Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Famous Mary's: Portas's Shoe Collab with Clarks

Mary Portas, most often referred to as 'Mary Queen of Shops' here in the UK has teamed up with Clarks to produce a collection of shoes, released online on the 18th September (www.clarks.co.uk). The shoes themselves caught my eye as I specifically like the 'La Jane' and 'La Magdalene' styles, but also because the different styles are named after famous 'Mary's throughout history. As an historian, I couldn't walk away without writing a little blurb about who these women were, the historic Mary's anyway (Portas is contemporary and 'Contrary' Mary is from a children's rhyme, although one arguably inspired by Mary I).

La Wesley - I assume this shoe is named after the author Mary Wesley (1912-2002). She found fame at the age of 70 and led a colourful life before this point, which arguably fuelled her stories. She was from an upper class English family, didn't attend school as it was thought she would never have to work, married a Lord, had two sons, then caused scandal when she left and divorced him in 1945. She worked in intelligence during the Second World War. She married again in 1952 and was devastated when her second husband died in 1970. She had two children's books published in 1968 and a third followed in 1983. She wrote works that were wholly different to anything else being published in the early 80s. Female heroines, murder, sex, cursing, all featured heavily in her writing.

La Rose - I would again assume, as I do not claim to know Portas's intentions, that this boot was named after the very famous Mary Rose. Now, you are misled if you think by famous Mary's, I meant all living breathing people, as the Mary Rose was actually a warship! It was commissioned by Henry VIII and was built between 1509 and 1511. It is a myth that the ship sank on its maiden voyage; it sank in 1545 during an engagement with the French fleet. The Mary Rose was possibly named Mary after the king's sister (he would later call his eldest daughter Mary) and the Tudor Rose, which was the emblem for the dynasty. It was a ship that Henry VIII was incredibly proud of and was a fine vessel indeed.

La Magdalene - According to Christian belief, Mary Magdalene was present when Jesus was crucified by the Romans and mourned his death greatly. She also discovered the empty tomb, and a witnessed the resurrection. It is a common misconception that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute. Mary is mentioned in each of the four gospels in the New Testament, but not once does it mention that she was a prostitute or a sinner. At some point Mary Magdalene became confused with two other women in the Bible. In the 6th Century, Pope Gregory the Great made this assumption official by declaring in a sermon that these three characters were actually the same person. The Catholic Church did later declare that Mary Magdalene was not the penitent sinner, but this was not until 1969. After so long the reputation still lingers.

La Stuart - Mary Stuart (1542-1587) is commonly referred to as Mary Queen of Scots. She was the daughter of James V of Scotland and Marie de Guise. She became an infant queen, inheriting the throne when merely six days old. Her first marriage was to Francis II of France, then to Henry Stuart, or Lord Darnley. She married a third time to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. She was the mother of James V who later went on to unite the thrones of Scotland and England, becoming James I of England too. Mary was a somewhat scandalous character what with her many marriages, and became embroiled in plots against her cousin Elizabeth I, the last remaining Tudor monarch (although some still contest her innocence. I have no views on this not having researched it in detail). Elizabeth had Mary executed at Fotheringay Castle in 1587.

La Antoinette - named after Marie Antoinette (1755-1793). She was the youngest and most beautiful daughter of Francis Stephen I and Maria Theresa, Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire. Marie Antoinette was brought up believing her destiny was to become queen of France. She married the crown prince of France in 1770. Four years later she became queen when her husband was crowned King Louis XVI. Rather than ignoring the economic crisis that was emerging, she actually took steps to lessen it by reducing the royal household staff, eliminating posts that were based merely on privilege, annoying the nobles. In 1789 a mob descended on the palace at Versailles and demanded the royal family move to the Tuilerie palace inside Paris. From that point on the King and Queen were virtual prisoners. On August 10, 1792 the royal family was arrested on suspicion of treason and imprisoned. On January 21, 1793 King Louis XVI was convicted and executed on the guillotine. Marie Antoinette was cruelly treated during her final days of captivity. Antoinette followed her husband to the guillotine on October 16, 1793. She was executed without proof of the crimes for which she was accused. She was only 37 years old.

So, that's the background on the 'famous Mary's' that the shoes are named after! However, as an historian, I was slightly concerned to see Mary Stuart included and not Mary Tudor, or Mary I. There is some speculation that the children's rhyme 'Mary, Mary, quite Contrary' refers to Mary I, but there is no definitive evidence, therefore the link would be tenuous. Yes, history has painted Mary Tudor as a tyrant and she lost Calais,but she did manage some positive steps too, albeit outweighed historically by the bad. She is almost forgotten as far as British monarchs go and I find that incredibly sad. Love her or loathe her, she was a part of our history and should therefore be treated with respect and considered important, irrelevant of her wrong-doings. So, my first ever fashion post with included historical discussion. I'm sure I will alienate many of my readers with this, but I am hoping to prove that this blog, and the person who writes it (i.e. Nicole...aka ME!) does have a brain and isn't merely obsessed with 'shallow' things such as make up and fashion. I don't like all of the shoes in the range and I'd say the idea behind the names drove me to write about them, but they seem like comfortable shoes!


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