Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Anorexic Empress of Austria

        Elisabeth was born in 1837 of the eccentric Bavarian Wittelsbach royal line, and married the young Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary when she was sixteen. After the relative freedom of her Bavarian childhood, she found herself thrust into Europe's most ossified court. Her sense of personal dignity and independence as well as her very real democratic and humanitarian instincts continuously offended against the role into which she was cast.

The Empress' mania for sport and violent exercise, her preoccupation with her physique, her peculiar diet, her attitude to dress - all had one common denominator: the preservation of a figure which was naturally very slender, small-boned and muscular. She was tall , five feet seven 1/2 inches, and never weighed over 111 pounds all her adult life. Her legendary beauty and charm brought her oppressive adulation wherever she went in Europe. She preserved her youthful appearance in the face of what press and medical opinion viewed as bizarre, not to say improper, excesses in sport, diet and slimming.
       She hated to have to sit down to eat. She abominated banquets. For long periods she lived on a daily diet of raw steak and a glass of milk or orange-juice. She struck people as hyperactive, and astonishingly hardy. Her illnesses were all evidently psychosomatic, and her neurotic crises always cleared up when she was away from court, and was free to travel and ride, free of the gaze of courtiers and public, which she experienced as physically painful.
       Elisabeth followed a strict and draconian diet and exercise regimen to maintain her 18-inch waistline, wasting away to near emaciation at times. This was years before such symptoms would be diagnosed as a classic case of Anorexia nervosa.
One of Elisabeth's dresses

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Montagues and Capulets: Fact or Fiction?

The opening lines of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tell of two warring families, the Capulet's and Montague's, also telling the tragic out come of " two star-cross'd lovers" right from the start.

 Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

But the question on my mind after reading this was who were these two families?


Shakespeare based his most popular tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, on two very real people. These young lovers lived in Verona, Italy ,just like his characters, and died in a real-life tragic love story in 1303. The Capulet and Montague families were prominent citizens of Verona at the time.Apparently, Shakespeare uncovered their story in literature. A poem, "The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet," by Arthur Brooke, was written in 1562. William Painter, a prosist, penned "The Goodly History of the True and Constant Love of Rhomeo and Julietta. Matteo Bandello had written a novella of the story in 1554, revising Luigi da Porto's "Guiliette e Romeo" ("Juliet and Romeo"). Even earlier, Masuccio Salernitano had recounted the story of the tragic young lovers in "Mariotto and Gianozza of Siena" (which doesn't sound nearly as catch-y) in 1476.Italian traveling theater companies performed the drama throughout Europe and England. So, in all actuality Romeo and Juliet is not the original work of William Shakespeare but  just a tale retold from history.
Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy. Those are hundreds of love letters under it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Who are the Cajuns?

In honor of one of my FAVORITE television shows, History Channel's Swamp People, I have decided to do a post over the Cajuns.www.history.com/shows/swamp-people. When most people think of Cajuns they think Gumbo and Gators, but did you know there is so much more? The Cajuns have a unique dialect of the French language and numerous other cultural traits that distinguish them as an ethnic group. Cajuns were officially recognized by the U.S. government as a national ethnic group in 1980 by a discrimination lawsuit filed in federal district court. After a dispute with British government in the 1700s the Acadians, as they were called then, relocated in a huge Cajun diaspora to mostly south Louisana ,but also Texas. There they formed a unique lifestyle we still recognize today with huge joie de vivre. Cajuns are mostly Roman Catholic. They also believe in faith healers called traiteurs. And of course Mardi Gras is a Cajun staple that has spread to different ethnic groups as well. So, in true Cajun fashion, Laissez les bons temps rouler, let the good times roll!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reading Cleopatra Confesses

         I love books written by author, Carolyn Meyer. So naturally when I heard she was writing a Cleopatra book I flipped. Cleopatra is one of my favorite women in history. She was smart, beautiful, and two of the most powerful men in the world loved her. I am currently on page 181 out of 283 and so far I really like this book. There isn't really a whole lot of dialogue so you feel like you know Cleopatra on an intimate BFF level, and I like that. If you like ancient Egypt chances are you will like this book. Not a hard read and definitely a good book!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wow! My first post!!!

     Welcome to the History Nerd where I will review books (feel free to recommend) and discuss history! I love all parts of history but I have a weakness for fallen monarchies. I love the Egyptians, Babylonians, Tudors, Bourbons, Romanov's, Medici, you name it I have Google'd at one point! So tomorrow I will put my first post on someone of historical influence. Where O, where will the Histor-O-Meter land...


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