Forty years of documenting the Great Sphinx of Giza

Forty years of documenting the Great Sphinx of Giza

Forty years of documenting the Great Sphinx of Giza

In 1979, Mark Lehner and James Allen started work on the first comprehensive mapping of the Sphinx. They studied its structure and geology and documented every detail they could, from the ancient masonry layers and tool marks to the geological stratification of the surrounding area. Their goal was to determine how and when this iconic monument was built and to document its then-current state of preservation.

For more than 35 years most of this data remained inaccessible, but thanks to a grant from ARCE’s Antiquities Endowment Fund the original project data is now online and available to the public for study. This archive is especially important as many of the details documented at the time are no longer visible. If you’d like to search the data yourself, good starting points are the project homepage or try browsing some of the over 5500 photographs and 364 maps and drawings and see what you find!

https://www.arce.org/sphinx-map

Julia Herdman

The Great Sphinx

 

Ancient Egypt – Cheapskate Coffin Makers

Ancient Egypt – Cheapskate Coffin Makers

About 3,000 years ago, a man named Nespawershefyt, working in the temple of Amun at Karnak (in modern Luxor), commissioned a set of coffins for himself, consisting of an outer coffin and an inner coffin – the smaller of the two to be placed in the larger, much like Russian dolls – and a mummy board that would be placed on top of his embalmed and wrapped body when he was dead. He seems to have commissioned this fabulous funerary assemblage after reaching a reasonably high rank in the temple hierarchy.

Unbeknown to Nespawershefyt, the artisans he had chosen to make his coffins were cheapskates. The wood they chose for the inner coffin was poor and needed lots of patching. They were good at painting though. All the patches were expertly covered with a bright yellow paint and text. The coffins were delivered but not needed for years. Sometime before his death Nespawershefyt decided to update his funerary inscriptions: he had received a promotion at the temple and wanted to mention his new higher-level position on his coffins. You cannot leave your CV out-of-date for eternity, so the artisans set to work once again.

The coffins can be seen at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Dimension(s):
depth, 49, cm, width, 60, cm, length, 206, cm, length, 190, cm, length, mummy board, 179, cm

Acquisition:
given; 1822; Hanbury, Barnard, Waddington, George
Accession: Object Number: E.1.1822

 

A Labour in Vain – The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte Augusta

A Labour in Vain – The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte Augusta

Princess Charlotte Augusta

Princess Charlotte August was in labour for more than two days before she died on 6th November 1817.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (1796 – 1817) was the only child of George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick. If she had lived Charlotte would have become Queen of the United Kingdom.

Before her marriage, Charlotte was what we might call a ‘wild child’. She was a good horsewoman and a bit of a ‘tomboy.’

Charlotte’s parents loathed the sight of each other and separated soon after she was born. Her father debauched himself with every form of excess except fatherly love and attention. Her mother lived the lonely life of an abandoned woman. As an only child, Charlotte’s welfare was left in the hands of palace staff and her estranged mother whom she visited regularly at her house in Blackheath.

As Charlotte entered her teenage years, members of the Court considered her behaviour undignified. Lady de Clifford complained about her ankle-length underdrawers that showed. Lady Charlotte Bury, a lady-in-waiting to her mother Caroline described the Princess as a “fine piece of flesh and blood” who had a candid manner and rarely chose to “put on dignity”. Her father, however, was proud of her horsemanship and her tolerably good piano playing.

By the time she was age 15, the curvey Charlotte looked and dressed like a woman; she developed a liking for opera and men and soon became infatuated with her first cousin, George FitzClarence, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Clarence.

To put an end to the budding romance FitzClarence was called to Brighton to join his regiment, and Charlotte’s gaze fell on Lieutenant Charles Hesse of the Light Dragoons, reputedly the illegitimate son of Charlotte’s uncle, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.

