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Showing posts from September, 2017

Talleyrand's Wit

Talleyrand in 1808,  painted by François Gérard As promised, in today’s post I want to delve a little deeper into the life of one of the Regency era’s most prominent figures, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. I touched on him briefly in my recent post on the Congress of Vienna , where he skillfully negotiated favorable terms with the Allies for the restoration of the monarchy in France, following the defeat of Napoleon. Talleyrand was born into the aristocracy in 1754 under France’s old monarchical system or ancien règime – the one that came to a bloody end during the French Revolution. An early childhood accident left him with a limp that remained with him all his life. Disinherited by his father in favor of his brother, Talleyrand went int o the clergy and was made a bishop in 1789. But in what became his signature move, Talleyrand abandoned the Church and was defrocked as a result of his support of the French Revolution. He also helped the revolutionary gov

The "Dancing" Congress of Vienna: An Attempt to Rewind the Clock

The Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna circa 1800 Ah, Vienna! The name of that storied city conjures up visions of delicious pastries, waltzes, and elegance. But the city didn’t always have that image. Vienna, though a perfectly nice city before 1814, was transformed into a brilliant social mecca in the fall of that year. What helped change that city’s image is what also changed the face of a conquered Europe following the Napoleonic Wars - The Congress of Vienna.   This September marks the 203rd anniversary of this gathering of diplomats who came together to answer the question of “now what?” once Napoleon had abdicated his throne in defeat and was safely put away on Elba (or so everyone thought).  The purpose of the Congress was to hash out an effective way to balance the powers of Europe to prevent future imperialistic power grabs and wars, like the one that had just ended. The aristocrats, nobles, and royals convening in Vienna also badly wanted things to

Friday Follies: Five Famous Dandies

Oscar Wilde Here’s the first post of a new blog feature I'm trying out, Friday Follies, where I have a bit of fun riffing on subjects I’ve covered in past posts. In my last post , I talked about Beau Brummell. He’s one of the most famous men of the Regency, and one of the things he’s famous for is being a dandy. According to the 19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire, who was himself a dandy, dandies have “no profession other than elegance . . . no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons . . . The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption; he must live and sleep before a mirror.” Pharrell Williams I don’t know too many people who’d fit that description, but I scoured the Internet to find five famous dandies, past and present, not including Brummell (just because he's been covered so well already). The list I came up with includes three writers and two musicians. All these men have been described as dandi

Beau Brummell and Casual Friday

There's nothing casual about this guy - 1805 caricature of Beau Brummell by Robert Dighton My husband works at an engineering agency in the decidedly relaxed city of Portland, Oregon. The lower floors of his office building are home to a software development firm. Apparently, the laid-back style of the high-tech folks is causing a bad case of clothing envy among the engineers. So much envy that my husband’s boss had to remind employees of the agency’s unofficial dress code. Baseball caps, hoodies, shorts and tank tops, along with sandals and Crocs (a shoe company whose motto is “come as you are”) – all regularly worn by the high-tech workers – are off-limits to my husband and his colleagues. And the engineers are allowed to wear jeans only on Casual Fridays, and then only if they don't have meetings scheduled with anyone outside the agency. Ties aren’t mandatory, but a collared shirt (for the men at least) is.  My husband says there's been some grumblin

Royal Babies

The Duchess and Duke of Cambridge with their children. Image from  Alberto De Castro via Flickr Great news from Kensington Palace – another royal baby is on the way!  According to the official report , the Duchess of Cambridge is about 12 weeks along, which means the baby should arrive next spring. Hopefully, it also means she’s just about through with her extreme morning sickness (there's an official name for it -  Hyperemesis Gravidarum ), a condition which also plagued her in the early months of her two previous pregnancies. As William and Kate mull over possible names for their new little one, perhaps they should look to the past for inspiration. After all, they drew from the royal well of names for little George and Charlotte. As my blog readers know, I like to find Regency parallels to current historical events. When it comes to names there’s quite a bit of overlap between the Duke of Cambridge’s growing family and the family of his distant ancestor, K