Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Brimstone Butterfly’s Hampton Court: Yet more secrets of the palace.

I have written before about how the Brimstone Butterfly had heroically resisted the temptation to explore the upper floor of the former Grace and Favour apartment which now serves as the Members’ Room at Hampton Court. The way had been roped off and a sign marked private placed in front. That was then. When I next entered the Members’ Room it was in the company of three elderly people who seemed to be a couple and one of their relatives. Between the four of us we were unable to unlock the door and had to prevail upon a warder to help us. We then made ourselves coffee which they proceeded to drink in the dining room and I drank mine sat in one of the armchairs by the drawing room. After a quarter of an hour or so they left leaving me free to explore the former Grace and Favour apartment again on my own.

On a notice-board in the kitchen I found a list of residents of what had been known as apartment 32. In 1959 it was sub-divided into two apartments numbered 32A and 32B respectively. The apartment had been formed out of the suite of rooms granted to William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland. The latter became infamous as "the Butcher of Culloden" at the battle of Culloden in 1746 for his cruel treatment of Jacobites, the supporters of the exiled House of Stuart.

The first occupant of the grace and favour apartment 32 was George Ferdinand Fitzroy, the 2nd Baron Southampton. It seemed that Grace and Favour Apartments at Hampton Court Palace were very much a Fitzroy family perk as his granny, great granny and daughter-in-law all found themselves in the privileged position of being housed in such genteel surroundings. His mother-in-law, Mrs Keppel had the Stud House. Given that another Mrs Keppel was the mistress of King Edward VII and her great granddaughter, Camilla Parker-Bowles, was also a royal mistress but one who went on to marry her Prince (Charles) it seems most percipient that Mrs Keppel should be given the royal Stud House to live in.

William V, Prince of Orange, was the next to set up home in the apartment having been forced into exile in 1795. In Sir Nathaniel Wraxall’s” Historical Memoirs” published in 1815, the author gives the following account of his acquaintance with the prince.

“This prince has become so well known to us, since his precipitate retreat from Holland in the winter of 1795, by his long residence in England, that it is unnecessary to enter into any minute details relative to his character and qualities. Even at the period to which I allude, he neither inspired public respect nor excited private regard. His person, destitute of dignity, corresponded with his manners, which were shy, awkward, and altogether unfitted to his high situation as stadtholder. If he displayed no glaring vices, he either did not or could not conceal many weaknesses, calculated to injure him in the estimation of mankind. A constitutional somnolency, which increased with the progress of age, was too frequently accompanied by excesses still more injurious or fatal to his reputation; I mean those of the table, particularly of wine. I have seen him at the Hague of an evening, in a large company at Sir Joseph Yorke's, in the situation that I here describe. In vigour, ability, or resources of mind, such as might enable him successfully to struggle, like William the Third, with difficult or tumultuous limes, he was utterly deficient. If William the Fifth had possessed the energies of that great prince, we should neither have been engaged in war with Holland, as happened towards the close of 1780, nor would the stadtholderate have been overturned in 1795, and the Seven Provinces, which successfully resisted all the power of Philip the Second, have ultimately sunk into an enslaved province of the Corsican ruler of France."

Wraxall ended his damning observations by adding: "After arriving in this country under a dark political cloud, and after residing here many years, without acquiring the public esteem, or redeeming his public character, finally and precipitately quitted England under a still darker cloud; only to bury himself in the obscurity of Germany, there to expire, forgotten and almost unknown.”

Poor Nathaniel Wraxall got slung into jail for a while because of his forthright comments about the leading personalities of the times, which is why his second volume was published posthumously.

I have no idea how a member of the French Parliament managed to wrangle himself a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court but somehow Louis de Curt, a member of the Assemblée Nationale Constituante of 1789 managed it, moving in nine years later.

In 1802 Admiral of the Fleet, Sir James Hawkins-Whitshed and his good lady wife were the next to move in. As far as I am concerned James’ chief claim to fame was that he was pallbearer at the funeral of my near neighbour, (had not the centuries divided us) Admiral Lord Nelson, in 1806.
Ceiling and frescoes in the Wolsey Closet

Anna Maria, Lady Hill, a widow moved in 1843. Four decades later she had installed her widowed daughter, her granddaughter, her grandson along with two lady’s maid, a cook, a housemaid and a footman. She had use of Wolsey’s Closet which she treated with neither grace nor favour having had the walls and frescoes whitewashed and turned the little chamber into a butler’s pantry to the horror of the Lady’s Pictorial reporting on the subject in 1892.

Mrs Charlotte Dallison moved in after the death of Lady Hill in 1886. Like the former resident, Charlotte was not averse to treating the place with less than due reverence. In direct contravention of the rules she kept two paying lady boarders in the apartment along with her two children and six female servants.

In 1914, a year after Charlotte had resigned the apartment, Ethel, Lady Bedford moved in. She was the widow of a former Governor of Western Australia. Her successor in 1923 was Mrs Maude Stokes the widow of Vice-Admiral Robert Henry Stokes. There was a gap of two years before Mrs Dulcie Arbuthnot moved in 1934.

Eugenie Dudley Ward, later Lady Godfrey-Fausett, lasted a year before moving out in 1947. The Victoria and Albert museum hold the copyright on this delightful image taken at her wedding on 11th April 1907. Her late husband had been an equerry to George V. George’s son, the future Edward VIII was a godparent to their youngest son, David Frederick. Edward’s dalliance with another Dudley Ward, Freya, who had married into the family, ended when he became embroiled with Wallis Simpson.

Of the more recent residents I shall maintain a discreet silence, suffice to say that I have determined that my own shade will haunt this place when I have shuffled off this mortal coil.

And so it was that I found myself once more alone in Apartment 32. A rope no longer barred the stairway and the Private sign had been moved to one side. As I stood on the bottom tread and looked up I could see that the door to one of the rooms on the upper floor had been left wide open. This was far too good an opportunity to miss. Consequently, I hurried up the stairs and made my way in to a large chamber above the vaulted roof of the gateway. The very size of the room and its large gothic arched stone window signalled that it must have been used by Henry VIII as I had established on an early visit that this floor constituted the king's own "Privy chamber and inward lodgings.". Despite the 18th century panelling and fireplace, the room was certainly grand enough for a king, even if it now served as a staff meeting room. I durst not linger so I quickly sped along the corridor, steering clear of the open window before scurrying downstairs and sinking heavily into the sofa with a sense of mission accomplished.

Now that my long held wish to see what lay beyond the doors to the Privy Chamber in the Great Watching Room had been met, I decided I would make my way to the suite of Georgian Rooms fashioned for my namesake Caroline, Princess of Wales and her husband, the future King George II. I now realise that Caroline’s husband was the lover of Henrietta Howard, who built her splendid house at Marble Hill with the wages of sin. Caroline had tried to persuade Henrietta to remain as George’s mistress as she feared a less accommodating women might succeed her but Henrietta was adamant.

Caroline herself was immortalised in the children’s nursery rhyme:
Queen, Queen Caroline,
Washed her hair in turpentine,
Turpentine made it shine,
Queen, Queen Caroline.

I have related elsewhere how a member of staff told me she and others had unexpectedly come across the distinct smell of turpentine emanating from the Georgian apartments one foggy day.Caroline was thought to use it to treat body lice. Her bathroom is notorious for another aroma. In her bathroom I caught the unmistakable scent of a woman's perfume. Whether it was lavender or rosewater I could not say, but it was certainly evocative of an old fashioned fragrance. It was very strong and yet, curiously, it could not be detected in the adjacent rooms, despite the corridor between them being wide open. I remarked on the phenomenon to a warder sitting in the small private chapel within the Georgian Rooms. He said many people had noticed the perfume in Caroline’s bathroom but occasionally it was as if it followed people around, He said an Italian woman had just told him she felt she had been pushed in the back and her camera had failed to work all the time she was in the room. Anxious to test this for myself I hurried back to the bathroom, this time detecting the perfume in the corridor. Caroline neither pushed me nor prevented my camera from working but then perhaps she knew better than to antagonise a future neighbour and namesake.

I also took the opportunity to take a picture of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s entwined initials in the wooden screen which dominates one end of the Great Hall. Although Henry attempted to eradicate all traces of her within the palace, he may have thought he might as well wait and see if he could find another woman with the initial A to marry before ruining the screen altogether.

Now that I knew about the extant Tudor spiral staircase that linked Henry’s apartment with the Wardrobe on the ground floor, a warder kindly left me alone to photograph it, enabling me to take some more pictures and a little video. The poor lighting made it especially difficult to capture images on video. The uppermost surface of the treads is covered with nondescript linoleum but I find the underneath of the wooden.treads, as seen from above, fascinating. My best example to date of an extant Tudor spiral staircase  was at Eastbury Manor House, where I captured on video  my somewhat laboured efforts to climb to the very top.

I shall return to the subject of the grace and favour apartments anon when I relate my recent visit to one of the largest grace and favour apartment in the palace, said to be haunted by the ghost of Edward VI's dry nurse..