An Account of Queen Charlotte’s Drawing Room 1818


Queen Charlotte
Queen Charlotte

The following first-hand account of his attendance at Queen Charlotte’s Drawing Room was recorded by Richard Rush, American Ambassador to Great Britain, in his Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London, Comprising Incidents Official and Personal from 1819 to 1825 (Lea & Blanchard, 1845. 1st ed.).  If you’ve not read the book, I urge you to do so. Rush had a keen eye and, more importantly, the eye of an outsider, an American, who witnessed the good and the great, important events and the many idiosyncracies of London life during the Regency Period. Thus, he set down details, habits and the minutae of daily life that the native born Englishman might not have considered worthy of being recorded.

February 27 1818 – Yesterday her majesty held a drawing room. It was in celebration of her birth day. My wife was presented to her, by Lady Castlereagh. Besides being a birth day celebration, it was the first drawing room of the season, and the first since the death of the Princess Charlotte. The weather was fine; the sun brilliant. A permit had been sent from the board of green cloth for my carriage to pass into St. James’s Park through the gate on Constitution hill.

Going through Hyde Park , I found the whole way from Tyburn to Piccadilly, (about a mile) filled with private carriages, standing still. Persons were in them who had adopted this mode of seeing those who went to court. Tenfold the number went by other approaches, and every approach, I was told, was thronged with double rows of equipages, also filled with spectators. I was to be set down with the rest of the diplomatic corps, and others who had the entré, at a door assigned, within the court yard of the palace. Arrived in its vicinity, my carriage was stopped by those before it. Here we saw, through the trees and avenues of the park, other carriages coming up, in two regular lines from the horse guards and St. James’s. The glitter of the carriages was heightened by the appearance of the numerous servants in glowing livery, there being generally two and often three footmen behind each carriage. The horses were all in the highest condition . . . Trumpets were sounding, and the Park and Tower guns firing. There were ranks of cavalry in scarlet, with their bright helmets and jet black horses; the same we were informed, men and horses, that had been at the battle of Waterloo. Their appearance was in a high degree martial and splendid. The hands of the men grasped their swords in gloves of white buckskin, reaching half way up to the elbow – a prominent part of the equipments that made up the exact uniformity and military beauty of the whole array.

We were soon set down, and entered the great hall. . . We were not out of time, for, by appointment, my carriage reached the palace with Lord Castlereagh’s; but whilst hundreds were still arriving, hundreds were endeavouring to come away. The staircase branched off at the first landing, into two arms and was wide enough to admit a partition, which had been let in. The company ascending took one channel; those descending the other and both channels were full. The whole group stood motionless. The openings through the old carved balusters brought all under view at once, and the paintings on the walls were all seen at the same time. The hoop dresses of the ladies, sparkling with lama; their plumes; their lappets; the fanciful attitudes which the hoops occasioned, some getting out of position as when in Addison’s time they were adjusted to shoot a door; the various costumes of the gentlemen, as they stood pinioning their elbows, and holding in their swords; the common hilarity created by the common dilemma; the bland recognitions passing between those above and below, made up, altogether, an exhibition so picturesque that a painter might give it as illustrative of the English court at that era. Without pausing to describe the incidents during our progress upwards, it may be sufficient to say, that the party to which I was attached, and of which lady Castlereagh towering in her bloom was the leader, reached the summit of the staircase in about three quarters of an hour.

Four rooms were allotted to the ceremony. In the second was the queen. She sat on a velvet chair and cushion, a little raised up . Near her were the princesses, and ladies in waiting. The general company, as they reached the corridor by one arm of the staircase, passed on to the queen. Bowing to her, they regained it, after passing through all the rooms, by an outlet that led to the other arm; which they descended. When my wife was presented, her majesty addressed some conversation to her, as a stranger. . . . The Prince Regent was there and royal family; cabinet ministers and their ladies; foreign ambassadors and ministers with theirs. These, having the entré, remained, if they chose, in the room with the queen. A numerous portion of the nobility were present, their wives and daughters; with others distinguished in life, though bearing neither title nor station.

If the scene in the hall was picturesque, the one up stairs transcended it in all ways. The doors of the rooms were all open. You saw in them a thousand ladies richly dressed. All the colours of nature were mingling their rays, under the fairy designs of art. It was the first occasion of laying by mourning for the Princess Charlotte; so that it was like the bursting out of spring. No lady was without her plume. The whole was a waving field of feathers. Some were blue, like the sky; some tinged with red; here you saw violet and yellow; there shades of green; but the most were of pure white, like tufts of snow. The diamonds encircling them caught the sun through the windows, and threw dazzling beams around. Then, the hoops; these I cannot describe. They should be seen. To see one is nothing; but to see a thousand and their thousand wearers on such a day! Each lady seemed to rise out of a gilded little barricade, or one of silvery texture. This, topped by her plume and the “face divine” interposing, gave to the whole an effect so unique, so fraught with feminine grace and grandeur, that it seemed as if a curtain had risen to show a pageant in another sphere. It was brilliant and joyous. Those to whom it was not new stood at gaze, as I did; Canning for one took it all in. You saw admiration in the gravest statesmen; Lord Liverpool, Huskisson, the lord chancellor – every body. I had already seen in England signs enough of opulence and power. Now I saw, radiating on all sides, British beauty. So appeared to me the drawing room of Queen Charlotte .

The ceremonies of the day being ended as far as myself and suite were concerned, we sought the corridor to come away. In good time we reached the head of the descending channel. Will it be believed! both channels were as full as ever of hoops and plumes. . . . We got down stairs in about the same time it took to get up. As we waited in the hall for our carriage, military bands were playing in the court yard, some mounted on the superb cavalry, some on foot; amidst the strains of which we drove off .   (Hoops were last worn at court on April 23rd of this year).

King George IV

From the sublime to the ridiculous, we now turn to The Chronicles of Holland House 1820-1900 (Earl of Ilchester, ed., John Murray 1937). Lady Mary Fox, afterwards Lady Mary Lilford, was presented at Court in 1820, when the whole was presided over by the Prince Regent. She wrote, “The toilet of the Royal person, I fancy, is so laborious and fatiguing, and so laced up is he, that it is impossible for him to stoop low enough to come in contact with the cheek of the young beauties below a certain stature; in consequence of which, such are suddenly lifted up* by the attendants behind them to the level with the Kingly cheek.”

*With a hand under each arm. 


Back in 2014, Victoria and I stayed in Windsor for a few days after the Duke of Wellington Tour had ended. One of the things we did was to take a leisurely stroll across the River and walk the length of Eton’s perfectly preserved, and rather deserted, High Street!






Through the gate, a statue of College founder, King Henry VI (1421-1471)


Along the way, we stopped at my favourite fudge shop and at a truly quirky print and booksellers before we stopped for dinner at a riverside restaurant. If you’d like to join me on my next Eton walk, consider coming along on Number One London’s Town & Country House tour in May, 2024. Complete itinerary and details can be found here. 


December 25th

My Own Heart – The London coach arrived today, bringing with it your gift of a partridge and a pear tree. You are too clever by half!
Yours For Eternity

December 26th

My Love – Two turtle doves! How simply smashing. I cannot wait to see you again that I might thank you personally. You are too droll.
For Ever and Ever

December 27th

Darling – There we were, my footman and I, dispensing bird seed when what should arrive at Blicking Hall but three French hens. You cannot imagine the look they brought to the footman’s face. Truly, you shouldn’t have.

December 28th

Sweetheart – Four calling birds. How quaint. You should know that my lady’s maid is making noises about leaving the Hall. The footman is none too happy, either, although the local carpenter is quite over the moon to have been hired to construct the aviary. Typically, work is scarce for him at this time of year.

December 29th

Dearest – How could you do this to me? I do not mean to be short with you, but none of us here has gotten much sleep of late, what with all the billing, cooing, chirping and calling the birds are wont to do.
P.S. Thank you for the five golden rings.

