Series Note: I’ve decided to write a series that covers all our blends and what inspired them. And this is it. Part I
Two of our most well known blends are Lord Petersham and The Duchess. And they are interrelated.
A chance remark by Meredith Henderson, known on twitter as “bckmph” led to an image of a cigarette card in a series of dandies. I can’t find it now, but here’s another.
Though often called Lord Petersham, his name was Charles Stanhope, and he was the 4th Earl of Harrington. He didn’t become the Earl until he was nearly fifty, when his father died. His father invented the title “Viscount Petersham” to use until his own succession, and Junior followed suit. His father possibly just liked the name of the Petersham area of London.
The family’s actual home was Elvaston Castle on Derbyshire – sadly now on the ‘Buildings at Risk Register’ – and their London home, Harrington House, is in Kensington and is now the Russian Embassy.
His personal life had great sorrow and some scandal – he married an actress many years his junior. His only son and heir died aged four om April 8 1836 – Petersham’s own 56th birthday*.
He had a distinguished military career retiring as a Major General, though he was placed on half-pay for a time, indicating some indiscretion.
His fame really took off when he was appointed Gentleman of The Bedchamber to King George III and his son Prince George, later George IV.
The Prince in particular was inspired by Petersham, taking up many of his manners, speech and habits. And his manner of dress. His self-designed hat (The Harrington Hat) and overcoat (The Petersham Overcoat) still exist to this day.
But it is for one of his habits that he is best remembered.
He was addicted to snuff.
Snuff, or powdered tobacco, at one point was the way 90% of tobacco was sold in the UK. It reached his zenith in Lord Petersham who died with thousands of pounds worth of snuff. He kept his supplies in 365 individual snuff boxes – one for each day of the year.
Historical sources suggest that he had “an equal number of canisters of tea of great variety”. Certainly he is credited for inspiring George IV to a love of tea that permeates to this day in the British Royal Family.
The idea of a tea for each day took hold with us when we read all this, and whilst 365 teas in a blend is impractical, to put 7 in – one for each day of the week – is not. We were about to release the first ever blends under The Devotea name, and we had a blend that we were quite happy with that had six different teas in it. We added a seventh and it gave us both a great-tasting tea and a name for it.
So, with a tea named after Lord Petersham and three others, we launched the first of our blends.
But whilst many people have never heard of Lord Petersham, many have heard of his sister.
Eight years after the birth of Charles, Anna Maria Stanhope was born. Coming from such an eminent family, it’s no surprise that she did quite well.
Her brother’s influence over the King meant that Anna’s appointment as Lady of The Bedchamber to George IV’s daughter – Queen Victoria – was not a surprise.
Of course, Anna was not without her own influence. in 1808, she had married Francis Russell, who would later accede to the title of the Duke Of Bedford, and so it is as Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford that she is more commonly known. Her brother-in-law John Russell was Prime Minster twice in the 1820s/30s and she herself gave birth to a Member of Parliament, the future Earl Russell.
She was involved in a terrible scandal, when Lady Flora Hastings started to experience pain and swelling in her lower abdomen in 1839 . The queen’s physician, Sir James Clark, was forced to diagnose her without examination, and he assumed she was pregnant. It was covered up as she was unmarried, but the Baroness Lehzen and Anna (technically the Marchioness of Tavistock at that time) spread the rumour that she was “with child” to John Conroy, whom Victoria also hated. The Queen even recorded the suspicion in her diary.
When Hastings finally agreed to be examined, it was found that she was not pregnant but had advanced cancer of the liver, and not long to live. A lot of ill-will toward the rumour-mongers was generated over besmirching a fine upstanding lady’s reputation.
Nevertheless, Anna’s lifelong friendship with the Queen and powerbase assured her of continuing influence.
It’s generally considered that, at the time, there was a very long gap between when aristocratic people had their luncheon – in the middle of the day – and their “supper” – usually after 8pm and so Anna is credited with inventing “Afternoon tea” – a meal of tea, cakes and delicate savouries in late afternoon to fill that gap and restore one’s vigour.
Whilst historical records show such a meal was frequently being enjoyed more that 100 years before Anna’s birth; it’s a nice legend, and so when our teas started being taken up by venues who specialised in Afternoon Teas -or High teas, as is often used synonymously – we knew we needed a lighter, afternoon style tea, and so we created “The Duchess”.
If you are interested in these teas, Lord Petersham is available on our US Store , our UK Store and our Australian Store. Note that the US & UK versions are made from five teas, not seven, due to the difficulty of obtaining supplies of two of the consituents in those countries.
* I share that birthday. Amazing, huh?