Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A Duchess of Industriousness

The Duchess of Bedford as depicted in Julian Fellowes’ latest period drama, “Belgravia.” 
“When Mrs Trenchard arrives at the grand home of the Duchess of Bedford (pictured played by Naomi Frederick) - the first scene set in London's Belgravia, 26 years after the Battle of Waterloo - she informs her host she is ‘so interested by your invention of afternoon tea’”—From DailyMail.UK

Of English and American Girls

An English traveler writes she can assure you that, having lived in different castles and manor-houses of Great Britain, and been accustomed to the industrious habits of duchesses and countesses, I was utterly astonished at the idleness of American fine ladies. No Englishwoman of rank (with the exception of a few parvenues), from the Queen downward, would remain for one half hour unemployed, or sit in a rocking-chair unless seriously ill. 

They almost all, with hardly an exception, copy the business letters of their husbands, fathers or brothers; attend minutely to the wants of the poor around them, and even take part in their amusements and sympathize with their sorrows; visit and superintend the schools; work in their own gardens; see to their household concerns; think about their visitors; look over the weekly accounts, not only of domestic expenses, but often those of the farm and estate; manage penny clubs in conjunction with the working classes, to help them to keep themselves; and with all these occupations, by early hours, they keep up their acquaintance with the literature and politics of the day, and cultivate the accomplishments of music and drawing, and often acquire, besides, some knowledge of scientific pursuits. 

The late Marchioness of Lansdowne was so well acquainted with the cottagers in her neighborhood, that she used to visit and look at the corpses of the dead, because she found that her doing so soothed and comforted the bereaved. I have known her to shut herself up with a mad woman in her poor dwelling, who used to lock the door and could not be induced to admit any one else. Lady Lansdowne’s only daughter used one hundred guineas (given her by her father-in-law, Lord Suffolk, to buy a bracelet,) to build pig-styes, with his permission, at her husband’s little country residence, she educates her own children without assistance —teaching the boys Latin and the girls all the usual branches of education. 
It is said that Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford invented afternoon tea sometime during the 1840s. Although her simple pot of tea with a light snack was originally introduced to counteract her hunger pangs, it soon developed into a popular social occasion among the fashionable classes. Now we know she was much more industrious than history has given her credit for!

The late Duchess of Bedford, I accidentally discovered when on a visit to Woburn, had for thirty years of her married life, risen at 6 o’clock, Summer and Winter, lit her own fire, made some tea for the Duke and herself, and then, as he wrote his own letters of business, she copied them, and they, came down to a large party of guests at 10 o’clock, to dispense breakfast, without saying one word of their morning avocations; so that you might have been a visitor at the house without finding out that the Duke or Duchess had transacted the necessary business of the day before, perhaps, you had risen. I rather mention those that are gone to their reward than write of women still among us ; but you may believe me when I say that I am constantly among those who live such lives of energy and usefulness, but they so employ themselves without ostentation or an idea that they are doiug more than their simple duty. — The Christian Witness, 1872

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia©️ Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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