Thursday, December 26, 2013

Katia: Wife Before God



Katia: Wife Before God is a 1970 book, written by Alexander Tarsaidze, on Alexander II of Russia's love affair with Catherine "Katia" Dolgoruky.



I give this book 2.5/5. While the book is fairly interesting, it leaves a little to be desired. Although I greatly enjoyed reading the letters exchanged between the two lovers, it felt as though the latter half of the book was carried entirely by letters of the past without any form of analysis. If the reader only wanted to read their letters, why would you need to write an entire book. While the little footnotes at the bottom of the page sure are interesting to read, it does get incredibly distracting and takes away from the main story (Often times, the footnotes would take up 3/4 of the page). What I really would have liked was to have read more about how Alexander's family felt about his relationship with Katya or more on Maria Alexandrovna's perspective of the whole romance. In the end, I feel like I would learn more about Sasha and Katya from their respective wikipedia pages than reading this book.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Reign (Episode 8)


Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. 

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Anna Walton as Diane de Poitier

Mary and Francis have now consummated their love for one another so all that's left is for them to marry. But they are set to marry sooner than they thought because the following day, Henry announces that the wedding is to be the following night. Mary I of England is about to die and Henry wishes to lay claim on Mary's claim to the English throne. 

Nostradamus has another vision at this announcement; he sees Mary covered in blood and her ladies surrounding a dead body. His other vision is still ringing in Queen Catherine's ears as this marriage will seal her son's fate. Catherine tries to convince Mary to break off the marriage by telling her of Nostradamus's prediction but Mary in unphased, believing it to be just hogwash. Mary confronts Nostradamus, who adds that one of her ladies will die. May leaves, clearly shaken.

Henry decides to end his relationship with Kenna and instead remain with Diane de Poitier. Kenna discovers Diane's plot to place Sebastian on the throne and seeks her revenge by informing Catherine. The Queen uses this information to threaten Diane. She wants the mistress to poison Kenna and leave Henry for good. Diane refuses and leaves the castle.

Mary and her ladies reflect on Nostradamus's skills of prediction. He was correct about predicting Tomas's death afterall. They then remember his predictions about their fate. Aylee is particularly disturbed because Nostradamus had said that she would never return home. She takes a sip out of the cup that was originally given to Kenna and begins to act very queasy afterwards. As she is walking to her rooms, she is pushed down the stairs by Clarissa. Aylee dies in Mary's arms, thus proving Nostradamus's prediction to be true.

For fear of the future, Mary breaks off her engagement to Francis and France and rides off with Basch.

I give this episode 2/5. This episode was rather bland despite the show's attempt to raise the stakes. The high point of this episode is when Henry breaks things off with Kenna. All of Kenna's point were perfectly valid and while you feel a little sorry for her, you have to keep in mind that she sorta brought this on herself.

Let's talk about Aylee's death scene. The death scene -shudders- the death scene! The death scene was definitely off. So Aylee was pushed down the stairs and there is a pool of blood around her head, and yet she is still conscious and able to talk. Also, she's just lying Jenessa Grant, you get a ZERO from me on your acting skills. Aylee was probably the most marginalized of Mary's ladies so her death didn't have the same impact on the audience as it did for Mary.

AGAIN with this will they, won't they! The whole plot point of Catherine telling Mary of the prophecy is negated by the fact that we've been through this so many times, that I don't care anymore. The ending scene was executed so badly. It's so cheesy and comes off as comical rather than depressing. When Francis falls to his knees and calls out to Mary, she's not even that far off so it looks like he's not event trying. Toby Regbo, you get a ZERO from me in facial expression. Francis, I know you can't catch up to her but she's still on your property, you could technically just tell the gatekeeper to shut them in - or at least Basch because at this point, he is still beneath you in position. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Secret Princes Season 2 (TV Series)


Secret Princes is an American reality TV series, broadcasted on TLC. The premise of the show is four members of international nobility come to American in order to find there Princess. The catch is that they must go undercover to ensure that the girl they find loves them only for themselves and not their title. The second season of Secret Princes premiered on October 25, 2013 and features regular guests appearances by Lord Robert Walter from the previous season. This season takes place in Austin, Texas. The second season of Secret Princes features.....

Alexander Francis Mathews, a relation of the Romanov House through his maternal grandfather, Prince Andrei Alexandrovich, son of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia. He originally used the name "Clint" for his alias but changed it to Tom later in the series. Alexander had very bad luck with women. They were all either engaged or were going away. In the end, he met a yoga instructor, who he took with him to the cotillion where he revealed his secret identity.

Lorenzo Maria Raimondo de' Medici in Campitelli di Calabria, claims to have descent from the Medici family. He called himself "Dean" or "Dino" throughout the series. Because of his lack of funds brought about by his disguise, Lorenzo does not have much luck with women. He meets Rosemary, the daughter of a Caucasian man and his Korean wife, who is supposedly descended  from Korean royalty back in the day. He invites her to the cotillion where he informs her of his true identity and gives her a pearl necklace originally worn by Eleanor de Toledo.

The Right Honourable James Rodd, Lord Renell, the fourth Baron Renell. He went by "Sam" during his stay in Austin although he has slipped up a few times and introduced himself as "James". He is presented as close friends to Lord Robert Walters. Early on in the series, he met a pink haired girl named Kitty. She introduced him to soft ball and Cajun food. She was his date to the cotillion where he told her that he was lying to her the whole time and that he was actually a Peer in the United Kingdom.

The Honourable Oliver Plunkett, the second son of the late Edward Plunkett, 20th Baron of Dunsany in the Peerage of Ireland. His pseudonym was "Luke", after the Star Wars' character. He was the first of the four to obtain the fair hand of a maiden. He met Deena at a poetry slam and his feelings slowly grew for this rebellious feminist. He also met Christie, who fit the classical description of a beauty. Luke ultimately chose Deena, with whom he had far more in common.

I give this series 3.5/5. This season has some of the same problems as last season, namely that the Princes are not actually Princes (and I'm not exactly sure about Lorenzo's heritage because I thought that the male line of the Medici family died out centuries ago), but in a sense it was rather different from the first season. I labelled Lorenzo as this season's Sal, Jame's as Robert, Oliver as Waldo and Alexander as Francesco. Unlike the first season, this season was definitely focused on the "rejects". The addition of Robert in the group turned the tables in the house and it was like Atlanta 2.0, where Robert dominated and everyone was subject to his will. I would have to say my favorite was James (why oh why, did he not call himself Jake because he looks exactly like Jake Gyllenhaal). The problem with the show is that some of the men didn't find the right girl at the beginning so then we had to go through episodes where a girl comes in and leaves the next second. It doesn't make well for continuity and you don't get emotionally invested in their relationships. I wish they had that episode where the girls come over to see how the "Princes" really live because it would have been a breath of fresh air considering the poor conditions they lived in while in Texas.

This season was a lot more chaotic than last season but I think it had a lot more laughs. Will there be a third season? Fingers crossed!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reign (Episode 7)


Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. This episode was able to garner an audience of 1.66 million people.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Torrance Coombs as Sebastian "Basch"

While Henry is away putting down a rebellion in Lorraine, Count Vincent of Naples takes the castle hostage. He has come to seek revenge for his son, Roberto, who was taken hostage by King Henry and returned at the price of 1500 ducats. Roberto died of dysentery on the return home and now Vincent wants the Valois to suffer like he has. Francis offers himself up as a hostage in lieu of Mary.

Catherine and Mary join forces because of their love for Frances. At first, Mary and her ladies are suspicious of Catherine but she wins them over with the story of her youth during the Florentine Revolt. With the help of Clarissa, Mary devises a plan to sneak everyone out of the palace through the underground tunnels. While Mary and her ladies attend a dinner with Vincent and his men, Francis leads the others to safety. Olivia is left behind to allow Mary and her ladies-in-waiting into the secret passageway.

Basch is detained by the Italians yet he is well treated by them. It turns out Diane de Poitier has bribed the men into making sure her son is comfortable. She is desirous that Sebastian be legitimized and made king in Francis's place.

When Mary, Kenna, Aylee and Lola make their way to the wall, they discover that they are locked out. Olivia has abandoned her post, getting herself lost in the tunnels. They are forced to return to the feast where Vincent and his men attempt to rape them. Catherine saves their virtue by poisoning the men. Vincent is killed when Mary stabs him in the throat.

Mary and Francis reconcile and they consummate their love for one another.

I give this episode 3/5. Megan Follows as Queen Catherine was definitely the best part of the episode. I thought she played to the strengths and weaknesses of her character extremely well. In fact, I think she is the best part of the show. Oh my stars, was the show actually historically accurate for once?! Sweet Lordy! Maybe it's because I'm a little conservative but I always get the feeling that Francis is a bit of a jerk to his mother - the woman from whose womb he sprang forth! Francis's sudden change of heart with Olivia was too sudden (like much in this series) although I did like what happened to her in the episode. So finally, Francis comes to terms with his feelings for Mary - finally. While I get that their emotional distress facilitated their coming together, I thought it was a little unnecessary. They're getting married soon...why not wait?

On a lighter note, I absolutely adored Mary's dresses in this episode. While not clothes I would ever wear in 16th century France, I might consider purchasing one of her dresses for Winter Formal.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Secret Princes Season 1 (TV Series)


Secret Princes is an American reality TV series, broadcasted on TLC, which premiered on September 21, 2012.The premise of the show is four members of international nobility come to American in order to find there Princess. The catch is that they must go undercover to ensure that the girl they find loves them only for themselves and not their title. The first season of Secret Princes features.....

Robert Walters, Lord of the Manor of Fullwood. Under the pseudonym of "Tate", Rob met a pharmaceutical sales rep, named Jasmine Bishop, after he had been stood up. They bonded over a series of dates, one had them off to the largest indoor aquarium where they swam with whale sharks. Rob also became attached to a dolphin trainer named Molly but ultimately chose Jasmine to take to the ball. There he revealed his identity to Jasmine and they took a trip to his family home in Marabella, Spain. The two decided they wanted to pursue a relationship but later broke up.

Salauddin Babi of Balasinor, Nawabzada of Balasinor. He used the nickname "Sal" when in America. After having a tough time getting a date, he goes to a matchmaker who finds him a lawyer named Alison Langley. At the ball, he reveals his true identity to Alison and the two go off to India together. Due to their cultural difference, Alison decides that she does not want to pursue a relationship with Sal. Salauddin's parents have since begun the arrange marriage process.

Francisco de Bourbon y Hardenburg, future Duke of Seville. Known as "Cisco" in America, Francisco met a single mother named Camille Monroe. Sal had already had eyes for Camille but she ultimately chose Cisco. They went to the zoo together and had a romantic dinner before he invited her to the ball. She joined him in Spain, where she met his half brother. They still want to see each other.

The Honourable Ludovic Watson, son of The Right Honourable Miles Watson, 4th Baron Manton. He called "Waldo". He met Melissa Braden at a nail salon and took her to the ball. She visited him in England but in the end, she decided to part ways with Waldo because she felt uncomfortable living his lifestyle.

I give this series a 3/5. Let us start off with the fact that our lovely gents aren't actually Princes. They're just nobility...except for maybe, Sal. We are presented with four handsome "princes" and my personal favorite was Ludovic "Ludo"/"Waldo". He was just so quirky, I couldn't help but "fall for him". I felt most sorry for Sal, who seemed like the most serious minded in the group, because it was rather apparent from the get go that he was the black sheep. The show primarily focuses on Robert and Cisco, both of whom come off as playboys which I didn't like. It definitely felt like a month wasn't enough time for them to get to know the girls. I didn't feel much of a connection between Waldo and Melissa seeing as they meet late into the season. Just from watching the show, you really get a sense that these people were rather spoiled so it was nice seeing them do things for themselves for once. All in all, it's something you can watch to pass the time. Just mindless fun.

Will I watch season 2? Probably.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reign (Episode 6)


Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. 

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Torrance Coombs as Sebastian "Basch"

Tension is in the air as King Henry returns from Paris. Mary is in turmoil over her kiss with Basch's. Francis is torn between Olivia, Mary and his love for his older half-brother. Basch's world is turned upside down by the appearance of the pagans. Kenna is waiting for Henry to announce that she is his mistress to the world and discard Diane de Poitier. To her surprise, King Henry returns with Diane in hand.

Sebastian tells Francis and Mary of the butcher's visit the previous night as well as his reason for coming after Mary finds a cursed necklace in her room. He doesn't reveal that his mother, Diane de Poitier, dabbled in the pagan's dark arts and that he shares her connection to the heretics. Mary wakes to the sight of a stag's head hanging above her bed. Now, it is Catherine de Medici's problem. She won't have some heretic invading her room, threatening her guests.

Kenna reveals to her friends that she is Henry's mistress and she gets a luke warm reaction. They question her on whether or not Henry's affections are true and if he really has broken free of Diane's spell. After all, the tiles on the floor say, "DH". Kenna confronts her lover over the matter much to his annoyance. She begins to doubt his feelings for her until she sees his candle light display and this seemingly reaffirms their relationship. The jokes on her because Henry is still visiting Diane's bed.

To fulfill the requirements of the sacrifice, Basch brings a prisoner, who is incarcerated because he stole food for his family, into the forest to die. But it is all just a ploy, he lures the butcher out and kills him, thus fulfilling the prophecy. But because the prisoner now knows of his connection to the herectics, Basch pushes him off a cliff. Catherine finds out who it is that placed the stag's head on Mary's wall and Mary is almost assassinated by one of her ladies. The heretics are burned at the stake.

In light of all that has happened, while their betrothal still stands, Francis leaves Mary, in Basch's arm's, or so he thinks, and runs to Olivia's warm embrace. 

I give this episode 3/5. Alright, I'll admit it. This episode was not half bad. The tension in this episode is constant throughout and I really felt engaged. Coombs really steals the show this time around and Follows plays Queen Catherine well. Less Francis, more Basch! I watched his transformation from good to evil with a keen eye and it didn't feel too sudden like Tomas's was. The tension between Mary and Francis was good but I couldn't help but roll my eyes at him saying, "I'm doing this for France." Francis, please, I thought we were done with this nonsense. As usual, the weak point of the episode was the part on Mary's ladies-in-waiting. The amount of cheese in Henry's display for Kenna was balanced out by the revelation that he is still in love with Diane. AS SUSPECTED! If you can ignore all the usual problems with a Reign episode, this episode is moderately enjoyable.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reign (Episode 5)


Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. 

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Torrance Coombs as Sebastian "Basch"

Mary and Francis have entered into a new phase of their relationship together, where both speak freely to one another like a man to a woman. But things are thrown off course upon the arrival of a young noblewoman named Olivia. While travelling to court, Olivia's carriage was attacked by a pack of mysterious men.

When Mary inquires as to who this Olivia is, Sebastian explains that she was a close confidant of Francis. As it turns out, Olivia and Francis had been intimate before and upon this being discovered, Olivia's marriage with a nobleman falls through. Mary tries to be kind to Olivia but Olivia's hostility ends any chance of them ever being friends. Mary wants to send Olivia away.

Olivia convinces Francis to allow her to stay.This causes tension between his and Mary's relationship. She walks off in a fit of anger, venting it out to Basch. In her rashness, she kisses Sebastian - a kiss that is spotted by Francis.

Basch discovers the corpses of sacrificial victims in the forest and Nostradamus warns him that he has interrupted the ceremony and that terrible consequences will follow. That night he is visited by one of those mysterious men that had attacked Olivia earlier who tells him that another sacrifice is required.

Queen Catherine discovers that Aylee has in her possession a ring that belongs to Mary. Catherine assumes it to be theft and blackmails Aylee into sending Mary's letters to her mother, the Queen of France's way. Little does she know that this is all a ruse of Mary's part to see how deep her future mother-in-law's hatred for her is. Catherine is also behind Olivia's coming to court.

Greer's relationship with the kitchen boy is stalled as she cannot accept her feelings for the other boy due to his lowly status. She tries to find herself a good match but her attention always returns to the kitchen boy. In the end, wanting to live a life free of regrets, Greer accepts the kitchen boy's affections but they must keep their relationship a secret. Mary discovers that Kenna has become Henry's new mistress.

I give this episode 1.5/5. WARNING: I apologize if I come off rather rude- I have now officially dubbed the CW network as "Pretty people doing stupid s---". Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against looking at some eye candy. However, that is probably the last thing I'm looking for in my historical dramas. The darker elements of this episode were eclipsed by the hormonal teenage problems. This episode was very high school drama heavy as we focus on the "The Ex-girlfriend has returned" trope. I find it ironic that Mary constantly says she just wants to be a normal woman and Francis a normal man because the way they are acting, you'd think they were both teenage high school students rather than princes and princesses.

The little subplots of the  ladies-in-waiting is most tedious. Yet another girl to be added to the endless list of girls. Mary's reaction to discovering that Kenna has given herself to Henry is captured in one minute and lacks any of the emotions that would be running through my head after I just learned that one of my friends had compromised themselves. Greer's romance was rather dull. It tried to capture a teenage love-hate relationship but came off as contrived. It's romantic when a guy has to help you wipe out a stain on your dress, it is something else when all he really is doing is swatting your breast. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reign (Episode 4)

Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. 

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Torrance Coombs as Sebastian "Basch"

Tomas is bold in his advances towards Mary, upsetting Francis. Mary wishes to seal the alliance between Portugal and Scotland but King Henry refuses to break off Scotland's commitment to France. He only frees her from this commitment when she agrees to support a witness in the case of Lord Simon against the French Crown for the attempted murder of Sebastian.

Mary and Francis find it hard to fight their growing attraction for one another and they sneak off for an evening rendezvous.When Tomas discovers this, he is furious! He asserts that as Mary's fiance, he now controls her. He is completely changed in his character.

Francis becomes suspicious of Tomas and begins to investigate. He discovers that Tomas had every reason in wanting Basch's venture to fail as he needed Mary to increase his prestige as the future King of Portugal. After receiving a tip from Clarissa, the resident "ghost", Mary begins to think that Simon is actually innocent to the charges laid against him. Her suspicions are confirmed upon closer examination of the witness.

The Dauphin and his half-brother confront Tomas, which becomes violent in its nature. Basch is still recovering from his wounds from last episode so it's up to Francis to stop Tomas. In the ensuing struggle, Francis kills Tomas. This is Francis's first kill and it has clearly upset him.

Lord Simon Westbrook is cleared of all charges. Tomas's death is attributed to a hunting accident where the Prince of Portugal sacrificed his life to save the Dauphin. The alliance with Scotland is renewed with a new player in the mix, Mary, herself. Francis approaches the marriage with thoughts of his happiness as well as France's happiness.

Basch and Lola shared a moment in this episode when she visited him during his recuperation. Greer and her kitchen boy lover steal a kiss during the masked ball. Kenna and the King finally consummate their relationship after some discord over her position as his mistress.

I give this episode 2/5. Every episode so far has featured a new romance. Episode one feature Lola and Colin. Episode 2 was Kenna and King Henry. Episode 3 was Greer and the kitchen boy. Episode 4 features Lola 2.0 and Basch. There are too many characters in this show! It becomes incredibly hard to pay attention to all these little developments especially when it comes to Mary's ladies-in-waiting. Although I will admit, I am glad the "will they, won't they" relationship between Kenna and Henry has been resolved. Don't get me wrong, I still don't approve of their relationship but the writers had stretched that plot point for so long that I was just about as frustrated as Henry was over the situation. 

I "love" how they just gloss over Tomas's death. As if there wouldn't be any investigation into the death of the possible heir to the Portuguese throne. He was killed by a stag, let's accept that as the god given truth despite the fact that it honestly does look like he was stabbed, oh well. I did think that Tomas's transition was a little too sudden because it was never mentioned before but I'll let it slide because it was all "part of the plan."


Friday, November 1, 2013

Reign (Episode 3)


Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. The show continues with the shows slow decline in viewers, with 1.57 million people watching the third episode.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Torrance Coombs as Sebastian "Basch"

Mary and her ladies are sitting in the garden, discussing their first kiss. Greer has yet to have her first kiss but she is hoping to give it to Prince Tomas, the bastard son of the King of Portugal. Their conversation is interrupted by a maid, who informs Mary that her Uncle is in France. Claude de Guise questions his niece as to why she and Francis are not married yet. Scotland needs an alliance to help her protect her borders from England. Mary asks King Henry for military aid but the King refuses, despite his eldest son's pleading.

Mary meets Tomas while he is out on a walk with Greer. Desperate for foreign support, Mary tries to negotiate with Tomas. To her surprise, Tomas proposes to her, promising to offer her military support. Tomas reveals that the King of Portugal plans on legitimizing him, thereby guaranteeing that his offer of marriage to Mary is sound. All of this happens under Greer's nose and so, she goes ahead with her plan to have a romantic midnight picnic with Tomas. She is helped out by a friendly cook in the kitchens.

At the ball that night, Mary and her ladies have their fortunes read by Nostradamus. It does not bode well. Francis becomes upset over Mary dancing with Tomas at the ball. Francis finally convinces his Father to support Mary's cause through the use of blackmail, regarding Henry's relationship with Kenna. Henry sends Sebastian to deliver the message to the troops but the next day, he has returned to the castle, bleeding - something Nostradamus predicted.

Mary and Francis share their first kiss together but Henry has reneged on his support for Scotland. Mary agrees to Tomas's proposal. Heartbroken, Greer shares her first kiss with the cook from earlier.

I give this episode 1/5. Something in this episode that bothered that I never noticed in the earlier episodes was just how terrible the dialogue was. At the beginning of the episode, a little farmer boy comes across an English soldier and offers him breakfast. The soldier's response, "You're gonna need a lot of eggs." WHAT?! I'm sorry, WHAT?! Ahahahahahahahahahhahahaha! Were you trying to be intimidating there? Every time the show tries to give a character a strong tone, it comes off as terrible one liner.

The dialogue comes across incredibly forced and the flirting was absolutely terrible. I don't think the man who plays Prince Tomas is an actor. I think he was an Abercrombie model that the producers hired because he has a "sexy" accent, which will attract all the girls. The plot took itself to a whole new low with the cliched love story between Francis, Mary and Thomas (or a rectangle if you include Basch). The whole legitimizing a bastard concept, simply does not work for me. I know the writers want to connect to their teenage audience but I feel absolutely no sympathy for Kenna because the man she might be having relations with is a married man with children...HER AGE.

At this point in the show, Mary's ladies-in-waitings should never inform Mary of their love lives because Mary will always screw it up! The show's main problem is that it goes between two different genres.  There's Mary's plot in which has a dark, Tudor-esque theme and then you have plot involving her ladies-waitings which is  teenage drama of "Is Lord Bobby gonna ask me out to prom?".  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reign (Episode 2)

Reign is a 2013 TV series, airing on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. The second episode attracted an audience of 1.83 million people.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Caitlin Stasey as Keanna

As it turns out, Collin was not actually executed! He was mistaken for a prisoner set to be tortured so instead, he spends his days on the rack. That is, until he is released by a mysterious hooded figure - the same figure who saved Mary's virtue in the previous episode.

Francis's younger brother, Charles, becomes engaged to Madeleine a french noble, Mary accompanies the two princes when the girl is retrieved. That night, the court is hosting a party in honor of the betrothal. It is there that Mary meets the English ambassador, Simon Westbrook. He is incredibly hostile to Scotland's alliance with France, leading Mary to believe that it was the English, who were behind her attempted rape.

From Charles, Mary learns of the existence of a girl named Clarissa, who lives in the secret passageways of the castle. It was probably she, who saved Mary from certain doom. When Mary returns to her rooms, she notices one of her ladies in waiting wearing her dress. The lady suddenly begins to scream in pain - it is poisoned! When Mary returns with help, there is no body to be found. Mary attempts to obtain information from Clarissa through a game of die. Clarissa gives her the key to Simon's room.

In Simon's bed, Mary finds the lady-in-waiting that was supposedly poisoned. It was all just a ruse on the part of the English to scare Mary out of an alliance with France. He reminds Mary that so long as she and Francis are not married, she is weak and powerless. Mary, however, stands firm against the English threat. Mary and Francis once again talk about the possibility of them marrying.

Colin's body is found by Sebastian in the forest. When Francis arrives, so do dark figures. Basch chants a few magic words and they all disappear into the dense brush. It is a pagan language and Basch reveals that Collin was sacrificed and he warns his half-brother not to go into the woods.

Keanna's and King Henry's relationship has come to a stalemate. Keanna wants to be more than just a mistress, feeling that by giving herself to the King, she would be compromised and unable to find herself a husband. But Henry demonstrates that being the King's favorite could expand her horizons instead of limiting them.

Francis confronts his Mother regarding the many plots against Mary, warning Queen Catherine that she is to leave Mary alone. He and Mary are now united, even though it is not yet in marriage, in order to stand up against her enemies. 

I give this episode 2/5. Perhaps it's because I have grown desensitized to how horrendously wrong this series is but I thought that this episode was better than the last. Having Collin escape, only to have him killed off again was pretty useless, in my opinion. Considering the target audience that the show is intended for and the overall tone of the first episode, I did not expect to see the darker scenes that were featured in this episode and it was a little off putting. I apologize for bashing on the White Queen's use of magic because it was leagues ahead of what Reign is trying to do. I suppose one of the episode's better moments was the developing romance between Francis and Mary - the acting is still terrible though. Will the show ever get a "fresh" rating? I highly doubt it but still, it didn't completely rain on my Thursday night viewing. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reign (Episode 1)


Reign is a 2013 TV series, airing on the CW network, on Mary Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. The show premiered on October 17th to an audience of 1.98 million.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots

Nostradamus has just had a startling premonition on the coming of the arrival of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary has been staying at a convent in France for her protection since the age of 9. After one of the nuns was poisoned, the nuns decide to send Mary to the French court. It is high time that she meet and marry the Dauphin of France.

The French court is abuzz with the upcoming marriage between Princess Elisabeth and Philip II of Spain when Mary arrives with her gaggle of ladies-in-waiting. Mary is greeted by her father-in-law, Henry II of France, accompanied by his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and illegitimate son, Sebastian. When Catherine arrives, Nostradamus tells her the meaning behind his dream; Mary will cause Francis's death. While Mary and Francis get along well, Francis has a mistress that controls his heart. Mary becomes introduced to Sebastian "Basch", after her dog goes missing.

Mary's lady-in-waiting, Lola, is in love with the son of a servant raised high by the name of Collin. They seek permission from Catherine de Medici to marry which Catherine grants, although at an unseen price. Before leaving for the wedding celebrations that night, Mary receives a warning not to drink the wine. Collin is the one to offer it. 

At the wedding, Mary and her ladies-in-waiting, lose their inhibitions and dance the night away. Later that evening, the group sneak in to see the consummation of the marriage. The girls then run off, their emotions having been stirred up from what they have seen. One of her group has a dalliance with King Henry. Mary and Francis have an argument over whether or not love plays a role in their upcoming marriage.

That night, Mary awakes to have Collin standing over her. She screams for help and he is dragged away and executed. Lola is much distressed over the loss of her love and blames Mary for her sorrows. Mary finds solace in Basch, who finds her lost dog. The next day, Mary and Francis get into another argument relating to the matters of the previous night. Francis is close to admitting his feelings but stop shorts.

It is revealed that it is Catherine de Medici and Nostradamus orchestrated the entire plot.

I give this episode 1/5. Let us start off by saying THIS SHOW IS INCREDIBLY HISTORICALLY INACCURATE. The White Queen is the Elizabeth R compared to Reign. There are so many things wrong with this, I do not know where to begin. The clothing and the mannerism are completely wrong. I complete agree with Catherine de Medici when she said, "We've got a bunch of Scots in".  They creates of the show chose to romanticize every character and in doing so ruins any grain of credibility it has. It's only slightly creepy that they painted the wedding night between a 13 year old Elisabeth and 30 some year old Phillip as one filled with passion. Nostradamus was no hunk, Francis was no dashing figure and Basch, the man on horseback, never existed. The forced love triangle was bland and boring. The acting was simply dreadful, absolutely cringe worthy. I will continue to review episodes weekly but I am not optimistic for the future.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ena, Spain's English Queen


Ena, Spain's English Queen is a 1999 biography written by Gerard Noel on Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Queen of Spain

Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Beatrice, was never suppose to marry. She was intended to remain by her mother's side as her constant companion. But things don't always work out as planned. At the wedding of her niece, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by the Rhine, to Prince Louis of Battenberg, Beatrice met and fell in love with the groom's brother, Prince Henry of Battenberg. After much resistance and only after Prince Henry agreed to stay by his mother-in-law's side, Beatrice and Henry were married in 1885. The couple had a total of four children: three sons, Alexander, Leopold, Maurice, and one daughter. Their daughter was born in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and was named Victoria Eugenie (after the last Empress of the French) Julia (after her paternal grandmother, the Countess Julia Hauke) and Ena (due to the fact that she was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria to be born in Scotland). She was known predominantly as Ena.

Victoria Eugenie and her brothers spent their childhood at Windsor Castle, Balmoral and Osborne House on the Isle of Wright where her father was serving as Governor General.. But Henry became frustrated that his life wasn't going any where and persuaded the Queen to allow him to fight in the Ashanti War in 1896. He died after contracting a fever en route. Ena's last letter from her father was him telling her what a wonderful place Spain was. Beatrice was devastated. Tragedy struck again in 1901 when Queen Victoria died. After the Queen's death, the Battenbergs moved to Kensington Palace.

In 1905, King Alphonso XIII of Spain was out in search for a bride. Alfonso was born six months after his father, Alphonso XII's, death. His mother, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, was his father's second wife and a poor replacement for the love of his life, Princess Mercedes of Orleans. Maria Christina served as regent until her son reach his majority in 1902. Now it was time for him to find himself a bride and all bets were pinned on Princess Patricia of Connaught. But despite the King's considerable charms, Patricia was not interested in the King and later married a commoner. Someone who did fall for Alphonso was Ena. He found her to be very beautiful (especially her light blonde hair) and the two began exchanging post cards. Maria Christina was against the match due to the obscure origins of the Battenberg family, her Protestantism and the risk that Victoria Eugenie could be a carrier of hemophilia (Her brother, Leopold, was a hemophiliac). But Alphonso held firm and proposed to the Princess of Battenberg at the Villa Mauriscot. She converted to Catholicism in 1906.

Victoria Eugenie and Alphonso married on May 31, 1906. After the wedding ceremony, an anarchist attempted to assassinate the King and Queen by throwing a bomb at them. The Queen was not harmed but her dress was covered with the blood of the guard who was on the side of the anarchist. Despite the poor start to her tenure as Queen, her marriage to Alphonso seemed to be happy.Within months of the wedding, Ena was pregnant and on May 10, 1907, she gave birth to Alfonso, Prince of the Asturias, or Alfonsito as he was called at home. While the Prince of the Asturias was being circumcised, the doctors noticed that he wouldn't stop bleeding. Alphonshito was a hemophiliac. Alphonso never forgave his wife for infected their children with that cursed gene.

The couple went on to produce seven children in total. Their second son, Jaime, was born perfectly healthy but at the age of four, he suffered from double mastoiditis that left him deaf and mute. Their next son was stillborn. Their last son, Gonzalos, was also a hemophiliac. Of their five sons, only Juan was perfectly healthy. The couple also had two daughters named after their grandmothers, Beatriz and Maria Christina. After the birth of Gonzalo in 1914, relations between the King and Queen were effectively over and the King instead let his eyes wander. The King's indiscretions deeply hurt the Queen, no less the fact that Ena's cousin, Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, was helping procure women for the King. Despite the fact that their marriage was on the whole over, there were period where Alphonso would turn to his wife. His wife would always love him just not with the passion that he wanted.

During the First World War, Spain remained neutral but that didn't stop the tensions between the two different women in Alphonso's life. Maria Christina being born an Archduchess of Austria supported the Alliance while Victoria Eugenie being a grand daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom supported the Entente. This battle for the King's attention had been going on for some time as people who supported the old ways supported the Queen Mother while the younger generation flocked to Ena. This carried on until the Queen Mother's death in 1929 but at that point the couple was passed the point of no return. During the Great War, Ena dedicated herself to nursing, revolutionizing the entire institution in Spain.

The Spanish royal family was exiled on April 14, 1931, after municipal elections brought Republicans into power, leading to the Second Spanish Republic. Victoria Eugenie and Alphonso settled down in Italy but separated from there on out. She would often travel to England for brief spells. Abroad, Ena suffered many hard blows. In 1934, Gonzalo died after being in a car accident with his sister Beatriz. Alphonsito renounced his rights to the Spanish throne, married lower than his rank, divorced her, remarried and divorced the second wife, only to die at the age of 31 in a car accident. The family gathered together in 1938 for the baptism of Juan and his wife, Maria de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, eldest son, Juan Carlos. Alphonso died in 1941 after suffering a heart attack a few days prior.

Juan Carlos married Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark in 1962. Ena stood as godmother to her great-grandson, Infante Felipe. Spain's English Queen died in Lausanne on April 15, 1969. Six years later, Juan Carlos would return to Spain as its King.

I give this book 4/5. If you are unfamiliar with the story of Spain's English Queen, this book is a great starter. Before reading this book, I only had a general idea of who Victoria Eugenie was. Of course I knew that she was a carrier of hemophilia and that Alfonso XIII never forgave her for that but that's about it. In this book, you learn about so much about her namely her resilient character. It's interesting, filled with good information and generally well written. The only problem I had with the author's writing style was that he kept using the third person when referring to himself. After you've seen "the author" for the fifteenth time you can't help but think "You mean 'you'?". But that's just me being nit picky. The book's only flaw is that it doesn't explore Ena's relationship with any of her family members. It centers on her relationship with her husband. I would have loved to know more about her relationship with her mother or her children, especially her two hemophiliac sons. Ena, Spain's English Queen is a great starter that will leave you wanting to know more about this brave Queen. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ludwig&Lohengrin


Ludwig&Lohengrin is a production at the 32nd annual Edmonton Fringe Festival on the life of Ludwig II of Bavaria, either the Dream or Mad King of Bavaria.

The production is written, directed and stars Calgarian, Kyall Rakoz. Rakoz portrays all the characters in the production.

I give this production 4/5. Some of you might not know but lately I have been getting into a couple of internet arguments over how far the liberties of interpretation can go. My argument is that interpretation should be formed from true facts - the blurred lines are where you can open yourself to interpretation, not what is generally assumed aka considered facts. And with in this vain, Ludwig&Lohengrin does it brilliantly. All of the plot points corroborated fully with the knowledge I already have of Ludwig (although some might take this as an indicator of how very little I know of the Dream King of Bavaria - teehee) but it had the right amount of zest to make it come alive. The murky points of the king's insanity and death are done exceptionally well by Rakoz. In fact, the production taught me something new. I had no idea that Duchess Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria fell in love with Edgar Hansfstaengl during her engagement to King Ludwig. Some characters are exaggerated for comedic effect but on the whole, lots of research into the production and it really shows. 

You can tell that Rakoz really tried to get into the mind of Ludwig II - despite the fact that Rakoz never actually plays the character. It's all told from the different perspectives of people that knew him. It is not big production as Rakoz wears twenty first century clothing with only a white sheet to aid him but he manages to pull it off. A minor detail that I could not help but love is that when he portrays a woman he will tie the sheet around his waist. To the average person this would obviously just indicate that he is portraying a woman but for those that know a bit of Victoria fashion, Rakoz actually does make a bustle. 

After asking four friends to go with me to this production, I was at the end of my rope when I decided to ask my friend, Blanche. She was the perfect companion to go with me. During her highschool days, she had gone on the school trip to Europe and that year they went to Bavaria to see Neuschwanstein Castle. After the production was over and we went to go grab a bite to eat, she was telling me all about how accurate his description of the castle was and then she went off recounting how beautiful the castle was. Going with Blanche was an absolutely amazing experience - I really feel that I connected with someone on an intellectual level that day.

It is such a pity that I do not know of any historical drama fans that lives in Edmonton because I would surely recommend this to them and we could call it a fairy tale date.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Shadow of the Tower


The Shadow of the Tower is a historical drama broadcasted on the BBC in 1972. It is based on the reign of Henry VII and the creation of Tudor dynasty.

Norma West as Elizabeth of York


The plot to The Shadow of the Tower is similar to The White Princess but extends pass where the book ends to cover Prince Arthur's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the Prince of Wales's subsequent death, Elizabeth's death in childbirth in 1503, and finally Henry's own death six years later.

I give this historical drama 5/5. This and the White Princess are miles apart. James Maxwell nailed the part of King Henry VII. He had the right amount of paranoia, the cold exterior and even the heartfelt moments. The character of Elizabeth of York was perfect. She put up a bit of resistance at the beginning of the series considering that Henry is of the rival faction but she does warm up to him and you see that they do develop a loving relationship with one another. She was sweet and loving just like you'd expect her to be. Henry's relationship with his mother was spot on, he held in her the highest respect without looking like a man child who has his mother kiss his forehead every night before he goes to sleep.

This TV series is a true testament to the hay days of BBC historical dramas. It is a worthy prequel to Elizabeth R. and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Even when I compare this their current historical drama, The White Queen, I am blown clear out of the water by The Shadow of the Tower. It doesn't have the large budget that The White Queen has but the scenery worked so much better. It was dark and dank and it really worked well in capturing that 16th century look. Like The White Queen, The Shadow of the Tower couldn't support filming a bunch of battle sequences but again this 1972 show got around this problem much better because it had much dialogue. Be forewarned this show is very dialogue heavy so if you like something that is action packed, this isn't the thing for you.

If you are interested in the life of the founder of the Tudor dynasty, skip the Phillipa Gregory book and head straight for this BBC classic.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The White Princess


The White Princess is a 2013 fictional novel written by Philippa Gregory on Princess Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII.

Elizabeth is devastated by the loss of her beloved, her uncle, Richard III of England, at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Years earlier, her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, had made a pact with Margaret Beaufort to marry Elizabeth off to Margaret's Beaufort's son, Henry Tudor. Now that Henry Tudor is king, he honors the pledge he made in 1483 and agrees to marry Elizabeth, although he makes it quite clear that he is the conqueror of England and will not rule jointly with the princess who had a much better claim to the throne than he. Still he must make sure she is fertile and so he rapes her until she is with child. Their first child is born 8 months after their wedding on January 18, 1486. The royal historians had said that Henry was descended from King Arthur identifying Winchester as Camelot. As such, the first Tudor Prince was born there and he named Arthur.

In 1486, only a year after gaining the throne, Henry faced open rebellion by York supporters in the Stafford and Lovell rebellion. Under the leadership Francis Lovell and the Stafford brothers, the rebellion was a failure and ended in the death of the latter two.

Due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, Elizabeth's two brothers, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, their was civil unrest against the Tudor reign by pretenders claiming to be the York heirs. While Henry had spared  Edward "Teddy, 17th Earl of Warwick, son of George, Duke of Clarence, the boy was kept as a prisoner in the Tower of London. Teddy's sister, Margaret "Maggie", was given in marriage to Henry's cousin, Sir Richard Pole, son of his mother's half brother. In 1487, Yorkist, under the command of the Earl of Lincoln, rose up in rebellion against the King in support of Lambert Simnel, who claimed to be Teddy. Despite Henry's attempt at damage control by showing that he had the real Earl of Warwick, Simnel gained traction with Teddy's Aunt, Margaret of Burgundy. Simnel was defeated at the Battle of Stoke where Lincoln was killed. Henry VII pardoned the poor boy and gave him a job in the royal kitchen.

For her participation in the Simnel rebellion, Henry had his mother-in-law placed in Bermondsey Abbey. She died 5 years after entering on June 8, 1492. Elizabeth would name her second daughter and overall third child after her but the child died at the age of 3, 6 months before her younger sister, Mary, was born. Elizabeth already had another daughter named Margaret after the child's grandmother. Henry and Elizabeth would also have two other sons, Henry (1491) and Edmund (1499). As their marriage progressed, the two reached an understanding and slowly became attached to one another.

In 1490, a young flemish man named Perkin Warbeck, appeared and claim the be Richard, Duke of York. Like Simnel before him, he gained the favor of Margaret of Burgundy. Eventually he was able to gain the support of James IV of Scotland, who gave him Katherine of Huntley in marriage. Warbeck landed in Cornwall in 1497 with 6000 men. He promptly fled upon hearing news that Henry's arm was in hot pursuit. Henry had Warbeck arrested and placed in the Tower of London with Teddy. Both tried to escape in 1499 but were subsequently found and brought back. Both were subsequently executed.

I give this book a 1/5. As you all know, I have a youtube channel and I consider myself a romantic of sorts and my videos reflect that. I had been thinking of making a video on Elizabeth of York but after reading this book, that is the last thing I want to do. I had always envisioned Elizabeth of York as this beautiful and sweet York princess but in this book, she just comes off as whiney, mopey and completely unlikable. I was on the fence about the Elizabeth-Richard romance but in this book they went so far as to say that they actually had relations. I was completely turned off the book by the rape of Elizabeth by Henry and perhaps infuriated later when they started to bond together in some bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome. From all the previous readings I have read, Elizabeth and Henry had a very loving relationship and this book just spits in that relationship's face. Henry comes off as a complete monster.that rivals Shakespeare's Richard III. The book itself is incredibly boring, all this commotion happening with none of the tension that comes with fearing the loss of a crown. I understand that these events did actually happen so I am more inclined to blame Gregory's odd writing. I know she can do tension building decently as we've seen in the White Queen but this book was just awful.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The White Queen (TV Series)


The White Queen is a TV series which premiered on  June 16, 2013 on BBC One and began broadcasting in America on August 10, 2013 on the Starz network. Set in the the tumultuous times in the War of the Roses, the series centers around Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville and Margaret Beaufort.


 It is based on the "The Cousins' War" Series by Phillipa Gregory, namely The White Queen, The Red Queen and The King Maker's Daughter.    

I give this TV show a 3/5. Considering the three books this series is based on I am not going to hold the plot against the show because I've already talked about it. What I will say is that I am not a fan of the whole witchcraft thing. As for the acting, the only person who stood out to me was Aneurin Barnard, who made a great Duke of Gloucester. Amanda Hale and James Frain, who played the Earl of Warwick, were not bad either. Fayes Marsay shows herself to be a rising star. Otherwise everyone else was either hit or miss for me.

The characterization and writing was incredibly disappointing. The transition between the beloved York Prince to the "evil" Richard III was so sudden it comes off as unnatural. Isabel Neville flip flopped left and right without there being much need to. Anne Neville goes from "Let's not get carried away calling Elizabeth a witch" to "BURN THE WITCH" in two seconds flat. There was a very weird paradox where Margaret Beaufort was extremely religious and at the same time openly lusting after Jasper Tudor. I was not a fan of the crazy fanaticism either - I understand that Margaret Beaufort was indeed religious but they seemed to have taken it to a whole new level in the first few episodes. Thank goodness they toned it down later on in the series. Needless to say, the characterization was down right bad.

Worst of all was the production value. The sets and costumes were lackluster. I understand that they couldn't afford a ship or 3 battle scenes but I felt they could have done better than just stating, "There was a battle and I am King. Oh wait, he is king. Nope, I am king again. Oops, another battle happened." Edward IV had a slow decline into excess until he started looking  like his grandson, Henry VIII, and how did The White Queen present this? They stuffed a pillow down Max Iron's shirt. None of the rest of him filled out....just his shirt. The funniest scene, in my opinion, was when Edward said, "We are not young, Elizabeth", when they looked exactly as they had in the first episode.

I will take a step back and say that I did enjoy the show to a certain degree and don't regret spending an hour each Sunday to enjoy the latest episode. One perk to the show was that we saw the romance between Richard and Anne, it's one of the few works to feature these two lovebirds. Still, I would only recommend it for people especially interested in the War of the Roses and not just anyone who is looking for a nice period drama. It starts out incredibly rough but gets better and better towards the end.

Stay tuned for my review of the fifth book in the Cousin's War Series The White Princess

Monday, August 5, 2013

Marina: The Story of a Princess


Marina: The Story of a Princess is a 1995 book on Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, later the Duchess of Kent by Sophia Watson.

The story of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark begins in 1863, more than 40 years before her birth, when her grandfather, born Prince William of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and later a Prince of Denmark, was elected as King George of the Hellenes, after King Otho was deposed the previous year. He married Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia four years later and the two went to on to have eight children. The fourth of which was a boy named Nicholas, Marina's father. The Greek Royal family was an incredibly close one, who spent their days at the lovely palace of Tatoi. Their court was said to be one of the most easy going in all of Europe.

On August 29, 1902, Nicholas married Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, the only daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and Princess Marie of Mecklenburg-Scherwin. The couple had three children: Olga, born in 1903, Elisabeth, born in 1904, and the last, being born on December 13, 1906, was Marina. Marina was very close with her two sisters as well as her parents although her maternal needs were filled more by her English nanny, Mrs. Fox, than anyone else.

George was a good king and led the nation to dramatically increase its size during the first Balkan War. Nearing the fiftieth anniversary of his ascension, George was killed by an alcoholic anarchist. The future kings of the Hellenes would not be quite so lucky. Nicholas's elder brother, Constantine, succeeded the throne in 1913, making his German born wife, Princess Sophie of Prussia, queen. When the first world war broke out in 1914, conflict broke out between Prime Minister Venizelos and the King over Greece's position in the war. Venizelos wanted to join the side of the allies while Constantine believed in maintaining neutrality. The Prime Minister began a smear campaign against the King saying that he was actually pro-German on account that his wife was sister to the Kaiser. Constantine was exiled in 1917, making his second son, Alexander, King of Greece.

Prince and Princess Nicholas followed the ex-King into exile in France. Their exile from Greece and the Russian Revolution put a dent in the Nicholas' purse but Elena was able to live glamorously on a reduced budget, something that she later passed on to Marina. The family lived off of the sales of Elena's jewels and Nicholas's paintings as their only source of income.

After the death of Alexander from a monkey bite in 1920, Constantine was restored to the throne, bringing the entire Greek royal family back with him. His reign would end two years later when after military failure against the Turks, he was once again exiled, making his eldest son George II of the Hellenes. He died only 4 months after his second exile. In 1923, Olga married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia. He would become regent of Yugoslavia when in 1934, his cousin, Alexander I of Serbia, was assassinated in Marseille, leaving his 11 year old son, Peter, king at the age of 11. Elizabeth married Karl Theodor, Count of Toerring-Jettenbach "Toto" in 1934.

In 1932, Princess Marina met Prince George, Duke of Kent, fifth child of George V of the United Kingdom and Mary of Teck. George experienced a rather stunted childhood as neither his Mother or Father were of a parental sort. He was however close to his brothers: Edward, Albert and Henry. Marina and George became engaged in 1934 and they married in November of that year. The couple enjoyed a 5 month honeymoon. While Marina was very much in love with George, he eventually did stray and it was a constant humiliation to the proud Princess to endure all of his affairs. Marina, by this point, had already become beloved by the British people.

On January 20, 1936, George V died, making his eldest son Edward VIII. Marina had had a good relationship with her father-in-law and a decent one with her eldest brother-in-law. Edward's reign lasted less than a year as he abdicated on December 11, 1936, after being barred as king to marry his mistress, the divorcee, Wallis Simpson. His younger brother, Albert "Bertie", took the name George for his reign. Marina had a cordial relationship with the new King's wife, born Elizabeth of Bowes-Lyon, but felt herself slightly superior because she was born a Princess and didn't just marry into the title. Same with Prince Henry's wife, born Alice Montagu Douglas Scott.

In 1939, Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. Marina threw herself headlong into the war effort. In 1941, Prince Paul signed a pact with Nazi Germany in order to try a preserve Yugoslav in face of Hitler's threats. This pact did not sit well with the Yugoslavian army and he was exiled within two days of its signing. Paul, Elizabeth and their family were exiled to British Kenya.

George died at the age of 39 in 1942 in an airplane crash. Marina was devastated. She had had three children by George: Edward, Alexandra and Michael, the last of which was born only 7 weeks previous. George VI had to the good sense to bring Elizabeth over from Kenya to help comfort her sister. Although she was still very much broken up over her husband's death, Marina eventually returned to work. Marina, who relied on her husband for everything, now had to rely on herself alone. While she was not poor, she was far from well off and had to live scrupulously. But that did not stop her from being the fashionista that she was before George's death.

Marina died on August 27, 1968, at the age of 61. She died leaving behind her three children, two of whom were now married and with children of their own. Marina was an active member of the royal family, who won respect from all that knew her.

I give this book a 1.5/5. The book is roughly 45% on Princess Marina and 55% on something else. The book went into huge detail on the Greek and British Royal Family. Do not misunderstand me, I have nothing against a little back story, it's always a necessary. And even afterwards, if an event was mentioned, huge detail was put into the event and only stated that Marina was there and not how she felt about the situation in more than one sentence. But there was just way too much and as such Marina's story lost out on book space. Not that there was much to work with considering that the author skipped roughly fifteen years of the Duchess's life.  Her death came suddenly and was just glossed over, more time was spent on her funeral than anything else. Another huge flaw with the story was that it barely explored any of the relationships Marina had with her family. There was more written on Marina's relationship with her mother-in-law than with her husband. It does not go into any detail on George's extra marital relations both heterosexual and homosexual. She was only upset by, that's it folks. Choose another book instead of you are really interested in the life of this glamorous Princess because I found it empty, hollow and ultimately not worth my time.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Madness of Queen Maria: The Remarkable Life of Maria I of Portugal


The Madness of Queen Maria; The Remarkable Life of Maria I of Portugal is a book is a 2009 book written by Jennifer Roberts on Maria the Pious, otherwise known as Maria the Mad of Portugal.

On January 19, 1729, Infante Joseph of Portugal, eldest surviving son of King Joao V of Portugal and Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, married Infanta Mariana Victoria, the one time fiancee of Louis XV of France. After five years of marriage, Mariana Victoria gave birth to her first child, a girl. She was later christened, Maria Francesca Isabel Josepha Antonia Gertrude Rita Joana, and given the title of Princess of Beira by her grandfather. Joseph and Mariana Victoria would have a further four daughters. The Princess of Beira was raised in the incredibly religious Portuguese court, which was one of the strictest courts in Europe.

In 1750, Maria's grandfather died as a result of a series of strokes and her father became King Joseph I of Portugal. Whereas Joao took control of the government and made himself an absolute monarch, his son handed over his power to the Marquis of Pombal. The Marquis's aggressive policies and anti-religious laws made him so unpopular with the aristocracy that a conspiracy was hatched among the high nobility to murder the king and his adviser.When the plot was discovered, Pombal used this as an excuse to get rid of the Tavora family and to dispel the Jesuits. Plombal's control over the King was so great that even his eldest daugther's pleas were ignored.

In 1755, the Lisbon Earthquake hit Portugal, killing roughly 100 000 people. The Rebeira Royal Palace, Maria's birthplace, was destroyed in the quake. Afterwards, Joseph developed a severe case of claustrophobia and the court was moved to a new palace on the hills of Ajuda.

Maria was age 25 in 1760, high time for a Princess to be married but as heiress to the Portuguese throne she could not simply to married off to some foreign prince. A solution was found in Joseph's younger brother, Pedro. Maria married her uncle on June 6, 1760, her groom was 42. Despite the age gap, the couple experienced a happy marriage. Maria gave birth to her first child the very next year and it was named Jose after her father thus securing the succession. He was later created Prince of Brazil. They would have 5 further children: two Joao's born in two successive years that died a month after being born. A third Joao would be born in 1767 who did indeed survive childhood. His birth was followed by 3 daughters, only the eldest, named Maria Anna Victoria, survived infancy.

Following the example set by his Mother, the Prince of Brazil married his Aunt, Benedita, in 1777, when he was 15 and she was 30. The marriage was the express wish of his grandfather. King Joseph died only 3 days later. Maria was the undisputed queen of Portugal and although Pedro was also made King, it was in fact she that ruled. Her first act as queen was to rid the court of Plombal, a move that made her immensely popular. And so it was that for the first decade of Maria's reign, she was much loved by her people and regarded as a wise and good queen.

From 1785 onwards, things only went downhill for Maria. In this year, a double marriage by the Queen Dowager between Joao and Infanta Carlota of Spain and Maria Anna Victoria and Infante Gabriel. It was in 1786 that she began exhibiting the first signs of madness. It was also in this year that Pedro died. Poor Maria was devastated by her beloved husband's death and forbade court entertainments. Fate dealt the queen another hard blow when in 1788, her eldest son died of smallpox. He and Benedita did not have any children despite the Princess having 2 miscarriages. Maria Anna Victoria, her husband and her one of her two sons died of the same disease in that same year. Maria brought over Maria Anna Victoria's remaining child, Pedro Carlos, to live in Portugal and raised as a Portuguese Infante. His death and that of Maria Anna Victoria brought their mother further into the depths of insanity and by 1792 she was deemed incapable of ruling. Jose's successor, his younger brother, Joao, became regent for his mentally incapacitated Mother.

At the turn of the century, the threat of Napoleon loomed large on the Iberian Peninsula. After some antagonizing on the part of the Spanish with French backing and the urging of the British, the entire Portuguese fled to Brazil in 1808. Maria could be heard screaming the entire boat ride. In 1810, Pedro Carlos married Joao's eldest daughter, Teresa, Princess of Beira. They had one son, born in 1811. Pedro Carlos died the very next year. Carlota, wild and uncontrollable, would always be a source of trouble for the family. Maria I died in 1816 in Rio De Janeiro without ever having returns to Portugal. Her son became Joao VI of Portugal, Brazil and the Algraves.

The Braganza's returned back home in 1821 whereupon Carlota began stirring up trouble by supporting her second son, Miguel's, claim to the Portuguese throne.

I give this book a 2/5. I finished the book in one reading, it is a rather short book. I feel the book was rather empty and that it had about as much information as what I would find in a compilation of a bunch of wikipedia articles (although no doubt it might contributed to said articles). For a book on the "madness" of Queen Maria it does not go into any depth about what might have been the cause of Maria's insanity. It simply dates the time and place things happened which might have been why it was quite dull to me.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Princesse of Versaille: The Life of Marie Adelaide of Savoy

Princesse of Versailles: The Life of Marie Adelaide of Savoy is a 1992 biography, written by Charles Elliot, on the life of Marie Adelaide, Duchess of Bourgogne.

In 1684, King Louis XIV of France arranged a marriage between his 14 year old niece, Anne Marie of Orleans, Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. Anne Marie fell madly in love her husband upon their first meeting but he would always be cold distant towards his wife, himself having many mistresses.Anne Marie's first child was born on December 6. 1685 and named Marie Adelaide. Anne Marie disliked the hedonistic lifestyle of the Savoy court and instead opted for a more relaxed environment with Marie Adelaide and her younger sister, Maria Luisa, at Vigno di Madama.

As a result of the Treaty of Turin in 1696, Marie Adelaide became engaged to Louis XIV's grandson. The Treaty of Turin was an agreement by Victor Amadeus and the Sun King for the former's support in the Nine Years' War. The Duke of Savoy was famous for his perpetual shifting in allegiances. It was decided that Marie Adelaide would come to France, despite her younger age, in order to transition from a Princess of Savoy to a French one.  Louis XIV and his secret wife, Madame de Maintenon, became enraptured with the darling Princess the moment they laid eyes on her. Marie Adelaide was educated at the Maison Royale de Saint-Louis, a girl's school founded by Madame de Maintenon.

Marie Adelaide's intended was Louis, Duke of Bourgogne, the son of the Grand Dauphin and Marie Anne Victoria of Bavaria. As a child, the Duke was incredibly difficult with no respect for anyone whatsoever. It was thanks to his tutor Francois Fenelon that he was able to become the serious minded heir that France needed. Marie Adelaide and Louis married on December 7,1697, when the bride was 12. Because of the Princess's young age, the marriage was left unconsummated for 2 years, very much like it was before they were married. But the limited time that they had together was enough for Louis to become smitten. He nicknamed his wife "Draco", the latin word for Dragon.

The Duchess of Bourgogne's presence at court was like a breath of fresh air as she was able to bring happiness and mirth to the aged King. She developed a love for theater and did a few amateur productions where her husband even chimed in. But her great love was gambling. Again her husband joined in on the fun but after Marie Adelaide fell deathly ill, his conscience kicked in and he abstained from the gambling tables henceforth. Despite Bourgogne's intense love for his wife, Marie Adelaide did not necessarily reciprocate his feelings because she found his piety rather boring. Both husband and wife had a deep love of practical jokes and unfortunately for the husband, he was sometimes be his wife's poor victim.

 Because of his deep piety, Bourgogne, with all of his amorous Bourbon tendencies, never strayed from his wife and in fact had a terror of his wife's ladies-in-waiting. One night Marie Adelaide announced loudly to the court that she was set to retire for the night. Her husband followed close on her heels. Once inside the room, Marie Adelaide had a friend of hers jump into the bed with the covers of her head while the Duchess hid behind the curtains. When the Duke of Bourgogne entered the room, he blew out the candle and quickly went to work. When things were getting heated, Marie Adelaide jumped out from the behind her curtains and accused him of cheating on her. The Duke was at first flabbergasted but soon after that became very mad and began to beat the hapless lady in his bed. All the while his wife laughed in the background.

After a previous pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, Marie Adelaide gave birth to her first child, given the title of the Duke of Brittany, in 1704.The short lived younger Louis died a year later of convulsions. His death devastated his parents and the Duke and Duchess of Bourgogne became closer as a result. The next Duke of Brittany was born in 1707 much to France's joy. Another son was born in 1710, given the title of the Duke of Anjou, and he would prove to be his Mother's favorite. With two boys in the stray, the Bourbon dynasty seemed secure far into the future.

In 1700, the Duke of Bourgogne's younger brother, Phillip, whom Bourgogne was especially close with, became King of Spain. Another contender for the Spanish throne was Archduke Charles of Austria (later Holy Roman Emperor). The ensuing battle for the Spanish crown would be known as the War of Spanish Succession. In 1708, Bourgogne was given command of the army in Flanders. His command left him in conflict with Louis Joseph, Duke of Vendome, one of the greatest French commanders of all time, whom Bourgogne later brought disgrace too.

 It was the longest of their many separations and Bourgogne wrote faithfully to his wife daily. And at first, Marie Adelaide replied with equal earnest (She once wrote a letter to him in her blood which delighted him beyond belief) but it was during this time that the Duchess of Bourgogne began intriguing with two separate gentlemen. Her relationship with said men probably never progressed beyond flirting but none the less tongues began to wag. Even Bourgogne noted that something was wrong when her letters to him became less and less frequent. The affair ended when things got out of hand at the intervention of Madame de Maintenon. One of the gentlemen she was involved with would later commit suicide.

The Duke of Bourgogne's return from the front caused the relationship between the couple to change. Now Marie Adelaide began to appreciate her husband's steadfastness and soon she returned his feelings for her with full force. The couple and their young family was happy. In 1711, le Grand Dauphin died, aged 49. making Bourgogne and his wife only a step away from the throne. As the new Dauphine, Marie Adelaide began to settle down on her wild gambling and partying lifestyle, trying to set a good example for the court. The court traveled to Fontainbleau in early 1712. It was there that Marie Adelaide became ill. It turned out to be the measles. She succumbed to the disease on February 12, 1712. Her husband was absolutely distraught. He had already caught the disease and died less than a week later. The Duke of Brittany soon followed his parents to the grave. Only little Anjou survived because his governess had locked him in a room to spare him from the doctors. If Bourgogne was devastated by Marie Adelaide's death, it was nothing compared to The Sun King's reaction. The bright light of his life was gone now and for the next two years Versaille was in despair.

Anjou became Louis XV of France on September 1, 1715.

I give this book 4.5/5. I've already made a Youtube Video on Marie Adelaide but I still didn't know that much about her. This book really opens my eyes to who this wonderful woman really was. I'm a sucker for royal romances and while I was glad to share their love in my video, I don't think I properly captured the couple's dynamics. It wasn't just a boy meets girl and they fall in love (although it certainly was that way for Bourgogne), it was more complicated than that and that's what made it beautiful to me. While the book starts off a little boring and the Treaty of Turin lasted roughly a chapter when the books starts exploring Marie Adelaide's relationship with her husband that's when it hits its stride. I must admit that by the end the book had me tearing up a little.