Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: The Star of the Saxe-Ernestine Order, 1840

The Star of the Saxe-Ernestine Order
Created for Prince Albert, 1840
Gold, Yellow Diamonds, White Diamonds,
Opals, Emeralds, Blue Enamel
The Royal Collection
Of the many stars and garter badges given to Prince Albert during his life, this one is the most unusual for its use of opals in place of white enamel and the inclusion of both white and canary diamonds.

This is the Star of the Saxe-Ernestine Order which was given to Prince Albert in 1840. The order was founded in 1833 by Albert’s father, Ernest of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The star was meant to commemorate Albert’s appointment as Grand Cross of the Order in 1838.

Prince Albert can be seen wearing this particular star in the painting of the christening of the Princess Royal by Charles Robert Leslie in 1841.

The Christening of Victoria, Princess Royal
Charles Robert Leslie
The Royal Collection

At the Music Hall: “If You Were the Only Girl in the World,” 1916

If you were the only girl in the world,
And I were the only boy,
Nothing else would matter in the world today,
We would go on loving in the same old way.

A garden of Eden, just made for two,
With nothing to mar our joy.
I would say such wonderful things to you,
There would be such wonderful things to do,

If you were the only girl in the world,
And I were the only boy.

This extremely popular, romantic ballad was written in 1916 by Nat D. Ayer with lyrics by Clifford Grey. The song debuted with the premiere of the musical revue “The Bing Boys Are Here” at the Leicester Square Alhambra Theatre. The song became so beloved because it offered a sentimental and innocent distraction from the increasing horrors of World War I. Enjoy this 1917 version sung by Henry Burr.

Painting of the Day: “A Horse Frightened by a Lion,” George Stubbs, 1770

A Horse Frightened by a Lion
George Stubbs, 1770
The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Eighteenth Century painter George Stubbs was celebrated for his equestrian portraits, but often desired to paint loftier subjects than horses. Still, his public expected horses from Stubbs, and horses he gave them. However, he found a way to incorporate the horses that his fans desired into grander paintings.

This canvas entitled, “A Horse Frightened by a Lion” was inspired by Stubbs’ 1755 trip to Rome where he spotted a fragment of an ancient sculpture in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Stubbs’ has rendered the horse magnificently, which is not surprising. The lion, however, looks a little weak and drowsy—owing to the fact that he figure was painted with the only model being a lion skin. Regardless of the rather limp lion, it’s still a powerful painting.

Ancient Sculpture

The Art of Play: “Fido” the Toy Lion, 1914

This plush lion is a testament to the love that children feel for their soft toys. Purchased in Calgary in 1914, “Fido” was named as such because he was initially believed to be a dog. He was purchased for a young girl, Nancy Mildon, by her mother. By 1916, as the First World War swelled, Fido was a source of comfort for Nancy, and served as he constant companion. He traveled with her across the ocean three times in 1916 on the RMS Alaunia, in 1921 and in 1929. 
Plush Lion, 1914
Calgary, Alberta
The Merseryside Maritime Museum

While on the RMS Alaunia, Fido was loaned by Nancy’s mother (against Nancy’s wishes) to another young girl aboard the shop, Ruth Merrington. So enamored by Fido was Ruth that she drew a picture of the lion and wrote a poem in his honor which she presented to Nancy upon returning Fido to his best friend.

Fido was so beloved that Nancy kept him (along with the drawing and poem by Ruth Merrington) until her death at age ninety. Today, Fido continues to delight people. He’s on display, with his poem and drawing, in Lifelines Gallery, on the 1st floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 223

Marjani grunted as she heard the snip of the scissors next to her ear. Pushing Marie Laveau away, she growled. “What are you doin’?”

Marie smiled triumphantly as she held aloft a lock of Marjani’s black hair. “I’m making sure that you never get to far away from me, Woman.”

“You think your ways are the best.” Marjani laughed. “But, honey, I got ways that done lasted far longer than yours. See, my ways got roots in honesty and peace. Yours are naked and cold. Mine will always win out over the darkness and shadows which you scurry in.”

“We’ll see, Woman.” Marie said, walking toward the door. “We’ll see.”

“Go on,” Marjani barked.

“Expect to feel me near you,” Marie chuckled. “With these strands of hair, you’re mind forever.”

“The Holy Mother will protect me.” Marjani shook her head.

“Woman, I done killed your Holy Mother long ago.” With that, Marie opened the bedroom door and sashayed out.

Marjani watched as Marie left her room. Grumbling, she hurried to find her dress. “Don’t you gentleman worry none.” She muttered to herself. “Marjani’s comin’.”

At that very moment far away from New Orleans, Arthur was admiring himself in an ornate pier mirror.

“Could have been made for me,” Arthur smiled at his reflection.

“’Cept they weren’t.” Gerard shook his head. “That fine suit of clothes was made for whatever man owns this grand house.”

“He ain’t here, is he?” Arthur spat. “So, now it’s mine. And, so is this.” Arthur walked to the dressing table and opened a delicate jewel casket.” He smiled at Gerard. “Put this in your satchel.”

“Come on, mate,” Gerard moaned as he stumbled with his bag. “Let’s hurry out of here. No tellin’ when someone’s gonna come back. You know a house like this has got servants. Someone’s due to find us and I don’t think we’re going to get where we’re goin’ if we end up in prison.”

“Relax, will ya?” Arthur said. “I’m just getting ready for the journey. Speaking of servants, let’s find their quarters. Gotta be a spare uniform around here.”

“For what?” Gerard grumbled.

“For you.” Arthr grinned.

“Me?” Gerard frowned.

“Sure, every fine gentleman needs a valet.” Arthur nodded.

“What are you sayin’.” Gerard narrowed his eyes.

“I’m sayin’ that our voyage will be a lot smoother if people think I’m a well-heeled gentleman and you’re my valet. Don’t you realize that if everyone thinks you got money, they’ll bend over backwards for ya? We can get to New Orleans in high style without payin’ a dime as long as we look like we’re good for it.”

“I won’t say you’re not clever,” Gerard scowled. “Because you are. But, let’s do hurry up, then.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Arthur laughed. “Nothin’ at all. I got it all worked out.”

“I hope so,” Gerard squinted.

“Now, Gerry, let’s get your wardrobe ready.” Arthur laughed. “We got a long way to go yet.”

Meanwhile, back in that dim New Orleans hotel room, Iolanthe clapped her hands impatiently.

“That’s enough whisperin’ between the two of you. I know what you’re sayin’ and I don’t want you thinkin’ that I don’t. Now, will you give us what we ask or not?”

“This is most unexpected,” Robert said.

“I told ya you’d have to pay us.” Iolanthe smiled.

“You didn’t say we’d have to pay with our lives.” Robert said.

“Don’t be foolish,” Iolanthe said. “It should be quite simple for you.”

“Listen, witches,” Punch spoke up. “We’re more than willing to give Ulrika the money she wants.”

“I knew that you would. Really, you two aren’t quite the imbeciles that you seem to be.” Ulrika purred.

Mr. Punch frowned, “And we’ll double that amount for you, Iolanthe. But we can’t do what you ask.”

“Why not?” Iolanthe hissed.

“Because it’s not possible.” Robert said.

“How do you know?” Iolanthe snarled.

“You’re asking me to cure your son. This note says that unless I cure your son of what ails him, you’ll take Colin from us.”

“It’s only fair,” Iolanthe shrugged. “One child’s life for another.”

“How can I cure the boy?” Robert asked. “I don’t even know what his ailment is.”

“He’s…he’s different.” Iolanthe sputtered.

“Mentally?” Robert asked.

“In part.” Iolanthe said softly. “But, physically, too. You’re a doctor. You can fix him.”

“Haven’t you brought him to other doctors?” Robert asked.

“Well, of course, I have.” Iolanthe shouted. “Don’t you think I’ve done whatever I could?”

“Then, what makes you think that I can achieve what they can’t?” Robert asked.

“Because them other doctors didn’t have as much to lose as you do.” Iolanthe answered plainly.

“Don’t do it, Chum.” Punch whispered, “it’s a trap.”

Robert took a deep breath. “I’ll do what you ask, Iolanthe. Or, I’ll try, at any rate.”

“I’ll bring him here right now.” Iolanthe smirked. “Then, we’ll see how good a doctor you are.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-222? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, April 18, 2011 for Punch's Cousin, Chapter 224. 

Goal for the Day: Chronicle Your Life

As a writer, very often people will say to me of their own lives, “I should write a book.” While most of us are not going to see our memoirs published for all the world to see, that doesn’t mean that our stories aren’t interesting--especially to our own families.

That’s why it’s important to keep a chronicle of the events of your life. As time passes, we tend to forget the little details that make each day so special. Keeping a journal of the things that both thrill and disappoint you each day will remind you of where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Object of the Day, “Act I” by Moss Hart, 1959

Moss Hart
Playwright Moss Hart was responsible for bringing us some of the most beloved and enduring dramas and comedies of the American theater. He is best known for such successes as You Can't Take It With You (1936) and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939)--both written with George S. Kaufman--as well as George Washington Slept Here (1940), Jubilee (1935) with songs by Cole Porter, and I'd Rather Be Right (1937) with songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (no relation). He also penned the musical Lady In The Dark (1941), with songs by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin.

During this period, he also became known as a talented and sensitive director, staging such legendary shows as Junior Miss (1941), Dear Ruth (1944) and Anniversary Waltz (1954), the musical My Fair Lady (1956), and Camelot (1960). Several of his plays were adapted into film versions and he was also the author of such screenplays as Gentleman's Agreement (1947) —earning an Oscar nomination—Hans Christian Andersen (1952) and A Star Is Born (1954).

Kitty Carlisle and Moss Hart
Despite a host of interesting friends which included Noel Coward and Harpo Marx, Hart’s life was plagued by bipolar disorder and long periods of deep depression. In 1946, he married the lovely Kitty Carlisle with whom he had two children. Kitty encouraged her husband through good times and bad and urged him to write a memoir of his interesting life. In 1959, he finished Act I, dedicating it to his wife. The book told of his early life and the beginnings of his career. It was made into a film in 1963 with George Hamilton playing Moss Hart.

Hart died prematurely of cardiac failure at the age of 57. Kitty Carlisle never remarried. In this interview with Miss Carlisle, she speaks of her life with Hart and her deep love for this talented, unusual man.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Royal Pets: Sandringham Lucy by Carl Fabergé, 1908

Sandringham Lucy
Carl Fabergé , 1907-1908
Chalcedony, Rubies
Commissioned by King Edward VII
Purchased by King George V while Prince of Wales
The Royal Collection
An avid sportsman, King Edward VII enjoyed long visits to the Royal residence at Sandringham where he spent most of his time hunting and shooting. His favorite companions at Sandringham were the pack of Clumber Spaniels which lived at the estate. Edward VII’s son, the future King George V, also appreciated the Clumber Spaniels, and like his father, had a particular fondness for one in particular—Sandringham Lucy.

I was not very familiar with Clumber Spaniels. The breed originated in France in the eighteenth century and was first bred in England by the Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. They can be seen in the 1871 painting, “A Big Shoot at Sandringham” by Thomas Jones Barker.

A Big Shoot at Sandringham
Thomas Jones Barker, 1871
The Royal Collection

In 1907, King Edward VII commissioned Carl Fabergé to create a miniature sculpture of Sandringham Lucy. Fabergé observed the dog and modeled the figure from life. The sculpture of chalcedony with ruby eyes took over a year to create. For reasons now unknown, Edward VII never claimed the sculpture. It was purchased from Fabergé in 1909, By George V, shortly before his father’s death.  He was probably urged to do so by Mary of Teck, his wife, who--among other things--amassed a huge collection of jeweled and enameled animal figurines by Fabergé.

Friday Fun: Mr. Punch and the Ghost

Professor Whatsit performing in Clunes.
Here’s another video clip from Chris van der Craats, also known as Professor Whatsit. Mr. Punch seems to have encountered that pesky ghost again. Many professors interpret the ghost as being the ghost of Judy. It seems logical that she’d haunt him, after all.

Though Punch seems a bit taken aback by the specter before him, he still knows “the way to do it.”

Antique Image of the Day: An Early Photo of Mary of Teck, 1887

Princess Victoria Mary of Teck
(later, Queen Mary)
Byrne & Co., 1887
The Royal Collection
Ah, Mary of Teck.  She was a handsome young woman.  While still Princess of Wales, Victoria Mary of Teck was photographed by Byrne & Co. (active 1880-1900).  Upon becoming Queen Consort in 1910, she dropped the name “Victoria,” and in doing so, picked up a lot of art and antiques.  Curiously, she also seemed to keep a lot of pictures of herself as well.   

Mr. Punch in the Arts: May Fayre, 2011, Punch’s 349th Birthday!

This Spring, our Mr. Punch turns three hundred thirty-nine years old. He looks good for his age, yes? The centuries haven’t subdued Punch and, now, you can see a whole pack of Punches at the 2011 May Fayre in Covent Garden, London.

The event will take place Sunday, May 8, 2011. This is the Thirty-Sixth annual May Fayre, sponsored by Alternative Arts. The celebration begins with a grand procession of Professors and their puppets. This is a perfect opportunity to see the best Punch professors in the world, to explore Punch-related products and to appreciate all the many different puppets that are in use today.

You have no idea how badly I’d love to attend this. But, being an ocean away is rather prohibitive. Nevertheless, if you, too, are quite far away from Covent Garden, you can still celebrate Mr. Punch’s birthday with a Punch-themed event of your own.

Isn’t that poster fantastic?

Three cheers for Mr. Punch and many happy returns.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 222

I suppose this means you’ve decided on your price.” Robert grumbled at Iolanthe.

“Yes,” Iolanthe smiled unctuously. “We have.”

“Did the two of ya witches set aside your differences?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Oh, yes. We’ve come to quite a satisfactory conclusion to our little tiff.” Iolanthe nodded with false enthusiasm. “Haven’t we, Ulrika?”

Ulrika smiled stiffly. “You could say that.”

“Your Grace,” Iolanthe cooed. “I’ve recently come into a very exquisite and rare diamond. Do you think you could set it for me? You are a jeweler. Aren’t you?”

“Partly.” Mr. Punch said. “Is that what you’ve come to ask for?”

“Hardly.” Iolanthe chuckled. She withdrew a piece of neatly folded yellow paper from her pocketbook. “To whom should I give this?” She grinned mischievously. “The doctor has all the brains, but the puppet man has all the gold.”

“Give it here,” Punch snatched the page from her hand and unfolded it. “Coo!” He whistled as he read it. “Here, you ain’t serious with this?”

“Deadly.” Ulrika winked.

Punch handed the paper to Robert who looked at it as his cheeks flushed and he began to sweat. With a voice that shook as much as his hands, Robert exclaimed. “This is an outrage!”

“So is stealin’ a baby.” Iolanthe shrugged.

“Why don’t the two of you talk about it for a few minutes,” Ulrika purred.

“We’ll do just that,” Robert said, taking Punch by the arm and leading him to the corner of the room.

“This is not just money she wants,” Robert whispered. “It’s blood!”

“What can we do ‘bout it?” Punch asked frantically.

