Thursday, 30 July 2015

Mrs Jordan's Profession by Claire Tomalin - a review

Front cover of Mrs Jordan's Profession by Claire Tomalin

I found Claire Tomalin's biography of the great Georgian comic actress Mrs Dora Jordan  both readable and comprehensive. It tells of her rise to fame on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and how she became the longstanding mistress of the Duke of Clarence, the future William IV.

Let down by the men in her life

I was particularly struck by the number of men in Dora’s life who let her down: her father, who abandoned her mother to marry an heiress; her first theatre manager, Richard Daly, who seduced her and made her pregnant; her lover Richard Ford, who did not care enough for her to marry her and prevent her from becoming the Duke of Clarence’s mistress; the Duke of Clarence, who, after living with her happily for years, abandoned her so he could make an advantageous marriage; and finally, John Barton, one of the Duke’s advisors, who failed to sort out her debts, leaving her to die in poverty abroad, away from her beloved children.

William, Duke of Clarence, from The Lady's Magazine (1793)  and Dora Jordan from The Life of Mrs Jordan by J Boaden (1831)
William, Duke of Clarence, from The Lady's Magazine (1793)
and Dora Jordan from The Life of Mrs Jordan by J Boaden (1831)
Dora and the Duke

One of the things that I learned from this book was just how uncertain Dora’s position in society was. Although she was famous in her own right as an actress, her relationship with the Duke closed doors to her that were open to her contemporary, Mrs Siddons. Dora had ten children with the Duke; the children went into society with their father, but she was not invited.

Despite his royal position, I believe that the Duke was the gainer in the relationship. As Tomalin explains, Dora preached good sense to the Duke and supported him with her earnings rather than the other way round. I found Dora’s abandonment by the Duke quite heartless and his attempt to appease his conscience by commissioning an elaborate memorial to her when he became King rather pathetic.

How Mrs Jordan got her stage name

My favourite anecdote in the book—which I had not heard before—was the story of how Mrs Jordan acquired her stage name. After escaping from her Irish stage manager, Daly, Dora started to work for Tate Wilkinson’s Yorkshire company. As she was pregnant, it was imperative that she was billed as ‘Mrs’—but Mrs what? Wilkinson made a biblical allusion, comparing Dora’s crossing of the Irish Sea to safety with his company to the Israelites crossing the River Jordan into the Promised Land. Dora liked the illusion and so the famous Mrs Jordan was born.

I borrowed this book from the library, but I would be happy to add it to my bookshelves as a detailed account of the life of an important figure in late Georgian England.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge (1797-1889)

Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge
from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
Profile

Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge (25 July 1797 – 6 April 1889) was the wife of Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, seventh son of George III.

Birth of a German princess

Princess Augusta Wilhelmina Louisa was born in Cassel (1) on 25 July 1797, the third daughter of Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, and his wife Caroline Polyxena of Nassau-Usingen.

A royal marriage

On 7 May 1818, Augusta married her second cousin, Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the seventh son of George III, in Cassel. (2)

Adophus, Duke of Cambridge from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,  Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
Adophus, Duke of Cambridge
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
Adolphus wrote soon after his engagement:
“Every hour I feel that my esteem and attachment for my bride increase; and she really is everything both as to heart, mind and Person that I could wish.” (3)
The marriage ceremony was repeated at the Queen’s Palace—Buckingham House—on 1 June (4).

According to La Belle Assemblée:
“A temporary altar was fixed in her [the Queen’s] blue drawing-room, and the Duke and Duchess were again united in presence of her Majesty, the Prince Regent, the royal Dukes, and the Princesses their sisters. The ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Bishop of London. A royal salute was, as usual, fired at this conclusion of the ceremony, and a splendid dinner, in honour of the nuptials, given by the Prince Regent.” (5)
A happy marriage

Adolphus was more than twenty years older than Augusta, but it was a happy marriage. After the birth of Mary Adelaide, Adolphus’ sister Elizabeth, the Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg, wrote: 
“Thank God my dearest Adolphus’ mind is at ease about the Duchess of Cambridge; she has given him another little girl… She was woefully alarmed about herself, which affected him, as he adores her to a degree that almost made him ill.” (6)
Until 1837, Adolphus and Augusta lived in Hanover where the Duke was Governor General and, from 1831, Viceroy.

Family life

Adolphus and Augusta had three children: George William Frederick Charles (1819), Augusta Caroline (1822) and Mary Adelaide (1833). They liked to have their children with them and frequently provided dances and the like for their amusement. 

At the age of eleven, George was sent to England to be educated at Windsor. Augusta took Mary to England when she was three to stay at Windsor, but although she was always welcomed by William IV and Queen Adelaide, Augusta was not a good traveller and avoided the journey whenever possible.

Princess Mary Adelaide aged 4 from   A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck    by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900)
Princess Mary Adelaide aged 4 from
A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck
 by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900)
Return to England

In 1837, William IV died and Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, the Duke of Cambridge’s eldest surviving brother, became King of Hanover. On 1 September, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge left Hanover for England, where they took up residence in London at Cambridge House, 94 Piccadilly.

Cambridge Cottage

In the summer of 1838, Augusta and Adolphus moved to Cambridge Cottage in Kew. An eastern wing and a portico were added to the house which had been used many years before by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and Prince William, Duke of Clarence, later William IV. It is believed that George III gave the house to Adolphus in 1801 when he was made Duke of Cambridge.

Augusta loved Kew and spent a lot of her time outside, playing with her younger daughter, Mary Adelaide, and tending the garden. She drove a light pony carriage around the grounds. Her favourite seat was under a horse chestnut tree outside the dining room and throughout the summer, Augusta received visitors there and served tea in its shade.

Cambridge Cottage from A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900)
Cambridge Cottage from A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide
of Teck by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900)
A keen gardener

Augusta introduced two lilacs from her family home in Germany and sought out new plants for the garden including rhododendrons. Mary Adelaide grew up sharing her love of the garden. The family were lifelong friends with the director of the Botanic Gardens, Sir William Hooker, and later his son, Sir Joseph.

Visitors

Cambridge Cottage received many visitors including the young Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, who rowed up the Thames to visit his aunt and cousin. It was here that the Prince of Wales attended his first dinner party. Maybe it was fond memories of this time that inspired the match between the Prince of Wales’ son, the future George V, and Mary Adelaide’s daughter, Mary of Teck.

What was the Duchess of Cambridge like?

Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge from La Belle Assemblée (1818)
Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge
from La Belle Assemblée (1818)
According to Kinloch-Cooke, the Duchess of Cambridge was “a handsome, stately lady somewhat above the average height of women”. He went on to say: “Her features were striking, and the dark eyes and eyebrows made her appearance most attractive.” She had “perfectly shaped hands” and a “charming smile”. (7)

Augusta was an efficient and kindly mistress, managing the household herself. She loved reading and being read to, was a good conversationalist and had a keen interest in politics. She and Adolphus both enjoyed music and regularly attended the opera, but according to Princess Elizabeth, her “sister-in-law’s passion is the theatre”. (8)

Augusta liked to be busy, whether tending the garden or working on a piece of needlework or knitting. Like her husband, she was very charitable and strove to help the poor of Kew as well as supporting charities back in Germany.

Years of widowhood

Adolphus died in 1850. Augusta continued to live mostly at Kew; it was from Cambridge Cottage that her Mary Adelaide was married to the Duke of Teck on 12 June 1866, in the local church at Kew. In the days running up to the wedding, there was a banquet and ball at Kew and two tents were erected in the garden in order to accommodate 140 people at dinner.

Princess Mary Adelaide from   A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck    by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900)
Princess Mary Adelaide from
A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck
 by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900)
During the London season, Augusta stayed at St James’ Palace. She entertained a great deal both at home and in London and was close to Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, and sometimes dined with the Duchess of Inverness, the Duke of Sussex’s second wife.

Together with Mary Adelaide, she attended the opening of the Crystal Palace in 1854 and attended a ball in the Waterloo Gallery at Windsor.

A beloved old lady

By 1875, Augusta was an invalid. Her solace in her affliction was music and visits from her friends and family, especially Mary Adelaide and her children.

Mary Adelaide wrote of her mother:
“She is carried down to the drawing-room every day about two o’clock, and after her early dinner at three is wheeled into the garden in a delightful chair, and when fine remains out till after seven, sometimes taking a turn in the great gardens, for her chair can either be drawn by hand or a pony.” (9) 
The chair was a gift from Queen Victoria.

Augusta survived her husband by almost 40 years, dying at St James’ Palace on 6 April 1889 at the age of 91. She was buried at St Anne’s Church, Kew, but her remains were later transferred, with those of her husband, to the royal vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Notes
(1) Modern day Kassel – it was spelt Cassel until 1928.
(2) Augusta’s father was the son of Princess Mary, a daughter of George II, and sister of Frederick, Prince of Wales, George III’s father. This made Augusta’s father and George III first cousins and their children, Augusta and Adolphus, second cousins.
(3) In a letter from Adolphus to Lady Harcourt in A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900).
(4) La Belle Assemblée said 2 June.
(5) From La Belle Assemblée (August 1818).
(6) In a letter from Princess Elizabeth to a Miss Swinburne dated 4 December 1833 in A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900).
(7) In A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900) p26.
(8) In a letter by Princess Elizabeth in A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900).
(9) In a letter from Princess Mary of Teck to a friend dated 9 August 1875 in A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck by Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke (1900).

Sources used include:
La Belle Assemblée (1818 and 1830)
Kinloch-Cooke, Clement Sir, A Memoir of Princess Mary Adelaide of Teck (1900)
Cotton, AD, The Cambridge Cottage Garden, published as a supplement to The Journal of the Kew Guild (1942)
Palmer, Alan, Adolphus Frederick, Prince, first Duke of Cambridge, (1774-1850), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004, online edn, May 2009, accessed 23 Mar 2013)

Friday, 24 July 2015

Clandon Park - remembering the house before the fire

Clandon Park - front entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Clandon Park - front entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Never the same again

On 24 July 2014, my husband, Andrew, and I visited Clandon Park, Surrey, in the blazing sunshine. Today, it is pouring with rain and Clandon is but a shadow of the house we looked round, having being gutted by fire in April 2015. I always meant to blog about Clandon, but we visited so many National Trust properties last summer that I did not get around to it.

Since our visit, I have used Clandon in my writing - there is a brief reference to Clandon Park in A Perfect Match. I invented a friendship between Lord Onslow (George Onslow – see below) and my character, the Duke of Wessex, and planned for the Duke to pay his old friend a visit on the way to London.

One year on, I thought I would revisit Clandon Park with the aid of my guidebook. Sadly, we were only allowed to take pictures in the Marble Hall, so our photographic record is limited to that room and external views of the house.

Capitals in the gardens at Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Capitals in the gardens at Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Onslows of Clandon Park

Clandon Park has belonged to the Onslows since 1641. The Onslow family has a particular claim to fame: they have provided three Speakers for the House of Commons: Richard Onslow, The Black Speaker (1528-71); Sir Richard Onslow, 1st Baron Onslow (1654-1717); and Arthur Onslow, Great Speaker (1691-1768).

Sir Richard, 1st Baron Onslow, was probably responsible for laying out the formal gardens, but it was his son, Sir Thomas Onslow, 2nd Baron Onslow, speaker Arthur’s elder brother, who built the house that we visited last year.

Clandon Park - rear entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Clandon Park - rear entrance (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The building of Clandon Park

Sir Thomas commissioned the Italian architect Giacomo Leoni to rebuild Clandon in his version of the Palladian style, financed by his advantageous marriage to the Jamaican heiress Elizabeth Knight. The building work probably took place during the 1720s and was designed to impress as well as entertain his guests. His visitors included royalty - Frederick, Prince of Wales, George III’s father, dined at Clandon on 27 May 1729.

Clandon Park, Surrey from Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
Clandon Park, Surrey
from Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
The Georgian Onslows of Clandon Park

Sir Thomas Onslow, 2nd Baron Onslow (1679-1740), who built Clandon Park.

Richard, 3rd Baron Onslow (1713-76), Sir Thomas’ son, who had an unhappy marriage and died childless.

George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow (1731-1814), Richard’s cousin and son of the Great Speaker, Arthur Onslow. George was a very enthusiastic MP who frequently changed his loyalties to both people and policies. After his elevation to the House of Lords, he held posts in George III’s household, culminating in his appointment as a Lord of the Bedchamber in 1780. George employed Capability Brown to landscape the park and made alterations inside the house in the Neo-classical style.

George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow  from The History of White's   by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
George Onslow, 1st Earl of Onslow
from The History of White's
 by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
Thomas Onslow, 2nd Earl of Onslow (1754-1827), George’s eldest surviving son. He was known as ‘little Tom Onslow’ because of his height. Thomas was a close friend of the future George IV until 1790. He wrote poetry and loved to play practical jokes. But his real passion was horses, and he delighted in assuming the role of coach driver, as was fashionable amongst young men of the time. He was very attached to both of his two wives and was a great admirer of Mrs Bouverie.

Clandon Park was given to the National Trust in 1956. Nearly all the house was destroyed by a fire that broke out in the basement on 29 April 2015.

The house

One of the things I liked best about Clandon was the impressive entrance with two flights of stone steps leading to the front door. 
 
Front steps, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Front steps, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Stepping through the front door, we entered the most impressive room in the house - the Marble Hall - which was totally destroyed by the fire. These photographs were taken in July 2014.

The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014)
© Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles - from the description of items salvaged, I think this painting by Francis Barlow was saved
Painting by Francis Barlow
in The Marble Hall, Clandon Park
(July 2014) © Andrew Knowles (1)
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The Marble Hall, Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
  The ceiling of the Marble Hall,  Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
The ceiling of the Marble Hall,
Clandon Park (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles
Chair in the Marble Hall, Clandon Park  (July 2014) © Andrew Knowles (1)
Chair in the Marble Hall, Clandon Park
(July 2014) © Andrew Knowles (1)
Miraculously, the Speakers’ Parlour, designed to celebrate the three Onslow speakers, survived largely intact. See the National Trust website here.

Some of the house’s possessions were rescued in the initial salvage operation including the hangings of the state bed and a painting of the House of Commons by Sir James Thornhill and William Hogarth (1730).

You can see pictures of other rooms at Clandon Park before the fire on the National Trust website here.

Note
(1) From the description of items salvaged from the fire here, I believe these objects were saved.

Sources used include:
Barker, GFR, revised Smith, EA, Onslow, George, 1st Earl of Onslow (1731-1814), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 24 July 2015)
Chessum, Sophie and Rowell, Christopher, Clandon Park (National Trust guidebook) (2002, rev 2014)

History of Parliament online
National Trust website