Sunday, July 02, 2017

Tiara of the Weekend

Instead of a heroine this weekend, I'm taking a look at a tiara that has belonged to several queenly heroines, Queen Alexandra's kokoshnik.  The Order of Sartorial Splendor site (one of my my very favorites, and a must-read for anyone obsessed with royalty like I am!) called it a "straight-up wall of diamonds."  If you know me at all, you know how much I am bound to LOVE that!  In fact, I loved it so much I had to put it in a scene of my new WIP last week, when Alexandra has a walk-on role.  (the new book is set in Paris during the Exposition of 1889, when the Prince and Princess of Wales made an "incognito" visit to take in the sites.  She only has a cameo role, but of course that required an afternoon of heavy research to decide on her jewels!)

In 1888, Queen (then Princess of Wales) Alexandra and her husband celebrated their Silver Wedding anniversary, which called for some heavy-duty gifts.  A committee called the Ladies of Society, led by 2 marchionesses and 2 countesses, raised a collection for a present of jewels, and Alexandra requested a tiara in the style of a kokoshnik, like those worn by her sister, Empress of Marie of Russia.  The Ladies commissioned royal jeweler Garrard, who designed the tiara, like Marie's, in a style of individual pave-set bars of diamonds (77 bars, with 400 diamonds in total), which could also be worn as a necklace.  The cost was 4400 pounds, and the royal family has since gotten their money's worth out of it.  It's been a favorite piece of 3 queens, with hopefully many more to come.

The tiara had its first big outing in 1893, when Alexandra wore it to the wedding of her son George to May of Teck.  When she passed in 1925, May became Queen Mary, and inherited her mother-in-law's gems.  She didn't often wear pieces from Queen Alexandra, being a first-class jewel magpie of her own, but the kokoshnik was a favorite of hers, too.  In 1953, the current queen inherited her grandmother's collection, and has often worn the kokoshnik to state banquets, foreign tours, and the theater (it's second only to the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara in terms of wears).  I would love to see it on the Duchess of Cambridge one day!  It's a "wall of diamonds," but it also has a lightness and elegance about it, a timelessness, that's hard to beat.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Heroine of the Weekend: Edith Cavell

(I'm currently at the Historical Novel Society conference--more on that next week when I am home and over Conference Fatigue, lol!  But today we have a Heroine for a belated Memorial Day tribute, Nurse Edith Cavell, who lost her life in WWI)

Edith Cavell (1865-1915) was a vicar's daughter, educated at Norwich School for Girls, who started her working career as a governess in Belgium (which gave her a lifelong love for the country, where she could indulge in interests in art and her facility for languages) before returning for nurse's training in London and jobs in various hospitals, where she as always seen as a compassionate and efficient medical professional.  She was recruited to be matron at a new nurses' training school in Brussels, and by 1910 had launched nursing journals, recruiting nurses for over 3 hospitals and 24 new branches of the school, just in time for the huge demand of World War I.

The Red Cross took over the hospital when the war started, and Cavell became a war nurse.  She also helped wounded British soldiers out of occupied Belgium into the Netherlands, becoming part of a large network of underground escape routes.  She was arrested by the Germans on august 3, 1915 and charged with harboring Allied soldiers.

She was held in prison for 10 weeks, confessing to sheltering 60 British and 15 French soldiers, as well as French and Belgian civilians before being condemned to death.  The British diplomatic service could do nothing for her, despite the fact that she was a British national and should not have been charged with treason.  On the night before she was executed, she wrote "Patriotism is not enough.  I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone."  (the words now carved on her statue in Trafalgar Square).  She was executed by firing squad on October 11, and her death was a huge propaganda tool for the Allied cause.

After the war, she was taken back to England for a service at Westminster Abbey and laid to rest at her family home in Norwich.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Heroine of the Weekend: Frida Kahlo

One of the things I missed about doing this blog was finding Heroines to feature every weekend--women in history both famous and not-so-famous (and sometimes not even very heroic!), but who I found to be interesting.  Today I'm taking a look at the artist Frida Kahlo, because I just happened to go to an exhibit last week centered around her life.  ("Mirror, Mirror: Photographs of Frida Kahlo" at the Spanish Colonial Arts Museum).  I've always been fascinated by her (as so many people are!) and loved getting a closer look at her life and style.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon in Coyocoan, Mexico City, to a Mexican mother and German photographer father, and had 3 sisters, growing up in the Casa Azul (now a museum, and on my bucket list).  At age 6, she was stricken with polio, bedridden for months and emerging with a pronounced limp.  Her father encouraged her to get into sports, and she enrolled in 1922 at the National Preparatory School (one of the few female students), and took art classes.  But her new life didn't last long.  On September 17, 1925, she was horribly injured in a trolley crash, spending months in the hospital and then facing a lifetime of surgeries and constant pain.  But she took that pain, that suffering, and used it in an art never seen before, one that was deeply personal, graphic, and often surreal.  She also became radical in her politics, joining the Mexican Communist Party.

In 1928, she met the famous mural painter Diego Rivera, and married him the next year.  They spent much time on the move for his work, living in California, New York City, and Detroit for many years.  Affairs by both partners (including one by Rivera with Frida's sister), as well as several miscarriages and professional complications (Rivera was famously fired from a mural project at Rockefeller Center for sneaking in a portrait of Lenin to the image).  They divorced in 1939, Kahlo then moving for a time to Paris, but remarried the next year and stayed together for the rest of Kahlo's life, though living in separate but conjoined houses/studios.

The 1950s were a time of increasingly bad health, and Kahlo became almost completely bedridden, especially after a leg amputation (though she had an easel installed above her bed and continued working!).  In 1953, she had her first solo exhibit in Mexico, and was taken to the opening party by ambulance, where she drank and partied from a specially installed bed.  She died July 13, 1954 at age 47, at Casa Azul.  In 2002, a movie of her life was made with Salma Hayak nominated as an Oscar for her main role.

I've always been in awe of her strength, her uniqueness, her great talent, her fearlessness, and her ability to know and be true to herself.  She's really a Heroine.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Amanda Is Doing Now

So, what have I been up to while this blog has been on (too long) hiatus???  It turns out, a lot.  Some back to back deadlines, a little illness, husband's new job, and just enjoying living in my favorite place on earth, Santa Fe, has been sucking away energy.  But now I am VERY pleased to announce there are many, many projects in the pipeline here.

I've just finished the first title in a new mystery series, written by a whole new persona--Amanda Allen!  Santa Fe Mourning, book one in the Madeline Alwin 1920s Mysteries, will be out from Crooked Lane Books in the summer of 2018.  Maddie is an artist and heiress from New York, widowed too young by World War I, who lands in sunny Santa Fe to pursue her artistic career, solve some murders, and (maybe) even find some new romance.  Look for a pre-order link soon!

Amanda McCabe is also still at work.  I've started the first in a whole new historical romance series, "The Grantley Girls Go To Paris," a trilogy centered around 3 heroines who become BFFs at Miss Grantley's School For Elegant Young Ladies, and are now off to the Paris Exposition of 1889 to find adventure and love.  Miss Diana Martin, the heroine of the first book (title TBA) is a fashion journalist, so I am forced (forced, I tell you!) to research many Worth gowns and get out my scrapbooks of Paris trips of my own.  In the meantime, my next historical romance, The Wallflower's Mistletoe Wedding, (the latest in the Bancrofts of Barton Park Series) is going to be out just in time for the holidays in November.  (you can pre-order here)

Here are a few Worth creations to enjoy for the moment (I also have a House of Worth page on Pinterest, where I spend way too much time!), and I promise I will be back here very soon, with more Heroines, more cocktails, and more lovely summer patio reviews!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Heroine of the Weekend: Emily Wilding Davison

I've been much too neglectful of this blog lately (thanks, deadlines and medical non-fun things!) but with Election Day coming up on Tuesday (finally!) I've been thinking a lot about the sacrifices so very many people have made so I can go to the polls in peace.  Some of them gave literally everything.

Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) was an English suffragist, a woman of immense intelligence and dedication.  She was arrested 9 times, subjected to the notorious method if force-feeding 49 times, which weakened her health considerably.  She was very well-educated for the times, attending Kensington Preparatory School and St. Hugh's, Oxford, where she took first-class honors but women were not allowed degrees at that time.  She went on to work as a governess and teacher.  Later she took a degree in Modern Foreign Languages at the University of London.

In 1906, she joined Emmeline Pankhurst's WSPU and dedicated her whole life to its cause of winning the vote for women, becoming one of the most dedicated and passionate of its members.  Her most famous exploit came on census night, April 2, 1911.  She hid in a cupboard in the Palace of Westminster, so she could list her official residence as the House of Commons.  A plaque placed on the cupboard door in 1990 marks the occasion.  In 1912, in Holloway Prison, she threw herself down an iron staircase to protest the brutal practice of force-feeding hunger strikers.  She survived, but was in pain for the rest of her life.

On June 4, 1913, she bought a train ticket to attend the famous Epsom Derby.  King George's horse, Anmer, far back from the leaders, came around the corner, and she stepped out in front of him, being knocked down and fatally injured.  She died four days later.  Her true motivations that day are unclear.  She probably did not intend to commit suicide, though she would of course have known the great risks.  She had a return rail ticket, as well as a ticket to a suffrage benefit dance and plans for a holiday in France with her sister.  Film of the event shows something in her hand,, perhaps a suffrage banner later found near her, and she might have intended to throw it over the horse's bridle.  Eyewitnesses nearby stated they thought she merely meant to cross the track, thinking the horses had all passed.  Whatever the intention, her sacrifice was a terrible sadness and brought much attention to the cause she so loved.

Her funeral was attended by thousands of suffragists, accompanying the coffin to her hometown of Morpeth, Northumberland in their white gowns and sashes.

In her memory, and in that of thousands of others who fought and died for this basic right of any human being, please, please vote.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Abigail's Patio Review: 315 Restaurant

Happy summer, everyone!  It's been a busy one here (hence the much too long lag time on this blog!), and a scorcher, but there's been time for outdoor music, poolside reading, and best of all--summer patio dining!  Living in Santa Fe has been great for Abigail, since she is welcome on almost any restaurant's patio (a very dog-friendly town!)

Last month, we spent Memorial Day at Abby's favorite place, 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar (be sure and check out their website here!)  Why is her favorite, you ask?  A spacious, shady patio, very friendly waitstaff (who always remember her name and ask about her when we dine there without her), extensive wine list (though it's been an almost all rose, all time summer for me), classic French bistro food and interesting specials (go right now--it's squash blossom season!), yummy desserts.  Tuesdays are half-price wine night (any bottle is half off, so a good time to splurge a bit!), so that's our 315 night of the week.  Nothing better than some steak frites, some chilled rose, and a Santa Fe sunset.  Take a little walk around the plaza after and indulge in some summertime people-watching!

Abby gives it 4 out of 5 barks (because sometimes the service is a little uncoordinated, and Poodle perfection is hard to find...)

