William IV was born 21 August 1765 (d. 20 June 1837) and became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830. William, the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV, was the last king and penultimate monarch of the House of Hanover. Today, we’ll take a look at one of William IV’s birthday celebrations, which didn’t turn out very well for himself or for his young niece, Queen Victoria.
For the Princess Victoria, a childhood which promised both privilege and affection was overshadowed by the mechanizations of Princess Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and by Sir John Conroy, both of whom used her as a pawn during a royal power play.
Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, had chosen John Conroy as his Military Equerry in 1817 and after his death, Conroy offered his services to the Duchess. He also acted as Comptroller to Princess Sophia, one of George IV’s younger sisters. Conroy, his wife and two daughters moved into Kensington Palace and Conroy was soon working his influence over the Princess and future queen, as well as over her mother. He pushed to have the Duchess of Kent named Regent should both George IV and the Duke of Clarence die before Princess Victoria reached her majority at age eighteen. For years, Conroy worked to banish all influence upon the Kents except his own. In 1830, Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence, warned the Duchess of Kent that certain people had noted that Conroy “tries to remove everything which might obstruct his influence, so that he may exercise his power alone, and alone, too, one day reap the fruits of his influence.”
Conroy’s methods of controlling the Kents became known as the “Kensington System.” He convinced the Duchess to dismiss Baroness de Spath, her Lady-in-Waiting for over twenty-five years, and tried to rid the palace of Lehzen, Princess Victoria’s governess, as well. The fact that Lehzen enjoyed royal favour from the King was the only thing that saved her. In order to control the Duchess, Conroy constantly warned her that George IV was the greatest despot who ever lived and that the King was talking of taking her child away from her. He added that plots to kill the Princess were afoot, prompting the Duchess to place Lehzen by the child’s bed from the time she was put into it until the Duchess herself went to sleep in the next bed. Conroy effectively cut the Princess off from her English relations, insisting she be guarded round the clock from imaginary dangers.
William IV and his wife, Queen Adelaide, were naturally fond of Victoria, desiring to introduce her to Court life. Conroy prevented this, telling the Duchess that no one should be allowed to influence the future Queen but themselves. Petty acts of power followed on both the Duchess and the King’s parts, with the King keeping a tight reign on the purse strings and the Duchess upon her daughter, keeping her away from Court functions whenever possible. Influenced by Conroy, the Duchess planned tours of the country along royal lines for the Princess, in an effort to garner public support. A series of these tours, covering most of England and Wales, took place between 1832 and 1835. The Duchess planned each route so that as many people as possible might see the Princess. Three hundred people attended a ball held in her honour at Burghley House, whilst the mayor and other officials in each town they visited en route waited to greet her. That none of these plans were cleared first with the Palace, and the fact that they amounted to Royal tours worthy of a reigning monarch, infuriated the King. Matters finally came to a head in 1836.
In an attempt to forge better relations with his niece, King William invited she and her mother to Windsor in the summer of 1836 in order to celebrate the Queen’s birthday on August 13th and his own on the 21st (a birthday shared also by Princess Margaret and Kristine Hughes). The Duchess of Kent replied that she preferred to spend her own birthday on August 17th at Claremont, but could be there by the 20th. This snub to the Queen was not overlooked. The King said nothing, allowing her to travel to Windsor in her own good time. However, whilst the Duchess was en route, he paid an impromptu visit to Kensington Palace and found that the Duchess had taken over seventeen rooms which he had previously – and clearly – forbidden her to requisition. The Princess, who’d been delighted with the new apartments, had no knowledge of the story behind the move or the edicts of her uncle.
Fuming at the Duchess of Kent’s latest act of disrespect, the King arrived at Windsor that evening and joined his guests in the Drawing-room, where the first person he spoke to was his niece, Victoria. At the birthday dinner next day, one hundred guests helped the King to celebrate the event. The Duchess was placed at the King’s right hand, Victoria seated across from him. After the meal, the Kings’ health was drunk and he rose to say a few words. And what words they were! Amongst other verbal displays of vitriol, King William expressed the hope that he would live another nine months, until his niece came of age, so that her mother could never become Regent. He went on, “I should then have the satisfaction of leaving the royal authority to the personal exercise of that Young Lady (he pointed to Victoria), the Heiress presumptive of the Crown, and not in the hands of a person now near me, who is surrounded by evil advisers and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed. I have no hesitation in saying that I have been insulted – grossly and continually insulted – by that person, but I am determined to endure no longer a course of behaviour so disrespectful to me. Amongst many other things I have particularly to complain of the manner in which that Young Lady has been kept away from my Court; she has been repeatedly kept from my drawing-rooms, at which She ought always to have been present, but I am fully resolved that this shall not happen again. I would have her know that I am King, and that I am determined to make my authority respected, and for the future I shall insist and command that the Princess do upon all occasions appear at my Court, as it is her duty to do.”
Princess Victoria burst into tears and, once the guests had left, the Duchess ordered her carriage, but was convinced by the Duke of Wellington to spend the night at Windsor in order to avoid further scandal. The Duke of Wellington’s summation of the episode was right on the money, “Very awkward, by God!”
On May 18th, 1837, the King instructed Lord Conyngham, the Lord Chamberlain, to hand deliver a letter to the Princess from himself at Kensington Palace. Conroy and the Duchess both endeavored to intercept the missive, but Conyngham stood fast and placed it into Victoria’s hands. It said that when she came of age, William meant to ask Parliament to vote her an annual income of thirty thousand pounds per year – a fortune at that time. It also authorized Victoria to set up her own household and appoint a Keeper of her Privy Purse. Victoria would come of age on the 24th, just six days away, and her uncle had given her a precious gift – the chance for freedom from the power plays of the Duchess and Conroy. Losing no time, Conroy advanced the idea of his becoming Princess Victoria’s Private Secretary and enlisted the aid of the Duchess in bringing her around to the notion. Together they made Victoria’s life a misery, but she refused to be coerced. In a last ditch effort, they sent for Lord Liverpool, in the hopes of winning him over to their side and enlisting his aid in convincing Victoria to appoint Conroy as private secretary or Keeper of the Privy Purse.
After having spoken to both Conroy and the Duchess, Lord Liverpool met privately with Princess Victoria. She was calm and businesslike and explained her side of the story. In the end, Liverpool agreed that she should not appoint Conroy to any position after his many slights towards her in the past. He instead urged the Princess to do nothing upon becoming Queen other than to send immediately for Lord Melbourne. He, Liverpool assured her, would advise her well and she was safe in putting her trust in Melbourne alone. He also told her that he admired the way she had handled her mother. Conroy and the Duchess, needless to say, were furious at Liverpool’s advice, with a desperate Conroy suggesting that, “If Princess Victoria will not listen to reason she must be coerced.”
It is no wonder that Victoria once commented, “Kensington life for the last six or seven years had been one of great misery and oppression.” Queen Victoria would later write about her childhood to her daughter Victoria, the Princess Royal, in 1858, saying that she, “had led a very unhappy life as a child – had no scope for my very violent feelings of affection – had no brothers and sisters to live with – never had a father – from my unfortunate circumstances was not on a comfortable or at all intimate or confidential footing with my mother – much as I lover her now – and did not know what a happy domestic life was!” For all of her life, Queen Victoria would insist, “I never was happy until I was eighteen.”
King William IV died on 20 June, 1837. Shortly before six o’clock in the morning, Dr. Howley (Archbishop of Canterbury), Lord Conyngham (Lord Chamberlain), and Sir Henry Halford (Physician to King William), arrived at Kensington Palace. The Duchess of Kent roused her daughter only after being told by the gentlemen that they had come to see The Queen on State business. Queen Victoria recorded the meeting thusly, “I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing-gown), and ALONE, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently I am Queen . . Since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station, I shall do my utmost to fulfill my duty towards my country; I am very young and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.”
As I have mentioned elsewhere in this series, Frederica, Duchess of York and Beau Brummell enjoyed a singular friendship for more than fifteen years. Prior to his banishment from Court, Brummell was a constant visitor to the Duke and Duchess of York’s residence in Surrey, Oatlands. After his fall and his move to France, the Duchess remained a steadfast friend, becoming almost his sole source of income for many years. Generous and faithful, the Duchess regularly sent money to Brummell, often enclosing the sums with little gifts of her own making, embroideries, drawings, or some token trifle that served to mitigate the charity connected with these gestures.
Before the Duchess’s death in 1820, Brummell had been at work upon a folding screen meant as a gift to her, in part to repay her kindness and, one thinks, in part meant as a genuine mark of his affection for her. Upon learning of Frederica’s death, Brummell put the screen aside and never completed it.
For more information about this mysterious screen, we turn to Captain William Jesse’s excellent book, The Life of George Brummell, Esq., Commonly Called Beau Brummell for his account:
“When Brummell found that his Royal Highness had really closed the doors of Carlton House against him, he cultivated with greater assiduity the friendship that had always existed between himself and the Duke of York, who was never known, in good or ill report, to desert a friend; and his conduct, and that of the Duchess, to the Beau in his exile, were striking instances of the steadiness and sincerity of their friendship. “The Duchess,”says Mr. Raikes, “was a person of excellent taste, and a very nice discriminator of good breeding and manners, and the regard which that Princess entertained for Brummell was highly creditable to him. It may, indeed, be said in favour of the manners of that day, that her Royal Highness often remarked how superior they were to the tone of those that existed at the period of her marriage, when the Duke was surrounded by a set of roue’s who seemed to glory in their excesses, and showed a great want of refinement and courtesy in women’s society. At the time Brummell visited at Oatlands, England had been for many years without a Court, and the limited circle that surrounded the Duke and Duchess of York, though differing scarcely from that of a private family, rendered it the only Royal residence that was the scene of constant hospitality; and it might have been appropriately termed a little Court, in which the affability on the one side, and the affectionate deference on the other, were equally remarkable. Here used to assemble, at the end of the week, Brummell, and all the most agreeable men of the day, intimately acquainted with each other, and sincerely attached to their Royal host and hostess.
“I am ignorant of the precise dates at which the two following notes from the Duchess to Brummell were written; but they were copied by myself from her autograph, and are inserted as a proof that he must have stood high in her esteem, and that she corresponded with, and received him, on the most intimate footing. The first was written to acknowledge the receipt of a note announcing the loss of a lottery-ticket, which they had purchased together: the paragraph alluding to the chances of his future life is happily expressed, and the sincerity of the concluding sentence was fully proved in after-years, by her generous conduct towards him when she had the pain of seeing that her good wishes turned out unavailing.
Oatlands, ce 20 Septembre.
Vous avez une manière si aimable d’annoncer les plus mauvaises nouvelles, qu’elles perdent par là de leur désagrémens; je ne puis cependant que m’affliger avec vous de la perte de tous nos beaux projets de fête, qui s’évanouissent avec la perte de notre billet de loterie, dont je vous acquitte la dette ci-joint, et y joignent les vœux les plus sincères que ceci puisse être le dernier mauvais tour que la Fortune puisse vous jouer, et que dans toutes les autres circonstances de votre vie, elle puisse toujours vous être favorable. Ce sera me rendre justice que de vous persuader que personne ne peut s’intéresser plus sincèrement à votre bonheur et à tout ce qui vous concerne.
Je n’ai rien à vous dire de ma solitude qui puisse exciter votre curiosité, n’y ayant vu personne de ceux qui vous intéressent depuis votre départ. J’espère que vous reviendrez bientôt dans ces contrées, et qu’il me sera permis de vous réitérer moi-même ici les assurances de l’amitié sincère et de la considération parfaite avec laquelle je suis
Votre toute affectionnée amie et servante,
The next note from her Royal Highness was to thank him for remembering her fete-day, and sending her a beautiful little dog, which Brummell, with his usual good taste, had selected for his present in preference to anything else, knowing the passion his royal friend had for that animal. Her Royal Highness is said to have had at one time upwards of one hundred dogs at Oatlands, and she sometimes erected monuments over her especial favourites: they are grouped round a fountain in the grounds in front of a grotto, to which, during the summer months, she frequently retired with her work or a book. It is, I believe, near this spot that the inhabitants of the parish in which Oatlands is situated erected a monument to the memory of this amiable woman, to which the humblest amongst the parishioners spontaneously requested permission to contribute their mite.
Windsor, ce neuf de Mui.
On ne saurait etre plus sensible que je le suis au souvenir obligeant que vous avez bien voulu me donner au jour de ma fete, et au charmant cadeau que le Due m’a remis de votre part. Recevez mes remercimens les plus sinceres pour ce joli petit chien, e’est l’emblfime de la Fide’; j’aime a me flatter qu’elle sera celui de la continuation de notre amitié, à laquelle je vous assure que j’attache le plus grand prix.
J’ai une toux de cimetière qui menace ruine; si elle ne m’a pas mis sous terre avant le commencement du mois prochain, je compte me rendre à Londres, dans ce temps-là, et un des motifs qui me fait envisager avec le plus de plaisir ce séjour est qu’il me procurera l’avantage de vous y rencontrer et de pouvoir vous réitérer moi-même combien je suis
Votre toute affectionée amie et servante,
“Though the parties at Oatlands were generally, as I have before remarked, of a very unostentatious character, the Duchess’s birth-day was sometimes celebrated with great splendour, particularly the one of 1811, of which I have heard Brummell speak. The King and Princesses were present, and, after they left, the park-gates were thrown open to the public, consisting principally of the tenants and labourers in the neighbourhood, who assembled in the lower part of the house. Here tables were laid out with refreshments, which were soon cleared; and the punch, six quarts of which were placed upon each, having freely circulated, at nine dancing commenced, the Duchess leading off the first dance, called the Labyrinth, with Colonel, now General, Upton.
“Though Brummell read a great deal, his favourite matinal avocation was working at a large screen, which, when finished, he had destined for the Duchess of York; but the pleasure of recording, by this present, his sense of her great kindness, was denied him, for her Royal Highness died before it was completed; he then laid it aside, and never resumed his labours.
“This work of taste and patience is a masterpiece in its way; and had it ever reached Oatlands, many a fair dame and antiquated spinster would have envied its royal owner. The screen measures five feet and a half in height, and, when opened, is rather more than twelve in length; it is divided into six leaves, and the ground is of green paper. The idea of a general design, with which it was evident Brummell had commenced, seems to have been soon laid aside. The most prominent features of it are the quadrupeds, which form the centre of the upper part of each leaf; these prints are on a scale much larger than the generality of the other drawings. In the first compartment is an elephant, the second bears a hyena, the third a tiger, the fourth a camel, and the fifth a bear. The sixth has no animal upon it. Many of the drawings which cover the remaining surface of the screen are coloured: the engravings are in line, mezzotint, or lithograph, with sketches in chalk, pastile, or pencil; in fact, a specimen of every possible variety of the limner’s or engraver’s art, if oils be excepted, is to be found upon it. It “will therefore be easily imagined, that the general effect produced by such a multitude of objects, of every colour and form, is on the first coup d’vil very confused: but, on a closer inspection, the attention that has been devoted to arrangement of almost every part, becomes easily discernible; each little pictorial episode, and there are hundreds, is encircled by wreaths and garlands of flowers of every description; the rose predominating, much to the credit of the paster’s taste; fruit, and emblems in character with the subject to be illustrated, are also mingled with the flowers; to give an exact description of this glorious piece of fiddle faddle, the trifling industry of a thoroughly idle man, would be both useless and tedious. I shall therefore merely attempt a slight sketch, in the order in which I examined it, commencing with the first compartment.
“On this leaf, as I have before remarked, there is an elephant, under the neck of which is a full-faced portrait of Napoleon, who, in this case, is the subject to be illustrated. By introducing this animal the Beau intended to express the Emperor’s power; but on the throat of the modern king-maker is a butterfly, intended to represent another of his attributes, and to neutralize his greatness. The portrait i
s encircled by the neck, shoulder, and trunk of this Chouni; and the edges of the two drawings, which would otherwise have been discoverable, are concealed by other attributes, as well as by fruit and flowers, cut out and arranged with infinite pains. This plan of concealing the edges was pursued throughout with as much nicety as a sempstress would bestow on the hem of a chemise d’/iomme. Amongst these emblems, and immediately above the Emperor’s head, is a mortar elevated for firing; from the mouth of it proceeds a sword, round which a serpent has entwined itself: a scythe and a flag, with the Russian eagle on it, are crossed above the sword, and the trophy is completed by laurel branches over the emblem of Time. The trumpet of Fame, and a port-fire nearly burnt out, are above the Muscovite colours. The reader can scarcely fail to see the application of these illustrations to Napoleon’s history.
“Below the elephant, and in the centre of the same leaf, are grouped four coloured portraits ; the one on the left hand looking outwards is General U (?), next to him are the late Marquis of Hertford and Lord Sefton, apparently in conversation; and the fourth (to me an inconnu) is on their right, and looking towards them. The general, who has a neckcloth large enough for three, and a rounded shirt collar on the same scale, is smelling a sprig of jessamine; a Cupid lolls on his shoulder, as much at ease as the reading Magdalen at Dresden, and is killing, not the general, but Time, with a book, probably Ovid’s Art of Love. On the body of the gallant officer, who is thus indulging poor Cupid with a ride a pig-a-back, is pasted an unnatural and classical looking landscape, representing a forest in the distance, with a rocky foreground; but the principal subject is a young lady, who having thrown aside her harp, is caressing the antlers of a wounded stag. Back to back with the general is the late Lord Sefton, the defect in whose figure Brummell concealed with a flower, probably with the intention of showing that he considered his physical infirmities were entirely overbalanced by his amiable disposition. This he might well do, for he was one of his greatest benefactors. Between his lordship and the marquis is the head of a very lovely woman, ornamented, without the slightest necessity, by a plume of ostrich feathers. The two peers are so placed that it is difficult to say out of whose pocket the divinity is emerging; most likely that of the latter. Lord Sefton is in Hessians, and wears a very peculiar hat. My Lord of Hertford, whose whiskers look as if they were made of leopard’s skin, is dressed in a great-coat, and carries a large cane between a pair of yellow tan gloves, his left hand being inserted, like Lord Sefton’s right, in his pocket behind. His emblems are also highly appropriate and numerous. First, and in the front, are two Cupids in an azure cloud, one bearing the hymeneal torch, and the other a dove, which is looking him amorously in the face. Cupids, in every variety of position that the coryphee of the grand opera could devise, float around his lordship. They may be literally said to swarm; and judging by their looks, each of them seems to be laden with the sweets of a different hive, more luscious than those of Narbonne or Hymettus. One, much larger and more saucy-looking than the rest, is standing on his lordship’s shoulder, and rests, with folded arms, and the domesticated air of a favourite spaniel, upon his hat. To the right is a charming print, by Bartolozzi or Cipriani, of a young girl attended by the everlasting Cupids; above her is a little archer shooting at doves in a palm-tree, and around are Satyrs carrying Bacchantes and Shepherdesses in their arms. Farther on is a gentleman who sports a pair of yellow knee-breeches, and is presenting a nest of doves to a lady in a scarletbodied dress. All these subjects appear to have been applique with great judgment in honour of the most noble the Marquis of Hertford. The inconnu, the last of the quartett, is the counterpart of a piping bullfinch, and by the emblems that surround him may perhaps have been a celebrated “fanatico per la musica.” These portraits are from Dighton’s caricatures.
“The Hyena in the second compartment is represented as being tamed by the Arts, Sciences, and Religion, symbols of which, mingled with the Muses and the Graces, are seen on every side. In the centre of this leaf is a coloured print, taken from a scene in the ” Fille mal gardée.” There are also various drawings representing historical, mythological, and rural subjects. Amongst the most striking are Telemachus relating his adventures to Calypso, Phaeton driving his car, Time his chariot; a French dragoon at bivouac preparing a fowl for the campkettle; a religieuse at her devotions; a minuet at a French fair; a gentleman and a shepherdess, whose dog has seized the skirt of her dress, and with an anxious look is endeavouring to detach her from her admirer.
“The tiger on the third leaf is surrounded by Cupids, cows, goats, &c, all, with the exception of the first, harmless and peaceful animals. On each side of the royal brute is a coloured print, representing the juvenile amusements of the Dauphin and the Duchesse d’Angoulfime. In the one to the right they are playing at soldiers: she is marching in front of her brother and beating a drum, thus indicating the resolute spirit which she afterwards showed: her dog is scampering before her; and her companion, who is dressed in the national colours, is carrying a flag, on which are inscribed the words Union, Force. She has evidently tempted him away from his ninepins to follow her, and these toys are seen behind him scattered on the ground. In the other print they are playing at battledore and shuttlecock, looking very happy and very merry. The ferocious tiger was well chosen to illustrate the period and the subject to which this part of the screen is devoted; for in this beast of prey are plainly personified the cruelties of the Revolution, and, in the domestic animals, the helplessness of those who suffered by its horrible excesses. The children’s ignorance of the nature of the proceedings of which their flag and their tricoloured sashes were the emblems, and their utter unconsciousness of the anxiety and danger which at that very time surrounded them and all belonging to them, as expressed by their game of battledore and shuttlecock, is truly characteristic of their years. Such happily is generally the case with children. In the midst of the dreadful hurricane in which the crew of the Bridge water so nearly perished, and when not. a ray of hope existed for the safety of a soul on board, where were the little children of one of the passengers, and what were they doing? Were they frightened at the unusual trembling of the ship, as she staggered under the concussions of each succeeding wave, or sobbing in their mother’s arms? No; at that awful moment they were floating their little paper boats in the water that half filled the cabins. Below these prints are many other Cupids also, but by no means so comfortable as the one on Lord Hertford’s shoulder. One poor boy is standing, in a cold wretched night, at the door of a house; his torch is thrown down in the snow, and his dripping pinions are scarcely covered by a scanty red mantle. He seems to be a good illustration of the old song, “In the dead of the night,” and is apparently singing the insinuating line, ‘I’ve lost my way, ma’am ; do pray let me in.’
“Near this mischief-maker is another smoking a pipe. Below the camel, in the fourth compartment, is a man in Cossack trousers: a monkey is sitting on his back, gently exciting his own epidermis: a pensive Cupid is clinging to the coat of the incognito. Near him is a gentleman with a lady in his arms; a Cupid is looking up at them, and pointing to a volume of sermons which he holds in his hand: a butterfly has alighted on the cavalier’s coat, and not far off” is a group of Cupids and satyrs rushing in among bathing nymphs. There is also a female barber.
“The bear in the fifth compartment is stimulating his appetite with a young crocodile: around him are children at play, shepherds, the Graces, Venus, and numerous insects and shells. Lower down are portraits, of Charles Fox, Necker, Sheridan, the Regent Philip of Orleans, and John Kemble. Fox has a butterfly near him; Nelson, Greenwich Hospital; Sheridan, a Cupid carousing on some straw; and Kemble, a ladybird on his waistcoat. Round the arm of a man in Hessians is a green monkey holding a mask, and another monkey is between his legs. There are also likenesses of Lucien Buonaparte, the Princess Charlotte, and the Duke of Cambridge when a young man; and a little piece representing an old cure de village trying, but in vain, to thread the needle of one of his pretty parishioners.
“Byron and Napoleon, placed opposite to each other, occupy the upper centre of the last and sixth leaf: the former is surrounded with flowers, but has a wasp on his throat. This to his friend was base ingratitude on the part of Brummell, for the noble lord spoke of, and would have pasted him, with more charitable feeling. Kean, as Richard, is the last print I shall notice. He is below the Emperor, and his neck is ornamented with two hymeneal torches laid together crosswise by a true-lover’sknot.
“It will be seen by this imperfect description that to understand fully the wit shown in the arrangement of all the groups, it is necessary that the observer should be familiar with the gossip of the day; and there is little doubt that any of Brummell’s contemporaries would, with the greatest ease, recognize all.”
It all sounds dizzy making, do admit, yet who amongst us would not dearly love to see this screen, created by the hands and the cheeky mind of the world’s greatest dandy? Where is it? Can it still exist? Captain Jesse saw it with his own eyes in France, thus his minute description of it, but it’s face is unknown. These are the Captain’s last words on the subject:
“When Brummell left Calais, the screen, according to his valet’s version of the affair, was placed in his hands as part payment of a debt. Subsequently, when Selegue’s affairs became deranged, he was obliged to put it in pawn at an upholsterer’s at Boulogne; and it was at this person’s house that I saw it during my short stay in that town. A nobleman, one of Brummell’s former friends, in passing through, was once anxious to buy it, but the gentleman’s gentleman valued his master’s exertions too highly, and foolishly asked seven thousand francs for it, a bargain which his customer very naturally refused. Since that period, another Englishman offered two thousand; this, however, was declined; and when I saw it, the cabinet-maker was fitting it up very handsomely with a mahogany frame, and intended sending it to London, where he hoped to realise a large sum by the sale of it. This screen must have been a fertile subject of conversation for Brummell’s privileged visitors, and to them only was it ever exhibited. To have heard him while employed in cutting out, cutting up, and pasting his dearest friends, and expatiating upon the group that was under his hands at the time, must have been a treat indeed.”
In Part 5, the final in this Series, we learn about the death of the Duchess of York and about her connections to Seven Dials, London.
In this installment in the series, we turn to contemporary sources for a look at the social circle of Frederica, Duchess of York, and thereby for more glimpses into the personality of the woman herself. What better place to start than with Charles Greville’s Diaries:
August 15th, 1818 — “The parties at Oatlands take place every Saturday, and the guests go away on Monday morning. These parties begin as soon as the Duchess leaves London, and last till the October meetings. During the Egham races there is a large party which remains there from the Saturday before the races till the Monday se’nnight following; this is called the Duchess’s party, and she invites the guests. The Duke is only there himself from Saturday to Monday. There are almost always the same people, sometimes more, sometimes less. We dine at eight, and sit at table till eleven. In about a quarter of an hour after we leave the dining-room the Duke sits down to play at whist, and never stirs from the table as long as anybody will play with him. When anybody gives any hint of being tired he will leave off, but if he sees no signs of weariness in others he will never stop himself. He is equally well amused whether the play is high or low, but the stake he prefers is fives and ponies (Five-pound points and twenty-five pounds on the rubber). The Duchess generally plays also at half-crown whist. The Duke always gets up very early, whatever time he may go to bed. On Sunday morning he goes to church, returns to a breakfast of tea and cold meat, and afterwards rides or walks till the evening. On Monday morning he always sets off to London at nine o’clock. He sleeps equally well in a bed or in a carriage.
“. . . . (The Duchess’s) dogs are her greatest interest and amusement, and she has at least forty of various kinds. She is delighted when anybody gives her a dog, or a monkey, or a parrot, of all of which she has a vast number; it is impossible to offend her or annoy her more than by ill-using any of her dogs, and if she were to see anybody beat or kick any one of them she would never forgive it. She has always lived on good terms with the Royal Family, but is intimate with none of them, and goes as little as possible to Court. The Regent dislikes her, and she him. With the Princess Charlotte she was latterly very intimate, spent a great deal of time at Claremont, and felt her death very severely. The Duchess has no taste for splendour or magnificence, and likes to live the life of a private individual as much as possible.
“. . . . . The Duke and the Duchess live upon the best terms; their manner to one another is cordial, and while full of mutual respect and attention, they follow separately their own occupations and amusements without interfering with one another. Their friends are common to both, and those who are most attached to the Duke are equally so to the Duchess. One of her few foibles is an extreme tenaciousness of her authority at Oatlands; one way in which this is shown is in the stable, where, although there are always eight or ten carriage-horses which seldom do any work, it is impossible ever to procure a horse to ride or drive, because the Duchess appropriates them all to herself. The other day one of the aides-de-camp (Cooke) wanted to drive Burrell (who was there) to Hampton Court; he spoke of this at breakfast, and the Duke hearing it, desired he would take the curricle and two Spanish horses which had been given to him. The Duchess, however, chose to call these horses hers and to consider them as her own. The curricle came to the door, and just as they were going to mount it a servant came from the Duchess (who had heard of it) and told the coachman that her Royal Highness knew nothing of it, had not ordered it, and that the curricle must go home, which it accordingly did.”
September 3rd.— “I went to Oatlands for the Egham races. The party lasted more than a week; there was a great number of people, and it was very agreeable. . . . We played at whist every night that the Duke was there, and I always won. The Duchess was unwell most of the time. We showed her a galanterie which pleased her very much. She produced a picture of herself one evening, which she said she was going to send to the Duchess of Orleans; we all cried out, said it was bad, and asked her why she did not let Lawrence paint her picture, and send a miniature copied from that. She declared she could not afford it; we then said, if she would sit, we would pay for the picture, which she consented to do, when all the men present signed a paper, desiring that a picture should be painted and a print taken from it of her Royal Highness. Lawrence is to be invited to Oatlands at Christmas to paint the picture. The men who subscribe are Culling Smith, Alvanley, B. Craven, Worcester, Armstrong, A. Upton, Rogers, Luttrell, and myself, who were present. The Duchess desired that Greenwood and Taylor might be added. From Oatlands I went to Cirencester, where I stayed a week and then returned to Oatlands, expecting to find the Queen dead and the house empty, but I found the party still there.”
And from The Public and Domestic Life of His Late Majesty, George III by Edward Holt (1820) we get a glimpse at the celebrations for Frederica’s birthday in May of 1810 –
“A grand fete was given in honour of her Royal Highness the Duchess of York, at Oatlands. The preparations were unusually costly. The King, Queen, the Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia; the Prince of Wales; Dukes of York, Kent, Clarence, Sussex, and Cumberland, were present. Indisposition only prevented the Duke of Cambridge from attending. The Duke and Duchess of York were in waiting to receive their illustrious relatives: from the bottom of the flight of steps leading into the great hall, the Duke escorted the Queen to the grand saloon. After viewing . and admiring the improvements made on the lawn, &c. the royal party partook of a most sumptuous banquet, served up in a costly service of silver gilt plate. During the time of dinner, the Duke of York’s band, in full uniform, played under the viranda on the green. The King wore the Windsor uniform. The Queen and the Princesses were dressed in plain white. His Majesty, it was remarked, looked uncommonly well, and possessed his usual flow of spirits. Their Majesties and the Princesses departed about eight o’clock, escorted, as usual, by a party of dragoons.
“About nine o’clock great merriment took place: the Duchess having ordered the park gates to be thrown open, the populace, principally composed of the neighbouring peasantry, rushed in, and made the best of their way to the lower part of the house, where a number of tables were set out with provisions of every description. Dancing commenced immediately afterwards. The tables were deserted for the library, where the Duchess led off the first dance, called the Labyrinth, with the Hon. Colonel Upton. Her Highness never appeared to better advantage; she was improved in health, and grown rather corpulent. The very awkward manner in which the country people paid their respects to the Heir-apparent in their going down the dance, excited the risibility of the Royal Party to an extreme degree. It was not until two o’clock in the morning that the music ceased, and then the company retired. The Prince of Wales slept at Oatlands that night. A similar entertainment was given at York-house, in the Stable-yard, the same night.”
And The New Annual Register Nov. 13 (1812) tells us that: “A ball was given by the duchess of York at Oatlands, for the purpose of introducing the Princess Charlotte into company. The “prince led off the dance, and chose his daughter for his partner; and whilst leading her briskly along, his right foot came in contact with the leg of a sofa, which gave the limb a twist, by which two tendons of his foot were broken. His royal highness took but little notice of it that night; but in the morning he found it so much worse, as to be obliged to resort to the assistance of surgeons.”
The incident above is elaborated upon in The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales by Charles E. Pearce (1912) –
” . . . . in November 1811, and in the same month the Duchess of York gave a ball at Oatlands for the purpose of introducing the Princess Charlotte into the world of fashion. This was done not only with the sanction of the Regent, but probably at his suggestion. In any case, it is evident that the Prince’s ideas with regard to Charlotte were not those which caused so much surprise during the following year. Creevey speaks of the Regent’s high goodhumour and fine spirits when at Brighton in the autumn of 1811, and it may be that in the fullness of his new position and powers he was disposed to put aside his worries and relax the tight hold he had hitherto maintained over the turbulent Charlotte. Whatever may have been the reason of the Regent’s complaisance, the young Princess must have felt justified in thinking that the days of her childhood were past.
“Into the gaiety of the ball at Oatlands she threw herself with all the exuberance of her nature. The Regent and his daughter that night were on the best of terms, and they took part together in one of the Scotch dances at that time very fashionable, thanks to the patronage given to Neil Gow, the celebrated Scotch violinist and the composer of numerous reels and strathspeys. The particular dance in which the Regent and Charlotte engaged was known as the ” Highland Flurry,” and it was reported in one of the newspapers that “the Prince led off the dance and chose his daughter for his partner, but whilst leading her briskly along, his right foot came in contact with the leg of a sofa which gave the limb a twist, by which two tendons of his foot were broken.
“As described here, the accident must have been of sufficient gravity to incapacitate his Royal Highness from further exertion during the evening. There is no evidence that it did so, and in fact doubts have been raised whether the Prince received any injury during this particular dance. It is true Fremantle, writing to the Marquis of Buckingham, corroborates with some slight variations the above version of the “accident,” but he does so with his tongue in his cheek after the following fashion: “As you will be interested in knowing the particulars of the Prince of Wales’s attack, I write to say that although it was nothing but a strain of the muscle, he has made so much of it and it affected him so greatly that it has created quite a sensation. It was done while Princess Charlotte was at Oatlands; she was endeavouring to dance a Scotch step called the ‘ Highland Flurry,’ and there was a laugh in endeavouring to make Adam (who was one of the party) teach her. The Prince got up and said he would show her, and in doing so evidently wrenched his ankle. This took place ten days ago, since which he has never been out of bed. He complained of violent pain and spasmodic affection, for which he prescribed for himself and took a hundred drops of laudanum every three hours. . . . He will sign nothing and converse with no one on business . . . and you may imagine therefore the distress and difficulty in which the Ministers are placed. The Duke of Cumberland is going about saying it is a shame and that he could get up and be perfectly well if he pleased.
“The Duke of Cumberland, after his usual fashion, did his best to make the “incident” tell against the Regent, and from the current gossip of the day it would appear that there was no accident at all, but that the indisposition of the Regent arose from a cause other than dancing. A fracas outside the ballroom was hinted at. Apparently this is what the writer (C. B. Wollaston) of the following letter (to be found in the “Journal” of Mary Frampton) refers to: “There have been strange rumours about the Regent, but I verily believe without foundation. The fact is, as Ryder [Secretary of State at this time for the Home Department] told me this morning, that he is in considerable pain from his legs, and obliged to keep them almost entirely in a horizontal position, which is an inconvenient one for writing; but certainly much distress and inconvenience has arisen on all public offices from the want of his signature. It has been said that a report of his being in the same state as his father [i.e. mental breakdown] was traced to the Duke of Cumberland, and that in consequence the Prince has broken off all intercourse with the Duke; but Ryder tells me that he saw the Duke at Oatlands two mornings ago, and that he and the Duke of Kent had been breakfasting in the Prince’s room.
“Mr. John Ashton says of this queer business that “whatever was the matter with him [the Regent] he did not leave Oatlands until the 9th December, or nearly a month. Nobody believed in the royal sprain, but the story that gained credence and was made the most of by the caricaturists was that the Regent had at the ball grossly insulted Lady Yarmouth, for which he was most heartily and soundly thrashed by her husband, Lord Yarmouth.”
In the next installment of this series, we will take a closer look at the Duchess of York’s friendship with Beau Brummell.
Though the Duke and Duchess of York agreed to separate about six years after their marriage, they continued to share the marital home, Oatlands, in Surrey, and apparently managed to live together in the house in various stages of harmony. Certainly, their friends were used to having both royalties present during house parties and other entertainments. A bit like the present Duke and Duchess of York, both preferred to live more or less in retirement and surrounded themselves with a select circle of friends. Let us take a look at the setting, courtesy of Highways and Byways in Surrey by Eric Parker, 1950 –
“Georgian days brought another being as a visitor. Oatlands came to the seventh Earl of Lincoln in 1716, and he built himself a house on the higher ground overlooking a fine stretch of water and many miles of Thameside country. From his son, who had inherited the dukedom of Newcastle, this house was bought by the Duke of York in 1794, but was burnt down the same year, and the royal Duke rebuilt it. He and his Duchess lived there until 1820, when she died. It must have been a curious household. George III brought Queen Charlotte there, and the Court with her; Georgian wits and beauties gathered in the duke’s dining-rooms and played cards in his grottoes. Charles Greville was often at Oatlands, and Sheridan and Beau Brummell and Horace Walpole; Mrs. Gwyn came there, and Mrs. Bunbury, Oliver Goldsmith’s “Jessamy bride” and “Little Comedy.” Both were buried in Weybridge old church. Samuel Rogers, in his Table-talk, gives a quaint picture of the household:
‘I have several times stayed at Oatlands with the Duke and Duchess of York—both of them most amiable and agreeable persons. We were generally a company of about fifteen; and our being invited to remain there ‘another day’ sometimes depended on the ability of our royal host and hostess to raise sufficient money for our entertainment. We used to have all sorts of ridiculous ‘fun ‘ as we roamed about the grounds. The Duchess kept (besides a number of dogs, for which there was a regular burial-place) a collection of monkeys, each of which had its own pole with a house at top. One of the visitors (whose name I forget) would single out a particular monkey, and play to it on the fiddle with such fury and perseverance that the poor animal, half distracted, would at last take refuge in the arms of Lord Alvanley.—Monk Lewis was a great favourite at Oatlands. One day after dinner, as the Duchess was leaving the room, she whispered something into Lewis’s ear. He was much affected, his eyes filling with tears. We asked what was the matter. ‘Oh,’ replied Lewis, ‘the Duchess spoke so very kindly to me !’—’ My dear fellow,’ said Colonel Armstrong, ‘pray don’t cry; I daresay she didn’t mean it.’
