Heirs and Spares

Houghton ExteriorNicola here, talking slightly tongue-in-cheek about a certain trope in fiction, that of birth order. The concept of the “heir and the spare” is something that has been discussed quite a lot lately and it’s a theme that those of us who read historical romance are very familiar with. The noble family is desperate to have an heir (usually male, since women can’t inherit the majority of British titles) and that person will be expected to carry on the traditions of the family, inherit the title and any entailed fortune that goes with it. They will be in line to take the responsibility for the crumbling stately pile and if it really is crumbling, find an heiress whose inheritance fortunately comes from trade or some other source, to prop it up. It feels like a heavy weight for the heir to carry. The emphasis here is on responsibility and continuity. However, there’s a snag. What if something happens to the heir? Then you will need a spare – two boys at least – to ensure the continuation of the family line. So, to be on the safe side, most families try not to stop at one.

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A Tale of Two Kings

Buckingham Palace in the snowLast week, on a cold and snowy morning, I went up to Buckingham Palace to visit an exhibition in the Queen’s Gallery. It was a brisk walk across Green Park (I hadn’t seen London in the snow for years) and I pitied the poor little green parakeets that live there. London isn’t exactly prime parakeet climate at the best of times and I imagine they are shivering at the moment.

There was a big crowd at Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard, but we were heading around the side to the gallery entrance to see “Charles II: Art and Power.” This was a companion exhibition to the one I had seen a couple of weeks earlier at the Royal Academy which focussed on King Charles I.

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The Return of the Codpiece

PeacockNicola here, wondering if there are any fashion items from centuries gone by that are so outrageous they could never make a come back. Last week I read a very interesting article about the hot new trend for feather hair extensions. Peacock feathers are especially popular and as the trend grows from simple feathers to grand pieces, I'm reminded of those extraordinary creations made with ostrich plumes that ladies wore in the 18th century. It might not be long before we see those again. 

But surely there are some things that could never come back into fashion. Take the codpiece, for Henry8codpiece example. A codpiece is defined as a pouch attached to a man's breeches or close-fitting hose to cover the genitals, worn in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here is a picture of Henry VIII wearing one of his; this is relatively modest. There are some truly frightening images out there.

Originally the codpiece was designed specifically to hide the genitals when a man was mounting his horse. It’s a pouch, richly embroidered and lavishly upholstered, its shape deliberately designed to suggest virility. The codpiece was not anatomically correct (!) but the large size was intended to intimidate other men rather than impress women. A huge codpiece suggested that here was a man who could stand up and sport a pair of well-filled hose. Not only that, but it had a practical use as well. A man could keep his keys or coins in it.

Inevitably, there are records of men childishly competing to see who could create the best codpiece shadow until this was banned after ladies complained of what a chronicler of the time called "a very long and lewd codpiece of a barbarous and very impolite shape.” The codpiece died out in the 16th century but I doubt it's ever going to be forgotten.

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Oranges and Lemons, Say the Bells of St. Clements

Raphaelle Peale (American artist, 1774-1825) Orange And A BookOranges and Lemons,

Ring ye bells at St. Clements.
When will you pay me,
Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey.
When I am Rich,
Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch.
     Tradtional Counting Rhyme 

There are any number of interpretations as to what this all means, but I see it mostly a reminder that poetry does not necessarily have to make sense.

Joanna here, talking about Regency oranges.

Those of us with a keen interest in botany will have noticed that oranges — not to mention lemons — don't thrive in the British climate.  Well, maybe down in south Devon where hopeful souls sometimes plant palm trees.  But citrus isn't plucked off the tree on Hampstead Heath or in the Welsh mountains.

What is an orange doing in an old, old counting rhyme?
Not to mention lemons.
How come?

Because the Regency and Georgian folks imported their oranges (and lemons) enthusiastically or grew them enthusiastically in greenhouses.  

Musee carnavalet orangerie exterior Paris 1


I'll just wander off track for a minute to point out that greenhouse in the Regency didn't mean a building all made of glass with a roof of glass panes.  That's Victorian.  In the Regency a greenhouse was a tall room with high windows, like this to the right.

Sometimes, they called them orangeries.
I think not.

In the Regency we're talking about three different species of oranges, just because life is complicated.

Our first guest orange  . . . the bitter one.

The oraOrangeBloss_wbnge is another of those marvelous botanical productions of the Orient, like lychees and tea and peaches.  They've been cultivated in China for four thousand years, in several varieties. The bitter or sour orange, Citrus aurantium— what we'd call a Seville orange — made a complicated journey overland to Europe, piggybacking its way from the Middle East to Italy and Spain with the returning Crusaders.

Here's a picture of an early orange in Van Eyck's Amolfini Portrait of 1434.  This picture records a
Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait full sizemarriage and it's just bristling with nifty references faithfulness and fertility. 

Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait detailSee those those oranges in the Van Eyck painting, over next to the window?  Symbolic as heck.

Oranges were symbolic of marriage, maybe because the plant bears its flowers and its fully ripened fruit at the same time, thus being both the potential fertility of the innocent flower and the fecundity of the plump fruit. 
Queen Victoria wore orange blossoms in her hair at her wedding.  Maybe some of the folks reading this today wore them too.  You can look at that Van Eyck and know the symbol is more than 500 years old.

As a totally unrelated side comment, Isobel Carr points out that the little dog in that picture might just be the earliest depiction of a pet animal in a European painting. 
Its name is Max.
. . . Okay.  I'm kidding about the name.

They called the bitter orange a 'Seville orange' because that's where they were grown and shipped from in Tudor times and beyond. 
Our English, French and other European folks used skin, juice, root, leaf and branch in
medicine and for making cordials and syrups and orange-water for scent
and flavoring.

"Nor can I blame you, if a drop you take,
of orange-water, for perfuming-sake."
John Breval

Seville oranges nowadays are used about exclusively for making that wonderful marmalade you can still pick up in the grocery if you go searching a while for the authentic stuff.  It's the same marmalade they made in Regency times.  When you spread it on your toast, you can think about Elizabeth Bennet doing pretty much the same, except she's sitting across the breatkfast table from Mr. Darcy.

Looking next at . . . 
. . .  Ahem. 
Eyes off Mr. Darcy, if you please.  Thank you.

Turning to this second type of orange, I hear you saying, "What about the sweet orange, Citrus sinensis, my supermarket orange, the ones that the lack of is like a day without sunshine, the ones Nell Gywn sold at Drury Lane?"

I will pause an instant to offer Samuel Pepys' take on orange juice:
"and here, which I never did before, I drank a glass, of a pint, I believe, at one draught, of the juice of oranges, of whose peel they make comfits; and here they drink the juice as wine, with sugar, and it is very fine drink; but, it being new, I was doubtful whether it might not do me hurt. "

Anyhow, these newcomer sweet oranges showed up in the 1500s.  They were called sweet oranges because, well, they were sweet, and China oranges to distinguish them from the Seville oranges which were not so sweet.  'China' because, unlike their bitter cousins, they didn't migrate slowly overland.  They arrived in style by ship, brought by Portuguese and Italian merchants directly from China. 

This is when the orange became a hand-eating f3 Francis Wheatley (English artist, 1747-1801) Cries of London 1792-1795 Sweet China Oranges, Sweet Chinaruit, sold in baskets on the street.  Nell Gywn, before she became mistress of King Charles II and presumably went out of the retail fruit business, was one of the scantily clad young women who sold sweet oranges in the Drury Lane Theatre (sixpence apiece,) for the refreshment of the patrons and as a handy means of expressing dissatisfaction with the performance.

In case you were wondering — as who has not — whether the orange fruit was named after the color,

("Oh look! There's a whole bunch of oranges up in the tree, and some reds over on this tree and look at all those blues down here on the bushes.")

or the color was named after the fruit.  I can set your mind at rest.
The color is named after the fruit.
The word orange meandered into English from the Sanskrit word for the fruit —nāranja — through Arabic, Old Provencal, Old French and Middle English.

Before the Fourteenth Century, folks had to refer to the color as geoluhread.  As in, "Wow. Love your geoluhread i-pod!"  Geoluhread would roughly translate as yellow-red and I am sure we are all grateful to Sanskrit for its intervention into what would have been a dismal shade with a long name.

How common were oranges in Georgian and Regency England?  How expensive? 
In the mid-1700s oranges sold on the street four a penny when hot cross buns were 'one a penny, two a penny'.  That doesn't seem outrageously expensive, does it — two oranges for the price of a bun? 

Zurbaran 1633 still life

lemons and oranges in 1633

Karl Phillip Moritz, about that time, wrote, "All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the
season, sees oranges to sell, and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny."

By 1828, one could speak of "The China, or sweet oranges, with which this country is now so amply supplied, and at such moderate prices that all classes of society enjoy them as perfectly as if they had been indigenous to the climate."  John S. Skinne


Francisco_de_zurbaran about 1630

a really annoyed cup, above

And our third orange? 

It was almost the blood orange.  I mean, there the blood orange was, in Italy, as a
mutation among sweet oranges in the 1600s.  Really no reason it couldn't have been a trade item.
I'd love to add it to the Regency table.

But it looks like they weren't imported.  Mention is made of blood orange trees brought into England as greenhouse curiosities in the 1820s. I suppose some intrepid traveller might have brought back a box of fruit for friends any time. 

Must have been a shock when that first blood orange was cut open at the table for everyone to see.

But the third of the Regency orange trio turns out to be the mandarin orange, the tangerine, our friend Citrus reticulata, which is technically a kind of orange rather than a separate fruit altogether, if we listen to those tricky botanists who dabble in such matters.  Trees were brought to England direct from China — the word mandarin is a dead giveaway — in about 1805. It settled into the greenhouses of England.  Not a fruit for the street crowd.  An exotic treat.  As late as 1817, a botanist could say it was a pity none of the countries exporting citrus to England had established the tangerine as a crop. 

After 1805, your Regency heroine might be offered a mandarin, sensuously peeled, by someone who owns a very fancy greenhouse.  A spiffy little factoid.

Seville orange leMoynCOME buy my fine oranges, sauce for your veal,

And charming when squeez'd in a pot of brown ale;
Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup,
They'll make a sweet bishop when gentlefolks sup.


The world would be a poorer place without oranges — and I happen to notice I've got a half-eaten clementine beside me as I write this post.

What's your favorite oranges recipe?  I used lemons to make a fancy syllabub not so very long ago, but I bet it'd be equally good with oranges.  And I love me some orange cake.  Also Benedictine-just-abour-anything.

One lucky commenter gets to pick a copy of any of my books.

The Wine Glass over the Water

Desgoffe detail God bless the King
I mean our faith’s defender.
God bless no harm in blessing the Pretender.
But who Pretender is, and who is King
God bless us all That’s quite another thing.
          John Byrom

Bonnie_young_princiJoanna, here, talking about an interesting sort of drinking glass our hero and heroine might have encountered in their travels through Georgian or Regency England.

The Jacobite Drinking Glass.

These are wine glasses that form a body of distinctive Eighteenth Century artwork.


We have these through a confluence of lucky chances.

First off, by 1700, English glassmaking was particularly advanced. 
A century before, the champion glassmakers were Venetian. The best glass in England was made by imported Italian glass artists, working by Italian methods. 

This changed when the English developed flint glass.  'Flint glass' contains a high proportion of lead oxide, an ingredient that makes for tough, workable, clear-as-water product.  Excellent stuff, in short.  And it was an English specialty.

I'd always wondered why this kind of glass was called 'flint glass'.  In researching for this blog, I found my answer.  In the spirit of 'I have done my research and now you are going to suffer for it', let me tell you about flint glass.

The 'flint' part of it comes from flint stone.  Flint is found in the South Downs chalk deposits of southeast England. Think 'White Cliffs of Dover'. Flint 2 wiki Wiki Seven_Sisters

When you go walking along around the South Downs, the ground underfoot is white, which is remarkable.  You're walking over exactly the kind of chalk you use on a blackboard.  In that chalk you find nodules of a brown, hard, glassy rock. 

The chalk is calcium carbonate from the skeletons of billions of microscopic algae and sea creatures. (You can thank these tiny sea critters next time you use chalk.) The calcium carbonate settled to the bottom of the ancient seas to become what geologists like to call 'a white ooze'.  So expressive.

Flint was laid down at the same time.  Flint comes from the remains of sponges and other bottom-dwelling denizens of the early sea that used silica as their support structure.  The silica gelled and flowed through the soft white calcium carbonite muck till it found a void left by the carapace of some crab or sea urchin or the tunnel of some burrower.  There, it settled in.  And, voilà, we have flint, sitting there in the chalk happy as a raisin in a plum pudding.

Flint is a heavy and smooth mineral.  Very glasslike.  Some of these flints fit three in your hand.  Some are big as cantaloupes.  They are just amazing stuff to pick up in the chalk matrix.

Yarmukian_Culture_-Sha'ar_HaGolan,_flint_arrowhead Our pretechnological ancestors found flint nifty stuff to chip into arrowheads and knives.  In the Seventeenth Century folks came up with a new use for it.  They ground it to produce pure, high-quality silica sand.  And silica sand is used for glassmaking.

Turns out, flint is just heavily endowed with lead oxide.  Glassmakers blowing this new sort of glass were doubtless delighted to discover their flint silica produced a heavy, strong, crystal-clear glass exactly suited for engraving.

Edward Dillion, in his book, Glass, talks of the this quintessentially English flint glass.

"The Venetians in the preparation of their cristallo laid great stress on the hard white pebbles, the cogoli, from the bed of the Po or of the Ticino; these they regarded as an essential constituent of a good glass. We in England, during the reign of Charles II, succeeded in replacing these pebbles by our native flints; and this English flint-glass, properly so-called, early acquired a good reputation on the Continent." Airstem glass from v&a detail

Georgian artistic sensibilities and this perfect medium for their expression led to some of the most beautiful glassware ever created.  The slender stem of the glass in the Georgian years holds the bowl upward like a flower.  Just lovely.  The flint glass was absolutely transparent and brilliant.  The refractive index, which is close to that of natural crystal, fills cut surfaces with fire.

Amen glass metro










A characteristic elaboration arises at this time.  There was an older custom of putting a single 'tear drop' shape of air in the stem . . . see it in the example of an 'amen' glass from the Met there on the left.  (More about amen glasses later.)

In the Georgian era, artisans elaborated that single tear drop into twisting lines of light that run the length of the glass stem.  The example at the right is from the Victoria & Albert.  

These bright lines are tiny specks of air, made by pricking a line of bubbles into a rod of heat-softened glass, covering the bubbles with a film of molten glass, and then drawing the glass out thin.  The spiral is produced by twisting and stretching the rod of molten glass.  The twist descends from right to left. Glass in met

A swirl of white ribbons, like in this example on the right, from the Met, would be made by bundling thin, opaque white rods of glass with rods of clear glass, heating, twisting, and drawing out the bundle.  This was very much a Venetian manner of handling glass and doubtless learned from those imported Venetian artisans.

After 1746, the fancification of drinking glasses was helped along by a whopping large excise tax on glass production. 

This is one of those unforeseen outcomes politicians delight us with from time to time.  The glass tax was charged on weight, so producers found it advantageous to 'add value' and sell the final product for a higher price.  The tax was the same for a plain glass sold cheaply or an engraved one sold for much more.  Taxation in support of the fine arts, as it were. 

Summing it up . . . the Eighteenth Century aesthetic gave us English drinking vessels of exceptional quality light, airy, and elegant.  Flint glass provided strength and clarity.  And the English were part of a centuries-old European tradition of engraving on metal that could now be applied to glass. 

Thus, drinking glasses that were works of art.  And since there was this plethora of innovative and delicate artistry lying about, the British immediately put it to use making political statements.  Glasses were engraved with 'No Excise,' or ' Wilkes and Liberty' or 'No 45'.  And among the other political glasses, they made Jacobite glasses.
In England aKing_James_II_from_NPGt this time, the term 'Jacobite' meant a follower of the house of Stuart.  The word Jacobite comes from Jacobus, which is Latin for James.  In this case, the James is James II of England, who was deposed from the English throne in 1688.  Here he is to the left.  One suspects this portrait was not painted by an admirer.
Jacobites attempted to return the Stuarts to the throne in 1689, 1690, Jacobites 1708, 1715, 1719 and, finally and disastrously, 1745.  For close to a century, Jacobites stubbornly schemed.  Secret societies met and pledged loyalty to the Stuarts.  Plots to overthrow William III, Anne, George I, or George II were brainstormed.  Treasonous toasts were drunk to the King in exile; first to James II, then to his son, then to his grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Glasses were raised 'to his Majesty', and passed above a bowl of water. making this a pledge to 'the King over the water'.

Then all leap'd up, and joined their hands
With hearty clasp and greeting,
The brimming cups, outstretched by all,
Over the wide bowl meeting.

"A health," they cried, "to witching eyes
Of Kate, the landlord's daughter!
But don't forget the white, white rose
That grows best over the water."

"But never forget the white, white rose
That grows best over the water."
Then hats flew up and swords sprang out.
And lusty rang the chorus —

"Never," they cried, "while Scots are Scots,
And the broad Frith's before us."
          The White Rose Over the Water, 1744

Sometimes, they lifted what we call, 'Jacobite glasses', in these dangerous toasts.  

Bolder Jacobites engraved their drinking vessels with symbols or words that showed their loyalty to the Wineglasses v&a with light background Stuart cauAmen 2 glass in V&Ase and their hopes for its restoration.  This sort of Jacobite glass didn't survive the years without a good bit of winnowing.  (One imagines them hastily smashed in the night as government forces search the house.) Glasses that can be identified as bearing Jacobite designs are rare among Eighteenth century glass. 

This led to a lively market in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century fakes.  New engraving was done on genuine Georgian glass.  Very difficult to detect.  Recent scholarship finds the works of forgers in the best museums, including the Victoria & Albert and the Museum of London.

What was engraved on a Jacobite glass? 
Jacobite mottos, for one thing.  Probably the commonest Stuart motto was 'Fiat' 'so be it', or 'make it so'.  (Think Jean-Luc Picard.)  Also used:  Redeat. May he return.  Redditi. Restore!  Revirescit.  It revives.  'Turno tempus erit.'   There shall be a time. 

One group of glasses the most famous and among the earliest are the 'amen' glasses.  The one above  and to the left is from the V&A.  There's another from the Met further up.  Amen glasses show two to four verses of the Jacobite version of 'God Save the King', a crown, and the word 'Amen'. 

God Save the King I pray,
God Bless the King I pray
God Save the King
Send him Victorious,
Happy and Glorious

Soon to reign over us
God Save the King.

God Bless the Prince Of Wales Pettie-Jacobites-1745
The True-born Prince of Wales

Sent us by Thee
Grant us one favour more
The King for to restore 

As Thou hast done before

The Familie.

God save the Church I pray 

And bless the Church I pray

Pure to remain 

Against all Heresie 

And Whigs Hypocrisie 

Who strive maliciouslie

Her to defame.

God bless the Subjects all 

And save both great and small

In every Station 

That will bring home the King 

Who hath best right to reign

It is the only thing
Can save the Nation.

There are 37 known 'Amen' glasses.  Modern forensic scholarship, looking at the handwriting, suggests the work of a single hand, a Scots artist and line engraver, Sir Richard Strange, between 1743 and 1749.  For more information and pictures, see here.

And Jacobite symbols?

White rose 2wiki The most frequent was an open rose and two white buds, representing James II and his son and grandson.  You can't see it very well, but there's an example of this on the glass above with the opaque swir stem.

What else?  Oak leaves and acorns represented Charles Stuart's escape from his pursuers by hiding in an oak tree.  The thistle would stand for the Stuart's Scottish heritage.  A crown for kingship. 


A compass could symbolize true direction and loyalty.  A sunflower or a sun, the restoration of the Stuart kings.  A star, the birth of Bonnie Prince Charlie. 
(When the glass was raised to toast the Stuarts, the star, representing  Bonnie Prince Charming, rose also.)

A butterfly or moth would stand for regeneration and rebirth.  On one 'Amen' glass, the figure '8' hides among the scrollwork to represent the son of James II who would have been James VIII of Scotland.

This is way too many symbols.  It's been pointed out the Jacobites could have used a marketing consultant. 

Since we're talking about roses . . . I'll send one lucky commenter in the comment trail a signed copy of my book, Forbidden Rose.  it has nothing whatsoever to do with drinking glasses or the restoration of the Aaajapanese fb Stuarts, but it has a fine picture of a rose on the cover. 

So tell me . . .  what secret society — real or imagined — would you like a heroine or hero to belong to?