Pairing books with tea (A Most English Princess)

A Most English Princess: A Novel of Queen Victoria’s Daughter by Clare McHugh is about the life of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria (Vicky). When she was 17, she married Frederick (Friedrich or Fritz), the Crown Prince of Prussia. Their first child was Kaiser Wilhelm II. As far as dynastic marriages go, Vicky and Fritz shared a very happy and fulfilling marriage. A rarity in their era, they remained very much in love and committed to one another. The story takes you from Vicky’s childhood in England to married life in Prussia. It’s a fictionalized account but the author’s research shines through every conversation.

Wikimedia Commons. Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia painted by Oskar Begas, 1867.

Unfortunately their marriage was marred by hardship. First, their first born, Wilhelm, was a difficult child and grew into an obstinate, unkind adult who hated his “English mother.” On top of that, Bismarck never trusted Frederick and Vicky; they were too liberal and open-minded. For example, Frederick and Vicky believed in a free press. Bismarck did not. So Bismarck successfully convinced the Emperor not to allow the Crown Prince Couple to have any say in policy. Lastly, by the time Frederick took the throne as Frederick III, he was already terminally ill with cancer. He died just 99 days later. Kaiser Wilhelm II came to power and we all know how that went and where it led. (Though I should note that the book does not end with Frederick’s death. It ends much earlier and on a good note.)

Wikimedia Commons. Frederick in 1874, painted by Heinrich von Angeli.

The year 1888 is known as the Year of the Three Emperors (Wilhelm I, Frederick III, Wilhelm II). And it’s easy to remember the year because just think of the three eights as the three emperors.

A Most English Princess is very well written and entertaining. I could not put it down. The history was accurate. Every character has both flaws and positive traits, which made me sympathize with and better understand the various historical characters. All this to say that if you enjoy royal history, British history or Prussian history, I highly recommend this book.

Wikimedia Commons. Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, painted by Franz Winterhalter, 1867.

Now on to our question of the day. Which tea should we pair with this novel? Well, in honor of Vicky, I’m pairing it with a fine English tea called Albion, which is the ancient name for England. I think Vicky would approve!

xoxo, Jane

PS. If royal history is your thing, I write about it here.

Paintings of Women Reading

The Reader by Renoir

Do you like looking at paintings? I’m not an expert and I’m sure when I view a painting at a museum I’m probably not seeing what the artist meant for me to notice. But I do know what I like, whether I can explain it or not. This painting by Renoir is so interesting to me. It appears that the woman is wearing make-up and some type of overcoat. Maybe she’s at work but taking a brief moment to read her book? She seems lost in her novel and that’s nice to see.

Young Girl Reading by Fragonard

I’ve always loved this painting by Fragonard. I use it in my reading wrap-up posts. And a framed copy hangs on the wall above my reading chair. The young lady looks very comfortable in her chair and leaning against that puffy pillow. She seems lost in the story she’s reading.

Girls at the Piano by Renoir

This is also a Renoir, but not of women reading. I included it because the two sisters are reading; they’re reading music sheets. I’ve always loved this painting because of the comradeship between the sisters and the elegant but cozy room they’re spending time in.

Woman Reading by a Window by Gari Melchers

I saved the best for last. The woman in this painting looks so peaceful. I love the vibrant red hue peeking in from the garden. Also, from what little I can see of her house and garden, it appears to be a dreamy space.

Do you have favorite paintings of women reading?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #72 (Some art for your soul.)

A silk needlework Coat of Arms of the Williams and Bell families of Boston, currently on view at the National Gallery of Art.

Today’s reading links are about the exhibits during my recent visit to the National Gallery of Art. The NGA is one of my favorite museums in Washington, D.C. and it’s open with advanced, timed tickets. The museum did an excellent job of controlling the crowd size.

Visitors had access to the ground floor galleries of the West Building, which allowed me to view the Rodin sculptures, the Degas at the Opéra exhibit and the ongoing Masterpieces of American Furniture exhibit. It was glorious!

I was charmed by this Manet painting. Flowers in a Crystal Vase, c.1882.

I was charmed by this Manet painting. I love the pink, blue and maroon color scheme in the bouquet. It may have been painted in 1882, but this is something we’d see in our homes today. Pretty and timeless.

Vines Seen through a Window, oil on paper. Max Hauschild, German, 1810-1895

I took some time to study this painting. I love the peek into nature. It’s a perfect prelude to the end of summer and start of autumn. I wonder if the artist conjured it out of his mind or if he was inspired after visiting a friend’s home. It’s on loan to the NGA from the Fondation Custodia in Paris and since I can’t be in Paris right now then at least the European paintings can come to me.

Study of a Tree, French(?), 19th Century. Private Collection London

Last painting, I promise. Out of all the paintings on display during my recent visit to the NGA, this painting is my favorite. It’s just so beautiful and peaceful. I’d love it if this was a wallpaper for my house. It belongs to a private collection in London and the artist is unknown. Thank you so much to the generous person for loaning their masterpiece to the NGA. How beautiful is this?

I hope you take some time out of your day to smell the roses and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

xoxo, Jane

Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Fragonard,_The_Reader.jpg

One of my favorite paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is Young Girl Reading (or The Reader) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806). I love it so much that I have a replica in my study.

Why do I love it? I’m drawn to it because as a reader I find peace in the young woman. She is leaning against a plush pillow while reading a captivating story. It makes me happy whenever I glance at it.

The muted colors are soothing and beautiful. I never knew yellow, mauve and lavender could go so well together.

I wanted to know the story behind the painting (if there was one) and paid a visit to NGA’s website. There isn’t a mystery surrounding this painting. It’s simply described as “a representation of a demure model in a lemon-yellow dress seated at a window ledge.” But I finally learned the artist’s name, Jean-Honoré Fragonard. (It’s awful to admit, but all these years I only cared about the girl in the painting and never bothered to learn the artist’s name.)

The first thing that came to mind when I learned the name was the perfumer Fragonard, based in Grasse, France. Fragonard (the artist) was from Grasse and when Fragonard (the company) established itself in 1926, they decided to name the company after their most famous resident, “as a tribute to both the town of Grasse and to the refinement of 18th-century arts.”

And there you have it. A little story about a beautiful painting that took me down a rabbit hole.

Do you have a favorite painting? Or one that you are drawn to for one reason or another?

xoxo, Jane