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Botanizing at Badminton House: The Botanical Pursuits of Mary Somerset, First Duchess of Beaufort

  • Julie Davies
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Abstract

In the last decades of the seventeenth century, Mary Somerset, the third Marchioness of Worcester and first Duchess of Beaufort, actively collected, identified, and classified thousands of plants from around the world. She worked with her gardener, George Adams, and several famous botanists to grow, study, catalogue, distribute, dry, and paint her specimens. Friends, family, and colleagues from both Oxford and the Royal Society of London contributed to her collection. Yet she also obtained many plants and seeds through conventional garden suppliers, and she commissioned agents to hunt down and collect specimens within the British Isles and abroad. The report of just one such shipment, received in 1696, indicates that she had hundreds of seeds, leaves, cuttings, saplings, and even several large trees shipped to her from Barbados. This particular consignment was so large that the first 11 tubs were split between five ships, with eight more promised in the next fleet. Each tub was large enough to contain, in one instance, one fern tree, seven water common trees, and one white mangrove tree, and, in another, one great bay tree and 50 saplings.1 In this way, Somerset amassed an exceptionally large and diverse collection of plants at the family estate of Badminton House in Gloucestershire, which provided the foundation for her botanical pursuits.

Keywords

Royal Society Philosophical Transaction British Library East India Company Unpublished Note 
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Notes

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© Julie Davies 2016

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