Historical Reads: Sophia Musters

Friday, 29 August 2014

Over at The Duchess Of Devonshire's Gossip Guide To The 18th Century, Heather Carroll remembers a famous Georgian tart, Sophia Musters. To quote:

By the age of eighteen her parents had found Sophia a husband who was convenient to them, John Musters. John was rich, good looking, and not too much older than Sophia. Sadly Sophia had feelings for George Pitt who, as a younger son, was not a convenient marriage for the Heywoods. Sophia and John married in 1776. A child was born to the couple every year for the next four years.

Fanny Burney described Sophia as "most beautiful, but most unhappy" as well as being the toast of the town. John was happy being a country gentleman but Sophia flourished in a metropolitan environment. She was adorable yet swore like Lady Lade. The men couldn't stay away from the charming Mrs. Musters and who was she to deny them the attention? Once, at a ball, a man approached Sophia with a glass of chalk and water and used this clever pickup line: "Chalk is thought to be a cure for the heartburn; I wonder whether it will cure the heartache?"* No word on whether the line worked. It wasn't long before Sophia threw caution to the wind and dove into numerous love affairs.

To read the entire article, click here.

Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate, The Artist Nun Princess

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Born at the Hague in the early hours of the morning of 8 April 1622, Princess Louise was the sixth child and second daughter of Frederick V, Elector Palatine and his wife, Elizabeth Stuart. The baby, which was christened eight days later in the Klooster-Kerke, was named Louise after her paternal grandmother and Hollandine as a homage to Holland, which had welcomed the couple in their exile. The country also gifted the newborn princess with a life pension of two hundred pounds a year.

Despite the shortage of money, Louise knew how to have fun. She, like her siblings, loved sports, hunting, masquerades, balls, and just generally having a good time. But Louise was also clever and, although not a classical beauty, very charming. According to Carole Oman, "her nose, had it not belonged to a princess, must have been termed impertinent, but she managed to make people think her a beauty, for her auburn hair and eager expression were highly attractive. In colouring she resembled her little brother Philip, but in gait and carriage she was very like Rupert." Rupert was her elder brother and the member of her family Louise was the closest to.

The princess had many admirers, including her cousin Frederick William of Brandenburg. He would very much have loved to marry Louise, but while her mother was all for the match, his wasn't thrilled at the prospect of a penniless daughter-in-law who had been born and grown up in exile. Frederick ended up marrying the much richer Louise Henriette of Orange, and Louise, together with all the members of her family, was forced to attend the ceremony. She consoled herself with her art, receiving lessons by the painter Gerard van Honthorst, who helped her talent bloom. She painted mostly portraits, which were kept within her family.

Louise may have been lively, but she was also chaste. But that didn't stop Jacques de l’Epinay, a French exile paying court to both Louise and her mother, to boast about his success with both of them. Her brother Philip was outraged with fury and, when on 20 June 1646, met L'Epiney, a fight broke out. The watchman broke it off, but the next night, the two men met again, this time, with tragic consequences. Philip stubbed L'Epiney to death and then left the country. His family, and in particular his mother, were devastated.

Louise received another proposal of marriage, this time by James Graham, the Earl of Montrose. He had met Louise when, after the execution of Charles I, he had come to Holland to offer his loyalty to the new king, Charles II, who was living there in exile at the time. Montrose left a month later as Lieutenant-General of Scotland, hoping to be able to marry his princess after defeating the new regime. Unfortunately, he was instead executed in Edinburgh on 21 May 1650.

Then, on 19 December 1657, Louise disappeared. In vain did her family search for her. Eventually, a note was found. In it the princess, who had left alone and on foot, said that when she "arrived at a destination which was not yet at liberty to disclose, she hoped to inform her Majesty of her reasons for taking the veil in a Catholic nunnery". Elizabeth had gone to Paris, where she planned to stay with her aunt, the devout Catholic ex Queen Henrietta Maria of England. Henrietta Marie welcomed her niece with open arms, and wrote to the princess' mother to assure Louise would be well taken care of. Needless to say, the Protestant Elizabeth didn't take the news of her daughter's flight and conversion well. It didn't help that in Holland, rumours, unfounded, started to circulate claiming Louise had taken refuge in a convent because she was pregnant.