Friday, June 03, 2016

Heroine of the Weekend: Queen Elizabeth II

This year is all about the queen!  With her Diamond Jubilee so recently behind us, and her 90th birthday this year, we're seeing a lot about Queen Elizabeth, and I love it.  She is certainly a great heroine, who has devoted her long life to hard work and service, and long may she reign.  We all know the details of her life, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few trivia facts...
 She speaks fluent French and often uses the language for audiences and state visits. She does not require an interpreter.
She's received over 3.5 million items of correspondence during her reign.
Since 1952, she has conferred over 404,500 honors and awards.
Queen Elizabeth II is Britain's 40th monarch since William the Conqueror was crowned.
About 1.5 million people have attended garden parties at Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland since Elizabeth has been on the throne.
Over the course of her reign, she has given regular Tuesday-evening audiences to 12 British Prime Ministers, starting with Winston Churchill
She is patron of more than 600 charities and organizations.
In the past 60 years, the Queen has undertaken 261 official overseas visits, including 96 state visits, to 116 different countries.
In 2005, she claimed ownership of 88 cygnets (young swans) on the River Thames. They are looked after by a swan marker. The first royal swan keeper was appointed around the 12th century.  Technically, the Queen still owns the sturgeons, whales and dolphins in the waters around the U.K. A statute from 1324, during the reign of King Edward II, states, "Also the King shall have ... whales and sturgeons taken in the sea or elsewhere within the realm." This statute is still valid today, and sturgeons, porpoises, whales and dolphins are recognized as "fishes royal"
The Queen joined Facebook in November 2010, with a page called the British Monarchy, which features royal news, photos, videos and speeches. (I doubt she will play Candy Crush, though)
Elizabeth was the first British monarch to celebrate her diamond wedding anniversary.
 Elizabeth has sent more than 175,000 telegrams to centenarians in the U.K. and the Commonwealth, and more than 540,000 telegrams to couples in the U.K. and the Commonwealth celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.
 In an average year, the Queen hosts more than 50,000 people at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and garden parties at Buckingham Palace. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have sent over 37,500 Christmas cards during her reign and she has given out approximately 90,000 Christmas puddings to staff, continuing the custom of King George V and King George VI. In addition, the Queen gives her entire staff gifts at Christmastime
Elizabeth learned to drive in 1945, when she joined the women's branch of the British army. Both she and Winston Churchill's daughter were members of the group, which was called the Auxiliary Territorial Service.  She was a Girl Guide (1937), a Scouting movement for girls and a Sea Ranger (1943), a section of the Girl Guides focused on sailing.
An important innovation during her reign was the opening in 1962 of a new gallery at Buckingham Palace to display items from the royal collection. The brainchild of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen's Gallery occupied the palace's bomb-damaged private chapel. It was the first time that parts of the palace had been opened to the general public.
 The only time the Queen has had to interrupt an overseas tour was in 1974, during a tour of Australia and Indonesia. She was called back from Australia when a general election was announced suddenly. The Duke of Edinburgh continued the program in Australia, and Elizabeth rejoined the tour in Indonesia.
She has opened Parliament every year except 1959 and 1963, when she was expecting her children Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, respectively.
She went on her first state visit as Princess Elizabeth to South Africa with her mother and father, then King and Queen, from February to May 1947. The tour included Zimbabwe, Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland (now Lesotho). The Princess celebrated her 21st birthday in Cape Town. Her first state visit as Queen was to Kenya: her father King George VI died, and she acceded the throne during the tour, which had to be abandoned.  Her first Commonwealth tour began on Nov. 24, 1953, and included visits to Bermuda, Jamaica, Panama, Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, the Cocos Islands, Ceylon, Aden, Uganda, Libya, Malta and Gibraltar. The total distance covered was 43,618 miles (70,196 km).
Elizabeth has owned more than 30 corgis during her reign, starting with Susan, who was a present for her 18th birthday in 1944. A good proportion of these have been direct descendants from Susan. Elizabeth currently has five corgis: Emma, Linnet, Monty, Holly and Willow.  She takes a keen interest in horses and racing. Her first pony, a Shetland called Peggy, was given to her by her grandfather King George V when she was 4 years old. Elizabeth continues to ride at Sandringham, Balmoral and Windsor. The Queen also takes interest in horse breeding. Horses bred at the royal studs over the past 200 years have won virtually every major race in Britain. Elizabeth has about 25 horses in training each season.
As a young girl, Elizabeth acted in a number of pantomimes during World War II, including playing Prince Florizel in Cinderella in 1941. The productions took place every year in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle..
The last and only other British monarch to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee was Queen Victoria in 1897, at the age of 77. At 86, Queen Elizabeth will be the oldest monarch to celebrate this occasion.