REMEMBERING THE DUCHESS OF YORK – PART 3

In this installment in the series, we turn to contemporary sources for a look at the social circle of Frederica, Duchess of York, and thereby for more glimpses into the personality of the woman herself. What better place to start than with Charles Greville’s Diaries:

August 15th, 1818 — “The parties at Oatlands take place every Saturday, and the guests go away on Monday morning. These parties begin as soon as the Duchess leaves London, and last till the October meetings. During the Egham races there is a large party which remains there from the Saturday before the races till the Monday se’nnight following; this is called the Duchess’s party, and she invites the guests. The Duke is only there himself from Saturday to Monday. There are almost always the same people, sometimes more, sometimes less. We dine at eight, and sit at table till eleven. In about a quarter of an hour after we leave the dining-room the Duke sits down to play at whist, and never stirs from the table as long as anybody will play with him. When anybody gives any hint of being tired he will leave off, but if he sees no signs of weariness in others he will never stop himself. He is equally well amused whether the play is high or low, but the stake he prefers is fives and ponies (Five-pound points and twenty-five pounds on the rubber). The Duchess generally plays also at half-crown whist. The Duke always gets up very early, whatever time he may go to bed. On Sunday morning he goes to church, returns to a breakfast of tea and cold meat, and afterwards rides or walks till the evening. On Monday morning he always sets off to London at nine o’clock. He sleeps equally well in a bed or in a carriage.

The Duke of York

“. . . . (The Duchess’s) dogs are her greatest interest and amusement, and she has at least forty of various kinds. She is delighted when anybody gives her a dog, or a monkey, or a parrot, of all of which she has a vast number; it is impossible to offend her or annoy her more than by ill-using any of her dogs, and if she were to see anybody beat or kick any one of them she would never forgive it. She has always lived on good terms with the Royal Family, but is intimate with none of them, and goes as little as possible to Court. The Regent dislikes her, and she him. With the Princess Charlotte she was latterly very intimate, spent a great deal of time at Claremont, and felt her death very severely. The Duchess has no taste for splendour or magnificence, and likes to live the life of a private individual as much as possible.

“. . . . .  The Duke and the Duchess live upon the best terms; their manner to one another is cordial, and while full of mutual respect and attention, they follow separately their own occupations and amusements without interfering with one another. Their friends are common to both, and those who are most attached to the Duke are equally so to the Duchess. One of her few foibles is an extreme tenaciousness of her authority at Oatlands; one way in which this is shown is in the stable, where, although there are always eight or ten carriage-horses which seldom do any work, it is impossible ever to procure a horse to ride or drive, because the Duchess appropriates them all to herself. The other day one of the aides-de-camp (Cooke) wanted to drive Burrell (who was there) to Hampton Court; he spoke of this at breakfast, and the Duke hearing it, desired he would take the curricle and two Spanish horses which had been given to him. The Duchess, however, chose to call these horses hers and to consider them as her own. The curricle came to the door, and just as they were going to mount it a servant came from the Duchess (who had heard of it) and told the coachman that her Royal Highness knew nothing of it, had not ordered it, and that the curricle must go home, which it accordingly did.”

September 3rd.— “I went to Oatlands for the Egham races. The party lasted more than a week; there was a great number of people, and it was very agreeable. . . . We played at whist every night that the Duke was there, and I always won. The Duchess was unwell most of the time. We showed her a galanterie which pleased her very much. She produced a picture of herself one evening, which she said she was going to send to the Duchess of Orleans; we all cried out, said it was bad, and asked her why she did not let Lawrence paint her picture, and send a miniature copied from that. She declared she could not afford it; we then said, if she would sit, we would pay for the picture, which she consented to do, when all the men present signed a paper, desiring that a picture should be painted and a print taken from it of her Royal Highness. Lawrence is to be invited to Oatlands at Christmas to paint the picture. The men who subscribe are Culling Smith, Alvanley, B. Craven, Worcester, Armstrong, A. Upton, Rogers, Luttrell, and myself, who were present. The Duchess desired that Greenwood and Taylor might be added. From Oatlands I went to Cirencester, where I stayed a week and then returned to Oatlands, expecting to find the Queen dead and the house empty, but I found the party still there.”

