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The wild hellraisers and mannered gentlemen who populated this era.

Ten Edwardian Dukes-a-Dining


Yesterday we were introduced to ten of Britain’s dukes, their fortunes, their family history, and their personal claims to game. But, let’s see how they stack up against their Edwardian counterparts, with a little help from Wikipedia, John Bateman’s book, The Acre-ocracy of England, and a 1907 edition of the Royal Blue Book.


Ten Dukes-a-Dining


From the Daily Mail:

Ten Dukes in 2010
The assembled: (from left to right) 1. James Graham, 8th Duke of Montrose; 2. David Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland; 3. John Seymour, 19th Duke of Somerset; 4. Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland; 5. Andrew Russell, 15th Duke of Bedford; 6. Edward Fizalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk; 7. Torquhil Campbell, 18th Duke of Argyll; 8. Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Duke of Leinster; 9. Murray Beauclerk, 14th Duke of St Albans; 10. Arthur Wellesey, 8th Duke of Wellington.

Dukes are just one rung down from royalty in the social pecking order and enjoy a special status way above the rank and file of the aristocracy. As peerages go, it’s the jackpot.

Today, there are just 24 non-royal dukes in existence, down from a total of 40 in their Georgian heyday. And it’s fair to say that no modern monarch or government is likely to create any more.

So, to celebrate its 300th birthday, Tatler magazine decided to invite this dwindling band of mega-toffs to a ducal lunch. The result was the largest gathering of dukes since the Coronation of 1953.

Some were too frail to attend. Some live abroad. But ten of them gathered for oysters and Dover sole in London’s clubland. And the result is this intriguing study of 21st century nobility.

‘After 300 years, we wanted to recapture the spirit of the original Tatler, and what better than a room full of dukes,’ says Tatler editor Catherine Ostler.

Once, the holders of these titles would have been the A-list celebrities of their time. Today, most people would be pushed to name a single one of them.

With hereditary peers cast out into the political wilderness, dukes might seem little more than a comic anachronism in modern Britain. While they retain their rank and social clout, their only power is financial.

In the case of, say, the Duke of Bedford, this amounts to £500million in art, London property and a large slab of Home Counties commuter belt. As for the Duke of Leinster, whose grandfather ran a teashop, it is next to nothing.

Yet many dukes still play an active part in public life. The Duke of Norfolk, as hereditary Earl Marshal, is still responsible for organising the State Opening of Parliament and any coronations which should occur.

The Duke of Northumberland runs several public bodies across the North East while his wife is the local Lord Lieutenant.

The very first dukedom was a royal affair. In 1337, Edward III created his son, the Black Prince, the Duke of Cornwall. The title derives from the Latin dux – leader – and, throughout history, fewer than 500 British men have held the rank of ‘Duke’.

The last non-royal dukedom was created in 1900 for the former Earl of Fife, who was upgraded to Duke following his wedding to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter.

There might have been a new one in 1955 when the Queen offered one to Churchill, but he declined, preferring to die a commoner.

The only non-duke at the Tatler gathering was historian Andrew Roberts, invited to chronicle the event.

‘They’re all related and they all stick up for each other,’ he recalls.

But he fears that dukes could become an endangered species. ‘Not long ago, two important dukedoms – Newcastle and Portland – became extinct,’ says the historian.

‘So, my parting plea to the dukes was simple, even if it startled some of them. I simply said: ‘Keep procreating!’

Read more HERE

The Men and Women’s Club


In the summer of 1885, Karl Pearson founded The Men and Women’s Club with the aim to discuss “all matters…connected with the mutual position and relation of men and women.” Pearson drew his members from middle-class liberals, socialists, and feminists, and over the lifespan of the club (1885-1889), discussions ranged from sexual relations in Periclean Athens to the position of Buddhist nuns, to sexuality and its relation to marriage, prostitution, and friendship. In essence, The Men and Women’s Club existed to challenge the long-held norms for male and female interaction as well as notions of “proper” sexuality. In late Victorian England, where sexuality was seen by many as “base” and “animal” and ignorance of women’s bodies and all things concerning sex was widespread, discussion of such issues was indeed radical.

In 1885 Karl Pearson was twenty-eight, and an ardent eugenicist who believed that women were the key to national progress. In the club’s inaugural paper, “The Woman’s Question,” he reflected on what changes would occur should women gain access to education, professions and political representation. His treatise was ironically reflected in the make-up of the club, for many of the women felt themselves to be intellectually inferior to the men, who were of Pearson’s background: “radical liberal or socialist in their politics, and employed as lawyers, doctors, or university lecturers. They shared similar public school and Oxbridge backgrounds and were further linked through membership of the same West End men’s clubs: the Saville, the National Liberal Club, the Athenaeum.” Although a number of the female members were economically independent as teachers, writers or journalists, only one had been to university, and all but two were single.

The club’s constitution declared that it would meet monthly, consist of no more than twenty members, and be composed of equal numbers of men and women. They met in each others’ homes, although generally at the house of a male member, with half of the club’s thirty-six meetings taking place at the house of club’s President, Robert Parker, a barrister living in Brunswick Gardens, Kensington, the heart of respectable London. Once at the meetings, the men and women found it difficult to reconcile their gender privileges and marginalization, particularly on the subjects of the role of religion, emotion, and a woman’s individual rights and social obligations.

The club’s most famous female member was Olive Schreiner, a missionary’s daughter whose fictionalized account of her life in South Africa, The Story of an African Farm, made her a celebrity overnight. Schreiner was vocal in her challenge of commonly-held conceptions of female sexuality. Her belief that women experienced sexual pleasure intrigued the male members and horrified the female members. Pearson did propose that sex, even among animals, was never solely for procreation, but was also a “physical pleasure like climbing a mountain, but his support of uninhibited female sexuality fell short: like most “New Men,” who criticized and heralded the end of the patriarchal era but looked with fear towards the new feminist order, and was terrified and disoriented by any signs of female sexual agency in the flesh. Another bone of contention between the men and women was the former’s avoidance of taking responsibility for male sexuality vs the women’s attempt to encourage accountability. Not surprisingly, club members were not sexually adventurous and showed little enthusiasm for free-love doctrines.

The Men and Women’s Club disbanded in 1889, mainly due to the dissatisfaction of the men in the women members. In the eyes of Pearson and his peers, the women proved incapable of the level of scientific work the men demanded, they were serious but did not go very deep, and they were frustrating adversaries. By the end of the club’s existence, club meetings became increasingly deadlocked and stalemated, and neither side found satisfaction in the tone and objective of discussions. While most of the group drifted apart, crossing paths due only to their common social and political circles, Pearson went on to become the premiere voice on the “Woman Question” during the 1890s. His writings were read in Britain and America, and feminists on both sides of the Atlantic viewed him with much respect, using much of his rhetoric to push for legislative reform for women. Despite the short-lived club, its very existence was radical and startling, and very much a product of the late nineteenth century, a time when long-held assumptions and social norms were being challenged by men and women of all walks of life. The topic of female sexuality and gender roles remain today, but for this time, it was extraordinary that a small group of men and women could come together for four years to shatter norms.

Further Reading:
Science, feminism and romance: The Men and Women’s Club 1885-1889 by Judith R. Walkowitz
The real facts of life: feminism and the politics of sexuality, c1850-1940 by Margaret Jackson
City of dreadful delight: narratives of sexual danger in late-Victorian London by Judith R. Walkowitz
Banishing the beast: feminism, sex and morality by Lucy Bland
The facts of life: the creation of sexual knowledge in Britain, 1650-1950 by Roy Porter & Lesley A. Hall
Scandalous Lovers by Robin Schone