I spent my morning at the press preview of the new Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London. There were some amazing Sherlock related artefacts and pictures on display but the highlight for many will of course be the coat worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock so here it is.
Tucked away on the Rue Pasquier in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, there is a small park that holds a precious secret – an exquisite little chapel behind a high wall that serves as a memorial to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
On this day in 1793, Marie Antoinette was guillotined in Paris. While waiting to be taken to execution she wrote ‘My God, have mercy on me! My eyes have no more tears to weep for you my poor children; farewell, farewell!’ in her prayer book.
On this day in 1514, Mary Tudor, the eighteen year old youngest sister of Henry VIII married the fifty two year old Louis XII of France. The marriage lasted for less than three months before the elderly bridegroom died, with court wags inevitably concluding that he must have worn himself out with his young bride. Fun fact - Marie de Guise’s father, then Comte de Guise unseated her crush Charles Brandon during the tourneys held in Paris to celebrate the wedding. Awkward.
Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan and mistress of Louis XIV, was born on this day in 1640. Although the fascinating, witty, undeniably gorgeous and always controversial Madame de Montespan eventually lost her hold on her royal lover, she is still an ancestress of various European royal families as well as the current Orléans pretenders to the French throne.
Elisabeth de Valois, daughter of Henri II and Catherine de’ Medici and third wife of Philip II of Spain, died on this day in 1568 at the age of just twenty three. I adore this gorgeous but rather melancholy portrait (a 1605 copy of the 16th century original) of her in the Prado.
François Boucher was born in Paris on this day in 1703. Although perhaps better known for his gorgeously erotic paintings of frolicking nymphs and shepherdesses, it is his exquisite portraits of his patroness Madame de Pompadour that I’m in love with. They perfectly showcase the irresistible blend of beauty, intelligence, elegance and erudition that kept her royal lover hooked and made her a hard act to follow.
Hollywood star Greer Garson was born on this day in 1904. Okay, it’s not the greatest adaptation ever and the costumes are execrable to the point of hilarity, but I have the most immense soft spot for her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice (and I love the twist with Lady Catherine de Bourgh at the end - so shoot me).
Elisabeth of Bavaria-Ingolstadt, better known to posterity as Isabeau of Bavaria, one of the most infamous Queens of France, died in Paris on this day in 1435. In a situation that echoes that of her future grandson’s wife, Marguerite d’Anjou, Isabeau was forced to assert herself in order to protect the political and dynastic interests of her children after her husband developed a severe mental illness.
Like many other historical women who committed what to some seems to be the cardinal sin of ‘not knowing their place’, Isabeau has been accused over the centuries of all manner of terrible iniquities - extravagance, adultery, incest and the neglect of her children and ailing husband and even today rarely gets a sympathetic treatment, particularly in novels about her daughter, Catherine de Valois, who married Henry V of England. However, historians seem to be in agreement that the stories about Isabeau are mostly malicious slander spread by her enemies and that she was in fact a caring mother and wife, doing her best in what was a difficult situation.
Happy birthday to Marie Adélaïde Clotilde Xavière of France, better known as Madame Clotilde, the sister of Louis XVI, who was born on this day in 1759. Although she had expressed a wish to take the veil like her aunt Louise, Clotilde was married in August 1775 to the Prince of Piedmont, who was the brother of her sisters in law, the Comtesses d’Artois and de Provence. Due to being rather well upholstered, Clotilde was rather unkindly known at Versailles as Gros Madame. However, when her father in law, the King of Sardinia expressed his dismay about her generous figure, his son, her new husband, gallantly exclaimed that he didn’t mind as it just meant ‘there was more of her to worship’. What a nice guy. It’s probably NO surprise at all that they were blissfully happy together.