Search this blog

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Drury Lane Theatre burns down 24 February 1809

Drury lane Theatre on fire from Shakspere to Sheridan - a book about   the theatre of yesterday and today by A Thaler (1922)
Drury lane Theatre on fire from Shakspere to Sheridan - a book about 
the theatre of yesterday and today by A Thaler (1922)
Fire was a constant threat to Georgian buildings, especially theatres. Covent Garden theatre burnt down on 20 September 1808 and less than six months later, its rival, Drury Lane Theatre, suffered the same fate.

When did Drury Lane Theatre burn down?

Feltham’s The Picture of London for 1818 said:
On the twenty-fourth of February [1809], about eleven o'clock at night, the superb theatre of Drury Lane was discovered to be on fire, and though such a vast building, it was entirely consumed by four o'clock on the following morning.1
How did Drury Lane Theatre burn down?

According to Mrs Cornwell Baron Wilson’s Memoirs of Miss Mellon:
A fire had been left in the upper coffee-room at four in the afternoon, and there being no performance, all the servants were out of that part of the theatre; it is supposed that it ignited and caught the wood-work.2
The Picture of London for 1810 stated:
At a quarter after 11 o’clock at night, Feb 24, 1809, this splendid Theatre, the most magnificent perhaps in Europe, was enveloped in flames, and in less than one hour and an half the whole was an immense heap of ruins … In less than a quarter of an hour from the first discovery of it, the fire spread in one unbroken flame over the whole of the immense building, extending from Brydges-street to Drury-lane, and displaying a pillar of fire not less than 450 feet in breadth. The rapidity of the flames was such, that before twelve o'clock the whole of the interior from the extremity of the boxes in Brydges-street to the back of the stage, including a newly-erected building for the scenes, was in one tremendous blaze. Neither the burning of the Opera House, nor of Covent-garden, nor the late fire at St James’s, can be compared in terrific grandeur with this dreadful conflagration.3
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London Vol 1 (1808)
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, from The Microcosm of London Vol 1 (1808)
Was it arson?

Some questioned whether the fire was an accident, judging it unlikely that rival theatres should have burnt down in such a short space of time. Boaden wrote in his Memoirs of Mrs Siddons (1827):
So speedy a coincidence, as it defied the doctrine of chances, and the probabilities of life, so in the breasts of persons suffering by the system of irregularity at that house, it begot a suspicion that the destruction of Drury Lane Theatre was wilful. One person was frequently named as the contriver of the whole mischief, and he, certainly, was a man who possessed the entire means in himself; but his very accusers could assign no motive to such an action.4
The Picture of London for 1810 said:
It has been fully ascertained that this melancholy catastrophe was occasioned by accident.5
How much was lost?

Wilson wrote:
In that short space of time, a theatre that had cost £129,000, and was not then completed, was reduced to one huge mass of ashes and rubbish.6
The Picture of London for 1810 valued the loss at rather more:
The building of this Theatre cost 200,000l; and the immense property of all sorts, in scenery, machinery, dresses, decorations, music, instruments, plays, &c of which nothing was saved, nearly amounted to the same sum. The wardrobe alone was valued at 40,000l. The whole insurance did not exceed 45,000l.7
Boaden wrote:
Some of the performers, among whom was my friend Charles Matthews, at a personal risk sufficiently alarming, thridded the suffocating maze of passages, and bore away their personal property. Mrs Jordan found some kind help in this disaster, and lost, I think, little or nothing.8
Financial disaster for Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan from A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
from A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron
with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
The fire was a disaster, not least for theatre owner and manager, Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He had borrowed extensively to finance the new, bigger theatre building – a building that was still unfinished when it was burnt to the ground. 

Ironically, the new theatre had boasted improved fire precautions. The Microcosm of London said:
In the roof of the theatre is contained, besides the barrel-loft, ample room for scene-painters, and four very large reservoirs, from which water is distributed over every part of the house, for the purpose of instantly extinguishing fire in any part where such accident is possible.9
The theatre was under-insured, and Sheridan faced financial ruin. Boaden wrote:
Sheridan had used his theatre as a store to deposit the spoils of office; and by this fire was destroyed the furniture, which adorned his house in Somerset Buildings, when he was for a short time Treasurer of the Navy. He was himself in the House of Commons when he received the disastrous intelligence; and he behaved with his accustomed fortitude. The sympathy of the House would have led the members to adjourn, but he refused such a personal compliment to his feelings; and only at the proper time could be prevailed on himself to repair to the neighbourhood of his ruin, where he sat out the last appearances of conflagration.
When the reader reflects upon the state of this great man's finances, the little hope he could entertain of his theatre's being rebuilt at all, or of its ever yielding an income to him again, if it were — and is told that neither his fortitude nor his pleasantry abandoned him, he may suspect that wit has a buckler more impassive than adamant, and think him an object of envy in every condition of his fortune.10
Old and New London’s account of the fire, published in 1878, wrote that the House of Commons did adjourn, despite Sheridan’s protests. It said:
He [Sheridan] went thither, however, in all haste, and whilst seeing his own property in flames, sat down with his friend Barry in a coffee-house opposite to a bottle of port, coolly remarking, in answer to some friendly expostulation, that it was ‘hard if a man could not drink a glass of wine by his own fire!’11
I wonder whether Sheridan was truly calm enough, in the face of financial ruin, to be so witty, or whether this story is apocryphal. It’s hard to tell, but I think it sounds like his wit, and it gives a light-hearted touch to an otherwise miserable story of ruin.

You can read more of Sheridan's wit here.

The disaster commemorated in verse

When Drury Lane Theatre was rebuilt, a competition was held for an address to be given on its reopening. One hundred and twelve addresses were submitted, of which only one could be successful. Horace and James Smith were inspired to write the extremely successful Rejected Addresses, twenty-one imaginary entries, parodying some of the greatest writers of the day, including Lord Byron, Dr Johnson and Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis.

The story of the fire at Drury Lane, by Horace, in the style of Sir Walter Scott, was judged to be the best imitation. You can read the full poem, and all the other imaginary entries, on Project Gutenberg. Here are three excerpts:
Rest there awhile, my bearded lance,
While from green curtain I advance
To yon foot-lights—no trivial dance,
And tell the town what sad mischance
Did Drury Lane befall.
As Chaos, which, by heavenly doom,
Had slept in everlasting gloom,
Started with terror and surprise
When light first flash’d upon her eyes—
So London’s sons in nightcap woke,
In bed-gown woke her dames;
For shouts were heard ’mid fire and smoke,
And twice ten hundred voices spoke—
‘The playhouse is in flames!’
E’en Higginbottom now was posed,
For sadder scene was ne’er disclosed
Without, within, in hideous show,
Devouring flames resistless glow,
And blazing rafters downward go,
And never halloo ‘Heads below!’
Nor notice give at all.
The firemen terrified are slow
To bid the pumping torrent flow,
For fear the roof should fall.12
Notes
1. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818).
2. Wilson, Mrs Cornwell Baron, Memoirs of Miss Mellon, afterwards Duchess of St Albans new edition Vol 1 (1886).
3. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
4. Boaden, James, Memoirs of Mrs Siddons: interspersed with anecdotes of authors and actors (1827).
5. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
6. Wilson op cit.
7. Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810).
8. Boaden op cit.
9. Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904).
10. Boaden op cit.
11. Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 3.
12. Smith, James and Horace, Rejected Addresses; or, The New Theatrum Poetarum (1879 - originally printed 1812).

