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Royal Oak Speakers & Topics for SPRING 2018

Royal Oak's speakers are engaging, knowledgable experts with a passion for a variety of topices related to The Royal Oak Foundation's mission.

Browse Speakers & Topics

Read more about our Speakers & Topics below, and follow the links to make reservations.

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Dr. Zara Anishanslin

Historian and Professor

Zara Anishanslin is a historian and professor specializing in Early American and Atlantic World History, with a focus on 18th-century material culture.

She received her PhD in the History of American Civilization at the University of Delaware in 2009, where her dissertation won the prize for Best Dissertation in the Humanities. In 2011, it also won the University of Pennsylvania's Zuckerman Prize, a national award for the Best Dissertation in American Studies.

From 2009 to 2010, Zara was the Patrick Henry Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins University. From 2013 to 2014, she was a Mellon Fellow in the Center for the Humanities at CUNY's Graduate Center, and spent 2014 to 2015 as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the New-York Historical Society.

Zara has taught at CUNY and Columbia University, and since 2016, she has been Assistant Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware. She was a Royal Oak Foundation Scholar at The Attingham Trust's 2017 Attingham Summer School.

Her recent book, Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World, published in 2016 by Yale University Press was a finalist for 2017 Best First Book Prize, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians.

Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World

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While looking through silks in the Textile Study Room of London's Victoria & Albert Museum, historian Zara Anishanslin was struck by similarities between mid-18th century English silks and a dress featured in a portrait by Robert Feke hanging at the Winterthur Museum.

From her discovery, Zara began to research and explore the cultural history of the 18th century British Atlantic world, where dresses like the one pictured often declared the social, economic and political capital of the wearer.

Her resulting story revolves around the mid-18th-century silk dress from the portrait and involves the famed English designer of its pattern, Anna Maria Garthwaite; the Spitalfields weaver of the fabric, Simon Julins; the wealthy American owner of the dress, Anne Shippen Willing; and the portrait artist, Robert Feke.

Tracing the full biographies of this network of four people, Zara ultimately uncovered a whole world of hidden histories of thousands of people, things, ideas, and events connected to this portrait of a woman from one of most powerful families in the Colonies.

Zara will show how this dress demonstrates the popularity of botanical designs in fashion, and discuss how the production and selling of such goods in the 18th-century British Atlantic marketplace created a consumer community that tied all of its inhabitants together.

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Dr. Wolf Burchard

Furniture Research Curator, The National Trust

Dr. Wolf Burchard is an art and architectural historian with a specialization in 17th- and 18th-century royal patronage at the British, French and German courts.

In 2015 he was appointed as the National Trust's Mellon/Royal Oak Furniture Research Curator. From 2009 to 2014 he served as Curatorial Assistant at the Royal Collection Trust where he co-curated The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy, 1714-1760, commemorating the tercentenary of George I's accession to the British throne.

He studied history of art and architecture at the universities of Tübingen, Vienna and the Courtauld Institute of Art, from which he holds an MA and PhD.

He publishes and regularly lectures in the UK and abroad.

Fakes and the Stakes: What Makes a Piece of Furniture 'Real'

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Wolf Burchard will share entertaining anecdotes and review the challenges of examining furniture, confirming authenticity and making firm attributions.

Through a richly visual presentation, with key examples both from the National Trust and other collections, Burchard will illustrate how to spot a fake and what are the risks or stakes if one cannot tell the difference.

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Dr. Madge Dresser

Historian and Author

Dr. Madge Dresser recently retired as Associate Professor in History at the University of the West of England and remains a Visiting Senior Research Fellow.

In 2017 she was appointed as an Honorary Professor at the University of Bristol in the Department of Historical Studies. She researched and taught about slavery at Colonial Williamsburg and Virginia Commonwealth University, and has made numerous appearances on radio and television worldwide. She has worked closely with the National Trust, Historic England, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies among a range of British institutions.

She has published widely on the history of slavery and its impact on British society including the recently reprinted Slavery Obscured: The Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol (2001, reprinted 2016), Slavery and the British Country House (2013) and in scholarly journals.

She recently wrote a chapter in the forthcoming The Country House: Past, Present and Future (Rizzoli, 2018).

She is a Fellow of The Royal History Society, a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, and a trustee of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society

Hidden Connections: Slavery and the British Country House

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The British country house in all its opulence and refinement seems worlds away from the fetid horrors of a slave ship. However the trade in enslaved Africans and slave-produced goods fueled the wealth that funded the creation of many 17th-19th century British stately homes.

Slavery-related houses were concentrated in the major slaving ports of London, Bristol and Liverpool. About 10% of elite country houses had associations with slavery, but other houses had indirect ties and consumed slave-produced goods.

Some of Britain's aristocratic house owners' money resulted from the trade itself-invested in the South Sea Company, whose purpose was to sell slaves to the Spanish Colonies.

Others married heiresses with ties to plantations such as Baron Thomas Onslow, who built a Palladian mansion at Clandon Park in Surrey (NT) "owing to his judicious marriage to the heiress of a West Indian fortune."

Even materials used in these treasure houses such as, 'Spanish mahogany' staircases and mahogany furniture, actually derived from Caribbean slave plantations. Profits from slave labor at sugar plantations-whose products appeared on the country house dining table-aided family fortunes and funded stately home remodeling such as at Penryhn Castle (NT), whose Pennant family owned five plantations in Jamaica.

These renovations were also linked to the wealth generated in the slave colonies of Virginia and the Carolinas. British family portraits might feature black servants, often as turbaned young pages at the side of their master or mistress as at Belton House in Lincolnshire (NT). The kneeling black figures adorning Dyrham Park's (NT) interior are best understood against the longstanding family connections with slavery.

Historian and Professor Madge Dresser will show these houses and explore some of the stories behind their connections with slavery to reflect on what they mean for our understanding of these beautiful buildings.

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Dr. Sarah Fraser

Author and historian Sarah Fraser has a PhD from the University of Edinburgh.

She is the author of The Last Highlander: Scotland's Most Notorious Clan Chief, Rebel, and Double Agent, which won the 2012 Saltire First Book of the Year Prize, and was a New York Times ebook bestseller.

She is a regular contributor on TV and radio and was recently featured on a BBC Scotland documentary, The Best King We Never Had.

Her latest book, on which her lecture is based, is The Prince who Would be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart (Harper Collins, 2018). She is currently writing a series of podcasts for HistoryHit.TV about the Stuart era.

She lives in the Highlands of Scotland.

The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart

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Born at Stirling Castle, Scotland in 1594, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales was the elder son of James I, King of England and Scotland, and his wife, Anne of Denmark.

The Crown Prince was seen as a bright and promising heir, who would break the royal mould and guarantee the succession of the Stuart bloodline. All of Europe hoped he would become the leader of Protestant Europe in the catastrophic religious war just over the horizon.

Henry was the epitome of a Renaissance prince—ambitious, talented, glamorous and dangerous—until his life was cut short when he died of typhoid in 1612 at age 18.

Author and historian Sarah Fraser will discuss Henry's life which spanned an extraordinary period in British history including the Union of Crowns, the Gunpowder Plot, and the founding of British America. She will describe the British court which drew the most talented artists, musicians, scientists, explorers and writers of the age—such as Ben Johnson and Inigo Jones.

She will also show how the young Prince tried to enhance his image by employing agents to seek out treasures to adorn his court. Henry's collection of art, coins, books, antiquaries, armor and sculpture formed the backbone of the British Library and the Royal Collection.

In her talk Sarah will bring Henry, his Court and his era to life using research based on her new book The Prince Who Would Be King: The Life and Death of Henry Stuart (Harper Collins, 2018).

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Angus Haldane

Art Consultant

Angus Haldane is an art historian, independent curator and consultant.

He studied Classics at Oxford University and graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Fine Arts with an MA. He worked for many years as a senior specialist in paintings at Christie's and Sotheby's in London.

He has appeared as an arts commentator on the BBC and CNN and has published articles in various fine arts periodicals. He recently discovered and identified one of the earliest-known portraits of Sir Francis Drake and arranged for a private loan so it could be shown in the Drake Chamber at the National Trust's Buckland Abbey until Spring 2018.

His first book is Portraits of the English Civil Wars (2017), the first in a series of books on The Face of War.

Secrets, Spies, and Subterfuge: Civil War Portraits Revealed

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Roundhead against Cavalier, Royalist against Parliamentarian, Dandy against Puritan. The English Civil Wars not only divided the country's religious beliefs, it compromised family loyalties and often exposed weaknesses between husbands and wives.

Fine art historian and curator Angus Haldane, author of the recently published book Portraits of the English Civil Wars, will explore these nuances of British politics, religion and fashion and show the profound effect the civil conflict had on English society as depicted in portraits which still hang at National Trust properties.

A series of monumental paintings by Isaac Fuller depicting King Charles II's escape from England includes a representation of Jane Lane, later Lady Fisher, who helped the King escape by dressing him as her servant. A portrait of Jane also hangs at Moseley Old Hall (NT).

Oliver Cromwell commanded on the battlefield and dominated in the Parliamentary chamber but was weakened by superstition of ghostly presences at Dunster Castle (NT), where his portrait now hangs.

Prince Rupert slashed and seduced his way throughout Europe, always accompanied by his poodle Boye depicted with the Prince in his Ashdown House (NT) portrait.

Women played an important part and the gathering of intelligence between London and Oxford was often the work of women who could and did infiltrate the beds of those with influence. A portrait of Jane Whorwood depicts the beautiful, red-haired Royalist spy who concealed gold in barrels of soap; used aqua fortis to corrode the bars of Charles I's prison cell; and shared the king's bed.

Mr. Haldane will illustrate the lives of those who took part on both sides and will discuss the stories, vanities, gossip and political allegiances behind the portraits.

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Charles Hind

Curator and Architectural Historian

Charles Hind is Chief Curator and H.J. Heinz Curator of Drawings at the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In past lives he has worked in the British Library, in Sotheby's British Watercolours Department and as architectural editor for Grove's Dictionary of Art.

He has lectured and published widely on British architectural history, particularly on Palladio and Palladian Design and curated numerous exhibitions, including Palladio and his Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey, which toured the USA and Canada in 2011-12.

Apart from his responsibilities at the RIBA, Charles is also a Trustee of the Lutyens Trust and a Life Trustee of Lutyens's last vernacular work, the house and gardens of Great Dixter, in Sussex.

The Country Houses of Sir Edwin Lutyens

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Edwin Landseer Lutyens is considered one of the greatest British architects of the first half of the 20th century.

Before 1914, a large part of his work was the building or remodeling of private homes and British country houses whilst after the 1st World War, he is primarily known for memorials and public buildings.

But even his greatest work, the Viceroy's House in New Delhi, from which the British ruled India, is really an English country house on a monumental scale—for which the architect designed virtually every piece of furniture and the interior details including the doorknobs and chandeliers.

Lutyens' early work was characterized as adaptations (but not copies) of rural vernacular. His early style grew out of the Arts and Crafts movement and was strongly influenced by his upbringing in rural Surrey, southwest of London. Stylistically Lutyens later moved to a full blown classicism—what he called "a big game, a high game"—which was popular during the later Edwardian period and of which the most dramatic example is Heathcote, a suburban villa in Ilkley, Yorkshire (1905-7) where used variations on Renaissance architecture.

But whichever style he adopted, Lutyens was deeply committed to developing and distilling its essence while making it suitable to the needs of his patrons, who required all the conveniences of modern life. He also integrated his houses with carefully considered and harmonious gardens influenced by his partnership with Gertrude Jekyll, for whom he built Munstead Wood (1893-97) and who introduced him to most of his earliest patrons, many of whom remained lifelong friends and supporters.

Two of Lutyens' houses, Castle Drogo and Lindisfarne Castle (now National Trust properties) can be described as typical. Castle Drogo (1910-30), designed for a department store magnate, is a recreation of a medieval castle enclosing modern interiors, while Lindisfarne (1903) is a remodeling of a coastal Tudor fort created for the owner of Country Life Magazine. But both are far more romantic than their supposed or real historical origins might suggest.

Charles Hind, Chief Curator and H.J. Heinz Curator of Drawings at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), will talk about Lutyens' domestic architecture and show, using illustrations drawn from RIBA's extensive archive and images from the National Trust, how his work continues to inspire architects and patrons today, on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Robert O'Byrne

Writer and Lecturer

Robert O'Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in the fine and decorative arts.

He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House, The Last Knight: A Tribute to Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, Romantic Irish Homes and Romantic English Homes.

A retired Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society and trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation and the Artists Collecting Society.

Among other work he writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine, and is also a regular contributor to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review.

For the past five years Mr. O'Byrne has written an award-winning blog, The Irish Aesthete

Romantic English Country Homes

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Ever since the English aristocracy embarked on a Grand Tour in the 17th century, the passion for developing collections has been a national trait.

By the time novelist Henry James had moved to England and described English interiors, the country's aristocratic palaces had become repositories of treasures gathered from across the globe. Almost every residence in England had amassed objects influenced by the spread of the English Empire.

Around the same time, a number of organizations were founded to ensure that the finest examples of English domestic design and decoration would survive for future generations' appreciation—most notably the National Trust in 1895. Robert O'Byrne will present 14 English houses—large and small, old and new—which all convey the intentional mingling of styles and tastes that now encompasses the "English look."

From classical antiquities next to gothic revival pieces, or tartan plaid competing with floral chintz, these private houses demonstrate the layering of collections and styles ubiquitous in English homes.

From London to Dorset, Staffordshire to East Anglia, and Northumberland to Suffolk, the timelessness of these properties and their many-layered appearances makes them alluring both in fiction—novels, movies, and television serials such as Downton Abbey—as well as in reality.

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Simon Petty-Fitzmaurice, Earl of Kerry

Simon Kerry (MBA, PhD) is a historian and project editor for various authors.

He read Archaeology at Jesus College, Cambridge, and was awarded a doctorate in History at the University of East Anglia.

He is a direct descendant of the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne and the current heir to the title. He is married and lives in London.

His latest book, Lansdowne: The Last Great Whig, a biography on his ancestor on which his lecture is based, is due for publication in North America in April 2018.

Lansdowne: The Last Great Whig

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Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845–1927), was one of the last hereditary aristocrats to wield power by virtue of his birth—and he used it to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with in British politics for half a century.

Simon Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, Earl of Kerry, will discuss his ancestor and trace the long arc of Lansdowne's career, which included service as Governor-General of Canada, Viceroy of India, Secretary of State for War, Foreign Secretary, and Leader of the House of Lords.

He will present the man and politician in the context of his era, offering insight into his own life and achievements and also fascinating details about his interactions with the leading personalities and contemporary events of his day. He will show how Lord Lansdowne was a moderate progressive, honest and courteous to the last, trusted by everyone, and struggling—as did so many of his class and generation—with the decline of British power that followed the end of World War I.

His story, based on private family archives, is that of a statesman who played a major role at a pivotal moment in the history of the United Kingdom.

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Peter Trippi

Independent curator

Peter Trippi recently co-curated the touring exhibition Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity, which concluded its European tour with a showing at London's Leighton House Museum.

He is currently editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur magazine and was the former director of Dahesh Museum of Art, New York.

Ancient Rome in Victorian London: Time-Traveling with the Painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema

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The High Victorians were fascinated with ancient Rome because they saw the British Empire as a bigger, more benevolent version of Rome's.

No one reanimated Rome more convincingly for them than the London-based painter Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, R.A. (1836–1912). Acclaimed for the painstaking realism of the expensive pictures he exhibited at the Royal Academy, Alma-Tadema immersed his viewers in a vanished world through compelling compositions full of carefully researched costumes and artifacts.

Ultimately he extended his vision to grand theatre productions, working closely with stars such as Dame Ellen Terry, whose mementos of their partnership can be seen at Smallhythe, now a National Trust property.

Alma-Tadema's wife and two daughters were equally friendly with Terry: all of them proudly wore the loose-fitting "artistic" clothing that Alma-Tadema painted and designed. Not surprisingly, filmmakers were captivated, too: they transferred his scenes to the screen while he was still alive and have continued to do, most recently in the sumptuous "sword-and-sandal" movies of Sir Ridley Scott.

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