Richard ‘Beau’ Nash, dandy, Bath’s Master of Ceremonies and unofficial ‘king’ of the city was born in 1674. He set the rules by which Bath society regulated their days, and established it as a resort of fashion. You had to pass Beau Nash’s scrutiny just to be granted admission to the balls and card parties and even the highest in the land had to do as he said.
When Kitty, Duchess of Queensberry, one of the era’s fashion icons, appeared at the Assembly Rooms with a delicate white apron over her skirt (which was against the rules), Beau Nash snatched it away and threw it onto the back benches, where the ladies attendants sat, acidly remarking that ‘none but Abigails appeared in white aprons!’ The duchess good-humouredly played the game and laughing, begged pardon of the Master of Ceremonies.
Even after his death in 1761, Beau Nash’s rules continued to be the basis for the Rules of Bath. The list below is from 1771, as published by Nash’s successor, William Wade and printed in The new Bath guide; or, useful pocket companion (1771).
Bath, October 1, 1771. This day the following new rules were published by the Master of the Ceremonies, and hung up in the Assembly-Rooms.
It being absolutely necessary, that a propriety of dress should be observed at so polite an assembly as that of Bath, it is humbly requested of the company to comply with the following regulations:
That ladies who dance minuets be dressed in a suit of clothes, or a full-trimmed sack, with lappets and dressed hoops, such as are usually worn at St James’s.
It is requested of those ladies who do not dance minuets, not to take up the front seats at the balls.
That no lady dance country-dances in a hoop of any kind and those who chuse to pull their hoops off, will be assisted by proper servants in an apartment for that purpose.
That no lady of precedence has a right to take place in country-dances after they have begun.
The places at the top of the room are reserved for ladies of precedence of the rank of a Peeress of Great Britain and Ireland, it being found very inconvenient to have seats called for and placed before the company, after the ball has begun.
That gentlemen who dance minuets, do wear a full-trimmed suit of clothes, or French frock, hair or wig dressed with a bag.
Officers in the navy or army in their uniforms are desired to wear their hair or wig en queue.
Ladies are not to appear with hats, nor gentlemen with boots, in an evening, after the balls are begun for the season; nor the gentlemen with spurs in the Pump Room in a morning.
The subscription balls will begin as soon as possible after six o’clock, and finish precisely at eleven, even in the middle of a dance.
That no hazard or unlawful games will be allowed in these rooms on any account whatever, and no cards on Sundays.
That in case any subscriber to the balls should leave Bath before the season is over, such subscriber may, by leaving an order under their hand, transfer his or her tickets for the remaining part of the season.
The major part of the company having expressed their desire that the tea, on public ball-nights, may be paid for by every person that comes into the rooms; the managing committee at the New Rooms, and Mr Gyde at his room, are come to a resolution, that each gentleman or lady on a ball-night are to pay six-pence on their admission at the outer door, which will entitle them to tea.
King George III celebrated his 70th birthday on 4 June 1808.
The king was losing his eyesight and, because of this, wasn’t present at his birthday court at St James’s Palace, but did receive several members of the nobility at Buckingham House (as Buckingham Palace was then known).
The morning was, as usual, ushered in with the ringing of bells, at noon the Park and Tower guns were fired, the ships in the Thames displayed their colours, and the flags and standards of the United Kingdom were hoisted on the different churches and public buildings. The streets in the neighbourhood of the Palace were crowded to an excess, and the windows in St James’s Street in particular, exhibited a display of beauty and splendour rarely to be witnessed in any country.
The royal family – minus the king – all began to arrive throughout the day, and assembled for ‘Her Majesty’s drawing-room’. The Prince of Wales, predictably, made sure everyone noticed his entrance.
At two o’clock the Prince of Wales and his Suite, in three carriages, and servants in state liveries, dress hats and feathers, proceeded from Carlton House to the Drawing Room, and entered by the private door in the Park. His Royal Highness was attended by the Duke of Clarence, Lords Keith and Dundas, Generals Lee and Hulse, and Colonels McMahon, Lee and Bloomfield.
The music playing had been specified by the king, but it was the queen who received the company, and all the nobility were present. Everyone had to wear full court dress and the queen continued to stipulate that ladies had to wear full hoops under their skirts, in an echo of the fashions of several decades earlier. Coupled with the trend for gowns with a slim silhouette in the early years of the nineteenth-century, the full skirts of the dresses which had to be worn at court looked ridiculously cumbersome. They certainly weren’t the most flattering of dresses to wear!
A sketch of one of the dresses worn has survived at this particular Drawing Room, and it was worn by the Countess, later Marchioness of Cholomondeley, someone we’ve written about at length. The Earl of Cholmondeley had, a few years prior to his marriage, been the lover of that ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. And Grace had also, for just a few weeks in 1781, been the mistress of Cholmondeley’s boon friend, the Prince of Wales, and had subsequently given birth to the prince’s daughter. That girl, Georgiana Seymour (no, we don’t know why she had the surname Seymour either!) was brought up by the Cholmondeleys, treated as their own daughter. Georgiana, 26-years-of-age, couldn’t attend the court, however. The queen had agreed with her son that she should not be presented until she was married, lest the king realise exactly who she was. (Georgiana married in September 1808, and she was present at King George’s 1809 birthday court, as you can discover in our first book, An Infamous Mistress.)
The newspapers described the Countess of Cholmondeley’s dress as follows:
A yellow satin petticoat, covered with a rich Brussels point lace, with a rich border; the train of yellow satin; the sleeves ornamented with rich lace.
La Belle Assemblée magazine went into more detail.
Explanation of Lady Cholmondeley’s Court-Dress: A bright primrose-coloured sarsnet petticoat trimmed full round the bottom with point lace, and a rich drapery of the same, most tastefully festooned with diamond chains, and ostrich feathers in the form of the Prince’s plume reversed. Body and train of primrose sarsnet; the latter trimmed with lace, and the former ornamented with the most splendid diamond wreath to represent the oak leaf and fruit, placed obliquely across the front of the bust; the sleeves finished to match, and the bottom of the waist confined with a diamond cestus. Head-dress court lappets of point; a diamond bandeau and rich coronet, with four ostrich feathers of unequal lengths, most tastefully disposed. Splendid earrings of the oval form; necklace and bracelets also of brilliants. Gloves of French kid, considerably above the elbow. Shoes of white satin with silver trimming.
We recently ran a post on our Facebook page which shared images of Princess Charlotte of Wales in a blue Russian style dress. It proved really popular, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look at the dress, and the portrait of Charlotte where she is depicted wearing it, in greater detail.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars two years earlier, anything Russian was eminently fashionable in 1817, when the portrait was painted. Princess Charlotte of Wales, only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV) was desperate to have the Russian Order of St Catherine bestowed on her. She’d been trying for the honour since at least 1813, with little success. (The order was only given to women, primarily those of the Russian royal family but also occasionally granted to foreign queens and high-ranking princesses.)
The well-known portrait of her, by George Dawe and dated to 1817 (shown above), depicts the princess in a Russian style dress, known as a sarafan, and – supposedly – wearing the Star of the Order of St Catherine’s. The notes on the Royal Collection Trust website say of the portrait:
At her left breast she wears the star of the Order of St Catherine, which she received on 1 July 1817, from Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, in gratitude for hospitality shown to her son Nicholas during his visit to London. (Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, also served under the Russian Emperor during the Napoleonic Wars.)
Now, we don’t want to contradict the RCT who surely know better than us, but we can find no corroborating evidence that Charlotte ever received this honour, and upon zooming in to the portrait, the Star insignia which she is wearing looks incorrect. It almost appears to have the Prince of Wales feathers atop it and is not studded with diamonds, as it should be. Maybe, however, Dawe chose to paint it this way? Although we have our suspicions, we really can give no confirmation one way or another and will have to rely on the royal collection’s assertion that this is the Star of the Order of St Catherine.
The dress Charlotte wears could almost have been copied from a portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina, a Russian exile in Paris. She was painted by François Joseph Kinson in 1816, just a year before Charlotte sat for her portrait, wearing a remarkably similar dress.
A Sarafan is a Russian trapezoidal jumper (or pinafore) dress, and a traditional folk costume. These two Russian portraits show the subjects wearing dresses that are also very like that worn by Charlotte.
No doubt Charlotte had her dress especially made (it was produced in England) for the portrait and to set off her Russian order, whether being worn legitimately or not. Charlotte’s version of this Russian dress is made from blue silk, trimmed with gold lace which has red highlights, and edged with gold fringe. Amazingly, it has survived and is also in the royal collection. As you can see from the images below, it has either faded slightly, or Dawe used a little artistic licence to darken it in his portrait of the princess.
When she sat for her portrait, the princess was pregnant. Her child – a son – was stillborn, and Charlotte died from complications following the birth the next day, 6 November 1817. She was just twenty-one years of age. Had she or her son lived, they would have been heir to the British throne.
Copies of the painting were made, many with slight variations. One shows the dress in white instead of blue, another leaves off the gold trimming. This version below shows the dress in a darker hue, and with a much more extravagant ‘blouse’ beneath, with lace sleeves.
Interestingly, when George Dawe’s brother, Henry Edward Dawe, made a mezzotint copy of the portrait after the princess’ death, which was published in January 1818 and an amalgamation of two of the portraits already given above, the Order of St Catherine pinned to Princess Charlotte’s breast was totally omitted.
George Dawe subsequently spent many years at the Russian court where he painted many of the nobility there. It is thought that he used the portrait of Princess Charlotte as inspiration for his later one of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Certainly, the rich colour of the dress and the pose are reminiscent of the princess’ portrait. It increases the pathos of poor Princess Charlotte’s picture however; how she would have loved to be painted with her arms around her children. Sadly, that was not to be.
We’ll leave you with this fantastic video, which looks at Princess Charlotte’s dress and the portrait.
Sources not mentioned above:
Letters of the Princess Charlotte, 1811-1817 (1949)
Autobiography of Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales: With Extracts from Her Journals and Anecdote Books, Volume 1 (1861)
* Please note: this week, our next blog post will be on Friday. *
Quilted petticoats were an item of clothing that transcended any notions of class or status; they were worn throughout most of the eighteenth-century by all women from nobility down to fish-wives and had a variety of uses. Usually tied at either side of the waistband, they had a gap in the side seams which allowed access to a pair of pockets worn underneath.
Clearly, the primary function of the garment was that of warmth; in colder climates (and here in Britain we’re always complaining about the weather!) the padding provided an extra layer to insulate the wearer.
By the mid-eighteenth century, women’s gowns were worn open at the front and the petticoat underneath became a decorative item. Well-to-do ladies wore petticoats made of silk or satin, often in contrasting colours to their robe, although the backing was often made of a more robust material such as calico or coarse linen.
The courtesan, Nelly O’Brien is famously depicted wearing a simple diamond patterned pink quilted petticoat in her portrait by Joshua Reynolds, but embellishment is added with an embroidered gauzy apron worn over the top. Note the contrasting blue and white striped gown.
Flat quilting, whereby two or three layers were stitched through using a running or backstitch, and corded quilted which involved parallel channels being sown through which cord was inserted from the reverse, were the most popular forms. The latter provided a textured relief.
The designs used were often more decorative and elaborate than the simple pattern on the petticoat worn by Nelly O’Brien; flowers, intricate geometric patterns and even animals all featured.
The following image gives an example of a linen quilted petticoat dating to c.1700-1725, designed to be worn under a mantua. Backed with linen, the quilting pattern was worked first and then both layers of linen were overstitched with embroidery. The notes against this petticoat suggest it was made domestically rather than professionally as the join and certain other details are clumsy.
