Throwback Thursday: The (Un)lucky Bracelet

I was reading about George VI the other day and read that before he married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, he was in love with a woman called Sheila Chisholm.

Sheila was an Australian. Yes, I thought that too, an Australian woman named Sheila, but then I read that she was THE Sheila. The original Sheila!

Sheila was a socialite and model, born in New South Wales in  1895.

Here she is pictured wearing a bracelet given to her by the Italian actor, Rudolph Valentino with whom she allegedly had a fling.

Margaret Sheila Mackellar Chisholm | Laughing Heart

It was Valentino's lucky bracelet.

He died of a ruptured ulcer just six months after giving it to her. He was 31. 

It is said that she thought he'd died because she had taken his luck. 

Rudloph Valentino was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella.

Rudloph Valentino was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella.

When Valentino died, Hollywood mourned the man who had come to embody the 'Latin Lover'. 

Sheila married three times: Francis St Clair-Erskine, Lord Loughborough; Sir John Milbanke; and Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich of Russia and died in London in 1969. 


On their wedding day

On their wedding day

These six pieces were all gifts from Andrew, 11th Duke of Devonshire to his wife Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire.

The couple married in 1941. He was a serial philanderer but claimed that his wife was 'broadminded'. Sure. 

Bugs are really quite lovely (apart from spiders, flies and moths). Here are some of the loveliest bug-inspired items on the market.

Throwback Thursday: Foxtrotting often

This cigarette case was a gift from Edward VIII (when he was Prince of Wales) to Pinna Nesbit Cruger.

Pinna Nesbit Cruger gift from Edward VIII | Laughing Heart

Pinna was a film actress whom Edward met in 1924 while on a visit to North America. The two danced together frequently during his visit. 

Pinna Nesbit | Laughing Heart

The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that she was a 'damned attractive woman'. No conclusive evidence exists that they were lovers, but the cigarette case suggests that Edward liked her a lot. 

In a Missouri newspaper, published in 1925, an article on the pair reads:

'[They were] passionate adherents of the foxtrot and the one-step,' and they 'one-stepped and foxtrotted often.'

It sounds as innocent as it does scandalous. I'll leave you to make up your minds. 

The case is gold and the thumb piece set with circular and single-cut diamonds. The inside lid is engraved: 'Pinna 1924 love - EP'. Edward VIII signed off with 'EP' when he was Prince of Wales. 

Eventually the two moved apart and on and as we know from History, Edward found Wallis Simpson ('found' being a gross oversimplification of 'met, loved, abdicated for)  and moved on to other gift-giving successes. 

Throwback Thursday: A white gold crane in flight

Throwback Thursdays took a hiatus but now they're back.

This week’s gift of yesteryear is this brooch.

Designed by Cartier and made in 18k white gold, this crane in flight dates back to the 1930s.

The brooch is engraved with the words 'NO FLOWERS' on the back.

It belonged to Amelia Earhart the record-breaking pilot. 

It was found in the back of a New Jersey van which transported Earhart's belongings from the airport. The company owner tried to return it, but shortly after, Earhart disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean during a round the world flight. She was 41.

It's not possible to say with certainty what 'NO FLOWERS' meant to Earhart but in a 1931 New York Times article about Amelia’s wedding to George P. Putnam, the ceremony was described as being very simple. It mentioned that there were 'no flowers.' 

To me, 'no flowers' sounds morbid, it's the kind of thing you hear when you read details for a funeral. 

Christies, the auction house handling the sale of the brooch, writes: "Perhaps the brooch was a wedding gift to Earhart and the phrase a witticism between the couple? Whatever the significance of “No Flowers” may have been, this brooch is atypical of what Cartier was producing at the time and was most likely a special order for the first woman of aviation around the time of her nuptials. "

Bidding for the brooch starts at $7,000. 


Throwback Thursday: The original care package

I recently came across the phrase: ‘hurt people hurt people’. Without knowingly carrying out research, I’ve found this to be true.

Thankfully, we are prevented from living lives which constantly alternate between terror and trauma because there are people in the world who do not repay hurt with hurt. These people cheerfully interrupt the vicious cycle by showing love.

Which brings me to this week’s Throwback Thursday gift, the CARE package.

Care Package | Laughing Heart

In late 1945, when much of Europe was broken and barely recovering from the Second World War, an organisation called CARE, the Co-operative for American Remittances to Europe was formed. Made up of an host of different charities, CARE provided food to those starving and displaced by conflict in Europe.

It was officially established by President Harry S. Truman, after receiving pressure from the American people who wanted to provide poor relief to those suffering.

