Tuesday, 29 March 2011

More about Princess Alice

You may or may not recall when I got so excited about finding Bill's word.  If not, go read about it - or not; please yourself.  Nope, I'm not in a good mood today, but never mind.

Now, it wasn’t very long between when I read Brideshead Revisited and when I read the book by Princess Alice (Memories of Ninety Years), so I was quite surprised when I read the name Boughton.  According to David Cliffe's Companion to Brideshead Revisited:

27 Boughton
This is the fictional name of the Ryder family seat. The hints given by Mr Ryder and Jasper seem to suggest that the Ryders were in origin a fairly well-off landed family with an easy, moneyed, honoured lifestyle. Charles is not therefore a poor lad taken up by a rich friend.

Of course the Ryder family connection to Boughton may be fictional, but there really is a place called Boughton and Princess Alice used to live there.  She wrote
“We loved Boughton but because it was English we could never admit it.”

Stair Case Hall

Boughton is in Northampton. Originally a monastery, it  passed to the Montagu family during Elizabethan times. A Montagu heiress brought Boughton House when she married into the family.  

Low Pavilion Anteroom

On a side note I can tell you that the present Duke of Northumberland's mother is the daughter of the 10th Duke of Queensberry whilst Princess Alice was the daughter of the 9th Duke of Q, so they are somehow related.  (Bill says, "Yes, dear, they are all related to one another in some way.") 

Morning room

Why do I keep referring to the Northumberlands?  Because they are practically our next door neighbours, well, if you count land ownership around these parts anyhow.  That and I'm a big fan of Harry Potter.  But where were we?  Ah - Boughton.

Drawing room

Her family were always there in time for Easter.  Wealthy families never live in just one house, remember.  Boughton reminded her of cuckoos and of rooks cawing, of warm peaceful days and wearing cotton frocks, (she says woolen cardigans did not exist back then, which is hard to imagine.) and of bluebells and fritillaries in profusion. (I need me some fritillaria).  Cars were rare.  Even bicycling was still a new means of transport.  The children would often cycle to Corby, at the time only just a hamlet with a single row of houses and one shop where they would buy sweets before cycling home again.  That would have been about 14-15 miles, round trip.  She wrote that Corby had since gained a steelworks (and I can tell you they've lost it since) and many Scotsmen were imported to work there.  Wikipedia says it's now called 'Little Scotland'.

When the wet weather kept them inside they played hide and seek in the attics of the top floor of the house.  The house had for an extended period - about 150 years - not been inhabited and rarely visited and in the attics they discovered and played upon an old billiard table.  At the time of her writing it was revered as one of the oldest billiard tables in England.  According to this site, it may have dated back to the late 1600's.

She said there was a story of a mad Duchess of Montagu who according to family legend had been locked up in one of the attics at Boughton as soon as her new husband got his hands on her money.  Turns out this was in fact the extraordinarily wealthy widow, the Duchess of Albemarle, who decided she wouldn't marry anyone but the Emperor of China.  The enterprising Duke of Montague, about whom his family's website says he was 'not overburdened with scruples', got himself up in the appropriate silk robes to propose and was accepted.  Whether he then actually locked her up, Wikipedia doesn't say.  They had no children together, though through her Montagu obtained a title (another one) he was able to pass to his son, John, from his first wife (doesn't seem right, that, but women didn't count for anything back then).  At least she outlived him by 25 years, hopefully in some comfort.

State Room Four (there are five)
The under burdened Ralph's son died leaving two daughters who married and lived elsewhere, leaving Boughton unused for 150 years.

Fish court
As a consequence, bats, rats and mice were a great feature of of the house during Princess Alice's time.  About 300 bats were removed from behind the paneled walls in her father’s sitting room. Charming. 

Most of the rooms were hung with tapestries.  There are pictures on their website of these; I'm not a big fan of tapestries myself, oddly enough.  The oak paneled library was full of leather-bound books.  Sadly their website doesn't show us the library - always near the top of my list for favourite rooms in grand houses.

Walled Garden

Boughton is about 300 miles from us, Google says about a four hour drive and even kindly estimates £40.67 petrol costs.   The admission price is only £4.50, but if I can't stroll through the house itself I don't see us making a special trip just to see the gardens; if we do find ourselves in the neighbourhood sometime, however, I'll be sure to let you know.

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

"Wealthy families never live in just one house..."

Since we have two houses, although one is on wheels, does that make us wealthy?