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Simon Davis (Melbourne, Australia)

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Elizabeth, Empress of Russia
Elizabeth, Empress of Russia
by Tamara Talbot Rice
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars First class biography of a fascinating woman, 31 Mar. 2015
The Empress Elizabeth of Russia seems to constantly sit in the shadow of the most famous of Russian empresses Catherine the great however I've always thought her a far more fascinating and indeed likeable personality than Catherine. Daughter of Peter the Great and his second wife Empress Catherine 1 Elizabeth was an intriguing mixture of medieval and 18th century sensibilities, extremely patriotic and as a woman was famed for her beauty and amiability with all levels of society. She was also one of the greatest builders of any of the Russian sovereigns and was responsible for such amazing structures as The Smoly Church and Convent, The Winter Palace and the Catherine Palace at Tsarskeyp Selo.

Surprisingly for such a colourful monarch there have been very few biographies written on her and this book, .by T Talbot Rice is far and away the best. Entertainingly written, informative and both sympathetic and critically of Elizabeth as a woman and a ruler it make first class reading which is highly recommended. The illustrations are also first rate for a book published many years ago . The biography chronicles Elizabeth life as the daughter of giant Peter the great and all the vastitudes that she experienced before coming to the throne herself many years after her father's death.. The book gives a first rate account of Elizabeth's handling of the complex power games of a fragmented Europe .

Elizabeth for the most part comes across as a flawed but highly likeable woman and monarch who had a great love of Russia and a most untypical for the time hatred of warfare and bloodshed.

Highly recommended reading for those that love Russian history


Caligula: Emperor of Rome
Caligula: Emperor of Rome
by Arthur Ferrill
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Interesting look At Rome's Controversial Third Emperor, 29 July 2014
Despite the mixed reviews this book "Caligula: Emperor of Rome" by Arthur Ferrill has received in the past I found it on a recent re-reading to be an informative and highly entertaining read. I honestly believe that no author, no matter how probing or insightful they are, will ever be able to really explain what made the highly complex Roman Emperor tick. At first glance Caligula comes across as deranged, sadistic, unbelievably cruel and hateful but Ferrill in his book goes at least some way towards trying to illustrate possible reasons for this whether it be the murderous environment Caligula was raised in, the trauma of seeing his beloved family destroyed around him, or being placed in apposition of unbelievable wealth and power were every word was a command. Ferrill does give a highly interesting run down of Caligula's childhood and almost four years as Rome's third emperor and the illustrations of the book are also first rate. Not the definitive work on Caligula or his reign however it is a wonderful introduction to this most controversial and infamous of Roman Emperors. Highly recommended


Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette
Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette
by Marc Bascou
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking summary Of The Rich Holdings Of French Decorative Art In The Louvre, 13 Sept. 2013
To call this wonderful book "Sumptous" is a true understatement. The book chronicles incredibly rich holdings of 17th and 18th Century Decorative arts in the Louvre's collection. Having seen many of these in person on a number of visits to Paris I can truly say that this book often reveals details of the item s featured that i had missed when personally viewing them. The book traces the evolution of French decorative arts from the stunning Baroque of the reign of Louis XIV through the fanciful rococco of Louis XV right up to the majestic neo-classic style of Louis XVI and more especially that of his famous wife Queen Marie Antoinette. The reader is treated to an almost unending feast for the eyes as they leaf through this beautiful book which runs teh full gamut from clocks, porcelain, furniture, and assorted decorative. Not only the Kings themselves are featured but many of teh items once belonged to such prominent members of the french elite as Madame De Pompadour . Any lover of French decorative arts like myself will treasure this beautiful book which is essential reading (and viewing) for anyone with an interest in this area, highly recommended.


Agrippina: Mother of Nero (Roman Imperial Biographies)
Agrippina: Mother of Nero (Roman Imperial Biographies)
by Anthony Barrett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £85.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography Of One of Ancient Rome's Most Infamous Empresses, 6 Aug. 2013
This excellent biography by Anthony A. Barrett details the extraordinary life of one of history's most notorious woman, the Roman Empress Agrippina. As the full tile of the book says she was "Sister of Caligula, Wife of Claudius and Mother of Nero", quite a collection of men to be associated with and it is little surprise that even to this day Agrippina is tarnished with a reputation that is equal parts murderous, devious and manipulative. Despite this rather fascinating image as a not particularly inviting and morally bankrupt individual Barrett has managed to write an extremely well researched and very balanced biography of this nevertheless fascinating woman. The book gives an extremely detailed background to the Julio-Claudian family and that goes a long way to wards explaining how Agrippina turned out the way she did. Certainly not an easy read it nevertheless is without a doubt the best biography of Agrippina and her times and is excellent in not only detailing her marriages, especially that to her own uncle the Emperor Claudius, but also in showing how the one weak spot in her otherwise icy grip on power. ie her underestimating her own deadly son the Emperor Nero was her undoing which perhaps makes her seem a little more a human being than you would otherwise think. A highly recommended read for any one interested in the early history of the Roman Empire and of this amazingly prominent Roman Empress who survived for as long as she did by sheer willpower, inherent cunning and by the murderous determination to see her son as Emperor against all the odds


Mary Rose
Mary Rose
by D. M. Loades
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Satisfactory Biography Of A Fascinating Tudor Princess, 20 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mary Rose (Hardcover)
Being a lover of anything to do with Tudor England, whether it be its rich history, its fascinating characters, or the inbuilt drama that seems to go with anything Tudor, I really wanted to love this book. The Princess Mary Tudor , often mistaken for her niece of the same name was without doubt one of the acclaimed beauties of the Tudor court, best loved sister of the larger than life Henry VIII and a woman who packed alot of living into her sadly short life. David Loades biography is certainly well written and covers all the facts that we know about Mary's life. It is all there, from spoilt darling and chief jewel of her brothers court, her being the best friend of Queen Katherine of Aragon, her role as political bride for the much older French King Louis XII, her dramatic second marriage to Charles Brandon against the wishes of her unpredictable brother, through to her well documented intyense dislike for Anne Boleyn. The book certainly is well researched and informs the reader as much as is possible about Mary's life however it tended to lack that depth and examination which might have possibly told us more about Mary as a person. What was mary really like? What were her thoughts about her first marriage to Louis XII? Information of this kind about royal personages dead for many hundreds of years is of course extremely difficult to obtain from anything other than primary sources so if you are looking for in depth character analysis of Mary the individual you wont find it here. I have a particular interest in Mary's brief three month marriage to King Louis XII of France but nothing really new is raised to fill in some of the blanks about what the marriage, brief as it was, was really like for both parties involved. The book has beautiful illustrations however there is a surprising omission of any portrait of Louis XII which in itself is strange as the best known existing portrait of him is in Queen Elizabeth's collection and surely could have been reproduced here. In this field this biography does appear a bit rushed and I felt more attention to details such as this were needed to make the work more effective and complete.
Apart from this a good introduction to the life of this fascinating Princess but I do look forward to the new biography being released later this year on Mary's life titled "The Tudor Rose: Princess Mary Rose, Henry VIII's Sister" by Jennifer Kewley Draskau which hopefully will reveal some new facts.


Britannia and Muscovy: English Silver at the Court of the Tsars
Britannia and Muscovy: English Silver at the Court of the Tsars
by Brian T Abramova
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £50.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Overview of the Kremlin's Rich Holding of Tudor Period English Silver, 24 Mar. 2013
A proper examination of the vast Kremlin holdings of historic English silver was long overdue and this superb book "Britannia and Muscovy: British Silver at the Court of the Tsars" certainly addresses that lack of attention in every way. The Kremlin contains a marvellous collection of silver objects from most of the major countries of Europe which were either purchased by the Tsars or members of the nobility or were presented to the court as gifts from ambassadors. What makes the collection of English silver preserved in the Armory Museum of the kremlin so unique is that much of it comes from the pre English Civil war period and was once a part of the English Royla collection of silver plate. With the exception of about 3 or 4 pieces still in England all of the royal plate from the medieval and Tudor period in the royal collection was melted down under Oliver Cromwell's regime. Those pieces that escaped the meltign pot are thus extremely rare indeed. This book chronicles these marvellous examples of English Silver luckily presented by the English monarcs as gifts to the Russian court which in fact help preserve them from destruction if they had of remained in England. The items include din this book come from the reigns of Mary I, Elizabeth I , James I and Charles I The breathtaking photography captures these pieces in all their splendour and we are greeted by candlesticks, superb covered cups and some brilliant large scale vesssels such as the deservedly famous Leopard shaped vessel from Queen Elizabeth's Jewel House given to the court of the Tsars by James I.

Any lover of Tudor silver and the collections of silver contained in the Kremlin would be well advised to seek out a copy of this wonderful book. It succeeds on so many different levels in illustrating not only the long standing close relationship enjoyed between the English and Russian courts but also as a unique snapshot of the quality of Tudor period silverware and the incredible talents of artisans working at the court during this period who's work at home is now largely vanished but which is happily preserved for prosterity in the museums of the Moscow Kremlin. Enjoy!


Stroganoff: The Palace and Collections of a Russian Noble Family
Stroganoff: The Palace and Collections of a Russian Noble Family
by Penelope Hunter-Stiebel
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Illustration Of The Wealth and Patronage Of A Noble Family Prior To The Russian Revolution, 15 Feb. 2013
This superb book illustrates clearly for the reader an utterly vanished world, that being the collections and life of one of Russia's most importnat Noble family that existed prior to the Russian revolution. This wonderful book is everything that any lover of Pre-Revolutionnary Russia could ask for and illustrates in the most detailed way the lives and art collections of one of the major familys in Russia pre 1917, the Stroganoffs. It gives a vividly memorable snap shot of what noble families collected before the holocaust of revolution destroyed their world forever. The book gorgeously reassembles large parts of the now widely dispersed Stroganoff Collection whether it be furniture, porcelain, rich carved hardstones, cameos etc, The illustrations are mouth watering and it even shows present day photos of the very sadly neglected Stroganoff palace in St Petersburg which reveals all the neglect and lack of care lavished on it since the original owners were forced to leave at the revolution. This book is highly recommended for any lover of Old Russia and its artistic society prior to the iron grip of communism obliterated it forever.


Virgin Queen [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Virgin Queen [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £6.87

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bette Davis Repeats Her Role As Elizabeth 1 In Lavish Costume Drama, 26 Jan. 2013
It's a rare occasion indeed when an actress has the opportunity to revisit a part she had played 15 years earlier and create another interpretation of the same character. Bette Davis, the legendary Queen of Warner Bros Studios had already placed her unique stamp on the larger than life character of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England in a lavish 1939 technicolour production. Titled "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" it co-starred Errol Flynn as the wickedly charming Earl of Essex. Fast forward 15 years with Bette now out of her contract with Warners and moving from film to film on a freelance basis. This time the studio was 20th Century Fox who were mounting another lavish version of a portion of the life of Good Queen Bess titled appropriately enough "The Virgin Queen". Fox hired Bette during a real slump in her career to recreate her role as the majestic Queen this time with the focus being on her "love affair' (highly fictionalised) with Sir Walter Raleigh which actually took place during an earlier time period than that which served as a basis for the earlier 1939 film. While "The Virgin Queen" certainly didn't restore Bette's sagging career to its former glory, (she would have to wait until the 1962 smash "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?" for that to happen) it is a more than respectable effort and one of her better films of this period.

As with most historical dramas the historical facts of this late Tudor period are played around with in the screenplay for "The Virgin Queen", however that doesn't distract from its real entertainment value. The story takes place in the 1580's as Raleigh returns from campaigning in Ireland to a great welcome and through the sponsorship of the Queen Elizabeth's favourite the Earl of Liecester (Herbert Marshall) Raleigh begins a flirtation with the fiesty Queen in an attempt to get her to provide him with ships for an exploration voyage to the New World. After being Knighted by Elizabeth Raleigh also romances and eventually secretly marries Beth Throckmorton (Joan Collins) a very attractive waiting lady to the Queen. The stormy relationship between Raleigh and the Queen comes to a head when she learns of his marriage which then sees both him and Beth imprisoned before Elizabeth finally breaks down and releases her difficult favourite allowing him to fulfill his all consuming dream of an exploration to the New World. Bette Davis of course towers over the story in her second turn as Queen Elizabeth but she has some fine players to compete with here. While Herbert Marshall is his usual stiff self as Leicester, Richard Todd as Sir Walter Raleigh, while perhaps lacking the gallant charm of Errol Flynn from Bette's first outing playing Queen Elizabeth, does very well as the dare devil adventurer who both loves and clashes with his sovereign. Joan Collins yet again proves herself a good actress too as the rival to Queen Elizabeth in their mutual love of Raleigh. Joan wrote about her experience working on "The Virgin Queen" in her highly entertaining autobiography "Past Imperfect" and she recalled how nervous she was working with the formidable Davis and also wrote about the incredible attention to detail that was put into the film's costumes by the Fox wardrobe department to make then totally accurate down to the last detail. Despite her reported on set nerves Joan has great chemistry with Bette Davis in this film and the story really comes alive in the confrontation scenes between the two women.

20th Century Fox's "Cinema Classics Collection" has seen a number of Bette Davis films given first class presentations onto DVD and along with well known, often released classics like "All About Eve" there have been some new seldom seen films of Bette's like "Phone Call From A Stranger", and "The Virgin Queen" which have been given a most welcome first release onto DVD. They all will be much treasured parts of any film buff's Bette Davis Collection. "The Virgin Queen" has been given a beautiful restoration for this DVD and of course being a costume picture lends itself so well to the brilliant Fox colour that has never looked so vivid as in this obviously cleaned up new print. The "Cinema Classics" release also contains trailers, a good "making of Documentary" titled "Virgin Territory: The Making of the Virgin Queen", photo galleries and a restoration comparison. This kind of film however cries out for a good audio commentary which it sadly lacks. Of the surviving cast members Joan Collins is still active and it is a great pity she wasn't brought in to give a commentary on the film which considering her earlier comments about it in her autobiography would have been of great interest. While "The Virgin Queen" is always regarded as a lesser Bette Davis effort it still has great merits and my recent viewing of it highlighted much that was first rate in all departments of its production. Bette was born to play England's great Queen and despite the distortion of historical facts and personalities in parts of the screenplay she doesn't disappoint in her second turn at playing Elizabeth. I highly recommend Fox's "The Virgin Queen" for all lovers of period films from Hollywood's Golden Age.


O Come Let Us Adore Him
O Come Let Us Adore Him
Price: £10.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Winchester Cathedral Choir In Unforgettable Christmas CD, 23 Jan. 2013
This review is from: O Come Let Us Adore Him (Audio CD)
The legendary Winchester cathedral Choir are well known for their splendid Christmas music and this CD now it seems sadly out of print really shows the choir at their peak in a wonderful array of Christmas Carols. It has fast become my favourite Christmas CD anmong the 50 or so that I now own. Every track is a joy to listen to and it makes the perfect companion for those quiet nights at home in the lead up to Christmas and is guaranteed to fill you with the Christmas spirit. I cannot ecommend this CD highly enough. Enjoy!


The Christmas Album
The Christmas Album
Offered by westworld-
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Rutter Christmas CD, 23 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Christmas Album (Audio CD)
Over the last five Christmas seasons this splendid CD of traditional Christmas carols has always been a great favourite of mine. The voices of the choir of Clare College can only be described as truly heaven sent and combined with the briiliance of Rutters music it makes this CD a very special one indeed. I have so many favourites from the carols presented here but Lord Jesus Hath A Garden truly is beautiful while the big surprise for me in this set was the truly joyful "Donkey Carol" which I hadn't heard before and which quickly became my favourite track among many on this CD. The perfect Christmas CD to really make you feel that warm Christmas glow and anticipation for the coming festive season that only beautifully presented English choirs can produce. High;y recommended


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