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Saturday, 28 September 2013

The three Charlottes - royal women in the life of George III

I've made a short video called 'The three Charlottes' to introduce three important women in the life of George III: his wife, his eldest daughter and his granddaughter, all named Charlotte. I wrote this speech to give at Casterbridge Speakers - my local Toastmasters International club where I go to improve my public speaking skills. To save you from having to look at me giving the speech, I have put together some pictures to illustrate it. 

The three Charlottes

Queen Charlotte

The first Charlotte is Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, who had to bear the agony of watching her husband go mad. (1)

Queen Charlotte  from Memoirs of her most excellent majesty  Sophia-Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain  by John Watkins (1819)
Queen Charlotte
from Memoirs of her most excellent majesty
Sophia-Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain
by John Watkins (1819)
You can read more about her here.

Princess Royal

The second Charlotte is Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda, George III’s eldest daughter, known as the Princess Royal. Princess Royal was placed in a very bad situation when her husband, the ruler of Württemberg, made peace with Napoleon, making her an enemy of her homeland.

Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda  from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,   Duke of York and Albany  by John Watkins (1827)
Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany
by John Watkins (1827)
Read more about Princess Royal here.

Princess Charlotte of Wales

The third Charlotte is Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, George III’s granddaughter, whose sad, premature death left her husband and the entire country in mourning.

Princess Charlotte  from The Ladies' Monthly Museum  In memoriam (1817)
Princess Charlotte
from The Ladies' Monthly Museum
In memoriam (1817)
Read about Princess Charlotte’s childhood here.
Read about Princess Charlotte’s marriage and death here.

(1) It is thought that George III may have been suffering from porphyria which gave the appearance of madness or he may actually have been insane. Either way, he was mentally incapacitated and became incapable of ruling.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A Regency History guide to Evelina by Fanny Burney

Madame Duval is furious  from Evelina Vol 1 (1808)
Madame Duval is furious
from Evelina Vol 1 (1808)
Evelina or the history of a young lady’s entrance into the world was Fanny Burney’s first novel. She sold the copyright to Mr Lowndes for a mere £20 and it was published anonymously in January 1778. The novel was received with great acclaim and her proud father soon divulged the secret of her authorship.

I read Fanny Burney’s second novel, Cecilia, first, but prefer Evelina. It is written as a series of letters but although this initially put me off, it in no way detracts from the narrative. It is interesting as a social history too – it includes details of visits to many of the London venues of the time – the opera house, Cox’s Museum, the Pantheon, Ranelagh, Vauxhall and Marybone Gardens.

Below is a list of the main characters, with a little description. After that is a plot summary to remind those who have read Evelina what happens and to provide a crib sheet for those who want to know what happens but may not have the time or inclination to read it.

The characters

Evelina’s family:
Evelina Belmont, the heroine, brought up under the name Evelina Anville.
Lady Belmont, Evelina’s mother, who died in childbirth.
Sir John Belmont, Evelina’s father, who denied his marriage to Lady Belmont and abandoned her.
Mr Evelyn, Lady Belmont’s father, who married beneath him.
Madame Duval, Lady Belmont’s vulgar mother who has been living in Paris.
The Branghtons, Madame Duval’s nephew, a silversmith, and his unrefined son and daughters.

Evelina’s friends:
The Reverend Mr Villars, once tutor to Mr Evelyn and now Evelina’s kind guardian.
Lady Howard, an old friend of Lady Belmont’s.
Mrs Mirvan, Lady Howard’s daughter, who takes Evelina to London.
Miss Mirvan, Mrs Mirvan’s daughter who becomes Evelina’s particular friend.
Mrs Selwyn, a redoubtable lady who takes Evelina to Bristol.

Evelina’s suitors:
Lord Orville, a gentleman with impeccable manners and a generous heart.
Sir Clement Willoughby, a bold gentleman who forces his attentions on Evelina.
Monsieur Du Bois, Madame Duval’s friend.
Mr Smith, Mr Branghton’s lodger.

Other characters:
Captain Mirvan, Mrs Mirvan’s ill-mannered naval husband.
Mr Lovel, the fop who Evelina refuses to dance with at her first assembly.
Mr Macartney, Mr Branghton’s lodger who has recently gone into mourning.
Mrs Beaumont, a friend of Mrs Selwyn who lives in Bristol.
Lady Louisa Larpent, Lord Orville’s sister.
Lord Merton, Lady Larpent’s fiancé.

Plot summary

Evelina’s background

Mr Villars was once tutor to a Mr Evelyn who married beneath him and moved to France. The marriage was unhappy and, desirous of protecting his daughter, he appointed his old tutor as her guardian before he died.

Mrs Evelyn then married Monsieur Duval and when her daughter came of age, she sent for her to join her in Paris. Madame Duval and her husband tried to force a distasteful match on Miss Evelyn who rashly agreed to marry Sir John Belmont in order to escape. However, when Sir John discovered that his wife would not receive her mother’s fortune, he destroyed their marriage certificate and denied they had ever been married. Lady Belmont fled to Mr Villars for protection and died giving birth to Evelina whom she consigned to his care.

Evelina goes to London

Evelina pays a visit to her mother’s old friend, Lady Howard, and becomes friends with her granddaughter, Miss Mirvan. A message arrives that Mrs Mirvan’s husband, Captain Mirvan, is coming home from sea and Evelina accompanies the Mirvans to London to meet him.

Evelina makes a mistake

Evelina is very inexperienced and keeps making mistakes. At her first assembly, she refuses to dance with a foppish gentleman, Mr Lovel, but does not realise she is breeching social etiquette when she later accepts the hand of Lord Orville.

Evelina makes another mistake

Evelina attends a ridotto and is asked to dance by a strange gentleman, Sir Clement Willoughby. Unwilling to dance with him or to refuse him and thereby preclude herself from dancing with anyone else, she claims to be engaged. He pursues her boldly and to be rid of him, she implies that her partner is Lord Orville, who rises nobly to the occasion and says he is honoured that she made use of his name.

Madame Duval

Captain Mirvan proves to be very vulgar and argues incessantly with Evelina’s grandmother, Madame Duval, lately arrived from France.

When their carriage breaks down, Monsieur Du Bois, Madame Duval’s friend, tries to carry her across the mud, but they are pushed, presumably by the Captain, and Madame Duval is furious.

Vulgar relations

Evelina meets Madame Duval’s vulgar relations – her nephew, Mr Branghton, who is a silversmith and his children. Lord Orville’s delightful conversation makes a pleasant contrast.
Mr Branghton takes them all to the opera but buys the cheapest possible seats in the one-shilling gallery. Afterwards, Evelina inadvertently finds herself travelling alone in a carriage with Sir Clement and with difficulty prevents him from making love to her.


Madame Duval determines to prove Evelina’s birthright. Lady Howard writes to Sir John Belmont but he refuses to acknowledge that she is his daughter.

The Captain plays a trick

The Captain plays a cruel trick on Madame Duval aided by Sir Clement. She believes she is being attacked by highwaymen and is left tied up in a ditch. She is furious when she learns that the Captain is responsible.

Another visit to London

Madame Duval insists on taking Evelina to London with her for a month or she will cut her out of her will. They visit the Branghtons and meet Mr Smith, their lodger, who takes a fancy to Evelina.

Evelina meets Mr Branghton’s other lodger, Mr Macartney, a Scotch poet in mourning. She sees him with two pistols and fearing he means to commit suicide, she intervenes.

Evelina interrupts Mr Macartney  from Evelina Vol 2 (1808)
Evelina interrupts Mr Macartney
from Evelina Vol 2 (1808)
A disastrous trip to Vauxhall

Evelina visits Vauxhall, where Mr Smith tries to attach himself to her. Evelina and the two Miss Branghtons go down a dark walk and are accosted by some rowdy gentlemen. She is rescued by Sir Clement, but he tries to take advantage of the situation. Evelina bursts into tears and he sees that her lack of protection has given him a false impression of her morals.

Mr Macartneys’ story

Mr Macartney writes his story to Evelina. He had fallen in love with a young English lady whilst in Paris but her father was furious with the connection. His abuse had provoked a quarrel and Mr Macartney had injured the girl’s father with his sword. Mr Macartney had escaped back to Scotland where he confessed all to his mother, only to be told that the man he had fought was his father! Whilst he was in London trying to see his father, he ran out of money. Meanwhile he heard of his mother’s death, and in desperation, he bought a pair of pistols and planned to turn footpad when Evelina had interrupted him.

Another mess

They visit Marybone Gardens to see some fireworks, but Evelina loses her party. Trying to avoid the attentions of an officer, she runs to two women for help, who turn out to be women of ill repute. Arm in arm with these women she runs into Lord Orville! He later calls to caution her and Evelina is overwhelmed by his consideration.

To Evelina’s horror, Madame Duval proposes that she marry Mr Branghton’s son. Learning of this, Monsieur du Bois writes to Evelina of his attachment of her.

Lord Orville’s coach

Evelina and the Miss Branghtons shelter in a shop from the rain. When they discover that Evelina knows Lord Orville, they command the use of his carriage by mentioning her name. Evelina is dismayed, but when applied to, Lord Orville graciously gives them permission to use his coach.

Evelina is very distressed and writes to Lord Orville to apologise. She receives a letter purportedly from Lord Orville full of impertinent affection. She returns home and confesses what has happened to Mr Villars.

A trip to Bristol

Evelina is ill and goes to Bristol with the rich Mrs Selwyn to recuperate. They are invited to stay at Mrs Beaumont’s house where Lord Orville, his sister Lady Louisa Larpent and her fiancé Lord Merton, a dissipated nobleman, are staying.

Evelina meets Lord Orville again and finds him as considerate as ever. Mr Macartney tries to talk to her and Lord Orville jealously suspects an assignation.

Miss Belmont

They go to an assembly where they see a Miss Belmont who claims to be the only daughter and heiress of Sir John Belmont. Lord Orville arranges for Evelina to meet Mr Macartney and she discovers that this Miss Belmont is the lady he loves and that their father is Sir John Belmont. Evelina realises that she is Mr Macartney’s sister.

Mr Villars advises Evelina to give up Lord Orville as her own dubious birth makes the match impossible. She withdraws from Lord Orville who is perplexed at the change in her behaviour.


Lord Orville is jealous of Sir Clement who continues to pester Evelina with his attentions. He confesses his adoration of Evelina and asks permission to write. The truth about the letters comes out – Evelina’s letter was never delivered and Sir Clement was guilty of writing his reply.

Sir John Belmont’s daughter

Mrs Selwyn waits on Sir John Belmont and urges him to acknowledge his daughter. He says that he already has – that Miss Belmont was brought to him by his wife’s nurse and she has recently left the convent where she has been educated.

Evelina accompanies Mrs Selwyn to see Sir John. When he sees her, he knows she is his daughter because of her resemblance to her mother. The infamous behaviour of the nurse is revealed: she had substituted her own child for Evelina.

Mr Macartney is now free to marry the ex Miss Belmont and Evelina marries Lord Orville.

Another cheat guide:

Sources used include:
Burney, Fanny, Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay, edited by her niece, Charlotte Barrett (Henry Colburn, 1846, London)
Burney, Fanny, Evelina or the history of a young lady’s entrance into the world (1808 version)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Ralph Allen - Weymouth's first Georgian tourist

Ralph Allen  from The life and times of Ralph Allen  of Prior Park, Bath, by REM Peach (1895)
Ralph Allen
from The life and times of Ralph Allen
of Prior Park, Bath, by REM Peach (1895)

Ralph Allen (baptised 24 July 1693 - 29 June 1764) was an influential businessman who helped reform the postal service and successfully managed the quarrying and promotion of Bath stone.

Although Allen lived a little before my normal period, he was an important summer resident of the seaside town of Weymouth.
Weymouth bay  from Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide  by E Groves (1835)
Weymouth bay
from Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide
by E Groves (1835)
Humble beginnings

Ralph Allen was baptised on 24 July 1693 in St Columb Major in Cornwall, the son of Philip Allen, an innkeeper. His grandmother kept the post office in St Columb where Allen helped out from an early age.1

Post office career

Allen’s business ability impressed the post office inspector and he was given the chance to move to Exeter post office around 1708 and then Bath a few years later, where he became the deputy postmaster in 1712.

Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey
On 12 April 1720, Allen bought the right to run the cross-post and the bye-way post for the sum of £6,000 a year.2 The cross-post was the relatively new system of sending mail directly from city to city by crossing post roads rather than going via London whilst the bye-way post delivered to the towns along the post roads. This was a risky move as the revenue was only expected to generate £4,000 a year. Allen’s risk paid off. He improved the organization and the system spread across the country generating profits of around £12,000 a year.

The navigation of the River Avon

Allen became friends with Major General George Wade who was MP for Bath from 1722. They worked together on a scheme to make the River Avon navigable, which would enable building materials to be carried between Bristol and Bath. Allen was made Chief Treasurer in 1725 and the scheme was completed in three years.

Prior Park, Bath  from The life and times of Ralph Allen of Prior Park, Bath by REM Peach (1895)
Prior Park, Bath
from The life and times of Ralph Allen of Prior Park, Bath
by REM Peach (1895)

According to Peach, Allen married Wade’s natural daughter, a Miss Earl, in about 1718 and acquired a large fortune in the process, but Buchanan does not mention this marriage at all.

According to Buchanan, Allen married a London merchant’s daughter, Elizabeth Buckeridge, on 26 August 1721. Sadly their only child died in infancy. His wife died in 1736 and on 24 March 1737 he married Elizabeth Holder, of Bathampton Manor House.

Bath stone

Allen invested his wealth in Bath stone – the distinctive honey-coloured stone for which Bath is famous. He acquired quarries at Hampton Down and Combe Down and ran a very profitable business, employing many local people and providing the architect, John Wood the Elder, with the building blocks with which to build Georgian Bath.

Prior Park

The mansion, Prior Park, Bath  from The life and times of Ralph Allen of Prior Park, Bath by REM Peach (1895)
The mansion, Prior Park, Bath
from The life and times of Ralph Allen of Prior Park, Bath
by REM Peach (1895)
Allen had a house near the Abbey in Bath which was enhanced with a new Palladian front designed by Wood. He also designed Allen’s mansion on his newly acquired land at Prior Park, overlooking the city of Bath.

The genial host

Allen was very hospitable and he was regularly visited by writers and painters including Alexander Pope, Henry Fielding, Thomas Gainsborough and David Garrick. He was also visited by politicians such as William Pitt the Elder and by royalty including George II’s sister, Princess Amelia. Another frequent visitor was the Reverend William Warburton, later Bishop of Gloucester, who married Allen’s niece.


Allen was generous with his money and funded the building of Bath General Hospital and housing for his workmen. He served as Mayor of Bath in 1742 and was a Justice of the Peace from 1749.


2 and 2a Trinity Road, Weymouth
2 and 2a Trinity Road, Weymouth
Allen’s wife Elizabeth (née Holder) suffered from bad health and it was suggested that seawater might alleviate her condition. Accordingly, in 1750, the Allens took lodgings in Weymouth and retained William Cuming, a Dorchester doctor, to attend her.

They liked it so much that on 18 September, Allen bought a property in the High Street on the Weymouth side of the town for £400. This house is now 2 and 2a Trinity Road. Weymouth’s first Assembly Rooms were just round the corner.

The Allens spent up to three months each summer in Weymouth, entertaining Allen’s wide circle of influential friends, which in 1758 included Edward, Duke of York, George III’s brother. This helped to establish Weymouth as a successful seaside resort.

Plaque outside 2 Trinity Road, Weymouth
Plaque outside 2 Trinity Road, Weymouth

Allen died at Prior Park in Bath on 29 June 1764 and was buried in Claverton Church on 5 July.

Memorial to Ralph Allen in Prior Park, Bath  from The life and times of Ralph Allen  of Prior Park, Bath by REM Peach (1895)
Memorial to Ralph Allen in Prior Park, Bath
from The life and times of Ralph Allen
of Prior Park, Bath by REM Peach (1895)
Updated 5 March 2020

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes faith-based Regency romance and historical non-fiction. 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.

Find out more about Rachel's books and sign up for her newsletter here.

If you have enjoyed this blog and want to encourage me and help me to keep making my research freely available, please buy me a virtual cup of coffee by clicking the button below.


1. The information about Allen’s early life is rather vague – these are probable rather than definite facts!
2. From Peach's The life and times of Ralph Allen of Prior Park, Bath (1895).

Sources used include:
Boddy, Maureen and West, Jack, Weymouth, an illustrated history (The Dovecote Press, 1983, Wimborne)
Buchanan, Brenda J, Allen, Ralph (1693-1764) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2009, accessed 18 Sept 2013)
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth (The Dovecote Press, 2003, Wimborne)
Groves, E, The Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide (E Groves, 1835, Weymouth)
Peach, Robert EM, The life and times of Ralph Allen of Prior Park, Bath (1895)

Photographs © Regency History 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Lord Byron by Stanfield  from Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1839)
Lord Byron by Stanfield
from Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1839)

George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron Byron (22 January 1788 - 19 April 1824), was a leading poet in the Romantic Movement. His most famous works include The Pilgrimage of Childe Harold and Don Juan.

Family life

George Gordon Byron was born in London on 22 January 1788, the son of Captain John Byron and his second wife, Catherine Gordon. There was one child from his father’s previous marriage, Augusta. Captain 'Mad Jack' Byron was a reckless man who had married Byron’s mother for her money. He soon left his family and died in 1791. Byron lived in Aberdeen with his highly volatile mother.


Byron attended school in Aberdeen, Dulwich and Harrow before going up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1805. One of his more eccentric actions was to keep a tame bear in the tower above his rooms. Here he formed many lasting friendships, in particular, those with William John Bankes, John Cam Hobhouse and Scrope Berdmore Davies.

Lord Byron

In 1794, Byron unexpectedly became heir to his uncle on the death of his cousin. He inherited the title on his uncle’s death on 21 May 1798, becoming the 6th Baron Byron.

On the death of his mother-in-law, Lady Noel, in January 1822, Byron took the name Noel.

Newstead Abbey

Newstead Abbey  from The life of Byron by Thomas Moore (1849)
Newstead Abbey
from The Life of Byron by Thomas Moore (1849)
Byron inherited Newstead Abbey with the title, but discovered that it was in a dilapidated state. At times, he let the Abbey to tenants whilst at others he lived there, liking the romantic aspect of the place.

Byron liked to entertain his friends whilst staying at the Abbey. He wrote: “We went down to Newstead together, where I had got a famous cellar, and Monks’ dresses from a masquerade warehouse…drinking burgundy, claret, champagne, and what not, out of the skull-cup, and all sorts of glasses..”(1)

He sold Newstead Abbey in November 1818 for £94,500.


In June 1807, Byron’s first volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness, was published. In February 1808, the Edinburgh Review ridiculed both the poems and their author. Byron was distraught and in response, he wrote his first satirical poem, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, which was published in March 1809.


Byron took his seat in the House of Lords on 13 March 1809 as a Whig supporter. He made two speeches in the House, both in favour of reform.

The Grand Tour

On 2 July 1809, Byron left England with his friend Hobhouse and went on the Grand Tour. His travels included Lisbon and Malta, Albania and Greece, Smyrna, Ephesus and Constantinople. He returned to England two years later, arriving in Portsmouth on 14 July 1811.

Childe Harold

Lord Byron  from A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
Lord Byron
from A Journal of the Conversations of 
Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
Whilst on his travels, Byron wrote the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage which were published by John Murray on 10 March 1812. It was so popular that it sold out within three days. His success was instantaneous. As Byron later declared:
“I awoke one morning and found myself famous.”(2)
Disabled sportsman

Byron was born with a lame right foot which caused him considerable pain when well-intentioned doctors tried to cure it.

Despite his lameness, Byron was a keen sportsman. He was particularly good at diving and swimming.

Whilst on the Grand Tour, on 3 May 1810, he repeated Leander’s legendary feat of swimming the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos.

Byron’s affairs

Byron was fatally attractive to women.
“Of his face, the beauty may be pronounced to have been of the highest order, as combining at once regularity of features with the most varied and interesting expression.”(3)
His affairs were numerous and his lovers included: Julia Leacroft; Mrs Constance Spencer Smith; Lady Caroline Lamb, wife of William Lamb, later Viscount Melbourne; Lady Oxford; Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley’s step-sister; Marianna Segati; Margarita Cogni; and Countess Teresa Guiccioli.

Lady Caroline Lamb  from Wives of the Prime Ministers (1844-1906)
Lady Caroline Lamb
from Wives of the Prime Ministers (1844-1906)
Augusta Leigh

Byron was also very close to his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. It was rumoured that they had an incestuous relationship and that Augusta’s daughter Medora, born in 1814, may have been fathered by Byron.

Lady Byron
Lady Byron from The Works of Lord Byron (1833)
Lady Byron
from The Works of Lord Byron (1833)
Encouraged by Lady Melbourne, who had become his friend and confidante, Byron proposed to her niece, Anne Isabella 'Annabella' Milbanke, with whom he was already corresponding. Annabella refused, but when he proposed a second time, she accepted and the couple were married on 2 January 1815. Although they appeared to be fond of each other, the marriage was a disaster.


Lady Caroline Lamb described Byron as “Mad, bad and dangerous to know”(4). After his marriage, Byron seemed determined to prove the truth of these words to his new wife. He started behaving erratically and flaunted his past affairs in her face. But worst of all, he hinted at the nature of his relationship with Augusta, alarming both his wife and his sister.

Lady Byron became convinced that he was mad. She gave birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada, on 10 December 1815 and a month later, on 15 January 1816, she left with the baby on a visit to her parents. Byron never saw his wife or daughter again.

Ada Byron from Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1833)
Ada Byron
from Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1833)
To ensure she kept custody of their daughter, Lady Byron threatened to reveal Byron’s hideous crimes to the world. Rumours were rife and Byron was ostracised from the society that had revered him. On 24 April 1816, he left England for good.


Byron travelled through Switzerland and Italy. In Geneva he met Percy Shelley and his wife, Mary, and her step-sister Claire Clairmont, with whom he had indulged a brief affair back in London and who was now pregnant with his child. One wet night, they wrote ghost stories together, resulting in Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Clara Allegra Byron

Claire Clairmont gave birth to Byron’s daughter, Clara Allegra, on 12 January 1817. Hoping to give her daughter a more secure future, she gave Allegra into Byron’s care. Tragically, Allegra died at the convent where she was residing on 20 April 1822, aged five.

Don Juan

Byron wrote the first canto of Don Juan and sent it to his publisher, Murray, who declared that it was “unpublishable”. He eventually yielded, under threat of losing such a lucrative writer, but further arguments between them led to Byron later changing his publisher to John Hunt. Don Juan was extremely readable and proved to be very popular.

The Carbonari

In 1819, Byron embarked on an affair with Countess Teresa Guiccioli. Teresa’s father was involved with the Carbonari, a secret revolutionary group, and Byron’s political zeal was rekindled. When the insurrection failed in 1821, the disillusioned Byron moved to Pisa with Teresa’s family and the Shelleys. More grief followed. On 8 July 1822, Percy Shelley was drowned.

Political activist

In 1823, Byron was persuaded to join the cause for Greek independence. He sailed for Greece, funding a small military force with his own money. He was dismayed to find that the revolutionary leaders were not united, making progress difficult.

Byron joined forces with Prince Alexander Mavrocordatos in Missolonghi on 4 January 1824 and started to plan an assault on Lepanto. However, on 15 February(2), Byron had a violent convulsion, and though he seemed to recover, the assault had to be abandoned.

Illness and death

But Byron’s constitution had been irreparably weakened. He became ill with fever and died on 19 April 1824. Despite his own wishes to be buried in Greece, his body was sent home to England, arriving on 29 June.

Memorial in Hucknall Church  from The Works of Lord Byron (1833)
Memorial in Hucknall Church
from The Works of Lord Byron (1833)

His body lay in state on 9-10 July and then a funeral procession consisting of 47 carriages, accompanied Byron’s hearse out of London. He was buried in the family vault in Hucknall Church near Newstead.

Hucknall Church from The Works of Lord Byron (1833)
Hucknall Church from The Works of Lord Byron (1833)
For more on Lord Byron, see 20 Lord Byron quotes.
More details of his relationship with Lady Caroline Lamb here.

(1) In a letter to Murray from Ravenna (1820) in Thomas Moore's The Life of Lord Byron (1844).
(2) From Life, Letter and Journals of Lord Byron ed Thomas Moore (1839).
(3) From Thomas Moore's The Life of Lord Byron (1844).
(4) From Lady Caroline's diary recorded in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Lady Caroline Lamb by Caroline Franklin (2005)

Sources used include:
Byron, George Gordon, Baron, The Works of Lord Byron (1833)
Byron, George Gordon, Baron and Moore, Thomas, Life, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1839)
Franklin, Caroline, Lamb, Lady Caroline (1785-1828), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2005, accessed 28 Nov 2012)
McGann, Jerome, Byron, George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron (1788-1824) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Oct 2009, accessed 2 Jul 2013)
Moore, Thomas, The Life of Lord Byron (1844)

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Mystery portrait of a Regency gentleman

Charles-Joseph-Laurent Cordier
John Klawitter's painting
A mystery portrait

I recently received an email from John Klawitter asking me about this painting which he and his wife had inherited. It is a portrait of an unknown gentleman by an unknown painter and he wondered if I could shed any light on it.

What does the painting show us?

The gentleman is wearing a dark, probably blue, double-breasted coat with a red ribbon on his left lapel. His shirt collar is high and he wears a white neck cloth adorned by some kind of silver brooch. His hair is dark and wavy and he has sideburns, which look quite similar to Beau Brummell’s.

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)
In the background there are some ruins – maybe part of the Forum in Rome.

"Campo Vaccino" - the Roman Forum  from A New Picture of Rome by Marien Vasi (1824)
"Campo Vaccino" - the Roman Forum
from A New Picture of Rome by Marien Vasi (1824)
What can we learn from this?

The clothes and hairstyle would indicate that the portrait was probably painted in the early 19th century. The ruins in the background immediately suggested to me that it might have been painted to celebrate the gentleman’s Grand Tour – probably painted in Rome, as often happened.

My research

Armed with these clues I searched on the internet for early 19th century portrait artists who had painted in Rome. I came up with the name of the French painter Jacques-Louis David, but I was by no means convinced. Then I looked at the work of his pupil, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and to my amazement and delight, there was the gentleman in the painting amongst his work!

The gentleman finds a name

The subject of the portrait is Charles-Joseph-Laurent Cordier and on some websites the painting title gives an indication of who he was: "Charles Cordier (1777-1870), Inspecteur des domaines à Rome et Paris."

He was painted in oils by Ingres in 1811 who was based at the Villa Medici in Rome at this time. The painting is owned by the Louvre, Paris.

But who painted this portrait?

One mystery solved. But the other question remains: who painted John’s portrait?

John’s painting differs from the one in the Louvres by a few details such as the fob. Could Ingres have made the copy himself or was it painted by another artist? Was it a contemporary copy or was it painted many years after? Any ideas?

Sources used include:
Bourke, Hon. Algernon, The History of White's (1892)
Vasi, Marien, A New Picture of Rome and its environs, in the form of an itinerary (1824)