Category Archives: History 1800-1837

The Duke’s Private Bell: 1804



[A Glasgow Professor at the Scott Centenary cited Sir Walter as a witness against Spiritualism. Certain we are that as Spiritualists we rarely find ourselves out of sympathy with Scott. The Edinburgh atmosphere wherein his life was passed was deadly to every form of supernaturalism, but the poet’s honest natural instincts, if oppressed, survived, and are manifest in a multitude of utterances. The following anecdote is from his ” Notes” to the Antiquary.Ed.]

All who were acquainted with that accomplished nobleman, John, Duke of Roxburghe, must remember that he was not more remarkable for creating and possessing a most curious and splendid library, than for his acquaintance with the literary treasures it contained. In arranging his books, fetching and replacing the volumes which he wanted, and carrying on all the necessary intercourse which a man of letters holds with his library, it was the Duke’s custom to employ, not a secretary or librarian, but a livery servant, called Archie, whom habit had made so perfectly acquainted with the library, that he knew every book, as a shepherd does the individuals of his flock, by what is called head-mark, and could bring his master whatever volume he wanted, and afford all the mechanical aid the Duke required in his literary researches. To secure the attendance of Archie, there was a bell hung in his room, which was used on no occasion except to call him individually to the Duke’s study.

His Grace died in St. James’ Square, London, in the year 1804; the body was to be conveyed to Scotland, to lie in state at his mansion of Floors, and to be removed from thence to the family burial-place at Bowden.

At this time, Archie, who had been long attacked by a liver complaint, was in the very last stage of that disease. Yet he prepared himself to accompany the body of the master whom he had so long and so faithfully waited upon. The medical persons assured him he could not survive the journey. It signified nothing, he said, whether he died in England or Scotland; he was resolved to assist in rendering the last honours to the kind master from whom he had been inseparable for so many years, even if he should expire in the attempt. The poor invalid was permitted to attend the Duke’s body to Scotland; but when they reached Floors he was totally exhausted, and obliged to keep his bed, in a sort of stupor which announced speedy dissolution. On the morning of the day fixed for removing the dead body of the Duke to the place of burial, the private bell by which he was wont to summon his attendant to his study, was rung violently. This might easily happen in the confusion of such a scene, although the people of the neighbourhood prefer believing that the bell sounded of its own accord. Ring, however, it did; and Archie, roused by the well-known summons rose up in his bed, and faltered, in broken accents, “Yes, my Lord Duke—yes—I will wait on your Grace instantly;” and with these words on his lips, he is said to have fallen back and expired.

The Spiritual Magazine, February 1873

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Would that all staff were so punctilious in the pursuit of their duties!–it would certainly make Mrs Daffodil’s life a good deal easier. One does wonder, however, if there are vails and half-days in the World Beyond.

The Duke’s fabled library, consisting of some 10,000 items, was sold at auction in 1812 (forming a plot point for that recent book, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). One wonders if the ghosts of the late Duke and his servant were in attendance.

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.


Die For Love: 1830s to present

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride

Esther Hale, The Ghostly Bride, art by Jessica Wiesel

To-day Mrs Daffodil once again—well, “welcomes” is perhaps too strong a word—but shall we say “accommodates” that ghost-writing person over at Haunted Ohio, who says that 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of the very first volume of her Haunted Ohio series. Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over the assertion that this is grounds for celebration, but in this world of fleeting fame, twenty-five years is a long time and a ghost story for Hallowe’en never goes amiss. This story comes from the second volume in the series, cunningly entitled Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State.


Beaver Creek threads its way through the steep hills and thick forests of Beaver Creek State Park. During the canal boom of the 1880s the area prospered, but today it is an area of deserted logging camps, ruined canal locks, and ghost towns.  One such town, Sprucevale, is accessible only by bridle path.  And all that remains of Sprucevale are the three walls of Hambelton’s grist mill—and the legend of Esther Hale.

On the morning of August 12, 1837, Esther Hale was happily preparing for her wedding. The table in the parlor was decorated with flowers and greenery; the cake was in the kitchen, covered with a cheesecloth veil to keep off the flies.  The wedding was set for ten in the morning.  By half past ten the guests were beginning to fidget and smile behind their fans.  By half past twelve they climbed into their wagons and drove away.  The messenger Esther sent could find no trace of her lover.  The cabin was deserted, he said, the ashes in the stove were cold.

When her friends tried to help her to bed, Esther quietly rebuffed them until they left her sitting alone in the dark by the window of the parlor. When they returned the next morning, the curtains had been drawn, as if in a house of mourning.  They were never again opened in Esther Hale’s lifetime.

All summer Esther moved like a ghost through the house. In the kitchen, beetles tunneled through the cake.  The flowers withered in the parlor while the spiders spun their gossamer hangings.  Her friends coaxed her to eat and drink a little, but when they tried to get her to change her dress or remove the wedding decorations, she flew at them with claw-like fingers.  Eventually they left her alone.

Broken hearts kill slowly. Four months later a neighbor noticed that the door to Esther’s house was open, banging back and forth in the December wind.  He notified the sheriff and the doctor who took a party of men to the dark house.  Snow had drifted throughout the rooms like a white shroud. Esther was slumped over the parlor window sill, her veil over her face.  Someone held up a lantern.  The doctor drew back the shredded lace.  Esther had been dead for several weeks.  When they saw the horror beneath, they silently covered her over again.  She was buried so, shrouded in her wedding clothes.

You can still see her, dressed in white, looking for her lover. It is said that she haunts the bridge over Beaver Creek, waiting there every year on August 12, a hideous figure in tattered white satin and lace.  If she touches you, she will become young and beautiful again—but you will die.

Nanette Young of Harmony Hills Stables enjoys taking people on trail rides and telling them the ghost stories of the area, especially the tale about the ghostly bride. Local people say they’ve seen Esther run in front of their headlights.  Nanette says that her car shuts off every morning by the grist mill.  Other people have had the same experience.

“One Christmas I was out looking at the Christmas lights with my mother. I told her, ‘This car is going to shut off as we pass that building.’  My girlfriend who was with us said, ‘Yeah, it happens every morning.’ My mother didn’t believe me, then it shut right off.  When this happens I just coast down the hill.  There are forty thousand hills out here.  But the car doesn’t shut off on any of the others.”

On August 8th, Nanette took a group of riders out on the trail. It was a clear night, but a mysterious fog rose from the creek up to the horses’ legs.  As they passed Esther’s house and rode onto the bridge, the last man in line said, “I feel a cold force pulling on my sweat shirt!”  Nanette could see nothing, but when they reached the safety of the barn, the hood of his sweat shirt was torn.

If you are in the area in early August, drive through quickly with your windows rolled up. And keep a sharp lookout for a skeletal woman in a wedding dress stained by the grave for she will lunge at your car, her bony fingers scrabbling at your windows, desperate as Death to touch and claim your living flesh.

Haunted Ohio II: More Ghostly Tales from the Buckeye State, Chris Woodyard, 1992

Like most local legends, there are a number of variations in the stories about Esther Hale. She is said to have been a Quakeress preacher, she is said to walk out of the Hambleton Mill in Beaver Creek State Park in Northeastern Ohio, and write “Come” on one of the stone walls of the mill on Christmas Eve.

The Haunted Ohio series is available at online retailers and through Barnes & Noble stores.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.


An Ingenious Ghost: 1825

Image from The Spectre of the Hall, British Library

Image from The Spectre of the Hall, British Library


Arthur Chambers was a thief endowed with uncommon address and talent. His adventures were marked by boldness in their object, and ingenuity in their accomplishment, as the following relation will shew:—

He hired the first floor of a house, and agreed with the landlord for fourteen shillings per week. Having been taken for a man of fortune, both from his appearance and expense, a mutual confidence was gradually established. When his plot was matured, he one day entered, with a very pensive and sorrowful look, the apartment of his landlord, who anxiously enquired the cause of his great uneasiness: Chambers, with tears in his eyes, informed him, that he had just returned from Hampstead, where he had witnessed the death of a beloved brother, who had left him his sole heir, with an express injunction to convey his dear remains to Westminster Abbey. He therefore entreated the favour of being allowed to bring his brother’s remains at a certain hour to his house, that from thence they might be conveyed to the place of their destination. His request was readily granted.

Chambers went off the next morning, leaving word, that the corpse would be there at six o’clock in the evening. At the appointed hour the hearse with six horses arrived at the door. An elegant coffin, with six gilded handles, was carried up stairs, and placed upon the dining-room table, and the horses were conveyed by the men to a stable in the neighbourhood. They informed the landlord that Chambers was detained on business, and would probably sleep that night in the Strand.

This artful rogue was, however, confined in the coffin, in which air-holes were made, the screw-nails left unfixed, his clothes all on, and only a winding-sheet wrapped above all, and his face disguised with flour. All the family went to bed except the maid-servant. Chambers arose from his confinement, went down stairs to the kitchen, wrapped in his winding-sheet, sat down and stared the maid in the face, who, overwhelmed with fear, cried out, “A ghost! a ghost!” and ran upstairs to her master’s room. He chid her unreasonable fears, and requested her to return to bed, and compose herself. She obstinately refused, and remained in the room;

In a short time, however, in stalks the stately ghost, took his seat, and conferred a complete sweat and a terrible fright upon all three who were present. Retiring from his station, when he deemed it convenient, he continued, by the moving of the doors, and the noise raised through the house, to conceal his designs. In the meantime he went down stairs, and opened the doors to his accomplices, who assisted in carrying off the plate, and every thing which could be removed, not even sparing the utensils of the kitchen. The maid was the first to venture from the room in the morning, and to inform her master and mistress what had happened, who, more than the night before, chid her credulity in believing that a ghost could rob a house, or carry away any article out of it. In a little time, however, the landlord was induced to rise from his bed, go down stairs, and found, to his astonishment and chagrin, that the whole of his plate, and almost the whole of his moveables, were gone and he had only received in return an empty coffin!

Chambers, after continuing his depredations, and being guilty of numerous acts of consummate art and villany, was at last detected, tried, sentenced, and finished his singular and vicious career at Tyburn. 

The Terrific Register, 1825

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil hopes that this anecdote is new to her readers; it is rather an old chestnut and was told about a number of criminals, named and unnamed. Arthur Chambers was something of a legend in the London Underworld. An unsavoury character trying to lure the hero into a life of crime, states:

“Not know who Arthur Chambers was !” exclaimed Master Blake in surprise; “ well, that is a go! why, Arthur Chambers was the very prince of prigs [thieves]; the downiest diver [most cunning pick-pocket], the rummest [foot] pad, the kiddiest [most fraudulent] scamp, the prettiest cheat, and the most dexterous filch upon town.”

A footnote adds:

‘This prince of prigs was the most dexterous pickpocket of his own or any other day. He was of low extraction, and, according to Captain Charles Johnson, commenced pilfering even while he was in petticoats. He was a perfect master of slang in all its varieties, from the maunders’, or beggars’, cant, to the Romanee, or gipsy patter, and Newgate flash of the light-fingered gentry. Many curious stories are related by Johnson of Arthur’s proficiency as a cheat: one in which he got himself conveyed into his own lodgings as a dead man, and, in the character of a ghost, contrived, during the night, to rifle the house, is really dramatic, and might almost form a farce. After a long career of roguery in all the lower walks of his profession, for Arthur never aspired to the dignity of a housebreaker or highwayman, and being confined in Bridewell and many other prisons, he was detected in a street robbery, found guilty, and, some time before the birth of our hero, suffered the usual fate of such offenders at Tyburn.

The Life and Adventures of Jack Sheppard, Lincoln Fortescue, Esq., 1845, p. 42

The term “Newgate flash,” above, refers to a type of slang. It also reflected a certain admiration in society for the roguish criminal who could carry off an imposition like the one above with such panache.

At one time there was a brief passion for polished steel; and among the slang refinements of the day was the application of that metal to a watch-chain of long links, imitating fetters, and called “the Newgate flash,” indicating the sympathy that existed for the numerous felons who were then weekly being hanged at the Old Bailey. Bentley’s Miscellany, 1852, p. 621

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 Straw Bonnets: c. 1800


A late-18th / early 19th-century straw bonnet

That spring brought a new fashion in head gear. Straw bonnets came into vogue. Peabody, Waterman & Co. received an invoice from England, and Mrs. Peabody presented one to her sister Hannah. I greatly admired this bonnet, but mother said she could not afford to buy me one that season. Aunt Sarah, noticing my discontented visage, inquired the cause, at which she signified her readiness to teach me to braid straw, and make myself a bonnet. Much surprised, I asked how she had learned. “As I have most things, I taught myself,” was the reply. “During the Revolutionary war two British cruisers for two days lay off the mouth of the Merrimac. The inhabitants of the “Port” were greatly alarmed, momentarily expecting a bombardment. Your great-aunt Mollie Noyes packed her effects, and, with her children, came here. Though the men-of-war withdrew without any demonstration, as the news immediately came that Captain Noyes’s vessel had been captured, and himself and crew were prisoners at Dartmoor, Mrs. Noyes remained some time. Your father was troubled with headache, and often complained of the heat of his wool hat. One day during haying, Aunt Noyes brought him a straw hat, which she said Captain Noyes had brought from foreign parts. After it was worn out your father missed it so much that the idea struck me of braiding one. We had a field of oats. I cut some straw, took the old hat, and, after patiently unbraiding and braiding for a time, at length succeeded in obtaining the secret. I braided and sewed a hat, which, though not as handsome as the foreign one, did very well. I braided several, and can teach you. When the oats are large enough to cut you can make a pretty bonnet.”

Mother tried to dissuade me from this project. She didn’t believe I could “make anything decent.” I was strong in faith, and my aunt upheld this determination. As soon as the straw was ripe I began to plait, and soon had sufficient for a bonnet. The straw was finer than Aunt Hannah’s, but, as no knowledge of bleaching had been obtained, it was not as white; still, it looked very well. Aunt Sarah fashioned it in the prevailing mode, but a difficulty arose respecting pressing. The front was easily managed, but how could the crown be shaped? Aunt Sarah was a person of expedients; I never knew her frustrated in anything she set about. A mortar was turned bottom upward, paper fitted over it, and the crown shaped to the requisite form. I was jubilant over this bonnet, and my Aunt Peabody sent a white ribbon to trim it, like Aunt Hannah’s. Neither before nor after do I think I was ever so proud of an article of dress as I was of that bonnet. After this we cut a quantity of straw, and I braided father a hat…

