The Many Lives of a Scottish Señora
Patricia Cleveland-Peck tells the story of Fanny Calderón de la Barca and her life as an author, ambassador’s wife and governess to the Spanish royal family.
'Tonight there are tableaux at Señora Calderón's where I shall probably be'
So wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on May 6th, 1839 when visiting Washington. The señora to whom he referred was Frances, known as Fanny, wife of the Spanish minister to the US, Angel Calderón de la Barca, whom she had married the year before. A popular hostess, in her thirties she was attractive, intelligent, spirited, fluent in at least three languages and not only well read but also a published author. On this spring evening she would undoubtedly have been delighted to receive the poet at one of her soirées but probably not unduly impressed, for her circle already included many of the most distinguished international diplomats, intellectuals and literary figures of the day.
Nevertheless many people at the gathering would have been surprised to learn that the route that brought her to a diplomat’s Washington drawing room had been far from smooth. They would be still more amazed had they known the course her life was to take over the years to come.
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