• Renaissance

    mercredi des Cendres: celebrating Ash Wednesday in France

    As a side note, as an Anglican (we’re called “Episcopalians” in the US), when I Googled “Ash Wednesday in France,” this Anglican church in Paris came up in the results. I had to smile at that; it’s named St. George’s as a direct salvo at the French. It’s not the kind of day you can really call a “holiday.” It’s more apt to call it an observance. It’s also one of those practices that was so tied into Mideaval life that the more Calvinist- leaning Protestants were more than happy to drop it as soon as humanly possible. (Looking at YOU, Jeanne of Navarre!) Amongst the most observant Catholics, there…

  • France

    Mardi Gras in France: crêpes, beignets and waffles galore

    When I was researching my post for Shrove Tuesday/ Mardi Gras/ Fat Tuesday/ Pancake Day/ Gumbo Because We’re Southerners and This is Practially Louisiana Anyway Day, I was shocked to learn that France has two “Pancake Days” related to the Catholic liturgical calendar. I’ll try to simplify it for you. After Christmas (Christ’s birthday), there’s Epiphany (the day the Wise Men actually showed up to the manger). A few days later there’s a feast called Chandeleur (Candlemas) which celebrates the newborn Christ being presented to the temple in Jerusalem. None of these dates are scientific of course, they’re just approximations to parcel out the story of Christ for the general…

  • Renaissance

    Why I love bad historical dramas, Part 2

    I mentioned earlier that despite the “accuracy question,” I really don’t have a problem watching “bad” history shows like Reign. In their case, they were honest from the start that they were “deviating from history” and telling what they considered to be “historical fantasy.” Having accepted that fact, I just settled back and enjoyed it for what it was, a historical fantasy that did make me cringe from time to time. On the plus side, it was pretty. The costume designer made no bones about the fact that she wasn’t going for historical accuracy in costumes. I can’t blame her there, because there’s just no way to win when it…

  • Guise,  History,  Places

    On this day: Louise of Lorraine, Queen of France, dies at Chenonceau

    If you get a chance to visit the Chateau de Chenonceau, you might miss the part of the interpretation that covers Louise of Lorraine’s life and death in 1601 at the chateau in the Loire Valley. The way that the building and the main tour are structured, the typical visitor gets an overview of the rivalry between Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, and a few mentions of the short time that Gabrielle d’Estrees, mistress of Henry IV, stayed at the chateau. The woman who made a clear mark on the chateau from 1590 to 1603 was Louise of Lorraine, wife of Henri III and a cousin of the…

  • France,  History,  Medici,  Renaissance

    On this day: Catherine de Medici dies at Chateau de Blois

    On a Frigid January day, Catherine de Medici, Queen Consort, Regent, and Queen Mother of France died at the age of sixty-nine. Historians believe that she most likely died of pleurisy. During the last months of her life, contemporary doctors diagnosed her with “dropsy” and “gout.” Catherine’s last days were no doubt miserable for her. The previous December, her favorite child, Henry III of France, killed his rival, the Duc de Guise and his younger brother, the Cardinal de Guise, in an assassination plot that horrified Catherine. Politically speaking, killing the elder Guise was disasterous for Henri III, and his mnother advised him against doing so several times. Too many…