Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Merry Christmas!

Today the salon doors close for a Christmas break as my rakish colonial gent and I devote ourselves to festivities. 

I hope you have a wonderfully merry Christmas, however you choose to spend it. I shall see you for more glorious Georgian tales and a few surprises in 2021!



Christmas Eve by William Allan
Christmas Eve by William Allan



Wednesday, 16 December 2020

A False Bottom


A lady's false bottom is exposed! "O cruel Wind, I am not so Plump, Then why should you expose my Rump." The Distress'd Damsel in a High Wind takes aim at fashionistas in 1786. Via the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

An Elopement


This ruddy-cheeked pair are going to cause all sorts of scandal! The Elopement, or Lovers Stratagem Defeated, 1785. Via the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

A Cat's Funeral


Old Maids at a Cat's Funeral by F.G. Byron, 1789. Savage in its way. 

Via the Wellcome Collection.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Portrait of an Old Woman


Portrait of an Old Woman by Christian Seybold, from 1749. Photorealism before photos existed - what a talent. 

Via Harvard Art Museums.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

A Fashionabe Mama


A fashionable mama breastfeeds her baby in Friedrich Tischbein's Portrait of a Family, c.1795-1800, via Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

The Dandy Toy


For the lady who has everything, how about a personal dandy? Cruikshank’s The English Ladies Dandy Toy, via the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

The Tsarina's Lost Treasure

It's an absolute pleasure to welcome Gerald Easter and Mara Vorhees to the salon today. Gerald and Mara are the authors of the wonderful new book, The Tsarina's Lost Treasure, all about the search for the ship Vrouw Maria, which was lost in 1771. When the ship went down, it took with it Catherine the Great's priceless collection of art. Two and a half centuries later, the Vrouw Maria and her cargo have been found deep beneath the waves. This gripping book tells the full - sometimes mindboggling - tale.


Read more about the book and its remarkable story by clicking here.

---oOo---

 

An Excerpt from

The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure 

Catherine the Great A Golden Age Masterpiece, and a Legendary Shipwreck

 

Gerald Easter and Mara Vorhees

 

In the 18th century, Catherine the Great set out to make the Imperial Russian court in Saint Petersburg a great cultural power of Europe, and in so doing, became one of the continent’s most voracious art collectors. The 1771 auction of the Braamcamp estate in Amsterdam was the art event of the era, attracting aristocrats and art lovers from far and wide to vie for the European masterpieces in the celebrated collection. Catherine’s agents outbid and outspent all of her competitors, snapping up Braamcamp’s most desirable Dutch paintings for her own growing collection (which would become the foundation of the Hermitage Museum). 

 

Catherine scored a dozen invaluable paintings, which were loaded onto the merchant ship Vrouw Maria for transport to Saint Petersburg. In a late autumn squall, the ship crashed off the stormy Finnish coast, taking the historic cargo to the depths of the Baltic Sea. The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure recounts the fascinating tale of the Vrouw Maria – her loss and discovery – delving into the history and fate of Catherine’s precious cultural treasure. 

 

****

 

In ancient Rome, Minerva was goddess of wisdom and culture. The daughter of Jupiter, she inspired and defended those dedicated to knowledge and creation. For Catherine, myth became muse. The empress viewed herself as the “Russian Minerva, Patroness and Protectress of the Arts.” She encouraged the likeness. Images of Catherine wearing Minerva’s high-crested winged helmet were cast into commemorative coins, carved in ivory cameos, and painted onto fine porcelain plates. She even commissioned Flemish sculptor Jean-Pierre Tassaert to carve a life-sized marble figure of herself and Italian painter Gregorio Guglielmi to paint a ceiling fresco of herself in the guise of her favorite goddess. But the empress lacked a proper venue in which to play Minerva.

 

When the ship arrived with Catherine’s first major purchase, two-hundred-plus paintings from the Gotzkowsky collection, the empress fretted: she had no suitable space to display her spoils. Frederick the Great of Prussia had his Sanssouci; Catherine would have her Hermitage. The more she heard about Frederick’s Potsdam retreat, the more she coveted her own stylish sanctuary: a place removed from state affairs and court intrigues; a place reserved for stimulating conversation, soothing music, and exquisite artwork; part salon, part stage, part trophy room. 

 

Just twenty miles outside the capital were the gilded gardens of Tsarskoe Selo, where Empress Elizabeth had her favorite builder Bartolomo Rastrelli fashion a swanky rotunda for entertaining purposes. The inside was a modern marvel, with each dining table fitted with mechanical dumbwaiters. Following aristocratic fashion, Elizabeth gave her garden rotunda a French nickname, l’Ermitage. Catherine considered this site for her art collection, but it was both too far away and too flamboyant. Catherine wanted to keep her stash close by. So she decided to

build her own “Little Hermitage” along the Neva Embankment next to the Winter Palace, where she lived and worked.

 

Like Elizabeth, Catherine loved to build. She confessed to Grimm: “We have a mania for building. It is a fiendish thing and consumes so much money, but the more I build, the more I want to build. It is as addictive as alcohol.” Unlike Elizabeth, Catherine loathed ostentation in her buildings. For her new Hermitage, the tsarina passed over Rastrelli, whose rococo creations were like whipped cream, she said. Instead, she gave the commission to Yury Velten, Rastrelli’s longtime assistant. 

 

In a restrained Baroque style, Velten produced a two-story South Pavilion, bordering

Palace Square. At this time, construction was also underway on a new gallery for the Academy of Arts on Vasilievsky Island. Catherine viewed its progress from her palace windows. She was so taken by this building’s elegant simple lines that she commissioned its Classical Revivalist architect, Villain de la Mothe of France, to design the next phase of her Hermitage. Mothe crafted a three-story neoclassical North Pavilion, along the riverfront. He then connected the two facing pavilions with long open galleries, surrounding a hanging garden courtyard. This structural ensemble became Catherine’s salon, the Little Hermitage.

The Small Hermitage, built by Catherine the Great to display her art collection, now part of the State Hermitage Museum.
The Small Hermitage, built by Catherine the Great to display her art collection, now part of the State Hermitage Museum.

The empress paced the halls of her new playhouse in solitude. She contemplated the plaster walls, an empty canvas to be filled. She envisaged various arrangements for her artworks. Catherine alone decided which of her favorites would be displayed, and how. The Flemish masters Rubens, Bruegel, and van Dyck adorned one gallery wall; the Italian masters Tintoretto and Veronese the opposite side; while Dutch masters Hals, Rembrandt, and Steen were placed where everyone who entered would see them. The smaller scale Dous were grouped together and hung low, so visitors could admire the lifelike detail of the Leiden fijnschilder. When new

acquisitions arrived, the empress took care and pleasure to find their right place among her treasures.

 

The empress’s days were full of formality—counsels, ceremony, correspondence; but the evenings were given to informality—conversation, games, entertainment. Intimate parties of a dozen or so select guests gathered at night in the Little Hermitage. To assure the proper atmosphere, Catherine composed a list of ten rules For the Behavior of All Those Entering These Doors:

1) All ranks, swords and hats shall be left at the door;

2) Haughtiness in all forms shall be left at the door;

3) Act merry, but do not upset or break anything;

4) Sit, stand or walk as you please, regardless of others;

5) Do not talk loud, or give others an earache or headache;

6) Do not argue too passionately or angrily;

7) Do not sigh, yawn or anything that fatigues and bores others;

8) Agree to participate in any innocent games suggested by others;

9) Eat and drink as you please, but always leave on your own legs;

10) All that is said and done here must stay here after you leave.

 

As punishment for those who violated the rules one through nine, the empress made them guzzle a glass of ice water and recite passages of poetry. Those who trespassed against the tenth rule, however, were forever banned from the premises.

Portrait of Empress Catherine the Great, née Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, Fyodor Rokotov (?), 1780s, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Portrait of Empress Catherine the Great, née Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, Fyodor Rokotov (?), 1780s, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

“My pictures are beautiful,” the empress told Falconet. “When can you come see them?” Catherine was most comfortable in this combined setting of high culture and casual socializing. Philosophers discussed, musicians played, poets recited, and actors performed. While Frederick composed his flute sonatas at Sanssouci, Catherine tried her hand as a playwright, using the Hermitage theatre to stage her comedies. Invited guests played whist and bridge and other gambling games. Catherine was always eager to make a wager, even though she most often lost. Silver serving trays of food were laid out, alongside brimming crystal decanters of wine and vodka. Inevitably, at some point in the evening, the empress escorted guests to the galleries to view her most recent Old Master triumph. Here in the Little Hermitage, Catherine was indeed the Russian Minerva.

The Tent-Roofed Hall in the New Hermitage, now part of the State Hermitage Museum, displays 17th century Dutch paintings.
The Tent-Roofed Hall in the New Hermitage, now part of the State Hermitage Museum, displays 17th century Dutch paintings.

In mid-March 1771, the empress sat down with her vice chancellor for the morning

briefing. Through the tall palace windows, she could see the Neva River was finally stirring, as late winter ice crackled and churned. Alexander Golitsyn read to Her Majesty a letter just arrived from cousin Dmitry in The Hague: An extraordinary opportunity, the Amsterdam merchant Braamcamp is dead. His famous Temple of Arts, filled with rare and precious Old Masters, soon will go to auction.

 

 

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Lady Russell and Her Son


You try getting a 3 year old to sit still for a portrait... Lady Russell and Her Son (1786), by Romney. 

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Billy Dimple


Isn’t this pair of chaps utterly glorious? Robert Dighton’s The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple Sitting for his Picture, shows painter Richard Cosway posing for a portrait in all his finery! 1772, via the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Monday, 12 October 2020

In Conversation with William Nicholson

 Find out who connects Wedgwood and Mary Shelley with clean energy at the Bloomsbury Festival - 17 and 20 October

 

A Georgian polymath, William Nicholson (1753-1815) will be coming to life from his grave in St George’s Gardens, London, as part of the 2020 Bloomsbury Festival.

 

His biographer, Sue Durrell shall be interviewing him about his life – from travels with the East India Company, work with Josiah Wedgwood, socialising with a radical literary circle, launching a school and entertaining Mary Shelley as a child.

In the front room of his house in Soho Square, in May 1800 Nicholson and his friend Anthony Carlisle discovered the technique now known as electrolysis.

Curious about the future of his discovery, the ghost of Mr Nicholson then takes the lead and interviews a team from UCL who will demonstrate how they are using electrolysis to create clean energy for the future.

Live event - Saturday 17th October, at 2.30pm

Numbers are strictly limited for the live event in St Georges Gardens in London.

Tickets £8 (£6 consessions)

Click here for details of the live event on 17.10.20

 

 

Online webinar with opportunity for Q&A – Tuesday 20th October, 2.30pm

Join the online webinar at 2.30 PM (GMT)

Tickets £5

Click here for details of the video event




Monday, 5 October 2020

The Daughters of George III


I'm thrilled to announce that The Daughters of George III: Sisters and Princesses is out now. If you'd like to learn more about the six daughters of the Windsor nunnery, follow the link below to read my guest post at the Pen & Sword blog.

The Six Daughters of George III

In the dying years of the 18th century, the corridors of Windsor echoed to the footsteps of six princesses. They were Charlotte, Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia, the daughters of King George III and Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Though more than fifteen years divided the births of the eldest sister from the youngest, these princesses all shared a longing for escape. Faced with their father’s illness and their mother’s dominance, for all but one a life away from the seclusion of the royal household seemed like an unobtainable dream.

The six daughters of George III were raised to be young ladies and each in her time was one of the most eligible women in the world. Tutored in the arts of royal womanhood, they were trained from infancy in the skills vial to a regal wife but as the king’s illness ravaged him, husbands and opportunities slipped away.

Yet even in isolation, the lives of the princesses were filled with incident. From secret romances to dashing equerries, rumours of pregnancy, clandestine marriage and even a run-in with Napoleon, each princess was the leading lady in her own story, whether tragic or inspirational. In The Royal Nunnery: Daughters of George III, take a wander through the hallways of the royal palaces, where the king’s endless ravings echo deep into the night and his daughters strive to be recognised not just as princesses, but as women too.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

A Seaside Postcard


On a hot summer day, the #gloriousGeorgians let it all hang out... Intrepid bathers and dirty old men have been the stuff of seaside scenes for centuries! Summer amusement at Margate, or a peep at the mermaids, 1813, Thomas Rowlandson. Via the British Museum.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Join me at the Bradford on Avon Authors' Panel

I'm thrilled to be appearing virtually at the very first Bradford on Avon Book fiesta. Join me and authors Cass Grafton, Karin Quint and Rose Servitova as we chat to Dr Gabrielle Malcolm about our careers and all things Austen - Being Mr Wickham is certainly on the agenda!

Click here to watch the panel



Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Hair's the Fashion


A savage satire on fashion - just look at that nose! A new fashion'd head dress for young misses of three score and ten, Philip Dawe, 1777, from the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Watch Your Parsnip!


Knocking over this veg seller's beer might cost a careless macaroni his tail! "Make good the damage you dog, or I'll cut away your parsnip". Irish Peg in a Rage, 1773. 

Via the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Friday, 21 August 2020

Under a Spitfire Sky

I'm really excited to announce that Eleanor Harkstead and I have signed a two-book deal with Orion! We can’t wait to introduce you to Florence and Siegfried.

Under A Spitfire Sky, our first novel writing as Ellie Curzon, will be published  on 7th January 2021. You can preorder it now!

Can they find love in the darkest days of war?

It’s 1944, and Florence is a talented engineer in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, patching up planes to make sure that the brave Spitfire pilots of Cottisbourne airbase return safely day after day.

When she befriends the new squadron leader – shy, handsome Siegfried – it seems that romance might blossom under the war-torn skies. But Florence is nursing a broken heart and a terrible secret, which might destroy her one chance of happiness…

Meanwhile, a new plane is being developed that could turn the tide of the war, but Florence fears there is traitor is in their midst, putting Siegfried – and the whole country – in terrible danger. Can Florence save her Spitfire boys, and her own heart?

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

The Spell - Hobnelia


A lady uses her garter to cast a love spell on a sleeping gent! “Firm be the knot, firm may his love endure.” The Spell - Hobnelia, from the British Museum; illustrating John Gay’s verse.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Monday, 10 August 2020

30% Off My Glorious Georgians

To celebrate the 30th birthday of my wonderful publisher, Pen & Sword books, all of my books currently have up to 30% off their cover price. Available in both ebook and physical formats, there's never been a better time to grab a right royal bargain!

Click here to visit Pen & Sword



Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Fortune Hunting Privateers


This innocent fellow doesn't stand a chance against two determined ladies! Two Privateers Attacking a Man of War, c. 1783.

Via the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

The Polite Maccaroni


Here’s a chap who’s out to impress. The Polite Maccaroni Presenting a Nosegay to Miss Blossom, 1772. 

Via the British Museum.

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Dandy in Distress


The Exquisite, Alias Dandy in Distress, is so buttoned up and laced in that he can't pick up his fallen kerchief! This image illustrates a letter from a correspondent (beneath the image) who has concerns about modern fashions... Via the Lewis Walpole Library.


A Correspondent furnishes us with the following Picture of an Exquisite alias a Dandy in distress, 

“Walking in one of the squares last week [,] it was my fate to follow an Exquisite stock'd and stay'd laced and bound collar'd and pilloried in all the fashion, so slender, so straight and so stiff that a man of ordinary strength might have used it as a walking stick, This thing flourishing a very nice perfumed handkerchief happened to let it drop; the question was how to get it up again; stoop it could not, and I confess I enjoyed its distress; for tho' for any other female I would have raised the handkerchief with alacrity, I wish'd to see how this creature would help itself, then thus it was : having eyed the handkerchief askance, something like a magpie peeping into a marrow-bone, it gently straddled outs its legs, and lowering the body between them it brought the right hand in contact with the object sought. What shall we say to the association of ideas, when I assure you, that looking on this unmanly figure, brought into my mind the knights of old, who when once unhorsed, could never from the weight and stiffness of their armour hope to mount again”. 

N.B. it is found remarkably convenient in such a case for the Exquisite to carry a cane or stick with a hook at the end, as he may fish up any thing he unfortunately drops without breaking his back or exciting the pity or visibility of the Spectators. - The Publisher respectfully solicits a continuance of the ingenious communications of his friends, to which he will pay the most particular attention.”

See more #gloriousGeorgians on Twitter!

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Sporting Ladies


Skittles and beer for some #gloriousGeorgians gals - and not a chap in sight! Miss Tipapin Going for All Nine, by John Collet, 1779, via the British Musuem.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

An Unhappy Empress

Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know that I love to share gorgeous, cheeky and downright saucy images from the long eighteenth century using the hashtag, #gloriousGeorgians. Not everybody uses Twitter, of course, so I'll be sharing some of my favourite finds here at the salon.


When Catherine the Great saw Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun's portrait of her granddaughters Alexandra & Elena Pavlovna, she was NOT happy. "Not only is there no resemblance, but the two sisters are so disfigured that people will ask which is [which]." What a critic!



Wednesday, 3 June 2020

George I: Murder, Marriage and Mayhem

I'm delighted to be visiting my esteemed publisher, Pen & Sword, to tell the story of the disastrous marriage of George I and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. When a loveless marriage erupted into violence and adultery, the stage was set for a scandal that sent the woman who could've been queen of England into captivity for thirty long years.

Click here

Friday, 29 May 2020

Marie Antoinette: Dauphins and Dentistry

Marie Antoinette
I'm delighted to be visiting my esteemed publisher, Pen & Sword, to tell the story of the making of Marie Antoinette, From hairdressers to dauphins to haberdashers, dauphins to dentistry, don't miss this glimpse into the creation of a queen!

Click here

Monday, 25 May 2020

Sophia: Mother of Kings in Paperback


I’m thrilled to announce the paperback release of my new biography, Sophia: Mother of Kings. Sophia was famously the mother of George I but she was much, much more than that. As Stuart, Hanoverian and the Winter Princess, it’s been a real privilege to tell her story and I hope you'll enjoy reading it!

Buy it now

Sophia: Mother of Kings

Sophia, Electress of Hanover, was born to greatness. Granddaughter of James I and mother to George I, she was perhaps the finest queen that Britain never had.


As daughter of Frederick V of the Palatinate and Elizabeth Stuart, Sophia emerged from an impoverished, exiled childhood as the Winter Princess, a young woman of sparky intelligence, cutting wit and admirable determination. Once courted by Charles II, Sophia eventually gave her heart to Ernest Augustus, at whose side she became the first Electress of Hanover and the mother of the first Georgian king of Great Britain.

Sophia: Mother of Kings, brings this remarkable woman and her tumultuous era vividly to life. In a world where battles raged across the continent and courtiers fought behind closed doors, Sophia kept the home fires burning. Through personal tragedy and public triumph, Sophia raised a family, survived illness, miscarriage, and accusations of conspiracy, and missed out on the British throne by a matter of weeks.

Sophia of Hanover became the mother of one of the most glittering dynasties the world has ever known. From the House of Stuart to the House of Hanover, this is the story of her remarkable life.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Sophia: Mother of Kings £1.99 sale


The ebook of Sophia: Mother of Kings is currently just £1.99 from Pen & Sword. Sophia, Electress of Hanover, was born to greatness. Granddaughter of James I and mother to George I, she was perhaps the finest queen that Britain never had and she loved a bargain, so she'd appreciate this special offer!

Buy it now

Friday, 17 April 2020

Kings of Georgian Britain: 99p Sale

From George I locking up his wife to George IV knocking up other people’s, Kings of Georgian Britain is currently on sale for 99p. That’s just 25p per king - why not indulge yourself and get to know the four kings of Georgian Britain?

Buy it now

George IV: The King's Most Extra Moments

I'm delighted to be visiting Pen & Sword books this week to discuss five of King George IV's most extra moments. From his love life to his coronation to his dedication to all things decadent, Prinny never did things by halves. 

Find out more at this link.


Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Imprisoned Princess: Out Now


My new book, The Imprisoned Princess, is available to buy now. I'm so delighted to have written the biography of this remarkable woman!

When Sophia Dorothea of Celle married her first cousin, the future King George I, she was an unhappy bride. Filled with dreams of romance and privilege, she hated the groom she called “pig snout” and wept at news of her engagement.

In the austere court of Hanover, the vibrant young princess found herself ignored and unwanted. Bewildered by dusty protocol and regarded as a necessary evil by her husband, Sophia Dorothea grew lonely as he gallivanted with his mistress under her nose.

When Sophia Dorothea plunged headlong into a passionate and dangerous affair with Count Phillip Christoph von Königsmarck, the stage was set for disaster. This dashing soldier was as celebrated for his looks as his bravery, and when he and Sophia Dorothea fell in love, they were dicing with death. Watched by a scheming and manipulative countess who had ambitions of her own, it was only a matter of time before scandal gripped the House of Hanover and tore the marriage of the heir to the British throne and his unhappy wife apart.

Divorced and disgraced, Sophia Dorothea was locked away in a gilded cage for 30 years, whilst her lover faced an even darker fate.


Buy it now:

Pen and Sword
Amazon

Monday, 3 February 2020

The Ghost Garden Award Nomination News!

I'm thrilled to announce that  The Ghost Garden has been shortlisted for the RNA’s 2020 Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. Awarded each year by the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the RoNAs are the romantic fiction equivalent of the BAFTAs. And yes, we’re very pleased and very excited!

Sunday, 2 February 2020

On This Day...

Each day on my Twitter at MadameGilflurt, I share a variety of stories of Georgians who were born, died or otherwise became notable #onthisday, under the hashtag #GloriousGeorgians.

Here's a particularly choice one, to kick you off - don't read whilst eating!


Antonio Maria Valsalva, pioneer of ear anatomy, died #onthisday 1723. He analysed bodily fluids by taste and observed, "Gangrenous pus does not taste good, leaving the tongue tingling unpleasantly for the better part of the day.”

Yum!