Georgian Aurei Imitation

Georgian Aurei Imitation

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The story of the Duchess who scandalised Georgian society

Before Daphne Bridgerton, there was Elizabeth Chudleigh. As the Netflix hit begins filming its second season, Catherine Ostler's book about the society beauty and bigamist who enthralled Georgian society makes for excellent background reading

In the late summer of 1777, anyone standing on the banks of the Gulf of Finland might have beheld a most spellbinding sight: a three-masted maritime marvel of polished wood and golden paint, its sails billowing in the northern wind. On the deck of the yacht, they might have spotted the lone figure of a woman, her eyes fixed on the course of the Neva river flowing towards St Petersburg. If they could have seen inside, they would have found contents as exotic as the ship’s story: a menagerie of animals, including small monkeys an orchestra two clergymen (a Catholic for the French crew and an Anglican who doubled up as publicist) a state room, a kitchen, a bathroom and decorative heaters, along with a priceless selection of silver, and art in a picture gallery. The beady-eyed might have caught the name of the ship on the side: the Duchess of Kingston.

For this was the name the woman on deck went by – but it was also the title that had just been denied her by the entire House of Lords and the most senior British judges, in a trial for bigamy that was witnessed by Queen Charlotte, two future monarchs, James Boswell and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, alongside the London literati and the rest of the ton. Just as the American War of Independence might have been turned in Britain’s favour, the British were all distracted, gripped by this scandalous figure, the keeper of any number of secrets.


The duchess, as she still styled herself, had swept out of London with her late husband’s money and set off to befriend Catherine the Great, then the most illustrious monarch on earth. As she sailed into St Petersburg, the river gave way to embankments of painted stucco and marble-and-granite palaces. Russia’s new capital was a place of dazzling newness and grandeur, built by Peter the Great at the beginning of the century. The Imperial Winter Palace stood out in this stucco panorama, in its Brobdingnagian scale. ‘It has the appearance of having been transported to the present spot, like the palace in the Arabian tales,’ observed one English visitor.

It is one of the peculiar quirks of history that because of this woman’s erratic romantic life, and the desire of the British establishment to punish her for it, some of the treasures of her family by marriage and pieces she commissioned lie not in a London gallery or some stately home in the shires but far away in that same Winter Palace, now the State Hermitage Museum. They conceal the extraordinary story of the journey that took them there: one that I discovered in writing my book, The Duchess Countess: The Woman who Scandalised a Nation.

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Elizabeth Chudleigh, or the Duchess-Countess – a nickname given to her by the omnipresent 18th-century gossip Horace Walpole – caught me by surprise in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s masterful biography Catherine the Great & Potemkin. He described her flamboyance at the Imperial court, her capacity to shock and entrance – even there, a career of ‘seduction, marriage, deception, exhibitionism and theft’. In other words, she was the very best kind of British anti-heroine. In fiction, a Becky Sharp or a Moll Flanders – the sort you can’t help rooting for, however questionable her behaviour, who confounds expectation and fights back with every fibre in her corset. To me, Elizabeth has become not only a complex object of sympathy and fascination, but also a cypher from which to view Georgian womanhood and society, its press, its poetry, the swish of its skirts and the power of its cruel pens, long before Bridgerton’s Lady Whistledown put such things in our collective consciousness. Elizabeth Chudleigh made constant gossip fodder, from her days as the most fascinating of the maids of honour (the It girls of their day), through her various escapades in the marriage market, to her eventual trial in 1776 and the self-imposed exile she embarked upon afterwards.

As a child, she had skipped around the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, where her father was Lieutenant-Governor, though he died when she was only five. Soon, however, she was a creature of the Georgian court, becoming a maid of honour in 1744 to Augusta, the young Princess of Wales from the nowheresburg state of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.


Elizabeth dressed as the mythical Greek princess Iphigenia for a 1749 masquerade

This was the century of rival courts – public strife between father and son being nothing new in the Royal Family. In every Hanoverian generation, there was a staid, unglamorous one, that of the King, and an amusing, lively one, that of the Prince and Princess of Wales. George II had a monotonous setup because he hated male rivalry and drove the wits and thinkers away, so his son Frederick, Prince of Wales, happily received them at Leicester House. Elizabeth, through her considerable powers of courtiership that made her something of a female Machiavelli, was about the only person who managed to stay in favour with both.

The main point of being a maid of honour was, of course, to find a suitable husband. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted Elizabeth, recalled that she was about the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and she had a fluent wit acknowledged even by her enemies. But it was still no easy task: not only was she without a dowry but she didn’t have a father, brother, or the sort of mother who might advise or negotiate on her behalf. She nearly became engaged to the young, orphaned Duke of Hamilton, but his family snaffled him out of her grasp at the last minute.

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Staying with a cousin in the country in 1744, she met a naval officer at the Winchester races. Though only 20, Augustus Hervey was confident and articulate, already a practised seducer, full of sea stories and swagger. The Earl of Bristol’s grandson, Hervey would become known as the English Casanova and, after a speedy romance in the August heat, he and Elizabeth were married in the middle of the night in a country chapel: a Vegas-with-Elvis-impersonator kind of exploit that they both began to regret almost immediately.


