THE PASSING OF THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE

Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
From The Letters of Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.
Buckingham Palace, 9th July 1850.
My Dearest Uncle,—We live in the midst of sorrow and death! My poor good Uncle Cambridge breathed his last, without a struggle, at a few minutes before ten last night. I still saw him yesterday morning at one, but he did not see me, and to-day I saw him lifeless and cold. The poor Duchess and the poor children are very touching in their grief, and poor Augusta,1 who arrived just five hours too late, is quite heart-broken. The end was most peaceful; there was no disease; only a gastric fever, which came on four weeks ago, from over-exertion and cold, and which he neglected for the first week, carried him off.
The good Prince of Prussia you will have been pleased to talk to and see. Having lived with him for a fortnight on a very intimate footing, we have been able to appreciate his real worth fully; he is so honest and frank, and so steady of purpose and courageous. Poor dear Peel is to be buried to-day. The sorrow and grief at his death are most touching, and the country mourns over him as over a father. Every one seems to have lost a personal friend.
As I have much to write, you will forgive my ending here. You will be glad to hear that poor Aunt Gloucester is wonderfully calm and resigned. My poor dear Albert, who had been so fresh and well when we came back, looks so pale and fagged again. He has felt, and feels, Sir Robert’s loss dreadfully. He feels he has lost a second father.
May God bless and protect you all, you dear ones! Ever your devoted Niece, Victoria R.

A VISIT TO DOWNTON ABBEY

Back in March, Victoria and I traveled to see the Downton Abbey Exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was a multi-media extravaganza, using film, projection, interactive displays, props, sets and costumes from the original to bring the series to life. Right off the bat, we were greeted by two familiar faces.

 

Do take a moment to watch the introductory trailer below to familiarize yourself with the Exhibition –

Props on display, used to impart authenticity to the Downtown sets, even if viewers will never actually see them, include the bank notes above and, below, the telegrams that had such an impact on the plot lines –

Below, items belonging to Tom Branson, including his wristwatch and ribbons won at the local agricultural fair.

Of course, the servants were well represented, as well –

Once through the green baize door, we were greeted by life sized holograms of Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson.

           

        

           

      

In “The Library” visitors are treated to an ever changing array of moving scenes which are projected onto the walls, making you feel as though you are part of the action.

           

           

Violet, Dowager Lady Grantham, was a particular of the show for us.

           

Then it was on to Lady Mary’s bedroom –

           

And finally, the costumes –

           

The Ladies of Downton were well represented –

        

 

           

           

                       

                 

                  

The final exhibit was a representation of the dining room –

And lastly, Lord and Lady Grantham bid us adieu and thanked us for visiting Downton Abbey.

The Downton Abbey Exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida was scheduled to close on April 22nd and, at the time Vicky and I visited, there were no plans for it to move on to a new location. Click here to see if that’s changed.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser for the forthcoming Downton Abbey movie, set to be released in September 2019.

SIR WALTER SCOTT AT WATERLOO

This post was originally posted here on June 15, 2011

 

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott visited the field of Waterloo in July, 1815 and what follows are his impressions of the battlefield, and Brussels, during that visit – From Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott by John Gibson Lockhart (1838)

“Brussels, 2d July, 1815.
“This country, the finest in the world, has been of late quite out of our minds. I did not, in any degree, anticipate the pleasure I should enjoy, the admiration forced from me, on coming into one of these antique towns, or in journeying through this rich garden. Can you recollect the time when there were gentlemen meeting at the Cross of Edinburgh, or those whom we thought such? They are all collected here. You see the very men, with their scraggy necks sticking out of the collars of their old-fashioned square-skirted coats— their canes—their cocked-hats; and, when they meet, the formal bow, the hat off to the ground, and the powder flying in the wind. I could divert you with the odd resemblances of the Scottish faces among the peasants, too—but I noted them at the time- with my pencil, and I write to you only of things that you won’t find in my pocket-book.
“I have just returned from seeing the French wounded received in their hospital; and could you see them laid out naked, or almost so—100 in a row of low beds on the ground—though wounded, exhausted, beaten, you would still conclude with me that these were men capable of marching unopposed from the west of Europe to the east of Asia. Strong, thickset, hardy veterans, brave spirits and unsubdued, as they cast their wild glance upon you,—their black eyes and brown cheeks finely contrasted with the fresh sheets,—you would much admire their capacity of adaptation. These fellows are brought from the field after lying many days on the ground; many dying— many in agony—many miserably racked with pain and spasms; and the next mimicks his fellow, and gives it a tune,—Aha, vous chantez bien! How they are wounded you will see in my notes. But I must not have you to lose the present impression on me of the formidable nature of these fellows as exemplars of the breed in France. It is a forced praise; for from all I have seen, and all I have heard of their fierceness, cruelty, and bloodthirstiness, I cannot convey to you my detestation of this race of trained banditti. By what means they are to be kept in subjection until other habits come upon them, I know not; but I am convinced that these men cannot be left to the bent of their propensities.
“This superb city is now ornamented with the finest groups of armed men that the most romantic fancy could dream of. I was struck with the words of a friend —E.: ‘I saw,’ said he, ‘that man returning from the field on the 16th.’—(This was a Brunswicker of the Black or Death Hussars.)—’ He was wounded, and had had his arm amputated on the field. He was among the first that came in. He rode straight and stark upon his horse—the bloody clouts about his stump—pale as death, but upright, with a stern, fixed expression of feature, as if lothe to lose his revenge.’ These troops are very remarkable in their fine military appearance; their dark and ominous dress sets off to advantage their strong, manly, northern features and white mustachios; and there is something more than commonly impressive about the whole effect.
“This is the second Sunday after the battle, and many are not yet dressed. There are 20,000 wounded in this town, besides those in the hospitals, and the many in the other towns;—only 3000 prisoners; 80,000, they say, killed and wounded on both sides.”
I think it not wonderful that this extract should have set Scott’s imagination effectually on fire; that he should have grasped at the idea of seeing probably the last shadows of real warfare that his own age would afford; or that some parts of the great surgeon’s simple phraseology are reproduced, almost verbatim, in the first of “Paul’s Letters to his Kinsfolk.”
At Brussels, Scott found the small English garrison left there in command of Major-General Sir Frederick Adam, the son of his highly valued friend, the present Lord Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court in Scotland. Sir Frederick had been wounded at Waterloo, and could not as yet mount on horseback; but one of his aides-de-camp, Captain Campbell, escorted Scott and his party to the field of battle, on which occasion they were also accompanied by another old acquaintance of his, Major Pryse Gordon, who being then on halfpay, happened to be domesticated with his family at Brussels. Major Gordon has since published two lively volumes of ” Personal Memoirs;” and bears witness to the fidelity of certain reminiscences of Scott at Brussels and Waterloo, which occupy one of the chapters of this work. I shall, therefore, extract the passage.

 

Louis-Victor Baillot, last French veteran of Waterloo
“Sir Walter Scott accepted my services to conduct him to Waterloo: the General’s aide-de-camp was also of the party. He made no secret of his having undertaken to write something on the battle; and perhaps he took the greater interest on this account in every thing that he saw. Besides, he had never seen the field of such a conflict; and never having been before on the Continent, it was all new to his comprehensive mind. The day was beautiful; and I had the precaution to send out a couple of saddle-horses, that he might not be fatigued in walking over the fields, which had been recently ploughed up. In our rounds we fell in with Monsieur de Costar, with whom he got into conversation. This man had attracted so much notice by his pretended story of being about the person of Napoleon, that he was of too much importance to be passed by: I did not, indeed, know as much of this fellow’s charlatanism at that time as afterwards, when I saw him confronted with a blacksmith of La Belle Alliance, who had been his companion in a hiding-place ten miles from the field during the whole day; a fact which he could not deny. But he had got up a tale so plausible and so profitable, that he could afford to bestow hush-money on the companion of his flight, so that the imposition was but little known; and strangers continued to be gulled. He had picked up a good deal of information about the positions and details of the battle; and being naturally a sagacious Wallon, and speaking French pretty fluently, he became the favourite cicerone, and every lie he told was taken for gospel. Year after year, until his death in 1824, he continued his popularity, and raised the price of his rounds from a couple of francs to five; besides as much for the hire of a horse, his own property; for he pretended that the fatigue of walking so many hours was beyond his powers. It has been said that in this way he realized every summer a couple of hundred Napoleons.
“When Sir Walter had examined every point of defence and attack, we adjourned to the ‘Original Duke of Wellington’ at Waterloo, to lunch after the fatigues of the ride. Here he had a crowded levee of peasants, and collected a great many trophies, from cuirasses down to buttons and bullets. He picked up himself many little relics, and was fortunate in purchasing a grand cross of the legion of honour. But the most precious memorial was presented to him by my wife—a French soldier’s book, well stained with blood, and containing some songs popular in the French army, which he found so interesting that he introduced versions of them in his ‘Paul’s Letters;’ of which he did me the honour to send me a copy, with a letter, saying, ‘that he considered my wife’s gift as the most valuable of all his Waterloo relics.'”

A DAY AT OSTERLEY PARK

Victoria, here, reporting on the day Kristine and I spent at this jewel in Robert Adam’s architectural crown. Osterley Park is managed by the National Trust and a very good job they do! I had visited the estate several years ago, and this time I was excited to learn that we could take pictures INSIDE.  So, prepare yourselves for a set of interior shots of many rooms. All pictures in this post were taken by me or Kristine, unless otherwise noted.
We could not stop snapping!
Kristine leans in for a close-up
But I am getting ahead of myself!  The approach to the house is suitably dramatic, viewed across a pond laced with water lilies in full bloom.  Queen Elizabeth I visited the first manor house here after its completion in 1576. Thomas Gresham, a wealthy banker, built the house, Another wealthy banker, Sir Francis Child, hired Robert Adam to remodel it in 1761, and the current look – both inside and out – is very much that of the Adam period in all its glory. Adam had one section of the square house replaced with handsome Georgian columns, framing an open courtyard. The great house and estate passed down in the line of the Child banking family. Sarah Sophia Fane inherited the house from her grandfather, Robert Child; she married George Villiers (who added Child to his surname) who became the 5th Earl of Jersey. Thus the house for almost 200 years, belonged to the Earls of Jersey. The  9th earl presented it to the National Trust in the 1940’s.

We arrived in time for a curator’s tour, but we had time to take a quick look around before it began.

The Entrance hall has identical alcoves at each end with a fireplace and two classical statues in each.

The Hall was used as a saloon and reception room and occasionally for dining; Adam designed it to replace the original hall demolished for the columned entrance.
The floor of black marble on white reflects the design in the ceiling, a frequent Adam feature.
The large painting between the doors in the dining room is by Antonio Zucchi (1726-1795) entitled Figures Sporting in a ruined Roman Bath, part of a set of paintings he did, including The Four Continents, above the doors. Twelve mahogany chairs with lyre backs and two arm chairs were designed by Robert Adam and probably made by John Linnell (1729-1796) of London; Linnell executed the designs for the rest of the room’s furnishings as well.  The chairs are placed around the perimeter of the room in the 18th C. manner. Tables of several sizes were kept in the servant’s passages; they could be set up when needed.
Pier table topped with antique marble mosaics, one of a pair
both topped by ornate 7-foot tall mirrors
Marble Fireplace, with Doric columns
Painting by Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-85) An offering to Ceres
During our tour of the house, a small group gathered in the Gallery to hear the curators speak about the house, its design and its treasures, its history and the continuing restorations of various rooms both above and below stairs to their appearance when completed by Adam. We found some places to sit, but not, of course, on any of the antique furniture.
The Gallery,  photo ©National Trust
The gallery is 130 feet long and faces the garden. It once housed a billiard table and a fortepiano. Henry James described the room as ‘a cheerful upholstered avenue into another century.’ 
Above is one of six mirrored girandoles (ornamental branched candlesticks),  also made by John Linnell for Robert Adam.
Two pairs of Chinese mandarin jars date from
the reign of the Chinese emperor Qianlong (1736-95)
One of several settees, also part of Linnell’s suite of furniture made for the gallery; the matching chairs can be seen below.
The Marble Fireplace, one of two by Joseph Wilton.
A copy of the NPG painting of Robert Adam, c. 1770-75; attributed to George Willison
The frieze includes marigolds, the symbols of Childs Bank.
The model Chinese Junk is made of Ivory and bone, and comes from Guangzhou, c. 1750
The porcelain pagoda is of a similiar date.
At the conclusion of the curator’s talk, we explored the rest of the house, and what an exploration it was. Our pictures can only give a hint of what it was like, an abundance of magnificent paintings, furniture, rugs…all dazzling to us poor mortals.
Adam’s touch at the doorway of the Drawing room
Ceiling design in the Drawing Room
According to the Guidebook, this ceiling is based on the drawing of the Temple of the Sun in ancient Palmyra, adapted to the rectangular shape of the room.
The Drawing Room   photo ©National Trust
The next two rooms were jaw-dropping in effect. Horace Walpole thought this room ‘the most superb and beautiful that can be imagined.’ We agreed. Adam designed the ceiling first.
Tapestry Room ceiling  photo ©National Trust
The Tapestry Room
Boucher’s Tapestries were delivered to the house in 1776 from the Gobelins factory in Paris, though run by a Scot, Adam’s countryman.The four large medallions in the tapestries (two seen above) represent the elements: earth, fire, air, and water.
The tapestry medallion above the fireplace is Cupid and Psyche.
The furniture was built by Linnell and upholstered to match the deep rose background of the tapestries.  Similiar tapestries in a drawing room designed by Adam can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where the Tapestry Room from Croome Court in Worcestershire now resides. Read more about this room here.  This is the ante-room to the State bedroom, which almost overwhelms the visitor.  Imagine what it would be like to try to sleep in this bed.
The State Bed
Ceiling Medallion by Angelica Kauffman, Aglaia, one of the Three Graces being enslaved by Love
The Fire Board,  in the Etruscan style
Black and Gold Japanned Commode, probably Chippendale
Pier Glass mirror reflecting the State Bed

Then, to add to the phenomenal variety of decorative motifs, comes the Etruscan Dressing Room, with designs drawn from ancient Etruscan vases discovered in Italy.  These designs were eagerly adopted into architectural decor and into popular patterns manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood and others in the mid 18th Century.

The Etruscan Dressing Room
Ceiling of the Etruscan Dressing Room
Fire Screen designed by Adam and embroidered by Mrs. Child
View towards the windows, Etruscan Dressing Room
The crest of the pier-glass is painted to match the medallions on the walls. The japanned commode is another attributed to Chippendale.
The Great Stair

The north side of the house is less dramatic that the south side, where the State rooms are.  The library looks exactly like the kind of place we need for our most capable work.  What are the chances?

The painting above the mantel is by Antonio Zucchi (1726-95)  Virgil reading his works to Augustus and Octavia
Think of the work you could do at this desk! What a joy.

The last room on the north side, formerly known as the Breakfast Room, was under renovation. We found it fascinating to see a work in progress.

In the room were several beautiful pieces of what appeared to me to be valuable oriental-style furniture. No explanation was given for the state of the room or the random placement of these items. Guess I’ll just have to go back and see what happened!!

Well be revisiting the splendours of Osterley Park on Number One London’s 2020 Town and Country House Tour. Complete itinerary and details will be found here.

Click here to read about Victoria’s previous visit and the history of the house.

Read here about The Two Lady Jerseys.

Click here for the obituary of Lady Jersey, Almack’s patroness, in a Gentleman’s magazine of 1867.

THE DEATH OF WILLIAM IV

William IV, the Sailor King, died on 20 June 1837. He was the third son of George III and younger brother and successor to George IV and was the last king and penultimate monarch of the House of Hanover. While William’s reign was much more sedate than that of his brother, George IV, with less scandal and spending and more attention being paid the business of running the country, William IV did have one bane to his existence – his sister-in-law the Duchess of Kent, mother to Princess Victoria.

King William’s problems with the Duchess began early in his reign – in fact, at his coronation, as related in a book called When William IV was King By John Ashton:

During the procession to the Abbey (for the Coronation of William IV) the weather was fine, and the sight a brilliant one; but, soon after one o’clock, a very heavy rain descended ; the wind, too, blew with great violence, and occasioned rattling and tearing among the canvas canopies of the newly erected stands. It ceased for a short time, between two and three, when it broke out afresh, and was particularly lively when the ceremony was over, at half-past three. It quite spoilt the return procession, some of the carriages driving straight away, and those that fell into rank had their windows up.

In spite of the weather, London was brilliantly illuminated, and the theatres and Vauxhall Gardens were thrown open free. There was a display of fireworks in Hyde Park, at which many were more or less hurt by the falling rocket-sticks, six so seriously as to have to be taken to St. George’s Hospital. Throughout the country the festivity was universal. One little thing marred the universality. The Duchess of Kent was not present at the coronation, neither was the Princess Victoria. It was an open secret that the King and the Duchess were not on friendly terms, but it was thought very bad taste on her part not to be present.

Though more contretemps between the King and the Duchess were to come (as will be shown in future posts), for the time being, all was well in the land. In his Memoirs, Charles Greville included the following entry for July 18th.— King George had not been dead three days before everybody discovered that he was no loss, and King William a great gain. Certainly nobody ever was less regretted than the late King, and the breath was hardly out of his body before the press burst forth in full cry against him, and raked up all his vices, follies, and misdeeds, which were numerous and glaring enough.

The new King began very well. Everybody expected he would keep the Ministers in office, but he threw himself into the arms of the Duke of Wellington with the strongest expressions of confidence and esteem. He proposed to all the Household, as well as to the members of Government, to keep their places, which they all did except Lord Conyngham and the Duke of Montrose. He soon after, however, dismissed most of the equerries, that he might fill their places with the members of his own family. Of course such a King wanted not due praise, and plenty of anecdotes were raked up of his former generosities and kindnesses. His first speech to the. Council was well enough given, but his burlesque character began even then to show itself. Nobody expected from him much real grief, and he does not seem to know how to act it consistently; he spoke of his brother with all the semblance of feeling, and in a tone of voice properly softened and subdued, but just afterward, when they gave him the pen to sign the declaration, he said, in his usual tone, “This is a damned bad pen you have given me.” My worthy colleague, Mr. James Buller, began to swear Privy Councillors in the name of “King George IV.—William, I mean,” to the great diversion of the Council.

A few days after my return I was sworn in, all the Ministers and some others being present. His Majesty presided very decently, and looked like a respectable old admiral. The Duke [of Wellington] told me he was delighted with him— “If I had been able to deal with my late master as I do with my present, I should have got on much better”—that he was so reasonable and tractable, and that he had done more business with him in ten minutes than with the other in as many days.”