Showing posts from December, 2010

The Story of the Widow Clicquot

It's no secret that I adore champagne, and my favorite by far is Veuve Clicquot, (Although I won't say no to Laurent-Perrier Rose or Billecart-Salmon, or basically any sparkling wine!) but I never really thought about the story behind the yellow label until I was on a panel with Christine Kaculis, the US Director of Communications for Veuve Clicquot, last week at The Mistletoe Syndrome event at The National Arts Club.  Listening to Christine talk about the brand and how it got started made me eager to learn more.  Fortunately there is a short biography about Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot written by Tilar J. Mazzeo  which I eagerly took out of the library. Her story is inspiring, a woman who took over her husband's business when the idea of an upper middle class woman entering into business was unheard of. With tonight being New Year's Eve, and all those corks of Veuve Clicquot being popped, I thought it would be nice to have a look at the woman who probably did more t

The First Five Catherines: A Short History

Since the announcement of Prince William's engagement to his longtime girlfriend Catherine Middleton, it has come to my attention, that one day, if the monarchy in England continues past the current Queen, Catherine will be the sixth woman of that name to be Queen of England.  So, I thought for fun, I would give brief histories of the first 5 Queens of England named Catherine. The first Catherine to marry a King of England was of course Catherine de Valois (1401-1437), younger daughter of Charles VI of France.  Catherine's older sister had already been married to a King of England, Richard II, before his untimely death.  Catherine was married off to Henry V of England as part of the treaty between the two countries, which acknowledged that Henry as heir to the throne of France.  Most of you have seen either the movie or the play HENRY V, no doubt remember the charming wooing scene between Henry and Catherine as he tries to speak French to her.  Catherine and Henry were marri

Christmas with the Plantagenets: The Lion in Winter

"What should we hang? The holly or each other?" Henry II to his assembled family. The Lion in Winter:   (1968 Avco Embassy Pictures) Directed by Anthony Harvey. Based on the Broadway play by James Goldman (which starred Richard Preson as Henry II, Rosemary Harris as Eleanor and a young Christopher Walken as Philip). Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor of Aquitaine ) Peter O’Toole (Henry II) Anthony Hopkins (Richard) Nigel Terry (John) John Castle (Geoffrey) Timothy Dalton (Philip II of France) Jane Merrow (Princess Alais of France) Nigel Stock (William Marshall)   Some people watch A Christmas Carol at the holidays or A Christmas Story but my favorite Christmas film is The Lion in Winter . I could watch this film over and over (and I have) and never get tired of it. From the opening credits, as the music swells, and the chorus starts singing in Latin, the audience is plunged into this 12th century world, where no one can be trusted, brother is pitted against brother, h

Scandalous Book Review: American Rose

AMERICAN ROSE by Karen Abbott Random House Publishing, December 28, 2010 I have been fascinated by Gypsy Rose Lee ever since I saw the movie version of Gypsy! starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood but I had no idea until I was older and knew more about musicals that it was based on a true story.  Now Karen Abbott has written a magnificent new book about the elusive, elegant and erudite practioner of the art of the striptease. The book is not just a biography of a fascinating woman who moved beyond what must have been a troublesome and traumatic childhood, to reinvent herself into a cultural icon.  It is also a social history of era that will never be seen again except in grainy photos and old movies. Gypsy born Ellen June Hovick on January 9, 1911 wasn't even allowed to keep her original name. The minute her younger sister was born, Ellen June became Rose Louise, so her pretty blonde sister could have her name.  From the time she was a child, Gypsy was treated as an inco

And the winner of Dear Cousin Jane

The winner of the December giveaway of Dear Cousin Jane as well as Jane and the Damned is MeeYeeHere I will be emailing you shortly to get your address. Unfortunately I don't think the books will arrive in time to sit for the holidays but I will try. Thanks to everyone who entered.  I hope that you keep following me and reading the blog. I will be posting reviews of Carol Carr's debut mystery novel, a guest post by debut author Gillian Bagwell and other goodies before The New Year.

Happy Birthday Jane Austen and Giveaway!

Dearest Cousin Jane by Jill Pitkeathly Harper Collins, March 2010 From the back cover: In Dearest Cousin Jane, an enchanting new novel that draws on historical fact, Jill Pitkeathley paints a luminous portrait of the true-life cousin of a literary legend—from her flirtatious younger years to her profound influence on one of the world's most beloved authors. Free-spirited and seductive—outrageous, precocious, and a well-known flirt—Countess Eliza de Feuillide has an unquenchable thirst for life and a glamorous air that captivates everyone around her. Rumored to have been born of a mad love affair between her mother and the great Warren Hastings of the East India Company, Eliza sees the world as her playground—filled with grand galas, theater, and romance—and she will let nothing hold her down. Even tragedy cannot dim her enthusiasm. Losing her only child at an early age and widowed when her husband—the dashing French count Jean de Feuillide—is claimed by Madame la Guillotine d

