Thursday, 15 May 2014

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Not historical....

This is something very unlike my normal posts. But given a few things I've been through these past weeks I think it's important I take the time to say something.

If any of my readers are going through any form of depression or mental illness, in the words of the bloggess - depression lies. It truly is a horrid thing to go through and trust me I've been there. Hell, I'm there right now dealing with a mixture of drugs to help me through whatever the hell my brain thinks it's up to these days.

Depression is horrible. It makes you feel worthless. It makes you feel that you don't deserve anything but let me tell you. You are worth it. And you are beautiful.

If I can get through this - although with myself the struggle is very much ongoing - then so can you.

Depression tells you lies about yourself. Please try to remember that you aren't useless like your head says, that you are worth it and that you are beautiful. You're worth everything.

I am hoping to return to more historical based blog posts soon but there will also be some non historical stuff coming up. I'd say I'm sorry. But I'm really not.

Have a picture of a hamster.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

I swear I'm still alive...

I must apologise for my horribly long absence recently. Rest assured I haven't forgotten any of you and will be back posting historical awesomeness soon.

~ Sam

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

"A Cup Of Champagne Prior To Victory" Interview with Ana Ularu from "The Borgias"

I am incredly honoured to host an interview with Ana Ularu whio played Charlotte D'Albret in "The Borgias". The interview was conducted by my dear friend Dragos Moldoveanu of Asociaţia „Institutul pentru Studii Renascentiste” (The Institute of Renaissance Studies Association – AISR) and kindly translated into English for Loyalty Binds Me. 

The Romanian actress Ana Ularu (born in 1985) portrays Charlotte d` Albret in the third season of the historical-fiction television series The Borgias (2011). She had the kindness to answer a couple of our questions.
Cinema lovers know Ana Ularu from the award-winning drama Periferic (“Outbound”), directed by Bogdan Apetri, as well as from O vară foarte instabilă (“A Very Unsettled Summer”) and Sunt o babă comunistă (“I'm an Old Communist Hag”), both having the premiere in 2013.
This year, Ana will be seen in the upcoming drama Serena, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and also in Thursday, along with François Arnaud, her partner from The Borgias` television series.  

Dragoș Moldoveanu: First, thank you for accepting the invitation of Asociaţia “Institutul pentru Studii Renascentiste” (The Institute for Renaissance Studies Association) to talk about your supporting part as Cesare Borgia's wife. It is a privilege to have you as an interviewee.
Both yours and historical television series fans enjoyed watching you in The Borgias. The Borgia dynasty, whose fascinating saga is depicted in the series produced by Showtime, is one of the most illustrious families of the Renaissance Age. Prior to television broadcasting, what was your information about the Borgia family?
Ana ULARU: As a Cervantes High School graduate, I studied extensively the history of Spain and I came tangential to a short discussion about the two Popes the Borgia family gave to the Vatican. But, obviously, the pop culture chronicled rather the bloody facts and the fascinating figure of Lucrezia. What I had read about them disappeared somehow under a whole lot of other information gathered from other readings, so, it was very nice when I started to do my documentation to find out all sorts of information about them and especially about Charlotte d'Albret. I found out that Her Majesty Queen Anne is one of the descendants of the marriage between Cesare and Charlotte, the House of Bourbon-Parma... I hope I'm not mistaken.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: You anticipated my next question concerning the historical information. You portrayed the Duchess Charlotte d'Albret, wife of Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI. Therefore, how did you document for the role?
Ana ULARU: I read everything I could find about Charlotte, I searched for her portraits, I worked with a choreographer for the Ball Scene and I discussed some small costume wearing technicalities with Gabriella Pescucci, the series' brilliant costume designer. I also had a very short meeting with a dialect coach for the accent. Speaking French, I found it quite simple to include items of musicality and specific phrasing in her accent.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: You said, some time ago, that “nothing is more depressing for an actor than to sit at home and not be called”. How did you react when you got the call about a role in The Borgias series?
Ana ULARU: The story was much more enjoyable than a simple phone call. I went to London to have an audition for another project, when I received an email with a few text pages for another one. After lengthy preparations for the first, I had only a few hours before I begin the journey for the latter that proved to be the Ball Scene from my episode. I was very happy to find out that I got the part. Then it came the training period, travels to Budapest for costume fitting… and all the beautiful rituals in the life of an actor.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: How would you depict the relationship between historical characters Charlotte d'Albret and Cesare Borgia, as it was described in the episode entitled “The Wolf and the Lamb”?
Ana ULARU: I decided along with François (who plays Cesare Borgia) and Kari Skoglund, the Director, that, although it is a marriage of convenience that serves Cesare for getting an army for a counterattack, it would be very interesting that, between the two, there is an attraction between two young, powerful, intelligent and with a sense of humor people. Already it settled that young noble women can experience absolutely disastrous arranged marriages, so Charlotte is fortunate to have destined a handsome and intelligent young man, and with whom she can negotiate very clear and open her preferences. She refuses to live in Rome, she detests the excessive idealization of love and she somehow understands his affection towards someone else, even though she doesn't know who is the object of this affection. It is decided in my episode that the Vatican can grant the Papal Bull for divorce, and the two remained married until Cesare's death (despite the impressive number of his illegitimate children). So, we created a relationship with humor and fireworks, Charlotte being like a cup of champagne prior to victory.

ș Moldoveanu: Most of the scenes were filmed along with François Arnaud, the Canadian actor who played the famous Cesare Borgia. Personally, I was impressed by the interpretation of the scene of their last night together. How would you describe the collaboration you had with François Arnaud? What actors you also met on the set?
Ana ULARU: François is a very talented actor and a wonderful partner, and, after two projects together, I can say that I won a beautiful friendship. We are born a few days apart from each other, we have a similar sense of humor, we always had either a tacit understanding about the direction that we want to offer for a scene, either very interesting discussions about the dynamics of our characters (in both movies). I love playing with François, I feel very free to improvise, to discover interesting aspects in a scene. It was also nice because, on the set, I once again met with Sean Harris (Micheletto character) with whom I became friends and collaborated on Serena, Susanne Bier's film, an excellent actor, with David Johnson, a DOP (Director of Photography) with whom I worked three times in videos directed by Wiz (Magnetic Man and The Hurts), with Thure Lindhardt (Rufio character), who was a member of the jury for Shooting Stars in 2012. I left with a very pleasant memory, I worked with a wonderful team and I felt appreciated and spoiled even if my presence there was brief.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: What was the most enjoyable time you lived on the set?
Ana ULARU: The whole experience was excellent. The Ball Scene remains a very difficult scene, logistically first, but very pleasant, it`s a negotiation and a very interesting exploration to play. The first night after wedding scene was again a very nice moment, a scene so simple and gentle, a discussion, a relaxing time for the characters. I think the most fun I`ve had was during the choreography lessons.

Dragoș Moldoveanu: Thank you once again for your kindness and look eagerly the movies that will occur this year. I hope your phone to ring more often and conquer the Romanian and European public with as many roles!

This interview was conducted by Dragoş Moldoveanu, President of Asociaţia „Institutul pentru Studii Renascentiste” (The Institute of Renaissance Studies Association – AISR).

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Witch's Heart ~ Kings Lynn

As I was visiting family this past weekend and wandering the high street of King's Lynn, I was reminded of a local legend. One of the main areas of interest in Kings Lynn is the Tuesday Market Place and the buildings that surround the square these days are Georgian, many of which house museums and places of interest. One of the houses is a particular talking point.

If you look up whilst walking past number 15-16 Tuesday Market Place, you will see a crude black diamond carved into red brick. Within the diamond is a black heart. There are two commonly told stories that explain just why this heart is carved above the window of this house both of which are equally as morbid as the other.

The Tuesday Market Place was used as Lynn's place of execution for centuries, and was the site of hangings as well as a number of burnings, in particular the burning of witches. Both stories link to gruesome executions conducted in the market square.

The first involves the execution of Margaret Read in 1590. Margaret was found guilty of witchcraft and sentanced to burn within the market place, and as the flames engulfed her body it is said that her heart burst from her chest and smashed into the spot above the window where the diamond is now carved. The organ is then said to have fallen to the ground and rolled away where it sunk into the river Ouse. Gnarly eh?

The second tale involves treachery and is particularly heartbreaking. No pun intended. A housemaid let slip to her lover that her recently widowed mistress had agreed to leave her the entire family fortune. Said lover agreed to marry the young housemaid and she wrote her own will entirely in his favour. Shortly after the mistress was conveniently murdered and the housemaid was found guilty of treachery - the crime of petty treachery involved a woman murdering her husband or a female servant murdering her master or mistress, and the punishment for such a crime was being burned at the stake. The maidservant kept on insisting that she was innocent, right up until the moment the flames were lit and as she began to burn foretold that as a symbol of her innocence her heart would burst from her chest. As her body was consumed by the flames it did just that and smashed into the site of the heart in the diamond. The diamond was carved in the very spot where the heart hit and left it's gory blood stains.

