Sunday, June 29, 2008

American Release Date Blues

I'm getting a little nervous about my opportunities of seeing The Duchess. It's a given that it will be in my beloved England before it reaches the states. But when will it reach the states?

I remember, right before moving back from the UK, seeing a poster for Atonement in a bus stop. After I had moved back, I saw the trailer on television months later. This recollection brings a sense of dread to my fangirl heart. IMDB informs me that it will be released September 19th in limited theaters, which also makes me sad because 'limited engagement' usually doesn't work out too well.

For those of us in the colonies, the future looks dim for getting to see this movie in a timely manner. Until then, I will be feverishly checking IMDB, the official movie site, and this great little find for any updates. Oh, any maybe looking for bargain deals for flights to London.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Favorites

George Romney, Lady Altamont, 1788

I wish I could find some information about this lady because I find her portrait just hypnotizing. She has such a unique look to her. She reminds me of a British Nerfertiti actually. Romney's smoky brush strokes mixing with the blue accents of her skin cause a calming, mysterious atmosphere. What I can't take my eyes away from is Lady Altamont's fabulous hair and dress! I only wish this was a full-length so we could see her whole gown.

The Rubens Wife Phenomenom




















A
bout a hundred years after Rubens painted a full-length portrait of his Wife, England discovered it. And for whatever reason they could not get enough of it. The so-called Rubens Wife trend in 18th century English fashion was something that either did not go out of style or kept coming back in style. It also bred the Van Dyck trend in fashion, which did not discriminate between the sexes. Both of these Dutch trends in clothing were pricey and would only be sported by the rich at masquerades and in portraits. These displays in portraits varied from trying to directly mimic Helena Fourment's dress and pose to variations on both. Many of the sitters would hold the ostrich feather to show the connection to the old portrait, such as Lady Oxeden (above) in the 1755 portrait by Thomas Hudson. One of the more famous examples is Gainsborough's The Hon. Mrs Graham from 1775. Interestingly, the dress worn by Mrs. Graham was a figment of the artists vivid imagination. This style borders on the Van Dyck style which can usually be distinguished by the lace collar and 17th century Dutch clothing spin-offs. Again, this style ranges in portraits from about the 1730's to the 1790's. A famous example of this style would be another Gainsborough, now known as The Blue Boy (left) from 1770. The Van Dyck style was very appealing to men for their self-portraits, even Georgiana's brother John 2nd Earl Spencer was depicted in Van Dyck style by Reynolds in 1774. Georgiana, however, choose not to go in the Van Dyck style in her accompanying portrait that was commissioned with it. Soon, the two Dutch Golden Age vogues became so common that they were hardly noticeable as distinctively Dutch. They soon melded with the rest of the English styles to form something, well distinctively 18th century English.

Tart of the Week: Elizabeth Chudleigh


After recently finishing a book on this tart I think there is no better time than the present to discuss her actions of qualifying tartdom. Elizabeth Chudleigh was one of the premiere tarts of England in the 18th century. Her adolescent beauty attracted much attention and was the cause for appointing the title-less girl a position of Maid of Honour to the Pincess Augusta of Wales in 1743. The position paid a modest £200 a year I believe which was barely enough to cover Elizabeth's expanding lifestyle. She had many admirers, most being young lords. But for some reason the naive Elizabeth fell in lust with Augustus Hervey (a relative of Bess Foster), the commoner son of a Lord who was crazy for her. They barely new each other when he proposed. A secret marriage ceremony at night followed, with few witnesses. The bride and groom quickly rushed up to an inn to consummate their marriage and in the morning Hervey left for his naval duty. Elizabeth quickly realized the mistake she made. Married women were not allowed to be Maids of Honour and therefore she would loose her much-needed income. Hervey's salary was meager and therefore not suitable for the life Elizabeth dreamed of living. The marriage was kept safely secret. A baby was born and soon died, slipping under the radar of the societal gossips. Rumors circulated but were never followed up upon. Soon Elizabeth began ignoring her husband to the point of no contact. Hervey gave up trying and the two began detesting each other to the point where they both pretended the marriage had never happened. And why should they, the witnesses were few and elderly and there was no paperwork to prove its existence.

As a Maid of Honour (ha ha!) Elizabeth enjoyed the glamorous court life that her Princess was not really partaking in as much. Masquerades were coming into vogue at the time in England with the addition of venues such as The Pantheon. Elizabeth shocked many one night at the masquerade by showing up as "Iphigenia ready for the sacrifice." Although we can't be sure exactly how her costume looked, she was considered to be in a state of undress. Many prints were made of her supposed outfit, all different. A Big fan of the costume was King George II who upon seeing her, asked her if he could touch her exposed breast, Elizabeth responded by taking his hand and saying "Your Majesty, I can put it on a far softer place." She then guided his hand to his own head. What! Liz, you sly beast. The King was delighted, but most were not, including the other Maids of Honour. The refused to speak to her, despite being tarts themselves. She out-tarted even them.

Later in life, Elizabeth, still as a Maid of Honour, became the mistress of the Duke of Kingston, a handsome old bachelor Duke. However, when she heard that Hervey was next in line as the Lord of Bristol she immediately got paperwork from the dying vicar who conducted her marriage. Her greed would come to haunt her later. In 1769 the elderly Duke made Elizabeth's dreams come true by marrying her. Unfortunately he died soon afterwards, and Elizabeth was devastated because she did truly love him. Things only got worse for Elizabeth after that. The Meadows family, feeling Elizabeth seduced the Duke into neglecting them their rights to his money, researched and brought to public her crime of bigamy. Oops, yes Elizabeth was still married to the very much alive, Lord of Bristol. This culminated in many lawsuits and trials, most notably the trial by peers, which was the talk of the town. All the aristocrats crowded into Westminster Hall to witness her humiliation. She was found guilty and striped of her title of Duchess of Kingston, which she never truly gave up. The crime for bigamy was to be branded on the thumb but the sly Duchess/Countess managed to evade that as well. Her remaining days were spent traveling the continent and avoiding more lawsuits. Despite her misgivings, Elizabeth was a forgiving soul, and even lent money to the same family who ruined her with charges of Bigamy.

For more information on this tart check out, Scandalous Women.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Julie Heffernan, bringing Baroque back!

My last post made a mention of Julie Heffernan who is my favorite contemporary artist. Since she is amazing I thought I'd give her some shameless promotion because she uses art historical references in her work, some being from the 18th century. All her works are titled as self-portraits but in fact, most show a defrocked aristocratic woman of the past. This is because she believes anything an artist makes is a representation of self. Infanta Maria Teresa and Madame de Sade are two frequently depictions in her work, two interesting women whose lives are overshadowed by their extravagant husbands. Heffernan strips her figures and then forms a story in the detail of her painting, which only the keenest of minds may be able to pick up. These depicted stories weave a magnificent costume on the once neglected women, turning them into an extravagant display of beauty and nature. Her fantastic creations are comparable with rococo splendor and luckily for me, I can usually find her in my humble colonies.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Righty and Lefty

Now artists and politics are notorious for not mixing well. Two great examples of that would be David and Hitler. While artists should never give up their day job for politics, they historically can be successful involving themselves minimally in politics. Of course I am specifically thinking of Gainsborough and Reynolds when I say this.

The two artists were notorious rivals and actually quite opposite of each other. Gainsborough was rather reserved and tended to side with King George on political issues, therefore he was associated with the Tories. On the opposite spectrum was Reynolds, who was more outspoken and bold. He was the head of the Royal Academy and therefore left King George no choice to name him as the royal painter. Reynolds' political views tended to be more liberal and his friends tended to be Whigs, creating a further polarity between him and the quiet Gainsborough. The royal family actually always preferred Gainsborough, and continued to commission works from him even after naming Reynolds the royal painter.

I find that comparing both artists' depictions of their politician counterparts produces some interesting results. Charles James Fox and William Pitt the Younger were political rivals just as Gainsborough and Reynolds were artistic ones. Judging from their portraits, the individual artists' aesthetic styles aren't the only things separating the sitters. Fox's girth strongly contrasts with Pitt's narrow frame. Fox sloppily wears blue while Pitt favors a neat black. Reynold's cakey application of paint accurately displays the psychological boldness of Fox. The wispy strands that distinguish Gainsborough's strokes meet in a cohesive and neat form to display Pitt, who devoted himself to peacing together a neat infrastructure of government out of the surrounding chaos. The amazing contemporary artist, Julie Heffernan theorizes that every painting an artist creates is a self-portrait because it shows the artist; these examples make truth of her statement.

Despite being rivals, both artists remained successful. Aristocrats such as Georgiana were rich enough to be painted multiple times by both artists. I think Reynolds' esteem and general fondness for her shines through in his images of her in comparison to Gainsborough's, which seem seem to falter usually for him. However I should note that Gainsborough did throw down his brush in frustration upon his dissatisfaction of being able to portray her likeness. Ah, the price of perfection!

Left: Gainsborough, 1783 Right: Reynolds, 1776

Hair How-to's

So this chick, Amy B, on youtube has a bunch of hair and make-up how-to's which are instructional and fun. This is her video for how to make a coiffure/pouf. The hair is okay for the basic doo, but what I really like is the makeup! It's modern twist of rococo makeup. Now I want to get my hands on some Mac Pure White Pigment!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Favorites

Alexander Roslin, The Lady with the Veil (The Artist's Wife), 1768

Book Review: Elizabeth

Elizabeth: The Scandalous Life of the Duchess of Kingston by Claire Gervat

This book promised to be filled to the brim with gossip, just look at that boasting title. After all, it was about the notorious tart, Elizabeth Chudleigh who "accidentally" married two men and showed up to a masquerade partially nude. It had to just be dripping with the goods! Unfortunately for me, this book failed to deliver.

Gervat should be commended for her research which is never a small feat in a biography such as this. What confused me was the time line in the book. I remember being about a quarter of a way through the book and realizing that it had already covered the majority of her life. The dates were scare so while I was in the mindset that Gervat was discussing Elizabeth in her 20's, she was really in her 40's. The majority of the book took place in her last years (I always get so bored in those out of the public eye years!). So it is mainly the pace that bothers me. I like a nice even biography. I was also disappointed in the lack of scandal promised, especially in the topic of her "Iphigenia" masquerade costume. We are left to assume Gervat could not find substantial information about it; I would be entertained with a whole chapter. She did do nicely in dragging out the Peer bigamy trial for as long as she could, so the book is a good source for information on that. Otherwise, I would say a good reference book but not the best in scandalous 18th c biography.

There is one review of this book on Amazon that seems to have a similar opinion, although probably better stated!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

No, Consumption is not actually alcohol-poisoning...

Gout has been on my mind a lot lately this weekend due to my arm randomly hurting followed by a mysterious bruise later in the week. Isn't that lovely! I need some leaches. So what better an occasion to bring up some common 18th century ailments and what they were known as in their heyday.

Apoploxy - Stroke

Chrisom - Infant death

Consumption - Tuberculosis

Falling Sickness - Epilepsy

French Pox - Venereal Diseases, specifically Gonorrhea and Syphilis which weren't always decipherable to the Enlightened eye. One supposed cure was to consummate with an uninfected person.

Goiter - Enlarged thyroid gland usually due to iodine deficiency. This could, in turn, cause bulging eyes.

Gout - A form of Arthritis due to imbalance of uric acid. Aristocrats would commonly find themselves ailing of Gout due to their taste in rich foods.

Hemiplegy - Palsy, paralysis of one side of the body usually due to Apoploxy.

Looseness - Dysentery

Lues Venera - Venereal Disease

Lung Fever - Pneumonia

Morsal - Gangrene

Puerperal Fever/Sepsis - Sepsis of the womb or birth canal

Rickets - Lack of vitamin D or calcium resulting in bow-legs

Thrush - Infection of the mouth and/or throat

Tympany - Tumors

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tart of the Week: Maria Lady Coventry



Do you still have that sour taste in your mouth from last week's tart? You should! This week I'll take it easy on you. This tart comes with a moral that our mothers would probably like.

Maria Gunning and her sister Elizabeth were born into humble beginnings. When things didn't begin to look up for them their mother urged her two expensive daughters to make a living by moving to Dublin to become actresses. This was almost the equivalent to selling your daughter to the whore-house but the girls went anyway.

Both girls became successful enough in Dublin that they eventually made it to West End. It was on her return to London that the Earl of Coventry met, fell in love with, and married Maria. On their honeymoon they traveled to Paris and Maria was MISERABLE. First of all, she didn't speak French very well. More importantly, Maria, being a fashionista and huge fan of makeup, wanted to wear red powder on her cheeks since that was what all the fashionable French ladies were wearing. The Earl wasn't having it, and forbade her from any rouge. Maria was determined to look beautiful in France and wore the powder anyways. When the Earl saw he embarrassed her by attempting to wipe it off her face with his handkerchief!

Upon their return to England, Maria became known as a notable beauty and social hostess. It may come as no shock that the marriage did not remain a happy one. The Earl began a public affair with the notorious tart, Kitty Fisher (we'll get to her later) and the two women were known to have even more public cat fights whenever they came in contact. Maria also retaliated to her husband's infidelities with her own.

It was her makeup habits that were to cause the untimely end of this Jezebel tart. After years of wearing lead-based makeup to keep that fashionably pale look, Maria died from blood poisoning; a real-life example of why sometimes less is best. She became known through social circles as a "victim of cosmetics."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thanks!

I have been so incredibly excited to find my little corner of the interweb is getting some attention. I was even more flattered and blown away when I found in my usual nightly blog rounds that The Duchess of Devonshire's Guide to the 18th Century got some major shout outs! So I just wanted to give a cheesy little "thanks for noticing" post to these lovely ladies and everyone else who has just been so lovely to gossip with!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pugnacious

In continuation of my dogs in the 18th century exhibition (exploration? obsession?) I thought I'd take a moment to talk about the images of Pugs in paintings. As I talked about here, the people of the 18th century were just as fond of their pets as we are, especially their dogs. One of the more popular breeds in England at this time (at least with the upper class) was the Pug due to its convenient size and winning personality.

The breed originated in Asia (although due to the ancient history of the breed it is not know where exactly) and throughout the centuries it became more and more common westward. It became the official dog of the House of Orange after one Pug saved the life of William, Prince of Orange by alerting him of the invading Spanish in 1572. When Josephine Bonaparte was imprisoned at Les Carmes her Pug, Fortune, would carry secret messages under his collar to her husband. It was even rumored that Fortune bit Napoleon when he entered Josephine's bedchamber on their wedding night, woof!

As can be seen from Hogarth's Self-Portrait with Pug, the Pug looked different 200 years ago. The snout and body were a bit longer then than they are now. The loyal and beloved Trump was immortalized in William Hogarth's self portrait, and depicted at the same level, and therefore, same importance as his master. This could be because both man and dog were known to be "pugnacious." Trump reappears as the watchful eye in Hogarth's portrait of the Strode Family. Another immortalized 18th century pug is Raton, who sits on his human, George Selwyn's lap in this portrait by Reynolds. Selwyn had an outlandish and rakish reputation so this sentimental portrait with his beloved pet softened how others viewed the crazy bachelor. Selwyn was reputedly totally devoted to his dog. This wasn't extremely unusual, William Duke of Devonshire (Georgiana's husband) was so obsessed with his dogs that his friends and even wife nicknamed him "Canis." Truth be told, they were the only things the man enjoyed spending time with!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lennox Loves

Lady Sarah Cadogan had a typical aristocratic, arranged marriage. At the tender age of 13 she was married to Charles, 2nd Duke of Richmond at the Hague (hey, I wouldn't mind getting married there!). Charles was 18 years old and just as unhappy with the match as his child bride seemed to be. The two were only matched up to settle a gambling debt between their fathers. No sooner was the wedding over then Sarah was sent back to school and Charles had to fulfilled his Enlightenment duty of going on the Grand Tour.

Three years later Charles was back in England from the Grand Tour. He had been dreading this return for a while for the simple fact that it meant he would be reunited with his wife. In order to prolong the meeting he decided he would go to the opera last minute, that way he wouldn't have to see Sarah until the morning. While he sat at the opera, anxiously dreading his monster wife he couldn't help but notice the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in the audience. It was love at first site.

Lucky for him, the woman at the opera was Sarah Lennox, his very wife! From then on he treated her with all the love and devotion she deserved. They lived happily ever after, with their 12 children, and were even known to exhibit some major PDA wherever they were.

Quotables


"Never trust a man with another's secret, never trust a woman with her own."

-Lady Melbourne

Charles James Fox

I've been putting off profiling Fox for a while, don't ask me why. He is a key player in this blog seeing as I have already mentioned him here, here and here; heck, he already has his own tag.

Fox was the result of the scandalous elopement of Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland the politician and Lady Caroline Lennox, one of the Lennox sisters, daughter of the Duke of Richmond. He and his brothers were raised in a libertine Whig household with little to no boundaries. Despite not inheriting a title, Fox became a favorite of his father and therefore extremely spoiled. There are stories of Fox burning his father's speeches and smashing his watch, with no consequences.

Fox grew into a fat macaroni, with a taste for gambling, politics, and women. He also liked fashion and in the macaroni tastes, powder his hair different colors every day and wear multi-colored shoes embellished with velvet frills. He was just plain outrageous! Fox began his career in parliament at the tender age of 19. Being a Whig, he tended to oppose anything the monarchy liked and vice-verse. He supported both the French and American revolutions.

Despite his outrageousness, he was extremely well spoken and when he came into contact with Georgiana in 1777 a friendship bloomed that last until both their deaths in 1806. The two friends (and possibly lovers) found in each other a certain understanding and camaraderie that they couldn't find with others in their circle. Both were huge celebrities and common characters in political satires. For the Westminster election of 1784 Georgiana made history by being the first woman to canvass when she canvassed Fox.

King George III and Queen Charlotte hated Fox, so naturally the Prince of Wales was drawn to him. I was about to list other friends of Fox, but the list would be never-ending. So I will just leave it at, if you were a Whig, such as the Duke of Devonshire, you were friends with Fox. Not only did Fox have a lot of famous friends but famous, or infamous, girlfriends. And they were all gorgeous! Aside from rumors about Georgiana, he had relations the most notorious tarts such as Elizabeth Armistead, Grace Dalrymple Elliot, and Mary 'Perdita' Robinson. He was a notorious bachelor, but toward the end of his life suddenly everyone was surprised to find out he had been married to Elizabeth Armistead (a notorious...well, you know) for years. His last words were to her: "It don't signify my dearest, dearest Liz."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Who wants to buy me a fan!

I found this on ebay! Isn't it gawwgeous! A mother of pearl fan from the 1780s. Check out the pictures here. Goodness, if my fan habit was as bad as my shoe habit I would be in debtors prison!

The English Peerage

Attempting to figure out the line of Peerage can be a bit daunting. So I am going to do my best to create a bit of a guide. Bare with me!

Peers have a family name as well as a title; Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Peers have more than one title and go by their highest title. Their eldest son will take his father's other titles when he is born and all other males in the family are considered commoners. When the father dies the eldest son inherits the highest title and his wife will now have the title of Dowager in front of their title; Dowager Princess of Wales. If no male heirs are to be found in the correct bloodline the title will become extinct, such as the Dukedom of Portland which expired in 1990. If a daughter of a peer marries a commoner the title Honourable will be added before their name, such as The Honourable Mary Graham.

The peerage has a hierarchy which is as such:

DUKE and DUCHESS
Address: "Your Grace" (ie: Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire)
Style: The Most Noble or His/Her Grace the Duke/Duchess
Rules: a duchy
Coronet: Eight strawberry leaves, five in two-dimension
The Duke of Cornwall is always the eldest son of the monarch, the monarch is the Duke/Duchess of Lancaster, the Duke of Norfolk is the Premiere Duke of England, the Duke of York is usually the second eldest son of the monarch (the Prince of Wales is the next in line for the throne).

MARQUESS, MARQUIS and MARCHIONESS, MARQUISE
Address: "Lord" or "Lady"
Style: The Most Honourable Marquess, Marquis/Marchioness, Marquise
Coronet: Three visible strawberry leaves, two visible silver balls (or pearls)

EARL and COUNTESS
Address: "Lord" and "Lady" (ie: My Lord Essex, Earl of Essex)
Style: The Right Honourable Earl/Countess
Rules: Earldom
Coronet: Four visible strawberry leaves, five visible silver balls (or pearls)

VISCOUNT and VISCOUNTESS
Address: "Lord" and "Lady"
Style: The Right Honourable Viscount/Viscountess
Rules: a Viscounty, viscountship, viscountcy
Coronet: Sixteen visible silver balls

BARON and BARONESS
Address: "Lord" and "Lady" unless the woman is a Baroness in her own right then she is "Baroness"
Style: The Right Honourable Baron/Baroness
Rules: a Barony
Coronet: Six silver balls or pearls

BARONET and BARONETESS (very rare) and KNIGHTS
Address: "Sir" and "Dame"
...are not considered peers. The title of Baronet could be inherited but not the title of Knight.