December 30th

Dear – Now you’ve done it. Cook is quite put out by the six geese laying in her kitchen, and no wonder. You must end this. Accomplished cooks are difficult to come by in the country.
As Ever

December 31st

Dear Sir – I am most heartily sick of the sight of feathers. Your seven swans arrived today and are swimming in the ornamental fountain in the conservatory. Oldham has been snorting at me disdainfully all morning. Have you ever been snorted at by your butler? It’s off putting, to say the least.
Happy New Year

January 1st

Sir – Is there a market for spare goose eggs? The eight maids you sent today are a welcome sight, what with all the seeds and feathers we have to sweep up hourly here. Once they have finished with that, the maids intend to walk to the village, where they are determined to help with the milking. Wherever shall they all sleep?
Please Cease and Desist

January 2nd

To Whom It May Concern – This daily gift giving business is no longer amusing. The entire village have followed the nine drummers drumming to our door. The staff are up in arms, save for the footman, who has not been seen since shortly after the eight maids arrived.
Stop it!

January 3rd

You black hearted scoundrel – the magistrate appeared at Blicking Hall today. It transpires that the villagers are being driven to distraction by the ten pipers and their constant piping. Perhaps you should have sent mimes.

January 4th

Could you not have sent the eleven ladies dancing to Almack’s instead of to me? Do these outrageous gifts have anything to do with the betting book at White’s? Is that idiot Brummell somehow involved? Have you a good receipt for fowl fricassee?

January 5th

My entire staff have deserted me, taking with them the maids, pipers, dancing ladies and, blessedly, the drummers. There is the tiniest bit of good news – I have been given to understand that some of them have made successful matches and are currently bound for Gretna Green. I was headed to my rooms with a bottle of port when who should arrive but twelve lords a leaping. And what lords they are – so handsome, so gallant, so utterly divine! How could I have doubted your intentions? Please give my regards to all in London, as I fear I shall be much too occupied here at Blicking Hall to partake of the Season.
Your Most Grateful Friend


What would Christmas be without our trimming the tree? Some believe that it was Prince Albert who introduced the custom of the Christmas tree to England, while others maintain that they were introduced to England by King George III’s German wife, Queen Charlotte. However, it was only circa 1848, after the London Illustrated News ran the engraving depicting showing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating  around the Christmas tree with their children (above) that this tradition caught on with the public.
The painting above, Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree at Windsor in 1850 as painted by James Roberts (1824 – 1867), depicts presents around the tree from Prince Albert. We thought it might prove amusing to see what others had written about the Christmas tree in centuries past.
From Recollections from 1803 to 1837 by Amelia Murray:
“Christmas-trees are now common. In the early part of this century they were seldom seen, but Queen Charlotte always had one dressed up in the room of Madame Berkendorff, her German attendant; it was hung with presents for the children, who were invited to see it, and I well remember the pleasure it was to hunt for one’s own name, which was sure to be attached to one or more of the pretty gifts.”
From 20 Years at Court
The Hon. Eleanor Stanley (maid of honour to Queen Victoria, 1842-1862) to her Mother, Lady Mary Stanley, Windsor Castle, Saturday, Dec. 25th, 1847.
“Dearest Mama,—A merry Xmas, and many happy returns of the day to you and all the family at the dear old Castle. Yesterday evening we were desired, at a quarter to seven, to come down to the Corridor, to get our Gifts; we found all the gentlemen and Mrs. Anson already assembled, and presently the page desired us to go to the Oak-room, where the Queen and Prince already were, standing by a large table covered with a white cloth, in the middle of which was a little fir-tree, in the German fashion, covered with bonbons, gilt walnuts, and little coloured tapers. I send a bonbon as a Christmas box to little Blanche, which I took off the tree. . . . The children had each a little table with their new toys, and were running about in great glee showing them off; Prince Alfred, in a glorious tinsel helmet that almost covered his face, was shooting us all with a new gun, and Princess Alice was making us admire her dolls, etc. They had one Christmas tree among them, like us, but the Queen, Prince, and Duchess had each one, and altogether I never saw anything prettier than the whole arrangement.”
Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
From The Memoirs of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
Cambridge Cottage, January 1, 1848.

