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Saturday 4 October 2014

Special Offer for One Day Only

Tomorrow, Sunday 5th October, for one day only, Dear Papa, Beloved Mama will be available for Kindle readers in the US and the UK for just 99 cents or 99 pence. The offer will run from 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. G.M.T. in the UK, and between 8a.m. to 11p.m. P.S.T. in the USA.

This is, I think, a cheery book because, although it inevitably covers the death of Prince Albert, it is primarily about the childhood he and Queen Victoria created for their children and, I believe, contradicts many of the oft-repeated falsehoods about their neglect or their unkindness, particularly to their eldest son, Bertie.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

A Strange Obsession With Queen Victoria's Underwear!

First we had Queen Victoria's bloomers for sale:


Then we had her silk stockings:


And now a strange (and obviously not true) story about a little scamp spotting her drawers as a gust of wind caught her dress when she planted a tree:

I dare say she would be most amused at this strange obsession with her undergarments!!

Saturday 23 August 2014

Amazing Royal Jewellery

Helen O'Keeffe of Bespoke Diamonds has sent me a link to a beautiful infographic of the regalia of various Royal Families. It is filled with interesting details about royal jewels past and present and contains beautiful images of the crowns of different nations. Do please visit it!

Amazing Royal Jewellery of the World

Friday 15 August 2014

Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii's describes Grand Duchess Elizabeth

The future Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii attended Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee celebrations and in her book Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen, included a lovely account of what happened. I have always believed that the tall young lady she mentions in her account of the reception on 20th June 1887 is Ella, Grand Duchess Elizabeth...Apart from her 'presence' the star in her hair gives it away. Interesting that Ella probably had more jewels than any of the other guests, yet did not show off with them on her grandmother's day!

There were duchesses with shining tiaras, marchionesses with coronets of flashing stones, noble ladies with costly necklaces or emerald ear-drops, little women who seemed almost bowed down under lofty circlets of diamonds over their brows, tall women bearing proudly off their adornment of stones of priceless value. I have never seen such a grand display of valuable gems in my life. There was such a profusion of brilliant and handsome jewels before my eyes, that to compute its worth would be to lose one's self in a maze of confusing calculation. Yet there was amidst the shining throng one young lady, tall and of commanding presence, whose sole ornament was a single glittering star fixed in her hair. It shone forth more brightly, attracted my gaze more quickly, and its elegant simplicity excited my admiration above all others. She was a lady of high rank, and it is a matter of regret to me that I did not learn her name.

Monday 4 August 2014

Poppies -Remembering August 4th 1914

Young man with a smile on an old photograph
In a uniform smart as your father before,
Pack up your troubles and daring to laugh
As you tramp through the town on your way to the war...

Will you die at a price? Will you die for a shilling?
Is it worth all the pain and the things we don't know?
Is it worth all the horror and bloodshed and killing?
Are you willing to die so a poppy can grow?

Young man with a tear as you walk away crying,
Put down your gun now and lift up your head,
War time is over and breezes are sighing
Through fields of small flowers that blood has stained red.

Did you die at a price? Did you die for a shilling?
Is it worth all the pain and the things we don't know?
Is it worth all the horror and bloodshed and killing?
Were you willing to die so a poppy could grow?

Young man, you who look at the old photograph,
In a uniform smart as your grandfather wore,
Looking so brave now and daring to laugh
As you follow his footsteps and march to the war,

Has the offer been raised? Is it still just a shilling?
Lives are bought cheaply. It's always been so.
When so mine fine people need bloodshed and killing,
We shall slaughter our sons so that poppies can grow...

(Lyrics by Christina Croft, Music by Tony Croft)

Monday 7 July 2014

King Edward VII Visits Leeds

On July 7th 1908, my grandmother, then a young child, joined thousands of her classmates in welcoming King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra to Leeds - a visit during which, as my grandmother recalled, the children waved flags and sang,
"On July 7th, the best of days to welcome Britain's King!"

It was not the first time Edward VII had been to the city. While still Prince of Wales, he had visited and - obviously unbeknown to the cheering crowds - had unpleasantly described the place as ‘very dirty, and the inhabitants low people'. 

Other members of his family were far more impressed. Queen Victoria, Alice and Lenchen were delighted by the welcome they received here when, in 1856, the Queen came to open the Town Hall. This was Alice's first official public appearance and she was filled with admiration for the efforts to which the people had gone to show their loyalty to the Queen and her family - even decorating arches with flowers in which were written all the royal children's names. Alice connection to Leeds did not end there, for her first evening with her future husband was spent listening to a concert performed by the Yorkshire Choir and conducted by the chief organist from Leeds Parish Church.

