London Book Haul

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My trip to London may have been cancelled, but my book shopping need not be. I happily supported my local bookstores and then I happily supported a couple of the bookstores I was going to visit in London.

I decided it would be a nice treat if I subscribed to a six-month book subscription from Persephone Books, something I have been wanting to do for a number of years now. Much to my delight, the first book, Mariana, arrived earlier this week. Mariana is written by Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. It’s a little bit biographical and the main character, Mariana, is a young Englishwoman, going through all the motions of life. It’s supposed to be humorous and interesting and well-written.

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I also bought Square Haunting by Francesca Wade and The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. I’m looking forward to reading both.

Square Haunting is the story of five women writers living in London (Bloomsbury) during the years between the two world wars. I was planning on buying it in London, so I thought it only right to order the British edition. I was supposed to stay in Bloomsbury and haunt all of these squares myself, but it will have to wait for another time and that’s okay.

The Other Bennet Sister is about Mary Bennet, the overlooked sister from Pride and Prejudice. I recall feeling annoyed by her, so it will be interesting to see how Mary’s life turns out.

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In more local news, I also paid a visit to my neighborhood used bookstore and bought Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene (humorous) and From Splendor to Revolution by Julia P. Gelardi (Romanov history).

Even though I’m in book heaven, I’m not used to purchasing so many books. (I talk about that here.) I honestly don’t know how soon I’ll get through reading this new stack. Regardless, supporting our bookstores is the right thing to do and binge reading will be a good diversion from the current troubles.

What is your good diversion currently?

xoxo, Jane

Currently Reading: The Other Side of the Coin

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Hello, just a short post to share what I’m reading.

I’m reading The Other Side of the Coin by Angela Kelly, the Queen’s Dresser. I love this book and I’m so glad I own it! It’s the second book Angela Kelly wrote about the Queen and her wardrobe.

“The title ‘Dresser’ could be a bit misleading as Her Majesty actually dresses herself.”

I’m enjoying it very much and I read a few pages every night before bed. Angela Kelly is a very diplomatic storyteller. She writes about the Queen, her wardrobe and hints at intimate details about their working relationship. There are abundant behind the scenes photographs and lovely pictures of a smiling Queen. Maybe I don’t look at pictures of the Queen often enough, because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a fun or silly smile on her face. This book is a gem!

Good night. I’m off now. Must jump into bed with the Queen. (Ha, do you like what I did there?)

xoxo, Jane

PS. What are you reading?

Inside The Royal Wardrobe by Kate Strasdin

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Description:

Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra by Kate Strasdin

Queen Alexandra used clothes to fashion images of herself as a wife, a mother and a royal: a woman who both led Britain alongside her husband Edward VII and lived her life through fashion. Inside the Royal Wardrobeoverturns the popular portrait of a vapid and neglected queen, examining the surviving garments of Alexandra, Princess of Wales – who later became Queen Consort – to unlock a rich tapestry of royal dress and society in the second half of the 19th century.

More than 130 extraordinary garments from Alexandra’s wardrobe survive, from sumptuous court dress and politicised fancy dress to mourning attire and elegant coronation gowns, and can be found in various collections around the world, from London, Oslo and Denmark to New York, Toronto and Tokyo. Curator and fashion scholar Kate Strasdin places these garments at the heart of this in-depth study, examining their relationships to issues such as body politics, power, celebrity, social identity and performance, and interpreting Alexandra’s world from the objects out.

Adopting an object-based methodology, the book features a range of original sources from letters, travel journals and newspaper editorials, to wardrobe accounts, memoirs, tailors’ ledgers and business records. Revealing a shrewd and socially aware woman attuned to the popular power of royal dress, the work will appeal to students and scholars of costume, fashion and dress history, as well as of material culture and 19th century history.

I love reading about historic women. The woman featured in Inside the Royal Wardrobe was Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), a Danish princess who married into the British Royal Family. She was married to Edward VII and was the great-grandmother of Elizabeth II. 

Alexandra was known for being under the thumb of Queen Victoria, but Inside the Royal Wardrobe disproves this theory and showcases the subtle sartorial ways Alexandra may have rebelled. This fascinating read is a character study as opposed to a history lesson and all aspects of Alexandra’s wardrobe were analyzed.

What I love

The book features illustrations and color fashion plates which allowed me to better visualize Alexandra’s wardrobe. There is also a chart that details which colors Alexandra preferred to wear.

