Called The Mad Marquess or, less frequently, the Dancing Marquess, Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Angelsey, could not have been more different from his illustrious ancestor, Henry William Paget, the 1st Marquess, if he’d tried. Whilst the 1st Marquess lost his leg at Waterloo, the 5th lost a fortune on a lavish, over-the-top lifestyle that nearly bankrupted the estate. The 5th Marquess collected clothing and jewels with gusto and had his motor car fitted with pipes that issued wafts of perfume instead of exhaust fumes. The 5th Marquess’s excesses scandalized the locals who lived near Plas Newydd, the Angelsey home of the Paget family, as they did the entire nation, but the final straw came when he had the family chapel converted into his own private theatre.
The Marquess was described by Clough Williams-Ellis as “a sort of apparition – a tall, elegant and bejeweled creature, with wavering elegant gestures, reminding one rather of an Aubrey Beardsley illustration come to life.” An Omaha newspaper described him thus: “He is a thoroughly effeminate looking young fellow and he may be seen when in Paris walking around with a toy terrier under his arm, the pet being heavily scented and bedizened with bangles and bows. The fingers of the marquis fairly blaze with rings. He presents the characteristics of the Gypsy type.”
As I said, the 1st and 5th Marquess’s couldn’t be more different, although they do appear to share the same smile. Viv Gardner, Professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Manchester, is recognized as an expert on the life and times of the 5th Marquess and so we turn to her article on the subject that appeared in The Guardian in 2007 for more background information:
“The recorded facts about Paget are fragmentary and elusive; the suppositions are numberless. What we do know is that Henry Cyril Paget was born in Paris on June 16 1875 to Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, later 4th Marquis of Anglesey, and his wife, Blanche Mary Curwen Boyd. They had married in 1874, and Paget’s mother died when he was scarcely two years old. On her death, he went to live with the French actor Benoît-Constant Coquelin – who was rumoured to be his real father. Paget referred to Coquelin’s sister as his aunt throughout his life, and she was with him when he died.
At the age of eight, Paget left Paris and was taken to live at Plas Newydd, his father having married for a third time, to an American heiress. His childhood in north Wales seems to have been particularly isolated.
Paget missed his own lavish, week-long 21st birthday celebrations due to ill health, and a cold could put him to bed for weeks. He learned painting and singing in Germany and spoke fluent French, good Russian and grammatical Welsh. At some time, rather incredibly, he also served as a lieutenant in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
In 1898, Paget married his cousin, Lilian Chetwynd. The marriage was annulled two years later – stories abound as to why – but the annulment was changed to a legal separation in 1901. He succeeded to the title of 5th Marquis in 1898, and inherited substantial property on Anglesey and in Staffordshire, with an annual income of over £110,000 a year (roughly £8m in today’s money).
By 1904, however, the Marquis had bankrupted the estate, spending thousands of pounds on jewels, furs, cars, boats, perfumes and potions, toys, medicines, dogs, horses and theatricals on a scale unimagined even among the profligate Edwardian aristocracy. Everything was sold to meet his debts, down to the contents of the potting shed and a parrot in a brass cage.
Paget “retired” to France on an income of £3,000 a year, accompanied only by a manservant, his adopted child (a dark-skinned baby who was later returned to her birth parents) and her nurse. They went first to Dinan in Brittany, and finally to Monte Carlo, where Paget died in 1905, his former wife and Mme Coquelin at his bedside.
Most of the Marquis’s effects were sold from his family estates soon after he was declared bankrupt, and all his personal papers were destroyed by the Paget family after his death. Even today, the family are reticent about their forebear, who brought devastation and distress not just to the Pagets and their property, but to their servants, tenants, neighbours and tradesmen.”
Had she lived, Charlotte would have been Queen of the United Kingdom. Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was the only daughter of George IV, then Prince of Wales, and his wife and first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, who loathed one another and who separated soon after Charlotte’s birth, never to live together, nor indeed be civil to one another, again.
A protracted battle of wills went on for years concerning Princess Charlotte. The Prince was willing to accede to the wishes of his father, King George III, but wanted Caroline to have no influence in her daughter’s education, while the king wanted Queen Caroline to be party to decisions about her daughter. In the end, Charlotte remained in the care of her father and the the Princess of Wales was forbidden to see her daughter and in 1799 she went abroad, inviting scandal by taking lovers and running up vast debts.
When Charlotte reached a marriageable age in 1813, the Regent engaged her to the Prince of Orange, whom she loathed, in December. Having served under Wellington (whose set referred to the Prince as “Silly Billy”), and been educated in England, he was eligible as a husband but his residence in Holland, owing to his father’s return from exile to the throne, became a necessity. Princess Charlotte was not happy. Not only did she not want to leave England, but she saw this as a means for her father to get her out of his hair. Things had not been going smoothly for some time, as mentioned in a prior post on this blog. Charlotte asked that the marriage treaty contain a clause to the effect that she should never be obliged to leave England against her will and told Prince William that her duty to England was ‘such as to make even a short absence inconvenient and painful.’
The following is from a book called The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales by Charles E. Pearce –
The Regent was bent upon hurrying the courtship. He came to see Charlotte the next day, bringing with him the Prince of Orange, whom Miss Knight further describes as “particularly plain and sickly in his look, his figure very slender, and manner rather hearty and boyish.” A more unsuitable mate for the robust, impulsive, and warm-blooded Charlotte could hardly be imagined, and if there was any love-making on this occasion it must have been of the most vapid and uninteresting kind. At all events, the young man had the opportunity, for the Regent turned aside, leaving the two together, and sat by the fire chatting to Miss Knight in an adjoining room. The object of the chat was to make it known to the lady companion that the Princess Charlotte was engaged to the young Prince, but that Miss Knight was to tell no one until he gave her leave. The Regent evidently had his doubts as to Charlotte’s real sentiments, for he desired Miss Knight to give her good advice, particularly “against flirtation.”
These doubts were soon confirmed, for while he was talking the conversation was interrupted in rather an embarrassing fashion. The Princess was suddenly heard sobbing hysterically. The Regent started to his feet, and Miss Knight followed him to the door of the other room, where they found the Prince of Orange looking very frightened and Princess Charlotte in great distress. ” What, is he going away ? ” exclaimed the Regent.
The question could only have been put in a bantering spirit. He saw something was amiss, but he did did not trouble to inquire further, and soon after took the Prince away, as they had an engagement to dine in the City.
When they were gone Charlotte explained what had caused her outburst of emotion. The Prince had told her it was expected she should reside every year two or three months in Holland, and even when necessary follow him into the army; that the Regent and his Ministers had not thought it advisable to tell her this, but that, as he always wished they should be open and fair to each other, he was resolved to tell her.
The announcement descended upon her like a thunderbolt. Apart from the humiliating thought that the father and the Ministers were plotting to keep her in the dark, there was also the suspicion that they wanted to banish her from England.
It can hardly be doubted that Charlotte had secret ambitions to fulfil the high station which fate had apparently designed for her. If at any moment the Regent died, she would be Queen of England. She could then marry any one she pleased.
Charlotte certainly never pretended to have any affection for the Prince of Orange, and did not hesitate to ridicule him even after their betrothal. She told her mother that his being approved of by the Royal Family was quite sufficient to make him disapproved of by her; for that she would marry a man who would be at her devotion, not theirs. “Marry I will,” said she to the Princess of Wales, “and that directly in order to enjoy my liberty, but not the Prince of Orange. I think him so ugly that I am almost obliged to turn my head away in disgust when he is speaking to me.” The engagment, for various reasons, ended in 1814.
In the end, Charlotte was married to Leopold George Christian Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield, (above) her own choice as a husband. Leopold was the youngest child of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf. The couple were married on 2 May, 1816, at Carlton House. After spending their honeymoon at Oatlands in Surrey, the country seat of her uncle, the Duke of York, the couple set up home at Claremont. The cool and collected Leopold was to prove a calming influence on his tempestuous and headstrong wife and life was idyllic for the couple.
However, in 1817, after two miscarriages, Charlotte became pregnant with what was hoped would be a grandson and the heir in the next generation to the British throne.
Once again we turn to The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales –
Princess Charlotte’s persistent ill-luck mysteriously pursued her to the last. When she was expecting to crown her hopes and those of her husband, and the question of her medical attendant became of importance, her intimate friend Lady Ashworth urged her to have Sir William Knighton, an accoucheur of some eminence. The matter was apparently settled, and Lady Ashworth went away to Rome. When she returned she found, to her dismay, that the Princess had, upon the advice of a lady, decided to appoint Sir Richard Croft. It was too late to alter the arrangement, and Croft, a pompous, vain, and selfopinionated man, entered upon his duties. Stockmar, who was part of the household at Claremont, describes him as ” a long, thin man, no longer very young, fidgety and good-natured, seems to have more experience than learning or understanding.” Croft had a craze for lowering the physical strength of his patients, and this suicidal course was pursued with the Princess Charlotte. Miss Murray tells that the Princess was accustomed to have a mutton-chop and a glass of port for lunch. Croft did away with this, and substituted tea and bread and butter. She became weak and depressed, and one day a friend found her in tears. This mistaken treatment was continued for weeks. The calibre of Croft’s mind can be guessed from his foolish remark in reference to his suggestion that the Princess should wear no stays : ” A cow does not wear stays, why should the Princess Charlotte?”
Her life was thrown away, for when the supreme moment was at hand, weak as she was, she was unsustained for fifty hours by any kind of nourishment in the way of food ; the obstinate and self-deluded accoucheur thinking it much better that she should not eat. The baby—a boy of unusual beauty—was born. It was dead, and Croft tried to bring back life, but in vain. Meanwhile the mother was left to herself, for the accoucheur refused to have any other doctor present. Not even any of Charlotte’s ladies were with her, only the nurse.
The child was born at nine o’clock, and apparently the mother was going on fairly well, but towards midnight Croft became alarmed and went for Stockmar, telling him the Princess was dangerously ill and that the Prince must be informed. Leopold knew that the child was dead, but he did not realise the nature of the impending calamity. It was all over when he set out for her room, and on his way he sank on a chair overwhelmed. Recovering himself, he staggered on, reached the bedside, and kneeling down kissed the cold hands—” those beautiful hands which at the last while she was talking to others seemed always to be looking out for mine,” were his pathetic words—and amid the stillness of death the falling curtain closed upon the tragedy.
Though the mother seemed at first to be recovering well from her horrendous ordeal, she complained that evening of severe stomach pains and began to vomit. She later developed a pain in her chest, before going into convulsions. Soon after the Regent was awoken by his brother, the Duke of York and informed that his only daughter was dead.
The following details of the Princess’s death are taken from a letter, addressed by Mr. H. F. Cooke to Mr. Thomas Raikes (under date November 6, 1817), and published in the interesting volume entitled The Correspondence of Thomas Raikes with the Duke of Wellington and other Distinguished Contemporaries.
” The Princess Charlotte’s death has caused a general gloom throughout the country. The particulars of this truly melancholy event will be made known to you through the papers, with all the accuracy of official report.
There are some few circumstances as attending the death of this interesting woman that may not find their way abroad; for example, the courage with which she suffered, and the resignation which she displayed in death. The faculty of mind never abandoned her. She asked, about an hour previous to death, whether there was any danger: the difficulty of breathing from about that time prevented her speaking much. When Baillie and Croft administered brandy, hot wine, sal-volatile, &c, she said, ‘ You make me drunk. Pray leave me quiet. I find it affects my head.’ And shortly after this, raising herself in the bed, she heaved a deep sigh, fell back, and expired.
“The act of dying was not painful. There certainly must have been spasm, but I have not heard that it was at the heart. Neither do I believe the family conceived that she was in danger, even an hour before she died. It is a blow which the nation really appears to feel acutely, as much as it is possible to suppose the fate of any one not materially connected with one could be felt.
“The Regent is terribly shook by this blow; so unexpected that he was completely overset when he was told of it. He had left Sudboum upon hearing of the protracted labour, but was in London informed that the child was dead and she remarkably well.”
Indeed, a deep and black mourning was proclaimed as soon as the Prince Regent and the country learned of the death of Princess Charlotte. No one was more bereft than Prince Leopold.
In her letters, Lady Shelly wrote, “To-day the Duchess of York goes into the country to receive the unhappy Prince Leopold of SaxeCoburg, whose grief is as deep as during the first. He spends some hours every day in the bedchamber of Princess Charlotte. That apartment is still as it was when the Princess left it the day before she died! Her pelisse, her boots, and even her hat, which she had carelessly thrown aside on the sofa, are left just as they were, for no one but the heart-broken Prince has entered that room. It is a case of real grief, and absolutely without parade.”
An austopsy was conducted upon the Princess and, at the time, it was believed that her death was due to a post-partum hemorrhage after giving birth to a stillborn son. Modern day doctors who have examined the autopsy findings now tend to believe that the Princess died from a pulmonary embolism.
Blackwood’s Magazine offered the following account of the events in the days following Charlotte’s death –
Yesterday the mourning for the much lamented Princess Charlotte commenced in this city, and was very general. The pulpits and desks of all the churches were hung with black. . . In the fore preserved in a similar manner to that of its royal mother, (the child) by being secured in several wrappers round the whole of the body, with light bandages, and being secluded, by means of wax, from the air, it will remain in a perfect state of preservation for a number of years. The whole of the body is enclosed in blue velvet, tied with white ribbons.
Windsor, Nov. 19—This morning, a little before one o’clock, the funeral procession with the remains of the late universally-regretted Princess Charlotte, arrived here from Claremont. They were received at the lower Lodge, where she is to lie in state this day, previously to the interment at night. The mourning coach, in which were the infant and urn, proceeded to the chapel, where eight yeomen of the guard, in attendance, carried and deposited them in the vault. The procession of the hearse and five mourning coaches, preceded by a number of men on horseback, was escorted into the town from Egham by a party of the Royal Horse Guards. Although the hour at which it arrived was so very late, the road and streets through which it passed were lined with spectators.
Funeral of the late Princess Charlotte – The last sad and solemn rites have been paid to the mortal remains of the lamented Princess Charlotte of Wales. It was near two o’clock before the procession arrived at Windsor. The remains of the Princess were received at the lower Lodge by a party of the yeomen of the guard, who carried the coffin. A guard of honour from the 3d regiment of Foot Guards, who are quartered at Windsor, was stationed on the outside of the lodge. Prince Leopold, his attendants, and others, in the mourning-coaches, alighted at the lodge. The anti-room was hung with black cloth, and the interior chamber, in which the coffin reposed, was entirely lined with the same . . . The coffin was covered with a large black velvet pall, with a deep white border that fell on each side, and spread itself on the floor. On the coffin was the Princess’s crown, and at the head of the coffin, against the wall, was a large escutcheon of silk, similar to those placed on the fronts of houses when death has taken place in a family. Three large wax candles were on each side of the coffin; numerous small wax candles were burning on all sides of the room—The gentlemen of the College of Arms were busily employed during the morning in arranging the stalls in the chapel for the reception of the Knights of the Garter, and in other preparations for the funeral. The machinery for letting the corpse down into the vault was completed. —Windsor continued crowded to excess throughout the day. At dusk, it was thought necessary to clear the Castle Yard, and none were afterwards admitted without pass-tickets. The 1st, 2d, and 3d regiments of Guards took a principal part of the duty. The door opened a few minutes before seven, and those who had tickets were admitted into the grand entrance of that superb edifice. By half past eight all was ready, and the funeral cavalcade was put in motion. Proceeding at half-foot pace, it was nine o’clock when it reached St George’s Chapel. At eight o’clock each fourth man of the Royal Horse Guards lighted a torch. About half past eight the procession began to move from the lower lodge.
This memorial to Princess Charlotte and her son stands in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor
The moon shone with peculiar brightness during the whole time. The procession entered by the gate on the south aisle of the chapel, through which it proceeded, and moved up the nave into the chapel. The aisle on each side was lined by a detachment of the Foot Guards, three deep. It is but pure justice to the assembled soldiery to say, that they conducted themselves with the most exemplary conduct, and evinced their full participation in the anguish and distress of their fellow-citizens. Prince Leopold followed the coffin as chief mourner. He walked along with unsteady step, and took the seat provided for him at the head of the coffin, between the Dukes of York and Clarence. The coffin was placed with the feet towards the altar. The usual anthems were chanted with proper solemnity; but the reading part of the ceremony did not attract any particular observation; the Dean went through his portion of it with dignity and pathos. When it was over, Sir Isaac Heard read the titles of the Princess, in a voice much more broken by grief than age, and the mourners walked back, though without the state accompaniments. The Prince Leopold looked distressingly ill; and indeed his state of health and feeling might excite alarm, if it were not that he has latterly been able to procure some sleep. The melancholy business was over before eleven o’clock, but the chapel and the avenues were not completely cleared till twelve o’clock. The baronesses who bore the pall were Ladies Grenville, Ellenborough, Boston, and Arden.
Below are a few examples of the momento mori connected to Princess Charlotte.
Further reading: Royal Mourning and Regency Culture: Elegies and Memorials of Princess Charlotte by Stephen C. Behrendt, Palgrave Macmillan, 1997, ISBN 9780312210496, 282pp.
Tucked away down London’s exclusive Wilton Mews, on the corner of Old Barrack Yard, the patriotic Grenadier pub is painted red, white and blue and boasts a red sentry box that serves as a nod to the property’s military history. Reputedly, the Duke of Wellington’s Grenadier Guards used it as their mess. Inside it is small, dark, and cozy, the paneled walls covered with military and Wellington memorabilia. Reputedly, the pub’s upper floors were once used as the officers’ mess of a nearby barracks, whilst its cellar was pressed into service as a drinking and gambling lair for the common soldiers.
A display at the entrance to the pub informs us that “18 Wilton Row was built circa 1720 as the home to the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards regiment and famously known as the Duke of Wellington’s Officers Mess. Originally named The Guardsman as a Licensed Premises in 1818, and frequented by King George IV, the Grenadier enjoys a fine reputation for good food and beer.” From the same display we also find out that the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards was created in 1656, and that 1st Guards were renamed by Royal Proclamation as the ‘Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards’ because of their heroic actions against French Grenadiers at Waterloo in 1815. Continuing the Wellington connection, directly outside in the old Barrack Yard at the side of the pub is what is reputed to be the remaining stone of the Duke’s mounting block, whilst an archway down the nearby alley forms part what was once the barrack stables.
Here, a young subaltern is said to have once been caught cheating at cards, and his comrades punished him with such a savage beating that he died from his injuries.
The Grenadier is said to be one of the most haunted places in London. People who have worked there have quit after supernatural run-ins with a solemn, silent spectre reportedly seen moving slowly across the low-ceilinged rooms. Objects either disappear or else are mysteriously moved overnight. Unseen hands rattle tables and chairs, and a strange, icy chill has been known to hang in the air, sometimes for days on end. A ghostly face floats in an upstairs window and – the most common tale – the sentry box out front is haunted by the ghost of the dead subaltern.
So . . . a few years ago, on Saturday, August 3, 1996, I was at the Grenadier with Sue Ellen Welfonder (Bozzy) and two other women whom I won’t name because I haven’t seen them in years and have no idea whether or not they want to be associated with the following story. I don’t often talk about it myself, as it makes one seem as odd as those who claim to have been abducted by aliens or to have seen the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot. We, Reader, saw ghosts. Not a ghost, but a circle of ghosts. Regency soldier ghosts, no less.
We could see that the alley beside the Pub led back to a yard with stable doors and a row of quaint single story houses along one wall. Very atmospheric, very historic . . . very tempting. What was back there? we asked. Let’s go look! we answered. What. A. Mistake. As you can see by the photo, a sort of alley runs beside the Pub and opens up at the end to the barrack mews.
We walked down the alley to the end, where the car is visible in the photo below. There was a car parked in the very same spot on the night in question. We got to the end of the alley and saw . . . . . a ring of ten to twelve men – soldiers, whose red coats had been thrown in a pile atop the cobbles. They wore breeches and boots and white shirts. They stood in a circle in the space between the front of the car and the stable doors – surrounding a man who was on his knees at the center of the circle, his face already bloody and bruised from the beating that had already been going on for some time (centuries?). These men were pissed off. Even taking into account the fact that cheating at cards was a much more serious offence then than it is today, their anger was beyond anything justified by such an offence.
We watched them as though we were watching a black and white film that was being played at half strength. That’s the only way I can describe it. The scene was playing out before our eyes, in the bricked space between the car and the black stable doors, the men utterly oblivious to our presence. The film ran for a minute, probably less in hindsight, and then flickered out. Except this film had something extra – this one had been filmed in “emotion-vision.” As we watched the ghostly events, each one of us could actually feel the anger and the venom that was being directed towards the poor schmuck on his knees in the middle of the circle. In fact, I think the strength of that collective emotion was more overwhelming to us than the fact that we’d actually just seen ghosts. The experience was so shocking, so unbelievable that I will be forever grateful that I was in the company of others when it happened or else I’d truly doubt whether it had taken place.
I suppose seeing ghosts is much like childbirth – the true horror of the experience abates with time and twenty-six years have since passed. I’ve been back to the Grenadier many times since, both alone, with friends and with tour groups. More recently, I’ve even ventured back into the mews and I’ve been taken into the private areas upstairs. I’ve never seen the ghost soldiers on the premises again, though several members of staff emphatically refuse to go down to the cellars. And just as emphatically refuse to discuss why.
This post originally ran in 2010 and has since been updated by the author.
Throughout my reading and re-reading of Jane Austen’s letters, I found only one notation that may, or may not, be a reference to one of the many London Gentlemen’s Clubs in existence during the Regency period. As nearly as I could determine, the sentiment was penned in August 1814 in a letter to her sister Cassandra. Wrote Jane, “Henry at White’s! Oh, what a Henry!” Following that, she says no more on the subject, nor does she enlarge upon it. But to exactly what occurrence she is referring, I haven’t a clue as she goes on to speak of other things, and never again returns to the subject of White’s. I speculated that perhaps some gentleman acquaintance of Jane’s brother Henry, who resided in London, had invited him to dine at White’s, and he had shocked his sister by accepting the invitation.
Believed to have been founded in 1698, White’s Club is perhaps the oldest gentleman’s club in London, and at the time it was called White’s Chocolate House. From the beginning, it was principally a gaming Club. The play was mostly hazard and faro; and no member was to hold a faro Bank. At the time, the game of whist was considered comparatively harmless, so was of no account. However, professional gamblers, who lived principally by dice and cards, provided they were free from any accusations of cheating, that is, sought admission to White’s in droves. Also considered a great supper-house, play was conducted both before and after supper and carried on to quite a late hour and involved excessive amounts. White’s dues were considered high, but many a gentleman raked in a fortune at the gaming tables, where stakes were even higher. Young men were known to sign markers in the hope that their wealthy fathers would soon die so they could pay up. Beau Brummell boasted that he once won £20,000 in a single night of gambling at White’s. Lord Carlisle was said to have lost £10,000 in one night, and was in debt to the house for the whole. At one point in a game, Lord Selwyn stood to win £50,000. Says Walpole: “Sir John Bland, of Kippax Park, who shot himself in 1755, gambled away his entire fortune at hazard. T’other night, [Bland] exceeded what was lost by the late Duke of Bedford, having at one period of the night, (though he later recovered the greater part of it,) lost two-and-thirty thousand pounds!”
In 1736, White’s became a private club, it’s politics being decidedly Tory. During the Regency, it was equally as famous for its Bow window, where Beau Brummell and Lord Alvanley flung insults at the fashionables who strolled by, as for its Betting Book, where the elite and bored placed bets on very nearly everything from births to deaths, marriages, horses races and politics. A stranger once passed out cold on the stoop and when he was carried into the house, wagers were taken as to whether the man was dead or alive!
In 1812, then owner John Martindale sold White’s to George Raggett who claimed to have made a fortune sweeping the carpet after the last of the gamblers staggered home. “It is my custom to sweep the carpet after the gambling is over, and I generally find on the floor a few counters, by which I have made a decent fortune.” Perhaps his boast was true as Raggett died wealthier than most of his club’s members.
Drinking and play were more universally indulged in then than at the present time, and many men recalled the multiple bottles of port that accompanied his dinner. Women amongst the upper classes in those days were most notoriously neglected; except, perhaps, by romantic foreigners, who were the heroes of many a fashionable adventure that fed the gentlemen at their clubs with salacious scandal. How could it have been otherwise with husbands generally always away from home, spending their days in the hunting-field, or occupied with politics? Dinner parties, commencing at seven or eight, frequently did not break up before one in the morning. There were then four, and even five-bottle men; and the only thing that saved them was drinking very slowly, and out of very small glasses. Lord Eldon, and his brother, Lord Stowell, used to say that they had drunk more bad port than any two men in England, consequently after a long evening begun at a fashionable dinner party hosted by the wife of one or another of London’s aristocratic gentlemen, who after escorting their wives home, reconvened at their club, and hours later, were understandably fit for nothing but bed.
In 1770, Walpole expressed his opinion on the matter to Lord Montagu: “There is a new Institution that begins, and if it proceeds, will make a considerable noise. It is a Club of both sexes, to be erected at Almack’s, on the model of that of the men of White’s. Mrs. Fitzroy, Lady Pembroke, Mrs. Meynell, Lady Molyneux, Miss Pelham, and Miss Lloyd, are the foundresses.” A Mrs. Boscawen tells Mrs. Delany of this Club consisting of both lords and ladies who first met at a tavern, but subsequently, to satisfy Lady Pembroke’s scruples, moved to a room at Almack’s. “The ladies nominate and choose the gentlemen and vice versâ, so that no lady can exclude a lady, or gentleman a gentleman.” Ladies Rochford, Harrington, and Holderness were black-balled, as was the Duchess of Bedford, who was subsequently admitted. Lord March and Brook Boothby, to their great astonishment, were black-balled by the ladies. Dinner was served there, and supper at eleven. Declared Mrs. Boscawen, the play will be deep and constant. Frenzy for play at this time was at its height. Said Mrs. Delaney, who was not entirely agreeable to the notion of gambling, “Some men make profit out of it, like Mr. Thynne, who has won this year so considerably that he has paid off all his debts, bought a house and furnished it, disposed of his horses, hounds, etc., and struck his name out of all expensive subscriptions. But what a horrid reflection it must be to an honest mind to build one’s fortune on the ruin of others!” This new venture of a club for both sexes was not generally accepted or long-lived.
Another popular gentlemen’s club of the period was Boodle’s, which was chiefly frequented by country gentlemen. “Every Sir John belongs to Boodle’s—as you may see, for, when a waiter comes into the room and says to some aged student of the Morning Herald, ‘Sir John, your servant is come,’ every head is mechanically thrown up in answer to the address.”
Watier’s Club was the great Macao gambling-house, also of a relatively short period. Mr. Thomas Raikes describes it as very genteel, adding that no one ever quarreled there. “The Club did not endure for twelve years altogether; the pace was too quick to last and it died a natural death in 1819. Among the members was Bligh, a notorious madman, of whom Mr. Raikes relates: “One evening at the Macao table, when the play was very deep, Brummell having lost a considerable stake, affected, in his farcical way, a very tragic air, and cried out, ‘Waiter, bring me a flat candlestick and a pistol.’ Upon which Bligh, who was sitting opposite to him, calmly produced two loaded pistols from his coat pocket, which he placed on the table, and said, “Mr. Brummell, if you are really desirous to put a period to your existence, I am extremely happy to offer you the means without troubling the waiter.”
The Wyndham Club, partaking of the character of Arthur’s and Boodle’s was founded by Lord Nugent, its object being, as stated in Rule 1; to secure a convenient and agreeable place of meeting for a society of gentlemen, all connected with each other by a common bond of literary or personal acquaintance.” Situated at No. 11 St. James’s square, it was named after the mansion that had been the residence of William Wyndham, that gentleman being described as a model of the true gentleman, an accomplished scholar and mathematician. Writing of a visit Wyndham paid him, Dr. Johnson, said, “Such conversation I shall not have again till I come back to the regions of literature, and there Wyndham is ‘inter stellas luna minores.’”
Says Captain Gronow, in his Anecdotes and Reminiscences, “The members of the Clubs in London were persons, almost without exception, belonging exclusively to the aristocratic world. Tradesmen, referring to bankers and merchants, had not then invaded White’s, Boodle’s, Brookes’; or Watier’s, in Bolton-street, Piccadilly; which, with the Guards, Arthur’s, and Grahams, were the only Clubs at the West End of the town. White’s was then decidedly the most difficult of entry; its list of members comprised nearly all the noble names of Great Britain.” Of London’s Gentleman’s Club, it was agreed amongst gentlemen that it was a vulgar error to regard a Club as the rich man’s public-house as it bears no analogy to a public-house: it is as much the private property of its members as any ordinary dwelling-house is the property of the man who built it.
The above reflections regarding gentlemen’s clubs was taken from a chapter in my new book titled Jane Austen’s Regency England, which interweaves passages from the letters of the famed authoress as she lived out her life alongside the momentous events that occurred during the English Regency period. From the time of her birth until her death in 1817, Jane Austen managed to studiously pen her beloved novels even as she lived through the ever-present trauma and drama of the Napoleonic wars, the grievous loss of thousands of British soldiers on land and sea, the upheaval across the pond in the colonies, the angst of an English king gone mad, and the controversy surrounding the establishment of a Regency rule in England.
There’s nothing more quintessentially British than an historic pub. Pubs, or public houses, were far more than simply places to have a drink. They were the hub of a town or village, a place where residents gathered in order to share local and national news, to discuss issues particular to their community or where they could simply have a good chin wag or gossip. In his 17th-century diary, Samuel Pepys described the pub as “the heart of England.”
By the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution had brought with it larger, purpose built towns and increased demand for beer, gin and public houses. Newly built pubs drew decor inspiration from the increasingly popular gin houses and palaces, installing ornate mirrors, etched glass, polished brass fittings and lavish gilt ornamentation.
Examples of these ornate pubs can still be found throughout Britain, with several still serving in London. The Coal Hole, in the Strand and hard by the Savoy Hotel, is one such pub.
The Golden Lion in King Street could be the Coal Hole’s twin, in miniature.
‘Bells and whistles’ pubs have their place, certainly, but they aren’t what either Pepys or myself picture when we think quintessential British pub. The Bugle Horn, nestled along the Oxford Road in a quiet hamlet in the Vale of Aylesbury, is exactly that. It couldn’t be more perfect.
A few months ago, Victoria Hinshaw and I were staying nearby when we chanced upon the Bugle Horn. After our initial visit, we became regulars.
The interior of the Bugle Horn is a contemporary take on the buildings’ history, successfully blending old and new elements in an inviting space that welcomes diners as soon as they walk through the door.
Historic surroundings, friendly staff, craft beers, a comprehensive wine list and open fires certainly make for winning ambiance, but let’s be honest – a pub’s success ultimately rests upon the quality of its food. At the top of the Bugle Horn’s menu are seasonal cocktails, but menu items are seasonal, as well. Fresh ingredients, vegan options, imaginative starters and favourites such as fish and chips, pies and Sunday roasts are all on offer and all delicious. And let’s not forget the puddings . . . . .
On our last day in the area, Victoria and I decided to have one last lunch at the Bugle Horn. We arrived slightly earlier than the noon opening time and so we relaxed at a table on the front terrace while we waited, taking in the surroundings and the sunshine. As we waited, a man in kitchen whites came around the corner and up to our table. He told us that his name was JJ, that he was the chef and that he’d seen us in the restaurant several times that week. He wanted to come outside and personally thank us for our patronage. One more aspect of the Bugle Horn to love.