Monday, September 28, 2009
Her name may sound like a sneeze but she was one of the most successful and powerful rulers of Egypt. Although Hatshepsut (or Hatchepsut) was not the first woman to rule Egypt, she was the first to rule in the guise of a man. The ancestress of Tutankhamen has left as many questions as to her reign as there are answers. The regent for her step-son nephew Thutmose III, what was it that made her decide to seize power? Did she have an affair with Senenmut, her chief advisor? And lastly led to the almost total destruction of her name and image after her death?
Even the dates of her life and her reign are subject to debate but the ones that fit are 1479 BC- 1458 BC. The only thing that we do know for sure is that she was the fifth Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty which united Egypt after almost 100 years of foreign rule by the Hyksos. Hatshepsut was the oldest daughter of Thutmose I, a general who had married into the royal line. At the age of 12, she married her half-brother Thutmose II to fortify the royal lineage. However, they had only one child, a daughter named Neferure. Another minor wife, Isis, would provide the heir.
Thutmose II didn’t reign long; he may have died of heart disease at a young age. No one is sure how old Hatshepsut was when he died. She may have been anywhere from 15-20 years old. Since his son, Thutmose II was only a kid; Hatshepsut assumed control as regent until he came of age. This was common in Egypt for a Queen mother or former Queen to take control as regent until the heir came of age. During her husband’s reign, Hatshepsut had apparently been a model consort. Images of her at the time show her in her rightful place behind her husband. She was given the title of ‘Great Royal Wife,’ a new title that was unique to the 18th dynasty.
In the beginning, Hatshepsut acted on her step-son’s behalf. She was careful to abide by the conventions of previous Queen Regents. Soon there were signs that things were going to be a little different. After seven years, she ‘assumed’ the role of Pharaoh. She didn’t rule completely on her own. Thutmose III was named her co-regent, but effectively she was the power in Egypt for the next 21 years. Her daughter Neferure took on the role of consort, performing the same duties that her mother had done during her husband’s reign. Why did Hatshepsut take on the role of Pharaoh? Some historians used to believe that Hatshepsut seized power for herself, that she was ruthless and full of ambition. That she was a wicked step-mother who pushed the rightful ruler aside. Contemporary historians believe that there might have been a threat, perhaps from a minor branch of the royal family or from an outside threat that led her to believe that she needed to solidify the monarchy by taking power.
Hatshepsut took the new name Maatkare. From now on all images of Hatshepsut would be in her new role as Pharaoh, wearing male clothes and the false ‘beard of wisdom.’ Hatshepsut gained the support of powerful men at court, including Senenmut, who was a triple threat, serving as chief steward, architect and tutor to her daughter Neferure. Senenmut’s role in Hatshepsut’s reign appears to have been controversial. He was a commoner who rose to great power. There is no proof one way or the other that they were lovers, but if they were, it would explain why after her death, so much effort was made to remove her reign from official documents.
During her reign, Hatshepsut was one of the greatest builders in Egyptian history. She raised and renovated temples and shrines from Sinai to Nubia. Vast amounts of Karnak temple appear to have been built by Hatshepsut as well as the Deir el Bahri temple. She commissioned hundreds of statues of herself and left accounts in stone of her reign, even her thoughts and hopes. She established trading relationships that had been lost during the occupation by the Hyksos, and brought great wealth to Egypt. Her reign was a time of peace and prosperity for Egypt. While her father and step-son were great generals, Hatshepsut felt no need to go out and conquer new territory but she was fully prepared to protect Egypt’s territories from foreign invasion. She oversaw the preparations and funding for a mission to the Land of Punt. The Egyptians returned from the voyage bearing thirty-one live frankincense trees, the roots of which were carefully kept in baskets for the duration of the voyage. It is reported that Hatshepsut had these trees planted in the courts of her Deir el Bahi mortuary temple complex.
Her step-son’s education was not neglected. He was trained as a soldier, and Hatshepsut put him in charge of the army. Contrary to the myth that Thutmose III resented Hatshepsut, he seemed content to allow Hatshepsut to rule. He could have staged a military coup, but he didn’t. Although there is some evidence that Hatshepsut was training her daughter Neferure for power, perhaps because Thutmose II had died young, there is no evidence that she planned to replace Thutmose III with her daughter. Some historians believe that Hatshepsut married her daughter to Thutmose III, but there is no evidence of this, although it is clear that Neferure possibly died before the end of her mother’s reign. If she and Thutmose III were married, they had no children, because his heir Amenhotep was born of another wife.
While there have been rumors that perhaps Thutmose III or other enemies might have had Hatshepsut murdered, Hatshepsut actually died due to an abscessed tooth. She was perhaps in her late forties or early fifties when she died. Historians have long believed that Thutmose III in an act of revenge after her death removed Hatshepsut’s name from the historical record. However due to new evidence, it appears that her name wasn’t removed until the end of Thutmose III’s reign, when he was co-regent with his son and heir Amenhotep II. Not only did Thutmose III remove images of Hatshepsut he also claimed many of her accomplishments for his son. This was done probably in an attempt to have the record read that the throne had come down to Amenhotep II in a strictly patrilineal line. Images of Hatshepsut as Queen however were kept.
In 1903, Howard Carter of later King Tut fame excavated her tomb in the Valley of Kings but her mummy was not found. In March 2006, Zahi Hawass, a leading archeologist, claimed that Hatshepsut’s mummy had been found, it had been misplaced in a Cairo Museum.
There is still much we may never know about Hatshepsut but her name and her reign as one of Egypt’s most powerful and important Pharaoh’s has been restored.
Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh - Joyce Tyldesley, Penguin, 1996
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Thanks to Marie at The Burton Review for alerting me to this book. I'm writing a chapter on Elizabeth I for Scandalous Women and I was looking for research books about her that I haven't already read. This book so far is only out in the UK and Tracy Borman doesn't have on her site yet when the book might be out in the US. After reading an article that Tracy wrote about the book in the September issue of the BBC History Magazine, I wanted to read it even more but ordering books from the UK can get expensive even though the book is on offer at Amazon.co.uk for 11 pounds and on the BBC History Magazine site for 15 pounds. But then I remembered that, wait a minute, I could write it off on my taxes as a research expense! So I caved. If you read the description of the book you can see why.
