Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Scandal, Defiance, Danger! Lady Penelope Devereux Rich Blount

Penelope Devereux

One of the great beauties of her day, Penelope Devereux was no shrinking violet. She was impulsive, tenacious, and was unafraid to scheme and plot and flirt with danger with the best! Soon, she became an attendant at the queen's court. Once there, she was noticed by many because of her lovely singing voice and her dancing skills. Her blonde hair and beautiful eyes also helped her gain notice and popularity.
Her father, the Earl of Essex knew he was dying and he was eager to tie up any loose ends, so to speak. One of those loose ends was to see his daughter, Penelope, well married and taken care of before he died. 

Penelope's Father

Walter Devereux

1st Earl of Essex

From his deathbed, Walter Devereux sent a letter to Philip Sidney, asking him to marry Penelope.

Sir Philip Sidney
Poet and Composer 

Sidney wrote several sonnets about a woman named "Stella" said to be inspired by the lovely Penelope. In the 16th century, however, everything depended on inheritance, and possibly to preserve a future inheritance, Sidney broke off the betrothal. 

Soon another marriage was arranged for her. This time, to a man named Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich. he was young and eligible and had just succeeded to his title and considerable property. The match was a veritable disaster. He was a most unpleasant man, foul, vindictive, and with a nasty temper. Penelope Devereaux was forced to marry him. This was in spite of stamping her feet and refusing in the ceremony and having to be taken into the vestry by her uncle and persuaded by the threat that she would be turned penniless out into the street if she didn't. Ultimately, she was left no choice and lost the battle and became the Lady Rich. 

Trapped in an unhappy, loveless marriage, Penelope fell in love with Charles Blount, the 8th Baron Mountjoy and they began a secret affair. 

Sir Charles Blount
8th Baron Mountjoy

Penelope even bore Charles' children. But secrets are hard to keep and Lord Rich soon learned of his wife's betrayal. He couldn't do a thing about it, however, because of Penelope's brother Robert, the 2nd Earl of Essex, was a favourite of the queen.

Penelope's Brother
Robert Devereux
2nd Earl of Essex

Robert was involved in many a devious plot, which tainted Penelope by association. After his rebellion failed, he denounced Penelope as a traitor. He was later exectuted for treason. This is when her husband, Lord Rich made his move against her. He cast Penelope and her children by Mountjoy out! It was easy enough to do especially since Mountjoy was implicated in the Essex rebellion too. The queen intervened and granted them clemency. 

With nothing holding her back, Lady Penelope Rich now moved in with Mountjoy. They no longer hid their affair. In fact, Penelope remained in the queen's favor, become a Lady of the Bedchamber. Mountjoy became the Earl of Devonshire. Tired of his wayward wife, Rich sued for a divorce. Instead of contesting the divorce, Penelope welcomed it. There was nothing she wanted more than to marry Blount and legitimize their children. She publicly admitted to adultery and the divorce was granted. Sadly, her requests to remarry and legitimise her children were refused.

Ever defiant, and contrary to canon law, Penelope and Blount ignored the decree. They were secretly married by Chaplain William Laud who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Disgraced, the couple were banished by King James. They continued to live together as husband and wife with their children until their deaths. 

Penelope Devereux's life has been recreated in a stunning new novel by Elizabeth Freemantle entitled Watch The Lady. It is comprehensive in detail and richly portrayed, bringing successfully to life, this fascinating woman. The novel is full of shocking events, scandalous happenings, treachery, power struggles, and ultimate betrayal. Plenty of machinations to keep the pages turning. A wonderful story that strives for historical accuracy!

"The wax sizzles as it drips, releasing an acrid whiff. Penelope presses in her seal, twisting it slightly to make it unreadable, wondering if it - this letter - is folly, if it could be construed as treason were it to fall into the wrong hands." Opening Paragraph

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction” (People), comes the mesmerizing story of Lady Penelope Devereux—the daring young beauty in the Tudor court, who inspired Sir Philip Sidney’s famous sonnets even while she plotted against Queen Elizabeth.Penelope Devereux arrives at Queen Elizabeth’s court where she and her brother, the Earl of Essex, are drawn into the aging Queen’s favor. Young and na├»ve, Penelope, though promised elsewhere, falls in love with Philip Sidney who pours his heartbreak into the now classic sonnet series Astrophil and Stella. But Penelope is soon married off to a man who loathes her. Never fainthearted, she chooses her moment and strikes a deal with her husband: after she gives birth to two sons, she will be free to live as she chooses, with whom she chooses. But she is to discover that the course of true love is never smooth.

Meanwhile Robert Cecil, ever loyal to Elizabeth, has his eye on Penelope and her brother. Although it seems the Earl of Essex can do no wrong in the eyes of the Queen, as his influence grows, so his enemies gather. Penelope must draw on all her political savvy to save her brother from his own ballooning ambition and Cecil’s trap, while daring to plan for an event it is treason even to think about.

