My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915 Chapter V: Country House Visits is in My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915.
I am sure that even the most unromantic and democratic person in these unromantic and democratic days feels some pride when he sees those stately houses which have cradled the great families of England. I have an affection, amounting to veneration, for the English ancestral home, especially when it is still in the possession of the descendants of the man who built it. Such places belong in a measure to the dead ; and if the dead return they find the dim old rooms and echoinor halls sacred to them, and not given over to some moneyed vulgarian who has bought what he merely considers a " desirable property". I often wonder whether the walls shrink when an old house passes into such hands.
My country-house visits are associated with many happy memories, and country-house visits were important events when I was a girl. It was an understood thing for people to go to certain houses at certain times, a yearly institution, only disturbed by marriages or deaths. We did not expect the constant change which seems so essential now ; we made and kept our friends in those conservative Early Victorian days ; we enjoyed ourselves in a quiet way ; husbands did not go North and wives South ; we used our bedpillows to sleep on and not to fight with — in short, if the modern ddbuiantc had to stay in the country-house as it was sixty years ago she would probably think Society was about on a level with a maiden aunt's views.
After my gay season of 1842 and the innumerable balls and parties which my dear mother seemed to enjoy as much as I did, we went to Cowes, where we spent a delightful month. Mamma gave a ball for me at the King's House, a former residence of George IV., which we had taken that year ; it is now pulled down and replaced by a hideous row of houses, which I regard as an eyesore when I remember the house where I spent so many happy days.
From Cowes we went to stay with the Ailesburys at Savernake, and then to Badminton, where the Beauforts had a large family party. The church was attached to the house, and one actually walked out of the library into the Parish Church, where the roomy Beaufort pew was well warmed by a fire. I remember going with the Duchess, my mother, and Lord Cantelupe (27) to see Berkeley Castle, a most interesting but very uncomfortable draughty old place. I afterwards heard that Colonel Berkeley (55), whose name figured in certain scandals of the Regency, had spent much of his time there with the numerous frail ladies who found him irresistible.
From Badminton we went on a visit to Lord Forester at Willey Park, Shropshire, where I met Lady Jersey (56) and her daughter, Lady Clementina Villiers (18).
Lady Jersey was the greatest grande dame in London Society, and her house in Berkeley Square was the centre of the Tory party. She knew all the artistic and literary celebrities of the day, and her popularity was most remarkable. Lady Clementina Villiers (18) was a beautiful and accomplished girl, and everybody loved her. Once when some one said to her father (68) that " no one was perfect", Lord Jersey (68) replied : " There is one who is perfect — there is Clementina (18)". Many suitors proposed for her, a most persistent one being the Duke d'Ossuna, a grandee of Spain, and an immensely rich man. He must have been deeply in love with the beautiful English girl, for he used to keep many drawings and portraits of Lady Clementina in his palace at Madrid.
"Those whom the gods love die young", and so it was with Clementina Villiers ; she was taken ill during a visit to Germany with her mother and only returned to England to die.
Her portraits were in all the " Books of Beauty " of the day, but although they faithfully portray her perfect features, they cannot convey the beauty of colour and changing expression that were her greatest charms.
In the autumn of 1844 we went to Bretby, the seat of the Earl of Chesterfield (38), where we spent a most enjoyable time. There was a large house-party, among many others the Duke (44) and Duchess (26) of Montrose, Mr. (37) and Lady Sophia des Voeux, Lord Alvanley (54), and the Count de Nieukerke, who was the recognised lover of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte (23). M. de Nieukerke was a very charming man, and he was much struck by my singing, and used to compare me with George Sand's heroine — Consuelo — for I was a very pretty girl with a slight, but fine figure, and long hair that fell in curls below my knees.
On my second visit to Bretby I remember we acted De Musset's play, Le Caprice. Lady Chesterfield's (41) daughter, Evelyn Stanhope (9), afterwards Countess of Carnarvon, and Miss Anson (12), afterwards Countess Howe, took the girls' parts, and I was the hero. Lady Dufferin coached me and, what was very important, taught me to sit down like a man ! My costume was an olla podrida of other people's garments, for I wore Lady Chesterfield's (41) riding-trousers, Lord Cleveden's coat and waistcoat, one of Lord Chesterfield's (38) shirts, and a curly wig put the finishing-touch to the character. Le Caprice was a great success, and we were highly pleased with ourselves.
Bretby was the scene of the enforced retirement of the lovely Lady Chesterfield, whose jealous husband brought her thither from the Court of Charles II De Grammont followed her, and I have often sat in the summer-house, described in his " Memoirs", where he patiently waited for his inamorata to pass by.
When we left Bretby, we posted to Lord Howe's at Gopsall, twenty miles away, where we found another large party. Lord Howe (47) had married Lord Cardigan's (46) sister, and his three daughters were named, not after his or her relatives, but after three of his former loves ; Lady Georgina Fane (42), Queen Adelaide (51), and Emily Bagot. A propos of Lord Howe's (47) affection for the Queen Dowager (51), the story goes that when some malicious scandal-mongers circulated a rumour that she had had a child by him, everybody exclaimed, " Lord ! How(e) can it be ? ".
Lady Victoria Talbot (12), who was staying at Gopsall, was very much in love with Lord Anson (48), and was always trying to make a sketch of him. I got tired of seeing impressions of the Anson profile, full face, three-quarter face, lying about as thick as leaves in Vallambrosa ; but Lady Victoria (12) went on blissfully sketching, until one morning her mother (36) discovered the work of the love-smitten amateur artist. " Who did these .'^ " she demanded, thinking somebody was Anson mad. Lady Victoria (12) apparently dreaded confession, for the Countess (36) seemed by her manner to consider sketching young men rather a fast proceeding. Lady Victoria cast an appealing glance at me — "Miss de Horsey did them, mamma!" I accepted the lie, and after that the Anson sketching mania died a natural death.
We usually spent Christmas at Beaudesert, Lord Anglesey's (75) lovely old place. We were always a merry party, and we dined in the large hall, which is one of the chief features of the house. Lord Anglesey (75) was very fond of me, and used to write to me as " My dear Prima Donna ! " Some of the friends staying at Beaudesert were Lord (38) and Lady Sydney (33), Lord (52) and Lady Winchilsea, Lord (25) and Lady Desart (22), Lord Anson (48), Lord Ward, M. and Madame Dietrichstein, and the Duke of Northumberland (51), then Lord Percy. In 1846 I was bridesmaid to Lady Constance Paget (20), who married Lord Winchilsea (28) ; and my great friend, Florence Paget (1), afterwards married the last Marquis of Hastings (1).
Louis Napoleon (65) was a frequent visitor at Beaudesert, and he used to ask me to sing Schubert's " Adieu " to him every evening ; perhaps it recalled some memory of happier days. He was a charming man, alway courtesy itself, and he (65) possessed the art of making a compliment as only a Frenchman can. When one evening he was asked now he liked the house, he replied, "Jaime beaucoup Beaudesert, mais", turning to Lady Desart (22), "encore plus la belle Desart"..
There was no hunting or shooting at Beaudesert, and our amusements were very simple ones. After lunch we walked over Cannock Chase, and those ladies who did not care for walking rode sturdy little ponies. We returned to tea, and after dinner there was music, cards or dancing. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and nobody was bored, although we did not smoke cigarettes, lose money at Bridge, or scour the country in motor-cars to kill time.
Belvoir Castle was another delightful place I stayed at, and I remember the fifth Duke of Rutland (64) drinking my health on my eighteenth birthday. His son, the Marquis of Granby (28), was a man of consummate tact and presence of mind. At one of the house-parties there was a pretty young married lady with whom he was greatly smitten, and having received every encouragement, he paid a visit to her room after she had retired. The lady was asleep, and just as the Marquis (28) was about to rouse her, the door opened, and the husband, whom he supposed to be otherwise engaged, appeared unexpectedly on the scene. It was an embarrassing moment, but the Marquis (28), who was equal to the occasion, held up a warning finger and exclaimed in an anxious whisper, " Hush ! don't disturb her, she is fast asleep ; I was passing, and I thought I smelt fire — but all's well". The husband thanked him with honest gratitude, and doubtless felt all the happier for being under the roof of such a solicitous host.
