THE TWO LADY JERSEYS

Originally published in 2010

There were two Lady Jerseys during the Regency, Frances, Lady Jersey and her daughter-in-law, Sarah, Lady Jersey, who became one of the Lady Patronesses at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. The elder, and more infamous, Lady Jersey was Frances Twysden, the posthumously born daughter of Rev.Philip Twysden, Bishop of Raphoe (1746–1752) who was allegedly shot while attempting to rob a stagecoach in London(!), and his second wife Frances Carter, daughter of Thomas Carter of Robertstown, Master of the Rolls. Her disreputable father was the third son of Sir William Twysden, 5th Bart of Roydon Hall, by his wife and distant cousin Jane Twisden.

When Frances was seventeen, she married George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey, son and heir of William Villiers, 3rd Earl of Jersey and his wife, Lady Anne Egerton. Frances’s husband was nearly twenty years older than she and was Master of Horse to the Prince of Wales and a Lord of the Bedchamber. The reason for the marriage of Lord Jersey to the daughter of a disreputable Irish bishop has not been explained in contemporary accounts. However, her husband’s position within the Royal household soon placed Lady Jersey in close proximity to the Prince of Wales and led to Lady Jersey being well placed for undertaking future mischief.

George IV began his affair with Frances, Lady Jersey, in 1782, although she would also become romantically involved with various members of the English aristocracy. It was not until 1794 that Lady Jersey managed to lure the Prince of Wales away from his illegal wife, Maria Fitzherbert, although he would continue to be romantically involved with Maria until 1811. Having helped to encourage the Prince of Wales to marry his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, Lady Jersey nevertheless set out to make Caroline’s life difficult, perpetrating what vies to be the greatest piece of cheek in Regency history, Lady Jersey had herself appointed as Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Caroline. Losing no time in stirring the pot, Lady Jersey met Princess Caroline when she landed at Greenwich on April 5th, 1795 – arrivng late. She then proceeded to usurp the Princess’s rightful place in the Royal carriage by plead motion sickness whenever she rode backwards, thus forcing the Princess to give up her seat in the place of honour.

However Caroline, the potential Queen Consort, saw through the intrigues of her husband’s mistress and, there being no love lost between Caroline and the Prince of Wales, soon cared very little about the matter. In fact, after the birth of their child together, Caroline lived abroad for most of her 25 year marriage to him, taking other lovers, and therefore leaving a void Frances could fill. Because Lady Jersey enjoyed the favour of Queen Charlotte, even the displeasure of George III was not enough to threaten Lady Jersey’s position, and she continued to run the prince’s life and household for some time.

It might be said that Lady Jersey’s reputation for intrigue and malice led to her downfall. The following contemporary letters offer further insight into her personality.

On July 6, 1803, diarist Joseph Farrington wrote: “Lady Jersey is now quite out of favour with the Prince of Wales. She told Hoppner that she met the Prince upon the stairs at the Opera House, & in such a situation as to render it necessary to make room for him to pass which not instantly noticing him she did not do as she wished, which caused Her after He had passed to say a few words of apology. He went forward, and the next day Col. McMahon called upon her to signify to Her `that it was the desire of the Prince that she would not speak to him.’ She spoke bitterly of McMahon for having submitted to carry such a message. She says there is a popish combination against her. (McMahon was Private Secretary and Keeper of the Privy Purse to the Prince of Wales, as well as being a Privy Councilor. He was created a Baronet on August 7, 1817).

Frances, Lady Jersey, died on July 23, 1821, in Cheltenham. Her daughter-in-law, Sarah, Lady Jersey, was much more beloved by society. Sarah, Lady  Jersey, the Lady Patroness who introduced the Quadrille to Almack’s Assembly Rooms and who is Zenobia in Disraeli’s Endymion, was the daughter of John Fane, the 10th Earl of Westmorland, who had scandalously eloped with her mother, the heiress Sarah Ann Child, a member of the Child’s banking family. Born Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, the younger Lady Jersey married George Villiers, the 5th Earl of Jersey, then Viscount Villiers, on 23 May 1804. He succeeded to the title in 1805 and until her death in 1867, Lady Jersey, who lived in Berkeley Square, was the undisputed Queen of London Society, being called, in fact, “Queen Sarah,” although she styled herself as Sally.

Sir William Fraser described her thusly in later life, “Lady Jersey was never a beauty. She had a grand figure to the last; never became the least corpulent, and, to use a common term, there was obviously no “make up” about her. A considerable mass of grey hair; dressed, not as a young woman, but as a middle-aged one. Entirely in this, as in other things, without affectation, her appearance was always pleasant. No trace of rouge nor dye could ever be seen about her. She seemed to take her sovereignty as a matter of course; to be neither vain of it, nor, indeed, to think much about it. Very quick and intelligent, with the strongest sense of humour that I have ever seen in a woman; taking the keenest delight in a good joke, and having, I should say, great physical enjoyment of life.”

After her parents had eloped, Lady Sarah’s grandfather, Robert Child, sought to confound the newlyweds by preventing any of his fortune from going directly to his daughter or the Westmorland family, which he disliked intensely. He made a will leaving the whole of it to any daughter that might be born to the couple. Sarah became an heiress upon his death, inheriting not only his banking fortune, but Osterley Park as well.

