Eleonore Wickham: The Master Spy’s Wife

On 25th September 1799, shortly before 5 o’clock in the morning, the Wickhams woke up by the sound of guns. Were the French marching against Zurich again? William Wickham (1761 – 1840), England’s leading spy on the Continent, placed his wife Eleonore (1763-1836) under the care of his private secretary, the Count of St. George. He himself rode out reconnoitring the situation. Continue reading

Do you know these 10 facts about Beau Brummell?

George Bryan Brummell (1778 – 1840) is one of the most beloved persons of the Regency period. He was a celebrity in his time, and is famous even today, e.g., as the hero of a detective series. You do know him of course, as the arbiter of fashion, the personification of Regency dandyism. You know that he is credited with introducing the modern man’s suit, that he made daily bathing fashionable, and that it took him about five hours to get dressed and ready. But do you know these 10 facts about Beau Brummell? Continue reading

When George IV. spent £24,000 on an outfit, and other events of 1821

The death of Britain’s archenemy, an extravagant Coronation, and the building of the very first electric motor are among the events of a year still marked by the economic depression after the Napoleonic Wars.
With George IV. ascending the throne, the Regency period comes to an end. The world has changed a lot since he ruled the country as Prince Regent from 1811, and even more since the period’s key-persons were born.
Which political, scientific, social, and literary events and anniversaries are of interest to Regency Enthusiasts in 2021? Have a look at my list of 21 events of 1821 here: Continue reading

The Unconventional Miss Starke: Writer and Adventuress

One of the most proficient travel writers of the late 18th century was – a woman: Mariana Starke. Her travel guides were an essential companion for British travellers to the Continent.
Being successful didn’t make life easy for Mariana. Female writing for the public was frowned upon. From her years as budding authoress to the latest edition of her successful travel guide, she always had to deal with criticism from more conventional members of society. Unperturbed by this, she led an unusual life for a woman of her time. Continue reading

The year Napoleon shot the goat that ate his plants and other events of 1820

A secret submarine plot, death in the Royal family, and a method to signal extra-terrestrials are events of a year marked by political unrest and economic depression.

After the Napoleonic Wars the economy was still down, and important reforms had been delayed over the wars. The fear of Napoleon’s influence was still tangible, with rumours about his possible escape from St. Helena becoming stronger by the end of the year. Additionally, the monarchy was in a crisis, shaken by death and scandal.

Which political, scientific, social, and literary events and anniversaries are of interest to Regency Enthusiasts in 2020? Have a look at my list of 20 events of 1820 here: Continue reading

Travelling with Turner: Exploring the Swiss Alps in 1802

JMW Turner, © The Tate Gallery

Around the turn of the 19th century, Joseph Mallord William Turner was a young, restless painter, always on the lookout for inspiration for his art. After having toured many parts of Britain, he planned to visit the Continent. He was especially interested in the awe-inspiring, romantic Swiss Alps – considered by many a rocky, dangerous wasteland. Thus, aged about 27, and still being an unknown artist, he decided to follow his plans through. Let’s accompany him on his first ever trip abroad.

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Jane Austen, the Captain and the Smugglers of a Tiny Island

Captain Corbet James D’Auvergne could lay claim to knowing Jane Austen. The authoress mentions him in two letters to her sister Cassandra. Read more about Captain D’Auvergne connection to Jane Austen, and his achievements as Acting Governor of a tiny island in the North Sea called Heligoland.

After a ball at the Dolphin Hotel in Southampton in December 1808, Jane Austen – proficient as ever in summing up a gentleman’s potential as a spouse – noted that Corbet James D’Auvergne was both a captain in the Royal Navy and a ship owner. The remark might have been a joke about husband-hunting, but the Captain was indeed a good catch for a lady looking for hero-material in her husband. Besides, he was still single. Any lady furthering her acquaintance with him should know, however, that he had his hands in large-scale smuggling.
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Lord Stanhope and the Mysterious Death of Kasper Hauser

Lord Stanhope (left) and Kaspar Hauser (right)

On 14 December 1833 in Ansbach, a small town in Bavaria, a young man staggers home with a deep wound in his left breast. He states that he was lured to the Court Garden where a stranger stabbed him while giving him a small bag. The young man is known as Kasper Hauser, a local celebrity of his time, and also a mysterious youth of unknown origin.

A policeman searches the Court Garden. He finds a purse containing a note in mirror writing indicating in riddled form the attacker’s identity. He finds neither the weapon involved nor any other helpful evidence. Kasper Hauser dies of his wound three days later.

The death of Kasper Hauser in 1833 is a one of the most famed-famous unsolved cases of criminology. Until today, we don’t know for sure whether the young man was murdered or died by inflicting himself a wound with a knife that penetrated much deeper than he had intended. Until today, we don’t even know who Kasper Hauser was: an imposter, a hereditary prince, an innocent boy?

The story of Kaspar Hauser, a ‘feral child’, who claimed to have lived in isolation and captivity, has all ingredients of a novel of Mrs. Radcliffe: political intrigue, espionage, and conspiracy theories. But what has the English aristocrat, Philip Henry Lord Stanhope, 4. Earl Stanhope (1781-1855), to do with the young man, his secret and his death? Continue reading

Byron, Murder, Carbonari!

Masonic object

In this post:
– Ravenna and the poetry of politics
– Plotting insurrection: the tight situation in Italy
– Murder!
– Byron and the secret society of the Carbonari
– Under surveillance and attack

Lord Byron (1788 – 1824), a man of scandals, had by 1815 crowned his wild life with a stormy affair with Lady Caroline Lamb, and a breakup with his wife. He left England to travel the Continent. True to the verdict ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know´’, he didn’t led a virtuous life there. In December 1819, he arrived in Ravenna, Italy, where he took up residence to be near his mistress Teresa Guiccioli, a married woman. There was more scandal and adventure to come: Byron became involved in the national movement in Italy – meaning secret societies plotting insurrection against the Austrian und clerical rulers. Indeed it was in Ravenna that Byron found his calling in serious political activities. Continue reading