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 Queen Victoria read the ultimatum, she was horrified. She didn't want to worry her sick husband, her beloved Prince Albert, but she desperately needed his advice. She handed it to him along with a pencil so that he could make any necessary changes.
It was 1861 and tensions between the American North and the deep South had reached boiling point. The first shots had even been fired at the battle of Bull Run in July. The problem for the British government was that many people were sympathetic with the South and the seceding states wanted recognition and assistance. Two diplomats, Mason and Slidell, were on their way to England on the British mail steamer the Trent to plead the case, along with their wives and children.
When Captain Wilkes of the American ship, San Jacinto, heard about this, he decided to intercept them off the coast of Cuba. He fired two shots across the Trent's bow and boarded the ship without a fight, although he later said that Mrs Slidell had been furious and a very pretty girl had slapped First Lt Donald McNeill Fairfax across the face because he kissed her. He then imprisoned Mason and Slidell at Fort Warren near Boston. Wilkes was regarded as a hero by the North and paraded in New York from Broadway to Washington.
The British government was up in arms! How dare the Americans imprison innocent men travelling on a British ship flying the British flag! This was a violation of international law. Palmerston, the British Prime Minister, ordered his Foreign Secretary, Lord John Russell, to write an ultimatum to the American government. He demanded the immediate release of the prisoners and threatened to break off relations with the Americans in one week if this was not done. He also ordered troops to be sent to Canada in case of war. Luckily, this document needed the approval of the Crown before it could be sent.
Prince Albert didn't like this sort of confrontational language at all. He had fought against slavery for a long time, and he didn't want the British to be associated with a war for the slave-owning South. He decided to tone down the language. He changed the wording to indicate that the British believed that the insult to the flag was unintentional and that the government hoped that redress would be spontaneously offered.
This solved the situation between the British and the Americans. Poor Prince Albert died of typhoid a very short time later.
I found this rather salacious and gossipy article today: Queen Victoria's Lovers. Remember that the word 'lover' often had a different and more innocent meaning in those days. Princess Victoria may not even have kissed Lord Elphinstone or Lord Paget! It's understandable that she had her eye on them - they were both tall and handsome, apparently.
I read recently that the remains of Jose de Gregorio are going to be exhumed to see if a Madrid housewife is his illegitimate daughter. She claims that she is the daughter of de Gregorio and one of his former servants.
Although the dashing de Gregorio was an expert horseman in the Spanish Olympian team, his wife, known as 'The Red Duchess,' was even more interesting. Born in Estoril, Portugal, Luisa, the Duchess of Medina Sidonia, was raised in a grand ducal palace. However, she watched her parents try to help the poor villagers during the Second World War. She started to have Socialist leanings because of the deep division she saw between the rich and the poor. She also became a Republican, rather surprisingly, considering her family's history. Although she was rebellious and expelled from several convent schools, she read Spanish history voraciously. She learned that one of her ancestors was the commander of the Spanish Armada, and another one was a Spanish Prime Minister.
When she was 18 her father died, and she inherited his title. She also married de Gregorio who was six years older and had two boys and a girl. However, the marriage soon ran into trouble.
The fiery Duchess, only five feet tall, became an activist. She began giving much of her land away for agricultural co-operatives. She also famously went to jail in 1968 for eight months, because she told the press about the loss of four hydrogen bombs in Spain, caused by a collision involving a US B-52 bomber, and led protests demanding compensation for the villager's contaminated lands. She was offered her freedom in return for silence, but she bravely refused.
She wrote a criticism of prison conditions, and novels about social conditions in Spain. She was accused of insulting the police and the judiciary in her novel La Huelga ('The Strike'). In her novel, published in 1967, she suggested that Andalusian workers were treated brutally by landowners and police with the collusion of the Church.
She lost custody of her children because of her activism, and she also became estranged from them. Eventually, the duchess took charge of the archive of her beautiful palace at Sanlucar de Barrameda and decided to preserve it for future generations. She wrote many non-fiction books based on the archive.
This strange duchess married her lesbian lover, the secretary of the foundation to preserve the archives, on her deathbed. She also left this woman the palace, and the children have accused her of depriving them of their inheritance.
The beautiful new princess weighing 8 lb 3 oz was born at 8:34 am on Saturday, May 2 after a short labour. She shares her birthday with Catherine the Great, a fascinating royal, and she is fourth in line to the throne. Prince William said that he was very happy, and he introduced little Prince George to his new sister quite quickly.
Favourites for the princess's name include Charlotte, Alice and Elizabeth. My favourite is Elizabeth - no prizes for guessing why!
I watched one of my favourite films again during Easter - The Song of Bernadette. In this movie, there is a scene in which several people are arrested because they took water from the miraculous spring at Lourdes where Saint Bernadette (played beautifully by Jennifer Jones) had her visions of Mary. These people are asked to pay fines. One well-dressed lady offers to pay everyone's fines. There is great shock when this lady states imperiously that she is the nanny to the Empress Eugenie's son who is gravely ill, and the Empress has requested a bottle of water for him.
Was this true? According to the Catholic News Agency, Empress Eugenie 's son was cured, so she did support Saint Bernadette. However, the movie dramatized the situation. I haven't read an account of the nanny asking for the water from the spring in these circumstances!
Mary told Saint Bernadette that she was the Immaculate Conception, and asked her to have a chapel built on the site of the holy spring. The authorities tried to close the site and delay construction , but the Empress had seen for herself the power of the holy water, and supported the young saint. She intervened to make sure that the chapel was built.
I was lucky enough to see the Queen's Wattle Spray brooch during my recent trip to Sydney. Our Queen's spectacular wattle brooch is on display for three months at the Powerhouse Museum. This brooch which features a design of yellow wattle and tea tree blossoms with 150 yellow and white diamonds was made by the Melbourne jewellers William Drummond & Co was presented to Her Majesty in 1954. People flocked to the window of the jewellers to see it in early February. She wore it on many occasions in 1954, including the Davis Cup.
It is not surprising that this lovely piece of jewellery is one of the Queen's favourite brooches, and she often wears it. I was a little surprised that the brooch, part of the exhibition 'A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity,' is right at the back of the collection, and not really prominent. I thought that it should have been the centrepiece. However, it is displayed with a video clip of the young Queen wearing it with dark blue, and it certainly looked beautiful!