Sunday, December 21, 2014

Louis XVI and Madame Royale

From Vive la Reine:
Marie Thérèse and her father shared an affectionate relationship that began during the first days of her life. Ambassador Mercy wrote, of the week after her birth, that the king “did not want to leave the chateau even to take a walk,” and that he spent most of his day in the Queen’s chambers, dividing “his time between the Queen and his august child, to whom he shows the most touching love.” Some of the first words spoken by the young Marie Thérèse were, to the delight of her parents, “Papa.” 
In his recollections of the royal family’s imprisonment in the Temple, Jean-Baptiste Cléry recalled the pain that the king felt in being separated from his family during his trial proceedings, but especially from being separated from his child on her birthday:
On the 19th of December the king said to me while dining: ‘Fourteen years ago you got up earlier than you did to-day.’ I understood His Majesty at once. ‘That was the day my daughter was born,’ he continued tenderly, ‘and to-day, her birthday, I am deprived of seeing her!’ A few tears rolled from his eyes, and a respectful silence reigned for a moment.
(Read more.)
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India's Sterilization Camps

From Aleteia:
Reports that 14 women had died following surgery at a government-run sterilization “camp” in central India last month sent shock waves around the world. But such butchery is not unusual in populous India. Urged on (and quietly funded) by the dying West, the subcontinent has long relied upon mass sterilizations carried out in assembly-line fashion in temporary camps set up for just this purpose.

Now, thanks to a new investigation by the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), we know more details surrounding this particular tragedy, which occurred in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh at an abandoned rural hospital. We know that a single doctor, R.K. Gupta, over the course of just a few hours, carried out some 83 (eighty-three!) surgical sterilizations in rapid succession. We know that he was in such a hurry that he didn’t bother to wash his hands beforehand, or even, as he began cutting into woman after woman, bother to once change his bloody latex gloves. We know also that he was paid per operation, and so was eager to cram as many 100-rupee procedures into an afternoon’s work as possible.

As far as the women themselves are concerned, they were led like lambs to the slaughter. They were not informed in advance about the risks of the procedure. Some were bribed with a promise of 500 rupees – about $8 – if they agreed to sterilization. Others were simply told to report to the camp. There they were told to lie down on a makeshift operating table, had their wombs inflated with bicycle pumps, and were injected with a small amount of anesthetic. Only one needle was used for all the women. As the doctor began to cut, some could see – and feel – Gupta pull shreds of their organs from their abdomens.

The cause of death of the fourteen victims is still unknown. Some of the women many have died because they were infected during the course of these too-hasty surgeries. The rusty surgical equipment used by Surgeon Gupta was reportedly not sterilized between procedures. The authorities themselves have blamed tainted drugs, and went on to arrest the head of a local drug factory for selling antibiotics and painkillers tainted with rat poison. Rat poison.

The victims were all young mothers with anywhere from one to three children. Chaiti Bai, for instance, was 22 years old and the mother of a six year old and 7 month old baby. She had never used contraception between her pregnancies but she had been feeling unwell this past fall and was suffering from jaundice. So when the community health worker—called a mitanin in Hindi--came to her door and told her she could receive free medical treatment at the Community Health Center in Bilaspur, she agreed. Unbeknownst to her, the health center was under extreme pressure to meet its government-mandated quota of sterilizing 800 women per year. But the mitanin never mentioned sterilization, or family planning, or anything of the kind to Chaiti. She just offered her “free” health care. (Read more.)
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The Palace of King Herod

From Amusing Planet:
Located 12 km south of Jerusalem, in the Judean desert, Herodium looks like an extinct volcano, but it really is a fort built by King Herod the Great between 23 and 15 BC. King Herod’s palace and fortress was built atop a natural hill, raised to a greater height by heaping earth around the walls, creating a cone-shaped mountain. The complex was surrounded by double walls seven stories high, within which Herod built a palace that included halls, courtyards and opulent bathhouses. At the base of the fortress was an impressive royal compound with magnificent gardens. A special aqueduct brought water to the desert from the area of Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem. Being the highest peak in the Judean desert, Herodium commanded a breath taking view, overlooking the desert with the mountains of Moab to the east, and the Judean Hills to the west. (Read more.)
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

The House That Time Forgot

From the Daily Mail:
Owned by the National Trust since the family of grocers who lived there passed it on, it is one of the Trust's more unusual properties, and all the more fascinating for it. There are no expensive treasures or rare antiques; instead the house, known as Mr Straw's House, offers an authentic glimpse into how an ordinary British family lived a century ago. Built in 1905, it was the home of the Straws, a grocer family headed by William Straw senior and his wife, Florence.
The couple, who had two sons, William and Walter, decorated it in 1923 in the style of the day, with dark and heavy wallpaper, patterned carpets, dark wooden furniture and thick curtains to keep out the cold.
William Straw senior ran a thriving grocery and seed business, and his younger son Walter joined him in the business while William junior left to teach in London where he made a considerable fortune by investing in Marks & Spencer shares.
A well-to-do local family, they lived a quiet, respectable and well-ordered life until 1932 when Mr Straw senior died suddenly at the age of 68.  In their grief, the family decided nothing would be changed. (Read more.)
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Off-beat Christmas Music

From R.J. Stove:
“O Magnum Mysterium”, by Francis Poulenc. Those who have read this far could well have heard Tomas Luis de Victoria’s motet of the same title, but how about Poulenc’s? It comes from Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël, begun in 1951 and finished the following year. Somehow, despite the more or less complete moral mess which Poulenc made of his private life, he retained enough of a religious spirit to have responded intermittently to Chesterton’s “twitch upon the thread.”

After one has heard this, it comes as no surprise that Poulenc would soon knuckle down to the best and most powerful thing he ever did: Dialogues of the Carmelites.The inimitable Robert Shaw (R.I.P.) conducts. (Read more.)
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Marie-Antoinette Playing the Harp

From Madame Gilflurt:
D'Agoty had been the queen's painter of choice since she came to France and became peintre de la reine in 1775. That same year, he began work on a painting showing Marie Antoinette playing the harp at Versailles. Surrounded by an audience of adoring courtiers, she happily performs music for their entertainment. Dressed casually in a morning gown, Marie Antoinette looks at ease in her role as hostess, though she remains the centre of both the scene and attention.

In the bottom right of the portrait d'Agoty has added himself as a character, sketching out the formal full-length portrait of the queen below. Clearly very happy with the way his life and career had gone, d'Agoty couldn't help but add a little self-congratulatory element to the painting and to the left Marie Antoinette's lady-in-waiting hands her the royal warrant that will name d'Agoty as peintre de la reine! (Read more.)
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Sold into Marriage

Very sad that this is still going on. From The Washington Post:
In a village about 50 miles from Marigat in Baringo County, Kenya, among a tribe that practices genital mutilation as a rite of womanhood, a teenage girl is sold into an arranged marriage. Her price is 20 goats, 10 cows and a few camels, paid to her family over several weeks. And her reaction is heartbreaking.

Dressed in bright-colored clothes and ceremonial beads, she tries to escape, balling up a fist and kicking her bare feet from the ground when a man picks her up from behind and pulls her away from her home. The scene, which unfolded over the weekend in the Pokot tribe, was captured and described by Reuters photographer Siegfried Modola. His photos document a Pokot tradition in which parents give away their daughters, usually at the start of adolescence. The girls are sold for a dowry and married to men in the tribe.
The girl’s family claimed she didn’t know about the arrangement her father made with her future husband, Reuters reported. If they told her, they feared, she would run away. A group of men from the tribe came to collect her and led her to a two-day ceremony in the village. (Read more.)
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Origins of the Christmas Tree

From Regina:
Christmas trees became popular in Britain after the German husband and Consort of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, introduced them in 1841. And where the Royal Family led, fashionable society was sure to follow. Soon Christmas trees became an essential part of the British Christmas. Interestingly however, Prince Albert was in fact completing a circle in the real story of the Christmas Tree. For it was an Englishman who once upon a time gave the German people the gift of the Christmas Tree. (Read more.)
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