Quite a sordid tale is it not? There are various versions of the story, all using different methods of execution but all with the same end. A heart bursting from the chest of a condemned woman. I have no idea whether any of these legends are true, indeed the only information I could find online was regarding the legend, and the tales I had heard growing up. A brief search online for the "Witch's Heart of Kings Lynn" should give you more information, or indeed a trip to Lynn if you ever get the chance. True or not, the story is particularly gruesome whichever way you look at it, and one that has stuck with me since I was a little girl.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

[Review] Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant

"The more outrage the better. That way people will fear us while we are alive and never -ever- forget us when we are dead"

I think it's a well known fact amongst my readers that I am very picky when it comes to novels about the Borgia family. Given the research I have put into this family and the absolute awe I hold for Cesare - I say again, how many have his personal motto tattooed? - I tend to avoid historical fiction about the Renaissance and in particular the Borgia family. I blame this in part for the travesty that was Kologridis' "The Borgia Bride" and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Jean Plaidy's novels about Lucrezia, I found them to be somewhat dry towards the end. So it was somewhat hesitantly that I picked up Dunant's latest offering.

And I have to say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

From the outset you can tell that Dunant has really put the effort into her research. As I read, I found myself slap bang in the middle of the Borgia apartments in Rome, in the Room of Mysteries with the Pope, with Cesare as he stood before the walls of Ravaldino. And whilst I am aware that this is a work of fiction, I couldn't have been more pleased to see the placing in there of actual historical events. More so the LACK of incest in there pleased me no end. You will all know how against that theory I am, and how I am a firm believer that Cesare and Lucrezia were close, that he loved his sister more than any woman he had ever met but that they never crossed the line. I found this was portrayed excellently in this novel with stolen glances, the odd lingering touch and one kiss that may have gone a bit too far. The awkwardness between the two siblings after that kiss just seeped from the words so I felt as if I felt as physically awkward as Lucrezia did. 

The characterisation of Cesare has to be one of the best that I have ever read. It is well known that Cesare Borgia was temperamental, or "famously bipolar" as I like to call him and this comes across wonderfully in Dunant's writing. From his overly inflated ego to his need from power, to his cold and calculating manner when plotting the downfall of those who had become useless to the family. There were moments when I sat there with a knot in my stomach, hearing Cesare's rants as if I were stood there in the very same room as him. I felt his need for power, his egotistical nature. And there are not many novels that have ever made me feel like that. And if I am honest it was the same with all of the characters in this novel. Particular favourites included Lucrezia (it was SO nice to see her written as she would have been, rather than a scheming poisoning adulteress), Juan and Pope Alexander VI. The work went into the characterisation of these men and women who actually lived all of those years ago. And you could honestly tell.

The only issue I really had was how the ending of the book seemed a little rushed. It would have been nice if more time could have been spent on Cesare's military campaigns in the Romagna. Unfortunately the story ended with Lucrezia leaving to go to Ferrara. We all know that the story goes on and we see the death of Pope Alexander, Cesare's downfall and his heartbreakingly lonely death in Viana, finishing with Lucrezia's death in Ferrara. I can't help but wonder whether Dunant will be writing a follow up to cover these events? I have to say I would love to read a novelisation about Cesare's last years. That really is my only gripe if I am honest. It just left me wanting MORE!

If you are a lover of Renaissance and Borgia history then I urge you to pick up this book. Fantastically written, excellent characterisation and a complete page turner. I shall certainly be picking up more of Dunant's works!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

On This Day In History - Rodrigo Borgia Is Born

Starting off the year as I mean to go on, I thought I'd drop in with a little "On This Day In History" post for you all.

On 1st January 1431, Rodrigo Borgia was born in Xatvia Spain. His birth name wasn't actually "Borgia" but "Lanzol", and only took his mother's surname in 1455 after the elevation of his maternal uncle to the Papacy (Calixtus III).

As we know, Rodrigo Borgia would go down in history as one of history's most depraved Popes (Alexander VI) and as the father of history's most infamous individuals; Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. Was he that bad? No, not really. He was simply a man of his time and actually less depraved than many of his predecessors.

Happy birthday Rodrigo Borgia. I'll be writing a lot more about you in the coming months.