Monday, November 30, 2009

Pre-Raphaelites in Love: Millias, Effie Gray and John Ruskin

In 1854, the gossip in London society was all about the collapse of art critic John Ruskin’s marriage to Effie Gray. Not even the recent war in the Crimea was as titillating a topic. Nobody could talk about anything else. The matter was the hot topic at dinner parties for months as people eagerly chewed over the details. Ladies whispered about it in the drawing rooms, while men muttered over it while sipping brandy and smoking cigars at their private clubs.

It was a far cry from the happy day when Effie married Ruskin on April 10, 1848 in the drawing room of her parents’ home in Perth. The Ruskins and the Grays had known each other for years. Effie had first met Ruskin when she was twelve and he was twenty-one. When Effie attended boarding school in Stratford upon Avon, she stayed with the Ruskins’ enroute. When her younger sisters came down with scarlet fever, the Ruskins kept Effie until the contagion had passed. When Effie was almost 19, and Ruskin 28, they became reacquainted when she came to London for a visit. Ruskin was already famous as the author of 2 volumes of ‘Modern Painters.’ He was supposed to have been courting Sir Walter Scott’s granddaughter Charlotte, but Ruskin soon had eyes only for Effie.

Ruskin’s parents didn’t attend the wedding of their only child, prevented by the Chartist demonstrations; at least that was their excuse. Although they liked Effie, they really didn’t want Ruskin to marry because they didn’t want to share him. Effie and Ruskin’s wedding night at Blair Atholl in Scotland was a disaster. Both of them were virgins and ignorant of the mechanics of the bedchamber. Ruskin soon came up with arguments against sex, that it would ruin her figure, that babies were ugly. Later he would claim that Effie was mentally ill, which meant that any children they had would be mentally defective. Effie later wrote to a friend after the marriage had broken down that Ruskin had looked at her like she was deformed. Apparently he was used to seeing statues and drawings from classical antiquity where women were denuded of pubic hair. He found it shocking when he caught a glimpse of Effie’s naked body.

But it wasn’t just the lack of physical intimacy that ultimately tore them apart. Ruskin had problems with emotional intimacy as well. When he and Effie were apart, he wrote beautiful love letters to her but when they were together, he treated like an old, neglected pair of slippers. Ruskin’s first loyalty was to his parents not his wife. They had been in their forties when he was born. As a child, he had no playmates because his parents worried they might be a bad influence on him. When he went to Oxford, his mother went with him, taking rooms nearby where he had tea every afternoon. Effie’s father had suffered a financial reversal before the wedding and couldn’t provide Effie with much of a dowry. Ruskin’s father, a wealthy sherry merchant, settled 10,000 pounds on the couple to give them an income, and paid the lease on a handsome house. Because of this they had certain expectations, and they felt that Effie wasn’t grateful enough. They constantly criticized her, complaining either she was too social and keeping Ruskin from his work, or not social enough when she refused to come down to a dinner party they had arranged for Ruskin to introduce him to some important people, because she was ill. Effie, the eldest daughter in a large, close-knit family, had a hard time dealing with this. She was also vivacious, social, practical, and worldly, the exact opposite of Ruskin. When Effie went home with her mother to recover from a bad cold, Ruskin went on a 9 month trip with his parents to the Swiss alps, a trip he had originally planned on taking with Effie.

Finally Effie convinced Ruskin to move to Venice, which he had longed to do. In Venice, Effie had more freedom; she could attend social functions alone without censure. She threw herself into the social whirl there to compensate for the emotional hole in her life, while Ruskin devoted himself to what would become his book ‘Stones of Venice.’ Venice was also filled with dashing Austrian officers, some of whom took a fancy to Effie. However, she always made sure that her behavior was correct, never giving anyone too much encouragement.

When they returned to London, Effie was once again isolated while Ruskin worked out of his old study at his parent’s house because the light was better. They also had dinner with his parents every night since they had no chef due to budget constraints. Effie had no carriage of her own, so she wasn’t free to see her friends at will. Effie was no silent martyr to all this. She began to complain to her friends about Ruskin’s treatment of her.

In 1853, John Everett Millais asked Effie to sit for him. Millais admired Ruskin enormously. Ruskin had been an early supporter of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, writing an admiring article in the Times of London which came at a crucial time in the careers of Millais and his fellow painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt. Now 25, Millais had been a child prodigy, one of the youngest students ever at the Royal Academy of Art. Ruskin was flattered by Millais’ request. He also had selfish motives; it would keep Effie out of his hair while he worked. The resulting painting was called “The Order of Release.’ The painting depicted a Scottish soldier whose wife presents the order for his release to his jailer. When the painting was exhibited it was a great success. After the exhibition, Ruskin invited Millais, and his brother William to join them on a holiday in the Scottish highlands. Accommodations were tight in the rented rooms in the little thatched cottage that they shared with a schoolteacher and his wife.


While they were in Scotland, Millais started painting Ruskin’s portrait but the rain kept interrupting his progress. The two men forged a friendship that summer, debating aesthetics and painting technique after supper. Millais and Effie also grew closer as they spent time together. He began to give her drawing lessons, impressed by her talent. Effie, on her part, mothered him, worrying about his health, cutting his hair when it grew too long. She soon began confiding in Millais about the state of her marriage. And Millais found himself falling in love with her. Ruskin wasn’t blind to the situation, but he was used to men falling in love with his wife. He assumed that Effie would let him down gently. It didn’t occur to him that Effie might return his feelings. Guilt and grief began to eat Millais up. Effie, on the other hand, had had enough. Five years of pent up anger could no longer be denied. She confronted Ruskin about the state of their marriage, telling him that the pain of eternal torment couldn’t be worse than going back home to London to live with him. By October, the trio had gone their separate ways, Ruskin and Effie to Edinburgh where he had several lectures to give, while Millais stayed at the cottage to paint. Her younger sister Sophie came down to London to stay with her for awhile. The situation had gotten so bad between the couple that Sophie ended up getting caught in the middle, as everyone used her as a sounding board. Divorce was not a possibility; it could only be achieved by an Act of Parliament which was expensive. Separation was the best that Effie could hope for but she worried about being a burden on her parents.

Effie’s good friend Elizabeth Eastlake was instrumental in getting Effie to tell her parents what was going on. At first Effie resisted out of pride and embarassment. After she finally confessed all, her parents immediately sought legal advice. The first ray of hope, it turned out that an annulment was possible. The catch was that Effie would have to undergo the embarrassment of an exam to determine her virginity. It was decided that Effie would return home for a visit during which Ruskin would be served with papers. But what Ruskin didn't know was that her parents had come down to Scotland to get her. Effie went back with her mother while her father met with her lawyers to prepare the case. Two lawyers visited the home of the Ruskins and presented John with the citation, and a packet from Effie containing her keys, her wedding ring, and a letter explaining her actions.

Effie was very lucky to have Elizabeth Eastlake come to her defense when the gossip. With Effie’s consent, Lady Eastlake dropped tidbits of information that made it clear that Effie was innocent party and that Ruskin was the one to blame. Although she tried to blacken his name, no doors were closed to him, although his friends avoided him for awhile. Ruskin, meanwhile, was not exactly hiding out. He continued to go out and about in public as much as possible, which was the opposite of his usual behavior. He even insisted that Millais finish the portrait of him that he had started on their Scotland trip which Millais found agonizing. For Effie, facing the prospect of the physical exam and having to give her deposition caused a hysterical paralysis that lasted for ten days.

On June 20th 1854, Effie received a letter stating that her annulment had been granted on the grounds of Ruskin’s "incurable impotency,” a charge he disputed. In court, the Ruskin family counter-attacked Effie claiming she was mentally unbalanced. Effie made Millais wait 7 months before she would allow him to see her, partly to heal, and partly to test his feelings for her. They were finally married in July of 1855. Over the next 14 years, Effie gave birth to 8 children. Millais grew rich and well-respected, one of the most famous painters in England. He was prolific, one year he painted almost two hundred paintings. However he abandoned the Pre-Raphaelite style of obsession with detail and began to paint in a looser style for which Effie was blamed. The annulment barred Effie from certain social functions, and she was not allowed in the presence of Queen Victoria. However, Queen Victoria’s children had no problem socializing with Effie and Millais. Prior to the annulment, Effie had been very active socially, in fact, she dreamed of becoming a great society hostess but it was not to be. She would always be the notorious Lady Millais. When her daughters were old enough to be presented, Millais was their chaperone, instead of Effie.

Ruskin had no further contact with either Millais or Effie. He tried to stay friends with Millais but was rejected. When he later became engaged to Rose la Touche, a teenage girl he’d known since she was ten, her mother was concerned, and wrote to Effie, who informed the family that Ruskin had been an oppressive husband. The engagement was broken off to Ruskin’s disgust.

Millais died in 1896 and Effie followed him less than a year later in 1897. Ruskin died 3 years later in 1900. His later life was not particularly happy. After his aborted engagement to Rose Troche, he never remarried. He was sued by James McNeil Whistler for libel which damaged his reputation. And during the later half of his life, Ruskin suffered from delirious visions and had several mental breakdowns.

Sources:

Pre-Raphaelites in Love: Gay Daly
Parallel Lives - Phyllis Rose

Plays:                                                                                                                   
The Countess - Gregory Murphy
Mrs. Ruskin - Kim Morrison.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Book Review: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher


The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale, published by Walker & Co. (US), Bloomsbury Books (UK)

From the back cover:

It is midnight on 30th June 1860 and all is quiet in the Kent family's elegant house in Road, Wiltshire.  The next morning, however, they wake to find that their youngest son has been the victim of an unimaginably gruesome murder.  Even worse, the guilty party is surely one of their number - the house was bolted from the inside.  As Jack Whicher, the most celebrated detective of his day, arrives at Road to track down the killer, the murder provokes national hysteria at the thought of what might be festering behind the closed doors of respectable middle-class homes - scheming servants, rebellious children, insanity, jealously, loneliness and loathing.  This true story has all the hallmarks of a classic gripping murder mystery.  A body, a detective, a country houe steeped in secrets and a whole family of suspects - it is the original Victorian whodunnit.

I picked up this book at Heathrow airport when I first arrived in London last March, but I never got the chance to really sit down and read it until the past few days when I decided to reward myself with a little bit of what I like to call 'me' reading (books that aren't research books). The minute I picked it up I couldn't put it down until I finished it. I'm a huge mystery buff and I particularly love historical mysteries so I was immediately sucked into the Victorian world that Kate Summerscale so meticulously details.

The book unfolds as if it were a country house mystery, the type that readers might be familiar with if they've read Agatha Christie or Anne Perry. Detective Jonathan Whicher (who inspired Dickens and Wilkie Collins in their fiction) arrives from London to investigate the death of 4 year old Saville Kent who has been brutally murdered and dumped outside in the privy. Immediately he comes into conflict with the local police who resent having a policeman from London sent to help them, as well as resistance from the family.  While the Kent family want to find out who the murderer is, they are not comfortable having their private life pried into by a member of the lower class.  Suspicion falls on everyone, not just the family members, but their servants, and people who had worked for them. Samuel Kent had made a few enemies during his time in Road. Newspapers flocked to the scene of the crime to detail the story, fed by informants and the police themselves. Everyone has a theory, but there is no hard evidence.

The crime made Victorian families fear for their lives. Servants were no longer the faithful retainers of yesteryear, now they could be murderers. Finally Whicher takes a chance and has a suspect arrested, unfortunately due to lack of evidence, this person is released and Whicher's stellar career is effectively ended. Later Whicher learns that knowledge of a certain piece of evidence that could have been crucial to the case was surpressed out of embarassment on the part of the local police (it involved a ladies shift or night dress that was soiled).

Five years later, the same suspect confesses to the murder, there is a sensational trial and a conviction, but it is too late for Whicher, even though he has been proved right. Kate Summerscale's book works on a number of levels, not only is it a gripping mystery, but it is also a social history of Victorian Britain, as well as a history of the detective force in Britain as well as the detective in fiction. Jack Whicher was one of 8 men chosen to lead the new detective force in Britain, which was strongly resisted.  The idea of someone coming in and spying and prying into personal matters was anathema to the British. Secrecy was becoming very important, especially to the rising middle class at that time, but it also conflicted with the rise of the popular press as Summerscale points out. The number of newspapers increased in the 1850's to over 700 newspapers, that accompanied by the invention of the telegraph, meant that news traveled all over the world. Sensational murders like what happened at Road were no longer confined to the local area but were read about everywhere. And this was the murder of a child in a middle-class home, who should have been safe and happy.