Prince Albert was fascinated by the machinery of the mills and made an impression on one mill owner when 'while visiting a factory...in 1858, he was being shown a new wool-combing machine when he observed that a particular wheel was missing from the exhibit.'*

It is a pity that Edward VII was so unappreciative of the city...perhaps he changed his mind after the visit in 1908...or perhaps he continued to have such a low opinion of northerners.... 

*Dear Papa, Beloved Mama - by Christina Croft

Saturday 28 June 2014


Remembering Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie - murdered 28th June 1914, for the express purpose of precipating a war which would lead to the collapse of the 3 European autocracies and enable the international bankers to take control of their economies.

Saturday 21 June 2014

A Truer Portrayal!

Now Available in Paperback! A truer portrayal of Victoria & Albert as parents than the one presented by the sensational press!

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Thank you!

To celebrate the launch of my new book in both Kindle & paperback versions, and in view of the approaching anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, I have reduced the prices of all three kindle books in the Shattered Crowns Trilogy by almost 50%.

Thank you so much to all the kind people who have emailed me about these and about the launch of the new book. Please bear with me if it takes a little while to reply individually, which I certainly intend to do over the next couple of days as I greatly appreciate your kind messages!! Thank you!! 


Monday 16 June 2014

Now Available

Available now via Kindle  and very soon to be available in paperback:

“What a joyous childhood we had!” wrote Princess Alice, the second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. These were no mere words and it was a sentiment shared by many of her siblings. Far from being the tyrannical or neglectful parents presented so often by the sensational press, Albert and Victoria devoted themselves to their children, doing their utmost to secure their happiness while preparing them for a future of personal fulfilment and service to their people in a rapidly-changing world. “Dear Papa, Beloved Mama” covers the period from 1840 to the death of Prince Albert in 1861, considering the far-reaching influence of the Queen and Prince in the lives of their children in wide-ranging areas from science and farming to music, art and marriage. Flying in the face of the current trend to condemn and criticise their parenting skills, this book penetrates the motives of Victoria and Albert and their sincere and loving efforts to create for their children a happy, constructive and memorable childhood.

Sunday 15 June 2014

The Romantic Prince

This is a fascinating document showing the official purchase of Balmoral by Prince Albert in 1852.
Albert is often portrayed as a rather cold, unfeeling man, but, like Queen Victoria, his love of Scotland sprang initially from his love of the work of Sir Walter Scott; and his design of the new Balmoral Castle demonstrates his strong affinity with the Romantic tradition of his native Coburg. Albert was a profound and complex man who could be enthralled by the most up-to-date technologies of the age, while simultaneously nurturing the Romantic and aesthetic aspects of his character through art, music, literature and design. His interests were numerous and he shared them so wonderfully not only with his children but with the lowliest people of this country.

My new book "DEAR PAPA, BELOVED MAMA" will be released this week, and I sincerely hope it captures these various aspects of the Prince's character and demonstrates the beneficial effect he had on his children and their people. 

Wednesday 11 June 2014

The Princess Royal's Gift for Painting

This fan - taken from the Frogmore guide book - was painted by Vicky - the Princess Royal - when she was about fifteen years old, for her mother, Queen Victoria. The detail is so exquisite and remarkable!

In my forthcoming book "Dear Papa, Beloved Mama" there is a chapter about art & Queen Victoria's family and I think it is obvious how incredibly talented so many of the children were. It is unsurprising, I suppose, since both their parents were also gifted artists, especially Prince Albert, who was also a very knowledgeable critic and connoisseur and was rightly chosen as President of the Fine Arts Commission, the purpose of which was to choose artistic works for display in public buildings as well as choosing artists to decorate the interior of the newly-built Houses of Parliament.

Sunday 8 June 2014

Emily Wilding Davison

Remembering, with gratitude,  Emily Wilding Davison, who died on Sunday 8th June 1913, four days after being trampled by George V's horse during the Derby, where she was protesting against the appalling treatment of suffrage prisoners and calling for votes for women.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Coming soon....Dear Papa, Beloved Mama

Coming soon....
Dear Papa, Beloved Mama
 – An Intimate Portrait of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert as Parents
There have been so many documentaries and articles recently, describing Albert as a tyrannical father and Victoria as a neglectful mother who did not even like her children, that I sincerely hope my new book will go some way to correcting that image. The more research I have carried out about this, the clearer it is that 99% of the criticism centres on the alleged cruel treatment of Bertie, the future Edward VII. I have been actually astounded by the lengths to which his parents went to accommodate his wishes, and, comparing recent reports from the Smithsonian Institute about the best means of educating children, to the methods adopted by Albert and Victoria, it is clear that they were not only doing their best but were at the forefront of a revolution in educational ideas. Also, by comparing Bertie’s childhood to what he would have experienced in a Public School at the time, one can see that his was not the horrendous childhood that is often described by sensational newspapers and TV documentaries today. 
I realise that much of the book will be controversial as it flies in the face of the current, fashionable desire to criticise the people of the past, but I firmly believe that it is time to rethink the endless criticism and to recognise that both parents were in so many ways ahead of their time. 
The book is based on the years up to 1861 and the death of Prince Albert. Clearly everything changed after that, and Victoria made many mistakes regarding her children, but I am already working on a companion volume covering the later years and, once this book is released (hopefully by mid June), more information about the next one will be available. 

Monday 19 May 2014

"The Pianist" - An Interview with Julia Rayner

It was a delight and honour that Julia Rayner, co-star of the epic and award-winning film "The Pianist", kindly agreed to be interviewed about her work, experiences, The Pianist, and the acting profession...

Monday 28 April 2014


Thank you to everyone who took advantage of last week's offers on Most Beautiful Princess - I hope you enjoy the book!

The bluebells are out at Temple Newsam and the woods are awash with them, like a beautiful blue ocean! My Bichon, Bertie, had a lovely walk in the spring sunshine...and rolled in 'duck muck' by the lake...

Thursday 24 April 2014

For UK Kindle Readers...

As the last special offer of Most Beautiful Princess - A novel based on the Life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, applied only to US Kindle readers, I have been able to arrange a similar offer for UK Kindle readers on Saturday, 26th April. The book will be available for only 99p between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Happy St. George's Day!

Happy St. George's Day!

Special offer on the Kindle version of my novel, Most Beautiful Princess, based on the life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, running today for 24 hours from 8 a.m. P.S.T. 

The book will be available to American readers for just 99 cents - a saving of over $8 ; and, all being well, a similar reduction will be available for readers in the UK.





Tuesday 22 April 2014

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna

As tomorrow, 23rd April, is the feast of St. George - patron of both England & Russia - I am running a special offer on the Kindle version of my novel, Most Beautiful Princess, based on the life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia. For 24 hours from 8 a.m. P.S.T. the book will be available to American readers for just 99 cents - a saving of over $8 ; and, all being well, a similar reduction will be available for readers in the UK.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Easter Offer

As a special offer for Easter, on Easter Sunday, 20th April, between 12.00 a.m. and 11 p.m. P.S.T., my historical novel, THE FIELDS LAID WASTE will be available for Kindle readers in the U.S. and hopefully the U.K. for just 99 cents! Please feel free avail yourself of this Easter offer!

Monday 14 April 2014

The Truth About Queen Victoria

I am partway through a fascinating book, “Censoring Queen Victoria” by Yvonne M. Ward, which tells of the two men who were chosen to edit the earliest editions of Queen Victoria’s letters – and clearly, you could not have chosen two less appropriate characters! These two men, Esher and Benson, in the sway of Edward VII, had no understanding whatsoever of women, and certainly no understanding of the Queen, and therefore omitted virtually all her maternal references to her children, which show her concern for them, concentrating instead on the men who played an important role in her life. In fact, so misogynistic were they that they more or less reduced the important role she played not only within her own family but also in the country at large to something quite minor. It is a fascinating book, which I highly recommend! My own forthcoming book, in which I aim to demonstrate that, far from being tyrannical, neglectful or cruel parents, Victoria and Albert were forward-thinking and in many ways ahead of their time, will soon be available. With this and the fascinating ‘Censoring Queen Victoria’, I sincerely hope that the era of constantly criticising Albert and Victoria is drawing to an end and making way for a more realistic and accurate picture of these well-meaning and imaginative parents!

Monday 7 April 2014

The Crimson Field

What a brilliant opening episode to the new BBC Drama series “The Crimson Field” – a story of the volunteer nurses in the First World War. So little has been presented in the past about these women, many of whom came from backgrounds that left them ill-prepared (but then who could be prepared for such horror?) for the work they were about to undertake. I had never thought before of the resentment felt towards these volunteers by the trained nurses who were already working in the field, and the entire programme rather reminded me of the amazing work of the little-known Marie Simon, a woman from Dresden who overcame a great deal of opposition from the military authorities to establish female nurses in the base hospitals during the Franco-Prussian War. History is written by the victors, but much of history was, in the past, also written by men who often overlooked the part played by courageous women in major events. This series looks set to be absolutely enthralling – thank you to the writers, the actors and to the BBC for such a wonderful programme!

Saturday 5 April 2014

Thank you!

Thank you so much to every single one of the lovely people who bought "Queen Victoria's Granddaughters" yesterday! Thanks to you, the book made it to Number 8 in Amazon's overall rankings and well over 2,000 copies were sold in the first few hours alone. I am deeply grateful to everyone who bought it, and to everyone who has previously bought it or any of my other books (or who will in the future). It is a very beautiful experience to know people are reading your words and I deeply appreciate every reader.

Thank you so very much!

Friday 4 April 2014

Special Offer on Queen Victoria's Granddaughters

Available Here
Today for one day only Amazon is holding a promotion of my book 'Queen Victoria's Granddaughters 1860-1918' for Kindle readers in the UK...Only 99p - do please avail yourself of this opportunity!

Thursday 3 April 2014

A Lovely Description of the Empress Frederick

I just received a wonderful gift of an original article from the Strand Magazine from 1895, which is an interview with Empress Frederick (Vicky) about her beautiful home at Kronberg (as in the previous post). Every one of the books on the library shelves, it says, was placed there only after the Empress had read it, and there is, too, a wonderful description not only of the many charitable works she carried out virtually unnoticed but also of her appearance and voice.
“Her Imperial Majesty’s appearance is not now so familiar in England as that of other members of the Royal Family; and, in my opinion, photographs do not do justice to her. She possesses a charming geniality of expression and a particularly kindly look about the eyes in which respect she resembles the Prince of Wales. When moved by the recital of some sorrow or trouble, sympathy imparts great pathos to her voice – at all times a pleasant tone.”

Saturday 22 March 2014

Vicky's Former Home at Kronberg

Following the untimely death of her husband, German Emperor Frederick III, Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Vicky purchased a home for herself, Villa Schonberg in Kronberg in the Taunus Mountains, and was later presented with the old Schloss Kronberg by her son, Kaiser Wilhelm II. An aesthete and avid collector of art and furniture, Vicky delighted in her new home, filling it with beautiful artistic treasures. Today, the property remains in the hands of her descendants but is now a luxury hotel, which clearly, from these images and descriptions maintains the sort of atmosphere which Vicky created and would still deeply appreciate. What a wonderful experience it must be to stay there, taking tea in the library, which is still filled with her books...

Sheer and utter beauty!

Sunday 16 March 2014

Albert & Alice

The more I learn about Prince Albert, the more I admire this amazing man, and I was delighted to have been able to write about him for the wonderful Royal Central site:
Also, today, Amazon Kindle in the UK and Europe is carrying out a promotion of Alice, The Enigma, so if you are interested it is a very good time to purchase a copy!

Thursday 13 March 2014

May They Do The Right Thing!

It would be unthinkable if anyone killed in an accident had to be buried where he/she died. Great lengths are gone to to have the bodies of soldiers killed overseas repatriated and yet Richard III, England’s last Plantagenet king is to be buried in Leicester?
Today the High Court will decide on that ruling and I trust the right thing will be done and the case for Richard to be buried in York will be re-opened.
1.  Richard was Lord of the North.
2   He lived, loved and was loved in Yorkshire.
3   York remained loyal to him to the end.
4   He paid for chapels/chantries in York..a sure sign he wished to be buried there.
5   His beloved son is buried in Yorkshire
6   His present day descendants wish him to be buried here.
6   The decision to inter him in Leicester was reached by secret agreement but Richard was King of England and the people of England have a right to make the decision. Secret agreements, after all, led to the First World War and host of other evils!
7    Richard belongs to Yorkshire and had no ties with Leicester where his body was mutilated after death. 

Sunday 2 March 2014

Jacquot & Other Interesting Donkeys & Friends

A couple of weeks ago The Guardian  reviewed a new book, which looks very interesting, about Queen Victoria's life in Aix-Le-Bains, speaks of the donkey, Jacquot, which the Queen adopted:

Guardian Article

Jacquot was only one of several donkeys who became members of the extended family of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as a very interesting article from 'The Idler' shows.

It is quite strange that people even now speak of the humble donkey as though this beautiful creature is somehow a sort of second-rate horse or something, when you consider the strength and serenity as well as the nobility of donkeys. It is virtually impossible to look at a donkey or spend any time with one without feeling instantly calmed and receiving an awareness that there is something far more supernaturally powerful here than mere flesh and bone. I cannot for the life of me think why G.K. Chesterton should describe the donkey as 'the devil's walking parody' or speak of the 'monstrous head or sickening cry' of these incredibly beautiful animals:

and I would like to draw more attention to the late Elizabeth Svendsen, whose wonderful work continues in The Donkey Sanctuary  wherein rescued donkeys work with children with disabilities or difficulties and produce amazing results.

"The Donkey Sanctuary was founded in 1969 by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE. It is only through her amazing devotion to donkeys and hard work that the Sanctuary grew to the international charity it is today. Over 50 million donkeys and mules exist in the world. Many need care and protection from a life of suffering and neglect, whilst others have a vital role to play in human survival and happiness; they are at the heart of everything we do here at The Donkey Sanctuary."

I am sure that, had Queen Victoria been alive to see the Donkey Sanctuary's foundation, she would have been eager to have given it Royal Patronage! 

Sunday 23 February 2014

A Radio Interview with Helen Azar

Helen Azar, author of the "The Diary of Olga Romanov Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution", who kindly agreed to be interviewed here last summer, has recently been interviewed by Peter Sullivan on his radio programme. It is a very interesting interview, which can be  listened to, here:

Radio Interview

Sunday 16 February 2014

Why Did He Wait?

I believe that the First World War was started for the specific purpose of overthrowing the Russian, German & Austro-Hungarian monarchies/autocracies, and, despite the self-righteous response of Britain to the invasion of Belgium, certain members of the British Government, in league with other shady characters, were eager to find an excuse to participate in the war.
Shortly before the invasion of Belgium, the German Ambassador asked Sir Edward Grey (Britain’s Foreign Minister pictured here) if Britain would intervene if Belgian neutrality were compromised. Grey refused to answer in the affirmative.
Rudolf Steiner, in a series of lectures, The Karma of Untruthfulness, given in 1916, makes a very valid point about subsequent events:
"On 2 August the King of Belgium requested the intervention of England, that is, he requested England to intervene with Germany. The Belgian King saw it as a matter of course that England should negotiate with Germany about the neutrality of Belgium. Initially, England did nothing. She waited a whole day while Sir Edward Grey spoke to his Parliament in London. In doing so he concealed the conversation he had had with the German ambassador. Not a word did he breathe about it. If he had mentioned it, the whole session in Parliament would have taken a different course!
So after the discussion with the German ambassador had taken place, and after the King of Belgium had requested the intervention of England, everything paused in England, nothing was done. What was everybody waiting for? They were waiting for the violation of Belgium's neutrality to be accomplished! As long as it remained unaccomplished, matters could still have taken a course along which it would not happen. Powerful forces were working against it happening and it was hanging by a silken thread. If the request of the Belgian King had been fulfilled quickly enough, if England had intervened, it is questionable whether the violation of neutrality would have taken place. But when did Grey intervene? On the fourth, when the German armies had already set foot on Belgian soil! Why did he wait, even after the request of the King of Belgium? These are questions which have to be asked."

Friday 14 February 2014

A Letter of Love on Valentine's Day

For Valentine’s Day, here is a beautiful extract from a letter which Princess Alice wrote to Queen Victoria a few weeks after her marriage:
"If I say I love my dear husband, that is scarcely enough – it is a love and esteem which increases daily, hourly; which he also shows to me by such consideration, such tender, loving ways. What was life before, to what it has become now? There is such a blessed peace being at his side, being his wife; there is such a feeling of security; and we two have a world of our own when we are together, which nothing can intrude upon. My lot is indeed a blessed one; and yet what have I done to deserve that warm, ardent love which my darling Louis ever shows me? I admire his good and noble heart more than I can say...This morning I breakfasted alone as he went out with his regiment. I always feel quite impatient until I hear his steps coming upstairs and see his face when he returns...” 

Monday 10 February 2014

Still Searching for the Truth....

The more I learn and the more I think about this, the more vital it feels to me to really get to the truth. If there is any point at all in the study of history, it is surely that we learn from it...and yet, 100 years later, the same methods are still used to manipulate us into conflicts and into sacrificing our free will and freedom....

Sunday 9 February 2014

Searching for the Truth behind the Myths

In the light of all that is currently being written and said about the First World War, I have created a Facebook page on which anyone is welcome to discuss the truth behind the myths of the conflict. I believe that one hundred years later, it is time to learn the lessons of the past and to realise that very few historical events actually happened for the reasons we were told, and the same methods of hoodwinking nations continue to this day. Do please share your opinions here, or on the new Facebook page:


Meanwhile, do please help yourself to a free Kindle copy of By Any Other Name today!

Saturday 8 February 2014

FREE for one day only!

Tomorrow, February 9th, for one day only, my most recently released book: By Any Other Name
 will be available FREE on Kindle.

For more information, please visit my page at Facebook.

Friday 7 February 2014

More Myths of World War 1

This being the year of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, it is unsurprising that the BBC is showing numerous programmes on the subject, but it IS surprising that, even a century later, the same old myths are being reiterated.

Last week I began watching Jeremy Paxman's documentary but had to turn it off after about fifteen minutes because it was so irksome to see the Kaiser being presented exactly as he was 100 years ago - even the same old propaganda poster was used to show him voraciously attempting to gobble up the whole of Europe. Edward Grey, on the other hand, was described as being in tears about the prospect of war...of course, it was all the Kaiser's fault.

Last night, in a marginally more balanced programme, the blame seemed to be placed on Queen Victoria's extended family ties and much was made of the Kaiser's erratic nature. It was mentioned that, while his cousins, George and Nicholas (the future King George and the future Tsar) holidayed in Denmark, the Kaiser was excluded. The Kaiser was excluded because it was a Danish family gathering and he was not connected to that branch of the family, not because it was deliberate attempt to cut him out.

Much was made, too, of the deformity of his arm, which undoubtedly did have a major impact on his character and his life, but not in such a way as to make him a warmonger.

Naturally, none of these programmes delves behind the scenes into the murky world of international bankers and arms dealers, or the newspaper proprietors who whipped up a frenzy and printed untrue accounts to stoke the self-righteous indignation of people on all sides, or the businessmen who were about to make a fortune from the slaughter of millions of misled people!   

Perhaps 100 years later, it is time to get to the real truth behind the war...and, one only need judge it by its fruits to discover who had the most to gain!!  

Wednesday 5 February 2014

A New Page

I have a new Facebook page for my books - do please drop by and visit - and, if you like it or would like to comment, please feel free to do so!

Historical Biography & Novels on Facebook

A Child's Eye View of Queen Victoria

After giving a talk yesterday, a lady from the group told me an amusing anecdote about a relative of hers who, when a child, had been taken to see Queen Victoria during a visit to Sheffield in 1897.

The little girl, sitting on her uncle's shoulders and obviously excited at the prospect of seeing so great a personage, must have been expecting to see someone in a crown and full regalia. When she returned home, her family asked if she had seen the Queen, and she replied very disappointedly (clearly having misheard the 'hurrays'),
"No. There was just an old lady and everyone was waving their arms and shouting, 'Go away!' 'Go away!'"

Tuesday 28 January 2014

By Any Other Name

I am pleased to say that By Any Other Name - a mystery novel - is now available on Kindle, and in paperback. At only $4 or £2.50 for the Kindle version, and £7.27 in paperback, I believe it is well worth the price. Those who have read the draft versions have assured me that they could not put the book down as they were so eager to discover what happened next...

Saturday 25 January 2014

Experts & Resounding Gongs

What exactly is an expert? I have often wondered about this and am often reminded of a nursing tutor stating that ‘a specialist/expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less’ – the kind of person, I imagined, who peers so closely at one part of a human body that the entire person occupying the body become invisible. I have imagined, too, the people who dissect poems and – horror of horrors! – translate each line for children so that they can supposedly understand the poem, whereas in fact they understand only one level of meaning and miss the beauty of the whole, which includes the sound of the words the poet chose. As a child, I absolutely adored the lines of the poem Cargoes by John Masefield:
Quinquireme of Ninevah...rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine.
I assumed that Quinquireme was a person, not a five-tiered ship, but it didn’t matter – it was the beautiful sound of the words and the images they evoked which enraptured me.
Of course, it is important to have experts in particular scientific fields. If a person breaks a bone, they don’t want an amateur fixing it, any more than they want a tinkerer to mend a broken engine. All the same, when it comes to arts subjects, I have my doubts about so-called experts. By what authority does someone assume that title? Art and music are so subjective that, while a specialist might appreciate the artist’s musical or artistic achievements more than a layperson would, so much depends on taste so one cannot say ‘this is good,’ or ‘this is bad’ – the only criteria by which it can be judged is whether or not the artist achieved what s/he set out to achieve, and whether or not it appeals to someone else.
Still more utterly baffling to me is the idea that someone can assume the title of ‘Romanov expert’ or ‘Queen Victoria expert’. One might know every detail of what happened at what time during those people’s lives, but that is really neither here nor there when it comes to understanding a person. Could you say you are an expert on your mother, your father, your siblings or your spouse? I very much doubt anyone would be so arrogant as to make such a statement, and yet it is somehow alright to make such a claim about people who lived in another era! Oh, I would far rather meet with people and listen to people who have a passion and a love for a subject, that to hear the spouting of a million ‘experts’!
I began thinking about this after reading a review of a wonderful book (not one of my books, I hasten to add!), which I greatly enjoyed, where the reviewer suggested that the author should have handed her research to a ‘Romanov expert’. What a bizarre thing to say! It reminded me again of those who dissect poems and miss their meaning, or stare so closely at one organ of the body that they forget that a person is attached to it! I do not honestly believe that there is such a thing as a ‘Romanov expert’ – academics in particular frequently ‘miss the wood for trees’ (I have seen so many of them spouting from their high horses about how weak Nicholas II was, or how terrible a parent Queen Victoria was, leaving me wondering what is happening in their own lives if they view the world with such judgemental hostility) and, from my own experience of academia, I am well aware that more often than not, it is necessary to write and say only what is expected, rather than to interpret and be original, if one is to attain the somewhat meaningless qualifications that are subsequently awarded to enable one to join the clique of ‘experts’ in the fields of art, literature and history.
Amusingly, I think most of us hardly understand a great deal of our own behaviour and reactions, how then can anyone possibly claim to be an expert on someone else? To attempt to do so, for some reason, reminds me of the lines from St. Paul’s letter: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”
Among the so-called experts, there seem to be quite a lot of resounding gongs and clanging cymbals!

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Thérèse of Lisieux

St Therese of Lisieux intrigues me. I read her autobiography several times in my youth and, whereas others found it inspiring, it seemed cloying to the point of nausea to me and she was not a saint I would have chosen to imitate (although her 'little way' was very appealing). 
Nonetheless, there is something about this saint which still has enormous meaning for me (although I am no longer a Catholic) and it doesn’t surprise me that she was a major influence in the lives of such diverse people as Vita Sackville-West (who wrote a book about her) and Edith Piaf – both of whose lives were very far removed from that of a ‘little’ nun in an enclosed convent!! According to Wikipedia:   
"Shortly after her birth Edith developed a cataract. She was blind for almost three years. Her grandmother, Louise, took her to Lisieux. She saw. It was a real miracle for Edith. She always believed this. Since that time she had a real devotion to St Thérèse of the Child Jesus...she always had a small picture of the saint on her bedside table."
Many years ago, I spent the summers working in Lourdes. The first time I went to work there, I was just eighteen and had not been abroad alone before. Being the only English person in the place where I was working, I initially felt extremely lonely and wondered how I would get through another 2 1/2 months of it. I wandered, almost by chance, into the underground basilica where there is a small chapel dedicated to Therese and I sat there for a few minutes, just looking at her picture and thinking how lonely I was. Five minutes later, as I left the basilica, a group of Italian people from the place I was working happened to be passing and they asked me to go with them for a walk. All the way there they spoke in English (simply because I was English and didn’t speak Italian – how delightful the Italian people are!!) and laughed and laughed about all kinds of things and within 10 minutes I could not imagine how I could have felt at all lonely. From then on, I absolutely loved every moment that I worked there – it was one of the happiest times of my life and I often think back to it, and how truly miraculously my whole attitude changed after just 5 minutes or so in Therese’s 'company.'
I firmly believe that there are many ‘non-physical’ beings – angels, saints or simply ‘friends in high places’ – who are ever ready to help anyone in any circumstance and one’s religion, beliefs, spirituality etc. etc. (or lack thereof) and way of life are totally irrelevant to them. I think it is only humans who judge by such outwards trappings.
Fascinating, too, is the way in which Therese's autobiography became an almost overnight bestseller - one of the least likely books to do so, one would have thought. I have to say that as someone who received countless rejections from publishers before my books suddenly started to sell well, that, too, always fascinated me and I have no doubt that these 'friends in high places' help facilitate it for me!
Here is a little tribute to the saint for which I wrote the words, and Tony Croft wrote the music. The song was performed by a local primary school, dedicated to St Therese.  I hope you like it...

Saturday 18 January 2014

"The Mind-Made Prison"

Some months ago, someone recommended a book to me – Mateo Tabatabai’s ‘The Mind-Made Prison’. Having read numerous books about spirituality, self-improvement etc. etc., including the wonderful Science of Mind and the works of Joseph Murphy and Florence Scovel-Shinn, alongside the countless spirituality books I read before and after studying Divinity, I was not really expecting to find anything very new. The book, however, took me by surprise with its very practical ideas and exercises, alongside the obvious wisdom and originality of the author and it is a book to which I will return often and highly recommend to anyone with any interest whatsoever in understanding how we function and our self-imposed limitations, or anyone who enjoys contemplating new ideas or wishes to take practical steps to improve his/her life and the lives of those around us.
I was delighted, therefore, when Mateo agreed to talk about his book, his work and his ideas in the following interview:


Thursday 16 January 2014

Prince Albert's Sense of Humour

It is a great pity and a travesty of the truth that Prince Albert has come down through history as a rather dour person when, in his lifetime, he was known for his great sense of humour. 

In his youth, he was particularly fond of practical jokes, and as I am currently in the process of creating a book about him and Queen Victoria as parents, I have come across numerous accounts of his pranks and escapades. One which particularly amuses me concerns a time when he was travelling with his cousin and friend, Arthur Mendsdorf, and, as their carriage approached a post house where they were to change horses, quite a crowd gathered, eager to observe the illustrious occupants. Prince Albert instantly dived to the floor and, urging his cousin  to do the same, had his favourite greyhound, Eos,put her head out of the window to the bemusement of the crowd!

Well, I think that such a beautiful creature deserved the applause and her moment of glory! 

Sunday 12 January 2014

Fireworks for the Jubilee

The New Year's Eve fireworks might be nothing more now than a memory but the spectacular show in London was obviously remarkably impressive this year with its appeal to every sense!

However, I just came across an interesting article, which shows that the Victorians were equally keen on fantastic firework displays, particularly when it came to celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of the monarch!

Here is the very interesting article about the Jubilee was celebrated in Kendal in 1897:

Kendal Fireworks

Friday 10 January 2014

"By Any Other Name"

Coming soon - my new novel By Any Other Name was inspired by a brief time I spent working in an old Victorian psychiatric hospital (now no longer in existence). At the time I worked there, it was a bright, cheery place but there were certain parts of it which gave me a feeling of being absolutely drained of energy and utterly depressed.

I arrived there in summertime and the weather was beautiful but as soon as I entered one particular part of the building, it was as though a century of unhappiness had left so strong an impression on the fabric of the building that the negative energy was almost overwhelming.

My new novel does not centre around this aspect - it is a mystery (unlike any of my other books) set in the late 1980s, wherein a young artist returns to her native town to uncover the truth about her mother who was rumoured to have committed suicide. As the story progresses, Maria (the artist) finds herself drawn into a web of hypocrisy and deception, while dealing with her own emotions and her lifelong attraction to a man she believes she hates...

I was equally inspired to write this story during a visit to Paris when, on entering a room in the Louvre, I was awe-struck by the size and beauty of a painting - La Jeune Martyre by Delaroche...

The book will be available very soon:

Sunday 5 January 2014

Beethoven's Minuet in G performed by Cadenza

This is very enjoyable - "A unique interpretation of Beethoven's Minuet in G for accordion and melodeon, played by Cadenza." Even though it is a German piece performed by English musicians, the accordion/melodeon sound always evokes thoughts of France...

Saturday 4 January 2014

New Year - New Sites

To start the New Year on a new footing, the Hilliard and Croft website is having a major overhaul and now it is possible to access this blog, the ‘Shattered Crowns’ blog, ‘Lost in the Myths of History’ and my Twitter account, all on that one site, along with the various uploaded YouTube videos. Please do drop in for a visit!
May I also recommend to anyone who is interested in mathematics or music – particularly French Cafe music and accordion/melodeon music - a visit to this new site: Tony Croft
This blog, too, is about to undergo a revamp; New Year...new start...and all that! Please keep visiting and, as always, thank you for dropping in!

Thursday 2 January 2014

Prince Albert's Letter to Queen Victoria

The beautiful letter from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria, which is to go on display at Windsor Castle, surely contradicts all the nonsense written about the Prince being forced into the marriage, and the idea that he was simply some kind of control-freak who wanted to rule everything! So much is written about Queen Victoria’s adoration of her husband, yet so little is mentioned of his feelings for her, and this letter demonstrates that their love was mutual and passionate. Far from being the dull prude of popular imagination, it demonstrates, too, that Prince Albert was a passionate man whose fidelity to his wife sprang not only from his high moral values but also from his genuine love for the Queen.
At last, an article which nears the truth about the Queen and Prince: Prince Albert's Letter
So different from the balderdash proliferated in such sweeping and unjust articles as this:  Complete and utter judgemental balderdash!!

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
I love New Year more than Christmas as it creates such a feeling of optimism and newness and, although there are many weeks to go, it feels like the winter has turned and spring is on its way. It’s the same feeling as starting a new project as a child – having a new file, exercise book, pencil, ruler and pencil case – and even though you know that within a matter of weeks, the exercise book will be as filled with mistakes as the last one, there are still endless opportunities for something entirely new.
New Year resolutions seem rather pointless as they are usually negative and are invariably broken by the end of January and that only leads to a feeling of ‘more of the same’ but there is still a lovely feeling of being able to return to our innate ability to create a better world by being ‘transformed in the newness of’ our minds and hearts, and the knowledge that this doesn’t only happen at New Year but every single day and moment of our lives.
Whoever you are, if you are reading this, I wish you a very, very Happy New Year! May all your projects prosper and may you and all you love step into 2014 with hearts wide open to joy and endless possibilities!