Richard Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s Older Brother

 

Richard Wellesley in his red East India Company Uniform

Richard Wellesley in his East India Company Uniform

Almost everyone knows the name of Sherlock Holmes’ older brother Mycroft, and most people probably know something about his employment.  Likewise, those who study the Georgian era, particularly the period of the Napoleonic Wars, know something about Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, one of the leading British military and political figures of the 19th century.  Famous for his adaptive defensive style of warfare that resulted in several victories against numerically superior forces while minimizing his own losses, he is regarded as one of the greatest defensive commanders of all time, and many of his tactics and battle plans are still studied in military academies around the world.

Fewer are familiar with Arthur’s older brother, Richard, who may actually be responsible for Arthur’s success.  Due to his mother’s concern for Arthur’s future, Richard asked his friend, the 4th Duke of Rutland (then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), to consider Arthur for a commission in the army.  Soon after, on 7 March 1787, he became an ensign in the 73rd Regiment of Foot.  In October of that year, again with the Richard’s assistance, he was assigned as aide-de-camp to the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Lord Buckingham at a salary of ten shillings a day (twice his normal pay as an ensign), thus kick starting his illustrious career. Continue reading

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Theatre in Georgian England

 

Hannah Pritchard as Lady Macbeth and David Garrick as Macbeth at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in April 1768

Hannah Pritchard as Lady Macbeth and David Garrick as Macbeth at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in April 1768

 

During the Georgian Era, Great Britain’s population grew rapidly, from around five million people in 1700 to nearly nine million by 1801.  Many people left the countryside to seek out new job opportunities in nearby towns and cities.  Others arrived from further afield: from rural areas in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and from across large areas of continental Europe.  Young people were drawn to urban areas by the offer of regular and full-time employment.  The increased income that came from this steady employment allowed these new city residents to take advantage of the entertainments offered in these urban areas: the theatres, inns, and pleasure gardens, as well as the shops featuring the latest fashions.

In today’s post, we are going to look at English theatre – its roots and development over time, the social forces that shaped it, and what it was like attending the Theatre in the Georgian Era.

Medieval Drama

Between 925 and 975, theatre was “reborn” as drama reappeared in church services.  By 975, it had become a small drama within the service, often played by altar boys, used to illustrate various lessons from the Bible.  These “dramas” had little sense of history – reflecting the limited knowledge of the people, and anachronisms were quite common.  In The Second Shepherds’ Play, for instance, the stolen lamb becomes the baby Jesus, although the Shepherds had been using Christian references even before this “baby Jesus” arrived).  Comic elements appeared in plays that were otherwise quite serious, and had as their purpose to teach Biblical stories and principles to the people.  The medieval mind looked at the temporal world (Earth) as transitory; Heaven and Hell were the eternal realities. (Northern Virginia Community College, 2008)

In the 12th century, the fighters, returning from the Crusades, brought traditions from other cultures to Great Britain.  It was during this time that religious dramas began to be performed outside the church in the vernacular [native language].  In the beginning, the church had control of the drama outside of the church, but then it gradually became more controlled by secular groups.  The Guilds took over in some cities, and often certain Guilds retained control over certain plays/stories, all based in some way on the Bible or religious teachings.  For instance, the Bakers’ Guild might control the play about the Last Supper, and the Shipwrights’ Guild would do plays about the Ark. Continue reading