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Dresser to Queen Victoria – Royal Central

Dresser to Queen Victoria – Royal Central

But for the shifting memorial that Queen Victoria erected to her and for a letter through which that is described, the identify of Ida Bonanomi may need been utterly forgotten in historic phrases. Thanks to these, this is not the case.

It may be present in Edinburgh’s Rosebank Cemetery and stands within the avenue containing the grandest of the monuments, itself a powerful example of mid-Victorian funerary sculpture, a gravestone of polished granite, topped with a draped urn. Its inscription reads: ‘Sacred to the reminiscence of Miss Ida Bonanomi, the trustworthy and extremely esteemed dresser of Queen Victoria, who departed this life Octr 15 1854, within the 37th yr of her age. Beloved and revered by all who knew her. This stone had been positioned by Queen Victoria as a mark of her regard’.

The wording is typical of the Queen’s choosing to recall both her affiliation with the individual and the loyalty of their service to her. It’s a pattern she maintained in her journals, and when it comes to memorials, it was a apply she continued for her private servants and canine; in such instances, their faithfulness was often emphasised.

Ida had been Queen Victoria’s dresser. Different dressers turned higher recognized, corresponding to Frieda Arnold, Ida’s successor, whose fascinating letters have been skilfully revealed in London in 1994 as My Mistress the Queen: The Letters of Frieda Arnold, Dresser to Queen Victoria by Benita Stoney and Heinrich C. Weltzien, from which I have drawn partially for this text. The German-born Frieda and her colleague Sophie Weiss, who was the Queen’s second dresser, dressed the Queen, subsequently, holding a position of utmost intimacy; one which, literally, bridged the royal divide between the Queen’s private and non-private roles.

Unsurprisingly, it is Queen Victoria herself who tells us most about Ida, because from the inscription we will work out the date of her delivery – 1817 – a yr crucial to the historical past of the longer term Queen Victoria (then unborn) as a result of in that yr, Princess Charlotte, only professional daughter of the Prince Regent died, subsequently ensuing in the remaining royal dukes – including Queen Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent, to marry the place relevant, for the sake of the British succession.

The grave of Ida Bonanomi in the Rosebank Cemetery, Edinburgh. The memorial was erected by Queen Victoria (Stephencdickson [CC BY-SA 4.0 (])

Ida’s last identify points virtually definitely to Italian heritage, even if she was not born in Italy. Queen Victoria knew some Italian, and based on her biographer Christopher Hibbert, already as Princess Victoria knew a ‘little Italian’ (Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria, 18). Her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne noted that she ‘understands Italian’ (A. C. Benson and Viscount Esher, The Letters of Queen Victoria, vol 1, 256: memorandum of George Anson, 15 January 1841). This was still the case later because when Queen Victoria took to holidaying in Italy, she was visited by the mom of the Queen of Italy, the Duchess of Genoa. Out within the gardens, Queen Victoria wrote that she: ‘Talked to the undergardener and was proud at getting on so properly with my Italian. Was capable of ask questions about all of the crops and timber, and understood him completely.’ (cit., HRH The Duchess of York and Benita Stoney, Travels with Queen Victoria, pp. 185-188).

That the Queen took a morbid curiosity in funerals was one thing well-known to the members of her family (Hibbert, 495). There was the memorable occasion at Grasse when a housemaid had died, and Queen Victoria’s maid-of-honour Marie Mallet wrote that there was ‘a type of funeral service’ for the housemaid on the Grand Lodge where the Queen was staying, which happened in the dining room, ‘everybody in evening gown, the servants sobbing’ (cit., Ibid, 495). The Queen took members of the Royal Family two days later to go to the cemetery at Cannes because she wished to visit the tombs of buddies. Mallet wrote that: ‘We began soon after three.30 and weren’t house till ten to seven! The gents went in a separate carriage full to overflowing with wreaths…’ (cit., Ibid, 495).

Ida Bonanomi died within the momentous yr that struggle was declared on Russia on 27 March 1854 and the Queen, Prince Albert and their youngsters waved off the British troopers from the balcony of Buckingham Palace to bid them farewell as they marched to Portsmouth, sure for the Crimea (Hibbert, 222). When the Russian Tsar died in the course of the Crimean Warfare, the Queen had ordered an ‘IMMEDIATE search to be made for Precedents as to the Courtroom going or not going into mourning for a sovereign with whom on the time of his decease England was at conflict.’ (cit., Hibbert, 286).

Queen Victoria’s obsessive curiosity within the protocol of mourning was such that it was even extraordinary by the requirements of her personal time (Hibbert, 286). That Queen Victoria must be so involved for the question of mourning for the monarch of a country with whom Britain was then at struggle, ought to maybe help us to know that mourning was a mentality as a lot as a private observance and subsequently, memorials can be its natural consequence.

We know that between 15 October 1854 and late December 1854, Queen Victoria should have lacked an official dresser, but as we study from Frieda’s letter, Ida Bonanomi had been left behind in Scotland as a result of she was too ailing to make the journey south. The German-born Frieda Arnold was appointed a number of days earlier than Christmas 1854, as the Queen informed her journal: ‘my new dresser, Frieda Arnold, from Carlsruhe, has come since a couple of days in the past, on three months trial, and has begun her duties’ (cit., Benita Stoney and Heinrich C. Weltzien, My Mistress the Queen: The Letters of Frieda Arnold, Dresser to Queen Victoria, I).

Frieda’s pal and colleague, Sophie Weiss, was promoted on Ida’s demise to the place of the second dresser (Ibid, eight). Frieda’s salary as part of the Department of the Mistress of the Robes, was £100, which provides us a unfastened concept of what Ida had been paid in her publish (Ibid, 8). Frieda handed her probation and remained with Queen Victoria as a dresser for some four years; Queen Victoria gave her a Christmas current of a brooch in 1855. Frieda is pictured sporting it after her marriage to Ernst Müller, in a photograph from round 1860. It features as an enthralling illustration in The Letters.

Frieda’s letter ‘Scotland 1856’ describes her enjoyment of Edinburgh and visiting the fort. Whose concept it was to do what adopted, we have no idea. However then instantly we read that she ‘go to[ed] the grave of my unfortunate predecessor, Fräulein Bonanomi… her grave was marked with a simple, pleasing tombstone, and flowers. I drew it for Sophie [Weiss]. She has found a peaceable resting-place, so far from her homeland…’ (cit., Ibid, 177).

Frieda doesn’t say the place Ida’s actual homeland was, but clearly, the visit made an impression on her because she was still fascinated by it the subsequent morning: ‘Next morning, as we left the palace within the grey mild of early dawn, I could not help considering continuously of her. It should have been on simply such a morning, exactly two years ago, that she was left behind, poor creature, on their lonesome and ailing…’ (cit., Ibid, 177).

Frieda is referring to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh. It additionally acted as a stopping point for Queen Victoria en route to Balmoral. Through the Queen’s reign, the previous royal quarters on the primary flooring have been renovated; even in the present day, small higher corridors include stag’s heads with shields felled by members of the Queen’s household. The Morning Drawing Room, previously the Privy Chamber of Charles II, was refurbished for Queen Victoria, who used it as her personal drawing room. A statue of Queen Victoria as soon as stood in the palace forecourt, the place the present-day fountain stands. It marked an early keep of the Queen’s at Holyroodhouse, in 1851.

Frieda’s phrases also help us to reconstruct what occurred shortly before Ida’s dying when she was left behind: ‘The band was enjoying a melancholy Scottish folk-song, ‘Annie Laurie’, and the notes of this track have been the final echoes she heard of the presence of the Queen and her suite. The subsequent night she was lifeless’. (cit., Ibid, 177). I have checked the Queen’s (revealed) letters, and the Queen wrote to her uncle, King Leopold of the Belgians from Hull on 13 October 1854: ‘We slept at Holyrood last night time, and got here here this night… We shall attain Windsor to-morrow’ (cit., A. C. Benson and Viscount Esher, The Letters of Queen Victoria, Vol III, 63).

So, the Queen left Holyroodhouse that morning and arrived at Hull later that day. Cross-referencing with the Queen’s journal, we will read that 12 October 1854 was certainly her final day of that specific stay at Balmoral; the subsequent entry is written at Holyroodhouse and the following entry written at Hull. So, the Queen should have presumably seen Ida for the last time on the morning of 13 October 1854 that is, if she visited her on her sickbed.

As if the above was an excessive amount of for Frieda, her letter then goes on with deliberate pleasure in the go to to Edinburgh Citadel, as if probably making an attempt to cling all of the extra to life. The Rosebank Cemetery had been opened in 1846, some six years before Ida’s demise. It seems attainable from Frieda’s letter of 1856 that the memorial placed later there by the Queen was not but in position, because its dramatic appearance would certainly have referred to as for some temporary description.

The Queen’s journal mentions Ida Bonanomi only twice, though it’s value noting that these mentions are contained with Princess Beatrice’s ‘copies’ – the unedited typescripts by Lord Esher solely stretch so far as February 1840. It’s potential that the Queen might have talked about Ida extra, as her unedited journals apparently contained more references to her dressers (Annie Gray, The Grasping Queen, 113). The Queen data Ida’s demise in her journal, which we should deduce befell at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The one other entry is for 1860, the place the Queen mentions visiting Ida’s grave in Edinburgh.

While researching for a forthcoming educational article on Mrs Louisa Louis – the dresser to Princess Charlotte – that the Queen brought on a wall memorial to be erected in her reminiscence when she died. The wording just isn’t dissimilar, although the association was far much less personal.

An fascinating coincidence is that both of these ‘forgotten’ ladies have been dressers. Their position was primarily an unseen public one, so it’s perhaps not shocking that at the beginning glance they seem invisible.

They are remembered in the memorials that Queen Victoria positioned to them.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2019