Untold lives blog

11 posts from August 2021

07 August 2021

The King, the Queen, his mistress, and the dead Emperor

When news of the death of ex-Emperor Napoleon on the island of St Helena reached Britain in July 1821, a servant was tasked with communicating the tidings to King George IV, then in residence at Windsor Castle.  He went into the royal presence, bowed, and said ‘Sire, your greatest enemy is dead’.  The King is reported to have replied ‘Is she, by God?’ 

Identifying his foe as female no doubt seems strange to us, but most contemporaries would have known instantly that he was referring to his wife Caroline of Brunswick, from whom he had long been estranged.

Drawing of Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick in a plumed headdress,1820Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick by Sir George Hayter, 1820 NPG 1695(a) © National Portrait Gallery, London

Like that of his parents George III and Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, theirs had been an arranged marriage.  However whereas the elder couple famously produced no fewer than fifteen children, the Prince of Wales’s relationship with his bride-to-be was doomed almost from the start.  When he first laid eyes on her in April 1795 just prior to their wedding, he asked for a glass of brandy. (It cannot have helped that he had taken part in an illegal marriage ceremony with the twice-widowed Roman Catholic Maria Fitzherbert almost ten years before.)  Nine months later, when he had performed his husbandly duty of fathering a daughter and heiress, Princess Charlotte, he made it clear that he did not want to live with her mother ever again.

Both parties behaved abominably towards each other.  George appointed his latest mistress Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, as Lady of Caroline’s Royal Bedchamber, and did not bother to inform Caroline of Charlotte’s tragic death in childbirth in November 1817.  In 1806 Caroline’s outrageously flirtatious behaviour led the government to set up what became known, not inaccurately, as ‘the Delicate Investigation’.  Inevitably satirists and cartoonists revelled in portraying the warring couple.

Caricature of Queen Caroline discovering George IV in bed with the Countess of Jersey

'The Jersey smuggler detected; - or - good cause for (separation) discontent' by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 4 May 1796 NPG D13023 © National Portrait Gallery, London

When George III died on 29 January 1820, Caroline became – at least nominally – Queen of England, and returned from self-imposed Italian exile on 5 June.

Lyrics of songs about the return of Queen CarolineSongs on the return of Queen Caroline (1820) Shelfmark: 1852.b.9.(12) British Library Images Online

A battle of royal wills took place on the occasion of the coronation on 19 July 1821.  The new King had committed vast expenditure to making the ceremony as magnificent as possible, and had no intention of letting his unloved spouse rain on his parade.  This led to the unseemly spectacle of the Queen hammering on the doors of Westminster Abbey in an unsuccessful attempt to gain admittance.  It was only after she had failed to force her way in through Westminster Hall that she gave up and left, amid the jeers of a watching crowd.

That same night, Caroline fell ill, and died almost three weeks later on 7 August 1821. She may, or may not, have known of Lady Jersey’s death on 25 July.  Two people were killed in the disturbances that broke out in London as her coffin was taken to Harwich, for its onward journey to her final resting place in Brunswick Cathedral.  Her chosen epitaph was ‘the Injured Queen of England’.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services

Further reading:
‘The Royal Eclipse, or, Delicate facts exhibiting the secret Memoirs of Squire George and his wife’ (London, 1807), shelfmark 1608/3327
‘The Genuine Book: an Enquiry on Delicate Investigation into the conduct of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales. (London, 1813), OP-RC/895

04 August 2021

Cricket matches between England and India 1889-1946

The first cricket match in the England versus India 2021 test series starts today.  In the records of the India Office Information Department there is a file with papers from 1946 about matches between the two teams since 1889.

Portrait of Lord Hawke in his cricket whites and pads, with a striped blazer and capMartin Bladen Hawke, 7th Baron Hawke ('Statesmen. No. 601.') by Sir Leslie Ward, published in Vanity Fair 24 September 1892 NPG D44613 © National Portrait Gallery, London

By 1946, six English cricket teams had visited India.
Vernon’s team 1889-1890 – amateurs sponsored and captained by G. F. Vernon.
Lord Hawke’s Team 1893 – amateurs and a few professionals led by Lord Hawke.
Oxford University Authentics 1902-1903 - led by K. J. Key.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Tour 1925-1926 –the first official England team to visit India led by Arthur Gilligan.
MCC Tour 1933-1934 – an official team led by D. R. Jardine.
Lord Tennyson’s Team 1937-1938 – an unofficial team led by Lord Tennyson.

Head and shoulders portrait of cricketer Douglas Robert JardineDouglas Robert Jardine - cigarette card, 1935 NPG D49066 © National Portrait Gallery, London

India cricket teams had visited England on three occasions before 1946.
Patiala Team 1911 – led by the Maharaja of Patiala, a great patron of cricket and a first-class player.

Photographic portrait of the Maharaja of Patiala wearing a turban and clothing bedecked with jewels and medalsSir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala by Vandyk, 5 July 1911 NPG x98678 © National Portrait Gallery, London

First Official Tour 1932 – led by the Maharaja of Porbundar.
Second Official Tour 1936 – led by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Vijayananda Gajapathi Raju, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, aka Vizzy.

The file has notes on the sixteen players invited to join the 1946 tour to England- ‘the best team that India has ever sent out and everyone expects them to do well’.

NPG Iftikhar-Ali-Khan-Bahadur-Nawab-of-Pataudi

Iftikhar Ali Khan Bahadur, Nawab of Pataudi by Bassano Ltd, 19 July 1929 NPG x96773 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Nawab of Pataudi captained the team.  Pataudi was the first Indian to win a ‘triple blue’ at Oxford – cricket, hockey, and billiards. He also played football, tennis and golf.  At the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics he was a member of the India hockey team.

Pataudi joined Worcestershire Cricket Club in 1932.  He was selected to play for England against Australia and the West Indies.  Unfortunately his career was interrupted by bad health.

V. M. Merchant, vice-captain – India’s top batsman. ‘His play is a mixture of caution and daring…His strokes are scientifically perfect but equally elegant.’

Lala Amarnath was a fine all-rounder, ‘a sturdy batsman who combines cautious judgement with aggression’.

Syed Mushtaq Ali - ‘the idol of millions who are thrilled by his abandoned, often reckless, batmanship’. ‘His uncanny reach and unorthodox stroke play … keep the spectator in continual suspense.’

D. D. Hindlekar - a ‘quiet and efficient’ wicket-keeper and good opening bat.

Shute Banerjee – India’s leading fast bowler able to deliver a perfect length for hours; almost unplayable some days.

C. S. Nayudu – excellent spin bowler, and a good bat ‘who can effectively hit out at an awkward moment’.

Rusi Modi – ‘ a disciplined and versatile batsman’, ‘one of the greatest cricket-finds of recent years’.

S. W. Sohoni – a medium-paced bowler who could have earned a place for his batting alone.

Vijay Hazare – one of the best all-rounders with many spectacular batting performances to his credit.

Abdul Hafeez – a joyous and audacious batting style, sometimes taking incredible risks.

R. B. Nimbalkar – a good batsman and ‘understudy’ wicket-keeper.

Vinoo Mankad – an exceptionally good all-rounder.

Chandu Sarwate – one of best spin bowlers in India and a reliable bat.

Gul Mohammad – a courageous batsman and one of the finest fielders in India.

S. G. Shinde – a fast bowler and newcomer to first-class cricket.


India played 29 first-class fixtures in England in 1946, with eleven wins, four defeats and fourteen draws.


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Library, IOR/L/I/1/251 Cricket and Sport (General) 1932-1948


02 August 2021

Lady Tricyclists

As the world watches the athletes speeding round the Olympic velodrome, we’ve been looking back at the late 19th century when the sport of cycling was still in its infancy.

Advertisement for the new Marlboro' Club tricycle 1886The new Marlboro' Club tricycle 1886 - “The 'Marlboro' is extremely light, elegant, and fast, and a good hill climber. It can be used by a lady". British Library Evan.4145 Images Online

Tricycles were widely considered to be more suitable for women than bicycles.  Athletic News stated on 3 August 1881 that almost any ‘conceivable condition of female costume’ made riding a bicycle out of the question, more of an acrobatic feat than a useful accomplishment.  Tricycles were becoming increasingly popular with women, with Queen Victoria said to have bought machines for her granddaughters.  According to the Cornishman, there were over 100 distinct makes on the market by the end of 1881.

The spread of cycling amongst women was welcomed by Athletic News: ‘there cannot be the slightest doubt that ladies will be better and more healthfully employed in riding their tricycles along the highways and byways, where they can listen to the music of the birds and breathe the fresh air of Heaven, than in dawdling away their time in drawing-rooms and boudoirs, or in flirting at picnics and garden parties’.  The Liverpool Weekly Courier commented on the advantage of a vehicle which could be used at a moment’s notice 'without servants or horses’.  Propelling and steering the tricycle could be mastered in an hour.  Although the exercise was tiring at first because it used a fresh set of muscles, it quickly became easy and ‘delightful to women who are organically sound’.

A Tricycle Club for men and women was started in Kensington in London.  Meetings took place every Saturday.  A 50-mile race was organised for September 1879 with a special prize for the first woman to complete the distance, and silver and bronze medals for the runners-up to her.  The ladies of the Kensington club wore a navy blue serge dress and a felt deerstalker hat.

Victorian women’s clothing could be a problem when riding a tricycle.  In 1882 a woman out on a ride near Tring was thrown into the road when her dress became tangled in one of the wheels.  She was severely shaken and couldn’t carry on. A man passing in a trap helped her into town.

Newspapers passed on advice about suitable clothing for lady tricyclists so that they could avoid accidents or ‘loss of dignity’.  Samuel Brothers of Ludgate Hill London patented a special costume, ‘The Velocipedienne’.  This had strings to gather superfluous fullness in the skirt and a let-down fold which gave an extra six or seven inches to cover the feet and ankles.  It gave ample room for the knees to work.  In 1882 the Rational Dress Society recommended that lady tricyclists wore their new divided skirt which gave freer use of the legs and less resistance to the wind.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive  (also available via Findmypast) e.g. Liverpool Weekly Courier 23 August 1879; Bucks Herald 23 July 1881 and 17 June 1882; Western Daily Press 23 July 1881; Athletic News 3 August 1881; Lynn Advertiser 1 October 1881; Cornishman 15 December 1881; Nottingham Journal 8 June 1882.