Humanitarian to the Regency

Urbanity toward women; benevolence toward men; and humanity toward the brute creation.’ — Jonah Barrington

Richard Martin, (1754? – 1834) was an Irish MP, lawyer and a tireless advocate for the defenseless and mistreated. His efforts in Parliament created a body of law protecting animal rights. He inspired others to create the RSPCA. He searched out any who needed help–animals and humans, Irish rebels and ton debutantes. He expanded the meaning of being humane to encompass kind treatment toward all living things.

He was the Humanitarian to the Regency.

‘In life he never was equalled, and when he dies by whom shall he be replaced?’

It was the Prince Regent who first christened him ‘Humanity.’ Dick Martin did not always see eye-to-eye with his sovereign, notably in his defense of the estranged Princess of Wales. But when news arrived that Humanity survived a shipwreck, His Highness was overjoyed. Back in Connemara, where Martin had given shelter and legal assistance to many a countryman during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, his preservation was treated as a matter of course:

“.. ‘No one need be afeared for the master; for if he was in the midst of a raging sea the prayers of widows and orphans would keep his head above water.’ “

Before he came to London and Royal notice, Richard Martin was known in Ireland as ‘Hair-trigger Dick,’ for the many duels he fought. His most famous conflict was waged over a dog that belonged to a family close to the Martins. The notorious Fighting Fitzgerald, whose violence was attributed to a botched trepanning, induced that family to produce their famous wolfhound Prime Sargeant for his admiring inspection.

The madman shot the dog at point-blank range.

The DNA of the Regency-era Irish wolfhound is believed to closely resemble that of a Great Dane. Highly prized by royal and aristocratic circles, large numbers of them were exported abroad. (Photo via Pixabay)

Everyone agreed it was murder, but it was Martin who called Fitzgerald to account. He pursued the murderer for years. Fitzgerald evaded him time and again by seeking refuge in jail and even breaking his second’s finger at one point. Martin’s own man forgot to show up with his pistols. A theater curtain contrived to trip and injure him as he ran after his quarry.

When the day of reckoning finally came, Fitzgerald, as most bullies are apt to do, succumbed to cowardice. He complained the ground was uneven. Then he took up an opposing position beyond the range of Hair-trigger Dick’s pistol.

“I will soon cure that,’ Martin retorted. ‘I will now march up until I lay my pistol on your face.’

The first Mrs. Martin cuckolded him. But the budding Humanity did not shoot his wife’s lover, as one might expect a hair-trigger duelist to do. He sued the man instead and won £10,000 in damages (a goodly sum of money in those days). Still, the compensation that really wasn’t began ‘to weigh heavily on him.’ He threw the award out of his carriage window, a few coins at a time, from the London courtroom all the way back home to Ireland.

He refused to file for divorce.

‘My distress in this unhappy business arose if possible more from the situation of the unhappy person (Mrs. Martin) in question than from what I in my person suffered.’

His efforts in London as an advocate for animal rights, both in Parliament and as a lawyer, are well-documented. In the courtroom he brought cases against drovers, slaughterhouses and ordinary citizens he spied abusing animals in the London streets. He was the Irish scourge of hackney and coach drivers.

When the law failed him in the courts, he brought bills to the floor of the Commons with the intention of rectifying it. His humor was legendary. It had to power to break down the opposition and draw support to his causes. The House cheered when Castlereagh, with whom Martin often clashed on the Catholic Question, welcomed him back after a period of several years’ absence.

“It was so usual for him to be entertaining that they sometimes misunderstood him and laughed when he was not even joking.”

Even members of the Beau Monde benefited from his assistance. A wallflower left without a partner could always count on Humanity to lead her in a set of country dances. He would offer his arm to the governess who’d just entertained the company on a pianoforte, accompanying her to supper before his hostess could banish her employee to the nursery.

