ITV’s ‘Victoria’ is back on television, and so this seems a good time to follow up on my previous blog post about Miss Elizabeth Appleton, where I mentioned that some sources suggested she had been considered as a governess for the future Queen Victoria. The reason for this suggestion can be found in William Porden’s diary (archive reference no. D3311/4/6). On 10 September 1820, Mr Porden writes:
Miss Appleton at dinner. She has lately published a book on the Early Education of Children which she has dedicated to the Duchess of Kent and having received a visit from Gen [blank] on the part of the Duchess about a fortnight ago, has been in high expectation of being summoned to attend her Royal Highness and perhaps her flattering fancy may have given her an establishment in her Royal Highnesses household. She has now received a Letter from Capt. Conway commanding her attendance on Wednesday. What will be the result?
Miss Appleton clearly described what happened on her momentous visit to the Duchess of Kent in great detail, as it takes up nearly three and a half pages of Mr Porden’s diary. She visited on 13 September and the young Princess Victoria, who would have been almost 16 months old at the time, is described (like many babies of that age!) as ‘a healthy fat thing’ . After being passed through a chain of servants, she waited in ‘a magnificent Drawing Room’ until she was taken to the Duchess’ dressing room for an audience…
Where besides the Duchess were the little Princess seated on a piece of Tapestry, the English Nurse attending her and other Attendants standing round rather in Scenic Order. She was most graciously received and had perhaps half an hour’s rather familiar conversation.
Miss Appleton had brought a doll as a present for the princess, which was:
…given to the Child on the Carpet who appeared delighted with it but began to pull its head-dress and cloathing as made Miss A apprehensive that its drapery which she had taken so much pains with would be destroyed before her face.
Anyone who knows small children of this age would hardly be surprised at this! Miss Appleton mentions that she was dressed in white, whereas the Duchess and everyone else was in black. The Duke of Kent had died in January of that year, and Miss Appleton’s outfit seems to have been a bit of a faux pas, as ‘The Princess was struck with the contrast, and showed surprise, more than pleasure.’
Painted a few years later, this portrait of the duchess (still in black) and her daughter, by Henry Bone, gives an indication of how the Duchess would have looked.
Unfortunately for Miss Appleton, the book dedication and her visit didn’t result in a job offer. Given the fact that she subsequently opened a highly profitable school, she perhaps didn’t mind too much in the end.