Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet among
80 new works joining Jewellery at V&A from April 2019
From 11 April 2019, Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet will go on permanent public display at the V&A for the first time as the centrepiece of the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery.
Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet was acquired by the V&A in 2017, purchased through the generosity of William & Judith, and Douglas and James Bollinger as a gift to the Nation and the Commonwealth. One of Queen Victoria’s most important jewels, it was designed for her by Prince Albert in 1840 – the royal couple’s wedding year – and made by Joseph Kitching, partner at Kitching and Abud. Albert played a key role in arranging Victoria’s jewels, and he based the coronet’s design on the Saxon Rautenkranz, or circlet of rue, which runs diagonally across the coat of arms of Saxony.
In 1842, Victoria wore the newly completed coronet in a famous portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, the first he painted of her. It carried the image of the young queen around the world through replicas, copies and engravings. Over twenty years later, Victoria wore the coronet instead of her crown in 1866 when she felt able to open Parliament for the first time since Albert’s death in 1861, with her crown carried on a cushion.
Together with the coronet, a superb collection of 49 Art Deco vanity cases will be joining the gallery as a loan and promised gift from Kashmira Bulsara in memory of her brother, Freddie Mercury. Taking inspiration from Modernism as well as Persia, Ancient Egypt, China and Japan, the cases in richly coloured hardstones, enamel and lacquer were made by, or for, Cartier, Lacloche, Van Cleef & Arpels, Charlton and other leading jewellers in Paris and New York. The collection will transform the presentation of the Art Deco period in the gallery.
Additions and new acquisitions are regularly incorporated into the display, with recent examples being Nicholas Snowman’s gift of Fabergé, and Beyoncé’s gift of a Papillon ring by Glenn Spiro. New in April 2019 will be thirty pieces ranging from the late 19th century to the present, comprising works by contemporary makers Ute Decker and Charlotte de Syllas working in Britain, Flóra Vági in Hungary, and Annamaria Zanella in Italy, among others. Pieces will include Christopher Thompson Royds’ Natura Morta necklace with poppies of gold, enamel and diamonds, Gijs Bakker’s Porsche bracelet in polyester, and a gold pendant of Paddington Bear by Cartier, created in 1975.
As the weather begins to warm up here in LA (Lower Alabama) my thoughts, of course, turn to…WINTER ! Having spent three years in England in my youth and five years in Germany as a youngish adult, I have a much higher tolerance for and appreciation of cooler weather. Alabama in the Spring and Summer months moves from :
“It’s another warm one out there.”
“Crank up the AC, please.”
“It is hotter than the hinges of hell.”
“Tarzan couldn’t take this heat! When will it end!”
Suffice it to say, I am quite ready for Fall and Winter’s return. When the temperatures will drop into the seventies.
These days we have myriad devices available to us to adjust the temperature to a more survivable level. During the Regency Era, whilst the devices were also abundant, they were not always as efficient as today’s versions. However, some came quite close. In this post, we will explore the world of…
THE REGENCY FOOT WARMER
There are a number of places to research what the weather was like in England during the years of the Regency Era. One of my favorites is :
I like this site because, rather than give simple temperatures and basic weather information, it actually includes weather events for each year and more commentary on what the weather was like and what it was like to live through it. For instance, the winter of 1813/1814 was one of the five worst winters on record. Heavy snow fell for a number of days in January, 1814 with a brief thaw and then more snow. In short, it was cold.
Now imagine going to church in such weather. Services conducted in a large high vaulted ceiling edifice with no heat source whatsoever. Imagine the journey to said church or to a ball or to London in a carriage on less than serviceable roads. Are you feet frozen yet? Enter the foot warmer.
Foot warmers took a number of forms. The most important aspects were its size, practicality, and ease of transport. The simplest version consisted of a brick wrapped in flannel material which was placed as close as was safely possible to the fire burning in the hearths of inns and taverns. It was then placed in the carriage as it left the inn, either on the floor beneath a lady’s skirt or beneath the feet of a gentleman, perhaps with a carriage blanket draped over his legs. The brick or bricks returned to the fireplace of each inn where the carriage stopped along the way to be warmed and placed back in the carriage on departure. A simple enough device which provided heat until the absorbed warmth faded, usually long before the next coaching inn.
Most of the more advanced foot warmers were boxes of either wood, tin or brass. Each of these versions contained a metal tray at the bottom capable of being slid in and out to be filled with hot coals. Holes were poked in the sides in a regular pattern and a rope or metal handle was attached at the top for ease of portability.
