We’re absolutely thrilled to announce for our followers in the USA and Canada that our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, has just been launched ‘across the pond’. We have added a link on the sidebar that will take you directly to the page on Amazon, should you wish to order through them. It is also available through other retailers too.
For those who have already pre-ordered it, we have been advised that it should be on its way to you very shortly and we really hope that you enjoy it – do let us know your thoughts and don’t forget we’re always here to answer any questions you may have.
In the past couple of days we have written a couple of guest blogs. We are delighted to be featured on Laurie Benson’s site, talking about The Allied Sovereign’s Visit to England, 1814, and its connection to Lord Charles Bentinck who is featured in our book.
Our second blog is hosted by Geri Walton, who covers both the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries on her site, so for Geri we have penned a somewhat later piece about The Marriage of Lord Glamis and Miss Cavendish Bentinck in 1881. Again, it has a connection to A Right Royal Scandal.
If you would like to find out more about either or both of these then please do head over to their blogs by following the highlighted links above.
A Right Royal Scandal is also now available in Canada too so if you’re in Canada please follow this link for Amazon.ca
Yes, this is folklore, unless anyone can confirm otherwise, and no, we are not talking about the small furry creature kind of moles! These are often referred to as birth marks or beauty marks and judging back the lack of images we have been able to find depicting people with moles, it seems likely that the artists of the day possibly ignored these.
According to ‘Every lady’s own fortune-teller, or an infallible guide to the hidden decrees of fate, being a new & regular system for foretelling future events’ which was published towards the end of the 1700s, experience shows that the presence of moles can provide clues as to one’s future. So do let us know if you have a mole and if the statement pertaining to it is true – we would love to know.
First it is necessary to know the size of the mole, its colour, whether it is perfectly round, oblong or angular because each of those will add to, or diminish the force of the indication. The larger the mole, the great will be the propensity or adversity of the person; the smaller the mole, the less will be his good or bad luck.
If the mole is round, it forebodes good; if oblong, a moderate share of fortunate events; if angular, it indicates a mixture of good and evil.
The deeper its colour, the more it announces favour or disgrace; the lighter the less of either.
If it is very hairy, much misfortune is to be expected, but if few long hairs grow upon it, it denotes that your undertakings will be prosperous.
We will further remark only, that moles of the middling and common size and colour are those we speak; the rest may be gathered from what we have said above; but as it may frequently happen that modesty will sometimes hinder persons from showing their moles, you must depend upon their own representation of the for your opinion.
A mole that stands on the right side of the forehead or right temple, signifies that the person will arrive to sudden wealth and honour.
On the right eyebrow, announces speedy marriage, and that the person to whom you will be married will possess many amiable qualities and a good fortune. On the left of either of those three places, announces unexpected disappointment in your most sanguine wishes.
A mole on the outside corner of either eye, denotes the person to be of a steady, sober and sedate disposition; but will be liable to a violent death.
A mole on either cheek signifies that the person never shall rise above mediocrity in the point of fortune, though at the same time he never will sink to real poverty.
A mole on the nose, shows that the person will have good luck in most of his or her undertakings.
A mole on the lip, either upper or lower proves the person to be fond of delicate things, and very much given to the pleasures of love, in which he or she will commonly be successful.
A mole on the chin, shows that the person will be attended with great propensity and be highly esteemed.
A mole of the side of the neck show that the person will narrowly escape suffocation, but afterwards rise to great consideration by an unexpected legacy or inheritance.
A mole on the throat denotes that the person shall become rich by marriage.
A mole on the right breast, declares the person to be exposed to a sudden reverse of comfort to distress, by unavoidable accidents; most of his children will be girls. A mole on the left breast, signifies success in undertakings, an amorous disposition and that most of his children will be boys. Under the left breast over the heart shows that a man will be of a warm disposition, unsettled in mind, fond of ramblings, and light in his conduct; in a woman, it shows sincerity in love, quick conception and easy travail in childbirth.
