King William IV’s Not So Happy Birthday Dinner

William IV was born 21 August 1765 (d. 20 June 1837) and became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830. William, the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV, was the last king and penultimate monarch of the House of Hanover. Today, we’ll take a look at one of William IV’s birthday celebrations, which didn’t turn out very well for himself or for his young niece, Queen Victoria.

For the Princess Victoria, a childhood which promised both privilege and affection was overshadowed by the mechanizations of Princess Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and by Sir John Conroy, both of whom used her as a pawn during a royal power play.

Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, had chosen John Conroy as his Military Equerry in 1817 and after his death, Conroy offered his services to the Duchess. He also acted as Comptroller to Princess Sophia, one of George IV’s younger sisters. Conroy, his wife and two daughters moved into Kensington Palace and Conroy was soon working his influence over the Princess and future queen, as well as over her mother. He pushed to have the Duchess of Kent named Regent should both George IV and the Duke of Clarence die before Princess Victoria reached her majority at age eighteen. For years, Conroy worked to banish all influence upon the Kents except his own. In 1830, Adelaide, Duchess of Clarence, warned the Duchess of Kent that certain people had noted that Conroy “tries to remove everything which might obstruct his influence, so that he may exercise his power alone, and alone, too, one day reap the fruits of his influence.”

Conroy’s methods of controlling the Kents became known as the “Kensington System.” He convinced the Duchess to dismiss Baroness de Spath, her Lady-in-Waiting for over twenty-five years, and tried to rid the palace of Lehzen, Princess Victoria’s governess, as well. The fact that Lehzen enjoyed royal favour from the King was the only thing that saved her. In order to control the Duchess, Conroy constantly warned her that George IV was the greatest despot who ever lived and that the King was talking of taking her child away from her. He added that plots to kill the Princess were afoot, prompting the Duchess to place Lehzen by the child’s bed from the time she was put into it until the Duchess herself went to sleep in the next bed. Conroy effectively cut the Princess off from her English relations, insisting she be guarded round the clock from imaginary dangers.

William IV and his wife, Queen Adelaide, were naturally fond of Victoria, desiring to introduce her to Court life. Conroy prevented this, telling the Duchess that no one should be allowed to influence the future Queen but themselves. Petty acts of power followed on both the Duchess and the King’s parts, with the King keeping a tight reign on the purse strings and the Duchess upon her daughter, keeping her away from Court functions whenever possible. Influenced by Conroy, the Duchess planned tours of the country along royal lines for the Princess, in an effort to garner public support. A series of these tours, covering most of England and Wales, took place between 1832 and 1835. The Duchess planned each route so that as many people as possible might see the Princess. Three hundred people attended a ball held in her honour at Burghley House, whilst the mayor and other officials in each town they visited en route waited to greet her. That none of these plans were cleared first with the Palace, and the fact that they amounted to Royal tours worthy of a reigning monarch, infuriated the King. Matters finally came to a head in 1836.

In an attempt to forge better relations with his niece, King William invited she and her mother to Windsor in the summer of 1836 in order to celebrate the Queen’s birthday on August 13th and his own on the 21st (a birthday shared also by Princess Margaret and Kristine Hughes). The Duchess of Kent replied that she preferred to spend her own birthday on August 17th at Claremont, but could be there by the 20th. This snub to the Queen was not overlooked. The King said nothing, allowing her to travel to Windsor in her own good time. However, whilst the Duchess was en route, he paid an impromptu visit to Kensington Palace and found that the Duchess had taken over seventeen rooms which he had previously – and clearly – forbidden her to requisition. The Princess, who’d been delighted with the new apartments, had no knowledge of the story behind the move or the edicts of her uncle.

Fuming at the Duchess of Kent’s latest act of disrespect, the King arrived at Windsor that evening and joined his guests in the Drawing-room, where the first person he spoke to was his niece, Victoria. At the birthday dinner next day, one hundred guests helped the King to celebrate the event. The Duchess was placed at the King’s right hand, Victoria seated across from him. After the meal, the Kings’ health was drunk and he rose to say a few words. And what words they were! Amongst other verbal displays of vitriol, King William expressed the hope that he would live another nine months, until his niece came of age, so that her mother could never become Regent. He went on, “I should then have the satisfaction of leaving the royal authority to the personal exercise of that Young Lady (he pointed to Victoria), the Heiress presumptive of the Crown, and not in the hands of a person now near me, who is surrounded by evil advisers and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed. I have no hesitation in saying that I have been insulted – grossly and continually insulted – by that person, but I am determined to endure no longer a course of behaviour so disrespectful to me. Amongst many other things I have particularly to complain of the manner in which that Young Lady has been kept away from my Court; she has been repeatedly kept from my drawing-rooms, at which She ought always to have been present, but I am fully resolved that this shall not happen again. I would have her know that I am King, and that I am determined to make my authority respected, and for the future I shall insist and command that the Princess do upon all occasions appear at my Court, as it is her duty to do.”

Princess Victoria burst into tears and, once the guests had left, the Duchess ordered her carriage, but was convinced by the Duke of Wellington to spend the night at Windsor in order to avoid further scandal. The Duke of Wellington’s summation of the episode was right on the money, “Very awkward, by God!”

On May 18th, 1837, the King instructed Lord Conyngham, the Lord Chamberlain, to hand deliver a letter to the Princess from himself at Kensington Palace. Conroy and the Duchess both endeavored to intercept the missive, but Conyngham stood fast and placed it into Victoria’s hands. It said that when she came of age, William meant to ask Parliament to vote her an annual income of thirty thousand pounds per year – a fortune at that time. It also authorized Victoria to set up her own household and appoint a Keeper of her Privy Purse. Victoria would come of age on the 24th, just six days away, and her uncle had given her a precious gift – the chance for freedom from the power plays of the Duchess and Conroy. Losing no time, Conroy advanced the idea of his becoming Princess Victoria’s Private Secretary and enlisted the aid of the Duchess in bringing her around to the notion. Together they made Victoria’s life a misery, but she refused to be coerced. In a last ditch effort, they sent for Lord Liverpool, in the hopes of winning him over to their side and enlisting his aid in convincing Victoria to appoint Conroy as private secretary or Keeper of the Privy Purse.

After having spoken to both Conroy and the Duchess, Lord Liverpool met privately with Princess Victoria. She was calm and businesslike and explained her side of the story. In the end, Liverpool agreed that she should not appoint Conroy to any position after his many slights towards her in the past. He instead urged the Princess to do nothing upon becoming Queen other than to send immediately for Lord Melbourne. He, Liverpool assured her, would advise her well and she was safe in putting her trust in Melbourne alone. He also told her that he admired the way she had handled her mother. Conroy and the Duchess, needless to say, were furious at Liverpool’s advice, with a desperate Conroy suggesting that, “If Princess Victoria will not listen to reason she must be coerced.”

It is no wonder that Victoria once commented, “Kensington life for the last six or seven years had been one of great misery and oppression.” Queen Victoria would later write about her childhood to her daughter Victoria, the Princess Royal, in 1858, saying that she, “had led a very unhappy life as a child – had no scope for my very violent feelings of affection – had no brothers and sisters to live with – never had a father – from my unfortunate circumstances was not on a comfortable or at all intimate or confidential footing with my mother – much as I lover her now – and did not know what a happy domestic life was!” For all of her life, Queen Victoria would insist, “I never was happy until I was eighteen.”

King William IV died on 20 June, 1837. Shortly before six o’clock in the morning, Dr. Howley (Archbishop of Canterbury), Lord Conyngham (Lord Chamberlain), and Sir Henry Halford (Physician to King William), arrived at Kensington Palace. The Duchess of Kent roused her daughter only after being told by the gentlemen that they had come to see The Queen on State business. Queen Victoria recorded the meeting thusly, “I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing-gown), and ALONE, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently I am Queen . . Since it has pleased Providence to place me in this station, I shall do my utmost to fulfill my duty towards my country; I am very young and perhaps in many, though not in all things, inexperienced, but I am sure, that very few have more real good will and more real desire to do what is fit and right than I have.”

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: WHAT I SAW AT THE V&A

On a recent visit to London, I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum with my friend and travel companion, Denise Costello. In particular, we wanted to see “Tippoo’s Tiger,”  made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore in South India (1782-1799) and later captured by Wellington’s army.

From the V&A:

The almost life-size wooden semi-automaton consists of a tiger mauling a prostrate figure in European clothes. An organ is concealed inside the tiger’s body, and when a handle at the side is turned, the organ can be played and the man’s arm simultaneously lifts up and down. Intermittent noises are supposed to imitate the wails of the dying man.

The tiger was discovered by the British in the palace at Tipu Sultan’s capital after the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799. The invading army stormed through a breach in the ramparts and, in the ensuing chaos, Tipu and a great many of his soldiers, generals and the citizens of the town were killed. The victorious troops then rampaged through the city, looting valuables from the palace and from private houses, until Colonel Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) gave an order for hanging and flogging which quickly restored order. The contents of the royal treasury were then valued and divided between the British army over the next weeks according to the conventional practice of the period. Some time later, the tiger was discovered in the music room of the palace and was shipped to London, where it arrived in 1800. It was sent to East India House, the headquarters of the East India Company which housed a library and new museum, and soon became one of the most popular exhibits. The Indian Museum, as it became known, moved several times before parts of the collection, including Tipu’s tiger, were transferred to the South Kensington Museum, later renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Of course, once we’d seen the Tiger, Denise and I visited the other galleries and these are just a few of the items in the items I found of particular interest –

From the V&A:

The sedan chair was a popular form of non-wheeled transport in Europe until the 19th century. It was fitted with a seat for one person, and was carried by two or four chairmen (depending on the occupant’s weight), who lifted it using two long poles that slotted into brackets on the side of the chair, attached to leather straps that hung round the chairmen’s necks. Sedans were particularly useful for travelling through cities with narrow streets. This sedan chair was probably made in Piedmont / Savoy in Italy. Several similar chairs of about the same date survive in Italy, France and the UK, including one at Westminster Abbey which was bought in Rome in the early 19th century.

The exterior of the sedan chair is covered with black leather. There are three windows, one in the door and one on either side. Brass round-headed studs are arranged in decorative patterns around the windows and follow the outline of each side of the chair, at the same time forming a girdle round the chair about half way up . . . . The front window is made to drop downwards, into the body of the door on a strap punched with several holes that can be hooked onto a tack attached to the inside of the chair door just below the window.The window strap is stamped and gilded and may be an early 19th century replacement. The side windows slide back, and the glass in these two windows is protected by two thin metal horizontal wires (possibly 19th century). The door itself is designed to be completely removeable and can simply be lifted off its hinges.

At each side of the chair near the base are two iron brackets (known as pole lugs), back and front, to accommodate carrying poles (the poles are modern). The rear two of these may not be original. The roof, the shape of a shallow umbrella, has eight radiating struts, which are also decorated with brass studs arranged in rosettes. The four corners of the roof are upturned into a scroll formed of laminated leather, the back right-hand one of which is bent over. Immediately below them are carved wooden female masks, painted. Behind each corner scroll, on the roof, is a brass finial, triangular in section. The central finial is a replacement, of carved wood, made by the Museum in 1968. The whole roof is surrounded by large brass studs, and below is a carved wooden cornice, with gadrooning and scrollwork. On three of the four sides of the chair, just below the roof, is a small iron loop: originally large tassels would have hung from these, but they do not survive.

The interior is, except for the floor, lined with pale olive green (perhaps once saffron yellow) stamped woollen velvet on a linen warp, with a floral design with a very large repeat. The seat has 22 inch width, the standard width for a handloom. There are two small padded arm rests. These and the base of the padded seat, below the windows, and at the base of the roof are trimmed with pale olive-green fringing, of cord with floss tassels, and braiding 1.6 inches wide, in linen woven with a diamond pattern. Originally there would have been a valance hanging from the seat down to the floor, hiding the area under the seat which was often used for storage or for a heater. The stuffing of the seat is probably horsehair. Under the seat the walls appear to be relined at the back and sides.The velvet on the underside of the roof is held in place by nailed tapes and the pattern is not symmetrically placed. The wooden floor has a leather mat, nailed in position with brass-headed nails in a decorative pattern of symmetrical scrolls. This is much worn and the leather outer covering of the sedan chair is torn in places on the door.

