A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A QUEEN

Creevey Papers 1838

December 15th.—Went on Wednesday to a Council at Windsor, and after the Council was invited to stay that night; rode with the Queen, and after riding Melbourne came to me and said Her Majesty wished me to stay the next day also. This was very gracious and very considerate, because it was done for the express purpose of showing that she was not displeased at my not staying when asked on a former occasion, and as she can have no object whatever in being civil to me, it was a proof of her good-nature and thoughtfulness about other people’s little vanities, even those of the most insignificant. Accordingly I remained till Friday morning, when I went with the rest of her suite to see the hounds throw off, which she herself saw for the first time.

The Court is certainly not gay, but it is perhaps impossible that any Court should be gay where there is no social equality; where some ceremony, and a continual air of deference and respect must be observed, there can be no ease, and without ease there can be no real pleasure. The Queen is natural, good-humoured, and cheerful, but still she is Queen, and by her must the social habits and the tone of conversation be regulated, and for this she is too young and inexperienced. She sits at a large round table, her guests around it, and Melbourne always in a chair beside her, where two mortal hours are consumed in such conversation as can be found, which appears to be, and really is, very up-hill work. This, however, is the only bad part of the whole; the rest of the day is passed without the slightest constraint, trouble, or annoyance to anybody; each person is at liberty to employ himself or herself as best pleases them, though very little is done in common, and in this respect Windsor is totally unlike any other place. There is none of the sociability which makes the agreeableness of an English country house; there is no room in which the guests assemble, sit, lounge, and talk as they please and when they please; there is a billiard table, but in such a remote corner of the Castle that it might as well be in the town of Windsor; and there is a library well stocked with books, but hardly accessible, imperfectly warmed, and only tenanted by the librarian: it is a mere library, too, unfurnished, and offering none of the comforts and luxuries of a habitable room.

Lord Melbourne

There are two breakfast rooms, one for the ladies and the guests, and the other for the equerries, but when the meal is over everybody disperses, and nothing but another meal reunites the company, so that, in fact, there is no society whatever, little trouble, little etiquette, but very little resource or amusement. The life which the Queen leads is this: she gets up soon after eight o’clock, breakfasts in her own room, and is employed the whole morning in transacting business; she reads all the despatches, and has every matter of interest and importance in every department laid before her. At eleven or twelve Melbourne comes to her and stays an hour, more or less, according to the business he may have to transact At two she rides with a large suite (and she likes to have it numerous); Melbourne always rides on her left hand, and the equerry in waiting generally on her right; she rides for two hours along the road, and the greater part of the time at a full gallop; after riding she amuses herself for the rest of the afternoon with music and singing, playing, romping with children, if there are any in the Castle (and she is so fond of them that she generally contrives to have some there), or in any other way she fancies.

The hour of dinner is nominally half-past seven o’clock, soon after which time the guests assemble, but she seldom appears till near eight. The lord in waiting comes into the drawing-room and instructs each gentleman which lady he is to take in to dinner. When the guests are all assembled the Queen comes in, preceded by the gentlemen of her household, and followed by the Duchess of Kent and all her ladies; she speaks to each lady, bows to the men, and goes immediately into the diningroom. She generally takes the arm of the man of the highest rank, but on this occasion she went with Mr. Stephenson, the American Minister (though he has no rank), which was very wisely done. Melbourne invariably sits on her left, no matter who may be there; she remains at table the usual time, but does not suffer the men to sit long after her, and we were summoned to coffee in less than a quarter of an hour. In the drawing-room she never sits down till the men make their appearance. Coffee is served to them in the adjoining room, and then they go into the drawing-room, when she goes round and says a few words to each, of the most trivial nature, all however very civil and cordial in manner and expression.

Queen Victoria by Charles Robert Leslie, 1838

When this little ceremony is over the Duchess of Kent’s whist table is arranged, and then the round table is marshalled, Melbourne invariably sitting on the left hand of the Queen and remaining there without moving till the evening is at an end. At about half-past eleven she goes to bed, or whenever the Duchess has played her usual number of rubbers, and the band have performed all the pieces on their list for the night. This is the whole history of her day: she orders and regulates every detail herself, she knows where everybody is lodged in the Castle, settles about the riding or driving, and enters into every particular with minute attention. But while she personally gives her orders to her various attendants, and does everything that is civil to all the inmates of the Castle, she really has nothing to do with anybody but Melbourne, and with him she passes (if not in tete-a-tete yet in intimate communication) more hours than any two people, in any relation of life, perhaps ever do pass together besides (1) He is at her side for at least six hours every day— an hour in the morning, two on horseback, one at dinner, and two in the evening. This monopoly is certainly not judicious; it is not altogether consistent with social usage, and it leads to an infraction of those rules of etiquette which it is better to observe with regularity at Court. But it is more peculiarly inexpedient with reference to her own future enjoyment, for if Melbourne should be compelled to resign, her privation will be the more bitter on account of the exclusiveness of her intimacy with him. Accordingly, her terror when any danger menaces the Government, her nervous apprehension at any appearance of change, affect her health, and upon one occasion during the last session she actually fretted herself into an illness at the notion of their going out. It must be owned that her feelings are not unnatural, any more than those which Melbourne entertains towards her. His manner to her is perfect, always respectful, and never presuming upon the extraordinary distinction he enjoys; hers to him is simple and natural, indicative of the confidence she reposes in him, and of her lively taste for his society, but not marked by any unbecoming familiarity.

Interesting as his position is, and flattered, gratified, and touched as he must be by the confiding devotion with which she places herself in his hands, it is still marvellous that he should be able to overcome the force of habit so completely as to endure the life he leads. Month after month he remains at the Castle, submitting to this daily routine: of all men he appeared to be the last to be broken in to the trammels of a Court, and never was such a revolution seen in anybody’s occupations and habits. Instead of indolently sprawling in all the attitudes of luxurious ease, he is always sitting bolt upright; his free and easy language interlarded with ‘damns’ is carefully guarded and regulated with the strictest propriety, and he has exchanged the good talk of Holland House for the trivial, laboured, and wearisome inanities of the Royal circle.

1 The Duke of Wellington says that Melbourne is quite right to go and stay at the Castle as much he does, and that it is very fit he should instruct the young Queen in the business of government, but he disapproves of his being always at her side, even contrary to the rules of etiquette; for as a Prime Minister has no precedence, he ought not to be placed in the post of honour to the exclusion of those of higher rank than himself.

THOMAS CREEVEY ON LADY DARLINGTON

From The Creevey Papers

Raby Castle

(Written while at) Raby Castle [Earl of Darlington’s], Feb. 16th, 1825.

“. . . This house is itself by far the most magnificent and unique in several ways that I have ever seen. Then what are we to say of its being presided over by a poplolly! A magnificent woman, dressed to perfection, without a vestige of her former habits — in short, in manners as produceable a countess as the best blood could give you. … As long as I have heard of anything, I have heard of being driven into the hall of this house in one’s carriage, and being set down by the fire. You can have no idea of the magnificent perfection with which this is accomplished. Then the band of musick which plays in this same hall during dinner! then the gold plate!! and then— the poplolly at the head of all!!!'”

Note: The 3rd Earl of Darlington was created Duke of Cleveland in 1833. By his second wife, alluded to above, who died in 1861, he had no children.

Poplolly – From the French poupelet, meaning literally “little darling.” In Creevey’s time, a derogatory term, often used when referring to kept women or mistresses.

Creevey (Lord love him) continues to accept Lady Darlington’s hospitality whilst sneering at her behind her back –

Raby, 20th Feby. (1825)

“. . . My lady [Darlington] drove me about and shewed me many lions I had not seen before. I am compelled to admit that, in the familiarity of a duet and outing, the cloven foot appeared. I don’t mean more than that tendency to slang, which I conceive it impossible for any person who has been long in the ranks entirely to get overt. To be sure when I gaze at these three young women,* and at this brazen-faced Pop who is placed over them, and shews that she is so, the whole transaction — I mean the marriage, appears to me the wickedest thing I ever heard of; for altho’ these young ladies appear to be gifted with no great talents, and altho’ they have all more or less of the quality squall, yet their manners are particularly correct and modest. . . .”

*Lord Darlington’s daughters by previous marriage


By June 6th, 1825, Creevey is writing ” . . . Our dinner at Bruffman’s yesterday was damnable in cookery, comfort, and everything else, tho’ the dear Countess of Darlington was there, better dressed and looking better than any countess in London . . . .”

Duchess of Cleveland, Elizabeth Russell, attributed to Domenico Pellegrini

Five months on, it appears as though Lady Darlington has finally, and completely, won Creevey over. He writes –

Nov. 3, (1825) Newton House [Earl of Darlington’s hunting box, Yorkshire].

“. . Nothing on earth can be more natural and comfortable than we all are here. The size of the house, as well as of the party, makes it more of a domestic concern than it is at Raby, and both he and she shine excessively in this point of view. As for her [Lady Darlington] I consider her a miracle. To see a ‘ bould face ‘ turn into a countess, living in this beautiful house of her own, and never to shew the slightest sign of being set up, is so unlike all others of the kind I have seen, that she must be a very sensible woman. Then she is so clean, and she is looking so beautiful at present. . . .”

So, what did Creevey have against Lady Darlington? William Henry Vane, 3rd Earl of Darlington, 1st Duke of Cleveland (1766-1842) married his cousin, Lady Catherine Powlett (1766–1807), a daughter of the 6th Duke of Bolton.

The Duke’s (although he was at the time just the 5th Baron Barnard and 3rd Earl of Darlington, and no more – he became Marquis of Cleveland in 1827, and Duke of Cleveland in 1833) second marriage, to Elizabeth Russell, took place on 27th July 1813 at William Harry’s London residence at 31 St James Square, by ‘special licence’, about six years after the death of his first wife Katherine. It’s difficult to determine how long the Duke had known Elizabeth before their marriage – or how well.

In any case, his marriage to Elizabeth ‘outraged polite society,’ it is recorded (even in Burke’s Peerage). Quite probably, it outraged Catherine Powlett’s mother the most – said mother being the last Duchess of Bolton, also named Katherine Powlett (though née Lowther) – and, worse, she was sister to the Duke’s own mother – thus both his mother-in-law and his aunt. That she was dead set against the Duke’s second marriage to Elizabeth becomes obvious when we learn that all seven surviving children from Catherine & William’s marriage changed their surnames in 1813, to Powlett (or Vane Powlett) on the express instructions of the Duchess of Bolton’s Will.

So – what did so many have against the second Lady Darlington? Elizabeth Russell was a market gardener’s daughter – he being Robert Russell of (the above mentioned) Newton House in Burmiston (also written Burnestone, now Burneston), in the county of North Yorkshire. Her father’s unexalted station in life was one thing, but Elizabeth’s own reputation was quite another – she’d made a ‘name’ for herself by being the mistress of Thomas Coutts, the banker whose name is still remembered as the famous bankers for the Royal Family in the Strand, London.

As Creevey’s pen attests, Lady Darlington obviously had a winning personality, which in no way affected the advancement of her husband through the peerage. The 3rd Earl was created Marquess of Cleveland in 1827 and Duke of Cleveland in 1833. These titles, and the Earldom of Darlington, became extinct on the death of the 4th Duke (and 6th Earl) in 1891. The barony of Barnard remains extant.

You can visit the Raby Castle website here.

THE CREEVEY PAPERS

Thomas Creevey

I am a firm believer in using primary sources when doing research, my personal favorite resource being diaries and letters of the day. Prince Puckler Muskau, Princess Lieven, Horace Walpole, Lady Shelley, etc., etc., etc. all have a place on my shelf and I re-read them frequently. As we’ll be running a few posts using various amusing passages from these letters, I thought that an introduction to both Creevey and his Papers were in order, had you not met them before.

Thomas Creevey was born in Liverpool in 1768, the son of a merchant sea captain who transported slaves. It has been suggested, though never proven, that Creevey was  natural son of Lord Molyneux, later first Earl of Sefton. He studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and then trained as a lawyer. In 1802, Creevey met and married Eleanor Ord, daughter of Charles Brandling, MP, widow of William Ord, who had six children and a private income – very handy for a man who never earned much on his own. The couple, by all accounts, were very happily married, with Creevey regarding all the Ord children as his own. Also in 1802, thanks to his uncle, Creevey became a Whig MP in the House of Commons. In 1806, the Prime Minister, Lord Grenville, appointed Creevey as Secretary to the Board of Control, but he lost the job when Grenville resigned the following year. After unsuccessfully fighting against the development of the railways, and supporting Lord Grey and his plans for Parliamentary reform, Creevey lost his seat, as a result of those reforms. Grey made him Treasurer of the Ordnance in 1830, and then Lord Melbourne made him treasurer of Greenwich Hospital. From 1818 on, after his wife died, Creevey was a rather poor man, although he remained popular. He is mostly remembered because his writings, including intermittent diary extracts, were published in 1903, under the title of ‘The Creevey Papers’. The book is considered important because of Creevey’s gossipy, almost Pepysian, insights into many of the main characters of the period.

From the Greville Memoirs

February 20th. (1838)—I made no allusion to the death of Creevey at the time it took place, about a fortnight ago, having said something about him elsewhere. Since that period he had got into a more settled way of life. He was appointed to one of the Ordnance offices by Lord Grey, and subsequently by Lord Melbourne to the Treasurer ship of Greenwich Hospital, with a salary of 600l. a year and a house. As he died very suddenly, and none of his connexions were at hand, Lord Sefton sent to his lodgings and (in conjunction with Vizard, the solicitor) caused all his papers to be sealed up. It was found that he had left a woman who had lived with him for four years as his mistress, his sole executrix and residuary legatee, and she accordingly became entitled to all his personalty (the value of which was very small, not more than 300/ or 400l.) and to all the papers which he left behind him. These last are exceedingly valuable, for he had kept a copious diary for thirty-six years, had preserved all his own and Mrs. Creevey’s letters, and copies or originals of a vast miscellaneous correspondence. The only person who is acquainted with the contents of these papers is his daughter-in-law, whom he had frequently employed to copy papers for him, and she knows how much there is of delicate and interesting matter, the publication of which would be painful and embarrassing to many people now alive, and make very inconvenient and premature revelations upon private and confidential matters. … Then there is Creevey’s own correspondence with various people, especially with Brougham, which evidently contains things Brougham is anxious to suppress, for he has taken pains to prevent the papers from falling into the hands of any person likely to publish them, and has urged Vizard to get possession of them either by persuasion, or purchase, or both. In point of fact they are now in Vizard’s hands, and it is intended by him and Brougham, probably with the concurrence of others, to buy them of Creevey’s mistress, though who is to become the owner of the documents, or what the stipulated price, and what their contemplated destination, I do not know. The most extraordinary part of the affair is, that the woman has behaved with the utmost delicacy and propriety, has shown no mercenary disposition, but expressed her desire to be guided by the wishes and opinions of Creevey’s friends and connexions, and to concur in whatever measures may be thought best by them with reference to the character of Creevey, and the interests and feelings of those who might be affected by the conents of the papers. Here is a strange situation in which to find a rectitude of conduct, a moral sentiment, a grateful and disinterested liberality which would do honour to the highest birth, the most careful cultivation, and the strictest principle. It would be a hundred to one against any individual in the ordinary rank of society and of average good character acting with such entire absence of selfishness, and I cannot help being struck with the contrast between the motives and disposition of those who want to get hold of these papers, and of this poor woman who is ready to give them up. They, well knowing that, in the present thirst for the sort of information Creevey’s journals and correspondence contain, a very large sum might be obtained for them, are endeavouring to drive the best bargain they can with her for their own particular ends, while she puts her whole confidence in them, and only wants to do what they tell her she ought to do under the circumstances of the case.

More of Thomas Creevey soon!

Early Rumblings of a Regency From the Pens of Creevey, General and Captain Moore



Thomas Creevey

 Mr. Creevey to Dr. Currie.

22nd Aug., 1803.

“… I saw a great deal of Sheridan. We dined together several times, got a little bosky, and he took great pains to convince me he was sincere and confidential with me. … A plan of his relates to Ireland, and it is the substitution of a Council for the present Viceroy, the head of the Council to be the Prince of Wales, his assistants to be Lord Moira, Lord Hutchinson and Sheridan himself. The Prince is quite heated upon the subject; nothing else is discussed by them. Lord Hutchinson is as deep in the design as any of them, but God knows it is about as probable as the embassy of old Charley to Russia I believe Sherry is very much in the confidence of the Ministers. They have convinced him of the difficulty of pressing the King for any attentions to the Prince of Wales; he is quite set against him, and holds entirely to the Duke of York, who, on the other hand, is most odious to the Ministry. . . . Have you begun your visits to Knowsley yet? . . . If you see Mrs. Hornby, cultivate her. She is an excellent creature; her husband, the rector, is the most tiresome, prosy son of a —— I ever met with, but is worthy. . . .”



General Sir John Moore


General Sir John Moore to Mr. Creevey.

Sandgate, 15th Sept., 1803.

“. . . The newspapers have disposed of me and my troops at Lisbon and Cherbourgh, but we believe that we have not moved from this place. I begun to despair of seeing you here, and am quite happy to find that, at last, I am to have that pleasure. If the Miss Ords do not think they can trust to the Camp for beaux, or if they have any in attendance whose curiosity to see soldiers they may chuse to indulge, assure them that whoever accompanies them shall be cordially received by everybody here. . . .”

 

Capt. Graham Moore

Capt. Graham Moore, R.N., to Mr. Creevey.

“Plymouth, August 7th, 1803. “… I never had to do with a new ship’s company before made up of Falstaffs men—’decayed tapsters,’ etc., so I do not bear that very well and I get no seamen but those who enter here at Plymouth, which are very few indeed. The Admiralty will not let me have any who enter for the ship at any of the other ports, which cuts up my hopes of a tolerable ship’s company. … I hear sometimes from my brother Jack. He says they have had a review of his whole Corps before the Duke of York. . . . My mother was more delighted with the scene than any boy or girl of fifteen. N.B.—she is near 70. . . . She is an excellent mother of a soldier. I am not afraid of showing her to Mrs. Creevey, altho’ she is of a very different cast from what she has generally lived with. If Mrs. Creevey does not like her, I shall never feel how the devil she came to like me.

“Jack says his Corps are not at all what he would have them, yet that they will beat any of the French whom he leads them up to. I am convinced the French can make no progress in England, and do not believe now that they will attempt it; but how is all this to end? However that may be, as I am in for it, I wish to God I was tolerably ready, and scouring the seas. What the devil can Fox mean by his palaver about a military command for the Prince of Wales? That may come well enough from Mrs. Barham perhaps.”

Capt. Graham Moore, R.N., to Mr. Creevey.

Plymouth Dock, Feby. 1st, 1804.

“… I suppose you mean to join the set that prepare to worry the poor Doctor (Addington) when Parliament meets. What can he do? He seems, or we seem, to do as well as Bonoparte—fretting and fuming and playing off his tricks from Calais to Boulogne and back again. The fellow has done too much for a mere hum; he certainly will try something, and I hope to be in at the death of some of his expeditions. If they do not take my men, we shall soon be ready for sea again. New copper, my boy! we shall sail like the wind. . . .”

Mr. Creevey to Dr. Currie.

“2nd May, 1804.

“. . . It is felt by the Pittites that the Prince and a Regency must be resorted to, and as the Prince evinced on every occasion the strongest decision in favor of Fox, the Pittites are preparing for a reciprocity of good offices. God send we may have a Regency, and then the cards are in our hands. I wish you had seen the party of which I formed one in the Park just now. Lord Buckingham, his son Temple, Ld. Derby, Charles Grey, Ld. Fitzwilliam, Canning, Ld. Morpeth  and Ld. Stafford. . . . The four physicians were at Buckingham House this morning: I feel certain he (the King) is devilish bad.”

But, as we know, the Regency did not begin for another seven years.  We will post a number of excerpts from the many diarists and prolific letter writers of the Regency era in future blogs.  Watch for more from Mr. Creevey, his friends, his enemies and those who never had the privilege to be either.

FLORIZEL AND PERDITA MET ON 3 DECEMBER, 1779

by Victoria Hinshaw

The Prince of Wales, afterwards King George IV, after Sir William Beechey, circa 1806
George Prince of Wales was only 17 years old when he attended a performance of Florizel and Perdita, a play adapted from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale.  In the words of actress Mary Robinson’s biographer, Hester Davenport, the Prince “was looking for a woman to worship,” perhaps HAD been looking already, when he sat in his box at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and “fell in love.” 
As Ms. Davenport points out, this was not Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, but an adaptation by David Garrick, known as Florizel and Perdita, in which Perdita is a sweet and charming maiden. The Prince sent Mary notes addressed to Perdita and signed them Florizel, as though they were the characters in the play. So began his first publicly known affair, the first of many.  
Mary Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds
Mary was born Mary Darby in Bristol in November of 1757 or perhaps 1758, which made her a few years older than the prince (b. 1762). Her “disastrous” marriage at age 16 to Thomas Robinson brought her a daughter, Maria Elizabeth (b. 1774), but little financial or emotional support. Eventually, she began to perform on the London stage, often in “trouser roles,” playing young men and displaying her fine figure for all to admire.
Though Prince George did not remain faithful to her for long, Mary was known as Perdita all her life.  While she enjoyed the Prince’s attentions, she was the toast of London, extolled and excoriated in the newspapers, the object of considerable gossip in noble salons, especially among the males.

By the time the fanciful caricature above was published in 1783, the relationship was “quite out of date.” When the Prince quite publicly took up with other females, Mary refused to send back all his letters and other tokens of his fickle adoration. Later she received a not-so-secret payment in exchange for the return of some of them.

In 1781, Mary sat for a portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, commissioned by the Prince. In this version of the painting in the Wallace Collection above  (another is in the Royal Collection), Mary holds a miniature of the Prince in her right hand.

Mary had only a brief time in the limelight of the London demi-monde. Only a few year later, she was reported to be “desperately ill.” Various explanations for her condition have been suggested, but the causes of her maladies remain mysterious. In May of 1791, she published a book of poems, “a small but handsomely bound volume with marbeled end papers,” made possible by sums raised by 600 subscribers, including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Duke of Clarence and many other luminaries.

In 2010, Kristine and Victoria, along with Kristine’s daughter, Brooke, visited with Hester Davenport in Windsor, here at the Castle.

Hester Davenport chronicles the reception Mary’s book received. Readers seem to ask, “How was it possible to connect the frivolous woman of 1780s gossip with a writer of pensive odes, elegies and sonnets?” That Mary acquired the title ‘The English Sappho,’ possibly at her own instigation, may have added to the this (seductive) sense of being wooed.

Visiting the burial site of Mary Robinson in Old Windsor with Hester Davenport

Mary lived only a few more years, dying in 1800, having never recovered her health. She had, however, continued to write poetry as well as her memoirs, several novels, plays and feminist essays.  

Mary Robinson as Perdita by John Hoppner, 1782

As an endorsement of the value of her literary work, the painting of Mary Robinson by Hoppner, above, was acquired for the Chawton House Library, where it is displayed prominently. Many works by Mary Robinson are available from their website. Her biography is here.

We all hope that future scholars will pay attention to this fascinating woman and her body of work. In the epilogue of her biography, Hester Davnport writes, “Mary Robinson was dead: the talented actress, spectacular Cyprian, accomplished and industrious  author, committed feminist and radical, charming and witty hostess, spendthrift, devoted daughter and mother, compassionate, sensitive and sometimes spikily difficult woman.  A genius? Perhaps only in her extraordinary versatility, but not undeserving of the ‘One little laurel wreath,’ she craved.”

Mary Darby Robinson (1758? – 1800)
Note: Victoria, Jo Manning and Kristine lost their dear friend Hester Davenport in September 2013. We like to think that she and Perdita are together, drinking tea and catching up on two centuries worth of gossip.