Eight years ago (!?) Victoria and I were fortunate enough to attend the Victoria & Albert exhibition in London. Over the years, we have traveled the length and breadth of England together and have had some fabulous experiences, but the one experience we always come back to is this one. It stands alone. In fact, we recently reminisced about it again when we were in England in May, so we’ve decided to run this post, which originally ran in 2010, again for anyone who missed it then.

One of the highlights of the London leg of our tour, and one of the visits Victoria and I had been most looking forward to, was the Victoria and Albert: Art and Love Exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. I knew it was going to be fabulous, but had no idea how deeply it would affect me.

Upon going through the security checkpoint, we ascended the stone steps to the first gallery in the Exhibition. As we entered, the first thing Victoria and I saw was the portrait below hanging on the far wall.

Winterhalter’s now iconic painting was intended to hang at the family retreat of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. It was exhibited in 1847 at St James’s Palace, where it was seen by 100,000 people. However, the picture was not well received by some of the Press, who criticised its ”sensuous and fleshy” character. Having seen this image over and over in various books, and having a framed print of it in my office, it was breathtaking to realize that we were now gazing upon the original. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock, I looked around the rest of the room, only to find myself being presented with almost every well known, and loved, portrait of the Royal Family done by Winterhalter – in the flesh, so to speak. And all in the same room.  Good thing there were benches provided, as I had to sit down and collect myself.
This gorgeous portrait, commissioned by Queen Victoria and given to Prince Albert on his birthday, 26 August 1843, hung on an adjoining wall. Victoria was just 24 when Winterhalter completed the painting, which was later described as her husband Albert’s “favourite picture.” It’s always been one of my favorites, too, most especially because it breaks the “Victorian” mould by showing Victoria as she was with Albert – a passionate, sensuous woman deeply in love with her Prince.
Queen Victoria and her cousin the Duchess of Neomurs 1852

The painting above captures Queen Victoria with her cousin,Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld-Kohary, who was the daughter of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Princess Antonie de Kohary. Her father was the second son of Francis Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Augusta Reuss-Ebersdorf. She married Louis d’Orléans, Duc de Nemours, on 27 April 1840, in Saint-Cloud. Depicted with her hair down and shoulder exposed, Winterhalter again captured Victoria, the young woman, rather than Victoria, the Queen.  She looks relaxed and quite girl-ish as she sits companionably with and holds her cousin’s hand.
The two full length portraits above were commissioned from Winterhalter in 1842.
The First of May: The Duke of Wellington Presenting a Casket on Prince Arthur’s Birthday
Yes, this painting above was also hanging in the same room. I got as close as possible to the canvas and studied the way Winterhalter had painted the fabrics, the skin tones. Truly amazing.

Also in the same gallery were the two portraits below by Edwin Landseer –

Victoria, Princess Royal, with Eos 1841
Eos, A Favorite Greyhound, the Property of H.R.H. Prince Albert. 1841

Queen Victoria commissioned this portait of Eos, Prince Albert’s greyhound, about which I’ve posted before. Prince Albert got Eos when he was fourteen years old and brought her with him when he moved to England. This is another print that I’ve had framed in my office for years. The subject matter, the composition and Landseer’s use of four colors – white, black, red and gold – make this a striking portrait that’s always appealed to me. Eos herself lived a fascinating life, about which I’ll be posting soon. I hadn’t realized just how large the original painting is – 111.8 x 142.9 cm. or about 4 x 5 feet. Another bench was well placed directly before this portrait and I sat gazing at it for sometime. Eventually, I did rouse myself and went to see the rest of the rooms in the Exhibition but, truly, my mind and my heart remained in the first Gallery, to which I returned after a decent interval, telling Vicky she’d find me there whenever she was ready to go.

There were so many highlights on our trip, but I’ll always be grateful for our visit to Art and Love, which gave us the opportunity to see so many of these paintings hanging beside each other. No doubt it will be a long time before that occurs again and I will always remember the special meaning that day had for both Victoria and myself.

Victoria H. chiming in here with a few more favorites from the exhibition. The catalogue says one of these apple blossom brooches was the first gift Albert sent to his fiance. In later years he added to the collection, including more gold, porcelain and enamel brooches and a wreath for the hair. Victoria always wore them on her wedding anniversary.
This piano of gilded, painted and varnished mahogany and other materials dates from 1856. Both Victoria and Albert played, often performing duets for themselves which Albert had written. The grand piano was designed to be a showpiece in the Buckingham Palace State Rooms. One of the most prominent persons to play it was the composer Felix Mendelssohn, who was a friend of the royal couple.
A throne of carved ivory with gold and gemstone decorations was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, presented to Queen Victoria by the Maharaja of Travancore.  In 1876, when she became Empress of India, she was pictured sitting on this throne.  The detail is amazing.  One of the guards told us that it needed to be cleaned recently and when it was being disassembled, the curators of the Royal Collection found that it was cleverly constructed to fold up entirely flat.  Made it much easier to ship from India, for sure.
Landseer painted Victoria and Albert in their outfits for the first costume ball they held in 1842. The Buckingham Palace Throne Room was decorated with gothic tenting to delight the 2,000+ guests. Victoria is dressed as Queen Philippa of Hainault, consort of Edward III, portrayed here by Albert. The catalogue says these costumes were designed to give maximum employment to the silk weavers of Spitalfields.
Queen Victoria commissioned marble copies of her children’s forearms and feet. The carvings were based on a plaster cast made from moulds taken while the child slept. This is the hand of Victoria, Princess Royal.
We could go on almost forever about ths fascinating exhibit, but I will close with something unexpected. Neither Victoria nor Albert had a large sum of money to spend on gifts for each other. About 2,000 pounds each per year, which is not peanuts, but neither would a comparable amount in today’s values buy a Van Gogh or Monet.  So they shopped and chose very carefully, often commissioning gifts for each other based on their individual or mutual interests.  Sometimes Albert gave Victoria a song he had written and she gifted him with watercolours of their homes, favorite places and the children.
When one sees how devoted they were to each other and how they enjoyed their family life, it is easier to understand Victoria’s intense sorrow and long, long period of mourning for Albert when he died at the relatively young age of 42, leaving her a widow for 40 years until her own death in 1901.
Interested in all things Victorian? Consider joining us on the Queen Victoria Tour as we explore Her Majesty’s life, homes and long reign.


Many snuff-takers, following the example of Frederick the Great of Prussia, made it a hobby to collect snuff-boxes, Beau Brummell having had a very curious and extensive assortment. On one occasion, when dining at Portman Square, on the removal of the cloth, the snuff-boxes made their appearance, and Brummell’s was particularly admired. It was handed round for inspection, and a gentleman, finding it rather difficult to open, incautiously applied a dessert knife to the lid. Poor Brummell was on thorns. At last he could not contain himself any longer, and, addressing the host, said, with his characteristic quaintness — “Will you be good enough to tell your friend that my snuff-box is not an oyster?”

Tortoise shell and silver snuff box,
courtesy of Ernest Johnson Antiques

Beau Brummell also prided himself on his graceful manner of opening the snuff-box with one hand only—the left. Judging from a satirical advertisement which appeared in the Spectator, it would seem that much attention was paid to this act, which afforded an opportunity of displaying the jewelled finger. So important was the act of opening a snuff box that classes were offered:

“The exercise of the snuffbox, according to the most fashionable airs and motions in opposition to the exercise of the fan, will be taught with the best plain or perfumed snuff, at Charles Lillie’s, perfumer, at the corner of Beaufort Buildings, in the Strand, and attendance given for the benefit of the young merchants about the Exchange for two hours every day, at noon, except Saturdays, at a toy-shop, near Garraway’s Coffee House. There will be likewise taught the ceremony of the snuff-box, or rules for offering snuff to a stranger, a friend, or a mistress, according to the degrees of familiarity or distance, with an explanation of the careless, the scornful, the politic, and the surly pinch, and the gestures proper to each of them.”

Another great collector of snuff-boxes was Edward Wortley Montagu, the eccentric son of Lady Mary, who is said to have possessed more boxes than “would suffice a Chinese idol with a hundred noses,” a collection which perhaps was never equalled unless by that of George IV, who was not less extravagant and recherche in snuff and snuff-boxes than in other things.

Then there was Lord Petersham, who boasted a stock of snuffs worth three thousand pounds, while he had boxes adapted for all occasions— boxes for winter wear, boxes for summer use. Indeed, the story goes that he had a different box for every day in the year, and Captain Gronow saw him one day use a beautiful Sevres box, which on being admired, he said, “was a nice summer box, but would not do for winter wear.” He was a great connoisseur of snuffs, and “Lord Petersham’s Mixture” has long been proverbial as a popular snuff. He actually devoted one room of his mansion in Whitehall Gardens to properly storing his snuff. That room was a curiosity in its way, with its rows of well-made jars, and proper materials of all kinds for the due admixture, and management, of the snuffs they contained, under the able superintendence of a well-informed man, who was the guardian angel thereof. After the earl’s death the collection was sold, and prices that seem fabulous to the uninitiated were realized for the finer sorts.

Lord Stanhope used to calculate that a regular snuff-taker took one pinch every ten minutes, each pinch, and its accompanying ceremonies, occupying a minute and a half. One minute and a half out of every ten, it has been pointed out, if sixteen hours be allowed to the day, gives two hours and twenty-four minutes per day, or thirty-six and a half days in the year as the time wasted by a snuff-taker upon his nose.

On the other hand, Talleyrand defended snufftaking, not as a habit, but on principle. He maintained that all diplomatists ought to take snuff, as it afforded them an opportunity of delaying a reply which they might not have ready at hand. It further sanctioned, he said, the removal of one’s eyes from those of the interrogator, and occupied the hands, which otherwise might betray a nervous fidget calculated to expose, rather than conceal, his feelings.

Dryden was a snuff-taker, and was in the habit of frequenting Willis’ Coffee House, in Bow Street, Covent Garden, which consequently became one of the leading resorts of the wits of his time. Thus Ned Ward relates in his ” London Spy ” how “a parcel of raw, second-rate beaux and wits were conceited if they had but the honour to dip a finger into Mr. Dryden’s snuff-box.”

The eleventh Earl of Buchan—brother of Thomas Erskine, who by the force of his eloquence rose to be Lord Chancellor of England—was remarkable for his penuriousness, and eccentricity. In the year 1782 the Goldsmiths of Edinburgh presented him with a mounted snuff-box, made from the tree to which William Wallace had once been indebted for his safety. Ten years afterwards, however, Lord Buchan obtained permission from the Goldsmiths to give the snuff-box to Washington, at that time President of the United States. As a reason for so doing he maintained that Washington was the only man in the world to whom he thought the snuff-box justly due.

When a Mrs. Sterne was about to join her husband in Paris, in the year 1762, he wrote:— “You will find good tea upon the road from York to Dover. Only bring a little to carry you from Calais to Paris. Give the Custom-house Officer what I told you. At Calais give more, if you have much Scotch snuff; but, as tobacco is good here, you had best bring a Scotch mull, and make it yourself—that is, order your valet to manufacture it, ’twill keep him out of mischief;” and in another letter he adds, “You must be cautious about Scotch snuff; take half-a-pound in your pocket, and make Lyd do the same.”

When manager of Drury Lane Theatre, Garrick brought into fashion a particular snuff mixture. It appears that a man named Hardham had been his numberer—to count the audience in the theatre—and on inventing his
“mixture,” Garrick rendered him the following service. Whilst enacting the character of a man of fashion on the stage, Garrick offered a pinch of his snuff to a fellow comedian, observing that it was the most fashionable mixture of the day, and to be had only at Hardham’s, 37, Fleet Street. As may be imagined, the puff answered beyond Garrick’s expectation, and for many years afterwards Hardham’s was the favourite mixture, when snuff-taking was the rage and fashion of the time. It may be added that Hardham, having made a large fortune by his snuff trade in Fleet Street, retired to Chichester, where he died in the year 1772, bequeathing a portion of his well-earned wealth to charitable institutions of that city, which, by-the-bye, was his native place.

Sir Joshua Reynolds took snuff so freely when he was painting that it occasionally inconvenienced his sitters. The story goes that when he was painting the large picture at Blenheim of the Marlborough family, the Duchess one day ordered the servant to bring a broom and sweep up Sir Joshua’s snuff from the carpet; but Reynolds, who would not permit any interruption while engaged in his studio, ordered him to let the snuff remain until the completion of his picture, observing that the dust, raised by the broom, would do more injury to his picture than the snuff could possibly do to the carpet.

According to another story, a gentleman told Wilkie he’d sat to Sir Joshua, “who dabbled in a quantity of snuff, laid the picture on its back, shook it about till it settled like a batter-pudding, and then painted away.”


By Guest Blogger Marilyn Clay

Most of the things we associate with Halloween today, i.e. ghosts, goblins, witches and evil spirits, can all be traced to superstitious Celtic beliefs over 2000 years ago. The Celts had only two seasons: Winter and Summer. Winter began on November 1st and lasted until April 30th. Therefore the last day of the Celtic calendar fell on October 31st, which is the day the Celts celebrated New Year’s Eve.

On the Eve of the Celtic New Year, October 31st, herders gathered around their campfires with their priests, called Druids, to eat, drink and be merry. This celebratory practice grew to include lighting huge bonfires in honor of the Lord of the Dead, Samhain. (Pronounced Sa-wen). Herders formed circles as they danced and howled around the fires to commemorate the approaching New Year that began on the following day, November 1st.

Because the Celts believed that at the time of year when plants withered and died was also when the Spirit World awakened and became active, to summon spirits to foretell the future became a part of their New Year’s Eve celebrations. Since evil spirits, as well as the benevolent sort, were also awakened and became especially active at this time, the practice of disguising oneself so that the evil spirits would not recognize them, came into being. This then, is the beginning of our present-day custom of donning costumes as we celebrate Halloween today, also on October 31st.

Back then, it was believed that if one left a tasty offering outside one’s doorstep, any sort of spirit-being who was lurking about might be more apt to treat that person kindly throughout the following year. The hope was that an especially tasty treat would call down good luck upon their household during the coming cold, winter months. Another reason for leaving treats outdoors was the belief that if the spirit, or soul, of one’s own dearly departed loved ones might still be hovering about, to leave them a tasty offering was a nice way of sharing the family’s harvest feast.

In many European countries, including England, groups of children and adults often went door-to-door on October 31st begging for what was called “soul cakes”, a type of bun made with flour presumably gleaned from the new harvest. A soul cake was said to commemorate all good spirits. Sometimes, fruit was also handed out with the cakes, preferably apples, which were especially favored by the Celts, who believed an apple represented immortality, love, and fertility. These All Hallow’s Eve beggars would often chant: “An apple or a pear, a plum or a cherry; or any good thing to make us merry.”

In ancient Ireland, masked children, and adults, who went begging from house-to-house often instead chanted another sort of rhyme that foretold what the Druid God, Muck Olla, would do to them if they were not rewarded with a tasty offering. Which is the forerunner of our present-day Halloween chant, “Trick or Treat!” These masked (or wily) soul cake beggars often disappeared into the night carrying cheese, butter, bread, eggs or potatoes as well as a few pennies since some homeowners hoped an offering of money would show their generosity and ensure that good luck rained down upon their household during the coming year.

Other All Hallow’s Eve traditions handed down through the ages included unusual methods for predicting the future. The following customs were conducted on All Hallow’s Eve throughout the British Isles.

The Irish served up a bowl of “caulcannon” a concoction made from mashed potatoes, or perhaps turnips, (by the way, initially it was turnips that were carved with scary faces, instead of pumpkins) onions, cabbage and spinach. Small tokens were stirred into the pudding mixture with a generous portion of melted butter poured over the top. Everyone ate from the same bowl. The one who scooped up a miniature horseshoe in his or her spoon was assured of good luck throughout the following year. A coin predicted that wealth was in store for that lucky person. A tiny figure or doll (not surprisingly) meant that the person might soon be blessed with a child. To find the dreaded thimble, or button, meant that that unlucky soul would never marry.

Also, in Ireland, a young girl might select three nuts and designate one to represent herself. The other two were named for two of her most ardent suitors. She then placed the nuts in some type of long-handled utensil and holding it before the fire, watched the nuts burn. Whichever one burned the most steadily beside hers told her which of her suitors would be the most faithful to her.

In Scotland, young couples would select a pair of nuts meant to represent themselves. Again, holding the nuts before the fire, the pair watched to see if the nuts burned to ashes together or not. If so, it meant the couple would live a long and happy married life with each other. If, however, the heated nuts began to split or crack, or even jump apart, it meant the couple were in for a long, unhappy, and quarrelsome marriage.

Unmarried Scottish ladies and gentlemen would be blindfolded and directed to pull up a cabbage or kale from the garden. A closed, white stalk indicated an elderly spouse waited in their future whereas an open, green one meant a young mate was in store for them. If one wished to know if one’s future mate would be sweet and kind, or bitter and unkind, one tasted the stalk to determine their future spouse’s temperament.

In Regency England, it was more common for those in the country to gather together in order to commemorate what they called Harvest Home, a celebration in honor of the rich fruits of their harvest. Special costumes were not worn although the ancient practice of predicting the future by holding apple seeds in one’s palm might very well have been conducted. First, one placed twelve apple seeds in the palm of one hand. While clapping that hand with the other, one repeated this rhyme: “One I love; Two I love, Three I love, I say; Four I love with all my heart; Five I cast away. Six he loves, Seven she loves, Eight they both love; Nine he comes, Ten he tarries, Eleven he courts; Twelve he marries.” When the rhyme is completed, one was to count the number of seeds left in one’s palm to determine the state of his or her future love life.

Although my new Juliette Abbott Regency Mystery Novel, Murder in Middlewych, does not include any of the above Halloween customs, ghosts, spectral sightings, dire predictions, and terrors in a haunted tunnel are in abundance.

My clever, young Regency sleuth, Miss Juliette Abbott and her maid Tilda are being escorted up to London by the handsome and heroic Mr. Sheridan following Miss Abbott’s horrific fortnight at Medley Park. A sudden carriage accident on the way up to Town dictates the threesome must spend the night at what turns out to be a haunted inn in the Cotswold village of Middlewych!

The Middlewych Psychical Fair is slated to commence on the following day. But, when a village lass turns up dead, the local constable rushes to judgment and promptly arrests the stranger in the village, Mr. Sheridan! The tables have now turned and Miss Abbott must run the real killer to ground before her gentleman friend is hanged on the village square. Despite a Tarot card reader’s grisly prediction and deadly terrors encountered in the tunnel, will Miss Abbott be able to save Mr. Sheridan from the gallows, or must she bid good-bye to him forever and find her own way back up to London . . . without him? Oh, no!

Murder in Middlewych is now available in both Paperback and Ebook from Amazon, and in Ebook from most all other major retail sites, including Scribd and Overdrive. Retail site links include Amazon, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble and KOBO.

For all the Ebook links, click on the Murder in Middlewych book cover image on my website.



Steak and Ale Pie The Quintessential British Pub Grub


On visiting any pub in England one would be hard pressed not to find at least one meat pie on the menu. They have been a staple of pub fare since the medieval era, if not before. There  is something infinitely hearty and comforting about meat and vegetables swimming in a rich gravy wrapped in a thick, flaky crust. I daresay working men in England have been popping round to the pub for a pie and a pint in the middle of the day to get them through afternoons on the job since that very same medieval era.

As a historical note, wrapping food in a sort of pie crust has been around since the Egyptians. Once Alexander the Great started building his empire this Egyptian staple soon moved on to Greece and eventually the Romans acquired it… about the same time they acquired Greece. The Romans moved on to occupy Britain and whilst those early Brits did all they could to shove the Romans back to Rome, they did like the idea of baking meat and vegetables into a pie crust so they pilfered the recipe. Seems a small price to pay for slaughtering a large portion of the Celtic population and murdering Bodiccea.

