Richard, Duke of Kent

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personal of Richard, Duke of Kent

Richard, Duke of Kent (1787-1858) was the fourth eldest surviving child and third eldest surviving son of King Henry VII of England and Scotland. His patronage of the arts gave the name "Ricardian" to a style of architecture as well a sense of the time, of which he was considered by some the epitome. However, personal scandal forced his retirement from court.

The style of "Ricardian" referred to an increase in elegance coupled with comfort, a reaction to both the Neo-Classicism of his father's generation as well as the excesses of the French Revolution. For a time, the corset vanished from women's fashions (temporarily) and the powdered wig from men's. The works of Gwilim Trammelpila began to receive the reputation they enjoy today while the artistic school of Romanticism began. Likewise major authors such as Jane Austen emerged.

Richard Stuart was married in 1807 to a German named Magdelena of Baden (1770-1821), daughter of Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden. The marriage was arranged and was not to the young Duke's liking as his bride was seventeen years his elder. It is thought such was a deliberate effort to avoid dissent over the succession of his sister. Their relationship was complex, in that the two actually had much in common but each resented the union (Magdelena had loved someone else). Yet they had a mutual interest in the arts and in truth the age's style had just as much to do with her as with the famous Duke.

arms of Richard of Kent's only surviving child, the Earl of Doncaster
The Duke of Kent eventually began a long-term affair with an actress of the day known as "Mrs. Kent" (in truth, Abibail Jessup). This was widely considered a sly wink and an open insult to the Duchess--however, it was in fact a coincidence because her use of the name predated meeting her royal paramour. Eventually the two openly cohabited, which led to increased scandal especially following his wife's death (she had become an increasingly popular figure). For the last thirty-five years of his life, Richard of Kent lived abroad--much of that spent in the North American League. Relations between himself and his niece were troubled, a blend of affection and disapproval on her part.

One child of Kent and Jessup survived to adulthood, Richard Henry MacClarence (1809-1882) who was created Earl of Doncaster. The last name came from Clarence House, where the Prince and his mistress lived. A detail many of his father's critics ignored or did not know was that the Duchess of Kent was his godmother (the Duchess and Mrs. Kent were cordial to one another).

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