Before going back to town from Belvoir Castle, my mother and I stayed one day at the Old Club on the invitation of Sir James Musgrave and John Moore. It was New Year's Eve, and the bells which rang in the New Year must have continued all night, for I never got any sleep, and so the morning of January 1, 1843, found me very tired, and not in the best of tempers !.
We spent many week-ends at Cassiobury with Lord and Lady Essex [Note. presumed to refer to before 1838 when Lady Essex died?], and as it is only seventeen miles from London, we found it most accessible, and used to go there in the winter as well as the summer.
Cassiobury was the scene of a practical joke which originated with Henry Blackwood (24), who was staying there one summer. Some very self-important young men had been invited for the week-end, and Henry Blackwood (24) thought it would be great fun to enact the part of highwaymen and stop their travelling-carriage as they were driving through the lonely park. He enlisted two other kindred spirits to help him, and, of course, the whole house-party was in the secret.
We were all full of conjectures as to how these young bloods would face the highway-men. They would naturally be startled, we thought, but as they were (according to themselves) such ultra-superior people, we could not imagine them behaving, even under such conditions, in any other than an ultra-superior way. The eventful evening was fine and dark, and we all went to the place destined for the scene of the robbery, and hid under cover, patiently waiting for the fun to begin. Henry Blackwood (24) and his friends were disguised beyond recognition, and did indeed look desperadoes of the road.
At last the faint noise of wheels in the distance was heard, and as they drew nearer we were breathless with expectation. The travelling-carriage was dimly discernible — it approached — Henry Blackwood (24) rushed forward to the horses' heads, while his friends told the trembling post-boys to drive on at their peril. Needless to say the carriage was at once brought to a standstill, one highwayman stood by the two horses, and Henry Blackwood (24) went to the carriage door and told the occupants to alight, and hand over their valuables.
We thought that the crucial momen had arrived for our superior friends to assert themselves, but we were speedily disillusioned, for the young men, who were giving vent to a series of frightened squeaks, were terrified out of their wits. " Spare our lives", they cried in an imploring chorus, " and you can take everything we have!" "Spare our lives", they kept on repeating as they handed over their money, watches and jewellery to the merciless Henry. At last, half dead with fear, they were allowed to enter the carriage, which was driven away as though pursued by the devil.
When we emerged from our hiding-place and saw the booty, we were highly amused, and, I may say, very disgusted at the cowardice shown by the superior young men. It was a difficult task to enact the part of sympathetic listeners later in the evening, and hear a very much embroidered account of the dozens of highwaymen who infested the Park, armed to the teeth and apparently villains of the deepest dye.
The feelings of the young cowards can be easily imagined when next morning, at breakfast, Henry Blackwood (24) returned them their belongings "with the compliments of the high-waymen", and the suppressed laughter which greeted the announcement made them feel very small indeed. They left later in the day, but the story got about, and they never felt so superior afterwards.
My last recollection of Cassiobury was in 1849, when I stayed there after the announcement of my engagement to the Count Montemolin (25). The great Lord Brougham (65) was included in the house-party, and one day when he was walking in the gardens, talking about my approaching marriage, he suddenly dropped on one knee, and taking my hand, kissed it, saying as he did so, " Let me be the first to kiss your hand as future Queen of Spain"..
This somewhat theatrical behaviour was exactly what Lord Brougham (65) delighted in. He was a very ugly man, and like most ugly people he was very vain. He was a wonderful speaker, and few cared to provoke his powers of sarcasm ; Hazlitt describes him as "a man of inordinate ambition and little heart" ; but he certainly possessed some heart, for he adored his daughter Eleanor, who died at Cannes when she was only nineteen. The poor girl was an invalid all her short life, and her father resided at Cannes solely on her account. He built the Villa Eleanor for her, and until Lord Brougham's death her bedroom was always known as "Eleanor's room", and kept exactly as it had been when she occupied it.
The Villa is now an hotel, and Cannes is very different to what it was when Lord Brougham settled there. He told me that the town had only one hotel and one street when he first saw it.
Eleanor Brougham's body was brought to England, and she was buried in the small graveyard which belongs to Lincoln's Inn Chapel. I do not think any other woman has ever been interred there. The Marquis of Wellesley wrote her epitaph, and I believe it is a very beautiful and touching one.
I remember an amusing incident that happened when I was staying with Lord (44) and Lady Wilton at Egerton Lodge Melton Mowbray. Lord Wilton was a very handsome, fascinating man, and his numerous love affairs had gained for him the title of the " The Wicked Earl", in fact, many of the country people never called him anything else.
One Sunday Lady Wilton and I went to church unaccompanied by Lord Wilton (44), who, whatever his failings might be, was usually most strict in his religious observances. Melton Church was then a very old-fashioned edifice, with high pews ; and the clerk, who sat directly underneath the vicar's seat, was considered quite an important factor in the services.
I saw the clerk look at us as we entered the church, and he evidently noticed Lord Wilton's absence, but I was not prepared for what followed. The vicar duly commenced, "When the wicked ", but he was stopped by the clerk, who turned to him, and looking across at Lord Wilton's vacant seat said in a loud voice, "Please, sir, his Lordship's not come yet!".
The old Duchess of Cambridge (46) was one of the house-party at Egerton Lodge, and she very good-naturedly offered to take care of me on my journey to London, as we were both leaving the same clay. We travelled together, and directly the train started, the Duchess opened a large reticule and took out a German sausage which she devoured with great relish, cutting slices off it with a silver knife, with which she transferred them to her mouth.
I frequently went to Wittley, Lord Ward's (26) place, and I remember his eccentric brother, Dudley Ward (23), once getting up at dinner and hitting him without any provocation.
Lord Ward (26) had very curly hair, which could never be induced to lie smoothly on his head. I remember when he stayed at Deene after I married Cardigan (46) that his valet suddenly left, giving as his reason for so doing that he thought his Lordship (26) was going mad. It appears that the man had gone unexpectedly into his master's bedroom, and found him sitting in his bath with his HAT on. This seemed such an odd proceeding that the valet, who was a new servant, decided to leave at once and seek employment with a less eccentric master.
The reason Lord Ward wore his hat was solely to try and keep his rebellious curls in order !.
After my dear mother's death I visited a great deal with my father (53), and one year we went for the shooting to Lord Huntingfield's place, Heveningham Hall. I slept in the bedroom once occupied by the famous Chevalier d'Éon, who had been a frequent guest at Heveningham, and about whom there were many stories told. It was said that the Chevalier was the one and only lover of cross-grained Queen Charlotte, and that her son, George IV, was the result of their intimacy, although his paternity was of course admitted by King George III. The animosity always displayed by the old Queen to her grand-daughter, Princess Charlotte, was supposed to arise from the fact that as heiress to the throne she innocently dispossessed the other Royal Dukes from the succession. It is certainly a fact that the Princess's untimely death in childbirth was attributed to foul play at the time, and when later the accoucheur Sir Richard Croft, committed suicide, all classes of society were loud in condemnation of the Queen and the Prince Regent. I do not vouch for the accuracy of Queen Charlotte's love affair. I only give the Heveningham gossip as I heard it.
As D'Eon was undoubtedly one of the most picturesque and mysterious personages ot the eighteenth century I was naturally interested in these somewhat scandalous stories.
The Chevalier died when he was eighty-three years of age, after a most extraordinary career. He was at one time aide-de-camp to the Comte de Broglie, and fought in the French army ; but later on for some mysterious reason he discarded man's attire and passed as a woman for thirty-four years. Often when I went into my room I half expected to see a ghostly figure seated at the escritoire where the Chevalier wrote his secret cipher communications, and I wondered whether the brocade crowns and frills and furbelows that he wore as a woman had ever hung in the old wardrobe which I used.
My father and I also stayed with the Westmorlands at Apethorpe Hall ; we visited the Earl (38) and Countess of Chichester (36) at Stanmer Park, and we were welcome guests at Cadlands, Silverlands, Chiswick House, West Park, and my uncle Lord Stradbroke's place, Henham Hall, which was afterwards burnt down.
I had visited Deene Park with my mother in 1842, but I must deal with my future home in the chapter devoted to Deene and its associations.