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Jacqueline Reiter: The Late Lord: The life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham

An 18th century courtship:

The 2nd Earl of Chatham

and

Mary Elizabeth Townshend

Thank you for the opportunity to write for your blog, Susana. I’m not an author of historical romance (my latest book is straight-up non-fiction), but that doesn’t mean there’s no romance in what I write. Human nature hasn’t changed much in two hundred years. The late Georgian/Regency aristocracy undoubtedly had its fair share of rakes, adulterers and unfaithful lovers, but there were exceptions, and the subject of my biography was one of them.

One of the reasons I was attracted to write about John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham is that he was so refreshingly human. He was closely related to two prime ministers – his father was William Pitt the Elder, and his brother was William Pitt the Younger, both of whom were massive over-achievers, but John was the family black sheep. Everyone expected great things of him, but he never managed to match the greatness of his immediate relatives. On the contrary, he managed to become infamous after he commanded the British expedition to Walcheren in 1809. It was a huge disaster, partly because more than a quarter of the British army came down with malaria.

johncopleydetail

John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, ca 1779. Detail from John Singleton Copley, ‘The Death of the Earl of Chatham’.

John was a complex character, a product of his parentage and of his times. One thing, however, made him very accessible to me: his love for his wife. John’s marriage lasted thirty-eight years and was childless, but he and his wife were unusually close for aristocrats of the times. They went through some very hard times, but what I want to talk about here is their courtship, which was wonderfully bashful and bumbling.

Mary Elizabeth Townshend, the object of John’s affections, was born in September 1762. She was the second daughter of Thomas Townshend, later Lord Sydney (after whom the city in Australia was named), who was an old friend and political acolyte of Pitt the Elder. Townshend’s estate was very close to Pitt the Elder’s, and the Pitt and Townshend children grew up close.

countess_chatham

Mary Elizabeth Townshend, Countess of Chatham, possibly by Edmund Miles

By the time John was twenty-two, his friendship with Mary had deepened. Between June 1778 and March 1779 he was away pursuing his military career in Gibraltar, but the British ambassador to Spain noticed the young man’s heart belonged to another. ‘I would not swear that he is not in possession of a most precious jewel,’ the ambassador told his brother, who later met John in England at Thomas Townshend’s house and worked out what was going on: ‘If he [John] has a mind to set that jewel which you suppose him possessed of very beautifully, he might consult Miss Mary Townshend.’

John and Mary had fallen in love, but Mary was only sixteen and John was in any case too bound up in his military career. He was sent off to the West Indies in early 1780 and was not able to guarantee his long-term presence in England until he transferred to a London-based regiment in 1782. At this point he began to press his suit more vigorously, and by June 1782 John’s brother William informed their mother of ‘a match of which the world here is certain, but of which [John] assures me he knows nothing, between himself and the beauty in Albemarle Street’ – Albemarle Street being Thomas Townshend’s London residence.

But John was a typical boy, and it turned out he wasn’t quite ready to commit just yet. (He was enjoying bachelorhood far too much, going to see the horse racing in Newmarket, hunting with his great friend the 4th Duke of Rutland, and sitting up late at White’s and Brooks’s to gamble at cards.) Whenever anyone questioned him about his forthcoming marriage, he dismissed the rumours with dry sarcasm as ‘stock jobbing reports’.

By May 1783, however, John himself had begun to believe in his own love-story. On the first of the month he took his sister Harriot on a carriage ride to his country seat, Hayes Place. Harriot wrote to their mother that the family home was ‘just now in glory, and I think my brother enjoyed very much contemplating his pretty place and thinking of the pretty lady he means to give it.’

hayes

Hayes Place, Kent

A few days later Harriot reported excitedly that John and Mary had been so publicly ‘amicable’ at a ball that she was ‘really disappointed when I found the matter was not settled there.’

It was at this point that John decided to show his colours as a man with all the gumption and emotional intelligence of a thirteen-year-old. Soldier he might be, but he simply couldn’t muster the courage to pop the question. He accepted an invitation from the Townshends to accompany the family on a weekend away, where, as Harriot pointed out meaningfully, he was purposefully provided with ‘opportunities’ to declare his feelings. Did he propose? Did he heck. He ‘had only very near[ly] done it once.’

harriot

Lady Harriot Pitt, John’s sister, by an unknown artist

Perhaps it was a romcom situation, in which the critical moment was interrupted by a family member, or a sudden crisis, or an explosion, or something like that. (Most likely John just bottled out: ‘Mary?’ ‘Yes?’ ‘……… Could you please pass the salt?’)

