What’s More Popular Than A Smack On The Chin?

By Guest Blogger Regina Scott

Richard Humphreys by John Hoppner

Perhaps two smacks on the chin? Certainly any sporting-mad fellow in Regency England would agree. Boxing was one of the most popular sports in late eighteenth century/early nineteenth century England. It was so popular, as many as 20,000 people flocked to each match, resulting in a few fisticuffs outside the ring, raucous behavior, heavy drinking, and massive wagering of up to 200,000 pounds. Thieves sought to fix fights. Pickpockets roamed the crowds looking for easy meat. Small wonder fights were outlawed in London proper during the Regency.

That didn’t stop the Fancy, those avid followers of pugilism. Boxing was considered thoroughly British. The French didn’t box. The Americans merely copied. Who wouldn’t support such a manly sport? The Prince Regent and his brothers the Duke of York and the Duke of Clarence were all in. When His Royal Highness was coronated, he enlisted the aid of a group of boxers to protect the streets around his route.

The Prize Fight by Thomas Rowlandson, 1787

Major newspapers like the Morning Post and the Times covered the sport, and at least half a dozen sporting newspapers and magazines devoted sections to it. Pierce Egan, the sports writer who first called boxing the sweet science, was widely followed, and Boxiania, the collection of his writings on the subject, ran to six volumes. Even Lord Byron took lessons from Gentleman Jackson, perhaps the most famous of the Regency-era boxers, from his boxing salon at Number 13 Bond Street.

But boxing wasn’t just for the rich and influential. Any man might attend a boxing match. The privileged rubbed elbows with clerks and millworkers. The more common folk also joined with the upper classes to discuss boxing and watch demonstrations of pugilism at the Daffy Club, run by former boxing champion Jem Belcher from his Castle Tavern, Holborn, beginning in 1814.

Until 1814, private patrons had put up prizes for the fights, a practice that easily led to abuses. That year, Gentleman Jackson helped sponsor the Pugilistic Club with about 120 subscribers who contributed a certain amount annually to pay for prizes. Jackson was also instrumental in setting up Fives Court in Little St. Martin’s Street as an exhibition hall for fighting. Matches there were generally benefits to raise money for fighters down on their luck.

And boxers were too easily down on their luck. The sport was brutal. Hair pulling and eye gouging were allowed, and deaths in the boxing ring were not unknown. Still, boxers entered the boxing square with a swagger and nicknames like The Nailer, Big Ben (50 years before there was a Big Ben), and the Light Tapper (I gather this was irony). Well-known American fighters, William Richmond and Tom Molineaux, both African-Americans, also came to London to fight and drew large crowds. The reigning champion from 1809 to 1822, Tom Cribb, was always a favorite.

British champion Tom Cribb fights Tom Molineaux.

What exactly did it look like to fight with bare knuckles back in the day? Stay tuned to the next installment for all the details!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regina Scott is the award-winning author of more than 40 works of sweet historical romance, several of which feature Regency gentlemen who box. In Never Kneel to a Knight, a boxer being knighted for saving the prince’s life must prove to a Society lady who is miles out of his league that their love is meant to be.

You’ll find more on Regina online at her website,  on her blog, or on Facebook.

 

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – THE GARDENS OF ARUNDEL CASTLE

While doing research at the Wellington archives in Chichester, Vicky and I were able to steal a day at Arundel Castle. We began our visit in the gardens and, really, no further words are necessary.

Would you like to see Arundel Castle for yourself? We’ll be returning to the Castle on Number One London’s 2020 Regency Tour – complete itinerary and details can be found here.

 

JOIN US FOR A HIGHLAND SAFARI

The highlight of every Number One London Tours adventure in Scotland is always the Highland Safari and we’ll be embarking on another during our Scottish Retreat in September. We’ll be returning to the Blair Athol Estates for a half day Land Rover tour with our ghillie guides behind the wheel to show us over the vast landscape that includes rugged terrain, rushing streams, breathtaking views and the native wildlife, including wild deer, horses and sheep. We’ll also be visiting Blair Castle, ancestral home of the clan Murray.

I could continue to wax lyrical about the Highland Safari experience, but instead I’ll just show you the pictures I’ve taken on past tours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the Scottish Retreat in September, we’ll be staying at Gargunnock House, a classic example of the gentleman’s shooting box, complete with open fires, flagstone floors, period details, spiraling staircases and Georgian furnishings.

Being a period property, Gargunnock House has a limited number of bedrooms and there are only 5 spaces left on the tour.

Visit our website for dates and complete itinerary.

 

 

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – Count D’Orsay

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, by Alfred, Count D’Orsay

Whilst the Duke of Wellington approved of elegance and was himself known as “the Beau,” he felt obliged to advise his splendidly uniformed Grenadier Guards that their behavior was “not only ridiculous but unmilitary” when they rode into battle on a rainy day with their umbrellas raised. A dandy Wellington was not. Odd, then, that the picture of himself that Wellington liked most was done by one of the greatest dandies of his day – Count d’Orsay. d’Orsay painted the Duke in profile (above), in evening dress, and the Duke is said to have rather liked the picture, because it “made him look like a gentleman.”

Marguerite, Countess of Blessington

Count Albert Guillaume d’Orsay, the son of one of Napoleon’s generals, and descended by a morganatic marriage from the King of Wurttemburg, was himself a gentleman in every sense, and his courtesy was of the highest kind. At the balls given by his regiment, although he was more courted than any other officer, d’Orsay always sought out the plainest girls and showed them the most flattering attentions. During his first visit to London, Count d’Orsay was invited once or twice to receptions given by the Earl and Countess of Blessington, where he was well received. Before the story proceeds any further it is necessary to give an account of the Earl and of Lady Blessington, since both of their careers had been, to say the least, unusual.

Count d’Orsay, after a painting by Sir Francis Grant, P.R.A.

Lord Blessington was an Irish peer for whom an ancient title had been revived. He was remotely descended from the Stuarts of Scotland, and therefore had royal blood to boast of. He had been well educated, and in many ways was a man of pleasing manner. On the other hand, he had early inherited a very large property which yielded him an income of about thirty thousand pounds a year. He had estates in Ireland, and he owned nearly the whole of a fashionable street in London, along with the buildings erected upon it. Thrown together by the same society and so often in each other’s company, the Earl of Blessington became as devoted to D’Orsay as did his wife. The two urged the Count to secure a leave of absence and to accompany them to Italy. This he was easily persuaded to do; and the three passed weeks and months of a languorous and alluring intercourse among the lakes and the seductive influence of romantic Italy. Just what passed between Count d’Orsay and Marguerite Blessington at this time cannot be known, for the secret of it has perished with them; but it is certain that before very long they came to know that each was indispensable to the other.The situation was complicated by the Earl of Blessington, who, entirely unsuspicious, proposed that the Count should marry Lady Harriet Gardiner, his eldest legitimate daughter by his first wife. He pressed the match upon the embarrassed d’Orsay, and offered to settle the sum of forty thousand pounds upon the bride. The girl was less than fifteen years of age. She had no gifts either of beauty or of intelligence; and, in addition, d’Orsay was now deeply in love with her stepmother.

Count d’Orsay

But once again I digress. Suffice it to say that eventually Lady Blessington and the Count set up a home together, both in London, at Gore House, and in Paris, where Lady Blessington died. Upon her death, and before when they found themselves in straightened financial waters, the Count drew upon his artistic talents, both in painting and sculpture, in order to earn money. Whatever one thought about the Count personally, no one could deny his artistic talent. d’Orsay would go on to produce a painting of Gore House, of which I can find no image to use here. Instead, I give you a contemporary print of Gore House –

Gore House

And the description of d’Orsay’s painting, which illustrates the illustrious circles d’Orsay found himself within and also brings us back to the Duke of Wellington –

“A garden view of Gore House, the residence of the late Countess of Blessington, with Portraits of the Duke of Wellington, Lady Blessington, the Earl of Chesterfield, Sir Edwin Landseer, Count d’Orsay, the Marquis of Douro (2nd Duke of Wellington), Lord Brougham, the Misses Power, etc.  In the foreground, to the right, are the Duke of Wellington and the Countess of Blessington; in the centre, Sir Edwin Landseer seated, who is in the act of sketching a very fine cow, which is standing in front, with a calf by its side, while Count d’Orsay, with two favorite dogs, is seen on the right of the group, and the Earl of Chesterfield on the left; nearer the house, the two Misses Power (nieces of Lady Blessington) are reading a letter, a gentleman walking behind. Further to the left appear Lord Brougham, the Marquis of Douro, etc., seated under a tree in conversation.”

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – BEAULIEU

 

When Vicky and I visited Beaulieu in September, we were of course aware that the grounds also housed the National Motor Museum, but we were unprepared for the crowds of people who had turned out for a special, televised event that particular day.

Never having planned on visiting the Motor Museum anyway, Vicky and I hurried through the crowds and headed for the gardens and the Abbey.

And we very quickly found ourselves quite alone in the grounds and able to explore at our leisure.

Beaulieu Abbey was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1203–1204 by King John and populated by 30 monks sent from the abbey of Cîteaux in France, the mother house of the Cistercian order.

As Wikipedia tells us:

In 1535 the abbey’s income was assessed in the Valor EcclesiasticusHenry VIII‘s general survey of church finances prior to the plunder, at £428 gross, £326 net. According to the terms of the first Suppression Act, Henry’s initial move in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, this meant that it escaped immediate confiscation, though the clouds were gathering.

Though Beaulieu managed to survive until April 1538, at that point it was finally forced to surrender to the government. Many of the monks were granted pensions, the abbot receiving 100 marks per year. Abbot Thomas ended his days as treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral. He died in 1550.

At the dissolution of the monastery in 1538, the Commissioners for the Dissolution reported to the government that thirty-two sanctuary-men, who were here for debt, felony, or murder, were living in houses in the monastic precincts with their wives and families. When the abbey was dissolved there was some debate about what to do with them, however, in the end it was decided, after pleading by the former abbot and certain government officials, to allow the debtors to live in their houses on the abbey grounds permanently.

Following the Dissolution, the monk’s refectory was converted to the current church.

The Abbey and its grounds are said to be haunted by the monks. The video below is a portion of a special called The Stately Ghosts of England, with actress Margaret Rutherford, her husband, Stringer Davis and celebrity ghost hunter of that time, Tom Corbett. In it, you will see the grounds of the Abbey and visit Beaulieu house.

Victoria and I, too, visited Beaulieu House, adjacent to the Abbey and reached via a wooded walk.

Beaulieu Palace House, to give it its full title, is a 13th-century house, originally part of the Abbey. It was purchased by Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton in 1538, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and is still owned and occupied by the earl’s descendants, the Barons Montagu of Beaulieu.

Post box

Though a grand house, Beaulieu feels more like a family home, as evidenced by the post box in the hall and the children’s table, above, set up in the dining room.

Above and below, the coronation robes worn by family members at the coronations of George IV (top and bottom right) and those of George VI and Elizabeth II.

The memoires (1906-30) of Lord Montagu’s grandmother Pearl Pleydell-Bouverie have been published and tell the story of her childhood and her time as wife to the motoring pioneer John, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu.

Something was cooking in the kitchen – and it smelled good.

Leaving Beaulieu, we drove through the New Forest and saw many of the famed ponies, who definitely have the right of way. You can read about the breed here.

 

More adventures to follow . . . .

Would you like to experience travel in England first-hand?

Visit our website for a list of upcoming Number One London Tours.