You’ve got questions. I’ve got answers. Well, some of the time I have answers. If I don’t, submit your question here. Keep in mind that I don’t know the meaning of life or the winning lotto numbers.
If you have questions about where to go for more information on a specific person or how I feel about a specific source, check out the Resources page (this will be live soon!).
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My first topic chose me. In May 2017, I read an article online about the theft of Grand Duchess Hilda of Baden’s tiara. Everything branched off from there. I researched Hilda, her parents, her dad’s first wife, her dad’s first wife’s mother’s grandmother, and so on. I just followed every thread that grabbed me. So far, none of them have let me down. Eventually, a lot of my research threads connected back to each other, but that’s not surprising. When you marry a cousin, the family tree won’t branch too far.
Of course, I also did a Tiara Tuesday series on my author website, JenniWiltz.com, back in 2015-2016. Those posts were a trial run for this site. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Because I was an idiot.
It’s how I talk in real life. The way I see it, swear words are just…words. The connotation of a word is a fluid thing. For example, in Victorian times, “bloody” was a swear word that you wouldn’t use in polite company. Now, if I asked you to close the bloody door, you’d think I was eccentric and maybe pretending to be British. The transgressive swearing connotation of that particular word has faded to near-nothingness.
In our time, I understand that “shit” has a full-on swearing connotation. But it’s also just a word. It’s used in books, movies, TV, podcasts, and on just about every playground I remember. I totally get there are times you can’t swear (church, around grandparents or little kids, at work, etc.). This is not one of those times.
Of course! There’s no guarantee I’ll get to it soon, or that I’ll be able to dig up much. But I’ll give it a shot. Click here to use my contact form and tell me who or what you want to see on the site.
Click here to use my contact form. I'll get that fixed asap! I try to make sure things are mistake-proof around here, but I'm only human. Thanks for helping me keep high standards!
Click here to use my contact form. I'll look into it right away and add it to any relevant posts, pages, or books. If you include your real name on the contact form, I'll give you a shout out where I add your information. If you'd like to stay private, you can either give a fake name on the form or tell me in the message body.
SO MANY THINGS.
- Merchandise! I really want to do t-shirts. I'm working on some designs right now.
- Books. Have you checked out the books page on this site yet? You'll see the covers, descriptions, and get a link to sign up for the mailing list and early access.
Some of the situations these women faced are eerily similar to our own. I did not expect this. For example, in Hilda’s story alone, the women faced so many of the same issues we face today: people spread rumors behind their backs, guys dumped them, guys used them, they used guys, they lost jobs, they lost houses, they wanted kids but couldn’t have them, they had kids and lost them, they worried about raising their kids in a toxic environment…all the stuff we worry about today isn’t new. But they got through it, so we can, too.
Sourcing can be problematic for an amateur. You have to deal with two things—availability, and trustworthiness.
In terms of availability, sometimes a source I really want is in a language I don’t speak. Some are hard to access—like a book that costs over a hundred bucks or is only accessible at a library in, say, Germany. Other sources are letters or diaries stored in an archive that, for all intents and purposes, is off limits to me. I don’t have any money for travel, and no sponsor/research institution to help me get access.
These problems aren’t unique to me, though. It’s a fact of life for anyone researching history. You just have to deal with it. Get what you can and use the sources you do have to evaluate how helpful those inaccessible sources might be. Maybe you need them. Maybe you don’t. In general, I’ve found that sources I can get my hands on take me 80% of the way toward telling the story. I’ll work hard to track down a few more and get another 10% of the way there. I’m still missing that last 10%, but I just have to accept that it’s good enough with the resources I have right now.
Plus, unless you’re writing about something that hasn’t been covered, you’re never going to be able to read all the sources. You have to make a judgment call between what you want to do and what’s necessary to tell the story. This is very hard, but you have to learn how to do it.
The short answer: based on what I can get, I’ll buy books, drive to a nearby university to get more books, pay to access a database, scour the internet, and force Google Translate to do my bidding.
Do you remember that line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? When Indy’s in his classroom, he tells his students that archaeology is the search for facts – and if they want truth, they can go to the philosophy class down the hall. Well, history is a combination of facts presented as truth. But sometimes facts have wiggle room, and sometimes the sources lie.
All historical events are recorded by people, and people have flaws. Memories fade over time, motivations change, and sometimes the human body physically prevents accurate recall, as in the case of PTSD, Alzheimer's, dementia, or mental illness. In other words, what seems like a cut-and-dried fact often has layers of truth behind it that we need to peel away. In other words, I’m trying to get to the bottom of things, but it’s also likely that I’m going to get a few things wrong. If I do, please tell me!
Unless I made an egregious typo, it’s probably just a transliteration you’re not familiar with. Please trust me when I tell you that it’s virtually impossible to find a consistent way to translate and transliterate names and proper nouns across all the languages in which I find source material.
Why is it impossible? Because some spellings and usages have made their way into popular culture even though they’re not as precise as they could be. For example, everyone knows the name “Catherine the Great.” But in Russian, Catherine is Ekaterina or Yekaterina. So do I go for accuracy or familiarity? Say I choose familiarity and go with “Catherine the Great.” Do I then also go with the most familiar version of every name in her story? Does that mean her lover is Gregory Orlov, not Grigori? I’d rather use Grigori because it has more Russian flavor. But now I’m not being consistent. See what I mean?
And what happens when the country someone is born in employs one language and spells their name a certain way, and the country they eventually rule employs a different official language and spells their name a different way? At some point, for consistency’s sake, personal preference is going to enter the equation. Is he Adolphus of Nassau, Adolph of Nassau, or Adolf von Nassau? Is his wife Adelheid-Marie or Adelaide-Marie? What if I want to call him Adolph but her Adelheid-Marie? SHIT. The whole enterprise is fraught with linguistic peril.
So here’s the deal. I decided to call people what I want to call them. End of story.
Unless it really is an egregious typo, in which case, please tell me so I can fix it.
Throughout much of the period we’re covering, European countries operated on two different calendar systems. Western Europe and America used the Gregorian calendar, which was 10-13 days ahead of the Julian calendar still in use in Russia. To avoid confusing the hell out of everyone, all dates are presented using the Gregorian calendar...unless there's a really good reason, in which case I'll give you both dates.
Girls of Great Britain and Ireland.
Aosta Knots & Stars.
Check out the blog for fascinating stories about royal women and their tiaras. And don't forget to join my mailing list to get Grand Duchess Louise of Baden's meatloaf recipe! It's finger-lickin' good.