“My Dearest Draperchen,  (her former governess, Miss Draper, whom she addressed as ‘Ma chere Draperchen), . . . Our Christmas went off very well. The room was beautifully decorated ; there were four fine trees, and these were connected by wreaths of laurel evergreens and holly.”

by the same author

Cambridge Cottage, January 9, 1849
“The Christmas holidays have been very happily spent by the inmates of Cambridge Cottage, and I have received a number of cadeaux! Our Trees were arranged in the Conservatory, which was hung with festoons of evergreens, from which transparent lamps were suspended. The whole was well lighted up, and looked remarkably pretty, and the three trees were quite covered with bon-bons and fruit.”
Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower

From My Reminiscences By Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower

“At Trentham, Christmas 1854, I find, on turning the pages of that record of my early years, much detail regarding our Christmas gifts and of the Christmas tree; now so general in English homes at Yuletide, but then hardly seen but in a few English houses. Our German tutor claimed to have introduced this pretty custom in this country in our family, the first implanted out of Germany having been erected by him in the hall at Stafford House. Until recently there was always one of these Christmas trees, richly decked, placed in one of the drawing-rooms at Trentham on Christmas Eve; and the household attended to see the illuminations and receive the gifts that were one by one cut off from the lighted boughs. No one was forgotten, from the most honored of the guests down to the kitchen-maids and stable-men. Christmas was worthily maintained in those days at Trentham. Generally after the tree there came a ball for the servants, given in a long gallery overlooking the stable-yard. All took part in the dances, which, with itscountry dances and Highland flings and reels, when the Scotch piper was in great demand, were always most successful festivities.”

From Letters by Lady Harcourt, December 17, 1885

“Yesterday I made an excursion to the city with Hilda Deichmann and her husband to buy things for our Christmas trees. It was most amusing ransacking in all the big wholesale houses, and reminded me of my childish days and similar expeditions to Maiden Lane . . . . . . . . Our shopping was most successful. All the prettiest things come from the German shops. The ginger-bread animals were wonderful,—some horses and dogs with gilt tails and ears most effective. The decorations were really very pretty—the stars and angels quite charming.”

by the same author

To G. K. S., Albert Gate, London, December 24, 1885.

“The sisters and I have been shopping all day getting the last things for the tree, which is to be on the 26th. The streets are most animated, full of people, all carrying parcels, and all with smiling faces. . . We wound up at the Army and Navy Stores, and really had some difficulty in getting in. They had quantities of Christmas trees already decorated, which were being sold as fast as they were brought in.”

Wishing you a memorable Christmas!

On The Shelf: A London Year


A London Year: 365 Days of City Life
in Diaries, Journals and Letters
Edited by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison

Not since Hibbert and Weintraub edited The London Encyclopedia has there been a book that has taken London history and served it up in so enjoyable, usable and entertaining a package. Taking entries from letters, diaries and journals written by over 200 people, from Tudor times to nearly the present, editors Elborough and Rennison break them down by date and offer them up in daily entries covering the 365 days of the year. Often, days have more than one entry and it’s amusing to hear the different voices of diarists who have lived in the same place across the centuries.

By turns chatty, introspective, informative, superfluous, descriptive, evocative and nonsensical, A London Year is a big, doorstop of a book that should be kept at the bed or fireside and dipped into at intervals as a treat. You’ll want to devour it at one sitting, but I urge you to instead savour it’s contents a bit at a time – and then go back to the beginning and start again. Otherwise, the book may prove addictive. This is truly a Christmas present of a book for everyone who loves London, even if that person should happen to be yourself.

Here are just a few entries from A London Year to whet your appetite:

William Bray, Diary, 1757

To Drury Lane Theatre: King Lear by Garrick. Agreed with the barber for shaving me at 6s. a quarter.

Lord Byron, Journal, 1813

Two nights ago I saw the tigers sup at Exeter Change. Such a conversazion! – There was a ‘hippopotamus,’ like Lord Liverpool in the face; and the ‘Ursine Sloth’ hath the very voice and manner of my valet – but the tiger talked too much. The elephant took and gave me my money again – took off my hat – opened a door – trunked a whip – and behaved so well that I wish he was my butler . . . .

Frank Hurley, Diary, 1916

All London is excitement on account of a Zeppelin raid which took place in the small hours of this morning. Four Zeppelins participated and two were brought down. Late at noon, a German seaplane dropped a bomb just in front of Harrods.

