By Victoria Hinshaw

King George V
King George V died 82 years ago of lung disease.  Grandson of Queen Victoria and grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II, his death was expected (he had been a heavy smoker and ill for some time).  However, controversy surrounding his death surfaced a few decades ago when the diary of his lead attending physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, was revealed.  In his notes after the death, Dawson wrote he administered to the king a lethal dose of drugs, morphine and cocaine, ensuring that George V would die before midnight. Dawson  was motivated by a desire to preserve the King’s dignity, protect the family (and realm) from a long period of confusion, and probably to allow the announcement of the King’s death to be made in the morning newspapers instead of the afternoon press, the latter considered less authoritative and more sensational.


Prince George, age 5, 1870

George Frederick Ernest Albert was born in 1865, the second son of Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII, 1841-1910), and Princess Alexandra (1844-1925).  Throughout his early life, he did not expect to inherit the throne, but in 1892,  his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, died of pneumonia and George became second in line to the throne, after his father, and was named Duke of York.  Albert had recently become engaged to Princess Mary of Teck (1867-1953), known as May, and after a suitable period of mourning for him, May and George became engaged with the approval of Queen Victoria. The wedding took place in 1893.

After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, her son Edward VII ruled for just over nine years before he suffered fatal heart disease. George, during his father’s reign, was Prince of Wales. When  he took the throne as George V, the troubles in Europe which led to World War I were already well underway.  George V was a first cousin of both German Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.  Family ties, sadly, did not prevent the catastrophe to come.

The war and its aftermath occasioned many changes in Great Britain  and the Empire. The family name of the royals was changed from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. Stirrings in Ireland and other territories had long-reaching consequences, not to mention the rush of technological change.  George V was the first King to address his people by radio, as recently portrayed in the film The King’s Speech, the story of George V’s son, George VI. Below, King George V as portrayed in the film by famed British actor Michael Gambon.

Michael Gambon as George V
In the film, George V is portrayed as a stern father, intolerant of the shortcomings of his sons.  His eldest son, known as David, succeeded him as Edward VIII, but reigned for less than a year, abdicating to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.  In turn, George V’s second son became King George VI.  In many stories about George V’s life, we learn he expressed his hope that David would never marry and have children, because he (Geroge V) wanted nothing to come between the throne and his granddaughter Elizabeth, the present Queen, called Lilibet.

George V reigned for  just over 25 years. Upon the celebration of his Silver Jubilee in 1935, he was touched at the affection expressed for him by the people of the nation and the empire. The occasion was marked by many tributes and a wide variety of souvenirs, including china, medals and stamps, the latter reflecting the King’s hobby of collecting.
When I first began to write about George V’s death, I had no idea of the controversy that arose  about fifty years after the event.  Though the existence of Lord Dawson’s diary and its revelation of how the death was hastened had been known to a few, it was not made public until 1986, fifty years after the death. A few hours before he administered the final drugs, Dawson told the nation, “The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close.”
Lord Dawson of Penn,  ©National Portrait Gallery
According to the New York Times of November 28, 1986, a biographer of George V, Kenneth Rose, said he now considered that Dawson had murdered the King.  But there was no official statement from Buckingham Palace, just the remark that it all happened a very long time ago and all those involved were now dead. Whether or not members of the King’s family were consulted or knew of the injections is not known.
After the tumultuous years of his  reign — world war, the first Labour government, influenza epidemics, extension of women’s rights to vote,  general strike,  the great depression — perhaps a case of euthanasia is not so shattering.  But it was a surprise to me.
To quote Dawson’s diary, for January 20, 1936: “At about 11 o’clock it was evident that the last stage might endure for many hours, unknown to the patient but little comporting with the dignity and serenity which he so richly merited and which demanded a brief final scene. Hours of waiting just for the mechanical end when all that is really life has departed only exhausts the onlookers and keeps them so strained that they cannot avail themselves of the solace of thought, communion or prayer. I therefore decided to determine the end and injected (myself) morphia gr. 3/4 and shortly afterwards cocaine gr. 1 into the distended jugular vein.”
George V died before midnight. Below, the funeral cortege moves through Windsor.
Queen Mary lived on until 1953. She is buried beside her husband in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.


by Victoria Hinshaw

Originally published after Number One London’s 2015 Duke of Wellington Tour, we’re re-running this post on our St. James’s Walk as we regularly include it on all our tours that begin or end in London. In 2018, the St. James’s Walk will be a part of our Georgian England Tour and our 1815: London to Waterloo Tour. Complete details on both Tours can be found here


Kristine and Victoria led a walking tour of St. James’s London, beginning at our  hotel near Victoria Station and passing Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Monument. Being a Sunday, the  traffic circle and the Mall were closed to vehicle traffic and open to pedestrians and bicycles.  Our weather was perfect – warm and sunny.

Flower Beds were gloriously abundant.

We headed up the path in Green Park past Lancaster House, Spencer House, and other posh residences.

Lancaster House
We cut through the narrow Milkmaids Passage, a pedestrian tunnel that brings one out opposite the Stafford Hotel.
The Stafford  Hotel (much remodeled) was once the home of Sir William, 3rd Baronet Lyttelton, and his wife (1787-1870), the former Lady Sarah Spencer, niece of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. After her husband’s death, Lady Lyttelton became a governess to the children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  The hotel’s fine restaurant is titled The Lyttelton. For more about the hotel, click here.

Wandering around the maze of streets in this little corner of St. James’s, we found a mix of modern (often brutalist) office/apartment complexes and a few listed buildings from the 18th century.

21 Arlington Street, built 1738-40 by Architect Giacomo Leoni for Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, an excellent example of Palladianism stripped down to its essentials (ignore the added top floor)


Royal Overseas Club, in Park Place

We followed the ins and outs of this maze to the entrance facade of Spencer House in St. James’s Place.

Spencer House, built 1756-66 by Architects John Vardy and James “Athenian” Stuart for John, 1st Earl Spencer.  It is now owned by the Rothschild Enterprise’s RIT Capital Partners and open on most Sundays for a tour of the State Rooms.  The website is here and includes photos of both the exterior and interior.
Nearby is a handsome brick house once the residence of  Williams Huskisson (1770-1830). The blue plaque calls him a statesman; he was often a strong opponent politically in Parliament of the Duke of Wellington.  He is also the first man to be killed in a railway accident when a demonstration run of the Rocket ran over him in the presence of many notables – including the Duke.


No. 29 was once the residence of Winston Churchill.
#5  was the home of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745)
and his son Horace Walpole (1717-1797)
Another famous resident of St James’s Place, at #4, was composer and pianist
Frederic Chopin (1810-49)
Duke’s Hotel is another elegant institution just off St. James’s Place

St. James’s Place opens into St. James’s Street, famous for gentlemen’s clubs of the British variety and several very old and traditional merchants.  The numbering begins at the Palace and goes north up the east side of the street to Piccadilly then crosses to the west side and counts southward back to the Palace.

The Palace at the bottom of the street


Grenadier Guard at St James’s Palace, built by Henry VIII

But feeling the need for a sit-down and some coffee, we retired to a cafe in Piccadilly before taking up our tour again.

Berry Bros. and Rudd, Ltd, Wine Merchants, #3 St. James’s Street
Their website is here.
A Passage beside the wine store leads to Pickering Place, above and below.
This little space was once known as a spot for dueling, but it must have been pretty tight!


Pickering Place,with a plaque of Lord Palmerston
Another plaque commemorates the location of the Texas legation 1842-1846.
Lock and Co. Hatters have served british dignitaries for more than 300 years.
Click here for their website..
Lobb and Co. Bootmakers

Closer to Piccadilly on the east side of the street are two famous Clubs

Boodle’s, #27  St. James’s Street


The chemist’s shop, D. R. Harris, founded in
1790, is located at #29. The website is here.
White’s Club, #37/38 St. James’s Street, founded 1693

On the west side, heading back to St. James’s Palace, you will find Brook’s Club.

Brooks’s 60 St. James’s Street,  club founded in 1762
The headquarters of Justerini and Brooks Ltd. at 61 St. James Street,
across Park Place from Brooks’s.


The Carlton Club, #69 St. James’s Street, founded in 1832
#74 St. James’s Street, formerly the Conservative Club, completed in 1845
Returning to Piccadilly, we stopped for a welcome sit-down and a coffee or tea. Even on a Sunday morning, Piccadilly was busy, as usual an international mish-mash of tourists globe-wide. Great people watching!
Burlington Arcade
We walked east on Piccadilly past a number of famous sites:
on the north side of the street, Burlington Arcade.
And Burlington House, home of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Tucked almost beside Burlington House is the  famous residence, Albany, once the home of Lord Byron and more recently, Georgette Heyer.  Built originally as Melbourne House. it was traded by that family to the Duke of York and Albany (2nd son of George III) in exchange for what became Melbourne House in Whitehall, now the Scotland office just south of Horse Guards. Later it became prestigious bachelor quarters, eventually open to women as well.
On the South side of the street, that esteemed purveyor of all things delicious, Fortnum and Mason, established in 1707 in Duke Street, and supplier worldwide, including to the army in the Peninsular War in the early 19th century, right up to today’s British forces — not to mention picnickers, racegoers, opera lovers, and  foodies everywhere. To visit, click here.
Fortnum and Mason
Hatchards Bookstore, above, established 1797  Their website is here.
Soon, we arrive at the wonderful St James’s Church, Piccadilly.
Outside the church is a small but lively marketplace
Baptismal font


The famous wood carvings of Grinling Gibbons
Floris Perfumers on Jermyn Street
Nearby, a plaque marking the location of the residence of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Chequers Pub
Time for another pause that refreshes, this time at Chequers…a charming little pub in Duke street. At the rear of the building or accessible from a passage beside it is Mason’s Yard, another hidden collection of interesting sites, including the White Cube Gallery and the member’s entrance to the London Library.
William III in St. James’s Square
At last we came to St. James’s Square, still a leafy oasis, though a private park as so many of the squares in London are.
There are still a few of the buildings originally built here, though much remodeled, and many replaced.  At #4 is the Naval and Military Club, better known as the In and Out Club.
#4 St. James’s Square
The plaque honors Nancy Astor (1879-1964), first woman to sit in Parliament, who once lived here.
Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St. Albans, 1605-1684
Following the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, Henry Jermyn was Lord Chancellor, and received a grant of land north of St. James’s Palace, which he had cleared and laid out for development. He is known as the Father of the West End.  He died shortly before the completion of St. James’s Church, just north of St. James’s Square.
At #10 St. James’s Square stands Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, site of many important multilateral events.  The building was once home to three Prime Ministers, William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708-1778), Edward Geoffrey Stanley, Earl of Derby (1799-1869), and William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898).
Plaque honoring three Prime Ministers at #10 St. James’s Square


Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-52) at #12 St James’s Square
Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and his wife, Anabella Millbanke.  She was a mathematician and a pioneer in computing.
London Library, #14 St. James’s Square
The private library, established in 1841, is a favorite of many British writers and historians. Kristine and Victoria returned here the week after the tour for a special viewing during London Open House Week.

#16 St. James’s Square, above, once the Boehm residence where the Prince Regent received the despatches of the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo,now the East India Services Club.

By this time we were all ready for our tea, so we hiked back to Piccadilly and the wonderful Richoux Tea Room at #172.

Left to right: Kristine, Marilyn, Donna, Ki, Victoria and Diane

In 2018, the St. James’s Walk will be a part of our Georgian England Tour and our 1815: London to Waterloo Tour. Complete details on both Tours can be found here


Originally published in 2010, we’re re-running this post now because we think you may like to look at Haddon Hall’s glorious gardens on this cold December day. Victoria and Kristine revisited Haddon Hall this past September on Number One London’s Country House Tour and the gardens were stunning. Do check our new line-up of tours at Number One London for details on the 2018 Country House Tour!


I visited Haddon Hall on a cool early summer day and found roses climbing all over the ancient grey walls, their colorful profusion a perfect complement to the lichen-covered stone.

Haddon Hall, high above the Wye River near Matlock in Derbyshire, is typical of medieval manor houses: built of local rock with thick walls and small windows.


The property is listed in the Domesday Survey conducted shortly after William the Conqueror took over England. The Domesday Book was a great survey completed in 1086, a sort of census. William wanted to know who the landholders were and what taxes he could collect from them, so his clerks looked for property holders from the time of Edward the Confessor. The judgment of the assessors was final and there was no appeal. The name Domesday comes from the Old English word dom (same root as doom in modern English) meaning accounting or reckoning. The book of this census is known by the English as ‘Domesday’, that is the Day of Judgment.


Many of the finest English Country Houses evolved from ancient foundation structures of which few traces remain. Rebuilding, remodeling, and redecorating have been beloved preoccupations for centuries. Houses were altered by almost every generation to incorporate the latest technological improvements or to enhance the size, style and beauty of their surroundings. The richer the family members, the more they rebuilt over and over again.




The Haddon estate came into the Vernon family through the marriage of its heiress in 1170 to Richard Vernon.

The oldest and best-preserved old houses usually are passed down in a family through the female side. History repeated itself when in the mid-1550’s, Dorothy Vernon eloped with Sir John Manners, a son of the Duke of Rutland, against the wishes of her father. But despite his opposition to the match, Haddon Hall soon became the property of the Manners family, which has owned it ever since. It was, however, a secondary residence to the Rutland’s primary estate, Belvoir (pronounced Beever) Castle.

Since secondary residences were visited rarely, there was little urge to remodel to wife’s property.  This pattern is repeated many times throughout the history of various stately homes. Cotehele in Cornwall and Chiswick near London are two more excellent examples. The romance of Dorothy Vernon and Sir John Manners was the basis for the 1902 novel Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall by Charles Major, popular author of historical romances including When Knighthood was in Flower (1898). Major altered parts of the story and his novel was further enhanced when it was made into a movie starring Mary Pickford in 1924. The story has also inspired a play and an opera.



Haddon’s exterior is typically medieval, severe and somber, yet softened by lovely gardens.








Inside, many rooms are open to visitors.  In 1370, Richard de Vernon built the banqueting hall to house forty to fifty people. The house and continued to grow in subsequent centuries, both in number of inhabitants and in number of rooms and outbuildings.





The long gallery was added later and is typical of those found in Tudor and Elizabethan era houses, designed to replace cloister-style open air walkways. One strolled back and forth in the long gallery to take daily exercise where it was somewhat more protected.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Haddon Hall was ignored and fell into disrepair. Not until the 1920’s was major restoration begun. It continues today under the direction of Lord and Lady Edward Manners. Haddon Hall is often used in films and stood in as Prince Humperdink’s castle in The Princess Bride.

Whether it was the elopement story or the abundant roses, I found Haddon Hall very romantic and great inspiration for the imagination.

Previously published in 2010.


Jane Austen December 16, 1775 – June 18, 1817

By Victoria Hinshaw

My dearest Jane,

Here I am in the snowy midwest of the United States (that country born just after you), 242 years after your birth, expressing my thanks to you for all your talents and achievements.  I can only hope that somehow you are aware of the esteem in which you are held by millions of people.  Are you surprised that your novels are still adored 200 years after their publication? And that you are celebrated as one of English Literature’s most famous authors?

Jane Austen, sketch by sister Cassandra

How do you account for the fact that many of us call ourselves Janeites? That we gather yearly in several countries to discuss your work, from the earliest of juvenilia to the final letters, prayers and poems you wrote just before your demise? That we scour your words, the accounts of relatives and friends, the objects you touched, your travels, your acquaintances, and every scrap we can uncover that might relate to your life? That universities devote entire courses of you? And that your work has provided the backbone for a whole industry of films, television series, sequels, continuations, contemporary interpretations, and scholarly treatises?

Jane Austen, as revised 1871

I wonder how you would like to visit Chawton Cottage and see how it has become a shrine to you and your books?  Or Chawton House, where the mansion has been restored to its late 18th century appearance and is now a library of women’s writings before 1900? I would not recommend that you travel the streets of London to see the blue plaques on the buildings where you stayed with Henry — it’s far too dangerous unless you have a blue badge guide and skillful driver.  Of a car, not a chaise.

Would you believe that among the most popular reasons that people visit Stoneleigh Abbey, Netley Abbey, The Vyne or the Wheatsheaf Inn is that you were there?  Or that one of the highlights of my life was to eat an apple in the garden of Chawton House when the gardener told me it was from a tree which you probably knew and from which you sampled the fruit.  I wasn’t alone either.

And were you lingering high in the lofts of Winchester Cathedral when JASNA held a service dedicated to your memory, and that was only one of many so held in that great place? I hope you died in the knowledge that your family loved you and that someday you would be commemorated worldwide.

Perhaps some of us have overdone things a bit and owe you an apology. Zombies, vampires, sea monsters, as well as highly fantasized so-called bio-pics have played fast and loose with the facts of your stories and your life. But through it all, we know, if we love Jane Austen (and we do!), all we have to do is pick up a copy of one of your books and immerse ourselves once more.

Most of all, I want to express my gratitude for the brilliant way you have enriched my life and that of many of my friends.  You are one of a kind, Jane Austen, and we are so lucky to have “known” you.  Thank you, Jane.

Yrs very affecly,
V. Hinshaw


by Victoria Hinshaw

On the night of 14 December, 1861, Queen Victoria lost her beloved husband Prince Albert. In the custom of the time, most of her subjects learned of his death through the tolling of church bells, traditional alert to crisis.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, 1840

In 2011, 150 years after the event, the BBC History Magazine carried an article about how the death of Prince Albert threatened the continuing existence of the monarchy.  Here is a topic with everything: love, dynasty, death and mourning, royalty, and Future Considerations, the capital letters well-deserved.  Most of the information in this post comes from the magazine article  by Helen Rappaport, author of Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy, published by Hutchinson, 2011.

Victoria was already Queen when she and Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha were married on February 10, 1840.  There is no doubt that she adored him — handsome, clever, and virile, Prince Albert had long been intended to be  her spouse by their mutual uncle, Leopold, King of the Belgians, since 1831 and the widower of the late Princess Charlotte of Wales, who died in 1817.

Leopold I, King of the Belgians; portrait by Winterhalter

King Leopold was the brother of both Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Albert’s father, Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Queen Victoria  and Prince Albert with their children in 1846; Painted by Franz Xavier Winterhalter
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were parents of four sons and five daughters and eventually 42 grandchildren, most of whom married into European royalty and aristocratic families.
There is little doubt from her writing that her marriage to Albert was a love match for Victoria.  If those early years were difficult for Prince Albert, he was confident of her adoration, and he worked hard to win the confidence of her advisers, government officials, and the public.
2010 Exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London
Several years ago, Kristine and I attended the exhibition “Victoria and Albert: Art and Love” and feasted our eyes on the lovely portraits and objects they gave each other. According to the catalogue, “This exhibition is the first ever to focus on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s shared enthusiasm for art. Bringing together more than 400 items from the Royal Collection, it celebrates the royal couple’s mutual delight in collecting and displaying…”  We examined each item, until we could hardly stand on our tired feet.  Seeing their love so obviously expressed gave us a new appreciation of their mutual trust and dependence upon one another
Prince Albert, 1859, by Winterhalter
 By the time he died, most people (according to Rappaport) considered Albert to be King in all but name. Regarding the press accounts of his death, Rappaport writes, “Many of them were tinged with a profound sense of guilt that Albert had never been sufficiently valued during his life time for his many and notable contributions to British culture as an outstanding patron of the arts, education, science and business.” The Queen was plunged into a profound depression which lasted for many years.
The Death of Prince Albert
 As seemed to be common in the British Royal Family, first sons and their ruling fathers often did not see eye to eye.  Prince Albert was disappointed in his eldest son, known as Bertie, who succeeded his mother as monarch King Edward VII in 1901. Albert had kept Bertie to a strict regimen of preparation for his eventual role as King, but Bertie, being young and mischievous, managed to involved himself in troublesome activities.  The Queen, in part, blamed her son for her husband’s illness and death.
The fear grew in Britain that the Queen would never recover from her grief, and her exaggerated mourning would endanger the continuation of the monarchy.  Victoria and Albert had, during their 20-year reign, re-established the dignity of the royal family, so greatly reduced during the period of the Hanovers, the first four Georges and William IV.
Prince and Princess of Wales, wedding in 1863
Rappaport writes, Victoria “became increasingly intractable in response to every attempt to coax her out of her self-imposed purdah…the only thing that interested Victoria now was her single-handed mission to memorialize her husband in perpetuity.”
The Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens, London, one of many memorials to the Prince Consort
 Not until 1871 did Queen Victoria begin to appear in public again. Rappaport writes, “…discontent escalated into outright republican challenges and calls for Victoria’s abdication…when Queen Victoria attended a thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral” to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales from an attack of typhoid fever, the disease which may have killed his father ten years earlier.  From then on, public sympathy was recovered for the Queen and her son.
Queen Victoria, 1899, NPG
With the help of her favorite PM, Disraeli, and her beloved Scottish servant, John Brown, the Queen became “…a respected figure of enduring dignity and fortitude, ageing into her familiar image…only now that people started calling themselves ‘Victorian’s’…”
Albert and Victoria resting side by side in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore


Victoria here sharing a few of my fashion plates from magazines of 1815. At one time, I owned most of the 1815 and 1816 La Belle Assemblee volumes and plates, now residing in the Chawton House Library.  I have kept digital and printed copies for my own use, but they will reach a better audience there.  I still have a few from Ackermann’s, so herewith :

What you’d  be Wearing 200 years ago!

La Belle Assemblée, February, 1815
From the magazine: “Parisian Costume: A short round dress of the finest light ruby Merino cloth, trimmed with narrow blue velvet, is worn over a cambric petticoat, no part of which is seen by the double flounce of the finest Valenciennes edging with which it is ornamented at the bottom.  We refer our readers to the Print for the form of this dress.  An elegant little cap of black velvet is put on over one of white lace, the lace border is disposed round the face in a very novel and becoming style.  The hair is little seen on the forehead, and not at all on the neck, otherwise the fullness of lace would look much better; the cap is ornamented with a beautiful plume of white ostrich feathers, put on so as to fall over in front.  White silk scarf with a border of intermingled blue and ruby.  Black kid slippers, tied round the ancle (sic.) with a narrow black ribband; and white kid gloves.
                We have selected this dress because it is at present in the highest estimation amongst the Parisian elegantes; it is certainly original, and the materials are elegant, the scarf, in particular, is superb; its tout ensemble is truly French, and the admirers of Parisian fashions will, we think, agree with us, as to its being one of the most striking lately introduced in that tasteful metropolis. The dinner dress was invented by Mrs. Bell, Inventress of the Ladies Chapeau Bras and the Circassian Corsets, and of whom only it can be had, at her Magazin des Modes, No. 26, Charlotte-street, Bedford-square; of who also May be had the Parisian Costume as above described.

Ackermann’s, March 1815
This looks like just the ensemble for the chilly winds of March. But that hat would need a strong set of pins to keep it on her head.
Description from the magazine: “Walking Dress: Pelisse of short walking length, made of evening-primrose coloured velvet, ornamented down the front with satin trimming, round capes, trimmed to correspond, full lace ruff.  A French bonnet, composed of white velvet and satin in reversed plaitings, trimmed round the edge with a quilting of lace, full plume of ostrich feathers in the front. Half-boots of tan-coloured kid. Gloves, Limerick or York tan.”
Ackermann’s, April 1815
I love the parrot or budgie on her hand. 
“Morning Dress: A loose robe of fine cambric or worked jaconot muslin, over a petticoat of the same, flounced with French trimming; long, full sleeve, confined at the wrist with treble drawings, and ornamented with corresponding trimming. The robe or neglige of demi-length, is confined at the top by a narrow collar or gathered into a Vandyke ruff, and is worn with coloured silk handkerchief, tied carelessly round the neck, and is fastened down the front with bows and tassels.  A mob cap, composed of net and Brussels lace, decorated with a cluster of flowers, and bows of satin ribbon. Hair curled in the neck. Slippers or sandals of pale tan-coloured kid. Gloves en suite.”
La Belle Assemblée, May, 1815
Originally published March, 2015
Angouleme Walking Dress
Angouleme is an area of southwestern France. In 1799, the Duke of Angouleme married Marie Thérèse 1778-1851), eldest child of  King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette. The Duke was the son of the eventual French King Charles X, who abdicated in 1830.  As the niece of Louis XVIII. the Duchess was part of his entourage when he became King in 1814, and she accompanied him when he fled at Napoleon’s return to Paris. Since I cannot locate the magazine’s description of this plate, alas, I assume the ensemble is named for the Duchess in some regard.
La Belle Assemblée July 1815
Waterloo Walking Dress:  After the Battle, the publishers of this maga
zine must have raced to find a suitable dress to commemorate the battle, something in the colors of mourning for the dead, yet expressive of the victorious celebration throughout the nation. Do you think they succeeded?
From the magazine: “Waterloo Walking Dress
This very beautiful dress, which answers the double purpose of walking or dinner dress, is composed of clear muslin and is made in a most original and tasteful style:  the petticoat, as our readers will perceive by the Print, is ornamented in an elegant and appropriate manner with a tasteful black trimming.  The body and sleeves, composed of an intermixture of black satin and clear muslin, are exquisitely fancied; they are made in a style of novelty, elegance, and simplicity which we never recollect being equalled in the mourning costume.  The Waterloo dress, when worn for dinner parties, has no shirt, but some ladies shade the neck a little by a narrow frill of white crape round the bosom.  In the walking costume it is worn with a shirt invented for the occasion, and trimmed in a very novel and appropriate style.  Of the hat worn with this dress we can only observe that it is the most elegant and striking headdress ever invented for mourning; it is an intermixture of white satin and black crape, most tastefully ornamented with either black or white feathers.  Black or white kid sandals and white kid gloves finish the dress, the effect of which altogether is much more elegant than our fair readers can conceive either from the Print or from our description.  The above dress was invented by Mrs. Bell, Inventress of the Ladies Chapeau Bras and the Circassian Corset, and of whom only they can be had, at her Magazin des Modes, No. 26, Charlotte Street, Bedford-Square.”
La Belle Assemblée  August 1815

The description below is particularly amusing, referring to ease of shedding the dress while in the bathing machine (see background drawing) ready to be ‘plunged.’

“Sea Side Bathing Dress: This very elegant dress is composed of the newly introduced Berlin silk. It is made in the form of a pelisse, and is so contrived that the stays, petticoat, and pelisse are all put on in a few moments. A flounce of green gauze, crape, or muslin, edged with an exceedingly pretty silk trimming, ornaments the dress; which, when on, is so finished and elegant that no one could suppose it was possible to adjust it in a few moments. A Leghorn hat ornamented with a plume of straw colour feathers, and green plaid leather boots, finish this dress, which we look upon as a chef d’oeuvre in its way, since, independent of the advantage which it is to a lady to be able to dress and undress so quickly, the most fastidious belle must confess that nothing can possibly be more becoming than this Sea Side Bathing Dress. The Wellington corset, with which it is worn, is admirably adapted to display in the most easy and graceful manner the natural proportions of the shape; and the tout ensemble of this elegant and useful habit is simple, tasteful and in the highest degree appropriate.”

Ackermann’s, September 1815
“Dinner Dress: A white satin slip worn under a dress made in primrose-coloured French gauze, terminating at the feet with a full flounce  of blond lace, headed with a double border of the same, gathered in full, and confined with folds of satin, corresponding colours to the dress; handkerchief -front trimmed with white satin, and a falling collar of blond lace; long sleeve of white satin, the fulness upon the shoulder confined under an epaulet of the French gauze tried with white satin; the sleeve drawn alternately across the arm with the evening primrose coloured satin ribbon. Long white sash of white satin, tied in front.  The ends of the hind hair brought forward, to fall in ringlets over the temple, confined with a plain white satin ribbon, and ornamented with a tiara of pearl. Necklace to correspond. Gloves, French kid. Slippers, white satin.”
Want more of 1815? We’d love to have you join us on Number One London’s 1815: London to Waterloo Tour, when we’ll be exploring this exciting year in-depth. Full details on our website, at the link above.


Originally published October 3, 2014

I recently had a free day in Paris and talked my husband Ed into accompanying me to visit the Chateau de Malmaison in the town of Rueil-Malmaison, about seven miles outside the city.
Josephine’s portraits in the Emperor’s Apartment

Josephine in 1806, by Henri-Francois Riesener
Josephine purchased the chateau (built in the 17thCentury) in 1799 and used it as her retreat from the rigors of life as the eventual Empress of France in the Tuileries Palace. In this charming country house, she could cultivate her roses and enjoy peaceful solitude or host intimate soirees and picnics with chosen guests.

The Entrance Hall

Josephine was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, June 23, 1763, named Marie-Joseph-Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie.  She grew up among the sugar plantation society on the island   At age seventeen, she went to Paris for an arranged marriage to Count Alexandre de Beauharnais. With him she had two children, a son, Eugene de Beauharnais  (1781-1824) and a daughter, Hortense (1783-1837).  Imprisoned during the Revolution, the Count was guillotined in 1794, but Josephine was released.

The Billiard Room

When she met the young officer Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), he fell madly in love with her. Until he renamed her Josephine, she was known as Rose. They married in 1796. In December 1804, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and Josephine Empress of France, in the presence of the Court and the Pope.

Le Salon Doré

Unable to bear any more children, Josephine reluctantly agreed to separation and divorce.  In December 1809, she moved permanently to Malmaison.  

The Music Room

Josephine’s Harp and Pianoforte
Napoleon married Marie Louise, daughter of Austrian Emperor Francis I, and a year later, in 1811, his only legitimate child was born. He was named Napoleon, designated the King of Rome. [This unfortunate young man, so greatly anticipated, died in his early 20’s.]

Dining Room

In April, 1814, Napoleon abdicated, turning Paris over to the Allied Powers of Europe and Britain, and going into exile on Elba. In May of 1814, Josephine died at Malmaison, of pneumonia, which developed from a cold she caught while walking in her garden with the Russian Tsar Alexander, one of the victorious allies in the first defeat of Napoleon.

La Salle du Conseil (Council Room)
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, in the Council Room
Napoleon, though not always faithful to Josephine, remained attached to her for the rest of his life, even through his divorce and re-marriage. After her death and before his final exile to St. Helena, Napoleon returned to Malmaison for a farewell visit. 

La Bibliothéque (The Library)

By her first husband, Josephine was the grandmother of Napoleon III, son of her daughter.  She is also an ancestress of numerous European Royals.

So far, all my pictures were taken in rooms on the ground floor of the house, all with doors opening into the gardens. Upstairs were the private chambers of Napoleon and Josephine each with their own apartments, i.e. suites of rooms.

two angles on Le Salon de l’Empereur

La chamber à coucher de l’Empereur

Napoleon’s shaving stand

The two personal apartments are divided by rooms containing treasures the couple accumulated.

Ceremonial Swords
A version of David’s Napoleon Crossing the Great Saint-Bernard Pass

Josephine’s gold table service
The suite of rooms belonging to Josephine begins with a sitting room filled with red velvet  and gilt chairs with white swan armrests, unique in my experience, Not even the Prince Regent had these! I can only assume that he never heard of them.
Three Views of the Frieze Room, named for the Greco-Roman  frieze, also featuring swans 
La chambre à coucher de l’Impératrice
Note the Swan theme continues.
Washstand of Mahogany and Sèvres porcelain
Next to the tented bedroom is another bedroom, known as La chamber ordinaire de l’Impératrice and Le Cabinet a toilette.        

After Josephine’s death, son Eugene lived at Malmaison; later it was sold several times before being presented as a gift to the nation of France by Daniel Iffla (known as Osiris), art enthusiast and philanthropist, whose collections can be seen in a small museum on the chateau’s grounds.

More soon on Malmaison’s gardens.
If you want to visit, allow about 90 minutes each way on the Metro (to La Defense) and by bus. Malmaison is currently closed on Tuesdays.

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: Who Wants to be (or look at) a Horse's Behind?

by Victoria Hinshaw

On our post-Wellington tour jaunt around London, Kristine and I found another copy of the painting discussed below as appearing in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice film as it hangs in Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, depicting George, the Prince of Wales, and his horse’s behind.  It hangs in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

An engraving of the painting also appears in “What Jane Saw,”  a digital recreation of an exhibition at he British Institution in Pall all in 1813.  Click here to see the website and click again on the picture itself to read the description.

Originally published April 2010

In May of 2009, my husband and I visited Brocket Hall, formerly the home of Lord Melbourne, now part of a golf complex. The house, in excellent condition, serves as a venue for corporate events and weddings. Brocket is located near Hertford and Hatfield just north of London. Part of the original land of the adjacent country homes of the London wealthy has been developed into Welwyn Garden City.

The ballroom in Brocket was used for the interiors of Netherfield, the home rented by Mr. Bingley, in the 1995 BBC version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In the picture above, you see Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth leading the country dance. In the far background, you can barely make out a portrait of George, Prince of Wales, standing beside the rump of his horse. The painting, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was presented to Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne (mother of the Prime Minister), who reputedly was the mistress of the Prince for a time.

Here is another view of the painting behind Mr. Darcy.

I laughed when I saw this painting, a copy of which I have been unable to locate on any website pertaining either to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) or Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The pose reminded me of a famous view of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. A version of this painting hung in the Elgin Academy Art Gallery where I played at my piano teacher’s annual recital for her students and their parents. There are other versions of the Stuart portrait, chiefly belonging to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  I have always wondered how many of my fellow performers looked up in the middle of their playing to be faced with that horse’s . . . ah . . .tail.

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Since those youthful days, the question has arisen in my mind — why paint the rear end of the horse so prominently? In my search of the web for a copy of the Reynolds portrait above, I found some discussions of this exact point. But no one had a definitive answer. Someone suggested that the rear of the horse was a comment by the artist on the character of the subject. One writer said Stuart was not good at painting horses. Another said that men were so portrayed because they were prepared to jump on the horse and take off — being in a position on the horse’s left easily to reach the stirrup. Anyone have any views on this world-shattering question?
The Marquis of Granby, by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Above is another example. This is General John Manners, Marquis of Granby, who was painted by Reynolds in about 1765. He died before he succeeded to the title of Duke of Rutland. This painting hangs in the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. The General was a popular figure, hence many pubs in England named The Marquis of Granby.

Above, another painting by Gilbert Stuart. The subject is Louis-Marie, the vicomte de Noailles (1756-1804), who fought with the Americans during the Revolution. He returned to France but was driven out after their revolution and moved to Philadelphia in 1793. He was a banker and a friend of Washington, neither of which explains why he is standing next to his horse’s rump.

Here is my final example, a portrait of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. It hangs at the country home of the Duke, Stratfield Saye.

I welcome any comments, clues, or links to additional poses of generals (or anyone) with their horses’ rumps.

ONCE AGAIN WEDNESDAY: A Day at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

by Victoria Hinshaw – originally published on March 22, 2010

The LOC Jefferson Building
What could be more fulfilling (at least on this side of the Atlantic) than a day doing research at the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, D.C.? I recently had such a lovely day that I want to share my fun with everyone. Sitting at a desk in the elegant Jefferson Reading Room is a great privilege.

