Tag Archives: Scotland

Handsome Devils and Their Digs: 4th Earl of Aberdeen

George Hamilton-Gordon was not only a hottie, he had a big heart.  Upon visiting his Scottish estate of Haddo house in 1805 for the first time since childhood,  he was stunned by the impoverished conditions surrounding his tenants.  His father and grandfather had accrued large debts during their lifetimes and instead of squandering what little money he had, George invested his inheritance in agriculture and husbandry to improve the welfare of those under his protection.   Impressive for a man who ascended to the earldom at age 17.

George also appeared to be a softie in the love department.  At age 21 he married Lady Catherine Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of 1st Marquess of Abercorn.  She died of tuberculosis in 1812, their heir and only son having died two years prior.  Without issue, George did marry his widowed sister-in-law Harriet Douglas in 1815 at the insistence of his father-in-law.  The marriage was a disaster.  George remained in love with his previous wife and had a strong dislike for Harriet saying she was one of the stupidest persons he had ever met.  Ouch!  Harriet hated Haddo house, the Aberdeen ancestral seat, and was unkind to his daughters from his first marriage.  By 1819 they were already living apart.

Marital difficulties aside, George’s life had its satisfactions.  After the death of his parents, he appointed William Pitt the younger as his guardian, a relationship with evolved into a close friendship.  As promissed by Pitt, he gained an English peerage in 1814, allowing him access to the House of Lords (Scottish peers did not have rights to a seat) and a secure, if ultimately rocky, future in politics.  He was also a devoted father, a fellow of the Royal Society, a scholar with interest in archaeology and Greece from his Grand Tours days, and Prime Minister from 1852 to 1855.

For more on today’s handsome devil:

Portrait of a Jacobite Lady

Portrait of a Jacobite Lady, 1740-1750, Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772)

Edinburgh, The Drambuie Collection

It’s the weekend which means I’m in the mood for a bit of fun and what, I ask you, is more fun than a Jacobite lady donning both tartan and military garb?  It’s a winsome look because it’s absolutely steeped in pride: for country, cause, and cheek.  The unidentified lady–who based on careful examination of the tartan is possibly Jenny Cameron, alleged mistress of Bonnie Prince Charlie–wears a riding jacket.  The front of the jacket resembles a waistcoat with gold braiding, but on close study appears to be a vest-shaped piece of ornamentation pinned on top of the riding jacket (or perhaps is part of the jacket itself?)  Either way, women didn’t wear military uniforms so the margins for creative license were rather wide.   As a very abbreviated frame of reference, 18th century regimental dress consisted of standard civilian dress, i.e. a tricorne hat, long-skirted coat, waistcoat, and breeches.  Distinctions between regiments and hierarchy were made with colors and facings.

Back to the portrait . . .

Given the lady’s anonymous nature, how do we know she’s a Jacobite?  The most obvious indication comes from what she holds in her right hand: the white rose of York.  This symbol first gained political relevance in the War of the Roses where it distinguished the York supporters from the Lancasters who flaunted their red rose.  The white cockade, as shown below on Bonnie Prince Charles, was worn by Jacobite supporters along with their ubiquitous blue bonnet.  The British, on the other hand, sported black cockades.

Besides the not-so-secret white rose, the Jacobite lady includes another symbol in her portrait, that of the rose and rose bud paired together.  The rose is said to have symbolized the exiled King James with the buds being his heirs, Charles and Henry.  I only see one bud here.  Maybe a bit of favoritism on the lady’s part?

Jacobite symbols were often nested in a badge or crest–usually a sprig of a plant that identifies allegiance to a clan.  As such, the Scots were supposedly able to distinguish frenemies from fellow brothers in arms.  The question is, how does one acquire heather or whatnot during the middle of winter?  Tartans, I assume, were easier to come by and would fairly shout the clan name whoever beheld it.  That niggling little notion aside, the Jacobites, being part of a renegade cause, had plenty of ways to show their true colors. Telling symbols included the butterfly, oak leaf and acorns, the sunflower, scraps of rue and thyme, and Medusa’s head.   For a short explanation concerning some of these, see here.