Friday, February 27, 2009

Tart of the Week: Nancy Parsons

Another humble tart from humble beginnings, Annabella was said to be the daughter of a tailor on Bond Street. If this is the case, her family took care in Annabella receiving a good education, possibly abroad. Perhaps, her father serviced the well-to-do which made little Annabella accustomed to the cultured set. Unlike some of our favourite tarts, Annabella was deeply religious with a calm temperament. It was said that any harsh words said against her left deep scars; she was a gentle soul at heart.

At a young age she eloped to the West Indies with a Captain Horton. The whole idea probably seemed romantic at the time but once she began her new life in Jamaica she was soon to discover the true nature of Captain Horton. He abused her so much that she ran away, first boarding a ship to the Americas and then finally managing to make her way back to London.

Now going by the name of Mrs Nancy Horton (widow), our heroine found herself completely penniless and out of luck. Praying wasn't gonna help her put food in her stomach and find a place to live, Nancy had to act fast. She managed to find a series of men to take care of her in exchange for, ya know, the goods. One of these men just happened to be the newly separated Duke of Grafton who had had enough of his wife's gambling. The Duke was head over heels for Nancy and the two were the example of the perfect couple for years. Nancy even acted as the incumbent wife, hosting dinners and such-all while the Duke was serving as Prime Minister. They saw each other as equals and the Duke was never adverse to seeking Nancy's advice in political matters. The breakup came as quite a shock to everyone including Nancy. The press was quick to report that while the Duke wanted to keep things amiable, Nancy was too hurt. Soon afterward, the Duke remarried.

Nancy was no longer in the height of her beauty and although she was getting an annuity, her future security was still uncertain. However, she still had her charms and networking skills so she wasn't without a list of admirers. One of these admirers was the young Duke of Dorset who would later be known as quite the ladies' man. He and Nancy were a couple for more than a year before he moved on to the much younger Elizabeth Armistead.

Then suddenly Nancy was the Viscountess Maynard. The fact that Nancy and Charles, Viscount Maynard were even seeing each other had slipped under everyone's radar until the marriage announcement was in the Morning Post. Even more surprising, Charles was 15 years younger than Nancy. Whispers surfaced that Nancy's intelligence made up for Charles' lack of it. Now in her older years, it was her smarts that attracted many men, not her beauty; and that sexy brain of hers got her a title.

Men of all ages and ranks continued to fall in love with Nancy up until the time of her death in 1792 at the age of 69.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bingley Brains

I've been wandering over to Seth Grahame-Smith's blog on Amazon quite regularly now. For those who don't know this mildly unknown name, Grahame-Smith is one of the authors of the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Based on the funny anecdotes of the blog, I now have higher 'LOL' expectations for the book. He's a funny guy! Of course, this may come as no shock since this is the same guy who came up with the concept of combining zombies and Bennets.

In other Meryton zombie news, the NY Times has a pretty good article about the upcoming book and it's surprising internet response (which I'm just adding too, aren't I?).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: Wedlock

When I heard that a new biography for Mary Eleanor Bowes was coming out I was more than excited. The Countess of Strathmore was a feisty, vivacious woman of the Enlightenment. Her love of pets and interest and patronage in botany were only overshadowed by her tragic marriage to what can only be described as a horrible sociopath. Mary and her story are very interesting to me but I craved more juicy details; so as luck would have it Wendy Moore provides just those in her new book Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore. That may be a long title, but it's also a great summery and sale pitch for Mary's harrowing tale.

Mary was the richest heiress in Great Britain at the time of her marriage to the Earl of Strathmore. She settled down to married life and to motherhood, which proved to be disappointing. When her husband died not long afterward, the widowed (and still filthy rich) countess made up for lost time by partying in London, having numerous boyfriends, and finally engrossing herself in her educational interests. Unfortunately, one of her lovers turned out to be a schemer who would form a series of the most diabolical plots in order to capture her wealth. Andrew Robinson Stoney faked a duel in her honour and a fatal wound in order for her promise to marry him. Mary, wanting to grant a dying man his last wish, obliged. This proved to be a near fatal error. Mary soon became a prisoner to her new husband who tortured her for the fun of it. The once glamourous countess was forced to wear rags and be severely beaten on a daily basis [pictured right during the height of her abuse] while her husband brought home mistress after mistress and raped their servants. As jaw dropping as Mary's abuse is, her divorce trial is even more amazing, considering the little rights women had in this era.
"...[Judge] Buller had become the laughingstock by suggesting that a husband could lawfully beat his wife as long as he used a stick no bigger than his thumb. Yet even "Judge Thumb" was scandalized at the depraved extremes of [Andrew Robinson Stoney]'s conduct, which now unfolded before the court."

I will admit, this book started out slow, and therefore disappointingly for me. Moore has a good sense of narrative but also a tendency to drone on about all sorts of things in an effort not to leave out any information. A totally understandable concern, but not always the best commodity for non-fiction. This would gradually bore and then veer me away from the main context. But with introductions out of the way the book picked up and the real dirt began to be revealed; that's when Moore began to shine.

There are many challenges in writing Bowe's biography. Moore documents almost every case of the poor woman's abuse that she could find. She does this all while avoiding making the individual cases sound too repetitive or like a Lifetime movie. The true and awful nature of Stoney is also revealed in full force and with thoughtful analysis. Where Georgian court trials can get long-winded and tedious, Moore manages to cut out the dispensable aspects to keep the story going.

Wedlock is definitely worth reading, even if it is a little tough to get through the first third of the book. Mary Eleanor is an amazing woman, who, without realizing it, became a pioneer in women's divorce settlements, and therefore, individual rights. I'm proud to say that her biographer does her justice. Wedlock is already available in the UK under the sumptuous subtitle: How Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match and will be on US Shelves on 10 March.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Update

I just managed to catch the end of Michael O'Connor's teary Oscar speech (sorry, was watching Oliver Twist!). The Duchess just won for the best costumes. A deserved honour but I can't help but notice The Duchess seems to only be recognized for costumes and no other honours in terms of awards.

Upcoming Exhibitions of Interest

The Intimate Portrait: Drawings, Miniatures, and Pastels from Ramsay to Lawrence
The National Galleries of Scotland and the British Museum have teamed up to present an exploration of the, dare I say, less grand portraits of Georgian England. These often disregarded artworks will be on display in all their glory at the British Museum from 5 March to 31 May.

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones
While I struggle through making a Georgiana anthology of Hats Stephen Jones has brought some of his life's research to fruition at the Victorian & Albert Museum. This exhibition which runs from 23 February to 31 May explores a variety of hats through the centuries and promises to be a must see for mad haberdashers.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tart of the Week: Hecca Sheridan

You could say that Hecca Ogle was Richard Brinsley Sheridan's retribution for being such a bastard to his first, and much sweeter wife, Elizabeth. Esther Jane Ogle, nicknamed Hecca, was born in 1776, the daughter of the Dean of Winchester. Her family tended to be involved in politics and move in the subsequent circles so it is likely there that the 43 year old playwright/politician first met the green-eyed eighteen year old.

Legend has it that upon their first meeting Hecca was all, "Ew go away!" and said that Sheridan was a "fright" and a "terrible creature" which of course just encouraged him all the more. At the time he was manic and depressed over rejection from Harriet Countess of Bessborough, so what better a time then to pursue a high-spirited teen. Eventually, his persistence paid off and Hecca began to say that he was "quite clever" despite being a "monster." Then Sheridan's star-quality began to dawn on her, perhaps this wouldn't be such a bad match after all. In 1794 she was in love and by 1795 they were married.

Hecca was not drop dead gorgeous but she was pretty. She also was young and had a wild side that appealed to a lot of men. Her dark features and green eyes along with her tall figure presented her as an exotic and mysterious creature that needed to be tamed. But taming was not in the works for this tart. The press began to take notice of how Sheridan's young wife's refusal to conform to the standards of a great man's wife. Yet, Sheridan was smitten and their son was soon born, with Charles Fox and Charles Grey as his godfathers. God forbid, anything happened to the Sheridans!

