Rudyard Kipling’s “Stiff Upper Lip”: From Empire to Tragedy

Rudyard Kipling, born in India in 1865, embodied the spirit of British Imperialism during its peak. His life was a journey of incredible success and unimaginable sorrow, forever marked by the “stiff upper lip” of Victorian stoicism.

Early Years

Growing up in Bombay, Kipling was surrounded by the grandeur and diversity of the British Raj.

 Girgaum Road, Bombay, India c.1895
Girgaum Road, Bombay, India c.1895
Pydownee Street, Bombay, India c1895
Pydownee Street, Bombay, India c1895
Harbour with arriving mail, Bombay, India, c. 1895
Harbour with arriving mail, Bombay, India, c. 1895
Statue of Queen Victoria (Empress of India, 1 May 1876 – 22 January 1901) in front of Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata (calcutta). Credit Karthiknanda
Statue of Queen Victoria (Empress of India, 1 May 1876 – 22 January 1901) in front of Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata (calcutta). Credit Karthiknanda

Yet, his idyllic childhood was shattered at the age of five when he and his sister were sent to a cruel boarding house in England. For six years they suffered cruelty and neglect at the hands of the evil Mrs Holloway of Lorne Lodge.

Badly-treated children have a clear notion of what they are likely to get if they betray the secrets of a prison-house before they are clear of it.Rudyard Kipling.

Relief came for one month every year when he and his sister visited their maternal Aunt in London. It was a paradise compared to Lorne Lodge.

A paradise which I verily believe saved me.Rudyard Kipling.

When at last his mother returned from India to remove the children from Lorne Lodge, he was able to tell the story.

The experience instilled in him the importance of emotional control, a trait that would remain with him throughout his life.

Around the World

After a brief stint at school, Kipling returned to India to pursue his passion for writing. By the age of 24, he had already published several successful stories and embarked on a breathtaking journey around the world.

Steamboats revolutionized international travel in the late Victorian era

Kipling left India in March 1889, traveling to San Francisco via Rangoon (a region of Myanmar), Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.

After falling in love with a Geisha in Tokyo, he continued his journey through the United States, arriving first in San Francisco and traveling on to Portland OR, Seattle, Vancouver, Alberta, Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Chicago, Beaver PA, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Washington D. C., New York, and Boston.

He stopped along the way to visit Mark Twain, arriving unannounced, but being fortunate enough to find Mr Twain at home and happy to put the world to rights over a few whiskeys.

‘Drop by any time’. Mark Twain pondering the world.

Travelling inspired Kipling’s boundless imagination and laid the foundation for his future literary achievements.

Bliss and Tragedy

In Vermont, Kipling found his haven, building a home he called “Bliss Cottage.” Here, surrounded by his wife and daughters, he penned his most beloved works, including the Jungle Books. However, tragedy struck when his young daughter, Josephine, passed away from pneumonia.

This devastating loss left a permanent scar on Kipling’s soul, forcing him to confront the limitations of the “stiff upper lip.”

Poet of the Empire

As Kipling’s fame grew, so did his association with British Imperialism. He became known as the “Poet of the Empire,” writing poems like “The White Man’s Burden” that reflected the ideals and anxieties of the time. His unwavering support for the British cause during the Boer War further cemented this image.

Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.Rudyard Kipling.

Dreams and Nightmares

In 1902, Kipling purchased a 17th-century mansion called Bateman’s, a place he cherished for its peace and beauty. Here, he continued to write prolifically, achieving the pinnacle of his career.

Bateman's. Credit Tony Grist
Bateman’s. Credit Tony Grist

However, tragedy struck once again with the loss of his son, John, in the First World War. This profound loss left Kipling heartbroken and disillusioned.

John Kipling, 1915

The Scars of War

During the war, Kipling used his powerful pen to write propaganda for the British government.

He held a particularly strong contempt for any man who reneged on his duty to serve his country, calling them outcasts and a disgrace to their family’s name.

What of his family, and, above all, what of his descendants, when the books have been closed and the last balance struck of sacrifice and sorrow in every hamlet, village, parish, suburb, city, shire, district, province, and Dominion throughout the Empire?Rudyard Kipling.
Troops going “over the top”, i.e. emerging from their trenches and charging into “no man’s land” towards enemy lines, often leading to massive casualties.

He viewed the war as a battle between good and evil, civilization and barbarity.

There was no crime, no cruelty, no abomination that the mind of men can conceive of which the German has not perpetrated, is not perpetrating, and will not perpetrate if he is allowed to go on…Today, there are only two divisions in the world…human beings and Germans.Rudyard Kipling.

However, the loss of his son exposed the hollowness of jingoism and forced him to confront the true cost of war.

If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied.Rudyard Kipling.
“My Boy Jack” by Rudyard Kipling… (Click to View)

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

The Stiff Upper Lip and Its Limits

Kipling’s life was a testament to the complexities of the “stiff upper lip.” While it undoubtedly helped him navigate the trials of his life, it also prevented him from fully expressing his grief and reconciling with his losses. However, his poems like “If—” continue to inspire generations with their message of courage and resilience, even in the face of unimaginable hardship.

“If” by Rudyard Kipling… (click to view)

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
and treat those two impostors just the same
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

A Legacy of Triumph and Tragedy

Rudyard Kipling was a man of contradictions: a champion of empire and a critic of its injustices, a master storyteller and a grieving father. His life and work serve as a reminder of the human capacity for both extraordinary achievements and profound suffering. Through his words, he continues to challenge us to confront the complexities of history, the limitations of stoicism, and the enduring power of love and loss.

The Longchamp Racecourse and Fashion Promenade

Attracting enormous crowds, by the late 1800s, the Longchamp Racecourse in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris had become one of the most fashionable public venues in France.

Spectating at the races was an immensely popular and socially prestigious pastime.

A place to see and be seen, Longchamp was like a giant stage to vaunt one’s social position.

The Races at Longchamps from the Grandstand by Giuseppe de Nittis, 1883

Attended by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie, who sailed down the Seine River on their private yacht to catch the third race, Longchamp Racecourse opened to the public on Sunday, April 27, 1857.

Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie
Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie

And it wouldn’t only be French Royalty who loved Longchamps—King Edward VII of Great Britain attended too.

The King's carriage leaving Longchamps with French Prime Minister Loubet and British King Edward VII, 1903.
The King’s carriage leaving Longchamps with French Prime Minister Loubet and British King Edward VII, 1903.

Enclosures were reserved for aristocrats and the well-connected and ladies were required to be escorted by a gentleman in order to enter.

The Races At Longchamp In 1874 by Pierre Gavarni (1846 - 1932)
The Races At Longchamp In 1874 by Pierre Gavarni (1846 – 1932)

But grabbing the spotlight was a new class of celebrity: the demimonde.

Supported by wealthy lovers, these were women on the fringes of respectable society.

The Races at Longchamp by Jean-Louis Forain, 1891
The Races at Longchamp by Jean-Louis Forain, 1891

Arriving alone, demimondaine were forbidden access to the enclosures but were as much of a spectacle as the races themselves.

Mixing with society women, they often shared the same couturier but appeared a little more chic.

1908 Longchamp

Attending the Longchamp races as the mistress of wealthy textile heir Étienne Balsan was a young Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

Although she didn’t quite fit the mold of a typical demimondaine, Gabrielle appeared in the loose, simple dress that would later influence an entire generation of “flappers” during the Roaring Twenties.

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel

Paris had become the fashion capital of the world and it wasn’t long before designers realized that Longchamp was a goldmine.

Fashion houses outfitted models with their finest clothes, sending them to the races to show off the latest styles.

Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908
Ladies at the Hippodrome de Longchamp, Paris 1908

Join us as we travel back in time to the Longchamp Races from 1907 to 1935—a time of elegance and flamboyance that may never be repeated.

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Vintage Baby Carriages of Bygone Times

The year was 1847 and Queen Victoria was pregnant with her 6th child, Princess Louise.

Hearing about a new type of baby carriage with three wheels which was pushed from behind, she couldn’t wait to see one.

“Albert!” she hollered, “come along, we’re off to the city to buy a pram”.

“A pram?” inquired Albert.

“Yes, yes, it’s a new type of carriage for our babies—you’ll love it!”

“Love it? repeated Albert.

“Yes, of course!” exclaimed the queen. “You know how you love inventions—well, this is one where the babies sit and you push”.

“I see”, said Albert, realizing what was coming …

An 1847 stroller from the John Leech Archives

Prams or perambulators date back to around 1733 when the Duke of Devonshire asked English architect and furniture designer William Kent to make a carriage for his children to keep them amused while they played in the grounds of Chatsworth House.

Equipped with a harness for a goat or small pony, Kent’s shell-shaped basket-on-wheels even had springs so that children could ride in comfort.

William Kent's Baby Carriage, c. 1733. Credit Studiolum
William Kent’s Baby Carriage, c. 1733. Credit Studiolum

Riding in goat-powered carts wasn’t new—children had been enjoying that since the early 17th century.

Three Children with a Goat Cart by Frans Hals, c. 1620
Three Children with a Goat Cart by Frans Hals, c. 1620

And it was still fashionable by 1890, as the grandchildren of the 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, would attest.

Major Russell Harrison and Harrison children outside the White House, 1890
Major Russell Harrison and Harrison children outside the White House, 1890

But what Kent’s design did was to inspire an entire industry of baby carriage manufacture during the Victorian era.

Starting out as three-wheeled versions that were typically pulled along by a Nanny, a later innovation allowed prams to be pushed, making it easier to keep an eye on the baby’s welfare.

Portrait of Henri Valpinçon as a child with governess by Edgar Degas
Portrait of Henri Valpinçon as a child with governess by Edgar Degas
Pram with three wheels from the period 1840-1850. Credit Antieke kinderwagen
Pram with three wheels from the period 1840-1850. Credit Antieke kinderwagen
The Champs-Elysees, view on the Arc de Triomphe by Francesco Miralles Galup (1848-1901)
The Champs-Elysees, view on the Arc de Triomphe by Francesco Miralles Galup (1848-1901)

Arriving from France, the wickerwork “Bassinet” style of pram allowed the infant to lie flat within a basket on a wheeled frame.

Pram with mattress and blanket that could be pushed or pulled c. 1866
Pram with mattress and blanket that could be pushed or pulled c. 1866

Royal patronage helped launch a fashionable craze among the well-heeled all over Europe and the United States.

So popular were prams in London by 1855 that the Rev. Benjamin Armstrong from rural Norfolk noted in his diary:

The streets are full of perambulators, a baby carriage quite new to me, whereby children are propelled by the nurse pushing instead of pulling the carriage.

Built of wood or wicker and held together with expensive brass joints, baby carriages were sometimes heavily ornamented works of art.

Pram design in manufacture from around 1858 - 1907. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Pram design in manufacture from around 1858 – 1907. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Pram design in manufacture from around from 1882 until 1919. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Pram design in manufacture from around from 1882 until 1919. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury), Samuel Uhrdin
Promenade Baby Carriage, c. 1890. Credit Geolina163
Promenade Baby Carriage, c. 1890. Credit Geolina163

Patents for new innovations were registered on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1899, African American William H. Richardson patented a design for a reversible baby carriage, allowing the baby to face either forward or toward the person pushing the carriage.

US Patent for a reversible child's carriage
US Patent for a reversible child’s carriage

By the late Victorian era, many more people could afford a baby carriage and new coach-built luxury models came onto the market named after royalty—Princess and Duchess being popular names, as well as Balmoral and Windsor.

c. 1880s. An early wooden-bodied coach-built pram made by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross
c. 1880s. An early wooden-bodied coach-built pram made by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross

The Edwardians made perambulator design a fine art with elaborate decoration, improved maneuverability, rubber tyres, and protection from the elements.

1905 British Perambulator. Metal and wood frame, with leathercloth upholstery and reed-work decoration. V&A Museum
1905 British Perambulator. Metal and wood frame, with leathercloth upholstery and reed-work decoration. V&A Museum

And of course, babies were the big beneficiaries of all this innovation. Peekaboo!

Woman, holding umbrella, pushing baby in carriage equipped with rain cover
Woman, holding umbrella, pushing baby in carriage equipped with rain cover
Stroller used by the children of Crown Prince Gustaf Vi of Sweden. (Manufactured by Hitchings Ltd London. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury)
Stroller used by the children of Crown Prince Gustaf Vi of Sweden. (Manufactured by Hitchings Ltd London. Credit Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury)

It was definitely a baby’s world—even royal babies loved their pram rides to the park.

With a commanding position to see all the sites and a comfortable ride with someone else doing all the work, what’s not to love?

Two children of the Crown Prince of Prussia, 1907
Two children of the Crown Prince of Prussia, 1907

Waiting on them hand and foot, some siblings would go to great lengths to ensure the baby was as comfortable as possible.

c 1901. Sibling making adjustments to a pram's sun shade
c 1901. Sibling making adjustments to a pram’s sun shade

For the wealthier families, it was the Nanny’s responsibility to look after the children while the parents attended the many parties and functions on their busy social calendars.

1900. Child and Nanny walk in the Eilenriede Forest Park, Hanover
1900. Child and Nanny walk in the Eilenriede Forest Park, Hanover
1910. A pram ride in the French countryside
1910. A pram ride in the French countryside
1917. Children with their Nanny on the Paseo de la Concha, San Sebastian, Spain
1917. Children with their Nanny on the Paseo de la Concha, San Sebastian, Spain

Mothers who couldn’t afford or didn’t want a nanny could spend some quality time with their baby dressing them for an enjoyable pram outing.

Woman and infant posed with a baby carriage, 1913
Woman and infant posed with a baby carriage, 1913

Admiring glances and polite conversation from passers-by would be all part of the fun of owning a perambulator.

1913 Perambulator. Meissen, Germany
1913 Perambulator. Meissen, Germany

Top down, wind in the hair. Nothing quite like it.

1914. Baby Charmain, aged 7 months seated in an elaborate cane pram
1914. Baby Charmain, aged 7 months seated in an elaborate cane pram

Even fathers started to take an interest, but generally only those working in zoos.

Baby gorilla in a pram, 1917
Baby gorilla in a pram, 1917

With the arrival of the 1920s, new technology provided a way of helping to keep babies quiet—namely Radio.

Pram provided with a radio, including antenna and loudspeaker, to keep the baby quiet. United States, 1921
Pram provided with a radio, including antenna and loudspeaker, to keep the baby quiet. United States, 1921

And for the first time, babies in prams became movie stars.

The baby in the pram falling down the 'Odessa Steps' from the movie 'The Battleship Potemkin', 1925
The baby in the pram falling down the ‘Odessa Steps’ from the movie ‘The Battleship Potemkin’, 1925

Along came the 1930s and prams took on some design cues from automobiles, with shiny fenders, sports wheels, and even windows.

Baby carriage, Hungary, 1939
Baby carriage, Hungary, 1939
1930s German perambulator. Wickerwork with hardboard, wood, chromium plated metal, rubber composition. V&A museum
1930s German perambulator. Wickerwork with hardboard, wood, chromium plated metal, rubber composition. V&A museum

We’re only human and so you never know when we’ll be at war again. Best to be prepared with a gas-proof pram.

1938. Gas war resistant pram. Kent, England
1938. Gas war resistant pram. Kent, England

Fasten your seatbelts for the 1950s!

New lightweight convertible sports and luxury models entered the market.

1953 Baby Carriage. Credit Fortepan
1953 Baby Carriage. Credit Fortepan

“Mom, I think we left them for dust.”

A toddler in a lightweight sports pram, 1959
A toddler in a lightweight sports pram, 1959

Companies like A & F Saward and Silver Cross started building custom-made prams in the 1950s that were—and still are—the choice of British royalty.

1959 Baby's Royale pram made in England by A & F Saward. V&A museum
1959 Baby’s Royale pram made in England by A & F Saward. V&A museum
A period pram advertisement from the 1950s, produced by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross, portraying the classic British nanny and a Silver Cross coach-built pram
A period pram advertisement from the 1950s, produced by British pram manufacturer Silver Cross, portraying the classic British nanny and a Silver Cross coach-built pram
Modern Silver Cross Balmoral Coach-Built Pram wit a vintage style
Modern Silver Cross Balmoral Coach-Built Pram wit a vintage style


The Tragic Story of Princess Ka’iulani, “The Island Rose” of Hawaii

Born Victoria Ka’iulani on October 16, 1875, the Crown Princess and heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii was known throughout the world for her intelligence and determination to preserve the Hawaiian monarchy.

Named after Queen Victoria and her maternal aunt Anna Ka’iulani who died young, Princess Ka’iulani’s life, spirit, and legacy are a testament to her love of the Hawaiian people in their hour of need.

Ka ‘iu lani means “the highest point of heaven” or “the royal sacred one” in the Hawaiian language.

Kaiulani, approximately six years old seated holding hat with backdrop of Diamond Head & palm trees in a photo studio
Kaiulani, approximately six years old seated holding hat with backdrop of Diamond Head & palm trees in a photo studio

Descended from the first cousin of Kamehameha the Great, the founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Ka’iulani’s mother was known as Likelike, the sister of the last two ruling monarchs, and her father was Scottish businessman Archibald Scott Cleghorn.

Ka'iulani's parents, Archibald Cleghorn and Likelike
Ka’iulani’s parents, Archibald Cleghorn and Likelike

A marriage across cultures does not always run smoothly and Princess Ka’iulani’s parents struggled.

Expecting to be the master of the household, Cleghorn’s staunch Victorian male chauvinism clashed with the Hawaiian nobility’s belief, regardless of gender, that they should be the ones to rule over others.

Ka'iulani's parents, Archibald Cleghorn and Likelike
Ka’iulani’s parents, Archibald Cleghorn and Likelike
You always blame me in everything and I am getting tired of it. I will have to kill myself then you won’t have me to growl at all the time. I think we are better separated…as you don’t love me and I don’t love you so I will simply say, “God bless the good”Likelike
Archibald Cleghorn (seated) with family and grandchildren. Princess Ka'iulani sits to the right of Cleghorn, c. 1885
Archibald Cleghorn (seated) with family and grandchildren. Princess Ka’iulani sits to the right of Cleghorn, c. 1885

Imperious and quick-tempered, but vivacious and well-liked, Likelike earned a reputation as a kind, gracious hostess.

When Ka’iulani was just 11 years old, Likelike fell ill and never recovered.

It is said that a large school of bright red fish—an omen of death in her family—massed close to shore and that Likelike predicted her daughter would never marry and never become Queen.

Princess Likelike in a formal portrait, taken by James J. Williams, 1880s
Princess Likelike in a formal portrait, taken by James J. Williams, 1880s

Because Princess Ka’iulani was second in line to the throne after her elderly and childless aunt, the young girl was expected to eventually become Queen.

The reigning monarchs, King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi’olani, talked with Cleghorn and the Princess about preparing her for the role with a British education.

Princess Kaiulani in 1889, age 14
Princess Kaiulani in 1889, age 14

Sent to Northamptonshire, England in 1889 at the age of 13, Ka’iulani was given a private education at Great Harrowden Hall.

Excelling in her studies of Latin, Literature, Mathematics, and History, she also took classes in French and German and lessons in tennis and cricket.

Great Harrowden hall, Northamptonshire. Credit M J Richardson
Great Harrowden hall, Northamptonshire. Credit M J Richardson

Growing up knowing the landscape painter Joseph Dwight Strong from her uncle’s court, and Isobel Strong, a lady in waiting under her mother, she showed an early talent for art and took several trips to Scotland and France to study.

'Poppies', an oil on canvas painting by Princess Ka'iulani, 1890
‘Poppies’, an oil on canvas painting by Princess Ka’iulani, 1890

Isobel was the stepdaughter of Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, of “Treasure Island” fame.

The two became good friends and he called her “the island rose” in a poem he wrote in her autograph book.

Princess Ka'iulani at 17 as she attended school at the prestigious Great Harrowden Hall in Northamptonshire
Princess Ka’iulani at 17 as she attended school at the prestigious Great Harrowden Hall in Northamptonshire
Princess Kaʻiulani wearing a hatband bearing the name of an Orlando-class armored cruiser captained by a family friend, Sir William Wiseman HMS Immortalité
Princess Ka’iulani wearing a hatband bearing the name of an Orlando-class armored cruiser captained by a family friend, Sir William Wiseman HMS Immortalité
Kaiulani in white gown and hat, photograph by J. J. Williams
Kaiulani in white gown and hat, photograph by J. J. Williams

Moving to Brighton in 1892, it felt like a fresh start for Princess Ka’iulani who continued to study in England for the next four years, despite being told she would only be there for one.

Chaperoned and tutored by a Mrs. Rooke who set up a curriculum including German, French and English, the resort by the sea pleased the princess, renewing her enthusiasm.

Arranging for her to have an audience with Queen Victoria as part of a trip around Europe, her Hawaiin overseers had to suddenly cancel all plans in January of 1893.

In a short telegram, she learned that Hawaii had been overthrown.

‘Queen Deposed’, ‘Monarchy Abrogated’, ‘Break News to Princess’.

To honor the name bestowed by Stevenson, she had to summon the spirit of the “island rose” – its thorns as sharp as defiance, its bloom undying in the face of adversity.

Refusing to stand idly by while the home that she loved was swept from under her, she gave a statement to the English press:

Four years ago, at the request of Mr. Thurston, then a Hawaiian Cabinet Minister, I was sent away to England to be educated privately and fitted to the position which by the constitution of Hawaii I was to inherit. For all these years, I have patiently and in exile striven to fit myself for my return this year to my native country. I am now told that Mr. Thurston will be in Washington asking you to take away my flag and my throne. No one tells me even this officially. Have I done anything wrong that this wrong should be done to me and my people? I am coming to Washington to plead for my throne, my nation and my flag. Will not the great American people hear me?
Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii, 1890s
Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii, 1890s

Traveling to the United States to fight against what she saw as a terrible injustice, she gave this speech on her arrival:

Seventy years ago, Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to Hawaii. Today, three of the sons of those missionaries are at your capitol asking you to undo their father’s work. Who sent them? Who gave them the authority to break the Constitution which they swore they would uphold? Today, I, a poor weak girl with not one of my people with me and all these ‘Hawaiian’ statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong – strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of seventy million people who in this free land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to mine!

Despite pleas to U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who brought her plight before Congress, her efforts could not prevent eventual annexation.

Treating Ka’iulani with contempt, the pro-annexation press referred to her in print as a half-breed, calling her “dusky”, although she was saved from the blatantly racist treatment repeatedly given her Aunt, the Queen of Hawaii.

Typical of the time, “positive” accounts of the Princess’ appearance often tried to emphasize what was thought to be “white” about her.

Occasionally, the British half from her father, Archibald Cleghorn, was also disparaged by American writers fearing Great Britain was a rival for possession of Hawaii.

Returning to Europe to finish her education, she received further tragic news that her childhood friend, Robert Louis Stevenson had died and that a new Republic of Hawaii had been established in her absence.

Learning that her half-sister, Annie Cleghorn, and later her English guardian, Theophilus Harris Davies, had both died, a great sadness overwhelmed her and her health started to decline.

Arriving back in Hawaii in 1897, she thought the warmer climate would help her recover, but she continued to deteriorate.

Kaiulani in San Francisco, 1897
Kaiulani in San Francisco, 1897

Even the new house her father had built for her couldn’t lift her spirits as she struggled to readjust to the tropical climate of the Hawaiian islands.

Princess Kaiulani's residence at Ainahau with peacocks on the lawn. The new house was constructed by Archibald Scott Cleghorn for his daughter's return from Europe in 1897
Princess Kaiulani’s residence at Ainahau with peacocks on the lawn. The new house was constructed by Archibald Scott Cleghorn for his daughter’s return from Europe in 1897

Continuing to make public appearances at the urging of her father, she became visibly drawn and emotionally exhausted.

Princess Kaiulani standing on top of steps on the porch of her house at ʻĀinahau; wearing the holoku and a lei
Princess Kaiulani standing on top of steps on the porch of her house at Āinahau; wearing the holoku and a lei
Newspaper article about Princess Ka'iulani's betrothal to Prince Kawānanakoa of Hawaii, 1898

At least there was something to look forward to—the announcement of her engagement to Prince David Kawānanakoa of Hawaii.

The “Island Rose,” heir to the throne and their symbol of resistance, would unite with a prince known for his intelligence and dedication to their land. While shadows of annexation loomed, this union ignited a glimmer of hope for a future rooted in their heritage, where their beloved princess, blooming once more, might guide them through uncertain waters.

Princess Kaiulani seated wearing dress with embroidered bodice for a formal picture, 1897
Princess Kaiulani seated wearing dress with embroidered bodice for a formal picture, 1897
Queen Liliuokalani wearing black in mourning over the annexation of Hawaii

The day Hawaii was annexed as a territory of the United States on August 12, 1898, citizen Ka’iulani and her aunt, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, wore funeral attire to protest what they considered an illegal transaction.

It was bad enough to lose the throne but infinitely worse to have the flag go down…Victoria Ka'iulani

One of the last public appearances of Victoria Ka’iulani was at a party thrown for U.S. Annexation Commissioners the following October.

The luau or banquet at ʻĀinahau for the U.S. Annexation Commissioners, hosted by Princess Kaiulani who is looking towards camera on the left side of the photo. Leslie's Weekly October 20, 1898
The luau or banquet at Āinahau for the U.S. Annexation Commissioners, hosted by Princess Kaiulani who is looking towards camera on the left side of the photo. Leslie’s Weekly October 20, 1898

Riding in the mountains of Hawaii Island in late 1898, Ka’iulani was caught in a storm and came down with a fever and pneumonia.

She died on March 6, 1899 at the age of 23 of inflammatory rheumatism.

Just as her mother had foretold, Ka’iulani wouldn’t get married and would never become Queen.

Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii, 1899
Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii, 1899

Princess Ka’iulani loved peacocks.

Growing up enjoying the company of a flock originally belonging to her mother, she is sometimes called the “Peacock Princess”.

Victoria Kaʻiulani, "the Peacock Princess", 1895
Victoria Ka’iulani, “the Peacock Princess”, 1895

If Only the Dead Could Talk—the Ghost of the Red Barn Murder

It was the year 1828.

In the little English village of Polstead in Suffolk, Mrs. Marten was having a bad dream.

A ghostly figure appeared to her, pointing to a spot on the ground.

The ghost was her missing stepdaughter, and the place she pointed to was inside the Red Barn, a local landmark.

Waking in a panic, she nudged her husband, the young woman’s father, beckoning him to go to the Red Barn and dig near one of the grain storage bins.

Reluctantly, her husband went out into the yard to fetch a shovel before making his way over to the Red Barn.

Buried in a sack he found the badly decomposed remains of his daughter, Maria, still recognizable from her hair and clothing.

An inquest concluded that she had been murdered.

Maria Marten
Maria Marten

Implicated by evidence found with the body, the prime suspect was one William Corder, the man Maria was supposed to have eloped with.

But Corder was nowhere to be found.

By all accounts, William Corder, the son of a local farmer, was something of a fraudster and a ladies’ man.

Called “Foxey” at school because of his sly manner, he had been found guilty of forgery and stealing in his youth.

Banished to London for bringing disgrace to his family, he would return to Polstead when his brother Thomas drowned attempting to cross a frozen pond.

And when his father and three brothers all died within the following 18 months, he had to run the family farm alone with his mother.

Corder started seeing Maria Marten, an attractive woman who was known for several relationships with men from the neighbourhood that had already resulted in two children.

The first had been fathered by Corder’s own brother, but had died in infancy, and the second from a man who refused to marry her but sent money every month to provide for the child.

Having children out of wedlock was a social taboo and so it was with some regret that Maria announced to Corder that she was pregnant.

Corder promised to do the decent thing and marry her.

But secretly, he was hatching a dastardly plan.

Corder burying the body of Maria Marten
Corder burying the body of Maria Marten

In the presence of her mother, he proposed to Maria that they elope, explaining that he had heard rumours about officers preparing to prosecute her for having children out of wedlock.

Maria heard nothing from him for a few days, then he arrived at her cottage saying they must leave at once because the local constable had a warrant for her arrest.

Corder took Maria’s things and told her to dress in men’s clothing to avert suspicion, then meet him at the Red Barn about a half mile away, where she could change before they eloped.

That was the last time Maria was seen alive.

Corder himself disappeared from the village but later returned, explaining that they were married and that Maria was staying in a nearby town because he needed to explain the situation to his friends and relatives before introducing her as his wife.

Days passed and suspicions grew as Maria did not return to the village.

Corder fled but wrote letters to Maria’s family explaining that they were living happily on the Isle of Wight, some 200 miles away.

He gave excuses as to why she hadn’t written herself, saying she was not well, her letters must have been lost, or that she’d injured her hand.

It wouldn’t be too long before Corder was discovered, leading a double life with another woman in London.

The Arrest of Corder
The Arrest of Corder

Placing an ad in the lonely hearts column of the Times newspaper, he had met and married another woman, Mary Moore, and was helping her run a boarding house.

Officer James Lea of the London police inquired about boarding his daughter there and in the process gained access, surprising Corder as he entertained guests in the parlour.

Denying all knowledge of both Maria and the crime, a search of the house uncovered some pistols bought on the day of the murder.

A passport from the French ambassador also suggested Corder was planning to flee to France, having caught wind of the discovery of Maria’s body from a friend’s letters.

William Corder's pistols
William Corder’s pistols

Tried at Shire Hall in Suffolk, such was the public interest that admittance to the court was by ticket only and the judge and court officials had to push their way through the crowds.

The press had already decided on Corder’s guilt and congratulated the overwhelming public opinion that shared the same sentiment.

Indicted on nine charges to avoid any chance of a mistrial, Corder pleaded not guilty.

Murdering Maria Marten, by feloniously and wilfully shooting her with a pistol through the body, and likewise stabbing her with a dagger.

Ann Marten, Maria’s stepmother testified about her dreams, while Thomas Marten related the story of digging up his daughter’s body.

Maria’s little brother said he’d seen Corder with a pistol before Maria’s disappearance and later, walking from the barn with a pickaxe.

Suggesting that he never intended to marry Maria, the prosecution claimed that she had discovered Corder’s criminal past and had accused him of stealing money sent by her child’s father.

William Corder awaiting trial
William Corder awaiting trial

Admitting to being in the barn, Corder said they had argued and that he had then left her alone only to hear a pistol shot while he was walking away.

Running back to the barn, he said he found Maria dead with one of his pistols beside her.

Although he pleaded with the jury to give him the benefit of the doubt, it took them only 35 minutes to find him guilty.

That you be taken back to the prison from whence you came, and that you be taken from thence, on Monday next, to a place of Execution, and that you there be hanged by the Neck until you are Dead; and that your body shall afterwards be dissected and anatomized; and may the Lord God Almighty, of his infinite goodness, have mercy on your soul!

After several meetings with the prison chaplain, Corder confessed to accidentally shooting Maria in the eye as she was changing out of the man’s clothing he suggested she wear as a disguise.

Estimates of the number of people in attendance at his execution ranged from 7,000 to 20,000.

Just before the hood went over his head, he confessed again:

I am guilty; my sentence is just; I deserve my fate; and, may God have mercy on my soul.

Corder’s body was put on display in the courtroom with the abdomen cut open to reveal the muscles.

Over 5,000 people queued to see the gruesome sight.

The execution of William Corder, the Red Barn Murderer
The execution of William Corder, the Red Barn Murderer

Later, in front of an audience of students from Cambridge University, electric wires were attached to Corder’s body to demonstrate the contraction of muscles using electrical currents.

What must have gone through the minds of those students to see a dead body move?

How many wondered about the scientific possibility of ghosts communicating from the dead?

Here was a story that had all the elements to ignite the public’s imagination.

A poor girl murdered by a wicked squire; the supernatural communication with the dead; and Corder’s new life resulting from a lonely hearts advertisement.

19th-century fascination with the macabre knew no bounds.

Pieces of the rope used to hang Corder sold for a guinea each.

Part of Corder’s scalp with a shriveled ear still attached was displayed in a shop in London’s Oxford Street.

A lock of Maria’s hair sold for two guineas.

Polstead village became a tourist mecca with an estimated 200,000 visitors in 1828 alone.

Stripped for souvenirs, the Red Barn eventually burned down in 1842, but not before planks were removed from the sides, broken up, and sold as toothpicks.

The Victorian play “Maria Marten”, or “The Murder in the Red Barn” was a sensational hit throughout the mid 19th century and possibly the most performed play of the era.

Even 19th-century fairground peep shows had to add extra apertures for viewers during shows of the murder.

19th-century fairground peep show
19th-century fairground peep show

Victorians portrayed Corder as a cold-blooded monster and Maria as the innocent victim, pure as the driven snow.

To suit Victorian sensibilities, her reputation and her children by other fathers was omitted, while Corder’s appearance deliberately aged to exaggerate his wickedness.

Doubts were raised about the veracity of Ann Marten’s dreams of Maria’s ghost.

How could she have known the exact location of Maria’s body unless the ghost really did appear … or the story was fabricated?

Ann was only one year older than Maria and rumours circulated of a possible affair between Ann and Corder.

Could Ann have been the murderer?

We’ll never know.

One thing is for certain—Maria’s ghost, whether dreamed or imagined, played a decisive role in the fate of William Corder and solving the Red Barn murder.

Memorial to Maria Marten in St Marys church yard Polstead, Suffolk. Credit Keith Evans
Memorial to Maria Marten in St Marys church yard Polstead, Suffolk. Credit Keith Evans

Women’s Fashions of the Late Victorian Era

During the Victorian Era, advances in technology and distribution saw fashion change from an exclusive privilege of the wealthy elites to something that could be enjoyed by ordinary people.

The Industrial Revolution inspired a flowering of creativity in architecture, literature, and decorative and visual arts, all playing a part in influencing the latest fashions.

Changing attitudes to traditional gender roles and the rising middle class meant that by the late Victorian Era, a new age of mass consumerism had begun.

Unlike earlier centuries, when it was commonplace for women to help with the family business, Victorians thought a woman’s place was in the home.

1885 Fashion plate
1885 Fashion plate

Victorian fashion wasn’t utilitarian, it was an expression of position in society.

1888 Fashion Plate
1888 Fashion Plate

The upper class wore clothes adorned with embroideries and trims; the middle class, less extravagant; and the working class, whatever they could afford.

Depicted in this painting is a middle-class woman showing off her newly purchased bonnet at her sister’s modest home.

The New Bonnet by Eastman Johnson, 1876
The New Bonnet by Eastman Johnson, 1876

Casting off the shackles of crinolines of the 1850s and 1860s, the late Victorian era saw several innovations to bring more practicality and mobility to fashion whilst maintaining the volume of fabric.

Introduced in the late 1860s, the bustle was a framework used to expand and support the fullness of a woman’s dress at the back, leaving the front and sides flatter for ease of movement.

Reaching its greatest extension by the mid-1880s, it was popularly boasted that the cantilevers of bustles could support an entire tea service.

1884-86. Dinner Dress. American. Silk. metmuseum
1884-86. Dinner Dress. American. Silk. metmuseum

With women becoming more involved in activities outside the home, fashion designers made changes to suit.

Skirts were given more ground clearance and trains were made simpler, stronger and dragged less on the ground while keeping the same overall form.

1885 Walking Dress. French. House of Worth. Silk, glass. metmuseum
1885 Walking Dress. French. House of Worth. Silk, glass. metmuseum

Abandoned by the 1890s, the bustle evolved into skirts with a much more subtle flow from the wearer’s thin corsetted waist.

Necklines were high, while sleeve size increased.

1892 Dress. American. Silk, cotton
1892 Dress. American. Silk, cotton

Becoming bell-shaped, dresses were made to fit tighter around the hip area.

1892 Dress. American. Silk, cotton
1892 Dress. American. Silk, cotton

While sleeves and bodices initially peaked at the shoulders, size would increase considerably.

1890 Dress. American. Silk, linen
1890 Dress. American. Silk, linen

Beginning in the mid-1890s, exaggerated “leg o’mutton” sleeves grew in size until disappearing in about 1906.

1895 Afternoon jacket. French. Silk, jet, beads
1895 Afternoon jacket. French. Silk, jet, beads
1896 Wedding dress. House of Worth. Silk, pearl. Credit metmuseum
1896 Wedding dress. House of Worth. Silk, pearl. Credit metmuseum
1895 Dress. French. Silk
1895 Dress. French. Silk

Skirts started to take on a graceful, curved, “A-line silhouette”.

1897 Gown. House of Worth
1900 Ball Gown. French. Doucet. Silk, metal. metmuseum
1900 Ball Gown. French. Doucet. Silk, metal. metmuseum

A glittering extravaganza, the neoclassical motifs in the below dress add a texture and lighting effect to stand out at a formal ball.

1890 Evening ensemble. American. Silk. metmuseum
1890 Evening ensemble. American. Silk. metmuseum

Changing attitudes about acceptable activities for women also made sportswear popular, particularly for bicycling and tennis.

Bicycling; The Ladies of the Wheel by François Courboin, 1896
Bicycling; The Ladies of the Wheel by François Courboin, 1896
A june Afternoon by A. B. Frost, 1898
Le Chalet du Cycle au Bois de Boulogne by Jean-Georges Béraud, 1900
Le Chalet du Cycle au Bois de Boulogne by Jean-Georges Béraud, 1900
A Rally by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1885
A Rally by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1885

Although introduced much earlier, the riding habit became more practical, with a much simpler, more formal appearance.

Void of embellishments, it was made of tough woolen fabric in a single dark colour and worn with matching hat and veil.

1890 Three-piece Riding Habit. Wool twill, full finish
1890 Three-piece Riding Habit. Wool twill, full finish
The Ride by Pierre Auguste Renoir
The Ride by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Crucial to a respectable appearance were hats and gloves—to be seen bareheaded was simply improper.

1899 Millinery Print. France
1899 Millinery Print. France

Dozens of fanciful designs provided women with almost endless choice.

Fashion plate showing three bust portraits of Jane Harding, Baronne de Carlsberg, and Suzanne, actresses at the Gymnase theater, Paris, wearing hats designed by Madame Carlier
Fashion plate showing three bust portraits of Jane Harding, Baronne de Carlsberg, and Suzanne, actresses at the Gymnase theater, Paris, wearing hats designed by Madame Carlier

Women who wanted a more modest appearance often preferred bonnets but they became associated with a matronly appearance.

The Summer Bonnet by Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, 1893
The Summer Bonnet by Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, 1893
1892 Evening bonnet. American. Silk, cotton, jet, feather. metmuseum
1892 Evening bonnet. American. Silk, cotton, jet, feather. metmuseum
Broadway stage performer and singer, Anna Held

Straw hats were essential summer wear for outdoor activities like croquet.

1890 Hat. American. Leghorn straw, silk chiffon
1890 Hat. American. Leghorn straw, silk chiffon
The Croquet Party by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1890
The Croquet Party by Sir John Lavery, R.A., 1890

The widening of hats towards the end of the 19th century hinted at the enormous hats that were to follow during the Edwardian era.

A Portrait of a Lady in a Black Hat with a Bouquet of Flowers in her Arms by Edouard Bisson, 1895
A Portrait of a Lady in a Black Hat with a Bouquet of Flowers in her Arms by Edouard Bisson, 1895

The late 1890s returned to the tighter sleeves often with small puffs or ruffles capping the shoulder but fitted to the wrist.

1897 Two-piece dress. House of Rouff. Silk twill and silk cut velvet on twill foundation
1897 Two-piece dress. House of Rouff. Silk twill and silk cut velvet on twill foundation

Indispensable accessories for the Victorian lady, parasols of the late Victorian era were exuberant and lace-covered with extremely fine handle detail.

Here, the bright colours indicative of the French touch on the left contrast with the black parasol for mourning.

1895 - 1900 parasols. Silk, wood, metal, tortoiseshell.metmuseum
1895 – 1900 parasols. Silk, wood, metal, tortoiseshell.metmuseum

From the 1870s to the twentieth century, women’s shoes changed to include higher heels and more pointed toes.

Low-cut pumps were worn for the evening.

Ankle-length laced or buttoned boots were also popular.

Woman's Bar Shoes, 1898
Woman’s Bar Shoes, 1898
1894. Evening slippers. American. Silk
1894. Evening slippers. American. Silk
1890 Eveing boots. French. Silk, metla. metmuseum
1890 Evening boots. French. Silk, metal. metmuseum
1892 Pair of Woman’s Bar Shoes (Wedding). Suede, sueded leather, silk gauze, silk satin
1895 Women's Wedding Boots. Kid leather with sueded leather and pearls
1895 Women’s Wedding Boots. Kid leather with sueded leather and pearls

Those of the upper class who were invited to attend the royal courts of Europe would wear something altogether more extravagant and reminiscent of the 18th century.

As the wife of Washington Augustus Roebling, the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, Emily Warren Roebling ran the day-to-day supervision of the project for a period of fourteen years after husband became ill.

She wore this gown for her formal presentation to Queen Victoria in 1896.

1896 Court Presentation Ensemble. American. Silk, metal, cotton, leather
1896 Court Presentation Ensemble. American. Silk, metal, cotton, leather

Presentation at court was a special event for American women of Roebling’s social status and court protocol dictated the attire.

Lavishly embroidered, the sumptuous textiles and long train are characteristics of a formal gown appropriate for the occasion.

Originally intended to be worn at home for afternoon tea with family and friends, by the late 1900s, tea gowns were worn through the evening for dinner and other events.

Although just as elegant as formal wear, tea gowns were worn without corsets or assistance from a maid.

Comfortable and relaxing, they would be harbingers of things to come.

1900 Tea gown. French. House of Worth. metmuseum
1900 Tea gown. French. House of Worth. metmuseum

By the close of the Victorian era, women were liberated from tight-laced corsets, restrictive layers of crinolined or bustled fabric, and society’s expectation of a woman’s role.

1891 Corset. French. Silk. metmuseum
1891 Corset. French. Silk. metmuseum

There was a new woman in town and she was more confident, self-assured, and ready to meet her true potential than ever before.

No longer were women seen as either “fragile” or “voluptuous” as portrayed in earlier decades, but athletic, emancipated, and ready to enter the workforce.

Gibson Girls in beach attire by Charles Dana Gibson, 1898
Gibson Girls in beach attire by Charles Dana Gibson, 1898

She was the Gibson Girl, and she would fight for the right to vote in the 20th century.

John Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight

Known for his city night-scenes and landscapes, John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist described by British art historian Christopher Wood as a “remarkable and imaginative painter”.

Hailing from Leeds in England, Grimshaw’s first job was as a clerk for Great Northern Railway.

Much to the dismay of his parents, he left the job at age 24 to pursue a career as a painter.

John Atkinson Grimshaw and the Great Northern Railway
John Atkinson Grimshaw and the Great Northern Railway

Leaving a steady job with a growing industry must have seemed foolhardy, but Grimshaw’s passion and talent for art were all he needed to make a success of his life.

Exhibiting for the first time just a year later under the patronage of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, he showed paintings of birds, fruit, and blossom.

It wasn’t until the 1870s that his career really took off.

Influenced primarily by the Pre-Raphaelites, he painted landscapes with precise use of colour and lighting, often focusing on the changing seasons or the weather to bring vivid detail and realism to his work.

But it is the moonlit views of cities and suburban streets, of Docklands in London, Hull, Liverpool, and Glasgow that he is best remembered for.

paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scenePhilip J. Waller.

Sharply focused, almost photographic, Grimshaw poetically applied the tradition of rural moonlit scenes to the city, with its rain puddles, mists, and the smoky fog of late Victorian industrial England.

Grimshaw evokes the very feeling of chill in the night air or the damp of mists at dawn’s early light.

John Atkinson Grimshaw was the Painter of Moonlight.

London Bridge - Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
London Bridge – Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
Park Row, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Park Row, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Westminster Bridge by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Westminster Bridge by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Liverpool Quay by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Liverpool Quay by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
The Gossips, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
The Gossips, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Hull Docks at Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Hull Docks at Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Evening Scene by the Docks, Hull by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Evening Scene by the Docks, Hull by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Burning Off, a Fishing Boat at Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Burning Off, a Fishing Boat at Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
On the Clyde, Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
On the Clyde, Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Lights in the Harbour, Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Lights in the Harbour, Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Moonlight on Lake by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Moonlight on Lake by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Liverpool Docks attributed to John Atkinson Grimshaw
Liverpool Docks attributed to John Atkinson Grimshaw
Bonchurch, the Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Bonchurch, the Isle of Wight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Night Vigil by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Night Vigil by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Liverpool from Wapping by John A Grimshaw, 1875
Liverpool from Wapping by John A Grimshaw, 1875
A moonlit street after rain by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
A moonlit street after rain by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Blackman Street, Borough, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1885
Blackman Street, Borough, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1885
Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Glasgow, Saturday Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Glasgow, Saturday Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw
A Moonlit Landscape by John Atkinson Grimshaw
A Moonlit Landscape by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Humber Docks Hull, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
Humber Docks Hull, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
A Yorkshire Home by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
A Yorkshire Home by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Glasgow Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Glasgow Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
The Thames by Moonlight with Southwark Bridge, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
The Thames by Moonlight with Southwark Bridge, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
The Old Hall Under Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
The Old Hall Under Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Figure Overlooking Waterloo Lake, Rounday Park, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Figure Overlooking Waterloo Lake, Rounday Park, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Old Chelsea by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Old Chelsea by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Near Hackness, a moonlit scene with pine trees by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Near Hackness, a moonlit scene with pine trees by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Canny Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Canny Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Heath Street, Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Heath Street, Hampstead by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1882
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Street after the Rain in the Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Whitby by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Whitby by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Under the Moonbeams by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
Under the Moonbeams by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1887
The Broomielaw Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1889
The Broomielaw Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1889
Forge Valley, near Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Forge Valley, near Scarborough by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875
Whitby, from the East Side by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Whitby, from the East Side by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Heaven's Lamp by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
Heaven’s Lamp by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
Lovers in a Wood by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1873
Lovers in a Wood by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1873
The Lovers by John Atkinson Grimshaw
The Lovers by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Briggate, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Briggate, Leeds by John Atkinson Grimshaw
A moonlit country road by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
A moonlit country road by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Reflections on the Thames, Westminster by Grimshaw, John Atkinson, 1879
Reflections on the Thames, Westminster by Grimshaw, John Atkinson, 1879
The Tryst by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
The Tryst by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1886
At the Park Gate by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
At the Park Gate by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Full Moon behind Cirrus Cloud from the Rounday Park Castle Battlements by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Full Moon behind Cirrus Cloud from the Rounday Park Castle Battlements by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1872
Home Again by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
Home Again by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1877
November by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
November by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1879
Scarborough by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1876
Scarborough by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1876
Boar Lane, Leeds by Lamplight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Boar Lane, Leeds by Lamplight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1881
Whitby Harbor by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1862
Whitby Harbor by Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1862
Moonlight, Wharfedale by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Moonlight, Wharfedale by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Silver Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Silver Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
London Bridge - Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
London Bridge – Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
A Moonlit Evening by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
A Moonlit Evening by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Harbor Scene by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Harbor Scene by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1878
Greenwich, Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
Greenwich, Half Tide by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1884
The Custom House, Liverpool, Looking South by John Atkinson Grimshaw , 1890
The Custom House, Liverpool, Looking South by John Atkinson Grimshaw , 1890
Gloucester Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1890
Gloucester Docks by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1890
Thames Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Thames Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Nightfall down the Thames by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1880
Southwark Bridge and St. Paul's by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1883
Southwark Bridge and St. Paul’s by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1883
A Moonlit Lane by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1874
A Moonlit Lane by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1874

Renoir: an Impression of Beauty

Famed for his paintings of bustling 19th-century Parisian life, pretty women and sensual nudes, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s eye for beauty captured the day’s fashions and scenes of contented domestic bliss.

Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Celebrated as a colorist, Renoir (1841 – 1919) was masterful at capturing the interplay of light and shadow as seen in the dappled sunlight of dancers at the Moulin de la Galette.

In the 19th century, Le Moulin de la Galette was a pleasant diversion for Parisians seeking entertainment, a glass of wine and bread made from flour ground by the famous windmill of the same name.

Bal du moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.Pierre Auguste Renoir
Click here to learn more about Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Painting for two months in the summer of 1869 at a boating and bathing complex outside Paris called La Grenouillère, Renoir and his friend Claude Monet captured the effects of the sun streaming through the trees on the rippling water.

La Grenouillere by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1869
La Grenouillere by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1869

Using broad, loose brushstrokes in a sketch-like technique and a brightened palette, they developed what would become known as the Impressionist aesthetic.

La Grenouillere by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1869
La Grenouillere by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1869

Organized with the help of friends Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and Camille Pissarro, Renoir and Monet held exhibitions dedicated to Impressionism as a means to bypass the strict tradition of the more conservative Salon de Paris—the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Although a founding member of the Impressionist movement, Renoir ceased to exhibit after 1877.

His love of portraiture and images of well-dressed Parisian pleasure seekers created a bridge from Impressionism’s more experimental aims to a modern, middle-class art public.

The Cafe by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1877
The Cafe by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1877

On a trip to Italy in 1881, Renoir became enamored with the “grandeur and simplicity” of High Renaissance artists like Raphael and his figures consequently became more crisply drawn and sculptural in character.

The Artist's Family by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1896
The Artist’s Family by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1896

Integrating more line and composition into his more mature works, Renoir created some of his era’s most timeless canvases.

Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1883
Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1883

Painting dozens of nudes, Renoir specialized in marble-like figures against quickly improvised impressionistic backgrounds.

Bather by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1893
Bather by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1893

Renoir’s combination of modernity and tradition was highly influential on the next generation of artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Maurice Denis.

Join us as we celebrate Renoir accompanied by the music of Chopin.

Young Girls at the Piano by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1892
Young Girls at the Piano by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1892
Woman with a Parasol in a Garden by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1873
Woman with a Parasol in a Garden by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1873
The Two Sisters, On the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Two Sisters, On the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Picking Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
Picking Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
Young Woman with a Japanese Umbrella by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Young Woman with a Japanese Umbrella by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Place de la Trinite, Paris by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
Place de la Trinite, Paris by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
At the Concert by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
At the Concert by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1873
Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1873
Bougival by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1888
Bougival by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1888
The Swing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876
The Swing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876
Cagnes Landscape by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1910
Cagnes Landscape by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1910
Noirmoutiers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1892
Noirmoutiers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1892
Woman with a Black Dog by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1874
Woman with a Black Dog by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1874
The Port of Pornic by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1890
The Port of Pornic by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1890
Sunny Landscape by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
Sunny Landscape by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
The Harvesters by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1873
The Harvesters by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1873
The Covered Lane by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1872
The Covered Lane by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1872
The Children of Martial Caillebotte by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1895
The Children of Martial Caillebotte by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1895
Geraniums in a Copper Basin by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
Geraniums in a Copper Basin by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
Landscape at Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1908
Landscape at Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1908
Le Pont-Neuf, Paris by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1872
Le Pont-Neuf, Paris by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1872
The Theater Box by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1874
The Theater Box by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1874
The Farm by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1914
The Farm by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1914
Basket of Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir - 1890
Basket of Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir – 1890
The Lovers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
The Lovers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
Chapel of Our Lady of Protection, Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1905
Chapel of Our Lady of Protection, Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1905
A Cup of Tea in the Garden by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1907
A Cup of Tea in the Garden by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1907
Houses at Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1905
Houses at Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1905
The Fountain by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1885
The Fountain by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1885
Chrysanthemums by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1878
Chrysanthemums by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1878
Among the Roses by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1882
Among the Roses by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1882
Flowers in a Vase by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1866
Flowers in a Vase by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1866
Cagnes Landscape with Woman and Child by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1910
Cagnes Landscape with Woman and Child by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1910
The Fisherman by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1874
The Fisherman by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1874
Girls with Lilacs by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1890
Girls with Lilacs by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1890
The Great Boulevards by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
The Great Boulevards by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
The Terrace at Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1908
The Terrace at Cagnes by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1908
Country Dance by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1883
Country Dance by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1883
Bouquet of Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1878
Bouquet of Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1878
The Canoeist's Luncheon by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
The Canoeist’s Luncheon by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1880
Head of a Little Girl by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1900
Head of a Little Girl by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1900
Oarsmen at Chatou by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1879
Oarsmen at Chatou by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1879
Madame Chocquet Reading by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Madame Chocquet Reading by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Girl Gathering Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1872
Girl Gathering Flowers by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1872
The Seine at Chatou by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1881
The Seine at Chatou by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1881
Spring Bouquet by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1866
Spring Bouquet by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1866
Algerian Landscape by Pierre Auguste Renoir
Algerian Landscape by Pierre Auguste Renoir
The Piazza San Marco, Venice by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1881
The Piazza San Marco, Venice by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1881
Place de la Trinite by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
Place de la Trinite by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875
The Seine at Asnieres by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1879
The Seine at Asnieres by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1879
Vase of Chrysanthemums by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1882
Vase of Chrysanthemums by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1882
Garden Scene in Brittany by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1886
Garden Scene in Brittany by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1886
Young Woman in Red in the Fields by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1900
Young Woman in Red in the Fields by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1900
Madame Renoir and Her Son Pierre by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1890
Madame Renoir and Her Son Pierre by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1890
Under the Arbor at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Under the Arbor at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
In St Cloud Park by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1866
In St Cloud Park by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1866
Girl with a Watering Can by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Girl with a Watering Can by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Children by the Sea by Pierre Auguste Renoir - 1894
Children by the Sea by Pierre Auguste Renoir – 1894
Nini in the Garden by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Nini in the Garden by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1876
Mlle Charlotte Berthier by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1883
Mlle Charlotte Berthier by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1883

Neuschwanstein—Castle of Dreams

Born in Nymphenburg Palace—the “Castle of the Nymphs”—in Munich, Bavaria, and growing up in the Gothic Revival fantasy castle of Hohenschwangau in the Bavarian Alps, is it any wonder that the creator of Neuschwanstein Castle—King Ludwig II—was prone to day-dreaming?

All around him was picture perfect scenery—glistening lakes, snow-capped mountains, and deep alpine forests.

Hohenschwangau Castle. Credit xlibber,flickr
Hohenschwangau Castle. Credit xlibber,flickr

And he was immersed in a medieval tribute to Bavarian heraldry—particularly the legend of the Knight of the Swan.

Hohenschwangau Castle. Credit Sailko
Hohenschwangau Castle. Credit Sailko

The swan looms large in Bavarian folklore. Hohenschwangau means “Upper Swan District”.

Celebrated in the medieval German romance “Parzival” and later in the operas Lohengrin and Parsifal by Richard Wagner, the Knight of the Swan is a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat to defend a damsel, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name.

Lohengrin rescues a damsel in distress
Lohengrin rescues a damsel in distress

This was the stuff to set a young man’s imagination alight and to dare to dream of building the most beautiful castle in the world—Neuschwanstein.

Castle Neuschwanstein against the Bavarian Alps, Germany. Derivative works based on photo by Dmytro Balkhovitin
Castle Neuschwanstein against the Bavarian Alps, Germany. Derivative works based on photo by Dmytro Balkhovitin

All it would take was money and time.

Join us as we explore the beauty and history of Neuschwanstein Castle.

Press play button to add musical atmosphere to your journey.

Our story begins in 1864 when the 18-year-old Ludwig II succeeded his father, King Maximilian II, to the throne of Bavaria.

Ludwig did what all kings do and set about planning an ambitious series of palaces and castles.

But Ludwig was different. He was a dreamer with a big imagination.

The inspiration for the construction of Neuschwanstein came from two journeys he took in 1867 — one in May to the reconstructed Wartburg Castle in Germany, another in July to the Château de Pierrefonds in France.

Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany. Credit Vitold Muratov
Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany. Credit Vitold Muratov
Château de Pierrefonds, Oise, France. Credit Alexicographie
Château de Pierrefonds, Oise, France. Credit Alexicographie

Neuschwanstein can be said to be a combination of these two styles—the Romanesque Palas (the main building housing the great hall) and tower of Wartburg and the numerous ornamental turrets of Pierrefonds.

As an adolescent, Ludwig and his friend read poetry aloud and staged scenes from the Romantic operas of Richard Wagner, which appealed to his fantasy-filled imagination.

He commissioned stage designer Christian Jank to create concepts for Neuschwanstein because Jank had worked on scenery for Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin.

Concept for Neuschwanstein Castle by Christian Jank, c.1883
Concept for Neuschwanstein Castle by Christian Jank, c.1883

Employing about 200 craftsmen, Neuschwanstein’s construction site was the biggest employer in the region for two decades.

Neuschwanstein Castle during construction, 1882
Neuschwanstein Castle during construction, 1882
Neuschwanstein upper courtyard under construction, c. 1886
Neuschwanstein upper courtyard under construction, c. 1886
Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Neuschwanstein Castle. Maëlick, flickr
Neuschwanstein Castle. Maëlick, flickr
Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Neuschwanstein Castle. Credit Taxiarchos228
Neuschwanstein Castle. Credit Taxiarchos228

Built in the 1860s, Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge) is a bridge overlooking Neuschwanstein Castle.

Popular with tourists as a good vantage point for photographs, the bridge spans a large gorge with a waterfall beneath.

View of Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge). Credit Robert Böck
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge). Credit Robert Böck
Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Neuschwanstein Castle and Lake Alpsee in the Bavarian Alps. Credit Dmytro Balkhovitin
Neuschwanstein Castle and Lake Alpsee in the Bavarian Alps. Credit Dmytro Balkhovitin

The western Palas supports a two-storey balcony with a view on the Alpsee lake.

Alps from a balcony of the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany. Credit Stanhua, flickr
Alps from a balcony of the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany. Credit Stanhua, flickr

The entire Palas is spangled with numerous decorative chimneys and ornamental turrets, the court front with colourful frescos.

Schloss Neuschwanstein Courtyard. Credit Jay, flickr
Schloss Neuschwanstein Courtyard. Credit Jay, flickr
Detail of Frescos in Neuschwanstein Courtyard. Credit Hedwig Storch
Detail of Frescos in Neuschwanstein Courtyard. Credit Hedwig Storch
Neuschwanstein Tower. Credit Ιακώβ
Neuschwanstein Tower. Credit Ιακώβ
Neuschwanstein's Castle roof detail. Credit Oliver-Bonjoch
Neuschwanstein’s Castle roof detail. Credit Oliver-Bonjoch
Neuschwanstein Castle, Lower Courtyard. Credit Bbb
Neuschwanstein Castle, Lower Courtyard. Credit Bbb
Neuschwanstein corridor. Credit Lokilech
Neuschwanstein corridor. Credit Lokilech
Study, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Study, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895

Fitted with several of the latest 19th-century innovations, the palace had a battery-powered bell system for the servants, telephone lines, hot-air central heating, running warm water, and automatic flush toilets.

Music room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Music room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Drawing room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Drawing room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Dining room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Dining room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Bedroom, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895
Bedroom, Neuschwanstein Castle, c. 1895

The Throne Hall occupies the third and fourth floors and is surrounded by colorful arcades, with paintings of Jesus, the Twelve Apostles, and six canonized kings.

Throne room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c.1895
Throne room, Neuschwanstein Castle, c.1895
Neuschwanstein Throne Room. Credit Lokilech
Neuschwanstein Throne Room. Credit Lokilech
Neuschwanstein Castle Interior. Credit Schoenitzer
Neuschwanstein Castle Interior. Credit Schoenitzer
Neuschwanstein Castle Interior. Credit Schoenitzer
Neuschwanstein Castle Interior. Credit Schoenitzer

Ludwig’s imagination paid off: Neuschwanstein is magical from any angle and in any season.

Neuschwanstein Castle in winter. Credit University of Denver, flickr
Neuschwanstein Castle in winter. Credit University of Denver, flickr
The upper castle courtyard of Neuschwanstein in winter. Credit Benreis
The upper castle courtyard of Neuschwanstein in winter. Credit Benreis

His architectural and artistic legacy includes many of Bavaria’s most important tourist attractions.

Even more ambitious than Neuschwanstein was another fairy tale castle planned to replace the ruins of Falkenstein Castle in Pfronten, Bavaria.

The fairytale dream concept for Falkenstein Castle of Ludwig II and Christian Jank, 1883
The fairytale dream concept for Falkenstein Castle of Ludwig II and Christian Jank, 1883

But work on Falkenstein never got underway because, by the 1880s, Ludwig’s debt had skyrocketed to 14 million marks.

With no end in sight to his extravagant building projects, the Bavarian government decided to act.

In June of 1886, King Ludwig II was deposed on the grounds of mental illness.

Taken to Berg Castle on the shores of Lake Starnberg, south of Munich, Ludwig took an evening stroll along the lake shore with his personal physician, Bernhard von Gudden.

Allegedly drowned, and possibly murdered, both were found dead that same night.

To this day the details of their deaths remain a mystery.

Only the swans and time know the real story, and they promised to keep it quiet.

Swan on Lake Starnberg. Credit Boschfoto
Swan on Lake Starnberg. Credit Boschfoto

Ludwig’s dream lives on, not only in Bavaria but all around the world thanks to Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle which took its inspiration from Neuschwanstein.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Anaheim, CA. Credit Tuxyso
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Anaheim, CA. Credit Tuxyso

The Real Gangs of New York

You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts. Somebody steals from me, I cut off his hands. He offends me, I cut out his tongue. He rises against me, I cut off his head, stick it on a pike, raise it high up so all on the streets can see. That’s what preserves the order of things. Fear.

Those are the gruesome words of Bill “the Butcher” Cutting, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York.

The Dead Rabbits Riot in 1857 on Bayard Street in the Five Points.
The Dead Rabbits Riot in 1857 on Bayard Street in the Five Points.

150 years ago, an area in lower Manhattan called the Five Points played host to gladiatorial clashes between US-born native and immigrant Irish gangs.

The Five Points gained international notoriety as a disease-ridden, crime-infested slum that existed well into the 20th century.

Once the domain of middle-class homes built on reclaimed land, it became a sprawling slum within a relatively short period.

Group of people gathered outside tenement house in Baxter Street, Five Points, New York, watch men carry out a coffin
Group of people gathered outside tenement house in Baxter Street, Five Points, New York, watch men carry out a coffin

Stories of violent confrontations were legion, giving the press a never-ending supply of gory material to write about.

Brick-bats, stones and clubs were flying thickly around, and from the windows in all directions, and the men ran wildly about brandishing firearms. Wounded men lay on the sidewalks and were trampled upon. Now the Rabbits would make a combined rush and force their antagonists up Bayard street to the Bowery. Then the fugitives, being reinforced, would turn on their pursuers and compel a retreat to Mulberry, Elizabeth and Baxter streets.The New York Times, July 6, 1857
Bandit’s roost – 59 Mulberry Street in New York City.
It is no unusual thing for a mother and her two or three daughters—all, of course, prostitutes—to receive their ‘men’ at the same time in the same room.New York Tribune, 1850
Every house was a brothel, and every brothel a hell.Five Points missionary Lewis Pease
Five Points intersection by George Catlin, 1827
Five Points, 1827, Engraving after a painting by George Catlin.

The George Catlin depiction of 1827 shows the Five Points intersection as a bustling, densely populated area.

The triangular building in the center is located on what would be known as “Paradise Square”.

Anthony Street veers off to the right, Cross Street on the left and Orange Street runs left to right in the foreground.

The below modified aerial view of the Five Points shows the area around modern day Columbus Park.

Paradise Square would have filled the space currently occupied by the New York City Supreme Court.

Modified aerial view of the Five Points shows the area around modern day Columbus Park

It’s hard to believe that in the 18th century the area that was to become the infamous Five Points was a beautiful meadow covering 48 acres, bordered by a hill known as Bayard’s Mount, and with the spring-fed Collect Pond at its center supplying the city’s fresh water.

People would picnic there during the summer, and skate on the frozen pond in winter.

This 1798 watercolor of the Collect Pond shows Bayard’s Mount, a 110-ft hillock, in the left foreground.

1798 watercolor of Collect Pond showing Bayard's Mount
1798 watercolor of Collect Pond showing Bayard’s Mount

The Old Brewery in the Five Points typified the rapidly growing industries.

Tanneries, breweries, ropewalks, and slaughterhouses all began to use the water and dump waste in the neighborhood.

The pollution caused a major environmental health risk and the pond was eventually drained and filled with earth from the leveling of Bayard’s Mount.

The Old Brewery at Five Points

A new middle-class residential community was built upon the landfill but was poorly conceived and engineered.

Buried vegetation released methane gas and the area lacked adequate storm drainage.

The ground gradually subsided, house foundations shifted, and unpaved streets were buried in mud.

Mosquito-infested pools of human and animal excrement became intolerable for middle-class residents, who moved out, leaving the doors wide open for waves of immigrant poor.

At its height, only certain areas of London’s East End vied with Five Points for sheer population density, disease, infant and child mortality, unemployment, prostitution, and violent crime.

Charles Dickens at his writing desk
Charles Dickens at his writing desk

Charles Dickens described Five Points in 1842 in his book American Notes for General Circulation:

What place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? A kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs without. What lies behind this tottering flight of steps? Let us go on again, and plunge into the Five Points.
Homeless people in slum neighborhood of Five Points
Homeless people in slum neighborhood of Five Points
This is the place; these narrow ways diverging to the right and left, and reeking everywhere with dirt and filth. Such lives as are led here, bear the same fruit as elsewhere. The coarse and bloated faces at the doors have counterparts at home and all the world over.
Debauchery has made the very houses prematurely old. See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes that have been hurt in drunken forays. Many of these pigs live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright instead of going on all fours, and why they talk instead of grunting?

During the late 19th and early 20th century, a criminal organization known as the Five Points Gang inhabited the Sixth Ward (The Five Points) of Manhattan, New York City.

Members of the Five Points Gang of New York City
Members of the Five Points Gang of New York City

Founded by Paul Kelly (born Paolo Antonio Vaccerelli), an Italian American who earned his money prizefighting and running brothels, the Five Points Gang became a national crime syndicate with a reputation for brutality, and in battles with rival gangs, often fought to the death.

Kelly and his second-in-command Johnny Torrio recruited members from other gangs, including Al Capone who would later lead the Chicago Outfit.

Charles “Lucky” Luciano, also joined the Five Points crew and was later considered the most powerful criminal in the country.

Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Frankie Yale were also recruited into the Five Points Gang and became prominent criminals of the 20th century.

20th-century Mobsters (Clockwise): Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Johnny Torrio.
20th-century Mobsters (Clockwise): Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Johnny Torrio.

Based on Herbert Asbury’s 1927 bookMartin Scorcese’s 2002 movie “Gangs of New York” received a host of awards and was generally praised for its historical accuracy, including the names of the original gangs of the Five Points—the Bowery Boys, the Dead Rabbits, the Plug Uglies, the Short Tails, the Slaughter Houses, and the Swamp Angels.

Francois Flameng: Interpreter of Beauty

Beautiful places, beautiful people, beautiful clothes—Francois Flameng loved to paint them all.

Born in an art studio in Paris in 1856, Flameng may have known from an early age that he was destined to be an artist.

Indeed, in many ways, he had everything going for him.

Paris was the center of the art world and his father was a celebrated engraver who had once wished to be a painter.

All of his father’s regrets were channeled into making his son a success.

Specializing in history painting and portraiture, Francois Flameng became a professor at the Académie des Beaux-Arts—the premier institution of fine art in France.

If you’d like to add a little atmosphere as we view a gallery of Flameng’s work, press play.

Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud in 1811 by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud in 1811 by Francois Flameng
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna by Francois Flameng, 1898
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna by Francois Flameng, 1898

Many of his studies in Italy are rich in architectural detail in the most vivid light and color.

The Carnival in Venice by Francois Flameng
The Carnival in Venice by Francois Flameng
Ile Pointeaux by Francois Flameng
Ile Pointeaux by Francois Flameng
Equestrienne Au Cirque Fernando by Francois Flameng - c. 1890
Equestrienne Au Cirque Fernando by Francois Flameng – c. 1890
Intelligence by Francois Flameng
Intelligence by Francois Flameng
Reception at Malmaison in 1802 by Francois Flameng, c.1894
Reception at Malmaison in 1802 by Francois Flameng, c.1894
A Concert in Versailles by Francois Flameng
A Concert in Versailles by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud by Francois Flameng, 1896
Napoleon I and the King of Rome at Saint-Cloud by Francois Flameng, 1896
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng

Flameng would often use a camera lucida to create an optical superimposition of his subject.

Allowing him to duplicate key points of the scene on the drawing surface, it would aid in the accurate rendering of perspective.

How a camera lucida device is used to help with drawing composition
How a camera lucida device is used to help with drawing composition

Once he had the sketch to ensure proportion and perspective were correct, he would paint rapidly yet with such fine detail that within an hour he had what took most artists four hours to complete.

Princess Zinaida Yusupova with her sons Felix and Nikolai at Arkhangelskoye by Francois Flameng - 1894
Princess Zinaida Yusupova with her sons Felix and Nikolai at Arkhangelskoye by Francois Flameng – 1894
Mrs Adeline M. Noble by Francois Flameng
Mrs Adeline M. Noble by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I hunting in the Forest of Fontainebleau, 1807 by Francois Flameng
Napoleon I hunting in the Forest of Fontainebleau, 1807 by Francois Flameng
An Elite Soldier of the Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
An Elite Soldier of the Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
I have always thought that portraits ought to be arranged as pictures.Francois Flameng

Flameng said that fashions and hairstyles changed so often that the exact likeness captured in a portrait was gone within a few short years.

Therefore, he said, portraits should aim to be pleasant works of art that one would purchase to adorn the wall of a drawing room, even if it were not a portrait of one’s own image.

Zinaida Yusupova with the famous Yusupov family La Pelegrina pearl by Francois Flameng - 1894
Zinaida Yusupova with the famous Yusupov family La Pelegrina pearl by Francois Flameng – 1894
Maria Fedorovna by Francois Flameng, 1894
Maria Fedorovna by Francois Flameng, 1894

Flameng found that he learned as much about the social aspects of his work as he did the actual practicing of his art.

Making sittings more agreeable for models he had to learn their tastes and habits, likes and dislikes.

That way, he could encourage them to pose in ways that reflected their personality and remain in one position for a long time without noticing it as much.

Portrait of the Duchess Dora Leichtenberg by Francois Flameng - 1896
Portrait of the Duchess Dora Leichtenberg by Francois Flameng – 1896

Of equal importance to remaining true to his artistic integrity was producing a work that was pleasing to the subject and also to her friends and acquaintances.

Portrait of Mme D by Francois Flameng - 1911
Portrait of Mme D by Francois Flameng – 1911

When subjects disagreed with his choice of arrangement or style of composition, he would use all his skill to gradually encourage her to see his point of view without contradicting or offending, always admitting she was right, but gently helping her drop her own preconceived mental image.

Family Portrait of a Boy and his two Sisters admiring a Sketch Book by Francois Flameng, 1900
Family Portrait of a Boy and his two Sisters admiring a Sketch Book by Francois Flameng, 1900
The Chess Game by Francois Flameng
The Chess Game by Francois Flameng
The People of Paris Come to Versailles by Francois Flameng
The People of Paris Come to Versailles by Francois Flameng
Offizier des Chasseurs à Cheval Regiments of the Napoleonic Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
Offizier des Chasseurs à Cheval Regiments of the Napoleonic Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
Portrait of Madame Max Decougis by Francois Flameng
Portrait of Madame Max Decougis by Francois Flameng
Even the ordinary woman is a thousand times more worthwhile to paint than the ordinary man. But women are never ordinary.Francois Flameng
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a Lady by Francois Flameng

Flameng painted the colors and pageantry of war.

But he was no stranger to its violence.

At age 14, he was playing with fellow students at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, when a bombshell exploded in the courtyard.

It was a gift from the Prussians to mark the onset of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and it prompted him to enlist.

Accepted in the ambulance corps, when Paris fell to the Prussians, he saw seven children killed under the window of his father’s house in Montparnasse.

Napoleon and his staff reviewing the mounted chasseurs of the Imperial Guard by Francois Flameng
In the Woods by Francois Flameng
In the Woods by Francois Flameng
A portrait painter should not only be endowed with talent, but also possess the qualities of a philosopher, of an observer, of a psychologist, and be provided with inexhaustible patience.Francois Flameng
Lady Duveen, née Salamon by Francois Flameng, 1910
Lady Duveen, née Salamon by Francois Flameng, 1910
Portrait Of Mademoiselle Herpin by Francois Flameng - 1908
Portrait Of Mademoiselle Herpin by Francois Flameng – 1908
Picnic by Francois Flameng
Picnic by Francois Flameng
Evening by Francois Flameng
Evening by Francois Flameng
Napoleon After The Battle Of Waterloo by Francois Flameng
Napoleon After The Battle Of Waterloo by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a mother with her children in the garden by Francois Flameng
Portrait of a mother with her children in the garden by Francois Flameng
An Evening's Entertainment for Josephine by Francois Flameng
An Evening’s Entertainment for Josephine by Francois Flameng

Francois Flameng didn’t only paint beauty.

Renowned for his paintings that showed some of the horrors of the First World War, he was an accredited documenter for the War Ministry and named honorary president of the Society of Military Painters.

Flameng’s war paintings were derided by many critics for being too realistic and not including heroic drama.

World War I by François Flameng
World War I by François Flameng
The offensive of the Yser, First French line near Het-Sas, by François Flameng
The offensive of the Yser, First French line near Het-Sas, by François Flameng
World War I Attack by François Flameng
World War I Attack by François Flameng

The Light that Inspired the Skagen Painters

Skagen is a village in the northernmost part of Denmark.

From the late 1870s until the turn of the century, a group of Scandinavian artists descended on Skagen every summer.

It was the light that drew them.

A translucent light that merged the sea and the sky—especially during the evening “blue hour”.

Influenced by the “en plein air” techniques of French Impressionist painters like Claude Monet, they broke away from traditions taught at the academies and developed their own unique styles.

The long beaches stretched for miles and miles …

Listen to Claude Debussy’s haunting Clair de Lune as we travel back in time to late 19th-century Skagen through the eyes of the Skagen Painters.

Summer Evening at Skagen Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1899
Summer Evening at Skagen Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1899
Summer Evening on Skagen's Southern Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Summer Evening on Skagen’s Southern Beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Nor moon nor stars were out.
They did not dare to tread so soon about,
Though trembling, in the footsteps of the sun.
The light was neither night’s nor day’s, but one
Which, life-like, had a beauty in its doubt;
And Silence’s impassioned breathings round
Seemed wandering into sound.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, A Sea-Side Walk
Summer evening at the South Beach, Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
Summer evening at the South Beach, Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, c.1900
Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, c.1900
Summer evening on the south Beach of Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
Summer evening on the south Beach of Skagen by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
The Skagen Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1882
The Skagen Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1882
Summer Day at Skagen South Beach by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1884
Summer Day at Skagen South Beach by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1884
Boat at Skagen's South Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1884
Boat at Skagen’s South Beach by Oscar Gustaf Bjorck, 1884
I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,
The fragile secret of a flower,
Music, the making of a poem
That gave me heaven for an hour
Sara Teasdale, I Have Loved Hours At Sea
A Stroll on the Beach by Michael Ancher, 1896
A Stroll on the Beach by Michael Ancher, 1896

Rendering light with paint in such a way that it makes you feel you are there and you need to squint at the sun’s reflections on the water.

Artists on the Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1882
Artists on the Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1882
The North Sea in Stormy Weather. After Sunset by Laurits Tuxen, 1909
The North Sea in Stormy Weather. After Sunset by Laurits Tuxen, 1909

One of the shared interests of the Skagen painters was to paint scenes of their own social gatherings—eating together, celebrating, or playing cards.

At Lunch by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1883
At Lunch by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1883

As if you could reach out and touch them, Krøyer’s characters are full of movement, full of life.

A breakfast. The artist, his wife and the writer Otto Benzon by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893
A breakfast. The artist, his wife and the writer Otto Benzon by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1893

The group gathered together regularly at the Brøndums Inn in Skagen, which still operates as a hotel today.

Filled with the paintings the artists donated to cover the cost of board and lodging, the Brøndums’ dining-room became the center of their social life.

The dining room from Branden's hotel, Skagen Museum. Credit Bengt Oberger
The dining room from Branden’s hotel, Skagen Museum. Credit Bengt Oberger

Can you feel the excitement in the air and hear the clinking of glasses?

Hip, Hip, Hurrah! by P.S. Krøyer, 1888
Hip, Hip, Hurrah! by P.S. Krøyer, 1888
The Actor's Lunch, Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, 1902
The Actor’s Lunch, Skagen by Michael Peter Ancher, 1902
An Artists' Gathering by Viggo Johansen, 1903
An Artists’ Gathering by Viggo Johansen, 1903

Deep in concentration, an after-dinner game of cards continues into the small hours.

A game of l'hombre in Brøndums Hotel by Anna Palm de Rosa, 1885
A game of l’hombre in Brøndums Hotel by Anna Palm de Rosa, 1885

Many of the Skagen painters are depicted here enjoying Midsummer Eve celebrations on Skagen beach around a bonfire, traditionally lit to ward off evil spirits believed to roam freely when the sun turned southward again.

The painting includes Peder Severin Krøyer’s daughter Vibeke, mayor Otto Schwartz and his wife Alba Schwartz, Michael Ancher, Degn Brøndum, Anna Ancher, Holger Drachmann and his 3rd wife Soffi, the Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén and Marie Krøyer.

Midsummer Eve bonfire on Skagen's beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1906
Midsummer Eve bonfire on Skagen’s beach by P.S. Krøyer, 1906

Anna Ancher was the only one of the Skagen Painters to be born and grow up in Skagen.

Her father owned the Brøndums Hotel where the artists stayed during the summer months and she married Michael Ancher, one of the first members of the Skagen colony of artists.

Expressing a more truthful depiction of reality and everyday life, she was a pioneer in observing the interplay of color and natural light.

Harvesters by Anna Ancher, 1905
Harvesters by Anna Ancher, 1905
Harvest Time by Anna Ancher, 1901
Harvest Time by Anna Ancher, 1901
Sewing Fisherman's Wife by Anna Ancher, 1890
Sewing Fisherman’s Wife by Anna Ancher, 1890
They love the sea,
Men who ride on it
And know they will die
Under the salt of it
Carl Sandburg, Young Sea

Combining realism and classical composition, Michael Ancher painted heroic fishermen and their experiences at sea.

Becoming known as monumental figurative art, his strict training at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts was tempered by his wife Anna’s more naturalistic approach.

Painted in 1885, Michael Ancher’s ‘Will He Round the Point?” (below) earned him and the Skagen colony particular attention since it was sold to King Christian IX of Denmark.

Will He Round the Point by Michael Ancher, 1885
Will He Round the Point by Michael Ancher, 1885
Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman, he thought. But that was the thing that I was born for.Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
The Boat is Set in the Sea by Oscar Björck, 1885
The Boat is Set in the Sea by Oscar Björck, 1885
The lifeboat is driven through the dunes by Michael Ancher, 1883
The lifeboat is driven through the dunes by Michael Ancher, 1883
Fishermen on the Beach on a Quiet Summer Evening by Michael Ancher, 1888
Fishermen on the Beach on a Quiet Summer Evening by Michael Ancher, 1888

Life was hard.

A fisherman’s life was not an easy one.

Better to die surrounded by people who would give their life for you.

That’s what close-knit communities were made of.

The Drowned Fisherman by Michael Peter Ancher, 1896
The Drowned Fisherman by Michael Peter Ancher, 1896
Fishermen at Skagen by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1894
Fishermen at Skagen by Peder Severin Kroyer, 1894
Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Fishermen on the Beach at Skagen byPeder Severin Kroyer, 1891
Fishermen on the Beach at Skagen byPeder Severin Kroyer, 1891

The Skagen artists also painted each other and their children going about everyday aspects of life—collecting flowers, walking the dog, reading in the shade of the garden or inside the house, meal times with the children, and saying prayers before bed.

Anna Ancher returning from the field by Michael Ancher, 1901
Anna Ancher returning from the field by Michael Ancher, 1901
Portrait of my wife. The painter Anna Ancher by Michael Ancher, 1883
Portrait of my wife. The painter Anna Ancher by Michael Ancher, 1883
Summer Evening at Skagen. The Artist's Wife and Dog by the Shore by P.S. Krøyer, 1892
Summer Evening at Skagen. The Artist’s Wife and Dog by the Shore by P.S. Krøyer, 1892
Roses by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Roses by P.S. Krøyer, 1893
Interior with poppies and a woman reading by Anna Ancher, 1905
Interior with poppies and a woman reading by Anna Ancher, 1905
Living room with light blue curtains and blue Clematis, 1913
Living room with light blue curtains and blue Clematis, 1913
Midday Meal in the Garden by Anna Ancher, 1915
Midday Meal in the Garden by Anna Ancher, 1915
The Benzon daughters by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
The Benzon daughters by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1897
Evening Prayer by Anna Ancher, 1888
Evening Prayer by Anna Ancher, 1888

8 Lessons on How to be Polite from Victorian Ladies

First published in 1860 by Florence Hartley and now available for free in the public domain, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness provides full directions for correct manners, deportment, and conversation that are as relevant today as they were 150 years ago.

Contains Amazon affiliate links.

Here are 8 timeless nuggets of advice from a Victorian lady that will help you make more friends, earn more respect, and increase your social currency.

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

politeness is goodness of heart put into daily practice; there can be no true politeness without kindness, purity, singleness of heart, and sensibility.

Florence Hartley warned people against believing that politeness was merely a façade to hide the truth.

She explained that extending courtesy to everyone takes effort and willpower.

In other words, it isn’t easy, but it is worth the effort.

Do’s and don’ts from Florence Hartley:

Do try to set people at ease.

Do practice self-sacrificing, friendly, and unselfish behavior—be genuinely, in word and deed, polite.

Don’t say things in public that may hurt others’ feelings.

Don’t make others feel uncomfortable by putting your own convenience first.

Politeness is a genuine desire to show neighborly love. Without a good heart, politeness is hypocritical and deceitful.

True politeness is the language of a good heart, and those possessing that heart will never, under any circumstances, be rude.

2. Be a Good Listener

Conversation by Mihaly Munkacsy – 1881
The art of conversation consists in the exercise of two fine qualities. You must originate, and you must sympathize; you must possess at the same time the habit of communicating and of listening attentively. The union is rare but irresistible.

Unless you’re with friends, focus your attention squarely on the person you’re conversing with.

Show genuine interest in what the other person is saying.

Do not be distracted by anything said in another group.

Remember, it takes two to make a conversation, so don’t steal the spotlight. Give the other person an opportunity to speak, but avoid silence, or answering in monosyllables.

If your companion relates an incident or tells a story, don’t interrupt with questions part way through—even if you don’t understand something. Wait until she’s finished, and then ask questions.

There is nothing more annoying than being interrupted. Never break in upon another conversation. Wait until the conversation is finished before addressing the person you wanted to speak to.

3. Rudeness repels. Courtesy attracts.

I am not amused. Well … maybe just a little.

Never meet rudeness in others by being rude yourself; even the most impolite will feel more shame by your courtesy, than by attempting to respond in kind.

Politeness forbids any display of resentment.

A favor becomes twice as valuable if granted with courtesy, and the pain of a refusal is softened when expressed with polite regret.

Never by word or action notice the defects of another; always be charitable.

Courtesy is genuine when delivered from the heart.

The polished surface throws back the arrow.
True politeness is being polite at all times, and under all circumstances.

4. Put Your Audience First

People should not talk to please themselves, but to please those who hear them. This helps the speaker ask themselves some important questions:

Is what I’m saying worth hearing?

Is there sufficient wit or sense in what I’m about to say?

Am I adapting my conversation appropriately for the time, place, and audience?

Do’s and Don’ts from Florence Hartley:

Do take care in conversation to avoid topics that might be painful for your companion to hear.

Do turn to another subject as quickly as possible if you perceive you have caused anxiety for your friend.

Don’t hurt the feelings of another for the sake of appearing witty or smart.

Don’t try to impress people with your knowledge, but listen as well as talk, and modestly follow their lead.

Avoid affectation; it is the sure test of a deceitful, vulgar mind. The best cure is to try to have those virtues which you would affect, and then they will appear naturally.

5. Do not criticize or correct anyone

Fair Critics by Charles Courtney Curran – 1887

Florence Hartley strongly advises against correcting others on mispronounced words or grammatical errors that might arise during a conversation.

If you must correct someone, speak to them in private—never in public—and be gentle and kind with how you phrase your critique.

Don’t watch for faults in people, waiting for an opportunity to show your superior wisdom. Let modesty and kind feeling be your guide.

If your companion uses words or expressions which you do not understand, do not feign knowledge or be ashamed of your ignorance, but frankly ask for an explanation.

If you can’t remember names involved in relating an incident, it’s better to avoid the story altogether.

Don’t use substitutes for proper names or places and never phrases like “What-d-ya call it”, “Thingummy”, “What’s his name”.

Do not complete sentences for anyone or anticipate the punchline of a joke or anecdote. Whilst you may have heard the story before, it may be new to others, so let the storyteller finish in their own words.

Be careful, when traveling, not to criticize the native city or country of others by trying to prove how your home is better.

Never discredit an absent friend. It is the height of rudeness. If you put someone down whom others admire, you will most likely be viewed as envious and it will be your own character that comes into question, not the person you are criticizing.

6. Honor the confidentiality of conversations

A Little Tea and Gossip by Robert Payton Reid – 1887

Florence Hartley goes to great lengths to remind us that what people tell us should be assumed to be in confidence.

We should avoid the temptation to tell others what may seem like irresistibly juicy gossip. This is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges given the ease with which we can pass on information today.

But if we abide by it, we are more likely to earn others’ respect and make long-lasting, genuine friendships.

Amongst well-bred persons, every conversation is considered in a measure confidential. A lady or gentleman tacitly confides in you when he (or she) tells you an incident which may cause trouble if repeated, and you violate a confidence as much in such a repetition, as if you were bound over to secrecy. Remember this.

7. The Best Way to Win an Argument is to Avoid One

Avoid argument; it is not a conversation, and frequently leads to ill feeling.

If you are unfortunately drawn into an argument, keep your temper under control, and if you find your adversary is getting agitated, try to introduce a different topic.

The Argument by Albert Beck Wenzell

8. Always be learning.

Read widely and stay up to date on current events.

To be able to converse really well, you must read much, treasure in your memory the pearls of what you read; you must have a quick comprehension, observe passing events, and listen attentively whenever there is any opportunity of acquiring knowledge. A quick tact is necessary, too, in conversation.

A Tale of Two Sisters

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

This is the tragic story of two sisters.

Two beautiful Russian princesses who lived fairy tale lives.

Until one fateful day in 1918.

The Best of Times

To be a princess in Victorian-era Europe meant you were born with a silver spoon and you joined a set of elites—life’s lucky lottery winners.

Endless balls and parties, changing from one costume to the next.

Life was a dream, a fairytale.

Ball in Honour of Alexander II by Mihály Zichy, 1864
Ball in Honour of Alexander II by Mihály Zichy, 1864

Theatre, ballet, opera, concerts, sporting events, afternoon tea.

Such a hectic social calendar and so little time.

Performance at the Bolshoi Theater by Mihály Zichy (1827 - 1906)
Performance at the Bolshoi Theater by Mihály Zichy (1827 – 1906)

Wealthy noble suitors professed their love, proposed, and showered you with the finest gifts.

Ball at the Noble Assembly in 1913 by Dmitry Kardovsky
Ball at the Noble Assembly in 1913 by Dmitry Kardovsky

These were halcyon days enjoyed by the few. The best of times.

The Worst of Times

Being poor in 19th-century Europe was not something to be recommended.

To be a peasant in Russia was about as harsh as it could get.

But life was a game of chance and if you were that unfortunate, you were not alone.

Busy Time for the Mowers by Grigoriy Myasoyedov, 1887
Busy Time for the Mowers by Grigoriy Myasoyedov, 1887

Ninety-Five percent of Russians were poor peasants who owned no land.

They paid high rents to landlords who just happened to be members of the ruling aristocracy.

Living in little more than mud huts in villages cut off from the world, the illiterate peasants worked the land to scrape a living to survive and pay their rent.

Peasant Children by .Vladimir Yegorovich Makovsky, 1880
Peasant Children by .Vladimir Yegorovich Makovsky, 1880

When the Industrial Revolution came to Russia, poverty followed the people from the countryside to the cities.

Factories were dark, dirty, and dangerous.

Low wages and long hours kept the former peasants in their place and they were drawn to speeches by men with ideas on changing the world and the promise of a better life.

Vladimir Lenin at the Rally of Putilov Plant Workers in May 1917 by Isaak Brodsky
Vladimir Lenin at the Rally of Putilov Plant Workers in May 1917 by Isaak Brodsky

Against this backdrop were born two sisters—Princess Elisabeth, born 1864, and Princess Alix, born 1872.

They were part of a large noble German family of seven children.

The Hessian family in May 1875 (clockwise from far left)—Ella, Grand Duke Ludwig holding Marie, Alice, Victoria, Irene, Ernie and Alix in the center
The Hessian family in May 1875 (clockwise from far left)—Ella, Grand Duke Ludwig holding Marie, Alice, Victoria, Irene, Ernie and Alix in the center

But there was something connecting Elisabeth and Alix in particular.

It was as though they were marked by the hand of fate.

Four of the Hesse sisters (left to right)—Irene, Victoria, Elisabeth and Alix, 1885
Four of the Hesse sisters (left to right)—Irene, Victoria, Elisabeth and Alix, 1885

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine

Portrait of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, 1896
Portrait of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, 1896

Known as “Ella” within her family, Princess Elisabeth was named after St Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess herself and greatly venerated Catholic saint and patroness of the Third Order of St. Francis.

St Elizabeth, who was married at 14 and widowed at 20, built a hospital to serve the sick and became a symbol of Christian charity after her death just 4 years later.

The story of St Elizabeth would strangely touch the life of Princess Ella.

Stained glass from the Minorite Church (the Transfiguration Cathedral) of Cluj, representing St. Elizabeth of Hungary
Stained glass from the Minorite Church (the Transfiguration Cathedral) of Cluj, representing St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Growing up, she lived a modest life by royal standards, even though her father was from one of the oldest and noblest houses in Germany and her mother was Queen Victoria’s daughter.

She swept floors, cleaned her own room, and even accompanied her mother to care for soldiers at a nearby hospital when war broke out between Austria and Prussia.

Ella was charming and kind and considered to be one of the most beautiful of all the princesses in Europe.

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, 1887
Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, 1887

Frequently visiting his Hessian relatives and not failing to notice Ella’s beauty was her elder cousin, the young man who would later become the German Kaiser Willhelm II.

Writing and sending her numerous love poems, he fell in love with her and proposed in 1878.

One cannot help wondering how her life would have been different had she accepted.

Wilhelm II. Emperor of Germany, 1888
Wilhelm II. Emperor of Germany, 1888

Ella’s heart was eventually won by Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia—a choice her grandmother Queen Victoria did not approve of.

We must always listen to our grandmothers because they know things that we do not.

But such is young love.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, 1883
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, 1883
Everyone fell in love with her from the moment she came to Russia from her beloved Darmstadtone of Sergei's cousins.

They were married in June 1884 and at the wedding, fate also struck her little sister when she met 16-year-old Nicholas, the future Tsar Nicholas II.

Residing in one of the Kremlin palaces and a summer home outside of Moscow, they lived happily, hosting frequent parties.

Ella encouraged the young Nicholas to pursue her sister Alix, again much to the dismay of Queen Victoria, who somehow had a sixth sense for what was coming.

Grandmothers know.

Then on a cold February morning of 1905, Ella’s husband Sergei was assassinated inside the Kremlin by a Socialist-Revolutionary.

Sergei had previously rounded up 20,000 Jews and evicted them from their homes for no reason and without warning.

Devoutly religious, Ella herself prophesized that “God will punish us severely”.

It was just the beginning.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna as a nun after her husband's death, 1918
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna as a nun after her husband’s death, 1918

Consumed with sadness and guilt, Elisabeth became a devout nun.

Selling her possessions in 1909, she worked tirelessly for several years, helping the poor and sick in Moscow, often in the worst slums.

In 1916, Ella saw her sister for the last time.

The Murder of Elisabeth

It was July, 1918 when Lenin ordered the arrest of Elisabeth.

She spent a few days with other prisoners from Russian noble families before they were all carted to a small village with an abandoned mineshaft 66 ft deep.

Elisabeth was first.

She was beaten and hurled down the shaft.

Then the others followed and a hand grenade was thrown down to kill them, but only one man died.

According to one of the murderers, Elisabeth and the others survived the fall and after the grenade was tossed down, he heard Elisabeth and others singing a hymn.

Down went a second grenade and finally, brushwood shoved into the entrance and set alight.

After the revolution, her convent erected a statue of Elisabeth in the garden. It read simply:

To the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna: With Repentance.

Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

Sixth child among seven and the fourth daughter, Alix was nicknamed “Sunny” by her mother and “Alicky” by her British relatives so as to distinguish her from her aunt, Princess Alexandra of Denmark who would become Queen of England as the wife of Edward VII.

Princess Alix of Hesse, 1881
Princess Alix of Hesse, 1881

Blossoming into a beautiful young woman with sparkling blue eyes and red gold hair, she was Queen Victoria’s favorite granddaughter.

The Queen had her in mind to marry Edward Prince of Wales’s eldest son, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, thus securing her a future position as Queen of England.

What is it about grandmothers just knowing what is best for us?

A very different course of events awaited Alix as she was destined to marry Nicholas, the last Tsar of Russia.

Alexandra Fedorovna by A.Makovskiy (1903)
Alexandra Fedorovna by A.Makovskiy (1903)

Alix fell in love with Nicholas in 1889 and Nicholas wrote in his diary:

It is my dream to one day marry Alix H. I have loved her for a long time, but more deeply and strongly since 1889 when she spent six weeks in Petersburg. For a long time, I have resisted my feeling that my dearest dream will come true.
Alix of Hesse and Nicholas II of Russia, 1894
Alix of Hesse and Nicholas II of Russia, 1894

Nicholas had to propose twice because at first Alix did not want to convert to Russian Orthodoxy but was assured by her sister Elisabeth that it was very similar to her German Lutheranism.

After their engagement, Alix returned to England and was joined by Nicholas where they became godparents of the boy who would become the first British monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne—King Edward VIII.

The last Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, spouse of Nicholas II
The last Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, spouse of Nicholas II

When Tsar Alexander III died in 1894, he left Nicholas as the new Emperor of Russia.

It was a whirlwind for Alix—she became Empress on her wedding day.

Shy and nervous, she was disliked from the beginning by the Russian people who saw her as cold and curt.

It set in motion a serious of events that would profoundly change the course of history.

Tsar Nicholas II with his family, Empress Alexandra, daughters Olga, Tatjana, Maria, Anastasia and son Alexej
Tsar Nicholas II with his family, Empress Alexandra, daughters Olga, Tatjana, Maria, Anastasia and son Alexej

Despite producing five beautiful daughters, the Russian people frowned upon her distaste for Russian culture and her inability to produce a male heir to the throne until Alexei, her little ‘sunbeam” arrived in 1904.

By this time, she had isolated herself from the Russian court, doting on her son and becoming a recluse.

She believed in the divine right of kings that it was not necessary to seek the approval of the people.

In a letter to her grandmother, Queen Victoria, her aunt wrote of her:

Alix is very Imperious and will always insist on having her own way; she will never yield one iota of power she will imagine she wields…Alix's aunt, German Empress Frederick

It was this thinking and her unwillingness to embrace her people that sealed her fate and that of her entire family.

The Murder of Alix

Dangerously weakened by World War I, Imperial Russia’s government could not bear the financial burden.

Mass hunger became the norm for millions of Russians who refused to accept it any longer and turned on their monarchy.

The entire family became prisoners in their own palace.

The provisional government hoped their foreign relatives might take them in.

Nicholas’s first cousin, George V of Great Britain, refused to offer the family asylum because the public sentiment was turning against royalty.

France was reluctant to accept them because the war with Germany was still raging and Alix was seen as a German sympathizer.

Hope abandoned the Romanovs.

The Bolsheviks seized power and moved the family to a more remote location.

It was Tuesday, 16 July 1918, a date that passed by peacefully without incident.

Nicholas walked with his daughters at 4 o’clock in the small garden.

Alix and Nicholas played cards until 10:30 and then retired to bed.

In the morning, everything changed.

Nicholas was shot in the chest several times and a bullet entered the left side of Alix’s skull just above her ear, exiting from the right side.

Their children were executed in a similar manner.

And that was the end of that.

Elisabeth and Alix were no more.

Two sisters caught up in the winds of change.

Two beautiful princesses whose lives were cut short because ideas changed.

And so it goes.

Why?

It is the oldest question known to mankind.

The mysteries of this world are often unfathomable.

But one thing is for certain.

The same question will continue to be asked until we find ways to live together in peace.

How to be a Gentleman – Lessons from History

Some say that believing in gentlemen is like believing in fairy tales. In our fast-paced, frenetic world, we can be forgiven for thinking that the elusive gentleman is a thing of the past.

Perhaps we don’t see him because so much of our attention today is drawn to the negative. Each day, we are bombarded with negative headlines. Our politicians’ rudeness and disrespect for each other grabs media attention. Our gentleman goes unnoticed, drowned out by negative noise.

According to a recent survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 74 percent of Americans think manners and behavior have deteriorated over the last several decades.

But did you know that one word could reverse that view completely?

Can a single word change the world?

Is it possible for a single word, if its meaning is fully embraced, to change the world?

Courtesy
: polite behavior that shows respect for other people
: something that you do because it is polite, kind, etc.
: something that you say to be polite especially when you meet someone

Source: Merriam Webster

Let us turn to our 19th-century forebears for some lessons on courtesy from the Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, by Cecil B. Hartley, 1860. The Victorians loved to call on history for their inspiration, and so too can we—there is much to learn from them.

Here are 10 simple rules that 19th-century gentlemen lived by.

1. A Gentleman Knows How to Treat a Lady

The Gallant Suitor by Edmund Blair Leighton
The Gallant Suitor by Edmund Blair Leighton

To Victorians, there was a proper etiquette on how to treat a lady. Some conventions may have changed, but the underlying sentiment is as relevant today as it ever was.

Here’s what the Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette has to say:

If you are about to enter, or leave, a store or any door, and unexpectedly meet a lady going the other way, stand aside and allow her to pass. If she is going the same way, and the door is closed, pass before her, saying, “allow me,” or, “permit me,”—open the door, and hold it open whilst she passes.

While we may not use the exact words from the Book of Etiquette, the polite action of allowing someone with right of way to pass before us, or opening a door for them, or even keeping the door open for the person following us is such a simple courtesy. And it can brighten someone’s day and give others renewed faith in humanity—especially if they’ve had a rough day at work.

Keep any appointment made with a lady, for she would forgive any other fault in good breeding sooner than a broken engagement.

Gentlemen keep their appointments with a lady. The earned respect and rapport simply by being on time far outweighs any inconvenience that might arise from planning ahead.

If you are seated in the most comfortable chair in a public room, and a lady, an invalid, or an old man enters, rise, and offer your seat, even if they are strangers to you. Many men will attend to these civilities when with friends or acquaintances, and neglect them amongst strangers, but the true gentleman will not wait for an introduction before performing an act of courtesy.

Whether on a subway, in a waiting room, or any public place with limited seating, it is the mark of a gentleman to offer his seat to a lady, a senior citizen, or anyone with special needs. A very simple act that sets the gentleman apart.

2. A Gentleman Cultivates Tact

Elizabeth and Raleigh by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1848
Elizabeth and Raleigh by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1848

How important is tact? In polite society, it is invaluable.

Talent is something, but tact is everything. Talent is serious, sober, grave, and respectable; tact is all that and more too. It is not a sixth sense, but it is the life of all the five. It is the open eye, the quick ear, the judging taste, the keen smell, and the lively touch; it is the interpreter of all riddles—the surmounter of all difficulties—the remover of all obstacles.

Not convinced yet?

It is useful in all places, and at all times; it is useful in solitude, for it shows a man his way into the world; it is useful in society, for it shows him his way through the world. Talent is power—tact is skill; talent is weight—tact is momentum; talent knows what to do—tact knows how to do it; talent makes a man respectable—tact will make him respected; talent is wealth—tact is ready money.

For all intents and purposes, tact beats talent ten to one!

3. A Gentleman Avoids Unnecessary Criticism

Monkeys as Judges of Art by Gabriel Cornelius von Max, 1889
Monkeys as Judges of Art by Gabriel Cornelius von Max, 1889

The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette explains the importance of being very careful about how we criticize others.

A true gentleman will not only refrain from ridiculing the follies, ignorance, or infirmities of others, but he will not even allow himself to smile at them. He will treat the rudest clown with the same easy courtesy which he would extend to the most polished gentleman, and will never by word, look, or gesture show that he notices the faults, or vulgarity of another.

We all have weaknesses, aversions, different tastes and preferences, so we need to exercise restraint in criticizing others who see things differently to us.

If you were to laugh at a man for his aversion to a cat, or cheese, (which are common antipathies,) or, by inattention and negligence, to let them come in his way, where you could prevent it, he would, in the first case, think himself insulted, and, in the second, slighted, and would remember both.

By thoughtlessly criticizing, we run the risk of embarrassing others, damaging their self-esteem, or outright insulting them. Far better to look for things to praise, and many times the mere absence of praise for something draws attention to it, whereby the other person can take note without loss of face.

We all know people who trample on the opinions of others. The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette labels this a type of tyranny.

… the petty tyrants of the fireside and the social circle, who trample like very despots on the opinions of their fellows. You meet people of this class everywhere; they stalk by your side in the streets; they seat themselves in the pleasant circle on the hearth, casting a gloom … and they start up dark and scowling to chill and frown down every participator. They “pooh! pooh!” at every opinion advanced; they make the lives of their mothers, sisters, wives, children, unbearable. A gentleman is ever humble, and the tyrant is never courteous.

4. A Gentleman Avoids Profane Language

From Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
From Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

According to the Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette, swearing can have a deleterious effect on our minds and impairs our thinking.

Use no profane language, utter no word that will cause the most virtuous to blush. Profanity is a mark of low breeding; and the tendency of using indecent and profane language is degrading to your minds. Its injurious effects may not be felt at the moment, but they will continue to manifest themselves to you through life. They may never be obliterated; and, if you allow the fault to become habitual, you will often find at your tongue’s end some expressions which you would not use for any money. By being careful on this point you may save yourself much mortification and sorrow.

Then, as now, most of us pick up these bad habits through childhood and they stay with us. They become ingrained and require vigilance to control.

Good men have been taken sick and become delirious. In these moments they have used the most vile and indecent language. When informed of it, after a restoration to health, they had no idea of the pain they had given to their friends, and stated that they had learned and repeated the expressions in childhood, and though years had passed since they had spoken a bad word, the early impressions had been indelibly stamped upon the mind.

5. A Gentleman Learns to Restrain Anger

The face of a bearded man expressing anger. Etching in the crayon manner by W. Hebert, c. 1770, after C. Le Brun. Credit Wellcome Images
The face of a bearded man expressing anger. Etching in the crayon manner by W. Hebert, c. 1770, after C. Le Brun. Credit Wellcome Images

We’ve all felt that situation where the angrier we get, the less we see sense. Throughout history, angry quarrels have resulted in fist fights, gun fights, and even war. Often, we see things differently once we’ve had chance to calm down—and then we can’t believe what all the fuss was about.

A man in a passion ceases to be a gentleman, and if you do not control your passions, rely upon it, they will one day control you. The intoxication of anger, like that of the grape, shows us to others, but hides us from ourselves, and we injure our own cause in the opinion of the world when we too passionately and eagerly defend it. Neither will all men be disposed to view our quarrels in the same light that we do; and a man’s blindness to his own defects will ever increase in proportion as he is angry with others, or pleased with himself.

The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette advises to avoid those who like to stir up trouble, and not to get overly curious about the affairs of others.

As a preventative of anger, banish all tale-bearers and slanderers from your conversation, for it is these blow the devil’s bellows to rouse up the flames of rage and fury, by first abusing your ears, and then your credulity, and after that steal away your patience, and all this, perhaps, for a lie. To prevent anger, be not too inquisitive into the affairs of others, or what people say of yourself, or into the mistakes of your friends, for this is going out to gather sticks to kindle a fire to burn your own house.

6. A Gentleman Uses Kind Words

The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez, 1635
The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez, 1635

In 1635, during the Eighty Years’ War, the Spanish General Ambrogio Spinola conquered the city of Breda in the Spanish Netherlands. Instead of chastising the vanquished Dutch, Spinola forbade his troops from jeering, and offered kindly words in which he praised the brave defense of the city. He was a gentleman. This moment of humanity in the midst of war is celebrated in the famous painting “The Surrender of Breda” by Diego Velázquez.

Use kind words. They do not cost much. It does not take long to utter them. They never blister the tongue or lips in their passage into the world, or occasion any other kind of bodily suffering. And we have never heard of any mental trouble arising from this quarter.

Philosophers tell us that angry words fuel the flames of hostility. So why shouldn’t kind words have the opposite effect and help make us kinder and less inclined to lose our temper?

Kind words make other people good-natured. Cold words freeze people, and hot words scorch them, and sarcastic words irritate them, and bitter words make them bitter, and wrathful words make them wrathful. And kind words also produce their own image on men’s souls. And a beautiful image it is. They soothe, and quiet, and comfort the hearer. They shame him out of his sour, morose, unkind feelings, and he has to become kind himself.

American President Theodore Roosevelt knew the importance of military strength, but he also knew the power of kind words:

Speak softly, and carry a big stick.

7. A Gentleman Cultivates Humility

The King and the Beggar-maid by Edmund Blair Leighton
The King and the Beggar-maid by Edmund Blair Leighton

Having a humble opinion of ourselves is the secret to pleasing the world. Good people invariably display gentleness, courtesy, and humility. When we become overly concerned with our own dignity without consideration for others, we lose friends, make enemies, and foster a spirit of unhappiness.

Avoid a conceited manner. It is exceedingly ill-bred to assume a manner as if you were superior to those around you, and it is, too, a proof, not of superiority but of vulgarity. And to avoid this manner, avoid the foundation of it, and cultivate humility. The praises of others should be of use to you, in teaching, not what you are, perhaps, but in pointing out what you ought to be.

Affectation is adopting or displaying an unnatural mode of behavior that is meant to impress others. The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette thinks it is the result of bad taste, and of mistaken notions of our own qualities. It pervades our whole demeanor and detracts from our virtues and therefore should be avoided.

Beauty itself loses its attraction, when disfigured by affectation.

8. A Gentleman Avoids Pride

"Such very superior dancing is not often seen", original illustration by Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1894
“Such very superior dancing is not often seen”, original illustration by Hugh Thomson (1860-1920) for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1894

As Mr Darcy discovered in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, in which she writes about the manners of the landed gentry during the British Regency, pride is one of the greatest obstacles to being a gentleman. No man, regardless of rank or privilege, has the right to behave with a haughty or discourteous air towards his fellow men.

What most ennobles human nature, Was ne’er the portion of the proud.

A kind word and gracious smile will endear us to anyone, but a haughty attitude will push people away. The gentleman understands human nature and can make allowances for it. The polite know how to make others polite.

Avoid pride; it often miscalculates, and more often misconceives. The proud man places himself at a distance from other men; seen through that distance, others, perhaps, appear little to him; but he forgets that this very distance causes him also to appear little to others.

9.  A Gentleman Cultivates Good Manners

Pepys and Lady Batten by James Digman Wingfield, 1861
Pepys and Lady Batten by James Digman Wingfield, 1861

As gentlemen, we must shower the ladies of the family—our mother, wife, and sisters—with little attentions and genuine courtesy. A rude husband, son, or brother is not a gentleman.

Table manners are most important to master for gentlemen. We must eat slowly, but not toy with our food while paying too much attention to conversation. We need to keep pace with others at the table so that we don’t keep them waiting for us to hastily finish.

If we meet, in society, with any one, be it a gentleman or a lady, whose timidity or bashfulness, shows them unaccustomed to meeting others, endeavor, by our own gentleness and courtesy, to place them more at ease, and introduce to them those who will aid you in this endeavor.

Being punctual, or even a little early, for all appointments is a mark of a gentleman. This helps put us at ease so that we can remain calm and composed, with perfect gentlemanly deportment.

Be ready to apologize when we have committed a fault which gives offence. Better, far better, to retain a friend by a frank, courteous apology for offence given, than to make an enemy by obstinately denying or persisting in the fault.

Gentlemen should always seek to behave in such a way that we are missed with sorrow when we are gone. Many men are living in such a selfish manner that they are not likely to be remembered. They leave behind them no worthwhile legacy, and are forgotten almost as though they had never existed.

10. A Gentleman Cultivates Toleration

Travel teaches toleration
Travel teaches toleration

Queen Victoria’s favorite Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said that travel teaches toleration.

In a multi-cultural world, travel is one of the most important things we can do to broaden our experiences and become more tolerant of differing views, customs, and tastes.

In a foreign country nothing stamps the difference between the gentleman and the clown more strongly than the regard they pay to foreign customs. While the latter will exclaim against every strange dress or dish, and even show signs of disgust if the latter does not please him, the former will endeavor, as far as is in his power, to “do in Rome as Romans do.”

When we travel, we must avoid speaking continually in praise of our own country, and avoid criticizing others.

Study well the geography of any country which you may visit, and, as far as possible, its history also. You cannot feel much interest in localities or monuments connected with history, if you are unacquainted with the events which make them worthy of note.

Ready to change the world?

See our sister article 8 Lessons on People-skills from Victorian Ladies.

References

Contains affiliate link:
The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

Princess Alice and the Tragic Kiss of Fate

Princess Alice, the second daughter of Queen Victoria, didn’t lead the charmed life of many 19th-century princesses.

After she died, the Times of London wrote:

The humblest of people felt that they had the kinship of nature with a Princess who was the model of family virtue as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother.

This is the tragic story of the princess who died from a kiss.

Happy beginnings

Our story begins in England in 1840, when the young Queen Victoria meets the love of her life—a German prince named Albert.

Queen Victorian and Prince Albert, 1840
Queen Victorian and Prince Albert, 1840

That they were happy was never in doubt, as Victoria’s own letters and diary entries attest:

Albert is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful.Victoria

On the evening of their wedding day, 10 February 1840, Victoria wrote:

I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!

With such a match made in heaven, one would imagine all of Victoria’s children living charmed, blissful lives.

But fate had other plans.

Favorite name

The first of nine children—also named Victoria—arrived on 21 November, 1840.

But it was the arrival of their third child and second daughter, Alice on 25 April 1843, where our story starts to unfold.

Alice was named in honour of Victoria’s first Prime Minister and mentor, Lord Melbourne, who had said the name “Alice” was his favorite for a girl

Princess Alice asleep by Edward Landseer, 1843
Princess Alice of Great Britain in 18th-Century Costume by Franz Xavier Winterhalter, 1845
Princess Alice of Great Britain in 18th-Century Costume by Franz Xavier Winterhalter, 1845
Princess Alice by Franz Xavier Winterhalter, 1859
Princess Alice by Franz Xavier Winterhalter, 1859

A happy day tinged with sadness

At the suggestion of her older sister, Victoria, she became engaged to a handsome German Prince, Louis of Hesse, in April of 1861.

Princess Alice and Louis of Hesse, 1860
Princess Alice and Louis of Hesse, 1860

They planned to marry on 1 July the following year.

But six months before the wedding, tragedy struck.

Princess Alice in 1861
Princess Alice in 1861

On 14 December 1861, her father, Prince Albert, died.

Despite her mother’s grief and the royal family still being in deep mourning, the wedding went ahead as planned.

But although Alice wore a white dress for the ceremony, she had to wear black mourning clothes before and after.

Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, with her fiancée Prince Louis of Hesse and by Rhine
Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, with her fiancée Prince Louis of Hesse and by Rhine

Unlike her sister Victoria, who would become Queen of Prussia through her marriage to German Emperor Frederick III, Alice’s home in the little city of Darmstadt, Hesse, in what is now Germany, was far more modest.

The Prince and Princess Louis of Hesse by John Jabez Edwin Mayall, 1863
The Prince and Princess Louis of Hesse by John Jabez Edwin Mayall, 1863

Although Queen Victoria expected a new palace would be built for the newlyweds, the people of Darmstadt had different ideas.

So Louis and Alice settled on a house in Darmstadt’s “Old Quarter”, overlooking the street.

Rumbling carts and street noise could be heard through the thin walls, but Alice liked her surroundings and started taking painting lessons from a local artist.

The Hessian family in May 1875 (clockwise from far left)—Ella, Grand Duke Ludwig holding Marie, Alice, Victoria, Irene, Ernie and Alix in the center
The Hessian family in May 1875 (clockwise from far left)—Ella, Grand Duke Ludwig holding Marie, Alice, Victoria, Irene, Ernie and Alix in the center

Alice’s compassion for the suffering of others was well-known within the royal family.

When her grandmother fell ill from a severe infection, Alice nursed and comforted her in her final hours—just as she had done for her father.

Albert, Prince Consort, on his deathbed at Windsor Castle, with members of the royal family and the royal household in attendance, 14 December 1861. Credit Wellcome Images
Albert, Prince Consort, on his deathbed at Windsor Castle, with members of the royal family and the royal household in attendance, 14 December 1861. Credit Wellcome Images

And Alice was there to comfort her distraught mother, becoming her unofficial secretary for the next six months.

When war broke out between Austria and Prussia and her husband had to join the conflict on the side of Austria, she dutifully went to work making bandages for troops and preparing hospitals, despite being pregnant with her third child.

A fateful fall

It wasn’t long before more painful tragedy would befall Alice.

In 1873, her youngest and favourite son Friedrich, called “Frittie”, died after falling from a window.

Prince Friedrich of Hesse and by Rhine, 1873

Little Frittie’s hemophilia meant that bleeding from his internal wounds could not be stopped.

Alice never recovered from his death.

Beside herself with grief, she wrote to her mother, Queen Victoria, for some solace.

I feel lower and sadder than ever and miss him so much, so continually.

But it was a time of anxiety for the Queen. She was not to be disturbed.

Victoria was trying to pair her son Prince Alfred with the Russian Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, but the Russians had refused to send her to England for “pre-marriage inspection”.

Instead, they invited Queen Victoria to meet the family in Germany, which Alice thought was a wonderful idea.

Lesson #1: timing was everything when dealing with Queen Victoria, no matter who you were.

Her mother sent a scathing letter:

You have entirely taken the Russian side, and I do not think, dear child, that you should tell me … what I ought to do.

So much for seeking comfort.

The Kiss of Death

Alice dedicated herself to Ernest, her only surviving son, and her newborn daughter Marie.

But she suffered ill health from the stresses of her duties and retreated to Balmoral Castle hoping the fresh air of Scotland would help her recover.

Balmoral Castle, Scotland. Late 19th century
Balmoral Castle, Scotland. Late 19th century

Shortly after her return in November of 1878, a diphtheria epidemic swept through Darmstadt and hit the royal household hard.

All of her children except Elisabeth, who was staying with her paternal grandmother, became infected, as did her husband.

So swift was the disease once it had taken hold, that when Alice was called to the bedside of her daughter Marie, by the time she arrived, Marie had already choked to death.

Highly contagious, the family had to be contained in separate bedrooms, and Alice kept the news of Marie’s death from her children for several weeks.

Until one day in December, when she knew she had to break the awful news to her son, Ernest.

Devastated, Ernest refused to believe it and sobbed uncontrollably.

At that moment, the hand of fate dealt Alice a life-threatening blow.

Out of concern for Ernest’s grief, she comforted him with a kiss.

At first, nothing happened.

She met her sister as she was passing through Darmstadt on her way to England, and even wrote a more cheerful letter to her mother.

Then on 14 December—the exact date of her father Albert’s death—the symptoms of diphtheria took hold and extinguished her life.

Her last words were “Dear Papa”.

Why is fate so cruel? And why do the nicest, warmest, and kindest people suffer?

It is one of life’s great mysteries.

What history teaches us is that we are never alone in our grief—many others have come before us.

We are all connected through time.

Alice memorial at St-Ludwig church, Darmstadt, Germany
Alice memorial at St-Ludwig church, Darmstadt, Germany

Castle de Haar—straight out of a fairy tale

Rising majestically above the trees, deep in the center of the Netherlands, the towers of Castle de Haar glisten in the morning sunlight.

This is no ordinary castle.

It is the largest in the Netherlands, and one of the most luxurious in Europe.

From Humble Beginnings

To go from this, in 1892 …

De Haar House, before restoration
De Haar House, before restoration

… to this, in 1912 …

Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning

… required big money. Rothschild money.

Castle de Haar. Credit Jim van der Mee, flickr
Castle de Haar. Credit Jim van der Mee, flickr
De Haar Castle near Utrecht Holland by Reijer Zwart on 500px.com
Sunset at Castle de Haar by Marcel Tuit on 500px.com

In 1391, the family De Haar was granted rights to the original castle and surrounding lands that existed on the same site as the current castle.

Changing hands to the Van Zuylen family in 1440, then burned down and rebuilt in the early 1500s, the castle had fallen into ruins by the late 17th century.

Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Daniel Mennerich
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Daniel Mennerich

Eventually, De Haar was inherited by Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar.

Try saying that with a mouthful of Edam.

Etienne married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild in 1887—and the money connection was forged.

Restoration on a Grand Scale

20-years of restoration has created one of the world’s most beautiful and romantic castles.

Castle de Haar. Credit Bert Kaufmann, flickr
Castle de Haar. Credit Bert Kaufmann, flickr
De Haar Castle by Amit Kirpane on 500px.com

Fully financed by Hélène’s family, the Rothschilds, the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers  set about building 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms.

Well, you never know when you’ve got to go, do you?

Installing all the mod-cons of the late Victorian and Edwardian Eras, the castle had electrical lighting running off its own generator and steam-based central heating.

A large collection of copper pots and pans adorns the kitchen that was very modern for its day, having a 20 ft-long furnace heated with either coal or peat.

Castle de Haar Kitchen. Credit Arjandb

Decorated with fine detail throughout, the kitchen tiles have the coat of arms of both the De Haar and Van Zuylen families.

Castle de Haar Kitchen. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Kitchen. Credit Arjandb

Richly ornamented woodcarving reminiscent of a Roman Catholic church adorns the interior along with old Flemish tapestries and paintings.

Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Main Hall. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bedroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bedroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Cuypers Room. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Cuypers Room. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar Bathroom. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb
Castle de Haar interior. Credit Arjandb

Formal Gardens

Reminiscent of the French gardens of Versailles, the surrounding park contains many waterworks and 7000 trees.

Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Johan Bakker
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Johan Bakker
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning
Castle de Haar aerial view. Credit Jan Koning
Kasteel de Haar by Emiliano Quintela on 500px.com
De Haar Castle by dmarchitan on 500px.com
Rose garden at Castle de Haar. Credit Ewald Zomer
Rose garden at Castle de Haar. Credit Ewald Zomer

Elf Fantasy Fair

Attracting some 22,500 visitors every year, the Elf Fantasy Fair held in April at Castle de Haar is the largest fantasy event in Europe.

Next to fantasy, there are also themes from science fiction, gothic, manga, cosplay and historical reenactment genres.

Two fairies at the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Juvarra
Two fairies at the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Juvarra
Three participants in the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Three participants in the Elf Fantasy Fair at Castle de Haar. Credit Hans Splinter, flickr
Click to show Google Street View of Castle de Haar

Belle of the Ball: A 5-Minute Guide to Ball Gowns

Delicately and exotically trimmed, and made of luxurious fabrics, ball gowns are the most formal female attire for social occasions.

Trimmed with lace, pearls, sequins, embroidery, ruffles and ruching, the most common fabrics are satin, silk, taffeta and velvet.

Cut off the shoulder with decollete necklines, the ball gown shape hasn’t changed much since the mid-19th century.

Too Early by James Tissot, 1873
Too Early by James Tissot, 1873
Aristocrats gathering around Emperor Franz Joseph at a ball in the Hofburg Imperial Palace, painting by Wilhelm Gause, 1900
Aristocrats gathering around Emperor Franz Joseph at a ball in the Hofburg Imperial Palace, painting by Wilhelm Gause, 1900

The Regency Era

During the Regency era, ball gowns had the Empire silhouette, with a high waistline, short sleeves, and a fairly narrow skirt.

1820 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1820 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum

Widely adopted after the French Revolution, the neoclassic style originated from “chitons”—tubular garments of Ancient Greece that were draped over the shoulder and held in place with a brooch.

Drawing inspiration from the artistic notions of the Renaissance, the puffed sleeves resembled 16th-century “slashing”—a decorative technique of making small cuts on the outer fabric to reveal a brightly colored lining.

1820 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1820 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1820 Ball gown. British. Cotton plain weave with metallic thread embroidery and silk ribbons with metallic passementerie and tassels. LACMA
1820 Ball gown. British. Cotton plain weave with metallic thread embroidery and silk ribbons with metallic passementerie and tassels. LACMA
1820 Ball gown. British. Cotton plain weave with metallic thread embroidery and silk ribbons with metallic passementerie and tassels. LACMA
1820 Ball gown. British. Cotton plain weave with metallic thread embroidery and silk ribbons with metallic passementerie and tassels. LACMA

Embellished with gold thread or sparkling beads, these lavish gowns glittered in the candlelight of the dance hall.

Creating a soft dreamy look, the thin, gauzy materials were cooler to wear on the crowded dance floor.

1820 Ball gown. British. Silk satin and silk embroidered with metal. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1820 Ball gown. British. Silk satin and silk embroidered with metal. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1820 Ball gown. British. Silk satin and silk embroidered with metal. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1820 Ball gown. British. Silk satin and silk embroidered with metal. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1820 Ball gown. British. Silk satin and silk embroidered with metal. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1820 Ball gown. British. Silk satin and silk embroidered with metal. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Victorian Era

In the Victorian era, skirts began to widen.

Layer upon layer of petticoats would provide the desired fullness but were hot and heavy to wear.

Undergarment frameworks called crinolines were developed to provide the flared look without the weight.

1842 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1842 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1842 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1842 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum

Inspired by the court of Charles II, this next ball gown was the most glamorous of all of Queen Victoria’s surviving clothes.

The rich brocade of the underskirt was woven in Benares, India.

A copy of seventeenth-century Venetian raised-point needle lace, the berthe (fichu) was likely made in Ireland and perhaps acquired at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Queen Victoria's Costume for the Stuart Ball 1851. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Queen Victoria’s Costume for the Stuart Ball 1851. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Queen Victoria's Costume for the Stuart Ball 1851. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Queen Victoria’s Costume for the Stuart Ball 1851. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Queen Victoria's Costume for the Stuart Ball 1851. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Queen Victoria’s Costume for the Stuart Ball 1851. © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
1856 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1856 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1856 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1856 Ball gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1860 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum
1860 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum
1860 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum
1860 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum

Crinolines remained popular throughout the 1850s and 1860s, reaching a circumference of up to six yards.

1864 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum
1864 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum
1864 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum
1864 Ball gown. French. Emile Pingat. Silk. metmuseum
1868 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1868 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1868 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1868 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1869 Ball Gown. British. Cotton, silk. metmuseum
1869 Ball Gown. British. Cotton, silk. metmuseum
1869 Ball Gown. British. Cotton, silk. metmuseum
1869 Ball Gown. British. Cotton, silk. metmuseum

Beginning in the 1870s, a narrower silhouette came into vogue, and more attention was focused on the back of the skirt.

Trains would be drawn up behind the dress and fastened into a “bustle”.

1875 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1875 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1875 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1875 Ball gown. British. Silk, cotton. metmuseum
1876 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1876 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1876 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1876 Ball gown. French. Silk. metmuseum
1878 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1878 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1878 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1878 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1880 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1880 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1880 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1880 Ball gown. British. Silk. metmuseum
1887. French. Silk, Glass. metmuseum
1887. French. Silk, Glass. metmuseum
1887. French. Silk, Glass. metmuseum
1887. French. Silk, Glass. metmuseum

By the end of the 19th century, bustles had fallen out of favour and skirts took on a simple bell-like appearance.

1898 Ball gown. French. Jacques Doucet. Silk, metal, linen. metmuseum
1898 Ball gown. French. Jacques Doucet. Silk, metal, linen. metmuseum
1898 Ball gown. French. Jacques Doucet. Silk, metal, linen. metmuseum
1898 Ball gown. French. Jacques Doucet. Silk, metal, linen. metmuseum
1900 Ball gown. French. House of Worth. Silk. metmuseum
1900 Ball gown. French. House of Worth. Silk. metmuseum

The Edwardian Era

In the Edwardian era, women’s ball gowns followed the distinctive “S-curve” silhouette.

1908 Ball gown. American. Cotton, linen, silk. metmuseum

Standing out from the crowd at a ball was a challenge even for the most well-heeled.

Densely sequined and beaded, this next gown worn by a member of the Astor family would have shimmered beautifully on the dance floor.

1910 Ball Gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1910 Ball Gown. American. Silk. metmuseum
1908 Ball gown. American. Silk, cotton, glass, metallic thread. metmuseum
1908 Ball gown. American. Silk, cotton, glass, metallic thread. metmuseum

The Roaring Twenties and Beyond

During the 1920s, hemlines rose and decorations became more showy.

After the horrors of World War One, people wanted to let their hair down.

Women found a new sense of liberation from the traditional expectations of their role in society.

Donning daring knee-length dresses, they flouted social and sexual norms—some becoming known by the pejorative term “flappers”.

Formalities would take a back seat for a decade, but the dresses still glittered with glamour.

1920s Evening dress. French. Callot Soeurs. Silk, metallic. metmuseum
1920s Evening dress. French. Callot Soeurs. Silk, metallic. metmuseum
1921 Evening dress. French. Callot Soeurs. Silk, metallic thread. metmuseum
1921 Evening dress. French. Callot Soeurs. Silk, metallic thread. metmuseum

Every party eventually comes to an end.

As the Roaring Twenties gave way to the 1930’s Great Depression, gowns became more conservative.

1930s Evening gowns. metmuseum
1930s Evening gowns. metmuseum

After the end of World War II, Christian Dior spurred a new era of decadence with his “new look” of nipped-in waistlines and full skirts.

1950's Ball Gowns. House of Dior. metmuseum
1950’s Ball Gowns. House of Dior. metmuseum

The 1950s was a golden age for ball gown design in Britain.

Today’s Ballgowns

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10 Fascinating Facts About the Great Exhibition of 1851

In 1851, Great Britain stood at the very pinnacle of industrial and cultural leadership of the world.

But running in parallel was an undercurrent of class inequality, a fear of foreigners, and a contempt for internationalism.

Against this backdrop, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert organized the first world’s fair as a means to unite nations and encourage economic growth through international trade.

The first of many to come, the Great Exhibition was the symbol of Victorian progress and modernization.

Here are 10 fascinating facts about the Great Exhibition of 1851.

1. The Great Exhibition was a showcase for British pride

Although the Great Exhibition was a platform for countries from around the world to display their own achievements, Britain’s primary concern was to promote its own superiority.

British exhibits held the lead in almost every field where strength, durability, utility and quality were concerned, whether in iron and steel, machinery, or textiles.

It was thought foreign visitors would look positively upon British accomplishments, customs, and institutions—learning more in the six months during the exhibition than the prior thirty-six years since the fall of Napoleon.

The Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria on 1 May 1851 by Henry Courtney Selous, 1852
The Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria on 1 May 1851 by Henry Courtney Selous, 1852

Great Britain also wanted to instill optimism and the hope for a better future.

Following two difficult decades of political and social upheaval in Europe, Great Britain hoped to convey that technology—particularly its own—was the key to a better future.

One of a pair of extravagant vases with finely painted views of the Crystal Palace on one side, and patriotic portraits of the Queen and Prince Consort on the other. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
One of a pair of extravagant vases designed to be solely exhibition pieces with finely painted views of the Crystal Palace on one side, and patriotic portraits of the Queen and Prince Consort on the other. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Despite being an advocate for internationalism, Prince Albert’s main objective was predominantly a national one—for Great Britain to make clear to the world its role as industrial leader.

The British Department viewed towards the transept
The British Department viewed towards the transept. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Even so, some saw the rise of a new industrial power—one that would threaten Britain’s dominance in years to come.

With the industrial revolution well underway in the United States,  the Great Exhibition was an opportunity for the former British colony to show its machines, products, and agricultural wealth on the world stage.

Unavoidably compared to Great Britain, many looked favorably on the United States’ offerings.

The British Nave - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The British Nave – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

2. The Great Exhibition was a symbol of the Victorian Age

From the 1850’s onward, the term “Victorianism” became popular for describing the strength, bullish superiority, and pride of an ever-improving Britain.

Opening of the Great Exhibition, 1 May 1851 by Eugène Louis Lami
Opening of the Great Exhibition, 1 May 1851 by Eugène Louis Lami. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Colonial raw materials and British art were displayed in the most prestigious parts of the exhibition.

Reflecting it’s important as the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, a disproportionately large area was allocated to India.

Opulently appointed, the India exhibits focused on the trappings of empire rather than technological achievements.

The India exhibit - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The India exhibit – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The India exhibit - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The India exhibit – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The India exhibit - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The India exhibit – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Technology and moving machinery proved popular, as did working exhibits like the entire process of cotton production from spinning to finished cloth.

Drawing attention from the curious-minded were scientific instruments, the like of which most people had never seen before, including electric telegraphs, microscopes, air pumps and barometers, as well as musical, horological, and surgical instruments.

Moving Machinery. A view from The Great Exhibition of 1851
Moving Machinery. A view from The Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Queen Victoria previewed the exhibition the day before the official opening and wrote in her journal “We saw beautiful china from Minton’s factory and beautiful designs”.

The combination of glazed and decorated bone china with unglazed Parian figures was praised by the Great Exhibition jury for its ‘original design, high degree of beauty and harmony of effect’.

Queen Victoria purchased a 116 piece ‘Victoria pierced’ dessert service in bleu celeste at the Great Exhibition.

She was overwhelmed by the spectacular service with allegorical figure supports modelled by Pierre-Emile Jeannest.

Victoria pierced tiered centrepiece for a dessert service
Victoria pierced tiered centrepiece for a dessert service. . © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

She purchased the service as a gift for the Empress of Prussia but gave permission for it to remain on display for the duration of the exhibition.

Vase and cover, Minton (manufacturer), Stoke-on-Trent
Vase and cover, Minton (manufacturer), Stoke-on-Trent. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

3. The Crystal Palace was purpose-built to house the Great Exhibition

Drawing on his experience building greenhouses for the Duke of Devonshire, architect Joseph Paxton designed the largest greenhouse in the world—so spacious was its interior that it fully enclosed some of Hyde Park’s own trees.

The Crystal Palace was an enormous success, considered an architectural marvel, but also an engineering triumph that reflected the importance of the Exhibition itself.

The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park for Grand International Exhibition of 1851
The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park for Grand International Exhibition of 1851
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 - 1863)
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 – 1863)

In the lead-up to the momentous Great Exhibition of 1851, William Makepeace Thackeray’s “May-Day Ode” appeared in The Times, its verses echoing through London’s streets like a triumphant fanfare. Published just one day prior to the opening ceremony, the poem served as more than just an ode to architectural innovation and colonial might.

As though ’twere by a wizard’s rod
As blazing arch of lucid glass
Leaps like a fountain from the grass
To meet the sun.

Thackeray’s lyrical brushstrokes painted the Crystal Palace not just as a testament to human ingenuity, but as a sacred space touched by the divine, bathed in the ethereal light of God’s grace. This literary offering stood as a potent symbol of Britain’s ambition, showcasing not only its industrial prowess and imperial reach, but also its enduring cultural and artistic influence. Open entire poem in a popup window: May-Day Ode

The transept from the Grand Entrance, Souvenir of the Great Exhibition , William Simpson (lithographer), Ackermann & Co. (publisher), 1851, V&A
The transept from the Grand Entrance, Souvenir of the Great Exhibition , William Simpson (lithographer), Ackermann & Co. (publisher), 1851, V&A. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

4. Six Million People visited 13,000 exhibits

Lasting six months, the average daily attendance at the exhibition was 42,831, with a peak attendance of 109,915 on 7 October.

One third of the entire population of Britain visited the Great Exhibition.

Whilst the western half of the building was occupied with exhibits by Great Britain and her colonies and dependencies, the eastern half was filled with foreign exhibits, with their names inscribed on banners suspended over the various divisions.

The Great Industrial Exhibition of 1851. The Foreign Nave by Joseph Nash
The Great Industrial Exhibition of 1851. The Foreign Nave by Joseph Nash. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The United States exhibit - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The United States exhibit – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Canadian exhibit - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The Canadian exhibit – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Guernsey, Jersey, Malta, Ceylon - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
Guernsey, Jersey, Malta, Ceylon – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The China exhibit - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The China exhibit – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Holland section. Visitors are examining stalls showing goods of Dutch deisgn. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Holland section. Visitors are examining stalls showing goods of Dutch deisgn. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Turkey exhibit - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The Turkey exhibit – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Italian Court - Dickinson's comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851
The Italian Court – Dickinson’s comprehensive pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
'Part of the French Court, No. 1 (Sèvres)', with a display of porcelain by the Sèvres factory visible in the background. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
‘Part of the French Court, No. 1 (Sèvres)’, with a display of porcelain by the Sèvres factory visible in the background. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

5. Numerous Victorian A-list celebrities visited the Great Exhibition

Attending the Great Exhibition were many notable celebrities of the time, including Charles Darwin, Samuel Colt, members of the Orléanist Royal Family and the writers Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot and Alfred Tennyson.

Victorian A-list celebrities
Victorian A-list celebrities: Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Charlotte Brontë described her visit:

Yesterday I went for the second time to the Crystal Palace. We remained in it about three hours, and I must say I was more struck with it on this occasion than at my first visit. It is a wonderful place …

Read more …

… vast, strange, new and impossible to describe. Its grandeur does not consist in one thing, but in the unique assemblage of all things. Whatever human industry has created you find there, from the great compartments filled with railway engines and boilers, with mill machinery in full work, with splendid carriages of all kinds, with harness of every description, to the glass-covered and velvet-spread stands loaded with the most gorgeous work of the goldsmith and silversmith, and the carefully guarded caskets full of real diamonds and pearls worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. It may be called a bazaar or a fair, but it is such a bazaar or fair as Eastern genii might have created. It seems as if only magic could have gathered this mass of wealth from all the ends of the earth – as if none but supernatural hands could have arranged it this, with such a blaze and contrast of colours and marvellous power of effect. The multitude filling the great aisles seems ruled and subdued by some invisible influence. Amongst the thirty thousand souls that peopled it the day I was there not one loud noise was to be heard, not one irregular movement seen; the living tide rolls on quietly, with a deep hum like the sea heard from the distance.

6. The Great Exhibition broke through class barriers

Ever present in Victorian society was the nagging guilt that this age of individualism, capitalism, and overwhelming self-confidence could not be embraced by all.

Crushing poverty ran concurrent with enormous wealth.

But Prince Albert was not oblivious to the plight of the poor and was determined to make the Great Exhibition accessible to all.

Ticket prices came down dramatically as the exhibition progressed—in today’s equivalent, prices varied from £311 for a season ticket to about £5 for one day.

Thus even the working classes could afford to attend —four and half million of the cheapest day tickets were sold.

A rank in which no aristocratic distinctions were observed from the doors of the Crystal Palace to the very centre of the Metropolis. The proudest equipage of the peer was obliged to fall in behind the humblest fly or the ugliest Henson; there being no privileged order but the order of arrival.Punch, vol.1, 1851, 190.
The Transept from the South Gallery, The Great Exhibition of 1851. Watercolour over pencil heightened with body colour on buff paper, 1851
The Transept from the South Gallery, The Great Exhibition of 1851. Watercolour over pencil heightened with body colour on buff paper, 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Refreshment Department of the Great International Exhibition of 1851
Refreshment Department of the Great International Exhibition of 1851. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

7. The world’s largest diamond had its own exhibit

The Koh-i-Noor, meaning the “Mountain of Light,” was the world’s largest known diamond in 1851.

One of the most popular attractions of the India exhibit, it was acquired in 1850 as part of the Lahore Treaty.

Dazzling and bewildering, the prismatically separated light of the Koh-i-Noor diamond was a metaphor for the Crystal Palace as a whole.

The eye is completely dazzled by the rich variety of hues which burst upon it on every side.Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue, 1851.

Originally thought to weigh as much as 793 carats, the earliest recorded weight was 186 carats, from which Prince Albert ordered it cut down to 105.6 carats so as to give the much brighter, oval-cut appearance preferred by Victorians—and fit for his Queen.

Today, the Koh-i-Noor diamond is set into The Queen Mother’s Crown and housed in the Tower of London.

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond 'mountain of light'. Credit Ji Ruan, flickr
The Koh-i-Noor Diamond ‘mountain of light’. Credit Ji Ruan, flickr

8. The Great Exhibition was a great success, but was not without controversy

Just as today, there were naysayers who thought the Great Exhibition would be a flop.

Some people feared that in the face of grinding poverty, the building would be gutted by a revolutionary mob.

The folly and absurdity of the Queen in allowing this trumpery must strike every sensible and well-thinking mind, and I am astonished the ministers themselves do not insist on her at least going to Osborne during the Exhibition, as no human being can possibly answer for what may occur on the occasion. The idea … must shock every honest and well-meaning Englishman. But it seems everything is conspiring to lower us in the eyes of Europe.King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover

But the Great Exhibition of 1851 demonstrated the wisdom of internationalism at a time of widespread isolationism in Europe.

Its success inspired Napoleon III to open the second World’s Fair in Paris in 1855 and to hold some of the world’s grandest, including the Exposition Universelle 1889, for which the Eiffel Tower was built as a grand entrance.

By the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, attitudes had progressed even further by focusing not on nationalistic prowess, but on the history of the world and its peoples.

9. The profits funded three of London’s most loved museums

Built in the area to the south of the exhibition and nicknamed ‘Albertopolis’, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum were all founded using the surplus profit from the Great Exhibition which amounted to a sum equal to £18 million in today’s money.

Even with the cost of these beautiful buildings, there was enough money left over to set up a trust for grants and scholarships for industrial research that continues to this day.

Victoria and Albert Museum. Credit Nick Garrod, flickr
Victoria and Albert Museum. Credit Nick Garrod, flickr
Inside The Natural History Museum, London. Credit Gene Krasko
Inside The Natural History Museum, London. Credit Gene Krasko
The Modern World gallery in the science museum, london. Credit Geni
The Modern World gallery in the science museum, london. Credit Geni

10. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936

After the Great Exhibition had come to a close, plans were drawn up to move the entire Crystal Palace structure to a new location in the suburbs of south-east London.

In 1852, the building went into private ownership and was moved to Sydenham, Kent.

Completely dismantled and re-built in the new Beaux-arts style, the greatly enlarged Crystal Palace was opened by Queen Victoria in 1854.

Costing six times as much to move as the original palace had cost to build, it became an extravagant money pit and the owners quickly fell into debt.

Unlike the unmitigated success of the Great Exhibition, the new Crystal Palace was plagued with financial woes.

Although Sunday was the only free day for the working classes, religious observance prevented the palace from opening.

Even when the palace did start to open on Sundays, people had largely lost interest and attendance was low.

Crystal Palace Fire of 1936
Crystal Palace Fire of 1936

Falling into a state of disrepair, and despite a restoration project by Sir Henry Buckland in the 1920s, tragedy struck on 30 November, 1936.

In a few hours we have seen the end of the Crystal Palace. Yet it will live in the memories not only of Englishmen, but the whole world.Sir Henry Buckland.

100,000 people came to watch the blaze, as 89 fire engines and over 400 firemen fought valiantly through the night.

One of the onlookers was Winston Churchill, who said, “this is the end of an age”.

The Language of Flowers – the secret Victorian love code

For Victorians, flowers were the language of love.

Proclaiming feelings in public was considered socially taboo, so the Victorians expressed intimacy through flowers.

Myriad market stalls and street sellers sprang up to cater to the Victorians’ need to communicate covertly.

Learning the particular meanings and symbolism assigned to each flower gave Victorians a way to play the subtle game of courtship in secret.

The Flower Market by Victor Gabriel Gilbert
The Flower Market by Victor Gabriel Gilbert
The Lower Market, Paris by Victor Gabriel Gilbert, 1881
The Lower Market, Paris by Victor Gabriel Gilbert, 1881
The Flower Seller, Avenue de L'Opera, Paris by Louis Marie de Schryver, 1891
The Flower Seller, Avenue de L’Opera, Paris by Louis Marie de Schryver, 1891