Last week we talked about Burghley House and its fantastic Heaven Room which was used as the location for Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s drawing-room at Rosings in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Today we are going to consider another room at Burghley, whose rose garden is shown above and whose magnificent oriel window in the great hall is shown below….
The room that merits our attention this week is the Bow Room which served as Lady Catherine’s dining room at Rosings in the 2005 film.
This is another of Burghley’s many painted rooms. It was created in 1697 by Louis Laguerre, the French artist, who was also Louis XIV’s godson. He appears to have been an altogether more personable character than Verrio about whom we wrote last week, and, unlike Verrio, no tales of scandal and debaucheries are told about Laguerre at Burghley today.
The room is, as you can see, quite dark. It faces north and while these painted rooms worked well in sunnier climes, as seen, no doubt, by teh 5th Earl of Exeter on his Grand Tour of Europe, the decoration does cast rather a gloom in the cold Lincolnshire light. The room was originally designed by the 5th Earl as a State Dining Room, but its chilly aspect meant that it gradually fell out of use: the kitchens were a long way away and the food was invariably cold when it reached the hungry diners waiting in this room! Eventually it evolved into a second billiard room and then into a music room until 1990 when the painted surfaces of the room were extensively restored. The room is now fitted up for display and the dining table is set up as it would have been for a formal dinner during the Victorian era. The West wall, below….
And the East wall, compete with fireplace, again below, show scenes from the lives of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.
The south wall, which can be seen behind Lady Catherine when she sits at the head of the dining table depicts The Conduct of Scipio Towards His fair Captive
The room now contains articles that had to be removed or put out of shot during the filming of Pride and Prejudice: this bust, below, of the Duke of Wellington would have been highly anachronistic for a film set in 1796, when he was merely a colonel serving in the Netherlands and India.
And this magnificent 19th century silver racing trophy , together with, on the window sill, a silver model of the 3rd Marquess of Exeter as Colonel of the Northamptonshire Regiment, made in 1888, were not seen in the film.
We did see a plethora of footmen( just what exactly is the correct collective noun for a group of footmen?) which is reflective of this section from Chapter 29 of Pride and Prejudice that describes the initial dinner at Rosings attended by Elizabeth Charlotte and Mr Collins-but note, not Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam:
The dinner was exceedingly handsome, and there were all the servants and all the articles of plate which Mr. Collins had promised; and, as he had likewise foretold, he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by her ladyship’s desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater.
As to the dinner being exceedingly handsome, it was certainly very lavish in this production. And in what was most probably a deliberate move, the dinner is shown to be slightly old-fashioned. Do note the peacock pie to the right of Lady Catherine at the far end of the table, below:
Peacock pies were very popular throughout the 17th century till the mid 18th century, as part of courtly shows of expense and luxury. The one below made by Ivan Day of Historic Foods is typical of the 17th century : the head and tail feathers were always used to decorate such a pie, not only because they were spectacular, but because their presence also indicated what meat was to be found inside the pie.
The latest recipe I can find for a peacock pie is in John Thacker’s book,The Art of Cookery written in 1758
Here is the recipe which you can enlarge by clicking on it.
Thacker was the cook to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral and their hospitality was courtly, lavish and legendary. But ever so slightly old-fashioned by 1796 the date the film was set ( and also the date when Jane Austen wrote First Impressions which was to eventually become Pride and Prejudice in 1813).
Lady Catherine, who was played by Dame Judi Dench, is always shown in a sack dress( this purple confection was on show at Burghley House in the Bow Room tin 2005-6,and it was magnificent) which would also have be seen as old fashioned in 1796 . I can only conclude that the filmmakers wanted to depict Lady Catherine as grand and slightly set in her ways, which character traits were reflected in her choice of food and of dress. Qutie a clever conceit, bearing in mind how stubborn the old bat could be…..
Once again I should like to thank the Burghley House Preservation Trust , the House Manager and the Room Stewards for all their kindness and assistance shown to me when I visited Burghley to prepare this post.