But things weren't to stay happy for long. Soon the arguments began. Hecca had no problem raising her voice against her Irish politician husband. She was disenchanted by her gloomy old husband who was fast becoming an alcoholic. She threatened to leave him and he begged her not to, all while thinking of Harriet. Hecca didn't leave him but she did move on to another; a man who just happened to be married to her own cousin, Charles Earl Grey.

At the time Georgiana and Grey had either reignited their affair or were good friends. Either way, Georgiana had put the past behind her and was ready to maturely move on. Grey himself, was not in love with her, yet couldn't stay away. But suddenly Grey began avoiding her altogether. This was due to Grey and Hecca hooking up. Hecca took no discretion, and once the affair reached the press, she flaunted it in Georgiana's face. I believe, after that, Georgiana finally realized Grey was just not worth it; but she still took the blow hard. Hecca relished in her victory. She would get hers later.

One night, Sheridan had drank himself into a stupor and Hecca feared for the worst. She sent for none other than Harriet who Sheridan was crying out for. Nervously, Harriet raced over at midnight. When Sheridan saw her he began apologizing for his awful treatment of her throughout the years and told her that he never loved anyone as much as her. Hecca was shocked and upset and interjected. Sheridan responded with, "My dear Hecca, you know I love you more than anyone else. Except her." When Hecca flew into a rage he merely responded, "Don't talk nonsense."

Hecca's remaining years were plagued by cancer. She perished prematurely at the age of 41, a year after her husband's death.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Bath Accessory for Every Lady

Lauren just put up an interesting post on contemporary adaptions of 18th century cosmetics. In her post she features soaps and such from our shared obsession, Lush, an English company specializing in handmade soaps and other goodies. Perhaps the reason I am so drawn to Lush is that so many of their products could represent our favourite 18th century ladies. Yes, I think about these silly things a lot.

If Georgiana had a product it would have to be the bath bomb Supernova. Formally called Champagne Supernova you come out of your bathtub silky soft and smelling of, you guessed it, champagne...but in a good way. Drop this pink ball in the bath and it explodes in colorful streamers and fizzies that turn the tub water pink. It's a Devonshire House party in every bath.

Marie Antoinette and all her sisters were known for their lily white hands that made the guys go crazy. Achieving this was no small feat. You must always wear gloves when outside and while you're inside you should moisturize moisturize moisturize. Dream Cream has every reason to have a pompous name, it can heal any type of dry skin and make it silky smooth. Plus it has the light scent of roses, completing the whole Lily and Rose Marie Antoinette connection.

Lush products aren't just for the ladies, and remember hygiene was just as important to the 18th century man too. This shaving cream is called Prince and it's fit for, you know who, the Prince of Wales! I think George would love to have that perfectly smooth shave that leaves the soft scent of citrus behind. No wonder the ladies were all over him!

Floral and Feminine describes both Keep it Fluffy soap and Princess Lambelle's sunny days at Triannon. Every time you pop in the shower you can warp yourself to the gardens of Triannon.

Lady Worsley became quite notorious for her baths. It was an infamous bath at Cox Heath where she (oops) gave a little bit of a peep show to her husband and his friend (who she just happened to be sleeping with). I'm sure Seymour would have indulged in just about every one of these lusheous products, but perhaps Ooh La La soap, with its lavender scent, would appeal to her the most.

Well, we can't leave Madame DuBarry out of this set. I'm sure this royal mistress would gobble up just about every decadent product she could get her hands on. I can just see her in a bubble bath surrounded by candles waiting for Louis XV to happen upon her. For that occasion she would just have to get the Sex Bomb bath bomb, making this extravagant tart irresistible.

Lady Hester Stanhope's true love was the exotic lands of the middle east. She fully submerged herself in the different cultures so she would probably love to do the same with Blue Skies shower gel which gives off the exotic scent of those lands she once traveled.

For a sweetie-pie such as Harriet Countess of Bessborough you would need a daily indulgence in this amazing smelling shower smoothie, Creamed Almond and Coconut. This sweet little lady had a high-stress life, so a nice bath or shower with this amazing smelling soap would do the trick when you had a stressful day of juggling lovers and raising children.

The links I put up are to the American site but you can select your very own country by going to Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Immortal Companion: Richard Cosway

Richard Cosway is best known as the leading miniature portrait artist of the Georgian era. He was also known for being married to the fashionable Maria Cosway (whom Thomas Jefferson was in love with at one point) and for being the definition of a macaroni. His white hair was arranged in a high point and Cosway was not adversed to wearing the typical macaroni makeup and colorful clothing. Despite his foppish exterior, Cosway was well respected, a favourite artist of the Prince of Wales, and a founding member of the Royal Academy. Like Gainsborough and Reynolds, anyone who was anyone would have Cosway paint their miniature.

So when it came time for Cosway to commision a painting of his beloved he chose the leading animal portraitist, George Stubbs. Of course, the macroni had the most fashionable type of pet, a tiny white dog. Can't you just see the flamboyant Cosway walking through the streets cradling this little white puff ball? His pup is portrayed with every enlightened sensitibility. Romping in the Rousseau wilderness, he is distracted by a moth and poses in an alert stance with his focus on the airborn insect. Here we have an example of a portrait that totally focuses on the dog and not the dog's owner; an example of the value put on pets. And if your pet just happened to be of the upmost fashion, then it really couldn't hurt to put your dog on display!

Monday, February 16, 2009


"...You may shoot me, or beat me to a mummy: my person is in your power, but my mind is beyond your reach."

-Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore when faced by her husband's pistol after he kidnapped her.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Would Georgie Do? Dilemmas with Debt

Recently, I have decided that enough is enough regarding my credit card debts! I'm sick to death of getting telephone offers to help me consolidate my debts and I'm sicker still knowing that the four foot peacock feathers I bought last year on my Visa have accumulated so much interest one might bankrupt the crown to pay it off! What's more I know how much this stresses out my boyfriend. What would dr, dr Georgiana do?

Duke of Declined

How odious credit card bills are! They always stand in the way of fun. Perhaps Georgiana wouldn't be the best person to ask for credit advice, considering her debts amounted to about £3 million in today's terms. Actually, I believe she would ask her mother, who was overflowing with well-meant advice. "Pray take care if you play to carry money in your pocket as much as you care to lose and never go beyond it," meaning you should stick to debit cards as much as you possibly can. Perhaps your dear mother could help you a bit with that Visa bill until you're back on your feet again; after all, mothers don't charge interest: "I would pay Townshend instantly for you if I had the money..." As to those annoying consolidation calls: "I pray to God that it may stop here and that neither you nor I may suffer any more from it."

Oh and whatever you do, don't tell your boyfriend! Even if Lady Spencer might beg to differ, "I hoped the Duke knew the whole of what you had lost and that it was all settled[!]"

I'm no advice columnist, and I know Georgiana can't be channeled through me, but if you have a fun question you'd like to submit to What Would Georgie Do? please email it to with "What Would Georgie Do?" in the subject line. Or if you have a question better intended for the Queen of France, email

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tart of the Week: Elizabeth Lady Holland

This wild beauty was born in Jamaica in 1771, the only child to the extremely wealthy Richard Vassall. As was common in rich families who only had a daughter, anyone who was to marry their precious Elizabeth would have to take their last name in order to receive the money that came with her. It also ensured that the family name would be carried on. Because of her upbringing on the tropical island, Elizabeth developed a fondness for the exotic and penchant for discovery. She "devoured" books and was absolutely fascinated by science; specifically geology and chemistry. Elizabeth also had a sunny personality but was known to be blunt in her opinions and ambitious. Her one weakness was thunderstorms which she remained deathly afraid of throughout her life. Even lighting many candles and not even having one inch of widow showing in order to avoid seeing lightning.

