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Happy Monday, everyone!  (is that even a possible thing??)  It’s been a while since I sat down with the Riskies, since there have been some back-to-back deadlines here and lots going on, so I am extra excited to be here this week.  And I am also working on a new project that I am VERY excited about, concerning Queen Victoria’s most beautiful, rebellious, and interesting daughter, Princess Louise, who was sort of the Princess Diana of her time.  Princess Louise, the future Duchess of Argyll, who was born March 18, 1848.  As well as being the most beautiful of the princesses, she was a talented artist and sculptor (of a professional caliber), friend of Pre-Raphaelites and other avant-garde artists, as well as a supporter of the suffragist movement and women’s rights.

Princess Louise Caroline Alberta was born at Buckingham Palace, the 6th child and 4th daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in the middle of a year of revolutionary upheaval in Europe, which led her mother to say Louise would surely turn out to be “something peculiar”.  She was always lively and vivacious–her family nickname was “Little Miss Why,” and her artistic talent was recognized early on.  She was even allowed to attend classes at the National Art Training School in South Kensington, and even though as a royal she could never be a professional she later sculpted many memorials, among them a memorial to the Boer War and one for her brother-in-law Prince Henry of Battenberg, as well as a famous sculpture of her mother now at Kensington Gardens.

Her liveliness was strained after the death of her father in 1861, when the royal court went into prolonged mourning.  She wasn’t allowed a debutante ball, as her older sisters had, and she was bored and dissatisfied.  She served for a time as her mother’s personal secretary, writing letters and attending to duties Victoria was unable to.  Her mother, who had sometimes despaired of her pretty, energetic daughter, said, “She is (and who would some years ago have thought it?) a clever dear girl with a fine strong character, unselfish and affectionate.”

After an unsuitable attachment to her brother’s tutor, a clergyman who late became Canon of Westminster Abbey, and proposed marriages to the Crown Prince of Denmark, Prince Albert of Prussia, and William, Prince of Orange (all shot down by her mother!), Louise decided she wanted to break with tradition and marry a British subject, John, Marquess of Lorne, heir to the Duke of Argyll.  Her brother, the Prince of wales, objected, but Queen Victoria liked the idea of “new blood,” writing to her son:

“That which you object to [that Louise should marry a subject] I feel certain will be for Louise’s happiness and for the peace and quiet of the family … Times have changed; great foreign alliances are looked on as causes of trouble and anxiety, and are of no good. What could be more painful than the position in which our family were placed during the wars with Denmark, and between Prussia and Austria? … You may not be aware, as I am, with what dislike the marriages of Princesses of the Royal Family with small German Princes (German beggars as they most insultingly were called) … As to position, I see no difficulty whatever; Louise remains what she is, and her husband keeps his rank … only being treated in the family as a relation when we are together .. “

Louise and Lorne were married on March 21, 1871 at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, where she wore a lace veil of her own design.  The couple had no children, and though happy at first were later estranged (there have since been rumors Lorne was a homosexual).  Lorne was the only royal son-in-law with his own political career, and in 1878 was made Governor General of Canada.  Louise was homesick in Ottawa, appalled at the “rough” accomodations at Rideau Hall.  But she redecorated, became a social sensation in Canada, enjoyed the outdoors activities like skating and sleighing, and was patron of several charities as well as founder of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.  After a serious sleigh accident on February 14, 1880, her health was never quite the same, and she spent more and more time in England, apart from her husband.  Lorne returned to England in 1883, where his hopes of growing a larger political career were frustrated and the marriage grew more remote.

Louise moved into the apartment at Kensington Palace where she lived for the rest of her life, and became preoccupied with her own artistic work, as well as family quarrels (especially with her sister Beatrice, who thought Louise was too close to her own husband, the handsome Prince Henry of Battenberg).  She became obsessed with physical fitness and diet (her family made fun of her for it, but she lived longer–and looked better–than any of them!).  She also became interested in women’s suffrage, and made a point to patronize female physicians.

Her husband was in failing health and declining finances from 1911, and she was reconciled to him and nursed him until his death in 1914.  After World War I she mostly retired, except for some charity work. and lived at Kensington next door to her reconciled sister Beatrice.  She died Dec. 3, 1939, and was the first royal to be cremated.  Her ashes were first deposited at the Royal Crypt at St. George’s, but were then moved to Frogmore with her siblings and parents.  Her sculptures can still be seen in London, a monument to a princess who lived her own life within the strict restraints of her birth and times.

For more info, Jehanne Wake has a great biography of the princess, Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Unconventional Daughter (1988), and a brand new biography was just released, Lucinda Hawksley’s Queen Victoria’s Mysterious Daughter.  I hope some of you find Louise as fascinating as I do!

So, what has Amanda been doing this week? Well…..

1) Writing! One project done (I think–or maybe I’m just sick of it now), one to finish. Then one to start. And RWA in about 4 weeks. Good times.

2) What to do since the Vampire Diaries season is over and True Blood hasn’t started yet? Thanks to the wonders of Netflix streaming (honestly, what did we do without this??), I have been wasting much time watching many episodes of Top Gear. That show is made of awesome. Also Bollywood movies.

3) Getting my (very excited) little ballet students ready for their recital in two weeks. It is all pink tulle all the time over there now!

4) Also getting ready for book three of my “Daughters of Erin” trilogy to hit the shelves next week! Visit us Sunday for the chance to win a signed copy. It’s hard to say good-bye to these characters… (and the first reviews are coming in! Here and here...)

My current project (One Naughty Night, which will be out from Grand Central Publishing in June 2012) is Victorian-set, so I’ve been spending a lot of time reading Victorian research books lately. In trying to find something to blog about today, I discovered that May 24 is Queen Victoria’s birthday! So happy 192nd birthday.

Princess Victoria was born on May 24, 1819 at about 4:15 in the morning at Kensington Palace to Edward, the Duke of Kent (4th son of George III) and his wife Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (sister of Princess Charlotte’s widower Prince Leopold). Princess Charlotte’s death in childbirth in 1817 set off a succession crisis–none of King George’s many sons had managed to come up with any more legitimate heirs, but they now scrambled to find suitable wives and produce little heirs to the throne. Victoria was born 5th in line of succession, after her father and his three elder brothers, the Regent and the dukes of York and Clarence. The Regent was long estranged from his wife Caroline, and now his only child was dead; York was also all but estranged from his wife, and she was too old to have children anyway; and Clarence (who married his wife Adelaide the same day as the Kents) had two legitimate daughters who died in infancy, even though he had copious amounts of children with his longtime mistress Dorothy Jordan. Victoria won the heir stakes.

She was christened in a small ceremony by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace on June 24. She was meant to be named Victoria Georgina Alexandrina Charlotte Augusta, or some combination therein, but the Regent threw a big fit which made the Duchess of Kent cry and made them take off the Georgina (after him) and the Charlotte (because of his daughter). The Alexandrina was after one of the baby’s godfathers, Tsar Alexander of Russia.

Victoria’s father died in 1820, and her childhood she later described as “rather melancholy.” For more information and images, you can go here

What is your favorite TV show right now? Did you watch the Vampire Diaries season finale (what did you think)?? Are you going to be at RWA this year? And who is your favorite dysfunctional family in history? (The Tudors, maybe?)

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It’s always fun to share a cover, and here’s a very lovely one–a short story anthology of stories inspired by Jane Austen, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress and to be released in October, 2011. Jane Austen Made Me Do It can be preordered now!

A whole bunch of us are participating–you may recognize some of those names on the cover–and mine, Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, is probably the only one about Beatlemania in the collection. It was inspired not so much by Jane Austen, although the story is, sort of, about Sense and Sensibility, but by the movie An Education.

When I saw the cover I was curious about the painting used, and Laurel Ann told me it was Portrait of the Misses Mary and Emily McEuen by Thomas Sully (June 19, 1783 – November 5, 1872).

I was curious about Sully, and his name was familiar, so I thought today I’d tell you a bit about him. First, here’s the whole portrait. Sully was born in England to a family of actors who traveled to Richmond, VA, where his uncle managed a theater. His artistic talent was a family trait and his first real apprenticeship was with an elder brother and then briefly with Gilbert Stuart.

When his brother died, Thomas, at the age of twenty-one, then married his brother’s widow (his self portrait shows him painting his wife), becoming stepfather to his nieces and nephews and fathering nine more. He moved to Philadelphia, his home base, in 1806, and in 1809 made a visit to London to study with Benjamin West and Thomas Lawrence.

His own records indicate a staggering 2,631 works from 1801 onward, mostly portraits, although he also painted some landscapes and dramatic historical scenes. During his long life, his subjects included Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Lafayette, and Decatur, but his portraits of women were most admired for their sympathy and sensuality.

In 1837, America was in a recession and he left for London with his daughter Blanch to look for work. The day before his departure, the Society of the Sons of Saint George, a benevolent association created to support indigent English emigrants and their families, offered him a commission of a full-length portrait of Queen Victoria. Because of his connection with Lawrence and his portraits of actors including Fanny Kemble Butler, he was fairly well known in London, but the Queen kept him waiting … and waiting. He kept a journal of his experiences:

The rain has been incessant until the present time. The confined space allowed for a house in the streets of London obliges the use of water-closets and as they often get out of order, the inconvenience is great. The water pipes leading to ours have become frozen, and for the present it is abandoned – luckily there is a subterranean place, for the servants, to reach which a lighted candle is required to wind your way through dark and dismal passages… The Queen’s physician has disapproved of her sitting for more portraits at the present time. I wish I were relieved from the uncertainty of her sitting to me! I am quite tired of suspense on the subject.

Finally he was allowed to paint her, and his portrait is a distinct break with tradition–the young queen looks back over her shoulder as she approached the throne.

Victoria was too busy to allow Sully all the sittings he requested, but graciously allowed his daughter into the palace to sit in her place “as a mannequin”. So it was that Blanch Sully became the first and last American citizen ever to wear the British crown. These unusual circumstances can only have intensified the painter’s compassionate and paternal view of the teenage queen, suddenly burdened with an extraordinary responsibility, placed almost overnight at the head of the greatest empire in the world. In his diary he wrote approvingly of her ability “to throw aside constraint and laugh and talk freely like a happy innocent girl, of eighteen – Long may she feel so light of heart!” But his knowledge that such a thing was, of course, impossible is what gives his portrait its poignancy. Andrew Graham Dixon

Sully’s descendants include writers, an architect, and artists, including a great-great-great grandson of the same name.

Had you heard of Sully? What other painters do you admire from the Regency or federal era?

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