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

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

 

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

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Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is a fun, nonfiction read about real-life princesses who didn’t have the perfect fairy-tale ending we read (or dream) about.

Description:

You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, and you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But real princesses didn’t always get happy endings. Sure, plenty were graceful and benevolent leaders, but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their majestic closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev slaughtered her way to sainthood. And Princess Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield with her toddler strapped to her back.

The book is organized in sections by type of princess. The sections are Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, Survivors, Partiers, Floozies and Madwoman.

As an aside, I find it interesting that some of the women featured weren’t princesses, rather noblewomen or fake princesses (Anastasia, anyone?).

There were a number of princesses I was familiar with, such as Sophia Dorothea (Survivors), Roxolana (Schemers), Pauline Bonaparte (Floozies), Sisi, Elizabeth of Austria (Madwoman, ouch. A bit harsh?), and Charlotte of Belgium (Madwoman).

But I learned about new-to-me women such as Pingyang (Warriors), Wu Zetian (Usurper), Sofka Dolgorouky (Survivors) and Caraboo (Partiers). The biographies were not very long. Each princess had a few pages devoted to her, but they were long enough to give me a good grasp of the life and history of the featured princess.

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

What I love

Everything! It’s a really neat concept with bite-sized chunks of history about real-life women. I love reading women’s history and, in my opinion, there are never enough books on this subject.

The book features special inserts about historical eras or other tidbits, such as “Death and the Victorian Age” and “Seven Warrior Queens of Antiquity.” This is a nice touch because I think it helps place the princess in history. I also love the (few) illustrations.

The tidbits I learned were incredible. I didn’t know that Stephanie von Hohenlohe was part of Hitler’s inner circle. Bad Stephanie!! I think the author really dug deep into the archives to research and write this book.

What I don’t love

Sometimes the author inserted her opinion into the narrative which jarred me out of my reading. Otherwise, it was a completely fun and enjoyable read. History made super-duper fun!

As always, thank you for reading!!! xoxo, Jane

Amazon US Amazon UK

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, but it’s also ok if you don’t use the links. I’m just grateful you are here and reading my blog. xoxo, Jane

 

Vanity Fair (Magazine Review)

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Reading magazines while drinking Fortnum’s tea in my Burleigh Pottery teacup is pure bliss!

My local library lets you check out magazines, so I borrowed a few. I hardly ever read magazines and it made for a fun weekend. And I kind of fell in love with Vanity Fair, at least with the May 2018 issue.

It was so much fun to read. Why? Because this issue was the special “Love & Royals” issue in honor of Harry and Meghan’s wedding and it was choke-full of royalty-related articles (my favorite kind of reading).

My favorite article was “Long Live The Kings” by Micheal Joseph Gross (and I went down a rabbit hole after I googled the other articles he wrote). Mr. Gross wrote an article about all of the living former kings, how they still want to live as monarchs* and what they are up to these days.

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Photo by Mike Bird on Pexels.com

The article was funny (but not in a ha-ha way), insightful and sad. Funny because all of the ex-kings feel super awkward to accept paid employment** so they rely on donations by their former countrymen. Insightful because the article was well-researched and I learned that a man born to be a monarch, but probably never will be king, lives in my neck of the woods. Sad because a number of the former kings live disillusioned lives by fervently hoping to have their thrones restored and become kings again.

I also enjoyed reading the article about the history of fascinators. Someone please invite me to an English wedding!! There were also a couple of articles about my favorite lady, the Duchess of Sussex. So all in all, this edition was delicious and I am going back to the library for more. Have a great new week! xoxo, Jane

*I pretend to be a monarch too but then the feeling goes away when I have to unload the dishwasher and vacuum the living room.

**I too feel awkward going to work everyday. Please feel free to financially support me.

Trinket Tuesday: Cut-Steel Jewelry

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a fabulous permanent exhibit on jewelry and gemstones.  I especially enjoyed viewing their cut-steel jewelry. I learned that cut-steel jewelry is a unique type of jewelry that glitters without a single gemstone in the settings.

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V&A’s exhibit on cut-steel jewelry. I was especially taken by the beautiful bracelets, seen above.

According to Geoffrey Munn in his fabulous book Tiaras – A History of Splendor, this type of jewelry was popular from the second half of the eighteenth century until 1900. When worn in candlelight (can you imagine a 19th century ball lit by candlelight?), the polished facets of the metal sparkled like diamonds. Munn stressed that cut-steel jewelry was not considered paste and would have been quite valuable in its day.

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Napoleon’s first consort, Josephine, owned cut-steel jewelry. It’s possible that Josephine’s cut-steel tiaras are the same ones worn today by the ladies of the Swedish royal family. This might be because Empress Josephine’s granddaughter and namesake, Josephine of Leuchtenberg (the child of her son Eugène de Beauharnais), married Crown Prince Oskar of Sweden, eventually becoming Queen Josephine of Sweden. Eugène’s sister, Hortense de Beauharnais, did not have any daughters. Presumably the future Queen Josephine inherited her aunt’s jewels.

The Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara, worn today by the ladies of the Swedish royal family, might have been one of them.

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Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden wearing her family’s Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara.

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A close-up of the Napoleonic Cut-Steel Tiara.

In an interesting twist of history, Crown Prince Oskar of Sweden was the son of Queen Desideria (Désirée Clary), the French-born, ex-fiancée of Napoleon. Napoleon callously ended their engagement to marry Josephine de Beauharnais. Désirée may not have been heartbroken for too long because, via her marriage to Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, she became Queen of Sweden. This, however, is a story for another day.

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Links for your enjoyment: Josefina (Joséphine) of Leuchtenberg, Queen Desideria, the Swedish Royal Family, V&A.

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: Necklace and earrings of the Empress Marie-Louise

For today’s trinket we travel back to the Louvre to admire the necklace and earrings of the Empress Marie-Louise.

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This emerald and diamond necklace and matching earrings also included a comb and a tiara, but the tiara is now at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Sadly, the tiara no longer matches the necklace and earrings because, somewhere along the way, someone swapped out the emeralds for turquoise stones. As for the comb, according to the Louvre, “it was transformed.” I think that means that the comb doesn’t exist in its original state and the emeralds from the comb may be lost to history.

This parure* was a gift from Napoleon to his second wife, Marie-Louise, on the occasion of their marriage in 1810. According to the Louvre, the necklace comprises of 32 emeralds, 874 brilliants, and 264 rose diamonds. The Louvre acquired this set in 2004.

Links for your enjoyment: More details on the Louvre’s website, the tiara, Marie-Louise bio.

*Parure: a set of jewels intended to be worn together.

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!