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Monday, 25 March 2013

Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover (1771-1851)

HRH Ernest, Duke of Cumberland
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany by J Watkins (1827)

Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover (5 June 1771 – 18 November 1851) was the the fifth son of George III and Queen Charlotte and a younger brother of George IV.

Early years

Prince Ernest Augustus was born at Buckingham House on 5 June 1771. Ernest grew up at Kew, housed with his younger brothers, Augustus and Adolphus. The three Princes were made Knights of the Garter on 2 June 1786 and shortly after, were sent to the University of Göttingen to study.

Prince Ernest from The Lady's Magazine (1793)
Prince Ernest from The Lady's Magazine (1793)
Military action

Ernest was destined for a military career and entered the Hanoverian army in 1790 as a Lieutenant in the 9th Hanoverian Hussars. He saw fierce action against the French in Flanders and the Netherlands and on one occasion, was reported to have single-handedly carried a French officer from the battlefield as a prisoner of war. He was injured at the Battle of Tournai on 22 May 1794 and returned to England in 1796 with a permanently scarred face and the loss of sight in one eye.

Although commended for fighting bravely, he had a reputation for treating his men harshly and, despite regular promotion and being gazetted Field Marshal in 1813, he never saw active service abroad again.

Duke of Cumberland

On 23 April 1799, Ernest was made Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh and awarded a grant of £12000 a year by parliament.

Extreme politics

Ernest was a radical Tory, unwaveringly Protestant in outlook and an opponent of political reform. He was vehemently opposed to Catholic emancipation and when the Duke of Wellington found it expedient to support it, Ernest used his influence over George IV to persuade him against it. As a result of his interference, Wellington’s government resigned. But it was a short-lived victory. Ernest did not have enough backing to form a government of radical Tories. Wellington was recalled and the act was passed in 1829.
George IV
from Memoirs of her late royal
highness Charlotte Augusta
by Robert Huish (1818)
Character and appearance

Ernest was tall and elegant in person; whilst his brothers had a tendency to corpulence, he remained thin. He had handsome features, though one eye was disfigured in war and in later years he grew broad, drooping whiskers to mask his battle scars.

In character, he was radical and outspoken. He was able to wield a great deal of influence over weaker minds, notably over his brother George IV, whom he pushed towards his own radical Tory policies.

He was also inclined to be malicious. His brother William IV said of him: “Ernest is not a bad fellow, but if anyone has a corn, he will be sure to tread on it.”(1)

An unpopular marriage

On 29 May 1815, Ernest married Princess Frederica of Solms-Braunfels in Neustrelitz, whom he had met and fallen in love with a few years previously. Princess Frederica was a niece of Queen Charlotte’s who had been married twice before – to Prince Louis of Prussia and to Prince Frederick of Solms-Braunfels – and twice widowed. The marriage was solemnised again at Carlton House on 29 August 1815 but the Queen refused to receive the new Duchess.

Frederica, Duchess of Cumberland
from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
The Queen disapproved of Princess Frederica who had been unofficially engaged to marry the Duke of Cambridge in 1797 but had become pregnant by the Prince of Solms-Braunfels and married him instead. Ernest’s marriage was very unpopular and parliament refused to increase his allowance, forcing the couple to live abroad, largely in Berlin, where their son George was born on 27 May 1819.

King of Hanover

When William IV died on 20 June 1837, his niece Victoria became Queen of England. But she could not accede to the throne in Hanover which could only pass to the male line, and so Ernest became King of Hanover. He entered his capital on 28 June and proceeded to attack the liberal constitution. He ruled autocratically, but listened to reasonable complaints and avoided any hint of revolution. Ernest was a good king and well-respected in Hanover and he successfully ruled during a very unsettled period in Europe.

A life of scandal

The Duke of Cumberland’s life was beset with scandal. On 31 May 1810, his valet was found dead and rumours circulated that he had murdered him, though the jury passed a verdict of suicide.

In 1813, he was involved in a political controversy over a parliamentary election in Weymouth. He was accused of influencing the outcome in favour of the Tories, which was considered improper behaviour for a member of the House of Lords.

Years later, he wrangled with Queen Victoria over some jewels that he declared were his by right under Queen Charlotte’s will and which his niece refused to give up. The bitter dialogue between the parties caused considerable embarrassment to the government and when Ernest visited England for three months in 1843, Queen Victoria showed her continued disapproval by only inviting him once to dinner.

Yet more scandal

In 1829, Ernest created a scandal over Lady Lyndhurst who claimed that he had tried to assault her and, when she resisted, had threatened to ruin her and her husband. The following year, he faced another over Lady Graves. Rumours of a relationship between Ernest and Lady Graves reached the ears of her estranged husband. Lord Graves wrote a note declaring that he did not believe them, but nevertheless committed suicide.

But the most serious scandal which confronted Ernest was in relation to his sister, Princess Sophia. His affection for her was judged by some to be unhealthily intense, and it gave rise to the rumour that he had fathered the illegitimate son she was said to have given birth to in 1800. Although this was almost definitely untrue, there are comments in her letters which hint at the possibility that he had tried to assault her.

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

Ernest outlived all his brothers but eventually died at Altes Palace in Hanover on 18 November 1851. He was succeeded in Hanover by his only son George, who had been blinded in an accident as a child. Ernest was buried on 26 November in the mausoleum at Herrenhausen, Hanover. Although despised in England, he was popular in Hanover and an equestrian statue was erected there in his memory, paid for by voluntary donations.

(1) From The Letters of Queen Victoria (1908)

Sources used include:
Fulford, Roger, Royal Dukes (1933, revised 1973)
Hibbert, Christopher, George III (1998, Viking, Great Britain)
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (1972, Longmans, 1973, Allen Lane, London)
Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria (HarperCollins, 2000, London)
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of her late royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)
Palmer, Alan, Ernest Augustus (1771-1851), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004, online edn, May 2009, accessed 23 Mar 2013)
Victoria, Queen, The Letters of Queen Victoria, A Selection from Her Majesty's Correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861, edited Benson, AC and Esher, Viscount, Vol I 1837-1843 (1908)
Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827, London)

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Royal Menagerie at the Exeter Exchange

The Exeter 'Change from London in the Nineteenth Century
by Thomas H Shepherd (1829)
The Exeter ‘Change

The Exeter Exchange, popularly known as the Exeter ‘Change (1), was on the north side of the Strand in London. It was built on the site of Exeter House, a residence of the Earls of Exeter, from which it acquired its name. The building was designed to be a superior shopping venue, with an arcade in front, and originally housed small shops with lodgings above, but over time, the ground floor was taken over by businesses.

The Royal Menagerie

The Royal Menagerie, Exeter 'Change
from Ackermann's Repository (1812)(3)
From about 1773, the upper floors took on a new role, housing a menagerie formed by Mr Pidcock. On Pidcock’s death in about 1810, the menagerie passed to Stephani Polito and on his death in 1814, one of his employees, Edward Cross, took over the menagerie.

The menagerie displayed a wide variety of animals to the public in competition to the menagerie at the Tower of London. In 1812, the animals at the Exeter ‘Change included a Bengal tiger, a hyena, a lion, a jaguar, a sloth, a camel, monkeys, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros, an elephant, an ostrich “said to weigh upwards of 200lbs and to be 11 feet high”, a cassowary, a pelican, “emews”, cranes, an eagle, cockatoos, elks, kangaroos and antelopes (2).
Advert from Ackermann's Repository (1814)
The advert reads, I think:

“Royal Menagrie, Exeter ‘Change

The numerous parties of distinction that daily visit the Royal Menagerie, Exeter ‘Change, is a well-merited reward to its celebrated Proprietor, for his spirited and indefatigable exertions, in procuring, for the inspection of the public, those remarkable and rare living objects of the first celebrity in natural history, which no other capital in Europe can boast of.

The formidable Rhinoceros, which is grown so prodigiously since his arrival in 1810, as to be considered one of the largest ever seen, even in India, is so extremely rare, that many gentlemen have taken long and extensive excursions in its native country, without ever having an opportunity to see that animal; and his history, in many respects, is but very imperfectly known. Where it inhabits it is a dread to the human race, as well as to all beasts of the forest, being in strength inferior to none, and so protected, by nature, with his coat of mail, as to be capable of resisting the attacks of any other animal, and even the force of a musket-ball: but, what is more wonderful, in the adjoining den, in the same apartment, there is a fine large Male Elephant (indisputably one of the finest specimens of its species ever brought from India, and adorned with long ivory tusks); those, the two most formidable enemies in nature, are so closely united, and so reconciled, as to suffer to take their food from each other.

The other apartments contain the Tapir, or Hippopotamus of the New World, that elegant quadruped, the Quagga, or Wild Horse of Ethiopia, the beautiful Nilghaw, from the interior of India, and the grand assemblage of Lions, Royal Tiger, Panther, Leopards, Ounce, Cervat, Hyaena, Ursine Sloth, Arabian Camel, Antelopes, Southern Ostrich, Grand Cassowary, the Royal Crown Bird, Vultures, and hundreds of other rare and interesting quadrupeds, and birds of the most exquisite plumage, all in fine health and condition, and so perfectly clean and secured, that the most timorous and delicate may approach them without fear or being annoyed. So desirable an exhibition is justly considered a great acquisition to the metropolis, and cannot fail of giving universal satisfaction.”

How much did it cost?

Details from Leigh's New Picture of London (1818)
Lord Byron at the Exeter ‘Change

Lord Byron was among the visitors to the Royal ‘Change. In an entry in his diary begun November 14 1813, he wrote:

“Two nights ago I saw the tigers sup at Exeter ‘Change. Except Veli Pacha’s lion in the Morea, who followed the Arab keeper like a dog, - the fondness of the hyaena for her keeper amused me most. Such a conversazione! – There was a ‘hippopotamus’ like Lord Liverpool in the face; and the ‘Ursine Sloth’ hath the very voice and manner of my valet – but the tiger talked too much. The elephant took and gave me my money again – took off my hat – opened a door – trunked a whip – and behaved so well, that I wish he was my butler. The handsomest animal on earth is one of the panthers; but the poor antelopes were dead. I should hate to see one here: - the sight of the camel made me pine again for Asia Minor.”(4)

Chunee the elephant

Chunee the elephant was the star attraction of the menagerie. After arriving in England in 1809, he performed on stage, delighting audiences “for forty successive nights at the Theatre Royal, Covent-Garden”(2) and was often paraded in the street outside the menagerie. But he was not a happy elephant and on 26 February 1826, he went out of control and killed one of his keepers in a fit of bad temper and was subsequently put down for safety reasons.

The end of the menagerie at the Exeter 'Change

After the death of Chunee, the popularity of the menagerie rapidly declined. Cross started a new menagerie at the Surrey Zoological Gardens, and around 1829 the Exeter ‘Change was demolished.

(1) Also known as the Exeter Change - the apostrophe is sometimes dropped.
(2) From Ackermann’s Repository (Jul 1812).
(3) There is some artistic licence in the print of the first floor of the Royal Menagerie, full details of which are given in the accompanying article in Ackermann's Repository.
(4) From Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1839).

Sources used include:
Ackermann, Rudolph, The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (1812, 1814)
Byron, George Gordon, Baron and Moore, Thomas, Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1839)
Leigh, Samuel, Leigh's New Picture of London (London, 1818)
Shepherd, Thomas H, London in the Nineteenth Century, illustrated by a series of views (1829)

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Headdresses and hairstyles for Regency evenings

A collage of 40 Regency headdresses and hairstyles by year 1811-20 from La Belle Assemblée and Ackermann's Repository

Headdresses and hairstyles

The pictures trace the changes in evening headdresses, from the modest turbans of the early Regency, through the penchant for veils and onto tall feather headdresses and the return of turbans, higher than before.

The hairstyles move from neat, high twists with ringlets at the side to dishevelled curls, then styles combed into smoothness before going back to ringlets. By the end of the Regency, hair is being elegantly arranged and ornamented. Throughout the Regency period, flowers are often used to decorate the hair when no headdress is worn.


From La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1811): “A white satin cap, ornamented with crimson or morone coloured glossed silk trimming.” “Hair in full curls, divided rather towards the left side.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Mar 1811): “The hair twisted up behind, and dressed in full curls, ornamented with a bandeau of light-blue twisted crape and roses.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Apr 1811): “A Turkish turban of green crape, with trimming to correspond, with plume on the right side. The hair in small round curls, divided on the right side.”

From La Belle Assemblée (May 1811): With Parisian ball dress – “the hair plaited, and twisted with a double row of pearls.”


From La Belle Assemblée (Jan 1812): “The hair dressed in the antique Roman style, with tresses brought together and confined at the back of the head, terminating either in ringlets or in tow light knots; a braid of plaited hair drawn over a demi-turban formed of plain amber satin, with an elegantly embroidered stripe of white satin, separated by rows of pearl, and a superb spring of pearls in front.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Mar 1812): “Moorish turban of white satin and coloured crape twisted in the front, the same colour as the gown, and fastened on the crown with a ruby ornament to correspond with the broaches.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Apr 1812): “Parisian mob, worn unfastened, of puckered pink, and white crape over pink satin.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Jun 1812): “Anne of Denmark hat, of white satin, with a long white ostrich feather drooping over the front, and surmounted by a small bunch of rose-buds or wild honey-suckles; pearl bandeau discovered on the right side of the head.”


From Ackermann's Repository (Feb 1813): “The hair flat on the sides, and in waved curls in front, divided in the center of the forehead, and confined in full curls at the back of the head, with an apparent stray ringlet falling on one shoulder.”

From Ackermann's Repository (May 1813): “Hair in irregular curls, confined in the Eastern style, and blended with flowers.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Jun 1813): “An Indian turban, of silver frosted crape, decorated with pearl or white beads; and a bunch of spring flowers beneath, blending with the hair over the left eyebrow.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Sept 1813): “Head-dress, a la Parisienne, composed of a small bandeau of diamonds, white roses, and folds of silk the colour of the bodice; over which is disposed fancifully a large transparent Mechlin veil.”


From Ackermann's Repository (Feb 1814): “Hair in dishevelled curls, divided in front of the forehead, and ornamented with clusters of small variegated flowers; a large transparent Mechlin veil, thrown occasionally over the head, shading the bosom in front, and falling in graceful drapery beneath.”

From Ackermann's Repository (May 1814): “The hair, combed smoothly over and carried down low to the back of the head, is loosely twisted, and falls in careless curls over the neck, separated on the centre of the forehead by a pearl ornament or the fleur de lis: it is worn much over the face, in dropping curls, extending below the ear.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Jun 1814): “The hair is combed up smoothly behind, and brought forward, falls in irregular curls over the face, confined upon the crown by a short wreath of flowers.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Aug 1814): “The hair, brought smoothly up behind, terminates upon the crown of the head in a full cluster of curls; a pearl tiara separates it from the front, which falls in ringlets.”


From Ackermann's Repository (Jan 1815): “Hair parted in the centre of the forehead, confined in the Grecian style, and blended with flowers.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Apr 1815): “Hat composed of white satin; narrow turban front, ornamented with a full plume of ostrich feathers.”

From Ackermann's Repository (May 1815): “The hair crossed, with full curls on the forehead and in the neck.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Jun 1815): “Hair in irregular curls, blended with a wreath of lilac.”


From La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1816): Parisian concert dress “The hair dressed in the Chinese style, with a few ringlets next the face, the hind hair brought in rows of plaited braids on the summit of the crown, finished by bunches of dove-coloured ribband, a-la-Montespan.”
From La Belle Assemblée (Mar 1816): Saxe-Coburg dress “Bridal veil, fastened with a brooch of pearl and pink topazes, with the hair simply dressed in light curls and parted on the forehead.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Apr 1816): “The hair arranged a-la-Vandyke, with a bouquet of full blown roses place over the right ear.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Aug 1816): “Hair, cropped and curled full in the back of the neck, and dressed light, and much parted on the forehead: it is ornamented with a superb white ostrich-plume, at the base of which is an aigrette of diamonds.”


From Ackermann's Repository (Jan 1817): “The hair is brought up in a high tuft behind, and the front hair combed back on each side so as to display the forehead; a part of it is disposed in loose ringlets, which fall carelessly over the ears, which they partly shade. The hair is ornamented by a single lily, placed in a bunch of fern.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Mar 1817): “Head-dress, the imperial tocque, composed of white satin; the front, in the form of a tiara, is superbly ornamented with pearls; the crown is set in full it is of a very moderate height: a plume of white feathers, placed upright in front, finishes this tocque. The hair is disposed in light curls over the forehead, and low at the sides.”

From Ackermann's Repository (May 1817): “The hair is dressed in a plain braid across the face, and a few loose ringlets at the sides. The hind hair forms a tuft, which is concealed by the head-dress, a high wreath of fancy flowers.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Jun 1817): “Head-dress the Gloucester turban, composed of white gauze, which is laid on very full; the fullness confined by bands of pearl. A plume of ostrich feathers falls over to the left side.”


From La Belle Assemblée (Mar 1818): “Crown turban of white satin, net and pearls, with tassels of the latter material, and crowned near the summit with a wreath of pink fancy flowers, and pearls.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Aug 1818): “Head-dress, the Kent toque, composed of Parisian gauze of a bright gold colour, richly embroidered in small roses. This toque is made higher than we have observed them lately, particularly in front; the gauze is laid very full on the fore part of the crown; this fullness is formed into large Spanish puffs by two bands of the same material, which confine it: it is worn without any other ornament.”

From Ackermann's Repository (Sept 1818): “Head-dress the coronet cap composed of white satin and tulle, with a slight intermixture of evening primrose satin. The upper part is entirely white satin; it is in the form of a crown; the lower part has a fullness of tulle round the face, which is very becoming.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Oct 1818): “Toque turban of tulle, elegantly worked with straw to correspond, with Turkish foldings in front of crape and straw interspersed.”


From La Belle Assemblée (Jan 1819): “Head-dress composed of pearl cordons and rich plumes of white ostrich feathers.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Jan 1819): “The head-dress consisting of either a beautiful tiara of pearls, or a fancy ornament of downy plumage, or of frosted Italian frivolité; this ornament is, however, almost concealed by a bonnet de Turc, composed entirely of white ostrich feathers, playing in different directions. The stamina of the Turk’s cap, with the pistil, are represented by a small plume of short white heron’s feathers.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Mar 1819): “Small white satin fluted toque with Minerva plume.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Sept 1819): “Plume head-dress, consisting of numerous white down feathers floating over the hair, arranged in full curls, and depending partially over the left side of the head.”


From La Belle Assemblée (Jan 1820): Turban toque of lama gauze, crimson, white, and silver. The hair arranged en Camille.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Feb 1820): “The hair elegantly arranged, and ornamented with gauze, spotted with black velvet, and confined by rows of jet beads.”

From La Belle Assemblée (March 1820): “The head adorned with the regal coronet turban.”

From La Belle Assemblée (Apr 1820): “The hair adorned with silver ears of corn, full blown red roses, and rows of pearl.”

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian historical romance set in the time of Jane Austen. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

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Sources used:
Ackermann, Rudolph, The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (1809-1829)
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (John Bell, 1806-1837, London)