Monday, 31 March 2014

The King's Laureate

It's that time again! I enjoy writing these posts for the King's Ginger so much - digging through the history of fascinating people and places that had some association with King Edward VII give me much pleasure. I hope you enjoy reading them as much! With that, it's time to delve into the life and times of a real Victorian rock star (sort of) - Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

An old one for you!

In an age before recorded music, poets and writer were big celebrities. Look at Lord Byron! Tennyson was one of the most popular poets in his day and is still one of the most popular ever. Born in 1809, he took up the post of Poet Laureate when William Wordsworth died in 1850 and remains to this day the longest serving Laureate, holding the position until he died in 1892.

From here, we find out that 'the Scottish historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle described Tennyson as “one of the finest-looking men in the world,” with “bright, laughing hazel eyes” and a “most massive yet most delicate” face. Later in his life, a photographer called him “the most beautiful old man on earth.” His resonant, booming voice riveted listeners when he read his poetry.'

Tennyson composed a lot of his more famous poems before he became Laureate. That should be fairly obvious, though, since he needed to be well-regarded to have been appointed to the top job in the country! The Lotos-Eaters (which I analysed at University... don't ask me anything about it as I have long forgotten), the Lady of Shalott (as famously painted by Waterhouse - one of my favourites) and Ulysses (not the impenetrable Joyce version) are all well-known.

The job of the Poet Laureate, as appointed by the monarch (in Tennyson's case, Queen Victoria) is to compose poems and verse to mark national occasions - Royal weddings and deaths in particular. It was actually Prince Albert's influence that got Tennyson the top job but it was his 'In Memoriam A.H.H', a requiem poem ,which reputedly brought Victoria some peace after the death of her beloved Prince in 1861. It contains some of the most memorable verses in the English language, perhaps ever:

'I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.'
But the verse that so comforted the Queen (she swapped the genders) read thus:
Tears of the widower, when he sees
A late-lost form that sleep reveals, And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
Her place is empty, fall like these;
He notably once put his foot in it with Queen Victoria, whom he apparently only met in person twice - the first time being after the death of Albert, and after she had read and found comfort in the above poem. In 1863, she asked the Duke of Argyll to tell Tennyson to come and see her. After receiving the Duke's letter, Tennyson was apparently rather alarmed and wrote back, 'I am a shy beast and like to keep in my burrow. Two questions, what sort of salutation to make on entering Her private room? And whether to retreat backward? or sidle out as I may?'

The foot incident happened with his telling Victoria, 'He would have made a great King'. Prince Albert, as Prince Consort could, of course never be king. Silly old Tennyson. 'As soon as it was out of my mouth,' he related to a friend later, 'I felt what a blunder I had made.' Victoria didn't seem to mind at all, though.

It's probably fair to say that art and creativity cannot be forced, so some of Tennyson's least inspiring poems were those he wrote out of duty. The one that's most important to my story is the one written for the marriage of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to our hero, Albert, Prince of Wales on March 10th, 1863, published in the Times.

The Prince with his bride in 1863 - looking very uncharacteristically skinny and beardless!

The Wikipedia page for Tennyson describes it as 'uninspired', which may be a little unfair. Well, judge it for yourselves!
SEA-KING’S daughter from over the sea,
Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee,
                            Alexandra!                          5
Welcome her, thunders of fort and of fleet!
Welcome her, thundering cheer of the street!
Welcome her, all things youthful and sweet,
Scatter the blossom under her feet!
Break, happy land, into earlier flowers!         10
Make music, O bird, in the new-budded bowers!
Blazon your mottoes of blessing and prayer!
Welcome her, welcome her, all that is ours!
Warble, O bugle, and trumpet, blare!
Flags, flutter out upon turrets and towers!  15
Flames, on the windy headland flare!
Utter your jubilee, steeple and spire!
Clash, ye bells, in the merry March air!
Flash, ye cities, in rivers of fire!
Rush to the roof, sudden rocket, and higher  20
Melt into stars for the land’s desire!
Roll and rejoice, jubilant voice,
Roll as a ground-swell dash’d on the strand,
Roar as the sea when he welcomes the land,
And welcome her, welcome the land’s desire   25
The sea-king’s daughter as happy as fair,
Blissful bride of a blissful heir,
Bride of the heir of the kings of the sea,—
O joy to the people, and joy to the throne,
Come to us, love us and make us your own:   30
For Saxon or Dane or Norman we,
Teuton or Celt, or whatever we be,
We are each all Dane in our welcome of thee,
The catchily titled Opening of the Indian and Colonial Exhibition by the Queen, 1886 was written at the request of Prince Bertie and is similarly... meh. But it's notable perhaps, that one of the very last poems Tennyson ever wrote was in memory of Bertie's son, the Duke of Clarence in early 1892. Tennyson died later the same year.

I found a fascinating reference to Tennyson's funeral in a newspaper from Sacramento, California, of all places. It reads:
The fact that the Prince of Wales absented himself from the funeral of Tennyson in order that he might attend the Newmarket races is provoking considerable comment. His action is especially dilated upon by the Radical journals. His absence from Westminster would have been less remarked upon but for the fact that not a single royal personage was present at the funeral. Since the Tranby Croft affair, public opinion has been very sensitive in regard to the conduct of the Prince, but the public takes a very common-sense view of the Prince's present action. Efforts being made to arouse a feeling against him fall flat. It is generally felt that his partiality for the lighter side of national life is so marked that to show deep regret over the death of Tennyson would be mere hypocrisy. The Chronicle says: It is true the Prince went where the mass of the people went. Tennyson was never the people's poet, but the point is whether in the hearts of the people they really prefer a Prince who cannot postpone one day's shooting or racing in order to mark a great epoch in his mother's reign. The Radical journals, while dilating upon the Prince's absence, discreetly omit, as far as possible, Gladstone's absence.
So interesting. And I will have to look up this Tranby Croft affair!

Onto my photos. In 1884 Victoria created him Baron Tennyson, of Aldworth in the County of Sussex and of Freshwater in the Isle of Wight. Preferring to do some of my own sleuthing for these pieces, I therefore set off to Sussex to find his primary seat.

Leaving the very last few metres of Surrey before entering Tennyson's county, I started down his own lane before arriving at the pile. Here's what I found:

Sadly, it is a private residence and the sign is at the start of a mile-long (literally) drive that I was too chicken to trespass on to take a photo. So here's one the internet made earlier:

The views from the land around where the house sits, on Blackdown, are stunning. Tennyson often set out from home to walk, take the clean air (Haslemere is very high) and look across the country and be inspired by the amazing views.

I hiked to the mysteriously named Temple of the Winds, one of Tennyson's absolute favourite views. Turned out it was named after the actual winds, of which there were lots.

Outfit as before, with the addition of a wind-resisting Barbour jacket!

Black Down was the property of various landowners until WE Hunter donated it in 1948, as a memorial to his wife. A nifty stone seat was installed at that time, so I pretended to be Tennyson looking at the view and thinking about poems... despite the fact the seat wasn't there then. Artistic

On Tennyson's death, William Morris was offered the position of Laureate, which he declined. Alfred Austin became the next, and he lived through the coronation and subsequent death of King Edward VII. But that is a story for another time.

I will leave you with another of Tennyson's most famous excerpts, from The Charge of the Light Brigade, in which few short lines, he perfectly captured the futility of war.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Don't forget to visit the King's Ginger site if you get a mo and snap yourself up a bottle to see out the last chilly days before we get into summer cocktail season. Tis the perfect time of year for a King's Spring Daisy!

Fleur xx

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Breezy steez


I'm currently mid-flow in my newest King's Ginger blog, but as I don't really think it fits the format to do full on outfit shots for said posts, I thought I'd share a couple as a kind of sneak peek.

They were taken at what may be one of the loveliest spots in southern England - Blackdown - albeit on a rather chilly and very windy day! I swear my hair looked good before I set off.

Vintage cotton dresses are now on rotation... even if I am still a bit chilly. My awesome handknitted cardi was bought from 1940s Style For You - find her on Etsy

Still adoring my leather satchel - you'll probably never see me with another bag again! 

King's Ginger is obviously an essential accessory for cold walks... proper post coming at the weekend!

These fab Chatham boots might not be glamorous, but they have served me super well on country walks! Obviously the rest of my outfit is not too practical.

Full outfit deets! 
Dress: Vintage Swirl
Boots: Chatham

See you again in a day or two!

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Schoolday chic

Hello from slightly more spring-like London!

I occasionally get offered things to review through my blog and I hardly accept anything these days (I have too much stuff, not enough space and no wish to be a greedy git). But when a very kind and helpful young man from The Leather Satchel Co. got in touch recently and asked me if I would be interested in a vintage-style satchel, hand-made by British craftsmen, I felt it was my duty to review one for you all, so you could be assured of their quality. So I did.

I have a soft spot for satchels, as I had one identical to the Leather Satchel Co's classic bags when I was a tiny girl going to primary school. In fact, as the LSC have been going continuously since 1966 (with a lot of much newer companies springing up in recent years), it's quite possible that it WAS one of their bags.

Faced with their huge array of sizes, colours, trims and optional bells and whistles, it was really hard to choose. The satchel I eventually opted for is the Classic 12.5" model in London tan. I will confess that part of me wonders why I didn't go for anything bright and colourful like cherry red, or one of the amazing pastel shades they do. But ultimately, I wanted something that will never date and go with absolutely anything. And it is perfect! 

I had it customised slightly. I asked for the front pocket to be removed, for a clean look, the straps to be turned into magnetic poppers (otherwise I knew the hassle of having to buckle and unbuckle them would mean I walked around with it open most of the time, I am terrible for that) and for extra vanity, to have my initials blind embossed on the front. Let's hope I never get married! 

Here's a closer look. The boyfriend's heirloom travelling trunk makes a nice photoshoot location!

The quality of the leather is lovely. I had to wait a bit longer for it, because they had run out of the tan and since they apparently only source their leathers from Britain and the EU for ethical reasons, I was happy to wait for it to come back in. It's quite thick but gives the impression that it will wear in beautifully. The 12.5" is described on the website as being the perfect size for an iPad, while the 14" fits a small laptop and they can make laptop bags bigger. Customisation options are endless - you can have handles put on, backpack straps, different colours all over, have it wider or narrower - even have the hardware in gold, I've just noticed. Dammit, should've had the gold hardware - I'm all about gold these days (even faux gold jewellery, although it does always end up wearing off into the cheap copper underneath).

They're all hand-made and hand-stamped in their Liverpool factory. They run apprenticeships too - awesome news in today's difficult economic times. 

I have to say, the process of working with Adam at the Leather Satchel Co. was a pleasure from start to finish. I had some problems with the couriers not delivering it or leaving a note and he was unbelievably helpful - sorting everything out for me. When I remarked on the great service he said they were proud of their old fashioned attitude to customer service and rightly so, I say! 

I am not lying when I tell you that since my satchel arrived, I have used nothing else for a handbag and I don't think I ever will (don't quote me on that, it's not exactly an evening bag)! It's the perfect size for fitting everything I need inside, it's easy to carry and will last me a lifetime! 

Full outfit details! 
Dress: Heyday Fleur (a lovely limited edition from a couple of years ago)
Jacket: vintage
Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens from last year

New favourite lipstick for spring!
 Revlon Kiss Me Coral with MAC Lasting Sensation lipliner

Thank you Leather Satchel Company for my brilliant bag and for being so lovely! They have very kindly given me a 10% discount code, so if you are tempted to get one for yourself, just use 'vintagegirl' at checkout.

Until next time... 

Fleur xx

Thursday, 6 March 2014


Every month, when I do my King's Ginger posts, I have to search through the image archives on my blog to find the KGL logo. Since my blog has now been going for six years this May, there's a lot of old pictures from way back that I have to scroll past. And, since my recent blog post with some old modelling photos of me was a popular one, I thought I might try out a blog version of Instagram's Throwback Thursday trend. I mean it's essentially a vanity project, but indulge me a little, eh!

Side note: I actually fancy doing a bit of modelling again, just to see if I still can. If anyone is a photographer or a keen amateur and wants to collaborate on some outdoors/location photos then give me a shout!

All these photos were taken with an amazing creative chap called Russell Lewis, who unfortunately stopped doing photography to concentrate on art. Hope you are well if you read this, Russell! I still have high res copies on a CD somewhere and they look amazing in full res (they have lot a lot of detail, thanks Blogger).

Floating puzzles should be a thing.

Fleur xx

Monday, 3 March 2014

Windy Weather

Just a quick outfit post for you today!

I wanted to start incorporating some of my cotton summer dresses into my outfits after a long and boring winter, but I picked a particularly bad day to do it. I don't really have enough slips or vests and today was cold, windy and, when we started taking these photos, drizzly to boot. I was cold. Still, I have been getting good use out of my trusty scarf/hood, and today was no exception. It's excellent fringe protection in windy weather!

However, I haven't given my recent haircut enough blog coverage yet so here I am without it too. Instead of going for the full Bettie bang effect, I have taken to combing it slightly to the side, Audrey Hepburn style. I promise it is meant to look like that, I'm not just pretending because the wind ruined it. ;)

In between every photo, the wind whipped my scarf over to the front.

I'm showing off my slip in all of these. 

Jacket : Heyday
Dress: vintage Swirl
Boots: old, horrible and ready for the bin
Bag: The Leather Satchel Co - full blog review very soon! 

We only spent about 3 minutes taking these pictures but just as we finished an ice-cream van drove past... it was way too cold for ice-cream but here's a little outtake showing my reaction. Haha! 

Cannot WAIT until the day I can stop wearing tights (and eat ice-cream outside without hypothermia)!

Fleur xx

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