Castles or Bust! Marie Antoinette's Petit Hameau

Our second stop on the Castles or Bust tour is Marie Antoinette's Petit Hameau in France (I'm obviously not going in geographical order).  I don't remember when I found an original picture of this beautiful place, but once I did I was completely smitten!  Isn't it just so very, very pretty?

Queen Marie Antoinette's "little hamlet" was designed by Richard Mique at the Queen's commission in 1783 and comes complete with a dairy, mill and farmhouse. It is located inside the provate section of the park in Versailles.

Often you would find the Queen and her ladies wondering the grounds dressed as shepherdesses and milkmaids, playing peasant for the day. Milking cows with porcelain bowls and attending to the other docile creatures living there.

At Petit Hameau Marie Antoinette ruled supreme and even the King bowed to her.

The Queen's Hamlet also included a theater where Marie would stage plays there with her friends and would invite the King and his retinue to attend.

The Royal family in the garden at Petit Hameau. The Temple of Love can be seen in the background.

Click here for a first hand account of a visit to Petit Hameau from a fantastic new blog I found, Jane Austen's World. She includes great pictures and a little tour!

new non-fiction in March

US Release Date: March 10, 2009

'Wedlock' tells the remarkable true story of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, who became Britain's richest heiress on the death of her entrepreneur father when she was 11. After an unhappy first marriage to John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore, who left her a widow when he died of TB, she was lured into marrying an Irish fortune-hunter named Andrew Robinson Stoney. Squandering her money and laying waste her vast estate, Stoney - who adopted the surname Bowes on marriage - reduced Mary to a wretched, starved, petrified shadow of her former self. After suffering eight years of cruelty and torment, Mary Eleanor finally found help in the most unlikely of places. A barely credible tale of survival and triumph against overwhelming odds, 'Wedlock' reveals an eighteenth-century world of sexual intrigue, terrifying adventure and court room drama.

Mary Eleanor Bowes and Andrew Robinson Stoney

Announcing the giveaway winners of Signora da Vinci!!

It is my pleasure to now unveil the winners of the fabulous new novel by Robin Maxwell, Signora da Vinci. Without further ado, congratulations go to:

nicchic from Obsessed with Books

I've left comments to the lucky ladies and I look forward to reading their reviews! Thank you to everyone who signed up...all 80 of you...please keep stopping by to see what's happening in the wonderful world of historical fiction!

Wordless Wednesday

I wish I was there in the majestic French countryside....aaahhhh...heaven.

Which Henry VIII wife are you?

Your result for The Six Wives of Henry VIII Test...

Anne Boleyn

Witty, Sophisticated, Passionate, Emotional, Stylish, Intelligent, Outspoken.
"The Most Happy"

Anne Boleyn is one of the most infamous women in history. She is also probably one of the most misunderstood. Many myths abound, including that she had a mole on her neck, and a sixth finger. This is highly unlikely, as such things were seen as signs of witchcraft, she probably would not even have been allowed in court, let alone be chosen by Henry as a mate- he desired a male heir above all else, and would never have risked a 'bewitched' son.

Anne was the second, possibly third, Boleyn woman to pass through Henry's chambers. Her mother was rumored to have been young Henry's mistress, and her sister Mary was without doubt. As their father, Thomas Boleyn, was a man with more ambition than honor, he engineered both daughters relationships with Henry, and probably did the same with his wife. But Mary Boleyn's relationship with Henry ended with an illegitimate son (probably Henry's), a sad marriage, and the nickname, "the Great Whore".

Anne was engaged to Henry Percy and had no ambitions to join in the family's power games. But as a lady in waiting to Katharine of Aragon, Anne caught Henry's eye, and Henry, had Henry Percy banished from court. Thomas Boleyn missed nothing, and set Anne to seducing Henry.

Anne was charming, witty, sophisticated, and talented in music and dance- all things Henry liked in a woman. She had no trouble bringing Henry to his knees- she knew what he wanted became all the sweeter to him when he couldn't have it. She demanded he seduce her with letters and poems, he sent her royal jewels, and she rebuffed him, refusing to give him her virginity outside of marriage.

Sometime during her father's scheming Anne fell in love with Henry. They resided together in the castle, held court with her in Katharine's throne. He granted her noble title. Finally, after being refused an anullment, Henry divorced Katharine. Henry was excommunicated from the Holy See- the beginning of Restoration.
Anne and Henry wed in 1533, and Anne gave birth so soon to the infant Elizabeth I, it's believed that the two had been secretly married in 1532 in order to consumate their union.

The marriage lasted three years. Anne failed to deliver the promised heir, which Henry saw as a sign from God that his marriage to Anne was impure. His eye was wandering, particularly to Jane Seymour, and Anne, ever so passionate, would not tolerate any straying from her bed. If she had taken the king from Katharine, who had been with him for decades, then her position was just as precarious. She had gotten Henry to declare Elizabeth the one heir by bastardizing Mary, daughter of Katharine, but no one outside of England recognized the child as sovereign heir, refusing Henry's offers of betrothal. That Anne requested the deaths of Mary and Katharine is rumored but not evidenced.

Following the death of Katharine, who had suffered in isolation, Henry became more convinced that Anne was a mistake. She miscarried a few days later, and it was over.

Henry accused Anne of witchcraft, questioned her virginity at the time of marriage, and high treason- adultery. The men of her court were questioned and tortured, the women of her court were largely disloyal- many of them having been in service to the beloved Katharine of Aragon before her- and gladly spoke against her. Anne was imprisoned, and there wrote letters to Henry begging for the freedom of her innocent friends and family (her brother was accused of having relations with her.) and begging for the future of her daughter. It was all for naught- her accused lovers were tortued into admission- even though some of them were quite homosexual- and murdered. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Anne saw the beheading of her brother George, her best friend, and probably also homosexual, through the bars of her tower window.

Anne Boleyn was executed May 19, 1536. Laying her head on the chopping block, she repeatedly commended her soul to God, and then, the scandal of Christendom, the woman who caused the birth of a new religion, the second wife of Henry VIII, was beheaded.

Henry married Jane Seymour eleven days later.

Take The Six Wives of Henry VIII Test
at HelloQuizzy

Review: Signora da Vinci


Not much is known about the woman who gave birth to one of the most brilliant men in our history, Leonardo da Vinci. Her name and the events around her famous son's birth is pretty much it. Until now. Robin Maxwell takes us back to 15th century Italy and paints us a beautiful picture of Leonardo's childhood and of his fascinating mother, Caterina.

Young Caterina is raised surrounded by her father's love and the beautiful countryside of Vinci, Italy. At the age of eight Caterina's father, Ernesto, teaches her the ways of apothecary and alchemy - not a safe hobby and punishable by death. A free-spirited girl, she often roams the land without a guardian. One afternoon she meets Piero, the son of a neighboring noble family. They quickly fall in love during their clandestine meetings and Caterina becomes pregnant. Piero's family forbids them to marry and unfortunately for Caterina, Piero shows no backbone and is sent away to Florence and quickly married off. When Caterina gives birth to her son she falls in love instantly and their unbreakable bond is formed. In one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I have ever read, Piero's family swoops in and whisks little Leonardo right out of Caterina's arms. This is a usual fate of fatherless children during this time - the need to preserve the family bloodline is of the utmost importance. I was broken-hearted and grieved along with Caterina.

So powerful is Caterina's maternal love in this just exudes from the page and makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. Everything she does is for her child, even going so far as securing a spot for him for as an apprentice with the famous Florentine artisian, Maestro Verrocchio, far away in Florence. Being the inventive girl that she is, Caterina finds a way to be near her son - come hell or high water. Leonardo is remarkably talented and it showed from an early age. His hunger for knowledge is completely addicting and I can't wait to read more about him.

My favorite aspect of the novel is when we meet Lorenzo de Medici and enter his world of philosophers, thinkers, scientists and artists. He is one hotty intellectual and totally stole the show (IMO). The great minds of the time are also brought to life; Sandro Bottiicelli, Marsilio Ficino, Christoforo Landino and Leon Battista Albertia are just to name a few.

Lorenzo de Medici

I have one word for this novel...DIVINE and I recommend Signora da Vinci to EVERYONE! You will meet some of the most fascinating and enthralling characters and will not want to put this one down! It's the kind of novel that you carry everywhere and read whenever you can squeeze in a few minutes - in the kitchen while cooking, in the bathroom, waiting in the grocery store line...anywhere.

Once I've finished a novel I'm pretty stoked and eager to move on to the next adventure awaiting me. However, with Signora Da Vinci I just kind of sat back and ran through the novel again in my mind, this time slowly savoring it. Robin Maxwell has most definitely sealed herself a spot among my stalk-worthy list of authors!

The giveaway for this book ends this Wednesday, so if you haven't signed up then you better get on it! What the hell are you waiting for? Did you not hear how good this book is? This giveaway is really exciting for me for two reasons. One is that this is the first one not self-funded. The second reason is that this novel is so kick ass that I can't wait to pass on the love to you!

Review: The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth

Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth of York trusts that her beloved father’s dying wish has left England in the hands of a just and deserving ruler. But upon the rise of Richard of Gloucester, Elizabeth’s family experiences one devastation after another: her late father is exposed as a bigamist, she and her siblings are branded bastards, and her brothers are taken into the new king’s custody, then reportedly killed.

But one fateful night leads Elizabeth to question her prejudices. Through the eyes of Richard’s ailing queen she sees a man worthy of respect and undying adoration. His dedication to his people inspires a forbidden love and ultimately gives her the courage to accept her destiny, marry Henry Tudor, and become Queen. While her soul may secretly belong to another, her heart belongs to England…

Elizabeth of York
No good novel is without it's share of controversy and The King's Daughter doesn't disappoint. I had heard about a scene in the first few pages of the book that made some people raise their eyebrows, but my mind was still open...after all it is historical fiction and thus the author is given a bit more leeway (in my opinion).

The story starts off a little silly with the many "woe" declarations Elizabeth's mother was so fond of. However, the novel recovers. Elizabeth the Good, as she was called by her people, was a fascinating woman. Early on she realized that they only option she really had available to her was make the best out of her situation.

Raised by a horrific mother, her beloved father Edward IV dies and her brothers (and heirs to the throne) are removed from the family and placed in the Tower of London. The story of the princes in the tower has always intrigued me, but I never really thought about it from the perspective of Elizabeth - their sister. My heart ached for her, never really knowing what happened to the brothers she loved, always hanging heavy in her heart.

Another faucet of this novel that I really enjoyed was seeing little (future) King Henry VIII - boy, he was a little shit from the start huh?! Bottom line is that The King's Daughter is an entertaining read about the mother of the Tudor dynasty. I highly recommend this novel, especially to the Tudor lovers out there!Interesting note: Elizabeth of York is the only English Queen to have been a wife, daughter, sister, niece and mother to English Kings.

Here is what other book bloggers had to say:

A Reader's Respite
Booking Mama

Castles or Bust! The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Amy, your historical fiction hussy, is proud to present Passages to the Pasts' newest feature: Castles or Bust! I am completely and utterly fascinated with castles and one fine day I plan on taking a trip to visit all the historic places I read about.

First on my list is my favorite, The Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is located in Edinburgh, Scotland and neighbor to Edinburgh Castle.

Holyroodhouse began as a abbey, built by King David I after having a religious vision. James IV added on to the abbey cloister and from then on was the official residence of Scottish Kings and Queens. His son, James V, also had a hand in the expansion during his reign.

Oh, to be a fly! Holyroodhouse has had it's fair share of famous people, historic events and dramas that have taken place within it's walls.
  • Mary Stuart's mother, Mary of Guise, was crowned as Queen constort in the Abbey in 1540.
  • Mary Stuart was married to Lord Darnley in 1565.
Mary, Queen of Scots
  • In the north-west tower built by her father, Mary Stuart's secretary, David Rizzio, was murdered by Lord Darnley and his buddies.
The Murder of David Rizzio
  • Oliver Cromwell and his troops were housed in the Palace during the Civil War.
  • Louis XVI's brother, Comte d'Artois and his family, was given sanctuary here during the French Revolution.
Comte d'Artois
  • In 1842 Queen Victoria re-established Holyroodhouse as the official royal residence.
  • Modernization of the Palace, including electricity and plumbing, was taken on by George V and Queen Mary in the 1920s.

Holyroodhouse ended it's reign as the royal residence when James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603. Holyroodhouse was entrusted to the care of the 1st Duke of Hamilton by Charles I and is still owned by the family to this day.

When the royal family is not in residence the Palace is open to the public. Click here for info.

The Royal Dining Room
The Great Stair
The Throne Room

The Evening Drawing Room

Mary, Queen of Scots' bedchamber

All I wanna know is....who's comin' with me?

Wordless Wednesday


Plaidy in June

On June 4th Random House UK will be releasing four re-issues of Plaidy novels. Two are the Lucrezia Borgia series, which I really enjoyed. The others are about Philip II of Spain and the Spanish Inquisition (I have yet to read these).

As King Philip II of Spain plans out the infamous Inquisition and plots to overthrow England, dashing Blasco Carramadino and his devout brother, Domingo, citizens of Andalusia, become caught up in the intrigue and treachery.

This is a powerful story of the troubleous days when Tudor succession was in dispute. The chief characters are two contrasting cousins - one daring, brave and adventurous; the other quiet, reserved and thoughtful. But each has his own kind of courage. It is set in Chelsea, Kent, and Spain, and is a vivid portrayal of a family which came to know the wrath of the Spanish Inquisition.

Lucrezia Borgia Series Book 1: The legendary Lucrezia Borgia did everything with a passion intensity. She loved with a burning lust. She hated with a ruthless violence. There wasn't another woman in all of Rome who could rival her exquisite beauty—or her incredible power. As the only daughter of Pope Alexander VI, she was showered with every luxury and privilege. But being a Borgia also meant having a certain and inescapable responsibility to the family. Lucrezia learned early that she would never simply love and marry. A Borgia's destiny was always carefully arranged—and there wasn't any way for Lucrezia to escape hers....

Lucrezia Borgia Series Book 2: Some said she was an elegant seductress. Others swore she was an incestuous murderess. It didn't matter what they called her. She was the most dangerous and sought after woman in all of Rome. She was Lucrezia Borgia.

Men found her irresistible. But all who succumbed to her charms also became entangled in the nefarious Borgia web of terror and lust. And in the days when the Borgias ruled Italy no one was safe from the long arm of their power. Not even Lucrezia....

Book Giveaway! **sticky post**

Passages to the Past would like to announce a new book giveaway. I have 2 copies of Robin Maxwell's new novel, Signora Da Vinci in my hot, little hands to giveaway (many thanks to Penguin Publishing)! I've just started reading it and so far it's fantastic!

Caterina was fifteen years old in 1452 when she bore an illegitimate child in the tiny village of Vinci. His name was Leonardo, and he was destined to change the world forever.

Caterina suffered much cruelty as an unmarried mother and had no recourse when her boy was taken away from her. But no one knew the secrets of her own childhood, nor could ever have imagined the dangerous and heretical scheme she would devise to protect and watch over her remarkable son. This is her story.

The 411:
  • To enter all you need do is leave a comment and include your email address.
  • International entries are more than welcome.
  • Contest ends on January 28, 2009. Winners will be announced the next day.
  • Good luck to all and HAPPY READING!
ps...I will be posting an interview with author Robin Maxwell in the near future! So, stay tuned!

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