Noel Coward, Diaries, 1951

Went to the Tower Pier at six to go on a yacht party up the river. Very grand and enjoyable, particularly coming back and looking at the South Bank, which looks like a dog’s dinner, and the North Bank – floodlit – which with St. Paul’s, Somerset House, The Houses of Parliament, etc., was breathtakingly lovely. Felt tears spring to my eyes when one of the ship’s crew nudged me and said, “How’s this for `London Pride’, eh?'”

Charles Greville, Diary, 1830

I went yesterday to the sale of the late King’s wardrobe, which was numerous enough to fill Monmouth Street, and sufficiently various and splendid for the wardrobe of Drury Lane. He hardly ever gave away anything except his linen, which was distributed every year Theses clothes are the perquisite of his pages, and will fetch a pretty sum. There are all the coats he has ever had for fifty years, 500 whips, canes without number, every sort of uniform, the costumes of all the orders in Europe, splendid furs, pelisses, hunting coats and breeches, and among other things a dozen pair of corduroy breeches he had made to hunt in when Don Miguel was here. His profusion in these articles was unbounded, because he never paid for them, and his memory was so accurate that one of his pages told me he recollected every article of dress, no matter how old, and that they were always liable to be called on to produce some particular coat or other article of apparel of years gone by. It is difficult to say whether in great or little things that man was most odious and contemptible.

Sir Roy Strong, Diary, 1969

I arrived early at 115 Ebury Street . . . . in a flat painted all over in a particularly awful shade of 1940s green. But he did have good pictures by Mathew Smith and Graham Sutherland. It had never crossed my mind what kind of party this was to be but that began rapidly to dawn on me as not a woman appeared and twenty men gradually filled the room. I left as soon as I could decently extricate myself, appalled at the sight, amongst other things, of all those bottles of cosmetics ranked above his dressing table.

Nathaniel Bryceson, Diary, 1846

Old Walker, proprietor of the hotel, 33 Dean Street, Soho, corner of Queen Street, has had his house lately pointed down and painted, and has this day had a square lamp fixed, lit with gas which till now has been a round one with tin top and lit with oil, and which was no doubt the original one put up when the house was built, which is about 160 years. This is an alteration which I am both surprised and displeased at as the house preserved its ancient look so like hotel and tavern of the 17th century. The proprietor thereof is very old both in years and fashion, wearing at all times a black suit with breeches and black stockings, and as I have heard saw Margaret Nicholson attempt to stab George III.

Evelyn Waugh, Letter to Nancy Mitford, 1955

I knew a woman who could not bear to say `W.C.’ for the London postal district because of its indelicate associations and always said `West Central.’

R.D. Blumenfeld, R.D.B.’s Diary, 1900

Yerkes, the projector of the new Charing Cross, Euston, and Hampstead electric underground, said to me that in spite of the opposition which he meets at every turn he proposes to go ahead with it. He has secured the backing of some large American financiers to the extent of $30,000,000, and he predicted to me that a generation hence London will be completely transformed; that people will think nothing of living twenty or more miles from town, owing to electrified trains. He also thinks that the horse omnibus is doomed. Twenty years hence, he says, there will be no horse omnibus in London. Although he is a very shrewd man, I think he is a good deal of a dreamer.

Sydney Smith, Letter to the Countess Grey, 1834

I am better in health, avoiding all fermented liquors, and drinking nothing but London water, with a million insects in every drop. He who drinks a tumbler of London water has literally in his stomach more animated beings than there are men, women and children on the face of the globe.

Dickon Edwards, Diary, 2005

After viewing Mr. Nicholson Senior’s art at the RA, I sit in Borders Books Café, Charing Cross Road. The café is now a Starbucks, so I only use it if the one in Foyles (still an independent family business) is full up. And then, as I do in all Starbucks, I only ever order tea. Tea drinking as a revolutionary act, I like to think. The joke’s on me, as their tea is revolting. Clever, very clever . . . . .

A London Year: 365 Days of City Life
in Diaries, Journals and Letters
Edited by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison
Now available on Amazon