Tag Archive | Duchess of Devonshire

An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part V

In our last installment, Susana meets Lady Hertford and her son—and the Prince Regent himself!—and mortifies Lady P when she makes two embarrassing faux-pas in quick succession. 

Lady Pendleton [lips pressed together]: The Dark Walks are dark, Susana, and there is nothing of interest to be seen there.

Susana: But isn’t that where rakes meet loose women to—

Lady P: Indeed. Precisely why the place is of no interest to us.

Susana: But I want to—

Lady P: I know you do. But I refuse to countenance it.

Susana [scowling]: I never knew you were such a stick-in-the-mud, Agatha. As I recall, you were the one who insisted on going to that male strip-joint in Detroit. I was always looking over my shoulder hoping not to be seen by any of my former students.

Lady P [with a snort]: I shouldn’t think there was much likelihood of that, considering that outlandish mask you wore.

Susana: But I had to take it off to drink the piña colada. And that was when one of the dancers winked at me. [visibly sweating] He looked a lot like that kid who sat in the back row—what was his name—Jason something, I think. How humiliating!

Lady P: Poppycock! That-er gentleman bore no resemblance to an adolescent of ten and three. In any case, you are no longer teaching.

Susana [brightening]: That is true. Sometimes I forget that. So there’s no reason I can’t take a walk down the Dark Walk.

Lady P [hands on hips]: There most assuredly is! Do recall that I still must live here, with these people and their social mores. [Frowns at Susana’s snort]. Your conduct reflects on me, and I shan’t have you poking around the bushes gawking at ignominious behavior.

Susana [eyebrows raised]: Ignominius? What a great word! I shall have to use it more frequently.

Lady P [chin high and jaw set]: Susana…

Susana: All right, all right. I did promise to follow your lead. But I have to say I never knew you to be such a fuddy-duddy, Agatha. Especially considering your history with the Devonshire set…

Ignoring my last remark, she turned back toward the Orchestra, and after a longing look down the mysterious, shadowed walks, I followed her. I could hear sounds of tiny raindrops on the roof of the covered walk and wondered if the weather might prevent the fireworks display later in the evening. The sprinkle was accompanied by a light breeze, but it was nothing I hadn’t seen before on the Fourth of July. Still, fireworks were dangerous in general, and I wasn’t sure what safety precautions were taken in the nineteenth century. Not that that would dissuade me from watching them while I had the opportunity to do so; as a historical author, I was just as interested in watching the watchers of the spectacle).

The orchestra (musicians) had left the Orchestra (building), and standing on the stage was a single gentleman dressed in a red uniform with gold braids that reminded me of the Duke of Wellington’s portrait at Apsley House. A harmonica of sort was strapped around his neck (I think) so he could blow into it while his hands were free to strum the guitar, strike the triangle attached to the guitar or the Chinese cymbals on a tall stand next to him. A drumstick with a bell cymbal on the opposite end was attached to his knee for either striking the bass drum or the other bell cymbal, and I watched in fascination while he deftly reversed ends with a shake of the knee to switch from one to the other.

When the current piece ended, a boy of twelve or so came out with a wooden chair and deftly helped divest him of his other instruments so that he could accommodate the largish harp standing nearby. His voice as he sang Robin Adair—a song sung by Jane Fairfax in Emma—was clear and strong and and well-received. Members of the audience chimed in at the conclusion, whistling and cheering as he bowed and beamed.

“A pleasing rendition,” said a woman next to us, “but not as splendid as John Braham’s performance at the Lyceum in 1811.”

“No indeed,” I replied, “but I don’t suppose he played so many instruments.”

Robin Adair

After that he played “Sweet Gratitude” on the Pandean pipes while accompanying himself on the guitar. After the enthusiastic applause, there was an intermission of sorts and people began to move around and chat.

“He can do bird calls as well,” confided a lady next to me. “I heard him at the Concert-Room at Newcastle.”

“Signor Rivolta is awesome—er, astonishing,” I agreed, recalling my Regency persona just as Lady P’s elbow connected with my upper arm.

“Dear Agatha! Such a surprise to see you in Town after all!”

The second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

Lady P whirled around and her hands clenched briefly at the appearance of two women approaching them.

“Your Grace,” she said with a brief nod, “and Mrs. Lamb. I am sorry I could not attend your rout the other evening. Indeed, I was out of Town, but returned unexpectedly when my friend here—” she pointed at me with her chin— “insisted on visiting Vauxhall Gardens before she returns to America. Soon.”

The ladies gave me a quizzical look, and Lady P hurried to introduce me.

“Allow me to present to you my friend Susana Ellis, a friend of a friend, who is here on a very brief visit from our former Colonies. Miss Ellis, this is Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire, and her daughter, Mrs. Caroline Lamb.”

I was stunned for a moment, aware that Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, had been deceased more than ten years and had no daughter Caroline, besides. But then I recalled that the Duke had married his mistress, the third of their scandalous ménage à trois, after Georgiana’s death, and that prior to becoming the second duchess, Lady Elizabeth Foster had born him two illegitimate children, one of which was a daughter called Caroline. Who apparently had married one of the Melbourne miscellany. Something I had not known.

Lady P cleared her throat, and I became aware that something was expected of me.

I bobbed rather inelegantly. “A pleasure to meet you, Your Grace. And Mrs. Lamb too.” I craned my neck to survey the crowd. “Is the Duke around? I would love to meet him.”

There was silence until I remembered that the 5th Duke had died as well, and the 6th Duke, Georgiana’s son, disapproved of the Foster clan and wasn’t likely to have accompanied them on a pleasure outing.

“She’s American, you say?” said the Duchess at last, staring at me from beneath her eyelashes. “Peculiar, is she not?”

“Mama,” said the younger woman, whose cheeks were flushed, “You have met Americans before, you know.”

“Yes, but there is something very singular about this one,” replied the Dowager Duchess, as she studied my gown (Butterick pattern B6630 and not the most authentic of the bunch). “I’ve never seen trim quite like that on your pelisse, Miss Ellis.”

Of course not, because it was from the 21st century. Lady P was glaring at me, and I knew I was in trouble again. But she would not convince me to leave before the fireworks. Even if it started to rain cats and dogs.

“An American innovation,” I said sweetly. “Perhaps it will reach your own modistes in a year or two.”

Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)

vauxhallbook

Vauxhall Gardens: A History

David Coke & Alan Borg

The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is one of the places I’d love to slip back in time to visit, just to catch a glimpse of what it was like. After recently splurging to buy this lovely coffee-table book, I thought it might make a wonderful subject for a new blog series. But do buy the book too, if you can! The photos are fabulous!

I’m so excited! I just bought a mounted poster of this painting in color from art.com to hang in my bedroom/office here in Florida.

By the time this painting appeared, Jonathan Tyers had died and Vauxhall Gardens passed on to his wife and children, but it was his son Jonathan Tyers Jr.—that n’er-do-well younger son who wed a widowed lady much older than he and caused a giant rift among his parents—who assumed his father’s role in managing the park.

Thomas_Rowlandson_-_Vaux-Hall_-_Dr._Johnson,_Oliver_Goldsmith,_Mary_Robinson,_et_al

 

In the supper-box on the left we see, reading left to right, James BoswellMrs Thrale (who appears twice), Dr. Johnson, and Oliver Goldsmith.

The ‘macaroni’ Captain Edward Topham (scandalmonger to The World) is quizzing Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her sister Lady Duncannon (Sheridan’s Lady Bessborough), watched by a naval figure with an eye patch and a wooden leg (not included in the Mellon version), always called Admiral Paisley, but Paisley did not lose his leg and eye until 1st June 1794, so it cannot be him. To the left of him, a young girl (a young boy in the Mellon version) holding the hand of a man who could be the comic actor, William Parsons, or Rowlandson’s friend Jack Bannister.