Engravings of Westminster Hall prepared for the trial, and the trial itself

They agreed to pretend it had never happened. Over the years, secrecy became denial but, crucially, they did not divorce. Soon, they met others in Elizabeth’s case, this was another orphaned duke (she certainly had a type) – Evelyn Pierrepont, the 2nd Duke of Kingston, widely agreed to be ‘the handsomest man in England’. Even Horace Walpole, never known for his kindness, called him a ‘man of great beauty and the finest person’. Much later, in 1769, Elizabeth married Kingston and was briefly happy but when he died in 1773 and left her everything, his family wanted ‘their’ money back and so pursued her through the legal system with a vigour that took her all the way to trial for bigamy at Westminster Hall.

Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston, painted in the 1740s

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She was put in the dock in front of 4,000 spectators – at which point, she became one of the three most talked-about women in Europe, along with Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great herself. Newspapers covered every aspect of the trial, giving their readers a front-row seat the war in America was knocked off the front pages. The chatterati were beside themselves with excitement, the women rising at 5am for coffee and coiffure beforehand. Westminster Hall dropped to silence as Elizabeth, ‘handsome’ in mourning dress, entered with her entourage: two elegant attendants in white, a chaplain, a physician, an apothecary, and Black Rod, there to prevent her from escaping. Initially calm and dignified, by the end of the trial she was accused of ‘making play’ at witnesses, and she collapsed in distress more than once. Secrets, half-truths and conspiracies emerged – there is no room for the details here – but after the verdict, she regrouped, and embarked on a grand tour.

The Summer Palace outside St Petersburg where Catherine the Great received Elizabeth

Years after I first heard her name, I stood inside the overheated Hermitage Museum as the snow fell outside in Palace Square. It was 7 December, St Catherine’s Day, on which admission is free to commemorate the feast day of its empress founder’s namesake. I had followed the footsteps of the errant duchess across Europe and was finishing the manuscript of my book when I heard that some of her belongings had been found in St Petersburg and were about to go on show. By then I knew her story in more detail than she probably ever knew it herself, having read old diaries, newspapers and dusty letters while wearing white gloves in archives, on the obsessive trail that goads every biographer.

The Summer Palace, St Petersburg

I wandered through the famous Neva Enfilade, where balls for thousands were once held while the peasants starved outside, and came at last to the Romanov nursery wing, which held her astonishing possessions. There was a ballroom chandelier, almost as tall as me, that played music when its candles were lit a silver wine cooler big enough to bathe a baby, in which fish soup was once served at a ball to celebrate victory over the Turks and paintings that Elizabeth had brought over on that yacht.

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Copperplate engraving of the Duchess of Kingston’s bigamy trial, circa 1776

The descendants of her second husband’s family, the Pierreponts, are understandably irritated that belongings that once graced their family seat are now lost to the state museums of Russia. One suggested to me that Elizabeth had taken from their home in Nottinghamshire the celebrated Peacock Clock, the Hermitage’s star exhibit, with its automated birds and woodland creatures. Museum experts now insist that Elizabeth merely introduced Catherine’s husband and co-ruler, Prince Potemkin, to her friend and confidant, the clock’s designer, James Cox. (‘They would say that wouldn’t they?’ said one cynical Pierrepont.) Some pictures (one by Claude Lorrain she had sent ahead to an admiral, Count Ivan Chernyshev, to smooth the introduction of the most scandalous woman in Europe to its most powerful another by Pierre Mignard), silver vases, the wine cooler and an organ that she brought to Russia, were still there when she died unexpectedly. Nothing ever left the country, no matter what she wrote in her will.

The duchess’s treasures in the Hermitage have survived two world wars, the Siege of Leningrad, decades of communism and a period of exile in the frozen Urals. They were opened up to me under the auspices of the museum’s director of almost 30 years, Dr Mikhail Piotrovsky, whom I met in his office overlooking the Neva – itself a museum piece, with fading blue-green tapestries lining its walls and piles of books sitting on mahogany with a deep patina. It was his father’s office once he had grown up in the museum.

A letter written on Elizabeth's behalf to the Duke of Portland just before the trial, in fear at a rumour she was to be sent to the Tower of London

It is perhaps surprising that the treasures in St Petersburg are the best-preserved parts of the duchess’s legacy. Most of the buildings associated with her in England have either been demolished, or survive merely as hotels. Still, just as I wanted to read everything written by her and about her, I wanted to visit everywhere she had lived. I began, as she began, in the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, where a kindly red-coated, tricorned pensioner, David Lyall, showed me around Wren’s immaculate hospital, into the panelled apartment where she spent her infancy. I could well imagine Elizabeth playing on the lawns that then led right down to the river, with no road along the embankment. (The river itself was the highway –you could catch a boat anywhere.) Her father’s name was painted in gold on the wall of the Great Hall and, beneath the moss, etched on his headstone in the graveyard.

7 weird and wonderful Georgian beauty treatments

In the 21st century, beauty is big business: thousands of column inches are devoted daily to discussing the latest beauty trends, from the simple to the absurd. But, as historical writer Catherine Curzon reveals, the beauty regimes of the Georgian era could put even the most bizarre modern fads to shame

This competition is now closed

Published: April 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

From porcelain white skin to huge hair, the Georgians cared greatly about their appearance. Indeed, the lure of a pretty face in make-up became so strong in the Georgian period, and was considered so irresistible, that parliament (seemingly) considered passing a law to protect men from being duped by painted ladies with designs on their purse:

“An Act to protect men from being beguiled into marriage by false adornments. All women, of whatever rank, age, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids or widows, that shall, from and after such Act, impose upon, seduce or betray into matrimony, any of His Majesty’s subjects, by the scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes and bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law in force against witch-craft and like misdemeanours and that the marriage upon conviction shall stand null and void.”

Put forward in 1770 likely as a wry jab at fashion rather than a serious law, this amendment to the Witchcraft Act was never passed, nor did it make it into the debating chamber.

Nevertheless, beauty treatments were abundant in Georgian Britain. Here we consider seven of the most weird and wonderful…

White, white, white!

Our obsession with acquiring the perfect sun-kissed tan would have utterly perplexed the Georgians. In the 18th century a suntan was a sure sign that one worked outdoors, whereas the polite, wealthy classes remained indoors and out of the sun’s glare. The most basic and perhaps famous Georgian fashion was porcelain white skin, for both men and women.

Alongside horse manure and vinegar, the main ingredient in skin-whitening creams and powders was lead. Daubed liberally on the face and neck, these creams and powders helped to achieve that all-important ‘never been outdoors’ look. Whiteness was accentuated by using blue colouring to highlight veins, while lips and cheeks were tinted with yet more lead – this time coloured with carmine [a bright-red pigment obtained from the aluminium salt of carminic acid] or even with mixes containing highly toxic mercury.

With the widespread use of lead, it was hardly surprising that fashionable sorts began to suffer serious reactions to their make-up. From eye disorders to digestive problems and even, in extreme cases, death, the price of following the fashion for blanc was high.

The prized porcelain skin tone so beloved of Georgian fashionistas wasn’t financially easy to achieve either. Deadly or not, skin creams were an expensive addition to a lady’s make-up bag and for those seeking beauty on a budget the options were limited: for both hair and face a light dusting of wheat flour might have to suffice.

The language of patches

Also known as mouches, beauty patches were small clippings of black velvet, silk or satin that were attached to the face to cover blemishes, including smallpox scars and damage wrought by white lead, or just as a bit of decoration. Often kept in highly decorative containers, these patches enjoyed many years of popularity.

Just as fans could be used to communicate a secret message, the position of these skin patches eventually came to be associated with coded meanings. For example, if one wished to show political allegiance, a patch on the right-hand-side of the face denoted a Tory while a Whig wore a patch on the left. On a more intimate note, a patch in the corner of the eye might be an invitation to a would-be paramour.

Unlike face creams, patches weren’t only the preserve of the rich. If you couldn’t afford finely shaped silk and velvet then a little bit of clipped mouse skin would do just as well.

Patches appear in many pieces of Georgian art perhaps most famously in William Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress, a series of paintings and engravings in which heroine Moll Hackabout’s face – once fresh and pretty – takes on more and more patches until she resembles the haggard brothel madame who initiated her into London brothel life. For Moll, the patches no doubt covered the telltale signs of diseases such as syphilis – a world away from the fashionable ballrooms of France where a patch might mean flirtation, seduction and intrigue.

Huge hair

The popular image of the later 18th century is one in which enormous and flamboyant wigs teetered precariously atop the heads of fashionable ladies, but this isn’t actually accurate. There was plenty of teetering hair but it was often real, with wigs generally worn only by 18th-century men.

Ladies and gents alike achieved their fashionable pale hair colour by applying hair powder, which was made from flour or starch and puffed onto the head with a pair of bellows [a device constructed to furnish a strong blast of air]. For that typically Georgian ‘big haired’ look the wealthy employed an army of stylists who built elaborate structures atop their heads around wooden frames padded with extra sections often made from horse hair.

Curling tongs were also developed: these resembled a pair of blunt scissors, with two metal prongs and wooden handles. When the prongs were heated in the fire the hair could then be wrapped around them and held in place until the curl had set. Alternatively, clay rollers were heated in an oven and then applied to the hair or wig.

Heads would often be adorned with wax fruit and other decorations such as flowers or even model sailing ships, and the most elaborate hairstyles would remain in place for days or weeks at a time.

Within these monumental headpieces our fashionable gentleman and ladies acquired the occasional lice, but the Georgians had an answer for that too: specially designed rods were sold that could be slid between the layers of hair and used to scratch the lice bites, while ensuring that their fashionable hairstyles stayed perfect.

If the lice became really itchy there was always the possibility of treating them with mercury, but given that this was known to potentially cause madness or death, a scratching rod was usually the preferred option.


