Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Review of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Crown Publishing Group (first published 2010)
ISBN 0307463222 (ISBN13: 9780307463227)
charactersClaude Monet, Camille Doncieux, Frédéric Bazille, Alice Hoschedé
settingGiverny, 1908 (France)

Sometimes he dreamt he held her; that he would turn in bed and she would be there. But she was gone and he was old. Nearly seventy. Only cool paint met his fingers. “Ma très chère . . .” Darkness started to fall, dimming the paintings. He felt the crumpled letter in his pocket. “I loved you so,” he said. “I never would have had it turn out as it did. You were with all of us when we began, you gave us courage. These gardens at Giverny are for you but I’m old and you’re forever young and will never see them. . . .”

Hardcover included because it's beautiful!

In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Claude Monet decided that he would rather endure a difficult life painting landscapes than take over his father’s nautical supplies business in a French seaside town. Against his father’s will, and with nothing but a dream and an insatiable urge to create a new style of art that repudiated the Classical Realism of the time, he set off for Paris.

But once there he is confronted with obstacles: an art world that refused to validate his style, extreme poverty, and a war that led him away from his home and friends. But there were bright spots as well: his deep, enduring friendships with men named Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro, Manet – a group that together would come to be known as the Impressionists, and that supported each other through the difficult years. But even more illuminating was his lifelong love, Camille Doncieux, a beautiful, upper-class Parisian girl who threw away her privileged life to be by the side of the defiant painter and embrace the lively Bohemian life of their time.

His muse, his best friend, his passionate lover, and the mother to his two children, Camille stayed with Monet—and believed in his work—even as they lived in wretched rooms, were sometimes kicked out of those, and often suffered the indignities of destitution. She comforted him during his frequent emotional torments, even when he would leave her for long periods to go off on his own to paint in the countryside.

But Camille had her own demons – secrets that Monet could never penetrate, including one that when eventually revealed would pain him so deeply that he would never fully recover from its impact. For though Camille never once stopped loving the painter with her entire being, she was not immune to the loneliness that often came with being his partner.

A vividly-rendered portrait of both the rise of Impressionism and of the artist at the center of the movement, Claude and Camille is above all a love story of the highest romantic order.

I love Impressionist paintings, in particular Claude Monet. Specifically, the women in the garden paintings, in case anyone is curious! I am very familiar with Claude Monet's paintings.
Having minored in Art History in college and grown up with a grandfather who painted, you can say I know a bit about art! Having grown up in Manhattan, you can also say that I am blessed and very grateful to have spent a lifetime going to my local museum otherwise known as The Metropolitan Museum of Art where some of Claude Monet's Impressionist paintings reside.
I will get to France and Giverny one day if it kills me!

What author, Stephanie Cowell has done is bring the young frenchman Claude Monet to life for me. She has introduced me to him, his parents, his young starving artist friends, and his young wife, the love of his life Camille Donciex Monet, a lovely woman! It is obvious they are both very much in love eventhough both of their parents don't approve of them living together on their own without any real means of work, how will Claude take care of her? How will they get by? He keeps painting 'ladies' usually his wife Camille models, taking them to The Salon and waiting to see whether or not they have been accepted? He paints landscapes which he sells to friends for pittance which is the money on which they survive! What happens to Claude Monet and Camille Doncieux? Well, history tells us, they get married, she models for him, and he lives to old age and she dies before him but who were they really? How did they meet, fall in love?
What was it about Camille that captured the young Claude so?
We will never know will we, we weren't there...but...thanks to talented writers like Stephanie Cowell who has written a beauiful love story, I feel as if I know their story!

The Woman In A Green Dress (Camille) by Claude Monet, 1866
(The painting that started it all)

If you would like to meet Mr and Mrs Monet, if you love Impressionist art or just one of his paintings and are curious, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet you won't be sorry!

Please feel free to leave any questions or comments!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Remembering Queen Elizabeth I On Her Funeral Day

Funeral of Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn and was born at Greenwich 7 September 1533 and died at Richmond 24 March 1603. She was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 15 January 1559 by Dr Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle. The Archbishop of Canterbury usually performs this ceremony but the See (Bishop's Diocese) was vacant at that time and the Archbishop of York refused to take the service. The service was partly in Latin and partly in English. Queen Elizabeth was the Foundress of the present Collegiate Church in 1560 and her long reign was one of the most brilliant in English history.

Her death was an occasion of universal mourning. Thousands of people turned out to see her funeral procession to the Abbey on 28 April 1603. John Stow, who attended the funeral, wrote:
"Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man"

She was first buried in the vault of her grandfather, King Henry VII, in the Abbey. Her successor, King James I, erected the large white marble monument to her memory in the north aisle of the Lady Chapel at a cost of £1485. This was made by sculptor Maximilian Colt and painted by Jan de Critz and her body was moved to it in 1606. Elizabeth I was the last monarch buried in the Abbey to have a monument erected above her.

The recumbent effigy resembles portraits of the Queen in old age. The crown and collar which she wears are modern replacements, as are the orb and sceptre she carries, the originals having been stolen centuries ago. The original wax effigy carried on her funeral hearse was remade in 1760 and it can be seen in the Abbey Museum. Also displayed there is the so-called "Essex Ring" that the Queen is said to have given to one of her favourites, the Earl of Essex. Her half-sister, Queen Mary Tudor, (1516-1558), daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon, is also buried beneath this monument.

The inscriptions are in Latin and can be translated:
"Sacred to memory: Religion to its primitive purity restored, peace settled, money restored to its just value, domestic rebellion quelled, France relieved when involved with intestine divisions; the Netherlands supported; the Spanish Armada vanquished; Ireland almost lost by rebels, eased by routing the Spaniard; the revenues of both universities much enlarged by a Law of Provisions; and lastly, all England enriched Elizabeth, a most prudent governor 45 years, a victorious and triumphant Queen, most strictly religious, most happy, by a calm and resigned death at her 70th year left her mortal remains, till by Christ's Word they shall rise to immortality, to be deposited in the Church [the Abbey], by her established and lastly founded. She died the 24th of March, Anno 1602 [this is Old Style dating, now called 1603], of her reign the 45th year, of her age the 70th.

To the eternal memory of Elizabeth queen of England, France and Ireland, daughter of King Henry VIII, grand-daughter of King Henry VII, great-grand-daughter to King Edward IV. Mother of her country, a nursing-mother to religion and all liberal sciences, skilled in many languages, adorned with excellent endowments both of body and mind, and excellent for princely virtues beyond her sex. James, king of Great Britain, France and Ireland, hath devoutly and justly erected this monument to her whose virtues and kingdoms he inherits"

On the base of the monument:
Partners in throne and grave, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of the Resurrection."

On Monday 24 March 2003, following Choral Evensong, representatives of four Elizabethan foundations gathered around the tomb of Elizabeth I, to lay roses in her honour, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of her death.

In 1560 Elizabeth re-founded Westminster Abbey as the present Collegiate Church of St Peter, incorporating a School for forty scholars, which is now Westminster School. She founded Jesus College Oxford in 1571, and Trinity College Dublin in 1592. Many members of these four institutions, past and present, attended the ceremony.

Roses for the ceremony were given by an American benefactor, and earlier in the day school children laid on the tomb a bouquet of plants from Virginia, an American state named after Elizabeth I.

Just to the west of Elizabeth’s monument is a floor stone, unveiled in 1977, with the inscription “Near the tomb of Mary and Elizabeth remember before God all those who divided at the Reformation by different convictions laid down their lives for Christ and conscience’ sake”.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Possible US Book Cover
JW Waterhouse, Ophelia, 1864: Does anyone else see similarities to above cover?

UK Book Cover

Book Details


Simon & Schuster Ltd


Jacquetta, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg and kinswoman to half the royalty of Europe, was married to the great Englishman John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI. Widowed at the age of nineteen she took the extraordinary risk of marrying a gentleman of her house-hold for love, and then carved out a life for herself as Queen Margaret of Anjou's close friend and a Lancaster supporter - until the day that her daughter Elizabeth Woodville fell in love and married the rival king Edward IV. Of all the little-known but important women of the period, her dramatic story is the most neglected. With her links to Melusina, and to the founder of the house of Luxembourg, together with her reputation for making magic, she is the most haunting of heroines.

