On 12 July 1704, at Christ Church, Newgate Street, London, Francis Edwards married Anna Margaretta Vernatti and almost nine months to the day their daughter, Mary was born. On 25 May 1705, Francis and Anna presented their daughter, Mary to be baptised at St Ann’s Soho.
Anna Margaretta was the daughter of Constantine Vernatti of Hackney, who died a year before she married.
In Constantine’s will he stated that if his daughter married with her mother’s consent, that she would receive £10,000, which is over one million pounds in today’s money.
The remainder of Constantine’s vast estate including lands in Dartford, Kent and Hackney was left to his wife and so as you can see, the Vernatti family were extremely wealthy landowners, as were Francis Edwards’ family, so this was a union of two very wealthy families.
In 1729 Francis Edwards died, leaving one of his estates in Ireland, directly to his daughter, Mary, thereby making her an extremely wealthy heiress, not to mention all the land he also owned in England in including properties in Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex, Northamptonshire and Welford, Leicestershire and shares in the New River water Company.
Upon her father’s death, Mary arranged for this memorial below, to be erected in his honour at Welham church.
The London Gazette, August 1729 carried the following notice:
The Daily Advertiser, 17 June 1731 announced that Mary was due to marry:
between the right honourable the Lord Anne Hamilton, brother to his Grace the Duke of that name, and Miss Edwards of Pall Mall, a young lady of distinguishing great virtues, and possessed of a plentiful estate, which according to her innate propensity to the poor, enables her to exert herself in the most extensive charities and acts of humanity towards the distressed part of her fellow creatures.
On 8 July 1731, Mary granted property in Leicestershire to Lord Anne, so had they married? This was followed by an article in the Caledonian Mercury, dated 2 August 1731, which reported that:
on Sunday the Lord Anne Hamilton was married to Miss Edwards of Pall Mall, a rich heiress’,
However, it was soon updated on 24 August:
A marriage is actually concluded, and will soon by consummated, between the Right Honourable Lord Anne Hamilton, and Miss Mary Edwards, of Cambden House, Kensington, a very rich heiress.
(Lord Anne Hamilton took his first name from his godmother, Queen Anne. Born 12 October 1709).
So, when and where did they marry? Articles I have read state that there’s no evidence of their marriage having taken place, others that they married at Fleet prison, so a clandestine marriage. If that were the case, why did the newspaper provide coverage of it and what did her mother, who was still alive, make of it? This seems unlikely, she was a wealthy young woman and someone who the press would have taken great interest in.
It wasn’t until 8 November 1731 that more information became visible about their possible marriage, courtesy of the Daily Advertiser:
On Monday last, and not before, the Right Hon. The Lord Anne Hamilton, brother to his Grace the Duke of Hamilton, was married at Kensington Church, to Miss Edwards, the great heiress of Pall Mall, a lady of upwards of £100,000 fortune (about 12 million in today’s money).
If that figure is even vaguely correct, then Mary was exceptionally wealthy when she married her spendthrift husband. The newspapers also tell us that he had something of a penchant for the horses, presumably both owning and gambling on them, so had he married her and if so, was it purely for her money?
Either way, after two years of marriage, they saw the joyous arrival of a son and heir. The Stamford Mercury 15 March 1733 reported that
On Thursday last the Lady of the Lord Anne Hamilton (Brother to his Grace the Duke of Hamilton), was safely delivered of a son, at his house in Pall Mall, to the great joy of that family.
After the birth of their son, it was to be Mary alone, who presented the child for baptism on 28 March 1733, at St Mary Abbots, Kensington, the church where is seems likely Mary and Lord Anne had married.
The child, a boy, was born 4 March 1733 and baptised as Gerard Anne Edwards, son of Mary Edwards, Singlewoman.
By having giving her status as single, it raises several questions – were she and Lord Anne legally married? If they were, then wouldn’t it be highly likely that the same vicar who presided over their marriage would have also officiated at the baptism of their son and would surely have questions Mary’s actions? Did this act imply that, if they had been married, then by this time Mary no longer regarded herself as such? Or was the son really Lord Anne’s child? The latter seems unlikely, given that she named with child with Anne’s name. This baptism raises more questions than it answers, unfortunately.
It was only a few weeks after the birth of their son, that Lord Anne resigned from his post from the First Regiment of Foot, presumably to spend more of his time on his passion of horse racing, after all, having married a wealthy heiress, money would not have been in short supply and in 1734 he stood as a candidate for Lanarkshire and became Knight of the Shire of Lanark in early 1735.
According to the ODNB
Mary also used her maiden name on 2 July 1733, when signing a grant at the College of Arms, extending the use of her coat and crest to Lord Anne, who briefly assumed Edwards as his middle name.
The couple continued to live together for a while and this conversation piece above depicts the couple together, although from the painting it appears quite obvious that there is little love lost between them by this stage and young Gerard is playing alone on the left of the painting, on the terrace of Mary’s house in Kensington.
Shortly after this, the couple went their separate ways, with Mary clearly having had enough of her husbands spending and stating that he had taken some of her money without her consent, to value of a little under £2,000. Mary continued to live alone until her death in 1744.
Two years prior to her death, Mary wrote her fourteen page will, on 13 April 1742, written in the name of Mary Edwards, complete with full details of her estate and that it should be left to Gerard, in trust until he reached 21 and that her executors be appointed his guardians until then, given that he was only eleven when she died. She stressed the importance of him continuing with his education which was being provided at that time by Rev Cox, in Kensington. She made a somewhat unusual stipulation that her son should not be sent away to public school or university, nor should he be permitted to travel abroad. Mary arranged for him to continue with his education with Rev Cox in Kensington, she was very clear about how important his education was to her.
She also set aside money to ensure that the monument erected for her father at Welham be maintained and repaired as and when necessary. She also took the unusual step of confirming in her will, when and where her son had been baptised, and that he to be known as Gerard Anne Edwards, the implication being that no connection to his father should be mentioned. Mary also ensured that her mother, who was still living should be provided for too.
Once Mary and Lord Anne had separated, Lord Anne found love again or maybe just another source of money, as it was reported in the Caledonian Mercury 20 December 1742, that he had married again, at Bath, so only months after Mary had written her will, with absolutely no mention of him in it.
Was he really free to marry or was it a bigamous marriage? His bride being a Miss Anna Charlotta Maria Powell, described as a beautiful young lady, with a fortune of £30,000.
Mary died at Kensington on 23 August 1743, aged thirty-eight and was buried at the same church as her father, Welham, Leicestershire.
Lord Anne was reported to have died on 1 January 1749 in either Bath after a long illness, or in Paris, it’s unclear as to which was correct. Whichever it was his burial did not take place until 7 July 1749 at St James, Piccadilly.
When Mary’s mother, Anna Margaretta sat down to write her will in 1762, her daughter, Mary had been dead for several years as Anna made specific mention to in her will. With no-one else to inherit her not unsubstantial will, she left everything to her grandson when she died in 1765, Gerard Anne Edwards.
She referred to her late daughter, Mary Edwards, indicating that either her daughter never married or was no longer married to Lord Anne Hamilton and had resumed the use of her maiden name. Anna owned property and land in Clapton, Somerstown and Barking. Anna was buried on 19 March 1765 in St. John-at-Hackney Churchyard.
The Herald and Genealogist – Volume 5. 1870
The Scots Peerage. Volume 4. p385
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 736