Henrietta Vernon was born in the most fortunate of circumstances. Not only was she an aristocrat (grand-daughter of the famous politician Thomas Wentworth) but she was a noted beauty. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that she was married very early in life. She met her future husband in one of the most cinematically romantic of ways, during a rainstorm. Richard Grosvenor, the 1st Baron Grovesnor captured the young girl's fancy despite the 14 year age gap between them. They married within a month of their initial meeting, in 1764.
Henrietta soon realized that her hast in marrying Richard had been a huge mistake. He was a huge gambler, even by 18th century standards. We're talking £250,000 in one night (more than a million today)! When he wasn't gaming away the couple's money he was out whoring in every brothel in London. Yuck! Imagine the diseases he brought back to his young bride. It was not long before Henrietta admitted to feeling "ill used." Do you blame her eye for wandering?
Henrietta's attention fell on the King's brother, Henry Duke of Cumberland who just happened to be the same age as her. Henry himself, already had a rebellious history, it was rumoured that he had married a commoner, Olivia Wilmot and there was to be more commoner marriages in his future as well. Henry was young and royalty; there was a dangerous appeal to having an affair with him. The couple would meet in secret in inns around the country. One time, while they were out at a friend's house in Cavendish Square Henrietta asked for a private meeting with the Duke to talk about her brother in the dining room. They were excused but after a half hour, the friend decided there had been enough talking and went in to interrupt. She found Henry on top of Lady Grosvenor, "with her petticoats up" on her couch. There is nothing I hate more than rude house guests! A crim con trial was soon underway.
As with just about every other crim con trial, this was the talk of the town, especially since it involved royalty. Henrietta, was outraged at her husband's hypocracy. She slept with one man and was to be damned for all time while her husband constantly frequented brothels. She went to bawdy houses in search of witnesses to testify upon Richard's many infidelities. But this was not to aid her defense. Henrietta and Henry's dirty letters to each other was enough to award Richard damages of £10,000. After a mere seven years of marriage, Henrietta and Richard were seperated in 1771.
Now Henrietta was an outcast with a mean £1,200 allowance. But rather than wallow in the sorrow of her situation she made the best of it, and became friends with other social outcasts. Soon she was seen at the Pantheon arm in arm with Lady Worsley. The papers would follow her, in hopes of catching her in a scandalous act with a rake. Once they reported that she showed up to the opera with a different man every night. Well, can you blame her? With such a small allowance, Henrietta needed rich men to support her elegant lifestyle.
In 1802 Richard finally kicked the bucket. Relieving Henrietta of her marriage limbo. A month later Henrietta was no longer Lady Grosvenor. She married Lt.-Gen. George de Hochepied, 6th Baron de Hochepied and retired to a quiet life with him until her death in 1828. Her second husband followed, two months later.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I feel bad about plugging myself like this, but I had to share! I discovered and have been experimenting on Cafe Press, where you can design and sell your own t-shirts and other fun things. Well, of course my twisted little mind decided that if this blog was to have any sort of product it would have to be something that proclaims its wearer to be a tart. So, I give you the Tart of Week line at Georgiana's Gossip Shop.
The logo features her Grace kissing a butcher and is available on a long list of products! So you can let everyone know that you are the tart of the week. That, or you can tell me to stop fooling around on Photoshop and get back to blogging!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Straw hats remained one of the basic and popular types of hats throughout most of the 18th century. Of course there were rules outlining the appropriate time and place to wear such hats, so as to not look like one of, ya know, the common folk. These rules were especially fervent in France (of course) where Lauren tells me, you couldn't wear such hats after 11am. Most of these rules had to do with the style of the hat, which displayed the wearer's connection to nature. However, nature would definitely not be allowed in say, the opera and was not appropriate during the cold months. No sir, these were pastoral hats, meant to evoke the feeling of nature in the warm months. The chapeau a la cérès, named after the goddess of Harvest, contained sprigs of wheat on it. In addition to wheat many straw hats were trimmed with ribbons and flowers and, of course, feathers. This style of hat, was especially popular in the 1780's while Marie Antoinette created crazes with her casual Triannon styles.
- after 1782
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Children's book illustration is a too-often ignored artform. One of the most well-known names in the golden age of illustration is Edmund Dulac, a French illustrator who worked in the early 20th century. Although his images have a very noticeable Victorian aesthetic, Dulac thought outside the box and would set fairytale images in exotic lands. Sometimes he would even imitate the traditional artwork of the region the story was set in, a technique unusual for the time. Here are some of his Rococo setting illustrations,
Me blogging, oh wait, The Snow Queen
Sleeping Beauty which looks very similar to Madame Tussaud's figure by the same name, modeled after Madame DuBarry
Also from Sleeping Beauty
Oh and do check out this beautiful illustration Kinuko Y. Craft did for Cinderella (another favourite children's book illustrator of mine).
Monday, January 26, 2009
The fabulous Mrs Woffington posted today about the much anticipated (here at least) biography of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Wedlock. There was a review of the book in The Guardian on Saturday by another favourite author of ours, Lydia Syson, author of Doctor of Love. Expect a review here on the Gossip Guide soon! Otherwise, get your copy of the newly released book here unless you are in the US, in that case you'll have to wait just a bit longer (March) to get your hands on it!
Puce is perhaps a better topic (and colour) for Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide, but it was very much of interest to fashionable gentry in England as well!
The invention of "puce" is an amusing story in itself. Every fashion in France had to have a special name and these ranged from the basic to the downright humorous (ie: dauphin's poo). The socially awkward Louis never knew how to tell his wife how to ease up on the extravagant fashions and attempted many methods that all failed. Being straightforward is always the best policy says I! One day when he walked in on the queen trying on a new dress, he attempted to discourage her with the mean humour common at court. As Caroline Weber tells, in Queen of Fashion, "When the Queen asked her husband how he liked the confection, which was made from taffeta of an odd pinkish-tan hue, he replied laconically: 'It is the color of a flea [puce].'" The plan backfired, and the queen (and everyone else with her) loved the nickname for the colour and it stuck.
When Lady Spencer visited France in 1775 she noticed the trend in full-force,
"I have no material intelligence to give you except that you can wear no colour that is not either dos de puce or ventre de puce, it is the uniform at Fontainebleau and the only colour that can be worn..."A few days later she wrote again to Georgiana to tell her she bought her a coat of ventre de puce but had yet to find her something nice in dos de puce. The following month Lady Clermont wrote to Georgiana to tell her
"[Marie Antoinette] has desire'd me to wear the uniform, which is a polonaise, couleur de puce."I'm guessing she did too! You can't reject fashion advice from the Queen of Fashion! It is probably safe to say that the Empress of Fashion (as Walpole dubbed Georgiana) had already sent in her order for a polonaise in puce as soon as these letters had reached her.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I just stumbled upon Fashion is My Muse, a blog, I think, many of you will enjoy. Ingrid Mida posts on her many 18th century interests and shares some of her French fashion plate art. Don't you just love it!
Tonight on Masterpiece, don't forget to watch the Gothic classic, Wuthering Heights. I forgot to post a reminder last week because my local PBS doesn't premiere it until tonight (grr)! But never fear, if you missed part 1 last week you can watch it online here. Once the episode is over and you need to do some Heathcliff gushing, you should head on over to Vic's post on him at Remotely Connected. There are two other articles worth checking out on Remotely Connected as well, if you just can't get enough Wuthering Heights! And with that, I'll leave you with my favourite Puppini Sisters song, a cover of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
"The heads are not so high nor as many feathers, that is to say many people are dress'd so, but the people the best dress'd are more modest than they were."
Mary Lady Kent by Reynolds, 1777
Friday, January 23, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
To begin a series on pooches in paintings, I wanted to open with one of my favourite human-dog portraits. Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of the composer Carl Friedrich Abel depicts the music man as if we have just interrupted him in his study. The busy musician looks up from his work that he has been pouring onto paper before the notes leave his head. His cello (musicians, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!) casually leans against his leg, so he can quickly play the tunes he hears and then go back to recording them on paper. Abel is obviously successful in his musical career. The grandness of his fine chair, the drapery, and even his copper coloured silk vest excrete wealth and success. He is enlightened man because of his connection to music...and nature.