And from The Public and Domestic Life of His Late Majesty, George III by Edward Holt (1820) we get a glimpse at the celebrations for Frederica’s birthday in May of 1810 –

Queen Charlotte by Benjamin West

“A grand fete was given in honour of her Royal Highness the Duchess of York, at Oatlands. The preparations were unusually costly. The King, Queen, the Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia; the Prince of Wales; Dukes of York, Kent, Clarence, Sussex, and Cumberland, were present. Indisposition only prevented the Duke of Cambridge from attending. The Duke and Duchess of York were in waiting to receive their illustrious relatives: from the bottom of the flight of steps leading into the great hall, the Duke escorted the Queen to the grand saloon. After viewing . and admiring the improvements made on the lawn, &c. the royal party partook of a most sumptuous banquet, served up in a costly service of silver gilt plate. During the time of dinner, the Duke of York’s band, in full uniform, played under the viranda on the green. The King wore the Windsor uniform. The Queen and the Princesses were dressed in plain white. His Majesty, it was remarked, looked uncommonly well, and possessed his usual flow of spirits. Their Majesties and the Princesses departed about eight o’clock, escorted, as usual, by a party of dragoons.

“About nine o’clock great merriment took place: the Duchess having ordered the park gates to be thrown open, the populace, principally composed of the neighbouring peasantry, rushed in, and made the best of their way to the lower part of the house, where a number of tables were set out with provisions of every description. Dancing commenced immediately afterwards. The tables were deserted for the library, where the Duchess led off the first dance, called the Labyrinth, with the Hon. Colonel Upton. Her Highness never appeared to better advantage; she was improved in health, and grown rather corpulent. The very awkward manner in which the country people paid their respects to the Heir-apparent in their going down the dance, excited the risibility of the Royal Party to an extreme degree. It was not until two o’clock in the morning that the music ceased, and then the company retired. The Prince of Wales slept at Oatlands that night. A similar entertainment was given at York-house, in the Stable-yard, the same night.”

And The New Annual Register Nov. 13 (1812) tells us that: “A ball was given by the duchess of York at Oatlands, for the purpose of introducing the Princess Charlotte into company. The “prince led off the dance, and chose his daughter for his partner; and whilst leading her briskly along, his right foot came in contact with the leg of a sofa, which gave the limb a twist, by which two tendons of his foot were broken. His royal highness took but little notice of it that night; but in the morning he found it so much worse, as to be obliged to resort to the assistance of surgeons.”

The incident above is elaborated upon in The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales by Charles E. Pearce (1912) –

” . . . . in November 1811, and in the same month the Duchess of York gave a ball at Oatlands for the purpose of introducing the Princess Charlotte into the world of fashion. This was done not only with the sanction of the Regent, but probably at his suggestion. In any case, it is evident that the Prince’s ideas with regard to Charlotte were not those which caused so much surprise during the following year. Creevey speaks of the Regent’s high goodhumour and fine spirits when at Brighton in the autumn of 1811, and it may be that in the fullness of his new position and powers he was disposed to put aside his worries and relax the tight hold he had hitherto maintained over the turbulent Charlotte. Whatever may have been the reason of the Regent’s complaisance, the young Princess must have felt justified in thinking that the days of her childhood were past.

“Into the gaiety of the ball at Oatlands she threw herself with all the exuberance of her nature. The Regent and his daughter that night were on the best of terms, and they took part together in one of the Scotch dances at that time very fashionable, thanks to the patronage given to Neil Gow, the celebrated Scotch violinist and the composer of numerous reels and strathspeys. The particular dance in which the Regent and Charlotte engaged was known as the ” Highland Flurry,” and it was reported in one of the newspapers that “the Prince led off the dance and chose his daughter for his partner, but whilst leading her briskly along, his right foot came in contact with the leg of a sofa which gave the limb a twist, by which two tendons of his foot were broken.

“As described here, the accident must have been of sufficient gravity to incapacitate his Royal Highness from further exertion during the evening. There is no evidence that it did so, and in fact doubts have been raised whether the Prince received any injury during this particular dance. It is true Fremantle, writing to the Marquis of Buckingham, corroborates with some slight variations the above version of the “accident,” but he does so with his tongue in his cheek after the following fashion: “As you will be interested in knowing the particulars of the Prince of Wales’s attack, I write to say that although it was nothing but a strain of the muscle, he has made so much of it and it affected him so greatly that it has created quite a sensation. It was done while Princess Charlotte was at Oatlands; she was endeavouring to dance a Scotch step called the ‘ Highland Flurry,’ and there was a laugh in endeavouring to make Adam (who was one of the party) teach her. The Prince got up and said he would show her, and in doing so evidently wrenched his ankle. This took place ten days ago, since which he has never been out of bed. He complained of violent pain and spasmodic affection, for which he prescribed for himself and took a hundred drops of laudanum every three hours. . . . He will sign nothing and converse with no one on business . . . and you may imagine therefore the distress and difficulty in which the Ministers are placed. The Duke of Cumberland is going about saying it is a shame and that he could get up and be perfectly well if he pleased.

“The Duke of Cumberland, after his usual fashion, did his best to make the “incident” tell against the Regent, and from the current gossip of the day it would appear that there was no accident at all, but that the indisposition of the Regent arose from a cause other than dancing. A fracas outside the ballroom was hinted at. Apparently this is what the writer (C. B. Wollaston) of the following letter (to be found in the “Journal” of Mary Frampton) refers to: “There have been strange rumours about the Regent, but I verily believe without foundation. The fact is, as Ryder [Secretary of State at this time for the Home Department] told me this morning, that he is in considerable pain from his legs, and obliged to keep them almost entirely in a horizontal position, which is an inconvenient one for writing; but certainly much distress and inconvenience has arisen on all public offices from the want of his signature. It has been said that a report of his being in the same state as his father [i.e. mental breakdown] was traced to the Duke of Cumberland, and that in consequence the Prince has broken off all intercourse with the Duke; but Ryder tells me that he saw the Duke at Oatlands two mornings ago, and that he and the Duke of Kent had been breakfasting in the Prince’s room.

“Mr. John Ashton says of this queer business that “whatever was the matter with him [the Regent] he did not leave Oatlands until the 9th December, or nearly a month. Nobody believed in the royal sprain, but the story that gained credence and was made the most of by the caricaturists was that the Regent had at the ball grossly insulted Lady Yarmouth, for which he was most heartily and soundly thrashed by her husband, Lord Yarmouth.”

In the next installment of this series, we will take a closer look at the Duchess of York’s friendship with Beau Brummell.

REMEMBERING THE DUCHESS OF YORK – PART 2

Though the Duke and Duchess of York agreed to separate about six years after their marriage, they continued to share the marital home, Oatlands, in Surrey, and apparently managed to live together in the house in various stages of harmony. Certainly, their friends were used to having both royalties present during house parties and other entertainments. A bit like the present Duke and Duchess of York, both preferred to live more or less in retirement and surrounded themselves with a select circle of friends. Let us take a look at the setting, courtesy of Highways and Byways in Surrey by Eric Parker, 1950 –

“Georgian days brought another being as a visitor. Oatlands came to the seventh Earl of Lincoln in 1716, and he built himself a house on the higher ground overlooking a fine stretch of water and many miles of Thameside country. From his son, who had inherited the dukedom of Newcastle, this house was bought by the Duke of York in 1794, but was burnt down the same year, and the royal Duke rebuilt it. He and his Duchess lived there until 1820, when she died. It must have been a curious household. George III brought Queen Charlotte there, and the Court with her; Georgian wits and beauties gathered in the duke’s dining-rooms and played cards in his grottoes. Charles Greville was often at Oatlands, and Sheridan and Beau Brummell and Horace Walpole; Mrs. Gwyn came there, and Mrs. Bunbury, Oliver Goldsmith’s “Jessamy bride” and “Little Comedy.” Both were buried in Weybridge old church. Samuel Rogers, in his Table-talk, gives a quaint picture of the household:

‘I have several times stayed at Oatlands with the Duke and Duchess of York—both of them most amiable and agreeable persons. We were generally a company of about fifteen; and our being invited to remain there ‘another day’ sometimes depended on the ability of our royal host and hostess to raise sufficient money for our entertainment. We used to have all sorts of ridiculous ‘fun ‘ as we roamed about the grounds. The Duchess kept (besides a number of dogs, for which there was a regular burial-place) a collection of monkeys, each of which had its own pole with a house at top. One of the visitors (whose name I forget) would single out a particular monkey, and play to it on the fiddle with such fury and perseverance that the poor animal, half distracted, would at last take refuge in the arms of Lord Alvanley.—Monk Lewis was a great favourite at Oatlands. One day after dinner, as the Duchess was leaving the room, she whispered something into Lewis’s ear. He was much affected, his eyes filling with tears. We asked what was the matter. ‘Oh,’ replied Lewis, ‘the Duchess spoke so very kindly to me !’—’ My dear fellow,’ said Colonel Armstrong, ‘pray don’t cry; I daresay she didn’t mean it.’

“The Duke of York died in 1827, and thirty years later Oatlands became a hotel. The building was greatly altered, but the grounds still keep some untouched memorials of the past. One is an extraordinary grotto, built by the Duke of Newcastle, and used by the Duke of York and his friends, according to local tradition, as a card-room, plentifully supplied with wine bottles. It is lined with a profusion of crystal spar and sea shells; it contains a deep bath, bashfully presided over by a statue of Venus, and the steps leading up to the door are paved with horses’ teeth picked up on the battle-field of Waterloo. How the Duke of Newcastle accomplished this feat it is difficult to imagine, for he died in 1794. Perhaps they belonged to other horses, or perhaps the gallant Duke of York made the addition. He was Commander-in-chief, and the grisly relics may have been sent him as a present.

“Another relic of the dead is the cemetery in which the Duchess of York used to bury her cats and dogs and monkeys. There may be, perhaps, thirty or forty little tombstones, each with a name.”

The diarist Charles Greville has left us a picture of his visits to Oatlands in his Memoirs. Here is an extract that mentions both the grotto and the Duchess’s love of animals:

“The week end parties were often large, and one of the principal amusements of the guests was to sit up playing whist till four o’clock in the morning. On Sundays,” he continues, ” we amused ourselves with eating fruit in the garden, and shooting at a mark with pistols, and playing with the monkeys. I bathed in the cold bath in the grotto, which is as clear as crystal and as cold as ice. Oatlands is the worst managed establishment in England: there are a great many servants, and nobody waits on you; a vast number of horses, and none to ride or drive.”

“The Duchess seldom goes to bed, or, if she does, only for an hour or two; she sleeps dressed upon a couch, sometimes in one room, sometimes in another. She frequently walks out very late at nights, or rather early in the morning, and she always sleeps with open windows. She dresses and breakfasts at three o’clock, afterwards walks out with all her dogs, and seldom appears before dinner-time. At night, when she cannot sleep, she has women to read to her. The Duchess of York is clever and well informed; she likes society, and dislikes all form and ceremony; but in the midst of the most familiar intercourse she always preserves a certain dignity of manner. Those who are in the habit of going to Oatlands are perfectly at their ease with her, and talk with as much freedom as they would to any other woman, but always with great respect. Her mind is not perhaps the most delicate; she shows no dislike to coarseness of sentiment or language, and I have often seen her very much amused with jokes, stories, and allusions which would shock a very nice person. But her own conversation is never polluted with anything the least indelicate or unbecoming. She is very sensible to little attentions, and is annoyed if anybody appears to keep aloof from her or to shun conversing with her. Her dogs are her greatest interest and amusement, and she has at least forty of various kinds. She is delighted when anybody gives her a dog, or a monkey, or a parrot, of all of which she has vast numbers; it is impossible to offend or annoy her more than by ill using any of her dogs, and if she were to see anybody beat or kick any one of them she would never forgive it.”

Author James Thorne give us more background on the house and about the plan and appearance of the famous Grotto in his Handbook to the Environs of London

“(Oatlands) was constructed for the Duke of Newcastle by an Italian and his two sons, who were occupied over 20 years upon it. In the early accounts it is said to have cost £12,000 or £13,000, a sum since magnified to £40,000. The Grotto is a building of three or four chambers on the ground floor, connected by low dark passages, and a large room above. The exterior is formed of tufa curiously put together; the rooms and passages are a mosaic of minerals, marbles, spars of various kinds, and shells, worked into a multitude of quaint devices with infinite patience and skill. The ceilings are of stalactites and satin spars. In the bath-room is a copy of the Venus de’ Medici; painted glass obscures the light. The upper room, reached by an outer staircase, has an elaborate cupola of artificial stalactites of satin-spar; the walls a more complex repetition of the mosaic of the lower chambers. In this room George IV., when Prince of Wales, gave a splendid supper to the Emperor of Russia, the King of Prussia, and the princes and generals in their train, on their visit to England after the battle of Waterloo. The chamber for the occasion was lighted by cut-glass chandeliers; the chairs and sofas had satin cushions embroidered by the Duchess of York. In visiting the Grotto notice the many fine specimens of minerals still left, especially the various quartz crystals; also the ammonites and other fossil as well as recent shells.”

Unfortunately, the grotto was demolished in 1948, but these images give us some idea of what it looked like –

James Thorne continues: “Oatlands was purchased by the Duke of York, about 1790, for £45,000. The house was in great part destroyed by fire, June 6th, 1794, whilst the Duchess of York was residing in it. A new mansion was shortly after commenced on a grander scale, avowedly from the designs of Holland, the architect of Drury Lane Theatre (destroyed by fire in 1806), but John Carter (more favourably known by his etchings of Gothic buildings), who superintended its erection, claimed to be also its designer.* The house did little credit to the taste of either architect. It was a long, low, rambling structure ; the style a meagre variety of Strawberry Hill Gothic, battlemented throughout. It had, however, some noble rooms with ample.”

The celebrated Dandy, Edward “Golden Ball” Hughes purchased Oatlands from the Duke of York in 1824, in turn selling it on in 1846. Oatlands went on to become a school and is now a hotel. On a trip to Windsor, my dearly missed friend, author Hester Davenport, knowing my great affection for Frederica, offered to take me to Oatlands. Here I am sitting on a bench that is roughly situated to where the sheep are in the engraving.

 

The late author, and much missed friend, Hester Davenport.

 

                  Hester and I had tea in the lobby of the hotel, poked our noses into various parts of the building and walked the grounds but, as she was well aware, the prime objective for my visit was to get a look at Frederica’s pet cemetery.

In his Handbook to the Environs of London, author James Thorne describes Frederica’s love of animals and gives us a glimpse of her pet cemetery at Oatlands:

“Fondness for animals was strongly developed in the Duchess. She protected the wild song birds, and would not allow a rook to be shot; the cows and pigs on the farm would run to her sure of a choice morsel; whilst for dogs her partiality was excessive, and to her visitors annoying; but doubtless she found, as she says in one of her shapeless rhymes, their “frolic play Enlivened oft the lonesome hours.’

“She did not neglect them even when dead. Around the margin of a circular basin for gold fish (now drained), she formed a cemetery for her pets, burying each in turn with care, strewing its grave with flowers, and placing over it a little stone “with the animal’s name, date of decease, and, if its merit was remarkable, a tribute in verse from her own pen.* Sixty or seventy of these stones still fringe the margin of the hollow; and when the Queen visited Oatlands in 1871, noticing that the tombstones were out of order, she, with her usual kindliness, gave orders for their restoration. They now look quite fresh, and four or five have been added for dogs recently deceased.”

Unfortunately, Queen Victoria’s efforts were not maintained and this is all that’s left of Frederica’s cemetery, the stones now unreadable. Still, I will always thank Hester for ticking this particular item off my bucket list.

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll meet some of the people whom Frederica counted amongst her friends and get a bird’s eye view of the parties and entertainments she held at Oatlands.

THE JOYCE HENDERSON CONTEST

Many years ago (decades), I was privileged to start up the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Romance Writers of America along with Tina Wainscott, Lynnette Halberg and Joyce Henderson, among others.

Joyce was a sort of den mother to us all, not because she was any older than we were, but because she was such a cheerleader of our work. With her newspaper background and no nonsense attitude, Joyce helped each of us to hone our craft, tighten our prose and stay on track where plot and dialogue were concerned. Most of all, Joyce encouraged all of us to keep going and to strive to be the best writers we could be. No matter what our personal genre or time period of choice, Joyce made each of feel as though our efforts were valid and our hopes of publication justified. And wouldn’t you know it – she was right. Most of us did go on to publication.

Now I’m proud as punch to let you know that the Southwest Florida Chapter of the Romance Writer’s of America have for several years been honoring Joyce’s memory with the Joyce Henderson Contest, open to entries in six romance genre categories and offering unpublished authors the chance to have their work seen by published authors and industry agents and editors.

Joyce was a lucky charm for many of us – her magic just may rub off on you, as well. Complete contest rules and entry form can be found here – deadline for entries is August 31. Good luck!

SAVE THE DATE!

 

Louisa Cornell and Kristine Hughes Patrone will be presenting a seminar on Wednesday, July 26th at the Beau Monde Chapter’s Mini Conference at the Romance Writers of America’s annual conference in Orlando.

If You Knew Regency London…

With the use of period maps available online, little-known research resources, and personal photos and videos of the places you know and many you have never heard of, Kristine Hughes Patrone and Louisa Cornell will take you into the heart of Regency London. From a visit inside Hatchard’s to a stroll through Crown Passage, an authentic Georgian shopping alley, complete with period storefronts and gas lighting, in this workshop you will see and learn about the places and streets in which your characters live and love.

Ever heard of the Golden Lion Pub? Your hero has, and he probably stopped there for a fortifying drink before entering Almack’s, three doors away. White’s Club, Angelo’s Fencing Academy, Devonshire House, and Fortnum and Mason—all within a stroll’s distance of each other—will show you how small “our” London truly is. This workshop will show you how easy it is to research the brilliant little details to give your Regency romance all the seamless period color and authenticity it needs.

If you’re attending the Beau Monde Mini Conference, you don’t want to miss this seminar! Check conference brochure for time and venue location within the hotel.

The Bicentenary of Jane Austen’s Death

from Victoria Hinshaw

 

Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, Hampshire, at age 41. Austen is the author of six complete novels, several fragments and juvenilia.  In her short lifetime, she published four novels –  Sense & Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and EmmaA half year after her death, her brother Henry supervised the publication of two more, both of which he actually named.  Northanger Abbey had been written some years before under the name of Susan, and Persuasion was known to its author as The Elliots.

Jane Austen died in a house in Winchester, 8, College Street. She and her sister Cassandra left their home in Chawton to be near a recommended doctor. She wrote in May:

I live chiefly on the sofa, but am allowed to walk from one room to the other. I have been out once in a sedan-chair, and am to repeat it and be promoted to a wheeled chair as the weather serves…my dearest sister, my tender watchful, indefatigable nurse has not been made ill by her exertions. As to what I owe to her, and to the anxious affection of all my beloved family on this occasion, I can only cry over it, and pray to God to bless them more and more.” 

 Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire

         Jane Austen’s last illness began about a year before her death. She suffered  weakness and fainting, stomach, and discoloration of the skin.  The most accepted diagnosis is Addison’s disease – a glandular condition somewhat related to tuberculosis. Jane Austen made light of her troubles until near the end.  She had severe back pain on and off, and she and Cassandra went to Cheltenham spa  in May 1816 where she took the waters and consulted experts of the day.

     In a letter dated 23 March  to her niece Fanny she wrote:
“I certainly have not been very well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly, I have had a good deal of fever at times and indifferent nights, but am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.  I must not depend upon ever being blooming again.  Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life.”
Two weeks later, on 6 April, a letter written to her brother Charles tells of severe attacks:
“I have been really too unwell the last fortnight to write anything that was not absolutely necessary, I have been suffering from a bilious attack attended with a good deal of fever….  I was so ill on Friday and thought myself so likely to be worse that I could not but press for Cassandra’s return with Frank.” …

When Jane died on July 18, 1817. Cassandra, Jane’s dear sister, wrote:

Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.

I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well — not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.

Jane Austen, by her sister, Cassandra Austen, c. 1800, National Portrait Gallery

You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.

She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: “God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!” Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.

Cassandra cut off locks of Jane’s hair for family members before the burial.  One such lock, presumably faded from its original color, is displayed at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton.

Jane Austen is buried in the North aisle of the Winchester Cathedral.

 

The Gravestone in Winchester Cathedral engraving, written by Henry Austen.

In Memory of  JANE AUSTEN, youngest daughter of the late Revd GEORGE AUSTEN, formerly Rector of Steventon in this County. She departed this Life on the 18th of July 1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and hopes of a Christian.

    The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.

  Their grief is in proportion to their affection they know their loss to be irreparable, but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER.

Note there is no mention of her novels. She was eligible for burial in the Cathedral because she was a rector’s daughter. Though some observers find this simple explanation insufficient – at least the writer of this piece extolled “the extraordinary endowments of her mind,” but it doesn’t sound like Henry thought she’d be celebrated as one of the greatest novelists in English literature.

