Originally published May, 2014

The first quadrille was danced at Almack’s –  pictured are the Marquis of Worcester, Lady Jersey, Claronald Macdonald and Lady Worcester.

The Duke of Wellington’s ties to the Marquis and Lady Worcester were fastened on both sides – Lord Worcester had served as an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, while the Marchioness of Worcester, Georgina Frederica, was the daughter of the Hon. Henry Fitzroy and the Duke’s sister, Lady Anne, and therefore Wellington’s niece. Prior to their marriage, Lady Shelly wrote in her diary, “Georgiana Fitzroy’s marriage was announced. It was to take place on the following Monday, when the Duke was to give her away. I hope that it will turn out well, but I have my doubts! Lord Worcester is only twenty-one, and very wild.”

The marriage proved happy enough but, at the age of 28, Georgina became gravely ill. The following account is from The Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope – ” . . . Lady Worcester was not expected to live thro’ last night. She was at the Birthday and at the ball, danced a great deal, felt unwell, and was fool enough to take a shower bath before she went to bed. She was seized with inflammation in her bowels and in great danger immediately. Lady Worcester’s sufferings were most extreme, her complaint a twisting of the guts. She died sensible but screaming. On one side of the bed sat Lady E. Vernon, on the other, Lady Jersey, also screaming with grief. The Duke of Wellington had to drag them by force out of the room. There were eighty people standing round when she died.”

Apsley House

Mrs. Arbuthnot’s Journal gives us another view of the events leading up to Lady Worcester’s death:
“Lady Worcester died after a week’s illness of inflammation brought on by going into a cold bath after dancing at the ball at Carlton House. She was only 28, one of the handsomest women in England, had made the most brilliant marriage and was flattered, followed and admired by all the world. It is sad to contrast all this brilliancy with the cold and dreary grave that will so soon close over her; and yet she will then have more tranquility, for her prospects were not happy ones. Lord Worcester, overwhelmed with debts, had lately had executions in his house and, if the Duke of Wellington had not given her rooms in his house, she would not have had a hole to put her head into. . . . .

The New Monthly Magazine ran the following report about her death on May 11, 1821 — At Apsley House, the Marchioness of Worcester, of an internal inflammation. Her Ladyship was Georgiana Frederica Fitzroy, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Henry Fitzroy, son of Charles, first Lord Southampton, brother of the Duke of Grafton, by Lady Anne Wellesley, sister of the Duke of Wellington and Marquis Wellesley; and was married to the Marquis of Worcester on the 25th of July, 1814. Her Ladyship was one of the most intimate and favourite friends of the late Princess Charlotte.

And from the Greville Diary – May 12th.—I have suffered the severest pain I ever had in my life by the death of Lady Worcester.1 I loved her like a sister, and I have lost one of the few persons in the world who cared for me, and whose affection and friendship serve to make life valuable to me. She has been cut off in the prime of her life and in the bloom of her beauty, and so suddenly too. Seven days ago she was at a ball at Court, and she is now no more. She died like a heroine, full of cheerfulness and courage to the last. She has been snatched from life at a time when she was becoming every day more fit to live, for her mind, her temper, and her understanding were gradually and rapidly improving; she had faults, but her mind was not vicious, and her defects may be ascribed to her education and to the actual state of the society in which she lived. Her virtues were inherent in her character; every day developed them more and more, and they were such as to make the happiness of all who lived with her and to captivate the affection of all who really knew her. I have never lost anyone I loved before, and though I know the grief I now feel will soon subside (for so the laws of nature have ordained), long, long will it be before I forget her, or before my mind loses the lively impression of her virtues and of our mutual friendship.

“This is one of those melancholy events in life to which the mind cannot for a long time reconcile or accustom itself. I saw her so short a time ago ‘ glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy;’ the accents of her voice still so vibrate in my ear that I cannot believe I shall never see her again. What a subject for contemplation and for moralising! What reflections crowd into the mind!

“Dr. Hume told me once he had witnessed many death beds, but he had never seen anything like the fortitude and resignation displayed by her. She died in his arms, and without pain. As life ebbed away her countenance changed, and when at length she ceased to breathe, a beautiful and tranquil smile settled upon her face.”

Emily, Duchess of Beaufort

As stated above, Lady Worcester died on 11 May 1821, and on 29 June 1822, her husband Lord Worcester married Lady Anne’s other daughter, Emily Frances. This opens up a whole can of worms, as it was against the law for a widow or widower to marry a brother or sister-in-law. How did they get around this? It might have been due to the fact that Emily had been Lady Worcester’s half sister – their mother, Lady Anne’s husband, Henry Fitzroy died on the 19 March 1794, and on 2 August 1799 Lady Anne was remarried to Charles Culling Smith. Their daughter Emily Frances Smith was born on the 3 March 1800.

On 23 November, 1835 Emily became the Duchess of Beaufort.  She died on 2 October 1889 at age 89 and was buried at Badminton. Her mother, Lady Anne Smith, died in 1844.


Benjamin Disraeli
Sir Issac Newton
Viscount Henry Palmerston

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Originally published October, 2010

Recently, I came across a book online called The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks: A Pictorial Guide by John Delaney, held in the Manuscripts Division in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library. The making of death masks became popular in the 1800s, but the practice has much older roots. The first masks and effigies made in wax directly from the features of the deceased date from medieval Europe. Personally, I don’t get death masks. All of the people from whom death masks were taken were prominent people who had had numerous portraits and busts taken during their lifetimes. Why not remember them thusly, in the prime of their lives, rather than take an image of them in old age – withered, toothless and, more often than not, after having just suffered hours of agony? Perhaps my aversion to death masks is a woman thing. After all, I’ve yet to come across the death mask of a female.   

Making a plaster death mask, New York circa 1908, George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress
I’d much rather remember, and hang on my wall, a picture of the Duke of Wellington looking like he does in the banner of this blog rather than like this:

The Duke of Wellington

In a volume titled, “The life of Richard Owen”, by Rev. Richard Owen (1894) there is reference to the death mask above in a letter written on November 13, 1852, to Mr. Thomas Poyser, of Wirksworth : ” I have been particularly favoured in respect of the remarkable solemnities in honour of the memory of the great Duke. The present amiable inheritor of the title called on me last Wednesday to request that I would call on him to see the cast that had been taken after the Duke’s demise, and give some advice to a sculptor who is restoring the features in a bust, intending to show the noble countenance as in the last years of the Duke’s life. It is a most extraordinary cast. It appears that the Duke had lost all his teeth, and the natural prominence of the chin and nose much exaggerates the intermediate space caused by the absorption of the alveoli. He of course wore a complete set of artificial teeth when he spoke or ate. My last impression of the living features is a very pleasing one. I brought it away vividly in my mind from Lord Ellesmere’s great ball last July.”

