Saturday, November 12, 2011

Absolute Power: The Real Live of Europe's Most Infamous Rulers

Absolute Power: The Real Live of Europe's Most Infamous Rulers is a 2006 book on the lives of ruling monarchs in Europe from the last Tarquin King in Rome and the last Tsar in Russia written by C.S. Denton.











I give this book a 2/5. I apologize for only giving you links instead of summarizing the book, however, as you can tell there is a great multitude of people featured in this book and to write about all of them would simply kill me. The characters that aren't so well known in history are often only given a page which begs the question of why they are in the book in the first place. The book at times contradicts itself i.e. In Tiberius' chapter, he is painted as an innocent man who is blamed for all the wrong in his time and then in the Caligula section the Emperor is painted as the monster most people believe him to be. The general grouping and naming leads to confusion i.e. The Iberian section is a mix up of Portuguese and Spanish rulers that leaves one confused which country you're in. It's also riddled with inaccuracies:

"Nicholas, at the age of seventeen, fell in love with the 21 year old Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt....It's worth pointing out that Alix had previously turned down a proposal from her cousin, the man who stood to become George V of Great Britain

( For people who don't know the love story of Nicholas II of Russia and Alix of Hesse and by the Rhine: Nicholas  was born in 1868 and Alix was born in 1872, making the Princess 4 years younger than the Tsarevich and not the other way around. And it was Albert Victor, George's older brother, that proposed to  Alix)

The book is incredibly thick but it's all bulk and nothing special.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Born to Rule; Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria

Born to Rule; Five Reigning Consort, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria is a 2005 book on the five greatest granddaughters of the formidable Queen Victoria  - Maud (Queen of Norway), Sophie (Queen of Greece), Alix (Empress of Russia), Marie (Queen of Romania) and Victoria-Eugenie (Queen of Spain) - written by Julia P. Gelardi.

The eldest of the five women whose life we will be tracing is Princess Maud of Wales. Born on November 26, 1869, to Edward, Prince of Wales ( later Edward VII of the United Kingdom ) and his Danish wife, Alexandra of Denmark, she was their youngest child. Maud grew up in a relatively relaxed environment with the Wales family, she was most attached to Mother out of her two parents.  Alexandra's way of coping with her husband's many infidelities was to shower her children with affections. Often smothering them with it.

Months later, born to Crown Princess Victoria "Vicky" (eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) and Crown Prince Frederick of Germany (later Emperor Frederick III of Germany) "Fritz", Princess Sophie of Prussia was born on June 14, 1870 in Potsdam, Prussia.  Sophie was born into the trio of girls at the end of Vicky's birthing years, she and her two sisters, Victoria "Moretta" and Margaret "Mossy", were the closest of the brood of the surviving 6 (Vicky lost two sons, Waldemar and Sigismund)  to their parents. Vicky and Fritz elder trio, William "Willy" (William II of Germany)Charlotte and Henry, were entirely against their liberal parents as was much of the Berlin court.

Next came Princess Alix of Hesse and by the Rhine on June 6, 1872, whose parents were Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (Queen Victoria's third child, second daughter) and Prince Louis of Hesse and by the Rhine (later Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and by the Rhine). Alix "Alicky" grew up in a tiny part of Germany with a touch of England (brought over by her Mother). She was so bright and cheery that her family members taught to calling her "Sunny"....that is until tragedy hit the Hesse family; Alix's brother, Frederick "Frittie", a hemophiliac, fell from a window and died, a strain of diphtheria infected the house taking little Princess Marie "May" and later the children's Mother, Alice. There would be no more smiles for Sunny. That is until she first caught a glimpse of  Nicholas "Nicky".

Later, Princess Marie of Edinburgh (later Marie of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha) "Missy" joined the granddaughters. Daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (later Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, third child and second son of Queen Victoria) and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (daughter of Alexander II of Russia).   Missy, originally brought up in England (forever making her the Anglophile), moved to Coburg after her Father became the Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (after the death of her Uncle, Ernest). The Coburg children were tormented by a Governess and her fiance, their Mother oblivious to it all (mirroring the Duchess of Kent  and John Conroy) until their Father found out.