“Why hasn’t Marjani come?” Robert said softly. “Everything is at sixes and sevens. We’re off schedule. She was to be here before those to women arrived.”

“I think we should carry on as we planned.” Punch said.

“Without Marjani here, we don’t have our witness.” Robert argued softly.

“I don’t think we got another choice,” Mr. Punch whispered.

Meanwhile, at the house on Royal Street, Marie Laveau was growling at Marjani. “You done tried my patience too many times, Woman.”

“Do your worst.” Marjani said. “I ain’t afraid of you. I’d rather be left to rot on a shelf than have to align myself with the likes of you. If you’re gonna kill me, go on and do it. But, just know. If you do, you’re gonna get more than you bargained for. You think I got some kind of power now? Just wait ‘til I’m dead.”

From her apron, Marie produced a pair of scissors and lunged toward Marjani.

Marjani did not flinch, nor scream, but stood as still as a statue as she heard the metal of the scissors scrape together.

Did you miss Chapters 1-221? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Protect Your Way of Life

We'll never see events like Erica Kane's
Mardi Gras Ball again.
Farewell, Pine Valley.
It’s not surprising that society is changing. That’s part of our evolution as human beings. I don’t necessarily like it, but I understand it. As our ideals and drives change, so does what we seek for entertainment. Yesterday’s announcement by ABC regarding the cancellations of All My Children (in September) and One Life to Live (in January) is not shocking, but it is upsetting. It’s just one more bit of evidence that we’re walking away from our traditions and our institutions.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have an interest in the more tried-and-true of the arts. It’s up to you to show your support for the things that you enjoy. Let people know what you’re passionate about. Show your appreciation for the things that you value that some might consider old-fashioned. The more we show that we still want some of our traditional art forms to thrive, the less likely it is that they’ll be removed. While we can’t effect all aspects of culture, we can make a show of protecting our cherished way of life.

Object of the Day: A Souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, 1935

In honor of their twenty-five years on the throne, King George V and Queen Mary, in 1935, enjoyed their Silver Jubilee Celebration. As was often the case, commemorative items were produced so that everyone in the empire could have a souvenir of the occasion.

This mug, one of my ever-growing collection of Royal souvenirs, features portraits of George and Mary flanked by flags and surrounded by some very attractive foliage. The reverse of the cup reminds us that King George was the Emperor of India, as well as King of Great Britain, Ireland and all British Dominions. It’s just too charming!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Hamlet on Wry

“Look at him, Lady.  Marmaduke really isn’t worth all this trouble.”

Image:  Ophelia Weaving Her Garlands, Richard Redgrave, 1842, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painting of the Day: “Les Femmes Savants,” by Charles Robert Leslie, RA, 1845

Les Femmes Savants
Charles Robert Leslie, 1845
The Victoria & Albert Museum
By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, art collectors were starting to favor genre paintings of domestic or theatrical scenes which depicted sentimental and sometimes humorous themes over the historical paintings which had dominated the early part of the century.

Here, celebrated painter and member of the Royal Academy, Charles Robert Leslie addresses this shift in sensibilities by depicting a scene from a play by French playwright Moliére, “Les Femmes Savants” (The Learned Ladies). The humorous scene of the pompousness of the self-styled literary elite was quite well received at the Royal Academy.

With this painting, Leslie embarked on a successful career painting scenes from popular literature.

Mastery of Design: The Eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1817

Eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales
English, 1817
The Royal Collection
Traditionally, English artists often represented a single eye of a woman as an homage to her beauty. These intimate miniature souvenirs were often incorporated into pieces of jewelry.

Such is the case of this beautiful charm bracelet from 1817. The centerpiece of the bracelet is a miniature of watercolor on ivory of the eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales in a gold locket, framed in diamonds and rubies.

The gold bracelet also features eight other charms of various shapes and sizes featuring enamel and an assortment of diamonds and other precious stones. We can thank Mary of Teck for keeping this bracelet in the Royal Collection. It’s just one of the many shiny things she managed to collect over her long life.

Unfolding Pictures: Queen Adelaide’s Fan, 1830

Queen Adelaide's Fan
English with French leaf, 1830
Leaf by Alphonse Giroux
Gold Guards by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell
Leather, wood, ivory, gold, rubies, amethysts.
The Royal Collection
This magnificent fan of painted sheep’s leather, gilt wooden sticks and gold guards studded with amethysts and rubies, once belonged to Queen Adelaide, consort of King William IV and aunt of Queen Victoria. Clearly in the English style, the gold-work on the guards, with ciphers of A.R., is most likely the work of Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. The leaf, however, was imported from France and is the work of Alphonse Giroux who was known for his elegant painted fan leaves. The leaf is painted in an Asian style and has applied ivory faces on the figures. Curiously, the heads have Western features, showing that they were most assuredly European in origin.

Queen Adelaide, upon the death of King William IV, was known as the Dowager Queen. Since none of her children had survived into adulthood, the throne passed to her niece, Victoria. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were extremely fond of Adelaide and made sure that she was well cared for. Upon her death, most of her personal possessions were bequeathed to Queen Victoria—including this fan.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 221

Mr. Punch frowned, “Coo! I’m getting’ a wee bit worried, I am. Where’s Marjani?”

“I don’t know,” Robert grunted. “She should have been here by now. You don’t suppose Edward Cage has delayed her?”

“Must have done.” Punch shook his head. “I don’t see why he won’t leave us alone.”

“Well, to be fair, we do have his son.” Robert shrugged.

“No.” Mr. Punch answered quickly. “We got our son. He’s got Molliner blood in his veins, he does. Ain’t no part of him a Cage.”

“I don’t think that Edward would agree with you.” Robert rose and walked to the window of the dusty hotel room.

“Here, what’s he want with Colin anyway?” Mr. Punch scowled.

“He wants a son.” Robert sighed.

“He’s already got a son—that slick, little Orman. Remember? The boy what was throwing stones at them nice birds?”

“I remember.” Robert shuddered. “An awful child, that one. Perhaps that’s why he wants another son, one that isn’t clearly demented.”

“Well, he can’t have this one.” Punch snorted.

“It’s not our place to decide what anyone’s motives are. As long as we understand our own, we’re in good standing.”

“I know me own motives, I do.” Punch said. “I even know me master’s--mostly. But, I don’t know yours. You never did answer my question, Chum.”

“Didn’t I?” Robert turned around, smiling.

“Not really. You just gave some vague answer like what you always do.”

“Don’t you trust me, dear Punch?” Robert asked.

“’Course I do!” Punch replied. “I trust you with me life and with the life of my nephew and me dog. Even me puppet! You’re me chum and I love you. But, I worry that perhaps you put yourself in a rough place and that you might…what’s the word?”

“Regret it?”

“That’s it.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“I don’t regret anything. I’d not trade my time with you for anything in the world. You know how I feel about you. And, about Julian.”

“I do.” Punch answered. “But, I don’t understand why you keep putting yourself in danger for us. Anyone else would walk away, they would.”

“True.” Robert chuckled. “But, I’m not anyone else.”

“Right.” Punch said softly.

“Listen to me, dear Punch,” Robert began. “When we met on the ship, I remembered you from your visit to my practice. I know who you were, and I was curious as to why a nobleman behaved as you do when you’re Mr. Punch. Yes, I confess, there was a bit of scientific curiosity to my initial interest in you. I wanted to help you. As a doctor, I wanted to help. But, also as a man. You see, I was never able to help my mother. The way she suffered and the way she died, well, I’ve always blamed myself for not being more helpful, for not saving her somehow.”

“But, you were just a boy.”

“Nevertheless, I’ve always felt as though I could have saved her. So, that’s why I followed in the family path of being a physician. I vowed I’d help people in a way that I couldn’t provide to my own mother. When I declared that I was your champion, that was what motivated me. But, then I got to know you—both of you. I realized that what my life was lacking was your companionship. And, then, selfishly—I admit—I decided to stay by your side. You give me so much, Mr. Punch, your loyalty, your bravery, your cleverness, you wildness, your devotion and affection. And from Julian, I have learned an elegance and dignity that I never knew before.”

“Coo.” Mr. Punch puffed.

“You seem to think that you’re some kind of burden on me. But, you’re not. This is what you do when you feel affection for someone. The good far outweighs the bad. I made a promise to you, and I aim to keep it. We’re a team, you and I. To walk away now would mean the death of me. I would be empty. Dear Punch, your devotion has saved my life. The least I can do is help you with yours.”

“Here,” Mr. Punch muttered. “You don’t talk much, but when you do, you say a lot.”

“Those of us who are quiet often have the most to say.” Robert smiled.

“Funny, isn’t it?” Mr. Punch laughed. “I ain’t quiet. Am I? I say a lot, but I don’t say nothin’ much at all.”

“You say more than you realize,” Robert winked.

A knock on the door interrupted them. It was Marjani’s knock, in the pattern that they’d agreed upon.

“Finally!” Robert said, rushing to the door, and being careful to walk quietly past the baby who was sleeping.

Robert flung open the door and his shoulders sagged.

“Did I get the knock right?” Iolanthe grinned.

“I remembered the little signal your girl used when she came yesterday.” Ulrika added.

“Good to see that you’re both still here.” Iolanthe growled, sashaying into the room. “I’d hate to think what I’d have done if you’d have tried to flee.”

“Good morning, Your Grace,” Ulrika said with false respect.

“Ginger sow.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“Oh, someone’s feisty this morning.” Ulrika cooed.

“We’ve come for our payment,” Iolanthe interrupted. “I do hope you’re prepared.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-220? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Make Time for Cooking

The antithesis of the food below, we have
a beautiful strata of pancetta, imported cheeses
and fresh vegetables served with a lovely
Spring salad of spinach and fruits with blue cheese.
Putting aside our vacuum-sealed meats, we all should take a page from Arlene Francis’ book—not literally—and make time for cooking. A home-cooked meal is very often much healthier and more satisfying than anything you could buy in a restaurant. Not all of us are blessed with innate cooking skills, but we can learn.

So, these week, look up a few recipes for your favorite meals and give it a try. You might surprise yourself. And, there’s no better way to learn than to try.

Object of the Day: Arlene Francis’ “No Time for Cooking,” 1961

The doyenne of early television, Arlene Francis, was involved in so many things—Broadway, film, lavish parties and mixing with the most elite of the elite. She was also, it seems, a fan of vacuum-packed meats as evidenced by her 1961 sort-of cookbook, No Time for Cooking.

Of course, more than a real cookbook, this was a multi-page ad for FlexVac of New Jersey who made their living sealing cold cuts and other perishable products into slick, plastic shrouds. They got themselves a star to sell their meat cozies, and they produced this book.

It’s rather bizarre. Taking into account that the worlds of cuisine and food styling have changed over the last sixty years, it’s still quite odd and quasi revolting. There are some perfectly normal things, like Eggs Benedict (which employs packaged ham to its fullest) and, then, there are…

Well, let’s look. Shall we?

“I’m Arlene Francis. Before I take my Lucy Ricardo dress to go see Dorothy Kilgallen, I like to bring her a basket full of vacuum-sealed meats. She loves the cold cuts, you know. I just know that she and I will be friends until we’re both really old. Here’s to Dorothy Kilgallen and here’s to my friends at FlexVac! I love packaged meat! How delightful.”

“This looks normal. Right? It’s breakfast. Nothing strange here at all. How delightful.”

“I love to eat pudding in my living room. Look! Someone made a pineapple totem poll! How delightful!” 

“Even artificial birds in whimsical cages love a good loaf. This loaf of an unidentifiable meat has been wrapped in fat! I love loaf! And these Long Island Iced Teas help it go down really smoothly.  How delightful!”

“Nothing says ‘Midnight in Manhattan’ like an elegant tureen filled with beans and carefully-arranged, dissected wieners. I’m sure my guests won’t recoil in horror when they see this. How delightful!”

“When my friends at FlexVac asked me to write this book, I jumped at the chance. Whatever did we do before we had the pleasures of vacuum-sealed meat? It’s delightful. Right?”

No time for cooking

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Building of the Week: The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

Entrance Facade
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Known as Holyroodhouse, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and Holyrood Palace, this majestic Edinburgh castle with its ruined abbey is the official residence of the Queen when she is in Scotland. Unofficially, she likes to stay at Balmoral while in Scotland, but that estate is her own private property.

The West Facade
The Royal Collection
© 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Holyrood Palace, like many of the Royal residences, has grown and developed over the centuries. Legend states that the land was the spot where King David I found himself about to be attacked by a hart when the animal was distracted by a sign from God. Following that “miraculous” encounter, King David I, ordered that an abbey be built on the land. The monastery at Holyrood Abbery was founded in 1128.

The abbey was the site of many marriages and burials as well as coronations until the roof collapsed in 1768. The structure has remained as it is—un-restored—for two hundred fifty years. Though many have proposed rebuilding or restoring the abbey since the Eighteen Century, no plan has ever been accepted. And, so, the abbey remains ruined.

Holyrood Abbey
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

An Aerial View
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In contrast to that, Holyrood Palace is quite well maintained though it, too, has been destroyed on several occasions. Three hundred years after the construction of the abbey, a small guesthouse was built nearby. Over the course of the next century, the house was expanded and became a popular vacation home for many in the Royal Family. It was a Royal residence in all ways except name. In 1498, King James IV ordered the construction of a new palace which would replace the adapted guesthouse. For three years, the palace was constructed. The result was an official Royal residence which truly befitted a king.

Bed Chamber of Mary, Queen of Scots
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Built around an enormous quadrangle, the new palace contained a chapel, a great hall and various Royal apartments. James V added to the palace, constructed the suite of rooms and the tower which would be occupied by Mary, Queen of Scots.

With the ascension of James VI to the throne in 1603, the palace fell out of use when the permanent Royal court was moved to London. In 1650, the palace was destroyed (some say accidentally) by Oliver Cromwell’s troops. Cromwell insisted that he would rebuild the palace, and he did. However, Cromwell’s additions were pulled down by King Charles II who erected the structure we see today.

The Queen's Gallery
The Royal Collection
© 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Since then, Holyrood Palace has welcomed many different British monarchs and heads of state. Today, the Scottish branch of the Queen’s Gallery is located in Holyroodhouse and welcomes visitors from around the world.

To learn more about this historic Royal residence, visit the Official Web Site of the British Monarchy.

The King's Closet
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

As it was in 1789.
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Precious Time: A Mosaic Cabinet and Clock, circa 1700

Mosaic Cabinet and Clock
Giovanni Battista Foggini
Italian with a German clockworks.
pietre dure (hardstone mosaic), ebony, gilded bronze,
brass, mother-of-pearl and ebonized wood
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Isn’t this gorgeous? This cabinet and clock was over one hundred years in the making and represents the work of several different artists. The bottom part of the cabinet dates to 1700-1705 and is constructed of pietre dure (hardstone mosaic), ebony, gilded bronze, brass, mother-of-pearl and ebonized wood. The central mosaic panel is not the original decoration, but rather an addition from the Nineteenth Century. Looking closely at the pietre dure central panel, we can see that it was originally intended to be a tray. The composition which features a mosaic of a string of pearls was designed to be viewed from above, horizontally, and not vertically as it is positioned here. Nevertheless it is an attractive addition to the original piece.

