WELLINGTON’S WATERLOO BREECHES

After the Battle of Waterloo, the nation presented the Duke of Wellington (left) with Strathfieldsaye, an estate between Basingstoke and Reading. The Duke, wishing to commemorate the event, planted a number of beech trees as a lasting memorial, which were known as “the Waterloo beeches.” Perhaps the Duke chose beeches due to the beech forest of Soignes, which lines the road between Brussels and Waterloo and through which the Duke would have ridden many times. In fact, the forest is so impressive that many contemporary odes and poems about Waterloo mention these “noble beeches.”

Some years later, the eminent arboricultural author, John Loudon (below), writing on the subject of the relative ages and sizes of trees, wrote to the Duke for permission to view the beeches at Stratfield Saye.

The Duke of Wellington received Loudon’s letter while sitting in the House of Lords. It was a note to this effect: “My Lord Duke—-It would gratify me extremely if you would permit me to visit Strathfieldsaye at any time convenient to your grace, and to inspect the Waterloo beeches. Your grace’s faithful servant, J. C. Loudon.”

Now, while Louden was an eminent horticulturalist, his handwritting could have stood some improvement.  The Duke read the letter twice, the writing of which was not very clear, and he took the signature to be that of J.C. London – the Bishop of London. He also mistook the word “beeches” to read “breeches.”

With his usual promptness and politeness, the Duke replied as follows, “My dear Bishop of London—It will always give me great pleasure to see you at Strathfieldsaye. Pray come there whenever it suits your convenience, whether I am at home or not. My servant will receive orders to show you as many pairs of my breeches as you may wish, but why you should wish to inspect those I wore at the battle of Waterloo is quite beyond the comprehension of Yours most truly, Wellington.”

The letter was received, as may be supposed, with great surprise by the Bishop of London (at left). He showed it to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to other discreet persons; they came to the melancholy conclusion that the great Duke of Wellington had evidently lost his senses. The Bishop of London (Blomfield) declared that he had not written to the duke for two years and to receive this extraordinary intimation puzzled the whole bench of bishops. Likewise, the Duke of Wellington had been having his own doubts as to the sanity of the Bishop of London and had been making his own discreet inquiries. Finally, the mistake was discovered, the original writer identified and all doubts about the sanity of two of England’s greatest minds were put to rest. No doubt Loudon was, indeed, allowed to visit the beeches and we have, preserved for posterity, yet another wonderful anecdote concerning the Duke of Wellington.

The Wellington Connection: Vauxhall Gardens

In the run up to the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, we’ll first take a look at the connection between Wellington, Waterloo and Vauxhall Gardens. The Gardens, known for it’s dark walks, supper boxes, fireworks, balloon ascents and other assorted amusements, also regularly cashed in on events that captured the public interest, including the Battle of Waterloo. As best as I can discover, a recreation of the Battle was held each year, the event attracting thousands to the Gardens.

In 1817, the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted with 1,000 soldiers participating, for which E. A. Theleur composed The Soldier’s Return, a “Military Divertissement.”

The European Magazine tells us that in 1824 –

“On the 19th of June, the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo was commemorated at these gardens by a grand military fete. Flags of all the nations of Europe waved from the trees, whose dark foliage was finely contrasted with the uncommon brilliancy of the lamps, of which there were upwards of 12,000 additional, arranged in various devices. A transparency of the Duke of Wellington presented itself in the most conspicuous part of the garden, flanked on each side by the word ‘Waterloo’ in variegated colours. In the ballet of the Chinese Wedding the Minuet de la Cour, the Gavutte, and a quadrille, were introduced by the pupils of Monsieur Hullin. The concert consisted of appropriate military songs, &c; and amongst the cosmoramas was one piece painted expressly for the occasion, representing the Battle of Waterloo. The fire-works were more than usually splendid, and concluded with a double glory of sixty-two rays, with ‘Wellington” in the centre, and the words ‘Long may he live.’ The company was numerous and respectable, comprising many persons of fashion; and, upon the whole, the fete passed off without considerable trial.”

The Battle of Waterloo, complete with horses, foot soldiers, and set scenes, was again presented at Vauxhall in 1827 and 1828. In 1827, Charles Farley, of Covent Garden Theatre, produced in the Gardens a representation of the Battle of Waterloo, with set-scenes of La Belle Alliance and the wood and chateau of Hougomont; also horse and foot soldiers, artillery, ammunition-wagons, &c.

From Bell’s Weekly Messenger for Sunday, June 26, 1831 –

“On Monday night the grand Annual Fete in commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo was given at these gardens. The proprietors of this elegant place of amusement exerted themselves to render the embellishments worthy of the occasion. Immediately on entering the gardens the name of Wellington presented itself in the brilliant illumination. Many thousand additional lamps, arranged in emblematical devices, were put up, interspersed with appropriate banners and devices. These attractions, added to the Concert, the Singers of the Alps, the Dioramic Views, the Optical Illusions, the new Cosmoramas, the Chin Melodist, and the German Whistler, seemed to give the company, which was numerous, a high degree of pleasure. The whole closed with a brilliant display of Fireworks and a Water Scene.”

What the Alps, a Chin Melodist and a German Whistler had in common with the Duke, or Waterloo, I have no idea. However, it seems that all who deigned to write about the event mention the fabulous fireworks. This next bit is from The Idler and Breakfast-Table Companion – “The anniversary of the “Battle of Waterloo” was celebrated on Monday last, by a magnificent gala at these gardens. The company were particularly select and numerous, and the entertainments of the most brilliant description;—the fireworks especially. The weather appears now to be settled; the worthy proprietors may therefore calculate on a host of visitors. A walk round the ‘Royal Property,’ on a fine evening, is a great treat.”

And, from The London Literary Gazette and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, Etc 1828 –

“It happened to be the night of the re-celebration of the battle of Waterloo. For at Vauxhall it was found profitable to keep such festivals twice over, and the place was all in a blaze with emblems of military glory. The names of Wellington and Waterloo showed fiery off indeed in particoloured flame, and seemed a pattern for History to write of the hero—` With a pencil of light.’”

From The Works of Thomas Hood: Comic and Serious – “There was an abundance of illumination, but we think we have seen the ornaments more tastefully and airily disposed. The trophy shields were formal, and the crowns somewhat lumpish and heavy—light, as Dr. Donne would quibble, should be light— but there was a seasonable and splendid rose in June that did honour to the genius of the lamps.”

The tendency towards nit-picking evident in the passage above was expounded upon by the correspondent for The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction (1828) –

“On Wednesday, being a grand gala night in honour of the victory of Waterloo, we were induced to visit this place of resort—we would say of entertainment, had we found any; but a more miserably perverted source of public amusement than these same ‘Royal Gardens’ have become, it has never been our lot to endure. The entire character of the thing is altered, and glare and mummery have destroyed the original form and nature of the scene. Time was, when, from the bustling of business and the turmoil of the city, and even from the routs and crowded assemblies of fashionable life,—persons found an agreeable variety at Vauxhall. There was a lamp illumination, it is true—but here and there the turf was verdant, and every where the trees were green: there were sights—but they properly belonged to a rustic order, such as gentle transparencies, congenial landscapes, and at the utmost a fantoccini to divert the younger classes: there was music, too—but it was in the single orchestra, to which the promenader approached at times to hear a pretty ballad, and thus diversify the gossip-spent hour. Altogether, the Gardens were what they ought to be—essentially rural and recreative; now they are a hot, glittering, and noisy compound of all that is inferior in theatrical representations, shows, and vulgar nonsense-—a mixture of Astley’s, Bartholomew Fair . . . offensive to the eye and ear, and either tedious or distracting to the mind, as you happen to witness one performance, or be hurried to another. The company, too, which was always rather of a mixed description, is now much lowered, in consequence of the altered kind of the amusements. A mob of less attractive London materiel than we met on Wednesday can hardly be imagined. Low varlets, from the desk, the counter, and the shop-board, staring most impudently in the face of every woman, were only not so disgusting as usual, because the vast majority of the females were precisely of castes to whom such vulgarity could give no displeasure — in short, the Joes were well matched with the Jills; and a premium might have been safely offered for the discovery of any one gentleman or lady in ‘the hundred,’ or, indeed, of twenty persons of respectability in the whole mass. Then there was prepared for this worshipful company a poor vaudeville in the Row-tunder (as most of them called it), and a wretched ballet in the theatre. There were pictures, and cosmoramas, and Ching Louro, and a consort (also agreeably to the language of the place). But, above all, there was a mimic battle of Waterloo; and such a battle as ear never saw, nor eye heard! At the end of a walk, a crowd of men in uniform marched in and marched out; and Mr. Ducrow, dressed like the portrait of Buonaparte, capered and fidgetted about on a pale horse; while his Grace of Wellington curvetted on a piebald with a white face, which had nearly floored his excellent rider several times in the course of his masterly though limited evolutions on the field of war. After the footmen had walked here and there for about half an hour, and the horsemen had cantered up and down through the ten or a dozen trees and back again for as long a space of wasted time—the patient crowd of spectators waiting all the while and wondering what would come of it—a fierce attack was made upon a canvas ‘Hugomont,’ muskets were popped off, squibs thrown, and at last a rocket or a Chinese candle was supposed to set fire to the place, which was burnt down, to our great edification, and the curtain drawn. To this puerile and absurd spectacle succeeded the fire-works; and the weary visitors began to troop off as fast as they could, from so gay, so grand, and so delightful a treat—except a few of the most carnivorous and tipsy, who remained in congenial society—how long we cannot tell.

“The expense incurred in rendering Vauxhall so stupid and tiresome must be very considerable—but as complete success seems to have attended the effort, it is not to be grudged; and in these times of national distress the citizens of London, their wives and children, have no right to any relaxation. To be sure it must be paid for pretty smartly, if they are admitted to any comfort in these Gardens. Of old, a half-crown at the door, and the price of such comestibles as were devoured, were grumbled at, as tax enough; but now the account stands in a fairer form, because you are distinctly charged for every item separately, so that you know what you are paying for, and may choose or reject as you think fit. Thus Mr. Bull, from Aldgate, with Mrs. Bull, and only four of the younger Bulls and Cows, numbering six in all, makes good his entry at the cost of 1/. s.— Books to tell them what they are to see and hear, the when and the how, are 3s. — Seats for the vaudeville (average of modest places), 9s ditto for the ballet, ditto for the battle, 6s.—ditto for the fire-works, 6s., total, 21. 14. But, then, they are not charged for seeing the lamps; there is no charge for walking round the walks; there is no charge for looking at the cosmoramic pictures; there is no charge for casting a glance at the orchestra; there is no charge for staring at the other people; there is no charge for bowing or talking to an acquaintance, if you meet one—all these are gratis; and if you neither eat nor drink, there is no charge for witnessing those who do mangle the long-murdered honours of the coop, and gulp down the most renovating of liquors, be they hale or stout, vite vine, red port, or rack punch.

“Our account of these superb and captivating entertainments has, we regret to observe, stretched to a greater length than we could have wished; but when it is recollected that we do not intend to go to Vauxhall again very soon, we trust our particularity will be excused, and our tedious prolixity thought very appropriate to the subject.”

Despite such scathing reviews, Vauxhall Gardens continued to endure, and to mount recreations of the Battle. Perhaps the year 1849 was the crowning re-enactment, for the Duke (at left) himself made an appearance, as described by Edward Walford in Old and New London

“Vauxhall Gardens, down to a very late date, still attracted ‘the upper ten thousand ‘—occasionally, at least. We are told incidentally, in Forster’s ‘Life of Dickens,’ that one famous night, the 29th of June, 1849, Dickens went there with Judge Talfourd, Stanfield, and Sir Edwin Landseer. The ‘Battle of Waterloo’ formed part of the entertainment on that occasion. ‘We were astounded,’ writes Mr. Forster, ‘to see pass in immediately before us, in a bright white overcoat, the ‘great duke’ himself, with Lady Douro (his daughter-in-law) on his arm, the little Lady Ramsays (daughters of the Earl of Dalhousie) by his side, and everybody cheering and clearing the way for him. That the old hero enjoyed it all there could be no doubt, and he made no secret of his delight . . but the battle was undeniably tedious, and it was impossible not to sympathise with the repeatedly and audibly expressed wish of Talfourd that ‘the Prussians would come up!’ It must have been one of the old duke’s last appearances in a place of amusement, as he lived only three years longer.”

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.”

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON AILING

Originally published on February 16, 2012

From The Greville Memoirs:

February 15th (1840) (Saturday) — The Duke of Wellington had a serious seizure on Thursday (1) He dines early, and he rode out after dinner. The first symptom of something wrong was, that he could not make out the numbers on the doors of the houses he wanted to call at. He went to Lady Burghersh, and when he came away, the footman told his groom he was sure his Grace was not well, and advised him to be very attentive to him. Many people were struck with the odd way he sat on his horse. As he went home this got more apparent. When not far from Apsley House he dropped the reins out of his left hand, but took them up with the other, and when he got to his own door, he found he could not get off his horse. He felt his hand chilled. This has been the first symptom in each of his three attacks. He was helped off. Hume was sent for, came directly, and got him to bed. He had a succession of violent convulsions, was speechless, and his arm was affected. They thought he would have died in the night. The doctors came, physicked but did not bleed him, and yesterday morning he was better. He has continued to mend ever since, but it was a desperate blow, and offers a sad prospect. He will probably again rally, but these things must be always impending, and his mind must be affected, and will be thought to be so. Lyndhurst asked me last night what could be done. He said, ‘The Duke ought now to retire from public life, and not expose himself to any appearance of an enfeebled understanding. Above all things to be deprecated is, that he should ever become a dotard like Marlborough, or a driveller like Swift.’ ‘How,’ he said, ‘would Aberdeen do?’ He owned that nobody could replace the Duke or keep the party in order, and he said that the consequence would be it would break up, that ‘there are many who would be glad of an opportunity toleave it.’ This I told him I did not believe, but it certainly is impossible to calculate on the consequences of the Duke’s death, or, what is nearly the same thing, his withdrawal from the lead of the party.

