Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Whigs and the Tories

The House of Commons from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
The House of Commons from The Microcosm of London (1808-10)
Georgian politics

With the UK’s General Election on 7 May fast approaching, politics is an inescapable topic of conversation. I have found it equally impossible to research the leading figures of late Georgian society without coming up against the dreaded subject. During the Georgian period, there were two main political parties: the Whigs and the Tories. Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, her sister Lady Bessborough, actress Mary Robinson, Lady Melbourne and the sculptor Anne Seymour Damer were all ardent supporters of the Whigs. On the other side, the Duchess of Gordon was a leading political hostess for the Tories.

Political ladies collage © Rachel Knowles
Political ladies collage © Rachel Knowles (1)
Top left: Jane, Duchess of Gordon;
Top right : Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire;
Right middle: Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough;
Bottom row, left to right: Mary Robinson;
Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Anne Seymour Damer

The Whigs and the Tories

The names of the two parties derive from the late 17th century when there were two political factions, one supporting James, Duke of York, the future James II, and the other wanting him to be excluded from the succession because of his Catholicism. Both names originated as terms of abuse used by their opponents. The exclusionists were nicknamed Whiggamores or Whigs, likening them to the Scottish Presbyterians who had rebelled against the established church; the anti-exclusionists were called Tories, a name given to Catholic highwaymen and robbers in Ireland.

What is a Whig?

The fundamental belief of the Whigs was that political power belonged to the people and that the monarch was only in power because of an unwritten contract with the people: if the monarch abused that authority, then the people were empowered to remove them. They believed that Dissenters should be tolerated and were in favour of economic and political reform.

The Whigs supported the Glorious Revolution of 1688, establishing the Protestant William III and Mary on the throne in place of the Catholic James II. The Whigs were typically the landed aristocracy and the wealthy middle class who used their patronage to secure positions of power for their representatives. They used their influence to ensure the establishment of the Hanoverian succession in 1714.

Houses of Lords and Commons  from Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
Houses of Lords and Commons
from Leigh's New Picture of London (1827)
What is a Tory?

The Tories supported the monarchy and the existing state of affairs. They were in favour of the established church and against religious toleration and foreign entanglements.

Tory support for the Catholic James II and his descendants led to them being branded as Jacobites and they were kept out of government until 1762.

Fox and Pitt

During the early part of George III’s reign, it would appear that the two parties were ill-defined and the government was formed more from the King’s friends than from any particular political persuasion.

In the following decades, the two parties became more established. William Pitt the Younger became Prime Minister for the Tories in 1783 and Charles James Fox led the Opposition. Fox’s new Whig party represented religious dissenters, industrialists and those in favour of reform.

Left: Charles James Fox from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs   of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)  Right: William Pitt the Younger fromMemoirs of George IV by R Huish (1830)
Left: Charles James Fox from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs 
of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
Right: William Pitt the Younger fromMemoirs of George IV by R Huish (1830)
George, Prince of Wales, the future George IV, did not get on well with his father and unsurprisingly supported Fox and the Whigs. The Prince became a close personal friend of Fox who led a dissolute life and was renowned for his drinking, gambling and womanising. George III disliked Fox and blamed him for leading his eldest son astray.

The Regency crisis

In late 1788, George III suffered from his first serious bout of mental instability. It seemed likely that the Prince would be made Regent to rule in his father’s stead and form a government from his Whig friends including Fox, Charles Grey and Richard Brinsley Sheridan. However, in February 1789, the King recovered and Pitt’s Tory government continued.

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence  © National Portrait Gallery Photo © Andrew Knowles
George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence
© National Portrait Gallery Photo © Andrew Knowles
The Foxite Whigs

The French Revolution brought a fresh crisis to the Whigs, splitting the party over attitudes towards the revolution. The radicals under Charles James Fox supported the revolutionaries whilst the more moderate Whigs under Edmund Burke condemned the revolution and defected to join Pitt’s Tory government after the violence of 1794. The small number of Foxite Whigs who remained was little more than a political pressure group.

The end of the Whigs

Ironically, both Pitt and his rival Fox died in 1806, depriving the Whigs and the Tories of their strongest leaders in the same year.

By the time that the Prince of Wales finally became Regent in 1811, he had abandoned his Whig friends—all his Prime Ministers were Tories.

By the middle of the 19th century, the two parties were changing. The last Whig Prime Minister resigned in 1866 and the Whigs were absorbed into the new Liberal party; the Tories were renamed, formally at least, as the Conservatives.

Notes
(1) The sources of the pictures in the collage:
Duchess of Richmond - from La Belle Assemblée (1808)
Duchess of Devonshire - after Thomas Gainsborough c1785-7 from The Two Duchesses, Family Correspondence (1898)
Countess of Bessborough - from La Belle Assemblée (1810)
Viscountess Melbourne - from In Whig Society, correspondence, ed by Mabell, Countess of Airlie (1921)
Mary Robinson - from The Poetical Works of the late Mrs Mary Robinson (1806)
Anne Seymour Damer - from La Belle Assemblée (1810)

Sources
A Dictionary of British History (www.oxfordreference.com) OUP 2013
Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Mitchell, LG, Fox, Charles James (1749-1806), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Oct 2007, accessed 2 July 2013)

www.parliament.uk website

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Charles James Fox, Whig MP (1749-1806)

Charles James Fox from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
Charles James Fox
from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs
of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
Profile

Charles James Fox (24 January 1749 – 13 September 1806) was a Whig MP and leader of the Opposition to William Pitt the Younger’s Tory government. He was a close personal friend of George, Prince of Wales, later George IV, and of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire.

Early life

Charles James Fox was born on 24 January 1749, the third son of Henry Holland, 1st Baron Holland, and Lady Caroline Lennox, 1st Baroness Holland suo jure. (1) Fox was a clever child and quickly became his father’s favourite. Fox was overindulged by his fond father and rarely restrained. He was educated at Eton College (1758-1764) and Hertford College, Oxford, (1764-6) where he studied mathematics and the classics, but failed to graduate.

Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland from The History of White's  by A Bourke (1892)
Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland
from The History of White's  by A Bourke (1892)
The Parisian influence

In 1763, Fox was taken to Paris by his father and he returned there many times. He made an extensive Grand Tour between September 1766 and August 1768 and established friendships with some notable Frenchmen, including the Duc d’Orléans, the Marquis de Lafayette and the Duc de Lauzun. The French called him a petit maitre or Macaroni.

What was Fox like?

Charles James Fox  from The Life and Times of Charles James Fox  by Lord John Russell (1859)
Charles James Fox
from The Life and Times of Charles James Fox
by Lord John Russell (1859)
Fox was dark-complexioned, round-faced and hairy; his bushy eyebrows earned him the nickname the Eyebrow. As a young man, he was something of a dandy, but later he became increasingly overweight and was renowned for his unkempt appearance.

Walpole’s journals said of Fox:
“His bristly black person, and shagged breast quite open, and rarely purified by any ablutions, was wrapped in a foul linen night-gown, and his bushy hair dishevelled. In these cynic weeds, and with epicurean good humour, did he dictate his politics—and in this school did the heir of the Crown attend his lessons and imbibe them.” (2)
Despite his unprepossessing appearance, my research has given me the impression that Fox was a very charismatic man who had the ability to inspire great depths of loyalty.

An inveterate gambler

Fox had a reputation for dissolute behaviour. He was a member of White’s and Brooks’ and of the Dilettanti Society. He drank too much and was an inveterate gambler, winning and losing huge amounts of money, betting on horse races and at the gaming tables. His father paid out more than £120,000 for his son’s gambling habit, but his debts continued to amass. After his father’s death, he was twice declared bankrupt between 1781 and 1784.

Affairs of the heart

Mrs Mary Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1783-4)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Fox had numerous affairs with women including several ex-mistresses of George, Prince of Wales - the actress Mary ‘Perdita’ Robinson and Elizabeth Bridget Armistead (3). He may also have had an affair with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire in 1783-4.

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire,  detail from a painting at Chatsworth House
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire,
detail from a painting at Chatsworth House
Family life

In 1784, Fox bought a villa at St Anne’s Hill, Surrey, and around the same time, he started living with Elizabeth Armistead. He married his mistress on 28 September 1795, although this was kept secret until about 1802. Elizabeth was a calming influence on her volatile husband.

