Monday, November 7, 2011

Those shameless English aristocrats

Monday, November 7, 2011
Loretta reports:

An American waxes indignant about the English aristocracy’s shameless ways.
~~~
One of his subjects said that Charles II. was the father of many of his people in a literal sense.  He recruited the ranks of the nobility largely with his children and their mothers, and at least five English dukes to-day can trace their lineage to the monarch who left no legitimate descendant . . .

These offshoots of royalty claim all the distinction that their birth confers.  The daughter of a ducal house prides herself on her likeness to her great ancestor, Nell Gwynne, whose portrait hang in her drawing-room, so that all who come can compare.  You can pay her no higher compliment than to notice the resemblance which proves her royal origin . . .

Illegitimacy, however, in England is not confined to the descendants of royalty.  The nobility emulates the example set by a long line of sovereigns.  In the exalted circles of the aristocracy the bastards of peers go about bearing the family names, and daughters whose mothers are unrecognized marry into families as “good” as those on the paternal side.  There are even instances of sons born before the marriage of their parents, whose younger brothers inherit titles to which the elders would have succeeded, but for the neglect of their mothers to go to church in time: the legitimate and illegitimate children can claim precisely the same progenitors.  Some of these premature sons are to-day ministers at foreign courts, others have been masters of ceremonies in royal houses, while dukes and earls have been able to find places for the spawn of shame in the army, the Foreign Office, and even in that Church whose rites they had themselves neglected to observe.

God knows the unfortunates are not to blame; but to make their birth a distinction and an advantage is a greater enormity than the offence to which they owe their origin.
—Adam Badeau, Aristocracy in England, 1856

~~~
I'll let my readers decide whether American Victorians were more “Victorian” than their English counterparts . . .

Illustration:  Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans, son of King Charles II & Nell Gwynne  

6 comments:

Hels said...

"Some of these premature sons are to-day ministers at foreign courts, others have been masters of ceremonies in royal houses, while dukes and earls have been able to find places for the spawn of shame in the army, the Foreign Office, and even in that Church whose rites they had themselves neglected to observe."

Wasn't it always thus - first son in the army, second in the church, third son off as an ambassador in a foreign country? I suppose in those three honourable careers, noone cared too much whether mum and dad got to the altar in time.

Jen Black said...

Well, were they? We want to know! I'd guess worse....

Mike Rendell said...

My family are 'from the wrong side of the blanket' via Lord Fairfax - and we proudly bear his name as a family name to this day! I mean, who can be proud of an ancestry which includes one of the most opportunistic turncoats of all time! (well, I'm proud of it!!)

Amy Valentini said...

Were American Victorians more “Victorian” than their English counterparts?
Interesting question. I'm not really sure by fact but seeing how prim and proper our current social standards appear in comparison to most of the world's, I suspect we might still have a nearly Victorian society or at least there are some folks who wish we did. : )

http://unwrappingromance.blogspot.com

Di said...

Made me think of how often you hear about today's celebrities (actors etc) have their children 'out of wedlock' - human nature never really changes.

Regan said...

One of the more interesting tidbits about Charles II's offspring is that because Princess Diana was one of his descendants (though the mistresses of course, when Prince William becomes King of England, Charles II will have finally have a descendent on the throne.

There was an error in this gadget
 
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket