La Promenade en Famille – a Sketch from Life

Description: 

Dorothy Jordan, clad in a masculine riding dress has an open playbook in hand, “Act III. Enter Little Pickle." The Duke of Clarence, slightly ahead and in front of her, pulls the miniature royal carriage containing three of their children on a path in Bushey Park. His coat pockets are brimming with toys, a handkerchief partially hiding his facial features emerges from beneath his hat, revealing the heat of the day. The eldest child, a young boy, raises a small whip in his hand, a puppy in a young girl’s lap partially covers her face, and an infant between them is crying angrily. A signpost standing almost even with Clarence shows them directed toward “Bushy” and coming from “Richmond.”

Accession Number: 

797.4.23.1

Edition and State: 

Unknown

Printing Context: 

La Promenade en Famille – a Sketch from Life appeared for sale and/or viewing in Hannah Humphrey’s print shops on New Bond Street and St. James Street, London, April 23, 1797.

Associated Events: 

The Duke of Clarence had been appointed ranger of Bushey Park in January 1797; from this point on, he and Dorothy Jordan lived primarily in its residence until he ended their relationship in 1811 (P. Ranger, Oxford DNB).


Humphrey and Gillray were in the process of moving print shop and residence from New Bond Street to their final location at 27 St. James Street, easily accessible from royal residence and in the heart of the upper-class aristocratic West End neighborhood.

Associated People: 

Dorothy Jordan [née Bland, previously Dorothy Phillips] (1761–1816): Dorothy Jordan was an actress born in the London neighborhood of Leicester Square and Covent Garden, although her parents resided permanently in Ireland. Her father, Francis Bland, was a colonel and her mother, Grace Phillips, an actress. Bland, however, left his family in Ireland for a English woman in 1774 and paid his former wife an allowance, provided his children by her did not use his surname. In 1779, as an actress in his company, Dorothy became the mistress of Richard Daly, the manager of the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. Unhappy with her subservient role in the relationship and unable to pay her apprenticeship debts, she fled to York in 1782 with her mother, sister, and brother. She spent three years in Tate Wilkinson's company in York, until another actor recommended her to Richard Sheridan of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Previously a champion of a wide repertoire, the primacy of Sarah Siddons at Drury Lane as a tragic heroine solidified Jordan’s dedication to comedy. Immediacy and spontaneity, in contrast to the “studied” style of other well-respected actresses, marked her acting reputation. In London, she stayed with a major shareholder of Drury Lane, Richard Ford, and the couple had five children but never married.


Prince William Henry, duke of Clarence (later King William IV), noticed Jordan at Drury Lane and initiated their twenty-year relationship in 1791. The Duke allowed Jordan an annuity of £1200 and promised provision for her children, regardless of their paternity. In turn, she shared her acting salary from Drury Lane, Covent Garden, and the provincial tour circuit. They resided at Bushey House in Bushey Park from 1797, where Jordan acted as hostess and had five boys and five girls. The relationship ended in October 1811 when debts necessitated a financially advantageous marriage for the duke. Despite increasing frequency of illness, Jordan acted for four more years, taking on a demanding tour schedule in order to make the salary necessary for her generous expenditure. When she retired in 1815, Jordan sold her London house and moved to France, perhaps due to her worsening health or lack of funds. In France she lived in Bolougne, Versailles, and finally St. Cloud, where she died alone on July 5, 1816 (P. Ranger, "Jordan, Dorothy" Oxford DNB).


William, Duke of Clarence (1765-1837): William was third of son (and child) of fifteen children of George III (1738-1820) and Charlotte Sophia (1744-1818). He was raised at Richmond and Kew, but entered into the Royal Navy at only thirteen, where he “developed into a competent naval officer of undoubted courage and a likeable young man of a boisterous kind” (M. Brock, "William IV" Oxford DNB), though his distaste for higher authority and voracious sexual appetite caused him some difficulties. Following his father’s lapse into mental incapacitation in 1788, William Henry left the Royal Navy and was named duke of Clarence and of St Andrews, and earl of Munster in the peerage of Ireland. Despite these titles, the Duke did not have enough of the king’s favor to secure a substantial marriage grant or a higher position, and he fell into constant debt. He met Dorothy Jordan (as she is remembered) in 1790 and they began their relationship in 1791. Over their twenty-year relationship, they had ten children and resided at Clarence’s residence, Bushey House, from 1797. George III’s dementia, definitive by 1810, necessitated a profitable marriage for Clarence, who was now two elder brothers away from the throne. Not until 1817, however, did he marry Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meningen (1792-1849) only seven days after meeting her. The marriage did not produce an heir, but Clarence eventually became heir presumptive.


In April 1827 prime minister George Canning nominated Clarence lord high admiral in an act of conciliation; the position had not been held since the 1700s. William became king in July 1830. In departure from the politics of George III, he reduced lavish ceremonials, patronized the English and supported the poor and the public, especially through the opening of previously private spaces as public parks. He began his reign with the approval of the governing class as well. His political views centered on fair play with his ministers, although his capacity for interference was relatively greater than George III because he was naturally more active. He distrusted strong partisanship and believed in the powers of the king as conciliator. In Parliament, Earl Grey’s reform minded-government came to power in 1832 and passed the Reform Act. Initially cordial and cooperative with his ministry, the difficult and complicated procedures maneuvered in passing the bill lent tension to the relationship and led to William IV’s unwise dismissal of Melbourne’s government in 1834. William’s view of kingship prioritized foreign affairs, particularly with the French, and the defense of the established church; however, the ministry’s expertise almost always dictated the policies adopted. In April 1837 William IV suffered a severe asthma attack, and he declined into a mortal illness. The illness lasted over two months until he died at Windsor Castle on the morning June 20, 1837 (M. Brock, "William IV" Oxford DNB).

Associated Places: 

Bushey Park and Richmond: Through his position as ranger of Bushey Park from 1797 onward, the Duke of Clarence gained access to Bushey House, where he and Dorothy Jordon lived together from 1797 to 1811 (P. Ranger, "William IV" Oxford DNB). Richmond refers to the London borough Richmond Upon Thames, where Jordan acted throughout the 1790s and early 1800s.

Associated Texts: 

William Hogarth’s Evening, from the Four Times of Day series published in 1738 is a model for Gillray’s design for a family stroll, led by the pregnant and adulterous wife (C. McCreery, Satirical Gaze 109). With this connection, part of Gillray’s satire is a levelling of the Duke’s royal position with an ordinary citizen.

Subject: 

Dorothy Jordan, clad in a masculine riding dress has an open playbook in hand, “Act III. Enter Little Pickle." The Duke of Clarence, slightly ahead and in front of her, pulls the miniature royal carriage containing three of their children on a path in Bushey Park. His coat pockets are brimming with toys, a handkerchief partially hiding his facial features emerges from beneath his hat, revealing the heat of the day. The eldest child, a young boy, raises a small whip in his hand, a puppy in a young girl’s lap partially covers her face, and an infant between them is crying angrily. A signpost standing almost even with Clarence shows them directed toward “Bushy” and coming from “Richmond.”

Theme: 

The masculine-style riding dresses were often worn by women in caricature to imply their power over (or desire for power over) men or other women, in this case by inverting the traditional household roles (C. McCreery, Satirical Gaze 110). The toy boats in the Duke’s pockets point to his popular persona, “Nauticus” and allude his feminine caretaker role in the relationship. On the royal carriage, the chamber pot depicted beneath the crown alludes to the coincidental colloquial for chamber pots, “jordan.”

Significance: 

A national interest in the theater pervaded both upper and middle-class, city and provincial culture: the lives of actresses like Jordan and her fellow prima donnas, most notably Elizabeth Farren and Sarah Siddons were open to the public (M.D. George, Social Change 99) and this print caters to that openness. But “real” women were not meant to pursue their careers over their family and leave her male counterpart to take over her role: the danger in doing so is setting a poor example for the children, who “will grow up to be as selfish and immoral as their mother” and a “liability on the royal family.” At the same time, actresses and courtesans faced social barriers due to their historical conflation with prostitution; receiving enough approval to be introduced into aristocratic circles by their lovers made their “difference” only more striking (C. McCreery, Satirical Gaze 112). In this way, Gillray’s print embodies the complication of prescribed female roles and the overlap of marked spheres, the belief in which was a fundamental aspect to Romantic culture.

Function: 

This print has a twofold purpose: to entertain the public with a scene from the life of highly viewed figures: royalty and actresses or courtesans together provided a double-delight. It also comments on the moral repercussions of inverting gender roles.

Bibliography: 

Brock, Michael. “William IV (1765-1837)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008. 30 March 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/view/article/29451?docPos=5].


George, M. Dorothy. Hogarth to Cruikshank: Social Change in Graphic Satire. New York: Walker and Company, 1967.


McCreery, Cindy. The Satirical Gaze: Prints of Women in Late Eigteenth-Century England. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2004.


Ranger, Paul. “Jordan, Dorothy (1761-1816).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2006. 30 March 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/view/article/15119].

Long Title: 

La Promenade en Famille - a Sketch from Life
 
 

Engraver: 

 

Delineator: 

 

Image Date: 

23 April 1797
 

Publisher: 

Hannah Humphrey
 

Creation Technique: