Here we are again rapidly approaching the end of another very busy year, we can’t believe how quickly this year has gone. As well as all the research for our blog posts we have also managed to get two books published: it’s been a pretty amazing, if incredibly busy time for us and the year has simply flown by.
Although a little early, we’re taking a ‘blog break’ now until January to spend some time finishing those last minute Christmas preparations and to celebrate the festivities with our much neglected family and friends.
We thought we would leave you with some of our most popular posts from 2016 and we very much look forward to resuming our posts in January. We wish all our readers ‘Seasons Greetings and a very Happy 2017‘ and would also like to say a very big ‘thank you‘ to all our guest bloggers who have provided us with some amazingly informative posts, and also to those bloggers who have been kind enough to invite us to write for them.
If you’re still looking for that last minute Christmas gift, may we suggest our books which are available directly from our publisher (see sidebar or below) or via all other retailer including Amazon and the Book Depository (who also offer free worldwide postage).
Pen & Sword are presently offering both our books at the discounted price of £31.49 for BOTH books, making this an incredibly good deal.
Following on from our last two blog posts looking at Queen Victoria’s connection with the Cooper gypsy family just a few short months before she became monarch, and the fact that we delve into Romany history in our latest book, we thought that today, instead of one of our regular blog posts, we would instead recommend a brilliant online resource for anyone interested in taking research into gypsy genealogy further.
A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History follows two generations of the British royal family’s ancestors, charting their respective – and scandalous – love affairs and unions. The second of these two marriages was between a well-connected young Oxford University student (he was nephew and grandson to two successive Dukes of Portland, great-nephew to the Duke of Wellington and grandson to Marquess Wellesley) and a girl from humble working-class stock who had gypsy blood flowing through her veins.
We have spent many years researching certain Midlands gypsy families and this was how we first stumbled onto the story which sparked A Right Royal Scandal. For any of our readers who, like us, are interested in finding out more we recommend a fantastic site run by expert genealogists Eric Trudgill and Anne-Marie Ford.
Their site, Gypsy Genealogy, publishes at least two new articles on the first Monday of every month, and they are always full of information. Some give the history of a particular family while others give helpful tips on how to conduct your research for, as we have found, when researching gypsy families you often need to employ different methods to obtain results. So, we’d recommend bookmarking this fascinating resource and popping back to it regularly.
Header image: Gypsy Encampment, 1795 by George Morland
We’re delighted that you have joined us for the second part of this post. So, following on from part 1 we have managed to tease out a whole list of names that Princess Victoria was given by the gypsies she met at Claremont, so we wanted to explore the family group in more detail to see if we could find out what became of them after their royal encounter.
Firstly, Princess Victoria confirms for us the family name – Cooper – and that a baby was due to a member of the family very soon. She also told us when the child was born and that she hoped they would name the boy, Francis. The couple in question were Matthew and his wife Eliza (née Lee and aged around 20-years) and sure enough in the baptism register for Cobham appears the child’s entry for 1st January 1837.
Checking through the newspapers and almost a year later the story of Victoria meeting the gypsies had become somewhat distorted with the child that was born becoming a Walter rather than Francis! Contrary to the newspaper report, as far as we can tell the gypsies did not tell Victoria’s fortune!
We followed Francis’ life and he lived to a ripe old age, married Alice Ayers and had children, but remained true to his roots living in a tent/caravan for the majority of his life. Princess Victoria would have been delighted to have known that probably through her kindness he survived, despite living outdoors through many a cold winter.
Secondly, Victoria provided information and drawings for another member of the family – Sarah Cooper who had a child, George, but no husband with her. Sarah was baptized at Chalgrove in Oxfordshire on 28th July 1805, the daughter of Richard and Mary Cooper, ‘a gipsey by name‘.
Her son George was baptized on 4th April 1824 at Upton Grey in Hampshire, the son of Sarah Cooper ‘a travelling woman of Chargrove [sic] Oxfordshire‘. George was known to use White as a surname in later life, so possibly this was his father’s surname.
Next we have Mary Cooper, who would have been born in the 1780s and was the wife of Richard/Henry Cooper (either the same man going by two different names, or possibly she successively partnered two brothers, something not unknown amongst these families) and pictured here as the matriarch.
She was mother of Sarah, Leonard, Nelson and Matty/Matthew, all of whom were camped at Claremont, and it was Matty’s wife Eliza who was due to give birth very soon. Matty would achieve renown as rat-catcher to Queen Victoria at Windsor; did the queen take a lifelong interest in this family, recognising him as the father of the baby who she had shown such an interest in?
We travel back to the early 1800s to a couple born shortly after the turn of the century – Leonard Cooper and his future wife Phyllis (Philadelphia Smith). The couple lived as man and wife for some considerable time but finally tied the knot on April 20th 1851, Leonard named at his marriage as the son of Henry Cooper, a horse dealer and Philadelphia the daughter of John Smith, a rat catcher; a Caroline Smith was a witness. Leonard’s brother was Matty/Matthew Cooper, rat catcher.
Leonard and Phyllis travelled around Surrey and Berkshire selling their wares, so would have been well known within those communities. The couple produced several children including Job, Nelson (named for Leonard’s brother), Diana and Thomas, who was a young babe in December 1836. As the children grew up they too married and began to travel around the same patch along with their families.
Job married Selina, Nelson married General Buckland; Diana married a Henry Hazard and Thomas, a Sarah Coleman in 1855 at Christchurch St Marylebone.
Gypsy families are notoriously difficult to find in census returns as they were either ignored by the officials collecting the information, or they themselves chose to remain ‘under the radar’ so either conveniently disappeared on census day or gave inaccurate information. It is quite common to find a group of people at the end of a census return who don’t know their name, age or place of birth!
Of the children in the picture below with Sarah we have been able to identify Nelson, Job and Dinah (Diana) as children of Leonard and Phyllis, and Britannia was the daughter of Leonard’s brother Nelson and his wife Isabella.
We’re sure that someone out there will be able to help us trace Emmeline and the possible Helen (could she possibly be Misella, another of Nelson and Isabella’s daughters?).
Misella was born c.1832, possibly in London, Britannia was baptized 13th January 1833 at Putney and in the June of 1835 the couple baptized a son, Dangerfield. The young Princess Victoria doesn’t name Isabella in her journals, but did meet her and noted that she had a baby; possibly this was the eighteen month old Dangerfield.
So far we have written several pieces about Romany gypsies as their stories have popped up during our research and for anyone who reads our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal, you will find out more about our interest in this community.
In this, the first of two posts (our second being on Thursday), we’re going to wander slightly out of our usual Georgian era to take a look at a specific gypsy family and their connection to Princess Victoria, just a few months before she became queen.
Given the length of this post we will be running the second part on Thursday. In today’s post we will simply recount Princess Victoria’s journal entries from exactly 180 years ago this week and on Thursday we will piece together more about the family she encountered and their Georgian origins.
Still today, gypsy communities can often have a ‘bad press’ or are people to be mocked for living a different lifestyle to most people and for speaking their own language, one unique to their community. This would undoubtedly have been the same in young Princess Victoria’s day, however, her own view was very different, she took the time to learn about the gypsy community and to spend time with them.
Whilst reading her journal it becomes very clear that these gypsies held a very special place in her heart. They were travellers who had set up camp near Claremont from December 1836 to early January 1837. She records her every meeting with the family and even drew pictures of them.
Wednesday 7th December
We met the same two Gipsies as the other day accompanied by another very pretty one, who, the young one of the other day told us, was her sister-in-law, & was in daily expectation of her confinement; the old woman, she told us the other day, was her mother; her own name, she said was Cooper. They are encamped on the Portsmouth road now, where we walk every day
Sunday 11th December
At 2 we went out with dear Lehzen & Victoire & came home at ½ p.3. We saw our Gipsy friends peeping out of their frail abode of canvass. They certainly are a “Hard-faring race”.
Thursday 15th December
Since Monday, or rather more Tuesday, the Gipsy encampments have been enlarged by 2 tents. As we were walking along the road near to the Tents, the woman who said she was called Cooper, & who is generally the spokeswoman of the party, stepped across the road from the tents, & as we turned & stopped, came up to us with a whole swarm of children, six I think. It was a singular, & yet a pretty & picturesc sight. She herself with nothing on her head, her raven hair hanging untidily about her fine countenance, & a dingy dark green cloak hung on one side of her shoulders, while the set of little brats swarming round her, with dark disheveled hair & dark dresses, all little things & all beautiful children. She spoke to Lehzen & said they were the children of her two brothers, & “I am aunt to all these”. She said her name was Sarah & she then proceeded to name all the children of which I remember only 5. Dinah, Job, Britannia, Emmeline, & I think Helen. Britannia is a beautiful little large black eyed thing, with a dirty face which was wiped to be shown off. Sarah, then pointed to her own boy, called George, her only child, who was carrying another little nephew named Nelson, on his back. The pretty sister-in-law is not mother of these children, for she is only 20 & has none as yet. We had not proceeded far before we met the old Mother Gipsy, the pretty sister-in-law, & two other sisters-in-law, each with a baby in her arms, one of whom is very pretty; they are the mothers of the children, “Aunt Sarah” was displaying to us. – The Gipsies are a curious, peculiar & very hardy race, unlike any other!
Saturday 17th December
As we passed the Encampment, the old Gipsy woman came out accompanied by Dinah & Emmeline, & produced from under her cloak the poor little baby, an uncommonly fine though small child for a day old only! – At a ¼ p.2 dear Lehzen, Victoire & I went out & came home at ½ p.3. One of the other Gipsy daughters-in-law was walking on the other side of the road, she is also very pretty though not the prettiest of the two new ones. Played on the piano. – Wrote my journal. – Read to Lehzen out of the Irish History. – Read in or rather looked over, (for I have read it through before) “The Gipsies’ advocate” by James Crabb. – It is a very pretty, pious little book, & is full of very curious, & some very touching anecdotes of these poor people. They have originally no religion, but many have been reformed by kind Clergymen & other people. – There are societies formed for reforming them. Their conjugal, filial, & paternal affection is very great, as also their kindness & attention to their sick, old, or infirm. Their morals too are almost always very pure, with the exception of an addiction to petty thefts & fortune-telling.
Saturday, 24th December – Xmas Eve
I awoke after 7 and got up at 8. After 9 we breakfasted. At a little after 10 we left Kensington with dearest Lehzen, Lady Conroy, and – Dashy! and reached Claremont at a ¼ to 12. Played and sung. At 2 dearest Lehzen, Victoire and I went out and came home at 20 minutes p.3. No one was stirring about the Gipsy encampment except George, which I was sorry for, as I was anxious to know how our poor friends were after this bitterly cold night.
Sunday, 25th December- Xmas Day
I awoke after 7 and got up at 8. At 9 we all breakfasted. Mamma, Lehzen, and I read prayers. Arranged my new drawings. At a little before 2 dearest Lehzen, Victoire and I went out and came home at 3. As we were approaching the camp, we met Rea coming from it, who had been sent there by Mamma to enquire into the story of these poor wanderers. He told us (what I was quite sure of before) that all was quite true, that the poor young woman and baby were doing very well, though very weak and miserable and that what they wanted chiefly was fuel and nourishment. Mamma has ordered broth and fuel to be sent tonight, as also 2 blankets; and several of our people have sent old flannel things for them. Mamma has ordered that the broth and fuel is to be sent each day til the woman is recovered. Lehzen sent them by our footmen a little worsted knit jacket for the poor baby, and when we drove by, Aunt Sarah, the old woman and the Husband all looked out and bowed most gratefully. Rea gave them directly a sovereign. I cannot say how happy I am, that these poor creatures are assisted, for they are such a nice set of Gipsies, so quiet, so affectionate to one another, so discreet, not at all forward or importunate, and so grateful; so unlike the gossiping, fortune-telling race-gipsies; and this is such a peculiar and touching case. Their being assisted makes me quite merry and happy today, for yesterday night when I was safe and happy at home in that cold night and today when it snowed so and everything looked white, I felt quite unhappy and grieved to think that our poor gipsy friends should perish and shiver for want; and now today I shall go to bed happy, knowing they are better off and more comfortable. – Arranged drawings. Wrote my journal. At 6 we dined. Sir Robert and Lady Gardiner and Victoire and Emily Gardiner dined here. Sang and also Mamma a little. Stayed up till 10. I heard that the poor Gipsies were in ecstasies at what they received, which consisted of broth and wood (which as I before said they are to receive every day till the poor young woman is recovered) and the bundle of things, the blankets not being quite ready. I went to bed with a light heart, knowing these poor good people were better off and would not feel the cold quite so much.
Monday, 26th December
… I heard that the Gipsy mother and little baby were better and very thankful for the blankets &c.,&c. they had got, and felt very comfortable with a large fire in spite of the deep snow and great cold. The baby is to be called Francis and was to have been christened on Sunday only they came too late.
Wednesday, 28th December
At 12 dearest Lehzen, Victoire, and I went out and came home at 2. Everything covered with deep snow, and we were compelled to walk in the middle of the road, and very slippy rough walking it was. Aunt Sarah came out of the encampment looking very handsome with the poor little baby in her arms, as also the old woman with nothing on her head, and were very grateful for the blankets &c. we had sent them. Whatever may be the faults of this singular and wandering people and of these in particular, ingratitude and want of affection for one another are not amongst them, for they are most grateful I must say.
Thursday, 29th December
At 12 we went out with dear Lehzen and came home at 2. Everything still looked very white and the ground rather slippery but not so much so as yesterday. It snowed part of the time we were walking. I saw Aunt Sarah and the least pretty of the two sisters-in-law, who has returned, in a shop in Esher. How I do wish I could do something for their spiritual and mental benefit and for the education of their children and in particular for the poor little baby who I have known since its birth, in the admirable manner Mr. Crabb in his Gipsies’ Advocate” so strongly urges; he beseeches and urges those who have kind hearts and Christian feelings to think of these poor wanderers, who have many good qualities and who have many good people amongst them. He says, and alas! I too well know, its truth, from experience, that whenever any poor Gipsies are encamped anywhere and crimes and robberies &c. occur, it is invariably laid to their account, which is shocking; and if they are always looked upon as vagabonds, how can they become good people? I trust in Heaven that the day may come when I may do something for these poor people, and for this particular family! I am sure, that the little kindness which they have experienced from us will have a good and lasting effect on them!
Friday, 30th December
After 12 we dear Lehzen and I went out and came home at 20 minutes to 12. When we passed the encampment the old woman came out and told Lehzen that she had called twice at the lodge yesterday and today and had got no soup. Poor thing! there have been some misunderstandings and confusions I am sorry to say. But they have got blankets, old clothes and some money and I trust and really think they are as comfortable as poor Gipsies generally are. She further said that the young woman & baby were going on well; that they were all Coopers and the young woman, who was her daughter-in-law, was called Eliza Lee before her marriage; and that her own daughter Sarah had no husband, which she said looking down sadly, and that little George was Sarah’s only child. She has a singular clever but withered countenance herself, with not one grey hair, and is very respectful and well-bred in her manner.
Thursday, 5th January
At a little after 12 dear Lehzen and I went out and came home at 20 minutes p.1. When we approached the spot where the Gipsy encampment was, all, all was gone, vanished, and the only trace left of them was their litter of straw! So sudden and mysterious are their arrivals and departures, that one day they may appear settled for a long while in their tents and the next morning there may be no vestige of them left. Poor people, I am so glad we have done them good; they were such a nice set of Gipsies. I am quite certain that they had settled their departure when they came out to see us last Sunday, and were therefore not so sorry when we said we should see them no more, which was too true! I hope I shall see them one day again and then be able to do more real good for them. We met in walking homewards a Gipsy and a boy both on horseback; the man was remarkably handsome and independent looking; had a grey hat, trousers and gaiters on, a green jacket and a bright red handkerchief tied loosely round his neck; he looked quite Italian like; the boy had a black beaver hat on with a pipe in his mouth. I should think they were some relations of our friends; probably of the same clan, the Coopers.
Sunday, 8th January
At 12 dear Lehzen and I went out and came home at 10 minutes p.1. It is today a week that we took leave of our poor good friends the Gipsies and I am quite sorry when I pass the spot so long enlivened by their little camp, and behold it empty and deserted and with almost no trace to be seen of their ever having been there. They had been there more than a month, for they encamped there about 5 days after we arrived here and have been there ever since until last Wednesday or Thursday. To my feeling, the chief ornament of the Portsmouth road is gone since their departure. But this is their life; they are happy and grateful and we have done them some good. The place and spot may be forgotten, but the Gipsy family Cooper will never be obliterated from my memory!
I forgot to mention that one of the nice qualities of my Gipsy friends was, their cleanliness; for they were to be seen almost every day drying their washed things, not only their linen, but their handkerchiefs, cloaks &c. I am sorry I did not see the pretty young woman who was confined, again; I should so have liked to have seen her. What a hardy race they must be, when I consider how this young woman and poor innocent little babe bore the late very severe cold; I really think the wood and blankets we sent them kept them alive. She seemed a very strong person, as they all are, for she used generally to go every day before her confinement to the village which was full a mile and a half from their camp, and back again, and the last time I met her, the morning of the day before her confinement, how pretty and well she was looking only a little tired; I saw her even about the camp (at a distance) in the afternoon too.
Tuesday, 14th February
I quite forgot to mention that when on Sunday I walked for the last time on my favourite nice Portsmouth road, that I still beheld the litter of straw which was the only vestige of our poor good Gipsy friends who will never never be forgotten. Aunt Sarah, Eliza Cooper, old Mary Cooper, the poor dear little baby, the host of children, and the two other sisters-in-law, are quite present in my mind; I can see and hear them!
If you have enjoyed reading this, please click on this link to find out more about this fascinating gypsy family.
The December 1815 issue of Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics featured a design for an evening dress and a walking dress, both the creation of Mrs Bean, a milliner and dressmaker of Albemarle Street, Piccadilly.
FASHIONS FOR DECEMBER, 1815
A crimson satin slip, underneath a frock of three-quarters length made of the silver-striped French gauze; the slip ornamented at the feet with clusters of flowers, and a narrow border of white satin edged with crimson ribbon: the frock has a border of white satin, edged to correspond, and is drawn up in the Eastern style, confined by a cluster of flowers. The body of the dress has open fronts, with a stomacher, which are severally trimmed en suite: short open sleeve, to correspond with a quilling of tull around the arm. Head-dress à la Chinoise, composed of pearl; the hair braided, and ornamented with a wreath of flowers. Ear-rings and drops, pearl; necklace, the French negligé. Gloves, French kid, worn below the elbow, and trimmed with a quilling of tull. Sandals, white kid.
Pelisse of walking length, composed of blue twilled sarsnet, fastened down the front with large bows of white satin ribbon, and ornamented at the feet with a border of leaves formed of the same sarsnet, edged with white satin: the bottom of the pelisse, trimmed with white satin, is drawn into small festoons; sleeve ornamented at the shoulder and the hand to correspond; a French embroidered ruff. A French hat composed of the blue twilled sarsnet, trimmed with white satin edged with blue, and decorated with a large plume of ostrich feathers. An Indian shawl of crimson silk, richly embroidered in shaded silks. The pocket-handkerchief French cambric, embroidered at the corners. Shoes, blue morocco, tied with bows high upon the instep. Stockings with embroidered clocks. Gloves, York tan.
The silver-striped French gauze is a novel and elegant article, which, fashioned by the ever varying and approved taste of Mrs. Bean, requires to be viewed, before a just idea can be received of its fascinating effect: it is allowed to be the lightest and most splendid costume ever yet presented by the amateur to the votaries of fashion.
Mrs Charlotte Bean, the wife of Thomas Bean, was a milliner and dressmaker located at 32 Albemarle Street just off Piccadilly. Her designs were frequently featured in Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics, and she was a court dressmaker to ‘Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent and also the Princess Charlotte of Saxe Coburg by special appointment’.
Indeed, Mrs Bean made twenty-six dresses and pelisses for Princess Charlotte’s wedding trousseau in 1816. We list a few of them here.
A Prussian blue and white striped satin dress, with a beautiful garniture; above which is a rich broad blond lace, tastefully looped up in the form of shells.
A full dress over a rich white satin, ornamented with silver, the garniture silver leaves intermixed with full puffings of tulle; this forms at the bottom a tasteful scallop, above which are large bunches of silver double lilacs, the sleeves striped with silver, and finished at the top with a narrow wreath of corresponding flowers.
A train dress of net, richly embroidered with a beautiful border of roses and buds a quarter and a half deep round the train, the embroidery coming up to meet the waist; body and sleeves richly worked to correspond; the whole dress lined with rich white satin.
A beautiful primrose silk high morning dress, trimmed and worked in a most unique style of elegance.
An elegant violet and white striped satin pelisse, lined with white satin, trimmed with leaves of violet, and white blond cuffs and collar; bonnet to match, with a beautiful plume of white feather.
Very beautiful clear India muslin dress, most elegantly worked in lace work and satin stitch, forming bunches of wheat ears and corn flowers; at the bottom a waved border of the same, finished with very full rows of elegant English lace; short sleeves, composed of rows of satin, and lace body to correspond, made low to meet the waist, with a satin slip, which forms a very elegant dress.
A very rich evening primrose satin dress, with a deep flounce of blond lace, of a very beautiful tulip pattern, above which is a broad embroidery of pearls, in grapes and vine leaves; the top and sleeves ornamented with pearls to correspond.
Possibly Anne, the wife of Sir William Abdy, Baronet, had been one of Mrs Bean’s best customers? Abdy was reputed to be the richest commoner in the land and his beautiful wife would have ensured that she was dressed in the latest fashions. However, if Anne perused the December 1815 issue of Ackermann’s Repository, she would have known that the gowns pictured were now beyond her means. She had eloped from her home on Hill Street, Berkeley Square just months earlier, stepping into a gig with her (somewhat impoverished) lover, Lord Charles Bentinck, and into a new life. By the end of the year she was living with him, pregnant with his child, and awaiting the outcome of the Criminal Conversation case which had been brought by her husband and which had commenced on the 1st December 1815.
Her fateful decision to elope was to have far reaching consequences, as we detail in our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, affecting people as far away on the social scale as the daughter of a Romany gypsy and the British royal family themselves.
Hone’s authentic account of the Royal Marriage, 1816
Header image: Mrs Bean’s trade card, British Museum
If you have already read An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, then A Right Royal Scandal forms a sequel to Grace’s story, continuing the life of her granddaughter through to the publication of Grace’s memoirs (set during the French Revolution), and beyond and the second family of Grace’s son-in-law, Lord Charles Bentinck. But A Right Royal Scandal can also be read as a stand-alone book. It is available now in the UK (and to pre-order in the US and elsewhere) from our publisher Pen and Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.
(Readers outside the UK might find Book Depository useful, as they ship free worldwide and have competitive prices.)