When just the front of the petticoat would be glimpsed, the decoration was concentrated on that area. As polonaise gowns became fashionable, where the skirts were gathered and looped up at the back, the full hemline of the petticoat was visible. This led to a trend for decoration all around the undergarment. John Wilkes’ daughter, Mary, in this next portrait, demonstrates the fashion; her green quilted petticoat, contrasting sharply with her pink gown, has the addition of a deep frill all around the hemline.
Marseille (or French) quilting is a term used to describe the distinctive cotton quilting which was a feature of the Provence area of southern France, known for fine cording and stuffed designs. There, textiles were made for export, and the London weavers suffered as a result.
In the 1740s, a solution was found: a weaving technique was developed in England using a loom which imitated hand quilting, making the process both quick and inexpensive although it was not true quilting. Usually made with linen, while the fabric appeared to be quilted there was no middle layer of woollen wadding so, although cheap, petticoats made this way lacked the warmth of their ‘Marseilles’ counterparts.
A Sale of Ready Made Goods, &c. by JONAS CLIFTON, SILK-WEAVER and WAREHOUSE-MAN, from SHOREDITCH, LONDON: who now sells at the FOUNTAIN in MARGATE, His CURIOUS BRITISH LOOM QUILTING, for Ladies Petticoats, Bed-gowns, and Gentleman’s Winter Waistcoats, exceeding rich, neat and serviceable…
Kentish Gazette, 9th December 1769
The profession of quilted petticoat maker is described in the London Tradesman, 1747. It was not a lucrative one.
I must just peep under the Quilted-Petticoat. Every one knows the materials they are made of: they are made mostly by women, and some men, who are employed by the shops and earn but little. They quilt likewise quilts for beds for the upholder. This they make more of than of the petticoats, but not very considerable, nothing to get rich by unless they are able to purchase the materials and sell them finished to the shops, which few of them do. They rarely take apprentices, and the women they employ to help them, earn three or four shillings a week and their diet.
An extra cost to the manufacturers of quilted petticoats was the price of the wool used for the wadding, which was subject to the attention of customs.
Last week, the Prince Frederick, a Collier, lately arriv’d from Newcastle, was searched by a custom-house officer, who found about 200 weight of the combings of wool, in two bags, the property of a female passenger on board the said ship, who follows the business of making quilted petticoats; whereupon he seiz’d the same, together with the ship and all her cargo, as forfeited by law, for bringing wool from any part of England without entering it at the custom-house and clearing it from thence; and modestly demanded 600l. of the owners for clearing her, which was refus’d…
Ipswich Journal, 29th October 1743
Quilted petticoats provided shape to the skirts worn over them. Often the wadding used in the manufacture of these petticoats did not extend all the way to the waistband, so they were less bulky at the waistline. But, in an era when women wore a variety of hoops, bum rolls and panniers to enhance and alter their natural forms, quilted petticoats were a useful tool, providing a little extra padding where needed. In fact, evidence shows that they were worn in a variety of different ways throughout the century, both with and without a little extra support and definition beneath them depending on the desired silhouette. Perhaps, when Mary Hobbins went missing, she was trying to disguise her slim frame by wearing multiple quilted petticoats: even for late September, wearing two of these garments must have been quite warm.
September 26, 1724. Whereas one Thomas Robinson… went away with one Mary Hobbins of Swineshead near Boston in Lincolnshire: She is a slender thin-vizzag’d Woman, had two quilted petticoats on, viz. one green, and the other red and blue, with a white Gown with small Stripes or a Popple and white with broad Stripes…
Stamford Mercury, 29th October 1724
The painter Arthur Devis depicted women wearing quilted petticoats over hoops and panniers which gave definition and decoration to the fine silk gowns they wore, which are clearly very wide in the hips.
Towards the 1770s, it was common for fashionable ladies to wear a bum roll underneath their quilted petticoat, to add emphasis to their rear (think Kim Kardashian today!), others simply wore only their shift or another petticoat underneath.
A working woman would, of course, need to be able to move freely; they would wear very little under their quilted petticoats, relying on the bulkiness of the garment to provide any necessary shape, more concerned with practicalities than fashion.
By the end of the eighteenth century, women’s silhouettes became more slender and quilted petticoats were no longer in vogue with women of fashion although lower class women still clung to the practical, hard wearing and warm garment.
So, we’ve looked at quilted petticoats being worn for decoration, for warmth and to add shape to gowns, what other possible reason could there be to wear one? Well, they were handy when smuggling items such as tea or lace past the strict customs officials of the day!
Another smuggler is committed to the Castle of Norwich; from whence ‘tis added, that the Officers of the Customs there had seized a considerable Quantity of Tea, India Silk Handkerchiefs brought up from Yarmouth by a Woman, who, when taken, had several Pounds of Tea quilted in her Petticoats.
Ipswich Journal, 9th January 1731
Thursday a Gentleman and Lady put up at an inn at Dover, where they had just landed from France; when two Custom-house Officers came in, and insisted upon searching the Lady, on whom they found a quantity of Brussels lace, to the value of near 300l. which was concealed in her quilted petticoat… Some of our Nobility, it seems are suspected and even accused of harbouring smuggled goods. The truth is, so many Nobility and Gentry deal so much in smuggling, that a Correspondent says, he will venture to affirm that one half of the foreign lace that shall appear at Court on the ensuing birth-day, is smuggled.
Stamford Mercury, 4th June 1772
Patchwork and Quilting in Britain, Heather Audin, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013
The Dreamstress: What to wear under a quilted petticoat, 6th January 2012
FIDM Museum: Quilted petticoat, c.1840-45
Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium, Collections Database: Object Accession No. HD F.495A
The London Tradesman: Being a Compendious View of All the Trades, Professions, Arts, Both Liberal and Mechanic, Now Practised in the Cities of London and Westminster. Calculated for the Information of Parents, and Instruction of Youth in Their Choice of Business, R. Campbell, Esq, 1747
Have you ever wanted to dress like a gorgeous Georgian? Well, now help is at hand in the form of the The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox. It is released here in the UK on 13th December 2017, just in time for Christmas.
Lauren and Abby are owners of the historical footwear online store, ‘American Duchess’ who ship worldwide and sell the most amazing shoes. They have now used their research and experience to complete your outfit and enable you to make the most amazing dresses (and accessories) to go with those fantastic shoes.
Divided into four chapters, this book takes you step-by-step through making four gowns representing four different eras of the eighteenth-century plus all the accessories you could need to go with them. If, like us, your dressmaking skills are a little rusty or even rudimentary, don’t be put off. The book is written in a friendly style with basic details such as the different types of stitches covered as well as more detailed instructions, and all with a multitude of helpful diagrams and images so it doesn’t seem as daunting as you’d think.
And, even for a non-sewer, the book is still an entertaining and informative read if you are interested in the period. It’s interspersed with sumptuous pictures and lots of amusing asides (for instance, discover why one of Madame Pompadour’s maids inspired the name for the new short sacque gown being worn by her mistress, ‘pet en l’air’).
The book begins with a simple English gown from the 1740s complete with neckerchief, apron, mitts and hat. Then we go onto a much more extravagant ruffled and flounced dress, a sacque gown dating from the 1760s-1770s inspired by Francis Cote’s A Portrait of a Lady, plus underpinnings and accessories.
An Italian gown in printed cotton which follows the style of the 1770s-1790s and accommodates a ‘false rump’ is the third project. Again, you are given instructions for everything from the false rump to a silk covered ‘brain hat’, described as ‘fluffy, puffy and never stuffy’.
The last gown to be featured is the 1790s round gown, a much different silhouette from the preceding dresses.
To build confidence, we’d recommend starting with some of the simpler projects: now the weather has turned cold we’re looking with extreme interest at the 1790s giant (faux) fur muff… that’s a fashion that needs to be brought back, right?
This is a book that will be a permanent fixture on our bookshelf. It is a brilliant reference book on the fashions of the eighteenth-century and the history of dressmaking of the period and, as such, invaluable for anyone who writes about the era and wants to understand more about the clothes women wore. And, if you are an eighteenth-century re-enactor or lucky enough to be attending a Georgian dinner, ball or festival where it is requisite to look the part, then this wonderful guide will ensure that you stand out from the crowd in the latest fashions.
Now, where are our needles? That fur muff is not going to make itself and it’s beginning to snow outside!
We received a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review on our blog.
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
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.)
We’re all aware of the elaborate ladies’ hairstyles of the Georgian period, and the chance of a little visitor or two becoming lodged inside them. Fleas yes, we knew that was a possibility, but we’ll freely admit that getting mice inside your hair whilst sleeping was not one of the dangers of living in Georgian Britain that had ever occurred to us. However, according to the Ipswich Journal (25th January 1777) and the Society of Arts, it was a constant and worrying hazard.
The many melancholy accidents that have lately happened in consequence of mice getting into ladies hair in the night time, induced the society of arts, at their last meeting, to offer a premium to the person who should invent the neatest and most useful bed-side mouse-trap.
Well, indeed! We can foresee all kinds of further melancholy accidents ensuing here when a recently woken lady fumbles around, completely forgetting she’d set a trap for her little night-time companions…
The following uncommon circumstance is authentic. On Monday morning, about three o’clock, the Lady of a well-known Gentleman, whose name we are desired not to publish, waked suddenly in a fright, and screaming out aloud, also waked her husband. He desired to know the reason of her being thus alarmed, when she told him, she felt something in her hair behind alive. On searching, a poor innocent mouse was found, who, it is supposed was invited there by the amazing quantity of powder and pomatum. The mouse made its escape, and no dangerous consequences ensued; which was very fortunate for the Lady, as she is very far advanced in her pregnancy.
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 18th March 1773
Mr Moses Martingo, a silversmith from New Bond-street, came to the rescue. He invented a silver trap (unfortunately the newspaper advertisement doesn’t say how it differed from a normal trap, other than obviously looking a little prettier) and began to sell these for three guineas a pop. He didn’t stop there though, oh no…
He also sells night-caps, made of silver wire, as flexible as gauze, and yet so strong that no mouse, or even rat, can gnaw thro’ them. The present demand for these articles is incredible, Mr Martingo employing no less than 40 hands in that branch only. The caps if made of plain silver wire, are sold at 3 guineas each, but the ton have them of gilt wire, from six guineas to ten.
Nightcaps made of stiffened linen were worn to protect lady’s coiffures, which could last many weeks. Perhaps Mr Martingo and the Society of Arts felt that these were not protection enough against the nocturnal activities of nibbling little rodents?
OK, hands up. We believe the 1777 advert is a fake and poking fun of the elaborate hairstyles of the day but if there really was a Mr Martingo, then fair play to him for cashing in on the fashion. So, Georgian fact or Georgian fiction? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sources not mentioned above:
Cambridge Sentinel, Volume XXXI, No. 29, 18th July 1936
Having seen Faith Evans on the red carpet of the 2016 Grammys, sporting a sleek black ‘fur’ accessory, we thought we would take a look at the muffs, tippets and the use of fur, which were extremely popular in the Georgian Era even though today the wearing of fur is somewhat controversial, to say the least.
The tippet was an item of clothing worn that today we would refer to as a stole or scarf but was largely made from fur.
Porcupine, Tuesday, December 2, 1800
Fashion for December 1800 – Miscellaneous Observations
The fashionable colours are scarlet, purple, puce and Mazarin blue. The fancy article generally adopted are blends of various colours, as amber, scarlet, pink and rose; plain and figured, feathers of all kinds, flowers, gold and silver trimmings. Weymouth tippets instead of long tippets.
