THE WELLINGTON CONNECTION – Count D’Orsay

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, by Alfred, Count D’Orsay

Whilst the Duke of Wellington approved of elegance and was himself known as “the Beau,” he felt obliged to advise his splendidly uniformed Grenadier Guards that their behavior was “not only ridiculous but unmilitary” when they rode into battle on a rainy day with their umbrellas raised. A dandy Wellington was not. Odd, then, that the picture of himself that Wellington liked most was done by one of the greatest dandies of his day – Count d’Orsay. d’Orsay painted the Duke in profile (above), in evening dress, and the Duke is said to have rather liked the picture, because it “made him look like a gentleman.”

Marguerite, Countess of Blessington

Count Albert Guillaume d’Orsay, the son of one of Napoleon’s generals, and descended by a morganatic marriage from the King of Wurttemburg, was himself a gentleman in every sense, and his courtesy was of the highest kind. At the balls given by his regiment, although he was more courted than any other officer, d’Orsay always sought out the plainest girls and showed them the most flattering attentions. During his first visit to London, Count d’Orsay was invited once or twice to receptions given by the Earl and Countess of Blessington, where he was well received. Before the story proceeds any further it is necessary to give an account of the Earl and of Lady Blessington, since both of their careers had been, to say the least, unusual.

Count d’Orsay, after a painting by Sir Francis Grant, P.R.A.

Lord Blessington was an Irish peer for whom an ancient title had been revived. He was remotely descended from the Stuarts of Scotland, and therefore had royal blood to boast of. He had been well educated, and in many ways was a man of pleasing manner. On the other hand, he had early inherited a very large property which yielded him an income of about thirty thousand pounds a year. He had estates in Ireland, and he owned nearly the whole of a fashionable street in London, along with the buildings erected upon it. Thrown together by the same society and so often in each other’s company, the Earl of Blessington became as devoted to D’Orsay as did his wife. The two urged the Count to secure a leave of absence and to accompany them to Italy. This he was easily persuaded to do; and the three passed weeks and months of a languorous and alluring intercourse among the lakes and the seductive influence of romantic Italy. Just what passed between Count d’Orsay and Marguerite Blessington at this time cannot be known, for the secret of it has perished with them; but it is certain that before very long they came to know that each was indispensable to the other.The situation was complicated by the Earl of Blessington, who, entirely unsuspicious, proposed that the Count should marry Lady Harriet Gardiner, his eldest legitimate daughter by his first wife. He pressed the match upon the embarrassed d’Orsay, and offered to settle the sum of forty thousand pounds upon the bride. The girl was less than fifteen years of age. She had no gifts either of beauty or of intelligence; and, in addition, d’Orsay was now deeply in love with her stepmother.

Count d’Orsay

But once again I digress. Suffice it to say that eventually Lady Blessington and the Count set up a home together, both in London, at Gore House, and in Paris, where Lady Blessington died. Upon her death, and before when they found themselves in straightened financial waters, the Count drew upon his artistic talents, both in painting and sculpture, in order to earn money. Whatever one thought about the Count personally, no one could deny his artistic talent. d’Orsay would go on to produce a painting of Gore House, of which I can find no image to use here. Instead, I give you a contemporary print of Gore House –

Gore House

And the description of d’Orsay’s painting, which illustrates the illustrious circles d’Orsay found himself within and also brings us back to the Duke of Wellington –

“A garden view of Gore House, the residence of the late Countess of Blessington, with Portraits of the Duke of Wellington, Lady Blessington, the Earl of Chesterfield, Sir Edwin Landseer, Count d’Orsay, the Marquis of Douro (2nd Duke of Wellington), Lord Brougham, the Misses Power, etc.  In the foreground, to the right, are the Duke of Wellington and the Countess of Blessington; in the centre, Sir Edwin Landseer seated, who is in the act of sketching a very fine cow, which is standing in front, with a calf by its side, while Count d’Orsay, with two favorite dogs, is seen on the right of the group, and the Earl of Chesterfield on the left; nearer the house, the two Misses Power (nieces of Lady Blessington) are reading a letter, a gentleman walking behind. Further to the left appear Lord Brougham, the Marquis of Douro, etc., seated under a tree in conversation.”

PERIOD FILM FAILS

Can you spot the period fail in the picture above? Here’s a clue –

 

 

Sometimes, period drama fails are minor, others are epic, but more often than not, they’re just plain funny. It seems that modern day electrics are to blame for many lapses in continuity, as was this t.v. aerial in another scene from Downton Abbey.

 

 

They cropped up in Poldark, as well.

Heck, they were even a bane to set designers decades ago – below, Melanie’s oil lamp is sporting an electrical cord in Gone With the Wind.

 

In this scene from Gladiator, there’s a gas canister on the back of a chariot. What’s that about?!

 

While in another scene, an extra can be seen wearing a modern day coat and sneakers or boots.

 

Modern day clothing seems to offer up more problems – see the extra wearing a white t-shirt, sunglasses and a cowboy hat in the scene above from Pirates of the Caribbean.  Below, Captain Jack indulges in a bit of pirate product placement.

 

An extra wearing jeans and a t-shirt can be seen just to the left of the liquor bottle in this scene from Indiana Jones.

 

Braveheart may be the most groan-worthy period film of all time, on many levels, but the car that appears in the battle scene will be hard to beat.

 

Wrist watches were the problem in Lord of the Rings, above, and in Glory, below.

 

But the most epic fail has to be this scene from Troy.

And if that isn’t enough, here’s a blooper reel from Pirates of the Caribbean for no other reason than it’s period, it’s funny and . . . Johnny Depp. There’s a commercial that pops up in the middle of it. Just click it and the video will continue. Don’t know why it’s there. Must be a mistake . . . .

 

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON AILING

Originally published on February 16, 2012

From The Greville Memoirs:

February 15th (1840) (Saturday) — The Duke of Wellington had a serious seizure on Thursday (1) He dines early, and he rode out after dinner. The first symptom of something wrong was, that he could not make out the numbers on the doors of the houses he wanted to call at. He went to Lady Burghersh, and when he came away, the footman told his groom he was sure his Grace was not well, and advised him to be very attentive to him. Many people were struck with the odd way he sat on his horse. As he went home this got more apparent. When not far from Apsley House he dropped the reins out of his left hand, but took them up with the other, and when he got to his own door, he found he could not get off his horse. He felt his hand chilled. This has been the first symptom in each of his three attacks. He was helped off. Hume was sent for, came directly, and got him to bed. He had a succession of violent convulsions, was speechless, and his arm was affected. They thought he would have died in the night. The doctors came, physicked but did not bleed him, and yesterday morning he was better. He has continued to mend ever since, but it was a desperate blow, and offers a sad prospect. He will probably again rally, but these things must be always impending, and his mind must be affected, and will be thought to be so. Lyndhurst asked me last night what could be done. He said, ‘The Duke ought now to retire from public life, and not expose himself to any appearance of an enfeebled understanding. Above all things to be deprecated is, that he should ever become a dotard like Marlborough, or a driveller like Swift.’ ‘How,’ he said, ‘would Aberdeen do?’ He owned that nobody could replace the Duke or keep the party in order, and he said that the consequence would be it would break up, that ‘there are many who would be glad of an opportunity toleave it.’ This I told him I did not believe, but it certainly is impossible to calculate on the consequences of the Duke’s death, or, what is nearly the same thing, his withdrawal from the lead of the party.

The Duke of Wellington by Count Alfred d’Orsay

February 16th.—The Duke of Wellington, although his life was in such danger on Thursday night, that the chances were he would die, has thrown off his attack in a marvellous manner, and is now rapidly approaching to convalescence, all dangerous symptoms subsiding. The doctors, both Astley Cooper and Chambers, declare that they have never seen such an extraordinary power of rallying in anybody before in the whole course of their practice, and they expect that he will be quite as well again as he was before. It is remarkable that he has an accurate recollection of all the steps of his illness from the first perception of uneasy sensations to the moment of being seized with convulsions. He first felt a chillness in his hand, and he was surprised to find himself passing and repassing Lady Burghersh’s house without knowing which it was. He called, however, and went up; and to her enquiry—for she was struck with his manner—he replied that he was quite well. Going home he dropped the rein, but caught it up with the other hand. When he arrived at his door, the servants saw he could not get off his horse, and helped him, and one of them ran off instantly for Hume. The Duke walked into his sitting-room, where Hume found him groaning, and standing by the chimney-piece. He got him to bed directly, and soon after the convulsions came on.

Wellington’s niece, Priscilla (Wellesley-Pole) Burghersh, Countess of Westmorland.
February 21st.—On Thursday morning I got a note from Arbuthnot, desiring I would call at Apsley House. When I got there, he told me that the Duke of Cambridge had sent for Lord Lyndhurst to consult him; that they were invited to meet the Queen on Friday at the Queen Dowager’s, and he wanted to know what he was to do about giving precedence to Prince Albert. Lord Lyndhurst came to Apsley House and saw the Duke about it, and they agreed to report to the Duke of Cambridge their joint opinion that the Queen had an unquestionable right to give him any precedence she pleased, and that he had better concede it without making any difficulty.
Charles Arbuthnot

February 25th.—Yesterday I saw the Duke of Wellington, whom I had not seen for above six months, except for a moment at the Council just after his first illness. He looked better than I expected—very thin, and his clothes hanging about him, but strong on his legs, and his head erect. The great alteration I remarked was in his voice, which was hollow, though loud, and his utterance, which, though not indistinct, was very slow. He is certainly now only a ruin. He is gone to receive the Judges at Strathfieldsaye, and he will go on again when he comes back to town, and hold on while he can. It is his desire to die with the harness on his back, and he cannot endure the notion of retirement and care of his life, which is only valuable to him while he can exert it in active pursuits. I doubt if he could live in retirement and inactivity—the life of a valetudinarian.

March 12th.—The Duke of Wellington has reappeared in the House of Lords, goes about, and works as usual, but everybody is shocked and grieved at his appearance.

August 19th.—In the conversation at which Aberdeen told Clarendon this, he dilated upon the marvellous influence of the Duke, and the manner in which he treated his followers, and the language they endured from him. Clarendon asked him whether, when the Duke retired, he had any hopes of being able to govern them as well; to which he replied that he had not the slightest idea of it; on the contrary, that it would be impossible, that nobody else could govern them, and when his influence was withdrawn, they would split into every variety of opinion according to their several biases and dispositions. He said he did not think the Duke of Wellington had ever rendered greater service in his whole life than he had done this session in moderating violence and keeping his own party together and in order, and that he could still do the most essential service in the same way, and much more than by active leading in Parliament.

(1.) The Duke was seventy when he had this seizure, supposed at the time to be fatal, at least to his faculties. But he lived for twelve years more and continued during the greater part of that time to render great public services and to lead the Tory party.

HUMPHRY DAVY AND THE DAVY MINING LAMP

Louisa Cornell

One of the major industries in the north of England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was mining. From Yorkshire, through Cornwall, and throughout Wales it was a way of life and a way of living for many of those areas’ poorest citizens. Whilst most mines were owned and run by private industrialists, some were part of the financial support of the great estates of the aristocracy. It was an industry that employed men, women, and children with very little discrimination between their duties. Mines producing coal, tin, and arsenic were the most profitable. They were also the most dangerous.

 

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the use of steam engines for hoisting and water pumping enabled the deepening of coal mines in England. Because seams were being dug at deeper levels, explosions in coal mines increased. At deeper levels fire-damp, what we know as methane today, was more prevalent. As a result, in the early nineteenth century many pitmen died in northern England due to large mining explosions. In fact, between 1786 and 1815, major explosions accounted for 558 deaths in Northumberland and Durham alone.

Explosions occurred when fire-damp, released by miners tapping into a gas pocket in the mine, met with the point of the flames of tallow candles used by miners to illuminate their work areas. These meetings of fuel to flame initially resulted in a violent out-rush of gas from the ignition source. However, almost immediately after that an in-rush, called an after-blast by miners, filled the vacuum left by cooling gases and steam condensation.

A catastrophic mine explosion not only killed with the violence of the blast and fire, but it also wrecked the brattices in the mines, destroyed corves, tubs, rolleys, ponies, and horses. The resulting debris made it nearly impossible for miners to escape or for rescuers to reach them. The destruction of the ventilation systems led to the asphyxiation of miners by lethal after-damp resulting from the combustion. After-damp was a lethal gas formed in mines after oxygen was removed from an enclosed atmosphere. It consisted of argon, water vapor, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.