Summerscale details the toll that the case took not just on Jack Whicher but also on the Kent family. Crime writers even as recently as the 1980's still believe that Samuel Kent (father of Saville) and the governess were the real killers of the child. Summerscale won the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, as well as being shortlisted for the Crime Writer's Association Gold Dagger and it is easy to see why.  The book reads like a non-fiction novel. Reading the book you can see the echoes in every detective that came after including Sherlock Holmes. It's amazing reading the book that any crimes were solved when you consider things that we take for granted such as fingerprinting, DNA evidence, chain of command, CSI teams, are years in the future.  Detectives in the early 19th century had to rely on their wits and their deductive reasoning like the alienists who were just coming into being.

Summerscale has her own theory about the murder which she details in the book which makes perfect sense and fills in the gaps that were left in the confession of the eventual convicted suspect.

Verdict: Highly Recommended/4 Scandalous Women

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving and the Winner of Delilah

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. May the day be filled with joy, laughter, family, friends, and plenty of food!

And now for the winner of India Edghill's Delilah......

Gwendolyn B

Thanks to everyone that entered. Please come back again and enter The Winter Queen giveaway or in December, when I will be giving away at least 3 books, just in time for Xmas..

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Guest Blogger Polly Guerin on Carmen Miranda

Those of us who remember that dynamic "tutti frutti " dancing diva, Carmen Miranda, will never forget her bombastic style and sensuous singing. Carmen Miranda who died on August 5, 1955 at the far too young age of 46 set the standard for Latin performers. She broke through racial barriers to make a dramatic mark on the silver screen in Hollywood and by some accounts she was one of the highest-paid artists and reported to be the highest-earning woman in the United States during the 1940s and 1950's, the heyday of her oeuvre.


Promoting Brazil

Although Portuguese-born, Miranda was famous for promoting Brazil in her role as an entertainer. It is no wonder, therefore, that Brazilians called her their own. When she died, according to her wishes her body was flown back to Brazil where the Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning. In tribute to her colossal memory more than a million people stood on the funeral possession's route to mourn her untimely death.

A Good Will Ambassador

This was no ordinary diva. Carmen Miranda was a good will ambassador for Brazil as part of President Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy, designed to strengthen links with Latin America and Europe. The premise of President Roosevelt's policy was that in delivering entertainment like hers, the policy would be better received by the American public. And, indeed it did just that. The public wanted more but her career was short lived.

A Samba Singer

The phrase "Tropicalismo" and CARMEN MIRANDA click together like the rhythm of a samba. The Brazilian Bombshell began her career as a samba singer in 1928 the height of the Jazz Age in American movies, but she was already a genuine superstar in Brazil. I recall seeing many of her iconic stylized and outlandishly flamboyant performances and reveled at her amazing dexterity and vitality that lit up the silver screen with jiggling musical numbers. All the while her antics were original entertainment exuding sexy shimmy and shakes all the time dancing to the beat of a Brazilian band and singing one of her trademark songs, "Chick-A-Boom, Chick-A-Boom." When you repeat these words, "Chick-A-Boom, Chick-A-Boom," you can just feel the beat that makes you want to move to the Latin rhythm. Carmen Miranda became known as "the lady in the "tutti-frutti hat," appearing in Hollywood movies wearing high platform shoes and towering turban-like headdresses made of fruit or other exotic decorations. The platform shoes gave the petite entertainer height as did the towering headdresses and the sensuous evening wear she wore slithered to the curves of her curvaceous body.

Tutti Fruity Inspiration

Carmen Miranda's hat fetish may harken back to the early days when she was employed in a hat shop in Rio, which incidentally was called Olinda, the name of her oldest sister. Carmen Miranda was primarily a super star, a modern woman who multi-tasked her talents in several directions. Her fruit laden hats and sensuous costumes inspired a collection of fruity Bakelite jewelry--pins, brooches, bracelets, necklaces, which today are highly collectible mementos of her iconography. Any woman on a budget could find commercial versions of fruity jewelry, which were sold in fashionable department stores. I remember my aunt Doris, who was quite a flamboyant character herself, wearing a matching tutti-fruity necklace and bracelet, plus an outfit that reminded me of Carmen Miranda's style. Doris was a party woman and paid tribute to Miranda by dancing to the tune of Latin bands in the late 1950s.

Entertainer Extraordinaire

A trouper to the end, Carmen Miranda unknowingly suffered a mild heart attack during a live segment of the Jimmy Durante Show. Miranda quickly pulled herself together to finish the show, but the strain was too much for her and she died later that night after suffering a second heart attack at her home. In retrospect accounts in the newspapers of her passing revealed that her untimely death was caused in part by the fact that in the later years of her life Miranda, like so many other stars, began taking amphetamines and barbiturates which took a toll on her body.

Further abetting her unhappiness she had an extremely difficult and abusive marriage. Her sister Aurora stated in the documentary, "Bananas is My Business, that the marriage was a burden in her life; he only married her for her money." Amazing, is it not, that despite it all she smiled and beguiled us with her ebullient silver screen personality.

The Art Deco World Congress

Members of the Art Deco Society of New York will be attending the 11th World Congress on Art Deco in Rio de Janeiro in 2011 and among the places they will probably visit is the museum dedicated to Carmen Miranda in the Flamengo neighborhood on Avenida Rui Barbosa. Marcio Alves Roiter, Founder-President of the Instituto Art Deco Brasil, is spearheading the Art Deco congress in Rio, which is destined to be an outstanding occasion to visit Art Deco architecture, museums, galleries and all things that are Latin Art Deco. To learn more about the Art Deco Congress visit: (http://www.artdecobrasil.com/). The Carmen Miranda museum in Rio houses a treasure trove of original costumes, her amazing "tutti frutti" hats and clips of her filmography. Why not take a vicarious trip to Brazil now by visiting the museum. For more information about the exhibits click the Rio link at http://www.artdeco.org/. Doni Sacramento has also created one of the best Internet sources on Carmen, http://www.carmen.miranda.nom.br/.

Legendary Landmarks

If you're in California nostalgic inquirers may wish to visit Carmen Miranda Square, which is only one of a number of Los Angeles city intersections named for the legendary performer. Interested? Go to the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive across from Grauman's Chinese Theater where Carmen Miranda's footprints are preserved in concrete. Imagine if you will how it might feel to put your feet into Carmen's imprints and recall the pulsating rhythm that must have emanated from such animated feet.

Get Into Carmen Miranda Groove

Why not take a vicarious trip back in time, put on some samba music and remember Carmen Miranda's incredible energy, "joie de vivre" joy for life and her captivating smile. If she were with us today she might say, "Dance like you've never danced before, stay up all night, get carried away and dance like nobodies watching but do it Carmen Miranda style!!!"

Polly Guerin's first job in journalism was as Accessories Editor at the fashion bible, the trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily where she honed writing about Accessories and later as professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology where she lectured on the subject: Product Knowlege. Polly also wrote on the subject of costume jewelry for Art & Antiques magazine. She is a vice president of the Romance Writers of America/New York Chapter and on the board of the Art Deco Society of New York. Visit her at www.pollytalk.com with links to her Internet PollyTalk column and blog www.amazingartdecodivas.blogspot.com.

Special November Giveaway - The Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe


Just in time for Christmas! The final giveaway of the month is the Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe.  Here is a teaser:

As Queen Elizabeth's lady-in-waiting, innocent Lady Rosamund is unprepared for the temptations of Court. She is swept up in the festivities of the yuletide season and, as seduction perfumes the air, Rosamund is drawn to darkly enticing Anton Gustavson….



With the coming of the glittering Frost Fair, they are tangled in a web of forbidden desire and dangerous secrets. For in this time of desperate plots and intrigues, Anton is more than just a handsome suitor—he may have endangered the life of the woman he is learning to love….


If you love historicals, particularly ones set during the Elizabethan period, you will love this book. Also head on over to Amanda's blog here, where she has several posts on Elizabethan heroines.

Note this giveaway is only available to my American and Canadian readers. Here are the rules:

1) Just leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post.

2) If you are not a follower of the blog and you become one, you get one extra entry.
3) Twitter about the giveaway and let me know about it, and you get two extra entries.
4) The contest ends November 29th 2009 at 12:00 p.m. and will be announced on November 30th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Guest Blogger Paula Fletchall-Bryner on Lady Pirates: "Cutlass Liz" Shirland

Scandalous Women is pleased to welcome Guest Blogger Paula Fletchall-Bryner to talk about Lady Pirates: “Cutlass Liz”

The story of Elizabeth Shirland (or Sherland), the lady pirate of Sir Francis Drake’s Spanish Main, is as far from black and white as you can get, historically speaking. In fact its one big pit of gray. The kind that makes researchers back away slowly without making eye contact for fear of losing a limb. That’s probably why so little has been written about “Cutlass Liz” and why what has been written tends to dismiss the possibility of her existence out of hand.

The legend goes something like this: Shirland was born in that most seafaring of English shires, Devon, some time between 1550 and 1560. In her early teens, for no reason specified other than she was one of those kind of girls, Shirland cast off her skirts in favor of breeches and chose a life at sea. Beginning in 1577, she served under Drake – arguably the most successful of Queen Elizabeth’s sea dogs – aboard his Golden Hinde. This voyage made Drake a national hero and his raids on Spanish shipping and towns along the coasts of Central and South America are the stuff of legend. Shirland got a taste of successful pirating, and she liked it. A lot.

The details of how Shirland went from seaman to Captain are vague but eventually she was at the helm of her own ship trying to mimic her hero Drake along the Main. She revealed her sex to her crew early on and started taking lovers from among them. If they displeased her in some way, she dispatched them with her trusty cutlass. Despite her success in prize taking, Shirland’s crew got fed up with her shenanigans and betrayed her to their Spanish enemies. Her ship was boarded in a night raid and Shirland was dragged, naked and screaming, from her cabin to be dispatched directly by the Spanish. This only after she killed her lover who was one of her betrayers.

Obviously there’s a lot of fantasy and wish fulfillment going on in the story as it stands. Though women at sea – either living openly as women or disguised as men or boys – were in no way as unusual as many modern writers would have us believe, women as sea Captains were a rare breed. Then there’s the moniker “Cutlass Liz” which some historians rank as downright impossible for any Elizabethan woman. When we add in the lusty nature of Shirland’s leadership and her dramatic death, it’s no wonder the story is generally dismissed. I would argue, though, that a closer look at the history surrounding the legend might yield more fact than fiction.

A quick search of a genealogy sight like Ancestory.com turns up a myriad of Elizabeth Shirlands/Sherlands born between 1530 and 1600 in Devonshire. This immediately discounts the argument that our heroine must be any one of these women in particular. Elizabeth was an extremely common name at the time and Shirland/Sherland is by no means uncommon. The idea that no Elizabeth would be referred to as “Liz” during this era is a little far fetched as well. Nicknames for Elizabeth included Bess, Beth, Betsy, Eliza, Liza and Liz with the last being the most down at heel sobriquet. Famously – and notoriously – Grainne Ni Malley (known in England as Grace O’Malley) the fiery pirate queen of Ireland, called Queen Elizabeth I “Red Liz” referring not to the sovereign’s hair color (Grainne herself was copper haired) but to her propensity for killing her enemies.

The majority of England’s population did not necessarily benefit from what we imagine today as Elizabethan prosperity. As Joan Druett notes in her book She Captains: Heroines and Hellions at Sea, the decade of the 1560s was unusually difficult for the common folk of Britain. The climate suddenly became colder with longer winters and rainy, dismal summers. Crop failures were a regular occurrence and the seasonal fisheries along the coasts did not produce even half of their usual catches. Men and women turned to piracy as a last resort. Brigands in London were known to lie in wait for water taxis and other small boats and then wade out into the filthy water of the Thames to plunder whatever they could from those aboard. In such desperate times, more than one lone young woman who did not want to turn to prostitution envisioned dressing as a man and going to sea as a viable option.

Then too there was the general egalitarianism of what was to become the Royal Navy. The privateer fleets established by Henry VIII blossomed under his daughter’s patronage and a man (or woman dressed as one) who worked hard, had a head for heights and showed an aptitude could rise from serf to noble in the course of a career. The ultimate example of this came some 250 years later in Horatio Nelson. Born the son of a country parson, “Britannia’s God of War” as Byron named him died a Viscount and Vice Admiral because of his seafaring ability.

Finally, my argument for the viability of Elizabeth “Cutlass Liz” Shirland as a historical woman at sea if not a pirate captain hinges on the thing that makes the story seem ridiculous – her sex. We know now that many pirates and privateers in the Golden Age of piracy and beyond were of African descent. Most were escaped or freed slaves looking for work where they could find it and hoping for wealth like any other buccaneer. Some captained their own vessels. The vast majority of these men (and probably women) went to their graves in complete anonymity. Unlike Blackbeard, Bartholomew Roberts, Jean Laffite and numerous others, who were darlings of the press in their day, newspapers and broadsheets didn’t print stories about black sea rovers. In a time when blacks were considered less than human, the powers that were refused to even acknowledge the existence of black pirates much less their success. What then would make anyone think that the seafaring exploits of another chattel class – women – would be documented in detail? Anne Bonny and Mary Read not withstanding, most lady pirates are lost to history.

So, I leave it to you to decide. Elizabeth Shirland: Cutlass Liz the pirate or figment of an over-active imagination? I’m betting the truth can only be fished out of that gray area in between.

Resources:

Cordingly, David Women Sailors and Sailors’ Women: An Untold Maritime History (New York; Random House, Inc. 2001)
Druett, Joan She Captains: Heroines and Hellions at Sea (New York; Touchstone, 2000)
Konstrom, Angus The History of Pirates (USA; The Lyons Press, 1999)
http://www.bonaventure.org.uk/ed/shirland.htm

Paula Fletchall-Bryner holds a BA in Anthropology from Cal State University, Fullerton and a Certificate of Completion from the University of California, Irvine Writers' Extension. She spent ten years as an insurance executive and is now pursuing her passion - researching and writing about history. Her work has appeared in the periodicals No Quarter and The Lafitte Society Journal among others and she is currently putting the finishing touches on a historical novel about pirates and privateers in New Orleans early in the 19th century.

Here's the link to Paula's blog:
http://paulinespiratesandprivateers.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview and Giveaway with Delilah author India Edghill


Scandalous Women is pleased to welcome India Edghill to the blog to talk about her new book Delilah which will be released by St. Martin's Press on November 24th.

Here's a quick teaser:

Given to the temple of Atargatis as a child, Delilah is raised to be a priestess to the Five Cities that rule Canaan. With her beloved friend Aylah, Delilah grows up under the watchful eyes of high priestess Derceto, who sees the devout young priestesses as valuable playing pieces in her political schemes.



In the hills of Canaan, the Israelites chafe under the rule of the Five Cities, and choose Samson to lead them to victory. A reluctant warrior, Samson is a man of great heart who prefers peace to war. But fearing a rebellion, those who rule the Five Cities will do anything to capture Samson. When Samson catches a glimpse of Delilah, he is ready to risk his freedom to marry her, and Derceto seizes the chance to have Samson at her mercy. The Temple's intrigues against Samson force Aylah and Delilah apart, lead Delilah to question her own heart, and change her future forever.

A glorious and inventive retelling of an ancient story, Delilah is a soaring tale of political turmoil, searing betrayal, passionate friendship, and forbidden love.

Welcome to Scandalous Women India! You've written QUEENMAKER, about King David's queen, Michal; WISDOM'S DAUGHTER, about King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and now, in your latest novel, DELILAH, you tell the story of Delilah and Samson. What was it about Delilah that compelled you to tell her story?

The fact that she's been vilified for so many centuries -- because her side lost. Flip the winner, historically speaking, and she's a great heroine.

What was the starting point for your research on the book?

My starting point is always the Bible (KJV, which I love for beauty of language.) The Crossways Bible Gateway is invaluable. (http://www.biblegateway.com/) Unfortunately, the Bible leaves huge gaps in its stories, which can be minefields for the unsuspecting author! In the case of King David (QUEENMAKER), I was happily writing along and came upon Absalom's revolt.You have to understand here that David is king, has the standing army, the city of Jerusalem, and a permanent water supply. Absalom has his rowdy friends and some trained war gerbils. Yet as Absalom approaches Jerusalem, King David happily chortles "We must arise and flee!" Leaving the poor author saying "Why, David? WHY must you do this thing?" Oh, that was a fun moment. With the Delilah story, it managed to escape my notice that I was going to have to bring down a temple on a lot of people...and I hate killing off people.

Tell us something surprising about the life of women in Philistia.

I'm not sure there's anything that surprising. In all of human history, the average woman ran her household and raised her children. She spun and wove; ground grain and baked. She was responsible for the household gods. Woman's work's never done, and it's always been cyclical. Some women ran their own businesses -- it still boils down to the women doing the work!


Tell us something about the Philistines we didn't know.

Well, to start with, the Philistines were an artistic, cultured people. The reason we now use "Philistine" to mean an uncouth, boorish ignoramus is because the Philistines lost out in the Clone Wars, aka "History is written by the winning side". The Philistines were the heirs of Minoan Crete, one of the golden highlights of ancient history. My other favorite bit of Philistine trivia is the dog cemetary. Fairly recently discovered, it contains the lovingly-buried bodies of hundreds of dogs -- not, apparently, dog sacrifices, either.

Although the book is called Delilah, it is told in multiple viewpoints. What was the impetus behind that decision, instead of telling the story strictly from Delilah’s POV?

Only Delilah's POV would have been too limiting. In first person, only what the person hears, sees, experiences, or is told can be on stage. Delilah couldn't know what Samson was doing, as she wouldn't be there. But even the other POV's in the novel all revolve around Delilah.

I was fascinated by the relationship between Delilah and Aylah. Normally in books they would have much more of an antagonistic relationship, but in Delilah they are good friends. Was that a conscious choice?

I never even thought of them as adversaries; they were dear friends from the book's inception. I can't imagine women without women friends; we need each other. (I read somewhere that women who emigrated out to the western USA during the Wild West period would die of sheer loneliness because they never saw another woman.)

You depart in many ways from the story of Samson and Delilah as it is written in the bible, particularly in the time line, since Samson’s story stretches over twenty years. What made you decide to make the changes that you did?

And oi, is Samson's story a pain for a writer! After the first stories about Samson -- he marries a Philistine woman, he kills 30 men just to get their clothes to pay off a bet, getting blind drunk, burning animals alive -- even the biblical narrator just sort of throws up his/her hands and says "And Samson judged in Israel twenty years" because clearly NOBODY would trust Samson to judge anything but a Miss Nude Canaan contest.

So I freely adapted the story. Sorry, but I'm not having any heroes who tie foxes' tails together and set them on fire. There have to be more efficient ways to burn your enemies' fields!

Could you explain a little about Atargatis?

Atargatis is one of the many fertility/mother/lover goddesses. One thing I loved with the information about a pool of sacred fish in her temple.

And finally how much of the book is fact and how much fiction, do you believe that Samson and Delilah actually existed?

Since we know nothing about Delilah except her name – people usually assume she was a Philistine, but all the Bible says is that Samson "…loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah." (Judges 16:4) – everything about the Delilah of THE IVORY GATE is fiction. I tried to set her in a specific time and place. While I designed the temple of Atargatis, ancient Ascalon existed and was a beautiful city to work with. It was a jewel; a rich trading capital, with a massive road that led from the harbor to the city gate. I imagine it as being as vibrant and volatile as New York City.

This is your third book based on stories from The Bible. What do you find compelling about biblical stories?

Well, at the risk of sounding like Miss Snark -- I find them compelling because they're compelling stories. No story stays in the public consciousness for over 3,000 years because it's DULL! And the Bible tells us just enough of any story to whet our appetites for more. (For example, after all he went through, Moses never gets to set foot in the Promised Land. Okay, how did he FEEL about that??)

What are you working on next?

I'm working on an epic romantic historical novel set in 1879-80 India. My next book from St. Martin's is on my editor's desk now. Currently titled THE MIRROR'S DAUGHTERS, it's another Biblical retelling, this time about Queen Vashti and Queen Esther.

Thanks India! Scandalous Women is giving away a copy of this fabulous book. Note this giveaway is only available to my American and Canadian readers. Here are the rules:

1) Just leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post.

2) If you are not a follower of the blog and you become one, you get one extra entry.

3) Twitter about the giveaway and let me know about it, and you get two extra entries.
4) The contest ends November 24rd 2009 at 12:00 p.m. and will be announced on November 25th.

The Winner of Vanora Bennett's Blood Royal


And the winner of Vanora Bennett's Blood Royal is......



Fleur De Mar

Thanks to everyone that entered. Please come back because there are more giveaways coming up on Scandalous Women!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Today in #Herstory: The Wedding Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur


On November 14, 1501, Catherine of Aragon married Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth, at St. Paul's Catheredral in London. Five months later Arthur was dead and a whole can of worms opened up. Was their marriage consummated? Historians have been debating this question for centuries.

Catherine of Aragon was 16, and Arthur was 15 on their wedding day. The two had already been married by proxy in 1499, waiting only until Arthur was old enough.  The couple later met on November 4, 1501 at Dogmersfield in Hampshire. Little is known about what they first thought of each other, but Arthur wrote to his in-laws that he would be 'a true and loving husband' and told his parents that he was immensely happy to 'behold the face of his lovely bride'.

After their marriage, Arthur was sent to Ludlow Castle, to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches, as was his duty as Prince of Wales, and Catherine went with him. A few months later, they both fell ill, possibly with the sweating sickness. He died on 2 April 1502, and she almost died too, but recovered to find herself a widow at barely 17. 28 years later Catherine would say that she and Arthur had shared a bed only 7 times, and that on none of those occasions did they have sexual intercourse. However, after Arthur's death, Catherine never once mentioned that the marriage wasn't consummated, even during the months when the court was watching to see if she was pregnant.

It was the custom for the bride and groom to be 'bedded,' meaning before witnesses. In the case of Catherine and Arthur, Henry VII and his battle-axe of a mother Margaret Beaufort, Arthur's mother Queen Elizabeth, and a whole host of courtiers crowded into the bedchamber while the curtains were drawn around the royal couple. After the deed was allegedly done, the bridal sheets were produced as evidence.  Witnesses later testified that the marriage was indeed consummated.

The bridegroom even boasted of his prowess. Of course, it's not exactly proof postive. Witness any  high school boy who has boasted to his friends about 'scoring' with his girlfriend, when nothing of the kind took place (Remember the scene in Grease when Sandy and Danny sing two opposing viewpoints in 'Summer Lovin'?). 'Gentlemen, I have been this night in the midst of Spain, and it hath been thirsty work,' Arthur is alleged to have said. Truth or youthful boasting?

In the months after Arthur's death, when everyone was on baby bump watch, Catherine could have said that they were wasting their time. Why didn't she? Was it because of grief over losing her young husband? Or her attempt to prolong her stay in the hopes of eventually marrying his brother Henry? The last thing Catherine wanted was to be returned to Spain. She had been groomed since childhood to be a Queen. All that awaited her was either a long widowhood, or a second less illustrious marriage.

She was aided by  her father-in-law who was reluctant to give her 200,000 ducat dowry. To avoid having to give back the money, it was agreed she would marry Henry who was five years younger than she was. Unfortunately for Catherine, it took 7 long years before she and Henry were married. During that time, she had to endure poverty and insults, treated like a second class citizen.  And the death of her mother, Isabella of Castile meant that Catherine's 'value' in the marriage market decreased. Castile was a much larger kingdom than Aragon and it was inherited by Catherine's mentally unstable elder sister, Juana. The argument was that the marriage was delayed until Henry was old enough, but Henry VII procrastinated so much about Catherine's unpaid dowry that it seemed doubtful that the marriage would ever take place. She lived as a virtual prisoner at Durham House in London. Some of her letters to her father, complaining of her treatment, have survived.

It was only then that she insisted that her marriage to Arthur had been uncosummated. On the 23 of June 1504, she and Henry were officially bethrothed at last. From the beginning, there was opposition to the marriage. The Bishop of London who had officiated at Arthur's marriage to Catherine, disapproved on the grounds of impropriety, that it was against biblical teaching. The papal bull didn't arrive in England until 1506. When it did arrive, it was clear that it assumed that the marriage was consummated. On June 27, 1505 Prince Henry himself lodged an official protest against the betrothal on the grounds that it would be incest. 4 months later the Pope wrote a letter to Arthur, who had been dead for almst four years (was the mail that slow back then?) urging him to curb his wife from excessive religious practices like fasting that could prevent baby making. It wasn't until after the death of Henry VII that Catherine and Henry were finally married. Catherine's second wedding took place on 11 June 1509, seven years after Prince Arthur's death. She married the recently crowned Henry VIII in a private ceremony at Greenwich Church. She was 23 and the new king was just days short of his 18th birthday.

As lovers of history know, when Henry sought to have his marriage to Catherine annulled because of her marriage to his brother. Catherine again vehemently denied that her marriage to Arthur was consummated. There are some historians who believe that Catherine was telling to truth because, in her later years, she earned a reputation for piety. She regularly wore a hairshirt underneath her garments. Yet she tolerated the sinful lifestyle of her confessor, who had a reputation as a womanizer. He slept his way through most of the women at court. Despite his proclivities, Catherine defended him vociferously despite the damage to her own reputation. It was also recorded that early in her marriage to Henry, Catherine continued to claim to be pregnant even after it was clear that she had lost the baby.  Of course this doesn't mean that Catherine wasn't telling the truth about her marriage to Arthur, but it does show that Catherine was quite capable of turning a blind eye to things that she didn't want to deal with or see.

It is entirely possible that Catherine had told the story of her innocence so many times that she began to believe that the marriage to Arthur was unconsummated. It was also expedient for Henry to believe that the marriage was consummated, so that he had a free 'get out of jail' card so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.  Henry had no qualms about bending the law to suit his purposes. No one will ever know for sure what happened between Catherine and Arthur on their wedding night, but what did or didn't happen was to set in motion a chain of events that led to England's break with the Church of Rome, and the monarch of England becoming the head of a new church.

Sources:

David Starkey, The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Joanna Denny, Anne Boleyn

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Book: High Society The Life of Grace Kelly

Today would have been the 80th birthday of Grace Kelly, born November 12, 1929. Last year, I wrote a post about her here.  Now a new book by author Donald Spoto was just released this month. I have read almost every major biography of Grace Kelly, so I'm sort of anxious as to whether or not this one is going to be any good. However, I have read several books by Donald Spoto, most recently his biography of Hitchcock Spellbound, so I am hopeful that this one won't be a hatchet job.

From the back cover:

Drawing on his unprecedented access to Grace Kelly, bestselling biographer Donald Spoto at last offers an intimate, honest, and authoritative portrait of one of Hollywood’s legendary actresses. In just seven years–from 1950 through 1956–Grace Kelly embarked on a whirlwind career that included roles in eleven movies. From the principled Amy Fowler Kane in High Noon to the thrill-seeking Frances Stevens of To Catch a Thief, Grace established herself as one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses and iconic beauties. Her astonishing career lasted until her retirement at age twenty-six, when she withdrew from stage and screen to marry a European monarch and became a modern, working princess and mother.

 
Based on never-before-published or quoted interviews with Grace and those conducted over many years with her friends and colleagues–from costars James Stewart and Cary Grant to director Alfred Hitchcock–as well as many documents disclosed by her children for the first time, acclaimed biographer Donald Spoto explores the transformation of a convent schoolgirl to New York model, successful television actress, Oscar-winning movie star, and beloved royal.

 
As the princess requested, Spoto waited twenty-five years after her death to write this biography. Now, with honesty and insight, High Society reveals the truth of Grace Kelly’s personal life, the men she loved, the men she didn’t, and what lay behind the fa├žade of her fairy-tale life.

Publishers Weekly actually gives the book a decent review. "Noted film biographer Spoto (Spellbound by Beauty) gives readers a previously unseen glimpse into the life of Grace Kelly (1929–1982), who went from Academy Award–winning actress to princess of Monaco. Cinephiles will love Spoto's insider look at Hollywood in the 1950s, and even those unfamiliar with Kelly's films will be drawn to the author's warm and generous portrayal of a woman who was more than a pretty face."  Library Journal and Kirkus are not quite so enamored of the book. I am interested to read it, although I'm not quite sure what new details he can really reveal. It's been 27 years since her death.  You would think that everything that could be written, has been. Since this book is almost $26 this might have to go on my Amazon wish list.

Any books that have just been released that you are particularly keen on reading? Are you all celebrity biographied out?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Power of the Force - Female Force


Even though technically I'm an adult, I still read graphic novels. A couple of months ago, I was in one of my favorite comic book stores when I found these comics by Blue Water Productions. Featuring Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Michele Obama and Caroline Kennedy in the first few issues, the initial mandate was to feature strong women in politics. These issues have been collected into one book.

Since the first few issues, Female Force has done issues on Condoleeza Rice, Oprah, Barbara Walters and Princess Diana. The comics are about 35 pages, the art work is superb and best of all there is a bibliography of books and web-sites so that readers can find out more information about these women. I think they are great for both middle school and high school students. While they shouldn't replace reading biographies, it can give kids a strong sense of who these women were. Future issues will feature Nancy Pelosi, Stephanie Meyers (of Twilight Fame) and JK Rowling.

While I applaud Blue Water for the Female Force series, I would like to see them feature comics on other women like Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto and Indira Ghandi, not to mention Golda Meir. These countries had women in positions of power long before the US. It would also be cool if they ones on Eleanor Roosevelt and early suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul. Even a comic on Amelia Earhart would be more informative than the current movie version.

The comics are available on Amazon.com and from other web-sites such as Forbidden Planet.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Winner of Sunflowers and New Giveaway of Vanora Bennett's Blood Royal

The winner of Sheramy Bundrick's amazing new novel Sunflowers is, drumroll please:

Mageela


Thanks to everyone that entered. I'm sorry that it took me so long to post the winner. Last week was my birthday and I spent most of the week partying and doing research.


The next giveaway on the blog will be Vanora Bennett's Blood Royal. Here is a brief description:

The story of a great queen, a woman of enormous courage who made her own rules, and a true survivour. This is the first in a series of early medieval novels by Vanora Bennett, the author of 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman' . Catherine de Valois, daughter of the French king is born in troubled times. Though she is being brought up in a royal court, it is a stormy and unstable environment. Her only firend is the remarkable poet and writer Christine de Pizan. She is married off to Heny V as part of a treaty honouring his victory over France, and is destined to be a trophy wife. Terrified at the idea of being married to a man who is at once, a foreigner, an enemy and a rough soldier, Catherine nevertheless does her duty. Within tow years she is widowed, and mother of the future King of England and France - even though her brother has already claimed the French crown for himself. Caught between warring factions and under threat the powerful lords of the English court and her own brothers-in-law, she has to find her own way, if only for the sake of her baby son.She takes strength from the teachings of her mentor de Pizan, and the possibility that she will be able to return home to France. She is also supported by Owain Tudor, controller of her household-a dangerous support as rumours of their relationship would jeoperdise her right to keep her child. To save her son, and herself, She must turn away from her love and all that is familiar and safe to find another way forward.


About the Author:

Vanora Bennett is a journalist and writer. She lived and worked in Russia for 7 years, writing for Reuters and the LA Times. She has been a foreign correspondent and feature writer and contributed to publications including The Times, the LA Times, the Guardian, the Observer and the Evening Standard. She lives in London with her husband and two sons. She has written two previous novels: Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Queen of Silks. Her latest novel, Blood Royal came out in the UK in May 2009. It will be published in the US sometime in 2010.


Note this giveaway is only available to my American and Canadian readers.
Here are the rules:
1) Just leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post.
2) If you are not a follower of the blog and you become one, you get one extra entry.
3) Twitter about the giveaway and let me know about it, and you get two extra entries.
4) The contest ends November 18th 2009 at 12:00 p.m. and will be announced on November 19th.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's Coming up in November


I can't believe that we are already into November which means December is right around the corner. I'm in the depths of writing my manuscript so bear with me if some of these don't come to fruition.

  • Interview with India Edghill, author of Delilah and Giveaway

Giveaway of Vanora Bennett's new novel Blood Royal about Catherine de Valois and Owen Tudor

Still a few days left to enter the Giveaway for Sheramy Bundrick's Sunflowers

Posts on the love triangle of painter Millais, and John and Effie Ruskin

Chanel during the War

Catherine of Aragon

Reviews of the films Lady Jane and Marie Antoinette (Norma Shearer version)

Also some guest bloggers will be showing up!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Marie Antoinette's Birth Chart


Since Marie Antoinette and I share a birthday, every year I've done a Marie Antoinette themed post. This year, I thought I would examine Marie's birth chart. I've copied the chart from a web-site called astrotheme. If you want to read a longer more in depth version of Marie's birth chart, you can do so at the web-site. I read somewhere on line that when Marie Antoinette was born, an astrologer predicted that she would lead an unhappy life, and her eventual fate. I'm pretty sure that is just a myth. Marie Antoinette was born during the Age of Enlightenment, the era when Kings or Queens had a court astrologer were more than likely over.

I do think that you can learn a lot about a person from a pyschological standpoint by looking at their birthchart. Certainly pyschoanalysts like Carl Jung were fascinating by what a birth chart can reveal about a person. I've personally always been fascinated by astrology ever since I was old enough to know exactly what it was. I'm just going to look at a few key themes in Marie's chart, primarily her Sun, Moon, Venus and Rising Sign.

Marie Antoinette was born on November 2nd in Vienna at 7:30 in the evening. At the time of her birth Cancer was rising, the Sun was in Scorpio, Her Moon was in Libra and her Venus is in Scorpio as well. The Queen's chart is very much balanced between the elements of Water and Earth with a little fire and not much Air.


Sun in Scorpio According to Debbi Kempton-Smith's book people who have the Sun in Scorpio hate and love with equal intensity that lasts forever. That certainly is true of Marie Antoinette. The people that she loathed like Cardinal de Rohan, she loathed, and the people that she loved like Axel Fersen and the Princesse de Lamballe, and the Duchesse de Polignac she loved fervently. People with Sun in Scorpio also are incredibly loyal to the point of stupidity. And Marie Antoinette was certainly a loyal friend, even after she realized that she and the Princesse de Lamballe didn't really have that much in common, she stayed loyal. The same with the Duchesse de Polignac. Sadly her loyalty wasn't often rewarded. Scorpios are also stubborn, and that is true of Marie Antoinette. Once she made up her mind about something or someone, it was very hard for her to change her mind. Witness the whole brouhaha over Madame de Barry who she famously snubbed. It took a great deal of convincing to get Marie Antoinette even to speak to her. Also, no one could get Marie Antoinette to do anything that she didn't want to do. Her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, constantly wrote her letters exhorting her to stop riding so much, to spent more time studying, and Marie much of the time ignored her mother's exhortations.

In her natal chart, the Sun is in the 5th House. Without giving birth to a fulfilling work, or to a child, and without enjoying the thrills of a passionate and dramatic love, life is meaningless. This is certainly true of Marie Antoinette. It wasn't until she had her children that she felt really fulfilled as a woman, that her life had purpose. Once her daughter was born, she began to give up the frivolous pursuits that had filled her life when she first arrived in France. Scorpios also tend to be very private, another reason why Marie created her own little oasis at the Petit Trianon, to have some privacy from always having to be on display, which she hated.

Marie Antoinette's Rising Sign is Cancer. Your rising sign is the face that you present to the world, while your Sun is more your Ego. People with their rising sign in Cancer can be dreamy, which Marie Antoinette certainly was as a child. With this Ascendant, they also have a very warm personality which Marie Antoinette had in spades. Cancers also tend to be homebodies. Marie Antoinette created a home for herself at the Petit Trianon which even the King had to be invited to. That was her own personal space, an oasis where she retreated when the rigid etiquette of the Court at Versailles became too much for her. There Marie Antoinette dressed more casually then she did at Court, where the gauze dresses that later became fashionable.

Marie Antoinette's Moon is in Libra (as is mine): The moon represents the feminine side of the personality. For a woman, the Moon is almost as important as the Sun and the Ascendant. Libra is the sign of balance, Librans would rather have a discussion than fight. Librans are also very sociable. People with their Moon in Libra know how to flatter, and flirt. Marie Antoinette was known for being very flirtatious, but she rarely flirted with intent. In fact her flirting with men at court was often misunderstood. Women with Moon in Libra also are very feminine which Marie Antoinette certainly was very much so. According to Debbi Kempton Smith's book Secrets from a Star-Gazer's Notebook, people with Moon in Libra "give the best gift of all, themselves, wholeheartedly. They get stepped on for their kindness." Librans also live to make other people happy. Marie Antoinette was certainly a people-pleaser in many ways, and easily influenced when she was younger.


And finally, Marie Antoinette's Venus is in Scorpio. Venus represents how one expresses love while Mars represents how one expresses anger and passion. People with Venus in Scorpio are able to love to distraction and to hate at the same time. Marie Antoinette was certainly very passionate in regards to her friends, if not towards the King. Someone with Venus in Scorpio would not be happy with an unsatisfactory love life. Although historians are divided about whether or not she had an affair with Axel Fersen, I think that with her Venus in Scorpio, if Marie Antoinette fell in love with someone deeply, she would want to take the risk to take that next step. Love and sex would be entertwined for her.

I hope this brief glimpse into Marie Antoinette's birthchart has been interesting.