Between 1870 and 1890, Alexandra wore black 24 times and white 31 times. Her least favorite color appears to be pink as she only wore that color four times.

Kate Strasdin was able to find concrete proof that Alexandra rebelled quietly against Queen Victoria. One story is that King Leopold of the Belgians gave Alexandra some Brussels lace as a wedding present. Alexandra had plans to use it for her wedding dress but this was vetoed by Queen Victoria. The Queen felt that English silk was more appropriate. Alexandra didn’t have a choice in the matter and did as she was told. However, unbeknownst to the Queen, Alexandra sewed some of the Belgian lace inside the skirt of her wedding gown.

Interesting tidbits

Alexandra wasn’t a vain woman. She dressed the part as Princess of Wales and later Queen because she understood the importance of how the public perceived her. She viewed it as playing a role.

Privileged women and aristocrats were expected to attend fancy dress balls (fancy dress = costume). Fancy dress balls were a major aspect of the season. This means they had to buy their fancy-dress outfits far in advance for those last minute invitations. Families on the upper-end of the social ladder were able to use their ancestral garments as fancy dress. (!!!) I admit I had heart palpitations at the thought of actually touching an antique dress of historical significance.

When Edward VII and Alexandra stayed at the grand houses of the aristocracy, the aristocratic families were under stress to spend a lot of money on renovating the rooms the royal couple would use. This included new furniture. I read somewhere else that such Dukes went bankrupt trying to entertain Edward VII. I can’t imagine what a renovation must have done to their finances. (When I have guests, I normally buy sparkling water, some flowers and call it a day.)

Alexandra’s clothing survive in museums around the world because through the years she gave her clothes as gifts to her dressers. The dressers left the clothing to their descendants and so on until eventually families donated or sold the pieces to museums. Kate Strasdin tracked down clothing to reconstruct Alexandra’s dress history.

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What I don’t love

The paperback binding fell apart. The hardcover was too expensive so I bought the somewhat affordable paperback, but the pages began coming loose. This is not the author’s fault. Bloomsbury, if you are reading this, maybe try to keep your voracious readers in mind for your next book binding session?

Thanks for reading! xoxo, Jane

Book Haul

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I’m quite pleased with my recent book haul. I had to buy The Other Side of the Coin by Angela Kelly, the Queen’s dresser. It documents the special relationship Angela Kelly has with the Queen. There are some wonderful tidbits to enjoy, lots of history and dress facts. The beautiful pictures are in abundance. I can’t wait to dig in.

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I’ve read Megan Hess before and wrote about it here and here. Her books are gorgeously illustrated. I’m beside myself that I own two more. I feel like a child, so excited that I don’t know where to begin reading them. Elegance is Megan Hess’ newest book and focuses on all the great French designers such as Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, Hermes and others. It’s a gorgeous book that I won’t be able to put down.

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I know I’ll enjoy The Dress. It’s an illustrated jaunt through fashion history. The sketches are just beautiful. So far though, my favorite part of the book is the author’s dedication: “For Gwyn, All the dresses I’ve drawn, and all the dresses I own, will one day be yours.” So sweet!

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I did not need to own another journal, but I could not pass this one up. It’s for journaling about the books we read. I probably won’t use it for every book, but it would be fun for those very special books that stay with me long after I’ve turned the last page.

What have you been reading lately? Any new books in your possession?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #30

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Today it’s a little bit of book news, a little bit of art news, a little bit of royals and a little bit of military history. Happy Reading!

Did you hear that another painting stolen by the Nazis has been recovered? Bravo to the person who recognized the stolen artwork.

I was not expecting so much controversy about the France 2024 Olympics logo. Personally, I love it. What do you think?

If you are a royal watcher like me, you might enjoy reading this article from Reuters about the heir to the Japanese throne. The current Emperor doesn’t have any sons, so his younger brother is next in line and after that his young son. The Emperor does have a daughter. A very lovely and intelligent daughter. But because she is female she may not ascend to the throne. I have thoughts on this that I’ll keep to myself.

The BBC has a fun article on rewatching old films.

Another interesting piece by the BBC, how art created stereotypes of the Arab world.

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This is so true: if indie bookstores want to be inclusive, they need to highlight romance.

Fortnum’s timeline: the first 312 years. This was so much fun to read. I love Fortnums!

I need to live inside this old manor house. I can picture me drinking my Fortnums tea in the garden.

Quiz: Which Classic Mystery Should You Read? I took the quiz and my answer was And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

Helen Mirren’s Costumes in ‘Catherine the Great’ Are a Gorgeous History Lesson.

The Monuments Men (and WOMEN) are back!!

Feminize Your Canon: Iris Origo.

 

Images via Pexels.com

 

Thursday Reading Links #22

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Well, hello there! Another Thursday is upon us. The weeks seem to go by faster and faster. Sigh.

New stories of Thornbury Castle to be told in book. This is really excited and I have to get my hands on a copy of this book. I stayed at Thornbury and it was a dream come true for me.

Retaining the royals: why has the British monarchy survived – and thrived?

The 19 ‘Extroverted’ Behaviors That Annoy Introverts The Most. This is so me. I am the biggest introvert and sometimes (all of the time) I want my extrovert friends to just leave me alone. Am I awful?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am hunting for a new 2020 planner. I want something that’s better than my 2019 planner because I need monthly, weekly and daily break-down pages, plus goals/anniversary/days to remember pages that aren’t at the end of the planner, but near the beginning of each month. And I don’t want to spend a fortune on it. I’m appalled that planners cost as much as $60.00. What? Anyway, do let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for me to consider. But during my planner research, I stumbled across Passion Planner and they have free PDFs, if you’re interested. (Passion Planner is over the top for me, so I’m not going for that one either.) UPDATE: I found my 2020 planner!

Speaking of planners, these Washington Post articles on planners were interesting to read. Who knew the planner business was a multi-million dollar business? A journey through the fancy day planners that promise to fix our broken, millennial lives and It looks like an ordinary calendar. But Passion Planner aims to be the cure for millennial angst.

How to Collect Antique Jewelry. I love jewelry, new and old. This was a fun and interesting read by the Garance Dore team.

How exciting! Fortnum & Mason has a new tea, Celebration Blend tea. “A jubilant blend of strong Assam and hint of fragrant Jasmine, our new Celebration Blend tea is just the cup for every hooray-worthy moment, and only the beginning of another perfect teatime.”

Happy Birthday, Prince Albert! Monarchy’s moderniser: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

I hope you have a great day! And do leave me a comment if you use a planner that you can’t live without! xoxo, Jane

 

Podcasts Update Part VI

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I found a new podcast that I love, Noble Blood. (You know I love my royal history!) At this point someone will need to invent several more hours in the day because there isn’t enough time for all the books, all the podcasts and all the afternoon teas.

Noble Blood is a narrative tour of history’s most fascinating royals (good, bad, nice, evil and fake). Hosted by author Dana Schwartz, so far we’ve had three really good episodes: The Second Death of Marie Antoinette, The Desperate Young King Charles II and The Butcher Baronet.

I don’t know if Dana did voice acting before, but she is really good at it and I’m entranced by her narrative. I love the soundtrack and the music in the background. It really sets the mood for the ominous true tales.

If you listen to it, let me know what you think. I love talking about podcasts (and books and afternoon tea).

xoxo, Jane

Also my previous podcasts updates I, II, III, IV and V.

Pairing books with tea (Désirée)

Désirée by Annemarie Selinko is a novel based on real events as recounted by one woman, Désirée Clary. It’s an epic, fictionalized biography of Désirée, the one-time fiancée of Napoleon. (I very briefly talked about this book here.)

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Désirée lived a very interesting life through some turbulent times in France. She began life as the daughter of a silk merchant and ended her life as the Queen of Sweden.

After Napoleon broke her heart to marry Josephine, Désirée moved on by marrying the tall and dashing Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a decorated Marshal in Napoleon’s court.

Through her marriage to Bernadotte, Désirée became Queen of Sweden because Sweden picked Bernadotte as their next king. Bernadotte reigned as Charles XIV of Sweden. (Talk about the ultimate get-over-him plan. Ladies, next time a guy breaks your heart, marry a king!)

This part isn’t in the book, but Napoleon hoped that Bernadotte would enact Swedish laws that favored France. Much to the anger and dismay of Napoleon, Bernadotte refused to be a puppet king. He even used his personal fortune to pay Sweden’s national debt. (As an aside, the illustrious Bernadotte line continues to reign in Sweden today.)

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Désirée Clary, 1807. Wikimedia Commons

The book is completely engrossing and written entirely in the form of diary entries. It’s a mixture of historical fiction and historical gossip sessions. Désirée is completely relatable even though it’s nearly impossible to relate to a young, rich French socialite. I think her diary entries (her gossip rants, her worries, her funny anecdotes, her undying devotion to her child) make her endearing to the reader.

Also, Paris is very much a main character in this book (before the move to Stockholm, that is) and her diary entries are sprinkled with Parisian locales and addresses. Of course, the book was made into a movie. Marlon Brando played Napoleon.

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I think the perfect tea for this book is by Ladurée. Ladurée is a decadent Parisian tea and Désirée, for her entire life, loved everything Parisian. I think Désirée would approve of this pairing. You can take the girl out of Paris, but you can’t take Paris out of the girl.

What do you think of this tea pairing?

xoxo, Jane

PS. In case you feel like going down a rabbit hole, my other posts in this series can be found here.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

April, May & June 2019 Wrap-Up

July is almost behind us and I’m only now posting my quarterly wrap-up. I hope you will forgive my tardiness. I was busy reading and writing…

The second quarter of 2019 fun-reading consisted of one short story by George Orwell, one romantic fiction by Meg Cabot (love her!), one classic (Mary Stewart), one royal history book and two illustrated books that I loved so, so much!

(The links below take you to my earlier reviews, except for Orwell’s short story and Inside the Royal Wardrobe.)

The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot.

This was a very sweet read. I think it had a touch of Jane Austen’s Persuasion because the hero and heroine were forced to let go of each other many years earlier.

You and the Atom Bomb by George Orwell. “It is a commonplace that the history of civilisation is largely the history of weapons.” 

This short story was written during a time when everyone was terrified of being obliterated. It’s always interesting to read serious pieces from the actual era they were written in. I also learned that I should read short stories more often. It was an enjoyable (if not sobering), quick read.

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Paris: Through A Fashion Eye by Megan Hess.

I don’t know why I’ve never heard of Megan Hess before. She is a wonderful illustrator and this book is a fun walk through Paree.

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Coco Chanel by Megan Hess.

This was an illustrated novel of Coco Chanel’s life. I really love this book. It is so beautiful and fun. I’ve already picked it up several times to reread. I need another Megan Hess book pronto!

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The Wind off the Small Isles by Mary Stewart.

This novella was so charming and romantic. The only complaint I had was that it ended too abruptly.

Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra (affiliate link) by Kate Strasdin.

This newish biography is a fascinating study of Queen Alexandra through her wardrobe. She was not who I thought she was, a timid woman who cowered under Queen Victoria. No! She was a strong woman who knew her own mind and tried to live life on her terms. She was a very caring Princess of Wales and became a good queen. This book warrants its own review, coming soon.

xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

 

Trinket Tuesday: The Fife Diamond Tiara

I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to the holiday season. It’s my favorite time of year. I love everything about Christmas! The decor, the sparkles, the festivities, the music, the food, the romantic holiday tv movies…I could go on and on.  Speaking of sparkles…

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The Fife Diamond Tiara at Kensington Palace

Today’s trinket is another tiara, the Fife Diamond Tiara made in 1887. It was given to Princess Louise on her wedding day by her husband, the Duke of Fife. Princess Louise was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

All husbands should buy their spouses diamond tiaras! {I hope my husband is reading this post.}

Trinket Tuesday is where I share some of the lovely things I discover during my travels, research or around town. All pictures are my own (unless I state otherwise). I hope you enjoy!

Trinket Tuesday: Bapst Emerald and Diamond Tiara

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I love jewelry and the history of jewelry so I thought I’d briefly chat with you about it.

When visiting museums I always make a beeline for the decorative arts section, leaving my poor husband in the dust. It’s so wonderful to see in person the royal jewelry I read about, such as this magnificent emerald tiara at the Louvre.

It was made in 1820 for the Duchesse d’Angoulême (eldest daughter of Marie Antoinette) by Evrard and Frederick Bapst.  The tiara is made of gold and set with 1031 diamonds and 40 emeralds.  Seeing the emeralds up close was incredible. The emerald stone is one of my favorite gems.

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The tiara became the favorite tiara of Empress Eugénie, consort of Napoleon III.  The French then sold it in 1887. After a very long absence, the tiara returned home to France where it now rests at the Louvre Museum.

xoxo, Jane