Friday, July 31, 2009

Tart of the Week: Princess Sophia

It may seem odd to you that a daughter of prudish King George III could be considered a tart. Aftera ll, the six princesses were isolated from the outside world and brought up to be duplicates of their regal parents' sensibilities. But somehow, Sophia managed to stray from the pack and enjoy a little naughty fun in her youth.

The twelfth child of King George and Queen Charlotte was born in 1777. She was christened Sophia Matilda; Sophia after her mother who was really "Sophie Charlotte" and Matilda after her aunt who just happened to be the tartly queen of Denmark. Sophia lived a life that is comparable to both of her namesakes. She grew up much like the other princesses, isolated from the outside world, only knowing the royal court and only being intimate with her sisters and governesses. This lifestyle wore on all the princesses at one point or another, causing a rebellious streak here or there. Their father was extremely over-protective and as the princesses grew older they noticed he refused almost every proposal of marriage for his daughters. Sophia saw this happen and knew her life too, was doomed to the mundane everyday existence that she went through daily.

The princess also suffered from a mysterious illness that would impair her from time to time. During a bad episode Sophia was sent away to the country in hopes that the different atmosphere would benefit her health. On top of this she had a hard time seeing, and required the use of spectacles which made her self-conscious. But Sophia had no problem seeing Colonel Thomas Garth when he bounded into her life. Thomas was the King's equerry, he was also a good thirty years older than her (maybe those glasses didn't work out so well, after all) and not that good looking either. Sophia was introduced to him through her niece's subgoverness, Miss Garth (his niece) who was happy to act as the secret go-between when the two began writing to each other. Soon enough, everyone was aware of Sophia's absolute infatuation with Colonel Garth, but her sisters seemed to just think it was adorable little fancy and didn't take it too seriously. But the sisters should have known, a woman has needs.

Princess Sophia gave birth to a child in 1800 which would be raised by Thomas Garth as his son. The whole affair was, of course, shrouded in mystery, and is even debated by historians today. It is likely that Sophia's sisters figured out their sister's time in the country in the summer of 1800 wasn't necessarily because of her illness. The queen may have even known but was too depressed at the time to really do anything about it. Rumors spread about the secret topic but luckily managed to stay under control. But then the rumors took a more devastating turn. Stories began to surface that not only did Sophia give birth to a child but the father was not Thomas Garth, it was her own brother, Prince Ernest. Sadly these rumors were never to fully go away. Even sadder, there were foundations to these rumors. Ernest was a reckless prince who knew no boundaries (he made George look saintly) and although he never succeeded there is evidence that he did attempt to rape Sophia on more than one occasion.

All this commotion during the turn of the century made Sophia withdraw from her "crazy" lifestyle. It brought some truth to all her parents' well-meant advice and over-protectiveness. The remainder of her life returned to being quiet and family-oriented and man-free. In the last ten years of her life Sophia succumbed to blindness and finally died at the ripe old age of seventy in the reign of Queen Victoria.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

NPG's Newest Aquisition

Reader, Judy clued me in today about a very important Thomas Lawrence acquisition to the National Portrait Gallery that might be of great interest to you. This fine gent is John Philip Kemble, leading actor of Drury Lane and brother of leading actress, Sarah Siddons. It was reported that Kemble portrayed a better Macbeth than Garrick himself (the drawing of Kemble as Macbeth is also by Lawrence)! But one of the roles he was best known for was as Cato from the tragedy by the same name by Joseph Addison.

In this full portrait that is about eight feet high we see Kemble in a portrait that is a worthy compliment to the depiction of his sister in Reynold's Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse. Lawrence's long dramatic stroke coheres to form a perfect logic. Kemble is the perfect example of a roman citizen, complete with Caesar hairstyle and toga. He is caught in a pensive moment in the middle of reviewing plans. His expression required both the skills of its actor-sitter and the artist to successfully produce on canvas.

As this article from the Guardian says, the NPG was able to purchase the painting with the help of a grant, from Heath House. It will now reach a larger audience in its new home in London (for a cheaper admission too, I bet!).

Georgiana Approved?

Fashion forward reader, Kim, just sent me an email alerting me to some necklaces and bracelets from J Crew, dubbed 'Duchess," no doubt inspired by the film. Take a look!

Now, I suspect you know what comes next; do you think Georgiana would approve of this finery? Would it grace her ivory wrists and neck? Discuss.

I won't put my two cents in just yet, but this set looks to be more her style in my opinion!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Duke of Dorset Writes to Georgiana

News from France!

In April of 1786 the Duke wrote to Georgiana to fill her in on the latest gossip. "The little Po [the duchesse de Polignac] is preparing to set out..." for her awaited visit to Georgiana. He reported that "poor Mrs. B" [Marie Antoinette] was in true despair about the loss of her friend and green with envy about not being able to join the happy party in England. In fact, he said, it seemed as if a whole "colony" was going to London. Even the Queen's other favourite, the princesse de Lamballe had requested leave to Brighthelmstone, but the Duke was doubtful whether Antoinette would be willing to part with her. "Mrs. B told her she would think about it before she mentioned her wishes to the King, and yesterday she sent me (Mrs. B) to desire to see me on Saturday morning so I am afraid [her voyage depends upon my advice], which I am sorry for, as I cannot judge the propriety or impropriety of her being in a place with the P. of W. and Mrs. F..." It would appear the antics of the Prince were about to ruin the Princesse's planned holiday!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure."

-Samuel Johnson

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Furniture for your Estate

Looking for new decor for a drab flat? Well I'm not, but somehow I still stumbled upon the furniture section on Urban Outfitters' site. They have some great selections for your modern eighteenth century abode.

Antoinette Fainting Sofa

Damask Headboard

Tufted Headboard

Wall-Mounted Jewelery Board

Damsel Wallpaper

Gypsy Chandelier

And don't forget to show your patriotism with this tapestry!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yay or Nay? The Duchess of Saltykova

Goodness gracious! Last week's selection did not fair well among the masses and met with a major 'Nay.' It seems that the hat killed the outfit. This week's selection coincides with Lauren's post on feather fashion.

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein paints the Duchess Saltykova in a robe a la francaise that is trimmed with feathers (1780). Yay or Nay?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Guys Night Out: Gentlemen's Clubs

When men of rank or celebrity needed a night away from the nagging wife and the screaming children, the gentlemen's clubs was a necessary luxury. Of course, many of these men legally had the right to punish wives for nagging and servants took care of any children running around...but any excuse was a good enough excuse to take a stroll down to the West End for a bit of fun with the lads.

The clubs were an evolved form of the coffeehouse but with the design of being a home away from home. Think: clean and luxurious frat house. In fact, I think I could name a few gents who probably wouldn't mind spending their nights there today! Inside you could find plenty of booze and plenty of gambling. A typical night consisted of arriving, having a bite to eat, drinking, more drinking, and gambling until eleven in the morning, all while not even leaving the gaming table. Of course there were regulars there so the clubs ended up being like Cheers, "where everybody knows your name." One of the more famous clubs (and still in existence, except more uppity and less fun) was Brooks. You could find the Duke of Devonshire here with other prominant Whigs as well as Samuel Johnson, not to mention the Prince of Wales, Charles James Fox, heck, even William Pitt the Younger was a member!

Sometimes the home away from home was almost...a home! Arrangements could be made at some clubs if you were too exhausted to be able to make your way back home and needed to spend the night. It's a wonder that the gentlemen actually made it out of the clubs with all the fun they contained inside, although there was that one rumour about Fox not emerging from Brooks for days...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Commedia Dell'arte

If you've seen a Watteau painting you should be vaguely familiar with the Commedia dell'arte aka the Italian Comedy. The Commedia was a a popular improvisational play that was popular from the fifteenth century onward. The play would take place in the great outdoors. Theatre troupes would tour the countryside performing the plays for eager audiences of different classes. The play had a lot of impact on the eighteenth century. The most popular masquerade costumes were based on the Commedia and, as I mentioned before, many of Watteau's paintings. Although the storyline would alter, a few things stayed the same such as the subject matter and characters. Here are some of them:

Arlecchino aka the Harlequin- The mischievous clown/acrobat who is hopelessly in love with the ballerina, Colombina. He can usually be identified by his diamond outfit, a wooden bat, and a cat-like mask with a wart on it.

Brighella- A rogue whose always scheming to make some cash

The Captain- The stereotypical soldier

The Doctor- The stereotyped doctor very pompous and very plump.

Pantalone- The old miserly Venetian merchant. Pantalone usually has a long pointed beard and red pants. For extra commedic effect he is sometimes accompanied by a young and pretty wife.

Colombina- The saucy ballerina who is crafty, clever, and untamed. She would usually introduce or initiate the plot. Usually her white ballerina gown would have diamond patches to show her connection to Arlecchino. She was one of the few characters who tended to remain unmasked.

Innamorati (Innamorato and Innamorata)- The lovers who can't keep their hands off each other are usually decked out in the most fashionable dress of the time.

La Ruffiana- The gossipy old woman who maliciously attempts to keep the lovers apart.

Pedrolino- The faithful servant and target for physical jokes at his own expense. Pedrolino dresses in a white, puffy outfit with a ruff.

La Signora- Sometimes Pantalone is married to this matriarch who also happens to be the mistress of Pedrolino. She is over the top (think: Lady Gaga) and wears heavy makeup and wide skirts which cause her to walk with her arms out.

Pulcinella- As Lucy has added, "The tricky and always up for schemes- long-nosed hunchback."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

For Sale: Georgiana's World

In the past, readers have asked me about Amanda Foreman's picture-packed version of Georgiana's biography, Georgiana's World. I am a fan of this book for the massive collection of artwork and portraits of Georgiana that are held within its pages and have, therefore, recommended it to a few people. Because of the release of The Duchess and the resurgence of interest in Georgiana, this out-of-print book has been selling for close to $100 over the last year. Well, good news; I just noticed there are now at least three editions for sale on Amazon Marketplace for under $12. So for all those Georgiana-Junkies who have been waiting to get their hands on it, now is your chance!

Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women, Sermon V, Page 91

"The world will judge of piety by its professors. The proceeding is often unfair; because they are often unlike that which they profess. But there is no possibility of preventing it."

Monday, July 20, 2009


"Hapless woman! What a fate is thine!"

-Mary Wollstonecraft

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yay or Nay? Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand

The masquerade gown of last week was another successful yay! Will our winning streak be over or will this week's selection sour your appetite.

Alexander Roslin paints Louis, Dauphin of France (1765) in a green and purple jacket complimented with a leopard-skin helmet. Yay or Nay?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tart of the Week: Mary Moser

Of the numerous great female artists of the eighteenth century, Mary Moser is usually shortsighted. An odd fact, especially considering that Mary, with Angelica Kaufman, was a founder of the Royal Academy.

Art was in Mary's genes. Her father was an artist and noticed his daughter's talent at an early age and took it upon himself to train her. Mary's favourite subject was flora. In an age where paintings of flowers went out with the Dutch Golden age, Mary picked up where the Dutch masters left off and resurrected the subject-matter. She craved recognition and was twenty-four when she aided in forming the Royal Academy in hopes it would get her name out. Perhaps that is what helped her to get the commission to paint floral motifs for the queen's house, Frogmore. But Mary's participation in the Royal Academy founding wouldn't be the last time Mary displayed her Scorpio sense of assertive and competitive nature.

Mary was almost fifty when she finally settled down and married (she was such a Samantha!). Almost as soon as she was married she began having an affair with the flamboyant miniature artist, Richard Cosway. The two went on an artist pilgramage tour together and his sketches from that time are dabbled with little notes about his sex life with Mary. She was a freak in bed! In some notes he directly compared Mary's carnal skill with his wife's (Mary came out out on top, no pun intended). For an old macaroni, Mary really brought the raunchy side of Cosway out.

Mary lived out the rest of her years in retirement, and died quietly in 1819 at the ripe old age of seventy-five.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Next Quirk Classic

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I find this to be an interesting, and curiosity-invoking direction for a Jane Austen alternative universe. After zombies and vampires I figured the next step was werewolves. But sea monsters? Now that's creative! I just wonder if author Ben H. Winters can accomplish the same monster/Austen artistry as Seth Grahme-Smith. I can say this though, once again Quirk Books have produced some amazing cover art!

Whigs in the Air

In the early 1780s everyone had hot air balloon fever. Prints, jewelery, and decor all reflected the public's new found love for aeronautics. Always the excellent PR agent, Georgiana wondered if she could woo the public on behalf of the Whigs by giving them a balloon show. First Georgiana had to woo the aeronautic Jean-Pierre Blanchard and once he was under her finger she offered to sponsor a public balloon display in Grosvenor Square.

Every self-respecting Whig gathered in the chilly December air to witness the hot air balloon decked out in blue and buff. Georgiana herself released the tethers and the balloon was later dubbed the Devonshire Aerial Yacht. For a moment the streets of London came to a standstill while everyone raised their eyes to the sky to see the ship that could defy Newton's law. Georgiana's PR feat was a success. She now knew that the key ingredient to getting positive political attention was to distract with something everyone liked, no matter how un-related the two items were.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

To all you Frenchies out there, Happy Bastille Day! Bastille Day marks the beginning of the bloody revolution and the reformation of the French government...which took a few decades to refine. I wrote about Georgiana's reaction to the Revolution last year so why write about it again! Yes I know, I'm lazy, but it's Bastille Day which is an excuse for me to go into Holiday-mode.

For more French Revolution chat, check out this post on Charlotte Corday, England's favourite heroine.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Marie Christine of Austria, Self-Portrait, c. 1765

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Yay or Nay? Marquesa Isabel Parreno Arce

Last week's initial Yay or Nay was met with much success. The overwhelming consensus was a big "YAY, Woohoo, how fabulous!" But will you like this week's selection?

Anton Raphael Mengs paints the Marquesa de Llano (1773) in her black and white masquerade "maja" gown. Yay or Nay?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

For Sale

It's amazing what you can find on Ebay nowadays. This evening I came across an authentic calash bonnet from the 1780's. The craziest part is that it is currently under $200 and, from what I can tell, in pristine condition. If any of you fellow history buffs end up buying this fantastic find, you must tell me!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tart of the Week: Charlotte Charke

Charlotte Cibber, daughter of the famous poet laureate Colley Cibber, was a curious creature of many talents. She was an actress, author, transvestite, puppeteer, playwright, and even a sausage maker at one point. Charlotte was born in 1713 and received her education at a girl's school. When she later moved away to live with her mother she continued her education independently by teaching herself skills a women's education usually neglected such as shooting and horse racing. At thirteen she developed an interest in medicine and began studying to be a doctor. As soon as her father began receiving the supply bills, he immediately put a stop to her independent studies.

Time for a new career goal.

Charlotte married musician, Richard Charke and used her new marital status in order to secure a job. This time she tried her hand at acting; her father was the purveyor of Drury Lane, after all. She took to the art and soon was taking on my roles, including breeches roles, where she would have to dress as a boy. Usually young, attractive actresses like Mary Robinson were given these roles as an excuse to show off their legs. After five years on stage, Charlotte had had enough of theatre bureaucracy and went off to start HER OWN theater company. Soon afterward, Parliment passed a censorship law, making it illegal to perform any play that hadn't been approved by them. Charlotte venomously opposed the bill and was left without a job soon afterward. By this time her husband had run off to Jamaica and died shortly thereafter. Charlotte was now a single mother who was unemployed.

The next chapter of Charlotte's life was quite different. She took up puppeteering, eventually owning her own Punch and Judy theatre. She also wasn't just playing the breeches role on stage; now she was dressing as a man in public and would even go by the name of Charles Brown. Whether this was because she identified as a man more than a tart or just a means of escaping debt we do not know. At one point a young heiress fell in love with "Charles" and "he" proposed. Sadly, the engagment fell through. Once she was taken to debtor's prison, but the prostitutes of Covent Garden banded together to spring "Master Charles'" bail Girl power!

After many years of ups and downs with the theatre business, Charlotte decided she was too old for the business and settled down to be an author. After two successful novels, Charlotte wrote her memoirs, which, as that genre tended to be, were eagarly snatched up by the gossip-loving public. Charlotte died at age 47 in 1760, a mere two years after her famous father died.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fashion Foward

Finally, a blog chuck-full of fashion plates! The blog for La Mesure de l'Excellence is dedicated to the fashions of the 18th and 19th century. The site is in French but if your French isn't up to snuff you can use this link for a rough translation. There's even a little preview video which you can check out below.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hair Mags

Oh which hairstyle to choose, which to choose. Perhaps a coiffure a l'inoculation today? On no that was so last season. Trouvais' post on coiffures reminded me about the hair guides of the eighteenth century which helped those fashionably-conscious ladies pick out a new doo. These were especially popular in fashion-conscious France. As the post goes on to say, cook turn hairdresser, Legros de Rumigny produced a very popular coiffure brochure in 1768-70 with the modest title of L’Art de la Coeffure des Dames Francoises avec des estampes, ou sont representees les tetes coeffee. You can see some of the illustrations from it here. Unfortunately for Legros, he was never able to continue producing his hair guides for he was stampeded to death during one of the celebrations for Louis and Marie Antoinette's wedding. She totally missed out on his hair expertise!

But of course there were many other hair almanacs. You can find some of them on this great french website. The Almanach de Modes, for example, was a very thorough hair guide, complete with beautiful illustrations. The book names the hairstyle, gives a little song about it, and then of course there is the illustration and commentary. That's a lot more extravagant than our modern hair mags. Much more elegant as well!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Lady In Red Finally Released to US Readers!

It's about time! The American version of Lady Worsley's Whim, The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce has finally hit shelves. If you don't recall, I absolutely loved Hallie Rubenhold's biography on Lady Seymour Worsley and can't recommend this book enough. This book is a must-have for those who can't get enough of tart-ish tales or eighteenth century biographies. Rubenhold's natural skill with the pen appeals to a wide spectrum of readers, engulfing them in the delectably scandalous world of eighteenth century England. Get your copy today!

Monday, July 6, 2009


"He has trifled with my character, and a young woman's character once gone is not so easily regained."

-Princess Sophia

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yay or Nay? Archduchess Maria Josefa

I've been mourning the loss of one of my old favourites, Project Runway. The summer just isn't the same without waiting every week to see which outlandish designer is "out" and which are "in" for another week. Well, many readers who grace this blog enjoy fashion, so let's have our own little historical fashion show. I will post a painting and you determine whether it's a "Yay" or a "Nay." Heck, you can even deem it as a "Great Merciful Mother, no!! What are you thinking?"

Anton Rafael Mengs paints Archduchess Maria Josefa (1765) in a mantua of orange and blue. Yay or Nay?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tart of the Week: Hester Santlow

Hester Santlow exuded so much class during her lifetime that she just barely meets my qualifications as a tart. She is a fascinating woman just the same, and spent years wowing audiences with her skills in dance at a time when most ballerinas came out of Italy or France.

Like many of our tarts born out of the aristocracy, I cannot tell you much of Hester's early beginnings. She was born around 1690. By her early teens she was on stage dancing and by 1706 she had made it to the big time as a dancer on Drury Lane. Hester's rise to the top was based purely on talent and not other naughty means. The lady had some fancy footwork! Of course, it was more difficult to see her skill with her feet due to the dress length, but that is where those ballerina leaps and twirls may have come in.

Those leaps and twirls attracted many fans an admirers. One of Hester's first intimate admirers was John, Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough who made her his one and only mistresses (for the time being, anyway). The next in line of intimate admirers was James Craggs the Younger, who was much closer in age to Hester, and much better looking, me-ow! Don't think this was just a quick fling either, James cared very much for Miss Santlow. One night, while at the theatre, Hester was enjoying herself in her private box when a gentleman thought it a good time to join her in order to for some intimate conversation. Well, after listening to his idle chatter for long enough, Hester classily informed her suitor that she would much rather listen to what was on stage than him, thankyouverymuch. The man, apparently not used to rejection, began to berate her in ways no lady should ever hear. He didn't cease either, until Hester gave him the look-of-death (I'm good at that too!), and only then did he retreat to his seat. However, at her next performance, the man made sure he was there to heckle her in the audience and caused a huge disruption. Insulted over the dishonor done to his lady-fair, James demanded satisfaction and a duel was fought in Hyde Park. Hester was a woman worth fighting for! A child, Harriot, was another result of the relationship before the two lovebirds parted ways.

Hester not only danced but turned into a celebrated actress on Drury Lane. She eventually settled down with manager, Barton Booth and the two married in 1719. The stage was her life and she continued on it up through old age. She lived to see her daughter, Harriot marry into aristocracy and prosper well. Hester died peacefully in 1773 after many successful years on stage.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


There's some beautiful images of dancers (and dances) of the eighteenth century. I couldn't possibly remember them all, but here is a selection of some of the famous ballerinas of the age who enchanted audiences with their grace and beauty.

Giovanna Baccelli, 1782 (Gainsborough)

Barbara Campanini, 1745 (Pesne)

Marie Sallé, 1734

Marie Camargo, 1730

Marie-Madeleine Guimard (Schall)

Hester Santlow (Ellys)