Napoleon’s Death Mask
Or is it? Is this the face of a short and rather dumpy fifty-one year old man? Napoleon died on May 5th, 1821, on the small island of St. Helena where he had been exiled for life after his shattering defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. A cast for a death mask was made by Dr. Francis Burton within a day and a half of Napoleon’s death. But, there was another doctor present at the time of Napoleon’s death, Dr. Antommarchi, who some say was mistakenly credited as the doctor who made the original mold. Immediately after the cast was made, it was stolen. It is believed that a woman named Madame Bertrand, Napoleon’s attendant, took the mold and sailed back to England. Dr. Burton tried but was unsuccessful in getting the cast back. Several years later a death mask turned up and was authenticated as being the original by Dr. Antommarchi, though historians have always argued against it, as the Antommarchi mask looked much too young to have been Napoleon, no to mention that bones of the face are heavier, the face itself longer and proportionally different when compared to the portraits that had been painted of the Emperor Napoleon. It is the official mask currently on display at Les Invalides in Paris, France.
Some believe that the death mask above was actually molded from the living face of the Emperor’s valet, Jean-Baptiste Cipriani.

This is the mask that is thought to be authentic:

This death mask was on display at the Royal United Services Institute Museum in London for many years prior to 1973, when the mask was sold. You decide . . . . . here is one of the last portraits of Napoleon, painted by Sir Charles Lock Eastlake on board the ship Bellerophon.

And here is an enlargement of the face

Viola. Ze case it has rested. At least in my mind.

And the strange tales concerning death masks continue – It seems that there was once a special tunnel used to transport the bodies of the hanged from Worcester Gaol to the nearby Royal Infirmary, which stood across the road from the prison and has since been demolished. Until 1832, only criminals’ bodies were allowed to be dissected for medical research in the UK. The tunnel was found during work to transfom the former hospital into the new campus for the University of Worcester in the 1950’s – as were a number of death masks in the tunnel. These casts had been made to study the characteristics of the criminals’ personalities using physiognomy (shape and size of the head) and phrenology (study of the site of different abilities on the head), once thought to be useful in predicting criminal behaviour. The masks are now on display at the George Marshall Medical Museum in Worcester.
Perhaps the strangest story concerning a death mask – and physiognomy – is that involving Gershon Evan, who went on to live another 64 years after his mask was taken. In September 1939, 16 year old  Evan was arrested along with 1,000 other young Jewish men and taken to Vienna’s Prater Stadium, where all were detained for weeks. Seeking out those with classic “Semitic” features, Nazi scientists — a commission of the anthropology department of the Natural History Museum — selected 440 men for study. Hair samples, fingerprints, hereditary/ biological appraisals and numerous photographs of the men were taken. The length and width of their noses, lips, chins and other facial features were meticulously documented. Evan was one of them. Soon after, Evan was ordered to submit to having a death mask taken.
“My head on the pillow, I stretched out on the table and closed my eyes,” he recalled in his memoirs years later. “The man advised me to relax, while he coated my face with a greasy substance. He applied it from the top o
f my forehead down to the throat and from ear to ear. The lubricant, he explained, was to prevent the hardened plaster of Paris from sticking to my skin.” At the end of the procedure, the death mask was removed, catalogued and archived. Evan was given a single cigarette for his troubles before being moved to Buchenwald, from where he was miraculously released four months later. At age 80, Evan was shown his preserved death mask and barely recognised himself in the youthful face held between the hands of a museum curator.

For more on death masks, including instructions on how to make one, visit Carlyn Becchia’s Raucous Royals blog.


The Duke of Wellington died at Walmer Castle on September 14, 1852

 From The History of Walmer and Walmer Castle by Charles Robert Stebbing Elvin (1894)
The Duke of Wellington was Lord Warden for nearly four and twenty years, and during all that time rarely missed coming to Walmer after the prorogation of Parliament, staying usually till about the middle of November; and, before leaving for Strathfieldsaye, generally held at Dover a Court of Lodemanage, to discuss and settle the affairs of the Cinque Ports’ pilots.

For some years before his death, the Duke had been in failing health. Seated in the drawing-room in his favourite armchair, he would often, after dinner, take a newspaper in one hand and a candle in the other, and fall asleep while reading in this dangerous position, to the great anxiety of his friend and companion, Mr. Arbuthnot. The end came suddenly at last. The Duke was accustomed to rise early, but, on September 14th, 1852, when his valet called him as usual at six o’clock, he found the Duke particularly drowsy, and thought it best to leave him undisturbed for an hour longer. He therefore withdrew, but remained within hearing. It was fortunate he did so, for soon after he was alarmed at hearing groans from the Duke’s room, and on re-entering was requested to send for Dr. Hulke of Deal, who came, prescribed some simple remedies, and, seeing nothing serious in the Duke’s condition, departed. Shortly after this, however, the Duke became much worse, and messages were despatched for further help. On the return of Dr. Hulke with his son and Dr. McArthur, they found his Grace breathing laboriously, unconscious, and very restless. To assist respiration he was raised and put into his easy chair, where for a time he breathed more freely; but the end was very near, and at five and twenty minutes past three he expired. A message had meanwhile been sent to London for Dr. Williams, who only arrived in time to find the mortal remains of his illustrious patient laid out upon his little camp-bed.

The Union Jack now drooped at half-mast high upon the castle ramparts; announcing to the world that the Iron Duke, the nation’s idol was no more. The body of the departed hero remained at Walmer Castle until the eleventh of November, in the irregularly-shaped room shown in the engraving; which still retains the name of “The Duke’s Room.” The scene at Walmer, subsequent to the removal, cannot be better described than in the following extract from a contemporary record, which conveys a most graphic idea of all the solemn proceedings of this time :—” In the small irregularly shaped death-chamber lay the body of the Duke, inclosed in an outer coffin covered with crimson velvet, and with handles and funeral decorations richly gilt. On the lid, near the head, rested the ducal coronet, and beyond it the pall, gathered back, to give visitors a complete view. The coffin rested on a low stand, covered with black cloth, round which candelabra with huge wax lights and plumes of feathers were arranged. The walls and roof of the small apartment were, of course, hung with black cloth, the single deep-recessed window closed, and candles, reflected against silver sconces, barely relieved the gloom of the sombre display. Visitors entering at one door passed by the end of the coffin, and then out at another without interruption. The ante-chambers and corriders were also darkened, hung with black, and lighted with candles placed at intervals on the side walls.

