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.

fitzpatrick-parade-macaroni-in-colour

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.

fitzpatrick-prince-pretty-man
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.

great-seal-moll-benwell
Moll Benwell

 

A closer look at Thomas Gainsborough’s full-length portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott

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

Our biography of the eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, which tells her story more completely than ever before, shedding light on her siblings and maternal family who were central to her experiences, is out this month in the UK in hardback. Also containing many rarely seen images relating to Grace and her family, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is available from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops. It you are in America, it can be pre-ordered now and will be released there in Spring 2016.

 

Today we are going to have a closer look at a fabulous portrait of Grace, who had her likeness painted twice by Thomas Gainsborough. The first was a full-length, probably commissioned by her lover the Earl of Cholmondeley in 1777 and which hung in his London mansion at Piccadilly. When the portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in Pall Mall during 1778 the General Evening Post newspaper called it a ‘striking and beautiful likeness’ of Grace, quoting some lines from The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope.

If to her share some female errors fall,

Look on her face, and you’ll forget them all.

Sadly for Grace, the picture proved to have a longer life in the earl’s household than she did; when he refused to marry the divorced Mrs Elliott she upped sticks for France and the Anglophile duc d’Orléans. Reputedly, the portrait was viewed, a few years later, by Cholmondeley’s boon companion, George, Prince of Wales, and he admired both the painting and its subject so much that Cholmondeley was despatched across the Channel to fetch Grace back home from the arms of her French duc and to deliver her into those of a British prince. The portrait is now held in New York, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Over the years the portrait’s condition meant that certain details had been lost, but these can be seen on an engraving made of it in 1779 by John Dean (or Deane, c.1754-1798, draughtsman and engraver (mezzotint)). On his engraving can be seen a flagstone floor and a burst of light coming over the trees in the background. During treatment of Gainsborough’s portrait of Grace, dark paint was visible under the sky suggesting that the picture may originally have been intended to be much narrower, possibly without the landscape in the background.

The left hand of the 1779 engraving and Gainsborough's portrait, side-by-side.
The left hand of the 1779 engraving and Gainsborough’s portrait, side-by-side.

An additional revelation also came about during the Met’s treatment of the portrait – the presence of a small dog which was once in the lower right hand corner was also revealed.[i]

Bottom right hand corner of the Gainsborough portrait - can you see an impression of a dog?
Bottom right hand corner of the Gainsborough portrait – can you see an impression of a dog?

And here is the 1779 John Dean engraving of ‘Mrs Elliot’ courtesy of the Yale Centre for British Art.

John Dean, 1754–1798, British, Mrs. Elliot, 1779, Mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
John Dean, 1754–1798, British, Mrs. Elliot, 1779, Mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund

Notes:

[i] British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575-1875, by Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Katharine Baetjer, 2009.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

Does this chalk drawing depict Grace Dalrymple Elliott?

Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.
Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.

A chalk drawing dating to around 1782 by John Hoppner, whilst unproven, is reputed to depict the celebrated courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  If there is a corresponding portrait it has yet to be discovered.  There certainly does look to be a good similarity between the Gainsborough portraits of her and, if it is Grace, it dates from the time of her pregnancy with the reputed child of George, Prince of Wales (and the end of her relationship with her royal lover).  The lady in the portrait is wearing a chemise à la reine, a diaphanous white muslin gown made popular in France by Queen Marie Antionette and in 1782 the latest fashion.  Grace was one of the first women in London to appear dressed in one of these gowns, along with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire and the Prince’s former mistress, the actress and courtesan Mary Robinson (Perdita).

Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as 'Perdita' by John Hoppner, c.1782. (c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as ‘Perdita’ by John Hoppner, c.1782.
(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Hoppner was connected with the Court, having been encouraged to paint by George III and eventually becoming Principal Portrait Painter to the Prince of Wales in 1793 after the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds.  Is it just possible that this chalk drawing is Grace, sitting for a portrait commissioned by the Prince and that nothing more than a preliminary sketch was produced following the rupture of their union? What do our readers think?

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of the Frick, New York.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Courtesy of the Frick, New York.

You can read more about Grace in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, which is the product of many years of research into her life and which is available now in the UK, published by Pen and Sword Books. Containing much information that is new to Grace’s story, and some rarely seen illustrations and pictures too, our book is also a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, interspersed with the fascinating lives her family led across the globe. It is both the story of Grace’s life and her family history.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner in France during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris.

Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits.

The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the history of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men.

Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time.

This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

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

 

Sources:

British Museum

 

‘One and twenty daft days’ in 1822: King George IV visits Scotland

In August 1822, a year after his coronation, King George IV made a trip to Scotland, the first British monarch to do so for 170 years. The entire trip was stage managed by the author Sir Walter Scott, with much pageantry, but some mistakes did happen.

Via Brown digital repository, Brown University Library
Via Brown digital repository, Brown University Library

The portly King, known for his love of fashion and frippery, dressed to impress in a kilt – but his kilt was too short, finishing well above his knees, and rather than risk showing his bare legs he wore a pair of pink tights. He only appeared in full Highland dress wearing a kilt on just the one occasion during the trip (he wore trews in his Royal Stuart tartan on at least one other day), but it remained the enduring image of his visit. The kilt had been prohibited as everyday wear by the Dress Act (repealed in 1782) after the Jacobite uprising of 1745, although it was still used for army uniforms, but Sir Walter’s instructions for a ‘Highland Ball’ in honour of the King, declaring that gentlemen, if not in uniform, must wear ‘the ancient Highland costume’ was pivotal in establishing the national dress of Scotland. When Sir David Wilkie later painted the King in this garb he flattered him by lengthening the kilt, slimming him down and leaving off the pink tights.

(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The visit began on the 10th August 1822 from Greenwich, but it was not until the 15th August that King George was finally able to disembark his ship (he had been delayed a day by bad weather to the disappointment of the gathered crowds), the Royal George, at Leith on the Firth of Forth. He wore the full dress of a British Admiral and had a twig of heath and a natural heather on his hat which pleased his Scottish subjects.

Amongst others, the King was attended by the Marquis of Lothian and Lord Charles Bentinck. Lord Charles’ first wife had been Miss Georgiana Seymour, reputed daughter of the King by the women whose biography we have written, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and their young daughter was therefore the King’s granddaughter (An Infamous Mistress: the Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is due to be published by Pen and Sword in January 2016).

The Landing of George IV at Leith
The Landing of George IV at Leith

The King based himself at Dalkeith Palace, and over the ensuing days triumphal processions between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House were undertaken, and levee’s held, one attended by 457 ladies who each had to be kissed on the cheek. The weather was mainly terrible; it rained but the people, under their umbrella’s, still came out to cheer the King who was delighted with his reception. Thousands of people had lined Calton Hill and the King, surveying the scene, remarked to the officers with him, “This is wonderful – what a sight!” and luckily the mist which had blighted the day cleared to afford him a full view.

The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill, 1822 by John Wilson Ewbank (c) City of Edinburgh Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Entry of George IV into Edinburgh from the Calton Hill, 1822
by John Wilson Ewbank
(c) City of Edinburgh Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A review of 3,000 volunteer cavalrymen was held on Portobello sands on the 23rd August, and for once the weather was favourable. The King, dressed in a Field Marshal’s uniform, arrived in his open carriage and four at one o’clock, to a salute from the guns situated on a battery on the pier and cheers from the crowd. Mounting a grey charger he then rode slowly along the line while the military bands played God Save the King. It was estimated that over a thousand vehicles had brought the spectators to the event, everything from coronated carriages to farmer’s carts, and that the assembled crowed was not less than thirty thousand people, and a scaffold had been erected for the ladies to sit in. Added to this, there were a few pleasure yachts and boats moored nearby to view the spectacle.

That evening a Peers’ Ball was held at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh; King George, still in his Field Marshal’s uniform, arrived in high spirits. He only stayed for just over an hour, during which time he paid marked attention to several elegant ladies.

George IV, at a military review on Portobello Sands 23 August 1822 by William Turner 'de Lond'. Courtesy of National Galleries Scotland.
George IV, at a military review on Portobello Sands 23 August 1822 by William Turner ‘de Lond’.
Courtesy of National Galleries Scotland.

On the 27th August the King attended a theatrical performance of Rob Roy, his last public engagement of the trip. It was asked that those people who had enjoyed frequent access to his Majesty did not attend; the Theatre Royal was not a large building and it was hoped that the audience could be made up of those who had yet to set eyes on him. Mr Murray, the theatre owner, was complimented for refusing to raise the ticket price for that night.

For this occasion the King wore the undress uniform of a Field Marshal; sitting in a chair of state in the royal box he was flanked by several peers, dukes, earls and lords, including Lord Charles Bentinck who had never been far from his side throughout the whole journey.

Two days later King George IV returned, in the rain, to his ship.

Geordie and Willie "keeping it up" - Johnny Bull pays the piper!! Courtesy of the British Museum.
Geordie and Willie “keeping it up” – Johnny Bull pays the piper!!
Courtesy of the British Museum.

John Murray, the 4th Duke of Atholl, later described the visit as ‘one and twenty daft days’ and noted in his journal that:

The Mania is the Highland garb . . . a considerable Procession of Troops, Highlanders and the different Persons dressed up by [Sir] W: Scott in fantastic attire.

Image from Le Costume Historique, volume 6
Image from Le Costume Historique, volume 6

Sources used:

Caledonian Mercury, 17th, 19th, 22nd, 24th and 29th August 1822

Glasgow Herald, 23rd and 26th August 1822

The Morning Post, 27th August 1822

Possible Scotlands: Walter Scott and the Story of Tomorrow by Caroline McCracken-Flesher, Oxford University Press, 2005

 

NOTE TO OUR READERS:

We are taking a summer holiday from our blog for the rest of August, but rest assured we will be back again in September. In the meantime we trust you all have a wonderful summer, hopefully enjoying good weather.

If you are in the UK, do watch out for the TV adaptation of Hallie Rubenhold’s book on Lady Seymour Worsley, The Scandalous Lady W which is due to premiere on BBC2 on the 17th August. Lady Worsley was a close friend and contemporary of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and we are really looking forward to watching this drama, which promises to be fantastic. If you are reading this from elsewhere in the world we hope it will be available for you to view in due course.

All the best, Sarah and Jo.

‘Happy Birthday’ George IV – born 12th August 1762

NPG D33075; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; King George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Houston, published by Robert Sayer, after Robert Pyle
Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; King George IV when Prince of Wales

Today’s blog is a little different to our usual but we could not allow the birth of  George IV to pass without a little acknowledgement, especially as he was one of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s lovers and  allegedly father of  her daughter, Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour, although Georgiana’s birth was not heralded in quite the same way as her alleged father’s entrance into the world. We thought we would celebrate his birth in the shape of portraits of him over the years, the majority being courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, as tempting as it would be simply to use the vast quantity of caricatures of him we’ve manged to resist temptation … well almost!

George’s birth was proclaimed in the London Evening Post  (August 10, 1762 – August 12, 1762) :

At seven this morning her Majesty was safely delivered of a Prince at the palace of St James, to the great joy of his Majesty and of all his loyal subjects, who consider the birth of this heir to the crown as a pledge of the future felicity of their posterity under the happy auspice of his royal family. 

About half an hour after nine this inestimable blessing was made known to the nation by the discharge of the tower guns and at noon there was a great court at St James’s, when the foreign ministers, the great officers of state and all the nobility and other persons of distinction were admitted to pay their compliments to the King upon this mark of the divine favour to his Majesty and to his people. 

Her Majesty and the new-born Prince of Wales are in perfect health and nothing can surpass the testimonies of joy and affection expressed by all ranks and degrees of his Majesty’s subjects for this great and desirable event.

It is worth of observation that her Majesty is brought to bed of an heir to the crown on the same day that our most gracious Sovereign’s great grand-father, King George the first, succeeded to the crown of these Kingdoms, by virtue of several acts of parliament for securing the Protestant succession in the illustrious house of Hanover.  