The initial design is the work of Giovanni Battista Foggini of Florence. Foggini created this cabinet for Anna-Maria Luisa de' Medici. In the late Seventeenth Century, the top portion and clock were added. Crafted of the same materials and in a similar style, the top half is the work is almost as old as the original portion—having been added many years after its initial creation.

The present clock is a replacement for the mid-Eighteenth Century English clock which had been built into the cabinet. The second clock is German in origin and was added in the mid Nineteenth Century. At the same time, the central panel on the bottom portion of the cabinet was replaced with the one we see today.

Having been lost from the de’ Medici home, this beautiful group found its way into a private collection. Its owners have generously loaned it to The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Painting of the Day: “Sunday Morning,” by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda, 1870

"Sunday Morning"
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda, 1870
Sudley House, Liverpool
Dutch-born painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tameda was known for his richly colored canvases showing scenes of the decadence of the Roman Empire. Upon moving to England as a young man, his work was broadly appreciated, but especially within the upper classes who adored his scenes of languorous females against bright blue Mediterranean skies.

Though Alma-Tameda excelled at exotic compositions in marbled interiors, he also executed several very-English domestic scenes such as this one entitled “Sunday Morning.” Here, we can see that Alma-Talmeda enjoyed painting interiors of many styles and spent as much time on his backgrounds as he did the figures he was painting. “Sunday Morning” is part of the permanent collection at Liverpool’s magnificent Sudley House.


Unusual Artifacts: King Edward VII’s Punch Dagger, 1876

Punch Dagger
Indian, 1876
Gold, Steel, Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds
Presented to King Edward VII while Prince of Wales.
The Royal Collection
This is not a dagger for Mr. Punch though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind having it. This rare weapon is called a “Punch Dagger” because of the method by which it is used. The dagger is gripped in an upright fist by the double crossbars. So, why did King Edward VII have such a weapon—especially one that is encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds?

It was a gift. It is customary for the monarch to be presented with lavish gifts from high-ranking officials in the Empire during an official State visit. This jewel-studded dagger with gold crossbars and a steel blade was presented to King Edward VII while still Prince of Wales when he met the Maharaja of Rutlam on March 9, 1876 at the Residency at Indore. The Prince was there as the guest of the Maharaja Holkar of Indore.

The elegant, but deadly, item is inscribed H.R.H. PRINCE OF WALES / RUTLAM A.D. 1876.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 220

Charles buckled his shoes and grunted as he stood up. “Not the most comfortable accommodations, I must say.”

“Really?” Barbara Allen grinned. “I had a very restful night. You’re quite nice to sleep next to.”

Charles blushed, “Thank you.”

“You’re not going to leave me, are you?” Barbara fluttered her eyelashes.

“I must,” Charles sighed. “I’m sure that His Grace and Dr. Halfax are not thrilled with me for not coming home last night.”

“I’m sure they have other things on their minds.” Barbara frowned.

“All the more reason that I should return to them. I do have a responsibility.”

“You have many responsibilities.” Barbara answered quietly.

“I do.” Charles smiled, pulling Barbara close to him. “And, you know that I take them all very seriously.”

“I do appreciate that you risked your position with my brother to stay with me last night.”

“You needed comfort.” Charles hugged her.

“I’ll never stop needing your comfort.” Barbara buried her face in his chest and breathed in his scent.

“I’ll return to you later.” Charles said, still holding her.

“Will you tell Julian that you’ve been with me?” Barbara asked.

“If His Grace asks where I’ve been, I’ll be honest with him.”

“Do you think that will jeopardize your employment?” Barbara asked.

“No.” Charles smiled. “I don’t. His Grace cares about you deeply. You’re not his enemy. You’re his sister. He doesn’t want you to suffer.”

“Does that apply to Mr. Punch as well?” Barbara joked, stepping away from Charles.

“It applies to all the many facets of His Grace.” Charles grinned.

“Would that I were so confident.” Barbara mumbled. “You’ll tell me, won’t you?”

“What’s that?”

“You’ll come back and tell me how my son is?”

“Of course.” Charles said reassuringly.

“Thank you.” Barbara looked to the ground, trying to compose herself. She took a deep breath and looked up. “Now, what am I to do with myself? I can’t go back to Marie’s. I certainly can’t go to Iolanthe. I’ll need to find some sort of position somewhere.”

“Why don’t you just stay here for a few days? You need the rest.”

“But, won’t your friend mind? This is his home.”

“Louis wouldn’t care. Besides, he won’t be back for several days.” Charles shook his head.

“Perhaps I will.” Barbara looked around.

“Good.” Charles said. “I’ll return as soon as I can.” He kissed her on the cheek.

“How can you be sure that Julian’s at their house?” Barbara asked.

“I can’t.” Charles shrugged. “I’ll start there. Surely Mr. and Mrs. Halifax will know where he is.”

“I hope so.” Barbara nodded. “Charles?”


Barbara blushed. “Thank you.”

“Think nothing of it.” Charles winked.

Once he’d left, Barbara curled up on the pile of blankets on the floor and sighed. “I have no right to feel such joy.” She crinkled her brow. “I’m a married woman.” She thought of Arthur and wondered if she’d ever see him again.

Little did Barbara know that Arthur was also awaking on a bed of dirt. Grunting, he looked up and squinted into the sunlight. He rolled over and smacked his friend on the side of his head. “Here, Gerry. Wake up.”

Gerard grunted. “Let me sleep, you pig.”

“No!” Arthur shoved Gerard. “We got to get moving.”

“I’m hungry.” Gerard grumbled.

“You won’t be hungry much longer, mate.” Arthur growled. “But, if you want to get some food in your belly, you got to get up!”

“Fine.” Gerard yawned, sitting up and brushing the dirt from his arms. “Where we goin’ anyway?”

“To find my lovely wife.” Arthur grinned. “She’ll make sure neither of us is ever hungry again.”

At that very moment, back at the Halifax’s borrowed house on Royal Street, Marjani narrowed her eyes at Marie Laveau.

“Are you suggestin’ that I would want to have some association with you?” Marjani asked angrily.

“I think it would be in your best interest.” Marie said. “Woman, you should take advantage of this rare opportunity. You done got me to set aside my anger and think with my head and not my hate. It’s not somethin’ that happens too often and I don’t know how long it’ll last.”

Marjani spat at Marie’s feet. “No. There’s nothin’ that would make me crawl on the ground with you.”

“Let me put it this way, Woman,” Marie growled. “You join me or you die.”

“Kill me, then.” Marjani stiffened. “Go ahead.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-219? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Be a Hopeful Leader

Just as Queen Elizabeth II has led her people through a series of tough times from her efforts during the Second World War prior to her reign to her unyielding dedication during political and economic struggles, we must also be hopeful leaders to the people we care about.

Even when her personal life was in turmoil—as her daughter divorced, her sons separated from their wives, and her beloved Windsor Castle burned—Elizabeth II always put the needs of her people and her country before her own needs. Such selflessness is rare these days. While they’re different, our responsibilities are just as great in the context of our own lives. Showing the people that we love that we are steadfast, loyal, brave, and especially hopeful, will give them a sense of peace and comfort which is entirely contagious.

Object of the Day: A Coronation Plate Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

Following the death of her father, King George VI, and with the encouragement of her grandmother, Mary of Teck, Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1953 and ushered in a “new Elizabethan era.” Following the Second World War, it fell upon Elizabeth II to bolster Britain and show that the future of the Empire was bright. She was styled as a “fairytale” queen and the activities of her family (Prince Phillip and their four children) were studied, admired and sometimes criticized.

Approaching her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Elizabeth II will have reigned 60 years, quickly nearing the tenure of the longest-reigning monarch, her Great Great Grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for sixty-three years..

The 1953 Coronation was not only a celebration of the new monarch, but also an occasion for great hope as the people of Britain looked ahead with optimistic anticipation. As was the case for previous generations, many souvenirs of the coronation were created—among them, the most popular being china and porcelain. This lovely little gold-rimmed plate shows a portrait of the young queen above the date of her coronation and flanked by the flags of the empire.

I love these coronation souvenirs and have collected a good many of them recently—from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. I’m drawn to their innate British-ness, but also to the feelings of pride and expectation which come with them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Film of the Week: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, 1939

Big things were happening in 1939. A couple of little films called The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind were putting Technicolor to good use. Meanwhile, Warner Brothers was putting Bette Davis to good use as well. She made four films in 1939: Dark Victory, Juarez, The Old Maid, and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. The last film, shot in brilliant Technicolor, was meant to be an epic, historical production that would rival Gone with the Wind. It didn’t exactly rival the Civil War masterpiece, but it stands up as a fine film in its own right.

Michael Curtiz directed the film which was based on the successful Broadway Lunt and Fontanne production by Maxwell Anderson. With glorious costumes by Orry-Kelly, a majestic score by Erich Korngold and a supporting cast which included Olivia de Havilland (as Lady Penelope Gray), Donald Crisp (as Francis Bacon. I’m always tickled that Crisp = Bacon), Vincent Price (as Sir Walter Raleigh), Leo G. Carroll, Alan Hale, Sr., Henry Stephenson, James Stephenson and Nanette Fabray. Davis was looking forward to the role. She enjoyed parts wherein she didn’t have to be glamorous, and relished the opportunity to slather her face with white make-up and really, truly play a character. To prepare for the part, she even shaved her hairline to approximate the documented look of Queen Elizabeth I.

With all that going for it, you’d think Davis would have been thrilled with the experience of shooting this exciting film. There was, however, one little problem with The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. First of all, there was “Essex.” Davis wanted Laurence Olivier to play the dashing Essex. But, Warners thought that he wasn’t big enough box office and since Errol Flynn was at the top of his career, he was cast alongside Bette. Then there was a little scuffle with who would get top billing and a debate about the title of the film. However, despite all of the backstage drama, the result is a gorgeous retelling of the history of the early reign of Elizabeth I of England.

It’s not my favorite Bette Davis film. I personally don’t care much for Flynn and find him to be a little wooden and daffy compared to the other actors in the film. But, it’s an important part of Davis’ filmography and a great example of the quality cinema that came from 1939.