Category Archives: Edwardian

Spoken Between the Courses: 1905

SPOKEN BETWEEN THE COURSES

Mr. Bounderby’s wife had not said a word to him since they sat down to dinner, except to remark that the weather was exceedingly warm. Casting a covert look at her across the fish he noticed two deep and ominous lines between her eyebrows.

“Brace up, Bounderby!” he said to himself, and forthwith swallowed a great goblet of wine without drawing breath.

“My dear,” he began, “You seem rather distrait this evening.”

“I—I am far from well, Archibald,” faintly. “The doctor”—

“Ah!” Bounderby drags his chair close to the table and assumes the attitude of a man about to catch a cannon ball in his bare hands. “Why, my dear, I think I never saw you looking so well before.”

“That Is because I have taken pains to conceal my sufferings. Doctor Borax assured me that I am falling rapidly, and nothing short of a trip to Switzerland would save me,” whisking a dainty bit of cambric across her eyes.

“Huh! He doesn’t consider my chances of failing when he gives such expensive prescriptions. Besides, you are the very picture of health.”

“That is the most dangerous sign of all. Nature’s last rally before the end. I feel it here! Here!” Clasping her bosom convulsively and staring at the ceiling.

“Well, now if it is us bad as that,” replies the unsympathetic brute, “I shouldn’t risk the journey. But apart from financial reasons there is another why you shouldn’t go.”

“How can there be any other?”

“Heh? Oh, to be sure! Why, business wouldn’t permit me to go with you, and as for straggling off alone in your feeble health”—

“Oh, I have arranged for all that. Dear mamma will accompany me.”

“Take the old ca — old lady with you? There’s double expense!”

“But what (tragically) does a paltry sum of money weigh against a life?”

“As you say (musingly), what does a paltry sum of money weigh against a life? I give it up.” He relapses into deep thought and then returns to the charge. “But think, Celestina, how people will talk if you spend the summer away from your husband.”‘

“And for idle gossip would you hold me here to perish at your feet?”

Bounderby, in a brown study, rouses at the last words.

“Perish? Feet? Whose feet? Certainly not! But, my love, are you not the least bit selfish? Of course I can deny you nothing, but a man needs woman’s companionship more in summer than any other time,” (He sighs deeply.) “It is then that love’s romance is renewed and the most holy sentiments of the soul awakened. Ah, me,” and bows his head on his breast.

His wife regards him curiously, even with some alarm.

“Since you are bent on going” — after a pause— “better this summer.”

“And why this summer more than another?” icily.

‘There is— er — a possibility I shall not have to spend the silvery evenings alone,” his coward eyes downcast.

“Archibald Bounderby,” nibbling nervously on her handkerchief, “I insist on your explaining your meaning.”

“Oh, it’s nothing that could interest you, my dear. Fact is an old friend of ours has asked me to look her up a house in the neighborhood. It will comfort you when in foreign climes to think that I have a pleasant place to spend the evenings. Won’t it, darling?”

“And might I ask who this person is?” twisting her handkerchief to shreds and displaying ill-concealed emotion.

“Why, certainly, my dear. Of course, you have not forgotten— the former Miss Gabster— she’s a widow now.”

“You mean the creature with dyed hair that angled so shamelessly for you before we were married?” her voice rising shrilly.

Bounderby swallows a chuckle mid shakes hands with himself effusively under the protection of the table. “I certainly knew the lady very well before marriage, but what of that? It will make it all the easier to renew the acquaintance.” The craven Bounderby dares not raise his shameful head, and an ominous silence follows. A servant enters with the next course, removes the remains of the fish and himself.

“Well, my dear, and what are you thinking about?” he asks. She seems to be writing on the table with a fork. Then she gulps hard, as if a croquet ball had lodged in her throat:—

“I— l have been thinking that, after all, it is selfish of me to consider my own happiness first. Wha— what If you should fall ill whe— when I am away,” with a look as if confronted by some horrid vision.

“And your health, my dear,” hardly able to repress his unholy glee.

“Archibald (with tragic gravity), a wife’s place is at her husband’s side. I shall remain.”

Victorious in his villainy, the arch-hypocrite says to himself as he imprints a chaste kiss on his wife’s brow, “Archie, old boy, you were born to be a diplomat!”

Los Angeles [CA] Herald 30 April 1905: p. 30

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The summer pilgrimage of the Little Woman to some Beauty Spot while her lord and master remained toiling at home in the summer heat was a convention which inspired many jokes and saucy sea-side postcards. We have seen the rules for gentlemen who preferred to think of themselves as “slipping the leash” rather than abandoned by wife and chicks. Mrs Daffodil has mentioned the Summer Girls who posed as married ladies to avoid mashers. Gentleman, too, posed as “grass widowers” as we see in this cartoon.

knew his way about mourning cartoon

Algy: No bereavement, I hope, dear boy? I see you’re in mourning. Neddy: Oh, no, nobody dead. Fact is, I’m off to Rotorua for a week. I want the girls to take me for a widower, and then I’m sure of a good time.

 

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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Married in Black: 1919

mourning frock 1916

THE BLACK DRESS

Carlotta Thayer sat crumbling her unpalatable sandwich and forcing herself to eat it between sips of tea from a thick cup. She sold neckwear in the big department store around the corner and had been busy all day handing out jabots and collars and cuff sets to eager buyers. Her face was so pleasant above her own white collar that it attracted quite as much as her wares.

Some day Carlotta hoped to earn really living wages. In the meantime she made $6 a week answer for all her needs. She had resolved life into “making the best of all that comes and the least of all that goes.” Even a poor sandwich was better than none at all. She saw people every day who looked as though they would be glad of what she found so difficult to swallow. Sometimes Carlotta got her suppers in her room as she got her breakfast, but if the weather was pleasant, she was apt to run into the “White House” for her sandwich and tea and afterward stroll home at leisure.

She was only halfway through her sandwich when she turned her eyes just in time to catch the glance of a young man who was entering the door. He stopped, continued to look hard at her for an instant and then hurried down to the table where she sat alone.

“Why, Carlotta!” he exclaimed, bending over her and holding out his hand. “Isn’t it strange? I was thinking of you and then I saw you.”

“I’m awfully glad to see you, Will,” Carlotta said, letting her hand stay in his and looking up into his brown, clear, serious face. “You look like home to me.”

“I’ve just come from there.” He drew off his overcoat and sat down opposite her. “It’s just the same. But you don’t deserve to know about it, Carlotta. You haven’t thought enough of any of us to come back even for a week.”

“I’ve worked every minute since I left,” Carlotta explained. “You see, Will, it’s different here in the city from what it is at Otisville. If you once get behind you never catch up. Things move so fast. I’m working at Davern’s—selling neckwear. It’s real pleasant.”

“You don’t look as though it agreed with you. You’re getting scrawny,” he said conclusively. “Well, Carlotta, I’m hungry as a bear. I’m going to order some supper, but you must stay and help me eat it.”

“Oh, I’ve had mine, thank you,” Carlotta returned lightly. She flushed as she saw his glance fall upon the telltale morsel upon her plate, and again as she heard him ordering chicken and mashed potato and salad and apple cobbler—for two.

“And coffee. You still drink coffee, don’t you, Carlotta? I remember your Aunt Jane’s and how good it tasted, coming hot and fragrant out of that old tin pot. Coffee making is getting to be a lost art with these new contraptions called percolators. My sister’s got one. You know she and Ed had moved into their new house, didn’t you? That leaves the old home empty except for me. And I shan’t be there, for I’m going west.”

“Going—west?” Carlotta repeated. The news gave her a curiously sick feeling. She covered her cheeks with her hands to hide them.

“Yes, clear to San Francisco. The firm’s sending me. I start tonight. Don’t you envy me?”
“Yes, I do,” Carlotta said. “You’ll have a wonderful trip. Just__”

He interrupted, leaning toward her across the table. “Wouldn’t you like to go?”

Carlotta sighed. “I don’t dare think about it. Of course, I know, I never shall.”

The waiter put the food between them and departed. Carlotta lifted her fork and first mouthful took the taste of the sandwich out of her mouth forever. “Oh, it’s so good,” she murmured. “I believe I am hungry, after all. Will, this chicken is almost as good as Aunt Jane’s used to be, isn’t it?”

He shook his head, smiling: “Nothing could equal that. Do you remember how we used to save the wishbone to break when it was dry? And once we both wished for sleds and it flew all to pieces. But we got sleds just the same. Carlotta,” continued Will, earnestly, “don’t you think it a pity that all that old comradeship should be wasted? We never quarreled as children. We wouldn’t quarrel now. We’re in the same key, and that always makes for harmony. Carlotta, say, marry me and go west with me tonight.”

“Marry you!” Carlotta exclaimed. She dropped her fork. “Oh, Will!”

“Why not? What’s to hinder? Telephone to the store manager. Pack what you must have. We’ll get a license, find a ministers and—won’t you, Carlotta?”

“You’ve known me always. I’ve know you and–. Why, I love you, Carlotta. I can make you so happy. We’ll make our trip, then we’ll settle down in the old house. You know what that is. Don’t you see, Carlotta, I can’t go and leave you here in this place? Now that I’ve seen you I can’t possibly. You must come with me. The train leaves at 11:15. It’s 6:30 now. Plenty of time.”

Carlotta felt dazed. To marry Will Galt and go to California with him, and to live in the dear old house where she had played so much in her childhood! To be back in Otisville, loved, secure, at rest! Heaven scarcely offered more. She felt like throwing out her hands to him and crying: “Oh, Will, take me! I’ve always cared for you! I went away because I was too proud to stay when I thought you didn’t care for me. And it’s hard—hard for all my courage and resolve.” Instead she drew back. “I can’t,” she faltered.

Will’s face grew long and stern. “Some one else?”

“N-no, no, indeed!”

“What then?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you!” Tears came stingingly at the end of a hysterical little giggle.

In the glass beside them she saw herself, black frock, shabby black coat, still shabbier black hat, the last of her mourning for Aunt Jane. She had nothing else, not another thing that she could wear to be married in. And how could she be married in mourning? It made her shiver to think of it. And she could not tell Will. If she told him he would rush out to some place and buy her a dress, and she could not permit that. In the town where she had been brought up men did not buy frocks for their brides to be married in. She would rather wear the black dress than incur such a shame. And she could not wear the black dress.

If she had any money at all she could buy the dress for herself, but that morning she had paid her room rent, which left her exactly 87 cents to tide her over until her next pay envelope.

“It’s no use, I can’t.” She had gathered all her forces. “Don’t let’s talk about it any more, Will. Let’s be friends.” She drew on her gloves so nervously that the thinnest one split across the palm. She gazed awestruck at the disaster, then clenched her hand on it and stood up. She was about as white as her collar. And Will, on the other side of the table, was white, too.

“Well, I can’t kidnap you, that’s certain,” he said. “You’re old enough to know your own mind. But I think you’re making a mistake.

They did not speak again until they were on the street. Then he said rather brokenly: “If—if you should change your mind, Carlotta, you can ‘phone me at the Carlton. I’ll be there until my train leaves. Now, which car shall I put you on?”

When 15 minutes after she entered her own room Carlotta felt she had put aside her one chance for happiness and the great adventure because she could not be married in a black dress. She sank upon the bed and buried her face in the thin pillow For a few moments she had all the agony of tears without any tears at all. Then suddenly she became aware that some one else was crying near at hand, on the other side of the thin partition. She turned her head and listened. In that room lived a girl whom she did not think much of –a fussy little person who jingled and swished when she walked and left trails of scent behind her. She worked in the ten-cent store, Carlotta believed.

Carlotta had always avoided May Bagley like the plague, but now the sound of those sobs aroused her pity and made her forget her own trouble. Maybe she could do something for the poor little butterfly suffering so audibly from singed wings. A moment later she knocked at the other girl’s door. A piteous voice bade her enter and she walked in. May Bagley sat huddled in a chair and beside her on the floor was the letter which evidently had caused all her woe. She lifted her wretched face to Carlotta’s.

“Oh, it’s you, Miss Thayer!” she tearfully said. “I’m so glad. You’ll understand. I was afraid it was that horrid old Miss Dix that was never young or anything in her life. She’d tell me it served me right not to have a decent thing to wear to Uncle Nat’s funeral or any money to buy with. And—and I’ve got to go, for you see—“ She was sopping at her wet face with a little pink and white rag, which was still wetter. Carlotta silently held out to her one black-edged handkerchief. May looked at it. “That’s just what I need,” she said. “Oh, Miss Thayer, it’s—it’s awful. If I don’t go to Uncle Nat’s funeral dressed appropriately Aunt Hat will never speak to me again. And there’s money coming to me if I do. Oh, I wish I were dead!  What’ve I been thinking of all this time to buy pink and blue and green things that I can’t wear at all?”

As Carlotta looked down at her fluffy blond head she suddenly remembered herself and her own predicament and a thought came to her—a thought so scintillant and joyful and daring that she laughed out loud. She knelt beside May. “Listen!” she said. “We’re about the same size. You take my clothes and lend me some of yours.”

The girl looked up hopefully. “Honest? Do you mean it?” she cried.

“Yes. It will help me out. For while you want mourning” –here Carlotta smiled—“I need a colored dress and I haven’t one or any money. If I don’t have it—“

“You’ll lose some money, too?”

“No,” Carlotta replied: “I lose more than money. I lose the chance to marry the man I’ve wanted all my life.”

May Bagley leaped up and snatched Carlotta to her in a hug. “There’s a man in my story, too,” she said; “a home man. Now, let’s swap.”

From her closet she brought a pink dress and a taupe hat, with a pink rose and a corduroy coat edged with fur—cheap, showy garments, but the most beautiful to Carlotta at that moment of any she had ever seen. A few moments of deft movements and the transformation was complete.

And then the telephone! Just for a moment Carlotta lost her voice when she heard Will’s voice over the wire.

“You’ve changed your mind? God be thanked! I’ll be there in 15 minutes in a taxi, Carlotta. Oh, you darling girl!”

At 11:20 that night a radiant young pair sat holding hands on the west-bound limited. The girl had just told the story of the black dress. At that moment on the platform of a little country station another girl in shabby black was being folded in the arms of a stern faced old woman. But being an experienced little person she kept her story to herself.

Honolulu [HI] Star-Bulletin 4 December 1919: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wonders if working in a ten-cent store makes one a more experienced little person than working in cuffs and jabots. Perhaps the clientele consisted of Mashers and Dudes. Mrs Daffodil also wonders why the well-set-up Will was not off fighting the Hun in France.

There are several elements of lingering superstition in this story: Carlotta (and that is quite the exotic name for someone from Otisville with an Aunt Jane) may have also felt sick because Will’s phrase “going West,” was a common euphemism for dying. We may wonder at Carlotta’s hysteria about her black wardrobe, but readers would have remembered a well-known rhyme: “Married in black, you’ll wish yourself back,” which explains Carlotta’s refusal to be married in mourning. Mrs Daffodil cannot help but think that cheap, showy garments cannot be much luckier. “Married in tat, his love will fall flat” about sums it up.

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.

 

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.

 

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.