Christine de France

I love old portraits of children. It must have been an enormous chore for artists to paint them and possibly a little beneath their dignity as well, but there is usually a candour and sense of fun in child portraits that really delights me. I suppose I love the juxtaposition of their bright young eyes […]


What happened to Lord Darnley?

Today is the anniversary of the explosion at the Kirk O’ Field House in Edinburgh, which killed Lord Darnley, the horrible second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. By all accounts ‘King’ Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley was a reptilian, repulsive youth whose handsome face, impressive height and elegant bearing masked a deeply unpleasant personality, which […]


Marie Antoinette inspired fripperies

I know that I probably come across as a bit of a goth, but I also have a secret love for kitschy floral patterned stuff too. Therefore, I was pretty thrilled when Palmers Department Store offered me this gorgeous Cath Kidston Antique Rose bedding set. It’s so beautiful and romantic and crisp – I love […]


Writing update!

The other day, my husband was at one of his poker games (he’s a poker FIEND and takes part in tournaments and stuff) and someone asked him ‘What does your wife do?’ Without pause, he replied: ‘She’s a writer’ and then apparently reflected for a while on how nice it was to be able to […]


Mary, Queen of Scots got her head chopped off

Chemise allegedly worn by Mary, Queen of Scots at her execution on the 8th of February, 1587. It is on display at Coughton Court, Warwickshire, the family seat of the loyal English Catholic family, the Throckmortons and has clearly been revered as something of a relic of the dead Queen. I’m seeing a teeny tiny […]


Victorian book graffiti

I’ve had this book, a copy of Harrington by Maria Edgeworth, for as long as I can remember, having pinched it from my grandparents’ bookshelves when I was a very little girl. I’ve never actually read the book itself but the writing inside, echoes of an earlier time, has always fascinated me. In fact, I […]


The legend of Beatrice Cenci

Beatrice Cenci, attributed to Guido Reni. Photo: Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome. Many years ago, I had to spend a week in Rome as part of my degree course. I know, such a TERRIBLE hardship. It was an odd week, really, of churches, tombs and photobombing with the high point being the evening I sat […]

beatricecenci

Is this the face of Anne Boleyn?

Anne Boleyn. Photo: Royal Collection. Amongst all the portraits that claim to depict the ill fated Tudor Queen, Anne Boleyn, I would say that this is the least in favour, probably because her supporters (of which there are many so I’d better watch my tongue really) don’t think it is sufficiently glamourous or flattering. However, […]


Valentine’s Day ideas for those of a gloomy disposition

Is it too soon to be thinking about Valentine’s Day? I’m vaguely thinking about it at the moment because I am chronically disorganised and need a good fortnight’s advance notice if I am going to be required to produce presents and a card for an occasion. I like to think of myself as being spontaneous […]


Feminism and Jack the Ripper – a ramble through a disordered mind

I got yet another email last night accusing me of being ‘un-feminist’ because of my interest in Jack the Ripper and suggesting that I am contributing to the glamourising of what were clearly horrific crimes against women and subsequent fetishising of the victims. I say ‘yet another email’ as this isn’t actually the first time […]


Whitechapel 3, part 1.

I think it’s probably very well known by now that I am a MASSIVE fan of the ITV series Whitechapel as evidenced by capering around like some sort of idiot at the premiere of the last series and also my first and last foray into fan fiction, which I will probably regret linking to here. […]


A dread and terrible Queen – the bust of Nefertiti.

Photo: Neues Museum, Berlin. ‘As we have it the bust of Nefertiti is artistically and ritualistically complete, exalted, harsh and alien… This is the least consoling of great art works. Its popularity is based on misunderstanding and suppression of its unique features. The proper response to the Nefertiti bust is fear‘ — Camille Paglia (my […]


Three thousand book sales

I found out last night that I have now sold over three thousand books! I know that this is the merest BAGATELLE to quite a few of you but I am feeling jolly pleased with myself right now. I don’t often like to talk about my childhood and upbringing as they are more fitting for […]


Dust and Shadow – Jack the Ripper v Sherlock Holmes

Haha, you thought I’d forget that Sunday is now Book Review Day but you were WRONG. Thanks to the brilliant BBC series Sherlock and the Guy Ritchie films, there’s been a bit of a resurgence of interest in Sherlock Holmes lately and RIGHTLY SO because, let’s face it, Sherlock Holmes is brilliant and definitely the […]


The Pleasures of Men – Kate Williams

‘Catherine Sorgeiul lives with her Uncle in a rambling house in London’s East End. She has few companions and little to occupy the days beyond her own colourful imagination. But then a murderer strikes, ripping open the chests of young girls and stuffing hair into their mouths to resemble a beak, leading the press to […]


Snakes and Bastards – I love you, Agatha Raisin

I have decided that from now on SUNDAY is BOOK REVIEW DAY here on my blog. I give it a week before I forget this resolution but let’s just roll with it while I am still all pumped up with enthusiasm, shall we? Several people over the years have noted that my continued insistence upon […]


Kidneys, Thieves and Donne.

Hello! I hope you all enjoyed the plethora of scheduled posts that I arranged for this month so that I could sneak off and attend to some Serious Writing. They’ve run out now though so I’m back again, in body as well as spirit. Before I continue, I’d just like to say a very profound […]