Monday, October 23, 2017

A Visit with the late Duke of Sussex

Monday, October 23, 2017
Tomb of Duke of Sussex at Kensal Green Cemetery
Loretta reports:

In my recent post about London’s Kensal Green Cemetery, I mentioned the Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). This son of George III made the place fashionable by deciding to be buried there rather than at Windsor. In life, as in death, Prince Augustus Frederick went his own way.

Though he was a big guy—six foot three and burly—he wasn't hale and hearty. Yet the asthma that plagued him also helped make him “the most consistently Liberal-minded person of the first half of the nineteenth century.” His brothers championed the Whigs in youth, but mainly in rebellion against their father. When he no longer had power over them, their politics went the other way. Not so with Prince Augustus.

Thanks to the asthma, he spent much of his early life abroad and had no military career. He matured free of the influences that shaped his brothers’ politics. Equally important, he had far more time to cultivate his mind. He became a person who supported abolition of the slave trade, Catholic emancipation, parliamentary reform, and many other progressive ideas. These views won him the hostility of, basically, the entire Establishment, including his brothers. They cost him financially, too.

On the other hand, he wasn’t unlike his brothers when it came to women. At age twenty, he fell madly in love with Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the Earl of Dunmore, and married her, in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, which required the monarch’s consent. King George III refused, and a decree was issued, annulling the marriage.

Nonetheless, the prince stuck with his woman...until he had to choose between getting the title Duke of Sussex—with £12,000 per annum—and her and their two children. In 1801 he chose the title and money. By 1806 he was bringing legal action to prevent her calling herself the Duchess of Sussex. (She was given a lesser title instead.) By 1809 he took the children to live with him. Still, he didn’t remarry until 1830, after she was dead. The second marriage, to Lady Cecilia Buggin, was problematic, too, until Queen Victoria recognized it in 1840 and made the lady the Duchess of Inverness.
Duke of Sussex , Knight of the Order of the Thistle

The Queen adored her uncle: “When he was dying she drove down in tears to Kensington Palace in an open carriage to inquire for him, although she was hourly expecting the birth of her third child.”

He went his own way in death, too, and it wasn't only in the choice of burial site. In keeping with his very progressive views on dissection, he gave directions in his will for his body to be opened and studied “in the interests of science.” In keeping with his ideals, his is a modest tomb. (So modest that we apparently forgot to take a picture of it.)

For the bulk of this post, and the quotations, I’m indebted to Roger Fulford’s Royal Dukes. When online sources proved unsatisfying—especially regarding the duke’s personality—I remembered this very enjoyable book.

Images: The tomb of Prince Augustus Frederick, Kensal Green Cemetery
Photo by Stephencdickson, Creative Commons license

G.E. Madeley, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex wearing the robes of a Knight Companion of the Order of the Thistle.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Breakfast Links: Week of October 16, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• Advice for English ladies in India, 1847.
A handy guide to vampires from the Royal Armouries.
• The spinster's numeration table: a guide for 19thc men.
• Blowing a cloud: pipes in Georgian London.
Image: Forget Gatsby: F.Scott Fitzgerald's legacy is secured by this note in which he conjugates the verb "to cocktail."
• Striking images by portrait photographer Olive Edis,  who was commissioned to document the women's war effort in France and Belgium during World War One.
• How Eleanor Roosevelt and Henrietta Nesbitt transformed the White House kitchen.
Talking corpses: how even in death, women's testimony was considered less credible than men's.
• Conservation of Queen Victoria's petticoat.
Image: Print showing the interior of a fashionable London haberdashery in 1825.
• Among the rarest and oldest books in Horace Walpole's collection: two 16thc books of swan marks.
• How a gilded-age heiress became the "mother of forensic science."
• The whimsical world of garden follies.
• Heroin, opium, mercury, and cocaine were among the ingredients in Victorian medicines that "soothed" the nation's children.
• ImageWomen's Home Defence Corps, 1940.
• To dine at Kew: the meals of George III.
• Napoleon's "Kindle": the miniature traveling library that he took on military campaigns.
• First look at the newly restored York Mansion House.
• In Boston in 1765, there was one tavern for every 79 adult men; the importance of taverns.
• Just for fun: Sky-high modern paper wigs inspired by 18thc excess in fashion.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Video: Frankenstein, according to Thug Notes

Friday, October 20, 2017
Loretta reports:

If you have not already discovered Thug Notes, and don’t have a problem with Language for Mature Audiences Only, you might want to check out the videos. Host Sparky Sweets, Ph.D., takes on the classics, summarizing and analyzing them, “original gangster” style, in about five minutes.

As part of my Halloween countdown, I offer his take on Frankenstein.

Video: Frankenstein - Thug Notes Summary and Analysis

Image: still from YouTube video

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be. To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

From the Archives: Finding Conjugal Bliss in Dr. Graham's Celestial Bed, 1781

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Susan reporting:

We TNHG are generally very good at remembering things that happened two hundred years ago, but during the last ten - not so much. Sometimes it takes a reader to jog our memories about old posts that are worthy of a return appearance. Many thanks to Alun Withey for reminding me of this post that first appeared back in 2011!

Exploiting the love-lives of the rich and famous is hardly a new pursuit. From ancient times, charlatans have offered exotic, expensive potions to increase flagging libidos and unusual regimes designed to restore the magic to chilly marriages. One of the most infamous of these is Dr. James Graham (1745-1794), a self-proclaimed physician, self-promoter, and inventor (Wikipedia luridly categorizes him as a "sexologist") who captured the imagination of English society in the 1780s – and a good deal of their money besides.

Like all good quacks, Dr. Graham had a splendid gimmick, and his was the Temple of Hymen in Shomberg House in Pall Mall, a kind of overwrought clinic for his unusual treatments. His most profitable speciality was improving conjugal sex and fertility, and he found a clamoring audience among the upper classes whose survival depended on producing healthy heirs. Many of his customers were weakened by venereal disease and general dissipation, but that didn't stop Dr. Graham from making the same outlandish guarantees that often appear today in spam folders. His celebrity clientele included politicians John Wilkes and Charles James Fox, aristocrats such as the Duchess of Devonshire and the Duke of Richmond, and courtesans like Elizabeth Armistead and Mary Robinson.

While his treatments varied from elixirs to mud baths, the centerpiece of the Temple of Hymen was the Celestial Bed. This over-sized bed (it measured nine by twelve feet) could be tilted for an optimum angle, and was supported by glass rods that could permit the bed and its occupants to become so charged with static electricity that it gave off a greenish glow. Decorative automata, a pair of live turtle doves, and lush bouquets of fresh flowers were also features of the bed. Adding to the ambiance was a mattress stuffed with a special mixture of sweet-smelling herbs and hair from the tails of the most rampant English stallions, while a special celestial pipe organ played music calculated to inspire love-making. For the next three years, until Dr. Graham's extravagance landed him in prison for debt and bankruptcy, there were plenty of couples eager for the experience.

The price of a magical night in the Celestial Bed? An astonishingly steep fifty pounds. Did it work? Perhaps – though who wanted to admit that it didn't?

In honor of Valentine's Day, 2011, the Museum of London is recreated Dr. Graham's Celestial Bed as a special adults-only exhibition. For more information about this, as well as more detailed descriptions of Dr. Graham's claims, see here – though be forewarned that this post, like the exhibition, is probably best not read at work.

Above: The Celestial Bed, with the Rosy Goddess of Health reposing thereon, unknown artist, English School, 1782, private collection.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

London's Kensal Green Cemetery

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Loretta reports:

I’ve posted before about the garden cemetery movement, and the development of municipal cemeteries in response to overcrowded and squalid burial grounds. Thanks to my husband, I discovered in London The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green—more generally known as Kensal Green Cemetery. There, in the course of a tour, I discovered the burial places of many persons I’d learned about while researching my books. One of these was the famous Regency-era equestrian Andrew Ducrow, whose tomb I blogged about.

Today we’ll take a look at this beautiful cemetery itself.

Interestingly, like Worcester’s Rural Cemetery, it got started thanks to a lawyer, George Frederick Carden. Like so many others in the garden cemetery movement, he was inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.  Unlike many others, though, Kensal Green, London’s first commercial cemetery, is still run by the original company, the General Cemetery Company, under its original Act of Parliament. In the beginning, however, business looked a little shaky. Though it opened in 1833, it wasn't exactly overwhelmed with customers. Then in 1843 the Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex—one of King George III's many sons—decided to be buried there because Windsor’s burial facility apparently gave him the creeps. Thenceforth Kensal Green became THE place to be planted.

Detail of the second monument

Our fabulous tour guide
It's true. Though not nearly as well-known today as Highgate Cemetery, Kensal Green was, until shortly after the turn of the 20th century, the most fashionable cemetery in England. Everybody who was anybody wanted to be buried here.

Like Highgate, sadly, it could use some TLC. Monuments, like Ducrow’s, are crumbling. The Friends of Kensal Green have been working to research and restore the monuments. It was one of these Friends who led our walking tour, and his love of the place was clear. If you are in London, I strongly recommend you take one of their Sunday tours. Along with the amazing variety of monuments, the stories about the famous and less so, there’s abundant nature—the plantings, the birds and other wildlife—to create a very special refuge from the bustle of the metropolis.

For more of the story and the denizens of the place, please visit the Friends of Kensal Green website and the Kensal Green Cemetery website.

All photographs copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III.
Please click on images to enlarge.
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