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Amusements of Old London: Clubs and Coffee-houses

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

The origin of the gentleman’s club can be traced to the introduction of “the bitter black drink called coffee,” as described by Samuel Pepys, during the last years of William III. Boulton points to “a humble establishment which was opened for the sale of coffee in St. Michael’s Alley, Cornhill, in the year 1652, as the parent of institutions of such superfine male fashion as White’s, the Turf, or the Marlborough Clubs of our day.”

Coffee-house in Istanbul

Mr. Edwards, a Turkey merchant, who was accustomed to travel in the East, acquired the Oriental habit on his travels, and brought home with him to London from Ragusa… a youth who acted as his servant and was accustomed to prepare Mr. Edwards’ coffee for him of a morning. “But the novelty thereof,” says Mr. Oldys the antiquarian, “drawing too much company to him he allowed the said servant with another of his son-in-law to set up the first coffee-house in London at St. Michael’s Alley in Cornhill.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century the coffee-houses in the town were so increased in numbers that they were reckoned at 3000 by Mr. Hatton in his “New View of London,” and the coffee-house had already taken its place as one of the most remarkable among the social developments of modern England.

For by the time that Queen Anne came to the throne all London had arranged itself into groups of patrons for one or other of the different coffee-houses. City merchants went to Garraway’s in Change Alley, Cornhill, a house which combined business with pleasure, and had an auction-room on the first floor… Much of the gambling in connection with the South Sea Bubble of 1720 was conducted at Garraway’s. Jonathan’s, also in Change Alley, was another famous house of business devoted to stock-jobbers. Lloyd’s, the great organisation of the shipping interest… is the development of a coffee-house of the same name… The doctors had their meeting-house at Batson’s at the Royal Exchange, where physicians used to meet the apothecaries and prescribe for patients they were neer to see. The clergy, from bishops downwards, went to Child’s in St. Paul’s Churchyard or the Chapter Coffee-house in Paternoster Row.  Leaving the city and proceeding westward, Nando’s, the house at Temple Bar…; Dick’s…; Serle’s…; the Grecian…; and Squire’s… were all houses near the various Inns of Court and were much haunted by lawyers.

Lloyd’s

Then there were the coffee-houses for men of a certain intellectual interest.  “The great Dryden” held court at Wills’s, on the corner of Bow and Russell Streets. Dean Swift, along with Mr. Addison and Mr. Steele, took over the literary tradition after Dryden’s death at Button’s, on the other side of Russell Street. The Bedford in Covent Garden was the haunt of Foote, Fielding, Churchill, Hogarth, Dr. Arne, and Goldsmith.

Further west still can be found the birthplace of the social club, those clubs

supported by lounging men of fashion, the “pretty fellows” of Anne and the Georges, and by the adventurers and sycophants who had fortunes to push in such fine company. The most fashionable of these houses were clustered in or near the parish of St. James’s, taking their tone, as was natural, from the neighbourhood of the court. Many of these places had a political cast, but all were meeting-places of men of birth and condition.

Rowlandson: A Mad Dog in a Coffee-house

The St. James coffee-house was primarily Whig. The Cocoa Tree at Pall Mall “gathered the Tories and those discontented gentlemen who looked askance at the Hanoverian king at St. James’s, and drank furtive healths to the Pretender.” White’s Chocolate House (the true origin the social club) “was a meeting place for the more fashionable exquisites of the town and the court, and for the followers who lived upon them.

Mr. Mackay describes the coffee-houses in “Journey Through England” (1714).

About twelve o’clock, the beau monde assemble in several coffee and chocolate houses, the best of which are White’s Chocolate-house, the Cocoa Tree, the Smyrna, and the British coffee-houses, and all these so near one another, that in less than hour you see the company of them all. You are entertained at piquet or basset at White’s, or you may talk politics at the Smyrna or St. James’s,”

Tea, coffee, and chocolate, and wine were purveyed at these houses, with light viands like biscuit and sandwiches; set meals were supplied only at the taverns—houses of a different type in which… the sale of liquor was the chief object. “But the general way here,” says Mr. Mackay, “is to make a party at the coffee-house to go to dine at the tavern, except you are invited to dine at the table of some great man.”

Boulton suggests that the development of the coffee-houses was

the expression of a feeling of security among all classes of Englishmen after the troubled days of the seventeenth century… Men now for the first time for a hundred years saw opportunities both for business and relaxation which had been impossible during the period of civil and religious tumult… which was only attained by the Act of Settlement and by the acceptance of the Hanoverian dynasty. A period of social prosperity and expansion was then beginning which leveloped later under the wise rule of the sagacious Walpole, and made possible amenities of social life which had been unknown in England since the days of Elizabeth.

The Kit Kat Club was “the very expression itself of the security and beneficence of the new order of things under the wise Whig rule.

Dean Swift, who organized the Brothers Club, stated that “the end of our club is to advance conversation and friendship, and to reward learning without interest or recommendation.”

The Royal Society and the Dilettante Society were the two clubs devoted to scholarship as well as social intercourse. Notable members of the latter were Reynolds, Fitzwilliam, Charles Fox, Garrick, Colman, and Windham, but not Horace Walpole, who failed to be admitted and was fond of saying that “the nominal qualification is having been to Italy, and the real one being drunk.”

The tradition of the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks, which included such men as William Hogarth, Francis Hayman, Churchill, Mr. Wilkes, Lord Sandwich, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Chase Price, and the Prince of Wales, was “nothing more than the joviality arising from these meetings to eat beefsteak and drink port wine, the only viands allowed by its rules.”

The Literary Club was “[t]he most notable… of all these famous gatherings which were the solace of the leisure of men of distinction throughout the eighteenth century.” That choice society was so exlusive that it blackballed bishops and Lord Chancellors, and kept its own friends waiting for years for admission to its charmed circle because they expressed too much confidence of joining.

White’s Chocolate-house

Founded in 1693 by a man called Francis White, White’s was the parent of the English social club. It was here where gaming became fashionable, “Mr. Heidegger issued his tickets for the masquerade,” and where lost things, such as a sword or a lady’s lapdog, were returned in exchange for a reward.

White’s early 18th century

“The club, in its origin, was aristocratic, a lounging-place for the leisure of a lazy society.” But its reputation for nearly a century was as a location for serious gaming. The Earl of Orford called it “the bane of half the English aristocracy.”

