Sunday, April 26, 2009

Video about Princess Grace's Faberge Egg

You can see more of the egg and find out how Faberge made the gorgeous colour here: Princess Grace's Faberge Egg

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Princess Grace's Faberge Egg

Inspired by an 18th century French clock, Mikhael Perkhin crafted this beautiful translucent blue egg for Faberge. Tsar Alexander III gave the egg which features a serpent set with diamonds, a base of gold, and a working clock, to his Tsarina, Maria Feodorova, on Easter Day in 1887.

The enamelled egg was removed from the Anichkov Palace to the Armory in the Kremlin during the Russian Revolution. Michel Norman of the Australian Pearl Company then bought it. Eventually the shipping magnate, Niarchos, acquired it and gave it to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

Princess Grace loved the splendid egg. Legend has it that she kept it on her desk in the Palace until she died.

Controversy About The Date

There is some controversy concerning whether this egg really was made in 1887. Lopato thinks that it is too sophisticated and elaborate to have been made at this early date. It was also supposed to have sapphires. But Tatiana Muntian argues that it was made at this early date.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Queen's Favourites: Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham

The young soldier fell in love with the beautiful fifteen year old at first sight. Sarah Churchill had hair 'washed with gold' and flashing blue eyes. She was impressed with handsome John Churchill, who was ten years older, but she didn't want to be his mistress. John, used to having his own way, found that Sarah led him a merry dance. She began to become panicky, however, when she knew that his parents wanted him to marry wealthy Catherine Sedley, formerly mistress of James II.

Luckily, John had no interest in Catherine and the young couple who didn't have much money got married. John and Sarah remained passionately in love - it was said that he was so anxious to race Sarah upstairs that he didn't even take off his boots when he came home after his military campaigns!

Sarah was a Maid of Honour to Mary of Modena, James II's wife. John originally served James II as well in military campaigns but as he and Sarah were Protestant and James II wanted a Catholic England he favoured the accession of William and Mary in 1688. John remained in contact with James, however, so William didn't give him any honours and even put him in the Tower at one stage.

Princess Anne, Mary's sister, was very friendly with Sarah. They shared a very close friendship even though Anne was married to George, Prince of Denmark and she was passionately in love with him. (NB: I've changed this sentence. Please see Hel's interesting comment about Princess Anne's marriage.) They called each other Mrs.Freeman (Sarah) and Mrs.Morley.

The Victor of Blenheim

When Anne became Queen she appointed John Captain-General of the British troops in the war against France. John began to win many victories. He was created Duke of Marlborough by the Queen. Sarah also gained many honours, including the Mistress of the Robes and the Comptroller of the Privy Purse.

His most famous victory was the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, which stopped the French advance to Austria. The French commander was captured and 13,000 of the French became prisoners. This stopped Louis XIV's plans to conquer England and make it a Catholic and absolutist country.

Sarah was always first in the Duke's thoughts. After the great battle John wrote a note to his beloved Sarah on the back of a bill of tavern expenses: "I have not time to say more but to beg you will give my duty to the Queen, and let her know her army has had a glorious victory..."

He and Sarah were given the old palace at Woodstock and a huge area of land as a reward. They commissioned the architect, Vanbrugh, to design the great palace of Blenheim and oversee its building.

Sarah's Quarrels With Anne

Sarah dominated most people she met and hated not getting her own way. She found the Queen rather too possessive and dull. She grew tired of bothering with her and hardly ever went to the Palace. She also favoured the Whigs who supported the wars with France while the Queen was a Tory. The Tories didn't like the expenses and the loss of life that these wars involved and started to think better of them. The Queen also hated to see so many of her subjects killed.

Sarah wanted her son-in-law, Sunderland, a Whig, to be admitted to the Privy Council.
She got her own way but the Queen resented it.

Abigail Masham

Sarah found out that her cousins, the Mashams, were very poor and rescued them by giving them positions at Court. A rather haughty woman, she looked down on them and may have helped them because she didn't want their poverty to affect her reputation.

Abigail was just as ambitious as Sarah, but quiet and submissive. The Queen found her friendship soothing and started to favour her above Sarah. This horrified Sarah who felt that she had rescued Abigail 'from a garret'. She also practically accused the Queen of lesbianism.

Harvey, another ambitious Tory, was another cousin who became friendly with the Queen. Together they worked against the Churchills and argued for the advancement of the Tories.

Falling Out

After John won another great victory at Oudenarde the Queen went to St.Paul's to give thanks. Sarah wanted her to wear some of her beautiful jewels but the Queen was shocked at the sacrifice of men and refused. They had a terrible argument and Sarah even hissed at her to 'Be Quiet' as they got out of the coach!

When the Prince died Sarah even wrote a note accusing the Queen of 'ill-using' her.

The Queen never forgave these insults and finally dismissed Sarah from all of her posts. Abigail's turn had come.


John was also sacked because he had demanded to be captain-general for life after his victory at Malplaquet. The Queen was shocked at the bloodshed - 6000 British died - and suspicious of John's desire for power.

When the government discovered that John had taken bribes and received much money from the Austrian emperor, he and Sarah were sent into exile. Sarah, understandably, hated being away from her beloved country.

John found favour once again under the Hanover reign, but he was getting old by then.
He and Sarah continued the building of Blenheim Palace, but Sarah quarelled with Vanbrugh incessantly.


They suffered many trials during their marriage. Their only son died of smallpox. Later two daughters died - Anne and Elizabeth.

John died in 1722. Sarah lived on and adopted a grand-daughter, Diana. The Sixth Earl of Somerset, whose wife had been a Tory, asked her to marry him. She wrote to him that: "If I were young and handsome as I was, instead of old and faded as I am, and you could lay the empire of the world at my feet, you should never have the heart and hand that once belonged to John, Duke of Marlborough.

A Meme from Histatic!

What is your current obsession? Sarah and John Churchill. I'm in love with the ravishing Duke of Marlborough, the victor of Blenheim. Sarah is almost more interesting. It's a great love story.

Good fika place? Not sure about this one.

Do you nap a lot? No-not a napper at all.

Who was the last person you hugged? My husband.

What’s for dinner? Lean pork chop, mashed potatoes and spinach.

What was the last thing you bought? Writing Magazine at the newsagent.

What are you listening to right now? The Duchess by Amanda Foreman.

What’s on your bedside table? Books-I just love them.

Say something to the person/s who tagged you. She didn't tag me, but Histatic is a wonderful blog!

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be? I would have to say the Italian lakes. George Clooney can't be wrong. Stresa is the most beautiful town.

Favourite holiday (sorry) spot? The Italian lakes again. I'd love to go back to Belgirate on Lake Maggiore.

Name the things you can’t live without. I can not live without my husband, my close family and friends and my books.

What would you like to have in your hands right now? The book that I'm expecting about Anna Pavlova!.

What is your favourite tea flavour? At the risk of being boring, Twining's English Breakfast Tea. Yes, it has to be Twinings!

Which modern Royal would you most like to meet? Princess Mary. I like her grace and elegance. I also like her because she's Australian and has a Law degree.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go? Lake Louise in Canada. I went there when I was 11. We had lunch at the beautiful old hotel on the lake and walked in the garden. It was wonderful and I'd love to spend more time there.

What did you want to become as a child? I wanted one career after another! They included: actress, writer, English professor, teacher, botanist.. I'm what Barbara Sher calls a 'scanner'.

What do you miss? I agree with Histatic here: University-it was awesome. I miss doing my Arts degree.

What are you reading right now? I am about to read Becoming Queen, Kate Williams.

What do you fear the most? Things changing. (Histatic and I must be somewhat alike!)

What designer piece of clothing would you most like to own (new or vintage)? A Poiret gown.

If you could go back in time what period and where would you go to and why? (question added by TammiMagee of Histatic!) At the minute I would go to the mid to late 18th century in order to meet Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham.

Last question, added by Sallymandy: How do you feel about the economy? I hope that it's looking up!

That’s all for me. If you’d like to do the meme, here’s how it works.

1. Respond and rework. Answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your own invention; add a question of your own.

2. Tag eight other un-tagged people. (I decided to open this up to anyone.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Georgiana's Children

Georgiana and Little G by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her husband had three children who lived to adulthood:

The Bachelor Duke

Georgiana's son, the bachelor duke, was a collector who became friendly with the sculptor, Canova, and attained many of his best sculptures. These sculptures and others were shown in the last movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

He was also friendly with Joseph Paxton, who built the Emperor Fountain which is the highest gravity-fed fountain in the world.

Some thought that the duke may have been gay because of his close friendships with men but there is no evidence for this.

Little G

Her daughter, Georgiana, married George Howard, Earl of Calisle and had twelve children. It was apparently a very happy marriage.


Harriet, usually called Harryo, wrote very interesting letters. Some of these are quoted in Amanda Foreman's book.

She married the much older Lord Granville Leveson Gower, who had had an affair with her aunt, Harriet, and two illegitimate children with her! Leveson Gower (pronounced lesson gore, I think) was apparently considered the handsomest man in Regency England. He confessed everything to Harryo before their marriage and insisted on retaining his friendship with her aunt. Harryo loved her aunt, of course, and knew that the affair was over so she accepted these terms. She also brought up the illegitimate children, showing that she inherited her mother's generous nature.

There is more about the children at Georgiana's Guide to the Eighteenth Century

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Georgiana and Picture Hats

Heather Carroll has written a short post about this with beautiful pictures: The Picture Hat

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Sylph

Vivianna has written an interesting post about Georgiana's novel: World's Oldest Obsession I can't link to the actual post for some reason but there's a search button on the blog.

You can buy it here: The Sylph

I'm sorry about the bad link. I think that it's fixed now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Queen Hortense

Ms.Lucy has a lovely post about this daughter of Josephine Bonaparte who became Queen of Holland: Queen Hortense

Friday, April 10, 2009

Georgiana and Elizabeth: A Strange Friendship

Painting of Bess Foster by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Beautiful Georgiana,the Duchess of Devonshire, had many talents. She wrote novels and plays, held political salons and helped the Whigs win elections, and she was a fashion icon. However, this woman who could be quite forthright, also famously lived in a menage a trois with her husband and her friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, for many years. Many people wondered why.

Georgiana's marriage was not a happy one. The Duke was a cold and very reserved man, who had a mistress when he and Georgiana married. The warm-hearted, friendly and much younger Georgiana found her husband difficult to understand. His family blamed Georgiana for not providing him with an heir until she eventually had one and constantly complained about her excessive gambling and debts.

The young duchess needed a good friend and thought that she'd discovered one in Bess Foster. Georgiana felt very sorry for Bess. Bess's husband had an affair with a maid and retained custody of her two sons, Frederick and Augustus, after they separated. Bess took advantage of this and manipulated her way into the household, becoming very friendly with the Duke.

Georgiana's mother, Lady Spencer, was not impressed with Bess from the start. Bess came from the notorious, libertine Harvey family. Georgiana wrote to her, begging to bring Bess with them when they stayed at her place. Lady Spencer noticed that Bess and the Duke went out riding together alone every day.

Bess was a man-eater and had many affairs. Her lovers are said to have included Count Axel Fersen, the Earl of Dunraven (who was married), and even a man of the cloth, Ercole Cardinal Consalvi. She was also extremely good-looking and seemed to be able to handle the Duke. She had two children to him and eventually married him after Georgiana died, against the wishes of Georgiana's children.

Georgiana was not faithful to the Duke, understandably. Her most famous affair was with Charles Grey, the Second Earl Grey, who eventually became Prime Minister. They had an illegitimate child, Eliza, who the Greys adopted. When the Duke found out, he was quite cruel to Georgiana, forcing her to separate completely from Grey and give up the child.

Except for her affair with her husband, Bess actually was a good friend to Georgiana. She helped her persuade the Duke to forgive her large debts and she travelled abroad with her when she had Grey's child. It was a very big exception, however! Georgiana had her reasons for putting up with this situation, but people down the centuries have found it hard to understand.

What do you think about this odd situation?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen

My article is here: A Romantic Friendship

Fabulous Faberge

Recently a large pink Faberge egg sold for $18 million at a Christie’s auction, setting a record for Faberge eggs. The new owners of the brand, Pallinghurst, Inc. are no doubt, extremely pleased with this price.

They hope to restore the company’s illustrious reputation which was tarnished during the seventies by some bad choices of perfumes and tacky diamond-encrusted jeans!
Already Faberge sales of the famous clocks and jewelry have increased greatly.
The new owners have the family’s approval and Pallinghurst, Inc. has appointed Tatiana Faberge and Sarah Faberge the founder’s great-great granddaughters as advisors.

The famous Russian firm was begun by Gustav Faberge, a goldsmith, who immigrated to the country from France when Peter 1 invited goldsmiths, artists, and other skilled people to St.Petersburg. The Tsar wanted to make the city into a center for the arts and his ‘window to the West’.

It was Gustav’s son, Peter, who really founded the company’s fine reputation, however. He studied his art in Florence, London, and Paris, after completing his craftsman’s apprenticeship at a young age. When he returned to Russia he became friendly with the treasurer of the Winter Palace and started copying some of the collections there. Assisted by his brother, Agathon, who was a brilliant designer, he gradually became famous for his unusual techniques and craftsmanship. Faberge used brightly colored enamelling, gold and silver, precious stones and cabochons.

Peter Carl Faberge was so meticulous about the quality of the firm’s work that he smashed any piece that wasn’t up to his standards with a hammer!

Tsar Alexander III noticed copies of ancient jewelry made by the brothers at an exhibition and he was very impressed. Faberge soon became the Imperial goldsmith and silversmith, which increased its reputation greatly. I soon became the largest business of its type in Russia.

The Imperial family began the tradition of giving Faberge eggs as gifts at Easter in the same year (1885). The Tsar commissioned the family to create an egg for his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. Known as the ‘Hen Egg’ this had plain white enameling and a gold yolk holding a golden hen. They continued the tradition until 1916.

Other famous clients included the British royal family, Consuelo Vanderbilt, and the Rothschild’s. King Edward VII commissioned a miniature zoo for his beautiful wife, Alexandra.

The Russian Revolution led to the company’s sad decline. Some of the family attempted to continue their fine work from France but in 1951 an American corporation acquired the rights to the brand for only $25,000.00. The family couldn’t afford the expensive litigation required to retain the rights.

It is to be hoped that this company, with its distinguished history, can restore its fine reputation. Tatiana Faberge said in the firm’s Press Release about the historic reunification:

‘I have dreamed of
this moment for decades. It has been my life’s ambition
to restore the unsurpassed
standards of design and workmanship that characterised my
great-grandfather’s treasures. Now, finally, we have the basis
for fulfilling this ambition. I am very
pleased to be a part of one of the most significant developments
in Faberge’s history.

(NB:This is also on my old Orble blog and my Edwardian Promenade blog.)
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