The Ghost of Myself

So, here it is Wednesday already, and I am worn down already. I was exhausted all day yesterday–physically, not mentally–and both days I had to force myself to get out of bed; I could have easily stayed asleep for hours more. I’m not sure what that is all about–it is most likely tied to the return of the warm weather, including some brutal humidity–but I am also hopeful that it’s a temporary aberration and will go away–but tomorrow morning I have to get up early again, and so we shall see how tired I feel yesterday. When I got home yesterday I was so tired I couldn’t focus–with the end result that my kitchen, an unholy mess from making dinner on Monday–remains an unholy mess still this morning. I did manage to fold some laundry, and then started watching Youtube videos while trying to focus enough to continue reading my Whitney novel (to no avail). I did see some very interesting videos on the Medici family, with a particular emphasis on Catherine de Medici (whom I find one of the most fascinating characters in history; she was also part of that sixteenth century legion of women who held power, and would definitely be a part of  The Monstrous Regiment of Women, should I ever have the time or energy to do the research and to write it), as well as another fascinating (to me) historical personage: Cardinal Richelieu. Richelieu videos led me to some more about the Thirty Years’ War, the decline of the Hapsburg family’s power, and how Louis XIV came to solidify and center the power of the crown…so it wasn’t an entirely wasted evening.

I may not have been able to focus enough to write anything new, or watch a television program, but those ten to fifteen minutes videos are quite educational, and they do spur me on to think of other ideas and thoughts and so forth (I especially love the Weird History ones).

I don’t have to work a full eight hour day today, and I am working from home; which means all kinds of things. Later on today–when I am finished with work for the day–I will run my errands–groceries and mail–and then come home to hopefully an evening where I can get some more writing done. I still feel very tired, even though the coffee is now kicking into gear, and hopefully the tired will eventually go away–at least long enough for me to do the dishes.

I did manage to do a load of laundry last night.

The only thing I’ve noticed that’s significantly different about New Orleans thus far with the Phase I reopening is that there’s more traffic. All the businesses still seem to be empty, and no one is walking around much; but there are more cars. One of the nice things about the Shutdown was being able to easily make use of I-10 for me to get around, to and from work–usually the I-10/I-90 exchange I have to use, getting off from I-10 West and getting on I-90 towards the bridge across the river, during normal times is so backed-up that it’s faster and easier for me to drive through the CBD and deal with rush hour traffic that way rather than sitting on the highway, not moving. Yesterday when I got on the highway I could see that further ahead, just past the Orleans on/off ramps, traffic was sitting still; so I got off at Orleans Avenue and cut through the CBD. Traffic is one of the reasons I always preferred to work later; so I wouldn’t have to deal with that irritation….and it looks like that irritation is finally back. Yay? I guess I should appreciate it as a sign of normalcy returning, but it’s frankly one I could have done without.

I imagine this exhaustion is somehow pandemic related in some way; much the same way I have credited the pandemic-concurrent shift and alteration of our reality with why I tire so easily these days. It’s obviously psychological; and while it was nearly fifteen years ago I do remember the post-Katrina time as being remarkably similar to these times physically and psychologically. There are differences between the two situations, obviously; Katrina’s impact truly wasn’t felt world-wide. The world wasn’t left in ruins after Katrina’s floods, and so there was also that weird sensibility of being in New Orleans, irrevocably altered and changed, and then traveling somewhere and having things be perfectly normal there–and then having to return from normalcy to the abnormality of life in New Orleans at the time. That was always jarring….like flying out of the deserted airport to one that was bustling, filled with people and airplanes parked at every gate; or leaving from one that was packed to landing in one that was basically a ghost town, with tumbleweeds blowing down the empty concourses. Now every airport is empty, streets are empty, businesses are deserted–and not just here but everywhere.

And on that cheery note, I am diving back down into the spice mines, and won’t be coming up for air any time soon–so have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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Fire Lake

Carnival is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and as such, one has to plan accordingly. The closer I get to sixty the harder it is for me to stand for long periods of time; my retirement plan to be a Wal-mart greeter so as not to have to exist on cat food is clearly out of the question.

Purina it is!

