Miss Maidie and Elsie

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Miss Maidie and Elsie Scott. Painted in the First World War when the sisters befriended Wilfred Owen, this portrait is so redolent of the Edwardian Era.

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For the first time I’m in two minds about Remembrance Day. Events in America and across Europe show the importance of not forgetting history, and with this year as the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One and next year as the 80th anniversary of the start of World War Two, the next two years are important ones to recall. But my fear is that we’re more comfortable as a society in focusing on a carefully-glossed version of the past than in looking at more recent, veterans and social conflicts.

Jane Eyre vibes

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As every Jane Eyre  fan will know, she insisted on buying grey merino even for her trousseau, but seeing this 1860s crinoline with purple-slashes sleeves makes me think maybe it wasn’t so muted after all. Dress in the Met Institute of Fashion.

Living like kings

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Charleston is full of stunning late 18th / mid 19th century houses. Not all of them allow photos inside – the gilded age Calhoun mansion, and the Edmonson-Alston house are two that don’t, but that are still very much worth a trip and have excellent tours too – but even with those that do you could easily fill a couple of days browsing round them.

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Many were built in the late 18th century, around the time of Independence, and then changed hands in the 1830s, causing a whole load of “Greek Revival” details and extensions to be added into them.

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The main houses shown here are the Nathaniel Russell house, built to help the owner marry off his two daughters, and the Aiken-Rhett house, which is still in a state of disrepair and extreme shabby chic glamour.

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Interestingly, all the houses acknowledge the presence and effort of slaves, either in funding the house through creating plantation fortunes, or being traded as the main source of wealth that funded the house, or as being needed to keep these houses running.

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In some there’s been  effort to excavate and display not just the slaves’ living quarters but also their names, faces and histories. Yes this should be the minimum, but frankly it was a lot more than I was expecting before visiting.

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Equally fascinating are the stories of the families who owned the houses, wealthy enough to live like the richest aristocrats back in Britain, cultivating exactly the same tastes as their cousins overseas and playing a determined role in shaping the new society in Charleston and the wider republic.

All photos October 2018

Middleton Place

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A former rice plantation on the banks of the Ashley, owned by an English family already wealthy from their Barbadian sugar plantations, Middleton Place is about 15 miles outside of Charleston.

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The house (what remains of it after the Civil war and earthquakes) is well worth a tour too, although you can’t take photos inside, as the family’s history from signing the Declaration of Independence, to ambassadors to the court of Tsar Alexander I and marriage with the Italian nobility, to secession and bankruptcy is quite fascinating.

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The grounds are beautiful too – a mix of more formal lawns and knot gardens and Enlightment-era gentle hills and lakes set in the landscape to act as mirrors.

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All photos October 2018.

Wit and style

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Colleen of @vintage_egyptologst is not only stunningly beautiful with a beautiful collection of vintage dresses and full access to my Amelia Peabody fantasy life, but she is also great at using Instagram to give bite-sized lessons about bovid deities (yes, I had to look it up too), Peleset headdresses, the stage-like purpose of Egyptian temples and the civil wars of Karnak. Sign up now on Instagram to follow her for more.

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