When my heroes buy jewelry for their mistresses or the heroine, they always go to Rundell and Bridge, goldsmiths familiar to readers of Regency-era stories. I did find No. 32 Ludgate Hill, where the shop once was, and had my picture taken there, and closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it would have looked like in, say, 1818 or 1828. Not easy. Rundell & Bridge is mentioned frequently in books and magazines, fiction and non-fiction, but illustrations are very thin on the ground.
Too, one sees pictures of objects the Prince Regent/King George IV bought from the firm and reads about the amounts of money he spent, but this Nerdy History Girl’s nerdiness was never fully satisfied: What exactly did the shop look like? How about an interior? What kinds of little trinkets did the Regent buy for his favorites? Here's a cartoon interior . And here are further glimpses. But I wanted more.
Then one day I discovered Christopher Hartop’s Royal Goldsmiths: The Art of Rundell and Bridge 1797-1843. I don’t remember what led me to it, but I do remember my NHG jump-up-and-down excitement and complete lack of hesitation in ordering it. It’s a wonderful book, a beautifully detailed and splendidly illustrated catalog that accompanied an exhibition. Among other wonderful things, it includes a large 1790s illustration of Ludgate Hill and the shop front. You can find out more about the book at the Christopher Hartop site.
Then, the other day, I came to a dead stop in my perusal of the Wall Street Journal , riveted by an advertisement with a picture of a fantastically ornate silver thing with gods and goddesses flailing about. "That looks familiar," thought I.
“Fit for a King…and a Queen,” the copy read. And so it was.
It turns out that you, too, can own an actual Rundell and Bridge sterling silver ice pail made for the Royal Family in 1827. You’d probably better hurry and put it in your shopping bag before Her Majesty does, but for a mere $1,500,000 you, too, can cool your wine in the same cooler King George IV used. Or his brother, the Duke of Cumberland. Somebody royal, at any rate. You can read more about it under “Item Details,” at the M.S. Rau Antiques site.
Bottom right illustration is The Crimson Drawing Room of Carlton House (pulled down in 1826-27), a watercolor by W.H. Pyne. It gives an idea of the rich furnishings supplied by Rundell & Bridge and others.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.