Category Archives: Edwardian

Fairy Flowers: 1903

The May Fairy Cecily Barker

The May Fairy, Cicely Mary Barker

Fairy Flowers

Those who had to pass at night through lonely places, such as woods and moors, in the olden time, used to be on the lookout lest they should come upon the fairy folk, or be surprised by them. People regarded these imaginary creatures—who were also called “pixies,” and other names—with some curiosity, and a little fear, too. Indeed, they spoke of them as the “good folk,” though they did not think them always good, but supposed they had rather a liking for doing mischief.

One of the funny things about the fairies was the sudden way in which they appeared or vanished from view, and another was that they could make themselves quite tiny if so inclined— small enough to hide within the bell of a cowslip. To sip the dew of morning or evening was a pleasant refreshment to them, and their fondness for dancing was shown by the fairy rings to be seen in meadows or parks. These rings, however, can be easily explained. They are caused by a peculiar fungus which we in circles after moist weather. No wonder is it that some woodland and wayside flowers came to be linked with the fairies, because they were supposed to haunt these.

People seem never tired of discussing what the name ‘foxglove’ means, for while many think this showy flower of the glades was really so called from some connection between it and the fox, a larger number declare it was the ‘folk’s glove,’ since the bells were thought to serve as a hiding-place for the fays or fairies. Some say the flowers were used by these little creatures as caps, gloves, or as petticoats, perhaps, when they were very small.

According to one old author, the fine films spun by the gossamer spider made mantles for the chiefs among them. The delicate flower of the wood-sorrel is known in Wales as the fairy-bell, from a belief that these beings were called to their nightly gambols by a sound which its petals gave.

In Brittany, also in parts of Ireland, the hawthorn, or May-bush, is called the fairy thorn, and fairies are said to hold meetings under the old and twisted bushes to be seen about some moorlands. Fairies were thought to avoid places in which yellow flowers abounded. White ones attracted them, such as the common stitchwort of our hedgerows and the frail wood anemone, touched with a pinkish tint, which soon loses its blossoms when the rough winds of spring are blowing. Even yet there are boys in Devonshire who will not gather the stitchwort, lest, as a result, they should be ‘pixy-led,’ and in the Isle of Man the St. John’s Wort is held to be sacred to fairies, so the traveller is careful to avoid stepping upon the plant.

Young elves, the Norwegians said, are fond of sheltering themselves under the rosemary or the wild thyme. Likely enough, sometimes when the little brown lizard happened to be seen gliding amid the tufts of heather, people thought that it was a fairy, for it was supposed that they did not always appear in their favourite colour of bright green, but now and then dressed in dark grey or brown. The plants oddly called toadstools have had also the name of ‘pixy-stools,’ or, about North Wales, that of ‘fairy tables.’ That common hedgerow plant, the mallow, which has showy purplish flowers, shows in autumn small round fruits, to which the name of fairy cheeses has been given. But the fairies did not always sport about wild or shady spots. Our ancestors thought that parties of them visited gardens, and played at hide-and-seek amongst the tulips.

J. R.S. C.

Chatterbox, J. Erskine Clarke, M.A., editor, 1903: p. 211

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show is drawing to a close. Mrs Daffodil has read about a horticultural trend called “fairy gardens,” where tiny fairy residences and garden accessories are added to wee landscapes. Mrs Daffodil wonders if, like “hummingbird” or “butterfly” gardens, with their carefully chosen, nectar-rich plantings, “fairy gardens” are designed to attract the fae creatures? Perhaps the hints above will suggest plants to include and avoid. And, if any of Mrs Daffodil’s readers’ fairy gardens do entice any of The Gentry to take up residence, Mrs Daffodil suggests installing a “trail cam” to capture the evidence. The Fairy Investigation Society would be most interested. 

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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Royal Wedding Superstitions: 1886-1922

heather and a good luck horse shoe for a bride 1935

Heather and a lucky horse-shoe for a bride, 1935 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1364613.11

Europe Has Its Royal Wedding Superstitions

Written for Universal Service By a Retired Member of the Royal Household.

London, Jan. 21. In the English royal family there are current a number of superstitions concerning weddings.

For example, the writer is quite sure that the Princess Mary could not be persuaded to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding had taken place. It is one of the oldest superstitions in the English royal family that for a princess of it to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding would be a most unlucky thing for her to do.

On the morning of the wedding of the present queen of Norway, which took place at Buckingham Palace, it became urgently necessary for the then Princess Maud to put her signature to a legal document in connection with her private affairs. It was essential that the document should be signed by her in her maiden name. She meant to have signed it the day before her wedding, but forgot to do so. She absolutely refused to sign it on the day of her wedding until after her marriage, and thereby put herself to a great deal of trouble and legal expense over the signing of the document.

Another wedding superstition prevailing in the royal family is that it is lucky for the royal bride to be able to see the sky on waking on the morning of her wedding day. It is extremely unlikely that the Princess Mary will sleep on the eve of her wedding day with the curtains in her bedroom drawn. Her royal highness will be sure to draw them back so that on waking she may behold the sky. This superstition also prevails in the Spanish royal family and it is customary for members of it the night before their wedding to sleep in the open if the weather permits.

It would be regarded as an unlucky thing by the Princess Mary for her to see her father before she sees her mother on her wedding day. What will happen on the morning of the princess’ wedding will be that her mother will come to her room ere she rises, will kiss her on both cheeks and wish her all prosperity and happiness in her future married life.

It has always been regarded as unlucky in the English royal family to make use of a wedding present before the wedding. All the princess’ presents will be kept in a room at St. James’ palace together with the presents sent to Lord Lascelles, until after the wedding.

There is an old saying current in the royal family concerning a royal bride. It runs:

“With the loss of the shoes, gloves or veil of her wedding day,

The luck of the bride will soon pass away.”

The shoes, gloves and veil worn by Queen Victoria at her wedding are still preserved at Windsor. The shoes, gloves and veils worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary on their wedding days are still carefully preserved by each of their majesties and the Princess Mary will be equally careful not to lose these reminders of her wedding day.

The Austin [TX] American 22 January 1922: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must gently correct the Austin American: Queen Victoria was buried in her wedding veil, so the veil “still preserved at Windsor,” was probably the lace from her gown, which, although quite fragile, still exists.

Orange blossom, white heather, and myrtle were essentials to bring luck to a Royal bride.

Princess Beatrice and Mr William Black between them have done much to render white heather popular. At most of the fashionable weddings which have taken place in London since May the brides have worn white heather It is, in fact, so indispensable just now that the artificial flower-makers produce it in specially large quantities for the marriage market, whilst at weddings at which expense is no object sprigs of the real plant are purposely fetched from the Highlands, At a wedding the other day the bride had real white heather in her bouquet, and there were sprigs of it, mixed with myrtle, on her train as well. Otago [NZ] Witness 12 November 1886: p. 32

All royal brides who are related to the Queen have a sprig of myrtle on their wedding day that is cut from a particular tree. This tree was grown from a slip sent from Germany for the bridal bouquet of the Princess Royal, and the tree it was cut from dates back to the time of the Crusaders. Otago [NZ] Witness, 30 December 1897: p. 43

As per the rhyme about veils and luck, Royal wedding veils received particular attention: the Royal Collection is full of photographs of the veils of the Princesses. Even the continental Royals were punctilious about their preservation:

The wreath and veil form the most important part of a German bride’s wedding dress, and in great families the wedding wreath and veil are carefully preserved among the family heirlooms.

In this connection I was told a rather strange story about the wreath and veil of the German Empress, which the Empress lost some few years after her marriage.

The Empress discovered the loss when she went to show them to a friend, and ascertained that they were not in the box where they were usually kept. The Kaiserin’s wardrobe-room was thoroughly searched, but without bringing to light the precious wreath and veil.

The suspicion of having taken the wreath and veil might have fastened on the Empress’s dresser, only for the fact that she had been for years with the Empress, and was so well known to her that the idea of her having taken them was out of the question. Indeed, the dresser was almost as much distressed at the loss of the articles as her Royal mistress.

The Empress was in a terrible state over her loss, and inquiries were everywhere instituted as to where the wreath and veil could have disappeared to. Ultimately, a year or so later, the missing articles turned up in a box in a lumber-room at the residence of the Grand Duke of Baden, where the Empress had been staying some few years after her marriage, and where apparently she had left her wreath and veil, which she carried about with her for some years after her marriage wherever she went. Seven Years at the Prussian Court, Edith Keen, 1917

Viscount_Lascelles and Mary Princess Royal wedding

Viscount Lascelles and Mary, the Princess Royal, on their wedding day, 1922

While most journalists burbled blissfully along about Royal wedding gifts, articles of the Royal trousseau, and the incomparable charms of the bride-to-be, this article about the wedding veil of Mary, the Princess Royal, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, was uncharacteristically negative in tone. Given the rumours that the marital life of the Princess proved to be less than happy, one might almost call it prophetic.

Wedding Veil to Be Worn by Princess Is of Tragical Origin.

London, Jan. 28. Dire tragedy is associated with the fine old Irish point lace which will adorn Princess Mary’s bridal robe when she marries Viscount Lascelles next month.
It originated from the failure of the Irish potato crop in 1846. The famine which followed was terrible. The peasants lived on the product of their soil and the fruitfulness of the soil, and when misfortune robbed them their desolation was all the more poignant on account of their helplessness.

To a holy abbess in the convent of Youghal in the County Cork, falls the distinction of conceiving this future industry for Ireland. There came into her possession a piece of Milan de Point. She carefully studied the piece of lace and untraveled the threads one by one and finally, after the exhausting research, mastered all the wonderful intricacies of the lacemakers of old Milan.

She then realized its great possibilities as an industry for the starving Irish children. The children cleverest at needlework were the first selected, and she taught them separately what she had learned. They were apt pupils, and the industry spread from Youghal. It spread over the whole of the southern and western counties of Ireland.

Queen Mary has ever been a devotee of needlework, and as Irish point is made entirely with the needle the queen has naturally taken more than a passing interest in this work; for a complete dress of it was made for her at her coronation.

But the vagaries of feminine fashion have interfered with its sale for some months, and it is devoutly trusted in the southern parts of Ireland that the queen’s choice for her daughter’s wedding dress will revive such a demand for Irish lace that will be unaffected by the petty dictates of the mandarins of the Rue de la Paix and Hanover square.

The Anaconda [MT] Standard 29 January 1922: p. 22

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

 

Royal Wedding Cakes: 1878

 

wedding cake queen victoria prince albert Her Majesty's Bridal Cake

Some Remarkable Wedding Cakes

By Framley Steelcroft

Only a very small percentage of the readers of this article will be able to recall Her Majesty’s wedding-day, Monday, February 10th, 1840, when the theatres were open free to the public. In the evening a banquet was given at St. James’s Palace, and covers were laid for 130 persons. There were three tables, and at the upper end of the Queen’s table stood the two chief wedding-cakes, one of which is depicted here. This cake was made by Messrs. Gunter, of Berkeley Square, and before being sent to the Palace, it was exhibited on the firm’s premises to more than 21,000 persons. It is said that besides the two principal wedding-cakes there were nearly a hundred smaller ones, which were subsequently cut up and distributed, practically, all over the world.

The second wedding – cake that figured on this historical occasion was designed by Mr. John C. Mauditt, yeoman confectioner to the Royal household. It weighed nearly 300lb., and was 14in. thick and 12ft. in circumference. On the top was seen a figure of Britannia blessing the bride and bridegroom, who were somewhat incongruously dressed in the costume of ancient Rome. These figures were nearly a foot high, and were, of course, moulded in sugar. At the feet of Prince Albert was the figure of a dog, denoting fidelity; while at Her Majesty’s feet were a pair of turtle doves, denoting the felicity of the marriage state. A large Cupid was also seen writing the date of the marriage in a book, and at the top of the cake were many bouquets of white flowers, tied with true lovers’ knots of white satin ribbon. Among the decorations of this wedding-cake may also be mentioned four white satin flags, on which were painted the Royal Arms.

wedding cake of the prince and princess of wales

The wedding cake of the Prince and Princess of Wales

The next free theatrical night marked the marriage of the Prince of Wales, on March 10th, 1863. For many days the presents were on view at Garrard’s, in the Haymarket, and they included a particularly massive wedding-ring and keeper, the latter set with six precious stones, selected and arranged so that their initial letters formed the word “Bertie.” The stones were respectively a beryl, emerald, ruby, turquoise, jacinth, and another emerald. Also among the presents figured eight lockets for the bridesmaids, which were set with coral and diamonds—red and white being the colours of Denmark. In the centre of each was a cipher in crystal, forming the letters “A. E. A.,” after a drawing by the late Princess Alice. The bridal garments were ordered from Mr. Levysohn, of Copenhagen, and were, of course, on view at his shop in the Kjöbmagergade. On this occasion a splendid wedding-cake was made by Her Majesty’s confectioner, M. Pagniez; but one of equal importance was made by the Royal confectioners, Messrs. Bolland, of Chester, and this great cake is shown here. This is what is known as a “three-tier” cake, and around the base were festoons composed of the rose, thistle, and shamrock, entwined with the Royal and Denmark Arms. On the tiers were placed alternately reflectors and figures of seraphs with harps ; also satin flags, on which were painted miniature likenesses of the Prince and Princess. The whole was surmounted by a temple embedded in orange blossoms and silver leaves, on the summit of which was placed the Prince’s coronet and a magnificent plume of ostrich feathers. The cake, which stood nearly 5ft. high, was of colossal proportions.

I may mention, incidentally, that the largest cake ever made by Messrs. Gunter was that which figured among the Jubilee presents. This cake was 13ft. high, and weighed a quarter of a ton, its value being about £300. The smallest wedding-cake made was ordered by a lady for a child. It was a doll’s wedding-cake, 3in. high, and weighing about four ounces; it cost 10s., because it was perfect in every respect, and the confectioner had great difficulty in getting moulds small enough.

wedding cake Prince Leopold

Prince Leopold’s wedding cake

The next wedding-cake shown here is that of Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany) and Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont, who were married on April 27th, 1882.

This wedding-cake stood nearly 6ft. high, and was mounted on a richly-carved gilt stand, which was first employed at the wedding of the Prince of Wales. The total weight of this cake was about 2cwt., and the decoration of the lower tier consisted of four groups, representing the four continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America; these being adapted from the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. Considering the great difficulty of working in material like sugar, and the fact that all the forms have to be built up by squeezing the liquid sugar out of a small hole in a piece of paper, it is perfectly amazing to notice the artistic success of these Royal Wedding Cakes.

There were also to be noticed on this particular cake a number of satin-surfaced pillars, painted with the lily and its foliage. These pillars were surmounted by vases containing the characteristic flowers of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and at the base of the vases were reading Cupids, emblematic of the literary and studious tastes of the Royal bridegroom. At the salient points of the base were swans, associated with sea-shells, in which were dolphins at play.

The second tier was octagonal in shape, and in the spaces between the satin-surfaced pillars, painted with orange blossoms, were medallions richly worked in colour, and representing the arms and monogram of the bride and bridegroom. The pillars of this tier were surmounted by Cupids bearing flowers, from which sprang jets of mimic spray to water the flowers contained in the vases below.

The third tier of this cake was ornamented with wedding favours and festoons, and on the top of it was a pavilion containing a fountain playing, with doves drinking from the basin. Above this again was a terminal stage, supporting cornucopiae, from which issued the various fruits of the earth. In the midst of these emblems of plenty stood a Cupid, bearing upon his shoulders a vase overflowing with the most beautiful flowers.

It is interesting to note that each of the Royal bakers has a distinct recipe, which is guarded like a Cabinet secret. Roughly speaking, a bride-cake takes about half a day to bake, but after the tins have been removed from the oven and the cake turned out, the serious part of the work only commences—for a wedding-cake has to be at least six months old before it is fit to be eaten. During this time it is kept in an enormous warehouse, called the “cake-room,” and each firm keeps a separate staff of artists employed in making new designs and altering the fashions in wedding-cakes. Natural flowers are the great feature in modern wedding-cakes; white roses and orange blossoms being the most popular varieties in use. A good deal of ingenuity, however, has to be exercised in keeping these fresh, for a faded wedding-cake would indeed be a grievous sight.

The Royal Chester bakers (Messrs. Bolland) have got over the difficulty by having narrow, white porcelain cups sunk in among the decorations, thus enabling each natural bouquet to rest in water.

wedding cake princess louoise marquis of lorne

An adequate idea of the magnitude of this business may be realized when I mention that Messrs. Bolland’s standing stock of wedding-cake is about 2,000lb. The curiously statuesque cake, which we now reproduce, was made, appropriately enough, for the Princess Louise, on the occasion of her wedding with the Marquis of Lorne, which took place on March 21st, 1871. This cake was designed and made by Mr. Samuel Ponder, the present chief confectioner of Her Majesty’s household. Mr. Ponder tells me that this cake was about 5ft. 10in. in height, and weighed 21/2cwt. The four figures at the angles were modelled from the statues on Holborn Viaduct, and the cake was built in four tiers. This very artistic wedding-cake was surmounted by a replica of Canova’s “Hebe,” Mr. Ponder having procured a plaster model of the statue at a decorator’s in Leather Lane.

wedding cake princess beatrice prince henry battenberg

Princess Beatrice was married on July 23rd, 1885, and the cake made on that occasion by the Royal Confectioner, Mr. Ponder, was 6ft. high, and weighed 280lb.; it is shown in the accompanying illustration.

wedding cake princess helena prince christian

Princess Helena’s wedding cake

The next wedding – cake that figures here is that of the Princess Helena and Prince Christian, whose marriage ceremony was performed in the private chapel attached to the Royal apartments at Windsor Castle. The Queen gave the bride away, and a luncheon was subsequently served privately to the members of the Royal Family in the Oak Room, visitors being entertained at a buffet in the Waterloo Gallery.

wedding cake princess May duke of York

The first wedding cake for the Duke of York and Princess May of Teck

 

One of the most important questions I put to the Royal confectioner on the occasion of my visit to him at Buckingham Palace, had reference to the most important wedding-day, from his point of view. Mr. Ponder unhesitatingly replied that the Duke of York’s wedding with Princess May entailed by far the greatest strain upon him. The principal cake on this occasion was made at Windsor; it was 6ft. 10in. high, and weighed between 2cwt. and 3cwt. This cake, which is shown in the accompanying reproduction, took the Royal confectioner five weeks to make, there being as many as thirty-nine separate pieces of plaster in some of the figure moulds. Altogether, there were at this wedding six immense cakes, on what is known as the “general table,” and in addition to these, Mr. Ponder made sixteen or eighteen smaller cakes for cutting up, each cake averaging about 22lb. Moreover, Messrs. Gunter say that they cut up no fewer than 500 slices of wedding-cake on this occasion, the smallest slice weighing about half a pound, and the largest, a little over 12lb. One of this same firm’s confectioners subsequently attended at the Royal kitchen, and, armed with a saw and a special knife, cut up about 16cwt. Of wedding-cake in three days.

wedding cake duke and duchess of york

The second York wedding cake.

 

The second of the “York” wedding-cakes, reproduced here, was made by Messrs. Bolland, to the order of the Prince and Princess of Wales; it was about 4ft. 6in. high, and weighed 224lb.

The ornaments of the cake were representative of the sailor-life of Prince George. The divisions between the pillars were occupied by four large panels representing H.M.S. Thrush and Melampus, modelled in bass-relief from photographs specially taken. This cake has a somewhat interesting history. On being completed it was sent from Chester to Buckingham Palace, where it was built up the afternoon before the wedding. At three o’clock on the eventful day itself, however, the Royal Chester bakers received a telegram, ordering them to remove the cake from the Palace to Marlborough House—no easy matter, even in the most favourable circumstances. The ornate structure was taken down, and its sections placed in two disreputable-looking “growlers” –positively the only conveyances to be obtained in the crowded and almost impassable streets. The confectioners tell a woeful tale of the subsequent funereal procession to Marlborough House, with a surging crowd pressing against, and almost overturning, the wretched cabs. This trying ordeal was over at last, however, and I am told that the Prince of Wales himself supervised the reconstruction of the big cake on a sideboard in the Banqueting Room.

Not to be outdone at this wedding, Scotland came forward in the persons of Messrs. McVitie and Price, of Edinburgh, who produced another magnificent wedding-cake, also of a naval character. This stood 6ft. 4in. in height; the circumference of the lowest tier was nearly 8ft.; the total weight of the cake, 4661b., and its intrinsic value about 140 guineas. To give some idea of the amount of work involved in the execution of such an order, it may be mentioned that the anchors, davits, and blocks for tackle, etc., had to be specially made by one set of workmen; the flowers with which the cake was profusely decorated, by another set; while the making and draping of the stand was intrusted to a famous firm of Regent Street silk merchants: altogether, no fewer than thirty skilled workmen were employed in the manufacture of this cake, which was made within seven days of the receipt of the order. When completed, it was exhibited for two days in Edinburgh, and so great was the public interest taken in the wedding, that in this brief period upwards of 14,900 people had inspected the big Scottish cake; and a special staff of policemen and commissionaires had to be employed to keep the orderly crowd moving.

wedding cake Princess Louise Duke of Fife

The most important cake made outside the Palace for the “Fife” wedding was provided by Messrs. Gunter, of Berkeley Square. It was 7ft. high, and weighed 1501b. On the cake stood a Greek temple in sugar, and round it were medallions of satin with raised sugar monograms. This cake was exhibited for some time before the day of the marriage, and while it was on show it was decorated with artificial flowers. On the wedding-day, however, about twenty pounds’ worth of fresh natural flowers covered the entire structure.

The Strand, Volume 10, 1895: pp. 104-11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has never had the pleasure of a taste of Royal wedding cake and wonders if these architectural marvels in marzipan— more like spun-sugar dolls’ houses than anything—are as prettily flavoured as they are ornamented.

Bolland’s was the preferred confectioner of the Royal Family, holding the royal warrant from Queen Victoria and Edward, the Prince of Wales.

HOW A BOX OF SWEETS GIVEN TO THE PRINCESS VICTORIA

LAID THE FOUNDATION OF A FAMOUS BUSINESS.

Their distinction dates from a far off day in 1835, when the young Princess Victoria, having come to the quaint old walled city to open a new bridge, was presented with a box of cakes by Richard Bolland, the founder of the firm.

So constant has been Queen Victoria’s patronage of the Bollands that they have come to be known everywhere — to use the late George Augustus Sala’s phrase—as “historic brides’ cake makers to the roval family.” They sell no wedding cake which has not matured and mellowed in their seasoning room for six months. To fill the orders from America, India, Africa, Canada, and Australia, as well as the home demand, it is necessary to keep constantly on hand a stock of two thousand pounds of cake.

It will be seen, therefore, that every day is baking day at Bollands, and that a careful record of dates must be kept. Any bride having a cake from the Chester makers may rest assured that it is of “correct vintage “—for all their cakes are compounded from a receipt a hundred years old, which is guarded like a state secret. Queens may command the product, but not the process.

wedding cake Princess Maud

The wedding cake of Princess Maud of Wales

On all royal wedding cakes the national flowers of the United Kingdom play a very prominent part, together with the monograms and quarterings of the young couple. The wedding cake of the Princess Maud of Wales was particularly charming. It was a labor of love for the Bollands to contrive a new combination of the arms of Denmark and England. Many years before, they had faced the problem in designing similar decorations for the bride’s parents. Apart from this, Princess Maud’s wedding cake had two most charming features: the separate tiers were encircled with white satin ribbon bordered with pearls, trimmed with bridal buds and tied in true lovers’ knots: a triumphant god of love surmounting the whole structure bore aloft a delicate nautilus shell, from which fell festoons of silver bullion and fragile seaweed. The Puritan October 1900: p. 1-4

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

A King’s Foster-Mother: 1910

Mrs Ann Roberts King George V nurse

KING’S NURSE POOR

Foster Mother of George V Living in Dire Poverty.

 LONGS FOR HER OLD HOME

Hopes Sovereign She Mothered Will Provide for Her.

SACRIFICED HER OWN BABE

Daughter Died While She Was in Attendance on Great Britain’s Future Ruler.

 

 Is Living in Poverty.

Special Dispatch to The Star.

PITTSBURG. Pa., September 10. Mrs Ann Roberts, foster-mother of George V, King of England, has been discovered in poverty here. Mrs. Roberts lost one of her own babes through her attendance upon the infant prince. The royal physicians and retainers would not inform her of own child’s Illness for fear the milk with which she was nourishing the future King of England might become feverish and do him harm. Mrs. Roberts at the suggestion of friends, is writing the English sovereign of her condition and asking some recognition at his hands for what she did for him as an infant. Mrs. Roberts Is the mother of Capt. Henry A. Roberts of the Volunteers of America. She is a native of Wales. She has been living for the past several years with her brother, Richard W. Edmunds of Nunnery Hill, North Side. She was a member of the royal household of Great Britain for ten months and three days. Her own child died in the night without her knowing that she had even been ill. Mrs. Roberts is the only woman in the world who ever nursed the King of England,  including his own mother.

Husband a Tradesman.

Mrs. Roberts went from Bethesda, North Wales, when quite a young girl to seek service in London. She was eventually married there. Her husband was a respectable tradesman, residing close to Buckingham Palace. They were happy and prospered. Among their friends were some of the most influential Welsh people in London. Among these was a Mrs. Jones, then of 20 Hills street. Knightsbridge, also a Welsh woman. Mrs. Jones was a great favorite with the late Queen Victoria, under whom she held authority to select and engage all the domestics for the royal nursery. Mrs. Roberts was then a comely young matron, of splendid physique, and in the enjoyment of perfect health and a robust constitution, which had been developed while romping as a girl over the rock-bound and heather-clad hills of her native Wales.

Mrs. Roberts was at that time about to become a mother. She knew, as did all Britain, that the then Princess Alexandra had similar expectations. Mrs Roberts had a dream in which it appeared to her that she had been selected to nurse the expected child of royalty. Within a day or two thereafter, not then knowing the full extent of Mrs. Jones’ authority, Mrs. Roberts called on her and related her strange dream, and told her also of her seemingly impossible ambition. The surprise of Mrs. Roberts may be imagined when Mrs. Jones informed her that if it was her wish she would then and there appoint her to the position, provided, of course, that the royal physicians approved of her choice.

Passed by Royal Physician.

After the birth of her child, a beautiful girl baby. Mrs. Roberts was ordered by a royal messenger to call on Dr. Farr, one of the royal physicians, in Harley street. Mayfair, who, after a thorough examination and many questions as to family history, pronounced Mrs. Roberts to be in every way fitting to become the foster mother of a royal prince. Mrs. Roberts then applied for permission to spend a few days at her old home in Bethesda, in order that she might see her brothers and sisters and visit the graves of her parents. She had intended to leave for Wales the last day of May, 1865, but becoming uneasy lest her services might suddenly be called for, she hesitated, changed her mind, and finally abandoned the trip.

“It was well that I did so,” said Mrs. Roberts, relating the strange story of her entrance upon royal service, “for on the night of June couriers were sent to Bethesda to fetch me at once. Mounted messengers scoured the hills around my old home all of that night in search of me. My people in Wales, who knew nothing of my appointment, were thrown into consternation and terror. Royal couriers implied nothing but terror to them. They probably concluded that their poor Ann had committed some terrible crime.

“All of this time I had remained in London, and the city bulletins had informed me of the state of affairs I reported for duty at 10 o’clock on the morning of June and began immediately to nurse and to mother the little baby prince, George. I had left my own child in the care of an older sister, who was to manage the household and dairy business for my husband while I was away. A few days after my departure my own baby was taken ill. It pined for its mother, but I was not acquainted with the fact. One of the doctors of the royal household called to see her each day. The child died on the eighth day without my even knowing that she had been ill.

Blow a Cruel One.

“I will never forget the hour that I was told that my beautiful child was dead. The cruel news brought me to my knees on the floor of the royal nursery. The splendor of my surroundings appeared to me as so much dross. It seemed to me that I had been turned into a block of cold marble. The loss of my own beautiful child had that effect upon me regarding the little prince that I soon grew almost to believe that he was truly my own child. I was kept in this position just about one year. When my services were no longer required King Edward, then Prince of Wales, sent for me from the nursery to tell me that I had not only won his own esteem, but that of his beautiful Alexandra, and that I was also esteemed and respected by the royal household.

“When I arrived in my own home once more, after nearly a whole year of absence, it was to find that fortune had withdrawn her smiles and that my husband’s business had been ruined. A cattle disease, then raging, had killed nearly all of our good cows, and every penny that we had saved during our time of prospering had been expended in a vain attempt to stem the disastrous flood. On the very afternoon that I arrived a butcher delegated from the cattle commissioners also arrived to kill the last two remaining cows of what had been an excellent dairy. These appalling conditions at home caused me to decide at once to take up nursing as a profession. I immediately arranged to lay out the money I earned In the royal service in a course of nursing and midwifery. In due time I won my diploma in both branches, and nursed among the noble and the great of Great Britain for thirty-five years.”

Nursed Many Notables.

Mrs. Roberts’ old friend, Mrs. Jones, was again able to help her by securing for her the appointment to nurse and foster the first born of the Princess Christian, at Cumberland Lodge. Windsor. Windsor. The popularity of Mrs. Roberts was at once securely established through her connection with the royal nursery. In the years that followed she nursed the Duchess of Abercorn. the Duchess of Iniskillen, the Countess Lutzow, Lady Vivian (now Lady Swansea), the Lady Church and many other among the noble dames of Britain. She has served at Windsor Castle, where to Welsh people of a few centuries ago entrance was far easier than exit; at Marlborough House, Balmoral Castle. Buckingham Palace, Osbourne, Osbourne, Sandringham and Cumberland Lodge in the discharge of her professional duties.

After this long tenure of service Mrs. Roberts at last became so deaf that she did not feel longer competent for the work and declined to take on any new cases. She was then appointed to the Royal Maternities Charities Society, an institution organised by the then Princess Alexandra, now the beloved Dowager Queen of England, and controlled by her and a committee of London ladies. This position Mrs. Roberts held for several years, when, owing to her advanced age and the dangers and hardships of obeying calls In the poorer districts of London at all hours of the night, she resigned of her own accord, the secretary saying to her that she was leaving with an exceptional record of success and that her name should always remain on the roll call of the society. It is a source of great pleasure to Mrs. Roberts now to know that her name remains living and green in the heart of the field wherein she laboured so long and so diligently.

Longs for Native Land.

“Your United States is a great country,”  continued Mrs. Roberts, “but, after all, you will not blame me when I say that I prefer my native land, and it seems to me that there should be a place for me over there. I cannot feel as my brother does here. He has been here for many years: his children have grown up here, and his family and all of his ties are here. But my heart is over there, where now reigns the young prince whom I nursed. Were I over there now I would be entitled to the old folks’ pension, but don’t you think she who nursed the reigning king is entitled to something more than such a pittance? You have possibly read how truly noble and generous the young King of Spain is acting toward his old nurse. He provides for her every comfort, and she is made much of by court and people. Do you think my Prince George would do less for his old nurse? I refuse to believe it.”

Mrs. Roberts wears a heavy gold brooch that was personally presented to her by the then Princess Alexandra upon the occasion of her leaving the royal nursery. The princess told hereupon that occasion that she would be privileged to refer to the little prince, now king as “my boy.” King Edward, then Prince of Wales, presented her at the same time with a heavy gold watch, which she also now has. There is an Inscription on the inside of the back cover which reads: “To Mrs. Roberts, in remembrance of H. R. H. Prince George.”

Has Brooch From Victoria.

She also has another brooch, presented to her by the late Queen Victoria upon the christening of Prince George. On being called to Osborne on another occasion Mrs. Roberts was presented by the queen with two beautiful photographs, with her signature, one of herself and one of the deceased prince consort, informing her at the same time that they were the best photos ever taken of both. These Mrs. Roberts left with a relative on the other side. She says that as poor as she is their weight in gold would not buy them. She did not care to subject them to the hazards of travel. Mrs. Roberts states that when Sir Arthur Bigge is appointed keeper of the privy purse she intends to appeal to him for a statement of her case to the king. She believes that Sir Dighton Probyn, who held this position under the late lamented King Edward, would never allow her protests and supplications to reach his royal master. Mrs. Roberts believes that if her petitions had been presented some action would have been taken on her case long ago. She claims to have some of Sir Probyn’s official letters now in her possession, possession, in which he is alleged to state that nothing could be done for her. Mrs. Roberts gives it as her belief that these are solely the words of a mercenary. She says that King Edward had ever a kind and grateful heart, and was always good to old servitors.

Faith in Lloyd George.

“I have served in Sir Arthur Bigge’s family,” Mrs. Roberts states. “He knows me, and I am sure he will desire to help me. The Right Hon. Lloyd George would also interfere in my behalf if I appealed to him. The greatest Welshman of us all would not suffer an old country woman who has served the same crown for which he labors so energetically to be utterly disregarded. There is only one burden to my poor old soul: I want to go back to spend my few remaining years in my native land, and to be allowed to go to my long rest in that sacred old .spot where my father sleeps.”

Mrs. Roberts was treated with every consideration by the royal household. She was several times invited upon the royal carpet. She enjoyed many pleasant chats with the late Queen Victoria. Sometimes, upon receiving Welsh newspapers, newspapers, the queen would send for her from the nursery and request her to read selections from them and to translate them. She would ask Mrs. Roberts to pronounce some Welsh words and sayings, and she would utter them after her, doing it far better. Mrs. Roberts says, than some of the young Welsh Americans whom she has met since being in this country.

Mrs. Roberts saw the queen in her grief for her beloved prince consort. On one occasion she invited Mrs. Roberts to visit the grand mausoleum wherein rests his remains. She gave Mrs. Roberts the golden key which opens the door thereto, and sent her head dresser to accompany her, graciously saying that she would meet her there at a certain time. Mrs. Roberts says she will never forget the hour she spent there with the widowed queen and the mortal remains of the consort and husband whom she had loved so deeply.

Has Met Other Royalties.

“I have been formally presented to the Empress Frederick, mother of the present Emperor of Germany, and also the Grand Duchess of Hess.” continued Mrs. Roberts. Roberts. “and I have many times attended the different ladies of the family to their balls and parties. These royal ladies know very well how to show little marks of esteem to favorite servants. I have had them more than once hand their fans to me to hold while their own ladies in waiting would be at their elbows, and, to their credit be it said. I never saw any of these ladies in waiting evince any sign of displeasure at such marked favors.

“All of Victoria’s children, with the possible exception of Princess Beatrice, were very affable and chatty with servants and dependents. The Princess Beatrice (the youngest) was brought up under somewhat different surroundings from the others. Her good father was taken sick while she was yet a child in arms, and she grew up to be the daily companion of her sorrowing mother. This, I always thought, was the reason for her being more reserved and distant than the other children.

“When I was nursing the Duchess of Abercorn the Princess Alexandra came in person to call on her friend, and was surprised and pleased to find me in attendance. It was our first meeting since my departure from her service. She greeted me warmly and shook hands with me, as would any good woman, and made inquiries as to how I was getting along. I was also all impatience to ask questions regarding the little prince and was tempted to tell her how much I should like to see him. I knew he was by this time quite a boy, big enough to romp and play with his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor.

Paid Visit by Prince.

“On leaving the princess called for me and told me that, if such was my wish, she would arrange with the Canon Dalton, then tutor to the princes, for him to accompany them on an afternoon visit to me in a day or two. They came, and I had my hands full for that afternoon. They romped and blew soap bubbles, as would any pair of ordinary healthy boys, and both had a splendid time, untrammelled by court etiquette and unwatched by tutors.

“The late Prince Albert Victor once asked his royal mother why Prince George was ‘my boy’ any more than himself. He was answered that he would be told when he became a man, and that he was to understand that Mrs. Roberts was his dear friend also, and that she had been very good to him. “When Prince George was elected chancellor of the University of Wales, at Bangor, he caused his private secretary, Sir Arthur Bigge, to send me a letter of invitation to attend the celebration. I had at that time a very important and serious case of nursing on my hands, and so sent my son to represent me. I have always regretted that I was unable to attend, for I lost there an opportunity of meeting the boy whom I love so well.

Welsh Expect Great Things.

“Have you ever stopped to think that the Welsh people have a right to expect great things from the new king? There never was a better time than the present to agitate the question of securing the representation of Wales on the national flag. I firmly believe that he suckled my own love of kin and country with his sustenance. One of the royal doctors told me at one time, when speaking of the honor connected with my distinction, that he never was quite sure which one of us was the most honored. ‘But.’ said he, with a twinkle in his eye, “let us hope that your boy will prove a good and wise man, and that he will inherit the good traits of his Welsh foster mother.’

“The doctor was an old man at that time, and a wise and good one, but at that time it was not for him or myself to see that Prince George, who was the second in ‘advance right’ claim, would ascend the throne. But since the death of his elder brother I have often found myself repeating the old doctor’s words, ‘Let us hope that he will be a good man and a wise one.’

“Often, while holding him in my arms, and thinking of the beautiful child I had sacrificed for him, I would wonder over the possibility of his succeeding to the throne, and would pray God to bless him with a kind and loving heart, so that, when the time came, if fate ordained it so, he would prove a tower of strength and a blessing, not only to his own subjects, subjects, but to the wide, wide world. His, wise and great father, and his saintly grandmother have already given us proof what England’s monarchs can do for the welfare of the world, and I feel like prophesying that King George will follow in their footsteps, with the good of mankind in its entirety as the motive principle of his actions. May God bless him.”

Evening Star [Washing DC] 11 September 1910: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Roberts is a good deal more charitable to her former employers than Mrs Daffodil would have been. Gold brooches and watches, no matter how heavy or suitably inscribed, are, indeed, dross, when it comes to the death of Mrs Robert’s daughter and the doctors’ odious decision (based on the mistaken belief in “maternal influence”) not to tell Mrs Roberts that the tiny infant was ill and pining for her mother. It is possible that the child was ill with a disease untreatable at the time, such as diphtheria, even had her mother been able to nourish her, but at least Mrs Roberts would have been there to hold the child in her last moments. For the Royal physicians, the phrase “special place in Hell” springs to mind.

In the interests of space, Mrs Daffodil will omit her trenchant remarks on the “favour” shown to Mrs Roberts by the ladies who condescended to hand her their fans to hold.

Captain Henry Roberts, Mrs Roberts’s son was incensed at the headlines about Mrs. Roberts living in poverty and issued a corrective statement:

“I was absolutely dumbfounded at receiving a clipping from some Rochester papers saying that Mrs. Ann Roberts, royal nurse, was found here in poverty…As to her being in poverty, she has always paid her own expenses, and has jewels and other gifts to her from royalty. Immediatley upon her arrival here she deposited a good sum of money and jewels in my care until she needs them. In fact, she wants us to purchase some property and make a permant home here, but we decline to do that, as she is very fond of old England and often speaks of returning there after a while.”

He stated that he gave the true version of the story to an editor who interviewed his mother, but that “distortions of the facts have since appeared in several papers.” Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 8 July 1910: p. 15

Still, Mrs Roberts’s story did come to the eye of the proper authorities and her story has something of a happy ending:

A few weeks ago Mrs. Roberts sailed again for England, and upon her arrival at London she was called upon by a representative of King George, who stated, that he had been sent to learn what could be done for her comfort. She informed him that it was her desire to have a little home of her own among the hills of her own native Wales, in Carnavonshire, and preferably on the Penrhyn estate. Lord Penrhyn was instructed to find a cottage for this purpose and to have it fitted up with all the necessary comforts and she was also told that a substantial annuity was to be settled on her. Word has already been received by her relatives in this country that Mrs. Roberts is comfortably provided for for her remaining years. Bennington [VT] Banner 13 December 1910: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

A Patch-work May Day Entertainment: 1904

May Day 1903

At a May Day entertainment given last year a popular hostess noted the fact that there was repeated controversy among her guests concerning May Day traditions and ancient customs among various nations, which gave her an Idea for this year’s novel May party. She has chosen for her guests all the members of her literary club, and other friends who are fond of literary research and competition. To a certain number she has assigned the task of searching out and describing quaint May Day celebrations whose origins have been lost in the mists of remote antiquity. Others have been requested to describe the customs that have been handed down from our Gothic ancestors. Still others will describe quaint celebrations that have their origin in the Floralia of the Romans. The strange May festivals of the ancient Druids, and the May games which Christianity finally adopted from these, will also be brought up for consideration, with prizes awarded (of course) for the best papers on the various subjects. But the most interesting feature of the entertainment will be the acting out of many curious customs.

As the entertainment will be given on the eve of May Day, the festivities will be continued until the “Meeting of the Dew” may be celebrated in the early hours of May Day morning. When the people of ancient Edinburgh used to assemble at Arthur’s Seat to “meet the dew” May dew was thought to possess all kinds of virtues. Even the English girls went into the field to wash their faces in it at dawn, in order to procure a good complexion. Samuel Pepys records in his delightful diary that his wife has gone to Woolwich for a little change of air “and to gather the May dew.” This form of celebration would have to be omitted when the entertainment is given in a city home, but as our hostess has spacious grounds surrounding her suburban house, the “meeting of the dew” will be a novel feature of the celebration.

Another quaint festivity that can be carried out on the lawn if desired, but which might also be celebrated as a parlor dance for a city home, is the German Walpurglsnacht, and although the witches may not “ride up the Brocken on magpies’ tails,” their weird dance may be celebrated—the witches who dance on the Brocken until they have danced away the winter’s snow.

The “Parade of Sweeps” will be an interesting feature of the entertainment. It is said that the parade of sweeps in bowers of greenery lingered on rather longer in England than May poles. It is supposed to have originated in this way—and this story will be told by one of those to whom the searching for English festivities has been assigned. Edward Wortley Montagu (born about 1714) who later was destined to win celebrity by still stranger freaks, escaped when a boy from Westmont School, and borrowed the cloths of a chimney sweep, in whose trade he became an adept. A long search led to his discovery and restoration to his parents on May 1, in recollection of which event Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu is said to have instituted the May Day feast given by her for many years to the London chimney sweepers. A few of the guests who are humorously inclined will don costumes of the old-time chimney sweeps, and after their mirth-provoking “dance of the sweeps,” will retain the costume while acting the clown during the remainder of the entertainment.

The final celebration before the May Day breakfast—which will be served shortly after midnight, in the earliest hours of May Day morning—will be patterned after a quaint custom in Lorraine, in which jokes on individual guests will play an important part. In Lorraine, girls dressed in white go from village to village stringing off couplets in which the inhabitants are turned into somewhat unmerciful ridicule. The girls of this place enlighten the people of that as to their small failings, and vice versa. The village poets harvest the jokes made by one community at the expense of another, in order to shape them into a consecutive whole for recital on May Day. The girls are rewarded for their part in the business by small coin, cakes and fruit.

Although the idea of reward and of going from village to village for adaptable jokes will not be carried out, this can be made a charming feature of the festivity. To a number of practical jokers has been assigned the task of forming into laughable couplets all the faults and failings or peculiarities of the various guests, and while the unpleasant sting of personality will be avoided, by omitting mention of any particular guest in connection with the various accusations, there will be continual sport In choosing the guest to whom the joke seems most applicable.

Caldecott, Randolph, 1846-1886; May Day

Caldecott, Randolph; May Day; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/may-day-204629

Several quaint old-time dances will be Introduced during the evening; but as no May Day party can be quite complete without the English dance around the May pole, a flower-decked pole will be a feature of the parlor decorations. And after the final May dance in good old English style about this pole, each guest will receive as a souvenir one of its gay silk streamers and a floral wreath or garland. Phebe Westcott Humphreys.

The Country Gentleman, Volume 69, 1904: p. 378

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil finds the whole thing a contrived, patch-work sort of entertainment. What sane hostess would try to cram academic papers, dew, dancing witches, and the May Pole into a single party?  One might even call it a “crazy quilt.” Witches and May Poles and Sweeps, oh my!

To be Relentlessly Informative, Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, who died in 1800, gave for many years a May-day entertainment to the chimney-sweeps of London at her house in Portman Square. These sooty guests were regaled with roast beef and plum-pudding, and a dance succeeded, while each of them received a shilling on his departure.

Mrs Daffodil has written before on the Ideal and the Real May Day, as well as some other over-elaborate May Day pageants and a parody of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s bumpity-thumpity poem, The May Queen, adapted for inclement weather, as is Britain’s wont on that day.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Royal Cradles Through History

The miniature night nursery from Queen Mary's Dolls House. Note the three feathers on the cradle.

The miniature night nursery from Queen Mary’s Dolls House. Note the three feathers on the cradle.

[This is an encore presentation of a post originally published in 2013 on the birth of Prince George.]

Mrs Daffodil joins the entire Empire in heartiest congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son and future heir to the Throne. It was rather amusing to see the Duke carefully placing the car seat in the approved rear-facing position in the back seat of the family car. Things were not always so regimented. Mrs Daffodil can recall how the present Duke of Edinburgh was evacuated from Greece in 1921 in an orange crate.

Undoubtedly the young prince will sleep in a modern, safety-tested cot. Let us look at some notes on royal cradles of the past. The newspapers were just as full of “gush” over the details of royal nurseries as those of today.

 

Jan Claudius de Cock (1668-1735)  Two Studies of an elaborately decorated Cradle  This may be the cradle mentioned below.

Jan Claudius de Cock (1668-1735)
Two Studies of an elaborately decorated Cradle
This may be the cradle mentioned below.  From Christie’s Auctions.

The Kaiser is always careful that when a birth takes place in his family the ancestral cradle of the Hohenzollerns shall be used. This celebrated cradle is over 200 years old, and is supposed to protect the baby from convulsions and all sorts of childish ailments. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 5 December 1908: p. 14

This passage tells of the birth of the future Prince Regent:

The ladies who went to see the young prince were admitted into the room, about forty at a time. The cradle in which the royal infant lay, was placed on a small elevation, under a canopy of state. The head and the sides, which came no higher than the bed, were covered with crimson velvet, and lined with white satin. – From the head rose an ornament of carved work, gilt, with a coronet in the middle. The upper sheet was covered with a very broad, beautiful Brussels lace, turning over at the top, upon a magnificent quilt of crimson velvet, and gold lace; the whole breadth of the Brussels lace appearing also along the sides, and hanging down from underneath. Near the cradle sat the nurse, with a small velvet cushion lying on her knee, for the babe to rest on; and on each side stood a fair mute, employed as occasion required, to rock the infant to sleep. Memoirs of Her Most Excellent Majesty Sophia-Charlotte, John Watkins  1819

The next cradle was prepared for Queen Victoria’s first child. You will find a shocking article about a purported royal baby switched-at-birth conspiracy here. In any case, history records that the cradle was occupied by the Princess Royal.

Under the heading

Accouchement of Her Majesty the Queen

Preparations to Receive the Royal infant

About three weeks since an order was transmitted from the board of green cloth to Messrs. Seddon, of Gray’s-inn road, the upholsterers to her Majesty, to design and make the cot and two baths for the expected scion of her illustrious house. The talents and ingenuity of the designer of the establishment, a distinguished French artiste, were accordingly called into operation; and a day or two afterwards a drawing was forwarded to the palace for the inspection of her Majesty and her royal consort, who were graciously pleased to signify their approval of the elegance and taste which had been displayed and to order the completion of these most useful appendages of a nursery with all possible dispatch. On Tuesday night the cot was sent home; and as a description of it will doubles be interesting to the public, the reporter attended at Messrs. Seddon’s, by whose kindness he is enabled to give the following particulars, which may be relied upon. The body of the cot is in the shape of that elegant marine shell, the nautilus, being a happy conception of the designer, that the child of the “Ocean Queen” should enjoy its first slumbers and be cradled in a cot whose very form is emblematic of the main strength and glory of its “island home.” The frame-work is of the choicest Spanish mahogany, and the bottom and sides padded and quilted in flutes; the whole of which, inside and out, is covered with rich green silk, embroidered most splendidly with the white rose of England. Between each flute is a circular rib of mahogany, the edges of which are richly gilt. The cot swings between pillars of mahogany standing on plinths, supported by four lion’s feet, beautifully carved and gilt. The canopy is finely scalloped, and hung with silk drapery of the same design as the lining. The whole is gilt and surmounted with the royal crown, and presents a tout ensemble at once classic and unique. The baths are not yet finished, but are being expedited as rapidly as possible, and it is understood that one will be lined with silver and the other with marble. Weekly Chronicle [London, England] 22 November  1840: p. 5

There is one article in the furniture, list which elicited a spontaneous burst of admiration from us all, especially the ladies, who have been used to seeing homely wooden cradles, if not sugar troughs. It is called the “Regia Cot,” [Regina?] I believe and is thus described:

A cradle carved in Turkey boxwood, symbolizing the Union of the Royal House of England with that of Saxe Coburg and Gotha. One end exhibits in the centre the armorial bearings of her Majesty, the Queen, surrounded by masses of foliage, natural flowers and birds; on the rocker beneath, is seen the head of Night, represented as a beautiful sleeping female crowned with a garland of poppies, supported upon bats’ wings, and surrounded by seven planets.

The other end, or the back of the head of the cradle, is devoted to the arms of H. It. H. Prince Albert; the shield occupies the centre, and round it, among the arabesque foliage, the six crests of the Prince are scattered, with the motto, ” Treu und Pest” Below, on the rocker, is discovered a head of ” Somnus,” with closed eyes, and over the chin a wimple, which, on each side, terminates in poppies.

In the interior of the head of the cradle, guardian angels are introduced; and above, the royal crown is imbedded in foliage. The friezes, forming the most important part of the sides of the body of the cradle, are composed of roses, poppies, conventional foliage, butterflies and birds, while beneath them rise a variety of pinks, studied from nature. The edges and the inside of the rockers are enriched with the insignia of royalty and emblems of repose. Have done quick with this royal baby nest! Buckeye Abroad, Or, Wanderings in Europe and in the Orient,  Samuel Sullivan Cox, 1859 

Mrs Daffodil found herself baffled as to the identity of the royal baby supposed to occupy this masterpiece of the woodcarver’s art.  It was probably carved as a compliment to the Royal Family (or in the hope that they would purchase it) and was merely a showpiece at The Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace. Unless it was the cradle Queen Victoria had commissioned for Princess Louise, born in 1848, seen below.

Cradle commissioned by Queen Victoria for Princess Louise

Cradle commissioned by Queen Victoria for Princess Louise

The child who slept in the cradle below was the French Prince Imperial, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph, so unhappily cut down in his youth.

cradle prince imperial

At the end of the room stands the cradle— not that which the city of Paris is preparing for the imperial infant, but still one of great beauty. A lofty fleche at the head, formed of a vine-branch of gilt bronze, gently bends over the part in which the infant is to sleep. From the fleche, curtains of Mechlin lace, lined with blue silk, are suspended at each side, the whole being looped up with gold cords terminating with torsades to match of the same metal. One couvrepied is of white satin, and another of blue, and the whole is covered over with Alencon lace, with the initials N.E. in the centre, the whole producing an effect of the rarest elegance. Opposite the cradle, on the centre-table, stands the robe de bapteme, all of point d’Alencon, with mantle and headdress to match. Near it is a muff of ermine, with a mantle of white satin lined with ermine. On the table lay the child’s coral for the period of teething— in this instance made of amber, the ball for the rattle being hollowed from the solid mass. This little plaything alone cost 600 f. Near it was placed an amber necklace, with a small gold medallion in the centre, to which the Archbishop of Paris has given his benediction. Three corbeilles de bapteme lay near, all lined with blue satin, and covered with Alencon lace, and bearing the imperial cipher and arms. To go on would be to fill a column, and yet not a word has been said of the contents of the other rooms, equally worthy of being examined. We cannot, however, help stating that the articles prepared for the nurse (twelve dozen in number) are also of extraordinary beauty and richness, as may be judged from the fact that her aprons are embroidered with as much care as the articles for the child, and, like them, trimmed with Alencon lace. The taste with which the whole is laid out is not the smallest charm of this exhibition, which, of its kind, has perhaps never been equalled. It adds to the admiration excited to learn that the whole was designed, embroidered and made up in the short space of two months and a half.  Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] July 1856

The riches of oriental potentates were lovingly described in the papers.

King Theebau’s Expected Heir

Extensive preparations are being made at the palace in Manadalay, Burmah, in prospect of a coming event, viz: the confinement of King Theebau’s head queen, the Soo-pyah-lat….It is reported that the cradle which has just been completely cost the State nearly two lacs of rupees ($100,000). The cradle was first framed with mango wood and encased with sheet gold inside and outside. Over this is ornamented gold work, set with precious stones of all kinds—diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, etc.—and the work is said to be very superior, as it is turned out by the best of first-class goldsmiths of Upper Burmah. The arrangement for fitting up the cradle are as follows: A soft bed or cushion covered with green silk velvet and the sides with embroidered work. This is the manner in which the cradle was to be fixed and how worked. A thick iron rod has been fixed across the room some twelve feet above the floor, and the cradle is suspended by means of golden cords, made of golden wire, for the purpose of swinging, and to work backward and forward, like punkahs in your part of the world.

The King objected to the old method of having the royal cradle pulled by a parcel of old women, so the mechanical and engineering elements of his kingdom were called into requisition, and one of the Italian mechanics has invented a wind-up machine by which the cradle can be set going, once wound up for a day or night, or until further orders, to the great delight of the King. The Vancouver [WA] Independent 8 January 1880: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil has no information on this jewel-encrusted cradle, except that it came from the Ottoman Empire.

Alas, the shell is obscured by the lace

Alas, the shell is obscured by the lace

The lately-born infanta of Spain, Mary Ysabel, sleeps, wakes and cries in a cradle shaped like a conch shell and lined with the palest of pink satin. Her tiny form is covered with point d’Alencon lace, specially made form a pattern designed by the queen of Spain’s mother, in which the arms of Spain and Austria are gracefully blended. She has a couvrepied and tiny pillow, on both of which the lilies of the house of Bourbon and the Y of her pretty name, Ysabel, are laced and interlaced. The other royal baby, the young hereditary prince of  Sweden, has a much less delicate cradle, as becomes a hardy young Norseman. It is shaped like a swan, the wings coming up, if wished and sheltering the little prince, and is well provided with down stuffed accessories. The Vancouver [WA] Independent 25 October 1883: p. 2 [Mary Ysabel was the daughter of King Alfonso XII, he of the “Hoodoo Ring.”]

cradle english prince

All his environment is ancestral and in close touch with his distinguished lineage. Even the swinging cradle in which the wee body takes his long baby sleeps as held the infant forms of many of his royal grand uncles and aunts. It is the one the queen had in the royal nursery for her own children, and it is deemed proper and suitable that this important successor in the line should have a resting place dignified with heredity.

The cradle swings from a graceful frame of rich old mahogany inlaid with gold. Draperies of handsome brocade of a delicate pearl tint are attached and used to shut off intrusive draughts. The sheets for this downy nest are of fine Irish lawn, lace trimmed; the blankets are softest embroidered Pyrenean wool, and the coverlid matches the pearl brocade. The crown and three feathers which surmount the framework are further typical of the royal estate of the small occupant, whose baby eyes look out on many such suggestive emblems. Jackson Citizen [Jackson, MI] 11 September 1894: p. 10

The royal baby in this case was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, later King Edward VIII:  he who forgot his duty when ensnared by the American temptress.

Gifts for the royal Dutch baby, Princess Juliana

Gifts for the royal Dutch baby, Princess Juliana

A magnificent cradle of beaten silver will be the gift of the ladies of the Dutch nobility. A life-sized angel hovers over the head of the cradle, while at the foot is an equally life-sized baby. The sides are decorated with the arms of Holland and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 13 October 1901: p. 8

This was the cradle for the much-longed-for Princess Juliana, the daughter of Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. The people of Holland, in raptures over the happy event, sent lavish gifts. The gifts pictured above include two cradles, a nursery clock, and an incubator—suggested by the Queen’s unhappy obstetrical history.

The Layette of the Royal Baby of Italy.

Little Garments Fashioned by Queen Helene Herself.

The royal child will certainly sleep in the midst of beauty, for even the sheets for the bed and cradle have been in the hands of skillful artists of embroidery. One set of sheets is embroidered simply in a sprays of forget-me-nots around the edge, another shows the embroidery in a pattern with narrow blue ribbon , and in another set the corners are filled with embroidery, and an embroidered ruffle finishes the sides. One set of sheets is trimmed with lace applique and a favorite pattern is the dove of peace hovering near the crown…The cradle, which was watched over and guarded from public gaze by the sculptor who designed it, Monteverde and by Prince Prospero Colonna, mayor of Rome, through whom it was presented by the city, is probably as gorgeous a one as was ever made. The entire structure is over six feet high and three and a half feet wide. The basket is of solid silver; the upper and lower parts are made in a wickerwork design, with the bearings of the divisions of Rome decorating the center. There are fourteen of these coats of arms, representing the quarters of the city—Monty, Trivia, Colonna, Campomarzo, Ponte, Parione, Regola, S. Eustachies, Pignia, Campitello, S. Angelo, Ripa, Trastavere and Borgo. On the bottom of the cradle basket a huge silver rose unfolds in numerous delicate petals. The basket rocks in a support of gilded bronze with four lion paws at the floor. At one extremity is a column bearing the emblem of Rome, a female figure wearing a helmet, and holding in the right hand the royal Italian crown. The column is adorned with Roman trophies and on one side sows the Roma wolf; on another the eagle; on the third, the royal military standard is unfurled, and on the fourth side is the well-known emblem of the hand upheld in the center of the crown. The angel which supports the cradle at the other extremity clasps in its arms the shields united of the house of Savoy and the house of Montenegro. From July Issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Richmond [VA] Dispatch 16 June 1901: p. 13  [Queen Helene was Elena of Montenegro; the King was Emmanuel III of Italy; the baby of this extraordinary cradle was Princess Yolanda of Savoy.]

Descriptions of the infant Czarevitch focused more on the nursery regimen, but a few hints crept in as to the luxury of the Imperial baby. Perhaps descriptions of pomp and wealth were discouraged, so as not to inflame the Bolsheviks who brought the Imperial family to so sad an end.

 Here are some of the gifts that have already been sent to the Czarevitch: A cradle of solid gold from the city of Moscow. The top is carved with the head of the Madonna. On each side there is a draped curtain of gold leaf, forming a canopy for the head of the cradle.  Boston Herald (Boston, MA) 18 September, 1904: p. 45

Young Czarevitch’s Jeweled Cradle

The cradle in which the czarevitch will receive the homage of the nobility of the empire is a superb affair of precious wood inlaid with jewels. It stands on a golden frame and the imperial crown of Russia surmounts a graceful branch from which hang lace curtains of great price. Hygienically speaking, the infant would do better to sleep in a plain brass crib. Denver [CO] Post 25 August 1904: p. 6 [Quite right. It has been “rediscovered” by modern physicians that brass doorknobs, for example, discourage the transmission of germs.]

The cradle of the Prince of Asturias.

The cradle of the Prince of Asturias.

 ROYAL HEIR

Of Spain Will be Cradled Under Silk Covers Garlanded in Rosebuds and Butterflies

Madrid. February 23. The preparations for the expected royal heir of Spain are nearing completion. The cradle in which Alfonso III slept will lull the little newcomer to rest as it lies beneath hand-embroidered coverlets of white silk, garlanded in rosebuds and butterflies. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 24 February 1907: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil supposes that Alfonso III is a misprint for Alfonso XIII. Alfonso III of Asturias, “The Great,” would have been rocked in a cradle in the 9th century. Any royal nursemaids worth their keep would have scrubbed even a royal cradle to splinters by 1907. The Princely baby who slumbered under such lovely bed linens was Alfonso Pío Cristino Eduardo Francisco Guillermo Carlos Enrique Eugenio Fernando Antonio Venancio Borbón y Battenberg, Prince of Asturias. Alfonso XIII, of course, lost his throne, so the heir never inherited.

A few additional royal cradles: That of Sweden, used for the first time recently for the Christening of a Princess.

The Cradle of the Prince of Rome

The Cradle of the Prince of Rome

And that of the ill-fated Prince of Rome, Napoleon’s son.

Once again, Mrs Daffodil wishes all the best to the Duke and Duchess and their new little one and trusts that he will have a happier upbringing and fate than some of his royal cousins of the past.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Making Easter Bonnet Flowers: 1903

summer flower hat

Flower garden hat, just right for an Easter bonnet, c. 1915 http://www.augusta-auction.com/list-of-upcoming-sales?view=lot&id=15341&auction_file_id=33

Making Flowers for Gorgeous Easter Bonnets

By John Mathews

The door flew back suddenly—and I stood in the midst of an artificial-flower garden. The air was filled with a song and the voices were those of women. About me on long tables were heaps of half-finished blossoms. Around the tables sat the flower-girls, singing, as their fingers flew rapidly over bits of colored cloth. Roses and daisies and violets were blooming by the hundreds; leaves were unfolding, green branches were growing before my very eyes. And the flowers which were being produced in this atmosphere of song were Easter blossoms, the most brilliant and the most conspicuous of all that are seen on that beautiful holiday, for they were the flowers of the wonderful Easter bonnet .

