HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. BRUMMELL

” A person, my dear, will probably come and speak to us; and if he enters into conversation, be careful to give him a favourable impression of you, for,” and she sunk her voice to a whisper, ‘he is the celebrated Mr. Brummell.
Life of Beau Brummell by Captain Jesse

Born on 7 June, 1778, Beau Brummell endures as a style icon, a matchless wit and an enigma. Was Brummell a caring friend, as experienced by Frederica, Duchess of York, or a sarcastic louse, as portrayed in the following passage from The Cornhill Magazine –

“Brummell’s rise to social autocracy is the more astounding that he had no sort of family to boast of, and that in his day the fashionable drawingrooms and clubs were jealously closed to upstarts and parvenus. Making every allowance for matchless assurance and extraordinary opportunities turned to excellent account, there must have been much in a man who not only became the ami intime of the Prince of Wales, but secured the attachment of a host of friends who stood by him staunchly when in extremity of adversity. Thackeray knew the world well, and he was right when he said that the world is really very good-natured. For whatever the qualities of Brummell, he had no heart to recommend him; he had nothing of that genuine touch of nature which wins affection irresistibly, and makes all mankind akin. He was frivolous, selfindulgent, and ostentatiously selfish. He could attach himself to the dogs who were helplessly dependent; he could pet a mouse and make friends with a cockatoo; but he was cursed with the superficial wit which loved to wound, and he seldom missed an opportunity of saying some bitter thing. If the smart rankled, so much the better. He swaggered cruelly on the strength of his social ascendency, though, to do him simple justice, he spared the strong as little as the weak. Perhaps there never was a less lovable character than that of the dandy who luxuriated for years on disinterested charity and never altogether exhausted it, although he offered his benefactors the most irritating provocation.”


Perhaps in the end Brummell was just like the rest of us – a complex person who could be, and was, many things to many people. Certainly, the Duchess of York and her brother-in-law, the Prince of Wales, had different views on him. However, one view that seems to be universal is that Brummell was the quintessential dandy – or was he? William Pitt Lennox declared that it was a libel to call Brummell a “Dandy,” since he differed entirely from all that species. “Of all my acquaintances, he was the quietest, plainest, and most unpretending dresser,” Pitt wrote. “Those who remember him in his palmy days will bear testimony to the truth of this assertion; it was the total absence of all peculiarity, and a rigid adherence to the strictest rules of propriety in costume, which gained for him the homage due to his undisputed taste. He eschewed colours, trinkets, and gew-gaws; his clothes were exquisitely made, and, above all, adapted to his person; he put them on well too, but for all this there was no striving for effect—there was an unusual absence of study in his appearance.”

A favorite parlor game played by myself, Victoria Hinshaw and Jo Manning is not Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit or even the Oijua Board. No, our favorite game, especially when we are with new people whose opinions we haven’t heard before, always begins with the same question, “Beau Brummell: Straight, gay, bisexual or A-sexual?” I promise you, coupled with a few glasses of port, a cozy chair and the right people, this question can keep you entertained for hours. Granted, you have to have a group of people with the same mind set, people who have actually heard of Beau Brummell and who know the facts surrounding him, but this is not as difficult as it might seem. Two centuries after his death Brummell is still being written about, as both fact and fiction, not to mention the many films which have portrayed his fascinating, fashionable and foible filled life.

Whether portrayed by John Barrymore, Stewart Granger or
James Purefoy, the Brummell flair always manages to come through.  

In fact, the Brummell flair is still so powerful, his name still so instantly associated with all things exquisite and fashionable that Brummell, who would be 232 years old today, continues to have his name bandied about in order to sell all manner of goods, including after shave, ties, shirts, suits, watches, razors, early 20th century hand soap dispensers and a Cincinnati office building.

Not to mention a show poodle, which, when you think of it, is infinitely more fitting than a soap dispenser. By the way, there have also been many horses named Beau Brummell – one of them has a race video on YouTube.

No . . .  I’m not kidding.  

I must say I’ve never heard of Brummell’s having been musicially inclined, though I could be wrong.

And how about . . . . . . .
  I’m telling you, I couldn’t make this stuff up . . . . . .
Brummell would be gratified to learn that he can still draw a crowd, as evidenced by this photo of his statue in Jermyn Street.
Brummell was one of the most talked about men of his day and I like to think that, wherever he is now, it amuses him to no end that his name still holds some cachet. And I think it makes him guffaw outright to know that while everyone still recognizes his name – nay uses his name in order to sell all manner of goods – the number of George IV branded items is rather limited. The Duke of York even has more pubs named after him than Prinny does. It’s a shame really – My Fat Friend’s Place would have made a much better name for a restaurant, what?

SUFFRAGETTE KILLED BY KING’S HORSE – 4 June 1913



Emily Davison



From The Times, 5 June 1913, Page 9 –
“The desperate act of a woman who rushed from the rails on to the course as the horses swept round Tattenham Corner, apparently from some mad notion that she could spoil the race, will impress the general public even more, perhaps, than the disqualification of the winner. She did not interfere with the race, but she nearly killed a jockey as well as herself, and she brought down a valuable horse. She seems to have run right in front of Anmer, which JONES was riding for the KING. It was impossible to avoid her. She was ridden down, the horse turned a complete somersault and fell upon his rider. That the horse was the KING’S was doubtless an accident: it would need almost miraculous skill or fortune to single out any particular animal as they passed a particular point. Some of the spectators close to the woman supposed that she was under the impression that the horses had all gone by and that she was merely attempting to cross the course. The evidence, however, is strong that her action was deliberate, and that it was planned and executed in the supposed interests of the suffragist movement.
“Whether she intended to commit suicide, or was simply reckless, it is hard to surmise. She very nearly took JONES’S life and her own. Had Anmer brought down the other horses which were close behind him, a scene might have followed of which it is horrible even to think, and nobody could have maintained, had it occurred, that it was not a natural consequence of what she did. She is said to be a person well known in the suffragist movement, to have had a card of a suffragist association upon her, and to have had the so-called “Suffragist colours” tied around her waist. It is further alleged that just after she had run out in front of the horses, holding her hands above her head, a placard with the words “Votes for Women” was raised by some person in the crowd. The circumstances are not, of course, conclusive, but they are, to say the least, suggestive.

“The case will, of course, become the subject of investigation by the police, and we may possibly learn from the offender herself what exactly she intended to do and how she fancied that it could assist the suffragist cause. A deed of the kind, we need hardly say, is not likely to increase the popularity of any cause with the ordinary public. Reckless fanaticism is not regarded by them as a qualification for the franchise. They are disposed to look upon manifestations of that temper with contempt and with disgust. When these manifestations are attended by indifference to human life, they begin to suspect that they are not altogether sane. They say that persons who want only destroy property and endanger innocent lives must be either desperately wicked or entirely unbalanced. Where women are concerned, the natural gallantry of the public always inclines them to take a favourable view, and accordingly they are gradually coming to the conclusion that many of the militant suffragists are not entirely responsible for their acts. The growth of that belief will not improve the prospects of woman suffrage. The bulk of the suffragist party, and the abler of its leaders, are doubtless conscious of this truth. They seem, however, to be quite unable to lay the spirit which some of them have helped to raise, and to prevent the perpetration of crimes, the utter inanity of which as a means of political propaganda is even more striking than their wickedness. We are much mistaken if yesterday’s exhibition does not do more hurt to the cause of woman suffrage than years of agitation can undo. The militant school will long have reason to remember Aboyeur’s Derby.”
A video explaining the history of this particular race and footage of the accident itself can be viewed here.
Emily never regained consciousness and died from her injuries on June 8th at Epsom Cottage Hospital. Doubts remain as to her exact intentions on the fateful day, some saying it was suicide, others disputing that theory as she had a return train ticket in her pocket.

 On June 13, 5,000 women marched in Davison’s funeral procession. Video of the event can be seen here.

The King’s jockey, Herbert Jones (b. 1880), was known as ‘Diamond’ Jones after winning the racing triple crown in 1900 when he rode the future King Edward VII’s horse, ‘Diamond Jubilee.’ Jones suffered a mild concussion in the accident and recovered. He died in his kitchen of gas inhalation in 1951. 
The horse involved in the incident, Anmer, went on to race again, always placing and never winning and one presumes he went on to a peaceful retirement.

THE AMAZING SARAH BIFFEN, ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE

by Victoria Hinshaw
Originally published in 2010

Sarah Biffen (1784-1850) was born without arms or legs, a condition known as phocomelia, and survived infancy only by the intervention of a clergyman who protected her. In her family she was known as a pixie child, and she was even feared by some in her West Country village.

Self portrait by Sarah Biffen, painted in 1830, holding the brush in her teeth.

At age 12, Sarah became a phenomenon at circuses and fairs, displayed painting or sewing with her teeth and was known as “The Limbless Wonder.” A few years later, the Earl of Morton arranged for her to study with William Craig, a Royal Academician who was also drawing master to Princess Charlotte of Wales.

She became a professional miniaturist and did work for George IV, William IV, and Queen Victoria. She is mentioned in novels by William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens, and her paintings were accepted for exhibition by the Royal Academy. She received a silver medal from the Society of Arts in 1821.

This is a miniature of Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820), a waterclour on ivory, painted by Sarah Biffen in 1839 and purchased by the Duke’s daughter, Queen Victoria. It is part of the Royal Collection.

Sarah married William S. Wright in 1824, but the marriage was unsuccessful. After she moved to Liverpool, her work gradually went out of fashion and her ability to paint faded as well. Obviously the incredible muscle control in her mouth and neck would have been reduced as she aged. She was supported in her last years by a pension from the Queen and funds donated by her friends and colleagues.

In the words of the National Gallery of Scotland’s description of her self-portrait, “This remarkable self-portrait reveals something of Sarah’s dignity and strong character, as well as showing the determination and skill of a woman who rose from being a side-show exhibit to a celebrated royal portrait painter.”

I discovered her work when I attended the exhibition The Intimate Portrait: Drawings, miniatures and pastels from Ramsay to Lawrence at the British Museum in 2009. I fnd her one of the most amazing women I have ever heard of. Almost beyond belief!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO QUEEN VICTORIA – 24 May 1819

Victoria H here: I have always had a special feeling for Queen Victoria, obviously because it was the name my father — with his entirely British heritage — chose for me.
The above view of the Queen in 1838 is one of my favorite portraits.
Above, the Queen in her 1838 coronation robes by American artist Thomas Sully (1783–1872). The painting hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City though it has been copied many times and can be found in various configurations many places.

Above, Artist Sir George Hayter (1792-1871) also painted Victoria in her coronation robes.  The ceremony took place on June 28, 1938, about a year after Victoria became Queen at age 18 after the death of her uncle, William IV (1765-1937).

Victoria was Queen until her death in 1901, the longest reign in English history at the time. The Hayter painting is in the National Collection in Britain and a copy of it hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Victoria’s name became the title of an age characterized by a revolution in industry, transportation, communication, medicine, culture, and, perhaps, family relationships and sexual behavior. At the beginning of her reign, horses and sailing ships provided transportation. At the end of her life, we had dirigibles and the Wright Brothers first flew just a couple of years later.  Wonder what Victoria would have thought of blogging?

In celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth this year, Number One London Tour will be exploring all aspects of the Queen’s life, from her birth at Kensington Palace to her death in 1901 at Osborn House on the Isle of Wight, on our 2019 Queen Victoria Tour. Full details and Tour itinerary can be found here.

A BIRTHDAY LETTER FROM KING LEOPOLD

Queen Victoria’s birthday was on May 24th
From: The Letters of Queen Victoria by John Murray

 

The King of the Belgians to Queen Victoria.
Laeken, 21st May 1845.
My Dearest And Most Beloved Victoria,— Receive my sincerest and most heartfelt good wishes on the happy reappearance of your birthday. I need not dwell on my sentiments of devotion to you; they began with your life, and will only end with mine. The only claim I make is to be remembered with some little affection. Thank heaven, I have little to wish you, than that your present happiness may not be disturbed, and that those who are dear to you may be preserved for your happiness.
My gift is Charlotte’s portrait. The face is extremely like, and the likest that exists; the hair is a little too fair, it had become also darker. I take this opportunity to repeat that Charlotte was a noble-minded and highly gifted creature. She was nervous, as all the family have been; she could be violent, but then she was full of repentance for it, and her disposition highly generous and susceptible of great devotion. I am the more bound to say this, as I understood that you had some notion that she had been very imperious, and not mistress of her temper. Before her marriage some people by dint of flattery had tried to give her masculine tastes; and in short had pushed her to become one day a sort of Queen Elizabeth. These sentiments were already a little modified before her marriage. But she was particularly determined to be a good and obedient wife; some of her friends were anxious she should not; amongst these Madame de Flahaut must be mentioned en premiere ligne.
This became even a subject which severed the intimacy between them. Madame de Flahaut, much older than Charlotte, and of a sour and determined character, had gained an influence which partook on Charlotte’s part a little of fear. She was afraid of her, but when once supported took courage.
    People were much struck on the 2nd of May 1816 at Carlton House with the clearness and firmness with which she pronounced “and obey” etc., as there had been a general belief that it would be for the husband to give these promises. The Regent put me particularly on my guard, and said, “If you don’t resist she will govern you with a high hand.” Your own experience has convinced you that real affection changes many sentiments that may have been implanted into the mind of a young girl. With Charlotte it was the more meritorious, as from a very early period of her life she was considered as the heiress of the Crown; the Whigs flattered her extremely, and later, when she got by my intervention reconciled to the Tories, they also made great efforts to please her.
Her understanding was extremely good; she knew everybody, and I even afterwards found her judgment generally extremely correct. She had read a great deal and knew well what she had read. Generous she was almost too much, and her devotion was quite affecting, from a character so much pushed to be selfish and imperious.
I will here end my souvenir of poor dear Charlotte, but I thought that the subject could not but be interesting to you. Her constancy in wishing to marry me, which she maintained under difficulties of every description, has been the foundation of all that touched the family afterwards. You know, I believe, that your poor father was the chief promoter, though also the Yorks were; but our correspondence from 1814 till 1816 was entirely carried on through his kind intervention; it would otherwise have been impossible, as she was really treated as a sort of prisoner. Grant always to that good and generous Charlotte, who sleeps already with her beautiful little boy so long, where all will go to, an affectionate remembrance, and believe me she deserves it.
Forgive my long letter, and see in it, what it really is, a token of the great affection I have for you. Ever, my dearest Victoria, your devoted Uncle,
Leopold R.
Number One London will be celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth during the 2019 Queen Victoria Tour, visiting Kensington Palace, where she was born, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Brighton Pavilion and Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, where the Queen died in 1901. Complete Tour details can be found here.