Jenny Lind’s Most Glorious Voice

This is the day that … Jenny Lind was born, out of wedlock, in Sweden, in 1821.

Billed as “the Swedish Nightingale”, her singing was praised across the world. Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, London – the crowds came to hear this diva of the operatic stage (Cavalcade of History, by C. Golding, page 801).

It is said that at the age of three she was able to repeat a song that she had heard but once. At age ten she sang on the Stockholm stage. From 12 – 16 her voice lost its sweetness, then returned with full force.

For a year and a half she was the star of he Stockholm opera before attempting studies in Paris. At age 24 she sang for Queen Victoria opening the way for much success in Germany. In 1847 she went to London and was enthusiastically received. Here she sang for the first time in concert.

In 1850 P.T. Barnum, the American entrepreneur, signed her up to appear in 150 “concerts or oratorios” for $150,000 (The Fabulous Showman, by I. Wallace, page 134).

American audiences fell at her feet. The press spoke of her voice as “unrivalled” and so, too, was her popularity.

After two years Barnum released her from her contract – she had given 93 performances and he had made his fortune.

Jenny Lind married Otto Goldschmidt, her pianist, on 5 February, 1852. He was a famous German pianist who had been a pupil of Mendelssohn.

In the years that followed she rarely sang for personal gain.

Irving Wallace tells of one who found her sitting on the beach in the late afternoon – “a Bible on her lap. The friend wondered why she had abandoned her career at its height. Jenny replied, ‘When every day it made me think less of this’ – and she indicated her Bible – ‘and nothing of that’ – and she pointed to the setting sun – ‘what else could I do?’” (page 159).

Jenny Lind died in London on 2 November, 1887.

P.T. Barnum cabled her husband. “So dies away the last echo of the most glorious voice the world has ever heard.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Giving Honour is a Visible Process

Giving Honour is a Biblical mandate. We are commanded to give honour to those to whom it is due (Romans 13:7). We are also commanded to give honour to our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Yet most westerners have no real idea what giving honour looks like.

I mentioned in a previous post that years ago Dr Dewberry prompted me to question if I gave honour to my dad. I could not answer the question one way or the other, since I really had no handle on what giving honour would look like. Recently I found my heart turned to this subject yet again and some light has been filtering through, so that’s what I want to share with you in my posts on this subject.

Giving Honour is a matter of the heart. Honour is something that comes out from the inside of us. It is not an external ritual but a heart commitment. Yet it will also be a visible process, since it will lead to external expressions of what the heart feels.

It is appropriate, we would all agree, that honour should be given to a ruler. In my childhood it was the practice at every picture theatre (movie house – or whatever they may be called in your culture) to play the Australian national anthem at the commencement of every movie screening. Music would fill the theatre and images of the Australian flag would brighten the room. We would all stand to our feet as an act of giving honour to our country and our monarch. Images of a youthful Queen Elizabeth II, sitting side-saddle on a decorated horse, would fill the screen. We were giving honour to our Queen.

This external act was supposed to be an expression of our heart attitude of giving honour. Similarly army personnel salute a superior officer. A judge is addressed as “your honour”. A police officer is addressed as “sir”. These external expressions reveal that we hold them or their position in honour.

Sadly western culture has slaughtered honour on the altar of individualism and hedonism. But I’ll wax lyrical about that in a later post. Let me take time here to reveal what giving honour might look like in a home.

A man enters his home after work and is confronted with a cacophony of rowdy sounds. A child confronts him and berates him for not being home sooner, since they needed some of his money to buy something they wanted. Another child demands to know where the father has placed something they have been looking for, since they are sure he had it last. On the bench is a note from his wife, advising that he will have to fend for himself, since she decided to go shopping with some friends and would eat out.

What are the evidences of honour in that scenario? Do we see anyone giving honour?

Since the Bible commands us to give honour, what would a home look like where honour was embraced at a heart level? Maybe it would look like this…

A father arrives home from work to be greeted by his attentive and quiet children who take care of his bag and coat. The children remain quiet, so as not to disturb their father. Refreshments have been prepared the way dad likes them, to soothe him. A report is given to him of all matters that he should be apprised of, since he is the one who is responsible for all the members of the household. Several children respectfully give him their report on their day, so they can share with their dad, but also to be sure that he knows things which he might not otherwise find out about.

When the dinner is ready there is a special seat at the head of the table for dad. He is served first and the children are respectfully quiet, taking their lead from the dad’s questions and directions.

Now, without going any further, does that not strike you as a stark contrast to the first scenario? And aren’t you just a little bit inclined to think of the second scenario as being a bit too ‘old fashioned’?

It’s interesting that we relegate giving honour to some past era. It is now out of fashion. It is almost absurd. So let me take my illustration a little further.

The wife is asked by a friend to head off for a fun shopping trip with some surprise visitors. The wife thanks her friend for the invitation but explains that her husband will be home in an hour and she has several things to prepare. The friend suggests that the wife do just as the friend is doing, “Make hubby fend for himself for a change”. The wife declines, explaining that it would be wrong to set that example for her children.

The friend reacts to this. “For crying out loud, you aren’t still thinking you owe your husband something, are you? You know what men are like! They need to be put in their place every so often. If I gave my husband special treatment he’d be likely to expect it all the time.”

The wife explains that she promised God to give honour to her husband, since the husband is God’s gift to her. She explains that she also promised to train her children to give honour to their dad, and so she must be the first to give a positive example. She further explains that her husband is only an ordinary man, and he has no special qualities that earn him such honour. It is simply that God requires it of her and that it is her special gift to her husband.

That’s why I mentioned the visible process in the title of this article. Giving Honour is a Visible Process. If you have honour in your heart it will be seen in your actions.

I did not know how to give honour to my dad, because I grew up in a culture that was throwing off the old fashioned ideas of honour and other Victorian values. It was somehow noble to be arrogant. It was part of the evolutionary advancement of our society to be big enough to move beyond those childish rules and regulations of a simpler and less developed age. Wow! What arrogance and deception was being foisted on us.

Giving Honour is now finally filtering through to me. Maybe you’ve understood it all your life. Next time I’ll share about how the person and the position impact the whole honouring process.
(Honour is the English spelling, while Honor is the American spelling. So this article could just as well have been called “Giving Honor Is a Visible Process” and I could have said, “Honor your father and mother”. Please excuse my default to the spelling of my schooling. The American form may be simpler, but it just looks ‘wrong’ when I write it. I pray my American friends can tolerate the fact that I actually enjoy being who I am, and that I decline the offer of American simplifications.)

Logophile for Queens

Here’s a royal theme to give us an excuse to play with some words. I am sure the pedants out there can explain whether “queen” is both singular and plural. I haven’t bothered to dig too deep on that one, but I have a suspicion that the plural of queen can be both ‘queen’ and ‘queens’. Anyone have the good oil on that one?

My focus is with the types of queen and the verbiage which relates to them. There are two main types of queen. A queen regent and a queen consort. When the ruling monarch is a queen then she has regal power. She is the ruling authority, as is currently the case in England with Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth carries royalty in her blood and so she is queen regent.

When I was young I couldn’t understand why the Queen’s husband, Prince Phillip, was not the king. The reason is that he is not of the royal lineage and has no right to the throne. His wife is his monarch.

Where a king is on the throne his wife is designated as a queen. She is a queen consort, since she is his consort. Consort comes from an Old French word meaning to ‘share with’. Any group or person who cooperates with another could be designated a ‘consort’.

Consort, therefore, includes any spouse. It also includes such collections as a musical ensemble and it refers to one who tags along, including a ship which accompanies another. In common usage it is often used in a negative connotation, such as saying that someone consorts with unsavoury friends.

Now, having put ‘regent’ and ‘consort’ onto the table let’s have a look at the vocabulary that springs from them.

Regent is linked to regal. Regal gowns are known as regalia, although that term is often used in a light-hearted fashion when describing the elaborate costume of an ordinary person. “Decked in his official regalia the yacht club captain struck a handsome pose.”

Consort gives us more room to explore. We can have a consortium, being a collection of things which go together. A consortium may be a group of companies which collaborate together in a project or enterprise.

Legally the term consortium refers to the emotional bond shared between parent and child or husband and wife. It also refers to the conjugal blessings which a married couple can share.

Consorting is given almost criminal implications when the police notice a person mixing with the wrong company.

A Dowager Queen is one who has received a dowry, including her status as queen. It seems logical that only a queen consort could become a dowager queen, since a queen regent would not receive an endowment from their spouse.

A Queen Mother refers to a queen consort whose husband, the king, has died and the monarchy has passed to one of her children. She is thus the mother of the monarch, and yet a queen, not losing that title when the king dies.

Now, I have no idea why these words took my fancy, but I have successfully distracted you with them. If you are a lover of words you won’t mind the distraction. If you are a pedant you are probably distracted by holes in my definitions and you may wish to correct and expand my observations. Please feel free to do so. The joy of words is to use them, explore them and apply them where they can enrich our understanding and experience.