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Princess Frederica Charlotte, Duchess of York

Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia was born in Charlottenburg, on 7 May 1767. She was the only daughter of Frederick William II of Prussia and his first wife and double first cousin Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg.

On 29 September 1791 at Charlottenburg Palace, she married Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, the second son of George III and a cousin of hers. There was a second marriage at Buckingham Palace on 23 November. The new Duchess of York received an enthusiastic welcome in London, but the marriage was not a happy one, and the couple soon separated. They had no surviving children.

The Duchess, styled “Freddie” to her friends, retained the estate, Oatlands, and spent the majority of the rest of her life here. Much of the foundation stone for the original palace came from Chertsey Abbey which fell into ruins after the dissolution of the monasteries. It was acquired by Henry VIII in 1538 as a home for his affianced wife, Anne of Cleves, though it was later used for his wedding to Catherine Howard. The palace remained as a Royal household for nearly many years. James I’s wife Anne of Denmark employed Indigo Jones to design an ornamental gateway from the Privy Garden to the Park. Charles used it for his queen’s residence, employed John Tradescant the elder for its gardens, and was later imprisoned here by the army in 1647. After the King’s execution the palace was sold and demolished, leaving a single house.

In 1790, Oatlands, now extended and remodeled, was leased from the Crown by the Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany in anticipation of his upcoming marriage. Shortly thereafter, in 1794, the mansion was burnt down and the was rebuilt in the Gothic style of the period. After the death of the Duchess of York, the whole property was sold. It was bought by Edward Hughes Ball Hughes and again remodeled. In 1856, the estate was broken up and the house became a hotel known as the South Western (later Oatlands Park) Hotel.

Life at Oatlands provided the privacy craved by the Duchess, and she shared her home with many animals. Despite these companions, however, she seems to have lead a somewhat lonely existence, as recorded by vistors to her home:

A fire happened at Oatlands yesterday which damaged some of the art buildings. The king had been there, and brought back a little dog belonging to the Duchess of York, who seemed more anxious abt. her animals than abt. the house. She has 18 dogs. The king observed that affection must rest on something. When there were no children, animals were the objects of it.
The Diary of Joseph Farington, June 8, 1794

The Duchess’s life is an odd one; she seldom has a female companion, she is read to all night and falls asleep towards morning, and rises about 3; feeds her dozens of dogs and her flocks of birds, &c., comes down two minutes before dinner, and so round again. Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, LL.D. F. R. S., Secretary to the Admiralty, 1818

The Duchess died, on 6 August 1820, in Oatlands Park, Weybridge, Surrey, and was buried in Weybridge Old Church. In 1822 York Column, in Weybridge, was erected in her memory. The funds were raised by public subscription and it remains a testament to the popularity of this generous benefactress. The inscription reads:


This column was erected by the inhabitants of Weybridge and its vicinity on the 6th day of August 1822 by voluntary contribution. In token of their sincere esteem and regard for her late Royal Highness the most excellent and illustrious Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Duchess of York. Who resided for upwards of thirty years at Oatlands in this parish, exercising every Christian virtue and died, universally regretted, on the 6th day of August 1820.
Ye poor, suppress the mournful sigh,
Her spirit is with Christ on High,
In those bright realms of heavenly peace,
Where charity shall never cease,
Her deeds of mercy and of love,
Are registered in courts above.

Princess Frederica Charlotte plays a pivitol role in the Beau Brummell detective series by Rosemary Stevens. Much about her life and the daily life at Oatlands can be learned and speculated on, here.

Historical information from Wikipedia.com

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Beau Brummell: Nothing but a Name Mysteriously Sparkling

The name Beau Brummell is synonymous with Regency England, but what do you know about him? Researching this article I found that people associate him with silks, satins, and snuff, while one thought he was a fictional detective. It seemed the French writer Barbey d’Aurevilly was right: once the most famous man in the kingdom was “nothing but a name mysteriously sparkling in all the memoirs of his time.” So, what happened to Beau Brummell?

George Bryan Brummell was born in 10 Downing Street on 7th June 1778. He was the youngest son of William Brummell – an enterprising man who had risen to the position of Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, with all the influence and trappings that came with the role – a grace and favour apartment in Hampton Court Palace, a country house in Berkshire, and friendship with Charles James Fox, Richard Sheridan, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted the two curly-haired Brummell boys in 1781. The Brummell family had risen a long way in two generations and young George was to take the family name to even greater heights, and depths. He became a legend in his own lifetime and worked as hard at this as his father had done as a junior clerk.

In 1783, William Brummell retired with an income of about £2,500 a year – enough to send his two sons to Eton. There, George was well liked. He was good natured and clever but lazy and already developing his fastidious nature, avoiding the streets in wet weather and careful of his dignity. George went on to Oriel College at Oxford but left in 1794 when his father died, and instead joined the Prince of Wales’ own regiment, the Tenth Dragoons – or ‘The Elegant Extracts’ as they were known. The Dragoons were based in Brighton until civil unrest called them to the north and Brummell resigned immediately, saying that Manchester would be too disagreeable for him. His £40,000 inheritance meant he could afford to concentrate on being a gentleman. Quickly given the soubriquet ‘Beau’, he proved to be a witty and observant figure who made many friends. Charles Stanhope said

“I could understand a good deal of the secret of Brummell’s extraordinary success and influence in the highest society. He was a vast deal more than a mere dandy; he had wit as well as humour and drollery, and the most perfect coolness and self-possession.”

To be part of Brummell’s set was Society’s top cachet, and to be cut by him was social death. In the novel Granby there is a poorly disguised portrait.

“In the art of cutting he shone unrivalled. He could assume that calm but wandering gaze which veers, as if unconsciously, round the proscribed individual, neither fixing not to be fixed, not looking on vacancy nor on any one object, neither occupied nor abstracted, a look which perhaps excuses you to the person cut and, at any rate, prevents him from accosting you.”

Brummell was careful to remain free from obligations or attachments (he is said to have cut his own brother) and there were no signs of any relationships – either with women or men. His first biographer, Captain Jesse, thought that Brummell “had too much self love ever to be really in love.” Beau himself told Lady Hester Stanhope that he had adopted the only course possible to distance himself from ordinary men. As Oscar Wilde said more than a century later “to love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”

His friendship with the Prince of Wales did not last. As Brummell ceased to need the Prince’s patronage, so the Prince became jealous of Brummell’s position, but Brummell did not care. “I made him what he is and I can unmake him.” he quipped in an unguarded moment. By 1813 the end of the friendship was scandalously public when the Prince arrived at a party with Lord Alvanley and coldly ignored Brummell.

“Ah, Alvanley,” Brummell’s voice rang out clearly over the shocked silence, “Who is your fat friend?”

Brummell maintained his image so well that everyone was shocked when debts forced him to Calais in May 1816. In London, his effects were sold at auction, including his fine cellar “10 dozen Capital Old Port, 16 dozen of Burgundy, Claret, and Still Champagne. . .” They were, the publicity assured potential buyers, “the genuine property of a man of fashion, gone to the continent.” The auction raised £1000, but this was not enough to enable Brummell to return.

However, life in Calais was bearable. “No one can lead a more pleasant life than Brummell, for he passes his time between London and Paris” the British ambassador quipped, and Brummell’s friends visited him there, bring presents of money or gifts such as his favourite Façon de Paris snuff. In 1818 rumours abounded that he had been offered £5 thousand to write his memoirs, and that the Prince of Wales had offered £6 thousand for him not to do it.

Brummell became very popular in Calais “We used to call him Le Roi de Calais. He was a truly fine man, very elegant, and really well off – he always paid his bills and was very good to the poor; everyone was very sorry when he left.” said a Calais shopkeeper. Brummell was always careful to settle his debts with tradesmen – instead he owed increasingly vast amounts of money to bankers and his friends but his good nature and wit charmed them all.

When asked to make a contribution towards a Church of England chapel in Calais, he replied “I am very sorry you did not call last week, for it was only yesterday that I became a catholic.”

In 1827 Brummell’s patron the Duke of York died, and Brummell’s creditors began to close in. That summer, Brummell’s letters contained a note of panic. “I am sadly alarmed lest some overwhelming disaster should befall me” he wrote. While George IV was king, there was little hope of rapprochement, but good fortune did come along in June 1830 when Brummell was appointed His Majesty’s Consul for the departments of Calvados, La Manche, and Ille et Vilaine. The post was paid £400 a year and was based in Caen. However, there was a problem; with more than £1000 of debts, Brummell’s creditors were very reluctant to see him leave Calais. It was not until he signed a crippling agreement to assign his salary to his attorneys to deal with his debts that he was allowed to leave.

In Caen, he soon became a popular figure, noted for the way he would tiptoe across the cobbles to avoid getting dirt on his boots. He struck up a friendship with the grocer and wine merchant Charles Armstrong, who also cashed bills and money orders. Money remained a problem and he continued to press for a superior job; he wrote to Lord Palmerston that the post at Caen was not needed and he (Brummell) could do something better. On the 21st March 1832 he received a reply: HM Govt had “come to the conclusion that the post of British Consul at Caen may be abolished without prejudice to the public service . . . your salary will cease on the 31st May.” The news did not stay secret for long and he only escaped from the bailiffs when his landlady hid him in a wardrobe.

Armstrong went to England to collect money from Brummell’s friends and arranged £120 a year for his keep. Although generous, this was a pittance which at one time he would have spent in less than a month – when asked how much it would cost to launch a young man into London society, he once replied “with strict economy, it might be done for eight hundred pounds a year.”

His situation began to tell upon his mind, “I am incompetent to do anything but to ruminate over the broken toys of my past days” he mourned to his landlady’s daughter. That summer, the stress and worry probably contributed to his first stroke, and he moved to smaller lodgings at L’ Hotel d’Angleterre where, in April 1834, he had his second stroke whilst dining. Recovery was slow this time and he became dogged with a sense of his own mortality: “they are weaving a shroud about me; still I trust I shall yet escape” he wrote. A third stroke ended that year and the following May he was arrested for debt and taken to gaol where he shared a stone cell with three others. He had not been allowed to dress properly before his arrest and the degradation bewildered him.

“Image a position more wretched than mine! They have put me with all the common people! I am surrounded by the greatest villains and have nothing but prison fare!”

Once again, his remarkable friends rallied round and although they could not raise enough to secure his release, they paid for him to share the private room of political prisoner, Charles Godefroy. Armstrong arranged food, laundry, and sent in his washing basin so that he could perform his famous toilette – to Godefroy’s amazement. Armstrong also looked after his property and went to Calais and London to raise a fund for him. This time, Lord Palmerston agreed to £200 in recognition of the severance of the Caen contract, and once again his friends contributed, including £100 from King William IV.

Brummell was released on the 21st July 1835, and Armstrong made it clear that he would not honour any debts run up without his knowledge. The fastidious Beau was reduced to wearing cast-off clothes and a black silk cravat instead of white linen to save on the washing. When his trousers needed mending, he stayed in bed because they were his only pair. Brummell’s tragedy was that he outlived his time. His fairy-tale had ended twenty years before and now the new young Queen was ushering in the Victorian era while his friends were themselves passing into shadows.

As his illness grew, the former dandy neglected his cleanliness and threw fantasy parties for friends who were long dead. In 1839, he was taken to the asylum of the Bon Saveur – shrieking they were putting him into prison but where his last months were peaceful and he died in his bed on 30th March 1840. The legendary Beau Brummell lies in a plain grave in Calais, unnoticed and forgotten, the name more glittering and the man more elusive with each passing year.

Further reading:
Kelly, I (2006) Beau Brummell, the Ultimate Dandy. Free Press.
Barbey d’Aurevilly J (1845) Du Dandysme et de George Brummell.
Cole H (1977) Beau Brummell. Granada: London
Lister T H (1826) Granby. A Novel in three volumes. Colburn: London.
Muers E (1963) The Dandy. Secker & Warburg: London.

This article, by Joanna Brown, was copied by permission of Jane Austen’s Regency World. To learn more about this magazine, the only full color magazine devoted to Jane Austen, or to subscribe, visit their website: www.worldmags.com

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Beau Brummell and the Birth of Regency Fashion

Was Beau Brummell a Dandy?

It is a popular misconception that a Regency dandy was a powdered and patched horror, dressed in silk and affectation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The original and greatest dandy of them all – Beau Brummell – would have recoiled with horror to be compared with these creatures. Though he had very refined senses – claiming to have caught a cold after sharing a room with a damp stranger and nursing a delicate palate (when asked if he ate vegetables, he is said to have replied “Madam, I once ate a pea.”) – these pretensions were just adjuncts to his raison d’etre: his appearance. He was very clear that clothes should never attract attention, “nothing too tight or too fashionable” he admonished. If heads turned to follow a man along the street, he was not well-dressed. Brummell’s maxim was “fine linen and plenty of it” He was never flamboyant, but manly and dignified, and though not tall, strived to be perfect in every way. Every day, his toilette would take more than two hours and would involve brushing his teeth, shaving, a thorough wash and scrub; followed by brushing his body all over with a stiff brush and finally pursuing any errant remaining hairs with a pair of tweezers. He prided himself on never needing scent because he was so clean. Brummell’s search for perfection in his dress led him to devise a stirrup to go under the foot and stop his pantaloons from wrinkling, but it is the cravat for which he is most famous. A story recounts his valet leaving the room with his arms laden with linen cravats, “these are our failures” – no wonder that Brummell inspired the ditty

My neckcloth, of course, forms my principal care, For by that we criterions of elegance swear; And it costs me, each morning, some hours of flurry, To make it appear to be tied in a hurry.

He invariably dressed in a blue coat tightly buttoned at the waist with the tails cut above the knee, buff coloured pantaloons and waistcoat, finished with the whitest of white cravats and Hessian boots of the blackest black whose shine, it was said, extended to the soles and was maintained with champagne froth. The only jewellery would be his gleaming buttons and a simple signet ring. He said of himself “I have no talents other than to dress; my genius is in the wearing of clothes.”

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This companion piece to Joanna Brown’s article on Beau Brummell was copied by permission of Jane Austen’s Regency World. To learn more about this magazine, the only full color magazine devoted to Jane Austen, or to subscribe, visit their website: www.worldmags.com

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A Brief Overview of Men’s Regency Fashion

men's regency fashion

An Overview of Men’s Regency Fashion

The Regency period, for both women’s and men’s Regency fashion, saw the final abandonment of lace, embroidery, and other embellishment from serious men’s clothing — it would not reappear except as an affectation of Aesthetic dress in the 1880s and its successor, the Young Edwardian look of the 1960s. Instead, cut and tailoring became much more important as an indicator of quality.

Breeches became longer — tightly-fitted leather riding breeches reached almost to the boot tops — and were replaced by pantaloons or trousers for fashionable street wear.

Coats were cutaway in front with long skirts or tails behind, and had tall standing collars. The lapels featured an M-shaped notch unique to the period.

Shirts were made of linen, had attached collars, and were worn with stocks or wrapped in a cravat tied in various fashions. Pleated frills at the cuffs and front opening went out of fashion by the end of the period.

Waistcoats were relatively high-waisted, and squared off at the bottom, but came in a broad variety of styles. They were often double-breasted, with wide lapels and stand collars.

Overcoats or greatcoats were fashionable, often with contrasting collars of fur or velvet. The garrick, sometimes called a coachman’s coat, was a particularly popular style, and had between one and three short capelets atached to the collar.

Boots, typically Hessian boots, already a mainstay in men’s footwear, became the rage after the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Wellington boots, as they were known, sported low cut heels and tops that were calf-high.

The Rise of the Dandy

The clothes-obsessed dandy first appeared in the 1790s, both in London and Paris. In the slang of the time, a dandy was differentiated from a fop in that the dandy’s dress was more refined and sober.

In High Society: A Social History of the Regency Period, 1788-1830, Venetia Murray writes:

Other admirers of dandyism have taken the view that it is a sociological phenomenon, the result of a society in a state of transition or revolt. Barbey d’Aurevilly, one of the leading French dandies at the end of the nineteenth century, explained: Some have imagined that dandyism is primarily a specialisation in the art of dressing oneself with daring and elegance. It is that, but much else as well. It is a state of mind made up of many shades, a state of mind produced in old and civilised societies where gaiety has become infrequent or where conventions rule at the price of their subject’s boredom…it is the direct result of the endless warfare between respectability and boredom.

In Regency London dandyism was a revolt against a different kind of tradition, an expression of distaste for the extravagance and ostentation of the previous generation, and of sympathy with the new mood of democracy. It was an entirely new style of men’s Regency fashion.

Beau Brummell set the fashion for dandyism in British society from the mid-1790s, which was characterized by immaculate personal cleanliness, immaculate linen shirts with high collars, perfectly tied cravats, and exquisitely tailored plain dark coats (contrasting in many respects with the “maccaroni” of the earlier eighteenth century).

Brummell abandoned his wig and cut his hair short in a Roman fashion dubbed à la Brutus, echoing the fashion for all things classical seen in women’s wear of this period. He also led the move from breeches to snugly-tailored pantaloons or trousers, often light-colored for day and dark for evening, based on working-class clothing adopted by all classes in France in the wake of the Revolution. In fact, Brummel’s reputation for taste and refinement was such that, fifty years after his death, Max Beerbohm, wrote:

In certain congruities of dark cloth, in the rigid perfection of his linen, in the symmetry of his glove with his hand, lay the secret of Mr Brummell’s miracles.

Not every male aspiring to attain Brummel’s sense of elegance and style succeeded, however, and these dandies were subject to caricature and ridicule. Venetia Murray quotes an excerpt from Diary of an Exquisite, from The Hermit in London, 1819:

Took four hours to dress; and then it rained; ordered the tilbury and my umbrella, and drove to the fives’ court; next to my tailors; put him off after two years tick; no bad fellow that Weston…broke three stay-laces and a buckle, tore the quarter of a pair of shoes, made so thin by O’Shaughnessy, in St. James’s Street, that they were light as brown paper; what a pity they were lined with pink satin, and were quite the go; put on a pair of Hoby’s; over-did it in perfuming my handkerchief, and had to recommence de novo; could not please myself in tying my cravat; lost three quarters of an hour by that, tore two pairs of kid gloves in putting them hastily on; was obliged to go gently to work with the third; lost another quarter of an hour by this; drove off furiously in my chariot but had to return for my splendid snuff-box (Decorative boxes), as I knew that I should eclipse the circle by it.

Hairstyles and Headgear

Older men, military officers, and those in conservative professions such as lawyers and physicians retained their wigs and powder into this period, but younger men of fashion wore their hair in short curls, often with long sideburns.

Tricorne and bicorne hats were still worn, but the most fashionable hat was tall and slightly conical – this would evolve into the top hat and reign as the only hat for formal occasions for the next century.

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