PBS Marie Antoinette

As an amateur history buff, one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to share some of my favorite historical documentaries.  These are all documentaries that have taught me a lot about different people or times and helped me form a more educated opinion.

“Tribulation first makes you realize who you are” -Marie Antoinette

One of my favorite historical figures has always been Marie Antoinette.  Her legacy today is one of a careless woman who helped put France in the poor house, but it’s not that simple. There’s not even any evidence for her really having said: “Let them eat cake” and the circumstances in her life were very complicated.

I really feel for how she was sent to France at just 15 and expected to make the Franco-Austrian alliance work.  Before that, she had been sheltered and I think she took the circumstances and move as well as any 15yr old could have.  Her spending must have been an outlet for her circumstances and, living in Versailles, she would have had no idea of the extreme poverty most Frenchmen lived in.

marie-antoinette-and-the-affair-of-the-diamond-necklaceI love this documentary because it shows all of Marie’s life and how in her darkest hours she ended up becoming a strong leader.  It’s tragic that when she did, it was at the wrong time when arguably France just needed a monarch who would be willing to accept a constitutional monarchy, but it’s still impressive.  To me, Marie embodies the fact that when the chips are down, no matter what your background is, you can apply yourself and fight for what you believe in.  And if need be, you can hold your head high and accept your fate with dignity.

So if you have time and are interested in learning more about Marie Antoinette check this one out!

Cool times at Crystal Grottoes

Price: Adults $20 | Kids $10

Travel Time: 1hr 45min from DC

In the summer I’m always driving up and down I-70 to get to WV.  After several years of seeing the Crystal Grottoes sign, and with a little time to spare, I figured I’d stop in and see it.

 

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Crystal Grottoes was discovered in 1920 by workers looking for limestone to pave rt. 34.  It opened as a tourist attraction in 1922 and over the years the cave has been continuously explored and cleared. Today, the cave is privately owned by a family who has run it as an attraction for 3 generations.

 

Guided tours of the cave run every 30 minutes throughout the day.  Unlike Luray or Skyline Caverns, Crystal Grottoes is not a huge cave and my tour only took about around 20-25 minutes.  Even so, the cave formations are beautiful and my guide was excellent!  She was very knowledgeable about the history of the caves, how stalactites and stalagmites are formed, and other cool cave facts. For example, in some places, if you look up you can see roots from plant life on the surface!

The cave is really easy to get to and is close to I-70 and rt. 40. So if you’re in the area

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My favorite formation in the cave.  Although you can’t tell from the photo, it actually sparkles in the light!

Crystal Grottoes is a great place to spend a little time.  I felt $20 was a good value for the tour and had a nice time admiring the different forms.   Maryland doesn’t have a ton of caves so don’t miss out on this one!

 

 

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More cave formations 

 

 

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Some of the bigger formations

 

Visiting George Washington’s Birthplace

Cost: Free

Time from DC: 2hrs

Allow 3-4 hours to explore

After reading, The Unexpected George Washington, I was feeling inspired to learn more about George Washington. I’d been to Mount Vernon but wasn’t familiar with his birthplace, so I set out one Saturday morning to find it and as it turns out it was pretty easy to find. Driving South on Rt. 3 from MD, there were signs about 10 miles from the Potomac River Bridge. It’s maybe about 2 hours from D.C. and is close to Colonial Beach, VA.

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The actual site of Washington’s home

The site isn’t much to write home about.  The land has been preserved since 1858 when the Commonwealth of VA purchased it, but they later sold it to the Federal Government after running out of money because of The Civil War.

The property was settled by George Washington’s great-grandfather, John Washington in 1657. Washington’s boyhood home, which was known as “Wakefield”, was destroyed by a fire and flood on Christmas day in 1779, but the exact site of it is marked out with oyster shells. There is a visitor center on the property with information and artifacts that survived the fire, a mock-up colonial farm with some animals, and various outbuildings with reproduction farm equipment.

Oddly enough, although Washington’s boyhood home is gone there is a house on the

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The Memorial House

property! The “Memorial House” was constructed in 1931, on what they thought was the approximate site, with handmade local bricks and furnished with 18th-century furniture.  The house is supposed to resemble a typical upper-class house of the period, but it isn’t a model of Washington’s boyhood home. His home had 10 rooms, whereas the Memorial House only has 8, and it was laid out differently.   Along with the visitor center, Memorial House, and gardens, there is also a family plot where many of George Washington’s ancestors have been re-entombed and they lay out his family history. 

Washington’s birthplace isn’t massive, or hard to find.  If you’re looking for a nice day trip from D.C. or Southern MD and have an interest in Washington it is worth the drive down.  The park is immaculately clean and very well kept up.  There were also two-three park ranger tours running for free on Saturday.  And lastly, it’s much quieter than Mount Vernon, free, and boasts excellent views of Pope’s Creek and the Potomac.  I even saw some jellyfish in the river!  If you like early American history, make sure you stop by.

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Map of the property

 

 

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First jellyfish I’ve ever seen in fresh water

 

 

Going from great to god awful

Star’s White Queen VS. The White Princess

I’ve been interested in British history for many years now, but I owe much of my understanding of the Cousin’s War to Philippa Gregory.  Although her books are works of considered works of fiction, they are incredibly well researched and written.  Having read all of her Cousin’s War series books helped me gain a much better understanding of the families involved in the conflict and helped me go on to read other more complex biographies.

 

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Elizabeth of York 

So with all that being said, I loved Star’s adaptation of The White Queen.  The actors, costumes, sets; everything was spot on.  Or you know, almost everything was… My only marginal complaint was the prominence of Elizabeth of York’s affair with Richard III, but this is a theme that was also featured in The White Queen and The White Princess.   I won’t wade into the debate over whether there ever was a relationship because honestly, it would be more deserving of its own post but based on the evidence it is pretty unlikely.  If you are interested in deciding for yourself Nerdalicous did a fantastic job breaking down the evidence so I suggest giving their article a read.

 

My main point is that The White Queen felt like a true period piece.  It felt like the individuals who made it were interested in keeping with the book and the history.

It felt like the individuals who made it were interested in keeping with the book and the history.  The White Princess on the other hand, well I guess they just saw Reign and said: “We should make that, but you know- with Elizabeth of York”.  So let me take a moment to go through what I think were the biggest missteps.

It doesn’t even follow it’s source material

The White Queen was a very true adaptation of its own book along with The Red Queen and The Kingmakers Daughter.  It wove all three stories together perfectly and only deviated slightly from the novels.  The White Princess on the other hand just seemed to follow the biggest plotlines.  That Elizabeth of York had to marry Henry the 7th. That Elizabeth was oblivious to her mother’s schemes and felt her mother was trying to overthrow her husband and dethrone her own children. That Elizabeth herself didn’t know whether her brother Edward and Richard were alive or dead.  And Lastly, that it was unclear whether Pekin Warbeck was truly Richard Duke of York or an imposter but either way he had to be executed.  Everything else was subject to alterations.

The creators threw away all the friendships and relationships in the novel to make for more drama. But the book on its own was plenty dramatic.

 

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Margaret de la Pole 

None of the relationships in the book were left alone except for Elizabeth’s relationship with her mother Elizabeth Woodville.  I think the most glaring example of this is with Margaret de la Pole.  In the novel Elizabeth loves Margaret.  They’re cousins and Margaret is one of the few family members Elizabeth has around.  She even trusts Margaret enough to put her son Prince Arthur in her care at Ludlow Castle.  Even though Margaret’s own brother, Edward Plantagenet, is put to death by Henry VII, she still doesn’t hold it against Elizabeth.  She understands that Elizabeth is as powerless as she is and that as long as Edward lives he is a possible rival.  But then in the show, she somehow ends up with this awful relationship with Elizabeth.  Elizabeth treats her horribly, for reasons unknown, and eventually, Margaret ends up giving information to the Duchess of Burgandy to help overthrow Henry and save Pekin. In a book where Margaret is nothing but loyal where does that come from? The creators threw away all the friendships and relationships in the novel to make for more drama. But the book on its own was plenty dramatic.

 

Also, what was with Henry and Elizabeth Going to Spain to meet Queen Isabella and King

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Because random dance numbers were a thing in 15th century Spain

Ferdinand? This wasn’t exactly a day and age where a monarch could usually just leave their kingdom for several months traveling to Granada, Spain. And after hammering in how tenuous Henry’s claim to the throne in how could he just leave? I guess we did get that god awful dance scene though with Kathrine of Aragon, so thanks for that…

 

Everyone is basically the worst

In the novel, Elizabeth comes off as a strong woman who accepts that her role is to marry Henry, become queen, and produce an heir.  She accepts it part of the price she pays for having been born so close to the crown and rises to meet each challenge.  In the show, she just feels like a total primadonna.  She at one point tries to abort her own child by taking herbs before her mother catches her.  Then at another point, she threatens to (I guess) force herself into labor when the bishop won’t give into her commands.  And again, she’s rude to Margaret for reasons that are still unclear.  Henry’s mother Margaret is is even more unlikable than in the book and doesn’t even seem to care that much for Henry.  Henry himself a little better than in the book because he’s not the same paranoid ass, but then when Pekin is captured he becomes a sadistic freak.  Margaret de La Pole is a timid girl just feeding information to the Duchess of  Burgandy.  And the Duchess of Burgandy herself just seems kind of winy and unable to process that her families lost.

I felt The White Queen was really good at drawing you into each woman’s story.  It really felt like each woman, except for Anne Neville, was really working as strong women to see their vision made a reality.  This show never accomplished that, and instead, everyone just came off as insufferable.

What are they wearing?

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Why does Queen Isabella look so rigid and ugly? Why is Elizabeth wearing that tacky dress that looks like armor? So many questions..

The White Queen was spot on with their attire.  It was beautiful but at the same time accurate.  The White Princess though just ditched the lovely and correct wardrobe from the first series.  Instead, they just opted for weird gaudy pieces that didn’t look accurate or even good.  

 

Conclusion

I think it would have been incredible to see the original cast and crew come back together for The White Princess.  I’m not sure what about this Star’s thought would be a good follow-up but to me, it’s just disappointing.  I hope that maybe one day Stars or another network can re-visit Elizabeth of York’s life and do her story justice.  I think she is a fascinating woman who has been overshadowed by her husband and son Henry VIII, but isn’t any less important.