In 2010, there was an exhibit at Temple Newsam in Leeds entitled ‘A House of Birds: American Birds in a Chinese Garden,’ which told the amazing story of what happened when the former owner of Temple Newsam House, Isabella Ingram (known as Lady Hertford), decided to get creative with the décor in her sitting room in 1827. Once upon a time, Prinny (the future King George IV) was courting Isabella, and after a visit to the house in 1806, he gifted her mother, Frances, Lady Irwin, with several rolls of blue, handpainted Chinese wallpaper.
This wallpaper was hand-painted in China for the export market. It dates from c.1800 and was intended to form a panoramic view of an Oriental garden. The garden is planted with flowering trees and shrubs in vases, and the viewer looks out over an alabaster balustrade.
These wallpapers were made in panels about four feet square and were shipped in this form to Europe. However, Lady Irwin apparently had no liking, or use, for the paper, which mouldered away in a closet for the next twenty-one years.
Finally, Lady Hertford dug out the rolls of wallpaper in 1827 when she was redecorating the house and used them as the basis for the Blue Drawing Room (also known as the Chinese Drawing Room), creating the space in what had been the best dining room. By this time, however, the wallpaper had become a tad dated and its design was much more subdued than current fashion dictated. What’s a Lady to do? Lady Herford eventually hit upon a unique decor scheme and used a bit of decoupage to add some zip to Prinny’s wallpaper, embellishing the design with prints of exotic birds cut from John James Audubon’s famous publication The Birds of America. Audubon had visited England in order to get financial backing for the series and Lady Hertford had subscribed to the first issue. In a letter to his wife, Audubon tells her that Lady Hertford had cut out and used his prints to jazz up the wallpaper so that we know he was aware of the fact. Unfortunately, Audubon did not expand upon the mention, so we will never his views on the matter.
It should be noted that in 2000 an original copy of Audubon’s The Birds of America sold for $8.8 million dollars, which is still a world record price for a book.
Temple Newsam house itself has a long history and was first mentioned in the Domesday Book. In 1155 it was given to the Knights Templar and Thomas, Lord Darcy built a four-sided courtyard house on the site in the early sixteenth century. In 1537 the property was seized by the Crown following his execution for treason (he was involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace rising). Henry VIII gave the house to Margaret, Countess of Lennox in 1544, and her son, Henry Lord Darnley, was born in the house the following year. In 1565 the estate was again seized by the Crown, this time by Elizabeth I, after Lord Darnley made the mistake of marrying Mary Queen of Scots.
The house fell into disrepair, and upon his accession in 1603, James I of England gave the estate to his cousin Ludovic, Duke of Lennox, and it languished tenantless until Sir Arthur Ingram bought the estate in 1622 for £12,000; he rebuilt the house as the three-sided building which exists today, one wing of the old house being kept as the central wing of the new house. There was a financial crisis when the family lost a fortune in the South Sea Bubble, but that was sorted out by a son marrying an heiress; so more work could be done on the house, and Capability Brown landscaped the park.
Through the nineteenth century there were major works done on the interiors and the grounds, and in 1904 the estate was inherited by a nephew, Edward Wood, first Earl of Halifax; in 1922 he sold some of the parkland to Leeds Corporation for £35,000 and they eventually acquired the house for free.
December 15th.—Went on Wednesday to a Council at Windsor, and after the Council was invited to stay that night; rode with the Queen, and after riding Melbourne came to me and said Her Majesty wished me to stay the next day also. This was very gracious and very considerate, because it was done for the express purpose of showing that she was not displeased at my not staying when asked on a former occasion, and as she can have no object whatever in being civil to me, it was a proof of her good-nature and thoughtfulness about other people’s little vanities, even those of the most insignificant. Accordingly I remained till Friday morning, when I went with the rest of her suite to see the hounds throw off, which she herself saw for the first time.
The Court is certainly not gay, but it is perhaps impossible that any Court should be gay where there is no social equality; where some ceremony, and a continual air of deference and respect must be observed, there can be no ease, and without ease there can be no real pleasure. The Queen is natural, good-humoured, and cheerful, but still she is Queen, and by her must the social habits and the tone of conversation be regulated, and for this she is too young and inexperienced. She sits at a large round table, her guests around it, and Melbourne always in a chair beside her, where two mortal hours are consumed in such conversation as can be found, which appears to be, and really is, very up-hill work. This, however, is the only bad part of the whole; the rest of the day is passed without the slightest constraint, trouble, or annoyance to anybody; each person is at liberty to employ himself or herself as best pleases them, though very little is done in common, and in this respect Windsor is totally unlike any other place. There is none of the sociability which makes the agreeableness of an English country house; there is no room in which the guests assemble, sit, lounge, and talk as they please and when they please; there is a billiard table, but in such a remote corner of the Castle that it might as well be in the town of Windsor; and there is a library well stocked with books, but hardly accessible, imperfectly warmed, and only tenanted by the librarian: it is a mere library, too, unfurnished, and offering none of the comforts and luxuries of a habitable room.
There are two breakfast rooms, one for the ladies and the guests, and the other for the equerries, but when the meal is over everybody disperses, and nothing but another meal reunites the company, so that, in fact, there is no society whatever, little trouble, little etiquette, but very little resource or amusement. The life which the Queen leads is this: she gets up soon after eight o’clock, breakfasts in her own room, and is employed the whole morning in transacting business; she reads all the despatches, and has every matter of interest and importance in every department laid before her. At eleven or twelve Melbourne comes to her and stays an hour, more or less, according to the business he may have to transact At two she rides with a large suite (and she likes to have it numerous); Melbourne always rides on her left hand, and the equerry in waiting generally on her right; she rides for two hours along the road, and the greater part of the time at a full gallop; after riding she amuses herself for the rest of the afternoon with music and singing, playing, romping with children, if there are any in the Castle (and she is so fond of them that she generally contrives to have some there), or in any other way she fancies.
The hour of dinner is nominally half-past seven o’clock, soon after which time the guests assemble, but she seldom appears till near eight. The lord in waiting comes into the drawing-room and instructs each gentleman which lady he is to take in to dinner. When the guests are all assembled the Queen comes in, preceded by the gentlemen of her household, and followed by the Duchess of Kent and all her ladies; she speaks to each lady, bows to the men, and goes immediately into the diningroom. She generally takes the arm of the man of the highest rank, but on this occasion she went with Mr. Stephenson, the American Minister (though he has no rank), which was very wisely done. Melbourne invariably sits on her left, no matter who may be there; she remains at table the usual time, but does not suffer the men to sit long after her, and we were summoned to coffee in less than a quarter of an hour. In the drawing-room she never sits down till the men make their appearance. Coffee is served to them in the adjoining room, and then they go into the drawing-room, when she goes round and says a few words to each, of the most trivial nature, all however very civil and cordial in manner and expression.
When this little ceremony is over the Duchess of Kent’s whist table is arranged, and then the round table is marshalled, Melbourne invariably sitting on the left hand of the Queen and remaining there without moving till the evening is at an end. At about half-past eleven she goes to bed, or whenever the Duchess has played her usual number of rubbers, and the band have performed all the pieces on their list for the night. This is the whole history of her day: she orders and regulates every detail herself, she knows where everybody is lodged in the Castle, settles about the riding or driving, and enters into every particular with minute attention. But while she personally gives her orders to her various attendants, and does everything that is civil to all the inmates of the Castle, she really has nothing to do with anybody but Melbourne, and with him she passes (if not in tete-a-tete yet in intimate communication) more hours than any two people, in any relation of life, perhaps ever do pass together besides (1) He is at her side for at least six hours every day— an hour in the morning, two on horseback, one at dinner, and two in the evening. This monopoly is certainly not judicious; it is not altogether consistent with social usage, and it leads to an infraction of those rules of etiquette which it is better to observe with regularity at Court. But it is more peculiarly inexpedient with reference to her own future enjoyment, for if Melbourne should be compelled to resign, her privation will be the more bitter on account of the exclusiveness of her intimacy with him. Accordingly, her terror when any danger menaces the Government, her nervous apprehension at any appearance of change, affect her health, and upon one occasion during the last session she actually fretted herself into an illness at the notion of their going out. It must be owned that her feelings are not unnatural, any more than those which Melbourne entertains towards her. His manner to her is perfect, always respectful, and never presuming upon the extraordinary distinction he enjoys; hers to him is simple and natural, indicative of the confidence she reposes in him, and of her lively taste for his society, but not marked by any unbecoming familiarity.
Interesting as his position is, and flattered, gratified, and touched as he must be by the confiding devotion with which she places herself in his hands, it is still marvellous that he should be able to overcome the force of habit so completely as to endure the life he leads. Month after month he remains at the Castle, submitting to this daily routine: of all men he appeared to be the last to be broken in to the trammels of a Court, and never was such a revolution seen in anybody’s occupations and habits. Instead of indolently sprawling in all the attitudes of luxurious ease, he is always sitting bolt upright; his free and easy language interlarded with ‘damns’ is carefully guarded and regulated with the strictest propriety, and he has exchanged the good talk of Holland House for the trivial, laboured, and wearisome inanities of the Royal circle.
1 The Duke of Wellington says that Melbourne is quite right to go and stay at the Castle as much he does, and that it is very fit he should instruct the young Queen in the business of government, but he disapproves of his being always at her side, even contrary to the rules of etiquette; for as a Prime Minister has no precedence, he ought not to be placed in the post of honour to the exclusion of those of higher rank than himself.
Looty, the first Pekingese dog in Britain, brought by Captain Dunne, 99th Regiment, from Yuanming Yuan, the Summer Palace near Beijing, as a gift for Queen Victoria in April 1861. Dunne had found Looty in the burned out remains of the Summer Palace at Pekin, curled up amongst soft shawls and rugs in one of the wardrobes.
During a trip to Italy in 1888, the Queen purchased a sable red Pomeranian she named Marco and brought him back to England. Marco weighed only 12 pounds and many dog historians point to him as being the instigator of the desire to breed smaller Pomeranians. Marco went on to compete under the Queen’s name in many dog shows and he won many honors. Victoria also bought three other Poms on the same trip to Florence in 1888 and the most famous next to Marco was a cute little female named Gina who also became a champion at London dog shows.
Queen Victoria and a favorite Pom, Turi
Dogs and dog shows nowadays seem such a large part of British life but it wasn’t until 1803 that the first Great International Dog Show was held at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, two classes being provided for Bulldogs, while the first Crystal Palace Show was held in 1870.
Crufts Dog Show, now a British institution, dates back to 1891. Its founder, Charles Cruft, managed a dog biscuit manufactury and eventually held a sales position for the firm that allowed him to travel and gain valuable exposure to many different dogs and dog enthusiasts. In 1878 he was asked to promote and organize the canine portion of the Paris Exhibition, and became involved with dog breeds shortly thereafter. His debut dog show took place in Islington, North London in 1886.
Queen Victoria had Poms bred at the kennels at Windsor, which prompted English dog fanciers to begin breeding smaller and smaller Poms, and when the adult dogs began to hit below eight pounds they were called Toy Pomeranians. In 1891, Queen Victoria showed six Poms at the Cruft’s Dog Show. In 1888 the first American Pom was entered into the American Kennel Club’s stud book, and in 1892 the first Pom to be shown in America was entered in a dog show in New York.
Of course, Queen Victoria was not the only Royal to have been fond of dogs. Elizabeth of York, mother of King Henry VIII, was known to have bred and kept greyhounds. There was King Charles and his spaniels, which were also kept by King Edward VII and George V, while Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, kept pugs. In 2009, British news outlets reported that Prince William gifted his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, with a chocolate Labrador. And then there is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi . . . . . . . .
Queen Victoria was a devoted dog lover and owner throughout her life and raised more than 15 different breeds of canines.
Perhaps the most famous of these dogs remains Dash, who was her faithful companion during her childhood. The artist Sir Edwin Landseer first won Victoria’s favour when he painted Dash, a King Charles spaniel. Dash had been presented to Princess Victoria in 1833 by the vile Sir John Conroy, personal secretary to her mother, the Duchess of Kent. No doubt Conroy hoped that Dash would mitigate the ill feelings Princess Victoria harbored towards him due to his machinations. Princess Victoria and Dash were soon inseparable and he lived by her side, with the Princess dressing him in scarlet jacket and blue trousers, and at Christmas she gave him three India-rubber balls and two bits of gingerbread decorated with holly and candles. There is a scene in the movie, Young Victoria, which illustrates how the newly crowned Queen returned home from her coronation in order to bathe Dash. Dash also appears in a garden scene in the film.
When Dash died in 1840, three years after she became Queen, Victoria buried him herself at Adelaide Cottage, and had inscribed on his tombstone: `Profit by the example of Dash, whose attachment was without selfishness, his playfulness without malice, and his fidelity without deceit.’
A bronze statue of Islay stands in Sydney, Australia
Then there was a Skye terrier called Islay, the little dog Victoria came to love most of all. She taught him to beg for treats. Combined with a pair of wet, soulful eyes, Islay’s gentle begging earned him treats galore from the household and visitors alike. Once again, Landseer was inspired to capture one of the Queen’s dogs, sometimes in the act of gathering tasty morsels.
Islay was the inspiration for Landseer’s painting entitled `Dignity and Impudence‘, one of his most successful works.
Islay also features prominently in a painting Landseer created in order to amuse the Queen at Balmoral. It shows the terrier doing his begging act before a macaw, who sits high on his perch holding a large biscuit, which he is feeding two lovebirds. Next to Islay at the bottom of the painting is Tilco, a Sussex spaniel, who nurses a wound on his nose inflicted upon him by the macaw after he’d tried to take the biscuit away. When Landseer unveiled the work before the Queen at Balmoral, Lord Melbourne was said to have commented, “Good God! How like!”
“Queen Victoria at Osborne” painted by Sir Edwin Landseer
Queen Victoria and Sharp
In later years, Queen Victoria’s favorite dog and constant companion was Sharp, a smooth-coated Border Collie, born in 1854. A statuette of Sharp in silver gilt dominated her dining table.
Sharp lived for 15 years. A statue of him stands over his grave in Windsor Home Park, Berkshire, England. After Sharp, Queen Victoria was given another Collie named Noble.
From Queen Victoria’s Journal of a Life in the Highlands – Sunday, September 14, 1873:
My favorite collie Noble is always downstairs when we take our meals, and was so good, Brown making him lie on a chair or couch, and he never attempted to come down without permission, and even held a piece of cake in his mouth without eating it, till told he might. He is the most “biddable” dog I ever saw, and so affectionate and kind; if he thinks you are not pleased with him, he puts out his paws, and begs in such an affectionate way.
My Dearest Uncle,—We live in the midst of sorrow and death! My poor good Uncle Cambridge breathed his last, without a struggle, at a few minutes before ten last night. I still saw him yesterday morning at one, but he did not see me, and to-day I saw him lifeless and cold. The poor Duchess and the poor children are very touching in their grief, and poor Augusta,1 who arrived just five hours too late, is quite heart-broken. The end was most peaceful; there was no disease; only a gastric fever, which came on four weeks ago, from over-exertion and cold, and which he neglected for the first week, carried him off.
The good Prince of Prussia you will have been pleased to talk to and see. Having lived with him for a fortnight on a very intimate footing, we have been able to appreciate his real worth fully; he is so honest and frank, and so steady of purpose and courageous. Poor dear Peel is to be buried to-day. The sorrow and grief at his death are most touching, and the country mourns over him as over a father. Every one seems to have lost a personal friend.
As I have much to write, you will forgive my ending here. You will be glad to hear that poor Aunt Gloucester is wonderfully calm and resigned. My poor dear Albert, who had been so fresh and well when we came back, looks so pale and fagged again. He has felt, and feels, Sir Robert’s loss dreadfully. He feels he has lost a second father.
May God bless and protect you all, you dear ones! Ever your devoted Niece, Victoria R.