“Erring sons and daughters who had incurred the wrath of their parents found in him a protector and a counsellor who restored them to the bosom of their families. He was notorious at interceding for young men who had fallen out of favour with their superiors, and his house was a refuge to the struggling while they tried to set themselves up in life.”

Pan edition of Georgette Heyer's The Nonesuch
‘Sir Waldo, you are labouring under a misapprehension! It would be most improper in me to stand up with you, or with anyone! I’m not a guest here: I am the governess! said Miss Ancilla Trent.
‘Yes, but a most superior female!’ Sir Waldo murmured.

Sometimes it was hard to take him seriously. His eccentricity puzzled many:

‘His sterling qualities were so embossed with wild humour and fun, that it was no easy matter to form a correct judgement upon his real character.’ — journalist William Jerdan

Unfortunately, Martin was many times his own saboteur, for his tender-hearted sensitivity took precedence over his dogged prosecution of cruelty. He took a man to court for beating his donkey with the iron buckle end of a leather strap. The man’s wife protested they could not pay the fine imposed–they were already poor and it would ruin them. Martin made the offender promise to never abuse his animal again. He paid the wife a half-sovereign.

He once withdrew a case he’d brought against a solicitor who had cheated him. Against his own interest, he declined the chance to get his money back, agonizing over the possibility the court might impose the death penalty as punishment.

Being a humanitarian came at a cost to Martin’s family. Throughout his career, he neglected his wife and children, as well as his finances. He had gone from being the rich King of Connemara to a bankrupt whose tenantry was to succumb to famine. Fleeing to the Continent to escape his creditors, Martin never returned. His son’s attempt to pay the debts by breaking the entail on the family’s estates left no inheritance and no Martin of any note in Connemara.

He might have been the prototypical Dickensian character, but even that author found Humanity Dick’s benevolence too much to take.

“It is a pity that he could not exchange a little of his excessive tenderness for animals for some common sense and consideration for human beings.” — Charles Dickens

quotes are from ‘Humanity Dick Martin ‘King of Connemara 1754-1834’ by Shevauwn Lynam 1975 unless otherwise noted.

Royal Antics in Regency-era Brighton

“While I hold the reins you will run as I choose, and by God! ma’am, if you try to take the bit between your teeth it will be very much the worse for you!” — super- Alpha Lord Worth scolding his ward, Miss Judith Taverner, for driving her curricle from London to Brighton with only her tiger for an escort.

Brighton was a popular spa and resort of Regency England. An invitation to the Royal Pavilion was supposed to be an honor–a coveted opportunity to be in the company of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. Over the years, however, the place developed a reputation for jokes and untoward incidents perpetrated by the Prince who gave his name to the era.

These antics, conducted by the heir-apparent to the British throne, were generally looked upon with grave disapproval:

“..childish practical jokes..continued to amuse him long after the age at which at which such pastimes cease to be excusable.”

Royal Pavilion Music Room – Brighton (photo via brightonmuseums.org.uk)

The Prince’s residence in Brighton necessitated the stationing of dragoons in barracks about a mile and half north of the town. They were to protect His Royal Highness in the event of invasion or some other circumstance threatening his safety. During the course of a late evening entertainment, the Prince inquired whether the dragoons might be summoned at a moment’s notice.

He encouraged their commander to demonstrate such readiness.

In the dead of night, the regiment’s trumpeter was roused to bugle the alarm. Taken completely by surprise and overwhelmed by the prospect of going into battle to protect his sovereign from an unknown enemy already on the attack, he couldn’t find the breath to blow into the horn.

The Music Room at the Royal Pavilion was used as a hospital for WWI soldiers from India fighting for King and Empire.

Another bugler was found, blasting the soldiers from a dead sleep. They hastily scrambled into their uniforms and struggled to tack up mounts spooked by the general disorder. Weapons had to be assembled and flying artillery wagons had to be hitched to plunging teams of horses. Passing a hurried inspection, the dragoons pounded down the road toward Brighton, leaving panicked townspeople and howling dogs in their wake. They were at their Prince’s side within fifteen minutes of the bugle call.

Imagine their disgruntlement when they arrived.

The premier peer of the realm was the old Duke of Norfolk. He probably wished he’d declined the Prince’s invitation to stay overnight at the Pavilion. At dinner, His Royal Highness, with the aid of his royal brothers, attempted to get the duke drunk. Realizing their intentions, His Grace got up to leave:

‘And now I request that my carriage may be ordered out; I mean to go home, and shall never set foot within these doors again.’

Unfortunately, he passed out soon after he entered his carriage. Obliged by Royal command, his coachman drove the ducal equipage around the Pavilion several times, returning his employer to the front door of the palace. The Regent’s servants carried his lordship inside and put him to bed.

Insensible to the entire proceeding, the duke woke up the next morning, confounded he was still ‘under the Prince’s roof.’

The library at Arundel Castle is all that remains of the 11th Duke of Norfolk’s Regency style renovation. Regency can mean chinoiserie–or Gothic. photo via Country Life

The Prince delighted Sir Edmund Nagle, vice-admiral of the Royal Navy and frequent visitor to the Royal Pavilion, with the gift of a specially-bred Hanoverian horse the color of cream. Although it was raining heavily, Sir Edmund insisted on riding his prize along the Steine in front of the Prince’s palace. He returned on a very dark bay horse, dismayed by the streaks of white running down the animal’s hide. In a paroxysm of laughter, the Prince explained he’d had the steed painted as a joke.

Sir Edmund being a good sport, Prinny presented him with a Hanoverian of the right color.

Hanoverian creams were the carriage horses once used by royalty for state occasions. Hanoverians can be pretty good size. One stepped on my foot once. It wasn’t pleasant.

By now, word got around that the royal host at the Royal Pavilion liked to prank his guests.

Upon his arrival at the Pavilion for a reception, the Reverend Sydney Smith was well-prepared for the Prince’s humor. Someone among His Highness’ guests asked the clergyman to identify the world’s most wicked man. The noted Regency wag obliged and shot his mouth off. He named the Duc d’Orleans, for ‘he was a prince!”

No, the Prince retorted, he should be Dubois, for ‘he was a priest!’

William Wilberforce was especially wary of the repeated invitations to the Pavilion he’d received, particularly because everyone knew he strongly disapproved of His Royal Highness’ conduct. He finally accepted a royal request to dine. To his surprise, he was treated very cordially and with profound respect. This encouraged him to accept a second invitation.

The Prince, perhaps feeling he’d come to an understanding with his detractor, teased Wilberforce over how much they’d both changed over the years. The evangelist agreed with this assessment. He added, however, that one hoped his sovereign had taken the opportunity during those years to improve himself (!)

Wilberforce’s opinion of the Pavilion at Brighton was also unsparing:

“St. Paul’s had gone down to the sea and left behind a litter of cupolas.”

First Lady Louisa Adams, wife of John Quincy had this to say about the seaside palace: “Prince George’s fantasy pavilion at Brighton was by far the most erotic. I have never been in a Turkish seraglio, but I’ll wager that even the most sophisticated Pasha was out-done by Prince George. He had erotic furniture, such as comfortable chaise longues [sic] that in Paris were made for ladies to lounge in, but in Prince George’s Brighton palace were for sexual intercourse(!)

All quotes are from Social hours with celebrities; being the third and fourth volumes of “Gossip of the century,” by Mrs. William Pitt Byrne (1898)

All My Regency Sons

The sons of Lord Uxbridge cut quite a dash during the Regency.

William Paget, 1st Baron Paget and accountant to Henry VIII. “You can’t claim that as a dependent—Why? Because it’s inanimate!”*

Their father, a man humbly named Henry Bayly, inherited an ancient barony through the maternal line of his ancestors. To tidy things up, he took their name Paget. Another privilege, the earldom of Uxbridge, descended lockstep with the barony but Bayly couldn’t inherit that bit since it only passed through the male line.