An innovation brought into production during the latter part of the Regency Era and even more prevalent during the Victorian Era was the ceramic foot warmer. This device was filled with water, heated on the hearth, and placed on the carriage floor beneath a lady’s skirts. Early versions were completely round, but latter versions had a flat side, designed to stabilize the device on the floors of moving carriages.
You will notice on the one above there is a hole for the water to be poured into it. What the photo does not show is how the bottle is closed. They are usually fitted with a cork at the end of a clay piece that looks rather like the top and first several threads of a screw. I know this from personal experience as I own two of these bottles. Treasures my mother purchased at an estate sale whilst we lived in England over fifty years ago.
An interesting use made of warming pans and foot warmers during the Regency Era was as a sort of vaporizer against colds, coughs, and some forms of asthma. Below is a mention of this use in a period newspaper.
Whitehall Evening Post, December 22, 1785
At this season of the year when the excessive damps, produced from the vapours of the earth have such a visible effect on the human body generating colds and putrid disease of the most fatal kind; the following, which has been tried in the circle of a few families, would doubtless have its use if more generally adopted, as it is not only a specific preventive, but is the surest palliative in asthmatic and consumptive constitutions. When the air is thick, foggy or moist, let small lumps of pitch be thrown into your first in such degree and so frequent, as to keep up an almost constant smell of bitumen in the apartment. In rooms where fires are not frequently used, a warming pan throwing into it small lumps of the same particularly before going to bed, might be applied with conveniency. Houses newly painted are best purified in this manner, and the more so as neither injures nor soils.
It wasn’t impossible to stay warm during the Regency Era, but in many cases it took a great deal of ingenuity. And a great deal of caution. Hot coals, even in a tin box, presented a very real danger to ladies wearing skirts made of materials not known for their fire-resistant properties. There are no reports of this sort of accident occurring, but I daresay there were some close calls.
So for those ladies who have not yet met their Mr. Darcy,
Might I suggest a foot warmer? Or perhaps a pug or two?
Welcome back to the boxing square! If you missed part one of this series, you can find it here.
So, let’s say a gentleman became so enamored of boxing that he wanted to participate in the sport. Professional boxers were not sons of the aristocracy, but that didn’t stop the aristocracy from aping them. One of the most famous boxers of the day, Gentleman Jackson, one-time champion of England, taught boxing from his salon at No. 13 Bond Street three times a week (alternating with Angelo’s fencing school, which used the same space). Gentlemen as well known as Lord Byron came to learn from the best.
Jackson taught the “scientific style” of boxing, which included nimble footwork and the correct judging of the distance required to strike the opponent. He also advised adopting a posture of a slightly bent body, head and shoulders forward, and knees slightly bent and at ease with fists well up. He taught that fighting with the entire body (scrapping or brawling) was ineffective against the power of a well-trained fist, proving his point by having his students attempt to attack him and fending them off with fists alone.
Between sessions at being soundly beaten by the Gentleman, an aristocratic fellow might practice at home, punching at air or sparring with a friend or family member. Punching bags were not invented until later, but that doesn’t mean some resourceful individuals didn’t figure out a way to create a practice bag on their own.
And what if a lady was enamored of the bare-chested boxers, er I mean the sport of boxing? Proper ladies were not supposed to attend boxing matches. The display of skin combined with the brutalism of the events and the unsavory crowds were deemed too much for the fair sex. Some still came in disguise or inside closed carriages, which could ring the square. Some went so far as to take boxing lessons at home. The practice was thought to provide excellent exercise.
Even if a gentleman didn’t choose to tutor under Jackson or one of the other teachers at the time, he would be sure to attend the matches. These matches were frowned upon by the magistrates. I gather it was like the saying today about hockey—I went to a boxing match and a fight broke out. One of the reasons for locating the matches just outside London on a work day was that the “riff-raff” couldn’t spare time away from work to get there, and tickets might be charged for admission.
The match itself was markedly different from what we know today. They were often held in open fields. An eight-foot square was generally roped off on the ground with stakes at each corner, although some of the larger fights were held on a raised plank floor. Each fighter had a kneeman and a bottle man, who also kept time on the rounds and breaks. The former knelt with one knee up for the boxer to sit on between rounds. The latter provided water for the boxer to drink, a sponge to wipe him down, and an orange for a quick burst of energy. Brandy was supposed to be used only for emergencies. A pair of umpires, usually former fighters themselves, kept the two boxers apart and agreed on how to deal with questionable practices like holding a man’s hair to keep him in place to be hit. A referee was only used if the two umpires could not agree.
The bouts consisted of rounds; each round lasted until at least one of the men was knocked down or thrown off his feet. A fight could run up to 50 rounds, although one before the Regency (1789) was said to hit 62 rounds. If you do the math like I did, that means someone could be hit hard enough to fall down as many as 50 times in one fight. And breaks between the rounds (after someone fell) were only 30 seconds. This was not a sport for the squeamish!
Ready to take up your tutelage at the feet of the master? Come back for the next installment, when we learn more about the Gentleman himself.
Regina Scott is the award-winning author of more than 40 works of sweet historical romance, several of which feature Regency gentlemen who box. In Never Kneel to a Knight, a boxer being knighted for saving the prince’s life must prove to a Society lady who is miles out of his league that their love is meant to be.
So, then, after all this, how did he come to compile that outstanding reference work, Roget’s Thesaurus? It seems like such a departure from what his life was.It seemed, though, that ever since his childhood, Roget was fond of making lists. Kendall opines that this gave order to an otherwise confused, if not chaotic life, with its moves across continents, the death of one parent and the mental instability, in a family prone to severe depression, of another. Making lists, sorting things into categories, making sense of a world that was puzzling and no doubt upsetting to him, was a source of satisfaction and provided a modicum – or more than a mere modicum — of stability.
I believe that Kendall rightly describes Roget as an obsessional personality, but I would venture even further. It’s interesting, this making of lists, when taken into consideration with Roget’s intelligence, his genius with science and mathematics, plus the strains of mental illness in his family, and his inability to communicate well with other human beings. Perhaps something else was going on. It was said of Peter Mark Roget that he got along with words much better than he ever got along with people, and there is probably a great deal of truth in that surmise. Imposing order on words, categorizing things –whether space, matter, affections, et al. – seemed to settle his perhaps too-active mind. And this made me wonder if he might have had a form of high-functioning autism now called Asperger’s Syndrome. (This condition was not described until the mid-20th century, too late for Roget to have been diagnosed.)
The symptoms of autism are many, but consider as one example, the problem of not being able to recognize how severely depressed his uncle was in his last days. Was Roget unable to relate to him – a prime “tell” for autism sufferers – and did that lack of empathy play a large role in his uncle’s doing away with himself? Was he constitutionally unable to read the signs of a soul in distress, even one who had been so very close to him? This constant list-making, this never-ending attempt to impose order on a world that confused him, this outward manifestation of his restless intellect, was this perhaps another “tell”? Impossible to diagnose from so far way in time from Roget’s world, but other incidents in his life confirm his continual problems with social interaction.
Kendall does not deal with the possibility of autism; it is my own notion, for whatever it is worth, but he does make a forceful case for OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. He discusses Freud’s 1913 paper on the condition, noting the psychiatrist’s finding that “obsessions, which tend to first appear between the ages of six and eight, serve the function of helping people ward off intense and painful emotions such as anxiety and hate… [and that] obsessionality…is remarkably consistent over the life span.”
The author goes on to state: “That was certainly the case for Roget; some eighty years after he started his notebook, he was harnessing the same obsessive energy to churn out new editions of his Thesaurus.” Whatever psychological condition(s) Peter Mark Roget might have had, his genius was in his ability to compile words brilliantly into his many lists, in notebook after notebook, starting at the tender age of eight. Roget was in a long tradition of word-compilers, but he was the very best. His contribution to anyone who struggles to find the right word is unparalleled.
As Kendall notes: “For Roget, the careful use of language depended on understanding not only the meanings of individual words but also the relations between them.” Further, “These neighboring lists of opposing ideas, he believed, opened up all kinds of new vistas for readers.” One of the intriguing aspects of Kendall’s book is his clever use of these lists throughout the text, and also in chapter headings.
A married man, a husband, spouse, bridegroom, benedict, neogamist, consort.
A married woman, a wife, bride, mate, helpmate, rib, better half, feme covert.
(Bet there are a few words here you haven’t come across!)
And in what was apparently a time-honored tradition in the Roget-Romilly clan, Mary Hobson was rich, the daughter of a wealthy Liverpool merchant, and considered beautiful. Kendall notes that she was also, “Roget’s opposite…with a lively sense of humor… [and she] exuded warmth.” He married her in 1824, when she was 29 and he was 45; he was sixteen years older. She seems to have been the ideal wife for someone like this obsessive polymath. She even attended all his lectures and took notes! Her diaries show her pride in the success of these public events featuring her husband. As Kendall comments: “Though Roget couldn’t always connect with others one on one, he never failed to dazzle his audience.”
Alas, the bad luck of the Rogets when it came to their physical and mental health was to run its appointed course. In 1833, his 38-year-old wife died of cancer. They’d been married just under ten years. Kendall notes: “Roget’s immediate reaction was the same as the one that followed his uncle’s suicide: emotional paralysis.” Although his in-laws were kind to him in his loss, they immediately stopped the monies they’d been regularly sending to Roget since his marriage to their daughter. (I found this startling and have to wonder what sort of dowry arrangement Roget had made with the wealthy Hobson family, but there is no further explanation.)
A few years after his wife’s death, Roget hired a new governess for his two children, a Margaret Spowers, the daughter of a wealthy Hampstead businessman. (Always these wealthy women! Is a pattern emerging here?) During the summer of 1840, Roget and the governess were to begin to live together as man and wife, but never to marry. The nature of their relationship apparently so embarrassed Roget’s family that they “would do everything they could to cover [it] up,” according to Kendall.
The relationship no doubt contributed to the emotional breakdown of Roget’s fragile daughter Kate, who was made to leave their home, eventually residing for some years with her former governess, the botanist Agnes Catlow. (When Margaret Spowers died – leaving nothing of her considerable wealth to Roget – oddly harkening back to being cut off financially by his wife’s relatives– Kate returned to her father and was his companion until his death.More drama was to come. In the mid- to late-1840s, Roget was involved in a series of “alleged missteps” at the Royal Society and perhaps forced to resign his prestigious post as Secretary, though he “refused to take responsibility for any of his questionable behavior.” Were these “missteps” and “questionable behavior” further manifestations of his problems in dealing with others? It was 1847, he was now 70 years old, and his life-long issues with insensitivity, coupled now with challenges to his scientific credibility, were coming under close scrutiny. He did resign.
Like the crisis with his uncle’s death, this was not a good time for Roget. But, as Kendall writes: “As the curtain fell on his academic career at the end of 1848, Roget wasn’t quite ready to pack it in. His mind was sharp as ever, and he was still teeming with ambition.” Taking a look at other works then available that dealt with English synonyms, Roget decided at long last to publish his lists, which he felt were superior to anything in print. The first edition of Roget’s Thesaurus, 1,000 copies published in the spring of 1852 by Longman, quickly sold out. Reviews, Kendall notes, were “glowing.” It has remained solidly in print for over one hundred and fifty years. After Roget’s death in 1869, future editions were edited by his son John Lewis Roget and his grandson Samuel Romilly Roget.
His contract for the first edition was ½ of the profits from all sales; with later editions it was to be 2/3 of the profits. He did very well financially from his lists of words! And what about Roget and Dr Johnson, the maker of that formidable dictionary of the English language? What further parallels and similarities might lie between these two geniuses of the written word? Dr Samuel Johnson’s genius lay in defining words, and his Dictionary – the first real dictionary of the English language — broke new ground; his was an altogether different category of genius. But it is tantalizing to note that Johnson also had an obsessive personality and was prone to tics and strange behavior. (At one point there was a theory bruited about that he exhibited the symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome.)
Johnson did have a strange routine of counting his steps when he came to a door so to enter by the correct foot, and, like the fictional detective obsessive character Monk in the American television series, with his need to touch light poles and mailboxes, Dr Johnson apparently needed to touch all the lampposts on the street as he walked to and from his house on Gough Square. Word nerds are interesting and amusing folk, to be sure.
Postscript: Simon Winchester, who was at the time writing a book on the OED (Oxford English Dictionary)* launched a scathing attack on Roget’s work a few years ago, declaring that it was “a serious force for bad” as “uncritically offering up lists of alternative words” leads to poor writing habits, to “our current state of linguistic and intellectual mediocrity” and to a language that is “decayed, disarranged, and unlovely.” He continued on this track for 15,000 furious words – none of which, he said proudly, had been assisted by the use of any thesaurus. He also went on to disparage folks who dare to use the book to solve crossword puzzles, insisting that using a reference book of any kind to complete a puzzle is “simply not done”.
Oh, dear, I do admire Winchester’s writing – I think I own most of his very well-written books – but I do not think it’s possible to disagree more with him on all these points. Speaking as a reference librarian and as a wordsmith, I do not – and will not, ever – hesitate to say that reference books are a great help in finding answers to all kinds of questions and clarifying one’s thoughts, and that using a thesaurus to find the right word(s) teaches us a great deal.
Reference books are not crutches, but sturdy ladders to higher learning and understanding. Rather than being – as Winchester says – a kind of vulgar substitute for thinking – they are stimuli to thinking. We owe Roget, and Webster, Johnson, James Murray, and other lexicographers/word nerds a great deal; I, for one, am willing to acknowledge that, and to express my eternal gratitude to these giants who loved words as much as I have loved them every day of my life.
Happily having used Roget’s Thesaurus – that incomparable list of synonyms and antonyms — throughout my writing career, I realized I didn’t know anything at all about its compiler, Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869). I’d never even wondered why someone with a French surname had written a book on the English language. Neither did I know when it was first published. Roget’s was simply a book of synonyms that was always there, that people knew, and used – especially when solving crossword puzzles or writing essays — and that was that. Right? I was also grateful to him, very grateful, because he so alleviated (whew!) my monologophobia (the fear of using the same word twice in a piece of writing).
But, seriously, who was this lexicographer who’d produced such a seminal work?
Author Joshua Kendall, a journalist who describes himself as a “word nerd”, tells a fascinating and dramatic story, one well worth reading. (His current project is the biography of another word nerd, America’s Noah Webster.)
Roget began his career as a medical doctor, but went on to many accomplishments, among them his invention of the slide rule, his role in nitrous oxide/laughing gas experiments with Thomas Beddoes, developing filtration systems for London’s sewers, posing the first chess problems for newspapers, his work on optics (that led some to link his name in a later century with moving pictures), his popular lectures on anatomy and other scientific subjects, and his wealth of writings on physiology and health. In 1834 he became the first Fullerian Professor of Physiology at the Royal Institution and he was a founder of the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge.
My curiosity having been aroused, I began to read the book, especially interested in the tantalizing promise of the love and madness part, as a writer of romantic fiction and as the biographer of a famous courtesan.
First, his ethnicity. The Rogets were French-speaking Swiss from Geneva. Jean Roget, his father, was the minister of a Protestant church in the Soho neighborhood of London, which had a large Huguenot (French Protestant) population in the 18th century. His mother was from a wealthy middle-class Huguenot family; her mother Margaret Garnault, was an heiress, and her father Peter Romilly was a well-off jeweler. His mother’s brother, the highly respected Sir Samuel Romilly, had a distinguished career in government.
Sir Thomas Lawrence painted that great man circa 1806-1810:
But there were serious health problems – mental as well as physical – in the Roget and Romilly families. The mental illness was in the Romilly family; Roget’s maternal grandmother, Margaret, was an unstable personality who needed constant supervision. Roget’s father’s problem fell into the physical realm: he developed tuberculosis. This necessitated a move back to Switzerland, where treatments for the condition were considered better. The infant Peter was left with his maternal grandparents, and when just a toddler he was taken to Switzerland by his uncle Samuel to be with his parents and new baby sister Annette. But all was not well with his parents. His mother may have been suffering from post-partum depression after Annette’s birth, and when his father finally succumbed to TB after four years, she fell into a sharp mental decline.As Kendall observes, “Madness ran in the immediate family. [His maternal grandmother] … suffered from an unidentified mental disorder – probably severe depression or schizophrenia – that left her in an almost vegetative state for most of her life.”
Roget’s mother, who was described as “temperamental and emotionally demanding,” lapsed into paranoia in her old age.Alas, it didn’t end there. Roget’s sister Annette – and, later, his daughter Kate – also suffered from severe bouts of depression. And his kind uncle Sir Samuel Romilly, longtime Member of Parliament and internationally renowned reformer of the system of British criminal law, among many other legal triumphs, fell into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1818.
By this time, Peter Mark Roget, almost 40 years of age and unmarried, had a thriving medical practice and had become a member of the Royal Society; he was the one called to his uncle’s bedside. Sir Samuel had slashed his throat with a razor, inconsolable after the death of his wife, whom Roget had attended in her last, fatal, illness. (This incident is described in tragic detail in the opening pages of the Kendall biography.Sir Samuel’s demise was a great loss to his family and to the nation. A good part of the blame for his suicide, alas, was attributed later to the insensitivity of the medical treatment of his nephew, Peter Mark Roget. This blame, unfortunately, may well have been warranted.Kendall states “no one questioned Roget’s concern for his uncle” but “a consensus emerged that he had failed to grasp the full extent of Romilly’s emotional agony” upon the loss of his wife. But, again, severe depression ran in the Romilly family, and perhaps no physician could – at that time – have done anything to alleviate Roget’s uncle’s grief and deterred him from suicide.
Samuel Romilly’s suicide unhinged Peter Mark Roget for a good long while.
According to Kendall, the tragedy – and the guilt — caused Roget to undergo what Kendall dubs “a midlife crisis.” He left the medical profession and pursued a second – and hugely more successful — career as a lecturer at the Royal Institution.