Taxed from head to toe

We have previously looked at hair powder tax, glove tax and now for the next installment we have, drum roll please –  you’ve guessed it – shoe and boot tax. So far as finding ways to generate much needed revenue the government of the day were completely unstoppable.

John Sawbridge, Alderman of London. © The Trustees of the British Museum
John Sawbridge, Alderman of London.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

We came across an article in the General Advertiser May of 1785 in which Alderman Sawbridge put to William Pitt the Younger another possible tax that had been bought to his attention, the idea of taxing shoes as an alternative to the planned shop tax.

‘a paper had been put into his hands and he had been desired to ask the question; and, with leave of the House he would state the particulars of the proposed tax. It was made on a supposition of there being eight millions of persons in this country, and that four millions of them were either children or poor persons, whose shoes were under the prices meant to be taxed; then, the remaining four millions were calculated as follows: –

Two millions of persons, who wear two pair of shoes per annum of between four and five shillings value, on each paid a stamp duty of two-pence was to be paid which would produce £33,333, 6 shilling and 8 pence.

One million, who wear three pair of between five and six shillings value, on them four-pence each £50,000

One million, who wear three pair, value six shillings and upwards, on them six pence per pair £75,000.

One million pair of boots at 1 shilling per pair £50,000

The whole tax to produce £208,333 6 shilling and 8 pence’.

lwlpr20791
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

A week later it appears that this proposal had initially been suggested to Mr Pitt by a Dr Jones, who made it quite clear at the time to Pitt that he wished to

‘have himself concealed as the projector; at the same time, he avows that he shall be the Minister’s friend to the last’.

Well, that went well, as his name was plastered across the newspapers as the potential instigator of yet another levy on the public who were already struggling with all the other taxes that had been imposed.

For some reason it took a further 18 months before implementation but sure enough on 26th January 1787 the shoe tax was implemented courtesy of Dr Jones (how popular must he have been with the average person, one wonders?) and by this time the tax was expected to generate around £400,000, quite an increase in predicted revenue. It was at the time reported as being ‘neither obnoxious, nor unproductive’.

shoe tax

Quite how much it raised in reality or how long it existed for we’ve no idea, so far we can find no evidence of it being repealed unless over time it was amended and became known as the leather tax. If anyone can shed any light on this we would be most interested in hearing from you.

We finish with an observation made in 1790 which just about sums up the taxation that was taking place at that time:

In everybody’s mouth, in and out of doors, the conversation is tax dogs, tax shoes, tax boots, tax heads, tax everything eatable, drinkable, wearable or moveable; in short, the curse of Ernulphus is nothing in comparison of the calamities which a set of Gentlemen are ready to impose on their country.

 

Sources

General Advertiser (1784), Tuesday, May 31, 1785

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, Tuesday, June 7, 1785

World and Fashionable Advertiser, Friday, January 26, 1787

Morning Chronicle, Saturday, December 18, 1790

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Joseph Edge, the Macclesfield Pedestrian of 1806

Joseph Edge was aged either 61 or 62 years of age when he set off to walk from Macclesfield in Cheshire to London (a journey of 172 miles) in fifty hours or less in the summer of 1806. Several large bets had been placed on his progress, amounting to upwards of 2,000 guineas.

Joseph Edge: The Macclesfield Pedestrian by R Bradbury; Silk Heritage Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/joseph-edge-the-macclesfield-pedestrian-103349
Joseph Edge: The Macclesfield Pedestrian by R Bradbury; Silk Heritage Trust

His first attempt ended in disaster – he set off from the Angel Inn in Macclesfield’s Market Place (it’s now the site of the NatWest Bank) at midnight on Monday 28th July and, eleven hours later, he arrived at Kegworth in Leicestershire (a distance of 51 miles). There he took some refreshment and drank a pint of beer, a bad mistake! The beer disagreed with him and after walking just a short distance further he became very ill and fell to the ground. His expedition was abandoned.

Two days later he was sufficiently recovered to attempt the feat again. At midnight on Wednesday 30th July he once more set off from the Angel Inn, accompanied by two gentlemen in a gig (one of whom may have been Mr Jones, Postmaster of Macclesfield, their purpose being to verify his attempt for the gentlemen who had placed money on Edge being able to complete his mammoth journey in only 50 hours, or not).

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

He just made it! After walking for 49 hours and 20 minutes Joseph Edge arrived at the designated finishing line, the Swan with Two Necks coaching inn on Lad Lane (now Gresham Street) in London, at 20 minutes past 1 o’clock in the early hours of Saturday 2nd August. A convenient destination, the Swan with Two Necks was where the coach heading out of London to Macclesfield departed from, giving Edge an easy journey home.

Several mail coaches gathered in the courtyard of The Swan with Two Necks, 1831. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Several mail coaches gathered in the courtyard of The Swan with Two Necks, 1831.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Sources:

Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal – 29th July and 8th August 1806

Sporting Magazine, volume 28, 1806

Wicked William – Principal Departures for London Coaches (1819)

Header image:

Macclesfield Park, Cheshire by George Stewart, 1866 (via Art UK)

18th Century Tax on Gloves

18th c gloves MFA Boston
Courtesy of MFA Boston

Britain was struggling financially and so, needless to say, the government looked for ways to raise much needed revenue to balance the books. If it could be taxed, it probably was! In a previous post we looked at the various taxes that existed around this time so for this blog we thought we would take a closer look at the tax placed on gloves.

William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), after 1806. Via Wikimedia.
William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), after 1806.
Via Wikimedia.

In 1784 a tax on hats had apparently proved lucrative so in the budget the following year William Pitt the Younger decided to add a tax to gloves, much to the mild amusement of the committee apparently.

lwlpr07169
Billy’s Babel. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

He felt that it would be difficult to lay the burden of the tax on the consumer so Pitt proposed that a mark should be put on the gloves and that the duty should be paid by the retail trader. In his opinion the sale of gloves would be extremely high and that one pair of gloves would be sold to every individual, and therefore 9,000,000 pairs would be purchased each year. As such he proposed a tiered system of taxation:

One penny duty should be added to all gloves up to the value of ten pence

Two pence to gloves costing between ten pence and fifteen pence

Three pence for all gloves costing over fifteen pence

He estimated that this would raise a revenue of some £50,000.  Mr Fox held no strong objection to this tax, but felt that Pitt was over estimating the amount of revenue it would generate as there were ‘children, labourers and other inferior classes of mankind who never consumed this article’, but nevertheless he sincerely hoped that this tax might be as productive as the minister wished.

lwlpr21002
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

26th July 1785, The Stamp Office declared that:

Anyone selling gloves without this tax would be liable for a fine of £20.

Every licensed retailer selling gloves and mittens without the words ‘Dealer in Gloves’ painted or written in the front of his shop shall be forfeits for each pair of gloves or mittens sold £5.

A stamp ticket denoting the particular rate of duty to be paid on every pair of gloves or mittens is to be affixed upon the right hand of each and every person (except those dealing with each other) who shall sell, buy or exchange any gloves or mittens without having such a stamp affixed as foresaid, forfeits for every pair sold, bought or exchanged £20.

In less than one year the newspapers began to report that the glove tax was not proving to be the great success it was expected to be, but that there was no good reason as yet to conclude that it should be repealed, despite many people trying to evade it. So it remained in place.

By the September however it was becoming clear that it was generating nowhere near the revenue expected, in fact it was achieving less than one eighth of anticipated revenue.

Despite its poor income generation, the tax was to remain in place for several years, generating only a fraction of its expected revenue.

A letter in the St James’s Chronicle, 1790, addressed to Mr Pitt read as follows.

My purpose is not to censure your system of taxation, to inveigh against you on the extension of the Excise, or to express my displeasure at the means you have pursued, to prevent our snuffing up the coffins and dried juices of our ancestors … I turn your attention to the Glove tax, which is generally hated. The gloves and stamp are tendered to the customer in such a manner, that he can purchase the one without the other, and in nine instances out of ten the stamp is left unpaid for. If you wish to make this tax productive, you must stamp the gloves, and contrive so to unite the tax with the price, such that the commodity cannot be purchased without paying it. At present none but the conscientious submit to it.

An article in the Public Advertiser, Wednesday, September 14, 1791, on the subject of the glove tax reported on an accident which they directly attributed to it.

Friday afternoon, a melancholy accident happened in St James’s Street; a modern young man, whose pockets were his gloves and his hands in them, coming briskly up the street, trod on the peeling of an apple which tripped up his heels, threw him against a lady following him, knocked her down, by which she was much bruised and he broke both his elbows – Wearing hands in pockets, says our correspondent is to subvert Mr. Pitt’s Glove Tax, but a penalty should be inflicted on any person or persons throwing parings of apples or oranges on the footpath, or his Majesty may lose some of his most valuable subjects.

By this time, it was reported that the tax was generating a maximum of just over £6,000 per annum rather than the anticipated £50,000 and so in March 1794 the government finally conceded that the glove tax was not workable and was not generating anything like the amount anticipated and the act was repealed – common sense finally prevailed.

We will leave The Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan to have the final words on the subject of the glove tax. Speeches of the Right Honourable RB Sheridan Volume 1

Sources:

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, July 30, 1785

Public Advertiser, Saturday, May 20, 1786

General Advertiser, Saturday, September 30, 1786

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post (London, England), April 1, 1790

Speeches of  The Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Volume 1, 1842

A curious case of child stealing in nineteenth-century London

At the beginning of March 1821 a gentleman naming himself as Mr Probus, a minister of the Episcopal Church, took lodgings at the house of an undertaker, no. 12 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. Mr Probus was around 35 years of age, slender with a sallow complexion marked by small-pox scars, dark haired and with, as was realised too late, an ‘insinuating’ manner of address. He applied for a smart and genteel looking boy to wait on and be a companion to a young gentleman at a fine boarding-school (nearly equal to a college, he claimed) in the city of Lincoln. The boy would be brought up in a most respectable manner and given a first-class education, in return for doing little more than fetching fruit and pastries for the young gentlemen from a nearby village. He was inundated with applications.

JMW Turner's birthplace in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden. © The Trustees of the British Museum
JMW Turner’s birthplace in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Mrs Mary Ann Hurrell was the wife of a somewhat impoverished boot and shoemaker who lived at no. 27 Upper Ogle Street, Foley-lace, and at 36 Goodge Street, Marylebone. (Perhaps one address was her home and one her husband’s business premises?) She had two children from a previous marriage, a son named Benjamin Hawthorn aged 13 years and his sister, Georgiana, aged 11. Benjamin, a fine looking lad, had a good singing voice and Georgiana, every bit as charming as her brother, was articled to Mr Warburton, a professor of dancing in Burton Crescent. Mrs Hurrell saw Mr Probus’ advertisement and thought it would be an ideal opportunity for Benjamin. Accordingly, mother and son waited upon the minister on the 3rd March.

(c) National Trust, Wimpole Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
At the shoemakers shop, British School, c.1825. (c) National Trust, Wimpole Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mr Probus was especially taken with Benjamin and put his mother’s apprehensions at rest, saying that his own son was a pupil at the Lincoln academy. A Dr Nutall was to give young Benjamin a character reference but Mr Probus called on the Hurrell’s a few days later to say that he had met with a gentleman who knew Dr Nutall, who had given him every satisfaction concerning Benjamin, and there was no longer any need to call on him. The next day Mrs Hurrell took her son to Mr Probus’ lodgings where the young lad was fitted out with a new suit of clothes provided by Probus, who asked if Benjamin might stay with him that night (he had taken a bed for him at the next house). If any alarm bells were ringing for Mrs Hurrell, she ignored them.

