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Friday, February 15, 2013

Bouquet de Countess of Jersey c1840

Bouquet de Countess of Jersey: created in 1840 by Guerlain for Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey.





Among the holders of the title of Countess of Jersey, two are historically important. Frances, wife of the fourth Earl, was a mistress of the Prince Regent (later George IV), and her daughter-in-law Sally was one of the leading society hostesses of Regency England. As such she figures prominently in Georgette Heyer romance novels, for example, but she was a very real and important person, who could make or break a lady's standing as her friend Beau Brummell could for gentlemen.



This Sally was born Sarah Sophia Fane in 1785. Her mother, Sarah Anne Child of the influential banking family, disgraced herself when seventeen by an elopement to Gretna Green (on the 17 May 1782) with the tenth Earl of Westmorland (1759-1841). Eventually taken back by the Child family, her father arranged so that neither his daughter nor her eldest son (Westmorland's heir to be) would inherit their great estate, including the country house of Osterley Park outside London. It was instead to pass to a younger grandchild: Sarah Sophia.



In 1793 her mother died and the eight-year-old Sarah became a rich heiress. On 23 May 1804 she married George Villiers, styled Viscount Villiers, the heir apparent to the fourth Earl of Jersey. George became the fifth earl with his father's death in 1805. Ignoring the worthless surname of Fane, the wretched Westmorland's name, they took the surname Child-Villiers by royal warrant in 1819.



As Lady Jersey she became supremely influential, one of the patronesses of Almack's, the fashionable assembly rooms in London. Another was Countess Lieven (1785-1857), wife of the Russian ambassador and mistress of the Austrian minister Metternich; and others were Lady Sefton and Princess Esterhazy. The doors of Almack's closed at 11 o'clock and no-one more was admitted: no-one. Sally Jersey notoriously once refused admittance to the Duke of Wellington for being a few minutes late.


Her friends called her Sally and she signed herself Sally Jersey; other nicknames she acquired were "Queen Sarah" and, in irony, "Silence". She seems from a portrait in Osterley Park to have been a great beauty, though a written account denies it. She was also a literary inspiration to Disraeli, and is cast as Zenobia in his novel Endymion.


Their London address was 38 Berkeley Square and they preferred their country seat at Middleton Park in Oxfordshire to Osterley. She lived till 1867.











Souvenirs of Travel, Volume 1 by Madame Octavia Walton Le Vert, 1857:
"Last night we were again at the opera to hear the same admirable artists in Lucia di Lammermuir and thence to the mansion of the Countess of Jersey to a brilliant ball. It was a superb assemblage of the beautiful and high born women of England. The Countess of Jersey has a noble presence and most commanding air. She is graceful and elegant in manner and gesture. .....The Countess of Jersey is called the queen of London fashion and she wields her sceptre with an admirable grace....The Countess of Jersey and her daughter Lady Clementina Villars quite charmed me by their cordial greeting. "






"The Right Honourable Sarah Sophia. Countess of Jersey, the reigning Society beauty, and the richest heiress of her day. She ardently espoused the cause of the luckless Queen Caroline, wife of George IV., and was the friend and protector of Byron during his social ostracism.

Engraved by f. Cochran, from a miniature by G. Hayter

Indeed, as a leader of fashion she displayed positively ferocious activity. She changed every article of clothing from head to foot four times a day, and her gowns were the talk of London.

Countess Granville says, " She is really wonderful, and how she can stand the life she leads is still more wonderful. She sees everybody in her own house and calls on everybody in theirs. She begins the day with a dancing master at nine o'clock, and never rests till midnight." Byron, after paying a tribute to her courage and kindness in "protecting him, says, "Poor, dear Lady Jersey! Does she still retain her beautiful cream-coloured complexion and raven hair ? I used to long to tell her that she spoiled her looks by her excessive animation ; for her eyes, tongue, head and arms were all in movement at once, and were only relieved from their active service by want of respiration."


....Her last child, John Francis, died in 1862. She herself lived for five years more, still brilliant, still admired. At the age of sixty she outshone all the younger beauties of the time at a ball, where, in the dress of a sultana, she was the most striking figure in the room.

To sum up, she was tyrannical, without the soft charm of woman; she possessed neither wit nor imagination, she was rude and impetuous, prejudiced in her understanding, tiresome and quarrelsome. On the credit side, she was beautiful without being a coquette, prejudiced but without rancour, neither proud nor conceited, immensely active, and exceedingly kind-hearted. To the throne from which she ruled English society she attracted the Tsar Nicholas I., the Kings of Prussia, Hanover, Holland, and Belgium, Byron, Creevey, Greville, Wellington, and many others. She was indeed the most wonderful woman of her time."


Every Woman's Encyclopaedia :Various Authors: published 1910-1912

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