Today’s Once Again Wednesday post was originally published in July, 2010 and features my visit with Victoria to see the Victoria & Albert Art & Love Exhibit at the Queen’s Gallery in London. To this day, it remains the single best exhibition I’ve ever attended. So many truly iconic pieces of art in one room, never mind one exhibition. Do click through and read our original post.

Next, follow this link to view the 19 page catalogue from the Exhibition which focused on Queen Victoria’s personal jewelry. Lot’s of historical details and little known facts, including mention of the Duke of Wellington.


Originally published October 3, 2014

I recently had a free day in Paris and talked my husband Ed into accompanying me to visit the Chateau de Malmaison in the town of Rueil-Malmaison, about seven miles outside the city.
Josephine’s portraits in the Emperor’s Apartment

Josephine in 1806, by Henri-Francois Riesener
Josephine purchased the chateau (built in the 17thCentury) in 1799 and used it as her retreat from the rigors of life as the eventual Empress of France in the Tuileries Palace. In this charming country house, she could cultivate her roses and enjoy peaceful solitude or host intimate soirees and picnics with chosen guests.

The Entrance Hall

Josephine was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, June 23, 1763, named Marie-Joseph-Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie.  She grew up among the sugar plantation society on the island   At age seventeen, she went to Paris for an arranged marriage to Count Alexandre de Beauharnais. With him she had two children, a son, Eugene de Beauharnais  (1781-1824) and a daughter, Hortense (1783-1837).  Imprisoned during the Revolution, the Count was guillotined in 1794, but Josephine was released.

The Billiard Room

When she met the young officer Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), he fell madly in love with her. Until he renamed her Josephine, she was known as Rose. They married in 1796. In December 1804, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and Josephine Empress of France, in the presence of the Court and the Pope.

Le Salon Doré

Unable to bear any more children, Josephine reluctantly agreed to separation and divorce.  In December 1809, she moved permanently to Malmaison.  

The Music Room

Josephine’s Harp and Pianoforte
Napoleon married Marie Louise, daughter of Austrian Emperor Francis I, and a year later, in 1811, his only legitimate child was born. He was named Napoleon, designated the King of Rome. [This unfortunate young man, so greatly anticipated, died in his early 20’s.]

Dining Room

In April, 1814, Napoleon abdicated, turning Paris over to the Allied Powers of Europe and Britain, and going into exile on Elba. In May of 1814, Josephine died at Malmaison, of pneumonia, which developed from a cold she caught while walking in her garden with the Russian Tsar Alexander, one of the victorious allies in the first defeat of Napoleon.

La Salle du Conseil (Council Room)
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, in the Council Room
Napoleon, though not always faithful to Josephine, remained attached to her for the rest of his life, even through his divorce and re-marriage. After her death and before his final exile to St. Helena, Napoleon returned to Malmaison for a farewell visit. 

La Bibliothéque (The Library)

By her first husband, Josephine was the grandmother of Napoleon III, son of her daughter.  She is also an ancestress of numerous European Royals.

So far, all my pictures were taken in rooms on the ground floor of the house, all with doors opening into the gardens. Upstairs were the private chambers of Napoleon and Josephine each with their own apartments, i.e. suites of rooms.

two angles on Le Salon de l’Empereur

La chamber à coucher de l’Empereur

Napoleon’s shaving stand

The two personal apartments are divided by rooms containing treasures the couple accumulated.

Ceremonial Swords
A version of David’s Napoleon Crossing the Great Saint-Bernard Pass

Josephine’s gold table service
The suite of rooms belonging to Josephine begins with a sitting room filled with red velvet  and gilt chairs with white swan armrests, unique in my experience, Not even the Prince Regent had these! I can only assume that he never heard of them.
Three Views of the Frieze Room, named for the Greco-Roman  frieze, also featuring swans 
La chambre à coucher de l’Impératrice
Note the Swan theme continues.
Washstand of Mahogany and Sèvres porcelain
Next to the tented bedroom is another bedroom, known as La chamber ordinaire de l’Impératrice and Le Cabinet a toilette.        