"Elizabeth I was born into a world of women. As a child, she was served by a predominantly female household of servants and governesses, with occasional visits from her mother, Anne Bolyen, and the wives who later took her place. As Queen, Elizabeth was constantly attended by ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor who clothed her, bathed her and watched her while she ate. Among her family, it was her female relations who had the greatest influence: from her sister Mary, who distrusted and later imprisoned her, to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who posed a constant and dangerous threat to her crown for almost thirty years. Despite the importance of women in Elizabeth's life, most historians and biographers have focused on her relationships with men. She has been portrayed as a 'man's woman' who loved to flirt with the many ambitious young men who frequented her court. Yet it is the women in her life who provide the most fascinating insight into the character of this remarkable monarch. With them she was jealous, spiteful and cruel, as well as loyal, kind and protective. She showed her frailties and her insecurities, but also her considerable shrewdness and strength. In short, she was more human than the public persona she presented to the rest of the court. It is her relationships with women that hold the key to the private Elizabeth.
In this original chronicling of the life of one of England's greatest monarchs, historian Tracy Borman explores Elizabeth's relationships with the key women in her life. Beginning with her mother and the governesses and stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley and the inspirational Katherine Parr, "Elizabeth's Women" sheds new light on her formative years. Elizabeth's turbulent relationships with her rivals are examined: from her sister, 'Bloody' Mary, to the sisters of Lady Jane Grey, and finally the most deadly of all her rivals, Mary, Queen of Scots who would give birth to the man Elizabeth would finally, inevitably have to recognize as heir to her throne. It is a chronicle of the servants, friends and 'flouting wenches' who brought out the best - and the worst - of Elizabeth's carefully cultivated image as Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, in the glittering world of her court."
I've been looking for a different angle to take on Elizabeth, and this book will certainly help. I have to admit that after looking at Tracy Borman's site that I'm jealous that she's doing so many events with historian Alison Weir.
Also, if you go to the BBC History Magazine site, you can read Tracy's guide to Showtime's The Tudors, as well as listen to a podcast of Tracy talking about the book.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The film opened in 1916 at Steiglitz's gallery Studio 291. Without her knowledge, Steiglitz is showing several of her drawings without permission. She berates him and they argue about his actions. He convinces her that she has an amazing talent that should be shared with the world. He offers her his niece's apartment in NY, which she accepts reluctantly. She worries that there are strings attached to the offer, especially since Steiglitz is a married man with a child.
Steiglitz photographs O'Keeffe as they ket to know each other. At a society part, she meets art patron Mabel Dodge Luhan (played by Tyne Daly) among other luminaries of the literary/art world scene such as African-American writer Jean Toomer. After the party, Steiglitz and O'Keeffe become lovers. After being caught inflagrante delicto by his wife, Steiglitz leaves her and moves in with O'Keeffe. Soon they are married.
At an exhibition of Steiglitz's photography, Georgia discovers that he has included several nude photos of her, and worries that it will ruin her career as an artist (FACT: during this exhibition, O'Keeffe was not identified as the model in these photos at her request). They argue. Steiglitz meets a younger woman named Dorothy Norman and starts an affair with her, which hurts Georgia. She runs of with her friend Beck Strand to stay with Mabel Dodge Luhan in New Mexico where she is renewed and inspired in her art. Georgia spends increasing amounts of time in New Mexico which pisses off Steiglitz. They argue about her taking a commission to do a mural for Radio City Music Hall. She has a nervous breakdown and retreats back to New Mexico. Steiglitz has a heart attack which brings her back to NY. Georgia finally makes a break with Steiglitz and goes out to New Mexico for good (FACT: O'Keeffe didn't move permanently to New Mexico until 3 years after her husband's death. She generally spent half the year in New Mexico and half the year in New York.)
I wish I could give a wholehearted thumbs up to this film. It follows the usual biopic formula, boy meets girl, they fall in love, they fight, she creates art, he gets jealous, they break-up. The movie makes it seem as if Steiglitz and O'Keeffe fell in love instantaneously but in reality, Georgia went back to Texas to her teaching job after the exhibition in NY, and she and Steiglitz exchanged letters for a year before she finally decided to move to NY. Although Steiglitz did leave his wife soon after he and O'Keeffe became lovers, it took six years before they married, since his wife fought the divorce.
The movie is at its most interesting when it deals with O'Keeffe creating, particularly the scenes in New Mexico when she is exposed to a whole different way of thinking about art, and her work moves in a new direction. The least successful scenes are the ones where O'Keeffe and Steiglitz are fighting about his affairs, they smack of really bad soap writing. From my research, it was well known in the art world that Steiglitz was a womanizer, and he preferred relationships with much younger women. O'Keeffe was 28 when she met Steiglitz and he was 52 (which is glossed over in the movie). Dorothy Norman was not the first affair that he had while married to O'Keeffe. He had an affair with Beck Strand, wife of his friend Paul Strand. O'Keeffe ignored it because she felt it didn't interfere with their relationship.
More successful are the scenes where they argue over Georgia's career. During their marriage, Steiglitz staged an exhibition every year of O'Keeffe's paintings which had to be rough on her creatively. He definitely controlled every aspect of her career. The biopic could have made more of the fact that O'Keeffe's career began to eclipse his as he spent less time on his photography and more time promoting her as well as other artists.
As for the acting, Joan Allen is quite good as O'Keeffe. She resembles her slightly (although much thinner) and was wholly credible in the scenes where she is shown painting. Jeremy Irons on the other hand comes off less well. The role of Steiglitz is written as a cranky, selfish, willful, whiny old man. No one ages in this film, even though the film spans 30 years, until the end when we see an older Georgia in her studio in New Mexico. At times, the viewer has no idea what year it is either.
