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!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – CAVERSHAM

Following the Number One London Georgian Tour, Vicky flew in and met me in London for a night before we headed off on our epic research journey, visiting three Archives that hold documents related to the Duke of Wellington. Our first stop was the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading. We had booked a hotel in nearby Caversham and our good friend, author Beth Elliott was kind enough to pick us up at the station.

You’ve heard me speak of Beth here on the blog before. She’s the sort of friend who is a comfort, a joy and who also happens to be very funny. In an understated English way. So, Beth collected us at the train station and drove Vicky and me to our riverside hotel, where we met a gaggle of other local residents.

Later that evening, we all went out to the nearby carvery and indulged in that most comforting of British food, the Sunday Roast, even though it was actually a Wednesday.

Next day, Vicky and I headed off to the Museum of English Rural Life.

We had ordered the documents we wished to see in advance, one of which was the Marriage Settlement between Richard, Marquis Wellesley and Maryanne Patterson, below. You’ll see that the Duke of Wellington was one of the executors of the Settlement. Between his brother and his former mistress. Yes, you read that correctly.

We spent the entire day reading historic documents and attempting to read Wellington’s handwriting. Boxes and boxes of letters and documents. Naturally, by the end of the day, Vicky and I were ready for a drink. And when we met up with Beth later that evening, we told her we’d love to have a plate of roast beef for dinner. Again. So we did.

Afterwards, we strolled through historic Caversham, which, as Cavesham, was mentioned in the Domesday Book and which sits on the north bank of the Thames.

Good friends, good food and good Wellington documents. As you can imagine, it was a wonderfully satisfying day. And one I’ll always remember. More to come . . . .

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION: THE HYDE PARK SQUATTER

 

Duke of Wellington

The following letters were all addressed to Lady Salisbury –

Walmer, October 11, 1850

“I sent my instruction to my Deputy Ranger yesterday of which I will send you a copy as soon as I can get one! You will see that they settle the affair. I have another likewise at the Office of Woods about the Squatter in Hyde Park, and I hope to shake that Lady off without very much difficulty. But we must proceed with caution and Regularity. . . . . .”

Walmer, October 13, 1850

“I have had nothing very interesting to tell you in the last two days! My time has been principally occupied by the Mad Men and Mad Women by whom I am pestered constantly! It is quite curious with what a number of Insane persons I am in relation. Mad retired Officers, Mad Women, etc.! I found last session that there is a Society established for the protection of those who are insane, or charged with insanity, and the Head of which is a Madman; one of the Percevals.
“I have heard no more of the Squatter! If you remember there is on the right hand side of what is called the Rotten Row, that is the Riding Road up the Park to Kensington Gardens and Kensington, a Mound or Bank which retains the water in what is called the Serpentine River! This house is placed on this mound, or rather in a Space scooped out of its thickness! for I have never seen the house!
“I rather suspect that the Woman had been allowed to establish a sort of stall on this Spot for selling oranges, cakes, etc. It is situated near a fountain, and that she has contrived to build Houses on the spot on which she had been permitted to have a stall for the sale of her oranges and Cakes. However she became established, I entertain no doubt that it will be a troublesome job to remove her! and I have determined that I will go to work regularly.”

Walmer, October 15, 1850

“You will be surprised to learn that I am going to London. I am going there on the principle that the only animal who is never allowed to have any rest is the Duke of Wellington . . . I propose to avail myself of the opportunity of getting upon my horse and taking a look at the position of the Squatter in Hyde Park.
“When Sir Harry Smith was in England a year or two ago, he reminded me of my old Practice with the Army.
“When there was any difficulty and they came to me to report it, and to ask what they should do, my answer was, `I will get upon my Horse and take a look; and then tell you!’ Accordingly, as soon as I shall reach my own House to-morrow, I will get upon my horse and take a look at the position of this Squatter! and I think that I shall have no difficulty in pointing out the mode as settling that one! . . . . ”

 

London, October 17, 1850

“. . . .  I arrived in town prosperously yesterday afternoon; and in conformity with my intention mounted my horse and went to take a look at the position of the Squatter! She is not exactly at the Fountain, very little further on; and higher up the Bank! I entertain no doubt that it will not be difficult to remove her if necessary! But I hope that we shall prevail upon her to move off without the necessity of compulsion . . . . As long as the Duke of Cambridge was Ranger, and since his Death, nobody ever thought of wanting Police in the Parks; but now that I am Ranger, everybody has discovered that they cannot walk or take the air in security. . . . ”

Walmer, October 18, 1850

” . . . . . I went to take a look at the Squatter’s Premises in Hyde Park! They are quite distinct from the Fountain with which you are acquainted in which there is a spring of pure water! This last is lower down the Bank and nearer Rotten Row . . . . . ”

London, November 15, 1850

“. . . . Before I went to Bed at night, I received the usual summonses to attend Christenings, Dinners, Concerts, etc., this day and to-morrow. In short, there is no end of the demands upon my time . . . I have the pleasure of informing you we have got rid of the Squatter in the Park. She has quitted her Residence, which has been pulled down and the ground on which it stood or rather fell has been levelled.”

This was not the end of the matter. The Squatter, namely a Mrs. Ann Hicks, was subsequently arrested in August of 1851 for selling refreshments outside the Crystal Palace. She claimed that her grandfather had rescued King George II from drowning in the Serpentine and that her family had subsequently been granted life tenancy in the Park. Her case was heard and dismissed by the House of Commons and a public appeal raised enough funds to purchase Mrs. Hicks passage to join her family in Australia.