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Under the Loupe: Everything You Need To Know About All Things Georgian

It’s the perfect time for new beginnings, and we have something so exciting to share with all of our lovely Lillicoco readers! Our newest 2021 blog series "Under the Loupe" is here.

For the next year, we are having candid conversations with those working within and alongside the jewellery industry. From sustainable jewellery designers to historians as well as experts and enthusiasts,  we will be speaking with an interesting and unique selection of wondeful humans, and we cannot wait to share our conversations with you! 

For our first instalment, we are chatting to Sarah Murden, the co-founder of All Things Georgian. All Things Georgian is a blog that is entirely dedicated to the Georgian period (1714-1837), with amazing treasures and treats for those who love the 18th century! Sarah and her All Things Georgian partner in crime Joanne are also the author of FIVE fabulous books on this period too. In this blog, we chat about All Things Georgian, her books and, of course, Georgian jewellery. 

"Hi Sarah, great to have you feature on our Lillicoco blog! Please introduce yourself and the All Things Georgian blog!"

"Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about the blog, All Things Georgian. My background is in 18th century history and the blog began a few years ago with my co-host, Joanne Major. I would describe us as ‘supersleuths’ who seem to have a knack of finding things that others don’t. To date, there are now over 600 articles on All Things Georgian, covering all aspects of Georgian life, everything from aristocrats to murderers, art to fashion and everything in between, with plenty more to come this year. The blog can be found at georgianera.wordpress.com"

"What initially first drew you to the Georgian period? And also, why did you decide to start a blog in the first place?"

"I think I’ve always been fascinated in the Georgian period. How could I not have been, spending my formative years just a few minutes’ walk from Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, home of the poet, Lord Byron, who led the most fascinating life. As the Georgian era covers such a long period of time it provides so many interesting events and people to write about." 

West View of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire. After Moses Webster, Source - Nottingham City Museums and Galleries 

"Since starting All Things Georgian, is there a particular character (real or fictional) that has fascinated you the most?"

"I am biased, but I would have to say the character who still fascinates me even now, is the heroine of our third book, A Georgian Heroine. As with the first two books the story of Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is a true one and if I could go back in time, there are so many questions I would still like to ask her. 

She was the most complex character, never married, despite describing herself as Mrs Biggs. Her teenage years were very distressing as she was abducted, raped and held hostage, not once, but twice. Having finally escaped her captor, she reinvented herself and became a kind of spy for the British government reporting back to them about life in post revolution France. She also took it upon herself to advise MPs such as William Wilberforce on certain aspects of how to run the country - something which was almost unheard of at that time. It was whilst living on Pritchard Street in Bristol, that she wrote her ‘Testament’ which was a detailed and uncomfortable account of her early life and the abductions. This document was destined to be sent to the first love of her life, who was, by then in India, Sir David Ochterlony. 


The Cloak-Room in Clifton Assembly Rooms, c.1817, Rolinda Sharples, Source - Bristol Museum and Art Gallery 

Charlotte, as she preferred to be known as, moved to the Clifton area of Bristol [the home of Lillicoco!] where she busily continued to write many letters to the government and somewhat surprisingly, her opinion was valued. She then moved to Boughwells, near Chepstow, from where she almost single handedly organised King George III’s Golden Jubilee in 1809, posting her letters from the main Post Office in Bristol to ensure that her actual location remained secret. She also owned a property in London that appeared to have been used by the government as a ‘safe house’ for a French General. There are so many questions about her life that remain unanswered, even now. But she was most definitely an enigmatic character."

"You've said before that you always seek to find new or little-known information when researching your blogs, what has been your favourite discovery so far?" 

"When the blog was first set up, we were determined that every article should aim to contain new information, or something that is little known about. 

Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, c.1783 Thomas Gainsborough, Source - The National Gallery of Art

The aim is always to fill in as many the gaps as possible in people’s lives, but the most popular article by far, has to be about the illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire. If you have watched the film, The Duchess, you may recall the part where Georgiana, fashion icon of the period, was presented with a young child and told to care for her, as it would be good practice for when she could give the duke a son. 

Having watched the film I began to wonder who this child was and what became of her. Clearly, I was not alone in wondering this, as the statistics have now supported my curiosity. As it’s become the most popular of all the blog posts."

"What is your researching process to find these facts?"

"That’s a really good question and one that I’m not sure I have a clear answer to. Blog posts seem to find me. I’m usually researching something completely different when something accidentally catches my eye. 

If it appears interesting, I immediately start checking what’s already been written about either the subject or the person. If I’m struggling to find anything, then it’s usually a cue to find out more. It’s then a case of piecing together anything that is known, checking the facts against records, then seeing what else I can find from a whole variety of sources and working it up into a story. Sometimes though, it’s not possible to find out anything more, in which case it ends up being consigned to the bin.

What the blog tries not to do is to rework what is already in the public domain. If it’s a famous person who has already been written about, then more often than not, it’s not worth reworking what is already well known unless there’s something substantial to add to their life."

"I have noticed that in recent blog posts you have analysed both the history of certain Georgian paintings and artists and also have analysed the subject matter within the paintings. What would you say is your favourite Georgian painting?"

"I don’t really have a favourite painting, there are too many amazing ones to choose from! But in terms of artists, I’m a huge fan of Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits, especially the ones of 18th century women and Richard Cosway’s’ miniatures. 

Having said that, I’m very much drawn to character portraits and always want to know about the person behind the painting, who they were and what their life was like. The most interesting one that I came across recently was a portrait of a gentleman simply known as ‘Black Charley’ and it was suggested to me on social media, that if anyone could find out more about him, it was me. Naturally, I took no persuading, but disappeared off down a proverbial ‘rabbit hole’ and resurfaced eventually, with some interesting answers."

Black Charley, c.1823, John Dempsey, Source - National Portrait Gallery of Australia 2017 Exhibition Dempsey's People

"I also couldn’t help but read your 2015 article on Georgian bling! how would you style or wear a piece of Georgian jewellery today?"

"I think today we would struggle to match the 18th century for their wearing of multiple forms of jewellery all at once - rings, brooches, hair adornments, bracelets, chatelaines, the list goes on, and all worn at once was very much the order of the day. This image is a prime example of the ultimate in bling.

Archduchess Marie Christine, Duchess of Teschen, c.1765 Martin Van Meytens, Source - Wikimedia Commons 

I’m a great lover of Georgian brooches and tend to wear plain jackets. So I couldn’t help but notice that you have some lovely Georgian brooches which would look really amazing to compliment a plain dark coloured jacket.

My other passion is slightly macabre – I’m fascinated by mourning jewellery and they most definitely make for interesting conversations when you wear them. However, being naturally curious, I’d want to know more about the history of the piece - who owned it and who gave it to them, in other words its provenance.

For example, I noticed on your website that you have a gorgeous 15ct gold mourning ring, inscribed on the back ‘Joseph Seger’ who died on 4 May 1821 aged 80. With a little research it would appear that Joseph Seger Esq. was buried on 11 May 1821 at St Pancras Parish Chapel. He left a widow, Elizabeth whom he married in 1770, she being his second wife, aged under 21 at that time. In his will, which he rewrote just two months before he died, he named 6 children whom he wished to see provided for, including one who had emigrated to New York. There is also mention of a ring in his will, whether this was the ring in question or whether, as was often the case he left funds for people to purchase a ring in memory to him, we may never know. So, as you can see from this it’s possible to learn a little about someone’s life from such a small object, with just a little research."

Rare Georgian 15ct Gold Mourning Ring, c.1821, Source - Lillicoco

 

"You have also published quite a few books now since starting the blog, what made you want to move from a blog and also publish and document stories within both a literary and biographical format?"

"The blog came into existence purely by chance. We had been researching for what was to become our first book, An Infamous Mistress, which is the biography of the 18th century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott and at the same time our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, which, although stand-alone, is a follow on to Grace’s story and traces the next generation, looking at the royal connection of a Romany girl to our present queen. 

Source - All Things Georgian

We soon realised that we had collected far too much information to use in the books but didn’t want it to go to waste. With that, we decided to create a blog. Initially it was simply somewhere to store unused, but interesting snippets of information, and also somewhere that might just be of interest to one or two people and if that were the case then there it was on the internet, free for anyone to read. 

However, it didn’t take long to realise though that there was a genuine interest in the information, so began to ‘tidy’ it up and to improve its visual presentation and set up a regulars dates to share information. To date it’s now received almost 1.5 million hits. 

It was shortly after starting the blog that we were contacted by Pen and Sword Books with an offer to publish our then, partially written book about Grace Dalrymple Elliott. How could we refuse? We jumped at the proposal! After this, it then became something of a roller-coaster ride as we agreed more contracts with them. Plus, whilst writing the books we had also continued to write the blog posts and our readers suggested that it might be an idea to write a book along the lines of the blog. So we decided to write one that took the same format and thanks to our publisher, we were able to include over 100 glossy illustrations too. 

This was then followed by our fifth book, which was one we had been researching for quite a few years and we finally agreed that it was now time to get it published and it’s due out any day now - A History of the Dukes of Bolton, which take a look at the lives of the Dukes of Bolton and their role in Britain’s history from 1600-1815."

"Who is your favourite Georgian writer?"

"I don’t have one in particular, but I do prefer to read fact rather than fiction. So I would have to say someone who is a particular favourite but also sadly, relatively unknown, is Helen Maria Williams, specifically her ‘Letters Written in France’. Her accounts of Revolutionary France are fascinating. If I had to choose a fictional writer, then it would probably be Georgette Heyer, she wrote about strong characters, but was very romantic in her literary style."

Helen Maria Williams, c.1780-1800, Source - The British Museum


"What has been your ultimate “pinch me” moment since starting the blog?"

"I think that would have to be signing the book contracts. We always thought we would like to write at least one book, but like so many authors we didn’t expect it to happen, let alone writing five! Also being asked to give talks about our work has been amazing and not something either of us could have anticipated doing. Our ‘pinch me’ moment so far would have to be being asked to take part in the Stamford Georgian festival which was an event we had always planned to visit – but previously our thoughts were only as visitors, rather than performers."

"And finally, last but not least, we would love to know what your favourite piece from our Lillicoco Georgian jewellery collection is?"

"Now that’s a really tricky question, so many lovely pieces to choose from, but I would have to say that my favourite piece would definitely be the "Bagues Au Firmament" Diamond Ring, as blue is my favourite colour and that is the most beautiful shade of blue and who could possibly say no to a diamond - what a statement piece it would make!"

Georgian Bagues Au Firmament Diamond Ring, Source - Lillicoco

Thank you for reading this lovely blog post and extra special thanks to Sarah for taking the time to chat with us and talk about All things Georgian (pardon the pun!). 

You can find information and links to All Things Georgian's books here!

Also, if this has piqued your interest for some Georgian jewellery browsing, you can view our current Georgian jewellery pieces here!

Molly Chatterton

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