The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London

On Wednesday, June 16, Victoria towed husband Ed, just in from Heathrow, to the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. It was just a short stroll from our apartment in George Street between Gloucester and Baker Streets. The Gallery has an excellent website.

Here is the description of Manchester Square from the London Open Squares Weekend: “A beautiful Georgian square with a fine collection of trees, shrubs and plants, first laid out between 1776 and 1788. A major replanting programme took place in 2006–8.

The square is named after the Duke of Manchester, who built a house (then called Manchester House) on the north side in 1777, attracted by the good duck shooting in the area. In 1797 the 2nd Marquess of Hertford acquired the lease and it became known as Hertford House.

 In the 19th century it was home to Sir Richard Wallace (1818–90), illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess, who displayed much of the Hertford family’s fabulous collection of fine and decorative arts here. In 1897 Lady Wallace left it to the nation as the Wallace Collection.

Hertford House today is a rare example of a London town house occupying the whole side of a garden square. A church originally planned for the centre of the square was never built.”  My photo at left is of the grand staircase, installed in 1875. The Louis XV balustrade was made 1733-41 for the Bibliotheque du Roi in the Palais Mazarin in Paris, being sold as scrap iron when acquired for Hertford House. Imagine!

Some of the rooms still retain the look of an elegant town house.  I like combining fine furniture with great paintings and decorative objects (just what I do at home). The photos of the room with red walls are the Front State Room, which has portraits of royals and gentry.  On either side of the fireplace, the portraits are by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), on the left is Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway, and right, Frances, Countess of Lincoln.
In this view of the Front State Room, the portrait of Queen Victoria is reflected in the mirror. The portrait is by Thomas Sully (1783 – 1872) who went to America at age nine. He lived mostly in Philadelphia and died there. He made several trips to England where he painted some of the more than 2,000 portraits he recorded in his lifetime.

The portrait shows Victoria in her coronation robes, looking very young (she was nineteen) and lovely.

Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769 – 1830) painted this stunning portrait of
Margaret, Countess of Blessington, in 1822.  Margaret (1789–1849) led an interesting life, marrying twice. She was an intimate of the Count D’Orsay and a friend of Lord Byron.  She herself earned her living by writing for a time, but died in Paris, almost without funds.

John Hoppner (1758-1810) painted the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1792. In 1810, the Prince presented the portrait to the 3rd Marquess of Hertford, who held several court appointments and advised George on art. At the same time, the Marchioness of Hertford, mother of the 3rd Marquess,  was the Prince’s favorite  mistress.

If all this sounds incredibly confusing, welcome to the complicated story of the Seymour-Hertford family, their fantastic town house, their incredible art collection, and their involved relationships! Read more here.

Henry Bone (1755-1834) executed this enamel on copper miniature of Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante after a portrait by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 – 1842). It was commissioned by Sir William Hamilton in 1803.

Another elegant room full of treasures.  It is almost more than one can absorb.  this was at least my third visit here and I will keep coming back to discover more.

One of several Canalettos.  The furniture is brilliant, much of it by Boulle with details in bronze, marquetry and other materials that show incredible workmanship.  There is no admission charge but for a couple of pounds, you should rent the audioguide.

And  of course there is a wonderful gift shop to tempt you.  Since my last visit several years ago, some revisions have been made in the displays and they have opened a restaurant. And wonder of wonders, they also allow photographs in the galleries, as you can see.

In one of the galleries, there is such an abundance of famous paintings that I had to sit down and just gaze at them. Left, The Laughing Cavalier by Franz Hals, (c. 1580 – 1666)  one of the Wallace Collection’s most admired works.
Gainsborough painted Mary Robinson as Perdita, the role she played in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. The Prince of Wales saw her on the stage and fell in love, his first rather public affair. Mary holds a miniature of him in her hand.  The story is quite sad. As you may remember, our friend and hostess Hester Davenport wrote Mary’s Story and took us to see her grave in Old Windsor (see our post of July 18, 2010).
Ed and I had luncheon in the wonderful glassed over conservatory in the center of the building. Tea is also served later in the afternoon.  We wondered why this waiter was staring up at the ceiling.
When we looked up, we saw the window washer right over our heads. This is a job I could NEVER do, but I’m delighted someone can!!
A visit to The Wallace Collection is one of the best ways to spend a day — or a half-day — in London. The art is amazing and the scale is more human than some of the huge museums we love in the city but which can be so very exhausting. The Collection has a large group of armor and weapons on the ground floor, a treat for children. All in all, a highly recommended experience!

We Are Dead Chuffed!

Thanks to the kindness of our friend and blog supporter Patty Suchy of Novel Explorations, who nominated this blog for the Vetcy Award, we were pleased to receive the following email this weekend, informing us that Number One London had won the Vetcy Award for blog excellence in the Historical category:

Congratulations – Your website has been chosen as one of four categorical winners in our second round of Vetcy Awards!
Please display this image proudly on your website and encourage all of your visitors to vote for you here.

The Grand Prize will be determined solely by votes cast and will be announced mid-September. You and all of your friends are encouraged to vote once daily : ) The Grand Prize winner will receive a full page spread in the next Issue of Victorian Etc. Magazine.

Thanks for your participation and “Congratulations” on being a categorical winner!  Victoria, Editor ~ Victorian Etc.

Needless to say, we’d be ever grateful if you’d cast your vote for Number One London (once a day, if you’d care to) using this link or the one at the top of the right sidebar – thank you!

Our Time With the Duke of Wellington

As I mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a rather large hand colored engraving of the Duke of Wellington at Storey’s in London and had it shipped home. A bit later, Victoria found a smaller version of the exact same print at Gray’s Antiques Market, which enabled us from then on to complete the rest of our Wellington tour with Wellington.

I must say, Victoria and I found the Duke to be everything we’d ever imagined – and more.

After first meeting up with him, the Duke took Victoria, Brooke and myself for a drink at The Golden Lion pub, St. James’s. Who knew he was such a two fisted drinker!? And the stories he told us . . . he is funny. There was one anecdote the Duke told us about Prinny that involved a dwarf and a footman. That Prinny – what a card! I’d relate the story to you here, but Victoria feels it’s a bit too racy for public consumption.
Afterwards, the Duke took us to dinner on St. James’s Street, at an upscale venue called  Just St. James. Of course, we were given a window table with views over the Street when the hostess realized that we were with the Duke of Wellington. However, on the way down the Street towards the restaurant we had passed a venerable building with a uniformed doorman out front. Victoria stopped before him and asked, “What is this building?” Well, honest to Betsy, the man refused to answer. He just looked at us with the tiniest of smiles and kept mum.

Then, Victoria asked, “It’s Boodle’s Club, isn’t it?”
Reluctantly, the man answered, “Yes, madam, it is.”
“Ha! I knew it,” said Victoria, taking the smallest step closer to the man. “Can we come in?”
“Certainly not!”
“Well,” Victoria allowed, “it was worth a shot.”
Of course, we could have pulled out the Duke of Wellington and gained admittance, but we decided to keep him in our back pocket, so to speak.
His Grace insisted upon we ladies ordering dessert and, though we demured, we did eventually order a gorgeous cheese plate and fresh English strawberries and cream. And an Irish coffee. And a glass of port.
The Duke also escorted us to many of the lovely garden squares we visited, and to the Lansdowne Club for cocktails.
We made a visit to Horse Guards, where the Duke was pleased to find that everything was still ship shape and Bristol fashion. And from there we went to the Grenadier Pub, where we three hoisted a few pints.
We asked the Duke about the mounting block outside the pub, purported to have been his. “Rubbish!” he exclaimed. “I’ve never needed the aid of a mounting block to mount my horse and still less a paltry sort of mounting block like that one!”
His Grace grew a tad sentimental at seeing Windsor again, what with it’s connections to Queen Victoria. When we asked the Duke if he also remembered George IV with fondness, he replied, “Not so much.”
Though he was the most charming of companions, I must say the Duke was chomping at the bit to get back to his old stomping grounds in Brussels.

The Duke (with description and price tag intact) arrives in Brussels.
The Duke visits the British Monument to those who fell at Waterloo at a cemetary in Brussels. The poor man . . . . it was a very touching moment.
The Duke was disappointed that the building that had been the site of his Brussels Headquarters was being  refaced. Progress, he sighed philosophically,  marches on.
The Duke with two of his fans. On the right is Jeremy Black author of many history books including this one below:
We first visited the French encampment . . .
where the Duke was not amused.
Finally . . . . we and the Duke reached Waterloo and the first thing we did was . . .

to eat lunch. Oh, and have a drink. Thus fortified, we headed for the Battlefield,
where the Duke spent some time checking out the artillery.
Here we are near the site of the Duke’s greatest victory.
Even in the nastiest weather, the Duke prevailed.
And was pleased to see that his troops were still capable of pitching a demmed fine tent.
And so our time with the Duke came to an end. Victoria and I will always look back with fondness on our tour with the Duke of Wellington, the sites we visited and the many good times we shared. Having completed many campaigns in his time, the Duke was a real trooper where travel was concerned and planned our outings with military precision. Not to mention the fact that, as a gentleman, he always insisted on picking up the tab. You’ve got to love it.

The Battle of Waterloo: The Video – Part Three

At the end of the Battle, Michael, a fellow tour mate, helped me down off the Mound and we proceeded to the pub mentioned earlier for a well earned coffee and fortifying brandy. On our way there, we were fortunate enough to get up close to the battlefield and witness some dashing derring-do by men on horseback, which I’ve edited in to the video below.  What the woman beside me was cackling about, I’ve no idea. Anyway, this is what I saw:

The Battle of Waterloo: The Video – Part Two

Though the rain continued to pour down and a Frenchman on a loudspeaker insisted on narrating the entire bloody Battle (and although people persisted in standing up in front of me and blocking the view), I remained in position on the confounded Mound and stayed to finish filming the action. Actually, it was at about this point that my daughter left me to the elements and hightailed it down to the nearby pub. However, in my guise as your intrepid reporter, I manned my post, aimed my camera . . . and this is what I saw: