Friday, 19 April 2013

Jane Austen and King James II

At J in the A-Z of Ashdown House is the Austen family of Jane's fame. I've blogged about Jane's connection to the Cravens and to Ashdown House before and you can see the article here. Louisa, Countess of Craven, was a big fan of Jane's writing, declaring in 1816 that Pride and Prejudice was her favourite of Jane Austen's books, in preference to Emma which she still considered to be very fine. We are very pleased that we have a lovely exhibition board this season which gives some information on the links between the Craven and Austen families.

Meanwhile at J we also have King James II, a friend of the First Earl of
Craven who like his brother Charles and cousin Prince Rupert came to Ashdown for the sport and for other entertainment, no doubt. (Ashdown does has a very impressive wine cellar!) In my research I came across a curious story of how the house at Russley Park, which lies a mile or two away across the downs, was extended especially for a visit from James during the 1680s. Curious because with Ashdown only a few miles distant, why would William Craven entertain the King at Russley?

In a further fascinating twist, there is a legend that a secret tunnel cut through the chalk hillside connects Ashdown with Russley Park. If this is true then it's location is lost today but it does raise the question of what it's purpose could have been. Intriguing!


Anwen said...

Hmm I posted a long comment, wonder what happened to it.

Nicola Cornick said...

Anwen, I'm so sorry that blogger has eaten your comment! It's very frustrating when that happens. Thank you for posting anyway.

Adjoa said...

That tunnel idea is super intriguing! As is the question of why the earl did not entertain the king at Ashdown! I was wondering if you know when William Craven married Louisa Brunton or if I missed it? Thanks. I enjoy your research and articles immensely!