QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Stars in Her Crown #3: Princess Alice of Hesse

Block #3 Alice by Denniele Bohannon

Our third Star in Victoria's crown is Princess Alice Maud Mary (1843-1878).


Princesses Alice (#3) and Vicky (#1) with baby Helena (#5)
 in a painting of the Royal Family by Winterhalter

Costumed for a family theatrical

Alice, the first of the middle children, was the Royal Family's natural nurse by temperament and position.
Alice, around 13, with her mother.
Alice had a bout of scarlet fever at this time,
which may have caused life-long health problems.

After sister Vicky married when Alice was 15 she became the eldest girl, helping her grandmother the Duchess of Kent in her final illness and sitting with her father Prince Albert through his last weeks. She also consoled her inconsolable mother through these griefs.

Vicky (left) and Alice both lived in Germany after marrying German princes.

According to author Helen Rappaport, courtier Lord Clarendon thought Alice a paragon. Although "'boxed up in a gilt cage all her life" she had sound principles, great judgement and a knowledge of the world.

Prince Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse (1837-1892)

Louis and Alice fell in love, were engaged for about two years and married despite official mourning for Prince Albert in July, 1862. Her mother insisted she have an all-black wedding.

Alice's home, the New Palace in Darmstadt

Duchies of Hesse & Darmstadt in a current map of Germany

Alice (left) with her sisters soon after Prince Albert's death.
Queen Victoria's grief pervaded the family. 
Victoria told Uncle Leopold that weeping "day after day is my most welcome friend."

Alice's practical nature enabled her to view her mother's behavior objectively. She continued the role of her father who'd told his wife she should be "less occupied with your self and your own feelings."
Alice suggested improvement to a parent whose personality problems included supreme self-absorption and a tendency to counter criticism with temper tantrums.

Newlyweds 
Victoria confided her jealousy to her diary:
 "Here I sit lonely & desolate...while our two daughters have each their loving husbands."

Victoria's excessive grief over Albert's death eventually gave way to a generalized state of anxiety and agoraphobia, which made her a royal recluse. She was terrified of people looking at her, an impractical phobia for a Queen. Newspapers and Parliamentarians complained publicly, calling her mad and demanding she abdicate in favor of Bertie. Behind her back the court criticized. Lady-in- Waiting Marie Mallet suggested Victoria's excessive grief was "the dim shade of an inherited melancholy from George III." Alice had the nerve to confront her mother, earning a demotion to least favorite daughter.

Alice and her children about 1876
Alix, the young girl standing in front, and Irene (right) were
 hemophilia carriers, affecting their sons.

Alice was a carrier for the blood clotting disorder hemophilia, the family curse. Son Fritz inherited the male-linked disease and died after a fall. In the summer of 1878 Queen Victoria was worried about Alice's health. "She still looks very weak and delicate...." In the fall her children caught diphtheria. Baby Marie died and then Alice herself caught the respiratory disease and died on December 14th, the seventeenth anniversary of Prince Albert's death. She was 35.

The motherless family with Grandmama the Queen

It is fortunate in one way that Alice did not outlive her children as two were destined for tragedy. Alix (front right) grew up to marry the future Tsar Nicholas II, passing hemophilia to her son, the heir to the Russian throne. Alix's family was murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution in 1918. Sister Elizabeth (standing right), married to a Russian Grand Duke, was killed the following day.

Block #3 Alice by Becky Brown

Letter from Princess Alice to her mother. (Alice had just given birth to her first son in 1868):
"I am on my sofa in my sitting-room with all your dear photos, &c., around me, and your pretty quilt over me."
See a post on Victoria's hobby, knitting and crocheting items like the "quilt" she sent to Alice here:
https://barbarabrackman.blogspot.com/2018/11/queen-victorias-quilts-lost-in.html

The Block
Block #3 Alice by Mark Lauer


To Print:

Create a word file or an empty JPG file.
Click on the image above.
Right click on it and save it to your file.
Print that file 8-1/2" x 11". Check to be sure the inch square box measures 1".
You'll need 4 copies if you are going to piece it over paper foundations.


The block is constructed in triangles—-Triangles are flipped and pieced into squares, four to a block. Each pattern includes paper foundations for 8” & 12” blocks, which you can also use for template piecing. Add a 1/4” seam allowance when you cut the fabric using the templates.


In Block #3 four of the triangles are flipped over. And those four have a different color for Points A & B.

Textile of the week:

The Art Institute of Chicago is supposed to be the source for this chintz fragment with a portrait of the new Queen and the British Royal Arms, assumed to be a Coronation celebration from 1837 or 1838.


Read a Book a Week:

A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert & the Death that Changed the British Monarchy by Helen Rappaport.
https://books.google.com/books?id=CYHHagBjkkkC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Silk Quilts at St. Patrick's Cathedral Fair

Throws and bedcoverings pieced of silk were quite the fashion in the last
quarter of the 19th century, a fad reflected in accounts of an 1878 New
York City social event.


Catholics of the metropolitan area threw a fundraising fair in celebration of the opening of their new Gothic cathedral on Fifth Avenue for six weeks in the fall.

In the grand tradition of ladies' bazaars women from neighboring parishes made food, decorative items and knickknacks to sell. Each church sponsored a table. Quilts were among the items sold and raffled, according to the Journal of the Fair,  a special daily newspaper.

The newspapers were bound into souvenir volumes.

The building designed by architect James Renwick had been under
construction since 1858 with work interrupted by the Civil War. 
By the time of the dedication in 1878 all work but the main spires were finished.

The cathedral as it appears today.
The Fair raised money to retire the debt and perhaps
pay for those Gothic spires.

The daily newspaper described various ladies' tables with silk quilts often mentioned. The silk quilts pictured here, mostly from online auctions, have nothing to do with that fair, but it's all a good excuse to show some terrific examples of the style.

From a Copake Auction

"At the St. Joseph's table (of Manhattanville) can be seen the handsomest patchwork quilt of silk in the city. It was presented by Mrs. Thos. Bennett, one of the ladies attached to the table. It contains six thousand pieces and was finished just in time for the Fair, after a persevering work of four years."

Many raffles were held and the newspaper announced the winners.

James H. Grattan (?) of East 12th Street won a "silk quilt, log cabin design"
at the Immaculate Conception table.

Several drygoods companies advertised in the newspaper.

"Rich novelties in silks, for dress & garniture."


The editor was much impressed by Mrs. Bennett's quilt:

"Who can doubt woman's perseverance....He would be a poor votary of Somnus who could not revel in glorious and health-giving slumber for a whole night, and half a day, under such a comforter. 'Blessings on the man who invented sleep,' said Sancho Panza---we say blessing on the woman who invented quilts and the more patches the better."


Hindman Auction

One mysterious reference: "There is a quilt of silk patches, wherein 'the green is above the red,' made by a lady upward of 80 years of age," alludes to Irish green above British red, a little politicking.

The daily newspaper documented New York's Catholic community nicely. I wondered about my 13-year-old great grandmother. Did she take the ferry from Brooklyn to see this event that promised to rival the 1878 Paris Exposition?

See the Journal of the Fair here at Google Books:
https://books.google.com/books?id=KSKsfJ1z9DIC&source=gbs_navlinks_s


A log cabin quilt is mentioned, but 1878 was before the crazy quilt fad so I saw no mention of crazy quilts or Japanese patchwork although the ladies of St. Francis of Assisium offered a "Japanese silk fire-screen, richly embroidered...." as did the ladies of St.Francis Xavier.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Stars in Her Crown #2 The Prince of Wales

Block #2 The Prince of Wales by Becky Brown

Berlinwork (needlepoint) portrait of Albert Edward
Prince of Wales (1841-1910) 
Collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum

The Prince of Wales was England's crown prince, second child of Victoria and Albert, named Albert Edward for his father Prince Albert and for Victoria's father Edward, Duke of Kent, who'd died when she was a baby.

Victoria's Sketch of her eldest,
Victoria, Albert, Alfred and Alice in 1846

Letter from Victoria to her Uncle Leopold about a visit from another less-loved Uncle in June, 1842.
"The King of Hanover arrived just in time to be too late.... He is very gracious, for him. Pussy [Vicky] and Bertie (as we call the boy) were not at all afraid of him, fortunately; they appeared after the dĂ©jeuner [breakfast] on Friday, and I wish you could have seen them; they behaved so beautifully before that great number of people, and I must say looked very dear, all in white, and very distinguĂ©s; they were much admired."

Bertie & Vicky
He was never as good a student as Vicky and both parents
compared them unfavorably.

The Queen was a skillful draftswoman and watercolorist. With her artist's eye she noticed how people looked and wrote about it often. Prettiness was quite important to her. The mother of nine children was never fond of babies unless they were beautiful. "An ugly baby is a very nasty object,...the prettiest are frightful when undressed."

Vicky and Bertie, drawn by Queen Victoria

Victoria later told Vicky, "You are so much more wrapped up in your children than I was, or ever could be."

