A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West by Joseph Baker, 1742; The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery).

Lincoln Cathedral: Georgian renovations

There are many reasons to visit Lincoln and when you do, the one place you can’t avoid is the magnificent cathedral that dominates the Lincoln skyline. As we both live in the county we thought we really should write a bit about it. So let’s begin with its dimensions:lincoln-cathedral-dimensions

The foundations of the cathedral were laid in 1088, and as with any building, maintenance is required over the years and of course, the cathedral has been no exception. Today we thought we would take a look at what renovations those Georgians undertook.

In 1762 the centre window of coloured glass at the East end was executed by Mr Picket of York.

1775 The embattlement on the top of the Broad Tower was designed by Mr Essex of Cambridge and erected under his directions. The same eminent architect was employed in various extensive repairs to the edifice, particularly the roof; he also added the pointed arch with open balustrade which connects the two first pillars of the nave (a little in advance of the centre door in the West Front); and constructed the present Altar Screen.

1782 The floor of the church was newly paved, which occasioned the removal of many monuments that had escaped the ravages of time, fanaticism and mischief; and of the greater part of the inscribed gravestones. The new paving was certainly necessary and is a great improvement, but it is in consequence rendered very difficult to trace the graves of many of the learned and pious men who are there deposited.

1793 The Roman Pavement discovered several feet below the surface, in the centre of the Cloister Quadrangle. Steps descend to it, for the accommodation of visitors; and a brick shed has been built round to protect it from the weather.

1800 The Altar Piece was painted by Mr Peters, Prebendary of Langford Ecclesia.

The Stamford Mercury, 19 July 1805 reports details of the theft of Communion Plate

On Sunday morning the cathedral church of this city was discovered to have been robbed of the whole of the communion plate, consisting of several massy silver vessels, the value of which is supposed to exceed 500l. The last time the plate was seen was on Tuesday se’nnight, when the person who had it under his care sent a little boy with the keys to show it to a stranger. The robbers must have picked five locks, and there is no appearance of violence on any of them, four of them being re-shot. Everything proves this sacrilegious transaction to have resulted from a pre-concerted and well-digested plan. What occasions much conversation is, the circumstances of a convict in the city goal (lately a dragoon solider) having intimated to the gaoler who a few weeks ago conveyed him to the hulks at Woolwich, that ‘no long time would elapse before a great building Above-hill, and the warehouse of an eminent draper in Lincoln would be robbed by two persons, one of who was well know, and little suspected to be capable of such a transaction’. In consequence of this information which Mr. Tuke, the gaoler, divulged o his return to Lincoln, Mr. Smith, who was the draper alluded to, and fortunately paid to the assertion to the convict more attention that it was generally though worthy of, had new locks and bars put upon the doors of his valuable warehouse, and the robbery of the cathedral has proved with what well-employed caution. Proper persons have been sent from Lincoln to obtain what further intelligence respecting this mysterious affair it is possible to extort from the convict dragoon.

Lincoln Cathedral, from the west by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832) © Whitworth Art Gallery
Lincoln Cathedral, from the west by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832)
© Whitworth Art Gallery

 1807 The two Western spires which were made of timber and lead were taken down. The Norfolk Chronicle, 22 August 1807 reported:

It is determined to remove form that noble pile, Lincoln Cathedral, the two spires which surmounted St Hugh’s and St Mary’s Towers. Although necessity may require this the picturesque effects of that fine building will be greatly injured by it.

Lincoln Cathedral, from the Castle Moat, Peter De Wint 1784-1849 Bequeathed by John Henderson 1879 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03479
Lincoln Cathedral, from the Castle Moat, Peter De Wint 1784-1849, Tate (as you can see, the spires have been removed by the time of this painting).

1824 The ancient service of Communion Plate having been some years before sacrilegiously stolen from the Vestry, the present splendid Service was presented to the church.

Also in 1824 repairs were needed according to the Stamford Mercury  29 October.

The high winds of Tuesday blew off one of the weathercocks from the broad tower of Lincoln Cathedral, as well as the ponderous ball on which it stood. The ball fell with great force on the roof of the church making a large aperture in the lead, but was prevented from going through the stone-groined roof below by the strength of the rafters. The vane fell to the ground near to the cloisters. It is the north-east pinnacle, which has thus suffered; it is feared that the tops of the other three pinnacles are in nearly the same decayed state.

Lincoln. Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Lincoln. Courtesy of the Royal Collection

Bell’s Weekly Messenger 9 May 1825:

For the magnificent Minster at Lincoln, a large and splendid organ is now building in London, which has been already performed upon by professors, and has been pronounced equal in power and superior in many points to any in the United Kingdom. The Rev. the Dean has also presented the Minster with a set of communion plate to the value of 1,000l. It is silver chased and gilt, and is similar to that which the King has ordered for his private chapel at Windsor.

1826 The new organ erected by the Dean and Chapter was opened, the church having previously undergone a thorough cleaning.

December 1827 Great Tom of Lincoln was found to be ‘cracked’ and unfit or duty to the great regret of the inhabitants of the ancient city. In 1834 it was broken up and a new one made to replace it. This was the bell that hung in St Mary’s Tower at the West End or Front of the Cathedral (St Mary’s is one tower, the other is St Hugh’s).

And, to finish, we came across this curious article for which can offer no explanation.

Extract of a Letter from M. Johnson Esq.; to William Bogdani Esq.; concerning an extraordinary Interment.

In a letter to me from Mr. Symson, master of the works of the cathedral of Lincoln, dated 28 September last, I was informed that, in digging a grave at the west end of that church, they opened the foot of an ancient sepulcher – the corpse was sewed up in a strong tanned leather hide, the seam running up the middle of the breast. I should suppose it to be some great lay lord, before the custom prevailed of laying them within the church itself.

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Courtesy of Visit Lincoln

An augmented reality app is being designed which will allow users to experience the history of the cathedral spires giving them a taste of the height they once were before their removal in the early 1800s, in relation to the well-known building today.

Sources:

A Guide Through  Lincoln Cathedral

Archaeologia: or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity. Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London. The second edition. Volume 1. 1779

Feature image:

Baker, Joseph; A View of Lincoln Cathedral from the West; The Collection: Art & Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery)

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Sketches of the Fair Sex

So what were the women of the eighteenth-century like? Well, we came across this publication ‘Sketches of the Fair Sex’ written about eighteenth-century women, so we thought we would share with you a few extracts about the author’s view of women across Europe, although the book provides descriptions and anecdotes from around the world in 1799 plus much, much more!  It is not clear as to whether the author was male or female, the author simply simply described themselves as being ‘a friend of the sex’. Please remember these are the author’s views alone and were probably meant to be complimentary when written over 200 years ago!

French Women

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Portrait of Marie Gabrielle de Gramont, Duchesse de Caderousse , 1784 Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

No women upon earth can excel, and few rival them, in their almost native arts of pleasing all who approach them. Add to this, an education beyond that of most Europeans ladies, a consummate skill in those accomplishments that suit the fair sex and the most graceful manner of displaying that knowledge to the utmost advantage.  Such is the description that may be safely given of the French ladies in general. But the spirit, or rather the evil genius of gallantry, too often perverts all these lovely qualities and renders then subservient to very iniquitous ends. In every country, women have always a little to do and a great deal to say. In France, they dictate almost everything that is said, and direct everything that is done. They are the most restless beings in the world. To fold her hands in idleness and impose silence on her tongue would be to a French woman worse than death. The sole joy of her life is to be engage in the prosecution of some scheme, relating to either fashion, ambition or love.  Among the rich and opulent, they are entirely the votaries of pleasure, which they pursue through all its labyrinths, at the expense of fortune, reputation and health. Giddy and extravagant to the last degree, they leave to their husbands’ economy and care, which would only spoil their complexions and furrow their brows.

When we descend to tradesmen and mechanics the case is reversed: the wife manages everything in the house and shop, while the husband lounges in the back shop, an idle spectator or struts about with his sword and bag-wig.

Matrimony, among the French, seems to be a bargain entered into by a male and female to bear the same name, live in the same house, and pursue their separate pleasures without restrain or control.

Italian Women

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Pietro Rotari (Italian, 1707-1762) Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1760 Courtesy of Indiana University Art Museum

Almost every traveller, who has visited Italy, agrees in describing it as the most abandoned of all the countries of Europe.  At Venice, at Naples and indeed in almost every part of Italy, women are taught from their infancy the various arts of alluring to their arms the young and unwary, and of obtaining from them, while heated by love or wine, everything that flattery and false smiles can obtain, in these unguarded moments.

The Italian ladies are not quite so fay and volatile as the French, nor do they so much excite the risibility of the spectator; but, by the softness of their language and their manner, they more forcibly engage the heart.

They are not so much the chameleon or the weathercock, but have some decent degree of permanency in the connections, whether of love or friendship. With regard to jealousy, they are so far from being careless and indifferent, in that respect, as the French are, that they often suffer it to transport them to the most unwarrantable actions.

An Italian female of birth and fortune, bred in the prison of a cloister, is brought forth, when marriageable to receive her sentence; and conducted like a victim to the altar, there to be made a sacrifice of to a man whom she hardly knows the face. Among them, we find none of those antecedent homages of a lover, none of those engaging proofs of attachment, which only can secure a reciprocation. In short, no medium of courtship intervenes, and therefore no opportunity is given to create an affection on either side.

Spanish Women

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Charles IV of Spain and His Family, 1800 by Francisco Goya – Museo del Prado

As the Spanish ladies are under greater seclusion from general society, than the sex is in other European countries, their desires of an adequate degree of liberty are consequently more strong and urgent. A free and open communication being denied them, they make it their business to secure themselves a secret and hidden one. The Spanish women are little or nothing indebted to education. But nature has liberally supplied them with a fund of wit and sprightliness, which is certainly no small inducement, to those who have only transient glimpses of their charms, to wish every earnestly for a removal of those impediments, that obstruct their more frequent preference.

Unlike French women their affections are not to be gained by a bit of sparkling lace, or a tawdry set of liveries. Their deportment is rather grave and reserved, and on the whole they have much more of the prude than the coquette in their composition.

Something more than a century ago, the Marquis D’Astrogas having prevailed on a young lady of great beauty to become his mistress, the Marchioness hearing of it, went to her lodgings with some assassins, killed her, tore out her heart, carried it home, made a ragout of it, and presented the dish to the Marquis “it is exceedingly good” said he. “No wonder” she answered “since it is made of the heart of that creature you so much doted on”. And, to confirm what she had said, she immediately drew out her head all bloody from beneath her hoop, and rolled it on the floor, he eyes sparkling all of the time with a mixture of pleasure and fury.

English Women

Portrait by George Romney, Young Woman in Powder Blue c1777

The women of England are eminent for many good qualities both of the head and of the heart. There we meet with that inexpressible softness and delicacy of manners which cultivated by education, appears as much superior to what it does without it, as the polished diamond appears superior to that which is rough from the mine. In some parts of the world women have attained to so little knowledge, and so little consequence, that we consider their virtues as merely of the negative kind. In England the consist not only in abstinence from evil, but in doing good.

There we see the sex every day exerting themselves in acts of benevolence and charity, in relieving the distresses of the body, and binding up the wounds of the mind; in reconciling the differences of friends and preventing the strife of enemies; and, to sum up all, in that care and attention to their offspring, which is so necessary and essential a part of their duty.

The English women are by no means indifferent about public affairs. Their interesting themselves in these, gives a new pleasure to social life. The husband always finds at home somebody to whom he can open himself, and converse as long and as earnestly as he thinks proper, upon those subjects which he mad most at heart.

Russian Women

Russian School; The Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796); The Bowes Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-empress-catherine-the-great-of-russia-17291796-44277
Russian School; The Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796); The Bowes Museum

It is only a few years since the Russians emerged form a state of barbarity. A late empress of Russia, as a punishment for some female frailties, ordered a most beautiful young lady of a family to be publicly chastised, in a manner which was hardly less indelicate than severe.

It is said that the Russian ladies were formerly as submissive to their husbands in their families, as the latter are to their superiors in the field; and that they thought themselves ill-treated if they were not often reminded of their duty by the discipline of a whip, manufactured by themselves, which they presented to their husbands on the day of their marriage.

The Swan and the Prince

We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Julia Herdman. Julia is a history graduate who has always wanted to write novels. Her debut novel, Sinclair tells the story of a Scottish Surgeon who escapes death in a shipwreck on 6th January 1786. Having broken all his ties with Scotland and left the woman he loves to make his fortune Sinclair is forced back to London where he is introduced to a young widow, Charlotte Leadam, the owner of an apothecary shop in Tooley Street. As their business grows their relationship blossoms but when his old flame unexpectedly turns up in Tooley Street, everything he has been building is thrown into jeopardy. Before he can reclaim Charlotte’s heart, he will be tested, punished cruelly, accused of incest, and forced to face his greatest fear, the sea, once more.  Sinclair will be available to buy in the New Year.