So, I’ve started taking breaks between parades; when I can see the flashing red lights of a fire truck, signaling the end of a parade, I come home and have a seat while I wait for the next one, trying to get rested so I won’t be completely exhausted at the end of the day.

Sigh. I rather miss the days when I could stand out there all night, work all weekend, walking back and forth between the Quarter and home, stay out every night until dawn…if I tried that now I’d probably need to a rest cure of some sort.

Sad, but all too true.

The good news is a co-worker last year convinced me to buy one of those self-message rolling things, and after the parades yesterday I used it on my back, shoulders, and legs. This morning I felt rested, not tired, and my muscles feel much more relaxed than usual. I think when my vacation starts this Wednesday I might try to get back to the gym, for a light round of weights, stretching, and some cardio. I also might make it to Costco on Wednesday, and of course, there’s lots of cleaning that needs to be done. I am hoping that the staycation will be much more effective this time than it usually is…for anything other than reading and resting.

I did managed to get another chapter done yesterday morning before the parades started rolling, and prepared the final five for their revision. I also need to revise the prologue and write the epilogue, but I don’t think that will be too difficult, frankly. It doesn’t need to be much more than fifteen hundred words, at the most, and the book is already coming in pretty long.

I finished watching Versailles last night, and yes, all and any attempts by the show to be historically accurate went out the window with Season Three. While I do admire them for digging deeply enough into the mythology of the Sun King to come up with storylines including the Louise Marie Therese, the Black Nun of Moret, and it would be hard to do a show about Louis XIV and resist the temptation to unravel the riddle of the Man in the Iron Mask (Dumas also tried…and his explanation, also a-historical, at least made a sort of sense)…the  very idea (no spoiler) they came up with very wrong and unlikely; it made no sense, if one has even the slightest knowledge of primogeniture and the rules of succession. They also messed up with Louis losing his claim to Spain with the death of his wife, Marie-Therese; the claim simply passed from her to their son, and the result was the War of the Spanish Succession (which, coincidentally, is the war being fought in The Favourite).

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

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Jingle Bells

Getting used to being back at work is always a chore at the best of times.

Having to go in early two of the only three days I have to work is simply insult to injury, quite frankly. I only hit the snooze button three times this morning, though, and while I am not completely awake as of yet, I don’t feel sleepy or groggy. I am hoping this is a good sign.

I managed to eke out another thousand or so words on the book yesterday; which I am taking as a triumph. I am not certain why this is moving so slow, or why it is so hard for me to get used to working on it; I don’t think my writing muscles are rusty or as tired as I would like to think they must be–any excuse in a storm, really–but if I can get through today and tomorrow it’s another four day weekend and hopefully this discombobulated feeling will pass soon enough.

One can hope, any way.

I watched a great documentary on Youtube after work last night about Versailles, and personal hygiene at the court of Louis XIV. It was very interesting; one of the things that is almost always missing from biographies, historical novels, and histories are the personal touches from daily life–dentistry, breath, body odors, cleanliness, etc.–and how it has changed over the years. We would consider Versailles and the courtiers disgustingly filthy and revolting; they thought they were at the pinnacle of personal cleanliness. The documentary–you should watch, if this sort of thing interests you–is called Versailles’ Dirty Secrets.

Speaking of Versailles, I am hoping the third and final season will be free to streaming soon.

I do feel sort of adrift, I have to say; I realized it last night as I worked on the book. Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018 I no longer trust my computer or its back-ups; nor do I remember exactly what I was working on or what was going on in my head with my writing before it happened. I know I had a lot of momentum and quite a head of steam, and was forging ahead full speed and damn the torpedoes…and I hate that I am kind of lost and floundering now.

Thanks for that, Apple.

So if last weekend had a “catch up on your rest, do some deep cleaning, and clear out electronic files” theme, this weekend will have a get back to work and remember what you were doing and GET BACK ON TOP OF THINGS theme.