Externally, the back of the chair curves inwards at the base to allow space for the rear carrier to walk. This shape is characteristic of sedan chairs made in Piedmont / Savoy. The carved decoration and shape of the roof is reminiscent of French carriages dating from the early 18th century. The style of the carving seems to be that of the 1720s, but is of a style that continued to be used for the decoration of sedan chairs for several decades.

From the V&A:

Elephant table clock, the case and movement signed by different craftsmen. The case proclaims it was ‘made by Caffieri’, while the movement is signed by Jerome Martinot (1671-1724), the enamelled dial has been signed on the back by Antoine-Nicola Martinière and a spring in the movement has the signature of ‘Magny’ (perhaps Alexis Magny). The number of signatures reflects how such clocks were assembled by ‘marchands merciers’ (or ‘luxury goods merchants’) in Paris who commissioned works of art which combined contrasting luxury materials including bronze, horn, porcelain and ormolu. Such elaborate clocks often included an organ in the base, although this does not survive for the V&A example. Other mid-eighteenth-century clocks incorporate elephants in ormolu (gilded bronze) or Meissen porcelain, or lions in Chinese porcelain. Only three clocks cast entirely in bronze like this one have survived, and it has been argued that the V&A clock is the earliest example. Although the surface chasing on the V&A’s example is not of the highest quality, this may be explained by the later regilding which covers the original chased surface. When it entered the Museum in 1882, the clock stood on a later ebony base with gilded bronze mounts and the dial, despite Martinière’s eighteenth-century signature, may well have been re-enamelled in the nineteenth century.

The drum of chased gilded bronze, scroll design, surmounted by the seated figure of a draped monkey holding up a parasol with his right hand and a horn in his left; the drum rests on the back of a bronze elephant standing on a base of gilded bronze rockwork. The quality of the chasing is very high; the central plant on the base has been cast as a separate feature. The slightly reddish patina of the elephant is characteristic of 18th century work. A rectangular ebony stand with gilded bronze mounts that accompanied the clock when it entered the collection is probably a later additon.

 

From the V&A:

After the death of the 1st Duke of Wellington in 1852, the government announced that a competition was to be held for the design for a monument to commemorate him. This was Alfred Stevens’s competitive sketch model, and was among those exhibited at Westminster Hall, London, in 1857. one of the most important sculptors in Britain in the 19th century, and executed a wide variety of work, including designs for silver and maiolica, firedogs and chimney-pieces, as well as sculpture. Although Stevens’s model came fifth in the competition, which was won by William Calder Marshall (1813-1894), it was actually judged more suitable to the monument’s setting, which was to be St Paul’s Cathedral, and he was therefore awarded the commission. The monument, which was not unveiled until 1912, 37 years after the artist’s death, was completed by his pupil Hugh Stannus (1840-1908). Stevens had made some changes to the design, and the finished monument therefore differs in some respects from this model, but the general composition remained. The model is made from plaster and wax, with metal armatures; in form it echoes Italian Renaissance monuments.

Imagine my surprise when I turned a corner to find this, my favourite painting, Landseer’s “The Old Shepard’s Chief Mourner.”

From the V&A website: Artist Edwwin Landseer’s choice of subject illustrates the Victorian obsession with the trappings of death, combined here with his speciality, the accurate and almost anthropomorphic representation of dogs and other animals. Its mixture of pathos and realism appealed to all sections of society, and the critic Ruskin praised the fine technique and the subtle choice of details. This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 and proved a great success, particularly as an engraving after this picture was published and sold widely in the following year.

Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873) was a child prodigy, exhibiting some drawings at the Royal Academy when he was only 13. From an early age he was a frequent visitor to the menagerie in Exeter Change in the Strand, London, where he drew lions, monkeys and other animals. Animals remained the main subjects of his art. Queen Victoria collected his paintings, as did John Sheepshanks. The two biggest collections of his work are in the Royal Collection and here in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – THE MARCHIONESS OF WORCESTER

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.

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: A MACABRE LOOK AT DEATH MASKS

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.

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: THE DEATH OF WELLINGTON AT WALMER

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.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: RANDOM WELLINGTONS SEEN ALONG THE WAY

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

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY THREE – PART 4

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.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY 2 – PART 2

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!