Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poems for the New Year

Here is some special poetry to see in the New Year! This is my personal favourite by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
Ring Out, Wild Bells

A Lovely Present From Aunt Louise

Queen Victoria's aunt, Queen Louise of Belgium, bought her this beautiful fan which was once owned by Marie Antoinette.

Wouldn't it be good to have an aunt who is a queen or a princess? The presents would be so much better!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Season

I hope that you enjoy the Christmas season and your holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

How To Become A Princess

Would you like to become a princess? I certainly would. Even though I'm happily married, I'd swap places with Princess Mary in an instant so that I could be married to Prince Frederick and live in beautiful, cold Denmark!

If you'd like to become a princess, Cheryl Anderson Brown of the wonderful Princess Palace tells you how: How To Become A Princess.

(I received a comment on Cheryl's post saying : "Cool post you've got here. I'd like to read more on this theme." I rejected it because it was from an escort agency!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Very English King (Part Two)

Edward's Work

Queen Victoria didn't trust her rather wayward son. She kept him away from the State papers and insisted on doing all of her work herself. The problem was that this was actually one of the causes of Edward's rather fast life. As he didn't have much to do he thought that he may as well enjoy himself! He worked very hard when he actually had a job to do.

He charmed the French, for example, when he became the president of the British section of the international exhibition in Paris in 1878. He toasted the President of the French republic, Marshall MacMahon, and strongly supported the entente cordiale between the two countries.

Edward had always loved France and the French. He spoke French fluently and he had liked the splendour of the French court and admired their way of life. As a teenager on his first visit to Paris, he asked Empress Eugenie to let him stay there.
He said that his parents 'don't want us, and there are six more of us at home!'

Edward also worked hard when he became a Commissioner on a commission for the aged poor. Even a radical Liberal MP praised him and said that he had asked very astute questions. Edward was very interested in this subject but as royalty wasn't supposed to be involved in politics his hands were somewhat tied.

Queen Victoria realised how much she really did love her son when he almost died of typhoid. Their relationship improved greatly and she trusted him with more work, realising that she was growing old and might die at any time.

King Edward

Queen Victoria finally died in 1901 and Edward became King. There was great concern when the Coronation had to be postponed because he had appendicitis and had to have an emergency operation. The King was sixty so there were fears for his life.

Few people thought that Edward would be a good King. They thought that he liked enjoying himself too much but he proved them wrong. He busied himself with the State papers and worked at making peace between countries. Edward was actually nicknamed 'The Peacemaker'.

He charmed the French yet again in 1903. They were angry about the British occupation of Egypt, the Boer war, and criticism of the Dreyfuss trial. King Edward soon brought them around, however. President Loubet even made a return visit.
The Anglo-French agreement was signed in 1904.

Edward had less luck with the wilful and difficult Kaiser. He prophetically said that his attitudes might help begin a war.

The 'King of Europe' died in 1910 and worked almost until the end. The Earl of Grenville remarked when Queen Victoria was alive that: "Prince Albert was unloved, because he possessed all the virtues which are sometimes lacking in the Englishman. The Prince of Wales is loved because he has all the faults of which the Englishman is accused."1.

1. John Van Der Kiste, Queen Victoria's Grandchildren, Sutton Publishing, London, 1983.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Very English King

Edward VII. (Part One)

Blue-eyed and blonde-haired, young Prince Albert Edward impressed everyone with his sweet nature, except his parents. Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert, were disappointed in the young Prince because they didn’t think that he was as clever as their favourite, his elder sister, Princess Vicky.

They subjected the little boy to a vigorous and strict school-room regime and kept him away from other boys in case he was exposed to bad influences. The young Prince lacked playmates and was teased rather mercilessly by his elder sister. It was no wonder that he was given to frequent rages and his parents found him hard to control.

Even Baron Stockmar, who had advised this extreme method of education, thought that the routine was too rigorous for the young boy and felt sorry for him. However, the Queen and Albert were determined. They didn’t realise that the young Prince’s talents lay in diplomacy and charm. One of his tutors, Henry Birch, praised the Prince’s ‘very good memory, very singular powers of observation.’

Edward also preferred outdoor pursuits, such as shooting and riding to his studies. He was not one for reading but this didn’t affect his capacity to work when he became King. Queen Victoria, eventually realised that she’d underestimated her son but this took many years.

The Affair with Nellie

Edward studied at the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh but his parents were not pleased with his progress. They thought that he spent too much time enjoying hunting and rich food instead of concentrating on his work. They were to be even more disappointed in him.

When the young Prince trained with the Grenadier Guards his fellow officers discovered his lack of experience with women. They sneaked the pretty actress, Nellie Clifden, into his room to surprise him. Edward was delighted with Nellie and she became his mistress. The problem was that Nellie began boasting about the affair.

Queen Victoria and Albert were outraged. It was not only his lack of morals that caused them concern. Princess Vicky had found a good match for Edward – the Danish Princess Alexandra. His parents were worried that his affair could affect the planned romance.

Prince Albert died of typhoid shortly after the affair. The Queen was so upset that she blamed Edward for causing his death. It would take some time before she forgave him.

Princess Alexandra

Luckily Princess Alexandra was still available. The Prince had met her before but he wasn’t that impressed because he preferred Nelly. After his father’s death he felt very contrite and he thought about the beautiful Danish Princess more and more.

Queen Victoria was very impressed with the young woman and the Prince eventually proposed. The young couple were in love and the Queen thought that their marriage would be happy.

Princess Alexandra soon became disillusioned with her husband, however. Her deafness tended to isolate her and probably annoyed Edward. She also had a succession of pregnancies and Edward started mixing with a fast set who liked shooting, hunting and women.

He became involved in many scandals, which annoyed Queen Victoria and his wife.
This included the Mordaunt scandal in which Edward was accused of being the father of Lady Harriet Mordaunt’s child. Many of his letters to her were read in court. These were quite innocent but Edward also denied any impropriety. Lady Harriet was declared insane shortly afterwards.

Edward’s many mistresses included the beautiful actress, .Lily Langtry and Daisy Brooke. He also had a long affair with Alice Keppel.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dynasties To Meet In Istanbul

This is an interesting article: Russian and Ottoman Dynasties.