With lead liberally applied to the face as a matter of routine, it is hardly surprising that people’s eyebrows often fell out. Georgian fashionistas therefore adopted a new approach and began to pluck out or shave what eyebrow hair remained before pencilling on a new brow or using lead or burnt cork to colour one in.

As black brows became a popular look, occasional mentions of a rather strange new fashion began to emerge: in 1718, celebrated poet Matthew Prior wrote a satirical poem about Helen and Jane, who wear eyebrows made of mouse skin. Evidence for mouse skin brows remains scant, but mention of them does appear in satire throughout the early 18th century.

Padding in all the right places

Many 21st-century celebrity careers have been established upon (or at least bolstered by) the strength of a shapely bottom. Yet this is nothing new: fashionable Georgian men were no strangers to a bit of strategic padding.

Skintight breeches designed to show off the well-formed legs of their wearer became all the rage – but what if one didn’t have well-formed legs? For those who were too skinny to fill the garment, padding was the natural answer. Just like a modern padded bra enhances the bosom, pads of fabric or horsehair could be inserted to breeches that would give the impression of muscled calves. These pads could also be inserted anywhere else the male wearer might like a boost!

These pads were the preserve of the most fashion-conscious of Georgian and Regency men. They found popularity among the highly fashionable, flamboyant chaps known as dandies who wore corsetry and pads to create the perfect male shape.

A gleaming smile

With the upper classes indulging in all manner of sugary treats, it’s hardly surprising that the teeth of our Georgian beauties were far from perfect. Tooth powders (also known as dentifrice) were therefore used to whiten teeth: among their ingredients of cuttlefish and bicarbonate of soda was often the mysteriously named spirit of vitriol. Better-known today as sulphuric acid, this mineral (which we now know to be highly corrosive) certainly whitened the teeth, but primarily because it stripped them of their enamel completely.

Unsurprisingly, many Georgians required dental surgery and, without anaesthetic, such procedures were a skin-crawling affair. Once the troublesome tooth was removed, the richest patients could opt for a replacement live tooth to be purchased from a donor and threaded directly into the socket. Some of these live teeth had actually come from the mouths of corpses, bringing with them whatever disease and infections their original owner had been subject to.

If a pricey live tooth was beyond your means and a gap simply wouldn’t do, there were alternatives on offer: anything from a single tooth to a complete set of dentures could be constructed from materials including porcelain, ivory, or even the teeth of soldiers who died at the battle of Waterloo. Known as ‘Waterloo teeth’, these were gathered from the mouths of dead soldiers and became highly sought after. After all, a client knew that a Waterloo tooth had come not from a man who died of disease or a corpse dug up by grave robbers, but a young and (hopefully) healthy soldier who died honourably on the battlefield.

A face pack

Less well-known than white Georgian faces and huge hair is ‘fard’, a regency face mask used to soothe sunburn and “cutaneous eruptions” [spots].

Fard was a mix of sweet almond oil, spermaceti [a waxy substance found in the head of a sperm whale] and honey that was dissolved over heat and, once cooled, applied to the face and left on overnight. The recipe, which was first published in 1811, was being reprinted and, one assumes used, decades later.

Catherine Curzon is the author of Life in the Georgian Court, due to be published by Pen and Sword Books on 30 June 2016. Curzon also runs an 18th-century themed website named A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

Georgian Era Wedding And Engagement Ring History

The Georgian Era is ranges in date from 1714-1837 and spans the period of British Rule under King George I through King George IV. Spanning a period of over a decade, it isn’t plausible to address every trend and historical aspect of this era, but for the purpose of this article, we will address the most popular styles of, and the wedding related, jewelry – we’ll even throw in some Georgian Era wedding fun facts for your reading pleasure!

The Jewelry of the Georgian Era was labor intensive hand-made art – unlike today when modern technology generates hundreds of identical pieces, the jewelry you got in the Georgian era was truly one of a kind. While 22 karat and 18 karat gold were two of the most popular metals during the Georgian Era, popularity was also seen in Pinchbeck, a brass that consists of a mix of copper and zinc and is an extremely passable imitation for gold.

During the Georgian Era, many Germans donated their beloved gold to help build and strengthen their military – in turn they received cast iron. This trade off resulted in a patriotic rise in popularity of cast iron jewelry. In terms of stones, diamonds were the most highly coveted stone of the Georgian Era, in part due to the fact that they were relatively unattainable. Despite the high demand for diamonds, gemstones were also extremely popular and used often.

During the Georgian Era, the most popular stone setting was mounting. A mounted setting hides the entirety of the underside of a stone, and as you can imagine, keeps a lot of light from passing through the stone and diminishes its brilliance. At the time, the solution for this unfortunate side-effect of the mount was to place aluminum within the mount, under the stone, in the hope that the light that passes through will reflect of the aluminum and create the brilliance and luster we still desire today.

Due to a setting that resulted in less than ideal brilliance and luster, the cuts of the Georgian Era utilized the shape of a stone to maximize its brilliance. One popular cut of the Georgian Era is the Rose cut, a cut that is still popular today. Another popular cut of the Georgian Era is the Old Mine Cut – a rare cut that requires ornate details and, after its popularity passed, was recut into more popular cuts of the times.

