Reigning Cats and Dogs Pt 5

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Monday, April 27, 2015
Prince Edward was relatively fortunate: his father arranged for fourteen well-born children to share his education and an exclusive palace school was thus founded.
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Despite these benefits, it was reported that he laughed out loud only once in his life.

Many royal children were sickly or crippled. The offspring of Louis XIV appear to have been particularly disadvantaged: his illegitimate son, the Duc de Maine, fell victim to infantile paralysis at the age of three and his grandson the Duc de Bourgogne was a hunchback. Queen Christina of Sweden's mother, Maria Eleonora, tried to kill her daughter at birth because she was so ugly and hirsute. Nor did their contemporaries show much tact in these matters: Madame, the Duchesse d'Orléans, always referred to the Duc de Maine in her letters as `the Cripple'. All were devoted to their pets, creatures indifferent to their physical and mental disabilities which, by seriously handicapping their chances of forging important marriage alliances, diminished their standing at court. Similarly, Kaiser William II's withered arm was long kept secret and he later confessed that the endless corrective exercises he had endured in his youth meant his `life was often a perfect torment'. Reza, Shah of Persia from 1925 to 1941, was very disappointed in his sickly, fragile child, Muhammad Reza, and largely abandoned him into the hands of a guardian. When the last Shah was deposed in 1979 he dispensed with his most loyal officers but not his dogs, which accompanied him on the only available aeroplane leaving the country — an order of priorities that seriously undermined any chances of a Pahlavi restoration.

The last Tsar's son, Alexis, was not only his sole heir but a victim of haemophilia. The Romanovs allowed none of their children to mix other than with their siblings or immediate relations; they never attended a ball before the age of seventeen and had been to no parties other than those hosted by their aunt, the Grand Duchess Olga. In the case of the Tsarevich his isolation was exacerbated by his physical vulnerability and, although adored by both his parents, he was particularly attached to his pets. His spaniel Joy was his constant companion until their extermination. He also had a cat, Kotka. In 1916 he reported to the Tsarina how `I took my cat into the garden but she was very timid and ran on to the balcony. She is now asleep on the sofa and Joy is under the table.' The cat was with him during the war, on one occasion getting lost, as Nicholas wrote to Alexandra: it `hid under those big logs of timber; we put on our coats and went out to look for it. Nagorny [the Tsarevich's personal bodyguard] at once discovered the cat with the aid of an electric lamp, but it took us a long time to make the brute come out — it would not listen. At last he caught it by the hind legs and pulled it through the narrow space.' Unlike the Tsarevich, his sisters had no pets, either because it was discouraged or because their parents were preoccupied with their ailing son. In 1914, when Tatiana, then aged seventeen, finally acquired a pet, she apologised to her mother:

Mama darling mine, Forgive me about the little dog. To say the truth, when he asked should I like to have it if he gave it to me, I at once said yes. You remember, I always wanted to have one, and only afterwards when we came home I thought that suddenly you might not like me having one. But I really was so pleased at the idea that I forgot about everything. Please, darling angel, forgive me. Tell Papa about it. I hope he won't have anything against it. Good night, beloved Mama. God bless and keep you. 1000 kisses from your devoted daughter and loving, Tatiana. Say, darling, you are not angry.


This was doubtless Ortino, mentioned again in 1915. Tatiana's sister Olga was given a cat in 1916. The relationship between monarch and heir is necessarily strained. As Queen Elizabeth I explained to Mary Queen of Scots when declining to give her official recognition as heir apparent in 1560: `Think you that I could love my own winding-sheet?

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  1. Celeste de Breze
     created a discussion topic
    April 27, 2015 @ 2:22 AM

    Reigning Cats and Dogs Pt 5

    Keywords: english, pets, court, king, queen, prince, princess, duke, royal, aristocracy, Renaissance, Reigning, children, french

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