More on Beau Brummell and a Short Story

One of my favorite places to shop is my neighborhood antique mall and in Denver we have several. On Broadway, just south of the downtown area, is Antique Row, where antique stores of different varieties pack a seven block stretch. … Continue reading

A Gentleman’s Sporting Life

In a Regency era story I’ve been working on, my hero is a sporting man. Whatever the sport, he loves it: Fencing, boxing, fishing, shooting—they’re all on my hero’s list of favorite things to do.

Fencing at O’Saunessy’s Rooms in St James Street in 1820, by Cruickshank.

While researching different sports that were popular at the time, I came across a reference to the sport of hare-coursing.

A portion of a 17th Century painting on silk of a hunter and his dog hare-coursing.

Hare-coursing is a violent sport in which dogs are turned loose to hunt down hares by sight.

That’s all the description I’ll provide, because I find the concept of the sport too upsetting. I’m an animal lover through and through, so I’m glad to know the sport is banned in most places today.

Still, it was a normal gentleman’s pastime during the Regency, and while I’d never write about it in a story (except to condemn the practice), I was intrigued to discover there was a specific style of dress men wore for the sport.

I did a previous post (which you can read here) that featured gentlemen dressed for shooting pheasant or other game birds.

Likewise, when I stumbled upon a description of hare-coursing, I also found this image of a coat a gentleman would have worn that was specially designed for the “sport.”

From the John Bright Collection

The coat itself is made of wool, trimmed with velvet, which leads me to think hare-coursing was a popular pastime during the colder months of the year.

The coat has two deep pockets on either side of the back skirt. The size of the pockets indicates they may have been used to carry the dead hares.

But what I found most interesting was the buttons on the coat. They were cast with images of a running hare, which makes me think the garment belonged to a wealthy man who could indulge in a custom coat to wear just for engaging in hare-coursing.

I’d never glorify hare-coursing by including it in a story, but this image does inspire me to rethink my hero’s wealth. Is he the kind of man possessed of such an extensive wardrobe that he’d naturally have a custom coat made up to wear only one or two times a year?

Or would that be too vain of him?

Maybe I’ll have my hero be a little more altruistic—the kind of man who would rather put his wealth to better use.

Hmmm, the possibilities are endless!

This is a Good Picture

Actually, it’s a painting titled “Flirtation,” by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

I like this painting for many reasons (not simply because its discovery justified an afternoon I wasted on social media).

Great paintings mean different things to different people. When I look at this painting, I immediately see in my mind the story I think the artist is telling.

Here’s the story:

Our fair young lady is a daughter of privilege and wealth. She is probably the daughter of a peer; not a duke, but very possibly a marquess.

She’s used to the very best in life. Her home is lavishly, but tastefully, furnished; she spends a good deal on clothes and hair powder; and the family budget for the daily delivery of fresh flowers (see the big spray of pink and white roses on the left) is enough to support a working-class family of four for a year.

Our young lady has been properly raised, hence the chaperone. But the chaperone has been employed by the family for years (she may even have begun her employment as nurse when the lady was a child), so she is a little lax (but not too lax) in her responsibilities.

That’s why the gentleman has been allowed to creep ever closer to where my lady is reposing on the chaise.

The lady’s attire looks like riding habit to me, although I must say that white is a daring choice for a riding skirt.

She’s been outside earlier in the day. Before her gentleman suitor arrived she picked a few wild flowers; but in her pleasure at seeing him, she forgot all about those wild flowers and discarded them at the foot of her chaise.

Or, perhaps he brought the wild flowers and gave them to her as a token of his love; but being a thoughtless young woman (Seriously, why would she want someone to bring her wild flowers when she has bushels of beautiful roses to look at?), she tossed them aside, and a few of them landed on the floor. Is it possible she could be so hard-hearted?

Suspended among the draperies directly over her head is a mirror, which makes me wonder if the artist is trying to tell us a little something about the young lady’s vanity.

What I find most intriguing about this painting is the manner in which the young lady is looking at her suitor. She’s holding up one finger, as if she is about to make an important point.

Or maybe she’s just begun to count off the reasons she cannot consent to marry him.

Or perhaps she intends to teasingly scold him for being so persistent.

Our couple’s body language is very intriguing—His is eager; hers is poised, even a little languid. And though they are looking into each other’s eyes, their facial expressions could not be more different.

There are probably a lot of ways to interpret this painting. In fact, the possibilities are endless.

But that’s the beauty of a really good painting; it tells a different story to each person who views it.

What do you think? What story would you tell about this painting?

Have you ever come across a painting or photograph that really spoke to you or touched your heart? I’d love to hear about it!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’m spending a lot of time outdoors this summer, working in my yard and watering plants to protect them from the hot summer sun.

Let’s face it, gardening can be hot, dirty work, so my gardening attire usually consists of shorts, tank top, and flip-flops . . .

“In the Garden” by Carlton Alfred Smith

. . . which makes me wonder, how did ladies of the Regency era ever manage to do their gardening with all those layers of clothes they were required to wear by the standards of the day?

“The Rose Garden” by Charles Edward Wilson

The truth is that ladies born into wealthy Regency families had servants to do their gardening for them. Women who did not have the same luck of being born to wealth were probably more consumed with earning a living and feeding their families to worry about cultivating flowers and lush green lawns.

“Tea in the Garden” by Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer.

As it happens, I belong to the latter class of ladies, because I have to work for a living; but thanks to progress made since the Regency Era, I can support her family and still have time to grow and appreciate a garden of colorful flowers. And the best part is, I don’t have to wear elbow-length gloves to do it.

Musical Instruments in Regency England

When I first began reading Jane Austen’s and Georgette Heyer’s novels, the pianoforte seemed to be the musical instrument of choice for every Regency era heroine.

Portrait of Geneviève Aimée Victoire Bertin by Francois-Xavier Fabre

Jane Austen often equated a woman’s ability on the pianoforte to her overall value to society as an “accomplished woman.” In her novel Pride and Prejudice here’s how Caroline Bingley described Miss Georgiana Darcy:

The harp was another instrument mentioned in Austen’s novels, but with much less frequency; once again, Caroline Bingley mentioned the harp in regard to Georgiana Darcy:

“I am delighted to hear of her improvement on the harp.”

Author Georgette Heyer, who wrote her novels set during the Regency over one hundred years after Austen, also wrote about female characters who played the pianoforte. She also mentioned harps in her stories but usually for comic value, such as when a male character complained about a woman “twanging” away at a harp.

In recent years I’ve come to learn that there was another musical instrument that was just as popular—if not more so—than the pianoforte and the twanging harp: The guitar.

Lady with a Guitar, by Francois Xavier Fabre

I’ve found quite a few portraits of people—women and men—who lived during the Regency era and were memorialized with a guitar.

I find this so interesting, mainly because I always associated guitars with twentieth century America. Say the word guitar and I think of a cowboy strumming “Home on the Range” while sitting with his fellow cowpokes around a campfire. I never really thought of the guitar being prevalent in the early nineteenth century, and I certainly never thought of it being English.

Young Woman Playing Guitar, by Adele Romany.

Another instrument that’s often featured in portraits of the time is the lyre. Unlike the guitar, the lyre makes sense to me, given that a majority of the early Regency years were influenced by Greek symbols and stylings.

Portrait of Hortense Bonaparte, by Fleury-Francois Richard (1815)

In this post I’ve shared a few examples of portraits I found, but I’ve collected even more examples on one of my Pinterest boards, and I’d love to have you take a look!

Click here to visit my new Pinterest board, “Musical Instruments in the Regency.” I hope you enjoy it; and be sure to subscribe to the board so you’ll be notified when I add new images. I’m pretty certain I’m going to be posting some more images of guitars and lyres and pianofortes. And who knows? Maybe I’ll come across some other surprising musical instruments to share with you!

 

Admiral Lord Nelson’s Final Journey

In a previous post (which you can read by clicking here) I talked about how long it took for news to reach England of the death of Horatio, Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. Today marks the anniversary of Nelson’s funeral.

Nelson was a hero, by any standard. He not only led England’s navy to victory, he lived his life in service to his country, and suffering serious injury in the process. By the time he led his fleet into battle with France and Spain on October 21, his battle experiences had already taken from him an arm and an eye, and he had sustained numerous other injuries over the years, all in service to England. The public revered him, so with his passing it was fitting that he be given a hero’s funeral.

Nelson’s coffin on its journey through the streets of London.

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Nelson’s body finally reached British soil on January 5 (he died on October 21). His remains were placed in a coffin and lay in state in Greenwich’s Painted Hall where thousands of members of the public paid their respects.

This commemorative linen panel from 1806 depicts the funeral procession of Lord Nelson and scenes from his life. The image at the top right shows a portion of the funeral cortege on its way to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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On January 8, 1806 a royal barge, draped in black velvet, carried his coffin up the Thames to Whitehall, where it remained overnight. The next day, a funeral cortege preceded the coffin to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Tens of thousands of Londoners lined the streets to see the procession. Thousands of navy pensioners and soldiers marched from Whitehall to St. Paul’s, including the officers and crew of Nelson’s ship, the Victory.

Nelson’s coffin arrives at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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The entire procession was so long that by the time the column reached St. Paul’s, the funeral car was still at Whitehall, almost two miles away.

Tens of thousands of Londoners lined the streets to see the procession, which lasted well into the night. By the time the service began at St. Paul’s it was dark; the light of 130 candle lamps lit the cathedral’s dome, where two gigantic captured French and Spanish flags were hung, as reminders of the security Nelson gave his countrymen by defeating their enemies.

Nelson’s funeral service inside St Paul’s Cathedral.

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When the service concluded on January 9, 1806, as Nelson’s coffin was lowered into a crypt, a herald read aloud Nelsons titles, and ended with these words:

The hero, who in the moment of victory, fell covered with immortal glory.

On Susanna Ives’ blog there is a wonderfully detailed account, taken from an English newspaper at the time, of the entire funeral procession and service. It’s a somber and moving tribute to Lord Nelson, “a perfect English Hero.” You can read Susanna’s post by clicking here.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! For your enjoyment, here’s a charming image of a Regency era household on Christmas morning (it’s from an old postcard).

Looks like both the little girl on the balcony and the gentleman in the red coat are holding mistletoe, so there will be plenty of kisses to be had on Christmas morning in this house!

May your Christmas be happy and filled with love, too!

 

 

 

How England Learned of the Battle of Trafalgar

On October 21, 1805 the Battle of Trafalgar was fought between the English Navy and the combined fleets of France and Spain.

The Battle of Trafalgar, by George Clarkson Stanfield.

England’s chances for victory were slim. The British force had twenty-seven ships; the enemy had thirty-three.

But England’s secret weapon was the gallant Lord Nelson, commander of the fleet.

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte.

The engagement lasted four hours, and in the end, twenty Spanish and French ships were sunk or destroyed, the French commander-in-chief was captured, and two Spanish admirals were taken prisoners by the English.

It was a decisive victory, but it came at a cost. Nelson was wounded midway through the action and died nearly at its close.

The Evening after Trafalgar, by Claude Thomas Stanfield Moore.

But the victory forever removed any threat that Napoleon Bonaparte might invade England.

So if the battle was waged and won on October 21, why am I telling you about it on November 6?

Because November 6 is the day news of the victory finally reached England.

In our modern world of instant newsfeeds and alerts it’s sometimes easy to lose perspective about the speed with which information traveled during Jane Austen’s time. News traveled slowly, and, in this case, Mother Nature added to the fifteen-day delay.

The Battle of Trafalgar was fought and won on October 21. No sooner was victory assured, than “a gale of wind” blew in. The storm that followed was of such ferocity, the fleet had no choice but to hunker down. They were so busy ensuring the safety of their own and captured ships, they had no chance to send word to England, or even count their casualties.

The storm lasted five days. Finally, on October 26, the British commander despatched a ship to England. On board, Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere carried written reports of the battle.

A miniature, believed to be of John Richards Lapenotiere

Nine days later, Lapenotiere arrived at the harbor at Falmouth. From there he traveled overland to London by “express in a post chaise and four.”

He covered the distance of 271 miles in 38 hours, making 21 stops to change horses.

A fast-traveling post-chaise and four upsets a gig.

His overland journey was well documented, and today, there are plaques along route—now known as The Trafalgar Way—that commemorate Lapenotiere’s journey, as well as the men from each location who fought in that decisive battle.

One of the Trafalgar Plaques, this one in Salisbury.

On November 6, Lapenotiere finally delivered reports of England’s victory into the hands of the Admiralty and the King.

That very day, newspapers printed the story. Click here to read one of those newspaper stories.

And if you’re interested, Wikepedia has an interesting page about The Trafalgar Way that documents the distance, horse-changes, and cost of Lapenotiere’s travels.

I love reading all the details about Lapenotiere’s journey. It’s a reminder to me to be mindful of the limitations of Regency-era travel when I write my own stories set during that time period.

It’s also a fascinating true-life story of heroic men who always kept duty to country uppermost in mind, and risked all to serve their country and its citizens. I applaud them.

On My Bookshelf: Beau Brocade

I own several copies of each of Jane Austen’s novels, but my favorite edition is a compilation of Austen’s novels that include wonderful illustrations by C. E. Brock and Hugh Thomson.

Hugh Thomson created the illustrations for another book I own: The Ballad of Beau Brocade by Austin Dobson.

Beau Brocade was published in 1893. It’s a light-hearted collection of poems about imaginary characters of the Georgian era. Here’s the title page, designed by Hugh Thomson:

One of the poems is titled “A Chapter of Froissart.” Hugh Thomson’s whimsical illustrations grace the first page:

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The language of this poem is a sometimes difficult to follow, but I love all the sly little references to Hogarth, Murray, Bonaparte, and Ann Radcliffe.

Although I’ve had the book for many years, it was very well read by the time I gave it a home. The pages are yellowed and loose, and there’s some foxing here and there; but this slim little book is definitely one of my favorites. I hope you enjoyed reading an excerpt.

How about you? Have you seen Hugh Thomson’s illustrations in other books? Did you enjoy this poem?

 

 

 

 

Did Your Ancestor Serve in a Royal Household?

Ever wonder if your ancestor worked at Buckingham Palace? Or maybe at Windsor Castle?

Windsor Castle

Perhaps one of your forebears held the title of Yeoman of the Mouth; or Laundress of the Body Linen, both of which were real titles of positions in royal households.

There’s a way you can find out. A few years ago the Royal Archives teamed up with genealogy website Find My Past to make the Royal Household Staff Lists available to the public.

Edwardian Era household servants.

The site lists over 50,000 staff records dating from 1660 to 1924.

And the best part is, you can search the records for free! Click on the Find My Past icon to be taken to their United Kingdom site:

There’s no charge for viewing the search results—I found names of my Cornell ancestors on the list—but if you want to see scanned images of the original records, you’ll have to subscribe to the site or use their Pay-as-You-Go feature.

Not all staff worked in the house itself. Some of my Cornell relations worked in the Royal mews.

Still, it’s a fun way to find out if you have a connection through your ancestors to a royal palace or country home.

Happy hunting!