In the Victorian Era, it was the norm that one of the daughters in the family would stay unmarried to tend to her ailing Mother; to Queen Victoria, it was Beatrice. Still, against Queen Victoria's hopes and dreams, Beatrice fell in love and - with the Queen's blessing, albeit reluctantly - married Prince Henry of Battenberg (the couple still resided in England, by the elderly Queen's side). Victoria-Eugenie's birth "Ena", second child and only daughter of Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry "Liko", coincided with Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. She was named after her Grandmother, Godmother and for the country where she was born.

It was at the Jubilee that Sophie was first introduced to Crown Prince Constantine of Greece. That time in her life was very difficult for her and for parts of her family. Her Grandfather, William I of Germany, died in 1888, and her Father, who was already dying of throat cancer, ascended the throne; he died after 99 days, the day after Sophie's 18th birthday. Her elder brother, William "Willy", ransacked the Neus Palais mere moments after their Father's death, looking for incriminating letters....he never found them ( Fritz had already sent to England). It was during this sad time that Sophie married Constantine "Tino" (1889). There was a rumor in Greece that Sophie's coming would bring a new golden age to Greece (For when a Constantine and Sophie reigned, Constantinople would fall into Greek hands). In less than nine months, Sophie gave birth to a son. It was during this first year that Sophie became interested in the Greek Orthodox Religion, later converting in 1890 (This infuriated Willy and his wife, Dona, with whom Sophie would forever be on distant terms)      

The feelings shared between Alix of Hesse and Nicholas of Russia did not wane as time went on. Their first meeting began an infatuation which took a much stronger hold in Nicky in 1889 when Alicky came to visit. Queen Victoria felt that Alix deserved a crown at the very least but she still containted a deep dislike of Russia long since the Crimean War. The aged Queen attempted to dissuade Alicky from becoming Empress of Russia "Tsarina" by waving the title of Queen Consort of the United Kingdoms through a marriage between the Princess of Hesse and by the Rhine and Maud's eldest brother, Prince Albert Victor "Eddy". But Alix would have no other and she refused (which was a rare sight to see with the headstrong Queen Victoria as your Grandmother). With Eddy out of the way, Nicky redoubled his efforts to wed Sunny and he was literally going to go through hell and high water to get her. Nicky's parents, Alexander III of Russia and Marie Feodorovna, became Germanophobes after Prussia/Germany stole the territories of Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark, and opposed the match as much as Queen Victoria did and usually, the mild mannered, Nicky would agree but not this time, his marriage with anyone other than Sunny was nonnegotiable.  He loved her and she loved him, the only thing that stood in the way now was the question of religion. Alix adamantly refused to convert to Orthodoxy being raised a strict Lutheran. She refused the budge on the matter until her sister, Elizabeth "Ella",  who, herself, had recently converted, showed her the way. Nicky and Alix became engaged in 1894. But by then, Alexander's health began to fail and the 49 year old Tsar died on November 1 of the same year. Seven days later, Nicky and Sunny, now Alexandra Feodorovna, were married.

In history, Missy was deemed the flirt. Her natural good looks and fun loving personality attracted her to many men. The first of a long list was her cousin George (later George V of Russia), second son of Edward and Alexandra. Both of their cousins approved of the match but Alexandra would have no German as a daughter-in-law and Maria Alexandrovna would have no English man as a son-in-law. The two remained close friends throughout all their lives. Marie A. instead found a more suitable husband for Miss; Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania. They married on in 1893. In Romania, Missy was living a troubled life; her fun loving and outgoing nature was  repressed in the sombre court of Bucharest. If her husband, "Nando", had stood up for her and let her have things her way things would have been better but as it was he completely under the thumb of his Uncle, Carol I of Romania. Children did not help the situation; Miss gave birth to her first child, Carol, in 1893. Shortly before the birth of her second child, Missy's Aunt-in-law, Elisabeth of Wied "Carmen Sylva" returned from exile. The two women would constantly be at odds with each other. Only after six years of residing in Bucharest did things get better for Missy. The only things that did come out of those early years was Missy's understanding of her adoptive homeland.

In 1895, Alexandra gave birth to her first child, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia. Although a girl, Nicholas did not feel too disappointed in the child as there would be more children in the future. During the initial years of marriage, Alexandra Feodorovna was at a crossroad with her Mother-in-law. Marie F., widowed and now presiding the title of Dowager Empress, refused to give up any of her spotlight and Alexandra was the new Empress was right to step her foot down to gain her recognition as the Emperor's wife. Minny, as she was called, was full of charm and won St. Petersburg over, while Alix, always shy and reserved, having been brought up by the strict morals that had coined the Victoria Era, had a certain disdain for the louche society.  At Nicky's and Alix's coronation in 1896, words gets about among the commoners that there will be a shortage of bread and wine, a riot occurs and thousands are killed in the process. The Tsar and Tsarina at first intended to cancel the ball that was to be held after the coronation but Nicky's domineering Uncles soon pushed them into reopening the idea because the French ambassador was to be attending.  It caused Alix much anguish.

Princess Maud harbored a deep crush for Prince Francis of Teck and hoped to marry him but Francis gambling and overall his lack of interest in the Princess. She suddenly decided on her cousin, Prince C(h)arl(es) of Denmark without much thought. They married in 1896 and soon afterwards Maud fell deeply in love with Charles. As a wedding gift to his daughter, Edward, Prince of Wales, gave her the estate of Appleton; Maud fell in love yet again. English to the core, Maud took her sweet time before her departure to Denmark and even as Princess of Denmark and Queen of Norway, Maud would always relish her trips to England.

The first modern Olympic Games were held in Greece on May 2nd, 1896 and it was around this time that war between Greece and the Ottoman Empire broke out. Crown Princess Sophie acted as a nurse during the war effort and advanced many other social activities involving childhood education and feeding the destitute. For all of her hard work, Sophie was rewarded with the Royal Order of the Red Cross by her Grandmother Queen Victoria. This disastrous war caused rifts between the Greek royal family and the general populace. And that rift began to grow turning into hatred with republican sentiment. It wasn't until King George and his daughter, Princess Marie, were nearly shot to death by a would-be assassin. The sympathy for the royal family during the aftermath brought the people back on to their side.

Just as Sophie's Mother was there for her, Missy's Mother supported her daughter from afar. In 1897, Missy began a scandalous relationship with Lieutenant Zizi Cantacuzene. The scandal was soon ended by the King of Romania but during the height of the scandal, Marie became pregnant. The turn of events cause Missy to leave Romania and turn to her Mother in Coburg for help. No one knows what happened to the child that was born in Coburg.  And when Missy found herself pregnant once again in 1899, she insisted on giving birth to the child in Coburg. When Carol forbade her from leaving, she told him "right to his face" that child was in fact Grand Duke Boris Vladmirovich of Russia. Marie left shortly afterwards.  The child was Marie's second daughter and she was named Marie "Mignon" after her Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother. In 1899, Missy's elder brother died in a failed suicide attempt and the next year her Father went to the grave as well. Another year passed and so came the passing of that greatest Grandmother, Queen Victoria.

As the years passed, Alexandra gave birth to three more Grand Duchesses, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia, but no Tsarevich to inherit the throne. Her growing despair over her situation caused her to turn to her adopted religion for comfort although not in the convention sense. The Grand Duchesses Militza and Anastasia introduced the Empress to a holy man by the name of Seraphim, one that had been dead for quite some time. They said if he was canonized then her dearest wish would be granted. The deed was done with and Alexandra soon found herself pregnant once again. Nine months later, Alix gave birth to the long awaited heir; Alexei. Alexei's birth was critical at the time to boost Russian moral during and after the disastrous Russo-Japanese War but the joy that Alexei brought about with him was shattered when it was discovered that he had inherited that dreaded disease; hemophilia.

In the same year that Queen Victoria passed, Sophie lost another guiding figure; her Mother, the ninety nice days Empress Frederick of Germany, died on August 5, 1901. On the 18th of March, George I was assassinated, shot, by Alexandro Schina. Constantine became King in the same year his Father predicted he would.

Maud's Father was named Edward VII after the death of his Mother, he held the, at the time, longest wait time before ascending the throne. Seven years after being married in a grand ceremony to her cousin Charles, Maud gave birth to her only child, Alexander. The twin countries of Sweden-Norway were growing restless as it soon became apparent that Norway would no longer tolerate being connected with Sweden and in 1905, Norway achieved full independence. All that was left now was to find a King. Charles was the perfect candidate. The two new rulers, Charles was from then on referred to as Haakon (Haakon VII) of the even newer country of Norway were crowned on November 18, 1905.

