Friday, October 28, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
By Emma Westport
In July 1904, the cannons of the Peter and Paul fortress fired 300 times to announce that, after four daughters, Alexandra had given birth to a son. Russia had a Tsarevich. The imperial couple was overjoyed but, within six short weeks, that joy turned to pain. Something was wrong. The slightest bump, the smallest pinch and the baby’s skin bruised. The bruises did not heal. The child cried with pain and neither his mother nor his doctors could offer him relief. Alexei was a hemophiliac.
For Alexandra, the news was devastating. She’d already lost a brother and uncle to the disease and she knew what the future held. Her beautiful boy had almost no chance of surviving to adulthood and, even if he did, he’d never be live or play like a normal child. There was nothing conventional medicine could do.
Alexandra looked elsewhere. In 1905, friends introduced her and her husband to Rasputin. Neither priest nor monk, the uneducated peasant had already earned a repuation as a starets or spiritual teacher. He was also known as a healer and prophet. Did he provide relief to the young Tsarevich? His worst critics admit he did. He also helped the Tsarina deal with her unbearable guilt and suffering--but that help came at a price.
Rasputin's gifts were offset by his drinking and womanizing. Scandal was his constant companion. As his power grew, so did his faults, his behavior becoming increasingly outrageous. Nicholas ignored it—Alexandra denied it—but the scandal was always there. And the stink of it threatened the autocracy. Many believed there was more to the relationship between Alexandra and Rasputin than the sharing of spiritual comfort.
The situation became especially ugly in 1910 and 1911 when Rasputin seduced a woman serving as nurse to the Imperial children. The governess, on hearing the story, objected to Rasputin’s familiarity with the Grand Duchesses. She insisted the Tsarina ban him from the girls’ bedrooms. The Tsarina refused. The nurse and governess were dismissed. Rasputin was now free to come and go as he pleased and the rumors that spread through St. Petersburg now included the young Grand Duchesses.
Nicholas was ineffective in dealing with Rasputin. Unwilling to upset his wife, he ignored police reports and the advice of friends. He even ignored photographs. After a night's carousing, a drunk and naked Rasputin had been photographed surrounded by a circle of nude women. Blackmailers told Rasputin he had a choice. Leave St. Petersburg or the pictures would be given to the Tsar. Rasputin took the photos to Nicholas himself, saying he’d sinned and begging for forgiveness. Nicholas forgave him. But the behavior continued.
In 1914, the first attempt was made on Rasputin’s life. A former prostitute, disfigured by syphilis, disguised herself as a beggar woman and followed Rasputin to his home in Siberia. She asked him for money and, when he stopped to help her, she stabbed him, nearly killing him. Rasputin recovered but his drinking increased.
In 1915, Rasputin tried to seduce a woman at the famous Yar restaurant in Moscow. When the lady refused his efforts a drunken, outraged Rasputin went berserk. He smashed the furniture and mirrors in the private dining room, shouting all the while about his relationship with the ‘old woman,’ the Tsarina, and bragging how he did “with her what I want!” He exposed himself and was finally dragged away by police, fighting and hollering the Tsar would protect him and threatening to get even. The event was witnessed--and publicized--by a journalist who was present.
Alexandra had failings but being Rasputin’s lover was not one of them. Unfortunately, letters she’d written to Rasputin convinced people otherwise. The Tsarina’s flowery language was deliberately misinterpreted and pornographic caricatures of the Tsarina and Rasputin began to circulate.
All this occurred at a time when Russia was experiencing defeats at the front and serious problems at home. With Nicholas taking over command of the armies, Alexandra took a more active role in the government and her decisions were guided by Rasputin. It was a recipe for disaster.
In November 1916, Vladimir Purishkevich, a conservative member of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, gave a speech in in which he spoke of spoke of the “filthy, depraved, corrupt peasant” the Tsarina all but worshipped. Rasputin was seen to be at the center of the ‘Dark Forces’ destroying the country.
In less than a month, Purishkevich joined with Prince Felix Yusopov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and a few other conspirators. Together, they would plot the infamous and successful assassination of the starets.
Rasputin was murdered on December 29, 1916. His assassins hoped Rasputin's death would turn things around but it was already too late.
For his part, Rasputin expected assassination. He'd allegedly warned Nicholas and Alexandra that if his death came at the hands of the nobility, neither they nor their dynasty would last more than two years. In that, he was correct. Nicholas abdicated the throne on March 15, 1917. He, his wife and five children were murdered in July 1918.
The 300 year old dynasty had come to an end.
(All dates are new style. The quotes are from Brian Moynahan’s biography, Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned. The photo is from wikimedia.)
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Have you ever dug into your family ancestry? I have. I do it all the time. I find it's a wonderful way to escape from the modern world and delve into the past. And every now and again I come across a real gem.
I found one article that tells a few of her feats as sheriff.
"Oh! I didn't do so much. The people elected me sheriff. The work had to be done and I did it."The article goes on to say how she stopped two murderers from escaping her jail cell and "jailed the most notorious of the river rats".
Another newspaper article, one from Oklahoma, claims this same woman was their first female sheriff as well. Eventually her and her husband moved to Texas before they returned to Michigan where she died of pneumonia at the age of 80.
I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but after speaking with second cousins who grew up under her tutelage, they say she was the sweetest and kindest lady they'd ever known. I can only imagine what it would have been like to spend my summers with Sheriff Gates. One has to wonder what kind of woman it took to keep the peace and what kind of man stood at her side while she did it. I've been told the pair were very much in love. Of course, I know their lives weren't always filled with roses as one of their sons, my great great grandfather, died a tragic death and caused a great mysterious scandal, but that's a blog post for another day and another time as the event continues to affect those still among the living.
Here are a few pictures from one of my cousins. As you can see, the picture of William Gates is a campaign advertisement. I think he kind of looks like Kurt Russell from Tombstone.
Looks like it's been well used. Maybe on a few hard skulls of all those lumberjack Estella had been known to keep under control.
By changing a few details here and there, Estella's life would make a wonderful historical romance. Just think, a female sheriff, rough and rugged lumberjacks, river rats, murderers and a hero who looks like Kurt Russell and is confident enough in his manhood to accept her chosen occupation.
Yeah, I think it's a story I'd love to read.
Do you research your ancestry? Have you ever come across really interesting tidbits?
Friday, October 21, 2011
SEDUCED BY HISTORY BLOG
Anna Kathryn Lanier
Monday, October 17, 2011
Ghosts and the places they haunt are interesting but not usually included in historical biographies. One exception is The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by, Alison Weir. Weir discusses some of the sightings of Anne Boleyn noting that sightings of Anne Boleyn occur on the anniversary of her beheading May 19, on Christmas Eve.
Second wife of Henry VIII, Anne failed to produce a live male heir to secure the Tudor dynasty. After Catherine of Aragon’s death, and Anne’s miscarriage of a son, Henry used allegations of Anne’s adultery to behead Anne for treason in 1536. The most probable reason for Henry’s dubious charges against Anne was the need to secure the succession of the English throne with a male heir. For that task, Henry needed another wife, and he had already selected Anne’s successor, Jane Seymour, before Anne’s treason trial.
Perhaps the trumped up charges against Anne, the fact that Henry was already courting Jane Seymour, and the brutal trauma of the beheading caused Anne’s ghost to haunt not one but seven places.
Blickling Hall in Norfolk was the probable birthplace of Anne Boleyn. Although the existing house was built in the seventeenth century, Thomas Boleyn owned the property. On May 19, Anne returns to Blickling Hall in a carriage drawn by six headless horses. She sits inside the carriages with her severed head either on her lap or by her side.
Hever Castle, built in 1272, purchased by the Boleyns and rebuilt into a Tudor residence, is Anne’s childhood home. Henry courted her under the great oak still standing today. Every Christmas Eve Anne’s ghost is seen crossing the bridge over the River Eden within the castle grounds. Sometimes her ghost is observed standing under the tree.
At Hampton Court Palace, one of her royal residences during her reign, Anne’s ghost wears a blue dress and walks slowly through the halls with an air of great sadness.
At another royal residence she inhabited, Windsor’s castle, her ghost appears at the window of Dean’s Cloister.
Anne still haunts the Tower of London in several places. Her ghost has been sighted in the White Tower, the Queen’s house where she supposedly stayed the night before her execution then again during her imprisonment. In 1817 a sentry patrolling the White Tower encountered Anne’s ghost on the staircase. The sighting caused a fatal heart attack. In 1864 while guarding the outside of the Queen’s House, another sentry stated he saw Anne’s faceless ghost wearing a Tudor dress and a French hood. When he thrust his bayonet through her, a fiery flash ran up his rifle and shocked him.
In the nineteenth century a Captain of the Guard claims to have seen Anne’s ghost in a strange spectacle recorded in “Ghostly Visitors” by Specter Stricken, London 1882. He had seen a suspicious light coming from the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula where Anne was buried. After leaning a ladder against the chapel wall and peering in one of the windows to investigate, this is what he claimed to have seen:
Slowly down the aisle move a stately procession of Knights and Ladies,
attired in ancient costumes; and in the front walked an elegant female
whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled
the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having
repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession together with the
Anne’s ghost is also said to haunt Salle Church where it is reported her bones were later buried, but no specific details emerge from the sightings.
She is haunts Maxwell Hall’s Yew Tree Walk where Henry VIII and Jane supposedly strolled while planning their wedding. Rumors have it that Henry married Jane privately at Maxwell Hall on May 19, 1536 after news of Anne’s execution reached Henry via a line of beacons.
Needless to say, Anne’s hauntings were the basis for my ghosts Lady Anne and Desdemona in Wanted Ghostbusting Bride.
For more information on Anne Boleyn’s ghosts see Alison Weir’s Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn and http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-ghost-of-anne-boleyn/4859/
Friday, October 14, 2011
Quite the blushing bride, isn't she?
The pearl was eventually returned to Spain upon Mary's death. This is astonishing, given her sister-successor's penchant for fine jewelry. You may recall Elizabeth was to later bid against the Queen Mother of France, Catherine de Medici, over the spoils left behind by Mary Queen of Scots. Some of those spoils included rare black muscades--pearls of a deep purple color. La Peregrina, in contrast, went back to Phlip "The Prudent" and became part of the Spanish queen consorts' collection, until she began the second leg of her eventful journey.
In 1808, Napoleon installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as king of Spain after a successful invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. Throughout his reign, the elder Bonaparte accomplished little besides orchestrating his own abdication in an effort to return to the more salubrious throne of Naples. Finally deposed, he took with him part of the Spanish crown jewels, among them La Peregrina. Some of the jewels he sold while living in the United States. La Peregrina he willed to his nephew, Bonaparte III. The Emperor's wife Eugenie was a known connoisseur of pearls but during the couple's exile in England, they were forced to sell La Peregrina to James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn, direct ancestor of both Diana, Princess of Wales and her sister-in-law Sarah, Duchess of York.
While in the duke's possession, La Peregrina did not have to go far to become completely lost to the world, at least temporarily. His wife Louisa Hamilton wore the pearl on a necklace. It was too heavy for the setting and fell out twice. Once in a sofa in Windsor Castle and the other at a ball in Buckingham Palace.
Can't you just imagine His Grace's remonstrations:
"What the devil? You've lost the blasted thing twice now."The Hamilton family eventually sold La Peregrina to Richard Burton, a movie and stage actor. I have it on very good authority that he was, and I'm quoting, "the best looking man that had come down the pike in a long time." $37,000 was the price the pearl fetched at Sotheby's and soon found its way, via Valentine's Day, into the possession of someone another authority has declared unequivocally to be the "most beautiful woman in the world." The pearl was as intrepid in Elizabeth Taylor's possession as it had been in Her Grace of Abercorn's. The actress lost it in the Burtons' suite at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Miraculously, it was found unharmed in her Pekinese dog's mouth. He was chewing on it like a bone!
"But my love," his wife replied with asperity, "it was you who insisted we buy it. And all because you wanted to impress the French empress."
"Fustian," he stammered. "The merest trumpery."
Here Ms. Taylor is wearing La Peregrina in the 1969 movie production, Anne of a Thousand Days.
Like history? Fall in love with it! Visit Angelyn's blog at www.angelynschmid.com
Thursday, October 13, 2011
If you’ve seen the movie Patton staring George C. Scott, you might remember the part where Patton goes out to visit the ruins of Carthage in North Africa. And he tells his companions about how the Romans destroyed Carthage, as says that he, Patton was one of the Carthaginians talking about his past lives.
This movie and a discussion of past lives came up in the instructor’s dining room between a bunch of us history teacher when I was teaching (college level). The conversation was you had to assume that you had past lives, so each of us had to identify our past lives, and since we were all history teachers we all had eras of history to which we felt closest.
So where do I feel a connection? Much to my surprise when this conversation came up, instead of saying Elizabethan England (my master’s is Tudor and Stuart England), there were other time periods.
This is a really great exercise for writers, to image, or feel the past in some way. So are you writing in the era that you feel closest to? Have you visited historical sites and ‘felt’ a connection? Or maybe didn’t feel a connection much to your surprise? Our local chapter had a workshop about past lives once, and everyone had a lot of fun with the idea. I would have never thought of this as a tool to use with writing without that conversation in the teacher’s dining room.
Do you think imagining past lives might be of help with writing historical?
Sunday, October 9, 2011
NATIVE AMERICAN LEGENDS YOU DON’T WANT TO CROSS
Legends of any kind have always fascinated me, and while researching for my book, Widow’s Walk, I’ve become even more interested in them. Since the action in the book takes places in Northern Minnesota, including among an Ojibwe tribe, that is where I began my research. One of the more interesting, and dangerous, legends is that of The Sleeping Giant.
Looking across from Thunder Bay, you can see a formation of land called The Sleeping Giant. According to the Ojibwe legend, the Spirit of the Deep Sea, Nanna Bijou, rewarded the tribe for their loyalty. The chief learned from the Spirit about a tunnel leading to the center of rich silver mine. He warned that if the Ojibwe tribe were ever to tell the White Man of this mine he, Nanna Bijou, would be turned to stone. Thereafter, the Ojibwe became famous for their silver ornaments.
But, as often happens, others learned of this and the Sioux even tortured and killed to learn where the tribe got the silver for their beautiful ornaments.
Unwilling to accept defeat when the Ojibwe refused to divulge the secret, a Sioux warrior disguised himself as an Ojibwe, learned of the mine’s location, and took large pieces of the silver.
Unfortunately, he stopped at a white trader’s for food, and because he had no furs to trade, used a piece of silver instead. The traders filled him with firewater and then persuaded him to lead them to the “silver islet.”
But they were not to succeed. They were within sight of the “Silver Islet” when a terrible storm struck. The white men drowned and the Sioux warrior ended up drifting in a canoe – crazed.
That wasn’t all. According to Native American Legends,
“Where once was a wide opening to the bay, now lay what appeared to be a great sleeping figure of a man. The Great Spirit’s warning had come true and he had been turned to stone.
“Today, partly submerged shaft to what was once the richest silver mine in the northwest, can still be seen. White men have repeatedly attempted to pump out the water that floods in from Lake Superior, but their efforts have been in vain. Is it still under the curse of Nanna Bijou, Spirit of the Deep Sea Water? Perhaps….who can tell?”
OTHER ANIMAL LEGENDS FROM
IMPORTANT CHIPPEWA MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURES
There are other myths that abound among Native American legends and the three I’ve listed below could certainly fire an author’s imagination.
Underwater Panther (Ojibwe name variously spelled Mishibizhiw, Mishibizhii, Mishipeshu, Mishipizheu, and other ways): This is a powerful mythological creature something like a cross between a cougar and a dragon. It is a dangerous monster who lives in deep water and causes men and women to drown.
Mishiginebig (also spelled Mishiginebig, Mishi-Ginebig, Meshkenabec, Msi-Knebik, Kichikinebik, or other ways): An underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. Its name literally means Great Serpent, and it is laid to lurk in lakes and eat humans.
Animikii or Binesi (also spelled Animiki, Animkii, Nimkii, Bnesi, Bineshi, and other ways): Thunderbird, a giant mythological bird common to the northern and western tribes. Thunder is caused by the beating of their immense wings. Although thunderbirds are very powerful beings, they rarely bother humans, and were treated with reverence by Ojibwe people. Animikii, which means “thunderer,” is pronounced uh-nih-mih-kee, and Binesi, which means “great bird,” is pronounced bih-nay-sih.”
My WIP so far has none of these legends, though it does contain that of the witch tree. I may use one of these, but no more. However, my imagination is working on another story, maybe several, where I can write around one of these most interesting legends.
Joan K. Maze
Writing as J. K. Maze
Murder By Mistake, book 1 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, B&N, Fictionwise and Amazon.
Murder By Mistake, book 1 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available in paperback from Amazon.
Murder For Kicks, book 2 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, Fictionwise and Amazon
Framed In Fear, romantic suspense set in Colorado, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, Fictionwise and Amazon
Murder By Spook, book 3 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, in progress
Friday, October 7, 2011
For much of the 19th century, Saratoga Springs was the “Queen of the Spa” resorts with the added attraction of horse racing and a first rate casino along with proximity to New York City from which it drew a large part of its monied clientele, attracting the likes of the Vanderbilts, Fisks, Goulds and Asters. For a time, it also boasted the largest hotels in the world such as the Grand Union Hotel where congressman, senators and bankers gathered, The United States Hotel where the likes of Vanderbilts, Goulds and Rockfellers held court on the piazza and Congress Hall which hosted the Asters and other old New York scions.
The scale of many of these Saratoga Springs hotels was monumental. The Grand Union was updated several times but in 1875, it claimed a ballroom that was 85 x 60 feet with 27 foot high ceilings from which hung three large crystal chandeliers. Covering seven acres right on Broadway, the main thoroughfare, The Grand Union had over 824 rooms available, some of them cottages which rented for $125 per day. The cottages were used mainly by families but a single bedroom cottage could be a discreet place to house one’s mistress. Fodder for many stories, I’m sure.
|The Grand Union|
In 1877 the Adelphi Hotel was built, squeezed in between the Grand Union and the United States. The Adelphi's piazza also overlooked the street and added to the unified architecture of these great hotels. The Adelphi only had a little more than 150 rooms but it entertained some of Saratoga's elite as well, including John Morrissey, the colorful Tammany Hall politician who helped bring racing and gambling to The Springs. He died at the Adelphi in 1878 with citizens keeping vigil outside its doors.
The Adelphi's smaller stature is what helped save it from the fate of it's bigger sister hotels. As modern conveniences such as elevators, electrical wiring, indoor plumbing, central heating, phones, etc. were required by vacationers, updating such mammoth palaces became financially prohibitive. With travel made easier, more options opened up. By the 1920's these grande dames were shadows of their former self. By the forties they were in substantial decline. The United States went up in smoke during that decade and the wrecking ball signaled the demise of the Grand Union in 1953.
|The Adelphi's lobby|
Anne Carrole writes about cowboys who have grit, integrity and little romance on their mind—and the women who love them. You can check out her contemporary romance, Re-ride at the Rodeo, at www.annecarrole.com. She also is co-editor of the review website, www.lovewesternromances.com
Thursday, October 6, 2011
|19th Century cabin|
When the infamous 1845 Irish potato famine struck and millions in Ireland literally starved to death, there was a mass immigration of Irish into the United States. But the O’Neill family didn’t lose their land in the famine. They were turned off many years later by a spiteful landlord. Due to her lack of schooling, Cenora cannot read cursive and reads only a few words in print. Her father, Sean O’Neill, can read a newspaper (slowly), and has done all the reading for his family and their traveling companions. On the other hand, the McClintocks value education, and Dallas McClintock reads most evenings. This difference causes only one of the many conflicts that arise in the book.
In THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, Cenora Rose O’Neill knows her father somehow arranged the trap for Dallas McClintock, but she agrees to wed the handsome stranger. She’d do anything to protect her family, and she wants to save herself from the bully Tom Williams. She believes a fine settled man like Dallas will rid himself of her soon enough, but at least she and her family will be safely away from Williams.
Texas rancher Dallas McClintock has no plans to wed for several years. Right now, he’s trying to establish himself as a successful horse breeder. Severely wounded rescuing Cenora from kidnappers, Dallas is taken to her family’s wagon to be tended. He is trapped into marrying Cenora, but he is not a man who ever goes back on his word. His wife has a silly superstition for everything, but passion-filled nights with her make up for everything—even when her wild, eccentric family nearly drives him crazy.
I hope you’ll read and enjoy THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE. The gorgeous cover is one of my favorites. The buy link for THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE is www.thewildrosepress.com/caroline-clemmons-m-638.html in print and e-download, and it’s also available at Amazon and other online stores. My website is http://www.carolineclemmons.com/. Other books at The Wild Rose Press are the contemporary romance HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME, historical SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, and paranormal time travel OUT OF THE BLUE. My backlist is now available on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle for 99 cents each, and so is my new mystery, ALMOST HOME.