Although it was “the club of the great noble, of the courtier and the statesman,” it wasn’t known for politics. Members included Sir Robert Walpole and William Pulteney, William Pitt and Henry Fox, Charles James Fox, and representatives from “most of the great families of that day, Russells, Churchills, Pelhams, Stanhopes, Herveys, and Cavendishes.”

Social distinction, in fact, was the chief qualification for membership… and its pretensions as an appanage of the aristocracy were never better described than by Horace Walpole, who declared that when an heir was born to a great house, the butler went first to White’s to enter his name in the candidates’ book, and then on to the registry office to record the birth.

White’s was the only club, according to Boulton, until Almack’s and Boodle’s came into to existence in the time of George III.

Member elections at White’s occurred so seldom that in 1743, certain gentlemen with aspirations to join started a second club, in its own rooms, calling itself “The Young Club at White’s (the first one thus becoming known as the “Old Club.”

The elders seem to have looked upon the junior concern with a mild and benevolent eye, and although, as we say, quite separate, with rules and a cook of its own, the Young Club at White’s was ultimately accepted by those potentates as a place of purgatory or probation, where the young man might, by the blessing of Providence, become purged from all contamination of intercourse with ordinary people, and worthy of communion with their own charmed circle.

Occasionally a candidate for the Old Club passed quickly from the Young Club, but he was invariably a man of parts and possessed of great influence; young Mr. Charles Fox, for instance, was elected to both clubs at White’s in the same year, owing no doubt to the efforts of his father, Lord Holland, who was a noted member of the Old Club. His friend George Selwyn, on the other hand, waited eight years in the junior concern, and another typical clubman of the same set, Lord March, was consistently rejected year after year, and only joined the old society when the two clubs were merged in the year 1781.

The famous betting-book contains many outrageous wagers such as the time when a man dropped dead in the doorway and the members made wagers as to whether he was alive or dead, but the most common wagers dealt with births, marriages, and deaths among the prominent society members.

On the 4th of November 1754, there was entered… the following wager: “Lord Montfort wagers Sir John Bland one hundred guineas that Mr. Nash outlives Mr. Cibber.” The bet refers, of course, to the aged poet laureate Colley Cibber, and to the equally venerable Beau Nash, for so many years a prominent figure at Bath. Below this entry is the very significant note in another handwriting (quite possibly Horace Walpole’s, who noticed the wager): “Both Lord Montfort and Sir Bland put an end to their own lives before the bet was decided.”

White’s betting-book

At the ascension to the throne of George III, who openly disapproved of gaming, White’s “became a place of meeting for serious men of affairs, the old gaiety and revel… sadly curtailed under the new dispensation… [A]nd the careless youth of the period began to look out for a place more to their liking.”

Almack’s (now known as Brooks’s)

[T]he origin of Almack’s was, as we say, a revolt of the gay youth of 1764 against the ordered decorum of White’s, and an effort to discover another place of meeting where the old rites of hazard and faro could be continued unmaimed. Almack’s assumed from the outset the greatest pretensions to fashion; the young Dukes of Roxburghe, Richmond, Grafton, and Portland were among its original members, aand its early elections included most of the famous young men about town of those days, Mr. Crewe, Sir Charles Banbury, Richard Fitzpatrick and his brother Lord Ossory, both the young Foxes, their cousin Lord Ilchester…, and the young Lord Carlisle, who seems to have been a typical pigeon of the play tables. A little later came Selwyn and Horry Walpole, Gilly Williams and March…; later still young Mr. Sheridan and the Whigs like Burke, Erskine, and Lord Holland, and the intellectuals like Gibbon, Reynolds, and Garrick; last, but not least, his Royal Highness George Prince of Wales and the Duke of York.

Brooks’s Club

Boulton claims Almack’s (Brooks’s) resembled the earlier White’s, although he says that “play revived at Brooks’s in a splendour which quite surpassed all the early glories at White’s, and was perhaps only equalled by the doings at Crockford’s during the first half of the [nineteenth] century.”

The most prominent member of Brooks’s, and its most reckless gamer, was Mr. Charles James Fox.

Charles James Fox

Mr. Fox’s first notable efforts in public life had taken the form of rather lighthearted revolts against his header, Lord North, whom he had opposed on such measures as Royal Marriage Bills, and in so doing had deeply offended the king. His Majesty had written to Lord North that he considered “that young man had cast off every principle of honesty,” and the royal scruples were increased fourfold by the reports which reached him of the excesses of wine and hazard at Brooks’s, in which Mr. Fox was the most eminent figure. Worst of all, the Prince of Wales, who was eager from the day he reached manhood to embrace every opportunity of making himself disagreeable to his Majesty, was pleased to humour Mr. Fox with his particular friendship and countenance, and to announce his intention of joining his friend’s favourite club. From that time forward Brooks’s was taboo at court, and party politics were introduced into club life for the first time.

The young Mr. Pitt, when he came into public life, realized that as long as George III was in power, any political effort that included Charles Fox was doomed. Therefore, he chose to join White’s instead, “and as long as those two great personalities remained in public life, the stormy politics of their times raged about the two clubs, and were directed from each.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, gaming-houses sprung up all over the West End, and the attraction of both of these clubs turned to the “extraordinary cult of male fashion” known as the Dandies.

The Dandies

The whole movement was the assumption by a small coterie of men of fashion of a social superiority above their fellows, and the supporting of their pretensions by an arrogance which had been unknown in polite society before their day. The inspiration was supplied by that pattern of fine gentlemen the Prince Regent, at a time of life when the charm of his youth has disappeared, and it was imparted to such among the younger men in St. James’s Street as were found worthy by the incomparable Mr. Brummell.

Brummell in 1815, the year he insulted the Prince Regent

Boulton finds it unaccountable that a man of middle-class origin who exhibited such rude and obnoxious behavior as he did, could have been made the “male fashion of an entire generation.”

The men who followed Mr. Brummell… made club life at White’s and Brooks’s well-nigh unendurable to any but their own set… Their savage blackballing decimated the club during a period of twenty years, and at least rendered necessary an alteration of rules which placed the ballot in the hands of a committee in order to save the club from extinction.

With White’s and Brooks’s off the list of possibility for most gentlemen of leisure, other clubs were established, such as the Alfred Club, for men of letters, judges, and bishops; the Travellers’ Club, founded by Lord Castlereagh, for men who had travelled “five hundred miles from London in a straight line;” and military and naval clubs, as well as others.