And this was the busiest season in the big New York flower factory, which produces every year hundreds of bushels of the artificial floral gems. I saw at once that the making of flowers has become an art, for by the cunning combination of muslins and silks, velvets and satins, with amazingly delicate tints, a picture is made of the real rose or the real violet or daisy—a picture that, while it is only an imitation, possesses beauty in itself, just as a landscape, while only a copy, has much of the charm of that from which its inspiration comes. Here was a most unusual situation in this flower garden. If the flowers had been real, and the place where they bloomed a garden, instead of a big, dingy room, it would have been only natural for the gardeners to be gayly singing. But for factory workers to be making music as they toil is a thing not often known.

I have heard of great cigar factories in Florida where an orchestra plays to lift the spirits of the men while their backs are bent in labor. And I have heard, too, of other factories where the women who are employed are cowed and suppressed and not permitted, on pain of fine, to speak to each other excepting in a low tone of voice. But here was a factory where the workers were allowed and even urged to sing. And it seemed a particularly appropriate combination — the song and the flowers for the Easter time. A dozen of the girls were singing in strong, clear voices a popular air, one of the sort that lend themselves to notes long-drawn-out. The chorus ran something like this:
There are eyes of blue,
There are brown eyes too,
There are eyes of every size and eyes of every hue.
But if you are wise,
You’ll take my advice,
And be careful of the maiden with the dre-a-my eyes.

There was no weariness, no doleful note, in the song, for it bore the joy which it, also gave. And while they sang the women worked the faster, their fingers performing the routine to which they were accustomed, while their spirits, no doubt, floated away very pleasantly on the wings of the music. Not only is there a humanitarian, but a practical business purpose, as well, in this musical accompaniment to the daily toil of the factory. Men and women both work best when they are most happy and contented. If the girls in this flower factory were not finding relief from the drudgery of their work in song they would be talking, and when they grew emphatic or their conversation became descriptive, these persons, being women, might frequently illustrate what they said with motions of their hands; and hands thus employed would not be making flowers. There would be more gestures than blossoms. But as they sing, their hands never stop. Thus these girls and women become happier and more efficient at the same time, for there is great power in music.

In the centre of this scene of industry and song stood a tall, graceful young woman who is of first importance in this story because it is she who makes the first designs of the blossoms, and also conducts the department which finishes them.

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Artificial flowers packed in their original box, c. 1875-1900 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1349734.1

The manufacture of artificial flowers is one of the great industries. Formerly the best flowers and the largest quantities came from abroad, the most beautiful and costly from Paris, the cheaper grades from Germany and Austria. Millions of artificial flowers are still brought from Europe for the American woman’s hat, but the American factories are growing fast, and are becoming rivals of those of France in the perfection of their product.

The smallest varieties of flowers, the forget-me-nots, for instance, are seldom made here. They can be bought more cheaply in Germany, for there they are manufactured at small cost by women in the prisons, girls in convents, and even by school children after school hours. This labor is cheaper than any that can be found in America. But they make the roses, daisies, geraniums, violets, pansies, and all of the others in the largest and best factories of the United States. And some of the copies of these bright gems of the floral world are so skillfully and artistically made that one hesitates before deciding that the artificial is not, after all, a real flower.

The tall young woman, designer of the blossoms and captain of the flower-girls, showed me exactly how a rose was made, a great pink French rose of delicate tint, growing deeper toward the centre.

“Beginning with the petals,” she said, separating a large rose into its parts, “you will see that each is a single bit of muslin—a sort of three-cornered piece, you will notice. The outer petals are the largest, and they decrease in size as they near the centre of the flower.”

She spread the pink pieces out on the table before her. There were forty-eight of them.

“I determine the size of the petals from the real rose,” she said, “pulling out its petals and then copying them on to a pattern. From this pattern a stamp is made. It is like a pinking iron, or a chisel. You hit it on the end with a heavy hammer and drive it through the cloth.”

On the top floor of the factory two strong men were carving out the flowers with these tools. The stamps were driven with each blow of the hammer through several thicknesses of cloth, cutting out the rose petals, or daisy blossoms, or poppy blooms. Before the flowers are stamped out the cloth is first starched in preparation. It is stretched on perpendicular frames and the starch is applied with a brush. When it has dried the cloth is placed before the two men who handle the blacksmith’s hammers.

Then the different parts are colored, and this, as well as the designing of the shape of the flowers, is all-important. In the coloring room are huge bowls and pots filled with coloring matter, for many hundreds of tints are mixed and used in a single factory. A rose petal is pink at the outer edges and light green around the part where it adheres to the flower head. The petals are dipped by hand, first into the green coloring fluid, which contains alcohol to “set” it, and then into the pink color when the green has dried. And there is a great steam-heated drying room where the parts of flowers are put on shelves in trays to dry. The rose petals are then sent to the flower room, which is presided over by Miss Essie Hoar, the designer of flowers in this factory of David Spero.

The petals are put between sheets of thick blotting paper which are moistened. They are taken out of this to be crimped and rounded, for you know there are many curves and swells in each little rose petal. The shaping of the petals is done while they are still damp. A pair of small hot pincers is used to make the convolutions in the surface of each petal. To give the flowers their proper curve and form, a large number of little machines are employed. They are operated by girls and supplied with heat by gas jets, so that while the flower is pressed it is dried and held in shape by the starch which it contains. The rose petals are now ready to be placed on the head of the stem.

Here, again, deftness and skill are required. A cluster of starched threads with tips of a yellow composition is imported from Germany. These threads become the stamens and pistil of the rose. Miss Hoar took the cluster of threads, fastened it to the end of a wire stem, and then began to place the petals around it, dipping the end of each of them in glue. And her fingers moved very rapidly and the rose grew fast, each petal assuming its proper place and position. In less than a minute it was a gorgeous, full-blown flower. Then its stem had to be put on.

Rose stems are made of small hollow tubes of stiffened muslin stained green and cut in the factory to the length desired. But the thorns of the artificial rose are of soft little rubber tips which are put on with glue at regular intervals along the stem. This hollow green tube is slipped over the wire about which the rose blossom grew, and is held there by glue. A tiny green, hollow cup is placed under the head of the flower, the stem being pulled through it. The leaves are fastened to the stem, and the rose is a rose indeed.

The flower factories in the United States buy most of their material from abroad. The stems of various sizes come in coils like rope and are called tubing. The leaves, already stained green, are brought to the United States in boxes, but in the flower factory they must be put on their stems and the veins put in them by a stamping machine. The petals of many flowers are two-colored, the top being of one shade and the under side of another. This fact presents another problem in flower-making. The cloth for such flowers must be painted before the petals are stamped out. The muslin is hung in frames and then one side is painted the tint desired. When that is dry the brush is used on the opposite side with another color, and then the cloth is laid before the stamping iron.

Some one from the flower factory goes every year to Paris. His eyes follow the hats of the women as he sees them on the fashionable boulevards, in the cafés, or at the theatres. And he writes home describing the flowers that he has seen on these hats. The factory at once begins making these flowers with might and main, for it is an absolute certainty that the flowers worn on hats in Paris will a little later be worn on hats in American cities. There are flowers, however, which are in steady demand for several years together. One of these, designed by Miss Hoar, was a velvet daisy of dark red, lustrous hue. Of these 150,000,000 were sold in two years.

with grapes and leaves dec 1917

1917 hat decorated with grapes and leaves

During some seasons cherries are worn on hats; sometimes grapes adorn the feminine bonnets. And the making of this artificial fruit becomes a part of the industry of the flower factory. When grapes are in vogue an entire glass-blowing establishment may be employed to supply the large flower-maker with the little, thin, glass balls which form the body of the grape or cherry. This glass fruit is then dipped in coloring matter and, if it is a grape, is sprinkled, also, with potato flour before the color is dry. This gives the velvet effect of the real fruit, so that the artificial grape is one of the most luscious-looking creations imaginable.

Frank Leslies Weekly 16 April 1903

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A fascinating look at a pretty trade and how delightful that the flower-makers are encouraged to lift their young voices in song!

It grieves Mrs Daffodil to undermine this charming picture of embowered maidens, but what the author does not mention is that the green of the leaves and stems was Scheele’s Green–an arsenical green also known as Paris Green–which, although known to make the complexion pale and interesting, was slowly poisoning these young women. Given the insouciant view of many factory owners, one shudders to think what other hell-brews were used in the making of these lovely objects.

 

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.