On a foggy November morning in the Latvian countryside, Rundāle Palace appeared mysterious and brooding. The summer residence of the Duke of Courland, Ernst Johann Biron, construction began in 1736 on the country’s largest palace. Soon we were invited into its sumptuous interior.

On our private tour we admired porcelain vases, furniture, elegant table settings,

and–a personal highlight–a fan collection. I have my own assortment assembled over time from different countries. On the left are a couple from the palace, on the right, some of mine.

Feminine, sexy, utilitarian–they are all those things to me. But I had no idea that women in centuries past carried on entire conversations with their props, from “I know you are interested in me” to “I like you very much” to “It’s about time you bought me a piece of jewelry” and more. We were given a crash course in the etiquette of effective fan usage by our lovely lady chaperones. If I recall correctly, here they are saying “my husband is right behind me.”

The woman on the left is in period English attire, the one on the right, in French dress. Check out the elaborate bird cage on the latter’s head.

A short dance performance was the perfect addition to our tour. I know life in the 18th century was not at all as gloriously civilized as it appears in retrospect, but still...  Do you agree?

If You Go:

Hotel Gutenbergs http://www.hotelgutenbergs.lv/?lang=en (From Ravishing Riga Part 1)

Rundāle Palace: https://www.rundalepalace.com/