In 17th century Europe multiple matching items of jewellery were all the rage. A parure, as these collections were known, could include diadems, coronets, belts, bracelets, earrings, pendants, corsage studs, fasteners, necklaces and other accessories.
Among the most intriguing jewels in the world are pieces formerly in the collection of the French Crown Jewels. Nearly all the jewels were sold during an auction the French government conducted in 1887. The ruby and diamond diadem was sold to a Mr. Hass and the matching bracelets were sold to Tiffany & Co. Within a year, these jewels were resold to Mr. Bradley-Martin of New York City, an original member of the “Four Hundred,” a term coined for New York City’s high society.
The new owner became Cornelia Bradley-Martin, who played a colorful part in America’s social history during the 1890s when New York was in the midst of an economic panic. Thousands were unemployed and long bread lines formed on the streets. Cornelia Bradley-Martin was distressed over the misery she saw around her and suggested that an extravagant party might help to lift New York out of its slump. It not only would lift spirits, she thought, but also would employ out of-work florists, hair stylists and dressmakers.
Guests were asked to dress “appropriately for the court of Versailles at the time of Louis XIV.” Newspapers around the world began to print detailed accounts of the preparations. The New York Times told readers how carloads of orchids and roses arrived to transform the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria into the Great Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
The Bradley-Martins were costumed as Louis XV and Mary, Queen of Scots. She complemented her costume of black velvet and white lace with a stunning collection of jewels, including the pair of ruby and diamond bracelets dating from 1810 (which she wore joined together to form a dog collar), a large diamond brooch known as the Sevigne brooch dating from 1856, and the center plaque from the piece known as the great girdle set with diamonds, pearls and colored stones dating from 1864. On her right shoulder was a quatrefoil pendant set with rubies and diamonds.
In addition to the royal pieces, she wore an impressive diamond tiara, a necklace designed as a line of ruby and diamond clusters, a large diamond sunburst brooch, a belt set its entire length with large diamonds, and three additional diamond strands draped from her shoulder to her waist. She was a picture of extravagance.
Several ministers condemned the lavish display of wealth during a time of economic hardship. Soon the story of the ball erupted into a full-blown controversy. Collier’s magazine printed critical editorials and a political cartoon lampooning it. The New York City tax authorities doubled the Bradley-Martins’ tax assessment and, by the end of the year, the couple moved to England.
Their daughter, also named Cornelia, married the Fourth Earl of Craven and acquired the title Lady Craven at age 16. The Earl of Craven fell off his yacht and drowned at age 53 in 1921. His death was said to be an example of the curse on the Craven title (whereby all who inherit the title die young).
His body was found a day after his disappearance off the deck of the 63 ton yawl, Sylvia. In the police description of Lord Craven it was stated he was dressed in a dinner jacket, silk shirt and pearl cufflinks with his family crest tattooed on his breast. He was succeeded by his son, the one-legged Viscount Uffington.
The Maharajah of Patiala was rumoured to be a connoisseur of underwear.
That potentate of potentates was assumed to have taken a “whole floor” at the Savoy Hotel and assumed to be out shopping for “his sartorial foible, British underpants of a particular weave costing £200 per pair,” assumed to have “brought from India his special curry cook who takes twelve hours to prepare that dish,” assumed to spend “three and a half hours every morning curling his sardonic beard and adjusting his jewel-studded turban.”
To an English friend who strolled in when he was pulling on his quite modest underpants, His Highness said, “I noticed yesterday that it took exactly two and a half minutes to comb my beard and put on my turban. I have not brought from India regalia worth eight million pounds Sterling. I left my curry cook in Paris to supervise the diet of the Maharanee who is ill. I don’t insist that every article of leather be removed from any room I occupy. Most of my entourage are staying in Paris. I am here at the Savoy in two small suites—and having a jolly good time.”
In a small suite at Dorchester House the Gaekwar of Baroda briefly camped last week with his wife, a secretary and a few servants. Their Highnesses will slip over to Paris for the Gala Season and last week they left behind them in France their sleek motor car with solid gold fittings. As a self-made potentate would—the Gaekwar was a cowherder until adopted by the widowed Maharanee of Baroda as heir—His Highness did bring from India to the Jubilee gems such as Patiala was assumed to have brought.
42 carat gold bike found here
When correspondents addressed him respectfully as the Gaekwar of Baroda, his expression showed that something was amiss though his brief replies were the pink of Indian courtesy. “You see, gentlemen,” said the Gaekwar of Baroda’s secretary afterward, “His Highness the Maharaja should no more be called ‘The Gaekwar’ than a man who is Mr. Smith should be called ‘The Smith.’
There breathes no Englishman who does not know that Ranjitsinhji, the late sovereign of Nawangar, was the greatest Indian cricketer of all time and indeed one of the world’s greatest. In London honeymooning last week was Ranji’s nephew, His Highness the Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawangar. For a wedding present he received a racehorse from the Aga Khan and five elephants from his father-in-law, the Marahao of Sirohi.
Paul Deschanel was the President of France for seven months in 1920. In the middle of his presidency a strange incident occurred.
A trackwalker on the Paris, Lyons and Mediterranean Railroad was trudging along a hundred miles south of Paris last night. It was a few minutes before midnight. The air was chill. The moon had gone down. Along the track toward him came a slightly built man wearing silk pyjamas.
“I am Deschanel, President of the Republic and I have just fallen off my train.”
The trackwalker thought the man was crazy, but he escorted him to Lorcy where a message was sent to the next station at which the train would stop. When the members of the presidential entourage were informed, they assured the station master that there must be some mistake. They searched all compartments except the President’s as he had left word he was not to be disturbed before 7:00 am.
When at last his valet did enter the carriage to help the President dress it was noticed that he was indeed missing; the window was wide open with the curtain fluttering in the breeze…..
Previously his eccentric behaviour had also caused consternation when on one occasion after a delegation of schoolgirls had presented him with a bouquet, he tossed the flowers back at them one by one. Shortly after the incident with the train he walked out of a state meeting and straight into a lily pond, remaining there for several hours before being fished out by a gardener.
Read about this Bugatti fished out of Lake Maggiore here
In 1962, writer Liz Smith had dreams of being discovered as a newer sexier version of Estelle Parsons. Hanging out with her friends Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton gave her plenty to write about…..
“While we wait for Elizabeth to have Alexandre do her hair, I overhear a secretary ordering lingerie from Henri Bendel. Someone is always ordering lingerie around the Burtons. You visualize a world of hotel suites with lovely once-worn panties, bras, slips and body stockings left behind and delighted maids exclaiming over the windfall. Richard, on the other hand, claims to have only six sets of drawers to his name. He declares either he or his wife washes out a pair nightly.
Elizabeth is wearing a coffee-colored suede coat trimmed with a dramatic flounce of fox at the bottom and a matching explosion at the top. Richard is very Southern Californian in a white cardigan and wraparound sunglasses. Alexandre has on something by Cardin, and there’s a bodyguard who is neither introduced, nor distinguished by tailoring. We pile into a robin’s-egg-blue Rolls to go two blocks. All in all, we are as likely to escape notice as an orange tie on St. Patrick’s Day.
nurse’s uniforms by Pierre Cardin
Grand entrance into David Webb’s jewelry emporium on 57th Street. ”I am omniscient and triprescient,” Richard murmurs, as the place dissolves into elegant pandemonium. People are springing to attention as if we were wearing stocking masks.
Elizabeth says to the salesman: ”Well, look, Andrew, what will these three pieces be with my spectacular discount?” She indicates leopard, zebra and serpent rings. ”Never mind — send them to the hotel, and these, too.” She points to a $2,500 lighter and a $29,000 shell purse…..
Weeks later she accompanies them to a party in Paris.
The Burtons enter in a crush. Elizabeth is wearing glittering emeralds and white egret feathers worked into her hair with diamonds. As she wedges her way past, I whisper, ”You look like a fabulous chicken.”
She blows a feather out of her face: ”You mean I look like a chicken’s behind.”
She wiggles her fingers and says, ”Bye, bye,” as she goes down the hall like a delicious snowdrift on legs……
Want to eat like the Burton’s did? Here’s their recipe for Chipped Beef a la Krupp Diamond:
Shred the chipped beef, dredge in flour. Saute in melted butter in a hot skillet. In a saucepan, make a white cream sauce using three tablespoons of flour and a little milk. Add several pinches of curry powder to this. Serve over the beef. Add a few hard-boiled eggs to dip in sauce, or slice them and place on top. (Elizabeth’s verdict: ”We eat this at high noon; 11 a.m. if it’s ready!”
Location: Le Chateau de Bruzac, Dordogne, France
Lingerie: purchased by The King (a.k.a “That man from the market”)
Photographer: The King
Permission granted by: QueenWilly
This is the final part in the French series. Just a reminder that next week is T shirt Friday again, so you’ve got 7 days to take a photo of yourself wearing a T shirt, then post it on your blog on June 30th for a link back. Thanks to daisyfae for suggesting the sepia treatment this week and thanks to queenwilly for being so obliging.
The Savoy Hotel was once the most beautiful and prestigious hotel in London. Currently closed for refurbishment*** and due to reopen shortly, I’d love to attend a dinner party there like the one George Kessler held for King Edward VII’s birthday in 1905.
It is a balmy July evening in London. A silk-lined gondola, strewn with 12,000 carnations, bobs on a Venetian canal, escorted by pearl-white swans. A baby elephant, groaning under the weight of a 5ft-high birthday cake, is escorted on board the gondola, accompanied by Enrico Caruso, who croons “O Sole Mio” under a paper moon. The scene is illuminated by 400 hand-made paper lamps. In the air above them flutter 100 white doves.
Waiters costumed as gondoliers served twelve courses to twice that number of diners seated on gold chairs. Three impressive lions carved out of ice bore trays of peaches and glace fruits while a bevy of Gaiety Girls drank the health of the monarch in Moet et Chandon champagne.
The al fresco dinner saw the Savoy’s forecourt, which was later turned into a Japanese garden to entertain the Japanese Royal Family, and now lies under the Lancaster Ballroom, flooded and turned into a reproduction of Venice. The bill came to £3,000, a fortune at the time. (Kessler presumably also had to pay for the swans, which were overcome by the blue dye in the mock canal).
*** one of the highlights of the auction held when the Savoy closed was the oak parquet dance floor. Rumour has it that Marlene Dietrich made love in the ballroom five times, but not, presumably, on the same night
*** another auction highlight was a mahogany chest of drawers from the room Richard Harris lived in.
“In 2002, Harris was taken ill while in residence at the hotel. As he was carried out on a stretcher he is famously remembered as calling out “It was the food!” to anyone within earshot.”
Richard Harris image
Sir Leo Money (1870-1944) was an English politician and economics journalist who had a taste for the ladies. He was once caught in a compromising position with a young woman in Hyde Park.
“Sir Leo gave evidence that he had known the young woman who was of unquestionable reputation for 18 months. On the night the charge was made they had been sitting in adjoining chairs in the park for 10 minutes when a plainclothes policeman appeared. The father of Miss Savidge stated he had had long correspondences with Sir Leo on the subject of economics and he considered him a family friend. His daughter was also interested in the subject of economics.”
***Chief Inspector Alfred Collins‘ reputation was challenged by the notorious case when it was alleged Miss Selvidge had been made to show her pink petticoat to police without a female witness in attendance.
Sir Leo not only fought the charges, but demanded an apology from the police. Collins was accused of badgering the witness, and faulted for not having a female police officer remain for the interview (Inspector Lilian Wyles). A Parliamentary inquiry ensued, at which the police were largely exonerated, and the Met changed its policy to mandate that women officers always be present when women were giving statements. Wyles and Collins remained on good terms after the inquiry was concluded, and he always carried, in his waistcoat pocket, a “lucky” mahogany bean which Inspector Wyles had given him during the hearings.
In 1935 Sir Leo was again arrested for “wilfully interfering with the comfort of a passenger, Miss Ivy Ruxton” on a train travelling between Dorking and Ewell. After some consideration, Sir Leo, who admitted kissing the woman, was fined 50 shillings. He decided not to appeal and spent his last years writing rambling political treatises and serving as an editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
***Chief Inspector Collins was also responsible for uncovering crucial evidence in the “Bloody Belgium” murder trial of a French butcher. A very interesting story which you can read here
(the barrel on the right contained the head and hands)
The first maitre d’hotel at Maxim’s was Eugene Cornuché. He prided himself on pleasing his clientele and saw to it they could order almost any dish. When one man shouted angrily that there was a beetle in his soup, Cornuché put the insect in his mouth and swallowed it, assuring the complainer that it was only a raisin. An American cotton millionaire asked for, and was brought, a naked girl resting in an ambrosial pink sauce on a silver platter.
He encouraged glamourous women to come to the restaurant every night. Haitian beauty Jeanne Duval arrived carrying her tiny pet dog in her jewel encrusted chastity belt. Caroline Otero fandangoed on the tables, Liane de Pougy wore emerald rings on her toes; and men flocked to be seen with them.
Of Caroline Otero, it was said that ‘her spectacular breasts preceded her by a quarter of an hour‘. The writer Collette described them as ‘elongated lemons, firm and gloriously upturned at their lovely tips’.
Caroline and Liane both boasted that they owned the choicest jewels in France, and it was agreed that they should bring their collections one night to Maxim’s and allow its habitués to judge. Caroline was the first to arrive, laden from head to foot. Her victory seemed certain as the only part of her left uncovered was her face.
Liane appeared dressed entirely in black velvet without a single jewel. Behind her came her personal maid, who removed the coat she was wearing and, in the words of an onlooker, resembled an illuminated Eiffel Tower. As abounding applause proclaimed her the winner, a raging Caroline rushed towards the winner and had to be restrained by the ever ready urbane Monsieur Cornuché.
“In 1913, Jean Cocteau said of Maxim’s: “It’s an accumulation of velvet, lace, ribbons, diamonds and what all else I couldn’t describe. To undress one of these women is like an outing that necessitates three weeks advance notice, it’s like moving house.” Other famous guests of that time period were Edward VII and Marcel Proust.
Maxim’s was also immensely popular with the international elite of the 1950s, with guests such as Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Porfirio Rubirosa, Max Ophuls, and Barbara Hutton. When the restaurant was renovated at the end of the decade, workmen discovered a treasure trove of lost coins and jewelry that had slipped out of the pockets of the wealthy and been trapped between the cushions of the banquettes.
Old Etonian Horace de Vere Cole was widely known as a practical joker.
“His pranks are legendary. The most well-known is probably the Dreadnought hoax of 1910, in which Cole and five friends (including a young Virginia Woolf) disguised themselves as the Emperor of Abyssinia and his posse, and were given a full VIP tour of the British warship, the H.M.S. Dreadnought.
My favourites were more low key:
The Time-Life Library of Curious and Unusual Facts reports that “Cole often targeted his peers. For example, playing on the innate good manners of the well-bred English gent, Cole would pose as a surveyor on the street and politely ask a passing swell to help by holding one end of a string for a moment. Then the prankster would disappear around the corner, find another man to hold the other end of the string, and walk away.
“He was also fond of spontaneous pranks. When he stumbled on a road crew without a foreman one day, Cole leaped into the breach and directed the men to London’s busy Piccadilly Circus, where he had them excavate a huge trench in the street. A nearby policeman obligingly redirected the heavy downtown traffic all day, and it was several hours before the city noticed the unauthorized hole.”
The Museum of Hoaxes also lists three more, including the infamous cow’s udder trick
He once stood in the street handing out free theatre tickets to a series of extremely bald passers-by with the result that, when viewed from the dress circle, the assembly of shiny bald heads in the carefully chosen seats clearly spelt out an expletive – complete with a dot over the ‘i’.
He used to wander the streets with a cow’s udder poking through his flies. At the moment of optimum outrage, he would then produce a pair of scissors and snip off the offending protrusion.
More adolescent pranks ranged from organising a large party where all the guests were called Ramsbottom or Winterbottom to driving around London in a taxi with a naked tailor’s dummy. Whenever he saw a policeman, he would stop the cab, open the door and beat the dummy’s head on the ground, shouting: ‘Ungrateful hussy!'”