I write like...

I write like
Mary Shelley

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Jacket; c. 1790; French

Red and white striped silk brocade with

silver-colored buttons; fold-back collar.

Source: Kyoto Fashion Institute

Fantastic historic dress resource! Particularly useful for isolating by decade the time period you are researching.

Démodé: 1790's real women's clothing directory

Every example is precious. This is a beautiful example of sartorial enthusiasm for the revolution. Or, it could just be a gorgeous red & white striped parisien jacket.

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This showed up on Wikimedia Commons today. Will add to my Beatrice Gallery.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Study_of_Beatrice_Cenci,_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron.jpg

Study of Beatrice Cenci, 1866.
Model is May Prinsep.

Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin 1792 [source]

Up until the 18th century mourning was a luxury enjoyed (sic) mainly by royalty and those with sufficient aristocratic pedigrees. When Sir Henry Unton, a mere Ambassador, MP and civil servant extraordinaire, died of bubonic plague while in the queen's service in 1596 he was accorded a baron's funeral for services rendered, a full two stations higher than his own of Knight.

Certain mourning customs that were familiar to the Victorians, the worlds best mourners, would have seemed equally at home four-hundred years earlier. While the 16th century was awash in black, the upper class women (and by that we mean aristocratic) draped themselves in various veils and bauble-free headgear, usually in black, sometimes in white if you were Marie Stuart (please clip those "r"s like a proper scot). Men donned a hooded cloak, seen quite clearly in Sir Henry's funeral procession. These are not monks, but friends and family, who would be expected to wear the garment up to six months depending on their relation to the deceased. Male mourning would later lose the mourning cloak and cowl, and substitute darker, more somber versions of au current fashion.

Prior to Et in Arcadia ego (Nicolas Poussin, 1637-1638) death iconography was quite literal, and consisted mostly of deaths heads and crossbones, reapers, and uniquely animated cadavers out to pay a call.

During the enlightenment era a fundamental change occured. While mourning goods became more affordable by the middle classes, mourning customs began to be sentimentalized as the enlightenment philosphies began to change the very basis of family life and family feeling. Rousseauian ideals and neoclassical motifs collided so that by the second half of the 18th century every grieving mother envisioned herself a stoic Roman matron mourning her Brutus while posing attractively on the lawn with an obelisk. Early on it was primarily in mourning iconography that women played out these neo-classical fashion fantasies, long before they appeared draped over the heaving bosoms of the demi-monde at the Palais Royale.

Mourning Jewelry and Portraiture

It was common custom for a person to stipulate in their will to have memorial jewelry made for loved ones (rings, brooches, lockets) either using macerated hair to paint with, or locks of hair woven to create a pleasing pattern or design, with a sentimental phrase, pertinent names, dates etc. The to-be-deceased would have set aside some locks of hair for this purpose. So it is with little surprise that (especially) during the Terror, when people were certain of their own demise, we find the condemned preparing for death, and their own remembrances there-after. Locks of hair and other tokens are exchanged frequently, bequeathed, and smuggled out of prisons by sympathetic, and sometimes merely pecuniary, opportunists. This was especially the case for the royal family. Despite thorough efforts by the revolutionary government to deter the traffic in royal relics, there were reports of locks Louis XVI hair being sold in little boxes, and "large silver rings, which have secret openings, containing in their upper part, made convex for this purpose a small piece of the coat of Monsieur Veto..." [source: The Politics of Appearance - Wrigley]

Royalist Sympathies

landon_Le Comte Pierre-Jean de Bourcet et sa famille_1791.jpg
Le Comte Pierre-Jean de Bourcet et sa famille
Charles Paul Landon 1791
Inscription: Landon--officier de la maison
de feu Mgr le Dauphin--1791

The year is 1791 and Bourcet, as an official in the house of the Dauphin, is displaying his royalist sympathies with a lack of subtlety that does him credit. Upon the table to the left are marble busts of the king and queen, one white lily (of france) lies dying upon the table, while a second remains in a french blue vase. I speculate that the lilies are the two dauphins of france, the elder of the two perished just before the fall of the bastille in July of 1789. The Bourcet family seems to be mourning their own loss. M. de Bourcet's downward gaze falls upon the fallen lily, hand empty and outstretched, while the other holds his eldest affectionately to his side. The four children stand between their parents. The eldest, father's little soldier, gazes forlornly at the portrait on the floor, a toddler on Maman's lap reaches towards the portrait upon the wall, too young to understand where his deceased brother has gone, while the young girl watches pensively by her youngest sibling's cradle, the infant turns away, perhaps ready to join the elder sibling who went before, and take her place in the empty frame above. Madame and Mlle. are the only two who gaze at the viewer. Who is the painting beneath the table?

The Victim's Ball

To read more on the most unusual mourning practice of the age, view my post and gallery on Les Bal des Victimes!

Will posterity believe that persons whose relatives died on the scaffold did not institute
days of solemn and common affliction during which, assembled in mourning clothing,
they would attest to their grief over such cruel, such recent losses, but instead [instituted]
days of dancing where the point was to waltz, drink and eat to one's heart's content.

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Life of Sir Henry Unton 1557-1596

(500k) Life of Sir Henry Unton 1557-1596
Anonymous —National Portrait Gallery, London

Up until the 18th century mourning was a luxury enjoyed (sic) mainly by royalty and those with sufficient aristocratic pedigrees. When Sir Henry Unton, a mere Ambassador, MP and civil servant extraordinaire, died of bubonic plague while in the queen's service in 1596 he was accorded a baron's funeral for services rendered, a full two stations higher than his own of Knight. His widow assures that this momentous honor will not be forgotten by her neighbors, had a brilliant and surreal panel painted depicting his birth, life, achievments, but mainly his oh-so-glorious death which takes up a good three-quarters of the panel. His death, including maladie, doctoring, dying, sailing back to England in a black sailed mourning ship, the above mentioned mile long funeral procession and packed church, ends with his tomb, upon which he rests rather cheerfully, looking as if he were resting in a field of daisies, the Widow Unton looming over him like a spider. All of this layed out rather counter-intuitively from right (birth) to left (entombment).

Detail: Sir Henry Unton
Black sailed mourning ship
funeral mourners

While my main focus here is French mourning, I mention Sir Henry because the painting is so very cool. Well, that and the further you go back in time, the more difficult it is to dig up the evidence on google. French and English customs have long been in a neck and neck horse race. One is never far behind the other, and so too goes the mourning customs. That there is my excuse for rambling on about the very awesome Life and Death of Sir Henry Unton (which I didn't actually find on google, but saw rather in person during a recent visit to the National Portrait Gallery in London).

So here I depart from England.

Interesting article about the Tudor's most recently prolific presenter: David Starkey.

Get your hands off my butch history:
The historian David Starkey says his field has become all too girlie but his female colleagues are quick to slap him down

History, he proclaimed in the Radio Times, had been "feminised" because "so many of the writers who write about [it] are women and so much of their audience is a female audience". Even the subject of his latest television series, Henry VIII, had been "absorbed by his wives", he said, "which is bizarre".

That said, Starkey's "Mind of a Tyrant" was pretty entertaining. With more of a focus on Henry VIII himself than even his own previous series have had.


Source: Ebay. 1922 Original Prints, Costumes worn 1789-1799.

What I did over the Christmas holidays... It started out with Mr. Kallisti downloading "The Devil's Whore" for me "cuz it sounded like your type of thing. Y'know, whores..." It snowballed from there as I watched Charles I beheaded three times over the two week slowdown! It has taken me 2 more weeks just to finish this post, oy!

Here's the line-up, all highly recommended, in rough chrono-order.

1638 to 1660: The Devil's Whore [IMDB]

By and large, there are two categories of period drama. The first is White Petticoat Drama, where people do a bit of frisky fan-work, have a picnic that involves a huge ham, and then live happily ever after. The second is Dirty Period Drama - where everyone is covered in boils, wees out of the window, and palpably suffers from the lack of antibiotics and/or mobile telecommunications. The Devil's Whore is definitely in the second category. John Simm's fleas should make the credit list. Oliver Cromwell clearly pongs. It makes a dirty war a very dirty war. But one that, against all the Civil War odds, makes great telly.

-Caitlin Moran, The Times


1640 to 1660: "By the Sword Divided" (1983) [IMDB] [WIKI]

A bit obvious to say, but if you liked Poldark you'll really enjoy "By the Sword Divided." Classic low budget, yet brilliantly written and performed eighteen hour series from the BBC. It also aired on Masterpiece Theater in the late 80's. One of the few period dramas to deal with the English Civil War, before and aftermath.


1660 to 1685: Charles II - The Power & The Passion (The Last King in the U.S.): [BBC] [IMDB] 2003, covers the life and adventures of Charles II of England, played by the ever roguish Rufus Sewell. Mwrowr.


1673 to 1722: The First Churchills [IMDB]

The First Churchills: 1969! Covers the period 1673 through 1722, based on the biography by Winston Churchill of his illustrious ancestors, the first Duke & Duchess of Marlborough. Susan Hampshire & John Neville are sublime.


Michael Dobson and Nicola J Watson are the authors of England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (Oxford, 2002). It is a guide to the nation's 400-year obsession with the Virgin Queen.

"This is a deliberately miscellaneous selection, since one of the most extraordinary things about Elizabeth is the sheer range of material she has inspired, and continues to inspire, from Spenser's Faerie Queene to Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth and beyond."

Read the full list: The Guardian.co.uk - Michael Dobson and Nicola J Watson's top 10 books about Elizabeth I

Or take a spin on my li'l carousel!

Excerpt from: Tudor terror: John Guy is on a mission to bring history to the masses—The Independent

It is the summer of 1535, just weeks after the execution of Sir Thomas More. A small rowing boat makes its way along the Thames from Chelsea to London Bridge. The oarsman's passengers are a 29-year-old gentlewoman, Margaret Roper, and her maid, who carries a basket. A horrific sight meets their eyes as they approach the bridge: a dozen or more skulls on poles protruding from the parapet, which have been boiled and tarred to prevent them being fed upon by circling gulls. As new heads arrive, the old ones are moved along the row until they reach the end of the line, when they are thrown into the river.

At the door of the north tower of the bridge, the maid negotiates with the bridge-master, handing over the contents of her purse. In return she receives one of the skulls, carefully wrapping it in a linen cloth and placing it in a basket. This is all that remains of Thomas More. One day the skull will join Margaret Roper herself, when she is interred in the family tomb at Chelsea, a burial symbolic of the special attachment between father and daughter.

This is the gripping opening scene of John Guy's study of the relationship of Margaret Roper and her father, Thomas More.

To be released: A Daughter's Love: THOMAS MORE AND HIS DEAREST MEG by John Guy


Margaret More (1505-1544), Wife of William Roper, 1535-36
Hans Holbein the Younger (German, 1497/98-1543)
Vellum laid on playing card; Diam. 1 3/4 in. (45 mm)
From: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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