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Pick up a Regency Era novel by any author and there is a high probability that before reaching the end Almack’s Assembly in London will be mentioned at least once. While this may appear to be gratuitous name tossing, the truth is that in the early decades of 1800 Almack’s was THE society locale. How this came to be is an interesting bit of history.

Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh (από 1794) Γονείς: Robert Stewart, 1st Marquess of Londonderry και Lady Sarah Frances Seymour: Αδέλφια: Charles Vane, 3rd Marquess of Londonderry: Αξιώματα και βραβεύσεις; Αξίωμα. Amelia Anne Stewart, Marchioness of Londonderry (20 February 1772 – 12 February 1829), from 1794 until 1821 generally known as Emily Stewart, Lady Castlereagh /ˈkɑːsəlreɪ/, was the wife of the Georgian era Irish statesman Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, who from 1812 to 1822 was British Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons. Well-connected by birth to the aristocracy and wife of. Robert Stewart, 2nd Marquess of Londonderry, KG, GCH, PC, PC (18 June 1769 – 12 August 1822), usually known as Lord Castlereagh (/ˈkɑːsəlreɪ/ KAH-sul-RAY), was an Irish/British statesman. As British Foreign Secretary, from 1812 he was central to the management of the coalition that defeated Napoleon and was the principal British diplomat. Sep 25, 2018 Amelia Stewart Viscountess Castlereagh in Famous People Throughout History Amelia Anne Stewart (born Hobart) in MyHeritage family trees (Blunden Roberts Web Site. Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey, who should not be confused with her mother-in-law, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, one of the more notorious mistresses of George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

The origins are so modest as to be mysteriously unclear. Doors to the establishment on King’s Street in London opened on February 20, 1765. That much seems certain. The owner, a man named William Almack or William Macall, depending on the source, also opened a coffee house on Pall Mall which would eventually become Brook’s Gentlemen’s Club (Another story for another day!) Designed as a social and gambling club for women primarily, with men allowed, it was an unusual endeavor although not unique. Other both-gender casinos, such as The Pantheon on Oxford Street, already existed so competition was stiff.

By the time fire destroyed The Pantheon in 1792 (it was rebuilt), Almack’s had risen gradually in financial success and prestige. The gambling/casino aspects dwindled and were gone by 1800. Dancing and socializing amongst the elite of London Society became the normal activity. Yet what truly set Almack’s apart was its membership exclusivity.

No one could simply walk into Almack’s. NO ONE! Vouchers for admission were granted on a yearly basis, and only those who passed the stringent assessment of the Lady Patronesses were honored with a voucher. There were no set rules, at least as far as anyone knows, the whims of the five to seven judging ladies deciding the fate of each applicant. Membership was limited so as to maintain the specialness, and the standards were strict. A hint of scandal, one tiny false move, questionable finances or breeding, a less-than perfect appearance … anything could prevent inclusion, or have a member stripped of their privileges.

For this reason Almack’s balls held each Wednesday night during the London Season were the prime event in town, and the best place to meet those of the opposite sex with quality. A pristine reputation was vital to the success of Almack’s Assembly, thus the entertainments were controlled and the conduct of those admitted closely observed. Beverages were non-alcoholic or watered, highly sweetened spirits with over imbibing not allowed. Dances were of the sedate, country style, at least until somewhere between 1813 and 1816 when the quadrille and then the Viennese waltz were introduced. Yet even then, decorum and propriety were key virtues at an Almack’s Assembly. As a result, it was a relatively safe place for a young woman or gentleman to be as they searched for the perfect mate.

How the various patronesses were selected, and how their reign evolved in also unclear. Changes occurred over the years, and since the patronesses were not elected or answerable to any sort of governing body, who was on the Almack’s committee from Season to Season is not firmly recorded. Those who did document the ladies at the helm often contradict each other. What we can be fairly sure of is that the following women of the Regency were patronesses for the bulk of the first two decades.

Amelia Stewart Viscountess Castlereagh Countess

  • Amelia Stewart, Viscountess Castlereagh
  • Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey, who should not be confused with her mother-in-law, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, one of the more notorious mistresses of George IV when he was Prince of Wales.
  • Emily Lamb, Lady Cowper, sister of the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, and later married to another Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston.
  • Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton, wife of William Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton.
  • The Hon. Sarah Clementina Drummond-Burrell, later Lady Willoughby de Eresby. Clementina was the only surviving child of James Drummond, 1st Baron Perth. On marriage, her husband Peter Burrell, a noted dandy, assumed the Drummond family name. He succeeded his father as 2ndBaron Gwydyr and subsequently his mother as 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby.
  • Dorothea Lieven, Countess de Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador and a political force in her own right; Princess Lieven after 1826.
  • Countess Esterházy, wife of the Austrian ambassador Prince Paul Anton Esterházy; Princess Esterházy after 1833.
Amelia stewart viscountess castlereagh actress

The power of the patronesses, and importance of Almack’s to English society would continue for decades. Writers up to and during the Victorian Era speak of the establishment with reverential awe, although the later years did not compare to the height of the Regency. In 1871 new owners renamed the assembly Willis’s Rooms, ending the one-hundred year run. During the bombing of World War II the building was destroyed. Not a trace remains beyond drawings and written articles from the past. Almack House, an office building erected on the site, commemorates the history with the name but nothing else.

Related

London's high society at Almack's.

Almack's Assembly Rooms was a social club in London from 1765 to 1871 and one of the first to admit both men and women. It was one of a limited number of upper class mixed-sex public social venues in the British capital in an era when the most important venues for the hectic social season were the grand houses of the aristocracy. From 1871 it was renamed 'Willis's Rooms' (see below).

  • 2The classic Almack's

History

Almack's opened on King Street, St. James, in London, on 20 February 1765.

Traditionally, it is said to have been established by William Almack, born William Macall who, to avoid the onus of a Scottish name, then considered foreign and uncouth, reversed the syllables. However, Chancellor points out that Almack is as legitimate and common a name as Macall, and may easily have been the man's actual family name.[1] His Almack's Coffee House, opened at the same time, was bought in 1774 and became the gentlemen's club, Brooks's.

The Assembly Rooms first opened in purposeful rivalry to Mrs. Cornelys' entertainments at Carlisle House; her masquerade balls were becoming notorious. At first it was described as a 'female Brook's'—a gambling club to which women were admitted, as well as men. Male members proposed and elected the female members, and women proposed and elected the male members. At this time, like Almack's other establishments, it was meant to make money as what would now be called a casino. It was, like a male club, open any night, and gambling was all that went on, besides a little supper served by Mr. and Mrs. Almack, the latter of whom poured tea while wearing a fashionable sack gown.[citation needed]

In 1770, Horace Walpole wrote of 'The Female Coterie',[2] 'There is a new Institution that begins to make, and if it proceeds will make, considerable noise. It is a club of both sexes to be erected at Almack's, on the model of that of the men at White's. Mrs Fitzroy, Lady Pembroke, Mrs Meynell, Lady Molyneux, Miss Pelham and Miss Lloyd are the foundresses. I am ashamed to say I am of so young and fashionable society; but as they are people I live with, I choose to be idle rather than morose. I can go to a young supper without forgetting how much sand is run out of the hour-glass.'[3]

This first phase of Almack's suffered from competition from The Pantheon or 'Winter Ranelagh Gardens' from 1772 until it burned down twenty years later.[4] Play seems to have fallen off, as Almack's entered its second phase some time after 1800.

The classic Almack's

People came to Almack's to see and be seen, to assert their claim to being of the highest social rank, and to network with others of the caste. Secondarily, for gentlemen seeking brides of suitable ton, it served as one of the marriage marts of Society. By 1790, being a debutante, one presented at court, carried very little weight, as the King's court was considered rather fusty. Instead, mothers sought éclat for a daughter newly presented to society by wrangling vouchers at Almack's.[5]

Patronesses and admission

Almack's came to be governed by a select committee of the most influential and exclusive ladies of London's high society (the ton), referred to as the Lady Patronesses of Almack's. There were six or seven Patronesses at any one time.

In 1814, during the Regency of George IV, they were

Longitude and Latitude of St Petersburgh, a caricature of Countess Lieven and a shorter and broader dance partner by George Cruikshank.
  • Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey, who should not be confused with her mother-in-law, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, one of the more notorious mistresses of George IV when he was Prince of Wales
  • Emily Lamb, Countess Cowper, sister of the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, and later married to another Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston
  • Maria Molyneux, Countess of Sefton, wife of William Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton
  • The Hon. Sarah Clementina Drummond-Burrell, known as Clementina, later Lady Willoughby de Eresby. Clementina was the only surviving child of James Drummond, 1st Baron Perth. On marriage, her husband Peter Burrell, a noted dandy, assumed the family name Drummond. He succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Gwydyr and subsequently his mother as 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby.[6]
  • Dorothea Lieven, Countess de Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador and a political force in her own right; Princess Lieven after 1826
  • Countess Esterházy, wife of the Austrian ambassador Prince Paul Anton Esterházy; Princess Esterházy after 1833.[7]

These 'fair arbiters' created a temple of exclusivity for the balls held on Wednesday nights (the only activity of the club) by allowing only those whom they approved to buy the non-transferrable annual 'vouchers,' costing ten guineas. Holding a voucher became the difference between society and Society. Not to have a voucher might mean simply that one had not applied, but to lose one's voucher meant that one had been tried and found wanting, a social disaster for those dedicated to their position in the ton. When Lady Caroline Lamb satirised Lady Jersey in her novel Glenarvon, Lady Jersey took her revenge by barring Caroline from Almack's — the ultimate social disgrace (although Lady Cowper, who was Caroline's sister-in-law, eventually got the ban lifted). No exceptions to the strict rules were ever made: the Duke of Wellington was once refused entry for being improperly dressed, and meekly complied.

The Lady Patronesses met every Monday night during the London social season (approximately April to August) to decide who, if anyone, might need to be removed for recent déclassé behavior, and whom they might wish to add to the august membership. Their reign lasted until about 1824 when exclusivity and strictness of rules both declined.

Money was not a key to being a member of Almack's, which existed to exclude the nouveau riche. Possession of a noble title was a recommendation, though breeding and behavior were more important. Even a duke or duchess might find themselves barred, if one or other of the patronesses disliked them Only about three-quarters of the hereditary nobility were admitted; however Thomas Moore, a penniless Irish poet, was a member.[5]

Dances and refreshment

The First Quadrille at Almack's: a French print supposedly representing Lady Jersey, Lady Worcester, Lord Worcester and Clanronald Macdonald, though Gronow says it was danced by Lady Jersey, Lady Susan Ryder, Miss Montgomery and Lady Harriet Butler, with the Count St Aldegonde, Mr Montagu, Mr Montgomery and Mr Charles Standish.[8]

Amelia Stewart Viscountess Castlereagh

To avoid any suggestion of impropriety, dances were limited to country dances, more like reels than minuets. This changed some time after the declaration of the Regency, when first the quadrille and then the waltz, at that time more like the modern polka, were introduced. According to Raikes, these were first danced at Almack's in 1813, to Gronow in 1815, and to Dancing in the Badminton Library, 1816. The introduction of the quadrille is strongly associated with Lady Jersey, and the waltz definitely linked to Countess de Lieven.[8]

The club took pains not to resemble expensive private balls by avoiding sumptuous repasts. Refreshments in the supper rooms consisted of thinly-sliced bread (which must be a day old to be sliced that thinly) with fresh butter, and dry cake (dry meaning unfrosted, without icing, not stale), probably similar to pound cake. To avoid drunkenness, only tea and lemonade were served in the supper rooms.[5]

The physical building

Viscountess

The original building was constructed in the Palladian style, and located on the south side of King Street. One Life in London print depicting the ballroom, c. 1821, shows tall arch-topped windows with simple draperies, with panels between of delicate decoration in the style of Robert Adam.[9] A Cruikshank print shows a different crystal chandelier, a carpeted floor, and the walls hung with gigantic mirrors and paintings.[10]

Besides the dancing rooms and the supper rooms, some historians say the later Almack's also provided gaming rooms for those who preferred cards to dancing.[citation needed]

In 1871, the new owner of the Assembly Rooms renamed them after himself as Willis's Rooms. They were damaged (during World War II bombing of London) in 1940 and were completely destroyed in 1944. The site is now occupied by an office building (Almack House) bearing a brass plaque commemorating the existence of Almack's on that spot.

In fiction

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Almack's, in its heyday, might appear or be mentioned in any of the 'silver fork novels' of the time. These notably included Almack's by Marianne Spencer Hudson (1827) and Almack's Revisited by Charles White (1828).

Amelia Stewart Viscountess Castlereagh Tartan

Almack's and its patronesses also appear frequently in the Regency romances of Georgette Heyer and many other authors of the genre. Heyer stresses the crucial importance of gaining admission to the club: despite the fact that the actual entertainment was notoriously dull and the refreshments inferior, inability to gain admission was the ultimate social failure.

In a significant speech made at a banquet for the London 'Metropolitan Sanitary Association' on May 10th 1851, a speech which prefigured the publication of Bleak House in serial form in March 1852, Charles Dickens referred to Almack's: 'That no man could estimate the amount of mischief grown in dirt - that no man could say the evil stops here or stops there, either to its moral or physical effects, or could deny that it begins in the cradle or was not at rest in the grave - was as certain as it was, that the air from Gin-Lane would not be carried by an easterly wind into May-fair, or that the furious pestilence raging in St Giles's, no mortal list of lady patronesses could keep out of Almack's.'[11] On early manuscripts for Bleak House the title was given as Bleak House and the East Wind.[12]

See also

Notes

  1. Chancellor, p.235: 'It is generally believed that his original name was Macall and that he changed it, by a process of inversion, to Almack, when he first started as club proprietor, on account of the odium into which anything Scottish had fallen at this period (about the middle) of the eighteenth century. But this is based a good deal on conjecture, and in Notes and Queries a number of letters and other communications on the subject leave the matter not much clearer than it was before. ... Personally I am inclined to think that no such change was ever attempted. Almack is as common a name as Macall, although neither is frequently met with; and surely if a man had wanted to hide his origin he could have done so more skilfully and more successfully than by merely playing a conjuring trick with the letters of his name.'
  2. Rubenhold, Hallie (2008). Lady Worsley's Whim. London: Vintage Books. pp. 175–176a.<templatestyles src='Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css'></templatestyles>
  3. Chancellor, p. 205-6
  4. Chancellor, p. 206-7
  5. 5.05.15.2Moers
  6. 'Regency Personalities Series: Sarah Clementina Drummond-Burrell, A patroness of Almack's,' from D.W. Wilkin's blog on goodreads. Accessed 25 January 2014.
  7. Patronesses list from Jehanne Wake, Sisters of Fortune (London: Chatto & Windus), p. 99.
  8. 8.08.1Chancellor, p.212
  9. Margetson
  10. Chancellor
  11. Daily News (London, England), Monday, May 12, 1851; Issue 1549
  12. Dickens and the Broken Scripture, Janet L Lasrson, University of Georgia Press, 2008, p334.

Amelia Stewart Viscountess Castlereagh Photos

References

Wikimedia Commons has media related to [[commons:Script error: The function 'getCommonsLink' does not exist.Script error: The function 'getCommonsLink' does not exist.]].
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Almack's.

Amelia Stewart Viscountess Castlereagh Actress

  • Chancellor, E. Beresford. Memorials of St James's Street together with the Annals of Almack's. London, 1922.
  • Hibbert, Christopher. London, the Biography of a City. New York: William Morrow, 1969.
  • Margetson, Stella. Regency London. New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc., 1971.
  • Moers, Ellen. The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm. New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1960.

Amelia Stewart Viscountess Castlereagh Scottish

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