The next day Benjamin told his mother that Mr Probus’ son was not at the Lincoln academy but had in fact died six months earlier, of water on the brain. Mr Probus now proposed to adopt Benjamin as a replacement for his own son and to bring him up as a gentleman, and also confessed that it was he who owned the boarding-school. He then asked if Mrs Hurrell would bring Georgiana to his house as he wished to ‘make her a present of a handsome dress’. The gullible woman duly did as she was bid, despite the ever-changing story, and left her two children alone with Probus. On her return, little Georgiana was so richly attired that her mother hardly recognised her.

Innocence: Head of a Young Girl by William Etty, c.1820; Paintings Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/innocence-head-of-a-young-girl-32746
Innocence: Head of a Young Girl by William Etty, c.1820; Victoria and Albert Museum

Probus now wanted to take both children with him to Lincoln, promising to care for them as if they were his own and to place Georgiana with a friend of his in Lincoln who kept a school. To this the Hurrell’s consented, believing that they were giving the two children a chance to be brought up in a genteel fashion, and the little party left London for Lincoln the next day with promises to write at every opportunity. The first letter Mrs Hurrell received was dated the 17th March but written from York, not Lincoln.

Old Ouse Bridge, York by G. Wilson, c.1820; Fairfax House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/old-ouse-bridge-york-9734
Old Ouse Bridge, York by G. Wilson, c.1820; Fairfax House

Mr Probus had swiftly abandoned any attempt at maintaining his deception. Signing himself as F[rederick] Williams, he told the wretched mother that her daughter, now renamed Caroline, was dancing on the York stage and that he ‘could sooner part with my life than with [the children]’. Georgiana added a few lines to the letter from her new ‘dear papa’ and said that they were happy. She signed herself Caroline.

Mr Hurrell replied to the letter and asked for the two children to be returned to their home but the only answer was another letter dated the 10th April, briefly saying they were too busy to write more than once a month, were all well but leaving York and asking the Hurrell’s to address any future letters to the Rev. F. Williams at Mr Smith’s, shoemaker, Stonegate, York. On the 3rd May the Hurrell’s received another letter, in the handwriting of Mr Probus aka Williams but signed by ‘Benjamin and Georgiana Frederick Jameson’ (the trio’s new surname) and written from Hull where they were performing and making a great deal of money. Their ‘father’ performed slight-of-hand tricks, Georgiana danced and Benjamin sang, to the admiration of all. They enclosed a paragraph from a Hull newspaper.

There is now performing at the Music Hall, Albion-street, in this town, a Miss Jameson, only nine years of age, a most beautiful and interesting child, In dancing she is, for her age, unrivalled, and her singing is admirable; Mr. Jameson’s slight-of-hand performance gives the greatest satisfaction; and Master Jameson, as a singer, though only 13 years old, is a second Braham. Mr. J. and his interesting young family will perform in Leeds this present Saturday evening, and on Monday and Tuesday next, when they will quit Leeds for Wakefield.

Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 11th May 1821.
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 11th May 1821.

The Hurrell’s received no further communication and, worried that their children might be carried out of the country, scraped together enough money to allow Mr Hurrell to travel north in search of his stepchildren. He set off on the 1st July, heading first to York where he found that the ‘Reverend Williams’ had made a large sum of money from their exploits upon the stage before absconding the city, leaving behind a quantity of unpaid debts with the local tradesmen. Mr Hurrell tracked them to Leeds, Wakefield, Hull, Lincoln, Boston and Stamford where the ‘Reverend Williams’ had become Munro Ridgway, then to Coventry, Leicester, Doncaster and Birmingham. The imposter frequently changed his name and his supposed character, defrauding shopkeepers as he went. The trail went cold and a heartbroken Mr Hurrell returned to London and his wife. They applied to the Magistrates, who asked that the case might receive some publicity in the hope that the children could be traced, but could offer little else in the way of assistance. Mrs Hurrell, it was recorded, left the office in tears.

Stamford Mercury, 15th June 1821.
Stamford Mercury, 15th June 1821.

But the publicity had the desired effect!  On the 12th August the little troop were recognised in Billesdon, Leicestershire and the imposter was soon safely in custody in Leicester gaol. Mr Hurrell hurried there to a tearful but joyful reunion with his two step-children. Money was found for Georgiana to return to London by coach but Benjamin and his step-father had to walk the distance. But eventually they were all home and reunited. Mr Probus, alias Williams had been convicted under the Vagrant Act and, unless anyone he had defrauded acted to prosecute him, he stood to get clean away with his crime as the Hurrell’s were too poor to afford to prosecute him, much as they wished to do so. With no further mention of the fraudster in the newspapers, it would appear that is exactly what happened.

N.B. Joseph Hurrell married the widowed (and pregnant) Mary Ann Hawthorne on 18th February 1817 at St James’s in Westminster. At least three children were born to the couple, William Flower Hurrell on the 5th June 1817 and Oscar and Maria who both seemed to have died as infants. Benjamin may be the Benjamin Workman Hawthorn who was born c.1809. He grew up to be a piano forte tuner and maker and also a professor of music, relocating to Doncaster where he died in 1869.

Sources:

Stamford Mercury, 17th August 1821

Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser, 27th August 1821

 

Header image: ‘The Wellington Coach’ (The Newcastle-York-London Mail) by John Cordrey, c.1818. Ferens Art Gallery.

18th Century ‘flower power’ to aid beauty

We have taken a look at cosmetics previously in a series of blogs, but we couldn’t resist sharing some of these beauty recipes with you that we came across in ‘The Toilet of Flora’, although its title is not strictly accurate, as it contains far more than just flora.

A beauty regime was just as important in the 18th century as it is today, so we’ll start at the head and work downwards, although we’re not quite sure if the first two were meant specifically for women or not, although arguably they would work for either sex.

spring
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Receipt to thicken the hair and make it grow on a bald part

Take the roots of maiden vine, roots of hemp and cores of soft cabbages, of each two handfuls’ dry and burn them; afterward make a lye with the ashes. The head is to be washed with this lye three days successively, the part having been previously well rubbed with honey.

A powder to prevent baldness

Powder your head with powdered parsley seeds at night, once in three or four months, and the hair will never fall off.

Next, for those ladies of ‘a certain age’ who want to turn back time without the aid of cosmetic procedures! We haven’t tried them … yet … but if they work we’ll be sure to let you know.

winter
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

A Pomatum for Wrinkles

Take juice of white lily roots and fine honey, of each two ounces; melted white wax, an ounce; incorporate the whole together, and make a pomatum. It should be applied every night, and not be wiped off till the next morning.

A secret to take away wrinkles

Heat an iron shovel red hot, throw on it some Powder of Myrrh and receive the smoke on your face, covering the head with a napkin to prevent its being dissipated. Repeat this operation three times, then heat the shovel again, and when fiery hot pour on it a mouthful of white wine. Receive the vapours of the wine also on your face, and repeat it three times. Continue this method every night and morning as long as you find occasion.

Good luck with this next one! We won’t be testing it out it for you!

A pomatum to remove redness or pimples in the face

Steep in clear water a pound of boar’s cheek till it becomes tolerably white. Drain it quite dry and put it into a new-glazed earthen pan with two or three Pippins, quartered. An ounce and a half of the four cold seeds bruised and a slice of veal about the size of the palm of one’s hand. Boil the whole together in a vapour-bath for four hours, then with a strong cloth squeeze out your pomatum into an earthen dish placed upon hot ashes: adding to it an ounce of white wax and an ounce of Oil of Sweet Almonds. Stir the pomatum well with a spatula till it becomes cold.

lwlpr09770
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Why pay for those expensive teeth whitening kits when you could use this method? Sadly, this recipe fails to explain how you actually use the product.

A method to make the teeth beautifully white

Take gum tragacanth, one ounce; pumice stone two drachms; Gum Arabic, half an ounce; and Crystals of Tartar, finely powdered, and adding to it the powder, form the whole into little sticks, which are to be dried slowly in the shade, and afterwards kept for use.

summer
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

We are always being advised to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun, clearly those Georgians were ahead of us with this idea and to assist they devised this product.

A preservative from tanning

Infuse in clean water for three days, a pound of Lupines, then take them out and boil them in a copper vessel with five quarts of fresh water. When the Lupines are boiled tender and the water grows rather ‘sopy’, press out the liquor and keep it for use. Whenever you are under a necessity of exposing yourself to the sun wash the face and neck with this preparation.

So, if you’ve exposed yourself to too much sun and wish to get rid of the tan you could try this method –

An excellent receipt to clear a tanned complexion

At night going to rest, bathe the face with the juice of strawberries and let it lie on the part all night and in the morning wash yourself with chervil water. The skin will soon become fair and smooth.

A liniment to promote the growth and regeneration of the nails, given that this recipe contains arsenic we would strongly advise against it.

Take two drachms of Orpiment, a drachm of Manna, the same quantity of Aloes and Frankincense and six drachms of white wax. Make them into a liniment and apply to the part with a thumb stall.

Next we move to the feet for  a cure for sweaty feet, but it does seem like a waste of good wine and finally a corn treatment.

A remedy for moist feet

Take twenty pounds of Lee made of the ashes of the Bay tree, three handfuls of Bay leaves, a handful of Sweet Flag, with the same quantity of Calamus Aromaticus and Dittany of Crete; boil the whole together for some time, then strain off the liquor and add two quarts of wine. Steep your feet in this bath an hour every day, and in a short time they will no longer exhale a disagreeable smell.

lwlpr12448 - corns
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Why pay for corn removal treatments when you could try this method – onions/garlic – who knew?

A remedy for corns on the feet

Roast a clove of garlic or an onion, on a live coal or in hot ashes; apply it to the corn and fasten it on with a piece of cloth. This softens the corn to such a degree as to loosen and wholly remove it in two or three days. Foment the corn every other night in warm water, after which renew the application.

autumn
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Source

The Toilet of Flora

 

What can the reader expect from An Infamous Mistress?

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

Today’s blog is a little different. Our biography An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott has now been released worldwide, so we thought it might interest our readers if we wrote a little Q&A style piece for anyone who may be thinking about buying our book, to tell you a little more about it.

What made us decide to write about Grace and her family?

Grace simply landed in our lap, we didn’t go out looking for her. The reality was that we were actually researching someone else who turned out to have a familial connection to her and so up she popped. For someone so well known in her day, there still seemed to be huge gaps in what was known of her life and, ever ones to enjoy a challenge, we set out with the intention of merely filling in these gaps and were astounded by how much new information we eventually uncovered.

Being genealogists, we also looked at her wider family and ancestry, particularly her maternal family who had lain undiscovered until now. The only information which was already known was some scant information about her father, and of course her sister Jacintha who married into the Hesketh family, but that was about it.

Her Journal is there in the public domain for all to read, so why write about it again?

The deeper we dug, the more we realized that research into her life has long been muddied by the misinformed biographical information given in the preface to her own Journal of My Life during the French Revolution, which was published posthumously.

Frontspiece of Journal of My Life

Replete with mistakes and half-remembered anecdotes, it was supplied more than two decades after Grace’s death by her granddaughter and a friend. Despite two former biographies on this fascinating woman, the elements which were actually truthful in her Journal were still disputed. For instance, it mentioned a brother, but no brother had ever been identified before (in fact Grace had two brothers which we are able to introduce to her story!).

We have been able to correct this mishmash of information but, more than that, we located previously unconsulted documents, including family ones, which shed new light on the areas of Grace’s life which had formerly lain in the shadows, enabling us to tell her story more completely, and more accurately, than it has ever been told.

Her Journal as it relates to her experiences during the French Revolution is another area we have attempted to illuminate more fully than it has been before. Glaring errors contained within its pages have discredited what ought to have been a superb first-hand account of that period. Grace is placed in confinement in French prisons awaiting the guillotine with notable personalities, when it can be proved that the people so named were not there at that time. Added to the biographical inaccuracies, it has led to people washing their hands of the whole Journal. We set to with a fine tooth comb, to try to establish fact from fiction (a task not helped by Grace habitually misspelling names, either she had a terrible memory for them or the person who transcribed the pages she had written could not read her handwriting).

Slowly but surely we were able to verify much of it, even down to a plausible account of her acting as a courier for the French queen, Marie Antoinette (rumours have ever swirled that Grace courageously worked as a spy). The errors all come in towards the end of the Journal, put there (we strongly suspect) by the over-enthusiastic publisher who wished to have a more dramatic finale to it. The ending we discovered was perhaps a little more mundane, but it is truthful and perhaps, we hope, gives back some credence to Grace’s Journal as an excellent source for those researching the French Revolution, especially as it is an invaluable first-hand account written by a woman.

marie-1783

Why didn’t we simply write about Grace’s life alone?

That would, of course, have been the easy option and for those who regularly read our blog, we rarely take the easy option! We are both genealogists as well as historians and love nothing more than seeking out new pieces of information about the Georgian period. It may be a slightly contentious decision on our part, but the more we discovered, the more fascinated we became by the people we uncovered, especially her siblings and maternal family, and we hoped that the reader would be too for they each had a story to tell, especially one of her brothers!

Were any of Grace’s relatives famous?

 None remain well-known today, although we’d contend that Grace’s eldest brother deserves as much renown as his ‘celebrated’ sister, but some were certainly among the ‘great and the good’ of the day. They made their way around the globe, made the acquaintance of several personalities of the day (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to name but two) and their lives exhibit a snapshot of a strata of Georgian society and offer an invaluable insight into the social history of the period. The fact that they are all but forgotten now does not make their lives any the less interesting and we relished the chance to rescue them from the obscurity they have long languished in.

We also realized that Grace’s actions and decisions became much clearer when viewed in the context of her wider family. For instance, knowing that two of her aunts made their fortunes and gained their social standing by first being mistresses to wealthy and titled men, that one of these aunts was mistress to an earl and ultimately became his countess, what light does this then shed on Grace herself following their path and becoming a courtesan? What counsel did these two worldly-wise women give to their wayward niece? Grace was well-born too, when most courtesans had been plucked from the stage or the London bawdy houses by their ‘keepers’. Only a few, notably Grace, the scandalous Lady Worsley and Gertrude Mahon (aka the Bird of Paradise) were of good birth. But to know that Grace was from a once landed and noble family, you need to understand and be conversant with her ancestry.

Lastly, we believe that charting the lives of her wider family gives a contrast to Grace’s own life. Although she hated her husband, would she have been better, in that day and age, to have survived a few more years of marriage to arrive at a titled and wealthy widowhood whilst still young enough to contemplate a good marriage to a man of her choosing? Grace could have ended her days like her cousin, mistress of both a country pile and a smart London townhouse and entertaining royalty at her dinner table, rather than in her bed.

What have other readers said?

We’re delighted to say that we have received some excellent reviews for our book. You can read more on our Press page.

Where can I buy An Infamous Mistress?

Our book is available in hardback and as an ebook direct from our publisher, Pen and Sword Books, or from Book Depository, Amazon UK, Amazon US and all good bookshops.

 

Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion

Today we are honoured to be handing the reins over to a very special guest, the esteemed Dr Jacqueline Riding, art historian.  Amongst her many credits she was the research consultant for Mike Leigh’s award-winning film Mr. Turner (2014) and is now working on his next feature film Peterloo. 

Her book Jacobites: A New History of the ’45 Rebellion has just been released by Bloomsbury Publishing. As a bonus, at the end of her article there is a competition to win a personally signed copy of her beautiful new book. So, without further ado, we’ll leave Jacqueline to tell you more. Fig.1

The recent commemorations for the 270th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden (16th April 1746), the last battle fought on the British mainland, and the phenomenal success of the TV series Outlander, have certainly brought the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion back into the news, as well as the broader public consciousness. This, in turn, has generated an interest in discovering the history behind Diana Gabaldon’s popular novels (the inspiration for the TV drama).

Fig.2
Thomas Sandby, A Sketch of the field at the Battle of Culloden, 1746, Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

Over the centuries, many books have been written on the ’45 that could be described, broadly speaking, as either pro-Jacobite or pro-Hanoverian: the former vastly outnumbering the latter. But in recent years there has been a desire among established and emerging scholars alike, to present this extraordinary moment in British history in all its complexity, and to place it, correctly, in an international, as well as national and local context. In this spirit, my book, Jacobites, straddles different disciplines, blending military, social, political, court, cultural and art history, and shifts, chapter by chapter, between an international setting, to the national, regional and local: from the battlefields of Flanders and the Palace of Versailles, to the Wynds of Auld Reekie and the taverns of Derby.

Fig.3
Paul Sandby, Horse Fair on Bruntsfield Links, Edinburgh, 1750 © National Galleries of Scotland

I also based the narrative, as far as possible, on first person or primary accounts – letters, journals, diaries and newspapers – through which the reader discovers what was known, or believed, by individuals or groups, at the moment the action or event is occurring. Vital to this was the year and a half I spent working on the Stuart and Cumberland Papers, the private papers of the exiled Stuarts and William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (commander-in-chief of the British army at Culloden), both in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. The book’s style is often, therefore, closer to reportage and current affairs, than a retrospective history. In this way I aimed to avoid the overwhelming sense of romantic doom that tends to envelop ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and the ’45, while, hopefully, keeping the reader in the moment: after all, in the years 1745-6, nothing was certain.

Fig. 4
Nicolas de Largillière, James VII and II, c.1686 © Royal Museums Greenwich

To whet your appetite, here is a quick introduction to the ’45.

In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart (b.1720) had one key aim: regaining the thrones his grandfather, the Roman Catholic convert James VII of Scotland and II of England and Ireland, had lost in 1688-90 to his protestant nephew and son-in-law William of Orange, who reigned as William III with James’ eldest daughter, Mary II. This ‘Glorious’ Revolution confirmed a Protestant succession in a predominantly protestant Great Britain, which, from 1714, was embodied in the Hanoverian dynasty.

Following George I’s accession, several armed risings in support of the exiled Stuarts occurred, most notably in the years 1715 and 1719, and Jacobite (from the Latin for James ‘Jacobus’) plots continued to plague the new Royal Dynasty. By this stage, on the death of James VII and II in 1701, the chief claimant, the ‘Old Pretender’ (from the French for claimant ‘prétendant’) was his only legitimate son, and father of Charles, James Francis Edward (b.1688). A major French invasion of Britain in support of the Stuarts in early 1744 had been abandoned, mainly due to severe weather, leaving Charles, who had arrived in France to lead the invasion, kicking his heels in Paris.

Fig.5
Allan Ramsay, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1746 © National Galleries of Scotland

A year on, having understandably lost patience with his chief supporter and cousin, Louis XV, and with the greater part of the British army fighting in Flanders against the French, leaving Great Britain largely undefended, Charles secretly gathered together arms and a modest war chest, and set sail from Brittany, landing a small party at Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 23rd July 1745. His audacious – or reckless – plan was to gain a foothold in the Western Highlands, rally support en route south via Edinburgh, meet up with a French invasion force at London, remove the Hanoverian ‘usurper’ George II (r.1727), and then settle in at St. James’s Palace, while awaiting the arrival of his father, King James VIII and III. And while luck and the element of surprise were on his side, for a time it proved almost as straightforward as that…

To find out more you will of course need to read the book, but in the meantime here is a chance to win your very own copy.

The question Jacqueline has devised is for you is to tell us

Who is your favourite rebel and why?

There is no right or wrong answer and you don’t need to provide your address as we’ll email the lucky winner. The rebel can be from any period of history.

How to enter

Please reply to this post using the ‘Leave a Comment’ at the end of the post.

The Rules

All entries must be received by midnight on Tuesday 17th May 2016.  The competition is open to readers in the UK only (prize courtesy of the publisher).

Good luck!

THE COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.

THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED AND WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE WHO ENTERED.

If you’re not our lucky winner but would like to buy a copy of Jacqueline’s book, it can be purchased from Bloomsbury PublishingWaterstonesAmazon plus many other leading book sellers.