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, and Pyne, William Henry, The Microcosm of London or London in miniature Volume 1 (Rudolph Ackermann 1808-1810, reprinted 1904)
Boaden, James, Memoirs of Mrs Siddons: interspersed with anecdotes of authors and actors (1827)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1810 (1810)
Feltham, John, The Picture of London for 1818 (1818)
Smith, James and Horace, Rejected Addresses; or, The New Theatrum Poetarum (1879 - originally printed 1812)
Walford, Edward, Old and New London: A narrative of its history, its people, and its places (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878, London) Vol 3
Wilson, Mrs Cornwell Baron, Memoirs of Miss Mellon, afterwards Duchess of St Albans new edition Vol 1 (1886)

Friday, 31 January 2020

Frederica, Duchess of York (1767-1820)

Frederica, Duchess of York from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany  by John Watkins (1827)
Frederica, Duchess of York from A Biographical
Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany

by John Watkins (1827)
Who was Frederica, Duchess of York?

Frederica, Duchess of York (7 May 1767 – 6 August 1820), was a Prussian princess who married Frederick, Duke of York, George IV’s brother. She was known for her love of animals and for the large number of dogs she kept at Oatlands, the Duke of York’s residence in Weybridge, Surrey.

Family background

Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Princess Frederica of Prussia, was born on 7 May 1767, the eldest daughter of Frederick William II, King of Prussia, by his first wife, Elizabeth of Brunswick. According to La Belle Assemblée, Frederica was
… educated under the eye of her mother, in those strict principles of the Protestant faith which govern the Ecclesiastical Constitution of Prussia.1
Marriage to the Duke of York

On 29 September 1791, Princess Frederica married Frederick, Duke of York, the second son of George III, in Berlin. In order to fulfil the requirements of the Royal Marriage Act (1772), the ceremony had to be repeated in England so that the King’s consent could ‘be set out in the licence and register of marriage.’2

This second ceremony took place on 23 November 1791 at the Queen’s House, later Buckingham Palace. I confess, I do not know which is the official date of marriage, though I guess it is probably the second one, as in the eyes of English law, it was this ceremony that made the union legal.

According to La Belle Assemblée, Princess Frederica
… had been seen by the Duke of York in an excursion which he made abroad some four years previous to their union. His Royal Highness, in his German tour, had paid a visit to the Court of Berlin, and had there imbibed those elements of military knowledge which prevail in the school of the Great Frederick. He had, at that period, formed an attachment for the Princess Royal of Prussia, who then shone in the full splendour of her beauty, and whose numerous accomplishments, and many mild and amiable virtues, were the common theme of admiration.3
Despite this rosy account of the Duke’s affection, it was an arranged marriage, and not particularly successful. There were no children from the union and the royal couple lived separate lives, though from all that I have read, their relationship was amicable.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany from La Belle Assemblée (1827)
Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany
from La Belle Assemblée (1827)
 The diarist Charles Greville wrote:
The Duke and the Duchess live upon the best terms; their manner to one another is cordial, and while full of mutual respect and attention, they follow separately their own occupations and amusements without interfering with one another. Their friends are common to both, and those who are most attached to the Duke are equally so to the Duchess.4
What did the Duchess look like?

La Belle Assemblée (1806) described the Duchess of York:
Her Royal Highness’s stature is somewhat below the common height, and her figure elegantly formed in proportionate delicacy and slightness. Her countenance has so far the best beauty, that it is made to win tenderness, esteem and affection. Her complexion is exquisitely fair, and the bloom with which it is enlivened is rather a tint appearing through her skin, than that sort of colour which seems to exist in it. Her hair is light, and her eye-lashes are long and nearly white, resembling those of our Royal Family, to whom, indeed, she is not much unlike in features. Her eyes are blue, and of uncommon brilliancy.5
The Duchess of York by John Hoppner  from John Hoppner RA  by WD McKay and W Roberts (1909)
The Duchess of York by John Hoppner
from John Hoppner RA
by WD McKay and W Roberts (1909)
Amiable and intelligent

In Greville’s opinion, the Duchess was rather more intelligent than her royal husband and liked to entertain clever men. He wrote:
The Duchess likes the society of men of wit and letters; more, I think, from the variety of having them around her than from any pleasure she takes in their conversation. Lord Alvanley is the man in whom she takes the greatest delight.6
Greville also suggested that the Duchess was quite at home with conversation that might have been deemed by others as unfit for female ears:
Her mind is not perhaps the most delicate; she shows no dislike to coarseness of sentiment or language, and I have seen her very much amused with jokes, stories, and allusions which would shock a very nice person. But her own conversation is never polluted with anything the least indelicate or unbecoming. She is very sensible to little attentions, and is annoyed if anybody appears to keep aloof from her or to shun conversing with her.7
Charitable nature

The Duchess was known for her generosity towards the poor and, perhaps because childless herself, many of the charitable works she carried out were for the benefit of children. La Belle Assemblée wrote that she
… established many charity schools at Oatlands and in the neighbourhood, and her humanity and tenderness to the poor are the theme of all who approach her.8
The Duke of York’s biographer, John Watkins, enlarged upon this:
The children of the whole neighbourhood, at least all who stood in need of assistance, were considered by the Duchess as belonging to her household. They were accordingly clothed and educated under her own immediate inspection, and entirely at her expense. Every Saturday whole troops of these infants were to be seen crossing the park in their simple clean attire, to the mansion of their royal benefactress, from whose hand they frequently received cake and wine.
As they grew up, the patronage of her royal highness was still continued; the girls being either put out to service, or provided for with suitable employment, while the boys were apprenticed at the charge of the Duchess, who also gave marriage portions to the deserving, and extended her benevolence to their rising families.9
Besides this, she had a long list of infirm pensioners, of both sexes, in London, who received regular allowances.

Love of animals

The Duchess was passionately fond of animals, particularly dogs. She kept a huge number of them at Oatlands and created a cemetery in the park in which to bury them after they had died. She also kept monkeys and parrots.

Greville wrote:
Her dogs are her greatest interest and amusement, and she has at least forty of various kinds. She is delighted when anybody gives her a dog, or a monkey, or a parrot, of all of which she has a vast number; it is impossible to offend her or annoy her more than by ill-using any of her dogs, and if she were to see anybody beat or kick any one of them she would never forgive it.10
Watkins wrote:
To the canine species the Duchess was remarkably attached; and it was no uncommon thing to see her in the park surrounded by thirty or forty of these animals of various sorts, as English lapdogs, Dutch pugs, and French barbettes. Their respective litters were taken great care of, and the young ones not unfrequently boarded out, under the superintendence of the cottagers. Nor was this tenderness confined to them while living, for a cemetery was actually formed in the park to receive their remains.11
Writing in 1828, after Oatlands had passed out of royal hands, Prosser described where the cemetery was: 
Before the grotto, which is entwined with ivy and other creeping plants, was a gold and silver fish pond and a small cascade, now in a neglected and ruinous state. Near are numerous small stone tablets, bearing the names of nearly seventy of her late Royal Highness's favorite dogs that lie buried here.12
The Duchess’s other interests
Among the other amusements of the Duchess, gardening constituted one of the most favourite; and she also took great delight in collecting shells, with which she formed one of the finest grottoes ever seen in this kingdom, expending thereon, it is said, near twelve thousand pounds.13
Watkins’ estimate of the cost of the grotto, though expensive, was quite conservative. La Belle Assemblée stated that it had cost at least £50,000!
The Grotto, which has grown to its present elegance chiefly under her Royal Highness’s hands, is reckoned one of the principal curiosities of this kingdom, and perhaps in any part of the world.
Her Royal Highness has very condescendingly opened it for public inspection, every Sunday evening during the summer season. It is shown, free of all expense, to the visitants.14
Friends and family

The Duchess was very close to Princess Charlotte and friendly towards her mother Caroline, Princess of Wales. According to Greville, the Duchess
… always lived on good terms with the Royal Family, but is intimate with none of them, and goes as little as possible to Court. The Regent dislikes her, and she him. With the Princess Charlotte she was latterly very intimate, spent a great deal of time at Claremont, and felt her death very severely.15
Ian Kelly, in his biography of Beau Brummell, wrote that the Duchess and the Prince Regent were on friendly terms - rather better than Watkins suggested.

Kelly also wrote of the Duchess’s close friendship with Beau Brummell. She helped him financially after he fled to France to escape his debts in 1816 and it was for her sake that he agreed not to publish his memoirs whilst the Regent or any of his brothers were alive.

George Brummell from The History of White's  by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
George Brummell from The History of White's
 by Hon Algernon Bourke (1892)
A private person

The Duchess of York did not like being in the public eye and preferred to live at Oatlands when she could. Greville wrote:
The Duchess has no taste for splendour or magnificence, and likes to live the life of a private individual as much as possible.16
In Watkins’ opinion:
The life of the Duchess was marked by scarcely any circumstances calculated to bring her prominently under public observation. She mixed very little in the gaieties of fashionable life.17
Oatlands from Select illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
Oatlands
from Select illustrations of the County of Surrey by GF Prosser (1828)
The worst hostess?

Whilst the Duchess loved entertaining, and regularly gave parties at Oatlands, she was not a very attentive hostess. Greville recorded his observations on the Duchess’s eccentricity and the haphazard style of living that existed there:
Oatlands is the worst managed establishment in England; there are a great many servants, and nobody waits on you; a vast number of horses, and none to ride or drive.18
On another occasion he wrote:
The Duchess seldom goes to bed, or, if she does, only for an hour or two; she sleeps dressed upon a couch, sometimes in one room, sometimes in another. She frequently walks out very late at night, or rather early in the morning, and she always sleeps with open windows. She dresses and breakfasts at three o’clock, afterwards walks out with all her dogs, and seldom appears before dinner-time. At night, when she cannot sleep, she has women to read to her. 19
A brush with death

On 6 June 1794, there was a dreadful fire at Oatlands. Fortunately, the Duchess was not harmed.
Watkins wrote:
The Duchess beheld the dreadful conflagration from her sleeping room, which was in the centre of the mansion, and from which the flames were kept by pulling down a gateway, over which the wing joined the house. His Majesty, on hearing of the misfortune, went to Oatlands early the next morning, and gave the necessary orders for clearing the ruins, and rebuilding the wing which had been destroyed, at his own expense.20
Illness and death

Princess Frederica died of consumption on Sunday 6 August 1820. Greville described the cause as water on her chest. She was buried, at her own request, in Weybridge Church, on 14 August.

Watkins wrote that:
The Duke, when consulted upon the subject of the funeral, at once determined that the wish of his lamented consort should be complied with; and directions were accordingly given that the obsequies should be performed as she had requested, and that with as little ostentation as possible.21
Greville wrote:
She is deeply regretted by her husband, her friends, and her servants. Probably no person in such a situation was ever more really liked. She has left 12,000ℓ. to her servants and some children whom she had caused to be educated. She had arranged all her affairs with the greatest exactitude, and left nothing undone.22
Notes
1. Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (1806).
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville, Charles, A journal of the reigns of King George IV and King William IV, edited by Henry Reeve (Longmans, 1874) Volume 1.
5. Bell op cit.
6. Entry for 24 December 1819, Greville op cit.
7. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
8. Bell op cit.
9. Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827)
10. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
11. Watkins op cit.
12. Prosser, George Frederick, Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey (1828).
13. Watkins op cit.
14. Bell op cit.
15. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
16. Ibid.
17. Watkins op cit.
18. Entry for 4 August 1818, Greville op cit.
19. Entry for 15 August 1818, Greville op cit.
20. Watkins op cit.
21. Watkins op cit.
22. Entry August 1820, Greville op cit.

Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (John Bell, 1806, London)
Greville, Charles, A journal of the reigns of King George IV and King William IV, edited by Henry Reeve (Longmans, 1874) Volume 1
Kelly, Ian, Beau Brummell, The Ultimate Dandy (Hodder & Stoughton, 2005)
Prosser, George Frederick, Select Illustrations of the County of Surrey (1828)
Stephens, HM, revised by Van der Kiste, John, Frederick, Prince, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press 2004, updated 2007)
Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827, London)

Friday, 29 November 2019

Lady Hertford - Prinny's intimate friend

Lady Beauchamp, later 2nd Marchioness of Hertford  by John Hoppner (1784) from John Hoppner RA  by WD McKay and W Roberts (1909)
Lady Beauchamp, later 2nd Marchioness of Hertford
by John Hoppner (1784) from John Hoppner RA
by WD McKay and W Roberts (1909)
Profile

Isabella Ingram Seymour Conway, Marchioness of Hertford (10 June 1759 – 12 April 1834), was the intimate friend and possibly mistress of the young George IV from 1807 to 1819/20.

Family

Isabella Anne Ingram was born on 10 June 1759, the daughter of Charles Ingram, 9th Viscount Irvine (1727-1778), and his wife, Frances Shepheard (1733-1807). She had a younger sister Frances, but no brothers, and was consequently the joint heir of her father’s estate.

Wraxall described Isabella as one ‘of the riches heiresses of high birth to be found in England.’1

Marriage

On 20 May 1776, the 16-year-old Isabella became the second wife of Francis Seymour Conway, Viscount Beauchamp, later 2nd Marquess of Hertford (1743-1822), who was twice her age. They had one son, Francis, who was born on 11 March 1777. When Isabella’s mother died on 20 November 1807, Isabella and her husband took the additional surname Ingram in acknowledgement of the fortune they inherited.

In 1797, Isabella’s husband became 2nd Marquess of Hertford on the death of his father, with an income in excess of £70,000 a year. His estates included Ragley Hall in Alcester, Warwickshire, and Sudbourne Hall in Suffolk as well as large estates in Ireland. 

He bought the lease of Manchester House in 1797 and this became the Hertfords’ main London residence. Later renamed Hertford House, it now houses The Wallace Collection. Isabella inherited Temple Newsam in Leeds from her mother in 1807.

The Ladies’ Monthly Museum (1816) judged the marriage a success. It wrote:
It is pleasing to record, after a matrimonial union of forty years, that the domestic felicity of Lord and Lady Hertford continues unimpaired; and the same cordiality and esteem still exists, which have ever marked the noble family as worthy of emulation.2
Hertford House, previously Manchester House, in Manchester Square,   London. Once the main London residence of Lord Hertford,  it is now home to The Wallace Collection
Hertford House, previously Manchester House, in Manchester Square,
London. Once the main London residence of Lord Hertford,
it is now home to The Wallace Collection
The charms of Lady Hertford

The Ladies’ Monthly Museum (1816) wrote:
The Marchioness of Hertford inherited from her father considerable personal property, and by nature was endowed with much personal beauty, which, with uncommon mental acquirements, have ever rendered her the ornament and admiration of the higher circles of society, where her birth and alliance entitle her to associate.
It continued:
The Marchioness is in her person, although tending to the embonpoint, at once graceful and elegant, her manners are uncommonly fascinating, and notwithstanding she has passed, what is usually called, the meridian of life, being now in the fifty-eighth year of her age, it must be confessed, that her ladyship still possesses the charms of attraction, very superior to many of greater juvenility.3
Not everyone thought her so engaging. Lord Holland wrote:
Her character was as timid as her manners were stately, formal and insipid.4
Marchioness of Hertford  from The Ladies' Monthly Museum (1816)
Marchioness of Hertford
from The Ladies' Monthly Museum (1816)
Prinny in love

Lady Hertford first started to attract the young George IV in 1806. The Prince was fighting a battle for the guardianship of Minney Seymour, the ward of his secret wife, Maria Fitzherbert. In an appeal to the House of Lords, the Prince used his influence to have Lord and Lady Hertford appointed Minney’s guardians, having been assured that they would not remove her from Maria Fitzherbert’s care.

What Mrs Fitzherbert perhaps did not foresee was that once the appeal was won, the Prince would lose interest in her. He fell in love with the beautiful Lady Hertford instead.

That same year, the Prince visited Lady Hertford at Temple Newsam and gave her some Chinese wallpaper and the Moses tapestries. He wrote to her repeatedly and made himself ill trying to win her affections.

