Every wonder what your life would be like as an honest to goodness Lady? Sher and I did, that’s why we created The Heatley Cliff. Some could argue we’ve taken the whole concept to an extreme. Those people obviously lack any sort of creative spirit and are not welcome at all to our cool as mints manor home in Darbyshire. And by Darbyshire, I mean Imagination Land.
Anyhow, as we are discussing the most popular castles and manors in the UK this week on the podcast, I thought it would be fun to break down the day of an Edwardian Lady of means, Downton Abbey style.
The servants are all up well before you, cooking, cleaning… working. You might have a cheeky lie in and get your breakfast delivered by one of the maids on a tray, but generally the family would gather for breakfast together around 9am. Unless you had little children, then they ate on their own with the nanny. Obviously. So your maid awakens you some time before this to dress you in outfit number 1, your casual attire. You would never eat in your nightclothes. Ever. Breakfast would be a big meal with eggs, sausage and kippers. Your eyes may be bigger than your stomach, literally, because you are wearing a corset. After breakfast, you would meet with your housekeeper, where the two of you compare notes. You would let her know about guests and what those guests might be doing during their stay. She would keep you apprised of menus, household purchases and any domestic issues. You can’t believe how busy you are; you remind yourself that you get very little credit for keeping your entire house running. Funnily enough, your housekeeper feels the same. You spend the rest of the morning corresponding. You are taxed. Your maid comes down and fetches you to change into your clothes for lunch.
After you regale yourself in a slightly better dress, you go into the dining room for lunch around 1. This is a three course meal that cook has been preparing since 10 am that morning. Some of your guests would like to go riding. Some would like to go for a walk around the estate. Both activities require another wardrobe change. You decide to go for a ride because you think you look rather fetching in your riding habit, and your walking attire is nice, but tweedy. You retire back to your rooms after your meal so that your maid can dress you yet again.
It is a lovely day for a ride and you are in good company, the best company. Your guests are the scions of society, some even royal. This means that they might be right bastards behind closed doors, and certainly philanderers, but they know how not to get caught. Therefore, they are always welcome. Heaven forbid that anyone slip, then they would be marked and cast out of society. You remember this as you notice the nice bum of Sir Richard Farthingdale-Howard. You compose yourself quickly. After your ride, you return once again to your rooms where your maid puts on your dress for tea. You meet everyone in the drawing room for a perfectly brewed pot and little sandwiches. Your closest neighbors arrive to join you. It’s always nice to catch up and have a visit. Plus, they are most curious about your guests. You think about inviting them for dinner. But as you hadn’t arranged it with the Housekeeper and they don’t have their formal attire with them you expertly steer the conversation around just long enough so that everyone has had a chance to visit but they understand your cues about leaving. At 7pm, the gong goes off to let everyone know it’s time to change for dinner.
You select one of your best gowns. Your maid dresses you and does your hair. This takes almost an hour. You think it might be nice just to put on your nightie and curl up in bed with a good book. But being a Lady is a job you take seriously; you are sure there isn’t a single person in the house that works harder than you do. Besides, you have made sure that the dashing Sir Richard is seated beside you at dinner. Dinner itself is a lavish affair with 5 courses and plenty of wine. The butler and footman are in full livery. The conversation is lively and you expertly steer the topics to your charities and the plays you’ve attended and your family’s upcoming vacation to France. You never talk about religion or politics. Of course you know much more than you would ever let on. Men like their woman clever, but not intellectual.
After dinner the men and women split up for a period of time. You decide that time, based on the how good the gossip is. After that everyone sits together in the drawing room. Sometimes you will invite a guest who is not society, but makes up for it in entertainment value, like a journalist or artist. Tonight is not one of those nights. Once again you drive the direction of the conversation. You wish you didn’t have to, but your poor husband would be on about his dogs and hunting all night long. At 10:30am you excuse yourself, you have done your bit. Actually, it was a pleasant evening. You make a note to tell the Housekeeper how well the staff are doing. Your maid undresses you and puts on your night gown. After she leaves, you hurriedly put on the socks you keep in a secret drawer in your wardrobe. You knit these yourself, and you love them; your feet are always cold. But of course you would be mortified if anyone, even your maid knew. Ladies don’t wear socks to bed.
Image of Madonna feeding her chickens courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald