Friday, July 26, 2013

Mastery of Design: A Fantastic Blue Diamond Ring, 1920-60

Blue Diamond Ring with Platinum and Baguette Setting\
This and all related images from
The British Museum

Given to the British Museum by an anonymous donor, the centerpiece of this ring is a brilliant-cut blue diamond weighing nearly 16 carats. The stone itself shows signs of being cut in the 1920s, however, the setting--a mount of platinum with three-stone baguette diamond shoulders suggests the style of the 1940s-1960s.

Bearing no markings, the maker of the ring is unknown, but it is believed to be British.

As I'm still on the mend, I'll be taking Saturday and Sunday to recuperate. Regular posting will resume on Monday and we'll finally get back to the usual schedule. Monday will see "A Tale of Two Sundays," as we catch up with our "Treats of the Week," and, as an added bonus, you'll get a third treat, mid-week. Lots of excitement ahead, and, I've found some LOVELY new items to share with you.

See you Monday.

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle. The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.

So, here's this week's riddle. We ask that you don't Google the answer. Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all. Give it a shot and see what you can come up with. Here we go... No cheating...

When is a yellow dog most likely to enter a red house?

And, the answer is...


Yay!  Very clever answers today from everyone!  Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Drawing of the Day: The Langlumé Pick-pocket Punch, 19th C.

Lithograph, hand-colored
Nineteenth Century
The George Speaight Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Tragedy and comedy often go hand-in-hand, or, in this case, hand-in-pocket.

A stoop-shouldered man is so entranced by Mr. Punch's antics, that he's unaware that he's being pick-pocketed. Punch would approve.

Hand colored with watercolor, the print was published in Paris by Nöel et Dauty in the mid-to-late Nineteenth Century. The lithographer is listed as J. Langlumé.

Print of the Day: Woodcuts of Mr. Punch and Friends, 19th C.

Wood-cut Print
Nineteenth Century
Unknown Artist
George Speaight Archive at
The Victoria & Albert Museum

What better way to celebrate three years of this site than with Mr. Punch and his family? 

Pictured above are two early Nineteenth-Century illustrations. One depicts Mr. Punch being bitten on the nose by the Dog Toby. The other shows a scene with our Mr. Punch, Dog Toby, Judy and the Baby—apparently, and unusually, in good spirits.

These prints were produced via woodcut, printed with black ink on paper. The work of an unknown artist, the first represents one of the most famous scenes from the Punch & Judy tradition—the introduction of Mr. Punch to his neighbor, Mr. Scaramouche’s dog.
  At first, Dog Toby and Punch do not get along, but Mr. Punch is soon charmed by the terrier and takes him as his own pet.

"Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square" will Continue on Monday

Now that Gerard has discovered that Gamilla is missing, he has immediately concluded that his bride-to-be is in the (three) hands of Orpha Polk and Ulrika Rittenhouse.

As Lennie accompanies Gerard to look for Gamilla, the new Lady Fallbridge finds that her past traumas aren't as far away as she thinks.  Meanwhile, Gerard realizes that Orpha is holding a grudge for his little mistake of cutting off her hand.

Grudges are also the order of the day for our heroes, Punch and Robert, as well.  They've both spent too long dealing with Ulrika and her kind, especially Punch who owes his very appearance to the torture Julian received as a child from Agnes Rittenhouse.

Individual factions of the household must fight their own battles before they can come together to save Gamilla.  Each resident of No. 65. from Ethel to the Duke, will have a part to play in this.  Along the way, they'll find some unlikely allies and some surprising truths will be revealed.

Come back on Monday for the next chapter of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square!

Antique Image of the Day: Sheet music cover for "Quadrille,"

Sheet Music Cover
circa 1880
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we see a sheet music cover for “Quadrille”  by H.S. Roberts.  The chromolithograph depicts Mr. Punch, Judy and Dog Toby.  It was printed in London in the 1880s. 

This page has been preserved by being glued to a card backing.

Celebrating Three Years of Stalking the Belle Époque

And so begins our belated celebration of the third anniversary of Stalking the Belle Époque.  I launched this site on July 16, 2010 in an effort to recapture some of the beauty of the past and apply it to creating a more gracious and comfortable future.  Thanks to all of you, the site has continued to grow.  We've been all around the world together.  I've been quite grateful to everyone who has shared their own stories with me, and by doing so, given all of us a chance to see some magnificent things we'd never have a chance to see otherwise.

Because of all of you, we have truly made significant strides in creating our own beautiful era!

Now, after over 8000 posts, 500 chapters of Punch's Cousin and nearly four hundred of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, your support leaves us one humbled man, a never-humble terrier and a puppet who doesn't know the meaning of the word.

As our Mr. Punch would say, "slugs and hisses," but also my sincere thanks for these first three years.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Little Princes

The Child is dear, dearer than any of the others put together.
--Queen Victoria, referring to Prince Arthur

"I wanted to name him 'Fishstick.'"

Click image to enlarge.

Image:  Queen Victoria (1819-1901) with Prince Arthur (1850-1942) at Osborne on the Isle of Wight, Creator: Frederick Richard Say (1805-60) (artist), Creation Date: 1860, Materials: Oil on canvas; This is a copy by Frederick Say of Winterhalter’s painting of 1850 of Queen Victoria and her third son Arthur.  Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  

See the original here.  

You know you want to have a Bertie Dog mug, tee-shirt, tote bag or water bottle. You know you do. So, take a look at our 
online store. 

Mastery of Design: The "Victoria's Grandchildren" Bracelet, 1870-1880

Locket Bracelet
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
This and all images courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

While Princess of Wales, Alexandra (the future Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII), presented this cylindrical link gold bracelet with five oval gold lockets to her Royal mother-in-law, Queen Victoria.

Each of the lockets is  mounted with different stone-set motifs and each conceals a photograph of one of Victoria's grandchildren.  Their names are inscribed inside the covers:

Prince Albert Victor's (the second in line to the throne until his unexpected death) photo is housed in a locket set with a Horseshoe in diamonds.

Prince George (who would become King George V) is found in a locket mounted with a "G" reversed in rubies & diamonds).

Princess Louise's visage is hidden behind an "L" of diamonds & sapphires.

Princess Victoria, a "V" of diamonds & emeralds, and Princess Maud's locket is adorned with "M" in turquoises.

Bertie's Pet-itations: Better and Worse

Here's Bertie's weekly opportunity to share his ideas for creating our new "Beautiful Age."  Bertie's advice, I'm sure, can be applied to many different areas of our lives.

And, so, I happily hand the computer over to him.

Bertie says:

When we had our car accident, even though it was scary, I was still excited to go for a ride in grandpa's car when he came to get us.  You can't let scary things ruin everything forever.  And, by the way, Dad, thanks for spraining your wrist to make sure I didn't get hurt when that thoughtless lady hit us.  Somehow I know this and that's why I lick your wrist every morning when we get up.

The Art of Play: The Duke of Connaught Doll, 1850-51

Prince Arthur
Made by the Montanari Family
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we have a baby doll with shoulders, head, lower arms and hands of poured wax, a body of stuffed, white-glazed cotton with wax, and composition legs. The doll is embellished with blue glass eyes, and inserted blond human hair.

Though sometimes infants’ fashions of the Nineteenth Century make determining the child’s gender rather difficult, in this case, we know that the doll is meant to be a boy. He is dressed in a chemise, barracoat (a robe-like, outer gown), petticoat, long gown (beneath the barracoat), lace sacque jacket, lace bonnet, knitted wool bonnet and knitted wool socks. I am astounded that babies were dressed in that many layers without being strangled, but judging by the amount of people on the earth, clearly some babies from the Nineteenth Century lived to grow and reproduce.

This doll is by the The Montanari family—celebrated as among the best known of the UK producers of wax dolls in the Victorian era. (Richard) Napoleon Montanari (born circa 1813) was a wax modeller and responsible for the heads and hands. Napoleon’s wife, Madame Montanari, (nee Charlotte Augusta Dalton) was a dollmaker known for creating elaborately dressed dolls. Later, their eldest son entered the business as a wax modeller and doll maker.

The Montanaris often made dolls representing royalty. This particular example made in the year of the Great Exhibition (1851) depicts the seventh child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, later the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who was, at that point, the most recent addition to the Royal Family. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 358

Chapter 358

Gerard did as he had been instructed.  Remaining in the library with Lady Fallbridge, they both listened in silence to the increasingly frantic whispers and footsteps which echoed throughout the majestic townhouse.

"Miss Lennie,"  Gerard said finally.  "I cannot sit here."

"You must, Gerard."  Lennie replied gently.  She forced a smile.  "We can't risk you seeing your bride before she meets you at the altar.  It's bad luck."

"She ain't here, Miss."  Gerard replied quietly.  "I know she ain't.  Ain't worse luck than that."

"Well, we'll find her."

"You ain't as calm as you seem, Miss Lennie.  I mean no disrespect, but I know ya.  And, I can see in your eyes that somethin' is terrible wrong."

"Yes, Gerard, I'm concerned.  We're all concerned, but you heard my brother and Dr. Halifax.  You heard what they said.  They're sure Gamilla is near and they will return her home."

"If she's nearby, Miss, then why did they send the driver with a message for Her Majesty?  Why did Charles and George go out in such a hurry?"

"Charles and George have gone to check the shops and stalls."  Lennie answered.  

"And, the message to the Queen?"

To be safe, Gerard."  Lennie inhaled.  "It's good to have the support of the palace--in case."

Gerard rubbed his eyes.  "In case?"  He nodded.  "Where were His Grace and Lord Colinshire goin', then?"

"They'd gone to get dressed."  Lennie smiled weakly.

"After that?"  Gerard shook his head.  "I heard 'em on the stairs.  I heard their boots, Miss.  I heard their voices."

"Oh, yes.  I believe that my brother and Robert went to search a few places which Gamilla likes to visit.  You know how she enjoys the city.  Perhaps she went to the flower stalls or to Covent Garden or..."

"She ain't none of those places."  Gerard stood up.  "And, that ain't where the masters went.  You think if I go to this windows and look out I won't see His Grace and His Lordship headed to Hamish House?"

"No one said anything to me about Hamish House."  Lennie said quickly, rising to take Gerry by the arm.  "Do come and sit with me."

"They got her, Lady Fallbridge."  Gerard snapped.  "That Ulrika Rittenhouse and Orpha Polk.  I know they do."

"How could they?"  Lennie replied.

"You know how wicked Orpha Polk is!"  Gerard replied.  "No one knows better than you--the woman whose name she stole.  And, though you've seen a bit of that Rittenhouse woman's treachery, I can tell you much, much more 'bout it.  I done battle with her when we was in America, Miss Lennie.  I've looked her square in the eye.  I seen nothin' but evil starin' back."

"I know a bit of what you endured in America, Gerard."  Lennie replied soothingly.  

"I don't mean to be so harsh."  Gerard rubbed his forehead.  

"You're frightened.  I understand."  Lennie said.  "Now, come and sit with me again.  Please."

Gerard nodded.  "I feel helpless."

"You're nothing of the sort."

"In three hours time, I'm to marry the woman I love.  She's lost and..."

"You mentioned America,"  Lennie interrupted.  "Gamilla's told me how you met there when His Lordship welcomed you into the staff of the house that my brother had leased."

Gerard nodded.  "She hated me."

"I doubt that."

"No, she did."  Gerard shook his head.  "Why shouldn't she?  I'd been nothing but trouble.  I was a prisoner what escaped a prison barge with one of your brother's most dangerous enemies."

"Arthur."  Lennie nodded.  "His former valet.  The man who..."

"Who ruined His Grace's other sister."  Gerard sighed.  "I didn't like the man.  In fact, I tried to kill 'im on the prison barge.  But, we escaped together.  I never...I never liked what he was doin'.  Then the Yellow Fever killed 'im and...well, Dr. Halifax gave me a chance.  Who was I? Who was I that such a fine man should welcome me into his household.  An orphan from Australia.  Shuttled off to relatives in Wales, sent to Bristol where I robbed a nobleman, sentenced to hard labor on a barge takin' me back to Australia where I'd spend my life with sheep and criminals."

"Gerard, you quickly proved your worth, your goodness.  My brother and Robert have told me of those early days."

"The housekeeper there, Meridian--she told me to be true to what I was.  So, I tried.  I'd been watchin' Gamilla when I saw her in the kitchens of that house in that strange land.  I wanted to talk to her, but she was so beautiful and..."

"But, you finally did speak to her."  Lennie smiled.  "Obviously."

"You know what she said to me on that night I first spoke to her?"

"No."  Lennie shook her head.  

"She said, 'Get out of here, damn you!"

"She didn't?"  Lennie chuckled.  

"Oh, yes, Miss.  She did.  Charlie and me had been causin' some trouble.  We'd found the Duke's sister...his...his other sister, Miss...I..."

"You needn't worry, Gerard.  I know all about the former Lady Barbara."

"Well, we'd found her.  She'd gone mad.  Charlie was in love with her. See, Charlie wasn't as agreeable in those days as he is now. He insisted we bring her back to the house and Gamilla wanted no part of it.  But, my Gamilla, she's so gentle, I knew she'd not throw the woman, no matter how bad she was, out in the street.  Charlie took Barbara to Gamilla's room and I stayed behind.  I got up enough courage to finally talk to Gamilla..."

Gerard closed his eyes and remembered....  He could smell the humid Louisiana Kitchen and the constant aroma of coffee.  He recalled, as if it was just happening that night.  But, most of all, he could see Gamilla, stunning in her turquoise blue head-wrap, her beautiful face and her full mouth.  He loved  her at once, her fierceness, her loyalty, her humor.  He remembered the very words Gamilla had spoken as she entreated Charles to get the Duke's youngest sister out of the way...

“Get her out of Meridian’s kitchen now!” Gamilla waved her arms.

“Thank you, Gamilla.” Charles nodded as he carried Barbara from the kitchen.

“Don’t go thankin’ me!” Gamilla shouted. “This ain’t my business.” She looked at Gerard once Charles had left. “I ‘spose you had somethin’ for to do with this?”

“I did.” Gerard nodded.

“You’re a bad lot, all you foreigners. Where you from anyway?”

“Born in Australia."  Gerard replied.  "Most recently, from Bristol."

“Where’s that?”


“You don’t talk like His Grace.”

“Well, I grew up in a different country.  Besides, the Duke speaks like a nobleman.” Gerry smiled. “I didn’t have that luxury.”

“You don’t talk like them Halifaxes or even Mr. Punch.”

“The doctor and his brother are Londoners of a lesser class than His Grace. They speak as others of their kind do. They try to sound noble, but just can’t get it quite right. As for Mr. Punch, well, I ‘spose he talks like what a puppet might.”

“You’re a bad lot, all of ya.” Gamilla frowned. “Now, sit your cold rear down and let me get ya some coffee. Ain’t no point in havin’ ya freeze to death.”

“You’re a good woman, ‘Milla.”

“My name is Ga-milla.” She responded, emphasizing the first two letters.

“I know. I guess I was just tryin’ to give ya a pet name.”

“What for?” Gamilla frowned.

“Cuz maybe I like you.”

“Hmmph.” Gamilla snorted. 

“I ain’t never really knew someone like you before. Sure, there was some of your folks on the ship, but I never talked to ‘em. You’re right nice people.”

“You mean you never talked to an African girl before?”


“Well, you come to the right place for it.” Gamilla sighed.

“You’re pretty, you know.” Gerard smiled.

“Cut that out and drink your coffee.” She plunked a cup in front of him. “We ain’t got no time for such foolishness. You warm yourself up and get out."

“Right,” Gerard nodded, gulping his hot coffee.

“Not so fast. No sense burnin’ your tongue on it. Fool.” 

“I’m strong enough.” Gerard winked after a gulp.

“Now, go on.” Gamilla swatted at Gerard with a rag.

“Yes, ma’am.” Gerard grinned. “What about Miss Allen?”

“She’s Charles problem.” Gamilla snapped. “But, maybe I’ll look in on her if I feel like it.”

“You’re a good woman.”

“Get out of here, damn you.” Gamilla barked.

Gerard opened his eyes and quickly rose again.

"Gerard?"  Lennie asked.

"I'm sorry, my Lady.  I wanna do what's asked o' me, but I can't be expected to sit here and wait.  If anythin' happens to my 'Milla, I'm gonna tear off people's heads.  I'm goin' to find 'er myself! I'm goin' to Hamish House.  If the masters is there, we'll fight 'em together.  If not, I'll do it on me own!"

"Well, then, I'm coming with you."  Lennie nodded.


"Look, Gerard.  You know said yourself, no one knows better than I how treacherous Orpha is.  You know Ulrika.  I know Orpha."

"Yes, Miss."

Together, they rushed from the library.

Did you miss Chapters 1-357 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 359.

Antique Image of the Day: "Prince Arthur in Fancy Costume," 1870

Prince Arthur in Fancy Dress
William Notman, 1870
The Royal Collection

The son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Arthur grew to be a spirited lad and a young man who enjoyed a good party. When stationed in Canada, at the age of 20, Prince Arthur attended many a soiree, often in fancy dress.  For this particular occasion, he seems to have styled himself as King Charles I—a curious choice, indeed.  However, doesn’t he look quite pleased with himself in this photo taken by William Notman in January of 1870?  One wonders what was going through his mind at that moment.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Drawing of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, 1882

Duke of Connaught and Guards Brigade Entering Alexandria
Melton Prior, 1882
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Today, we’ll get a look, in honor of little George Alexander Louis, at some other famous princes.  Let's begin with the son of Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, also called Arthur (styled as Prince Arthur of Connaught). Like his father, Prince Arthur of Connaught enjoyed a distinguished military career and served as a valued aid to his cousin (another of Victoria’s grandson’s) King George V and Queen Mary (Mary of Teck).

However, in many ways Prince Arthur of Connaught was always in the shadow of his celebrated father, the Duke who outlived his son by four years. The Duke of Connaught was doubtlessly a military hero and the subject of many works of art.

Here’s one. This drawing from the Victoria & Albert Museum shows the Duke of Connaught in 1882 (a year before the birth of his son and namesake) as he enters Egypt with his troops. The drawing is entitled, “The Duke of Connaught and Guards Brigade Entering Alexandria.” Rendered in 1882, this pencil drawing is heightened by white accents and is the work of the famed Melton Prior.