Sleeping calmly at his master's feet is Abel's dog. The faithful companion is the only one allowed in Abel's private study while he works. We can see why, he is a quiet audience. The dog's presence evokes a sense of calm and gives the viewer a sense of comfort about the sitter and his personality. In fact, the dog completes the portrait; it would be unbalanced without him. Gainsborough, a big dog fan, puts a lights source on both Abel's face and the dog's. The rest of his fluffy white body is shadowed under the desk. If you think only a crazy dog-lover would zone in on the pooch in the painting, let me reiterate how much the people of the 18th century loved their dogs. When the painting was exhibited, the St James Chronical reported on "the correctness" of Gainsborough's execution of the dog. Ya know, just in case you were worried that the dog didn't come out right!
If you were wondering about that music Carl was composing in the painting, I put together a sampling of it below. It gave me an excuse to play with the amazon mp3 player! So now you can make like Abel's puppy and relax to the sounds of his strings.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
"About 10 o'clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity, and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in company with Mr. Thompson, and Colonel Humphries, with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations."
On 30 April 1789 George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States of America in New York City. Washington was hesitant of the post at first; a hard thing to imagine with all the time and money that goes into campaigning today. He flat out refused to be king when that leadership title was suggested. Washington even declined the $25,000 salary because he felt he had enough money and the salary could be better used elsewhere. This act of selflessness was meant to be an example to the new citizens of America of the founding morals of the new country.
Washington's inauguration speech was addressed to the Senate and House of Representatives rather than the whole country (or whoever was outside the Federal Building at the time). He fumbled nervously through his speech, obviously more comfortable leading his troops than wooing politicians. In the end, the shy politician who never subscribed to a political party served two terms and became a leader whom all future presidents attempted to live up to.
"On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years—a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time."
Excerpt Washington's Inaugural Speech 30 April, 1789
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Polonaise wrote to alert me to something that may be of interest to many of you! For any Georgette Heyer fans out there, The Black Moth, Heyer's first novel, is available online in both written and audio form. For Heyer virgins like myself, here is your opportunity to read this scandalous novel set in 1752 for free, without having to take a trip to your library.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Can't get enough Clot? Mythosidhe was so besotted with the charms of Mary Worsley Montagu's lost fiance that she did us all the favor of researching the face to go with that notorious name. Everyone should check out her post.
Joshua Reynolds painted this hunk and despite the humourous subject matter, you have to admit, it's a very nice portrait. To think, Mary actually rejected him; she must have been crazy! She could have led the exciting life of Mary Skeffington and never had to bother exploring Turkey or bringing the Smallpox inoculation to Europe. But no, she made her rash decision and had to pay for that mistake with her many amazing adventures and celebrity lifestyle.
Thanks for the find Mythosidhe!
Some women are difficult to sum up in their honourary Friday mention. Lady Mary is one of those women. It almost makes me feel bad for calling her a tart...but then again, I never said being a tart was a bad thing!
The daughter of the Earl of Kingston, Mary was born in 1689. Mary's intelligence was apparent early on in a time when educating women was considered a waste of time. She later talked of how she would "steal" her education by secretly studying Latin while her family thought she was reading romances. She made friendships with early feminists such as Mary Astell and Anne Wortley Montagu. After Anne's death's in 1709 Mary continued corresponding with her similarly-minded brother, Edward Wortley Montagu. Soon love bloomed, but Edward was not Mary's father's choice
Instead, Mary was betrothed to Clotworthy Skeffington; I'll just give you a moment to visualize what someone with that name might look like (hint). As the day of the wedding drew closer Mary became more agitated at her future prospects, describing the wedding preparations as "daily preparation for my journey to hell." But just as with her education, Mary was not about to accept what others' intended for her. Days before the wedding, Mary caused a scandal by eloping with Edward, much in the style of the romance novels she always pretended to read.
The early years of her marriage were spent in seclusion while Edward climbed the political ladder. Four years after their marriage, Edward was appointed ambassador in Istanbul. Mary, instead of being fearful of the foreign customs of the Ottoman Empire, dove into the culture head first, even learning the language. When she returned to England she did so in Turkish dress, which began trends in Europe. She also, and very importantly, introduced the Turkish practice of inoculation against Smallpox to Europe, saving the lives of many daring Europeans who were willing to take the risk of exposing themselves to the deadly disease.
By now Mary was a celebrity. She also had a famous group of friends which included Horace Walpole and Sara Churchill. She also had a very famous spat with Alexander Pope. He probably had a crush on her! Mary, herself, was rumoured to have had an affair or two.
In 1739 Mary kissed her husband goodbye for what would be the last time, and went abroad. They didn't leave on bad terms and she continued writing affectionately to him. She traveled around France and Italy, visiting friends. Edward died in 1761, leaving Mary a very wealthy widow. She was not to enjoy the money, however, because she died the following year. After her husband's death, her daughter begged her to return to England, which she did, only to die shortly thereafter. Her last words were reportedly, "It has all been most interesting." Having never published any of her writings during her lifetime to avoid public scandal, her letters of her Turkish Embassy Letters and other works were published after her death and received with great interest.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Brr, it's cold out there. I was planning on running errands but the snow and wind chill are convincing me otherwise. Plus, I don't have a fashionable "Perdita" muff. I think the reason there lacked so much (or not enough) fashionable 18th century winter gear in prints and portraits is because fashionable ladies always had someone else to go off into the cold and run their errands. But of course, when you just wanted to show off your winter complexion there was always something of vogue in your wardrobe, just in case.
I am probably reiterating myself by discussing the Picture Hat but it is not to be ignored in this exploration of haberdashery! Plus, it is an all-around fabulous hat. An invention of Georgiana herself, she wore her creation when she sat for Gainsborough in 1785. When the full-length painting was exhibited in the Royal Academy exhibit women immediately ran to their respected hat-makers demanding the same hat they had just seen. Due to the hat being so new they found themselves requesting the "the Duchess of Devonshire's picture hat" since they knew nothing of the hat except that fashion-guru Georgiana was wearing it. Frankly, that was all the incentive that they needed. Judging by the following fine portraits that appear after Georgiana's portrait's creation, you can see how the trend took off. The hat itself was very simple, which was possibly part of its appeal. It consisted of a very large brim, with a sash over the crown and topped off with large drooping ostrich feathers. The hat made a comeback in the Edwardian period and was renamed the "Gainsborough Hat." The following paintings were created between 1785 and 1788.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
As hair began getting larger and larger toward the end of the century head-wear had to evolve to keep up with the growing coiffures. Pinner caps, little circles of of white fabric and lace pinned to the top of the hair, became less common in England since they could barely be seen on the hair tower. Mob caps were actually known as bonnets in the Georgian period and consisted of a caul covering the hair and a ruffled brim. The Calash bonnet adapted the idea of the collapsible tops of carriages, it was even named after them. Caleche is the french word for "carriages." They were usually made out of black taffeta and ideal for protecting hair-dos from the sometimes unpleasant English weather. And thank goodness for that; imagine showing up to Lady Melbourne's (who had been depicted in a bonnet) with your up-do a down-do! When the weather was fair, so were the bonnets. Springy cotton bonnets were introduced toward the end of the century and reflected the vogue for the simple life. Of course these could be trimmed in a variety of ways so you didn't look too simple. Hats could be worn over the bonnets if the fashionista so chose.
- Under hat, 1782
- Thérèse, 1780
Monday, January 12, 2009
I am about to embark on the daunting (yet enjoyable) task of presenting some of my favourite late eighteenth century hats in portraits. In an age where fashion was so incredibly important, hats could be the crowning achievement of the perfect outfit. In England hats were necessary in both form and function. While men's hats remained simple women's hats only became grander and more interesting. When it came time to be painted by your favourite artist much thought was put into headgear. Not only did you have to decide what specific coiffure to sport but if you would cover it with one of your fabulous new hats...and which fabulous new hat! So stay tuned as I struggle through the enterprise of categorizing my most favourite painted hats.
At some point we've probably all pointed an laughed at the kid on a leash (I was one!). One time I saw a toddler driving his mother nuts by hovering in the air on his leash at the bus stop on high street. We think it's funny (or wrong, possibly) because we associate dogs with leashes, not humans. However, rambunctious children are nothing new. "Leading strings" were used in the 18th century to keep hold of runaway toddlers. In fact, dog leashes are a rather new invention, so you could say that child leashes came first!
Oh yeah, and you know those adjustable gates you put up to keep children out of the toilet or from falling down stairs? The 18th century estate house had its own version of that too: steel bars across the fireplace. I think the flaw in that baby proofing is when the child touches the hot steel bars! I have permanent scars on my hands from when I decided to boost myself up the kerosene heater as a baby, no wonder I needed a leash!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Don't forget to see the second part of Tess of the D'Ubervilles tonight at 9:00pm EST on PBS. You wouldn't want to miss the exciting conclusion! Also, don't forget to take a peek at Lauren and my guest articles on Tess on PBS's blog, Remotely Connected and to share your opinions on the flick!
Friday, January 9, 2009
Mary Anne Thompson was born into humble beginnings in 1776, but her crafty and ambitious personality would not let her stay there for long. At the age of 18 she married a stonemason and possibly even had a kid or two. As soon as Mr. Clarke's financial history exposed him as bankrupt Mary ditched him. There was no way she was staying with a penniless husband!
The more appealing option Mary chose was to sleep around with rich men in London. She was smart, sassy, and beautiful; a hard tart to resist! Soon enough she was an established courtesan and that is when Frederick, Duke of York took notice of her. Frederick, although not very bright, was the Commander-in-chief of the army. Mary took advantage of Frederick for all that he was worth. She threw extravagant parties in the house he paid for and, if you were willing the pay the price, she used her influence with Frederick to help promote officers. So not only was Mary sponging up Frederick's money, she was also making a business out of sleeping with him. How diabolically clever!
Sadly, things couldn't last and Frederick dumped Mary in 1806, leaving her in a lot of debt. Two years of financial crisis later, Mary resorted to blackmail, threatening to publish Frederick's love letters unless he paid her the annuity he had previously promised. Ironically, this same thing had happened to Frederick's brother, the Prince of Wales, about 20 years prior, when his affair with Perdita Robinson soured. Mary's accusations against the Duke of York brought forth stories about her selling army commissions. Oops. Mary was charged with corruption and had to defend herself in court, which she actually did quite well. Meanwhile London errupted over the scandal. Mrs. Clarke was the talk of the town, and you couldn't pass a print house without seeing one of the satires on her, or read a newspaper without seeing her name.
Eventually, the Duke gave up £7,000 and a life annuity to keep Mary from blabbering. She happily accepted. After being imprisoned for her crime for nine months she happily took her cash and settled in Paris to live out her remaining days.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
"For God's sake try to compose yourself...I hoped the Duke knew the whole of what you had lost and that it was all settled."
6 May 1785
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
When a monarch (and his consort) rose to power, one of the best things to do to assert their awesome ability to rule a country was to paint them in all their glory. These fantastic paintings, known as state portraits, differ from other 18th century portraits because they expressed a political ideal of an all-powerful being. Decked out on in coronation robes, the full-length monarch holds their royal regalia in a timeless setting that displays their wealth. The portraits were meant to generate awe, and when you see them in person, your mouth does kind of hang open.
Of course I love comparing the English aesthetic to the French. King George and Queen Charlotte had no choice but to allow Joshua Reynolds to do their portraits since he was the head of the Royal Academy. They much preferred Gainsborough (who painted many portraits of them and their family) because of his personal views and style of painting; but decorum deemed they had to have Reynolds paint them. The result is a rather dark portrait duo. In Reynold's brown hues the two monarchs are seated at their thrones, looking as if they are being crushed by their heavy uniforms of state.
Now here comes those young kids who are ruling France! Judging by Louis' portrait you would never know the deathly shy, naive, scared little boy that is contained under the gold fleur de lys. He stands in his finery, a true descendant of the Sun King. His crown does not lay on his head but is on a pillow in the background as a reminder that yes, this is your king. Marie's portrait is quite interesting. While it compliments her husband's, it also is a testament to her purpose as France's consort: a union with Austria. While she is also decked out in France colours, flowers, and symbols she still shows a bit of her Austrian roots which she had to give up upon her marriage. On the table beside her sits a pillow with both a Hapsburg rose and the French lily, showing the uniting of countries. It is the only small hint at her true orgins. Meanwhile, those French lilies are popping out everywhere! Fresh lilies are placed in the folds of her grand corps gown, asserting her devotion to France, as well as making her smell really good while she was sweating during the painting of the portrait!