Monday, 30 June 2014

Jack Quelch: Pirate Scourge of the Portuguese

John Quelch (London, England, 1666 - New Hampshire, America, 30th June 1704)

Just a few days ago my wonderfully artistic friend, Karl, at the House of K sent me the fabulous paper cut out of a pirate ship that you can see below. Paper cutting is, of course, an 18th century art form that has fallen out of favour of late yet Karl toils long hours in his artist's garrett, candle wick guttering, the chophouse forgotten as he works at his wonderful creations. The image of the pirate ship set me thinking once again of those nautical rogues and since one of them met a sticky end today, join me in welcoming John Quelch to the salon!

Paper Cut by The House of K

Quelch blazed a brief but terrible trail across the high seas, leading a mutiny aboard The Charles, the ship on which he was serving as lieutenant. With the captain thrown unceremoniously into the sea, the ship sailed on for a voyage of piracy. The crew helped themselves to the contents of a number of Portuguese ships as well as the immensely valuable cargo being carried by The Charles

However, this enthusiastic targeting of Portuguese shipping was to prove Quelch's undoing as, upon his return to Marblehead less than a year after he seized control of the ship, he found himself under arrest. England and Portugal had recently become allies and, crucially, Portugal was not mentioned in the letter of marque given to The Charles, meaning that the crew should have left that country's ships well alone.

Quelch and his crew were tried before the first admiralty trial to be held outside England, meaning that there would be no jury to hear his case. Swiftly found guilty, the men were taken to the gallows where Quelch refused to repent and instead doffed his hat and bowed to those who had gathered to watch his execution. Before the noose was placed around his neck he told the spectators, "They should take care how they brought Money into New England to be Hanged for it."

And what of their booty? Well, legend has it that some of the plunder is still buried out on Star Island today, just waiting for someone to come along and dig it up...

Sunday, 29 June 2014

A Salon Guest: The Restoration of Ralph Allen's Tomb

Ralph Allen (St Columb Major, England, 1693 – Bath, England, 29th June 1764)

Today I intended to bring you a post about the quest to restore the mausoleum of Ralph Allen, a famed son of Bath who died on this day. However, I discovered that an excellent post on this subject had already been written and it tells the story beautifully. 

Thanks to the generous agreement of Christine Plunkett at St Mary the Virgin Church, Claverton, I am pleased to be able to share this post that was originally published at St Mary's website.
St Mary's is a grade II listed church with some important early examples of stained glass and monuments from the 17th Century.  In the churchyard is the pyramid topped mausoleum of Ralph Allen, one of Bath's most famous benefactors.
Ralph Allen was born in Cornwall in 1693 and moved to Bath in 1710 where he worked as a post office clerk.  By the age of 18 he was Postmaster of Bath and soon developed the cross and bye-posts, which in due course covered the whole country, revolutionising the postal system as it meant letters no longer had to pass through London, as before.  With the profits he made from the postal system he bought the stone quarries in Combe Down and together with architect John Wood, created the beautiful Georgian crescents and town houses Bath is famous for throughout the world.  His wealth enabled him to build Prior Park Mansion and create the gardens, now Prior Park Landscape Garden, a National Trust attraction.
Ralph Allen died in 1764 and was buried in the mausoleum he himself helped to design just before his death.
The mausoleum is now suffering from serious structural defects.  The iron railings surrounding the tomb and supporting the roof have rusted and corroded the Bath stone in which they are embedded.
Restoration in progress

Display boards at the mausoleum show a detailed description of the damage and the restoration method which is now underway.  The cost of the extensive work that is needed is estimated to be around £50,000.  A Heritage Lottery Grant has been awarded and matched funding has also been raised.
To learn more about Ralph Allen's work and life in Bath please visit the visitor centres of Bath Postal Museum, Combe Down Heritage Society, Prior Park Landscape Garden and The American Museum.

Written content of this post copyright © Christine Plunkett 2014

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Salon's First Anniversary

Today marks the first anniversary of the opening of the salon doors; on this day in 2013, I began publishing my dispatches from the long 18th century and it has been a wild and rewarding calash dash, let me assure you. 

An Elegant Party In The Countryside by Pierre-Michel Lovinfosse (1771)
An Elegant Party In The Countryside by Pierre-Michel Lovinfosse (1771)

To celebrate the birthday of A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life, today I present, in descending order, the five most popular posts since the blog began. I do hope you find something to enjoy!

Thank you to everyone who visits, comments, shares and posts here for your encouragement, enthusiasm and wonderful friendship, I raise my glass to you, one and all!

5.   Hannah Webster Foster, The Lady Behind The Coquette
The author of The Coquette, this remarkable woman's name didn't appear in her own novel until two decades after her death!

4.   The Abdication of Charles X
In 1830, a series of poor political decisions saw mobs on the streets of Paris and a king fleeing France, his authority in tatters.

3.   Mary Shelley: A Tale of More Than Monsters
The remarkable life of Mary Shelley, icon of the Romantic movement.

2.   Archibald Menzies: Doctor, Scientist, Adventurer
Erstwhile naval doctor, botanist and all-round intrepid gentleman, Menzies travelled the globe, ascended mountains and made his mark on the world of natural history.

1.   The Storming of the Bastille
The very name of the Bastille is legendary, an all-too solid symbol of monarchical rule dismantled brick by brick by the very citizens who had once lived beneath the long shadow of its walls.

Friday, 27 June 2014

A Salon Guest: Lady Hester Stanhope on Board the H.M.S. Salsette

Once again today it is my pleasure to welcome the estimable Stephenie Woolterton to the salon, with a fascinating tale of an anonymous journal.


Lady Hester Stanhope on board the H.M.S. Salsette

 Figure 1: Anonymous early 19th century journal of a British naval officer

Figure 1: Anonymous early 19th century journal of a British naval officer

The Wellcome Library in London houses some of the most fascinating archives relating to the history of medicine. One such item is an anonymous early 19th century journal compiled aboard the H.M.S. Salsette, a frigate patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea as part of the British naval blockade of Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. The journal covers the period from September 1811 until November 1812, and is still in its original calfskin binding with brass clasp and vellum hinge.

It is believed that the unidentified author may possibly be the ship’s surgeon Robert Allan, whom the Navy List (1814) notes was posted to ‘Salsette’ in 1810 [1]. Nevertheless, references to medical topics within the journal are extremely rare, and this leads to more questions regarding the author’s identity. Instead, the unknown author preferred to log the official duties of the ship and its captain, Henry Hope (1787-1863) as well as to describe the surrounding geography and antiquities of the region. [2] The ‘Common Place Book’ came into the possession of The Wellcome Library in 1992. Apart from a note on the inside front cover that it once belonged to the rector Henry Ernest Ketchley in 1917 in Biddeston, Chippenham, the journal’s previous whereabouts and provenance are unknown [3].

Figure 2: The anonymous author’s inscription inside the front cover
Figure 2: The anonymous author’s inscription inside the front cover

The journal was commenced on board the H.M.S. Salsette whilst it was anchored in the Harbour of Siria [sic] in September 1811. The anonymous British naval officer’s precise identity may not be authenticated, but he does record meeting the late Prime Minister William Pitt the younger’s unconventional niece Lady Hester Stanhope (1776-1839). At that point in time Lady Hester was travelling with her much younger lover Michael Bruce as well as her physician Dr. Meryon. The unidentified British seaman met Lady Hester’s entire entourage in February 1812, and he recorded his ‘remarks’ recounting the experience. The author initially spelled Dr. Meryon’s name as ‘Merian’ before he became better acquainted with him.

Figure 3: The author’s ‘remarks’ on first meeting Lady Hester Stanhope
Figure 3: The author’s ‘remarks’ on first meeting Lady Hester Stanhope

The first mention of Lady Hester Stanhope is recorded at 8 am on 9th February 1812, when the H.M.S. Salsette was anchored in the Bay of Rhodes. The author notes the following:

“Dr. Merian [sic] arrived there [Rhodes] on Wednesday last & that Lady S[tanhope] & suite were ready to embark. Her luggage was received in the course of the day & and in the even’g. Her ladyship came on board accompanied by Messr. Bruce, Pierce, and Dr. Merian [sic]…they all wore the Turkish Dress except the servant maid. Ldy. S[tanhope] had on a Man’s Dress. 8 pm. Weigh’d & made sail…for Alexandria." [4] It is highly intriguing, but completely in keeping with other contemporary accounts of her costume, that Lady Hester Stanhope would choose to wear a ‘Man’s Dress,’ in other words – not typical feminine attire for the time. In 2014, this is not shocking to us, but cast your mind back just over two hundred years to 1812, and it was noteworthy enough to be commented upon!

The voyage to Alexandria was not without its dangers. On the 10th February, just one day after making sail, the ship encountered a storm. “At Midnight the wind came contrary & at day light amounted to a heavy gale &…[with] the gale likely to continue with a mountainous Sea, it was thought necessary to run for some harbour, therefore bore up for Mamorial Bay at 9 am & at 12 anchored in that secure harbour. Towards evening the wind moderated.” [5] After several days of waiting in a nearby bay for the wind to subside, they continued on their course for Alexandria. By the 14th February, five days after commencing their journey, the author recorded that they “had run the distance of 180 miles; & 150 from Alexandria.” [6]

By the 16th February, they had arrived. It had taken one week to make the voyage due to inclement weather.  After arriving at about midday, “…the Secretary of Col. Miss. the British Resident in Egypt came to the Ship. Lady Hester St[anhope] dined with us & in the Evening the Capt, Messr. Bruce, Pierce, Dr. M[eryon] & the greater part of the Officers went to a Race given at the Spanish Consuls, when we were introduced to Col. M & Mr. Maltass the Consul.” [7] The anonymous author must have been quite high-ranking to accompany the dining party of Lady Hester Stanhope. On the following day, “the Govr. [was complemented] with a salute of 15 Guns, which he returned with an equal number. Lady H. Stanhope left the ship to pay her respects to Col. M…she [Lady Hester] was saluted with 13 guns. The fort returned it with the same number.” [8] This was done as a mark of respect for high-ranking people.

Figure 4: Lady Hester Stanhope (probably) by an anonymous artist
Figure 4: Lady Hester Stanhope (probably) by an anonymous artist

For a few months, there is no mention in the Common Place Book of Lady Hester Stanhope. Presumably, her and her companions disembarked at Alexandria. However, in August 1812 it seems as though Lady Hester wanted the H.M.S. Salsette to carry her from Saide to Damascus. “Mr. Pierce, a gentleman who had previously travelled with Lady H[ester].S[tanhope] & whom we had convey’d (with her) from Rhodes to Alexandria…informed me her Ladyship had left Acre 17 days ago for Saide from whence she intended to proceed to Damascus…” [9] By the 26th August, Lady Hester was writing directly to the ship’s captain from Saide. “…She [Lady Hester] saw the Ship pass that town & sent a boat out to us, but not being able to reach us, sent a Messenger by land. She said she meant to proceed to…the Village where the prince of the inhabitants of Mount Lebanon live (the Druses) where she expected the Capt. would follow her as its only 7 hours ride from Saide…” [10] The next day, the ship “…arrived off Saide at 3 [pm], where a boat came up with Mr. Bruce, her Ladyship’s companion…” [11]

By that point, the crew of the H.M.S. Salsette had become well acquainted with Lady Hester Stanhope and her entourage. On the 28th August 1812, the ship’s crew “visited the shore & call’d on our friends that accompany her Ladyship. Mr. Bruce offered us the use of his horses & in company of Dr. Meryon & a [oe] we rode out into the country to visit the Gardens, the site of the ancient town of Sidon…at 4 pm her Ladyship went on board to dine & was saluted with 13 guns.” [12] After several days on land, the company  “weighed & sailed from Saide” for Damascus on the 31st August [13]. The anonymous author and other members of the ship’s crew had grown fond of Lady Hester and her companions. The reference to them as “our friends that accompany her Ladyship” is quite telling [14]. Unfortunately, there is no further mention of Lady Hester Stanhope after her disembarkation at Damascus. The journal also ends abruptly soon after on November 8th, 1812 with about 10 blank pages at the end of the book. Sadly, this is where the story ends. At this distance of time, we do not know the identity or fate of the writer of this naval journal. His very small, neat handwriting became large and messy towards the end of the book, right around the time the ship’s crew encountered a devastating outbreak of plague. Indeed, Lady Hester Stanhope fell ill – and survived – the plague at the end of 1812. Until this can be investigated further, one can only speculate whether the author succumbed to plague as an explanation for why the journal ended abruptly with about numerous blank pages. Dr. Charles Meryon, Lady Hester’s physician, wrote to Miss Williams, a close female friend of Lady Hester, at Malta on June 2, 1813, informing her of her Ladyship’s recovery:

“I had to write to you some time since by the desire of Lady Hester, who was too feeble to take up the pen herself. Thank God she is now tolerable, & has almost recovered her entire strength, and is just regaining her good looks very fast. I know your respectful affection for her Ladyship and I forbore on that account to tell you at the time the full extent of the danger she had seen. There is no doubt that her malady was the plague.” [15] This places the date where Lady Hester contracted the plague to either the very end of 1812 or the beginning of 1813, which was consequently the same time that the anonymous British seaman noted the malady in the vicinity of the ship. If anyone knows anything more about this journal, or the authorship of this Common Place Book, I would be very interested to hear from you. Until then, this is a mysterious but highly interesting relic of Napoleonic Era history.


1.    Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, Accession number 348987. The provenance note can be found here:
2.    Ibid.
3.    Ibid.
4.    Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, ff. 56-57.
5.    Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, f. 57.
6.    Ibid.
7.    Ibid.
8.    Ibid.
9.    Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, f. 93.
10.     Ibid.
11.     Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, ff. 94-95.
12.     Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, f. 95.
13.     Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, f. 96.
14.     Anonymous early 19th century British Common Place Book. The Wellcome Library, MS 6957, f. 95.
15.     Charles Meryon’s papers. The Wellcome Library. MS 5688, file 1 of 3, letter addressed to Miss Elizabeth Williams at Malta.

Image Credits:

Figure 1: An anonymous early 19th century ‘Common Place’ journal of a British naval officer on board the H.M.S. Salsette (my photo)
Figure 2: The anonymous author’s inscription inside the front cover (my photo)
Figure 3: The author’s ‘remarks’ on first meeting Lady Hester Stanhope
Figure 4: Lady Hester Stanhope (probably) by an anonymous artist. This is approximately what Lady Hester looked like when the British naval officer met her in 1812:

About the Author:

Stephenie Woolterton has an MSc in Social Research, and a background in Psychology. She is currently researching and writing her first book on the private life of William Pitt the Younger. She is also working on a historical novel about Pitt’s ‘one love story’ with Eleanor Eden. 

She blogs at: and can be contacted via Twitter at:

Written content of this post copyright © Stephenie Woolterton, 2014.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

"What eye has wept for him?": The Death of King George IV

King George IV (George Augustus Frederick ; London, England, 12th August 1762 – Windsor, England, 26th June 1830)

King George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1822
King George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1822

On this day our infamous King George IV finally ate and drank his way into the grave, leaving behind a less than enviable reputation that follows him to this day. His reign was one of opulence, extremes and a life lived in the full gaze of press and public and today, we are a little muted here in the salon as we mark the anniversary of his death.

As the scandals of youth gave way to encroaching age, the once hard-partying George retired to Windsor Castle, where he indulged his love of fine foods and finer wines. Famously the now reclusive king ballooned in size, exceeding 17 stone and squeezing his corpulent bulk into corsets intended to confine a 50-inch waist. With frequent bouts of breathlessness causing near suffocation on occasion, his physicians, led by  Sir Henry Halford, toiled to ease the symptoms of gout, dropsy and any number of other problems that plagued the ailing monarch, but there could be no doubt that his time was approaching.

As Spring passed into Summer, the health of the king became a source of great concern to his physicians, who plied him with laudanum in futile efforts to control the pains he suffered in his bladder and lower extremities. The application of leeches made things no  easier for George and he began to suffer deep depressions, exacerbated by the fact that he could hardly sleep for the periods of breathlessness that afflicted him and a special chair was built which could double as a partly upright bed for the ailing monarch.

On the night of his death George retired to bed in the company of his friend, Sir Jonathan Wathen-Waller, where he slept fitfully. He woke in the early hours of 26th June 1830, breathless and in such pain that Halford was summoned immediately. As the doctor hurried to the room, George gripped Wathen-Waller's hand and told him, "my boy, this is death". At quarter past three that morning, the last King George of the glorious Georgian era passed away.

The last word must belong the his infamous obituary, published in The Times:

"There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? ... If he ever had a friend — a devoted friend in any rank of life — we protest that the name of him or her never reached us."

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna: A Duchess, A Duke... and His Best Friend

Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia (Princess Wilhelmina Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt; Prenzlau, Russia, 25th June 1755 – St Petersburg, Russia, 15th April 1776)

Natalia Alexeievna of Russia by Alexander Roslin, 1776
Natalia Alexeievna of Russia by Alexander Roslin, 1776

After our diversion into the inns and taverns of London, we find ourselves back in the grand continental courts to meet a last of noble birth. Married to the man who would one day be Tsar Paul I of Russia Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna lived a short but somewhat sparkly life. She made an impact on courtiers and public alike but her time in the spotlight was all too brief.

Born Princess Wilhelmina Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt to Louis IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and Caroline of Zweibrücken, Countess Palatine, there was never any question that she would be anything but a powerful political bride for some lucky noble. She was one of three unmarried daughters of the Landgrave and when news reached Louis and Caroline that Empress Catherine II was casting her net wide in the search for a bride for her son, Grand Duke Paul, the 18 year old Wilhelmina was certainly on the shortlist.

When news reached Prenzlau that the Empress would like to meet the three girls, they were put through a crash course in courtly behaviour and made into the image of perfect royal brides before they were dispatched for Russia on a ship captained by the Grand Duke's best friend, Count Andrei Razumovsky, of whom we shall hear more later. Less than 48 hours after the young ladies arrived in St Petersburg, Paul made his choice: he wished to marry Wilhelmina. An enormous wedding ceremony was held on 29th September 1773 and Wilhelmina, now named Natalia Alexeievna, became a Grand Duchess.

The bubbly young woman lit up the Russian court and found favour with Catherine yet this honeymoon period was not to last. It began to be apparent that the new bride was far from an innocent abroad but was, in fact, highly ambitious on behalf of her husband and when he did not share her love for scheming and intrigue, she sought her thrills elsewhere. Soon gossip began to spread that Natalia was involved in a passionate affair with Razumovsky and she became the talk of the court though Paul remained blissfully unaware of the talk about his wife and best friend. In a somewhat bittersweet show of devotion, when efforts were made to exile Razumovsky, it was the blissfully unaware Paul who stepped in to ensure his friend could remain at court!

When news emerged of Natalia's pregnancy, more than a few eyebrows were raised on the matter of paternity but as far as the Empress was concerned, if the baby were a boy, then she would consider the child as the rightful heir to the throne. 

Natalia's long and agonising labour resulted in the birth of a stillborn son on 15th April 1776; her doctors hesitated to perform a Caesarian and neither mother nor child stood a chance of survival. At the loss of his wife, Paul was distraught and for a short time refused to release her body for burial; five months later, he had married again.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.
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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Founding of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons

In the glorious Georgian era, life in London was one of extremes and contradictions. As the long 18th century progressed, art, literature and discovery were order of the day and organisations were founded or expanded that remain famous of even infamous to this day.

On 24th June 1717, a meeting took place at the Goose and Gridiron ale-house in St. Paul's Churchyard in London to celebrate the birthday of St John the Baptist. Intended to be the Annual Assembly and Feast of four Masonic lodges of London, the meeting marked the creation of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster, later to become the Grand Lodge of England and the Premier Grand Lodge of England.

Anthony Sayer, First Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England  by Joseph Highmore, 1749/50
Anthony Sayer, First Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England  by Joseph Highmore, 1749/50 

In addition to the regular members of the Goose and Grid-iron lodge, also present were members of the lodges based at the Crown Ale-house in Parker's Lane, the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles Street and the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel Row. As well as electing a Grand Master, the meeting discussed the matter of increasing the profile of the Masons outside of London and expending the organisation across the United Kingdom. The lodge members present elected as their Grand Master a gentleman named Anthony Sayer, who occupied the role for twelve months before handing over to a civil servant, George Payne, who worked hard to build the reputation and reach of the Grand Lodge.

In less than a decade there were new lodges across the country and they attracted high profile and influential men, the reputation and reach of the Masonic lodges growing exponentially as the years passed.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Short Political Career of Queen Marie Leszczyńska

Marie Leszczyńska (Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska; Trzebnica, Poland, 23rd June 1703 – Versailles, France, 24th June 1768)

Marie Leszczyńska by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1748
Marie Leszczyńska by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1748

Although we have previously welcomed Marie Leszczyńska to the salon, she was very much there as one of a pair, celebrating her wedding to King Louis XV of France. Today, however, I would like to take the focus away from her nuptials and look instead at her less than successful political career, where she tried to join the movers and shakers of the Bourbon court.

Not long after she became the Queen Consort of France, Marie made her first tentative steps into court politics when she prevailed upon her husband to find a cabinet position for Louis Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon, Prince de Condé and the man who had brokered her marriage to the king. The appointment was not successful and ended with the Duke leaving the court to retire to his country estate.

After that Louis refused to grant his wife any further political influence and eventually she was completely sidelined and devoted her time to pastimes and philanthropy. Removed from political manoeuvring and with her husband seeking companionship elsewhere, Marie was left with no choice but to find other ways to pass her time, which she did happily, spending her 96,000 livres pension at the gambling table and occasionally representing the king at formal ceremonies that he was unable to attend.

Although she would later dip her toe into the waters of court intrigue again when her widowed son needed to find a second wife, the queen was not destined to be a political force. Hugely popular with the people of France she  instead concentrated on other aspects of life, taking rewards from faith and family.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
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Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Lord John Sackville: Rake About Town

Lord John Sackville (John Philip Sackville, London, England, 22nd June 1713 - Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 3rd December 1765)

A return engagement today for Lord John Sackville, cricketer, politician and notorious rake about town. My post on his death touched on his somewhat scandalous ways and it is this that I return to today, to look a little more about the sort of behaviour that this particular member of the peerage were indulging in back in the Georgian era!

Lord Sackville was born the son of Elizabeth Colyear and Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset and an ambitious career politician. The young man enjoyed an excellent education at Westminster, where he fell in love with the game of cricket, and at the age of 21 became not only Member of Parliament for Tamworth but more importantly for him, captained the Kent team at Sevenoaks. His cricketing prowess raised him to celebrity status in the county but he was almost as famous for his personal life, which might be politely termed, flamboyant.

Knole House, the Sackville family seat
Knole House, the Sackville family seat

Apart from cricket, there was little that Sackville enjoyed as much as gambling and the company of women. He had numerous lovers and finally, perhaps inevitably, his gadding about led to trouble when, in 1743, fate dealt him a surprise hand.

In 1743, Sackville embarked on a passionate and scandalous affair with Lady Frances Leveson-Gower, daughter of John Leveson-Gower, 1st Earl Gower and Lady Evelyn Pierrepont, whose father was the 1st Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull. The affair resulted in pregnancy and as the couple retreated to Woburn, a scandal erupted around them. The parents of both Sackville and Evelyn were horrified to learn of the affair but there was little they could do, the child was well on its way.

Just two days after their child was born in 1744, the scandalous couple married one another. This did nothing to mollify their parents-in-law and when Sackville's allowance was slashed by his father, financial trouble beckoned for the scandalous newlyweds.

In fact, Sackville's cricketing chum, Frederick, Prince of Wales, stepped in at this point to save his friend from financial ruin. He gave Sackville a paid position on his personal staff, easily making up the shortfall in his allowance. 

Although more trouble, gambling and ultimately madness would follow, for now life seemed settled and the couple adjusted to married life. Sackville never quite curbed his outrageous ways and his son would later follow his father's example, creating scandals of his own.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

From Heartbreak to Happiness: Princess Augusta of Bavaria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg

Princess Augusta of Bavaria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg (Augusta Amalia Ludovika Georgia von Bayern; Strasbourg, France, 21st June 1788 - Munich, Germany, 13th May 1851)

Princess Augusta of Bavaria by Joseph Karl Stieler
Princess Augusta of Bavaria by Joseph Karl Stieler

In this, the week of the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, we find ourselves once more meeting members of the extended Bonaparte family. We have previously made the acquaintance of the Emperor's stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais, and today seemed like a nice moment to meet Eugène's wife, Princess Augusta of Bavaria.

