Marie Antoinette, Marie Louise, and The Crow

Illustration of Two Corbies by Authur Rackham in 1919, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Illustration of Two Corbies by Arthur Rackham in 1919, Courtesy of Wikipedia

One anecdote about the French Queen, Marie Antoinette, involves a crow in the Corvidae family. Apparently, a black crow inhabited the woods and parks of Versailles and was frequently seen within the area of the Queen’s beloved Petit Trianon. As many people considered crows a sinister omen, it was perhaps not the best thing to have a crow in the vicinity. Moreover, this crow was friendly enough that it was not concerned about its safety and would readily seek food or when tossed, gather up bread crumbs.

One morning while at Petit Trianon in October of 1785, Marie Antoinette was leaning out her boudoir window. She was gazing across the lawn of Petit Trianon and holding a biscuit and a cup of steeped milk. The crow suddenly appeared flapping its wings and begging for food. It landed on her window ledge, and despite the Queen being somewhat alarmed by the bird’s ominous visit, she gave it the remainder of her biscuit. She then shut her boudoir window and went about her business. However, later that morning Marie Antoinette told her husband about the incident and noted that it was unsettling because of her superstitious beliefs about the bird. Continue reading

Georgian Executions

Georgian execution of James Greenacre, Public Domain
James Greenacre, Public Domain

In 1800, one person wrote that “a month doth not pass over in England without repeated executions; and there is scarcely a vagabond to be met with in the country who has not seen a fellow creature suspended from the gallows.” Georgian executions were plentiful enough that one person noted “it is shocking to think what a shambles this country is grown! Seventeen were executed this morning.” This was reiterated by a country visitor to London in the early 1800s. He commented that Londoners were immune to the horror and that it was shocking to constantly hear about executions whereas “in the country, from the less frequency of them, even butchers weep.” Continue reading

The Roman Fall

Sample of the Roman Fall, Author's Collection
Illustration of the Roman Fall, Author’s Collection

There were all sorts of strange fashions that eighteen and nineteenth century people adopted. For instance, patches or mouchets were at one time applied to the face to cover pimples, smallpox scars, or other facial imperfections. Another strange fashion was adopted after Alexandra of Denmark married the Prince of Wales and developed a limp. Fashionable women decided they wanted a limp and soon streets everywhere were covered with limping women. However, it was not just women who adopted strange fashions. Apparently, Victorian men decided to adopt a style of walking that became known as the Roman Fall. Continue reading

Women’s Accessories in the 1700s

Fashions of 1730s, Women's Accessories
Fashions of 1730s, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Women’s accessories were the fashion item that completed their look, and in the eighteenth century, there were plenty of accessories for a woman to use or wear. These accessories included the following: chemise or shift, decency skirt, fan, fichu or kerchief, handkerchief, jewelry, millinery, pannier, parasol, petticoat, pockets or pocket hoops, shoes and shoe buckles, spectacles, stays, stockings and garter, stomacher, snuff-box, and walking stick.

Chemise or Shift—The chemise or shift was the first layer a woman wore, and it was followed by stays, the name used for a corset in the 1700s. Chemise or shifts could also be worn as nightgowns.

Decency Skirt—A decency skirt was essentially a knee-length, under-petticoat, worn between the shift and stays. As drawers or bloomers did not exist at this time, a decency skirt served to preserve a woman’s decency if she fell or if a gusty breeze lifted her pannier exposing her private parts. Continue reading

Master of Miniatures, Pastels, and Oils: Adélaïde Labille-Guiard

Self-portrait byAdélaïde Labille-Guiard with Two Students
Self-portrait by Labille-Guiard with Two Students, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Adélaïde Labille was the youngest of eight children. She was born in 1749 in Paris to a bourgeois habadasher. As an adolescent she had a knack for art and studied art from a family friend, the miniaturist painter François-Elie Vincent. She also met and married a financial clerk named Louis-Nicolas Guiard in 1769. Her marriage to Guiard proved unhappy, and the couple officially separated in 1779. Known as Labille-Guiard or Labille-Guiard des Vertus by this time, her marriage difficulties and separation created virulent rumors. The rumors supposedly emanated from duc de Marlborough. He not only examined Labille-Guiard’s sexual ethics but also questioned her artistic abilities in “the anonymous Suite de marlborough au Salon 1783 [that] alluded crassly to a rumor that Labille-Guiard was having an affair with … [François-André] Vincent (who became her second husband in 1799).” Continue reading

Accidents Involving Animals in 1843

Cattle from a Victorian Print and Animal Accidents
Cattle from a Victorian Print, Author’s Collection

Accidents were common events in the Victorian Era. Many accidents involved animals partly because animals were an integral part of Victorian people’s lives. Stories of these animal accidents were publicized in local newspapers. Among the stories told, are five interesting ones from 1843. The first story involves a horse in Northern Ireland, the second story talks about an infuriated cow, the third, an out-of-control bull, the fourth, a ghastly accident related to a horse, and lastly there is a story that involves man’s best friend, the dog. Continue reading

Model of the Perfect Woman Georgian Style

Queen Louise of Prussia Admired as the Most Beautiful Woman in Europe During the Georgian Era, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Queen Louise of Prussia Admired as the Most Beautiful Woman in Europe During the Georgian Era, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Antoine Le Camus wrote Abdeker: or the Art of Preserving Beauty in 1754. It is half “oriental tale” and half recipe book filled with cosmetic recipes. In the book Camus claims that “the face is the chief Seat of Beauty.” But Camus also asserts “beauty is that Form of an entire body, which pleases every one our senses.” Based on his beliefs, he also devised a model of the perfect woman and here are his deductions.

  1. “The Form of an entire Body, that can be consider’d as beautiful, ought to please our Eyes by its Extent.” This meant a person was not be too fat or too thin or too big or too little.
  2. “The Colour of the Parts is one of the Articles that Nature should observe in the Composition of a handsome Body.” Skin was to be fair in color because brown, yellowish, or freckled skin was said to be “accounted ugly.” Continue reading

Execution of the Wrong Man in the Georgian Era

A Scene in a Unspecified Public-House in Portsmouth in the 1790s, Execution
A Scene in an Unspecified Public-House in Portsmouth in the 1790s, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1727, in York, a waiter by the name of Thomas Geddely lived with a Mrs. Hannah Williams. Williams was well-to-do and owned a popular public-house. She also employed Geddely.

Williams kept her money in her scrutoire (writing desk). One day she went to her scrutoire and discovered that it had been broken into and that she had been robbed. As Geddely disappeared immediately after the robbery, it left no doubt in Williams’ mind as to the identity of the thief.

About a year later, a man calling himself James Crow arrived in York. He obtained work as a porter carrying goods. He looked identical to Thomas Geddely, and, so, it did not take long before he was accosted and accused of being Geddely. However, Crow claimed that he knew no one named Geddely, that he had never been in York before, and, furthermore, he insisted that his name was James Crow not Thomas Geddely. Continue reading

Bits and Pieces of the Past

Title Page to The Historians' History of the World
Title Page to The Historians’ History of the World

Debra Brown didn’t begin her life with an interest in history. In fact, she was so busy with other things, she found history dull and boring. How time changes everything. Today she is a historical fiction author and has a blog that allows authors to guest post historical content related to any topic about England. With that in mind, here is her guest post:

I always wish I had realized that history was so deeply entrenched in my heart when I was young. My college courses would have been selected with that in mind, at least some electives. But the topic had been dull for me in school, and I was focused on other things. When at last I began writing historical fiction, I found I had to spend much time researching, perhaps more than many writers of the genre.” Continue reading

Sharpers, Shopkeepers, and the Georgian Era

Georgian Shoppers, Sharpers
Georgian Shoppers, Courtesy of British Museum

Francis Grose defined a sharper in his eighteenth century dictionary as, “A cheat, one that lives by his wits.” In fact, a sharper was a common term applied in the eighteenth century to describe a thief who used trickery to obtain possessions from their rightful owner. Many ordinary Georgians saw sharpers as romantic figures and lauded them for their free-wheeling lifestyles. Shopkeepers, however, did not view sharpers in such a positive light. Shopkeepers were often the targets of the sharpers’ attacks, and to ensure eighteenth century shopkeeper’s were aware of the tactics and ruses a sharper used, one magazine published a list of cautions hoping to prevent shopkeepers from being tricked or robbed.

Here is that list in its entirety (and almost verbatim): Continue reading