An Eastnor Castle Story
Charles Somers loved to paint and his life’s ambition was to become an artist. Unfortunately for him, he was the eldest son of the 2nd Earl Somers and there were other plans for him. If you cannot become an artist, you can at least befriend one, he probably thought, and during his lifetime he formed connections with many painters. One of these friendships ended up in great love story, or in modern terms, a 19th century Tinder romance.
Charles Somers was friends with a Victorian portrait painter called Georg Watts. One day upon visiting Watts at his studio, he came across the painter in the final stages of working on a portrait of a young girl. Charles fell in love with the image immediately and asked the painter for the subject’s name: it was Virginia Pattle, the youngest of the famous “Pattle Sisters”. And if you did not know who the Pattle Sisters were, you could not call yourself a true Victorian…
Adeline, James, Julia Margaret, Sarah, Maria, Louisa, Sophie and Virginia were born in Calcutta, India. They had colourful parents: their father James Pattle was a rich English merchant who was later described as “the greatest liar in India”. Their mother, Adeline, was the daughter of a French nobleman who ended up in exile in India after her father was a little too flirtatious with Marie Antoinette. The sisters were considered great beauties and became very famous amongst the British society in India, and when they grew up and moved back to London, they became a hit in England as well.
Charles Somers and Virginia Pattle were introduced and there was an instant spark. The couple married in 1850 and moved to live in Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire where you can still see the portrait of Virginia hanging in the library today.
As for the rest of the siblings, Virginia’s sister, Sophia, also married into the aristocracy, whilst another sister became a famous photographer. The social circle of the seven sisters was so wide that it created important links between politicians, aristocrats and artists. With so many prominent and creative individuals in their circle, no wonder the granddaughter of Virginia’s sister, Sophia, became one of the most famous English female authors of all times: Virginia Wolf.
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