In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, one of the male characters is seen wearing a ring containing a braided plait of hair. Though today this might sound a little bizarre, during the Georgian era, incorporating gestures such as these were common, if not completely normal. Hair in rings is probably the strangest trend associated with the Georgian Era, other trends are ones that preserve time and memories, an important aspect of this era. This need to preserve created two items of jewelry, both still popular today – the first is the mourning ring, the second is the locket.

The mourning, or memorial, ring was a way to memorialize those who have passed. This ring traditionally held a small stone and inscription of information as it pertained to the deceased such as their birthday, death date, or name. More elaborate mourning rings contained engraved portraits of the deceased. The locket was also able to preserve time by holding pictures, notes or small items. The locket as we know it comes in the form of a necklace, but in the Georgian times, locket rings were quite popular.

Though they focused less on preservation of time, the Posey rings also became a coveted style of jewelry during the Georgian Era. The Posey ring was a delicate gold band engraved with a saying appropriate to its purpose. Posey rings became a highly desirable ring for engagements during the Georgian Era.

Other than the Posey ring, popular engagement and wedding rings focused heavily on nature. The designs of these rings, whether through inscription or stone placement, oftentimes alluded to butterflies, flowers, doves, and other delicate components of nature.

The general use of engagement rings wasn’t highly popular during the Georgian Era – but if it was afforded by the groom, it was gifted as a symbol of the future grooms love for his future wife. This ring was worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, same as it is today.

While on the discussion of weddings, the Georgian Era saw a rise in wedding related laws. If you are interested in these laws as a whole, they can be found in The Marriage Act of 1753, also known as “An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage”.

In part, The Marriage Act of 1973 regulated the age of marital consent – stating that an individual has to be 21, or have parental consent, to wed. The Act also regulated when and where a couple can wed – the ceremony would take place before noon in the parish of residence as husband and wife. Finally, The Marriage Act regulated engagement length to consist of a minimum of four weeks – this caused couples to elope, and thus, downsized the popularity of the engagement ring.

Jewelry from the Georgian Era is hard to come by today – this is due to the fact that most jewellers would melt down extra or used pieces to create new ones that followed the trends. As a result of the rarity of jewelry from this time, authentic Georgian Era jewelry is extremely expensive today, selling for $3,000 to $4,000 dollars for something as simple as a gold band.

The first thing to understand is that there are subtle differences between the style of Georgian and Regency furniture….

The first thing to look for is what wood has been used. Georgian pieces are likely to use Oak and Mahogany. Mahogany characteristically is a hardwood, dark reddish-brown in colour which will darken over time and polishes to a reddish sheen. Oak again is known for it’s hardness, it also can have very appealing grain marks and is found in both red and white varieties. Red Oak, sometimes referred to as black Oak, has a pinkish cast and is the more popular of the two. White oak has a slightly greenish cast.

Key Georgian furniture pieces in areas of entertainment would have been sideboards, console tables with marble tops, Kneehole desks drinks cabinets, card tables and glass fronted built in bookcases. In the bedrooms and dressing rooms chaise-longues, wooden four poster beds and wash stands.

Georgian style leather topped drum table

Important designers of the Georgian period are most notably Hepplewhite and Chippendale.

Hepplewhite Style

Sofa in Hepplewhite style with square tapered legs

Hepplewhite style settee, note the geometric fabric pattern and straighter leg style seen in all 3 pieces

A characteristic seen in many Hepplewhite designs is a shield-shaped chair back.

a typical shield back chair

Hepplewhite pieces usually have straight legs, which may be square or tapered and often have reeded or fluted edges, in imitation of Classical columns.

Some examples of Hepplewhite style legs, all taper (get more narrow) towards the foot

Hepplewhite-style feet usually have a tapered arrow foot, or a spade foot.

Bracket feet were common on chests, bookcases and desks as they were heavier. Pieces in Hepplewhite style have simple geometric shapes, usually curved or circular.

Chippendale Style

The designs of Thomas Chippendale cover a wide range of styles, from Rococo to Gothic, neoclassic and oriental style. Chippendale covered such a wide variety of items and styles and set the bar for furniture makers to come, so there are a lot of pieces in Chippendale style. Chippendale style furniture can be a little harder to spot, so I will point out a few of the easiest things to look for.

There are six different basic Chippendale style legs. These are the lion’s paw, the ball and claw, and the club, based on the cabriole shape which is an elegant, serpentine style ending in a distinctive foot.

The remaining leg styles are straight with the Marlborough being a plain, square leg the spade a tapered round leg often with a square or trapezoid foot and the late Chippendale having a square leg with a square foot.

A pair of Chippendale dining chairs, with intricate carving and claw and ball feet

The claw and ball feet seen again here on this mahogany desk with carved skirting

A Chippendale style chest, with shell pattern carving seen often in this period. This chest has the bracket foot used on heavier pieces.

As these items are now antiques, their price can really vary depending on the maker, the condition of the piece, the pieces history of ownership, where you are, and your bargaining skills! However, it is worth adding that presently its possible to pick up pieces at a comparatively low cost. In essence they aren’t seen as being particularly ‘fashionable’ at the moment so at salvage companies like Lassco at Brunswick House you can buy a beautiful 18th Century Mahogany table for less than you might spend on a modern mass-produced one.