Opening Chapter

She sits, this odd trophy of war, as neat as an obedient child, on a small stool in the corner of her cell. At her boots are the remains of her dinner on an earthenware plate, laid on the straw. I notice that my uncle has sent good slices of meat, and even the white bread from his own table, and she has eaten little. I and I am staring at her, from her boy’s riding boots, to her man’s bonnet crammed on her brown cropped hair, as if she were some exotic animal, trapped for our amusement. As if someone had sent a lion cub to entertain the great family of Luxembourg, for us to put in our collection.
A lady-in-waiting behind me crosses herself and whispers, “Is this a witch?”I don’t know. How does one ever know?
“This is ridiculous,” I hear my great-aunt say boldly. “Who has ordered the poor girl to be chained? Open the door at once.”
There is a confused muttering of men trying to shift the respon-sibility, and then someone turns the big key in the cell door and my great-aunt stalks in. The girl—she must be about seventeen or eighteen—looks up from under her jagged fringe of hair as my great-aunt stands before her, then slowly rises to her feet, doffs her cap, and gives an awkward little bow.
“I am Jehanne, the Demoiselle of Luxembourg,” my great-aunt says. She gestures to my aunt. “This is the lady of the castle, Je-hanne of Bethune, and this is my nephew’s daughter, Jacquetta.”
The girl looks steadily at each of us and gives a little nod of her head to each. As she looks at me I feel a little tap-tap for my atten-tion, a whisper of magic as palpable as the brush of a fingertip on the nape of my neck. I wonder if standing behind her there are in-deed two accompanying angels and if it is their presence that I can all but feel.
“Can you speak, maid?” my great-aunt asks, when the girl says nothing.
“Oh yes, my lady,” the girl says. She has the hard accent of the Champagne region. She is no more than a peasant girl.
“Will you give me your word not to try to escape if I have these chains taken off your legs?” She hesitates, as if she is in any position to choose.
“No, I can’t,”she says.My great-aunt smiles.
“Do you understand the offer of parole?I can release you to live with us here in the castle, but you have to promise not to run away.” The girl frowns. It is almost as if she is listening for advice, then she shakes her head.
“I know this parole. It is when one knight makes a promise to another. They have rules as if they were joust-ing. I’m not like that. My words are real, not like a troubadour’s poem. This is not a game for me.”“Maid, parole is not a game!” my aunt interrupts.The girl looks at her. “It is, my lady. The noblemen are not seri-ous about these matters. Not serious like me. They play at war and make up rules. It is a game to them. Besides, I cannot make prom-ises. I am promised already.”“To the one who wrongly calls himself the King of France?”“To the King of Heaven.”
My great-aunt pauses for a moment’s thought. “I will tell them to take the chains off you and guard you so that you do not escape; but you can come and sit with us in my rooms. I think what you have done for your country and for your prince has been very great, Joan. And I will not see you here, under my roof, a captive in chains.”
“Will you tell your nephew to set me free?”My great-aunt hesitates. “I cannot order him; but I will do every-thing I can to see you free. At any event, I won’t let him release you to the English.”
At their very name, the girl shudders and crosses herself, thump-ing her head and her chest in the most ridiculous way, as a peasant might cross himself at the name of Old Hob. I have to choke back a laugh. This draws the girl’s dark gaze to us.“They are only mortal men,” I explain to her. “The English have no powers beyond that of mortal men. You need not fear them like this. You need not cross yourself at their name.”“I don’t fear them.” She ignores my patronizing tone. “I am not such a fool as to fear that they have powers. It is that they know that I have powers. That’s what makes them such a danger. They are mad with fear. They fear me so much that they will destroy me the moment I fall into their hands. I am their terror. I am their fear that walks by night.” “While I live, they will not have you,” my great-aunt assures her. At once, unmistakably, Joan looks straight at me, a hard, dark gaze as if to see that I too have heard, in this sincere assertion, the ring of an utterly empty promise.
My great-aunt believes that if she can bring Joan into our com-pany, talk with her, moderate her religious fervor, perhaps educate her that she will be led, in time, to wear the dress of a young woman and that the fighting youth who was dragged off the white horse at Compiègne will transform, as strong wine into water, and she will become a young woman who can be seated among young wait-ing women, who will answer to a command and not to the ringing church bells, and who can perhaps be overlooked by the English who are demanding that we surrender a hermaphrodite murderous witch to them. If we have nothing but a tamed girl to offer, perhaps they will be satisfied and go on their violent way.
Joan herself is exhausted by recent defeats and by her uneasy sense that the king she has crowned is not worthy of the holy oil,that the enemy she had on the run has turned against her, and that the mission given to her by God Himself is falling away from her.Everything that made her “the Maid” before her adoring troop of soldiers has become uncertain. Under my great-aunt’s steady kind-ness she is becoming once more an awkward country girl: nothing special.
Of course, all the maids-in-waiting to my great-aunt want to know about the adventure that is ending in this slow creep of defeat;and as Joan spends her days with us, learning to be a girl and not the Maid, they pluck up the courage to ask her.“How were you so brave?” one demands. “How did you learn to be so brave? In battle, I mean.” Joan smiles at the question. The four of us are seated on a grassy bank beside the moat of the castle, idle as children. The July sun is beating down and the pasture lands around the castle are shimmer-ing in the haze of heat; even the bees are lazy: buzzing and then fall-ing silent. We have chosen to sit in the shadow of the highest tower;behind us in the glassy water of the moat we can hear the bubble of a carp coming to the surface. Joan is sprawled like a boy, one hand outstretched into the water, her cap over her eyes. In the basket beside me are half-sewn shirts that we are supposed to hem for the poor children of Cambrai. But the two maids always avoid work of any sort, Joan has no skill, and I have my great-aunt’s precious pack of cards in my hands and I am shuffling and cutting them and idly looking at the pictures.
“I knew I was called by God,” Joan said simply, “and that He would protect me, so I had no fear. Not even in the worst of the bat-tles. He warned me that I would be injured but that I would feel no pain, so I knew I could go on fighting. I even warned my men that I would be injured. I knew before we went into battle. I just knew.”
“Do you really hear voices?” I ask.“Do you?”The question is so shocking that the girls turn to look at me,and under their joint gaze I and I am blushing as if for something shameful.
“No! No!”“Then what?”“What do you mean?”“What do you hear?” she asks reasonably, as if everyone hears something.“Well, not voices, exactly,” I say.“What do you hear?”I glance behind me as if the very ash might rise to listen.
“When someone in my family is going to die, then I hear a noise,” I say. “A special noise.”“What sort of noise?” one of the maids, Elizabeth, asks. “I didn’t know this. Could I hear it?” “You are not of my house,” I say irritably. “Of course you wouldn’t hear it. You would have to be a descendant of ... and any-way, you must never speak of this. You shouldn’t really be listening.I shouldn’t be telling you.”
“What sort of noise?” Joan repeats.“Like singing,” I say, and see her nod, as if she too has heard it.“They say it is the voice of Melusina, the first lady of the House of Luxembourg,” I whisper. “They say she was a water goddess who came out of the river to marry the first count but she couldn’t be a mortal woman. She comes back to cry for the loss of her children.”“And when have you heard her?”
“The night that my baby sister died, I heard something. And I knew at once that it was Melusina.”
“How did you know?” the other maid whispers, afraid of being excluded from the conversation. I shrug, and Joan smiles in recognition of truths that cannot be explained.
“I just knew,” I say. “It was as if I recognized her voice. As if I had always known it.” “That’s true. You just know.” Joan nods.
“But how do you know that it comes from God and not from the Devil?”I hesitate.
Any spiritual questions should be taken to my confessor at the very least to my mother or my great-aunt. But the song of Melusina, and the shiver on my spine, and my occasional sight of the unseen—something half-lost, sometimes vanishing around a corner,lighter gray in a gray twilight, a dream which is too clear to be forgot-ten, a glimpse of foresight but never anything that I can describe— these things are too thin for speech. How can I ask about them when I cannot even put them into words? How can I bear to have someone clumsily name them or, even worse, try to explain them away? I might as well try to hold the greenish water of the moat in my hands.“Because it is hardly anything,” I say. “Like when you go into a room and it is quiet—but you know, you can just tell, that someone is there. You can’t hear or see anyone, but you just know. It’s little more than that. I never think of it as a gift coming from God or the Devil. It is just nothing.”
“My voices come from God,” Joan says certainly. “I know it. If it were not true, I should be utterly lost.”“So can you tell fortunes?” Elizabeth asks me childishly.My fingers close over my cards. “No,” I say. “And these don’t tell fortunes; they are just for playing. I don’t tell fortunes. My great-aunt would not allow me to do it, even if I could.”“Oh, do mine!” she urges me.“These are just playing cards,” I say. “I’m no soothsayer.”“Oh, draw a card for me and tell me,” Elizabeth says, “and for Joan. What’s going to become of her? Surely you want to know what’s going to happen to Joan?”“It means nothing,” I say to Joan. “And I only brought them so we could play.”
“They are beautiful,” she says. “They taught me to play at court with cards like these. How bright they are.”I hand them to her. “Take care with them; they’re very precious,” I say jealously as she spreads them in her callused hands. “The Demoiselle showed them to me when I was a little girl and told me the names of the pictures. She lets me borrow them because I love to play. But I promised to take care of them.” Joan passes the pack back to me, but though she is careful and my hands are ready for them, one of the thick cards tumbles from us and falls face down on the grass.