Book of the Month: Catherine of Aragon

The youngest child of the legendary monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) was born to marry for dynastic gain. Endowed with English royal blood on her mother's side, she was betrothed in infancy to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII of England, an alliance that greatly benefited both sides. Yet Arthur died weeks after their marriage in 1501, and Catherine found herself remarried to his younger brother, soon to become Henry VIII. The history of England—and indeed of Europe—was forever altered by their union.   Drawing on his deep knowledge of both Spain and England, Giles Tremlett has produced the first full biography in more than four decades of the tenacious woman whose marriage to Henry VIII lasted twice as long (twenty-four years) as his five other marriages combined. Her refusal to divorce him put her at the center of one of history's greatest power struggles, one that has resonated down through the centuries— Henry's br

Scandalous Women in Fiction; Susan Fraser King's QUEEN HEREAFTER

QUEEN HEREAFTER - Susan Fraser King Crown Publishing - December 7, 2010 From the back cover: Shipwrecked on the Scottish coast, a young Saxon princess and her family—including the outlawed Edgar of England—ask sanctuary of the warrior-king Malcolm Canmore, who shrewdly sees the political advantage. He promises to aid Edgar and the Saxon cause in return for the hand of Edgar’s sister, Margaret, in marriage. A foreign queen in a strange land, Margaret adapts to life among the barbarian Scots, bears princes, and shapes the fierce warrior Malcolm into a sophisticated ruler. Yet even as the king and queen build a passionate and tempestuous partnership, the Scots distrust her. When her husband brings Eva, a Celtic bard, to court as a hostage for the good behavior of the formidable Lady Macbeth, Margaret expects trouble. Instead, an unlikely friendship grows between the queen and her bard, though one has a wild Celtic nature and the other follows the demanding path of obligation. Torn b

Scandalous Women in Fiction: The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason

THE KING'S DAUGHTER Christie Dickason - Harper Collins November 23, 2010 The daughter of James I, the Princess Elizabeth would not be merely her father's pawn in the royal marriage market. The court of James I is a dangerous place, with factions led by warring cousins Robert Cecil and Francis Bacon. While Europe seethes with conflict between Protestants and Catholics, James sees himself as a grand peacemaker—and wants to make his mark by trading his children for political treaties. Henry, Prince of Wales, and his sister, Elizabeth, find themselves far more popular than their distrusted father, a perilous position for a child of a jealous king. When Elizabeth is introduced to one suitor, Frederick, the Elector Palatine, she feels the unexpected possibility of happiness. But her fate is not her own to choose—and when her parents brutally withdraw their support for the union, Elizabeth must take command of her own future, with the help of an unexpected ally, the slave girl Ta

Scandalous Gifts for the Holidays

Ho Ho, everyone!  For the first time, I thought I would put together a little Scandalous Women Gift guide for the holidays.  There are so many amazing gifts out there that relate to Scandalous Women.  For instance, on the left is the limited edition Veronica Franco doll from Madame Alexander.  For anyone who has seen the film Dangerous Beauty, you know that Veronica Franco was a 16th century Venetian courtesan and poet who was eventually tried for wtichcraft.  Well now you can own your very own doll! She's available on Ebay for $79.99 or at Matilda Dolls for $110.00.  She's dressed in a typical dress for the period and she's even got on the chopines, the platform shoes they used to wear. If your Scandalous Woman prefers books, there is a wealth of both historical and non--fiction available for holiday giving.  I've already mentioned the Chanel biography by Justine Picardie as well as the 3 books on Isabella Blow.  Giles Tremlett has come out with a recent biography on

Scandalous Women in Fiction: Helen Hollick's THE FOREVER QUEEN

THE FOREVER QUEEN by Helen Hollick Sourcebooks Landmark, November 1, 2010 From the backcover: Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom-and her crown-are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England's shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely. Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery. My thoughts:  I had planned on posting this rev

Duchess of Windsor's Jewels on Sale at Sotheby's

The late Duchess of Windsor's jewels went on sale again at Sotheby's. The items up for grabs include this gorgeous bracelet made by Cartier.  The Duke gave his bride many beautiful gifts during their long marriage.  Rumor has it that Madonna has bid on several pieces.  She's currently directing a movie called W.E. about the Windors.  20 pieces of jewelry were sold Tuesday night for 8 million pounds which is roughly I would say almost $16 million dollars. Here is an article from Hello Magazine regarding the sale  and one from the Daily Mail in the UK about the sale itself .  Apparently the Duke didn't always pay for the jewelry that he bought for the Duchess or the jewelers had to wait for a long time for their money.  Perhaps he thought that just the fact that he bought the jewelry and the Duchess was wearing it was payment enough, instead of giving them cold hard cash! If you had the money, would you have bid on an item from the collection?  Whose jewelry would yo