There’s also the option of buying reproduction pieces instead of original Georgian furniture. There are a number of companies who produce expertly crafted pieces, akin to the originals, but you get them in perfect condition. They’ll then last you and your family for many decades to come.

Bringing a classic piece up to date

I think it’s really worth investing in a classic piece and bringing it up to date with the use of modern fabrics. There is no denying that antique pieces were made in stronger woods and with more care to detail, so by adding a contemporary fabric you will have a great classically inspired piece that still works in a modern setting and will be totally unique to you.

A classic piece reupholstered in a contemporary fabric

I recommend going to a professional re-upholstering company that specialize in the re-upholstery of antiques, as they will give a great finish and even repair parts of your product to reinforce it and make it last much longer. Etons of Bath can help point you in the right direction.

If that’s a little out of your price range, I have found this great tutorial on how to do a DIY fabric upholstery on an antique chair.

I hope this blog has helped you to understand a little more on some typical Georgian furniture pieces. They are beautifully and expertly made and can compliment any home setting, and personally I find them a lot more interesting than cheap, mass produced goods of today. To see how I have used classic Georgian furniture pieces in homes in Bath and Bristol, have a look at our portfolio

Seventeenth-Century Rings

Toward the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century, a marked change in jewelry and ring styles took place. Just as the Renaissance period was highlighted by ornate gold settings this era was distinguished by a growing emphasis on the gemstone. Refinements in cutting and foiling techniques resulted in a greater diversity of shapes and an emphasis on displaying the beauty of the gems themselves. Enamel is now typically used only as an accent in either white or black and, while gold is still used for colored gemstones, diamonds are set off in silver. Large stones are now worn and set as solitaires while arrangements of smaller stones are set in a myriad of shapes including stars, rosettes, and cruciforms. Details on the shoulders are kept subdued and most often as an engraved foliate motif simply enhanced by black and white enamel.

The prevalence of death was an inescapable part of everyday life in the 1700s. Continued plagues, widespread poverty, famine, and war – all these Malthusian factors served to keep death a common presence and the wearing of memento mori rings popular. A variety of ring styles were used with memento mori themes including signets, wedding rings with a skull between two hands, and locket rings featuring skulls and crossbones. As with other rings, gemstones if affordable, added an element of less austere ornamentation.

By the second half of the seventeenth century, memento mori imagery began to merge with the mourning ring. Distributed according to wills, seventeenth-century mourning rings were inscribed with details such as the individual’s name, initials, coat of arms and date of death. A plain gold band or band of gold enameled all the way around in emblems of death and burial, with an inner inscription were characteristic. Locks of hair were sometimes contained in locket bezels or in hollow hoops. The increasing popularity of bequeathing mourning rings is generally attributed to the execution of the English King Charles I in 1649. Supporters of the monarchy wore jewelry, most often rings, made of a flat topped quartz crystal which covered a gold wire cipher or crown set upon a background of plaited hair. This style known as Stuart Crystals would continue to be popular into the 18th century.

Memento Mori Ring, 17th Century. Skeleton Holding an Hourglass Surmounted on Braided Hair.
Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, Germany.


About 1720, mahogany was imported into England and slowly superseded walnut as the fashionable wood for furniture. The Palladian (after the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio) interiors demanded furniture more striking and larger in scale than the walnut-veneered pieces of the early 18th century. Inspired by the interiors of French and Italian palaces, architects such as William Kent began to design furniture. The design was Classical, in keeping with the traditions of Palladio and the English architect Inigo Jones the ornament was Baroque. At Holkham Hall in Norfolk, Rousham Hall in Oxfordshire, and elsewhere, Kent’s furniture may be seen in its proper environment: gilt mirrors and side tables with sets of chairs and settees covered with patterned velvets matching the grandeur of elaborate architectural Palladian interior decoration.

Despite the resistance of the Palladian Classicists who deplored its asymmetrical principles, in the 1740s the Rococo style crept into English decoration and furniture design. During this decade pattern books of ornament in the full Rococo style by Matthias Lock and Henry Copland were published in London and in 1754 Thomas Chippendale published his Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director, which provided patterns for a wide range of English furniture in the Rococo style and its Chinese and Gothic offshoots. During the following years several similar works were published by such craftsmen and designers as William Ince and Thomas Mayhew, Thomas Johnson, and Robert Manwaring. The Rococo style was firmly established in England throughout the 1750s and into the 1760s. Chippendale and other cabinetmakers borrowed not only ornament from the French rocaille but designs for individual types. Chippendale’s fame rests largely on his publication, though in fact it has now been more or less conclusively proved that he himself was not responsible for the designs, but employed two other designers, Lock and Copland. There were several cabinetmakers—for example, William Vile and John Cobb—whose only memorial is a small quantity of furniture attributable to them. Though it has become the practice to speak of a Chippendale chair or a Vile commode, this does not imply that the pieces were actually made by these craftsmen but that they were made in their workshops.

By mid-18th century every act of the day that necessitated the use of furniture was catered to by some specialized piece, while the basic furniture such as chairs, cupboards, beds, and tables were designed and decorated in innumerable forms. The number of variants on the Rococo chair splat runs into several hundreds. The ingenuity of the cabinetmaker and carver knew few limitations.

An offshoot of the Rococo style, the Gothic taste was particularly well developed in England. Starting early in the century as a literary device, in the 1740s it began to take more solid shape in architecture, interior decoration, and furniture. As with furniture in the Chinese taste, Gothic furniture bore no relation to its medieval equivalents the ornaments, such as tracery and cusped (a point formed by the intersection of two arcs or foils) arches, applied to furniture were borrowed from Gothic architecture. The Gothic taste was much publicized by the writer Horace Walpole’s celebrated villa, Strawberry Hill, in Middlesex, England. Chippendale included designs for furniture in the Gothic taste in all three editions of his Director.


If David Anthony Easton has anything to say about the future of American architecture, a third category will vie with modernism and postmodernism - a classification that might be dubbed premodernism. Its most salient characteristic: the absence of any trace of having been created in the 20th century. The Illinois house shown here and on the following pages is just one of several ambitious ''period'' houses that have been designed since 1976 by David Easton's New York firm. Although he has architects on his staff, Easton is an interior designer. He brings to his houses a concern for surface and an unabashed affection for history that make them differ materially from work done by architects - even those few who claim to be traditionalists.

Despite the occasional postmodernist ''reference'' that swerves perilously close to out-and-out imitation, architects generally have serious qualms about indulging in historic reproduction. Decorators, on the other hand, tend to be less inclined to see themselves as standard-bearers for the age in which they work. Many, in fact, seem drawn to their profession because it permits them to immerse themselves in design from the past. Easton taught design history at Parsons School of Design for five years. He believes that familiarity with the past enriches all of design - modern and traditional.

In addition to a fondness for history, Easton brings to his houses a distinctly decorative sensibility. Although conceived in ''one take,'' the Illinois house was intentionally made to look as if it had been added to at various points in history. A rambling quality was achieved by contriving an '𧫝ition,'' the west wing, that appears to have been added to the ''original'' structure, a pure 18th-century-style Georgian square. The addition, while essentially Georgian, takes license. The greenhouse portion, for example, 'ɼould only have happened in the early 19th century,'' according to Easton. ''I didn't want to create a house that was stiff and museumlike. Williamsburg is a bore.'' o combat stiffness, Easton indulged in a touch of eclecticism -a familiar decorator's trick. So is the use of mottled materials -the exterior is made of uncleaned brick and pocked Texas shellstone - to achieve an appearance of age. Indoors the attention to surface is unabated: Woodwork is painted and then glazed to look less bright, engraved rimlock plates are ground down to ap-proximate the effects of centuries of polishing, and floors are scraped with lye and steel brushes before finishing to relieve any offending sense of being too new. ''We wanted everything to look as if a bit of dust had gathered,'' Easton explains.

Another decorator's attribute that Easton brings to such jobs is the romantic's aptitude for assimilating the intricacies of domesticity on a grand scale. ''It's not just a matter of understanding that the owners and their guests want to be able to push their breakfast trays into the corridor without being observed,'' Easton says. ''There is also the complex hierarchy among the staff. Chefs, butlers, housekeepers and secretaries each have their own empires. The design of the house must accommodate them.''

Easton and his staff worked on the Illinois house for nearly four years, researching, designing and collecting. ''It opened up a whole new world for me,'' says Boris Baranovich, an architect who joined Easton to work on this house. ''I had been schooled in comtemporary architecture, so I had to struggle with myself in the beginning to justify what I was doing.'' Unlike much traditional design, this house manages to be neither timid nor trendy. While Easton assiduously avoided the sort of chic styling that tends to date period rooms, he was equally careful to steer clear of the sort of neutral detailing that could pass for virtually any period. He and his staff designed a Georgian house as if they were Georgian architects: sticking strictly to the vocabulary of the period, they ''invented'' with bravura. aturally, there were compromises. Authentic Georgian architecture has loadbearing masonry walls. The masonry walls in this house bear no loads indeed, they are veneer - just for show. Consequently, the wood-andsteel frame walls had to be constructed in pairs to achieve an appearance of masonrylike thickness at windows and door openings. Then air-conditioning and heating ducts, telephones, even electical outlets had to be inobtrusively woven in. And finally, the separation of the front and back of the house, which was absolute in the 18th century, had to be modified to meet this modern family's needs. Since the owners do some of their own cooking, the kitchen was given more than the strictly utilitarian treatment customary to kitchens that are used only by staff the family's breakfast room was designed to flow directly into the kitchen in the modern mode.

Even so, the house is an anachronism, placing special pressures on those who live in it. Majestic entries were not designed to be dashed through, nor grand staircases to be skipped down. Killing time gracefully is Georgian architecture's sine qua non. The intention is to elevate to ritual such mundanities as walking from one room to the next. In the Georgian house of the 18th century, a processional arrangement of rooms through which one traveled with stately bearing was a compensation for the tedium of passing day after day, year after year, largely bound to the house. Today, such a house can seem inhibiting, its circulation patterns cumbersome. For better or worse, the very floor plan

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Eighteenth Century Ireland, Georgian Ireland

The 18th century tended to be neglected by Irish historians in the 20th century. Irish achievements in the 18th century were largely those of Protestants, so Catholics tended to disregard them. Catholic historians concentrated on the grievances of the Catholics and exaggerated them. The Penal Laws against Catholics were stressed regardless of the fact that most of them affected only a small number of rich Catholics, the Catholic landowners who had sufficient wealth to raise a regiment of infantry to fight for the Catholic Stuart pretenders. The practice of the Catholic religion was not made illegal. Catholic priests could live openly and have their own chapels and mass-houses. As was the law at the time, the ordinary workers, Catholic or Protestant, had no vote, and so were ignored by the political classes. Nor had they any ambitions in the direction of taking control of the state. If they had local grievances, and in many places they had, especially with regard to rents and tithes, they dealt with them locally, and often brutally, but they were not trying to overthrow the Government. If some of them looked for a French invasion it was in the hope that the French would bring guns and powder to assist them in their local disputes. It is a peculiarity, as yet unexplained, that most of the Catholic working classes, by the end of the century, had names that reflected their ancestry as minor local chiefs. The question remains where did the descendants of the former workers, the villeins and betaghs go? The answer seems to be that in times of war and famine the members of even the smallest chiefly family stood a better chance of surviving. This would explain the long-standing grievance of the Catholic peasants that they were unjustly deprived of their land. We will perhaps never know the answer to this question. Penal Laws against religious minorities were the norm in Europe. The religion of the state was decided by the king according to the adage cuius regio eius religio (each king decides the state religion for his own kingdom). At the end of the 17th century, the Catholic landowners fought hard for the Catholic James II. But in the 18th century they lost interest and preferred to come to terms with the actually reigning monarch, and became Protestants to retain their lands and influence. Unlike in Scotland, support for the Catholic Stuarts remained minimal. Nor was there any attempt to establish in independent kingdom or republic. When such an attempt was made at the very end of the century it was led by Protestant gentlemen in imitation of their American cousins. Ireland in the 18th century was not ruled by a foreign elite like the British raj in India. It was an aristocratic society, like all the other European societies at the time. Some of these were descendants of Gaelic chiefs some were descendants of those who had received grants of confiscated land some were descendants of the moneylenders who had lent money to improvident Gaelic chiefs. Together these formed the ruling aristocracy who controlled Parliament and made the Irish laws, controlled the army, the judiciary and the executive. Access to this elite was open to any gentleman who was willing to take the oath of allegiance and conform to the state church, the Established Church but not the nonconformists. British kings did not occupy Ireland and impose foreign rule. Ireland had her own Government and elected Parliament. By a decree of King John in the 12th century, the Lordship of Ireland was annexed to the person of the king of England. When not present in Ireland in person, and he rarely was, his powers were exercised by a Lord Lieutenant to whom considerable executive power was given. He presided over the Irish Privy Council which drew up the legislation to be presented to the Irish Parliament. One restraint was imposed on the Irish Parliament. By Poynings’ Law it was not allowed to pass legislation that infringed on the rights of the king or his English Privy Council. The British Parliament had no interest in the internal affairs of Ireland. The Irish Council were free to devise their own legislation and they did so. The events in Irish republican fantasy are examined in detail. The was no major rebellion against alleged British rule. The vast majority of Catholics and Protestants rallied to the support of their lawful Government. The were local uprisings easily suppressed by the local militias and yeomanry. Atrocities were not all on one side. Ireland at last enjoyed a century of peace with no wasteful and destructive wars within its bounds. No longer were its crops burned, its buildings destroyed, its cattle driven off, its population reduced by fever and famine. Its trade was resumed and gradually wealth accumulated and was no longer dispersed on local wars. Gentlemen, as in England, could afford to build great country and town houses. The arts flourished as never before. Skilled masons could build great houses. Stone cutters could carve sculptures. The most delicate mouldings could be applied to ceilings. The theatre flourished. While some gentlemen led the life of wastrels, others devoted themselves to the promotion of agriculture and industry. Everywhere mines were dug to exploit minerals. Ireland had not the same richness of minerals as England, but every effort was made to find and exploit them. Roads were improved, canals dug, rivers deepened, and ports developed. Market towns spread all over Ireland which provided local farmers with outlets for their produce and increased the wealth of the landlords. This wealth was however very unevenly spread. The population was ever increasing and the poor remained miserably poor. In a bad year, hundreds of thousands of the very poor could perish through cold and famine. But the numbers of the very poor kept on growing. Only among the Presbyterians in Ulster was there emigration on any scale. Even before the American Revolution they found a great freedom and greater opportunities in the American colonies. Catholics, were born, lived and died in the same parish. Altogether it was a century of great achievement.

Watch the video: Georgian singers imitate Duduki instrument in an incredible polyphony