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The Doric Arch

Stowe: The Elysian Fields



The Doric Arch from the west.  The Palladian Bridge can be seen through the Arch in the disance Named for the Doric order that forms its architectural style, this small monument was erected in 1767 in honor of Princess Amelia (1711-86), second daughter of George II and sister of George III, who was a frequent visitor to Stowe and a close friend of Lady Temple. A small attic storey is embellished on the east side by a medallion and a quotation from Horace: O colenda semper & culta!, ("O, thou worthy of every honor, and ever honored"), and on the west by the dedication Amaeliae Sophiae Aug. Horace Walpole reported in a letter to George Montague that the Princess was so delighted with her Arch that she visited it four or five times a day when both she and Walpole were at Stowe during July 1770. Such behavior might seem egocentric, but it is important to remember that all of the garden buildings take on a different aspect in different light and weather. The Doric Arch, for example, receives the morning light on one side and the afternoon and evening light on the other.

Walpole himself was impressed with the Arch, describing the view pictured above in the same letter as follows: "You come to [the Arch] on a sudden, and are startled with delight on looking through it: you at once see through a glade the river winding at the bottom; from which a thicket rises, arched over with trees, but opened, and discovering a hillock full of haycocks, beyond which in front is the Palladian bridge, and again over that, a larger hill crowned with the castle. It is a tall landscape, framed by the arch and the overbowering trees, and comprehending more beauties of light, shade, and buildings, than any picture of Albano I ever saw." Walking through the Arch from this direction allows the visitor to enter the Elysian Fields from the southwest.

When the Arch was built, it also served to frame a group of statues just inside the Elysian Fields, Apollo and the Nine Muses. Looking back through the Arch to the west, one would see the statues of Princess Amelia's parents, King George II and Queen Caroline just across the parterre. Although the Queen's monument was subsequently moved to the western side of the Home Park, the King's Pillar has been restored to its original place and form.

The following verses, which allude to Apollo and the Muses, were presented to Princess Amelia on her first visit to the Arch in 1768:

See the bright God adorn'd with all his rays,
From heav'n descends to sing AMELIA'S praise:
Their golden lyres he bids the sisters bring,
Join the glad song, and strike the sounding string:
The deep ton'd chord obeys his skilful hand,
And all is harmony where you command.

During Princess Amelia's first visit to Stowe, Lady Temple wrote and presented her with the following verses. In them are references not only to Apollo and the Muses but also to the statues of Amelia's parents, to the Temple of Ancient Virtue, the Temple of British Worthies, and the Temple of Concord and Victory with its medallions commemorating the victories gained in the Seven Years' War (1756-63). The statue of Amelia's father speaks to that of her mother in the first stanza, and Apollo and the Muses provide music for the imagined scene throughout the poem.

On her Royal Highness the Princess
Amelia's first Arrival at Stowe

Apollo and his tuneful maids,
Who range their lov'd Aonian glades,
Forsook the Heliconian spring,
To hail the Daughter of a King.
Fond Eccho shew'd them where to try
The sweetest powers of melody;
Close by the image of her sire,
Apollo touch'd the sounding lyre:
I saw the awful Statue smile,
The guardian of this happy isle,
When regal state with freedom strove,
Which most should gain the other's love!
Mild he survey'd the pleasing scene,
And thus address'd his much-lov'd Queen,
Whose sculptur'd form majestic stood,
The glory of the neighb'ring wood;
'Soft partner of my happiest days,
'Grac'd with a grateful people's praise,
'The joyful hour approaches near,
'Which brings our fav'rite daughter here;
'She will revere the hallow'd ground,
'Where Ancient Virtue's Dome is found,
'And view the shrine with heart-felt pride,
'Where English Worthies still preside;
'Where every virtue stands confest,
'Just emblem of her generous breast;
'Nor will her recollection fail,
'In Victory's consecrated vale,
'To glory in the Brunswick name;
'For there the Trophies of my fame
'Remain unsullied yet.' -- The rest
A sigh and rising tear supprest.

Apollo sooth'd the mournful King;
He tun'd to joy the golden string,
Then sung of royal EMILY;
When light'ning darts from either eye,
And spirit in her meaning face
Adds dignity and sense to grace;
Or, when compassion melts her mind,
In tenderness to human kind,
And her rich bounty copious flows,
In streams as various as their woes;
Or, when amidst the circling great,
She graceful moves in royal state,
Dispensing round with judgment true,
Honour to all where honour's due;
Or, when she condescends to stand,
The first in friendship's spotless band,
Preferring to the courtier's art,
Truth and simplicity of heart?
In air th' enchanting music floats;
The zephyrs catch the varied notes,
And bear to heaven th' enraptured lays,
Fraught with AMELIA's flowing praise.

The mother heard th' applauding choir,
Her breast extatic transports fire,
As on the day her martial son
Culloden's glorious triumph won:
When lo! upon the flow'ry green
Her darling EMILY is seen;
What hand can paint the glowing cheek,
The beating heart, the looks that speak,
What but Apollo's lyre express
The full maternal tenderness?
Thus, flush'd with pride and ardent love,
Latona view'd her twins from Jove,
Conscious, she on the Delian earth
To two Divinities gave birth.

An account (written most likely by Lady Temple's waiting maid) of Princess Amelia's visit to Stowe in 1764 appears below. This may be the same visit for which Lady Temple wrote the verses above. Although other letter writers evidently found "the weather bad--the wine bad--and the ceremony intolerable," according to the editor of The Grenville Papers, this writer was more than impressed by both the festivities and the demeanor of the Princess. The following gives insight into the extent to which the Temple family went to accommodate their royal visitor.

July 22. Arrived, Earl of Ashburnham, Mr. Pelham, Sir Jeffry Amherst, and Mr. Offley.

July 23. Arrived, at one o'clock, Her Royal Highness, accompanied by Lady Mary (Harriet) Campbell, Lady Barrymore, Mrs. Middleton, Earl of Besborough, Earl of Coventry, and others whose names I could not learn. At three went to dinner, the first course consisting of twenty-one dishes, elegantly served and well arranged, a second course of twenty-seven dishes, the capital dishes in the first course twice removed, and a well filled side table of wholesome cheer all served on plate; Her Royal Highness ate off gold. Nothing can exceed the grandeur and order by which everything was conducted. Twelve gentlemen, well dressed, waited at table, and twenty-four in livery waited in the next room, and in the grand hall near the dining-room was a grand concert of music; the same evening, and every evening during Her Royal Highness's stay, the state apartments were illuminated with 120 wax lights. At half-past ten Her Royal Highness retired to her bedchamber, and the nobles to supper, consisting of twenty-one dishes and a fine dessert.

July 24. Her Highness, attended by the nobles, went round the gardens to view the curious works of nature and art, which were in great variety; the buildings, plants, and walks, together with the fine pieces of water, Her Royal Highness beheld with great astonishment and admiration, answering far beyond any former reports, descriptions, or conceptions. After dinner Her Royal Highness went round the park, and returned highly pleased with everything she saw.

July 25. Her Highness walked in the gardens in order to take a second view, but was prevented in a great measure by a heavy shower of rain, which obliged Her Highness to take shelter in Venus's habitation.

July 26. Very rainy, which obliged Her Royal Highness and the company to keep all day within doors, but Her Highness came down stairs to inspect the offices, which seemed to give Her Highness great pleasure, and expressed her approbation of everything she saw, especially a basket of fine fresh mushrooms and some fish, and other provisions which Her Royal Highness saw in the kitchen.

July 27. All day a number of people were preparing the grotto and garden for Her Highness and company to sup there, the badness of the weather not permitting any entertainment there before. At ten the gardens were illuminated with above a thousand lights, and the water before the grotto was covered with floating lights. At the farther end of the canal on the ship, which was curiously figured with lights, was a place for the music, which performed all supper time. Upwards of a thousand people came from all parts to see the company at supper, which greatly added to the grandeur and magnificence of the place. This mixed assembly, which deserves a better appellation than a mob, behaved with the utmost discretion and civility. Her Highness walked down to the grotto at half-past ten, and was pleased and delighted with the grand prospect which was presented to her view; nothing was see but lights and people, nothing was heard but music and fireworks, and nothing was felt but joy and happiness. It's far beyond my power to give a proper account of all I saw in this delightful spot. In less than two hours no less than twenty gallons of oil was burnt, besides a vast number of other lights. Her Highness walked round through the people and lights with great satisfaction, and then sat down in company to an elegant cold supper. Came home before twelve.

July 28. Her Royal Highness, and all the company, went away before eleven o'clock, highly delighted with it. I never saw any entertainment conducted with more care, order, and decorum in all my days, every one endeavouring to outdo another in their places appointed them by their noble master and mistress, whose approbation and acknowledgement they in general received after the company departed.


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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, jtatter@bsc.edu