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Thread: History Books (War,Politics, Secret Intelligence Service, Essays)

  1. #41
    Gazing at a Glorious Great Lakes sunset skylark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LRK View Post
    Maybe I should add about the changeling thing, lest I made it seem as it likely was so - Mary Beatrice gave birth in a room full of people - and I mean full! - basically it seems that anyone at court could wander in... Some people may have believed in the Catholic conspiracy, of course - but basically they needed a reason to disqualify the rightful heir. Anyway, yes it's interesting. Should you ever get to it, I hope you'll enjoy it.
    Looking forward. And yes, it's true that any rumor that could be started to discredit a rightful heir would spread like wildfire in a time of uncertainty.

    The superstition behind a changeling seems to have arisen after birth, when a baby or child was sickly. The idea (at least in some places) was that the parents believed their healthy child had been stolen by fairies, and replaced with a sickly child. I guess that helped parents believe that their child was healthy and living a good fun life somewhere with the fairies.

    Would that fit the story of this baby? Just curious.

  2. #42
    Bona Fide Member LRK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylark View Post
    Looking forward. And yes, it's true that any rumor that could be started to discredit a rightful heir would spread like wildfire in a time of uncertainty.

    The superstition behind a changeling seems to have arisen after birth, when a baby or child was sickly. The idea (at least in some places) was that the parents believed their healthy child had been stolen by fairies, and replaced with a sickly child. I guess that helped parents believe that their child was healthy and living a good fun life somewhere with the fairies.

    Would that fit the story of this baby? Just curious.
    No, this is a more... earthly changeling story. It seems the rumour was - well one of them, anyway - that this was all a Catholic conspiracy; that the Queen wasn't pregnant at all, and that it was all an elaborate ruse to foist a Catholic heir onto the throne and bypass the Protestant heirs. All, of course, in a plan to turn England back into a Catholic country. It wasn't "only" that James was Catholic, and so was his wife, though that was concerning enough - he had been trying to make things better for the Catholics in the country; of course he said this was all in aid of religious tolerance, but a lot of the Protestants didn't believe him. (I doubt the activities of Louis XIV at the time gave them much faith in Catholic monarchs either; the way he was treating the Huguenots.) Though the story doesn't lack fancy-ful touches of course - such as the warming-pan:

    Mrs Dawson found Mary Beatrice huddled beside the bed shivering. Her devoted Italian bedchamber woman, Pellegrina Turini, and the midwife, Judith Wilkes, were already with her. The pallet on which the Queen might have been expected to give birth had not yet been aired, so Mrs Dawson persuaded her to get back into the great bed. She sent for a warming-pan, which she and several witnesses confirmed was full of burning coals, to warm that bed. This is the only warming-pan that was introduced, and clearly it could not have contained a living baby which was 'born' unscathed two hours later. The fabrication that the Prince of Wales had been smuggled into the Queen's bed in a warming-pan was perpetrated some time after the event and was patently absurd.

    Since I mentioned it before, and the text at this place goes on to enumerate the persons present, I'll go on to quote a little further. When I said the place was full of people, I was kidding you not. :

    The doors to the Queen's bedchamber and the antechamber were left open and the witnesses began to trickle in as word spread round St James's. The Queen Dowager, Catherine, arrived at a quarter past nine. She went up to the bed to greet her sister-in-law, then went to stand by the chimney-piece clock, where she remained throughout the confinement. James had sent for the Privy Council and these and other men who had been attending the King's levée soon entered the room. According to both King James's and Princess Anne's accounts there were present: the Lord Chancellor Jeffreys; Lord Sunderland, Lord President of the Council; Lord Arundel, the Lord Privy Seal; the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Mulgrave; the Queen's Lord Chamberlain, Sidney Godolphin; the Secretary of State, Lord Middleton; Lord Craven; Lord Huntingdon; Lord Powis; Lord Dover; Lord Peterborough; Lord Melfort; Lord Dartmouth; Sir John Ferneley; Lord Preston; Sir Nicholas Butler; the Duke of Beaufort; Lord Berkeley; Lord Murray; Lord Castlemaine - all of the Privy Council. Others included Lord Feversham, Lord Arran, Sir Stephen Fox, and Mr Griffen, 'besides pages of the backstairs and priests'. Significantly, Lord Churchill had ensured that he could not be found and asked to attend.
    The women present were Lady Peterborough, Lady Bellasys, Lady Arran, Lady Tyrconnel, Lady Roscommon, Lady Sophia Bulkeley, Lady Fingal, Madame Mazarin, Madame Bouillon, Lady Powis, Lady Strickland, Lady Craven, Mrs Cran, two of the Queen Dowager's Portuguese, Mrs Bromley, Mrs Dawson, Mrs Waldegrave, Lady Wentworth and Mrs Feraine. If some of the men kept a decent distance from the bed and some Protestants such as Godolphin ostentatiously refused to watch the proceedings too closely, so that they could not later be called to testify to an authentic birth, many of the women stood as near as they could to the bed.