“The Duke of York died in 1827, and thirty years later Oatlands became a hotel. The building was greatly altered, but the grounds still keep some untouched memorials of the past. One is an extraordinary grotto, built by the Duke of Newcastle, and used by the Duke of York and his friends, according to local tradition, as a card-room, plentifully supplied with wine bottles. It is lined with a profusion of crystal spar and sea shells; it contains a deep bath, bashfully presided over by a statue of Venus, and the steps leading up to the door are paved with horses’ teeth picked up on the battle-field of Waterloo. How the Duke of Newcastle accomplished this feat it is difficult to imagine, for he died in 1794. Perhaps they belonged to other horses, or perhaps the gallant Duke of York made the addition. He was Commander-in-chief, and the grisly relics may have been sent him as a present.
“Another relic of the dead is the cemetery in which the Duchess of York used to bury her cats and dogs and monkeys. There may be, perhaps, thirty or forty little tombstones, each with a name.”
The diarist Charles Greville has left us a picture of his visits to Oatlands in his Memoirs. Here is an extract that mentions both the grotto and the Duchess’s love of animals:
“The week end parties were often large, and one of the principal amusements of the guests was to sit up playing whist till four o’clock in the morning. On Sundays,” he continues, ” we amused ourselves with eating fruit in the garden, and shooting at a mark with pistols, and playing with the monkeys. I bathed in the cold bath in the grotto, which is as clear as crystal and as cold as ice. Oatlands is the worst managed establishment in England: there are a great many servants, and nobody waits on you; a vast number of horses, and none to ride or drive.”
“The Duchess seldom goes to bed, or, if she does, only for an hour or two; she sleeps dressed upon a couch, sometimes in one room, sometimes in another. She frequently walks out very late at nights, or rather early in the morning, and she always sleeps with open windows. She dresses and breakfasts at three o’clock, afterwards walks out with all her dogs, and seldom appears before dinner-time. At night, when she cannot sleep, she has women to read to her. The Duchess of York is clever and well informed; she likes society, and dislikes all form and ceremony; but in the midst of the most familiar intercourse she always preserves a certain dignity of manner. Those who are in the habit of going to Oatlands are perfectly at their ease with her, and talk with as much freedom as they would to any other woman, but always with great respect. Her mind is not perhaps the most delicate; she shows no dislike to coarseness of sentiment or language, and I have often seen her very much amused with jokes, stories, and allusions which would shock a very nice person. But her own conversation is never polluted with anything the least indelicate or unbecoming. She is very sensible to little attentions, and is annoyed if anybody appears to keep aloof from her or to shun conversing with her. Her dogs are her greatest interest and amusement, and she has at least forty of various kinds. She is delighted when anybody gives her a dog, or a monkey, or a parrot, of all of which she has vast numbers; it is impossible to offend or annoy her more than by ill using any of her dogs, and if she were to see anybody beat or kick any one of them she would never forgive it.”
Author James Thorne give us more background on the house and about the plan and appearance of the famous Grotto in his Handbook to the Environs of London –
“(Oatlands) was constructed for the Duke of Newcastle by an Italian and his two sons, who were occupied over 20 years upon it. In the early accounts it is said to have cost £12,000 or £13,000, a sum since magnified to £40,000. The Grotto is a building of three or four chambers on the ground floor, connected by low dark passages, and a large room above. The exterior is formed of tufa curiously put together; the rooms and passages are a mosaic of minerals, marbles, spars of various kinds, and shells, worked into a multitude of quaint devices with infinite patience and skill. The ceilings are of stalactites and satin spars. In the bath-room is a copy of the Venus de’ Medici; painted glass obscures the light. The upper room, reached by an outer staircase, has an elaborate cupola of artificial stalactites of satin-spar; the walls a more complex repetition of the mosaic of the lower chambers. In this room George IV., when Prince of Wales, gave a splendid supper to the Emperor of Russia, the King of Prussia, and the princes and generals in their train, on their visit to England after the battle of Waterloo. The chamber for the occasion was lighted by cut-glass chandeliers; the chairs and sofas had satin cushions embroidered by the Duchess of York. In visiting the Grotto notice the many fine specimens of minerals still left, especially the various quartz crystals; also the ammonites and other fossil as well as recent shells.”
Unfortunately, the grotto was demolished in 1948, but these images give us some idea of what it looked like –
James Thorne continues: “Oatlands was purchased by the Duke of York, about 1790, for £45,000. The house was in great part destroyed by fire, June 6th, 1794, whilst the Duchess of York was residing in it. A new mansion was shortly after commenced on a grander scale, avowedly from the designs of Holland, the architect of Drury Lane Theatre (destroyed by fire in 1806), but John Carter (more favourably known by his etchings of Gothic buildings), who superintended its erection, claimed to be also its designer.* The house did little credit to the taste of either architect. It was a long, low, rambling structure ; the style a meagre variety of Strawberry Hill Gothic, battlemented throughout. It had, however, some noble rooms with ample.”
The celebrated Dandy, Edward “Golden Ball” Hughes purchased Oatlands from the Duke of York in 1824, in turn selling it on in 1846. Oatlands went on to become a school and is now a hotel. On a trip to Windsor, my dearly missed friend, author Hester Davenport, knowing my great affection for Frederica, offered to take me to Oatlands. Here I am sitting on a bench that is roughly situated to where the sheep are in the engraving.
Hester and I had tea in the lobby of the hotel, poked our noses into various parts of the building and walked the grounds but, as she was well aware, the prime objective for my visit was to get a look at Frederica’s pet cemetery.
In his Handbook to the Environs of London, author James Thorne describes Frederica’s love of animals and gives us a glimpse of her pet cemetery at Oatlands:
“Fondness for animals was strongly developed in the Duchess. She protected the wild song birds, and would not allow a rook to be shot; the cows and pigs on the farm would run to her sure of a choice morsel; whilst for dogs her partiality was excessive, and to her visitors annoying; but doubtless she found, as she says in one of her shapeless rhymes, their “frolic play Enlivened oft the lonesome hours.’
“She did not neglect them even when dead. Around the margin of a circular basin for gold fish (now drained), she formed a cemetery for her pets, burying each in turn with care, strewing its grave with flowers, and placing over it a little stone “with the animal’s name, date of decease, and, if its merit was remarkable, a tribute in verse from her own pen.* Sixty or seventy of these stones still fringe the margin of the hollow; and when the Queen visited Oatlands in 1871, noticing that the tombstones were out of order, she, with her usual kindliness, gave orders for their restoration. They now look quite fresh, and four or five have been added for dogs recently deceased.”
Unfortunately, Queen Victoria’s efforts were not maintained and this is all that’s left of Frederica’s cemetery, the stones now unreadable. Still, I will always thank Hester for ticking this particular item off my bucket list.