Amusements of Old London series

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens: Part IV

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part IV

In our last installment, Susana suffers a panic attack as the crowd stampedes to view Madame Saqui’s performance on the tightrope—which she found quite remarkable for the early nineteenth century—and makes the acquaintance of the son of the Marchioness of Hertford and finds herself in the company of the Prince Regent himself!

Isabella Seymour-Conway, Marchioness of Hertford

Isabella Seymour-Conway, Marchioness of Hertford

“Why Isabella, it has been over a year at least… since the Royal Wedding, I believe.”

With His Royal Highness the Prince Regent at Lady Hertford’s side, Lady P could not avoid acknowledging him, nor introducing them both to me, since they were both looking from her to me with puzzlement in their eyes.

“Your Royal Highness, how delightful to find you taking in the delights of the Royal Gardens this evening!”

She performed an elegant bow and then took my hand. “May I present to you my American friend, Miss Ellis? She is here to visit relatives, and was eager to see the famed Vauxhall Gardens.”

My muscles were quivering so much I thought I was going to faint, but one look at the expression in Lady P’s eyes was enough to motivate me to get myself together. I did my best to emulate her regal bow, which was sadly inelegant. Still, I managed to stay on my feet, and as Lady P has often told me, my American status was enough of an excuse for my awkward behavior.

regent_later“Your Highness,” I managed, my hand flying to my chest in an attempt to slow my racing heart. “I’m so—thrilled—to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. I never thought to meet an actual king of England.” Lady P squeezed my shoulder, and I scrambled to correct my error. “That is, a future king of England.” Another squeeze. “And, of course, Lady Hertford. You have such a lovely home.”

I stopped myself from saying more, but it was too late. I’d visited the former Hertford residence on Manchester Square more than once on my trips to London, as it has been open to the public—together with the exquisite furniture and art collected by some Hertford family member or another—for a hundred years or so. But that hadn’t happened yet. Oh dear.

I swallowed. “Or so I’ve heard, your ladyship.”

With the entire party giving me looks that could be described as incredulous, surprised, or furious—that last was Lady P—I added quickly, “The word of your exquisite taste in art has reached across the pond.”

Lady Hertford tapped her son’s arm with her ivory fan.

“Gracious me, I cannot accept any credit for the collections. Francis here is the true connoisseur. Why, after his Grand Tour, we had boxes and crates delivered to our door for weeks.”

The Prince Regent cleared his throat, and we all turned our attention back to him.

“Miss Ellis, it is a pleasure,” he said, his scowl belying his words. “Isabella, dear, we are expected at Carlton House.”

Lady Hertford smiled. “Of course, Your Highness.” She gave us an apologetic smile. “We really must be going. It has been good to see you again, Agatha. And to meet you, of course, Miss Ellis. A visit to our home can be easily arranged, if you would like to see it yourself. Apply to the housekeeper for an appointment.”

I believe I managed to convey my thanks as they took their leave of us.

“Well,” I said. “I have met the Prince Regent.”

Hertford House, known as the Wallace Collection, on Manchester Square

Hertford House, known as the Wallace Collection, on Manchester Square

Lady P rolled her eyes. “The less said about that, the better. Perhaps we should return to the future now.”

“Oh no! The evening is still young!” I protested. “And I’ve been invited to Manchester Square!”

Her ladyship snorted. “Invited? That was no invitation, my dear Susana.”

I blew out a puff of air. “Well, perhaps not. But I still want to go.”

“That’s not what we agreed and you know it. One evening at Vauxhall Gardens. And then you return to your own time. I won’t be responsible for disrupting the space-time continuum.”

I burst out laughing. “What nonsense! You do that all the time! What about those gifts to your grandchildren…?”

“A lapse in judgment. In any case, Henry has had them all destroyed.” But the flush that crept across her face told me I had made my point.

“Look, I’ve already mortified you in the presence of the Prince Regent. What else could possibly go wrong?”

Famous last words. Tune in next week to see what happens when Susana explores the mysterious and ever-so-scandalous Dark Walks…

Sir Richard Wallace

Sir Richard Wallace

Historical Note: Francis Seymour-Conway, 3rd Marquess of Hertford and the son of Prince Regent’s last mistress, was an avid collector of art, as were his son and grandson. It was his grandson who left the house and art collection to his illegitimate son, Sir Richard Wallace, whose widow bequeathed it to the nation. The Wallace Collection was opened to the public in 1900 and is open today, free of charge.

Wallace Collection Website

Susana’s Pinterest Page

Amusements of Old London: The Play and the Opera

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

The Restoration and King Charles II

The puritanical opposition to everything connected with the drama… was now exchanged for the patronage of those in high places. There has perhaps never been so good a friend to the actor and to the theatrical interest generally as his Majesty King Charles. The king, by granting a patent to Mr. Tom Killigrew at the Cockpit in Drury Lane, established that principal of monopoly in things dramatic which lasted till well on in the present reign. The actors of Drury Lane were the king’s servants and a party of the royal household under the administration of the Lord Chamberlain; a certain number of them indeed wore his Majesty’s uniform of red cloth and silver lace, and ranked as Gentlemen of the Chamber. The king’s brother, the Duke of York, had his own company at the Lincoln’s Inn Theatre in Portugal Street, or at Sir Christopher Wren’s house in Dorset Gardens under Davenant, with privileges scarcely less valuable, including a patent to which theatrical historians will trace back all the subsequent glories of the great house in Covent Garden. It was under his Majesty’s auspices that women’s parts were first played by women, and he was good enough, as we know, to honour the profession by forming very intimate alliances with some of those ladies. Lastly, there has never been a more assiduous playgoer than his Majesty King Charles himself.

Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys

Relying on diarists such as Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, Mr. Boulton states

The theatre of the Restoration was in reality much more of a social resort than the play or the opera as we know them. The pit of the playhouse of the Restoration was a social exchange, where the young man of condition displayed his graces and exchanged pleasantries with his fellows; where the man of wit discharged his carefully-prepared impromptus; and where the actors and actresses, not actually engaged on the stage, were accustomed to keep themselves in evidence by mixing freely and ostentatiously with the audience. The stage-door and the green-room, too, were attractions for a large class of men whose attentions to the actresses became a source of embarrassment to the management… Finally, the patronage which Charles the Second gave to both the theatres of his time, and the nature of his relations with some of his subjects who appeared with him in the royal box, gave an interest to a visit to the play of those days which is lacking in later and more sedate times.

Theaters of the time consisted of the pit on the ground floor, rows of continuous boxes on the first, open seats and a few boxes on the second, and the shilling gallery on the third. “The stage ran out a distance of several feet… into the body of the theatre, and was thus exposed on three of its sides to the spectators who occupied the pit.”

Riot during a performance of Artaxerxes

Riot during a performance of Artaxerxes, 1763

The prices for each sector divided the spectators into social classes. A half-crown would get you into the pit. A shilling would get an apprentice to the gallery. A box on the second floor cost eighteen pence, and the best seats in the lower section would cost about four shillings. Although you could purchase tickets for all the seats in the box for your party, if you did not, you might well find yourself sitting next to strangers.

The only manner of reserving seats in this period was to send someone ahead to pay for your ticket and hold your seat. Footmen quite frequently performed this duty for their masters and mistresses, after which they were admitted to the upper gallery to watch the play.  Boulton says that “they became a very noisy, and consequently, a very important part of the audience.”

Pepys records seeing women on the stage in 1661; prior to that, women’s parts were played by men. He complains about having to spend outrageous amounts on oranges (at sixpence each) for the ladies in his company. The seats in the pit were rows of benches without backs.

I was sitting behind in a dark place, and a lady spit backward upon me by mistake, not seeing me, but after seeing her to be a very pretty lady I was not troubled at it all.

Ah, but Pepys did have a fondness for a pretty face!

Lavania Fenton as Polly Peachum in The Beggar's Opera

Lavania Fenton as Polly Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera

He is in continual ecstasy about the beauty of one or the other of those ladies of the Court, most constant, however, to the Castlemaine, but appreciative of the Stewart, “with her little Roman nose,” or “pretty witty Nell,” or Mrs. Middleton “with a very excellent face, and body I think.” If neither Hart nor Nell nor Knipp [Mary Knep] were there the play, however good, would not please him. With Knipp present he would enjoy the worst of pieces even by the side of Mrs. Pepys. “But it is pretty to observe,” he says, “how I did look up and down and did spy Knipp, but durst not own it to my wife, who do not like my kindness to her.” Little wonder, indeed, for Mrs. Pepys surely had much to put up with. Samuel was decorum itself by her side, but when she was away he would find himself sitting in front of Knipp and Pierce, “who pulled me by the hair, so I addressed myself to them.” Knipp sang a song in the flies at the King’s House which pleased Samuel mightily, “where Knipp, after her song in the clouds, came to me in the pit.” Finally, the shameless rogue had the conscience to put on record his feelings at the performance of the “Virgin Martyr,” where “the wind musique when the angel comes down is so sweet that it ravished me, so that it made me realy sick, as I have formerly been when in love with my wife.”

Joseph Addison by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison of The Spectator tells about the ladies of fashion in 1711 who took the notion of wearing patches on the right or left side of the forehead to indicate their adherence to a certain political party. Addison “tells us of Rosalinda, a famous Whig partisan, who had unfortunately a very beautiful mole on the Tory part of her forehead, which misled several coxcombs “to converse in the wrong strain, when on a sudden she has given them an unexpected fire which sunk them all at once.” Then there was Nigranilla too, “unhappy in a pimple, which forces her against her inclinations to patch on the Whig side.”

The Trunkmaker of the Upper Gallery

Addison’s immortal paper begins:

It has been observed that of late years there has been a certain person in the upper gallery of the playhouse, who, when he is pleased with anything on the stage, expresses his approbation by a loud knock upon the benches or the wainscot which may be heard over the whole house.

The Trunkmaker was a large black man whom nobody knew, who was never seen to smile, “but upon hearing anything to please him takes up his huge oaken plank and laid it upon the next piece of timber that stood in his way with exceeding vehemence. If the audience does not concur with him, he smites a second time, and if the audience is not yet awakened, looks round him with great wrath, and repeats the blow a third time, which never fails to produce the clap. …[H]e seldom went away from any tragedy by Shakespeare without leaving the wainscot completely shattered. The players cheerfully repair at their own cost whatever damages he makes… [T]he actors valued no applause which had not the sound of the oak plank in it.

During this time, it was common for certain fashionable braggadocios to linger on the stage and distract the audience from the play. Although Queen Anne issued a royal proclamation against it in 1711, but it was obviously not enforced, as can be seen in Mr. Hogarth’s painting of the Third Act of The Beggars’ Opera, where, in addition to the actors on the stage can be seen in the box on the right, the “Duke of Bolton ogling Vinnie Fenton, who he will presently remove from the stage and marry…” and the crowd of spectators on the stage in 1727.

William Hogarth, Act III, Beggar's Opera

William Hogarth, Act III, Beggar’s Opera

As Boulton has stated, the activities of the stage were only part of the entertainment. Observing the other audience members—particularly the noble ones—was a particular interest of Samuel Pepys. A rejected swain might get his revenge by throwing rubbish at a pretty actress on the stage. A particular target for disgruntled audience was the harpsichord, but if the play or grievance was really bad, the benches and seats and other furnishings might be destroyed as well.

Opera at the King’s Theatre in Haymarket

Opera was first patronized by King George I, who “gave a subscription of £1000, as well as his own name, to the Opera House.”

Farinelli

Farinelli

Fashionable London was so fond of opera in 1735 that it paid £5000 a year to Farinelli, and when that incomparable singer was at the Haymarket an enthusiastic lady in the boxes was heard to exclaim in her ecstasy, “One God, one Farinelli.” Then singers and their competing merits were a continual joy to generations of noble patrons, and their preferences for one singer or another often inspired ladies of high fashion with very unfashionable feelings. Thus when the rival warblers Cuzzoni and Faustina were appearing at the opera in 1726, they each had a party of thick and thin supporters in distinguished circles. There was the Countess of Pembroke at the head of her party in a box, who was prepared to go all lengths for Cuzzoni; the Countess of Burlington and Lady Delaware, with their train of young men in another, were fierce and determined on behalf of the Faustina. So when Cuzzoni came on the noble faction which supported Faustina hissed her into silence, when Faustina appeared she was shrieked off the stage by the devoted band at the back of my Lady Pembroke.

By the early nineteenth century,

…there was a cult of deportment which developed in social London, and constituted a tyranny under which society groaned for a couple of generations. Beau Brummell and his set at the clubs in St. James’s Street represented the male element of this autocracy of fashion, the lady patronesses at Almack’s in King Street the feminine; and at the opera they both united their forces… There was the peerless Mr. Brummell, with his satellite exquisites in Fop’s Alley, the interest of the whole mankind of the house, we are asked to believe, centred in the question of his raiment for the evening… The ladies of the grand tier, we are told, including the chaperons, were more anxious for his notice than for that of the Prince Regent. The opera, in fact, like Almack’s, was a social function which entirely outclassed anything of the sort at Court after the retirement of the poor blind King George the Third. There was no question of getting in by the mere payment of money, a committee of ladies supervised the issue of every ticket, and a man or a lady went to the opera or did not, according as their social position was or was not considered worthy of that honour by the Lady Patronesses… who controlled London society from the time of the Regency until her Majesty came to the throne. [They] were accustomed to sit in conclave upon all the young men about to enter life, and decide as to whether or not they were eligible for admission such stately functions as Almack’s and the opera.

Interior of theater at Sadler's Wells, 1810

Interior of theater at Sadler’s Wells, 1810

 

Amusements of Old London series

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part III

In our last installment, Susana and Lady P made the requisite trip to the “ladies’ retiring room,” which Susana declined after a brief perusal of the facilities. Returning to the fringe of the dancing, she made the acquaintance of a child who offered to obtain a voucher for her to Almack’s (!!!), and listened to several songs by the sweet-voiced warbler, Mrs. Maria Theresa Bland.

A bell rang and the organ music stopped as we were swept away with the noisy crowd to the end of one of the walks where we could see a tall pole (a ship’s mast, as it turned out). A trio of young hooligans elbowed their way past us; at least one trod on the train of my gown and nearly knocked me down. Lady P threw her arm around my back and kept me vertical, but in the second or two it took me to recover, the impatient crowd behind us tossed us a few angry looks and impolite murmurs as they pushed past us. A rush of heat came over me and I could hear my heart racing, so I knew a panic attack was coming on.

madame-saqui-descending

“Can we get out of this crowd?” I asked her ladyship, trying to peer over the heads of the crowd in search of escape.

After one look at my face, she put on her stern “countess” face and aimed it at the crowd behind us. “Susana, my dear,” she said loudly. “I believe that is the Prince Regent waving at us from the Rotunda.”

A slew of people behind us stopped in their tracks and craned their necks to peer at the Rotunda. Lady P and I took the opportunity to duck out of the crowd and into a clump of trees on the right, where she took out her handkerchief and wiped the moisture off my face. The floral scent on the linen had a calming effect on my nerves, and gradually I began to feel more myself.

“Is the Prince Regent really here?” I asked her when I finally caught my breath.

“I do hope not,” she answered, lips pressing into a white slash. “Because if he is, I shall have to pay my respects, and more than likely, he will wish to be presented to you, and with you not having the slightest idea of court etiquette…”

My eyes were bulging. The thought of seeing the Prince Regent would be a thrill beyond my wildest dreams, but to actually be presented to him was a far more intoxicating notion. I started to feel a bit dizzy.

“Susana!” Lady P pounded me on the back. “Get hold of yourself or I shall have to put my hartshorn to you.”

“No, no, I’m fine. I just need to sit down.”

Fortunately, we espied a white wrought-iron bench behind a clump of trees in the near distance. Just as we were seated, we heard the sound of fireworks, and suddenly the sky was ablaze with colored lights and smoke, brief images of crowns, hearts, initials and other indistinct figures flashing in the haze.

“It’s starting!” I said, jumping to my feet, still feeling a bit dizzy, but not willing to miss the main attraction. “Let’s move ahead of these trees!”

small-saqui

We cleared the obstructions just in time to see a tiny figure dart out of the darkness and smoke, her feet moving with surprising agility on the narrow rope toward the summit of tall pole, which had to be at least eighty feet high and a steep climb. I wondered what it was her husband did to her shoes to keep her from sliding backward. [I knew from my Vauxhall blog series that her husband was the only one in the family who was not a rope walker, but that he had important other responsibilities.]

Rockets exploded all around her, causing the spangles on her skirts to sparkle and make her a magical figure. The long ostrich feathers on her elaborate hat dipped and swayed as she ascended, and I found myself holding my breath like the others in the crowd lest she lose her balance or the rope become severed by a rocket [even though I knew from my research that she died of old age, her life taken over by her nostalgic memories of the past]. Reaching the midpoint, she paused for a moment to make a slight bow in our direction. Following her gaze, I looked behind us and saw a rotund figure with a familiar face about ten feet away.

1819_prince_regent_g_cruikshank_caricature“Is that…?”

“… the Prince Regent,” Lady P hissed. “Don’t stare.”

Turning my attention back to the spectacle at hand, I saw Madame Saqui take the final quick steps to the top of the pole, where a man seated there [her husband, I assumed] grabbed her hand while she turned around and made a rapid descent amid a flash of blue lights, again stopping at the center, this time making bows in both directions and executing some graceful balletic moves before continuing her descent and dancing her way back into the smoke.

“She dances exquisitely on the horizontal rope,” said a voice behind us. “I’ve seen her at Covent Garden. As graceful as a ballerina on a stage.”

We whirled around to face a middle-aged gentleman with a smattering of reddish brown hair still remaining on his balding pate. He bowed briefly to Lady P and sent a questioning look in my direction. “A pleasure to see you again, Lady Pendleton. I hope you are enjoying yourself this fine evening.”

Lord Yarmouth, eventually 3rd Marquess of Hertford

Lord Yarmouth, eventually 3rd Marquess of Hertford

Lady P gave me a look that I interpreted as a “don’t-even-think-of-embarrassing-me” warning as she plastered a smile on her face and bobbed. “We are indeed, Lord Yarmouth. On a fine night such as this, Vauxhall never fails to delight us.” She nodded in my direction. “Your lordship, I’d like to present my good friend, Susana Ellis, from America. Susana, I’d like you to meet Lord Yarmouth, the son of the Marquess of Hertford.”

I swallowed and tried to gather my chaotic thoughts. Hertford. Something to do with Lady Hertford, the Prince’s mistress? What should I do? Any schooling on polite discourse I’d ever had from Lady P disappeared from my brain. I vaguely recalled her own actions and did my best to reproduce her bob. “A pleasure to meet you, Lord Yarmouth.” To my ear, it came out squeaky and I could feel my cheeks reddening. Don’t faint. Lady P will kill you if you do.

He bowed in my direction, his eyebrows furrowed. “American, you say. How delightful. They seem to be everywhere these days.” His voice signaled boredom, however.

I was saved from having to answer that by the voice of a woman calling to him from behind. “Come along, Francis! We’re removing our party back to Carlton House for dinner and dancing.”

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Isabella, 2nd Lady Hertford

Lord Yarmouth gave us an apologetic-yet-relieved smile. “My apologies, ladies. It seems I must take my leave of you.”

Lady P let out a deep breath, no doubt relieved that she would not have to present me to royalty after all, and then the woman behind the voice approached us.

“Agatha? Is that you? It’s been an age. How are you faring these days?”

Approaching us in all her royal blue splendor was a woman I assumed to be the prince’s mistress, Lady Hertford, and behind her was the magnificent royal dandy, His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, the future George IV, and he was looking at me!

More next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel!

descent-of-madame-saqui-surrounded-by-fireworks

Susana’s Adventure at the Carriage Museum

Grand Oaks Resort

Weirsdale, Florida

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If you think you must travel across the pond to find great historical inspiration, you would be wrong! I’ve been living half the year in Florida for several years now, and just this month discovered the existence of this fabulous museum—only a half-hour drive away!

I travel to the UK every year and have seen some of the best museums and historical sites out there, and I have to rank this one right up with them. The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden is wonderful, but honestly, it doesn’t hold a candle to this one, at least in terms of carriages. The Carriage Museum here has more types of curricles and phaetons and landaus and broughams than I have ever seen in one place. I will definitely be returning here often.

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We had a lovely drive around the 340-acre property lined with scenic pastures and oak trees in a carriage drawn by two beautiful Clydesdale horses. Afterwards, we browsed in the gift shop and had lunch in the bistro. There is a luxurious spa on site that people come from all over central Florida to enjoy.

The Grand Oaks Resort is also a major center for equestrian events for spectators and competitors, including polo and dressage. Also offered are first-class boarding and training facilities. (Heather King would love this place, especially the dressage competition in mid-January!)

The Grand Oaks Resort is only an hour drive from Orlando, so if you’re heading this way to take in the Disney and other attractions, consider setting aside a day in the countryside away from the crowds. You won’t be disappointed, and neither will your family.

1874 Omnibus

1874 Omnibus

From MuseumsUSA:

The Grand Oaks Museum is home to one of the world’s largest private collections of carriages and equine artifacts. Step back in time and enjoy the elegance and pageantry of over 160 European and American Carriages, including the elaborate 1850 Armbruster Dress Chariot once owned by Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph, and his wife, Elisabeth. Our Museum uniquely offers a glimpse into the history of the relationship between man and horse and clearly defines the manner in which the horse has helped shape the history of man.

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1850 Armbruster Dress Chariot once owned by Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph, and his wife, Elisabeth

Livery

Livery

Since 1995, The Grand Oaks Museum has opened its doors to the public with an extraordinary display of historical artifacts, while educating visitors with tours, seminars and special programs in a live setting. Take a journey through time into the world of man’s most vital mode of transportation of past centuries. Museum visitors have a rare opportunity to see an English Omnibus, a horse-drawn fire fighting apparatus, a World War I supply wagon, the colorful and ornate Sicilian Caretta and a Dutch Tikker. This Tikker is one of a pair; the other was displayed by Count de Hamptinne in the Hotel Particulier in Ghent, Belgium. And that’s only the beginning of what this Museum has to offer.

Website

The Brougham (1895)

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1895 Brougham

Inspired, if not only designed by Lord Brougham, a statesman of the early 19th century, this lovely vehicle seats 2 passengers facing forward. The low-slung body affords easy entry to this elegant coach luxuriously upholstered for the comfort of a noble gentleman. The interior was often fitted with ashtrays, a clock, and mirrors.

Coachman-driven, the passenger is able to communicate with the driver through a tubular whistle hanging on the interior of the carriage. A system of long and short whistles would inform the driver to turn left, right, stop, or proceed on homeward.

Many Broughams were driven to a strong single horse; but others were set up for a pair, as this one is.

The Clarence (1897)

The Clarence, 1897

The Clarence, 1897

Like the Brougham, the Clarence is a coachman-driven vehicle, but this larger carriage affords seating for four people, two facing forward, and two riding backward. Fitted with lamps for evening use, it would carry a gentleman and his friends to the opera or a formal dinner party.

This larger vehicle required a pair of horses, and a footman in livery would ride next to the coachman to assist when passengers entered or exited the carriage. He would also “head” the pair if a vehicle waited while the party enjoyed their evening’s activities. Blankets for the horses would be carried in the boot under the coachman’s seat.

The Four-Wheel Dog Cart (1894)

Four-wheel dog cart (1897)

Four-wheel dog cart (1897)

This rare example of a Dog Cart seats six, rather than four, persons. Notice the bench seat between the front and back seats. It would be used for children or small adults agile enough to mount the carriage over the back wheel.

The wheel on the right side of the driver’s seat operates the friction brake on the back wheel of the carriage just below the level of the axle. This wheel design is generally seen on vehicles made in France, but is not favored on British carriages because the driver, or Whip, must shift his position on the seat in order to apply the brake.

This vehicle is set up for a pair of light horses.

George IV Phaeton (1910)

George IV Phaeton (1910)

George IV Phaeton (1910)

This vehicle was copied from one made for King George IV in 1824, who needed an “easy entry,” more stable vehicle than the highflyer of his youth. As more and more ladies began to take up the art of driving, the carriage design appealed, permitting them to mount the carriage easily despite their long skirts. The high curving dashboard obliterated the horses’ hindquarters from view, saving the lady any embarrassment and protecting fashionable clothing.

When driving classes for ladies were introduced at some American horse shows in the late 1890’s, Brewster and other builders quickly offered George IV Phaetons with their own unique features.

Spider Phaeton (1881)

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Spider Phaeton (1881)

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, when park driving was at its peak, the Spider Phaeton became the perfect vehicle for showing a spirited single or pair of horses. The body of the vehicle resembles that of a Tilbury Gig, and the carriage almost always has a hood. The groom’s single seat, which is often on branch irons, is connected by an iron framework, giving the appearance of lightness and elegance. The fine lines of this vehicle would flatter a horse’s action, and the lighter weight would allow the animal free flowing movement.

With open futchels, this vehicle can be put to either a pair or a single horse.

Traveling Coach (1800)

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Dating from the early 1800’s, this coach was used for long distance travel before the advent of the railroads. A luxurious vehicle, this one seats two persons facing forward with room for two seated backwards. The seats can be made into a bed where two occupants can stretch their legs out under the driver’s seat to offer the possibility of a night’s sleep, as accommodations at inns and post houses were generally poor. The body is moving on Cee-springs and is connected to the perch with leather straps to prevent excessive side sway.

This vehicle has a driver’s seat, but these coaches were often posted to allow more room for luggage and cargo to be carried. Teams of horses would be changed out a stage stops along the way.

The patina on this vehicle simulates the look of a traveling coach which has been on the road for some time. The interior is newly re-upholstered, but the other appointments are original to the carriage. The shutters can be used to shade the occupants from both daylight and inclement weather.

Goat Caleche

Goat Caleche

Goat Caleche

Another vehicle intended to be put to a goat which would have been led by a liveried groom, this beautiful caleche follows the same curving lines as its full-sized counterpart. The upholstery is light and rich in appearance, and the folding hood is lined in the same material.

A nanny might take her charges out for an afternoon stroll with this vehicle.

Hansom Cab (1895)

Hansom Cab (1895)

Hansom Cab (1895)

The Hansom Cab is named for its early designer, Mr. J.A. Hansom, but cabs used for public transport in the latter half of the 19th century bear little resemblance to earlier models.

The driver sits at the rear of the box, high above for a better view of the city. An unusually strong and quiet cab horse was required to pull the vehicle, as the shaft weight was extremely heavy. At rest, the driver would release the “spoke” under the carriage and ask the horse to back a few steps. This would help to pull some of the carriage weight off the animal’s back and save him for further work.

The public Hansom was thought to be an improper vehicle for a lady to use by herself. But many privately owned, immaculately appointed Hansoms, like this beautiful example, were used instead of a Brougham or a Victoria for simple trips around town.

Char-de-côté

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a Swiss invention, built for viewing scenery, especially lakes

Three Abreast Phaeton (1890)

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More photos on my Pinterest board.

Beverley Oakley: The Mysterious Governess (Daughters of Sin, Book 3)

Catostconspirators

The Cato Street Conspiracy and Queen Caroline’s Return to England—Two Important Events of 1820

 Historical Romance Author, Beverley Oakley, recently brought one of her characters, Miss Araminta Partington, to tea. Miss Partington, who has an extremely high opinion of her attractions, and of her knowledge of most matters, elucidated on the background to the new book in which she features called The Mysterious Governess, part of the Daughters of Sin series, which touches on the events before and after the Cato Street Conspiracy of 1820.

Miss Partington: Hello Susana, and thank you so much for inviting me to take a dish of tea in your parlor. I must say, it’s very comforting to know I can sleep at night in the knowledge that those dreadful men—Arthur Thistlewood, Edward Spence and the others – who call themselves “The Society of Spencean Philanthropists”, have been either hanged or transported for life for their parts in the Cato Street Conspiracy.

Susana: A delight to have you here, too, Araminta. Yes, what a shock to the public! What do you suppose they were hoping to achieve?

Miss Partington: Why, utter madness, in my opinion! Mr. Thistlewood talked of desiring a “Government of the People of Great Britain,” which would take power out of the hands of Parliament and the landed elite and place it into the hands of the people.” In my opinion, that’s tantamount to stealing Papa’s estate and giving it to Jane, my useless maid, who only last week lost one of my silver hairpins.

Susana: Goodness, that does sound dire! I’m referring to the plot, of course. Was there violence?

Miss Partington: Fortunately, the only violence was after the Coldstream Guards and Bow Street runners ran into the loft where these miscreants were plotting that night’s intended rampage through the home of the Lord President of His Majesty’s Privy Council, Lord Harrowby. Indeed, they were intending to murder the entire King’s Cabinet before taking to the streets of London to storm the Bank of England and the Tower of London. They hoped to stir up revolution in our country, like in America and France only a few decades ago.

Susana: Good Lord! How was it possible that law enforcement was able to apprehend the plotters?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]Miss Partington: Well, apparently, the Government knew what they were about and had planted spies in their organization. My Cousin, Stephen Cranbourne, works for the Foreign Office. I’m sure he’d have confided in me had I not been on rather… er… friendly terms with Lord Debenham who is rumored to be associated with the Spenceans. He’s not, of course. I made sure to burn the incriminating letter his cousin wrote before she drank poison. Aren’t the daffodils beautiful at this time of year? I’ve trimmed my bonnet with several bunches. Sir Aubrey does think them fetching. Yes, I’ve transferred my affections to Sir Aubrey as I think he’d be far easier to manage than dangerous Lord Debenham.

Susana: Yes, the daffodils are, indeed, beautiful. And I was so sorry to hear about Lord Debenham’s cousin. I believe she was Sir Aubrey’s late wife. But, back to politics, do tell me, when was the Spenceans’ plot brought to nought? My apologies for my ignorance, I’ve been in France for some time.

Miss Partington: On February 23, 1820, but of course, it’s not really news any more since the gossip sheets—and indeed, the newspapers—are having much more fun giving us all the thrilling details of George IV’s estranged wife Queen Caroline arriving from continental Europe, a few months afterwards, and attempting to take her place as Queen consort. Personally, I think someone with such atrocious dress sense doesn’t deserve to be queen, but, not everyone agrees with me—which I always find rather odd, really. Of course, the Prince Regent only agreed to marry Princess Caroline of Brunswick back at the end of the last century so his father would clear his debts. £630,000 pounds is rather a lot of money, though I imagine that if I owed such a sum, I might be induced to marry Lord Debenham above Sir Aubrey, despite his wicked reputation and the fact Lord Debenham would be so much more difficult to manage.

Susana: Yes, your half-sister, Miss Larissa Hazlett, has inferred the same.

Miss Partington: My half-sister? [Miss Partington rises.]Let me assure you, I do not have a half-sister. Any resemblance between that dreary governess and myself is entirely coincidental. Now, if you’ll excuse me… while it has been most pleasant, I must leave now for an appointment I’ve just remembered. Yes, it’s all part of a little plan I’m implementing to put that dreary governess right back in her box!

About The Mysterious Governess

Two beautiful sisters—one illegitimate, the other nobly born—compete for love amidst the scandal and intrigue of a Regency London Season.

Lissa Hazlett lives life in the shadows. The beautiful, illegitimate daughter of Viscount Partington earns her living as an overworked governess while her vain and spoiled half sister, Araminta, enjoys London’s social whirl as its most feted debutante.

When Lissa’s rare talent as a portraitist brings her unexpectedly into the bosom of society—and into the midst of a scandal involving Araminta and suspected English traitor Lord Debenham—she finds an unlikely ally: charming and besotted Ralph Tunley, Lord Debenham’s underpaid, enterprising secretary. Ralph can’t afford to leave the employ of the villainous viscount much less keep a wife but he can help Lissa cleverly navigate a perilous web of lies that will ensure everyone gets what they deserve.

Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Apple iBooks • Barnes & Noble • Kobo

Excerpt

Although The Mysterious Governess is about Lissa, who is Araminta’s half-sister, the plot involves them equally. Lissa is hard-working and honourable, the antithesis of Araminta, as you will see below, in this short extract:

“Is everything all right, Miss? Were the fireworks grand? You’re back earlier than I’d ‘spected.” Jane, who was polishing the silver bottles on her mistress’s dressing table, looked up nervously as Araminta entered the room.

Without a word, Araminta brought one arm across the entire surface and sent powder bottles, perfume vials, hairbrushes and jewelry boxes crashing to the floor.

Then she threw herself onto her bed and burst into noisy tears.

“Oh, Miss, I take it things didn’t go to plan,” said Jane, going down on her knees to start to clean up the mess before changing her mind and putting a tentatively soothing hand upon Araminta’s back.

“No, they did not!” Araminta shrieked, beating her fists upon the counterpane.

“So, His Lordship didn’t ask you to marry him, then?”

“Yes he did!” Araminta rolled onto her back and glared at Jane. “He asked me to marry him and then said he had to go away on important business for two months! Two months! Where does that leave me? In an impossible situation, I don’t need to tell you. I might as well throw myself in the river, except the water’s far too cold and I’m hardly about to copy bacon-brained Edgar. There must be another way.”

“Poison?”

“I mean to get out of this mess, you stupid girl!” Araminta screamed. Feverishly, she began to bite her fingernails before realizing the damage she was doing to an important asset. “Oh, Jane, don’t look like you’re related to a mule. Come up with a plan, for dear Lord’s sake!”

About the Author

Beverley Eikli author picBeverley Oakley was seventeen when she bundled up her first 500+ page romance and sent it to a publisher. However, drowning her heroine on the last page was not in line with the expectations of romance readers so Beverley became a journalist.

In 2009, Beverley published her first novel. Since then she has written more than thirteen sizzling historical romances, filled with mystery and intrigue, mostly set in England during the Georgian, Regency and Victoria eras.

Beverley lives near Melbourne opposite a picturesque nineteenth century insane asylum with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met in Botswana, their two beautiful daughters and a rambunctious Rhodesian Ridgeback the size of a pony.

Beverley also writes more psychological historicals, and Colonial-Africa- set romantic adventures, as Beverley Eikli.

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Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

The Championship of England*

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The chivalrous and dignified office of Champion of England at our coronations is conferred by the feudal manor of Scrivelsby, about two miles south of Horncastle, on the road towards Boston in Lincolnshire. By the holding of this manor, the ancient family of the Dymokes have derived the office of champion to the sovereigns of England…

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The manor of Scrivesby, which was granted by the Conqueror to Robert de Marmion (Lord of Fontenoy, in Normandy), to be held by grand sergeantry, “to perform the office of champion at the King’s coronation.” The Marmians, it is said, where hereditary champions to the Dukes of Normandy prior to the conquest of England.

Dymock Champion

The Kings Champion in full armor in the banqueting hall at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I

Sir John Dymoke served as Champion of England at the coronation of Richard II. Sir Robert Dymoke did so for Richard II, Henry VII, and Henry VIII. Sir Edward Dymoke was champion for Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. John Dymoke was champion for George III, and when the time came for George IV’s coronation, the honor went to his grandson, Sir Henry Dymoke, due to the fact that his son, Rev. John Dymoke, was a cleric.

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George IV’s coronation banquet was held in Westminster Hall in 1821; it was the last such banquet held.

The entry of the champion at the close of the Banquet in Westminster Hall, at the coronation of George IV., was a splendid spectacle. Haydon, the historical painter, thus describes this ancient feudal ceremony which he witnessed: “The hall-doors were opened, and the flower-girls entered, strewing flowers. The distant trumpets and shouts of the people, the slow march, and at last the appearance of the King, crowned and under a golden canopy, and the universal burst of the assembly at seeing him, affected everybody… After the banquet was over, came the most imposing scene of all, the championship. Wellington, in his coronet, walked down the hall, cheered by the officers of the Guards. He shortly returned, mounted, with Lords Anglesey [formerly the Earl of Uxbridge] and Howard. They rode gracefully to the foot of the throne, and then backed out. The hall doors opened again; and outside, in twilight, a man in dark-shadowed armor appeared against the shining sky. He then moved and passed into darkness under the arch, and suddenly Wellington, Howard, and the champion stood in full view, with doors closed behind them. This was certainly the finest sight of the day. The herald then read the challenge; the glove was thrown down. They all then proceeded to the throne.”

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Coronation of George IV, Westminster Hall: the Champion’s Challenge

Sir Walter Scott, in his letter describing the coronation, says, “The Duke of Wellington, with all his laurels, moved and looked deserving the baton, which was never grasped by so worthy a hand. The marquess of Anglesey showed the most exquisite grace in managing his horse, notwithstanding the want of his limb, which he left at Waterloo. I never saw so fine a bridle-hand in my life, and I am rather a judge of horsemanship. Lord Howard’s horse was worse bitted than those of the two former noblemen, but not so much as to derange the ceremony of returning back-out of the hall. The champion was performed (as of right) by young Dymoke, a fine-looking youth, but bearing, perhaps a little too much the appearance of a maiden knight to be the challenger of the world in a King’s behalf. He threw down his gauntlet, however, with becoming manhood, and showed as much horsemanship as the crowds of knights and squires around him would permit to be exhibited. On the whole, this striking part of the exhibition somewhat disappointed me, for I would have had the champion less embarrassed by his assistants, and at liberty to put his horse on the grand pas; and yet, the young Lord of Scrivelsby looked and behaved extremely well.”

Supertunica-stole-and-spurs

The Imperial Mantle was made for the coronation of George IV in 1821 and is designed in the style of earlier ones worn by the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, it is worn over the Supertunica and the Stole. The Imperial Mantle is made of gold cloth, lined with red silk and woven with colored threads designed with a pattern of crowns, eagles, fleur-de-lis, roses, thistles and shamrock held together at the chest with a gold clasp in the form of an eagle.

*George IV’s was the last coronation to include a championship.

 

Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse