Archive for July 31, 2013

Middle Age Monarchs

Posted: July 31, 2013 in Historic Media


William Price was born on 4th March 1800 at Ty’n-y-coedcae Farm “The House in the Wooded Field” in Risca, Monmouthshire. He was one of the most flamboyant, eccentric Welshmen during the Victorian era, and became a pioneer in the legalisation of cremation in Britain
His father, also named William was an ordained priest in the Church of England, and had studied at Jesus College, Oxford, whilst his mother, Mary Edmunds (1767–1844), was an uneducated Welshwoman who had been a maidservant prior to her marriage. Their marital union was controversial because Mary was of a lower social standing than William, something which was socially taboo in late 18th century British society. The couple went on to have three surviving children, Elisabeth (1793–1872), Mary (1797–1869) and Ann (1804–1878), prior to William’s birth.
Following his son’s birth, the Reverend Price began suffering from a mental illness, acting erratically and experiencing fits of violent rage. He used to bathe either fully clothed or naked in local ponds, and collected snakes, which he would keep in his pockets for several days at a time. He was also known to carry a saw around with him, for the purpose of removing bark from trees, which he would then burn whilst muttering certain words, whilst he similarly used to spit onto stones that he collected, believing that it improved their value. His actions led to him becoming a threat to other members of the local community, in one instance firing a gun at a woman whom he claimed was taking sticks from his hedgerow, and in another case hurling a sharp implement at another man, narrowly missing him.
Although William only stayed at school for three years, between the ages of ten and thirteen, he passed most of his exams and proved himself to be a successful student
In 1814 at the age of 13 he traveled to Caerphilly in South Wales and became an apprentice to Dr Evan Edwards, a successful surgeon. William’s tuition was paid for by various family members including his uncle the Reverend Thomas Price of Merriot, Somerset, who advised him to give up this education, arguing that it was putting too great a financial strain upon Price’s family, but William was insistent that he should continue.
Later in 1820, he located to London where he acquired lodgings near St Paul’s Cathedral, and attended The London Hospital in Whitechapel where he studied for a year, along with registering with St Bartholomew’s. He eventually became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, passing his examinations within 12 months.
He returned to Wales becoming a General Practitioner in Nantgarw, Treforest and Pontypridd and became a close friend of the Guest family, and gave a speech on Welsh history and literature at their Royal Eisteddfod in 1834, which Lady Charlotte Guest felt to be “one of the most beautiful and eloquent speeches that was ever heard”. On the basis of it, he was invited to take up the job of judging the Eisteddfod’s bardic competition, with the prize being awarded to Taliesin, the son of the famous Welsh nationalist and Druid, Iolo Morganwg.
He was also close friend to Francis Crawshay, of the well known Crawshay family of Cyfarthfa Castle and Ironworks.
To encourage the revival in Welsh culture, he gave lessons every Sunday in the Welsh language, which he feared was dying out with the spread of English. In 1838 he also called for the Society to raise funds to build a Druidical Museum in the town, the receipts from which he believed would be used to run a free school for the poor. He was supported in this venture by Francis Crawshay, but did not gain enough sponsors to allow the project to go ahead. In anger, he issued a statement in a local newspaper, telling the people that they were ignoring “your immortal progenitors, to whom you owe your very existence as a civilised people.”
His social activities led to him become a significant figure in the local Chartist movement, which was then spreading about the country, supporting the idea that all men should have the right to vote, irrespective of their wealth or social standing. Many of the Chartists in the industrial areas of southern Wales took up arms in order to ready themselves for revolution against the government, and Price himself aided them in gaining such weaponry, and according to government reports, by 1839 he had seven pieces of field artillery. That same year, the Newport Rising took place, when many of the Chartists and their working class supporters rose up against the authorities, only to be quashed by soldiers, who killed a number of the revolutionaries. Price himself had recognised that this would happen, and he and his supporters had not joined in with the rebellion on that day. Nonetheless, he also realised that the government would begin a crackdown of those involved in the Chartist movement in retaliation for the uprising, and disguised as a woman, he fled to France.
Whilst visiting the Louvre museum in Paris, France he experienced what has been described as “a turning-point in his religious life.” He became highly interested in a stone with a Greek inscription that he erroneously felt depicted an ancient Celtic bard addressing the moon. He subsequently interpreted the inscription as a prophecy given by an ancient Welsh prince named Alun, declaring that a man would come in the future to reveal the true secrets of the Welsh language and to liberate the Welsh people. Price felt that this prophecy applied to him, and that he must return to Wales to free his people from the English-dominated authorities.
He returned in 1840 and set up a medical practice combining holistic, and his version of druidism, where he attracted a number of followers. He also set up home with Ann Morgan of Pentyrch who bore him his first child in 1841, a girl, named Gwenhiolen Larlles Morganwg meaning ‘Gwenhiolan, Countess of Glamorgan’.
Returning to his long held idea of building a museum and school at Pontypridd, a local landowner, Sir Benjamin Hall, who wanted to encourage the revival of Welsh culture, allowed him to use his own land, although Price and the Halls subsequently fell out and the project was scrapped. Left with debts from the aborted project, Price once more escaped to France in 1861. Around this time, he began writing to the national press, making exaggerated statements about himself and Welsh history, for instance claiming that he was Lord of the Southern Welsh and that “All the Greek Books are the Works of the Primitive Bards, in our own Language!!!!!!!… Homer was born in the hamlet of Y Van near Caerphili. He built Caerphili Castle… the oldest Books of the Chinese confess the fact!!”
In 1866 he again returned to Wales, where he found his daughter had grown up and left to live her own life following the death of her mother Ann Morgan.
He settled in Ty’r Clettwr, Llantrisant where he opened up a new medical practice, which proved to be a success. However, his continuous eccentric behaviour saw him in and out of the courts, where on one occasion he was accused of the manslaughter of a patient.
Dressed in a royal tartan shawl he conducted his own defence, as he had extreme knowledge of the law. He won his case and was acquitted.
It is also reported that he performed a caesarean birth on a kitchen table, delivering the heir to a local ironmaster. It is well known that he was a close friend of Francis Crawshay and was also the doctor for the Hirwaun ironworks of which Francis managed on behalf of his father.
At his home in Llantrisant, he took as his partner 21 year old Gwenllian Llewelyn, a farmer’s daughter from Ruthin. Despite his earlier pronouncements against marriage, he organized a Druidic wedding ceremony through which he married Gwellian on 4 March 1881 at the Rocking Stone in Pontypridd.
In August 1883 he became a father for the second time, when Gwenllian gave birth to a boy who they named Iesu Grist Welsh for Jesus Christ. Dr. Price was 83 years old at the time.
On January 10th 1884, just 5 months old, the child died. On Sunday 13 January Dr. Price took the dead body up to the hilltop on East Caerlan where he began chanting druidic law before cremation took place.
Villagers leaving the local church service were astonished by what they were witnessing, and while some tried to drag the body from the flames others attacked Dr. Price. The commotion led to him being arrested.
The child’s body was recovered and an autopsy was performed by a local doctor, who concluded that the child had died of natural causes and had not been murdered. Price was therefore not charged with infanticide, but was instead tried in a Cardiff courtroom for performing cremation rather than burial, which the police believed to be illegal.
The trial took place in March, where the interest had spread all over the country.
Dr. Price once again conducted his own defence, being a showman who played to the gallery at Cardiff Crown Court.
Price argued that while the law did not state that cremation was legal, it also did not state that it was illegal. He claimed “It is not right that a carcass should be allowed to rot and decompose in this way. It results in a wastage of good land, pollution of the earth, water and air, and is a constant danger to all living creatures”.
