party.

On beginning the game the parties must cut for the deal; the person outting the lowest cribbage card is dealer, and the non dealer must score three points, which is called three for the last, and may be marked at any period of the game. The deal is made by dealing one card alternately until each party has five.

Each person then proceeds to lay out two cards for the crib. In doing this always be careful to recollect whose crib it is, as the cards which may advantage your own are almost invariably prejudicial to your game when to your adversary. This done, the nondealer is to cut the remaining cards of the pack, and the dealer turns up the uppermost. This card, whatever it may be, is reckoned by each party in hand or crib.

When the turned-up card is a knave, the dealer scores two points to bis game.

The non-dealer plays first, the adversary next each scoring what the cards may make, either by pans, pairs royal, &c. until thirty-one, or near it, by either party. The remaining cards are not to be played. The non-dealer then counts his hand, and scores the points it yields. The dealer then marks for his hand, and afterwards for his crib.

Movie Review: Gypsy (1962)


Many people consider Gypsy the best musical ever made. I'm not sure about that, but it is definitely one of the most tragic. Loosely based upon the life of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee and her aggressive stage mother, Mama Rose, the story shows how, under the glitz and glamour of showbiz, lies a seedy and corrupted world where becoming famous, by all means necessary, is the only thing that counts.


Gypsy Rose Lee, or Louise as she was initially called, never wanted to become famous. A quiet, anonymous life was all she craved as a child. But her mother would have none of it. Deprived as a child of her chance to become a star, she was determined that her daughters were gonna make it in vaudeville. She never seriously believed in Louise's talent, though, and the little girl ended up dancing in the background dressed as a boy while her younger sister June took the prominent place in the limelight.


Despite all her efforts, the domineering and resourceful Rose only managed to achieve modest success for a brief time. Yet, she remained unwilling to make changes to the act and accept that vaudeville was dying, thus sabotaging the dream she had for her daughters. Eventually June, who, unlike her sister, really wanted to make it as an actress, got tired of always playing Baby June, got married and left. Louise hoped that her mother would now finally give up her showbiz dream, marry Herbie, and live quietly ever after. But Rose isn't capable of that. Instead, she decided to turn Rose into a star. Eventually she becomes one. But not in vaudeville. In burlesque.


Rose isn't happy about that. It's true that she pushes her daughter on the stage for the first time, but she stresses that she should perform life a lady, just lowering her shoulder strap at the most. But Louise, who had always believed to be ugly and talentless, finds in burlesque something she's good at. And she discovers how pretty she really is. For someone as damaged as her, it's easy to mistake the applause and cheers from the leering men in the crowd for love and approval. And love her they might, but in the totally wrong way. Louise, for her part, tries to make her act lady-like, but in the end, that just becomes a gimmick that cannot hide the fact that she's making a living by taking her clothes off for crowds of men.


Natalie Wood is great in the part of Gypsy Rose Lee. She has a naive, vulnerable charm that captures the torments, insecurities, and abuse Louise suffered as a child and that led her to choose a career as a stripper. With a mother like Rose, she never had the chance to be anything else. And while it would be easy to see Rose only as a monster mom, she is a victim too. Abandoned at a young age by her mother, and never receiving the support she needed to make her dreams come true by her father, Rose devotes all her efforts to give her daughters the life she always wanted to live. But by so doing, she ends up alone. Rosalind Russell played her, with her exuberance, restlessness, and many contradictions, perfectly.


The musical numbers are plentiful, beautiful, and short. My favourite songs are "Some People", where Rose explains that she just can't live the boring, domesticated life her daughters so desperately need and "Rose's Turn", in which she pours her heart out when, in the end, she's finally left alone on the stage to reflect about her failures. It's a powerful number. Unfortunately, the songs are so famous that not everyone listens the lyrics or music anymore, which is really a shame.


Gypsy is a great all round musical, with glitz and glamour, tragic and drama, wonderful music and brilliant acting. Although it can at times feel like the movie's glamourizing strippers, its aim is to explain what led Gypsy Rose Lee to become one. The musical is a powerful reminder of the damage stage moms can inflict on their children, ruining their chances to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Sadly, it is a lesson too many parents haven't learned yet.

Lady Margaret Beaufort


"She was a gentlewoman, a scholar, and a saint, and after having been three times married, she took a vow of celibacy. What more could be expected of any woman?"

In The White Queen, the BBC show inspired by Philippa Gregory's novel, Margaret Beaufort was portrayed as a religious nutcase. But while very pious, the mother of Henry VII was also a smart, pragmatic and ambitious woman who had a powerful influence on English history. Born on 31 May 1443, Margaret was the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp and her second husband John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and the illegitimate son of John of Gaunt and his mistress Katherine Swynford (the couple was later married and the children legitimized).

Her father died soon after her birth, so the king, Henry IV granted her wardship to William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk and steward of the royal household. At the tender age of six, she was married to the Earl’s seven year old son, but the little girl didn't move in with her new husband straight away. Instead, she was allowed to remain with her mother on the Bletso estate. Some say that it wasn't a marriage at all, though. Only a betrothal. In any case, a few years later King Henry VI revoked the de Pole’s wardship, handing it over to his own half brothers Jasper and Edmund Tudor. Margaret's marriage was then annulled.

On 1 November 1455, aged only 12, Margaret married the 24 year old Edmond Tudor. The marriage was immediately consummated and, the following year, Margaret gave birth to her only son, Henry. The birth was very difficult, and both mother and son almost died. But it was Edmund who would never see his son, having died a few months before the birth. Margaret moved in with her family in Wales, but was soon separated from her child. The king had granted his wardship to William, Lord Herbert and the child lived with him until he was 12. These were difficult years, not just for Margaret, but for the country too. The War of the Roses raged on and, when Edward IV regained the throne, Henry fled to Brittany, where he remained for 14 years. During most of his young life, Margaret rarely saw her son and communicated with him mostly by letters.

Margaret married twice more. On 3 January 1458, she tied the knot with her second cousin, Sir Henry Stafford. The coupled live peacefully together, but never had any children. In 1471, her husband died. The following year, Margaret married again, this time to Thomas Stanley, the Lord High Constable and King of Mann. Their was a marriage of convenience. Thanks to Stanley, Margaret was able to return at court and was even chosen as godmother for one of Queen Elizabeth's daughters. After Edward IV's death, the throne was seized by his brother Richard. Margaret briefly served his Queen too.

Richard stripped Margaret of all her titles and estate, transferring her properties to her husband. Perhaps he was suspecting that she was plotting with the dowager queen, Elizabeth Woodville, to remove him from the throne. Because Elizabeth's sons, the Princes in the Tower, were thought dead, the dowager queen agreed to marry her eldest daughter, Elizabeth, to Margaret's son, Henry. The marriage would unite the two houses of York and Lancaster. Margaret was also very likely involved in the Buckingham rebellion, which failed, also thanks to her husband who supported the King.

However, Stanley wouldn't come to the king's aid at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Instead, even though his eldest son was held hostage by Richard, he waited to see how the battle would unfold and, when he was finally ready to fight, it was to support his stepson Henry Tudor. King Richard was killed and Henry became King. It was Stanley that placed the crown on his head after the battle. Margaret was now known as "My Lady the King's Mother". Her son also rewarded her by recognising her right to hold property independently from her husband and, towards the end of his reign, he also appointed to her to a special commission to administer justice in the north of England.

Margaret now lived away from her husband. In 1499, with Stanley's permission, she took a vow of chastity. A very pious woman, she was famous for her education. During her life, she founded and supported several schools and churches. Her son was very devoted to her and she had a great influence on her youngest grandson, the future Henry VIII, too. Margaret died in the Deanery of Westminster Abbey on 29 June 1509, the day after her grandson's 18th birthday and just over two months after the death of her son. She is buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel of the Abbey.

Further reading:
Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty by Elizabeth Norton

Master Crewe As Henry VIII


Estelle M. Hurll thus describes this portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds:

Henry VIII. had been dead some two hundred years before the Master Crewe of our picture was born, but English kings are not allowed to be forgotten. Successive generations of children were shown Holbein's portraits of the bluff old ruler, and were taught something about his reign.

It happened one time that the children of Master Crewe's acquaintance had a fancy dress party. The Crewes were people of fashion who entered constantly into social affairs. Naturally there was much discussion over their son's part and costume. It was a happy thought which fixed upon the character of Henry VIII., for the boy's round face, square shoulders, and sturdy frame were well fitted for the rôle.

Evidently no pains were spared to make the costume historically correct. Holbein's portrait was the costumer's model, and every detail was faithfully followed. The boy is dressed in the fashion of the sixteenth century in "doublet and hose." This consists first of a richly embroidered waistcoat, the most effective part of the dress. The sleeves are made of the same material and are gathered at the wrists in a ruffle. The lower part of the doublet is a skirt falling just above the knees.

Over all is flung a handsome mantle; but this is drawn apart in front to display the smart waistcoat to full advantage. A broad-brimmed hat set jauntily on one side, and trimmed with a long feather, completes the costume. By way of ornament is worn a big jewelled collar and a long chain with locket. A short sword swings from the girdle, and on the left leg is the garter, which is the badge of membership in the ancient Order of the Garter, of which Henry VIII. was the tenth sovereign member. This is of dark blue ribbon edged with gold, and bearing in gold letters the motto "Honi soit qui mal y pense".

It is one thing to have a perfect costume, and another to understand the rôle. Master Crewe not only looks his part, but he acts it as well. He has not failed to take in all the points of the portrait, and imitates the pompous attitude to perfection. He stands with feet wide apart, grasping his gloves in the right hand and supporting the other on the sash.

He is a bright boy, who enters into the spirit of the game, and it tickles him hugely to play the part of a despot. But while he is Henry VIII. in miniature, he is Henry VIII. without the king's coarseness, and in the place is a child's innocent pleasure. It was no wonder that his parents, delighted with the success of the costume, wished to have a portrait made.

The boy is painted as he appeared when posing for his admiring friends. In his effort to assume a lordly air his boyish glee gets the better of him, and he belies the character by a broad grin. Perhaps he has caught the twinkle in his father's eye, or his mother's suppressed smile, and he can keep serious no longer. "Bravo!" cries the audience, and he smiles in innocent delight at his success.

His pet dogs are in the room, and one of them is rather suspicious of this strange young prince. He sniffs cautiously at his legs, for though his eyes deceive him, his sense of smell cannot be mistaken. Through a window in the rear we get a glimpse of the park beyond, which adds much to the beauty of the picture.

Further reading:
Sir Joshua Reynolds A Collection of Fifteen Pictures and a Portrait of the Painter with Introduction and Interpretation by Estelle M. Hurll

Book Review: The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives Of The Daughters Of Nicholas And Alexandra By Helen Rappaport


When I first requested a copy of The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives Of The Daughters of Nicholas And Alexandra by Helena Rappaport, I thought it would be one of those difficult reads that would take me ages to finish. Why? Because the fate of this wonderful family was so tragic, I thought I could only bear reading it in small doses. But I devoured it. Rappaport's style is engaging and compelling. Once you start reading the book, you just cannot put it down.

Thanks to a treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, some of which had never been published before, Rappaport manages to bring the four Grand Duchesses back to life. During the decades, the sisters have been turned into a faceless and undistinguished mass. The fact that they themselves used the term OTMA to refer to themselves, often wore similar white dresses, and were paired in groups of two by their own mother, only reinforced this erroneous impression. In reality, each Grand Duchess had a very different personality and individuality. Olga was the bookworm, with an intellectual bent. Tatiana took a lot after her mother, was very practical and was famous for her nursing skills. Maria was a placid and sweet creature, while Anastasia had an irrepressible but good nature.

