Like everything else I touched, the outfit belonged to Louisa de Clermont. Her scent of roses and civet had been suffocatingly thick last night, emanating from the embroidered hangings that surrounded the bed.
Guys, civet is right up there with ambergris — it’s a gross, prized substance used to make fancy perfume. Civet is the oil from the glands of an African cat prized for its aromatic, musky odor. According to Fragrantica.com, civet is “pungent and fecal” (DELIGHTFUL) and gives “amazing radiance and warmth to florals.”
For ethical reasons, the civetone is now replicated with synthetics to avoid farming civet oil from live animals. You might think you don’t like civet (I THOUGHT THIS) until you realize that it supplies signature notes in CHANEL No. 5, Guerlain’s Shalimar, Calvin Klein’s Obsession, Chopard’s Happy Diamonds, Givency’s Ysatis, Dior’s Diorissimo, Cartier’s Must de Cartier, and more. In the context of Calvin Klein’s Obsession, the scent is described as “oversexed.” Yikes. I do rather wish my mother wore less Chanel…
“You are too old to moon about in antechambers, Matthaios,” his father commented, sticking his tawny head out of the next room. “The twelfth century was not good for you,and we allowed you to read entirely too much poetry.”
If you happened to be a moody, romantic, brooding vampire, the twelfth century was a TERRIBLE PLACE for you because it gave you FEELINGS.
Well, that’s what I take from Philippe’s comment. No wonder — the twelfth century saw the publication of epic poems and chansons de geste with romantic and chivalric overtones, such as Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette (Lancelot, the Knight of the Court) and Érec et Énide (Erec and Enide), both written by Chrétien de Troyes.
Because de Troyes was popular in the twelfth century in France, I’m going to make a reasonable inference that his work is included in the poetry to which Philippe refers. The de Troyes poems emphasize tests, chivalry, and marital fidelity. Consider, for example, Érec et Énide. É and É is the oldest Arthurian romance to survive in any language. The poem tells the story of an Arthurian knight who wins his bride, Énide, in a sparrow-hunt. Like you do. He falls so deeply in love with her that he no longer wishes to fight and do knightly, manly things. Énide becomes ashamed of him and tells him, essentially, that all of the other boys and girls say he’s lost his edge. Because Érec is completely reasonable and this is a romantic poem, Érec decides that he and his new wife will leave their honeymoon immediately so that he can FIGHT EVERYONE HE CAN FIND. Érec proves that marriage hasn’t destroyed him and everyone goes home happy. You can read about Érec and Énide here.
Philippe’s comment incorporates a broad range of medieval romances, like, Aiol and Mirabel, the story of a knight who sets out to conquer the lands and reputation his father squandered during his life. Armed with grit, determination, and Christian fervor, Aiol conquers “the Saracen princess, Mirabel,” who becomes his bride. He and Mirabel have many children, then there’s intrigue, kidnapping, captivity, and a scene where the villain is torn limb-from-limb by warhorses. Oh, and someone tosses babies into a river (they live). You may read the French text here. I think one can see why Philippe thought the twelfth century a bit… fanciful for vampires of Matthew’s ilk.
“I’ve performed my act of filial piety, Philippe,” Matthew said curtly. “There’s no reason to tarry, and we will be fine in Milan. Diana knows the Tuscan tongue.”
Diana expresses some ambivalence as to her ability to speak Italian fluently enough for 16th century Milan — with good reason. The language we call “Italian” began to coalesce in the 10th century, but grammarians argued about the syntax, use, and pronunciation of the language well into the 16th century. The “Tuscan” dialect used by Petrarca, Boccaccio, and Dante Alighieri had a dominant influence on modern Italian, primarily because of the strong commercial influence of the city-state of Florence. Because modern Italy is the result of the unification of smaller city-states throughout the peninsula, the Italian language still has strong regional dialects. The Tuscan-derived modern language was still used for official business during the occupation of Italy by the Spanish and then the Austrians, but syntax, pronunciation, and usage vary widely between regions. You can watch the following video to hear the differences between different dialects:
“Chef tells me that it will be December on Saturday. I didn’t want to mention it in the kitchen, but can someone explain how I misplaced the second half of November?” I dipped my pen in a pot of dark ink and looked at Alain expectantly.
“The English refuse the pope’s new calendar,” he said slowly, as if talking to a child.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced his calendar in order to fix Easter. You see, the Roman calendar contained a miscalculation that failed to account for eleven minutes of solar time every year. This eventually led to the festival of Easter moving farther and farther away from the spring equinox, which the church didn’t like. The calendar also added leap years to account for missing time, but it’s still not perfect — our “year” is still about eleven seconds short, which means that we’ll eventually get ahead of the sun by a day. In 4909. Ponder that one for a moment — I dare you.
Diana misplaced two weeks, but she wasn’t the first to do so. To institute the new calendar, Pope Gregory XIII simply decreed that, in 1582, October 4 would be followed by October 15. This isn’t exactly unprecedented — Roman politicians apparently added days in February whenever they felt like it. Pope Gregory XIII is also the reason we set New Year’s Day on January 1 — before that, the new year began on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25).
As Pierre points out in the text, Protestant countries like England didn’t adopt the new calendar immediately. Skeptics believed that the new calendar was a CATHOLIC PLOT meant to convert them back to the old faith. England didn’t adopt the new calendar until 1752 — and allegedly, there were riots. Britons wanted the Crown to give back the eleven days they unceremoniously stole between September 4 and 15, 1752. Reportedly, people believed that shortening the calendar would cut eleven days from their lifespan. This is true, at least in theory.
We’ll catch up to you again tomorrow, when it’s time to go to Matthew’s church.
In the meantime, you can find us on our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Twitter @chamomilenclove. See you soon!
Cait and Jen