Monday, December 8, 2014

Madame de Maintenon. the secret wife of Louis XIV by Veronica Buckley

Madame de Maintenon, the secret wife of King Louis XIV by Veronica Buckley

I enjoyed reading this story of the life of Francoise d’Aubigny, later to become Madame de Maintenon and the uncrowned queen of France as the secret wife of Louis XIV.
This story is quite extraordinary.
Francoise did occasionally enjoy stability and security while staying with her aunt and uncle and cousin at the Chateau of Mursay, however, this was often short lived as she would be uplifted and taken to Paris to live elsewhere and be brought up under a different religion.
She spent time in the overseas colonies of France but often lived her life through the generosity and friendship of others, even in her early days in the French colonies.  There is also a hint in the novel, whether true or false that Francoise and her younger brother were sent out on to the streets of La Rochelle as they were in dire need of food and were begging.  This was before they would have embarked on their voyage to the French colony of Martinique.
Francoise’s father was more or less disowned by his own father and her mother spent years In Paris trying to claim money which she believed was owed to her husband.  It was not a very good beginning in life for Francoise, who may also have been born in prison (according to the book.)
I was shocked and humbled by the extremes of poverty which the family did suffer while waiting for passage to Martinique at La Rochelle.  It may have been from this time that Francoise always seemed to suffer from the cold.
It is also a sad story but later on Francoise enjoyed her life in the Marais district of Paris, as is mentioned in a chapter, The Merry Widow.  At a young age she had married a scandalous poet, Paul Scarron and was thereafter known as the Widow Scarron.  However, it was during these years that Francoise came into her own and enjoyed meeting intelligent and influential people at his Paris Salon.  It would have been a glittering social scene for Francoise though perhaps people must have wondered the reason that she was married to Paul Scarron, especially at such a young age.  Francoise did seem to shine at this salon and became friends with Madame de Montespan, whose children she later minded.  It was in this regard that Madame de Maintenon later came into contact with the King. 
Madame de Maintenon would have seen the king in the early days in Paris when he first entered the city with his Spanish bride which was a grand occasion and many people crowded the balconies to get a view.  Francoise would also have attended entertainments which were put on by the king at the gardens of Versailles.
It was not until later that Francoise and the king became more acquainted and the king admired and respected Francoise for her intelligent conversation and obviously also as she took such great care of his children.
The book gives wonderful insights of the court of Louis XIV and the politics of the day.  It is well worth reading.  It presented a different view for me as I had previously read books about other members of the royal court and the story of Madame de Maintenon is certainly something different.
It is stated at the beginning of the book that she had said that her life had been a miracle.  It certainly is and also an extraordinary story as Francoise did become an uncrowned queen of France and perhaps if the king had had his own way with his councillors and advisors he may have crowned Francoise d’Aubigny as a queen of France.   
 An incredible story!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014



The spires upon an ancient hill

Of old fashioned buildings

And a magic wind-mill

And old fashioned lamp-lights,

A colourful scene;

A memory of times past

My, how time goes so fast;


Where once there were fields and marshes

And people out in the country air

Taking oxen to market

Or going to a country fair;

Now  a wondrous city,

Amusements, entertainments

The city of light.

Where once there were narrow cobble-stone streets,

Now wide boulevards

 and city treats;

Statues on buildings

 coloured awnings

and graceful facades

Heaven’s helpers holding placards

Look down upon a city street

Where once did heroes of fiction weep

Or pray from a tower keep

To Sweet Genevieve

Of a Paris eve;


Where once

On a second score

The fashionistas

 had an encore

Red, blue and white

The colours of fright

To the very core;


The last refrain

Of a glorious reign

Spanning a thousand years or more;


The fleur-de-lis

Symbol of purity

God given right

To His Majesty,

Lost in the plight

Of a king’s fall

Perhaps now glimpsed

On the stage of a concert hall.


Roll call!

Roll call!


Drums were beating

Lives were fleeting;


Wind back the years

And all the fears

So often,

Ending in so many tears;


And into this fray

Napoleon found his way

The stage was set

For another play.


Where once the Louvre was a royal residence

Where a king and court resided

Now a place of fine magnificence

And tourists united

In a love of art

History plays its part.



A place to go back to-

The walk along the river Seine

The bateau-mouche goes on its way

The artists’ paintings on display,


A Parisian place,

A Parisian way of life

A love of Paris:


The Seine Valley

Decked out in green,

Beautiful fields and meadows.


The lovely wild flowers

Of St Germaine-en-Laye

On a hillside

Overlooking the valley

In all hues

From yellow to blue

So enchanting to view

And behold-

A place to discover

The pleasure and beauty

Of the palace gardens

Of the little town

Out of Paris

A grand place in its day.


The moonlight

gives its soft glow

Over the roof-tops of Paris,

And glimpsed from a window

Of a narrow lane

Bring forth memories

As the links of

A long lost gold chain;

The pigeons of Notre Dame

The children sailing their toy-boats

On a pond of golden measure

Luxembourg gardens,

A real treasure;

These and many other things give

Impressions of Paris;


A pavement drawing

Coloured leaves falling

Leaves which flutter

on a soft breeze

Turn gold in autumn time,

The greenery of a summer vine,

The vibrant and verdant trees;

change orange and yellow

As seasons come and go;


In a faraway time

Paris lost its spell

Its charm and repose,

In winter,

A place where even the river froze-

But now,

A city, where so many dwell-

A city of great warmth

Where a poet, an artist or a dreamer goes-

Beautiful as a rose


 as a story-book picture shows:-


The mill of Montmartre,

The side-walk cafes,

The songs,

The music of Sartre,

Writers and poets remembered by name;

Stroll by a park

 Little merry-go-round

Illumined in dark

Enjoy a cafe as the sun goes down

Reflecting its vibrant colours

Over the river Seine

And inspiration is found;


And where from above

A loftier realm

The saints look down


A choir sings a religious psalm

light reflects,

a rose window,

glorious as a healing balm;

Statues step back

 into shadows of time

The glorious clock

Forever chimes

Now and forever

Paris for all time


The poetry of Paris forever rhymes.





Monday, October 13, 2014

The Magic of Ordinary Days (film)

I watched this film recently as it is now available on you tube.  I thought it was a lovely story of love and redemption.  Certainly a different kind of story, which was set in the countryside of America in earlier times of 1944 during the war years.   Clothing, costumes and settings were quite spectacular and also the way of life of the farming community in those times which were not quite so distant from the present days.
The film also gave an insight into attitudes and values of the times.
 An enjoyable film to watch.

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

The story in this book is quite riveting and well worth reading.  It is a different style of genre from which I have normally been reading.  The story takes place amidst the political machinations of England and the kidnapping of an English girl who had a promising career within the parliamentary establishment. 
To prevent a scandal an Israeli intelligence officer is called upon to investigate the matter with as little repercussions as possible in the political establishment.
The story has wonderful settings of Israel, France and Corsica.  It is a roller coaster of a story which I enjoyed reading.  The action, the mystery and the intrigue keep thereader guessing the motives. 
The fascinating dialogue and camaraderie of the characters also plays its part.  There were also clever repetitive actions and manners of speech which added a certain quirkiness to the novel.  I also enjoyed the mood and ambience of the novel.  It was wonderful.   A brilliant story and I am now reading another book by the same authorof the tales of the Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

This wonderful novel by celebrated author Sandra Gulland of The Josephine Trilogy tells the complex tale of the early years of the life of Claude des Oeillets. This is a great novel which I enjoyed reading.
Claude des Oeillets was a personal assistant to Madame de Montespan during the early years of the court of Louis XIV in France in the 17th century.
Claude was from an acting family and it is this aspect of the novel which appeals i.e. the travels and also travails of an acting troupe during these early years in France.
The Great Corneille, writer and playwright was an inspiration to these theatre people whose livelihoods often depended upon patronage and performances given on the stage at courts or various centres in the surrounding countryside.
Claude des Oeillets seems to me to have been an enigma and she also appears as a character in the novel
Of Athenais, The Real Queen of France by Lisa Hilton as a servant of Madame de Montespan.
I enjoyed reading the novel. It gives wonderful insights into another era and time where life was so different from today’s world and the king was the supreme power in the land.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Claude and how she reacts to adverse situations in her life, the hardships and troubles of her family and also from the time of her first meeting with Madame de Montespan who came from a more privileged background. Apparently in earlier more prosperous times her mother and father had been well received on the stage and well regarded as performers in their day.
The story tells of the wonderful side of court life and its beauty and grandeur but also unfortunately also shows a side of court life which is not respectable or acceptable and Claude has to make decisions about her life and face consequences because of earlier decisions which she has made. Ultimately Claude decides where her true loyalties lie and what is the better course for her and her child.
The novel is a triumph of great story-telling. In the end Claude makes a decision which she feels she can live with. She decides to leave the employ of Madame de Montespan. The life at court was not all is seemed and because of the values which she was brought up with she could no longer continue to live a life which was not in keeping with her own moral code.
This book is wonderful and gives a good account of what may have occurred during the Affair of the Poisons at the Court of Louis XIV where so many people were named and also banished from court.
“The Shadow Queen” is an excellent historical fiction novel and the adventures of Claude des Oeillets in the employ of Madame de Montespan are fascinating to follow. The court life and its many complexities are seen throughout in this novel from what Claude des Oeillets could see and gather from her own information. It is very good.

The Lost Duchess

The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

The Last Duchess by Jenny Barden is a wonderful descriptive novel of early tudor England and the very different conditions encountered by the early settlers at Roanoke Island in the New World. The story follows the adventures of Emme, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I and an adventurer sailor, Kit, who has decided to make a new life in the New World.
This novel gives fascinating insights into the times of Elizabeth I and the many courtiers and famous characters from history who surrounded the Queen during these eventful years e.g. Lord Burghley, Sir Francis Walsingham, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Christopher Hatton.
Emme and Kit are the main protagonists and the story follows their adventures and romance closely. It is a wonderful tale of beauty, mystery and also courage.
In this story there is an account given of the mystery surrounding the early settlers of Roanoke Island and what may have happened to them. The story is also peppered by real life characters of the times who were engaged as governors , botanists and scientists amongst the early settlers.
This book is well recommended. I found this book wonderful. It is educational, historical and also fascinating to read about these earlier times in the history of England and USA. The story is quite compelling and quickly draws the reader into the narrative.
I found reading this story and learning of the early days of settlement in the New World , the dangers and hardships incurred and also the strength and resilience of the early settlers to be a beautiful story.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

When I See You Smile by Bic Runga

When I See You Smile by Bic Runga:

A favourite singer!

Best wishes from Sandra

A Thousand Years by Christina Perri:

A wonderful song:
A Thousand Years by Christina Perri

I will be posting book reviews shortly.

Best wishes from Sandra

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Last Duchess

My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin

I enjoyed reading this quite compelling story of an American heiress,
Cora Cash, who marries an English duke in the gilded age of the late 1890's.
A wonderful story to read which gives valuable insights into this late
Victorian era; the English aristocracy, the hunts and the horses, the elegant
dinner parties and wonderful fashions of the time. Respectability and
dress sense and a sense of propriety all have their place in this novel. It
also has its humorous aspects as well as the serious and the tragic circumstances
which occur at the beginning of the novel.

The characters of the novel and the descriptions of life in those times
are quite fascinating. Queen Victoria's son (the Prince of Wales) is an
interesting character, who attends dinner parties and luncheons who is an invited guest
at the castle; the parents of the American heiress and the mother
of the Duke are also quite colourful characters. The lives of the servants, Bertha,
Cora's lady's maid and the Duke's valet, Jim, are also of
interest. This story does develop and also is quite fascinating for the reader in a later century. The author has spent time in the novel developing the characters of the
servants and I did also enjoy reading about their lives and romance which were
also a theme of the novel.

The decorative arts and design are also an integral part of this story. The
English castle is in need of renovation and the mansion in Newport, where the
story initially is set, has decorative designs which are intended to be replicas of the
Chateau of Versailles.

There is a sense of romance in the novel and it is to be hoped that the heroine
of the story is not disappointed. It is a nice story to read and is well recommended.