And I have luncheon at Commander’s Palace on Monday to look forward to.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Under the Bridge

 Sunday morning, and I must confess that other than doing the errands and some slight cleaning yesterday, I fear the day was mostly a bust for getting things done. But that’s fine; I am off today and tomorrow as well–tomorrow should include both the gym and a Costco run–and I intend to get a lot of writing done today. The kitchen and living room are still in need of some straightening as well, and I assume that I shall get to that as I pass the day. I was thinking about going to the gym this morning, but I think I shall go tomorrow instead, and then have a Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout schedule to try to stick to; with perhaps going in on the weekends simply to stretch and do cardio. I have now discovered a new show to watch for cardio–The Musketeers, and there’s at least three seasons, I believe–which will makes things ever so much easier. I certainly did a lot of cardio while I was watching and enjoying Black Sails, so The Musketeers might just do the trick. (I had high hopes for Netflix’ Troy: The Fall of a City, but it was so boring I had to give up. HOW DO YOU MAKE THE TROJAN WAR BORING?)

While I was goofing off yesterday and watching things on Amazon/Netflix/Hulu/Youtube–yes, I know–I was also reading through Bertrand Russell’s brilliant and informative The History of Western Philosophy, and I came across this:

The last dynastic pope was Benedict IX, elected in 1032, and said to have been only twelve years old at the time. He was the son of Alberic of Tusculum, whom we have already met in connection with Abbot Odo. As he grew older, he became more and more debauched, and shocked even the Romans. At last his wickedness reached such a pitch that he decided to resign the papacy in order to marry. He sold it to his godfather, who became Gregory VI.

I do find it interesting that Russell chose to word it that way: that the height of his wickedness was his decision to resign and marry.

This led me into an Internet wormhole, looking up Benedict IX, the dynastic papacy, and the Tusculan popes. As you know, Constant Reader, history always has fascinated me; I would love one day to write historical fiction, as there are so many historical figures that fascinate me, from Catherine de Medici to Cardinal Richelieu to the Byzantine empress Irene to now, Benedict IX; and the century before him, where a woman named Marozia had enormous influence not only over the papacy but on who was elected pope (Marozia, in fact, founded the dynasty of popes called the Tusculans; which concluded with Benedict.) The Fourth Crusade, which wound up sacking Constantinople, also interests me, as do the histories of Venice and Constantinople.

And one can never go wrong with the Borgias and the Medici.

Anyway, one of the debaucheries of Benedict IX was sodomy, and it appears that the historical record holds that he was homosexual; how can I not be fascinated by a gay Pope, the way I am interested in Louis XIV’s gay brother Philippe duc d’Orleans?

So, of course I am making notes for a historical fiction novel called Benedictine, the tale of the gay pope.

Am I nothing if not predictable.

Next up in Florida Happens is Eleanor Cawood Jones’ “All Accounted For at the Hooray for Hollywood Motel”.

Eleanor Cawood Jones began her writing career in elementary school, using a #2 pencil to craft short stories based around the imaginary lives of her stuffed animal collection. While in college at Virginia Tech, she got her first paid writing job as a reporter with the Kingsport Times-News in Kingsport, Tenn., and never looked back. Eleanor now lives in Northern Virginia and is a marketing director and freelance copywriter while working on more stories as well as her upcoming mystery novel series. She’s an avid reader, people watcher, traveler, political news junkie, and remodeling show addict. She spends her spare time telling people how to pronounce Cawood (Kay’-wood).

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Mona, lingering over a third cup of coffee, flipped through her collection of vintage postcards while the all-consuming sound of crunching cereal across the table grated increasingly on her nerves.

She took a sip of lukewarm coffee, gritted her teeth, and reminded herself of her husband’s many good qualities—of which turning mealtime into crunchtime was not one. Things were easier when she had to dash off her to accounting job. In those days, there was never time for another cup of coffee, much less prolonged crunching noises.

“Rodney!”

Rodney looked up from the Racing Times. “Mmmm?” At least he wasn’t speaking with his mouth full.

“I wonder if this hotel is still around?” She held up a ’50s postcard with a modestly clad bathing beauty posing in front of a diamond-shaped, brightly painted sign advertising the Hooray for Hollywood Motel. In the photo, an appealing, pink-painted building featuring a bright blue swimming pool practically beckoned vacationers. A single story structure in a horseshoe shape provided easy access to drive in and unload luggage. The fine print mentioned another pool in the back of the motel as well, as well as an onsite restaurant. Nothing about ocean front, but Mona knew the area well enough to know the motel would be right between the coastal road A1A and highway 95 in the heart of Hollywood, Florida.

Rodney perked up. “Alexa, phone number for Hooray for Hollywood Motel in Hollywood, Florida.”

Mona shuddered, once again, at having to share her vintage, mid-century kitchen with Alexa the interloper. But Rodney had retired two years before her and had spent his spare time acquiring gadgets, of which this conversational internet talkie was the latest.

This charming little story tells the tale of Mona and Rodney, a retired couple from Ohio who impulsively decide to take a trip to Florida, based on finding an old postcard. They’d honeymooned in Florida years earlier, and now that they’re retired, why not? But once they arrive at the vintage old motel, Mona finds herself helping out the crotchety owner, and soon Mona and Rodney are helping revitalize and bring the old motel back to life…until one morning they find the owner floating in the swimming pool.

And then things get interesting.

Very pleased to have this charming tale in Florida Happens, and now I must get back to the spice mines.

Separate Lives

Well, in typical Greg screw-up fashion, I screwed up this morning. I’d signed up to tour the local FBI office and attend two presentations, all of which I was looking forward to, but I had the time wrong. As Constant Reader knows, I am not good in the mornings. So, I thought I had to be there for nine a.m. No, everything started at nine a.m. I needed to be there for eight thirty. As I was getting ready to shave, I double-checked the address and noticed that on the agenda I needed to be there for eight thirty. It was eight-oh-five; I hadn’t shaved, showered, or dressed, let alone drive across town to the lake front. In other words, I wouldn’t been able, even if I hurried, to leave the house until it was time to be there, and then had to hurry to get there. Sigh. So, I made another cup of coffee and felt like a complete idiot.

And now have my morning free.

And before anyone says anything, no. I won’t show up late. I am not that person. It’s disrespectful to everyone who showed up on time, it’s disrespectful to the FBI, and if they want you to allow half an hour to clear security screening, then I need to be there half an hour ahead of time. Period. Plus, you don’t mess with the FBI. Trust me on this one.

Sigh. I hate when I fuck up. Especially after the chapter went to all the trouble to get this sorted out and put together.

Sigh.

I was really looking forward to it, too.

Anyway.

I finished watching season 2 of Versailles last night, and I have to say, it really ended well. You really can’t go wrong with the Affair of the Poisons and the involvement of the King’s mistress, Madame de Montespan, and her subsequent fall from glory. The show is incredibly well done, and they managed to get the character of the second Duchesse d’Orleans, Elisabeth Charlotte, the Princess Palatine, absolutely correct. Liselotte was always one of my favorite people from this period of French history, and the rapprochement between her and her gay husband, and her gay husband’s lover, was incredibly unique in history. I was worried they’d gloss over it, but no, there it was, front and center. Why no one has done a biography of Monsieur, I’ll never know; I suppose everyone is so dazzled by The Sun King that no one has ever thought that, you know, a view of the French court and Louis XIV through the eyes of his gay brother could be interesting.

Believe me, if I spoke French I’d be all over it.

Then again, were I able to speak French, there are so many things I would have written by now.

Sigh. I often regret my monolinguism.

This weekend I managed to read a lot of short stories, giving me a lot of material for The Short Story Project over the next few days, but the weekend was pretty much a bust for writing. I only managed to eke out slightly over a thousand words on one short story and perhaps one hundred on another, which was, as one would imagine, enormously frustrating for me. I am still choosing to see that as a win; getting closer to being finished and all, but still enormously disappointing. The thousand words or so was basically wheel-spinning, because I don’t know how to end the story yet, and I know I need to go back to the very beginning and start revising it so I can figure that out. It’s so weird; I do this with novels all the time but with short stories, I resist doing it until I’ve got a draft version finished. So incredibly stupid, I know, and yet…here we are.

Heavy sigh.

All right, enough of that nonsense. Here are two of the short stories I read over the weekend, both from Alive in Shape and Color, edited by Lawrence Block.

First up, we have Jeffery Deaver’s “A Significant Find.”

“A crisis of conscience. Pure and simple. What are we going to do?” He poured red wine into her glass. Both sipped.

They were sitting in mismatched armchairs, before an ancient fireplace of stacked stone in the deserted lounge. The inn, probably two hundred years old, was clearly not a tourist destination, at least not in this season, a chilly spring.

He tasted the wine again and turned his gaze from the label of the bottle to the woman’s intense blue eyes, which were cast down at the wormwood floor. Her face was as beautiful as when they’d met, though a little bit more worn, as ten years had passed, many of which had been spent outside under less-than-kind conditions; hats and SPF 30 could only give you so much protection from the sun.

If you’ve not read Jeffery Deaver, you simply must read the Lincoln Rhyme series. I am terribly behind on it, but tore through the available volumes over the course of a month or so when I first discovered him. He’s also a very nice man, and it’s lovely when someone nice enjoys exceptional success.

Anyway, this story is terrific. The couple we see in these paragraphs, whom are the main characters of the story, are an archaeologist team at a conference in France. They, while enormously successful with publications and so forth, have never made what is known in their field as a ‘significant find.’ There’s a very strong possibility that they are about to  make one; based on some information passed on to the husband in casual conversation in the bar; undiscovered cave paintings. It turns out the person passing the information on has his own information, collected from a local boy, wrong; the couple figure out what he had wrong, and are about to go look for the cave. The crisis of conscience is whether or not to share the discovery with the colleague who originally got the information. This is the kind of moral dilemma that characters in Tales from the Crypt episodes find themselves in and almost without fail made the wrong choice; so the story always ends up with their come-uppance. This was what I was expecting out of this story; but Deaver manages some exceptionally clever sleight-of-hand and thus the ending of the story comes out of nowhere and is satisfying in its own way; the pay-off is quite good.

I then moved on to “Charlie the Barber” by Joe R. Lansdale.

Charlie Richards, who thought of himself as a better-than-average barber, was lean and bright-eyed, with a thin smile, his hair showing gray at the temples. He loved to cut hair, and he loved that his daughter, Mildred–Millie to most–worked with him. They were the only father-and-daughter barber team he knew of, and he was proud of that. He was also glad she lived at him with him and her mother, Connie, at least for now.

Next year she was off to the big city, Dallas. Graduated high school a couple years back, hung around, cut hair, but now she was planning to attend some kind of beauty college where she could learn to cut women’s hair as well. Planned to learn cosmetology too. Claimed when she finished schooling she could either fix a woman up for a night out, or spruce up a dead woman for a mortuary production. Charlie had no doubt that would be true. Millie learned quickly and was a hard worker.

This story was inspired by one of those classic Norman Rockwell paintings, with it’s homey, almost propaganda-like charm about American simplicity and virtue. Being a story by Joe R. Lansdale, who is embraced by both the horror and crime writing communities–he won an Edgar for Best Novel, and numerous Stoker Awards–you just know this euphoric American idyll story of a small town barbership in the 1950’s is going to take a truly dark turn. Charlie was a POW during World War II and still suffers from a degree of PTSD; the supply closet in the back of the barn, with its tight, confined space and darkness, always takes him back to the horror of the camp and what he had to do to escape the butchering of the prisoners; he was one of the few survivors. And sure enough, the peaceful charming world of the barbershop is turned upside down just before closing time when something wicked that way came. The story is both horrifying and brilliant; the juxtaposition of the Rockwell Americana painting/world view and the automatic nostalgia the time period conjures, steeped in nostalgia for the 1950’s as a more innocent, charming time (which is completely false), against the horror that walks through the barbershop door and what they have to endure to survive it–the sort of thing that did happen, but without 24 hours news channels and the Internet most people never heard about these things–is stunning. Lansdale is a terrific, terrific writer, and this story is one of the best ones I’ve read thus far in this Short Story Project.

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Crimson and Clover

Constant Reader knows I love history.

One of the (many) reasons I didn’t major in history was because I really couldn’t pick a period to specialize in; there are so many different periods of history that fascinate me. I talk on here a lot about the sixteenth century, but I am also interested in the seventeenth. I’ve actually been toying with a book idea set in that century for going on ten years now; periodically I will read some history of that century as background, but there is still so much I don’t know. I am reading Royal Renegades right now, about the children of Charles I of England–fascinating stuff; I knew basics about the English Civil War but not a lot–and the Stuarts of that period were particularly entwined with France. Charles I’s wife was Henrietta Maria, youngest sister of Louis XIII and aunt to Louis XIV; she fled to France for safety and some of the royal Stuart children also made it over there at some point. Henrietta Anna, Charles I’s youngest daughter, grew up at the French court; she eventually married Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe, the Duc d’Orleans.

And therein lies a tale.

My interest in Louis XIV–and Versailles–led me to discover that the Sun King’s younger brother, Philippe (whose existence, for that matter, completely invalidated the plot of Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask, although I’ve always loved that story), was, if not a gay man, then bisexual: he had children by both his first wife, Henriette Anna Stuart, and his second, Elisabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine. In fact, Philippe is called the Father of Europe because all of European royalty in the nineteenth century were his descendants.

As a small child reading history, I picked up on the homosexuality that most historians always tried to gloss over (Edward II and Piers Gaveston; James I and first Robert Carr, later George Villiers; Richard the Lion-Hearted; Henri III of France; etc) but there was never any real attempt to gloss over Monsieur’s (Philippe was known throughout his life as Monsieur, after the death of his uncle Gaston, from whom he inherited that particular title as well as the title of duc d’Orleans) sexuality. He had a long term relationship with the Chevalier de Lorraine, which started when he was a young man and lasted until the Chevalier’s death. Monsieur’s first wife put up with it but didn’t care for it; his second wife didn’t care one way or the other.

The story goes that his mother, Anne of Austria, made him that way–which is, in modern times, a laughable thought (a domineering mother, etc etc etc)–by dressing him as a girl when he was a child, and continuing to do so after he was of an age to start wearing male clothing. Apparently, Queen Anne was concerned that Louis XIV and his younger brother would have an adversarial relationship the way her husband Louis XIII had with his own younger brother, Gaston. The troubled marriage of Louis XIII and his Spanish wife is also fascinating; they were married very young, she had two miscarriages, and he blamed her for the second one and they became estranged, not living together as man and wife for a very long time afterwards (the second miscarriage was around 1619, I believe; Louis XIV was not born until 1638 and his younger brother in 1640)–this estrangement between King and Queen–and the way George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham shamelessly flirted with Queen Anne when he came to Paris to negotiate the marriage of Charles I to Henrietta Maria–were the seeds from which Dumas also wrote The Three Musketeers.

Since so much time had passed (almost nineteen years) since Louis XIII last slept with Queen Anne, there were lots of rumors and talk that her two sons were not Louis XIII’s; there are many who believed Cardinal Richelieu fathered the boys with the Queen (fictionalized in Evelyn Anthony’s The Cardinal and the Queen); but there was never any question that the two boys were Bourbons. (Like the Hapsburgs with their genetic ‘jaw’, the Bourbon ‘nose’ was also relatively famous; both Louis and Philippe had the nose–but then that could simply mean that their father was a Bourbon rather than confirmation that Louis XIII was)

Monsieur often dressed as a woman for court functions, even as an adult; despite this proclivity he was a great soldier and commander of the French army–he was so successful in the field that his brother was jealous of his successes and often removed him from command.

His second wife was a diarist and a compulsive letter writer; her memoirs and letters are one of the best sources for information about life at the court of Louis XIV.

I’ve always been a little surprised that, while there are scores of biographies of Louis XIV (who, despite his incredible ego, wasn’t as great a king as he thought he was; he accomplished a lot but he also succeeded in planting the seeds for the French Revolution and creating the court system that also played a big part in the downfall of his dynasty. He also wasn’t successful militarily and diplomatically; his wars were expensive and ruinous–although all of Europe had to unite against him in order to beat him.) there are very few, if any, of Monsieur. I would think a biography of him would be something a gay historian would be interested in writing, because of the ability to look at his sexuality, his difference from the others at court, and how, as a prince, he was able to be himself–despite his own religious mania, Louis XIV never seemed to care about Monsieur’s proclivities–and on his own terms. Not to mention how incredibly difficult and strange it would have been to be the younger brother of the egomaniacal Sun King.

Was Monsieur gay? Bisexual? Transgender? Was this a result of his mother dressing him as a girl when he was young or was that just a coincidence?

As I said, the seventeenth century is interesting. And a lot was going on as well–the Thirty Years’ War was the last European war over religion; there were civil wars in both France and England; the colonizing of North America by the British, French, and Spanish truly got into full swing; and it was also the time, of course, of Cardinal Richelieu, the first great modern statesmen.

I hope to write this book someday. But in the meantime, I am having a great time doing the background research.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Here Comes the Sun

For right now, I am trying to clear my head and figure out what I need to do. In the meantime….

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been watching Versailles and really enjoying it. I often talk about the sixteenth century and how I am utterly fascinated by it; I also love the seventeenth century, but in that particular century my fascination is almost entirely with France. Don’t get me wrong–the Stuarts in England were very interesting, and Charles II and the restoration period is definitely one of my favorites; but my heart, alas, is really in France.

And part of that, of course, has to do with Louis XIV.

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The Sun King, le Roi Soleil, le Grande Monarch. The third king from the house of Bourbon, who took the throne at age five and reigned for seventy-two years; which is the longest reign by a king (there were dukes and princes who ruled longer; but his was the longest for an actual King) in European history. His father was Louis XIII, the feckless and foppish king from Dumas’ The Three Musketeers; his mother was Anne of Austria, the Spanish princess whose honor the Musketeers and d’Artagnan were trying to protect/save (despite the fact, of course, that covering up the Queen’s adulterous affair with the Duke of Buckingham, the nation’s biggest enemy, was actually treason). His younger brother was Phillippe, duc d’Orleans; from whom most of Europe’s royal houses are descended. Louis XIV was the king who said l’etat c’est moi (I am the state), ruled without a chief minister, and centralized all political power in France in the person of the King; making him an absolute monarch and the envy of every other king in Europe who chafed under the rules and restrictions placed upon them by their governing bodies.

He also built the magnificent palace that was (is) Versailles; and because nobles couldn’t be trusted away from court–and also because he didn’t trust Paris, he made it mandatory for the court to live at Versailles, where he could keep his eye on them. It enhanced and centralized his power, but at the same time it planted the seeds for the eventual collapse of the French monarchy. But he built France into the major power all of Europe always had feared it could become; the conspiracies and ambitions of the great nobles had crippled the country for centuries–going back to the Norman conquest, which made the great northern province of Normandy the property of the king of England, setting both countries on the road to centuries of war and hatred.

Louis XIV fought several major wars in his later years, and France lost both, and was greatly weakened by those wars. But one must also take into consideration the fact that it took almost ALL of Europe combined years to defeat France in first the War of the Grand Alliance, followed almost directly by the War of the Spanish Succession. The fact that France was able to rally so quickly after defeat to wage another major war against almost all of Europe is indicative of just how strong and powerful the country became under Louis XIV. (Germany was also divided and squabbling for centuries, but that’s a tale for another time.)

I heard about this series a while ago, and it’s only recently become available in the US. I got it from iTunes.

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The series takes place early in the reign of Louis XIV, shortly after his mother/regent Anne of Austria has died and he has taken control of the reins of government. (No mention of Cardinal Mazarin, though.) Louis’ distrust of his nobility and his capital came from the civil wars known as the Fronde, which took place when he was still in his minority, and were basically a revolt of the nobility–which the backing of the Parisians–against his mother and Cardinal Mazarin’s regency. It was eventually suppressed, but Louis never trusted his nobles again, nor did he ever live in Paris once he started turning his father’s hunting lodge at Versailles into the palace it became.

The show is beautiful. I know some of it was shot on location at Versailles itself, and the palace is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I cannot imagine how amazing it must be in person. I’ve always wanted to go there, and now I really do.

The costumes! The sets! I love the way men dressed–well, royalty and the nobility, anyway–during this period. (The 1974 version of The Three Musketeers is one of my favorite movies of all time.)

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Stunning.

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And of course, the fountains and the grounds.

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The plot itself isn’t great–it gets off to a very slow start; and Louis XIV, while interesting, isn’t Henry VIII; his life doesn’t quite loan itself to the soapy fun that was The Tudors.

But they did not shy away from his brother Philippe’s sexuality…Monsieur, as he was known, preferred men to women; he had lots of children with his two wives, but he always had a male lover, or “favorite”, as they were called then.

I’m enjoying it, but it may not to be everyone’s tastes.