Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Brimstone Butterfly's Hampton Court: The Windsor Beauties (Revised)


The Communication Gallery at Hampton Court Palace was so named because it linked the King's and Queen’s apartments. The walls are lined with dark oak timber panelling with an egg and dart motif and there is an equally plain grey marble fireplace in the centre. On display is a sequence of nine portraits of Restoration women known as the Windsor Beauties and all painted by Sir Peter Lely. 
Anne Hyde, Duchess of York
The title “beauties” is a somewhat flexible term. given that the central portrait above the fireplace is of the Duchess of York, Anne Hyde. She was the wife of the then Duke of York and heir apparent. Samuel Pepys did not consider her a beauty. Indeed he wrote in his diary on the 20th April 1661:
“So back to the Cockpitt, and there, by the favour of one Mr. Bowman, he and I got in, and there saw the King and Duke of York and his Duchess (which is a plain woman, and like her mother, my Lady Chancellor).”
But then Samuel Pepys always had a very low opinion of Anne Hyde, thinking it ridiculous that the Duke should marry a woman he had made pregnant even if she was the daughter of Edward Hyde, the Lord Chancellor. Beauty or otherwise Anne had commissioned the paintings and it is her portrait that takes pride of place above the fireplace.  
Margaret Brook, Lady Denham
Margaret Brook, Lady Denham was married to a man twice her age but determined to make her own way at Court and in Restoration England the way to social advancement for a pretty young woman, whether married or no, was to catch the eye of the king or his brother. Having seen her attempts to set her cap at King Charles II thwarted by the machinations of the king’s principal mistress Barbara Palmer, Margaret turned her attention to his brother, the Duke of York. By June 1666 Pepys was writing in his diary: " the Duke of York is wholly given up to his new mistress, my Lady Denham, going at noonday with all his gentlemen to visit her in Scotland Yard; she declaring that she will not be his mistress, as Mrs. Price, to go up and down the Privy-stairs, but will be owned publicly; and so she is.”  The affair ended in tragedy with the sudden death of Margaret. She believed she had been poisoned and insisted before she died that an autopsy should be carried out. No trace of poison was found but it did not allay public suspicion that her husband Sir John Denham had murdered her with a poisoned cup of cocoa at the behest of the jealous Duchess of York, an early example of death by chocolate. The poet Andrew Marvell wrote couplets on the supposed murder in his poem "Last Instructions to a Painter", written in September 1667:
“What frosts to fruit, what arsenic to the rat,
What to fair Denham, mortal chocolate.”
Frances Brook, Lady Whitmore
According to Clare Jerrold in her informative book published in 1911 “The Fair Ladies of Hampton Court” Frances Brook, Lady Whitmore “possessed heavily marked features, thick eyebrows, a long, rather ugly nose, well-formed but large mouth, and dark hair.” Unlike her sister, or perhaps even because of her ill-fated sister Margaret Brook, Frances went on to marry two men, first Sir Thomas Whitmore and then Mathew Harvey and lead a life of quiet domesticity away from the hurly burly of court life.
Jane Mrs Myddelton
The Count de Gramont claimed that Jane Mrs Myddelton (no relation to a certain Pippa or Catherine) " was fair, well made and delicate, in manner somewhat precise and affected, giving herself indolent, languishing airs, and extremely anxious to pass as a wit. She wearied by trying to explain sentiments which she did not understand, and she bored while trying to entertain." His tart comment can be attributed to the fact that he had failed to make Mrs Myddleton his mistress, a goal many men at the Restoration court aspired to. On  3rd October 1665 Samuel Pepys hears that although Jane Myddelton might be as pretty as a picture she is somewhat less pleasing to certain other senses: “the fine Mrs. Middleton is noted for carrying about her body a continued sour base smell, that is very offensive, especially if she be a little hot. “
Frances Stuart, Duchess of Richmond
Frances Stuart, the Duchess of Richmond was another young woman celebrated for her beauty at the Restoration Court. Unlike many others, Frances did not seek to immediately capitalise on it by becoming some man’s mistress even if that man was Charles II. Despite his ardent pursuit of her she preferred to defend her honour by eloping with the young Duke of Richmond. Alas, virtue was to be her only reward. She succumbed to small pox which destroyed her legendary beauty leading Samuel Pepys to lament on 30th March 1668: “Here I did see Mrs. Stewart’s picture as when a young maid, and now just done before her having the smallpox: and it would make a man weep to see what she was then, and what she is like to be, by people’s discourse, now.”  In time the Duke and Duchess of Richmond were allowed to return to court. It seemed  Frances was far from happy in her marriage and allowed the king those kindnesses she had hitherto withheld from him. In one famous episode the king rowed to her marital home, Somerset House, after midnight and finding the gates closed, clambered over the garden wall so he could see her. La Belle Stuart, as she was styled, was immortalised as the seated figure of Britannia on two gold medals of the period. Her life-size wax effigy in her robes for the coronation of Queen Anne can still be seen at Westminster Abbey today, near that of her erstwhile lover King Charles II.
Elizabeth Hamilton, Comtesse de Gramont
Before La Belle Stuart was La Belle Hamilton. Possessed of an uncommon beauty Elizabeth Hamilton she was not alas possessed of an uncommon fortune. Consequently many a sprig of the nobility who might have married her considered it an impediment too far. She ended up as the wife of the Frenchman the Chevalier de Gramont. In the Chevalier’s memoirs, penned by Elizabeth’s brother Anthony, he wrote of his wife: " She had the finest shape, the loveliest neck, and the most beautiful arms in the world ; she was majestic and graceful in all her movements ; and she was the original after which all the ladies copied in their taste and air of dress. Her forehead was open, white, and smooth ; her hair was well set, and fell with ease into that natural order which it is so difficult to imitate ; her complexion was possessed of a certain freshness, not to be equalled by borrowed colours ; her eyes were not large, but they were lively, and capable of expressing whatever she pleased ; her mouth was full of graces, and her contour uncommonly perfect : nor was her nose, which was small, delicate, and turned up, the least ornament of so lovely a face.” So besotted was the Chevalier with his young wife that he heroically remained constant to her for the best part of a year. They appear to have had a long and happy marriage together, mostly spent in his native France.
Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland 
Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Northumberland was half sister to Rachel, Lady Russell. The latter had become the chatelaine of Chenies Manor House upon her marriage to William Russell, Earl of Bedford. The latter found himself embroiled in the Rye House Plot and was later beheaded. His ghost is said to roam the grounds of Chenies. Elizabeth Wriothesley went on to become chatelaine of the even grander Syon House but she was not destined to spend many years there. Early in their marriage her husband whisked her off to Paris in 1669 where he dumped her, whilst he himself set off on the Grand Tour. It seems the jealous Earl was concerned that his wife’s beauty had caught the fancy of King Charles II and his brother and he wanted her removed from all temptation. The Earl’s sudden death in 1670 left Elizabeth free to return to England and remarry, this time to the Duke of Montagu. 
Henrietta Boyle, Countess of Rochester
Henrietta Boyle, Countess of Rochester was the daughter of the Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington, whose namesake went on to build the stunning Chiswick House. She married Lawrence Hyde the son of the Earl of Clarendon and brother-in-law to the future James II. The Earl of Clarendon suffered a calamitous reversal of political fortune and was forced to flee into exile rather than face impeachment in England. The Stuart royal family did not seem to bear any ill will towards Clarendon’s sons for the sins of the father and Lawrence went on to serve stints as a foreign ambassador. He even managed to maintain a position at court when his brother-in-law, King James, was ousted and was replaced on the throne by Queen Mary and her husband William of Orange. This was an act of singular political dexterity for he had openly spoken out against their being made joint rulers in James’ stead. According to the celebrated 19th century historian and politician Thomas Macaulay, Lawrence Hyde “had excellent parts, which had been improved by parliamentary and diplomatic experience; but the infirmities of his temper detracted much from the effective strength of his abilities. Negotiator and courtier as he was, he never learnt the art of governing or of concealing his emotions. When prosperous, he was insolent and boastful; when he sustained a check, his undisguised mortification doubled the triumph of his enemies: very slight  provocations sufficed to kindle his anger; and when he was angry he said bitter things which he forgot as soon as he was pacified, but which others remembered many years. He drank deep, and when was in a rage—and he very often was in a rage—he swore like a porter.”  I saw a painting of Lawrence Hyde in the Suffolk exhibition of Stuart portraits at Kenwood House. Sadly the paintings are no longer available to be viewed by the general public, owing to the shortage of staff to man the exhibition galleries.
Anne Digby, Countess of Sunderland
Henrietta Boyle, Lady Rochester passed into history with nary a blemish to her name. Given the prominence of her father-in-law and her husband at the Stuart Court, if there had been any gossip to spread about her it would somehow have found its way into the diaries of the time. By contrast the character of  Lady Anne Digby, the Countess of Sunderland, was torn to shreds by the then Princess Anne. In a letter to her sister, Princess Mary of Orange, in 1687 Anne wrote of Lady Sunderland: “She is a flattering, dissembling, false woman ; but she has so fawning and endearing a way, that she will deceive anybody at first, and it is not possible to find out all her ways in a little time. Then she has had her gallants, though may be not so many as some ladies here, and with all these good qualities she is a constant church woman ; so that to outward appearance, one would take her for a saint, and, to hear her talk, you would think she is a very good Protestant, but she is as much the one as the other, for it is certain that her lord does nothing without her." Anne added later:” Sure there never was a couple so well matched as she and her husband ; for as she is throughout in all her actions the greatest jade that ever was, so is he the subtlest workingest villain that is on the face of the earth."

The following year the Catholic King James was ousted from the throne by his daughter Princess Mary and her Protestant husband William of Orange. Anne Digby’s husband had served under James II and she had been a lady of the bedchamber to his second queen, Mary of Modena. Indeed, Anne Digby had been one of two ladies of the bedchamber who later bore witness to whether Mary of Modena had given birth to a legitimate living male heir or whether a notorious substitution had been made by way of a warming pan. (The bed in which this was supposed to have happened is on display at Kensington Palace. Instead of a warming pan it was embellished with a half suspended headless mannequin dressed in jeans and had been styled by the designer Aminaka Wilmonts  as part of the Enchanted Palace exhibition). Rather fortuitously the Earl of Sunderland fell out with James II and been dismissed shortly before the king was dethroned. The Sunderlands went into self-imposed exile in Holland. Sunderland later returned to England and managed to ingratiate himself into William of Orange’s good books when the latter was proclaimed King of England. By some miracle Lady Sunderland was also able to worm her way into Princess Anne’s good graces and became her lady-in-waiting despite being “the greatest jade there ever was” when Anne became queen in turn,

There were more paintings of the Windsor Beauties produced than are currently on display. This is expected to be remedied next year when a special exhibition will be held. But there is yet another beauty whose name must be added to the collection and that is of the Brimstone Butterfly herself. My name was added by no less a personage than the man who had designed the great astronomical clock for Henry VIII in the 1540s. Last week,as the Brimstone Butterfly sat on a window seat in the Communication Gallery talking to a red coated warder, a man dressed in Tudor costume unexpectedly stepped through the door that led to the King's Staircase. I asked the warder who the "gentleman" was. The Tudor courtier said he was not there but then relented and said he was the Bavarian Nicolas Kratzer, who had designed the astronomical the clock in the palace.  With a flourish he proclaimed me to be the 9th beauty in the room. He then had to admit that he wasn't sure how many portraits there were in all which, for a famous mathematician, was somewhat embarrassing. Still it's the thought that counts and he is one horologist I will always have time for. It is good to know that I still have it even though I now attract the more mature gentlemen: 500 years older than me to be precise.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Brimstone Butterfly's Hampton Court: The Duke of Cumberland Suite (Revised October 2011)

It is one of those frustrating paradoxes of the 21st century that the authorities try their hardest to wean people off using their private cars, but then make travel at weekends in London on public transport an absolute nightmare. Sheer logistics obliged me to postpone a return visit to Osterley Park and House and make my way to Hampton Court Palace instead. My personal interest in English history reaches a crescendo under the Tudors and all but fizzles out after King Charles II. As a consequence, I rarely pay more than a cursory visit to the parts of the palace rebuilt by William III in the closing years of the 17th century. However, at the weekend I decided I would explore more thoroughly those areas I had hitherto neglected.

Before my perambulations around the Georgian Rooms I went into the Members’ Room. The foot of the staircase was roped off and the door on the upper floor firmly closed. Fortunately, I had taken advantage of an earlier visit to explore both. On this occasion I could hear a group of women talking loudly in the dining room. Some poor soul was the subject of a prolonged session of character assassination. I went into the kitchen, endeavouring to make as much noise as possible to signal my presence but they seemed oblivious to the fact they could be overheard, at which point I decided to leave.

 The sequence of Georgian Rooms start with the Cumberland Suite, which is located immediately above the Member’s Room and occupies the same space which constituted Henry VIII’s private apartments. The staircase to these rooms also leads to the Silver Stick Gallery on the third floor. It was on this upper storey that Jane Seymour died days after giving birth to Henry’s son and heir, Prince Edward. It is said that her ghost has been seen descending this staircase and making its way out into the courtyard in search of her only child. As regular readers will have long surmised, I have little time for Mistress Jane Seymour being a Lady Anne Boleyn woman to the core.
The Duke of Cumberland was a younger son and favourite child of King George II and his wife, Queen Caroline, and in 1734 had yet to go down in history as the infamous Butcher of Culloden for the savage way he suppressed the Jacobite uprising of 1746. The royal couple had become estranged from their eldest son and heir, Frederick. When Frederick’s grandfather, King George I, inherited the throne he insisted that his own son and daughter-in-law should accompany him to England but that their eldest son Frederick should remain behind at the royal court of Hanover. Incidentally, also in the royal baggage was one Henrietta Howard, King George II’s mistress and the future builder of Marble Hill House. Frederick was well into his twenties when his grandfather died and his father came to the throne. There was very little love lost between the new Prince of Wales and the reigning monarch, which was why he ended up being banished from court and setting up home at Kew Palace whilst his parents commissioned William Kent, who had also worked on Chiswick House, to design a sumptuous suite of rooms for their younger teenage son. In 1734 young Prince William proudly took up residence.
 The first room through the processional route is the double height Presence Chamber. It has the most elaborate of all the plaster ceilings, very reminiscent of the kind found in Jacobean ceilings such as in the Grand Salon at Charlton House. The walls have been painted a sage cream and the plasterwork picked out in gold leaf. The wall by the windows contained a jib door. As I speculated what lay beyond a warder fortuitously opened it. It seems little more than a dilapidated closet although it is possible that it leads into a Tudor staircase tower. On the wall opposite had been placed a marble topped side table with a highly ornate wooden frame carved with garlands of flowers and fruit. The portrait above it was of Sir Robert Walpole, known to posterity as the first British Prime Minister and as the father of Horace Walpole, who built Strawberry Hill Villa.  

A small passageway led to the Duke’s Bedchamber. En route I passed by the concealed Tudor spiral staircase which Henry VIII’s pages had used to fetch and carry garments for their royal master from the Wardrobe on the ground floor. I persuaded the warder to let me go inside yet again. 

I then asked him about the adjacent mystery room which was in a state of disrepair and not open to the public. He very kindly led me into this chamber and explained that it had been the Duke’s study but that now it was used to store foodstuffs when catered events were held in the apartments. As with the bedroom and the Presence Chamber the study looked out across Clock Court through Tudor style stone mullioned windows. I say Tudor style because the sash windows added by the Georgians were replaced with Tudor windows by the Victorians. The wooden shutters by contrast looked to be Georgian.

