Anne here, continuing the delightful walk through Georgette Heyer's London, conducted by my friend, author Sophie Weston. The first part of the tour is here.
But first, a photo of the scales on which Byron used to weigh himself. It was mentioned in the previous post, but the photo came to me later from a friend. Notice the lead weights neatly stacked beside the scales.
St James’s Palace (below)
Even today Ambassadors present their credentials to the Court of St James's. During the Regency, the King lived mostly secluded at Windsor or Kew and the Queen restricted her Drawing Rooms, so there were few opportunities for debutantes to be Presented. Even so, Jenny from A Civil Contract managed it and so did Arabella, who was much impressed by Princess Mary.
The Prince Regent’s marital difficulties prevented him from formally running an alternative Court at Carlton House and when the Hanoverian Jubilee was in full swing in 1814, he received the Crowned Heads in St James Palace – getting seriously annoyed when the Czar, for whom rooms had been refurbished especially, refused to stay there. He preferred to join his sister, Grand Duchess Catherine, already ensconced in the Pulteney Hotel. Oh the lure of the flushing loo!
The Queen's Chapel, Chapel Royal (left)
Members of the Royal Family did all appear together at the Chapel Royal, however. Inigo Jones built this elegant, simple church in1623-25 for Queen Henrietta Maria as an adjunct to the palace complex.
In Heyer's Arabella our eponymous heroine writes home that she attended Morning Service there on Sunday, after which the Duke of Clarence spoke kindly to her. She does not say, out of consideration for her father, the vicar, that the Duke also talked quite audibly in Church.
(right: Modern Almack House in King Street with the Golden Lion pub next door)
Compare this with a contemporary print and you will notice two things: in both, the bow-fronted pub next door at the end of Crown Passage (since 1731); and just how BIG Almack's was.
Although we think of it as a quintessentially Regency entity, with those powerful patronesses like Countess Lieven, Mrs Drummond Burrell and Lady Jersey, Almack's Rooms were set up in 1764 with a clever marketing strategy. 'Seven ladies opened a Subscription Book, each of which was to contain the Names of 60 Subscribers' – at 10 guineas a pop for admission to the Season's 12 balls. At the inaugural ball on Feb 12th 1765 the Duke of Cumberland, the so-called 'hero of Culloden’, was present and ran out of puff, according to lovely, gossipy Horace Walpole: 'There is a vast flight of steps, and he was forced to rest two or three times.'
Almack's was the heart of the Season if you had a marriageable daughter. The ballroom was 100 ft. by 44 ft. and the receptions were ‘great squeezes’. The largest assembly on record was for 1,700 people. During the Regency, ‘the sons of commerce’ were never admitted and nor was anyone who arrived after midnight or improperly dressed.
Jermyn Street (right)
Jermyn Street runs parallel to Piccadilly, without the palaces. In the photograph on the right there is the back garden of St James's Church. On the left are shops, including Paxton and Whitfield, cheesemongers since 1797, who sold not only cheese but also the famous York ham, beloved of the Heyer sporting bachelor for a solid breakfast.
Further down on the same side is Floris at No 89, opened by the barber Juan Faminias Floris in 1720. In the Georgian period this involved shaving beards and powdering wigs, as well as making pomades and colognes. These days Floris make wonderful scented preparations more for women than for men, although you can still buy their shaving soap in a traditional wooden bowl.
In Georgette Heyer’s world Jermyn Street seems to be Cad’s Corner: the awful Courtney Drelincourt from The Convenient Marriage, wicked Sir Montague Revesby from Friday’s Child and unsuccessful abductor Lucius Kennet from Faro’s Daughter all lived here. Ironically, so did Georgette Heyer when she left The Albany.
One of the great squares, home of William Pitt the elder, first Earl of Chatham; Ada Lovelace; who was Byron's daughter and arguably the first computer programmer; Mrs Fitzherbert, Prinny's morganatic wife.
Now part of the East India Club, the house at 16 St James's Square was owned until 1819 (when he went bankrupt) by wealthy merchant Edmund Boehm.
The Prince of Wales and his brother, the Duke of York, were at a party here on hot Midsummer night 1815, when Major Henry Percy arrived, exhausted after three days on the road from Brussels, with the news and casualty lists from Waterloo, along with Napoleon's captured flags and eagles. Sobering. (Above right: The East India Club today. This photograph and more thanks to the generosity of wonderful blogger Candy Blackham )
Sincere thanks to Sophie for her generous sharing of knowledge and experience. Sophie and Harlequin Historical romance author Joanna Maitland have recently launched Liberta Books, a site for readers, and they invite you to drop by and pen a love-letter to a favorite book. Here's Joanna's love letter to Heyer's The Grand Sophy.
Leave a question or comment about the Heyer walk, or Liberta, or tell us what you'd like to nibble daintily on with your cup of tea (or coffee) and you could win a copy of Sophie's delightful book, To Marry A Prince, written as Sophie Page.