Tag Archives: the 19th century

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 5

Feb 15, 2017

Man, I really do like this show! It’s been so much fun watching the way Jenna Coleman plays Victoria so, so well (although I still like the actor who played Albert in The Young Victoria much more than this guy). And once again, they got the major historical details of Albert having a really hard time adjusting and finding a place down pretty good.

I wonder, though, if 21st century audiences really appreciate how bad it really was for Albert. We have certain expectations about the equality between the sexes these days, but even with my History Apologist ways, I have to admit that the role of women compared to men was at a historical low in the 1840s. If he had married any other woman in the entire world, Albert would have expected to be a firm head of household. He would have exercised a certain amount of control and influence over his wife and children. His opinions would have been sacrosanct, and there would be no question that he would be taken very seriously. And Albert was a very serious man.

But Albert was in the unique to the 19th century of being number two in his marriage. As much as Victoria wanted it to be otherwise (and really did work for things like Albert’s right to take her into dinner, and having parliament give him the title of Prince Consort, which they didn’t until the 1850s). We know from letters and diaries that the stress that his unique and, for the time, humiliating position was acute. He really suffered for the first few years, until he figured out how to make a name and a place for himself. Which he did by taking up various charitable causes. I’m sure they’ll get into it later, but Albert gained a reputation for hard work and competence as an organizer and supporter of causes.

But the one thing that I call shenanigans on for this episode in the whole thing with Victoria trying not to have a baby right away. That’s sort of a modern spin on things, in my opinion. Victoria wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of pregnancy and children, but she knew it was inevitable. However, according to everything I’ve read, it seems like she didn’t really know how much she was going to hate it until she was already very pregnant with her first, Vicky. So I would believe the scene between her and Albert when he catches her jumping up and down after sexy times if she’d already had Vicky and knew what she was trying to prevent. Before that? I don’t think she knew.

Victoria & Albert were really *cough* active, though. And we know this because Victoria was the queen of TMI and pretty much told everyone what they were up to all the time. Also, one thing the show isn’t good at showing is that Victoria was really almost never alone. The scene where Lehzen walks in on the two of them in the morning and Victoria tells Albert that she sleeps in the room next door? True. Very true. Only there was a big hole in the wall (I imagine it being like a window, based on what I read) so that Victoria had very little privacy ever. I always did wonder how that worked, seeing as how much V&A “enjoyed” each other.

Anyhow, if I’m remembering correctly, Victoria was pregnant within two months of her wedding, so I’m interested to see how the show handles that.

This is one of my favorite paintings of Victoria & Albert because of how telling it is about Victoria’s attitude toward motherhood. V&A are obviously lovestruck, with eyes only for each other (and the painting is often cropped to show just this part). But way, way over on the other side of the canvas, playing with dead animals? That’s Vicky, their firstborn! And that says it all.

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 4

Feb 08, 2017

Victoria’s actual wedding dress, photographed when I was at Kensington Palace last summer. Dude, the woman was SHORT!

Well what d’ya know? Sunday night’s episode of Victoria did really well in terms of historical accuracy! I mean, aside from this continuing silliness about a romantic attachment between Victoria and Melbourne, and the fact that none of the servants’ stories are real.

Oh, one more note about the Victoria & Melbourne thing. I kept waiting for her to ask Melbourne if he had a mistress, since she seemed so obsessed with men and their mistresses in the middle of the episode. I would have loved to see Rufus Sewel’s Melbourne try to worm his way out of that one. Because yes. Yes, Melbourne did have a mistress, at that point in history and many before her.

But really, the episode was about Albert, and once again, they did a really good job of portraying him. (Other than my continued complaints about that actor’s vanishing German accent) Historically speaking, the allowance and the title was a super huge deal that had Albert’s knickers in a knot. He was exactly right to think that he was in serious danger of being the German stud, with no point and no power. He didn’t even have the usual power and authority that 19th century men had over their wives. In essence, Albert was the 19th century woman in that relationship (at first) and he knew it.

Albert’s actual wedding outfit

The allowance was also a big deal because it represented independence, like he said in the show. And Parliament really did screw him over on that one. But one thing the show didn’t portray very well (so far) was that the allowance thing, and a lot of other stuff Albert endured, was pure anti-German bigotry. The British people really didn’t like the fact that the queen married a German (not that she had much choice). For decades, up until he died, horrible things were written about him in the papers, and much later, in the 1850s, he was falsely implicated in a plot to…oh, take over the government or assassinate someone or something. I can’t remember what at the moment.

Anyhow, the bit where Ernst took Albert to a brothel? I’m calling shenanigans on that one. Ernst was probably historically right at home in a place like that, but from everything I’ve read about Albert, I can’t see him even beginning to consent to getting into a situation like that. BUT, if he had, he totally would have asked for a lecture and taken notes instead of engaging in the practice, like he did in the show.

One other minor detail that I’m eager to see unfold is the introduction of the character of George Anson. They’ve started out getting him right. Anson really was Melbourne’s man, and Albert totally resented him at first. (And he was ticked off at not being able to choose any of his own staff) HOWEVER, Albert and Anson became incredibly good friends. Like, Anson became one of the best friends that Albert ever had. I’m interested to see where they go with that.

And finally, Albert actually did like Melbourne. And Albert was also responsible for the reconciliation between Victoria and her mother, but I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 3

Jan 31, 2017

For those of you who have been watching PBS’s new Masterpiece Theater series, Victoria, since I majored in the History of the 19th Century in college and spent my summer reading several books about Victoria & Albert and their household, I’ve been doing a little commentary about each episode after it airs to say whether it’s historically accurate or not.

So here we are at episode three…and, well, they’re not even entirely getting the names right now. Ha!

They’ve continued with this sort of romance between Victoria and Melbourne, but as I pointed out last week, that’s not even a little bit accurate, and it actually grossly misrepresents both the law of the time—which stated that a member of the royal family could not marry a British subject—and the sentiments of both Victoria and Melbourne. They were close, yes, and she probably had a little crush on him, but she wasn’t the sort to get serious ideas about a man unless he was going to be her husband, and Melbourne had a mistress with whom he was very happy.

So that bit of this week’s episode is fabrication once again.

I’m having a slightly harder time deciding how I feel about the portrayal of Prince Albert. On the one hand, Albert was about the furthest thing from a romantic that existed. That scene where he cuts his shirt to put Victoria’s flower near his heart? Yeah, from everything I’ve read about Albert and his personality, there’s no way he would do that. Sorry ladies!

Personally, I think the real Albert was way handsomer than the actor they’ve got playing him.

But I do think that the actor portraying Albert—even though he keeps falling out of his German accent—did do a good job of portraying Albert’s personality. He was, apparently, rather gruff and dour. He did contradict Victoria a lot, to the point where later in their marriage they would get into rip-roaring fights. And he was a notorious party-pooper. He didn’t like cards, as the episode portrayed, where Victoria did. He liked to be in bed by 9:00 (sort of like me) while Victoria liked to stay up all hours. And he was generally a man’s man and distrusted most women, probably because of the way his mother was forced to leave the family. They did a good, if brief, job of explaining that in this episode, but they should have gone into more detail, because it profoundly affected Albert’s life.

Anyhow, once again, everything with the servants of the house is completely made up. Except that they did steal from Victoria a lot. But she didn’t mind so much and would defend them, to the frustration of her ladies in waiting and others, because at the end of the day, for both Victoria and Albert, their true friends were their servants. They didn’t associate much or have friends amongst the rest of the British aristocracy.

So let’s see how they do with next week’s episode!

Western Wednesday – Closing the Open Range

Jan 06, 2016
The Open Range

The Open Range

Last week we talked a bit about how cattle got to the West, and how they were maintained and then driven to railheads and eventually on to market (the part we don’t like to think about when we’re enjoying a juicy burger). Obviously, letting cattle graze freely over vast tracts of public land couldn’t last forever. So what changed things and how?

The quick and dirty answer to what changed things is “barbed wire.” But of course, it’s not as simple as that. It is, however, pretty amazing that one little invention could change the course of history and cause a lot of trouble, adding to the reasons it was called the Wild West.

Let’s start with those cattle. The West began to be settled in the 1840s and 50s. During that time, you had an incredibly large amount of land inhabited by an incredibly small amount of people. Neighbors were not something you had to worry about. As the cattle industry began in places like Wyoming, where my Brides of Paradise Ranch series is set, there was more than enough forage and water sources for everyone to let their cattle roam free across the land.

(Of course, this is all from the perspective of white settlers. It was an entirely different story for the Native American tribes who were systematically having their homeland taken from them, but that’s a post for another day.)

All that began to change as more and more people moved West to settle. The most serious problems and resulting conflicts developed when small ranches and individual settlers attempted to put down roots next to the huge ranches run by men of wealth and influence. Simply put, once the West reached the tipping point of number of settlers, all that vast open land and all those easy water sources couldn’t supply everyone who wanted to use them.

The result was that, by the mid-1880s, large ranchers were doing everything they could to drive the smaller ranchers out of business. That included hiring thugs to attack, and in some cases, lynch competing outfits. The Range Wars of the Old West have gone down in legend—sometimes exaggerated, but sometimes not. They were competition taken to the extreme.

Early advertisement for barbed wire

Early advertisement for barbed wire

And one quiet player in the conflict that led to these wars had to do with the invention and implementation of barbed wire fences. Because as soon as barbed wire was invented in the 1870s, it became less expensive to fence in vast tracts of grazing land and accompanying water sources so that a rancher could keep their herd separate from their neighbors’. Only, the problem was that a great deal of the land that was being fenced in was public land.

Back in the earlier days of the West (up to around the 1870s), various Homesteader Acts meant that if you went West and claimed property and made improvements, it was yours. As that land disappeared, however, ownership of the land wasn’t so cut and dry. So when ranchers began building barbed wire fences to enclose their herds, as often as not, they’d fence in land that they didn’t technically own, regardless of whether other livestock needed to use it, the post office needed to get through, or other official institutions had claim to it. And especially regardless of whether a smaller rancher or independent farmer happened to have built their homestead on that land.

Add to that already volatile mix the fact that, in Wyoming at least, an organization of the wealthiest and most powerful ranchers, the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association (which I mention in His Perfect Bride that Howard Haskell and Rex Bonneville both belong to, although Rex is more involved with them) had so much power that they basically controlled the government of Wyoming. A lot of nasty things went down while officials turned a blind eye. None of it was exactly fair. 

Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the range wars that gave the West it’s adjective of Wild.

(images are public domain, courtesy of Wikicommons)

Excerpt Wednesday – More Precious Than Gold – First Look

Apr 22, 2015

You know I love Wednesdays! Today I’m bringing you an excerpt from a new project that is very close to my heart. I’ve started writing an Inspirational Historical Romance series based on the actual history of the church I was raised in. This first book, More Precious Than Gold, begins the trilogy with the story of Louisa White and Andrew McBride. They’ve been friends since childhood, but as they blossom into adults, they are each startled to find their feelings changing. But how can they navigate these new, complicated feelings when the world and the church they have known their whole life is in such trouble? Here’s a peek….

MorePreciousThanGold_3D

Louisa left the June Nineteenth picnic with hope in her heart, buoyed by the love of her friends and the society. The next morning she awoke to a pile of work that had doubled after being ignored for a day. She thought of her friends, thought of all of the blessings in her life, and tried not to complain. Instead she sat in the back room of their little house, working diligently and cheering herself with the thought that she was serving a very important for her family.

At least, she tried to. Within minutes, her hopes fell and her heart was heavy. She wasn’t sure which struck harder, the hours of sewing that left her eyes stinging and her head pounding or the endless dialog of frustration that swirled through her head.

“I didn’t study hard and excel in school all those years only to end up working in a shop or a factory, harried and lonely,” her thoughts grumbled. “My friends are still enjoying their last taste of childhood while I have to work to have a roof over my head and food on my table. I don’t even care about nice things, like Gayle, or big families, like Wren. I just want to be normal. Andrew would understand.”

The last thought took Louisa by surprise. She paused halfway through embroidering the hem of a christening gown.

Why should Andrew McBride come straight to her thoughts?

Then again, she considered as she returned to sewing, Andrew knew what it was like to have a job, to work hard for a living. Still, his family was wealthy. Hers was not.

By the time Saturday rolled around, Louisa was bursting with desperation to get out of the house and into the balmy summer sunlight. She hadn’t seen Wren or Gayle all week. As she mounted her bicycle and pedaled off along the main road leading up the coast to Cliff House, she wanted to spread her arms and embrace the morning. Instead she settled for gripping the handlebar of her bicycle with a fondness that made her laugh and roll her eyes at herself.

Her bright red bicycle was far and away her favorite possession. Like everything else of any worth that she owned, it had been a gift from the McBrides. They had presented it to her, along with bicycles for Wren and Gayle, when they finished grammar school years ago. The fact that Gayle had been given the same gift was the only thing that had stopped Louisa from refusing such an elaborate present, and now both of her friends had newer, fancier bicycles. But Louisa still loved her old, clunky, red one.

She pedaled up the long, sloping drive to Cliff House, ringing the bell on her handlebars and waving at Wren’s youngest brothers and sisters. They played with their friends and the family dog where the lawn met the beach. The McBrides were a large family, eight children in all, and Louisa was never sure if she felt comfortable with them or just overwhelmed. At home there had only been Father, Mother, Henry and her. Now it was just the three of them, and Henry was gone most of the time.

She found herself praying for a large family of her own one day, lots of children to love and care for, as she skidded to a stop at the top of the drive beside the back door. As quickly as the thought came into her mind she brushed it aside. Marriage was the last thing she should be thinking about. Someday, yes, but at the moment it was the least of her problems.

“Hello!” she called out as she leaned her bicycle against the side of the house and brushed her skirts straight.

Gayle’s bicycle also rested against the house, so Louisa walked through the kitchen door as if she too were a McBride. Sure enough, inside the warm, fragrant kitchen, Gayle and Wren were hard at work. Gayle wore yet another new dress, light pink with the puffy sleeves that were becoming so popular. One sleeve already had a smudge on it. Wren was dressed in far more practical clothing, her long strawberry-blonde hair hanging in a braid down her back.

“I knew I’d find you in here.” Louisa smiled as she greeted them. She could have laughed out loud with joy at seeing her friends. It was ridiculous that just a few days apart could make her miss them so much. “What’s all this?”

“Provisions,” Gayle answered with a mischievous tweak of her dark eyebrows.

The kitchen table was spread with cookies and miniature cakes and the raspberry tarts that Wren was famous for. Wren and Gayle were busy packing them into baskets and tins and even a large napkin or two as they ran out of containers. Louisa closed her eyes and breathed in the warm, sweet smells of baking.

“I wish I’d gotten here sooner,” she sighed, mouth watering.

“Me too!” Gayle said with a giggle.

“Where were you?” Wren asked without looking up from her task.

“I—”

“We’re going to take refreshments to the men working at the lighthouse,” Gayle interrupted, sparing Louisa the embarrassment of yet another excuse.

Wren sent a wary glance in Gayle’s direction before adding, “Mama thought it would be a good idea to take the workers a snack. They’ve been out there since sunrise.”

“We’ve got all this and some jugs of lemonade,” Gayle added, nodding to the counter by the sink. Two large brown jugs with corks stood waiting for attention. “Of course we don’t really have room for glasses,” Gayle shrugged, “but my guess is they’ll be so thirsty they won’t mind drinking straight from the jug.”

“You’ve come just in time,” Wren continued with her businesslike voice, wiping her hands on her apron before untying it and pulling it off over her head. “We’ll put the lemonade in the basket on one of our bicycles and split the goodies between the other two.”

Louisa jumped into action as soon as the suggestion was made. Action made everything feel better. “I’ll take the jugs,” she said, crossing to the counter to retrieve them.

The girls had long since dropped the habit of being polite with each other and asking for help. It was understood that they would all help each other without being asked whenever help was needed. Gayle set about hanging baskets of treats from her arm while Wren hung her apron on a peg beside the back door and returned to gather an armful of treats. With a grin, Louisa found herself considering that if Wren ever found herself in the same predicament that Louisa was in now, she would probably open a bakery and become wealthy and famous all over again. Money stuck to some people like burrs on a cat.

“You’ve made an awful lot,” Louisa said as they fixed their hats on their heads and carried their loads out to their bicycles. “Do we really need this much?”

“Everyone is over there, everyone.” Gayle smiled, eyes glittering with mirth. “Even C.J. Wick.”

It was all Louisa could do not to roll her eyes. She didn’t know what she would do if her friend tried to play matchmaker.

 

More Precious Than Gold is coming the first week of May. I’m thinking the 6th right now. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to learn more about Swedenborg and the New Church, please visit the Swedenborg Foundation! They’re packed full of great info.