The.Duke’s bed would have stood in the purpose built alcove. Nowadays, one of his father’s red damask travelling beds has been placed there. It is simpler than other state beds with their elaborate canopies and plumes of feathers as it needed to be readily dismantled so that it could conveyed around the country with ease. On either side of the alcove was a closet: one known as the light on the right and the other the dark on the left. The latter was where the Prince’s close stool was kept. The other served as a dressing room.  The same warder who had shown me the spiral staircase and the study took me into the windowless dark closet (save for the a small oval window high up in an inner wall) so that I could see an extant Tudor door. It must have been used by Henry VIII at one stage, though in his younger days as it was not very wide and certainly not king sized. The warder said that no-one today was quite sure where it led to. Some thought to a void, others to the Painted Hall. There was not the budget to carry out a scientific survey to find out one way or the other. Simply forcing it open was not an option if there was the possibility of wall paintings on the other side. As we stepped back into the bedchamber a female warder teased her colleague for taking women into the closet. The plain white marble fireplace with its green marble pillars had a simple egg and dart motif which was repeated in the shutters at the windows. There were a number of paintings on display against the dark green damask wall hangings including a Caravaggio of a boy peeling fruit, and “A Sibyl” by Orazio Gentileschi. The latter had produced the ceiling paintings for the Great Hall in the Queen’s House at Greenwich, which had later been cu down and placed in the Blenheim Saloon at MarlboroughHouse. Another painting depicted the family of the first Duke of Buckingham. The Duke had been a favourite of both King James I and his son Charles I. He was far from being a favourite with Parliament, who tried to have him impeached. Charles I saved Buckingham by dissolving Parliament but the king could not protect his friend from a successful assassination attempt in 1628 a year after the family portrait had been commissioned.

The Prince’s Withdrawing Room, the walls of which were hung with a red silk damask, had the grandest marble fireplace of all. It was decorated with carved grapes, pears, Grecian urns and garlands of flowers. In the Duke’s day he would have been provided with the only armchair in the room. Everyone else would have used stools to emphasize their more lowly status. More paintings lined the walls including a self-portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi, the talented daughter of Orazio. I once tried to overlay an image of the Partridge’s mother on to that of Artemisia for a Christmas card. The angle of Artemisia’s head in the painting proved too problematic to replicate successfully and I abandoned the idea.

I was rather pleased I had made the effort to explore the first of the Georgian Rooms in more detail. Had I not done so I might never have discovered the extant Tudor door. I shall return to the subject of the Georgian Rooms anon.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Apartment 39 Hampton Court. September 2011 (Revised)

To make the most of Open House London the Brimstone Butterfly had to plan her weekend with all the rigour of a military campaign.  Consequently, I realised that with judicious planning I could cram in a trip to Hampton Court Palace along with a visit to York House and still have time to make a repeat journey to the elegant 18th century Marble Hill House.

I arrived at Hampton Court just moments before the start of one of the timed tours. To allow as many people as possible to view this normally private part of the palace, the tours were at double quick time. There was little chance to linger and so my impressions are perhaps briefer than usual. Apartment 39 is located on the south-west wing of the West Front of Hampton Court Palace. Having its own separate entrance we did not need to pass under the main gateway to gain access. Instead, we went through a small iron gate and walked around the side of the building to a secluded private garden. The latter was dominated by a mature false Acacia tree festooned with mistletoe.  Having viewed the tree from a distance in the past, I had always thought there were birds’ nests hanging from its branches, which shows the paucity of my knowledge regarding all things botanical.

We were told by the guide that this part of the palace was built in 1536, the year of Anne Boleyn’s death. I am not sure if she would ever have seen it. Mind you, given that the Great House of Ease, a communal lavatory was also sited here, it was unlikely to have been on Anne Boleyns list of places to see before she died. The two storey House of Ease was designed to accommodate 28 men at a single sitting as it were. The Guards in the Great Watching Chamber had their own garderobe in a small room off the main one. When I went to the palace in June there was a pictorial representation of what it would have looked like complete with its own door, affording a degree of privacy which seems at odds with the Great House of Ease, which eschewed such signs of modesty. The wooden seat of the garderobe would have been built over a shaft directly above a brick vault, which some poor soul had to empty on a regular basis, along with the night soil from all the garderobes. By contrast the contents of the House of Ease emptied directly into the moat around the palace. The moat in turn was part of the tidal waters of the Thames. The garderobe in the Great Watching Chamber was later converted into a fireplace. In one of the present day Ladies can be seen through glass a section of the extant Tudor drainage system. A more fanciful suggestion, as was claimed at Chenies Manor House, is that these drains were secret passageways. Or perhaps the two theories could be combined into a Tudor version of the Shawshank Redemption.

