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Thursday, 31 October 2013

The International Living History Fair 25-27 October 2013

The International Living History Fair
I am talking to Joanna Tyrrell of Embellished
Last week, my husband and I made our way to the International Living History Fair being held in Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground near Lutterworth in Leicestershire. I confess that it was a little tricky to find, being somewhat out of the way, but we knew that we had come to the right place when we spotted people in historical costumes lolling around the car park.

A re-enactors’ market

Our visit was a reconnaissance mission: we had never been to one of these fairs before and were interested to find out what was there. The answer was obvious even before we walked through the entrance – we had come to a gathering of enthusiasts. The fair consisted of a wide range of different exhibitors ready to equip the historical re-enactor with anything from a full set of armour to historically correct footwear, from a medieval dress to beautiful hand-made buttons. Some items were ready to be bought and taken home, eg buttons, pockets, books, magazines, jewellery and material, whilst others, eg armour or a Georgian riding habit, had to be commissioned or contact details taken for a later time.

Enthusiastic experts

The real benefit of the fair was the drawing together of historical experts from lots of different fields. These people were there, not only to sell their wares, but to talk about their areas of expertise. Being a Georgian and Regency enthusiast, I had no intention of buying a suit of armour, but I had a fascinating talk with an armourer who explained how he had replicated pieces of antique armour to go on display at the Royal Armouries.

Joanna Tyrrell of Embellished shared with me her knowledge of the history of buttons and allowed me to try on her pockets. (My newsletter this month will include a photo of me wearing the pockets. I had no idea how long they were!)

Fortunately for me, Izabela Pitcher of Prior Attire was dressed in her gorgeous Regency riding habit on the day I visited. I was fascinated to learn that she rides side-saddle in her Regency splendour and she explained how today’s side-saddles are much safer than they were in Regency times, when there was a real risk of coming out of your saddle when jumping fences. I fell in love with the pictures of Izabela’s 1790s dress that seemed just the sort of dress that the Duchess of Devonshire would have worn. I had better start saving…

Prior Attire at the International Living History Fair
A great place to go

We had an enjoyable afternoon at the fair. I thought that the entrance price was a bit expensive for what was there, but if seen as a ticket to the stallholders’ expertise, it was better value. I would have liked to have seen more Georgian era stalls, but I am a bit narrow minded! Even with the “have a go” archery corner, I don’t think the event was really suitable for children.

But if you are a historical re-enactor or would like to become one, then the International Living History Fair is a great place to go.

For details of the next fair, see the International Living History Fair website.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Clever quotes by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
from Memoirs of the Life of Richard 
Brinsley Sheridan by T Moore (1825)

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (30 October 1751 - 7 July 1816) was an Irish playwright and Whig MP. His most famous works include The School for Scandal and The Rivals.

Read about Richard Brinsley Sheridan's life here.

Here is a selection of quotes from Sheridan's life and works.

1. “In all undertakings which depend principally on ourselves, the surest way not to fail is to determine to succeed.” In a letter to Mr Linley (1776)1

2. “The Right Honourable gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests, and to his imagination for his facts.”
Speech in reply to Mr Dundas in the House of Commons1

3. On 24 February 1809, Sheridan's theatre, the Drury Lane, burnt down. When his calmness was commented on by a friend who met him at the Piazza coffee house, watching his theatre burn, he is reputed to have said:

“A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”1

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1809
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1809
from a publication of The Critic (1897)
4. “You write with ease, to show your breeding,
     But easy writing’s vile hard reading.”2

5. “A bumper of good liquor
     Will end a contest quicker
     Than justice, judge or vicar.”3

6. “Conscience has no more to do with gallantry than it has with politics.”3

7. “I was struck all on a heap.”3

8. “You blockhead, never say more than is necessary.”4

9. “Illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.”4

10. “’Tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion.”4

11. “He is the very pineapple of politeness.”4

12. “An aspersion upon my parts of speech!”4

13. “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”4

14. “Our ancestors are very good kind of folks; but they are the last people I should choose to have a visiting acquaintance with.”4

15. “The quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands – we should only spoil it by trying to explain it.”4

16. “My valour is certainly going! – it is sneaking off! – I feel it oozing out as it were at the palms of my hands!”4

17. “To smile at the jest which plants a thorn in another’s breast it to become a principal in the mischief.”5

18. “You shall see them on a beautiful quarto page where a neat rivulet of text shall meander through a meadow of margin.”5

19. Mrs Candour: “I’ll swear her colour is natural – I have seen it come and go.
Lady Teazle: “I dare swear you have, ma’am; it goes of a night and comes again in the morning.”5

20. “An unforgiving eye, and a damned disinheriting countenance!”5

21. “Tale bearers are as bad as the tale makers.”5

22. “The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villainous – licentious –abominable – infernal – Not that I ever read them – No – I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.”6

23. “If it is abuse, - why one is always sure to hear of it from one damned goodnatured friend or another!”6

24. “There is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as envy!”6

25. “O Lord, Sir – when a heroine goes mad she always goes into white satin.”6

26. “The number of those who undergo the fatigue of judging for themselves is very small indeed.”6

27. “The throne we honour is the people’s choice.”7

28. “Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.”
 To a young lady.8

A pink rose

Read about Sheridan's life here.
Read about Sheridan's affair with the Duchess of Devonshire's sister, Harriet, Lady Bessborough.

Other collections of quotes:
Quotes by Lord Byron
Quotes by Beau Brummell
Quotes from Pride and Prejudice

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era 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.

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(1) From Thomas Moore’s Memoirs of the Life of RH Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1825)
(2) From Clio’s Protest (written 1771, pub 1819)
(3) From The Duenna (1775)
(4) From The Rivals (1775)
(5) From The School for Scandal (1777)
(6) From The Critic (1779)
(7) From Pizarro (1799)
(8) Attributed to Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Sources used include:
Moore, Thomas, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan 1825
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, Clio's Protest (written 1771 published 1819)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, Pizarro (1799)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The Critic (1779)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The Duenna (1775)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The Rivals (1775)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The School for Scandal (1777)

Photographs by ©

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The christening of Queen Victoria - 24 June 1819

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria
  by Dalton after F Winterhalter
from The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (1912)
The birth of Queen Victoria

With the death of Princess Charlotte, George IV's daughter, in 1817, the prospects for the monarchy were bleak. Although 12 of George III's 15 children were still living, not a single one of them had a legitimate child. The Duke of Sussex's marriage had been declared illegal whilst the Duke of York's was childless. The Duke of Cumberland had married in 1815, but was yet to produce a child. The race was on to provide an heir to the throne.

In 1818, the Dukes of Clarence, Kent and Cambridge all got married. The Duke of Clarence's marriage sadly produced no surviving children, but the Dukes of Cumberland and Cambridge both had sons in 1819 whom they named George. But any child of the Duke of Kent would stand before them in the line for the throne. On 24 May 1819, a daughter was born to the Duke of Kent and his wife, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Edward, Duke of Kent
Edward, Duke of Kent
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany
by John Watkins (1827)
Choosing the names for a future monarch

As a matter of form, the Duke and Duchess of Kent proposed various names to the Regent for him to approve: Victoire or Victoria after her mother, Georgiana after the Regent, Alexandrina after the Tsar and Charlotte and Augusta, after her aunts, or possibly after her grandmother and great grandmother.

The Regent chooses to be difficult

George chose to be awkward. He announced that he did not like to put his own name before the Tsar’s, but neither did he wish his name to appear after it. He would not contemplate the baby being given the name of his poor dead daughter and declared that Augusta was “too majestic”.

George, Prince Regent
George, Prince Regent,
from Memoirs of her late
royal highness Charlotte Augusta
by Robert Huish (1818)
The christening of Queen Victoria

The Regent insisted that the christening should be a strictly private affair to be held in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace on 24 June 1819 at 3pm. The baby's godparents were the Prince Regent, Tsar Alexander, the Dowager Duchess of Coburg (the baby's grandmother) and the Princess Royal, widow of the King of Württemberg. However, only the Prince Regent was at the christening - the others were represented by the Duke of York, Princess Augusta and Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester. The only other guests were the Duke of Gloucester, the Duchess of York and Prince Leopold, Princess Charlotte's bereaved husband.

When the christening service began, nobody knew what names the baby was to be given. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton, with the baby in his arms, sought enlightenment from the parents and then the Regent. At length, the Regent declared that the baby was to be called Alexandrina. The Duke of Kent proposed Elizabeth, but the Regent dismissed that suggestion and reluctantly agreed to the baby being given her mother’s name, though he insisted that it had to follow the name of Tsar. So the baby was named Alexandrina Victoria and as a small girl, she was often called Drina.

"The English like Queens"

The Dowager Duchess of Coburg, the Duchess of Kent’s mother, wrote to her daughter that she hoped she was happy with a girl. “The English like Queens,” she wrote. The Duke of Kent was delighted, referring to his daughter as his "pocket Hercules". He proudly showed her off, urging people to “look at her well, for she will be Queen of England.” And he was right.

Sources used include:
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (1972, Longmans, 1973, Allen Lane, London)
Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria (HarperCollins, 2000, London)
Victoria, Queen, The Girlhood of Queen Victoria, A Selection from Her Majesty's Diaries between the years 1832 and 1840, edited Viscount Esher 2 Volumes (1912)

Friday, 18 October 2013

George's seaside adventure - George III in Weymouth

George III  from The History of the Reign of George III   by Robert Bissett (1822)
George III
from The History of the Reign of George III
 by Robert Bissett (1822)
George 's seaside adventure

George III was a frequent visitor to my home town of Weymouth. He visited nearly every year between 1789 and 1805. In my presentation, George’s seaside adventure, I talk about the King’s first visit to Weymouth in 1789 and share two of the more unusual things that happened to him on that occasion.

Did it really happen like that?

Both anecdotes are recorded by Fanny Burney in the Diaries and letters of Madame d'Arblay (1). Fanny was second keeper of the robes to Queen Charlotte at the time and accompanied the royal party to Weymouth. Apparently the mayor of Weymouth really did have a wooden leg. Unfortunately, though his excuse for not kneeling was perfectly reasonable, the rest of his party followed his lead, and none of them knelt before the King and Queen!

Fanny Burney  from Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay (1846)
Fanny Burney
from Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay (1846)
The whole country celebrated the King’s recovery from his incapacitating illness with zeal. Everywhere the King went, crowds of people turned up to see him, frequently launching into the national anthem and cheering His Majesty. Weymouth was no exception.

Fanny Burney wrote:
"The king, and queen, and princesses, and their suite, walked out in the evening; an immense crowd attended them—sailors bargemen, mechanics, countrymen; and all united with so vociferous a volley of "God save the king," that the noise was stunning." (2)
"The preparations of festive loyalty were universal. Not a child could we meet that had not a bandeau round its head, cap, or hat, of "God save the king;" all the bargemen wore it in cockades and even the bathing-women had it in large coarse girdles round their waists. It is printed in golden letters upon most of the bathing-machines, and in various scrolls and devices it adorns every shop and almost every house in the two towns." (2)
The story of the band playing when George III went for his first dip was famously caricatured in John Nixon’s print.

Royal dipping – print by John Nixon, published   by William Holland (1789)  © British Museum
Royal dipping – print by John Nixon, published
 by William Holland (1789)  © British Museum
Fanny Burney wrote:
"The king bathes, and with great success; a machine follows the royal one into the sea, filled with fiddlers, who play "God save the king," as his majesty takes his plunge!" (2)
Read more about George III in Weymouth.

If you enjoyed this video, you might like my other YouTube videos:
The three Charlottes – Queen Charlotte, Princess Royal and Princess Charlotte of Wales.
A litter of cupolas – Brighton Pavilion in 1823.
Regency History's YouTube channel.

(1) Madame d'Arblay is Fanny Burney's married name.
(2) From the Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay by Fanny Burney (1846)

Sources used include:
Burney, Fanny, Diary and letters of Madame D'Arblay, edited by her niece, Charlotte Barrett (Henry Colburn, 1846, London)
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth (The Dovecote Press, 2003, Wimborne)

Friday, 11 October 2013

Regency History's guide to Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy from the garden
Kingston Lacy from the garden
Where is Kingston Lacy?

The Kingston Lacy estate is situated near Wimborne in Dorset.

Kingston Lacy
Kingston Lacy

Sir John Bankes, MP and Lord Chief Justice, bought the Isle of Purbeck, Corfe Castle and the Kingston Lacy estate in 1635-6. During the Civil War, Sir John’s wife defended the castle for the King, but was defeated in 1646, and Corfe Castle was destroyed by the Parliamentarians.

Bronze relief of the siege of Corfe Castle,  in the house at Kingston Lacy
Bronze relief of the siege of Corfe Castle,
in the house at Kingston Lacy
In 1663, Sir John’s son, Sir Ralph Bankes, commissioned the architect Roger Pratt to design a new family seat on the Kingston Lacy estate. The building and furnishing of Kingston House put Sir Ralph seriously into debt and his son was obliged to lease it to the 1st Duke of Ormonde to save money. In 1693, the family was able to return to Kingston Hall and it remained the residence of the Bankes family until 1981 when it was given to the National Trust, as part of a huge bequest which included Corfe Castle and much of the surrounding land.

Georgian connection

Kingston Lacy was owned by the Bankes family throughout the Georgian and Regency periods.

Henry Bankes (1698-1776) inherited from his brother John in 1772 and, although already in his seventies, he reorganised the estate with great determination.

Henry Bankes the Younger (1757-1834) was a Tory MP and a trustee of the British Museum. He was married to Frances Woodley, a renowned beauty. His alterations to Kingston House included the creation of a ballroom.

William John Bankes (1786-1855) was a friend of Lord Byron and travelled extensively. He was an early Egyptologist and his acquisitions included the Philae obelisk. His modifications to Kingston House included the creation of the Spanish room to house his collection of Spanish paintings and a grand marble staircase. He was forced into exile in 1841 due to accusations of homosexuality.

The sarcophagus and the Philae obelisk, Kingston Lacy
The sarcophagus and the Philae obelisk
George Bankes (1787-1856) managed the family estates in his brother William’s absence. His widowed sister, Anne, Lady Falmouth, lived at Kingston Lacy from 1841 whilst he lived on the family’s Corfe estate. George was married to Georgina Charlotte Nugent, reputedly the illegitimate daughter of Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, by Lady Nugent. He was Tory MP for Cambridge and opposed Catholic emancipation and the reform bill. He was mayor of Corfe three times and wrote The Story of Corfe Castle and of Many who have Lived There (1853).

What is there to see today?

Kingston Lacy is owned by the National Trust. Particular things to look out for are:
• The original keys of Corfe Castle on display in the library.

The keys of Corfe Castle
The keys of Corfe Castle
• The portrait of Frances Woodley by George Romney in the drawing room (what was the ballroom in her day).

The drawing room, Kingston Lacy  - the portrait of Frances Woodley is on the right
The drawing room, Kingston Lacy
- the portrait of Frances Woodley is on the right
• The portrait of Charlotte Dee, Lady Nugent, the Duke of Cumberland’s mistress and mother to George Bankes’ wife Georgina, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, on display in the drawing room.
• The marble staircase.
• The bronze sculptures of Sir John and Lady Bankes and Charles I sitting above a relief of the siege of Corfe Castle on the half-landing up the marble staircase.

Sculpture of Lady Bankes
Sculpture of Lady Bankes
• William Bankes’ Spanish room, displaying his collection of Spanish paintings.
• William Bankes’ Egyptian collection in the billiards room.

Part of William Bankes' Egyptian collection
Part of William Bankes' Egyptian collection
• The Philae obelisk on the south lawn. Be sure to read the metal plates around the bottom – they are quite amusing! You can read more about the Philae obelisk here.
• The sarcophagus on the south lawn.

The sarcophagus and the Philae obelisk, Kingston Lacy
The sarcophagus and the Philae obelisk
Last visited October 2013.

Sources used include:
Bankes, George, The Story of Corfe Castle, and of Many who Have Lived There (1853)
The National Trust, Corfe Castle (guidebook) (1985)
The National Trust, Kingston Lacy (guidebook) (1994)

Photographs by Andrew Knowles -

Friday, 4 October 2013

Regency History's guide to Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle
Corfe Castle
Where is Corfe Castle?

Corfe Castle is in the village of the same name near Wareham in Dorset.


Corfe Castle was built for William the Conqueror around 1086 and during the early 1200s it was a favourite fortress of King John. It remained a royal residence until 1572 when Queen Elizabeth I sold it to Sir Christopher Hatton, who later became the Lord Chancellor.

Lady Bankes  from The Story of Corfe Castle by G Bankes (1853)
Lady Bankes
from The Story of Corfe Castle by G Bankes (1853)
In 1635, the castle was purchased by Sir John Bankes, the Lord Chief Justice, and it was defended by his wife, Lady Bankes, on behalf of the King during the Civil War. The castle held out against a siege by the Parliamentarians in 1643 and was only defeated during a second siege by the betrayal of one of Lady Bankes’ own officers.

Keys of Corfe Castle on display at Kingston Lacy
Keys of Corfe Castle on display at Kingston Lacy
In recognition of her bravery, Lady Bankes – “Brave Dame Mary” - was allowed to keep the castle keys (1). Parliament voted for the castle’s demolition and it was destroyed by explosives in 1646, creating the ruin that remains today.

The Bankes family built a new home at Kingston Lacy and this was given to the National Trust, along with Corfe Castle, in 1981.

Georgian connection

Corfe Castle from The Lady's Magazine (1789)
Corfe Castle from The Lady's Magazine (1789)
The romantic ruin of Corfe Castle was a popular visitor attraction in the Georgian period. It is mentioned in the local guidebooks of the time.

The Weymouth Guide (1785) describes Corfe Castle as “one of the finest ruins in Europe”. (2)

The Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide (1835) states:
“The vast fragments of the king’s tower, the round tower leaning as if ready to fall, the broken walls, and the huge mass hurled into the vale below, form such as scene of havoc and devastation, as must strike the spectator at once with horror and regret.” (3)
Corfe Castle
Corfe Castle
A guidebook from 1857 gives a short history of the castle and then concludes:
“We recount these deeds to show the spirit and conduct of times happily passed away. These beautiful ruins bear not the guilt of those perpetrations; and in them, it may be, is set forth a moral lesson, safe to learn and good to practise: hence, in contemplating the ruins of Corfe Castle, we may realize that there are ‘sermons in stones, & c.’ ” (4)
Corfe Castle
Corfe Castle
What is there to see today?

• A ruined castle!

Corfe Castle
Corfe Castle
 • Great views

View from Corfe Castle
View from Corfe Castle
Last visited September 2013.

(1) The keys of Corfe Castle are on display at Kingston Lacy.
(2) From The Weymouth Guide (1785)
(3) From The Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide (1835)
(4) From Weymouth as a Watering Place (1857)

Sources used include:
Bankes, George, The Story of Corfe Castle, and of Many who Have Lived There (1853)
Delamotte, Peter, The Weymouth Guide (1785, Weymouth)
Groves, E, The Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide (E Groves, 1835, Weymouth)
Simpkin & Marshall, Weymouth as a Watering Place (Simpkin & Marshall, 1857, London)
The Lady's Magazine (1789)
The National Trust, Corfe Castle (guidebook) (1985)

Photographs by Andrew Knowles -