Friday, July 31, 2009

Portrait Friday

Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Steiglitz, 1944, by Arnold Newman

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Riskies Tuesday

Over at the Riskies today, talking about conference clothes...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

Next week, July 28 marks the anniversary of the day Henry VIII married his 5th wife, Catherine Howard (ca. 1521--February 13, 1442), so we continue the saga of the Tudor women this week with that poor, naive young woman.

Catherine was the fourth of 10 children born to Lord Edmund Howard (a younger son of the Duke of Norfolk) and his wife Joyce. She had an aristocratic lineage (Norfolk was the leading Catholic peer of the realm), but her father's low birth order and large family meant he was always short of funds and had to beg from his better-off relations. His niece, Anne Boleyn, got him a government job working for the King in Calais in 1531, but that lasted only as long as Anne's tragic reign. When he took the job, Catherine was sent to live in the household of her step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

At Lambeth, the Dowager Duchess ran a very large household including many female wards, usually the offspring of poor relatives. The Duchess was usually at Court, and took little interest in the upbringing of these wards, so life at Lambeth was wild and lax. Catherine was not very well-educated, especially compared with some of Henry's intellectual wives such as Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr (though she could read and write), and she ran wild. She started a sexual relationship with her music teacher, Henry Manox, when she was between the ages of 12 and 16. At her later trial, she stated, "At the flattering and fair persuasions of Manox, being but a young girl, I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require."

This youthful affair came to an end in 1538, when Catherine fell for a secretary of the household, Francis Dereham. They often addressed each other as "husband" and "wife," and other people in the household took notice of them. It ended the next year, when the Duchess finally figured out what was going on, but they may have parted with vows to marry (which would have constituted a pre-contract and invalidated her marriage to the King).

Catherine's uncle the Duke found her a place at Court as lady-in-waiting to Henry's new queen Anne of Cleves. The young, vivacious beauty quickly caught the king's eye, as he had never cared for Anne at all. Though her family wondered if she had the maturity and intelligence to handle the position of King's mistress, it was most advantageous to them and thus they encouraged it. Within months of her arrival at Court, the King was showering Catherine with expensive gifts and calling her his "rose without a thorn."

The Cleves marriage was annulled on July 9, 1540 and Catherine and Henry married a few weeks later on July 28. Henry, now near 50 and constantly expanding in girth (definitely no longer the golden prince of the early days of his reign!) was infatuated with his teenaged bride, and gave her expensive jewelry, gowns, and gifts of land. Her motto, "No other will but his," seemed to signify a devotion to her new husband that was deceptive. Despite her newfound wealth and power, she was a young, lusty woman who found her marital relations--unappealing. (The King weighed around 300 pounds at this time, and had a bad-smelling, festering ulcer on his leg that had to be drained every day). Early in 1541 she met the handsome young courtier Thomas Culpeper, and started meeting him in secret with the help of her lady-in-waiting Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford (widow of Anne Boleyn's beheaded brother, so she should have known better!).

In 1541, Henry and Catherine embarked on a popular progress of the north of England. But people who had witnessed her wild behavior at Lambeth began contacting her for favors, and in order to buy their silence she appointed many of them to her household, including her first lover Henry Manox as musician and Francis Dereham as her secretary. John Lascelles, a Protestant reformer who resented the Norfolks' continued Catholicism, and his sister Mary Hall, who served the Dowager Duchess and witnessed Catherine's liaisons, contacted Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, with what they they knew of the Queen's scandalous past. Cranmer, well aware that any pre-contract with Dereham would invalidate the royal marriage, gave Henry a letter with accusations against his wife at an All Souls Day Mass on November 2, 1541. Henry at first refused to believe the claims, and ordered Cranmer to investigate further. Within days more proof was found, including the confessions of Dereham and Culpeper after they were taken to the Tower, and a love letter to Culpeper in Catherine's handwriting (the only letter from her still surviving. She signs off as "Yours as long as life endures"). Catherine was charged with treason, but she never confessed (even to her confessor just before her death) to infidelity, only that her behavior was unbecoming a lady of her rank.

Cranmer and a delegation went to question her at Hampton Court on November 7, and even the stern Archbishop found her tearful, paniced state pitiable, saying, "I found her in such lamentation and heavyness as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man's heart to have looked upon her." A pre-contract would have terminated the marriage and allowed Henry to banish her from Court. She would have been disgraced and impoverished, but not dead as her cousin Anne Boleyn was. But she denied any pre-contract, stating that Dereham had forced himself on her.

She was stripped of the the title of Queen on November 23 and sent to live at Syon House through the winter of 1541. Culpeper and Dereham were executed on December 10, and bill of attainder passed against Catherin on January 21, 1542. She was taken to the Tower on February 10, and executed on the 13th. The night before her death, she is said to have ordered the block brought to her room so she could practice making a good death. If so, it worked--though she was pale and had to be helped up the steps to the scaffold, she died with dignity and composure. She made a speech declaring her punishment "worthy and just" and asked for mercy for her family and prayers for her soul. She was buried in the nearby Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, near her cousin Anne Boleyn.

A few good sources for Catherine's short, sad life are:
Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Karen Lindsey, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII
Lacey Baldwin Smith, A Tudor Tragedy: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard
Joanna Denny, Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy

Friday, July 24, 2009

Portrait Friday

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Her Daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish, Reynolds, 1784-86

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

RWA '09 Pics Harlequin Party

Saturday at the big Harlequin bash! (With Elizabeth Mahon, Michelle W. and her hubby dancing it up, with Alex Logan my Grand Central/Laurel McKee editor, and with Andrea Pickens, my Welbourne Manor buddies Diane Gaston and Deb Marlowe, Liz, and Michelle). It's the best party of the year!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RWA '09 Pics Beau Monde Soiree

Photos from last Wednesday's Beau Monde soiree! The costumes were gorgeous, and the dancing looked fun (though my shoes were too pointy-toed for dancing this year...)

With my lovely Harlequin editor Joanne Carr:
With Keira Soleore and Michelle Willingham:

With Megan!
A million thanks to my mother, Couturier Extraordinaire, for my gown!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gone to Conference!

I'm off in Washington DC for the RWA conference--back next week, with pics and news!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Heroine(s) of the Weekend

In honor of Tuesday's Bastille Day holiday, women who played a role (no matter how reluctantly!) in the French Revolution...

Marie Antoinette
Madame du Barry
Rose Bertin
Manon Roland
Therese de Tallien
Germaine de Staal
Theroigne de Mericourt
Princesse de Lamballe
Marie Therese, Madame Royale

Friday, July 10, 2009

Portrait Friday

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret by Charles Edmund Brock, ca. 1936

Thursday, July 09, 2009


I LOVE these shoes! They're perfect for Fall. Too bad they cost $380 and don't even have my size...

(But if they have your size, you can get them at Piper Lime)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

I love the history of botany (even though I can't seem to keep flowers alive in my own yard!)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Dancing With Mr. Darcy

A fun YouTibe video of dances with Mr. Darcy from the various P&P movies! Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hottie Monday, Historical Edition

Thanks to Megan and all her North and South talk, I'm feeling historical this Monday! Enjoy the pics of N&S (plus one non-historical shirtless Armitage pic from MI5--I couldn't resist!), plus Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

To celebrate the Fourth of July weekend, this week's Heroine is...Dolley Madison! She has been one of my favorite historical women ever since the 2nd grade, when I found an old biography of her in our school library. This was from a series that featured historical women when they were children, and I would love to find a copy again! She captured my imagination so much that I did a report on her (dressed up in costume!) for a class project that year.

Dolley Payne Todd Madison (May 20, 1768--July 12, 1849) was the 4th First Lady of the Unites States. Her "official" dates were 1809-1817, though she also sometimes served as White House hostess to her husband's predecessor Thomas Jefferson. She was renowned as a fabulous hostess, a "people person" extraordinaire, and a fashionista, but she was also highly intelligent, warm-hearted, and courageous.

It's thought she was born in New Garden, North Carolina, a Quaker community (historians believe her parents, John Payne and Mary Coles Payne, were there visiting her maternal grandparents; they actually lived in Hanover County, Virginia, where her father was a not-very-successful planter). She had 4 brothers and 3 younger sisters. In July 1783, her Quaker father freed his slaves and moved his family to Philadelphia, where Dolley spent her teenaged years (and developed a taste for city living!). Her father was not a good urban businessman, either, and several ventures failed. When he passed away, Dolley's mother opened a boarding house with the help of her daughters.

On January 7, 1790, Dolley married her first husband John Todd, a young Quaker lawyer who helped her father out of bankruptcy and then assisted her mother in starting her boarding house. They had 2 sons, John Payne and William Temple, but in 1793 her husband and younger son died in a yellow fever epidemic. Dolley returned to Philadelphia in 1794 to stay with her mother (and fight her brother-in-law for her late husband's estate), and was soon introduced to James Madison by their mutual friend Aaron Burr. Madison was an up-and-coming politican from an old Virginia plantation family, 17 years older than Dolley (and shorter than her, too!), but they immediately hit it off. They were married at Harewood plantation (owned by her sister's husband, George Steptoe Washington, a nephew of the first president) on September 15, 1794. They had no children, but raised her surviving son (who proved a great disappointment to his mother in later life!)

Dolley was an exemplary First Lady, and a very popular one, whose parties were the hottest ticket in the new capital city. She decorated the White House to be as elegant as anything in Europe, served ice cream for the first time (perhaps the origin of Dolley Madison pastries??), and started many fashions, including those for turbans and cashmere shawls. Perhaps she is best known for saving the portrait of George Wasington (and many other White House treasures) from the encroaching British during the War of 1812.

A couple good sources are Catherine Allgor's A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation and Richard N. Cotes's Strength and Honor: The LIfe of Dolley Madison. And check out the Dolley Madison Project site and the site for the Madisons' home at Montpelier (which recently underwent an extensive renovation)! (and if you happen to know the title of that old childhood bio, let me know! I would love to find it again). I also really enjoyed Barbara Hambly's novel Patriot Hearts.

Happy Fourth of July! Who are some of your favorite American heroines?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Portrait Friday

In honor of tomorrow's holiday, today's Portrait Friday is Washington's Family by Edward Savage, ca. 1780

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Holiday Party Goodies

So this weekend is the Fourth of July! It feels like summer is Officially On. And to help us get the party started, here are a couple very easy recipes I love for summer cookouts (I'm not much of a cook at all, so if I say it's easy, believe me it's EASY!)

Watermelon Martini:
1 part vodka (or citrus vodka, for an extra tang) to 1 1/2 parts pureed watermelon juice. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass

And for the grill, Veggie Kabobs (I think I got this from the America's Test Kitchen show on PBS, but can't remember for sure! It's got a nice Greek flavor to it)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, mashed

4 medium-sized red onions, quartered
2 medium-sized green zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium-sized yellow summer squash, 1 inch pieces
12 button mushrooms, stemmed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 package extra-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 lb crumbled feta cheese

1) Mix marinade, stirring to blend ingredients
2) Place prepped veggies and tofu in 2-gallon ziplock baggie, pour in marinade and turn over to coat everything; marinate in fridge 1-4 hours
3) When ready to cook, remove veggies from marinade and thread onto skewers, leaving a little space between. Grill about 15-20 minutes, until the veggies are golden and tender
4) Serve warm with crumbled feta (and the watermelon martini!)

Add some music (maybe the Marie Antoinette soundtrack? Or the Beatles, or Bob Marley?), some sparklers, and you have a summer party!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Theater Stuff

Yesterday I was looking around on the NY Times site, reading book and movie reviews and perusing the Style section, when I came across this review for Shakespeare in the Park's fabulous production of Twelfth Night with Anne Hathaway (and Regency costumes), and this article about Nina Ananiashvili's farewell performance of Swan Lake at ABT. It's things like this that really make me wish I lived near NYC.

But maybe since TN got such great reviews, they will move it to a Broadway theater in the winter and I can see it there (or catch Jude Law's Hamlet, moving to NY from London in October...)