In subsequent centuries the new Tudor lodgings became the Lady Housekeeper’s apartments. There were five post-holders in all: starting with Mrs. Elizabeth Mostyn, then Mrs Mary Keete,Lady Anne Cecil, Lady Elizabeth Seymour and finally Lady Emily Montague. They were all drawn from the upper echelons of the aristocracy. As well as being given one of the largest grace and favour apartments in the palace they received a very generous stipend In return their duties consisted of little more than showing visitors around the palace, from whom they would receive an additional sizable tip for their trouble. On the death of the last post-holder, Lady Emily Montague in April 1838, Queen Victoria ended such a lucrative sinecure when she created the post of Superintendent of the Palace, available to men only. However, that did not signal the end to the tradition of the grace and favour apartments at Hampton Court. It was a practice that had been observed for centuries and indeed is still carried on today. Sovereigns had always arranged for senior courtiers and royal favourites to be granted accommodation close by them at court. The real difference at Hampton Court Palace was that the practice continued long after the monarchs had ceased to live there, following the accession to the throne of George III in 1760.  Not surprisingly, there was always a huge demand for such apartments.


There are still various reminders dotted around the palace of the lucky residents who managed to secure a place, from the pump in Clock Court to the name plates on one wall. In the Tudor Kitchens part of an upper floor is still in place from when the chamber was converted into Grace and Favour apartments. Until very recently there were grace and favour apartments within the main palace itself. There might even be a few left today, although the current policy has been not to grant further tenancies whenever apartments fall vacant. This has enabled more of the palace to be opened up to the wider general public.

When I looked through my photographs for the nameplates on the walls at Hampton Court Palace. I became curious to see if I could discover more about those particular residents. Audrey, Mrs Kingsley Foster, it transpired was the widow of Lt Col Kingsley Osbern Nugent Foster, DSO, OBE. Her husband had been a career soldier and commanded the 7th Manchester Regiment when it invaded Holland at Wallacheren. The Dutch people later awarded him the Order of the Golden Lion for his efforts in freeing their country. After the war rather than take a desk job he gave up his appointment as a full Colonel so that he could command a regiment again on active service. He was killed in action in Korea in 1951.On his death Audrey had been granted a grace and favour apartment in the palace.

Lady Peake’s husband, like Mrs Kingsley Foster, was the widow of a much decorated war hero although Sir Charles Brinsley Pemberton Peake had been on active service during World War One. Afterwards he entered the diplomatic service and became an ambassador in Belgrade and Athens. He died on April 11th 1958 and his widow moved into Hampton Court in 1960. In the months following her husband’s death Catherine Peake was writing travel articles for the Glasgow Herald but I have yet to discover if she contributed the occasional article or wrote on a more permanent basis. 

Mrs H H Baily was the widow of another army office, Brigadier Michael Henry Hamilton Baily. Elizabeth Helena Baily’s husband died in 1950 and she moved into Hampton Court in 1954. There are lifts around the palace today but when Mrs Baily first moved in she had to climb 86 steps to get to her own front door. When she was in her 70s Mrs Baily found herself caught in the fire which had engulfed the Wren wing of Hampton Court Palace on Easter Monday 1986. It had been caused by a naked flame in her neighbour’s, Lady Gale’s, apartment. At the time of the fire, Lady Daphne Gale was the 86 year old widow of General Richard Gale, once the deputy supreme commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization military forces. According to the Los Angeles Times “the local member of Parliament, Conservative Toby Jessel, explained that she was incapable of taking care of herself and "used candles in order to obtain light." Lady Gale had died in the resulting conflagration but Mrs Baily had been rescued, like me, in her dressing gown and was escorted to safety by a fireman.  When I sought to discover more about the fire I came across an account of it in the New York Times. At first I was flabbergasted that only £10,000 of damage had been caused although 40 rooms had been damaged by fire and water.  I also thought it strange that the fire had been started by an oil lamp when I had always been led to believe it was a candle. Then I realised the article was dated 20th November 1886, almost a hundred years before the fire which Mrs Baily was caught up in. The New York Times article also mentioned that another fire had broken out on December 14th 1882 when £30,000 of damage had been inflicted. Again the fire had started in the private apartments. Little wonder that the current curators are keen to see the grace and favour apartments kept to a minimum.  In my posts I have only referred to those residents at Hampton Court whose former apartments I have visited or else whose nameplates I have come across. To help me in my initial researches I have made use of a comprehensive handbook of former residents of the grace and favour apartments written by Sarah E Parker on behalf of Historic Royal Palaces..

There are some people who are singularly ungrateful. Princess Frederica Sophia Maria Henrietta Amelia Theresa, daughter of the King of Hanover, and her husband, Baron Luitbert Alexander George Lionel Alphonse Freiherr von Pawel Rammingen, were two such people. Having been granted the former Lady Housekeeper’s Lodgings in 1880 they were forever complaining that it was not big enough for their needs or perhaps to cram in their joint names by the doorbell. Frederica’s cousin, Queen Victoria, finally agreed that they could have more space if they in turn allowed the stables and coach house at the back to be redeveloped into two storey accommodation. It seemed to do the trick and stopped their complaints.
Viscount Wolseley
The next tenant of note, if only because of the changes wrought to Apartment 39 as a consequence, was Viscount Garnet Joseph Wolseley and his wife Louisa. Wolseley was one of the leading army officers of his age. He took a keen interest in earlier soldiers of distinction such as the Duke of Marlborough (whose London house I had visited the day before) to the extent of writing a biography on the hero of Bleinheim. A grateful nation had paid for the monumental Bleinheim Palace to be built for the Duke. Lady Wolseley had more modest ambitions to commemorate her late husband, following his death in1913. She gained approval to turn Apartment 39 into a shrine dedicated to Wolseley’s memory. Thus, she arranged for a new marble floor to be laid in the entrance hall which incorporated her husband’s family crest. On an upper floor she had his initials, coronet, baton of office and oak wreaths worked into a plaster ceiling. But it was on the ground floor that her memorial reached its zenith. She transformed a turret room into an oratory, which listed her husband’s most eminent military campaigns as well as the decorations he had received. I came across an interesting snippet from the Newfoundland and St John’s Evening Telegram for 29th November 1906 explaining just why the general and his good lady had landed up at Hampton Court. The article states:

“Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley, the hero of Tel-el-Kebir and a hundred other fights, whom a grateful country rewarded with $275,000 and a peerage, is now in such dire straits for money that he is compelled to sell his magnificent collection of ancient arms and armour. The collection, which includes some fine English armour from the times of James I and Cromwell, besides many savage weapons which Lord Wolseley collected in the Sudan, Egypt and South Africa, will be sold at a London auction room this month. Being a soldier and not a financier, Lord Wolseley had lost steadily in reckless commercial enterprises with which he has occupied himself since vacating his position as commander-in-chief. Mortgages have been piled upon his country house Glynde in Sussex and he has been compelled to accept the king’s (George V) grant of apartments at Hampton Court Palace, which is a kind of royal almshouse.”

The Brimstone Butterfly has not occupied herself with reckless commercial enterprises. Nevertheless, I only wish I too could wind up in such a royal almshouse. I fear tis the workhouse for me.

Lady Maude, the widow of another general, moved into Apartment  39 in 1920. Some enlarged sepia images of her servants at Hampton Court were on display as we toured the apartment. Having been expressly forbidden to photograph indoors, the only images of the interior I could obtain came from the photocopied fact sheet handed out at the beginning. As a result the quality is rather poor.

Having walked along the lawn in front of the bay windows, we turned the corner by the former stables that had been converted into additional staff accommodation to pacify the demanding Princess Frederica of Hanover. 

We then passed through a door into a staff kitchenette. Some sepia images of Lady Maude’s servants were displayed on a counter. From the kitchenette we stepped out into a small inner courtyard. 

Now enclosed behind glass, one side originally offered cover for staff as they moved between the different parts of the building. We were shown a modern manhole between the cobblestones. In Tudor times the waste drained straight into the moat and was then washed out into the tidal river.  One of the visitors pompously told me we were not allowed to take pictures indoors. I pointed out that we were not allowed to take pictures of the interior of the house but at that precise moment we were standing outside in the courtyard. Later, the woman had the grace to apologise and said she had got just got fed up with the way so many Americans flouted the rules on photography.

On our way to the Linenfold Room we saw the Victorian bathroom complete with an extant Victorian lavatory. The blue and white porcelain toilet bowl encased in a wooden box and with a handle to the side was similar to the one at Ham House and also the one next to Queen Victoria's bedroom at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.

The Linenfold room was named after the Tudor style panelling which dates from the 19th century and includes sliding shutters at the stone mullioned windows. The room contained a large arched alcove and a Tudor style fireplace, lined with 19th blue and white Delft tiles. Once a drawing room the chamber is now used as a training room for palace staff.

From this room we took the Tudor spiral staircase in one of the turret towers to the first floor.

Here were the first signs of Lady Louisa’s memorial to her husband in the low plaster ceiling decorated with his initials, baton of office and coronet. It seems she sought to commemorate her own residence in the apartment by having Tudor roses adorning the plaster ceilings of one of the rooms.   The walls of the two rooms, now turned into one, were painted a light yellow. The marble fireplace with its inlaid tiles added to the overall charm of the two former chambers. The guide pointed out the ornate cast iron radiators at the side of the room. 

We then passed through to the CEO’s office. It contained a large table with dining chairs plus two sofas and an armchair by the fireplace. The walls were decorated with green and white roundels of flowers. It was these roundels that I had glimpsed in the past as I walked along the towpath at the side of the palace. The desk placed in front of the large bay windows looked out over the lawns and the false Acacia tree.  I preferred the marble fireplaces in the other rooms and found this one with its overmantle and mirror too ornate for my tastes. Amongst the pictures on display, all drawn from the Royal Collection, was one of Queen Victoria as a young girl.

A smaller office had pictures of more obscure 19th century European royalty. From this office we assembled on the landing of the hallway designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It was here that we learned about one of the most famous former and apparently current residents of Apartment 39. On the landing were two locked doors. Behind them were former bedchambers which were now used as offices. From the 19th century onwards ghostly incidents have been attributed to this part of the palace. The current Lord Birdwood recalls sleeping in them as a child  and described them as being ‘thoroughly infested’  with the supernatural and that he had  witnessed ‘actively unpleasant’ events there. In the 19th century Lady Emily Ponsonby recalled how a female visitor had talked to a housemaid only to see the woman disappear before her very eyes. The Lady in Grey is thought to be the shade of Dame Sybil Penn. She had acted as the dry nurse to Henry VIII’s son Prince Edward and helped care for Henry’s youngest daughter, Queen Elizabeth, when she fell ill with smallpox. Unfortunately Sybil caught the disease herself and died. Elizabeth no doubt arranged for the splendid tomb to be built for Dame Sybil in nearby Hampton church. In the 1820s her tomb was damaged and that was when she began to be seen around the palace. A guide told me that current staff insisted that they still saw Dame Sybil even today. The others in the group seemed alarmed at the news and were keen to descend the staircases lest Dame Sybil dropped by. I was sorely disappointed that she didn’t.     

We passed down the staircase and into the Board Room. This contained the famous oratory dedicated to Viscount Wolseley in a converted turret room. I thought it had a very pre-Raphaelite feel to it. But it did seem odd to place such a memorial it in an apartment, which would go on to be lived in by other families.

From the Board Room we went back into the Sir Christopher Wren hall with the marble floor  unlaid with the family emblem of  Viscount Wolseley. That constituted the end of our brief tour of Apartment 39 other than to step back into the inner courtyard.

This time I had the chance to ask what the hooks had been used for and to take pictures with impunity. It seems they were bell wires to summon servants. I was told that similar bell wires can still be found beneath the floorboards of Brimstone Butterfly Towers. 

At Apartment 39 the covered passageway, lined with flagstones. led out of the building to the balcony  above the drained moat and the steps leading down to the lawn in front of the palace.

Although it was a brief tour, I am glad that I got the chance to view in person one of the most impressive of all the grace and favour apartments at Hampton Court Palace. For that I have once again to thank the good offices of Open House London 2011. Long may they continue with their splendid and inspiring work!