Thursday, May 27, 2010

Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna

Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna died a few days ago at 95. You can read her obituary here: Grand Duchess Leonida

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Born to Rule by Julia Gelardi

Born to Rule by Julia Gelardi

The five queens, granddaughters of Queen Victoria, led tempestuous lives in turbulent times. They lived through wars and revolutions. Some were accused of treason; one was even cruelly murdered for it.

Julia Gelardi tells the story of the five queens clearly and vividly in this interesting book. She gets rid of misconceptions, and vindicates their reputations. I found the story of Queen Sophie, the Queen of Greece, who suffered greatly because she was the Kaiser's sister, and reviled by the Greeks and the English because she was supposedly sympathetic to Germany during the First World War, especially enlightening.

I knew a lot about Empress Alexandra of Russia before I began the book, but I had not read much about the others. All of the Queens deserve their own biographies, but putting them all together and comparing their influences, similarities, and differences was an excellent idea. I liked to read about how the different Queens handled their roles and adapted to the political situations in their countries. Queen Marie of Romania was probably the most outstanding in her ability to adapt and her strength of character. It was interesting to compare her with the Empress Alexandra, who was a much weaker person, and remained too aloof from her people.

This book was a sympathetic portrayal of the five Queens, and I enjoyed the book greatly. I am interested in reading more of Julia Gelardi

NB: This post is also on my Book Addiction blog.

The Rose of Christendom

The beautiful Princess Mary Tudor was once called 'the Rose of Christendom' by a French admiral. You can read about her here: Mary Tudor, Queen of France.

The Duchess of Suffolk and Charles Brandon were friendly with Katherine of Aragon and didn't approve of Anne Boleyn. They took Katherine's side in 'the Great Matter'.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Princess Who Ran Away With A Gypsy

Beautiful Clara Ward had an interesting and tempestuous life. She married four times - her husbands included a prince. She was also reportedly the mistress of King Leopold of Belgium. Ward once wrote in her diary that she'd rather marry a murderer than live a boring life - she didn't want to be ordinary and she certainly wasn't!

Ward was the daughter of a millionaire lumberman with holdings in steel and silver mines and steamships. He was the wealthiest man in Michigan. Her father died when she was only 2, leaving her brother in charge of the family's inheritance.

The lovely heiress met the Prince de Caraman-Chimay in France when she was quite young. He was fifteen years older, not very handsome, and not very wealthy. But perhaps that doesn't matter if you're a prince! She charmed the older man and the couple married in Paris when Ward was only 17.

She was the toast of Paris, although she shocked society with her unconventional ways. The princess also liked to spend her money - she had an annual income of $50,000.00 and she reportedly spent it all!

Although the couple had two children, Ward remained restless. She caught the eye of King Leopold of Belgium, who 'showered her with attentions.' When she ordered him to bring her an ice, he immediately obeyed!

Clara Meets Her Gypsy

The princess liked to dine at elegant restaurants in Paris with her husband. She became mesmerized by a young Hungarian gypsy who played the violin at one of these restaurants. The princess ran away with the rather poor Hungarian gypsy, whose name was Rigo Jancsi. They married in 1904.

There was great interest in this 'beautiful couple' by the media. Unfortunately, the princess's husband was an opportunist. She spent bucketloads of money on her gypsy. She built him a white marble palace in Egypt, a $5,000.00 violin, and lots of jewels.

Clara eventually had to obtain money by desperate means. She appeared at the Folies Bergere and the Moulin Rouge in skin-tight costumes. She called these her 'poses plastiques.' Toulouse-Lautrec even painted the couple.

Jancsi was unfaithful so the princess eventually divorced him. Her last two husbands were Italian, Peppino Ricciardo, and a station-master. She met the station-master when she travelled on one of the trains that passed through the station.

The princess died at only 43 in 1916.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oh-La-La Challenge

Violets for the Emperor: The Life of Louisa de Mercy-Argenteau by Therese de Caraman-Chimay
This biography was dedicated to the author's favourite horse, so I didn't have high hopes for it! After all, even 'Mr.Ed' couldn't read! It was nicely-written, however, and very enjoyable.

Louisa was a beautiful princess with golden hair who travelled to St.Petersburg and Vienna in search of a husband. She had a grand time and many suitors pursued her. She failed to fall in love, however, and eventually settled on the handsome and wealthy Comte de Mercy Argenteau. Unfortunately, she found him quite boring, but she had a lovely daughter to compensate!

Her husband worked for the Emperor Napoleon II. Louisa impressed the Emperor with her beauty and charm, and grew very fond of him. When war with Germany eventuated, she found herself in a world of intrigue, and involved in negotiations with the Prussian Emperor and the dreadful Bismarck.

Louisa and the Emperor were probably platonic friends, according to this book. She is described as lacking passion, and she probably didn't want any scandal. Empress Eugenie was very jealous so Louisa didn't want to upset her too much!

Louisa was very talented musically and became friendly with the famous composer, Liszt. She also gave many Russian composers their big chance, apparently. The story of Louisa's influence on music only comprises a short part of the book, which is a pity.

I found Louisa very likeable and I'd like to read more about her. This was a very interesting biography, but it's hard to know how much of it is true. It reads more like a novel than a biography. There is a lot of dialogue in the book and I think that this might have been made up by the author.

Eugenie is presented as being very unlikeable. She had too much influence over Napoleon politically, and she was difficult, according to this book. I haven't read much about her yet, so I don't know that much about her character.

This was a sweet book. I recommend it if you're interested in this time in French history and French royalty.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Princess Grace Exhibition

The Princess Grace Exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum enchanted Skirmish of Wit.

I love looking at the photos of Princess Grace's beautiful clothes. My favourite is the outfit from Rear Window. Unfortunately, I can't wear dresses like this because fifties-style full skirts don't suit me! After I'd tried on a few of these dresses, the saleslady said: "You need to wear A-line dresses. I knew that they wouldn't suit you!"

Which outfit is your favourite?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Devoted Daughter

Nicknamed 'Baby' by her devoted mother, Princess Beatrice was Queen Victoria's last child. She was a merry and amusing, but quiet child. Queen Victoria was incredibly attached to the little girl and indulged her more than her other children.

Beatrice's father died when she was only 4. She became withdrawn when her father died. Her only company was her brother, Prince Leopold, who was a haemophiliac so he had to be somewhat protected. This must have been hard for the little princess to understand. She grew up to be very shy.

Princess Beatrice declared that: "I shall never be married." "I shall stay with mother," she said. Queen Victoria may have had other ideas when Beatrice was young because there were rumours that she wanted the princess to marry Louis, Prince Imperial, Empress Eugenie's son. Unfortunately, the good-looking young man was killed in 1879 in the Anglo-Zulu War.

Queen Victoria wanted Princess Beatrice to stay with her after that, and keep her company. She was very surprised when the princess fell in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg. There were many recriminations but Beatrice insisted on the marriage. For a long time, mother and daughter communicated by written notes!

Princess Vicky intervened on Princess Beatrice's behalf. She reminded the Queen that Beatrice was lonely. She said that her mother had often told her how lonely she was before she met Prince Albert. Queen Victoria also liked 'Liko' so she gave her permission for the marriage.

The Queen insisted that the couple live with her and that the Prince should give up his career in the Army. She wanted Princess Beatrice to remain her unofficial private secretary and confidante. The couple agreed and they were married in 1885. In 1886 their first son, Alexander, was born. Soon they also had a daughter, Victoria Eugenie, who had a 'meeting with destiny' ahead.

Princess Beatrice had two more sons, Leopold and Maurice. Her husband died of fever in 1896 at the Battle of Ashanti. Poor Princess Beatrice was utterly distraught and acted very strangely for a time. Eventually she continued her charity work for the Red Cross and she became governor of the Isle of Wight. (This position was inherited from her husband.)

The Princess lived to see her daughter become Queen of Spain. Unfortunately, in 1931 Republicanism was on the rise in Spain and King Alfonso XIII decided to abdicate in order to avoid civil war. Queen Ena died ten years before her grandson became King of Spain.

Princess Beatrice had a sad life. Two of her sons died. Maurice was killed in the Great War and Leopold died of haemophilia. By this time, she'd also lost many of her siblings.

In 1931 the Princess fell and broke two bones in her arm. She declined after that, suffering from lameness and cataracts. Her last two years were spent at Branbridge Park, Sussex, with Helena's daughters.

Queen Ena arrived to say goodbye to her mother when she became ill for the last time. A converted bomber was sent to fetch her from Switzerland because it was 1944. Princess Beatrice was 87. She is buried at the Isle of Wight beside her husband.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tudor Mania Challenge

Tudor Mania Button

The Tudor Mania Challenge run by the wonderful Marie Burton. I am going to enter this. I have started too late, however, so I'm very unlikely to win the prize!
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