… but we have flowers

November 19, 2015 at 9:19 am (europe, history, news) (, , )

flower power 2015

A departure today, for I cannot forget this video of a little French-speaking boy and his father.

I’ve been reading about the assassination of Spencer Perceval – related to Emma’s cousins, the Comptons – in May of 1812. In another fifty years, the U.S. would lose its president to an assassin’s bullet – Why was Lincoln’s death shocking, while Perceval’s shocked his family but left others quite blasé. Lincoln became an obsession with historians, and Perceval seems to go down in history as one whose death in office was simply something that sometimes “happens”.

Yesterday, I finally looked up some newspapers of the incident. British newspapers of 1812 were only four-pages – sheets printed front and back, folded down the center like a letter. They were jam-packed with ads, notices for plays and routs, goings-on at court, and of course news of the day. I was quite surprised at the Perceval story in The Times. A LOT of talk about Members mulling around the Woolsack; it reads more like a trial transcript, with testimony, than the story of a statesman’s death. A more enlightening article was published the same day (12 May 1812) in The Morning Chronicle – which even included mention of Mrs. Perceval and the children.

And, for one only too confronted nightly with television images of soldiers and guns, the Chronicle‘s article touches on the mayhem in the streets of London. For crowds DID gather around the Houses of Parliament as word got out. “The deadful [sic] intelligence spread with amazing rapidity, and before six o’clock, the crowd collected on the outside was so great, that it was deemed prudent to close the doors of Westminster Hall, as well as to plant constables at all the entrances… Ingress was denied to all persons but Members and witnesses.”

The Horse Guards were called out, though the Chronicle uses the curious phrase “to ensure tranquility, and produce a dispersion of the mob”. The Foot Guards and the City Militia were also called upon. Other than people gathering to hear, first-hand, the latest news, there was never a need to hunt for Bellingham; the assassin had never left, and came forward within minutes.

The Chronicle hints at why Perceval never became an historian’s goldmine. Towards the article’s end, a lengthy paragraph reads (in part): “Thus has the existence of the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval been terminated – a man of whom much good may and ought to be said, and who errors shall be, with his remains, consigned to the grave…. However mistaken may have been his political views, and however disastrous for his country the result, none have denied him the praise of integrity of intention.”

Then, rather like “the king is dead, long live the king” talk turns to the open seat (Perceval was Member for Northampton; Spencer Compton, Emma’s cousin, would be elected) as well as giving “the Prince Regent time to arrange a new Administration”.

In 1812, they were convinced Bellingham had acted alone, and for his own ends and grievances. “Sense” could (I presume) be made of a”senseless” act.

With so much misery in the world from so many sources, WHY impose more misery upon others so senselessly? I, too, take a bit of comfort in this father’s idea of Flower Power 2015.

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

“Jane, is that you?”

November 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm (history, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

The “Jane” in question here is not Jane Austen but Jane Perceval, wife then widow of Spencer Perceval the British Prime Minister murdered in 1812.

Although my first volume of Smith & Gosling biography begins in 1814 – the history surrounding the PM’s death two years prior is vital: Spencer Perceval was a relative of Mamma Smith’s brother-in-law Charles, 1st Marquess of Northampton. The Marquess’s son, young Lord Compton, ended up in Parliament soon thereafter. Several letters discuss the Percevals — Jane and her children — during the immediate aftermath of the assassination.

One letter, written by Jane herself, has her on the defensive against an out-cry caused by the widow’s upcoming remarriage. Emma Smith mentions the fact of her marriage to “Sir H. Carr” (no embellishments) in her 1815 diary.

The woman, obviously distraught at the negativism, and combating an illness, was pleading her case at such length, that I simply had to find out more about her. And that’s when I came across this purported portrait on the blog PottoingAround. It went up for auction in May 2014.

janeperceval_vigee lebrun

A major  “anniversary” year in 2012 (200 years since the assassination), there started some thoughts on commemorating Perceval; at least one biography came out; some press articles &c. It is less his death than how the family responded and coped that interests me. I’ve read of similar backlash when Mrs Thrale (who made no bones about how unhappy Henry Thrale made her) married Mr. Piozzi. “Public opinion” as well as private sentiments were making themselves felt in this case, however — especially as Mrs Perceval had been granted a generous “pension”. This remains an area I’ll have to delve into a bit more, just out of curiosity.

This portrait, a pastel by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, dates to 1804. The French artist was resident in England at the time, so the fact of it being her work seems not in question. What IS questioned is the identification of the sitter.

It’s difficult to compare portraits – and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on various representations looking like each other: there are too many portrait series where the sitter is KNOWN and the portraits look very little alike (I might, as a quick for instance, mention Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s several portraits).

For my purposes, I sure HOPE this is Jane Perceval. Hands-down, it would win my case; for I wish to call Jane Perceval, in May 1812, a ‘vibrant’ woman in her forties. No one viewing this portrait would be immune to the charms of this face just eight years later.

* * *

  • More info on Vigée Le Brun, the terrific Batguano site (this pastel is near the top of the page)
  • the “hidden in plain sight” family history of an MP
  • recent news on a Spencer Perceval memorial plaque

Permalink 4 Comments