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DateLecture
20 November 2018MAD, BAD AND FASCINATING TO KNOW: The colourful ancestors of the Dukes of Bedford
16 October 2018CELEBRATING THE ROYAL ACADEMY : 250th Anniversary 1768-2018
18 September 2018THE AMADEUS MYTH: Mozart and his world - society and culture in 18th century Vienna
19 June 2018THE ART OF CUISINE AND THE CUISINE OF ART.
15 May 2018THE SILVER THREAD. Silver filigree and Traditional Arts in Kosovo
17 April 2018LET THERE BE LIGHT. The Art and Science of light in Painting.
20 March 2018CHILDREN AS ARTISTS
20 February 2018LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Tortured Hero of Troubled Times
16 January 2018ROMANCING THE RAILS. British Railway Posters.
19 December 2017PICTURING THE NATIVITY. 15TH Century Artists Reinterpret the Nativity
21 November 2017HOCKNEY AT 80
17 October 2017THE BAUHAUS
19 September 2017WILLIAM COBBETT and JAMES GILLRAY . Personal and Political cartoons of the early 19th century.
20 June 2017THE INTERIORS OF JANE AUSTEN’S HEROINES
16 May 2017A LITTLE PARADISE. LAOS: Historic Buddhist Temples to Modern Silk Weaving.
18 April 2017FROM MAUVE TO MOMBAI: The History of Colour in Textiles from 1856 to the Present.
21 March 2017POP GOES THE ARTIST: From Warhol to Dylan
21 February 2017ARMOUR AND THE AFTERLIFE: The Funerary Monuments of Knights and Men-at-Arms.
17 January 2017WHEN BRITAIN CLICKED: Fab Photographs from the Swinging Sixties.
20 December 2016SINGE WE YULE
15 November 2016THE THAMES – Theatre of Pageantry and Pleasure.
18 October 2016DOUBLE DUTCH: Symbols and Emblems and "Double-Entendre" in Dutch Genre painting
20 September 2016THE ELGIN MARBLES.
21 June 2016“Punch and Judy”: A Subversive symbol from Commedia Del‘Arte to the Present Day
17 May 2016JMW Turner and the Day Parliament Burned Down
26 April 2016Wandering amongst the Nomadic Tribes of Iran and Afghanistan: Searching for the woven art and symbolism of the Nomad
15 March 2016The World of Carl Fabergé
16 February 2016Denys Lasdun and the National Theatre: Architectural Masterpiece or was Prince Charles right after all?
19 January 2016Velasquez: The Great Magician of Art
15 December 2015Christmas at Covent Garden: 300 Years of Christmas Shows at one of London's Great Theatres
17 November 2015German War Memorials
20 October 2015Radiant Art:Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Farnham area
15 September 2015Bringing Back The Needle: The Story Of An Obelisk
15 June 2015Gilding the Lily
18 May 2015The Art of Waterloo
20 April 2015Kicking and Screaming: A Brief Story of Post-War British Art
16 March 2015“Saved!” – Animal Heroes In War And Peace
16 February 2015From Egg To Bacon: English Painting 1850-1950
19 January 2015Man Ray - The Magic Man

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MAD, BAD AND FASCINATING TO KNOW: The colourful ancestors of the Dukes of Bedford Geri Parlby Tuesday 20 November 2018

 

 Geri took us through the ups and downs of the remarkable Russell family augmented by portraits, enchanting miniatures and some saucy Gillray cartoons! The portraits illustrated changing fashion while the cartoons the 18th century satire. The first member to rise to fame and fortune was John Russell, a wine merchant. His facility for languages enabled him to provide invaluable assistance to Joan of Castile and her husband Philip of Austria when they were shipwrecked en route to the English Court.  On arrival, his talents were immediately recognised by Henry V11. He would go on to hold high office under every Tudor monarch except Elizabeth 1. Following the dissolution of the monasteries he was granted vast lands in London, the Fens and of course Woburn Abbey and its estates, as well as being created Earl of Bedford. His comment, made on losing an eye in 1520, remains the family motto today: Que sera, sera.

                                                                    

His grandson Edward, the third Earl and his feisty wife Lucy became a golden couple in the Elizabethan Court and would go on to be firm favourites of James and his wife Anne of Denmark. Lucy was a patron of Inigo Jones and thoroughly enjoyed the decadent Stuart Court even, it said dancing topless during a masque! Although her husband retired from Court, Lucy continued to enjoy the high life amassing huge debts in the process; a recurring Russell problem. With no surviving children these were passed to cousin Francis, forth Earl. He was the first to live at Woburn, moving to escape the plague. He employed Inigo Jones to extend Woburn and build Covent Garden, the piazza and St Paul’s Church. He also headed the work to drain the Cambridgeshire Fens – known as the Bedford Levels to this day. During the turbulent civil war, William, the son of the following Earl and a convinced Protestant, was implicated – probably unjustly - in the Rye House Plot of 1683 to assassinate Charles 11 and his Popish brother in order to prevent James from succeeding. It failed and William was beheaded. Jack Ketch, the incompetent executioner took four blows to complete the task. Following the Glorious Revolution, his father, the aged Earl was created a Duke. During the 18th century gambling debts balanced by clever marriages which brought money and lands ensured the family’s survival. The Gillray cartoon of the young Duke Francis as a bull being chased by the Gordon mother and daughter illustrates the importance of such arrangements. Sadly he never married and died after a game of tennis at 36. Before that in 1797, when Pitt put a tax on hair powder to help finance the wars, Francis had his hair cut short in protest – Beau Brummell followed suit and powdered hair was soon out of fashion. The new style was known as the Bedford Level.

His brother John succeeded, but by the time of his death in 1839 his building projects, coupled with his lavish hospitality, landed the family in serious debt once more. Fortunately his successor was able to restore the situation due to the discovery of copper on the estate. It is to his wife Anna Maria – a miniature painter in her own right - that we owe the joys of afternoon tea. Feeling hungry between lunch and dinner she ordered tea, scones, and cakes to fill the gap and, since after 1840 tea became much cheaper, it soon became a favourite habit.

Written by Jenny Thorpe

Geri is a former Fleet Street journalist and film publicist. She has a first class honours degree in History and Theology, a Masters in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute and a Theology doctorate from Roehampton University in London. She has been lecturing for the past eleven years both in the UK and internationally. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Roehampton University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.