The judge, Mr. Justice Stephen, agreed. Price was freed, and returned to Llantrisant to find a crowd of supporters cheering for his victory. On 14 March, he was finally able to give his son a cremation involving his own personal Druidic prayers.
The case set a precedent which, together with the activities of the newly founded Cremation Society of Great Britain, led to the Cremation Act of 1902.
In 1885 the first official cremation took place at Woking, and ten cremations are recorded as being performed in the following year. In 1892 a crematorium opened in Manchester, followed by one in Glasgow in 1895 and one in Liverpool in 1896.
Before his death Price fathered two more children, a son named Iesu Grist who was later renamed Nicholas, and a daughter Penelope Elizabeth.
Dr. William Price died at 9pm on Monday 23rd January 1893 where his last words stated were said to have been, ‘Give me champagne.’
His body, as he had instructed, was cremated on the same hilltop as that of his late son, where it is said up to 20,000 onlookers assembled to watch the procedure of which saw the coffin set alight during a day long festival.


Queen Victoria was born on 24 May 1819, at Kensington Palace, London, a daughter to Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, and his wife German born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
Victoria’s father, Prince Edward was the fourth son of the reigning King George III, and after the death in 1817 of the King’s only legitimate grandchild, Princess Charlotte of Wales, pressure was on Prince Edward and his unmarried brothers to marry and produce a child.
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was a widow with two children and the sister of Leopold, the widower of Princess Charlotte. Prince Edward and Princess Victoria married on 29 May 1818 at Schloss Ehrenburg, Coburg, and again on 11 July 1818 at Kew Palace, Kew, in Surrey.
A year later the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s only child was born, and was christened on 24 June 1819 at Kensington Palace, and was baptised Alexandrina, after one of her godparents, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, and Victoria after her mother.
In 1820 both Princess Victoria’s grandfather and father died within a week of each other, and her uncle the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent) reigned as King George IV.
Another of Princess Victoria’s uncles, the Prince William the Duke of Clarence succeeded his brother George VI, and reigned as William IV until his death on 20 June 1837, when 18 year old Princess Victoria inherited the throne.
Victoria had a strict and, as later described by herself, a “rather melancholy” childhood. The Duchess of Kent was very protective of her daughter, having her share her bedroom every night, and isolated her from other children. Private tutors kept a regular timetable and her lessons included French, German, Italian and Latin, but she only spoke English at home. Her playtime was spent with her dolls and ‘Dash’ her King Charles spaniel.
Between 1830 and 1835 the Duchess of Kent took Victoria on journeys throughout England and Wales on public appearances as heiress presumptive. This not only distressed Victoria, making her tired and ill, but also annoyed King William, who was concerned that the public portrayed Victoria as his rival. However, the Duchess of Kent dismissed his complaints as motivated by jealousy and Victoria was forced to continue the tours.
The Duchess of Kent had arranged with her brothers, Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Leopold, to introduce her daughter to her nephew Albert, the son of Ernest I. The visit was planned to take place in May 1836, to the disapproval of William IV, as he favoured Prince Alexander of the Netherlands, second son of the Prince of Orange.
The visit with Albert proceeded and Victoria was reported in her diary to have enjoyed her meeting “Albert is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful”.
Her letter to her uncle Leopold thanked him “for the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert … He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see.”
On 24 May 1837 Victoria turned 18, and just a few weeks later on 20 June, aged 71, her uncle King William IV died and Victoria was to become Queen where she withdrew her first name of Alexandrina. Her coronation took place on 28 June 1838, and became the first monarch to reside at Buckingham Palace.
The politically inexperienced Queen became dependable on Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, for advice, especially in 1839 when her reputation suffered when a campaign began implicating the Queen in the spreading of false rumours about one of her mother’s ladies-in-waiting, Lady Flora Hastings.
Lady Flora Hastings, developed an abdominal growth that was widely rumoured to be an out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Sir John Conroy, who was also said to have been having an affair with the Duchess of Kent. Victoria believed the rumours, and she hated Conroy, and despised “that odious Lady Flora”, because she had conspired with Conroy and the Duchess of Kent in the Kensington System, which was the system in which Victoria was raised as a child. At first, Lady Flora refused to submit to a naked medical examination, until in mid-February she eventually agreed, and was found to be a virgin. Conroy, the Hastings family and the opposition Tories organised a press campaign implicating Queen Victoria in the spreading of false rumours about Lady Flora. When Lady Flora died in July, the post-mortem revealed a large tumour on her liver that had distended her abdomen. At public appearances, Victoria was hissed and jeered as “Mrs. Melbourne”, due to her close friendship with the Prime Minister.
During the same year, due to a political crisis Melbourne resigned after a defeat in parliament. The queen invited the Conservative leader Sir Robert Peel to form a government, but he insisted that the queen’s Whig ladies of the bedchamber be replaced with Tory ones, which was the usual practice. The queen refused, so Peel declined to form a government and Melbourne returned to office.
Although Victoria was required by social convention to live with her mother, at Buckingham Palace the Duchess of Kent was provided with a remote apartment, with the Queen often refusing to meet with her due to their indifferences and her mother’s continued reliance with Sir John Conroy, and with only possible avoidance from the threat of further years of torment Melbourne suggested, what Victoria described as “shocking alternative” of her getting married.
Although she refused to rush into marriage, Victoria showed interest as to Albert’s education in the role of which he would play as the Queen’s husband.
Albert’s second visit took place on 10th October 1839 and just five days into his visit, a besotted Victoria proposed to him.
On 10 February 1840, the couple married in the Chapel Royal of St. James’ Palace.
Of her wedding she was reported as writing in her diary, I NEVER, NEVER spent such an evening!!! MY DEAREST DEAREST DEAR Albert … his excessive love & affection gave me feelings of heavenly love & happiness I never could have hoped to have felt before! He clasped me in his arms, & we kissed each other again & again! His beauty, his sweetness & gentleness – really how can I ever be thankful enough to have such a Husband! … to be called by names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before – was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!
Albert not only became the Queen’s husband, but also her companion and political adviser, replacing the influential Lord Melbourne.
The Duchess of Kent was moved out of Buckingham Palace and into Ingestre House in Belgrave Square, before being provided with both Clarence and Frogmore House after the death of Princess Augusta in 1840, and due to Albert’s mediation, relations between mother and daughter improved slowly over the years.
Soon after their marriage, Victoria found she was pregnant with her first child. While travelling in her carriage to visit her mother with Albert, 18 year old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the Queen firing twice at her. The royal couple were unhurt, and Oxford was tried and found guilty of high treason, being acquitted on grounds of insanity.
Later the same year, on 21 November 1840, Victoria gave birth to her first child, a daughter she named Victoria.
Although she did not enjoy pregnancy, Victoria and Albert had eight more children.
Her second child was born just a year after her first, on 9 November 1841, a son who was named Albert Edward.
Their third child was to be their second daughter, Princess Alice, was born on 25 April 1843 and just over a year later on 31 July 1844 Victoria gave birth to another son, Prince Alfred.
Their fifth child was a daughter, Princess Helena, born on 25 May 1846 and another daughter Princess Louise was born on 18 March 1848.
Their seventh child was Prince Arthur, born on 1 May 1850 and another son Prince Leopold became her eighth child being born on 7 April 1853.
During the birth of Leopold, Victoria used the new anaesthetic, chloroform, and was so impressed from the pain relief it provided during childbirth that she used it again in 1857 at the birth of her ninth and final child, Beatrice, despite opposition from members of the clergy, who considered it against biblical teaching, and members of the medical profession, who thought it dangerous.
Victoria may have suffered from post-natal depression after many of her pregnancies. Letters from Albert to Victoria intermittently complain of her loss of self-control. For example, about a month after Leopold’s birth Albert complained in a letter to Victoria about her “continuance of hysterics” over a “miserable trifle”.
During her reign as Queen of England, further assassination attempts were made against Victoria since her first attack by Edward Oxford. On 29 May 1842, whilst travelling along the Mall in her carriage, a male by the name of John Francis aimed a pistol at her but did not fire, and escaped. In order to catch Francis, the following day, although with a greater escort and travelling much quicker, Victoria took the same route, and as was expected Francis aimed and fired and was seized by plain clothes police officers, and convicted of high treason where he was commuted to transportation for life.
The next attempt occurred on 3 July 1842, with John William Bean, who tried to fire a gun of which was loaded with paper and tobacco, and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
In 1849 a powder filled pistol was fired by unemployed Irishman William Hamilton, at Victoria’s carriage as it travelled along Constitution Hill in London. He was sentenced to seven years transportation.
The next attack caused the Queen injury to her forehead when she was assaulted by ex-army officer, Robert Pate. Believed to be possibly insane, Pate struck Victoria on the head with his cane, causing her bonnet to crush and suffer from bruising on her forehead. Pate was also sentenced to seven years transportation.
As Queen, Victoria took a keen interest in improving relations between Britain and France, and hosted several visits between the British Royal family and the House of Orleans. In 1843 Victoria and Albert stayed with King Louis Philippe I at Chateau d’Eu in Normandy becoming the first English monarch to visit a French monarch since Henry VIII of England met with Francis I of France during 1520.
In 1844, King Louis Philippe made a reciprocal visit to Britain, being the first French King to visit a British sovereign and Victoria and Albert returned one again to Chateau d’Eu in 1845.
In 1845 with Ireland suffering from the disease Phytophthora infestans, commonly known as blight, a four year period saw over a million Irish people die and another million emigrated. Queen Victoria was reported to personally donated £2,000 to famine relief, and became known in Ireland as “The Famine Queen”.
On 25 January 1858, at 17 years of age, Victoria’s eldest daughter married Prince Frederick William of Prussia in London. The couple had been betrothed since September 1855, when Princess Victoria was 14-years-old; the marriage was delayed by the Queen and Prince Albert until the bride was 17. Although the Queen and Albert hoped that their daughter and son-in-law would be a liberalising influence in the enlarging Prussian state, Victoria felt “sick at heart” to see her daughter leave England for Germany; In a letter to her daughter she wrote; “It really makes me shudder”, “when I look round to all your sweet, happy, unconscious sisters, and think I must give them up too – one by one.”
Almost exactly a year later, Princess Victoria gave birth to the Queen’s first grandchild: Wilhelm.
In 1861 Victoria suffered heartbreak through the deaths of her mother and husband.
It was March 1861 when Victoria was at her mother’s side when the Duchess of Kent died.
Victoria was heartbroken when she discovered how deeply her mother had loved her when through reading her mother’s papers and blamed both Conroy and Lehzen for wickedly estranging her from her mother.
Although ill himself with chronic stomach issues, Albert took over many of Victoria’s duties during her grief, and in August took Victoria to visit their son, the Prince of Wales as he attended army manoeuvres near Dublin.
Albert visited his son again during November this time to Cambridge where he was studying. Albert was appalled when he had been made aware of gossip of his son having slept with an Irish actress while he was in Ireland, and although unwell he needed to confront his son.
Just a month later William Jenner had diagnosed Albert with suffering from Typhoid fever, and on 14 December Albert died. Victoria was devastated and blamed the death through worrying over their son’s philandering claiming he had been “killed by that dreadful business”. Victoria entered a state of mourning and for the rest of her life she remained wearing black clothing.
Victoria rarely entered London, avoided public appearances and only conducted her official government duties. Remaining secluded in her royal residences of Windsor Castle, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle of which she and Albert had acquired in 1847, her popularity diminished and she became known as the “Widow of Windsor”.
In 1864, after a protester had placed a notice on the railings of Buckingham Palace announcing “these commanding premises to be let or sold in consequence of the late occupant’s declining business”, Victoria’s uncle Leopold wrote to her advising to appear in public. This was agreed and she attended the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society at Kensington and took a drive through London in an open carriage.
With having relied upon John Brown, a Scottish male servant, slanderous rumours circulated and appeared in print of a romantic connection and a secret marriage. The Queen was then labelled “Mrs Brown”.
In 1866, for the first time since Albert’s death, Victoria attended the State Opening of Parliament and the following year supported the passing of the Reform Act 1867
In 1870, republican sentiment in Britain, fed by the Queen’s seclusion, was boosted after the establishment of the Third French Republic. A republican rally in Trafalgar Square demanded Victoria’s removal, and Radical MPs spoke against her.
In August and September 1871, Victoria was seriously ill with an abscess in her arm, which Joseph Lister successfully lanced and treated with his new anti-septic, carbolic acid spray.
In late November 1871, at the height of the republican movement, the Prince of Wales contracted typhoid fever, the disease that was believed to have killed his father, and Victoria was fearful her son would die. Her son’s condition hadn’t improved on the approach of the 10th anniversary of Albert’s death, and Victoria’s distress continued. However, he pulled through, and on 27 February 1872, mother and son attended a public parade through London and a grand service of thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral, and republican feeling subsided.
Another assassination attempt was made on the Queen just two day’s after her attendance of the thanksgiving service, when 17 year old Arthur O’Connor, the great-nephew of Irish MP Feargus O’Connor, waved an unloaded pistol at Victoria’s open carriage just after she had arrived at Buckingham Palace. John Brown, who was attending the Queen, grabbed him and O’Connor was later to receive 12 months’ imprisonment. As a result of the incident, Victoria’s popularity recovered further.
On 14 December 1878, on the 17th anniversary of Albert’s death, Queen Victoria’s second daughter Alice, who married Louis of Hesse, died of diphtheria in Darmstadt. Victoria found the coincidence of dates “almost incredible and most mysterious”.
The following year, in May 1879, she became a great-grandmother with the birth of Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen and felt “aged” by “the loss of my beloved child”.
Roderick Maclean, a poet, was apparently offended when Victoria refused to accept one of his poems, and on 2 March 1882, as Victoria’s carriage left Windsor railway station, Maclean shot at the Queen. Victoria was unharmed as two Eton College schoolboys beat the attacker with their umbrellas until a police officer bundled him away. Maclean was found not guilty by reason of insanity, of which outraged the Queen, but she was so touched by the expressions of loyalty that so many displayed that she commented it was “worth being shot at, to see how much one is loved”.
After having fallen down some stairs at Windsor on 17 March 1883, Victoria was lame until July, yet she never fully recovered as she suffered with rheumatism thereafter.
Just 10 day’s after her fall, her loyal personal attendant and close friend, John Brown died after an accident, and Victoria began work on a biography of Brown. Anxious that the publication would produce rumours of a love affair, her private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby advised Victoria against the idea. The manuscript was destroyed, but in 1884 Victoria published More Leaves from a Journal of a Life in the Highlands, a sequel to her earlier work which she dedicated to her “devoted personal attendant and faithful friend John Brown”.
Tragedy was to strike Victoria once again, when a day after the first anniversary of John Brown’s death, on 28 March 1884 Victoria was informed by telegraph of her youngest son, Leopold having died in Cannes. He was “the dearest of my dear sons” she cried.
A month later, Victoria’s youngest child, Beatrice had met and fallen in love with Prince Henry of Battenberg whilst attending the wedding of Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse, who was marrying Henry’s brother, Prince Louis of Battenberg.
Although the couple planned to marry, Victoria was opposed as she wished for her daughter to remain at home and act as her companion. A year passed and with the promise of remaining to live with the Queen and attend her, Victoria relented and permitted Beatrice and Henry to marry.
Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations took place in 1887, and Victoria celebrated her fiftieth anniversary of her accession on 20 June with a banquet of invited guests of which were 50 kings and princes.
The following day, Victoria took part in a procession and attended a thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey.
A year later in 1888, Victoria’s eldest daughter became Empress Consort of Germany, but as she was widowed within the year, Victoria’s grandchild Wilhelm became German Emperor as Wilhelm II.
Under Wilhelm, Victoria and Albert’s hopes of a liberal Germany were not fulfilled. He believed in autocracy. Victoria thought he had “little heart or tact, and his conscience and intelligence have been completely wharped “.
On 23 September 1896, Victoria surpassed her grandfather George III as the longest-reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history. The Queen requested that any special celebrations be delayed until 1897, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee, which was made a festival of the British Empire at the suggestion of Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain.
The prime ministers of all the self-governing dominions were invited, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee procession through London included troops from all over the empire. The parade paused for an open-air service of thanksgiving held outside St Paul’s Cathedral, throughout which Victoria sat in her open carriage. The celebration was marked by great outpourings of affection for the septuagenarian Queen.
In July 1900, her second son Alfred (“Affie”) died; “Oh, God! My poor darling Affie gone too”, she wrote in her journal. “It is a horrible year, nothing but sadness & horrors of one kind & another.”
As had been maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of White. With suffering from Rheumatism and also her eyes being clouded by cataracts her mobility was limited.
Throughout early January Victoria was reported to feel “weak and unwell”, and by mid-January she was “drowsy … dazed, and confused”.
On Tuesday 22 January 1901, at 6.30pm, at the age of 81 Queen Victoria died.
Victoria’s son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, were at her deathbed. Her favourite pet Pomeranian, Turri, lay upon her deathbed as a last request.
In 1897, Victoria had written instructions for her funeral, which was to be military as befitting a soldier’s daughter and the head of the army, and white instead of black. On 25 January, Edward VII, the Kaiser and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, helped lift her into the coffin. She was dressed in a white dress and her wedding veil. An array of mementos commemorating her extended family, friends and servants were laid in the coffin with her, at her request, by her doctor and dressers. One of Albert’s dressing gowns was placed by her side, with a plaster cast of his hand, while a lock of John Brown’s hair, along with a picture of him, were placed in her left hand concealed from the view of the family by a carefully positioned bunch of flowers. Items of jewellery placed on Victoria included the wedding ring of John Brown’s mother, given to her by Brown in 1883. Her funeral was held on Saturday 2 February in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. As she was laid to rest at the mausoleum, snow began to fall.

Mary of Teck

Posted: July 31, 2013 in Historic People


Born on 26 May 1867 at Kensington Palace and christened Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes, her three godparents were Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII and May’s father-in-law), and Princess Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Born and raised in Britain by her parents, Francis, Duke of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, she was informally known as ‘May’, although technically Princess of Teck.
May was the only daughter and the eldest child, and learned from a young age to “exercise her native discretion, firmness and tact” by resolving her younger brother’s petty squabbles.
May was educated at home by her mother, the Duchess of Teck, and governess, and was enlisted in many charitable activities, including visiting the dwellings of the poor.
The Duchess of Teck was granted a parliamentary annuity of £5000, and received an estimated £4000 a year from her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge. Despite this, the family were deeply in debt and lived abroad from 1883. The family travelled throughout Europe, visiting their various relations and stayed in Florence, Italy, for a time, where May enjoyed visiting the art galleries, churches, and museums.
On their return to London in 1885, the family resided at White Lodge in Richmond Park, where May helped organise parties and social events with her mother, whom she was extremely close.
In December 1891, at the age of 24, May became engaged to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. However, just six weeks from the announcement of the engagement Albert Victor died unexpectedly from the influenza pandemic.
In May 1893, Albert Victor’s brother, Prince George, Duke of York and the future King, proposed to May, of which she accepted, possibly with having become close during their shared period of mourning. They were soon deeply in love, and George wrote to May every day that they were apart.
On 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, in London, the couple married
The new Duke and Duchess of York lived in York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, and in apartments in St James’s Palace. York Cottage was a modest house for royalty, but it was a favourite of George, who liked a relatively simple life.
Their marriage was a success, and unlike his father, George never took a mistress. They had six children: Edward, Albert, Mary, Henry, George, and John.
Queen Mary was on times seen to be a ‘distant mother’, having put her children in the care of a nanny. The first nanny was dismissed for insolence and the second for abusing the children. This second woman, anxious to suggest that the children preferred her to anyone else, would pinch Edward and Albert whenever they were about to be presented to their parents, so that they would start crying and be speedily returned to her. On discovery, she was replaced by her effective and much-loved assistant, Mrs. Bill, with whom her youngest son, Prince John, was housed in a private farm on the Sandringham Estate, in the care of Mrs. Bill, possibly to hide his epilepsy from the public.
In his memoirs Edward, the eldest son wrote of his mother: “Her soft voice, her cultivated mind, the cosy room overflowing with personal treasures were all inseparable ingredients of the happiness associated with this last hour of a child’s day … Such was my mother’s pride in her children that everything that happened to each one was of the utmost importance to her. With the birth of each new child, Mama started an album in which she painstakingly recorded each progressive stage of our childhood”.
However, in his private letters to his wife after his mother’s death, he expressed a less charitable view: “My sadness was mixed with incredulity that any mother could have been so hard and cruel towards her eldest son for so many years and yet so demanding at the end without relenting a scrap. I’m afraid the fluids in her veins have always been as icy cold as they are now in death.”
On the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901, May’s father-in-law ascended the throne as King Edward VII.
For most of the rest of that year, George and May were styled Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York.
For eight months they toured the British Empire, visiting Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, Ceylon, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, South Africa and Canada. No royal had undertaken such an ambitious tour before, and May broke down in tears at the thought of leaving her children, who were to be left in the care of their grandparents, for such a lengthy period of time.
Nine days after having arrived back in Britain, on 9 November 1901, George was created Prince of Wales.
In 1904, and as Princess of Wales, May accompanied her husband on trips to Austria-Hungary and Württemberg.
The following year, May gave birth to her last child, John. It was a difficult labour, and although May recovered quickly, her newborn son suffered respiratory problems.
In October 1905 the couple embarked on eight month tour of India, again leaving their children in the care of their grandparents.
During their tour they also travelled to Egypt and Greece, followed by a journey to Spain where they attended the wedding of King Alfonso XIII to Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, at which the bride and groom narrowly avoided assassination. Only a week after returning to Britain, May and George went to Norway for the coronation of George’s brother-in-law and sister, King Haakon VII and Queen Maud.
Edward VII died on 6 May 1910, and George V ascended the throne with May becoming queen consort. May was asked to drop one of her two official names, Victoria or Mary, and preferring not to take the name of her husband’s grandmother, Queen Victoria, she chose to use the name Mary.
On 22 June 1911 at Westminster Abbey, Mary and George were crowned King and Queen. A few months later on 12 December they toured the sub-continent as Emperor and Empress of India, returning to Britain in February.
Two months after the end of the war, Queen Mary’s youngest son, John, died at the age of thirteen. She described her shock and sorrow in her diary and letters, extracts of which were published after her death: “our poor darling little Johnnie had passed away suddenly … The first break in the family circle is hard to bear but people have been so kind & sympathetic & this has helped us [the King and me] much.”
In the late 1920s, George V became increasingly ill with lung problems, exacerbated by his heavy smoking. Queen Mary paid particular attention to his care. During his illness in 1928, one of his doctors, Sir Farquhar Buzzard, was asked who had saved the King’s life. He replied, “The Queen”. In 1935, King George V and Queen Mary celebrated their silver jubilee, with celebrations taking place throughout the British Empire. In his jubilee speech, George paid public tribute to his wife, having told his speechwriter, “Put that paragraph at the very end. I cannot trust myself to speak of the Queen when I think of all I owe her.”
On 20 January 1936 George V died, and Queen Mary’s eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales ascended the throne as Edward VIII. Queen Mary officially became Queen Mother, yet she did not use the title and was instead known as Her Majesty Queen Mary.
Within the same year controversy surrounded the royal family due to Edward’s involvement with Mrs Wallis Simpson. Edward had announced his intention of marrying his twice-divorced American mistress of which Queen Mary disapproved, and of which was against the teaching of the Anglican Church, and thought Mrs. Simpson wholly unsuitable to be the wife of a king. After receiving advice from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Stanley Baldwin, as well as the Dominion governments, that he could not remain king and marry Mrs. Simpson, Edward abdicated. Though loyal and supportive of her son, Queen Mary could not comprehend why Edward would neglect his royal duties in favour of his personal feelings.
Mrs. Simpson had been presented formally to both King George V and Queen Mary at court, but Mary later refused to meet her, in public or privately. She saw it as her duty to provide moral support for her second son, Prince Albert, Duke of York, who ascended the throne on Edward’s abdication, taking the name George VI. When Mary attended the coronation, she became the first British dowager queen to do so. Edward’s abdication did not lessen her love for him, but she never wavered in her disapproval of the damage she believed had been done to the Crown.
During the Second World War Mary reluctantly moved from London to Badminton House in Gloucestershire, on the request of her son King George VI. There she stayed with her household of fifty five staff and her niece, Mary Somerset, Duchess of Beaufort.
In support of the war effort Mary would visit troops and factories and also offered lifts to soldiers she would see on the roads.
In 1942, while on active service, her youngest surviving son, Prince George, Duke of Kent, was killed in an air crash.
The stress of the war had also taken its toll on the King George VI health, exacerbated by his heavy smoking and subsequent development of lung cancer, where on 23 September 1951, he underwent surgery where his left lung was removed following the discovery of a malignant tumour.
On the morning of 6 February, George VI was discovered dead in bed at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He had died from a coronary thrombosis in his sleep at the age of 56.
Queen Mary died of lung cancer the following year, on 24 March 1953, aged 85, at Marlborough House, London and was buried beside her husband in the nave of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.


George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC (15 May 1645 – 18 April 1689), also known as “The Hanging Judge”, was a Welsh judge. He became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor (and serving as Lord High Steward in certain instances).
Jeffreys was born at the family estate of Acton Hall, near Wrexham, in Denbighshire, Wales, the sixth son of John and Margaret Jeffreys. His grandfather, John Jeffreys (died 1622) had been Chief Justice of the Anglesey circuit of the Great Sessions. His father, also John Jeffreys (1608–1691) was a Royalist during the English Civil War, but was reconciled to the Commonwealth and served as High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1655.
His brothers were people of note. Thomas, later Sir Thomas (knighted in 1686) was English Consul in Spain and a Knight of Alcántara. William was vicar of Holt, Wales from 1668–1675. His younger brother, James, made a good ecclesiastical career, becoming Vice-Dean of Canterbury in 1685.
George was educated at Shrewsbury School from 1652–1659, his grandfather’s old school, where he was periodically tested by Philip Henry, a friend of his mother. He attended St Paul’s School, London from 1659–1661 and Westminster School, London from 1661–1662. He became an undergraduate at Trinity College Cambridge University in 1662, leaving after one year without graduating, and entering the Inner Temple for law in 1663.
In 1667, he married Sarah Neesham or Needham, by whom he had seven children before her death in 1678. She was the daughter of the impoverished vicar of Stoke d’Abernon. A story is published, that Jeffreys sought to marry a daughter of a rich City merchant and had a secret correspondence with her, through Sarah, her kinswoman and companion. When the merchant discovered the plot he refused his home to Sarah, and George did a noble act by marrying her. They married in the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower in the City of London.
He married secondly, Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Bloodworth, Lord Mayor of London during the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666, and widow of Sir John Jones of Fonmon Castle, Glamorgan. Being only 29 at the time of her second marriage, she was described as a ‘brisk young widow’ and there were some rumours about her. She was said to have a formidable temper: Jeffreys’ family went in awe of her, and it was said she was the only person he was afraid of; a popular ballad called them St. George and his Dragon.
He embarked on a legal career in 1668, becoming a Common Serjeant of London in 1671. He was aiming for the post of Recorder of London, but was passed over for this in 1676 in favour of William Dolben. He turned instead to the Court and became Solicitor General to the future king James II (then the Duke of York), the younger brother of Charles II. Despite his Protestant upbringing, he found favour under the Roman Catholic Duke.
Jeffreys was knighted in 1677, became Recorder of London in 1678 when Dolben resigned, and by 1680 had become Chief Justice of Chester and Counsel for the Crown at Ludlow and Justice of the Peace for Flintshire.
During the Popish Plot he was frequently on the bench which condemned numerous innocent men on the perjured evidence of Titus Oates. These condemnations were remembered against him in 1685 when he secured the conviction of Oates for his perjury at the same trials. Charles II created him a baronet in 1681, and two years later, he was Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and a member of the Privy Council.
Jeffreys became Lord Chief Justice in 1683 and presided over the trial of Algernon Sidney, who had been implicated in the Rye House Plot. Sidney was convicted and executed: Jeffreys’ conduct of the trial caused some unease, in particular his ruling that while two witnesses were normally required in a treason trial, and the Crown had only one, Sidney’s own writings on republicanism were a second “witness” on the ground that “to write is to act”. John Evelyn, meeting him at a wedding two days later, thought his riotous behaviour unbecoming to his office, especially so soon after Sidney’s trial. Jeffreys’ elevation was seen by many as a reward for the successful conviction of Lord Russell in connection with the same conspiracy as Sidney: Jeffreys, who had led for the prosecution at Russell’s trial, replaced Sir Francis Pemberton, who had presided at the same trial and made clear his doubts about Russell’s guilt, much to the King’s displeasure. James II, following his accession to the throne, named Jeffreys as Lord Chancellor in 1685, and elevated him to the peerage as Baron Jeffreys of Wem.
Jeffreys’ historical notoriety comes from his actions in 1685, after Monmouth’s Rebellion. Jeffreys was sent to the West Country in the autumn of 1685 to conduct the trials of captured rebels. The Centre of the trials was based at Taunton. At these trials, later known as the “Bloody Assizes”, Jeffreys issued harsh sentences to nearly all defendants. About 300 were executed, and between 800 and 900 were transported to the West Indies. On 18/19 September alone, he issued 144 death sentences. For his severity, he was nicknamed “the hanging judge”.
Though Jeffreys’ harshness alienated many Englishmen, it pleased King James, who considered making him Viscount Wrexham and Earl of Flint. James refrained only because Jeffreys remained a Protestant. Jeffreys never hid his contempt for the Catholic faith: in the last months of James’ reign, as the Government drifted without leadership, Jeffreys remarked “the Virgin Mary must do all”.
During the Glorious Revolution, when James II fled the country, Jeffreys stayed in London until the last moment, being the only high legal authority in James’s abandoned kingdom to perform political duties. When William III’s troops approached London, Jeffreys tried to flee and follow the King abroad. He was captured in a public house in Wapping, now named The Town of Ramsgate. Reputedly he was disguised as a sailor, and was recognized by a surviving judicial victim. Jeffreys was in terror of the public when dragged to the Lord Mayor and then to prison “for his own safety”. He begged his captors for protection from the mob.
He died of kidney disease (probably pyelonephritis) while in custody in the Tower of London on 18 April 1689. He was originally buried in the Chapel Royal of Saint Peter ad Vincula in the Tower.
In 1692 his body was moved to St Mary Aldermanbury. (During The Blitz, St Mary Aldermanbury was gutted by a German air raid and all traces of Jeffreys’s tomb were destroyed. The remains of the church were later re-erected in Fulton, Missouri, in the United States.)
In his London Journal, Leigh Hunt gives the following account of Judge Jeffreys’ death and burial:
Jeffreys was taken on the twelfth of September, 1688. He was first interred privately in the Tower; but three years afterwards, when his memory was something blown over, his friends obtained permission, by a warrant of the queen’s dated September 1692, to take his remains under their own care, and he was accordingly re-interred in a vault under the communion table of St. Mary, Aldermanbury, 2nd Nov. 1694. In 1810, during certain repairs, the coffin was uncovered for a time, and the public had a sight of the box containing the mortal remains of the feared and hated magistrate.
Jeffreys’s only son, by Sarah Needham, John (or Jacky as he was called at home) succeeded to his father’s peerage. He married Charlotte, a daughter of Philip Herbert, 7th Earl of Pembroke, and later Henrietta de Kérouaille, sister of the Duchess of Portsmouth, a mistress of Charles II and a supporter of Jeffreys in the early stages of his career.
John and Charlotte Jeffreys had one daughter, named Henriette-Louise after the two Kerouaille sisters, but no son, so that the male line of George Jeffreys became extinct. There are descendants from the daughters.
Jeffreys’ reputation today is mixed. His legal ability was undoubtedly high, and he was definitely good in all cases that required him to rule on questions of law, but not of loyalty. Some say he was a personally vengeful man. He had bitter personal and professional rivalries with Sir William Williams, whom he tried to ruin with a fine for publishing a libel. His political animus was displayed during his legal career. He suffered a painful kidney disease that may well have affected his unbridled temper and added to this reputation.
In The Revolution of 1688, the historian J. R. Jones refers to Jeffreys as “an alcoholic”. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in the majority opinion in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 67 (2004), wrote that “The Framers of the Constitution knew that judges, like other government officers, could not always be trusted to safeguard the rights of the people; the likes of the dread Lord Jeffreys were not yet too distant a memory.”
However, G. W. Keeton in Lord Chancellor Jeffreys and the Stuart Cause (1965) claimed the historical Jeffreys “to be a different person from the Jeffreys of legend”.


Born on 24 December 1837 in Munich, Bavaria, Her Royal Highness Duchess Elizabeth Amalie Eugenie, known as ‘Sisi’, was the fourth child of Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria and his wife Princess Ludovika of Bavaria.
The family lived at Possenhofen Castle where the children were raised in an uninhibited environment, and Elizabeth would often skip education in favour of riding through the countryside.
In 1853 Elizabeth’s aunt, Princess Sophie of Bavaria arranged a marriage between her son Emperor Francis Joseph and Elizabeth’s elder sister, Helene. Elizabeth accompanied her mother and elder sister on the journey to Austria in order for the Emperor to formally propose to Helene. Still in mourning over the death of an aunt, the three women were dressed in black for the journey and intended to change into more appropriate clothing on their arrival, but the coach containing their gala dresses failed to arrive.
With Helene’s dark colouring, wearing black did not suit, and with her being a pious, quiet young woman she and Emperor Francis Joseph felt uncomfortable within each others company. However, he was instantly infatuated by the striking appearance of Elizabeth, and defied his mother when he insisted that he would not propose to Helene, and suggested if he could not have Elizabeth then he would not marry at all. It was just five days later when the official announcement of their betrothal was made.
Eight months later on 24 April 1854, at Augustinerkirche, Vienna, the couple were married.
With a drastic change of lifestyle, Elizabeth found it difficult to adapt to the rigid and strict etiquette of court life and soon began displaying signs of ill health, where she suffered coughing fits, became anxious and frightened whenever she descended a narrow steep staircase.
Just ten months after her wedding, in 1855 she gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, who had been named by Elizabeth’s domineering mother-in-law. The dominant Princess Sophie not only named her granddaughter after herself without consulting her daughter-in-law, but she also took charge of the child, where she refused to allow Elizabeth to breastfeed or care for her own child and was often heard calling Elizabeth a “silly young mother”.
A year later in 1856 Elizabeth gave birth to her second daughter, Archduchess Gisela of Austria. Once again Princess Sophie removed the child from Elizabeth’s care.
Elizabeth was made to feel more and more unwanted in the palace as she had failed to produce a male heir and would find notes left in her room indicating her failure, believed to have been written by Princess Sophie;

…The natural destiny of a Queen is to give an heir to the throne. If the Queen is so fortunate as to provide the State with a Crown-Prince this should be the end of her ambition – she should by no means meddle with the government of an Empire, the care of which is not a task for women… If the Queen bears no sons, she is merely a foreigner in the State, and a very dangerous foreigner, too. For as she can never hope to be looked on kindly here, and must always expect to be sent back whence she came, so will she always seek to win the King by other than natural means; she will struggle for position and power by intrigue and the sowing of discord, to the mischief of the King, the nation, and the Empire…
Her mother-in-law was generally considered to be the source of the above malicious pamphlet. The accusation of political meddling referred to Elisabeth’s influence on her husband regarding his Italian and Hungarian subjects. When she travelled to Italy with him she persuaded him to show mercy toward political prisoners
In 1857 Elizabeth and her two daughters accompanied her husband on a visit to Hungary, it was her first visit of which left a deep and lasting impression on her as “She felt her innermost soul reach out in sympathy to the proud, steadfast people of this land…” and felt so much affinity for the people that she began to learn the Hungarian language.
During the same trip both her children became ill, where Gisela recovered quickly but unfortunately two year old Sophie became so ill that she died.
The death of her daughter brought on a severe case of depression with Elizabeth neglecting her surviving daughter, a relationship of which never recovered. Elizabeth would refuse to eat by avoiding the family at meal times, when she did join them for a meal she would eat quickly and very little.
Later that same year, in December, Elizabeth became pregnant once more and finally produced a male heir on 21 August 1858, Rudolph, Crown Prince of Austria.
In October 1860, with suffering from nervous attacks, fits of coughing, fasting, a lung complaint and physical exhaustion, Elizabeth’s doctor was concerned for her health and recommended she recuperate in Madeira. During this time of ill health, rumours circulated of a liaison between Francis Joseph and an actress Frau Roll, which led to speculation of Elizabeth’s illness being psychosomatic or a venereal disease.
Elizabeth spent 6 months away from her husband and children and within 4 days of her return to Vienna she once again began experiencing coughing fits, a fever and could not eat or sleep properly. On examination the doctor noticed the recurrent lung condition and more rest was advised, of which she travelled to Corfu, and almost immediately recovered.
During the next few years, with her losing battle against her mother-in-law for dominance in rearing her children, her sexual withdrawal from her husband after three pregnancies in rapid succession, the empress developed extremely rigorous and disciplined exercise habits where she enjoyed her horse riding and would be out riding for hours every day until she suffered with gout, whereby she took to walking, and fencing. All of her homes included a gymnasium where mats and beams were even installed in her bedchamber.
In her youth Elisabeth followed the fashions of the age, which for many years were cage-crinolined hoop skirts, but when fashion began to change, she was at the forefront of abandoning the hoop skirt for a tighter and leaner silhouette. She disliked both expensive accoutrements and the protocol that dictated constant changes of clothing, preferring simple, monochromatic riding habit-like attire. She never wore petticoats or any other “underlinen”, as they added bulk, and was often literally sewn into her clothes, to bypass waistbands, creases, and wrinkles and to further emphasize the “wasp waist” that became her hallmark, enduring the practice of ‘tight lacing’ of which reduced her waist to 16 inches. Elizabeth’s defiant flaunting of this exaggerated dimension angered her mother-in-law.
Along with her exercise routine, Elizabeth also maintained her beauty regime which included cold showers every morning and olive oil baths in the evening.
Daily care of her thick and extremely long hair, which over time changed from dark blonde, to chestnut brown, took at least three hours. Her hair would be washed once every two weeks in a mixture made of eggs and cognac and all activities would be cancelled on this day. It was during these long hours of grooming when Elizabeth would learn her languages.
In June 1867 Francis Joseph and Elizabeth were officially crowned King and Queen of Hungary and as a coronation gift Hungary presented the couple with a country residence in Godollo near Budapest.
After avoiding her husband’s wishes for another child in order to secure a heir, Elizabeth later decided that she wanted another child and so returned to her marriage.
In April 1868 she gave birth to her fourth child, a daughter she named Marie Valerie and Elizabeth was determined to raise her daughter herself.
Princess Sophie’s domination over Elizabeth’s children and the court faded as she died in 1872.
Francis Joseph was passionately in love with his wife and although he tolerated her wanderings he tried to tempt her into a family life with him, but Elizabeth was emotionally distant from him and avoided him as much as possible.
Unable to sleep, Elizabeth spent many hours through the night writing and reading and even indulged in smoking, which made her a further subject for gossip.
Elisabeth embarked on a life of travel, and saw little of her children and is reported to have said, “If I arrived at a place and knew that I could never leave it again, the whole stay would become hell despite being paradise”.
It is also alleged that, to a degree, Elizabeth tolerated her husband’s affair with actress Katharina Schratt, while she herself is said to have embarked on a love affair with George Bay Middleton, a dashing Anglo-Scot.
Elizabeth’s life was shattered, when in 1889 her only son, Crown Prince Rudolph was found dead with his young lover Baroness Mary Vetsera at the Mayerling hunting lodge in Lower Austria. The investigation into the incident suggested murder-suicide by Rudolph.
This incident, along with losing her parents, and then her sister pushed Elizabeth into despair.
A year later she lost her close companion, and of whom some suggest was probably her lover, Count Gyula Andrassy, on 18 February 1890. Her daughter Marie Valerie speaking of her mother declared, “she clung to him with true and steadfast friendship as she did perhaps, to no other person.”
Elizabeth spent the rest of her life wearing black gowns and would carry a white leather parasol and a fan to hide her face as she spent her time travelling through the Mediterranean on her imperial steamer.
Although she spent little time with her husband, the correspondence between them increased to form a warm friendship.
During the last years of her life her obsessive behave spiralled as she became obsessed with weighing herself up to three times a day, took regular steam baths to prevent weight gain and appeared to binge eat.
In 1898, Elizabeth who was now 60 years old, travelled in disguise to Geneva, Switzerland, where she stayed at the Hotel Beau-Rivage, despite having received warnings of possible assassination attempts.
It was on Saturday 10 September at 1.35pm where Elizabeth, who was walking to catch the steamship, with her lady in waiting, when a man approached them. Attempting to peer under Elizabeth’s parasol the man stumbled and reached out his hand as if to steady himself. Unbeknown to Elizabeth, the man was 25 year old Luigi Lucheni an Italian anarchist who had stabbed Elizabeth with a sharpened needle file that was 4 inches long that he had inserted into a wooden handle. The empress collapsed onto the ground before being helped to her feet and then continued to walk to the steamer. Whilst on board she collapsed again. On opening Elizabeth’s corset laces so she could breathe her lady in waiting asked Elizabeth if she was in pain, where she replied, “No” before asking “What has happened?” and again lost consciousness. The ship turned around and eventually a stretcher carried her back to the hotel. On undoing her clothing a few small drops of blood and a small wound could be seen. On removing her from the stretcher to the bed she was clearly dead. Two doctors and a priest arrived, where Elizabeth was pronounced dead at 2.10pm.
Elizabeth had been the Empress of Austria for 44 years. On the morning of 17 September, 82 sovereigns and high-ranking nobles followed her funeral cortege to the tomb in the Church of the Capuchins.
As with all 15 Habsburg empresses before her, her body was buried in the crypt, but her heart was sent to the Augustinian Church, where she was married, and her internal organs were placed in the crypt of the Metropolitan Church of Saint Stephen.


Posted: July 31, 2013 in Historic People
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Adelina Patti

Adela Juana Maria Patti was born in Madrid on 19th February 1843, the youngest of six children. Her Sicilian father, Salvatore Patti, and Italian mother, Caterina Barilli were both opera singers. Her sisters Amalia and Carlotta Patti were also singers, and her brother Carlo Patti, who married actress Effie Germon was a violinist.
In 1847 the family immigrated to the Wakefield section of the Bronx, in New York, America, where at the age of just 8 years old Adelina began her singing career in the New York concert halls.
At the age of 16 Adelina made her first operatic debut on 24 November 1859 at the Academy of Music in New York as ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’. Less than a year later on 24 August 1860, Patti performed solo in honour of the visit of the Prince of Wales in the world premiere of Charles Wugk Sabatier’s Cantata in Montreal.
The following year in 1861 she made her debut in Convent Garden where she played the role of Amina in Bellini’s La sonnambula. So successful was her performance that she went on performing Amina in Paris and Vienna in subsequent years with equal success.
During an American tour in 1862 she attended the White House where she sang ‘Home Sweet Home’ for Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary, who were in mourning for the loss of their son to Typhoid. The Lincolns were so overwhelmed they requested an encore, and this prompted Patti to perform the song at the end of all her concerts.
Patti not only conquered England and the United States through her performances, but also achieved adulation as far afield as Russia, and South America.
During her prime she apparently demanded to be paid $5000 a night, in gold, before her performance. Her contracts stipulated that her name was to be top of the bill and printed larger than any other name in the cast, also her contracts insisted that while she was “free to attend all rehearsals, she was not obligated to attend any”.
In 1893, Patti created the title role of Gabriella in a now-forgotten opera by Emilio Pizzi at its world premiere in Boston. Patti had commissioned Pizzi to write the opera for her.
Patti’s personal life was not as successful as her professional life, and her engagement, whilst still a minor, to Henri de Lossy, Baron of Ville didn’t last.
In 1868, at the age of 25, Patti married her first husband, Henri de Roger de Cahusac, Marquess of Caux the Equerry to Napoleon III of France, who was 18 years her senior. They were married in London and resided at Pierrepoint House, which was situated in Clapham Park, London, where Adelina Patti later renamed the residence the ‘Rossini Villa’.
The relationship didn’t last, and the couple spent most of their 9 year marriage living separately, where there were accusations of physical violence on the part of de Cahusac, and although he contemplated filing charges of adultery, as it was publicly known that Patti was living with French Tenor Ernesto Nicolini, he was dissuaded by friends, due to the possibility of Patti being imprisoned if she were to be found guilty
In a bid to hurry the divorce proceedings, Patti attempted to claim that her marriage was invalid, in suggesting the priest who performed the ceremony was not licensed to conduct weddings, yet the French courts decided that her civil marriage was a legally-binding contract. The financial side of the divorce was eventually finalised, where Patti was ordered to pay all the court costs, with de Cahusac being awarded half of Patti’s substantial wealth.
Although legally separated, Patti and de Cahusac were not officially divorced, and Patti saw herself shunned by the upper class members of the London society during private occasions as she remained living with Nicolini. However, she continued to receive personal invitations from Queen Victoria to perform at Buckingham Palace, of which she attended for over 25 years. There were also rumours of her close friendship with Edward, Prince of Wales being more than just platonic. The Prince of Wales was notoriously well known for indulging in extra-marital affairs.
In 1878 Patti had purchased Bryn Melin at an estimated £3,500, the mansion and parklands in the South Wales valleys of which she had fallen in love with, and renamed it, Craig-y-Nos, meaning ‘Rock of the Night’.
Patti’s divorce was eventually finalised in July 1885. Four years later de Cahusac died.
A year later, on 1st July 1886, Adelina and Nicolini were finally married in Swansea, South Wales by the Spanish Consul, with the marriage being blessed at St. Cynog’s Church, Ystradgynlais.
While at the mansion, the couple embarked on a major development program, adding the North and South wings, Clock Tower, Conservatory, Winter Gardens, Theatre, Coach House, Stable Block, Laundry and a small private Catholic Church.
The mansion was the first to be wired for electricity, and the tiles in the fireplace, situated in what is now known as ‘Patti’s Bar’, are the original, as is the clock of which sits above.
The courtyard of the castle still has one of the original pair of ‘Crane Fountains’ made by the local ironworks in Ystradgynlais.
When Adelina Patti bought the mansion she chose to have her own private theatre and ballroom built in order to entertain her guests and practice for her performances.
Having hired Swansea architects Bucknall and Jennings, Patti initiated the ascending/descending floor, where two, hand- wound mechanical jacks were used to raise and lower the floor. Patti also ordered the chairs be designed with the front legs made higher than the back in preparation for the tilting floor.
The auditorium was originally decorated in pale blue, cream and gold wall panels, with ten Corinthian columns supporting the ceiling, where in between these are the names of Patti’s favourite composers including Mozart, Verdi and Rossini, all gilded and surmounted by Patti’s monogram.
The stage area was originally fronted by blue silk curtains, with a back drop that illustrates Patti riding in a chariot, dressed as ‘Semiramide’ from the opera of the same name by Rossini.
The Grade I listed opera house was opened on 12 July by actor William Terris, and among its 150 guests were the Spanish Ambassador and Baron Julius Reuter.
After performing for her guests Patti would take them to the banqueting hall for dinner while her staff would remove all the auditorium seating and raise the floor ready for the guests to return for a night of dance.
There was also a private road constructed from the castle to the small railway station at Penwyllt, along with a private train to take Patti to her destinations.
Although described by many as a ‘Diva’, Madam Patti was also considered to be a kind hearted generous woman who continuously helped the local community, where she gave many charitable concerts for the local hospitals of Swansea, Neath, and in the Brecon, often raising over £700 at a single performance.
During her marriage to Nicolini many parties were hosted at the castle, and therefore up to 70 staff members were employed.
Patti had genuine affection for all her staff, where she would continue to pay wages to those who were ill and unable to work, and would arrange for the doctor to visit them and their families, also providing a hamper of food for the household, of which she would often deliver it herself. The faithful, long serving staff, were given a pension on retirement, and a room at the castle was also provided for those who did not have alternative accommodation.
The staff played a major role in Patti’s life, and she treated them all as family, often inviting the staff to dress in any fancy dress that she had available, where they would all assemble in the billiard room after dinner. Patti would often join them in fancy dress, usually wearing a dress that she would have worn during her opera performance, and she would join in the fun by dancing and singing with her staff. Her butler, Daniel Longo, would be ordered to ‘pop the cork’, which was the signal for the drinks to be poured, either champagne or port, for both staff and Patti.
One long serving employee was Constantine Hibbert, the Head Gardener, who was still at the castle at the time of Patti’s death.
Patti never produced a child of her own, and would often call at Hibbert’s cottage on her daily walks to visit his 5 children, whom she adored. Hibbert suffered with Arthritis in his hands, and out of kindness Patti bought him a ring of which she had seen advertised, believing it would help his condition.
Other staff members who were held in high esteem were the chef, Adamo Adami and Lorenza Couroneu de Patrocini, who Patti described as a ‘friend’, and who often appeared in many of Patti’s photographs.
Adamo Adami came from an Italian family of chefs, and met Adelina Patti whilst he worked at the Sackfield Hotel, in Dublin. Patti was so impressed with her soup that she called for the chef and stated to him:
“Whenever you want a change, come to Craig-y-Nos.”.
That was the beginning of a nine year career, where his culinary dishes delighted both Patti and Nicolini. They friendship came to an end when at the age of 43 Adamo Adami died from pneumonia, leaving a widow and three young children, the youngest being just 2 months old. He was buried at Colbren, near Craig y Nos and was fondly remembered throughout the district.
Although many had reported that Patti and Nicolini experienced an enjoyable life together, there were also suggestions of the marriage not having been one of blissful happiness, which may explain why Nicolini removed Patti’s name from his will, of which she was once to bequeath everything.
It was during January 1898, after suffering from poor health, Nicolini died in Pau, South East of France, leaving Adelina a widow at the age of 56.
Ten months after the death of Nicolini, during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 14th November 1898, Patti announced her engagement to Baron Rolf Cederström, a Swedish nobleman who was half her age.
Less than a year later, on 25 January 1899, the couple married at the Catholic Church in Brecon.
Unlike Nicolini, the Baron did not approve of Patti’s circle of friends, and after their marriage Patti’s social life was greatly reduced.
The parties at the castle became less frequent, and her performances also became less as she spent more time with her husband and staff, of which the Baron had greatly reduced to just 18 members, a vast difference from the 70 who were once employed at her home, but gave her the devotion and flattery that she needed, becoming her sole legatee.
Patti played her last professional concert on 1 December 1906, at the Royal Albert Hall, where her last public appearance occurred on 24th October 1914, when she sang again to a full house at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Red Cross, concluding a public singing career of which had lasted 68 years.
By the spring of 1918 Patti’s health began to deteriorate where she suffered depression by the effects of the war. Her heart had become weak, and having fallen down the stairs at her home, she became bedridden, and contracted pneumonia.
Adelina Patti died peacefully, aged 76yrs on 27th September 1919.
Patti’s embalmed body, of which is believed was performed in what is now the cellar of the castle, was placed in her coffin and taken to her private chapel until 24th October, where she was then taken to London for the world to pay homage to her.
As were her instructions, her body was transported to France and was buried in the Paris cemetery Pere le Chaise, in order to be close to her father and also her favourite composer, and very close friend, Gioachino Rossini, of which was in accordance with her wishes of her will.
Gioachino Rossini, an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces, died at the age of 76 from pneumonia at his country house at Passy on Friday, 13 November 1868. He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. In 1887, his remains were moved to the Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze, in Florence, at the request of the Italian government.
After Patti’s death the castle and estates were inherited by her husband, Baron Rolf Cederstrom. In 1921 Baron Cederstrom sold the castle to the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association, for conversion into a Tuberculosis Hospital, on the condition it would be named after his late wife.
On 14th November 1921 the Baron married Hermione Francis Caroline Fellowes, where they had one daughter, Brita Cederstrom, born in 1924. The Baron died on 24th February 1947 which resulted in his only daughter becoming sole heir to Adelina Patti’s fortune.