All of them though, even once grown-up, retained a certain innocence about the world, which was due to the seclusion in which they had always lived. Although they were the most popular princesses in Europe, the details of their daily lives were hidden from a public who wanted to know more about them. Alexandra, who was very often ill and had an aversion for society, and Nicholas, wanted to give their daughters as normal an upbringing as possible, without however, letting them forget their positions and the duties that came with them. As a result, the four sisters (and their brother), grew up with barely any friends and eager for any information about the world outside their palace. They grew up into sweet and caring women devoted to their family, their country, and God, but to the Russian people they, like their parents and brother, were strangers.

Rappaport doesn't just manage to present the Grand Duchesses as individual women, allowing you to finally be able to tell them apart, but she also reveals details about their daily lives no one else had ever mentioned before. There is new information about the Grand Duchesses, their brother, and their parents on most pages! Quite a feat, if you consider how many volumes have been written about this unfortunate family! Placed in the proper context, this information helps us gain a deeper understanding of who the Romanov were, why they acted the way the did, and what their relationship in the family dynamic was. I had never realised, for instance, the terrible toll her frequent pregnancies, which resulted mostly in the births of girls, and the illness of her only son had on Alexandra's health, and how much that impacted the family, increasing their seclusion and their distance from the Russian people.

As I reached the end, I couldn't help but hope the story had ended differently. The last days and deaths of the Romanovs are covered in just a few sentences though. That's because Rappaport has already written a wonderful book, Ekaterinburg, on the subject. While I do understand her choice, I wish she had given us a few more details, just to make the story more complete. As it is, the end is quite rushed. All the same, though, this is a must read for any fans of the Romanov family. It will greatly enrich your understanding of all its members.

Summary:
Meticulous researched and compellingly written, The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives Of The Daughters Of Nicholas And Alexandra By Helen Rappaport, brings the four Grand Duchesses, each with its own distinct personality and individuality, back to life. The book, which draws heavily from diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, features lots of never-published-before information on their daily lives that will greatly enrich your understanding of this wonderful but tragic family. The end, though, is a bit rushed.

Available at: amazon

Rating: 5/5

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

Some Stunning Lucile Dresses












15 Minutes With Melanie @ Madame Guillotine


Madame Guillotine is one of the first history blogs I stumbled upon, and I was instantly hooked. So, I was thrilled when its author Melanie Clegg agreed to be featured in this month's instalment of the "15 Minutes With" series. Melanie is a history geek and art history graduate who writes novels of "posh doom", is obsessed with Versailles, loves Paris and gin, and is a committed vegetarian. On her blog, she writes about all things history and art, but sometimes she'll also share bits and bobs from her personal life.

Want to find out more about Melanie? Read on:

1. If you could live in any era, what would it be and why?
This is a tough one as I love so many different eras and for such different reasons and of course they all have their drawbacks as well as their benefits, which are mostly, let's face it, almost entirely sartorial. However, I would have to go for the French Revolution really as there is no other period that I consider to be quite so blood pumpingly exciting, vibrant and interesting. Plus if I go back there then there's a small chance that I might be able to hook up with Louis Antoine de Saint Just, who has been my Number One historical crush since my early teens. Le sigh. Plus I think the whole red ribbon around neck, dampened white muslin dress, shaved back of neck and pallid goth face powder Merveilleuse thing was a STRONG LOOK and one that I reckon I could rock with enormous aplomb.

2. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
Okay, assuming that I've successfully gone back to 1794 and rescued Louis Antoine de Saint Just from the guillotine, then he's going to be my co-host for this dinner party. I know that I should go for a decent mix of guests but I think I'm going to invite Alan Turing, Lord Rochester and Oscar Wilde, although the latter is probably SNOWED UNDER with hypothetical dinner party invitations to the extent that they're literally falling off his mantlepiece in Tite Street Heaven so maybe I'll invite Athénaïs de Montespan along too for a bit of much needed glamour and gossip as I have a horrible feeling that otherwise I'll be trapped in between Maths talk from Alan Turing and Lord Rochester's scary seduction technique.

Actually, this dinner party sounds AWFUL doesn't it? Good grief. Okay, let's have Coco Chanel, Empress Joséphine and Athénaïs instead and we shall FEAST on macarons and champagne while ignoring Louis Antoine de Saint-Just's miserable laconic mutterings about our inappropriate aristocratic decadence. God, what a KILL JOY he would be - maybe I should just leave him to his fate so he can't ruin my parties?

3. Three books everyone should read?
Another hard one as how does one narrow it down? However, Catch 22, Anne Frank's Diary and A Prayer for Owen Meany generally head up any such lists in my view, with honourable mentions also going to Wolf Hall and From Hell as I'm ALWAYS nagging people to read them.

4. Who's your style icon?
Courtney Love without a doubt. She is just amazing and has been a massive inspiration to me since my miserable teens when I used to wander the streets of Colchester dressed in a flammable nightie with a decapitated doll safety pinned to my waist, some broken up Docs on my feet and my hair in over bleached tatters about my pallid face. I thought I looked AMAZING. Amazingly AWFUL.

5. What are you watching on TV?
I don't actually watch much television to be honest, other than a handful of VERY selective things, namely: Marple, Ripper Street, Game of Thrones, Endeavour, Foyle's War, Penny Dreadful and erm, that's it. I find the vast majority of television really boring, alas but I'll make an exception for those few shows.

6. What's the soundtrack of your life?
The terrible screams of my dying enemies.

Or 'Regret' by New Order, which is my favourite song. The line 'You used to be a stranger, now you are mine' gets me every time.

However, I got my first tattoo the other day and it was a totally different lyric: 'dazzled, doused in gin' from Taste in Men by Placebo so maybe that's the soundtrack to my life? Who knows?

7. What's your favourite holiday destination, and why?
Until quite recently, I was absolutely petrified of flying and so hadn't actually been to many places as not being able to fly rules quite a lot of the world out! I've been to Paris a lot though and had to go to Rome as part of my degree course so I suppose it would have to be one of them as I love them so much.

However, now that I'm less freaked out by the prospect of flying (I had a word with myself recently about the impact this fear was having on my life), I am keen to see more of the world and have Berlin, Florence, Tokyo, New York and Saint Petersburg at the top of my list of places that I want to see.

8. What inspires you?
I am mostly motivated by money and revenge. Seriously, this may be taking the old adage about 'the best revenge is to live well' to a whole new level but it's the thought of various people being made completely miserable by how well I am doing that spurs me on to do even more and better.

That and being able to buy nice things.

Oh that makes me sound awful, doesn't it? Okay, how about: the thing that MOTIVATES me to carry on is the thought of doing better than PEOPLE WHO WILL REMAIN NAMELESS (until I publish my memoirs and THEN THEY'LL BE SORRY). Okay, that's not much better is it? Ah well.

On a more inspirational (and nicer!) level, I find the women that I write about really inspiring - so many of them were REALLY up against it and had the odds massively stacked against them and others had to show genuine courage in the face of oppression, tyranny and fascist regimes. I feel honoured to share their stories.

9. One thing on your bucket list?
I recently wrote a sort of bucket list as I'm approaching what is delicately referred to as a Significant Birthday and am less than pleased about this fact, even though my Medieval forbears would no doubt have been pleased as punch to get to such a great age. There's loads of things on there but the ones that I am most keen to accomplish are getting arrested (to the surprise of anyone who has been out drinking with me, I have yet to feel the cold, clammy hand of the law on my shoulder), see The Cure live (I'm particularly into this one right now as I seem to be listening to nothing but their album Pornography on repeat while I work on my current book) and meet Aidan Turner. I ALMOST met him once when they were filming Being Human in Bristol as he nearly knocked my husband over with his bike. My husband isn't very nice so he didn't tell me about this until Aidan Turner was long gone and tiny speck in the distance: 'Oh, you know the guy who almost ran me over just then? It was that actor you really like...' Argh. However, the new version of Poldark is apparently based a few minutes drive away from my house so I suppose I could just hang about their gates looking pathetic until they let me in..?

10. Something about you that would surprise us?
I put a few facts about me to a panel on Facebook and the one that elicited the most surprise (and mirth) was the one about how I once bit David Bellamy when I was a small girl because he ENRAGED ME by picking me up to give me a cuddle. As the benign stars of our childhood are toppled one by one here in the UK, I live in FEAR that this rather hilariously awkward childhood memory will take on a more sinister aspect. I HIGHLY doubt it though as David Bellamy is awesome.

Thanks a lot, Melanie!

Go and check out Melanie's blog, Madame Guillotine, now! You can also keep up with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and buy her books on Amazon.

Prince Alfred, Duke Of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha


Born on 6th August 1844 at Windsor Castle, Prince Alfred was the fourth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In only four years! Poor Victoria! Still, the parents and the country rejoiced at having a "spare" heir should anything happen to Bertie, Prince of Wales. The two royal brothers grew very close. But while Bertie, growing up, wasn't really allowed to do anything (Victoria didn't trust him with affairs of government and any other job, including in the military, was precluded to the heir to the throne), Affie, as he was known in the family, was enrolled as a midshipman in the Royal Navy at the tender age of 13.


Queen Victoria was sad at losing her son, but her husband supported Alfred's wish and so she gave in. So, Affie embarked first on the HMS Euryalus, which took him to the cape of Good Hope and Australia (he was the first English prince to visit them), and then on HMS Racoon, and finally on the HMS Galatea, which he commanded. He remained in the navy for the next twenty years, attaining "only" the rank of admiral, much to his mother's disappointmentl The Queen thought he should have risen higher.


In 1866, Prince Alfred was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted by Parliament an annuity of £15,000. On 8 June, he took his seat in the House of Lords. In the meantime, his career in the navy continued and, in 1868, he once again went to Sydney. On his first visit, the Prince had been welcomed with open arms. But on the second, he was almost assassinated! The Prince was at a picnic at the beachfront suburb of Clontarf to raise funds for the Sydney Sailors' Home when he was shot in the back by Henry James O'Farrell. The Prince recovered in a couple of weeks and went back home, while O'Farrel was hanged.


On 23 January 1874, Alfred married the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of the Tsar Alexander II, at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the marriage wasn't happy. Marie was considered haughty, and her generous dowry her only attraction. Alfred wasn't perfect either. He drank a lot, loved money, had a bad temper, and was considered by many to be quite boring. Still, the couple did their duty and had six children: Alfred, Marie (the future Queen of Romania), Victoria Melita, Alexandra, and Beatrice. One of their children was, unfortunately, stillborn.


It was rumoured, during his days in the Navy, that Affie had been offered the throne of Australia and refused it. In 1862, after the abdication of King Otto of Greece, he was chosen to succeed him, but his mother and the British government were against it and nothing came of it. Instead, the Queen and Prince Albert, wanted him to succeed to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1893, he finally inherited it from his paternal uncle, but he didn't rule it for long. After only seven years, on 30 July 1900, he died of throat cancer.

Further reading:
Dearest Affie by John Van der Kiste and Bee Jordaan

Haydn's Contract


Haydn served the Esterhazys uninterruptedly for the long period of thirty years. Here's the agreement he signed with the prince Paul Anton:

FORM OF AGREEMENT AND INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE VICE-CAPELLMEISTER

"This day (according to the date hereto appended) Joseph Heyden [sic] native of Rohrau, in Austria, is accepted and appointed Vice-Capellmeister in the service of his Serene Highness, Paul Anton, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, of Esterhazy and Galantha, etc., etc., with the conditions here following:

"1st. Seeing that the Capellmeister at Eisenstadt, by name Gregorius Werner, having devoted many years of true and faithful service to the princely house, is now, on account of his great age and infirmities, unfit to perform the duties incumbent on him, therefore the said Gregorious Werner, in consideration of his long services, shall retain the post of Capellmeister, and the said Joseph Heyden as Vice-Capellmeister shall, as far as regards the music of the choir, be subordinate to the Capellmeister and receive his instructions. But in everything else relating to musical performances, and in all that concerns the orchestra, the Vice-Capellmeister shall have the sole direction.