Louise, however, was very happy in her new life in France. After living with her aunt for a while, she moved to a convent in Chaillot, where she became a novice, and later to the convent of Maubuisson, where, on 19 September 1660, she became a Cistercian nun. Four years later, she became its Abbess. Louise lived out her life there, never giving up painting. She died on 8 February 1709, estranged from her mother.

Further reading:
Madame Guillotine

Restrictions In The Dress Of Apprentices, In 1600

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Apprentices were not allowed to wear hats, nor any other covering on the head but a woollen cap; no ruffles, cuffs, loose collars, nor anything more than a ruff at the collar, and that only a yard and a half long. Their doublets were to be of fustian, sackcloth, canvas, English leather or woollen, without any gold, silver, or silk trimmings. They wore cloth or kersey hose, but of no other colour than white, blue, or russet.

Their breeches were always of the same material as the doublet, and was neither stitched, laced, nor embroidered. Their upper coat was of cloth or leather, without pinking, stitching, edging, or silk trimming. Surtouts they were not allowed to wear, but instead thereof a cloth gown or cloak, faced with cotton, cloth, or baize, with a plain fixed round collar. No pumps, slippers, or shoes were allowed them, but English leather, without being pricked, edged, or stitched. No garters, but what were made of crewel, woollen, thread, or leather.

They were not allowed to carry either sword or dagger, but a knife only. All rings, jewels, gold, silver, or silk, were forbidden on any part of their dress. Nor were they allowed to frequent any dancing, fencing, or musical schools, under very severe penalties, one of which was to be publicly whipped in the hall of their company. In our times, when the present style of dress levels all distinctions, the apprentice is often more gaily attired than his master, and attends public diversions with as much ardor and liberty as the peer who helps to support that master.

Further reading:
Belle Assemblee, 1818

Book Reviews: The Boleyn Reckoning & The Fortune Hunter

Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Hello everyone,

today I have two historical novels for you. Enjoy!

The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen
What if Anne Boleyn had given birth to a healthy boy who grew up to rule England? Laura Anderson tried to answer that question in her Boleyn trilogy. The Boleyn Reckoning is the last book, which makes it hard to review it without revealing too much or spoiling the end. But I'll try.
In the first two books, we've encountered a traitor who is still at large, two of the king's best friends who betrayed him by marrying secretly without his consent, and a king that puts his own desires before the welfare of his country. Now the situation has reached a critical point. Both the threats of civil war and foreign invasion are looming. Wary of what her brother may do, Elizabeth, assembles a shadow court at Hatfield. Her loyalties are split between her brother and her country. Eventually, she'll have to choose between them.
The Boleyn Reckoning has all the ingredients of a great story: love, hate, drama, betrayal, plots, executions, secrets, and passion. Twists and turns abound. There is never a dull moment in the story, and everything that happens is plausible. You really believe that, if Anne had had a son, things would have happened just as Andersen imagined them. That's how well-researched the book is. Andersen doesn't just follow her fervent imagination, but really understands the world the Tudors lived in and the people who inhabited it. It was interesting to see which events, according to her, would have happened anyway, and what, instead, would be different.
The writing is beautiful. The Tudor world is masterfully described and you can see it rising just before your eyes as you read. The characters are interesting and well-rounded. I came to love them all, laugh with them, and cry with them. I even warmed to William, who takes a bit too much after his father!
If you love Tudor history, what ifs scenarios, or just a good story, you must read this trilogy.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
I rarely read romances these days, but this one features one of my favourite historical figures (and one who rarely makes an appearance in novels), the Austrian empress Sisi, so of course, I had to pick it up. Luckily, it didn't disappointed. Charlotte Baird is a young heiress with a passion for photography. Lots of suitors are competing for her hand, but she falls for the dashing Captain Middleton, a ladies' man strapped for cash. He's also a great rider, a skill which gains him a post in Sisi's entourage. The Austrian empress has come to England to enjoy the hunting season and Middleton is chosen to act as her pilot. The empress too can't resist the Captain's charms either, and he's in thrall to her too. Thus, the three of them become entangled in a complicated love triangle.
The Fortune Hunter shares the limitations of most romance novels, that is a predictable ending and one-dimensional characters. Even the protagonists remain somewhat enigmatic. Yet, they are all charming. The dialogues between them are witty and entertaining, and in the end, you just can't help but care for them, which makes this quite a bittersweet reading. The pace is not consistent. At times it is fast, at other slow, and it feels like nothing is happening for a while. That's because life then moved at a much slower pace than it does now, but the beautiful descriptions and the character's banter never allow you to feel bored. Unless you love bodice-ripping romances. There's nothing of that here. This is a charming and delicate story about a love triangle and a man who has to choose between reality and fantasy.
Of course, there are several inaccuracies in the book. I would have preferred if Goodwin had explained when and why she diverted from history in an appendix, but then this is a work of fiction, and creative licence is acceptable. If you're familiar with Sisi's story and are stickler for details, this may dampen your enthusiasm for the book, but I appreciated that, despite the inaccuracies, Goodwin has brought a sense of realism and authenticity to the story, giving us a glimpse of the 19th century English world the characters moved in.
Despite its faults, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to everyone who loves a good old romance.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Do you like what-ifs novels and historical romances? Are you going to read these?

Disclaimer: I received these books in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

7 Perfumes Inspired By Marie Antoinette

Monday, 25 August 2014

Marie Antoinette and perfumes have long been two obsessions of mine. So I'm always thrilled when I come across a perfume inspired by the charming Queen of France, and she has inspired a lot of them! Not surprisingly, they are all floral concoctions that pay homage to both her fragrant gardens in bloom and her own tastes in perfumes. Marie Antoinette loved scents, especially those of violet, rose, tuberose and orange blossom.

The Queen didn’t just wear perfume. She also had it poured in the water when she bathed, had fragrant satchels made to adorn and fragrance her rooms, and even commissioned scented gloves. Now, you can do the same with some of the perfumes inspired by Marie Antoinette. You'll smell gorgeous and you'll feel closer to the Queen of France. Take your pick:

The latest perfume to be inspired by Marie Antoinette is called Geranium 30. It was created by Le Labo's perfumeurs Fabrice Penot and Edouard Roschi together with florist Thierry Boutemy, who created the floral arrangement at Versailles for the famous Sophia Coppola's movie about the French Queen. Inspired by the Petit Trianon, it is described thus: "an explosive, sweet floral top note settles into a soft and powdery base, reminiscent of a garden late in the season". Unfortunately, it has already sold out.


The scent takes his name from the black jade bottle where Marie Antoinette stored her favourite perfume. It was inspired by her beloved garden at the Petit Trianon and created by the royal perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon. Pierre Lubin was his apprentice and, apparently, he copied the formula, thus allowing it to survive the Revolution. It has recently been revived. Perfect for the evening, this floral scent opens with a cool and spicy mix of bergamot and galbanum; in the heart roses and jasmines are intertwined with spicy cardmom and cinnamom, and splashed with incense; the drydown is a warm and velvety blend of patchouli, tonka bean, vanilla and amber. This luxurious creation is available at Lucky Scent for $130.

Created by Bertrand Duchaufour, one of my favourite perfumeurs, Hameau De La Reine by Historiae transports you to the "heart of the Queen's Hameau." Judging by the notes, that's true. The perfume announces its presence with a bright green accord of tomato leaf, fig leaf, bergamot, and blackcurrant bud; the heart is a floral bouquet of rose, peony, geranium, muck orange, ivy, and galbanum; finally the woody musky base is sweetened by honey. It retails at €55,00 and is available at Historiae.


