Victoria & Thomas Sully

July 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm (books, british royalty, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings) (, , )

Yesterday I watched two episodes of the recent series VICTORIA, with Jenna Coleman in the title role. Episode 2 had a session of the Queen sitting to the portraitist Sir James Hayter (Guy Oliver-Watts) and ends with Victoria “needing help” at the unveiling of his resultant portrait.

Coleman as Victoria

This had me running to fetch my copy of Queen Victoria and Thomas Sully, Carrie Rebora Barratt‘s book that includes Sully’s 1837-38 diary of his stay in London with his daughter Blanche. I remember picking up this book in a newly-reopened Oxfam bookshop in Winchester in 2007. Ooh, they had some good titles then!

Not only does it tell about the MANY portraits the poor Queen sat for – be it miniatures; destined for postage stamps and coins; official portraits; commissions (like Sully’s – destined for the U.S.) – the book also has something to say about Hayter as well as his rival Wilkie — whose portrait the Queen did not think “very like”.

_I_ had to chuckle over her comments (culled from Victoria’s diary) about William Charles Ross – who painted at least TWO of the Smith sisters; Fanny Seymour (which I believe I have found, as a photograph of the original) and Maria Seymour – which was sold at auction, and about which Mamma (Mrs Charles Smith) has left us a letter.

Victoria_Sully

Amazon has a “new” copy – but many “near new” can be found in secondhand book markets. Definitely find a copy with its dust jacket.

Notice, too, of a tiny buried citation in the end credits of “Victoria”: that the series is based on the book by A.N. Wilson. The New York Times said of the book in 2014, “One more foray into a well-thumbed archive inevitably risks diminishing returns. In the absence of some new trove of documents, Wilson’s narrative holds few factual surprises. Rather, its novelty lies in psychological analysis, making his a Victoria for the age of reality TV. A celebrity who craves a private life but also courts popularity through new media technologies.”

A TV series is about as close to “reality TV” as one can get – so perhaps as fitting a source as any of the many biographies of Queen Victoria.

For those interested in “tie-ins”, Daisy Goodwin (series creator) has authored a “Victoria” novel, and Helen Rappaport has PBS’s “official companion book” to the TV series.

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Secrets from the Royal Archives

February 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm (british royalty, diaries, entertainment, history, news, people) (, , )

The Vaults are OPENING!

For some time I have been reading about the Georgian Papers Programme. I cannot say I am one to read timelines, and hadn’t realized until author and researcher Charlotte Frost sent me a link: The end of January 2017 produced the first glimpses of this five-year project, which unearths documents from the Royal Archives and the Royal Library at Windsor.

FABULOUSLY, the entire project will be free-of-charge and available Worldwide!

According to the recent press release, by the year 2020 350,000 documents from the Georgian period will be available to researchers, scholars and the general public alike – an estimate is that only 15% of the holdings has ever been published.

princess-amelia

It is well worth the effort to find the BBC TV program George III – The Genius of the Mad King, which I found to be a fascinating peep into the early days of this “opening of the archives”. From researchers finding a lock of hair, to a look at Frogmore – the retreat of Queen Charlotte and her daughters, to the cries of Princess Amelia (above) through her letters.

Authorized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, public access is through the cooperation of the Royal Collection Trust, King’s College London, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, William & Mary, as well as other key U.S. institutions such as the Library of Congress, Mount Vernon and the Sons of the American Revolution.

  • Read Smithson Magazine’s article on seeing the American Revolution through the Eyes of George III

The documents NOW online are a treat to someone like me, with an eye for the Queen and the royal princesses: The Queen’s diaries have shown me, written in her own hand, that the Queen saw “Miss Meen the Paintress” on the 27 October 1789. This was a fertile period for Margaret Meen – and for her pupils, the four Smith Sisters of Erle Stoke Park, Wiltshire.

I’ve also read a letter from Queen Charlotte to her husband in which the Walsinghams were mentioned – these are relations of Charlotte Gosling (née the Hon. Charlotte de Grey, a daughter of Lord Walsingham; step-mother to my diarist, Mary Gosling). I’ve recently come across a small group of letters, some of which were written from “Old Windsor”, by Charlotte Gosling’s mother. It’s always exciting to find another side of the same conversation!

The digital items also include documents relating to Lady Charlotte Finch and the children of the royal nursery. I’m sure there are many Jane Austen fans who will LOVE to walk through the Georgian Menu Books. They run to 24 volumes! And include menus from Carlton House, Windsor, St. James, and the Brighton Pavilion. _I_ may even have mention of a few of those parties, in diaries and letters, by those who attended (a thrilling thought).

In short, there is MUCH to explore – and many more items to come!

“With Her Majesty’s full authority, the project is part of Royal Collection Trust’s objective to increase public access to and understanding of primary source material held in the collection.”

 

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Tory vs Whig

July 11, 2015 at 12:35 pm (british royalty, history, people, research) (, , , )

I must admit to an intense boredom over politics. For, in the end, no matter what, nothing ever really seems to change. Translate that boredom to the past and even to another country, and you will easily see that confusion over “labels” is bound to occur.

None more so than the terms TORY and WHIG. At least with Labour and Conservative one feels on surer ground…

But working in the early 19th century rather than the early 20th century, Whiggism and Toryism are two “isms” I have to get my head around. It is not helped by the fact that, while the words remained the same, their meanings did not. How highly entertaining to be told that the word Whig came into English vocabulary from the Scots Gaelic and was “applied to horse thieves and, later, to Scottish Presbyterians”. Tory had as ignominious a beginning: “an Irish term suggesting a papist outlaw”.

Of course _I_ can’t go that far back either. But must concentrate on the pull of the parties as occurred from the late 18th century into the early 19th century.

So why this “dip” into politics – which I can quite easily avoid in research that tends towards the biographical and the social?

Around the turn of the century, I have several gentlemen in the House of Commons: Joshua Smith (Emma’s grandfather), William Chute (Emma’s uncle), Charles Smith (Emma’s papa), and even the two Compton men, Charles and Spencer (Emma’s uncle and cousin, respectively). William Gosling, Mary’s father, is once caught out nearly all night, at a debate in the House.

Sooner or later I have to pay attention to politics!

But my recent question had been to remind myself the years Spencer Compton served. Some early letters describe his year forays into giving speeches, and (since he was a very young man!) give insight into his general personality. It was with great interest, therefore, that I read about his voting patterns in the short summation at the History of Parliament website.

Given that I have rather a soft spot for the ladies of Torloisk, the Clephane family into which Spencer married in summer 1815, I could not help but chuckle over an anecdote in the write-up on Spencer, Lord Compton (later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton): “He voted for the repeal of the Irish window tax, 21 Apr. 1818, opposed extension of the forgery bill, 14 May, and supported Brougham’s amendment to the aliens bill, 22 May. Sir James Mackintosh commented, ‘Lord Compton shows propensities to Whiggery which some ascribe to his lady, though it be a little singular that a Miss Maclean from the Isle of Mull should be a Whig’.

signature_margaret clephane

MargaretCompton

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Belated Birthday Greetings: Hugh Laurie

June 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm (british royalty, entertainment) (, , )

Missed it by one day (June 11th):

blackadder

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Were the CROWDS as JUBILANT in 1796?

May 2, 2015 at 10:08 am (british royalty, europe) ()

In 1796, my Smith & Gosling girls were mere shadows in their mothers’ eyes, but that January saw the birth of a prospective Monarch of England – a baby girl ultimately known as Princess Charlotte of Wales. Her end, in childbed, WAS cause for comment in the diaries & letters of the Smith & Gosling family. But it’s the little Princess’ birth I focus on today – on the heels of the announcement from Buckingham Palace of a Princess for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

princess charlotte

duchess_birth

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Prinny’s Taylor now on Kindle

March 20, 2015 at 10:17 am (books, british royalty, fashion, history) (, , , , )

prinnys_taylorThe ever-vigilant Charlotte Frost (Sir William Knighton: The Strange Career of a Regency Physician) — who is working on an exciting new project herself! — passed on word of a book we both have been anticipating with great pleasure:

Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830)

Louis’ descendant Charles Bazalgette has worked for YEARS to piece together the life of the man who tailored some of the wardrobe worn by the Prince Regent – Charles even gives insight into the story behind the nickname Prinny (which I never knew, since, like Charles, it isn’t a term I often seek to employ).

There are even several chapters about 18th-century tailoring, which should be of especial interest to those who sew and create. The fascinating story, however, is the rise of Louis Bazalgette. I mean, how DID he become a preferred tailor to the Prince of Wales?? If he existed nowadays, he’d be displaying a Royal Warrant of Appointment at his premises!

To quote the book synopsis: Prinny’s Taylor “presents a new angle on Georgian and Regency life, as seen through the eyes of a little French tailor who by his own efforts became a very wealthy propertied merchant”.

A little-known aside: my Emma mentions Mr Bazalgette in a letter, as a neighbor to a friend she visited!

 

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Everything’s Comin’ up GEORGIAN

April 8, 2014 at 6:49 pm (british royalty, entertainment, history, news) (, , , , , , , , , )

In anticipation of the 300th anniversary of the accession of the first Hanoverian King (1 August) British television is beginning to present a lot of things “Georgian”.

A friend watched the first among this series  — and recommends the collaborative BBC2/BBC4/Radio3 EIGHTEENTH CENTURY BRITAIN: MAJESTY, MUSIC, AND MISCHIEF.

Being in the US, I can only look on, and drool. The BBC website has teasers that include:

  • Explore the story behind the Charity Concert “The Messiah” at the Foundling Hospital (1750)
  • The “mass consumption” of music
  • A look at “the first Georgians”
  • An examination of the World Premier, in Prague, of Mozart’s Don Giovanni

mozart_ye

And SO much more!

It’s a RICH era, and lucky will be those who can watch/listen, or find items online. READ more at The Telegraph.

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Mystery portrait ID’ed: Queen Elizabeth I

February 18, 2014 at 2:27 am (british royalty, estates, fashion, news, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

Back in November 2013 I ran a lengthy post, hoping to ID a portrait which was a focal piece in a drawing – possibly sketched by eldest sister Augusta Smith – of some room that was wholly unidentified.

mystery lady and deer

click photo to read original post

In trying to find information about the ceiling medallions in Tring Park’s drawing room (still in situ!), I found this Hertfordshire website that I’m sure I have read before. Only, last evening, it took on new meaning! The description is all about Drummond Smith’s Tring Park, c1802:

The apartments are handsomely furnished, and in several of them there are some good paintings, among which we cannot avoid noticing a singular whole length of Queen Elizabeth, which hangs in the small drawing-room upon the right of the hall. This painting is not improbably a copy of that by Zucchero, which hangs in the palace at Kensington….

In my original post I was hoping against hope that it might have been a family member. BUT: I’ve now found an image of that very “singular whole length” portrait!

queen elizabeth

Major OMG!

Several books, like this one from 1802, describe the painting, identifying it as a Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, and one among several full-length portraits owned by Drummond (Emma’s great uncle; it is his baronetcy that Charles Joshua Smith, Emma’s eldest brother, inherited). Rather than Kensington Palace, its home is Hampton Court. But even this portrait carries some mystery: fascinating article by Francis Carr (a companion page can be read here).

So much is up for grabs: the portrait’s sitter – its artist – the date it was done. But my mystery has been solved: The room at Tring which once contained the portrait in the sketch being described as “the small drawing room upon the right of the hall.”

faces of QEI

NB: In looking for confirmation that it is indeed a portrait of QEI, I found this fab array of portraits:

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Queen Charlotte’s Brooch

January 4, 2014 at 11:33 am (british royalty, fashion, history, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been crafting some “mini-biographies” of the Smiths & Goslings lately; one gave a short history of Charlotte Gosling, Mary’s younger (half-) sister. One of the thrilling stories about her occurred early in her life: her Godmother was England’s Queen Charlotte! It is doubtful that her name derives from the Queen; Charlotte Gosling’s mother was another Charlotte, the former Charlotte de Grey. But the connection undoubtedly could not have hurt, and it is possible that Charlotte (de Grey) Gosling was named for the queen: her father, Thomas 2nd Lord Walsingham, was Groom of the Bedchamber during the 1770s (his daughter Charlotte born in 1774).

Charlotte Gosling’s niece, another Charlotte — Charlotte Christie — remembered that when baby Charlotte was christened, her godmother the Queen gave the elder Gosling girls each a brooch, with her likeness. What could have happened to such treasures?!? What might these brooches have looked like? Searching, I found one that _I_ wouldn’t have minded being gifted with, by my sister’s godmother.

queen charlotteQueen Charlotte
J.H. Hurter, 1781
enamel, copper, gold, rubies, pearls

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The Fashionable World

October 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm (british royalty, estates, history, london's landscape, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , )

Today, I came across this mention of a glittering party at truly sumptuous-sounding residence, the home of Sir Drummond and Lady Smith:

LADY DRUMMOND SMITH’S ASSEMBLY.

     Decidedly is the residence of the above fashionable Lady, on the Terrace, in Piccadilly, one of the most elegant mansions in the metropolis. There are four drawing-rooms of ample dimensions on each floor, superbly furnished, enriched with sculpture, &c. On Tuesday evening the house was opened with singular eclat; the company exceeded 500 persons. In the great gallery a band of chosen musicians were stationed during the night; the latter was illuminated by radiant arches and festoons of variegated lamps; glasses of wonderful magnitude and beauty, some of them exceeding 10 feet in height, were placed in appropriate situations to reflect every object (particularly the Grecian chandeliers) ad infinitum.

The write-up was published in The Morning Post on 18 May 1810.

It has been suggested, in a history of the Comptons, that the turnpike played a role in the marriage of Mamma and Papa Smith: Drummond Smith “built No. 144 Piccadilly, next to his brother’s house, and just beyond the two houses was the turnpike gate which was the entrance to London. One night he was helped home by a Mr. Charles Smith, no relation, … who [later] married Augusta, daughter of Joshua Smith.”

Just had to find a map, showing the probable location (for the area was bombed in World War II and the building does not exist). 144-145 Piccadilly were located between (present-day) Apsley House and Hamilton Place. This is a map from 1795.

piccadilly

I’ve written before about the residence of Drummond’s brother Sir John and Lady Smith-Burgess, at 145 Piccadilly; Queen Elizabeth lived there as a child. You can find a superb exterior shot, and some interiors of the Royal Residence at English Heritage.

piccadilly2

Strolling through some other newspaper mentions, I am intrigued to begin copying some of these DE-LIGHT-FUL writings under the heading of “The Fashionable World“. So announcing two *new* items you’ll see come on the blog: Under the Smith & Gosling Timeline I’ll post some of these (typically one or two lines) short newspaper mentions of the family. And on its own, I’ll post some – with a desire to do all – elements of early “Fashionable World” mentions (say, 1800-1810 or so).

Useful links:

lady drummond smith3

LADY SMITH
second wife of Sir Drummond Smith, bart
née Elizabeth Monckton,
daughter of the 2nd Viscount Galway;
widow of Sir Francis Sykes, bart, of Basildon

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