Posts

Showing posts from November, 2007

The Scandalous Hoax of Princess Caraboo

Image
It was a story that wouldn't have looked out of place on the front page of the News of the World or The Examiner . A young woman stumbles into a Gloucestershire village on April 3, 1817, wearing a black turban and a black dress, carrying her possessions in a rolled up bundle. Exhausted and starving, she spoke a language that no could understand. The villagers thought she was some foreign begger, so they turned her over to Samuel Worrall, who was the local country magistrate. It was a dangerous time to be a homeless foreigner roaming the countryside. Napoleon had finally been defeated for the last time and sent into exile on St. Helena, but the British were still worried about foreign agents. At this time, anyone found disturbing the peace was in danger of being transported to Australia, everyone's favorite dumping ground for the criminal class at this time. The Worralls found the young woman intriguing to say the least. Mrs. Worrall in particular was taken by her. The y

Cleopatra Last Pharoah of Ancient Egypt

Image
When one thinks of Cleopatra, one thinks of the image to the left. The seductress on her barge on her way to conquer Mark Anthony. More than 2,000 years after her death, the last Pharoah of Egypt still holds our fascination as one of history's most famous and mysterious women. Her name is synonymous with beauty, sex, seduction, and power. Her legend has inspired filmmakers, poets, and playwrights over the centuries as they try to capture her elusive spirit. But who was Cleopatra really? Was she a seductress who destroyed Mark Antony and brought about the end of the Egyptian dynasty? Or was she a powerful ruler who used men for her own purposes? Was she Black or pure Macedonian Greek and why does it matter? Will the real Cleopatra please stand up? Classical portraits portray her as an ethereal beauty. But that was far from the contemporary versions of the Queen. Well for starters she reigned as Cleopatra VII (Cleopatra being a popular name in the Ptolemy dynasty. In fact her mothe

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen and Rebel, Part II

Image
Eleanor and Henry proceeded to produce 7 more children over the next 14 years, four boys and three girls, Henry (the young King), Richard, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joanna, Matilda, and the last John in 1166, a remarkable feat during the Middle Ages when infant mortality was extremely high. Unfortunately, their first son William died at the age of 3 from an unknown illness. Although Eleanor loved her children, Richard especially, she was a woman who loved power and wanted to exercise her intelligence doing more than just hanging around the nursery or supervising her ladies in waiting. Henry, however, wasn't about to share his power with a co-ruler. Although he allowed Eleanor to act as regent during his absences from court, but it was little more than her signing her name to the authority of his ministers, who had the real power. Henry meanwhile, was also busy, in between ruling his vast kingdom, with other women. At first this didn't bother Eleanor over much, but she soon began to

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen and Rebel- Part I

Image
I confess that I have been fascinated with the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine ever since I saw the movie The Lion in Winter in high school. Who was this woman who taunted Henry II, who got under his skin? It was more than just Katherine Hepburn's portrayal, although she was fabulous. I immediately wanted to know more about this woman. Apparently I'm not the only one who is fascinated with her. Countless books have been written over the centuries. Google her name and you'll find thousands of articles as well. Why this fascination with a long ago Queen? Well, she was the most powerful woman in Medieval Europe, wife to two Kings and the mother of two Kings, founding a dynasty that would rule England for the next 330 years. In her lifetime, she was the subject of scandalous rumors, that she rode bare-breasted on crusade, that she slept with her uncle, murdered her husband's mistress. She was a warrior who helped her sons revolt against their father, and served as regent whi

Miriam Folline Leslie - Empress of Publishing

Image
She was an actress, an editor, a supporter of woman's rights and a business woman in the days when a woman's place was clearly in the home, and not in the boardroom. She took a failing business and turned it around, not once but twice becoming the most successful business woman in America. She hobnobbed with Presidents, and sparred with Brigham Young. A beauty who loved diamonds, with a fair complexion and golden curls. An early feminist who left her entire fortune to further woman's rights. And finally a much-married, flirtatious, social rule breaker, who many women might have called a home wrecker but never to her face. Miriam Florence Follin (or Folline) was born in the Vieux Carre district of New Orleans in 1836. Like other scandalous women, she came from an inauspicious background. Her parents appeared not have been married, and the family's income was dependent on her handsome, erratic but cultured father. Charles Follin wandered around the country failing in one

Ninon de Lenclos - Mademoiselle Libertine

Image
"A woman who has loved but one man, will never know love." The Sun King was known to ignore the views of his advisors and peers during his long reign, but whenever he wanted a second opinion, he was known to ask "What would Ninon do?" Who was this Ninon that an absolute monarch like Louis XIV would seek her advice? She was a French author, courtesan and patron of the arts, whose long life lasted almost as long as the The Sun King's reign in France. In her lifetime, she was known as the sine qua non of courtesans, her salons were attended by some of the greatest minds in France, including Racine, Corneille, de Francois, duc de la Rochefoucauld and Moliere, who tried out all his plays on her first. After her death, Saint-Simon summed up her career as: "A shining example of the triumph of vice, when directed with intelligence and redeemed by a little virtue." Her prowess with men was so well known that there is a urban legend that for years afte

Misunderstood Queen: Marie Antoinette

Image
This is a special post for me, because Marie Antoinette and I share a birthday, and from childhood I've been fascinated with the beautiful Queen who lost her head in the French Revolution. For along time Marie Antoinette suffered from the reputation as being nothing more than an empty-headed beautiful woman who famously declared to the masses, "Let them eat cake!" (Actually according to Antonia Fraser in her biography of the Queen, she never said this.) But was she a victim of circumstances or did she contribute to the demise of the monarchy by her prolifigate and licentious behavior at court? Recently, several new biographies that are a little more sympathetic to Marie Antoinette have come out and Sophia Coppola's movie was released last year (which I saw on my birthday). Marie Antoinette was born Maria Antonia on November 2, 1755 in the Hofburg Palance in Vienna, to Empress Maria Theresa and her husband Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Duke of Lorraine. Maria