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Monday, 23 December 2013

The answers to my Regency quiz - name that place

Here are the answers to my Georgian places quiz. I have mentioned one Georgian link for each, but I am sure there are more!

Close-up picture of a golden lion on a gate with an elegant building behind

The gate outside Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace, London.
George III's coronation robes are on display here.

Close-up of a Georgian pillar with the word "and" and the edge of a black sign

The entrance to the Pump Room, Bath

The Pump Room, Bath. Jane Austen lived in Bath 1800-1806 and the Pump Room is mentioned in two of her novels - Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. 

A golden ball and cross on top of an elaborate tower

Top of St Paul's Cathedral, London.

Top of St Paul's Cathedral, London.
A thanksgiving service for the recovery of George III from his recent debilitating illness was held here on 23 April 1789.

The Great Court at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Great Court at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Lord Byron and William John Bankes both attended this college.

The rear view of Buckingham Palace

This is the rear view of Buckingham Palace which you can only see from inside the Palace gates. After becoming King, Buckingham Palace became George IV's new architectural project.

The Osmington white horse

The Osmington white horse, depicting George III on horseback, is on the hillside overlooking Weymouth bay where he spent so many holidays.


Chatsworth House

The clue is in the word Cavendo. This is Chatsworth House, home of the Cavendish family, William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, and his wife Georgiana.

Close-up of an elaborate clock face

The clock at Hampton Court Palace

The clock at Hampton Court Palace. Beau Brummell's father was granted a grace-and-favour tenancy in "the Silver Stick Gallery" at Hampton Court in 1782.

 The Royal Crescent, Bath

The Royal Crescent, Bath. Richard Brinsley Sheridan eloped with Elizabeth Linley from her father's house at 11, Royal Crescent, on 18 March 1772.

A white onion-shaped roof

Brighton Pavilion

Brighton Pavilion - George IV's seaside palace.

A black angel riding four black horses

The Wellington Arch

The Angel of Peace descending on the quadriga of war - the sculpture on top of the Wellington Arch opposite Apsley House in London, home of the Duke of Wellington.

A white triangular piece of stonework with classical figures on it

The British Museum

The British Museum, London, founded in 1753.

Twin brick towers with a clock in the centre on a diamond-shaped background

St James' Palace, London

St James' Palace, London, where George IV was born on 12 August 1762.

 The Eneceladus fountain in the gardens at the Palace of Versailles

The Eneceladus fountain in the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, home of the fated French King, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie-Antoinette.

All photographs by Andrew Knowles -

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Frances Bankes' ball at Kingston Lacy 19 December 1791

Kingston Lacy from the garden
Kingston Lacy from the garden
On 19 December 1791, Frances Bankes held a ball at Kingston Hall to celebrate the completion of the alterations to the house which had been going on since her marriage to Henry in 1784. It was also Henry Bankes' birthday.

The alterations

Henry Bankes had completely remodelled Kingston Hall. The principal rooms had been enlarged and new sash windows had been installed nearly everywhere. The entrance was moved from the north side to the east side where visitors now entered under an Ionic porch. A new flight of stone stairs led from the entrance up into the centre of the newly designed house. At the top of the stairs you could turn left into the library or right into the north parlour or go straight ahead into the ballroom which had been created out of the old entrance hall.

Plan of the first floor at Kingston Hall in December 1791
Plan of the first floor at Kingston Hall in December 1791
On display at ball re-enactment (Nov 2013)
 The ball

The ballroom was lit by huge numbers of candles with a splendid chandelier hanging down in the centre. The prospect was so dazzling that one guest declared it was like Aladdin's palace. There were around 140 guests with up to 36 couples dancing. The musicians had travelled from Salisbury to play for the ball. The dancing began at 9pm and continued until 7am in the morning, only stopping for supper at 1am.

The ballroom at the re-enactment  of Frances Bankes' ball (Nov 2013)
The ballroom at the re-enactment
of Frances Bankes' ball (Nov 2013)
In a letter to her mother-in-law, Frances expressed her satisfaction:
We had a much greater number of young Men than young Ladies by which means even the ugliest women in the room were sure to dance every dance unless they preferred sitting still which kept them all in good humour.1

Throughout the evening, guests could partake of refreshments: tea, red and white wine, negus (hot sweetened wine and water) and orgeat (a cooling drink made from barley or almonds and orange flower water) and a steady supply of cakes.


Supper was served at 1am when “the Eating Room and North Parlour Doors were opened, and displayed a very handsome Supper.”2 Long tables were laid out to accommodate all one hundred and forty guests at one sitting.

Frances wrote:
We borrowed all the men servants out of livery in the neighbourhood who were particularly clever and attentive in waiting, and I really believe that not a single Creature had occasion to call twice for any one thing, which is a great deal to say in so large a Company.2
The ballroom at the re-enactment  of Frances Bankes' ball (Nov 2013)
The ballroom at the re-enactment
of Frances Bankes' ball (Nov 2013)

Dancing continued from after supper until breakfast was served around 7am. When breakfast was over, the guests staying at the Hall retired and the other guests left. By 11am, the servants had cleared up the mess and were ready to serve a second breakfast for the guests who had stayed over.

A great success

Frances Bankes was delighted with the evening. She wrote to her mother-in-law that:
I was perfectly satisfied from beginning to end, you know I am very difficult, but every Creature appeared in high good humour.1
Frances Woodley by George Romney (1780-1)
Frances Woodley by George Romney (1780-1)
In the drawing room at Kingston Lacy
A local newspaper report said:
In a word if elegant hospitality and the most attention on the part of the donors, and an assemblage of fashion and beauty seldom seen together, with the utmost good humour and satisfaction pervading the hall, have any merit in entertainments of this kind we may venture to pronounce that this never was or ever will be exceeded.3
1. In a letter from Frances to her mother-in-law quoted in the Ring of Eight leaflet.
2. In a letter from Frances to her mother-in-law quoted in the Kingston Lacy guidebook.
3. From the Ring of Eight leaflet.

Sources used include:
The National Trust, Kingston Lacy (guidebook) (1994)
Leaflets by the Ring of Eight group for the re-enactment of Frances Bankes' ball (Nov 2013)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Regency quiz - name that place

I love quizzes. Every Christmas, I create a new quiz or two for my family and friends to attempt at our Christmas party. This year, I thought I would let my readers share the fun, so here is a Regency quiz for you. Here are 14 pictures of places with a Georgian connection. Where are they?

You can find all the answers here.

Close-up picture of a golden lion on a gate with an elegant building behind

Close-up of a Georgian pillar with the word "and" and the edge of a black sign

A golden ball and cross on top of an elaborate tower

A courtyard with old buildings around it including a clock tower

A building made of Bath-coloured stone with a semi-circle of Georgian pillars

A man riding a horse imprinted in the hillside

An elegant building with the words "Cavendo tutus" on it and fountains in front

Close-up of an elaborate clock face

 A curved line of Georgian pillars with railings in front

A white onion-shaped roof

A black angel riding four black horses

A white triangular piece of stonework with classical figures on it

Twin brick towers with a clock in the centre on a diamond-shaped background

 A funnel of water coming out of a bronze-coloured man's head with long hair and beard

Click here to discover the answers.

All photographs by Andrew Knowles -

Thursday, 12 December 2013

William John Bankes (1786-1855) - Egyptologist and friend of Lord Byron

William John Bankes  - portrait in the Spanish Room, Kingston Lacy
William John Bankes
- portrait in the Spanish Room, Kingston Lacy

William Bankes (11 December 1786 - 15 April 1855) was an antiquarian and Egyptologist and the owner of the Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle estates in Dorset.


William John Bankes was born on 11 December 1786, the son of Henry Bankes, a wealthy Dorset landowner and politician, and Frances Woodley, a celebrated beauty, who was the daughter of the governor of the Leeward Islands. The Bankes estates included the family seat of Kingston Lacy, Corfe Castle, Studland and the Purbeck hills.


William was educated at Westminster School and went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in June 1803, where he became close friends with Lord Byron and gained a reputation for extravagance and wild living. Byron described William as his “collegiate pastor, and master, and patron” and “good-naturedly tolerant of my ferocities”. He declared that William “ruled the roast – or rather the roasting – and was father of all mischiefs”. (1)

Trinity College, Cambridge  from Memorials of Cambridge by CHCooper (1861)
Trinity College, Cambridge
from Memorials of Cambridge by CHCooper (1861)

Through the patronage of Lord Falmouth, who married his sister Ann, William became MP for Truro in 1810. He generally supported the government, but failed to shine in political circles and the speeches he made in parliament were unimpressive. He gave up his seat at the dissolution of 1812.

He later became Tory MP for the University of Cambridge (1822-6), Marlborough (1829-32), and then Dorset (1832-4).

Byron’s fashionable friend

Although only the second son, William became heir to his father in 1806 on the death of his elder brother, Henry, and was given an income of £8000 a year. In 1815, he inherited Soughton Hall in Flintshire from his great grandfather.

During the season of 1812, William and Byron were central figures in society. Byron referred to William as one of his “early friends. He is very clever, very original and has a fund of information: he is also very good-natured; but he is not much of a flatterer”. (2)

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
William proposed to the bluestocking heiress Annabella Milbanke, but was refused. She later married Byron.
Lady Byron, from The Ladies' Monthly Museum (1816)
Lady Byron, from The Ladies' Monthly Museum (1816)
The Grand Tour

After his rejection, William followed in Byron’s footsteps and set out on his own Grand Tour. He followed Wellington’s army through Spain and Portugal, purchasing paintings during the disruption of the Peninsula War.

Over the next eight years, William travelled extensively in Italy, Syria and Egypt. He stayed on Mount Lebanon, crossed the desert to Palmyra, travelled up the Nile, explored to the east of the Dead Sea and became one of the first Europeans to reach Petra. Byron nicknamed him the Nubian Explorer or Discoverer.

He employed an Italian, Giovanni Finati, as his interpreter and guide. Later on, he was accompanied by another Italian, the archaeologist, Giovanni Belzoni.

William the archaeologist

The importance of William’s archaeological work has tended to be undervalued because he published very little apart from Finati’s memoirs. He and his team made detailed plans of various sites including the temple at Luxor which are a very important source for Egyptologists as they are not merely artistic impressions, but accurate records accompanied by careful transcriptions.

A stone slab of hieroglyphics in William Bankes' Egyptian collections at Kingston Lacy
From William Bankes' Egyptian collections at Kingston Lacy
William visited the temple of Rameses II and copied all the wall paintings by candlelight and recorded many objects which have since been lost or destroyed. He carried out excavations at El-Sebua in Nubia and at Abydos, where he found the table of the kings, which is now in the British Museum.

The Philae obelisk

William amassed a collection of Egyptian artefacts many of which are on display in the billiards room at Kingston Lacy. But his most impressive artefact is the Philae obelisk which has sat in the garden at Kingston Lacy since 1839. William employed Belzoni to bring the obelisk to England and it took him twenty years to do it! On the first attempt to move it, it ended up on the river bed. William produced lithographs of the bilingual inscriptions on the obelisk which were a valuable aid to understanding hieroglyphics.

An Egyptian sarcophagus and the Philae obelisk  in the gardens of Kingston Lacy
An Egyptian sarcophagus and the Philae obelisk
in the gardens of Kingston Lacy
Architectural projects

When he returned to England in 1820, William rebuilt Soughton Hall according to his own design, aided by the architect Charles Barry, whom he had met on his travels. Barry later designed the new building for the Travellers Club to which William belonged and the Houses of Parliament.

As soon as he inherited Kingston Hall in 1834, William started to remodel it with Barry’s help. He moved the entrance back to the north front and dug down to create a new basement entrance where visitors could alight from their carriages out of the rain. He created a Loggia (3) and put in a marble staircase. He created a new, bigger dining room and the Spanish Room in which to display his Spanish paintings.
Artefacts from the Egyptian collections at Kingston Lacy
From the Egyptian collections at Kingston Lacy

William’s personal life was beset with scandal. In 1820, he was forced to pay damages to James Silk Buckingham for libel after accusing him of stealing and publishing his research.

Then, in 1823, he was subject to a suit for criminal conversation, that is, adultery, with Anne Hobart, Lady Buckinghamshire.

But by far the most serious scandal revolved around repeated accusations of homosexuality, which was at that time a capital offence. In 1833, he was found not guilty after character references from, among others, the Duke of Wellington, but when further allegations were made in 1841, William fled the country.

Exile and death

William lived in Venice for the rest of his life, leaving his estates in the hands of his brother George. But he continued to transform Kingston Lacy from a distance under the supervision of his widowed sister, Lady Falmouth.

He commissioned Carlo Marochetti to create bronze sculptures of Chief Justice Bankes, Dame Mary and Charles I for the Loggia.

The sculptures of Dame Mary Bankes and Charles I  in the Loggia at Kingston Lacy
The sculptures of Dame Mary Bankes and Charles I
in the Loggia at Kingston Lacy
William died in Venice on 15 April 1855 and was buried in the family vault at Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

(1) From a letter written by Lord Byron to John Murray, 19 October 1820 from Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed Leslie A Marchand (1976)
(2) From A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
(3) A loggia is a roofed gallery, often on a upper storey overlooking a courtyard, which is open to the air on at least one side.

Sources used include:
Baigent, Elizabeth, Bankes, William John (1786-1855) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn Jan 2008, accessed 3 Oct 2013)
Blessington, Countess, A Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington (1893)
Byron, George Gordon, Baron and Marchand, LA (ed) Byron's Letter and Journals (1976)
The National Trust, Kingston Lacy (guidebook) (1994)

Photographs © Andrew Knowles -

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A Regency History guide to The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho  (1806 edition)
Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho
(1806 edition)
The Mysteries of Udolpho is a Gothic romance by Mrs Radcliffe which was first published in four volumes in 1794. It was her fourth novel and proved to be her most popular. Its title is well-known today because it was famously satirised in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey which makes numerous references to it.

You can read more about the connection between The Mysteries of Udolpho and Northanger Abbey here.

But what is Udolpho actually like?

The main characters of Udolpho are full of sensibility and frequently pause to marvel at the scenery through which they are travelling. The heroine has a harrowing time and is habitually moved to tears. Moreover, the narrative is punctuated by various poetical asides which add very little, if anything, to the plot. I confess that I did not personally get on with it very well and found the storyline dragged in places, but I am very glad that I have read it and can now make sense of all the references to Udolpho in Northanger Abbey.

Main characters

Emily St Aubert, the heroine.
Monsieur and Madame St Aubert, her father and mother.
Valancourt, a fellow traveller who falls in love with Emily.
Madame Cheron, Monsieur St Aubert’s sister into whose care Emily is placed.
Signor Montoni, the owner of the Castle of Udolpho, who marries Madame Cheron.
Count Morano, friend of Signor Montoni, whom he wants Emily to marry.
Monsieur Du Pont, a Frenchman who is a prisoner in the Castle of Udolpho and is in love with Emily.
Annette, Madame Montoni’s maid.
Ludovico, a servant of Signor Montoni in the Castle who falls in love with Annette.
Marquis de Villeroi, the recently deceased owner of the Chateau-le-Blanc.
Marchioness de Villeroi, Monsieur St Aubert’s sister
Count de Villefort, the new owner of the Chateau-le-Blanc.
Lady Blanche de Villefort, the Count’s daughter, who becomes Emily’s friend.
Signora Laurentini di Udolpho, alias Sister Agnes.
Dorothée, the old servant at the Château-le-Blanc.
Madame Clairval, Valancourt’s aunt.

Plot summary

(I apologise that this is quite lengthy, but I have no desire to ever read this book again and want to remember what happened!)

Tearful trials 

The Mysteries of Udolpho is set in 16th century France and is the story of Emily St Aubert.

At the start of the book, Emily is living the seemingly ideal life at La Valée, in the beautiful countryside of Gascony with her beloved parents.

Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho  (1806 edition)
Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho
(1806 edition)
Then everything begins to go wrong. First, Emily’s mother becomes ill and dies. Emily is perplexed because she sees her father crying over the miniature of a woman who is not her mother. Then Emily’s father becomes ill and they decide to travel to the Mediterranean coast for his health.

A mystery

At one stage, they lose their way and come near to the deserted mansion of the Marquis de Villeroi. The owner’s name seems to distress Monsieur St Aubert, but the mystery is not explained.

Enter the hero

They meet a fellow traveller called Valancourt and travel some distance together. Emily and Valancourt are attracted to each other and appreciate the beauty of the scenery together. They part company reluctantly and travel on.

They pass through an area where there is a fear of bandits and when someone approaches their vehicle, Monsieur St Aubert shoots him, only to find that he has injured poor Valancourt. Emily and Valancourt spend more time together as Valancourt recovers from his injury.

Death of Monsieur St Aubert

Monsieur St Aubert becomes too ill to travel and they stop near the Count de Villefort’s mansion where they are looked after by peasants in a cottage. Monsieur St Aubert knows that he is dying and makes Emily promise to destroy a paper back in their home without looking at it. He consigns her to the guardianship of his sister, Madame Cheron. Monsieur St Aubert dies and is buried in the nearby convent.

Emily spends some time at the convent and meets Sister Agnes before travelling back to her home in the deepest distress. Valancourt visits and is distressed to find that Emily’s father has died and she is all alone. Emily destroys the paper, but not before she accidentally reads a line which she finds impossible to forget. Emily wishes to remain in her family home, but her aunt, Madame Cheron, insists that she visit her. She cannot afford to stay at home because it appears that her father’s investments have failed.

A heartless aunt

Emily visits her aunt. Valancourt wants to pay Emily court, but is discouraged. But then Emily’s aunt discovers that Valancourt is related to the influential Madame Clairval and she starts promoting the match. Emily and Valancourt are about to be married when Madame Cheron suddenly announces that she has married Signor Montoni.

Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho  (1806 edition)
Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho
(1806 edition)
The new Madame Montoni heartlessly breaks off Emily's engagement to Valancourt and tells Emily that they are going to Venice and then to her husband's estates in Tuscany. Valancourt has heard bad reports about Montoni and asks Emily to marry him secretly, but Emily refuses to go against her aunt’s wishes. 

In Venice, Count Morano falls in love with Emily and proposes marriage. Emily refuses, but Montoni tries to force her to accept. Signor Montoni plans to overcome Emily’s reluctance and they travel into Italy. 

When they leave, Valancourt is distraught, but he is teased by his fellow officers and falls into bad company.

The Castle of Udolpho

Signor Montoni is not kind to Emily’s aunt. He is a gambler and wants her to sign over her own property to him, but she refuses. There is a sudden change of plan. The Count no longer wants Emily to marry Count Morano and they leave for the Castle of Udolpho.

The Castle is a centre for bandits led by Signor Montoni. It comes under attack from other forces. Emily is terrified because there is a second door to her room which she cannot lock. One night, Count Morano enters and tries to abduct her but his plans are foiled and he is badly injured.

The black veil

Emily has heard rumours of ghosts and mysterious tales about the Castle. She goes into a room and finds something hidden beneath a black veil. What she sees is so frightful that she will not go near the room again.