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with chevron plaiting

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with chevron plaiting

With my multifarious duties, I had contrived to plait a new straw bonnet for myself. Aunt Sarah assisted me to make common hats for father and the boys. We also fashioned a cunning bonnet for my little sister Susan to wear upon her first advent at meeting. Upon sight of this head gear, little Joe demanded a Sunday straw hat. Aunt Sarah said that was a good idea. I plaited a fine braid; the hat was made and lined with green silk. Jim thought he should like one, only the braid might be coarser. When father saw this hat, he asked us to make one for him; the light hat was “so comfortable in warm weather.” The gentlemen and youth of the neighborhood and vicinity, seeing and liking these hats, came to solicit us to braid some for them. In a short time quite a lucrative business was established. In the midst of the hurry, one of our cousins, Patty Noyes, came in, to beg us to braid her a bonnet; she “must have one for the very next Sunday.” “That is an impossibility.” “Then sew one from this!” she exclaimed, seizing a roll of the hat braid. “That is too coarse.” “That is a matter of taste,” she returned; “if I have a coarse straw it may set the fashion. Just sew the braid as I direct.”

Remonstrance was useless. The bonnet was sewed. It looked very well, and when trimmed was really pretty. Patty’s joke proved a prophecy,—she did set a fashion. Orders came for several similar bonnets. This extra straw work brought a great hurry in the autumn….

A quantity of straw had been stored the summer before; this spring, orders for bonnets and hats came as fast as they could be filled.

As I have stated, Uncle Thurrel’s only daughter had married Mr. Jonathan Smith, the son of the Rev. Dr. Smith, the first Baptist clergyman in Haverhill. Mr. Smith kept a store in that town. Straw bonnets were becoming so fashionable, Mrs. Smith conceived the idea of our supplying the sale at her husband’s establishment. Hitherto our bonnets had remained the natural color of the straw. Straw work had been commenced in Providence, and through some relatives there, Mrs. Smith learned the process of bleaching. We were greatly pleased to become initiated into the mystery, and with her native ingenuity, Aunt Sarah contrived a bleachery. Holes were bored in the head of a barrel, strings were attached to the bonnets and passed up through the apertures, which were then plugged with wooden spiles; sulphur sprinkled over embers put in the dish of a foot-stove was placed beneath; the whole being tightened by an old quilt, not a fume escaped, and the bonnets came forth as white as the imported. To this period the braid had been plaited from whole straw; this year the split straws began to come, and Aunt Sarah finding that she could split straw with a coarse comb, concluded to have some combs made for the purpose. Comb making had been an industry of the town since its first settlement.

Mr. Noyes was a great oddity. He would run half over the parish bareheaded and barefooted. It was no uncommon thing for him to appear at our house, after dinner of a hot summer day, in only a shirt aud breeches, having run across the fields two miles, “jest to take a nooning.” A great joker and a capital story-teller, his appearance was the signal for a general frolic. He was fond of telling strangers that his father used to say he had “four remarkable children: Molly was remarkably handsome, Tim was a remarkable sloven, John was remarkably wicked, and Enoch was remarkably cunning.” To this gentleman Aunt Sarah applied. As might have been expected, he entered into the business with characteristic zest, and in a short time we were supplied with half a dozen different-sized straw splitters.

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with ornamental edging.

Early 19th-century straw bonnet with ornamental edging.

Mrs. Smith, having cut a tiny piece of trimming from an imported bonnet, brought it for me to imitate. How vividly I recall the two long hours which I passed, sitting on the chamber floor surrounded by the litter of straw, patiently weaving and unweaving until the secret was obtained. Having acquired this ornamental cue, I invented several other decorations with which to finish the edge of the bonnets. I also learned to make straw plumes and tassels from examining those of the foreign bonnets. Miss Mary Perkins kept a fashionable millinery establishment in Newburyport. Hearing of our straw manufacture she rode up to see us and immediately ordered bonnets. After a time the plain straw became superseded by diamond and other fancy plaits. These being the ton, Miss Jenkins also purloined a bit from the inside of a diamond satin straw, and brought it as a pattern of a braid. It looked so intricate I nearly despaired of my ability to copy it, but Miss Jenkins would not permit me to demur, and as every one spoke encouragingly I made the effort, and in two or three hours accomplished the task. This was a timely achievement; our bonnets were in great demand, and we continued the business through the warm season for several years until the establishment of straw factories and my approaching marriage curtailed the work; but Aunt Sarah continued to braid men’s hats and supply her friends’ bonnets for a long time.

Reminiscences of a Nonagenarian, Sarah Smith Emery, 1879

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil can highly recommend the delightful memoirs of Mrs Emery; she tells of the homely minutiae of life at the turn of the nineteenth century and restores to us details of women’s work that otherwise would have been lost to history. The lady has the additional merit of being a charming and engaging narrator. 

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.


Miseries of a Ball Room: 1826


Lamentation 1. After repeating warnings to be at your place of rendezvous; prepared to glide gaily through the ‘mazy dance,’ at a remarkably early hour—to be obliged, through the tardiness of the managers in distributing the tickets, and the difficulty the company causing in to their numbers, to sit still two or three hours, filled with anxious and disappointed expectation.

  1. To be engaged to dance with a partner who blunders all the way down a country dance, after receiving ten or a dozen first rate invitations.
  2. The plague of that complicated revolution called “right and left,” for the awkwardness of some and the inattention of others.
  3. To have for your own partners, on your next neighbour, a gentleman with a frock coat.
  4. To have a new pair of gloves ruined on account of your partner’s neglecting to wear his; or in plain English, to have your neat white kids fall a sacrifice to his parsimony.
  5. Through the indifference of the company, to have a continuation of mistakes, while dancing your favorite figure.
  6. While in the act of taking your very much admired balance, to be tripped up with your untied shoe string.
  7. While going down the middle, with quick music, to be delighted with the sight of your comb upon the floor, and your hair flowing upon your shoulders.
  8. Dancing half the night with a pair of shoes far too tight in length and breadth—unmentionables on every toe.

Jemima Sensitive.

Additional misery, by a gentleman.

A venerable invitation given in so equivocal manner, that you find yourself on the appointed evening, waiting on a friend who had no thought of seeing you.

Washington Whig [Bridgeton, NJ] 11 November 1826: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil does not dance, but recognises the offenders (and they offend serially) from peeps round the corner at various balls. All can surely sympathise with the loss of neat, white kids.  And even a non-terpsichorean recoils from a man in a frock coat at an evening rout.

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 Coronation for the Ages: 1821

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Mrs Daffodil is delighted and honoured to welcome a distinguished guest blogger to these pages and joins the entire Empire in applauding Catherine Curzon, royal historian, author of the new book, Life in the Georgian Court, and Madame Gilflurt at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. Her theme to-day is the coronation of George IV.

A Coronation for the Ages

Few kings of the long 18th century are as fabulously divisive as George IV, as I discovered whilst researching Life in the Georgian Court. A spendthrift, gambler, womaniser and lifelong spoiled brat, when it came to flamboyance, nobody could beat him. His finest moment was surely his 1821 coronation, a riot of cash, ceremony and jewels!

For years the new king had been planning this moment, determined that when his day finally came, it would be the greatest Europe had ever seen. He envisioned a themed event with guests dressed in Elizabethan or Jacobean costume and true to form, there was to be no expense spared. After all, the world needed to know that nobody did good old showing off anything like as well as him. Parliament stumped up over £100,000 for the festivities, adding a further £138,000 received from France under the terms of a financial indemnity[1] and across the country, a day of celebrations was declared.

“[George wore] a black hat with a monstrous plume of ostrich feathers, out of the midst of which rose a black heron’s plume. His Majesty seemed very much oppressed with the weight of his robes. The train was of enormous length and breadth. It was of crimson velvet adorned with large golden stars, and a broad golden border.”[2]

Ever fabulous, George’s togs cost £24,000, the train stretching for twenty seven feet and requiring the attention of eight pages just to lift it. Never one to shirk on luxury, he commissioned a new crown containing over 12,000 diamonds that were on hire from Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. Unfortunately, George grew somewhat fond of his rented diamonds and did his best to hang onto them, only returning them to the jewellers once Parliament rejected his requests for the country to purchase them on his behalf[3].

At the head of the Coronation procession came Miss Fellowes, the King’s herbwoman, and her six attendants, scattering flowers and sweet-smelling herbs in a traditional ceremony to ward off plague and pestilence. The procession that followed included the Officers of State who carried the iconic orb, sceptre, crown and sword, bishops bearing chalice, bible and paten and, of course, the star of the show. George made a splendid sight in his robes, followed by the Barons of the Cinque Ports who carried the Coronation Canopy. Bringing up the considerable rear were the assembled peers of the realm and other dignitaries, with hired prizefighters playing the role of pages throughout the procession just in case trouble came calling.

The monumental procession eventually wound its way through the crowds to Westminster Abbey where George was subject to the traditional and ancient ceremony. The summer day was stifling and George wilted under the weight of his robes, appearing “distressed almost to fainting”[4]. When the crown was placed on his head, Britain could finally celebrate the coronation of George IV, with the Abbey erupting in a spontaneous huzzah that both surprised and delighted the king.

The procession then made it way back to Westminster Hall amid cheering crowds. We all know that George liked his food and the coronation banquet was testament to this, consisting as it did of well over a thousand dishes and tens of thousands of pounds of meat alone. The king thanked the assembled guests and did them “the honour of drinking their health and that of his good people”[5]. It was a night to remember as hundreds of male guests tucked into a vast array of delicacies, whilst the ladies and children were herded into viewing galleries to watch the fun!

Finally the newly-crowned George IV departed for Carlton House with the people of London joining a fête in Hyde Park, where fireworks were let off throughout the evening. The day had been a flamboyant, excessive triumph and parties went on late into the summer night as the people of the realm celebrated the crowning of the new monarch.

Life in the Georgian Court by Catherine Curzon of the famed blog: A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life.

Life in the Georgian Court by Catherine Curzon of the famed blog: A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

About the Author

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian and blogs on all matters 18th century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

Her work has featured by publications including BBC History ExtraAll About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austens Regency World. She has also provided additional material for the sell-out theatrical show, An Evening with Jane Austen, will she will introduce at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, in September (tickets are available here).

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Her book, Life in the Georgian Court, is available now from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Book Depository and all good bookshops!

About Life in the Georgian Court

As the glittering Hanoverian court gives birth to the British Georgian era, a golden age of royalty dawns in Europe. Houses rise and fall, births, marriages and scandals change the course of history and in France, Revolution stalks the land.

Peep behind the shutters of the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the era, the House of Hanover.

Behind the pomp and ceremony were men and women born into worlds of immense privilege, yet beneath the powdered wigs and robes of state were real people living lives of romance, tragedy, intrigue and eccentricity. Take a journey into the private lives of very public figures and learn of arranged marriages that turned to love or hate and scandals that rocked polite society.

Here the former wife of a king spends three decades in lonely captivity, Prinny makes scandalous eyes at the toast of the London stage and Marie Antoinette begins her last, terrible journey through Paris as her son sits alone in a forgotten prison cell.

Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.


Anonymous. George III: His Court and Family, Vol I. London: Henry Colburn and Co, 1821.

Baker, Kenneth. George IV: A Life in Caricature. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Black, Jeremy. The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty. London: Hambledon and London, 2007.

David, Saul. Prince of Pleasure. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Hadlow, Janice. The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians. London: William Collins, 2014.

Hetherington Fitzgerald, Percy. The Life of George the Fourth. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1881.

Huish, Robert. Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, 1830.

Irvine, Valerie. The Kings Wife: George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert. London: Hambledon, 2007.

Lloyd, Hannibal Evans. George IV: Memoirs of His Life and Reign, Interspersed with Numerous Personal Anecdotes. London: Treuttel and Würtz, 1830.

Smith, EA. George IV. Bury St Edmunds: St Edmundsbury Press, 1999.

Spencer, Sarah. Correspondence of Sarah Spencer Lady Lyttelton 1787-1870. London: John Murray, 1912.

[1] This is the equivalent of £9.5million in modern money.

[2] Gossip, Giles (1828). Coronation Anecdotes. London: Robert Jennings, pp.291-2.

[3] George had to make do with a gilt bronze cast of his sumptuous new crown, acquired at a cost of £38.

[4] Huish, Robert (1830). Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, p.216.

[5] La Belle Assemblée: Vol XXIV, 1821. London: J Green, p.45.

Many thanks, Catherine—and Mrs Daffodil’s best congratulations on your new book! Do be careful of those Furies…

Show Her at a Tea-table, Not a Ball: 1815

regency ball

Mr Editor,

After an absence of five-and-thirty years I returned to my native country in 1815, and have since that time resided for the most part in this city. I am an idle man and a bachelor, and derive great amusement from the Magazines and Reviews; I hope I shall not be accused of presumption, if I offer now and then to be one of your contributors, as well as one of your readers.

I should be very sorry, however, to write merely because I have nothing else to do; and I hope you will do me the justice to believe me, when I say that this letter is dedicated chiefly by a, sincere wish to do good to a certain class of readers, among whom, if I be not mistaken, your Miscellany has a pretty considerable circulation. Do not let the ladies (for it is to them that I address myself) imagine that I am the same quizzing sarcastic old bachelor who rallied them in your last Number about teeth and stays—I am a plain, well-meaning, common-place man, and my utmost ambition is to give good advice in a matter with which you will readily acknowledge I have had tolerable opportunities of making myself acquainted.

My fair readers then must know, that it is with considerable pain I have remarked a variety of changes which have taken place since my departure in 1780—I do not mean changes in dress, houses, and equipages—for these, I frankly acknowledge, have all been altered greatly for the better;—neither do I mean to insinuate, that the belles of the present day are less beautiful than those whom I remember, although such an opinion is, I confess, not unfrequently broached at the Edinburgh India club, of which I have the honour to be a member. I allude to changes in the arrangements of social intercourse, of which none, I think, have so much reason to complain as the young ladies, although, perhaps, the evil occasioned to the youth of my own sex be much more considerable than they are pleased to imagine. You must know, in a word, that the prevailing system of balls, and routs, and evening parties, is my abhorrence; and the matrons who think, as I have heard, that in establishing the fashion of these entertainments, they have achieved a great triumph in favour of their own sex, and more especially of their own daughters, may rest assured, that it would have been far wiser in them to have allowed the old usages, which they have dislodged, to remain in statu quo. The matron mind is not yet ripe for conviction on this head, but I doubt not, the experience of another ten years will abundantly do the business.

In the old state of things, when men lived more among themselves than they now do, a ball was a matter of no trifling moment. The young gentleman dressed himself for an assembly as he would have done for court, and gazed upon the elegant creatures who glided before him with high heels, powdered locks, and evanescent waists, with somewhat the same feelings of distant reverence and admiration with which a benighted poet might be supposed to contemplate the revealed gambols of a group of fairies or mermaids. But, now-a-days, there is a ball every night, and such illusions, if they do occur, are extremely short-lived. By dint of going through a few hot campaigns, the most awkward recruit becomes a fearless veteran; and the beau who dances every night for three or four seasons together, learns to face the most deadly artillery of smiles and dimples, without betraying any symptom of emotion. Every experienced general wishes the lines of his opponent to be filled with raw soldiers; and the shrewdest matron is she, that fills her drawing-room with the greatest number of unpractised Philanders. But this is not all. In the days when there were fewer balls, there were more tea parties, and there is always more occasion for flirtation at one tea-table than at twenty great assemblies, exactly as there is more room for the display of individual heroism in a skirmish than in a general engagement…

When Raphael was consulted about the disposal of one of his great pictures, his answer was, “place it by itself’” and whenever any mother shall ask my opinion how she may set off her daughter to best advantage, I shall reply in the same strain, “shew her at a tea-table, not at a ball.” If the picture be a middling one, it had better be hung up where there are no master-pieces; if it were the Transfiguration itself, it could gain nothing by being stuck into a crowded gallery. Do not allow the vain hope of favourable contrast to work upon you…Serious business is better managed in a committee than in a full house…The truth is, and matron or maid may doubt it if she will, that a marriage is becoming every day a greater rarity among us. At first sight, it may appear, that I am ill entitled to handle this topic, and I may incur some danger of having the old adage, about the Devil reproving sin, thrown in my teeth. But my fair readers must remember, that old Indians have better excuses than most other old bachelors. In their youth they have scarcely any opportunity of falling in love, and in their old age they have other things to think of. In my time there were fewer old bachelors, and infinitely fewer old maids, than now. No man—I except always the army—ever thought himself fairly set down in life till he was married, and the moment a laird returned from his travels, or a lawyer had got himself dubbed advocate or W. S. his first concern was to discover a suitable young woman, whom he forthwith courted with great diligence, and whose scruples he commonly found means to overcome by the end of a twelvemonth. If the nymph had a tocher, she was, to be sure, nothing the worse for it ; but in most cases, a good education, respectable connexions, and an agreeable person, set any young creature above the risk of dying an old maid, unless that happened to be her own choice. The single lady, of a certain age, was mostly such a one as had to thank either her own temper or some peculiar ill usage of nature or fortune for her mishap. I have seen enough of society since I came home, to convince me that they manage these things otherwise now.

My attention has been called to these matters more than it otherwise might have been, by the domestic circumstances of some relations among whom I spend a good deal of my time. I have a sister in this town, a widow lady with a small income, and six daughters, all unmarried; the eldest about thirty, and the youngest twenty-two. You will easily believe, that at their fireside circle, balls, routs, beaux, and tea parties, form no unusual articles of conversation. My sister is still an advocate for the new system, and, in her conversations with me, is backed by all the young ladies of the family. But I do not despair of converting them all by degrees, and indeed I think I can already perceive certain slight symptoms of growing conviction in the two eldest of my nieces. I fear their wisdom, even should all my expectations be fulfilled, will now avail them little practically, they will at least have the consolation of being theoretically in the right, and of shifting the reproach of their barrenness from themselves to their system.

One point is easily conceded to me by my two demi-converts, viz. that the only girl who has a tolerable chance of being married, is she who has a tolerable fortune. The most angelic beauty, they allow, may, as the world now goes, glitter in vain from seventeen till seven-and-twenty without receiving a single offer. A young gentleman of the modern cut would as soon think of proposing to the moon. The belle may be as enchanting, and the moon as bright as you please, but both must dwindle away to nothing, and be succeeded by new belles and new moons, doomed to go through the same career of dazzling, and dwindling, and being forgotten in their turn. But no sooner does an heiress come out than she is provided with a long train of indefatigable danglers. She makes her election. The next rich miss is accommodated with the same suite of wooers, and you may always know an heiress by her danglers, exactly as you do a commanding officer by his aide-du-camp and his orderlies. When two heiresses are at once upon the town, they become partners for the time, and have all their stock of lovers in common, as the Roman consuls had their fasces, or as the colleague-ministers of Edinburgh have their congregations…The two likeliest admirers marry the girls, and it is a mere toss-up of a halfpenny which marries which. The only thing the lover cares for is the fortune of his mistress, and all his sagacity is employed in discovering the exact amount of cash payable on the wedding-day. This, to be sure, is a very necessary part of his manoeuvre, for there are, it seems, at least twenty take-ins (as they are called) for one true heiress….

All this my nieces admit, but as yet they do not seem quite to approve the inference I draw from it. If I be correct in my opinion, the blame lies entirely with the matrons who have invented the rout-system. They have made beauty common-place, and they wonder that it is undervalued. They might as well pave the streets with Spanish ingots, and then complain that the price of bullion had fallen. They have removed the old phantasies of extravagant admiration and single-hearted idolatry, under which courtships were commenced and marriages coveted. It is their fault that wedlock is now become a mere commercial speculation, and that men have learned to dabble in courtship exactly as they would in the funds. They have blunted our passions, and they now blame us for having the command of our reason. Restore to us our tea parties, and our evening walks, and our little suppers, and let balls be only once a month, as they used to be, and routs never, and you daughters, you may depend upon it, will not lie so heavy on your hands. You have become traders, why is it that you cannot take a hint from the state of currency and the market?

Perhaps my matron readers may expect that I am about to end all this abuse of home with an advice to send their daughters out to India. Be assured, that if I had thought that an adviseable plan, I might long ago have had all my six nieces sent out to me nothing loath, one by one like turkeys, or two by two like pheasants, or three by three like snipes, exactly as I might have thought fit to give the hint. I remember, indeed, when a voyage to India was, for any female adventurer, a very pretty speculation. A third cousin of my own, from Inverness—a tall strapping Highland wench, with red hair and splay feet—arrived upon me in the year 1795, when I was in quarters at Cawnpore, bringing with her, as her sole testimonial, a letter of introduction from her mother, whom I had never seen, stating that she, the young emigrante, had a delicate constitution, and stood in need of a change of climate. I immediately carried my fair cousin to the commanding colonel’s lady, who agreed to get her off by way of obliging me. The aide-du-camp, accordingly gave notice that an arrival had taken place, and that the hall would be immediately thrown open for three days. There, accordingly, in the largest apartment of the government house, did the colonel’s lady and her protégée sit in full dress during the space of three days, and thither did all the officers at the station resort to take a view of the importation. Those of them who were gratified with the inspection, sent their proposals in writing to the young lady; and, at the close of the third day, my cousin, out of no less than ten admirers, made choice of a sturdy captain, whose person pleased her eye. This was really doing things in a businesslike fashion; and such, I remember, was the constant ceremonial of an Indian courtship. But, I fear, the young ladies who make voyages now~a-days will find that things are changed in the eastern market, at least as much as in the western. The formal exhibition of three days has long since been laid aside, and it would seem as if no adequate substitute had as yet been discovered in its room. The shoals of voluntary exiles that flowed in upon us for some ears, over-ran the demand beyond all computation.

Among these were many respectable women, of whom the worst thing could say were, that they had no money and little delicacy; but by far the greater part consisted of silly, giddy, glib-tongued minxes, who had flirted away their character at home—and there were not wanting some whose reputation was indeed as equivocal as could well be wished. Even they who left England with a good name, had every chance to arrive at Calcutta with a bad one. In an outward-bound Indiaman, unless the captain be a perfect Puritan, the intercourse between the passengers, male and female, is of the most easy description imaginable; and in five instances out of ten, a marriage at the Cape, en passant, with a Dutch boor, or, at the end of the voyage, with some mate or the like, is convenient, if not necessary. To a young lady who accompanies her parents to India no man can have any objection, but, in my opinion, that protection alone, and no other, is sufficient. But what is by far the most decisive objection, the Indian gentlemen are now become extremely nice in regard to the age of the emigrantes; and my readers may depend upon it, that any thing above twenty will positively not go down, I suspect that few under that age are sufficiently humble to think the voyage necessary for themselves.

The ship in which I returned to Europe, two years ago, brought home a very smart young spinster of thirty-five, who had gone out to India, seven years before, as the friend of the wife of a lieutenant in one of the marching regiments. This lady, in the sure hope of a speedy settlement, had carried out with her, in addition to her piano-forte, a complete basket of baby-linens, three sticks of coral, and a silver caudle-cup. All, however, was in vain; and she at last had made up her mind to come home and die in a garret. But it was her singular good fortune to sail in the same vessel with a jolly retired chaplain, who, it seems, was smitten during the voyage, and I myself had the honour of giving her away at Southampton on our arrival. To the tattle of the company I never gave any ear. I would not, however, advise any of your readers to make her conduct their pattern, and remain, Mr Editor, your obedient servant


Edinburgh, Dec. 18, 1817

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 1818

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add to this exhaustive and instructive screed except to wonder how it was that the “Old Indian” campaigner never himself married? Was there no Colonel’s lady to assist in displaying the new arrivals? Was it his kindly, yet officious, attempts to do good, while remaining serenely oblivious of causing offence?  [Mrs Daffodil believes that the modern term for this is “mansplaining.”] Or was it simply that he never found an heiress to choose him from among her danglers?

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.