Today, it is a pleasure to welcome another new guest to All Things Georgian, Peter Kennison, co-author of ‘Policing From Bow Street: Principal Officers, Runners and The Patroles’, who is going to tell us more about the early origins of policing, so I’ll hand over to him to tell more:
In 2014 Lucy Inglis was perceptive in her brilliant book Georgian London when she wrote that “Less has changed than you might think” something which is certainly true of Bow Street as the centre from which policing in the UK commenced.
Today the Bow Street Tavern exists at 37 Bow Street and if you are lucky enough to be invited down in the cellars you will see the dark damp cell where the Bow Street constables of the 1750s onwards lodged their prisoners. In their day the public house was called the Brown Bear and in 270 years only its name has changed. The Brown Bear was not only the prison for lodging prisoners by the court, but it was also the place where the so-called Bow Street runners took their refreshments. Situated Immediately opposite the public house was the Bow Street Public Office and courthouse at no. 4 Bow Street – originally established by the Trading Justice Sir Thomas De Veil.
The existing medieval system of watch and ward designed to police the masses was breaking down. Societal change and urban growth were destabilising the fabric of society. Weak, independent local Government added another layer of complexity and ineffectiveness. The playwright and magistrate Henry Fielding realised the ineffectiveness of the Parish Police Parochial Watch system that press-ganged traders and merchants into doing their civil duty for one year as Constables. Each Parish Watch operated independently within its own boundary, but since crime fails to respect boundaries many perpetrators escaped.
Crimes committed often went unreported and unrecorded for want of a real central police organisation. A further weakness in the law enforcement system inevitably bred public corruption and led to a deterioration in public morals. Unscrupulous and dishonest individuals found themselves in positions of power as Trading Justices, dispensing the law to a fee-paying public.
Public disorder became a problem; religious, political and social grievances expressed themselves in public scenes of dissatisfaction. Life on the Hogarthian margins was laid bare, with rampant prostitution, drunkenness, hooliganism, bawdy houses and civil disorder. Something had to be done.
The Runners were created by the playwright and magistrate Henry Fielding who in 6 short years created a plan of policing to combat the crime problems into principals we follow today. Fielding created his own constabulary of 6 trusted men taken from the 80 parish constables who had been elected in the City of Westminster for 1 year. This indicated that not many of those selected were up to the job. With the help of Sanders Welch the High Constable of Holborn they established rules in policing practice which every person who holds the office of constable today.
Later they were erroneously known as Runners was a title given to them by the newspapers in the 1780s at roughly the same time that the Bow Street Foot Patroles were introduced. The names and details of these six or so early policemen were deliberately kept secret by Fielding to avoid them being identified as constables nonetheless these were like-minded public-spirited individuals seeking the common good. But who were the men of Bow Street? Those intrepid constables who were the first Principal Officers of the court who from the start – learned the so-called “fundamentals of policing” or its perceptual blueprint. Henry Fielding became the first Stipendiary magistrate funded by the Government as he wished to distance himself from the corrupt practices he witnessed by the other Westminster Trading Justices in dispensing justice. He needed to build an honest reputation that would give confidence to victims and witnesses of crime to come forward and report what they knew. The Bow Street officers made good progress in ridding the streets and highways of dangerous Robbers and footpads.
Bow Street’s gradual success took on something akin to a mythical status. The myth attributed to the Runners was acquired in retrospect was of a group of active individuals who uncovered law-breaking and arrested felons. There was seemingly no hiding place for offenders and Bow Street always got their man, even though they were just a small group of no more than eight investigators.[i] What also added to this myth were numbers of other Bow Street constables because these were not just small numbers.
There were other patroles at Bow Street who supplemented the “Thief Takers”, and they sometimes numbered nearly 300. By the 1780s public signs of hostility over religious grievances caused public disorder resulting in military overreaction. A civil body was needed.
A Bow Street Foot patrole was created in 1782 numbering over 68 although a Bow Street Horse patrole had been experimented with in 1763 and whilst very successful only lasted a year when the Government withdrew funds. These mounted patroles, however, were resurrected in 1805 and later laid the basis of the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch.
The Horse patrole consisted of 2 Inspectors, 4 deputy Inspectors and 54 constables. Then there were the 100 constables of the Dismounted Horse Patrole and by 1821 28 members of the uniformed day patrole so in the later stages of Bow Street they numbered 264 in total. The Runners built up a reputation based on their detective skills and investigated mainly property crime whilst the plain clothes heavily armed foot patroles went out onto the streets at dusk until midnight in groups of 5 operating out from Westminster to a distance of 4 miles. This was every day, 365 days a year and they became a familiar sight on the streets of Westminster Surrey, Kent, Essex and Middlesex becoming a familiar sight on London’s streets.
Fielding and Welch both instilled an esprit de corps that helped galvanise the group into an effective crime-fighting force. It was this spirit of comradery which contributed to the myth in what Critchley (1967) asserts:
This roisterous body of men some of whom made substantial fortunes out of shady business in trafficking in crime, undoubtedly… creating in their own lifetime the myth of the Bow Street Runners.
The success of Bow Street not only hinged on its mythical status, but the way Henry Fielding laid out his plan to combat crime was unique. This he termed as moving from “Madness to Method”. Once his constabulary was in place they went out onto the streets established informants for information on offenders who they paid them out of their own pockets and if successful they would pocket the state reward of up to £40 on successful conviction of a felony – a more serious crime.
He established Bow Street as the ‘Go to’ place to report their crimes where he had his men available to record these matters into Criminal Registers. These early Registers reported the time, place, method descriptions, value of property stolen, witnesses (+ their addresses) or either real or likely names (or pseudonyms) of suspects.
Prisoners were brought to his court on other matters where he had invited the general public to view proceedings and possibly identify likely perpetrators. Also invited were the newspapers who meticulously reported proceedings under the heading of Bow Street daily to a news-hungry public.
Fielding also established his own successful newspaper which he used to highlight particular crimes reported to Bow Street and these also included matters alerted to him at Bow Street from Magistrates in the shires surrounding London and sometimes beyond. On the report of a felony, a reserve of 2 Bow Street principal officers were waiting to take details, search the registers for descriptions before they ventured out at any time of the day or night on the fast response vehicle at the time – the horse. Fielding only selected those of his officers for the job if they were highly-skilled as good horsemen, often brave battle-hardened ex-cavalry soldiers who had served the army with credit. The men were well-trained, properly armed and good marksmen.
The constables appreciated the dangers of violence towards them under these circumstances and often went in sufficient numbers. His methods of sudden pursuit paid dividends since many highwaymen were swiftly caught and brought back to court to face examination. With an added confidence, soon more witnesses and victims of crime attended the court to make their reports, with each case being investigated and acted on quickly. Quick response has become a useful police strategy.
The Fieldings newspaper was the early forerunner to the Police Gazette still circulated to Police organisations today. Historians have viewed this part of police history at Bow Street Public Office as an irrelevance not to be taken seriously because little is known about the detail. The Whig historians claim that these later Runners were a corrupt group of men whose services could be bought or who would frame innocent people to gain the state (£40) reward. Whilst this was more true later at the turn of the century onwards the men of Bow Street were properly regulated, honest, public-spirited thief-takers.
These honest men were not to be confused with the common and disreputable thief-taker general, Jonathon Wild, whose corrupt gang fitted up unsuspecting people to claim the rewards. What seems to add fuel to this flame and probably a reason none of the runners were employed as Metropolitan Police detectives was that when for example, the most famous Bow Street Runner John Townsend died in 1832 he left investments totalling £25,000, getting on for £1,237,250 in today’s money and this was the same for other principal officers.
Peter’s book can be obtained from Mango Books by following the highlighted link, at £25 plus £3.55 postage for the hardcover cover. He also has a limited supply at £21 post free via PayPal at email@example.com on a first-come, first-served basis.
[i] Beattie, J. M. (2012) The First English Detectives. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 264.
I first became acquainted with this gentleman last week when a good friend on social media messaged me with ‘I think this story needs you‘. Say no more, I was off down that rabbit hole. What a fabulous painting by John Dempsey of an early 19th-century gentleman from Norwich, but with no name apart from ‘Black Charley’ and nothing more known about him.
Black Charley, Norwich, 1823The newspapers and parish registers came to the rescue in identifying this very dapper-looking man in his very smart clothing, who appears to have made and sold fashionable boots and shoes from a shop in Norwich, but perhaps looks can be a little deceptive.
The National Portrait Gallery of Australia suggests that the gentleman may have been a child brought to England by Capt. (later Rear-Admiral) Frederick Paul Irby who had him baptised in 1813, as Charles Fortunatus Freeman, along with two other children and whilst this is feasible the dates don’t seem to tie up as you will soon find out.
Firstly, let’s give him the name by which he was known – may I introduce to you Mr Charles Willis Yearly of Norwich.
As yet nothing is known about where he was born, whether here in the UK or overseas, but from his burial, we now know that he was born around 1785 which arguably means that he was not the child baptised in 1813, as this would have made him around 28 at the time, so not a child. I still have no idea where the middle name ‘Willis’ came from.
On St Valentine’s Day 1820, Charles married Diana Norman of rural Stradbrooke, Suffolk, at the parish church of St Michael at Thorn, Norwich.
Despite his very dapper appearance, neither he nor Diana was able to sign the register and instead simply made their mark with an X, which leads me to think that perhaps these were more than likely second-hand clothes. The witnesses being Elisha Briggs, a farmer and landlord of The Two Necked Swan, Norwich and William H Houghton., who appears to be the second witness to all marriages around that date.
It was at the end of 1822, at the parish church of St Andrew’s, Norwich that the couple proudly presented their first son and heir, Charles Willis to be baptised. At the time Charles gave his occupation as being that of a ‘broker’, essentially a salesman, so not actually making the boots and shoes in the painting but selling them from his shop, these were second-hand boots and shoes.
The following year saw the arrival of a second child, again a son, Richard Willis, who died aged just two. The next birth was that of Jeremiah in 1825, followed by a daughter, Lydia in 1827.
At the end of 1828 things were not going well for Charles when he found himself in the House of Correction for assaulting a woman, this sentence being ‘three months on the treadwheel‘, which must have made life difficult for Diana as she was pregnant at the time with their final child who was born February 1829, a daughter, Mahalah.
It was then in 1829 that Charles was to die, aged just 44, and was buried on June 17 at St Andrew’s church. Given his sentence, it seems feasible that the time spent on the treadwheel may well have contributed to his demise (speculation of course).
His death was closely followed by that of his infant daughter, Mahalah, whose name appears on the same page of the burial register, but on the 31 December.
This left Diana to work out how to proceed as a widow with three children under 10 – Charles, Jeremiah and Lydia for comfort, but more importantly, to support if they were to avoid the workhouse.
The family business was taken over by a gentleman by the name of Mr Clarkson, who was described in the newspaper as
a dealer in old shoes, being the same colour and successor of a gentleman well known in Norwich by the title of Black Charley.
We meet up with Diana again on the 1841 census, the family had left their shop and moved to Black Horse Yard, Lower Westwick Street, in the St Lawrence district of Norwich.
Clearly, money was in short supply as Diana had become a washerwoman, but by now she had her three children all in their teens to assist with the household chores as well as being in employment. Her son, Charles was a labourer coachmaker, Jeremiah, a hawker, selling around the local area, the census doesn’t offer any clues as to what wares he was selling though. Lydia was just 13, so it would be safe to assume she was helping her mother until aged just 16, she was to die.
Quite what became of their son, Charles is a little unclear, but in 1842 he found himself in court a few times for theft.
In another newspaper report, Charles was described as ‘a mulatto son of Old Black Charley‘, thereby confirming that Charles and Diana’s marriage was a mixed-race marriage.
Young Charles Willis re-surfaced in Bristol when, in 1854 he described himself as a cook when he married a young widow, Catharine Harman. He named his father as Charles Willis, describing him as a cook – this is an occupation that doesn’t seem to have appeared anywhere else.
Being slightly suspicious, I do wonder whether he was being completely truthful when he married, especially as he also got his age wrong – he said he wasn’t born until 1826 when he was born 1822. Quite what happened with this marriage is lost to history right now, but curiously he appeared again in 1862, back in Norfolk where both he and his co-conspirator, John Harman were sentenced to a month in prison for larceny. Was John Harman connected to his wife Catherine, who knows, but it’s an unusual surname, so it seems likely. There is a burial for a Catherine Yearly in 1862 which in all likelihood was Charles’ wife.
Charles re-offended and found himself back in prison only a matter of weeks later, for a further six weeks.
Diana spent her remaining days living in Suffolk, with her son Jeremiah, his wife, Sarah, where at the age of 75, Diana was still working as a laundress.
In 1871, Jeremiah was a marine store dealer and by 1881 they had converted their home into a lodging house – 6, Mariners Street, Lowestoft where they remained until the end of their lives. Jeremiah was buried on 10 June 1886, aged 65, at Lowestoft, just two years after his wife Sarah Ann and as the couple had no children, with their death the Yearly name died out unless any proof appears that young Charles had any children, although that seems unlikely.
It would appear from the 1871 census that Diana was living at the House of Industry, Oulton, Suffolk, incorrectly named as Eliza Yearly, but with her age and place of birth being correct. She died there, aged 90 in 1879.
Today I thought we would take a look at some Georgian recipes for making perfume, most of them are still feasible to make at home today with some minor adjustments.
To perfume clothes
Take of oven-dried cloves, cedar and rhubarb wood, once ounce of each and beat them into a powder and sprinkle them in a box or chest where they will create a most beautiful scent and preserve the apparel against moths.
Perfumed bags for drawers
Cut, slice and mix well together into a rough powder the following ingredients
2oz. of yellow saunders, the same of coriander seeds, orris root, calamus aromatics (sweet flax), cloves, cinnamon bark, dried rose leaves, lavender, and 1lb. of oak shavings.
When properly mixed, stuff the above into small linen bags, which place in drawers, wardrobes, which are musty, or liable to become so.
Perfume for gloves
Take one drachm of ambergris and sieve; add quarter of an ounce of flour-butter and mix together well. Rub the gloves over gently with fine cotton wool and press the perfume into them.
Take half an ounce of damask or rose scent, a drachm of the spirit of cloves and mace, and a quarter of an ounce of frankincense,. Mix them together, and lay them in papers, and when hard, press the gloves; they will absorb the scent in 24 hours, and hardly ever lose it.
Pastils for perfuming sick rooms
Reduce the following to a powder separately on a marble slab and then mix –
1 lb. of gum benzoin, 8 oz. of gum storax (used to treat wounds, infections and coughs), 1 lb. of frankincense, and 2 lbs. of fine charcoal.
Add to this composition the following liquids:
6 oz. of tincture of benzoin, 2 oz. of essence of ambergris, 1 oz. of essence of musk, 2 oz. of almond oil, and 4 oz. of clear syrup.
Mix the whole into a stiff paste, and form into pastils, of a conical shape, which dry in the heat of the sun.
If more liquid should be required for the paste, add warm water.
Melt penny-weights of fine ambergris, in a brass mortar very gently then stir in quickly, 8 drops of green lemon juice, and the same of behn-nut oil (or almond oil). Add, ready powdered with fine loaf-sugar, 12 grains of musk, 12 grains of civet, and 24 grains of residuum from the making of spirit of ambergris.
Add one ounce of spirit of ambergris, mix and incorporate them well, and add 16 pounds of fine dry hair-powder.
Pass twice, through a fine hair sieve; then lay it open for three days, in a dry room, stir it often, until the spirit evaporates, Bottle and stop it close.
Take best dried and scraped orris roots which should be free from mould. Bruise or grind them, the latter is best, as, being very tough, they require great labour to pound. Sift the powder through a fine hair sieve, and put the remainder in the oven, to dry the mixture. A high temperature will turn the roots yellow. Once dry, grind again, and sift; and repeat the same until the whole has passed through the sieve. Mix nothing with it, as it would mould and spoil.
Drop twelve drops of genuine oil of rhodium on a lump of loaf-sugar; grind this well in a glass mortar and mix it thoroughly with three pounds of orris powder.
This will, in its perfume, have a resemblance to a well-flavoured violet. If you add more rhodium oil, a rose perfume, instead of a violet one will be produced; the orris powder is a most agreeable perfume, and only requiring to be raised by the addition of the above quantity of the oil. According to the author, it is better to make your own as what is sold at the druggist’s shops is generally adulterated.
Take two pecks of fresh, dry damask rose-leaves; strip them from their leaves and stalks; have ready 16 pounds of fine hair-powder. Strew a layer of rose-leaves, on sheets of paper, at the bottom of a box, cover them over with a layer of hair-powder; then strew alternately a layer of roses and powder, until the whole of each has been used.
Leave for twenty four hours, then sieve the powder out, and expose it to the air for a further twenty four hours, stirring regularly. Add fresh rose-leaves, twice, as before, and proceed in the same way; after this dry the powder well by a gentle heat and pass it through a fine sieve.
Lastly, pour ten drops of oil of rhodium, or three drops of otto of roses, on loaf-sugar, which triturate in a glass mortar, and stir well into the powder, which put into a box, or glass, for use. This hair-powder perfume will be excellent and will keep well.
Take sixteen pounds of hair powder, and forty drops of Roman oil of bergamot, and proceed in all respects as before, but do not leave the compound exposed to the air as the bergamot is so volatile that it will evaporate.
If none of these appealed then of course you could buy perfume from a perfumery or chemist, such as Simmons and Kirkby in Canterbury, who would sell you musk, orange, bergamot and so on for just one shilling a bottle – perhaps an easier option.
The British perfumer: being a collection of choice receipts and observations by Charles Lillie
Today we have the final part of the story about General James Wolfe, so I’ll hand you over to Kim to complete this and take this opportunity to say a massive ‘Thank You’ to Kim, for all her hard work in writing this fascinating story.
If by any chance you missed any of the first 3 parts, click on the following links – Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.
Events moved quickly, and not only in Wolfe’s professional life.
Her name was Katherine Lowther, and she was his parents’ “pretty neighbour” at Bath, whose sleep he had apologised for disturbing by his clattering departure one winter morning two years before. Her pedigree was impeccable: her father had been a governor of Barbados; one of her grandfathers was a baronet, his wife the daughter of a viscount; her sister was the Countess of Darlington. It was not the coup de foudre which had shattered Wolfe’s life in 1749 and he said he had “no thought of matrimony”, but there was clearly commitment; and he took his final leave of his parents by letter, claiming that he disliked the emotional business of parting. Henrietta Wolfe remained jealous and suspicious, and Lieutenant-General Edward Wolfe altered his will, leaving his considerable estate to his wife with no provision for his son.
Wolfe learned of this in Louisbourg in May, following a rough passage in H.M.S. Neptune to New York, and from there to a fogbound Halifax, the harbour of which was still choked with ice. Edward Wolfe’s death in March had not been unexpected, as “I left him in so weak a condition that it was not probable we should ever meet again”, but the financial blow was a heavy one, although he wrote to Henrietta from “the Banks of the St. Lawrence, 31st August 1759… I approve entirely of my father’s disposition of his affairs, though perhaps it may interfere a little matter with my plan of quitting the service, which I am determined to do at the first opportunity⸺ I mean so as not to be absolutely distressed in circumstance, nor burdensome to you or anyone else.”
He had made his will aboard Neptune, leaving to Katherine the miniature she had given him, “to be set in jewels to the amount of five hundred guineas, and returned to her.”
Perhaps the future would always be only this: an endless repetition of the past. A flirtation with life, the certainty of death, an evanescent dream.
He disposed, generously, of his other assets, and his aides witnessed his signature. There was nothing else, nothing more. The rest, even she, was an illusion.
He burned his personal journal for August, with its bitter catalogue of affront, resentment, suspicion, foreboding and depression, and its accounts of “a sad episode of dysentery”, not now uncommon in an army encamped in extreme heat and humidity, and increasingly severe bouts of renal colic. He had asked for something to ease the pain, fearing that events would slip beyond his control and that he would be unable to prosecute this final attack on a tenacious and unaccommodating enemy.
My antagonist has wisely shut himself up in inaccessible entrenchments, so that I cannot get at him without spilling a torrent of blood, and that perhaps to little purpose. The Marquis de Montcalm is at the head of a great number of bad soldiers, and I am at the head of a small number of good ones, that wish for nothing so much as to fight him; but the wary old fellow avoids an action, doubtful of the behaviour of his army. People must be of the profession to understand the disadvantages and difficulties we labour under, arising from the uncommon natural strength of the country.
Rumours of his illness had disconcerted men already unnerved by a summer of skirmishes and scalpings and sniping by disaffected habitants bearing arms and grudges against the British.
The French did not attempt to interrupt our march. Some of the savages came down to murder such of the wounded as could not be brought off, and to scalp the dead, as their custom is… Scarce a night passes when they are not close upon our posts, watching an opportunity to surprise and murder. There is very little quarter given on either side.
It revolted him. His orders of the 24th of July read: “The General strictly forbids the inhuman practice of scalping, except when the enemies are Indians or Canadians dressed as Indians,” but a subsequent order posted a bounty of five guineas for an aboriginal scalp. The Canadians were offering a similar reward for a British scalp, and after a Captain Alexander Montgomery of the 43rd Foot found his brother’s body “cruelly mutilated by the savages” he had reciprocated in a manner they understood: he and his men had murdered and scalped a priest and twenty of his congregation when they had refused to disarm in St. Joachim on the 23rd of August.
In every man of every race the creed of the frontier, the inner savage, was asserting itself.
No churches, houses or buildings of any kind are to be burned or destroyed without orders. The persons that remain in their habitations, their women and children are to be treated with humanity. If any violence is offered to a woman, the offender shall be punished with death. If any persons are detected robbing the tents of officers or soldiers they will be, if convicted, certainly executed. The commanders of regiments are to be answerable that no rum, or spirits of any kind, be sold in or near the camp.
But it was the enemy within he hated: not Montcalm, not the Canadians, not the Iroquois Confederacy, but a confederacy of his own brigadiers, sworn to subvert, discredit and undermine his authority.
His right to choose his own staff officers had been a condition of his acceptance of command, and he had thought he knew them: his aides, Captains Hervey Smith and Thomas Bell, remained loyal and protective of him.
An Irish major named Isaac Barré was adjutant-general: he had not yet betrayed Wolfe’s trust. The others were his quartermaster-general Lieutenant-Colonel Guy Carleton, an Irish veteran of Flanders whose commission for Louisbourg the King had refused to sign because Carleton had insulted the Hanoverians: even Carleton, a friend, had offended Wolfe by his “abominable behaviour”; the Honourable Robert Monckton, brigadier-general commanding the first battalion, who had been lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia and had overseen operations in the Bay of Fundy after Louisbourg; and the Honourable James Murray, brigadier-general commanding the third battalion, a touchy Scot whose brother was a known Jacobite, and who had served in Flanders and at Rochefort and Louisbourg. He was increasingly influenced by Colonel the Honourable George Townshend, honorary brigadier-general in command of the second battalion. Townshend had been Pitt’s choice, not Wolfe’s. He had fought in Flanders and at Culloden, been aide-de-camp to Cumberland and then to George II, and was called by Horace Walpole “proud, sullen and contemptuous”. He was also a maliciously talented cartoonist and had satirized Cumberland to the detriment of his own career. He now found in Wolfe both subject and target and was circulating with impunity his caricatures of ‘Our General’, hinting that Wolfe’s judgment was clouded by opium and that his refusal to disclose his plan of attack was indecision or, at worst, paranoia.
Wolfe was, by his own admission, “so ill and so weak that I begged the General Officers to consult together for the public utility and advantage; and to consider of the best method of attacking the enemy.” He offered them what he called “a choice of difficulties”. They rejected all three options and mooted one of their own, Townshend claiming afterwards that Wolfe had never had any intention of forcing a pitched battle at Quebec.
For a man who was bluffing or indecisive, or too ill or too drugged to function, his mind remained exceptionally focused, detailing the siting and calibre of artillery, and designating specific ships, batteries, and signals; collating information from every source including deserters, whom he questioned himself; conducting solo reconnaissances on foot or by boat; noting the dispersal of Montcalm’s forces, the Duc de Lévis somewhere between Quebec and Montreal with an army of 4,000 chosen men, Colonel Louis-Antoine de Bougainville at Cap-Rouge with another 3,000 regulars, militia and aboriginals; reading the reports of shortages and damages within the city; considering the logistics: the immutable, the inalienable, the impossible. He knew every officer and had trained and drilled personally many of the men: the combined forces were now a weapon poised to strike when the time and the tide and the peculiarities of the river and the phase of the moon dictated. He had seen the place in early July and had conferred with the navy’s navigators and cartographers, among them James Cook. The time was now.
Those commanders he trusted he briefed in full, including the navy, with which close co-operation was vital. He issued his final orders on the afternoon of September 12th, from aboard H.M.S. Sutherland.
The enemy’s force is now divided; great scarcity of provisions is in their camp and universal discontent among the Canadians. The second officer is gone to Montreal or St. John’s, which gives reason to think that General Amherst is advancing into the colony. A vigorous blow struck by the army at this juncture may determine the fate of Canada. Our troops below are in readiness to join us; all the light artillery and tools are embarked at Point Levi, and the troops will land where the French seem least to expect it.
The first body that gets onshore is to march directly to the enemy and drive them from any little post they may occupy. The officers must be careful that the succeeding bodies do not by any mistake fire upon those who go before them. The battalions must form on the upper ground with the expedition, and be ready to charge whatever presents itself. When the artillery and troops are landed, a corps will be left to secure the landing-place, while the rest march on, and endeavour to bring the French and Canadians to a battle. The officers and men will remember what their country expects from them, and what a determined body of soldiers, inured to war, is capable of doing against five weak French battalions mingled with disorderly peasantry. The soldiers must be attentive and obedient to their officers, and the officers resolute in the execution of their duty.
At 8:00 p.m., as the troops were climbing down into Sutherland’s boats, he received a letter signed by all three brigadiers demanding further clarification. Security was necessary, they conceded, but they had not been taken fully into the General’s confidence, and their orders were not specific.
He wrote to Monckton:
My reason for desiring the honour of your company with me to Gorham’s Post yesterday was to show you, as well as the distance, would permit, the situation of the enemy, and the place where I meant they should be attacked. The place is called the Foulon, distant upon two miles or two and a half from Quebec… as several Ships of War are to fall down with troops Mr Holmes will be able to station them properly after he has seen the place… The officers who are appointed to conduct the divisions of boats have been strictly enjoined to keep as much order and to act as silently as the nature of the service will admit of. It is not usual to point out in the public orders the direct spot of our attack, nor for any inferior officers not charged with a particular duty to ask instruction upon that point. I had the honour to inform you today that it is my duty to attack the French army. To the best of my knowledge and ability, I have fixed upon that spot where we can act with the most force and are the most likely to succeed. If I am mistaken, I am sorry and must be answerable to his Majesty and the public for the consequences.
To Townshend, controlling his dislike, he wrote:
Brigadier-General Monckton is charged with the first landing and attack at the Foulon, if he succeeds you will be pleased to give directions that the troops afloat be set on shore with the utmost expedition, as they are under your command, and when 3,600 men now in the fleet are landed I have no manner of doubt but that we are able to fight and beat the French army, in which I know you will give your best assistance.
To Murray, who was under Monckton’s command, he wrote nothing.
At 2:00 a.m., time and tide ebbing, Sutherland’s barge took the lead.
On the right of the line to the edge of the cliffs, with Wolfe in personal command, the 35th, the Louisbourg Grenadiers, the 28th, the 43rd. In the centre under Monckton, Lascelles’, the 47th: Scots who had fought Scots at Prestonpans and Culloden. On the left, Murray with the 78th, the Fraser Highlanders, born, perhaps, of a conversation one evening in Inverness between Wolfe and Simon Fraser, whose father, the Jacobite Lord Lovat, had been beheaded for treason in 1747. Fraser had been out with his clan for the Pretender in the ʼ45 and been pardoned in 1750. Wolfe had suggested he raise a regiment for the King, and the Frasers were here now, bristling with the weapons the Disarming Act of 1746 still forbade civilians to carry in Scotland. They were, he acknowledged, among the finest soldiers he had ever known. Beside them, Anstruther’s; and in the second line, where Townshend could do the least damage, the 15th and two battalions of the 60th. In reserve, Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Burton’s 48th in eight sub-divisions; and at the rear Colonel the Honourable William Howe, another friend of Wolfe’s, with the rangers and light infantry.
The French colours surrendered at Louisbourg had been paraded in London and put on display in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He did not want to see these six-foot standards, the King’s colours and these regiments’, so dishonoured in Paris.
Daybreak: just after 5 a.m. The rain fell. They waited, unmoving. The ‘plains’ were fairly level, but patched with cornfields and studded with undergrowth and coppices that afforded cover to native and Canadian marksmen. The French picquets, running, had reached Quebec with intelligence that the entire British army was established on the heights to the westward, on, Montcalm noted, “the weakest side of this miserable garrison,” and had, by their presence, thrown down a psychological gauntlet no soldier of honour could ignore.
By 7 a.m., in showery rain, the French were seen coming out, one eyewitness reported, “like bees from a hive”. Sniping by Canadian irregulars and their aboriginal allies intensified. The French opened fire with artillery, and the hailstorm of lead from the Canadians became “very galling”: rather than sacrifice men’s lives prematurely, Wolfe ordered the infantry to lie down briefly in their ranks. The French formed three columns, some 7,500 men, and at about 10 a.m. began to advance. The thin red lines waited.
Apprȇtez vos armes… En joue… Feu!
From his position on the right, on slightly rising ground, Wolfe observed. A soldier wrote later, “I shall never forget his look. He was surveying the enemy with a countenance radiant and joyful beyond description.”
A bullet tore the tendons of his right wrist. He tied it up with his handkerchief: it seemed to cause no pain. The fire was very hot now from the sharpshooters: he could handle a fusil as well as any sergeant and he tore the cartridge with his teeth and spat out the fragment, and waited; every musket in the line was double-shotted on his orders. Amongst the French, there were shouts: obscenities, jeers, encouragement, shouts of Vive le Roi! and Marquez bien les officiers! And marked they were, in the oblique fire from the Royal Roussillon, the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, the battalions of La Sarre, Languedoc, Béarn, Guyenne: Monckton shot in the chest, his left lung collapsing, Carleton sustaining head wounds, Barré’s nose and left cheekbone smashed by a musket ball, his left eye blinded.
They took it, standing impassively with shouldered arms. One hundred and forty yards: one hundred and twenty. The French had four or five field guns: they had hauled only two up the cliffs. A hundred. Hold your fire. Eighty. Sixty. Hold your fire, damn you. At forty yards, on the command, they opened fire: a single volley in unison, which had the effect of a cannonade. When the smoke cleared the plain was littered with greyish-white uniforms, stained scarlet: the dead, the dying, the mutilated. They fired another five volleys. It was 10:15 a.m. and the sun had come out, glinting on bayonets. From further along the line there was a hiss of drawn steel as the Highlanders unsheathed their broadswords.
A quarter-inch of metal, a bullet or shrapnel from an exploding shell, hit Wolfe in the groin: they were under heavy fire from the front and flank, and he was too conspicuous a target to ignore. He waved his hat, signalling that the whole line should advance; and then two bullets pierced his left breast, and he staggered and almost fell. He was caught, supported. “Hold me up,” he said, “don’t let my brave fellows see me fall.” He leaned on Captain Ralph Corry of the 28th, and then there were others: Lieutenant Henry Browne of the Louisbourg Grenadiers, a volunteer named James Henderson, another officer: blue uniform, red facings. Artillery. He tried to help them, but his strength and his vision were failing: he collapsed, and they carried him through the smoke another hundred yards to the rear. Henderson held him upright while Browne tore at his waistcoat, and saw that his shirt was soaked with blood. He attempted to dress the wound, but the haemorrhage could not be staunched. He asked if Wolfe wanted a surgeon.
“No need,” he said, “it’s all over with me.”
Someone else, a grenadier, was shouting.
“They run! See how they run!”
He stirred, rousing himself, they said afterwards, like a man from a heavy sleep. “Who run?” he said, and the grenadier, shocked by what he was witnessing, answered, “The enemy, sir. Egad, they give way everywhere.”
One more order, and then there would be peace. He said, “Take a message to Colonel Burton. Tell him to take Webb’s with all speed to Charles River, to cut them off before they reach the bridge.”
And then to Browne, whose arms were around him, “Lay me down. I am suffocating.” Browne, crying openly, laid him gently on the ground, and cradled him as he died.
He had been greatly loved, far more than he had known. Browne wrote to his father: “Even the soldiers dropped tears, who were in the minute before driving their bayonets through the French. I can’t compare it to anything better, than a family in tears and sorrow which had just lost their father, their friend, and their whole dependence.” Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Murray of the Louisbourg Grenadiers wrote to his wife, “His death has given me more affliction than anything I have met with, for I loved him with a sincere and friendly affection.”
His body was carried from the field wrapped, it was said, in a plaid offered by a wounded Highlander, and brought aboard the 28-gun frigate H.M.S. Lowestoft at 11 a.m. It was embalmed, and eventually placed in a stone sarcophagus taken from the convent of the Ursulines, which had been heavily damaged by bombardments from the batteries at Pointe aux Pères: Montcalm was buried there at 8 o’clock on the evening of the 14th in an enlarged shell hole in the floor. Quebec capitulated on September 18th. Montreal fell a year later.
News of the victory reached England on October 17th and the country went wild with bonfires and celebrations, although friends and neighbours in Blackheath refused to illuminate their houses out of respect for James’s memory, and his mother’s very real grief.
Wolfe’s body, brought home aboard the 84-gun H.M.S. Royal William, arrived at Spithead at 7 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, 17th November. The raucous port he had called “this infernal den” was hushed as Royal William’s barge, escorted by others and to the sound of tolling bells and muffled drums, conveyed the sarcophagus to Portsmouth Point. Now transferred to an oak coffin and accompanied by Captains Thomas Bell and William De Laune, it was placed in a hearse and driven to Blackheath. It had been discovered on opening the sarcophagus that the face had decomposed too much to allow a death mask to be made: the sculptor Joseph Wilton modelled his commemorative marble bust on a servant thought to resemble Wolfe. He was advised by Richard, second Baron Edgcumbe, a draughtsman and patron of the arts who had known Wolfe and was able to recreate the beaky, angular features to an almost forensic degree.
Wolfe’s coffin, covered with a pall of black velvet and heaped with laurels, lay in state at his mother’s house the night before a private funeral on November 20th at the church of St. Alfege in Greenwich. There were five mourners, all male. Henrietta Wolfe remained prostrate with grief and did not attend.
She petitioned the government unsuccessfully for Wolfe’s pay to be increased to parity with Amherst’s, and “for a pension to enable me to fulfil the generous and kind intentions of my dear lost son”, which she said she could not otherwise honour “without distressing myself to the highest degree.” She did, however, pay the jeweller Philip Hardle £525, and returned the miniature, set with diamonds, to Katherine Lowther as Wolfe had requested. Katherine wrote to her but dared not call on her.
Your displeasure at your noble son’s partiality to one who is only too conscious of her own unworthiness has cost her many a pang. But you cannot without cruelty still attribute to me any coldness in his parting, for, madam, I always felt and express’d for you both reverence and affection, and desir’d you were ever first to be considered.
They never met again.
Henrietta Wolfe died on September 26, 1764, and was interred between her son and her husband in the family vault in the church of St. Alfege. Katherine Lowther married Vice-Admiral Harry Powlett, later the sixth Duke of Bolton, on April 8, 1765. Wolfe’s letters to her and those she wrote to him at Quebec, which arrived too late and were returned to her unopened, have not survived. She died in 1809.
In England, he is all but forgotten. In Canada, the tides of political correctness alternately burnish and tarnish his reputation. The vast, untamed country of which he said “every man is a soldier” is now dedicated to peacekeeping; bears and beavers still roam the wilderness; and the snow, falling early and lingering long, still, in the true north, covers the ground for eight months of the year.
We do hope that you have enjoyed the story so far about General James Wolfe and today we can share with you the 3rd part, with the final part coming up this Thursday. If you’ve missed the first two parts then just follow these highlighted links – Part one and Part two.
There is a tide in the affairs of men/ which, taken at the flood/ leads on to fortune.
The tide turned.
He had written of zeal and ardour. His own had not gone unnoticed. Vice-Admiral Hawke had spoken of his exemplary behaviour at Rochefort to Admiral George Anson, who had mentioned it to the King; the Prince of Wales, summoning ‘Mister Wolfe’ to discuss the newly published Report of the General Officers appointed to Inquire into the causes of the Failure of the Late Expedition to the Coasts of France, opined that had his proposals been adopted the mission would have been a success, and complimented him on the ‘high spirit of service’ and discipline in the 20th, the regiment on which Wolfe had lavished so much care and attention. A second battalion had been authorized, to be designated the 67th Foot. Wolfe was offered a full colonelcy.
There was more…
By Christmas Day it was known in army circles that four colonels, all relatively young, had been chosen to launch a new North American offensive. Jeffrey Amherst, the aide-de-camp to the venerable Field-Marshal Lord Ligonier, commander-in-chief of the forces since the Duke of Cumberland’s disgrace, had been commissioned major-general and would be in overall command. The others were John Forbes, another protégé of Ligonier’s, George Augustus, third Viscount Howe, brother of Captain Richard Howe of H.M.S. Magnanime and a charismatic soldier already serving in America; and the youngest, James Wolfe, who would be temporarily commissioned brigadier-general in North America and serve as second-in-command to Amherst.
Their objective was Cape Breton, an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia held by the French since 1713, and its fortress, Louisbourg. It had been besieged in 1745 and had surrendered, and it had been returned to France under the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. It protected the rich fisheries of the St. Lawrence and was a haven for the privateers who harassed the New England colonies.
Whoever held Louisbourg held the key to Canada. Whoever took Quebec and Montreal would hold North America.
Louisbourg surrendered on the 27th of July, 1758. Its fortifications had appeared impregnable, but it was vulnerable to sustained bombardment from the sea as well as fire from batteries overlooking the harbour, which had been hastily constructed and commanded by James Wolfe. He had been an integral part of the operation, seen everywhere, issuing orders and instructions in a display of physical courage and deeply personal leadership: instantly recognizable with his wings of auburn hair and shabby scarlet coat, without lace or insignia except for the aiguillette on his shoulder. The Highlanders, who had a particular fondness for him (or his Celtic hair, he thought), called him “the red corporal”, and passed the word when he was approaching. He learned to recognize the Gaelic and to appreciate the nickname. “Tall and straight as a rush,” one of them said, recalling him in 1828.
Oh, he was a noble fellow. And so kind and attentive to the men, that they would go through fire and water to serve him.
Lieutenant Thomas Bell, a marine, reported that he
built fresh batterys every day… and with his small corps came and took post within 200 yards of the town, while the engineers were still bouggering at 600 yards distance. He opened the trenches, called in the army, and pushed them within forty yards of the glacis and in short took the place without the assistance of anyone regular fumbler. He has been general, soldier, and engineer. He commanded, fought and built batterys and I need not add has acquired all the glory of our expedition.
He called them ‘brother soldiers’: they remembered him, sunburned and sweating, sitting amongst them, red hair tied back with a piece of cord, scribbling a message to Amherst
from the trenches at Daybreak, the 25th. We want platforms, artillery officers to take the direction, and ammunition. If these are sent early, we may batter in breach this afternoon… Holland has opened a new boyau, has carried on about 140 or 150 yards and is now within 50 or 60 yards of the glacis… You will be pleased to indulge me with six hours’ rest, that I may serve in the trenches at night.
They breached the bastions. Heated shot had already destroyed L’Entrepreneur. The Royal Navy commanded by Admiral the Honourable Edward Boscawen cut out the Bienfaisant in the harbour and burned the Prudent; and, confronted with the prospect of point-blank broadsides and an assault by the fourteen battalions under Amherst’s command, the governor, Augustin de Boschenry de Drucour capitulated and asked for terms. He and his garrison of 3,500 became prisoners of war and were transported to England. Amherst considered an attack on Quebec: Wolfe, never shy of speaking his mind, urged him forcefully to seize the moment.
Boscawen demurred, announcing on August 3rd that he would not support the idea: the fogs and storms of summer in Cape Breton would usher in the equinoctial gales, and the St. Lawrence would freeze in the winter. There was only time to destroy the enemy’s fisheries in the Gulf.
They were a legitimate target. Twenty-six local chaloupes had sailed the week before laden with tons of dried cod for Quebec, where, the crew of a captured French sloop had said, “there was a great scarcity of provisions and great distress.” And Wolfe was grieving for Howe, who had been among a thousand killed in an attack in the wilderness near Ticonderoga on July 6th by 3,000 French regulars and their native American allies under the command of Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm de Saint-Véran. Many of the dead had been scalped. The war had had its moments of chivalry, in the graceful exchange between Amherst and Mme Drucour of pineapples for champagne and fresh butter, but it had become a thing of unique horror, and the men who waged it would be stained by it.
They burned nets, boats, buildings and 30,000 pounds of dried cod. Privately, Wolfe thought the inhabitants of the Gaspé would starve; but it was war, and Quebec would starve also.
He sailed for home with Boscawen at the end of September, missing by days a letter from the War Office ordering him to remain in Nova Scotia. He wrote to Rickson from London:
Our attempt to land where we did was rash and injudicious, our success was unexpected (by me) and undeserved. There was no prodigious measure of courage in the affair; an officer and thirty men would have made it impossible to get where we did. Our proceedings in other respects were as slow and tedious as this undertaking was ill-advised and desperate. We lost time at the siege, still more after the siege, and blundered from the beginning to the end of the campaign.
… I have this day signified to Mr Pitt that he may dispose of my slight carcase as he pleases. I am in a very bad condition both with the gravel and rheumatism, but I had much rather die than decline any kind of service that offers. If I followed my own taste, it would lead me into Germany. However, it is not our part to choose, but to obey.
And to one of his captains: “It is my fortune to be cursed with American service.”
He was now a household name in Britain. The London Gazette, The London Magazine, The Gentleman’s Magazine, The Scots Magazine, were printing letters and eyewitness reports from men who had served at Louisbourg, extolling the extraordinary exploits of the young Brigadier James Wolfe.
In the middle of December, the Prime Minister summoned him. If the past was the prologue, James Wolfe’s entire life had been merely the prologue to Quebec.
Join us again, in a couple of days for the final part of this story.
Although preliminary peace talks between Britain and France had begun in the summer of 1746, the bloody and protracted War of the Austrian Succession ground to a halt only with the ratification of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in October of 1748. Its terms merely restored the status quo and sowed the seeds of another war.
By then Wolfe had spent several years in garrisons in Scotland, escaping the punishing climate and hostile inhabitants only briefly for a return to conventional soldiering in the Low Countries, and to London on leave in the winter of 1746. And there, hardened veteran of several campaigns, he surrendered his heart and fell “hopelessly in love”. Those who had thought him disinterested in women or only a brain fixated on promotion in a passionless body, or a repressed homosexual, although nothing in his letters or relationships suggested this, were stunned by its effect on him.
She was Elizabeth Lawson, maid of honour to the Princess of Wales and niece of Wolfe’s old mentor, Lieutenant-General Sir John Mordaunt. They were reunited when, now lieutenant-colonel of the 20th Regiment of Foot and gaunt from the scurvy and malnutrition of too many cold years in the Highlands, he was at last granted, not the foreign leave he had requested, hoping to repair what he saw as the deficiencies in his education by studying engineering and artillery tactics at the military academy in Metz, but six months in London.
He was still in the throes of what his mother called his “senseless passion” and in no mood for opposition, although his parents were, as he wrote to his close friend, Colonel William Rickson, “somewhat against it”. The pressure from his mother was unrelenting, he told Rickson: she thought he could do better than Elizabeth Lawson and her £12,000 and had her eye “upon one with £30,000.”
He arrived at his parents’ house in Old Burlington Street and immediately found himself embroiled in psychological warfare. Elizabeth, who obsessed him, had obviously cooled toward him and was entertaining other suitors; the Croydon heiress, his mother told him, was still available with her £30,000; and was James aware that Lady Lawson, Elizabeth’s mother, had been a loose woman before her marriage, and it was possible that her daughter was the same?
Henrietta Wolfe had gone too far. She had occasionally, in her letters, reproached her son for his temper: he had frequently apologised and attempted to control it. But something vital in James Wolfe snapped that day and he turned its full fury on her, and then stalked out of the house and took lodgings in a nearby street, where, to the fascination of the neighbours, he relieved his emotional and sexual frustrations in the longest and most uncharacteristic debauch of his life.
Rumour had it that he had arrived drunk at a ball and loudly proclaimed his love for Elizabeth Lawson, and threatened to horsewhip a rival: whatever indiscretions he committed, Elizabeth warmed no more to this new, rake hell incarnation than to the staid James Wolfe she knew. She ended the relationship. Shattered, he lost himself in alcohol, emerging briefly to listen from the public gallery to debates in the House of Commons on the future of British North America, until his outraged body rebelled and he became ill. His mother continued her campaign. He wrote to her in anguish,
How could you tell me you liked her, and at the same time say her illness prevents her wedding? I don’t think you believe she ever touched me at all, or you could never speak of her ill-health and marriage, the only things in relation to that lady that could give me the least uneasiness.
He wrote to his father with a certain battered dignity, “You called my situation ridiculous, and indeed it was,” and apologised for what he said had been done “out of passion and anger when I had the honour to be near you.” To his friend Rickson, he confessed:
In that time I committed more imprudent acts than in all my life before. I lived in the idlest, most dissolute, abandoned manner that could be conceived, and not out of vice, which is the most extraordinary part of it. I have escaped at length, and am once again master of my reason, and hereafter it shall rule my conduct, at least I hope so.
He never recovered. Four years later, her portrait in Sir John Mordaunt’s dining room still disconcerted him so much that he could barely eat, and any mention of her name affected him profoundly.
He took his wounded heart to Paris. The Croydon heiress unexpectedly bestowed her £30,000 on one of his best friends in February of 1751. Elizabeth Lawson died, unmarried, a few months before he sailed for Quebec.
For a few brief months, in this interlude of peace under the auspices of the Earl of Albemarle, His Britannic Majesty’s ambassador in Paris, James Wolfe knew luxury: warmth, cleanliness, leisure, and more than adequate nourishment, eating for breakfast every morning fresh grapes from a convent garden, “the same as the King eats, and a great curiosity.” His health improved: his energy seemed boundless.
Monsieur Fesian, the dancing-master, assures me that I make a surprising progress, but that my time will be too short to possess, as he calls it, the minuet to any great perfection; however, he pretends to say that I shall dance not to be laughed at. I am on horseback every morning at break of day and do presume that, with the advantage of long legs and thighs, I shall be able to sit a horse at a hand-gallop. Lastly, the fencing-master declares me to have a very quick wrist, and no inconsiderable lunge, for the reasons aforementioned… I wish I could send a piece of tapestry from the Gobelins, or a picture from the Palais Royal, instead of a letter.
He went to the theatre, became fluent in French, socialised, went sight-seeing, shopped, sending his mother two black velvet hoods and “a vestale for your neck, such as the Queen wears”, had his teeth filled, and observed the French: in the streets, in the salons, at the court of Versailles. On January 9th, 1753, he was presented to Louis XV, the Queen, the Dauphin, and, finally, the King’s mistress, the beautiful and fearless Jeanne Antoinette Poussin, Marquise de Pompadour. Philosopher, diplomat, political savant and patron of the arts, she had many enemies, but the intense young English soldier with whom she chatted in her boudoir, where she entertained visitors but offered a chair only to her royal lover, was not one of them. He recalled afterwards her intelligence, her wit and her courtesy, and that she was curling her hair during their conversation.
But despite the glitter and grace, life in Paris began to pall. He still hoped to be allowed to travel, perhaps to visit the French army in its summer encampment, but his request was denied and another officer was granted the privilege. And then, peremptorily, he was ordered back to his regiment. He returned to England, wretchedly seasick as usual, and rejoined the 20th in Glasgow.
He found it in dire straits.
Officers ruined, impoverished, desperate, and without hopes of preferment; the widow of our late Major and her daughter in tears; an ensign struck speechless with the palsy and another that falls down in the most violent convulsions. Some of our people spit blood, and others are begging to sell before they are quite undone, and my friend Ben will probably be in jail in a fortnight… The ladies are cold to everything but a bagpipe⸺ I wrong them. There is not one that does not melt at the sound of an estate. We march out of this dark and dismal country in August.
He was beginning to wish he had stayed in Paris.
But it was a soldier’s life and he was a soldier’s soldier, committed to service. Younger officers came and went on their own career trajectories: he guided them, advised them, trained them, disciplined them, and, conscious of an increasing abruptness and austerity in himself, encouraged them to mingle in society, and go to balls and assemblies.
It softens their manners and makes ʼem civil; and commonly I go along with them, to see how they conduct themselves. I am only afraid they shall fall in love and marry. Whenever I perceive the symptoms or anybody else makes the discovery, we fall upon the delinquent without mercy until he grows out of conceit with his new passion… My experience in these matters helps me to find out my neighbour’s weakness, and furnishes me with arms to oppose his folly.
