A Victorian Mother at Kingston Lacy


Last week at Kingston Lacy, a grand estate near the Dorset coast in England, I fell in love with the house, its treasures dating back at least to the 1400s, and images of a Victorian mother and her children. 


What an idyllic childhood in a beautiful place. Two girls were born first, then the all-important son and heir came along.


The girls described climbing into their mother’s beautiful bed when they woke up with nightmares. Of course, aristocratic Victorian wife that she was,  she had her own bedroom. The house was full of priceless marble sculptures and museum-quality paintings. When she came to Kingston Lacy in 1897 as the young bride of the middle-aged squire, she was allowed to decorate her own room as she saw fit. 


She went straight to Harrod’s in London and ordered a suite of white furniture. She filled the room with cheerful chintzes and striped wallpaper. 


She covered the walls with pretty prints and photos of herself and her family. Interestingly, her husband seems invisible in this light-hearted room. The rest of the estate was his; this room was hers and hers alone.


When royalty visited, the family assembled on the front steps for a photo. The young heir looked spiffy in a white suit, center front beside the Queen.


Unfortunately, a nursery maid, wearing huge cabbage roses on her hat, weaseled her way into the photo. She appears, big as you please, on the left in the photo, behind the two daughters in white. For that stunt, she was sent packing, in disgrace.


I bought some books about the family. I have a feeling that life at Kingston Lacy was not always the paradise it seemed to me, over a hundred years after these photos were taken. But the images of a beautiful mother and loving children remain. I wish all mothers a happy day!

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