Heather Carroll on Dorothy Jordan, the 18th century famous actress who had a relationship with King William IV. To quote:
Meanwhile, she had become one of the biggest names in acting. She was a leading comic actress and was working out of Drury Lane. Because she had hot legs she would get cast in many cross-dressing roles, known as "breeches' roles, which were usually written just as an excuse to show off actresses' legs.
Maybe it was those famous legs that attracted William, Duke of Clarence, and later King William IV to Dorothy. The two fell in love and began their live-in relationship, which would last over 20 years and produce 10 children. Despite the scandal, the common-law couple lived became the examples of domestic bliss. Even stuffy King George didn't seem to mind the scandalous couple because they were the model of loving, functional couple. Soon satirical prints veered from cracking jokes at Dorothy's promiscuity to how she was, shockingly, a good parent.
When she was 16, Mary Darby, the actress who would become known as Perdita, succumbed to pressure from her family and married Thomas Robinson, an articled clerk who claimed, falsely, to have an inheritance. Mary wasn't in love with her husband, and their union was unhappy.
In her memoirs, she describes as their union came about and her wedding day:
During the remainder of the evening Mr. Wayman expatiated on the many good qualities of his friend Mr. Robinson: spoke of his future expectations from a rich old uncle; of his probable advancement in his profession; and, more than all, of his enthusiastic admiration of me.
A few days after Mr. Robinson paid my mother a visit. We had now removed to Villars Street, York Buildings. My mother's fondness for books of a moral and religious character was not lost upon my new lover, and elegantly bound editions of Hervey's "Meditations," with some others of a similar description, were presented as small tokens of admiration and respect. My mother was beguiled by these little interesting attentions, and soon began to feel a strong predilection in favour of Mr. Robinson.
Every day some new mark of respect augmented my mother's favourable opinion; till Mr. Robinson became so great a favourite that he seemed to her the most perfect of existing beings. Just at this period my brother George sickened for the smallpox; my mother idolised him; he was dangerously ill. Mr. Robinson was indefatigable in his attentions, and my appearance on the stage was postponed till the period of his perfect recovery. Day and night Mr. Robinson devoted himself to the task of consoling my mother, and of attending to her darling boy; hourly, and indeed momentarily, Mr. Robinson's praises were reiterated with enthusiasm by my mother. He was "the kindest, the best of mortals!" the least addicted to worldly follies, and the man, of all others, whom she should adore as a son-in-law.
My brother recovered at the period when I sickened from the infection of his disease. I felt little terror at the approaches of a dangerous and deforming malady; for, I know not why, but personal beauty has never been to me an object of material solicitude. It was now that Mr. Robinson exerted all his assiduity to win my affections; it was when a destructive disorder menaced my features, and the few graces that nature had lent them, that he professed a disinterested fondness; every day he attended with the zeal of a brother, and that zeal made an impression of gratitude upon my heart, which was the source of all my succeeding sorrows.
During my illness Mr. Robinson so powerfully wrought upon the feelings of my mother, that she prevailed on me to promise, in case I should recover, to give him my hand in marriage. The words of my father were frequently repeated, not without some innuendoes that I refused my ready consent to a union with Mr. Robinson, from a blind partiality to the libertine Captain--. Repeatedly urged and hourly reminded of my father's vow, I at last consented, and the banns were published while I was yet lying on a bed of sickness. I was then only a few months advanced in my sixteenth year.
My mother, whose affection for me was boundless, notwithstanding her hopes of my forming an alliance that would be productive of felicity, still felt the most severe pain at the thought of our approaching separation. She was estranged from a husband's affections; she had treasured up all her fondest hopes in the society of an only daughter; she knew that no earthly pleasure can compensate for the loss of that sweet sympathy which is the bond of union betwixt child and parent. Her regrets were infinite as they were evident, and Mr. Robinson, in order to remove any obstacle which this consideration might throw in the way of our marriage, voluntarily proposed that she should reside with us. He represented me as too young and inexperienced to superintend domestic concerns; and while he flattered my mother's amour propre, he rather requested her aid as a sacrifice to his interest than as an obligation conferred on her.
The banns were published three successive Sundays at St. Martin's Church, and the day was fixed for our marriage–the twelfth of April. It was not till all preliminaries were adjusted that Mr. Robinson, With much apparent agitation, suggested the necessity of keeping our union a secret. I was astonished at the proposal; but two reasons were given for his having made it, both of which seemed plausible; the first was, that Mr. Robinson had still three months to serve before his articles to Messrs. Vernon and Elderton expired; and the second was, the hope which a young lady entertained of forming a matrimonial union with Mr. Robinson as soon as that period should arrive. The latter reason alarmed me, but I was most solemnly assured that all the affection was cherished on the lady's part–that Mr. Robinson was particularly averse to the idea of such a marriage, and that as soon as he should become of age his independence would place him beyond the control of any person whatsoever.
I now proposed deferring our wedding-day till that period. I pleaded that I thought myself too young to encounter the cares and important duties of domestic life; I shrunk from the idea of everything clandestine, and anticipated a thousand ill consequences that might attend on a concealed marriage. My scruples only seemed to increase Mr. Robinson's impatience for that ceremony which should make me his for ever. He represented to my mother the disapprobation which my father would not fail to evince at my adopting a theatrical life in preference to engaging in an honourable and prosperous connection. He so powerfully worked upon the credulity of my beloved parent that she became a decided convert to his opinions. My youth, my person, he represented as the destined snares for my honour on a public stage, where all the attractions of the mimic scene would combine to render me a fascinating object. He also persuaded her that my health would suffer by the fatigues and exertions of the profession, and that probably I might be induced to marry some man who would not approve of a mother's forming a part in our domestic establishment.
These circumstances were repeatedly urged in favour of the union. Still I felt an almost instinctive repugnance at the thought of a clandestine marriage. My mother, whose parental fondness was ever watchful for my safety, now imagined that my objections proceeded from a fixed partiality towards the libertine Captain--, who, though he had not the temerity to present himself before my mother, persisted in writing to me, and in following me whenever I appeared in public. I never spoke to him after the story of his marriage was repeated to my mother; I never corresponded with him, but felt a decided and proud indignation whenever his name was mentioned in my presence.
My appearance on the stage had been put off from time to time, till Mr. Garrick became impatient, and desired my mother to allow of his fixing the night of important trial. It was now that Mr. Robinson and my mother united. In persuading me to relinquish my project; and so perpetually, during three days, was I tormented on the subject–so ridiculed for having permitted the banns to be published, and afterwards hesitating to fulfil my contract, that I consented–and was married.
As soon as the day of my wedding was fixed, it was deemed necessary that a total revolution should take place in my external appearance. I had till that period worn the habit of a child, and the dress of a woman so suddenly assumed sat rather awkwardly upon me. Still, so juvenile was my appearance, that even two years after my union with Mr. Robinson I was always accosted with the appellation of Miss whenever I entered a shop or was in company with strangers. My manners were no less childish than my appearance; only three months before I became a wife I had dressed a doll, and such was my dislike to the idea of a matrimonial alliance that the only circumstance which induced me to marry was that of being still permitted to reside with my mother, and to live separated, at least for some time, from my husband.
My heart, even when I knelt at the altar, was as free from any tender impression as it had been at the moment of my birth. I knew not the sensation of any sentiment beyond that of esteem; love was still a stranger to my bosom. I had never, then, seen the being who was destined to inspire a thought which might influence my fancy or excite an interest in my mind, and I well remember that even while I was pronouncing the marriage vow my fancy involuntarily wandered to that scene where I had hoped to support myself with éclat and reputation.
The ceremony was performed by Dr. Saunders, the venerable vicar of St. Martin's, who, at the conclusion of the ceremony, declared that he had never before performed the office for so young a bride. The clerk officiated as father; my mother and the woman who opened the pews were the only witnesses to the union. I was dressed in the habit of a Quaker–a society to which, in early youth, I was particularly partial. From the church we repaired to the house of a female friend, where a splendid breakfast was waiting; I changed my dress to one of white muslin, a chip hat adorned with white ribbons, a white sarsnet scarf-cloak, and slippers of white satin embroidered with silver. I mention these trifling circumstances because they lead to some others of more importance.
From the house of my mother's friend we set out for the inn at Maidenhead Bridge, Mr. Robinson and myself in a phaeton, my mother in a post-chaise; we were also accompanied by a gentleman by the name of Balack, a very intimate acquaintance and schoolfellow of my husband, who was not apprised of our wedding, but who nevertheless considered Mr. Robinson as my avowed suitor.
On his first seeing me, he remarked that I was "dressed like a bride." The observation overwhelmed me with confusion. During the day I was more than pensive–I was melancholy; I considered all that had passed as a vision, and would scarcely persuade myself that the union which I had permitted to be solemnised was indissoluble. My mother frequently remarked my evident chagrin; and in the evening, while we strolled together in the garden which was opposite the inn, I told her, with a torrent of tears, the vouchers of my sincerity, that I was the most wretched of mortals! that I felt the most perfect esteem for Mr. Robinson, but that, according to my ideas of domestic happiness, there should be a warm and powerful union of soul, to which I was yet totally a stranger.
Although the French playwright and political activist Olympe De Gouges was a republican, she was against the execution of King Louis XVI, whom she saw as a victim. "The blood, even of the guilty, eternally defiles a revolution," she said. "To kill a king, you need to do more than simply remove his head, for, in such circumstances, he will live a long time after his death; he would only be really dead if he were to survive his fall."
However, this didn't really go down well with the bloodthirsty Parisians. A mob with murderous intentions soon surrounded her lodgings. Olympe, instead than barricading herself inside, went downstairs to reason with them. When she appeared, the mob grabbed her by the waist and knocked off her signature white headdress.
From the hostile crowd, a man cried out: "Who'll bid me 15 sous for the head of Olympe De Gouges?". Undaunted, Olympe quickly replied, "I'll bid you 30, and I demand first refusal". The crowd was amused at her response, and, laughing, dispersed. But the Revolutionary government wasn't as easy to pacify. Her attacks against the new republican regime landed her in jail and, in November 1793, she was guillotined.
Tudors, the second volume in The History of England series by Peter Ackroyd, charts the Reformation of the English Church under Henry VIII and his heirs. Henry VII, who lived and died a Catholic, is only very briefly mentioned at the beginning. Actually, his death is. If you were expecting to read a "regular" biography of the Tudors, this may disappoint you. But, as the book focuses mostly on the impact the dynasty he founded had on the Church and, as a result, on society, leaving him out makes sense.
For the same reason, rather than describing all the events, big and small, that happened during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs, Ackroyd concentrates on the main ones, highlighting how they influenced the sovereigns and their religious policies. Ackroyd does a great job at describing the religious climate of Tudor England, the dissensions and rows among the clergy and the reception of the new religion laws by the populace.
If the author doesn't really discover anything new about the Tudors, he fills the books with details about the Reformation that are left out of most books on the Tudors. Usually, biographies deal with its main events, but don't really describe the differences of beliefs between Protestants and Catholics. Ackroyd does. He also explains all the different stages the Reformation went through, the religious policies of every Tudor monarch and their reasons for implementing them.
He doesn't stereotype nor judges according to modern standards the Kings and Queens and their actions. He doesn't shy away from recounting the most cruel and horrific aspects of the Reformation and the religious persecutions of the age, but helps us understand them. For the Tudors, the Reformation wasn't simply a religious matter, but a political and dynastic one. They weren't that interested in telling people what to believe, but were more concerned with maintaining unity and peace in their realm. In doing so, they transformed their country forever.
Not everyone finds the subject of religion fascinating or interesting. Yet, even they will enjoy this book. Ackroyd writes in an entertaining and straightforward style that makes the book a pleasure to read. It's well-researched, but never dry and boring. It's also easy to follow. You don't need to have any background knowledge to read it, which makes it suitable for both academic and casual readers alike. If you're interested in the history of the Reformation, definitely pick up this book. You won't regret it.
Well-researched and well-written, Tudors by Peter Ackroyd charts the Reformation of the English Church under Henry VIII and his heirs. Although it doesn't offer any groundbreaking theories, it helps us better to understand why the Tudors acted the way they did in matters of religion and how the Reformation changed their country forever.
Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe was one of the many victims of the French Revolution. Not much is known about her. We're not even sure of who her father was. Born on 18th July 1775 in Paris, Charlotte-Rose-Émilie Davasse de Saint-Amarand was rumoured to be the child of the Vicomte de Pons, one of the many lovers her beautiful mother had. What's sure is that the Vicomte was very fond of the little girl.
Madame De Sainte Amaranthe also gave birth to a son. Her husband was a Farmer General who loved gambling. When he lost all his money, he fled to Spain, leaving his family behind. Emilie's mother, Jeanne, managed to make another fortune by running a fashionable salon at her house and a gambling club, "Cinquante", attended by the wealthy and famous gentlemen of the time. Jeanne may also have worked as a courtesan at this time.
Emilie inherited her mother's good looks. She was considered to be the most beautiful woman in France, if not of her age. Madame Amandine Roland described her thus: "Never in the course of my long career, have I met so perfect a creature. Her figure was admirable and exquisitely proportioned: she was of medium height, and her bearing and her every attitude combined gentleness and charm with grace and dignity. There was a touch of archness in her smile that made it enchanting, and when it was accompanied by a certain movement of her head one’s emotion was even greater than one’s admiration. Her taste in dress was quite exquisite."
Emilie fell in love with François Elleviou, a famous singer. But her mother forced her to give him up. She duly did and instead married the Marquis Charles-Marie-Antoine de Sartine, who was 16 years older than her. In the spring of 1793, Emilie moved to the
château de Sucy-en-Brie, a beautiful palace purchased by her mother. But this was a dangerous time for wealthy and royalist people in France. During the Terror, Emilie, her husband, her mother and her brother were all arrested for their loyalty to the royal cause.
Rumours claimed that either Robespierre or Saint-Just, who had unsuccessfully courted Emilie, ordered her execution as a revenge for her rejection. However, this is probably false. In any case, Emilie and her family were imprisoned at Sainte-Pélagie. For a while, Augustin, Robespierre's brother and a friend of the family, managed to avoid their execution. But it couldn't last.
Eventually, the family was tried and found guilty of being part of a plot to kill Robespierre. The charges were false, but that didn't matter. Robespierre and Foucquier-Tinville had tried to save her, but Emilie refused their help. The young girl, only nineteen years old at the time, cut her own hair, saying it was the only legacy she had to leave to her friends, and begged a guard to keep it for them. It is said that Elleviou claimed it.
On 22 Prairial (17th June) 1794, Emilie, together with 53 other people, including her family, was guillotined. Emily and her family wore red chemises, as did all those sentenced to death for murder. Emilie commented that they all looked like cardinals. The family hugged one last time before being executed. Mme. de Sainte-Amaranthe had begged the executioners to kill her before her children but this was denied her. Her son Louis was killed first, and then it was Emilie's turn:
"Then Emilie appeared upon the platform; and when the red veil was torn from her shoulders her statuesque beauty was so transcendent that the devotees of the guillotine, who were paid to applaud, were struck dumb with admiration, and stood open-mouthed, with hands arrested. The executioners pushed her roughly upon the blood-drenched machine, and the third stroke fell."
Hogarth was an avowed patriot who was concerned about the spread of foreign fashions in England. In his print, The Bad Taste Of the Town, also known as Masquerades And Operas, he attacked the Italian operas and singers that were displacing classic English theater and the masquerade dances thrown by the Swiss impresario Heidegger, which he believed were degrading public morals.
The scene takes place in front of the Academy of Arts. Three men are walking beside its walls. The one in the center is the famous architect Lord Burlington, who favoured Italian styles; he's talking to Mr Campbell, another architect. The other man is Lord Burlington's postilion.
On the left, a banner is advertising an opera. The image is itself a satire that depicts the Earl of Peterborough kneeling to offer the singer Francesca Cuzzoni £8,000 to perform in London. Next to it, a board inscribed with the words, "Long Room. Fawks's dexterity of hand", is advertising a performance by the famous conjurer Mr Fawks. At the window of the palace, Mr Heidegger is trying to convince people to enter his establishment to see a masquerade.
A similar job has the man in the harlequin costume on the right. He's standing above the entrance of the theater where the pantomime "Dr Faustus" is about to be performed. It ran for two years and always attracted large crowds, while English plays were poorly attended.
In the middle of the road, a man is selling the works of the great English dramatists, such as William Shakespeare and John Dryden, as waste paper. Finally, the grenadiers at the gates hint at the patronage of King George I, a German who had recently inherited the crown but didn't speak one word of English.
Author Elena Maria Vidal debunks the myth of the dark countess. To quote:
Later, the legend claims, while Madame Royale was in prison, she was raped and impregnated. She was sent off to Germany to a small town where she was made to wear a green veil and given the name of "Sophie Batta," also known as The Dark Countess. Meanwhile, her wicked uncle Louis XVIII replaced her with her alleged "half-sister" Ernestine, who became the Duchesse d' Angoulême. The Dark Countess rumor was perpetuated by Marie-Thérèse's moroseness and lack of beauty. How could she be the daughter of the beautiful lively Marie-Antoinette? So they assumed that she was someone else.
Here are some glaring points as to why this story is untenable:
1) Louis XVI had no illegitimate children. There is no proof that he had an operation. He was known for his devotion to his wife, fidelity to his marriage vows and his religious scrupulosity. He did not have an affair with a chambermaid and beget Ernestine. There was an Ernestine, a child of servants, whom Marie-Antoinette adopted. (She adopted two other children as well. The queen came from a large family and liked having lots of children around.) There is no evidence that Ernestine was the secret daughter of Louis XVI or of any of the other princes.
2) Louis XVIII would have had to pay off a huge amount of people to buy their silence, and he really did not have all that much money - not enough for that kind of blackmail. He had been an impoverished exile for over 20 years. When he did get hold of some cash, he immediately deposited it in an English bank. The Bourbon family lived on his savings the next time they were all exiled.