Not to worry–a second creation made our man an earl.

Henry married the daughter of a minister and they had six sons who survived to maturity (among six daughters)–and good-looking ones, too.

“It is not common to see such..handsome young men in one family.” — Lady Stafford to her son Granville Leveson Gower; (from his correspondence edited by Castalia, Countess Granville 1916)

No. 1 — Field Marshall Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess Anglesey, the eldest and particularly famous for his military exploits during the Napoleonic Wars, an endeavor that cost him a limb which went on to have a career of its own (!) Many remarked upon his equanimity during the amputation procedure:

“I’ve had a pretty long run, I have been a beau these forty-seven years, and it would not be fair to cut the young men out any longer.” — One Leg: The Life and Letters of Henry William Paget, First Marquess of Anglesey; ed. 7th Marquis of Anglesey (1961)

Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess Anglesey by F W Wilkin Of him, Wellington declared ‘he shall not run off with me!’

After that, he wore an artificial limb which may or may not have caused him to fall down leaving the ballroom at Almack’s. Adding insult to injury, his sister Lady Jane Paget screamed ‘violently,’ sending the whole place into a panic.1

Henry’s amorous maneuvers are worth noting for their instructive value in late Georgian divorce law. On a personal level, his father threatened to cut him off ‘without a farthing’ if he did not return to his wife. Lady Williams Wynn (another fond parent of Regency sons) smugly thanked hers for being such a nice boy, pitying Lord Uxbridge for the conduct of his:

“What a misfortune to his family that he (Henry) did not find in Spain the Tomb of honor which they say he so eagerly sought. For his companion in disgrace, we must in charity remember the heavy degree of insanity (!) which prevails throughout her family…”

— from Lady W. W. to Henry W. W. W. March 14, 1809

Correspondence of Charlotte Grenville, Lady Williams Wynn, and her three sons, et al; ed. by Rachel Leighton (1820)

No. 2 — Most thought Captain William Paget, a naval officer, the handsomest of all the Paget boys (excepting Lord Granville’s sister, who danced with him at Lady Hume’s ball but preferred his brother Arthur.)2  William’s father was very proud of his naval service and roundly rebuked any who complained his son was too often absent from parliamentary proceedings as MP for Anglesey.  Captain Paget was busy capturing French vessels–surely a far greater service to King and County than sitting in the Commons. His death at sea was greatly mourned, its cause poorly understood.**

Sir Arthur Paget by Hoppner. He ‘liked to show his shapes to advantage.’

No. 3 — Sir Arthur Paget was a career diplomat and cut a rather extravagant figure while doing it.3  Serving in various posts throughout Europe, he pursued various females, including the daughter of the Esterhazys, earning him a serious smack-down from Leopoldine’s mother.4  The other notable rebuff came from a Miss Scott who preferred George Canning, future Prime Minister.5

On the other hand, Miss Georgiana Seymour was infatuated with him. This young lady, adopted by the Marquess of Cholmondelay, was rumoured to be the love child of the Prince Regent by noted courtesan and spy Grace Dalrymple Elliott.6

In the end, Arthur ran off with Augusta Fane, wife of the appropriately named Lord Boringdon.

No. 4 -General Sir Edward Paget lost an arm and was captured by the French serving under Wellington. When his father became convinced a young ‘hellkite’ was in love with him, to the point he was paying her a generous stipend, Edward was the only one to bring old Lord Uxbridge to his senses. He told his father quite bluntly:

” ‘What should you think if Sir David Dundas (then aged seventy-five) should seriously tell you that a girl of 20 was seriously and truly in Love with His Person? If you did not laugh at him, should you not be disgusted at the communication?’ ” — Charles Paget writing to his brother, Sir Arthur Paget, circa late 1809 as reprinted in One Leg

Sir Charles Paget by Lawrence. In a letter to his brother Arthur, he curses his mother-in-law for falsely accusing him of infidelity with the Duchess of Bedford.+

No. 5 – Sir Charles Paget, a vice-admiral, commanded HMS Endymion when it gallantly rescued the crew of a French warship that had run aground. He married Elizabeth Monck whose mother had an affair with Jack, the aforementioned Lord Boringdon. Charles was steady on–he counseled and supported his parents in their old age and bailed them out by loaning them a substantial portion of the prize money he won capturing four Spanish treasure ships. He died of a fever on board ship.

No. 6 – Berkeley Thomas Paget concerned himself mainly with politics, both as MP and as a Lord of the Treasury for two prime ministers. He and Lady Williams Wynn’s son were rivals for the hand of the beautiful Sophia Bucknall. Fanny, Lady Williams Wynn’s daughter, wrote to her brother encouraging him to make up to Sophia, an heiress ‘with a fortune of at least  £30,000.’ Berkeley won her and her fortune, but was less than faithful.

Berkeley Thomas Paget by Lawrence. His brothers and sisters called him ‘Bartolo,’ and, alternatively, ‘Villain.’

Another schadenfreude moment for Lady W. W.:

“..Mr. Paget has gone back to live with his poor wife, promising, I suppose, never to do so no more. I am sorry for it, as I fear she can have no further prospect of any permanent comfort in him & therefore will only be subjecting herself to further pangs.” — Lady W. W. to Fanny W. W. January 17, 1819 Correspondence of Charlotte Grenville, et al

Oh, those Paget boys.

 

 

*I couldn’t resist quoting from a ‘celebrity accountant‘ commercial that never gets old.

**Some speculated William died from complications due to a wound he sustained ‘years before’ during an assassination attempt in Constantinople, making him a very young teenager at the time of the attack.

+Charles Paget to Sir Arthur, June 17, 1810 written aboard the Revenge, reprinted in The Paget Boys by Sir Arthur Paget, edited by George Jolliff, Baron Hylton (1918). It was an accusation that was particularly troubling to Charles because he and his wife missed each other acutely while he was at sea.

1.From the Journal of Henry Edward Fox, March 27, 1822 by Baron Henry Edward Vassall Fox, ed. by Giles Strangways, Earl of Ilchester (1926)

2. From Lady Charlotte’s Jan. 30th, 1790 letter to her brother, Granville Leveson Gower. She goes on to tell her brother she danced with the oldest Paget boy, Henry, who she said ‘is a great favourite of mine.’ Apparently the brothers were still dancing into the night after she left at four in the morning! Lord Granville Leveson Gower private correspondence, ed. Castalia, Countess Granville (1916) vol. I

3.From the Earl of Dalkeith’s Dec. 31st, 1799 letter to Sir Arthur recommending a breeches maker in Naples, with a sly remark concerning the diplomatic possibilities that awaited there, including Lady Emma Hamilton. The Paget papers; diplomatic and other correspondence of Sir Arthur Paget, 1794-1807. (With two appendices 1808 & 1821 [1828]-1829.) ed Sir Augustus Berkeley Paget (1896) Vol. I

4. From Sir Arthur’s Aug. 18th, 1805 letter to his mother, the Countess of Uxbridge,  Paget Papers Vol II

5. From George Canning’s August 22nd 1799 letter to Lord Granville Leveson Gower expressing his relief that Paget was out of the running for Miss Scott’s hand, based second-hand on a conversation she supposedly had with someone else, an intelligence conveyed to Canning via the unlikely duo of William Pitt and his fixer, Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville. I say unlikely because one would not suspect these two men to be concerned with the romance of a younger ally (Pitt never married and Dundas cut off his adulterous wife from her fortune and children). Private Correspondence, Lord Granville. Postscript: It must be noted that Dundas was Scott’s guardian but both men were anxious for Canning to secure financial stability in order to pursue a promising career as a Tory politician.

6. J. Talbot’s Mar. 12th, 1803 letter to Sir Arthur in Paget’s Papers, Vol I.

 

A Regency State Banquet

The recent state banquet in Buckingham Palace had me glued to the TV screen. Not to view the participants, but to catch a glimpse of the treasures acquired by the Prince Regent, still in use today.

The banquet took place in the ballroom of the palace, a Victorian creation. July 20th will mark the beginning of a new exhibition, “Queen Victoria’s Palace,” which will highlight the transformation of what had been “a private house to a working royal residence.” Below is an image of the ballroom during Victoria’s reign:

Watercolor by Louis Haghe (1806 – 85) from the Royal Collection Trust

What makes a state banquet in the ballroom so magnificent is the decorative and functional items on display. Thanks to the excellent catalog and descriptions of the Royal Collection, one can know the  provenance of those items brought out from the Queen’s  ‘cupboard’ to serve the attendees.

It is also an opportunity to see the very best that graced a Regency era table.

The Grand Service was assembled by George IV over the course of his life as Prince of Wales,as  the Prince Regent and finally as king. It consists of more than 4000 pieces and made by the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell Bridge and Rundell. The style reflects the eclectic taste of the Regency era. There is no one pattern, but a harmony of classical, Egyptian and oriental motifs.

Irreplaceable and wholly incomparable in size and magnificence, the Grand Service remains in use for state banquets like the one this past week.

The magnificent Mercury and Bacchus candelabrum by Rundell & Bridge goldsmith Paul Storr (1811)  – it is always placed on the table of HM the Queen, along with its pair, Apples of the Hesperides photo via dailymail.co.uk

The first installment of the service was used in Carlton House. The banquet table featured  goldfish swimming in a trough down the length of the table; highlighting, perhaps, the magnificence of the silver gilt plate.

From the British Museum collection – a Charles Williams print clearly objecting to this first of Prinny’s many extravagances

I particularly like the more unusual pieces. They inspire great plot ideas for that Regency dinner my characters labor to serve.

A spirit burner is used to keep food warm on the table as diners serve themselves à la française — photo via Royal Collection Trust

 

Chained unicorn detail from the wine cistern (now punch bowl) — final piece of the Grand Service – photo via Royal Collection Trust

 

There are four of these dessert stands — Bacchus here dancing with his maenids photo via Royal Collection Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regency’s “Sable Garb of Woe”

From the November, 1818 issue of La Belle Assemblée or, Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies, the following notice appears:

Our Cabinet of Taste is unavoidably closed at present: every European court will, no doubt, adopt the ‘sable garb of woe’ for Britain’s virtuous queen.

It was said by contemporaries that this Lawrence portrait of George III's Consort bore a remarkable likeness to her.

And with that, Adelaide’s adventures come to an end–or, at least, they are no longer reported. Presumably her frivolous ways were considered an affront to the Readership’s sensibilities in this time of mourning following Queen Charlotte’s death.

Instead, anecdotes of the Queen’s final moments were shared. Sir Henry Halford, physician to the Regency, was in attendance during her last illness. It was he who sent to Carlton House, summoning the Prince Regent in:

..a statement so alarming, that the Prince sent instantly for the Duke of York to accompany him to Kew.

The queen was reportedly lucid throughout the duration of her last day on earth, November 17th. She sat in her chair, surrounded by her children, the Prince Regent holding her hand. In keeping with the Magazine’s determined tone of solemnity and discretion, further illustration of the deathbed scene was limited:

The expiring scene–the heart-rending feelings of the Regent, and all present, it will be equally impossible and unbecoming to attempt to describe.

Inevitably, bombazine is the dress material of mourning. This illustration of a carriage dress suitable for mourning, from the Magazine's November issue, is liberally trimmed in black velvet, from spencer to hem.

Inevitably, bombazine is the dress material of mourning. This illustration of a carriage dress suitable for mourning, from the Magazine’s November issue, is liberally trimmed in black velvet, from spencer to hem.

Queen Charlotte served as Consort for fifty-seven years and seventy days.

Just this past week we’ve been reminded of another Consort’s lengthy service.

Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh - 1954

Elizabeth II and Prince Philip–is it him or the uniform that draws the admiring glance? I can’t decide.

 

 

 

 

Francis Chantrey – Sculptor to the Regency

In 1813, a newly made widow was journeying to Bath, accompanied by her young daughter. Ellen-Jane, for she was named after her mother, was perhaps unused to travelling. It may have even been the unfamiliar surroundings. One night, as she was preparing for bed, the little girl’s nightdress suddenly caught fire. She soon died of the burns she received. Distraught, the widow returned home to seek comfort in the company of her last remaining daughter, Marianne. Alas, a wretched illness overtook the child while they were in London. The widow had lost her entire family in the space of a few years.

Chantrey's Sleeping Children - photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Chantrey’s Sleeping Children – photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Look at those sleeping children; softly tread, Lest thou do mar their dream, and come not nigh
Till their fond mother, with a kiss, shall cry,  ‘Tis morn, awake! awake! Ah! they are dead!

William Lisle Bowles, chaplain to the Prince Regent

Untimely death was so very common in those days. However, this widow was determined her children would not be forgotten. She commissioned their likeness so their memory may live on. In death, their sculpture took the  ton by storm. By the time the Sleeping Children had been moved to the cathedral in Lichfield, the creator had become the new sculptor to the Regency:  Sir Francis Chantrey (1781 – 1841)

“Chantrey was designed by his father for the law; accident made him a carver in wood, poverty a painter, and his own genius a sculptor.” — The Eclectic Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art (vol. II, 1843)

His genius was clearly apparent in the tender simplicity expressed in his work. It is almost as if Chantrey was driven to create an unforgettable impression. Perhaps he had been moved by the widow’s fear her little girls would be forgotten, having been on this earth for such a short time. Indeed, it seems Chantrey was driven all his life to set portraits in stone before death destroyed the sitter’s flesh–and time his memory.

Chantrey’s sculptures of the Georgian era’s greatest figures still remain, even if their legacies are less certain: George III and his son, the Prince Regent. William Pitt the Younger and George Canning. They are also so numerous one can scarcely travel through England without encountering a roundabout circling “a Chantrey.”

The sculptor had a reputation for being blunt, which was somewhat surprising in a man who carved with such delicacy. That candor is perhaps a clue into his genius–a sign that Chantrey himself was suffering from an inordinate fear of being forgotten. It seems he felt that the ones who should remember him won’t. That the ones who he hoped loved him best will forsake his memory all too soon.

The acts of women in this regard seemed to have vexed him most particularly.

Grave of Marie Louise of Austria - Kaisergruft, Vienna

Grave of Marie Louise of Austria – Kaisergruft, Vienna

On several occasions he expressed extreme displeasure when any widow cast off her black weeds. His own mother had remarried after his father died, an act which he never forgave her for. Throughout the rest of her life he called her by her first married name–Mrs. Chantrey–and made certain all his letters to her were addressed in the same way. After he had become famous, his opinion on Napoleon’s widow remarrying made the rounds in Mayfair. His ideal was the famous Duchess of Marlborough, who swore never to remarry. Although her own architect (in a fit of temper) wished a Scottish ensign to have her, Sir Chantrey quite approved of the example she set.

When his own death approached, the sculptor took no chances. He drew up a will cutting off Lady Chantrey’s income if she should remarry. He had less success with the plans for his elaborate tomb. A close friend thought he was mad, not understanding how one should desire to be sealed up “like a toad in a stone for some future geologist to discover.”

But no marble tomb or bust encrusted with pigeon droppings can compare to the legacy Chantrey’s will created. Dutiful to the last, his widow left behind his fortune for the benefit of others. This bequest created and maintained England’s marvelous Tate Museum, an effort which continues to this day.

Thanks for the memories.