On July 6th, 1825, Mrs. Arbuthnot wrote the following complaint about Lady Jersey: “I was very cross at the King’s ball, I was so provoked with Lady Jersey. In the first place, she was chaperone to Miss Ponsonby, who is just come out & very shy & who she left entirely to herself & took no notice of, while she went about flirting with every man she could get hold of. Miss Ponsonby came & staid with me & protested she would never go to a ball again with Lady Jersey.

Perhaps one of Lady Jersey’s most constant adversaries was Princess Lieven, who wrote of one of their many skirmishes on August 23, 1823: “I see that you like Lady Georgina Wellesley (Lady Cowley, sister-in-law to the Duke of Wellington); I can imagine that you would. She has plenty of good sense. We have never been very intimate but we were always good friends. She is said to like gossip. I have never found out if she deserves the reputation. I am so far from having that fault, and generally I am so quickly bored with trivialities, that it s rare for anyone who is endowed with a little tact not to realize immediately that this is the kind of conversation I like least. So she might well be a gossip without my knowing it. She has given you a garbled and abridged version of the mischievous stories Lady Jersey tired to spread about me; and Lady Jersey has the most dangerous tongue I know. I will not bore you, and myself, with the whole truth; but I cannot leave you under a false impression. Here is what happened in the end. She wanted to have it out. There was no way of escaping. She talked and wept for an hour on end. The sound of her voice and her vulgar way of talking upset me so much that I felt almost sea-sick; incidentally, I was quite incapable of understanding what she was trying to say. So, to be done with it, I said: “Tell me, in a word, if you have come to make peace. If so, I am ready; if you have come to declare war, I accept the challenge.” That brought on a fit of hysterics and frightful reproaches for my coldness. “Is it possible to say such freezing things to one’s friend?” In the end, I really believe I drove her out, for I was beside myself. So here we are friends or enemies, just as she likes; for, once again, it doesn’t matter to me, so long as I am left in peace.”

Perhaps Lady Jersey’s greatest misstep was to draw the displeasure of the Duke of Wellington. On March 9th, 1832, Lady Holland wrote to her son: “You know that he (the Duke of Wellington) never goes near Ly Jersey, a complete alienation.” And again on August 2nd, 1845, Lady Holland writes to him: “Yesterday the Beauforts gave a dinner to the King of Holland, quite one of form and etiquette. The D. of Wellington was to take out according to precedence, Ly G. Coddington as a Duke’s daughter. Lady Jersey bustled up, shoved her off, and said to the Duke, “Which will you take?” He very gravely and properly kept to his destined lady, without answering Lady Jersey. They say she is really too impudent and pushing.”

A prime example of the manner in which the Duke of Wellington dealt with those with whom he had no patience is demonstrated by the following anecdote I found on the Villiers family website, The Jersey Cup . On one occasion, the Duke had been invited to Lady Jersey’s home at 28 Berkeley Square and arrived to find the ante-room littered with gifts. Realizing that he’d  forgotten the occasion of the party and had brought nothing with him for his hostess, the Duke picked up a China Vase as he made his way through the reception rooms and presented it to his hostess with due solemnity. “Oh, how delightful” said Sarah, “the Duchess of So-and-So gave me one just like it. I must go and put them together and make a pair.”

ON THE SHELF: THE MITFORDS – LETTERS BETWEEN SIX SISTERS

Originally published in June 2016

I had bought this large (800+ pp) volume at Hatchard’s on my trip to London in 2014 and had first tried to read it when it finally arrived in a Royal Mail bag, along with several other books I’d purchased.  I made it through the first chapter before realizing that I was thoroughly lost – who in the world is Honks? Which sister was called Woman? And who is The French Lady, as there were two sisters who lived in France? At that time, I had scant knowledge of the biographies and inner workings of the Mitford Sisters. Thus, I’ve spent the past year attempting to rectify that deficit, not simply in order to be able to read this book, but because the Mitford sisters, their circle of family and friends, the times they lived through and much else about them is fascinating.

 

The Mitford sisters (clockwise from top left): Unity; Jessica; Diana; Nancy; Deborah; Pamela

Below are the thumbnail biographies for each sister, and their brother, from the Mitford Family entry in Wikipedia:

  1. Nancy Mitford (28 November 1904 – 30 June 1973). Married Peter Rodd and had a longstanding relationship with French politician and statesman Gaston Palewski. She lived in France much of her adult life. A writer of many novels, including her most popular (and somewhat autobiographical), The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. Also a noted biographer of historical figures, including the Sun King.
  2. Pamela Mitford (25 November 1907 – 12 April 1994). Known as “Woman.” Married and divorced the millionaire physicist Derek JacksonJohn Betjeman, who for a time was in love with her, referred to her as the “Rural Mitford”. After her divorce, she spent the remainder of her life as the companion of Giuditta Tommasi (died 1993), an Italian horsewoman.
  3. Thomas Mitford (2 January 1909 – 30 March 1945), known as Tom was educated at Eton, a close friend of James Lees-Milne there. Lover of Tilly Losch during her marriage to Edward James. Died as a soldier in Burma. According to Jessica’s letters, he supported British fascism and was stationed in Burma after refusing to fight in Europe.
  4. Diana Mitford (17 June 1910 – 11 August 2003). Married aristocrat and writer Bryan Walter Guinness in the 1929 society wedding of the year. She left him in the society scandal of the year (1933) for British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. She was interned in Holloway Prison during the Second World War. Her belief in fascism never wavered nor her affection for Adolf Hitler. Mother of Max Mosley.
  5. Unity Valkyrie Mitford (8 August 1914 – 28 May 1948), “Bobo” or “Boud” to her siblings. Famous for her adulation of and friendship with Adolf Hitler. Shot herself in the head days after Britain declared war on Germany, but failed to kill herself and eventually died of pneumococcal meningitis at West Highland Cottage Hospital, Oban, after being transferred from Inch Kenneth.
  6. Jessica Mitford (11 September 1917 – 22 July 1996), commonly known as “Decca”. Eloped with Esmond Romilly to the Spanish Civil War. Spent most of her adult life in the United States. Two years after Esmond was killed during the Second World War she married Robert Treuhaft, whom she met as a fellow US government employee. Member of the American Communist Party until 1958. She wrote several volumes of memoirs and several volumes of polemical investigation, including the best-sellingThe American Way of Death (1963) about the funeral industry. Grandmother of James Forman, Jr. and Chaka Forman, sons of the African-American civil rights leaderJames Forman by her daughter Constancia Romilly.
  7. Deborah Mitford (31 March 1920 – 24 September 2014). Married Andrew Cavendish who became the Duke of Devonshire, and with him turned his ancestral home,Chatsworth House, into one of Britain’s most successful stately homes. She wrote a dozen books.

 

To read more on the Sisters, click here to find a 2014 article on them from the BBC Magazine. I won’t give you my personal opinion on each sister, as I don’t want you to be influenced before you read the book yourself.

Letters Between Six Sisters was edited by Charlotte Mosley, who is married to Max Mosley, son of Diana Mitford. She has done a marvelous job here and managed to organize a monumental amount of material into a cohesive and very readable format. As the Editor’s Note tells us from the start, “the correspondence between the six Mitford sisters consists of some twelve thousand letters – of which little more than five per cent has been included in this volume.” The letters begin in 1925 with a single letter from Pamela to Diana and pick up speed in the early 1930’s. Mosley thankfully prefaces each decade with an overview of what was occurring in the lives of each sister during that time. Naturally, the elephant in the room for the Mitfords during the 1930’s was Unity’s passion for Adolph Hitler. One never gets a clear picture of Unity as a person, in this or any other source, so I still can’t decide whether her Nazi fantaticism was down to Unity’s having been simple minded, cruel, impressionable or just plain mad. Unity stalked Hitler, especially in a restaurant he was known to frequent, and made no bones about these activities. In a letter to Diana in December of 1935, Unity wrote: “ . . . today at last he came, it was wonderful, and he was tremendously surprised to see me. He immediately asked me . . . to go and sit with him . . . The Fuhrer was heavenly, in his best mood, and very gay. There was a choice of two soups and he tossed a coin to see which one he would have, and he was so sweet doing it. He asked after you, and I told him you were coming soon. He talked a lot about Jews, which was lovely. News from Absyssinia and Egypt kept on coming through on the telephone, which was rather exciting. The Furher stayed in the Osteria for two hours, wasn’t it lovely . . . . .” She signed the letter “With best love and Heil Hitler! Bobo.”

Of course, the letters can only tell us so much about any aspect of the Sister’s lives. Their individual feelings about any subject, or about each other, at various points over the years were often not consigned to writing. There is a lot of reading between the lines to be done, which Mosley admirably accomplishes. However, not all is as it seems, even with her help. In June of 1940, Diana Mitford and her husband, Facist leader Oswald Mosley, were both jailed without charge or trial under Defense Regulation 18B, which allowed for the internment of people suspected of being Nazi sympathisers during WWII. Diana was remanded to Holloway Prison. This did not stop the Sisters from communicating. On 19 November of 1941, Deborah suffered the death of her newborn child, a boy who had been born prematurely, and wrote to Diana in prison: “It was heaven of you to write your precious letter and all. You can’t think how much better I feel now, really quite alright. . . Oh Honks, never Gilliat again,  I have completely lost confidence in him. He never turned up till ages after he was wanted and when I was there with everything over he came in and the nurses said `Here’s a friend to
see you’ and if I’d had the strength I really would have kicked him or at least asked him where he had been all the afternoon . . . .
” Three days later, on 22 November 1941 Nancy also wrote to Diana from her own hospital bed in London, “Darling Diana – Thanks so much for the wonderful grapes, you really are an angel and grapes are so good for me. I have had a terrible time, so depressing because they had to take out both my tubes and therefore I can never now have a child. I can’t say I suffered great agony but quite enough discomfort . . . . The Rodds (Nancy’s soon to be ex inlaws) have been wonderfully true to form – my mother in law was told by the surgeon I shld be in danger for 3 days, and not one of them even rang up to enquire let alone sending a bloom or anything. I long to know if they bothered to look under R in the deaths column, very much doubt it however. . . Muv (their mother) was wonderful, she swam in a haze of bewilderment between me and Debo. When my symptoms were explained to her she said ‘ovaries – I thought one had 700 like caviar.’ Then I said how I couldn’t bear the idea of a great scar on my tum to which she replied `But darling whose ever going to see it?’ . . . . Much love darling and many more thanks for the grapes, Nancy.

On the face of it, both of these letters sound like nothing more than correspondence from two sisters to a third. Nancy’s letters, though written from a hospital bed, still manage to retain Nancy’s typical breezy tone, offered up with a dollop of sarcasm. However, in 2002, MI5 released WWII era documents that described Lady Mosley (Diana Mitford) and her political leanings. “Diana Mosley, wife of Sir Oswald Mosley, is reported on the ‘best authority’, that of her family and intimate circle, to be a public danger at the present time. Is said to be far cleverer and more dangerouso than her husband and will stick at nothing to achieve her ambitions. She is wildly ambitious.” Nancy Mitford was the `best authority’ quoted above. Diana at last learned that her sister had not once but twice written to the government about herself and Oswald Mosley and that her words had gone a long way towards seeing them both imprisoned. 

These two dark episodes in the lives of the Mitford Sisters aside, the majority of the letters in this book are far lighter in tone. Here are a few examples: 

Deborah to Diana, 13 August 1957 – ” . . . . I wonder if you’ve seen the papers, they are full of Hardwick and the death duty deals, I think v. satisfactory for us but sad nevertheless (1). . . . Evelyn Waugh came last week, on his way to Renishaw. He is a crusty old thing, he didn’t actually get cross but one felt he was on the verge all the time. The Wife was here (2), we were talking in my room when we’d mounted (the stairs) and he kept coming in saying things like `I hope there is Malvern Water by my bed, I hope the blinds keep the light out, may I have some lemonade to take my sleeping draught in, has Lady Mersey finished with the bathroom’ and generally making one feel that things weren’t quite right and that it was one’s fault. I thought he had really gone for good when he came back with a look of triumph on his face, and said `I’ve looked in the pedestal beside my bed and I thought I ought to tell you the POT IS FULL.’ Oh Honks the humiliation, the horror. I was rooted to the bed, couldn’t help in any way, left him and the Wife to deal with it, hid my head in the blankets and was properly put out. Evelyn seemed rather pleased. Oh dear, not what Nancy calls a nice character . . .  

1. Hardwick Hall, which had been in the Devonshire family for fifteen generations, and nine of Chatsworth’s most important works of art, had been handed over to the government in lieu of death duties. 
2.  Lady Mersey, Deborah’s longtime friend. 

Deborah to Diana, 13 August 1958 ” . . . . . We went to lunch with the Sitwells on Monday. Dame Edith was in a long fur coat (which she never even unbuttoned for lunch) and a feather hat and her long white hands and huge rings. She is lovely and gone on the same people as me, viz. Cake (1) and Greta Garbo. She told us the chief things she remembered her mother saying were ‘We must remember to order enough quails for the dance’ and ‘If only I could get your Father put into a lunatic asylum.’ Poor Osbert doesn’t seem much worse, but it is frightening to see him walk with that fast shuffle . . . . .

(1) The Queen Mother. Deborah adopted the nickname after attending a wedding where the Queen Mother, when told that the bride and groom were about to cut the cake, exclaimed, ‘Oh, the cake!’ as though she had never seen it happen before. Deborah was lastingly impressed by her enthusiasm.

Nancy to Pamela, 25 November 1966 – “Dereling, Many Happies – but where to send them? Oi don’t know. How old we are, eet ees deesgusting – I wonder if we smell like old people used to. One lars (alas). 28 Nov 66 Well I left this to moulder and got yours this mg from a very improbably address but also one from Debo expecting you there. The list! (1) Diana and I are already on non-speakers over it but finally arranged for her to fetch the things (all that either you or the others don’t want) and then will fight it out here. But be sure to take what you do want regardless of us. I die specially for the opal brooch and the Miss Mitford watch. If Debo begins to say she wants anything kindly direct her gaze to the Chatsworth Safe and say I said so. Take her there and shut the door on her until the things are in Forceful Lady Mosley’s bag. (Though Lady M is putty in her hands I fear.) I’ve got to do a thing on the Fr. wireless and must flee – Much love, Naunceling.

(1) A list of possessions belonging to the sisters’ Aunt Iris, who had recently died. 

The final letter in the book was sent by fax from Deborah to Diana on 5 January, 2002 and runs “Darling Honks – So thrilled with two from you this a.m. Keep at it but please make the ghoul effort and finish yr book for OUR SAKES. I’ve just written you a long letter but this is to say we’re still alive in the snow and cold THEY give a thaw but God seems to think otherwise in his unsweeting way. I wish he’d weet a bit. Hurrying over the ice to the post in the village. Much love, Debo.

On the whole, there is nothing earth shattering in any of the letters – they are simply missives between six sisters which give a rare insight into a way of life now gone and celebrated names long passed. But as a whole, the letters transport one into a world that was far more enchanting, amusing and engaging than the present day. At least for as long as it takes one to get through the 800 plus pages of this book. I am bereft having just finished it. Let’s hope that Charlotte Mosley gets around to editing the other 95% of the Mitford sister’s letters soon. In the meantime, I consoled myself by visiting a few Mitford sites during my trip to England in May, 2016 and by making this portrait of Debo my FB profile picture.

