The Complex Life of Teresia Constantia Phillips Part Two

Today, we pick up where we left off last week with the story of Con’s life.

It was about 1737 that she became involved with a gentleman she simply referred in her ‘Apology’ as Mr Worthy, his identity eventually his name came into the public domain – he was Henry Nedham. She provided at least two clues in her Apology, which helped to identify him, firstly, she referred to him being the son of a wealthy plantation owner in Jamaica and the second clue, which confirmed it was that his cousin was named Hampson (Volume 3. Page 124).

With these two clues it became possible to trace the Nedham or Needham (there seems no explanation as to the slight surname change though), family tree back and with it the connection, between not only Henry and his cousin Hampson, but also to them both being related to Henrietta Crofts, daughter of Eleanor Nedham. So, was Con telling the truth about Henrietta being her godmother? It certainly seems much more feasible than originally thought, and that the handsome, Oxford educated, Henry appeared in her orbit via her godmother, by then the dowager, Duchess of Bolton, Henrietta (the 2nd Duke having died in 1722).

Harbour Street, Kingston, Jamaica. Hakewill, James, 1778-1843, A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica, from drawings made in the years 1820 and 1821
Harbour Street, Kingston, Jamaica. Hakewill, James, 1778-1843, A picturesque tour of the island of Jamaica, from drawings made in the years 1820 and 1821

It was around 1739 that Henry had to return to Jamaica to sort out an issue on the plantation pertaining to his father, and Con was determined to follow him out there. After two failed attempts to get to Jamaica and then Boston where he had gone to, she gave up on the relationship and in 1740 returned to England.

This, she admitted, was an error, as she fell ill with a fever and by then was again in debt with creditors chasing her. On her return she stayed with a friend, an unnamed surgeon, but the following morning the bailiff appeared at the door for her, but somehow she managed to avoid him by climbing out of the kitchen window and making her escape, but the bailiff was wise to her plan and set up a watch outside the rear of the premises, but Con escaped by using a ladder to climb into next door’s garden, that being the home of the Duchess of Marlborough.

Con eventually gave herself up and paid off her debts. But life was not improving for her, as she met up with an old friend, Colonel Vassall, a merchant who she knew from Boston. He was ill and broke, so Con made him a loan to help him out, but he died before being able to pay her back.

She was now penniless and sometime between 1742 and 1744 she was arrested for debt. She made been living well beyond her means and also had debts mounting for the legal action against Muilman.  With that she fled to France for several months.  Eventually on her return to England she wrote her ‘Apology’, which was going to act as a tool for blackmail, a ‘name and shame if you don’t pay me’, type document. Quite who, if anyone actually paid up we will never know, but presumably very few and it was late 1750 that according to Read’s Weekly Journal, News from Jamaica

Mrs Con Phillips was arrived there from England

So Con had returned once again to Jamaica, perhaps hoping for a better life there.

The Ipswich Journal 13 April 1751, tells us a little about of Con’s fiery personality when she was obliged to appear before a magistrate to give security and keep the peace.

A complaint had been made by an unnamed gentleman, that Con arrived at his home and without saying a word, rushed up to his bedchamber where this poor man was lying in bed, unable to move as he was suffering from gout. When she realised that he was ill her demeanour changed and she calmed down toward him, however in a fit of jealous upon seeing his black handmaid in the room, Con took her by the ear and began to slap her. The maid retaliated but was cuffed again five or six times by Con at which time she became delirious.

Con was fined one hundred pounds for this seemingly unprovoked attack on the maid and fifty pounds surety.

The same day, Con place a notice in the newspaper that she was going to have to delay the opening of her Boarding School for the Education of Young Ladies, for which purpose she had taken a large house and white women to wait on the ladies. Presumably as she had to sort out the court action.

According to an anonymous article in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1766), she:

made three further, bigamous marriages, to ‘Mr M.’, an Irish land surveyor, then to ‘Mr S. C.’, a Scotsman and commissary for French prisoners of war in Jamaica, and finally to a Frenchman named Lanteniac.

Further research does confirm that there were in fact a further three husbands, but, as Con hadn’t obtained a divorce from husband number one, they would all be classed as bigamous.

Her first of these, i.e. husband number three, was a wealthy, Irish land surveyor, Hugh Montgomery. This marriage was reputed to have taken place towards the end of 1752, as, on 4 Jan 1753, the London Evening Post said:

‘Tis said a Letter from Spanish Town in Jamaica gives an Account, that the noted Con Phillips is married there, and keeps the most considerable Publick House in that Town. Spanish Town St Catherine’s parish.

Sadly, checking the record for 1752 and 1753 there seems to be no surviving record of exactly when it took place. However, Con wrote a letter in 1755 from Jamaica, to Mr Rose Fuller, MP who had recently left Jamaica, in which she titled herself Constance Montgomery and saying:

from an abandoned woman whose understanding deserved far more of a reasonable creature than ever her beauty did;… you and only you I have to curse for the cruel exile I suffer in this damned country, for which I will thank you in the 4 volume of my life which I have almost completed; adieu.

Quite what her fit of pique toward Fuller was all about we will never know and whether he responded to her letter is equally a mystery.  The author Nick Hibbert Steele mentioned Con in his book about Hibbert House, Kingston saying that :

it was built in 1755 by Thomas Hibbert, as a result of a bet with 3 other merchants in Kingston, to see who could build the finest house. The prize was the hand in marriage of Teresia Constantia Phillips a notorious courtesan. Thomas Hibbert won the bet but declined to marry Con. Phillips recognising her as a gold-digger.

This seems a curious story if Con was already married to Montgomery by then, but perhaps all was not what it appeared to be in paradise.

In their early years together everything went well, but it was becoming clear that Hugh was unwell, his physicians were very concerned at his rapid weight loss and put it down to Cons carryings-on.

He eventually became so weak that he decided that he should write his will, which he duly did. As Hugh and his physicians felt that a trip to the country might be of benefit, fresher air and a chance to relax and recuperate, but, as Con was busy with her appointment as Mistress of Revels for the island and was too busy to accompany him, he would go alone. Con was appointed to this post by the Governor of Jamaica, Henry Moore (1713-1769).

It was only when it was time for him to leave that Con became emotional, fearing this would be the last time she saw him alive. She immediately asked him whether he had made a will and whether he had left her provided for. ‘Yes of course’, he replied – this was not quite the truth.

He had made a will, which unknown to him, Con had read and it was hidden in her her pocket, so she knew at this point that despite his words, she was not provided for. So before allowing him to leave she had him dragged back into the house, where he was made to re-write it, dictated by her and witnessed by three people, who she had on standby. No way was he leaving her without her ensuring that she was provided for.

Everything was left to her, his ‘his death and beloved wife’. The will was made on 14 January 1760. After sorting this, he was free to leave and Con watched him set off and sure enough she didn’t see him again. Hugh’s body was returned to Kingston and buried on 8 May 1760.

28 May 1760 - Kingston Jamaica - burial of Hugh Montgomery
28 May 1760 – Kingston Jamaica – burial of Hugh Montgomery

In 1760, Con, penned from her home in Jamaica, what appears to be her last piece of correspondence that has survived, perhaps reflecting on the imminent closure of her own life, to someone whom she regarded as a friend, The Right Honourable, the Earl of Chesterfield. This letter appears to be her reflecting on her life and how it turned out and was in the form of advice for young women on how not to live if they wished to be happy.

For my part, my life has been one continued scene of error, mistake, and unhappiness. I was by my ill fate, left mistress of myself, before the time I ought to have forsaken the nursery.

Within the letter she talked about her life and loves, her time in Jamaica and about her niece who was aged fifteen at the time and how she was teaching her how to live a better life than she had. Whilst it isn’t clear from the letter, Con appears to know her niece well, so it can only be assumed that she was living along with her mother, in Jamaica. The reason for writing to him was, that according to Con he had written a booklet entitled ‘The Whole Duty of a Man’.

However, Con was not in danger of imminent death, instead she was to walk up the aisle yet again, when she married yet again, husband number four. This marriage was to a young Scotsman, Samuel Callendar, Commissary for the French prisoners of war brought to the island. Quite where on the island they married is unknown, but it certainly wasn’t recorded in the records for Kingston.

He was said to have been from a good family, well respected and held a prominent position in the social life of Jamaica – until he married Con, that was.

Shortly after they married, he seemed to vanish from the social circle and was reputed to have only left his home three times during the two years of their marriage.

Before the end of their second year together, he too was dead. Although there’s no sign of their marriage, we know that it was short lived as Callendar was buried on 2 Jan 1762, again at Kingston.

2 Jan 1762 - Kingston Jamaica - burial of Samuel Callendar
2 Jan 1762 – Kingston Jamaica – burial of Samuel Callendar

Just 3 months later, on 24 April 1762, Kingston, Con married for what would be her fifth and final husband, as the widow Teresia Constantia Callendar.

24 April 1762, Kingston – Con married as widow Teresia Constantia Callendar
24 April 1762, Kingston – Con married as widow Teresia Constantia Callendar

Her final husband was Monsieur Adhamar de Lantagnac who had only recently arrived on the island as part of a batch of French prisoners over whom Con’s late husband had control over. This final husband was said to have grown up amongst the Canadian Indians whose customs he had adopted such as tattoos on his body, arms and legs. His appearance, if nothing else, caused him to be a great hit amongst Cons social circle.

The problem with this husband being that he enjoyed spending money, or to be more precise, Con’s money that she had accumulated from both previous husbands. Callendar had died without leaving a will, but Con took it upon herself as his wife, to take control of his assets including a cargo worth about £2,000 (about a quarter of a million in today’s money), which she had landed and promptly sold, netting Con a decent amount of money to live on for the rest of her life, or so she thought, but her new husband saw to it that this would not be the case. He ran through her money very rapidly on clothes, food and drink and with that Con told him to pack his bags and leave before she was completely destitute.

As was so often the case, money was in short supply again for her, her friends rallied round and help her out, but when this occurred for a second time friends were suddenly found to be in short supply.

As the curtain went down on her final show at the Kingston Theatre, Con saw her own life now coming to an end, with no husband for comfort and precious little money, she wondered how it had all gone so wrong.

As she lay on her death bed, she was terrified that her corpse might be arrested to pay off her debts on its way to the grave, as was the custom at that time.

Her wish was to die on a Saturday night so that being buried on a Sunday her body would be safe in the ground. She got her wish and was buried in Kingston graveyard on Sunday 20 January 1765, as Teresia Constantia, wife of Adhamar Delantagniac, with not even the apothecary to mourn her passing. In life, known as the Mistress of Revels and the Pride of England, her body went unnoticed to its nameless grave.

The burial of Teresia Constantia Phillips. 20 January 1765. St Catherine's, Jamaica
The burial of Teresia Constantia Phillips. 20 January 1765. St Catherine’s, Jamaica

There was no-one present at her burial, not even her niece who lived on the island. For someone who knew everyone in Jamaica, and everyone knew her, she died very much alone, but the name Teresia Constantia would live on, as I noted several children baptised with those names in the Jamaican baptism registers.

Sources

The Real Duty of a Woman, in the Education of a Daughter: A Letter Humbly addressed to the Right Honourable, The Earl of Chesterfield. 1760

The Gentleman’s and London Magazine. Volume XXXI. 1766

Morris. John. The Troubles of Our Catholic Forefathers Related by Themselves, Volume 1

Stone. Lawrence. Uncertain unions : marriage in England, 1660-1753

Black. Clinton V. Tales of Old Jamaica

East Sussex Records Office SAS-RF/21/18

Familysearch Jamaica BMD’s.

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