Saturday, 11 October 2014

Out of the Shadows: Review and Giveaway of "Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen" by Sara Cockerill


It is often stated that writing a biography of a medieval person, particularly a woman, is impossible and that any effort will descend into quasi-fiction, littered with more than its fair share of "must haves" and "presumably would haves". In her new book, Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen, Sara Cockerill disproves this assertion splendidly. Longshanks' queen and Edward II's mother emerges from this beautiful book full of fire, vigour and more than her fair share of deeply unlikable flaws.

At 410 pages in length, The Shadow Queen can hardly be accused of narrative anaemia and the decade or so of research that went into writing it bounces off the page, intellectually convincing but rendered readable by Cockerill's light narrative touch. There are touching and thought-provoking deviations about the humanity of her subject - a particular favourite of mine being when the author, weighing up evidence that Eleanor was either fair or dark, concludes, "her own colour choices make it almost certain that her colouring was dark; as will be seen, she favoured reds and greens, colours which no blonde would be likely to choose but which are very becoming to brunettes." This is set alongside a razor-sharp understanding of the quagmire of thirteenth-century international diplomacy and warfare, both of which shaped Queen Eleanor's life.

Cockerill believes that Eleanor of Castile was a more likable individual than she has been presented in recent histories of the monarchy, for instance in Lisa Hilton's study of English medieval queens, from which Eleanor emerges as a chillingly avaricious matriarch, who bled the Anglo-Jewish community white in her relentless quest for personal financial security. Cockerill allows Eleanor's faults to show in all their ugliness, but she suggests that, by the standards of her own generation, England's second Iberian queen consort had more on the credit than debit side by the time she passed away in 1290. Personally, I emerged from my compulsive reading of The Shadow Queen still rather dubious about the Queen's personal plus-points, but that is a tribute to the wealth of detail that Cockerill relates to her readers. While the author wears her views plainly, she is too good a writer to force them upon her audience. Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen is a compelling and exhaustive look at one of England's most fascinating queens and a beautiful example of a medieval biography.

***

To win a copy of Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen, please answer the question below and provide your e-mail address, which will not be published. It is purely so that I can contact you when the competition has closed. The winner will be announced next Saturday (18th October), thank you.

QUESTION: The San Fernando Valley in the USA was named in honour of Eleanor of Castile's father, King Ferdinand III of Castile. What US state is the Valley located in?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Sara Cockerill discusses her new biography "Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen"

Hi, Sara, and welcome to the blog.
Congratulations on the publication of your biography of Eleanor of Castile. I'm sure it's a question that you get asked a lot, but to get the ball rolling, could you share with us what it was that attracted you to Eleanor's story in the first place?
Well, I think the story of Eleanor and Edward – the arranged marriage that went so gloriously right – is one which had a certain romantic appeal to me from childhood, fuelled by far too much reading of Strickland, Costain, Plaidy et al.  But the Eleanor in that depiction struck me as sweet but dull, and I certainly had no interest in finding out more about her.  It was later, when I started reading more seriously on Edward’s reign, that the more recent scholarship started to pique my interest.  How did the romantic story of the quiet submissive queen gel with the acquisitive landlord?  If Eleanor was forceful in one direction, did she really have no influence over Edward in other matters?  And Michael Prestwich’s note of the coincidence between the date of Eleanor’s death and the change in the character of Edward’s reign finally made me think that there were too many questions, and no good answers.

2. I wrote about Eleanor while I was studying my masters, but it was in comparison to her mother-in-law, Eleanor of Provence, and focussing on the royal family's interaction with the Jewish population before 1290. Going into it, I expected to find Eleanor extremely unlikable, harsh, greedy and very cold. I ended up finding her more nuanced and sympathetic than her mother-in-law and my own expectations. Was that a process you experienced yourself and how do you think Eleanor acquired such a negative reputation?
I think my introduction to her through her Victorian reputation meant that I had two conflicting pictures of her in my head, rather than one entirely negative one!  What troubled me was that the two versions seemed almost irreconcilable – a problem which I think bothered John Carmi Parsons too.  I did at one point wonder whether the answer was that Eleanor was indeed unlikeable, and Edward’s tributes to her were political rather than personal.  But as you say, once one gets into the evidence it is clear that she really was adored by him – which seems implausible if she was a vile person; and there are numbers of small things which help one to see why.  I think the reason why she has developed this very negative reputation in the academic world is twofold.  Firstly, I suspect there was a reaction to the unsubstantiated hagiographic approach of Strickland et al – and a desire to find a different reality.  But more importantly the documents which survive do tend to assist in that.  What you have of directly contemporaneous comment on Eleanor does tend to be negative, including a number of letters deriving from Eleanor’s business activities which definitely tend to suggest that she was capable of being pretty terrifying, and that her property business was run very hard indeed.  This first person testimony is naturally compelling.  Add to that the results of the inquest on her business, and it is not surprising that the tendency has been to view Eleanor in a negative light.  But, as I’ve mentioned in the book, you have to remember that these are fragments – just because they represent the bulk of the surviving evidence we should not forget that they testify to very isolated incidents, and that Eleanor’s life was made up of very, very much more than this.  The challenge is to try to place these specific pieces of material in context, and evaluate how much weight should be allowed to rest on them - particularly when you see countervailing evidence in the vignettes from the wardrobe records.   Ultimately it seemed to me that the evidence suggests that Eleanor was an extremely tough businesswoman, but very adept at leaving that side of herself in the office.  To friends, family and intimate staff – as well as petitioners or personal acquaintances - she was warm, engaging and very considerate. And to me, that is very credible; I have lots of friends of whom exactly the same could be said.


3. Eleanor is often presented as an indifferent mother to her children; is that fair?
No, it is not.  I do think the evidence suggests fairly strongly that she regarded her marriage as more important than her children – and was much more emotionally invested in it.  But there is plenty of evidence to rebut the charge that she was an indifferent mother. The mere fact of her leaving them behind for two extended periods (Crusade 1270-4 and Gascony 1286-9) does not demonstrate the charge.  She was far from the only royal wife to go on crusade – and in many ways her primary role as childbearer, in a world where children died so very often, would have meant that she was failing in that duty if she took 3½  prime childbearing years off. And the Gascon venture was never meant to last so long.  So those are red herrings. Nor is it fair to criticise her by the yardstick of Eleanor of Provence who was anomalously devoted to her children, staying with them for great portions of the year.  Again, the evidence is there in the details of the wardrobe accounts, and in sidelights from the correspondence.  Eleanor ran a considerable childrens’ establishment, with close attention given to the details of the children’s regime and routine.  She wrote to ask after the children regularly.  She sent thoughtful gifts.  For Alphonso, the child to whom she was perhaps most close, she went to great lengths to commission a simply beautiful psalter, with illustrations that bear the hallmark of her own input.  But to me the most compelling fact is that she ensured that the children’s establishment was moved hundreds of miles to be near to her when she was away travelling for longer than usual.  So in the Welsh years, the children are carted up to Acton Burnell to see their parents, and then off to Bristol for Christmas.  And later they are sent north to Clipstone in Eleanor’s final months to bid her farewell.  In fact there is reason to argue that if Eleanor had been a less concerned mother England might have been spared Edward II!  The second son, Henry, died shortly after being sent for to greet his parents on return from crusade, and to participate in the coronation (in London in mid August – maybe not the greatest decision? …).  Alphonso died not long after a trip north to see his parents during the Welsh campaign.  It was doubtless for these reasons that Eleanor of Provence advised against moving the children north for their final farewell to their mother.

4. This is a game I love to play for something lighter: if a production company came along and wanted to make the dramatised version of your biography, is there any actors you would love to see take on the roles of Edward I and Queen Eleanor? Assume budget is no issue!
I like this game too!  But it is way too difficult.  My husband favours Burton and Taylor, but there are all sorts of problems with that.  Looking into golden era Hollywood I rather like Katherine Hepburn (brainy, feisty, sporty) and Gregory Peck (tall, dark and handsome with a rather Edwardian chin).  But in the current crop of stars my favourites are Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig – who could bring their own personal chemistry to the roles on top of all their other qualifications.  Particularly, though, I love the idea of book addict Eleanor being played by a Cambridge graduate.  And what is more, Rachel Weisz already knows how to ride a camel for the Crusade section … (How about Robert Downey Jr as Robert Burnell, by the way?).


5. Finally, why will the story of Eleanor of Castile appeal to readers?
How long have you got?  I can bore on about this for hours!  Seriously, while writing the book I have often wondered why such a great story has remained untold, and I lived in terror someone would get there first. There seem to me to be a number of levels on which it should appeal.  Firstly, Eleanor’s is just a fascinating story: exotic childhood, child marriage, at the centre of international politics, civil war and crusade.  She lived in five different countries and visited several others, she had at least sixteen children and a busy professional life, she experienced captivity, an assassination attempt on her husband, the loss of beloved children and immense triumph and success  - alongside a fulfilling professional career.  And she inspired a remarkable artistic tribute after her death.  On top of that she is an interesting person, in that she had a large number of subjects about which she felt passionately.  So there are several Eleanors: Eleanor the bookworm, Eleanor the obsessive gardener, Eleanor the interior designer, Eleanor the gourmet and Eleanor the equestrienne.  With my feminist hat on, I also find Eleanor the businesswoman, striking terror into the hearts of bishops and barons, a very inspiring picture! And finally you come back to where I started – a real and very touching love story, the evidence of which still stands in stone for us to see.  All in all, whether you like her or you don’t – and she will not be as much to everyone’s taste as she is to mine – I think many people will find a remarkable story and an even more remarkable woman.

My review of Sara's book will be up soon, along with a chance for a reader to win a copy of it. In the meantime, please check out its Facebook page here. My thanks to Sara for taking time to answer the questions so fascinatingly. 


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives the greatest speech of this year in the Scottish referendum





Our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, addressed the media and Labour Party supporters in Scotland giving what was, for me, the finest speech that we've been waiting for. A wonderful, magnificent piece of oratory in praise of a United Kingdom rather than the Yes campaign's for Scottish secession, which is voted on tomorrow. Well done, Mr. Brown. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

My new monthly column for "Tudor Life" magazine


I am pleased to say that I will now be writing a monthly column for Tudor Life magazine, an exciting new online magazine from the brain of Claire Ridgway, author of The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown.

The magazine runs in conjunction with a members forum, the Tudor Society, and here is a word from its founders.

The Tudor Society is an exclusive membership club for all those who love Tudor history and who want to keep learning more and more. Lots of  historians and authors are involved in this new society, and they are willing to give their time and knowledge to members of the Tudor Society, through magazine articles and talks. For example, this month the Tudor Society has got a talk and chat by Conor Byrne, guest articles in the magazine by Jessie Childs, Melanie V. Taylor and Robert Parry and lots of regular articles. 
For the first edition of the magazine, Gareth Russell's column, Gareth on History, talked about Mary I's accusation that Elizabeth I was really the biological daughter of Mark Smeaton, and this month he'll be talking about the allure of Anna of Denmark, Mary Queen of Scots' under-rated daughter-in-law. Every month he will discuss a theory, personality, movie or historical mystery which crops up in his research, reading or talks with the public!
The aim of the Tudor Society (www.tudorsociety.com) is to enable Tudor history enthusiasts to connect with a wide range of experts and historians from the comfort of their own home. The society has launched with huge success, and there will be loads of fun and informative things added to the site and magazine each month.

Do pop over to www.tudorsociety.com if you're a Tudor fan to see if it's for you. I'm filming a talk for the society this month too about the career and reputation of Henry VIII's third wife, Queen Jane Seymour!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Elena Maria Vidal reviews my new book "The Emperors"

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, whose reign ended with the February Revolution of 1917

Elena Maria Vidal, creator of the Tea at Trianon blog and author of the novels Trianon, Madame Royale, The Night's Dark Shade and The Paradise Tree (forthcoming), has very kindly reviewed my first non-fiction book, The Emperors: How Europe's Rulers were destroyed by the First World War (Amberley, 2014). In her review, Elena Maria writes: - 
The Emperors by Gareth Russell is a book I could not put down until the tragic finale. Gareth succinctly but with drama and power describes the apocalyptic fall of the leaders of Western Civilization in 1917. I finished reading it at night, which was a mistake, because then sleep was impossible, so poignantly is the overthrow of empires described.Written with pathos yet meticulously documented, the book destroys the stereotypes of the rulers, the war and the revolutions... The Emperors is not a long book but it contains more information and more astute analysis than many a tome. 
I am obviously very touched and flattered by Elena Maria's wonderful review, which you can read in full by clicking here. I also undertook a short interview with a local paper near my parents' home-town in Northern Ireland, which is available online here, with thanks to Joanne for the commentary.

I thought I'd also take the opportunity to give a brief outline of The Emperors for anyone interested in buying it or knowing a little bit more about what it covers. It was a wonderful book to write and a frightening but fascinating topic to research. With the Scottish secession referendum looming next week, I was struck by how much of what I read about attitudes in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were so applicable to events in the United Kingdom in 2014. Nationalism seemed to me to be the great bogeyman of the early twentieth century, a pernicious and often devastating force, and what I called "nationalism's inherent tendency towards xenophobia" seems to me to be as applicable to much of what is emanating from Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, and the "Yes" campaign.

Chapter 1: 'The Old World in its Sunset' - this chapter, the book's longest, sets the scene in the three empires covered by the book - Russia's, Germany's and Austria-Hungary's. It describes how each empire had reached the state they were in by 1914, focusing not just on the personalities of their rulers, Tsar Nicholas II, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the Emperor Franz Josef, but also who was advising them, the ruling family's private lives, the country's economy, diplomatic alliances and attitudes to their neighbours. The title comes from a quote by Winston Churchill.

Chapter 2: 'Terrible shock to the dear old Emperor' - here I focus on the life of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este, the Emperor's nephew who became heir to the throne after his cousin's suicide: his decision to marry for love rather than royal rank, his opposition to nationalism, anti-war views and the terrible conspiracies which resulted in his murder in 1914 and the countdown to war. The chapter title comes from a diary entry by King George V of the United Kingdom (below).


Chapter 3: 'Go to the churches, kneel down, and pray for help for our soldiers' - this section covers the countdown to the war in the weeks after the Archduke's assassination, focusing particularly on the moves in Vienna and Berlin between those who wanted war and those who preferred peace. The chapter title comes from a speech made by the Kaiser.

Chapter 4: 'A spectacle at once magnificent and terrible' - shifts focus to look at the first year of the Great War from the Russian perspective, when the armies were under the command of the Tsar's cousin, Grand Duke Nikolai. The quote comes from one of Nicholas II's cabinet ministers.

Chapter 5: 'His Majesty has no understanding of the seriousness of the situation' - centring around the sinking of the British luxury liner Lusitania (below) by a German submarine in 1915, this chapter looks at those in the German government and armed forces who wanted to accelerate the country's attacks on its neighbours to a state known later as "total war". The opening quote comes from one of the Kaiser's aide-de-camps.


Chapter 6: 'May God bless Your Majesty' - this chapter covers the accession of Emperor Karl I to the Austro-Hungarian thrones and the prominent role played by his wife, Zita of Bourbon-Parma, a member of the exiled French royal family. The chapter title is taken from the words of Prince Zdenko Lobkowitz to the new Emperor and Empress in 1916.

Chapter 7: 'I cannot and won't believe that he has been killed' - focuses on the personality and political impact of Nicholas II's wife, the Empress Alexandra, and her dependence on her spiritual confidante, Rasputin. The opening quote comes from one of the Empress's letters.

Chapter 8: 'May the Lord God help Russia' - the rapid implosion of the Romanov monarchy in February 1917 is covered here, how it happened and why, as well as looking at the last-minute attempts to save the institution by offering the crown to Nicholas II's youngest brother, the Grand Duke Mikhail. Nicholas II's return to his palace which had become his family's place of house arrest concludes the chapter, and his signing-off phrase from his abdication document inspired the chapter title.

Cecilia of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, German Crown Princess
Chapter 9 - 'The Military Dictatorship hardly veiled any more' - this chapter covers the rising prominence of General Paul von Hindenburg and his ultra-nationalist confidante, Erich Ludendorff, in the Second Reich, as well as discussing the birth of a princess with Down's Sydrome, Alexandrine, into the German Imperial Family. Her doting mother, Crown Princess Cecilia (above) had already been profiled, and by this stage her opposition to the war was a view increasingly shared by millions of the Kaiser's exhausted subjects.

Chapter 10 - 'It seems to me that we would gladly conclude peace with you' - my take on the Empress Zita's role in the fascinating Sixtus Affair, in which she and her royal relatives in the Allied armed forces played a pivotal role in attempting to thrash out a path towards peace.

Chapter 11 - 'Our souls are at peace' - this chapter discusses the Russian Imperial Family's life in captivity and their murder in Yekaterinburg in July 1917, including a discussion of whether or not Vladimir Lenin gave the order for the entire family to be slaughtered.


Chapter 12 - 'It was neck and neck to the very end' - this too has its title taken from a quote by Winston Churchill, who thought that up until the spring of 1918, the Great War had been too close to call. The realisation that Germany and her allies could not win the war caused widespread unrest throughout central Europe, resulting in the downfall of the German and Austrian monarchies, but as I discuss in this chapter, the similarities are potentially deceptive and both courts faced very different situations in the second week of November 1918.

Epilogue - 'She's too short to be Tatiana' - with all the fascinating and often tragic lives of the royals in the post-war world, it was difficult to scale everything down to one chapter, but hopefully I succeeded. The famous affair of the Grand Duchess Anastasia's alleged survival is discussed, as are the royals' attitudes towards Nazism and Communism, and how they are often viewed today.

Many thanks again to everyone who has been in touch!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Information on "The Emperors" in the US!


Good evening! I've had a few comments and enquiries about The Emperors on Amazon US, so I contacted the Marketing team at Amberley for clarification. The Emperors is available to order for US customers, but since it comes via a UK distributor because it is published by a British firm, it may be 4-6 weeks before it is available in the USA for delivery. Apologies to anyone who is waiting for a copy and thank you so much for your interest in it. I'll keep everyone posted with news of its availability in the States. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Eagle and the Maple Leaf: The Austrian Imperial Family in Canada


This is part of a series looking at vignettes in the life of figures who featured prominently in The Emperors, and what happened after the fall of the monarchy.

The death in office of Canada's esteemed Governor-General, Lord Tweedsmuir, during the open months of the Second World War presented the Canadian government with a dilemma, for although they had intended for Lord Tweedsmuir's successor to be a native-born Canadian, the war made the replacement of the Governor-General a top priority and there was not time to go through all the potential Canadian candidates. The Royal Family were hugely popular in Canada and the people's support for them had been attested to by the outpouring of affection and interest surrounding King George and Queen Elizabeth's visit in 1939. Inviting a member of the Royal house to assume the post for the duration of the war therefore seemed a sensible solution, satisfying both the urgency and tact required in making the new appointment; King George VI's uncle, Alexander, Earl of Athlone, who had previously served the Empire as Governor General of the Union of South Africa, accepted the post and crossed to Canada in the company of his wife Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (above.)

This energetic and capable couple were not the only royal arrivals in war-time Canada. Having been overthrown at the end of the First World War, the Hapsburg dynasty found itself the focal point of Austrians opposed to their country's Anschluss with Germany in 1938. The last emperor, Karl, had died in exile but his widow, Zita of Bourbon-Parma (right), had been active in monarchist politics throughout the 1930s and their son, Crown Prince Otto, was a vocal opponent of Nazism. As the Wehrmacht moved through western Europe, Zita no longer felt safe and dreaded the prospect of any of her children falling into Nazi hands. She had every reason to be afraid, for as they hurtled towards their own ruin in the fire and horror of war, the Third Reich had no respect for human life, royal or otherwise. Two of the Hapsburgs had already been captured - Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg, eldest son of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination had helped start the First World War, had vanished behind the barbed wire fences of Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany, for daring to oppose the Anschluss, while the Archduke Albrecht emerged from Gestapo custody blind in one eye and partially paralysed as a result of the torture inflicted upon him. In time, the King of Italy's daughter, Princess Mafalda, was arrested for "subversive activities" and sent to her death at Buchenwald. 

The British Royal family had helped arrange the Austrian Imperial Family's evacuation from Austria in 1919, something I talk about in chapter 12 of The Emperors, and they came to their aid again by arranging safe transport for the Dowager Empress and her younger children to Canada. The family had fled Belgium after the Nazi invasion, making it through France, Spain and Portugal, and across the Atlantic to New Jersey, where they spent some time in New York and the Hamptons, but with the Germans having cut off all access to their bank accounts, funds were tighter than ever and Zita was reduced to making salad made from dandelion leaves. Eventually, the British once again came to her aid by facilitating her move to Quebec, a predominantly Catholic and French-speaking part of the Empire, which suited the Dowager Empress perfectly, since French was her first language and some of her children were still learning English. 


Zita (with her children, above), who always wore black in mourning for her late husband the Emperor, moved north, but her five sons chose to join the war effort. Otto, as the eldest, remained in America, making anti-Nazi propaganda films, raising money for Allied causes and coordinating Austrian exile groups; his younger brother, the Archduke Robert, went to London to work with other exiled representatives of countries which had fallen to the Wehrmacht; Karl-Ludwig and Felix both later signed up to join the US Army, and the youngest boy, Rudolf, smuggled himself back into Austria to join the Resistance.

Initially, it was Karl-Ludwig, Rudolf, Charlotte and the youngest daughter, the Archduchess Elisabeth, who accompanied their mother, along with their grandmother Maria Antonia of Portugal, Dowager Duchess of Parma, who had fled the Austrian revolution wearing nearly every piece of jewellery she owned. So much so that one British officer onboard the train thought she looked like an over-decorated Christmas tree. Felix went north to help find a house for them. In Montreal, they met with Princess Alice and her husband, the Governor-General, and I came across this account of their friendship in Princess Alice's hugely enjoyable memoirs, For My Grandchildren, which, as its name suggests, was constructed almost like a long letter, a reminiscence of an extraordinary life, for the Countess's grandchildren. 

We went to Montreal in October, where there was a reception for us and Granpa received a degree from the University of McGill and attended one of the luncheon-club dinners at which seven hundred people were present. These are only for men and all the big-shots attend them. Granpa had a long talk with Sir Edward Beatty, President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, about Canadian affairs... We saw Archduke Felix of Austria and the Archduchess, who were taking a house in Montreal. The Empress Zita had not yet arrived with her mother ... [She arrived a few weeks later] The four children, Carl, Rudolf, Charlotte and Elisabeth were also there. The Emperor had died in 1922, after being married to Zita for about ten years, during which time they had eight children and Granpa remarked that had he lived he and Zita might have exceeded the record set up by her parents, who had twenty-one! These four children, whose ages ranged from nineteen to twenty-three, were all well brought up, with charming manners, and appeared young for their ages. 

The Countess was slightly mistaken about the number of Zita's siblings - while her father Roberto had fathered over twenty children, they had been between two wives. Zita's mother, Maria Antonia, was his second, married after the death of his first, Maria Pia.

After Felix and Karl-Ludwig returned to America to fight in the war, the Governor-General and Princess Alice invited the Empress and her two youngest daughters, Charlotte and Elisabeth, to visit them and stayed in regular contact whenever they visited Montreal.

The Empress Zita of Austria and her two charming daughters, Charlotte and Elisabeth, came to stay with us. The Empress led an austere and secluded existence, and as a consequence the girls, although they were old enough to attend university, had little experience of social life. I well remember their excitement when we took them out to dinner and a movie in Quebec! They are both happily married now [Author's Note: After the war, Charlotte married Georg, Duke of Mecklenburg, and Elisabeth married Prince Heinrich of Liechtenstein]. The Empress's lady-in-waiting, Countess Kerstenbruck, used to visit our aides-de-camp in the staff room in order to have a sherry and a cigarette, as such indulgences were not permitted in the ascetic apartments of the Empress! They lived in a dreary little house with no curtains, no pictures and floors covered with linoleum which had been a priests' convalescent retreat. I felt very sad for her [Zita] and her eight children, and I thought they seemed very poor. She was strict with the girls, so that they knew no one and were always chaperoned by the lady-in-waiting to and from the university. Zita still wore the same dress as she did when she became a widow - down to the ground, right to her hands and up to her ears and chin with no ear-rings or any bit of jewellery. In contrast she was very talkative, well informed and cultivated. She spoke English fluently, but we spoke French to the children (they lived in Quebec), but they were learning English. [Zita] had her old mother with her, who was much more worldly She was looked after by one of Zita's hideous brothers - she had twenty-one brothers and sisters of the Parma family. We sat down to a typical German tea of butterbrod and little square cakes and biscuits. Only [a friend] and I were allowed cups of tea - the others, tumblers of water. 

Eventually, one of the Empress's sheltered daughters, the Archduchess Charlotte, remarkably flew the nest to return to New York under the pseudonym of Charlotte de Bar and enrolled as a social worker in East Harlem, one of the city's most underprivileged areas. Zita returned to Europe after the war, where she died at the age of ninety-six in 1989. 
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