On 25 May, 1812, the mining operation at Felling suffered one of the worst major pit disasters in England. In the end, it claimed ninety-two lives. It was the first major explosion to provide reasonably accurate records of the incident. Situated between Gateshead and Jarrow in Country Durham, the explosion at Felling was heard up to four miles away. A cloud of coal dust fell over the neighboring village of Heworth like black snow. It took nearly seven weeks to remove the dead after putting out the fires and waiting for the after-damp to disperse. Ninety-two men and boys lost their lives and their funeral procession was made up of ninety coffins when it finally reached the church.

After the Felling mining disaster there was a public outcry for mine safety. The Reverend John Hodgeson (1799-1845), who comforted the bereaved and buried the dead, began a correspondence with Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829,) a prominent man of science.

Sir Humphry Davy was the director of the laboratory at the Royal Institution of Science from 1801-1825. He was the professor of chemistry there from 1802-1812. He was an honorary professor from 1813-1823. He discovered the physiological effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas.) He used the newly devised electric battery to isolate sodium and potassium. He did a great deal to establish the Royal Institution’s reputation for excellent lectures and important scientific research.

As a result of the efforts of Reverend Hodgeson, Sir Humphry traveled to Durham to conduct an investigation of fire-damp. He was provided with samples of fire-damp in sealed wine bottles from the mines at Hebburn. A number of other men began to study the phenomenon as well. Most prominently George Stephenson, about whom I will write in another blog post.

Sir Humphry Davy

After a great deal of investigation, Davy discovered a flame could not ignite fire-damp if said flame was encased in a cage of wire mesh. He showed a mesh of twenty-eight openings to the inch, if configured into two concentric mesh tubes, cooled combustion products so that the flame heat was too low to ignite the gases outside the mesh. His final prototype was a wick lamp encased in the double mesh cage. The lamp also provided a test for the presence of gases. The flame of the Davy lamp burned higher and with a blue tinge if flammable gas was present. If the mine was oxygen-poor the flame would be extinguished completely. This gave miners the chance to escape the mines before they were asphyxiated.

The Davy lamp

The first trial use of his lamp was carried out at at Hebburn Colliery on 9 January, 1816. The trial was a great success and the Davy lamp immediately went into production. Did it stop explosions in mines in England? No. With the advent of the Davy lamp, many mining companies only strove to dig deeper mines exposing miners to other dangers. Many miners still insisted on taking candles into the mines to light their way. Some miners were suspicious of the lamps, as happened all too frequently in this era when it came to science.

Trial usage of the Davy lamp.

 

However, the advent of the Davy lamp and other versions of mining safety lamps did eventually create a safer work environment for those working in England’s mines. It was the beginning of efforts by the British government, the mining industry, and men of science to make mining a more survivable employment. It opened the way for more mining improvements and oversight that continued well into the twentieth century.

 

I discovered a great many fascinating things about the early mining industry in England whilst researching for my latest historical romance Thief of Broken Hearts. The heroine, Rhiannon Harvey de Waryn, Duchess of Pendeen, has run the family seat of the de Waryn family since she was a young girl and part of the estate’s fortune is in the tin and arsenic mines. She introduces the Davy lamp into the mine operations against the wishes of many of the miners there.

Excerpt from : Thief of Broken Hearts

Endymion, having shed all curiosity as to how these people knew who he was, raced in the direction the woman had pointed until he came upon a wide chamber, shored up by thick timbers at regular intervals. He came to a precipitous stop. In the middle of the chamber, dressed in a dull brown kerseymere dress and pelisse, stood his wife, covered in dust and perfectly at ease.

I’m going to kill her…right after I turn her over my knee.

A bandy-legged miner, hat in hand, argued with the duchess whilst an older man with a greying beard and dressed like a gentleman farmer looked on, some sort of lamp in his hand. “I don’t like it, Yer Grace. It ain’t natural. Not a thing wrong with the lamp I had,” the miner said, eyeing the lamp in the older man’s hands as if it were a snake poised to bite.

