On Bastille Day I went to Windsor with my family and got horribly sunburnt. It was probably a fair punishment for not celebrating in an appropriately revolutionary manner. It was the first time any of us had been to Windsor and we spent most of the day inside the State Apartments.
Upon our arrival I was taken aback by this sign, as I had no idea these two ever stayed at Windsor, despite me being quite besotted with both of them. Mrs Delany was an artist and lady of letters with exceptional botanical knowledge. She individually cut out pieces of flowers from paper to compose botanically accurate flowers, and some of these are currently on display in the Enlightenment Room at the British Museum.
What I love about Delany is that she kept within the borders of ‘womanly behaviour’ throughout her life, and that although her interest was paper art (as was fashionable among genteel women in the 18th century), she managed to make it intellectual, although such ‘female accomplishments’ have often been dismissed by historians. In reality women’s ‘accomplishments’ were widely discussed in the 18th century and no final consensus was decided upon. Since women could not become professionals they had to remain amateurs and that word has predominantly negative connotations today. Whenever someone is described as an amateur today, it usually means that this person’s attempts are inferior or of a bad quality, whereas in the 18th century it simply meant not-professional. (Further reading: Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors: At Home In Georgian England. The chapter called “What Women Made” is specifically concerned with female accomplishments. She also did a great BBC documentary which is brilliant.)
We gawped at this with misty eyes for the better part of half an hour after spotting once inside the castle. I really wasn’t prepared for the immense amount of objects on display in the State Apartments: gilded swords from a multitude of centuries and so many ‘souvenirs’ from the golden age of the British Empire.