Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Vauxhall Fete

Vauxhall Gardens in London was arguably the most fashionable and popular of the many Georgian leisure gardens, which included several in Bath.

In 1813 an army led by Wellington had defeated the French at the battle of Vittoria and in response to the public rejoicing the Prince Regent sponsored a huge fete at Vauxhall Gardens which was according to William Wellesley-Pole, one of the organisers, the most "splendid and magnificent" ever held in England.

Captain Gronow in his Reminiscences recalls this event and, in particular, one of the early public appearances of the seventeen-year-old Princess Charlotte daughter of the Prince Regent at a parallel event The Regent held at Carlton House because although he sponsored the event at Vauxhall Gardens he would not attend in person because his wife had announced that she would be attending. 

"About three o'clock P.M. the elite of London society, who had been honoured with an invitation, began to arrive - all in full dress; the ladies particularly displaying their diamond and pearls, as if they were going to a drawing-room. The men, of course, were in full dress wearing knee buckles. The regal circle was composed of the Queen, the princesses Sophia and Mary, the Princess Charlotte, the Dukes of York Clarence, Cumberland, and Cambridge.

Princess Charlotte in 1817
This was the first day that her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte appeared in public. She was a young lady of more than ordinary personal attractions; her features were regular, and her complexion fair, with the rich bloom of youthful beauty; her eyes were blue and very expressive, and her hair was abundant, and of that peculiar light brown which merges into the golden: in fact, such hair as the Middle-Age Italian painters associate with their conceptions of the Madonna. In figure, her Royal Highness was somewhat over the ordinary height of women, but finely proportioned and well developed. Her manners were remarkable for a simplicity and good-nature which would have won admiration and invited affection in the most humble walks of life. She created universal admiration, and I may say a feeling of national pride, amongst all who attended the ball. The Prince Regent entered the gardens giving his arm to the Queen, the rest of the royal family following. Tents had been erected in various parts of the grounds, where the bands of the Guards were stationed. The weather was magnificent, a circumstance which contributed to show off the admirable arrangements of Sir Benjamin Bloomfield, to whom had been deputed the organization of the fete, which commenced by dancing on the lawn.

The Princess Charlotte honoured with her presence two dances. In the first she accepted the hand of the late Duke of Devonshire, and in the second that of the Earl of Aboyne, who had danced with Marie Antoinette, and who, as Lord Huntley, lived long enough to dance with Queen Victoria. The Princess entered so much into the spirit of the fete as to ask for the then fashionable Scotch dances. The Prince was dressed in the Windsor uniform, and wore the garter and star. He made himself very amiable, and conversed much with the Ladies Hertford, Cholmondeley, and Montford. Altogether, the fete was a memorable event."

It is probably these events which are commemorated in the title of the following:

The Vauxhall Fete a dance from "Le Sylphe. An elegant collection of twenty-four country dances, the figures by Mr Wilson, for the year 1814, adapted for the German flute, violin, flageolet or oboe".

The original instructions:

SINGLE FIGUR.E. (Each strain repeated)
Set &change sides with 2d Cu:set & back again down the mid: up again & right & left with the top Cu.

DOUBLE FIGURE (Tune played twice thro' with repeats)
Set & half right & left with 2d Cu: set & back again. Whole poussette hands 3 with bottom Lady hands 3 with bottom Gent & the double train.

I have the sheet music for this if you are interested

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