There is a rumour that the Count was married to the former owner of the Castle, Signora Laurentini di Udolpho, and Emily believes that he has killed her and it is her body that lies under the black veil.

Death of Emily’s aunt

Once ensconced in the Castle of Udolpho, Signor Montoni mistreats Emily’s aunt who perversely softens towards Emily and resolutely refuses to sign over her lands which she promises to leave to her niece. Emily is supported by her aunt’s maid, Annette, and Annette’s lover, Ludovico. Emily’s aunt is locked away in a turret and becomes ill under the bad treatment and eventually dies.


Random noises and music give rise to ghost stories, but these prove to be nothing more than a fellow prisoner moving about in secret passages and making music from his cell. Emily learns that he is a Frenchman and believes that Valancourt is the fellow prisoner. A meeting is arranged, but she finds herself being embraced by a complete stranger, Monsieur Du Pont, and not Valancourt. But Emily is not a stranger to Monsieur Du Pont – he has seen her back in La Valée and is in love with her.

After her aunt’s death, Signor Montoni threatens Emily to sign over the property her aunt has bequeathed her. Frightened for her life, she gives in. With the help of the servants and Monsieur Du Pont, Emily escapes from the Castle.

Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho  (1806 edition)
Illustration from The Mysteries of Udolpho
(1806 edition)
The Count de Villefort

They travel back to France and land near the convent where Monsieur St Aubert is buried. They meet Count de Villefort and his wife and daughter, Blanche, the new tenants of the mansion, who invite Emily to stay with them. There are rumours that the mansion is haunted and the Count finds it hard to keep his servants.

One old servant, Dorothée, was with the lady of the manor when she died. She tells Emily the story of the Marchioness de Villeroi and takes her to the room where she died. Her picture is in the room and it looks very like Emily and Emily fears that this lady is her true mother. Emily is terrified because the room appears to be haunted.

Valancourt is unworthy

Emily writes to Valancourt, but when he comes, the Count reveals his previous knowledge of him – that he was leading his son into bad company in Paris – and warns Emily against what Valancourt has become. Heartbroken, Emily vows to part with Valancourt forever. The Count urges Emily to accept his friend Monsieur Du Pont who is in love with her. To try to dispel the rumours of ghosts, Ludovico stays in the supposedly haunted room. In the morning, he is gone.

The mystery of Sister Agnes

Emily visits the convent where old Sister Agnes is dying. She confesses her crime to Emily. Sister Agnes was once known as the Signora Laurentini di Udolpho and had been the Marquis de Villeroi's lover. The Marquis had married  Emily’s aunt (not her mother), but then conspired with Signora Laurentini to poison her. After his wife's death, the Marquis was filled with remorse and insisted that Agnes spend the rest of her life in penance or face the authorities.

What Emily had read in her father’s papers was a reference to the Marchioness de Villeroi, her father’s sister, and it was a miniature of the Marchioness that Emily had seen her father crying over.

The fortuitous reappearance of Ludovico

Emily travels home accompanied by the Count and Lady Blanche. They break their journey in the mountains but find they have come to a hideout of ruffians. Ludovico turns up – it was these people who had kidnapped him from the Count’s home. He helps them escape. Emily becomes a wealthy woman – her aunt’s lands are recovered and her father’s affairs are found to be less desperate than previously thought.

Valancourt is proved worthy at last

The Count de Villefort visits and continues to urge his friend’s suit. But Monsieur Du Pont has heard stories of Valancourt’s kindness and realises that his misdemeanours have been overstated. Valancourt and Emily are reunited at last.

So what was behind the black veil?

Clearly not the body of Signora Laurentini di Udolpho as Emily thought, as she turned out to be Sister Agnes. What Emily saw behind the veil was a human figure, partly decayed, but the figure was not real but made of wax. It had been made as a rather gruesome penance for the Marquis of Udolpho, that he should look upon it for a certain time each day in order to receive pardon for his sins.

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:

Radcliffe, Mrs Ann, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794; 6th edition 1806)