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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)
Adolphus, 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

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Lady Jersey in miniature

I was recently contacted by Jayne Parkes who had inherited a wonderful historical booklet from her mother and wanted to know whether I could tell her anything about it. Jayne has very kindly agreed to let me share her booklet with you.

A souvenir booklet

The booklet is labelled ‘Souvenir’ and contains a miniature of a lady and a lock of hair.

Miniature of Lady Jersey in souvenir booklet  © Jayne Parkes
Miniature of Lady Jersey in souvenir booklet
© Jayne Parkes
Lock of hair of Lady Jersey in souvenir booklet  © Jayne Parkes
Lock of hair of Lady Jersey in souvenir booklet
© Jayne Parkes
This would be interesting enough in itself, but in addition, the booklet includes the following note:


As far as I have been able to make out, the text reads:
“Pocket book with miniature & lock of hair of Sarah (nee Fane) Countess of Jersey given by her to my mother Louisa Mrs Hope (afterwards Viscountess Beresford)
Signed A J B Beresford Hope May 6 1883
Nb the almanack (?) lines/here (?) date 1817
Lady Sarah Sophia Fane daughter of John 10th Earl of Westmorland born March 4, 1785, married May 23 1804 George 5th Earl of Jersey, died Jan 26 1867”
Lady Jersey

Let us first consider the subject of the miniature. Sarah Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1785-1867), was one of the leading figures of Regency society. You can read more about her in a previous post on this blog. I am not sure what the line ending ‘date 1817’ says, but the details below it concern the birth, marriage and death of Lady Jersey and this information tallies with other sources.

But is the miniature really of Lady Jersey? Below is a close up of the miniature compared with a portrait of Lady Jersey that appeared in The Illustrated Belle Assemblée for 1844 on the left and a print of her on display at Osterley Park on the right. I think that the similarity is very good.
 
Left: Lady Jersey from The Illustrated Belle Assemblée (1844)  Centre: Miniature shown above © Jayne Parkes  Right: Lady Jersey from a print on display at Osterley Park
Left: Lady Jersey from The Illustrated Belle Assemblée (1844)
Centre: Miniature shown above © Jayne Parkes
Right: Lady Jersey from a print on display at Osterley Park
Viscountess Beresford

The miniature was given to Louisa, Viscountess Beresford. In 1837, The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic printed a portrait of the Viscountess together with a brief history of who she was and, very usefully, a list of her children by her first marriage.

Louisa Beresford, Viscountess Beresford  from The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic (1837)
Louisa Beresford, Viscountess Beresford
from The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic (1837)
Louisa Beresford was the youngest daughter of William Beresford, 1st Lord Decies and Archbishop of Tuam, and his wife Elizabeth Fitzgibbon. William Beresford was the brother of George de la Poer Beresford, 1st Marquess of Waterford.

Louisa married Thomas Hope of Deepdene, Surrey, on 16 April 1806. Thomas Hope was a merchant banker, art collector and author. His most famous publication was Anastasius (1819) — a racy novel which rivalled the popularity of Byron’s work and was said to have made Byron weep because he had not written it!

Deepdene, Surrey, the seat of Thomas Hope,  from Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
Deepdene, Surrey, the seat of Thomas Hope,
from Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
Louisa and Thomas had three sons: Henry Thomas Hope; Adrian John Hope and Alexander James Beresford Hope. Thomas Hope died on 2 February 1831 leaving his wealth and art collections to his eldest son Henry.

William Carr Beresford

Viscount Beresford engraved by P Lightfoot  from picture by G Bradley inLife of Field-Marshal His Grace   the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1840)
Viscount Beresford engraved by P Lightfoot
from picture by G Bradley inLife of Field-Marshal His Grace 
the Duke of Wellington by WH Maxwell (1840)
On 29 November 1832, Louisa married her first cousin William Carr Beresford, the illegitimate son of her uncle, the Marquess of Waterford. William was a General in the British Army, Colonel of the 16th Regiment of Foot and Governor of Jersey and had held the rank of Field Marshal in the Portuguese Army. He served in the Peninsular Wars under the Duke of Wellington and held the chief command in the Battle of Albuera, for which he was honoured with the title of Baron Beresford of Albuera on 17 May 1814. He was given the title of Viscount Beresford on 28 March 1823.

William and Louisa had no children and on his death in 1854, William's estates passed to Louisa’s youngest son, Alexander, who took the additional name Beresford from this time. It is Alexander’s signature—AJB Beresford Hope—that is on the note shown above.

The painter

Signature on miniature of Lady Jersey in souvenir booklet  © Jayne Parkes
Close-up of signature on miniature of Lady Jersey
in souvenir booklet © Jayne Parkes
The last thing I investigated was the painter of the miniature. The painting is signed Dun. Nicholas-François Dun (1764-1832) (1) was a French painter who worked mostly in Naples in Italy. You can see another miniature by him in the Gibbes Museum of Art online collection here. As you will see, the signature is virtually identical.

I have not been able to find out anything else about this painter, but there are some other paintings by Dun here and here.

Note
(1) Sometimes Dun’s name is spelt Nicolas without the ‘h’.

Sources used include:
Courthope, William, editor, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1838)
Court Magazine and Monthly Critic (1837)

Anastasius — The Novel Which Made Byron Weep! on The Regency Redingote

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Mrs Dora Jordan - The Comic Muse (1761-1816)

Mrs Jordan from The Life of Mrs Jordan  by J Boaden (1831)
Mrs Jordan from The Life of Mrs Jordan
by J Boaden (1831)
Profile

Dora Jordan (22 November 1761 – 5 July 1816) was a Georgian actress famous for her comic roles. She was the long-standing mistress of William IV when he was Duke of Clarence.

Early years

Dorothy Bland was born on 22 November 1761, the daughter of Francis Bland and Grace Phillips. Dorothy—or Dora as she liked to be called—was born in London, although her parents normally lived in Ireland. Grace was an actress and Francis’ father—a judge of the Prerogative Court in Dublin—disapproved of the connection and had the marriage declared void as his son was under age. 

Grace was devastated when, in 1774, Francis Bland deserted his family and went to London where he married an Irish heiress. Dora went to work for a milliner in Dublin and during this time, she received a proposal of marriage. 

Dora Jordan etched by G Meunier  from Romney from The Life of Mrs Jordan  by J Boaden (1831)
Dora Jordan etched by G Meunier
from Romney from The Life of Mrs Jordan
by J Boaden (1831)
Dora takes to the stage

Dora was soon attracted to her mother’s profession and went to work at the Crow Street Theatre in Dublin, first appearing as Miss Lucy in Henry Fielding’s The Virgin Unmasked in 1779. She met Lieutenant Charles Doyne in Waterford whilst she was on tour and he proposed marriage, but he was refused, probably because she was enjoying some success on the stage. 

Dora came to the notice of Richard Daly—the manager of the rival Smock Alley Theatre—and in 1781 she joined his company. (1) In retrospect, this was a sad mistake; Daly seduced Dora and she became pregnant with his child in February 1782.

Mrs Jordan as Sir Harry Wildair  from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature  by PW Sergeant (1913)
Mrs Jordan as Sir Harry Wildair
from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature
by PW Sergeant (1913)
Crossing the Jordan

Eager to help Dora to escape from the abusive Daly, Grace took her family to Leeds where her sister was an actress in Tate Wilkinson’s Yorkshire company. Out of sympathy, Wilkinson gave Dora an audition and he was immediately entranced. Dora first appeared in his company on 11 July 1782. As her pregnancy progressed, clearly her stage name of “Miss Francis” would not do. Wilkinson suggested a new name. He likened Dora’s crossing the Irish Sea to escape Daly and work for him to the Israelites in the Bible crossing the River Jordan, and so Mrs Jordan was born.

Dora toured Yorkshire with Wilkinson’s company. One admirer, Cornelius Swan, a critic and Shakespearean scholar, coached Dora and paid off Daly who tried to get Dora arrested for breaking her agreement with his theatre. Fanny was born in November 1782.