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Princess Dorothea von Lieven (1785 – 1857) by Sir Thomas Lawrence, circa 1813

Today, she is going to tell us about Princess Dorothea von Lieven (1785 – 1857) who was the wife of Prince Khristofor Andreyevich Lieven, Russian ambassador to London from 1812 to 1834. Considered cold and snobbish by London Society Dorothea was not an instant success when she arrived fresh from the Russian court.

Princess Dorothea von Lieven (1785 – 1857) c.1814 by unknown artist showing her long neck.
Princess Dorothea von Lieven (1785 – 1857) c.1814 by unknown artist showing her long neck.

Her long elegant neck earned her the nickname, “the swan” by those who loved her and “the giraffe” by those who did not. Reputation did not bother her however; she was not after friendship she was after power and she used all her intelligence, charisma, and social skills to get what influence she could for the Tsar and the Holy Alliance in negotiations concerning the defeat of Napoleon and reestablishment of absolutist monarchy in Europe.  Not only did she become the Austrian Chancellor, Prince Metternich’s lover she was also reputed to have had affairs or at least very close friendships with Lord Palmerston, Lord Castlereagh and Lord Grey while she was in London.

Prince of Metternich-Winneburg-Beilstein; (1773 – 1859)

Her hard work paid off and soon invitations to Dorothea’s home became the most sought after in capital. She was the first foreigner to be elected a patroness of Almack’s where she is said to have introduced the waltz, a dance considered riotous and indecent, to England, during Tsar Alexander’s visit in 1814. It was during that visit she first met Metternich. It seems they took an instant dislike to one another. She thought he was cold and intimidating and far too self- important. He dismissed her as just a pretty woman travelling in the Tsar’s wake and treated her with complete indifference.

Tsar Alexander I by G.Dawe, 1826

Some four years later, the pair met again at the Dutch Ambassador’s party at Aix-La-Chappelle. Sitting next to each other they found they had much in common – they both hated Napoleon.  Their notorious liaison began a few days later when Dorothea entered the Prince’s apartment incognito.

In Metternich Dorothea had found her equal, a man who could satisfy her physically, emotionally and intellectually. She wrote, “Good God! My love, I know how to rejoice in so few things, do you understand what makes me feel true happiness, it is you, only you! My Clement, if you cease to love me what will become of me?  … My dear friend promise to love me as much as I love you; our lives are pledged in this promise.”

In Dorothea, Metternich had met the woman of his dreams; she could match his intellect and his passion. He wrote, “My happiness today is you. Your soul is full of common sense your heart is full of warmth … You are as a woman what I am as a man.”

1822 caricature of the Holy Alliance trampling those demanding democracy under their feet while nursing the infant state of Prussia

Their heated, clandestine affair soon succumbed to the requirements state; they met occasionally but corresponded frequently. Like many illicit lovers, they were tortured by their separation and the knowledge they could never be together.

Dorothea was well aware of Metternich’s reputation as a libertine seducer but she continued the relationship for eight years until she heard he had thrown her over for a younger woman. Desolate, she broke off their relationship in 1826. By the end references to Metternich in her letters were cold and spiteful and it seems time did not heal her broken heart. She had nothing good to say about him or his third wife when she saw him in Brighton in 1849 describing him as “slow and tedious” and his wife as “stout and well-mannered.”

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Waltzing at Almack’s, George Cruikshank, 1817, Comic Book History. British Museum

She ended her days in Paris as the ‘wife’ of the French politician Guizot. It was said that although  she was a widow she refused to marry Guizot because it would mean giving up her title ‘Serene Highness’ something the proud and regal woman was never going to do. Like her former lover, she was ancien regime through and through.

Dorothea died peacefully at her home in Paris, aged 71, in January 1857. She is a recurring minor figure in many historical novels, notably those of Georgette Heyer. Heyer portrays her as a haughty, formidable, and unapproachable leader of society, but in The Grand Sophy she is described as “clever and amusing“, and there is a passing reference in that book to her role in political intrigues. Metternich died in Vienna two years later aged 86 the last guardian of the ancien regime, which had long since passed into history.

 

Sources:

Dorothea Lieven: A Russian Princess in London and Paris, 1785-1857 By Judith Lissauer Cromwell

The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics After Napoleon By Brian E. Vick

1815: The Roads to Waterloo By Gregor Dallas

Wikipedia: Klemens von Metternick

Eurozine: Women at the Congress of Vienna

The New Female Coterie

We are delighted to welcome the Georgian Gentleman, aka Mike Rendell,  who like us, writes a blog about all things Georgian.  Mike’s book In bed with the Georgians: Sex Scandal & Satire in the 18th Century has just been published by Pen and Sword Books and is available at a discounted price direct from the publisher.

in-bed-etc

We will now hand you over to Mike to tell you more about the female coterie:

Caroline, Countess of Harrington
Caroline, Countess of Harrington

One of the things I enjoyed researching for my book “In Bed with the Georgians – Sex Scandal and Satire”  concerned a gathering of ‘fallen women’ known as The New Female Coterie. It was an informal gathering of women who were ostracised by polite society because they had been caught out. In other words they had all committed adultery and suffered public humiliation. The group was headed by Caroline, Countess of Harrington, a woman of great notoriety on account of her insatiable appetite and sexual proclivities. Members would meet for a drink and a gossip at a high-end London brothel run by Sarah Prendergast. This gave members an opportunity to take their pick of any male customers they fancied and to exchange news and views with other ‘fallen women’. So, let’s have a look at some of the other members. One was The Honourable Catherine Newton.

She had figured in a particularly infamous divorce case – a case where the lurid details of her repeated infidelities left little to the imagination. The details were published in 1782 as “The Trial of the Hon. Mrs. Catherine Newton, Wife of John Newton… Upon a Libel and Allegations, Charging her with the Crime of Adultery”.

She was 16 at the time of her marriage to the 58 year-old John Newton, and the trial records show a history of her cavorting nearly-naked with a succession of stable lads, house servants and so on. Servants being servants, there were many willing to testify to the occasions when hands were seen placed on naked thighs, or that inappropriate assistance had been given when Catherine was being helped to mount her horse. House maids complained of having to re-make the beds several times each day, and there was much evidence of adjoining rooms not being locked, and of undergarments being found in inappropriate places…  A young lad called Master Baggs appeared on the scene and Catherine’s attentions to him were so obvious that even her old goat of a husband noticed. He kicked her out and following her very public divorce she drifted to London and became part of the circle of disgraced ladies who sought support from each other’s company.

Penelope Viscountess Ligonier by Thomas Gainsborough

Another club member was Penelope Viscountess Ligonier. Like many women born into aristocracy, Penelope was still a teenager when she got married. Lord Edward Ligonier was the lucky guy. At 26 he was ten years older than his bride, and in celebration of the marriage, Lord Ligonier asked the artist Thomas Gainsborough to paint their portraits. The fact that he chose to have his portrait taken alongside his favourite horse shows his priorities!

Edward was an army-man through and through, and whereas he probably knew quite a lot about horses and how to look after them, that was more than could be said about the way he treated his young wife. Still, the couple put up the charade of the typical married aristocrats. They entertained many of their foreign friends at their home, Cobham Park. One of their visitors was Count Vittorio Alfieri, an Italian dramatist.

Edward, 2nd Viscount Ligonier by Thomas Gainsborough

Attractive, witty and hungry for the love she wasn’t getting from her husband, Penelope embarked on a very public affair with the Count. When the cuckolded husband found out about the adultery he challenged the Italian count to a duel, which took place in Green Park in London in May 1771. Edward, who was a soldier, managed to wound Alfieri but not kill him. He then applied to Parliament for a Private Bill of Divorce, which meant that all the lurid details of his wife’s adultery came out into the open. She may have hoped that the Italian would stand by her and offer marriage, but as he knew full well that she had been sharing her affections with several of the household servants, he declined.

Penelope faced financial ruin and social ostracism, so meeting up with women of her same social class who were in the same predicament as herself was probably a great comfort, as well as providing her with company and an extra income as  “guest of honour” at the Prendergast brothel.

There is even a story that at one particular masquerade where everyone wore disguises she inadvertently ended up making love to her former husband. He was not aware of the mistake until he found that she had given him a dose of what was known as the “Neapolitan Complaint.”

What scandalised society was that when Penelope wrote about the affair with her Italian lover she made it clear that she did not regret it for a second, and that everything was a price worth paying for escaping from a loveless marriage. That to the Georgians, was a truly shocking confession.

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Henrietta, Lady Grosvenor by Thomas Gainsborough

Another member of the coterie was the beautiful Henrietta, wife of the First Baron Grosvenor.

Despite the fourteen year age difference, she had married the man within a month of their first meeting, presumably unaware of his appetite for gaming and whoring. He is generally thought to have lost some £250,000 on the horses and at the gaming tables – a vast sum of money even for the gambling-mad eighteenth century. More to the point, he was one of the most debauched characters of the time, spending his time with a constant succession of whores. This left Henrietta with the view that what was sauce for the gander was sauce for the goose, and she embarked on an affair with George III’s brother, Henry, Duke of Cumberland.

Henry, Duke of Cumberland

In the court case which followed, Henrietta had tried to play down the significance of her affair by throwing as much dirt as possible at her husband, producing witness after witness from a variety of brothels across town. It worked in so far as it enthralled the readership of the newspapers which reported every word of the trial, but failed in the sense that her husband was awarded £10,000 in damages – a sum met by King George III, and hence ultimately by the British taxpayer.

The mud-slinging produced strong moral outrage at Henrietta’s conduct (presumably the conduct of her lover and her husband was no worse that was to have been expected). She became the object of innumerable bawdy songs and faced hostility in the press. The legal separation from her husband left Henrietta with a paltry annual allowance of £1200, and it seems that she may well have supplemented her income by ‘a spot of freelance work’ at Sarah Prendergast’s seraglio.

While her husband was alive, and was unable to divorce her because of his own adultery, she remained in social limbo until his death in 1802. Within a month his widow had become married to George Porter, Sixth Baron de Hochepied, and lived quietly and out of the public eye until her death in 1828.

For anyone wanting to know more about the New Female Coterie I thoroughly recommend Hallie Rubenhold’s book  The Scandalous Lady W (Lady Worsley’s Whim).

Queen Victoria visiting Covent Garden, 1855. Royal Collection Trust

A brief trip out of the Georgian Era

As part of blog tour to launch our latest book A Right Royal Scandal we are thrilled to have been invited to write a guest post for the lovely Mimi Matthews. Mimi focuses on Regency and Victorian which fits in very nicely with our latest book which sees us leave the Georgian Era and move into the Victorian age, but worry not, this is a brief hiatus we will be writing and blogging about the Georgian Era for some considerable time to come.

Queen Victoria at Drury Lane Theatre, 15 November 1837 by Edmund Thomas Parris (1793-1873), drawn 1837. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016
Queen Victoria at Drury Lane Theatre, 15 November 1837 by Edmund Thomas Parris (1793-1873), drawn 1837. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

With no further ado we would like to invite you to take a brief trip from Georgian England into Victorian England or, to be more precise, to Queen Victoria’s first visit to the London theatres as a monarch in 1837 by following the highlighted link.

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Royal-Scandal-Marriages-Changed/dp/1473863422

 

Reynards last shift. British Museum

The Theft of the Great Seal, 1784

The Great Seal is attached to the official documents of state that require the authorization of the monarch to implement the advice of the government.

by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1806
Lord Chancellor, Edward Thurlow by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1806 Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

On the night of 23rd March 1784, thieves had entered Edward Thurlow, 1st Baron Thurlow’s Great Ormond Street house and stolen some money, but more importantly they stole the Great Seal, a symbol of royal authority.  A new one had to be hastily made to replace it as it was not recovered and popular opinion suggested that Fox or his supporters were behind the theft.

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A satirical rhyme, ‘The Consultation’, made fun the finances of Colonel Richard FitzPatrick and Charles James Fox, referencing the recent theft of the Great Seal from the house of the Lord Chancellor, Edward Thurlow.

Says F__t____k to Fox, ‘Oh how can we ate!

By Jasus you know we have both pawn’d our plate?

Black Reynard replies, ‘We can have one good meal,

By filching from Thurlow his boasted Great Seal

A contemporary print, depicting Fox as Falstaff holding the Prince of Wales on his shoulders with Mary Robinson (Perdita) standing alongside, is thought to show FitzPatrick leaning out of the window of Thurlow’s house handing down the Great Seal.

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The adventure of Prince pretty man, March 1784, British Museum

Whilst rumours spread, the truth of the theft may in fact have been slightly different, if the Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser (Wed 21 April 1784) was correct:

William Vandeput was on Monday committed to New Gaol, Southwark, where he is now doubled ironed, on a charge of burglary in the house of the Lord Chancellor, and stealing there-out the Great Seal. A Jew in Petticoat Lane was yesterday apprehended, on an information against him for having purchased and melted the Great Seal into an ingot; but while he was conducting to the Rotation Office in Southwark, for examination, he was released from the Peace Officer by eight ruffians. The Jew melted the seal, while the robbers remained in his house.

As to which story was true, we will never know, but certainly William Vandeput was a well known criminal and was sentenced to death eventually in October 1785 and was executed on 1st December 1785.

Just as an aside, in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot, we unmask Richard FitzPatrick as one of her lovers when he was taking a break from his long term mistress, a celebrity in her day but forgotten now, Mrs Moll Benwell.

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Moll Benwell

 

Guest post by Laurie Benson – ‘From a spark to a flame’

What was the Georgian equivalent to today’s disposable lighter?  Well, back today with us is the lovely Laurie Benson, host of the fascinating blog  The Cozy Drawing Room which you may wish to check out. Laurie is also a recently published author  which you can find out more about at the end of this post. So, in the meantime we’ll hand you over to Laurie to find out the answer to the question above.

There are times when you’re writing historical fiction that it becomes obvious your characters will need to do things differently than you do in the twenty-first century. I had one of those moments recently when I was writing An Unexpected Countess, which is set in London during the Regency era.

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Early 19th century solid silver pocket tinder box. Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane

In the story my hero, the Earl of Hartwick, is out in the middle of the night searching for a clue that will lead him to the location of a piece of the missing French Crown Jewels. It’s dark in the building he is in. If this was a contemporary story, Hart would pull out his flashlight (or torch as the British call it) and he would have sufficient enough light to thoroughly search the building. But Hart lives in 1819, so instead of a flashlight he would have used something like this small folding pocket candle lantern.

An 18th Century French Pocket Candle Lantern. Photo courtesy of Prices 4 Antiques

It’s really handy, right? Here is the part where the author in me rubs my head in frustration. How would he have lit it? There were no lighters. Did they even have matches back then? I’d heard of matchstick girls, but were they around in the early 19th century and did they sell the same kind of matches we use today?

Selling matches for tinderboxes in London c. 1821. Photo courtesy of

It’s times like this I’m especially grateful for my friends who own antique shops because they can often help point me in the right direction and this time one of them did by telling me about tinderboxes.

Tinderboxes were used in the Georgian era to create fire. They could be small enough to fit inside a pocket and were made of wood or metal and contained flint, steel, tinder, and sulfur-tipped matches. The tinder that was used would generally have been char cloth, which is a small piece of cloth made from linen, jute, or cotton that would ignite easily from a spark.

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Antique Pocket Size Tinderbox

To start a fire you would strike the piece of steel against the flint close to the char cloth that was nestled in the bottom of the tinderbox. The spark from that action would ignite the char cloth. You then could light your sulfur-tipped match off the burning tinder to light a candle or your pipe. To extinguish the char cloth, you would simply close the box. This would preserve the remaining tinder for future use.

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Any card matches or SaveallsTitle (series)The Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life A young match seller walking to right with basket over her right arm and her wares held in both hands, looking over her shoulder to left; from late series of the Cries of London, the plate reworked. 1688, reworked and published after c.1750. Etching and engraving Courtesy of British Museum

Tinderboxes were used throughout the Georgian era but gradually were replaced by friction matches, which were invented around 1827.

514wnuoigzl-_sx298_bo1204203200_Laurie Benson is an award-winning author of historical romances published by Harper Collins. Her current series, The Secret Lives of the Ton, takes place in London during the Regency era and are available from Amazon and all good book sellers. When she’s not at her laptop avoiding laundry, she can often be found browsing museums or heading for the summit on a ridiculously long hike. You can also catch up with Laurie on Twitter at @LaurieBwrites or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaurieBensonAuthor.

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