Movie sets that have inflamed the imagination with fairy-tale encounters taking place during the great eras in which luxury ruled are plentiful. But most of…View More Seasons at Highclere
The nobility in Europe had a long run of power and I enjoy plumbing history in order to write about their worlds, their exploits and their relationships.
The era of the Grand Tour is one that inspired great envy in me so I search for stories highlighting the lives of the nobility with the ability to travel the world as young adults, one of these is Horace Walpole, whose estate, Strawberry Hill, I visited in 2015. The largely unfurnished gothic mansion has now been restored to its former glory as closely as the Strawberry Hill Trust could come with the information available to them.
The restoration was accomplished in two phases, the second of which was just completed, opening more of the house to tours in March (2015). Walpole began building the rambling gothic mise-en-scène at the age of 30, purchasing a pair of small houses on a large swath of property along a fashionable section of the River Thames in 1747. As he acquired paintings, baubles and furnishings, he often outgrew the rooms he’d rendered with his pals Richard Bentley and John Chute, a clique Walpole dubbed the Committee of Taste. As a result Strawberry Hill became the sprawling spired and turret-topped bon-bon of a residence it was when he died in 1797, 50 years after he’d bought it.
On his Grand Tour through Italy with poet Thomas Gray, for example, he wrote to his pal Richard West about the then recent discovery of the town of Herculaneum, which had been buried during one of the major eruptions of Vesuvius. That was in 1740, and he returns years later to add a footnote to the letter stating that eight years after he wrote the initial missive Pompeii was discovered! You can bet I’ll be scouring literary history for more stories like Walpole’s so click on the nobility tag to find all the stories about the moneyed and landed gentry of a bygone era.
An Invitation to Vaux-le-Vicomte
In 1641, the 26-year old parliamentarian Nicolas Fouquet, who was then the Master of Requests at the Parlement of Paris, acquired the viscounty of Vaux…View More An Invitation to Vaux-le-Vicomte
Leigh Hunt Avid Decorator
This essay about the decorating exploits of Leigh Hunt is included in my most recent book The Modern Salonnière. The 34 other essays in the…View More Leigh Hunt Avid Decorator
The Fashionable Grecian Supper
This essay about a fashionable Grecian supper held by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun is included in my book The Modern Salonnière. The 34 other essays in…View More The Fashionable Grecian Supper
The Camera Becomes King on Safari
This essay about a legendary safari tracker is included in my new book The Modern Salonnière, which is available on Amazon. The 34 other essays…View More The Camera Becomes King on Safari
The Nature of Noble Loyalty
It’s spring in London and the flowers are bursting forth on Cheyne Walk, which skirts the edge of the River Thames until it gives way…View More The Nature of Noble Loyalty
The Personality of Place
So, this is how it feels to experience a medieval Tuscan village that has existed on a hillside in some form for almost 1000 years!…View More The Personality of Place
Madame Récamier and the Art of Reclining
Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard, known after her marriage as Juliette Récamier, was born on December 4, 1777—240 years ago yesterday. Had she lived during modern…View More Madame Récamier and the Art of Reclining
My Porcelain Bucket List
When I am planning literary design adventures, I look for experiences that give me the feeling of transcendence—encounters during which I am conscious of having…View More My Porcelain Bucket List
Henry VIII’s Cult of Cloth
A trip to Frankfurt to attend Heimtextil a week from today has inspired me to share one of my favorite anecdotes about Henry VIII and…View More Henry VIII’s Cult of Cloth