“Oh! I am sorry,” Joan exclaims, and quickly picks it up. I can feel a whisper, like a cool breath down my spine. The meadow before me and the cows licking their tails in the shade of the tree seem far away, as if we four were enclosed in glass, butter riesin a bowl, in another world. “You had better look at it now,” I say. Joan looks at the brightly painted picture, her eyes widen slightly, and then she shows it to me. “What does this mean?”We both see the peaceful smile of a man dressed in bright livery, hanging from one extended foot, the other leg crooked easily, his toe pointed and placed against his other leg as if he were dancing, inverted in the air, his hands clasped behind his back as if bowing, the happy fall of his blue hair as he hangs, upside down, smiling.“
Le Pendu,

” Elizabeth reads. “How horrid. What does it mean? Oh, surely it doesn’t mean—” She breaks off.“It doesn’t mean you will be hanged,” I say quickly to Joan. “So don’t think that. It’s a playing card, it can’t mean anything like that.”“But what does it mean?” Elizabeth demands, though Joan is si-lent, as if it is not her card, not her fortune that I am refusing to tell.“His gallows is two growing trees,” I say. I am playing for time under Joan’s brown, serious gaze. “This means spring and renewal and life—not death. And there are two trees: the man is balanced between them. He is the very center of resurrection.”Elizabeth nods.

“And look: he is not hanged by his neck to kill him, but tied by his foot,” I say. “If he wanted, he could stretch up and untie himself. He could set himself free, if he wanted.”“But he doesn’t set himself free,” the girl observes. “It is as if he is dancing there, held by a foot. He is like a tumbler, an acrobat. What does that mean?”“It means that he is willingly there, willingly waiting, allowing himself to be held by his foot, hanging in the air.”“To be a living sacrifice?” Joan says slowly, in the words of the Mass.“He is not crucified,” I say quickly. It is as if every word I say leads us to another form of death. “This doesn’t mean anything.”“No,” she says. “These are just playing cards, and we are just playing a game with them. It is a pretty card, the hanged man. He looks happy. He looks happy to be upside down in springtime. Shall I teach you a game with counters that we play in Champagne?”“yes,” I say. I hold out my hand for her card and she looks at it for a moment before she hands it back to me. “Honestly, it means nothing,” I say again to her .She smiles at me, her frank smile. “I know what it means,” she says.“Shall we play?” I start to shuffle the cards and one turns over in my hand.“Now that’s a good card,” Joan remarks. “
La roue de fortune,
”I hold it out to show it to her. “It means the wheel of fortune that can throw you up very high or bring you down very low. Its mes-sage is to be indifferent to victory or defeat, as they both come on the turn of the wheel.”“In my country the farmers make a sign for fortune’s wheel,” Joan remarks. “They draw a circle in the air with their forefinger when something very good or something very bad happens. Someone in-herits money, or someone loses a prize cow, they do this.” She points her finger in the air and draws a circle. “And they say something.”

