Vintage Portrait of Legendary Opera Singer Nellie Melba (1859-1931)

Dame Nellie Melba GBE (1861 – 1931) born Helen “Nellie” Porter Mitchell became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian Era and the early 20th century. She was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician.

She was an operatic soprano. She sang at Richmond (Australia) Public Hall at the age of six and was also a skilled pianist and organist, but she did not study singing until after her marriage to Charles Nesbitt Armstrong in 1882, with whom she had a son named George. In the 1890s she had an affair with Philippe, Duke of Orleans, that led to scandal and eventually divorce.

After the brief and unsuccessful marriage, she moved to Europe in search of a singing career. Failing to find engagements in London in 1886, she studied in Paris and soon made a great success there and in Brussels. Returning to London she quickly established herself as the leading lyric soprano at Covent Garden from 1888. She soon achieved further success in Paris and elsewhere in Europe, and later at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, debuting there in 1893. Her repertoire was small; in her whole career she sang no more than 25 roles and was closely identified with only ten.

Melba continued to sing until the last months of her life and made a legendary number of “farewell” appearances. Her death, in Australia, was news across the English-speaking world, and her funeral was a major national event.

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Drawing of the young Nellie Melba by Frank Haviland, published 1908 via

 

Lady Carnarvon by Paul César Helleu (c.1901)

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Paul César Helleu, Lady Carnarvon, ca. 1901.

Almina Victoria Marie Alexandra Wombell was the illegitimate child of Alfred de Rothschild, but grew up loved and pampered. She maintained a loving relationship with her father, who was exceptionally wealthy. The Carnarvon family needed an influx of money to maintain their estate at Highclere Castle. Almina, wealthy and accomplished, fell in love with George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the future 5th Earl of Carnarvon. Later, he became famous for excavating Tutankhamon’s tomb. The two lived a glamorous life set against the increasing tensions of a pre-World War I. When it quickly became obvious England was entering the war, Almina used her influence and wealth to turn Highclere Castle into a hospital for wounded soldiers. Her approach of individual care, home cooked meals, and holistic ideas were revolutionary at that time, and she found a natural talent for nursing. For four years she worked at both Highclere and later in London, establishing another hospital and gathering the best equipment and talent to help heal the wounded soldiers via

Three portraits of Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn (1820s-1830s)

Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (17 August 1786 – 16 March 1861), later Duchess of Kent and Strathearn, was a German princess and the mother of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

In 1818 she married Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820 ). The couple were married on 29 May at Amorbach and on 11 July at Kew, a joint ceremony at which Edward’s brother, the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.

Shortly after the marriages, the Kents moved to Germany, where the cost of living would be cheaper.

Soon after, Victoria became pregnant, and the Duke and Duchess, determined to have their child born in England, raced back, arriving at Dover on 23 April 1819, and moved into Kensington Palace, where she soon gave birth to a daughter, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent.

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Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn by Richard James Lane, published by Thomas Boys, after Alfred Edward Chalon lithograph, published 1838 © National Portrait Gallery, London via

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Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn by Thomas Woolnoth, after George Dawe stipple engraving, published 1820 © National Portrait Gallery, London via

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Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn by James Bromley, published by Paul and Dominic Colnaghi & Co, after Sir George Hayter mezzotint, published 1835 © National Portrait Gallery, London via

Three Portraits of Queen Adelaide (Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen) (1830s)

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (1792 – 1849) was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and of Hanover as spouse of William IV of the United Kingdom. William IV was King of the United Kingdom and King of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death. The third son of George III, William succeeded his elder brother George IV, as the last king and penultimate monarch of Britain’s House of Hanover.

Adelaide was beloved by the British people for her piety, modesty, charity, and her tragic childbirth history. A large portion of her household income was given to charitable causes. She also treated the young Princess Victoria of Kent (William’s heir presumptive and later Queen Victoria) with kindness, despite her own inability to produce an heir and the open hostility between William and Victoria’s mother, the Dowager Duchess of Kent.

She died during the reign of her niece on 2 December 1849 of natural causes at Bentley Priory in Middlesex and was buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, is named after her

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Queen Adelaide (Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen) by John Cochran, after Fanny Corbaux stipple engraving, 1820s-1830s. © National Portrait Gallery, London via

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Queen Adelaide (Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen) by Thomas Goff Lupton, after Sir William Beechey, mezzotint, published 1834 © National Portrait Gallery, London via

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Queen Adelaide (Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen) by Samuel William Reynolds, published by Martin Colnaghi, after Sir William Beechey, mezzotint, published September 1831 © National Portrait Gallery, London via