Subscriptions raised money for charities–and for destitute friends

© Cheryl Bolen

In the days before organized non-profits and charity fetes, the British raised money for the less fortunate through subscriptions advertised in newspapers. Subscribers could donate an amount with which they were comfortable. The higher the person’s rank, the more they were expected to give. It was a coup to use the name of a member of the Royal Family as having donated.

Here are a few subscription notices that appeared on the front page of The Morning Chronicle in 1817.

Subscription for Poor Irish laborers

Donating £50

 HRH the Princess Charlotte Auguste of Saxe Coburg

His Serene H the Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg 

Donating £20 

Right Hon. G. Ponsonby

the Right Honorable Viscount Castlereagh 

Donating £10 

the Hon. Louisa Cavendish

A Case of Real Distress

Rt. Hon. John George—Lord Arden, Registrar of the Admiralty, Ld of the Bedchamber, etc., etc. It appears from the most unexceptional authority this truly unfortunate nobleman is now actually out of pocket by his sinecure. This case is recommended to all charitably disposed persons. . . the smallest sums will be thankfully received—Messrs. Curtis & Co. Downing Street: Rev. Dr. Sidmouth, Spring Gardens. . . the following subscribers have already been received . . .

It is likely that Curtis & Co. on Downing Street would have been solicitors who handled the subscription and its dispensation.

Friends would often come to others’ aids with subscriptions, such as in the case of statesman Charles James Fox. In a 1793 letter to his wife, who was on the Continent, Lord Bessborough wrote, “We have had a subscription for Charles Fox, who was in distress; Dudley North (Whig M.P.) and Charles Pelham (another M.P.) were the chief movers of it, and they have got as much money as will buy him annuity for his life of £2,000 a year. I should have thought it would have better to have done it without a publick meeting, as they had got nearly money enough without it. However they chose to have it. I had not much to give (huge gambling losses had decimated the Bessborough’s fortune) so I only subscribed £200.”

A week later he wrote

I have been this morning to a meeting about Charles fox’s affairs. We had a very handsome letter from him, & his politicks this years have been kept clear of in what was said; I understand they have got £33,000 paid, which is very extraordinary at this time, & £10,000 more promised. they are in hopes of paying his debts & having enough to get him annuity of £2,000 for his life. I understand they have agreed to buy the annuity of the Duke of Bedford & Ld. Spencer at 11 years purchase.

The grandson of a duke, Fox had inherited enormous wealth from his father, Baron Holland, but squandered it away at the gaming tables. Twice. An annuity of £2,000 would have been an extremely comfortable income. In Fox’s case, subscribers generously reached into their pockets because he was so affable, clever, and well liked.

Still, Fox’s debts, in today’s dollars, would have been roughly $4.5 million. It is doubtful the poor Irish laborers received anything approaching that hefty amount.—Cheryl Bolen, the NY Times and USA bestselling author of two dozen Regency romance novels, has just released Oh What a (Wedding) Night.

Resources

Morning Chronicle, February 6, 1817

Lady Bessborough and Her Family Circle, Earl Bessborough in collaboration with A. Aspinall, John Murray, London, 1940.

 

The Actress Who Married a Duke

© Cheryl Bolen

What a strange eventful life has mine been, from a poor little player child, with just food and clothes to cover me, dependent on a very precarious profession, without talent or a friend in the world – first the wife of the best, the most perfect being that ever breathed …and now the wife of a Duke! You must write my life… my true history written by the author of Waverley”

The passage above was written in 1827 by the Duchess of St. Albans to Sir Walter Scott shortly after her marriage to the 9th Duke of St. Albans, a man 23 years her junior.

How did a 50-year-old former actress attract so lofty a peer? It’s a good guess that her enormous fortune dazzled him.

How, then, did an actress at a minor London theatre become one of the wealthiest women in the British Isles?

Harriet Mellon (1777-1837) was nearing forty when she attracted the attention of the enormously wealthy banker Thomas Coutts (1735-1822) while acting at the Duke Street Theatre. She was noted for her beauty and was painted by George Romney and Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Harriet Mellon

Harriet Mellon

Coutts married her soon after his first wife died in 1815. This husband whom she described as “the most perfect being that ever breathed” was eighty.

Coutts had founded Coutts & Co., the royal bank, and he enjoyed close relationships with the highest ranking families and officials in the land. Both his first wife, Elizabeth Starkey, formerly in service at his brother’s house, and Harriet would have been considered beneath him, but such lack of consequence was apparently not of significance.

His three daughters—with encouragement from their father—were more cognizant of rank when selecting their mates. His eldest daughter, Susan, married the 3rd Earl of Guilford; daughter Frances married the 1st Marquess of Bute; and Sophia married Sir Francis Burdett.

When Coutts died seven years after marrying Harriet, he left his entire fortune to her. She hosted parties at her townhouse at 78 Piccadilly, her lodge four miles away in Highgate, and her place in Brighton.

Five years after she was widowed, she married the Duke of St. Albans.

When she died ten years later, she left the bulk of her fortune to a granddaughter of her first husband, the youngest daughter of Sir Francis Burdett. Harriet paid homage to her first husband in stipulating that her heiress adopt the name Angela Burdett-Coutts.—Cheryl’s newest book, the runaway bride story Oh What a (Wedding) Night, Book 3 in the Brazen Brides series, releases April 19.

Using Stately Homes as Book Settings

© By Cheryl Bolen

My copyeditor recently questioned a reference in one of my books he was editing. “Can this be?” he asked. “Over 300 rooms in this house?”

Yes, many of the British stately homes run to more than 200 rooms and some to over 300 rooms. And because I write a lot of novels about the English aristocracy (both historical and contemporary), I have made it a point to tour as many of these aristocratic homes as possible on my frequent travels to England.

Chatsworth House, home of the Dukes of Devonshire

Chatsworth House, home of the Dukes of Devonshire

One of my favorite of these stately homes is Chatsworth House, family seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, nestled in the foothills of Derbyshire’s Peak District. The “house” has 297 rooms! (It’s the one I use in the banner on my blog, Cheryl’s Regency Ramblings, http://www.cherylsregencyramblings.wordpress.com.)

Knole House in Kent

Knole House in Kent

Knole, in Kent, is home to the Sackvilles, cousins of the first Queen Elizabeth, and was once home to the Dukes of Dorset. This rambling “house” has 356 rooms, 52 sets of stairs, and seven courtyards!

I have toured more than 30 of these homes, and I add new ones each trip my husband and I take to England. They make good fodder for the fictional homes in my 20-plus books. While none of these homes is exactly replicated in any of my novels, I do borrow from different houses I’ve had the pleasure of touring.

Hever-Castle-Kent-great-britain-789258_1242_809

Hever Castle

My book which can most be identified with a particular property is probably My Lord Wicked. The abbey in which my not-so-wicked lord lived was somewhat modeled on Hever Castle, the girlhood home of Anne Boleyn. Instead of the drawbridge at Hever, my fictional abbey has a clock tower which was supposedly built to disguise the abbey’s former bell tower.

In my book, Love in the Library, my heroine lives at Number 17 Royal Crescent in Bath. Here’s a picture of me in front of one of the magnificent townhouses on Bath’s Royal Cresent in June of 2013.

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Me in front of Bath’s Royal Crescent

If you’d like to see what a Georgian townhouse (of the wealthy) looked like, you can tour Number 1 Royal Crescent in Bath. Or you can see the photos of Number 1 here: https://plus.google.com/115605333815650580996/photos?hl=en

—Cheryl Bolen’s newest release, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, Brazen Brides Book 3, releases April 19.

London’s Historic Pubs, Part II

London’s Historic Pubs, Part II

©Cheryl Bolen

The five London pubs described in this blog have all been sampled by my family, and all can be found within a two-mile radius.

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is said to be the most difficult pub to find in London. According to legend, one man worked around the corner for six years without finding it. Nowadays, it’s easy to find with the GPS on your smart phone. It’s located close to the Holburn Circus, not far from the Chancery Lane tube stop on High Holburn. Still, the guys in my family walked right by its entrance, but I was looking for a little alleyway. And do I mean little!

The entry into the tiny pedestrian lane where Ye Olde Mitre tavern is marked by this slender arch.