"2nd. The said Joseph Heyden shall be considered and treated as a member of the household. Therefore his Serene Highness is graciously pleased to place confidence in his conducting himself as becomes an honourable official of a princely house. He must be temperate, not showing himself overbearing towards his musicians, but mild and lenient, straightforward and composed. It is especially to be observed that when the orchestra shall be summoned to perform before company, the Vice-Capellmeister and all the musicians shall appear in uniform, and the said Joseph Heyden shall take care that he and all members of his orchestra do follow the instructions given, and appear in white stockings, white linen, powdered, and either with a pig-tail or a tie-wig.

"3rd. Seeing that the other musicians are referred for directions to the said Vice-Capellmeister, therefore he should take the more care to conduct himself in an exemplary manner, abstaining from undue familiarity, and from vulgarity in eating, drinking and conversation, not dispensing with the respect due to him, but acting uprightly and influencing his subordinates to preserve such harmony as is becoming in them, remembering how displeasing the consequences of any discord or dispute would be to his Serene Highness.

"4th. The said Vice-Capellmeister shall be under an obligation to compose such music as his Serene Highness may command, and neither to communicate such compositions to any other person, nor to allow them to be copied, but to retain them for the absolute use of his Highness, and not to compose anything for any other person without the knowledge and permission of his Highness.

"5th. The said Joseph Heyden shall appear in the ante-chamber daily, before and after mid-day, and inquire whether his Highness is pleased to order a performance of the orchestra. After receipt of his orders be shall communicate them to the other musicians and shall take care to be punctual at the appointed time, and to ensure punctuality in his subordinates, making a note of those who arrive late or absent themselves altogether.

"6th. Should any quarrel or cause of complaint arise, the Vice-Capellmeister shall endeavour to arrange it, in order that his Serene Highness may not be incommoded with trifling disputes; but should any more serious difficulty occur, which the said Joseph Heyden is unable to set right, his Serene Highness must then be respectfully called upon to decide the matter.

"7th. The said Vice-Capellmeister shall take careful charge of all music and musical instruments, and shall be responsible for any injury that may occur to them from carelessness or neglect.

"8th. The said Joseph Heyden shall be obliged to instruct the female vocalists, in order that they may not forget in the country what they had been taught with much trouble and expense in Vienna, and, as the said Vice-Capellmeister is proficient on various instruments, he shall take care to practice himself on all that he is acquainted with.

"9th. A copy of this agreement and instructions shall be given to the said Vice-Capellmeister and to his subordinates, in order that he may be able to hold them to their obligations therein laid down.

"10th. It is considered unnecessary to detail the services required of the said Joseph Heyden more particularly, since his Serene Highness is pleased to hope that he will of his own free will strictly observe not only these regulations, but all others that may from time to time be made by his Highness, and that he will place the orchestra on such a footing, and in such good order, that he may bring honour upon himself, and deserve the further favour of the Prince, his master, who thus confides in his zeal and discretion.

"11th. A salary of four hundred florins to be received quarterly is hereby bestowed upon the said Vice-Capellmeister by his Serene Highness.

"12th. In addition, the said Joseph Heyden shall have board at the officers' table, or half a gulden a day in lieu thereof.

"13th. Finally, this agreement shall hold good for at least three years from May 1st, 1761, with the further condition that if at the conclusion of this term the said Joseph Heyden shall desire to leave the service, he shall notify his intention to his Highness half-a-year beforehand.

"14th. His Serene Highness undertakes to keep Joseph Heyden in his service during this time, and should he be satisfied with him, he may look forward to being appointed Capellmeister. This, however, must not be understood to deprive his Serene Highness of the freedom to dismiss the said Joseph Heyden at the expiration of the term, should he see fit to do so.

"Duplicate copies of this document shall be executed and exchanged.

"Given at Vienna this 1st day of May 1761,

"Ad mandatum Celsissimi Principis.

"JOHANN STIFFTELL, Secretary."

Further reading:
Haydn by J. Cuthbert Hadden

Book Reviews: Her Next Chapter, Understanding Troubled Minds, & The Person Called You

Hello ladies and gentlemen,

ready for today's reviews? Here we go:

Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More by Lori Day
I've always loved reading. It's a passion that I have inherited from my mother. But, as far as I can remember, we've never read anything together. I don't even recall her reading to me, although that probably happened when I was very little. I hadn't realised what a missed opportunity that was until I read Her Next Chapter by educational psychologist and consultant Lori Day. In Her Next Chapter, Day explains the myriad of benefits of mother-daughter book clubs. They foster a closer-connection between a mother and her daughter and provide a safe and non-judgemental environment to discuss difficult topics with your little girl.
The book is divided into two parts. The first explains what a mother-daughter book club is, and provides useful tips to set up your own, as well as advice on how to deal with any issues that may come up when it is up and running, such as what to do when a couple quits or how to deal with any bullying incidents that may happen. The second part, instead, focuses on complex and difficult topics, such as gender stereotypes, sexualization of little girls, LGBTQ issues, violence against women and abusive relationships, that you may wish to address with your daughter but don't know how. After discussing each issue, Day provides a list of books, movies and other types of media you can read/watch with your daughter as well as a series of questions to start the discussion in a way that's appropriate for her age. This is also a great solution for those mothers who want their daughters to be aware of certain issues but are too embarrassed or uneasy to breach the topic themselves. In a book clubs, there are gonna be parents that are more at ease about discussing those issues than you are, so your daughter will receive all the information she needs by someone you trust, under your supervision, and in a safe way.
This book isn't just for mothers, though. It's for stepmothers, grandmothers, teachers, and any other adult who is entrusted with the care of a little girl. The tone is engaging and entertaining. You'll feel like you're talking to a friend who went through the same problems and can now give you advice on how to solve them. Overall, this is a must read for anyone interested in promoting media literacy in little girls and help them navigate the many issues they will face in their lives. I cannot recommend it enough!
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Understanding Troubled Minds by Sidney Bloch
Mental illnesses are very common. They are also widely misunderstood. In most people's minds, a person affected by a mental illness is a dangerous lunatic who must be locked away so that he/she won't physically hurt himself/herself or anyone around them. What few realise is that mental illnesses, just like physical ones, can take many forms. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, dependency on alcohol and drugs, sexual dysfunctions, and psychoses, to name a few, are all mental illnesses that rob their victims of a full and vibrant life.
Unfortunately, the stigma associated with these illnesses, and a still prevalent belief that many of them such as depression or drug abuse are caused by a weak character, prevent people from seeking help. The truth is that like any other organ of the body, the brain can get sick. The brain is the organ that makes decisions, so, when it gets sick, the person affected is unable to reason clearly and often acts and thinks in a way that's harmful (although rarely violent) to them and those around them, especially their families. Relatives and friends, unable to understand what's going on in their minds, often get frustrated when a loved one acts in an "irresponsible" way and refuses all offers of help. Few of us know what to do in those circumstances.
That's why Understanding Troubled Minds should be in anyone's bookshelf. Written by psychiatric Sidney Bloch, this guide explains all you need to know about mental illnesses. After a brief history of mental illnesses, the author discusses all the different types of mental illnesses, from mood to eating disorders, from psychosomatic illnesses to disturbances of personality, and more. There are also sections of the mental illnesses that most commonly affect women, children, adolescents and the elderly. The final chapters are dedicated to the explanation of both drugs and psychotherapies used to treat the mentally ill, strategies to promote mental health, and the ethical problems faced by psychiatrists.
Bloch writes in a matter-of-fact way, without passing judgements. His style is concise and straight-to-the-point, informative, and clear even for laymen. He doesn't fill the book with technical and medical language only a few can understand. Each chapters also features the stories of patients affected by the discussed diseases, allowing the reader to better relate to the patients and understand why they're acting the way they do. At times, I found the writing a bit dry in places. After all, this is a concise medical encyclopedia about mental illnesses, so I supposed that was to be expected. But overall, the book flows easily. Bloch did an incredible job at presenting such a controversial, misunderstood and complex topic in such a human and easy-to-understand way. I highly recommend it to both professional and laymen.
Available at: Random House
Rating: 4.5/5

The Person Called You: Why You're Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life by Bill Hendricks
Too many people have no idea about to do with their lives. They are lost, not sure in which direction to go. Or trapped in a job that, even when well-paid, doesn't fulfil them. They know there's something better out there for them, something that will give their lives purpose, but they don't know what it is and how to achieve it.
Enter Bill Hendricks. A giftedness expert, hendricks believes that we are all born with certain individual gifts. It's only when we honour them that we can live a fulfilled life. Although these gifts start emerging from the moment we're born, figuring out what they are can sometimes be difficult. Even when we do, we are often conditioned to think that they're useless and that you could never make a living with them. How could you earn money, for instance, by listening to people discussing their problems and commenting about them? And yet, Oprah Winfrey made millions doing just that! Of course, like Hendricks points out, not everyone will make millions or become famous by honouring their gifts, but their quality of life will definitely improve. A person who is gifted at drawing may never become the next Picasso or Michelangelo, but they could become a cartoonist, a graphic designer, an animator, an architect, or a tattoo artist. There are so many options and yet, because we are aware of only a few of them, we tend to think it's impossible to pursue our real passions and, instead, opt for a safe job behind a desk that, in the best case scenario, makes us unhappy, and in the worst, leaves us unemployed when those safe jobs are made redundant.
In The Person Called You, Hendricks offers us a step-by-step process to understand what we are, what our gifts are, and how can we use them to find a job that suits us, improve our relationships with others, and live a better quality life. The book is full of both historical and fictional examples that shows us the impact honouring or neglecting our gifts has on our lives. It's a very inspiring read. But Hendricks' approach is also practical. He doesn't hide the fact that finding a job that suits our gifts, for instance, is not easy, and that no job will ever be a completely perfect fit. But he also puts these challenges in perspective, offering practical tips to make choices that will lead, one step at a time, to a more fulfilled life.
Hendricks is very passionate about his mission, and it clearly shows in every line. The Person Called You is a very easy and pleasurable read. But of course, you do have to implement his tips if you want to see some real changes in your life. Overall, this book should be a mandatory read for any student trying to figure out what career to pursue, as well as anyone who is at a crossroad in their lives, or is thinking about quitting a job that's making them miserable.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

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

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

Duties Of A Valet


Attendant! on the Person. "No man is a hero to his valet," saith the proverb; and the corollary may run, "No lady is a heroine to her maid." The infirmities of humanity are, perhaps, too numerous and too equally distributed to stand the severe microscopic tests which attendants on the person have opportunities of applying. The valet and waiting-maid are placed near the persons of the master and mistress, receiving orders only from them, dressing them, accompanying them in all their journeys, the confidants and agents of their most unguarded moments, of their most secret habits, and of course subject to their commands,—even to their caprices; they themselves being subject to erring judgment, aggravated by an imperfect education. All that can be expected from such servants is polite manners, modest demeanour, and a respectful reserve, which are indispensable. To these, good sense, good temper, some self-denial, and consideration for the feelings of others, whether above or below them in the social scale, will be useful qualifications. Their duty leads them to wait on those who are, from sheer wealth, station, and education, more polished, and consequently more susceptible of annoyance; and any vulgar familiarity of manner is opposed to all their notions of self-respect. Quiet unobtrusive manners, therefore, and a delicate reserve in speaking of their employers, either in praise or blame, is as essential in their absence, as good manners and respectful conduct in their presence.

His day commences by seeing that his master's dressing-room is in order; that the housemaid has swept and dusted it properly; that the fire is lighted and burns cheerfully; and some time before his master is expected, he will do well to throw up the sash to admit fresh air, closing it, however, in time to recover the temperature which he knows his master prefers. It is now his duty to place the body-linen on the horse before the fire, to be aired properly; to lay the trousers intended to be worn, carefully brushed and cleaned, on the back of his master's chair; while the coat and waistcoat, carefully brushed and folded, and the collar cleaned, are laid in their place ready to put on when required. All the articles of the toilet should be in their places, the razors properly set and stropped, and hot water ready for use.

Gentlemen generally prefer performing the operation of shaving themselves, but a valet should be prepared to do it if required; and he should, besides, be a good hairdresser. Shaving over, he has to brush the hair, beard, and moustache, where that appendage is encouraged, arranging the whole simply and gracefully, according to the ago and style of countenance. Every fortnight, or three weeks at the utmost, the hair should be cut, and the points of the whiskers trimmed as often as required. A good valet will now present the various articles of the toilet as they are wanted; afterwards, tho body-linen, neck-tie, which he will put on, if required, and, afterwards, waistcoat, coat, and boots, in suitable order, and carefully brushed and polished.

Having thus seen his master dressed, if he is about to go out, the valet will hand him his cane, gloves, and hat, tho latter well brushed on the outside with a soft brush, and wiped inside with a clean handkerchief, respectfully attend him to the door, and open it for him, and receive his last orders for the day.

He now proceeds to put everything in order in the dressing-room, cleans the combs and brushes, and brushes and folds up any clothes that may be left about the room, and puts them away in the drawers.

Gentlemen are sometimes indifferent as to their clothes and appearance; it is the valet's duty, in this case, where his master permits it, to select from the wardrobe such things as are suitable for the occasion, so that he may appear with scrupulous neatness and cleanliness; that his linen and neck-tie, where that is white or coloured, are unsoiled; and where he is not accustomed to change them every day, that the cravat is turned, and even ironed, to remove tho crease of the previous fold. The coat collar,—which where tho hair is oily and worn long, is apt to get greasy—should also be examined; a careful valet will correct this by removing the spots day by day as they appear, first by moistening tho grease-spots with a little rectified spirits of wine or spirits of hartshorn, which has a renovating effect, and the smell of which soon disappears. The grease is dissolved and removed by gentle scraping. The grease removed, add a little more of the spirit, and rub with a piece of clean cloth; finish by adding a few drops more; rub it with the palm of the hand, in the direction of the grain of the cloth, and it will be clean and glossy as the rest of the garment.

Polish for the boots is an important matter to the valet, and not always to be obtained good by purchase; never so good, perhaps, as he can make for himself after the following recipes:—-Take of ivory-black and treacle each 4 oz., sulphuric acid 1 oz., best Olive-oil 2 spoonfuls, best white-wine vinegar 3 half-pints: mix the ivory-black and treacle well in an earthen jar; then add the sulpharic acid,continuing to stir the mixture; next pour in the oil; and, lastly, add the vinegar, stirring it in by degrees, until thoroughly incorporated.

It is, perhaps, unnecessary to add, that having discharged all the commissions intrusted to him by his master, such as conveying notes or messages to friends, or the tradesmen, all of which he should punctually and promptly attend to, it is his duty to be in waiting when his master returns home to dress for dinner, or for any other occasion, and to have all things prepared for this second dressing. Previous to this, he brings under his notice the cards of visitors who may have called, delivers the messages he may have received for him, and otherwise acquits himself of the morning's commissions, and receives his orders for the remainder of the day. The routine of his evening duty is to have the dressing-room and study, where there is a separate one, arranged comfortably for his master, the fires lighted, candles prepared, dressing-gown and slippers in their place, and aired, and everything in order that is required for bis master's comforts.

Further reading:
The Book Of Household Management by Isabella Mary Beeton

Writing Anna Karenina


Ilya Tolstoy remembers the creation of Anna Karenina:

I Remember my father writing his alphabet and reading-book in 1871 and 1872, but I cannot at all remember his beginning "Anna Karenina." I probably knew nothing about it at the time. What did it matter to a boy of seven what his father was writing? It was only later, when one kept hearing the name again and again, and bundles of proofs kept arriving, and were sent off almost every day, that I understood that "Anna Karenina" was the name of the novel on which my father and mother were both at work.

My mother's work seemed much harder than my father's, because we actually saw her at it, and she worked much longer hours than he did. She used to sit in the sitting-room off the zala, at her little writing-table, and spend all her free time writing. Leaning over the manuscript and trying to decipher my father's scrawl with her short-sighted eyes, she used to spend whole evenings over it, and often sat up late at night after everybody else had gone to bed. Sometimes, when anything was written quite illegibly, she would go to my father's study and ask him what it meant. But this was very rare, because my mother did not like to disturb him.

When it happened, my father used to take the manuscript in his hand, and ask with some annoyance, "What on earth is the difficulty?" and would begin to read it out aloud. When he came to the difficult place he would mumble and hesitate, and sometimes had the greatest difficulty in making out, or, rather, in guessing, what he had written. He had a very bad handwriting, and a terrible habit of writing in whole sentences between the lines, or in the corners of the page, or sometimes right across it. My mother often discovered gross grammatical errors, and pointed them out to my father, and corrected them.

When "Anna Karenina" began to come out in the "Russky Vyestnik," 10 long galley-proofs were posted to my father, and he looked them through and corrected them. At first the margins would be marked with the ordinary typographical signs, letters omitted, marks of punctuation, etc.; then individual words would be changed, and then whole sentences, till in the end the proof-sheet would be reduced to a mass of patches quite black in places, and it was quite impossible to send it back as it stood, because no one but my mother could make head or tail of the tangle of conventional signs, transpositions, and erasures.

My mother would sit up all night copying the whole thing out afresh. In the morning there would lie the pages on her table, neatly piled together, covered all over with her fine, clear handwriting, and everything ready so that when "Lyovotchka" got up he could send the proof-sheets off by post. My father carried them off to his study to have "just one last look," and by the evening it would be just as bad again, the whole thing having been rewritten and messed up.

"Sonya my dear, I am very sorry, but I've spoiled all your work again; I promise I won't do it any more," he would say, showing her the passages he had inked over with a guilty air. "We'll send them off to-morrow without fail." But this to-morrow was often put off day by day for weeks or months together. "There's just one bit I want to look through again," my father would say; but he would get carried away and recast the whole thing afresh. There were even occasions when, after posting the proofs, he would remember some particular words next day, and correct them by telegraph. Several times, in consequence of these rewritings, the printing of the novel in the "Russky Vyestnik" was interrupted, and sometimes it did not come out for months together.

In the last part of "Anna Karenina" my father, in describing the end of VRONSKY'S career, showed his disapproval of the volunteer movement and the Panslavonic committees, and this led to a quarrel with Katkof. I can remember how angry my father was when Katkof refused to print those chapters as they stood, and asked him either to leave out part of them or to soften them down, and finally returned the manuscript, and printed a short note in his paper to say that after the death of the heroine the novel was strictly speaking at an end; but that the author had added an epilogue of two printed sheets, in which he related such and such facts, and he would very likely "develop these chapters for the separate edition of his novel."

In concluding, I wish to say a few words about my father's own opinion of "Anna Karenina." In 1875 he wrote to N. N. Strakhof: "I must confess that I was delighted by the success of the last piece of 'Anna Karenina.' I had by no means expected it, and to tell you the truth, I am surprised that people are so pleased with such ordinary and EMPTY stuff."

The same year he wrote to Fet: "It is two months since I have defiled my hands with ink or my heart with thoughts. But now I am setting to work again on my TEDIOUS, VULGAR 'ANNA KARENINA,' with only one wish, to clear it out of the way as soon as possible and give myself leisure for other occupations, but not schoolmastering, which I am fond of, but wish to give up; it takes up too much time."

In 1878, when the novel was nearing its end, he wrote again to Strakhof: "I am frightened by the feeling that I am getting into my summer mood again. I LOATHE what I have written. The proof-sheets for the April number [of "Anna Karenina" in the "Russky Vyestnik"] now lie on my table, and I am afraid that I have not the heart to correct them. EVERYTHING in them is BEASTLY, and the whole thing ought to be rewritten,—all that has been printed, too,—scrapped and melted down, thrown away, renounced. I ought to say, 'I am sorry; I will not do it any more,' and try to write something fresh instead of all this incoherent, neither-fish-nor-flesh-nor-fowlish stuff."

That was how my father felt toward his novel while he was writing it. Afterward I often heard him say much harsher things about it. "What difficulty is there in writing about how an officer fell in love with a married woman?" he used to say. "There's no difficulty in it, and above all no good in it." I am quite convinced that if my father could have done so, he long ago would have destroyed this novel, which he never liked and always wanted to disown.

Further reading:
Reminiscences Of Tolstoy By His Son, Count Ilya Tolstoy

Madame Adelaide Of France


Born in 1732, Marie-Adélaïde, was the sixth child of King Louis XV and his Queen, Marie Leszczynska. In only six years. Poor Marie! The King, who liked to give his daughter nicknames, called Adelaide Loque, which means Rags. Although beautiful, the princess wasn't very interested in her appearance, and she often looked shabby and unkempt. She also had a headstrong, difficult, and domineering character.


The Comtesse de Boigne described her as “easygoing with her intimates… though extremely haughty." According to Madame Campan, who was a reader to the princesses, she also had “an immoderate thirst for knowledge" and was very musical, learning to play all sorts of instruments. The princess also studied languages (English and Italian), painting, calculus, and even watchmaking!


Of all her siblings, Adelaide was closer to her brother, the Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand, the father of Louis XV. They had grown up together at Versailles, while Adelaide's sisters had been sent to the abbey Fontevrault for their education. Adelaide was supposed to join them too, but the little girl begged her father in tears to let her stay at home. He consented.


Adelaide and Louis-Ferdinand belonged to the Devout Party at court, which was opposed to Madame de Pompadour, guilty in the eyes of the royal children to have stolen their father from their mother. Madame de Pompadour was in favour of an alliance with Austria, while the Devout Party strongly against it. That meant that Madame Adelaide had taken a dislike to her future nephew's bride, Marie Antoinette, before even meeting her. It was this princess that coined the nasty nickname of L’Autrichienne (“The Austrian Woman”).


In 1765, Louis-Ferdinand died. Marie Adelaide was devastated. She also took custody of his late brother's papers, including his instruction to his son and heir, Louis. Therefore, she had a big influence over Louis XVI in the first few years of his reign. Overtime, though, Louis got closer to his wife, and started to distance himself from his aunts. Adelaide, together with her younger sisters, still living at Versailles, moved to the Château de Bellevue, where they set up a sort of court for those "who mourned the passing of the former reign, and did not welcome the new one."


Madame Adelaide led a tranquil life until the outbreak of the French Revolution. Then, together with her sister Madame Victoire, she managed, in 1791, to escape from France. The two princesses sought refuge in Italy, but when the French army invaded the country, they were forced to flee again. The went first to Turin, then Rome, then Naples, and finally, on a small boat, the arrived in Trieste. Adelaide, the last surviving child of Louis XV, died there in 1800.

Further reading:
Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide To The 18th Century
Versailles And More