Still, if even one viewer, heads out to a museum to see a Georgia O'Keeffe painting, or to seek out photos of her work, the film will have done it's job.
Sorry I'm so late with this but I have been a little busy lately! Anyway without further ado, the winner of the Daughter of Kura giveaway is:
Meeno, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address, so that I can send you the book.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Zenobia was born in Palmyra in what is now present day Syria. It was a city of 150,000, smack dab in the middle of where several key trade routes intersected, which allowed them to collect huge taxes, a right the Palmyrans earned by being a buffer between Rome and the Persian Empire.
We don't know much about Zenobia's early childhood or her family. Her father was probably a wealthy merchant and her mother possibly Egyptian. Zenobia's Latin name was Septima Zenobia and her Aramaic name Bat Zabbai. Of course, later historians came up with fanciful tales of Zenobia growing up as a tomboy. When she was 15, she was married off to a King of Palmyra Septimius Odaenathus in 258 as his second wife. Odaenthus had proved himself in service to the Empire, fighting against the Persians.
Zenobia was described by contemporary historians as 'beautiful, chaste, and clever.' She apparently had long black hair, dark eyes, teeth that shone like pearls and dark skin. Zenobia loved hunting and riding her horses, she spoke several languages and was learned enough to be able to discuss philosophy with the great minds of the day. Like many Scandalous Women, she had no use for the company of women, finding them trivial, she preferred to hang out with the boys, riding, hunting and drinking on occassion with her officers. Historians also claimed that Zenobia only allowed her husband into her bed to procreate, and once that was achieved she denied him her bed until it was time to make another baby. She and Odaenathus managed to have at least three children during their short marriage.
In 267 or 266, Odaenathus was mysteriously assassinated, possibly by his nephew Maeonius, who was pissed off that he had been punished for insubordination. Odaenathus's heir, Zenobia's step-son, Hairan was also killed as well. Zenobia had barely put on her widow's weeds before she took the iniative to seize power, ostensibly in her son Valballathus' name who was just a baby at the time. Zenobia said that she was trying to protect the Eastern Roman Empire for the peace of Rome, however, her efforts significantly increased the power of her throne. Claiming descent from Cleopatra and Dido, Queen of Carthage, Zenobia marched into Egypt in 269, and took control. The Roman prefect of Egypt, Tenagino Probus and his army, tried to expel her from Egypt, but Zenobia's forces captured and beheaded Probus. She then proclaimed herself Queen of Egypt.
Zenobia soon became known as a "Warrior Queen". In leading her army, she displayed significant prowess: she was an able horse rider and would walk three or four miles with her foot soldiers. Zenobia continued to increase her power by moving into Asia minor, as far as Ankara, moving onto to Lebanon and Palestine. In her short lived empire, Zenobia took the vital trade routes in these areas from the Romans. At the time, the Roman Emperor Aurelian was busy in Gaul (France) and wasn't really paying too much attention to what was going down. It wasn't until Zenobia decided to declare Palmyra independent of Rome that the sh*t hit the fan.
Aurelian wasn't about to take that lying down, particularly from a woman. At the final smackdown in 274, Aurelian beat Zenobia's forces but it took him at least two battles to do it. Zenobia was captured attempting to flee to seek help from the Persians. As a punishment, Aurelian forced her to walk through Rome in a parade featuring bears, tigers and other wild animals, wearing enough gold jewelry to outfit every rapper in the Middle East.
Despite her humiliation, unlike her noble ancestors Cleopatra and Dido, Zenobia still came out on top. Aurelian was impressed by her beauty and dignity. She negotiated a sweet little deal with Aurelian, which gave her a villa for herself and her kids near Tivoli. Zenobia married again to a Roman senator, had several daughters, and lived out the rest of her days in comfort as a prominent philosopher, socialite and Roman matron.
During her short-lived reign, Zenobia was known as a good ruler. She treated both Jews and Christians alike with dignity and respect. When she wasn't off conquering territory, she was establishing Palmyra as an intellectual center of learning, inviting prominent scholars and men of letters to her court. Whose to say what Palmyra could have become if Zenobia had been allowed to keep on ruling or if she had been content to have Palmyra just remain a small cog in the wheel of the Roman Empire. Instead Zenobia was ambitious for her country and longed to see it take what she considered its rightful place as a major power. And she almost succeeded. What is remarkable about Zenobia's story is how fascinated historians were by her story at the time. And she continues to fascinate writers to this day.
Warrior Queens - Antonia Fraser
Beloved, by Bertrice Small
Zenobia (2005), by Haley Elizabeth Garwood
The Chronicle of Zenobia: the Rebel Queen (2006), by Judith Weingarten
Monday, September 14, 2009
Author of the blog scandalouswoman.blogspot.com Elizabeth K. Mahon's SCANDALOUS WOMEN, an intriguing look at the tumultuous lives of some of history's most fascinating and notorious women, to Jeanette Shaw at Perigee, for publication in 2011, by Erin Niumata at Folio Literary Management (World).
Yes, Scandalous Women will be a book coming out in March 2011. I'm very excited about it and I can't wait for it to come out. What this means for the blog is up in the air at the moment. The manuscript is due to the publisher in March 2010, which means that while I'm working on the manuscript, I probably won't be blogging as regularly for awhile.
I hope to keep blogging at least once a week, but be patient with me, if a week goes by without a post.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
The 1937 movie starring Bette Davis called Jezebel depicts a spoiled and scheming Southern Belle who embarrasses her fiancee and family by wearing a scandalous red dress to a ball. She later redeems herself by going with her former fiancees who is suffering from yellow fever into quarantine.
In the Bible, she is depicted as a scheming, manipulative woman who leads the northern kingdom of Israel into ruin by inflicting her worship of heathen gods on the nation. But was this truth or fiction? In Lesley Hazelton's biography Jezebel, The Untold Story of the Bible's Harlot Queen, a different picture emerges not just of Jezebel but of the era of the two kingdoms Israel and Judea.
From the coverflap:
There is no woman with a worse reputation than Jezebel, the ancient queen who corrupted a nation and met one of the most gruesome fates in the Bible. Her name alone speaks of sexual decadence and promiscuity. But what if this version of her story, handed down to us through the ages, is merely the one her enemies wanted us to believe? What if Jezebel, far from being a conniving harlot, was, in fact, framed? Here at last is the real story of the rise and fall of this legendary woman—a radically different portrait with startling contemporary resonance in a world mired once again in religious wars.
It helps if one is familiar with the biblical story before reading Jezebel, although Hazelton does a magnificent job of telling the story. In a nutshell, Jezebel was a foreign princess, a Phoenician from the island city-state of Tyre who is married off to Ahab, the King of the northern Kingdom of Israel. It was a dynastic marriage, giving Israel access to international trade routes. Ahab is tolerant of Jezebel's polytheistic beliefs, which include worship of the gods Baal and Astarte, which brings down the wrath of Yahweh and his prophet Elijah.
Elijah and Jezebel struggle for power. He challenges 450 prophets of Baal to a test, and exposes their god as powerless, and then has them slaughtered which brings down Jezebel's wrath upon him. He flees Israel but not before he issues a fatwa against Ahab. After Ahab's death, Jezebel rules as Queen Mother until her son Ahaziah is old enough to rule on his own. When he is killed in battle, she rules through her other son Jehoram. However, Jezebel now has a new enemy in Elijah's successor Elisha. Like Cleopatra after her, Jezebel goes to her death like a Queen. Dressed to the nines, and heavily made-up, she sits on a chair out on her balcony to await her death, which is pretty horrific. She is torn apart by dogs until nothing is left of her but her head, hands and feet. Although she is depicted as a faithful wife, her religion is depicted as being one long orgy with the priests and priestesses copulating on altars etc.
What is remarkable about Hazelton's book is how she goes into detail of how the book of Kings came to be written, during the Israelites from the Kingdom of Judea's long exile in Babylon. The story of Jezebel and Ahab can be seen as an explanation for why the Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist and the ten tribes of Israel that made up the kingdom were lost for good when the Assyrians conquered (or were invited in) Israel. In other words, since Ahab allowed idol worship into the kingdom, and was merciful to his enemies, the kingdom was weakened and became wicked.
Unfortunately for Jezebel, there are no surviving documents that give another point of view. Hazelton expresses the theory that because the Phoenicians not only were polytheistic but allowed women in priestly roles, there must have been something inherently decadent about the religion. Despite the fact that Jezebel was perfectly content to let the Israelites worshipped as they pleased, and respected their God, that wasn't good enough. She also gives the reader the history and background of the Phoenician kingdom that is immensely fascinating. They were a strictly maritime economy, building amazing ships, and basically inventing navigation as we know it. They also invented the alphabet.
Jezebel would have been seen as exotic and cosmopolitan compared to the Israelites. The monarchy and the wealthy nobles benefited from the alliance, but the little people, the farmers and landowners didn't. Hazelton points out that there is very little evidence of Jezebel's so-called wickedness apart from the story of Naboth, an owner of a vineyard near the palace that Ahab coveted. When Naboth refuses to sell the vineyard to the King, Jezebel takes matters into her own hands, and has him killed.
Hazelton uses the story of Jezebel to point out how the conflicts in the Middle East stem from this time. She uses her own personal experiences from traveling in the Middle East as well as her own personal translations of the Hebrew Bible to back up her thesis that Jezebel, while not totally an innocent, is not the wicked Queen that has been depicted over the centuries. She points out the problems with taking the bibilical story literally without examing the historical context. One of the more interesting facts that I learned from reading this book was a) the name Jezebel has come down to us in the name of Isabelle/Isabella and c) Dido, the Queen of Carthage was Jezebel's great niece.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the pre-Christian world, but also how the story of powerful women can be distorted. This book is not for everyone. Hazelton sees parallel's Elijah's intolerance with the fundamentalist views prevalent in the current Middle East. Although revered by three different religions (Christianity, Judiaism, and Islam), he's really the bad guy in Hazelton's book.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The production was announced in TV Guide last November that "Oscar nominee Joan Allen and Oscar winner Jeremy Irons will star in a Lifetime biopic about the late artist Georgia O'Keeffe, with Bob Balaban set to direct. Allen also will take on executive producer duties for the first time, alongside City Entertainment's Joshua D. Maurer and Alixandre Witlin, says The Hollywood Reporter."
Georgia will follow the turbulent 20-year love affair between the celebrated artist (Allen) and photographer Alfred Steiglitz (Irons). The movie, was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer. Lifetime executive vice president Helen Verno says that the movie will "speak to viewers who are inspired by her love affair with Alfred Steiglitz and the extraordinary work they created during the many years of their relationship." You can watch the trailer here.
I will post my review of the film after it airs. The Whitney Museum in NY is also mounting a major retrospective of her work this fall.
The other new film is Amelia starring Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart and Richard Gere as her husband G.P. Putnam. I'm really looking foward to this movie even though I can't stand Hilary Swank. If you haven't already seen the trailer for the film, you can watch it here.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The next up to be given away is Debra Austin's The Daughter of Kura. Here's a sneak peek:
"At first, Snap was aware of a few background noises — a baby cried, the fire crackled, one of the older children laughed. Eventually, the other sounds disappeared, and she heard only the ancient rhythm of the drums, the dancers' voices, and the sounds of her own feet as they beat a path to an unclear future."
On the parched African earth more than half a million years ago sits the village of Kura, a matriarchal society of Homo erectus. Snap — a young, passionate woman of Kura — is destined to lead her people, and this year she must select a mate for the first time. Will she choose someone different each year, or will she find one mate she wants to pick over and over again, like her mother, Whistle, the next leader of Kura? As the Bonding ceremony approaches, Snap's future remains unknown. But Whistle, when her mate doesn't return, chooses a stranger with ideas far more dangerous than the lions that kill with a single slash.
Both imaginative and believable, Daughter of Kura astonishingly brings to life an ancient and untamed world. Austin has created an unforgettable heroine who comes of age in a thrilling tale of courage, loyalty, and passion.
Just leave a comment before September 16 and you'll be entered to win.
From October 2 through December 31, 2009, the
National Constitution Center will host the international traveling exhibition, Diana: A Celebration, providing an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the life and work of
the Princess of Wales.
From the press release:
"Making its East Coast debut, and returning to the United States for the first time since 2007, the award-winning exhibition explores Diana's childhood, her engagement to HRH
Prince Charles, their royal wedding, their children, and Diana's life and work as a global humanitarian and model citizen. Diana: A Celebration is on loan from the Althorp Estate,
the Spencer Family’s 500-year-old ancestral home in England."
“This exhibition is a remarkable tribute to Princess Diana’s life and work,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO Linda E. Johnson. “Because she was admired by millions across the globe, we expect Diana: A Celebration to have broad appeal, which will allow the Center to expand its audience and, in turn, introduce more visitors to the remarkable stories of ‘We the People’ celebrated here every day.”
Covering 10,000 square feet, Diana: A Celebration features over 150 artifacts organized
into nine galleries: Childhood, Spencer Women, Engagement, Royal Wedding, Tiara
Gallery, Style & Fashion, Her Work, Tribute, and Condolences.
· Diana’s royal wedding gown, diamond tiara, veil, 25-ft. train, shoes, parasol, and
· 28 dresses, suits, and gowns designed by Versace, Valentino, Chanel, and Azagury, among others, worn by Diana during her public life
· Musical score and handwritten lyrics of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition
dedicated to Diana and adapted from “Candle in the Wind”
· Original heritage, 17th and 18th century family paintings from the Althorp Estate
· The original, hand-edited text of Charles Spencer’s moving tribute to his sister, delivered at Diana’s funeral in Westminster Abbey
· Home movies of Diana’s childhood, historical artifacts, personal letters, photos, and heirlooms
Tickets go on sale today and are pretty-pricey, $23 dollars. You can save money by joining the National Constitution Center for $35 and the ticket is free. I'm hoping to attend on October 13 so that I can also attend Tina Brown's lecture that evening.
Monday, September 7, 2009
At the age of 25, in 1558, Elizabeth was named Queen after the death of her half-sister Mary I. For 55 years, Elizabeth reigned in England in what is now called the Elizabethan era, the Golden Age of England. During her reign, the theater flourished with such names as Marlowe, Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, among others still being performed today.
As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity, ''The Virgin Queen,' and a cult grew up around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day. Scholars still debate the truth of her virginity. When it came to governing, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and siblings. One of her mottoes was "video et taceo" ("I see, and say nothing"). It was a smart strategy, it often saved her from political and marital misalliances, but it was one that was viewed with impatience by her counsellors. Elizabeth had learned the lesson of what not to do from her sister's reign, the short reign of her cousin, Lady Jane Grey, and later on from the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Being a Queen was a precarious position, but Elizabeth was nothing if not a survivor.
During her reign, she kept the country guessing as to whom she might marry, leading suitors a merry dance, as she accepted their attentions, without every sealing the deal. The one man she probably seriously wanted to marry was Robert Dudley, her old childhood friend, who she created Earl of Leicester. However Leicester was married when they fell in love, and the mysterious death of his wife Amy, and the antipathy of Elizabeth's councillors meant that he didn't have a chance. Elizabeth kept him at court though, accepting his attentions, even offering him to Mary, Queen of Scots as a potential husband. Later on he married her cousin Lettice Knollys behind her back, pissing Elizabeth off royally.
Her reign is most famous of course for defeating the Spanish Armada, but she also expanded trade and territories overseas. Virginia was named after, and the lost colony of Roanoke founded. It was also marked by the execution of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, and by Catholic rebellions. Under Elizabeth, the Church of England was firmly established. By the end of her long reign, England was tired and so was Elizabeth. But her reign gave the kingdom a stability it hadn't had during the short reigns of her brother and sister. Elizabeth was not only the monarch but also the symbol of England.
Over 400 years after her death in 1603, Elizabeth is even more popular then she was in her lifetime. We feel that we know her, even if we have never read a biography or seen a movie about her. Everyone has seen the iconic portraits. My Norton anthology of English literature that I used in high school had the Gloriana portrait on the cover. In the spate of 5 years, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, and AnnMarie Duff all played Elizabeth in both movies and television, joining Glenda Jackson, and Bette Davis in the ranks of great actresses who have played Elizabeth I. She's even been immortalized in the operas of Donizetti and the musical The Pirate Queen. More books seem to come out daily about Elizabeth or set at the Elizabethan court. There is even new web-site The Elizabeth Files devoted to Elizabeth I. Only Jane Austen is probably as fascinating to readers as Elizabeth I.
In honor of Elizabeth's birthay, here is a list of some of my favorite books and movies about Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and Essex (1939): Bette Davis plays Elizabeth and Errol Flynn a dashing Essex.
Fire Over England (1937): Noted chiefly for starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, it also features a great performance by Flora Robson as Elizabeth
Elizabeth R: This miniseries starred Glenda Jackson as the definitive Elizabeth I (until Cate Blanchett). Now available on DVD.
Elizabeth: This film starring Cate Blachett is one of my favorites, even with all the historical inaccuracies that litter the script. However it is a wonderful portrayl of Elizabeth's first years in power.
The Virgin Queen: Stars Anne-Marie Duff (Mrs. James McAvoy) as Elizabeth. From birth to death.
Elizabeth I: HBO/Channel 4 miniseries starring Helen Mirren as Elizabeth, Jeremy Iron as Dudley and Hugh Dancey as Essex. The last years of Elizabeth I's reign. Came out the same year that Mirren played Elizabeth II in The Queen. Both Jeremy Irons and Helen Mirren won Emmies for their portrayals.