Jefferson Building, Main Reading Room

The first step is to secure a Reader’s Card, for which you must bypass the Victorian elegance of the Jefferson Building for the sober functionalism of the Madison Building across Independence Avenue SE. When you present your picture identification (driver’s license or passport) you will be issued a card which admits you to the reading rooms, of which there are many for various purposes. If you go, be aware that all your possessions will be scanned at each entrance and all bags, purses and briefcases checked at the door (you can take your wallet, notebooks, etc. into the reading rooms). The researcher’s entrance into the Jefferson building is located at the corner of 2nd and Independence SE. No admission to the reading rooms is available from the other public entrances, but there is a viewing area above. All information on opening hours, rules, and regulations are on the LOC website.

The LOC is the largest library in the world. It was established about 1800 as a service for members of Congress, government officials, and the American public. Books cannot be checked out except by the first two groups or through OCLC interlibrary loan. However, the LOC is very available on the internet; you can spend hours exploring their site.

I had used the on-line catalogue to find the call numbers of the books I wanted and they were delivered to my desk quickly. While I waited for them, I found some useful materials in the open stacks of the reference collection. I became very absorbed in the content of my choices, so much so that I really did not spend as much time people-watching as I had expected. Over all, however, I would say that the patrons as well as the librarians represented a rather ordinary cross-section of the population.

Among the books I consulted were the six volumes by John Cam Hobhouse, Lord Broughton, Recollections of a Long Life; works by and about Horace Walpole, and The Diary of Lady Mary Clavering Cowper, Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess of Wales, 1716-1720. Any one of my references could have occupied me for a full day.

Just so you know, there is a snack bar and a cafeteria available a short hike away. After lunch, I decided to consult the digital newspaper files and was able to conduct a search and access many articles from 18th and 19th century London newspapers. In this effort I was considerably aided by one of the librarians who helped me through the links to find the search engines and newspapers.

Many of the library’s services are available on line from any computer. There may be some charges involved for certain activities, but that will vary by the subject and purpose. For full instructions, consult the website. And don’t hesitate to try the Ask a Librarian section.

In the Great Hall, Jefferson Building

There are many advantages to working at the LOC in person. Primarily, I loved the ambience, the hushed sounds of papers rustling and whispered conversations in the reading room, the tap of my shoes on the old marble floors, even the weight of the heavy wooden doors. The buildings are fascinating, particularly the Great Hall, with its flamboyant Italianate decoration. On view for the public are many changing
exhibitions on a variety of topics. The big disadvantage – to your purse – is a wonderful gift shop with a bountiful offering of tempting items. Of course, they too are available on line.

Although I have been there many times (I actually lived in Washington for a few years), I can’t wait to go back. If you have a story about the LOC to share, please add it to Comments.


74 St. James Street is an amazing building, now part of a international bank which has preserved the colorful interior.  Victoria here, telling you that Kristine and I could hardly believe our eyes after already visiting three lavish mansions during the 2014 Open City London days…in 2016, the Open weekend will be Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18.

74 St. James Street

74 St. James’s Street was the site of the old Conservative Club, now dissolved. Construction started in 1843,  In 1950 it merged with the Bath Club, and was disbanded in 1981. From 1845 until 1959, the club occupied a building at 74 St James’s Street.and although the club moved out a century later, the building went on to be home to McKinsey and Co. in the early 1970s, and now houses the London office of HSBC Private Bank. 

Prior to the Conservative Club’s occupation of the site, there stood on that corner a range of low buildings derived from the country estate of Sir William Pulteney. The original complex had been converted during the 18th century into shops, taverns and pieds-a-terre. The principal establishment on the site was the Thatched House Tavern, located in the upper stories of the shops lining St. James’s Street and set back from the building line so that the roof of the one-story shops formed a balcony overlooking St. James’s for the drinkers and as a vantage point for watching special events, such as the Duke of York’s funeral procession. 

The tavern was much frequented by clubs and societies: the Society of Dilettanti, the Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Catch Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron, to name a few. A narrow lane at right angles to St. James’s, running through the middle of the site, gave access by a side door to the tavern and led on through to a small court (Thatched House Court) behind it. The Court was of small by pretty houses providing London apartments for people of fashion such as Edward Gibbon, who lived there until his death in 1894. 

The new building built on the site by the Conservative Club at a cost of twenty nine thousand pounds was completed in 1845. The proportions of the saloon were injured in 1951 by the removal of the grand staircase, which led out of the middle door 

The approach hardly prepared us for the colorful and amazing craftsmanship of the interior.

The series of portrait medallions honor the great artists and writers of Britain.

Could you get any work done under this ceiling? I 
think I would spend my time admiring the workmanship.

The inevitable mix of modern work areas with Victorian surroundings.

 We stood on the balcony and looked across St. James Street to the famous wine dealer, Berry Brothers and Rudd.

A wider view. To the far right would be St. James Palace.

Thank you, HSBC Bank for preserving this wonderful building in St James Street.
Following our feast for the eyes, we were ready for luncheon! So we went right across the street. coming next! Eating in Pickering Place – yummaaaay.