Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Bit of Royal Austria...


...A stunning picture of the inside of Schonbrunn Palace in Austria. You can almost feel the coolness of the marble and if you're quiet, you may even hear the echo of heels as ladies in waiting hurry down the corridor. Imagine a grand ball taking place in one of the great rooms, walking up one of the ornate staircases or peeking into the private imperial apartments. The Schonbrunn is magnificent and not unlike Versailles in France. For centuries the Austrian Royals---the Hapsburgs---lived there and played there. There is a room that is named after Marie Antoinette. Yes, she lived there for part of her life. After all, her mother was the Empress Marie Theresa. Generations later, Emperor Franz Joseph met his future Bavarian bride, Elisabeth, as she entered the country before their marriage. Elisabeth, also known to us as Sisi or Sissi, was taken to the Schonbrunn Palace.
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The Austrian Royals are very interesting to read about. Lucky for us there are many generations of them to choose from. There's Empress Marie Theresa who adored her husband and her many children--it was a real love match---and she was bereft when her dear husband died. Later, there was Sissi. She had everything—almost everything—that could make a woman happy. Well, almost. Yet, she was never fulfilled; her marriage was never what it could have been. Although she was magnificently beautiful, her mother in law Sophie ran her life, took her children and did not allow her to assume her rightful place. Or was it her husband, Franz Joseph that allowed it to happen? If he had intervened on behalf of his wife, how different would their life have been?
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About a year ago I met a writer who was busy studying the Hapsburgs, and had become consumed by their rich history. She was knee deep in a novel at the time, and we emailed each other back and forth, discussing the Hapsburgs, their personalities and the etiquette of the Austrian Court. I really do this in my spare time and it’s great to meet other royal lovers and writers. Her novel is now done. Her name is Jennifer Linforth, and the finished novel is called:
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Adelrune
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What Jennifer found during her study was very interesting. She read about the mental illness that ran through their genes and became curious about a female family member who was kept hidden from the public and spent her days in the secluded rooms of the Schonbrunn palace. This got Jennifer thinking, and she came up with a brilliant story. The heroines name is Adelrune, but Adelrune is different from other women. She has a form of autism. Jennifer explains the condition below for us:
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Hans Asperger once said the difference between those with Asperger’s Syndrome and those not on the autism spectrum was as fine as a line drawn in the sand. His claim was we are all in some ways a bit ‘Aspergerish’. He first published his definition of this syndrome in 1944, bringing to light the traits of social isolation, intense obsession with one interest, awkward movements and mannerisms and a difficulty forming friendships. Prior to his work with autistic children in Vienna, many suffered asylums and were left to die. He viewed his patients as ‘little Einstein’s’ children who, despite their social development disorder, would possess great talent come adulthood. Asperger died before his findings and work with children became wildly noticed. It was not until the early 90’s that Asperger’s Syndrome became a recognized condition on the autism spectrum. Today, one out of 150 children and one in eighty boys suffer from autism. I wanted bring to light what life might have been like for an autistic young woman in 1866. She was far from the imbecile she would have been labeled as during this time period.
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Jennifer wrote her story against the backdrop of the Austrian royal family. Adelrune, who has a form of autism, tries to do her best as she is thrust into the mayhem of the extended imperial family. Now, how awesome is that? The hero, a grand duke, is not what he seems and keeps Adelrune comfortably in the dark about his true identity as a royal. I asked her for a bit of the novel to post on my blog, and she was kind enough to give me something. Here is an excerpt featuring Adelrune and the confusion surrounding a most royal hero….
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“Are you seeking your escort, Fraulein? Pardon my impropriety, but I cannot help but notice you seem as nervous as frightened rabbit. May I assist you?”
Adelrune spun and stammered at a rather handsome gentleman. “I am not a rabbit. And yes… my escort… that would be proper... but no, I am not looking for him.” She fussed with her gown too anxious to stand still. What did she know of balls?
The man followed her scans of the crowd. “If you are searching for the Kaiser, he never dances until the cotillion.”
“I care not for the Kaiser.” She pulled on a bone of a hoop. “I am looking for Duke Algrasser—my escort—so I can be certain to avoid him and the grand duke of Styria, so I can be sure I do not.”
A servant walked by balancing a silver tray.
“Champagne?” The gentleman lifted two flutes and handed one to her.
Adelrune jerked back. Champagne? Yes… she heard of this curious drink. Hesitantly, she accepted the thin crystal glass. Pale yellow liquid bubbled and shimmered in the light. She could not tear her eyes away from how it sparkled. Lifting it to her nose, the bubbles shot straight behind her eyes, making her ears tickle. The gentleman laughed and touched the flute to his lips.
“The Grand Duke?” The man sipped. “You are acquainted with his imperial highness?”
“No, I am acquainted wit his royal highness and I am rather fond of him. I know no one of imperial rank.”
Adelrune sipped as well, avoiding the man’s skewed expression and raised brow. The sweet champagne made her curl her lips into her mouth. No wonder the aristocracy enjoyed life. She took another taste.
The din of the ball fell away as Adelrune relaxed. Small glances over her flute allowed her to observe the ladies and gentlemen around her. Hardly as regal as them, she felt a bit insignificant in such opulence. She lifted her shoulder. What did it matter? She was in Kaiservilla, by the command of the grand duke!
“Shall I have the pleasure? Is your dance card full already?”
Adelrune took another sip of champagne. And to think Becca did not believe her when she said Klaus would love her openly. The gentleman to her side leaned it to her, jolting Adelrune out of her inspection.
“My what?”
“Your dance card.” He indicated the small book and lead dangling from her wrist.
Adelrune stared at it. She wondered what such an accessory was; the letters on the front were foreign to her. The man gestured for it again and with a bit of hesitation she handed it to him. He scrawled in it.
“Tell me, what are your favorite flowers?”
Adelrune blinked. What did that have to do with dancing? More champagne met her lips.
“Edelweiss.”
“Rather lofty for a cotillion bouquet, don’t you think? You will have to settle with roses from me for that dance. No man can gather enough edelweiss for a bouquet.”
“The grand duke of Styria can.”
“His imperial highness? Gathering edelweiss?” His laughed bounced across the marble.
“No. His royal highness. Truly sir, I suggest you keep things straight lest you look like a fool.”

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Okay, okay...back to the blog. Great huh? Don't you feel like you were there with her? And doesn't Adelrune have a will of her own? I'm happy to say that right now Jennifer's manuscript is being seriously considered for publication. Nothing is definite, but I have no doubt Adelrune will find a publisher. The story is unusual but compelling. I think Jennifer Linforth's name is soon going to become much more recognizable to the public. Not only will Adelrune certainly be snapped up shortly, she has recently sold another novel to Highland Press. It's called Madrigal, and it’s the continuation of Phantom of the Opera—so the girl is no novice. I don't have any other details about Madrigal, (you can find them on her blog and website) but I'm sure when it's released it will do very well... and I wouldn't be surprised if Adelrune was published at about the same time.
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Jennifer has explained to me why she loves the Austria of the mid 1800's. I can totally understand her fascination because I, too, love anything royal. I asked Jennifer to write down for us what fascinates her so much about the time period. Here is what she said:
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The world is growing weary of that most costly of all luxuries, hereditary kings.
—George Bancroft
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It was the softly seductive voice of Uwe Kröger, a star of the German stage crooning out “Die Letzt Tanz” (The Last Dance) that lured me to Austria. Kröger played the role of Der Tod (Death) in the musical sensation, Elisabeth, as beloved in Germany and Austria as Phantom of the Opera is in the United States. While it was a story of Sisi that whet my curiosity about Austrian history, it was the life of sadly retarded Kaiser Ferdinand I of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary and the last crowned King of Bohemia that sealed my fate…
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Susan asked me to blog about why I am drawn to Austrian history. I’d love to say it is the sexy allure of the Hussar uniform. I simply cannot resist a man in tight red pants with a fraternal sash strapped tightly against a well sculpted chest, but it goes deeper than that. The Habsburg history is as proud as it is shameful, as glorious as it is humble, as sane as it is insane—literally.
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Many identify with Elisabeth of Witteslbach the Kaiserin of Austria. She never anticipated the crown of Austria —that right belonged to her sister Helena, but who was to refuse the Kaiser? Ruled by an overbearing mother in law, she was the picture of sympathy. But Sisi’s history was troubling and disturbed. Many novels and movies I stumbled across depicted a sweeping romance between her and Franz-Josef. But the more I studied Franz-Josef, the more I sympathized with him over Sisi. Here was a man who had no choice but to grow into an emperor. Follow his life to that of his son—a man drawn to the plight of the commoner, determined to see Austria move forward into the 20th century, but repressed by an ancient duty that bound him to his bloodline, the Catholic church, and the thoughts of 600 Habsburgs before him.
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The passion for their family name and such divided views for the future of their country, drew me to the Habsburg family. And sitting on the throne during one of Austria’s most bloody times was a man of little brain, but apparently great heart. Reading about Ferdinand and the history of mental illness and epilepsy in the Habsburg family made stories roll through my mind. I stumbled upon the history of an archduchess severely retarded and condemned to live in the secluded areas of the Schonbrunn palace. I was already a ‘branded’ author with a pending series depicting the life of a madman. Music was a theme in all my works as well. I could set fascinating stories in the backdrop of The City of Music and center them on a royal family begging to be brought to the foreground. Mention Austria/German history to someone of my generation (I am 36) and we instantly blurt, WWII. But what of WWI? What of Sarajevo? What of the Prussian War? What of the Habsburg curse…
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I grew up learning about the English monarchy. As an author I am surrounded by fellow writers who set historicals in England and Scotland. Face it— England and Scotland sell. But it is not the ISBN that lures me to be an author, it is the history. And since I always colored outside the lines, I am proud to be a writer bringing to life the Habsburg history--tragic, romantic, adventurous, proud, and unrivaled in its resilience.
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…I think she described her fascination well. She's really got me thinking about the Hapsburgs...and perhaps she has stirred something in you too. There are many, many wonderful authors...but I find it unusual to find one who truly loves the royals in such a way. When you love something, you make it come alive. The love you have for the subject shines through. For those of us who adore the royals and dream about them, I think we have something to look forward to...now that Jennifer is on the scene. I have no doubt that her work will be very entertaining. I'll keep you posted as to when Adelrune will be available and perhaps sometime in the future she'll give us a longer teaser. I hope so, because I just loved it. Sorry folks, I can’t ask her to give away all her secrets now.
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And a little about Jennifer Linforth. She lives off the brisk coast of Maine with her husband and daughter Abigail, who is only 15 months old. Besides finding the time to write with a toddler around, she also teaches environmental education at a local museum and is also a ranger—yes, a ranger!—at Acadia National Park. Her weblink is
http://www.jenniferlinforth.com and her blog: http://jenniferlinforth.blogspot.com Her primary blog—From Idea to Publisher is found on her Live Journal: http://madrigalist.livejournal.com. She can also be reached via myspace at http://www.myspace.com/jenniferlinforthauthor.
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I wish I could tell you that Adelrune will be available next month for purchase...but, I can't. Sadly, we royal lovers will have to wait a little longer to read her rich story of love and mental illness in the secret world of the Hapsburgs... Personally, I can’t wait. Oh, and if you have any questions for Jennifer about her novel or about Austrian royalty, just ask…and we’ll get the answers posted promptly.


18 comments:

jestme said...

I remember seeing a play about the Hapsburgs on "Great Performances" when I was in my early teens. It was fascinating. I have read and learned more about them but the work that Jennifer has done is incredible. The shadows she has uncovered really bring a family to life for it shows that they are not so different from everyday people. They have their secret desires and public lives and is that not what we all do? I am so very pround of what she has accomplished and I cannot wait to see "Adelrune" in print! Right next to "Madrigal".
-- Lisa, A loyal member of Your Posse

Cozy aka Susan Flanders said...

Hi JestMe...

I agree with you about Jennifer's writing. What I love to do with the royals is uncover all the little tidbits that make them human. And that's exactly what Jennifer did. I wonder about that woman in the Schonbrunn Palace. Did she live all alone? Did she have anyone to talk to? How many people knew she was there? So reading Adelrune's story should be a treat.

And Lisa, I am glad you are a loyal member of the Posse.

Jennifer Linforth said...

Hi Lisa.. thanks for stopping by and checking out Susan's blog.

To make mention of the Habsburg that started this all: it was Archduchess Marianna, Sophie's husband’s youngest sister (Franz-Josef's Aunt). She had a hideous facial deformity and was a virtual imbecile. In 1830 she was still at Schonbrunn, rarely seen and living in the secluded rooms. I suspect this facial deformity was the famous 'Habsburg lip or chin', a genetic defect caused by inbreeding that produced a severe under bite. Epilepsy was prevalent as well and that does have a major role in my book.

Someday I intend to write a story that closely follows Archduchess Marianna. Information on her is extremely limited. But I am very thankful that her history sparked the creation of Adelrune and her life as a hidden and misunderstood genius.

Cozy aka Susan Flanders said...

Oh, that darned Hapsburg lip. It moved to many countries, you know.

Eliza Knight said...

Fabulous blog/interview!