Either way, a week after Harriot had been eagerly anticipating her brother’s proposal, nothing had happened and the bride-to-be was getting ‘not a little fidgetty’. Even John’s brother William, who famously had no time for romance, could see that it was ‘full time’ the courtship ‘should end. I rather home it will be happily completed very soon, though it has lasted so long already that it may still last longer than seems likely.’

But by the end of May John still hadn’t proposed. He was getting very frustrated with his family, who were very close to beating him over the head with the nearest convenient blunt instrument if he didn’t make up his mind. ‘My brother and I have been beating over the same ground again,’ Harriot grumbled. ‘… I think in this sort of way all sides may be likely to get frampy.’ No idea where frampy came from (it’s not an 18th century word I recognise), but its meaning was clear.

And yet another two weeks passed in this way before John finally screwed up the courage and proposed on 5 June. Despite Harriot’s fears that she would be too fed up to accept, Mary accepted on the spot.

The marriage licence was applied for, and on 5 July 1783 John, his bride and his future father-in-law put their pens to a ten-page vellum marriage settlement bestowing a dowry on Mary of £5000, partly out of family funds and partly out of West India stocks.

marriage_settlement

John and Mary’s marriage settlement, Bromley Archives Marsham Townshend MSS 1080/3/1/1/26

The marriage itself took place in Mary’s father’s Albemarle Street house on 10 July 1783. Mary was given away by her father, whose permission had been required to secure the marriage licence, as she was still only twenty and therefore considered a legal minor. (The marriage licence described her as ‘an infant under the age of twenty-one years’, which made it sound a bit like John was a cradle-snatcher.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

John and Mary’s crests, from a family pedigree (private collection)

‘The person that constitutes the happiness I so truly feel, is Miss Mary Townshend,’ John wrote delightedly to an old family friend shortly before the marriage. ‘… How much reason on every account I have to be so, I flatter myself all who know her will readily allow.’

Mary’s reaction is not recorded, but she must have been equally relieved.

Book Depository

References

Letters between Lord Grantham and Frederick Robinson, 1779, Bedfordshire Archves Wrest Park (Lucas) MSS L30/15/54/139 and L30/14/333/211.

Letters of Lady Harriot Pitt, John Rylands Library, University of Manchester GB 133 Eng MS 1272, ff. 32-45.

Bromley Archives, Marsham-Townshend MSS 1080/3/1/1/26.

Pitt Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, Duke University, USA.

Earl Stanhope, Life of Pitt, 4 vols. (London, 1861).

About the Author

Jacqueline Reiter has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at www.thelatelord.com and you can follow her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/latelordchatham) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/latelordchatham). Her first book, The Late Lord: the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017.

Elizabeth Boyce: Valor Under Siege (Giveaway)

Kissing and Voting in the Regency Era

by Elizabeth Boyce

In election years, I frequently become misty-eyed about the work of suffragettes whose valiant efforts finally culminated in women being granted the right to vote in the UK in 1918, and in the USA in 1920.

It’s easy to imagine that prior to having the franchise, women were not involved in politics. It’s particularly easy to imagine Regency-era ladies were too constrained by social etiquette and gender roles to hold a political opinion, much less express one, but friend, we would be wrong. So very, very wrong.

Women did not have the right to vote in the UK during the Regency era, but they played a vital role in the political life of the nation. Lady Holland was an ardent supporter of the Whig party in the during the Regency, and her home, Holland House, became unofficial headquarters for the Whigs. She and other political hostesses worked on behalf of their favored party by hosting suppers and salons for politicians after Parliament had let out for the day. Debates continued over a meal and caucuses were held in drawing rooms. Women were expected to be present at such events; in fact, a political evening only attended by men—a “man dinner,” it was uningeniously called—was quite a letdown for guests.

But the political work of women during the Regency was not contained to the domestic sphere. The female family members of a man running for political office were expected to help get him elected. Women canvassed their communities, going door to door to speak to voters and, maybe more importantly, those voters’ wives. You see, even though only men could vote, his vote was often regarded as the common property of his household, and wives could absolutely influence how that vote was cast (Remember, this was before secret ballots; a husband who voted against his family’s wishes might have had to answer for it at home!).

This canvassing was not limited to voters of their own class. During an election, ladies of the upper echelons mingled with the public of all social orders. It wasn’t unheard of for a duchess to call upon a butcher in an effort to win his vote.

In addition to knocking on doors, women bestowed little gifts upon the electorate, such as preserves, candles, or lengths of fabric. Such treating was not seen as bribery at that time. Regency-era voters expected to be wooed!

Speaking of wooing, sometimes canvassing became a little more… personal… than jams and ribbons. Remember the duchess and the butcher I mentioned a moment ago? In the election of 1784, the Duchess of Devonshire, while canvassing on behalf of James Fox, a Whig, was said to have kissed voters to win their support—including a butcher. The incident was the subject of political cartoons, and Fox’s Tory opponents attempted to smear Fox through his association with the duchess, but the Whigs were unfazed by the scandal. The party called upon the duchess to continue her work, and Fox retained his seat in Parliament.

My latest release, Valor Under Siege (The Honorables, book 3), features a small town Parliamentary election. It was lots of fun to pit my Whig hero, Norman Wynford-Scott, against Lady Elsa Fay, a former Tory political hostess who runs circles around Norman when it comes to canvassing. It was wonderful, too, to learn about the political system of the era I enjoy so much, and gain a greater appreciation for women’s roles in that world.

Giveaway: To win an e-book copy of Honor Among Thieves (The Honorables, book 1), please leave a comment sharing your own thoughts or memories about women getting involved in a man’s world–be it politics, the workplace, academia, etc. Contest closes 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, September 14, 2016. One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible commenters.

valorundersiege-copy

About Valor Under Siege

All’s fair in love and politics . . .

When ambitious solicitor Norman Wynford-Scott is ousted from his legal studies due to a holiday revel spun out of control, he adapts a new plan of running for the Parliament seat of a local village. Only trouble is, the same irresistible woman who ruined his good name is thwarting his campaign at every turn.

Widowed and drink-addicted, Lady Elsa Fay has retreated to the family village of Fleck to regain her sobriety. She’s distracting herself from her troubles – and her memories of the one passionate night she shared with Norman – by organizing the Parliament campaign of her husband’s cousin. Until Norman arrives intent on winning the seat for himself.

Shamed and determined, Elsa will do all she can to send her former friend and now adversary packing – even if it means breaking her own heart in the process.

Amazon

About the Author

eb-author-shot-copyElizabeth Boyce’s first taste of writing glory was when she won a gift basket in the local newspaper’s Mother’s Day “Why my Mom is the Best” essay competition at age eight. From that moment, she knew she was destined for bigger and better gift baskets. With visions of hard salamis and tiny crackers dancing in her head, she has authored seven Regency novels and novellas, resulting, thus far, in two gift baskets from adoring fans (AKA amazing friends).

Elizabeth lives in South Carolina and shares her artisanal cheeses with her husband and three children. She sneaks some to the cat when no one else is looking.

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Chatsworth: A Grand House, To Be Sure, But Would You Wish to Live There?

Charming Chatsworth

Since reading Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which includes much of the infamous duchess’s letters and journal entries, I’ve been fascinated by the Devonshire family. The only thing missing among the highly dramatic history of this noble, highly-esteemed family—possibly the wealthiest in England in the Georgian era—is a happy ending. The Devonshires of this period are prime examples of failed British aristocratic marriage and family values. With a seemingly endless source of income and the highest social status, why were these people so desperately unhappy?

It also begs the question that if we all truly believe that money and possessions not only do not make us happy but tend to bring along with them worries and responsibilities to weigh us down, then why do so many of us never seem to have enough? How much is enough? A comfortable life with enough income to cover the bills sounds reasonable. But does that mean stately homes, expensive cars, and a yacht to sail around the world? If you have that, would you be satisfied, or would you yearn for even more? If the billionaires of this world were truly happy, then why do they keep going after more and more? What do you do with a billion dollars anyway, especially with tax loopholes that the ordinary citizen does not enjoy? In the end, do you get a solid gold casket or something? Do you get special privileges in heaven?

Enough preaching. I wanted to write about my Chatsworth experiences this week. Yes, there are lessons to be learned. Unfortunately, most people aren’t inclined to learn from the past, and thus we keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Pronounced George-ayna, by the way. Georgiana was the oldest daughter of the First Earl Spencer and his wife, also Georgiana. The Earl and his wife were childhood sweethearts. If you visit Spencer House on St. James Place in London (see my Pinterest board here), you will be told about their great love and shown all sorts of decorative features that proclaim their love match. It truly warms the heart of a romance addict. Except that…it doesn’t ring true when you realize they subjected their beloved seventeen-year-old daughter to a loveless marriage that brought her much unhappiness. What went wrong?

Well, perhaps it wasn’t entirely their fault. Young Georgiana probably thought it was a dream come true to marry the richest man in England who also happened to be a duke (the 5th Duke of Devonshire). It must have been a shock, though, to discover that her husband had no intention of being faithful, that even at the time of their marriage, his mistress gave birth to an illegitimate daughter who was eventually brought into the Devonshire family to be raised after her mother died. Georgiana herself found it difficult to conceive and suffered miscarriages before producing three children, two daughters, and finally a son, sixteen years after her marriage.

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire

Georgiana enjoyed her life as a leading lady of fashion and politics in the ton. A friend of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, they copied each other’s fashions, including excessively tall hairstyles and large hats. Georgiana was also a leader of the Whig movement, hosting popular salons at Devonshire House in London for all the prominent Whigs of the time. (See a blog post here about her political exploits.) But with all this, she wasn’t happy. She spent lavishly, and gambled excessively (see post about her gambling exploits here), to the point where even the coffers of the richest man in England were seriously threatened. Her mother, the Countess Spencer—who also gambled beyond her means, particularly after her beloved husband died—warned her to be honest with her husband and to be more prudent in her gambling. Didn’t happen. The duke only found out the truth about her debts after her death. I guess they didn’t have Gamblers Anonymous in those days, or they’d know an addict isn’t able to manage his addiction prudently without giving it up entirely.

Georgiana seemed to have everything, and yet, she didn’t. Desperate for a close friend, when she met Lady Elizabeth Foster, who was separated from her husband and sons and seemingly destitute, Georgiana insisted she reside with them, and so began the ménage à trois. Lady Foster bore Georgiana’s husband two illegitimate children, who were brought up in the Devonshire home with their half-siblings, and Georgiana didn’t seem to mind. She and Bess were the best of friends, although many, including Lady Spencer, believed Bess to be a con-artist of the worst kind.

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and later Prime Minister

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and later Prime Minister

After the birth of her son, who later became the 6th Duke, Georgiana felt free to have love affairs of her own. She fell in love with Charles Grey, later to become an earl and a prime minister, and bore him a daughter, who was raised by the child’s paternal grandparents. Her husband was enraged and exiled Georgiana to France for three years, during which time she worried that her son would never know her. (Okay, the duke was a man of his time and perhaps not so terrible as he seems today, but punishing his wife for something he’d been doing for all their marriage just does not give a good impression of his character. Maybe it’s just me?)

Georgiana died in 1806 at 48 of a liver abscess (an eerie coincidence since I had this same affliction last fall, but am completely healed, thank heavens), and three years later, Lady Foster married the duke and became the second duchess, whereupon she admitted the paternity of her two illegitimate children and demanded that the duke provide for them as handsomely (or more so) as his legitimate children. (No, I don’t like her. Can you tell?)

Elizabeth Cavendish, second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

Elizabeth Cavendish, second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

The 6th Duke

Georgiana’s son was sixteen when his mother died and twenty-one when his father died and he inherited. He was active in Whig politics, but his special interest was landscaping and architecture. He had a north wing added to the house and an extensive renovation of the gardens. He spent lavishly to improve the property, which at that time included about 83,000 acres. William never married, having courted Georgiana’s sister’s daughter, Lady Caroline Ponsonby (yes, the one who went nutso over Lord Byron) and lost her to William Lamb, who undoubtedly regretted his marriage in retrospect. Perhaps His Grace realized his good fortunate in escaping a miserable marriage and couldn’t bring himself to risk it again. Certainly the marriages in his own family must have given him quite a few qualms!

The Devonshire Arms

The Devonshire Arms

The Devonshire Arms

Described as “a picturesque country pub at the heart of village life, offering the charm and character of an historic inn with a contemporary twist,” the Devonshire Arms offers comfortable rooms, superb food, and a quaint, medieval building that won’t fail to inspire any dedicated history lovers who book rooms here. Check out my Pinterest board here. And the village of Beeley is equally charming.

Chatsworth

Chatsworth is such a beautiful place, filled with such priceless art and furnishings (see Pinterest board here), that one can’t quite understand how so many of its inhabitants, possessed of great wealth and just about anything they wished, were so obviously unhappy. I thought about this a great deal as I took my time touring the rooms and listening to the audioguide, and even as I walked among the rolling hills and sheep from my lodgings to the house. So much beauty and wealth, and yet, I am not envious. At this point in my life, I don’t aspire to such heavy responsibilities, no matter the grandeur and glamorous lifestyle. It is enough for me to have the privilege of seeing it and experiencing it this one time.

Lovely ceilings throughout the house

Lovely ceilings throughout the house

Sketches Room (my favorite)

Sketches Room (my favorite)

Countess Spencer, Georgiana's mother

Countess Spencer, Georgiana’s mother

Dining Room

Dining Room

Devonshire family portraits

Devonshire family portraits

Wellington Bedroom

Wellington Bedroom

On With the New: Wall sculpture of DNA maps of current Devonshire family

On With the New: Wall sculpture of DNA maps of current Devonshire family

What do you think? Would you like to live the life of a wealthy celebrity? I’m curious to know if others feel as I do that “enough is enough”, and that happiness is not found in great wealth and possessions.

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana: Lady P and I recently returned to Ohio after spending a month in Florida where she enjoyed taking daily “constitutionals” around the retirement village where my parents live, and eventually condescended to take a dip in the heated pool, although the bathing costume she rigged for herself raised more than a few eyebrows from the other swimmers.

Lady P [indignantly]: My dear Susana, I could not possibly have appeared in public in those-those underthings you and your mother wore. I should have been utterly humiliated!

Susana: They are called swimsuits, Lady P. Bathing costumes. And that’s what everyone else wore.

Lady P [with a hand to her head]: The gentlemen—such as they were—were much worse. I thought I would swoon when I saw those naked chests!

Susana [chuckling]: But surely you have seen a bare-chested man before, Lady P. Why, you and Lord P were married for nearly twenty years, were you not?

Lady P: Well, of course I did, but not in public, Susana. Why, my Pendleton was exceedingly conscious of propriety. He would never have appeared in public half-dressed; why his valet would have slit his own throat before allowing it!

Susana [biting her lips to keep from laughing at the thought of the suicidal valet]: These gentlemen are from the 21st century, Lady P. Frankly, what these men wore was quite modest compared to some of the younger gentlemen. Don’t you remember that day when we went to the beach and saw—

Lady P [shuddering]: Do not even remind me, Susana. The young women’s attire…why they were nearly as naked as the day they were born! Where is their sense of modesty?

Susana [making a mental note to avoid beaches and pools in the future]: Perhaps we should get back to today’s topic—the Luddite revolt in 1811-12. Can you tell my readers what you recall of that uncertain time?

Lady P: Indeed I can, although one could wish to forget it.

ludditesSusana: It started in the Midlands with the stocking industry, when stockingers, using looms and equipment leased from their employers in their homes, lost more than half their income when they were forced to produce cheap stockings that their employers could sell in larger quantities and increase their profits. Is that correct?

Lady P: How could I forget? Those stockings fell apart after barely a week of wear, and even the servants disdained them!

Susana: That was the same year the harvest failed, and food prices rose to an alarming level, and more and more people were suffering in economic distress.

Lady P: A shilling for a loaf of bread! It was outrageous!

Susana: People became desperate, and before long, gangs of disguised men started going around destroying the frames and looms used to produce the stockings to protest the treatment of the workers and the poverty more and more of them were forced to endure.

Lady P: That may be how it started, Susana, but it escalated into so much more than that. Why, many of us feared an uprising against the monarchy comparable to the French Terror of barely two decades past. And there wasn’t much to be done about it; Pendleton told me that fully half of the militia had taken up the cudgel for General Ludd in stealth and would turn against their officers in a trice if ordered to put down the revolutionaries.

Susana: I’m curious to know what Lord P thought should be done about it. He was a Tory, and the Tories were in power. Did he approve the decision to make frame-breaking a capital offense?

Lady P [shaking her head and sighing]: No, of course he did not. He thought it was incredibly stupid to think that masses of starving insurgents could be deterred by fear of the gibbet if they were caught. [Swallowing hard] He was, in fact, quite moved by Lord Byron’s speech in the House of Lords, where he decried the Tories’ attempt to solve the problem by force. He insisted—quite eloquently, Lord P admitted—that the Midland workers were being exploited to increase the profits of a few hosiers, and that the resulting misery benefitted no one.

Susana [thoughtfully]: The more things change, the more they stay the same. [Seeing Lady P’s raised eyebrow]: I was just thinking of how the Ohio House of Representatives just voted to eliminate the forty-hour work week so that employers won’t have to pay overtime—pay them double—for working more than that.

Lady P: As to that, I can’t say, Susana. But that is one reason I became a Whig. I would never go so far as to overturn the entire government and plunge the country into turmoil and terror such as what happened in France, but I have always believed that certain reforms to prevent the poor from being exploited could be instituted without much upheaval, and that the entire country would be the better for it. [Sighing] Dear Pendleton felt the same, but he was unable to persuade his colleagues to listen to reason. As afraid as they were of a revolution, the only solution the Tories could agree on was to threaten the insurgents.

Susana: It wasn’t long after that the Tories fell out of power, didn’t they? After the assassination of the Prime Minister?

Lady P: Indeed, and it was well-deserved too. Not because the Whigs’ ideas were much better, although they certainly used the Tories’ imprudence to their advantage. The Prince Regent’s intemperate behavior and his treatment of his wife made him vastly unpopular, so the Whigs took up the cudgel for Princess Caroline, proclaiming that she was being badly treated, and causing more riots, spreading to the north.

percevalSusana: And didn’t the people actually cheer the assassin as he was led to his execution a week later? There was that much dissatisfaction with the government that they cheered the murderer of the Prime Minister?

Lady P [tight-lipped]: Poor Lord Perceval. He was a good man. Had twelve children, you know. A family man. He could have gone far, if it weren’t for that Bellingham fellow shooting him in the House of Commons. Do you know the government wouldn’t even give him a public funeral because they were fearful of riots? I hardly knew what to say to his wife Jane when I saw her after that.

Susana [sighing]: Some things seem so unfair, don’t they? Like my friend whose daughter just died of breast cancer at age thirty-seven. Or many of my friends whose husbands lost their jobs and couldn’t find anything comparable afterward because of their age and the cost of health insurance. What do you say? How do you help them?

Lady P [clucking]: I suppose there will always be misery and injustice, no matter how diligently we try to eliminate it.

Susana: But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

Lady P [smiling]: Exactly. Now, Susana, don’t you think something should be done about all the weeds in the back garden? Since the weather turned warmer, they seem to be popping up all over the place.

Susana [leaving the room]: Have at ’em, Lady P. There’s a hoe in the shed and some work gloves in the drawer over there.

Lady P [frowning]: And where might you be going, then?

Susana [from the office]: I have a Christmas story to write. Deadline, you know. Can’t be bothered with weeds for awhile.

Lady P makes a beeline for the back door, audibly grumbling about “misplaced priorities,” “writing Christmas stories in May,” and that she “really should go back to the 19th century where there were gardeners to do such onerous tasks.”

As always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana [to the Reader]:

regentThe Prince of Wales became Regent in 1811 when his father was deemed unable to reign due to madness. He is often caricatured in historical fiction. Dubbed as “Prinny,” (and other, less polite sobriquets), the king’s eldest surviving son was intemperate in just about every area of his life and generally disliked by the populace.

So naturally, one of the first topics I broached with Lady Pendleton when she arrived on my doorstep was the Prince Regent and what he was like. And she did have a lot to say…but then, she usually does, doesn’t she?

Lady P:

I didn’t meet the Prince Regent until just after my marriage, and although we traveled in the same social circles, Pendleton did not approve of him, and not just because of politics. The Prince was a confirmed skirt chaser before his eighteenth birthday, and he tended to be attracted to older women. Though not normally a jealous man, Lord P did not like to see me much in company with him. I mean, how does one turn down the attentions of a future monarch without incurring rancor and courting future ill-will? No indeed, Pendleton remained riveted to my side whenever we accepted invitations to Carlton House or any event at which the Prince was expected to put in an appearance. [Sighing] Of course, my dear husband never knew of the handful of times I met the Prince at one of Georgiana’s salons at Devonshire House. But then, Lord P would never have countenanced my attendance at a Whig affair, so I simply omitted mentioning it. For his own good, of course.

maria_fitzAlthough I saw His Royal Highness eyeing my form with appreciation on occasion, he never importuned me in any way. No doubt it was due to the fact that he was already infatuated with Maria Fitzherbert, who, like me, was a half dozen or so years older than he was. He’d already had several mistresses by then, including that unfortunate actress, Mary Robinson, but this was different. He was well and truly besotted with Mrs. Fitzherbert.

Susana:

Is it true that he contracted an illegal marriage with her?

Lady P:

Oh, indeed he did. Georgiana told me she was particularly asked by His Highness to assist Mrs. Fitzherbert’s acceptance in the ton. Of course, she could not refuse, although it was exceedingly distasteful to her. She and Maria detested one another, and as fond as she was of the Prince, Georgiana could not like the rashness of his actions in making such an imprudent marriage. Besides the fact that the law prohibited him from marrying without the approval of his father, she was twice-widowed already and a Catholic. [Shaking her head] Could he have found anyone less suitable to be spouse of a king?

Susana:

So it was widely known that he had married without permission. Did his parents know? I wonder how they could countenance his marriage to Princess Caroline, then. Would that not be bigamy?

