Review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns. 20 June 1814.

The review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns, 20 June 1814

The Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns landed at Dover on the 6th of June 1814 for a visit lasting just over two weeks to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba.

The pursuits of the illustrious strangers while in London, consisted of visiting our public institutions; and their total indifference to pomp and parade, with the consequent facility afforded to exhibit the national good feeling and respect, elicited the admiration of the entire population, manifested by the loud shouts of welcome with which they were universally greeted.

The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, June 1814
The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, June 1814 by Thomas Phillips (George, 3rd Earl of Egremont is presented by George, Prince Regent, to Tsar Alexander I of Russia in the Marble Hall at Petworth with the King of Prussia, Frederick William III); National Trust, Petworth House

In the painting above, you can see the young Prince Augustus of Prussia (on the left-hand side of the portrait) turning his head to speak to Lord Charles Bentinck who is standing directly behind him. Lord Charles was the Prince Regent’s friend, equerry and putative former son-in-law and was a constant presence throughout the festivities, often found at the prince’s side. He is also the direct ancestor of the royal family and one of the subjects of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal. No doubt, Lord Charles Bentinck was present at the review which took place in Hyde Park, attended by the Allied Sovereigns, on 20th June 1814. But, before that, the dignitaries had been seen out riding.

The Emperor Alexander, in the dress of a private gentleman, and accompanied by the Duchess of Oldenburgh, his sister, frequently promenaded in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, at an early hour in the morning; and their Majesties, accompanied by the officers of the household, took an airing on horse-back in Hyde Park on the 12th of June, remaining nearly three hours, much to the gratification of the company there assembled.

Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna (1788-1819), the wife of Duke George of Oldenburg (1784-1812).
Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna (1788-1819), the wife of Duke George of Oldenburg (1784-1812). The State Hermitage Museum

All was pomp and ceremony on the day of the review, however.

But the review of the household cavalry, and volunteer and regular infantry of the metropolis ordered for the 20th of June, was probably the most interesting exhibition that occurred during their stay in London; the novelty of the assemblage of two foreign crowned heads, accompanied by veteran leaders of their armies, to witness a military spectacle in the suburbs of our metropolis, and in the presence of the Prince Regent: with the singular coincidence of the proclamation of peace on the same day, at the usual places, and at which ceremony also, a portion of those troops were afterwards called upon to assist, combined to produce a general feeling of pride and satisfaction, as shewn in the faces of the countless multitudes who were seen hurrying at an early hour towards the scene of action.

This Print Representing His Majesty Reviewing the Volunteer Corps assembled in Hyde Park, in honor of his Birthday, June 4 1799
This depiction of George III reviewing troops at Hyde Park in 1799 gives an idea of how the scene would have looked at the Allied Sovereigns’ visit in 1814. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The various regiments took up their position by 9 o’clock in the morning, and the arrangements being completed soon after ten, a scene then presented itself which was never surpassed on a similar occasion, being greatly enhanced by the serenity of the weather, the sun beaming in all his glory, shedding his bright refulgence on the scene. At half-past eleven a royal salute of twenty-one guns announced the arrival of the royal party at the park gate, at the same moment the deafening cheers of the populace were heard at all parts of the park.

Review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns. 20 June 1814.
Review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns. 20 June 1814. Royal Collection Trust

The Prince Regent entered the park with his hat off, bowing to the vast assembly, the Emperor Alexander riding on his right hand, and the king of Prussia on his left, the magnificent Staff which followed, comprised nearly three hundred persons, of all nations, among whom the veteran Field-Marshal Blucher, and the Hetman Platoff shone conspicuous.

Count Platoff, Hetman of the Cossacks by Peter Edward Stroehling, signed and dated 1814.
Count Platoff, Hetman of the Cossacks by Peter Edward Stroehling, signed and dated 1814. Royal Collection Trust

After their Majesties had inspected the line, a general feu de joie was discharged, and the regiments afterwards passed in review order. The illustrious visitors having expressed the greatest satisfaction at the discipline and general appearance of the troops to the officer in command, the corps marched off the ground, highly gratified by the flattering encomiums passed upon them by some of the greatest warriors of the age.

His Majesty George III Reviewing the Armed Associations on the Fourth of June 1799 in Hyde Park
No doubt the scene in 1814 would have looked similar to this print of George III reviewing troops in Hyde Park 15 years earlier. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The public anxiety was so great on this occasion, to witness the proceedings, that every tree was filled with people, and in consequence several melancholy accidents happened, by limbs of the trees breaking and falling on the heads of those standing beneath, the pressure of the crowd rendering it impossible to escape.

Number of Corps reviewed at Hyde Park on the 20th June 1814

We have also written about the visit of the Allied Sovereigns for our great friend and fellow author, Laurie Benson. You can find our guest blog in her Cozy Drawing Room.

Source: Historical Recollections of Hyde Park by Thomas Smith (of Mary-le-bone), 1836

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Sketch of a ball at Almack's 1815, from The reminiscences and recollections of Captain Gronow, being anecdotes of the camp, court, clubs and society, 1810-1860. Beau Brummell is to the left, deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland.

The Cut of the Clothes: A Story of Prinny and Beau Brummell

It is our pleasure to welcome a new guest to our blog. She writes under the nom de plume of Erato. Her latest book is a fictional account of the relationship between Prinny, the Prince of Wales and the infamous George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell.

Why should a story about beauty and fashion be about a bunch of men? — When Beau Brummell takes centre stage, what else can the book be about?

The Regency Dandy, Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell

Many modern grooming habits, which we take for granted today, were established by Beau Brummell. These include the exclusively drab colours for men’s formalwear, the absence of lace and frills, and the practice of bathing daily. (Brummell’s bathing habits were so mystifying to the Regency gentlemen that they actually lined up at his house to watch him bathe every morning — a lengthy procedure, as the Beau was quite thorough about it, taking as much as two hours to complete his washing).

A Dandy, c.1818.
A Dandy c.1818. Lewis Walpole Library

In The Cut of the Clothes, we learn about Brummell from the viewpoint of his famous friend and rival, the Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent, later King George IV. It was the Prince’s support that allowed Brummell to claim the sort of influence he obtained over the London ton, but soon the young Beau began to overshadow his mentor’s influence. Famously, when someone once asked what Brummell would do if he lost the Prince’s support, he quipped, I’ll cut young George and make a fashion of the old one. (The old one being the Prince’s father, George III.)

The practice of social “cutting” was what led to perhaps the most famous piece of Brummelliana: when the Prince at last became fed up with Brummell’s insults, he cut Brummell, and made his decision clear at a party.

As it is told in The Cut of the Clothes, from the Prince’s viewpoint:

He had lately won an almost unheard of £20,000 at the table. To commemorate this achievement, he and his core dandy friends were to throw an extravagant ball; one which I daresay must have consumed a goodly portion of the funds it was meant to celebrate having gained. Every body who was any body in the ton was to be there. Frances, Isabella, even Caroline were invited (though I understood the lattermost to have left the country for Italy by then, praise be to God.) Lord Byron would be there. Frederica and my brother were to attend. Not a name was missing from the guest list, but for one. It was mine.

George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, 1807-1809 by George Sanders.
George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, 1807-1809 by George Sanders. Royal Collection Trust.

This was surely no oversight; the Beau must have known I had cut him, and have therefore influenced his friends (with whom I was still connected) not to invite me as any guest of their own. And yet, as Prince Regent, I did not need an invitation.

It was like a modern droit du seigneur: if I chose to attend at any ball or assembly, invited or not, it was considered an honor to the hosts to have me there. Naturally, Mr. Brummell was to be at this event, and I surely had no desire to see him again; but I took into consideration how many others whom I dearly loved and wish’d to see, would be there.

Was that wretch to deprive me of my company, of my happiness? Never! I wrote to the hosts of this party, announcing my plans to attend notwithstanding their little oversight about inviting me. There was no need to ask their permission.

George IV when Prince Regent by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1814.
George IV when Prince Regent by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1814.
© National Portrait Gallery, London

The fashionable Argyle [also Argyll] Rooms had been rented to accommodate this glorious event. It is a most splendid location: the entrance hall is painted with frescos of Corinthian pilasters and compartments, footed with green marble. It was there, waiting to greet the guests, that I saw my four hosts in all their tasteful finery: Alvanley, Mildmay, Pierrepoint and, naturally, the Beau himself. They were lined up, two to each side, in suits so well tailored that there was not a single wrinkle between them.

It was my polite duty to greet them. I began at the left side, speaking first to Mildmay; then across to Pierrepoint. Beside him was Brummell, eyes glaring at me despite his false smile. I passed him over, making every display of not having noticed him at all, as if the man were no more visible to me than a f–t. People around us saw what I had done; I could feel a sudden chill to course through the whole room. I had just affronted the great Beau Brummell, and made known to everybody my cut of his company. I crossed back to the left to greet Alvanley, and that done, was about to make my way up to the vestibule and stairs.

Then loudly, loudly, oh! so loud, there was a cry from behind my shoulder in the voice which I knew belong’d to Brummell:

            Aw, Alvanley, who is your fat friend?

Every person who stood in that passageway cringed. There was a moment of silence as nobody knew what to do. Then I heard, dreadfully, the rising sound of a giggle: a crescendo that soon became a mighty roar of laughter. Everybody was laughing, and this delight was being had at my expense. Brummell was plainly quite pleased with himself to have thus humiliated me. 

If you have ever wondered “Who was Beau Brummell?” then you might like to read the account of his reign as the king of fashion in The Cut of the Clothes.

 

A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, 1763, Getty Museum (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Grace Dalrymple Elliott – New book due out January 2016

The 15th of May marks the anniversary of the death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Georgian Era courtesan and reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ daughter, Georgiana Augusta Frederica.

Georgiana Augusta Frederica Elliott (1782–1813), Later Lady Charles Bentinck courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Georgiana Augusta Frederica Elliott (1782–1813), Later Lady Charles Bentinck courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Grace died in Ville d’Avray, Paris, in 1823, having lived a long and tumultuous life filled with adventure and experiencing both the highs and the lows of the society of her age. Although she is best remembered as a demi-rep, there is so much more to her than that: she was not merely a fashion icon and the mistress of titled men, but a strong woman in her own right, one who lived upon her own terms. Sadly though, at the end of her life, Grace had little left; her one remaining close family relative was her young grand-daughter who she adored, and Grace’s dying regret was that she had nothing but her best wishes to leave her.

As long-term readers of our blog may know, we have written a biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the product of many years of research into her life, which will be published by Pen and Sword. It contains 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 maternal and paternal family led across the globe. It is both the story of Grace’s life and her family history.

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

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott will be published in January 2016, and is available for pre-order from this summer.

If you would like to be kept informed in the meantime, please do consider subscribing to our blog where, alongside our remit of ‘blogging about anything and everything to do with the Georgian Era’, we will also now post regular updates on the progress of our book.

Napoleon and the Prince Regent

Napoleon_Bellerophon

We would very much like to welcome our latest guest, Shannon Selin who has so very kindly offered to write an article about Napoleon and the Prince Regent for us.  Shannon is the author of Napoleon in America, which imagines what might have happened if Napoleon had escaped from St. Helena and wound up in the United States in 1821. She blogs about Napoleonic and 19th century history at shannonselin.com.  Shannon’s book is available from Amazon in paperback or from Amazon  as an E-book by clicking on the links.

There has recently been publicity about the letter Napoleon Bonaparte wrote to King George IV (then the Prince Regent) requesting asylum in England after his 1815 abdication from the throne of France. The letter, which is on display at Windsor Castle as part of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, reads:

“Royal Highness, Prey to the factions which divide my country, and to the enmity of the greatest powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career, and I come, like Themistocles, to seat myself at the hearth of the British people. I put myself under the protection of their laws, which I claim from your Royal Highness, as the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies. Rochefort, 13 July 1815. Napoleon.”

Before writing this, Napoleon said to his advisors, “I am not acquainted with the Prince Regent; but from all I have heard of him I cannot avoid placing reliance on his noble character.” According to Lord Holland, on reading the letter the Prince Regent reportedly said, “Upon my word, a very proper letter: much more so, I must say, than any I ever received from Louis XVIII.” These words are surprising in the context of Prinny’s general view of Napoleon.  Member of Parliament Samuel Whitbread wrote in April 1814: “I hear [the Regent] says I am the worst man God Almighty every formed, except Bonaparte….”

The Prince Regent detested Napoleon and was a great supporter of France’s Bourbon monarchy. During Napoleon’s reign, he provided refuge in the UK for Louis XVIII and his family. Prinny openly advocated the return of the Bourbons to power, in contrast with the more cautious approach taken by his cabinet. Britain’s foreign minister, Lord Castlereagh, feared that Britain’s European allies would regard British patronage of the Bourbons as an attempt to scuttle the 1814 peace negotiations with Napoleon. To get around this, the Prince Regent made a personal overture to Russia’s Tsar Alexander, through Russian ambassador Prince Lieven, entreating him to dethrone Napoleon.

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Not surprisingly, Napoleon’s 1815 request for British asylum was refused. Napoleon was instead exiled to the island of St. Helena, where he remained until his death in 1821. For a while Napoleon continued to harbour illusions that Prinny had no particular dislike of him. He blamed his exile on those surrounding the Prince. He told British Admiral Pulteney Malcolm that “if old George [III] were well he would have been better treated, he was not so much in the hands of his ministers as the Regent; besides, he would have seen the bad consequences to royalty of debasing a person who had once worn a crown by the choice of a nation. The Regent should remember the flattering messages he sent to him at the Peace of Amiens.

Napoleon considered writing to Prince George from exile. When he learned that the letter would be opened and read by British officials before it was delivered, he decided not to, considering that inconsistent with both his and the Regent’s dignity.

Caricature_of_George_III_&_Napoleon

Napoleon was not entirely unaware of Prinny’s true character. Pressing Admiral Malcolm for details about English drinking habits, Napoleon said, “It was the fashion when the Prince Regent was young. I have been told he sometimes sat at table till he fell off his chair; was it not so?

Napoleon also thought it strange that the Prince Regent should choose as his mistress the Marchioness of Hertford, a lady who was over fifty and already a grandmother. “It appears that you like old women in England.”

Marchioness_of_Hertford_1800

The longer Napoleon sat pondering his fate, the more it dawned on him that the Prince Regent might not be his advocate. He told his companion General Gourgaud, “When Louis XVIII dies, great events may take place; and if Lord Holland should then be Prime Minister of England, they may bring me back to Europe. But what I most hope for is the death of the Prince Regent, which will place the young Princess Charlotte on the English throne. She will bring me back to Europe.”

In the end, Napoleon was probably not far off thinking the thoughts the caricaturist George Cruikshank puts in his mouth as he addresses Prinny, the “Sun”: “To thee I call— But with no friendly voice, & add thy name—G—P—Rt!. to tell thee how I hate thy beams, that bring to my remembrance from what state I fell &c.”

Boney Addressing the Sun