Monday, July 5, 2010

Fashionable Contrasts

Gillray's print, Fashionable Contrasts may be familiar to many of you. But whose feet are those?

This was the satirical artist's marriage gift/big English welcome to Princess Frederica when she married Prince Frederick (Duke of York). Yup, as if it weren't cruel enough to be named Fred, the couple now each had a spouse also named Fred. Frederica had notably dainty feet, which was apparently easy fuel for Gillray's satirical fire. But were her feet really that tiny? Sources say they were a mere 5.5 inches long. That would be the equivalent to about a children's shoe size 7 (US). Given, Frederica was reportedly pretty short even for the 18th century but she became quite famous for her tiny toes.


  1. How adorable! It seems an odd thing to poke fun at someone for!

    Still, she is doing better than Robert E Lee, who also had 5.5 inch feet - which are a harder thing to get away with when you are a man of regular height, and a general to boot!

  2. This is totally off topic, but I had to tell you; when my DD1 was in fourth grade, they had a science experiment they had to do and several to choose from. She chose raising two mealworms which sat on her desk and she would track their progress.

    She named them Fred and Fredette...

    Back to the topic; those are tiny feet but then again, you did say Fredericka was very tiny. I'm wondering how tall she was.

    And the paintings...lovely!

  3. @Dreamstress, What! Really?? I can't imagine those were good for rushing into battle!

    @Nightsmuisic, There was a painting I found of her which I couldn't attribute and it showed a woman (presumably her) surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes, I wish there was more info on it.

  4. it's always entertaining and educating reading your blog!
    1. i had no idea about her being so tiny nor about the feet of Mr Lee, hehe ;-D
    2. i always like looking for special details in paintings and aren't his buckles extremely well done!? nice shoes...
    3. well, the name frederick... germanic and so typically german too. i love the female version frederica or better the german equivalent Friederike. I'd love to be called like that. but I'm (well, my real me) an onomastic scientist and names are my obsession... - though now, thinking about it, i literally committed a crime by calling my heroine's bad fiance Frederick, let him die and then the sacrilege in naming her husband Fitzwilliam! Now I'm afraid of the Austenites...

  5. Kind of off topic, but I find it ironically amusing that this cartoon was publically acceptable at the time of its publication, but by the 1860's the mention of a woman's foot in Jane Eyre caused scandal.

  6. I love the caption...and C18th humour in general! Thanks Heather. I second Emmeline on the simultaneously educative and entertaining value of your blog and its comments.

    @Emmeline, by the way, don't fear Austenites (at least not me =D) because Austen is actually guilty of using the name Fitzwilliam as both Darcy and his cousin's name - even if this was deliberate to show familial links - so I'd let you off!

  7. Love those shoes, but adult feet 5.5 inches long? I think mine were that long when I was born!

  8. Marchioness de VogueJuly 7, 2010 at 12:47 AM

    @BELLE , it's because Queen Victoria was a prude and demanded society emulate her. We really would hate her if she lived today.

  9. @Marchioness - she wasn't really! Look what she had painted for Albert: (Not that I read the Telegraph of course!)

    Actually, that picture was discussed in a recent BBC documentary on the art of Victoria and Albert, for which they used the soundtrack to The Duchess.

    Off topic finished =)

  10. Marchioness de VogueJuly 7, 2010 at 10:13 PM

    @Jessi P In the Victorian era girls weren't even told about their menstr. cycle from the mothers'.When it came to consummating marriages they were told "keep your heads up and think of the empire". When Victoria was young her mother sheltered her from all society too. But I guess she only became so rigid after Albert died.

  11. Now comes my two cents (as if you don't get that enough!) I find the difference between the two eras fascinating (in terms of sex). In fact, it was once one of my ye olde concentrations. Most of the prudishness can be attributed to new discoveries and fears about venereal diseases. Those, of course, being women's fault. ;)

  12. I love that print! The more I look at it the more I love it! And it isn't all because I am addicted to shoes!

    And I second Heather's fascination with the clash of eras. Which is why I find the Regency squashed right there in the middle even more fascinating...

  13. @Marchioness, you're right - perhaps that's why she loved the sensual in her marriage, because it was a form of rebellion against childhood?

    Both she and Albert came from rather loveless and disfunctional families, so...

    I also think the clash of eras is fascinating; they are almost two opposite ends of the spectrum and then the Regency doesn't know what to make of itself between them. On the one hand it wants to hold on to the Neoclassical reminiscense of the previous century but on the other there's a fascination with Romanticism which then leads to the Gothic and overturns (again) much of the very progressive aspects of C18th society.

  14. Marchioness de VogueJuly 10, 2010 at 11:53 PM

    @Jessi Yeah, I think the stereotype of British people today comes from the Victorian era. I know whenever there are British jokes going around between my friends prominent themes include dowdiness, boring, non-sensual, non-emotional and indifferent, no style, and ridiculous amounts of propriety. I think the Victorian era had the greatest effect on how they came to be identified later. Infact I think the only thing that saved them was the 60's with the mod era and the sexual revolution.