The Tricorne or “Cocked Hat”

French Tricorne
French Tricorne of 18th Century, Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

The tricorne hat, which was initially called a “cocked hat,” became popular in the 1700s but was falling out of fashion by the 1800s and eventually evolved into the bicorne. The tricorne was actually an evolution of a broad-brim round hat worn by Spanish soldiers in Flanders in the 1600s. When its brim was pledged (bound), it formed a triangular shape. The triangular shape was the shape favored by Spanish soldiers. Thus, when war broke out in 1667 between France and Spain in the Spanish Netherlands, the triangular hat found its way to France. Continue reading

Daring Escape of Jacobite Woman Lady Margaret Ogilvy

Margaret Ogilvy. Public Domain.

Jacobite woman Lady Margaret (Johnstone)* Ogilvy joined with her husband, David Ogilvy, 6th Earl of Airlie, in supporting the Jacobite movement that culminated in the rising of 1745 (the forty-five). She was the daughter of Sir James Johnston of Westerhall and Barbara Murray. Ogilvy was taken prisoner at the Battle of Culloden, along with several other women who supported Prince Charles Edward Stuart, afterwards known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Having been captured, Ogilvy was “committed to the [Edinburgh] Castle on the 15th of June.”[1] She was tried and condemned to death as a traitor, and thereafter she sat imprisoned at the castle awaiting her execution daily. However, Ogilvy seems to have had more freedom than many other prisoners and frequently had guests. Among her frequent guests was Miss Katherine Hepburn of Keith, Ogilvy’s brother, and Ogilvy’s sister, Bonnie Barbara Johnston, later known as Lady Kinnaird. Continue reading

Strange and Curious Wills of the Georgian Era in the Canterbury Court

wills of the Georgian Era
Solon, the wise lawgiver of Athens. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A will or testament is a legal document that allows a testator (the person who has written and executed a last will and testament) to express his or her wishes as to the distribution of their property. According to the Roman citizen, Greek biographer, and essayist Plutarch, the first written will was invented long ago by the Athenian statesman, poet, and wise law giver named Solon. Eventually, many types of wills were generated, and sometimes these wills contained strange or curious requests. This was the case in the Georgian Era when certain testators in the Canterbury Court left behind these following interesting requests:

GEORGE APPLEBEE – Rector of St. Bride’s, London – 7 August 1783
“My body after being dressed in a flannel waistcoat, instead of a shirt, an old surtout coat, and breeches without linings or pockets, an old pair of stockings, shoes I shall want none, (having done walking) and a worsted wig, if one can be got, I desire may be decently interred.” Continue reading

The Despard Plot, Trial, and Execution

Colonel Despard. Public Domain.

Colonel Edward Marcus Despard was an Irish soldier who served in the British Army. During the American Revolutionary War, he and his troops were victorious at the Battle of the Black River. His success was part of the reason that he was later appointed Superintendent in British Honduras. However, in 1790, he was recalled to London and questioned about his conduct while there.

Unhappy, over the ordeal, Despard became interested in revolutionary politics. The story begins after he joined the United Irishmen to fight for equal rights for the Irish. When war with France broke out, the United Irishmen went underground and backed the French in an invasion against Ireland. Unfortunately, the invasion failed, and in response, the passage of the Act of Union went into effect on 1 January 1801, abolishing the Irish Parliament and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Continue reading

Count d’Artois at the Scottish Palace of Holyrood

Engraving of Count d’Artois. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

After the Bastille was stormed in July of 1789, Louis XVI’s youngest brother, the Count d’Artois, fled France with his family. They lived briefly in Italy and Germany before finally settling in Great Britain in 1792. There the Count became a leader of the French émigrés and was welcomed by King George III, who also gave him a generous allowance.

Although the Count d’Artois was welcomed in Great Britain, he wanted the Bourbon monarchy to rule in France. So, he outfitted an army on borrowed money around 1795 and became involved in a royalist uprising against revolutionaries in La Vendée. Things did not go as planned. He was beaten and returned to Great Britain defeated. However, before he landed in Great Britain, he was “advised that should he step ashore he would be liable to imprisonment for debt under British law if he did not meet the sum due.”[1] Continue reading

Burke and Hare: Two Edinburgh Murderers

William Burke and William Hare at Burke’s Trial. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

William Burke and William Hare were two murderers who committed a series of sixteen murders in Edinburgh in 1828. Burke was probably the older of the two men as he had been born in 1792. His parents were middle class and he was born in Ulster province in Urney, Ireland. Burke had married but deserted his wife after fighting with her father. When he left Ireland, he moved to Scotland, found lodgings near Falkirk, and worked as laborer on the Union Canal. During that time, he began a relationship with Helen McDougal, whom he affectionately called Nelly, and, in 1827, he and Nelly moved to Edinburgh where he eventually worked as a cobbler. Continue reading

Halloween Superstitions of the 19th Century

Halloween superstitions
Queen Victoria Celebrating Halloween. Public Domain.

There were many Halloween superstitions of the nineteenth century that were steeped in tradition. For instance, in Wales, bonfires were lit and white stones cast into the ashes to determine how long a person would live. If any stone was visible in the morning, it was claimed, the person who threw in the stones would not live to see another birthday. The same belief existed in the Scottish Highlands where a large-scale version of this was seen each year at Balmoral when Queen Victoria visited. She carried a lighted torch, and tossed it “upon the fire, in which a grotesque figure [was] burnt, whose supposed cries [were] presumed to be drowned by the sound of bagpipes.”[1]

Halloween was also the time when witches, warlocks, and fairies enjoyed revels. In Irish and Scottish folklore there was also the Phooka, “a large, dusky-looking create that sometimes took the form of a horse or pony, sometimes that of a bull, and not unfrequently of a huge bird like the roc, with fire gleaming from its eyes and nostrils.”[2] The Phooka lurked around on Halloween, crept noiselessly upon travelers, and slinked between their legs before throwing them to the moon, plunging them into a lake, or flying with them over mountains or remote realms. Continue reading

Principles of Politeness for the Georgian Gentlemen

Gentleman of the Georgian Era. Author’s Collection.

The term “gentleman” in the eighteenth century was described variously, and images of what a gentleman entailed was debated by writers. The famous English essayist, writer, and moralist Dr. Samuel Johnson commented that “any other derivation of this difficult word than that which cause it to signify ‘a man of ancestry’ is whimsical.”[1] Thus, he supported the idea that a gentleman was born as a gentleman and included both constituents of the English aristocracy: the peerage and the gentry. Other writers thought differently. The British literary and society journal called the Tatler begun by Richard Steele in 1709, asserted that “the appellation of Gentleman is never to be affixed to a man’s circumstances, but to his Behaviour in them.”[2]

Steele was onto something as this came to be the modern parlance for the term beginning in the early 1700s. Thus, based on Steele’s idea of gentlemanly behavior, one eighteenth century writer provided 35 politeness tips for the Georgian gentleman. I have summarized these 35 points in the following list:

Continue reading

Cholera and Its Suggested Remedies in the Mid 1800s

Cholera and Its Suggested Remedies
Cholera Preventative Costume. Public Domain.

Cholera comes from the Greek word kholē. Transmission of Cholera usually occurs through the fecal-oral route because of contaminated food or water caused by poor sanitation. The first cholera pandemic began in 1816 in India and eventually spread by trade routes infecting China, Europe, North American, and the remainder of the world. It was a deadly disease that killed tens of millions of people.

Because it was so dangerous, people were concerned. This resulted in group of British gentlemen being appointed by the Poor Law Commissioners to examine the conditions of the London Poor Houses. After their examination, they provided the following 22 tips that were published in an article titled, “Remedies Against the Cholera.” Their 22 tips are provided here almost verbatim: Continue reading

Seven Melancholy Accidents of the Georgian Era

seven "melancholy" accidents of the Georgian Era
Differential Windlass. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the Georgian era, there were many “melancholy” accidents reported in the papers. The first one accident occurred in 1799 on 6 February at Morley Park, near Heage. A servant working for a Mr. Wildsmith was drawing water from a well with a bucket. According to the newspaper, all was going well until suddenly “the windlass slipt out of his hand, and catching hold of the rope to prevent the bucket from being broken, he was precipitated into the well, sixteen yards in depth.”[1]

That wasn’t the only death that involved water in the Georgian Era. Another accident occurred on a Saturday morning in July of 1775. Two 24-year-old twin brothers named Sommerton went to bathe at a saltern that belonged to a Mr. Moxham at Lymington. The twins were said to be of good character and looked and behaved so much alike even their friends could barely tell them apart. However, one of the boys could not swim, and according to the newspaper, Continue reading