PARIS: You have to go to college.
LOUISE: Princess Grace didn’t go to college.
Princess Grace, born Grace Kelly (1929-1982) was an American actress who began her career on television and starred in several Alfred Hitchcock films, such as Dial M for Murder (1953), Rear Window (1953), and To Catch a Thief (1955). She also starred in the classic western High Noon (1952) and the musical High Society (1956), winning a Best Actress at the Academy Awards for The Country Girl (1954).
She retired from acting to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, becoming Princess Grace of Monaco, and having three children. As a princess, she founded children’s charity AMADE, formed the Princess Grace Foundation for artisans in Monaco, and became known as a fashion icon, being inducted into the Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1960.
Louise is correct – Princess Grace, who came from a wealthy family and attended prestigious private schools, was rejected by Bennington College in 1947, due to her low scores in Mathematics. However, she graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, the oldest acting school in the English-speaking world, so she did have a distinguished tertiary education.
LORELAI: And then there’s the full on Diana [veil].
RORY: Right, right.
LORELAI: Which is nice, but it just might be a little …
Lorelai is referring to Diana, Princess of Wales, born Diana Spencer (1961-1997). Diana married Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir apparent to the British throne, in 1981. At their wedding in St. Paul’s Cathedral, she wore an ivory silk and lace vintage-style wedding dress with a 25 foot long train; her tulle veil was likewise very long, and floated behind her as she walked.
Diana and Charles divorced in 1996 – another famously disastrous marriage to give a hint to Lorelai.
TRIX: Raising your voice during high tea, whoever heard of such a thing? It’s like Fergie all over again.
Trix is referring to Sarah, Duchess of York (born Sarah Ferguson in 1959), a British royal known as “Fergie” by the British press. She married Prince Andrew in 1986; after having two daughters, they separated in 1992, and divorced in 1996.
Fergie’s demeanour as a royal was always very casual, and she could be loud and exuberant socially, which people either found a breath of fresh air, or like Trix, rather vulgar. We can see from her comment that Trix has been in high society in London, although the fact that she calls the duchess by her “press name” betrays that she doesn’t really know her at all.
PARIS: God, this is so weird. I can’t stop smiling.
RORY: Good, then it’s a good time to talk about our over-taxed peasants.
PARIS: Oh, let them eat cake.
Paris is referring to Marie Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI, and the last queen of France before the French Revolution.
“Let them eat cake” is a phrase popularly ascribed to Marie Antoinette upon being told the peasants were starving and had no bread to eat. The phrase supposedly demonstrates either an indifference to their plight, or a complete lack of understanding of it. It doesn’t fit with what we know of Marie Antoinette, who was quite concerned with the poor, and donated generously to charitable causes.
She almost certainly did not say it. It comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1782), where he mentions a “great princess” who once said it. Not only does he not name the princess, but that part of his autobiography covers the years when Marie Antoinette would have been a little girl in Austria. He may have invented the anecdote entirely.
PARIS: Those [cards in her jacket pocket] are notes for tonight.
PARIS: Yeah. Just some reference points really – you know, subjects to bring up in case the conversation lags.
RORY: Well, can I suggest that you leave this one about the Spanish Inquisition out?
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition, was established in 1478 by Ferdinand II and Isabella I.
Intended to establish Catholic orthodoxy through Spain and its territories, its main purpose was to identify heretics among those who converted to Catholicism from Judaism and Islam and to test their sincerity. As Jews and Muslims were forced to either convert to Christianity or leave the country, it was little wonder their conversions might not have always been genuine.
Around 3000 to 5000 people were executed under the Spanish Inquisition, and it wasn’t officially abolished until 1834, although its influence had declined steadily for centuries.
RORY: Henry VIII started a new church when the old one wouldn’t allow divorce.
PARIS: He also cut off his wife’s head. Is he still your role model?
King Henry VIII, the father of Elizabeth I, and earlier mentioned. He initiated the English Reformation, which separated the Church of England from the pope’s authority. Rory isn’t quite right that he started a new church – the Church of England already existed, but was originally under Rome – but she is generally correct about the reason.
Henry VIII tried to have his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, annulled by the pope, and when that didn’t work he took control of the church himself to annul his own marriage. It wasn’t technically a divorce – their marriage was declared null and void in 1533, and from then on Catherine was regarded as the widow of Henry’s older brother Arthur, her first husband.
His second wife was Anne Boleyn (c1509-1536), who was the mother of Elizabeth I. They were married in 1532, and he had her executed by beheading in 1536. She was charged with treason, adultery, and incest, but the evidence against her was unconvincing. Her main “crime” was probably failing to produce a son, as apart from Elizabeth, her other pregnancies ended in miscarriage.
PARIS: I think that the basic structure of the Elizabethan government is relatively sound. The division of power between the monarchy, the privy council, and the parliament all seem to work.
Elizabethan government was that in England under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603). Her government was extremely structured and complex, and made up of:
The Monarch – Queen Elizabeth herself, who ruled by divine right. She is generally regarded as one of England’s best monarchs, which is probably why Paris thinks her government would be the best to emulate.
The Privy Council – the queen’s advisors. They gave advice to the queen, but she could rule against them if she preferred. They handled routine administration.
Parliament – was made up of the House of Lords (nobility and upper level clergy) and The House of Commons (ordinary people who were elected to their position). Unlike today, it had very little power, and was mostly there to handle the financial side of things, such as taxes.
Local government – very important in Elizabethan times. Counties, cities, and towns all had their own governments to deal with issues on a local level, while the nobility ran their own manors.
Courts – the justice system was made up of a number of courts, all dealing with different types of crimes, from the most serious offences to petty matters. The wealthy and the poor had different court systems to try them, and there were separate courts for financial and religious issues.