Lord Hertford tried to avert the Prince’s attentions by taking his wife to Ireland, but this just increased the Prince’s passion. By the summer of 1807, the Prince was regularly visiting Lady Hertford, at both Ragley Hall and Manchester House.

Wraxall wrote that Lady Hertford
… besides the gifts of fortune, had received from nature such a degree of beauty as rarely bestowed upon woman. Lady Beauchamp, in 1785, though even then no longer in her first youth, possessed extraordinary charms. At the present time, in 1818, when she numbers over her head nearly sixty winters, she is still capable of inspiring passion. That she does indeed inspire passion in some sense of the word, must be assumed from the empire which she maintains at this hour over the regent; - an empire depending, however, from the first moment of its origin, more on intellectual and moral endowments, than on corporeal quantities, and reposing principally on admiration or esteem. We may reasonably doubt whether Diana de Poitiers, Ninon de l’Enclos, or Marion de l’Orme, three women who preserved their powers of captivating mankind even in the evening of life, could exhibit at her age finer remains of female grace than the Marchioness of Hertford retains at the present day.5
There is some debate as to whether Lady Hertford was the Prince’s mistress or just his intimate friend. TJ Hochstrasser believed that the relationship was platonic; Saul David, on the other hand, found it hard to believe that a man with such a voracious sexual appetite as the Prince would not have made Lady Hertford his mistress.

George IV as Prince of Wales by John Hoppner  © The Wallace Collection Photo © A Knowles (2015)
George IV as Prince of Wales by John Hoppner
© The Wallace Collection
Lady Hertford’s influence

Lord and Lady Hertford were loyal Tories. When William Pitt the Younger began his second term as Prime Minister in 1804, Lord Hertford was appointed Master of the Horse. When he lost his position on Pitt’s death in 1806, he was compensated with the Order of the Garter.

During the time whilst Lady Hertford was the Prince’s favourite, she heavily influenced his politics and drew him away from his Whig friends.

Lady Hertford was very ambitious to advance her family’s position. She used her influence with the Prince of Wales to obtain the position of Lord Chamberlain of the Household for her husband in 1812 and her son Francis, Lord Yarmouth, who had become a member of the Prince’s set, was made Vice Chamberlain. She failed, however, to obtain the dukedom for her husband that she so desired.

The Ladies’ Monthly Museum (1816) wrote: 
The Royal Family, in particular, have always shown great favour and partiality to the Marchioness of Hertford, and the confidence and honours bestowed on the Marquis and the Earl of Yarmouth, have been, we presume, in a great measure the consequences of the Marchioness’s influence.6
Francis Ingram Seymour Conway,   3rd Marquess of Hertford by Thomas   Lawrence (c1822-3) at The Wallace   Collection (2015) on loan from National   Gallery of Art, Washington
Francis Ingram Seymour Conway,
3rd Marquess of Hertford by Thomas
Lawrence (c1822-3) at The Wallace
Collection (2015) on loan from National
Gallery of Art, Washington
Decline and death

Lady Hertford was ousted as the Prince’s favourite by another grandmother, Elizabeth, Marchioness of Conyngham, around 1819.

Lord Hertford died on 17 June 1822 at Manchester House and his wife died 12 years later, on 12 April 1834.

Notes
1. Wraxall, Sir Nathaniel William, Posthumous Memoirs of his own time (1836) Volume I.
2. The Ladies’ Monthly Museum (1816).
3. Ibid.
4. Lord Holland quoted in David, Saul, The Prince of Pleasure (Little, Brown & co., 1998).
5. Wraxall op cit.
6. The Ladies’ Monthly Museum (1816).

Sources used include:
David, Saul, The Prince of Pleasure (Little, Brown & co., 1998)
Hochstrasser, TJ, Conway, Francis Ingram-Seymour, 2nd Marquess of Hertford (1743-1822), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004, updated 2008)
The Ladies’ Monthly Museum (1816)
Wraxall, Sir Nathaniel William, Posthumous Memoirs of his own time (1836) Volume I

All photographs © A Knowles (2015)