Chatsworth House
Heywood Hill Bookshop, Curzon Street, where Nancy worked during WWII.
And in case you simply cannot get enough of the Mitfords, here’s the link to the Mitford Society, which regularly posts new articles on the subject(s) and which offers a good sized archive of past articles.
Please click here to find a video of Charlotte Mosley interviewing
Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, for the Frick Collection.

 

THE 2019 SCOTLAND TOUR – THE FOOD

A decades old tradition dictates that Vicky and I begin every trip to London with a Pimms at The Clarence, Whitehall
We traveled to Edinburgh via train and met up with the rest of the tour group. Left to right – Andrea, Kelly, Kristine, Brooke, Denise and Cecily.
First things first
Cecily Horton and Victoria Hinshaw prepare a roast chicken dinner
Soup for lunch in Stirling
Denise opted for the pretty pate and she also acted as our intrepid beer taster, see below

It should be noted that Denise did not taste them all at the same meal.

Steak with trimmings at our local, the Gargunnock Inn
Vicky opted for the haggis
A little something at home to tide us over until Sunday lunch
Sunday roast at the Gargunnock Inn
The ultimate indulgence – a glass of pinot noir, Scottish tablet and . . . . . tablet ice cream!

PRIDE OF HONOR – The Men of the African Squadron

Guest Post

ANDREA K. STEIN

Imagine a small crew of men rowing up a mosquito-infested jungle estuary in the darkness of night, silently gliding through lands dominated by warring tribal chiefs. Their mission? Stop trafficking in human slavery. Does this sound like the plot for a movie based on a special forces or Navy SEALS op?

Actually, the year is 1820, and the men are ordinary Royal Navy sailors and marines. They don’t have the luxury of night-vision goggles, high-tech weaponry, or medical access to a cure for the dreaded jungle fevers. They’re the men of the African, or Preventative, Squadron, as they were more commonly known in the 19th century. The place is the Rio Pongas estuary on West Africa.

Between 1807 and 1860, the West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1,600 ships involved in the slave trade and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard those vessels.

WANDERER Squadron ship taken from Americans

Those numbers are staggering, considering what the squadron had to work with, but perhaps it makes more sense to look at this accomplishment in the context of the life of one of those slaves.

Samuel Ajayi Crowther was kidnapped at 12 or 13 into slavery in 1821 by a neighboring tribe and sold to Portuguese slavers who placed him on a slave vessel for transport. The African Squadron’s “HMS Myrmidon,” under the command of Sir Henry Leeke, detained Adjai’s ship before it could leave port.

Ajayi and the others were rescued and taken to Freetown, a settlement for liberated Africans in Sierra Leone. Educated in a missionary school in Freetown for the next few years, he was baptized on December 11, 1825, and took the name Samuel Crowther.

Crowther excelled in languages, including English, Greek, Latin, and Temne. In 1826 he attended Islington Parish School in England, returning a year later to study as a teacher at Fourah Bay. In time, he became a teacher there himself. In 1841 he became a missionary on the Niger. After this, he was recalled to England where he trained as a minister and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1843.

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c. 1809–31 December 1891)

 In the same year, he returned to Africa and opened a mission of his own in Abeokuta, Nigeria. He translated the Bible into Yoruba, wrote a Yoruba dictionary and published several books of his own on African languages. In 1864, he became the first African Bishop ordained in the Anglican Church.

When I began thinking about a group of heroes for my latest series of historical romances, my research and the workings of my quirky mind led me to the men of the African Squadron. Some historians believe these men took on this work only for the prize money. Depending on the mood of the prize court in Freetown, and the politics back in London, the crew could benefit from the seizure of each ship and each slave freed. However, on the slaver side of the ledger, some very powerful forces were still at work, both inside and outside of England, and often, the captains and crews were denied any payment by the courts.

The mortality rate among the men of the squadron was staggering. On some expeditions, an estimated one-third to one-half of all sailors died aboard individual ships. The marine surgeons who sailed with the West African Squadron are credited with finally linking the mosquito to the spread of fever and finding treatments. It’s difficult to imagine men would work under these conditions only for the money. They had to be courageous, fearless, and believers in the cause.

Although Parliament had passed a law outlawing slavery in 1807, the act was not fully operational until January 1808. However, at that time, England was fighting France in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean. There were approximately 795 Royal Navy ships in commission and they were very thinly spread.

By November 19, 1819, the war with France had been over for four years, and the Royal Navy at last had ships to spare. By this time the squadron was led by Cmdr. Sir George Collier who fought under Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. He was given six ships to cover a coast of about 2,500 miles, an area equivalent to the U.S. East Coast, from Maine all the way around Florida to New Orleans.

The Squadron’s lives in letters, portraits, diaries, and ships’ logs are part of a wonderful exhibit at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, England.  Fortunately, most of the items have been digitized and are available online.

