I know I haven’t blogged in a while, but here is a special post about a great mistress: Françoise-Athénaïs.

Françoise-Athénaïs was the mistress to the Sun King himself; Louis XIV of France.  Born on October 5th, 1641 and baptised the day at the Chateau of Lussac Chateaux, Françoise – later adopted the name “Athénaïs”. Françoise possessed the blood of two of the oldest noble families of France through her parents, Gabriel de Rochechouart, Duke of Mortemart, Prince of Tonnay-Charente, and Diane de Grandseigne.

Athénaïs was considered breathtakingly beautiful by the standards of her time. She had thick, curly wheat-colored hair that fell in ringlets around her face so beautifully that even the Queen copied her hairstyle. Her eyes were huge and blue, her lips full and her figure sensuously curvaceous. All of these qualities appealed to the sensibilities of beauty at the time. Her love of mockery, infectious laughter and quick wit were engaging, as were her intelligence and flirtatious interplay. Steeped in sensualism, she is often described as a hedonist with a fondness for music, dancing, the arts, food and love-making. She had an extravagant and demanding nature and possessed enough charm to usually get what she wanted. She was expensive and glorious, like the Palace of Versailles itself. Her apartments were filled with pet animals and thousands of flowers; she had a private gallery, and costly jewels were showered upon her. She was highly discriminating as regards to the quality of the gems; returning them if they did not meet her exacting standards. She was given the nickname Quanto (“How much”, in Italian). Her love for food and her numerous pregnancies caused her to gain weight in her late thirties until her pleasingly plump figure became undesirably fat.

Françoise-Athénaïs was the maid-of-honour to the king’s sister-in-law, Princess Henrietta Anne of England, who was known at court by the traditional honorific of Madame. Later, because of the relationship between her mother and the queen dowager, Anne d’Autriche, Françoise-Athénaïs was appointed to be a lady-in-waiting to the king’s wife, Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche.

On 28 January 1663, Françoise married Louis Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin, Marquess of Montespan (1640–1701), who was a year older than she was. Françoise had previously been engaged to his brother, but the brother had been killed in a duel after a ball at the Louvre. After his death, it was decided that Françoise should marry his younger sibling. The wedding ceremony took place in a chapel at the Église Saint-Eustache in Paris. The couple had two children: Marie Christine de Pardaillan de Gondrin and Louis Antoine de Pardaillan de Gondrin, Marquess of Antin.

The couple lived in a small house close to the Louvre, which allowed Madame de Montespan to attend court and carry out her duties there as a lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Orléans. Beauty was only one of Madame de Montespan’s many charms. She was a cultured and amusing conversationalist, who won the admiration of such literary figures as letter-writer Madame de Sévigné and diarist Saint-Simon. In addition, she kept abreast of political events. This had the effect of making her even more appealing to men of intellect and power.
Madame de Montespan astounded the court by openly resenting the position of queen Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche,[5] the daughter of the king and queen of Spain, Philip IV and Elisabeth de France. A scandal arose when the Duchess of Montausier, governess of the royal children and lady-in-waiting to the queen, was accused of acting as a go-between in order to secure the governorship of the Dauphin for her husband, the Duke of Montausier. By 1666, Madame de Montespan was trying to take the place of Louis XIV’s current mistress, Louise de La Vallière. Using her wit and charm, she sought to ingratiate herself with the king. She also became close to the Dauphin, whose affection for her never wavered.      

The first of the seven children that Madame de Montespan bore to the king was born in March 1669. The new-born child, a girl, Louise Françoise de Bourbon (1669–1672), was entrusted to one of Madame de Montespan’s friends, Madame Scarron (the future marquise de Maintenon) to raise. The King bought a small house in the village of Vaugirard on the outskirts of Paris. In 1673, the couple’s three living illegitimate children, given the royal surname of de Bourbon, were legitimatised by Louis XIV. Their mother’s name, however, was not mentioned in the legitimisation documents. This was because Madame de Montespan was still married to the marquis de Montespan at the time. If their maternal parentage had been revealed, the marquis could have claimed Madame de Montespan’s illegitimate children with the king as legally his own. The eldest, a son, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, became the duc du Maine; the second child, a son, Louis-César de Bourbon, became the comte de Vexin; and the third, a daughter, Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, became Mademoiselle de Nantes. As Madame de Montespan spent the majority of her time immersed in the social whirl of the court, the three had little contact with their busy mother and spent most of their childhood with their governess, Madame Scarron.

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Protestant & Heretic

Well the end of Showtimes series, The Tudors draws near. And I have just watched episode 9 today. Yes I know I am behind the times, however there was a woman to write about . . . no not Catherine Parr. For she, is highly remembered as Henry’s sixth wife. No, I am talking about Anne Askew. Anne was an English poet and a Protestant who was persecuted as a heretic. Why is she so important? Anne was the only woman on record to have been tortured before her execution.

Born into a noble family in Lincolnshire, during her teens she was forced by her father to marry Thomas Kyme, as a replacement for her sister who had died. As an act of rebellion against her husband, anne refused to adopt the “Kyme” name.  Needless to say her marriage did not go well, on  several occasions Anne went to London to ask for divorce through justicifaction of the scripture (1 Corinthians, 7.15). Eventually, Anne left her husband and went to London where she made herself known by speaking out against the Church of England. Her rebellion included giving sermons and distributing Protestant books.  Her behaviour led to her first arrest, her husband was sent for and was ordered to take Anne back to Lincolnshire. Again Anne left her husband and returned to London.

In the last year of Henry VIII’s reign, Askew was caught up in a court struggle between religious traditionalists and evangelicals. Stephen Gardiner was telling the king that diplomacy – the prospect of an alliance with the Catholic Emperor Charles V – required a halt to religious reform. The traditionalist party pursued tactics tried out three years previously, with the arrests of minor evangelicals in the hope that they would implicate those who were more highly placed. In this case measures were taken that were, according to McCulloch, “legally bizarre and clearly desperate”, in the context of the king’s failing health. The persons rounded up were in many cases strongly linked to Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who spent most of the period absent from court in Kent: Askew’s brother Edward Ayscough was one of his servants, and Nicholas Shaxton who was brought in to put pressure on Askew to recant was acting as a curate for Cranmer at Hadleigh. Others in Cranmer’s circle who were arrested were Rowland Taylor and Richard Turner.

The traditionalist party included Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich who racked Askew in the Tower, Edmund Bonner and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The intention of her interrogators may have been to implicate Catherine Parr, the Queen Consort through the latter’s ladies-in-waiting and close friends, who were suspected of having also harboured Protestant beliefs. These ladies included the Queen’s sister, Anne Parr, Katherine Willoughby, Anne Stanhope, and Anne Calthorpe. Other targets were Lady Denny and Lady Hertford, wives of evangelicals at court.

Anne was arrested for the second time, were she was examined in June of 1546 by Martin Bowes. Sir Anthony Kingston was ordered to torture Anne in an attempt to force to name others. Evidence from Anne’s own account, written while in prison, Anne was only tortured once. Anne was taken from her cell, was shown the rack and was asked to name those who believed like her. Anne refused, as a result she was asked to remove all of her clothing except her shift. Anne quietly climbed onto the rack, where her hands and feet were bound. Again Anne was asked to name accomplices, again Anne declined. The wheel began to turn and again Anne was asked as she was pulled along until Anne hung stretched out five inches above the table. Where she fainted from the pain, Anne was lowered and revived. However the procedure was done twice more, though Kingston refused to carry on anymore and sought pardon from the king.

Anne was burned at the stake on July 16, 1546, she was only 25. Anne had to be carried from the chair to which she was carried to the stake, forcebly moved to the chair fixed to the stake. The executioner hung a small bag of gunpowder to her neck, as an act of human kindness. According to witness accounts Anne did not cry out until the flames reached her chest, by then the gunpowder had exploded and Anne was dead.

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Historic career ended in Controversy

Helen Thomas was born August 4th, 1920. Helen is an American author and a former news service reporter, Hearst Newspapers columnist and member of the White House Press Corps. For the past 57 years Helen served the correspondent, and more recently the bureau chief for United Press International (UPI).  During this time Helen covered every president of the United States, from the late years of Eisenhower to June 7, 2010 of Obama’s second year.

Helen was the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association, in 1975, Helen became the first female member of the Gridiron Club. Helen was also the first female officer of the National Press Club. During her years Helen has written 5 books; her latest was written with Craig Crawford: Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do.

Helen’s career was not quiet, by no means was it quiet. Helen had a similar problem as mine; the inability to know when to shut up or know when to hold her rather brash opinions to herself.  By her own admission to who seemed an autograph-seeker, Helen said “I’m covering the worst president in American history”. I am fairly certain those who read this now will look back at George W. Bush and agreed that Bush was politically handicapped.

Those who remember Bush’s inability to keep his reasoning straight as to why he started the war with Iraq, will enjoy the question Helen asked Bush on March 21, 2006; “I’d like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet…your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth…what was your real reason? You have said it wasn’t oil…quest for oil, it hasn’t been Israel, or anything else. What was it?” I’d like to know the same reason, however Bush responded by discussing the War on Terror, stated as a reason for the invasion that Saddam Hussein chose to deny inspectors and not to disclose required information.

Shortly after Helen raised her voice at the July 18th, 2006 White House briefing; “The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis… we have gone for collective punishment against all of Lebanon and Palestine.” Press Secretary Tony Snow responded, “Thank you for the Hezbollah view.”  Gee look at that evidence that politics can easily change the views of a person to keep himself in power, taking a leaf out of Getuilo Vargas’ moral policies? Other members of the press weighed in. According to Washington Post television critic Tom Shales, questions like the one above have sounded more like “tirades” and “anti-Israeli rhetoric”.  Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher described Shales’ attack as “disturbing” and said Shales “offers no evidence”.

On May 27th, 2010 just outside the Jewish Heritage Celebration Day event at the White House, Helen was asked about her opinion on the state of Israel. To which Helen replied. “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine [. . .] Remember, these people are occupied, and its their land; it’s not German, it’s not Poland’s [. . .]”.  When asked where Israelis Jews would or should go, Helen fired back that they should migrate to other regions of the world. Due to these comments/opinions upon Israel, especially in the wake of the flotilla Helen has been metaphorically speaking on the firing line. Her position as a client with the Nine Speaker Inc was dropped. Crawford publicly announced that he was not going to continue any future projects with Helen. Yesterday Helen gave her resignation and entered retirement. Obama announced that her retirement was the right decision on NBC’s Today Show.

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Vietnam’s picturesque victim: Phan Thi Kim Phuc

Phuc is a Canadian-Vietnamese subject of the Pulitzer Prize picture from the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972.

Born in Trang Bang, Vietnam in 1963. Trang Bang was the town that we know now as the site of the napalm bomb the South Vietnamese dropped according to the American military June 8th. Phúc joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese soldiers who were fleeing from the Cao Dai Temple to the safety of South Vietnamese–held positions.

As a young adult, while studying medicine, Phúc was removed from her university and used as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of Vietnam. In 1986, however, she was granted permission to continue her studies in Cuba. She had converted from her family’s Cao Dai religion to Christianity four years earlier. Phạm Văn Đồng, the then–Prime Minister of Vietnam, became her friend and patron. After arriving in Cuba, she met Bui Huy Toan, another Vietnamese student and her future fiancé. In 1992, Phúc and Toan married and went on their honeymoon. During a refuelling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, they left the plane and asked for political asylum in Canada. It was granted. The couple now live in Ajax, Ontario, and have two children. In 1996, Phúc met the surgeons who had saved her life. The following year, she passed the Canadian Citizenship Test with a perfect score and became a Canadian citizen.

On December 28, 2009, National Public Radio broadcast her spoken essay, “The Long Road to Forgiveness,” for the “This I Believe” series. In May 2010, Phúc was reunited by the BBC with ITN correspondent Christopher Wain, who helped to save her life. On 18 May 2010, Phúc appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme It’s my Story. In the program, Phúc related how she was involved through her foundation in the efforts to secure medical treatment in Canada for Ali Abbas, who had lost both arms in a rocket attack on Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Kim Phuc Foundation was established in 1997 in the efforts to give psychological and medical aide to the victims of war. Later other similar foundations such as the Kim Phuc Foundation International were set under the same umbrella.

A book of Phuc’s life, The Girl in the Picture was published in 1997. In 2004 Phuc recieved an honourary Doctorate of Law from York University, again in 2005 she received a second law doctorate from Queens University. The Order of Ontario was given to Phuc in 2004. To this day Phuc continues to pioneer the struggle for support for child victims of war around the world.

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Jacobean White Rose

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the blog about Anne Farquharson! Anne is a personal favourite, because I am deeply enthralled by Jacobean era. Why? Because of writers like Diana Gabaldon and Janet Paisley. So who was Anne Farquharson?

Anne was a Jacobean married to Angus MacKintosh, chief of MacKintosh Clan. Anne hailed from Invercauld, Scotland born in 1723. Early in 1744 Angus was offered one of three new Independent Companies being raised by Lord Loudon (John Campbell). Anne, dressed in male attire, rode around the glens and, in a very short time, enlisted 97 of the 100 men required for the captaincy. During the 1745 Jacobite Uprising, Angus’ company fought with Lord Loudon’s government forces, aka. the Black Watch, in the Highlands.

However when Teàrlach (Prince Charles [Charlie] Edward Stuart)landed on the shores of Scotland in 1745 with a French army. Anne rode out along the clans, against her husband’s wishes, and raise an army of 400 men to take to Teàrlach. As women could not lead a regiment of men, the command was split between Anne and her supposed lover, Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass.  Anne’s regiment joined the Prince’s army at Bannockburn, near Stirling Castle, in January 1746, 12 days before the Battle of Falkirk.

A month later the Prince was staying at Moy Hall, Lady Anne’s home. She received a message from her mother-in-law that 1,500 of Lord Loudon’s men, including Angus’ company stationed 8-12 miles away in Inverness, were planning a night raid on Moy hall to snatch Teàrlach and claim the  £30,000 bounty. Anne sent five of her staff out with guns to crash about and shout clan battle cries to trick the Government forces into thinking they were about to face the entire Jacobite army. The ploy worked and the Government force fled. The event became known as The Rout of Moy.

The next month Angus and 300 of Loudon’s men were captured north of Inverness. The Prince paroled Captain Mackintosh into the custody of his wife, Lady Anne, commenting “he could not be in better security, or more honourably treated.” She famously greeted him with the words, “Your servant, captain” to which he replied, “your servant, colonel” thereby giving her the nickname “Colonel Anne”. She was also called La Belle Rebelle (the beautiful rebel) by the Prince himself. (sidenote: Anne was the inspiration to my Twitter name.)

After the Battle of Culloden, Lady Anne was arrested and turned over to the care of her mother-in-law for a time. She later met the Duke of Cumberland at a social event in London with Angus. He asked her to dance to a pro-Government tune and she returned the favour by asking him to dance to a Jacobean tune. She died in 1787.

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Hanan al- Shaykh

Hanan is a Lebanese author on contemporary women’s literature. Hanan is from a very strict Shi’a patriarchal background in Lebanon.  Hanan follows in the footsteps of contemporary Arab women authors like Nawal El-Saadawi. She challenges the roles of women in the traditional social structures of the Arab Middle East. Influence from the definance of patriarchal controls that were placed on her not only by her father and brother, but within the traditional neighbourhood in which she was raised. Her manifestation of social commentary on the status of women in the Arab-Muslim world. Hanan challenges the notions of sexuality, obedience, modesty and familiar relations in her work.

Her work often implies or states sexuallu explicit scenes and sexual situations which go directly against the social norms of conservative Arab society. As a consquence her  books have been banned in the more conservation areas of the region including the Levant.  For example The Story of Zahra deals with abortion, divorce, sanity, illegitimacy and sexual promiscuity, and Women of Sand and Myrrh has a lesbian relationship between the two main protagonists.

Her prolific writing on the condition of Arab women and her literary social criticism, she is also part of a group of authors writing about the Lebanese Civil War. Many literary critics cite that her literature is not only about the condition of women, but is also a human manifestation of Lebanon during the civil war. Hanan left Leabanon during the Civil War, went to Saudi Arabia, Hanan currently resides in London, England with her family.

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Libertadora del Libertador

Dona Manuela Saenz was born December 27,1795/97 in Quito, Ecuador. Manuela or Manuelita as she is commonly known as also was called “Libertadora del Libertador”, given to her by her rumored lover; revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar. Manuela is a revolutionary hero, but before we can indulge ourselves in the decadence that is Manuela’s life we must go back to the beginning…

As we know Manuela was born in Ecuador, though it is questionable as to what year she was born, though historians have narrowed it to either 1795 or 1797. When Manuela came of age she was sent to a convent, where she learned to read and write. However, Manuela was forced to leave the convent when it was discovered that she had been intimately involved with an army officer; Fausto D’Elhuyar. For several years following Manuela lived with her father until he arranged her marriage to an English merchant; James Thorne. Through Thorne’s status Manuela lived as an aristocrat in Lima, Peru. As a woman of high society in Lima, Manuela held many gatherings that had guests that ranged from political leaders and military officers. These particular guests shared revolutionary secrets with her, so it made a lot of sense that in 1819-20, when Bolivar took part in the successful liberation of New Granada, Manuela became an active member against the viceroy of Peru; Jose de la Serna e Hinojosa.

After brazils’s independence Manuela left Thorne and travelled to Quinto where she met Simon Bolivar. The following eight years Manuela’s life was dedicated to Bolivar. As one of the first women involved in the revolution; Manuela received the “Order of the Sun” (Cabelleresa del Sol). Gained the title “Libertadora del Libertador” after an attempted mutinous attack on Bolivar in 1828, Manuela helped him escape.

When Bolivar died, Manuela became a thorn in Francisco Paula Santander’s side after he returned to power. Santander exiled Manuela to Jamaica, where she attempted to return to Ecuador n 1835, but Ecuador revoked her passport.  Manuela ended up living in Northern Peru, there she met American author; Herman Melville. For the next 25 years Manueka sold tobacco and translated letters that North American whale hunters wrote to their Latin American lovers. In 1847, Thorne was murdered in Pativilca and Manuela was denied the 8000 pesos of inheritance by enemies.

That ladies and gentlemen was the story of Manuela. Her life ended when the stairs in house collapsed and paralyzed her in 1856. Now that is a horrible way to die was my first thought…then my imagination kicked into overdrive .  Manuela was buried in a common graveyard and most of Bolivar’s letters were destroyed.

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