Lady P:

Well, even when he was sane, George III despised his eldest son. His illness notwithstanding, the old king was a conscientious ruler and I’m certain he despaired of the nation’s future well-being under his dissipated, self-indulgent son. [Shrugging] As to the unsuitability of his marriage, well, there was nothing to be done but to ignore it. I’m sure Maria was offered money to destroy the marriage lines and take herself off, but she was a good Catholic and considered herself married in the eyes of God. Well, the Pope himself declared the marriage valid.

Susana:

Ah yes, no doubt he had hopes of bringing the English back into the True Faith.

Lady P [snickering]:

As if that would ever have happened! Although he lived on and off with her for the better part of two decades, the Prince philandered with others during that time, and even severed his relationship with her just prior to his marriage to that German princess, Caroline. When that turned out to be a colossal disaster, he reconciled with Maria briefly, but when that ended as well, the affair was well and truly over and one couldn’t even mention her name without incurring tirades of anger and bitterness.

Susana:

And yet, didn’t he make a request to be buried with her cameo, or some such trinket?

mariaseyeLady P [sighing]:

It was a miniature of her eye, something she’d given him in the early days to remind him of her—that she was watching him—when they were apart. Despite everything that happened, he kept it, and they said he did speak of her affectionately at the end.

But she was a fool for throwing her lot in with him in the first place. Royal princes don’t marry commoners, and royal heirs marry for state reasons. At least they did in my day. I must confess that it warmed my heart to watch Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton on that computer contraption of yours, although I find it fascinating that she is related to Lord Shelbourne, who was prime minister for a year or so before Charles James Fox’s Whigs trounced him out of office. Why, Lord P and I knew him well.

Susana:

It’s a small world, or so they say.

Lady P:

Indeed it is. Everyone is related to everyone else. It is enough to boggle the mind. I wonder if you and I could be related to each other, Susana? Have you ever thought of that possibility?

Susana [chuckling]:

Well, you do bear a certain resemblance to my mother. But no, I haven’t yet found a connection. I wonder if a DNA test would help?

Lady P [puzzled]:

A DNA test? What can that be? Do explain yourself, Susana.

Susana [to the Reader]:

Well, our conversation took a different direction at that point, but I’m sure I shall have an opportunity to pick her brain further about the Prince Regent at another time.

As always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

red_3smLady P: I’m afraid you find me alone this morning, since Susana is so occupied with her accounts that she begged me to talk to you on my own. Of course, I did tell her that it isn’t strictly necessary to pay the tradesmen’s bills on time; mine are often several months in arrears—due to my demanding schedule, you know—but the merchants with whom I do business have no concerns about being paid eventually. [Sigh] But she insists that there are dreadful penalties for tardiness in meeting one’s obligations, such as one’s credit rating being lowered, whatever that means, so I graciously agreed to serve in her stead once again.

devonshireShe just finished reading a biography written about my good friend Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, and she said she thought her readers would enjoy hearing about Georgiana’s political exploits, and mine too, of course, since I did campaign with her on several occasions.

Well, I suppose I must first mention the brilliant salons at Devonshire House where all the important players in the Whig Party used to meet and have the most intriguing discussions. I was able to attend only a handful of times when Pendleton was out of town—he would never countenance that sort of thing, you know, being a Tory from way back, although I did try at first to explain to him that politics is not something that can be inherited like money or a house—but when I did I was simply fascinated. Georgiana was astonishingly intelligent, you know. If she hadn’t been a female, I’m sure she would have risen to Prime Minister, and I can assure you that if she had, the country would have fared ever so much better than it did at the hands of the men! Not to mention her sense of fashion.

cjfoxBut…no, those of the female sex were not even allowed to vote, so it was quite a scandal when Georgiana and her sister and several other prominent women marched in favor of Charles James Fox in the early days. Charles was a distant cousin, you see, and they were quite cozy with one another. It was really quite something to see, Georgiana leading the women, all carrying signs, through the streets as the onlookers cheered. She had such a presence, you know. I believe she could have convinced them to vote for a monkey and they’d have done so quite happily.

Why, I’ll never forget the day an Irish dustman approached her as she was descending from her carriage and said, “Love and bless you, my lady, and let me light my pipe in your eyes.” [Chuckle] She was forever saying that “After the dustman’s compliment, all others are insipid.”

But Devonshire put his foot down after someone started a rumor that she was selling kisses for votes—how ridiculous that was, but people will believe the most ridiculous things when they see those scandalous prints that make the rounds. So she had to restrict her political activities to less public venues, although everyone knew she still had the ear of all the prominent Whigs of the time.

