Trivia Thursday: The Queens’ Vault

This Week’s Question: Arbella Stuart, who was once considered a successor to Queen Elizabeth I, was buried in the vault of what other famous queen? Last Week’s Question: Who was the first heir to the British throne to tour North America? Answer: Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The charismatic eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set off for a tour of Canada … Continue reading Trivia Thursday: The Queens’ Vault

Downton Dish: Crêpes Suzette

My dear readers, I can’t believe, with my love of cooking and Downton Abbey, that it didn’t occur to me until now to put the two together. As we all settle down for another episode, it’s nice to have something to snack on, and let’s face it—regular old popcorn simply won’t do (what would Violet say?!) Instead, perhaps we should turn to this classic, elegant … Continue reading Downton Dish: Crêpes Suzette

Best Birthday Gift Ever

How’s this for a tough gift to beat: on November 9, 1907, King Edward VII received the Cullinan diamond, the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found, as a present for his 66th birthday. The diamond was found by a miner named Thomas Evan Powell in Cullinan, South Africa in January 1905. It was purchased by the Transvaal government, which presented it to King Edward. He, … Continue reading Best Birthday Gift Ever

At Last

On August 9, 1902, Edward VII was crowned King of the United Kingdom in Westminster Abbey. Finally. Poor Edward had a hellish wait for the throne. His mother, Queen Victoria, loved wallowing in misery so much she refused to die and wound up with the longest reign of any British monarch in history. Subsequently, her son, Edward, had the longest wait for the throne of … Continue reading At Last

All That Glitters

On January 26, 1905 the Cullinan diamond was discovered by Frederick Wells, the surface manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, South Africa. The Transvaal government bought the stone for £150,000 and presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday in 1907. As a rough diamond crystal, the Cullinan weighed more than 3,000 carats. It was eventually cut into nine large … Continue reading All That Glitters

God Save the King

One hundred and ten years ago today, Albert Edward, more commonly known as Edward VII, ascended the British throne after a record-setting wait and the death of his mother, Queen Victoria. Although he only held the throne for nine years, he left his mark and lent his name to an entire era. Edward was born on November 9, 1841 at Buckingham Palace. He was the … Continue reading God Save the King

The Duchess of Duke Street: A Nice Class of Premises

Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa’s dream of being the best cook in England got derailed slightly when the Prince of Wales decided he wanted to have her for a mistress. She was duly married off to former butler Gus Trotter and decamped to a lovely house in a nice area of town, where the prince could visit her discreetly.

Louisa’s got her own cook now, and the woman’s pretty indignant when a maid brings down dinner, uneaten. Louisa herself comes down a second later, railing about the crappy, curdled mayonnaise and starts lecturing the cook on proper technique. The cook gets snippy and goes to toss the mayo, but Louisa’s a proper middle-class girl who doesn’t deal well with waste, so she separates a couple of eggs and starts rescuing the mayo while the cook and the young maid watch. After a few moments, the maid screws up her courage and asks if she and the cook (Mrs. Wellkin) could go watch the queen’s funeral procession, so I guess we now know it’s 1901, sometime between January 22 and February 2, if you want to get really exact about it. Louisa gives them leave to watch, but she won’t be amongst the gawkers because, as she says, she takes no pleasure in funerals.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: Honor and Obey

In her room at night, Louisa’s studying French cooking terms when Mary comes for a visit. Louisa invites her in and puts her to work as a study buddy. Well, she tries to. Turns out Mary can’t read, which shocks Louisa. Mary asks if Louisa can teach her, but Louisa’s kind of busy these days. And so’s her room—Ivy comes in next, to be nosey and bitchy and ask what’s going on. Louisa kicks both her and Mary out and gets back to her lesson.

The following day, Lord Henry’s reading the paper in his study when a footman comes in and announces Major Farjeon. The Major is, apparently, the Prince of Wales’s unofficial messenger, and Lord Henry thinks he’s come to deliver a scolding for having offended the prince the previous evening. That’s not why the Major’s there at all, though, because apparently no offense was taken by Lord Henry falling asleep on the billiard table. The Major’s come to request Louisa’s services for the prince’s upcoming dinner with the Kaiser (who was his nephew). Ooooh, M. Alex is going to be pissed about this! Lord Henry’s surprised, though honored, and worries that she might not be up for the job, but he gives the Major his blessing to make the necessary arrangements.

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The Duchess of Duke Street: A Present Sovereign

Ok, I’m going to be totally honest with you: I didn’t care for Upstairs, Downstairs (at least, not the two first episodes I watched). I can’t say why, because it should have been right up my alley. I think it was because one of the main characters, Sarah, was so damn annoying that I couldn’t stand to watch another minute of her acting like a moron. I’ll go back to it someday and give it another go, and I am genuinely excited about the new U-D episodes coming out in the spring, but right now, I actually prefer the Duchess of Duke Street, which was BBC’s answer to U-D. There’s something about the gruff, up-by-her-bootstraps Louisa Leyton that I find interesting and entertaining. Season two, in my opinion, wasn’t as good as season one, but I still loved it, and I figured it’ll help get me in the Edwardian frame of mind ahead of the premiere of Downton Abbey on PBS in January. So, here we go…

London 1900. A nice looking young woman with reddish hair emerges from a brick rowhouse, pinning her hat into place as a horse-drawn bus rumbles past. She flags it down and climbs inside, where she pulls out a letter and starts reading it, smiling and looking excited and a little nervous.

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