Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Horatio Nelson: Love Story

Lady Hamilton and Lord Horatio Nelson
Almost everybody knows who Lord Horatio Nelson is: he won the Battle of Trafalgar; he lost an arm and an eye; and he said "kiss me Hardy" moments before his death. There is even a famous memorial of him in the streets of London. Yes, you are right, it's the monument in Trafalgar's Square, whereby perched on top of this column is a statue of Horatio, looking dead heroic as how people often portray him to be.

But what about his scandalous relationship with Lady Hamilton?

His relationship with Emma, Lady Hamilton was a very infamous one when he was alive, and the British government tried to quell this issue, because back then, his affair with Lady Hamilton had made Lord Nelson a laughing stock. An extramarital affair is an embarrassment and the people wanted to remember Horatio winning battles, not running around after Lady Hamilton. You don't want the man who is the epitome of heroism to be remembered for his "silliness" too now do you?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Four Greatest Beauties of China: Xi Shi (西施)

Two warring nations. Two ambitious arch-rivals. A resourceful military advisor. A beautiful female spy.

Add them all up together and you have the perfect plot for a drama. Throw in some special effects, some intrigue and romance, some snappy conversations, a Cold War background, and you have a Hollywood blockbuster.

But no, none of these happened in the West, nor did it happen in recent times. To appreciate this story fully, let us go back to the Dynasty of Warring States of China, around the years of 476BC-221BC.

The aforementioned female spy is Xi Shi, the first of the Four Greatest Beauties of Ancient China.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Four Greatest Beauties of China: Wang Zhaojun (王昭君)

The Emperors of China were quite notorious for their lavish lives, especially when it came to the sheer number of court ladies in the palace. The number 3000 was but a representation, in fact during the reign of Emperor Xuan Zong (Lady Yang's husband), it is said that he had 4 million ladies in the palace! Well, with such a staggering number, it was really hard to get to know them all personally. Besides, the camera was yet to be invented. But Emperor Yuan of the Western Han Dynasty(206BC-8AD) had just the perfect solution for it.

He employed artists to draw portraits of the beauties, which would be presented to him. He would then select whom to favour based on the portraits. It was the perfect chance for the artists to earn a fortune. The palace ladies, eager to win the emperor's favour, bribed the artists so that they could be painted in a more flattering manner. Talk about manual photoshop.

Things were going great for the artists, that is, until Wang Zhaojun came along.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Four Greatest Beauties of China: Lady Yang (楊貴妃)

It was hard being a woman in Ancient China. Nor did being beautiful help much either, as there was a Chinese saying, “Beautiful women are often unfortunate/short-lived." A beautiful woman may be promoted to a higher station by winning the favour of the emperor or a high ranking noble officer. However, such beauty may even earn envy, and even ultimately death. Beautiful concubines often became the scapegoat for an emperor's foolery and even a nation's downfall. Perhaps such is the life of Yang Guifei, who, after a life of luxury, was strangled to death in the midst of a rebellion.

This story starts with the death of another woman, Emperor Xuan Zong's beloved concubine Lady Wu in the year of  737 A.D. The Emperor was deeply saddened, and none of the beautiful court ladies could entice his interest. His favourite attendant Gao Lishi was anxious to please him. He sought beauties from far and wide, but none of them could lift the Emperor's mood.

Rumours about the extraordinary beauty of a particular lady came to the emperor's ear. He decided to summon her, and was stunned by her extraordinary beauty. She was so lovely, that the other ladies dulled in comparison. The emperor was smitten. He decided to make her his concubine by hook or by crook.

The aforementioned lady was from the Yang family, with the name of 'Yu Huan'. (Literally 'jade bracelet') She was orphaned at a young age, and was brought up by her uncle who was a minor court officer. She was later listed as one of the 'Four Greatest Beauties of China'.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Isabella of France: She-Wolf of England

Scandalous Women: Isabella of France: She-Wolf of England: Isabella of France When Isabella of France (1295-1358) arrived at the church in Boulogne in 1308 for her wedding to England’s Edward I...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cleopatra VII: Mark Antony

Note: Thank you so much for your support. My previous post "Cleopatra VII: Julius Caesar" has over 500 viewers in less than a month! 

one of the most famous love stories of all time
Cleopatra had known Mark Antony since she was a teenage girl. This was during her father's reign because Mark had helped Ptolemy (her dad) to get back on his throne. She had also met him countless of times during her visit in Rome. He was known to be a handsome man but Cleo never took notice in him, maybe because of their lack of mutual interest: she liked books, learning, science, etc whereas he liked wine and women. That, or maybe it's because he wasn't powerful enough.

Well, that was about to change.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cleopatra VII: Julius Caesar

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar in one of the movies
You can't really blame Cleopatra's "husband" for not trusting his big sister. Firstly, Cleopatra had tried to pretend that Ptolemy didn't exist and ruled on her own. Then, during the time when she had taken refuge, she became an opportunist when news about the war between Pompey and Julius Caesar broke out. With the support from Julius Caesar, Cleopatra had the upper hand.

So how did she do it?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cleopatra VII: Before Queen and Overview

Cleopatra-- the last queen of Egypt; the most famous queen in history; infamous for her relationship with Julius Caesar; known for her relationship with Mark Anthony; killed herself; "beautiful."
And often misunderstood.

First and foremost, if you observe carefully, her title "Cleopatra the seventh" is because her ancestors-- and daughter-- were also named Cleopatra. Yet, she is the only one referred to when the name "Cleopatra" is mentioned.

To note, here are some fun facts about this brilliant woman:-
She married both her brothers (very high degree of inbreeding among the Ptolemies, I'll come to that soon); not an Egyptian; not very pretty; rumoured to have a hooked nose (she might not have it because a hooked nose was also a symbol of authority in the Ptolemaic dynasty); a bit short and fat; killed her younger sister; and most importantly-- extremely intelligent. For example, she spoke nine languages; invented aroma therapy; a gynaecologist; wrote books; made her country rich when it was in debt; and the list goes on.

One of the most famous depictions of Cleopatra,
as portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor

In summary, Cleopatra was a politician, strategist, and warrior. More often than not, you will find historians writing about Cleopatra as a seductress, but please do not forget that this notion was written by male traditionalists, for unlike Hatshepsut, she ruled as a woman. The media also likes to modify Cleopatra into something she was not. Knowing that she had caught the eyes of the two most powerful men in the world during her time, many will assume that she is very pretty, or even portray her as a whore. I am here to debunk the myth about this "seductress" by telling what she did as an 18 year-old queen who became the sole ruler of the ancient world and held the fate of the western world in her hands.

Now take a look at some of the actresses who had played as Cleopatra:-

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lady Jane Grey 4: Book & Movie Reviews

In a previous post about Lady Jane Grey, I’ve mentioned about ‘Innocent Traitor’ and ‘Lady Jane’, a book and a movie based on Lady Jane’s life. In this post I will do a brief review of both.

Book Title: Innocent Traitor
Author: Alison Weir

Review: I especially enjoyed reading ‘Innocent Traitor’. It describes the life of Lady Jane Grey in detail, and gives the readers an insight of her life. As Alison Weir is a well-known historian who has done much research, it can be assured that the details in this book are historically accurate. Well, most of it, anyway.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lady Jane Grey 3: Summary

Lady Jane Grey 2: Facts and Fiction

So Lady Jane was dead; but her story lives on. As time passed, more and more details were added to it, to make her image suit the ideals of the times. She was depicted as the very first Marian martyr, an innocent Protestant maiden who was good, devout and pious, ready to die for her faith. 

The famous painting by Paul Delaroche depicts a beautiful maiden, dressed in a flowing white dress, her eyes bound by a white cloth. She is guided to the block; two ladies are overwhelmed with grief, while the executioner waits, axe in hand. The beauty of the maiden with her helpless form contrasts with tragic atmosphere of the painting. The grey walls behind suggests a closed room, which is historically inaccurate, as Jane was executed in the open on a scaffold. In reality, her hair would probably be bound up (imagine how those flowing tresses would get in the way), and she is said to have worn black—the same dress that she had worn to her trial. But nevertheless, it does picture how many have come to view Jane throughout the years—a helpless victim, the ideal embodiment of female purity and submission.

Lady Jane Grey 1: The Nine-Days Queen

She was innocent; yet she was beheaded as a traitor. She was young, yet she was firm in matters regarding religion. She was crowned a monarch, yet she was often referred to as ‘Lady’, rather than ‘Queen.’
The details of her reign are shaky. Can she be considered as England’s first queen? Or should the title go to Mary I, the rightful heir to the throne? Many only know her as the ‘nine-days queen’, Interestingly, some take her reign as ’13 days’—that is, if you take the days between Edward I’s death (6 July 1553) to the day Jane was declared as queen (9 July 1553) into account. Her reign ended drastically on 19 July, when Mary I was declared as queen instead.

 There are so many details of Lady Jane’s life that remain shrouded in mystery. Her life was exceedingly coloured with the ideals of later historians, many who pictured her as an innocent, helpless young girl who was pushed onto the throne—and eventually, the block, by her ambitious parents and father-in-law. Yet, how big was her role in deciding her fate? Was she truly the passive victim that many thought her to be? 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Beauty of Xiaohe

Non-Asian looking mummies were found in China. These mummies are approximately 4000 years old. There was one particular mummy, even though dead, have turned the heads of many. The implications of the European features (many details are still in tact, such as eyelashes)? I'm not so sure. This article consists of pictures only, because I'm not very clear about the details. Good to share though!  She is the most beautiful mummy on Earth!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

King Tutankhamun

King Tut
Perhaps the most famous Egyptian Pharaoh of all time would be this boy-king. It is interesting how during ancient Egypt's 3000 years of world supremacy, it is this boy without fascinating records of his life and achievements who has become one of the only kings most of us can name.

The reason why he became famous is his tomb: complete with his mummy and treasures left untouched for thousands of years. Ever since this lost Pharaoh's tomb full of treasure was found, millions of people have gazed upon him and his treasures. Please note that it is almost impossible to find a Pharaoh's tomb complete with its treasures, due to the infamous grave robbers.

Despite his claim to fame for being the only Pharaoh who had his tomb left untouched for thousands of years, I find his life story to be very intriguing too. Not to mention the infamous curse of Tutankhamun.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Queen Elizabeth I: Queenship

Aged 25 and Queen of England
On this day in 1559, Queen Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey (I'm not joking on this one; her coronation really was on this day in history). When she first came to the throne, England was surrounded by much more powerful neighbours; hence, the speculation of her capability to govern a country such as this. Also, many people had thought that not only she had no right to the throne, but she was a gullible woman who can easily be manipulated.

Yet, she proved them all wrong: she eventually won the support of the ordinary citizens by avoiding the cruelty that had gone on during the reign of her predecessors. More importantly, she is best known for keeping her thoughts to herself, making her mind an unfathomable realm from her councillors and subjects. Throughout Queen Elizabeth I's life, she had strongly held on to this principle:-

Her mantra was:
Video et taceo-- I see and keep silent.

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