A mole of the belly denotes the person to be addicted to sloth and gluttony; selfish in almost all articles and seldom inclined to be nice or careful in point of dress.
A mole on either hip shows that the person will have many children and that such of them a survive will be healthy, lusty and patient of hardships.
A mole of the right thigh shows that the person will become rich and have good luck in marriage. On the left, denotes that the person suffers much by poverty and want of friends.
A mole on the right knee, signifies that the person will be fortunate in the choice of a partner for life and meet with few disappointments in the world. One on the left knee portends that the person will be rash, inconsiderate and hasty, but modest in cool blood, honest and inclined to good behaviour in every sense of the word.
A mole on either ankle denotes a man to be inclined to effeminacy and elegance of dress: a woman to be courageous, active and industrious.
A mole on either foot forebodes sudden illness or unexpected misfortune.
A mole on the right shoulder signifies prudence, discretion and wisdom. On the left, declares a testy contention and ungovernable spirit.
A mole on the right arm denotes vigour and undaunted courage; on the left resolution in battle.
A mole near either elbow denotes restlessness, a roving and unsteady temper, also a discontentedness with those the person is obliged to live constantly with.
A mole between the elbow and the wrist promises the person prosperity, but not until he has undergone many hardships.
A mole on the finger or between it and the ends of the fingers, signifies industry, fidelity and conjugal affection.
A mole on any part of the shoulders to the loins signifies imperceptible decline and gradual decay, whether of health or wealth.
A mole on the loins shows vigour, especially in the duties of love.
A Fortune-Teller, Joshua Reynolds, Courtesy of English Heritage, Kenwood
No-one seems quite sure how the colour blue became associated with the feeling of sadness, some say its origins lay back in Greek mythology whilst others say it has links to the devil. Whatever the true origin, how could anyone possibly feel blue wearing these sumptuous gowns that we’re going to take a look at?
So many shades of blue exist, from the palest baby blue to darkest navy blue and everything in-between and the colour was clearly very popular during the Georgian era. Given the amazing array of paintings sadly we only have space to share few with you, but we do hope you enjoy them.
An interesting point worth noting about these paintings is that to be create the impression of fabric required a very specific skill and it seems, not a skill that some of the most famous artists had, so they employed ‘drapery painters’ to paint the more intricate and detailed aspects of fabrics, to ensure that they looked as natural as possible. One of these, who was regarded as being amongst the best was Joseph Van Aken. Another was Peter Toms who was one of founding members of the Royal Academy.
Mr James Peters was Kneller’s drapery painter so it seems highly likely that he painted this stunning blue dress.
We came across this description in The London Tradesman, of exactly what a drapery painter’s role was so thought you might find it interesting.
The drapery painter is but the lowest degree of a liberal painter; he is employed in dressing the figures, after the painter has finished the face, given the figure its proper attitude and drawn the outlines of the dress or drapery.
A portrait painter who is well employed, has not time to cloath his figures, and therefore employs a drapery painter to finish that part of the work.
This workman must have a tolerable notion of painting in general; but his chief skill consists in his knowledge of colours and the mixing of them, to produce proper shades; for the painter generally draws the outline and leave him to fill up the empty space with proper colours.
The drapery painters are generally employed in signpost drawing, and other sorts of painting that do not require a masterly hand: they have commonly but a dull genius and a mere mechanical head: however, those who are eminent in their way and in the employ of a noted master make very handsome bread; they may sometimes earn a guinea a day, and must be mere bunglers if they cannot make half a guinea.
Their education may be as low as you please; but as in all other branches that handle the pencil, they ought to be early acquainted with the use of it: the sooner they are bound apprentices the greater proficiency they may be expected to make. A sober disposition and a sound constitution are absolutely requisite.
And our final selection:
Following a great deal of discussion amongst our readers we thought we would add some of the earliest references to a few shades of blue that we have come across in the newspapers.