Fast forward to today and the meat pie is part of the very culinary fabric of Britain. And it is definitely one of the very best things to order in any pub in England. Pubs take a great deal of pride in the reputations of their pies. There are even annual contests for the best pub pies in counties, districts, and even the entire country.

By definition, a meat pie is any meat dish served in a pie crust. Which means everything from the lofty Beef Wellington to the lowly Cornish pasty can be considered a meat pie.

Chef Gordon Ramsey’s recipe for Beef Wellington is considered the epitome of Beef Wellington recipes.

Beef Wellington

The D-shaped Cornish Pasty, a hand pie with a storied history that comes filled with beef, potatoes, swede (rutabaga) and onion was developed as lunch fare for workers in the ancient English tin mining region of Cornwall. it played such an important part in the history of mining in Cornwall that the dish was awarded Protected Geographical Indication status in 2011 to prevent it being copied by imitators.

Here is a recipe you can imitate for a scrumptious pasty.

Cornish Pasty


Now cooking your own pub pie might sound well and good, but frankly I much prefer acquiring a good pub pie in its natural habitat – a pub in the UK! There is something to be said for the flavor added to a pub pie by the rafters and hearth of a pub that has been around for several hundred years. And nothing can compare to strolling about an English village or a stately home or the grounds of an ancient castle only to wind up in the local pub with a delicious pub pie and the local ale or a hot cup of tea on a scarred oak table ready for you to enjoy.

Pub pie at The Windmill in Mayfair






The Windmill – Mayfair

Check out some of the other pubs on this list !

For me, however, it is the out-of-the-way, small village pubs that cook up the best pub pies. Nothing can compare to a local cook striving for bragging rights and desiring nothing more than to provide the comfort of a great pub pie for their friends, families, and neighbors.

The George – Lacock



The George – Lacock
The George – Lacock
The George – Lacock
Steak and ale pie at The George

And nothing can compare to a meal of steak and ale pie at a historic pub with one’s fellow travelers after a day visiting stately homes and a village unchanged in hundreds of years. Sometimes it is the food that makes an indelible memory. Sometimes it is the company. And if you are very fortunate, it is both. Who’s ready to take a trip to The George for some glorious pub grub?


From The Horse-World of London by William John Gordon (1893)

In the horse-world of London,  the highest circle, the most exclusive set, so to speak, is that housed at Buckingham Palace. To many loyal subjects the Queen’s (Queen Victoria) horses are as much an object of interest as the regalia; and as cards of admission are freely granted by the Master of the Horse, the Royal Mews (above) are probably the best known stables within the bills of mortality.

There are in them from ninety to a hundred horses —state horses; harness horses, coach and light; riding horses, and what not—whose forage bill runs into 30 quarters of corn, 3£ loads of hay, and 3£ loads of straw a week. Immediately to the right of the entrance gate is a stable for ten horses, mostly light and used in ordinary work; to the left is a similar stable similarly occupied. On the east side of the quadrangle are the coaches, state and semi-state, and, among others, the Jubilee landau. On the west side are more horses— sixteen or twenty of them. The state stables for the creams and blacks are on the north side, and to the left of them are housed the thirty-two splendid bays, many of them bred at the Queen’s stud farm at Hampton Court; the rest bought from the dealers at prices ranging from 180L to 200L. Stables there are in London of more aggressive architectural features, and some in which there is a far greater show of the very latest improvements; but there are none more well-to-do looking, none in which the occupants seem more at home. Comfort and order are everywhere apparent; the grooming is, of course, perfection; and there does not even appear to be a straw out of place in the litter.

The Queen has her favourites, and in matters of horseflesh is content to leave well alone as long as possible. If a pair fetches her Majesty from Paddington, it is always the same pair; if she drives in the Park with four horses, it is always the same team; so that practically out of the hundred horses the Queen uses but six. The horses ridden by the equerries and outriders are also kept at their special work as long as they are found fit, and the visitor going the round of the stables after an interval of years, will find Blackman, and Phalanx, and Sewell, and their companions still flourishing, and seemingly more conscious than ever of the distinguished success with which they do their duty in the royal equipage of everyday life.

The Gold State Coach

Of a different class altogether are the ‘ state horses,’ which appear only on procession days, and are as much a part of the pageantry of royalty as the crown and sceptre, and other working tools of that degree. These have a stable to themselves, the ‘creams’ on one side, the ‘blacks’ on the other. The creams, like the dynasty, are of Hanoverian origin, but they have for generations been of British birth, and, like a large number of the royal horses, first breathed fresh air in the paddocks of Hampton Court. In popular superstition they represent the white horse of Hanover; but that peculiar strain died out long ago, except heraldically, and the creams were always distinct from it. Another erroneous notion, fostered, perhaps, for advertisement purposes, is that the state creams are ‘cast’ and find their way into circuses; but the only specimens that are ever allowed to quit the palaces go as geldings to the band of the Life Guards. With that one exception, the creams come to London when three years old, and live and are buried in the service in which they are born. Being either entire horses or mares, they require a good deal of attention; they are never left alone by day or night; and the man in charge, who has the highest post in his department, sleeps in the stable, and claims to have the longest day’s work in the employment of the State.

Opposite to them are the blacks, which though, perhaps, not so graceful, are more serviceable-looking. They also are of Hanoverian origin, being essentially well-bred specimens of the better class of hearse horse, now rare amongst us owing to the preference given by our undertakers to the more sympathetically lugubrious —and cheaper—Flemish breed. They are big, splendidly showy horses, ‘ with a power of pride in them.’

Like the creams, they never appear on duty with unplaited manes, the blacks being decked with crimson ribbons, the creams with purple. A trifling matter this of plaiting the manes, but on trifles oft a crown doth hang. Once only did the state creams go forth unplaited. It was in 1831, when Earl Grey and Lord Brougham waited upon William IV. to recommend the immediate dissolution of the Parliament, which was playing havoc with the first Reform Bill. The scruples of the King at dissolving so young a Parliament had all been overcome, and he announced his intention of starting for the Houses forthwith, when it was pointed out that there would be no time to plait the horses’ manes. ‘Plait the manes!’ said his Sailor Majesty, then ‘—with the loudest and, of course, most dignified of expletives—’ I’ll go in a hackney coach!’ Horror of horrors! the King on such a mission in a hackney coach! And so the manes were left unplaited, and the State was saved.

c British Postal Museum

But the unplaitedness disturbed many courtly minds, and Mr. Roberts, the King’s coachman, above all men, was most indignant. And so it happened that a still more terrible thing took place. The horses had not been out for some time, and being harnessed in a hurry, they were, like their coachman, not in the placidest of tempers. As they passed the colour party of the Guards, the ensign, in the usual way, saluted. The creams took fright at the flash of colour, and broke into a trot. The great Mr. Roberts began to curse the soldiers loudly, and tried to check the horses in vain. On went the coach briskly. ‘It was noticed,’ say the contemporary historians,’ that his Majesty proceeded at a faster rate than usual, in his eagerness to carry out the wishes of his people,’ and, in short, he reached the Houses considerably before his time. All went smoothly enough inside, but outside there was anything but smoothness. The indignant colour-bearers appealed to their superior officers, and Mr. Roberts had to descend in double quick time from his exalted perch and humbly beg pardon for his insult to the outraged Guards. ‘Swear at the King’s colour, sir! Apologise instantly!’ And he did. And if he had not done so, it is more than probable that the King would have had to have called that historical hackney coach for the return journey, while the unplaited team went home, certainly Robertsless, if not coachmanless.

Neither the creams nor the blacks have had much to do of late years. Though they are the leaders of the London horse-world, their appearances are few; but they can be occasionally found taking their exercise in pairs. The work of all the royal horses is necessarily irregular, as, though a few may be sent to Windsor, the bulk are kept continuously in London, and when the Court is away their occupation is mostly mere exercise. But when the Court is in town they have quite enough to do, work in the stables beginning at five o’clock in the morning, and sometimes, as when the German Emperor was at the palace, there is no rest until half-past two next morning. The routine is conducted with much more precision than in a private stable. Great care is taken that every turn-out is as it should be, and at every public function the carriages are paraded and inspected in the quadrangle before they are allowed to leave the stable gates.