Augusta was born to Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt. She lost her mother when she was just eight years old and though Maximilian married Princess Caroline of Baden, it took some years for the young Augusta to get used to her stepmother. From the start, it was intended that she would make a good dynastic match. Initially the young woman was promised to Charles, heir to the Grand Dukedom of Baden and brother of her stepmother. However, Napoleon had other ideas and prevailed upon Maximilian to offer his daughter as a bride for Eugène.

The Marriage of Eugene de Beauharnais and Princess Augusta by Francois Guillaume Menageot
The Marriage of Eugene de Beauharnais and Princess Augusta by Francois Guillaume Menageot
Although Augusta and Charles were very fond of one another, Maximilian eventually capitulated and on 14th January 1806, Munich saw the lavish wedding ceremony that joined Augusta and Eugène. The young bride was distraught at the loss of the man she had come to adore but agreed to the wedding as a matter of national duty, recognising the importance to her father and the territories that would become his.

Despite its political beginnings, it is my pleasure to say that the marriage was, in fact, a happy one. They fell in love almost immediately and eventually had seven children, six of whom survived childhood. The joyful marriage was ended only by the death of Eugène in 1824. Throughout his final illness, he was nursed by his devoted wife, who was at his side when he passed away.

Augusta never fully recovered from the loss of her husband and retired into a quiet life. For two decades she devoted herself to philanthropy and faith before, finally, she too passed away.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Friday, 20 June 2014

The Shocking Death of Hans Axel von Fersen

Hans Axel von Fersen (Stockholm, Sweden, 4th September 1755 – Stockholm, Sweden, 20th June 1810)

Hans Axel von Fersen by Noël Hallé
Hans Axel von Fersen by Noël Hallé

We have met the remarkable Hans Axel von Fersen before, learnt of his adventures and discovered more about a relationship with Marie Antoinette that is still speculated over to this day. Today we return to Sweden on the anniversary of his death to examine a dark moment in the history of that nation. I am delighted to note that the estimable Anna Belfrage is also remembering Axel von Fersen and her blog today features her heartbreaking story of his final hours, The Funerals of a Prince.

Fersen's life was one that encompassed travel, intrigue and tragedy and the manner in which he left it was far from ordinary, though it was hardly peaceful either. The road to his death began in 1809, when Sweden's Gustav IV Adolf was swept unceremoniously aside in favour of Denmark's Prince Carl August of Augustenburg. Wisely distancing himself from the intrigue and drama, Fersen openly supported Prince Gustav of Vasa, the son of Gustav IV Adolf and, in Fersen's opinion, the legitimate heir to the throne.

In fact, Carl August did not last long in office and died suddenly, despite apparently being in rude health. Although it was later concluded that he had died as a result of a stroke, people began to whisper that Fersen had been involved in a plot to poison the Dane. Despite this unpleasant state of affairs, it was part of Fersen's official duties to accompany the dead man's funeral cortege through Stockholm.

Monument to Axel von Fersen
Monument to Axel von Fersen

Carl August was a popular ruler and thousands turned out to mourn him, disgusted to see Fersen involved in the ceremony. They heckled his carriage and pelted it with stones until, as the mood turned increasingly violent, the unfortunate man attempted to conceal himself in a private house. At this point the mob rushed the building and dragged Fersen out into the street, where they subjected him to a dreadful beating as Royal Life Guards stood by, their commanding officer instructing his men to hold their fire despite other officials pleading that Fersen be arrested for his own safety.

The Murder of Axel von Fersen by Alfred Bexelius, 1810

Fersen's torment was only ended when Otto Johan Tandefelt jumped on his chest and crushed his ribcage, killing the unfortunate man. 

In the months that followed his death, Fersen was officially cleared of any involvement in the death of the Crown Prince. He was buried with full honours as a Marshal of the Realm, something of a bitter posthumous victory for the man who had once enjoyed influence at the highest levels.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
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