“The first day for admission of the public was Tuesday (Nov. 9th). Through the low strong archway of the entrance the visitors passed, first, along the curved glass-covered passage, then through the dimly lighted anterooms into the chamber of death, and then along corridors and down staircases and across the garden on to the beach. All the way at a few paces distance from each other on either hand, the guard of honour of the Rifle Brigade were placed, each man with his arms reversed, and leaning in a sorrowful attitude on his musket. Along the beach, as far as the eye could reach towards Deal, a long train of visitors dressed in mourning passed and repassed throughout the day, while from greater distances conveyances arrived and took their departure in quick succession.”
The stream of visitors continued throughout the Tuesday, and until four o’clock in the afternoon of the following day; during which time upwards of nine thousand people are said to have visited the chamber of the late Duke to witness the lying in state. But about 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 10th), the body was removed to Deal Station, en route for London, under an escort of about 150 men of the Rifle Brigade, commanded by Colonel Beckwith, and attended by mourning coaches in which were seated the Duke’s eldest son and successor, Lord Arthur Hay, Captain Watts, Mr. Marsh of the Lord Chamberlain’s office, and others.

The Duke of Wellington

As the funeral cortege prepared to leave the grounds, the solemn booming of the minute-guns resounded from the castle walls; while the wind brought back the echo from Deal and Sandown, where the like honour was paid to the memory of the deceased. Down the “sombre avenue,” lighted by the lurid glare from the flambeaux with which a body of men led the way, and through the silent crowds who lined the road undeterred by chill darkness of a November night, winded the slow procession; moving with measured tread, until at length they reached Deal Station; the melancholy march of a mile and three-quarters having occupied no less than one hour and a half. There they were awaited by Mr. James Macgregor, M.P., the chairman of the South-Eastern Railway Company; and the hearse having been transferred to a truck, the journey onward to London was resumed at a quarter past nine.

 “Funeral of the Duke of Wellington the funeral car passing the archway at Apsley House”

On arriving at the Bricklayers’ Arms station, the hearse with the coffin was removed to Chelsea Hospital, under an escort of the 1st Life Guards; and there the remains of the Duke continued to lie in state till removed for the Grand State Funeral which took place on the following Thursday, November 18th.
In 1861, shortly after the appointment of Lord Palmerston (as Lord of the Cinque Ports), several articles were removed from (the Duke of Wellington’s room at Walmer) to Apsley House, with the consent of Lord Dalhousie’s executors, in consequence of a threatened sale by auction; but these have all been recently restored, through the generosity of the present Duke of Wellington, as related further on; and “The Duke’s Room” is once again as it used to be, even to the yellow moreen curtains and the orignal bedding and chair-cover. The bookshelves have, however, been wisely covered with glass doors, and so converted into a cabinet, in which many articles of interest are kept under lock and key; including the Duke’s set of his own printed despatches, in twelve vols., the first volume of which has been despoiled of its title-page by some thief, or thievish collector, for the sake no doubt of the autograph. This cabinet also contains, among other things, two pairs of “Wellington” boots, and a volume of Statutes relating to the Cinque Ports, of the date of 1726. The latter was presented to the Duke of Wellington by Lord Mahon, and contains the autograph of each. One pair of the “Wellingtons,” described in the schedule of heirlooms as a pair of “Field Marshall’s ‘Wellington’ boots,” are believed to be the same that were worn by the Duke at the Battle of Waterloo. The famous camp-bedstead has now a green velvet coverlet, presented by the Countess of Derby in 1893.

The engravings in this room include portraits of Mrs. Siddons, Mr. Burke, and Lord Onslow, as well as the Duke’s print of the Chelsea pensioners reading the Gazette announcing the victory at Waterloo; and in the adjoining dressing-room, is a curious piece of work, made by the Duke’s house carpenter and shown at the Exhibition in 1851, being the representation of Strathfieldsaye House, in the form of a picture, composed it is said of 3,500 pieces of wood. The Duke of Wellington thought so much of this picture that it used to hang during his lifetime in the dining-room.


Most people think that Victoria, Diane and I go out of way when in England to find all things Wellington, but it’s just not so. Oh, sometimes we do, like when I visit my antiques dealer in London or when we go to places like Apsley House and Walmer Castle, but you’d be surprised how many random Wellington’s there are to be found in England. Here are just a few examples, most of which were randomly happened upon. 
Above, my favourite antique dealer, Mark Sullivan, holding my latest Artie-fact
Above and below, National Portrait Gallery
Above Royal Chelsea Hospital
Above, the Duke of Wellington Pub, Sloane Square
Above and below, the Wellington Pub, Strand
Above Somerset House
Above, Preston Manor, Brighton
Above lobby, Royal Horseguards Hotel

Above, moored on the Thames
Above, Apsley House


When last we met, I was sitting in the Duke of Wellington Pub (affectionately known as the Duke of Boots) just off of Sloane Square, nursing my rum and coke after the Nigel Havers debacle (Nigel Havers!) Unfortunately, I had to leave the pub sometime, so Diane and I got a cab and prepared to head back across town to the theatre district, as we had tickets for a play this evening. 
Once inside the cab, we saw . . . . well, why tell you what we saw when I can show you?
Buckingham Palace, above and below.
Palace above, Victoria Memorial below.
The Mall, above, and the Duke of York column, below. 
Driving along the Embankment, above and below.
Heading towards Admiralty Arch with traffic at a crawl, above and below.
Through the Arch. Waiting to enter Trafalgar Square. 
Inching towards Trafalgar Square. Lucky if three cars get through on each light change. 
Red light again . . . . . Drummonds Bank, below.
Still in Trafalgar Square . . . . 
Yup. Still here. Oh, look, a lion!
Still crawling through the Square.
More lions . . . . honestly, we just should have gotten out and walked.
And we’re through! Finally. . . . frankly, I’m exhausted just reliving that drive. I’ll have to wait till the next installment in order to tell you which play we saw. 
I’ll give you a hint – Nigel Havers wasn’t in it. 
Part Five Coming Soon!

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: Prinny's Fete Honoring the Duke of Wellington

On July 21,1814 the Prince Regent held a Fete in the temporary rooms in the garden of Carlton House to honor the Duke of Wellington. The first of the two thousand guests began to arrive at nine o’clock. They were received at the grand entrance by equerries who conducted the guests to the fanciful rooms and tents on the garden front of Carlton House.

John Nash built a series of temporary rooms and buildings in the garden at Carlton House to house the fete. The illustration at right depicts the side garden in 1820. A polygonal ballroom one hundred and twenty feet in diameter with a tented roof was the main feature. The room was brick with a leaded roof. The interior of the ballroom was designed to give the impression of summer light, airiness, and festivity. It was designed to replicate a huge bell tent so the umbrella shaped ceiling was painted to resemble muslin. The upper walls and ceiling were then hung with gilt cords and tassels to further the resemblance to a tent. Muslin draperies covered the walls. They were swagged open to reveal mirrors hung on the walls. The ballroom was illuminated with twelve sparkling chandeliers. A pair of flower covered temples had been erected in the polygonal ballroom to screen the bands. A covered promenade hung with draperies and rose colored cords led to a Corinthian temple. Inside was a marble bust of the Duke of Wellington by Turnerelli placed on a column in front of a large mirror engraved with a star and a capital letter W. Another covered walkway hung with green calico displayed transparencies representing such subjects as the “Overthrow of Tyranny by the Allied Power”. Elsewhere in the garden were supper tents and refreshment rooms hung with white and rose curtains and with regimental colors printed on silk.

The Regent himself appeared in his field marshal’s full dress uniform wearing his English, French, and Prussian orders. He had long wished to be made a field marshal of the British army, but his father had steadfastly refused on the grounds that since George was the Prince of Wales and several of his brothers were pursuing military careers they should hold some honors he did not. Now, as Prince Regent, George could suit himself. The fete was a great success. Even the Queen stayed until half-past four and many guests were still there at dawn.

It’s interesting to note that only a few days before the fete, George IV had much more on his mind besides the upcoming festivities – Princess Charlotte and he had come to loggerheads regarding the question of where she was to live. The following account is from George IV: Memoirs of His Life and Reign by Hannibal Evans Lloyd, though this is just one of a hundred accounts of the episode:

The differences between the Prince Regent and the Princess of Wales caused his Royal Highness some pain on account of the Princess Charlotte, who on several occasions took part with her mother in opposition to his wishes. This led to some very remarkable transactions. Determined that she should be more immediately under his own eye, in the year 1814, on the 12th of July, the Prince Regent visited Warwick House, and informed the Princess Charlotte that he was come to dismiss all her household, and that she must immediately take up her residence in Carlton House, and from thence go to Cranbourn Lodge; and that five ladies, whom he named, amongst whom were the Countess Dowager of Rosslyn, and the Countess of Ilchester, were in the next room in readiness to wait upon her. After some expostulation on the part of the Princess Charlotte, the Prince remaining firm and resolute, she appeared to acquiesce in his determination; but pleading a wish to retire for a moment, to compose herself before she was introduced to the ladies, she was permitted to do so; and whilst the Prince was engaged in close conversation with Miss Knight, a lady of the Princess Charlotte’s household, she, in an agony of despair, privately left Warwick House, and throwing herself into a hackney coach, in Cockspur-street, drove to Connaught House, the residence of her mother. Here she found that the Princess of Wales was gone to Blackheath. She despatched a servant to meet her; and threw herself on a bed, exclaiming, “I would rather earn my bread, and live upon five shillings a-week, than live the life I do.” Before the Princess of Wales arrived, the Archbishop of Canterbury went to Connaught Place, to fetch the Princess Charlotte away; but Sicard, a faithful servant of the Princess, refused to admit him.

As soon as the discovery of the flight of the Princess Charlotte was made known to the Prince Regent, he sent for the ministers, and a council was held at the Foreign Office, and also at Carlton House. The Archbishop of Canterbury not succeeding in the object of his mission to Connaught House, the Duke of York was afterwards sent with a written message from the Prince, containing her father’s commands to bring her to Carlton House.

On the arrival of the Princess of Wales from Blackheath, she drove immediately to the Parliament House, and eagerly inquired for Mr. Whitbread, who was absent; she then inquired for Earl Grey, who was not in town; and, disappointed, she hastened to her own house in Connaught-place, and had an affecting interview with her daughter, with whom she continued till three o’clock in the morning. Soon after this time the Princess Charlotte was conveyed, by the Duke of York, to Carlton House; having been previously informed by Mr. Brougham (who had been sent for by the Princess of Wales), that by the laws of the land, she must obey her father’s commands. Period.

So, aside from that, Princess Charlotte, how’d you enjoy the fete?

Originally published 7/21/10

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY – Mr. Phillips's Auction Offices – Part Two

As we have seen in the previous post on this topic,  Phillips’s royal connections were impressive, but one of the Phillips auctions that has gone into the annals of London social history is that of the contents of Gore House and the belongings of its occupants, Lady Blessington (at right) and Count D’Orsay. The Times of Monday May 7,1849 tells the story. On page sixteen at the head of the fourth column are two advertisements, in the first of which Mr. Phillips of 73 New Bond Street offers for sale by auction ‘ the improved lease of the capital mansion ‘ known as Gore House’ (a full description of the property follows); in the second ‘Mr. Phillips begs ‘to announce that he is honoured with instructions from the Right Hon. the Countess of Blessington (retiring to the continent) to submit to ‘ sale by auction, this day May 7, and 12 subsequent days, at 1 precisely each day, the splendid ‘ Furniture, costly jewels, and recherche Property ‘ contained in the above mansion,’ and so forth, and so forth, to the extent of some eighteen or twenty lines.

During the three days prior to the sale ‘twenty ‘thousand persons’ are said to have visited the house; the estimate seems large. Thackeray wrote Mrs. Brookfield that he had ‘just come away from a dismal sight; Gore House ‘full of snobs looking at the furniture.’ There were present a number of ‘odious bombazine ‘ women’ whom he particularly hated. Also brutes who kept their hats on in the kind old drawingroom ; ‘ I longed to knock some of them off, and ‘say, ” Sir, be civil in a lady’s room.”‘ A French valet who had been left in charge, and with whom Thackeray talked a little, saw tears in the great novelist’s eyes. Thackeray confessed to Mrs. Brookfield that his heart so melted toward the poor man that he had to give him a pound; the heart in question was always melting, and the purse was invariably affected.

In his Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, Richard Robert Madden, a close friend of the Count and Countess, provides the following description of the sale:

In April, 1849, the clamours and importunate demands of Lady Blessington’s creditors harassed her, and made it evident that an inevitable crash was coming. She had given bills to her bankers, and her bond likewise, for various advances, in anticipation of her jointure, to an amount approaching to £1500. Immediately after the sale, the bankers acknowledged having received from Mr. Phillips, the auctioneer, by her order, the sum of £1500, leaving a balance only, in their hands, to her credit, of £11. She had the necessity of renewing bills frequently as they became due, and on the 24th of April, 1849, she had to renew a bill of hers, to a Mr. M , for a very large amount, which would fall due on the 30th of the following month of May; four days only before ” the great debt of all debts” was to be paid by her.

In the spring of 1849, the long-menaced break-up of the establishment of Gore House took  place.  Numerous creditors, bill discounters, money lenders, jewellers, lace venders, tax collectors, gas company agents, all persons having claims to urge, pressed them at this period simultaneously. An execution for a debt of £4000 was at length put in by a house largely engaged in the silk, lace, India shawls and fancy jewellery business. Some arrangements were made, a life insurance was effected, but it became necessary to determine on a sale of the whole of the effects for the interest of all the creditors. Several of the friends of Lady Blessington urged on her pecuniary assistance, which would have prevented the necessity of breaking up the establishment. But she declined all offers of this kind. The fact was, that Lady Blessington was sick at heart, worn down with cares and anxieties, wearied out.

In the spring of 1849, the long-menaced break-up of the establishment of Gore House took place. Numerous creditors, bill discounters, money lenders, jewellers, lace venders, tax collectors, gas company agents, all persons having claims to urge, pressed them at this period simultaneously. An execution for a debt of £4000 was at length put in by a house largely engaged in the silk, lace, India shawls and fancy jewellery business. Some arrangements were made, a life insurance was effected, but it became necessary to determine on a sale of the whole of the effects for the interest of all the creditors. Several of the friends of Lady Blessington urged on her pecuniary assistance, which would have prevented the necessity of breaking up the establishment. But she declined all offers of this kind. The fact was, that Lady Blessington was sick at heart, worn down with cares and anxieties, wearied out.

For about two years previous to the break-up at Gore House, Lady Blessington lived in the constant apprehension of executions being put in, and unceasing precautions in the admission of persons had to be taken both at the outer gate and hall door entrance. For a considerable period too, Count D’Orsay had been in continual danger of arrest, and was obliged to confine himself to the house and grounds, except on Sundays, and in the dusk of the evening on other days. All those precautions were, however, at length baffled by the ingenuity of a sheriff’s officer, who effected an entrance in a disguise, the ludicrousness of which had some of the characteristics of farce, which contrasted strangely and painfully with the denouement of a very serious drama.

Lady Blessington was no sooner informed, by a confidential servant, of the fact of the entrance of a sheriff’s officer, and an execution being laid on her property, than she immediately desired the messenger to proceed to the Count’s room, and tell him that he must immediately prepare to leave England, as there would be no safety for him, once the fact was known of the execution having been levied. The Count was at first incredulous—bah ! after bah ! followed each sentence of the account given him of the entrance of the sheriff’s officer. At length, after seeing Lady Blessington, the necessity for his immediate departure became apparent. The following morning, with a single portmanteau, attended by his valet, he set out for Paris, and thus ended the London life of Count D’Orsay.

The public sale of the precious articles of a boudoir, the bijouterie and beautiful objects of art of the salons of a lady of fashion, awakens many reminiscences identified with the vicissitudes in the fortunes of former owners, and the fate of those to whom these precious things belonged. Lady
Blessington, in her ” Idler in France,” alludes to the influence of such lugubrious feelings, when she went the round of the curiosity shops on the Quai D’Orsay, and made a purchase of an amber vase of rare beauty, said to have belonged to the Empress Josephine.

” When I see the beautiful objects collected together in these shops, I often think of their probable histories, and of those to whom they belonged. Each seems to identify itself with the former owner, and conjures up in my mind a little romance.” Vases of exquisite workmanship, chased gold etuis enriched with oriental agate and brilliants that had once probably belonged to some grandes dames of the Court: pendules of gilded bronze, one with a motto in diamonds on the back—’ vous me faites oublier les heures’—a nuptial gift: a flacon of most delicate workmanship, and other articles of bijouterie bright and beautiful as when they left the hands of the jeweller ; the gages d’amour arc scattered all around. But the givers and receivers, where are they? Mouldering in the grave, long years ago.

” Through how many hands may these objects have passed since death snatched away the persons for whom they were originally designed. And here they are, in the ignoble custody of some avaricious vender, who having obtained them at the sale of some departed amateur for less than their first cost, now expects to extort more than double the value of them. …” And so will it be when I am gone,” as Moore’s beautiful song says; the rare and beautiful bijouteries which I have collected with such pains, and looked on with such pleasure, will probably be scattered abroad, and find their restingplaces not in gilded salons, but in the dingy coffers of the wily brocanteurs, whose exorbitant demands will preclude their finding purchasers.”

The property of Lady Blessington offered for sale was thus eloquently described in the catalogue, composed by that eminent author of auctioneering advertisements, Mr. Phillips:

” Costly and elegant effects, comprising all the magnificent furniture, rare porcelain, sculpture in marble, bronzes, and an assemblage of objects of art and decoration, a casket of valuable jewellery and bijouterie, services of rich chased silver and silver gilt plate, a superbly fitted silver dressing case, collection of ancient and modern pictures, including many portraits of distinguished persons, valuable original drawings and fine engravings, framed and in the portfolio, the extensive and interesting library of books, comprising upwards of 5000 volumes, expensive table services of china and rich cut glass, and an infinity of valuable and useful effects, the property of the Right Hon. the Countess of Blessington, retiring to the Continent.”

On the 10th of May, 1849, I visited Gore House for the last time. The auction was going on. There was a large assemblage of people of fashion. Every room was thronged; the well known library saloon, in which the conversaziones took place, was crowded, but not with guests. The arm-chair in which the lady of the mansion was wont to sit, was occupied by a stout coarse gentleman of the Jewish persuasion, busily engaged in examining a marble hand extended on a book—the fingers of which were modelled from a cast of those of the absent mistress of the establishment. People as they passed through the room poked the furniture, pulled about the precious objects of art, and ornaments of various kinds, that lay on the table. And some made jests and ribald jokes on the scene they witnessed.

It was a relief to leave that room: I went into another, the dining room, where I had frequently enjoyed, ” in goodly company,” the elegant hospitality of one who was indeed a ” most kind hostess.” I saw an individual among the crowd of gazers there, who looked thoughtful and even sad. I remembered his features. I had dined with the gentleman more than once in that room. He was a humourist, a facetious man—one of the editors of “Punch,” but he had a heart, with all his customary drollery and penchant for fun and raillery. I accosted him, and said, ” We have met here under different circumstances.” Some observations were made by the gentleman, which shewed he felt how very different indeed they were. I took my leave of Mr. Albert Smith, thinking better of the class of facetious persons who are expected to amuse society on set occasions, as well as to make sport for the public at fixed periods, than ever I did before.

In another apartment, where the pictures were being sold, portraits by Lawrence, sketches by Landseer and Maclise, innumerable likenesses of Lady Blessington, by various artists ; several of the Count D’Orsay, representing him driving, riding out on horseback, sporting, and at work in his studio; his own collection of portraits of all the frequenters of note or mark in society of the Villa Belvedere, the Palazza Negrone, the Hotel Ney, Seamore Place, and Gore House, in quick succession, were brought to the hammer. One whom I had known in most of those mansions, my old friend, Dr. Quin, I met in this apartment.

This was the most signal ruin of an establishment of a person of high rank I ever witnessed. Nothing of value was saved from the wreck, with the exception of the portrait of Lady Blessington, by Chalon, and one or two other pictures. Here was a total smash, a crash on a grand scale of ruin, a compulsory sale in the house of a noble lady, a sweeping clearance of all its treasures. To the honour of Lady Blessington be it mentioned, she saved nothing, with the few exceptions I have referred to, from the wreck. She might have preserved her pictures, objects of virtu, bijouterie, etc. of considerable value; but she said all she possessed should go to her creditors.

There have been very exaggerated accounts of the produce of the sale of the effects and furniture of Lady Blessington at Gore House. I am able to state on authority, that the gross amount of the sale was £13,385, and the net sum realised was £11,985 4s. When it is considered that the furniture of this splendid mansion was of the most costly description, that the effects comprised a very valuable library consisting of several thousand volumes, bijouterie, ormolu candelabras and chandeliers, porcelain and china ornaments, vases of exquisite workmanship, a number of pictures by first-rate modern artists, the amount produced by the sale will appear by no means large.

The portrait of Lady Blessington, by Lawrence, which cost originally only £80, I saw sold for £336. It was purchased for the Marquis of Hertford. The portrait of Lord Blessington, by the same artist, was purchased by Mr. Fuller for £68 5s. Landseer’s celebrated picture of a spaniel sold for £150 10s. Landseer’s sketch of Miss Power was sold for £57 10s. Lawrence’s pictures of Mrs. Inchbald were sold for £4 8 6s.

The admirable portrait of the Duke of Wellington, by Count D’Orsay, was purchased for £189, for the Marquis of Hertford. This picture was D’Orsay’s chef-d’œuvre. The Duke, I was informed by the Count, spoke of this portrait as the one he would wish to be remembered by in future years. He used frequently, when it was in progress, to come of a morning, in full dress, to Gore House, to give the artist a sitting. If there was a crease or a fold in any part of the dress which he did not like, he would insist on its being altered. To use D’Orsay’s words, the Duke was so hard to be pleased, i
t was most difficult to make a good portrait of him. When he consented to have any thing done for him, he would have it done in the best way possible.

The sale of the pictures, plate, and jewels did not a little towards cancelling Lady Blessington’s debts. Her portrait by Lawrence and that of Wellington by D’Orsay were bought by the Marquis of Hertford and may be viewed by the curious, the one in the Wallace Collection, the other in the National Portrait Gallery. Everything was scattered and the house was put for a time to inglorious uses, being turned into a restaurant run by famed chef, Soyer, during the Great Exhibition of 1851. Later it was entirely swept away. Now the Albert Memorial Hall occupies a part of the site.


After watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Diane and I 
skirted St. James’s Park and noted all the glorious gardens in full bloom, above and below. 
Crossing the Mall, we then walked up the path that runs along Green Park up to Piccadilly, but instead we turned in at Milkmaid’s Passage as short cut through to St. James’s Street. 
I wanted to introduce Diane to Boulestin, a favourite restaurant of Victoria’s and 
mine in St. James’s Street. In fact, I like it so well that I’ve included it on the itineraries for several upcoming tours as a dinner venue. 
The restuarant is a revival of Marcel Boulestin’s pre-war venue in Covent Garden and has achieved the perfect blend of modern chic, French flair and historic touches. Click here to read about the original restaurant, the most expensive in London, and about chef Marcel Boulestin. 
In the photo above, you can see the outdoor seating area which is in Pickering Place, which is also adjacent to Berry Brothers and which was also the site of the last public duel in England. 
Diane and I each had a bowl of homemade soup and shared a cheese plate afterwards. Delicious!
Afterwards, we detoured through Jermyn Street in order to pay a visit to an old and dear friend. 
Then it was on to meet another old friend, antique dealer Mark Sullivan, 
whose shop is in Cecil Court. 
After pouring Diane and I a glass of wine each, it was at least a half hour of catch up before we got to the business at hand – Artie-facts, the true reason for our visit. As usual, Mark had found me another Wellington for my collection, and what a corker!
As you can see, he’s right at home now and fits beautifully into the collection. 
We decided to end the afternoon seeing even more of our pals, so Diane and I headed over to the Regency section at the National Portrait Gallery.
Part Three Coming Soon!

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY – Mr. Phillip's' Auction Offices – Part One

Mention of venerable London auction houses invariably brings to mind Christie’s, in King Street. But there was another auction firm who held some of the most anticipated, and most unique, auctions in the City. The London firm of auctioneers known as Phillips and Son of 73, New Bond Street, was founded by Harry Phillips in 1796. Phillips died in October of 1839 at his house at Worthing, age 73, and was succeeded by his son, who, with his son, son-in-law, and Mr. Frederick Neale, carried on the business of fine art and general auctioneers. Amongst some of the more important art sales by this firm were: The Beckford Collection at Fonthill Abbey, Sir Simon Clarke’s engravings; a thirty-days’ sale of engravings from Paris; the Duke of Buckingham’s engravings, in 1830; Duke of Lucca’s Collection, in 1841; the Count de Morny’s Collection, in 1848; Lady Blessington’s property, in 1849; Lord Northwick’s pictures, in 1859; the Marquis of Hastings’ pictures, books, and engravings, in 1869; Sir Charles Rushout’s pictures and engravings in 1880, including a small collection of about one hundred examples by Bartolozzi (many duplicates) in a folio, which sold for 225 guineas. Another lot in the same sale, containing ninety-eight prints by Bartolozzi and school, sold for 174 guineas.

A book titled Art Sales of 1891 sheds some light on what the going rates for auction houses of that day were – The commissions charged are 7 per cent, on pictures, plate, jewels, porcelain, wine and effects, sculpture, and modern drawings, and 12 per cent, on engravings, books, manuscripts, sketches, coins, medals, antique gems, and old drawings, 5 per cent, being charged on unsold or bought-in lots under £100, and 2 percent, exceeding that sum. For furniture at private houses or in the country the charge is 10 per cent. There is no charge for making valuations for probate if the property is subsequently sold by auction. To secure a day at Messrs. Christie’s, application must be made some months beforehand, and Saturdays in the season are allotted only to exceptionally fine collections.

Still, many of those who had their property sold by auction were in no position to balk at the terms, as they were either badly in hock to creditors or deceased, as evidenced by the following piece which ran in The Gentleman’s Magazine 1805 – Mr. Phillip Auction-room, New Bond-street, was crowded with nobility and persons of distinction. After the sale of several choice lots of china, statues, and Mr. Phillips stated the conditions of sale of the elegant house and furniture, in Hill-street, Berkeley-square, belonging to Mr. Robert Heathcote. The auctioneer referred to the printed particulars, which were in the hands of the company, for the minute description of this elegant mansion, held under a lease from Earl Berkeley, for an unexpired term of 30 years, at a ground rent of 11 l. 7 s. 6d.; and, he stated, that the cost to Mr. Heathcote had been as follows: For the lease, £6000. to Mr. Cundy, the architect, whose taste and judgment had been so conspicuously displayed in the new arrangement and fitting-up of the house, and particularly in the erection of the new and superb library . . . After stating, that every article in Mr. Heathcote’s house at present, except plate, jewels, linen, books, pictures, wines, china, glass-ware, and apparel, would go to the purchaser, the biddings commenced with 1, 000 guineas, on which several advances we’re made from different parts of the room, till they got up to £10,000, when the contest lay entirely between two gentlemen, who were rather tardy in their advances of 50 and 100 guineas at a time, till at length it was knocked down to P. Phillips, esq.

Another entry reads –

Furniture Of Napoleon—On Wednesday a sale by auction of the property of the late Sir Hudson Lowe, including some portion of the furniture which was in the possession of the Emperor Napoleon at St. Helena, took place at the auction rooms of Mr. Phillips, by order of the executors of Sir Hudson Lowe. These consisted of about twenty lots, and among them were a large mahogany frame indulging chair, banded with ebony, on castors, from the Emperor’s study, 15/. 5s.; a small circular mahogany pillar and claw table, on which Napoleon burnt pastiles, 61. 6s.; a six-foot pedestal library table, formed of mahogany and yew tree, on which table he almost always wrote, 18. 18s.; an ebonied arm chair, with cane seat and back, formed of common materials (there was a hole in the cane seat which had been caused by being constantly used, and it was stated by some brokers in the room not to be worth 1s. 6.) From the chair being light it was carried about by the Emperor when he took his walks M Longwood. It was bought for £6.

One sale that was the destined to be the auction of the year, if not the decade, was that of Fonthill Abbey, owned by William Beckford, the author of Vathek. Beckford had commissioned architect James Wyatt to design the Abbey and very few people were invited inside whilst Beckford resided there. For a complete look at both Beckford and the auction we turn to The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction –

THE LATE WILLIAM BECKFORD. From the newspapers we learn that the author of “Vathek” is no more. He died last week at Bath, where he had erected a singular edifice, in some respects a miniature of his former abode, the far-famed Fonthill Abbey.

Beckford squandered his money in the most reckless manner, and at his bidding Fonthill arose, one of the wonders of the world. He bought Gibbon’s library, and left it locked up at Lausanne, and the reason he gave for the purchase was that he might have some books to read when he happened to visit that town. It was not the splendour of Fonthill Abbey —though that was great—nor the value of its contents—though on these immense sums had been expended—that fixed public attention on Fonthill Abbey, so much as the habits of the proprietor, exaggerated, and, in all probability, misrepresented, by report. He was said to see no company, to allow no approach— but to live in almost regal state. Though he had servants fitting his opulence, his favourite was understood to be a dwarf, called Pero. Mr. Beckford was described to be violent. He would speak harshly, or more than speak, to a
servant or a villager that came in his way, but, soon relenting, it was his care nobly to recompense the party he had outraged. It was shrewdly suspected that some of those who experienced the throb of his impetuous anger had artfully put themselves in the way of it, for the sake of the healing donation which was likely to follow.

He certainly lived in seclusion for a number of years, and objected to the abbey being shown to the curious. It was even said, George IV, when Prince of Wales, had intimated a wish to visit it, which had been met by something like a refusal. Be this as it may, it got wind among the public that the residence of Mr. Beckford was “a sealed book;” and when, in 1822, the news burst on the town that the abbey and all its contents were about to be on public view, preparatory to a sale by auction, every one was anxious to see the Palace of Wonders. It was likened to throwing open the blue-room of Bluebeard.

It is not surprising that so eccentric a man excited the popular wonder, and that when in consequence of the depreciation of his West India property he decided to sell Fonthill via an auction conducted by Mssrs. Christie, the public excitement was intense: Fonthill, which had been talked about by the whole nation but only seen by a very few. This was in 1822. Seven thousand two hundred catalogues were sold at a guinea each to those who wished to see the place. However, it was not disposed of by Mr. Christie at public auction, but sold en masse to Mr. John Farquhar for £330,000. Beckford reserved, however, some of his choicest books, pictures, and curiosities.

The whole property had been bought by the late Mr. H. Phillips for a Mr. Farquhar, a Scotsman, of very penurious habits, who had mode a vast fortune in India, but who continued to dress and to live in the meanest style. He bought this palace and park, not because, like old Scrooge, a dream had induced him to rush from grinding parsimony to openhearted benevolence, but because it appeared a good opportunity for increasing his store, aided by the experience and talent of the Bond-street auctioneer. It is true he took up his abode in it for a time, but he bought it not to inhabit, but to sell, and accordingly it was announced in the following year that the whole, as the phrase is, was to be brought to the hammer. The ensuing sale occupied thirty-seven days.

Mr. Beckford’s library was very extensive, yet, among the countless ranges of books which he possessed, he had so extraordinary a memory, that he could at once indicate the shelf, and the part of the shelf, on which any particular volume might he found. This was proved, to the utter amazement of the new proprietor of Fonthill. In many of the works, notes had been made, in the handwriting of Mr. Beckford: the books which contained them were intended to be withdrawn, but, by accident, some escaped discovery; they were discovered by the prying gentlemen of the press, and the memoranda found in several of the books appeared in the newspapers. They were eagerly sought after at the sale, though frequently they presented but quotations from the books: occasionally, however, they expressed opinions, and some of them were of a most singular nature. High prices were given for these, and some, it was understood, were purchased for Mr. Beckford at twenty times the price which the holder had given for them at the sale. His thoughts were often expressed with great force. In one instance, speaking of human nature, he powerfully marked his sense of the humanising power of letters. He pointed to the mind of man as wretched in its native state — as ” blood-raw, till cooked by education.”

With the money he received from Mr. Farquhar, Beckford purchased annuities and land near Bath. He united two houses in the Royal Crescent by a flying gallery extending over the road, and his dwelling became one vast library. In 1810 Beckford’s second daughter, Susanna Euphemia, married Alexander, Marquis of Douglas, who succeeded his father as 10th Duke of Hamilton, and to her he left all his property. Beckford died at Bath on May 2, 1844, aged 84. Most of Fonthill Abbey collapsed under the weight of its poorly-built tower the night of 21 December 1825.

This link will bring you to the catalogue for the Fonthill Abbey Library of 20,000 books

Also in 1822, on 9 February, Phillips auctioned the contents of Bradenburgh House upon the death of the Queen. Phillips’s royal connections continued, as evidenced by this piece from the Annual Register of  1831 – Sale Of His Late Majesty’s Coronation Robes.— A portion of his late Majesty’s costly and splendid wardrobe destined for public sale, including the magnificent coronation robes and other costumes, was sold by auction, by Mr. Phillips, at his rooms in New Bond Street. There were 120 lots disposed of, out of which we subjoin the principal in the order in which they were put up :— No. 13. An elegant yellow and silver sash of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphie Order, 3/. 8.— 17. A pair of fine kid-trousers, of ample dimensions, and lined with white satin, was sold for 12.v.— 35. The coronation ruff, formed of superb Mechlin-lace, 2/.—50. The costly Highland costume worn by our late Sovereign at Dalkeith Palace, the seat of his Grace the Duke of Buccleugh, in the summer of 1822, was knocked down at 40/.— 52. The sumptuous crimson-velvet coronation mantle, with silver star, embroidered with gold, on appropriate devices, and which cost originally, accordiug to the statement of the auctioneer, upwards of 500/., was knocked down at 47 guineas.—53. A crimson coat to suit with the above, 14/. – 55. A magnificent gold body-dress and trousers, 26 guineas.—67- An extraordinary large white aigrette plume, brought from Paris by the Earl of Fife, in April, 1815, and presented by his lordship to the late King, was sold for 15/.—87. A richly embroidered silver tissue coronation waistcoat and trunk hose, 13/.—95. The splendid purple velvet coronation mantle, sumptuously embroidered with gold, of which it was said to contain 200 ounces. It was knocked down at 55/., although it was stated to have cost his late Majesty 300/.—96. An elegant and costly green velvet mantle, lined with ermine of the finest quality; presented by the Emp
eror Alexander to his late Majesty, which cost upwards of 1,000 guineas, was knocked down at 125/.

Part Two, featuring the Blessington/D’Orsay Auction, coming soon . . . . .

Originally published August 2010

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: Who Wants to be (or look at) a Horse's Behind?

by Victoria Hinshaw

On our post-Wellington tour jaunt around London, Kristine and I found another copy of the painting discussed below as appearing in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice film as it hangs in Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, depicting George, the Prince of Wales, and his horse’s behind.  It hangs in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

An engraving of the painting also appears in “What Jane Saw,”  a digital recreation of an exhibition at he British Institution in Pall all in 1813.  Click here to see the website and click again on the picture itself to read the description.

Originally published April 2010

In May of 2009, my husband and I visited Brocket Hall, formerly the home of Lord Melbourne, now part of a golf complex. The house, in excellent condition, serves as a venue for corporate events and weddings. Brocket is located near Hertford and Hatfield just north of London. Part of the original land of the adjacent country homes of the London wealthy has been developed into Welwyn Garden City.

The ballroom in Brocket was used for the interiors of Netherfield, the home rented by Mr. Bingley, in the 1995 BBC version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In the picture above, you see Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth leading the country dance. In the far background, you can barely make out a portrait of George, Prince of Wales, standing beside the rump of his horse. The painting, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was presented to Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne (mother of the Prime Minister), who reputedly was the mistress of the Prince for a time.

Here is another view of the painting behind Mr. Darcy.

I laughed when I saw this painting, a copy of which I have been unable to locate on any website pertaining either to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) or Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The pose reminded me of a famous view of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. A version of this painting hung in the Elgin Academy Art Gallery where I played at my piano teacher’s annual recital for her students and their parents. There are other versions of the Stuart portrait, chiefly belonging to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  I have always wondered how many of my fellow performers looked up in the middle of their playing to be faced with that horse’s . . . ah . . .tail.

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Since those youthful days, the question has arisen in my mind — why paint the rear end of the horse so prominently? In my search of the web for a copy of the Reynolds portrait above, I found some discussions of this exact point. But no one had a definitive answer. Someone suggested that the rear of the horse was a comment by the artist on the character of the subject. One writer said Stuart was not good at painting horses. Another said that men were so portrayed because they were prepared to jump on the horse and take off — being in a position on the horse’s left easily to reach the stirrup. Anyone have any views on this world-shattering question?
The Marquis of Granby, by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Above is another example. This is General John Manners, Marquis of Granby, who was painted by Reynolds in about 1765. He died before he succeeded to the title of Duke of Rutland. This painting hangs in the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. The General was a popular figure, hence many pubs in England named The Marquis of Granby.

Above, another painting by Gilbert Stuart. The subject is Louis-Marie, the vicomte de Noailles (1756-1804), who fought with the Americans during the Revolution. He returned to France but was driven out after their revolution and moved to Philadelphia in 1793. He was a banker and a friend of Washington, neither of which explains why he is standing next to his horse’s rump.

Here is my final example, a portrait of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. It hangs at the country home of the Duke, Stratfield Saye.

I welcome any comments, clues, or links to additional poses of generals (or anyone) with their horses’ rumps.