A slight variation on the term appeared in The London Chronicle of 1781.
The Parisian fashion report for June 1779 confirms for us the existence of the colour turquoise in clothing.
It is said to have been created by millers in Rode, Somerset, a consortium of which won a competition to make a dress for Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III. The article does not however, give a specific date for this, but we did manage to find this article below confirming the existence of such a colour by 1782.
Miss Taylor by Joseph Highmore (1692-1780) Courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery
The majority of us will have come across Buxton Water which today is sold commercially bottled, but what was known about Buxton and its health-giving water in 1800?
The Georgians had an obsession with their health, and there were several popular spa towns frequented in the late Georgian/Regency periods, Buxton being one of them. We thought we would find out what the writer William Bott had to say about the lovely Derbyshire town of Buxton in 1800 in his book ‘A description of Buxton, and the adjacent country; or the new guide, for Ladies and Gentlemen, Resorting to that place of health and amusement’. Please note this is in no way us endorsing Buxton water although, if you had been reading this in 1800 you would have thought it was, although even today it’s possibly to drink it directly from the source.
The salubrity of the air and the excellent quality of the water, are entitled to very particular and distinguished notice, on account of both their very ancient reputation and great usefulness.
A range of buildings constructed in the form of a crescent, has however, been lately erected which for beauty and magnificence exceeds any other in this part of the kingdom, the space being two hundred and fifty-seven feet wide, an elegant stone balustrade extends the whole length of the front, with the arms of the Cavendish family neatly carved in wood, fixed in the centre. This Crescent consists of four private lodging house, two hotels and the assembly room; the latter of which forms a part of the larger hotel, and is seventy-five feet six inches long, thirty-two feet two inches wide and thirty feet high.
It is not possible to ascertain with exactness the number of company who resort to Buxton every season, but it is computed that the public buildings and private lodgings will accommodate above seven hundred persons, besides the inhabitant of the place and it is well known, that for some years past several persons have occasionally been obliged to procure lodgings in the neighbouring villages.
There are circumstance attending the use of Buxton water, of which it may not improper to take notice. When drank in considerable quantity, it is found to possess a binding and heating quality, and is productive of many feverish symptoms; with a view, however, of preventing such disagreeable effects, it is usual to recommend a gentle purgative to keep the body open. These waters in common with a great many others, are observed upon first drinking to affect the head with a sort of giddiness, attended with a sense of universal fullness and drowsiness, but after using them a few days, the sensations go off and are seldom or never perceived afterwards. The spirit is different in different waters and in most appears so extremely fugitive, that it immediately flies off when exposes to the air; all waters therefore are best whether drank at the fountain head. Pure water, as it betrays neither taste nor smell, must be admirably calculated to correct the acrimonious state of the fluids, from whatever cause it may arise, and if anything upon earth can be considered as a universal remedy, it must be water.
A uniform course of this pure element, assisted by exercise, and a proper regime of diet, will do more in some diseases than anything we know of.
As you read on, the list of restorative properties of Buxton water reads like a ‘cure for whatever may ail you‘ everything from bilious colic to rheumatism. The recommendation for drinking the water being somewhere in the region of 3 pints per day – ‘if your stomach can bear and the nature of the case requires it’. The period for drinking the waters is from the beginning of April until the beginning of November.
The chief properties of Buxton water for bathing, which it very widely differs, from both Bath and Bristol, for in the one, the waters are too hot, and in the other too cold – Buxton being just right.
The poor at their bath are not only exempted from all charge, but also met with great assistance and support from the charitable contributions of the company who resort to Buxton, it being customary for every newcomer, if he stay more than one day, to give one shilling for their use, which is collected and taken care of by the ‘steward of the house’ in which he happens to lodge; and the sum raised in this way in the course of the season, has some years past been very considerable; the common weekly allowance to the poor is six shillings and should any of them be more weak and necessitous it is usual to add something more.
Travel to Buxton
People not only attended Buxton for its waters, but also for leisure activities and Bott goes on to describe places worthy of a visit, including Pool’s hole (now known as Poole’s Cavern); Castleton, Speedwell mine, Mam Torr, Matlock, Tideswell and Litton Mills, Dovedale and of course Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire. The list of places he recommended worthy of a visit is endless.
Buxton Market Place, Derbyshire, unknown artist, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
We thought that given how chilly it’s been that we’d look at one method used during the eighteenth-century to keep warm at night or when travelling; warming pans (for the bed) and foot warmers for everyday use and for when travelling.
During our research, we came across a blog post in which the writer set out to correct the misnomer about these warmers using coal. The writer personally tested out warmers and concluded that coals wouldn’t have worked and that in fact hot stones would have been used in them. Whilst this makes far more sense, not only from the perspective of mess but arguably, more importantly from the angle of safety it doesn’t appear to have been the case in the Georgian era as these newspaper extracts show.
London Chronicle or Universal Evening Post, May 19, 1774
On Monday last the following accident happened at Spalding as an elderly gentleman was going to bed, attended by her servant maid. Near the top of the stairs her foot slipped, when she fell upon the girl who was so terribly burnt by the coal in the warming pan, that she expired in 24 hours.
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, April 17, 1762
On Wednesday the 7th instant a dreadful fire broke out at Capel St. Andrew’s near Oxford, occasioned by boy 14 years of age carrying some coals in a warming pan into a field where cows were kept, and going through a barn yard in his way the pan burnt him so that he was obliged to let it drop amongst the straw, which soon took fire and communicated itself to the barn with so much fury, that in a short time it was consumed, together with two stables, a granary and cart lodge. The fire flew so far that it burnt down the house a quarter of a mile away.
Public Advertiser, Saturday, December 15, 1787
On Sunday last the following incident happened at Much-Wenlock: Elizabeth James, about twelve years an apprentice to Mr Lea of that place, after having warmed her master’s bed the preceding night went downstairs to deposit the cinders out of the warming pan: and it is supposed fell asleep near the fire. About three o’clock in the morning she awoke with her clothes all ablaze; in this situation, the poor girl ran upstairs into her master’s room, and alarmed him, who seeing the unhappy state she was in, immediately arose and administered every assistance in his power to relieve her, but all in vain, she being so desperately burnt that she expired about two o’clock in the afternoon the same day.
Clearly both the benefits and worries about the use of coal in such appliances was of concern to people as these adverts show for new and safer types of pan
General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer, Friday, January 15, 1779
By the King’s Patent
Steel warming pans made and sold by Thomas Howard (inventor and patentee) at his warehouse No. 11 St Paul’s Church-yard and nowhere else in London.
The inconveniences arising from the use of copper and brass warming pans have long been so obvious, that this invention needs only making public, to introduce in into general use.
It is well known that copper or brass, when heated emit a ‘pernicious effluvia’, which, as well as the Sulphur arising from the coals, are not only very offensive, but exceedingly prejudicial, particularly so to persons of asthmatic or delicate conditions. All which complaints are (by this invention) totally removed. They are likewise more cleanly, smooth and durable than any other warming pans.
NB Price from twelve to sixteen shillings.
Now this option sounds perfectly feasible and safe.
Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal, Saturday, January 6, 1787
Mr. Redman, an ingenious tin-man of Salisbury says that, ‘two quarts of sand, heated in an iron pan until red hot, and put into a warming pan, will warm a bed equally with live coals, without their ill effects; and that a bag of heated sand put in the bottom of a coach will keep it agreeably warm a long time’.
Whitehall Evening Post, December 22, 1785
At this season of the year when the excessive damps, produced from the vapours of the earth have such a visible effect on the human body generating colds and putrid disease of the most fatal kind; the following, which has been tried in the circle of a few families, would doubtless have its use if more generally adopted, as it is not only a specific preventive, but is the surest palliative in asthmatic and consumptive constitutions. When the air is thick, foggy or moist, let small lumps of pitch be thrown into your first in such degree and so frequent, as to keep up an almost constant smell of bitumen in the apartment. In rooms where fires are not frequently used, a warming pan throwing into it small lumps of the same particularly before going to bed, might be applied with conveniency. Houses newly painted are best purified in this manner, and the more so as neither injures nor soils.
As you do, we have just stumbled upon a book titled ‘An Account of Prisons and Houses of Correction in the Midland Circuit’, which provides details of the conditions within the prisons following a review carried out by John Howard Esq., prison reformer, on behalf of the Duke of Montagu, so we thought we would share some bits with you.
Howard’s aim was to review the physical condition of the prisons, and the benefits or otherwise of the prisoners themselves.
The morals of prisoners were at this time as much neglected as their health. Idleness, drunkenness and all kinds of vice, were suffered to continue in such a manner as to confirm old offenders in their bad practices, and to render it almost certain, that the minds of those who were confined for their first faults, would be corrupted instead of being corrected, by their imprisonment.
Howard made a series of recommendations regarding prisons including these:
Every prison be white-washed at least once every year, and that this be done twice in prisons which are much crowded.
That a pump and plentiful supply of water be provided, and that every part of the prison be kept as clean as possible.
That every prison be supplied with a warm and cold bath, or commodious bathing tubs, and that the prisoners be indulged in the use of such baths, with a proper allowance of soap and the use of towels.
That attention be paid to the sewers in order to render them as little offensive as possible.
That great care be taken, that as perfect a separation as possible be made of the following classes of prisoners. That felons be kept entirely separate from debtors; men from women’ old offenders from young beginners; convicts from those who have not yet been tried.
That all prisoners, except debtors be clothed on their admission with a prison uniform and that their own clothes be returned to them when they are brought to trial or are dismissed.
That care be taken that the prisoners are properly supplied with food, and their allowance not deficient, either in weight or quality.
He also recommended that gaolers were to be paid a proper salary, that religious services take place and that no swearing was to be permitted. A surgeon or apothecary be appointed to tend to the sick. That attention be paid to the prisoners on their discharge and that, if possible some means be pointed out to them by which they may be enabled to gain a livelihood in an honest manner.
The book provides brief details of the finding at some of the prisons, so we thought we would share a few of these with:
County Bridewell – Warwick
A new prison is finished and occupied. There are separate apartments and courts with water, for men and women; and vagrants have a court and apartments separate from the other prisoners. Allowance, as in a gaol.
No coals: no employment at present; but a long room, ten feet and a half wide is provided, with looms, and other materials for work.
1788, Feb. 15 Prisoners – 10.
Birmingham Town Gaol
The court is now paved with broad stones, but dirty with fowls. There is only one dayroom for both sexes, over the door of which there is impudently painted ‘Universal Academy’. Neither the act for preserving the health of prisoners, nor clauses against spirituous liquors are hung up. The gaoler has no salary, but still a licence for beer.
1788, Feb. 14 Prisoners – 13.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Two rooms. No court: no water. Keeper’s salary only £4
1788 Aug. 7. No prisoners.
An old house lately purchased. Prisoner were formerly confined in a room in the inn keeper’s public house. No allowance, keeper’s salary £20
1788, Aug 3. No prisoners.
County Gaol at Nottingham
At the entrance is this inscription on a board ‘No ale, nor any sort of liquor sold within the prison’. Gaoler’s salary now £140. The prison too small. The debtors in three rooms, pay 2s a week each, though two in a bed. They who can pay only 6d are in two rooms below, confined with such felons as pay 2s a week. The other felons lie in two dark, offensive dungeons, own thirty-six steps called pits, which are never white-washed.