Oracle and Public Advertiser, Monday, January 15, 1798
The front hair dressed very low upon the forehead; the sides cut very short and combed straight; full plain chignon. Polish cap of black velvet, trimmed with white fur, and a tassel of black bugles on the top of the crown; three rows of black bugles across the head-dress, on the left side, with a tassel of the same; two large black ostrich feathers in the front. Black satin striped dress; short sleeves trimmed with black fringe; black crape trimming round the neck, looped on the shoulders, and fastened before with bugle buttons. Black necklace and ear-rings. Black gloves; and black satin shoes. Swandown tippet.
We have yet to find out what a Weymouth tippet was and how it differed from the long tippet – maybe one of our readers will know.
Morning Herald, Saturday, November 9, 1799
The cold weather has begun to make an extraordinary change in the dress of the Ladies of Haut Ton: a tippet or two yesterday appeared in Bond Street and some females in defiance of fashion, had actually made to their chemise the addition of a petticoat!
We were quite interested to find out the cost of such items and thought you would be too, even then they were using fake fur rather than the real thing. Sable tippets and muffs price from 1 shilling, 5 pence (around £5 in today’s money) up to 16 shillings (around £60 in today’s money).
Morning Post and Fashionable World, Thursday, November 19, 1795
Muffs, Tippets, Trimmings of fur of every denomination: Very handsome bear muffs at 12 and 14s such as have always been sold at 18s and 21s. Fox muffs at eight shillings.
The muff was a ‘must have’ fashion accessory, maybe one that we should revive for cold winter’s days. It was a cylinder of fabric or fur which was open at both ends but provided a way of keeping the hands warm. The concept dated back to the 1500s and was used by men and women. Muffetees were a type of shortened muff, worn not only for warmth but also to protect the wrist ruffles when playing cards. There were also small muffs which were closed at one end with a thumb section.
The newspapers regularly carried ‘fashion of the month’ reports so that women knew exactly what was in vogue – hairstyle, dress colour, shoes, muff or no muff … so that one wouldn’t be caught out wearing the wrong outfit! Have times changed, probably not!
At the other end of the spectrum was came across a book entitled Instructions for cutting out apparel for the poor which provided the cost and instructions of how to make cheap tippets for poor girls in 1789, priced at 3 old pennies, that’s a mere £0.70 in today’s money!
We always find that our research leads us in the most unexpected directions and this time we ended up in the law courts. At the Old Bailey, we came come across quite a few cases of theft of muffs and tippets. If found guilty the sentence ranged from prison/hard labour or transportation for a period of 7 years.
13th December 1786
Ann Ward was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 24th day of November, a red fox fur muff, value 20 shillings, the property of Joseph Thomson, a haberdasher in Oxford Street. Ann stole a red fox skin muff. – Verdict Guilt – Sentence – Transportation
25th February 1789
Amelia Morley, alias Amie Lovel, was indicted for stealing, on the 3d of February, one muff, value 18 s. and one tippet, value 5 s. the property of Daniel Bumstead. Verdict Guilty, Sentence imprisoned for 6 months
Given the length of the Georgian era we thought it might be fun to take a peek at how the Georgian ideas of what was fashionable and how it changed over the period. The comments have been taken directly from English Costume, Volume 4, by Dion Clayton Calthrop (1878 – 1937) so here goes.
George I (reigned 1707 – 1727)
The ladies were little lace and linen caps, their hair escaping in a ringlet or so at the side and flowing down behind, or gathered close up in a small knob on the head.
George II (reigned 1727 – 1760)
The hair is very tightly gathered up behind, twisted into a small knob on the top of the head and either drawn straight back from the forehead or parted in the middle, allowing a small fringe to hang on the temples. Nearly every woman wore a small cap or a small round straw hat with a ribbon around it.
In the middle of George II’s reign fashions and hair styles changed. Now the lady would puff her hair at the sides and powder it; if she had no hair she wore false, and a little later a full wig. She would now often discard her neat cap and wear a veil behind her back, over her hair and falling over her shoulder.
George III (1760 – 1820)
This was period of immense change in fashions both in terms of clothing and also hair styles. The writer of this book’s description of hair styles and hygiene is highly amusing:
Those piles of decorated, perfumed, reeking mess, by which a lady could show her fancy for the navy by balancing a straw ship on her head; for sport, by showing a coach, for gardening, by a regular garden on flowers. Heads which were only dressed, perhaps, once in three weeks, and were re-scented because it was necessary. Monstrous gatherers of horse-hair, hemp-wool and powder, laid on in a paste, the cleaning of which is too awful to give in detail. Three weeks, says my lady’s hairdresser, is as long as a head can go well in the summer without being opened’. With the fashion of 1786 came the broad brimmed hat and the turban.
We simply couldn’t resist including this caricature!
George IV (1820-1830)
By the 1820’s it was all change again in fashion and hair styles.
Young ladies wear their hair well arranged … the curls again appear in numerous clusters around the face; and some young ladies who seem to place their chief pride in a fine head of hair have such a multitude of small ringlets that to give what is a natural charm all the poodle-like appearance of a wig.
Header image: Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Thomas Gainsborough, National Galley of Art
Well, it appears that, courtesy of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and others that we’re heading back to the 18th century idea of tiny waists, so we had to take a quick peek at the 18th designs; not the best piece of news for those of us that enjoy our cakes and chocolate, or maybe an essential item!
These items of undergarments are often mistakenly referred to as corsets, so let’s begin this blog by correcting the term ‘corsets’. Corsets did not in fact exist until the 19th century, until that time they were known as ‘stays’ and were an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe. The most fashionable stays were designed to pull the shoulders back until the shoulder blades almost touched. The resulting silhouette, with shoulders thrown back, very erect posture and a high, full bosom, is characteristic of this period and no other. They were used to support and create the fashionable shape of a woman’s body and to provide a rigid form on to which a gown could be arranged and fastened.
They were originally made from thick linen on to which cane or whalebone was sewn, thereby making the garment extremely rigid. The garment was so tight around the waist and rib cage that it’s no wonder women were prone to fainting as it must have been almost impossible to breathe. It was more common for stays to be worn in England than it was in France and this applied to all classes of society, although the ‘working classes’ usually only possessed one, often made of leather which was worn constantly without washing!