Unfolding over the course of two decades and told from the perspectives of Penelope and her greatest enemy, the devious politician Cecil, Watch the Lady chronicles the last gasps of Elizabeth’s reign, and the deadly scramble for power in a dying dynasty.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Vintage Beauty

Joan of Arc - The Maid of Orleans

"I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, 
or to be against God's will."

"You say that you are my judge; I do not know if you are; 
but take good heed not to judge me ill, 
because you would put yourself in great peril."

"Get up tomorrow early in the morning, 
and earlier than you did today, 
and do the best that you can."

"Always stay near me, 
for tomorrow I will have much to do and more than I ever had, 
and tomorrow blood will leave my body above the breast."

 "Act, and God will act."

"I was in my thirteenth year when I heard a voice from God 
to help me govern my conduct. 
And the first time I was very much afraid."

 One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. 
But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, 
that is a fate more terrible than dying."

 If I am not, may God put me there; 
and if I am, may God so keep me."

"Children say that people are hung sometimes for speaking the truth." 

Joan of Arc

The legend of Joan of Arc has endured through the centuries. How a young fourteen year old girl could overcome the social biases over her gender and not only gain the ear of the king, but lead an entire army (of men) in battle still astounds the world! Yup, it's hard to believe, but Joan of Arc accomplished every bit of it!

From the tender age of thirteen, she heard voices from Heaven that clearly assured her that she had been chosen to convince King Charles VII, who lacked confidence, that he could oust the English from the city of Orleans with her help. Not only was she to gain the King's confidence, but she was the one to lead the battle. 

Joan took the voices to heart. First, she gained the attention of the women in the King's court. Then she gained an audience with the king himself, and managed to convince him that she, a teenage girl, a virgin no less, untouched by man or the world, could free Orleans as long as he provided her with battle gear and an army.

"I am not afraid... I was born to do this," she said to the king.

And this she proved! Not only did she free Orleans, but the English fled back to their homeland. As a reward, she asked that her home town of Domremy pay no taxes. The king granted her this wish and for centuries thereafter, the town was tax-free.

Encouraged, the king wanted more from Joan. He wanted her to seize Paris from the English too. But this was not part of God's plan. The voices from Heaven were silent. As a result, Joan's army failed, and poor Joan was captured. And what did King Charles do on her behalf after she had come to his rescue when he needed her? Absolutely nothing! He deserted Joan in her hour of need. 

The English accused Joan of witchcraft and heresy and put her on trial. The evidence? Well, she wore men's clothing and armor! While imprisoned, she suffered horrendous abuse. 

They found her guilty and sentenced her to burn at the stake. The young Joan faced her death with courage, grace, and great dignity.

Twenty years later, the English king overturned the verdict and made amends to her family by granting them pensions and honoring them in numerous ways.

Five hundred years after her death, the Vatican canonized her as a saint.

Numerous movies and books have been created commenorating this courageous woman's life. She stands as a model of bravery, perseverence, and faith for all women to this very day. She continues to movitate and live in our hearts.

Helen Castor has now taken her turn at writing about this amazing young woman. She has written a comprehensive, believable, and vibrant novel, about Joan including insight into her doubts, her fears, her convictions, and her great love for her family. One of the best books I've read about this famous historical woman.

"It was the day of victory. First light dragged, cold and sodden, over a camp of exhausted men. Exhausted from unpredictable weeks of forced march, parrying the enemy's manoeuvres along the banks of the river Somme, or moving at speed to this urgent rendezvoux. Exhausted from a fear-filled day with the enemy in sight, waiting for a battle that had not come beore sundown. Exhauted, now, from a wet night bivouacked in the fields, or billeted nearby with the terrified villagers of Tramecourt and Azincourt. Exhausted, but expectant." Opening Paragraph.

From the author of the acclaimed She-Wolves, the complex, surprising, and engaging story of one of the most remarkable women of the medieval world—as never told before. Helen Castor tells afresh the gripping story of the peasant girl from Domremy who hears voices from God, leads the French army to victory, is burned at the stake for heresy, and eventually becomes a saint. But unlike the traditional narrative, a story already shaped by the knowledge of what Joan would become and told in hindsight, Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History takes us back to fifteenth century France and tells the story forwards. Instead of an icon, she gives us a living, breathing woman confronting the challenges of faith and doubt, a roaring girl who, in fighting the English, was also taking sides in a bloody civil war. We meet this extraordinary girl amid the tumultuous events of her extraordinary world where no one—not Joan herself, nor the people around her—princes, bishops, soldiers, or peasants—knew what would happen next. Adding complexity, depth, and fresh insight into Joan’s life, and placing her actions in the context of the larger political and religious conflicts of fifteenth century France, Joan of Arc: A History is history at its finest and a surprising new portrait of this remarkable woman. Joan of Arc: A History features an 8-page color insert.

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