Another dungeon in 1787 was occupied by a man sentenced to two years solitary confinement. The town ‘transports’ and criminals are here confined with the county felons, which it may be hoped the magistrates will soon rectify. The room used for a chapel was too close, though when I was there, only one debtor attended the service. Allowance to felons now 1 and a half pence in bread and a half penny in money. Five of the felons were county, and give town convicts.
1787, Oct 23, Debtors 9
Felons etc. 21
1788, Aug 6, Debtors 12
Felons etc. 10
County Bridewell, Folkingham, Lincolnshire
No alteration in this offensive prison. Court not secure. Prisoners locked up. No water: no employment. Keeper’s salary £40 out of which he maintains (of starves) his prisoners.
1788, Jan. 17, Prisoners 3
Lincoln City and County Gaol
No alteration. Through the window of the two damp cells, both men and women freely converse with idle people in the street, who often supply them with spirituous liquors till they are intoxicated. No court: no sewers: no water accessible to the prisoners. Gaoler’s salary augments £20 in lieu of the tap.
1788, Jan 16 Debtors none. Felons etc. 5
County Gaol at Northampton
Gaoler’s salary £200, out of which he is to give every prisoner three pints of small beer a day.
In the walls of the felons court there are now apertures for air. The prison clean as usual. The new room for the sick is over the Bridewell, with iron bedsteads and proper bedding. The bread allowance to felons is a fourpenny loaf every other day (weight 3lb 2oz). County convicts 2s 6d a week.
1787, Oct 27 Debtors 9. Felons etc. 20.
The Humours of the Fleet. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
As well as being essential items of clothing to help people stay warm on those cold winter nights and to cover their modesty, people clothed only in their night apparel provided the caricaturists of the day with a plentiful supply of material, so we thought we would take a quick, lighthearted look at a few of these to cheer up a cold winter’s day.
A lean old woman in night-cap and shift sits in an arm-chair pouncing on an insect on her upraised knee.
People wearing just their nightwear was yet another way of mocking the ‘great and the good’ of the Georgian Era, so here we go with just a small sample of the amusing caricatures of the day.
Here we have the Duke of York and his mistress Mrs Clarke, neither bearing any resemblance to the actual people however, as you can see from the painting of Mary Anne below.
Next we have a satire on Napoleon in 1815, as he sits at a table wearing a night-cap writing his will, with English soldiers on guard, not a very flattering image!
Here we have a print by Rowlandson depicting both George III and the future George IV, always a character ripe for mockery.
This one was produced around the time of the marriage of the future George IV to Caroline of Brunswick; Prinny in his very short night shirt and nightcap looking decidedly worried and Princess Caroline smiling! This was not going to end well, as history teaches us!
And finally, we move from the nobility to political mockery with a terrified Charles James Fox and his wife in bed, Napoleon standing over them and William Pitt to the left.
We recently told you about the miser Mary Luhorne, that we came across in the book Lives and Anecdotes of Misers. Needless to say we unearthed a few more, but unfortunately, unlike Mary, we are unable to validate most of these, apart from to confirm that details of their stories also appeared in the newspapers some years later. Once again, amongst many questions, it does beg the question ‘where were the relatives when they were alive?‘ sadly, we have no answer to that question.
Anyway, here we go:
In 1768, in Nether-Shuckburgh, in Warwickshire, lived an old maid, named Elizabeth Wilcocks, whose life was very similar to that of Mary Luhorne. For many years before her death, she ate nothing but horse-beans or a few curlings: she had hardly any clothes, and had nothing but a bundle of straw and an old blanket to lie upon; yet, at her death, twelve pairs of sheets, and a large quantity of other linen, was found in her drawers.
She hid her wealth in the most unaccountable places. In a pickle-pot, stowed away in the clock-case, was discovered eighty pounds in gold and five pounds in silver. In a hole under the stairs a canister full of gold: in an old rat-trap a large quantity of gold and silver, and in several other places similar hoards were discovered by her executors.