The Ghosts of Lansdowne Passage

The layers of history in an old place like London continually fascinate me.  The city is like an ancient mansion that’s been made over by successive generations to suit changing tastes in fashion and function.  New wallpaper is placed over the old, new paint is slathered over faded oak.  When these layers are peeled back, we see something completely different, in the same place.  And it never fails to amaze.

Highgate cemetery - London (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License)

Fitzmaurice Place is a small street leaves the southeast corner of Berkeley Square and runs into Curzon Street, just where the old core of Lansdowne House sits.  Across from its truncated facade is a pedestrian walkway lined with shops that leaves the house and ends up at Hay Hill on the other side.   It is called Lansdowne Row.

In the days of the Regency, this was a narrow walkway sunken between forbidding walls.  Walls so tall that they permanently darkened this shortcut linking the two ends of Mayfair.  You couldn’t see what was on the other side of either wall, nor were you meant to.

There are very few good photographs of the passage.  I used this image of the Egyptian Avenue monument from London’s Highgate cemetery.  It looks imposing–and a little spooky.

At Lansdowne Passage, in the middle of the most fashionable part of Regency London, two great estates–two great families–came together in a physical way.  As mentioned in an earlier post of the series, Lansdowne House was built in such a way as to give Devonshire House an unobstructed view toward Berkeley Square.  The two houses had enormous gardens.  They abutted one another yet gave way to that ancient right of passersby–an easement, if you will, called the right of way.  This came to be known as Lansdowne Passage, appearing much like a crevasse when Diana, sometimes called Viscountess Northam, climbed the ladder of the Lansdowne House garden to remonstrate with the Viscount Hartington, heir to His Grace, the Duke of Devonshire, who stood on his garden ladder opposite.

Many legends abound of the walkway, mostly because its long length was hidden from observation and provided a perfect route for robbers and ladies of the night.  Indeed, Hay Hill at one end of the passage was long a favorite of highwaymen.  Even the Prince Regent was robbed there at gunpoint, along with his brother, the Duke of York, of the three shillings they had between them.

A highwayman once urged his steed down into the deep passageway to escape apprehension, goading his horse to leap across the descending stairs, landing heavily on the paved stones below.  They were now in a narrow passageway, mind you, and the rider must needs take the reins in one hand and grip the cantle behind him with the other so as to reduce the width of his profile, spurring into the darkness lit only by a full moon riding the sky above.  Then there was the ascending stair opposite.  Even the most intrepid horse must pause, his ears pricked forward, throwing his head down to eye the obstacle ahead.  But alack!  Pursuers are even now approaching–their cries funnelled between haughty walls to spur even a spooked animal to leap upwards, scrambling and skidding for purchase on stone steps to Hay Hill above and the wilds of undeveloped London beyond.

Iron bars were erected to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

Today, Lansdowne Row is listed as one of London’s haunted places.  Spectres of highwaymen, footpads and the Loquacious Lady still wander the passage, lit by the storefronts of Hugo Morelli and Starbucks.

Persistent Prince – Part One

Miss Catherine Middleton

I’m not convinced “Waity Katie” is an entirely accurate nickname.  With all the speculation and rumor over the last eight years, who was really the party that waited, or more importantly, the party that persisted?

During the Regency period, speculation and rumor also abounded.  Overwrought correspondence, backstairs intrigue and the unhappy marriage of Charlotte’s parents nearly scotched the unlikely courtship of England’s heiress by a penniless German prince–but for his persistence.

Leopold had no money but early on he had a way of attracting the rich and mighty, among them two emperors.  The first was Napoleon, who asked the young officer to join his army. In a fateful decision, Leopold instead accepted a commission in the Russian Imperial Army and went on to distinguish himself on the battlefield.  The Tsar brought him to England as a member of his retinue to celebrate the Allied victory over the Little Corporal.   It was then our hero was granted an audience with England’s princess.

Prince Leopold is introduced to Princess Charlotte

It seems Prince Leopold scarcely made an impression, favorable or otherwise, in Charlotte’s reception salon.

But he was persistent.