The Allied Sovereigns’ Visit to England in 1814

It’s my pleasure to welcome back Joanne Major and Sarah Murden to my cozy drawing room today. Joanne and Sarah have recently released their second book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History. I was thrilled to receive an advanced reader copy of this book and highly recommend it. If you enjoy reading biographies about fascinating people from the 19th century, you should check it out.

So without further ado, take it away Joanne and Sarah.

Thanks for having us, Laurie. We thought this tidbit about the Regency era might interest your readers. The Prince Regent was the figurehead for the visit of the allied sovereigns to England during the Napoleonic Wars. The Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns landed at Dover on the 6th of June 1814 to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba. Lord Charles Bentinck who was the prince’s friend, equerry, and putative former son-in-law was a constant presence throughout the festivities and was often found at the prince’s side. This painting of the visit shows the young Prince Augustus of Prussia (on the left hand side of the portrait) turning his head to speak to Lord Charles who is standing directly behind him.

The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24th June 1814 by Thomas Phillips, National Trust, Petworth House.

Lord Charles Bentinck was a widower. His late wife Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour was the daughter of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott and–reputedly–the young Prince of Wales, later George IV. The prince certainly thought Georgiana was his daughter and privately–if not publicly–acknowledged her as such. The Bentincks had one young daughter. Tragically Georgiana had died in December 1813 following complications after a fall when once again pregnant.

Lady Charles Bentinck, formerly Georgiana Augusta Frederica Seymour by Mrs Joseph Mee, 1813. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

When the ship carrying the sovereigns docked at Dover and the crowned heads of state were met by Lord Yarmouth, the Earl of Rosslyn and Lord Charles Bentinck, who escorted their guests, together with a detachment of the Scots Greys, to a nearby house marked for their reception while the guard of honour discharged their cannons. The Prince Regent’s younger brother, William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV) was also in attendance and gave a sumptuous banquet. The next day the retinue started for London and more celebrations. Lord Charles played a role in coordinating the festivities, particularly looking after the Prussian delegation led by King Frederick William III for whom he was appointed the temporary chamberlain. At the ensuing court at Carlton House, the Prussian king and his family were conducted to the regent’s side by Lord Charles Bentinck.

The Banquet given by the Corporation of London to the Prince Regent, the emperor of Russia and the King of Prussian, 18th June 1814 by Luke Clennell. Guildhall Art Gallery. Could that possibly be Lord Charles Bentinck seated second from the left on the left-hand side table?

There were banquets, state visits and jaunts to the racecourse at Ascot, and all the while Lord Charles danced attendance on the Prussian party until finally the sovereigns arrived at Portsmouth ready to embark on board their ship to return to mainland Europe. The Duke of Wellington, who looked extremely well, if a little thin and sunburnt following months of campaigning on the battlefields of Spain and France, arrived in a coach and four to the sound of a band playing See the Conquering Hero Comes and shouts of ‘Long live Wellington’. Before the Prussian king left England, he presented Lord Charles with a boxed set of diamonds worth £500 in gratitude for his attendance as chamberlain upon him.

Lady Abdy as a Bacchante, painted in 1813 by Mrs Joseph Mee for George IV when Prince Regent. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

Perhaps, in time, these diamonds were worn by the second Lady Charles Bentinck? A year later Lord Charles was conducting a clandestine affair with the married Lady Abdy who was thought to resemble his first wife. Her husband, Sir William Abdy, was reputedly the richest commoner in England but he was no match for his spirited wife. Anne, Lady Abdy and née Wellesley, was the niece of the Duke of Wellington. Her father was Wellington’s elder brother, Richard, Marquess Wellesley and her mother a former Parisian opera dancer, Hyacinthe Gabrielle née Rolland, who had been Wellesley’s mistress for many years; he had only married her after the birth of their five children. When Lord Charles Bentinck and Lady Abdy eloped in 1815, only a short time after Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, the gossips whispered that it was no wonder Lady Abdy had behaved as she did…

Thanks, ladies, for introducing us to Lord Charles Bentinck and his scandalous life. As an aside, when Tsar Alexander I came to England for the celebration, he stayed with his sister Catherine Pavlovna, the Grand Duchess Oldenburg, at the Pulteney Hotel in Piccadilly. If you’re interested in finding out more about the hotel, I wrote an article about it. Just click on the name of the hotel to read it.

More about Joanne and Sarah:

Almost two books in one, A Right Royal Scandal recounts the fascinating history of the irregular love matches contracted by two successive generations of the Cavendish-Bentinck family, ancestors of the British Royal Family. The first part of this intriguing book looks at the scandal that erupted in Regency London, just months after the Battle of Waterloo, when the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck eloped with the Duke of Wellington’s married niece. A messy divorce and a swift marriage followed, complicated by an unseemly tug-of-war over Lord Charles’ infant daughter from his first union. Over two decades later and while at Oxford University, Lord Charles’ eldest son, known to his family as Charley, fell in love with a beautiful gypsy girl, and secretly married her. He kept this union hidden from his family, in particular his uncle, William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland, upon whose patronage he relied. When his alliance was discovered, Charley was cast adrift by his family, with devastating consequences.

A love story as well as a brilliantly researched historical biography, this is a continuation of Joanne and Sarah’s first biography, An Infamous Mistress, about the eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, whose daughter was the first wife of Lord Charles Bentinck. The book ends by showing how, if not for a young gypsy and her tragic life, the British monarchy would look very different today.

For more information about Joanne and Sarah’s books, just click these links.

 

‘Mother M.’ at the Ridotto in 1777

A number of years ago, I met two women who share my love of Georgian history, and we became fast friends. Their names are Sarah Murden and Joanne Major, and they’re historians and genealogists. If you’ve been reading this blog, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know an ideal day for me is one spent at a museum. And one of my favorite museums is The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m there every chance I get.

Even though the museum is massive, I have my favorite pieces I visit every time I’m there. So I was really surprised when I asked Sarah who they were writing a biography about, and she texted me a picture of a portrait I’ve stared at countless times. It’s the portrait of Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and I think she’s divine! When you study a portrait long enough, you begin to wonder about the person who sat for it. Now I knew two people who could tell me about Grace, and what I found out from reading their book was even better than I imagined! I asked them to stop by my drawing room and share a fun snippet from their research with you. So snuggle up with a cup of something warm. Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her relations were no wallflowers.

Ridotto - Grace (Met Museum)

Mrs. Grace Dalrymple Elliott, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1778 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

And now, I give you Sarah Murden and Joanna Major…

Thanks, Laurie, for asking us to stop by and tell you an interesting tidbit about what we discovered while researching our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott. Grace Dalrymple Elliott (c.1754-1823), was a celebrated courtesan and reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child. She was also, for a time, the mistress of the Earl of Cholmondeley after she had been divorced by her husband, Dr (later Sir) John Eliot. Grace had hoped for a marriage proposal from her Earl but none was forthcoming.

Her maternal aunt, Robinaiana, had been luckier in her career as a mistress, for her own lover, also an earl, had eventually made her his countess. Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough and 2nd Earl of Monmouth, married Robinaiana Brown at St James’s in Piccadilly on the 3rd December 1755, and so Grace grew up with her aunt’s example before her. Although Robinaiana had already borne several of the Earl’s children, it was their youngest surviving child, a son born after her marriage, who inherited the earldom. His elder siblings were left to make their way in the world as best they could.

And so Robinaiana, Countess of Peterborough, found herself during April of 1777 (a year after Grace’s divorce) one of the persons of ‘present fashion’ who were in attendance at a Ridotto at the Little Theatre on the Haymarket, chaperoning her daughter Harriatt, born illegitimately before her parent’s marriage.[1]

Ridotto - Haymarket (British Museum)

A Masquerade at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, ascribed to Grisoni, ca 1724 (The Victoria and Albert Museum)

Also present at the Ridotto was Lady Worsley, who was to court controversy herself some five years later and become an important presence in Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s life.

Ridotto - Lady Worsley-2

Lady Worsley by Sir. Joshua Reynolds, ca 1776 (Harewood House Trust, via Wikimedia)

Little Theatre, Hay-market

The RIDOTTO on Monday evening served at once to display the taste of the Director of the evening’s entertainment and the insufferable dullness of the polite world, when unmixed with souls of less fined composition. Nothing could be more splendid that the disposition of the lights and the stile [sic] of the theatre, which was wonderfully converted into a large, elegant and commodious room, capable of receiving at least four times the quantity of persons present, whose gross number could not have exceeded two hundred, or two hundred and fifty. It was at the same time hardly possible for the insipidity and want of cordiality observable in the company to be exceeded. The only way of accounting for this latter circumstance, is the recollection, that they were mostly persons of title and ton, there being only half a dozen ladies of known cracked characters and very few of the bourgeois discoverable. One of the latter, in order to mark beyond a doubt his habit of living and seat of residence, caught a well-dressed fille de joie round the neck and smacked her as loud as the sound of a double bass, in the sight of every beholder; and two of the former (Mother M. and Mrs. F) probably actuated by a fear that their shrivelled faces and coarse necks should make it be imagined that they were not votaries to Venus, came in apparently filled with the juice of the grape; indeed if they had but just staggered from the altar of Bacchus, they could not have seemed more ripe for riot and folly.

Ridotto - The Ridotto Pubblico (Met Museum)-2

The Ridotto Pubblico at Palazzo Dandle by Francesco Guardi, ca 1765-68 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Among the persons of present fashion, were the following:

The Duke of Dorset, Lord Carlisle, Lord Egremont, Lord E. Bentinck, Lord Malden, Lord Villars, Lord Palmerston, Lord Grosvenor, Lord Chesterfield, the Countess of Peterborough, Lady Worsley, Lady Harborough, Lady Cork and Company, Mrs Lascelles, Miss Mordaunt, Mrs Middleton and Mrs Phillimore, Lady Fleming, Miss Payne, Lady Sherrard, Sir Thomas Clergys, Mr Damer, Messrs Hares, Mr Smith, Mr Mead, Mr Middleton, Mr Stanhope and many others.

Confectionery, wines and musick [sic] were provided. The first was good, the second but very la, la! and the third not only scanty, but most careless and indifferent.

About four o’clock all the company had retired.[2]

Ridotto - ticket (British Museum)

Admission Ticket to a Ridotto at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, ca 1787 (British Museum)

Possibly not the best of nights, then! One hopes that ‘Mother M.’ the lady of cracked character was not ‘Mother Mordaunt’, Grace’s Aunt Robinaina, and ‘Mrs F.’, was not Lady Fleming, the mother of Lady Worsley who retained her former title after her remarriage to Edwin Lascelles, Baron Harewood. What is known, however, is that not many years after this Robinaiana’s son, Charles Henry Mordaunt (by that time the 5th Earl of Peterborough and 3rd Earl of Monmouth), was called as a witness in Lady Worsley’s divorce case. The purpose was to testify to her dissolute character.  And Lady Worsley’s lover, Maurice George Bisset, after abandoning her eventually married Robinaiana’s daughter Harriat (present at the Haymarket the night ‘Miss Mordaunt’ was listed above).

If Robinaiana was indeed ‘Mother M.’, her husband’s actions that year might certainly have given her cause to turn to the ‘juice of the grape’. For, proving the old adage that ‘there’s no fool like an old fool’ to be all too true, the 4th Earl of Peterborough gave the gossips of the day some scandalous revelations to pass around the drawing rooms and ballrooms of the ton.

And to find out what that gossip was you’ll have to read our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott in which we reveal all, not only about Grace but also her hitherto unknown relatives. For Grace’s maternal family has been overlooked in every history of her ever written, until now, and they are central to Grace’s story and fascinating in their own right. An Infamous Mistress is available now in the UK from Pen and Sword Books and all other good bookshops, and in America it will be published in the springtime although it is available for pre-order now.

book cover front

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/An-Infamous-Mistress-Hardback/p/11613

http://www.amazon.com/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

[1]Ridotto, an entertainment consisting of music, dancing and sometimes gambling. The term was introduced to England ‘in the year 1722, at the Opera-house in the Haymarket.’ Oxford English Dictionary

[2]Morning Chronicle, 16th April, 1777