Friday, September 30, 2011

Queen Victoria, Artist

Victoria sketches her children in 1846

I found another treasure the last time I visited our library: Queen Victoria's Sketchbook, by Marina Warner. Ms. Warner wrote this lovely book in 1979. It is clear that she is English and that she had access to Queen Victoria's diaries and sketchbooks. Her prose is filled with insight, clarity, and detailed facts. All the illustrations are provided courtesy of Victoria's sketchbooks, with a few contributions from some of her teachers over the years.

Victoria's diaries and sketches fit together like hand and glove, and both date back to 1827 and chronicle Victoria's life through 1890. I'm still making my way through the collection of insights and sketches, so I thought I'd share some juicy tidbits with you from this week's reading.

One of Victoria's many sketches of Louise Lehzen

"The deadliest sin in [Queen Victoria's] view was sloth, and the parable most suited to her nature and the character of her times is that of the talents, with its stern warning that native gifts should never lie buried and unused." {p.7} "But Victoria was not puritanical, and she made her industry serve her pleasure." {p. 8}

"She was the monarch who ruled during the epoch of which we are the direct heirs, as beneficiaries and as victims, and her art forms a distant yet audible accompaniment to the policies that were carried out under her rule. Through her sketches of genre scenes and picturesque peasantry we see the age's bafflement at the reality of poverty. Her tender portraits of her children announces the clear ascendancy of the family as an institution to be given all protection--the Victorians were the first to legislate the rights of married women and children." {p. 8}

One of my favorites of her sketches. This is her music teacher, Lablanche. Her affection shines through in his expression, I think.

It occurs to me here to mention that many women and children who made it home safely the day the Titanic sank likely owe their lives to Victoria's sentimentality and tenderness toward women and children.

"Her attraction to exoticism, dark-eyed and dusky, is part of the dream that took the English to Africa, India, and all points far away." {p. 9} This final quote paints a glorious picture of Queen Victoria as the fantastical dreamer and lover of adventure and all things exotic. Isn't it cool that her dreams sparked the advancement and exploration of exotic places, putting them forever on the maps of the Old World and the New?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finding My Rhythm

Courtesy of Shabby Blogs

It's Thursday already, and I've spent my entire week working on pressing projects that, although integral to my blog, leave nothing much for me to say about our queen. Don't panic, though. I definitely have something to say.

My husband is on sabbatical for the next couple of months. He's leaning into rest and making some shifts in priorities. Since I enjoy him the most when he's at peace and rest, I'm looking forward to it. It will be exciting to see what life will be like to truly live in our flow together.

I'm also pressing into rest, though mine will be a working sabbatical. Every day I set aside time to write, research, and devour anything I can find about successful internet marketing. Currently I'm dining on 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo, by Bryan Allain. His witty humor and daily Mojo Exercises are responsible for the changes you've been seeing here and on my other blog, Brightness of Your Dawn. I am determined to take my work to the next level in the next couple of months.

Courtesy of Cutest Blog on the Block

You are officially invited to join me on this journey toward honing my craft. The first and most obvious change is the makeover I've given Vintage Betrothal. I was up until 1:30 am Tuesday, searching and agonizing to find the perfect background for our exploration of queens, jewelry, and transformation.

I was going for feminine, vintage, romantic, rich, and classy. Sadly, I was unable find all of these at Cutest Blog on the Block, so I turned to Shabby Blogs. Both offer top-quality, totally free blog backgrounds and other blog enhancement features. Very cool!

Another recent change I've made is removing Google ads completely. When you come to my blog, I want you to feel welcome, taken care of, encouraged, and nurtured. Just as I would hate for you to encounter pushy sales people in my office or living room, I don't want them bugging you while you're here. I will continue to include the beauties in the sidebars with links to my brother's business, Weston Jewelry. They are a hallmark of Vintage Betrothal. Not to mention that his bling is the best bling for the best prices. One last change for this week, six paragraphs. No more, no less.

Until next time...

Peace & Joy,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making Changes

Dubai Under Construction
I'm experimenting with some different layouts and colors. I welcome your feedback, especially if it is in any way hard to read. Thank you for your patience as I try different things on.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Revisiting "Tackling Fear"

Victorian Era Cocktail Ring
I promised you some conclusions based on the evidence, and I'm ready to share my thoughts. Before I go there, though, I remind you that Queen Victoria is a deep and vast well to plumb. Her complicated history and the tragedies that impacted her life are not trite to me, and I in no way mean to diminish her pain and suffering. Nor do I fault her for the decisions she made. I am simply attempting to mine the gold for those of us who still have an opportunity to change the course of our lives. If we are to learn every lesson we can from her life, we must go down this dark path and find the treasure buried beneath the rubble.

Victoria came to a crossroads in her life, a moment where she had a definitive opportunity to choose between life or death. She chose death, and it affected everything. Not just her family, but a nation and the world. Who was Queen Victoria before this moment? She was vibrant, sassy, determined to be the best queen in history. She was romantic, idealistic, and fresh. She brought new ideas, new hopes, and new vision; feminine ideas, feminine hopes, and feminine vision to an institution that had long been held in the vice grip of male traditions. She was the bright shining star of England. This is what she is remembered for, but this isn't the whole story. I will be covering the whole story in my future book on this topic.

On December 14, 1861, the tragic loss of her husband presented her with the choice to forge a new path or walk down the old path. She succumbed to the old and fell hard and fast back into her old ways. Fear and control came crashing back into her world with the force of a tsunami.

Where Albert had drawn her out of her own private inner world, his death plummeted her back into it with a fierceness that nearly brought down an empire. It certainly shook the foundations of the jewelry and fashion industries, and I know there was unrest in other areas for years following her fateful decision to remain in reclusive mourning for so long.

Would I do it differently? A few years ago, I might not have. I probably would have chosen death. But today I choose life. How do we choose life in the face of tragedy? One day at a time, feeling our feelings, facing our fears, looking to those who would empathize but not enable us to remain stuck in self-pity or fear. Fear and self-pity leads to control. And we see this evidenced in Queen Victoria's life in spades.

For more of my personal thoughts on love & fear, click here and here.

Victorian Era Ornate Diamond Ring

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Presenting the Evidence

Marked "Exhibit A"
Last week I wrote about Alexandra (Alicky), granddaughter to Queen Victoria. I promised you evidence to back up my long held view that Queen Victoria dropped the ball as a mother and a queen. I've had a new voice clamoring at me this week. It's saying, "Do we really have to go down this road? What purpose does it serve to air the dirty laundry of a person many hail as the greatest English monarch of all time? I'm tired of hanging out in the moody gloom of the Late Victorian Era. Can't we just move on already?"

Though I don't exactly disagree with the voice, I retain my conviction that taking this slight detour through the Victorian Era serves a noble purpose. The problem is that I'm still not sure how to translate the conviction I have in my heart into words that will make sense. Because I need more time to chew on these morsels myself, I've decided to present the evidence in raw form and give us both another week to digest it further.

What Will Our Children Inherit?
I do know this much: It is vital that we recognize the effects our thoughts, actions, and beliefs will have on future generations. This is one key to becoming a true queen in every sense of the word. Queen Victoria made many excellent contributions to English and American societies, but these contributions alone did not make her an excellent queen.

I want to be an excellent queen, so I must resist the urge to focus solely on the positive contributions our queens have made to society, regardless of how depressing any one given post might turn out to be. I believe that looking at both the positive and negative contributions our queens have made not only on public life, but also in their private lives, will unlock the secrets for us so that we can stop repeating cycles, resist habitual patterns, and break family curses.

Carrolly Erickson, authoress
To that end, I will start with Carrolly Erickson's words about Alice, who was Alicky's mother and Queen Victoria's third child.

Excerpts from Alexandra: The Last Tsarina (p. 2-5).

The scene: Alice lays in bed morbidly sick with diphtheria. A letter has been dispatched to Queen Victoria, notifying her of Alice's worsening condition. All of Alice's children are stationed around her sick bed, offering prayers to a God who they have been taught may not really respond. The whole household assumed a stance of mourning before the worst had even happened.

Alice on her Deathbed
"Several crosses hung from the walls in the sickroom, together with verses from the Bible. There were pictures of Balmoral and of Windsor Castle and its grounds, and portraits of Alice's sisters and brothers, and several tapestries in the fashionable William Morris style. Dominating the room was a stained glass window, dedicated to the memory of Alicky's brother Frederick, or 'Frittie,' who at the age of three had fallen from that very window to his death on the terrace below. Alicky was too young to remember Frittie, she had been an infant when he fell, but she knew that her mother grieved for him and she and the other children went every year to visit his grave. On Frittie's memorial window were the comforting words from the Bible, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me.'"

"Since her marriage to Grand Duke Louis, Alice had thrown herself into the cause of social betterment, never satisfied with what she had done and always striving to do, as she said, 'the little good that is in my power.' Alice had created a stir in quiet Darmstadt, introducing the Art Nouveau style in the grand ducal palace, playing duets with Johannes Brahms (Darmstadters preferred Mozart), substituting informality for formal etiquette at court, even holding daring religious views that aimed, as she said, to separate the historical Jesus from such 'later embellishments' as the resurrection. Though her outraged mother-in-law called Alice 'a complete atheist,' and the quiet Darmsadters clucked their tongues over her outspokenness ('Providence, there is no Providence, no nothing!' Alice burst out when her favorite brother Bertie* was gravely ill, 'and I can't think how anyone can talk such rubbish.'), Alice maintained her opinions truculently, and dared others to refute them.

Female Ice Dragon
"A new and more liberal spirit had come to Hesse with Alice, but in her efforts to make changes and to air her advanced views she had brought disruption and controversy, and even as she lay on her deathbed there were whispers--respectful, quiet whispers--that her demise would restore a welcome peace to the community.

"For Alice's rigorous commitment to modernity was rooted in a mental and spiritual restlessness that made others uneasy. There was something hard and flinty at her core, an icy toughness of mind, that was seemingly at odds with her overall charitableness. She was unforgiving. Demanding a great deal of herself, she demanded as much of those around her, and constantly found them wanting--especially her warm-hearted, stolid husband Louis, who disappointed her at every turn.

Duchess Alice of Hesse
"Alicky, young as she was, understood something of her mother's uniqueness. Alice was not like other mothers; she did not adorn herself or curl her hair or wear colorful gowns. Her gowns were always black,
and her only ornaments were a large gold cross on a chain and a mourning brooch with locks of her father's hair and Frittie's inside. Her pale face bore a perpetual expression of preoccupation and sorrow, a haunted look. She was often very tired. Even when she took the children on a vacation to the seaside...she did not rest or play with them, but went to visit hospitals and schools, taking Alicky with her to give away nosegays of flowers. She was always helping people, and she was always full of sorrow. This much Alicky knew of her suffering mother.

"The following morning Louis sent another telegram to Queen Victoria at Windsor...The date on the telegrams, December 13, carried an ominous implication. Seventeen years earlier Alice's adored father Prince Albert had died of typhoid on December 14, and ever since the anniversary of his death had been marked with prayers and solemnities by his ever-grieving widow and their children. December 14 was feared as a fateful day, and though Alice herself was unaware of the date, or of much else, she did rave in her delirium that she saw her dead father, along with May and Frittie, standing together in heaven welcoming her in.

Prince Albert on his Deathbed
"A little after midnight, early on the morning of the fourteenth...her attendants heard her whisper 'May....dear Papa' before becoming unconscious. By sunrise she was dead.

"A letter arrived from Windsor Castle. 'Poor Dear Children,' Queen Victoria wrote,' you have had the most terrible blow which can befall children--you have lost your precious, dear, devoted Mother who loved you--and devoted her life to you and your dear Papa. That horrid disease which carried off sweet little May and from which you and the others recovered has taken her away from you and poor old Grandmama, who with your other kind Grandmama will try to be a mother to you...God's will be done,' she concluded. 'May He support and help you all. From your devoted and most unhappy Grandmama, VRI [Victoria Regina Imperatrix, Victoria Queen Empress].'"

I realize this is a fairly morbid scene to leave you to digest this week, which inspires me to cheer you up with some beautiful Victorian eye candy. Nothing like a little bling to lift your spirit and put a smile on your face.

Victorian Era Bar Pin
Victorian Era Jelly Opal Locket
Victorian Era Coin Purse

*Just to set the record completely straight from my last post. It is Bertie who married Queen Alexandra of Denmark, our next Queen (of the Edwardian Era of jewelry). His full name is King Albert Edward, named after his father. His family called him Bertie, and his people called him King Edward VII. As I mentioned in my last post, studying the history of England is difficult at best.

I thought Alicky was in line to marry King Edward VII, who is in fact her uncle, but I was so entirely wrong. The Eddy that Victoria hoped to match her up with was her cousin, the son of King Edward VII & Alexandra. The book even states this plainly on page 12, "And Alicky would make the ideal bride for Bertie's oldest son Eddy, who would one day be King of England." The learning curve is indeed steep in this business I've undertaken.