Americans paid $10 and a care package was assembled and sent on their behalf, originally to family members living in Europe. Donations and demands increased to the point where Americans could donate a package to a stranger.

Some packages were addressed to ‘a hungry occupant of a thatched cottage’ and ‘a school teacher in Germany’. The packages were initially made up of food supplies donated by American companies. They were later assembled to include other items like blankets and clothes.

© CARE International

Millions of packages were sent until 1955. Over half of all packages were sent to Germany. The last package was sent to the UK.

Gillian Roberts, 73, from Kent recalls receiving a care package as a child: “We must have gone back to our bombed out bungalow which was still being repaired from the war. Then the absolute joy and disbelief, and I can remember a huge tin of peaches, a bag of flour in a muslin bag, and I think a tin of butter. My grandmother, she just sat in the middle of the floor, just sobbing. We were just opened mouthed.

“It was the thought of somebody being so kind. The impact that it had on us was indescribable. Because my grandmother was crying so much she couldn’t see any logic in it. She said, ‘well it’s from people a long way away, and they realise that we’ve got problems and we need help, and they were kind enough to send it to us.”

During war and after it, ideas of 'otherness' surface. Usually from the mouths of politicians but perpetuated in the media. You hear phrases like 'the enemy', 'the opposition' and 'the bad guys'. The CARE packages demonstrate that strong-minded and loving people were able to recognise human suffering in people just like them, looked past 'otherness' and were moved to do something useful about it.

CARE became CARE International, which now provides life-saving assistance across the world in Syria, Yemen, Ecuador and Nepal to name a few.


Throwback Thursday: Freud's Pin

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was also a keen collector of antiquities. 

On the 3rd December 1933, he presented this pin to his daughter Anna, also a psychoanalyst, who was 38 at the time. 

©  Freud Museum London

© Freud Museum London

About 10cm long, it is made of gold and jade and features three skinny dragons. 

An accompanying note reads:

‘Chinese jewellery, (previous century) both plates connected by a needle can be parted and used separately. The ornamentation is fine gold. Love Papa’

According to the Freud Museum in London, the pin was not an everyday fashion accessory.   

I won’t read too much into the significance of the item.

It’s tempting to say something trite and predictable like ‘Freud gave his daughter this pin to symbolise the pinning together of psychoanalytic generations’ or ‘The dragon represents the threat of criticism’ but not everything lugs around the weight of symbolism.

I’d put money on the fact that he just liked it and thought his daughter might too.

It lives on display in the home Sigmund Freud’s study in Hampstead with his collection of 2,000 curiosities and the famous couch. 

Sigmund and Anna Freud

Sigmund and Anna Freud

The Freud Museum

20 Maresfield Gardens


 NW3 5SX

Throwback Thursday: a gift from Byron's wild antelope

‘We that are true lovers run into strange capers’ says Touchstone in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

And nowhere can odd behaviour between lovers be demonstrated better than in a particular gift exchange between Lady Caroline Lamb and the Romantic poet, Lord Byron, whom she appropriately called ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know'. 

The two started a scandalous affair in 1812. Lady Caroline was already married to the man who would later become the prime minister, Lord Melbourne. Byron didn’t exactly have an unblemished reputation.

In August of 1812 Lady Caroline sent a letter to Byron and enclosed a lock (I’m not sure that’s the right term) of her public hair. 

With the lock/tuft she wrote:

Caroline Byron

Next to Thyrsa dearest & most faithful - God bless you own love - Ricordati Di Biondetta

From your Wild Antelope.

Lady Caroline was never Caroline Byron except in her wishful thinking. Biondetta is a character from Spanish fantasy romance novel, Le diable amoureux, published in 1772. Biondetta is the devil in disguise who seduces protagonist Alvaro. She writes ‘Ricordati Di Biondetta’ - remember Biondetta. Perhaps in doing so, she is reminding Byron of her seductive powers over him.  I love that she signs off ‘Your Wild Antelope’. 

In an accompanying letter she writes:

‘I asked you not to send blood but Yet do – because if it means love I like to have it. I cut the hair too close & bled much more than you need – do not you the same & pray put not scissors points near where quei capelli grow – sooner take it from the arm or wrist – pray be careful….’

Lady Caroline is asking for Byron to send a love token in return, she doesn’t mind blood but she doesn’t want him to do himself too great an injury. The ‘quei capelli’ or ‘that hair’, indicates that she doesn’t want him to injure his private parts in the extraction. She instead suggest his arm or wrist.

Ah, love.