Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Charles Jervas. UK Government Art Collection.
The Duchess of Marlborough, late favourite of her Majesty Queen Anne, was a woman well-known about the Court for her hot temper. Indeed, none could reason with her when, one day, she heard how a certain Lady of the Bedchamber had been granted a trifling gift of a pair of the Queen’s earrings. The Duchess was slighted much by this - she being a mightily proud woman who prided herself on overseeing all the particularities of Her Majesty’s household affairs. The French Ambassador, who at that moment was about to conclude an audience with the Queen, was alarmed indeed when proceedings were prematurely halted when the Duchess sallied forth into the Chamber. “What is the meaning of this interruption?”, demanded the Queen, at which the Duchess flew into a violent passion on the privileges granted to one of her status within the Royal household. “A Lady such as I should not be slighted thus”, concluded she. The French Ambassador was most shocked at the Duchess’s ill usage of the Queen and certainly it did not become one of her rank. The Queen, having regained her composure, saw fit to respond: “Madam”, said she, “The gift of a pair of earrings is a trifling matter indeed and one that a Great Lady such as yourself should not stoop so low as to concern herself with.” The Duchess stood mute at this, and the Queen continued: “Indeed, if such things are of so great a concern to the Duchess, let it be known that I would bid her empty my closet privy, for it is certainly full”. The Duchess stood dumb with rage, and those present were sure to call a physician, so still was she that they thought she had been knock’d on the head!