What more perfect way to conclude a trip to Jane Austen's England than a week in Bath? Here on the River Avon we finished our 2018 JASNA tour. After the rest of our group went off to the airport, I settled in for a few days exploring at leisure and finishing a project I had saved for the ambiance of the lovely Francis Hotel on Queen Square.
We toured all the usual sights.
The Roman Baths: Aqua Sulis
Great Pulteney Street.
One of the many spots in the hills overlooking the city where the views are delightful.
The Royal Crescent. Note the dry grass, in that hot dry summer of 2018.
The Upper Assembly Rooms.
In the evening, we attended a Society Soiree, with a number of our ladies in their Regency gowns, held at Sir Walter Elliot's House, 95 Sydney Place.
We had wine and nibbles in the garden, which clearly shows higgeldy piggeldy arrangement of the backs of these houses, which are so perfectly matched as terraces on the street side.
We enjoyed a musicale and a lovely buffet. Miss Cholmondeley and Mr. Featherstonehaugh entertained us and it was indeed "good company."
We noted the boots in the foyer as we made our adeius.
The George Inn, located in Norton St. Philip, Somerset, claims to be England's oldest continuously operating inn. On the 2018 JASNA tour of England, we stopped here for a refreshing drink. And because a scene from the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion was filmed here.
Captain Wentworth and Anne at breakfast in The George Inn. Most of the film was shot in Bath, only a dozen or so miles away.
No, none of the film was shot here, but you could book this room if you visited.
Here is the sign on the outside. And below, one on the inside.
As you can see above, The George Inn claims to be England's oldest pub, but if you google the term, you will find some from before the 12th century. Perhaps it is the "continuously" aspect they rely upon. Whatever, it has a fascinating history, also on an interior sign.
Now, of course, I wish I had purchased that book.
Nevertheless, it is a charming and scenic spot.
I could definitely see myself at this window-side table with a blazing fire across the room, writing up a storm. And locking the manuscript away in this lovely old desk.
And for a little fresh air, I could take a hike among the areas many pathways.
But instead, I boarded our comfy bus with my fellow Janeites to finish our trip from Lyme Regis to Bath. Spoiler alert: I got a lot of writing done in Bath! As you will soon see.
Usually I am quick to jump on the carousel when I hear of a Waterloo-related film or mini-series. But I must have been asleep because I totally missed out on the announcements of the new Amazon Prime series VANITY FAIR, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackery, originally published as a multi-episode serial in 1847-48.
Olivia Cooke stars as Becky Sharpe, one of English literature's most intriguing characters, the heroine you love to hate or hate to love, either way. The seven-part series began in September 2018 and is available on Amazon Prime. Go directly to your tv and do whatever is necessary to find it. You can always binge watch on a free trial membership, I suppose.
Becky schemes to raise herself in the corrupt, shallow, and hypocritical Society of Regency England, searching for a husband who can afford her ambitions. Above she is greeting her school friend Amelia Sedley, played by Claudia Jessie, and Amelia's sweetheart George Osborne, played by Charlie Rowe.
One of my favorite British actors, Martin Clunes (of Doc Martin), is cast as the obnoxious Sir Pitt Crawley, a baronet who brings Becky to his household as a governess and has designs on her himself.
Becky, however, marries Rawdon Crawley, son of Sir Pitt, which enrages their rich relative, Miss Matilda Crawley, endangering Becky's plans for a rich and comfortable life.
Sir Pitt, Matilda (Frances de la Tour), Becky, Rawdon (Tom Bateman)...this quartet is not even slightly harmonious, as this picture might infer.
Complicating the personal stories of the characters, now in Brussels, the war continues...and concludes with the Battle of Waterloo.
Peace brings only more complications and skulduggery.
Presiding over the vanity fair is the ever-delightful Michael Palin, who provides the context for this tale of unscrupulous ambition, greed, immorality, and--spoiler alert--no happy endings
The costumes, as you have seen above, are outstanding...as are the settings. The Sedley home is located in London and is played by a townhouse in Fitzroy Square, one of the few places in the metropolis where you can absolutely FEEL the Regency still alive.
Marble Hill House, in Richmond, within Greater London, serves as the residence of Miss Matilda Crawley...by the way, the film refers to her as Lady Matilda, but in the novel she is a 'mere' Miss. Marble Hill House has a fascinating history in itself, one I shall explore with you soon. Below, Rawdon tends to his Aunt Matilda in the lavish bedchamber.
The setting for Sir Pitt's house is West Horsley Place in Sussex.
Vanity Fair has been filmed many times. One reason might be that Becky Sharp is such a wonderful, dastardly character that actresses beg to play the role. Until I saw this version, my favorite starred Natasha Little and was produced in six episodes in 1998. I recommend this version too, for once you experience Vanity Fair, you will want to do it again!
With a screenplay by Andrew Davies, you know it is going to be excellent!
Montacute House is a late Elizabethan building now owned by the National Trust. On the second floor, the long gallery is the site of exhibitions of portraits from London's National Portrait Gallery.
Guests wander among the exhibits and admire the 16th century architecture. The house had minimal alterations over the years. The exhibition portrays one branch of today's royal family tree.
Elizabeth [Stuart] of Bohemia (1596-1662), was the oldest daughter of James VI and I, King of Scotland, England, and Ireland. James I succeeded Queen Elizabeth I, after her death in 1603. Elizabeth Stuart's elder brother was Henry Stuart, who died at age 18 in 1612. Thus her younger brother Charles became the heir to the throne(s), eventually Charles I. When Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, died in 1714, George I became king. He was Elizabeth of Bohemia's grandson, the first of the House of Hanover.
Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662), portrayed by an unknown artist in 1613. Elizabeth Stuart's mother was Anne of Denmark, and Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587). She wears a black armband, signifying her mourning for her brother Henry, Prince of Wales.
Frederick V King of Bohemia and Elector Palatine (1596-1632) painted by Gerrit van Honthorst posthumously (1635) and in Roman Garb, to indicate his status in the Holy Roman Empire. At their marriage in 1613. Elizabeth outranked her husband, who was officially Elector Palatine of the Rhine in the HRE. They resided in the palace at Heidelberg. Amidst serious conflict between Protestants and Catholics, in 1619, he was crowned King of Bohemia in Prague. In less than a year, battles of the Thirty Years War unseated him. Exile in the Hague ended for him at his death in 1632 of a fever, age only 36, leaving Elizabeth a widow with ten children, one less than a year old.
Prince Rupert (1619-1682) was their third son, a fighter for Protestant causes and eventually a Royalist commander in the English Civil War. In later years, he encouraged his mother to return to England where she died in 1662. This painting is also by van Honthorst, who resided in The Hague with Elizabeth's court in exile. His paintings were commissioned to advance the interests of her family and especially to promote their advantageous marriages. Prince Rupert, however, never married, though he had two long-term mistresses and a child with each of them, both of whom he acknowledged. He had a long career, after the Restoration, as an Admiral in the navy.
Elizabeth, Princess Palatine (1618-80), by van Honthorst, was the Winter Queen's eldest daughter. She had an intellectual bent, and corresponded for many years with French Philosopher Rene Descartes, who dedicated his Principia to her in 1644. She also resisted her mother's matchmaking and many eager suitors. She became the Abbess of a Protestant Abbey in Westphalia. The youngest daughter, Sophia, married Ernest Augustus of Brunswick-Luneburg in 1658, and became an Electress of Hanover. Her son became George I of Great Britain after the death of Queen Anne in 1714.
Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and Electress Palatine (1596-1662) From the studio of van Honthorst, c. 1642. Portrayed in mourning for her husband who died in 1632, she wore black all her life. Over the years, as her cause of reclaiming the Palatinate failed, her income declined. Married at age 16 and widowed at 36, she was the goddaughter of Elizabeth I, daughter of James I, sister of Charles I, and grandmother of George I.
Also on display at Montacute House are works from the National Portrait Gallery Collection of Elizabeth I and her circle and the court of James I. Above, Elizabeth I by an unknown artist, c. 1585-90, probably a copy provided to satisfy the widespread demand for images of the Great Queen. As she is often portrayed, she wears elegant and elaborate clothing and jewels.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532-1588), was close to the Queen and held several important crown posts. Again, this a period copy by an unknown artist, one of several.
James I of England and VI of Scotland (1566-1625) was the father of The Winter Queen and followed Elizabeth I, who had no husband or children, on the throne. This painting, by John de Critz the Elder, is dated 1605. According to the text panel, King James "...reportedly presented this portrait to Sir Edward Phelips, the builder of Montacute." He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots.
George Villiers (1592-1638) and his wife Katherine Manners (1603-1649) were 1st Duke and Duchess of Buckingham, with their children Mary and George, painted by an unknown artist after van Honthorst, 1628. Villiers was close to James I and became powerful and rich through his connections, founding a family that continues to the present.
This portrait of Princess Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and Electress Palatine (1596-1662), comes from the studio of Michiel Jansz. van Miereveldt, c. 1623. The text panel states, "A symbol of militant Protestantism in Europe, Elizabeth played on her association with her godmother and namesake; her supporters modelled themselves on chivalric knights and proclaimed allegiance to her as 'Queen of Hearts'."
Montacute House is an Elizabethan-era house in Somerset which I visited in July 2018 while on my way from Lyme Regis to Bath with the JASNA tour.
The West Front, above, was added to the house in 1787. The East Front, below, opens into the courtyard, now a garden and lawn. The house was built in the late Elizabethan period, about 1598, a typical Prodigy House of the era. The owner was Sir Edward Phelips (c.1555-1614), a wealthy lawyer and politician, Speaker of the House of Commons, one of the prosecutors of the 1605 Gunpowder Plotters, and later named Master of the Rolls.
The East Front exhibits an English Renaissance style, in the words of the website, the house "...must have seemed beyond the dreams of most of those who lived nearby, a work of astonishing splendour and pride...The architecture is a mix of two styles, the traditional Gothic and the new fashionable Renaissance...built on a grand scale with turrets, obelisks, shell niches, pavilions and walls of glass. On the east front stand the Nine Worthies, statues of biblical, classical and medieval figures, including Julius Caesar and King Arthur."
The Phelips family descendants lived at Montacute for more than 300 years before leasing it out in the early 20th century. Among the residents was Lord Curzon after his term as Viceroy of India. Once his wife died, he came to live at Montecute around 1915, sometimes with his mistress, the novelist Elinor Glyn. Lord Curzon installed modern plumbing, but only in his own bedroom.
The original plan of the house followed the medieval pattern of a Great Hall connected to subsequent more private chambers, without corridors. The remodeling of the house in the 18th century added a central corridor and the arrangement of rooms was altered.
Above, entrance into the Great Hall.
Above and below, views of the Great Hall.
Below, the Drawing Room. The portrait of three men hunting over the fireplace is by Daniel Gardner (1750-18050.
This drawing room was once a bedchamber; it is now furnished in the 18th century style. The red upholstered mahogany chairs are by William Linnell (1703-1763) of London, and were commissioned by Sir Richard Hoare for the drawing room at Barn Elms in 1753.
Above, the cabinet on a stand, left, is English, in the Japanese style, in lacquer and gilt, dating from the mid-18th century. The console table, at right, with the gilded eagle and marble top, dates from the mid-19th century.
The Library at Montacute House, Somerset ©National Trust Images/James Dobson. Most of the pictures were taken by me, but I failed to get a good overall shot of the former Great Chamber, now the library. Below, a corner detail, and the great fireplace.
Below, the Great Chamber/Library window with the arms of the family.
Montacute played the role of Cleveland House, the country home of Mr. and Mrs. Palmer in the 1995 film of Sense & Sensibility.
Garden views. The gardens with their quaint corner pavilions are lovely. Once probably used as small banqueting halls, the pavilions are empty now.
The Montacute Phelips Lions. Next week, the Long Gallery and an exhibition of portraits related to Queen Elizabeth II's ancestors, focusing on Elizabeth of Bohemia, 'The Winter Queen.'
Whatever possessed me me to try an epistolary story about Christmas in 1816 London? The challenge? Perhaps. I had the story all figured out, but it seemed -- well, lacking something. So I started over and put it into letters and diaries, in a truly antique style. Hope you will enjoy trying it out to see if it worked. But as the ads say, act now! The collection is $.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited. It will no longer be available after April 2019. Click on the notice below.
This is the cover image for my short story in the Christmas Ever After Anthology. It is a fashion plate from La Belle Assemblee, April, 1817. Here is a very brief blurb: 'Margaret is a wealthy heiress and Lawrence is a poor doctor . . . or is he?' Below are the portraits best representing how I visualize my primary characters. On the left is Lawrence Lannon, aspiring physician, in the guise of Hart Davis Jr. (1792-1854) painted in 1809 by Sir Thomas Lawrence, from the collection of Eton College. On the right is Thomas Sully's 1810 portrait of Margaret, actually Cornelia Mitchell Chamberlain, from the collection of Amherst College.
Epistolary novels have a very long history. Aphra Behn, (c.1640-1689) often credited as the first professional woman novelist, published the first in a trilogy mostly in letter format, in 1684. Samuel Richardson used the format, as did Jane Austen in several first drafts of her novels, and in Lady Susan as it was eventually published after Austen's death.
Two more recent best-sellers, 84 Charing Cross Road (actually not really fiction), published in 1970 by Helen Hanff, and the 2008 hit The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, were epistolary novels, and both were very successful films as well. You may be able to think of many more.
I am currently finishing up another short story, with the working title of Sarah and Paul, set in rural Sussex and in the town of Worthing on the coast. It should be included in the anthology Summer Escapes, to be an e-book published by Dreamstone Publishing in July 2019. So far it is not written in the form of letters! I'm also looking through my photographs to find a suitable background for the cover image. Not to mention searching for a better title. Below is a dilapidated grotto on the grounds of Calke Abbey, a model for a grotto in the story currently known as Sarah and Paul.
Guess I'll have to get back to you on the progress of these tasks!
After I showed you what I saw at my two visits to the Downton Abbey exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida, I thought I'd feature this week my actual visit to the house that stars as the title character: Highclere Castle. It was September, 2014.
Above the main entrance (and reportedly in the dining room) is the family motto of the Earls of Carnarvon: UNG IE SERUIRAY, which (again reportedly) is Norman/French for 'Only One I Serve.' Suitably problematic to interpret?? Which ONE?
The facilities, including luncheon area and tempting shops, supply all your needs.
In the distance, the legendary source of British wealth, the ubiquitous sheep. Also required for the landscapes of Capability Brown, who laid out this park in 1770-71.
Another requirement of Brown's designs, a typical folly, a faux-ruin known as Jackdaw's Castle. Below, the house from Jackdaw's Castle.
Views of the lovely walled garden full of early roses.
We toured the main floor of Highclere Castle, seeing many of the rooms used to film Downton Abbey. Since no interior pictures were allowed (WHY??), I have appended a few selections from internet sources. On the HC site you can take a 360-degree tour and even download an app with all the information.
The main hall in which the family often gathers in the series.
The Dining Room.
Cora, Lady Grantham, and the Dowager Countess in Cora's boudoir.
In its present form, Highclere Castle was designed by Sir Charles Berry (1795-1860), the architect of the Houses of Parliament and constructed in the (neo) Jacobean style in the There is much more of interest in the history of Highclere Castle. Enjoy their website at
Here I am being greeted by Carson, the Butler, welcoming me to the Downton Abbey Exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida. Actually I have visited it twice and loved it both times!
Costumes, sets, many REAL objects, all carefully curated to present an interactive experience, makes this exhibition worth more than a second visit to be honest. Much of it is touchable! Below, the radio and the telephone.
On the left, above, checks; and right top, 10 shilling note, below, a one pound note.
If only Maggie Smith had been there to describe this costume for her role as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham...
Or I would have settled for Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley to tell me about WWI service .
Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson holding a meeting in his office?
While Mrs. Patmore and Daisy prepared meals in the kitchen.
The sets reproduced in this exhibition represent the sets from the series as constructed in the UK's Ealing Studios to appear as the rooms might have been years ago at Highclere Castle, the house that stars in the series. Many scenes are set at Highclere itself.
Above and below, Lady Mary Crawley's bedchamber.
Remember to click on the photos to enlarge them. Below, the costumes of Bates and Anna, valet and ladies maid to Lord ad Lady Grantham, in the set or the Servant's Hall.
More views of the Servant's Hall. They not only eat and work here; from time to time they gather around the piano to sing.
Probably most spectacular were the costumes, most accompanied by recorded discussions by the designers who used both period outfits and new creations made of period-accurate materials.
Wedding gowns were frequent and glorious!
I will leave it to fans of the series to sort out which season was which, with the time stretching from 1912 onward. I was far too captivated by the bling to study the labels, so shame on me.
The accessories -- jewelry, gloves and purses, and the hats were equally admirable.
The final scene was the dining room, reproduced from the original in Highclere Castle, but allowing for the cameras to move more freely. The screen behind the table shows the portrait of Charles I that hangs in the Castle one of many versions of the VanDyck painting. The changing screen also illustrated other aspects of the series. Below, an actual photo of the Highclere dining room.
You will never guess how the exhibition ends....the Gift Shop!
The view above is a 1935 painting of Wilton House by Rex Whistler (1905-1944). Inside, the house is replete with great works of art in multiple media. Many members of the Herberts, the Earls of Pembroke and their families, were avid collectors.
Rembrandt's Mother Reading, c. 1629, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), is one of the most famous paintings in the collection of Wilton House.
Above, Edward VI, school of Hans Holbein. The only son of Henry VIII, Edward VI (1537-1553) reigned only six years and died of lung disease at age fifteen. The first Earl of Pembroke served the Boy King as well as his half-sisters, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
Above are versions of Van Dyck's portraits of, left, the Children of Charles I, and right, Charles I. There are many more portraits of family and royalty in the Double Cube Room.
I found myself more interested in the portraits than the landscapes and other works. Below, a few more.
Above, Henriette de Querouaille, Countess of Pembroke, wife of Philip, 7th Earl, and sister of Louise, mistress of Charles II and mother of the 1st Duke of Richmond. The portrait was painted by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680) and hangs on the chimney-piece in the Single Cube Room.
Catherine Woronzow, Countess of Pembroke, (1783-1856) second wife of the 11th Earl, married in 1808, and is referred to in the guide book as the "unsung heroine" of Wilton House. She was the daughter of Count Woronzow, Russian /ambassador to Britain. James Wyatt, architect, had made many changes to Wilton House beginning in the early 19th century, helping to turn the house into a modern residence. However, he had also gained the title "Destroyer" in some eyes. After he was dismissed in 1810, the Countess supervised the completion of the rebuilding and redecoration. One of her projects was to purchase William Kent furniture from the Wanstead House auction for the State Rooms; another was to design new landscape gardens. She was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Elizabeth Spencer Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1737-1831) and Her Son, by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1764.
Elizabeth Beauclerk (1766-93), first wife of the 11th Earl of Pembroke, was painted by Sir William Beechey.
Wilton House, near Salisbury in Wiltshire is renowned for its architecture, interiors, treasured artworks, and all the elegancies associated with the most distinguished of Britain’s stately homes. And, like some of the others, it is frequently the scene of major filming for cinema and television. The South Façade is the location of the State Apartments created by James Wyatt in the early 19th century, replacing the 17th century arrangement of rooms by Architect Inigo Jones (1573-1665) and his assistant Isaac de Caux.
Above, Wilton’s Double Cube Room plays Buckingham Palace in episodes of The Crown on Netflix. Below, it doubles for Pemberley in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.
Two more films shot at Wilton, among many others. Below. left. The Madness of King George; right, Outlander, season two, used the Double Cube Room for the Palace of Versailles.
The Double Cube Room, originally called The King's Great Room, is sixty feet long by thirty feet wide and thirty feet high. The magnificence of the room defies description! The ceiling decoration is clearly in the baroque style.
The central ceiling panels show three views of the legend of Perseus painted by Emmanuel de Critz. The twelve-foot coving was decorated with swags, urns, and putti by Edward Pierce, a frequent collaborator with Architect Inigo Jones. They are dated c.1653.
Below, the painting for which the room was designed, a Family Portrait of the 4th Earl of Pembroke and his family by Van Dyck. Numerous other portraits by Van Dyck and his studio adorn the walls.
The Double- and Single-Cube Rooms were part of the State Rooms in which the monarch was to visit and mingle with Lord Pembroke, his family, friends, and retainers. The Single Cube Room, below, was the first of the State Rooms and led into the Double Cube. The furniture is by Chippendale, added in the 18th century.
Above, the Single Cube Room, 30 x 30 x 30 feet. Below, the Great Ante Room, added in the 18th century, and is sometimes thought of as James Wyatt's homage to Inigo Jones.
The King's Bed Chamber and King's Closet were redecorated in the 18th c. for the visit of George III and Queen Charlotte in 1778. Many priceless masterworks hang on the walls.
Returning to the currently used entrance on the North Front, visitors arrive in the Front Hall designed by James Wyatt in 1809. Who better to greet us than The Bard himself. According to the Guidebook, the statue "recalls the 2nd Earl's and his wife Mary Sidney's patronage of literary men and of Shakespeare above all."
Wyatt also redesigned the Upper Cloisters in a Gothic style to house treasured sculptures in natural light. The Dining Room, below, was very recently redesigned and redecorated. Sadly, I had forgotten my dinner invitation.
Numerous other rooms, more than one could count, are worthy of attention. I particularly liked the Large Smoking Room, redecorated by the current Lady Pembroke in 2017. The picture on the left below was taken before the new color scheme was installed. On the right is the yellow moiréed silk now on the walls. The huge bookcase, from the workshops of Chippendale, is a temptation I could hardly survive. What is tucked away inside?
I also found a picture, but did not actually see, the library, also recently redone and reserved for the private use of the family.
Imagine how much work you could get done here -- once you had examined the art and furniture and gazed out the windows for a month or two!
Next time, a look at more of the artwork at Wilton House.
Victoria Hinshaw, Author