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Friday, April 30, 2010

Jo Manning - Artists and Their Models: Part One

We're dead chuffed to have Jo Manning, our best mate and author of My Lady Scandalous, as a guest blogger.



Jo writes:
On Thursday, the 20th of May, at 7 p.m., I will be at the Dr Johnson House Museum in London giving a talk on three prominent 18th-century artists and their favorite models. If any of you are there, please come! This is a charming house on Gough Square, built in 1700 and now overshadowed by tall skyscrapers and in the middle of a tasteful retail area with restaurants and shops.

This presentation is an outgrowth of the research I undertook on the London art scene when I was writing My Lady Scandalous, the biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, a famous courtesan (Simon and Schuster, 2005). I focused on three portraitists: Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and George Romney. There were points of congruence amongst all of them, but also some points of divergence, which made them fascinating to me. Their relationships with the women whom I believed were their favorite sitters was/is also fascinating and worthy, I think, of a dissertation. This is just scratching the surface.



Frick Collection portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1782, when Grace was newly pregnant with the child she claimed was the daughter of the Prince of Wales

Grace Elliott was painted twice by Gainsborough (who was a great landscape artist as well as a portraitist), and I have seen sketches for a possible third portrait in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery. This wonderful portrait-bust graces (pun intended!) the cover of my book, and I believe it shows what a beauty she really was, contrary to Gainsborough’s other – and perhaps more famous – portrait of her. A full-length portrait executed in what critics describe as in the style of Van Dyck, it shows her tall, beautiful figure to great advantage in a splendid gold silk gown but her profile is positively haggish, making her look more like Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz) rather than Princess Diana of Wales, whom I believe she greatly resembled.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy Birthday to the Duke of Wellington


Yes, it's the anniversary of the birthday of everyone's favorite historical figure - Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. His actual birthday is variously noted as being 29 April/1 May 1769.


Should you be in London, the Duke of Wellington pub on Portobello Road (in which I've hoisted a few pints myself) is offering patrons a free drink to celebrate the occasion. Once you enter their website, click on the "Free Drink" link.








The only thing that could better the day and the offer of a free drink would be if we could all lift our glasses to the Duke of Wellington together in London.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Young Victoria

Victoria H. (as opposed to Victoria R) loved this film when she saw it in London in May 2009. And she will buy a copy as soon as it comes out on DVD. It's still in Kristine's Blockbuster queue.

We'd love to know what you think of it, so if you've already seen it, do tell us all. Wasn't Emily Blunt wonderful? She even looked the part.

Victoria H. has this warning.  Do not expect the film to be entirely historically accurate. They played a little fast and loose with a couple of aspects.  For the benefit of the drama, of course.



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Author Hester Davenport to Speak at Burney Society Conference

Hester Davenport, author of The Prince's Mistress: A Life of Perdita, Mary Robinson and Faithful  Handmaid: Fanny Burney at the Court of King George III, (Sutton Publishing) will be speaking at a conference entitled "Women under Napoleon 1802–12" that has been jointly organised by  The Burney Society and the Université-Paris Diderot, to celebrate the life of Frances Burney in Paris, and to promote Anglo-French relations and the study of women’s writing on revolution and empire. The conference will take place 10–11 June 2010 at the Institut Charles V, rue Charles V, Paris.

Hester's talk English Women and the Revolution, will include dramatised readings by Hester and Karin Fernald. Other seminars include Napoleon through British and French Caricatures (1799–1815), Germaine de Staël’s 1812 Dilemma by Flora Fraser,  Pauline Bonaparte: Procuress for her Brother the Emperor Napoleon?, Florence Filippi on French actresses and Napoleon and Madame d’Arblay’s ’French Notebooks’ by Peter Sabor of McGill University.

For more details, a list of hotels and to make a reservation, contact David Tregear (Burney Society secretary): 36 Henty Gardens, Chichester PO19 3DL Email: tregear.david@virgin.net

Monday, April 26, 2010

The London and Waterloo Tour - The Grenadier Pub

Let me preface this post by saying that it may be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written due to the fact that I had the most chilling experience of my life at the Grenadier Pub. Read on. . . .