In addition to all this wealth, this miserable old miser was possessed of an estate in houses and land producing a handsome revenue. She left the whole of her property to a very distant relative.
Many years ago, there used to sit in the streets of Exeter an old woman selling lemons and apples. In the very hottest day she did not flinch before the sun; and in the very bitterest of December nights she was sure to be found at her accustomed place.
Now and then she did business in her little way, and took a few coppers from the urchins in the streets. Her appearance bespoke the utmost poverty, and her rigid habits of parsimony were regarded by the charitable as the shifts of indigence.
She had been an old inhabitant of the city but all her relatives were poor, and one of them had long been an inmate of the workhouse. There were but few who, knowing these circumstances, did not pity poor old Joanna Horrel, the apple-woman, of Exeter; and loose halfpence were often quietly dropped into her fruit-basket.
These tributes of compassion were always carefully hoarded up, and however much she obtained by such means, she never altered her appearance, never lived more generously, never indulged herself in luxuries or comforts at home, and never once thought of her relative in the poor-house. In the year 1789, Joanna had grown old, and her span of life was at an end. Her relatives came to fulfill the last duties for the dead and on searching her room, hid here and there in cracks and corners, behind bricks and under the flooring, they discovered a fortune of near ten thousand pounds.
In an old newspaper, called the General Evening Post, of the date December 21, 1779, there is an announcement of the death of Miss Maria Vooght, the female miser, of Amsterdam. She was the last of three singular and parsimonious sisters. Lest they should not be enabled to gratify their propensity to accumulate and save, they resolutely declined all offers of matrimony.
They lived huddled together in one room—gloried, like true misers, in filth, and lumber, and vermin. They ate the coarsest food, and of that but sparingly, and they were never known to have bestowed a fraction in charity. There never, perhaps, were seen such miserable, dirty, and untidy old maids. In all three, the passion of avarice was equally strong: it appeared in them a family vice: they were not induced to become so parsimonious from the fear of any future want, for they had each a fortune which would have secured all those comforts and enjoyments it is in the power of gold to provide.
Maria Vooght, the last of these eccentric characters, left at her death, a fortune of five millions of guilders, equal to five hundred thousand pounds. She died intestate, and the money went to strangers.
Margery Jackson, The Carlisle miser and misanthrope (1722 – 1812)
This story is somewhat different, but equally sad, so rather than sharing her whole story with you, we will simply redirect you to this brief online Memoir of Margery Jackson, it makes fascinating reading, we would definitely recommend having a quick read of it, she even created mayhem after her death! – not the most pleasant of women.
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle even have a dress owned by Margery in their collection.
Margery Jackson, the Carlisle Miser, by William Brown (active 1811-1837). Tuille house Museum and At Gallery
We are thrilled to welcome Dr Jacqueline Reiter who has written a guest blog for us about her first book The Late Lord: the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, which was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017.
Jacqueline has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at The Late Lord and you can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
So we will hand you over to Jacqueline to tell you more about The Late Lord.
I freely admit that, when I started writing my biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, I hoped to overturn some of the myths surrounding him. Chatham was the elder brother of William Pitt the Younger and infamous for his lazy command of the Walcheren Expedition of 1809, which was a notorious failure.
In reality, Chatham was a fascinating, complex person, certainly not the indolent fool he has been made out to be, but it seems there is no smoke without fire. I often came across what I called “oh dear John” moments (and yes, I do feel my reading all Chatham’s available personal correspondence entitles me to be on first-name terms with him).
There was the occasion when “the late Lord Chatham”, as he was known, turned up four and a half hours late to a royal function; the newspapers po-facedly traced his lacklustre attendance at Board meetings while First Lord of the Admiralty. Even in private life he was a bit of a flake, and spent five weeks screwing up the courage to propose to his future wife, while everybody about him (including the object of his affections) got increasingly tetchy.
Possibly the least expected laugh-out-loud moment of all occurred while I was plodding resolutely through the 12th Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry (1810), focusing on the Office of the Master-General of the Ordnance.
Chatham was Master-General of the Ordnance from 1801-6 and 1807-10. His department was responsible for the production and provision of gunpowder and firearms, as well as the building and maintenance of permanent fortifications. It trained artillerists and engineers at Woolwich, thereby providing advanced scientific and mathematical education (for all classes, not just the privileged). It sponsored scientific innovation, and not merely by developing new ways of killing more people in the most explosive possible way; the Ordnance Survey Maps are so named because they were first produced by the Ordnance Office.
The Ordnance was a big, cumbersome, bureaucracy-heavy department, but its structure had evolved because it had to be clearly accountable as a public office handling an awful lot of money. Between 1803 and 1815, the Ordnance Ordinaries, Extraordinaries and Unprovided funds (voted on a yearly basis by Parliament based on pretty detailed financial breakdowns) rose from £1.27 million to between £4 and £4.6 million (with a spike of £5.3 million in 1809, when Britain fielded two enormous armies in two different fields of battle).
These were hefty sums: in 1813, Britain’s total annual budget was £66 million. Part of the remit of the Military Commissioners, indeed, was to work out why Ordnance expenditure had grown so much and so rapidly during the war, and to suggest ways of reducing it.
Chatham did not appear before the Commission in person, although he did answer several questions about the office of Master-General by post. One of his staff, however, Colonel Charles Neville, did appear (on 2 April 1810). Neville did quite well during his cross-examination, but at one point he stumbled and inadvertently revealed something Chatham would probably rather had remained confidential.
Neville was only an under-secretary: the actual Secretary, Sir William Bellingham, had done virtually nothing to justify his salary since his appointment and had in fact been in Ireland for a lot of the time (because of this, his office was very much up for the chop). Neville was asked several questions about the structure of the Master-General’s personal department. It was quite small, Neville said: there were only three official messengers, two of them attached to the Ordnance Office and one personal messenger to the Master-General, who attended him when he was travelling.
This, Neville explained, was something Chatham did a lot. He was a busy man. The Master-Generalship was only one of his many official hats, the next most important of which was his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Military District. Britain was divided up into several districts, each commanded by a high-ranking general officer who controlled the military resources and the regular, militia and volunteer forces in the geographic area under their command. Chatham’s Eastern District headquarters were in Colchester, and his correspondence bears out Neville’s evidence that he spent a significant portion of each year there.
Did Lord Chatham charge travel expenses? Yes, Neville said, he did. (But of course: he was entitled to do so.) Were these checked by anybody? Neville replied: “The Bills are brought to me by his Lordship’s personal Messenger; and I strike out all Journies [sic] that do not appear directed to an Ordnance Station.”
The follow-up question was obvious: “Did Lord Chatham, whilst Master General, charge his Travelling Expenses to the Ordnance, when going to, or returning from the District in which he had a Staff Command?”
Maybe he was nervous about appearing before a parliamentary commission, but Neville blithely stepped straight into the trap laid out for him: “Yes, as he went to Colchester, which is an Artillery Station.”
“Are you aware,” the anonymous commissioner continued, “that General Officers on the Staff are not allowed, by His Majesty’s Regulations, any Travelling Expences for Journies within their Districts?”
At which point an ominous silence probably fell across the room, and Neville must have thought: “….. Oh no.”
He responded with a bland “I am not aware of any such Regulation.”
Thankfully Chatham was at this point already out of office, or Ordnance-Expensegate might well have followed…
(And if you’re wondering, Chatham charged £421.14.8 in travel expenses in 1807 – a sizeable sum!).
All of which just goes to show that expenses were as much an issue in 1810 as they were in 2010. Some things, it seems, never change.
All quotations come from Commissioners of Military Enquiry, Thirteenth Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry: The Master General and Board of Ordnance (London, 1811).