Getting dressed must have been quite a performance, perhaps the only saving grace was that knickers hadn’t been invented at that time. Not something we would advocate doing in polite society today, but apparently, it was not unknown for women to expose part of their breasts. It was socially acceptable to do this at that time, but to expose your calf could have had you expelled from polite society.
By the 1770s steel was being used in stay to increase their strength, but this, of course, made them even more rigid. This combined with tight lacing began to cause concern amongst doctors and others who voiced their concerns about this fashion – does that sound at all familiar?
The alternative to ‘stays’ was the use of ‘jumps’. These were less boned and much softer and comfortable to wear. They laced up the front but still provided support for the bust making them far easier for a woman to put on herself without assistance. These became very fashionable and were more accepted by the medical profession.
We came across the following publication ‘The enormous abomination of the hoop-petticoat, as The Fashion Now is‘ looking at the hoop petticoat and stays from the perspective of a gentleman who proclaims himself ‘not to be a woman hater‘, so quite why he felt compelled to write about this subject we have absolutely no idea!
His article written 1745, described how the fashion had changed over recent years with the petticoat getting larger and larger to the point where it makes it impossible to sit close to a woman as her petticoat had taken over all available space. The sight of the curved hoop, he said was ‘enough to turn one’s stomach.’ He went on to say
‘In general, can anything be more out of nature, grosser insult upon reason and common sense, than this monstrous disproportion between the upper and lower part of a woman? It is an old observation that women by their laced bodices, or stays, as they are now call’d, make themselves the reverse of what nature made them. Men are bigger about the chest and more slender about the waist than women: and there is plain reason for it, which I need not mention. Yet the females have skrew’d and moulded their bodies into a shape quite contrary’.
As always our blog would not be complete without a caricature or two, so we have a couple of 19th century satires, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Collection.
We end with a video showing an eighteenth-century lady getting dressed.
We just had to share these books, available to view for free via The Internet Archive.
They are a six volume set, published between 1876 and 1888 and written by Auguste Racinet (1825-1893), covering historical costumes, furniture, jewellery, weapons and carriages. Everything including the kitchen sink really!
They are written in French but don’t let that put you off if you don’t speak that language because the pictures within them, lots in colour, are truly glorious and speak for themselves. We should really issue this blog with a warning because you are likely to spend quite a few hours flicking through them when you really should be doing other things. We’ve included a few of our favourite images, concentrating, as this blog is about ‘all things Georgian’ on those years but these books cover much more than just that period.
Volume 1 (mainly text) gives a general introduction and a list of all the plates found across the full set of volumes together with an index, bibliography and glossary.
Volume 2 concentrates on L’Antiquité Classique, from primitive times until the fall of the Roman Empire and ‘Barbarian Europe’ before moving on to ‘the world outside Europe’ starting with Oceania, Africa, the America’s, Eskimo’s and Asia.
Volume 3 continues with Asia and on to India, Africa (again), Turkey and religious artefacts and dress.
Volume 4 covers French and European military wear and medieval Europe through to the 16th Century.
Volume 5 begins with the end of the 16th Century and the dawn of the 17th, concentrating on Europe leading on to our favourite period, the 18th Century.
And so to Volume 6, the final one which continues 18th Century European fashions and takes us into the 19th Century, ending with a look at the Nordic countries together with Holland, Scotland, England, Germany and Switzerland.
For ease of translation, the books can be viewed in plain text format which then can be copied and pasted into an online translation tool.
Have fun browsing these books! We’d love to know your thoughts on them.
A small bunch of flowers, typically one that it sweet-scented. A nosegay was usually worn at the waist or bodice.
The Fashionable Magazine of September 1786 wrote an ‘Essay on Nosegays‘ that we thought might be of interest to our readers.
Among the different appendages of female dress, none are perhaps more ornamental than the beautiful bouquets so much worn at present by ladies of fashion; and which, it seems, were first introduced into this country by the French ladies. Some years ago, a few ladies began to appear at court with large nosegays in their bosoms; the fashion soon became more general, and has been since universally adopted.
In the latter end of the last reign, the French ladies carried that fashion to an extreme wearing nosegays preposterously large; and even at the present day many continue to wear them so. The size, however, depends greatly on fancy; but certain it is that the larger they are, the more girlish and youthful a wearer appears.
In France and Italy and other parts of the continent, it is still customary for the ladies to wear, on particular days, bouquets of a most enormous size; on their name’s day, for example, which answers to our birthday, and particularly on their wedding day and perhaps for a month afterwards, the new married lady appears in public with a bouquet de marrie, or wedding nosegay, sometimes so monstrous large as to shade the greater part of her face.
On Sundays and principal holidays, in many of their chapels, a young lady, generally very beautiful, goes among the congregation to collect money for the poor. Her dress on this occasion is splendid in the extreme; and a luxurious bouquet de cote, or side nosegay, uncommonly large, always adorns the bosom of the fair petitioner. Such a powerful solicitor, it may easily be imagined, is seldom refused. But the nosegay, on all these occasions, is considered as the most important ornament of the fair, and seems an indispensable part of the dress.
When we consider the natural beauties of flowers, with the luxurious and attractive perfume, it is by no means wonderful that they are so much worn. Some splenetic ladies have attempted to decry them; but they will find it difficult talk to prevent their being encouraged by the wisest and most elevated personages in the kingdom. Though many ladies wear their nosegays in the centre of the bosom, it is certain they have a much more pleasing effect when worn rather high on the left side, which mode seems now to be most generally adopted by ladies of taste and fashion. The French ladies always wear their bouquets on the left side of the bosom as high as the ear.
Those ladies who are fond of flowers and wish to keep them fresh in their bosoms, usually wear them in a large glass or silver fountain, made purposely to fit their stays, by which means they preserve their bouquets quite fresh the whole day.
No readers, we have not ‘lost the plot’ nor has this become a blog about exercise. We have been looking at the ways 18th-century people used enhancements to improve their looks.
Until the mid 1770s skirts were made to appear full by the use of hoops, however, from 1776 onward it would appear from this somewhat amusing article below from Town and Country magazine (January 1776) that the fashion changed courtesy of Henrietta Vernon, Lady Grosvenor and her use of ‘cork rumps’, otherwise referred to as ‘Chloe’s Cushion’ .
The town has been for some time entertained with various accounts of cork rumps; a friend of mine, who lives at some distance from the capital, and who does not believe all that he reads in a news-paper, notwithstanding he is not a cockney, seems to entertain his doubts concerning the real existence of these cork, rumps; I have, therefore, in order to satisfy him, taken great pains to enquire into the existence or non-existence of these cork rumps. In the course of these researches I have traced their origin to lady Gro—nor [Lady Grosvenor], who having had her fortune told a short time before the regatta, was advised to be very careful of water, as the conjurer foresaw danger in the wind; but her ladyship not being able to resist the temptation of so fashionable an amusement, consulted some members of the society for recovering drowned persons. She received little or no satisfaction from them, as they acknowledged they could be of no service to her till she was actually drowned, and not being willing to try the experiment upon whole terms, she had some thoughts of trying a cork jacket but reflecting upon the uncouth figure she would make in such a garb, when conquest was her principal view, her imagination was called into play, and after some days cogitation she hit upon the cork rump.
She wore it upon this occasion, and was a spectator of the regatta, without being under the least apprehension from the prediction of the conjuror. Every one complimented her ladyship upon the elegant appearance she made, the slope of the back, and the striking protuberance beneath, were objects of every one’s wonder and admiration. Instead, she found the cork rump such an amazing improvement to her dress that she resolved to wear it constantly upon all occasions, and to preserve the secret to herself: but accidents will happen.
Dressing in a great hurry for Ranelagh, she forgot to secure this new appendage to grace effectually, and unfortunately she dropped it in the Rotunda. A circle immediately surrounded it, all eyes were fixed upon it, the gentlemen were astonished; the ladies were enchanted with it, and in less than a week, there were very few toasts upon the Ton, whose tails were not as light as Lady Gro—nor’s.
This, Sir, is the rise and progress of the cork-rumps, which being so great an improvement in dress and elegance, must certainly merit the attention (particularly) of your female country readers of taste, who will certainly soon be in the fashion, and thus secured, neither fear the dangers of a regatta, or even an East India voyage.
My country friend having shewn my letter, with this intelligence, to his wife and daughters, I have received orders to procure one of them immediately; which I shall do, without loss of time, as that is great reason to believe that the price of cork will be greatly enhanced, by th: general fashion that will soon prevail all over England ; nay, I am well assur’d that these cork-rumps have already made their way to Edinburgh, and that a cargo of them is only detained by contrary winds at Chester, bound to Dublin.
I am, Sir,
Yours etc, etc.
An old Observor
The December edition of Town and Country magazine wrote the following, presumably a ‘nod’ to the Lady Grosvenor incident.
‘Bum-shops are opened in many parts of Westminster for the sale of cork bums, and report says they go swimmingly on. Tall ladies, and short ladies – fat ladies and lean ladies, must have bums’.
This fashion trend was somewhat short lived, possibly for obvious reasons, as above. By 1788 ‘the bum-less beauties’ had become all the rage.
This one really does beg the question ‘why on earth would you do this?‘ It was apparently quite common practice during the Georgian Era to wear false stomachs, often these were made from either tin or cork, to imitate pregnancy. It gets better … we discovered in the newspapers that men also wore them!
These tin pinafores were described by Archenholtz in the following way
‘This was the most senseless invention, against all decency and delicacy, and disfiguring the female body; it caused a deformity which is only seen in the female sex during pregnancy. These decorations were called pads, and the smaller ones paddies; they were usually made of tin, and were therefore called “tin pinafores”. These artificial stomachs were in great favour, particularly with unmarried women, which caused the wits to say that a revolution had taken place amongst the signs of the Zodiac, and the Twins had come too near Virgo. But above all, these pads were the butt of jokers, who used them unmercifully, and their use soon had to be discontinued. Such a fashion was in too bad taste to last long. It was in existence in London in February 1793, but by the end of the spring it was over in England and went to Dublin, where it was welcomed by the women. During the migration which took place as a result of the French war, it was taken to Germany by refugee English women, but was not copied there.’
The newspapers carried a variety of report about such items including this one from The Morning Post of 1781 that stated that they were in fact worn by the gentlemen and not the ladies at that time for the following reason:
The cork protuberance, par derriere is not of modern invention; – formerly in France great bellies were thought to confer an air of dignity, and to command respect, and as soup maigre would seldom confer that ornament, false bellies were worn by the men, whereupon the ladies put on false rumps, so that the men appeared to carry all before, and the women to carry all behind.
Our second offering is an extract from a much longer letter written by a country gentleman who was clearly nonplussed by England’s behaviour at the time who took it upon himself to write to the editor of The Tomahawk newspaper on the 5th February 1796.
What is the custom, is always thought becoming and decorous; though it sometimes is neither the one nor the other. What could be more indecorous than the false bellies and backsides worn by our ladies some time ago? Or, when a fat swarthy lady wore them, more unbecoming, not to say ugly and detestable?
Is it not truly ridiculous to see a thick fat fellow, with a neck like a bull, lap three or four yards of muslin round it, so as to become quite a raree shew, because it is the custom?
This article is for the gentlemen with a keen eye for fashion. Downy calves were false calves that were woven into the stockings to produce a ‘manly-looking calf’ and quite in vogue in the 1780’s. As a secondary benefit, they reputedly helped gentlemen afflicted with complaints requiring warmth. Mr Holland, of Broad Street, Bloomsbury developed a type of fleecy hosiery in which fine fleeces of wool are interwoven into a cotton piece of the common stocking texture.
We managed to find an entry in The World newspaper of 1788 advertising them.
An Entire NEW and highly-approved INVENTION, by HENRY and GEORGE HOLLAND,
At their Old Established Hosiery Manufactory, No. 2, Broad-street, Bloomsbury, opposite Drury-lane: Any Gentleman by applying as above, may have Stockings made with downy calves to look equal to the most beautiful formed by Nature. The flattering encouragement they have hitherto experienced from Gentlemen of the highest distinction, has induced the Inventors to usher this advertisement to the public.
Notwithstanding the downy calves are made on such a principle, as to be highly approved for their ease and elegance, the Inventors are enabled to sell them on very moderate terms. Made on the shortest notice to any size.
The description below from A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, dated 1816, provides more technical information about how these were made.
FLEECY-HOSIERY, a very useful kind of manufacture, in which fine fleeces of wool are interwoven into a cotton piece of the common stocking texture. The following is the specification of the patent granted to Mr. Holland, of Broad-street, Bloomsbury, in the county of Middlesex, for a method of making stockings, socks, waistcoats, and other clothing, for persons afflicted with complaints requiring warmth, and for common use in cold climates, and for making false or downy calves in stockings.
“Having in the common stocking-frame, twisted silk, cotton yarn, flaxen or hempen thread, worsted or woollen yarn, or any such-like twisted or spun materials, begin the work in the common manner of manufacturing hosiery, and having worked one or more course or courses in the common way, begin to add a coating, thus: draw the frame over the arch, and then hang wool or jersey, raw or unspun, upon the beards of the needles, and slide the same off their beards upon their stems, till it comes exactly under the nibs of the sinkers; then sink the jacks and sinkers, and bring forward the frame, till the wool or jersey is drawn under the beards of the needles, and having done this, draw the frame over the arch, and place a thread of spun materials upon the needles (under the nibs of the sinkers), and proceed in finishing the course in the usual way of manufacturing hosiery with spun materials. Anything manufactured in this way has, on the one side, the appearance of common hosiery, and on the other side the appearance of raw wool. The raw or unspun materials may be worked in with every course, or with every second, third, or other course or courses, in quantity proportioned to the warmth and thickness required. The above-mentioned raw or unspun materials may be fixed also thus: having drawn the frame over the arch, hang them upon the beards of the needles, slide them off the beards upon their stems, and without sinking the jacks and sinkers, draw the frame off the arch, and bring the raw or unspun materials forward under the beards of the needles; then draw the same over the arch, and proceed in finishing the course, as before directed. The said raw or unspun materials may be fixed likewise thus: hang them upon the beards of the needles, without having the frame over the arch, and slide them off their beards upon their stems; then bring forward the frame till the raw or un-spun materials are drawn under the beards of the needles, and, having done this, draw the frame over the arch, and proceed in finishing the course as before directed.
Hosiery may be coated by any of these methods, not only with wool or jersey, but also with silk, cotton, flax, hemp, hair, or other things of the like nature, raw or unspun, but the method first described fixes them most firmly. The common stocking-frame is mentioned above, but any other frame, upon a similar principle, may answer the purpose. The method of making the false or downy calves in stockings is by working raw or unspun wool, or jersey, or any other raw or unspun materials, into the calves of stockings, in the different methods before described, and to any required form or thickness. The latter use to which this invention is applied, we may be allowed to say, is somewhat ludicrous.
As many of you will be aware we are busily writing the biography of the noted 18th-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, for a few months mistress of ‘Prinny,’ who was later to become King George IV. Her daughter Georgiana was said to be the Prince’s progeny.
So far much of our work has been researching her life, leaving little time to write any blogs about her. We’re really excited by this research which will shed new light on Grace but in the meantime, we felt that it really was about time we began to share something about her with our readers. Whilst we can’t give away too much yet, there are one or two things we can release and so we give you the Bellona Cap or Helmet, as invented by Grace herself which was the height of fashion and taste during the spring of 1786 in Paris.
Firstly a description of the cap from The General Evening Post of the 30th March 1786, and it’s attribution to Grace’s invention:
Bellona’s helmet is the fashionable ornament at present in Paris for the mode comme il faut. The vizor is of tiger spotted sattin, bordered with a narrow black ribbon, the cawl, very high and puffed, of blue sattin, tied round with a broad nakara-coloured ribbon, edged with black. This ribbon forms a large bow before, and another behind, and joins two wide lappets of Italian gauze, descending below the waist. Five feathers, two of which are green, two nakara, and one black, form the crest of this beautiful helmet: The hair flowing behind, and two large buckles falling on the bosom, complete the tout ensemble. The honour of this invention is intirely due to our handsome countrywoman Mrs. E____, still the favourite of the D. of O.
The Whitehall Evening Post, reporting a couple of days later also made mention ofGrace.
Mademoiselle E. the Duke of O.’s mistress, is at present the Perdita of Paris. Her new invented Bellona Cap is the reigning ton there . . .
And now, the cap itself, from Cabinet des Modes, 15th March 1786. As you can see it completely matches the description above, right down to the black edged nakara (bright poppy red) ribbons.
In case you wondered, this is not an image of Grace sporting the hat, sadly! We do know from archive records that not only was Grace an innovator of fashion but that she was also the Imelda Marcos of hats, having purchased in the region of 100 hats and bonnets in a wide variety of colours, styles and fabrics, but predominantly made from silk and taffeta, over a two year period whilst in France, costing in total around 2,000 Francs!
Bellona was a Roman goddess of war, always depicted wearing the military helmet which inspired this cap. In ancient Rome senate meetings were held in the Temple of Bellona (Templum Bellonæ) where the fetiales (priestly advisers) held ceremonies regarding war, peace and foreign treaties which raises the very interesting possibility that Grace was presenting herself as such an adviser to her lover, the Duke of Orléans, in pre-revolutionary Paris?
For more information about hats from the era, you might enjoy our blog ‘Hideous Hats’.