Jane Austen, watercolour by Cassandra, c. 1804

        In 1872 a brass plaque was placed on the wall in Winchester Cathedral by Jane’s nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, (who had added Leigh to his name after inheriting an estate from a relative on his grandmother’s side of the family) son of Jane’s brother James, with the following inscription:

Jane Austen. Known to many by her writings, endeared to her family by the varied charms of her character and ennobled by her Christian faith and piety was born at Steventon in the County of Hants, December 16 1775 and buried in the Cathedral July 18 1817. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Nearby is a stained glass window in honor of Jane Austen, created with subscriptions from the public in 1900.  The biblical and  literary references portrayed were well known in those days, but since have become obscure to most observers.

Jane Austen has millions of fans worldwide.  Many observances are being held in England and elsewhere this year, marking the bicentenary of her death. This fall, the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) will hold its Annual General Meeting  in Huntington Beach CA. to celebrate her legacy.

Over the past two hundred years, opinions of Austen’s works have varied but one cannot deny that she has achieved both an exceptional literary reputation and phenomenal  popular success in every form of media imaginable.  Jane was only 41 when she died, Imagine what she might have done with a few more years.

NOW AVAILABLE!

 

Whether you are a seasoned traveler or planning your first trip to Great Britain, The Smart Traveler’s Guide to Crossing the Pond will smooth your way and calm travel jitters by providing you with the know-how you need to visit the UK with confidence. From planning your trip to must-have travel apps, The Smart Traveler’s Guide to Crossing the Pond delivers insider tips for every stage of your journey and includes advice and tips on: how to build a personalized trip itinerary, planning your rail travel, stately home visits, the secrets to savvy packing, selecting your flights and seats, understanding the London Tube map, surviving airport terminals and long haul flights, choosing travel accessories and luggage, pub etiquette, British English for travelers and a handy travel/packing checklist.

Did you know that signing up for Groupon London a month before your trip can net you deals on entry fees at popular tourist sites, discounts on traditional afternoon teas and exclusive sightseeing offers? Or that the UK marks time using the 24 hour clock (military time) rather than the American 12 hour clock? Do you know what a Belisha Beacon is or how you can score discounted fares on First Class train travel? Packed with useful tips and practical information, The Smart Traveler’s Guide to Crossing the Pond is essential reading for anyone planning a visit to the UK. Don’t leave home without it!

AVAILABLE ON KINDLE!    $2.99

The Founding Fathers of English Racing – The Godolphin Arabian

BY LOUISA CORNELL

I know of few horse-mad little girls who have not read Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind, which won the Newbery Medal as the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”  in 1948. I still have my much-loved hardbound copy. I daresay not many of those little girls realized Henry’s book was a fictionalized biography of perhaps the greatest foundation sire in the history of Thoroughbred racing. King of the Wind took a great deal of its material from the legends and folklore which surrounded the stallion, sometimes known as Sham or Shamim. The real story of his arrival in England is in all likelihood a little less dramatic.

So far as we know, the horse who would become the Godolphin Arabian was foaled in 1724 in Yemen. As a young colt he was sent by way of Syria to the stud of the Bey of Tunis. It is believed the colt, along with a few others, was sent as tribute to Louis XV in 1728. Due to the long sea voyage the horses did not appear at their best, and the king was not impressed. In spite of that, it is doubtful Sham was used as a cook’s carthorse, no matter what the legends might say.

We do know the horse was imported from France to England in 1729 by Edward Coke, a gentleman with connections at court, including the Duke of Lorraine (later Francis I of Germany.) It is thought Coke acquired Sham by way of the French court, perhaps from the Duke of Lorraine himself. Coke stood the young stallion at stud at his newly purchased Longford Hall in Derbyshire.

Longford Hall By Geoff Pick, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5127009

One of Sham’s first offspring was out of Coke’s mare, Roxanna. This colt, Lath, foaled in 1731 was said to be a beautiful and elegant horse. He was sold to the Duke of Devonshire. Lath was considered the fastest racehorse of his day, faster than Flying Childers had been. He won the Queen’s Plate nine times out of nine at Newmarket. He was not as successful at stud, but his daughters went on to become important dams in the history of British racing. If you have read the other posts in this series you will know the duke had a taste for well-bred horses. In spite of his many flaws, you have to admire a man for that. Or perhaps only those of us who love Thoroughbreds do.

Unfortunately, Edward Coke died a young man, only 32 years of age, in 1733. He left his mares and foals to his friend, Francis, the 2nd Earl of Godolphin. He left his stallions – Sham, Whitefoot, and Hobgoblin – to one Roger Williams. However, in 1733 the Earl of Godolphin bought Sham from Mr. Williams and thus the horse became known as the Godolphin Arabian.

Descriptions of the Godolphin vary. The first recorded was that of the Vicomte de Manty who upon seeing Sham on the colt’s arrival in France described him as “beautifully-made although half starved, with a headstrong temperament that made him unloved among the barn staff.” He was an Arabian. What did they expect?

William Osmer, veterinarian and one of the men who knew the Godolphin best said:

“Whoever has seen him must remember that his shoulders were deeper and lay farther into his back than any horse yet seen; behind his shoulders there was but a small space; before the muscles of his loin rose excessively high, broad, and expanded, which were inserted into his quarters with greater strength and power than any horse ever yet seen of his dimensions. It is not to be wondered at that the excellence of this horse’s shape was not in early times manifest to some men, considering the plainness of his head and ears, the position of his fore-legs, and his stunted growth, occasioned by want of food in the country where he was bred.”

The reference to his stunted growth referred to his relatively short stature. Reports have him standing somewhere between 14’2 and 15 hands high. There is an early portrait of him in Lord Cholmondeley’s collection at Houghton. It is said to be a glamorized image, whilst Stubbs’s portrait is said to be an accurate depiction of a horse thought not particularly handsome by the standards of the day.

Godolphin Arabian
by George Stubbs

The Godolphin Arabian was Britain’s Champion Sire in 1738, 1745, and 1747. His most well-known colts were Lath, Blank, Cade, and Regulus – all outstanding racers. The latter three became champion sires in their own right. He also sired two important fillies – Matchless and Selima, who went on to become the dams of some of racing’s most important lines. The major Thoroughbred sire, Eclipse, traces his sire’s line back to the Darley Arabian, but his dam was a daughter of Regulus, thus Eclipse’s line is traced back to both of these founding sires of British racing.

Today the majority of thoroughbreds trace their sire line back to the Darley Arabian. However, many of America’s finest racers trace their sire line back to the Godolphin Arabian. These include Seabiscuit, Man o’ War, War Admiral, and Silky Sullivan. And a great many of  the horses who trace their sire line back to the Darley Arabian can trace their dam’s line back to the Godolphin Arabian.

Both the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian’s descendants have inherited skeletal and cardio anomalies which gift them with the build and stamina for racing. Passed along the sire lines, they have a shorter back, with five lumbar verterbrae rather than six, which gives them a longer stride. Secretariat’s stride was twenty-five feet, second only to that of Man o’ War, which was twenty-eight feet. And from the dam lines, they have abnormally large hearts, responsible for their incredible stamina. Secretariat’s heart weighed 22 pounds, twice the size of an average horse’s heart. I find it particularly fitting they inherit their hearts from their mothers.

The Godolphin Arabian with Grimalkin – courtesy of Fenwick Hall

The Godolphin Arabian stood at stud for over twenty years, the cat Grimalkin his one constant companion. He died on Christmas Day in 1753. His age was estimated to be 29 years. He was buried in the stableblock at Wandlebury House at Gog Magog in Cambridgeshire with solemn ceremony and a tribute of cake and ale drunk by the mourners. The house was torn down in 1956, but the stableblock remains and can be visited today, as can the grave.

Gog Magog Stables
Last resting place of the
Godolphin Arabian

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marguerite Henry’s book was a fictionalized account of this incredible horse’s journey to legend. However, there are two quotes from her work I hold to be true for the Godolphin Arabian and his fellow founding fathers. Three horses far from home who came to England and wrote their names in the history of British racing forever.

When Allah created the horse, he said to the wind, ‘I will that a creature proceed from thee. Condense thyself!’ And the wind condensed itself, and the result was the horse.

But some animals, like some men, leave a trail of glory behind them. They give their spirit to the place where they have lived, and remain forever a part of the rocks and streams and the wind and sky.