Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Over at the Riskies today (it's Tuesday, of course!), talking about the Globe Theater and the wild, bawdy world of Elizabethan theater (the setting of my new WIP...)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hottie Monday

This Monday--more footballer hottieness! Are there ever footballers as heroes in romances?? I can't remember any...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Costume Exhibit

Yet another reason I wish I lived in Europe! :) A fabulous-looking exhibit at Teatro Alla Scala of opera costumes. (I want this one from Don Carlos! Just right for sitting at my computer working on the WIP, no?)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Today's Heroine is another historical woman I had never heard of before I started doing these posts, but I'm very glad to have "discovered" her now and read about her bravery and principles! I found her when I searched for "June 26 in history" and found a notation that said "Prudence Crandall arrested on this day in 1833." So of course I had to find out what she was arrested for...and I found a wealth of information on her life.

Prudence Crandall was born on September 3, 1803 to the Quaker couple Pardon and Esther Crandall in Rhode Island. When she was 17 her father moved the family to Canterbury, Connecticut where she eventually came to run her own school (after being educated herself at the Friends' Boarding School in Providence, RI). She lived a quiet, respectable Quaker schoolteacher life--until 1832.

In the autumn of that year, the daughter of local African-American farmer, a girl named Sarah Harris, asked Prudence to admit her to the school so she could learn to teach other African-American girls. Although she worried about the repercussions of this decision, Prudence did allow Miss Harris to come to the school and her worries were immediately realized--the prominent white citizens of the town pressured her to evict Harris, and when she refused the families of her white pupils removed them from the school. Prudence then opened the school exclusively to African American girls. One of her supporters, William Lloyd Garrison, wrote about the school in his paper The Liberator, announcing that in April 1833 she would open the school "for the reception of young ladies and little misses of color...Terms $25 per quarter, one half paid in advance." Other well-known early abolitionists added their names to recommend her school. Word spread, and free African American families from many states started sending their daughters to be educated. She opened with 20 pupils and the number began to grow.

The school featured reading, writing, maths, grammar, geography, history, philosophy, chemistry and astronomy, art, music, and French (a rigorous curriculum even today!), and the fee covered tuition and board. But this great endeavor was very ill-received in the town, despite its segregated nature. They held meetings to "devise and adopt such measures as would effectually avert the nuisance, or speedily abate it" and, unable to persuade Prudence to shut the school, they resorted to threats and violence. Shops refused to sell to the school; doctors wouldn't attend them; and the school's well was poisoned with feces, after which everyone refused to sell her water. On May 24, 1833, the Connecticut Legislature passed "The Black Law" prohibiting such a school (along with many other things). Prudence was then arrested and jailed for one night before being released to await her trial for the "heinous" crime of educating African American girls. (Even one of her students, 17-year-old Eliza Hammond, was arrested, though releasedon bail with the help of New York abolitionists). A local Connecticut politician said "we are not merely opposed to the establishment of that school in Cantebury; we mean there shall not be such a school set up anywhere in our state. The colored people can never rise from their menial condition in our country."

Prudence's defense at her trial (her lawyers paid for by a collection among the abolitionists) argued that the African Americans were citizens in other states and thus should be considered so in Connecticut, and thus focused on the deprivation of their rights under the US Constitution. The prosecution denied they were citizens of any state. The counry court jury was unable to reach a verdict and a second trial in Superior Court decided against the school. It then moved to the Supreme Court of Errors on appeal, which reversed the decision of the lower court. Meanwhile the school went on, despite trials and increasing violence, but when the building was set on fire Prudence realized she had to close for the safety of her family and students. It closed in September 1834.

In August Prudence had married Rev. Calvin Phileo, and when the school shut they moved to Massachusetts, followed by stays in New York, Rhode Island, lastly Illinois. When her husband died, Prudence moved to Kansas where she lived for many years. She died in 1890. Connecticut repealed the Black Law in 1838, and the state later declared Prudence a local heroine (made official in 1995!) and awarded her a pension of $400 a year. Her school building is now a museum and National Historic Landmark.

A few sources on her life:
CC Tisler, "Prudence Crandall, Abolitionist," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 33, No. 2 (January 1940)
Elizabeth Alexander & Marilyn Nelson, Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color (2007)
Edwin Small & Miriam Small, "Prudence Crandall, Champion of Negro Education," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 4 (December 1944)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Portrait Friday

Ingres, Princesse Albert de Broglie (1853)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Royal Weddings!

Last week was the big royal wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, and I've been having so much fun looking at the pics! I don't know a huge amount about the various European royals if they're not British (since I don't often read Hello! magazine; I used to read Royalty until my local Barnes & Noble quit carrying it), but I loved this romantic story and the gorgeous, elegant gown (plus that tiara! Originally made in Paris for Empress Josephine...)

And the princess in the pink is Infanta Elena of Spain. I am totally going to wear something like that at RWA next year!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Risky Tuesday

At the Riskies today, talking about costume and character...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day--to my own Dad and all the others out there! Hope you like the ties and socks... (For a history of Father's Day and great gift ideas for kids to make, you can go here!)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Our "heroine" (using the term loosely today, LOL!) is Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, born on June 19 in 1896. Her life in undeniably dramatic and interesting, and her style great, even if she didn't do much that was admirable...

Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in the resort of Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania to the Baltimore couple Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague (two people of old families and little income) and named after her father and her mother's sister Bessie Buchanan Merryman, who would be very close to Wallis throughout her life. Her father died soon after, in November 1896, of tuberculosis, and her first few years were spent in poor circumstances, her mother reliant on the charity of a rich uncle, Solomon Warfield. When her Aunt Bessie was widowed in 1901, Alice and Wallis moved into her large house on Chase Street and her uncle paid for Wallis to attend Oldfields School, the most exclusive girls' school in Maryland. A schoolfriend from those years said, "She was bright, brighter than all of us. She made her mind to go to the head of the class, and she did," showing Wallis's depths of determination from a young age.

In May 1916, on a visit to cousin in Florida, Wallis met Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a Naval pilot, and they were married on November 8, 1916 in Baltimore. But her "glamorous" new husband was an alcoholic and an abuser. They moved to San Diego in 1917 when the US entered WWI and lived there until 1920. They were separated a couple times after that, but Wallis traveled out to join him in China when he was posted there in 1923 (though she didn't go there until 1924, it's rumored because of an affair with an Argentine diplomat!). She toured China with her friends Katherine and Herman Rogers (who were to be a big support during later crises) and enjoyed the culture of the country. By the middle of 1925 she and her husband were back in the US, and they divorced in December 1927.

By the time that marriage ended she was already involved with the Englishman Ernest Simpson, a well-to-do shipping executive. He divorced his first wife and they were married at the Chelsea Register Office on July 21, 1928. They lived a very comfortable life in London, with a large apartment, a staff of servants, and high-level society friends (all reportedly beyond their means). Through one of those friends, Consuelo Thaw, Wallis met Consuelo's sister Thelma, Lady Furness, the mistress of the popular Edward, Prince of Wales. In December 1933, while Thelma was away in New York, Wallis saw her chance and became the prince's mistress herself. Within only months the prince was hopelessly besotted with her, taking her on trips, showering her with gifts, and even introducing her to his mother at a party at Buckingham Palace (his parents were outraged--divorced people weren't allowed at Court!).

On January 20, 1936, George V died and Edward became King Edward VIII (breaking royal tradition by watching his own proclamation from a window of St. James's Palace with Wallis). Court and government circles knew he meant to marry her and were adamantly opposed, as was his family, even though no stories of the affair appeared at the time in the British press. But Wallis and Edward pressed ahead. She filed for divorce from Simpson, with the decree nisi granted on October 27, 1936, and by early December the affair became common knowledge in England. Deeply unpopular, Wallis fled to France to stay near Cannes at the home of her friends the Rogers'. She released a statement saying she was ready to give up the King, but it was too late. He signed the abdication, in the presence of his 3 brothers (including the new George VI) on December 10, and the next day he made a broadcast to his people stating, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love."

He left for Austria, staying apart from Wallis in order not to compromise the decree absolute of her divorce, which was final in May 1937. They married on June 3 at the Chateau de Cande; no member of the Royal Family attended, and Wallis was denied the right to call herself "Her Royal Highness" (though their staff and friends would call her that). They embarked on a long honeymoon, including a notorious visit to Nazi Germany as the guests of Hitler, and then made their home in France until the outbreak of war when they fled to Spain and then via a warship to England. Edward hoped for a post in England, but they knew very well he was too unpredictable a character to have around, and there were rumors of the Windsors' German sympathies. They were sent off to the Bahamas were Edward was to serve as Governor. Wallis performed her tasks as hostess well enough, but was criticized for lavish shopping trips to New York and displayed her Southern upbringing in her racist attitudes towards the natives. She hated it there, calling it "our St. Helena." After the war they returned to an aimless life in France. They lived at a lavish house in Neuilly and at a country home for the rest of their lives, devoted to style, entertaining, and their Pug dogs.

There were a few visits to England, but they were brief (an eye surgery for the duke in 1965, a plaque unveiling in 1967), and both Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles visited them in Paris. The duke died in 1972, and the duchess traveled to England for the funeral, even staying in Buckingham Palace. She herself was in frail health and lived the rest of her life as a recluse. She died April 24, 1986 at her home in Paris. She was buried next to the duke at the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore, Windsor. Most of her estate went to the Pasteur Institute (surprising everyone who knew her, as she was not the charitable type!). In April 1987 her magnificent jewels were auctioned at Sotheby's, raising $45 million for the Institute.

In The Power of Style, Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins call her "the most famous housewife in history...a monument to the ephemeral, a woman without an interior life." They also state "But give her this: she also never dropped the mask, never shared an indiscreet confidence, never dishonored the memory of the greatest media love story of the twentieth century. To the end, she was what she most wanted to be: a lady." Or as she herself put it, "You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance."

Some sources on her life:

Duchess of Windsor, The Heart Has Its Reasons (1956)
Lady Caroline Blackwood, The Last of the Duchess (1995)
Michael Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor (1996)
(ed.) Wallis and Edward: Letters, 1931-1937 (1986)
Greg King, The Duchess of Windsor (1999)
Suzy Menkes, The Windsor Style (1987)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Poetry Friday

Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. To mark the occasion, here is Byron's Eve of Waterloo, part one of his poem Childe Harold....

There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gathered then
Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men.
A thousand hearts beat happily; and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage-bell:
But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes like a rising knell!

Did ye not hear it? No; 'twas but the wind,
Or the car rattling o'er the stony street.
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined!
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet!
But hark!--that heavy sound breaks in once more,
As if the clouds its echo would repeat;
And nearer, clearer, deadlier, than before!
Arm! arm! it is--it is the cannon's opening roar!

Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress
And cheeks all pale, which, but an hour ago,
Blushed at the praise of their own loveliness;
And there were sudden partings, such as press
The life from out young hearts, and choking sighs
Which ne'er might be repeated: who could guess
If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,
Since upon night so sweet such awful morn could rise?

And there was mounting in hot haste: the steed,
The mustering squadron, and the clattering car,
Went pouring forward with impetuous speed,
And swiftly forming in the ranks of war;
And the deep thunder peal on peal afar;
And near, the beat of the alarming drum
Roused up the soldier ere the morning star;
While thronged the citizens with terror dumb,
Or whispering with white lips, "The foe! They come! They come!"

And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Dewy with Nature's tear-drops, as they pass,
Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,
Over the unreturning brave--alas!
Ere evening to be trodden like the grass
Which, now beneath them, but above shall grow
In its next verdure, when this fiery mass
Of living valour, rolling on the foe,
And burning with high hope, shall moulder cold and low.

Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay;
The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife,
The morn the marshalling in arms,--the day,
Battle's magnificently stern array!
The thunder-clouds close o'er it, which, when rent,
The earth is covered thick with other clay,
Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
Rider, and horse--friend, foe--in one red burial blent!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Things I Love Thursday

What I love today--hats! The blog formerly-known-as Project Rungay (one of my favorites, and a daily must-read!) is featuring some of the cracktastic hats of Royal Ascot. Go and check them out--and while you're there, be sure and take a look at the fab series they've been posting lately about the costumes of Mad Men. I never knew before how closely they delineate character progression--I'm always too caught up in saying "Ooooh, look at Betty's pretty dress!"

And I've always wanted to go to Ascot, too. I would find a totally rockin' hat.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mary Katherine Goddard

I was looking around on a "notable Colonial American women" site, and found out today is the birthday of Mary Katherine Goddard (June 16, 1738), an important figure of the period who is not much known (I had never heard of her before). She was the first American postmistress, and a publisher who was the first to print the Declaration of Independence with the names if the signatories.

She was born in Connecticut, the daughter of the postmaster of the town of New London, though the family afterward moved to Rhode Island. Her younger brother William was apprenticed in the printing trade, and the family set up a printing press and published Providence's first newspaper, the Providence Gazette. William left soon after to start a paper in Philadelphia and thereafter to Maryland, where he printed the Revolutionary Maryland Journal. Mary took control of the journal in 1774 when her brother traveled to promote the American cause, and she went on with the task throughout the Revolutionary War until 1784 when her brother returned and made her give up the work. In 1775 she also became the Postmistress of the Baltimore post office, ran a book shop, and published a popular almanac. In 1777 she was the first to offer the use of her press to print and distribute the Declaration, despite the danger.

She served as a popular Postmistress for 14 years, until she was removed from the position by the Postmaster General, who declared the job required "more traveling...than a woman could undertake." He then quickly appointed his own political crony to the job, despite the outcry of the citizens of Baltimore, who presented petitions demanding her reinstatement. She then ran a shop selling books, stationery, and dry goods. She died in 1816.

For more information on her fascinating life, you can go here or here....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


A new review of To Kiss a Count!

And I'm at the Riskies today (it's Tuesday, natch) talking about history in historicals...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

One thing I really enjoy about doing these "Heroine" posts is reading and discovering more about women in history I might have heard of but don't know a great deal about. I love seeing the wide variety of women to be found in various societies, women who followed their own dreams and talents even when it was very difficult for them. It's a great inspiration to me. So thanks to everyone for reading these posts and letting me continue with them! :)

This weekend's heroine is Harriet Martineau, a Whig writer and social theorist who was called "the first woman sociologist." She was born on this day, June 12, in 1802 in Norwich, England, the 6th of 8 children of a manufacturer. Her family was descended from Huguenots (hence the last name) and of liberal Whig, Unitarian views. She grew up educated and in an intellectual environment, but her health was not good and she became quite deaf at a very young age, which forced her to use an ear trumpet. At 16 she was sent away from home to visit her aunt, who kept a school in Bristol, in hopes that a change of scene would help her health. From 1819 to 1830 she returned to reside in Bristol, and in 1821 began writing anonymously for the Unitarian periodical Monthly Repository, with her first book, Devotional Exercises and Addresses, Prayers, and Hymns coming out in 1823 (she would eventually write more than 50 volumes, on a wide variety of subjects).

In 1826 her father died (soon after the deaths of her eldest brother and her suitor), leaving her and her mother and sisters poverty-stricken. Since her deafness kept her from teaching, Harriet took up serious writing. She went on writing for the Repository as well as short stories (later collected in the volume Traditions of Palestine), won 3 essay prizes from the Unitarian Association in only one year, and did needlework to supplement her writing income. In 1831 she published the first volume of Illustrations of Political Economy, which was a huge success, with demand increasing for each following volume. In 1832 she moved to London and moved in circles that inluded such people as John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the Brownings, and Thomas Carlyle. She was also friends with Florence Nightingale and Charlotte Bronte. She finished her political economy series, another series titled Illustrations of Taxation, and stories in support of the Whig Poor Law reforms.

In May 1834, Charles Darwin on his Pacific voyage received a letter from his sisters saying that Martineau was "a great Lion in London" and sending him her Poor Laws and Paupers Illustrated in pamphlet size. They also said their brother "Erasmus knows her & is a very great admirer." When Darwin returned home in 1836 he stayed with his brother in London and found that Erasmus spent a lot of time "driving out Miss Martineau." The Darwins and Harriet had in common their Unitarian background and liberal Whig politics, but their father thought perhaps her views were a bit TOO liberal for a daughter-in-law and the pair never married. But Charles called on her and stated "she was very agreeable, and managed to talk on a most wonderful number of subjects" though he was also "astonished to find how ugly she is" and "she is overwhelmed with her own projects, her own thoughts and abilities". Erasmus told his brother "one ought not to look at her as a woman."

In 1834 she went on a long trip to the United States, where she became an adherent f the Abolitionists and later published Theory and Practice of Society in America and Retrospect of Western Travel, as well as an article called "The Martyr Age of the United States" in the Westminster Review. Her outspoken opinions on the evils of slavery caused a great deal of offense, but she did not care. She followed up this work with a novel, Deerbrook, a story about a surgeon hero and middle-class life.

On a trip to Europe in 1839 she fell ill, and went to stay with her sister and brother-in-law, the well-known doctor Thomas Greenhow, in Newcastle on Tyne to try and alleviate her symptoms (believed to be caused by an ovarian cyst). She then moved to Tynemouth, where she stayed for nearly 5 years in the clean sea air and wrote 3 books, including a novel about the Haitian rebel L'Ouverture and Life in the Sick Room. She loved her new telescope, which allowed her to take in the life of the town and the beach from her window (it's thought the busybody Mrs. Jellyby in Dickens's Bleak House is based on her, though she went on being friends with Dickens himself!). She wrote beautifully on her picture of the town: "When I look forth in the morning, the whole land may be sheeted with glistening snow, while the myrtle-green sea tumbles--there is none of the deadness of winter in the landscape."

In 1844 she underwent a course of the mesmerism,which she declared returned her to health within months and wrote an account of her case, which caused friction with her sister and brother-in-law, the conventional doctor! In 1845 she left Tynemouth for the Lake District and her new home The Knoll, which she would live in for the rest of her life. In 1846 she made a tour of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria and wrote Eastern Life, Present and Past, which also caused controversy with its "infidel tendency." She also published a volume called which stated that freedom and rationality, not command and obediance, should be the basis of education. She followed up with a history volume written from the view of a "philosophical Radical", Household EducationThe History of the Thirty Years' Peace, 1816--1846. She was always busy, contributing weekly to The Daily News, visiting Ireland and writing Letters from Ireland, and writing for Westminster Review. Her 1838 book How to Observe Morals and Manners laid out some of her general views, that very general social laws influence the life of any society, such as the principle of progress, the emergence of science as the most advanced product of human intellectual endeavor, and the significance of population dynamics and natural physical environment (principles which still hold true today!).

In 1855 she found she suffered from heart disease and started work on her autobiography (though she lived for 20 more years). It was published in 2 volumes posthumously in 1877. She also undertook the translation of Auguste Comte into English, which was published as The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (freely translated and condensed by Harriet Martineau), which Comte himself recommeneded to his students rather than his own!

She died at The Knoll on June 27, 1876.

Some sources on Martineau's life:
Harriet Martineau's Autobiography: With Memorials by Maria Weston Chapman (1877)
Deborah Anna Logan, The Hour and the Woman: Harriet Martineau's "Somewhat Remarkable" Life, 2002
Valerie Sanders, Reason Over Passion: Harriet Martineau and the Victorian Novel, 1986
David Deeirdre, Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy: Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot (1989)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Portrait Friday

June 11, 1509 marked the wedding of Henry VIII to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. (Read more about her life here...)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

What I'm reading today--Jude Morgan's Charlotte and Emily. I've read novels about the Brontes before (they do seem tailor-made for a novel, don't they?), but this one is far superior and beautifully written. I'm so enjoying it!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Riskies Tuesday

At the Riskies today, talking about June releases and actress Sarah Siddons!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Book Signing Sunday

I'll be signing books today from 1-3 at Barnes and Noble (6100 N. May, Oklahoma City)! Come by and say hi....

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

This weekend's heroine is Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, born on this day in 1660! She lived a long and complex life, and was one of history's great "strong women."

Sarah Jennings was born June 5, 1660 to Richard Jennings, a Member of Parliament, and his wife Frances, at Holywell House in Hertfordshire. Richard met the Duke of York (later James II) while attempting to recover an estate that had belonged to his mother-in-law, and in 1664 James arranged for Sarah's sister Frances to be a maid of honor to his wife, Anne Hyde, Duchess of York. Frances later had to leave Court when she married a Catholic, but Sarah later took her place as maid of honor to Duchess #2, Mary of Moden, in 1673.

Sarah became friends with Princess Anne, James and Anne Hyde's second daughter, in 1675, the same year Sarah met her future husband John Churchill and danced and talked with him at balls and routs. John had once been the lover Charles II's chief mistress Barbara Palmer, and he was deeply in debt and not much of a catch financially. He was also said to be about to marry a rich mistress of James II, Catherine Sedley, a match promoted by his father who was eager to restore the family coffers. But in 1677, Sarah's brother died and she and her sister became the heirs to the Jennings estates, thus giving the young couple an income. They secretly married in the winter of 1677, a union known only to a few friends so she could keep her position as maid of honor. This became impossible when she was pregnant, and the marriage became public on October 1, 1678. Their first child, a daughter, died soon after birth, and Sarah became Lady of the Bedchamber to Princess Anne after the princess's marriage in 1683.

In 1688 came the Glorious Revolution, the overthrow of the unpopular Catholic King James in favor of his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. Amidst the initial upheaval, James ordered Anne (who he suspected of supporting her sister) and Sarah placed under house arrest, but in her memoirs Sarah described their dramatic escape: "By the backstairs which went down from her closet, her Royal Highness, my Lady Fitzharding, and I, with one servant, walked to the coach where we founf the Bishop and the Earl of Dorset. They conducted us that night to the Bishop's house in the city; and the next day to my Lord Dorset's at Copt-Hall. From there we went to the Earl of Northampton's and thence to Nottingham, where the country gathered about the Princess; nor did she think herself safe till she saw that she was surrounded by the Prince of Orange's friend." James soon fled the country altogether.

Despite this beginning, Sarah's life in the reign of William and Mary was not easy. The new monarchs gave her husband the title of Earl of Marlborough, but they still argued and Sarah's influence on Anne was thought to be too great and dangerous. Queen Mary demanded that her sister dismiss Sarah, which Anne refused (their friendship was very strong--they called each other by pet names "Mrs. Freeman" and "Mrs. Morley"), and this created a rift between the sisters that never quite healed. Sarah was evicted from her court rooms at Whitehall, and Anne left Court in response and went with Sarah to stay at Syon House. Mary died in 1694, and in an effort to ingratiate himself with the English William restored all Anne's honors and incomes and gave her an apartment at St. James's Palace. He also restored the position of the Churchills.

In 1702, William died and Anne became queen. She immediately offered John a dukedom, which Sarah refused on the grounds that their income was insufficient to the position. They were then given a pension of 5000 pounds a year for life, plus 2000 from the Privy Purse, and the dukedom was accepted. Sarah was made Mistress of the Robes, Groom of the Stole, Keeper of the Privy Purse, and Ranger of Windsor Great Park, while John became Captain-General of the army. The couple's influence was at its zenith, but during much of the reign John was abroad fighting the War of the Spanish Succession and Sarah was alone in England. She spent much of her time overseeing the building of their new estate, Woodstock Manor (later renamed Blenheim Palace), a lavish gift from the queen on John's victory at the Battle of Blenheim.

But all was not well with their close friendship as the years went on. Sarah allied herself with the Whigs, while Anne was becoming more strongly Tory, and she resented Sarah's domineering efforts to control her politically. Anne also didn't like it that Sarah was so often away from Court attending to her own business, despite Sarah's long letters and excuses. In 1703, Sarah's only son John died of smallpox, and she withdrew from publiclife even more for a time, overcome with grief. Anne was also becoming closer to another lady in waiting, Sarah's cousin Abigail Hill (who Sarah originally brought to Court in hopes of finding the impoverished girl a position), who was shy and flattering (and Tory), unlike Sarah. Anne was present at Abigail's secret wedding to Samuel Masham (groom of the bedchamber to Anne's husband) in 1707 and gave her a dowry of 2000 pounds without Sarah's knowledge. In 1711 Sarah lost her offices of Mistress of the Robes and Groom of the Stole (replaced by the Duchess of Somerset), and Abigail took over as Keeper of the Privy Purse. John also lost his positions, and the couple lost their state funding for the building of Blenheim (which came to a halt for the first time since 1705). The couple left England to travel around the Continental courts.

Queen Anne died August 1, 1714, and the Churchills returned home at last. The new king was George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover (great-grandsome of James I through his mother), who had become friends with Sarah and John when they stayed at Hanover during their travels. John regained his old position of Captain-General and Sarah became friends with Queen Caroline. She spent her time trying to find a good match for her eldest granddaughter Lady Henrietta Godolphin. When she wed the Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1717, she went on to find good matches for the rest of her grandchildren, even though she didn't get along with her own daughters Henrietta (who later inherited the dukedom in her own right, and died in 1733), Elizabeth (who died in 1714), and Mary (who outlived her mother, though they were always estranged) very well, though she did have one favorite daughter Anne Spencer (who died in 1716).

Also in 1716 John suffered 2 strokes, and Sarah spent most of her time devoted to his care, traveling with him to Tunbridge Wells and Bath until he made a recovery. He died in 1722, and Sarah's income was considerable enough that she offered a dowry of 100,000 pounds for her granddaughter Diana Spencer to marry the Prince of Wales (which didn't work out), and she went on overseeing the building of Blenheim. Her days of controversy were far from over, though. Her friendship with Queen Caroline ended when she refused the queen access through her Wimbledon estate, which lost her the post and income of Ranger of Windsor Great Park. She was also rude to George II, thinking him "too much of a German," and her Tory enemy Walpole was now in power. But she was still good-looking and sought-after and received many proposals of marriage (including from the Duke of Somerset), which she refused in favor of independence and the memory of her husband. In 1742 she saw the fall of Walpole and the publication of a biography (which she approved) titled An Account of the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough from her first coming to Court to the year 1710.

She died on October 18, 1744 at 85 and was buried at Blenheim. Her husband was brought from Westminster Abbey to be laid by her side.

Some sources:
Ophelia Field, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, the queen's favorite, 2002
Virginia Cowles, The Great Marlborough and His Duchess, 1983

Friday, June 04, 2010

Portrait Friday (Sort Of)

I found a fascinating historical tidbit about this day in history--on June 4, 1784 Elisabeth Thible became the first woman to ride in a hot air balloon! Since I couldn't find an actual portrait of her, this print of a balloon ascent will have to do.

June 4, 1784 was just 8 months after the very first balloon flight and so this was probably a rather frightening undertaking for a "civilian"! Monsieur Fleurant, the pilot, was originally meant to travel with a Count de Laurencin, who had been one of the 6 passengers on the Montgolfier flight in January (a flight that did not end well--the balloon started to tear apart and smolder close to landing, though luckily no one was killed! No wonder Laurencin chickened out on the second ride). But Mademoiselle Thible took her place dressed as the goddess Minerva. The two sang arias from the latest popular opera of the day La Belle Arsene during the 45-minute flight, which traveled 4 km and reached 1500 meters. The mademoiselle injured her ankle on the bumpy landing, and spent the flight feeding the fire box as well as singing. She became a popular heroine for a time.

Source: Women Aloft, Time-Life Books, 1981

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Things I Love Thursday

What I love today--hydrangea! I have two bushes in my front flower bed and they are going crazy in this hot summer weather, gorgeous pink blooms. They're some consolation for this yucky humidity!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Today in History

Today in history marks one of the first "celebrity weddings" in US history (in 1886), that between President Grover Cleveland (the first president to marry in the White House while in office) and Frances Folsom (still the youngest First Lady in history), who proved to be a style icon and object of fascination to the American public. There was a lovely display about Frances in the First Ladies exhibit at the Smithsonian, which I got to see last summer, so I thought we'd take a closer look at her life!

Frances Clara Folsom was born in Buffalo, New York on July 21, 1864, the daughter of the well-to-do lawyer Oscar Folsom and his wife Emma, descendants of some of the earliest English settlers in the area. She was their only child to survive infancy, and her future husband (27 at the time of her birth) was friends with her parents and bought her a baby carriage. When her parents died when she was a child, Cleveland became the estate administrator. Frances attended Central High School in Buffalo and then Wells College in Aurora, New York. Soon after her graduation in summer 1885, Cleveland proposed to her by letter, though they did not announce the engagement until 5 days before the wedding.

The wedding took place at the White House on June 2, 1886. Cleveland was the only president to marry in the White House, and their age difference is still the greatest of any presidential marriage. The ceremony was a small one attended by family, close friends, and the Cabinet and their wives, at 7:00 pm in the Blue Room. The officiants were the Rev. Byron Sutherland and the groom's brother Rev. William Cleveland. John Philip Sousa and his band provided the music. The couple then had their honeymoon in the Cumberland Mountains of Maryland.

Frances Cleveland then became a celebrity of the first order. She was a famously gracious White House hostess who held 2 receptions a week. The births of her children (Ruth, supposedly the inspiration for the name of the "Baby Ruth" candy bar, though she sadly died young; Esther; Marion; Richard; and Francis), her clothes, her parties were all the objects of intense interest in the media. (She also became the only First Lady to preside at 2 non-consecutive administrations, since her husband was defeated in 1888 and returned 4 years later!). After he left office for good they retired to Princeton, New Jersey.

After Cleveland's death in 1908, she went on living at Princeton. In 1913 she married Thomas Preston, a professor of archaeology (the first presidential widow to remarry). She died in Baltimore in 1947 and was buried next to her first husband.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Risky Tuesday

At the Riskies today, talking about June weddings and old traditions...