The entry into the tiny pedestrian lane where Ye Olde Mitre tavern is marked by this slender arch.

Ye Olde Mitre

This is what the entrance to Ye Olde Mitre tavern looks like in daytime. (We were there at night.)

We’re so glad we found it! It’s one of the most memorable of all the London pubs we’ve patronized. You enter through a narrow pedestrian way that has likely been unchanged in centuries. The pub’s interior is comprised of tiny, low-ceilinged rooms. It’s very popular with the locals who can drink a pint near the fire on a winter’s night. Those desiring to imbibe outdoors gather around tall upside-down barrels that serve as bar tables.

The father of my children and I opted for a cozy table by the fireplace, but our sons preferred drinking outside.

The father of my children and I opted for a cozy table by the fireplace, but our sons preferred drinking outside.

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Ye Olde Mitre Tavern has been on this site since 1546, but the current building was constructed in 1772. It’s said Queen Elizabeth I visited here and danced around a cherry tree that is still there. Ye Olde Mitre was originally a tavern for the servants of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely, which was once based here.

Red Lion in Westminster

Because of its prime location between Number 10 Downing Street and Parliament, The Red Lion is your best chance of seeing a real M.P. (Member of Parliament). Until Edward Heath (British Prime Minister from 1970-1974) every prime minister had visited the Red Lion.

A tavern has been at this location since 1434. A young Charles Dickens visited the Red Lion regularly. The current structure was built in 1890.

If it's not raining, patrons love to grab a pint inside the red Lion and drink it outside, especially after work.

If it’s not raining, patrons love to grab a pint inside the Red Lion and drink it outside, especially after work.

The inside is more upscale traditional with dark woods and higher ceilings. Its corner location has become popular for those who take their pints outside. You’ll see lots of people in suits grabbing an after-work pint.

The Cross Keys

Those with OCD may go a little crazy in the interior of The Cross Keys, opened in 1848. Its small interior is crammed with all manner of memorabilia—and clutter. Among the bric-a-brac there’s said to be a napkin signed by Elvis.

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One of my sons in front of The Cross Keys.

This Covent Garden pub’s claim to fame is attributed to the aforementioned plethora of memorabilia and to its unique facade which is a jumble of lovely greenery and flowers. It’s probably Coven Garden’s most distinctive building.

The Lamb and Flag

Also in Covent Garden, The Lamb and Flag claims to be Covent Garden’s most historic watering hole. It’s located on an L-shaped alleyway (not nearly as narrow as the alleyw

The Bolen guys outside Covent Garden's Lamb & Flag pub.

The Bolen guys outside Covent Garden’s Lamb & Flag pub.

ay to Ye Olde Mitre Tavern) that used to be famous for its bare-knuckled fighting.

 

Charles Dickens (That guy really liked his beer!) was a regular here, and a couple of centuries earlier the poet John Dryden hung out here. Up a very narrow, steep stairway is another room—this one named for Dryden, who was almost murdered nearby.

The Old Bell Tavern

Just down Fleet Street from St. Paul’s in The City, The Old Bell Tavern was built by St. Paul’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, for his stonemason’s who were building St. Bride’s Church after the Great Fire.

The curved, dark wood bar in Old Bell Tavern is unique.

The curved, dark wood bar in Old Bell Tavern is unique.

 

Inside, it’s cozy with a small fireplace, an attractive curved-wood bar, and great pub grub.—Cheryl Bolen, whose third Brazen Brides book, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, releases in April and can be preordered everywhere now.

London’s Historic Pubs, Part I

©Cheryl Bolen

Our whole family has a love affair with London, and since our sons have grown we’ve spent a lot of our time in its pubs.

Though my boys are far more discerning over their beer, bitters, ale, and stout (I may not have all that right because I’m not all that discerning about such) I, on the other hand, am more discerning about history. I love historical pubs.

In London, you can find a pub (this name a shortening of public house) on every block, but it’s much harder to find a historic pub in the world’s most urbane, international city. Nowadays, many pubs have morphed into wine bars. Others have eschewed traditional “pub grub” like shepherd’s pie for appetizers like . . . can you believe nachos? And many have gone Zen with their decor. We prefer dark with rich old wood bars. We love to get fish and chips and kidney and shepherd’s pies. If there’s a fireplace, so much the better. My last consideration is “associations.” What historical figures are associated with the pub?

The oldest pubs typically are in the oldest parts of London, around The City and the boroughs immediately surrounding it. (There are 32 boroughs in this vast city.) Most of the really old pubs will have low ceilings and often are housed in several smaller rooms.

Here’s a list of historical pubs we have sampled. It is not complete because we will continue adding to it with each new trip.

Dr. Bolen by his favorite place--Ye Olde Chesshire Cheese.

Dr. Bolen by his favorite place–Ye Olde Chesshire Cheese.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

One of the first historical pubs we ever checked out was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (rebuilt in 1667) in The City. Though there’s a sign for it on Fleet Street, customers enter through a “close,” which is a narrow pedestrian street, off of Fleet.

Many decades ago my high school English teacher showed us slides from her 1950s trip to London. I remembered two things about those slides more than 20 years later when I took my first trip to England. I recalled all the post-war rubble of bombed buildings—and the name of an old pub where Samuel Johnson and many other literati had imbibed, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Now, no trip to London is complete for us without a swing by the quaint, dark warren of rooms. We prefer the tiny front one with its own fireplace. We loved being there on weekdays and seeing all the bankers and journalists coming off Fleet Street in their suits for an after-work pint. Sadly, in recent years, it’s been discovered by tourists, and those British accents are becoming rare.

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My sons at the Spaniards Inn.

Spaniard’s Inn

The second must-visit pub for us each trip is the Spaniards Inn, which we first discovered on a 1996 trip, though it’s been in picturesque Hampstead alongside the Hampstead Heath since 1585. Hampstead is about four miles north of Charring Cross. The pub/inn is located by a tiny 400-year old toll house that’s no longer in use. A lot of history is associated with this inn. Famed highwayman Dick Turpin (1707-1739) was said to have been a regular, and poets John Keats and Lord Byron were frequent guests. It’s said Keats, who lived nearby, wrote Ode to a Nightingale in the inn’s gardens.

I prefer the interior’s low-ceilinged nest of rooms, some with cozy high-back benches of old oak. If there’s no rain and even a hint of sunshine, Londoners, on the other hand, will opt to eat and drink in the large garden, part of which is arbored.

Unlike Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, this has not been overrun by tourists. It is very popular with locals from the posh surrounding neighborhoods of Hampstead and Highgate, and its parking lot (a rarity for a London pub) is filled with Range Rovers and BMWs.

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The George is entered in the same way it was when it was a coaching inn.

The George Inn

Just as atmospheric as the first two, The George is London’s last remaining galleried inn. It is the only one on our current list located south of the River Thames, in Southwark. Just steps from the Tower Bridge tube stop and a minute’s walk from the river, The George is still entered the same way as coaches and horses entered when the inn was rebuilt in 1676. The former inn yard now offers ample outdoor seating.

The former inn yard now offers outdoor seating -- not a preference at chilly Christmas time when we were there!

The former inn yard now offers outdoor seating — not a preference at chilly Christmas time when we were there!

Though the National Trust bought the inn to preserve it, it’s no museum. It’s a popular hangout for food and drink, and the interiors are authentic English pub. Like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The George is composed of many small rooms that offer that unique coziness that promotes good conversation and good times. It was visited by Charles Dickens and mentioned in his Little Dorrit.

 

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The Bolen Boys at the Cittie of Yorke.

Cittie of Yorke

Though there’s been a pub on this site since 1430, the current one is decidedly Victorian though it only dates to the 1920s. It’s located in High Holborn not far from the Chancery Lane tube stop. It was formerly known as Henneky’s Long Bar and was the subject of a Dylan Thomas ode.

Though it’s a vast departure from the low-ceilinged labyrinths of some of our favorite old pubs, this is a must-see. There’s a cozy front room, but the heart and soul of this wonderful pub is its high-ceilinged main room with the famed long bar. Something about it—perhaps its high clerestory windows—reminded me of the big hall in the Augustinian Brewery in Salzburg. There is plenty of dark wood here to add the patina of age.

Enjoying a pint (or half pint, in my case) at the Cittie of Yorke.

Enjoying a pint (or half pint, in my case) in one of the Cittie of Yorke’s cozy cubicles.

The pride of place at the Cittie of Yorke are the Victorian-style oak cubicles that line either side of this large, wood-floored chamber. We had to wait to claim one, but it was well worth it. An added plus is the pub’s endorsement by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Part II, Next Blog

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, High Holborn/Chancery Lane

Red Lion in Westminster

The Cross Keys in Covent Garden

The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden

The Old Bell Tavern in the City

A Brief History of Clarence House

©By Cheryl Bolen

Upon the 2002 death of his grandmother, the Queen Mother Elizabeth, Prince Charles moved into a newly remodeled Clarence House on London’s Mall near Buckingham Palace and adjacent to Britain’s most senior royal palace, St. James Palace, which dates to the 1500s. His son William lived at Clarence House until his marriage in 2011, and Prince Harry until 2012.

London's Clarence House

London’s Clarence House

Clarence House has been a British royal residence since it was commissioned by the Duke of Clarence in 1827, three years before he became King William IV upon the death of his brother, George IV. The gracious white stucco structure was built by John Nash, a favorite architect of the Duke of Clarence’s Regent brother. William IV preferred the four-storey house to the official royal palace of St. James. Upon his death, he passed it to one of his sisters, who enjoyed it the last three years of her life.

Queen Victoria then offered the house to her mother and following that to a succession of her many children.

The building was bombed during World War II and after repairs, housed the present queen before her ascension in 1953. Her daughter, Princess Anne, was born there in 1950. Upon the death of the queen’s father, George VI, she swapped residences with her mother. Her maiden sister Margaret also moved to Clarence House before taking apartments at Kensington Palace, another of the royal residences in London. The late queen mother lived there for half a century, edging out for longevity two of Victoria’s sons, each of whom lived there for more than 40 years, non consecutively. It will be a very long time before any royal can ever exceed in years that logged at Clarence House by Queen Elizabeth’s centenarian mother.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00072]Cheryl Bolen’s passionate Regency-set novel, One Golden Ring, re-released in December after being out of print for many years. It won the Holt Medallion for Best Historical of 2005. Eloisa James wrote of it, “Who can resist a marriage of convenience between a couple who have nothing in common—but passion!

A Brief History of London’s Somerset House

© Cheryl Bolen

Though the Duke of Somerset was executed in 1552, the huge building still bearing his name sits in one of the most prime locations in all of London. The massive structure that was built around a quadrangle stretches from the River Thames to the Strand, adjacent to the present-day Waterloo Bridge. (See an aerial photo of Somerset House here http://www.blom-uk.co.uk/2011/09/image-of-the-week-%E2%80%93-september-14th-2011/.)

Courtyard of Thames-side Somerset House in London

Courtyard of Thames-side Somerset House in London

This is not the palatial house begun in 1549 by Edward Seymour, one of the brothers-in-law of Henry VIII. Upon Henry’s death, Seymour became Lord Protector of the Realm under the reign of his young nephew, Edward VI, proclaimed himself the Duke of Somerset, and set about to build one of the finest mansions in London. Two years later he was interred, and he was beheaded in 1552.

The structure (far too large to be thought of as a house) that currently sits on the site of Somerset House was designed by William Chambers in 1776 and was extended ever further in the mid 1800s. During the Regency, a large portion of the building housed the Admiralty. An elaborate stairway within the building still is referred to as the Nelson Staircase.

For much of the 20th century, Britain’s Inland Revenue was housed there. A variety of artistic societies have inhabited Somerset House over the past century, and it has also housed King’s College and part of the University of London.

The quadrangle belongs to the people. During winter, it’s an ice skating rink. In summer, fountains cool off hundreds. Many concerts and entertainment venues are also held in the quadrangle. Throngs of Londoners who’ve never heard of the beheaded Duke of Somerset still enjoy the “house” that he envisioned almost five centuries earlier. – Cheryl Bolen, whose latest installment in her lighthearted, romantic Regent Mysteries, An Egyptian Affair, releases Dec. 15.