Fox had no legitimate children, but was fond of his niece Caroline and his nephew Henry, 3rd Baron Holland, and his wife Elizabeth. Henry’s home, Holland House, was a social centre for the Foxite Whigs.

A right royal friendship

George, Prince of Wales, became a close friend of Fox. Fox had all the freedom that George craved. George III blamed Fox for drawing his son into the excesses in which he indulged. The antipathy between the King and Fox was mutual and hindered Fox’s advancement in government.

Fox’s friendship with George was threatened when he denied the Prince’s secret marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert in parliament, deeply offending Mrs Fitzherbert. It further cooled after Fox’s outspoken support of the French Revolution, but the Prince still valued the friendship and was devastated when he learned of Fox’s death.

George, Prince of Wales, by Hoppner  © The Wallace Collection
George, Prince of Wales, by Hoppner
© The Wallace Collection
Whig MP

By means of his father’s patronage, Fox became MP for Midhurst in Sussex on 10 May 1768 when legally he was too young to enter parliament. He was subsequently MP for Malmesbury (1774-80), Westminster (1780-4 and 1785-1806) and Tain (1784-5).

Fox held a post on the Admiralty board (1770-2), but resigned over the Royal Marriage Bill, and then on the Treasury board (1773-4), when he again resigned, most probably at the insistence of the King. He was briefly foreign secretary in Lord Rockingham’s short-lived government in 1782 and again under Lord North in 1783.

Although the leader of the Whigs, Fox was erratic in his attendance at the House of Commons and failed to keep the younger party members in check. Politics was never his life—it was only ever a part of it.

During the Regency crisis of 1788-9 brought on by George III’s illness, it seemed likely that the Prince of Wales’ Whig friends would be asked to form a government. However, the King recovered and Pitt’s government continued.

Fox did not hold office again until the Ministry of All Talents in 1806, when he was again foreign secretary until his death.

The Man of the People

Always a powerful orator, Fox originally made his father’s politics his own. Perhaps Fox’s animosity towards the King had its birth in his father’s resentment that he had been refused an earldom. His antipathy for the King pushed him increasingly into the Whig camp. He was mentored by Edmund Burke and spoke out against the American war. Fox was in favour of American independence rather than a long-drawn out war and adopted the blue and buff uniform of Washington’s army.

Edmund Burke  from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs  of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
Edmund Burke
from The Historical and Posthumous Memoirs
of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall (1884)
Fox became known as the Man of the People, publicly supporting reform. He fought for the abolition of the slave trade and Catholic emancipation.

The French Revolution

Fox supported the French Revolution which put many of his French friends into positions of leadership, but it led to a public falling out with Burke on 6 May 1791—a breach that was never healed. When the Revolution executed the French monarchy, Fox was left in an embarrassing position. He still held out that the French wanted peace, but some of his followers found his views too radical and defected to support Pitt.

Whilst visiting Paris after the Peace of Amiens in 1802, Fox met Napoleon several times, but the Emperor failed to impress him. It was not until the last months of his life that he finally came to realise that his views about the Revolution were wrong.

Bust of Charles James Fox  by Joseph Nollekens on display at Chatsworth
Bust of Charles James Fox
by Joseph Nollekens on display at Chatsworth
Illness and death

Fox became seriously ill with dropsy in December 1805. He was also suffering from a diseased liver and multiple gallstones. He died on 13 September 1806 at Chiswick House, which had been loaned to him by the Duke of Devonshire. In his will, he left everything to his wife excepting bequests to his nephew Lord Holland and to Robert Stephen and an annuity to Harriet Willoughby, the latter both presumed to be illegitimate children.

Although Fox’s funeral on 10 October 1806 was, like Pitt’s, held at Westminster Abbey, it was a private, not a public, funeral.

Notes
(1) Suo jure means in her own right, not dependent on her husband’s title.
(2) From The last journals of Horace Walpole - March 1783 (1910).
(3) The name is sometimes recorded as Armitstead.

Sources used include:
Ambrose, Tom, Prinny and his pals, George IV and his remarkable gift of friendship (2009)
Fox, Charles James, Memorials and Correspondence of Charles James Fox (1853)
Mitchell, LG, Fox, Charles James (1749-1806), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Oct 2007, accessed 2 July 2013)
Russell, Lord John, MP, The Life and Times of Charles James Fox (1859)
Walpole, Horace, The last journals of Horace Walpole during the reign of George III from 1771-1783 (1910)

History of Parliament online
All photographs © Andrew Knowles

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Osterley Park - a Robert Adam showpiece - a Regency History guide

Osterley Park from across the lake
Osterley Park House from across the lake
Where is it?

Osterley Park is a Neo-classical mansion in Isleworth, Middlesex.

Early history

Sir Thomas Gresham, a merchant and financier, built a Tudor manor house at Osterley in the 1570s. In the late 17th century, the property was owned by Nicholas Barbon, an economist and financial speculator who was involved in the development of fire insurance. On Barbon’s death in 1698, there was an outstanding mortgage on the house owing to Child’s Bank.

Front of the house, Osterley Park
Front of the house, Osterley Park
Sir Francis Child of Child’s Bank

Sir Francis Child the Elder (1642-1713) started out as an apprentice goldsmith and rose to become a partner in the firm, which by then was concentrating on its banking activities. He married his employer’s daughter and inherited the whole business in 1681.

In 1713, Osterley Park passed to Sir Francis Child the Elder in settlement of Barbon's debt to the bank. It was an early case of bank repossession!

Detail from View of Temple Bar attributed to John Collett  The premises of Child & Co are immediately to the left   of Temple Bar
Detail from View of Temple Bar attributed to John Collett
The premises of Child & Co are immediately to the left
 of Temple Bar
Neo-classical redevelopment

In 1761, Sir Francis Child the Elder’s grandson, also called Francis (1735-63), commissioned Robert Adam to redevelop the house at Osterley in the Neo-classical style. Francis died suddenly two years later and his brother Robert Child (1739-82) further commissioned Adam to design Neo-classical interiors for the house. Osterley Park is one of the best examples of Robert Adam’s work.

Francis Child (1735-1763) by Allan Ramsay
Francis Child (1735-1763) by Allan Ramsay
Adam was responsible for the total design of Osterley – from the magnificent portico to the patterns on the ceilings and the designs for the furniture. He also designed garden buildings such as the Garden House, the Orangery (no longer standing) and the Temple of Pan. Adam’s work at Osterley spanned from 1761 to 1779 and many of his designs have been preserved at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.

Inside the Temple of Pan in the garden, Osterley Park
Inside the Temple of Pan in the garden, Osterley Park
The runaway bride

Robert Child and his wife Sarah Jodrell were extremely wealthy. As well as Osterley, they had a house in Berkeley Square in London and a hunting lodge in Warwickshire. They lived in their Neo-classical show home at Osterley Park from May to November. They had one child, a daughter Sarah Anne (1764-1793).

John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, asked to marry Sarah Anne, but Robert refused. Robert wanted his heir to take the Child name and also feared that his fortune would be squandered by the Earl who was known as ‘Rapid Westmorland’ because of his gambling habit. The Earl of Westmorland took matters into his own hands and eloped with Sarah Anne. They were married on 20 May 1782 at Gretna Green.

Robert Child was so angry that he cut his daughter out of his will, leaving Osterley Park and his entire fortune to Sarah Anne’s second son or eldest daughter provided that they took the name Child.

Robert and Sarah Child and their daughter Sarah   Anne by Margaret Battine after Daniel Gardner  Portrait originally created in 1781
Robert and Sarah Child and their daughter Sarah
 Anne by Margaret Battine after Daniel Gardner
Portrait originally created in 1781
Lady Jersey

Sarah Anne had only one surviving son and so Robert Child’s fortune passed to her eldest daughter, Sarah Sophia Fane, who married George Villiers, later 5th Earl of Jersey. Lady Jersey was a leading figure in Regency society and was a patroness of Almack's Assembly Rooms. The Earl of Jersey added the name Child to his own in 1819.

Sarah Sophia Fane - Countess of Jersey
Sarah Sophia Fane - Countess of Jersey
Given to the National Trust

Osterley Park proved expensive to maintain, but it stayed in the family until 1949 when the 9th Earl of Jersey gave the house and grounds to the National Trust.

A tour of Osterley Park

Adam’s Neo-classical façade

Front of the house, Osterley Park
Front of the house, Osterley Park
Adam's magnificent portico

Front entrance of the house, Osterley Park
Front entrance of the house, Osterley Park
The ceiling of Adam's pillared portico, Osterley Park
The ceiling of Adam's pillared portico, Osterley
The Entrance Hall

The panels in the alcoves look three-dimensional, but they are in fact just paintings – a convincing example of trompe-l’œil. The fireplaces are made of Portland stone and display the Child family crest of an eagle with an adder in its mouth.

The entrance hall, Osterley Park House
The Entrance Hall, Osterley
The entrance hall, Osterley Park House
The Entrance Hall, Osterley
The Eating Room

Gate-leg tables were kept in the adjacent corridors and brought in as required for mealtimes. The pedestals on either side of the sideboard open and could be used to hide away a chamber pot.

The Eating Room, Osterley Park
The Eating Room, Osterley
The Eating Room, Osterley
The Eating Room, Osterley
One of the pedestals in the Eating Room, Osterley
One of the pedestals in the Eating Room, Osterley
Detail of one of the pedestals
in the Eating Room, Osterley
The Long Gallery

The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Drawing Room
 
The ceiling in the Drawing Room, Osterley
The ceiling in the Drawing Room, Osterley
The ceiling design is cleverly reflected in the carpet.

The Drawing Room, Osterley
The Drawing Room, Osterley
The Tapestry Room

The chairs were upholstered to match the tapestries.

The Tapestry Room, Osterley
The Tapestry Room, Osterley
The State Bedchamber

This bed was designed to impress rather than to be slept in. It is an eight-poster bed; there are two posts at each corner. The domed roof of the bed is beautifully decorated, both inside and out.

The State Bedchamber, Osterley
The State Bedchamber, Osterley
View inside the canopy above the state bed
in the State Bedchamber, Osterley
The Etruscan Dressing Room

Adam’s inspiration for this room came from Sir William Hamilton’s collection of Etruscan vases.

The Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley
The Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley

The ceiling of the Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley
The ceiling of the Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley
The Library

The books in the library are representative rather than belonging to the family. Francis Child’s book collection had to be sold in the late 19th century in order to pay for repairs to the house.

The Library, Osterley
The Library, Osterley
The Library, Osterley
The Library, Osterley
The Great Stair


The Great Stair, Osterley
The Great Stair, Osterley
Detail from one of the pillars of the Great Stair, Osterley
Detail from one of the pillars of the Great Stair, Osterley
 Mr Child's Bedchamber

The room used by Robert and Sarah Child when they lived at Osterley.

Mr Child's Bechamber, Osterley
Mr Child's Bechamber, Osterley
Mr Child's Dressing Room

Mr Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
Mr Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
 Mrs Child's Dressing Room

Mrs Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
Mrs Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
The Yellow Taffeta Bedchamber

The Yellow Taffeta Bedchamber, Osterley
The Yellow Taffeta Bedchamber, Osterley
The Steward’s Room

The Steward's Room  Displayed as left by the Earl of Jersey in the 1970s
The Steward's Room
As left by the Earl of Jersey in the 1970s
Mrs Bunce’s Room

Mr Bunce was the steward at Osterley in the late 18th century and he was assisted by his wife, Mrs Bunce. The photograph shows the safe which was installed in the 19th century.

Mrs Bunce's Room, Osterley
Mrs Bunce's Room, Osterley
The Sun Room

I have called this little room the sun room, but it is not listed in my guidebook. It is decorated in the Etruscan style and could be accessed through the house downstairs when I visited in August 2014.

The Sun Room, Osterley
The Sun Room, Osterley
The rear view of the house

The rear view of the house, Osterley
The rear view of the house, Osterley
The rear view of the house, Osterley
The rear view of the house, Osterley
The back door of the house, Osterley
The back door of the house, Osterley
The Garden Room

The Garden Room in the gardens at Osterley
The Garden Room in the gardens at Osterley
The Temple of Pan
The Temple of Pan in the gardens at Osterley
The Temple of Pan in the gardens at Osterley
Visited August 2014 and March 2015.

Sources used include:
Evans, Sian, Osterley Park and House (National Trust 2009)

All photos © Andrew Knowles - more of Andrew's photos of Osterley on Flickr.