Throughout his life the Queen bemoaned Bertie's perceived unattractiveness. He just did not look like his angelic and handsome father and he certainly did not take after him in intellect or morality. 

Bertie probably had some learning disabilities that made schooling difficult, especially tutoring dictated by parents overly ambitious for a perfect future king. Albert told Vicky: Bertie was "sharp when his mind is set on anything, which is seldom." Complaints focused on his lack of attention. From afar we can diagnose him with Attention Deficit Disorder viewed then as a character defect.

The Prince of Wales and President Buchanan at George Washington's Tomb
in 1860 by James Rossiter. Collection of the Smithsonian Institution 


Bertie's tour of Canada and the United States in 1860 when he was 18 was quite a success but soon after he returned to University at Cambridge he met an actress, perhaps his first sexual encounter. When his father heard about it he was shocked, writing that it caused him "the deepest pain I have yet to feel in this life." He had a talk with the wayward boy while walking in the November rain. Six weeks later Albert was dead. Victoria blamed Bertie. (Walking in the rain does not kill people. A digestive condition like Crohn's Disease is thought to be the cause of Albert's death at 42.)
"Oh! that boy---much as I pity I never can or shall look at him without a shudder as you may imagine." Queen Victoria.
The Prince of Wales by Denniele Bohannon

His high spirits were anathema after Albert's death when Victoria wanted him to conform to "the cureless melancholy of his poor home"

Bride and Groom in 1863

Bertie married beautiful, hard-of-hearing Princess Alexandra of Denmark a year or so later.

Alexandra as Queen of England in the early 20th century

The Princess of Wales set style with her fringe of curls (a wiglet, perhaps) and the choker necklaces she wore to hide surgery scars on her neck. Her mother-in-law was not fond of the hairstyle writing Vicky alliteratively in 1874 that the "fashion with a frizzle and fringe in front is frightful". The Queen was, however, very fond of Alix. A typical comment: "Beloved Alix, I can never praise her enough."

One could not call it an ideal marriage. For one thing Bertie was quite promiscuous, flaunting affairs before his wife and his subjects. For another, Denmark and several German states were at odds. Alix would not speak to some of her Prussian in-laws.
"Oh! if Bertie's wife was only a good German and not a Dane...as regards the peace and harmony in the family! It is terrible to have the poor boy on the wrong side, and aggravates my suffering greatly." Letter from Victoria to Vicky.

In a way it's a shame that Vicky saved her mother's letters because they reveal a Queen who was supremely self-centered. So much was viewed as aggravating her own suffering. Being monarch of the world's most powerful country did not soften the edges of a woman with a narcissistic personality flaw. And it's in her writing about Bertie that is most contradictory.

The Queen seemed quite fond of the adult Bertie, if disapproving of his friends, the Marlborough House set, and their pursuits. When he was dangerously sick with typhoid in 1871 she wrote Vicky, "I cannot fancy [the darling boy] ill---he who is always so gay and strong and active, so full of life and vigour, always on the move and never ill or cast down." But she also had no faith in his ability to fulfill his royal duties. A year later: "I should like to retire quietly to a cottage in the hills and rest and see almost no one....If only our dear Bertie was fit to replace me! Alas! Alas!"


Bertie soldiered on in his own fashion, becoming King Edward VII when he was 59 in 1901. He was quite popular, the perfect king for his own times after all.

The Block
Block #2 The Prince of Wales by Mark Lauer

The larger pattern is for a 12" Block.
The smaller for an 8" Block.

To Print:
Create a word file or an empty JPG file.
Click on the image above.
Right click on it and save it to your file.
Print that file 8-1/2" x 11". Check to be sure the inch square box measures 1".
You'll need 4 copies if you are going to piece it over paper foundations.


The block is constructed in triangles—-Triangles are flipped and pieced into squares, four to a block. Each pattern includes paper foundations for 8” & 12” blocks, which you can also use for template piecing. Add a 1/4” seam allowance when you cut the fabric using the templates.

In Block #2 they are identical except four are flipped over. And those four have a different color for Point A, purple in one set in the sketch, brown in the other.

Textile of the Week


This week's royal textile is a commemorative handkerchief with an array of English sovereigns printed for the King's coronation in 1902 (postponed due to an attack of royal appendicitis.) Many an English school child could have made good use of this square stuffed into his pocket during a history test.
The Prince of Wales by Janet Perkins

Read more about Bertie's Marlborough House Set at this link:

Read a book a week:
The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley.