Mrs Dora Jordan’s Children On The Block – a Satirical “Horse” Auction from 1837

When early 19th century sources make a direct comparison of horses to humans, it’s often unflattering. I’ve come across “amusing” articles on the slave trade that talk of slaves in terms of equines – one suggested that the practice of covering up grey hairs on horses was also performed with elderly slaves. This vicious piece isn’t about slavery, but it’s brutal all the same.
It refers to the illegitimate children born from the twenty-year relationship between the actress Dora Jordan and William, Duke of Clarence, who became King William IV in 1830. The couple had ten children. Dora was dropped by the Duke when he needed to make a dynastically approved marriage. His advisors contrived to leave her in a poor financial state, and her feckless sons-in-law finished the job. A generous woman who had worked hard all her life and even supported her royal lover, she died in poverty.
King William died in 1837 and was succeeded by Queen Victoria, leaving the question of what to do with this illegitimate off-shoot of the royal family, now that their primary protector had gone.
The children named here are George Fitzclarence, the first Earl of Munster (who later killed himself), Lieutenant General Lord Frederick Fitzclarence, Rear Admiral Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence and Lord Augustus Fitzclarence (who became rector of a parish called Mapledurham in Oxfordshire). The authors couldn’t resist digs at the daughters who had been married off successfully, but at least kept their names out of it.

I highly recommend Claire Tomalin’s superb biography of Dora Jordan, Mrs Jordan’s Profession, for those who want to learn the story behind this nasty bit of satire.

From The Satirist; or, the Censor of the Times, Sunday October 1st 1837


Preliminary Sale of the Half-Breeds.

This loose draught from the Royal stock was “submitted to the public competition,” as George Robins says, on Monday last, and sold without reserve. A few of the lowest grade of dealers only were present, as it was well known to noblemen and gentlemen that not a single horse of good pedigree was included in the catalogue. The autioneer having taken his station at his desk, the first lot was put up.

Munster, a half-bred flea-bitten roan, built after the fashion of a dray-horse, with flowing mane and tail, and carrying spare flesh enough to feed a kennel of hounds. He was the produce of the illicit amours of Billy, a quiet, good-tempered carriage-horse, that being placed in one of the King’s meadows, made his way into the stall of Actress, a distinguished brood mare, know on the turf for many years for her extreme beauty and graceful act-ion. She run [sic] for years without a competitor – but at last, by shameless conduct on behalf of her owners, was turned into a grassless paddock, where it said she was starved to death. Munster, after many euologies from the auctioneer, was knocked down at thirteen pound ten shillings – “The full vally,” as a dealer in cats’-meat exclaimed.

Lot 2. Frederick, a horse in shape and make not unlike the precedeing [sic] – a year or two younger, but, as was observed by a bystander, he had no head, and appeared dull and thick winded. However, after exhausting the eloquence of the auctioneer in expatiating on his usefulness and capital style of going, he was ultimately pronounced “gone” at eleven guineas.

Lot 3. Adolphus, a good cob-built hack – pedigree doubtful, but supposed to be by a horse well known in his day as Jack Fawcett, to whom he bears certainly a son-like resemblance, but was catalogued “By Billy out of Jordan.” That Jordan was his dam, there can be little or no doubt; but very great doubt has always existed as to his sire. For this lot very animated competition was entered into between two gentlemen in blue aprons – one from the neighbourhood of King’s, the other from Cow-cross – and was eventually knocked down to “Jem o’ Maiden-lane” for nine guineas and a half. This lot, under all circumstances, was considered well sold.

Lot 4. Augustus – a cob hack that never did a day’s work in his life, and has passed a considerable portion of his time in the luxuriant pasturage about Maple Durham. His pedigree being doubtful, was not inserted in the catalogue; but to make up for it, he was described as being calculated to make a good roadster, or to run cleverly in a four-wheeled chaise. A question being raised by a dealer present as to whether he had ever been down, the auctioneer accounted for the appearance about his knees by stating that he picked up his food in a kneeling attitude – was perfectly sound, and as free from vice as horses of his description generally were. “Sluggish as a parson,” exclaimed a bystander, as he trotted past him, “Then he’ll prove a divine bargain if you buy him,” rejoined the auctioneer. He was at length bought by a canine victualler for seven guineas, to “go in the dead cart.”

Several half-bred mares from the King’s mews were then put up in succession, and sold at prices rather above those which the preceding lots averaged.”

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

Join the Conversation


Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: