Polly

Writings and Witterings

The Tale of the 6th Earl’s Wife

31 Comments

After Francis Cotes (1726-1770) Portrait of Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry (1733-1760), Wife of the 6th Earl, after 1751

After Francis Cotes (1726-1770)
Portrait of Maria Gunning, Countess of Coventry (1733-1760), Wife of the 6th Earl (after 1751)

The Tale of the 6th Earl’s Wife

Fragile rose silk, dainty,
pirouetting the ballroom floor,
her dance card was full and busy
the instant she walked through the door.

One, named George, paid attention,
thought her beauty beyond compare.
She blushed, her eyes on her pink-ribboned shoes.
He swore that all dances they’d share.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces glowed,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams overflowed.

Croome, the seat of the Coventry’s
basked in the afternoon sun,
as Maria arrived in a carriage,
before the ball had begun.

Her dancing slippers were wrapped
in tissue, held in a frame,
she removed them from her valise.
Maria Gunning was her name.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces gleamed,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams were dreamed.

Her heart skipped and leapt
as she thought of her Earl;
of scarlet and black velvet bows.
He was darkly handsome, she a vain young girl.

When he came her way, she made her play
to become his Countess before long.
Pearls in hair, rose pink shoes on feet,
her celebrity fêted in song.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces flushed,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams were crushed.

At the height of the Georgian era
a lucent, whirlwind romance,
they were together for only 8 years,
that ball was a grand place to dance.

His black buckled shoes on the marbled floor
with the pink, the two made one whole.
‘Tis said it was all in the detail,
and they were soul to sole.

Why together no longer?
The tale is tragic to tell,
a lead-based white face powder
sounded Maria’s death knell.

The chandeliers shone and glittered,
brave smiling faces burned,
young men in scarlet jackets and wigs,
young women’s dreams overturned.

Polly Robinson © 2014

For those who are interested in finding out more about Maria Gunning and her life, here’s a link to the main Croome site: Croome Court, Worcestershire

If you’d like to see more of the Soul to Sole project at Croome, please visit my project blog: pollycroome

Posted on dVerse Poets ‘Meeting the Bar’

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31 thoughts on “The Tale of the 6th Earl’s Wife

  1. wow…epic…and very nicely done…nice subtle repetition…giving it just enough dance to play up the story….smiles…have fun on your trip….

  2. Enjoyed this story of Maria ~ Have fun at the festival ~

  3. How meticulous of you to share this historical gem with us, rife with buckles, ribbons, & lace. before you travel, and enjoy the literary festival; wow, ten days; some of that must be the travel; a very unique take on the prompt; really appreciated your eye for history & the hubris of repetition.

  4. i always find those stories so interesting and sometimes when i’m in historical places i wonder about the people who lived there.. have fun at the festival!

    • One of the best parts of my micro-residency at Croome Court, Claudia. I’ve added a link to their website for anyone who would like to know a bit more about the place, and, of course, Maria Gunning.

  5. Polly, not only is this an epic romance but the bit of history here, and I’d forgotten this, about the lead in face powder… made it all the more rich and tragic. In other words, BRILL. Amy

  6. The use of a chorus in a poetic ballad is a wonderful, simple, natural use of repetition. Fine story-telling too, Polly. Enjoy the festival … and say ‘Hi’ to Myfanwy for me … smiles

  7. Lovely historical take on the prompt. Must admit I don’t know the story but it seems a dreadful way to go. Nice Polly! :)

  8. Polly, what a delicious romp into another time. Of course there is the reality of the price her vanity carried. You remind us of how some things never change. Léa

  9. love the old world charm but what a tragic end…..

  10. Love the way you brought this tragic story to life here, Polly.

  11. A full answer to the prompt, compelling story, and crafted so well! Wonderful to see your words in action.

  12. You sparked my curiosity – thank you! Looking forward to your return! :)

  13. Lead in a face powder.. what a way to die for vanity..

  14. Ah the price of vanity, poor lass.

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