The first portrait we offer is that of George was a a young child with his younger brother Frederick.

NPG D33327; King George IV; Frederick, Duke of York and Albany by James Watson, after Katharine Read
by James Watson, after Katharine Read mezzotint, circa 1765-1770 NPG D33327

The next shows George in his teenage years whilst he was busy having fun with the ladies of the ton such as Grace Dalrymple Elliott, amongst others!! Grace looks more than 8 years older than him doesn’t she?

NPG 5890; King George IV by Richard Cosway
George as Prince of Wales, painted by  Richard Cosway 1780–1782
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of the Frick, New York.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Courtesy of the Frick, New York. 
NPG D19038; King George IV by Louis or Lewis Saillar (Sailliar), after Richard Cosway
Richard Cosway stipple engraving, published 24 August 1787. Aged 25

NPG 5389; King George IV by Richard Cosway

Another Cosway portrait in 1792, aged 30

On the 8th April 1795 the Prince married Princess Caroline of Brunswick and somehow, despite unwillingness on his part the couple managed to conceive a daughter who was born virtually nine months to the day after the couple were married – Princess Charlotte.

NPG D20038; King George IV; Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick by Michael Sloane, published by Luigi Schiavonetti, after Richard Cosway

NPG D15606; Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by Francesco Bartolozzi, published by Gaetano Stefano Bartolozzi, after Richard Cosway
Princess Charlotte Augusta born 7th January 1796 Francesco Bartolozzi
NPG D8048; King George IV when Prince Regent by William Say, after John Hoppner
by William Say, after  John Hoppner, mezzotint, published 1812 Aged 40
NPG D33353; King George IV after Unknown artist
after Unknown artist stipple engraving, published January 1827 16 3/8 in. x 11 3/8 in. (416 mm x 290 mm) plate size; 19 1/8 in. x 14 1/4 in. (487 mm x 362 mm) paper size Aged  65 years

Well, we said we couldn’t resist a caricature image and this is our favourite, 1795 reflecting upon all his mistresses … is Grace amongst them? You decide!

Lovers George IV
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection Thoughts on matrimony (1795)

Mary Robinson aka Perdita

Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey

Anna Maria Crouch

Maria Fitzherbert

Pretty Milliner

Lady and Child – Grace Dalrymple Elliott, perhaps?

King George IV – Post Mortem

From this

170px-GeorgeIV1798

To this in the space of just a  few years.

220px-A-voluptuary

and all stages in between.

L0009588 The gouty George IV relaxing before nine portraits chronicli

The former lover of Grace Dalrymple Elliott and alleged father of her child, King George IV died on the 26th June 1830.

Cause of death

According to a report in The Times newspaper dated 30th June 1830:

THE LATE KING

The statement made in The Times, Monday last, of the post mortem examination of the late King was substantially correct. His late majesty’s primary and mortal disorder was, an ossification of the vessels of the heart, and that organ was, as we mentioned, enveloped in masses of fat. Sir Astley Cooper remarked, that he never saw the heart so oppressed with that morbid obstruction to its action: the surgical instruments had to unfold the masses of fat.  The sergeant-surgeon, it is said discovered also a small calculus, which had evidently for some space of time been formed in the further cavity of the bladder, and it was this which had for the last three or four years required, near the Royal person, the occasional attendance of a surgeon, (we believe Mr Brodie and in ordinary attendance Mr O’Reilly), although the local functions were not generally so impeded as to indicate the fixed existence of actual local disease.

The late King’s physicians were of the opinion, after the post mortem examination, that his majesty’s struggle against death would have been probably prolonged for three or four weeks, had it not been for the rupture of the blood-vessel last Thursday, the evacuation which ensued, though not considerable, was yet sufficient to exhaust the shattered remains of the King’s constitution. The rupture of the blood-vessel took place during a violent fit of coughing.

The remains of his late Majesty were on Monday night enclosed in the leaden coffin, the Lord Steward, who remains in attendance, directing these arrangements. The coffin is place on trestles  in the chamber of the deceased. 

L0011712 A broadsheet illustrating the procession, dirge and funeral