One of my favorite activities is to visit beautiful, historic houses with lovely art and furnishings—even better if they are Georgian. In addition to the lovely rooms, there are so many captivating stories to remind me of the bygone era and the colorful personalities who used to live and/or socialize within them.
Hertford House is located on Manchester Square only blocks from the flat I’ve leased near Baker Street and quite close to the fabulous shops on Oxford Street as well. Because it’s small compared to other museums in London, it’s much less crowded and suitable for a leisurely visit. It is more of an art gallery than an example of a Georgian home, however, but if you enjoy both, you’re in luck!
The historical gossip that I wanted to know immediately if this home had anything to do with the Marchioness of Hertford who was a longtime mistress of the Prince Regent. Yes, indeed, Lady Hertford was the wife of the 2nd Marquess, but it was the 4th Marquess who left the house and the collection to his illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace, whose widow left it to the nation.
Seymour-Conway was the family name of the Hertfords (think Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife), and they were close connections to the Duke of Somerset.
The house is filled with beautiful rooms and art treasures, as well as an armory. In the very first salon is a lovely painting of the Countess of Blessington by Sir Thomas Lawrence (as beautiful as she appears, it is said that she was even more ravishing in person). The countess’s beauty literally took her from rags to riches, as she rose from a sea captain’s mistress to an earl’s wife, and eventually into a ménage à trois with a young Comte d’Orsay. Besides her beauty, she was quite intelligent and held glittering salons for the crème de la crème of European society, including Lord Byron, of whom she wrote in Conversations with Lord Byron.
The painting of the Prince of Wales as he was in 1792) was presented to the 3rd Marquess in 1810 while his mother was the Prince’s mistress. And there’s a lovely Lawrence portrait of Emma Hamilton as well.
In another room is a portrait by Gainsborough of Mary Robinson, the Prince Regent’s first mistress, as Perdita in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale.
Franz Halz’s The Laughing Cavalier is here, and much, much more. Admission is free, and being so close, I can see myself returning for at least one more visit.
Be sure to put it on your list for your next trip to London!
For more photos of paintings and furnishings, check out my Pinterest board!