Good Christmas, Bad Christmas

In 1777, in the midst of the American Revolution, General George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, PA to camp for the winter. For many of them, it was the worst Christmas ever. Inadequate clothing and supplies, coupled with wet weather, meant the men were underfed, cold, and oftentimes sick. As many as 2,000 men are said to have died … Continue reading Good Christmas, Bad Christmas

The Pallisers, Part IV: After the Ball

Previously on The Pallisers: Glencora freaked out so thoroughly about meeting Burgo again she purposely got sick to avoid him. Alice, meanwhile, threw herself back into George’s arms.

Vavasor Hall. Grandpa tells Alice’s dad that he’s warming to the idea of Alice and George marrying, because it would keep her money (inherited from her dead mother) in the family. Dad’s clearly the smartest person in the family and realizes George’ll just squander the cash, along with everything else he inherits. Grandpa plans to settle the estate on their eldest son, so all George could access would be the income from the estate. What if they don’t have a son? What then? Does Matthew Crawley inherit? Dad still thinks George is a worthless scoundrel, and he says as much, just as Alice comes downstairs. She waits until her dad’s done railing against her future husband before coming into the dining room for a meeting with grandpa. Grandpa asks her if she’s fixed a date for the wedding, and of course she hasn’t, because this is Alice we’re talking about. These early episodes were apparently based on a Trollope novel that was all about Alice’s dithering and was so tiresome even his contemporaries made fun of it. Dad helpfully asks her why she broke her engagement to George before. She delicately responds that he “behaved unworthily.” I’ll say. Dad thinks George will behave just as poorly now, but Alice foolishly thinks he’s changed, and anyway, she’s older now and “much more understanding.” Excuse me? Is she saying she’d be cool with George screwing around on her?

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The Pallisers, Part I: The Marriage Game

It’s a beautiful summer day, and on the grounds of a magnificent estate (actually, I’m pretty sure this was filmed at the lake at Stourhead, which is, indeed, a magnificent estate) members of Britain’s upper crust are frolicking, flirting, and playing croquet, as they do. A pair of old biddies in black glare a young coupe off a bench and take a seat to watch events unfold. Meanwhile, a tall man in an even taller hat strides purposefully through the party while a young blonde woman plays tag with a young man.

Off in a totally separate area near a decorative temple, presumably far from the fuss and noise of the party, sits the host, the Duke. He’s snoozing with a glass of champagne in his hand, and he’s gently wakened when his nephew, Plantagenet Palliser, arrives. Plantagenet Palliser has to be the most upper crusty upper crust name in literature. Plantagenet is the tall guy from earlier, and he’s a member of the House of Commons, as the Duke helpfully tells us. He sits for his uncle’s borough, so I’m sure there was no nepotism there, but he’s one of those rare rich boy MPs who actually takes the job seriously, instead of just treating it as a way to pass the time until he inherits his title. The Duke couldn’t care less about politics, he just thinks they should adhere to family tradition by having a Palliser in the Whig party, and to thank his nephew for doing so, he’s increasing his allowance considerably. The Duke just happens to mention that, when Plantagenet gets married to “the right kind of girl,” that allowance will go through the roof. Plantagenet bids his uncle farewell and moves off.

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Going Underground

The Tube is born: On August 2, 1870, the Tower Subway, possibly the world’s first underground tube railway, opened in London. Parliament authorized the construction of the Tower Subway in 1868 and established the Tower Subway Company with three directors and starting capital of £12,000. Unfortunately, the trouble and expense incurred by the Thames Tunnel made contractors reluctant to take on the job. Finally, 24-year-old … Continue reading Going Underground

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