Her mother colluded with Charlotte as far as Hesse was concerned not because she approved of the romance but to peeve her husband who did not. Caroline allowed the pair to meet in her apartments but the liaison was shortlived. Britain was at war with France and Hesse was called to duty in Spain.

Her father’s plan was to marry Charlotte to William Prince of Orange, the Dutch king. Neither her mother nor the British public wanted Charlotte to leave the country to pursue such a match.  Charlotte, therefore, informed the Prince of Orange that if they wed, her mother would have to live with them at their home in the Netherlands. This was a condition sure to be unacceptable to the Prince of Orange and their engagement was broken before it was started.

Charlotte finally settled on the dashing young Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Leopold had a commission in the Imperial Russian Army and fought against Napoleon after French troops overran Saxe-Coburg until Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.

The Marriage

The marriage ceremony was set for 2 May 1816. The war with France was over and the people of London were in the mood to celebrate. On the wedding day, huge crowds filled the streets and at nine o’clock in the evening in the Crimson Drawing Room at Carlton House, with Leopold dressing for the first time as a British General (the Prince Regent wore the uniform of a Field Marshal), the couple were married. Charlotte’s wedding dress cost over ₤10,000, an enormous sum of money – the average doctor earned less than £300 per year. The only mishap was during the ceremony happened when Charlotte was heard to giggle when the impoverished Leopold promised to endow her with all his worldly goods.

At the end of April 1817, Leopold informed the Prince Regent that Charlotte was pregnant and that there was every prospect of the Princess carrying the baby to term.

Charlotte’s pregnancy was the subject of the most intense public interest. Betting shops quickly set up a book on what sex the child would be. Economists calculated that the birth of a princess would raise the stock market by 2.5%; the birth of a prince would raise it 6%.

The mum to be Charlotte spent her time quietly, however, spending much time sitting for a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence. She ate heavily and got little exercise; when her medical team began prenatal care in August 1817, they put her on a strict diet, hoping to reduce the size of the child she was carrying. The diet and occasional bleeding they subjected her to seemed to weaken Charlotte and did little to reduce her weight.

The Pregnancy

Much of Charlotte’s day to daycare was undertaken by Sir Richard Croft. Croft was not a physician, but an accoucheur, or male midwife. Male midwives were much in fashion among the well-to-do. In, ‘The Princess Charlotte of Wales: A triple obstetric tragedy’ Sir Edward Holland (J Obst & Gynaec Brit Emp 58:905-919, 1951) describes Sir Richard Croft as a diffident, sensitive man without much self-confidence despite his skill and experience. “He was not the sort of man to deviate from the rules of practice by doing something unconventional or risky. He played it by the book, but his library was small.”

Charlotte was believed to be due to deliver on 19 October, but as October ended, she had shown no signs of giving birth and drove out as usual with Leopold on Sunday 2 November. On the evening of 3 November, her contractions began. Sir Richard encouraged her to exercise, but would not let her eat: late that evening, he sent for the officials who were to witness the birth of the third in line to the throne.

A Labour in Vain

The first stage of labour lasted 26 hours, which is not uncommon for a first child. With the cervix fully dilated, Croft sent for Dr. Sims, perhaps because the uterus was acting inertly and irregularly, and also because, should a forceps delivery be necessary, Sims had been chosen consultant on that point. Sims was the “odd man out” among the four doctors; his principal work was as a botanist and editor, but he was also physician to the Surrey Dispensary and Charity for Delivering Poor Women in their Homes.

Almost certainly the outcome would have been better had the second stage of labour not lasted as long as the first. The optimal time the second stage is around two hours. Dr. Sims arrived at 2:00 am on November 5 after the second stage had been in progress for about seven hours.

Thirty-three hours after Charlotte’s labour had began Dr. Sims was ready with the forceps, but his assistance was not called for. Croft continued to let nature take its course. After 15 hours of second-stage labour, about noon on November 5, meconium-stained amniotic fluid appeared. Three hours after that, the baby’s head appeared. At nine o’clock in the evening of 5 November, Charlotte finally gave birth to a stillborn boy weighing nine pounds. Efforts to resuscitate the child proved fruitless. Onlookers commented that the dead child was a handsome boy, resembling the Royal Family.

The third stage of labour was no less distressing. Croft informed Sims that he suspected an hourglass contraction of the uterus. This happens when the placenta gets trapped in the upper part of the womb as it contracts  Croft removed the placenta manually with some difficulty, and it seemed to do the trick. Soon after midnight, Charlotte began vomiting violently and complaining of pains in her stomach. Croft returned to Charlotte’s bedside to find her cold to the touch, breathing with difficulty, and bleeding profusely. He placed hot compresses on her, the accepted treatment at the time for postpartum bleeding, but the bleeding did not stop. Charlotte died an hour and a half later.

The Aftermath

Charlotte had been Britain’s hope: George III and Queen Charlotte, had had thirteen children but only Charlotte survived. She was the sole legitimate heir to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland. Her father, with his spendthrift behaviour and penchant for womanising, was already unpopular with the public and his brothers were viewed in much the same light. The Prince of Wales’s girth and reputation for gluttony prompted his critics to dub him the “Prince of Whales.” The people were devasted by Charlotte’s tragic death.

Post-mortems on Charlotte and her stillborn son exonerated the Croft from any wrong-doing. The postmortem results showed Charlotte died because she lost too much blood, her baby because of lack of oxygen. In 1817 there were no blood transfusions for Croft to call on when Charlotte began to lose blood but he could have done things differently and she may not have died. Croft decided not to use forceps, had he Charlotte and her baby might have been saved. Croft was following fashion and the dictum of Dr. Denman an authority of midwifery and childbirth at the time. Since the death of the hugely influential Scottish obstetrician William Smellie’s in 1760, the use of forceps had fallen into disfavour because of the injuries that could be caused by the instrument when used by unskilled accoucheurs. Hundreds of unskilled or partially trained doctors were operating in Britain’s unregulated medical market at the time. The late Dr. Denman had overreacted to these injuries and had advocated a policy of “Let nature do the work. …The use of forceps ought not to be allowed from any motives of eligibility (i.e. of choice, election, or expediency). Consider the possible mistakes and lack of skill in younger practitioners.”

Denman had however hedged his position with a qualification: “Care is also to be taken that we do not, through an aversion to the use of instruments, too long delay that assistance we have the power of affording. In the last edition of his book (1816, posthumously) he wrote: “But if we compare the general good done with instruments, however cautiously used, with the evils arising from the unnecessary and improper use, we might doubt whether it would not have been happier for the world if no instrument of any kind had ever been contrived for, or recommended in the practice of midwifery.”

Croft had relied on Denman’s ultraconservative precepts, his passive obstetrics was just as dangerous as meddlesome obstetrics. The adroit accoucheur steered a middle course, but Croft was not adroit. Three months later, Croft was involved in a similar case, and, when the patient died, he shot himself with a pistol he found in the house. What happened in the wake of Princess Charlotte’s death was too much for Croft to bear.

By today’s standards, the first and second stages of Charlotte’s labour were far too long. Modern obstetricians would use forceps to extract the baby and drugs would be given to speed-up and strengthen the contractions.The most recent CEMD report indicates that in 2009-12, 357 women died during or within 6 weeks of the end of their pregnancy. This represents a decrease in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 11 (2006-8) to 10.12 per 100,000 live births (2010-12), mainly due to a decrease in deaths due to direct obstetric causes. However, there has been no change in the MMR for indirect maternal deaths in the last 10 years; the current ratio (6.87 per 100,000 live births) is almost twice that of direct deaths (3.25 per 100,000 live births).

Sources:

THE YALE JOURNAL OF BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE 65 (1992), 201-210
Obstetrical Events That Shaped Western European History
WILLIAM B. OBER, M.D.
Bergen County Medical Examiners Office, Paramus, New Jersey
Received March 26, 1991

http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/epidemiology/maternal-death-surveillance/case-studies/united-kingdom/en/

 

Cabinets of Curiosities

Cabinets of Curiosities

Cabinets of Curiosities

Julia Herdman is fascinated by 18th-century cabinets of curiosities because they show a love of learning and the natural world.  The 18th century saw a huge growth in the public interest in science and medicine. Cabinets of curiosities were a feature of many large houses because they were a way to show that their owners were taking an intellectual interest in the world. The 18th century was a time when it was cool to show off one’s intellectual prowess. Most of the collections consisted of rocks and minerals, shells, feathers and small animal skeletons. Cabinets of curiosities were works of art and a popular way to establish and uphold the owner’s rank in society. Because of the wonderful things they had in them these collections were sometimes called ‘wonder rooms.’ They were collections of the most extraordinary objects.

Peter The Great’s Cabinets of Curiosities

Russian Emperor, Peter the Great created his Kunstkamera in Saint Petersburg in 1714. It was a haphazard collection rarities with an emphasis on natural specimens.”, rather than the man-made objects called “artificialia”.

Julia Herdman Blog

Frederik Ruysch (1638 – 1731)

Peter was interested in anatomy because he wanted to improve Russian medicine. He encouraged research into human deformities by issuing a royal edict requiring examples of malformed and still-born infants to be sent to the imperial collection where he put them on display as examples of accidents of nature. This collection of human specimens became the core of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 

In 1716, he added a mineral cabinet to the Kunstkamera, with the purchase of a collection of 1195 minerals. Russian minerals were added to the collection that eventually became the core of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow.

Peter the Great also bought many specimens from Holland particularly from the pharmacologist, Albertus Seba, and the anatomist, Frederik Ruysch (1638 – 1731).

The illustration shows one of the scenes created by Ruysch and displayed in his museum in Amsterdam. Ruysch’s creations were so intricate and detailed they were known as 8th wonders of the world. Ruysch’s daughter prepared the delicate cuffs and collars that were slipped on to arms and necks of the skeletons which were positioned to show them crying into handkerchiefs. To add to the bizarre scene the skeletons were wearing strings of pearls and playing the violin. Ruysch was an expert showman and a scientist. His dissections were public spectacles held by candlelight and accompanied by music and refreshments. A major new voice in historical fiction.

John and William Hunter’s Cabinets of Curiosities

In Britain, the anatomists, John and William Hunter were renowned collectors of curiosities. The brothers collected what is called the  Hunterian Collection which is split between London and Glasgow.

William Hunter played a prominent role in the most prestigious cultural and scientific institutions of the 18th century, both in Britain and abroad. He appears in Zoffany’s painting, Life Class at the Royal Academy (1771-1772). He also appears in James Barry’s Distribution of the Premiums by the Royal Society of Arts and Manufactures (1777-1783).

The curiosities he collected are now on display at the University of Glasgow. The exhibition explores Hunter’s personal and professional life and highlights both his passion for collecting and his hugely successful career as a royal physician, outstanding teacher of anatomy and surgery and pioneering scientific researcher. It is one of the best-known collections in the country and contains 650 manuscripts,10,000 printed books, 30,000 coins.r new voice in historical fiction

William Hunter (1718-1783)

Cabinets of Curiosities

John Hunter

 

William Hunter teaching anatomy

John Hunter FRS (1728 – 1793) was one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day. He came to London in 1748 at the age of 20 and worked as an assistant in the anatomy school of his elder brother William (1718-83), who was already an established physician and obstetrician. He was an early advocate of careful observation and scientific method in medicine. John Hunter was a great showman and entrepreneur as well as one of London’s most famous surgeons.

Hunter devoted all his resources to his museum. It included nearly 14,000 preparations of more than 500 different species of plants and animals. As his reputation grew, he was supplied with rare specimens such as kangaroos brought back by Sir Joseph Banks from James Cook’s voyage of 1768-71.

In his lifetime, John Hunter collected and prepared thousands of natural specimens, which he displayed in his museum including the skeleton of the Irish Giant Charles Byrne. In 1799, the British government purchased the collection and presented to the Royal College of Surgeons.

La Ronde Cabinets of Curiosities

A La Ronde is an 18th-century 16-sided house located near Lympstone, Exmouth, Devon, England, and in the ownership of the National Trust.

 

Jane and Mary Parminter – La Ronde
Cabinets of Curiosities

Collecting was not just the rage for anatomists and princes. Curious Parsons and Lords of the manor had their own cabinets of curiosities. It was part of what has been called the 18th century’s elite ‘learned entertainment.’

Many houses had cabinets of curiosities; one of the most beautiful collections of seashells was gathered by two spinster cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter. The two cousins became greatly attached to each other and in 1795 decided to set up home together in Devon.

The sisters created a magical world in their sixteen-sided house with diamond-shaped windows. The spinster cousins went on a tour around Europe and were avid collectors. They decorated the walls of their quirky house lovingly with hundreds of feathers and shells. They crafted pictures using sand, seaweed, and card and hung them on the walls. The cabinet of curiosities in the library is jam-packed with a jumble of Parminter family souvenirs such as shells, beadwork, semi-precious stones and votive statues. This is a real treasure house with every nook and cranny crammed with bizarre items collected over the years.  It is a treasure trove overflowing with everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts and precious rocks to prints from Switzerland. The cousins lived secluded and somewhat eccentric lives for many years. Their happy lives together came to an end in 1811 when Miss Jane died. A major new voice in historical fiction.

Cabinets of curiosities la ronde

Cabinet of shells from La Ronde

http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item107648.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_College_of_Surgeons_of_England#Hunterian_Museum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hunter_(anatomist)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunterian_Museum_and_Art_Gallery
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunstkamera
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/a-la-ronde
http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/johnhunter

Dress to Impress Princess

Dress to Impress Princess

In 2013 novelist Hilary Mantel wrote in an article in the London Review of Books. The subject of the article was giving a book to someone. The book she chose was published in 2006 and was by the cultural historian Caroline Weber. The book was called Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution and she chose to give it to Catherine Duchess of Cambridge.

“It’s not that I think we’re heading for a revolution,” said Mantel. She was concerned that Kate was becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags were hung. “Marie Antoinette was a woman eaten alive by her frocks,” says Mantel. “She was transfixed by appearances and stigmatised by her fashion choices.

Politics were made personal in the tragic French Queen. Her greed for dresses and self-gratification, her half-educated dabbling in public affairs, were adduced as a reason the French were bankrupt and miserable. It was ridiculous, of course. She was one individual with limited power and influence, who focused the rays of misogyny.

Marie-Antoinette was a woman liked to dress to impress but she couldn’t win. If she wore fine fabrics she was said to be extravagant. If she wore simple fabrics, she was accused of plotting to ruin the Lyon silk trade. But in truth, she was all body and no soul: no sense, and no sensitivity.

The Queen was so wedded to her appearance. As the royal family tried to escape Paris she did not leave her wardrobe behind instead she had several trunk loads of new clothes sent on in advance and took her hairdresser along for the trip. Despite the weight of her mountainous hairdos, she didn’t feel her head wobbling on her shoulders. When she found herself back in prison it is said her hair went grey overnight.

Of course, the Duchess of Cambridge is no Marie-Antoinette. She is a modern, educated woman who has married for love but Mantel is right about royal women of the past and strangely prophetic in describing what has happened to Kate in the press recently. Duchess of Drab! wrote Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail on 8th April 2016, “It’s the mystery of the cosmos… How DOES a beautiful woman make designer outfits look so frumpy?”

Unlike her late mother-in-law, Diana Princess of Wales, Kate has not courted fashion or the press a crime she will pay heavily for I suspect but as a woman with a mind, she probably knows she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. If she courts fashion and sex appeal, she will be lambasted and lauded like tragic Diana, if she doesn’t she’ll remain a dowdy, uptight mouse.

In this respect, Kate is like so many royal women in the past who receive only a passing reference in mainstream history books. When Kate ventures out to visit some charity or other on her own she is lauded patronizingly by the newscasters as if they were talking about a child. Surely, it’s not hard for a woman in possession of one of the country’s most expensive educations and a good university degree to talk to children or politicians for a half an hour after a briefing by Palace aids!

The Duchess of Cambridge is just the most recent in a line of royal women living out their lives in gilded cages. The difference between Kate and her Georgian forbears is that she has chosen her life and consciously sacrificed her private life and career for love. This was not a luxury afforded to princesses in the past.

This summer Meghan Markle was criticised for a pale pink off the shoulder dress she wore to her first Trooping the Colour ceremony. The sleeveless dress caused a Twitter storm with Tweeters slamming the look as “inappropriate” for Queen Elizabeth’s annual birthday parade.

Disney may believe every girl wants to be a pastel packaged franchise of a slender-waisted fairy-tale princess but if they knew what most princesses went through in the past and even today they would not be so keen to join their ranks. It’s not all about the dress. The truth is many of these women were child brides, exchanged by their families to secure some dynastic advantage or to settle political deals; personal happiness and fulfilment were never part of the transaction.

 

Sources:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3530869/Duchess-Drab-s-mystery-cosmos-DOES-beautiful-woman-make-designer-outfits-look-frumpy.html

Nabobs of the North

Nabobs of the North

The Dundas Family

This blog is about the Dundas family.; a family that would make it big in 18th century Scotland and yet they would always be outsiders.

Bankers and men of property are some of the richest men on the planet today. Their relationship with governments and the democratic process is a battle for power fought in a war of attrition between the bankers’ desire to operate freely and governments’ desire for responsibility through regulation. Richer than countries and certainly richer than elected heads of state the influence of these multi-billionaires is profound but this is not a new phenomenon as the story of the Dundas family reveals.

The Dundas family were one of Scotland’s leading landowners but it fell on hard times during the failed Scottish rebellions: Head of the clan, William Dundas of Kincavel was imprisoned for his part in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion and many of the Dundas estates were forfeited to the British Crown after the 1745-1746 Jacobite rebellion.

Their humbler relatives were landless and urban living and working in trade and the newly emerging professions in Edinburgh. Lawrence Dundas, the first of great Dundases was the younger son of the landless branch of the family. His father, Thomas owned a drapery shop and woollen business in the Luckenbooths, a range of tenements which formerly stood immediately to the north of St. Giles’ Kirk in the High Street of Edinburgh.

Sir Lawrence Dundas Nabobs of the North

Sir Lawrence Dundas

 

Sir Lawrence Dundas

Sir Lawrence Dundas (1710-1781) known as the “Nabob of the North” even in his own lifetime was one of the new breed of men who made their fortune through servicing what we call the public sector today. He used the money he earned in the service of the King to invest in property and banking. He was the forerunner of many successful money men today who provide governments with armaments and supply multi-million-pound government contracts.

Lawrence left his father’s business and set up in as a merchant contractor and with his friend James Masterton, he obtained contracts to supply the army of the Duke of Cumberland in the 1745 rebellion. Being successful with Cumberland further work came his way. His greatest money making opportunity came during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) when he secured even greater contracts to supply the armies of the anti-French allies in Europe and Canada. It was not all plain sailing though. He ran into trouble with Thomas Orby Hunter, the commissaries of control, and Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick-Lüneburg the German-Prussian field marshal (1758–1766) who led the Anglo-German army in Western Germany. who, according to Prime Minister Walpole, threatened to hang him for late fulfilment.

James Boswell claimed Lawrence Dundas brought home, ‘a couple of hundred thousand pounds’ from that war but some historians estimate actual figure was nearer to £2 million the equivalent of more than £200m in today’s money which put him in the class of a billionaire today.

Having made one fortune Lawrence went into two others, both in the 18th century’s growth industries – banking and canals. Dundas was a man who understood the future was in money not land. Banking in Scotland was dominated by two Edinburgh based institutions; the Bank of Scotland and what became The Royal Bank of Scotland. The two institutions were fierce rivals. Both had the power to issue bank notes but the Bank of Scotland was deemed to be tainted by its past Jacobite inclinations so it is no surprise, given his support for the British, Lawrence Dundas invested heavily in its rival the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Route of the Forth and Clyde Canal

He completed the development of the port of Grangemouth in 1777, which linked his other major investment the construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal to the sea. Dundas ran the canal through his estate, of Kerse House, near Falkirk, he was a canny operator.

Like Billionaires today who build themselves lavish houses in places like the Hamptons, Dundas set about building himself a few mansions. He built what Scottish writer Hugo Arnot described as “incomparably the most handsome townhouse we ever saw,” in St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh. Designed by Sir William Chambers, it became the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1825.

Royal Bank of Scotland

Head Office of the Royal Bank of Scotland

In 1754 he made his second attempt to gain a seat in Parliament. He lost but not before he had spent a fortune on bribes which was the 18th century way of currying favour with the electorate and he was disappointed again in 1761 election. Having failed to get a seat he turned to his friend Lord Shelburne for help. On 19 August 1762 Shelburne wrote to Henry Fox: ‘Dundas, the Nabob of the North, writes me to desire I’ll get him made a baronet.’ On 20 October Dundas duly received his baronetcy.

With his baronetcy in hand, he made his move south but not without comment. He bought the Aske Estate, near Richmond in North Yorkshire in 1763 from Lord Holderness for £45,000 and proceeded to enlarge and remodel it in Palladian taste by the premier Yorkshire architect, John Carr, who also designed new stables for him.

Aske Estate Nabobs of the North

Aske Estate

On 3 May 1763 Lord Hardwicke wrote to Lord Royston,”Sir Lory Dundas, who extends his conquests from North to South, has purchased Moor Park from Lord Anson’s heirs for £25,000 for which he ordered a set of Gobelins tapestries with medallions by François Boucher and a long suite of seat furniture to match, for which Robert Adam provided designs: they are among the earliest English neoclassical furniture. A few months later he bought Lord Granville’s London house for about £15,000.

From 1766 Dundas set about securing his political influence in Scotland. In July that year be he purchased the Orkneys and Shetlands from the Earl of Morton for £63,000, thereby obtaining the parliamentary seat for his brother, he obtained Stirlingshire for his friend Masterson, Linlithgowshire and Fife went to another friend James Wemyss, the Yorkshire seats of Richmond were given to two proxies Norton and Wedderburn to be controlled directly by Dundas himself; the seat for Edinburgh he kept for himself. His ‘purchase’ of these seats secured him 8 or 9 votes in the Commons which he was willing to be courted by both Government and opposition alike but generally, he voted in support of the Hanoverian king.

East India Company London

East India House, Leadenhall Street, 1800

Although Dundas never obtained high office either for himself or his followers it was generally believed that ‘without the name of Minister’ he had ‘the disposal of almost everything in Scotland’ and in the East India Company. The Duke of Queensberry or Lord Marchmont got most of the appointments available in Scotland through his influence but many he saved for himself. As governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland, 1764-77, he exercised great influence in the financing of new projects, notably his own project, the Forth and Clyde canal, while he worked in Parliament to prevent his rival, Lord Argyll, developing the Glasgow and Clyde Canal. He also provided government supporters with shares in the East India Company to boost their wealth to meet the selection criteria in the 1770 election.

But as the 1770s progressed Sir Lawrence’s star was dimming. His new rival came not from the aristocracy but from a distant family connection Henry Dundas, with whom Sir Lawrence’s family had long been on bad terms.

Henry Dundas

Henry Dundas

Henry Dundas

Henry was a skilled lawyer and was as unscrupulous as Sir Lawrence when it came to politics and the two would wage war on each other’s interests in Scotland and the East India Company through their proxies until Lawrence died.

Henry rose quickly through the Scottish legal system and became a Member of Parliament in 1774. The two men were arch enemies. Henry was more than a match for the older man when it came to politics. After holding subordinate offices under William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne and William Pitt the Younger, he entered the cabinet in 1791 as Secretary of State for the Home Department where he successfully held back the abolition of slavery arguing the country made too much money out of it to give it up in a time of war.

Always viewed as an outsider, and as a man more interested in himself than King and country, Sir Lawrence’s influence waned. He never received the peerage he felt he deserved for his support to the King neither did he manage to maintain his family’s political position. He died on 21 September 1781, leaving an estate worth £16,000 p.a. and a fortune of £900,000 in personal and landed property. His son Thomas was elevated to the peerage as Baron Dundas of Aske in August 1794, and was also Lord Lieutenant and Vice Admiral of Orkney and Shetland. In 1892, the family gained the title Marquis of Zetland.

Henry Dundas went onto to be Prime Minister Pitt’s fixer and War Secretary at the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1802 he was elevated to the Peerage as Viscount Melville and Baron Dunira and in 1804 he became First Lord of the Admiralty. He introduced a number of improvements there but questions were asked about his financial management of the department which resulted in an impeachment trial for the misappropriation of public funds.

Henry Dundas was an accomplished politician and scourge of the Radicals, his deft and almost total control of Scottish politics through the 1790 when no monarch visited the country, led to him being pejoratively nicknamed King Harry the Ninth, the “Grand Manager of Scotland” a play on the masonic office of Grand Master of Scotland, or the “Great Tyrant” and “The Uncrowned King of Scotland.” Indeed by 1790 Dundas was in Pitt’s own word the ‘indispensable’ coadjutor of his ministry and the prime minister’s friend par excellence. His hold over Pitt seemed to many observers unaccountable: but, “Dundas brought to market qualities rarely combined in the same individual. Conviviality at table: manners frank and open and inspiring confidence: eloquence bold, flowing, energetic and always at command: principles accommodating, suited to every variation in government, and unencumbered with modesty or fastidious delicacy.”(1)

Edinburgh

Melville Monument

But Henry over stepped the mark and was accused of withdrawing money from the Bank of England and placing it in his own account at Coutts for speculation, primarily in the East India Company. Although Dundas lost his job as Minister Treasurer of the Navy in 1783 he was made a member of the Board of Control for India in 1784 and became its President from 1793-1802. During this period he held a number of other political appointments most notably from 1791-1794 as Home Secretary, during which he defended the East India Company from his position as Secretary of War in 1794. When it came to his trial his prosecutors found he had conveniently destroyed all his records so the case was largely based on the testimony of his accusers. Lacking any material evidence Dundas could only be formally censured by the House of Commons Henry and was acquitted 1806, but he never held public office again.

Henry is commemorated by one of the most prominent memorials in Edinburgh, the 150-foot high, Melville Monument at St Andrew Square, which stands looking down on the house of his rival Lawrence. The house is now the headquarters of The Royal Bank of Scotland.

In 2008, the UK Treasury had to inject £37 billion ($64 billion, €47 billion, equivalent to £617 per citizen of the UK) of new capital into Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, Lloyds TSB and HBOS plc, to avert financial sector collapse.

 

Sources
http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1790-1820/member/dundas-henry-1742-1811
http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/dundas-sir-lawrence-1710-81

(1)W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Dundas, 22 July [1790]; Wraxall Mems. ed. Wheatley, i. 266.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Dundas,_1st_Viscount_Melville
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Lawrence_Dundas,_1st_Baronet