In Part 3 of this series, we’ll meet some of the people whom Frederica counted amongst her friends and get a bird’s eye view of the parties and entertainments she held at Oatlands.
Frederica Charlotta Ulrica, Duchess of York, died on this day in 1820 and today I remember the life of a woman who has held a special place in my historic heart for many years. By all accounts, Frederica did not have the sort of looks that would classify her as a beauty, but beautiful she was, for she had a good heart, the ability to make and friends who were devoted to her, chief among them being Beau Brummell, to whom she regularly gave financial support when it was most needed. At the time of her death, Brummell was living in France and working at decoupaging a folding screen meant as a present for Frederica. Upon receiving word of her death, Brummell put the screen away and never completed the work.
In this series, we will take a look at the life and times of Frederica, along with the people and places associated with her, but first a bit of background and a look at the marriage that brought Frederica to England –
From The Lady’s Monthly Museum, Volume 12 1820
“Her Royal Highness, Frederica Charlotta Ulrica, Duchess of York, was the eldest daughter of the late King of Prussia, by his Majesty’s first consort, the Princess of Brunswick Wolfenbuttel, and was the only offspring of that union. She was born May 7th, 1767, and owed, as in many other cases, most of the virtues which distinguished her character, to the watchful solicitude and tenderness of her mother, under whose eye she was carefully educated. His Royal Highness, the Duke of York, it is said, first saw and admired her at a grand review at Berlin, and on his second return to. the court of Prussia, in the year 1791, he, by the consent of his royal parents, demanded the princess in marriage. The preliminaries were very quickly settled, the only one of any consequence being on the part of the King of Prussia, which stipulated, that His Royal Highness the Duke of York, upon no failure whatever of issue in the Royal line of the present family, should assert any claim upon the throne of Prussia, which restriction being instantly complied with, the ceremony was performed in the presence of the Royal Family of Prussia, and the principal Ministers of state, on the 29th of September, in the same year. The Royal Pair arrived in England about the latter end of the ensuing November, and the ceremony of a remarriage, which, by the act of Parliament, was indispensible, was performed at the Queen’s house, on Wednesday, the 23rd of the same month.”
We are given a more in-depth look at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess in The Every-Day Book and Table Book by William Hone, 1841 –
“The late duke of York was born on the 16th of August, 1763; he died on the 3th of January, 1827. A few miscellaneous memoranda are extracted from journals of the dates they refer to. . . . His majesty (George III) in council having declared his consent, under the great seal, to a contract of matrimony between his royal highness the Duke of York and her royal highness the Princess Frederique Charlotte Ulrique Catherine of Prussia, eldest daughter of the king of Prussia, on the 29th of September, 1791, the marriage ceremony was performed at Berlin. About six o clock in the afternoon, all the persons of the blood royal assembled in gala, in the apartments of the dowager queen, where the diamond crown was put on the head of Princess Frederica. The generals, ministers, ambassadors, and the high nobility, assembled in the white hall. At seven o’clock, the Duke of York, preceded by the gentlemen of the chamber, and the court officers of state, led the Princess his spouse, whose train was carried by four ladies of the court, through all the parade apartments; after them went the King, with the Queen Dowager, Prince Lewis of Prussia, with the reigning Queen, and others of the royal family to the white hall, where a canopy was erected of crimson velvet, and also a crimson velvet sofa for the marriage ceremony. The royal couple placed themselves under the canopy, before the sofa, the royal family stood round them, and the upper counsellor of the consistory, Mr. Sack, made a speech in German. This being over, rings were exchanged ; and the illustrious couple, kneeling on the sofa, were married according to the rites of the reformed church. The whole ended with a prayer. Twelve guns, placed in the garden, fired three rounds, and the benediction was given.
“The new-married couple then received the congratulations of the royal family, and returned in the same manner to the apartments, where the royal family, and all persons present, sat down to card-tables; after which, the whole court, the high nobility, and the ambassadors, sat down to supper, at six tables. The first was placed under a canopy of crimson velvet, and the victuals served in gold dishes and plates. The other five tables, at which sat the generals, ministers, ambassadors, all the officers of the court, and the high nobility, were served in other apartments.
“During supper, music continued playing in the galleries of the first hall, which immediately began when the company entered the hall. At the dessert, the royal table was served with a beautiful set of china, made in the Berlin manufactory. Supper being over, the whole assembly repaired to the white hall, where the trumpet, timbrel, and other music were playing ; and the flambeau dance was begun, at which the ministers of state carried the torches. With this ended the festivity.”
The ceremony of the re-marriage of the duke and duchess of York took place at the Queen’s Palace, London, on the 23d of November, 1791.
Unfortunately, the marriage was not a particularly happy one and the pair separated six years later, the union having produced no children. In Part 2 of this series, we will look at their life together at Oatlands, their marital home and scene of many entertainments enjoyed by a wide circle of their friends.
Many years ago (decades), I was privileged to start up the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Romance Writers of America along with Tina Wainscott, Lynnette Halberg and Joyce Henderson, among others.
Joyce was a sort of den mother to us all, not because she was any older than we were, but because she was such a cheerleader of our work. With her newspaper background and no nonsense attitude, Joyce helped each of us to hone our craft, tighten our prose and stay on track where plot and dialogue were concerned. Most of all, Joyce encouraged all of us to keep going and to strive to be the best writers we could be. No matter what our personal genre or time period of choice, Joyce made each of feel as though our efforts were valid and our hopes of publication justified. And wouldn’t you know it – she was right. Most of us did go on to publication.
Now I’m proud as punch to let you know that the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Romance Writer’s of America have for several years been honoring Joyce’s memory with the Joyce Henderson Contest, open to entries in six romance genre categories and offering unpublished authors the chance to have their work seen by published authors and industry agents and editors.
Joyce was a lucky charm for many of us – her magic just may rub off on you, as well. Complete contest rules and entry form can be found here – deadline for entries is August 31. Good luck!
On a recent visit to London, I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum with my friend and travel companion, Denise Costello. In particular, we wanted to see “Tippoo’s Tiger,” made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in South India (1782-1799) and later captured by Wellington’s army.
From the V&A:
The almost life-size wooden semi-automaton consists of a tiger mauling a prostrate figure in European clothes. An organ is concealed inside the tiger’s body, and when a handle at the side is turned, the organ can be played and the man’s arm simultaneously lifts up and down. Intermittent noises are supposed to imitate the wails of the dying man.
The tiger was discovered by the British in the palace at Tipu Sultan’s capital after the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799. The invading army stormed through a breach in the ramparts and, in the ensuing chaos, Tipu and a great many of his soldiers, generals and the citizens of the town were killed. The victorious troops then rampaged through the city, looting valuables from the palace and from private houses, until Colonel Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) gave an order for hanging and flogging which quickly restored order. The contents of the royal treasury were then valued and divided between the British army over the next weeks according to the conventional practice of the period. Some time later, the tiger was discovered in the music room of the palace and was shipped to London, where it arrived in 1800. It was sent to East India House, the headquarters of the East India Company which housed a library and new museum, and soon became one of the most popular exhibits. The Indian Museum, as it became known, moved several times before parts of the collection, including Tipu’s tiger, were transferred to the South Kensington Museum, later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Of course, once we’d seen the Tiger, Denise and I visited the other galleries and these are just a few of the items in the items I found of particular interest –
From the V&A:
The sedan chair was a popular form of non-wheeled transport in Europe until the 19th century. It was fitted with a seat for one person, and was carried by two or four chairmen (depending on the occupant’s weight), who lifted it using two long poles that slotted into brackets on the side of the chair, attached to leather straps that hung round the chairmen’s necks. Sedans were particularly useful for travelling through cities with narrow streets. This sedan chair was probably made in Piedmont / Savoy in Italy. Several similar chairs of about the same date survive in Italy, France and the UK, including one at Westminster Abbey which was bought in Rome in the early 19th century.
The exterior of the sedan chair is covered with black leather. There are three windows, one in the door and one on either side. Brass round-headed studs are arranged in decorative patterns around the windows and follow the outline of each side of the chair, at the same time forming a girdle round the chair about half way up . . . . The front window is made to drop downwards, into the body of the door on a strap punched with several holes that can be hooked onto a tack attached to the inside of the chair door just below the window.The window strap is stamped and gilded and may be an early 19th century replacement. The side windows slide back, and the glass in these two windows is protected by two thin metal horizontal wires (possibly 19th century). The door itself is designed to be completely removeable and can simply be lifted off its hinges.
At each side of the chair near the base are two iron brackets (known as pole lugs), back and front, to accommodate carrying poles (the poles are modern). The rear two of these may not be original. The roof, the shape of a shallow umbrella, has eight radiating struts, which are also decorated with brass studs arranged in rosettes. The four corners of the roof are upturned into a scroll formed of laminated leather, the back right-hand one of which is bent over. Immediately below them are carved wooden female masks, painted. Behind each corner scroll, on the roof, is a brass finial, triangular in section. The central finial is a replacement, of carved wood, made by the Museum in 1968. The whole roof is surrounded by large brass studs, and below is a carved wooden cornice, with gadrooning and scrollwork. On three of the four sides of the chair, just below the roof, is a small iron loop: originally large tassels would have hung from these, but they do not survive.
The interior is, except for the floor, lined with pale olive green (perhaps once saffron yellow) stamped woollen velvet on a linen warp, with a floral design with a very large repeat. The seat has 22 inch width, the standard width for a handloom. There are two small padded arm rests. These and the base of the padded seat, below the windows, and at the base of the roof are trimmed with pale olive-green fringing, of cord with floss tassels, and braiding 1.6 inches wide, in linen woven with a diamond pattern. Originally there would have been a valance hanging from the seat down to the floor, hiding the area under the seat which was often used for storage or for a heater. The stuffing of the seat is probably horsehair. Under the seat the walls appear to be relined at the back and sides.The velvet on the underside of the roof is held in place by nailed tapes and the pattern is not symmetrically placed. The wooden floor has a leather mat, nailed in position with brass-headed nails in a decorative pattern of symmetrical scrolls. This is much worn and the leather outer covering of the sedan chair is torn in places on the door.
Externally, the back of the chair curves inwards at the base to allow space for the rear carrier to walk. This shape is characteristic of sedan chairs made in Piedmont / Savoy. The carved decoration and shape of the roof is reminiscent of French carriages dating from the early 18th century. The style of the carving seems to be that of the 1720s, but is of a style that continued to be used for the decoration of sedan chairs for several decades.
From the V&A:
Elephant table clock, the case and movement signed by different craftsmen. The case proclaims it was ‘made by Caffieri’, while the movement is signed by Jerome Martinot (1671-1724), the enamelled dial has been signed on the back by Antoine-Nicola Martinière and a spring in the movement has the signature of ‘Magny’ (perhaps Alexis Magny). The number of signatures reflects how such clocks were assembled by ‘marchands merciers’ (or ‘luxury goods merchants’) in Paris who commissioned works of art which combined contrasting luxury materials including bronze, horn, porcelain and ormolu. Such elaborate clocks often included an organ in the base, although this does not survive for the V&A example. Other mid-eighteenth-century clocks incorporate elephants in ormolu (gilded bronze) or Meissen porcelain, or lions in Chinese porcelain. Only three clocks cast entirely in bronze like this one have survived, and it has been argued that the V&A clock is the earliest example. Although the surface chasing on the V&A’s example is not of the highest quality, this may be explained by the later regilding which covers the original chased surface. When it entered the Museum in 1882, the clock stood on a later ebony base with gilded bronze mounts and the dial, despite Martinière’s eighteenth-century signature, may well have been re-enamelled in the nineteenth century.
The drum of chased gilded bronze, scroll design, surmounted by the seated figure of a draped monkey holding up a parasol with his right hand and a horn in his left; the drum rests on the back of a bronze elephant standing on a base of gilded bronze rockwork. The quality of the chasing is very high; the central plant on the base has been cast as a separate feature. The slightly reddish patina of the elephant is characteristic of 18th century work. A rectangular ebony stand with gilded bronze mounts that accompanied the clock when it entered the collection is probably a later additon.
From the V&A:
After the death of the 1st Duke of Wellington in 1852, the government announced that a competition was to be held for the design for a monument to commemorate him. This was Alfred Stevens’s competitive sketch model, and was among those exhibited at Westminster Hall, London, in 1857. one of the most important sculptors in Britain in the 19th century, and executed a wide variety of work, including designs for silver and maiolica, firedogs and chimney-pieces, as well as sculpture. Although Stevens’s model came fifth in the competition, which was won by William Calder Marshall (1813-1894), it was actually judged more suitable to the monument’s setting, which was to be St Paul’s Cathedral, and he was therefore awarded the commission. The monument, which was not unveiled until 1912, 37 years after the artist’s death, was completed by his pupil Hugh Stannus (1840-1908). Stevens had made some changes to the design, and the finished monument therefore differs in some respects from this model, but the general composition remained. The model is made from plaster and wax, with metal armatures; in form it echoes Italian Renaissance monuments.
Imagine my surprise when I turned a corner to find this, my favourite painting, Landseer’s “The Old Shepard’s Chief Mourner.”
From the V&A website: Artist Edwwin Landseer’s choice of subject illustrates the Victorian obsession with the trappings of death, combined here with his speciality, the accurate and almost anthropomorphic representation of dogs and other animals. Its mixture of pathos and realism appealed to all sections of society, and the critic Ruskin praised the fine technique and the subtle choice of details. This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 and proved a great success, particularly as an engraving after this picture was published and sold widely in the following year.
Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873) was a child prodigy, exhibiting some drawings at the Royal Academy when he was only 13. From an early age he was a frequent visitor to the menagerie in Exeter Change in the Strand, London, where he drew lions, monkeys and other animals. Animals remained the main subjects of his art. Queen Victoria collected his paintings, as did John Sheepshanks. The two biggest collections of his work are in the Royal Collection and here in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Louisa Cornell and Kristine Hughes Patrone will be presenting a seminar on Wednesday, July 26th at the Beau Monde Chapter’s Mini Conference at the Romance Writers of America’s annual conference in Orlando.
If You Knew Regency London…
With the use of period maps available online, little-known research resources, and personal photos and videos of the places you know and many you have never heard of, Kristine Hughes Patrone and Louisa Cornell will take you into the heart of Regency London. From a visit inside Hatchard’s to a stroll through Crown Passage, an authentic Georgian shopping alley, complete with period storefronts and gas lighting, in this workshop you will see and learn about the places and streets in which your characters live and love.
Ever heard of the Golden Lion Pub? Your hero has, and he probably stopped there for a fortifying drink before entering Almack’s, three doors away. White’s Club, Angelo’s Fencing Academy, Devonshire House, and Fortnum and Mason—all within a stroll’s distance of each other—will show you how small “our” London truly is. This workshop will show you how easy it is to research the brilliant little details to give your Regency romance all the seamless period color and authenticity it needs.
If you’re attending the Beau Monde Mini Conference, you don’t want to miss this seminar! Check conference brochure for time and venue location within the hotel.