I have been a bit lazy lately but I hope to write some longer posts at the end of the week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Young Victoria

The wonderfully romantic and beautifully photographed movie, The Young Victoria, tells the story of Victoria's struggle for the throne and her love affair with Prince Albert. Emily Blunt captivates as Victoria and deservedly won The British Artist of the Year Award. Rupert Friend is also charming and sympathetic as Prince Albert. The very handsome Paul Bettany, however, almost outshone him as the debonair Lord Melbourne!

Any fan of historical drama is sure to love this film which starts in American cinemas on 12/18! The official website is at: >The Young Victoria. The movie also has a Facebook site.

A Favourite Scene From The Movie

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Left My Heart In St.Petersburg

The atmosphere was electric. Young, aristocratic women showed each other portraits and jewellery with images of the handsome 'Waltz King', Johann Strauss, Jr. He was coming to St.Petersburg and they couldn't wait! There was a race to get tickets.

Johann Strauss, Jr. arrived in St.Petersburg in 1856 and played for 11 seasons. He led his 26-man orchestra to great acclaim at the railway station at nearby Pavlovsk, the 'Musical Station'. This was a beautiful park with a concert hall where high society liked to be entertained.

Here Strauss met the lovely, high-class Olga Smirnitzki, who was also a talented composer. He fell in love with this romantic, moody young woman and wrote her a series of romantic letters. Strauss and Olga kept their relationship a secret because of her aristocratic parents who wanted her to marry an official in St.Petersburg. They left their billets-doux under a tree in a park where Strauss's friend, Leibrock, would collect them.

Strauss wanted to marry Olga and had a discussion with her mother about this but the mother insulted her daughter and insisted that there was no future in the relationship.

In 1859 Strauss returned to Vienna where he played a French Polka called The Messenger of Love inspired by Olga in the Carnival Revue. This was eventually called Taubenpost. He also wrote Viennese Bonbons and Parting with St.Petersburg for Olga.

Olga announced her engagement to another man eventually. Strauss's love affair with the girl that he had called 'My all, my angel' was over. He had thought that she was 'the being destined for me by God' but, sadly, he was wrong. The 'Waltz King' famously wrote that: "I left my heart in St.Petersburg."

There are plans to reconstruct the musical station at Pavlovsk, which was destroyed during the war: Magnetic Levitation Line

(NB: I also write about the aristocracy here - because I want to! Olga came from a noble family>

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Russian Art and Jewellery Sale

There is a good article here about the records broken at a sale of antique Russian art and jewellery: Russian Arts News.

I hope to write a longer post over the weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Hello everyone,

I am a bit worried about someone in the family so I will take a little break. I hope to be back next week! Your prayers are needed.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The English Empress

I am going to write a series about Queen Victoria's children. We will start with her eldest, Princess Vicky. I hope that you enjoy this series. Comments are welcome.

The English Empress

Pope Pius IX told the English representative in Rome, Lord Odo Russell, that “he was an old man, but in the whole course of his long life he had never been more favourably impressed by anyone than by her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Prussia.” He was not the only one that Princess Vicky impressed, but unfortunately forces were against the ‘uncommon woman’ as Hannah Pakula called her and she led a tragic life.

Queen Victoria’s eldest child, little Princess Vicky startled her parents with her cleverness. She was Prince Albert’s delight and he loved to discuss his liberal beliefs and many different topics with the young princess. Queen Victoria got a little jealous at times of Prince Albert’s liking for this amazing daughter.

Vicky’s parents were keen to arrange a match for her to the German Prince, Frederick, for various reasons. He met her when she was only ten and he was much older. He was pleased when the princess spoke to him in fluent German. The Queen and Prince Albert liked this young man very much and hoped that the couple would fall in love later.

Vicky and Fritz did fall in love later and she married the handsome prince when she was only seventeen. Her parents were sorry to see her go to Germany and thought that she was very young to get married, but they also thought that the match was a very happy one. They were right and the couple did have a long and happy marriage.

The palace that the couple lived in was cold, draughty, old-fashioned, and without amenities. Queen Victoria liked new technologies and gadgets – she was one of the first to install bathrooms and tap-water. Princess Vicky was used to greater comforts and made her opinions known. She was inclined to say that ‘things were better in England.’ This didn’t go over well.

This discomfort was the least of the English princess’s troubles. Fritz shared her liberal philosophies but most of his family believed in autocracy. They were also used to fairly meek women and found the princess too clever. Vicky was shocked that most German women she met didn’t read the papers and had no interest in current events. She found them very ‘unenlightened’ compared with the English women that she was used to. The Prussian elite and Vicky’s in-laws were against ‘the English woman’ from the start.

Fritz was unfortunately rather weak compared with Vicky. His father became King William 1 in 1861 and preferred conservative and autocratic policies, even though many had hoped that he might be a more liberal King than his father. Vicky urged Fritz to stand up to his father but Fritz was very loyal and obedient so he found this difficult.

The Abdication Crisis
Soon after Vicky’s father died in 1861, an abdication crisis occurred. William couldn’t get his military reforms approved by the Landtag and he threatened to abdicate. He offered his son the throne but Fritz thought that his father looked like a “poor, broken old man” and that abdicating over a decision of parliament would set a dangerous precedent.

Vicky had other ideas. She wrote to Fritz that ‘he should make this sacrifice for his country’ and that if he didn’t, “I believe that you will regret it one day.” If the Crown Prince had become King then the course of history may well have changed.


The ambitious Otto van Bismarck, who believed in ruling by ‘blood and iron’, was appointed Prime Minister in 1862. Conservative and militaristic, he disliked Vicky and he disagreed with the couple’s liberal philosophies. He persecuted and defamed both of them almost until their deaths.

When Bismarck was appointed Prime Minister, a leader of the liberal Progressive Party “claimed that he would lead Prussia into ‘government without budget, rule by the sword in home affairs, and war in foreign affairs.’ The man was right on every count.” 1.

Soon after Princess Vicky’s beloved father died, Kaiser William 1, Frederick’s father, suppressed the freedom of the press. Frederick bravely made a speech in favour of the press but this was really the only time that he succeeded in standing up to his father who was ruled by Bismarck and the military.

Bismarck led Prussia into three wars – against Demark, Austria and France. The war with Denmark over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein greatly upset Princess Alexandra, Vicky’s sister-in-law, who came from Denmark, and caused trouble between the families.

Frederick fought in most of the wars and commanded one of Prussia’s three armies in the war against Austria. He received the Order of Merit for his leadership and gallantry in the Battle of Königgrätz. Frederick’s men loved and admired him, according to Hannah Pakula.

Vicky established hospitals, nursed the wounded herself, and devoted herself to charity work. She was much admired by the ordinary people but Bismarck and the Prussian elite always regarded her with suspicion and spread scandal about her.

Bismarck has been credited with the unification of Germany but Vicky thought that Fritz did far more work on this and his role was not recognized. Many historians agree with her but others think that Bismarck was largely responsible for the unification.

Frederick’s Reign
Frederick became King Frederick III after his father, William, died at 90 years old in 1888. Unfortunately, he was suffering from a terrible cancer of the larynx and endured mistreatment by his doctors. He only reigned for three months which wasn’t enough time to put his plans for constitutional reform into effect.

Vicky had had a tragic life. She suffered great grief when her sons, Sigismund and Waldemar died. Now she had to endure the death of her husband and the loss of her great hopes for her reign as well.

After Frederick’s DeathAfter Frederick’s death Vicky lived in Castle Freidrichshof near Kronberg and devoted herself to her charity work and furthering the cause of education for women by founding schools.

She knew that her son, now the Kaiser, had been brainwashed against her by the Prussian military and Bismarck, so she ensured that her letters to Queen Victoria were smuggled out of Germany to England by Edward VII’s private secretary, Frederick Ponsonby. Indeed, William II did have Vicky’s residence searched for her documents.

Vicky died of breast cancer in 1901 at only sixty years of age. She was a brave and strong woman who devoted herself to changing her adopted country for the better.

1. Pakula, Hannah, An Uncommon Woman, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Prince of Wales's North America Tour

Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, visited North America in 1860 and impressed everyone with his friendliness and joie de vivre. He was the first heir to the throne to visit North America.

Canadian officials requested a royal visit after a Canadian regiment fought in the Crimean War on behalf of Great Britain. The Queen refused to go because she thought that she would find the long sea voyage difficult. After her husband, Prince Albert, and the British Colonial Secretary, Henry Pelham Clinton, pleaded with her, Queen Victoria agreed to send the Prince of Wales instead. They thought that the visit would improve diplomatic relations between North America and Britain and be good for the Prince of Wales. They were right.

The Prince was greeted by enthusiastic crowds in Canada. He inaugurated the Victoria Bridge across the Hudson River in Montreal and he watched the exciting spectacle of Blondin crossing the Niagara Falls on a high wire pushing a man in a wheelchair. He went to many other provinces of Canada, including the beautiful Prince Edward Island. (This is one place that I've always dreamed of seeing!)

Thirty thousand wildly enthusiastic Americans came to cheer his arrival in Detroit. The number rose to fifty thousand in Chicago. The Prince began to suffer headaches from the stress of the celebrations and large crowds so he enjoyed a short hunting trip.

He stayed with President Buchanan in Washington, D.C., where a reception was held for him and he went on a tour.

Prince Edward stayed at the high-class Fifth Avenue Hotel in Madison Square in New York. A ball was held for him at the prestigious Academy of Music. An extra two thousand people came and the weight of these people caused the floor to collapse, to the Prince's astonishment. Luckily no one was seriously injured, although two people were slightly hurt.

The Prince finally went home exhausted after an exciting tour. He'd met the President, Emerson, Longfellow and Holmes and requested to see the opera star, Adelina Patti, after her show. He'd been welcomed by crowds everywhere he went and made a big impression on the people. His tour was long remembered.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday King Edward VII!

King Edward's birthday was actually yesterday - November 9 - so I'm a bit late! The Calgary Herald celebrated it by publishing this tribute: The King's Birthday .

I'll include a picture tomorrow.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sisi's Beauty Regimen

In Winterhalter's famous portrait the Empress Elisabeth of Austria wears glittering diamond stars in her rich, brown hair and a diaphanous gown. She looks so beautiful that it is not surprising that she was compared to the Fairy-Queen, Titania. Her beauty came at a price, however. The rather vain Queen spent hours caring for her hair, skin and figure.

Sisi's Figure

Empress Elisabeth, nicknamed 'Sisi', had a 19 inch waist. She was very proud of this and tried hard to stay thin. Many historians think that she had anorexia because she was constantly dieting and hardly ate.

Sisi was also a great believer in tight-lacing, which would have accentuated her small waist. This practice was very dangerous, causing women to faint and even have shortness of breath.

The Queen's addiction to exercise concerned many. It was regarded as rather eccentric. She practised gymnastics, even swinging along on the rings and liked to go on long hikes.

Sisi was also one of the best equestrians of her age. She went hunting with the wildest riders in England and Ireland, including the dangerous rider, Bay Middleton, and she even indulged in circus tricks. She took her riding extremely seriously.


Sisi's lavish chestnut brown hair was almost floor-length. She regarded it as her greatest asset and she engaged a former theatre hairdresser, Fanny Angerer, to care for it. This shocked the court, especially her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie. Fanny received the very high annual salary of 2000 guldens.

Sisi's hair was washed every three weeks - usually with a mixture of cognac and egg. This usually took all day. About three hours per day was spent caring for Empress Elisabeth's beautiful hair.


One of Sisi's face masks is not recommended. She apparently liked to use raw veal! Another face mask was made of strawberries, which would be much nicer to use. She also liked to use rose petals and herbal ingredients.

Warm olive baths were also a favourite of the Empress.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Muse is Cleo!

My Muse is Cleo

Remembering Anastasia Bra

Artist Anne Spennachio created a lavish bra in rich colors which is decorated with crystal beading as a tribute to the Grand Duchess Anastasia, one of the daughters of Nicholas II and Alexandra.

Anne is one of a group of artists who have created Art Bras in aid of women suffering from breast cancer. These are featured in an exhibit in Philadelphia and in the Way to Wellness annual calendars. You can see a picture of the bra here: Remembering Anastasia bra

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Queen Victoria: Ten Secrets

Cheryl Anderson Brown, who runs the lovely blog Princess Palace, has written a very interesting post about Queen Victoria: Queen Victoria's Secrets: Ten Things You Don't Know>

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Princess Lesson: Princess Victoria

Queen Victoria by Winterhalter

Princess Victoria felt her feverish forehead and groaned. She threw off her bedclothes in an effort to become cooler. She thought that she was near death in her more lucid moments.

The princess opened her eyes to see the dark figure of John Conroy, who dominated her mother, entering the room. He demanded that she sign a document. The princess knew that her mother, the Duchess of Kent, wanted to be Regent when Victoria came to the throne and that Conroy would then have control. She refused repeatedly as her mother and Conroy begged for her signature over and over again.

Princess Victoria had had to endure the 'Kensington system' for most of her life. This involved all of her actions being reported to Conroy. The princess couldn't associate with other children, was never left alone, and slept in her mother's room.

After she reached the golden age of 18 Victoria's mother tried to blackmail her into appointing Conroy as her advisor and Conroy threatened to lock her up and starve her if she didn't submit to their demands.

When the princess became Queen she removed her mother to distant rooms and eventually got rid of Conroy. When she married Prince Albert she was finally free.

Princess Victoria showed great strength of character by refusing to be dominated by her mother and the evil Conroy. Follow her example and don't let yourself be told what to do too easily. Trust your instincts and think for yourself if you don't agree with advice.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Prize! Marie-Antoinette's Paper Dolls

I'm back and ready to start blogging again! I'm tired after my holiday so I'm having a rest today.

Marie-Antoinette was executed on the 16th October, 1793. I'm going to commomerate this sad occasion by offering a prize. The first person who correctly guesses where I just spent a few weeks will win a new copy of Marie Antoinette Paper Dolls by Tom Tierney. Clue: It's an incredibly beautiful country and I sometimes dream about living there because it has seasons. However, I have ties here and I'm a bit scared of earthquakes!

This is open to international readers. Enter by sending your answer here. You can email your address later if you win! You will have to wait a few weeks because I will have to buy the book and then send it.

Nobody seems to be interested in this prize yet! I'll leave it open. I hope to write a new post tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Marie Larisch

Marie Larisch was the disgraced niece of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria and she is also mentioned in The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot. Read about her here: Marie Larisch

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guardian Review of The Queen's Necklace by Anton Szerb

This new book about the scandal that had a disastrous effect on Queen Marie-Antoinette looks interesting: The Queen's Necklace.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Battle Over Royal Inheritance

The glamorous Gayatri Devi, once called the most beautiful woman in the world, died recently. She was the third wife of the dashing Man Singh, the Mahararajah of Jaipur. When told that her husband, a flirt with the ladies, might look for a fourth wife, she said that he wouldn't need any more after her! He didn't marry again.

Her death has led to a bitter battle between her grandchildren and stepsons for the royal inheritance. Devraj and Lolita Kumari, the princess's grandchildren, are locked in battle with Jai and Prithvi, the sons of Man Singh's second wife over the $470 million estate. Devi once said that her son, the father of Devraj and Lolita, drank himself to death because of a bitter custody battle.

The estate includes the Rambagh Palace, which is a five-star hotel, the LilyPool with its gorgeous lily gardens, and the Takhteshahi Palace.

It's very sad when people fight over an inheritance so we hope that this will be resolved soon!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Maria Pavlovna's Jewels

Maria Pavlovna (Tsar Nicholas II's aunt) spirited her jewels away to Sweden. Some of are going to be auctioned by Sotheby's in November: Romanov Jewels

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Beautiful Princess of Braganza

Anita Rhinelander Stewart reminds me of Consuelo Vanderbilt. Like Consuelo, the beautiful and wealthy Anita entered a match which was probably arranged by her ambitious, socialite mother.

Born in 1885, Anita had a rich father who was a lawyer and managed various trusts. Anita's mother divorced him and married James Henry Smith, nicknamed 'Silent' Smith.
He had inherited fifty million dollars from an unmarried uncle. He settled one million dollars on Anita. Soon after the marriage Smith died and left Anita's mother and Anita large amounts of money.

Anita met Prince Miguel of Braganza in Paris and married him three months later. Crowds flocked to see the great occasion. This was the first royal wedding in Scotland since the days of the Stuarts. Anita and the Prince married at Tulloch Castle near Dingwall on a fine day, September 15, 1909. National flags brightened the streets. The bride wore a lovely chiffon dress and a 'historic lace veil over a wreath of orange blossoms'. The veil was attached to a diamond and sapphire cluster given to her by the Prince.

Anita's mother settled the Prince's gambling debts, which amounted to over $800,000.00. Surprisingly, Anita remained Protestant. I read in various articles that Anita was created Princess of Braganza by the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph but Marlene of 'Royal Musings' has researched her extensively and writes that this information is wrong.

The marriage was not happy although the couple had three children, Miguel, Nadjeda,and John. Nadjeda committed suicide when she was in her thirties.

Anita returned to America with her children during the First World War. The Prince fought for the Kaiser, which probably annoyed Anita. (One hopes that it did!) She lived in NYC and set up a photographic studio. She remained on good terms with her husband, who also returned to America. He died in 1923.

The princess died in 1977 at 91 on the anniversary of her marriage to Prince Miguel.

I found a picture of Anita Stewart in this article from the New York Times: The Engagement of Anita Stewart

Marlene at Royal Musings has another article about the rather disreputable prince:
Anita Stewart's Poor Bargain

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Courtesan Who Became A Princess

My new post at Suite 101 is about a courtesan who became a princess: Liane de Pougy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

La Mode Illustree

I hope to do a new post soon. In the meantime, I've found some wonderful photos and portraits of royalty, Edwardians and Edwardian fashion: La Mode Illustree

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Political Princess: Gayatri Devi

Indian princess Gayatri Devi could have just relaxed in her life of luxury. Instead she won three elections, ran a stud farm and started schools for girls. She was also a campaigner for democracy and women's rights. The princess died aged 90 on July 29 this year.

Raised in an opulent palace with 500 servants, she spent holidays in London and Europe. There her family mixed with the British Royal family and the social elite.

At just 20 she married Sawai Man Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur, in a famous wedding in 1939. His family looked down on her Cooch-Behar connections and her family didn't like his already having two wives. The handsome young man had been practically forced to marry these wives so he spent most of his time with the princess who was called one of the ten most beautiful women in the world. A writer in Vogue called her 'a dream in sari and jewels.'