Jennifer is very talented writer! I had the pleasure of reading some of Adelrune, and can't wait for it to find a "home" so I can read the rest!!!

I love the premise, and that it will not only educate those who read it on Asperger's but will be an uplifting story for those who have it, to read!

Excellent history lesson as well!

Michele Ann Young said...

Jennifer, I think your story sounds fascinating and you certainly bring a different set of royals into the limelight.

Susan I understand your fascination.
Great blog.
Michel

Gerri Bowen said...

The short excerpt from Adelrune has whet my appetite for more. Can't wait to read this, Jennifer. Wonderful blog, Susan!

Jennifer Linforth said...

Michele--

Many thanks for your support in coming here to read the interview and the snippet. Keeping my fingers cross that Adelrune gets picked up soon.

Gerri--

Thanks! I love hooking a reader... I appreciate you stopping by.

All best
Jennifer

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Fascinating story and fantastic excerpt. I love it when writer's take little known facts or stories in history and run with it. It's so much interesting than the big few that everyone seems to write about such as Anne Boleyn.

Cozy aka Susan Flanders said...

Elizabeth, I so agree with you. Some of these topics have been "done to death," so to speak. It's great to find another angle to explore.

Jennifer Linforth said...

Elizabeth,

Thanks for stopping by with your encouraging words. I hope the market will enjoy a unusual historical. I really wanted to bring to light this facinating monarchy in a very unique way.

Jennifer

StephB said...

A little known bit of royal history well done. I love your blog. I just don't pop in here often enough to tell you that!

I do have a question for you a bit off topic (from this post at least) so forgive... But I just read "The Queen's Secret" by Jean Plaidy and I'm very interested in Henry V and Katherine's short marriage. Do you have any insight? In the book it mentioned a "prophecy" told to Henry about how his reign would be short and his son's long if his son was born at Windor. I've been trying to research that on the Internet but haven't had much luck.

Smiles,
Steph

Cozy aka Susan Flanders said...

Thanks Steph. Well, I guess you're just forcing me to get out the Oxford History of the British Monarchy! Hmmm...all it says in there is that Kings did not have the luxury of marrying for love, however, when Henry V first laid eyes of Katherine of Valois, he instantly fell in love. Obviously, though, it was an arranged marriage.

As you know they had a very short marriage, but it appears to have been happy. But you are correct, Henry begged Katherine not to give birth at Windsor Castle---but she did. When he was first told of the birth, the first thing he did was to ask, "Where was the child born?" Obviously, it's clear that someone had warned Henry that his reign would not be long if the child was born at Windsor.

I found a few interesting things...

Here is a link about them...

http://www.britannia.com/history/biographies/catherine_valois.html

There is also a biblography listed after the long article, which, might help you get some more information.

I also found a link to a very old book, and in the beginning of chapter 3, beginning on page 59, it makes reference to a prediction of ill-omen regarding Henry V and the birth of his son...

http://books.google.com/books?id=yKP195pdq5oC&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=prophecy+henry+v&source=web&ots=RT12DqnZMK&sig=Wcp9n9nY5nYYZd3cpvAB5wwpIGg&hl=en#PPA44,M1

Little tidbits like this captured Jean Plaidy's imagination, and she ran with these things. But...from what I have read of Jean's books, she knows how to stay close to the facts, but in some books she seems to play up certain "intangible" rumours, therefore making her books more interesting. I have to tell you that I have checked some of her books for accuracy, and she is right on target!! So, I'd have to say---personally, that she felt there was something to this. She wasn't one to just make up things, thats for sure.

Sadly, though, unless you get into the royal archives and really dig for an answer, about their marriage, and the prediction, we probably are never going to know for sure. They seem to have had a relatively happy marriage, although separated for large parts of it. Reading through the lines, Katherine of Valois must have felt terrible later, when these predictions came true.

I wish I knew more, but I will keep my eyes open from now on. If you want to email me privately, my email is Matiansue@yahoo.com

Cozy aka Susan Flanders said...

If those links arent clear, just email me privately, and I'll give them to you...

StephB said...

Thanks so much for the information. I love Plaidy's writing and I've found that she doesn't stray far from the facts either. I appreciate your insights.

Cozy aka Susan Flanders said...

You're very welcome!

Anonymous said...

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FrankieNYLA said...

Great Site!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge on such a fascinating woman. We actually stumbled upon this blog as we are doing a webseries call Vicky - about a young woman who's life parallels QV. Take a look at our site and videos if you like! www.queenvicky.com
Thank you!