“I’ll tell you what isn’t natural, George Watts.” Rhiannon pushed a strand of hair off her face. “Blowing yourself and half your mates to kingdom come because you are too stubborn to try something new.” She snatched the lamp from the bearded man and shoved it into the miner’s chest. “Either you use the Davy’s lamp or you can join your wife and mother-in-law at the calciners.”

Torn between admiration and anger, Endymion stepped to his wife’s side and, before she noticed his presence, dragged her arm through his. “Do as she says, George. You’ll keep your wits longer. If this is settled, I’d like a word with you, madam.”

Her eyes wide and her color high, Rhiannon tried to free her arm. “What are you doing here? I don’t have time to entertain you, Your Grace. I have work to do.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANOTHER LOOK AT LORD ALVANLEY

We first introduced you to Lord Alvanley in a previous post on this blog, but as his Lordship has recently been mentioned in Waterloo posts about Countess Brownlow and Katherine Arden, his sister, we thought it was time that we encountered him once again.

William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley (8 January 1789 – 16 November 1849) was the son of Richard Arden, 1st Baron Alvanley. He was an officer in the Coldstream Guards, attaining the rank of Captain in the service of the 50th Regiment of Foot. In 1835, Alvanley fought a duel with Morgan O’Connell. According to a near contemporary report “[Alvanley] went through the business with the most perfect sang froid, but on his way to the field he whimsically intimated a singular alarm. Having descended a hollow, ‘My Lord’, said he to his second, ‘you get me down well enough, but’, alluding to his full size, ‘should I fall, I do not know how the devil you will ever get me up again.'”
Underbank Hall

It was to Alvanley that Brummell turned whilst in exile in France for help and for many years Alvanley regularly sent the Beau financial support. However, because of his spending habits, his family estates had to be sold to pay debts. Underbank Hall in Stockport was sold by auction in 1823, most of the Bredbury estate was sold in lots in 1825, the Arden Hall mansion in 1833. He was forced to dispose of his half-pay on 10 June 1826. He later served in the Forest Troop, King’s Regiment of Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry, as a cornet, but resigned on 17 January 1840. He did not marry and had no children. On his death, the title went to his only brother, the Hon. Colonel Richard Arden.

From The Letter-bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope

“But a yet more celebrated leader of fashion mentioned by Mrs Stanhope as being present at the ball given by the Duchess of Bolton was Lord Alvanley. One of the accepted dandies in the same category as Lord Petersham, the Duke of Argyle, Lords Foley and Worcester, Beau Brummell and his great friend, Henry Pierrepont. Lord Alvanley had served with distinction in the army, and further enjoyed the reputation of being one of the wittiest men in Europe. Short and somewhat stout, with a small nose and florid cheeks usually adorned with a lavish sprinkling of snuff, like his rival Lord Petersham, he cultivated a lisp which accentuated the humour of his utterances. He also adopted much the same method of enhancing his value by indulging in certain peculiarities which, however inconvenient to his fellows, appear to have been accepted by them with surprising amiability. For instance, being fond of reading in bed, when he at length felt sleep overpowering him, he would extinguish his candle by the novel method of popping it alight under his bolster, or flinging it into the middle of the room and taking a shot at it with his pillow—but if the shot was unsuccessful, with a heavy sigh he left it to take its chance. So well known, indeed, was this little habit of Lord Alvanley, that hostesses who were anxious not to have their houses set on fire at midnight would depute a servant to watch in a neighbouring apartment till his lordship composed himself to sleep, a precaution which was invariably adopted by Mrs Stanhope when he paid his annual visit to Cannon Hall.

Cannon Hall

“However, despite such minor failings, Lord Alvanley enjoyed a popularity seldom surpassed. To his other recommendations was added that of being a celebrated gourmet, and the excellence was proverbial of the little dinners which he gave in his house in Park Street, St James’s, to which never more than eight friends were bidden, and at which there was an apricot tart on the sideboard all the year round. Moreover, although like Brummell and Sheridan, many a bon mot was fathered upon him to which he had never given utterance, yet his reputation as a wit was well deserved, and at a date when both the dandies and the fine ladies prided themselves upon their undisguised insolence, Lord Alvanley remained a shining example of good-nature, so that, save, perhaps, in one instance recorded in this book, his wit never offended.”

Originally published in 2011