When it came time for Elizabeth to marry, her parents settled upon a baronet in England, Sir Geoffrey Webster who just happened to be 23 years older than fifteen year old Elizabeth. The teen was carted away to the opposite hemisphere to become mistress to the imposing Battle Abbey, it must have been quite the shell shock for a plantation girl from Jamaica.

Sir Geoffrey himself was no prize. He was a depressed fellow (quite opposite from his young bride) who was prone to jealousy, drink, and gambling. Children followed the marriage but so too did physical abuse. It wouldn't be risky to say this could have been the result of Elizabeth's stubborn, acid-tongue ways. She was not the type of lady to refrain from defending herself or at least stating her opinions! Sir Geoff also came with baggage: his mother. Elizabeth hated the old bag. The feeling was reciprocated. Open warfare soon developed between the two Lady Websters. Elizabeth would inquire daily as to whether the "old hag was dead yet." Harsh! She would also try and scare her out of the house with ghostly pranks. There is even a story of Elizabeth going so far as to stage a prank that the French had invaded the cost, employing friends and such, dressed as commoners, to run toward the abbey with carts, screaming bloody murder. The dowager Webster invited them in for food and drink and told them to let the French know they would be treated the same and she could be found there until her death. Ha!

Is it any surprise then, that Elizabeth was always begging her husband to travel? He was a stick in the mud, and therefore never interested as leaving the house which Elizabeth saw as her prison. By 1791 Elizabeth was finally satisfying her need to travel, sometimes with her husband and sometimes without. It was in her travels on the continent that she met up with Harriet Lady Duncannon and the two women became fast friends. Despite their different temperaments they had a common interest in (Whig) politics and partying. While abroad the broads traveled, partied, and flirted together in what appears to have been a really fun time. It also just happened to be where they both met the men they would come to cheat on their husbands with.

At first it was Granville Leveson-Gower who was constantly flirting with Elizabeth. But when his attention was turned to Harriet, Elizabeth began paying more attention to her suitor, Henry Richard Fox, Baron Holland. Like Caroline Lennox with Henry's grandfather before him, Elizabeth initially found Henry to be "not in the least bit handsome" and with many "personal defects." But you know how those Foxes are, women can't resist them! Henry's rakish father died when he was a baby so he was raised by his uncle, Charles James Fox, which should be explanation enough into his personality. Soon the gay party (Elizabeth, Harriet and the boys) were taking fun day trips and exploring together, prompting love to bloom between the couples. When Elizabeth finally was ready to return to England and her husband in 1796 she was accompanied by Henry. Later that year she gave birth to his baby and soon a divorce proceeding was underway.

At first Sir Geoffrey was enraged about being cuckolded. Then he would claim that he would go through with the proceedings, then he would be angry again, then he would claim he still loved Elizabeth. It just got ridiculous when he began considering a duel with Henry, not for banging his wife but for commissioning Romney to paint a portrait of her. At last it was decided that he would divorce Elizabeth, and what a doosey he presented her. She had to give up her whole fortune and children, only to receive a mere £800 a year and that was on top of suing Henry for £10,000 in damages (which was later decreased). Perhaps anticipating the disastrous divorce, Elizabeth had written to her husband on her way back from the continent to inform him that their daughter Harriet had died of measles. This was a desperate act of a mother, done in order to stay with her two year old daughter. The trick worked but Elizabeth was in constant fear of discovery. Meanwhile, she was denied any access to her other children.

Now a fallen woman Elizabeth was scared at her prospects and that of her baby. Luckily, Henry loved her and married her. Polite society excommunicated Elizabeth but as they tended to do with their fallen friends, Harriet and Georgiana remained loyal and continued to see Elizabeth. Eventually her home, Holland House, became the next Devonshire House, a political epicentre. Like a captain running a tight ship, Elizabeth relished her role as political hostess, and even began to rival Georgiana. The scandalous couple, in the tradition of all Foxes, had a happy marriage and threw fabulous parties. She died five years after her husband, in 1845 after bearing tremendous death pains for three days. Proving, once again, that she was a tough broad even up to the end.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Met's Hidden Fashion Treasures

Why must the Met torture us! Every time I go to their costume exhibit it is small and not satisfying. But if you just happen to search through their historical clothing collection you will be amazed with all the hats, shoes, frocks, and waistcoats they have hidden away from us. I have a feeling I would have worn this in a past life. Go here, pop in the selected dates you want to limit the clothing collection to then on the next screen hit The Costume Institute and be ready to be wowed. Bonus: you can save all your favourites to My Met Museum.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We are all Zombies in Love

I cannot hold back my excitement anymore; I am eagerly anticipating the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. For weeks I've been leaving dumb comments at Jane Austen Today and Austenprose about said excitement. I'll pause and let you update yourselves if this is news to you.

Apparently, I am not the only one who feels this way (despite never feeling an affinity for the undead). Ever since the news of the publication's release reached the internet, Quirk Publishing has been overwhelmed with the response. After all, this book speaks to two large fan bases: Janeites and Zombiephiles. I roll with both groups so I sense some very good book group discussions in the future. Either way, the sensational response is becoming newsworthy in itself. The publication date has just been moved up to 1 April. Here is the book's editor talking about the surprising response to Seth Grahame-Smith's upcomming zombie love fest. Could this romance even outsell The Zombie Survival Guide and be the new king of Zombie lit?

Monday, February 9, 2009

18th Century Movie Favs

There are both not enough and too many films set in the 18th century. I say "a few" because I want more and I say "too many" when I find ones I need to see. I know we all have our likes and dislikes, but here are my top three.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
What can I say, I'm an upstate New York girl, and both sides of my family have been there from the same time as this movie takes place and where it takes place. It still tickles me whenever they talk about desperately trying to get to Albany. The area has a rich history and it's well portrayed in this interpretation of Cooper's novel. But the big draw would probably have to be Daniel Day Lewis.

Mmmm. Not only do you need your fan handy for this multi-lingual trapper's shirtless scenes, but whose to deny he's one of the best actors. To prepare for the film, he grizzly-adamsed it in the wilderness with no contact to the modern world. To top off the great story, romantic sub plots, gorgeous scenery and cinematography, and amazing acting, the flick has one of the best soundtracks to boot. This is hands down, my favourite.

Amadeus (1984)Perhaps this was the movie that turned me onto this most awesome of centuries. This play turned movie just has all the appealing elements a movie should have: humor, drama, and some fabulous costumes. Isn't that what the 18th century is all about? Mozart was the first rock star so it is only right that there is a movie to document (even if a fictional portrayal) his life. Bonus: Mozart's works are adapted into English so for of us who are uncultured, we can now understand what they're singing. My favorite aspect of the movie would have to be Katerina What a diva. This scene captures it all.

Marie Antoinette (2006)
I know, this movie gets bashed a lot but hear me out. When it first was advertised I was deathly frightened. I never cared for Kirsten Dunst's acting, and it's still sub par in this movie. I really thought it would be a disaster. But when I sat down to watch it, I got the movie. I like Coppola's interpretation of the story and the different view she was going for. It was an aesthetic masterpiece; filmed in Versailles and the Paris Opera House, complete with stunning costumes. It focuses on Marie Antoinette's day to day lifestyle which explains her naivety and ignorance to the world around outside her palace. The soundtrack was also a risk, but it also makes sense in that in connects the 18th century with our very similar time. In fact Coppola relates our centuries together to show that they're not that different...maybe we should take heed to that warning.

So what are your top three? Or top 300? It is so difficult to choose!

Sale on a Fashionista Bookshelf Necessity

I really should be staying one hundred feet away from Amazon at all time but unfortunately I am a moth to the flame. This time I found something that could benefit many. The hardcover version of Caroline Weber's amazing book, Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution is on sale for $8.99. Considering that the paperback is already bargain price of $10.88, I think this is irresistible deal for anyone interested in 18th century fashion.

Lauren and I both had our eye on this book for a while until I finally gave it to her as a gift with her promise of letting me borrow it when she finished. She began reading it right away and zoomed through it, gushing to me all the incredibly interesting facts it contained. I kept reminding her I needed to borrow it when she was done but she could not wait to discuss all the fabulous tid-bits so she just ended up getting me a copy. Once you dip into the book (as I know many of you have) you will probably see the appeal. Weber's book is a biography on Antoinette through her clothes. Although her clothes aren't what defines the unfortunate queen, Weber writes to prove just what kind of an effect they had on her life and the socio-political events of France. You might be surprised just how important they turned out to be.

If you would like a light biography on Marie Antoinette, want to learn more about 18th century fashion without being bored, or are looking to expand your knowledge of Rose Bertin, this book is for you. So why not get a discounted hardcover to grace your library?!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

BAFTA update

The Duchess just won a BAFTA for costumes. Yay Michael O'Connor you deserve it!

Georgiana's Illness

The Enlightenment may have brought new interest, knowledge, and advancements in medicine but health care in the 18th century was still primitive. Georgiana was one of the many victims of early medicine. Compared to her sister and Bess *rolls eyes* who both had weak dispositions and were continuously ill, Georgiana was pretty healthy and would occasionally suffer from migraines. 1780 is the first record of any complaint she made of eye trouble. She began applying a daily application of water, brandy, and vinegar which did nothing but sting. Her doctor instead prescribed washing it out with milk.

In 1796 Georgiana's eyes were bothering her more, especially during and after her migraines. In July the pain increased and her right eye began swelling...and swelling. In a matter of days it had grown to the size of an apricot. Harriet and Lady Spencer quickly came as well as three of the best eye surgeons England could offer. Anticipating the screams that would soon echo through the house from 'treatment,' the children were sent away to protect them from being traumatised. Loyal Harriet described her sister's screams in a letter saying, "After hearing what I did tonight I can bear anything."

Laudanum (the same drug Georgiana may have suffered an addiction too previously) was used to subside the pain. At one point Georgiana almost died from strangulation when a doctor squeezed her neck in order to flush her eye out with blood. Her eye was also bled which was thought to help greatly. Lady Spencer described the horror of her daughter's altered appearance, "The inflammation has been so great that the eye, eyelids and the adjacent parts were swelled to the size of your hand doubled, and projected forward from the face." It was inevitable that she would loose sight in that eye. Lady Spencer went on to say that an ulcer had formed and burst on top of the cornea and that her swollen eyelids were scarred from the leeches.

When everything was over it was almost as if someone had died. Georgiana stayed in a darkened room to receive well-wishers with a veil covering the lump on her face. She could only detect shapes in that eye and her other eye's vision was now blurry. For weeks any light or motion put her in extreme pain. As a woman who had spent most of her life in the spotlight, Georgiana was frightened beyond belief of everyone's reaction to her facial deformity. The stress had physically aged her and her right eye now drooped, she was no longer the stunning duchess who remained light-hearted and gay in every situation. She let the experience defeat her.

It was a long time before Georgiana recovered from her insecurity and ventured back out in public. She would now arrange her hair in order to cover her right eye as a means of coping with stares.

After reading Foreman's biography, Dr Schraibman went about trying to determine the possible causes of the Duchess' affliction. Based on the evidence Dr Schraibman has inferred that the disease was likely Cavernous Sinus Thrombrosis which I won't even begin to decipher but you can conviniently read his report here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tart of the Week: Caroline Fox Baroness Holland

The Lennox sisters were an infamous quartet of siblings with good upbringing and gossip-worthy lives. Which might make you wonder why you haven't seen their names grace this blog yet. The truth is because of Stella Tillyard's book, there is a lot of information on them which can be quite intimidating to the humble blogger!

The eldest of these Lenoxes was the first to dapple with scandal. Lady Georgiana Caroline Lennox was born in 1723 to the uber-adorable couple, Charles Lennox and Lady Sarah Cadogan. Just as with Georgiana and Harriet, Caroline's lucky family situation instilled in her the belief that marriages should contain love. Unfortunately, this was commonly untrue in aristocratic marriages. Her parents' high sense of rationality and politeness was also instilled upon her. Her family life accustomed her to lots of fun company; so Caroline developed a taste for entertaining and being surrounded by friends. Soon enough Caroline was a prim and proper model of an aristocratic daughter. She was also a bibliophile with an interest in self-improvement. It was only a matter of time before her reputation would be tarnished.

Enter Henry Fox. This ugly squat little man was a a Whig politician and bonafide bad boy. Well, perhaps "boy" isn't the best phrase considering that Henry was 37 when when the 19 year old beauty met him. Not only that but he already had a reputation as a womanizer and gambler. Henry was an unlikely threat to teenage daughters' hearts. Yet, under the layers of fat and bushy black eyebrows was a sentimental book lover and poet looking to settle down. When he met Caroline, the stubborn little man decided that she was his future bride, no ifs ands or buts.

He proposed to Caroline who neither said yes or no and then promptly asked her father for her hand. According to Henry, Caroline had eagerly agreed to his proposal. The Duke of Richmond liked Fox, but only as company that went home at night, not as an in-law. Henry's bold declaration left the Duke furious; Caroline deserved better! Her parents forbade the marriage and figured the whole event would quickly blow over. Henry though, was irate about his marriage plan being ruined. Long story short, Caroline secretly slipped out of the safety of her parent's home one night to secretly wed Henry. She immediately returned to admit the elopement to her parents. She never expected their reaction. They banished her from her childhood home and forbade her of seeing them or her sisters ever again.

This was a devastating blow to the close family. It would be years before Caroline would be united with her beloved sisters. While her scandalous marriage did turn out to be a happy and fruitful one Caroline still felt empty and guilt-ridden for her uncharacteristic act that seemed to have damned her. Still, her doting husband who loved her dearly and treated her as an equal helped her cope. With the birth of their children the Foxes, as Tillyard put it, fell in love all over again. In fact there was a little too much love going on at their house. The spoilt children ran amok and got away with it while the parents watched fondly and the guests looked on, horrified. There is even a story of their son Charles James destroying his father's valued pocket watch in front of guests with no repercussions. Guests got plenty of opportunities to see the Fox circus since people were always over. The household would transform into a gentleman's club by night; picture the frat house from Animal House except with Lady Caroline and two crazy little boys.

By 1774 Caroline's health was failing miserably. Against all expectations, Caroline rallied and continued to survive despite looking worse and worse for wear. Suddenly, during her illness, Henry died peacefully in his sleep. Perhaps, his passing is what made Caroline give up her fight. She died a very gruesome and slow death shortly afterword, complete with swelling and smelling and all those awful aspects. However many were astonished how alive her mind and conversation were in her final moments. Despite her condition, Caroline always had a light about her that shone until the very end.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Did you know?

Elvis wasn't the only king to die on the throne. On 25 October 1760 King George did his usual old man routine. He got up early, had breakfast then went to take a dump. While sitting on the john George was struck with a massive heart attack and died. This should be a warning to all future kings: every time you enter the bathroom you run the risk of heart failure!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hunk Alert: John Duke of Dorset

SWM, Peer/Ambassador/Professional Cricket player, Athletic build, Aries, seeking loose aristocrat or ballerina for sexy romps in Paris
Likes: Cricket, Pool, Tennis, Gambling, Canoodling with the French Court

I'm not exactly looking for wife right now, maybe later. I think a wife would detract from my quality time with my mistresses, and that would not be fair to them. See, I know how to treat my ladies right! I'm not too concerned if you are married yourself, que signifie juste plus d'expérience.

I am particularly interested in women stationed in Paris, although I am not adverse to sending romantic love letters in French across the channel. I am a bit of a jock so if you are an athletic woman yourself, I would really love to meet you. Otherwise, fabulous married peers will do.