25 X 1773
23 VII 2013


   What are dreams
   without means?

Johnson speaks of the Duke’s “total defiance of expence”, whereas the Duke admits the diminishment that excess can bring, reflecting on his experience at the Spanish court.

   it takes a Duke to observe
   we are diminished by wealth

The metal bridge entrance to the castle, filled with tubs and hanging baskets of flowers, looks like an upmarket railway station. We see the Duke about the place, in a ‘Royal Salute; polo-shirt; elsewhere he appears in photographs as a teenage page-boy to the queen; dining with 9 other dukes on the occasion of a Tatler anniversary (all that old money in one room!); and kilted before a waterfall, sword and sceptre in hand, a piece of theatre to mark an appointment to the Royal Household in Scotland. A wall is decorated with weapons, perhaps those Johnson was happy to see rust, and a cabinet houses relics of the Marquis of Argyle, executed on the Maiden in 1685. A Raeburn neighbours a Gainsborough, but otherwise the labels give precedence to subject over artist, and number and title over given name; 9th Earl, 5th Duke. Upstairs William Morris wallpaper forms a backdrop to a display of kitsch 1980s ornaments; downstairs Downton Abbey photos and banners highlight that the Scottish scenes are shot here.

We read in the saloon to three friends, a miscellany of tourists passing through, plus the 18th century dukes and their relatives on the walls (who are a most loyal and attentive audience). Elizabeth Gunning, the wife of the Duke who invited Boswell and Johnson, is present only in miniature, though as Minerva, no less. Johnson teased her – not to her face –calling her, for her three titles, a “Duchess with three tails”. She disliked, and ignored, Boswell, but he writes: “when I recollected that my punishment was inflicted by so dignified a beauty, I had that kind of consolation which a man would feel who is strangled by a SILKEN CORD”.

The former Ms Middleton, Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus, equals her – a 3-3 draw – though being a princess probably gets you awarded a dodgy penalty in stoppage time, so it’s 4-3 to Kate. Yesterday a new prince was born to the Royalist faction – another George, in fact, just as in 1773 – and to some, the news of another Royal, extending the line and dominating the news of the day, has the effect of strangulation.



Was the folly on Dùn na Cuaiche the only daring thing we saw, for its very madness, its crazed nature? It rested on the most articulate setting, the natural bowl of the Quaich, and maintained the intelligence of geology and drama of skyline. Its rule, in terms of aesthetics, is total, as the castle is so crude in its riches.


Fellowes, Jessica, The World of Downton Abbey (2011)
Henley, Victoria, Undone (2003)
Killen, Mary, and Tempest, Annie, Best Behaviour: "Tatler" Book of Alternative Etiquette (1990)
Tatler, June 2013, Royal Baby Collector's Edition