After reading my “Couple In England” post on my outing in Mayfair and my stroll to Beau Brummell’s London townhouse in Chesterfield Street, author Rosemary Stevens just informed me that it has been on the market for nearly a year, with an asking price of nearly nine million pounds. Which firmly places it out of my price range, alas. Rosemary suggested that we all pool our money in order to buy it. A grand idea, but not practical when you figure out that we’d need at least five hundred some odd people to go in on it aside from ourselves. Not only would the crowd of us not fit in the house, but if we time shared the place, we’d each only get a half day each year. Sigh. Here’s the listing. Read it and weep. I know I did.
A new film has been announced – The Lady Who Went Too Far. From the writer and producer of The King’s Speech comes the story of Lady Hester Stanhope, based on the biography “Star of the Morning,” by Kirsten Ellis. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the story follows the life of world traveler Stanhope and contains elements of a political thriller as Hester moves through Europe and the Middle East.
“She was a female Lawrence of Arabia, a hundred years before Lawrence,” said screenwriter David Seidler, whose credits also include Tucker: The Man And His Dream.
“It wasn’t that she was trying to change the world, she was just living the life that she thought she should have been afforded, to go on these great adventures, she did have a voice that should be heard,” producer Gareth Unwin told Screen. “If you ever want to find great stories, you only have to look to our past.”
|Lady Hester Stanhope|
“Hers is a very powerful story that’s never been told cinematically before,” added biographer Kirsten Ellis. “She’s an undiscovered iconic emblem and the film will lift the lid on what made Hester spend half her life in the Middle East and what she tried to achieve there.”
In reviewing the book for The Independent, Robert Irwin swipes at Hester by closing with, “Though she (Ellis) writes well, it is not clear that her subject deserves so much devotion. During communal strife, Hester sheltered refugees and could be generous, but more often she was mean. She was also histrionic, superstitious, malicious and vainglorious. One has to rid oneself of the romantic trappings in order to see Hester Stanhope as what she became before her death in 1839 – a batty and embittered old English expat living on tick. There are thousands like her all over the world today.”
Of course, Reader, we are not concerned with those living today. We are, however, always interested in a true 19th century character, and as such Hester qualifies. As does Brummell if one is going to speak of being “histrionic, superstitious, malicious and vainglorious,” not to mention living on the tick. If authors were to stick only to those subjects who were worthy of praise or plaudits, the non-fiction shelves would be bare, indeed. Brava to Ellis for taking Hester on. We wait to hear who will play her in the film.
One of the first stops on our London and Waterloo tour will be a stroll through the St. James’s area of London. Here’s a bit of history:
St James’s was once part of the same royal park as Green Park and St. James’s Park. In the 1660s, Charles II gave the right to develop the area to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, who proceeded to develop it as a predominantly aristocratic residential area with a grid of streets centred on St James’s Square.
St James’s takes as its borders Piccadilly, Haymarket, the Mall and Green Park. This part of London became the centre of fashion in the 1530s when Henry VIII built St James’s Palace on the site of St James’s Hospital, a former leper hospital. The palace was one of the principal royal residences for more than 300 years and continues to be the Court’s official headquarters. Foreign ambassadors to the UK are still known officially as ‘Ambassador(s) to the the Court of St James’.
Until the Second World War, St James’s remained one of the most exclusive residential enclaves in London. Famous residences in St James’s include St James’s Palace, Clarence House, Marlborough House, Lancaster House, Spencer House, Schomberg House and Bridgewater House. It is now a predominantly commercial area with some of the highest rents in London and, consequently, the world. Corporate offices in St James’s include the global headquarters of BP and Rio Tinto Group. The auction house Christie’s is based in King Street, and the surrounding streets contain a great many upmarket art and antique dealers.
St James’s is also the home of many of the best known gentlemen’s clubs in London, and is sometimes, though not as often as formerly, referred to as “Clubland”. The “clubs” found here are organisations of English high society and include White’s, Boodle’s and Brooks’s Clubs. A variety of groups congregate here, such as: royals, military officers, motoring enthusiasts, and other groups. In 1990, the Carlton Club, traditional meeting place for members of the Conservative Party, was struck by an IRA bomb. In a similar vein, the area is also home to fine wine merchants Justerini and Brooks and Berry Brothers and Rudd, at numbers 61 and 3 St James’s Street respectively. Adjoining St James’s Street is Jermyn Street, famous for its many tailors. St James’s is also famous for being home to some of the most famous cigar retailers in London. At 35 St James’s Street is Davidoff of London, 19 St James’s Street is home to J.J. Fox and 50 Jermyn St has Dunhill; this makes the area a Cuban cigar haven.
Also once located in St. James’s was Almack’s Assembly Rooms in King Street, about which we’ll be blogging tomorrow. Visit the LondonTown page for St. James’s Street for an in-depth look at everything in the area today.
The statue of Brummell by Irena Sedlecka was erected on London’s Jermyn Street in 2002.