“A spell?”“Not really a spell.” She smiles mischievously.“What then?”She giggles. “They say ‘
.’ ”I am so shocked that I rock back with laughter.“What? What?” the younger maid demands.“Nothing, nothing,” I say. Joan is still giggling. “Joan’s country-men say rightly that everything comes to dust, and all that a man can do about it is learn indifference”.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions~

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Knights of the Garter for Robert Dudley and Thomas Howard 4th Duke of Norfolk

"When first this order was ordain'd, my lords,
Knights of the garter were of noble birth,
Valiant and virtuous, full of haughty courage,
Such as were grown to credit by the wars;
Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress,
But always resolute in most extremes.
He then that is not furnish'd in this sort
Doth but usurp the sacred name of knight,
Profaning this most honourable order,
And should, if I were worthy to be judge,
Be quite degraded, like a hedge-born swain
That doth presume to boast of gentle blood
." (Henry VI, Pt.I, 4.1 by William Shakespeare)

On April 23, 1559, Robert Dudley (not yet Earl of Leicester) and Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk became Knights of the Garter during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

History of Order of the Garter
King Edward III founded the Order of the Garter as "a society, fellowship and college of knights." The foundation year is believed to be 1348. However, according to "The Founders of the Order of the Garter" which states the order was first instituted on 23 April 1344, listing each founding member as knighted in 1344. Other dates from 1344 to 1351 have also been proposed. The King's wardrobe account shows Garter habits first issued in the autumn of 1348; its original statutes required that each member already be a knight (what would now be referred to as a knight bachelor) and some of the initial members were only knighted that year. The concept was followed over the next century or so with other European monarchs founding their own prestigious orders of chivalry. The Order of the Garter remains the oldest and most prestigious.

Various legends account for the origin of the Order. The most popular legend involves the "Countess of Salisbury" (probably either Edward's future daughter-in-law Joan of Kent or her former mother-in-law, Catherine Montacute, Countess of Salisbury). While she was dancing with or near King Edward at Eltham Palace, her garter is said to have slipped from her leg. When the surrounding courtiers sniggered, the king picked it up and tied it to his leg, exclaiming, "Honi soit qui mal y pense," ("Shamed be the person who thinks evil of it."), the phrase that has become the motto of the Order.

According to another legend, King Richard I was inspired in the 12th century by St George the Martyr while fighting in the Crusades to tie garters around the legs of his knights, who subsequently won the battle. King Edward supposedly recalled the event in the 14th century when he founded the Order. Another explanation is that the motto refers to Edward's claim to the French throne, and the Order of the Garter was created to help pursue this claim. The use of the garter as an emblem may have derived from straps used to fasten armour.

Medieval scholars have pointed to a connection between the Order of the Garter and the Middle English poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". In "Gawain", a girdle, very similar in its erotic undertones to the garter, plays a prominent role. A rough version of the Order's motto also appears in the text. It translates from Old French as "Accursed be a cowardly and covetous heart."
While the author of the poem remains disputed, there seems to be a connection between two of the top candidates and the Order of the Garter. Scholar J.P. Oakden has suggested that it is someone related to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and, more importantly, a member of the Order. Another competing theory is that the work was written for Enguerrand de Coucy, seventh Sire de Coucy. Sire de Coucy was married to King Edward III's daughter, Isabella, and was given admittance to the Order of the Garter on their wedding day.

Robert Dudley was counted among Princess Elizabeth's special friends by Philip II's envoy to the English court a week before Queen Mary's death. On 18 November 1558, the morning after Elizabeth's accession, he witnessed the surrender of the Great Seal to her at Hatfield. He became Master of the Horse on the same day. This was an important court position entailing close attendance on the sovereign. It suited him, as he was an excellent horseman and showed great professional interest in royal transport and accommodation, horse breeding, and the supply of horses for all occasions. Dudley was also entrusted with organizing and overseeing a large part of the Queen's coronation festivities.
In April 1559 Dudley was elected a Knight of the Garter in the good company of England's only duke and an earl, causing great wonder. The ambassador of the neutral Republic of Venice, by his office the most detached of the foreign envoys, soon wrote home: "My Lord Robert Dudley is ... very intimate with Her Majesty. On this subject I ought to report the opinion of many but I doubt whether my letters may not miscarry or be read, wherefore it is better to keep silence than to speak ill." Philip II had already been informed shortly before Dudley's decoration:

Lord Robert has come so much into favour that he does whatever he likes with affairs and it is even said that her majesty visits him in his chamber day and night. People talk of this so freely that they go so far as to say that his wife has a malady in one of her breasts and the Queen is only waiting for her to die to marry Lord Robert ... Matters have reached such a pass ... that ... it would ... be well to approach Lord Robert on your Majesty's behalf ... Your Majesty would do well to attract and confirm him in his friendship.

Within a month the Spanish ambassador, Count de Feria, counted Robert Dudley among those three persons who "rule everything". Visiting foreigners of princely rank were bidding for his goodwill. He acted as official host on state occasions and was himself a frequent guest at ambassadorial dinners. By the autumn of 1559 several foreign princes were vying for the Queen's hand; their impatient envoys came under the impression that Elizabeth was fooling them, "keeping Lord Robert's enemies and the country engaged with words until this wicked deed of killing his wife is consummated." "Lord Robert", the new Spanish ambassador de Quadra was convinced, was the man "in whom it is easy to recognize the king that is to be ... she will marry none but the favoured Robert." Many of the nobility would not brook Dudley's new prominence, as they could not "put up with his being King." The Duke of Norfolk threatened that Dudley "would not die in his bed", while the Imperial envoy wondered why he had "not been slain long ere this" and hoped he would soon "meet with the reward he so richly merits." Plans to kill the favourite abounded; one plot that remained a secret at the time was hatched by the Swedish ambassador.
Dudley took to wearing a light coat of mail under his clothes. Among all classes, in England and abroad, gossip got under way that the Queen had children by Dudley—such rumours never quite ended for the rest of her life.

Thomas Howard 4th Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal (10 March 1536 – 2 June 1572) was an English nobleman. Norfolk was a second cousin of Queen Elizabeth I of England through her mother's family and was trusted with public office despite his family's history and (although he claimed to be a Protestant) his prior support for Catholicism. He was Earl Marshal of England and Queen's Lieutenant in the North from February to July 1560 and was commander of the English army in Scotland in support of the Lords of the Congregation opposing Mary of Guise. He agreed the Treaty of Berwick (1560) by which the Congregation invited English assistance.

Queen Elizabeth imprisoned him in 1569 for scheming to wed Mary, Queen of Scots.
Following his release, he participated in the Ridolfi plot with King Philip II of Spain to put Mary on the English throne and restore Catholicism in England, though the strength of the evidence for his participation in the Ridolfi plot is doubted by some. He was executed for treason in 1572. He is buried at St Peter ad Vincula within the walls of the Tower of London.
Norfolk's lands and titles were forfeit, although much of the estate was later restored to his sons. The title of Duke of Norfolk was restored, four generations later, to Thomas Howard.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Unsealed: The Bess of Hardwick Exhibit

Unsealed – The Letters of Bess of Hardwick Exhibit at Hardwick Hall,Derbyshire, running currently - April - October 2011:

Dukes and spies; queens and servants; friends and lovers all of the Elizabethan world populates the letters of Bess of Hardwick. Bess herself wrote hundreds of letters throughout her life: they were her lifeline to her travelling children and husbands, to the court at London, and to news from the world at large. And when she moved to Hardwick Hall in the final years of her life, the old countess received current news and gossip into her house through her correspondence.

Unsealed presents the world of Bess of Hardwick’s letters to the public for the first time. This exhibition lets Bess and her correspondents tell their stories in their own words. See her life, her loves, intrigue and passions unfold – visit Unsealed at Hardwick Hall.

Since this is a UK exhibit, do not despair all fellow anglophiles or mere curiousitors, six mini podcasts have been made available at

Unsealed: The Podcasts

1 The Many Faces of Bess of Hardwick (5:32)
2 Who’s Who in Bess’s Address Book (6:33)
3 Details on Lifestyle (3:55)
4 Stories from Bess’s Bedchamber (6:42)
5 A Peek into Bess’s Parcels (5:13)

Bonus podcast: Unsealed: A Look Behind the Scenes (11:53)

For more information on Bess of Hardwick Exhibit, click the University of Glasgow link below.
Unsealed was created by Dr Anke Timmermann, with support from Dr Alison Wiggins and Dr Nigel Wright (Hardwick Hall). It is funded by the AHRC, the National Trust and the University of Glasgow.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Review: Elizabeth I By Margaret George

Product Details
Pub. Date: April 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Format: Hardcover , 671pp
Sales Rank: 161
ISBN-13: 9780670022533
ISBN: 0670022535

New York Times bestselling author Margaret George captures history's most enthralling queen-as she confronts rivals to her throne and to her heart.
One of today's premier historical novelists, Margaret George dazzles here as she tackles her most difficult subject yet: the legendary Elizabeth Tudor, queen of enigma-the Virgin Queen who had many suitors, the victor of the Armada who hated war; the gorgeously attired, jewel- bedecked woman who pinched pennies. England's greatest monarch has baffled and intrigued the world for centuries. But what was she really like?
In this novel, her flame-haired, lookalike cousin, Lettice Knollys, thinks she knows all too well. Elizabeth's rival for the love of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother to the Earl of Essex, the mercurial nobleman who challenged Elizabeth's throne, Lettice had been intertwined with Elizabeth since childhood. This is a story of two women of fierce intellect and desire, one trying to protect her country, and throne, the other trying to regain power and position for her family and each vying to convince the reader of her own private vision of the truth about Elizabeth's character. Their gripping drama is acted out at the height of the flowering of the Elizabethan age. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dudley, Raleigh, Drake-all of them swirl through these pages as they swirled through the court and on the high seas.
This is a magnificent, stay-up-all-night page-turner that is George's finest and most compelling novel and one that is sure to please readers of Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory, and Hilary Mantel.

A Review
Elizabeth Tudor lived to be seventy years old in 1603. We meet Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England, in 1588 the year of the Spanish Armada, age 55 years old.
Novelist, Margaret George has attempted rather bravely to shed some light on an 'aging' woman and Queen of England who says that she has married England instead of a man. It is England who wooed her, whom she married, and reigned over for forty five years (1558-1603). However, Margaret George covers the last fifteen years of her reign as sovereign (1588-1603).

Margaret George's novel 'Elizabeth I' should have taken my breath away and made me fall in love with her. I am sorry to say that this novel has not enraptured me. Instead it has left me out of breath and exhausted just trying to keep my interest.
In reading this novel I met 'The Virgin Queen' in full regalia! I even met 'The Fairie Queen' when Edmund Spenser dropped by for a chat with Her Majesty. Also in attendance William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and later on Guy Fawkes! Unfortunately, I wanted to meet an aged Elizabeth Tudor yes queen but daughter of one of the greatest Tudor Monarchs Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. Where was she for she wasn't in this novel. Oh yes, there were myriad glimpses of her scattered in first person chapters throughout the novel. For instance, when Elizabeth visits Hever Castle with her ladies in waiting for a stay and she reflects back on what her mother must have been like as a child growing up there, walking the same halls, sleeping in her chambers, how her mother and father strolled the garden later on during his reign when they were 'briefly' happy together and once in love. Those chapters captured my heart for it is then that the reader and hopefully Tudor history lover get an albeit fictitious glimpse into what Elizabeth Tudor must have thought at times in her most private moments.

