This is the day we celebrate both the birth and death of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
No lover of England or the English language can ignore the primacy of Shakespeare for the beauty of his language, the brilliance of his plots, or the emotion his work engenders.
Most beloved, most admired, most quoted: “To be, or not to be. That is the question.”
Just one of the many from Hamlet.
Here is Victoria’s favorite from the Sonnets, Number 29.
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
The house was used for entertaining on a grand scale, and Wellington’s great dinner and dessert services are on display. The Sèvres Egyptian Service was commissioned by Napoleon for his Empress Josephine. The vast silver Portuguese Service, with an 8 metre long centrepiece, adorned the table at the annual Waterloo Banquet, a great event at which the Duke entertained officers who had served under him at Waterloo and in the Peninsular War.
From 1992-1995 Apsley House was restored to its former glory as the private palace of the ‘Iron Duke’. Apsley House is the last great London town-house with collections largely intact and family still in residence.
The first Duke of Wellington possessed a collection of art and fine furnishings perhaps unrivalled by any contemporary. After the Duke’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, grateful nations and private citizens showered Wellington with gifts of thanks, including a fine Sevres porcelain service from Louis XVIII of France, and superlative Portuguese silver.
There are also 200 paintings from the royal collection of the Kings of Spain that Wellington recovered from Joseph Bonaparte after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. After King Ferdinand VII was reinstated as monarch, he asked Wellington to keep the paintings as a gift of thanks. The Duke, no fool he, agreed. Among these paintings are works by Goya, Velasquez, Correggio, and Rubens.
Front and centre upon entering Apsley is Antonio Canova’s huge statue of Napoleon, portrayed as an ancient Greek athlete. The sword carried by Wellington at Waterloo is on display in the Plate and china Room, as well as the sword of his great foe Napoleon.
I suppose I should come clean and confess that the last time I was at Apsley House I set off the alarms. Really. It was in the Waterloo Chamber. I was looking at the 8 metre long silver centerpiece on the table and simply could not believe my eyes. The entire thing was coated in a layer of dust. My eyes must be deceiving me, thought I, as I wiped a fingertip across one of the figures. Well, not only was there, indeed, dust on my finger, but the alarms began sounding and by the time a guard entered the room, I’d turned my back and was studying the full length portrait of George IV. No matter that I was the only person in the room, I simply acted as though nothing at all had happened. And as far as I’m concerned, it hadn’t. Hopefully, they feel the same and will let me back in this June. Kristine
age 84 today.
Victoria here. As long as I can remember, I’ve looked at pictures of the Queen and her sister Princess Margaret, probably in Life magazines. I was convinced that they were my cousins, though they were much better dressed than the cousins I played with in Illinois and Wisconsin. Funny how I must have been spirited away from my REAL family in the Palace and dropped into the American Midwest.
Well, a writer needs a vivid imagination and I certainly have one! Nevertheless, this perceived connection between Elizabeth R and me has never been driven out of my system. I am sure we are related somehow.
The only time I saw the Queen up close and in person was in Toronto in 2002 while she was on her Golden Jubilee tour. There was a small crowd around her hotel when she came out to begin her royal duties for the day. She was wearing a lovely purple (aubergine!) suit with matching hat and shoes. She is TINY.
The Queen has ruled since 1952, so for most of us, her reign covers our entire lives or darn close to it. She has had more than her share of family problems, hasn’t she? Every time I go to London, I find she has many reasonable excuses for not having her cousins over to tea.
I was almost afraid to see the film The Queen with Helen Mirren a couple of years ago. Luckily. I enjoyed it, because I thought it treated my royal pseudo-relative with dignity and sympathy. In our family, we are not afraid to re-evaluate and change our minds when the situation requires. Or perhaps is it just that I also might be related to Oscar-award winner Helen Mirren?
The official British celebration of the Queen’s birthday will be on Saturday, June 12, 2010, at Trooping the Colour, a traditional pageant at Horse Guards.
By Victoria Hinshaw
I love the word – and the concept of – Serendipity. The word was invented by one of the 18th century’s most interesting characters, Horace Walpole (1717-97), whose life neatly spanned the century and, to my mind, rather defined the times.
Serendipity means discovering connections between thoughts or objects by happy accident. I first learned the word when I had a most pleasant meal on E. 60th Street in New York City at a charming restaurant named Serendipity. It was a serendipitous event! The discovery of a new concept while in the act of enjoying a new place (this was a very long time ago).
Recently, while working on a piece for this blog (see posts of March 29 and 31) on William Petty-FitzMaurice, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737 – 1805), who was The Earl of Shelburne and Prime Minister 1782-1783, I learned that Walpole, himself an opinionated and eccentric character, did not like Shelburne, also famously opinionated and eccentric. How serendipitous, I thought, for I was also planning to do a piece on Walpole and the upcoming exhibitions of his treasures at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Which reminded me of the restaurant in New York; when I Googled it, I happily found it still prospering. Then I read that Walpole had coined the word Serendipity.
All of which is a long and involved introduction to my little essay on Horace Walpole, architect, author, collector, raconteur, bon vivant, and writer of 48 printed volumes of correspondence.
Horace was a younger son of Sir Robert Walpole, first Earl of Orford, and England’s first Prime Minister during the reign of the first two Georges. Horace received an ideal gentleman’s education at Eton and Cambridge followed by a Grand Tour. He had wide ranging interests and made many friends, devoting himself to arts and culture. Though he served as a member of the House of Commons, he had an independent income which enabled him to pursue his eclectic interests by collecting and carefully developing his tastes. Widely considered a superb connoisseur, he and his friends spent years converting his villa in Twickenham into a neo-Gothic structure.
Here is another aside: Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is a parody of Gothick novels that always featured an innocent young lady at peril in an old castle or ruined religious structure, fearing at every moment the mysterious rattle of chains, the gloomy wailing of the winds and the sinister dark males that threaten A Fate Worse Than Death. Rather reminds me of the current crazes for vampires, werewolves and zombies.
“It was once when I read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a camel blind of the right eye had traveled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right—now do you understand serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for, comes under this description) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon’s, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table.”