Month: February 2024

The Rivalry of Sisters

The Rivalry of Sisters

‘Of all the gifts great and small, a sister is the greatest of them all.’ So, the saying goes and for many of us, this rings true. But history abounds with famous sisters who don’t exactly get along. First up, there are the famous biblical sisters like Rachel and Leah. These two exemplify the problem of sibling rivalry so often part of biblical stories. Rachel and Leah both have to share the man they love, Jacob. He first loved and married Rachel but she was unable to have children, so he took Leah to bed as well to bear his children. Imagine Rachel’s pain at this development. It is an untenable position.

The rivalry of the Boleyn Sisters

Moving forward, there are the beautiful Boleyn sisters who both wanted to marry the same man, Henry VIII. Quite a bad choice really as Anne literally lost her head in 1536 over that man. She lives on as one of Britain’s most famous ghosts while Mary sleeps on peacefully in her grave. Anne’s ghost is reportedly seen in many places around London and beyond including the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Hever castle. She was not ready to die and especially in not such a horrible way, deceived by her love. Her sister was a more reliable support to her despite the jealousy.

The rivalry of the Queen and Princess Margaret

Other royal sisters, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret shared a special sister bond but for Margaret the younger, it was not all plain sailing. Having a big sister who is also the queen of England was not easy. Margaret could not marry the man she wanted because he was divorced. She needed the Church of England’s and Elizabeth’s approval and it was not at first given. But in fact, the Queen and Eden drew up a plan in 1955 under which Princess Margaret could marry Peter Townsend while keeping her royal title and her civil list allowance. She could live in this country and even continue with public duties but she had to renounce succession as a royal princess. Read all about this here. 

Margaret ultimately, after much thought, decided to not marry Peter and married Anthony Armstrong Jones instead.  She did not have a happy marriage or life but kept the close bond to her older sister, Queen Elizabeth.

Though they had issues when Margaret wanted to marry a divorced commoner, they put this aside to maintain their special bond through life. After all it cannot be easy being the younger sister of a queen. So great was the love of Margaret for her big sister that she opted for her own cremation so there would be room in the family vault for Elizabeth and Philip one day and so she could be near her parents. Her ashes lie in the King George VI Memorial Chapel alongside her sister and the Duke of Edinburgh and her parents.

The Romanov Sisters

Recently, I have posted about the Romanov sisters. They were also royalty and suffered a terrible fate because of their status. Read about these beautiful young grand duchesses in my recent posts on the Russian royal family and these tragic sisters. They seemed to get along well but Anastasia the youngest may have been a bit of a brat. She was the naughtiest of the mostly very well behaved and family orientated sisters.

Rivalry between writing sisters

The arts abounds with famous sisters. The Bronte sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily shared a love of writing. maybe they shared a sense of rivalry as to who could write the best story? I know it was Agatha Christie’s big sister madge who challenged Agatha to write a crime novel. She did well, didn’t she. Writing over 80 novels and stories as well as plays, Agatha Christie became the most read and published novelist of all time.

I love the fictional sisters of Little Women and how they mostly got along just fine for four sisters with different temperaments. There are hints at jealousy and competitiveness but nothing too savage happens. maybe because it is fiction. But not all sisters have happy relationships. No one can be more annoying than a little sister trying to take the limelight or steal your boyfriend. Jealousy is a big issue that often ignites a lifetime of rivalry.

Movie Star rival sisters

In the case of movie star sisters, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, the enmity was fierce. They competed at star level and never softened their fierce jealousy of each other.

The Olsen twins, Mary Kate and Ashley made their acting debut while babies. They share an even more special sister bond, that of twins. Venus and Serena Williams are sisters at a unique competitive level, that of gold medals. They mostly leave their rivalry on the courts. Then there’s the Kardashian sisters competing for the best curves.

Have you heard of Zsa Zsa  and Eva Gabor? They were two sisters out of a trio of Hungarian born sisters. Magda is lesser known though she married actor, George Sanders, her little sister’s cast-off husband. Zsa Zsa, the middle sister competed with Eva for men, money and beauty. Though the sisters married multiple times, Zsa Zsa was the only one to have a child. The Gabor sister act was an act to follow in the 1940’s and 50’s. They were always in the news, a bit like the Kardashians of today.

In the 1930s, The Andrews Sisters, Patty, Maxene and Laverne were another sister trio, a singing group famous for ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and other swing hits during WWII. They rated as the best-selling of all female vocal groups. Despite singing beautifully together and selling 75 million records, they started a fight in 1937 though they stayed as an act until 1967 when Laverne died.