    Also Anne, Lady Sunderland, as is mentioned in the next paragraph. This was a real eyeopener to me - I mean, I had no idea that a royal birth was basically... well... a public event!

  3. #43
    Tripping on the Podium Spiral's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LRK View Post
    Also Anne, Lady Sunderland, as is mentioned in the next paragraph. This was a real eyeopener to me - I mean, I had no idea that a royal birth was basically... well... a public event!
    I'm also amazed that any men other than a doctor were allowed and even encouraged to be present. I wonder if it was a general custom in the British royal family, or just something James II did on that occasion because he suspected that there'll be people who'd try to discredit his new heir?

    In general, the book looks fascinating! I've already checked my local library's catalog before, and unfortunately it doesn't have it, but maybe I could get it via inter-library loan. Thank you very much for reviewing it here!

  4. #44
    Bona Fide Member LRK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spiral View Post
    I'm also amazed that any men other than a doctor were allowed and even encouraged to be present. I wonder if it was a general custom in the British royal family, or just something James II did on that occasion because he suspected that there'll be people who'd try to discredit his new heir?

    In general, the book looks fascinating! I've already checked my local library's catalog before, and unfortunately it doesn't have it, but maybe I could get it via inter-library loan. Thank you very much for reviewing it here!
    I don't know how widespread the custom was outside Britain, but I found this (apropos an earlier confinement of Mary Beatrice, this was when Charles II was still alive, so he is the King referred to):

    It was common practice for witnesses to attend a birth, to encourage the woman in labour and to swear there had been no foul play if the child died. At the birth of a potential heir to the throne witnesses were essential and on this occasion the Queen and many ladies of quality were present. Men, too, attended a royal birth, if only to hover in the background. The King was present this time and on leaving he embraced his brother with great affection.

    Also, while in exile in France, Mary Beatrice gave birth to a daughter:

    In June 1692 the exiled Queen Mary Beatrice had given birth to another child, Louise Marie, whom James called La Consolatrice, the child sent to comfort them in their exile. He had invited Mary and Anne and other prominent English ladies to attend his wife's confinement, assuring them of Louis's promise of a safe passage in and out of France. They declined to attend. It was hardly feasible for them to do so, anyway, as Anne was still recovering from childbirth herself and Mary was running the country in William's absence. Even if doubts could be entertained about the reality of the birth of James's son, there could be none about Princess Louise Marie, whose birth was witnessed by all the most prominent members of the French court, as well as the wife of the Danish ambassador.

    It doesn't say whether this was the normal custom or not in France - but since it is spoken of so matter of course, my guess would be that it was.

  5. #45
    Tripping on the Podium Spiral's Avatar
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    That's really interesting. At first I cringed for the poor royal ladies, but then I remembered visiting some historic palaces - now museums - which didn't have corridors: we just walked from one room into the next one, into the next, and I thought that, perhaps, people had different notions of privacy then.

    I was also surprised that James II invited his daughter Mary to attend his wife's confinement after being deposed by Mary's husband.

    The book itself looks very interesting, as are your posts! Thanks again!

  6. #46
    Bona Fide Member Princessroja's Avatar
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    Rising Tide and The Great Influenza are both by John M. Barry. The first is about the huge Mississippi River flood in the late 1920s. I had no idea it was such a big deal and had such a long history until I read the book. Absolutely fascinating. The Great Influenza is about the worldwide flu epidemic in 1919. Not quite as fast a read as Rising Tide (I skipped over some of the technical middle parts), but very intriguing nonetheless.

    Also Brunelleschi's Dome, as well as Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, both by Ross King. About the Duomo in Florence and the Sistine Chapel. I've heard King's other books are excellent also, but I haven't read them.
    Last edited by Princessroja; 11-01-2015 at 08:30 AM.

  7. #47
    Gazing at a Glorious Great Lakes sunset skylark's Avatar
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    The Great Influenza is another one I have to put on my TBR list. Thank you!

    I saw a PBS mini-series in 1998, the 80th anniversary of the pandemic. The bit that I found interesting was that, at least in the USA, we have collective selective amnesia about this event. It was so devastating, and then the 1920s took over and everyone wanted to forget.

    I checked this out and found it to be true in my family, but with a little nudging, my mother came up with an interesting mini-story. And it happened before she was born, but she recalled being told the story.

  8. #48
    Gazing at a Glorious Great Lakes sunset skylark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LRK View Post
    No, this is a more... earthly changeling story. It seems the rumour was - well one of them, anyway - that this was all a Catholic conspiracy; that the Queen wasn't pregnant at all, and that it was all an elaborate ruse to foist a Catholic heir onto the throne and bypass the Protestant heirs. All, of course, in a plan to turn England back into a Catholic country. It wasn't "only" that James was Catholic, and so was his wife, though that was concerning enough - he had been trying to make things better for the Catholics in the country; of course he said this was all in aid of religious tolerance, but a lot of the Protestants didn't believe him.
    This has all been on a back burner in my brain, apparently.

    Another friend in England, who's a history professor, had told me (well, he told me through his wife ... I could hardly get two words from him, although he wrote me a couple of letters with details I'd asked about) that when William of Orange invaded, supporters lined the streets as he paraded through villages. And many of the people stuck an orange on a stick to wave like a flag.

    I can understand why so many people were weary of the Catholic vs. Protestant persecutions for 150 years, and just said "No more!" But I suppose I'm most fascinated that William and Mary were co-monarchs, because each had an equal claim through their grandfather Charles I.

  9. #49
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylark View Post
    The Great Influenza is another one I have to put on my TBR list. Thank you!

    I saw a PBS mini-series in 1998, the 80th anniversary of the pandemic. The bit that I found interesting was that, at least in the USA, we have collective selective amnesia about this event. It was so devastating, and then the 1920s took over and everyone wanted to forget.

    I checked this out and found it to be true in my family, but with a little nudging, my mother came up with an interesting mini-story. And it happened before she was born, but she recalled being told the story.
    The parents of Mr.Ski's best friend Jimmy met in the orphanage where they grew up. All his grandparents had died in the Great Flu Epidemic.

    My great uncle Henry was sick for two months with it but survived. My grandad caught it but recovered after about a month.

  10. #50
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    The four volumes (five volumes are planned altogether) about the Hundred Years' War (from 1337 to 1453) by the British medieval historian Jonathan Sumption are a fascinating reading.

    1. Trial by Battle, 1990
    2. Trial by Fire, 1999
    3. Divided Houses, 2009
    4. Cursed Kings, 2015

    http://www.goodreads.com/search?q=sumption

  11. #51
    Bona Fide Member LRK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyguy View Post
    The four volumes (five volumes are planned altogether) about the Hundred Years' War (from 1337 to 1453) by the British medieval historian Jonathan Sumption are a fascinating reading.

    1. Trial by Battle, 1990
    2. Trial by Fire, 1999
    3. Divided Houses, 2009
    4. Cursed Kings, 2015

    http://www.goodreads.com/search?q=sumption
    I've read the first one and really liked it - am looking forward to getting to the others in time (I own the second book, and it's on my reading-list.)

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