The Country Girl

In 1785, Dora got her big break: she was offered £4 a week to go to Drury Lane in London. Her first performance took place on 18 October 1785. Her role was that of the Country Girl—a part that she had observed and determined to make her own. By the end of the year, she was offered a four year contract by the management of the Drury Lane Theatre, headed by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

She received another proposal of marriage, from a fellow actor from her Dublin days, George Inchbald, but Dora refused. She was in love with Richard Ford, the good looking son of one of the investors in the theatre who was aiming for a career in Parliament. In 1786, they set up house together in Bloomsbury. 

The press was unkind, churning up the past, caricaturing Dora and Daly as Mrs Tomboy and the Irish Manager. Dorothea Maria, known as Dodee, was born in 1787, followed by a son who did not live in 1788 and another daughter, Lucy, in 1789. By this time, Dora was an acclaimed actress earning £30 a week for three performances—the same as Mrs Siddons.

Mrs Jordan as Peggy  in The Country Girl  from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature  by PW Sergeant (1913)
Mrs Jordan as Peggy
in The Country Girl
from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature
by PW Sergeant (1913)
The Comic Muse

Dora Jordan’s most famous roles were Rosalind in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which she played in London regularly from 1787 to 1814; Hippolyta, the heroine of She would and She would Not by Colley Cibber; and The Country Girl in Garrick’s adaptation of Wycherley’s Country Wife, which she played regularly at Drury Lane from 1785 to 1800 and occasionally up to 1814.

Life as an actress was not only physically demanding; it could also be dangerous. Whilst touring in Sheffield in 1782, Dora was nearly killed by falling stage machinery. Later, whilst in Margate in August 1802, Dora’s costume caught fire.

Mrs Jordan as The Comic Muse  from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature  by PW Sergeant (1913)
Mrs Jordan as The Comic Muse
from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature
by PW Sergeant (1913)
What was Dora like?

Dora was not classically beautiful, but she had a very good figure and when dressed as a boy she was considered very seductive and had an excellent pair of legs. She was short-sighted and carried her spectacles on a chain around her neck.

Mrs Jordan as Hippolyta  from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature  by PW Sergeant (1913)
Mrs Jordan as Hippolyta
from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature
by PW Sergeant (1913)
A royal admirer

In 1790, Dora began to be pursued by William, Duke of Clarence. Dora was flattered and amused, but did not take him seriously. Rather, she hoped that the Duke’s interest would persuade Ford to marry her. But Ford was not to be forced and seemingly did nothing to persuade Dora to stay. Although initially Ford was very keen to have custody of his older daughter, within five years he had married and fathered a legitimate son and lost interest in his children by Dora.

 The Duke and Dora

William, Duke of Clarence, from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,  Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
William, Duke of Clarence,
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
When Dora began to respond favourably to the Duke’s advances, they encountered a violent reaction from the public. The press suggested that Dora had abandoned her children to play mistress to the Duke and prints were published ridiculing the couple, depicting Dora as a chamber pot, which was, most unfortunately, known as a jordan. However, once they were known to be living together, the press seemed to lose interest.

Dora was awed by the Duke’s royal status and attracted to his warm, passionate nature. On her side, Dora was very maternal and provided a centre to the Duke’s life which he had lacked since leaving active naval service. Dora gave him good advice and managed to persuade him to virtually give up drinking, except when he was with his brothers. She also looked after him, especially during the summer when he regularly suffered from a severe asthma attack.

In November 1791, the Duke made a legal settlement on Dora, but she continued her career on stage, successfully overcoming the public’s initial hostility.

The Fitzclarences

The Duke and Dora had ten children together: George, later 1st Earl of Munster (1794), Sophia (1795), Henry (1797), Mary (1798), Frederick, known as Fredddles (1799), Elizabeth, known as Eliza (1801), Adolphus, known as Lolly (1802), Augusta, known as Ta (1803), Augustus, known as Tuss (1805) and Amelia, known as Mely or Milly (1807).

George Fitzclarence, 1st Earl of Munster  from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature  by PW Sergeant (1913)
George Fitzclarence, 1st Earl of Munster
from Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature
by PW Sergeant (1913)
Bushy Park

In January 1797, George III made the Duke of Clarence the Ranger of Bushy Park. The appointment came with Bushy House, which became the family home. Like his brother George IV, the Duke was continually making alterations to the house and employed the architect Sir John Soane to plan the initial redevelopment.

The Duke’s son, William, by a previous relationship may have lived at Bushy or he may have just been a frequent visitor, as was FitzErnest, the Duke of Cumberland’s illegitimate son.

Bushy House from History of the life and reign  of William the Fourth by R Huish (1837)
Bushy House from History of the life and reign
 of William the Fourth by R Huish (1837)
 Dora’s generosity

Dora had a generous spirit and often took part in benefits (2) for those less fortunate than herself. It is likely that a free school for girls near to Bushy was founded by her, as was a Female Friendly Society. She provided for her eldest daughters out of her own earnings, giving them substantial dowries, but unfortunately, this attracted suitors who subsequently took advantage of her goodwill. Dora’s brothers and her two eldest daughters’ husbands were a constant drain on her finances.

A royal separation

By the end of 1810, Dora’s relationship with the Duke was failing. They spent little time together at Bushy and the Duke was yearning for the financial freedom that marriage to a rich wife would bring him. During the summer of 1811, the Duke ardently pursued the fabulously wealthy Catherine Tylney Long. His suit was unsuccessful, but his relationship with Dora was over.

The Duke and Dora separated and a financial settlement was finally drawn up on 23 December 1812, laying out what Dora would get for herself and the children, part of which was dependent on her not appearing on stage. Reluctantly, Dora decided it was best for all the children to stay at Bushy Park with their father, whilst she continued her acting career.

Destitution and death

Dora’s financial situation did not improve. She was besieged with debts run up by her family in her name. In 1815, fearful of arrest, she agreed to go abroad to Boulogne to escape her creditors whilst John Barton, one of the Duke’s advisors, arranged her affairs. Barton let her down. He failed to act on her behalf and Dora was forced to remain abroad, apart from her beloved children, whilst her health deteriorated.

She moved to Versailles and then to Saint-Cloud, near Paris, where she died on 5 July 1816. She was buried in the cemetery of Saint-Cloud on 13 July. A few years later, a visiting English couple were moved to provide a memorial stone for her grave, but the funeral dues remained unpaid.

A lasting memorial

In 1818, two years after Dora’s death, the Duke of Clarence married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen and in 1830, at the age of 64, he became king. When Dora died, it is reported that the Duke did not even remark on her death to her children, but she was never truly forgotten. When he became King William IV, he commissioned Sir Francis Chantrey to create a marble statue of Dora as a memorial to be placed in Westminster Abbey. Although his plans for siting the statue were thwarted, the intention was obvious—he meant to honour Dora Jordan as if she had been his queen. (3) It is sad that he did not take more care of her when she was alive.

Notes
(1) These dates are from Tomalin; Ranger states that Dora made her theatre debut with the Smock Alley Theatre on 3 November 1779.
(2) A benefit was a special theatrical performance, the proceeds of which went to a particular actor or actress or a charitable cause.
(3) Tomalin records that the statue was refused a place in either Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral and passed to the 1st Earl of Munster. It was bequeathed to the Queen in 1975 and is now on display in the Picture Gallery of Buckingham Palace. Here is the link to the statue in the Royal Collection.

Sources used include:
Boaden, James, Life of Mrs Jordan including original private correspondence (1831)
Ranger, Paul, Jordan, Dorothy (1761-1816), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2006, accessed 8 July 2015)
Sergeant, Philip W, Mrs Jordan, Child of Nature (1913)
Tomalin, Claire, Mrs Jordan's Profession - the story of a great actress and a future king (1994)