Saturday, November 7, 2009

The not-so-good and the not-so-great, number 20: Dorothy Phillips

Let Malcolm sidle up on this one.

The Irish Times has a tradition of fine and ironic writing. So Anne Marie Hourihane is under pressure to meet the norm in her TV review column for the Weekend Review. Beside a picture of Brendan Gleeson depicting Winston Churchill in Into the Storm, we get a paragraph:
He was his country's saviour -- although his country was far too reticent to say so. His predictions of disaster went unheard. In the end, of course, he was vindicated. Indeed, as the international landscape darkened, he became a beacon both of hope and of certainty. During the early days of the conflict, a bewildered population gathered each evening to hear his famous broadcasts to the nation. And then he went and joined Fine Gael.
The reference there, of course, is George Lee, recently RTÉ's Economic Editor, who suddenly transmogrified into the FG candidate for the Dublin South-East by-election. It had been a Fianna Fáil seat: the top two places on the first ballot were both Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael were a poor third and fifth. In the by-election FF staggered in third, with less than 18% of the vote. The people's heart-throb was George, swept home on the first count with 53.4% of the vote. Lee is currently the face fronting a three-parter about the fall of the Wall.

But that's not the point: merely an explanation for the diaspora who might not be fully up-to-date.

What piqued Malcolm was the delectable Anne Marie's wind-up (ambiguously so) on the Churchill bio-pic:
Churchill was a man who created himself and wrote his own scripts. the makers of Into the Storm were wise enough to draw heavily on his speeches, and to show how much trouble he took in constructing them. It was Churchill, for example, who first came up with the term "Iron Curtain" to describe the division between the West and the Soviet Union.
Well, no, actually. It was Joseph Goebbels, on 25th January, 1945, in Das Reich.
Iron curtain

The Oxford English Dictionary has the term back to 1794, referring to the theatre's safety curtain. There's a frolic on wikipedia taking it back to the Babylonian captivity. When the OED considers the metaphorical usage, to imply an "impenetrable barrier" (the Churchillian implication), that's when it gets interesting, and finally brings us to Dorothy Phillips:
1819 EARL OF MUNSTER Jrnl. Route across India 1817-18 iv. 58 On the 19th November we crossed the river Betwah, and as if an iron curtain had dropt between us and the avenging angel, the deaths diminished.
The Earl of Munster? Who he?

He was George Augustus Frederick FitzClarence, who would have been in his early 20s when he wrote that Journal cited by the OED, the eldest "natural" (as they say) son of Prince William, third son of George III, and his long-term live-in lady friend (ta-rah! at last!), Dorothy Jordan. We'll come to him in the next "episode". For now, let's focus on her, at the top of this post: quite a looker. Several distinguished bods can claim descent from that unsanctified relationship: they include Adam Hart-Davis (the TV presenter), Oliver Reed (the actor) and David Cameron (the would-be Prime Minister).

Dorothy Jordan

She was born close by Covent Garden in 1761. Her parents were Captain Francis Bland (who, as we shall see, is the Irish connection) and an actress, Grace Phillips, herself a parson's daughter from West Wales (who may well be a TCD-man, Scudamore Phillips). Captain Bland subsequently married another lady, Catharine Mahoney of Killarney, which was held to be legal: it is asserted by Burke's Irish Records there was a previous Catholic marriage between Bland and Grace, before either was of legal age.

Francis Bland -- let's stick with him for a trice -- was the son (by a second marriage) of the Rev. Nathaniel Bland of Derriquin Castle in the County Kerry, another TCD man who held a series of appointments as an Irish Church lawyer. Francis Bland's relationship with Grace lasted from 1760 to 1774, and produced perhaps nine children. It appears that the Blands paid off Grace, on the basis that she didn't use the Bland surname for her children.

So Dorothy Phillips (as she began) had to make her own way in the world, and her only obvious profession was ... well, on the stage. It seems that the casting couch is not an invention of Hollywood. She was soon involved with Richard Daly, yet another TCD-man, who briefly built himself a monopoly of the Irish theatre (including the Smock Alley Theatre, from which the Macready dynasty would spring). The Phillips-Daly liaison produced one child, but, since pregnant women had to have courtesy titles as "Mrs", she became Mrs Dorothy Jordan.

Discarded by Daly, Dorothy Jordan moved sharply on to Sir Richard Ford, a magistrate no less, whose father was a shareholder with Sheridan (a Dubliner, of course) in the Drury Lane Theatre. Ford and Dorothy Jordan produced three children, before Ford ran into financial problems with Sheridan. Our Dorothy moved swiftly onward and upward.

The Duke of Clarence, Prince William Henry, had been taking an interest in Mrs Jordan for some time. In 1790 she became his live-in "companion" at Clarence Lodge, Roehampton, (later at Bushy House) with a salary of £1200 p.a. Cartoons of the time show the Prince sitting on a chamber-pot, crudely known as a "Jordan". Even so, Mrs Jordan seems to have been held in good public (ahem!) odour: when, in due course, Clarence dumped her in the hope of improving his bank-balaence with a wealthy heiress, the balladeers sided with her.

When Doorothy Jordan was discarded she received an allowance 0f £4,400 a year. She continued to appear on stage until 1815, when she retired to France, was swindled by her son-in-law, and within the year died near Paris.

Now for her son, the "Earl of Munster" Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites