Untold lives blog

158 posts categorized "Women's histories"

09 September 2021

‘An unseemly squabble’ in Aden

An argument at a dinner party.  A guest drinking too much.  A brush with the law.   An evening which would end a 30-year friendship.

After Captain Robert Cogan retired from active service with the Indian Navy, he settled in Aden, working for a trading company.  Perhaps his choice of town was influenced by the presence of his friend Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines, who was the British Political Agent there.

Head and shoulders portrait of Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines with a full, dark beard and bow tieA portrait of Captain Stafford Bettesworth Haines from a lithograph at the British Embassy, Aden. 

On 27 October 1846, Cogan and Haines, together with Haines’ wife Mary, dined at the house of Captain George James Duncan Milne.  By the next day, that 30-year friendship would be in tatters.

After dinner, the gentlemen joined the ladies in the drawing room, and Cogan took up the subject of society in Aden, focusing on Mrs Haines’ role and mentioning one occasion where he believed she had been negligent.  The rest of the party disagreed, and this led to a heated argument between Milne and Cogan.  At this point, Haines stepped in to de-escalate the dispute.  The argument continued between Haines and Cogan at Haines’ house, where Cogan called Haines ‘a cold blooded being’, and Haines tried to calm him down and persuade him to go home.

Captain Haines’ version of events from the East India Company archivesCaptain Haines’ version of events, IOR/F/4/2203/108123, f 329. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Meanwhile, Haines, acting as the local magistrate, directed a policeman to watch Cogan unobtrusively that night, giving orders that if he seemed about to leave his house to continue the quarrel, he was to be forced to remain at home.  Haines also required Milne to agree not to pursue an apology that night.

The next morning a message came to Cogan from Captain Milne, requiring him to retract his offensive expression.  Cogan readily agreed, and Milne also withdrew his language.  Cogan wrote to Mrs Milne to apologise, and to Captain Haines, regretting his bad taste and the ‘unhappy events…[which] have given me much pain’.  However, he also objected to Haines’ ‘irritating’ manner.  Haines was not satisfied, and replied that Cogan’s ‘conduct and singular expressions of last night preclude the continuance of our acquaintance’.  Cogan, upset, intended to consult friends about the dispute and was in the act of mounting his horse at his door, when ‘for the first time in my life, [I was] publicly arrested by a Police Constable’.

Cartoon entitled 'The Modest Couple' - a man turning away from a seated woman, with another older, cross-looking man between them gesturing towards her.'The Modest Couple' from The Bab Ballads, with which are included Songs of a Savoyard ... With 350 illustrations by the author by William Gilbert, (London, 1898).  BL flickr

This was a misunderstanding, as Haines had only ordered Cogan to be prevented from going out the previous night.  He was freed once Haines had been informed of what had happened.  However, Cogan was outraged to discover that he had been under police surveillance as being ‘likely to cause a breach of the Peace’.  To add to his outrage, Haines refused to forward his complaint about the arrest to his superiors in India, and he had to send it to the Governor of India himself.

The Government took this complaint of arrest on insufficient grounds seriously, although ignored the ‘unseemly squabble’, and asked Haines for his full explanation.  However, they decided that Haines had acted properly as he was motivated by his public duty, especially as Cogan had previously requested that a guest of his was placed under similar guardianship a few evenings before.  It is unclear whether their friendship ever recovered before Cogan died the following year.

Anne Courtney
Gulf History Cataloguer -British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
The story of Cogan’s wrongful arrest appears in IOR/F/4/2203/108123.

 

02 September 2021

East India Company appointments by the Prince Regent – (2) Peniston Lamb

On 30 May 1815 the East India Company Court of Directors considered a request from the Prince Regent that Peniston George Lamb be appointed to a writership in Bengal.  It was resolved that His Royal Highness should be given the nomination of a student for East India College, Haileybury,  with a view to appointment as a writer on the Bengal establishment.

Peniston Lamb writer's petition 1817 - letter from Viscount MelbourneLetter from Viscount Melbourne in the writer’s petition papers for Peniston Lamb IOR/J/1/32 f. 272 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Peniston Lamb submitted his application papers to the Company in July 1815.  These include documents of support from Viscount Melbourne at Whitehall who states that Peniston Lamb is his grandson and ward.  A certificate from St George Hanover Square records that Peniston was born on 30 April 1801 and baptised on 8 August, the son of Peniston and Margaretta Lamb.  His father had died.  Peniston junior was educated at a school based in Hertford Castle, not far from the family seat at Brocket Hall.  

However the story of Peniston Lamb is more complicated than might at first seem.

The identity of his mother Margaretta is a mystery.  His father Peniston is not known to have married, although he had a long-term affair with Mrs Sophia Musters whose name was also linked in society gossip to Prince George.  Sick with consumption and anticipating his end, Peniston Lamb wrote requests to his father Viscount Melbourne and brother William which were discovered in his desk after his death in January 1805.  The first dated June 1803 included this wish: ‘I now recommend to my dear Father’s care and protection the little Boy which is at Mrs Cottys but only wish him to be brought up as a Millner’s Son ought to be’.  In October 1804, Peniston instructed William that any residue from his estate should go to this child.  It appears from the writer’s petition that Viscount Melbourne acknowledged the boy as his grandson and gave him an education suitable for a career in the East India Company.

Portrait of Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne, seated, holding her baby son Peniston Lamb, whose feet are resting on  a cradle next to them Elizabeth Lamb (née Milbanke), Viscountess Melbourne, with Peniston Lamb as a child by Samuel William Reynolds or Samuel William Reynolds Jr, (1770-1771) NPG D38358 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Lambs had close ties to the Prince Regent and there are many instances of his patronage being granted to the family.  Viscount Melbourne and his wife Elizabeth both had extra-marital relationships.  Elizabeth had six children who survived infancy but the only one believed to have been fathered without doubt by her husband was her eldest son Peniston born in 1770.  She began a well-known affair with the Prince in 1783 and he was said to be the father of her fourth son George.

Peniston Lamb spent four terms at East India College and was a very proficient student.  He won prizes for classics, French, and law. When he left in 1819, he was placed in the first class category and ranked third amongst the students destined for a career in Bengal.  The sureties guaranteeing his good behaviour in India were Hon George Lamb of Whitehall Yard, barrister (his uncle and the possible son of the Prince Regent,) and Charles Cookney of Holborn, solicitor.  George Lamb also gave security that the appointment had not been purchased.

Having arrived in India in July 1820, Peniston Lamb worked for the Board of Revenue and then the Secret and Political Department.  Sadly his career was very short as he died in Singapore on 20 July 1824.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/J/1/32 ff. 269-276 Writer’s petition for Peniston Lamb. (I have found no mention of George being his middle name except in the Prince Regent’s request to the East India Company.)
IOR/J/1/97 East India College examination results.
IOR/B/161 p.172 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 30 May 1815.
IOR/B/170 p. 1158 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 18 February 1820.
The National Archives PROB 11/1421/107 Probate of will of The Honorable Peniston Lamb of Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire 13 February 1805.
Biographical notes on Peniston Lamb (1770 -1805) History of Parliament Online 
L. G. Mitchell, Lord Melbourne 1779-1848 (Oxford, 1997)
Philip Ziegler, Melbourne - A biography of William Lamb 2nd Viscount Melbourne (London, 1976)

 

31 August 2021

East India Company appointments by the Prince Regent – (1) Henry Meredith Parker

In December 1812 the Chairman of the East India Company received a letter from Colonel McMahon, Private Secretary to the Prince Regent.  The Prince had asked McMahon to express how much he would be obliged if the Court of Directors granted him a writership for Bengal for a young gentleman aged seventeen whom the Prince was desirous of serving.  The Company directors resolved unanimously that His Royal Highness should be presented with the nomination of a student for East India College with a view to appointment as a writer on the Bengal establishment.

Prince Regent's request for a Bengal writership December 1812Request of the Prince Regent for a Bengal writership December 1812 IOR/B/156 p. 996 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Nominations for East India College were normally shared amongst the Company directors, but sometimes others were granted the privilege of putting a name forward, for example politician Lord Sidmouth.

The young man being favoured by the Prince Regent was Henry Meredith Parker.  In July 1813 Henry was appointed Deputy-Assistant Commissary to the Forces but he then reverted to seeking a career in the East India Company.  In December 1813 the Court of Directors resolved that he should be appointed as a writer in Bengal without having to attend East India College if found suitable.  Henry was examined by Samuel Henley, Principal of East India College, and rated ‘preeminently qualified’.  The sureties who put up money to guarantee Henry’s good behaviour were his father and Colonel McMahon.

Writer's petition for Henry Meredith ParkerWriter’s petition for Henry Meredith Parker January 1814 IOR/J/1/29 f.19v Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Henry’s application papers state that he was born on 4 June 1795 in St George’s Surrey.  He had to provide details of his parents’ situation, profession and residence: ‘My Parents Mr and Mrs William Parker, reside in Bridge Street in the Parish of Lambeth on their Private Income’.  Henry did not reveal that his parents were both well-known entertainers.  His father William Parker was an equestrian specialist and for some years proprietor of a circus in Edinburgh.  His mother was Sophia Granier, a singer, dancer and actress from a large family of stage players. Henry played the violin in the orchestra at the theatre in Covent Garden.

Why did the Prince Regent wish to help Henry with his career?  It seems that the Prince had seen the Parker family perform.  William Parker had an older daughter Nannette by his first wife, and she was a celebrated actress who married the popular Scottish actor Henry Erskine Johnston.  Apparently the Prince took a fancy to Nannette and forced his way into her dressing room.  Her furious husband sought out the Prince and gave him a thrashing.  Johnston was arrested but managed to escape, hiding in London before fleeing north.

Henry Meredith ParkerSketch of Henry Meredith Parker from Colesworthey Grant, Lithographic sketches of the public characters of Calcutta (Calcutta, 1850) 

Whatever the reasons behind his appointment, Henry flourished in India.  Away from his duties at the Board of Customs, Salt and Opium, he had a busy social life - acting, making music, and writing poetry, plays and prose. His friend, the journalist J. H .Stocqueler, described him as ‘a man of rare talents and brilliant attainments’.  Henry’s younger sisters Sophia Zenana and Josephine joined him in India and married Bengal civil servants.

Obituary for Henry Meredith Parker
British Newspaper Archive – obituary for Henry Meredith Parker in Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 19 September 1863

Henry Meredith Parker died in Richmond, Surrey, on 17 September 1863.  His obituary in the Homeward Mail said that Henry was accomplished, kind and genial, the life and soul of British society in Calcutta.

I have found another writer’s nomination by the Prince Regent in 1815 and I’ll tell you about that in our next post.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/B/156 pp. 996, 1000 - Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 9 and 11 December 1812.
IOR/B/158 pp.960, 1210 - Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 23 December 1813 and 4 March 1814.
J. H .Stocqueler, Memoirs of a journalist (Bombay, 1873).
Philip H. Highfill, A biographical dictionary of actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, managers & other stage personnel in London, 1660-1800 (Southern Illinois University Press, 1973-93).
Donald Campbell, Playing for Scotland – A history of the Scottish stage 1715-1965 (Edinburgh, 1996).
Máire ní Fhlathúin (ed.), The poetry of British India, 1780-1905, Volume 1 1780-1833 (London, 2011), pp.237-269 Henry Meredith Parker.
British Newspaper Archive – obituary for Henry Meredith Parker in Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 19 September 1863 (also available via Findmypast).

 

26 August 2021

Hilda Elizabeth Henry - 'a skilled craftswoman of exquisite taste'

The British Library celebrates the work of famous or professional historical figures but also gives an insight into the lives of lesser known people, one of whom was art teacher, Hilda Elizabeth Henry (1885-1936).

Sheffield School of Art in 1857 - view of exterior of buildingSheffield School of Art - these purpose-built premises in Arundel Street opened in 1857 - Illustrated Times 22 November 1856 British Newspaper Archive via Findmypast.  The School was renamed Sheffield Technical School of Art in 1903.

At a time when women’s lives revolved around the home, Hilda was something of a pioneer.  She was born in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and when the family moved to Sheffield continued her education there at the High School, at University College and at the art school.  The Sheffield Technical School of Art accepted women students and furthermore recognised Hilda’s talent by awarding her a prestigious 'Montgomery medal'.

Both sides of a Montgomery Medal, one with the head of James Montgomery in profile

Sheffield School of Art , Montgomery medal, 1852

Despite periodic bouts of ill health, Miss Henry made a successful career in education. From 1910-25 she taught art at the Cheltenham Ladies' College where she bound a copy of Rolland’s Vie de Michel-Ange in 1915.

Spine and upper cover of Rolland’s Vie de Michel-Ange by Hilda E. Henry

Decorative detail from the cover of Rolland’s Vie de Michel-AngeSpine and upper cover of Rolland’s Vie de Michel-Ange by Hilda E. Henry

She has been described as 'clearly an amateur', but she took her work seriously and signed herself  'Hilda E. Henry. Binder'.  The fact that she chose to present it to the college is an indication of her satisfaction with her work.

Book label - 'Presented by Miss H. Henry'Interestingly, the College had another connection with bookbinding via one of their governors, the celebrated practitioner Sarah Prideaux, member of the College Council from 1907-1922.  Did Miss Prideaux ever see Miss Henry’s binding, which was kept in locked case (M19) and if so, what was her opinion?

From 1925, Miss Henry was much in demand in Tamworth as mistress of the Tamworth Art School, art mistress of the Grammar School and the Girls' High School, and supervisor of the art teaching in the elementary schools of the borough.  The council paid her £60 a year for the latter post.

Miss Henry’s interests were wide ranging.  She exhibited tooled and embossed leather work at the Autumn Exhibition of the Royal Society of Artists in 1929.  Her pupils were also encouraged to find new ways of artistic expression including leather work, lino cutting and embroidery as well as the customary design, painting and drawing.  Perhaps the most telling tribute to her abilities as an art teacher was a compliment paid by Mr F. Burkitt, the headmaster of the Grammar School: 'She had already made the boys look forward with pleasure to each art lesson, and what was more valuable, to do work of their own accord out of school'.


PJM Marks
Curator, Bookbindings, Printed Heritage Collections

The copy of  Rolland’s Vie de Michel-Ange bound by Hilda E. Henry was acquired recently by the British Library and is awaiting cataloguing.

 

24 August 2021

'A Curious Herbal' inspiring current day creatives

Let us introduce you to a remarkable woman called Elizabeth Blackwell and her book, A Curious Herbal.  The British Library is lucky enough to have three copies of this important book.  Elizabeth Blackwell, born in the early 1700s, was the first British woman to produce a herbal.  She drew, engraved and coloured the 500 illustrations single-handedly.  The unusual story behind the herbal’s creation makes it even more interesting.

Garden Cucumber by Elizabeth BlackwellGarden Cucumber, Plate 4, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth’s husband Alexander was a shady character.  He practiced as a doctor in Aberdeen but had no formal medical training or qualifications.   When he was challenged the couple fled to London.  Alexander then tried to establish himself as a printer.  However, the authorities discovered that he hadn’t completed the mandatory apprenticeship.  His breach of regulations incurred a heavy fine which he couldn’t pay.  So he was sent to debtor’s prison.  Elizabeth decided to publish a herbal to support herself and her child, and raise enough money to secure her husband’s release from prison.

Love Apple by Elizabeth BlackwellLove Apple, Plate 133, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth published A Curious Herbal in parts between 1737 and 1739.  Several leading botanists endorsed her.  She also approached Sir Hans Sloane who granted her access to the foreign plant specimens in his collection (see the blog post Introducing Elizabeth Blackwell to Hans Sloane).  There were 500 engraved illustrations in total, all hand-coloured by Elizabeth herself.  Normally this would require three separate professionals.  She drew specimens not only from England but also many from North and South America.  These specimens were brought to England by colonists and botanists who often had links to slave labour plantations.

'Female Piony' by Elizabeth Blackwell'Female Piony', Plate 65, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Elizabeth’s plan worked. Her profits secured Alexander’s release from prison. But, despite his wife’s heroic efforts, he was not a reformed man. His debts built up once more and he became entangled in a political conspiracy in Sweden. He was beheaded for treason in 1748. Elizabeth Blackwell faded from the historical record after this – we don’t know much about the rest of her life. But she will always be remembered for being a pioneer in botanical illustration and for her heroic efforts to help her (useless!) husband.

Guinea Pepper by Elizabeth BlackwellGuinea Pepper, Plate 129, Elizabeth Blackwell, A Curious Herbal, 1737-1739. British Library 34.i.12-13. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

This summer A Curious Herbal is being used to inspire current budding botanical illustrators taking part in the Entangled Sketchbook Challenge organised by Lancaster University.  The Challenge invites people to examine the natural world around them using a series of prompts to make daily notes, doodles and drawings to record details of what they find, including the date, time and weather.  The hashtag for sharing these drawings on social media is #EntangledSketchbooks.

Challenge participants can also ask for their favourite sketchbook pages to be considered for an online exhibition that will be part of the Entangled Festival, a week-long celebration of arts, environment and technologies, which is taking place online and outdoors in Morecambe Bay from 18- 26 September 2021.  To submit drawings for this, please email good quality photographs or scans to entangledfestival@gmail.com using ‘Exhibition submission’ in the email subject line.

Good luck to everyone taking part in the challenge.  We hope Elizabeth Blackwell’s wonderful illustrations provide delight and encouragement for you to draw some nearby plants, flowers and trees.

Maddy Smith, Curator Printed Heritage Collections, and Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom), Digital Curator 

 



11 August 2021

Household accounts for Charles and Charlotte Canning

Records which give us rich details about the minutiae of day-to-day life in the past can be hard to come by.  Household accounts are a seemingly mundane source but can give us an insight into what goods and services were available, who was supplying them, and how much items cost.  The papers of Charles and Charlotte Canning contain a file of bills or invoices with receipts for payments 1850-1851.  It provides a glimpse into the lives of these elite members of the Victorian aristocracy and how they ran their household.

Illustrated paper describing the goods offered by J. C. Cording, nautical and sporting waterproofer and tailor, 231 Strand

Goods offered by J. C. Cording, nautical and sporting waterproofer and tailor, 231 Strand - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

The Cannings lived at 10 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, from 1836 until 1855, when Charles was appointed Governor General of India.  The Cannings spent money on the fabric of the building.  William Allen, plumber, painter and glazier, billed them for £121 7s 0d for work carried out from January-October 1850, including repairs to burst pipes ‘injured by frost’.  His invoice was submitted in December 1850 and paid in August 1851.

The couple’s expenditure on clothing is shown.  In June 1851, Ashmead & Tyler, hatters by Royal Appointment, supplied a ‘Dress drab napless Hat with Velvet band & Ostrich Feather for HM Fancy Ball’, at a cost of £1 13s 0d, ‘drab’ being fine quality fur.  Clothes weren’t always bought new, but were made over, mended, and adjusted.  H.C. Curlewis of 58 Conduit Street provided alteration services such as adding new collars, in addition to supplying new waistcoats and silk-lined frock coats.  Their bill of £22 10s 0d for January-July 1850 was paid on 5 February 1851.

Invoice of William Bennett, goldsmith and jeweller, Southampton Street Bloomsbury, including a charge for repairing a cheese toaster Invoice of William Bennett, goldsmith and jeweller, Southampton Street Bloomsbury, including a charge for repairing a cheese toaster  - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

Recycling was common.  A bill from George & William Atkins, brush manufacturers, turners and wax chandlers of Mount Street, Berkeley Square, shows that the Cannings paid £2 13s 0d in 1850 to have several ivory and silver brushes refilled with hair.  There are additional bills for repairs to various household items, including a ‘cheese toaster’.

Bill for personal hygiene products from J & E Atkinson perfumers, 24 Old Bond Street

Bill for personal hygiene products from J & E Atkinson perfumers, 24 Old Bond Street- Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

There are bills for personal hygiene products.  Throughout 1850 the household made regular purchases from J & E Atkinson, perfumers of New Bond Street, for items such as quinine tooth powder, violet powder, Eau de Botot, rose mouthwash, Eau de Cologne, soap (both Pears and Castile) and sponges.   The total cost was £8 18s 8d.  Professional services were also paid for. ‘Medical attendance’ by Thomas Chilver of 14 New Burlington Street and Robert Cundy of Belgrave Square, cost £7 10s 6d.  The doctors visited the housekeeper Mrs Cunningham, the coachman, and the footman.

Bankruptcy papers for William Goodchild Shipley

Bankruptcy papers for  William Goodchild Shipley - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9

Suppliers submitted invoices for goods and services supplied three, six or even twelve months earlier, a system which did not always end happily.  Bankruptcy proceedings against William Goodchild Shipley of 17 Market Row, Oxford Street, dated 21 December 1850 show the Cannings owed £51 11s 6d for forage for horses.

Items purchased include: candles (wax, India, margarine, sperm); horse stabling, tack, and feed; books; paper and envelopes; shaving powder; duelling pistols; carpets, curtains and household furnishings; cigars, tobacco and pipes; umbrellas; fishing boots; clothing (including for servants); wallpapering; picture framing; candelabras; coffee cups and saucers; silver inkstand; crystal glasses and tumblers; subscription to Hansard’s Parliamentary debates; gloves; newspapers; patent wine cooler; silvered globe; porcelain service; champagne, French truffles, dried cherries and dates; reading lamp; portfolio of nautical charts; railway guides; Turkish towels; hairdressing services; clock cleaning; and silk fringing.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Mss Eur F699 Papers of Charles Canning and Charlotte Canning, Earl and Countess Canning (including file Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9 Household Bills and Receipts, 1850-51)

 

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

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.

 

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