Check these dames out!

Another great blog to check out is this one, Lady Georgianna. Not only do they write some great posts but are also a very talented 18th century girl band. Jealous yet? I am. Just check out their fabulous attire! So for an extra dose of gossip be sure to stop by.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

History Repeats Itself

After I did my picture hat quotable this morning Lauren has done me the pleasure of taking it into her hands to compare the 1980s NYC club scene with 18th century court society herself. She did an excellent job and you can read it here, which you should definitely do because she drew some interesting comparisons.

The Duchess: Trailer

I would like to thank Elyse who pointed out that there is now an official trailer out for The Duchess so I can now stop watching the teaser over and over again. Here it is to watch and then I'll go on with my barrage.


The Barrage:
1. I heard the Duke or Grey pronounce her name "George-anya," very nice.
2. Georgiana wanting Bess out? I don't think so!
3. Why the hell do we need all the Princess Di things in the beginning. It makes no sense whatsoever. Yes they are related and led "similar" lives but it's just really confusing for viewers. Plus it's not consistent. They suddenly disappear without explanation of why they were even there in the first place.
4. Bess seemed kind of cold to Georgie; let's go on the facts people, Bess was a sycophant!
5. Grey Grey Grey! Yadda yadda. I'm pretty sure he wasn't canvassing for Fox with her in 1784.
6. Kudos for them continuing to use actual quotes about Georgiana in the script and the Duke playing with his dogs.
7. I might just be developing a crush on Fiennes' version of the Duke...

Picture Hat Quotable

I ran across this quote while reading Party Monster by James St. James,

"But then, of course, there was a fleeting glimpse of a grand courtroom entrance...me, in a large veiled picture hat over a tastefully tailored navy dress."
You can probably guess my reaction! On a non-18th century note, James St. James was a celebutante of New York City, and still remains a fashion icon and amazing author. It is only fitting that one of Georgiana's fashion trends is mentioned by him (by the 18th c name and not Victorian). His entrance into the club scene in the 1980s is comparable to hers to London society in the 1770s; they both caused a fuss in the most glamorous of ways. So if you have already noticed a few Party monster or James St. James references peppering my posts here and there, you now know why!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Duchess Promotional Poster

I just found this:


Thoughts?
I of course have alot but will spare you the babbling. I will just present two: Is that really going to be the tagline?
and
I am not seeing nearly enough powdering of the hair for this movie! Bring on the talcum!

Tart of the Week: Bess Foster




Okay. It's time to get down and dirty. If the tarts were having a party, this one would be the belle of the ball. So what better way to "celebrate" my most paranoid of days than to introduce a key player in the life of Georgiana, Lady Elizabeth 'Bess' Foster.

In 1782 on a healing trip to bath, Georgiana and the Duke met Bess, who would become a key player in the theatrics of their lives forever more. Instantly she analyzed them for what they were: lonely. Immediately she put a plan into action, and told her sob story. She was born to the notorious Herveys, an aristocratic family with barely any money. She married John Thomas Foster, whom she later claimed frightened her and consequently resisted the match. However, records show she was happy about it at the time. By the time she had her second son (her first son Augustus is an ancestor to Anna Wintour) the marriage was a disaster. Foster seduced Bess' maid and then shortly afterward kicked her (Bess) out, securing the custody of his two sons. I am sure she retold this harrowing tale with many embellishments to the Duke and Duchess who immediately took her in. So began 20 plus years worth of puppetry in the Devonshire home.

Bess manipulated everyone around her with her damsel in distress act (she was one of those, 'I know I am cute types'). Unfortunately the Duke and Duchess never seemed to see it. Many others did including Georgiana's mother Lady Spencer, who spent many years criticizing Bess verbally and through letters. Bess was even bold enough to add post-scripts on Georgiana's letters to her mother, the nerve! Bess quickly became Georgiana's best friend and a permanent guest in her homes. Given Georgiana's tendencies they could have been more than just friends, but thanks to Victorian ancestors censoring old letters, we will never fully know the truth. With the enthusiasm of a girl in Elementary school, Lady Bess would even attempt to dress like Georgiana (well who didn't) reusing her clothes. Just as quickly as a friendship developed with Georgiana, an affair developed with the Duke. Two children were the result of this affair that continued throughout the years in front of Georgiana. "Why would she put up with this shit?" you might be asking. Well my friends, that is the art of manipulation. I can tell you she didn't like it but her dependency on the friendship (Bess manipulated Georgiana through her insecurities) made her very forgiving of this fault.

Bess, like her Duke-lover, is said to have had affairs with many including Ercole Cardinal Consalvi (a man of the cloth), John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (well, who hadn't slept with him), Count Axel von Fersen (Marie's Man), Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, and Valentine Richard Quin, 1st Earl of Dunraven (married). She really lived in a fantasy thinking she was some sort of gift from God because she was bff with Georgiana and the Duke, but really that was the only reason people tolerated her. Once when she needed a place to stay in France, Georgiana wrote her references to her dear friends the Polignacs (who would do anything for her). The Polignacs, being a fun bunch welcomed Bess in but soon despised her. Bess left confused.

When Georgiana died in 1806 Bess quickly swooped in and forced the sad Duke to marry her, against his legit children's wishes. She then proceeded to bully him into making their bastards legitimate. When the Duke finally died (not in peace obviously!) Georgiana's children had to bribe Bess to just leave them alone finally. They never considered her a Duchess of Devonshire and just wanted to be rid of her and her nasty ways.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Devonshire House

Devonshire House was not just a fantastic mansion, it was an elite social club and a state of mind. It was the be all and end all of the ton, a gathering place for Whigs, and where Georgiana spent most of her life.

Before I get into that, I would like to talk about the more physical aspects of the Devonshire House. It was built on the site of Berkeley House, the home of the most conniving (and kind of bitchy) of King Charles II's mistresses, Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland. It was in prime location on Piccadilly Street, across from Green Park. Anyone who has been to London has likely walked past its ghost; before it was demolished (in 1925), Devonshire House was located across from the present day Ritz Hotel. The building was huge and aesthetically unappealing. Worst of all it had a massive brick wall encircling it which clashed with the architectural line of Piccadilly and attracted only graffiti.

Many complained of the ugliness of the structure in the wittiest of ways but what mostly interested people was what was on the inside. Devonshire House had one of the greatest collections of art and some of the grandest rooms, in both size and decor. However it was the people inside that was of the most curiosity. Not only was the leading lady celebrity housed behind it's doors, but all her friends, the ton. The Devonshire House circle consisted of the young, rich, talented and snobby with people such as Charles Fox, the Prince of Wales, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and too many others to name. They were the coolest social club and Devonshire House was their clubhouse, perfect for dancing and gambling and any other debauchery one could think of. Devonshire House remained a great place for entertainment up into the Victorian Age; Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Ball was celebrated in the house's ornate public rooms.

With the demolition of the house, we loose a stunning visual into the life of Georgiana, her friends and family; as well as an important puzzle piece in the social structure of London high society.

Tricks of the Trade

I've been calling them "tarts" on a weekly basis, but there were many other names for ladies of the night. Here is a selection of terms for courtesans, prostitutes and all around tarts.

Bachelor Fare Bit o' Muslin Cat Convent Garden Nun Crack Cyprian Dell Dirty Puzzle Dollymop Doxy Drury Lane Vestal Fille Harlot Hedge Whore Lady of Easy Virtue Covey Mab Posture Moll Quean Rep Short-Heeled Wench Tart Thais Trapes Trull Wasp Woman of the People

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hot Tranny Messes


We all know our fav gay icons love the 18th century. You can't keep fabulous things apart. I saw this awful Girls Aloud video when I was in Ireland in March and they tried to do the fab 18th century music video but failed miserably. Why? Because they decided to wear 18th century-esque undergarments and prance around in kitschy splendor. Nope, doesn't work. Ladies, show them how it's done.

Madonna:


Annie Lennox, whose fabulosity needs to be restrained to youtube and therefore will not provide embedding: Walking on Broken Glass (a must!)








Fierce!









Wait, is that Hugh Laurie in the video?








Oh my God, I'm convinced. Sometimes I amaze myself.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Georgie!

On this day in 1757 Miss Georgiana Spencer was born. If we were lucky enough to have her most fabulous Grace with us today she would turn 251 today. I am celebrating by working on my Picture Hat and avoiding the heat. However, a true celebration worthy of Georgiana would consist of a lot of drink and gambling so I encourage others who don't live in the middle of nowhere to go out and celebrate!