Peering at the two ladies from behind a tree is a figure traditionally, though improbably, identified as Sir Henry Bate-Dudley, the ‘Fighting Parson’, editor of the Morning Herald; he is more likely to be Thomas Tyers (son of Jonathan Tyers the great entrepreneur and proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens from 1729 until 1767) who stands next to the Scotsman James Perry, editor of the London Gazette. The couple on their right could well be the artist himself and his current girlfriend. and to the right of them stands the actress Mary ‘Perdita’ Robinson, with her husband on her right and the Prince of Wales (later George IV) on her left.

Looking up at the singer, the couple on the extreme left, have been identified as the actress Miss Hartley, in company with one of her many admirers, possibly Mr. Colman, but, suggested by their position apart from the crowd, they could also be members of the Tyers family (most likely Jonathan jr. and his wife Margaret, or their son-in-law Bryant Barrett and his wife Elizabeth. The large lady seated at the table on the right is Mrs Barry, the old Madam of Sutton Street, Soho, with two of her customers and one of her girls.

In the orchestra, we can see Jacob Nelson, the tympanist, who had played at Vauxhall since 1735, and died there after fifty years’ performing, Mr Fisher on oboe, probably Hezekiah Cantelo and Mr. Sargent on trumpet, and Barthélemon, the leader, who retired in 1783. James Hook, the composer, organist, musical director and prolific song-writer, may be seen between Barthelemon and the singer, the 38-year-old Frederika Weichsell, who was Rowlandson’s next-door neighbour in Church Street, and the mother of Mrs. Elizabeth Billington. Elizabeth had just (aged 18) married James Billington, a double-bass player, in 1783, much against her parents’ wishes.

A number of those present in this scene had already died by the time Rowlandson produced the painting, and the affair between the Prince and Perdita Robinson was already over.

Although there is no direct evidence for this, it seems likely, because of the dating, and because of the central position of the singer, that the painting was created by Rowlandson as a retirement gift for Frederika Weichsel, whether from him personally, or specially commissioned by the proprietors of the gardens.

 

Susana’s Vauxhall Blog Post Series

  1. Vauxhall Gardens: A History
  2. Vauxhall Gardens: Jonathan Tyers—“The Master Builder of Delight” 
  3. Vauxhall Gardens: A New Direction
  4. Vauxhall Gardens: The Orchestra and the Supper-Boxes 
  5. Vauxhall Gardens: The Organ, the Turkish Tent, and the Rotunda
  6. Vauxhall Gardens: Three Piazzas of Supper-Boxes
  7. Vauxhall Gardens: “whither every body must go or appear a sort of Monster in polite Company”
  8. Vauxhall Gardens: The Competition
  9. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part I
  10. Vauxhall Gardens: The Artwork, Part II
  11. Vauxhall Gardens: The Music, 1732-1859
  12. Vauxhall Gardens: The Business Side
  13. Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751-1786
  14. Vauxhall Gardens: Thomas Rowlandson’s Painting (1785)
  15. ‎Vauxhall Gardens: The Third Generation of the Tyers Family and the Jubilee of 1786
  16. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part I
  17. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part II
  18. Vauxhall Gardens: An Era of Change (1786-1822), Part III
  19. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part I
  20. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part II
  21. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part III
  22. Vauxhall Gardens: The Final Years, Part IV
  23. Vauxhall Gardens: Farewell, for ever

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

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]:

Lady P and I just finished watching the 2007 BBC movie about Lord Byron, and I thought you might find some of her reminiscences of the original characters as intriguing as I did. [Turning to Lady P] You knew the real Lord Byron, did you not, Lady P? What was your impression of him?

byronLady P:

Oh yes, I was acquainted with the man, as was anyone who was anyone in the ton during the spring of 1812 when he came onto the scene. I could never understand why women were making cakes of themselves over him. He wasn’t all that well-favored, you know, not nearly as attractive as that actor who played him in the film. Although he did have a certain magnetism, I suppose, when he looked at a woman with “the stare,” that is, with hooded eyes. I’m not at all sure what he was conveying with that most peculiar stare, but whatever it was had the effect of making formerly sensible women abandon all pretense of prudence in order to attract his attention.

Susana:

Undoubtedly Lady Caroline Lamb was one of them.

Lady P:

She was the worst of them, but then, she was always somewhat of a loose screw, Susana. Even when she was small—she was eight years old when her mother, Georgiana’s sister, moved the family into Devonshire House to escape her father’s abuse—Georgiana used to tell me about her flights of fancy and frequent mood swings, and when she married George Lamb and moved into Melbourne House, we all hoped that her husband and Lady Melbourne, his mother, a prominent Whig hostess you know, would prove to be steadying influences on her.

Susana:

It didn’t work out that way, though, did it?

Lady P [shaking her head]:

Not at all. You know, Susana, it is never a good idea for a newlywed to move in with her husband’s family. Or the other way round, I’m sure. In this case, Caroline clashed constantly with Lady Melbourne, and it only got worse when Caroline and Byron were so foolish as to allow their affair to become public. Harriet—Lady Bessborough, Caroline’s mother, you know—tried to rein her in, especially after Lord Byron tried to break things off with her, but Caroline was so far gone from reality that she listened to no one. She foisted herself on his friends and begged them to help her win him back. She threatened to harm herself. She neither ate nor slept and was quite wraith-like when her mother and husband finally persuaded her to go to Ireland with them. But even that wasn’t the end of it. Poor Caroline raved over him until the day she died, alternately loving and hating him.

carolinelamb

Susana:

I suppose today she’d be diagnosed bipolar and given medication to help her cope with her illness.

Lady P [frowning]:

Bipolar?

Susana:

Mood swings. You know, when someone is rapturously happy and believes everything is right with the world and doesn’t care if everyone knows it, and then later falls into a serious depression. I’m no psychiatrist, of course, but it does sound to me like she suffered from such an affliction.

Lady P:

Well, she did suffer from some sort of affliction, that much is obvious. And I shouldn’t wonder if Lord Byron didn’t suffer from something similar. He too, was something of a loose screw. Although I can’t really say what he was like as a child. I did hear that his father was something of a tyrant, like Caroline’s.

Susana:

What an interesting thought! But did he exhibit an equal passion for her, at least while their affair was still going full-swing?

Lady P [with a decidedly unladylike snort]:

Oh yes, indeed. Of course, when he first came onto the social scene, he was a Nobody and she the reigning Beauty. No doubt he was flattered when she took an interest in him. They were both poets, you know, possessed of mercurial artistic temperaments. At first, her mad, childlike bravado attracted him, but when Lady Melbourne got her clutches into him and convinced him that Caroline’s antics could make him persona non grata in society, he began to cool toward her.

Susana:

Lady Melbourne? Caroline’s mother-in-law? Why would Lord Byron pay attention to anything she said about Caroline?

Lady P:

My dear Susana, Lady Melbourne was one of the premier Whig hostesses, exceedingly attractive for her age, and it was whispered about that Lord Byron was infatuated with her. Yes, even though she was more than thirty years his senior. It does happen, you know. She had many affairs with prominent men, including the Prince Regent, and her son George bears an uncanny resemblance to him too.

Susana:

So why was she so critical of Caroline, then, if she indulged in adulterous affairs herself?

Lady P [somewhat impatiently]:

The difference between them, my dear Susana, is that Lady Melbourne’s lovers were carefully chosen to increase her influence in political circles. She was also careful to manage them with the utmost discretion. Caroline, well, she had no such scruples. She was the victim of her impulses. And to a lesser extent, Lord Byron was to his as well.

Susana:

I feel so sorry for her. But Lord Byron did not pine away for her, did he?

Lady P:

Not at all. He cut a wide swathe among the ladies of London. [Lowering her voice] It is said that he had an incestuous relationship with his half-sister Augusta, and that her daughter Elizabeth is his.

Susana:

Goodness! For a society so bent on propriety, there was certainly a great deal of scandalous goings-on!

Lady P [sighing]:

Oh yes indeed! It was keeping up appearances that was the important thing. So hypocritical. Why, I always thought it was beyond outrageous when Lady Swindon cast her maid into the streets for being with child when she herself was having an affair with the Duke of Kent. I do hope I was able to instill better principles into my own daughters while they were growing up.

Susana:

Lord Byron eventually married, did he not? I heard that his daughter Ada was the world’s first computer programmer.

Lady P:

Computer programmer? Well, I can’t speak to that, since I have no notion of what that is, except for that machine you use for your writing. But yes, he did marry Annabella Milbank, who was Lady Melbourne’s favorite niece and an heiress besides. And now that I think on it, I do recall that she was thought to be something of a bluestocking, so it is likely that she would have an intelligent daughter. Why, Annabella was better educated than most of the men of the ton; you’d have thought she’d have better sense than to marry a sad rattle like George Byron.

Susana:

Those mesmerizing, hooded stares of his, no doubt.

Lady P:

She probably thought she could reform him. She was quite a devout young lady, I believe. [Shaking her head] Such a shame. Why, I made sure my girls knew better than to attempt such a thing with their husbands. There are ways a woman can influence her husband’s opinions—I can certainly attest to that—but it is far better to choose a mate who doesn’t require a great deal of changing. Do remember that, Susana.

Susana [rolling her eyes]:

Of course, Lady P. [To the reader] That’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed Lady P’s reminiscences about the celebrated poet that Lady Caroline called “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”

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!

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

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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]:

In our last encounter, Lady P enlightened us on the Prince of Wales’ illegal marriage to a twice-widowed Catholic lady unsuitable in every way to be Queen Consort of England. Following that, he married—for reasons of state—his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, daughter of his father’s sister. I’ve read of what a dreadful disaster that was, but I wanted to pick Lady P’s brain about it.

Lady P:

Really, Susana! Pick my brain, indeed! What an indelicate turn of phrase!!

Susana:

It’s just an expression, your ladyship. It means—well, I should have said only that I’m curious to learn what you have to say about the Prince’s choice of wife.

Lady P [shuddering]:

Naturally I have a great deal to say about it, but first I must shake off the image of some quack physician performing surgery on my brain. Is there anything left of the cooking sherry?

Susana:

No, you finished that one off last week after watching the finale of Downton Abbey, don’t you remember? But don’t despair—I bought a new bottle yesterday at the Kroger store.

[A slight pause while Susana leaves the room and returns with a glass of wine for Lady P.]

Lady P [after draining half the glass and dabbing at her lips with a handkerchief]:

Just the thing. I do enjoy a little wine in the evening, you know. What a pity you have no wine cellar. Why, in my day, every reputable household had a wine cellar and a stock of good wine. Even though you yourself do not indulge, Susana, you ought at least to think of your guests!

Susana [shrugging]:

My friends and I usually go out. In any case, if your ladyship is properly refreshed, I wonder if we could resume our conversation about the Princess of Wales. I have heard that she and the Prince detested each other on sight. Is that true, do you think?

caroline2Lady P:

That was indeed the on dit, and I must say, I could believe it. The Prince arrived late to his wedding, and in a most intoxicated state, too. Lady Bessborough—Georgiana’s sister Harriet, you know—told me that the night before he’d written a note declaring his everlasting love to Maria Fitzherbert—with whom he was estranged at the time—and he made out a will leaving everything he owned to her as well. Harriet was much distressed to see the state he was in.

Susana [shaking her head]:

Then why was she chosen in the first place? He was a grown man; surely he could have found a way to avoid it if he’d wished to.

Lady P:

Was he? A grown man, I mean. Much of the time his behavior resembled that of an over-indulged child. [Looking around nervously] I suppose I can say that with impunity since he’s been dead for nearly two centuries, but truly, my dear, the Prince of Wales was never the man his father was, the madness notwithstanding. [Sighing] In any case, the Prince had accumulated such debts that Mr. Pitt—the Prime Minister, you know—promised to give him a substantial increase in income if he were to make a suitable marriage.

Susana:

So…he was forced to marry Caroline of Brunswick to pay his debts? Did he have no other prospective brides to choose from?

Lady P:

Well, when you eliminate the Catholic royalty and those who were already wed, there were only two who were eligible, both of them his first cousins. Princess Louise of Mecklenberg-Strelitz was his father’s brother’s daughter, and frankly, she was the prettier of the two and seemingly possessed of the better temperament. There were rumors of Princess Caroline’s scandalous behavior even then, you see.

Susana:

Then why did he choose her? Did she have a larger dowry?

Lady P [clucking]:

The on dit was that Lady Jersey—the Prince’s mistress at the time—chose her because she seemed a less formidable rival.

Susana:

So…he allowed his mistress to choose his wife?

Lady P:

If you believed the Prince to be a man of integrity and good character, my dear Susana, then you have not been attending my words at all. The man had no intention of forming a true marriage, and even though he had broken with Maria, in some manner he still considered her his true wife and resented the necessity of making another connection for state purposes.

Susana:

So he didn’t really care who he married.

Lady P:

Whom, my dear. Not who. No, I don’t suppose he did. Consequently, when he ended up with a wife as odious as Caroline, nearly everyone secretly believed his punishment was well deserved.

Susana:

Did you agree with them, Lady P?

Lady P [sighing]:

As many faults as the Prince had, my dear, they were nothing compared to those of Caroline of Brunswick. Those who defended her when apprised of his cruel treatment—and that was nearly the whole of England, you know—could hardly have been well acquainted with her. Well, Sally Jersey was an exception, but then, Sally never did approve of the Prince, since she was forever having to live down the fact that her mother-in-law had been his mistress for a time, and had, in fact, chosen Caroline for him in the first place.

Susana:

Sally Jersey, one of the patronesses of Almack’s? Who would refuse vouchers to young ladies who did not demonstrate the utmost propriety in their conduct?

Lady P:

The same.

carolineSusana:

What did you think of Caroline, Lady P?

Lady P [throwing up her arms]:

She was truly dreadful, Susana. She rarely bathed, ate and drank to excess, was most immoderate in her dress and speech, and it was said that she was not chaste. But you should really ask Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, since she served—most unwillingly, I must say—as one of the Princess’s ladies-in-waiting.

Susana:

Lady Beauchamp? Where have I heard that name before?

Lady P:

She was an acquaintance of Theresa’s, you know, Damian’s wife?

Susana:

Ah, yes. But they were hardly bosom friends, as I recall.

Lady P [smiling]

Oh my, not at all. But they were merely young girls at the time, and you know how catty young girls can be. But then…perhaps we should arrange to have Leticia come for a visit sometime soon. I think you would enjoy—how did you put it—performing surgery on her brain for a time.

Susana:

Picking her brain is the proper expression, Lady P.

Lady P:

It is not proper at all, Susana, and you know it quite well. I do feel the need for another glass of that cooking sherry, if you don’t mind.

Susana [to the Readers]:

That’s all for this episode. But I am intrigued by the idea of speaking with Leticia, Lady Beauchamp. Perhaps Lady P will be able to persuade her to come for a brief visit to tell me about her experiences with the infamous Princess of Wales who was never allowed to be Queen. I can’t promise anything, however. This time travel thing can be very complicated.

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”