In the course of our research we came across a reference to an illegitimate child of Banastre Tarleton, army officer and politician. Regular readers will probably be aware by now that we’re both natural ‘nosey parkers’ and as such simply had to find out more about this child. So, here is some additional gossip on the subject for you.
In 1797 Major General Banastre Tarleton was ending his relationship with the actress and courtesan Mary Robinson (before Banastre she was better known as the Perdita to the Prince of Wales Florizel). The diarist Joseph Farington recorded on the 2nd May 1797 that Banastre and Mary had separated due to his designs on her daughter ‘who is now 21.’ Maria Elizabeth Robinson, the daughter of Mary and Thomas Robinson, the husband from whom she had separated many years before, had been born in October 1774 so was actually a year older than the diarist thought.
In December 1798 Banastre married Susan Priscilla Bertie, illegitimate daughter and heiress of his former friend Robert Bertie, 4th Duke of Ancaster, who had been brought up by her titled grandmother and her aunt Lady Cholmondeley and who was almost a quarter of a century her husband’s junior.
And at some point around his split from Mary and before his marriage to Susan Priscilla, Banastre was to father an illegitimate daughter, named in his honour and for his friend the Prince, as Banina Georgiana Tarleton. Born on the 19th December, 1797, the little girl was not baptized until the 26th May 1801, at the Old Church in Saint Pancras, her mother simply named as Kolina on the baptism register.
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This girl had but a short life, almost anonymous until a notice of her death appeared at the age of just twenty years on the 12th April, 1818. If her birth date (which is given in the parish register entry of her baptism) is correct, then she must have been conceived around the middle of March 1797, and Banastre appears to be resident in London at that time. Interestingly, the only other woman he is linked with by the press in 1797, other than Mary Robinson, was her daughter. Was Farington merely repeating salacious gossip or was there some truth behind the rumours?
General T_____ is said to fluctuate between the “Perdita” and her fair daughter, like the ass between two bundles of hay.
The Times, 13th October, 1797
Why Banina Georgiana was not baptized sooner is a mystery. She was three and a half years old when she was taken to the church at St Pancras, but Banastre hadn’t been in London much in the interim; after his marriage to Susan Priscilla Bertie the newly-wed couple left for Portugal where Banastre had been given a command, not returning to England until the October of 1799 and in 1800 they spent some months in Wales.
Mary Robinson, after failing to reclaim Banastre and with the ill-health she had suffered from since possibly undergoing a miscarriage during the early days of her relationship with him, died on the 26th December, 1800 at her daughter’s cottage in Englefield Green near Egham. After her death a lock of her hair was reputedly sent to ‘a General and a Prince’, the two great loves of her life. Is it somehow significant that the baptism of this little girl did not take place until after the great Perdita had died?
Despite our best efforts we can still add little to Banina Georgiana’s life but we have found her burial, surprisingly up in Scotland, and as this does not seem to have been mentioned before we thought that we should share this new information with you, our readers. In the Findo Gask parish burial records is the following document.
Miss Tarleton, daughter of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, Baronet, died at Gask House, on Sunday the 12th, and was interred within the Old Church on Wednesday the 15th of April, 1818.
Sir Banastre sent five pounds to the poor as the price of a burial place, which sum, the Men and Managers of the Fund, after stating to Sir Banastre their uncertainty whether it was in their power to dispose of the ground, received in lieu of any right which the public may have in it, – and grateful for the bounty and human attention of Sir Banastre and Lady Tarleton to the poor of the place, as well during the whole term of their residence at Gask as on the present occasion, they promised to use their utmost endeavours to preserve entire the ground in which the remains of Miss Tarleton were deposited.
O.P.R. Deaths 352/00/0010 029
Banina Georgiana Tarleton died at Gask House at Findo Gask in Perthshire, the family home of Carolina Nairne nee Oliphant (1766-1845), a Scottish songwriter and poet from a Jacobite family.
In 1806, when Carolina was forty-one years of age, she married her second cousin William Murray Nairne who in 1824 became the Baron Nairne. The Nairnes lived in Edinburgh after their marriage. We have to here point out that the name Carolina is very similar to the name of Banina’s mother, Kolina, although in doing so we wish to cast no aspersions on her moral character; it may just be coincidence that the two names are similar and that Banina died at Gask House.
Died . . . At Gask House, on the 12th current, Miss Tarleton, daughter of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, Bart.
Caledonian Mercury, 18th April 1818
The Tarleton’s seem to have been using Gask House as a Scottish estate although their main residence was at Leintwardine in Herefordshire and their London address was 29 Berkeley Square; the Nairnes seem to mainly reside in Edinburgh.
Was Banina Georgiana there as part of a family unit with her father and her stepmother, or did Sir Banastre (he was made a baronet in 1816) and Lady Tarleton travel to Scotland after her death? Certainly they were there during June 1818 and as Susan Priscilla herself was illegitimate and had been brought up as part of the Cholmondeley family due to the kindness of her aunt it would not be surprising if she accepted Banastre’s illegitimate daughter as part of her family as the couple had no children of their own.
Sir Banaster [sic] and Lady Tarleton arrived on Thursday, at their house in Berkeley-square, from their seat in Scotland.
Morning Chronicle, 20th June 1818
Susan Priscilla, after her marriage in 1798, became religious and befriended Mary Robinson’s daughter; in 1804 Wild Wreath, a collection of poems put together by Maria Elizabeth Robinson included engravings from drawings by Mrs B. Tarleton along with poems written by ‘Susan’, which hints at a friendship just a few years after the baptism of Banina Georgiana between the Tarleton’s and the girl who reportedly was the cause of Banastre’s split with Mary Robinson. Maria Elizabeth Robinson herself just predeceased Banina Georgiana for she was buried in Old Windsor (where her mother lay) on the 26th January 1818. Her will, written in the August of 1801, left all she owned to Mrs Elizabeth Weale who shared her cottage on Englefield Green.
Is it just possible that the name Kolina is hiding the identity of someone else, someone close to Mary Robinson?
Mary Robinson: Selected Poems, edited by Judith Pascoe