Sunday, November 23, 2014

From Alexander Bryce about the 2 Lace Veils

From Susan Perry Ertsgaard comes a letter that will interest the descendants of Eliza Esdaile.

Here's my transcription of the letter:
Ghent 12th June

My Dearest E.
     I was favoured about 10 days since with your last from B. Street (which as before had crossed mine on the road?) I rejoiced to ? you were in good health & spirits tho with a great House unlet on your hands. If this however have no worse effect than rendering you a stone lighter it is hardly to be regretted. And as in the case of not letting your House you will have less money to eat or drink  there will be no reason to fear you should become clumsy again. By the bye this a a (sic) very awkward expression and I wish I could substitute en bon point but there is not room should I scratch out the other so you must suppose it done and forgive me the rudeness which that you may do the more readily. I must inform you that I have now in my writing case two most beautiful veils, the handsomest that Brussels produces for you & Louisa. They were selected by no less a Personage than the Marchioness of Fressignies ci devant dame d'honneur to the Empress Marie Louise, who bought all the Brussels lace for her marriage with Buonaparte so you see you have arrived at great honour & distinction by having such a Servant. Now however that I have procured them I am somewhat puzzled how to dispose of them till I return as I am just setting our for the Sambre & Meuse where I shall be for a month. I am afraid to carry them about with me. I therefore believe I shall them (sic) at Antwerp with a Friend till I can bring them over myself unless I learn That It would be safe to forward them in a letter one at a time Under cover of General Ma??? when it might be taken for a plan or drawing. This I should like best, as you might wear them sooner. But for goodness sake take care of bushes brambles & romping any of which would ruin them forever. Yours is 6/4 according to your directions. So much for veils which I hope will be of some avail to you & Louisa when you receive them.
     I have been here now a near a month but leave it I hope to morrow. but I fear I shall no have the pleasure of seeing you till Septm. In the mean while I shall expect to hear that you have let your House in Town & are Sentimentalizing at Bogner by moonlight where I wish I was with you.
I remain my Dearest E.
Ever yours

I'm adding some observations about this letter.
According to the United Service Magazine's memoir of his funeral
 Alexander Bryce was in the Royal Engineers (army, not diplomatic corps). 
     Napoleon had fallen in April 1814. Any time after that, his wife's staff would be called "ci devant" + former title. Alexander Bryce was commissioned to report on the condition of fortresses in the Netherlands in 1814, so this letter could be from around that time. 
     Marie Louise's dame d'honneur had been the Duchesse de Montebello, I haven't figured out who the Marchioness of Fressignies (have I mis-transcribed?) might have been, but Maire Louise had quite a staff guarding her while Napoleon was in power. Maybe the lace shopper was one of those ladies rather than the actual dame d'honneur. 
     The 6/4 must be 6 shillings 4 pence, the price of the veils, which a historical currency site translated as $25 2014 U.S.  I think he has to be careful about sending them because they would be heavily taxed. Even respectable people bought smuggled lace in 19th century England to avoid the taxes.
     Bryce married Emily Porker in 1818. Eliza Esdaile and her brother-in-law George Glasgow both named Bryce executor of their wills.

I have two things to say about the accompanying note.
1) Where did LAT get the "Elizabeth Monteath" thing? Do any of you cousins know?  She seems to be Elizabeth Green as far as I can tell. She names her brother, Thomas Green, in her will. And her brother-in-law George Glasgow married Magdalene Green; and
2)Regarding "her first was the Duke of Kent", what about the Royal Marriage Act of 1722?

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