8 thoughts on “Fitzg’s Journeys – The Governess

  1. I ought also to have included several additional references:

    Katherine Swynford: the Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess; Alison Weir, Jonathan Cape 2007.

    Katherine Swynford: the History of a Medieval Mistress; Jeanette Lucraft, Sutton Publishing, 2006.

    John of Gaunt: the Exercise of Princely Power in Fourteenth-Century Europe;  Anthony Goodman, Longman Group UK Limited, 1992.

    Ms. Weir is, as usual, a good read. There is perhaps too much emphasis on “She must have felt” “He must have known”.  It is a bit tricky to ascribe feelings to  historical characters to such a degree in a biography. It is very well researched, however.  Ms. Lucraft’s maintains a more restrained approach, though no less easy to read.  As for Anthony Goodman, this historical biography is immensely detailed and the most complete study of Gaunt since that of Sydney Armitage-Smith, 1904.  (Had to slip in another Armitage!) Gaunt is generally an addition to studies of Edward III and Richard II. 

    There is, of course, the novel that “began” it all: Anya Seton’s Katherine, first published 1954. It certainly inspired more than one generation of 14 year old girls to fall in love with Gaunt.  (I’ve searched for the perfect actor to play the part ever since – now, who do you think might oblige?)

  2. Fascinating. I’ve always thought it would have been horrible to have been a governess although it would better job than coming from a poor family and working in a factory or begging. No wonder Jane Fairfax in Emma was not in a hurry to take a position as a governess. Miss Dashwood’s story sounds fascinating and I’m going to try to find that reference. Thanks for sharing! ~Jael

    • Jael, Miss Emmie is a lovely book. It appears to have been re-issued by Amazon. I obtained my used copy several years ago from Amazon. It is not all about Emma Dashwood; the author was able to interview several other long-lived governesses of pre-Revolutionary Russia.  (not at all “decayed”, these ladies!)

  3. Thanks for your Monday musings, Fitzg.
    I always enjoy your essays as you weave the personal with the historical. 
    Cheers!  Grati  ;->

  4. Such an interesting topic for feminist analysis Fitzg.

    Also made me think of some governess films I have seen.  Wondering if you have seen Firelight with Sophie Marceau and Stephen Dillane in the leads – only watch it if you want to indulge in a bit of tissue ready romanticism. That Governess goes an extra mile.

    I also enjoyed the plight of the aging governess, Miss Millament, in the tv adaptation of The Cazalets (only a small sub plot). She finds herself no longer needed and worrying where she will spend the rest of her life. I wonder how many families made provision for the old age needs of their employees?

    There is also a significant governess thread in The Forsyte Saga (her being French seems to be the key to the problem lol).

    And what about The King’s Speech? Bertie certainly didn’t have good governess memories, did he?

    Such an interesting topic about an interesting employment relationship. So much is asked of the governess but the position also has such access to the lives of the employer. Very unusual and potentially fraught situation.

  5. Gratiana, thanks for comments. I try not to put much personal stuff in any guest blogs. However, with two generations of English ancestors expat in Russia, a g-grandmother an English governess, my grandad’s 20-page memoir of his birth and life in St. Petersburg, it is an area of great fascination. Russia is top of my destination list, when finances permit.

  6. beengizzied, Thanks for the Sophie Maeceau reference – I have to check that! English governesses in England certainly didn’t fare that well. Note Marion Crawford, who after years dedicated to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, was utterly frozen out after publishing the completely innocuous account of her years with the Windsors – The Little Princesses. I seem to recall that pension was also rescinded, though Crawfie had left her post before writing her book.

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