Monday, June 27, 2011

The Victoria Lily

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.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Be Careful Who You Choose As Governess For Your Daughter! (Part One)

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.
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