Sadly, most of this novel, all 688 pages of it, read more like one of Her Majesty's daily calendars instead of a proper novel that lets us in to who Elizabeth Tudor was. Margaret George overloads her novel with far too many historical characters:
In 1588 we meet: Pope Sixtus V otherwise known as Felice Peretti (I don't need to know that), King Philip of Spain, oh yes and a ghostly visit from Dan Bernadino de Mendoza a Spanish Ambassador who carries a whip!

Elizabeth's full privy council members are all assembled: Sir Francis Walsingham(private secretary & spymaster head of intelligence service),John Dee (Astrologer), William Cecil (Lord Burghley)(Chief Minister & Lord Treasurer), Sir Francis Knollys, Henry Carey, The Lord Hundson, John Whitgift, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Howard, the new lord admiral. Trust me we hear from them, about them, throughout all 688 pages which is necessary but not always enjoyable!

We meet all six of Elizabeth I's ladies of the bedchamber: Catherine Carey(cousin), Marjorie Morris (friend since youth), Blanche Parry (nurse), Elizabeth Southwell, Elizabeth Vernon, Bess Throckmorton, Frances Walsingham, and Helena Von Snakenborg from Sweden. I think that's all of them! They are not all needed trust me, only Blanch Parry, Catherine Carey are needed in this novel for obvious reasons!

Also, in keeping all 688 pages interesting the author throws in necessary historical factions: France and Ireland of course! Trust me dear reader including that Irish Pirate of sorts Grace O'Malley into several chapters as an 'acquaintance' to Elizabeth I doesn't help! This doesn't personalize Elizabeth Tudor the reflective chapters do a better job of that.
For the french we have the Henry IV connection to Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, along with Catherine de Medici and mention of the french wars of religion, calvinism, St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre etc. I read Dumas I saw Queen Margot I get it, I know enough about it, please Margaret George stop I beg you!
Don't get me started on the siblings and offspring that the author includes!

Lettice Knollys is introduced early on and juxtaposed against her enemy the queen herself! I enjoyed reading 'some' of Lettice's chapters because she being part of the Boleyn side of the family it made for interesting fiction! However, I am still not a fan of Lettice Knollys and without giving anything away the ending was interesting and sweet!

I wish I could say more positive things about this novel. However, for myself, it did not hold enough of the human and personal side of Elizabeth Tudor.
I have read Margaret George's autobiography of Henry VIII which is very similar to this and my favorite Mary Queen of Scots is still well my favorite.
I enjoyed catching glimpses of the aged Elizabeth Tudor wondering about who her parents were, what they were like together, things we will never know but as a woman she must have thought from time to time.
If you want to meet the aged ruler Virgin Queen and all the cast of characters that are along for the ride please enjoy this novel.
For myself I think I will reread Alison Weir who blends historical characters with fiction succinctly and briefly enough to keep the reader interested.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Painter, Poet, PreRaphaelite 12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born on 12 May 1828 and died on 9 April 1882.
The son of émigré Italian scholar Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti and his wife Frances Polidori. Rossetti was born in London, England and originally named Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti. His family and friends called him Gabriel, but in publications he put the name Dante first (in honor of Dante Alighieri). He was the brother of poet Christina Rossetti, the critic William Michael Rossetti, and author Maria Francesca Rossetti.

The young Rossetti's friends described him as "self-possessed, articulate, passionate and charismatic" but also "ardent, poetic and feckless". Like all his siblings, he aspired to be a poet and attended King's College School, Wimbledon. However, he also wished to be a painter, having shown a great interest in Medieval Italian art. He studied at Henry Sass's Drawing Academy from 1841 to 1845 when he enrolled at the Antique School of the Royal Academy, leaving in 1848. After leaving the Royal Academy, Rossetti studied under Ford Madox Brown, with whom he was to retain a close relationship throughout his life.

Following the exhibition of William Holman Hunt's painting The Eve of St. Agnes, Rossetti sought out Hunt's friendship. The painting illustrated a poem by the then still little-known John Keats. Rossetti's own poem "The Blessed Damozel" was an imitation of Keats, so he believed that Hunt might share his artistic and literary ideals. Together they developed the philosophy of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which they founded along with John Everett Millais.

The group's intention was to reform English art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo and the formal training regime introduced by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Their approach was to return to the abundant detail, intense colors, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.
The eminent critic John Ruskin later wrote:

Every Pre-Raphaelite landscape background is painted to the last touch, in the open air, from the thing itself. Every Pre-Raphaelite figure, however studied in expression, is a true portrait of some living person.

For the first issue of the Brotherhood's magazine, The Germ, published early in 1850, Rossetti contributed his poem "The Blessed Damozel" and a story about a fictional early Italian artist inspired by a vision of a woman who bids him combine the human and the divine in his art. Rossetti was always more interested in the Medieval than in the modern side of the movement, working on translations of Dante and other Medieval Italian poets, and adopting the stylistic characteristics of the early Italians.

Rossetti's first major paintings in oil display the realist qualities of the early Pre-Raphaelite movement. His Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850) both portray Mary as an emaciated and repressed teenage girl. William Bell Scott saw Girlhood in progress in Hunt's studio and remarked on young Rossetti's technique:

He was painting in oils with watercolor brushes, as thinly as in watercolor, on canvas which he had primed with white till the surface was a smooth as cardboard, and every tint remained transparent. I saw at once that he was not an orthodox boy, but acting purely from the aesthetic motive. The mixture of genius and dilettantism of both men shut me up for the moment, and whetted my curiosity.

Stung by criticism of his second major painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini, exhibited in 1850, and the increasingly hysterical critical reaction that greeted Pre-Raphaelitism in that year, Rossetti turned to watercolors, which could be sold privately. Although his work subsequently won support from John Ruskin, Rossetti only rarely exhibited thereafter.

In 1850, Rossetti met Elizabeth Siddal, an important early model for the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Over the next decade, she became his muse, his pupil, and his passion. They were finally married in 1860.

Rossetti represented Lizzie as Dante's Beatrice in one of his most famous works, Beata Beatrix, (1864–1870) which he painted as a memorial to Lizzie after her death. This piece also mimicked the death of Dante's love in his autobiographical work, Vita Nuova. In the work, amidst a yellow haze of relatively indistinct shapes, including Florence's Ponte Vecchio and the figures of Dante and Love, Lizzie sits, representing Dante's Beatrice. With an upturned chin and closed eyes, Lizzie appears keenly aware of her impending fate, death. A bird, which serves as the messenger of death, places a poppy in her hands. Critics have praised the piece for its emotional resonance, which can be felt simply through the work's moving coloring and composition. The true history of Rossetti and his beloved wife further deepens its meaning; although their love had waned at that point, Lizzie still exerted a powerful influence on the artist.

Rossetti's wife Elizabeth Siddal died of an overdose of laudanum in 1862, shortly after giving birth to a stillborn child. Rossetti became increasingly depressed, and upon the death of his beloved Lizzie, buried the bulk of his unpublished poems with her at Highgate Cemetery, though he would later have them dug back up.

After the death of his wife in 1862, Rossetti leased Tudor House at number 16 Cheyne Walk, along the Thames in London, where he lived for the next twenty years surrounded by extravagant furnishings and a parade of exotic birds and animals. Rossetti was fascinated with wombats, frequently asking friends to meet him at the "Wombat's Lair" at the London Zoo in Regent's Park, and spending hours there himself. Finally, in September 1869, he was to acquire the first of two pet wombats. This short-lived wombat, named "Top", was often brought to the dinner table and allowed to sleep in the large centerpiece during meals. This fascination with exotic animals continued throughout Rossetti's life, finally culminating in the purchase of a llama and a Toucan which Rossetti would dress in a cowboy hat and persuade to ride the llama round the dining table for his amusement.

Rossetti maintained Fanny Cornforth (described delicately by William Allington as Rossetti's "housekeeper") in her own establishment nearby in Chelsea, and painted many voluptuous images of her between 1863 and 1865. In 1865 he discovered auburn-haired Alex Wilding, a dressmaker and would-be actress who was engaged to model for him on a full-time basis and sat for The Blessed Damozel and other paintings of the period. Jane Morris, whom Rossetti had found as a model for the Oxford Union murals he painted with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in 1857, also sat for him during these years, and she soon "consumed and obessed him in paint, poetry, and life". In 1869, Morris and Rossetti rented a country house, Kelmscott Manor at Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, as a summer home, but it soon became a retreat for Rossetti and Jane Morris to have a long-lasting and complicated liaison. The two spent summers there, with the Morris children, while Morris himself traveled to Iceland in 1871 and 1873.

During these years, Rossetti was prevailed upon by friends, in particular Charles Augustus Howell, to exhume his poems from his wife's grave. This he did, collating and publishing them in 1870 in the volume Poems by D. G. Rossetti. They created a controversy when they were attacked as the epitome of the "fleshly school of poetry". The eroticism and sensuality of the poems caused offense. One poem, "Nuptial Sleep", described a couple falling asleep after sex. This was part of Rossetti's sonnet sequence The House of Life, a complex series of poems tracing the physical and spiritual development of an intimate relationship. Rossetti described the sonnet form as a "moment's monument", implying that it sought to contain the feelings of a fleeting moment, and to reflect upon their meaning. The House of Life was a series of interacting monuments to these moments an elaborate whole made from a mosaic of intensely described fragments. This was Rossetti's most substantial literary achievement. In 1881, Rossetti published a second volume of poems, Ballads and Sonnets, which included the remaining sonnets from The House of Life sequence.

The savage reaction of critics to Rossetti's first collection of poetry contributed to a mental breakdown in June 1872, and although he joined Jane at Kelmscott that September, he spent his days in a haze of chloral and whisky. The next summer he was much improved, and both Alexa Wilding and Jane Morris sat to him at Kelmscott, where he created a soulful series of dream-like portraits. In 1874, Morris reorganized his decorative arts firm, cutting Rossetti out of the business, and the polite fiction that both men were in residence with Jane at Kelmscott could not be maintained. Rossetti abruptly left Kelmscott in July 1874 and never returned. Toward the end of his life, he sank into a morbid state, darkened by his drug addiction to chloral hydrate and increasing mental instability. He spent his last years as a recluse at Cheyne Walk.

On Easter Sunday, 1882, he died at the country house of a friend, where he had gone in yet another vain attempt to recover his health, which had been destroyed by chloral as his wife's had been destroyed by laudanum. He is buried at Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England. His grave is visited regularly by admirers of his life's work and achievements and this can be seen by fresh flowers placed there regularly.

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A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...