The Duke of Wellington by Count Alfred d’Orsay

February 16th.—The Duke of Wellington, although his life was in such danger on Thursday night, that the chances were he would die, has thrown off his attack in a marvellous manner, and is now rapidly approaching to convalescence, all dangerous symptoms subsiding. The doctors, both Astley Cooper and Chambers, declare that they have never seen such an extraordinary power of rallying in anybody before in the whole course of their practice, and they expect that he will be quite as well again as he was before. It is remarkable that he has an accurate recollection of all the steps of his illness from the first perception of uneasy sensations to the moment of being seized with convulsions. He first felt a chillness in his hand, and he was surprised to find himself passing and repassing Lady Burghersh’s house without knowing which it was. He called, however, and went up; and to her enquiry—for she was struck with his manner—he replied that he was quite well. Going home he dropped the rein, but caught it up with the other hand. When he arrived at his door, the servants saw he could not get off his horse, and helped him, and one of them ran off instantly for Hume. The Duke walked into his sitting-room, where Hume found him groaning, and standing by the chimney-piece. He got him to bed directly, and soon after the convulsions came on.

Wellington’s niece, Priscilla (Wellesley-Pole) Burghersh, Countess of Westmorland.
February 21st.—On Thursday morning I got a note from Arbuthnot, desiring I would call at Apsley House. When I got there, he told me that the Duke of Cambridge had sent for Lord Lyndhurst to consult him; that they were invited to meet the Queen on Friday at the Queen Dowager’s, and he wanted to know what he was to do about giving precedence to Prince Albert. Lord Lyndhurst came to Apsley House and saw the Duke about it, and they agreed to report to the Duke of Cambridge their joint opinion that the Queen had an unquestionable right to give him any precedence she pleased, and that he had better concede it without making any difficulty.
Charles Arbuthnot

February 25th.—Yesterday I saw the Duke of Wellington, whom I had not seen for above six months, except for a moment at the Council just after his first illness. He looked better than I expected—very thin, and his clothes hanging about him, but strong on his legs, and his head erect. The great alteration I remarked was in his voice, which was hollow, though loud, and his utterance, which, though not indistinct, was very slow. He is certainly now only a ruin. He is gone to receive the Judges at Strathfieldsaye, and he will go on again when he comes back to town, and hold on while he can. It is his desire to die with the harness on his back, and he cannot endure the notion of retirement and care of his life, which is only valuable to him while he can exert it in active pursuits. I doubt if he could live in retirement and inactivity—the life of a valetudinarian.

March 12th.—The Duke of Wellington has reappeared in the House of Lords, goes about, and works as usual, but everybody is shocked and grieved at his appearance.

August 19th.—In the conversation at which Aberdeen told Clarendon this, he dilated upon the marvellous influence of the Duke, and the manner in which he treated his followers, and the language they endured from him. Clarendon asked him whether, when the Duke retired, he had any hopes of being able to govern them as well; to which he replied that he had not the slightest idea of it; on the contrary, that it would be impossible, that nobody else could govern them, and when his influence was withdrawn, they would split into every variety of opinion according to their several biases and dispositions. He said he did not think the Duke of Wellington had ever rendered greater service in his whole life than he had done this session in moderating violence and keeping his own party together and in order, and that he could still do the most essential service in the same way, and much more than by active leading in Parliament.

(1.) The Duke was seventy when he had this seizure, supposed at the time to be fatal, at least to his faculties. But he lived for twelve years more and continued during the greater part of that time to render great public services and to lead the Tory party.

CHRISTMAS PAST – IN THEIR OWN WORDS

What would Christmas be without our trimming the tree? Some believe that it was Prince Albert who introduced the custom of the Christmas tree to England, while others maintain that they were introduced to England by King George III’s German wife, Queen Charlotte. However, it was only circa 1848, after the London Illustrated News ran the engraving depicting showing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating  around the Christmas tree with their children (above) that this tradition caught on with the public.
The painting above, Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree at Windsor in 1850 as painted by James Roberts (1824 – 1867), depicts presents around the tree from Prince Albert. We thought it might prove amusing to see what others had written about the Christmas tree in centuries past.
From Recollections from 1803 to 1837 by Amelia Murray:
“Christmas-trees are now common. In the early part of this century they were seldom seen, but Queen Charlotte always had one dressed up in the room of Madame Berkendorff, her German attendant; it was hung with presents for the children, who were invited to see it, and I well remember the pleasure it was to hunt for one’s own name, which was sure to be attached to one or more of the pretty gifts.”
From 20 Years at Court
The Hon. Eleanor Stanley (maid of honour to Queen Victoria, 1842-1862) to her Mother, Lady Mary Stanley, Windsor Castle, Saturday, Dec. 25th, 1847.
“Dearest Mama,—A merry Xmas, and many happy returns of the day to you and all the family at the dear old Castle. Yesterday evening we were desired, at a quarter to seven, to come down to the Corridor, to get our Gifts; we found all the gentlemen and Mrs. Anson already assembled, and presently the page desired us to go to the Oak-room, where the Queen and Prince already were, standing by a large table covered with a white cloth, in the middle of which was a little fir-tree, in the German fashion, covered with bonbons, gilt walnuts, and little coloured tapers. I send a bonbon as a Christmas box to little Blanche, which I took off the tree. . . . The children had each a little table with their new toys, and were running about in great glee showing them off; Prince Alfred, in a glorious tinsel helmet that almost covered his face, was shooting us all with a new gun, and Princess Alice was making us admire her dolls, etc. They had one Christmas tree among them, like us, but the Queen, Prince, and Duchess had each one, and altogether I never saw anything prettier than the whole arrangement.”
Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
From The Memoirs of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
Cambridge Cottage, January 1, 1848.

“My Dearest Draperchen,  (her former governess, Miss Draper, whom she addressed as ‘Ma chere Draperchen), . . . Our Christmas went off very well. The room was beautifully decorated ; there were four fine trees, and these were connected by wreaths of laurel evergreens and holly.”

by the same author

Cambridge Cottage, January 9, 1849
“The Christmas holidays have been very happily spent by the inmates of Cambridge Cottage, and I have received a number of cadeaux! Our Trees were arranged in the Conservatory, which was hung with festoons of evergreens, from which transparent lamps were suspended. The whole was well lighted up, and looked remarkably pretty, and the three trees were quite covered with bon-bons and fruit.”
Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower

From My Reminiscences By Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower

“At Trentham, Christmas 1854, I find, on turning the pages of that record of my early years, much detail regarding our Christmas gifts and of the Christmas tree; now so general in English homes at Yuletide, but then hardly seen but in a few English houses. Our German tutor claimed to have introduced this pretty custom in this country in our family, the first implanted out of Germany having been erected by him in the hall at Stafford House. Until recently there was always one of these Christmas trees, richly decked, placed in one of the drawing-rooms at Trentham on Christmas Eve; and the household attended to see the illuminations and receive the gifts that were one by one cut off from the lighted boughs. No one was forgotten, from the most honored of the guests down to the kitchen-maids and stable-men. Christmas was worthily maintained in those days at Trentham. Generally after the tree there came a ball for the servants, given in a long gallery overlooking the stable-yard. All took part in the dances, which, with itscountry dances and Highland flings and reels, when the Scotch piper was in great demand, were always most successful festivities.”

From Letters by Lady Harcourt, December 17, 1885

“Yesterday I made an excursion to the city with Hilda Deichmann and her husband to buy things for our Christmas trees. It was most amusing ransacking in all the big wholesale houses, and reminded me of my childish days and similar expeditions to Maiden Lane . . . . . . . . Our shopping was most successful. All the prettiest things come from the German shops. The ginger-bread animals were wonderful,—some horses and dogs with gilt tails and ears most effective. The decorations were really very pretty—the stars and angels quite charming.”

 

by the same author

To G. K. S., Albert Gate, London, December 24, 1885.

“The sisters and I have been shopping all day getting the last things for the tree, which is to be on the 26th. The streets are most animated, full of people, all carrying parcels, and all with smiling faces. . . We wound up at the Army and Navy Stores, and really had some difficulty in getting in. They had quantities of Christmas trees already decorated, which were being sold as fast as they were brought in.”

Wishing you a memorable Christmas!