Category Archives: history

Damned Rodin Just Refused to Leave!

Did you know?

The works of another of France’s great artists, Auguste Rodin, are displayed in the magnificent backdrop of Hôtel Biron. The manor boasts grandiose columns, arches, and sweeping staircases as well as subtler intricate moldings and floor-to-ceiling windows. Bought by the State in 1911 while Rodin was residing here, he refused to leave and bequeathed his entire collection to the country on condition that it remained his home for life.

Would you want to leave this?

Image result for Hôtel Biron.

In fact, the story of how Rodin — and a lot of other interesting folks — ended up at this place is pretty interesting.

Enjoy with a very large cappuccino!

Amazing Women: Rosa Lewis … and her doppleganger, Louisa Trotter

Rosa Lewis was a real person, and a rather incredible one at that. She was born in 1867 in London and rose from somewhat a somewhat humble background

After leaving school at 12 and becoming a general servant,she worked her way up through the hierarchy of domestic service eventually running the kitchens of the Duc d’Orleans at Sandhurst.

And she became rather famous for her cooking skills.

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There is more

It was through her cooking that Rosa was linked to Edward VII. He so adored her food that tactful society hostesses employed her when entertaining him for over 20 years, making her services the height of fashion.

She married and in 1902 purchased the Cavendish Hotel, a focal point for aristocratic dalliances and partying. Rosa became known as the Duchess of Jermyn Street.

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Ah, the Edwardian period!

With the outbreak of WW1, society entertaining came to an end and Rosa turned her attentions to welcoming impoverished military officers to the Cavendish. Her kind and tolerant nature never allowed them to pay and with her tactics of allowing rich guests to cover the costs of the poor, she managed to continue these charitable efforts until her death.

The Edwardian Period may have been over, but Louisa never left its values and routines behind. She remained for years and years, the grand lady of Jermyn Street.Indeed, the father of an American friend of mine told me his story of how he was lucky enough to have a short conversation with her. This painting of her might give you a hint why

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Paradoxically, Rosa herself had a hand in the creation of the false identity. No innocent to the process of publicity, her idiosyncrasies, bad language, extrovert behavior, ‘Cockney sparrow’ approach were all a deliberate device of hers to invent a personality. They constituted a recipe that almost, but not quite, eclipsed the real Rosa.

In other words, Rosa was quite the character! She passed on in 1952, and her life story became a thing of legend.

The legend was picked up by able story tellers(including the renowned John Hawksworth) who fashioned it into a TV series called “The Duchess of Duke Street”. Rosa — not exactly the historical Rosa but loosely based on her l— became Louisa Trotter, played by Gemma Jones.  The show ran in the 1970’s became a hit in the US in the PBS Masterpiece Theater series.

What was so special about it? Like Upstairs Downstairs (another Hawksworth effort). each episode of the show captures a slightly different dimension of  the mood of the times in London at a period just before what we would call “modern”. And as in Upstairs Downstairs, the first World War proves to be a major pivot.

This nice video montage profiles the various escapades that Louisa Trotter finds herself in and I think capture some of the spirit of the thing. Enjoy!

What You Need to Know about Architectural Archeology

Yes, I know. Your first reaction is “I don’t need to know anything about architectural archeology”.

Before you hold to that position, you might ask yourself this question, “Have I ever thought about what architectural archeology might offer me?”

To be honest, I had not. And then, last night in fact, I watched the programme below about an amazing project that took apart and put back together again one of the most historic buildings in Britain.  I loved it! Check it out!

The Debate Still Rages: Was Richard III a Murderous Thug?

He was. And he was not.

He was the dude who seized the throne, and put under his protection the young boy who would be future king … who then conveniently disappeared along with his young brother. He claimed the throne claiming his brother’s son was a bastard.

And he was par for the course in those days — needing to protect himself from his brother’s wife’s family, who would have demolished him if his brother’s son took the throne. He took the preemptive step to destroy them first. This led, of course, to violence. And in those days, violence was not that unusual.

you decide.

In the meantime, a new portrait of Richard III is now on public view. It is not particularly flattering. But then again, you might expect that given the political realities of the day.

Here it is

Late 16th-century portrait of Richard III

Apparently, the elongated fingers show the depravity in the man. You can be the judge of that.

What Did Jack Ruby Know about the JFK Assassination Plot?

I am not a conspiracy theorist. But I found this tidbit to be very weird

We are pretty sure that Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald. It is a moment captured on film.

Image result for Ruby kills Oswald

Ruby was convicted of the crime and died in prison.  But — much later we found out this

The 2017 release of JFK files revealed that Ruby told an FBI informant to “watch the fireworks” on the day Kennedy was killed.

To be more precise, Ruby is alleged to have said this BEFORE JFK was murdered.

According to The Independent, he made these comments mere hours before the president was murdered.

“The informant stated that on the morning of the assassination, Ruby contacted him and asked if he would ‘like to watch the fireworks,’” the FBI file stated. “He was with Jack Ruby and standing at the corner of the Postal Annex Building facing the Texas School Book Depository Building, at the time of the shooting.”

I do not doubt that Ruby was, shall we say, a bit off. And I believe that this contributed to his motives for killing Oswald. But the above suggests that more was going on.

If this is true, it means something was brewing in Dallas before JFK got there. Either Oswald had been talking to Ruby before Oswald killed JFK or someone else knew what was going to happen and told Ruby. We don’t know.

But there is one other thing. The above tidbit is a significant piece of the puzzle in figuring out what happened. Why didn’t we find out about it until 2007. Even if the tidbit can be explained away, the fact that it was hidden for so long smells bad.

This article argues that the above supports the notion that JFK was killed by the mob and that Ruby was the man they used to kill the patsy – Oswald. Why would Ruby do it? He owed them money.

What do you think?

Belle Époque and Breakfast too!

The Belle Époque  is over, right?

Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic (beginning 1870), it was a period characterized by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, an apex of colonial empires, and technological, scientific, and cultural innovations. In the climate of the period, especially in Paris, France, the arts flourished. Many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition. The Belle Époque was named in retrospect when it began to be considered a “Golden Age” in contrast to the horrors of World War I. The Belle Epoque was a period in which, according to historian R.R. Palmer, “European civilization achieved its greatest power in global politics, and also exerted its maximum influence upon peoples outside Europe.”

Yes, that horrible war. The war that was more than just a war. It was the end of the golden era. In art we went from this

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To this

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But of course, the memories of such a “golden age” live on. And perhaps the images from the Belle ÉEpoque will continue to inspire for as long as humans have memories at all.

If this will be so, I think it will be because of a single word – “elegance”. Elegance is

the quality of being graceful and stylish in appearance or manner.

Graceful and stylish. A nice combination. And a combination that we crave more in our own era because we find them less in evidence than we might like.

Which brings me to the figure of Marcel Proust.

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Proust was deeply obsessed by grace and style. And he was sensitive in the extreme. This brief vignette told by a friend y gives you a sense of that

Marcel Proust always managed to astonish me. Towards six in the evening, at sunset, a rattan armchair was brought out onto the terrace of the Grand Hotel of Cabourg. It remained empty for a few minutes. The staff waited. Then Marcel Proust slowly drew near, parasol in hand. He watched inside the glass door for night to fall. When they passed near his chair, the bellboys communicated with signs, like deaf-mutes. Then Proust’s friends approached. At first they spoke of the weather, the temperature. At this period—it was 1913—Marcel Proust feared or seemed to fear the sun. But it was noise that most horrified him.

And his obsessions are accessible to us through his marvelous books. Not only that, we can still get a tangible sense of what it may have been like to live in Paris in his day .- the Belle Epoque.

This article conjures up that sense and offers ideas for you to use on your next trip to Paris. Your next graceful and stylish trip to Paris, that is.