Tucked away down London's exclusive Wilton Mews, on the corner of Old Barrack Yard, the patriotic Grenadier pub is painted red, white and blue and boasts a red sentry box that serves as a nod to the property’s military history. Reputedly, the Duke of Wellington's Grenadier Guards used it as their mess. Inside it is small, dark and cozy, the  paneled walls covered with military and Wellington memorabilia. Reputedly, the pub’s upper floors were once used as the officers’ mess of a nearby barracks, whilst its cellar was pressed into service as a drinking and gambling lair for the common soldiers.

A display at the entrance to the pub informs us that "18 Wilton Row was built circa 1720 as the home to The 1st Regiment of Foot Guards regiment and famously known as the Duke of Wellington's Officers Mess. Originally named The Guardsman as a Licensed Premises in 1818, and frequented by King George IV, the Grenadier enjoys a fine reputation for good food and beer." From the same display we also find out that the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards was created in 1656, and that 1st Guards were renamed by Royal Proclamation as the 'Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards' because of their heroic actions against French Grenadiers at Waterloo in 1815. Continuing the Wellington connection, directly outside in the old Barrack Yard at the side of the pub is what is reputed to be the remaining stone of the Duke's mounting block, whilst an archway down the nearby alley forms part of his stables.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Did You Know . . . That You Can Have Your Very Own Blue Plaque?

Thanks to a great website brought to our attention by Jo Manning, you can now make your very own Blue Plaque and immortalize yourself as part of London history. Well, okay, you can make one that appears as a photo and then you can print it, frame it and hang it on your own wall.

Here's some history behind them:

The scheme for blue plaques, which make a stroll down any London street all the more interesting,  has been running for over 140 years and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. The idea of erecting ‘memorial tablets’ in London was first proposed by William Ewart MP in the House of Commons in 1863. It had an immediate impact on the public imagination, and in 1866 the Society of Arts (later Royal Society of Arts) founded an official plaques scheme for the capital. The Society erected its first plaque – to the poet Lord Byron – in 1867. In all, the Society of Arts erected 35 plaques; today, less than half of them survive, the earliest of which commemorates Napoleon III (1867).

In 1901, the plaques scheme was taken over by London County Council (LCC), which erected nearly 250 plaques over the next 64 years and gave the scheme its popular appeal. It was under the LCC that the blue plaque design as we know it today was adopted, and the selection criteria were formalised.

On the abolition of the LCC in 1965, the plaques scheme passed to the Greater London Council (GLC). The scheme changed little, but the GLC was keen to broaden the range of people commemorated. The 262 plaques erected by the GLC include those to figures such as Sylvia Pankhurst, campaigner for women’s rights; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, composer of the Song of Hiawatha; and Mary Seacole, the Jamaican nurse and heroine of the Crimean War.

English Heritage is now in charge of the scheme and has erected nearly 300 plaques in London, bringing the total number to over 800. Blue plaques are among the most familiar features of the capital’s streetscape. They adorn the façades of buildings in areas as different as Primrose Hill, Soho and Wimbledon; some of these buildings are grand, others look very ordinary, but all are connected by the fact that a remarkable person lived or worked there at some point in history.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is an Orangery?

Since the first purposeful cultivation of plants, humankind has struggled to improve growing conditions by altering the environment. For the plant to thrive, is it too cold? Too dark? Too rainy? Too arid? Too windy? How can the plant's living arrangements be improved to give it maximum light, water, air circulation and fertility? How can we improve on Mother Nature?

Below, inside the Orangery at Saltram House, Plymouth, Devon.

Today we take for granted the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in computer-monitored locations that bring us year-round production, the result of centuries of experimentation and invention. Two hundred years ago, our ancestors knew what was needed for maximum production, and they were quickly developing the technological requirements for success.

To some extent, the terms greenhouse, glasshouse, hothouse, orangerie, pinery, and conservatory can be used interchangeably, though each has a generally agreed upon specific meaning. All these terms and the buildings they describe existed in Georgian England, mostly at royal palaces and the estates of the wealthy aristocracy. 
 
The Regency era, whether one confines the definition strictly to 1811-1820 or, more broadly, the French Revolution to Victoria 1789-1837, was truly a time of transition in enhanced plant cultivation indoors.

At Carlton House, the Prince of Wales' London residence (demolished in 1826-27), a conservatory was added in 1807 in the newest construction techniques in cast iron columns and a fan vaulted ceiling supporting large glass spaces. The architect was Thomas Hopper (1776-1856) whose work was considered a tour de force. The conservatory opened into the gardens at one end. If one looked in the opposite direction, there was a clear view of the entire lower ground-floor range of rooms.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Witty Lord Alvanley

There were so many un-witty imitators of dandyism in the days of the Prince Regent that the appearance of Lord Alvanley with his delicate manner and exquisite style always caused a quiet sensation. To Lord Alvanley was awarded the reputation of being able to say as smart a thing as even Richard Brinsley Sheridan could rap out, whose repartee on all occasions was equal to any need. Captain Gronow alleges that Lord Alvanley had the talk of the day completely under his control, and was the arbiter of the school for scandal in all the St. James's district. A bon mot attributed to him gave rise to the belief that Solomon caused the downfall and disappearance of Beau Brummell; for on some friends of the prince of dandies observing that if he had remained in London something might have been done for him by his old associates, Alvanley replied, "he has done quite right to be off; it was Solomon's judgment." The real point of this remark is that one of Brummell's chief creditors was a gentleman of the Jewish persuasion whose name by chance happened to be Solomon.

Happy Birthday, Will

This is the day we celebrate both the birth and death of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

No lover of England or the English language can ignore the primacy of Shakespeare for the beauty of his language, the brilliance of his plots, or the emotion his work engenders.

Most beloved, most admired, most quoted: “To be, or not to be. That is the question.”
Just one of the many from Hamlet.

Here is Victoria’s favorite from the Sonnets, Number 29.



When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 Shakespeare's Statue in Leicester Square, London

Thursday, April 22, 2010

London and Waterloo Tour - Apsley House

One of the very first stops Victoria and I will be making together is a visit to Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington's London home.  Apsley House is, of course, the place from which we took the name for this blog. The house became familiarly known as Number One, London as it was the first house after the Knightsbridge toll gates that travelers passed upon entering London.

Apsley House, originally a red brick building, was built between 1781-1787 by neo-classical architect Robert Adam for Baron Apsley, later the second Earl Bathurst. It was purchased by Marquess Wellesley, elder brother to Arthur Wellesley, in 1807, with financial difficulties following soon after. Needing a base of operations and residence in London, and seeking to ease his brother's financial burdens, the ever practical Duke purchased the house in 1817.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Birthday to Our Queen

Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth II,
age 84 today.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Victoria here. As long as I can remember, I've looked at pictures of the Queen and her sister Princess Margaret, probably in Life magazines. I was convinced that they were my cousins, though they were much better dressed than the cousins I played with in Illinois and Wisconsin. Funny how I must have been spirited away from my REAL family in the Palace and dropped into the American Midwest.

Well, a writer needs a vivid imagination and I certainly have one! Nevertheless, this perceived connection between Elizabeth R and me has never been driven out of my system. I am sure we are related somehow.
 
The only time I saw the Queen up close and in person was in Toronto in 2002 while she was on her Golden Jubilee tour. There was a small crowd around her hotel when she came out to begin her royal duties for the day. She was wearing a lovely purple (aubergine!) suit with matching hat and shoes. She is TINY.
 
 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Serendipity, Horace Walpole, and Me

By Victoria Hinshaw

I love the word – and the concept of – Serendipity. The word was invented by one of the 18th century’s most interesting characters, Horace Walpole (1717-97), whose life neatly spanned the century and, to my mind, rather defined the times.

Serendipity means discovering connections between thoughts or objects by happy accident. I first learned the word when I had a most pleasant meal on E. 60th Street in New York City at a charming restaurant named Serendipity. It was a serendipitous event! The discovery of a new concept while in the act of enjoying a new place (this was a very long time ago).


Recently, while working on a piece for this blog (see posts of March 29 and 31) on William Petty-FitzMaurice, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737 – 1805), who was The Earl of Shelburne and Prime Minister 1782-1783, I learned that Walpole, himself an opinionated and eccentric character, did not like Shelburne, also famously opinionated and eccentric. How serendipitous, I thought, for I was also planning to do a piece on Walpole and the upcoming exhibitions of his treasures at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Which reminded me of the restaurant in New York; when I Googled it, I happily found it still prospering. Then I read that Walpole had coined the word Serendipity.

Amazing.

All of which is a long and involved introduction to my little essay on Horace Walpole, architect, author, collector, raconteur, bon vivant, and writer of 48 printed volumes of correspondence.

Horace was a younger son of Sir Robert Walpole, first Earl of Orford, and England’s first Prime Minister during the reign of the first two Georges. Horace received an ideal gentleman’s education at Eton and Cambridge followed by a Grand Tour. He had wide ranging interests and made many friends, devoting himself to arts and culture. Though he served as a member of the House of Commons, he had an independent income which enabled him to pursue his eclectic interests by collecting and carefully developing his tastes. Widely considered a superb connoisseur, he and his friends spent years converting his villa in Twickenham into a neo-Gothic structure.

Strawberry Hill

 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Living With the Duke of Wellington

I've been living with the Duke of Wellington for nigh on thirty years now - reading about him, researching him and, perhaps most fun, collecting items associated with him. The first portrait of the Duke I ever bought is pictured at right. If you can believe it, I stumbled upon it in a thrift store in Florida and paid just $99 for it. Afterwards, I brought a photo of it with me to London and took it to Grosvenor Prints in Seven Dials and asked the gentleman there what he thought it was worth. He hemmed and hawed on giving me an appraisal without actually seeing the piece, but did tell me that mine was one of a series of eight engravings done shortly after the Duke's death to commemorate the high points thereof. My engraving shows the Duke being installed as Chancellor of Oxford University and the frame is rosewood. When I told the man how much, or how little, I'd paid for the piece, he peered at me over the top of his glasses and said, "Madam, you got yourself a bargain."






The next portrait I bought was this reproduction of Thomas Phillips's 1814 painting of the Duke. Unfortunately, there isn't an amusing story attached to this purchase, just ordered it through the mail, took it to be framed and matted and hung it above my fireplace. I must say, though, Artie looks tres festive when wreathed in garland at the holidays! My father bought the pheasant at an auction decades ago and when he returned home with it, both my mother and myself thought he was crazy. However, now I'm ever so glad he found it, as it's so veddy Victorian in appearance and goes quite well on the mantle, non?



Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Year Without a Summer



In light of Iceland's volcano grounding UK flights, we thought it would be appropriate to remind everyone of 1816, the year that England, and much of the rest of the world, experienced the "Year Without a Summer," which was caused by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. You can read about it here, here and here. Victoria and I can only hope that the ash clears up by June to allow us to reach England as scheduled, and that it does not extend into the summer - quelle horror!

Do You Know About Doc Martin?

In Doc Martin, Martin Clunes plays the town of Portwenn's local GP, Martin Ellingham, who was once a brilliant and highly successful London surgeon until he developed a phobia of blood that prevented him conducting operations. After retraining as a GP, he applied for a post in the sleepy Cornish village of Portwenn, where he had spent childhood holidays.

Much of the show's humour revolves around Ellingham's clumsy interactions with the local villagers. Despite his surgical brilliance, Ellingham lacks vital personal skills and any semblance of a bedside manner and is often clueless as to the feelings of others. Much to his disgust, Dr Ellingham (referred arrives in town to find a surgery is in disarray, the medical equipment atniquated and the patients’ records a mess. He also inherits an incompetent receptionist, Elaine Denham, who would rather spend her day at work playing gambling games on the office computer.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Beautiful Belvoir, Home of the Dukes of Rutland

by Victoria Hinshaw



His Grace the 11th Duke of Rutland and his lovely Duchess have celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Manners family at Belvoir Castle (pronounced Bee-ver). In 1509, Sir Robert Manners married Eleanor de Ros, heiress of the property, and from that time forward, it has been passed down through the Manners family. Another heiress, Dorothy Vernon, also married into the Manners family and brought her inheritance of Haddon Hall along with her. See my previous post on Haddon Hall on this blog April 8, 2010.

The property was already ancient when the Manners arrived. The first castle, almost a thousand years ago, was built overlooking the Vale of Belvoir after the Norman Conquest by Robert de Todeni, standard bearer for William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The present castle, remodeled and rebuilt beginning in 1799, is the fourth to stand here. Designed in the popular Regency-era style of Gothick Revival, Belvoir has turrets, towers and battlements that serve no purpose beyond decoration.

I visited a few years ago with Kristine Hughes, and several good friends who love the Regency era. Upon our approach, we were accosted by a pair of highwaymen who abducted Kristine’s daughter, Brooke, and writer Diane Gaston, captured in the pictures.



Highwaymen abducting Brooke Hughes at Belvoir Castle




Ready to carry off Diane Gaston

Death at a Funeral: The Original

The new Chris Rock remake of Death at a Funeral was released this week. It changes the British original to the U.S. with a mostly African-American cast. I’m sure it will be hilarious.

But if you haven’t seen the original Death at a Funeral, out just three years ago in 2007, be sure to get a copy from Netflix or rent one or from cable on-demand. It is so funny you will need to watch it several times to get all the lines.


I always caution my friends to see it on DVD and turn on the English subtitles just so you don’t miss the many funny asides. I have seen it at least four times and I got a new angle every time.



The story mixes mistaken identities, sibling rivalry (a wannabe writer vs. his best-selling brother), accidental drug problems, and the deepest of family secrets. 

Don't miss it!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Almack's Assembly Rooms


When Almack's Assembly Rooms, King Street, St. James's, opened on 13 February, 1765 Horace Walpole wrote: "The new Assembly Room at Almack's was opened the night before last, very magnificent, but it was empty; half the town is ill with colds." Apparently, the ton recovered quickly, for Almack's was soon touted as the epitome of all that was fashionable. Almack's boasted three rooms, where, for a subscription of ten guineas, one attended ball and supper each Wednesday evening during the twelve weeks of the London Season. However, before becoming a subscriber, one was first subjected to the scrutiny of the Lady Patronesses of Almack's, originally comprised of Ladies Pembroke and Molyneaux, Mrs. Fitzroy and Mrs Meynell and the Misses Pelham and Lloyd. Circa 1814, the committee was made up by the Ladies Jersey (Sarah, Countess of 1786-1867), Castlereigh, Cowper (later Lady Emily Palmerston d. 1869) and Sefton, the Princess Esterhazy and the Countess (later Princess) of Lieven. Mrs. Drummond-Burrell (later Lady Willoughby de Eresby) also served briefly. According to Ticknor's diaries, only one member of the committee acted as Patroness at a time, the post being filled by a rotation system.

Should an applicant not meet the approval of these ladies, he or she was turned down for membership. In addition, the rules were strictly adhered to, with the Duke of Wellington himself being turned away when he arrived at the Rooms in trousers, rather than the required knee breeches. Or was it because, as another story goes, he arrived after the hour of midnight? Appropos of this singular event, George Ticknor wrote that he and Lord and Lady Downshire, on their way to Almack's, stopped off at Lady Mornington's, where they met the Duke of Wellington. They asked him if he were going to Almack's and the Duke replied that "he thought he should look in by and by," upon which his mother told him that he'd better get there in good time as Lady Jersey would make no allowances for him. The Duke dawdled, Ticknor and the rest going on to Almack's without him. Later that evening, Ticknor was standing with Lady Jersey when an attendant told her, “Lady Jersey, the Duke of Wellington is at the door, and desires to be admitted." "What o'clock is it?" she asked. "Seven minutes after eleven, your ladyship." She paused, then said with emphasis and distinctness, "Give my compliments to the Duke of Wellington, and say she is very glad that the first enforcement of the rule of exclusion is such that hereafter no one can complain of its application. He cannot be admitted."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In Memoriam


On the night of April 14 - 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic hits an iceberg in the Northern Atlantic ocean and sinks. 1,517 lives are lost. According to witnesses, as the Titanic went down, its captain, Edward John Smith, shouted to his crew: "Be British, boys, be British!"

                                                         The British Titanic Society

London and Waterloo Tour - St. James's Street

One of the first stops on our London and Waterloo tour will be a stroll through the St. James's area of London. Here's a bit of history:

St James's was once part of the same royal park as Green Park and St. James's Park. In the 1660s, Charles II gave the right to develop the area to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, who proceeded to develop it as a predominantly aristocratic residential area with a grid of streets centred on St James's Square.

St James's takes as its borders Piccadilly, Haymarket, the Mall and Green Park. This part of London became the centre of fashion in the 1530s when Henry VIII built St James's Palace on the site of St James's Hospital, a former leper hospital. The palace was one of the principal royal residences for more than 300 years and continues to be the Court's official headquarters. Foreign ambassadors to the UK are still known officially as 'Ambassador(s) to the the Court of St James'.

Until the Second World War, St James's remained one of the most exclusive residential enclaves in London. Famous residences in St James's include St James's Palace, Clarence House, Marlborough House, Lancaster House, Spencer House, Schomberg House and Bridgewater House. It is now a predominantly commercial area with some of the highest rents in London and, consequently, the world. Corporate offices in St James's include the global headquarters of BP and Rio Tinto Group. The auction house Christie's is based in King Street, and the surrounding streets contain a great many upmarket art and antique dealers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Save Jermyn Street!

Can it be true that London's Jermyn Street is going the way of the dinosaur? It looks as though one of the most historic streets in St. James's will soon be getting a facelift that will have Prince Charles, and the rest of us, up in arms. Filled with iconic shops and period buildings, the eastern end of Jermyn Street will soon be regenerated into the "St James's Gateway," complete with, as a press release puts it, "a striking new Eric Parry designed frontage along Piccadilly."

Heloise Brown, conservation adviser for the Victorian Society, said: ‘That this corner of Piccadilly has a slightly run-down air is not in dispute, but demolition is not the answer. These buildings certainly need renovating and cleaning; they could even be extended as unusually for central London there is space behind them; there could be improvements in the street furniture, shop fronts and signage. All of this would make the properties more attractive to tenants without the needless destruction of eight historic buildings.'

Good for Heloise. You can read Michael Bywater's pithy take on the subject here.

New Sherlock Holmes Postage Stamp

Guernsey Post has put an unusual twist on stamp collecting with its latest new issue, a set commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The Guernsey Post also sponsored the writing of a new mystery story called Sherlock Holmes and the Curious Case of the Alderney Bull, written specifically to provide material for a set of six carefully drawn stamps.

       You can read the entire article here.

New Items at the Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop Online!


The giftshop at the Jane Austen Centre Online has a new range of book themed items, including mugs, notecards, magnets and the book marks show above. You must know someone with a birthday coming up.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Who Wants to be (or look at) a Horse's Behind?

by Victoria Hinshaw

In May of 2009, my husband and I visited Brocket Hall, formerly the home of Lord Melbourne, now part of a golf complex. The house, in excellent condition, serves as a venue for corporate events and weddings. Brocket is located near Hertford and Hatfield just north of London. Part of the original land of the adjacent country homes of the London wealthy has been developed into Welwyn Garden City.



The ballroom in Brocket was used for the interiors of Netherfield, the home rented by Mr. Bingley, in the 1995 BBC version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In the picture above, you see Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth leading the country dance. In the far background, you can barely make out a portrait of George, Prince of Wales, standing beside the rump of his horse. The painting, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was presented to Elizabeth, Lady Melbourne (mother of the Prime Minister), who reputedly was the mistress of the Prince for a time.

Here is another view of the painting behind Mr. Darcy.



I laughed when I saw this painting, a copy of which I have been unable to locate on any website pertaining either to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) or Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The pose reminded me of a famous view of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. A version of this painting hung in the Elgin Academy Art Gallery where I played at my piano teacher's annual recital for her students and their parents. There are other versions of the Stuart portrait, chiefly belonging to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  I have always wondered how many of my fellow performers looked up in the middle of their playing to be faced with that horse's . . . ah . . .tail.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My London by Victoria Hinshaw

Inspired by Kristine’s London, posted on April 7, 2010, I decided to write about MY London.

I first visited as a college student and remember only Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a few nameless pubs, and the Tower of London. My next visit was a few years later, shortly before Christmas. I loved the lights on Regent’s Street and my introduction to Liberty, a fabulous store to which I return almost every time I get to England. Once I finished my holiday shopping, I attended a performance of Handel’s The Messiah at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of the Queen Mother. I actually got a glimpse of her as she entered. Needless to say it was a memorable experience.

An aside about Liberty of London. Have you seen the great stuff now in Target Stores from Liberty? They have a current ad campaign in lots of glossy mags such as Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Although I adore the great museums of London: the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and many more, I have a special affinity for the smaller museums where I can browse without rushing to be sure I don’t miss anything. One of these is Apsley House, the home of the first Duke of Wellington, but Kristine has already described it, so I will just say, “Me too.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On The Shelf: Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady

He’s fought for his country, now he’s fighting for his heart.


The battlefields of Badajoz are nothing compared to the cutting tongues of polite society, but Jack Vernon has never been very “polite.” A canvas is this brooding artist’s preferred company—having once been the outlet for the horror he witnessed at war, it’s now his fortune.

Painting the portrait of stunningly beautiful Ariana Blane is his biggest commission yet. Learning every curve of her body ignites feelings he thought were destroyed in battle. But he’s not the only man who has Ariana in his sights....

In writing Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady RITA Award winning author Diane Gaston has created a true page turner. Really. I picked up the book at 7 p.m., and the next time I looked at the clock it was 9 o'clock. I finished it at 10:30 - read straight through! While the story is touted as a romance, and it is that, it's so much more - it's a richly detailed tale peopled with characters who are not only believable, but who ring true.  I never once wanted to kick a character in the arse and scream, "For God's sake get on with it/open your mouth/grow up/use your head and move the plot along!"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Do You Know About The English Home?

The English Home magazine bills itself as Celebrating the Essence of English Style and it's perennially been one of my favorite publications. It's so much more than a style or decorating magazine. Each issue, you'll meet the owners of period homes and learn the stories behind their search for the perfect property, the renovation process, their hunt for furnishings and their trials and tribulations with building departments, contractors and English Heritage, who holds sway over renovation decisions involving Grade I, II and III listed properties. The latest issue, March/April 2010, includes pieces on Colour Past and Present (period color choices), luxurious fabrics and fantastic period shoes made to wear today from Henry Kaye. They've also begun a new series, Guardians of History, this issue featuring the Duke and Duchess of Rutland and their efforts to maintain Belvoir Castle. The property section is always fun to read, with descriptions of each residence more in-depth than those found in Country Life Magazine - yet another enduring favorite of mine. The English Home is available on U.S. newsstands or by subscription. Enjoy!       Kristine

Friday, April 9, 2010

The London and Waterloo Tour - Our Itinerary

It occurred to me that before Victoria and I begin posting about the things we plan to see and do on our tour, you should know just what it is we plan to see and do. To that end, here’s our itinerary:


Thursday, June 10th – Victoria arrives in London

Saturday, June 12th – Kristine and Brooke arrive in London, and within hours we head out to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace to see the Victoria and Albert: Art and Love exhibition. Then it’s over to Apsley House (Yes!) and a walk round the St. James’s area, taking in the Square, the side streets, the shops and Piccadilly. No doubt we’ll be dropping in to the Red Lion Pub, a few doors up from the Almack’s Building, for a pint. Or two. That night, we’ll be dining at the Grenadier Pub in Wilton Row, once the local pub for the men in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and filled with military and Wellington memorabilia.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Blooming at Haddon Hall by Vicky Hinshaw

I visited Haddon Hall on a cool early summer day and found roses climbing all over the ancient grey walls, their colorful profusion a perfect complement to the lichen-covered stone.

Haddon Hall, high above the Wye River near Matlock in Derbyshire, is typical of medieval manor houses: built of local rock with thick walls and small windows.

The property is listed in the Domesday Survey conducted shortly after William the Conqueror took over England. The Domesday Book was a great survey completed in 1086, a sort of census. William wanted to know who the landholders were and what taxes he could collect from them, so his clerks looked for property holders from the time of Edward the Confessor. The judgment of the assessors was final and there was no appeal. The name Domesday comes from the Old English word dom (same root as doom in modern English) meaning accounting or reckoning. The book of this census is known by the English as 'Domesday', that is the Day of Judgment.

The Haddon estate came into the Vernon family through the marriage of its heiress in 1170 to Richard Vernon.

Many of the finest English Country Houses evolved from ancient foundation structures of which few traces remain. Rebuilding, remodeling, and redecorating have been beloved preoccupations for centuries. Houses were altered by almost every generation to incorporate the latest technological improvements or to enhance the size, style and beauty of their surroundings. The richer the family members, the more they rebuilt over and over again.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's Your 240th!!

                               

Happy Birthday to William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850), once the Poet Laureate of Great Britain (1843-50). We associate his work with the Romantic Movement. He was a close friend and colleague of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility".

Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, lived in the famous Dove Cottage in the Lake District. Later, he moved to a larger nearby home, and married, though Dorothy continued to live with him. William and Mary Wordsworth had five children but only three survived childhood, and beloved daughter Dora died in her thirties.

My London by Kristine Hughes

I've been to London many times and whenever those who don't know me very well ask why I keep returning to the same city, I'm hard pressed to explain to them what London means to me. My London is not the city that exists now. Madame Tussaud's and the London Eye are all well and good, but my London is the old city, the Square Mile that was bordered to the north by the Oxford Road, to the South by Vauxhall Gardens, to the east by Mile End Road and to the west by Hyde Park. To my mind, Richmond, Hampstead, Brixton and Golder's Green are not in London. Though I may visit these places, they lay outside the parameters of the London I see in my mind, the London I see when I walk the streets today. You can still see Georgian, Regency and Victorian London on practically every street. Kensington Palace, St. James's Palace and Apsley House still exist. Hatchard's bookshop and Fortnum and Mason, the Burlington Arcade and the Tower are still to be found. True, there are no longer Hansom cabs or sedan chairs for hire, no hawkers crying their wares in the streets and, certainly, no dandies strolling in St. James's Street, but every now and then you come across a London view so perfect, so historically right, that it makes the trip worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Boodle's Club

During the Regency and Victorian eras, Boodle’s Club, in St. James's Street, was noted for the number of baronets who were members. It's been recorded that when a waiter called out "Sir John, you are wanted," a whole host of gentlemen would at once respond. This is rather a quaint anecdote, but it must be remembered that the club was established chiefly for "county people," who had a proper respect for their own importance. Until the late 19th century, before Boodle's came under the management of a committee, there was a kind of secret tribunal, the members of which were fictitiously supposed to be unknown. "This conclave conducted its proceedings with great secrecy, and its very existence was only inferred from the fact that at intervals, varying from six months to fifteen years, some printed notices appeared in the club rooms." But these notices only referred to dogs or strangers, who were looked upon by the ancient members as very objectionable intruders.

Another rule was that members dining in the coffee room must wear evening dress. However, there was another apartment for those who found it necessary to keep to their morning clothes. Boodle's was very strict and chaste on etiquette laws. Boodle's Club was originally known as the "Savoir Vivre," and took its particular name from the founder, and was established, like many of the other famous clubs of the day, in St. James's Street.Gaiety and the joy of good living marked its early career very conspicuously, as may be gathered from "the Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers," I773: