My book, Eczema and Atopic Dermatits: The Best Websites has recently been published. I've also had many articles published, but I'd like to write more non-fiction books and, of course, a novel!
My articles can be seen at many websites, including Life in Italy, Crescent Blues, Paris Eiffel Tower Newsletter, and France This Way.
When he was Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII loved nothing more than fighting large blazes. His fascination with fire began when there was a fire in the nursery of Marlborough House in 1865. He doused the burning floorboards and organised the servants into a human chain so that they could pour water on the fire.
He asked his friend, Sir Eyure Massey Shaw, the Chief of the London Fire Brigade, to let him assist in fighting fires. Special vehicles were sent to the Prince's residence so that he could rush to fires. A uniform of helmut, axe, and bell was kept for him at the fire station near Charing Cross. The Prince probably didn't help by giving cigars away!
Edward VII introduced two medals, the King's Fire Service Medal and the King's Police Medal. These are still awarded to men from the British Fire Service today.
I watched my favourite film, the wonderful Chariots of Fire,again recently. The most likeable character in the film is arguably the sauve Lord Lindsay, played by handsome and quintessentially English Nigel Havers. He is based on Lord David Burghley who was apparently just as dashing in real life.
Lord Burghley refused to see the movie at first because of its historical inaccuracies. He reportedly changed his mind, however, and he did like it.
He was born in 1905, the same year in which the British Olympic Association was formed. Lord Burghley eventually became the president of this association for many years. He also became the vice-president of the IOC and the president of the Amateur Athletics Association for several years. He also organised the 1948 Olympics in London. He even had the number-plate of AAA1 on his Rolls-Royce.
Lord Burghley, who became the 6th Marquiss of Exeter, was upset with the film because he completed the Trinity Court Great Run at Cambridge alone and he was the only one to hold this record for years. (The movie depicts him running the race with Harold Abrahams who beats him). The race involves running around the court before the college clock strikes noon, i.e. 43 seconds. The young man ran the race in 1927. He wrote in his diary "ran round Trinity Court on the flags while the clock struck 12, doing it before the one but last stroke, time 42 and a half seconds."
He also didn't give up his place in the 400m race in the 1924 Paris Olympics for Eric Liddell, as depicted in the film. (It was true that Liddell wouldn't run on a Sunday, however). Burghley won the Gold Medal for the race.
The aristocratic champion also won the Gold in the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928 for the 400m hurdles. He set a new Olympic record for this - 53.4 seconds. Lord Burghley went on to win many more medals in the Canadian and Los Angeles Olympics.
Burghley certainly had plenty of land on which to practice. According to legend, he was "the only athlete who can look at 35 Rembrandts in his own home, then jog through 40,000 acres without leaving his own domain." Chariots of Fire shows the intrepid aristocrat training for his race by hurdling over glasses of champagne. He didn't really do this because he wasn't willing to spill a drop of the precious liquid! He did use matchboxes instead!
He also ran around the quarter-mile promenade deck of the Queen Mary in 58 seconds in white tie and tails!
Lord Burghley died in 1981, after a long and prestigious career.
Royal proposals often take place in beautiful and romantic settings. After all, royals can usually afford to pull out all the stops! Prince William and Prince Frederick certainly chose lovely places.
Prince William proposed to Katherine on the slopes of Mount Kenya overlooking the glimmering lake. He probably flew her there by helicopter as well, which must have been exciting. He gave her his mother's sapphire ring to wear as her engagement ring.
Prince Frederick of Denmark chose 'the Eternal City' to propose. He proposed to his beautiful bride, who grew up in Australia, on a moonlit night in Rome. We don't know exactly where it was, however. Perhaps it was overlooking the panoramic view of the city from the Spanish Steps? CP Mary said in an interview that he made it very difficult for her to say
When Joseph Paxton on behalf of the Duke of Devonshire presented Queen Victoria with a beautiful, large and exotic water-lily, she must have been absolutely delighted! The gorgeous flower was named Victoria Regia after her - now it is known as the Victoria Amazonica. This strange tropical water-lily, which has leaves that can be up to 3 metres in diameter and extremely large flowers which can be 40 centimetres wide, must have looked incredible to Victoria. One wonders if she knew that the flowers, which only last a short time, are white on the first night and pink when they bloom for a second night.
The German scientist, Haenke, first discovered the 'Giant Water Lily' in 1801 along the Amazon River in South America. Before he reported his find, however, Sir Richard Schornburgk told the London Botanical Society about his noting of the flower in 1837 in British Guiana. The Victoria Amazonica
is Guiana's national flower.
Two English dukes took a great interest in this flower and held a competition to see who could first grow it in England. These dukes were the Duke of Devonshire and the Duke of Northumberland. Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire's landscape gardener, won the contest. He did this by creating a great conservatory and replicating the plant's warm, swampy environment. The ribbed undersurface of the plant and the veins on the leaves also inspired his design of the Crystal Palace.
Young Kat Champernowne must have been thrilled when she was appointed governess to little Princess Elizabeth. She probably gained her position in the Princess's household because of her court connections. Her brother, John, was a favourite of Henry VIII and her sister, Joan, was married to Anthony Denny, a Gentleman of the King's Privy Chamber. She also impressed Thomas Cromwell with her humanist principles. Champernowne was appointed a companion to Elizabeth before she became governess.
Estremely well-educated, she taught the young Elizabeth many subjects, including Spanish and astronomy. She also taught her domestic skills, including needlework. Even Roger Ascham was impressed with how she inspired the young girl in clasics and languages. The young governess was attractive, kind and warm-hearted so the little Princess became very fond of her. She became a surrogate mother to the young girl.
The problem was that, according to Tracey Borman, Champernowne was also 'naive, impulsive, and overly romantic'. This would lead to trouble later on.
Champernowne married John Astley when she was over 40. Elizabeth became very fond of him as well. The marriage was a happy and enduring one.
Astley was very keen for her young charge to get married. She was disappointed when the former Queen, Katherine Parr, married the dashing Thomas Seymour. Astley had been hoping for a match between her charge and the handsome Lord-Admiral.
The Princess and her governess joined Katherine Parr at Hatfield. Parr was also like a surrogate mother to Elizabeth. It must have been rather frightening for the fourteen year old to have her step-mother's husband suddenly start visiting her in her bedroom inappropriately. Astley didn't nip this in the bud until it was almost too late. When Seymour tried to kiss Elizabeth, Astley told Lady Katherine.
Parr told Elizabeth to leave. After Lady Katherine died, Astley hoped for the match yet again but Elizabeth had learned her lesson. She told her governess that it was out of the question unless the Sovereign consented. Anything else was treason. She did agree to clandestine meetings with the Admiral, however.
Rumours began that the two were going to marry. Thomas Seymour was arrested and so were Kat Astley, Thomas Parry, and the Princess herself.
The governess's interrogators got nothing out of her until Parry told them the story. Astley knew there was no choice then and she was suffering in an extremely uncomfortable cell so she admitted to her actions.
Princess Elizabeth was very brave, however, and she didn't implicate either of them or admit to anything. She told her interrogator, Tyrwhit, that she had told Kat Astley that she needed the Council's consent to marry Seymour. They were saved, but Seymour was beheaded for treason. Elizabeth was devastated when her governess was removed from her for a time.
Sarah Bernhardt wasn't always 'The Divine Sarah'. She despaired at 18 of ever becoming an actress, let alone a great one. Her mother told her that her acting was ridiculous and the distraught girl resigned from The Gymnase. This was a theatre which showed light comedies.
Bernhardt decided to go on a trip. She may have gone to Spain. She fell in love with the Belgian Prince Henri de Lignes, the great love of her life. He wanted to marry her but his family persuaded her that he would lose his inheritance and be looked down upon by society if she accepted. She gave him up.
She did have his son, however. Bernhardt called him Maurice. When Maurice was much older the prince officially recognised him and offered him his name and a large fortune. He decided to remain 'Bernhardt'.
There is a legend that Maurice and his father were catching a train but they'd lost the tickets. The ticket officer told the prince that he'd never heard of him. However, he knew the name 'Bernhardt' so they got on the train!
The Prince of Wales
Did 'the Divine Sarah' and Edward, Prince of Wales have an affair? Her granddaughter said that they were the best of friends. We will probably never know.
However, his first acknowledged mistress, Lily Langtry, certainly got quite jealous of the frizzy-haired, beautiful Frenchwoman.
The prince and the young actress often dined together in Paris. He also showered her with expensive jewellery and loved to go to her performances. When she went to London in 1879 the air was buzzing with gossip about the couple.
Lady Cavendish complained that Bernhardt was 'shameless' yet she was invited everywhere. She probably wasn't very happy about the speculation that Bernhardt and the prince were involved!
The only evidence of an affair seems to be that they spent many hours together and Bernhardt told her theatre manager that she was late because she was with the prince until the early hours of the morning.
Crowds flooded the streets of Jaipur to mourn the death of its beloved Maharaja in April. Even though he had technically lost his title in 1971 due to a constitutional amendment, he was still regarded by many as His Royal Highness, the Maharaja of Jaipur.
Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh Bahadur’s birth was greeted with widespread rejoicing and delight because he was the first male heir to be born to the royal family
for generations. The fountains at the royal palaces overflowed with champagne, so he was given the nickname, Bubbles.
The Maharaja’s Career
The young boy attended Doon School in Dehradun and the prestigious Harrow. After this he decided to serve in the army. He became the CO of the 10th Parachute Regiment (one of the Special Forces regiments.) He was awarded the Mahavir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award, for his part in the Indo-Pakistani War in 1971. He also helped train the Mukti Bahini before the Bangladesh war. He became a Brigadier in 1974.
After his retirement, Singh Bahadur became the Indian High Commissioner to Brunei for some years. He was also an expert polo player and started the Jaipur World Cup of Polo. Singh Bahadur also ran for an election unsuccessfully, and ran many of his palaces as hotels.
The Maharaja’s Marriage
Singh Bahadur married Princess Padmini Devi in 1966. They had one daughter, Princess Diya Kumari. She attended the Maharani Gayatri Devi School for Girls. The former Maharaja’s stepmother, Gayatri Devi had started this school.
He adopted his grandson, Maharaj Kumar Padmandbh Singh as his heir in 2002.
The former Maharaja famously did not get along with his stepmother. However, he persuaded her to give some property and the secession rights to her grandchildren.
While we were in Rome last year we went to see the Charlotte Bonaparte exhibition. This included impressive sketches and paintings by the princess, beautiful eighteenth century objects, and paintings by famous artists. This was very enjoyable, except that the receptionist didn't like Australians! (My English husband got much better treatment!)
The artistic princess was the daughter of Napoleon 1's older brother, Joseph, and his wife, Julie Clary. Born in France in 1802, young Charlotte grew up there. She remained mostly in Mortefontaine and Paris even while her father was the king of Naples and the king of Spain.
Charlotte soon showed a talent for art. She loved to spend her time painting and sketching. The princess was lucky enough to receive lessons from the famous artist, Jean
-Louis David, in Belgium.
After he was exiled, Joseph bought properties in America. He owned a house in Philadelphia and a large estate in New Jersey. He filled this with art and sculpture. Large landscaped gardens added beauty and serenity. The princess spent three years in America with her father. Here she painted portraits of society people and New Jersey landscapes. Some of these were exhibited at the Academy for Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
Charlotte was petite and attractive with fine dark eyes and hair. Many suitors called but her father was determined to marry her to a relative. She married her cousin, Napoleon-Louis, in 1826. The couple returned to Europe and lived in Rome. Here Charlotte studied engraving and lithography with Louis Leopold Robert.
Napoleon-Louis died during the struggle for unification of Italy. After this the princess lived with her mother in Florence. She became pregnant at 36, perhaps to a Polish count. The princess died tragically from complications of childbirth.
One of Princess Mathilde's most beautiful pieces of jewellery was the tudor rose brooch. This large, glimmering brooch, created by the famous Parisian jeweler, Theodore Foster, in 1855, was in the shape of an open rose with two rose buds and eleven leaves. It had thousands of Brazilian green rose-cut diamonds mounted in silver-topped gold.
The gorgeous brooch was sold in 1904 after the Princess's death. Janesich, the Art Deco jeweler, acquired it. It was eventually sold by Cartier to Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt, a society queen of New York. It came into the hands of the jeweler, Fred Leighton.
Model, Chandra North, looked extremely glamorous when she wore the lovely brooch as a hair ornament to an event in 1998. The brooch was sold by Christie's in 2004 for $701,900. You can see a picture of the brooch here: Tudor Rose Brooch
Anna Pavlova was very frightened. Her lipstick had left a red mark on the Kaiserin's pristine white glove! She saw the upset look on the Empress's face. The great Russian ballerina apologised profusely. Luckily the Kaiser told her that it didn't matter.
It was May, 1914. The ethereal ballerina had just danced in a command performance for the Kaiser's grandson's christening. The Kaiser was very impressed.
During their conversation afterwards Pavlova told him that she kept in condition by exercising every day as she had been trained. The Kaiser agreed that 'that was the only way to succeed.'
He was also very pleased when she told him that she disliked the tango, a dance that was becoming more popular. The Kaiser also hated this 'immoral' dance.
Pavlova was happy after the performance. The Kaiser had allayed her concerns about the glove, perhaps partly because he liked his conversation with her. If she had marked the Tsarina's glove, she thought that there may have been serious consequences!