A Hanoverian menage-a-trois

This is the beautiful Sarah Fairbrother, servant’s daughter turned ballet dancer turned prince’s wife. The delicate, talented Sarah was considered one of the beauties of her generation and already had two illegitimate children by two different men by the time she caught the eye of Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge. A grandson of George […]

The bride wore white

It’s often said that Queen Victoria was the first to wear a white wedding dress, and therefore the origin of our modern tradition. Whilst it’s true that brides did wear coloured wedding dresses before 1840, they also continued to wear them long after. Traditionally you just wore your ‘best dress’ – and the colour didn’t […]

The Jersey Lily

Today is the birthday of Lillie Langtry (or to give her her true name, Emilie Charlotte Le Breton), a music hall star who charmed her way into the beds of earls and princes. A Jersey girl, Lillie was introduced to London society by her Irish landowner husband, Edward Langtry. She soon became a star, famed […]

Hidden historical heroines (#30: “James Barry”)

James Miranda Barry (c. 1789-1799 – 25 July 1865) – aka Margaret Ann Bulkley – was a military surgeon in the British Army, the first British woman to become a qualified doctor. Margaret Ann achieved this unprecedented honour by concealing her true gender her entire adult life. Although almost everything about “James’” childhood and subsequent life is speculation and […]

The dumpy caryatids of Euston

St Pancras Church on London’s Euston Road was built in 1819-22, primarily to serve the nearby area of posh Bloomsbury. The church is neoclassical in design, taking as its inspiration the Athenian monuments the Erechtheion and the Tower of the Winds. The total cost of the building – including land and furnishings – was £76,679, making it the […]

Hidden historical heroines (#27: Princess Charlotte Augusta)

Princess Charlotte of Wales (7 January 1796 – 6 November 1817) was the only child of George, Prince of Wales (later to become King George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick. Had she outlived her father and her grandfather, King George III, she would have become Queen of the United Kingdom, but she died suddenly following childbirth at the age of 21. […]

Hidden historical heroines (#23: George Eliot)

Mary Anne (Marian) Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880) was one of the most prolific writers of the Victorian era; her novel Middlemarch has been lauded as the best novel written ever in the English language. You may recognise her by her pen-name, George Eliot. Marian was born in the Warwickshire countryside in […]

Hidden historical heroines (#17: Grace Darling)

  Grace Horsley Darling (24 November 1815 – 20 October 1842) was a lighthouse keeper’s daughter in Victorian England, unremarkable, excepting the fact that in 1838 she and her father took a rowboat out on stormy seas to rescue nine people from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire.   Grace was born in 1815 in […]

The Hammersmith Ghost

  As the year 1803 came to a close, a number of people came forward to claim that they had seen – and in some instances, been attacked – by a ghost in the area around Hammersmith churchyard, in West London. Some claimed it was the unhappy spirit of a local man who had committed […]

Hidden historical heroines (#15: Elizabeth Siddal)

  Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (25 July 1829 – 11 February 1862) was a celebrated artists’ model – as well as being a poet and artist in her own right – who was used extensively by the Pre-Raphaelites.   Named for her mother, “Lizzie” Siddal was born in the summer of 1829, in the family home […]