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A film about Queen Anne of Great Britain, The favourite, by the unorthodox Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, will probably win some Oscars. Even if it is not the case, this comic and strangely moving film has already achieved something extraordinary. This sparked a keen interest in the life of a corpulent, gouty, nearsighted and resolutely Anglican queen who would have had passionate relationships with two ladies in her room and who was pregnant 17 times but died childless before her 50th birthday. birthday, about 300 years ago.
It's a biography of the opera, but oddly enough, until this film, the only popular image that the words "Queen Anne" triggered was that of curved brown legs.
It is not the members of the queen suffering from gout, which are the focal point of this sizzling film, but the classic cabriole legs, curved in S, which characterize the Queen Anne furniture. Immensely popular throughout England and the American colonies, this elegant furniture was an indispensable element in the rich eighteenth century salons, from London to Boston.
But why is this style of furniture, which is Anne's most important cultural legacy, become so popular? One of the main reasons can be summed up in a dark and delicious word: tea.
Queen Anne and tea have a curious relationship, embellished with more than one ironic twist. Personally, Anne did little to promote tea. She liked him and drank her, of course, but her sweet tooth made her crack the other modern drink of the time, chocolate, which she enjoyed privately in her room before taking a nap. She did not share the same relationship with the tea. But the link between drinking tea and the reign of Anne has been widely commemorated in furniture, poetry, painting, journalism, satire and even slang. Why?
Good timing is the answer. As noted by tea historian Jane Pettigrew, the reign of Anne (1702-1714) coincided with an important period for tea. By the time of his accession to the throne, the consumption of tea, practiced in England for about 40 years, had become an extremely fashionable social ritual among the upper classes, generating unquenchable demand for all types of clothing. expensive and exotic drink – new silver and porcelain tea equipment (imported from China and made locally) with furniture specially designed for tea.
In another happy coincidence, Anne's reign witnessed the rise of this perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea: the morning paper. The first British daily, The Daily Courant, was launched the year of his accession to power, while the famous sheet of gossip of the upper classes, The tatler, followed seven years later. What a delectable combination it must have been, fantasized historical columnist Ms. Oliphant, for the Tatler be "served with foaming chocolate or scented tea at each breakfast in Mayfair".
But first, the legs of Queen Anne.
Queen Anne's most popular pieces of furniture include those related to tea consumption, including the tea table. Since cafes were not considered respectable by women, and women's tea gardens were only a few decades old, the tea table offered a refined alternative: a friendly place to eat. gather, sip Bohea and Hyson and pass the time. It only took a short time for the film to become the "main seat of slander" where "with every sip, the honor of a woman dies".
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"The first tea tables (explicitly so called) were sold in the late 1690s before the reign of Queen Anne," says Markman Ellis, professor of eighteenth-century studies at Queen Mary University. from London. "But the idea of" the tea table "is more than just a piece of furniture, but also a social event in which women and men meet to discuss and discuss, especially beginning under the reign of. Anne. "
The tilting table was the most sought after. So called the clever mechanism that tilted and flattened the top for easy storage, it featured a central column with three cabriole feet that ended with skates or claw feet. Not too big, but big enough to accommodate a tea set, it sometimes had a scalloped or pie-crusted edge or a tray-shaped lip to prevent spoons, bowls and other expensive accessories from falling to the floor. Delicately decorated and lacquered in a style called Japanning, its discreet elegance marks a departure from the baroque excesses of the time. Several paintings from the period represent scenes of families and friends gathered around these small, bright tables drinking tea.
On the other side of the Atlantic, landowners and American merchants who took their cultural bearings in England were eager to acquire these tables. Martha Washington had one. Benjamin Franklin planned to buy one for his sister as a wedding gift, before changing his mind and buying him a spinning wheel because, as he explained in his letter, "the character of 39 A good housewife was far better than being a pretty sweet woman. "Easy to replicate, they were quickly widely available. Indeed, it is now impossible to browse an antique store without banging your toe on a reproduction.
"We often see reclining tables," says Sebastian Clarke, furniture expert and appraiser for Antiques Roadshow on PBS. "They could be prepared for tea and, once the social event ended, placed against the wall, as was customary until the mid-eighteenth century.Also called occasional tables, they were used for games and meals as well as tea. "
The occasional table was just one of the many names on this table that was also advertised as a claw table, snap-on table, pillar and claw table, freestanding table, and flip table, more commonly, tea table. Many names, with the exception of a blatant omission: Queen Anne Table.
And here is where this story takes an unexpected turn. It turns out that the term "Queen Anne furniture" simply did not exist until almost 200 years after Anne's reign.
"Queen Anne is a term used by collectors of English and American antiques of the twentieth century to designate the most fashionable furniture made in the years 1720-1760," says Sarah Fayen Scarlett, American specialist in material culture. "When people began collecting and studying antique furniture in England and the United States in the late 19th century, they considered these artifacts to be markers of taste and culture, so monarchical names were used. (others include William and Mary Style and Georgian) to connect these artifacts to known characters.Many of what we call Queen Anne furniture does not even coincide with the reign of Queen Anne! "
The imperial mark "Queen Anne" was therefore chosen by collectors to identify a style of furniture that extends over a much larger period than that of the brief reign of the queen. And this is how this overweight queen, who was to wear her coronation on a chair because of her lameness due to gout, has come to give her name to a style of furniture whose most remarkable element is the elegance of his legs. It's an irony both brutal and glorious, and more than anything else, in keeping with the scathing and funny tenor of Lanthimos's film.
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In The favouriteBy caring for the fiery legs of the queen, the maid Abigail has the opportunity to make its way to the royal chamber, much to the chagrin of her powerful rival, the Duchess of Marlborough. The two women ruthlessly plan the queen's bed and favors, their lives are as thrilling as the three feet of a tea table and the hostilities peak when Abigail slips a drug into the cup or bowl to tea of the duchess.
While poisoning is a fiction and sexual quarrels are highly speculative, the cup itself (a small blue and white porcelain bowl with a deep saucer) is an authentic accessory of the time, says Ophelia Field, author of an authoritative story about the Duchess of Marlborough, the favorite of the Queen. "The tea was drunk in porcelain bowls imported from the Far East, with the very first assorted tea service introduced during Anne's reign," she told NPR. "They also used silver" spoons ", which had tiny holes to take the tea leaves from the bowl before the sieves were introduced.Saving tea was an important part of conspicuous consumption, both in the courts and in the houses that imitated fashion. "
At the beginning of the 17th century, the writer Daniel Defoe made fun of all those shopkeepers who sneered at the "stupid traders" whose women "sit over the living room, receive visits and drink tea" and the lounges went off with the tea table, the coffee maker and the silver coffee maker ", despite the heavy taxes on the three drinks.
Defoe's social commentary gives insights into the tea economy and thriving tea habits, but Queen Anne's most enduring literary memorial came from another source: Alexander Pope's #############################################>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> s. The rape of the lock, a satirical poem that sent the fops to court to be a group of idlers drinking tea and playing cards. The queen herself was not spared:
You, big Anna! to whom three kingdoms obey.
Sometimes lawyers take – and sometimes, tea.
"It is generally thought that these lines diminish the importance of Queen's counselors or her interest in politics," says Professor Ellis, "but she also suggests that her morning tea table was an important part of her practice Incidentally, Pope's rhyme suggests that tea was pronounced "tay" in polite circles at that time. "
Polite circles had also invented a very rude nickname for their queen. She called Brandy Nan, for her alleged weakness in "cold tea". The euphemism of brandy in a cup of tea or tea enriched with brandy, the term reveals how this relatively new drink was already part of the slang of the court .
But who can blame Brandy Nan for having hit cold tea, if that's the case? Little changed by life and history, she was ridiculed for being a weak, gluttonous and talkative woman who, as a wicked lady would, committed "dark deeds at night" with a "dirty maid". Some of the charges may be true. But Anne had no merit for the military and political triumphs of her reign, nor even for the basic recognition that despite her poor education, her deplorable state of health and her unimaginable grief at being permanently pregnant and ultimately childless, she was a beloved leader led by a strong sense of duty.
The favourite correct some by portraying Anne with sympathy and humor, and presenting the whole story ahistorically and completely crazy. In fact, he happily tilts the pre-set tea table in the story – cups without handle, soup spoons, teapot, urn, sugar tongs, cups and everything – and allows us to revel in smashup. The great Anna could have enjoyed it.
Nina Martyris is a reporter based in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Tuesdays of tea is an occasional series exploring the science, history, culture and economy of this ancient brewed drink.