By 1905, Ena had blossomed into a beautiful young woman and her looks caught the eyes of many royal princes of Europe. In that year, Alfonso XIII of Spain traveled to England in search of a bride. Originally it was decided that he should win the hand of  Princess Margaret of Connaught, another granddaughter of Queen Victoria but he fell hard for the Princess of Battenberg instead. Over the next couple of months, the two exchanged letters. They met again in 1906 in Biarritz and it was there that Alfonso asked for Ena's hand in marriage. She readily said yes. On the day of the wedding ceremony, Alfonso and his new wife, Victoria Eugenie, had a bomb hurled at them in a failed assassination attempt by a a mad anarchist, Mateu Morral. It was in this turmoil that Ena showed her true resilient spirit. A year after their marriage, Ena and Alfonso welcomed their first child, a healthy boy whom they named Alfonso after his Father.The boy proved not to be as healthy as it was suggested at his birth when he started bleeding after being circumcised and the bleeding never stopped. Like his distant cousin in Russia, Alfonso "Alfonsito" was a hemophiliac. However, unlike her distant cousin in Russia, Ena's marriage couldn't stand against the might of the bleeding disease.

1905 was also an important year for Alicky as the man that singlehandedly destroy the Romanov dynasty entered the Empress's life. His name was Gregory Rasputin. When Alexei was near death from an accident at Spala, the doctors could do nothing to help the poor boy. Rasputin did what no other could and he "healed" the child of his affliction. In 1913, Russia celebrated three centuries of Romanov rule. Now that Alexandra's eldest daughter was of marriageable age, Alix contrived with Marie to have Olga and Carol meet and hopefully hit it off. The two failed to notice each other and Olga put her foot down in saying that she was Russia and would die in Russia. Indeed she would.

1914; the year the Great War broke out in Europe upon the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Maud and Haakon of Norway opted to remain neutral during the war, and as a less important nation there was no opposition to that. Too bad for Constantine and Sophie, they were not  given the same opportunity. Because of Greece's strategic location in Europe, both sides of the war vied for Greece to join them. However, Constantine was adamant on staying neutral and because of it, the dubious French tortured the Greeks until they would submit. Marie and Ferdinand, the new King and Queen, were at opposing ends on who to support. As a Hohenzollern, Ferdinand loved Germany. As a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Marie loved England. In the end, it was the latter that would prove triumphant. Ena faced the same problem as Marie as her Mother-in-law, the formidable Maria-Christina was pro-Austrian. As for Alix, there was no say in the matter as to whether Russia would enter or not, it was nonnegotiable; Russia went to war.

As the war progressed, Nicholas spent more and more days away from the capital until he finally placed himself in charge of the troops, leaving Alix as regent. Over the years, Rasputin's influence over Alexandra grew until he completely dominated her. The Russian people resented him and the Empress, the German Bitch they called her.  Rasputin was murdered by Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Prince Dmitri Pavlovich in 1916. Due to civil unrest the people of Russia faced was civil war; those who supported the monarchy and those who longed for change.To spare his countrymen of even more bloodshed, Nicholas II abdicated for himself and his son in 1917. Nicholas, Alexandra, their four daughters and beloved son were all executed by firing squad (although some members were killed in much more horrific ways) at the Ipatiev House on July 17, 1918. Nicholas last thought was to shield his wife.

The effect the French had on Greece brought the Hellenes to their knees and in order for the French to stop their ruthless attack on the Greeks, Constantine was forced into exile and his second son, Alexander, was proclaimed King. As the ex-King left his palace, crowds of people threw themselves on their knees begging their monarch not to leave them. Alexander, married a morganatically, had a daughter and died from a monkey bite three years later. Constantine returned to the throne on this sad note but left three years later and returned to exile, never to return (Victoria-Eugenie faced the same problems as her Greek cousin when she too was forced into exile in 1931). A double marriage between the Houses of Romania and Greece. George, Constantine's  eldest son, has finally won the hand of the troubling eldest daughter of Miss of Romania, while Carol, Marie's eldest son, became engaged to Helen of Greece. Sophie was right when she said opposed the match of Helen and Carol. Both marriages would end in divorce.

In her final years, Sophie was diagnosed with cancer and in 1932, Sophie died. After the restoration of the Greek Monarchy, she was reburied at Tatoi. Marie met her fate in 1938. Maud followed soon after, when she suddenly died after an operation  on 20 November 1938. Victoria Eugenie would not rest until 1969, she didn't live long enough to see her Grandson be proclaimed as the King.