Birth order and rivalry of sisters

Birth order does seem to have an effect on how sisters get along. The order of birth also is said to determine the personality of a child. First born children are usually more sensible, calm and conservative compared to their younger sisters. This is because their parents often spend more time on the discipline side of parenting. Later children meet laxer parenting as the parents run out of puff with a larger brood to control. Little sisters often get to do things their older sisters could not at the same age. this explains the claim that little sisters are spoilt.

As a a younger sister, I can see this. My sister claims I was spoilt and she had a tougher time. However, I have always looked up to my big sister and listened to her advice. I even wrote her into my first book as a character! Whispers Through Time also tells the story of two sisters, my grandmother and great aunt who emigrated to Australia in 1912. They had a special bond through life though their lives took different directions. One married an itinerant worker and the other a rich doctor, but they stayed connected through their shared ordeals during World War One and Two.

In the third book in this series, Last Time Forever, a sense of rivalry that must always have been there, rises to the fore. The sisters have a falling out later in life. Watch out for this last book in the sister trilogy. It’s at the publishers now. But meanwhile if you like stories of sisters and historical fiction, read the others, Whispers through Time and Time, heal my Heart. 

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Photo from Unsplash.

 

 

Who was Saint Valentine?

Who was Saint Valentine?

Why is Feb 14th called Valentine’s Day?

Who was  Saint Valentine and why is February 14th called Valentine’s Day? It might be worth reading this before you rush off to buy cards and chocolates in celebration of this annual day of ‘love and lovers.’ Keep reading too for interesting facts about Valentine’s day  variations.

Saint Valentine performed secret marriages

Valentine’s day is named for Saint Valentine who was a Catholic priest in 3rd century Rome. At this time many Romans were converting to Christianity and Emperor Claudius II was not happy about this as he was a pagan. To retain control, Claudius wrote some strict rules for citizens and soldiers. One such rule was that Roman soldiers could not marry. However, there was a priest called Valentine who offered to secretly conduct a marriage ceremony for the soldiers.

That is how his name became associated with love, especially romantic love. However, Valentine did not totally get away with this secret activity as Claudius did find out and imprisoned him. But while in prison Valentine cared for other prisoners as best he could through prayer and small acts of kindness. What a trooper. he spread his love.

Legend goes that one of the jailers had a blind daughter who Valentine prayed for. She regained her sight and maybe his miracle angered Claudius more because he scheduled Valentine’s execution for 14 Feb 270 AD.

The Saint Valentine’s Message

Legend also goes that before he died Valentine left a message for the jailer’s daughter saying, ‘from your Valentine.’ This saying is the traditional one entered in a Valentine’s Day card to keep the sender or admirer anonymous, which for young women is half the fun. But this practice did not start until 200 years after Valentine’s death.

By then most of Rome was under Christian rule and paganism was on the wane. Pope Gelasius replaced a pagan agricultural festival with a Saint Valentine’s feast day. Also, later, in the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, promoted the day as one to express romantic love. This time in history was a time of courtly love where lovers were often secret. The idea of an anonymous sender therefore fitted well with this day all about love.

Tradition of love spreads

The tradition spread throughout Europe and senders would craft a beautiful card to honor their love’s beauty. Decorations of cupid cherubs, hearts and red roses were the most common additions to the love message. These are still used on cards and single red roses are often sent with the card.

In a world that screams for more love and kindness we can’t be too hard on this tradition. Yes, I know today it also screams of commercialism, but most people tolerate it and find the custom sweet and harmless, especially if they are on the receiving end of the custom. Hope you are!

Vinegar Valentines

Around the 1800’s when more people could write and read and the postal service was underway, a variation of the sweet Valentine greetings came into being. These were the Vinegar Valentine cards. Shops sold them along with the sweeter version. The name sort of says it all, sour not sweet. Vinegar valentines were nasty anonymous messages to those unloved by the sender. I guess they were equivalent to the modern-day trolling on Twitter.

In those days the recipient not the sender had to pay for the postage. So, imagine getting a nasty snarky card and having to pay for the joy of it yourself! The Vinegar Valentines eventually died out as shopkeepers selling such cards were penalised but I have a feeling there may still be a few vinegar Valentine messages delivered on sweet Valentine cards.

Galentine’s Day

In recent times, in the Western World, the whole Valentine concept has been commercialized just like Easter and Christmas. We just can’t seem to help ourselves trying to make money out of everything!

A new variation of the day has emerged. It’s called Galentine’s Day. The Gal bit refers to gals. That’s right gals have banded together as they do to reinvent the day as one where anybody can express friendship or be loved.

Single women, single mothers and other unpartnered individuals can send and be sent Galentine’s cards or meet for lunch or drinks. It is a way to appreciate and be appreciated regardless of one’s loved up status. A great idea. Go for it, gals! It is usually celebrated the day before on Feb 13 but what’s a difference of a day between friends?

Reception in other cultures

But other cultures refuse to be affected by this commercial love- fest day. Iran and other Islamic cultures are definitely against it. After all, in Iran, it is even forbidden to dance with or embrace someone of the opposite sex, unless married and in the privacy of home. Saint Valentine has no chance there to spread his loving message.

In India, the authorities also tried to turn lovers away from celebrating this day. They instituted instead a ‘Hug a Cow’ day in its place. Cows are sacred to Hindus in India and to harm one is a sin. So instead of men and women hugging each other or sending love messages they are encouraged to hug a cow. This, surprise, surprise, has not gone down so well.

Hug a Cow Day?!

A flood, or more correctly a herd, of cartoons, jokes and memes appeared online, depicting men trying to hug cows who didn’t welcome such advances. Then one commentator, said, ‘consent is important’. This is true, of course and maybe even for cows. Animals have rights to! It seems the ‘Cow Hug Day ‘was not a winner so India will have to tolerate the incursion of Western culture. But animal lovers still think it is a good idea as they insist hugging animals is good for cows and people.

The message, after all, is ‘love one another,’ no matter the species. Be inclusive. This is needed in the India culture which does not have a good record of kindness to women. There is a terrible rape crisis in some of the cities. Women are less respected than cows. Some men behave badly. Watch out for these signs of abuse.

Celebrate Love on Valentine’s day

On a more positive note, let us celebrate love and friendship in all cultures and Saint Valentine’s Day could help do this a little despite being a commercialized version of the original sentiment.

So may a single red rose come your way with a loving message! It is a feel-good moment for the romantic ones amongst us. I like the custom. Saint Valentine’s Day is also my wedding anniversary so doubly special. Red roses, dinner and wine for me.

Photo by Naomi Irons on Unsplash

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, Time heal my heart, The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com

The Tragic Romanov Sisters

The Tragic Romanov Sisters

The tragic Romanov sisters were the grand duchesses of Russia, the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II and his empress Alexandra. Their names were Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia in order of birth. These young girls were also the great granddaughters of Queen Victoria as Nicholas and Alexandra were both grandchildren of the queen. It was normal for cousins to marry and interbreed as royalty had to marry royalty not commoners. However, if the grand duchesses had married even to commoners, their lives may have been saved. Instead, they were murdered at the ages of 22, 21, 19 and just 17 years old, along with their young brother Alexey, just 14, and the tsar, tsarina and servants. Such was the tragedy of the Romanov sisters.

Victims of the Russian Revolution

The whole family were the victims of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Due to social unrest, the progress of WWI and political machinations, the tsar was advised to abdicate in early 1917. Not a strong man or leader, he agreed readily and unwittingly signed his own death warrant and that of his young family. The Bolsheviks took control of Russia and imprisoned the royal family in their own beautiful Alexander palace at Tsarskoe Selo near Petrograd. For five months they lived a peaceful domestic existence there under guard before being transported like prisoners to Siberia to a town called Tobolsk. Here in this Siberian backwater, they led a dull existence with no visitors or outings until May 1918 when they were transported yet again to their place of execution at Ekaterinburg further southeast. Despite this fall from royalty and the consequent change in living conditions, the family remained hopeful and united.

Suffering of the tragic Romanov sisters

According to historian, Helen Rappaport’s books, the family knew their days were numbered. Their prison was becoming more dire and heavily guarded. The Red guards mocked them in many acts of disrespect. It is horrible to think of the suffering of these pretty teenage girls, their invalid brother who had hemophilia and their devoted parents. The Romanovs were not nasty people, but a loving family positioned in the wrong time in history. Nicholas was not a born leader. He preferred the quiet of the countryside, walks, nature and reading. His German born wife loved her husband and children but was more autocratic and prouder. As such being German born and appearing haughty, Alexandra became very unpopular with the Russian people especially when she became close to the spiritual monk, Rasputin.

WWI and then the Revolution

Once WWI erupted, with Russia and Germany enemies, German affiliation was suspicious, and Alexandra became even less favored. To the Bolsheviks, this was the time to act to depose the 300-year tsardom of Russia. It did not matter that Alexandra and her teen daughters were serving as nurses in Petrograd, working long days in the hospitals. Olga and Tatiana as the older girls dressed wounds, helped in operations and comforted the wounded. They were sisters of mercy and devoted to their country. The younger girls Maria and Anastasia also volunteered at the hospital after their lessons at the palace. Did this service make them appear less royal? Should they have upheld their position and remained distantly aloof as most royals are?

Four sweet sisters

But to read about the sisters, is to empathise and admire their spirit and kindness. They were sweet innocent girls in a time of horrible terror. As sisters they were very close both in age and association. Born just two years apart from each other over a ten-year period, Olga, Tatiana and Maria in the last years of the 1800s and Anastasia in the new century. Three years later their baby brother was born to much fanfare. An heir, a son, at last. The sisters never resented the gender bias of succession. It was normal for the times. Succession was usually via a son not a daughter.

Hemophilia, a German empress and a mad monk

But the long-awaited son had inherited the deadly royal disease of hemophilia. This reality was to seal the Romanov’s fate. Though the family tried to hide this weakness from the world by withdrawing from public events, the truth finally came out as Alexey grew past babyhood. By then Rasputin was a frequent visitor as he could heal the boy’s bleeds when they occurred. Injuries easily happened due to normal little boy bumps during play.  A frail heir, a mad monk, a German empress; it was not a combination to endear the family to the Russian population. Besides they were at war with Germany and the people were hungry and fearful of the progress of the war.

Despite their royal birth, the Romanov sisters had not enjoyed a life of opulence, gala events and public adoration. On the contrary, their young lives had been spent mostly at the Alexander Palace doing lessons and caring for their ailing mother and brother. Alexandra was not a well woman. She long suffered from neuralgia, sciatica and headaches and then had heart problems too. More often than not, she did not attend royal functions with her husband. Olga and later Tatiana attended instead. This was unusual and talked about in unflattering terms. Alexandra’s absence was seen as haughtiness. She was not the empress of her people.

The sisters liked soldiers not princes

For a while in their later teen years the older two grand duchesses, Olga and Tatiana attended balls and soirees and the peopled loved them. They were beautiful and gracious to all. By the time Olga was 18, there were moves to marry her with Prince Carol of Romania. The families met at the Crimea where they loved to go each summer. However, Olga’s parents left the decision to Olga. They wanted her to marry for love as they had. Olga did not fancy Prince Carol nor he, her. Carol preferred her pretty jolly young sister, Maria. But Maria was too young at the time to marry. So, nothing eventuated.

Olga along with her sister, Tatiana, preferred the fun company of the handsome soldiers who guarded the family at the palace and on the royal yacht. Later during the war, they had crushes on soldiers they nursed in the hospital. But always, their royal position prevented an alliance. Olga, Tatiana and later Maria could only dream of these men. They were off limits. The young Romanov sisters would all die virgins, never knowing the physical love of a man.

What were the Romanov sisters like?

So what were these Romanov girls like? As you can see from the photo on the cover of Helen Rappaport’s book, Olga had a wide, pretty face and Tatiana, the beauty, a more delicate appearance like her mother. Tatiana’s eyes were beautiful, and her heart shaped face made her very noticeable as a beauty. She was a devoted daughter and nurse and very organized. Her mother relied on her abilities. Olga could be moody, perhaps understandably as she was denied a normal life for a young woman of her time. Palace life was isolating and denied her socialization with other young people especially men of her age.

Olga, the eldest

By 20, she should have been married but offers from royal princes did not come. By then the war raged and it was not the time to ally with mighty Russia. Besides by then the riyal houses of Europe were aware of the presence of the deadly hemophilia in the Romanov family and they didn’t want it in theirs. Modern DNA analysis of the Romanov sister’s remains proves that only Anastasia the youngest was a carrier. They need not have feared but they did. Olga remained with her sisters and parents until 22, the age of her death by firing squad.

The younger sisters, Maria and Anastasia had more solid builds than their slender older sisters. Maria had a sweet, happy nature and a lovely smile and eyes. Anastasia the youngest was the plainest looking and a precocious child. She was inattentive to lessons, cheeky and at times disrespectful. her tutors had a hard time with her. But she did enliven the family gatherings. During the last days of imprisonment in Siberia, it was Anastasia who cheered the freezing government prison house with her charades and one act plays.

The royal jewels

One of the last sisterly sessions of camaraderie was sewing the royal jewels into their dresses to secure them from looting by the Red Guards at the final prison house. It was these hidden jewels that made the bullets ricochet around the basement where they were shot. These last remnants of the glorious reign of the Romanovs prevented a swift death for the girls. Instead, they suffered in terror as rounds of bullets flew around the bunker, injuring but not killing them. In the end, bayonets were used to kill the innocent young Romanov sisters. An end not fitting for their status nor kind, innocent souls. It was this terrible fate that ended the reign of the tragic Romanovs. Why didn’t anyone save the Romanovs? Read this previous blogsto discover.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published books. Whispers through Time and Time Heal my Heart are historical fiction and set in the early 1900s around the era of WWI. The Last hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles are contemporary fiction and set in exotic locations. Visit her website at joniscottauthor.com.

Photo is of the cover of Helen Rappaport’s wonderful historical book.