Bertrand Duchaufour has created another scent inspired by Marie Antoinette for Historiae. This one is called Bouquet du Trianon and features the Queen's favourite notes, which she could smell at her beloved Petit Trianon. It opens with a sparkling accord of lemon, bergamot, mandarin, galbanum, mint, freesia, and blackcurrant bush leaf; blossoms into a fragrant garden of tuberose absolute, ylang ylang, beeswax absolute, rose, and honeysuckle; and ends in a woody blend of vetiver, patchouli, amber, musk, sandalwood, and cedarwood. It's available at Historiae and costs €55,00.

DSH has created a scent inspired by Marie Antoinette's beloved Trianon too. Inspired by the notes from one of Marie Antoinette's favoured perfumes created for her by the famous Jean-Louis Fargeon, Eau De Trianon is a creamy floral fragrance that starts with a blend of bergamot, espirit de fleurs d’orange, galbanum, and lemon. The heart is a glorious concoction of centifolia rose absolute, gallica rose otto, grandiflorum jasmine, jonquil, moroccan rose absolute, orris concrete, orris root, tuberose absolute, and violet leaf absolute. Finally, the warm base features notes of ambergris, atlas cedarwood, siam benzoin, and vanilla absolute. Its is available at DSH Perfumes in several versions (samples, eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and in an antique bottle), starting at $6.75.

A fresh floral concoction, this perfume oil by Sweet Tea Apothecary "is inspired by the actual perfume worn by France’s most famous queen. Gentle notes of Rose, Bergamot, and Jasmine accented by fresh moss will make you feel as though you’re picking wildflowers in the gardens of Versailles." It is available at Sweet Tea Apothecary and will set you back $28.00.


Created by Jean-Claude Ellena, La Haie Fleurie du Hameau by L'Artisan Parfumeur is inspired by the beautiful flowers at Marie Antoinette's beloved hamlet. Rich but light, this floral bouquet opens with a sparkling accord of orange blossom and jasmine which soon leave center stage to a mix of narcissus, ylang-ylang and honeysuckle. The base is a warm blend of vanilla and oakmoss. Wearing it, makes you feel like you're strolling through the Queen's garden on a sunny spring day. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued.

Which of these scents would you like to try?

Movie Review: Anne Of The Thousand Days

Friday, 22 August 2014

For six years, this year, and this, and this, and this, I did not love him. And then I did. Then I was his. I can count the days I was his in hundreds. The days we bedded. Married. Were Happy. Bore Elizabeth. Hated. Lusted. Bore a dead child... which condemned me... to death. In all one thousand days. Just a thousand. Strange. And of those thousand, one when we were both in love, only one, when our loves met and overlapped and were both mine and his. And when I no longer hated him, he began to hate me. Except for that one day.

I've always been fascinated about Anne Boleyn and have been reading anything I could lay my hands on about her, but when it comes to movies, I tend to procrastinate. It took me almost 32 years to finally watch Anne Of The Thousand Days, the famous movie adapted from a Broadway play of the same name, and when I did, I was somewhat disappointed. It's not bad at all, but I guess, after all the hype, I expected something different... better. I can see why the movie got mixed reviews when it came out because I have mixed feelings about it too.

Let's start with the good. Richard Burton is the best Henry VIII I have ever seen. He just exudes the Tudor monarch from every pore. He perfectly portrays Henry's obsessive lust for Anne, his desperate determination to have a son, and his tendency to blame others for his problems and justify his cruel actions towards them. Had they died his hair red, his transformation would have been complete.

Genevieve Bujold was equally good. Her Anne is fiery and beautiful, not afraid to speak her mind about what she thinks nor to fight for her rights and those of her daughter. You would have never guessed this was her first role in Englis. She is my second favourite Anne Boleyn after Anne Dormer, although that's mostly because of limitations imposed by Bujold's Anne by the script. Whereas Dormer played Anne in a mini series that allowed her character to develop and show all its facets, Bujould had only two hours and a half to portray Anne Boleyn.

Because of that, you don't get to see the vivacious charms, quick wit, and gracefulness that so captivated men. Henry is already captivated by Anne when the movie starts, not giving the viewers any reason about what caught his eye about her other than her beauty. And Anne's wit comes out only to rebuff Henry's advances and makes fun of him, his clumsy attempts at courting her, and his failures to get his first marriage annulled. The movie doesn't even show her interest in religious reform. It was Anne who gave Henry a book arguing for the supremacy of kings over Popes, but in the movie it's actually Cromwell that points that out to him.

Anne Boleyn should be the star of the movie, and although she has many great lines, like the one mentioned at the top of this post, her portrayal only shows us some sides of her character. That's why I felt that this movie was mostly about Henry VIII and his obsessive lust for Anne than Anne herself. Bujold's performance, though, is too good to relegate her Anne in the background.

Because the movie "only" lasted almost two hours and a half, it is quite rushed. Some parts of the movie, such as that about the divorce proceedings, are too condensed, short, and, to someone who's not familiar with the whole story, a little confusing too. There are also quite a lot of inaccuracies. While it's perfectly normal and acceptable for liberties to be taken in movies, there are some of them that are harder for me to forgive. Two examples are Henry's presence at Anne's trial, during which he personally interrogates Mark Smeaton, and his last meeting with Anne while the jury is deliberating. In reality, once Anne was arrested, he never saw her again.

Overall, Anne Of The Thousand Days features brilliant actors that make their characters come to life again, beautiful costumes, and poignant quotes. But it is too rushed, takes too many liberties with history, and, most importantly, doesn't portray all the complex facets of Anne's personality that made her such a fascinating and charming woman and allowed her to both rise so high and fall so low.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it?

Elizabeth De Burgh

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Born in about 1289, Elizabeth De Burgh was the daughter of Richard, 2nd Earl of Ulster, one of the most powerful Irish nobles and a close friend and staunch supporter of King Edward I of England. That's probably what saved her from the harsh punishments inflicted on the other members of the captured Bruce clan. Elizabeth had married Robert The Bruce, the claimant to the Scottish throne in 1302. It's not clear why. Maybe Edward, who treated Scotland as a vassal state, had arranged the marriage thinking it would guarantee Robert would be loyal to him. Or Robert, who constantly switched alliances during the Scottish Wars of Independence, thought it would be a wise political move.

Whatever the case, Bruce kept his political machinations as well as his fight to regain the Scottish throne alive, and in 1306, he and Elizabeth were crowned King and Queen of Scotland. That didn't really go down well with the English and, shortly after their coronation, Bruce was defeated in battle. In an attempt to protect his family, he sent his wife, his daughter Marjorie, who was born from a previous marriage, and his sisters Christina and Mary, escorted by his brother Niall and the Earl of Atholl, to Kildrummy Castle. They reached it safely, but the castle was besieged and they were forced to flee to the Orkney Islands. But they never made it there. On the way, they sought sanctuary at the small chapel of St. Duthac's at Tain in Ross-shire, thinking that there, they would safe for a little while. But the Earl of Ross didn't care for such niceties. He barged in, seized the women, and sent them to King Edward.

Edward dealt pretty harshly with them. Christina and Marjorie, who was only12 at the time, were kept in solitary confinements in two different monasteries, while Mary was held in an iron and timber cage hanged outside Roxburgh Castle. Elizabeth, instead, was treated more leniently. She was moved from  one residence to the other, including the Tower of London and Shaftesbury in Dorset, but was allowed to keep servants. Their imprisonment lasted 8 years.

On June 24, 1314, Bruce finally defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. Now, he was in a position to bargain and exchanged some English prisoners for his family. Elizabeth was now free to take her rightful place as Queen at her husband's side. The couple had two daughters, Matilda and Margaret, and two sons, John, who died young, and David, who would become King David II of Scotland. Elizabeth died at the Cullen Castle in Banffshire on October 27, 1327.

Further reading:
Scottish QueensS 1034-1714 by Marshall, Rosalind K
The Freelance History Writer

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