Oh, The Grand Old Duke of York…

Duke of York

Having come across it quite by chance, I could not resist sharing this entertaining anecdote:

‘Several of the Princes, sons to George III, became members of Brookes’s soon after coming of age. The two eldest were of course great favourites with every body; but this partiality was not so much the consequence of their high rank as of their great good-nature and affability, their convivial habits, and their uniformly genteel deportment…In short, two finer-looking young men than the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York were not to be seen in a day’s march…

It being customary for the young bucks of those days to sit late, or rather early, over the bottle, it was very common, whilst “serpenting home to bed,” to meet with odd adventures; and no less so, to seek them…

The Duke of York, Colonel St. Leger, Tom Stepney, and two others, one morning, about three o’clock, came reeling along Pall-Mall highly-charged with the juice of the grape, and ripe for a row. Meeting with nothing worthy of their attention, they entered St James’s street, and soon arrived at Brookes’s, where they kicked and knocked most loudly for admission, but in vain; for, nine-tenths of the members were then out of town, and of course the family and servants had for hours been wrapped in the mantle of Somnus. Our heroes, however, were resolved on effecting an entrance, and would soon have made one for themselves, if some of the inmates, roused by the dreadful noise, and apprehension of fire, had not run down-stairs and opened the outer door.

001Whilst all possible haste was exerted to effect this on the inside, it was proposed by one of the gentry outside, to rush in pell-mell, and knock down the waiters and every thing else that should impede their progress. No sooner said than done: when they arrived in the inner hall, they commenced the destructions of chairs, tables, and chandeliers, and kicked up such a horrible din as might awake the dead.

Every male and female servant in the establishment now came running towards the hall from all quarters, in a state of demi-nudity, anxious to assist in protecting the house, or to escape from the supposed house-breakers. During this melee there was no light; and the uproar made by the maid-servants, who, in the confusion, rushed into the arms of our heroes, and expected nothing short of immediate violence and murder, was tremendous.

At length, one of the waiters ran for a loaded blunderbuss, which having cocked, and rested on an angle of the bannisters, he would have discharged among the intruders. From doing this, however, he was most providentially deterred by the housekeeper, who with no other covering than her chemise and flannel-petticoat, was fast approaching with a light, which no sooner flashed upon the faces of these midnight disturbers, than she exclaimed,

“For Heaven’s sake, Tom, don’t fire! It is only the Duke of York!”… ‘

Excerpt from Charles Marsh’s The Clubs of London; with anecdotes of their members, sketches of character and conversation, Volume One, 1828, p.87.

Image of Prince Frederick,  Duke of York at George IV’s coronation, 1821, from George the Fourth in the abbey of St. Peter, West-minster: including the names of the archbishops, bishops, peers, knights, and principal officers who assisted in that ceremony, John Whittaker and Sir George Nayler, 1823.

Isabelle Chevallot
Assistant Librarian

Guildhall Library’s catalogue – containing this and other gems – is available online: http://prism.talis.com/cityoflondon

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