The Hampton Court Beauties are a series of portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller, commissioned by Queen Mary II of England and depicting the most glamorous ladies from the court of William II. They adorn the state rooms of King William III at Hampton Court Palace.
A generation previously, Sir Peter Lely had been commissioned to depict the most beautiful ladies of the court of King Charles II of England, a series christened the Windsor beauties. The Hampton Court Beauties are considerably plainer and less erotic than the Windsor Beauties, reflecting the changes at court.
There were 12 original Hampton Court Beauties. Those whose names and portraits survived through the years are:
Isabella Bennet, Duchess of Grafton (1667–1713)
Margaret Cecil, Countess of Ranelagh (1672–1727)
Carey Fraser, Countess of Peterborough (c.1658-1709)
Frances Whitmore, Lady Middleton (1666–1694)
Mary Scrope, later Mrs Pitt (born 1676)
Diana De Vere, Duchess of St Albans (1679–1742)
Lady Mary Bentinck, Countess of Essex (died 1726)
Mary Compton, Countess of Dorset (1669–1691)
The Kit-Cat Club was an early 18th century club, with strong political and literary associations, committed to the furtherance of the Whig objectives of Parliamentary democracy and a limited monarchy. Its first meetings were held at a tavern in Shire Lane, near Temple Bar, which was run by an innkeeper called Christopher (Kit) Catling. He gave his name to the mutton pies known as 'Kit Kats' from which the club took its name. A famous characteristic of the Kit-Kat was its toasting-glasses, used for drinking the health of the reigning beauties of the day. The toasting glasses were engraved with verses in their praise.
Some of those who were toasted include Lady Godolphin, Lady Sunderland, Lady Bridgewater, and Lady Monthermer, all daughters of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.
Katherine Jones, Viscountess Ranelagh (1615 - 1691) was a leading Anglo-Irish intellectual. She was the daughter of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. She married Arthur Jones, 2nd Viscount Ranelagh, in 1630. She left Ireland after the rebellion of 1641, and moved to London.
Hortense Mancini, duchesse Mazarin (1646 – 1699) was the favourite niece of Cardinal Mazarin, chief minister of France, and a mistress of Charles II, King of England. Charles in fact proposed, but as he was in exile at the time, Cardinal Mazarin rejected the offer, thinking he had limited prospects (Charles was reinstated as King of England a few months later). Hortense was the fourth of five famous Mancini sisters, who along with two of their female Martinozzi cousins, were known at the court of King Louis XIV of France as the Mazarinettes, and renowned for their beauty.
Sir John Suckling (1609 - 1642) was an English poet, known for careless gaiety and wit. A collection of his poems was first published in 1646 as Fragmenta aurea. He is best known for his poem "Ballad upon a Wedding,” on the marriage of Roger Boyle and Lady Margaret Howard. Fielding quotes these lines from Ballad:
Her lips were red, and one was thin;
Compared with that was next her chin,
Some bee had stung it newly.
Suckling also invented the card game Cribbage. He is said to have sent numerous packs of marked playing cards to the aristocratic houses of England, and then to have travelled the country playing cribbage with the gentry, winning around £20,000 (an amount equivalent to £4 million today).
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), provides his rude answer in his poem, below:
Have you seen the raging stormy main
Toss a ship up, then cast her down again?
Sometimes she seems to touch the very skies,
And then again upon the sand she lies.
Or have you seen a bull, when he is jealous,
How he does tear the ground, and roars and bellows?
Or have you seen the pretty turtle-dove,
When she laments the absence of her love?
Or have you seen the fairies, when they sing
And dance with mirth together in a ring?
Or have you seen our gallants make a pudder,
With Fair and Grace, and Grace and Fair Anne Strudder?
Or have you seen the daughters of Apollo
Pour down their rhyming liquors in a hollow cane?
In spongy brain, congealing into verse?
If you have seen all this - then kiss mine arse
Lucius Junius Brutus (the elder) was the founder of the Roman Republic. He led the revolt that overthrew Rome’s last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, around 509 BC. The king was Brutus’ uncle, and was responsible for various reprehensible acts, including the execution of Brutus' brother. The last straw was the rape of the noblewoman Lucretia, Brutus’ kinswomen, by the king’s son. After telling Brutus what had befallen her, Lucretia committed suicide. Brutus led the people of Rome in banishing the Tarquins from the city, and then led them in an oath never to allow any man again to be king in Rome.
The royal family did not go down without a fight however. They drew a number of leading Roman citizens into a plot to regain their power, including Brutus' wife and his two sons. When the conspiracy was discovered, Brutus, together with his fellow consuls, determined that the conspirators must be put to death, including the members of Brutus’ family. Brutus’ act of parricide was thus to preside over the execution of his sons. He was subsequently killed in battle – he and his cousin, a son of the vanquished king, speared each other to death.
Marcus Junius Brutus (the younger) (85 BC – 42 BC) was a descendent of this republican Brutus. He was a Senator and one of Julius Caesar’s inner circle. When Caesar had the Roman Senate declare him dictator for life, there were many among the Senators who feared Caesar sought to become king of Rome. They persuaded Brutus to join a conspiracy to kill Caesar. It is said that, on the day of the killing, Caesar blocked the initial knife thrusts but, upon seeing Brutus among the conspirators, resigned himself to die.
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony says:
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov'd him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms,
Quite vanquish'd him: then burst his mighty heart. . .
Anthony suggests that Caesar died not so much from his wounds, as from the realization of Brutus' treachery.
A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue, by Francis Grose, 1785, explains that to cry roast meat is to boast of one’s situation. Similarly, to rule the roast is to be the master, while roast meat clothes are Sunday clothes or holiday clothes.
The music listened to by commoners and country folk was far removed from that of the English court. Early printed collections were put together in the 1600s by individuals such as John Playford (The English Dancing Master, 1651), Samuel Pepys, and Robert Harley (the Roxburghe Ballads). By the 18th century there were increasing numbers of collections of what was beginning to be defined as "folk" music, including Thomas D’Urfey’s Wit and Mirth: or, Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719–20) and Bishop Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765).
Songs like Old Sir Simon celebrated drinking and carousing, while poking fun at the politics and manners of the day.
William Congreve (1670 –1729) was an English playwright and poet. He wrote some of the most popular English plays of the Restoration period, of the late 17th century. By the age of thirty, he had written four comedies, and a tragedy, and achieved great success. However, by 1700, when he was just 30, his career floundered. Public taste had turned against the high-brow sexual comedy of manners which was his forte, and his work came under some vicious criticism, being described by some critics as immoral and profane. He shifted his focus to politics, and held various minor political positions. His literary output from 1700 was restricted to occasional poems and translations. Fortunately, his early success had earned him a considerable fortune. He died in London in January 1729, and was buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
One of his most famous phrases is from The Mourning Bride (1697): "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," spoken by Zara in Act III. Another, from Love for Love (1695), is: "O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell."
Hudibras is a 17th century mock heroic narrative poem by Samuel Butler. It is set in the context of the English Civil War, and was published in three parts in 1663, 1664 and 1678. Publication came only four years after King Charles II’s restoration – making it a very topical work. The poem tells the story of Sir Hudibras, a knight errant who is conceited, arrogant, stupid, and driven by extreme religious fervour, but nonetheless heaped with immense, and ironic, praise.
To match his learning and his wit;
'Twas Presbyterian true blue;
For he was of that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks
The poem is influenced by Cervantes’ Don Quixote, although Hudibras is a much less sympathetic character than Quixote.
John Freke (1688-1756) was elected assistant-surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1726, and subsequently the first curator of the hospital museum. He was elected surgeon in 1729, and held office until 1755, when gout and infirmity compelled him to resign. Besides being one of the chief surgeons within the city of London he had a reputation as a man of learning in science, a judge of painting and of music. He made experiments in electricity and published in 1748 “An Essay to show the Cause of Electricity and why some things are Non-Electricable, in which is also considered its Influence in the Blasts on Human Bodies, in the Blights on Trees, in the Damps in Mines, and as it may affect the Sensitive Plant.”
It is this book to which Fielding is referring in the quote above.
Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, known in English as Juvenal, was a Roman poet of the late 1st and early 2nd century AD. He authored the Satires, a collection of at least 16 poems covering a diverse range of topics. The works are hyperbolic and comedic, and provide a wide-ranging discussion of society and social mores. Juvenal describes the work as follows:
as the clouds lifted the waters, and then asked for an oracle,
and then little by little spirit warmed the soft stones
and Pyrrha showed naked girls to their husbands,
whatever men do – prayer, fear, rage, pleasure
joy, running about – is the grist of my little book.
A libertine is a person who views conventional morals as unnecessary or undesirable, and feels free to act outside what society considers ‘acceptable behaviour’ in pursuit of physical and sensory pleasures. Libertinism was practised by some notable members of French and British society in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, Giacomo Casanova, Lord Byron, and the Marquis de Sade.
The word ‘libertine’ is derived from the Roman mythological figure, Liber (meaning free), who represented husbandry and crops. The term was coined by John Calvin, as a critical term for his opponents. These opponents argued against Calvin's efforts to have church discipline enforced uniformly against all members Geneva’s society, in the mid-1550s.
Sir Richard Steele (1672 –1729) was an Irish writer and politician. He published his first booklet, The Christian Hero, in 1701. It was written while he was serving in the army, and was meant as a pamphlet of moral instruction. It met with considerable ridicule, however, as he was known not to follow its teachings – preferring drinking, occasional dueling, and debauchery. In the same year he wrote a comedy, The Funeral, which met with wide success and was performed at Drury Lane. He wrote a number of subsequent plays, and began publishing a thrice weekly journal, The Tatler, in April 1709. The Tatler aimed "to expose the false arts of life, to pull off the disguises of cunning, vanity, and affectation, and to recommend a general simplicity in our dress, our discourse, and our behavior."
Together with Joseph Addison, he co-founded The Spectator. He was also a member of the Kit-Kat Club. He was knighted in 1714, and given responsibility for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Here, he wrote and directed The Conscious Lovers, which was an immediate hit. In 1724 he retired to Wales.
Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) was a French philosopher and writer. He was an advocate of the principle of the toleration of divergent beliefs, and his works subsequently influenced the development of the Enlightenment. In 1675 he was appointed chair of philosophy at the Protestant Academy of Sedan, in France. In 1681 he fled religious repression in France and took up a position as professor of philosophy and history at the Ecole Illustre in Rotterdam. Between 1684 and 1687, he published Nouvelles de la république des lettres, a journal of literary criticism. His four volume Philosopphical Commentary is a plea for toleration in religious matters (1686-1688).
His Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (Historical and Critical Dictionary) was published in 1695. It constituted one of the world’s first encyclopedias, and remained a highly important scholarly work for several generations after its publication. The English translation of work, by Pierre des Maizeaux, was named by US President Thomas Jefferson as one of the 100 foundational texts that formed the first collection of the Library of Congress.
The Dictionary includes the story of Helen and the Fall of Troy.
Harts' horns are the horns of the male red deer. Various remedies were prepared from shavings of the horns. These included oil of hartshorn, prepared by distilling the bones or horns, salt of hartshorn (ammonium carbonate), obtained by dry distillation of the oil, and spirit of hartshorn, an aqueous solution of ammonia. Salt of hartshorn was used for treatment of fevers, and as a smelling salt.