David Starkey: Elizabeth, the Struggle for the Throne
Victoria Holt: My Enemy, The Queen
Alison Weir: The Lady Elizabeth
Do you have a favorite book or film about Elizabeth?
Friday, September 4, 2009
Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University.
Q: What prompted you to write a novel about Cleopatra’s daughter?
A: I do a great deal of traveling both for research and for fun, and most of my destinations are archaeological sites. On a trip to Alexandria in Egypt, I was afforded the amazing opportunity of participating in a dive to see the submerged remains of Cleopatra’s ancient city. More than ten thousand artifacts remain completely preserved underwater: sphinxes, amphorae, even the stones of the ancient palace. Although I'm not a fan of diving, it was an incredible experience, and it changed the way I looked at Cleopatra. I immediately wanted to know more about her life, and it was mere coincidence that my next trip took me to Italy, where her ten year-old children were brought to live after her suicide. While in Rome, I was able to retrace her daughter's steps, and upon seeing where her daughter had lived on the Palatine, I knew I had my next novel.
Q: What was it like to walk where Selene walked? In particular, what was it like to visit Octavian’s villa?
A: Unbelievable. For two thousand years, Octavian’s villa has sprawled across the top of the Palatine Hill, slowly deteriorating. At one time, its vibrantly painted dining room had hosted magnificent feasts, one of which would have been the celebration of the emperor’s triumph over Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt. As the heir to Caesar, Octavian was determined to rule the western world without interference. He changed his name to Augustus, and with the help of his general Agrippa and his architect Vitruvius, he turned a city of clay into a city of marble.I had known all of this on that day in March when the villa was opened for the first time in more than a century. What I hadn’t known, however, was just how unbelievable that trip back into the world of ancient Rome would be. After three million dollars in restoration, Italian archaeologists have been able to recreate not just the intimate library and studies Augustus used, but the mosaic floors he once walked on and the vividly painted ceilings he once walked beneath with Ovid, Seneca, Cicero, Horace, and even Julius Caesar himself. As we were quickly escorted through the frescoed rooms, we stopped in the triclinium – the dining room which had once seen so many famous faces smiling, laughing, even crying for mercy. With a little imagination, it was easy to see the tables and couches that had once adorned the chamber, and there was the undeniable feeling of standing in the presence of the ancients. It was the kind of feeling you only get in Grecian temples or Egyptian tombs.
Q: In all three of your novels, your narrators have been teenage girls. Is there are reason for this?
A: Actually, yes. I like to begin my novels during the time of greatest transition in a person’s life. And in the ancient world, the greatest transition in a woman’s life was often the time when she was married. Because women married at much younger ages two thousand years ago (twelve years old was not uncommon), my narrators have all been very young girls. In fact, Random House will be making a concerted effort to market Cleopatra's Daughter to young adults as well as adults. However, as my novels progress through time (my next book, for example, will be about Madame Tussaud), my narrators will be older.
Q: Is the Red Eagle based on an historical person?
A: Yes. The Red Eagle is actually based on several men who led slave rebellions (unsuccessfully, I might add) against Rome. Spartacus led the most famous revolt, but there were other men too, such as Salvius, who waged war with his army of slaves in ancient Sicily.
Q: You write in your acknowledgements page that the character of the Red Eagle is an homage to the works of several authors. What made you decide to do this?
A: Creative as well as personal reasons. First, I wanted to create a character that fans of swashbuckling adventures might love, and it wasn’t at all difficult to find historical personalities on which to base such a hero. Men like Spartacus and Salvius were heroes in the truest sense of the word. But I didn’t want there to be too much action, and certainly not so much that it would detract from the real story – that of Selene and her twin brother Alexander growing up in a foreign court. I could certainly have chosen not to include anything as obviously fictitious as the Red Eagle. But I wanted to illustrate just how threatening slave rebellions were at that time, and how ever-present the danger of becoming a slave would have been, even to captured royalty. And the creation of the Red Eagle wasn’t a huge stretch. Many rebels who came before – and after – the Red Eagle employed similar tactics: rousing the plebs, arming the slaves, and encouraging those in servitude to passive resistance.On a more personal note, however, I wanted to include the Red Eagle because I knew it would be a character my father would have loved. He devoured anything having to do with ancient Rome, and I deeply regret not having written this while he was still alive.
Q: Was a third of Rome’s population really enslaved?
A: Sadly, yes. And you didn’t have to be born a slave to become one. You could be kidnapped and sold into slavery, your city could be overrun and you could be turned into a slave, or you might be sold into servitude by your own parents. Slavery meant an absolute loss of every human right we now take for granted, and as a slave, your body was no longer your own. Many slaves were physically and sexually abused, regardless of age or gender.
Q: Where did these slaves come from?
A: Many were Gallics and Greeks. The Gallics were from Gaul, a region which now encompasses France, Belgium, parts of Switzerland, and Germany.
Q: When did slavery end?
A: It hasn't. In the Western World, it was slowly - very slowly - phased out with the coming of Christianity (which was one of the reasons Christianity flourished… it appealed to the disenfranchised and enslaved, making everyone equal if not on earth than in the next life). But slavery certainly hasn't ended for everyone. There are women and children who are ensalved today, even in America and Europe. Of course, this isn't legal. Many of these victims of modern-day human trafficking have been brought over from places like Albania or Algeria and have no resources to escape. That's why organizations such as STOP International exist. You can visit them here.
Q: Is it still possible to visit the places Selene visited when she was in Rome?
A: Yes. In 2008, I went on a photographic safari in search of the places Selene would have gone during the brief years she was in Rome. Many of the photos are included here!
Q: What are you working on next? Will it also be marketed to both adults and YA?
A: Actually, my next book will be firmly adult fiction. MADAME TUSSAUD: A Novel is about Madame Tussaud, who joined the gilded but troubled court of Marie Antoinette, and survived the French Revolution only by creating death masks of the beheaded aristocracy. I’m very excited about this novel, since Marie (the first name of Madame Tussaud) met absolutely everyone, from Jefferson to the Empress Josephine.
Thanks Michelle! Visit CleopatrasDaughter.com more about Michelle and Selene and also check out Michelle's blog at michellemoran.blogspot.com.
Leave a comment on the blog by September 8 and you will be entered in to win a copy of Cleopatra's Daughter.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
A copy of Hallie Rubenhold's book Lady Worsley's Whim (US title Lady in Red)
Michelle Moran's latest release Cleopatra's daughter
Treasures from the Napoleon exhibit in Philadelphia
A DVD of Elizabeth R starring Glenda Jackson
and more! Just leave a comment on any post this month and you will be eligible to win.
In the meantime I received the Kreativ Blogger award from Evangeline at Edwardian Promenade.
The Kreativ rules state that: Once you receive this award you are to list seven of your favorite things and then nominate seven other blogs.
1) Richard Armitage
2) Great historical fiction. Once that makes me laugh, cry and sigh all the way through.
3) Iced Coffee with flavored non-dairy creamer
4) Writing. Accept when I can't sleep at night because my characters are already jumping to the next scene, lol.
6) Blogging about Scandalous Women
7) My friends
My nominees are:
Two Nerdy History Girls
The Duchess of Devonshire's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century
Marie Antoinette's Guide to the 18th Century
Leanna Renee Hieber
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
She was a spirited young heiress. He was a handsome baronet with a promising career in government. The marriage of Lady Seymour Dorothy Fleming and Sir Richard Worsley had the makings of a fairy tale—but ended as one of the most scandalous and highly publicized divorces in history. In February 1782, England opened its newspapers to read the details of a criminal conversation trial in which the handsome baronet Sir Richard Worsley attempted to sue his wife’s lover for an astronomical sum in damages. In the course of the proceedings, the Worsleys’ scandalous sexual arrangements, voyeuristic tendencies, and bed-hopping antics were laid bare. The trial and its verdict stunned society, but not as much as the unrepentant behavior of Lady Worsley. Sir Joshua Reynolds captured the brazen character of his subject when he created his celebrated portrait of Lady Worsley in a fashionable red riding habit, but it was her shocking affairs that made her divorce so infamous that even George Washington followed it in the press. Impeccably researched and written with great flair, this lively and moving true history presents a rarely seen picture of aristocratic life in the Georgian era.
Tell us a little bit about yourself before you came to write The Lady in Red.
I’m tempted to say that I’ve done a lot of different things before settling down to a writing career, but this is the case for many authors. I completed post graduate degrees in both British social history and art history, which enabled me to work as a curator, a university lecturer and also in the commercial art world. Ultimately, I’ve always wanted to write, but I felt I had to try my hand at a number of other things before committing myself to it entirely.
What led you to the story of Lady Worsley? And what sort of research did you do?
I first learned about Lady Worsley when I was writing my dissertation on 18th century portraiture. It was in a book of Joshua Reynolds’ portraits where I first saw the image of her that caused such a stir. The artist chose to paint her in a bold red riding habit, which alluded to her rather brazen character. I was intrigued by this and filed it away in my mind. Many years later I came back to her, though the research was very difficult as so much of the Worsleys’ personal correspondence had been destroyed. No one had ever before written a biography about Sir Richard Worsley or his wife and so I was starting from scratch, looking for shreds of evidence everywhere I could. I had to do some real fine-toothed combing through newspapers, printed material and vast amounts of legal documents in a variety of large and small archives. In the end I was amazed by what I managed to turn up and it felt like an enormous accomplishment to have discovered so much entirely new material.
Sir Richard and Lady Worsley’s situation feels incredibly contemporary, they could be any couple who unfortunately end up in a bad marriage, yet the stakes were so much higher in the 18th century, particularly for a woman when it came to a divorce.
Women walked a very fine line in the 18th century and the ‘rules of engagement’ in affaires de Coeur were very complex and contradictory – especially among the landed classes in Britain, where in theory you weren’t meant to be hopping in and out of other people’s beds, but in practice everyone accepted dalliances as normal, so long as discretion was applied. Ultimately, a wife’s freedom to do what she pleased was dependent on the indulgence of her husband and each marriage was different. If she had the misfortune of falling foul of him, he could completely destroy her life – taking away her children and cutting her off without a penny. The law regarded women as chattel, as possessions of their husbands, just like horses or paintings or land. 18th century law, society and the church saw it as a wife’s primary duty to obey her husband, no matter how dreadful the union may have been or how unsuited the couple were to one another.
Divorce in the 18th century was a complicated business. Can you explain a little about criminal conversation, ‘Separation from Bed and Board,’ and an actual divorce?
In my book, I make a very clear distinction between the varying modes of ‘divorce’ available. Generally, ‘divorce’ in the broadest sense, was a privilege reserved for the rich and titled, those who could afford the extremely high legal costs. A Parliamentary divorce, where a full divorce was granted through an act of Parliament, allowed for the remarriage of both parties. A ‘Separation from Bed and Board’ was like a partial divorce, granted through the ecclesiastical courts, which did not allow for the remarriage of either party. The couple remained shackled together in the eyes of the church, though the husband was freed from any financial obligation to support the wife. This was the most common form of ‘divorce’ available.
Criminal Conversation was an entirely different legal action from a divorce suit. Crim Con cases (as they were known) were heard in the civil court and were about financial reparations. Basically, the law regarded a wife as property who a third party (her lover) had soiled. The jury had to hear the entire story of the adulterous relationship before they could decide whether the husband was entitled to financial reparations – or what sum he was entitled to. These X-rated suits were heard in open court and became extremely popular ‘entertainment’ for the masses.
The UK title of the book was Lady Worsley’s Whim. Do you think that if Lady Worsley had really thought through what she was doing, she might have changed her mind? She seems to have been naively optimistic about the outcome of her elopement.
A number of my hunches and gut feelings about Lady Worsley and her behavior never made it into my book because the historical evidence simply wasn’t there to back them up. First among these was an instinct that Lady Worsley was not an entirely stable person. In a number of documented cases, her behavior was so erratic, swinging from periods of destructive hyper activity to melancholia that my sense is that she suffered from manic-depression and possibly other problems as well. Her decision to elope was particularly ill-informed, though love (another sort of mental disorder) probably has something to answer for here.
Marriage in the 18th century seems to have been a bit of a crap shoot, particularly among the upper classes, where money and social position were still important factors in choosing a mate, although marrying for love was becoming more common. Apart from the King and Queen, were there any happy marriages in the 18th century?
Interestingly, there were a number of very happy marriages in the 18th century. I wrote my thesis about the Fox and the Grenville families and studied their remarkably happy matrimonial unions over the course of three generations. However, their successful marriages can no more be considered ‘the norm’ than the Worsleys’ disastrous marriage. Although marriage on the basis of ‘mutual affection’ was becoming more acceptable, periods of courtship were quite short and circumscribed and getting to really know your potential spouse was quite difficult. By and large, society still relied on notions of duty to keep everyone in their respective places once the vows had been exchanged. If your husband turned out to be a bore or a philanderer, if he gave you syphilis or became a drunkard, you were expected to grin and bear it.
I found it hard to feel sympathetic towards Sir Richard. His behavior towards Lady Worsley as well as George Bisset seems unduly harsh. Do you think he was no better or worse than other men of his class?
It’s strange, my feelings for Sir Richard swung back and forth between sympathy and antipathy throughout the process of writing the book. I think he was a deeply troubled soul and very emotionally damaged. His childhood sounded terrible; his father was a chronic alcohol who drank himself to death and the family lived in a constant state of financial disgrace. These circumstances (and probably others which we’ll never know about) contributed to Sir Richard’s confused character later in life. Having said this, I do think that Sir Richard’s way of regarding the world was very typical of a man of his class and upbringing. He was a wealthy, titled man and brought up to rule. He believed in certain truths; that women were inherently inferior to men, that the lower orders were put on earth to serve and obey him, that as a land owner, the law and the government existed to protect his needs, not the needs of the man on the street. This was the reality of his world, and lest we fantasize too much of Mr. Darcy and his ilk, its useful to remember what sort of unsavory sets of assumptions he would have been raised with!
George Bisset and Lady Worsley didn’t take her husband’s retribution lying down. They both found a unique way to fight back, despite the damage to her reputation. How unusual were actions for the period?
The actions that Bisset’s lawyers took to defend him from Worsley’s charge of Crim Con were unprecedented. The line of defense which required Lady Worsley to renounce her character was completely radical and unorthodox. She would have had to have agreed to this beforehand. It was quite savvy, but there was no going back. She knew she’d never rehabilitate her reputation and so they went for the nuclear option! However, the mud slinging match that followed, where each party attempted to further destroy the other in the press was a well known practice between ‘warring factions’ in the eighteenth century, but its fair to say that due to public fascination with the Worsleys’ case, this was taken to new extremes.
We’ve become used to celebrities whining about the tabloids but the 18th century was really the beginning of the tabloid press. What role did they play in regards to the scandal?
The Crim Con trial of Worsley v. Bisset just happened to coincide (almost exactly) with the birth of the modern British newspaper. Instead of carrying just news announcements, shipping information and advertisements, Henry Bate Dudley, the founder of the Morning Post and the Morning Herald decided to include more entertaining features in his newspapers, such as sports reports, theatrical reviews and gossip columns. His newspapers were so successful that within months, all competing titles had to change their content in order to stay afloat. The race for stories and gossip to fill the daily pages was on, which is how the Worsleys’ scandal came to occupy so many column inches!
Lady Worsley had a particularly tough time of it after the separation. For a woman of her class, with very little money, and unable to be seen in polite society, she had very few choices.
Although Lady Worsley was completely ruined after her trial, she found herself in a rather strange situation. Certainly, no woman of reputation would be seen with her, including her own sister (Lady Harrington) or her mother (Lady Harewood). All of her respectable female acquaintances abandoned her, but this did not mean she was bereft of friends – in fact, she was able to keep all of her titled male acquaintances and move into an even higher social circle; that of the Prince of Wales. It was a situation peculiar to the late Georgian era that reputation was no bar to rising in society, and Lady Worsley just swapped one group of titled friends for another group of titled friends with naughty reputations! The Prince of Wales (who later became George IV) had a type of alternative court around him which was comprised of people his father despised; rakes, roués, courtesans and disgraced divorcees like Lady Worsley. However, things did become a bit trickier for her when she began to run out of money.
All three of your books deal with the 18th century, particularly the underbelly of the period. What is it about this time period that interests you?
I love the complexities, hypocrisies and contrasts of the eighteenth century. This was an era of rapid growth and rapid change, in terms of politics, institutions, belief systems, technology, science and the economy. Ultimately all of this had a profound impact on society and how people went about living their daily lives. At some points it feels as if eighteenth century society is about to come apart at its seams; old assumptions and ideas are doing battle with newer more progressive concepts that we associate with our modern world. Large numbers of people are moving to the urban centers, cities are growing faster than ever before, the law can’t figure out how to govern the swelling masses, while money becomes the only thing that protects individuals from exploitation. Many people, like Sir Richard Worsley just couldn’t come to terms with the breakdown of the old order. It’s an era of confusion and energy; the staid ‘classical’ and the unrestrained ‘romantic’. It’s often struck me as the western world’s adolescent phase.
What are you working on right now?
I’m turning my hand to historical fiction, but the details are going to have to remain a secret for the moment!
Thanks Hallie for taking the time to answer all my questions! If you leave a comment, you can win a copy of the UK paperback edition of Hallie's book, Lady Worsley's Whim.