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The Windsor Beauties: Ladies of the Court of Charles II Hardcover – July 31, 2005
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The Windsor Beauties is the first book in the Victorian Heritage Press imprint and heralds the beginning of a new era of historiography. Every possible effort is made to reproduce the original text of these classic history books while providing invaluable new cues to the modern lay reader. Footnotes provide historical details on people and places which are no longer contemporary with the original work. A glossary provides definitions of words which are unfamiliar or obscure in the twenty-first century. Fresh translations of 17th century French prose and poetry provide new insights into characters of history.
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Melville, however, goes beyond merely reproducing each painting and reciting the details of its creation. He also details the world in which these women lived, the reputations under which they thrived (or suffered), and the contemporary views of them held by their peers and others. For instance, Melville's two chapters devoted to Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland (whose portrait graces the cover of the book) contain several excerpts from the diary of Samuel Pepys regarding her life and doings. While it's nearly impossible to disentangle fact from gossip, especially four hundred years after the fact, these vignettes provide a look into the lives of the ladies Levy so brilliantly portrayed in the paintings commissioned by the Duchess of York. The Windsor Beauties is a valuable source for anyone interested in post-Civil War painting, portraiture, or the court of Charles II.
Samuel Pepys was born in London, England in 1633. He attended Cambridge University, graduating in 1654 and became a well-known man of business in London, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge as well as an appetite for pleasure. In 1660, Pepys began keeping a diary in which he recorded all of the details of his life in London.
At approximately this same time, Count Grammont of France arrived at the English court after being banished from the French court of King Louis XIV for seducing the King's mistress.
Lewis Melville used the memoirs of Count Grammont and the diaries of Samuel Pepys extensively when he wrote this book in 1928. The book is a fascinating look into the inner workings of the royal court of King Charles II of England woven around a series of pictures commissioned from Sir Peter Lely by Anne, Duchess of York, who wished to have portraits of the most beautiful women in the court. The eleven portraits were called "The Windsor Beauties" because they were originally hung in the Queen's bedchamber at Windsor Castle.
This revised edition, supervised by Victor R. Volkman, retains the original text. To help the reader better understand the political and social issues of the time, Mr. Volkman has added a large glossary as well as extensive footnotes. He has also added a proper bibliography for anyone who wishes to do further reading.
The Windsor Beauties is the first of a series of restorations Mr. Volkman hopes to do, introducing the great literature of the 17th and 18th centuries to a new generation of readers. I spent several wonderful hours reading this book and then many more online as I started reading more and more about the people in this book.
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