Sources:

National Museum of the Royal Navy

The Royal Navy and the Slavers by W.E.F. Ward

Enforcing Abolition at Sea 1808-1898 by Bernard Edwards

Sweet Water and Bitter by Sian Rees

 

The first in the Men of the Squadron series, “Pride of Honor,” is up for pre-order on Amazon.

 

What if two people determined to marry anyone

but each other end up falling in love?

A hatpin-wielding, parasol-armed poet with a maddening Royal Navy officer in tow races against time to attract the marital attentions of the perfect “gentleman of the ton.”

Sophia Brancellli, the orphaned, illegitimate child of a duke’s daughter and an Italian poet, is on a mission. She must ensure her marriage to a “suitable gentleman of the ton” before her twenty-first birthday or she’ll be destitute, per the terms of her ducal grandmother’s will. Close to having her own poems published, Sophia has her hopes dashed each time by someone revealing her secrets. That same someone so desperately wants her to fail the terms of the will, they’re willing to commit violent acts to ruin her reputation.

Captain Arnaud Bellingham has ascended the ranks of the Royal Navy in spite of his half-French heritage by proving himself at the Battle of Algiers and with the West African Squadron. He seeks a simple marriage of convenience to a mature woman, a widow who has been his sometime mistress the last several years. The very thing he does not want, an exotic Italian innocent, literally falls into his life when he rescues her from kidnappers, although she disputes she needed saving. And now, honor and duty dictate he has to waste the rest of his leave guarding her through the mad whirl of the Season.

 

Excerpt:

Sophie lost her balance and sat down with a thump at the edge of the street. Shaking, she sank her elbows to her knees and rested her head in her hands. Her parasol had rolled to the edge of the walkway. At a sharp cramp in her hand, she realized she still clutched her trusty hatpin. After a restorative breath, she looked up into the deeply tanned face of a Royal Navy officer in full uniform.

He knelt in front of her, asking question after question. “Are you hurt? Who did this to you? Are you with a chaperone?”

Blood dribbled from his wrist, staining his white glove. Zeus! The hatpin. She knew she should provide him with some answers, but couldn’t. She could barely breathe properly, so shaken was she by the encounter with the unknown men who’d tried to drag her toward a waiting hack carriage.

He grasped her by the shoulders. The warmth of his touch seeped through the thin muslin of her dress, and his solid competence fortified her courage. The runaway terrors slowed, allowing her to breathe normally again.

The first thought to pop into her head once she’d settled a bit was: Respectable women of the ton did not find themselves in situations like this. This was the sort of turmoil that might befall the actresses who had kept company with her late father.

“Are you hurt?” The naval officer shed his gloves and ran his hands down her arms as if seeking injuries. “By Jupiter! Is this your weapon?” The hatpin rolled into his hand from her slackened grasp, and he tucked it safely within a pocket. His frown softened a bit, he shook his head, and gave a low chuckle.

He clasped her hands as if he feared she might break and smoothed his thumbs over the soft pads beneath her thumbs. If the stranger continued his exploration for injuries, Sophie feared she might expire from pleasure. If only he knew the ink-stained fingers her white gloves hid.

More about Andrea

Andrea K. Stein is the daughter of a trucker and an artist. She grew up a scribbler. The stories just spilled out.

After writing and editing at newspapers for twenty-five years and then a short, boring stint as a consultant to commercial printers, she ran away to sea for three years to deliver yachts up and down the Caribbean.

She earned her USCG offshore captain’s license, but perversely, now writes romance set at sea while wrapped in sweaters and PJs in her writing room in Canon City, CO.

She has eight published romance novels available on Amazon. Three of those titles have been honored with awards. “Secret Harbor” earned a first place in the Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest in the romance category; “Fortune’s Horizon” finaled in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Romance category; and the latest novel, “Pride of Honor,” finaled in the national 2018 Beau Monde Royal Ascot Contest.

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Coming Soon – Other Titles in the Men of the Squadron Series

Pride of Honor – February 2020

Pride of Duty – May 2020

Pride of Country – August 2020

Pride of Service – November 2020

Johann Zoffany by Jo Manning – Part Two

Queen Charlotte with her Children and Brothers, Zoffany 1773

Akin to the group paintings of the Sharps, Gores, Impeys, and Queen Charlotte’s family, is Zoffany’s cluttered-with-many-many-bodies iconic painting of the founding members of the Royal Academy – a painting faithfully reproduced whenever a piece about that august association is published – showing the two female founders, Mary Moser (a painter of exquisite still life, mostly flowers in vases) and Angelika Kauffmann (a renowned allegory painter whose work can be seen on ceilings at the Royal Academy building at Piccadilly Circus).They are on the wall, not 100% part of this mostly male group.

The Royal Academicians, circa 1771-1772

The painting brutally conveys the message that no women were allowed to pursue life studies, paintings using nude male models.While the men are intently engaged upon the muscular attributes of these young and muscular men, these women are framed in portraits on the wall, woefully gazing at each other, far removed from the action below.

I was quite familiar with the RA painting, as I have been doing research on 18th century female painters for some years, but I had not had the opportunity to see in full force the magnificence of his famous Tribuna Of The Uffizi, painted over the years 1772-78, when Zoffany resided in Italy.The Tribuna is an octagonal room in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence that was designed for the De Medicis in the late 1580s, and where the most important collections of that family were displayed. Zoffany here portrays the northeast section of the room, but varies their arrangement – artistic license – deliberately adding works that were not normally displayed there.

This is a fabulous work, simply fabulous! My initial assessment of Zoffany’s work was now seriously challenged as I gazed upon this wonder.So much is taking place: connoisseurs discussing a nude painting; young men on their Grand Tour gazing appreciatively and lustfully at the buttocks of a marble statue of Venus; a youth eying the sketch a gentleman is making of another marble statue; and, everywhere, exquisite renderings of great works of art.One could never tire of looking at so many minute details and musing upon the vignettes told so amusingly by the artist.

A Tribute to the Ufizzi – 1775

As Alastair Sooke described it in the Telegraph:

“[The exhibit includes] a staggering picture called The Tribuna of the Uffizi, which is often described as the best painting he ever made. Commissioned by Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, it took Zoffany the best part of the 1770s to complete. Amid a tumult of famous works inside the Tribuna room of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Grand Tourists can be seen chin-wagging. Zoffany includes more than 20 portraits of miscellaneous toffs surrounded by replicas of masterpieces by Holbein, Rubens, Raphael and others.
“An emblem of the curious, acquisitive spirit of the 18th century, it is spectacularly detailed. As its rhythms ripple across the retina, the eye’s muscles have to work overtime to keep up with the profusion of the artist’s vision. The unifying bright red of the background, though, deftly prevents the composition from swirling into chaos.

“Part of the fun comes from spotting works of art (a Raphael Madonna here, a nude by Titian there), almost in the manner of the Where’s Wally? children’s books. But as well as being learned, the painting is full of hearty innuendo, as Zoffany satirises the less-than-lofty aspirations of the English ‘milordi’ who set off on the Grand Tour in search of amatory, not artistic, conquests. A group of five men gaze adoringly at the sculpted bottom of the Medici Venus (one uses an eyeglass to get a really good look). Elsewhere, there are visual gags about buggery. The work is a wonderful reminder that the 18th century was as rowdy as it was refined. Perhaps this explains why Zoffany’s royal patron wasn’t enamoured with the finished piece, which was relegated to Kew Palace.”

Sooke’s well-written, almost poetic piece (“rhythms ripple across the retina”) segues into my what-I-didn’t-know-about-Johann-Zoffany story quite nicely.The buggery jokes… !The gentleman who has his hand on the canvas of the Venus of Urbino, by Titian, and seems to be pointing to the statue of the naked wrestlers, is one Thomas Patch, a scoundrel who’d been exiled from Rome for homosexuality/aka/buggery.(This depiction of Patch, in particular, seemed to have offended Queen Charlotte, the “royal patron”; she and her husband the King can be said to have had a limited sense of humor.)

So, then, Zoffany was not as boring as his court/society/family portraits might have indicated.Indeed, he was an urbane, witty man who was involved in his share of scandal…befitting the 18th century, that great age for scandal. As Sooke comments further, he “was an urbane chap with an eye for the ladies and an appetite for the finer things in life.”How true, how true, is this last comment!

For he was apparently also a bigamist, marrying his pregnant second wife – his very young mistress, who’d stowed aboard the ship carrying him to Rome – whilst still married to his first wife, who lived apart from him in Germany. This “marriage” was, obviously, illegal while his first wife was alive and they were not divorced.

This intrigued me greatly, so I looked into it further, consulting the excellent 2011 biography by Mary Webster (Yale University Press 2011).Zoffany had married Maria Juliana Antonetta Eiselein in Wurzberg, Germany, and had moved to London with him. Claiming homesickness, she left him early on, before 1771, but then returned briefly, only to leave him again around 1772, with the same complaint of missing her family and country.

In 1772, Zoffany took out what is called “letters of denization”, declaring he desired to switch his religious affiliation from Roman Catholic to Protestant. His biographer Mary Webster says, by way of explanation, that “German Protestants were allowed to divorce on grounds of incompatibility without incurring any social disgrace to either side.” (Rather enlightened, that!) So, was this an attempt to divorce Maria Juliana Antonetta?It might have been, but he never followed through with an action.(Webster further speculates that it might have upset his Roman Catholic family in southern Germany if he were actually to divorce his wife.) Instead, he sent her back home with an annuity; they remained married but never saw each other again. They’d had no children together.

 

With Mrs Zoffany gone, there were rumors that the artist had taken up with the wife of “an Israelite”, an unnamed Jewish woman. There was also talk that he roamed the London streets looking for young girls. This last bit of information comes from a well-connected German woman at the court of King George III named Mrs Charlotte Papendieck, who was to become a close friend and confidante of Zoffany’s next mistress – and, eventually, his wife – the teenager Mary Thomas.Mary – described as a very beautiful girl — was said in Mrs P’s memoirs to have told her the story of how she met Zoffany.
Mary Thomas, circa 1781, at the Ashmolean, Oxford, the artist’s second wife.

Though Mrs Papendieck’s memoirs were later disputed as to their veracity by the Zoffany’s children and grandchildren, what she has to say is fascinating. According to the 2011 book edited by Martin Postle:

“Mary Thomas, the daughter of a London glove maker, first met Zoffany sometime in the winter of 1771 or early the following year. [This would be about the time Maria Juliana Antonetta fled London for Germany the second time.] Mary’s own account of her life with Zoffany was recorded in the memoirs of her friend Charlotte Papiendieck. According to Mrs Papendieck, Mary had told her how Zoffany, who ‘in his leisure hours prowled around for victims of self-gratification’, had stalked her to her parents’ ‘humble dwelling’. Shortly afterwards, he left for Italy. On discovering that she was pregnant, Mary stowed away on the boat, making herself known to Zoffany during the voyage. On arrival in Italy, Zoffany apparently told Mary his German wife had died a few months earlier, and so ‘he married the object of his affection, who became a mother at 16’.”

“In Webster’s biography, there is some discussion as to whether she might have been 14 at the time she became pregnant. She could also have been closer to 17, but there is no definitive proof to corroborate this. She may indeed have become a mother at 16.He was 39, a good 20+ years older than she.(If she was really 14, it would have been a difference of 25 years in age!)

Mary Thomas gave birth to Zoffany’s first child we know of, a boy, in Italy.Zoffany may have gone through a form of marriage with her in Genoa that the girl thought was legal – she was very young and said to be rather naïve and shy – and he supposedly told her his wife had died – but the first Mrs Z was very much alive in 1772.(She died in Germany in 1805, 33 years later.) From 1772 onwards, however, Mary Thomas was to pass as Zoffany’s wife.

Tragedy struck when the baby was 16 months old and he fell from a go-cart down a steep set of stairs in Florence; the severe head injury was to kill him three weeks later. They went on to have four daughters together, two before he left for India in 1783 – without Mary – and two more daughters after he returned to her.

While in India, he was reputed to have taken up with an Indian woman and had at least one child, perhaps more.According to the Postle book, “Given his own libidinous predisposition, it was inevitable that he should have taken an Indian mistress, with whom he had several children, including a son.”Though it is hard to establish that he had “several children”, there seems to be agreement that he did have at least one son with his Indian mistress. This child was said to have been left in the household of a French nawab, Claude Martin, a man with whom Zoffany had been very friendly, but the little boy has been lost in the mists of time.Nothing more was ever heard of him again, nor of any other children he might have sired with this Indian woman.

Zoffany returned quite wealthy to England in 1788 after his sojourn in India and settled into that very nice home on Strand-on-the-Green. But, according to that old gossip and gadabout, diarist/letter-writer Horace Walpole, he came back “in more wealth than health”.India’s climate was harsh on Europeans, and diseases — before the advent of antibiotics – caused the deaths of many expatriates. But although he was said to be weakened in health, Zoffany lived for 22 more years. It was at 65 Strand-on-the-Green, that beautiful home on the river, where he died.

I’m standing by his tomb at the head of this piece, and here are more photographs from that churchyard many of you might have passed on the way to Kew Gardens:

St Anne’s, Kew, with the road to Kew Gardens, that great botanical showpiece, in the background. This inscription is of Mary Thomas, Zoffany’s second wife, who died in the great cholera outbreak in 1832, 22 years after the death of her husband…

 

This was one of his grandchildren…a baby girl…

I can’t identify the grandchild, nor the year of her death, nor whose daughter she was, which child of his four daughters’ children.(As I mentioned previously, there were four daughters of his marriage with Mary Thomas and a boy who died before the age of two years whose name I could not verify.)

The first two girls Zoffany had with Mary Thomas were Maria Theresa (1774), who was called Theresa, and Cecelia (1779); the last two were Claudina (1794) and Laura (1796). Their father left them ample dowries of £2,000 each and all made “good” marriages. To his wife Mary he left the house on Strand-on-the-Green and money for her upkeep.But there was a restriction on the house:she would lose it if she remarried.Though she received at least one known proposal – from the wealthy sculptor Joseph Nollekens — she never did remarry.

And what of that first wife moldering away in Germany?She passed away in January of 1805, so that bigamist Zoffany finally wed Mary Thomas at St Pancras Church on April 20th, four months after receiving word of his first wife’s death. Zoffany was 72; she was by then probably in her late 40s. They were to be legally wed only five years; the painter, who suffered from severe dementia in his last years of life, passed away in 1810.Mary Thomas outlived him by 22 years, dying in 1832 from the great cholera epidemic in London; sadly, their eldest daughter Theresa died within a few days of her mother from the same outbreak of disease.

Quite a life our peripatetic Johann Zoffany led…

One would hardly have known it, from his (mostly) sedate paintings.And he was a fun fellow, too.This painting shocked me, but only because it was the Zoffany I had not known, a man who hung condoms on his wall and dressed as a friar to take part in a bacchanalia one can only imagine!

He’s dressing up a Franciscan monk, according to the caption, preparing for a night out on the town.

I leave you with the bon vivant, in this later, rather happy, self-portrait, painted  when Zoffany was 43 years of age…and already, alas, losing his hair:

Still that skull, reminder of time running out…mortality, mortality…but that’s a smile on his face as he no doubt recalls his naughty sexual escapades well into his late middle age. He had a good life, methinks, despite his early loss of hair. Painted circa 1776…