I give this book a 3.5/5. Although the book is suppose to cover the lives of five of Queen Victoria's granddaughters it barely touches on Maud, Queen of Norway. Unlike Gelardi's later work, From Splendour to Revolution, Born to Rule is written chronologically which is hard to follow along with when you're working with five different women. One moment, one of the Princess's are about to be married and in the other another is just growing up. The book is a fine read but not exceptional.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The King's Speech

The King's Speech is a 2010 film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler on King George VI's quest to overcome his stammer with the help of an Australian speech therapist by the name of Lionel Logue.

The King's Speech won 'Best Picture' at the 83rd Academy Awards, their most prestigious award.

Colin Firth "Winner of the Academy Award for 'Best Actor'" as King George VI of Great Britain
Geoffrey Rush "Winner of the BAFTA Award for 'Best Actor in a Supporting Role'" as Lionel Logue
Helena Bonham Carter "Winner of the BAFTA Award for 'Best Actress in a Supporting Role'" as Queen Elizabeth

The movie begins in 1925 with the Duke of York, Prince Albert, presenting, with a heavy stammer, the closing speech at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley, London. He seeks professional help in order to cure him of his stammer but all is for naught, leaving Bertie  infuriated by their obvious failure, screaming that he will no longer accept any form of treatment. 

Prince Albert's wife, Elizabeth, still hopeful, plays her last hand when she seeks the help of the radical speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Albert agrees to see 'Dr. Logue' but is unhinged by the man's lack of formality and his  insistence on the Prince calling him by his Christian name, Lionel, and by referring to the Duke of York by his family nickname of 'Bertie'. In order to convince Prince Albert to follow through with his unorthodox procedures, Lionel bets the man a shilling that he can read perfectly at that very moment. When Albert's first try of reading the famous Hamlet soliloquy 'To Be or Not to Be'  falls through, Bertie is certain that he's a hopeless case, but Mr. Logue thinks otherwise. Logue says he will record Bertie's reading on a gramophone record and requests that Bertie try once again to read aloud but this time with loud music blaring in his ears. Believing that he had stammered through the entire reading, Albert leaves - with the gift of the recording - in a rage, determined not to come back.

Christmastide 1936, King George V, aged Father of Prince Albert, is delivering his annual Christmas address, stressing to his son the importance of broadcasting to the modern monarchy, where the populace is now in control. And the reason that George is so concerned about preening his second son for this daunting task, is due to his eldest son's, Prince Edward "David" of Wales, fixation with the twice married (both husbands still living), Wallis Simpson saying that David will be the complete ruin of Great Britain and the - recently renamed - House of Windsor. Bertie reluctantly agrees to try his hand at the address but same as always, he falls short, much to the disappointment of his Father. In despair, Albert plays the recording of himself reading Hamlet and surprisingly not once does he stutter. Prince Albert returns to Logue and the two begin working on the pure "mechanical" reasons behind his stammer, doing tongue exercises, strengthening his diaphragm, etc. all with positive results.    

In 1936, George V dies, causing a distraught Bertie to come to Lionel for emotional advice and support. In this session, Lionel discovers the physiological roots behind Bertie's affliction: Berte's domineering Father (George V reportedly saying 'I was afraid of my Father and my children will damn well be afraid of me') who encouraged his other children to pick on the second son ('B-B-B-B-Bertie' the called him), and repressed left handedness, his locked knees and the agonizing treatment, his first nanny who favored David more than him and treated him most cruelly (pinching him, not feeding him, etc.) and his younger brother, Prince John.  These revelations help push the men to become friends.

The newly crowned Edward VIII, David is now more determined than ever to marry Mrs. Simpson and now with his Father gone, no one is there to stop him. When Bertie confronts his elder brother about the growing problem of Wallis, he is immediately shot down by David who counters by picking on Bertie's stammer (even though it has grown less prevalent through his time with Lionel Logue) and calling him by that awful nickname just as he did when they were children. This demonstration by Edward, reverts Albert back to his stammering old self. He checks in with Lionel to discuss the events ('The second son overthrowing the eldest son, why it's p-p-p-p-positively medieval')  as the conversation continues Logue presents the idea to the Prince in denial that he may be King. The man's word infuriate the Duke of York and after several insults to the man, he declares that the sessions between him and his "Doctor" are over.

Despite the Bertie's best efforts to, Edward VIII officially abdicates on December 11, 1936 and Prince Albert, Duke of York becomes King George VI (A named chosen by Winston Churchill, seeing as Albert was too 'Germanic'). With a myriad of new tasks and responsibilities and much, much, MUCH more public speaking/broadcasting, the new King (with the persuasion of the new Queen) visits Lionel, in the latter's home, and apologizes for their last encounter. When the King requests that "Doctor Logue" be seated in the King's box ( where he would be in close contact with other members of the king's family ), the Archbishop of Canterbury conducts an investigation on "Dr. Logue's" qualifications. When Bertie confronts Lionel about his lack of credentials ('True, you never called yourself Doctor, I did'), Logue explains that his origin as a "speech therapist" working with shell-shocked soldiers from the great war. Albert, still rather unsure of himself, realizes his full potential when he chastises Logue's disrespect for the monarchy (Lionel found it necessary to seat himself on St. Edward's Chair, 'The chair that every King and Queen...' sits for their coronation). The coronation was a success.

In September 1939, Great Britain declares war on Germany, and George VI is set to broadcast an address to the people of Great Britain and the Empire; he summons Logue to his side immediately. George delivers the perfect speech, with Logue beside him every step of the way, to millions of his citizens.  Afterwards, when the King and his family steps out onto the balcony, they are welcomed by adoring crowds.

"King George VI made Lionel Logue a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1944....Lionel was with the King for ever wartime speech....Bertie and Lion remained friends for the rest of their lives"

I give this movie a 4.5/5. I loved this movie. Clear and simple. It had some of the best performances in the history of film!  Everyone in the cast took my breath away with their stellar performances. I adore Helena Bonham-Carter as Elizabeth of Bowes-Lyon, stunning was what she was. Guy Pearce was the perfect Edward VIII, the resemblance in uncanny. The plot was exceptional, new and innovative, the ending was so sweet! Lionel was such an entertaining character, thank you Mr. Rush. My only complaint (and it's not really even a complaint) is this sense of it being rushed, very much like my other review on another George VI's movie, 'Bertie and Elizabeth'. Otherwise, it was fabulous. Definitely recommendation from moi.

P.S. Recommendations for other films or books are appreciated.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria's Youngest Child

The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria's Youngest Child is a 2007 biography on Princess Henry of Battenberg (nee Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom) written by Matthew Dennison.

In 1853, Queen Victoria gave birth to Prince Leopold of the United Kingdom, an eighth child to her and Albert, the Prince Consort's, already large family. Dr. James Clark's the Queen's obstetrician states his alarming concern on the Queen's mental bearing after birth of several children to the Prince Consort and says quite clearly she should not have anymore children. And yet, 14 months and a fortnight after Clark's conversation with Albert, the Queen goes into labor once again. Aided by the help of that 'blessed' chloroform, Queen Victoria gives birth to her fifth daughter and ninth child; the last Princess, Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore.

Being the last of the litter, Beatrice was different from the start. Queen Victoria was never the maternal sort, to her babies were 'ugly' rather much like frogs, to put it in her own words but Beatrice was different. She was an incredibly lovely baby and both of her jubilant parents never let anyone forget it. Beatrice was different. Because unlike her elder siblings, she was never placed in the strict regiment of studies designed by Baron Stockmar, she was never able to enjoy the company of her elder family but most important of all, she never had a chance to grow up in the ethereal light of her angel Father.

On December 14, 1861, the Prince Consort died of typhoid and with him died the Queen's happiness. It is unsure what happened after Albert's passing as there are many different accounts on the matter (the most commonly accepted story is that Queen Victoria draped the sleeping Beatrice in the Prince Consort's nightshirt)but one thing stands prevalent in all stories; The Queen found solace in her four year old daughter.   It was from this moment on that Beatrice began her life behind the shadow of a Mother who cared only for her own needs.