After Josephine’s death, son Eugene lived at Malmaison; later it was sold several times before being presented as a gift to the nation of France by Daniel Iffla (known as Osiris), art enthusiast and philanthropist, whose collections can be seen in a small museum on the chateau’s grounds.

More soon on Malmaison’s gardens.
If you want to visit, allow about 90 minutes each way on the Metro (to La Defense) and by bus. Malmaison is currently closed on Tuesdays.


Admiral Lord Nelson
(29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805)

Marianne Spencer-Stanhope to John Spencer-Stanhope.

November 20th., 1805. Farnely.
We begin to be impatient for more news. Think of poor Lady Collingwood—she was in a shop in Newcastle when the Mail arrived covered with ribbands, but the coachman with a black hat-band. He immediately declared the great victory, but that Lord Nelson and all the Admirals* were killed. She immediately fainted. When she heard from Lord Collingwood first he wrote in the greatest -grief for his friend, and said the fleet was in a miserable state. Perhaps that may bring him home.
Are you not pleased with his being created a Peer in so handsome a manner. Why has not Lady Nelson some honour conferred upon her? Surely the Widow of our Hero ought not to be so neglected.
Yesterday we drank to the immortal memory of our Hero. Mr Fawkes has got a very fine print of him.
* Lord Collingwood was a Vice Admiral in Nelson’s fleet.
Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood

A Letter from Mrs. Fitzherbert to Mrs. Creevey.

“Nov. 6, 1805.
“Dr. Madam,
“The Prince has this moment recd, an account from the Admiralty of the death of poor Lord Nelson, which has affected him most extremely. I think you may wish to know the news, which, upon any other occasion might be called a glorious victory—twenty out of three and thirty of the enemy’s fleet being entirely destroyed—no English ship being taken or sunk—Capts. Duff and Cook both kill’d, and the French Adl. Villeneuve taken prisoner. Poor Lord Nelson recd, his death by a shot of a musket from the enemy’s ship upon his shoulder, and expir’d two hours after, but not till the ship struck and afterwards sunk, which he had the consolation of hearing, as well as his compleat victory, before he died. Excuse this hurried scrawl: I am so nervous I scarce can hold my pen. God bless you.
The Prince of Wales, afterwards King George IV

Correspondence from Mrs. Creevey to Mr. Creevey.

“Nov. 7, 1805.
“. . . [The Prince’s] sorrow [for Nelson’s death] might help to prevent his coming to dinner at the Pavillion or to Johnstone’s ball. He did neither, but stayed with Mrs. Fitz; and you may imagine the disappointment of the Johnstones. The girl grin’d it off with the captain, but Johnstone had a face of perfect horror all night, and I think he was very near insane. I once lamented Lord Nelson to him, and he said:— ‘Oh shocking: and to come at such an unlucky time!’ . . .”
Emma, Lady Hamilton
“8th Nov.
“. . . The first of my visits this morning was to ‘my Mistress’ (Mrs. Fitzherbert) … I found her alone, and she was excellent—gave me an account of the Prince’s grief about Lord N., and then entered into the domestic failings of the latter in a way infinitely creditable to her, and skilful too. She was all for Lady Nelson and against Lady Hamilton, who, she said (hero as he was) overpower’d him and took possession of him quite by force. But she ended in a natural, good way, by saying:—’ Poor creature! I am sorry for her now, for I suppose she is in grief.'”
“Dec. 5,1805.
“. . . It was a large party at the Pavillion last night, and the Prince was not well . . . and went off to bed. . . . Lord Hutchinson was my chief flirt for the evening, but before Prinny went off he took a seat by me to tell me all this bad news had made him bilious and that he was further overset yesterday by seeing the ship with Lord Nelson’s body on board. . . .”
From an undated letter written by Vice Admiral Collingwood to Edward Collingwood –
My dear friend received his mortal wound about the middle of the fight, and sent an officer to tell me that he should see me no more. His loss was the greatest grief to me. There is nothing like him for gallantry and conduct in battle. It was not a foolish passion for fighting, for he was the most gentle of human creatures, and often lamented the cruel necessity of it; but it was a principle of duty, which all men owed their country in defence of their laws and liberty. He valued his life only as it enabled him to do good, and would not preserve it by any act he thought unworthy. He wore four stars upon his breast and could not be prevailed to put on a plain coat, scorning what he thought a shabby precaution: but that perhaps cost him his life, for his dress made him the general mark.
He is gone, and I shall lament him as long as I live.

Originally published October 21, 2011


The town of Leatherhead, two miles south of Ashsted, was an ancient market town in Surrey, the market having long been discontinued by the early nineteenth century. The town still held a fair on Lady’s Day, three weeks before Michaelmas, during the Regency period, “but otherwise the town possessed no trade or privilege than what its being a great thoroughfare produces.” The only “remarkables” were the fourteenth-century church and the bridge, which was a very neat structure over the River Mole, built of brick and consisting of fourteen arches.

At this quite and idyllic a spot, however, there occurred a Regency tragedy in 1806 – a coaching accident involving the Princess of Wales. Dr. Hughson described the incident thusly in his Description of London:

“A most dreadful accident occurred in this town in the year 1806. Her royal highness the Princess of Wales, on the afternoon of October 2, was on her way in a barouche, attended by Lady Sheffield and Miss Harriet Mary Cholmondeley, to pay a visit to Mrs. Lock, at Norbury Park (right), and was driven by the princess’s own servants as far as Sutton. At this place post-horses were put to the carriage, driven by the post-boys belonging to the Cock Inn; her highnesses horses remained at Sutton till she returned. On her arrival at Leatherhead, the carriage, which was drawn by four horses, whilst turning around an acute angle of the road, was overturned. It appears that the drivers, through extreme caution, had taken too great a sweep in turning the corner, which brought the barouche on a rising ground, by which it was overset; but before its fall it swung about a great tree.

“The dreadful consequence was, that Miss Cholmondeley was killed on the spot; providentially the princess received no other injury, except a cut on her nose, and a bruise on her arm. Lady Sheffield did not receive the slightest hurt, besides that which overwhelmed the royal party, by the shocking accident. Her royal highness returned to Blackheath the next day.”

The Annual Register expands on the incident:

It is with great concern we have to state the following melancholy accident. Her royal highness the Princess of Wales was this afternoon on her way to the seat of Mr. Locke, at Norbury Park, near Leatherhead, Surrey, in a barouche, attended by Lady Sheffield and Miss Harriet Mary Cholmondeley, and was driven by her royal highness’s own servants. They took post horses, and were driven by the post-boys belonging to the Cock Inn. Her royal highnesses horses and servants were left to refresh in order to take her home that evening. Her royal highness proceeded to Leatherhead, when on turning a sharp corner to get into the road which leads to Norbury Park, the carriage was overturned, opposite to a large tree, against which Miss Cholmondeley was thrown with such violence, as to be killed on the spot. She was sitting on the front seat of the barouche alone. Her royal highness and Lady Sheffield occupied the back seat, and were thrown out together. They went into the Swan Inn, at Leatherhead. Sir Lucas Pepys, who lives in that neighbourhood, and had not left Leatherhead (where he had been to visit a patient) more than a quarter of an hour, was immediately followed, and brought back; and a servant was sent to Mr. Locke’s, with an account of the accident. Mrs. L. arrived in her carriage with all expedition, and conducted the princess to Norbury Park, where Sir Lucas Pepys attended her royal highness and, as no surgeon was at hand, bled her himself. On the following day the princess returned to Blackheath. Her royal highness received no other injury than a slight cut on her nose, and a bruise on one of her arms. Lady Sheffield (wife of Lord Sheffield, who was with her, did not receive the slightest injury. — An inquest was held on the 4th, before C. Jemmet, esq. coroner for Surrey, on the body of Miss Cholmondeley, at the Swan Inn, Leatherhead. It appeared, by the evidence of a Mr. Jarrat at Leatherhead, and of an hostler belonging to the inn, that the princess’s carriage, drawn by four horses, with two postillions, while turning round a very acute angle of the road, was overturned. The drivers, through extreme caution, had taken too great a sweep in turning) the corner, which brought the carriage on the rising ground, and occasioned its being upset. The carriage swung round a great tree before it fell. When the surgeon saw the Princess of Wales, she most benevolently desired him to go up stairs, as there was a lady who stood more in need of his assistance. The surgeon (Mr. Lawden, of Great Bookham) then went to Miss Cholmondeley, and found her totally deprived of life. There was a violent contusion on her left temple; and her death appeared to have been occasioned by the rupture of a blood vessel. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death. Miss Cholmondeley was born in 1753, and was the daughter of the late lion, and Rev. Robert Cholmondeluy, rector of Hartingford-Bury, and St. Andrews, Hertford, who was son of the third earl of Cholmondeley, and uncle to the present earl. Her mother is living, and resides in Jermyn-street. On the 8th, at 12 o’clock, the remains of this unfortunate lady were interred in Leatherhead church, close to the spot where lady Thompson, wife of sir John Thompson, some years since lord mayor of London, is buried. The body was, on the evening of the sixth, removed from the Swan Inn to an undertaker’s near the church-yard, and was followed to the grave by her brother, George Cholmondcley, esq. one of the Commissioners of excise; the hon. Augustus Phipps ; William Locke, esq ; S. Gray, esq. and several other gentlemen. The fatal spot where this amiable lady met her sudden death is still visited by crowds.

It may be noted that the Locke’s were also close friends of famed diarist and novelist Frances Burney, Mme  d’Arblay who mentions the family often in her journal, as seen by the entries here for 1784. At this period the health of Mrs. Phillips (Fanny’s sister Susan) failed so much that, after some deliberation, she and Captain Phillips decided on removing to Boulogne for change of air. The anxiety evidenced in the letter below was due to Burney’s waiting to here of her sister’s safe arrival in France.

Friday, Oct. 8th.—I set off with my dear father for Chesington, where we passed five days very comfortably; my father was all good humour, all himself,— such as you and I mean by that word. The next day we had the blessing of your D
over letter, and on Thursday, Oct. 14, I arrived at dear Norbury Park at about seven o’clock, after a pleasant ride in the dark. Mr. Lock most kindly and cordially welcomed me; he came out upon the steps to receive me, and his beloved Fredy waited for me in the vestibule. Oh, with what tenderness did she take me to her bosom! I felt melted with her kindness, but I could not express a joy like hers, for my heart was very full—full of my dearest Susan, whose image seemed before me upon the spot where we had so lately been together. They told me that Madame de la Fite, her daughter, and Mr. Hinde, were in the house; but as I am now, I hope, come for a long time, I did not vex at hearing this. Their first inquiries were if I had not heard from Boulogne.

Saturday.—I fully expected a letter, but none came; but Sunday I depended upon one. The post, however, did not arrive before we went to church. Madame de la Fite, seeing my sorrowful looks, good naturedly asked Mrs. Lock what could be set about to divert a little la pauvre Mademoiselle Burney ? and proposed reading a drama of Madame de Genlis. I approved it much, preferring it greatly to conversation; and, accordingly, she and her daughter, each taking characters to themselves, read “La Rosiere de Salency.” It is a very interesting and touchingly simple little drama. . . . Next morning I went up stairs as usual, to treat myself with a solo of impatience for the post, and at about twelve o’clock I heard Mrs. Locke stepping along the passage. I was sure of good news, for I knew, if there was bad, poor Mr. Locke would have brought it. She came in, with three letters in her hand, and three thousand dimples in her cheeks and chin! Oh, my dear Susy, what a sight to me was your hand! I hardly cared for the letter; I hardly desired to open it; the direction alone almost satisfied me sufficiently. How did Mrs. Locke embrace me! I half kissed her to death. Then came dear Mr. Locke, his eyes brighter than ever— “Well, how does she do?”

This question forced me to open my letter; all was just as I could wish, except that I regretted the having written the day before such a lamentation. I was so congratulated! I shook hands with Mr. Locke; the two dear little girls came jumping to wish me joy; and Mrs. Locke ordered a fiddler, that they might have a dance in the evening, which had been promised them from the time of Mademoiselle de la Fite’s arrival, but postponed from day to day, by general desire, on account of my uneasiness.


With this post we’re instituting Once Again Wednesdays, whereby we republish some of our most popular posts and reader favourites.

What is an Orangery? by Victoria Hinshaw – Originally published in April 2010

Since the first purposeful cultivation of plants, humankind has struggled to improve growing conditions by altering the environment. For the plant to thrive, is it too cold? Too dark? Too rainy? Too arid? Too windy? How can the plant’s living arrangements be improved to give it maximum light, water, air circulation and fertility? How can we improve on Mother Nature?

Below, inside the Orangery at Saltram House, Plymouth, Devon.

Today we take for granted the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in computer-monitored locations that bring us year-round production, the result of centuries of experimentation and invention. Two hundred years ago, our ancestors knew what was needed for maximum production, and they were quickly developing the technological requirements for success.

To some extent, the terms greenhouse, glasshouse, hothouse, orangerie, pinery, and conservatory can be used interchangeably, though each has a generally agreed upon specific meaning. All these terms and the buildings they describe existed in Georgian England, mostly at royal palaces and the estates of the wealthy aristocracy. 

The Regency era, whether one confines the definition strictly to 1811-1820 or, more broadly, the French Revolution to Victoria 1789-1837, was truly a time of transition in enhanced plant cultivation indoors.

At Carlton House, the Prince of Wales’ London residence (demolished in 1826-27), a conservatory was added in 1807 in the newest construction techniques in cast iron columns and a fan vaulted ceiling supporting large glass spaces. The architect was Thomas Hopper (1776-1856) whose work was considered a tour de force. The conservatory opened into the gardens at one end. If one looked in the opposite direction, there was a clear view of the entire lower ground-floor range of rooms.

The Carlton House conservatory was intentionally theatrical, as some writers observed, bringing the term “elaborate” to a new level. The Prince Regent planned a great fete for 2,000 people on June 19, 1811, to celebrate his Regency. Down the middle of the 200-foot length of the table ran a curving stream of water lined with flowers, mossy banks and crossed by miniature bridges. Goldfish swam up and down this tiny stream. Here is the account by John Ashton in Social England Under the Regency (1895) of the Prince Regent’s conservatory and the party: “…the architecture of it is of the most delicate Gothic. …In the front of the Regent’s seat there was a circular basin of water, with an enriched Temple in the centre of it, from whence there was a meandering stream to the bottom of the table, bordered with green banks. Three or four fantastic bridges were thrown over it, one of them with a small tower upon it, which gave the little stream a picturesque appearance. It contained also a number of gold and silver fish. The excellence of design, and exquisiteness of workmanship could not be exceeded; it exhibited a grandeur beyond description; while the many and various purposes for which gold and silver materials were used were equally beautiful and superb in all their minute detail.”

Existing watercolors of the conservatory by Charles Wild (1781-1835), who painted many views of Carlton House, do not show any plants placed to take advantage of the overhead light provided by the glass and iron fan vaulting. These watercolours were published by Rudolph Ackermann in his Repositories of the Arts, beginning in October 1819. The watercolors of Carlton House and other royal residences were re-issued in 1984 by The Vendome Press, ISBN 0-86565-048-9. In Regency Design, however, Steven Parissien shows a view of the Prince Regent’s conservatory with extensive planting along the sides p. 218; also in Morley, p. 787). He also notes that the structure leaked badly and quotes Nash in 1822, “the glazed vaulting was ‘worse than useless as a roof’ and recommended replacing it with plaster.” Leaks or no leaks, Prinny’s conservatory was, as he wished, a trend-setter.

The fanciful orangery at Sezincote, in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion. Visit Sezincote.

A more modest conservatory was built by the renowned regency architect Sir John Soane at his country home Pitshanger Manor, in Ealing, a suburb of London. Mavis Batey writes, “The breakfast room opened on to a conservatory, which ran the length of the building, with sash windows to the floor, partly of coloured glass. Soane described it as ‘enriched with antique cinerary urns, sepulchral vases, statues…vines and odiferous plants; the whole producing a succession of beautiful effects, particularly when seen by moonlight, or when illuminated and the lawn enriched with company enjoying the delights of cheerful society.'” Despite the difference in scale, it is clear that the conservatories at Carlton House and Pitshanger Manor shared a common element: they were used for entertainment and socializing.

Greenhouses have ancient sources. The Romans, adept at channeling the waters and building for maximum comfort, had many schemes to enhance growing conditions for plants of all kinds. The Roman emperor Tiberius had a sort of greenhouse, called a Specularium, created with mica in small translucent flakes where we would today have glass. Tiberius, it is reported, needed a year-round supply of his favorite food: cucumbers! Further developments in specularia included ducts carrying hot water or cool air, typical of Roman engineering. Among the plants grown in these mica-roofed structures were grapes, peaches and roses.

Orangeries can be seen at many English country houses and on the grounds of several royal palaces im Britain, as well as throughout Europe. Below, the orangery at Belton House, Lincolnshire

A primary motivation for the improvement of greenhouse design was the English penchant for the collection and study of botanic material from all over the globe. The earliest explorers brought back seeds and exotic species. The damp, chill English climate needed some alteration if these new species were to survive and flourish.

Kew Gardens (officially the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew) originally belonged to the royal family. Frederick, Prince of Wales, (son of George II and father of George III) and his wife, Princess Augusta, had a great interest in exotic plants. Their collection is the core of today’s 40,000 varieties of plants at Kew. None of Kew’s hothouses survive from the Georgian period. One regency-era building, the Nash Conservatory, was built at Buckingham Palace in the design of a Greek temple; it was moved to Kew in 1836. Recently fully restored, the Nash Conservatory is used now as a school education center.

By the middle of the 19th century, the popularity of greenhouses had grown exponentially. What’s more, materials became less expensive and more readily available, so greenhouses and growing plants under glass were no longer a pastime only of the wealthy. Small greenhouses and conservatories of many designs were added to middle class Victorian houses. There was also competition by cities and countries to build conservatories as part of grand public parks. These housed exotic, non-native plants as well as common varieties, and remain popular today.

One of the most famous glass buildings in the world was the Crystal Palace, built in London in 1850-51 for the Great Exhibition. Chief architect was Joseph Paxton (1803-65), former gardener to the sixth Duke of Devonshire (the Bachelor Duke). It contained all kinds of exhibits, not only plants. Nonetheless, the design of the Crystal Palace influenced decades worth of greenhouses and conservatories, including the many you can order for your home today.

For her help in finding some interesting sources on this subject, special thanks to Jo Manning.
Among the sources used for this post are:
Batey, Mavis, Regency Gardens, Shire Garden History, 1995, ISBN 0-7478-0289-0.
Hobhouse, Penelope, Gardening Through the Ages, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, ISBN 0-671-72887-3.
Parissien, Steven, Regency Style, Washington, D. C.: The Preservation Press, 1992, ISBN 0-89133-172-7
Rogers, Elizabeth Barlow, Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 2001, ISBN 0-8109-4253-4.