Old and New London, A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources. vol 4Thornbury, Walter
St. James's Palace (continued).
St. James's Palace (continued).
For upwards of years-indeed, even before the burning of Whitehall--the name of St. James's has been identified in English literature with the English Court, and all that is refined and courtly. Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, therefore, has only given expression to a popular idea of long standing, when he names of his works
as the very antipodes of each other; and it is almost superfluous to add, that in his historical romance of St. James's he has given us an insight into the inner life of the Court of Queen Anne, scarcely inferior in minuteness to the picturesque peeps of the same court which we find in the
of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. Here, for instance, is a picture of in , on the occasion of a
held in celebration of the birthday of Queen Anne. It is worth giving entire, as a sketch taken from life :
Another writer in describing the scene witnessed at St. James's on the occasion of a Drawing-room of the present day, remarks that,
continues the writer,
therefore, is an institution organised to fulfil the object of every fair young ambition, by enabling her to be
the event which marks her entry into
and gives her an and passport in every European capital.
A Levee or a Drawing-room has always formed the head-quarters of witty retort and polite badinage. Of all Court wits perhaps George Selwyn was the readiest and the happiest. Among other witticisms uttered by him within the precincts of the Court, was related by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in his
There are extant many sketches of the front of the on the day of a Levee or a Drawing-room under the later Stuarts and the Hanoverian sovereigns. The illustration on page shows the king arriving in his coach with the company in carriages and sedan-chairs. As they look at it, some of our readers may possibly remember the lines ascribed to Pope:--
In sedan chairs were novelties confined to the upper classes and persons
They were introduced at the West-end by Sir Sanders Duncombe, who represented to the King that
and prayed for the privilege of bringing them into London. Duncombe was patronised by the royal favourite, Buckingham, through whose influence he obtained a concession of the privilege for years, and made, no doubt, a good round sum of money by the monopoly.
Sedan chairs, which once were as common at the West-end as hansom cabs, and as much used by men as well as ladies of
figure frequently in Hogarth's pictures of London life. In his day the sedan chair was the courtly vehicle, and in of the plates of the
we see the man of fashion using it in attending court. The chair continued to be in use all through the Georgian era, and even to a later date; and in some large houses, in the early part of Her Majesty's reign, a specimen of it was to be seen in the hall or lobby of large houses in the Westend, laid up like a ship in ordinary. It was used even to a later date occasionally at Bath, Cheltenham, and Edinburgh, where the chairmen were a very quaint and humorous body, mostly natives of the Highlands.
It is far from uninteresting to mark the introduction of such modes of conveyance, as they become curious in the retrospect, and give us a very fair insight into the habits and manners of past years.
The Sedan chair, though so called from the place where it was originally made, did not come to England from France, but from Spain, being introduced from Madrid by Charles I., when, as Prince of Wales, he went to that city to look for a wife. On his departure from Spain, as we learn from Mendoza's
the Prime Minister of Spain, and favourite of Philip IV., Olivarez, gave the Prince
Another contemporary writer tells us that on his return to England, Charles gave of these chairs to his favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, who raised a great clamour against himself by using them in the streets of London. Bassompierre, the French Ambassador, in his
When, however, the populace found out that money was to be made out of them, and that to start a
was a good speculation, they swallowed their scruples, and, like shrewd and sensible persons, invested their savings in building and buying them, so that in a short time they came into common use, not only in London, but in the chief provincial towns. In the country they were never popular. [extra_illustrations.4.117.1] [extra_illustrations.4.117.2] [extra_illustrations.4.117.3]
Amongst those who came to St. James's in
was John Duke of Marlborough, after his crowning victory of Ramillies, then at the summit of his popularity, and almost worshipped by the people, who measure everything by success. He tried to smuggle himself into the levee in a chair, but in spite of his attempt at privacy he was discovered, and in a few minutes was surrounded by thousands who rent the air with their acclamations.
A courtly and polished condition of society among the wealthier circles is a natural consequence of our monarchical institutions. Mr. N. P. Willis, the American writer, confesses as much when he writes,
So deeply engrained in human nature is the observance of an orderly and regulated ceremonial, even in the minutiae of daily life.
Johnson remarked that it had been suggested that kings must be unhappy, because they are deprived of the greatest of all satisfactions, easy and unreserved society.
It is of the least observed but perhaps not among the least equivocal proofs of a great advancement in the ideas of freedom entertained by the British people, that their king and queen for the time being may be said to be the only sovereigns in Europe who have ceased to have the power of dictating the fashions to their people.
In days of old-nay, so late as the reign of George II.-it was with the English, as it is still with the other nations: the personages in the kingdom (from being supposed to be the best informed) led the fashions. As the king and queen, so their whole court, and all the higher ranks of the public, were habited, from the celebrated ruff of the good Queen Bess to the elegant head-dress of the amiable Queen Caroline. But the reign of George III. introduced a new era.
This may not be literally true, for the dress of her present Majesty and her mode of arranging her hair on ascending the throne, were most servilely followed by nearly all the young ladies of England.
The court dress of ladies has varied to a very great extent with the fashions of the age, and the sovereign from time to time has laid down very precise regulations as to what is, and what is not, allowable in the female costume on court occasions. The court dress of gentlemen, however, has undergone but very slight modification during the past century: though wigs and hair-powder are no longer worn, yet the plum-coloured suit of livery with light silk facings, worn till our own time at levees by men, would remind us of so many lacqueys, were it not for the sword which accompanies them. Some slight modifications in this dress were made a few years ago by the authority of the Lord Chamberlain, the most important being the admission of velvet as an optional substitute for the plum-coloured cloth above-mentioned, and the recognition of trousers instead of knee-breeches; but the court costume of the male sex is still somewhat of an anachronism.
At the commencement, and indeed to almost the middle of the reign of George III., a nobleman or a gentleman of
was known by his dress, which he wore not only on
days and special occasions, but in the streets, and at evening parties or other gatherings, at home, or at the coffee-houses and clubs.
writes Sir N. W. Wraxall in ,
To the same influence he traces the decline of a distinctive dress among the ladies also; and expresses a hope, and indeed a prophecy, that
The huge hoops worn by the ladies of a century or more ago have occasionally been of service, Sir Robert Strange, for instance, the eminent engraver, being
as the phrase then went, being hard driven for shelter from the searchers of the victorious army, hid himself under the ample folds of the petticoats of a Miss Lumsden, whom he requited for the service by marrying her soon afterwards.
The pair of silk stockings brought into England from Spain was presented to Henry VIII., who greatly prized them. In the year of Elizabeth's reign, her
woman, Mrs. Montagu, presented her Majesty with a pair of black silk stockings as a new-year's present; whereupon her Majesty asked if she could have any more, in which case she would wear no more cloth stockings. Silk stockings were equally rare things in the Royal Court of Scotland, for it appears that before James VI. received the ambassadors sent to congratulate him on his accession to the English throne, he requested of the lords of his court to lend him his pair of silk hose, that he
of court dresses, we may be pardoned for extracting the following from
Hair-powder was introduced into Europe in the year . It is said that at the accession of George I., only ladies wore powder. At the coronation of George II. there were but hairdressers in London: in , there were in England.
The full-bottomed wigs which envelope and cloud some of the most distinguished portraits of the Stuart era were still in fashion during the reign of William and Mary. Lord Bolingbroke was
| of the to reduce them by tying them up. At this Queen Anne was much offended, and said to a bystander, that |
Soon after this, tie-wigs, instead of being regarded as undress, became part and parcel of the high court dress at St. James's and Kensington. [extra_illustrations.4.119.1] [extra_illustrations.4.119.2]
Archbishop Tillotson, who was the English prelate represented in a wig, says :--
It is stated that as far as the women were concerned, there was nothing to blame in this innocent fashion of long locks let free from unnatural constraint; and the glossy ringlets of the young gentlewomen of , confined only by a simple rose, jewel, or bandeau of pearls, was of the most elegant head-dresses ever invented to please the eye of man: this, as is well known, is the style that has been transmitted to us in the bewitching portraits of the beauties of the court of Charles II. The decorations of the men's heads were not anything half so simple, for, after the frizzing up the hair from the forehead, and then suffering it to fall in the wild luxuriance that called forth the censures of the clergy, they next proceeded to ornament themselves with borrowed hair, and the odious invention of the peruke, or periwig, made in imitation of the long, waving curls of the
came next into fashion. Charles II., it is well known, adopted this fantastic fashion; and very soon not a gentleman's head or shoulders were considered to be complete without a French wig.
The farthingale of the and beginning of the centuries was--as our readers, no doubt, well know--the originator of the hooped petticoat of the eighteenth and of the crinoline of the century; but in many respects the men offered a still broader mark for the satirist, the cavalier being adorned in silk, satin, or velvet of the richest colours, with loose, full sleeves, slashed in front; the collar, too, of this superb doublet was of the costliest point lace; his swordbelt, of the most magnificent kind, was crossed over shoulder, whilst a rich scarf, encircling the waist, was tied in a large bow at the side.
Charles II. curtailed the doublet of its fair proportions, made it excessively short, and opened it in front to display a rich shirt, bulging out without any waistcoat, wearing at the same time Holland sleeves of extravagant size and fantastic contrivance. The ladies' dresses, however, and their drapery were not much affected by the example of royalty.
That the dress of the court fops in the Georgian era was a somewhat expensive commodity, we may infer from
Brummell's answer to a question once put to him. Being asked by a lady how much she ought to allow her son for dress, he replied, that it might be done for a year,
Among the curious customs and ceremonies of the Court, which have been handed down to us from the Stuart times, is that of presenting the poetlaureate-who, by the way, is an
--with a butt of sherry from the royal cellars. Although the earliest mention of a poet-laureate in England occurs in the reign of Edward IV., it was not till that the patent of the office seems to have been granted. Since the following poets have held the office of laureate:--Dryden, Tate, Rowe, Colley Cibber, William Whitehead, Warton, Pye, Southey, Wordsworth, and Alfred Tennyson.
Mention of the office of poet-laureate leads us naturally to speak of the success attending the poetical and literary efforts of such as have owed their rise in life to royal and courtly patronage. Most of the persons mentioned in the following extract from a modern periodical must have frequently crossed the threshold of to worship the rising or risen sun of royalty:--
On the western side, and within what we may style the precincts of , commanding a view both of and the , stands Stafford House, or as it was called till recently, [extra_illustrations.4.121.1] . The old house
| derived its name from Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland, of the mistresses of Charles II. By birth she was a Villiers, the daughter and heiress of the Irish Viscount Grandison; and she was created Baroness of Nonsuch, Countess of Northampton, and Duchess of Cleveland, by her royal admirer, to whom she had borne sons-Charles Fitz Roy, Earl of Southampton, and George Fitz Roy, Duke of Northumberland. This lady died at Chiswick in . years before that, apparently she had resigned her interest in this house, as in we find it granted by the Crown to Henry, Duke of Grafton: it was then called Berkshire House, from its former owner. The present house covers also very nearly the site of a smaller mansion, Godolphin House, which at the beginning of the present century was occupied by the Duke of Bedford. It is deserving of a passing note as having been the residence of Charles James Fox during his last illness. We learn from his biographer, Trotter, that during this anxious period |
After his death, at the Duke of Devonshire's villa at Chiswick, his body rested here for a night or previous to his public funeral in . In the last century Godolphin House became the residence of the Duke of Bridgewater, who new-fronted the mansion with stone.
The present mansion was built about the year by the Duke of York. It is said by Mr. Chambers, in his
that it was built with money lent to him by the Marquis of Stafford, whose grandson is the present owner. Be this as it may, the Stafford family became possessed of it, and have spent at least a quarter of a million upon it and its decorations. The mansion was built by the Duke of York on the site of a former residence, where he and the duchess gave pleasant dinners and receptions,
| devoting the evenings to whist, at which the duke was a -rate player. Among his most constant guests were Lords Alvanley, Lauderdale, De Ros, and Hertford, |
Brummell, and the Duke of Dorset. It is said that he planned and built the house from his own designs. The duke was very fond of collecting here curiosities of every description-jewels, bronzes, coins, and articles of ; he also spent large sums in purchasing old chased plate, with which his sideboards groaned; and on his walls he had a fine collection of portraits of officers in curious old uniforms. When he left the the duke took up his abode at Cambridge House, in . He died at Rutland House, at the north-western corner of , but his body was afterwards brought to , where it lay in state, in .
It may be mentioned here that Stafford House marks the extreme south-western limit of the parish of St. James's, .
The money received for the sale of Stafford House by the Crown was devoted in to the purchase of Victoria Park in the East-end of London as a recreation-ground for the people. The form of the mansion is quadrangular, and it has perfect fronts, all of which are cased with stone. The north or principal front, which is the entrance, exhibits a portico of Corinthian columns. The south and west fronts are alike; they project slightly at each end, and in the centre are Corinthian columns supporting a pediment. The east front differs a little from the preceding, as it has no projecting columns. The vestibule, which is of noble dimensions, leads to the grand staircase. The library is situated on the ground floor; and on the , or principal floor, are the state apartments, consisting of dining-rooms, drawing-rooms, and a noble picture gallery, feet in length, in which is placed the Stafford Gallery, of the finest private collections of paintings in London; it is particularly rich in the works of Titian, Murillo, Rubens, and Vandyck. The private rooms contain many valuable art treasures.
The noble suite of drawing-rooms have been often lent by the late and the present [extra_illustrations.4.122.1] for the purposes of meetings of gentlemen and ladies who are interested in social reforms, so that the interior of the house is known to very many persons. of the most novel exhibitions, perhaps, which have taken place here, or anywhere, was in the summer of , when there was held in the garden a show of wicker coffins of all sorts, sizes, and patterns- of course, of the much-vexed question of
which at the time had been so frequently agitated in the newspapers.
Even so lately as , stood in somewhat open country, as shown by a drawing of that date in the Towneley Collection, which corresponds very closely to the description of the place given by Le Serre in his
&c., fol. .
says the latter,
A long low wall runs eastwards, along what is now the south side of , and a thick grove of trees covers what is now the site of Marlborough House. As nearly as possible, where now stands the Junior Carlton Club, on the north side of , is a small barn or shed and a haystack; and in the front of the print, not far from the centre of what is now , stands a handsome conduit, with ornamental brickwork and a lofty crenellated roof; and the meadow in which it stands, apparently, was not at that time surrounded even by a hedge.
We fear it must be owned to be as true in as it was half a century before, that the sovereign of England is still without a London residence becoming the head of so great an empire. Though Windsor Castle is unequalled as a medieval stronghold, we have in London nothing that answers to what the Tuileries was; and is at best but a poor substitute for the Chateau of Versailles.
With reference to the mean appearance of , the author of the
writes, in :--
[extra_illustrations.4.117.1] Ball at St. James's Palace
[extra_illustrations.4.117.2] Procession of Royal Party
[extra_illustrations.4.117.3] Account of St. James's Palace
[extra_illustrations.4.119.1] Five Poets Laureate
[extra_illustrations.4.119.2] Probable Poets Laureate
[extra_illustrations.4.121.1] Cleveland House
[extra_illustrations.4.122.1] Duchesses of Sutherland