Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Daughter of a King

From Vive la Reine: "A bust of Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, duchesse d’Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by Achille-Joseph-Étienne Valois." Share

An Iris from Trianon

From the gardens of Marie-Antoinette. To quote:
Things people think about when they hear the former Queen of France’s name include eating cake, Sofia Coppola films, and guillotines. One thing that doesn’t automatically come to mind, for some reason or another, is Marie Antoinette’s appreciation for exquisite gardens. A shame, because after taking over the residence of Madame de Pompadour (yes, the inspiration for the famous haircut) in 1774, the famous Petit Trianon, she transformed the grounds into an enchanted landscape with few comparisons.

Sadly, you don’t get the actual experience of seeing and smelling the Madonna Lilies or picking strawberries in the Queen’s Hamlet by flipping through Marie-Antoinette’s Garden (Flammarion/Rizzoli), but through the impressively researched book by Elisabeth de Feydeau, we get an idea of how the grounds were laid out, and some of the plants and flowers the Queen saw on a daily basis, thanks in part to illustrations of the herbarium by botanist and painter for Marie Antoinette’s cabinet, Pierre-Joseph Redouté. (Read more.)

A Scottish Artist in Russia

Christina Sanders Robertson (1796-1854) painted the Imperial Family. From Two Nerdy History Girls:
Born in Fife, Scotland, Christina Sanders was the daughter of a coach painter. More importantly, her uncle was a successful miniaturist who taught her painting and helped launch her career; by 1819, she was already developing an aristocratic clientele for her portraits. She married fellow-artist James Robertson in 1822, and together they relocated to London. Within a year, her work was included in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy, and her society portraits were being engraved and reproduced in ladies's magazines and popular journals, right. Her affluent sitters liked her elegantly flattering portraits with their emphasis on jewels and rich clothing.  She was paid her well for her work, and her reputation soared.

Christina's success has a remarkably modern feel to it. While her career grew, far exceeding her husband's, she also bore eight children, four of whom survived to adulthood. During the 1830s, she left her children behind with her husband in London and travelled to Paris for several lucrative, prolonged stays, completing portrait after portrait of stylish aristocrats. In 1839, she traveled to St. Petersburg - not an easy journey, especially not for a solitary woman - to paint Empress Alexandra, Tsar Nicholas I, and other members of the imperial court. In recognition of her talent, she was named an honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Art. (Read more.)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Exotic Pets

The eighteenth century saw a fascination with exotic pets. From Leah Marie Brown:
Marie Antoinette's chief lady-in-waiting, Laure-Auguste de Fitz-James, the Princesse de Chimay, kept a monkey as a pet.  On fine days, the princesse enjoyed parading her monkey through the gardens at Versailles.  Wearing a tiny suit, he would scamper about, delighting visitors with his silly antics.  Some say the monkey enjoyed more popularity that his mistress.
  The princesse was not the only aristocrat in 18th century France to nurture a passion for the exotic.  Parrots, lions, tigers, ocelots, capuchin monkeys, elephants, white peacocks, and leopards were owned by various members of the aristocracy, who would pay to have the creatures brought from Africa, India, or South America. 
The naturalist, scientist, and cosmologist, Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte of Buffon, was fascinated with exotic creatures and kept a beautiful green parrot as a pet.  Parrots were an extremely popular pet choice for men and women. (Read more.)

America and Syria

A little history. To quote:
As they consider further intervention in Syria, Washington policymakers should be aware of the history of previous U.S. involvement there. During the Cold War’s early years, the United States tried to overthrow the Syrian government in one of the most sustained covert-operations campaigns ever conducted.
Lee Kuan Yew has observed that “it is the collective memory of a people, the composite learning from past events which led to successes or disasters that makes a people welcome or fear new events, because they recognize parts in new events which have similarities with past experience.” And in a region of the world where memories are long and history matters, past events indicate that overtly arming the Syrian rebels could amount to an even bigger kiss of death.

Things were not always so bad between the United States and Syria. Robert Kaplan’s 1995 book The Arabists describes an Ottoman-ruled Syria where American Protestant missionaries arrived in 1820, fifteen years before Washington opened a consulate in Aleppo. These missionaries did not succeed in converting many individuals to Christianity, but were nonetheless loved for many other contributions, like the medical treatment they brought to poor remote villages and their 1866 founding of what is now the American University of Beirut (modern Lebanon was then considered part of Syria). In the spirit of the American Revolution, many of these missionaries supported the movement for Arab independence from Ottoman rule. Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points followed suit by calling for “nationalities which are now under Turkish rule [to] be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.”

President Wilson later conceded to French control of Syria pursuant to the League of Nations mandate system, but did so against the advice of the King-Crane Commission he appointed to study the matter. Alas, the U.S. Senate thought differently of the League of Nations in part because of the commission’s conclusions. Pro-American sentiments in Syria thus peaked after World War II when the Truman administration thwarted France’s attempts to reestablish its Syrian mandate, enabling Syria to become a fledgling independent democracyin 1946, as well as one of the UN Charter’s original signatories.

Syrian President Shukri al-Quwatli, however, faced difficulties in getting some firebrands in parliament to support passage rights for an Arabian American Oil Company pipeline—on which postwar European recovery depended—from Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran oil fields to the Mediterranean. Like so many leaders in the region, Quwatli did not question the economic benefit to his country. But the pipeline’s opponents in parliament simply could not get over U.S. recognition of the state of Israel. Ignoring more benign options, Truman consequently authorized the CIA’s very first coup, which was to be led by Syrian army chief of staff General Husni al-Za’im.

British filmmaker Adam Curtis pointed out in a post for the BBC that the lone dissenter in this plan appears to have been a young State Department political officer stationed in Damascus, who nonetheless emerged from the resulting ostracism to become a distinguished ambassador. Deane Hinton said of the planned coup: “I want to go on record as saying that this is the stupidest, most irresponsible action a diplomatic mission like ours could get itself involved in, and that we've started a series of these things that will never end.”

But Quwatli was overthrown in March 1949 by General Za’im, a man that U.S. officials viewed as a “‘Banana Republic’ dictator type” who “did not have the competence of a French corporal,” but did have a “strong anti-Soviet attitude.” Za’im only lasted until August, when he was killed in another coup, the second of three that year. What followed was a six-year political tug-of-war, with the CIA and U.S. allies like General Adib al-Shishakli on one side and nationalist coalitions including such notables as Hashim al-Atassi on the other. It ended with Quwatli’s 1955 reelection to the Syrian presidency. (Read more.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Queen's Roses

The rose is a symbol for many things, including the Blessed Virgin Mary and marital happiness. From Anna Gibson:
Roses can be found in many of Marie Antoinette's portraits. Roses may have been a symbolic nod to her Austrian heritage; they may also have been used as a symbol of her Christian faith. In Christian paintings and engravings, various types of roses were often used to represent the rebirth of Christ, the Holy Trinity, and other important Christian iconography. The dog rose, just one of the roses chosen to populate the Petit Trianon, was used to symbolize both the five wounds of Christ and his rebirth. In mythology, the Rose was associated with love, fertility, and beauty. (Read more.)

The U.S. Electrical Grid

Is it on the edge of failure? From Scientific American:
Facebook can lose a few users and remain a perfectly stable network, but where the national grid is concerned simple geography dictates that it is always just a few transmission lines from collapse.
That is according to a mathematical study of spatial networks by physicists in Israel and the U.S. Study co-author Shlomo Havlin of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, says that the research builds on earlier work by incorporating a more explicit analysis of how the spatial nature of physical networks affects their fundamental stability. The upshot, published August 25 in Nature Physics, is that spatial networks are necessarily dependent on any number of critical nodes whose failure can lead to abrupt—and unpredictable—collapse.

The electric grid, which operates as a series of networks that are defined by geography, is a prime example, says Havlin. “Whenever you have such dependencies in the system, failure in one place leads to failure in another place, which cascades into collapse.” (Read more.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Harpsichord

The  thirteen year old Archduchess Maria Antonia (Marie-Antoinette) in 1769
From Remembering Marie-Antoinette:
The harpsichord was also part of a grander scheme of things: it was part of the “art of motion.” All aristocratic children were required to learn how to move, sit, walk, and ultimately dance. The music of the  harpsichord gave the motion a script to follow. It gave fluidity to motion as the aristocrats danced at their private balls. As well as being an accompaniment to motion and elegant movement, playing the harpsichord was a leisurely act. Playing was a time of pleasure and enjoyment. The  role of this divertissement in court society is evident  in the portrait of Marie Antonia at the Harpsichord in Schonbrünn (Fig. 6). She is enjoying a nice quiet moment to herself while playing music.  Although the sons of the royal couple were known to play instruments while the daughters sang, the harpsichord was usually the instrument of choice of  young ladies, as  the portraits of Marie Antoinette and Marie-Josèphe show (Fig. 4 & 5). (Read more.)

Second Sleep

I have never heard of first and second sleep before, but I do know that monks, nuns and devout people often rose to pray the Office of Matins in the middle of the night. From Slumberwise:
The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech. His research found that we didn’t always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.
References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.
“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.
An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between “first sleep” and “second sleep.” Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.
Ekirch’s book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples. But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect. Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours. (Read entire article.)
The concept of the two sleeps is interesting in light of what we know of the Biblical "watches of the night" observed by ancient peoples. To quote:
The Jews reckoned three military watches: the "first" or beginning of the watches (Lamentations 2:19 ), from sunset to ten o'clock; the second or "middle watch" was from ten until two o'clock (Judges 7:19 ); the third, "the morning watch," from two to sunrise (Exodus 14:24 ; 1 Samuel 11:11 ). Afterward under the Romans they had four watches (Matthew 14:25 ): Luke 12:38 , "even, midnight, cockcrowing, and morning" (Mark 13:35 ); ending respectively at 9 p.m., midnight, 3 a.m., and 6 a.m. (compare Acts 12:4 .) Watchmen patrolled the streets (Song of Song of Solomon 3:3 ; Song of Song of Solomon 5:7 ; Psalm 127:1 ).
More HERE. Share

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guinevere and Medieval Queens

Authors have given Queen Guinevere of the Arthurian stories a wide variety of personalities; she has been varyingly portrayed as seductive, faithful, “fallen,” powerful, powerless, an inheritor of a matriarchal tradition, weak-willed, and strong-willed.1 These personalities span eight centuries and are the products of their respective times and authors much more so than of any historical Guinevere. Despite this, however, threads of similarity run throughout many of the portrayals: she had power in some areas and none in others; she was involved in a courtly romance; and she did not produce an heir to the throne. None of these were unique to her, either; either stereotypes or literary convention demanded them all. I examine Guinevere’s portrayals by three influential medieval writers, Chrétien de Troyes, Marie de France, and Sir Thomas Malory, compare them to historical queens, and show that although their representations of her emphasized different aspects, together they add up to a portrait of a medieval literary queen both stereotypical and human. (Read more.)

The Tyburn Tree

From History of London:
Executions took place at Tyburn for almost 600 years, with the first recorded as William Longbeard in 1196 and the last as John Austen in 1783. In between, tens of thousands of highwaymen, robbers, forgers, murderers, traitors and other convicted men and women met their end at Tyburn. From the Reformation period onwards, this included many Catholics who would not abandon their faith.

The original Tyburn trees used for hangings were a row of elms alongside an underground stream called Tyburn Brook. But it was the huge triangular Tyburn Tree, erected in 1571 and made of thick wooden crossbeams 3m (9ft) long on 5.5m (18ft) legs, that is associated with the mass executions during the Tudor era and afterwards.

The site of the Tyburn Tree is said to be at what is now Marble Arch, at the north-east corner of Hyde Park. Some historians give a more precise location as slightly to the north-west at Connaught Square. In fact, many bodies were found there when the square was being built in the 1820s, so it’s possible that some Tyburn victims were buried right where they died.

Mass executions took place on Mondays, when prisoners were transported from Newgate Prison to Tyburn in an open wagon, often in their finest clothes. The procession, which was watched by a large and enthusiastic crowd, wound down Snow Hill, across Holborn Bridge into Holborn, down Broad St Giles into Oxford Street and on to Tyburn.

Once at Tyburn, those due to die were put onto a specially built horse-drawn carriage that was moved under the Tyburn Tree. Nooses were placed around their necks and then the carriage driven away, leaving the condemned suspended until they died. Reports tell of friends and relatives “tugging at hanging men’s feet so that they should die quicker, and not suffer”.

Hangings were witnessed by thousands of spectators who would pay to sit in open galleries erected especially for the occasion, as well as in rented upper-storey rooms in houses and pubs. After the corpses were cut down from the gallows, there was a rush to grab the bodies, as some believed their hair and body parts were effective in healing diseases. They were also sought after by surgeons for dissection. (Read more.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Act of Kindness

 The Dauphine Marie-Antoinette consoles the wife and children of a peasant who was wounded by a deer (1773). The artist is Jean-Michel Moreau the Younger. This was seen as extraordinary act of condescension of the part of the future Queen of France, although I have no doubt that from her point  of view it was the only decent thing to do. Share

The Church is a Bride

She is not a widow. From Monsignor Charles Pope:
There’s a common thread among many traditional Catholics (and some left-wingers too) that “the Church has gone down the tubes.” This seems to be a basic set point in too many conversations, and if one runs too far afield from this view they are “one of them” or are “off message.”

But I want to say to all the negative ones: the Church is a Bride, not a widow.

I have, in twenty-five years as a priest, found a great deal of affinity with traditional Catholics. I love the Traditional Latin Mass (and have celebrated it since 1989), chant, polyphony, traditional churches, stained glass, and I toe a line in rather strict conformity to the Church’s teachings and Scripture’s admonitions. I preached Hell and Purgatory even when it wasn’t cool.

But in recent years I have found my relationship to many (not all or even most) traditional Catholics tested and strained. I say “tested” because I have found that if I do not adhere to a rather strict, and I would say “narrow” line, I am relegated to be thrown out of the feast, and there in the “outer darkness” to wail and grind my teeth.

It would seem that for some, I am required to bash bishops, lament that the Church has “never been in worse shape,” and that every single solitary problem in the Church today is “due to Vatican II” and the “Novus Ordo” Mass. Stray too far from this, either by omission or commission, and I am in the hurt locker, the penalty box, and relegated to being no better than one of “them.”

Last week on the blog was especially hurtful. All I did was quote what I thought was an interesting statistic, that the average number of priests per parish in 1950 was “1″ and that in 2013, the average number of priests per parish is also “1″. There are many interesting questions that can be raised about this number. Perhaps there were more ethnic parishes then, perhaps church closings now are a factor, perhaps many of us remember the Northeastern Urban experience, but knew little of the rural experience back then which balanced our reality. Yes, there have been closings and declines of late, but overall there are 17K  parishes nationwide today, slightly more than in 1950, and double the number of putative Catholics. And at the end of the day, the number averages out to “1″ priest per parish. More here: [01] and here: [02]

Anyway, while one may dispute how helpful or illuminating the statistic is, the real grief came to me with just how hostile and even nasty some comments (many of which I had to delete) were. There were personal accusations against me, there was a bevy of bishop-bashing, and Pope-bashing statements, and any number and variety of venomous attacks against perfectly legitimate Church realities, liturgical forms, and the Second Vatican Council itself.

Wowza! What a hornet’s nest. (Read more.)

Via Mary Victrix.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cups and Plates

Cups and plates made for Louis XVI's and Marie-Antoinette's dairy at Rambouillet. (Originally from Vive la Reine.)


Forced Exposure

A last word from Groklaw:
Harvard's Berkman Center had an online class on cybersecurity and internet privacy some years ago, and the resources of the class are still online. It was about how to enhance privacy in an online world, speaking of quaint, with titles of articles like, "Is Big Brother Listening?"

And how.

You'll find all the laws in the US related to privacy and surveillance there. Not that anyone seems to follow any laws that get in their way these days. Or if they find they need a law to make conduct lawful, they just write a new law or reinterpret an old one and keep on going. That's not the rule of law as I understood the term.

Anyway, one resource was excerpts from a book by Janna Malamud Smith,"Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life", and I encourage you to read it. I encourage the President and the NSA to read it too. I know. They aren't listening to me. Not that way, anyhow. But it's important, because the point of the book is that privacy is vital to being human, which is why one of the worst punishments there is is total surveillance:
One way of beginning to understand privacy is by looking at what happens to people in extreme situations where it is absent. Recalling his time in Auschwitz, Primo Levi observed that "solitude in a Camp is more precious and rare than bread." Solitude is one state of privacy, and even amidst the overwhelming death, starvation, and horror of the camps, Levi knew he missed it.... Levi spent much of his life finding words for his camp experience. How, he wonders aloud in Survival in Auschwitz, do you describe "the demolition of a man," an offense for which "our language lacks words."... 
One function of privacy is to provide a safe space away from terror or other assaultive experiences. When you remove a person's ability to sequester herself, or intimate information about herself, you make her extremely vulnerable....
The totalitarian state watches everyone, but keeps its own plans secret. Privacy is seen as dangerous because it enhances resistance. Constantly spying and then confronting people with what are often petty transgressions is a way of maintaining social control and unnerving and disempowering opposition....
And even when one shakes real pursuers, it is often hard to rid oneself of the feeling of being watched -- which is why surveillance is an extremely powerful way to control people. The mind's tendency to still feel observed when alone... can be inhibiting. ... Feeling watched, but not knowing for sure, nor knowing if, when, or how the hostile surveyor may strike, people often become fearful, constricted, and distracted.
(Read more.)

Henry the Young King

Henry the Young King was the second son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He had an older brother named William. To quote:
For Eleanor, William’s birth was a special triumph of her own. At thirty, with two daughters born in the fifteen years of marriage to Louis Capet, despite accusations that she was unable to produce a son, she was delivered of a healthy boy, future heir to her duchy. She had reason than most to rejoice. And she did. It must have been the very moment when she definitively said goodbye to her gloomy past with Louis and welcomed her bright and promising future with Henry. When William was ten months old, she became pregnant again and on 28 February 1155 gave birth to her second son, Henry. With succession secured, William and Henry’s royal parents could focus on reestablishing order which had been lost during Stephen’s reign. In the opening months of 1155, exactly on 10 April, shortly after Henry’s arrival into this world, both William and Henry were taken to Wallingford, where their father, the king ‘had called together the barons and bishops of the realm to swear allegiance to his eldest son and, in case of William’s death, to Henry as his second heir’, a ceremony which neither of the boys could remember. Not a year passed since the occasion, when little William fell ill and died.
In his chronicle Robert of Torigni, abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel gives 2 December 1156 as the date of William’s most untimely passing. Robert was the royal familiaris, well acquainted with both Henry II and Eleanor and thus a trustworthy source, but this time he got his dates wrong. William died in the spring of 1156. The princeling was buried in Reading Abbey, at the feet of his great-grandfather Henry I. The abbot of this grand Henry I’s foundation grabbed at the opportunity to gain future royal patronage and wrote in 1160 to Queen Eleanor hoping to convince her of the ‘spiritual benefits that the commemoration of his house could offer her’.(Read more.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Medallion of Marie-Antoinette

In the private apartments of Louis XVI. Share

The College Loan Scandal

From Rolling Stone:
While it's not commonly discussed on the Hill, the government actually stands to make an enormous profit on the president's new federal student-loan system, an estimated $184 billion over 10 years, a boondoggle paid for by hyperinflated tuition costs and fueled by a government-sponsored predatory-lending program that makes even the most ruthless private credit-card company seem like a "Save the Panda" charity. Why is this happening? The answer lies in a sociopathic marriage of private-sector greed and government force that will make you shake your head in wonder at the way modern America sucks blood out of its young. (Read more.)

"She Told Herself She Couldn't Die"

From The New York Times:
At the time of Boettcher’s death, at least one person was doggedly searching for him: Dawn Eden, an 18-year-old student at New York University. Raised mostly by her mom in Texas and New Jersey, Eden had been obsessed with pop music since age 10, when she began visiting the D.J.’s at the local Top 40 radio station after school. While her college dorm mates revered Prince and Bruce Springsteen, she was hanging out in a ’60s revival scene, romanticizing an era she never lived through. Eden only knew about Boettcher through a friend whose father had been a D.J. in the ’60s. The first time she heard the opening chords of “It’s You,” the first single from “Begin,” she got goose bumps. It wasn’t just the music. It was the person the music pointed to.

At the time, Eden was going through bouts of suicidal depression, later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of childhood sexual abuse. The music she loved, with all its apparent purity, with Boettcher’s angelic voice, represented a promise of happiness that eluded her in real life. She decided to become a rock historian, to write about the acts who, in her loneliness, she could relate to. She hoped that if she got close enough to her idols, she might learn something about herself. She wrote for Mojo and Salon, interviewed Harry Nilsson and Del Shannon. But no one enchanted her like Boettcher. 

When she learned of his death, she decided to write his biography. His obscurity seemed like an intolerable injustice, and correcting it gave her a sense of purpose. When she felt suicidal, she told herself she couldn’t die because she had to write his story. And her efforts went a long way toward reviving his music. She wrote the liner notes to several CD reissues of his work, which spread the cult of Boettcher. (She conducted the Gary Usher interview in 1988, quoted above, that is included in the Sagittarius liner notes.) This April, the singer Beth Sorrentino released an album of Boettcher covers, produced by Sean Slade (Radiohead, Hole). But Eden never did write that biography. 

What ultimately allayed her depression was not Boettcher, but God. (Read more.)
 Via Mary Victrix. Share

Friday, August 23, 2013

Louis XVI and His Brothers

Originally from Vive la Reine. The Duke de La Vauguyon called his pupils the four F’s: le Fin (the Duke of Burgundy), le Faible (Louis XVI), le Faux (Louis XVIII), le Franc (Charles X). Share

A Stasi Spy Tells His Story

From Spiegel Online:
Carney, released early after serving 11 years of his sentence, has now written his memoirs about life on both sides of the Cold War. In the 700-page book, he reveals the views of a former spy and offers insights into a world that vanished 25 years ago. It was a world of lies and betrayal, disguises and deception, of dead drops in the woods and a Lipton ice tea can with a miniature camera screwed into its base. Carney, as an agent for the Stasi, used the camera to take pictures of row upon row of US surveillance files.

The many blacked-out passages suggest that the book itself is largely free of lies and falsifications. The US Air Force and the NSA spent about a year examining the book, and there were many passages that they felt should remain secret to this day, which they redacted. Still, what the censors left untouched offers a thrilling look into everyday life on the invisible front of East-West espionage. (Read more.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chamber of Mary Queen of Scots

Here is another wonderful post from Madame Guillotine, this time on Mary Stuart's bedchamber at Holyrood.
In the small corner turret beside the room there was the Queen’s private supper room, where she could dine and make merry with her ladies in waiting and closest friends. This was a cosy, cheerful space that would unfortunately later become tinged with tragedy as it was here on the night of the 9th of March 1566 that Mary’s Italian born secretary David Rizzio, who was dining with the Queen and a few of her friends, was dragged away from her by a group of noblemen, led by her estranged husband Lord Darnley who took them up the private staircase from his own rooms which led to Mary’s bedchamber, and then stabbed to death in the Outer Chamber, all within earshot of the terrified Queen, who was pregnant at the time.
Mary was then held captive at the palace by the conspirators but managed to win her husband over and with his assistance escaped to Dunbar Castle and then on to Edinburgh Castle, where their son, James, was born in June. The royal marriage, which had begun with splendid celebrations in the chapel of Holyroodhouse, was effectively at an end however and it was at this point that Mary’s tenure as Queen of Scotland entered its final stage, culminating in her imprisonment and subsequent abdication in 1567.

The sad fate of Mary, Queen of Scots is very well known and for the years immediately after her imprisonment and eventual execution, her memory was reviled in Scotland, with even her own young son being encouraged to think of her as a murderess and adulteress who had been corrupted by her untrammelled feminine passions. However, over time the tide definitely began to turn and Mary, who always had her champions even if they did not dare speak up in her defence, increasingly began to be regarded as a heroine and the tragic victim of overwhelming and sinister machinations. It was at this point that relics of the dead Queen began to be revered and objects and places associated with both her person and her brief yet dramatic reign were regarded with enormous interest. (Read more.)

Arms and the Man

Was Edmund Tudor illegitimate? Susan Higginbotham does some historical sleuthing.
Sadly, Catherine of Valois isn’t the only historical woman whose reputation Ashdown-Hill sees fit to impugn on insufficient evidence in Royal Marriage Secrets. We’re informed that Catherine’s mother had “enjoyed the reputation of being something of a nymphomaniac”—a reputation that authors such as Tracy Adams have recently questioned, although you couldn’t tell it from anything in Ashdown-Hill’s book. (And what, precisely is “something of a nymphomaniac”? One might as well go whole hog.) He tells us that Margaret of Anjou became pregnant while Henry VI was mentally ill—in fact, Henry VI did not suffer his breakdown until Margaret’s pregnancy was well advanced—and adds, “it has long been questioned whether Edward of Westminster was truly fathered by Henry VI.” Needless to say, the political motivations behind the rumors of the illegitimacy of Margaret’s son go unremarked. Even the mother of Elizabeth Woodville comes in for a gratuitous slur when Ashdown-Hill writes that “it is possible that Jacquette had already been pregnant at the time of her second marriage.” No evidence is offered in support of this assertion.

I find this willingness to stain the reputation of historical women on such flimsy evidence disheartening, particularly when the writer doing this academic version of “slut shaming” is an accredited historian. I find it even more disheartening when the author is someone dedicated to restoring the good name of another historical figure, Richard III. But Catherine of Valois’s royal dignity survived her corpse’s being exhumed and put on display to be bussed by Samuel Pepys; no doubt it will survive this latest assault. (Read more.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Portrait of Elizabeth Stuart

She looked a lot like her grandmother, Mary Queen of Scots. From Madame Guillotine:
Elizabeth’s father, James VI of Scotland had inherited the throne of England in 1603 just three years before this portrait is believed to have been painted and it’s clear from the opulence in which the young princess is garbed that her parents had been working hard on dispelling any snobbish notions that their English court and populace might have had about the new Stuart rulers who had come from what was believed to be the rather barbaric lands beyond the border while at the same time upholding with aplomb the famed magnificence of the late Tudor court.

Obviously Elizabeth grew up to be one of the most fascinating and enigmatic personages of the seventeenth century if not all history and you can see why in this portrait, which shows her gazing out into the world with a frank curiosity while a hint of amusement lingers about the curve of her lips. We can also imagine what a stark contrast this poised young lady made with her gawkish, awkward, stammering and much less intelligent brother Charles, the eventual heir to the throne after the tragic early death of their altogether more promising and adored brother Henry. (Read more.)

Anne Boleyn's Last Secret

From author Leanda de Lisle:
In 1516 Henry VIII had the round table which still hangs in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle, and which it was believed dated back to Camelot, painted with the figure of Arthur bearing Henry’s features under an Imperial crown. It was Henry’s belief that England was, historically, an empire, and he Arthur’s heir, that later became the basis for his claim to an imperium — command — over church as well as state. It justified the break with Rome and the Pope that allowed him to marry Anne in 1533.

But, like Catherine of Aragon, Anne failed to give Henry the son he wanted, and when she miscarried in January 1536, he lost hope that she would. He began complaining that Anne had seduced him into marrying her — an accusation carrying suggestions of witchcraft — and he showed a growing interest in her maid of honour, Jane Seymour.

Dissolving the marriage to Anne was a complex issue for Henry, who feared it would re-confirm ‘the authority of the Pope’. But Anne was also making an enemy of Thomas Cromwell, his chief minister, with whom she quarrelled over the burning issue of what to do with the money raised from the dissolution of the monasteries. Anne hoped to see the money go to charitable enterprises, while Cromwell intended to pour it into the king’s pocket. (Read more.)

Via Supremacy and Survival. Share

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Daily Life of a Dauphine

Gio quotes a passage from a letter of Marie-Antoinette to her mother Empress Maria Theresa:
"At twelve," she proceeds to say, "what is called the Chamber is held, and there every one who does not belong to the common people may enter. I put on my rouge and wash my hands before all the world; the men go out, and the women remain; and then I dress myself in their presence. Then comes mass. If the king is at Versailles, I go to mass with him, my husband, and my aunts; if he is not there, I go alone with the dauphin, but always at the same hour. After mass we two dine by ourselves in the presence of all the world; but dinner is over by half-past one, as we both eat very fast. From the dinner-table I go to the dauphin's apartments, and if he has business, I return to my own rooms, where I read, write, or work; for I am making a waistcoat for the king, which gets on but slowly, though, I trust, with God's grace, it will be finished before many years are over. At three o'clock I go again to visit my aunts, and the king comes to them at the same hour. At four the abbé* comes to me, and at five I have every day either my harpsichord-master or my singing-master till six. At half-past six I go almost every day to my aunts, except when I go out walking. And you must understand that when I go to visit my aunts, my husband almost always goes with me. At seven we play cards till nine o'clock; but when the weather is fine I go out walking, and then there is no play in my apartments, but it is held at my aunts'. At nine we sup; and when the king is not there, my aunts come to sup with us; but when the king is there, we go after supper to their rooms, waiting there for the king, who usually comes about a quarter to eleven; and I lie down on a grand sofa and go to sleep till he comes. But when he is not there, we go to bed at eleven o'clock." (Read more.)

Porn Addiction and Violence

From First Things:
The sociological data is difficult to dismiss. Pornography use is a factor in 56 percent of divorce cases and is correlated with sexual assault. Mary Ann Layden of the University of Pennsylvania School of Psychiatry wrote of one study that found that:
All types of pornography (soft core, hard core, violent, and rape) are correlated with using verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to sexually coerce women. The likelihood of forcing a woman sexually was correlated with the use of hard core, violent, and rape pornography. The likelihood of raping a woman was correlated with the use of all types of pornography, including soft-core pornography.
It is increasingly unreasonable to argue that pornography use is ever harmless or victimless.

But pornography is a $10 billion industry in the United States. That figure conceals the real problem: Free pornography, supported by ad revenues, has increased exponentially. Experts estimate that nearly 90 percent of pornography accessed online is free. A far better metric than revenue is internet search data. Analysis of Google data suggests that 12 percent of all internet searches are for pornography, and, on mobile devices, 20 percent of searches are for pornographic material.

Pornography destroys families. It destroys the soul. Pornography robs us of the freedom to have subjective relationships—in a mind addicted to pornography, personal subjectivity is replaced by a dehumanizing, objectifying, abusive kind of relationality. (Read more.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Made for a Queen

Chair designed for Marie-Antoinette's rooms at the Château de Compiègne. Share

A Grief Observed

From The Guardian:
At the time, CS Lewis described his marriage in 1956 to the American poet Helen ("H") Joy Davidman as "a pure matter of friendship and expediency", primarily intended to keep her and her two sons in the country; a confirmed bachelor, he later wrote: "I never expected to have, in my 60s, the happiness that passed me by in my 20s." But Joy was already ill, and their relationship was conducted in the shadow of cancer: for Lewis the four years following their wedding brought intensely personal experiences both of the miraculous, and of despair. (Read entire article.)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Resurrection of the Romanovs: Anastasia, Anna Anderson and the World's Greatest Royal Mystery

The newest book by Greg King and Penny Wilson
"Anna Anderson" comes to America
Water streamed from her hair down her clothes into her shoes, and ran out at the heels. Yet she claimed to be a real Princess....There, that's a true story. ~from "The Princess and the Pea" by Hans Christian Andersen
The above quote is borrowed from Tom Summers and Anthony Mangold, who used it to preface their chapter on Anastasia Manahan, alias "Anna Anderson," in their 1977 bestseller The File on the Tsar. The book dealt with the fate of Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their family, as well as the possibility of the survival of the Grand Duchess Anastasia in the person of "Anna Anderson," a mysterious girl pulled from Berlin's Landwehr Canal in 1920 after a suicide attempt. I have been interested in the assassination of the Russian Imperial family since college and graduate school when I took several classes in Russian history, focusing on Soviet ways and methods. As a senior at Hood College I was nominated to present a paper on Soviet Russia at the 1984 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in Annapolis, MD. In grad school, I concentrated more on the Romanovs and the mystery of "Anna Anderson" which is when I discovered Peter Kurth's witty and informative book about the most famous of all claimants, Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna Anderson. I have since tried to remain informed about the ongoing developments in the cases of missing and found Romanovs. Now that the gods of science have spoken, declaring "Anna Anderson" to be none other than Franziska Schanzkowska, a Kashubian peasant, one may wonder at the purpose of yet another book on the subject.

 Let me first say that the scientists and scholars who have pinned the identity of "Anna Anderson" upon Franziska  Schanzkowska should apologize to the Kashubian peasants of the world. "Anna," whose legal name became Anastasia Manahan, or "Mrs. Manahan" as she preferred to be called, not only had a borderline personality but she did not even know how to bury a dead cat. Or a dead dog, for that matter. Every house she ever owned was condemned as a public health hazard because of the animal mess, inside and out, not to mention the way she allowed her gardens to become overgrown. Not only was she formally rejected by the Romanov clan but most of the Schanzkowski clan wanted nothing to do with her either. Furthermore, Mrs. Manahan was evicted from the country club in Charlottesville, Virginia, which in some people's minds is a greater shame than not being a Romanov. In the end, she married the one person in the world as thoroughly pixillated herself, Professor John Manahan of Charlottesville, the scion of several old and respected Virginia families. In spite of his connections, John was asked to leave the country club, too.

The Resurrection of the Romanovs (2011) by Greg King and Penny Wilson is a response to those who sincerely came to believe that Anastasia Manahan was in actuality Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia.  The authors postulate that the belief in Mrs. Manahan as the Grand Duchess Anastasia has been mainly due to mere wishful and romantic thinking. I disagree, for there was nothing in the least romantic about the shattered and bizarre life of the claimant. Many believed because Mrs. Manahan was recognized as being the long lost Grand Duchess by several Romanov relatives, retainers and family friends. There was also some forensic evidence in support of her claim, such as having the same congenital foot defect (hallux valgus) as the Grand Duchess, as well as anthropological studies and the testimony of handwriting experts. However, in The Resurrection of the Romanovs, King and Wilson leave no stone unturned in documenting why it has become obvious to them, aside from the DNA analyses, that Mrs. Manahan was indeed the hapless Franciska Schanzkowska.

The Resurrection of the Romanovs made me reread King and Wilson's previous book, The Fate of the Romanovs (2003). The Fate of the Romanovs is a tome overflowing with data about the 1918 murders of the Imperial Family and their four retainers. It tells how the Russian government engineered the "finding" of the mass grave in the forest outside of Ekaterinburg, which was finally excavated in a disorganized fashion in 1991. Only nine out of the eleven victims were found. The chief executioner, Yakov Yurovsky, claimed to have burned two of the corpses, those of the Tsarevich Alexei and one of the women, in Pig's Meadow, but no one could discover any trace of them. Having studied the Katyn Massacre of 1940, in which 20,000 Polish officers were massacred by the Soviets, who then, over the next few decades, overturned heaven and earth to make it look like the Nazis had committed the crime, I am cautious as to what I believe coming out of Russia. Although the Communist system has been overthrown, many of the same leaders are still in place, with similar attitudes about secrecy and social control. Although the Russian scientists insisted that Grand Duchess Anastasia was accounted for among the pile of bones found in the mass grave, the American forensic expert Dr. Maples asserted that the remains of the youngest Grand Duchess were missing. In spite of Maples' protestations, the questionable skeletal remains were entombed in 1998 under the name of Anastasia Nikolaevna with the eight other victims found in the same burial place. To this day, the Russian Orthodox Church does not acknowledge the remains as being those of the Romanovs. The Fate of the Romanovs ended with the authors acknowledging Anastasia's body was still missing, although the area around Pig's Meadow had been meticulously searched.

In Resurrecting the Romanovs, written in 2011, it is described how the remains of Alexei and Anastasia suddenly surfaced in Pig's Meadow in 2007, discovered by a Russian archaeologist. So Grand Duchess Anastasia has gone from having no body to having two bodies, or three if we include the ashes of Mrs. Manahan, whom many considered to be the real Anastasia, before the DNA tests, of course. Not that this should come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the ins and outs of the case, which has been convoluted from the onset. At any rate, King and Wilson make a strong argument for Mrs. Manahan being the peasant-turned-factory worker-turned-mental patient, Franciska Schanzkowska. One of my favorite aspects of the book is that the authors demonstrate that being a  peasant does not mean a total lack of sophistication, in that peasants have the ability to learn foreign languages like everyone else. In fact, Kashubian peasants like Franciska spoke Polish and German as well as Kashubian. Furthermore, Franciska demonstrated a facility for languages, which explains how as "Anna Anderson" she would have been able to pick up English so quickly. There is little known about Franciska's youth; the authors speculate that she might have been molested by her father, had an abortion and then made extra money as a prostitute. I think such broad assumptions about the life of Franciska based upon scanty evidence are odd in contrast to King and Wilson's hair-splitting of every utterance and action of "Anna Anderson."

"Anna Anderson" (center) with German aristocratic friends, including Prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg, cousin of the Grand Duchess Anastasia
On the whole, the book left me with more questions than it answered. I know from reading about the "Lost Dauphin" that false claimants are usually easily unmasked, even without the help of advanced scientific methodology. "Anna Anderson's" case went on and on for decades, and The Resurrection of the Romanovs fails to explain to me why. For instance, since Franciska had been incarcerated at the Dalldorf asylum a few years previous to "Anna's" stay there, then why did no one recognize "Anna" as being Franciska? Also, Franciska was described as being promiscuous, a description I have never seen applied to "Anna Anderson." Perhaps this is because "Anna" was extremely ill with tuberculosis, as well as suffering post traumatic stress disorder. But then how could such an ill person, who in the mid-1920's was on morphine for the pain in her infected arm, pull off a studied charade? If "Anna" spent so much time practicing her signature, and if she had  a facility for languages, then why did she not spend time learning Russian, when speaking Russian was the key to acceptance as the daughter of the Tsar? While most agreed that she understood Russian, she obstinately refused to speak it, even when pressed to do so by judges. A clever sociopath should have known better.

As for her handwriting, the authors insist "Anna" learned to forge the real Anastasia's signature. If that is the case, then why did the three handwriting experts say that, judging from the handwriting samples, "Anna Anderson" and Grand Duchess Anastasia were the same person? I thought that detecting forgeries is what handwriting experts do. And the forgery would have only been by an amateur, and a sick amateur at that. It is also interesting that the various doctors who examined "Anna Anderson" over the years did not believe she was insane. In the 1930's at the Ilten Psychiatric Institute, Dr. Hans Willige examined her when she was his patient and made the following assessment:
She 'frequently declined to give us information when it did not suit her,' he said, and at other times 'she knowingly made false statements, quite consciously and willingly.' This, while he reported that she was 'not insane' and 'bore no symptoms of mental disease,' he deemed Anderson 'a peculiar personality' marked by fears of persecution, 'obstinacy,' 'an unhealthy willfulness,' 'unrestrained emotional impulses,' a 'highly egocentric outlook,' and an 'internal haughtiness,' all of which manifested themselves in a complex and confusing composition. (pp. 200-201)
This inclination to make false statements for the fun of it perhaps explains why "Anna" claimed that the Alexander Palace had malachite window sills. Anyone who had studied photos of the Imperial family as much as she did (she had over two thousand photos) would have seen that the window sills in the Alexander Palace were not malachite. She obviously enjoyed making her confusing case more confusing by refusing to answer questions that any good imposter should have known, or by giving what she must have known to be wrong answers. Of course, such perverse and aggravating behavior worked against her ever being legally acknowledged as the Tsar's daughter.

One aspect of the book I found utterly tasteless were the swipes made at author Peter Kurth, Mrs. Manahan's biographer. There is much more about Mrs. Manahan's quirky, charming personality in Kurth's biography whereas this latest work seems determined to highlight only the aberrant aspects. I do not understand, however, why Mr. Kurth was several times singled out for criticism. Those who sincerely researched "Anna Anderson" before the DNA tests and thought she might be Anastasia should not be pilloried. There are still many things about her case which, in spite of the DNA tests, cannot be explained, and which I do not think that King and Wilson are able to convincingly explain. While they are magnificent researchers they sometimes lack discernment when it comes to interpreting the data. For example, when "Anna Anderson" came to be the guest of Duke Georg von Leuchtenburg at Castle Seeon in Bavaria, she was confronted by the detective Martin Knopf and a woman named Doris Wingender, who insisted the claimant was Franciska Schanzkowska. (pp.308-309) "Anna" turned to the Duke, saying: "And did you really believe that you had given shelter to the daughter of your Tsar?" The Duke replied: "Even Franziska Schanzkowska may stay at my house. I have never known for certain whether you were the Tsar's daughter or not. I have only treated you with the sympathy one should have for a sick person." The authors see the Duke's reply as being unbelievably bizarre. They miss the point. Duke Georg was a gentleman of the old school. To him, it was vital that a lady who was a guest in his house, and a sick guest at that, should not be exposed to humiliation. Being a good host and helping his guest to recover her health were more important to him than exposing a potential fraud. It was also his gentle way of maintaining control of the situation. But the Duke was from another time, place and generation. It is almost impossible to expect most modern people to understand his kind of nobility.

For those who enjoy anything and everything about the last Imperial Family, then The Resurrection of the Romanovs is a must-read. Since I enjoy works about Europe in the years between the World Wars, and find the Russian emigré culture especially fascinating, this was a book I could not put down. The authors are at their best when they are presenting the fruits of their vast research which they are able to do in a coherent fashion. I came away from the book with a sense that, where Mrs. Manahan's case is concerned, there were few genuinely malicious people involved but rather people who were working for or against the claimant based upon assumptions which may or may not have been true. Mrs. Manahan herself was caught up in the midst of a storm from which she was unable to escape, as the authors are correct in pointing out. It is an enjoyable read, and perhaps the last time we shall hear of the mystery of Anastasia, since the book appears to wrap everything up quite neatly. But as I said before, there are still questions, some of which might never be answered, although I have found that where the Romanovs are concerned, there is always another chapter.

Grand Duchess Anastasia, Empress Alexandra and Grand Duchess Maria at the palace of Livadia in the Crimea. Click on the picture for a better view of Anastasia's foot with the congenital hallux valgus. The late Anastasia Manahan aka "Anna Anderson" had the same congenital defect.


The Riddle of the Labyrinth

From The Guardian:
Minos, a bronze-age king who ruled over the city-state Knossos in Crete, wasn't one for winning hearts and minds. According to Greek mythology, he'd regularly (possibly as often as every year – accounts differ) throw 14 kids to the minotaur in his labyrinth, built by Daedalus, whom he also locked up. He had a mechanical giant who patrolled the shore outside his palace.

He was also real, according to Arthur Evans, an English archaeologist who unearthed an ancient palace with a maze of interconnected rooms at Knossos in 1900. Inside the palace were hundreds of clay tablets written in a script that had never been seen before. The tablets dated to about 1450BC – seven centuries before the Greek alphabet existed – making them the earliest examples of writing ever found in Europe. But if there were revelations in these texts about Minos, they were locked away. No one even knew the language that they transcribed, and there were no handy Rosetta Stone-style translations lying around.

The quest to crack this code has been traced by authors before, as acknowledged by Margalit Fox, an obituary writer at the New York Times with a masters in linguistics. Her innovation, in this well-paced "palaeographical procedural", is to place Alice Kober, a classics lecturer from a working-class family of Hungarian immigrants living in Brooklyn, at the centre of the story.

While it was an anxious architect called Michael Ventris who finally made the breakthrough in 1952, Fox argues that Kober deserves more credit than she's been given for her groundwork. In fact, Fox suggests that if Kober had been better supported in academia, and less willing to donate hundreds of hours of unpaid secretarial work to an Oxford University professor (reading between the lines: if she'd been a man), she might have got there first.

The details of how the tablets were deciphered are complicated, and it's a credit to Fox's clear, confident writing that following them isn't too painful. As with any good detective story, there's a driving narrative behind the puzzle, peopled by solitary sleuths who allow marital problems or bills to stack up as they devote themselves to the hunt.

Kober remained single throughout her life, living with her mother and making a pre-digital database by filling out 180,000 homemade index cards with detailed information about each sign. Her breakthrough was to do with certain triplets of words that shared a root but had different endings: they allowed her to compile tables of signs that shared consonants or vowels, even if she didn't know which sounds these were. (Read more.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Marie-Antoinette's Bath

The Queen's bath at Versailles. Cleanliness was important to Marie-Antoinette and she insisted on bathing every day, clothed in a linen bathing dress. Share

Surrogacy Exposed

From Zenit:
On the subject of the babies resulting from sperm or ova donation, on Aug. 2 Alana S. Newman, the founder of the Anonymous Us Project, published an article on the Public Discourse Web site titled: “What Are the Rights of Donor-Conceived People?” The organization describes itself as “a safety zone for real and honest opinions about reproductive technologies and family fragmentation.” In her essay Newman denounced the fact that we have created a new class of people who are not given the same rights as other people. "Slavery has been abolished and society no longer accepts that you can own people," she commented. "As well, we know that human beings deeply desire connection with their biological parents and siblings."

“If we recognize that it’s wrong to displace human beings as if they were products, not people, then we should also see that a concept like donor-conception is wrong in principle,” she argued.

“Human babies are not things; their mothers are not ovens,” commented Kathleen Parker in an opinion article for the Washington Post on May 25. Titled “Surrogacy Exposed,” Parker argued that: “By turning the miracle of life into a profit-driven, state-regulated industry, the stork begins to resemble a vulture.” (Read more.)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Marie-Antoinette Defending Her Children

She did as any mother would do. Unfortunately, there were too many of them. Share

Syrian Christian Refugees

In Turkey. To quote:
Syria's Christians belong to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, but chased away by the threat of violence some are heading for neighbouring Turkey, where they have been greeted with considerable enthusiasm. Driven by a deep and humble faith, Father Joaqim is a young man with a sense of destiny. He has returned from 11 years in Holland to revive his dying community in eastern Turkey. We are standing together on the terrace of his newly restored monastery, high on a remote escarpment near Nusaybin, looking south over the Mesopotamian Plain.

"Thank God our community is alive again," he says, his face radiating out from the distinctive black cap of his Syriac Orthodox habit. "On Sundays our church is full with worshippers from the village." (Read entire post.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sisi in Rubies

 Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, wearing some jewels which belonged to Marie-Antoinette. Share

Forced Abortions in China

Such horrors are still going on. To quote:
2011 November 1, at 5pm, Gong Qifeng, who was already over 7-months pregnant, was given an injection to induce labor at the Hunan Province Lianyuan City Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. After 30 hours of staggering pain, she and her husband Wu Yongyuan met their now dead child, which was put into a white plastic bag by the nurses. According to Wu Yongyuan’s recollection, one month after the induced birth, his wife began to have strange behavior such as biting people and being afraid of going out. 2013 June 14, Gong Qifeng was determined to be suffering hallucinations. Zhaoyang City Brain Hospital meanwhile diagnosed Gong Qifeng with schizophrenia. (Read entire post.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The St. Michaels War of 1812 Parade

The Talbot Spy's Kathy Bosin took some great pictures of the parade in honor of the bicentennial of the Battle of St. Michaels. It was a battle in which the local militia repelled the British and kept them from capturing the town of St. Michaels, Maryland during the War of 1812. The town was fired upon from the water but remained intact, except for one house, today called the Cannonball House. Some say the town remained unscathed because the people of St. Michaels hung lanterns in the trees to make the British misfire. We also stayed to watch the opening ceremonies in Muskrat Park, where cannons were fired to commemorate the event. Share

Lord Rossmore's Banshee

From The Inn at the End of the World:
6 August is the feast of the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord on Mount Tabor.

It's also the 212th anniversary of the death in 1801 of Robert Cuninghame, 1st Baron Rossmore, soldier and Irish politician.  He fought at Culloden, but alas, on the wrong side.  Well, morally the wrong side.  For purposes of personal advancement, very much on the correct side.  He died quite a wealthy man, a peer,  and commander-in-chief of the  military forces in Ireland.

And I'm telling you this, because. . .?

His death involved one of the great banshee stories in Irish lore.  The following is from Personal Sketches of his Own Time by Sir Jonah Barrington, Member of the Irish Parliament, Judge of the High Court of Admiralty of Ireland. In two volumes.  1871. (Read more.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Working Artists of the Eastern Shore

Over the summer on Maryland's Eastern Shore I have been to some local art shows as well as Gallery Walks, now held on the first Saturday of every month. I want to share some of the painters and craftsmen I have discovered.

"The Landing" by Margery Caggiano (The Cottage Gallery)

"Little Yellow Sailboat" by Carla Huber (Cottage Gallery)

"Frames of Reference" (tapestry) by Ulrika Leander (Cottage Gallery)
Ulrika has her own gallery in Bellevue, Maryland and I was honored to attend a reception there earlier this summer. There was a magnificent buffet of cheeses near Ulrika's huge loom which she uses to weave tapestries. There were many Swedish artists and artisans present, including a lady who crafted silver jewelry based upon Viking designs.

"Waiting" by Barbara MacInnes
Barbara MacInnes is a personal friend and versatile artist, constantly honing her craft by taking lessons with professionals. I saw this painting at her home when she was still working on it. It has now been chosen as one of the Arts in Easton banner paintings.

"Pub News" by Rita Curtis
 I saw Rita Curtis' fabulous paintings at the Oxford Fine Arts Festival in May. It was a lovely event in beautiful Oxford, MD; strawberries and cream were served with tea in a pavilion on the lawn. Rita and I discussed the painting above which reminds me of the work of one of the Dutch masters. Rita was classically trained so it is not surprising.

"Untitled" by Betty Huang (Studio B)
At the latest Gallery Walk in Easton,  my friend Barbara MacInnes took me to Studio B where I met artist Betty Huang. Betty's amazing work is worth exploring. And she is a charming hostess as well! Share

Who Cares About the British Monarchy?

Many people do. And I can tell you, just from the hits I get on this blog, that they also care a great deal about the French monarchy, even though it no longer officially exists. To quote:
As the world delights with its first glimpse of the British Monarchy’s new heir, naturally no one is more proud and interested than the British. But they are not the only ones who care about the new Royal; Americans are running a close second. We fought a war with Britain, declared our independence and explicitly rejected all titles of aristocracy in our constitution. But now we care about who is third in line for the throne?

One might ask if this interest is the fruit of nurture or nature, and it certainly does not appear to be nurture, as Americans in general have not been educated to understand what a monarchy is all about. So why this profound and lively interest in the new prince?

There is something to be said for the notion that all men implicitly know that we are all equal in our essence and unequal in our accidents. It is through our accidents that men distinguish themselves from one another, and that royalty does, well…royally. Some might argue the Marxist line that all monarchs are nothing more than selfish strongmen who imposed their will upon the oppressed proletariat. While this is true of Socialist dictators, it does not match the historical record regarding most monarchies. What really characterizes a monarch is an ability to personify his people as a symbol.

That is why even in an age of declining democracy, the monarch survives with great popularity all over the world. Its dominance does not rest upon oppression but rather on the monarch’s ability to represent a people and convey an ideal image of his nation to the world. (Read more.)