The family of Allan Ramsay, principal portrait painter to George III

During research into Allan Ramsay, we have noticed that the information given online concerning his children is incorrect and – in some cases – missing altogether. So, today’s post is something of a genealogical exercise to fully document Ramsay’s twelve children, five sons and seven daughters, which, we hope, will prove informative for anyone else interested in Ramsay’s family. Plus, it is also just a fantastic opportunity to showcase some wonderful portraits and sketches.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self-portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Born in Edinburgh and baptised on 6th October 1713 (according to the Gregorian calendar; 11 days need to be added to correspond to the Julian calendar), Ramsay was the eldest son of the poet and bookseller, Allan Ramsay (who was a wigmaker at the time of Allan’s birth) and his wife Christian neé Ross. Three of his siblings survived into adulthood, Janet, Catherine and Anne.

Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay's two sisters, Janet or Catherine.
Miss Ramsay in a Red Dress c.1760-5 by Allan Ramsay. Believed to be one of Ramsay’s two sisters, Janet or Catherine. The Tate

Allan Ramsay junior’s talent was evident from an early age; his father described him as painting ‘like a Raphael’ and raised money to send Allan to Italy in order that he might study there.

By 1738, Ramsay was back in England, and he took rooms in the piazza in Covent Garden.

Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737
Covent Garden Market by Balthasar Nebot, 1737; Tate

A year later, on 29 April 1739, Ramsay married Anne Bayne, a fellow Scot and the daughter of Alexander Bayne of Rires. Around the time of their wedding (which took place at St Benet, Paul Wharf), Ramsay painted Anne’s portrait.

Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739.
Anne Bayne, the first Mrs Allan Ramsay who died in 1743. Portrait painted by her husband around the time of their marriage, c.1739. National Galleries of Scotland

Three children were born to the couple, two sons Allan and Bayne, who both died young before Anne herself died in childbirth early in 1743 giving birth to a daughter who was named Anne, for her mother. She survived, at least for a few years. On 11 January 1747 another Anne Ramsay was buried in the churchyard at Covent Garden, this one a spinster. It seems probable that this was Ramsay’s sister, Anne.

Allan Ramsay's infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741.
Allan Ramsay’s infant son, Allan, who survived to just 14 months of age. Painted by Ramsay c.1740-1741. National Galleries of Scotland

Ramsay spent much of the following years in Scotland, where his fame grew, if not his wealth. He was supporting not only his young daughter but his two spinster sisters too, Catherine and Janet. Certainly Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick didn’t consider Ramsay a suitable husband for his 26-year-old daughter, Margaret, whom Ramsay was teaching to draw. Denied her father’s approval, Margaret eloped with Ramsay and they married on 1 March 1752 at the Canongate in Edinburgh.

Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760.
Margaret Lindsay, the second Mrs Allan Ramsay. Portrait painted by her husband c.1758-1760. National Galleries of Scotland

Later that year, just a day shy of 33 weeks after the marriage, Margaret gave birth to twins. In an attempt to placate her father, who still disapproved of her husband, the babes were named Alexander and Amelia after Margaret’s parents; they were baptized on 17 October 1752 at St Paul’s in Covent Garden and sadly buried there the very next day. By the end of 1753, the Ramsays were back in Scotland, living in Edinburgh and there, in February 1754, another son was born, again named Alexander. This infant was left behind in Scotland when his parents travelled to Italy the following year. Margaret was soon pregnant once again.

A daughter, Amelia was born in March 1755 at Rome but sadly, back in Edinburgh, little Alexander had died; he was buried on 23 June 1755.

By the end of 1758, Ramsay had brought his family back to London and taken lodgings on the western side of Soho Square (then called King’s Square, the name given because of the statue of Charles II which stood there).

King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House.
King Square in Soho, looking towards Monmouth House.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

On 9 November 1758, another daughter was born to Allan and Margaret Ramsay; she was baptized with the name Elisabeth eight days later at St. Anne’s, Soho. Two more daughters were to swiftly follow, Frances born 16 February 1760 and Grizelda on 19 July 1761. Sadly, none were destined to live long: Grizelda lived for less than six weeks and was buried (as Grizell Ramsay) at Chiswick on 29 August and Elisabeth died almost a year later at three years of age. She was laid to rest in the Soho churchyard on 22 August 1762 where her sister Frances joined her on 4 July 1765.

A ray of light amongst the darkness was the birth of Charlotte in 1765, the youngest daughter of the family. Charlotte was strong and healthy and would survive.

Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776.
Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the artist. Painted by her father and dated 8 July 1776. National Galleries of Scotland.

The final child born to Ramsay was a son, named John, who was baptized at St Marylebone on 14 June 1768. Probably he was named after his uncle, Margaret’s brother Sir John Lindsay who is perhaps better remembered as the father of Dido Elizabeth Belle (of whom we have written previously).

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay)
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788 by Allan Ramsay); Glasgow Museums

Allan Ramsay suffered ill health during his later years and died at Dover on his return to London from Florence on 10 August 1784; Ramsay’s wife, Margaret had passed away two years earlier. But, what of their three surviving children, Amelia, Charlotte and John?

All three Ramsay siblings appear to have shared a love of adventure, for they travelled the globe. Amelia married an army officer, Archibald Campbell (later General Sir Archibald Campbell) at St Marylebone on 8 July 1779. Campbell was posted abroad (he was governor of Jamaica between 1781 and 1784) and Amelia and her sister, Charlotte sailed to be with him in 1780. They were aboard the storeship, British Queen, captain Hodge, in a convoy of 63 ships bound for the West Indies.

Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790.
Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell of Inverneil and Ross KB, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Madras by George Romney, 1790. National Army Museum

The ships were East and West Indiamen, storeships, victuallers and transports (with the 90th Regiment of Foot on board), and while it might have been felt that there was safety in numbers, it was a perilous time. Spain had sided with the US in the American Revolutionary War and declared war on Britain. At Cape St Vincent in the Algarve, on 9 August 1780, the convoy of British ships met a combined Spanish and French fleet and it was disastrous. All but eight of the British vessels were captured.

The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish.
The action of 9 August 1780 when all but 8 ships out of a British convoy of 63 were captured by a combined force of French and Spanish. Image via Wikimedia

The new Mrs Amelia Campbell and her sister, Charlotte Ramsay were incredibly lucky; their ship, the British Queen, was one of the eight which evaded capture and they managed to make it unscathed to Jamaica and Campbell’s protection.

Seven years later, on 1 February 1787 and possibly in India, Charlotte married Lieutenant Colonel Henry Malcolm, Adjutant-General to the East-India Company’s troops on the coast of Coromandel [New Zealand].

John Ramsay joined the army and he too made his way to India. In 1789 a ship returning to England from Madras via St Helena numbered among the passengers:

Sir Archibald Campbell, K.B, family and suite; Mrs Malcolm… Capt. John Ramsay…

Amelia and Sir Archibald Campbell had no children, but she did bring up two children as her own, a boy who shared her husband’s name, Archibald Campbell and a girl born c.1784, Mary Macleod, who Amelia thought of as her adopted daughter.

Amelia Campbell née Ramsay died in 1813 and was buried (on 15 July 1813) in Westminster Abbey alongside her husband, Sir Archibald who had died 23 years earlier. (Their grave is in the south transept of the abbey, next to that of George Frederic Handel.) After Amelia’s death, Mary Macleod went to live with Charlotte who became as close to the girl as her sister had been; both Amelia and Charlotte left the bulk of their wealth to Mary. Indeed, Charlotte, in her will, declared that she viewed Mary as a daughter.

On 6 January 1837, Charlotte Malcolm née Ramsay was buried at St Marylebone. John Ramsay, who was promoted to the rank of general, lived until 1845; he died in Geneva.

John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794.
John Ramsay; soldier, son of Allan Ramsay by François Ferrière, 1794. National Galleries of Scotland

To recap, the children of Allan Ramsay are as follows:

By Anne Bayne:

Allan – 1740-1741

Bayne – 1741-? (died young)

Anne – 1743-? (died young after 1752)

By Margaret Lindsay:

Alexander and Amelia (twins) – 1752-1752

Alexander – 1754-1755

Amelia – 1755-1813

Elisabeth – 1758-1762

Frances – 1760-1765

Grizelda – 1761-1761

Charlotte – 1765-1837

John – 1768-1845

Notes:

For ease, we have used new style rather than old style dates, except where noted.

Ramsay’s daughter Anne, from his first marriage, was alive when he remarried in 1752 as she was mentioned in a letter he wrote to his father-in-law, but she did not survive into adulthood.

Elisabeth, born 9 November 1758, seems to have been confused in most, if not all sources for Charlotte born 1765. In fact, the short-lived Elisabeth, Frances and Grizelda appear to have been totally overlooked and Charlotte, known as one of only two Ramsay’s daughters by Margaret Lindsay to have survived to adulthood, ascribed to the 1758 birth on the basis of a letter written by Ramsay to Sir Alexander Dick congratulating Sir Alexander on the birth of a daughter and remarking that he had recently been similarly blessed.

In the 1851 census, Mary Macleod said she had been born at sea but was a British subject.

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