Georgiana had a great many faults, of course, but I do give her credit for her role in opening the door for the female sex in the political arena. Why, at the time I really expected that women’s suffrage was right around the corner; how shocked and disappointed I was to learn afterward that it was a good hundred years before women were allowed the right to vote. [Shaking her head] That daughter of Kent’s—what was her name?—Victoria—has a lot to answer for, I vow, for her part in setting the cause of women back for so many decades!

Lady P: Oh dear, Susana says I have neglected to mention that the Whigs—or at least the modern Whigs of my day—supported changes in government and society, giving more rights and power to the middle and lower classes and less to the wealthy aristocrats. Why, Georgiana and Fox both supported the American Revolution, and were called traitors by the Tories for it on many an occasion, even after the war was lost. And Georgiana did support the French Revolution at first, even being a particular friend of Marie-Antoinette, until she saw firsthand what was happening there with the guillotine and all. No, she always used to tell me that she hoped that dealing with the situation with the lower classes before it got to the breaking point would stave off the occurrence of such a horrific uprising here in England.

Because really, even if there are as many as ten thousand of us in the ton, we are greatly outnumbered by the common folk, and one can only press them so far before someone draws their attention to the strength of their numbers and leads them into an uprising. [Shuddering] That’s why Pendleton and the Tories opposed education for the masses. Ignorance makes them more malleable, of course. What would he say if he were here to know that Damian’s wife Theresa supports a free school for the common folk in Granville and Letchworth? Thankfully, he passed on to his reward long before. I miss him dreadfully, of course, but he could be so obstinate at times. I always attributed it to that Scottish great-grandmother of his…

And, as always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

ben_franklin

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana (to the Reader): One of my traditional New Year’s goals is to work on clearing up the clutter in my basement office. I use a FlyLady timer that my friend Ellen sent me and tackle the mess fifteen minutes at a time. Well, I was going through some of the travel paraphernalia I brought back from England last May, and I found a $100 bill I had taken along just in case my debit card got eaten up by some greedy ATM. Since I usually carry around $60 or less at one time, I was just about to take out a bank deposit envelope when Lady P caught sight of the picture of Benjamin Franklin on the bill and mentioned that her father had been a great friend of his and that she had met him several times during her come-out. And she did have some fascinating things to say about this famous American statesman and his progency that you may not have heard before.

Lady P: My father dabbled a bit in science, you know. Younger sons do need to find something to occupy their time, even if they marry heiresses, as Papa did. In any event, Papa was a great patron of the sciences, and he and Mr. Franklin took to each other immediately. Papa visited his lodgings on Craven Street quite often to conduct experiments and whatnot.

Susana: How fascinating that you were able to meet Benjamin Franklin! What was he like?

Lady P: Quite a charming man. Not a dasher, you understand, though exceedingly well-groomed. But his witty conversation and elegant manners…goodness, if his son William had inherited even a small portion of his father’s charm…I daresay he could have married into the ton, despite his unfortunate birth.william_franklin

Susana: Unfortunate birth?

Lady P: Indeed. He was a natural son, you know. Acknowledged, of course, and a British Loyalist all his life. Much better looking than his father, even in his sixth decade, as he was when I met him in the 1790’s, but certainly lacking his father’s éclat. you understand. Landed on his feet, though. Married a sugar heiress, I believe.

Susana: An illegitimate son who was a British Loyalist. Fascinating.

Lady P: Not so unusual. Like many colonists, the elder Mr. Franklin had divided loyalties. Why, Papa told me that many a time Mr. Franklin bemoaned the fact that neither side was willing to compromise on their positions. In the end, he took the side of the colonists and never returned to England, but his son William did. Fathered an illegitimate son of his own, too. Who in turn fathered two illegitimate children by two different women.william_temple

Susana: Oh dear. So many illegitimate children! Must have been quite scandalous at the time!

Lady P: Not really. Natural children are quite common. Our Englishwomen are known for their attraction for the male sex, you understand. It’s all in the complexion.

Susana: Er, yes. Of course.

Lady P: Dear Pendleton, of course, was much too prudent to indulge in such behavior, but his uncle–goodness, I could tell you endless stories about his escapades. Poor Aunt Lavinia was forever being humiliated…

Unfortunately, Susana never did finish de-cluttering her office. But she has pages and pages of notes about late 18th/early 19th century scandals that she plans to turn into a book one day. Lady P predicts an instant best-seller.

See you on Monday! As always, please comment if you have any specific questions you’d like Susana to pose to Lady P while she is here.

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”