Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tea at Trianon: Marie-Amélie, the Last Queen

In the wonderful book about the artist, Renoir, Renoir, My Father, his son tells how Renoir grew up in a poor area of Paris near the Louvre. The little urchins used to call Queen Marie-Amelie 'good Queen Amelie' because she would throw them sweets from the window! Here is an interesting post about her life by Elena Maria Vidal: Tea at Trianon: Marie-Amélie, the Last Queen

Sunday, October 17, 2010

R.I.P, Marie Antoinette

Yesterday was the anniversary of the beautiful Queen Marie Antoinette's execution. One only has to read one of the better-written and thoroughly researched biographies of this poor Queen to learn how defamed she has been throughout history.

I am including a link to a free biography of her famous dressmaker and milliner here:
Rose Bertin.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Adventures of President Grant's Great-Granddaughter

(Library Canada Archives)

Imagine experiencing the glamour of the Imperial Court in Vienna and being presented to Empress Elisabeth! Julia Grant, the great-granddaughter of the Civil War general and President Ulysses S. Grant, had this adventure and many more. This beautiful and clever woman became a Russian princess, fled the Revolution, and wrote many articles and books.

Born at the White House in 1876, she was the daughter of the President's son, Frederick, who was a diplomat. She remembered her grandfather who died when she was ten and described him as grave and serious but kindly. She was apparently very fond of him.

Frederick became the U.S. Ambassador to Austria-Hungary when Julia was older. She learned fluent Austrian in Vienna and made her debut at the Imperial Court. She must have also learned the accomplishments of most educated, upper-class American women and become quite cosmopolitan.

Although the family returned to New York, Julia traveled to Europe with her socialite aunt, Bertha Palmer, who was involved in the Chicago World's Fair, when she was about 19. She met a handsome, young officer in Rome from an aristocratic family. Julia and Prince Michael Catacuzene, who was attached to the Russian Embassy in Rome, soon fell in love.

They married at one of the Astor houses, Beaulieu in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1899.
There were two services - the Episcopalian one at this house and a Russian Orthodox one. Julia's wedding dress was described in the New York Times as 'severely cut and quite simple'. It was made of rich, white satin. She also wore a tulle veil with real orange blossoms attached to it.

After the wedding, the couple divided their time between their apartments in St.Petersburg, their country estate in the Ukraine, and a home in the Crimea. Prince Michael worked for Tsar Nicholas II. Julia knew many famous people in Russia and wrote some books about her time there. One, Revolutionary Days, is available as a free download from a few different web sites. It is supposed to be quite lively and has had good reviews.

During World War One, Prince Michael led a force of 15,000 men in the last great cavalry charge. He was wounded and again given an important role by the Tsar. However, the Revolution of 1917 endangered the lives of all aristocrats. The couple and their children were lucky enough to flee - Julia had to hide her jewels in her clothes. They settled in Sarasota, Florida, where the Prince became Chairman of the Palmer Bank.

Unfortunately, Julia and the Prince, eventually divorced after having three children.
After their divorce in 1934, Julia went to live in Washington where she lived a very social life and wrote her articles and books. The Prince stayed in Sarasota where he married again.

The Princess died at 99, a great age even now!
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