The Maharaji ruled over more than two million people until India's independence from Great Britain in 1947. The princess set fashion trends, met Jackie Kennedy and other important people, and held extravagant parties. She was painted by Cecil Beaton.

In 1962 she won a seat in parliament, gaining one of the largest majorities in Indian history. She won elections three times but eventually she had a conflict with Indira Gandhi over Gandhi's socialist policies. She was put in jail for five months on what many thought were trumped up charges of tax-evasion.

Her husband died on the polo field in 1970. In 1975 she retired from politics, but she continued to support charities, run her farm, and run the Maharani Gayatri Devi College, one of the schools that she started. The talented princess also wrote books, including her memoirs, A Princess Remembers.
She tragically had to face the death of her only son, Jagat Singh, who had abused drug and alcohol in the nineteen-nineties. She remained resilient, however, still entering society. She loved cricket and riding. The princess wanted to see the Keira Knightley film, 'The Duchess', according to actress, Sharmira Tagore, who married the cricketer, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi.
The princess, 'a picture of beauty and grace', will be greatly missed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Antonia Fraser Mourns Marie-Antoinette

The distinguished biographer, Antonia Fraser, tells The Guardian that the Tatler got it wrong: The Tatler Got It Wrong About Me and Marie Antoinette .

I hope to write a longer post soon!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Picture of the Moment: Chapeau Royale

Picture of the Moment: Chapeau Royale

Posted using ShareThis

Doesn't 'our' Princess Mary look beautiful in this stunning hat?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chanel and The Duke of Westminster

Portrait by Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen

The great designer, Chanel, longed to marry even though she had such a splendid career. She remarked that she did have the chance to marry once and become a duchess as well. She said that she refused the Duke of Westminster, however. "There are many Duchesses of Westminster, but only one Chanel!", she said.

Chanel and the Duke were introduced at a party in Monte Carlo and had a long affair. The ex-soldier was incredibly rich and took Chanel on many holidays on his yacht. He also showered her with jewelry. According to one legend, he hid a beautiful uncut emerald at the bottom of a crate of vegetables for his glamorous girlfriend. He must have been surprised at one stage, however, when he arrived at the designer's door with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and the attendant didn't recognise him and tried to give the 'delivery boy' a tip!

You can see some gorgeous stills of the film, Coco Avant Chanel, at: Chanel Photos at Filmofilia

Friday, July 3, 2009

Caroline Bauer: The Prisoner of Regent Street (1807 - 1878)

Caroline was astonished when Prince Leopold suggested that he take her back to London so that she could share his 'golden solitude'. He had only set eyes on her once! He was not bad-looking and he was royal so she considered the offer seriously. She was a little tired of the stage and she might enjoy being feted by a Prince.

Beautiful Caroline reminded the Prince of his beloved wife, Charlotte, who died in child-birth. He didn't treat her as well as Charlotte, however. Caroline was used to being given jewels and flowers by her many admirers, and praised for her acting. Leopold kept her a virtual prisoner and hardly spent any money on her at all! He was also 'cold, pedantic and petulant'.

Leopold was unwilling to marry her because he'd been offered the Greek throne and he probably didn't want Caroline to be his Queen. She complained to her cousin, Baron Stockmar, who was Leopold's advisor, about his bad treatment of her. They had a civil wedding which she describes as 'drearily desolate', although her mother was pleased and 'pressed her to her heart amid tears of joy.'

When her brother, a German army officer, wanted the loan of a fair amount of money, neither Leopold nor Stockmar would agree to it. She hurled reproaches at them and left them. She never spoke to either of them again.

Caroline eventually married a Polish count, Wladyslaw Plater. She died tragically from an overdose of sleeping pills. Legend has it that her memoirs were found by her side.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Australian Heiress Who Married A Russian Prince

I found out a little bit about Sheila Milbanke when I read The Bolter by Frances Osborne. Here is a short biography of this fascinating woman: Sheila Milbanke

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More About GD Dmitri Pavlovich

According to this article GD Dmitri invented doubling in backgammon: Doubling

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Designing Duchess

Marie and Wilhelm's Wedding

Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, Dmitri's sister, became a famous fashion designer in France and America. She started an embroidery business called Kitmir in Paris and worked for Chanel. Chanel had a difficult rags-to-riches struggle and allegedly treated aristocrats, including Marie badly.

The Grand Duchess had a long and interesting journey from imperial splendour in Russia to attempting to make it on her own as a business woman.

She was the daughter of Grand Duke Paul and Alexandra of Greece. Her mother died when Marie was very young and her father married again some years later. The Tsar disapproved of Paul's new wife and sent the couple into exile. Marie and Dmitri were looked after by Grand Duke Sergei and his wife, the Tsaritsa's sister, Grand Duchess Ella. Marie found Ella very cold and difficult to get along with. Sergei was very much disliked by many Russians, but he was kind to the children. She did apparently find him very possessive, however.

Sergei was assassinated in 1905. Marie and Dmitri watched GD Ella as she knelt over his blood-stained body. This experience must have been incredibly traumatic for the children and they probably never got over it.

Ella became friendlier after this but she dragooned Marie into a marriage with the Swedish Prince Wilhelm when she was only 17. Marie's father, Paul, was against this but couldn't do much about it. Marie married Wilhelm in 1908. He was apparently rather cold and probably gay. Marie made many friends at the Swedish court but she didn't care for the excessive formality there. They had a son, Lennart, in 1909, but the marriage was eventually annulled. Prince Wilhelm raised Lennart.

Marie returned to Russia where she worked as a nurse in the First World War. (She strangely described this time as 'the happiest of her life'.) She married Prince Putiatin and had another son, Roman. She was lucky enough to flee the Revolution According to Grant Menzies's excellent article on the Grand Duchess, Marie fled old Russia 'in July on a "beautiful summer day" filled with daisies and grasshoppers and yellow butterflies.'1. She fled to Queen Marie in Romania but her son tragically died.

Her second marriage also broke up and Marie never married again.

Marie Works For Chanel

Marie joined her brother, Dmitri, in England and financed her exile by selling many of her gorgeous jewels and selling lovely clothes which she knitted. She and Dmitri went to Paris where Marie set up a textile and embroidery business called 'Kitmir'. Legend has it that she established the business to provide work for the many Russian exiles in Paris.

Chanel became one of her favoured clients but they fought because Chanel wanted to be Marie's only client. Chanel unfortunately won this battle.

Marie's Travels

Marie decided to go to America where she established a perfumery and worked as a vendeuse for department stores, such as Bergdorf Goodman.

She then lived in Buenos Aires for many years where she sold perfumes and worked for Elizabeth Arden.

Marie eventually went back to Europe where she lived near her son. She is buried with Dmitri in the grounds of Mainau, an inheritance of her son.

1. Marie Pavlovna

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Glamorous Grand Duke

Legend has it that Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch and Chanel met on a beach, although they may have been introduced to each other by Dmitri's sister, Marie Pavlovna. One wonders what the dark and handsome Dmitri and the petite Chanel first said to each other! They soon became lovers.

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess certainly had a strong influence on Chanel's fashion career. Dmitri introduced her to the former perfumier to the Tsars, Earnest Beaux, and Marie made gorgeous embroidered clothes for the business before becoming a designer herself. Beaux created the celebrated Chanel No.5.

Dmitri was the son of the Tsar's uncle, Grand Duke Paul, and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Greece, who died giving birth to him. After Paul made a morganatic marriage and was sent into exile by the Tsar, Marie and Dmitri were looked after by the Tsaritsa's sister, Grand Duchess Ella and her husband, Grand Duke Serge. Ella was beautiful but rather cold and Serge was greatly disliked. Although they were surrounded by splendour and played with the Tsar's children, it must have been a strange childhood. Ella was obsessed with Serge, who was secretly gay. Serge was rather cruel, but apparently he was kinder to the children than Ella. He was regarded as a petty tyrant and assassinated in 1905.

Dmitri had many lovers before he met Chanel, including the ballerina, Vera Karalli and his cousin's morganatic wife, Natasha. The greatest scandal involving the grand Duke occurred when he and the flamboyant Felix Youssopoff had an affair. Dmitri was considered as a husband for Grand Duchess Olga by the Tsaritsa at one stage.

When he and Felix got fed up with Rasputin's evil influence over Alexandra and the Tsar, they decided to murder him. They thought that this would solve the many problems of the royal family and the country. Rasputin was very difficult to get rid of. His killing involved poisoning, shooting and drowning. The Tsar was horrified when he found out that Dimitri was involved and sent him into exile. This, of course, saved his life.

Dmitri always had money problems and his love affair with Chanel didn't last. However, he eventually married a wealthy American heiress, Audrey Emery, moved to Florida and had a son, Paulie. Paul eventually became the Mayor of Palm Beach.

They eventually divorced and Dmitri died young of tuberculosis in Switzerland during the Second World War. He was reburied in the palace chapel on the island of Mainau in Lake Constance in southern Germany. Marie's son owned the property there and she wanted him buried there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Queen Victoria's Knitting Bag Sold!

I have been away recently and I am going to find it a bit difficult to write often because of travelling between two places. I will do the best that I can to make my posts as frequent as possible.

A knitting bag of Queen Victoria's was sold recently. Apparently the Queen was a keen knitter. This surprised me because I've read that she didn't like sewing. Here is the article: Queen Victoria's Knitting Bag I will try to find a picture now! Here is another link with a picture: The Lichfield Blog

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Duchess of Marlborough Faberge Egg

Beautiful nineteen-year old Consuelo Vanderbilt, granddaughter of the great Cornelius, could hardly stop crying on her wedding day. She was in love with Winthrop Rutherford, but her mother had made her marry the Duke of Marlborough. This meant that she'd have to leave her own country and live with someone she hardly knew and didn't find impressive.

She found success as a Duchess and grew to love England, but not her husband! She visited Russia and dined with the Tsar himself at the Bal des Palmiers. Although Princess Alexandra's Faberge collection didn't impress her very much, she must have liked Grand Duchess Vladimir's and the Dowager Empress's collections. The former Empress's collection included a Blue Serpent Clock Egg.

Soon afterwards the Duchess commissioned a large egg from Faberge. She was the only American to commission a large egg from them. It is believed to have cost over 5000 rubles.

This beautiful ornament, a clock in the shape of an Easter egg, was crafted by Michael Perchin, who was inspired by a Louis XVI clock. The egg is coloured in translucent pink, white and gold with a diamond-encrusted serpent surrounding it. It features the diamond-set monogram of Consuelo - the initials CM under a ducal crown.

After her divorce from the Duke Consuelo gave this to a charity auction in 1926 where it was bought by the Polish soprano, Ganna Walska. This was the first Faberge Easter egg that Malcolm Forbes bought. In 2004 it was sold to Vekselberg.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Empress Elizabeth Helps Refugee Children

Empress Elizabeth of Austria is helping refugee children more than 100 years after she was killed in Switzerland: Empress Elizabeth Gives Hope To Young Refugees

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Wild Princess

The young girl ran out onto the street and stood there bewildered. Luckily a kindly man watching from an upstairs window saw that she was lost and helped her by hailing a cab for her.

She was Princess Charlotte Augusta, the daughter of George IV and Charlotte of Brunswick, but the taxi driver didn't know this. He thought that she was a fine lady's maid!

Torn between her drunken and dissolute father and her promiscuous mother, Charlotte was often left with her rather stern grandmother and her strange aunts. She took after her mother and grew up to be rather rebellious. This was not surprising because her father was very jealous of her popularity and often tried to keep her in seclusion.

When she went to her mother's in the cab, Princess Charlotte was distraught because her father had found out that she wanted to break off her engagement to the Prince of Orange who had been drunk at a social occasion. Charlotte was not impressed!

The Princess was in love with Prince Augustus of Prussia at this time, but he was already married. She had also had a relationship with the handsome and flirtatious Captain Hesse but he didn't intend to marry her.

Eventually she married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who was also young and handsome. He was penniless but very ambitious and the Tsar of Russia was very impressed with the young man. He first visited England in the Tsar's entourage but Charlotte took no notice of him because she loved someone else.

Sophisticated Prince Leopold had excellent manners so Princess Charlotte's boisterous and impulsive ways shocked him at first. But the young couple fell in love quite quickly.

Charlotte died tragically in 1817 after a year of happiness with Leopold at their country house, Claremont, after having a still-born baby. She was only 23. The nation's grief was so great that it resembled the mourning after Princess Diana died.

Soon afterwards Princess Victoria was born.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Marie Antoinette's Jewels

Here is a lovely post from Cupid's Charm about Marie Antoinette's many beautiful jewels: The Jewellery of Queen Marie-Antoinette

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.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Danila Cooper at the Russian Nobility Ball in New York

Unfortunately I will never go to this, but watching Russian dancing on You Tube is very enjoyable!
Danila Cooper

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Posts

Two new posts today: Marie-Antoinette's Music and Rasputin and the Empress.

Rasputin and the Empress: Yussoupoff v. Metro-Goldwyn Mayer

When Thalberg, the producer of a new movie about Rasputin, ordered the scriptwriter, Mercedes de Acosta, to write a scene in which the mad Russian monk seduces the niece of the Tsar, it horrified her. Thalberg wanted the scenes to be ‘violent and terrific’, according to the article, Tatars and Moguls in Atlantis Magazine. She had met Prince Yussoupoff, the principal conspirator in the murder of Rasputin, and it was obvious to her that the fictional character in the movie, Princess Natasha, was meant to represent his wife, Princess Irina. She wrote to the Prince about the movie. He threatened to sue. When Thalberg found out he fired her.

He promptly found another more agreeable scriptwriter and achieved the coup of getting three Barrymores to star in the movie: Ethel played Empress Alexandra; Lionel starred as Rasputin; and John played Prince Chegodieff (really Prince Yussoupoff). The film cost $1 million to produce, an enormous sum in 1932.

When Princess Irina found out about the new film it upset her very much. She had never even met Rasputin and she felt that the scenes in which she was seduced or raped by him destroyed her reputation. It was obvious that Princess Natasha was meant to be Princess Irina because she was betrothed to Rasputin’s murderer, she was the niece of the Tsar, and there were other similarities.

She met the famous lawyer, Fanny Holtzmann, who decided to sue in spite of the many risks involved.

MGM argued that Princess Natasha was a lady-in-waiting in the film and didn’t represent Princess Irina. It also argued that even if it were, the movie wasn’t libellous. Even if it was assumed to be Princess Irina, the princess in the film was raped so she wasn’t responsible and hadn’t been defamed.

Slessor, L.J. said that the film was defamatory whether the princess was raped or seduced:

“...When this woman is defamed in her sexual purity I do not think that the precise manner in she has been despoiled of her innocence and virginity is a matter which a jury can properly be asked to consider.”

After a law case involving such luminaries as Sir Patrick Hastings, graphic evidence of Rasputin’s murder, and sympathetic testimony from Princess Irina, the plaintiffs won. The jury awarded them 125,000 pounds, an enormous sum in those days.

MGM lost the appeal. Eventually a huge settlement was reached, in order to prevent law cases all over the world.

Today practically all movies use the disclaimer “...the characters in this movie are fictional and bear no resemblance to real persons living or dead...”

Romanoff Gold by William Clarke

Clarke describes Imperial Russia vividly and delves into the money trail meticulously.

The first part of this book is the most interesting. Certain images stayed in my mind: beautiful Meriel Buchanan's Russian admirer visitin>g her in a panic after the Revolution, the Tsar's daughters enjoying their first dances and balls, and the final terrible journey and end of the Royal family. (NB)

Reading how Clarke traced the money of the Romanovs is like reading a detective story, but it becomes a little dry and complicated at times. He does dispel long-held myths about Queen Mary and money and jewels spirited away during the First World War.

This is a book well-worth reading if you enjoy reading about the Romanovs.

NB: Meriel Buchanan was the British Ambassador's daughter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Marie-Antoinette's Music

Marie-Antoinette may be ridiculed for lack of intelligence, but she was extremely talented and played the harp beautifully. She also played the spinet and the clavichord. She was a patron of many famous musicians, such as Gluck and invited him to present operas at Versailles. Taught by Philippe Hinner, she actually played well enough to accompany Salieri. She also wrote songs. One of these is probably C'est Mon Ami.

You can see a picture of her harp and some of her other possessions here:
Marie-Antoinette Antiques

The French Queen also loved the ballet. She danced with her sisters in Il Parnasso Confuso by Gluck when she was a young girl and brought a painting of her performance to Versailles. She arranged performances of the ballet, including Hungarian and Flemish country dances for the reception of her brother, Maximilian.

You can read much more about the fascinating French queen and listen to C'est Mon Ami at this wonderful website: Marie-Antoinette's Home Page

Monday, March 2, 2009

Site of the Week: Eljen

Eljen is an excellent site for those interested in the fascinating Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Here you can find a long biography, reviews of most of the books written about her, and information on the famous Austrian musical.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Blackest Carrion in the Italian Royal House: Princess Mafalda

Beautiful and cultivated, Princess Mafalda was the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife, Elena.

She married Prince Phillip of Hesse against the wishes of his parents. They had four children. Prince Phillip worked for the Nazis and became an intermediary between the Nazis and Mussolini. He apparently had a high position in the Nazi party. However, he also helped some wealthy Jewish friends escape to Holland.

Princess Mafalda annoyed Hitler by speaking out on behalf of the Jews especially when he wanted Mussolini to crack down on them. When Italy surrendered to the Allies, Hitler decided to take his revenge. He arrested Prince Phillip and imprisoned the Princess in Buchenwald. When the Allies bombed an ammunitions factory in Buchenwald, the poor Princess's arm was badly burned. She died during an operation to amputate the arm.

You can see a photo of the Princess here: Princess Mafalda NB: It's a fair way down the page.

Mafaldine Pasta

Mafaldine pasta was apparently named after the Princess. You can read more about that here: mafaldine pasta

Friday, February 20, 2009

The aim of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award is to acknowledge writing excellence in the spirit of Jane Austen’s genius in amusing and delighting readers with her irony, humor, wit, and talent for keen observation. Recipients will uphold the highest standards in the art of the sparkling banter, witty repartee, and gentle reprove. This award was created by the blogging team of Jane Austen Todayto acknowledge superior writing over the Internet and promote Jane Austen’s brilliance.

A very warm thank you to Ms.Lucy of Enchanted by Josephine for nominating me for this award! Here are my seven nominees:

Edwardian Emporium This blog is all about the 'Golden Age' - Edwardian times. This is my very favourite era so I like to visit here and be transported back!

The Royal Representative This royal blog is full of the latest gossip, anecdotes and articles about British royalty. I also like August Annotations, Mandy's reviews of books about royalty.

The Lotus Notebooks Here you will find sensitive and well-written posts about books and poetry. I especially enjoyed the post about Emily Dickinson. I like the well-dressed section too - lovely photos.

Romancing the Tome This features articles about book adaptations and the actors in them. I always enjoy reading the latest posts here.

Coffee and Oranges This is a well-written blog all about artists and paintings. I also like Meg Nola's articles at Suite 101.

Reading Adventures An excellent Australian blog all about books. I especially like the challenges and memes!

I'm going to cheat and have a tie!


Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover vie for seventh place! ART and ARCHITECTURE, MAINLY has very interesting articles about Australian history, art and associated topics. Elaine at Random Jottings writes excellent reviews and has similar tastes in books! It's also her birthday today. Happy Birthday, Elaine!

Recipients, please claim your award by copying the HTML code of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award badge, posting it on your blog, listing the name of the person who nominated you, and linking to their blog. Then nominate seven (7) other blogs that you feel meet or exceed the standards set forth. Nominees may place the Excessively Diverting badge in their side bar and enjoy the appreciation of their fellow blogger for recognition of their talent.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Doctor and the Princess: Axel Munthe and Princess Victoria of Sweden

"You are the woman of my heart," Axel Munthe wrote to Princess Victoria of Sweden. This may seem cliched now, but these words only made the unhappy princess fall more in love with the young doctor.

Axel Munthe, who later wrote the wonderful book, The Story of San Michele, completed his medical studies in quick time and became famous after a long struggle to become successful. He acquired friends in high places and a beautiful villa on the sun-lit Italian island of Capri, where he was recommended by the Swedish ambassador as a personal physician to the sickly princess.

Princess Victoria was unhappily married to Prince Gustaf of Sweden and Norway when she met Axel Munthe. They travelled to romantic Venice where they probably began their long affair. The princess didn't have much in common with Prince Gustaf was fairly dull and uncultured - his main interest seems to have been hunting. She and Axel both enjoyed music - she was a very accomplished pianist, apparently. He had a good tenor voice so they gave evening concerts. She was also an excellent photographer and artist. They both also loved animals. She liked dogs and Munthe famously saved many birds on Capri from being hunted and killed in a very cruel manner.

In those days, being a little too close to one's doctor, wasn't seen as unethical apparently, and the princess's family approved of her relationship with Munthe. They found it difficult to cope with Princess Victoria's very bad health and probably thought that Italy's pleasant Mediterranean climate would rejuvenate her.

Princess Victoria travelled to Capri often in the winters, sometimes with her husband, and bought a two-story farmhouse called Casa Caprile. She made quite an impression on the locals in her elegant clothes of 'Capri wool'. She loved leaving the harsh Swedish winters, and attributed her better health to Italy, writing that:
“I flee the snow like the swallows,” the Queen wrote, adding, “If I couldn’t spend the winter on Capri, I would die.” According to an article in Capri Review Magazine : "Every autumn she seemed reborn, rediscovering enthusiasm and a zest for life."

Munthe was divorced and could easily have remarried. He complained about being pestered by hysterical women who followed him about in The Story of San Michele. It sounds very vain but it was quite true! Some of the women that fell in love with him were quite impressive. The wealthy American, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, for example, was very cultured and Munthe was taken by her desire to help the poor. However, Jangfeldt, Munthe's biographer thinks that he was too much in love with the princess to consider anyone else as a wife. Charlotte became Mrs.Bernard Shaw.

After many years and when he was quite old, Munthe suddenly decided to marry. He probably felt that his relationship with the princess was one of friendship by this time. It wasn't a love-match but he was very rich and may have wanted children to inherit his money. He married a much younger English woman and had two sons.

The marriage wasn't happy. Hilda, his wife, didn't like staying on Capri and became very jealous of Victoria and even Munthe's maids. They eventually divorced.

Victoria became Queen shortly after this marriage and didn't stay at Capri as often.
She and Munthe fell out somewhat over her strongly pro-German feelings during the First World War (he was an Anglophile). However, she was really the love of his life and he was with her when she died in 1930 in Sweden.

Munthe dedicated The Story of San Michele to Queen Victoria shortly before she died:

Protector of oppressed animals
Friend of all dogs.

Victoria of Baden, Queen of Sweden in 1910

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Site Of The Week: The Royal Representative

The Royal Representative focuses on the British monarchy and is chock-full of news, articles, history, opinions and links.

Many is an American Monarchist, which seems very strange, but her arguments are well-expressed. She is a big fan of the Queen, thinks that British-American relations are very important, and she loves history. Her site never fails to be interesting!

She also creates excellent podcasts and has a blog of book reviews.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Amazing Theft

Shock overwhelmed the staff at the L.A.Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem when they discovered that the gold and rock-crystal Breguet watch was gone. Commissioned for Queen Marie-Antoinette, the watch was one of the treasures of the museum.

The thief or thieves had been very clever. They broke in through a window barely 2 feet high and 8 feet above the ground in a lane surrounded by a protuding wall. They left a coke-bottle and sandwich-wrapper behind. The alarm never went off - it was apparently broken.

The main items stolen were Breguet watches, but the staff were mostly upset about the theft of the famous 'Marie-Antoinette'. Intended to be a gift from an admirer, the No.160 watch involved many impressive features, including a perpetual winding mechanism, a perpetual calendar, equation of time and a thermometer. The master-watchmaker at Breguet, Michael Weber, did most of the work on the watch in the early nineteenth-century. Production cost 50,000 francs. Unfortunately the Queen never saw it because it was completed long after she sadly went to the guillotine.

Amazingly the watch reappeared in 2007 and Israeli detectives think that they solved the case. The museum received a tip about it from an anonymous American woman and bought many of the watches back for $40,000. Investigators believe that the thief was the notorious Israeli criminal, Diller. There is a story that he confessed to his wife on his deathbed. Very thin and acting alone, he used a crowbar to break through the window covered by his parked lorry. He had discovered that the alarm was broken first.

I will probably never go to Jerusalem. It's a pity because I'd like to go to the 'Holy City' and see this watch, among other things!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Break

I'm having a little break from blogging. Will be back soon!
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