Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Interview with Prinny's Taylor

by Charles Bazalgette

We are fortunate today to have secured an interview with Louis Bazalgette. However, since he died 185 years ago we have had to imagine a bit, but it is based on fact.

I ‘d like to introduce Mr. Louis Bazalgette, tailor to the Prince of Wales, later George IV.

When and how did you become the Prince’s tailor?


To commence at the beginning, I came to London from France in 1775 and established a small shop. I had been importing cloth and shapes – patterned or embroidered foreparts for waistcoats - for a few years. I sold these materials and also used them to make suits, waistcoats and ladies’ riding habits. My business was flourishing, and one day in 1779 a fellow came to see me. I knew him by sight. He was one of the Prince’s servants. He showed me a piece of silk, prettily patterned with little islands, and asked if I had more of it, because the Prince was most desirous to have a waistcoat made from it. I said I did not, but that it was very likely that I could find some in Paris.

A few days later he returned with a letter from His Highness, requesting that I travel to Paris to secure such a piece and then to make the waistcoat for him. Seeing this as an opportunity for advancement I agreed to go. As our countries were at war at the time I had to charter a fishing smack to make the journey in a clandestine manner.

You mean that this would be a case of smuggling?

Let us say that there were many captains of such vessels who never caught a fish and that very few of the goods imported in those times had duty paid upon them. So it was nothing unusual. We got to France without mishap and of course there was no problem for me in returning to my native land. I found the requisite piece of stuff and we were fortunate in being able to return to England without detection. As a precaution I wound the piece around my body under my waistcoat to conceal it.

And did you make the waistcoat?

Naturellement! The Prince was so pleased with it that he began to order many more items, so I quite soon had to move to a larger shop in South Molton Street.

So from then on you were his favourite tailor. Did he confide in you?

Occasionally, and he sometimes asked my advice, once he was sure that he could depend on my absolute discretion. I have never betrayed that trust and I never will do so.

Do you find it difficult to keep to your schedule? I've heard the Prince did not always keep his appointments, or are you an exception to that since he is a bit... focused... on his appearance?

Absolutely not. I am amused to see how many commentators have repeatedly mentioned that the Prince would rather spend time with his tailor than anyone else. When we visited him at Carlton House, which we did on several mornings a week, he would always see us first, and visitors who were no doubt often on more pressing business would have to wait until he had finished with us.

Was he otherwise difficult to work for?

We had a very good understanding. Otherwise I would not have been his tailor for all those years.

What events in particular did you create his clothing for?

In the earlier years we made, and had made, almost all of his clothes including drawers. The amount he spent with us slowly decreased over the years, as he began to use more English tailors who made the newer styles. We made court dress, masquerade
outfits and military uniforms for all special occasions. By 1793 the Prince and his brothers tended more to wear military dress to royal occasions instead of the very rich suits that they had previously favoured.

Most people are aware of the Prince’s girth. As he is otherwise occupied and will not be reading this article, can you discuss that subject with us?

He was very active in his younger days, and frequently engaged in equestrian activities such a riding, hunting, racing and carriage-driving. He also liked shooting, archery, cricket and tennis. Against this must be set his excessive eating and drinking, so it is not surprising that although there were periods when he got into better shape he still gained weight steadily. By 1792, at the age of twenty-nine, the Prince was already quite portly. We had to use 11⁄4 yards of cloth to make a plain waistcoat for him in 1786, 11⁄2 yards by 1792 and 13⁄4 yards by 1794. We constantly needed to make alterations and the number of these increased over the years. We also had to make him a new style of waistcoats which were shorter and with straps which fastened at the back, and breeches with broader waistbands.

Have you seen much of the Prince's residences or travelled with him elsewhere?

Mostly we used couriers to convey his requests and finished garments to him but sometimes I or one of my master tailors would be required to attend him when he was away from London. I several times went to him at Windsor or Brighton or Newmarket.

Have you met other members of the Royal Family? Tell us about it.

I occasionally attended a levee and I met most members of the Royal Family. I made suits for the Prince’s brothers as well as for his friends such as Mr. Sheridan and Captain Payne. I also made special suits for the Prime Minister, Mr. Pitt.

Many thanks for answering my questions, Sir!

Your obedient servant, Madame.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The book Prinny's Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830) [Kindle Edition], plus some biographical details on the author, his great-great-great-great grandson Charles Bazalgette can be found at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UPI8BWG

4 comments:

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  2. Many thanks to Debbie for posting this here!

    The above picture is not the final cover, but was an experimental one I was playing with some time back.

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  3. This is always the most amazing blog, created by an obvious dedicated, smart, endlessly interesting person. This is a great example of your work. I appreciate that the site itself is easy to read. Another wonderful post.

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    1. Stepheny, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoy the blog. It is not the work of one person, however, but numerous historical fiction authors and historians. The name of the writer is usually at the beginning of the post, and I thank you in behalf of us all!

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