Thursday, 31 March 2016

Life in the Georgian Court

The salon is closing until 12th April so we can do a little bit of gadding, but it's my pleasure to leave you with an announcement that Life in the Georgian Court can now be ordered! The book is an Amazon Hot New Release in both the UK and US, which is overwhelming for me - thank you for everyone for reading, encouraging, sharing and making this possible!

Life in the Georgian Court

As the glittering Hanoverian court gives birth to the British Georgian era, a golden age of royalty dawns in Europe. Houses rise and fall, births, marriages and scandals change the course of history and in France, Revolution stalks the land. 

Peep behind the shutters of the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the era, the House of Hanover. 

Behind the pomp and ceremony were men and women born into worlds of immense privilege, yet beneath the powdered wigs and robes of state were real people living lives of romance, tragedy, intrigue and eccentricity.  

Take a journey into the private lives of very public figures and learn of arranged marriages that turned to love or hate and scandals that rocked polite society. Here the former wife of a king spends three decades in lonely captivity, Prinny makes scandalous eyes at the toast of the London stage and Marie Antoinette begins her last, terrible journey through Paris as her son sits alone in a forgotten prison cell.

Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.

Order Links:

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Ghost of Sergeant Arthur Davis

It's a spooky pleasure to welcome MJ Steel Collins to the salon with the ghostly tale of the horrible murder of Sgt Arthur Davies...


The Ghost of Sergeant Arthur Davis by M J Steel Collins

Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott, in his Letters of Demonology and Witchcraft mentions the curious case of Sergeant Alfred Davis, whose ghostly appearance to three Highlanders led to their appearance as witnesses in the trial of the two men accused of Sergeant Davis’ murder. It’s rather a peculiar incident in Scottish criminal history.

Upon the 10th of June, 1754, Duncan Terig, alias Clark, and Alexander Bain MacDonald, two Highlanders, were tried before the Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh, for the murder of Arthur Davis, sergeant in Guise’s regiment, on the 28thSeptember 1749. The accident happened not long after the civil war, the embers of which were still reeking, so there existed too many reasons on account of which an English soldier, straggling far from assistance, might be privately cut off by the inhabitants of these wilds. It appears that Sergeant Davis was missing for years, without any certainty as to his fate.”

In the atmosphere of immediate post-Culloden Scotland, martial law had been declared in the Highlands, and Gaelic culture suppressed. English regiments were sent North to enforce the new regime. Sergeant Davies was amongst those troops, in charge of a small group, or piquet, of eight soldiers, at a farm called Dubrach near the tiny settlement of Inverey, Aberdeenshire. They would regularly patrol the area, communicating with other similar groups of soldiers.  Sergeant Davis was something of an ostentatious character. He made great show of the 15 and half guineas he carried about in a green velvet purse. In addition, he wore two gold rings, two silver buckles on his shoes and carried a large silver watch. As mentioned in Notices Relative to the Bannatyne Club, his widow later stated that “It was generally known by all the neighbourhood that the sergeant was worth money and carried it about with him.”

Sergeant Davis was also a keen hunter, and would often go off in search of game. Early in the morning of 28 September 1749, the flamboyant Sergeant and four soldiers set out from Dubrach to rendezvous with another group of soldiers at Glenshee.  At one point, the Sergeant apparently was in the mood for a hunt, and left his men to try and bag some game, planning on rejoining them later on the way to Glenshee. 

The four soldiers made the rendezvous, and returned home, without meeting their Sergeant. Later, he did appear at Glenshee, and was rebuked by the leader of the other group for going off alone. Sergeant Davis scoffed, saying that thanks to his weapons, he wasn’t scared of anyone. He then headed back in the direction of Dubrach, and wasn’t seen again.  A search was made, but the Sergeant wasn’t found, and was presumed murdered. Meanwhile, a nude ghost began to appear in the isolated glen, and would disappear when approached. 

Glenshee (Photograph courtesy of Scott Robinson, Geograph)
In June 1750, Donald Farquharson of Glen Dee, who had known Sergeant Davis in life, was visited by a man named Alexander MacPherson. He claimed that he had been haunted by the ghost Sergeant Davis. The ghost first came to MacPherson, when the latter was lying in bed; the spirit wore a blue coat and identified itself as the Sergeant. The apparition later returned naked, and instructed MacPherson to see Donald Farquharson, and it would show them where it’s body was, begging for its bones to be buried. Alexander MacPherson’s employer, Mistress Isobel McHardie, also saw the ghost’s naked form enter their sheiling. Though sceptical, Farquharson accompanied MacPherson, and went to a local landmark, the Hill of Christie, where they found decayed human remains, with a blue coat and other clothing, but no valuables. They buried the body on the spot where it lay. 

Locally, rumours began doing the rounds regarding the involvement of Duncan Terig. Terig was known to be impoverished, but had apparently been profligate with money of late. His new wife also wore a ring that looked like one of those worn by the missing Sergeant Davis. Eventually, Terig was arrested, along with one Alexander MacDonald. They had been arrested for wearing tartan, but were found to have Sergeant Davis’ rings and some silver buttons he was known to wear; they were charged with his murder and taken to Edinburgh to stand trial at the High Court of Justiciary on 10 June 1754. Several witnesses testified as to the suspicious behaviour of the men following Sergeant Davis’ disappearance, including their being witnessed with his possessions. They had also been seen in the area where the Sergeant had disappeared, at around the same time. Further, one of their relatives asserted that they were the murderers. It was looking quite bad for Terig and MacDonald. 

Then Donald Farquharson, Alexander MacPherson and Mistress McHardie were brought to the witness stand and told their story. Sir Walter Scott takes up what happened next:

“...the story of the apparition threw an air of ridicule on the whole evidence for the prosecution. It was followed up by the counsel for the prisoners asking, in the cross examination of MacPherson, “What language did the ghost speak in?” The witness, who was himself ignorant of English, replied, “As good Gaelic as I ever heard in Lochaber.” “Pretty well for the ghost of an English sergeant,” answered the counsel.”

As it turned out, Sergeant Davis was indeed lacking in the Gaelic. Duncan Terig and Alexander MacDonald were found not guilty.  As for the ghost of the unfortunate Sergeant Davis, it’s blue coated form is still said to wander the hills round Glenshee, asking for a Christian burial.

Sources: Scott, Walter (1830) Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft Kindle Public Domain.
Underwood, Peter (1974) A Gazetteer of Scottish Ghosts Fontana/Collins
Underwood, Peter (2013) Where the Ghosts Walk Souvenir Press
Whitaker, Terence (1991) Scottish Ghosts and Apparitions Robert Hale

Maidment, J (ed) (1836) Notices Relative to the Bannatyne Club Private Publication, Edinburgh (accessed

About the Author
MJ Steel Collins hails from Paisley, and now migrated to the Govan area of Glasgow. She has a life long interest in ghosts and hauntings, and very keen on Highland folklore. She is Scottish Editor for The Spooky Isles, and writes on folklore for The Modern Scotsman

You can find her spreading ghostly lore and plenty of more on Twitter!

Written content of this post copyright © MJ Steel Collins, 2016.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Bum Ghost

Whilst leafing through some newspapers of late I found this cheeky little classified ad; do enjoy the appearance of the frightful Bum Ghost!

General Advertiser (1744), 27th August 1746

This Day is publish'd, Price 6d.

THE BUM GHOST; or, An Emblematical Print of a Monthly Meeting of the Independent Inhabitants of Westminster, Aug. 1, 1746, at which Councillor Morgan fill'd the chair, and after drinking K- J-'s Health, without his Head, from the Butt End of his Body, made a Speech to them.

Sold by M. Cooper in Pater-noster Row; at M. Overton, at the Golden Buck Fleet Street; and at all other Pamphlet and Print-shops in London and Westminster.

Hardly the typical political meeting, but a little snippet I thought might amuse!

The Bum Ghost

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Jack for the King

Today we step back a little earlier than the Georgian era in the company of the wonderful MJ Logue, with a look at the tangled history of Trerice. Do be sure to find MJ on Twitter and her own site; her Uncivil War books are not to be missed, whatever your era!


The fine Elizabethan manor house at Trerice, at Kestle Mill in Cornwall, was built in 1572 by the Arundell family, and you may have seen glimpses of it in various historical TV dramas.

A beautiful, peaceful house, nestled in the hills above Newquay, and full of lovely little details and period character - the kayles court and the stone lions at the front door, spring to mind, not to mention the beautiful portrait of Amy Seymour and her lovely jacket - very much like the Laton jacket, but with a bigger motif... 

A little glimpse into a vanished past.

And a little glimpse into the tortuous familial relationships of Cornwall of the 1640s.

Trerice was the home of Sir John Arundell, "Jack-for-the-King" - the seventh of that name, who was an MP for the prestigious county seat of Cornwall and for his family's pocket boroughs of Tregony (1624), Mitchell (1597) and St Mawes (1624), and who was governor of Pendennis during the five-month siege of that castle - he responded to Fairfax as follows: "I wonder you demand the castle without authority from His Majesty, which if I should render, I brand myself and my posterity with the indelible character of treason. And having taken less than two minutes resolution, I resolve that I will here bury myself before I deliver up this castle to such as fight against His Majesty, and that nothing you can threaten is formidable to me in respect of the loss of loyalty and conscience". 

He obtained an honourable surrender from Thomas Fairfax - or rather, from Colonel Fortescue who was left commanding the siege, since the Royalists weren't going anywhere - but in 1651 he was compounded for delinquency to the sum of £10,000 by Parliament: that is, he was permitted to pay a fine of £10,000 to Parliament if he pledged not to take up arms against Parliament again. (This was later reduced to £2,000. But that is still a lot of money, for the seventeenth century.) When you consider that Arundell was born in 1576, he was seventy years old when he first shut the gates of Pendennis against the New Model Army. 
- They didn't think he was going to hold out long, either. Poor old chap, they thought, doddery old bird, won't be up to much. Five months later they were eating their words. (And Arundell, on the inside, was eating the horses, but that is a whole other story...)

So. You get the idea that Jack-for-the-King was, well, for the King. 

His sister, Catherine, was married to John St Aubyn of Clowans - the Parliamentarian officer who was appointed Captain of St Michael's Mount in 1647 with the remit of securing peace in the neighbouring area... that would be his brother-in-law, then. 

And his brother Thomas, of Duloe, up in East Cornwall, was MP for West Looe during the Long Parliament and remained in parliament until his death in 1648. Which gives you the idea that he may not have been the most Royalist member of the family either. 

And who was Thomas's brother-in-law? The man who wrote the "Survey of Cornwall", Richard Carew. Whose sons were Alexander and Richard, of Antony near Torpoint: Alexander, the eldest, came out for Parliament and was made Governor of the crucial defensive point of Plymouth, St Nicholas's Island.  In 1643, after the Royal victory at Stratton, Alexander secretly contacted the commander of the Royal forces besieging Exeter offering to surrender Plymouth in return for a pardon for himself.

Predictably, it ended badly. (I'll write about the Carews another time - a sad story all round.)
Alexander's half-brother, John, then became an MP in 1647, and ended up as one of the Court that tried the King in 1649: being still alive at the end of the Interregnum, he was hanged, drawn and quartered as a regicide.

By the sword divided? There must have been times poor John Arundell must have wished they had been!

About The Serpent's Root

After Marston Moor. After Naseby. War returns to the West Country.

Book 5 in the bestselling Uncivil Wars series, featuring the adventures of Hollie Babbitt and his rebel rabble of Parliamentarian cavalry.

Cornwall, 1646.

Thomas Fairfax and the Army of Parliament are on the verge of victory, bringing the King’s Army to bay in Cornwall.
But Hollie, far from his wife and the future he's fought so hard to build, is bound by honour to stay with his company in the West Country, though it may cost him everything he holds dear at home in Essex.

And a bitter choice lies before the Cornish captain Kenelm Toogood - freedom of his conscience, or freedom for his homeland?

About the Author

 M J Logue has been passionate about the English Civil War since writing her first novel over 20 years ago. After a brief flirtation with horror and dark fantasy, she returned to her first love, historical fiction, and now combines the two. She has a degree in English literature, trained as an archivist, and likes Jacobean theatre, loud music, and cheese.  

When not attempting to redeem the reputation of the Army of Parliament, she lives in Cornwall with her husband and son, three cats, and a toad under the back doorstep. 

There is little more to divulge, other than - "I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else. "

Thank you, Oliver Cromwell!

Written content of this post copyright © MJ Logue, 2016.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Influence of Italy

The Influence of Italy
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, 24 October 2015 — 27 August 2016
vasw-sketchbook476x354Taking as its focus our newly-acquired sketchbook, which was completed by Sir Joshua Reynolds between 1750 and 1752, this display investigates what attracted the young artist to Italy and the lasting influence his tour had on his life and art. Scroll through a digital version of our sketchbook and see what caught Reynolds’s eye as he sketched his way across Rome. Discover why Italy’s art, history and landscape has had such an enduring influence on centuries of artistic imagination. Featuring works by Wilson, Guardi and Northcote, plus supporting loans from the De Pass Collection at the Royal Cornwall Museum and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, join us for a journey to la bella Italia.

Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5.30pm
Saturday 10am to 5pm
Admission free

Closed Sunday, Monday and Friday 25 March 2016

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Women’s History Month

It's my pleasure to welcome Naomi of the fantastic Sheroes of History to the salon today to chat about Women's History Month!


Thank you very much for having me, I hope you will indulge me as I share some thoughts on Women’s History Month.

It’s a rather novel idea that the history of half the human race be squeezed into a specific month – where do we find them the rest of the year? Where indeed? That’s the problem isn’t it? 
I often find myself in a quandary when Women’s History Month (WHM) rolls around each year; on the one hand it’s a fantastic opportunity to have an amplified platform to shout about the incredible stories of women who might quite happily go unheard of the rest of the year, on the other hand I worry that people tick their ‘Women’s History’ check box in March (and respectively black history, LGBT history & disability history etc in their allotted 30 day periods) and don’t see the benefit of, or the need for, giving these stories equal amplification the rest of the year.
I started Sheroes of History, a women’s history blog, to try and increase the visibility of women’s stories in my little corner of the internet. Through the blog and storytelling work I’m trying to make sure that women’s history becomes history, standard. 
The reason we have a ‘special’ month is the same reason I started Sheroes of History. Our run of the mill, day to day history – be it in a history book, in a science class or on a TV documentary, is still overwhelmingly male (throw in white and straight too why not?) This video released by English Heritage for WHM shows how much the names of historical women don’t roll off the tongue of many a member of the public. It’s no wonder is it? In much of the past men had more opportunity, more freedom and therefore more success – and when their female contemporaries did have success, more often than not the men still took credit for it. So now when we learn about the past, we tend to learn about men’s past, told the way men recorded it and have to make an extra effort to find the women. I promise you that when you start looking you’ll notice; you’ll notice the absence of their faces and their stories. 
Believe me, after two years of writing and editing the Sheroes of History blog I can tell you that there is a bottomless well of fabulous women to discover. Women who contributed to the sciences and the arts; to maths and engineering; women who labored for social justice, carving out the liberties we enjoy today; women who were fearsome warriors and steadfast pacifists; women whose lives we should know about! We’re doing ourselves a disservice by overlooking their stories.
Why does it matter? Well, my main motivation for trying to balance the scales is that if we don’t we perpetuate the imbalance. When all we see is white men doing any particular thing, it creates the suggestion that it’s only men that can, or should, be doing that particular thing. We only have to look around us to see how these stereotypes are still stupidly ingrained. Changing representation in our histories isn’t the entire solution, but it’s certainly part of it. 
When I tell the story of Lily Parr, a super star footballer who played for enormous crowds to young girls who only ever see men’s playing on the TV; or the stories of Bessie Coleman and Jackie Cochran – daring female pilots who easily bested the men, against the stark backdrop of the paltry 3-5% of pilots who are female today, it plants a seed, sets an example and a precedent. If we could manage to consistently do this in schools, in the media, in books and films – imagine the impact we might have. I think there’s a lot to be said for the phrase ‘if you can’t see it you can’t be it’; and while obviously there are exceptions to this (I’d say most of the Sheroes on the blog prove this), we’d make it a whole lot easier to create a more equal future if we reflected a more equal past.
So, Women’s History Month. Do we need it? Yes, unequivocally, yes. Let’s sing, shout, dance and make a huge, grand affair of it, let’s make it so everywhere people turn they see something about the amazing heroines of the past and the amazing things they did. But when 31st March comes around, let’s not stop there. Let’s make women’s history (and, I have to point out, the histories of other marginalized groups, for which all of the same arguments can be made) a part of our narratives all year round.

If you want to be a part of doing just that then why not contribute a piece to the Sheroes of History blog? We’re always looking for submissions; just pick an inspiring woman who you think people ought to know about. If you’re interested or want to more drop me an email at 

Sheroes of History is a weekly women’s history blog telling the stories of historical heroines.
Twitter: @SheroesHistory

Written content of this post copyright © Sheroes of History, 2016.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

An Infamous Mistress

It's my pleasure to welcome two firm friends back to the salon today, as Sarah Murden and Joanne Major bring Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her remarkable family vividly back to life!
Book cover
Firstly, we would like thank the charming Madame Gilflurt for inviting us back to her cosy salon. We are the joint authors of An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, published by Pen and Sword Books. Our book reveals Grace’s maternal family for the first time and discloses that her aunt was Robinaiana, the Countess of Peterborough. Robinaiana Brown was, for many years, the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, the 4th Earl of Peterborough (and 2nd Earl of Monmouth) – he could not marry her for he already had a wife. When his first wife died he married Robinaiana with indecent haste, anxious that the child she was carrying should be born legitimate.
The 4th Earl of Peterborough was not alone in his family in his marital misadventures, for three successive generations of the House of Mordaunt made irregular marriages.
Today we’re going to look at the 4th earl’s grandfather, Charles Mordaunt (1658-1735), the ‘celebrated’ 3rd Earl of Peterborough (and 1st Earl of Monmouth), noted for his military exploits although it’s his marital ones we’re concerned with here today. 
Charles eloped with his first wife, Carey Fraser, the daughter of Sir Alexander Fraser (by her mother she was a descendant of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, as was the 3rd earl’s mother, Elizabeth Carey) – through Carey the Mordaunt’s inherited the Scottish estate of Dores in Kincardineshire. The couple married in 1678 but kept the marriage secret for two years, fearing the displeasure of her family.
Carey died in 1709 after giving the earl three children and the 3rd Earl of Peterborough paid court to another lady in the years following her death – Anastasia Robinson (c.1695-1755), a noted opera singer who first appeared on the stage in 1713. 
Anastasia Robinson, seated at a harpsichord, 1727. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Anastasia Robinson, seated at a harpsichord, 1727. 
© The Trustees of the British Museum

The couple married privately in either 1714 or 1722 depending upon which source you believe, but the earl chose not to publicly recognise Anastasia as his wife, perhaps this time feeling the union beneath his rank. Anastasia’s father was not a peer of the realm but a simple, if talented, portrait painter and Anastasia’s Roman Catholic faith may also have had some bearing. 
Anastasia lived in Parson’s Green, Fulham, close to Peterborough House, the earl’s mansion, presiding over many musical evenings there where she was still regarded, to her dismay, as a mistress rather than a lawful wife. She was denied the right to call herself a countess in public. Charles Burney’s A General History of Music, vol 4, (1789) quoted an anecdote given in 1787 by ‘the late venerable Mrs Delaney, [Anastasia Robinson’s] contemporary and intimate acquaintance’ (Mrs Mary Delany née Granville, bluestocking and correspondent):

’Mrs Anastasia Robinson was of a middling stature, not handsome, but of a pleasing, modest countenance, with large blue eyes. Her deportment was easy, unaffected, and graceful. Her manner and address very engaging; and her behaviour, on all occasions, that of a gentlewoman, with perfect propriety. She was not only liked by all her acquaintance, but loved and caressed by persons of the highest rank, with whom she appeared always equal, without assuming.’

At her father’s house in Golden Square she was visited by the widowed Earl of Peterborough and a General H___, both of whom professed their love to her. Her father could no longer paint for he was blind and the family fortunes dwindled. Anastasia was ‘sincerely attached to’ the earl and so the deal was struck and the secret wedding performed. Mrs Delaney affirmed that the marriage took place and that Lady Oxford, Anastasia’s great friend, attended her on the day. Did Anastasia continue to perform on the stage after her marriage to support her father and was this the reason that she could not be publicly recognised as the Countess of Peterborough? As the marriage has yet to be discovered the date of it is open to debate.
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough and 1st Earl of Monmouth, c.1738-42 from Birch’s Heads. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough and 1st Earl of Monmouth, c.1738-42 from Birch’s Heads. 
© The Trustees of the British Museum
When Anastasia was insulted by the Italian singer Francesco Bernardi, known as Senesino (a castrato), the Earl of Peterborough compelled him, according to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, to ‘confess upon his knees that Anastasia was a nonpareil of virtue and beauty’
Lord Stanhope, the future Earl of Chesterfield, compounded matters by making a joke about the situation and was challenged to a duel by Anastasia’s enraged earl. Gossip made its way into the newspapers, claiming that the Earl of Peterborough allowed Anastasia 100l. each month as an allowance. ‘Would anyone believe… that Mrs Robinson is at the same time a prude and a kept mistress?’ was the question cuttingly asked by Mrs Wortley Montagu when she wrote from Twickenham to the Countess of Mar. The earl perhaps had good reason to be angered for Mrs Wortley Montague suggested that the contretemps caused Anastasia to miscarry (there were no children born to the couple). Around this time Anastasia stopped performing on the stage although she still appeared at private venues.
The Bad Taste of The Town (Masquerades and Operas) 1724 by William Hogarth. 
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The couple maintained separate establishments until 1734 when the earl was taken ill at Mount Bevis, his Southampton cottage, and finally wanted Anastasia permanently by his side. She specified one condition – he still denied her permission to use his name, but she asked that she might be allowed to wear her wedding ring. Finding that she would not be swayed, the earl finally agreed.
His ill-health continued and he was advised by his doctor to travel abroad and seek a warmer climate and here Anastasia finally put her foot down. She refused to travel with the earl unless he finally, once and for all, declared their marriage. 
It’s often been mooted that a second ceremony was undertaken, to convince the world of the union as the priest who had conducted the first was dead and could not testify to it. Mrs Delaney did not mention this but Alexander Pope did in a letter to Martha Blount dated 25th August 1735 – he said the earl had married Anastasia, in front of witnesses, in a Bristol church. We can finally confirm that a marriage ceremony did indeed take place, as Pope described, on the 10th July 1735 at Clifton in Gloucestershire. After this the earl gathered his family around him.

‘When they were all assembled he began a most eloquent oration, enumerating all the virtues and perfections of Mrs A. Robinson, and the rectitude of her conduct during his long acquaintance with her, for which he acknowledged his great obligations and sincere attachment, declaring he was determined to do her that justice which he ought to have done long ago, which was presenting her to all his family as his wife. He spoke this harangue with so much energy, and in parts so pathetically, that lady P. not being apprised of his intentions, was so affected that she fainted away in the midst of the company.’
The Earl of Peterborough never made his voyage, dying on board his ship on the 25th October 1735 and Anastasia, Dowager Countess of Peterborough, lived out her days in retirement at Mount Bevis. She died in Bath, and was buried in Bath Abbey on the 1st May 1755.
Close up of a detail from The Bad Taste of The Town. The 3rd Earl of Peterborough is shown kneeling on a large banner, handing the singer Cuzzoni a large sum of money to perform. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Close up of a detail from The Bad Taste of The Town. The 3rd Earl of Peterborough is shown kneeling on a large banner, handing the singer Cuzzoni a large sum of money to perform. 
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Sources not mentioned above:
Daily Courant, 3rd June 1713
The Works of the Right Honourable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Letters: I. During Mr Wortley's embassy; II. To the Countess of Mar, at Paris. III; To Mr Wortley, 1817
The Life of Alexander Pope: Including Extracts from His Correspondence, 1857

About the Authors
Our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is available now from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops.
You can also visit us at where we blog about anything and everything to do with the Georgian era.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner in France during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris.
Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits.
The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the history of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men.
Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time.
This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

In the Frame: Plymouth's Portraits Revealed

Come and see an exhibition that delves more deeply into Plymouth's portrait collection and presents characters that are new or rarely seen as well as some more familiar faces.
'In the Frame' features one of our most recent acquisitions - an early self-portrait by Plympton-born 18th century artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds. This is set amongst other paintings of artists including self-portraits by James Northcote and Edward Opie.
You can come face to face with some of Plymouth's maritime greats too - from Hawkins and Raleigh to 18th century Admirals and George Gibbon, the Lieutenant Governor of Plymouth in the early 1700s, painted by Thomas Hudson.
Important local faces and families also feature - from the Edgcumbes and the Eliots, to William Cookworthy (the founder of the Plymouth Porcelain factory) and the last town crier of Devonport.
Find out more about the research and the development that took place for this exhibition on our Museum blog.
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
On display until Saturday 27 August 2016
Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5.30pm
Saturday 10am to 5pm
Admission free
Closed Sunday, Monday and Friday 25 March 2016

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

When Nighties Saved Lives at Sea

We are time travelling again today with a trip to the Victorian era in the company of my very good friend, Gill Hoffs. Gill is the author of The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic, and has a fascinating tale to tell of when nighties saved lives at sea!


The Sinking of RMS TayleurAs a writer, I spend most of my life in nightwear.  My ‘uniform’ is soft, warm, and extremely comfortable but I do not expect it to save my life.  However that is exactly what happened for a couple of the women on the RMS Tayleur, the so-called ‘Victorian Titanic’, which wrecked near Dublin in 1854.
Approximately 700 people set sail from Liverpool on Thursday 19th January 1854 amid much celebration.  They were travelling on the White Star Line’s revolutionary new ship, the iron-hulled RMS Tayleur, the largest vessel of her type in the world at that time.  Bound for the Australian Gold Rush, the men, women, and children on board could expect a journey of at least one hundred days before they reached Melbourne.
Unfortunately, the iron hull affected the compasses and a storm meant the ship was soon lost in the Irish Sea.  Only 48 hours after they left Liverpool the Tayleur ran into a cliff on the island of Lambay.  Half an hour after that, the ship sank beneath the waves.  There was no beach and no chance of survival in the water, with enormous waves dashing people and possessions against the rocks, stripping them of their clothing, skewering them with shards of wood, and decapitating many.  
At Lambay, looking toward the wrecksite
At Lambay, looking toward the wrecksite
Despite the ship being so close to land that the first few to make it onto the island simply jumped onto the rocks, over half of the people on board died.  Some made it onto the cliff only to be swept back into the turbulent waters by the stormy sea.  Others were washed overboard or off the ropes and spars providing fragile bridges to the island.  Many remained trapped below decks as the water flooded in, laid low with seasickness or looking after friends and relatives affected by this debilitating condition. Some women were shut into cabins to keep them out of the way as they were (understandably) upset about the situation – some may have had no option but to go down with the ship
RMS Tayleur
Only three women out of over 100 survived.  Ann Carty (34), Rebecca Chasey (28), and Sarah Ann Carby (37) made it off the sinking ship and climbed a steep 35 metre cliff in a storm in a state of near-nudity despite being shocked and injured.  They were incredible but generally overlooked in the coverage of the tragedy then and afterwards, as was the demographic of the survivors.  Less than 3% of the women and approximately 4% of the children survived compared to almost 60% of the men.  Of these women, Ann immediately faded into obscurity and proved impossible to trace, Sarah’s relationship with her ex-convict husband and their son was widely discussed (they were the only family to survive the wreck intact), and Rebecca returned to her family in the Bristol area.  The son of her former employer, who also survived the wreck, told the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette:
“The ship rolled dreadfully and the scene of terror and confusion on deck was of the most agonising character. … During the short interval of the striking of the ship and my getting on to the rock, I saw many heart-rending sights.  I witnessed the death of poor Chasey’s husband and child.  The poor fellow, with a manly devotion, insisted on his wife, who had just come from her berth, being got on shore first, and strapped his infant to his back for the purpose of following her.  She was lowered down a rope into the water, and was hauled onto the shore by two or three men.  He then got on to the line, and was descending it when the vessel gave a roll, the rope broke, and he and his child perished in the surge.”
RMS Tayleur wrecking

Rebecca was quoted indirectly in the paper, perhaps because it was felt unseemly to have the widow address the public herself: “To make the descent from the ship, which was rolling and pitching under the influence of the breakers, was a work, she describes, of great difficulty, and she is almost induced to wonder how she could have mustered strength enough to accomplish it.  … When she effected her escape, she had nothing on but her frock and bonnet, and everything of which she and her husband were possessed went down with the ship, leaving her, not only childless and a widow, but in a strange place without a penny in her possession.”
This was a time of deadly dresses, of crinolines and corsets and savings stitched into stays.  Women on board the Tayleur would have worn at least sixteen layers of heavy and restrictive clothing, including petticoats ringed with stiffened horsehair.  There are accounts of women surviving other shipwrecks around that time because their husbands cut off their skirts as they stood on deck, or in some cases because the great bell-shaped skirts trapped layers of air and allowed the women to bob atop the waves until they could be rescued.  Unfortunately, the women on the Tayleur who fell or were thrown into the water were not so lucky.  Despite the wreck occurring at lunchtime, of the three women who survived, at least two were wearing little more than shifts, giving them freedom of movement and a relatively small amount of sodden clothing to weigh them down.
cross at Lambay wrecksite
Cross at the Lambay wrecksite

Today there is nothing but a tiny white cross affixed to the base of the cliff to mark the site where so few lived and so many died, but if you are near Dublin I would recommend a visit.  Lambay is a beautiful island and these days lifejackets are freely available. 

About the Author
Gill grew up on the Scottish coast, studied Psychology, Biology and English Literature at the University of Glasgow, then worked with children with a variety of needs (ASD and/or EBD, mainly) throughout the UK.  
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