My book, Eczema and Atopic Dermatits: The Best Websites has recently been published. I've also had many articles published, but I'd like to write more non-fiction books and, of course, a novel!
My articles can be seen at many websites, including Life in Italy, Crescent Blues, Paris Eiffel Tower Newsletter, and France This Way.
Beautiful and wealthy, Marie de Flavigny was the daughter of a German mother and a French aristocrat. Well-educated and a lover of literature, Marie went to French convents and spoke fluent French and German. She met Goethe and she read authors such as Victor Hugo. She also composed musical pieces and played the piano.
Unfortunately, she was young and naive when she married the soldier Charles, the Comte d'Agoult, who was fifteen years older than her. She didn't get on with his family and she didn't care for him very much. He realised this and offered her her freedom if she ever wanted it! However, they had their first daughter Louise the year after their marriage in 1826, and it looked as though they might stay together. Marie established a salon in Paris and pursued her intellectual and cultural interests.
Six years after their marriage, however, Marie met the young 21-year old Franz Liszt at a party and fell for his green eyes and tall, handsome looks immediately. The couple shared a love of music and Marie could hardly fail to be impressed by the talented musician. They began a friendship that developed into a love affair after Marie's first daughter died and she became depressed. Liszt sent her a book by George Sand and they began an affair. The couple eventually ran away to Italy when Marie became pregnant. She left her second daughter Claire with her husband.
The couple lived together in Italy and Switzerland, and they were often criticised and isolated because of their immorality. But many artists didn't care, and they associated with people such as George Sand and Frederick Chopin, who dedicated his second set of etudes to her. They had three daughters: Blandine, Cosima and Daniel. Cosima married Richard Wagner.
Unfortunately, the affair didn't last because Liszt travelled a lot to perform and Marie suspected him of being unfaithful. She got fed up with this, and they eventually broke up. Marie returned to France, established another salon, and wrote acclaimed novels and political histories, including a three-volume History of the Revolution of 1848 and Nerida.
She is certainly a fascinating character, and I intend to read more about her!
Many people think of the sarabande as an elegant and romantic dance, but it was once a fast and lively dance and song. Called the zarabanda, it originated in South America and Mexico, and the European conquerors imported the dance to Spain and Portugal in the 16th century. Africans in Brazil influenced the movements of the dance steps.
Pious Europeans found the sarabande absolutely shocking, because they thought that it contained lewd steps and words. Philip II banned the dance in 1583, and ordered steep punishments for those caught dancing or singing the sarabande. Men and women were sentenced to 200 lashes. Men also had to endure six years in the galleys, while women were banished.
People still kept dancing the sarabande, however. In 1603, Father Juan de Mariana called it 'so lascivious in its words and so unseemly in its motions that it is enough to inflame even very decent people'. Several priests and monks criticised the dance, especially when Creole nuns danced it in front of churches on Christmas Eve.
The sarabande became a popular court dance in France and Italy in later centuries. It changed into the stately and romantic dance that we know today.
The festival of Saint Louis - King Louis IX of France - is held on August 25. Saint Louis achieved many great things in his short lifetime. He brought peace and justice to his kingdom, led a Crusade, helped the poor, promoted Gothic art and architecture and founded the Sorbonne. He is certainly worthy of celebration!
Louis became king when he was only 12. His mother, Blanche of Castille, the regent, was a strong and pious woman who taught him public speaking, writing, religious education and the arts of government. She organised his coronation in Rheims quickly in an effort to deter the ambitious nobles who wanted to take over Paris, and successfully returned to the city with her young son. The people came out to support the 'boy-king' and the nobles were forced to watch the mother and son return.
Unfortunately, when the young man married, Blanche became extremely jealous of his wife Margaret, the daughter of the Count of Provence. They managed to have a happy marriage anyway, and the couple had six daughters and five sons.
Louis became king in his own right in 1235. He became noted for his piety, always remembering that his mother told him that she'd rather he 'died at her feet, than commit a mortal sin'. He attended Mass often, and he took great pride in serving the poor himself. Poor people would feast at his palace on ordinary days and holidays. He also gave the poor generous gifts of money, and he founded a hospital for the blind and a house for former prostitutes.
Beautiful churches were also built during Louis's reign, including the magnificent Sainte-Chapelle. This reputedly contains the relics of the Crown of Thorns, which were given to the king.
Louis led the Seventh Crusade, attempting to rescue Jerusalem from the Muslims. Unfortunately, he was captured by the Egyptians, and his army had to pay a huge amount for his ransom. He spent four years in the Crusader kingdoms, but his efforts ended in defeat. However, he did win another war during his reign - against Henry III of England. He returned to France distraught after his mother died in 1254. Nevertheless, he issued his Great Ordinance, making the nobles swear to give justice to all and forbidding them to take bribes. They were also forbidden to take land in the territories which they served.
Robert de Sorbon, a highly educated priest, suggested that the king build a college for poor students. This became the great Sorbonne, still a noted centre of education today.
Unfortunately, Louis's Christianity did not extend to the Jews - he hated and persecuted any Jews who would not convert. He forbade them to engage in professions or keep holy books. He was also preparing to expel the Jews from France before he died.
King Louis returned to the Crusades in the last years of his reign, and died at 56 on August 25. He exhorted people to 'Love God, do justice, and help the poor'. Saint Louis in Missouri, U.S. is named after him.