For the first half of Beatrice's life, she lived in an isolated world of her own. As time passed in Queen Victoria's depressing family, Beatrice found herself more alone than ever as one by one her sisters, Alice, Helena and Louise were married off and left the safety net of the family. Family relations between Beatrice and her elder brothers were cold due to the jealous felt between the men of Beatrice's closeness with their Mother.  Her youthfulness offered a natural attraction to Queen Victoria because she was innocent to the gloom and sadness of her Father's passing (she quickly learned not to ask where her Father was a few days after the Prince Consort's death) and the Queen grew dependent on her youngest child for a glimmer of light in her lonely days.

It was expected, in Queen Victoria's opinion at least, that Beatrice always remain home with her as a caretaker, as a sort of vestal virgin, all of her life. Although it was been suggested that Beatrice marry, first the Prince Imperial Louise Napoleon, and afterwards, her dead sister's widowed husband, Grand Duke Louis of Hesse and by the Rhine but her feelings for the men were entirely platonic and of little holding in the Princess' heart (although she did cry waterfalls upon hearing of Louis Napoleon's death). First and foremost was Mother, the Queen, and utter devotion to her and her alone was Beatrice's duty and for almost 28 years of Beatrice's life this proved true.

The last princess first met Henry of Battenberg at her niece's, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by the Rhine, wedding to Henry's elder brother, Louis, in the quaint town of Darmstadt. It was love at first sight for both parties and they were absolutely adamant in their determination to be together. Queen Victoria was so shocked that her daughter could physically love someone that the relations between Mother and daughter went frigid. The Queen was only won over and finally approved of the match on Henry's part as he agreed to live in England with his Mother-in-law in order for Beatrice to remain in the Queen's services. The couple was married on 23 of July in 1885. Beatrice was the only one of Queen Victoria's children to wear the Queen's own wedding veil.

The new Princess Henry was the happiest she'd ever be in her whole life. The new Battenberg's were incredibly devoted to each other and very much in love. Together they had four children: Alexander "Drino", Victoria Eugenie, Leopold (who was afflicted with hemophilia) and Maurice (Maurice was most alike his Father in appearance and Beatrice's favourite). Beatrice was never especially maternal to her children finding herself a better servant to her Mother than a Mother to her four children. To make up for their Mother's lack of interest, Henry was a most wonderful, doting Father. Henry grew increasingly tired of his role and desired to prove himself as a man. He persuaded his Mother-in-law to allow him to enter in the Ashanti war and there he died of malaria on January 20, 1896 much to the grief of his short-lived wife.

On January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria died and it was Beatrice's great duty to edit her Mother's diary. To this day she has been credited with omitting certain information that would otherwise have been useful in understanding the domineering woman that was Queen Victoria, the woman who had dominated Beatrice's life for over fifty years of her life. 

Victoria Eugenie, called "Ena" by her family, is said to be Beatrice's greatest achievement. The Princess of Battenberg managed to attract the attention of the posthumous Alfonso XIII of Spain and they are married on May 31, 1906. The birth of their first child, at first celebrated, a son, Alfonso "Alfonitso", brought out the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha's bad blood and like his Uncle, Leopold, Alfonso had hemophilia. Alfonso the elder blamed both his wife and her family for infecting the royal family and never willing spoke to Beatrice again.

The first World War brought much grief to the British royal family, the most being Beatrice herself. After the death of  her favourite son, Maurice's, in Flanders field Beatrice retired from public life. She died peacefully in her sleep on October 26, 1944.

I give this book a 1/5. The book was incredibly hard to comprehend. The author was jumpy when recounting Beatrice's story at one time referring to her childhood and the next commenting on her as an adult and then going back to her youth. And at time, he skipped important moments in Beatrice's life, how she met Henry (You could say he did but it was very vague) and the birth of her children. The book itself didn't stand out very much but that may be due to the fact that Beatrice did not live the most exciting life like her elder sister, the Empress Frederick. NO I would not recommend this book UNLESS you are particularly interested in Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom and even then I would be rather hesistant.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge and DNA

The Lost King of France: A True Story of Revolution, Revenge and DNA, also printed under the name of  The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, is a 2002 written by Deborah Cadbury

The premises of The Lost King is based on the life of Louis-Charles, son of Louis XVI of France, the dauphin of France; otherwise, known as Louis XVII. 

On April21, 1770, Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria bids farewell to her homeland of Austria, her family and most importantly her formidable Mother, the Empress Maria Theresa. She is off the France (ruled by the long time enemies of Austria and the Hapsburg-Lorraine; the Bourbons ) to marry the Dauphin of France, Louis-August, and the countries of Austria and France together. The couple are ill matched and their differences leads to conflict; the main one being their lack of children. Seven years after their initial marriage and with the help of Marie Antoinette's elder brother, Joseph II of Austria, the marriage is finally consummated and and in 1778, the Queen gave birth to her first child, Marie-Therese. A son later, in 1785, she gives birth to Louis-Charles, Duke of Normandy.

Louis-Charles grows up in a strong and healthy boy, the complete opposite of his elder brother, the dauphin, Louis-Joseph, who has come down with a bad case of tuberculosis. The disease greatly deforms the poor boy and eventually killing him in 1789, making Louis-Charles the new dauphin.

Along with personal tribulation upon the Royal couple, Louis and Marie-Antoinette are facing turmoil from the French public. The Queen is publicly ridiculed in the streets as an adulteress and a reckless spender, called Madame Deficit amongst the people, her reputation is further blackened by the Diamond Necklace Affair
even though she was completely innocent in the dealings. Louis, having added more debt into the French coiffures by aiding the Americans in their Revolution, seeks means to repay the enormous sum by raising taxes. His initial ideas were to target the clergy and nobility, the two classes that are largely exempt from taxes, however the plan fell through. As time progressed things seemed to get worse and worse, finally resulting in the departure of the royal family from Versailles to the home of Louis XIV, the Tuileries Palace  

After failed attempt to escape France, the King and his family are brought back to Paris in shame and are now placed in the Temple, a fortress in the heart of Paris. He is charged with treason against the state and is sentence to death. After spending one final night with his family after six weeks of separation, Louis XVI bids farewell to the world and is executed via guillotine.

Having been pried, literally, from the arms of his distraught Mother , Charles, as he is now known, is brought into isolation in order to instill into him the ideals of the revolution. Heavily abused by his care taker, a man by the name of Simon, physically, mentally, and by some reports, sexually, for over a year, Charles falls seriously ill. Clinging the cruel hope of being reunited with his Mother, who he still believed to be in a room somewhere above his, the guards do not tell him of his Mother's execution (1793) nor of his Aunt's (1794). On June 8 1795, the titular King of France, dies reportedly of scrofulous, virtually alone. The ten year old child's body is sent to an autopsy, where a Doctor, Pelletan, stole his heart.

 Meanwhile, in the outside world, time has passed. Marie-Therese left France in December of 1795 for Austria and later, she married her cousin, Louis-Antoine, son of the Count of Artois. After the decline of the French Revolution and the fall of Napoleon, the Bourbon dynasty is restored to their throne.This causes a uproar in the number of pretenders claiming to be Louis XVII. Louis XVIII, devises several attempts to discover the fate of his nephew and even Marie-Therese herself does some investigating. A dreadful turn of fortunes, the family of the Count of Artois, now Charles X, are forced into exile. Marie-Therese died of pneumonia in 1851, after having been moving from place to place for the last decade, a faded reminder of the glory days of France.

It was not until 2000 was the case of the lost dauphin of France laid to rest. The family of Naundorff  still clung to the belief that they were indeed descendants of Louis XVI and Mari-Antoinette. Phillippe Delorme, a historian and journalist, began doing testing on samples of Karl Naundorff to compare them to Marie-Antoinette. The results were less than perfect. Into the hands of the scientist came the heart of Louis XVII that was stolen during the boy's autopsy. The maternal DNA of the sample was an exact replica of Marie-Antoinette's and her two sister,Maria-Johanna-Gabriella and Maria- Josepha, DNA.And so, it was made public, the lost King of France did not miraculously escape from the Tower but died there are was reportedly, a half-mad figure that used to be Marie-Antoinette's chou d'amour.

I give this book a 4/5. The author paints the story of the tragic Louis XVII of France in such a gut wrenching way, that at certain points of the story, I was nearly on the verge of tears. It is really such a revolting tale on the cruelty of man and such an innocent child. I haven't read many books on the French Revolution, although, I have read an occasional book or the odd film on his Mother, the infamous, Marie-Antoinette but this book has really caught my attention on the atrocity committed against the Bourbon family. It receives a definite recommendation from me, it is a rather nice introduction to those interested in the French Revolution and the events  that happened afterward with Marie-Therese, which is largely ignored.