Sometimes he reflected darkly on the future and was not reassured.
I am eight-and-twenty years old, a lieutenant-colonel of foot, and I cannot say I am master of fifty pounds.
His requests for promotion had been denied. He was too young for higher rank, they said, although he had seen other officers promoted, not on the basis of merit but out of political expediency. He felt old, jaded, bitter, forgotten.
He prayed for war, war came.
The amphibious assault on Rochefort on the Charente estuary in September of 1757 was a million-pound fiasco involving sixteen ships-of-the-line, frigates, fire-ships and bomb ketches, as well as ten-line regiments, fifty horse, and gunners, a total of about 10,000 men. Intelligence had suggested the town contained a large arsenal of arms and ammunition and was only lightly guarded, and it was thought an ideal diversion to aid Hanover and Prussia, where a French army of 150,000 was preparing to attack.
Only two officers emerged from the resulting debacle with their reputations intact: Captain the Honourable Richard Howe of the 74-gun former French prize H.M.S. Magnanime, who bombarded into submission the fortifications on the Île d’Aix that commanded the approaches to Rochefort and La Rochelle; and the army’s quartermaster-general, James Wolfe, who after reconnoitring the area by boat had recognised the strategic necessity and recommended the fort be destroyed.
Wolfe had been plucked from the obscurity of fly-fishing, shooting game birds without a licence, suppressing a riot by local weavers striking for higher pay, and other diversions of garrison life in Gloucestershire, on the recommendation of Sir John Mordaunt. General after general had declined the honour of leading the expedition, or had been vetoed by the King: the secretary of state, William Pitt, had eventually offered Mordaunt command. Wolfe was told nothing of the destination, nor were any other senior officers until they had been at sea for a week.
The troops had mustered on the Isle of Wight and waited for the transports. And waited. The weather turned against them and delayed embarkation. It was a bad beginning. Things got worse.
Mordaunt had been a brave and competent soldier, but he was sixty now, and ailing, and he had lost his nerve. He vacillated, unable to decide where or when or how to attack, issuing and countermanding orders, infuriating Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hawke, who threatened to withdraw his ships if Mordaunt could not stop procrastinating; and, as Wolfe wrote to his father,
We lost the lucky moment in war, and were not able to recover it. It had been conducted so ill that I was ashamed to have been of the party. The public could not do better than dismiss six or eight of us from the service. No zeal, no ardour, no care or concern for the good and honour of the country.
After a court of inquiry in November, Mordaunt was brought before a court-martial on December 14th, charged with disobeying his orders. Given the fate of Vice-Admiral the Honourable John Byng, who had been executed by firing squad on the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Monarch in Portsmouth harbour in March for failing to defend Minorca, his acquittal was considered lenient. He was allowed to retire from the service.
Wolfe, who had given evidence at the court of inquiry and at Mordaunt’s court-martial, had refrained from any public condemnation of him, but he plunged into depression and decided to resign his commission as quartermaster-general for Ireland, an office he had held only in name, hiding at his parents’ new house in Blackheath and writing to his mother, who had gone to Bath:
I can’t part with my other employment because I have nothing else to trust to, nor do I think it consistent with honour to sneak off in the middle of a war.
To Rickson, he vented his shame and humiliation.
I own to you that there never was people collected together so unfit for the business… dilatory, ignorant, irresolute, and some grains of a very unmanly quality, and very unsoldierlike or unsailor-like.
And then, perhaps considering the repercussions if his comments as a prominent member of the expedition should become more widely known:
I have already been too imprudent; I have said too much. Therefore report nothing out of my letter, nor name my name as author of any one thing.
He was thirty years old, angry, frustrated, alone. The future was a void.
We look forward to you joining us for the final two episodes next Tuesdays and Thursday.
It’s always lovely to welcome back guests to All Things Georgian, and one such guest is the delightful, Kim Reeman, who has written two previous articles for us. Today she has quite a story to share about the life of General James Wolfe and as such it will appear in four parts, over the next couple of weeks – so please do keep an eye out for the future posts to find out more. With that I will hand over to Kim to tell you more:
Canada est un pays couvert de neiges et de glaces huit mois de l’année,
habité par des barbares, des ours et des castors…. Quelques arpents de neige.
VOLTAIRE (FRANÇOIS-MARIE AROUET), 1758
There was no snow on this September morning, only a vast, living silence under the stars: the concerted creak and dip of oars, the uneasy shuffle of boots on bottom boards, a muffled cough as men, packed closely together, gripped their weapons, stared into the blackness and listened, waiting for whatever would come. The night was calm, the current strong: the tide, in this river of seven hundred miles, ebbing rapidly. From the unseen shore, after the heat of the day, a cool wind brought the scent of the pines.
The quarter moon had risen at 10 p.m., laying a faint, camouflaging track on the water to confuse the eye, and the boats slipped through the shadows. They had begun to embark at about 9 p.m., the light infantry and the Royal Americans first, followed by other regiments in order of seniority, dropping away from the Sutherland at midnight at the hoisting of the signal: two lanterns, one above the other, in her maintopmast shrouds. At 1:35 a.m. the tide began to flow, and at 2 the signal to proceed was given. The commander-in-chief, in Sutherland’s barge, took the lead.
He sat on the thwart, his six-foot frame uncomfortably cramped, maintaining the silence he had ordered all men to observe in the boats, with a fusil slung across his back, a cartridge pouch with seventy rounds of ammunition suspended from his belt, and a bayonet at his left hip. Recent, debilitating illness had drained him, physically and spiritually, and he was haunted by the possibility of failure. He had seen the fates of generals and admirals arraigned for dereliction of duty: court-martial, professional oblivion, dishonour, or worse. He had held his first commission at the age of fourteen: he was now thirty-two, and half his life, spent in continuous service, had been merely the prelude to this rendezvous with destiny.
He focused his mind on a stanza of Gray’s Elegy, a copy of which his fiancée had given him before he had left Portsmouth, and which he had annotated the previous evening in his cabin aboard Sutherland.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
The barge nudged into the shallows, and, adrenaline coursing through his blood, he was up, into the water, splashing ashore. The inevitable hour had come.
Time had matched him with this hour: time and a crucible of war, which had taken an affectionate child in an ensign’s uniform writing letters to his “dearest Mamma” and by its alchemy produced a man, impetuous, hot-tempered, over-sensitive, disciplined, meticulous, and intolerant. Devoted to his family and friends, he had a capacity for love that would never be truly fulfilled, and an intense vulnerability: he never forgot a kindness, and very seldom forgave an injury. Trust once lost was never given by him again, a quality he recognized in himself, writing in a moment of excoriating self-analysis, “I have that cursed disposition of mind, that when once I know people have entertained a very ill opinion, I imagine they never change. From whence one passes easily to an indifference about them, and then to dislike… There lurks a hidden poison in the heart that is difficult to root out.”
Aware of his own military genius, he had felt for most of his life ignored, undervalued, denigrated, and often openly insulted by subordinates and superiors alike.
Initially shy with women, although he gained grace and confidence, he remained conscious of his singular physical characteristics: he was six feet three inches tall and very thin, with flame-red hair, long, nervous, restless fingers, pale skin that blushed furiously with any access of emotion, and his mother’s unfortunate profile, which would be so cruelly lampooned at Quebec and immortalized in a host of bad portraits and tasteless souvenirs at the apogee of his posthumous fame.
Only the painting attributed to Joseph Highmore was considered a good likeness by his family until George Townshend, one of Wolfe’s combative trio of brigadiers at Quebec, produced from life, without a trace of his signature malice, the iconic and endearing watercolour of his mercurial commander that captures the elusive qualities of his face: the piercing, heavily lidded blue eyes, the patient, somewhat quizzical expression, the dimpled chin, and an essential gentleness about the mouth, a gentleness for which, in life, Wolfe was known, and in death remembered.
Time. There had never been enough time: enough peace, enough warmth, enough comfort, enough nourishment, enough freedom from physical and mental stress. No time to study, to travel, to observe, to discover, as a shy and awkward lover, the mysteries and delicacies of lovemaking; no time to marry, to father the children he longed for, to walk, as he once wrote wistfully to his own father, in his garden and sample his own sun-warmed figs. There had only been war.
And now, at the foot of these cliffs, time stopped. Two hundred and fifty feet above, men were climbing, cursing, dislodging soil and stones, hauling weapons: those who had reached the top and dispatched the French sentries were silhouetted against the stars. The path, the metaphor for his life, awaited.
He drank briefly from an offered flask: water, not alcohol. He seldom drank spirits, although he had ordered an issue of rum for the men tonight, knowing it would hearten them. Chronic dehydration had led to infections of the bladder and urethra which had felled him repeatedly, with fever and bloody urine and excruciating pain, most recently in the previous week, and he was still desperately ill, despite his efforts to conceal it. He began to climb.
James Wolfe was born on January 2, 1727, at Westerham, Kent, the first surviving child of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Wolfe, a career soldier of Irish descent who had served with Marlborough, and his much younger wife Henrietta Thompson Wolfe, an imperious beauty who claimed descent through her Yorkshire family, the Tindals of Brotherton, from Edward III and Shakespeare’s ‘Hotspur’, Henry Percy.
Throughout his life, James’s relations with his English and Irish relatives, particularly his uncle Major Walter Wolfe, who had retired to Dublin, and his cousins, the Goldsmiths of Limerick, remained fond and close.
Almost exactly a year after James’s birth a paler, frailer sibling arrived and was christened Edward after his father. Where ‘Jemmy’ led, Ned would follow, even through waist-deep snow in the brutal winter of 1743 as a fifteen-year-old ensign in Colonel Scipio Duroure’s 12th Regiment of Foot, sharing a horse with the sixteen-year-old James, also an ensign but already discharging the duties of adjutant. After a particularly arduous march, James wrote to his father from Aschaffenburg, near Frankfurt:
The men almost starved. They nor their officers had little more than bread and water to live on, and that very scarce. The King is in a little palace in such a town as I believe he never lived in before. It was ruined by the Hanoverians, and everything almost that was in it was carried off by them sometime before he came. They and our men now live by marauding… The French are burning all the villages on the other side of the Mayne, and we ravaging the country on this side.
And, as the army was as much a family as the Royal Navy, and friends and former brothers-in-arms kept in as close touch as was possible, he added:
Brigadier Huske inquires often if I have heard from you lately, and desires his compliments to you. He is extremely kind to me, and I am most obliged to him. He has desired his brigade-major Mr Blakeney, who is a very good man, to instruct me all he can. My brother intends writing very soon. We both join in love and duty to you and my mother.
Meanwhile, Ned was reporting busily: “They say there are many wolves and wild boars in the woods, but I never saw any yet, neither do I desire.”
There was something far more lethal in the woods, dogging the footsteps of the allied forces of Britain, Hanover and Austria under the personal command of George II: a French army of 70,000 commanded by the Duc de Noailles, one of the most formidable soldiers of his time. Inexplicably, Noailles ceded command of a large contingent of infantry, artillery and cavalry to his less capable nephew, the Duc de Grammont, who abandoned an unassailable position to attack the allies on open ground near the village of Dettingen, in what is now Bavaria, on June 27th, 1743.
The Wolfe boys, receiving this baptism of fire, saw the mathematical precision of drill disintegrate into the chaos of hand-to-hand fighting: Duroure’s, in the front line, suffered the highest casualties of any allied regiment engaged that day. The colonel’s horse was shot from under him, as was James Wolfe’s; the King was thrown, and led the Hanoverians on foot; his son William, Duke of Cumberland, who would figure prominently in James’s life, took a musket ball through the calf, and Wolfe wrote in a graphic dispatch to his father after being, with Ned, under artillery fire for nearly three hours and then in close action for more than two, “I sometimes thought I had lost poor Ned when I saw arms, legs, and heads beat off close by him. He is called ‘the Old Soldier’ now, and very deservedly.”
Dettingen, with 750 British, Hanoverians and Austrians killed and 1,600 wounded, and between 2,000 and 4,000 French dead, was considered a victory. A British cavalryman writing home of the “dead and mangled bodies, limbs, wounded men” and terribly injured horses he saw on the battlefield in the rain the following morning, revealed that “this sight shocked my very soul.”
The armies regrouped, reinforced, and did not engage again that year.
On June 3rd, 1744, James was promoted to captain in the 4th Regiment of Foot, the King’s Own, also known as Barrell’s after its nominal colonel, Lieutenant-General John Barrell: its lieutenant-colonel in the field was Robert Rich, who welcomed the newly blooded young captain and would become a friend and champion. Ned, now a lieutenant, remained with the 12th. The brothers saw each other occasionally and corresponded as regularly as circumstances permitted, but a letter from the 12th’s surgeon expressing concern over Ned’s health never reached James, and he was in winter quarters in Ghent and unaware of the gravity of the situation when Ned died in October, probably of tuberculosis. He wrote to his parents on the 29th of that month, overcome with grief and self-recrimination.
“It gives me many uneasy hours when I reflect on the possibility there was of my being with him sometime before he died. There was no part of his life that makes him dearer to me than that where you have often mentioned⸺ he pined after me… He lived and died as a son of you two should, which, I think, is saying all I can.”
In May of 1745, at Fontenoy, Ned’s old regiment engaged once more in bloody combat with the French. James, who was kept in reserve with the 4th and never ordered out of Ghent, wrote to his father after the allies’ ignominious defeat that Duroure’s “has suffered very much, 18 officers and 300 men killed and wounded. I believe this account will shock you not a little, but ʼtis surprising the number of officers of lower rank that are gone.”
Not for the first time, he contemplated the ephemerality of life and a future in which the only certainty was death. He was young but no longer youthful: his had become an older, darker soul, prone to depression, and driven by ambition and an awareness of the passing of time.
On June 22nd, 1745, general orders announced his appointment as “Brigade-Major to Pulteney’s Brigade.” He was eighteen years old.
The cliffs had been thought unscalable, except by Wolfe himself. The French had not, apparently, thought suspicious the spectacle of four senior British officers staring at the Anse au Foulon through telescopes from a vantage point on the opposite bank, when he had been explaining, yet again and more testily, what the other three seemed unwilling or unable to understand. After a summer of feints and manoeuvres and skirmishes and infuriatingly unsuccessful forays, perhaps Montcalm had dismissed the episode of the telescopes as merely another caprice on the part of the British. Deserters, in traffic that flowed both ways across the St. Lawrence, had reported his response.
We need not suppose the enemy has wings.
He had placed his trust in the river and the country, and what time would do to both. These impudent invaders would be forced to withdraw soon, or be locked in by the Canadian winter.
The heat was still intense in the afternoons, but the quality of the light had changed. Time, in the turning of a leaf, in the coolness before dawn… time in the flood of the river, the flood of years. Time was running out.
The stars were veiled with cloud now, and rain intensified the fragrance of the pines.
Culloden cast its long shadow over the rest of Wolfe’s life, although, as aide-de-camp to the foul-mouthed old cavalryman Lieutenant-General Henry ‘Hangman’ Hawley, he was not fighting with his regiment, Barrell’s, the King’s Own, on the morning of April 16th, 1746. He remained on the right of the line with Cobham’s Dragoons and Kingston’s Light Horse, which Hawley did not order into action until the entire right wing of the rebel army had thrown itself on Barrell’s.
He did not see, except at a distance and through the smoke, Barrell’s break under the impact of the charge by the Stewarts of Appin and Atholl and the Camerons under Lochiel, and throw it back with bent and bloodied bayonets; did not see his friend, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Rich, fighting with inhuman courage beside the colours, receive six head wounds; did not see Rich’s left hand struck from his wrist and his right forearm almost severed by a Highland broadsword; did not see until afterwards Lord Robert Kerr, son of the Marquess of Lothian and captain of Barrell’s grenadiers, dead on the ground with his skull split from crown to collarbone. He did not, in all probability, feature in the apocryphal story that sometimes had the Duke of Cumberland, sometimes, more characteristically, Hawley, pointing to a wounded Jacobite, identified as Charles Fraser of Inverallochy, and saying, “Wolfe, shoot me that rebel dog,” whereupon the indignant young major retorted, “My commission is at Your Highness’s disposal, but I can never consent to become an executioner.” Wolfe loathed insubordination and would certainly not offer it to his commander-in-chief, and it is highly unlikely, despite his personal hatred of Hawley, that he would have behaved with insolence toward him. He remained on good terms with Cumberland and was more than once recommended for promotion by him until the Duke’s own spectacular fall from grace following his surrender of Hanover in 1757.
But for Wolfe, the dark memories remained, and an appreciation of the raw courage of the Scots. He had seen that ferocity unleashed. He could not know that within thirteen years, on a sun-swept plateau on a September morning, it would be his to command.
Part 2 of this story will be on Thursday.
General James Wolfe (1727–1759), When a Boy. Benjamin West (1738–1820). Government Art Collection
If, like me, you wonder who lived in some of London’s Georgian houses, then today’s post takes a look at one specific London street in the affluent area of Mayfair, or to be more specific, Hertford Street.
This is a street which Etienne Daly told me about in connection with Sir John Lindsay, the father of Dido Elizabeth Belle as he felt sure Sir John must have lived there at some time.
When Sir John wrote his will in 1783 (with codicils added later), he made specific reference to his house on this street and being ever curious, I wanted to know exactly where he lived, when he lived there and who else of interest may have also lived in this street.
Needless to say, the rates returns came to the rescue, if producing slightly confusing information in parts.
In some exhibition material of 2007, produced by Cathy Power, of English Heritage, she noted a payment made by Kenwood House to Sir John, for some £3,000 which Cathy felt was, in all likelihood for the purchase of a marital home especially as he had just married Mary Milner in 1768.
Judging by the rates returns for Hertford Street, this would definitely tie in with that assumption. The properties along this stretch of the road were designed and built in 1768-69 by Henry Holland (1746-1806), the son of a builder, and therefore Sir John would have bought the property from new.
We now, of course, know that Sir John was posted overseas around that time, so what a lovely new London residence for his bride to live in whilst her husband was away. As to whether Dido Elizabeth Belle ever visited Sir John and Lady Mary during their time there, we will probably never know, but it’s lovely to think that perhaps she did.
Sir John and Lady Mary remained there until around 1782, after which time it was occupied by the 4th Earl of Sandwich, but it was still owned by Sir John as indicated by his will. Sir John and Lady Mary moved elsewhere according to the land tax from 1783 which showed their new residence.
It is well known that the Earl of Sandwich had a long-term relationship with the singer, Martha Ray and that he established a home for her in Westminster. However, it’s unlikely to have been this one as Martha was murdered in 1779, so, prior to the Earl of Sandwich taking over occupancy.
Many of the houses on this street were designed by the architect Henry Holland, who, according to the 1769 return, still owned both properties, whether he was living in either of them remains unclear though. It was in 1773, once again at St George’s, Hanover Square that Henry Holland junior married Bridget Brown, the daughter of Capability Brown, the landscape architect.
Number 9 didn’t appear to have an occupant until 1780 when it was eventually purchased by Nathaniel Bayly, a plantation owner and M.P.
We know that number 10 was owned by General Burgoyne and now has a Blue Plaque outside it. Burgoyne commissioned his friend Robert Adam to design the interior.
General Burgoyne’s next-door neighbour at number 11, was Sir John Lindsay. It is well documented that Robert Adam also worked on Kenwood House, so it would seem quite feasible that Adam had some involvement in the interior design of Sir John’s home too.
Properties number 12 was occupied by Lady Harriett Conyers
Number 13, simply says it was occupied by a Mrs Grey. However, with a little research it would appears to have been the home of Charles, 1st Earl Grey and his wife Elizabeth. Their son being Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister, famed for his scandalous relationship with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, their relationship resulting in their illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtney(1792-1859). Although raised in Northumberland, it would be interesting to know whether Eliza ever visited her grandparents at their town house on Hertford Street. It is known that Georgiana met her daughter in secret in London, could these secret meetings have taken place here?
Number 14, was owned by George Pitt, Lord Rivers, a diplomat and politician, along with his wife, Lady Penelope where he remained for a good number of years after the couple separated in 1771, with Lady Penelope living mostly in France and Italy until her death on 1 January 1795 in Milan.
At number 15, was the fabulously named, Sir Gregory Page-Turner, MP for Thirsk, who was unmarried whilst living there (he married in 1785). As well as inheriting substantial properties from his uncle, he had this townhouse, which he retained until March 1780, when it was sold by Messrs Christie and Ansell. The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser carried the following description of the property:
An Elegant Leasehold house with suitable offices etc, desirably situated on the south side of Hertford Street, Mayfair, late in the possession of Sir Gregory Page-Turner, Bart.
The premises contain two good rooms on each floor, a spacious hall and stone staircase, detached kitchen etc. are held on lease for upwards of eighty years unexpired.
At number 16 was John Hume, the relatively newly appointed Bishop of Salisbury
At number 17 we have Thomas Dundas Esq, Scottish-British politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1763 to 1794, after which he was raised to the peerage as Baron Dundas.
Dundas being another long-standing resident. His wife, who he married, again at St George, Hanover Square in 1764, being Charlotte Fitzwilliam. Given that the couple had some fourteen children it seems far more likely that this was their town house and that the children lived at the ancestral home, Aske Hall, North Yorkshire – it would have been an extremely cosy fit to have them all living in the Hertford Street house.
Number 18 was owned by the Honourable Topham Beauclerk, who was a close friend of Dr Johnson and the well-known man of letters, aka gossip, Horace Walpole.
His wife being Diana, née Spencer, often referred to as ‘Lady Di’, former Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte. The couple were married in March 1768, at St George’s, Hanover Square, just a few months before Sir John and Lady Mary. Like Sir John and Lady Mary, could this have also been their townhouse when they first married? The couple married just two days after Diana was divorced. Whilst Topham retained the house, the couple did not appear to have lived there for long. Unlike Sir John’s marriage, theirs was not to be a happy one and according to the artist Joseph Farrington:
They slept in separate beds. Beauclerc was remarkably filthy in his person which generated vermin. He took laudanum regularly in vast quantities. He seldom rose before one or two o’clock.
At Number 19 Sir Francis Molineux, who was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in 1765 a post he held until his death in 1812.
And finally at Number 20 – The Earl of Morton. It remains unclear as to whether this was James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton who died 1768, or his son who occupied this property. However, from the following year, the occupants were Robert Darcy, 4th Earl of Holderness and his wife Mary, who features in our latest book for her misdemeanours, as she became known as ‘The Queen of Smugglers’.
Needless to say, occupancy was not static, but this post hopefully gives you a snapshot of some of the people living there from 1768. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have some more ‘Blue plaques’ added to the street for some of these people?
I am delighted to welcome back a guest who writes under the pen name of Erato. Her article last time was about her then latest book – The Cut of the Clothes: A Story of Prinny and Beau Brummell.
Today she is here to talk about her new book which has just been released – Slick Filth: A Story of Robert Walpole and Henry Giffard.
I remember the first time I saw G.W. Pabst’s 1931 film of The Threepenny Opera, I was very struck by what a wicked man Mack the Knife was and how there was so little attempt to give him any really favourable qualities. The popular versions of Threepenny’s famous Mack the Knife tune, sung by Sinatra and his ilk, have lyrics that omit and soften many of his worst crimes, and with their upbeat, jazzy rhythms (a bit different from Brecht’s original) make Macheath sound like a pretty swell guy.
It’s reasonably well known that The Threepenny Opera was adapted from John Gay’s 18th century musical The Beggar’s Opera, but it takes a little more work to discover that Macheath was conceived as a rather blatant caricature of the first Englishman to win the title of Prime Minister — Robert Walpole.
With the understanding that the show’s star, criminal Macheath, was created to poke fun at a politician, his lack of good qualities becomes far less surprising. John Gay’s 1728 musical was a huge hit, spawning a veritable fad of stage plays which poked fun at politicians. Audiences loved them — but the politicians, not so much. Robert Walpole bribed a theatre manager to prevent the staging of Gay’s sequel to Beggar’s Opera, entitled Macheath Turned Pirate; but this action only turned the printed script for the play into a bestseller.
Whether it was due to some personal vendetta against the theatre for his depiction as Macheath the Highwayman, or whether it was over a real concern that the political satires had gotten out of hand, Robert Walpole soon set into motion a bill which would strengthen the power of politicians to censor the British stage. In order to gain support for his proposed regulations, he read before Parliament some passages from an extremely offensive play called The Golden Rump, which was purportedly intended to be staged in London.
No script for The Golden Rump survives, and there is doubt amongst scholars as to whether or not a complete script for such a show ever really existed; for, it seems that everybody who has ever looked into the matter has come to the conclusion that Robert Walpole created the alleged script himself.
By reading passages from a play so offensive that nobody could possibly agree that it should have been staged, Walpole was able to convince both the Commons and Lords of a need to enact stricter censorship of stage shows. The result of this Licensing Act was that the Lord Chamberlain had to approve the scripts for all new plays before they could be performed; and this remained law until the 1960s. The dearth of good English stage plays from the 18th century has been directly attributed to Walpole and his Licensing Act; for not only was there a risk that a show could be suppressed for any reason at all, but also the expense of submitting new scripts to the Lord Chamberlain limited the playhouses’ interest in even trying new shows. Revivals of Shakespeare, Otway and Dryden became the norm for much of the 18th century’s theatrical fare.
An effort to re imagine the script has been composed in my new book Slick Filth; inspiration was taken from genuine offensive plays of the past such as a Henry Fielding’s Pasquin (1736) and the unsurprisingly anonymous Sodom; or, the Quintessence of Debauchery (1689). The effect is rather like South Park, only with long-Ss and greater use of the word “swive.”
A glimpse of my play:
And for those who don’t relish the idea of reading a mere play script, unstageable as it is, Slick Filth also contains a fictionalised account of Walpole’s creation of the script, as told by his unwilling accomplice, Henry Giffard of Goodman’s Fields.
King George III died on 29 January 1820 but it was to be a little over two weeks before his funeral took place on February 16, 1820, thus allowing time for everything to be put in place for such a grand event. The funeral arrangements were made with France and Beckwith, who had also organised the funeral of Queen Charlotte, just less than two years earlier.
The newspapers reporting that the event was even bigger than the one which took place to celebrate his Golden Jubilee in 1809 and for the funeral for his late wife, Queen Charlotte in 1818.
On all former occasions, lodging and horses were obtained on the day immediately preceding the occasion, but this time it was almost impossible to secure lodgings anywhere as everywhere was immediately booked as soon as the date was announced, with many people having to make do with a carpet to sleep on, rather than a bed.
At nine o’clock in the morning, several private friends of his late Majesty’s Household were admitted to see the body lying in state, shortly after which His Royal Highness the Duke of York, attended by Colonel Stephenson, inspected the preparations for the royal interment.
An hour later the gates were opened to the general public. Thousands of people wished to pay their respects and it became somewhat chaotic, with men and women of all ages pressed against each other so closely that there was risk to life. The police who were stationed at the gates did their best to control the masses, but in vain. The shrieks of women and children could be heard in all directions, with several women fainting and having to be saved from being trodden underfoot.
A detachment of artillery, under the command of Colonel Cathcart, stationed in the Long Walk, began firing a salute at daylight, and continued five-minute guns up to eight in the evening, when they commenced firing one-minute guns (see link above for the original letter sent by Colonel Cathcart, late the night before, in the Royal Collection Trust, explaining how this would work.)
The Great Bell of the chapel, as well as the bells of Windsor and Eton, tolled the whole of the day. From the moment daylight appeared crowds of carriages were seen approaching the town from all directions.
During the course of the day, several thousand people were admitted into the apartments where the body lay in state, but the gates having been closed at 3pm, nearly an equal number were excluded from witnessing this truly song solemn and imposing scene.
At 7pm His Royal Highness, the Duke of York entered the chamber of mourning and took his seat of at the head of the coffin, where he was chief mourner until the body was removed.
The following morning the different parties who had joined the procession, assembled in Saint George’s Hall, being marshalled by Sir G Naylor. There was some difficulty from the outset with the arrangements because far more people than anticipated wished to attend, but eventually, everything went to plan.
The peers entered through Elizabeth Gate and on to the King’s Lodge, then passing across to Kitchen Gate, and entered the Castle at the eastern end of the state apartments. Tickets of admission to the Chapel were distributed, followed by tickets for admission to the lower yard through one part of which the procession was to pass. At a quarter to nine, the coffin was brought through the different rooms, upon the bier used at the funeral of her late majesty.
The Chapel was magnificently decorated in a style more splendid than had ever been seen before, with a raised platform, which extended through the South aisle, up the nave to the choir. It was covered with black cloth, upon each side were soldiers of the foot guards, every 2nd man holding a wax light, behind these were stationed around 500, Eton scholars, all of whom were admitted by special order of the now King George IV.
In the North aisle, seats, elevated above each other were arranged for the accommodation of those persons who had received tickets of admission, those tickets were inadmissible after 7pm. The choir was also prepared to receive persons of distinction and was calculated to hold 94 people. The Chapel was hung in black as well as the Knights’ stalls. The altar was also hung with black and near it erected temporary seats for foreign ministers and other strangers of distinction who attended the procession including the Duke of San Carlo, Count Lieven and Baron Linsingen. The communion table was covered with gold plate, from the Chapel Royal, London, as well as from the Chapel Royal at Windsor.
Over the royal mausoleum was a canopy of rich blue velvet. On the top was a gold crown upon a cushion; upon the border was a Gothic scroll with festoons beneath, upon each of which the royal arms were emblazoned. The chapel remained like this for several days, for the benefit of the public. The appearance of the procession, with the banners etc on descending the great staircase of the castle, was said to be incredibly striking.
Those who were admitted to the lower courtyard had a full view of the processions. Upon the procession reaching the Great Gate of St George’s Chapel on the South aisle, the King’s body was received by the Dean of Windsor and the organ immediately played ‘I am the resurrection and the life saith the Lord’. The funeral service composed by Dr Croft and Mr Purcell and the procession entered in order. The Royal body was placed on a platform, and the crowns and cushions laid thereon.
His Royal Highness the Duke of York, as chief mourner, was seated at the head of the corpse, with supporters on either side. The royal princes were seated near the chief mourner, with the Lord Chamberlain of his majesty’s household taking his place at the feet of the corpse.
It was about 9am when the first part of the procession entered the south aisle, and everyone had not taken their seats within the chapel until a little after 10am, the ceremony itself lasted about an hour.
King George III was buried in the chamber beneath St. George’s Chapel, along with other members of his family, Princess Amelia, his wife Queen Charlotte, Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, (Prince Regent as he was when she died in 1817).
British (English) School; View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey
One of our lovely readers asked for help in finding a document for some research he was doing. Having found the document I was fascinated by it and thought it was worth sharing with you.
The Morning Post, of 2nd October 1776 contained a ‘scoring sheet’ for twelve ladies of the ‘Bon Ton,’ Britain’s high society ladies of the day. The newspaper described it as ‘ Scale of Bon Ton’, with the ladies being marked out of twenty for each of nine virtues (there’s a copy at the end).
No explanation was offered as to who wrote it and more importantly who decided on the points awarded, but it reads a bit like the scores for a beauty pageant, so I’ll simply present them as per the newspaper and let you make your own decision about this!
The outright, clear winner was the Countess of Barrymore, who scored almost full marks in virtually all categories, but for whom there appears to be no portrait available, which is such a shame given her score.
In second place, we have joint runners-up, Lady Harriott Foley and Lady Anna Maria Stanhope, daughter of William Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Harrington who married Thomas Pelham-Clinton, 3rd Duke of Newcastle
Fourth place goes to Mrs Harriet Bouverie.
Somewhat surprisingly, given that she was always regarded as the most beautiful woman in England, the Duchess of Devonshire only achieved overall fifth place, scoring such a low mark for ‘expression’.
Sixth place, just one point behind was Mrs Damer (see image further on).
Seventh place went to the Countess of Sefton, formerly Lady Isabella Stanhope.
Eighth place to the Duchess of Gordon.
Ninth place went to Mrs Crewe, on the right, who score a zero for ‘grace’.
Tenth place, to Lady Melbourne, whose ‘figure’ scored her a zero.
In Eleventh place, we have the Countess of Derby whose scores were well below average, to say the least.
Last, scoring a mere 48 out of 180 was the Countess of Jersey.
Today’s blog is a promotional one for ‘The Early Dance Circle Annual Lecture, 2020’ which will take place on
Friday 28 February 2020 at 7.15 p.m.
Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House,
20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH
Last year their guest speaker was one of our fellow Pen and Sword,author, Mike Rendell and this year’s speaker will be the dancer, dance Historian and archivist at New College, Oxford, Jennifer Thorp.
The high seas of British publishing have always been choppy. Of course, publishing piracy is not a thing of the past by any means. Last March, Katy Guest wrote about the modern problem in The Guardian, reporting the boast, ‘I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds.’ It’s estimated that 17% of e-books are consumed illegally. Katy found the recurring claim that there was nothing wrong in the practice because, “Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it.”
In 1706 English dancing-masters were introduced to the new concept (for London) of dances recorded in notation and manuals in English on how to read them. That year John Weaver, with the encouragement of two significant patrons, sold copies of his influential Orchesography and A Collection of Ball-Dances … by Mr Isaac through the Strand bookshop of Paul and Isaac Valliant. They did him an honest and successful job but inadvertently signalled to less scrupulous printers that there was money to be made in such publications, by fair means or foul. This talk looks at the ways in which some of the eighteenth-century dance materials that we cherish today came into being and survived – if they did?
The dance publishers that Jennifer Thorp will tell us about, like authors today, might stoutly disagree! Come along to the EDC Annual Lecture this year and hear more about the 18th century form of publishing piracy and its consequences. You’ll be very welcome!
For further information or to reserve your free place, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 8699 8519 . A suggested donation is £5.00.
Today I am delighted to welcome an authority on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, Etienne Daly, whose name you have probably seen in previous articles about Dido. As part of his research into her life he has been taking a closer look at her death, more specifically where she was buried and with that I’ll hand you over to Etienne to tell you more.
On a dull, grey, bitterly cold, 6 January 1969, just after 8.00am rolled off the trucks in Albion Street, bulldozers and diggers. The residents nearby were made fully aware that big changes were coming through a plot of land formerly known as St George’s Fields Burial Ground, the noise of the machinery being offloaded would have awoken even the deepest of sleepers, but the residents had been expecting this.
Over the previous 6 months as notice of development into a housing association was made known to them all, that is not the case of course for the incumbents buried there, some for over 200 years!
Now things were going to change on the five acre site. Following the machinery would be wooden boxes to pile all the bones, skulls and skeletons intact, with lime powder to be scattered on them ready to be taken to the crematorium in South London for incineration and final disposal.
Local residents expected an efficient job to be done with respect and sensitivity for the dead, but it didn’t work that way according to the local paper of the time, The Paddington Mercury which ran the story on Friday 24 January 1969, saying that digging and drilling went on till 8.00pm, even on Sundays and vibrations were felt in certain properties causing consternation.
But bones were also found in the street which had to be picked up and boxed by the many labourers given the task of clearing the site. The weather being atrocious from January to the end of March meant the workers would have been as speedy as possible, allowing corners to be cut to get the task done. In fact it was took the best part of 1969 before most of the site was cleared and with it went the history of Saint George’s Fields.
So from the time the land was sold off and boarded up just the previous month, December 1968 until a year later trucks were coming and going, loading up the bones of the deceased and off to one of these crematoriums: the Lambeth crematorium, Streatham or West Norwood Crematoriums.
All history of this site was to go with it, a site which had opened in 1765 as an over-spill burial ground for the parish of St George’s Hanover square – the very church in which Dido married in December 1793.
And of some important people worth noting like Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), Paul Sandby (1721-1809), Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) and General Thomas Picton, of Waterloo fame, who were buried in the vault at the graveyard and many others.
But there were also body snatchers around which is why the boundary had two walls built and vaults were made underground for the wealthier, these faced the then Uxbridge Rd (now Bayswater Road) in the first class plot.
The others were middle class plots and paupers plots and were located to the rear of the site which often became waterlogged.
This, however, did not deter the body snatchers who had some success in removing corpses to sell on to the medical profession for dissection!
The ground was eventually closed in 1858, but unofficial burials took place up until the mid-1860s. By 1885 the ground was mainly cleared, leaving headstones lined up on the perimeter wall with the area becoming a park for people to walk through, that is till after the Second World War during which the Chapel of Ascension was hit by a doodlebug in 1944 putting an end to that.
With land prices raised since the 1950s it had by the end of the 1960s become a prime target for building speculators.
Full circle on after three years of development, the housing association consisting of 300 flats was accommodated by June 1973. It became a private block when the residents bought the freehold in the early 1980s. However, since that time bones have been recovered at certain parts of the development when new works have taken place such as light laying cables etc.
I discovered that the vaults haven’t been fully examined because of access ability i.e. power cables are nearby.
My research took me to Saint George’s Fields as I knew that Dido was buried there late July 1804 and took an interest in layout and plans of that side both historic and pre/post development. I made grids of the site based on the first second and third class plots, and the first phase of development as the foundations went in. Without boring you with all the calculations, suffice it to say that an area of the site looked as if it was not developed and based upon all findings matched up, so with this plan I made of the area I approached an expert of the site and development who was able to say that area was not touched, in fact it was outside of the buildings footprint. But area I discovered was in the first class plot (best ground) facing the now, Bayswater Road.
Once armed with this knowledge I did further work and discovered in fact two probable burial plots where Dido may have been buried. Two you think? Well, you have to know that burial sites were also a business, and the best plots made the most money, so after many years graves were moved as spaces filled up. This, my experts agreed on as being common practice in the 18th and 19th century.
The image of the site is from a photo taken around 1949 which shows the two marked areas in pink, the top one was the original burial plot and the other is further back, but both were ‘path side’ in the first class plot.
Now, I know Dido was not placed in the vaults and was buried above ground in the first class plot, and there’s a chance that the plot was brick lined for added preservation and would have been quite deep around 12 feet to 14 feet deep in order to deter grave robbers, it was also a favoured method of the upper classes.
I noted that Dido’s death was number 56 of 73 deaths that month of July for the parish of Saint George’s and a high rate of child mortality that month as many months in the 18th and 19th century.
There’s also a possibility that Dido’s twin son John, who was born in May 1795 with the other twin Charles, who died in infancy was buried there around 1796-8. There’s no exact record of when John died or was buried, but most likely it was at the burial ground and Saint George’s. Only a deep scan of the designated areas would prove conclusive and if we could find they are buried together and I would very much welcome such a scan to prove or disprove my theory, as I think is seems highly likely that Dido, is still be buried there, only time will tell.
It is also feasible that when Dido died, the family used the undertakers, or upholders as they were then known, France and Beckwith, who were responsible for organising all royal burials including those of King George III, King George IV, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg and more. William France trained as an upholsterer initially and undertook work at Kenwood House, where he supplied table legs, frames and mouldings which were described as being ‘Gilded with Burnish’d Gold in the most perfect manner’.
Today we will take a brief look at the role of one of the most important jobs within a household during the Georgian Era, that of the nursery nurse or nursery maid. When this guidance was produced for parents and for nurses alike and set out advice for them as to the role she should occupy and what tasks should be completed to ensure that their proteges were cared for.
Of paramount importance was that the person be of a lively and cheerful disposition, good tempered, and clean and neat in her habits and person. She would need to be experienced in the care and management of young children as her role was of vital importance to the family as she would be in charge of a child from infancy until old enough to have a governess or to go to school. Potential employers took great care when recruiting this person and often used word of mouth for recommendations or would place an advert in the newspaper. Potential employees would naturally have been able to provide excellent references.
The morning would begin with the children being carefully washed and dressed, then once ready they would have breakfast, the children being placed for their meal quietly and in an orderly manner. After breakfast, if the weather was fine they would be taken out by the assistant nurse or nursery maid for fresh air and exercise for an hour or two, but not too long for fear of over-tiring them. On return their hands and feet would be washed if dirty, children would then have lessons until midday at which time they would be fed and then taken outside again for more fresh air, a light supper and then bed. As it is today, fresh air was seen as vitally important.
It was the nurses role to ensure that the child was kept safe at all times and particular care should be taken that a child did not climb on the furniture so as to avoid them damaging their limbs, nor to go near the fire in case their clothes catch fire, there were a surprising number of instances where this had happened, so clearly advice was necessary.
Young child were to be given plain food and drink, yet some nurses apparently gave them wine, spirits spices and sugar – none of which were believed to be good for the child.
The sleeping room of the nursery should be spacious, dry and well ventilated, with a fire being made up if a cold or damp day and the room was not be inhabited during the day. Servants were not permitted to sleep in the same room as the child as nothing should be done to contaminate the air.
Beds should not be placed close to the ground as the air was fresher high up. In cities, children should not be kept in hot rooms, but have as much air as possible and given as much exercise as possible, as lack of exercise was the cause of rickets, weak joints and lung disease.
When putting the child to sleep it should be placed on the right side rather than on the left. When awake an infant, should be laid on its back so that it can move its legs and arms with freedom. Sleep promotes a more calm and uniform circulation of the blood and also facilitates absorption of the nutriments received. The horizontal posture, likewise, is the most favourable to the growth and bodily development of the infant. Sleep ought to be in proportion to the age of the infant.
After the age of six months, the periods of sleep, may, in some degree should be regulated ; yet, even then, a child should sleep through the night, and several hours both in the morning and afternoon. Nurses should endeavour to accustom infants, from the time of their birth, to sleep in the night in preference to the day. Children should not be woken suddenly or moved from a dark room into bright light as this can cause weak eyes from early infancy.
Clothing should be very light, and not too long, so that it is easy to get the child’s legs out with ease during the day in order to rub them with a warm hand, or flannel as this would promote the circulation of the blood. However, a nurse should hold the child as little as possible to avoid the legs being cramped and to ensure that its toes didn’t turn inwards.
During the day children should be dressed in light and loose fitting clothes, and at night it may be a shirt, a blanket to tie on, and a thin gown to tie over the blanket. Pins should never be used in an infant’s clothes and every string should be so loosely tied, that two fingers may be introduced under it.
The child’s skin was to be kept perfectly clean by washing its limbs morning and evening, and likewise its neck and ears, beginning with warm water until eventually getting the child used to cold water.
After carefully drying the whole body, head, and limbs, a second dry soft cloth, somewhat warmed, should be gently used, to take all the damp from the wrinkles or soft parts of the body. Then the limbs should be rubbed. If the skin became irritated, then hair-powder should be used (today we would use talcum powder). The utmost tenderness is necessary in drying the head ; and a small, soft, brush, lightly applied, is safer than a comb.
*** For those with an interest in Dido Elizabeth Belle, do keep an eye out for next week’s blog ***
The Complete Servant: Being a Practical Guide to the Peculiar Duties and Business of All Descriptions of Servants
Morland, George, 1763-1804; A Visit to the Boarding School
It is always lovely to welcome back guests to the blog, and today we welcome back Kimberley Reeman for our first article of this new decade. Kim recently wrote an article for us, about the Life of Dr James Barry, which was very well received, so we’re sure you will enjoy this one equally as much.
“I was effectually cured of all inclination to that sin to which I was so strongly addicted, that I thought nothing but shooting me through the head could have cured me.” COLONEL JAMES GARDINER, 1688-1745
It was a hot night in Paris in July of 1719: a Sunday night, but the Sabbath signified nothing in the decadent life of Major James Gardiner, aide de camp to the Earl of Stair, a Scot like Gardiner and British ambassador to the court of France under the regent Philippe, Duc d’Orleans. It was a rare interlude of peace between the two countries, and Gardiner himself was no stranger to war.
Born at Carriden in Linlithgowshire on January 11, 1688, he was the son and nephew of soldiers killed on active service, and his older brother Robert had died at the bloody siege of Namur at the age of only sixteen.
Gardiner, also commissioned absurdly young, had fought at the Battle of Ramillies on May 23, 1706, where he had been shot in the mouth. The musket ball had exited through his neck, narrowly missing the vertebrae and without damaging his tongue or teeth: he had lain in the darkness exploring the wound with his fingers, clearing his mouth of the congealing blood that was threatening to choke him and clenching his fist, cemented with blood, around the gold coins he had unwisely carried into battle. In the night he was discovered, as he had known he would be, by French soldiers intent on plunder: but strangely, as a blade pressed into his breastbone, some one said, “Do not kill that poor child,” and his body had been loaded onto a barrow and trundled, eventually, to a convent, where the Abbess had called him mon fils, and his wound, now infected, had been treated. Here he had remained, cared for by the nuns, for three months until he had been exchanged with other British prisoners and returned to his regiment.
Other battles, other commissions, other promotions followed, and when the peace was signed James Gardiner came to Paris, to the court of Versailles: a court, in this licentious age, which had the reputation of being the most debauched in Europe. Major James Gardiner, now thirty-one and having abandoned the last constraints of morality, became a connoisseur of its vices.
He had already been out with friends that Sunday evening, but the party had broken up before 11 p.m., and he had an hour to kill before his midnight assignation with a married woman. So he returned to his lodgings and prowled and drank and contemplated the prospect of further sexual gratification with the craving of the addict he had become: a powerful man, more than six feet tall, with dark hair and dark grey eyes and a long nose and high forehead, and a right cheek scarred not at Ramillies but in the course of the first duel he had fought, when he had been little more than a child. He was said, fittingly for a dragoon officer, to be “one of the most competent horsemen that had ever been known”, although a few weeks before this fateful evening he had been thrown violently by a mettlesome horse on a steep, cobbled street. It is possible that he suffered concussion, and certainly the atheists among his acquaintance attributed to that accident the epiphany that now overtook James Gardiner.
Bored, he glanced at his watch, and then at the title of a book lying forgotten on the table⸺ not his usual pornography but something called The Christian Soldier, or Heaven Taken By Storm. He assumed it had been slipped into his baggage by his mother during his last leave in Scotland, in yet another vain attempt to salvage what remained of his soul. He laughed, and, thinking its dogma might entertain him for half an hour, sat in the armchair and began to read.
His close friend and biographer, Philip Doddridge, D.D., describes what happened, as Gardiner reported it to him.
There is a possibility that while he was sitting in this solitude, and reading in this careless and profane manner, he might suddenly fall asleep, and only dream of what he apprehended he saw. But nothing can be more certain than that he judged himself to have been as broad awake during that whole time as he ever was in any part of his life; and he mentioned it to me several times afterwards as what undoubtedly passed, not only in his imagination but before his eyes.
To another friend Gardiner described it as “so lively and striking, that he could not tell whether it was to his bodily eyes, or those of his mind. Yet it is evident he looked upon this as a vision, whether it were before the eyes or in the mind, and not as a dream.”
Doddridge picks up the story.
He thought he saw an unusual blaze fall on the book while he was reading, which he at first imagined might happen by some accident in the candle. But lifting up his eyes, he apprehended, to his extreme amazement, that there was before him, as it were suspended in the air, a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross, surrounded on all sides with a glory; and was impressed, as if a voice, or something equivalent to a voice, had come to him (for he was not confident of the very words), ‘O sinner, did I suffer this for thee?’…. Struck with so amazing a Phaenomenon as this, there remained hardly any life left in him, so that he sunk down in the arm-chair in which he sat, and continued, he knew not exactly how long, insensible….
Nor did he throughout all the remainder of the night, once recollect that criminal and detestable assignation, which had before engrossed all his thoughts. He rose in a tumult of passion not to be conceived; and walked to and fro in his chamber, till he was ready to drop down, in unutterable astonishment and agony of heart; appearing to himself the vilest monster in the creation of God.
It was a fierce awakening, and Gardiner’s soul, cleansed of its “most horrid sins” by that divine fire at midnight, did not leap in exultation: he passed, instead, several days and nights in anguish, shattered, sleepless, and convinced of his own imminent damnation. And then, gradually, from this exhaustion of mind and body, came a curious peace. He emerged from his tormented contemplations of hell and resumed the business of living; but the James Gardiner who returned to the physical world was irrevocably changed. He had abjured the brothels, the gambling hells, the substance abuse, the fluent profanity, the obsessive promiscuity: it was time to explain himself to his friends.
He dreaded it. He wrote to his mother, who had been overjoyed at the news of his conversion: “I would much rather be marched up to a battery of the enemy’s cannon than have been obliged to continually face such artillery as this.”
They mocked him, of course. Some mentioned his accident; some thought he had suffered a breakdown; some were openly calling him insane on both sides of the Channel. When Gardiner was transferred back to England he asked a distinguished friend to invite the doubters to dinner, so that he could confront them in a civilised manner.
It was a raucous meal, “with much raillery”, during which the major remained uncharacteristically sober and quiet, “but when the cloth was taken away and the servants retired, he begged their patience for a few minutes.” What his friends thought when this new, ascetic James Gardiner began to speak of vice and virtue and the fact that throughout his wild, dissolute years he had “never tasted anything that deserved to be called happiness”, we cannot know. He did not discuss “the extraordinary manner in which he had been awakened”, out of a desire to preserve its sanctity and a deep sense that, in this company, it was neither appropriate nor necessary; but he had misjudged his companions, as they had misjudged him. Once it was apparent that he was still, if less obscenely, the James Gardiner they had always known, “he found himself more esteemed and regarded by many”, and the cynics left him alone.
He was not the only ‘Christian soldier’ in the British army: there were other high-ranking evangelists who were considered equally eccentric, but they were in the minority. How they reconciled their consciences with thou shalt not kill remains unclear; but for James Gardiner, who had in the course of his tumultuous life broken most of the commandments, there came at last a time of grace. He loved and was loved, physically and spiritually, and there was no doubt that theirs was a passionate union: he had married Lady Frances Erskine, daughter of the 9th Earl of Buchan, on the 11th
of July, 1726, and she, he told Doddridge, “valued and loved him much more than he deserved.” Of their thirteen children, to whom he was devoted, only five survived, and Gardiner’s faith was sorely tested when “it pleased God to visit his little family with smallpox.” Gardiner, now a lieutenant-colonel commanding a regiment of dragoons quartered in Herefordshire, received news from Scotland that his five year old son, who had seemed to be recovering, was dead. He wrote to Frances, alone with the children at home in East Lothian, “He to be sure is happy; and we shall go to him, although he shall not return to us. And therefore it is our wisdom, as well as our duty, to leave all with a gracious God.”
But he was human: his faith faltered: he who had once experienced religious ecstasies in the west of Scotland while riding alone, listening to the singing of larks, fell into black depression, mourned his lost children, felt the weight of his absence from Frances, bowed again to the will of God in October of 1733 when his second son, “the darling of all who knew him” and perhaps the child closest to Gardiner’s heart, died after less than a day’s illness. He wrote to Doddridge, “God is all-wise, and everything is done by him for the best. Shall I hold back anything that is his when he requires it?”
It was perhaps inevitable that Gardiner, so much the absentee father, and living, as required by his rank, a peripatetic life with the regiment in Hamilton, Ayr, Carlisle, Hereford, Maidenhead, Leicester, Warwick, Coventry, Marlborough and Northampton, should take a deeply paternal interest in his men.
He was known to walk the cobbled streets and stop suddenly at their billets, inquiring into their welfare, inspecting their horses and the conditions in which they were stabled, exercising and reviewing them personally, and encouraging even the most hardened reprobates to accompany him to church, where he ensured they were seated quietly before the arrival of the congregation. He wore his religion lightly but he fined his officers for swearing in his presence, and banked the proceeds to “lay out in providing the men with proper help and accommodation in their distress” and visited them when they fell ill. He did not coddle: he commanded, awarding punishment when necessary, upholding discipline. The result was “one of the most regular and orderly regiments in the public service, with men of sober and obliging conduct.”
It was this regiment he led throughout the Low Countries with the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession, in appalling weather, at one point “toward Frankfort”, he wrote to the long-suffering Frances, “to the great surprise of the army…. Neither can any of us comprehend what we are to do there, for there is no enemy in that country, the French army being marched into Bavaria, where I am sure we cannot follow.”
Neglecting his health but never his dragoons or their horses, he may not have mentioned to Frances the illness, pneumonia or pleurisy, that nearly took his life, and from which he never fully recovered. He wrote, longing for home and a respite from the bloodbath of Flanders, “To live with Christ, which is infinitely better than anything we can propose here! Where no mountains shall separate between God and our souls: and I hope it will be some addition to our happiness, that you and I shall be separated no more.”
He wanted to come home, but release from Flanders for a serving lieutenant-colonel would come only with transfer or promotion, and Gardiner had little hope of acquiring the full colonelcy of a regiment, for which competition was stiff. He remained optimistic, scribbling from Aix la Chappelle on the 21st of April 1743, “People here imagine I must be sadly troubled that I have not got a regiment, for six out of seven vacant are now disposed of, but they are strangely mistaken, for it has given me no sort of trouble: my heavenly Father knows what is best for me… and has given me an entire resignation to his will.”
Two days before this letter was written the colonelcy of Bland’s Horse, a dragoon regiment quartered almost on Gardiner’s doorstep in Linlithgow, fell vacant, and was offered to Gardiner by George II. He accepted, believing that “by this remarkable event Providence had called him home.” He left the regiment he had loved and commanded for so many years, and the men in whose welfare he had taken such a personal interest, and returned to Britain, relapsing en route into feverish illness at
Ghent and arriving in London in June looking, his friend Doddridge noted with concern, “ten years older, and so sadly altered.”
His duties as colonel of what was now known as Gardiner’s Horse were not onerous: the day to day affairs of the regiment were the business of his lieutenant-colonel, Shugborough Whitney, and Gardiner spent much of his time at his estate, Bankton, in East Lothian, weakened in body but engaged as always in lively, gossipy correspondence with relations and friends and intellectual debate with prominent clergymen. He was also acutely aware, as a soldier and a Scot, of the undercurrents in Scottish politics, and the very evident resurgence of Jacobitism, particularly in Edinburgh. The Jacobites were not a new phenomenon: the Earl of Stair had been thwarting plots to restore the Old Pretender in Paris in 1714. But this time the threat was palpable, and Gardiner wrote of it with prescience and foreboding, knowing the rawness of his own men and the inexperience of the few regiments quartered in Britain. With an invasion by France, he observed, “a few thousand might have a fair chance for marching from Edinburgh to London uncontrolled, and then throw the whole kingdom into an astonishment.”
He remained unwell but indefatigable: writing, praying, studying, at leisure, finally, to be with Frances and his eldest daughter, and to enjoy the quietness of his home, his garden and his orchard. He allowed himself to be persuaded to go to Scarborough for a summer of sea bathing “to regain his health”, and he considered travelling to London afterwards; but in his absence the flame of rebellion, which had been smouldering so long, burst into violent life, and he was recalled with his regiment to Stirling. Frances and his daughter accompanied him, and it was there in the castle that James Gardiner took his last leave of them. Frances wept uncontrollably. He comforted her with gentleness and serenity, saying, “We have an eternity to spend together.”
He left her and rode to Falkirk with his men, so exhausting himself in the process that he was forced to ask a local minister to write to his superiors on his behalf, requesting reinforcements “which might put it in his power to make a stand, which he was very desirous to do.” The rebels were close, and Gardiner’s untried dragoons eager to fight; but reinforcements were not forthcoming, and their fighting spirit evaporated when they were ordered to Dunbar, and left them entirely when they heard that Edinburgh had surrendered to the Young Pretender without resistance. Gardiner himself doubted their courage, saying to another senior officer that he would not “in case of the flight of those under his command, retreat with them,” and, to a visitor from Edinburgh, “I cannot influence the conduct of those as I could wish, but I have one life to sacrifice to my country’s safety, and I shall not spare it.”
Friday, September 20th, 1745, was one of the last golden days, with vast, deep blue skies and great expanses of pale stubble in fields where barley had been reaped, the ricks steeping in the warm sunlight as an army of three thousand under Sir John Cope deployed near Prestonpans. Cope changed his position several times before sunset, disliking the ground and the twelve-foot stone walls of Preston House estate to the north and those of James Gardiner’s own estate, Bankton, to the south, between which the army was confined. Gardiner, knowing the neighbourhood intimately, attempted, with another high-ranking officer, to persuade Cope to launch a surprise attack on the Jacobites before nightfall, and was overruled: he was seen later “walking in a very pensive state.”
Whatever foreboding he had felt was compounded when he saw the disposition of Cope’s heavy artillery, “which he would have planted in the centre of our small army,” Doddridge wrote, “rather than just before his regiment, which was in the right wing: where he was apprehensive that the horses which had not been in any engagement before, might be thrown into some disorder by the discharge so very near them.”
No one listened to him.
He passed the night, which after the golden warmth of the day was cold and misty, armed and wrapped in his military cloak, under a rick of barley in the company of four of his own domestic servants. About three in the morning, he sent all but one of them home. Throughout the night Cope had posted pickets and sentries and lighted bonfires along his front line, which, before sunset, he had repositioned yet again to face the benevolently misnamed Tranent Meadows, a boggy quagmire through which he did not expect the Jacobites to attack. The barking of dogs in the nearby village of Tranent around 9 p.m. should have warned him that the enemy, too, was on the move, but by 10:30 p.m. an uneasy silence had fallen, and it was not until after 4 o’clock on Saturday, September 21st that a column of Jacobites, guided by the son of the minor laird who owned the Meadows, took a wildfowler’s path through the marsh to close on Cope’s army before daylight. By 5 a.m. Cope’s sentries had seen enough to be aware of the imminence of attack, and Cope, an accomplished and underrated general, immediately wheeled his forces ninety degrees to the north to face the enemy, with his only two dragoon regiments on either flank. Time did not allow the most effective deployment of these inexperienced troops, and even Gardiner’s own 13th was split awkwardly into three squadrons, with Gardiner himself as close to the artillery as he had feared.
The rebels attacked at dawn, and, as Gardiner had predicted, neither untried men nor horses deafened and terrified by the artillery behind which they were positioned withstood the Highland charge. The unseated dragoons fled: those horses not slashed or shot by the enemy galloped in panic from the field. Gardiner, shot in the left breast, flinched at the impact, insisting it was only a flesh wound, and took another bullet in the right thigh. Deserted by all but a dozen or so of his dragoons, and defended ferociously by his lieutenant-colonel, Shugborough Whitney, whose left arm had been shattered by a musket ball, and by a young lieutenant named West, Gardiner was targeted and surrounded by clansmen. Hacking his way free, he spurred to command a small, desperate knot of infantry fighting for their lives: soldiers of Lascelles’ regiment, which he had been ordered to support. Bleeding heavily and shuddering in the saddle, he shouted at them to stand, his strong Scots voice carrying above the screams. “Fire on, my lads, and fear nothing!”
They were Scots: although their colonel was English, Lascelles’ was a Scottish regiment, and until the outbreak of rebellion they had been repairing roads in the Highlands. Perhaps it gave them heart, in the last seconds of their lives, to hear Gardiner’s Scottish voice, and to witness his courage: but time, for James Gardiner, had run its course. His sword arm was almost severed by the blade of a scythe wielded by a clansman, and as the weapon fell from his hand he was dragged from the saddle. From a distance his servant saw him sustain several wounds from broadswords and crumple to the ground; and then Gardiner raised his left hand and waved his fallen hat, and shouted, “Take care of yourself.” A Lochaber axe struck the back of his head, and he collapsed.
The servant did not linger to see him stripped of his coat, shirt, boots, watch and valuables, nor see his grey gelding led away by a jubilant clansman who, it was said, presented it to the Young Pretender. He crept back hours later, as the Highlanders were ransacking Gardiner’s house, leaving it littered with torn papers and human faeces. Gardiner, half naked on the bloody ground, was still breathing: he opened his eyes when he was touched but was unable to speak. The servant managed to haul his mangled body onto a cart and to the house of the minister at Tranent, where they laid him in bed. He lingered, in great pain, throughout the night, and died of his many wounds at about eleven the following morning.
What had they seen as they killed him, these Scots? An ageing, ailing man, faithful unto death to his country and his God? A fellow Scot, had they even been able to understand the English he spoke with so indubitably Scottish an accent? A man of staggering courage in the face of certain death, or only a hated enemy?
Those who killed him remain anonymous, their names forgotten, if they were ever known. But James Gardiner is remembered still in Tranent, where a handsome obelisque was erected to his memory in 1853 in the grounds of Bankton House, and where he lies in the mossy peace of the churchyard.
The inscription on his gravestone reads, I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, and the 1611 King James Version with which Gardiner would have been familiar continues, Hencefoorth there is layde up for me a crowne of righteousnesse, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day.
He bought his crown with blood and faith and valour.
Well folks, today sees our final article for this year, in fact for this decade. We’ve had such a busy ten years, since starting All Things Georgian a few years ago, we’ve written over 550 articles on a whole host of subjects; researched and written 4 books, given lots of talks and interviews and have met so many lovely people, all things we never knew we would have done 10 years ago.
We would like to say massive ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has supported us by taking the time to read our articles and to buy our books, we really hope you have enjoyed them and found them informative.
Today, though, I thought we’d take brief look back at what was making the news in December, 200 years ago in 1819, so here we go.
Very much as it is today, advertising for Christmas was in full swing, with retailers mainly recommending books as gifts, but if you wanted to buy someone a gift with real possibilities then you could do as one gentleman did for his daughter at Blackheath, London when he presented her with a Lottery Share from Piddings of No.1 Cornhill. She won a quarter share of twenty thousand guineas. What a lovely Christmas gift that must have been.
Of course they too had their Boxing Day sales as we discover at Mr A. Shears, Bedford House, 11 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden
Bombazines in all colours cheaper and better than ever. Rich figures and plain poplins at little more than half price. Beautiful velvets 9 shillings and 6 pence per yard. Fine merino and ladies’ clothes warranted never to wear rough.
As it is today, it was also Pantomime Season for those Georgians too, ‘Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes, it is’!
Yes, those Georgians loved the pantomime and of course if you were in London you had several choices of panto’s and all went well at the Adelphi, according to The Globe, December 28th, 1819 and Drury Lane theatre hosted the premiere of a brand new pantomime – Jack and The Beanstalk:
The entertainment at this small but attractive theatre brought a very numerous audience last night. The pit, at an early hour, was crowed to excess and the boxes, before the rising of the curtain, exhibited the same appearance. The entertainments commenced with the principal dancers with much elegance and effect. A pantomime called The Fairy of the North Star, or Harlequin at Labrador, was produced for the first time this season. Though it has no incidents particularly new or striking, it is not however, without merit, and did not fail in affording pleasure and amusement to the Christmas visitors.
The new pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk; or Harlequin and the Ogre was first performed at Drury Lane theatre on the same day. Jack, performed by Miss Povey, who sang, is in poverty, and the little money which he had gained by a sale, is, by the Genie of the Harp, turned into beans, which the mother indignantly throws away. A fine ‘scarlet runner’ soon sprouts forth and threatens to wind round the moon. Jack ascends and reaches the fierce Ogres’ Castle.
The various hair-breadth escapes in endeavouring to rescue the damsel, Junetta found there, is the ground work of the subsequent changes and Harlequinading. Their approach was most acceptable, as the early scenes were heavy, there being too much narrative and too little action.
In Royal News
The Prince of Wales accompanied by Sir B Bloomfield visited the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in Marlborough Row on Christmas Eve of 1819. The Bells of the parish church immediately rung a merry peal on the occasion.
His Royal Highness had the happiness to find the Duchess of Gloucester (who has been indisposed for a few day), much recovered. On Christmas Day, at noon, divine service was performed in the presence of the Regent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the royal suite, by the Rev. J.R Carr. The Regent and the Duchess received the sacrament. The royal dinner party was small and select. At nine o’clock a few of the nobility joined the assemblage, and a charming selection of music was performed for the entertainment of the guests. The workmen an artists of the Pavilion, anxious to get everything ready for the reception of his Royal Highness, had assembled on Christmas Day, but a mandate from the Regent quickly occasioned their dismissal, his Royal Highness positively ordering that the day should be observed as one of rest and sacred devotion.
The Irish Free School
An appeal to the public was made a few days ago by Mr Finnegan, the Master of The Irish Free School, in George Street. St Giles on behalf of 240 of the destitute children of his fellow natives. On Christmas Day we visited these schools and were highly gratified at seeing the greater part of those suffering innocents (boys and girls) provided with new clothing, which we understand has been procured for them through the liberal aid of a generous public. At two o’clock all the children sat down to a plentiful dinner of plum pudding, beef and potatoes, at the expense of a gentleman, a long benefactor to the institution. Our pleasure, we confess was greatly increased at seeing ladies of the highest respectability become servants of these poor children.
On Saturday, as usual on Christmas Day, the Lord Mayor ordered the prisoners in Newgate to receive each one pound of beef, a pint of porter and a two-penny loaf of bread, in addition to the increased allowance of bread, meat and coals, given by the City of London.
And finally …
Christmas Food Fight
On Christmas morning a ludicrous event occurred in Union Street, Holborn. As two women, residing in George Alley were carrying dishes to the oven to be baked, when they ran into two drunken labourers, and the dishes which contained in one, a piece of beef and the other a loin of mutton, each with a batter pudding were thrown out of their hands. Here the fun began. The women, on finding their Christmas dinner was spoiled were so enraged that they grabbed the two men by their hair and beat them around their heads with the beef and mutton until they were covered with grease, milk and flour much to the amusement of the large crowd which had now gathered.
Eventually after some intervention peace was restored, and the two women left the scene and headed to the nearest public house where they drowned their sorrows with copious amounts of rum, gin and beer.
We would like to wish you all a very happy festive season and to say that we will be back at the start of the next decade with more articles for you and with some exciting news of our own to share with you too.
If you’re still searching for that last minute Christmas present, then perhaps take a look at our Bookshelf, you might just find what you’re looking for.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 28 December 1819
One thing we have concluded about ourselves during our research over the years is, that we have an incredible propensity for being dragged, kicking and screaming off at tangents and this one is a case in point. How on earth is it possible to get from court dressmaker to body snatcher in a matter of a few steps? – well, with immense ease it appears.
Our research was actually about the renowned milliner and court dress maker of 32 Albemarle Street, Mrs. Charlotte Bean. She found fame as dress maker to ‘Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent and also the Princess Charlotte of Saxe Coburg by special appointment’. It didn’t take us long to discover another story about one of her apprentices, a Miss Elizabeth Lane.
On July 18th, 1810, William Webb, a resurrection man who had been the grave digger for four years at the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, London was accused of stealing a dead body, that of a young lady Miss Elizabeth Lane. She was described as being aged between eighteen and twenty years of age when she died of measles.
Elizabeth was interred on the 21st June, at 8am. Mrs. Lane said that they left after the service before the grave was filled up, but within half an hour of returning home a boy called at their house to say that the corpse which had just been buried had been stolen from the grave. Mr and Mrs Lane immediately returned to the burying ground, accompanied by Mr. Adams, the church warden, Mr. McLaughlin, the sexton and Mr. Cater, the watchman. They went straight to the grave and near it they saw the grave digger, Webb.
He was instructed to open the grave, at first he hesitated, saying it was wasn’t right to do so, stepped back a few paces and let the spade fall out of his hand, again exclaiming that all was not right, he fainted and fell down near to a newly made grave. At first they thought he had died, but after a while he recovered. Once recovered, he was asked whether Elizabeth’s body was in the grave, he answered that it was. So, again he was ordered to open it. About a foot and a half below the surface a sack was found, which, on being examined, contained the dead body of Elizabeth, who had just been committed to the earth.
Everyone recognised her, but the body appeared to have mangled in different parts in a shocking manner, as if it had been struck with a spade or some instrument whilst breaking open the coffin. Her body had been tied at the neck and heels, with rope, as if to prevent it having the appearance of a corpse in the sack. The shroud lying in the bottom of the coffin, folded up.
At his trial which took place at Westminster Sessions on July 13th, 1810, Webb, in his defence, presented a ‘frightful picture of ignorance and depravity’. He told an incoherent story about a man whom he called Jack, assisting him and that he supposed some person would come at night and take the body over the church wall. He complained that his trial was hurried on sooner than he expected and persisted he was not guilty, it’s no clear why he thought this, but in any case the jury, unanimously agreed that he guilty. So far we have not been able to find out what his sentence was.
The information about the painting shown on the Frick Collection website provides a few clues about the provenance of the portrait, but we came across more which fills in some of the gaps.
The portraits life began its life when Grace Dalrymple Elliott and Mary Robinson aka Perdita, mistress to the Prince of Wales, sat at the same time to have their portraits painted by Thomas Gainsborough. The portrait of Grace had, according to the late British art historian Sir Oliver Millar, been commissioned by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) for the sum of £31 10 shillings.
After completion, the portrait of Grace vanished for some considerable time and there is no further reference to it prior to Grace’s death in 1823, nor any mention of it being in the possession of either the Prince of Wales or Grace’s lover, the 1st Marquess of Cholmondeley. Research tells us, however, that it was included in several exhibitions including The British Institution 1860; International Exhibition 1862; Gainsborough Exhibition at Grosvenor Gallery 1884 and in 1894 at the Grafton Gallery.
At this time, it appeared in a brochure by Charles Fairfax Murray who catalogued all the paintings belonging to his Grace Duke of Portland, so we can only assume that it was loaned to the Grafton Gallery by the duke. We still have no idea exactly how it entered into his possession although Murray stated that:
The fine Gainsborough, Mrs Elliott, was no doubt, also purchased by the last Duke, possibly in France as the lady died at Ville D’Avray and the picture may have belonged to her at her death.
If that information is correct then the painting would appear to have been purchased by the 6th Duke of Portland, William Cavendish-Bentinck, but the most likely explanation is that it was inherited somehow by the family at the time of Grace’s death as the family also own other paintings connected to Grace.
The book Thomas Gainsborough by Arthur B Chamberlain published in 1906 contains a photograph of Mrs Elliott’s portrait, which was included with the permission of the Duke of Portland.
In 1909 a photograph of the portrait also appeared in The Masterpieces of Gainsborough, again, with the permission of the Duke of Portland, so we know that the portrait had remained under the ownership of the Portland estate for some considerable time.
It was then exhibited in February 1909, at the New Gallery, London as part of an exhibition entitled ‘Fair Women’. Then again in October 1927 in Ipswich as part of a celebration of the bicentenary of Gainsborough.
It was at the end of 1927 that the fun and games began when we came across letters and cables at the Getty Research Institute regarding the sale of the ‘head and shoulders’ portrait of Grace between Joseph Duveen & the Portland Estate, and they make for fascinating reading. Duveen being one of the most influential art dealers at that time.
It seems that Duveen approached the Duke of Portland and trustees wishing to purchase the portrait and he had a figure in mind in the region of £25,000 to £30,000 maximum that he was willing to pay for it.
The Duke, on the other hand, believed it to worth in excess of £50,000. Duveen described this price as ‘ridiculous’.
On the 6th December 1927 Duveen thought that an offer of around £40,000 might be closer to the mark to secure the painting, but as he was a skilled negotiator and felt that the Duke and the trustees needed to come down much closer to £30,000 before he would be interested in buying it.
Duveen said he’d seen the portrait at the Ipswich Exhibition and that it was a very beautiful and saleable one, but in spite of this, he was adamant that the £50,000 price was far too high.
This is where the really cryptic cable exchanges began on 17th December 1927 between Duveen and Herbert Silva White (fine art dealer, 175, Piccadilly, London) – instead of referring to the picture by name Duveen referred to it as the ‘landport topaz’. Duveen continued to confirm that the price too high for them and that it would be too high for other dealers and that
the sooner the Duke of Portland realized that the better.
Less than a week later White approached the Portland lawyers who said £40,000 was not enough for the painting and that Portland had been approached by others but was not keen to sell. A few days later White contacted Duveen saying that if the offer was below £40,000 the Duke would ‘be mad and refuse to sell’.
The Duke and the trustees dug their heels in at this point and refused to allow either White or Duveen access to view the portrait as they had requested, saying that they had seen it at the exhibition and that should be enough for them! The saga continued with the duke and trustees becoming more and more annoyed.
On the 30th January 1928 in a letter from White to Duveen he stated that the duke would not allow them to see the painting again under any circumstances, the duke understood how good the painting was and how much the public enjoyed seeing it at the exhibition and that it would stay on his wall until it was purchased! Nor would he allow a photograph of it to be taken. He said that a representation existed in the Ipswich catalogue and that really should be good enough for them. A minimum payment required of £40,000 was requested or the matter would be closed.
White said to Duveen that they were now several months on and no further forward in negotiations. White said that the duke had another extremely interested party and so it was time they made their decision. So, the battle continued.
One month later Duveen described the portrait as ‘marvellous‘, and that it would be a good purchase at between £25,000 & £28,000 but added that
we’re dealing with very difficult people and under 30k would be useless.
So White was instructed to offer £32,000. The Duke and trustees were still sticking to their guns – £40,000, so it was agreed that White should back off for now. A further two months passed.
These people will not budge from £40k and still refuse to let us see the picture.
Duveen then instructed White to insist that he must be allowed to see the portrait if he was expected to pay £40,000 for it. White decided that the best approach would be to arrange for Duveen to see the picture when Portland’s were not in residence and eventually, he managed to arrange a visit to Welbeck without the permission of the duke, who he knew was away, but he hadn’t bargained for the Duchess being there.
He described Welbeck as being
more difficult to get into than Buckingham Palace
but said that he’d learnt a few things about how to get in at a later date! Cryptic messages continued until 23rd August 1929 when a letter from Duveen refers to someone named Colnaghi who had offered £45,000 for the painting. Duveen still wanted to actually see the picture and apparently, Colnaghi might be able to arrange this.
On the 24th October 1929, the Duke stated that if the price was high enough he would sell, then a week later he had a change of mind and wouldn’t sell at any price as his financial situation had changed and he no longer needed to sell, but if he were to sell it would be for somewhere in excess of £50k.
Somehow Duveen eventually managed to view it; agreed it was lovely, but the agreement was that he could see that portrait and nothing else whilst there. On the 5th July 1930, a photograph of the portrait was sent to Duveen by the Duke of Portland. Less than a week later Duveen confirmed that he had purchased the portrait, but annoyingly, no mention as to how much had finally been settled on, which after so much hassle is immensely annoying.
Some six years later on the 19th February 1936, the Sassoon Exhibition opened; Mrs Elliot looked ‘marvellous‘ (Sir Phillip Sassoon, 45 Park Lane, London).
7 April 1936 – confirming a letter rec’d thanking them for loaning the Gainsborough to the Sassoon Exhibition, from Mrs Gubbay.
On 23 June 1938:
can you offer Oakes two Gainsborough portraits – Mrs Elliot, Mister Richard Paul Jodrell, MP?
This final telegram could possibly relate to Roscoe & Margaret Oakes, they had a connection to the Frick and were philanthropists and art collectors. On 28 June 1938, a shipment containing both paintings was sent on SS Aquitania.
So finally, we had the explanation as to how Grace found her way into Frick Collection, along with the portrait of Richard Paul Jodrell. After all of this ‘cloak and dagger’ saga, Joseph Duveen was to die just a year later.
We begin this story, which only just made it onto our radar, with two gentlemen – Lewis Pleura, who was born in Italy and referred to himself by the title of Count, and who was very fond of gambling, and as such, eventually found his way into Fleet debtors’ prison, where he became acquainted with Nathaniel Parkhurst.
Nathaniel was from the village of Lower Catesby, near Daventry and descendant of John Parkhurst, the owner of Catesby Abbey and one of county’s major landowners of the time. He went up to Wadham College, Oxford in 1692, aged 16 where he got in with the wrong crowd who spent their time ridiculing religion, and making a jest of the scriptures, and everything that was held sacred.
It was on 3rd March 1715 that Nathaniel Parkhurst was indicted at the Old Bailey for the murder of Lewis Pleura and on a second count, of stabbing.
Parkhurst and the deceased were fellow prisoners in the Fleet prison for debt. Parkhurst had apparently sat up drinking until three o’clock in the morning when he went into the room of Pleura where an argument broke out between the two with Parkhurst saying that Pleura owed him four guineas.
Soon after this, everyone was woken by screams of ‘murder, murder’ and Parkhurst was found with his sword having stabbed Pleura some twenty times, leaving a trail of blood all over the floor.
The surgeon was immediately sent for, but of course, it was far too late. He dressed the deceased and placed him in bed, declaring that Parkhurst had assassinated him. Parkhurst, seeing the deceased in bed went to the corpse shouting ‘damn you Pleura, are you not dead yet?’.
When questioned about the murder, Parkhurst said he had no knowledge of committing it and that he had been in an ‘unhappy state of mind’ for the past two and a half years. Witnesses were called to confirm that Parkhurst was not of stable mind, however evidence proved to be the opposite – he knew exactly what he had done. The jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.
Soon after he received sentence of death, he began to see the error of his ways and acknowledged the truth of the religion he had ridiculed. He confessed that the dissolute course of life which he had led had wasted his substance and weakened his intellectual faculties.
It was recorded that on the morning of execution, he ordered a fowl to be prepared for his breakfast, of which he seemed to eat with a good appetite and drank a pint of liquor with it, then was launched into eternity of on 20th May 1715, leaving a wife and two children, John and Altham.
In the eighteenth-century women were largely viewed as subservient, a commodity, a man’s possession, much like their house or dog. An object for men to do with as they saw fit, including – in extreme cases – beating or raping if they wished. In upper-class households, it was not uncommon for the man to take a mistress if he chose and his expectation of his wife was to produce children, to ‘look the part’, to be talented in the arts and to oversee household management. For working-class women, life would be incredibly tough as they helped to support the family financially, bore and raised numerous children and tried to keep the family from the workhouse door.
So how did our ‘Georgian Heroine’ fit into either scenario? Well, she simply didn’t. Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, known as Charlotte, fell between two worlds, neither upper nor working class, and almost obsessively private.
Charlotte first crossed our path whilst researching Peterborough House, Fulham and Grace Dalrymple Elliott. We came across a story by the author and poet, Marius Kociejowski who had researched part of Charlotte’s life and were hooked; we had to find out what became of this teenager. We began to retrace Kociejowski’s work and piece together her life from a document she had written (Kociejowski refers to it as Charlotte’s Testament, the original of which he still owns; he has also kindly written an introduction to our book).
As a teenager living in Lambeth, Charlotte lost her first love when he set sail for India, where he found great fame as a military man, never to return. She was then abducted and raped, held prisoner and even bearing a child to her captor until she found the courage to escape. Charlotte’s abduction and rape had parallels with a novel written some thirty years prior to her abduction; Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson, bears many similarities to Charlotte’s story. Unlike Clarissa, Charlotte didn’t have a fortune, but her captor undoubtedly wished to possess her, both body and soul.
After this horrendous ordeal, Charlotte travelled to France, becoming trapped and imprisoned during the French Revolution. She showed amazing resilience and subsequently reinvented herself as a peculiar form of female spy, working for the British government while travelling backwards and forwards to France, reporting upon the state of the nation in the years following the revolution, even suggesting plans by which Napoléon Bonaparte might be thwarted. Charlotte spoke fluent French and could pass for a native of the country. Returning to England, she became an author, a minor playwright and had works published anonymously including, A Residence in France during the Years 1792, 1793, 1794 and 1795, the manuscript of which she cleverly manipulated to suit both her own political views and appeal to the public at large.
Charlotte held strong opinions which she wanted to have voiced. Clearly, she couldn’t speak publicly, so had to find other ways of getting her opinions heard. She used the power of letter writing and we unearthed copious numbers of letters, mainly to politicians and peers of the realm. Charlotte was never afraid of offering her opinion as to what they should do about certain matters and seemingly they respected and took note of her, great men including Nicholas Vansittart, Chancellor of the Exchequer and William Wilberforce who acted as her mouthpiece on at least one occasion in the Houses of Parliament.
Although her identity was known to the men to whom she wrote, a combination of ‘female modesty’ and a fear of not being taken seriously should her sex be revealed induced Charlotte to an obsessive level of public anonymity. In her later years, she almost single-handedly orchestrated King George III’s golden jubilee celebrations – again with her identity protected – and was in contact with George III’s daughters for whom she acted as a courier.
Charlotte’s life took many twists and turns and piecing it together has been no mean feat. We are amazed at how this unfortunate young girl grew into such a determined and articulate woman in a world where this was not the norm for her gender.
There was a Mr Biggs, but it appears to be largely a union of convenience for both he and Charlotte. Unable to track down a marriage, we suspect that Charlotte used the appellation ‘Mrs’ for her own protection within society, giving her a veil of respectability which allowed her to move freely both in England and France without raising suspicion. The final clue as to Charlotte’s marital status appeared in her will, which suggested she was a spinster and not a wife.
Linda Colley, in Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837, referred to Charlotte as ‘a middle-class widow from the Welsh borders’. She was in part correct, but Charlotte was much more than that, she was an enigma who until now has remained off the radar of history, a woman in a man’s world. Had she been male we would certainly have heard more of her before today. Despite her many misfortunes, she continually reinvented herself, manipulating the world and men around her but never publicly having ownership of her voice or her words during her lifetime. We felt it was time to give her back ownership of that voice.
Old Westminster Bridge from Lambeth by R. Paul. City of Westminster Archives centre
Today, we love our pets and when they’re no longer around we go to great lengths to give them a good send off. No necessarily so in the eighteenth century. Who knew that dead cats and dogs were frequently used as missiles in the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries?
I heard about this recently in a podcast, hosted by social historian, Greg Jenner about eighteenth century elections and needless to say, I had to find out more about such a grotesque practice and somewhat surprisingly came across plenty of examples of this ‘custom’ if you can call it. So along with some of these instances I’ve also some soothing artworks of cute cuddly cats and dogs to try to make up for it.
The first incident to report, took place in 1768, when a pregnant woman was in her carriage near Piccadilly when she was assaulted by a mob, one of the mob, a woman, threw a dead cat into the woman’s carriage. Needless to say she was so shocked that she fainted, and the fright caused her to have a miscarriage.
In April 1780 a plasterer and a coachman were charged with a detestable crime. As they weren’t named I haven’t been able yet to find out their detestable crime. Anyway, they were taken from New Jail, Southwark, to St Margaret’s Hill, and set in the pillory according to their sentence. As was the norm many people gathered to thrown things at the pair. People gathered from seven in the morning having collected dead dogs and cats which they threw at them, but then someone threw a stone and hit the coachman on the forehead, he immediately dropped to his knees, everyone thought he was dead. He was taken out and laid on the pillory until the hour was finished for the plasterer. They were both returned to New Jail, the coachman showing no signs of life, but a surgeon was sent for , but of course it was too late the stone had killed him. The person who threw it was well known and was arrested.
Easter 1780 was time for enjoying some fun and games, which, in Greenwich for many boys and girls who had gathered they participated in a game of roley poley and the sport of flinging dead cats, which was a great feature apparently.
A report from the Northampton Mercury March 28th, 1785 provided another example of this practice
Yesterday a very numerous concourse of people assembled in the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road to witness the ascension of Comte Zambeccari and Admiral Sir Edward Vernon, in the balloon which had been exhibited for some time at the Lyceum in the Strand. Despite trying to keep this quiet, word had leaked out and the streets were full of people wanting to see the spectacle, in spite the snow they turned out in their hundreds.
The crowd waited patiently for over three hours, but began to get restless, tired out waiting they began hurling missiles of dead dogs and cats at each other, whilst this commotion was going on the pick pockets made off with many of their possession.
They waited until four o’clock until the weather was better to take their aerial excursion, just as they were about to lift off a Miss Grice, of Holborn offered to accompany them. Despite throwing out much of the ballast to make way for her, the balloon was still too heavy, so she had to give up on the idea and the balloon set off. The balloon eventually landed at quarter to five at Kingsfield, Sussex, about three miles from Horsham.
Hampshire Chronicle of 1803 reported of a young man aged 23 who stood in the pillory at the bottom of Blenheim Street and Oxford Street, following his sentence for an attempt to commit a most detestable crime. A great many people gathered to see this spectacle where the culprit was pelted very severely by them with rotten eggs, dead dogs and cats, after which he was conveyed back in a coach to Newgate.
In 1814, Mrs Susanna Walters, the wife of Mr T Walters of Norwich arrived home and found that some mischievous persons had tied a dead cat to her door. Being near her due time, she was so shocked the unexpected discovered that she was immediately taken ill and her death a few day later was attributed to this.
A different use for dead cats and dogs appears to have been quite popular in 1774 by gardeners. The dead animals were thrown upon the roots of the vine, then covered with earth, this apparently created an excellent plants which would produce a high yield.
To finish I’ll share with you, a witty retort by the MP, Charles Fox at the 1784 election when a dead cat was thrown on the hustings. One of Cecil Wray’s party observed that it stunk worse than a fox; to which Mr Fox replied
there was nothing extraordinary in that, considering it was poll-cat.
Hogarth, William; Captain Lord George Graham (1715-1747), in His Cabin; National Maritime Museum
Boxing matches or pugilism were very popular spectator sports, not to mention very lucrative with many men willing to fight for prize money. Here we take a brief look at a fight which lasted 58 and a half minutes, with 43 well-contested rounds between two renown pugilists of the day Samuel Elias (1775- 1814), known as ‘Dutch Sam’ and Ben Medley.
The fight took place on May 31st, 1810 on Moulsey Hurst near Hampton in the presence of spectators numbering around 10,000, from all walks of life; it must have been quite a spectacle to behold.
The prize for this match was 2,000 guineas with the odds in favour of Sam starting at two to one, notwithstanding his inferiority of strength compared with his opponent who was some twenty pounds heavier and more muscular.
Sam stripped in the ring to fight his twelfth battle, after having vanquished eleven others. Medley had been about to fight Sam for the past two years, but it took until this date for it to come about. Medley was a respectable master tradesman who fought Sam for his own stake money.
At one o’clock the champions entered the ring and the contest began.
Round 1. Some sparring. Sam made a left-handed hit which Medley stopped, they closed and disengaged. Medley stopped again, then threw a punch at Sam.
Round 2. Medley made play, but without any luck, Sam commenced a rally and struck his adversary a violent blow on the temple, but Medley rallied.
Round 3. Medley made two or three short hits but laboured under a temporary derangement from the violent blow, but Sam stopped, then knocked him off his legs.
Round 4. A rally was again commenced by Medley and Sam knocked him down with a body blow.
Round 5. Sam blocked a good right-handed hit and flew right and left at his opponent’s head and body, both blows hit home.
Round 6. Medley took a hit to his face which was heard around the ring, his eye by this time injured with blood flowing. The fight was briefly stopped.
Round 7. Sam had the upper hand at the beginning of this round and hit Medley with all his force.
Round 8. In this round Medley took over and knocked Sam to the ground and laughed at him, but his features were badly damaged from the previous battering he had taken.
Round 9. Sam regained his composure and began his retaliation and ultimately knocked Medley to the ground again.
Round 10. Medley was knocked down.
Round 11. This was a round which consisted of real and disguised fighting, and it was the longest of the battle. Medley grew weak at least, after having made a hit on Sam’s nose, and he was knocked down.
Round 12. It would be difficult at this time to represent the situation of Medley; his face was shockingly disfigured, the torrents of blood which flew from Sam’s hits in the last round created a shocking scene. Medley, fell from weakness.
The battle continued in similar vein with a very much injured Medley, until they reached the 43rd round when Medley’s brother stepped and declared that Ben was well and truly beaten.
After this contest, Sam announced his retirement from the sport, but made a ‘come back’ in 1814, in which he was easily defeated.
Ben Medley was chosen as one of the pugilistic pages at the coronation of George IV.
Boxing match for 200 guineas between Dutch Sam and Medley fought 31 May 1810, on Moulsey Hurst near Hampton. British Museum
We have previously written about fortune telling, a matter which was very popular during the Georgian era, so today we have a couple of short stories to share with you on the subject.
In April 1801 John Rowe was indicted for defrauding Sarah Hall of the sum of two shillings and six pence. According to the newspapers he was ‘one of those modern Sidrophels’.
“Who deal in destiny’s dark counsels,
And sage opinions of the moon sells,
To whom all people far and near
On deep importances repair”
He had announced his celebrity in resolving all questions appertaining to future events in a hand-bill, addressed to the ladies only, in which he acquainted them he attended at his Evening Planetarium, No. 5 Exeter Street, Strand, where he would answer any lawful questions he was asked.
Sarah Hall, an elderly woman, about fifty (don’t judge, it was regarded as old at that time), had heard of his great fame and was determined to visit him and that through the medium of the stars she would find out about her destiny. She had never been married and wanted to know whether she would remain celibate for the rest of her life.
She parted with the usual ‘symbol’ which in this case was half a crown (about £5 in today’s money), he proceeded to assess her horoscope, he traced the planets through their several houses and discovered by mystic lore who was lord of the ascendant at her birth. He systematically arranged their several aspects and exclaimed, with the inspiration of the Cumaean Sybil, that the fates were favourable to her wishes.
That Mars and Venus were in conjunction; Virgo and Gemini, Sextile and Mercury, lord of the seventh house, the very hour she was born and consequently that these appearances denoted marriage.
Having lived a single life until now, he said was due to negative influence of Saturn, but that this was no longer to be case. He told her to go home and assure herself of approaching happiness. He informed her that she would first be courted by a dark man with broad shoulders, dark hair, large dark eyes, bushy eyebrows and thin legs – but he was not the man for her.
The husband for whom the stars intended was a fair man, with light hair and blue eyes and that he was very wealthy and that she would meet him in the next few days. He also advised her to invest in the lottery as she might gain a considerable sum of money. The old lady was ecstatic about this forthcoming good fortune. She left the venue and returned home and told all her friends about her approaching wedding and about the money.
She waited for the dark gentleman to appear – of course he didn’t, she waited longer for the fair gentleman – and as you guessed he failed to appear too. She invested in the lottery as she had been instructed to do. You’ve guessed, it she lost her money. She told a friend of her about what had happened, and he advised her to apply to the magistrate – she had, of course been conned.
John Rowe was arrested, his magical apparatus and books were seized, and he was sent to gaol. Once all the facts had been established Rowe said he was a poor man, a carpenter by trade and with his earnings he had managed to support a wife and large family, but such were the pressures of the times, though he worked as hard as ever he did, he could not support them. His wife had been brought to bed and he was unable to provide her with the comforts her situation required, he had seen others doing similar deceptions and earning money from this sort of public credulity that he decided he could do the same thing.
Needless to say he was found guilty and sentenced to one month imprisonment.
Our second story concerns a Mary Deverell, a fortune teller who was brought before the sitting magistrate at Marlborough Street, charged with defrauding Susannah Foresight, under the pretence of telling her fortune.
Susannah, servant to Mrs Westall in New Road, Marylebone told the magistrate that she knew that women in London found wealth in strange ways and that she wanted to know more about it from the prisoner, Mary Deverell.
Susannah parted with all her money – ten shillings, with a view to finding some good fortune that she was told she would have. Needless to say she was also deceived. Instead of finding the palace she was promised, instead she found the workhouse.
As with John Rowe, Mary Deverell was sent to gaol. I really want to believe the name of this gullible woman, but no luck as yet with tracing such a person!
Hampshire Chronicle 13 April 1801
Morning Post 11 April 1801
Oxford University and City Herald 06 February 1808
March 1806 began well for the Duchess of Devonshire as she held a ball for the social elite. The whole suite of magnificent apartments was thrown open at ten in the evening and about eleven ‘the fashionables’ arrived, including The Prince of Wales, Duke of Sussex plus a whole host of lords, earls, counts and their respective spouses. There were supper tables consisting of every delicacy of the season and as you would expect, plenty of dancing and of course, with Georgiana’s love of gambling, there were card tables. It was said that Georgiana never appeared in better health, with the whole party dancing the night away, until five in the morning.
A week or so later, Georgiana was to hold a supper party and according to the ‘Fashionable Arrangements for the Week’, all was well, or so it would appear. It wasn’t until March 21st that the media first reported Georgiana as being dangerously ill. No further details of the cause were given, but it was reported a few days later that she was making a good recovery from her recent indisposition.
By March 28th however, her health was in serious decline, she was suffering from a fever and did not appear to be showing any signs of making a speedy recovery. So well thought of was Georgiana that there was a constant stream of well-wishers arriving at her London home, Devonshire House, with none more anxious than the Countess of Uxbridge who was with her constantly as was Lady Melbourne, his Grace and all members of her family since the fever began. At 3.30am on the 30th March 1806, Georgiana’s life came to an end.
The cause of death was believed to be due to an abscess on her liver, but a post mortem was carried out to confirm this. Her body was opened up at seven in the morning in the presence of five physicians who had attended her whilst she was alive. A consultation was held afterwards, and the gentleman were much divided in their opinion on the cause of death, they felt it was either gallstones or an abscess on the liver, but it was ultimately agreed that the abscess was the cause.
It would appear that the whole of her social circle was shocked by her untimely death, aged only 48, and so upset were they by this news that many retired to their country home, it was not a time to be socialising, even the Prince of Wales left for Brighton. The Duke of Devonshire and family remained at Devonshire House until after the funeral, then left London to visit the Prince of Wales at Brighton.
The Morning Advertiser of 2nd April 1806 reported that Georgiana was to be buried at Chatsworth as it was a place she loved and was loved by all on the estate; however this was suddenly changed and she was buried at All Saints Church, Derby.
Needless to say, the newspapers all paid tribute to her; they loved Georgiana, despite some mockery of her involvement in politics and her some of her more unique tastes in fashion. The Bath Chronicle described her being:
A woman more exalted in every accomplishment of rapturous beauty, of elevated genius and of angelic temper, has not adorned the present age.
Georgiana’s funeral took place on April 9th. At five o’clock in the morning, the procession left Devonshire House in the following order –
Eight mutes on horseback, an attendant on horseback carrying the coronet and cushion, the hearse drawn by eight horses, the deceased’s private coach and two morning coaches, containing the principal family and Mr Wilson of The Strand, the undertaker.
The coffin, which is very elegant, is six feet two inches in length by twenty three inches. It is covered with a very rich crimson velvet and ornamented with uncommonly rich and beautiful chased ornaments. At the head are placed a variety of appropriate devices, and at the foot a highly chased weeping figure, admirably executed. The inscription plate contains the arms of the two great families, namely Cavendish and Spencer Underneath is written – The Most Noble Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, died the 30th March 1806, in the 48th year of her age. The coffin had eight gilt handles on each appeared her initials G.D.
ON THE DEATH OF THE DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE
Faint are the numbers, and unskill’d the Muse,
Who vainly shall attempt to paint her worth;
Afflictions tear, what heart, or eye refuse,
To her whose virtues grac’d her rank and birth.
Well might our Gracious Prince then sorrowing say,
We are thrilled as always, to welcome back Regan Walker, whose latest book in the Agents of the Crown series, ‘Rogue’s Holiday‘ has just been released and for which there are further details of how to obtain a copy at the end of her article. Today Regan is going to tell us more about Prinny’s Brighton, so, over to Regan:
When George, the Prince of Wales, reigned as the Prince Regent, beginning in 1811, and even after he became king in 1820, Brighton on the south coast of England was his favourite destination. It was fifty-four miles from London as the road winds, close enough to travel to in one day. The seaside resort provided all the pleasures of the Beau Monde without the discomforts of town. William Wilberforce, after a visit in 1815, dubbed the town “Piccadilly by the sea-side.”
Brighton loved the Prince Regent. Whatever criticisms he may have faced for his lifestyle, the Brighton newspapers celebrated his frequent visits and looked forward to welcoming all those who flocked the seaside town to enjoy what became “the Brighton Season”.
In 1822, the Brighton Gazette reported:
Gay and fashionable equipages are daily pouring into the town, and every thing gives promise of a brilliant and prosperous winter season. Many large houses on the Cliffs, Marine Parade, etc. have been engaged for Noblemen within the last fortnight… Who indeed would not fly the dirt and smoke of the crowded metropolis for a place like Brighton, where he may at once enjoy the pure and healthful breezes of the ocean, and a salubrious climate, without being subject to the dreary ennui of a country life?
For the Prince, Brighton became a fantasy escape from his narrow-minded and staid parents who failed to appreciate their son and heir. More than anyone, they were responsible for making Prinny the Grand Corinthian. Thus, it should have come as no surprise that the Prince would build a palace that would be a mogul’s dream where he could entertain his eclectic bevy of friends in grand fashion, including of course, the characters in my story.
The Marine Parade that ran along the shore and the Old Steyne that fronted the Pavilion were wide paths available for a morning or afternoon stroll. But one could certainly keep busy in Brighton. Visitors were offered an endless array of balls, concerts, soirees, private dinners, theatrical events, interspersed with riding, card games and other entertainments.
The Pavilion’s designer was architect John Nash who built it in three stages until it became the palace we think of today with its many domes and minarets. There, Prinny reigned as the beneficent patron of the foremost artists and literary men of his age and entertained his diverse friends in the rooms decorated in chinoiserie style to look like the home of a Chinese emperor who lived in a kingdom of flowers and perpetual spring. Rooms, such as the Music Room, pictured above, which Prinny kept overheated with candles and gas lamps.
As the town grew, entertainments were added to rival those of London. Hotels, shops, theatres and a racecourse stood at ready. Castle Square next to the Pavilion and half of North Street were the Bond Street of Brighton where one could buy cloth, shoes, cigars, porcelain and many other things. North Street was home to sixty shops by 1820, the year of my story. By 1808, Brighton also had a department store, Hanningtons, on North Street. Added to that, there were dozens of taverns and hotels, that featured balls and card games. All of the taverns, shops, shopkeepers and hotels mentioned in Rogue’s Holiday existed at the time.
The Castle Inn adjacent to the Pavilion had an assembly room and a smaller room used as a tearoom. The Old Ship Inn, the oldest hotel in Brighton, also had a tearoom. And there was yet another tearoom erected in 1805 in the gardens of a public house a mile away in Preston.
Among Brighton’s many attractions was sea bathing, where one could be towed to the water in small boxes on wheels to swim, as my heroine does, in the altogether or, if you prefer, in one of the gowns provided. The men’s and women’s bathing areas were separated, of course. Dippers (for women) and bathers (for men) were employed to make sure the person’s head was dipped into the water. Dipping took place year round since the cold water was considered to be good for the health.
A wholesale fish market was held on the beach, supplied by 100 ships that sailed in the afternoon or evening and returned in the morning. Mackerel were in season from May to the end of July. Also, Sole, Brill, Turbot (common at all seasons) and Dories were in plentiful supply. As you will see in Rogue’s Holiday, while the fish market proceeded on shore, the boats hoisted their nets to dry.
Among Brighton’s most famous residents was Prinny’s Catholic wife, Maria Fitzherbert, a virtuous woman who took her marriage to Prince George seriously even if he did not. All of Brighton respected her. The king must have had her on his mind when he died in 1830, for he was buried wearing a locket containing her miniature.
A curious feature in the category of equipages was the fly carriage, a small covered carriage you might see around Brighton drawn by a man and an assistant. They were very convenient for navigating the narrow streets and had room for two. The ones that Prinny and his noble friends used for midnight excursions were dubbed “fly-by-nights”.
Prinny’s yacht, the HMY the Royal George, was commissioned in 1817 and could often be seen anchored off shore of Brighton when he was in residence. In my story, set in 1820, the king invites my characters to dine onboard. Among Prinny’s friends invited that evening were Lord Alvanley, Sir Bellingham and his wife Harriot, Sir John Lade and his wife Letty, and Elizabeth Conyngham, Marchioness Conyngham, the king’s mistress.
I have described the Royal George, in detail as my research provided. The great cabin really did have windows of plate glass, a skylight, gilded dark wood panelling, a Brussels carpet beneath a mahogany table and a pianoforte, among other accoutrements. As my hero, Sir Robert, said, the king liked to travel in style.
Even a spy needs a holiday…
Robert Powell’s work as a spy saves the Cabinet ministers from a gruesome death and wins him accolades from George IV. As a reward, the king grants him a baronetcy and a much-deserved holiday at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where he thinks to indulge in brandy, cards, good horseflesh and women.
But when Muriel, Dowager Countess of Claremont, learns of Sir Robert’s intended destination, she begs a favour…to watch over an “errant child” who is the grandniece of her good friend living in the resort town. Little does Robbie know that Miss Chastity Reynolds is no child but a beautiful hoyden who is seemingly immune to his charms.
Chastity lives in the shadow of her mother and sisters, dark-haired beauties men admire. Her first Season was a failure but, as she will soon come into a family legacy, she has no need to wed. When she first encounters Sir Robert, she dubs him The Rogue, certain he indulges in a profligate lifestyle she wants no part in.
In Brighton, Robbie discovers he is being followed by friends of the conspirators who had planned to murder the Cabinet. Worse, they know the location of Chastity’s residence.
Below are all the ways you can find out about and purchase Regan’s books, so feel free to click on the highlighted links.
We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, the lovely Kimberley Reeman. Kimberley Jordan Reeman was born in Toronto, graduating from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts (hons.) in English literature in 1976. She worked in Canadian radio and publishing before marrying the author Douglas Reeman in 1985, and until his death in 2017 was his editor, muse and literary partner, while pursuing her own career as a novelist.
She has always been a spinner of tales, telling stories before she could write, reading voraciously from childhood, and citing Shakespeare, Hardy, Winston Graham and the novels of Douglas Reeman and Alexander Kent as her most profound influences.
From Graham, who became a friend, she learned to write conversation, to eavesdrop as the characters spoke; from the seafaring novels of Reeman and Kent, which she read years before meeting the author, she came to understand the experience of men at war.
In this post Kimberley is going to write about ‘The Secret Woman’, so we’ll hand over to her:
He behaved like a brute… the most hardened creature I have ever met.
(Florence Nightingale to her sister Frances Parthenope Verney, 1855)
They met on a blazing October day at Scutari, now Üsküdar in Istanbul, at the height of the Crimean War: the ‘lady with the lamp’, grave, chaste, demure, and hailed as a pioneer of nursing and a heroine in Victorian England, and the short, slight, irascible, ageing lieutenant-colonel who had been appointed deputy inspector-general of hospitals for the British army in May of 1851, Dr. James Miranda Barry.
The antagonism was mutual. Florence has been described as intense and driven, and accused of racism for her icy attitude toward Mary Seacole, the mixed-race Jamaican ‘doctress’ who had applied to join Nightingale’s nurses and served, when rebuffed, as a sutler privately providing care, nourishment and accommodation to wounded soldiers on the supply road from Balaclava. But this was a clash of titans, neither of whom ever yielded to other authority, civil or military. Barry, so obsessed with hygiene that he would mutter, “Dirty beasts! Dirty beasts! Go and clean yourselves!” when inspecting the troops, was not impressed by Nightingale’s standards at Scutari and lectured her in the presence of her subordinates. Nightingale’s response was glacial, perhaps because she had been publicly castigated, and nobody who had ever been on the receiving end of one of Barry’s tirades ever forgot it; or perhaps it was a visceral reaction to what she saw or sensed, a sexual challenge that offended the devoutly Christian, Nightingale, who had no great affection for her own sex and preferred the company of powerful men.
This uniformed martinet in the scarlet coat with the heavy epaulettes and insignia of rank, and the sword and the spurs and the tightly trousered, booted legs, lecturing her from the saddle, was a woman.
She had been born Margaret Anne Bulkley in Cork, Ireland, about 1789, the daughter of Jeremiah Bulkley, grocer and inspector at the Weigh House, a position of responsibility not often granted to a Roman Catholic, and his wife Mary Anne, née Barry, sister of the renowned Irish painter James Barry, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
She was a pretty, spirited child with red-gold hair and blue-green eyes, and the characteristic Barry hooked nose and small, sweet mouth. Fastidious in everything from the choice of her clothing to the penning of letters on Mary Anne’s behalf to James Barry, asking for financial assistance as the family fortunes declined and Jeremiah was dismissed from the Weigh House in a British backlash against Irish Catholics after the French invasion of 1798, Margaret Anne Bulkley was indubitably female, as was confirmed after her death when those preparing her body for the undertakers found her to be “a most complete and perfect woman”.
There were also indications on that body that ‘James Barry’ had borne a child, and it is probable that Margaret was raped at about the age of thirteen, the most likely suspect being her dissolute uncle Redmond Barry, a sometime sailor who washed ashore occasionally, in and out of debt, debtors’ prisons, and the Royal Navy. What is known is that Mary Anne Bulkley and her daughter Margaret disappeared into the country for some time and returned with a baby girl, who was named Juliana for Mary Anne’s mother and who was, allegedly, Margaret’s sister. And while this child was never acknowledged, nor, eventually, was any other vestige of her former life, ‘James Barry’ remained notably fond of, and affectionate toward, children and small animals, and was instinctively trusted by them, to the extent that in the Cape Colony where Barry subsequently spent many years, local children would fearlessly call him the kapok nooientjie, the “little kapok maiden”, not only for his delicate physical appearance but for the stuffing with which he padded his trousers and coats to simulate anatomical correctness. Barry would later use custom-made prosthetics, presumably supplied by London theatrical costumiers, to achieve the same effect.
The anticipated financial aid never materialised from the painter James Barry, and mother and daughter made yet another pilgrimage from Cork to London to claim a share of his estate when Barry died intestate in February of 1806.
Little money was forthcoming, but Barry’s friends and patrons, among them doctors, lawyers, the Earl of Buchan and the Venezuelan patriot and diplomat Sebastian Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez de Espinosa, took a paternal interest in Margaret, mentored her, encouraged her passion for learning, and almost certainly suggested the risky charade that would determine the course of her life. It had been done before by Margaret, Countess of Mount Cashell, near Cork, a pupil of the radical feminist Mary Wollstonecraft who had left her titled husband, taken a lover more kindly disposed toward the emancipation of women, and as a six-foot, muscular female in male clothing had attended medical lectures in the university town of Jena in Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. A Cork girl herself, and one who had once written to her brother, “Were I not a girl, I would be a soldier,” Margaret Bulkley must have been intrigued by the story.
General Miranda had a vision of a republican Venezuela where men and women would be equal. Margaret could accompany him there and practise medicine openly.
On Thursday, November 30th, 1809, Margaret Anne Bulkley disappeared, and a young ‘nephew’ and namesake of the painter James Barry took ship for Edinburgh, accompanied by his ‘aunt’ Mary Anne. He applied to and was accepted by the university, and joined hundreds of other male medical students. Three years later, after countless lectures and dissections and courses in anatomy, pathology, military surgery, medical botany and, particularly, midwifery, and oral and written examinations in Latin, ‘James Barry’ was awarded his degree.
For Margaret Anne Bulkley, now a qualified physician, the dream of re-assuming her female identity and joining General Miranda in Venezuela was abruptly and hideously shattered.
As described by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield in their compassionate and evocative biography, Dr. James Barry, A Woman Ahead of Her Time, Miranda
had returned with [Simon] Bolívar to Caracas, where he received a mixed reception… his idealism was at odds with Bolívar’s authoritarianism. Following a year of violent turmoil and political intrigue, he was betrayed by Bolívar. Accused of treason, Miranda was handed over to the Spanish royalists and taken back to Spain, where he was thrown into a dungeon in the Arsenal de la Carraca in Cadíz. He never saw freedom again.
There would be no Venezuelan dawn for Margaret Bulkley.
For Dr. James Miranda Barry there were London dawns at St. Thomas’s hospital, following the great surgeons on their rounds, observing the distressing lack of hygiene on the wards, and learning, always learning. But money remained a problem, and in June of 1813 Barry presented herself to the army medical board and applied to be accepted as a surgeon, giving her age as eighteen (she was about twenty-four). Considered a prodigy but certainly not a woman, she passed the examinations required by the Royal College of Surgeons and was commissioned as assistant staff surgeon in the British army on December 7th, 1815. An attractive, androgynous and unusually youthful figure in plain single-breasted scarlet coatee without epaulettes, as befitted an assistant surgeon, she sailed for the Cape Colony in 1816; and, having obsessively guarded her privacy throughout the long sea passage from England, set her booted feet with their two-inch heels on the soil of Africa in October.
The years in Cape Town would be the most fulfilling and challenging of her life. With the widowed governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, a former army officer and younger brother of the sixth Duke of Beaufort, she began a passionate and enduring relationship, possibly platonic, very probably sexual, although it is not known, nor is it appropriate that we should know as we have no proprietary right to Barry and her private life, how that sexuality was expressed. Certainly it was thought to be true when a placard was posted in Cape Town on Tuesday the first of June, 1824, claiming that a witness had seen “Lord Charles buggering Dr. Barry.”
Barry, walking along Heerengracht that morning, heard the story and behaved like any sensitive human being whose life had been rocked to its foundations. She sought refuge in a nearby shop and broke down in tears: of rage that something so precious had been publicly and libellously defiled; of fear that she and Charles would be arrested on charges of sodomy, a crime in the armed forces that was punishable by death; of exoneration, if investigated, by the disclosure of her sex, by which she would lose everything of significance, including her identity, her commission and her vocation.
There was a court of inquiry, but no conclusive evidence was produced, and the case was closed. The libellers were never identified, although Somerset and Barry, as well as citizens of Cape Town, offered substantial rewards. But the shadow and the shame never entirely dissipated, and Lord Charles Somerset was summoned to England in February of 1826, with his second wife and his family, to respond to criticisms of his administration.
Barry remained at the Cape, more argumentative, more confrontational and more intolerant than ever, vulnerable without her champion, Somerset, who had wielded his considerable influence to extricate her from every crisis into which her ferocious temper propelled her: challenging authority and incompetence and imagining insults and conspiracies until the Office of Colonial Medical Inspector was abolished. Shattered, she resigned her appointments and practised medicine privately, caring with a brisk compassion for the Cape garrison of 2,400 officers and men and their wives and children.
On Tuesday, June 25th, 1826, Barry was summoned in the middle of the night to attend Wilhelmina Munnik, in protracted labour and dangerously exhausted: she was unable to give birth naturally, and the only alternative, to save the living foetus, was to perform caesarean surgery, which almost invariably resulted in the death of the mother and, all too frequently, the child. Only in three recorded cases of caesarean section had both survived.
Barry, with Wilhelmina’s consent, and meticulous attention to hygiene and technique, that night performed the first caesarean surgery in the Cape Colony. Wilhelmina and her son survived, and the baby was christened James Barry Munnik, a name that would be handed down through generations of the Munnik family, in tribute to the surgeon who had delivered him.
In August of 1829 Barry, now a full staff surgeon in Mauritius, received devastating news. Charles Somerset, some twenty-two years Barry’s senior and suffering from the complications of heart failure, was reported to be dying. Barry, characteristically, committed one of the flagrant breaches of discipline for which she had become notorious and abandoned her post without permission.
She reached England on Saturday, December 12. Somerset was still alive, although very frail, and Barry, who had saved his life years before, nursing him with tenderness and dedication through a near-fatal attack of typhus with dysentery, undertook his care. Somerset seemed to rally, and then died on Sunday, February 20, 1831, with his wife, Lady Mary, his daughter Georgiana, and his beloved Barry at his bedside.
For Barry without her patron, “my more than father⸺ my almost only friend”, the aftermath and the years that followed were a blurred succession of postings, to St. Helena, Jamaica, Trinidad where she fell ill with malaria and was discovered sweating and delirious in bed by two medical subordinates who examined her and saw indisputable evidence of her sex, and maintained their silence; to Malta and a cholera epidemic; to Corfu; to the hostile meeting with Florence Nightingale at Scutari; and eventually to Montreal, where one officer was overheard to remark, seeing her for the first time, “You’d have to be mad to take that for a man.”
As intransigent as ever and suffering frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, she reached the pinnacle of her career and fell abruptly and catastrophically from it while pursuing personal vendettas.
She had always been defensive and impulsive: at the Cape in her youth she had struck an officer across the face with her riding crop when he had said, “By the Powers! You look more like a woman than a man!” And she had fired a pistol with deadly intent in a duel when another officer had challenged her after some imagined slight and been shot herself, a wound she had dealt with in private. But this time Barry had gone too far, expressing her volatile opinions to the Dean of Montreal, the bishop and the archdeacon, as well as other members of the clergy, and “assailing them with violence and insulting conduct”.
Tolerance of her increasing eccentricity had reached its limit. She was recalled to London and faced a medical board comprised not of the director-general and senior officers to which her rank, the equivalent of a brigadier-general, entitled her, but three
junior surgeons who were perfect strangers to me and to my peculiar habits…. they not unnaturally and somewhat hastily jumped to the conclusion that I was in a bad state of health.
The board’s decision was also a foregone conclusion. James Miranda Barry, now officially sixty years of age and in reality several years older, was relieved of her North American command and reduced to half-pay.
There was no appeal.
She drifted, lost, no longer defined by the identity she had created and the persona she had inhabited for so many decades. She travelled to the Caribbean with her Jamaican servant John, a former soldier in the West Indian Regiment, chasing the ghosts of the past, considering adopting a child, visiting old friends, too many of whom were dying or infirm; becoming increasingly unwell herself; returning to London and more shadows and memories of the past.
In the early hours of Tuesday, July 25, 1865, in sweltering heat, Margaret Anne Bulkley, who for fifty-six years had lived as James Miranda Barry, died of cholera. Years before, in Trinidad, she had told a female friend⸺ and Barry had many female friends and was sparkling and gregarious in their company⸺ that in the event of her death her body was to be wrapped in the sheets in which she had died and buried unwashed and unexamined. That wish was either not known or ignored by those who came to lay out the corpse of Dr. James Barry before the arrival of the undertakers. The revelation of her sex to the press created an international sensation. Dickens gave the story a fictional spin in 1867. In 1919 the renowned actress Sybil Thorndike played Barry on the stage. There have been novels, biographies, broadcasts: a film is said to be in production.
Barry eludes definition, but nothing diminishes her uniqueness: as the first woman ever to hold the rank of general in the British army, as a pioneering surgeon, as a fearless human being sacrificing comfort, peace, stability, and emotional and physical intimacy in the pursuit of her destiny.
She had chosen her life. But the battered trunk which had accompanied her for so many years, when opened after her death by the solicitors in charge of settling her affairs, may speak of yearning and regret. When lifted, the lid’s leather lining was found to be covered with a collage of women’s fashion plates. Hats, gowns, hairstyles… a haunting affirmation of an irretrievable past, and an acknowledgement of the woman, long forgotten, who had once lived it.
Find out more below about Kimberley’s book Coronach, which is available to order from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (USA) and Amazon (Canada)
It is not necessary to look further than the history of Canada, and Toronto itself, for the genesis of Coronach: a vast country explored, settled, and governed by Scots, and a city, incorporated in 1834, whose first mayor was the gadfly journalist and political agitator William Lyon Mackenzie, a rebel in his own right, and the grandson of Highlanders who had fought in the `45. The Vietnam War, also, burned into the Canadian consciousness the issues of collateral damage and the morality of war; and from this emerged one character, a soldier with a conscience. In unravelling the complexity of his story, Coronach was born.
We have no idea quite why, but we seem to have been drawn to the East India Company (EIC) or The Honourable East India Company as it was also known, in so much of our research.
Whilst researching Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her family we discovered that her cousin John Mordaunt, the illegitimate sons born to Grace’s aunt Robinaiana Brown when she was the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough went out to India to make his fortune, as was popular for well to do young men of the time.
John Mordaunt (Jack to his friends) became a favourite at the court of the Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, where the two men shared a love for the sport of cock-fighting, a brutal and barbaric activity. John had several gamecocks imported from England for this purpose.
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match shows a scene from the Nawab’s court with the two men engaged in this activity. Painted by Johan Zoffany c.1784-86 during his time in India, it was commissioned by Warren Hastings shortly before he resigned as the Governor-General of India. Hastings is not present in the picture, but he was in attendance at John Mordaunt’s cockfight on the 5th April 1784, on which this painting is probably based. Jack Mordaunt was an easy-going and charming fellow, quite the male counterpart to his cousin Grace. He was in charge of the Nawab’s bodyguards and at the head of all the amusements of the court.
Now, somewhat surprisingly for us, two of Grace’s female cousins also travelled out to India for what appears to have been a ‘husband hunting trip’ – cousins Janet (known as Jessy) and Susannah Brown.
It was a tried and tested method of securing a wealthy spouse. Eligible young girls were encouraged to travel to India by the directors of the EIC who were aghast at their men taking local girls as their wives and adopting Indian custom and practices, in effect ‘going native’ even though the practice did ensure a certain level of inﬂuence for the British ofﬁcials with the rulers of the territories.
If enough British girls could be sent out there, then it was hoped that the company men would settle with them instead. The two Brown sisters had enough male relatives already in India to look after them, and they could expect their Mordaunt and Dalrymple cousins to introduce them to their fellow ofﬁcers and to the best society that India had to offer.
They lived in Calcutta with Colonel John Mordaunt at his house on the esplanade in the Chowringhee area, formerly a tiger-infested jungle but, since the construction of Fort William thirty years earlier, abounding with magniﬁcent houses built by the British residents. Their scheme worked.
In May 1788 in the church at Fort William, Calcutta, Janet Lawrence Brown married John Kinloch. The marriage, however, was, as was often the case, short-lived. John Kinloch was in bad health and, hoping that a change of air would cure him, he journeyed to Serampore on the banks of the Hoogli River, unfortunately, this trip did not prevent his death which occurred less than four months after his marriage.
Six months later, at the same church in which her now widowed sister had married, on 3 March 1789 Susannah Robiniana Brown married Major Samuel Farmer, an officer in the Bengal army. Samuel Farmer was considered one of the three best officers in the company’s service and he moved in the same social circles as her cousins Colonel John and Captain Henry Mordaunt.
All was not lost for Jessy though, as there were plenty of well-to-do men in India. She remained a widow for over four years before accepting the proposal of John Bebb Esquire, a wealthy EIC director. Their marriage settlement was drawn up on 12 January 1793 and John Bebb promised to pay 100,000 Indian rupees or £10,000 sterling into a trust to be administered by several trustees including the Honourable Charles Stuart of Calcutta, a Member of the Supreme Council of the EIC on their Bengal establishment, and Janet’s brother-in-law Samuel Farmer. This trust would be for his wife’s beneﬁt in the event of her becoming a widow.
Ultimately the couple returned to England where, anticipating his permanent return home, John Bebb had purchased the picturesque estate of Donnington Grove in Berkshire in 1795, the former home of the Brummell family and where the infamous Beau Brummell grew up.
Once again, whilst researching our Georgian Heroine we found ourselves delving back into EIC on discovering the love our heroine, Charlotte’s life, none other than Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), who held the powerful post of British Resident to the Mughal court at Delhi.
Charlotte met him whilst they were both teenagers, but rather than staying in England to marry her, he sailed for India, leaving a desolate Charlotte, whose life was to take a very different path, but despite this she never forgot the first love of her life and wrote to him in 1821, recounting part of her life story, probably wishing her life had turned out differently. Ochterlony, by this time had ‘gone native’ and had 13 concubines, who he paraded through the streets each evening on elephants – we do wonder whether Charlotte ever knew of this. He clearly never forgot the first love of his life and named one of his children, Charlotte – was this done deliberately? We would like to believe so.
Whilst researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, who we have recently been writing about, yet again our research has led us to the EIC and her seemingly unknown uncle, brother to Sir John Lindsay, William Lindsay who, before he died leaving questionable provision for his native children.
Dido’s half brother also, John Lindsay also lived with a native woman, he, on the other hand provided extremely well for both mother and daughter when he died in 1821. Other relatives of Dido also found themselves in the EIC including her two sons, Charles and William Daviniere, Archibald Campbell, who was a company director at the end of the 1700’s.
If the East India Company and life in India during this period interests you then you can find a list of some of the others articles we’ve written which have mentions of it, below.
We are thrilled to welcome Australian author, Caroline Miley to our blog. Caroline is an art historian and author of literary historical novels set in the late Georgian era. Her debut novel, The Competition,(e-book version) won a Varuna Fellowship and a Fellowship of Australian Writers award, and was selected by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, for it 250th Anniversary celebrations.
Her latest novel, Artist on Campaign, (also e-book version) was inspired by wondering what would happen if a rake of an artist was obliged to put up with the British Army, and vice versa, so I’ll hand over to Caroline to tell you more.
“I had had no idea until this commission started how much time officers spent sitting down within doors with a pen in their hand”, the hero of Artist on Campaign says, as he consults the Town Major in Lisbon as to where he might find General Cradock.
I, too, had visualised officers as spending their life either on duty, largely on horseback, galloping from post to post or inspecting troops and ordering them about, or in their time off, gadding about town, drinking, carousing or making up to young ladies in drawing-rooms or at balls. But that was only half the story, especially when on campaign. Many officers did spend a great deal of time writing.
Being the army, as much time as possible was committed to writing, including daily and general orders and instructions. A staff officer such as the Adjutant-General or Quartermaster-General would in fact spend most of their life behind a desk, but even field officers had to write a great deal. Some even had their saddle bow built up into a tablet so they could write in the saddle. Much of the correspondence was on the dullest possible subjects, although giving insights into the exigencies of life:
“Gunner Farquhar has received no subsistence since the 31st March last year so that there is 15 months due to him viz., from 1st April 1809 to 30 June 1810… do me the favour to cause enquiry to be made of Mr Bell, Paymaster…”(1)
Many wrote up the day’s activities every night, and diaries, letters and memoirs as well as official documents. Some, such as Alexander Dickson, made extremely detailed accounts of architecture and the surroundings (2). Augustus Schaumann, a German Commissary, left one of the most vivid and evocative accounts in On the Road with Wellington (3), which includes something that many writers left out, i.e. their love affairs. And their leisure time is depicted in the amusing sketches and lampoons of army life by Thomas Rowlandson and his contemporaries.
Life on campaign hardly involved any fighting at all. During the Peninsular campaign of 1809, for instance, which lasted roughly from the 22nd of April when General Wellesley arrived in Lisbon to take command, up to the 3rd of September when the army arrived at Badajoz to recuperate, the British Army spent a half day re-capturing the city of Porto from the French.
The battle of Talavera de la Reina took three days, an unusually long and correspondingly bloody affair. So during a period of about four and a half months, only four days were spent in actual fighting. The remainder was spent on the march, with a few weeks in towns awaiting orders or assembling the troops.
An officer on campaign carried an enormous quantity of baggage and got an allowance for a bat horse to carry it and a servant from the ranks to look after him. During Sir John Moore’s campaign of 1808, he ordered that soldier-servants had to be returned to active duty, causing a great deal of grumbling from the officers. They certainly needed servants! They baggage included quantities of demountable furniture sturdily made of mahogany or oak with brass corners, sometimes sewn up in protective canvas. Then there were the contents of those chests – changes of clothes and their uniforms and hats, which occupied their own japanned tin boxes. And their writing-desks, shaving gear and other ‘necessaries’, cutlery, crockery, silver-mounted toilet sets, and edibles to eke out the army ration beef and biscuit. A servant’s work comprised that of valet, butler, cook, groom, laundryman and commissary – everything needed to keep their master clean, presentable, fed and comfortable.
Unlike soldiers, officers did not often bring their wives. Many, like Sir John Moore, considered that marriage was not suitable for a career military man. Those who were married, such as Wellington, mostly left their wives at home. If they did accompany them, they found the ladies a suitable residence among the English merchant community in safely-garrisoned Lisbon and settled them there for the duration, visiting when duty – or inclination – allowed.
In their spare time, officers sallied out into whatever town they were in. They attended balls, receptions and tertulias – dull affairs where the men and women stood about separately in corners and lemonade and cakes were served – given by the local people, drank a colossal quantity, and energetically prosecuted love affairs with local ladies.
Something that fascinated English officers in Portugal especially was the numerous convents full of nuns, who as staunch Protestants they pitied. Visiting nuns and making love to the younger and prettier through the grilles in the convents was a popular pastime, and some even persuaded the ladies to run away with them. This was so common that scholarly papers have been written about the numerous accounts of relations with nuns in British officers’ memoirs (4)
Drinking was endemic and a sign of manliness; a novice like Johnny Newcome had to learn to take his liquor. When the Duke of Wellington decided to commit himself to military life, he cut his consumption of alcohol in half – to only four bottles a day! Men drank port or brandy; claret was regarded as a drink for women. Drunkenness was only an issue if it prevented you from doing your work, for both officers or men, but extreme dissolution was frowned on as ungentlemanly.
On Sundays Divine Service would be held, probably in the open air, and the officers and men and their wives would assemble to hear it. At this period the service would be Matins, as the Sacrament was celebrated less frequently. Outdoor spare time pursuits were hunting in the neighbourhood, using dogs they had brought with them, and getting up horse races, as officers were proud of their horses and aimed for the fastest and showiest animals they could get, while betting was a favourite recreation. Being in a foreign country gave the more artistically inclined numerous opportunities to inspect the art, architecture and sights of the place, and collect trinkets and souvenirs. Some of the wealthier bought art works and antiquities and sent them home to add to their collections.
It may be surprising, in view of all the drinking, wenching and galloping about the country, but many officers were great readers. Popular books were Portuguese and Spanish grammars and dictionaries, books on the arts of war like A treatise containing the elementary part of fortification by John Muller (5) or The Officer’s Manual in the Field (6), and for light reading many chose Don Quixote (7), which they hoped would give them some insight into Spanish life and customs. Novels were not much favoured, but John Cleland’s Fanny Hill: or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (8), the prime pornographic work of the era, would have found a place in many officers’ libraries, together with a selection of erotic engravings to while away the more solitary hours, far from home.
The life of an officer on campaign was an odd miscellany. Courage and daring, sheer hard work, gentlemanly conduct and extreme physical hardship consorted with balls, dancing, gaiety, extravagant uniforms, love affairs, adventure and the tedium of life garrisoning a small town – and, in all this, a great deal of sitting at a desk with a pen in one’s hand.
Both of Caroline’s books are available via Amazon in either paperback or as e-books.
1) The Dickson Manuscripts Major-General Alexander Dickson (Royal Artillery) Ken Trotman Ltd, Cambridge, 1987, Vol 2 p. 225
3) On the Road with Wellington Augustus Schaumann Greenhill Books, London, 1999
4) Eg The Historical Journal Vol. 58 Issue 3 September 2015 pp. 733-756
“Habits of Seduction: Accounts of Portuguese Nuns in British Officers’ Peninsular War Memoirs Jeanne Hurl-Eamon Published online by Cambridge University Press;
The British Soldier in the Peninsular War: Encounters with Spain and Portugal 1808-1814 Gavin Daly Palgrave Macmillan London 2013 p. 165
5) A treatise containing the elementary part of fortification, regular and irregular John Muller J Nourse London 1756
6) The Officer’s Manual in the Field or a Series Of Military Plans Representing the Principal Operations of a Campaign T. Bensley London 1798
7) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes 1615
8) Fanny Hill: or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure John Cleland London 1749
Soldiers of a campaign. Yale Center for British Art
Abraham Billson, a pig farmer, married Ann Tibbs at Broughton Astley on 24th November 1812. The couple went on to have four children, the eldest Jonathan Tibbs (taking his mother’s maiden name) was born nearly a year after their marriage, but who died aged just two; a second child named simply Jonathan this time in 1815 just down the road at Leire.
A third child, Richard Tibbs in 1820 and their youngest child named Abraham, after his father, who was baptised on 20th January 1825. A date which becomes significant once we tell you this story.
On the 28th March 1825, Abraham was charged with the brutal murder of his wife Ann, who, by all accounts he had been badly treating throughout their marriage due to his jealous nature.
As well as being a farmer, in the mid 1810’s Abraham added to his portfolio and bought a bakehouse which occupied a small piece of land at Sutton-in-the-Elms. He was the son of a farmer and of respectable circumstances, by the time of this event his father, a farmer had already died leaving him a reasonable inheritance.
Apparently, Abraham and Ann’s marriage was not all plain sailing and the couple had regular fall-outs and Ann had previously sworn before the magistrate about her husband’s behaviour, but it was on the 6th December 1824 that things were to finally come to a head. Abraham had apparently been drinking, and, afraid for her safety Ann left the house to seek the help of a neighbour. Abraham just swore at the neighbour and told him to go home.
The couple continued to argue all day until seven in the evening when another neighbour heard screams and cries of ‘murder’ coming from her neighbour’s house. She looked through the window and there she saw Anne laying on the floor covered in blood. Despite this, somehow Anne managed to get up, still grasping at her throat and dragged herself out of the house. She somehow managed to stagger along the street, where she was spotted and taken in by a neighbour who described her as having been ‘covered with gore from her bosom to her feet‘.
A stream of blood still rushing from her throat, which had been cut in such a dreadful manner that she now was no longer able to speak and within a few minutes she was dead. Her throat had been cut six or seven inches in length and two inches deep and the windpipe had been completely severed from the root of the tongue.
What added to the horrific event was that the couple’s eldest child was witness to the carnage. Abraham fled the house but was soon caught a few fields away from the house.
When he appeared in court he claimed mental derangement, but no proof of this was found, and the jury, after only a few minutes found him guilty. Sentence was passed. Abraham just shook his head and claimed that all the witnesses were lying.
Abraham was described as, a ferocious but ill-looking man and that Ann was an excellent woman, beautiful and of good character and that there were no grounds for suspecting any infidelity on her part i.e. no obvious justification for the murder.
After only a few days Abraham was hanged, confessing to his sins only minutes before meeting his maker.
The curious part to this story can be found in the parish register for 20th January 1825, so after the death of Anne. Someone took the couples youngest child, Abraham Tibbs Billson to be baptised. The child’s father is clearly named as Abraham, against the mother’s name it say Anne – murdered.
So, who presented this child for baptism? It can’t have been Abraham as he was in prison awaiting trial? Perhaps the child’s grandparents, we’ll never know. By June 1825, there were 3 orphans, the youngest a mere baby, what a sad start to life for them.
Morland, George. The Cottage Door. Royal Holloway, University of London
Unlike George IV, known for his excesses in all matters, his father was the complete opposite and abstained from any form of excess in the food department, so much so that even the newspapers felt obliged to write about it. George III was a creature of habit and had a routine that was only ever to be disturbed by special events or meetings that he had to attend.
His day typically began at 7am and after washing and being dressed his majesty would take a walk before breakfast. If they were are Windsor he would spend time at the stables checking over his horses, but when at Kew he would inspect his workmen and suggest ideas for improvement – clearly he did his best thinking first thing in the morning.
He used to take breakfast alone, but as he got older he would dine with the rest of the family. It was a frugal affair but with the added luxury of a cup of cocoa (my kind of breakfast!)
The Queen and Princesses would enter the breakfast parlour at nine o’clock precisely and about 10 o’clock they would retire to do their own thing. The King would take a ride or deal with paperwork in his study. The Queen and the princesses would take a ride in the royal carriages.
Dinner would be served at exactly 1 o’clock, early but Georgian standards, at which time he ate the plainest food – beef, mutton and very occasionally fish. As a special treat the King would eat boiled chicken, followed by a pudding.
His favourite drink was orange juice, but he also enjoyed a simple beverage called a ‘cup’, which was distilled from the herb, borage, which was then mixed with white wine – perhaps to make it more palatable. Borage was traditionally used to treat a whole host of conditions – the digestive system, asthma, the heart, urinary system – so basically a good all round tonic. It was also believed to have a calming effect for different types of mania – so possibly prescribed by the King’s doctors to keep him calm (today it’s often used to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes).
At four o’clock the Queen and Princesses dined separately, but even before the table was cleared the King would arrive for a chat about the favourite topic of the day taking tea or coffee with them.
This passed the time until about 6 o’clock when they separated and got ready for the evening parties. The day typically ended with either cards or music. Sometimes Princess Amelia would play the piano accompanied by her sister Princess Mary who apparently was an excellent singer.
Now we know that the Prince Regent, later George IV, had quite an appetite, but we we took a closer look at a book which gave a full breakdown of what everyone ate, from the Prince down to the lowliest of the royal kitchen maids. Overall, the sheer volume of food consumed almost defies belief.
George’s favourite breakfast consisted of two pigeons, three beefsteaks, three parts of a bottle of white wine, a glass of dry champagne, two glasses of port and a glass of brandy. It should come as no surprise then that George was indeed rather rotund in stature.
From household accounts though, it would appear that George himself made an occasional attempt at dieting, probably following advice from his doctors. Sober meals of plain boiled salmon and rice soup appeared on dinner menus, but one can only assume that these half-hearted attempts at dieting failed; especially considering that alongside these dishes were the somewhat less slimming sweetbreads and lobster-au-gratin.
We came across this amusing little anecdote about the extremely wealthy banker Thomas Coutts who was staying as a guest of the Prince of Wales in Brighton. The story goes that the morning after the night before, Thomas Coutts, nursing something of a hangover, decided to take a breath of air and was sitting outside the pavilion when an eccentric elderly lady approached him, assuming he was a beggar due to his attire (it had clearly been quite a party), she handed him a token for five shillings issued by Coutts bank to buy himself breakfast. She also said she would speak to her friends as she felt sure that between them they could raise enough money to buy him a dinner. Coutts thanks her profusely and said he would wait for her on the same bench that evening.
Sure enough, in the middle of the Prince’s banquet, Coutts slipped out unnoticed and returned to the same bench. The elderly lady and her friends soon appeared and she cried out, ‘there’s my distressed old friend for whom I ask your charity’ ‘That’, exclaimed one of the ladies, ‘ why that’s Mr …’ but before she could utter the great banker’s name, the Prince of Wales appeared from behind, and to the amazement of the benevolent lady, slapped the poor old man on the back and shouted loudly ‘ Tom Coutts, we have fined you a bottle for leaving your glass’, Thus leaving the elderly lady speechless and embarrassed. We never did find out whether he returned her initial five shillings or not – presumably not, that’s why he remained so wealthy!
All in all, George was destined for greatness, quite literally. And it was a fact that didn’t go unnoticed. His wife Caroline, on first meeting him, commented “he is very fat, and he is nothing like as handsome as his portrait”; perhaps why the famously unhappy marriage didn’t work.
The Duchess of Gloucester drew the comparison between George and “a great feather bed”.
It supposedly took three hours to lace him into his girdle and whale bone corset due to all the “bulging”. Once girdled his waist measured 55 inches, however, this feat of engineering was such that the tightness of the girdle almost caused George to faint during his own coronation and contemporaries are recorded as saying that his natural stomach hung between his knees. Someone else, rather unkindly likened him to a “great sausage stuffed into the covering”.
It was most definitely not a case of ‘like father, like son’!
The Ipswich Journal 11 October 1788
Morning Advertiser 19 February 1827
London Courier and Evening Gazette 1 November 1805
In the Georgian era strenuous exercise seems to have been something predominantly undertaken by the men, with the main form of exercise for women at that time being around deportment.
Exercise for men was highly recommended! The benefits, according to Professor Voelker, who established his first gymnasium in May 1825, were the obvious one of improved fitness, but also that weak and sick persons recovered their health and these exercises were, perhaps, the only effectual remedy that could have been found for their complaints. The judgement of physicians, in all places where these exercises were introduced, concurred in their favourable effect upon health; and parents and teachers uniformly testified, that by them their sons and pupils, like all other young men who cultivated them, had become more open and free, and more graceful in their deportment.
A subscription to Professor Voelker’s gymnasium was:
1 shilling for one month
2 shillings and 10 pence for 3 months
4 shillings for six months
6 guineas for twelve months.
For one to one tuition, the charge was a guinea per lesson.
Exercises included the following:
Running for a length of time, and with celerity. If the pupil follows the prescribed rules, and is not deterred by a little fatigue in the first six lessons, he will soon be able to run three English miles in from twenty to twenty-five minutes. Some of Mr. V.’s pupils have been able to run for two hours incessantly, and without being much out of breath.
Leaping in distance and height, with and without a pole. Every pupil will soon convince himself to what great the strength of the arms, the energy of the muscles of the feet, and good carriage of the body, are increased by leaping, particularly with a pole. Almost every one learns in a short time to leap his own height, and some of the pupils have been able to leap ten or eleven feet high. It is equally easy to learn to leap horizontally over a space three times the length of the body; even four times that length has been attained.
Climbing up masts, ropes, and ladders. Every pupil will soon learn to climb up a mast, rope, or ladder of twenty-four feet high; and after six months’ exercise, even of thirty-four or thirty-six feet. The use of this exercise is very great in strengthening the arms.
The exercises on the pole and parallel bars, serve in particular to expand the chest, to strengthen the muscles of the breast and small of the back, and to make the latter flexible. In a short time, every pupil will be enabled to perform exercises of which he could not have thought himself capable, provided that he does not deviate from the prescribed course and rules.
Vaulting, which is considered one of the principal exercises for the increase of strength, activity, good carriage of the body, and courage, which employs and improves the powers of almost all arts of the body, and has hitherto always been taught as an art by itself, is brought to some perfection in three months.
Fencing with the broad sword throwing lances, wrestling, and many other exercises.
In 1826 Professor Voelker opened a second gymnasium, so the first must have proved very popular.
Should you prefer to exercise alone then perhaps this machine would suit you needs better.
If you suffer from gout then here we have a satirical image for exercise to improve the condition.
The Every Day Book: Or, A Guide to the Year Volume 1 by William Hone
On the bitterly cold morning of Saturday 22nd March 1828, a twenty two year old woman sat in her prison cell at Lancaster Castle, awaiting the hangman’s noose, with just the long standing prison chaplain, Reverend Mr Joseph Rowley to comfort her before her final journey. Outside, waiting to witness this event was one of the largest crowds ever seen at the castle, with many travelling from far afield to witness this spectacle.
So how did this unfortunate young woman find herself in this most desperate of all situations? To find out we return to the beginning of this story, and to a John Scott, a Methodist preacher and shop keeper on Bridge Street, Preston and his wife Mary. The couple were well respected in their local community and further afield, as John Scott travelled to local fairs and markets selling his wares.
The couple had three daughters – Mary, Jane and Maria, who died in aged eight.
It was the very year Maria died that Jane, aged just 15, found herself unmarried and pregnant as the parish register of April 13th, 1821 confirms, Jane presented her first illegitimate child, a daughter, Anne, for baptism at the local parish church, not at the non-conformist church her parents attended.
Jane’s behaviour began to deteriorate, becoming rebellious, stealing from her parents and drinking. As to what became of Anne can only be speculated upon, but in all likelihood she died in infancy.
On 29th January 1824, aged 18, still unmarried and living with her parents, Jane presented a second child, for baptism, a son named John, but just three years later she would return to the church, this time to bury him.
Questions were raised at the time about the death of this child, but there was nothing tangible to suspect that anything untoward had happened to him. Perhaps her daughter Anne had in fact died, leading people to question Jane’s untoward lifestyle and her ability to care for children. She now frequented the local public house, ‘The Three Tars’ and continued stealing from her parents.
History has a habit of repeating itself, this time on 6th May 1825, Jane presented another illegitimate child, Harriet, for baptism. Then, only a few months later this child’s name too was to appear in the parish burial register.
Mortality rates in this parish were high and the parish registers showed many children dying young, well over fifty percent of the entries were for under-fives, so the deaths of Jane’s children, although tragic, might not have appeared that unusual.
June 1825, just one month later, there was another baptism, for a Robert Scott (illegitimate), this time the child belonged to Jane’s elder, unmarried sister, Mary.
Eighteen months later, on 13th January 1827, Mary married James Woods with her father, John, present as a witness, perhaps given the girls’ history he was glad to have one safely married off.
Flicking through the pages of the parish register two more Scott names jump out – burials which took place on the same day at Holy Trinity church, Preston on May 17th, 1827. The names were John and Mary Scott, the parents of these girls, so how did they die and why were they buried on the same day?
The answer to that lurked in the numerous newspaper reports of the time, which provided somewhat grisly accounts of their deaths and the coroner’s inquest which led to the subsequent trial of their daughter, Jane ‘a short, thick set woman’, at the Lancashire Assizes on August 29th, 1827.
On the 13th May 1827 John Scott was alive and in good health but died just one day later. The first witness called was Mrs Hannah Cragg, who was well acquainted with the couple and confirmed that Jane still lived with her parents. Mrs Cragg said that she had taken tea with them on Sunday and that Mrs Scott took her home a little after eight. The couple were both well and appeared on good terms with their daughter.
She stated that on the following evening, just after nine, Jane had run to her home, asking her to ‘come to our house, my mother is dead’. She appeared to be very alarmed. She told Jane to go straight home and that she would follow her.
On arriving, she saw Mrs Scott in the kitchen.
‘I had a conversation with her, but Jane was not present. I saw John Scott afterwards in the yard, vomiting. He went into the kitchen with me; Mrs Scott was still there. Jane came in and was going about the kitchen but could hear what was said.’
Mrs Scott said, ‘I am poisoned by the porridge’. So did Mr Scott. Jane said she would get rid of the porridge and that nothing more should be said of it.
Mrs Cragg said she saw it whilst she was holding Mrs Scott’s head. Mrs Scott told Jane not to dispose of it, but, Jane, who was close enough to hear completely ignored her and disposed of it. Dr Brown, the surgeon, was immediately sent for and instructed Jane to put the tin pan used to make the porridge to one side, but not to wash it out.
Jane and a Mrs Bilsborough went to fetch Jane’s half-brother, David Graham, as she feared her parents were dying. On arriving at the house, David found the doctor busily using a stomach pump on his mother and immediately accused Jane of causing them to be unwell.
David also told the court that Jane had been prone to violent convulsions over the past 3 years, which left her feeling weak for the next few hours, but he didn’t think it had impaired her mind. Mrs Bilsborough also confirmed that they had become more frequent, occasionally they were so bad that Jane would fall over in the street.
Just before midnight, Mrs Cragg went home, leaving Mr and Mrs Scott in bed being cared for by David who continued his vigil until, about three when his mother died.
His stepfather was still alive, but extremely unwell. David said that his stepfather told him that he feared he didn’t have much longer to live, he believed Jane had put poison in the porridge. At half- past five in the morning John Scott also died.
At the trial, Thomas Emmett, the druggist confirmed that Jane had visited his shop to purchase quarter of a pound of arsenic to use at her parents house in Bridge Street, as they had rats in the shop that she needed to kill and that two weeks later she returned for a further supply as she hadn’t managed to kill all of them. She returned for a third time, just days before the Scott’s died, saying that on this occasion she needed some to kill bugs around the bedstead.
The next witness was George Richardson, who said he had known Jane for a couple of months and that he saw her on the Sunday night whilst on his way home for tea and that Jane called him to come in. Jane then asked him, ‘When do you intend to marry me?.’ George said that he had already told her that he had no intention of marrying her yet as he wasn’t ready for marriage, he had no money or possessions.
Jane then told him that her father had signed over all his goods to her, but George didn’t believe her, so she produced a paper to prove it. George though, was semi-literate, but recalled that there was both writing and printing on the paper with her name at the bottom of it. He returned it to Jane saying he didn’t understand it, but that he had seen the words ‘tobacco and snuff’ on it. Jane said that snuff was there, along with a list of other goods meant for her. It later transpired that this was merely a snuff licence.
Next, was James Shorrock, who confirmed that he knew Jane and George Richardson. He said that he had seen Jane on the Sunday evening and Jane told him that her mother was very ill. He said that he saw her again on the Monday night about eight o’clock near a factory on Bridge Street when she said to him:
‘Here, Jem, I want thee’, I have just been watching George go into the dandy shop, Betty Watsons. George thinks to make a fool of me. I’ll make a bigger fool of him. He’ll be here after a while. My father and mother are very badly. I’ll go in to my supper, stop here till I come back’.
Jane disappeared and returned after about twenty minutes and said, ‘Oh Jem my father and mother are sure to die’. He replied:
‘we are all sure to die,’ Jane’s response was ‘we’re all sure to die, but not so soon as them. Next week I’m going to Manchester. I owe you two shillings. Come tomorrow night and I’ll pay thee’.
She went on to say, that on her return she would be married, but didn’t say to whom. She told him that her parents had signed over everything to her, they had three houses and when she returned she would sell one, which would set them up in some kind of business, and then they would go to Liverpool to her sister, Mary.
The surgeon, Dr Robert Brown was next to be called to give his testimony. He confirmed that when he arrived at the house about half past nine on the Monday evening, Mrs Scott was sitting in a chair in the kitchen, supported by Mrs Cragg and was vomiting violently. Dr Brown concluded that she had been poisoned. He called for a quantity of warm water and applied the stomach pump to Mrs Scott. He stated that he took care of the contents of her stomach and that Mr Scott’s condition was very similar to that of his wife. He then used the stomach pump on Mr Scott and the couple were then put to bed.
Mr Scott was sick and complained of pains in the bowels. Mrs Scott was still being violently sick and complained of great cramp in her legs. Dr Brown confirmed that he had some conversations with Jane and asked to see the pan in which the porridge was made and confirmed that Jane had told him when she fetched him that her parents had eaten porridge and that caused them to become ill.
He asked for the bowl to be left for examination, he then gave it to his apprentice for safe keeping.
After he had finished administering the pump he asked Jane for the pan used to make the porridge. When Jane produced it, he noted that it had already been washed. He said he was somewhat surprised that she had not understood his earlier instructions to leave it, but her response was that she needed to use the pan to boil the water for the pump. He said that the pan in question had not been used, as he had watched her boil the water in a different pan. She made no reply.
The following day Dr Brown carried out a post mortem on John Scott’s body. He believed from the original symptoms which were borne out in the post mortem, showed that the death was caused by arsenic. Vomiting, purging and cramp in the legs were indicative of having ingested arsenic.
The judge was concerned that no tests had been carried out by Dr Brown as they might have yielded a different or conclusive outcome. He addressed the jury advising them that without conclusive proof of poisoning it was difficult for them to find Jane guilty. The case so far had only related to Jane’s father and the judge advised the jury that they should make their decision about this one count, as it was the fault of the prosecutor that necessary evidence was not available.
The judge confirmed that the case against her of murdering her mother would need to wait to allow the prosecutors the necessary time to supply further evidence and that a verdict on the case against Jane of murdering her father should be given.
Mary, now Mrs James Woods (Jane’s sister) was called to give her statement. She confirmed that the household regularly used arsenic and that they mixed it with oatmeal and sugar to kill rats and to eliminate bugs around the bedstead. Mary said that her father sold bread in his shop and that rats were abundant in the property, so she often made up a solution for use as an when required and that a solution was always kept at hand, so it was more than likely that there would have been some in the house on the day her parents died.
She said that she had seen some arsenic a few days before she went home to Liverpool, and that it was in the drawer of a wash-stand, wrapped up in blue paper, without any string and warned her mother about leaving it about the house.
Mary also confirmed that Jane on occasion, had as many as fifty fits in one day and could be ill for a week afterwards. Mary was sure that her mind had become afflicted as a result of them. She told the court that Jane was on good terms with her parents, in fact, that they thought more of Jane than they did of her.
Mrs Alice Berchell was called next. She described herself as being Mrs Scott’s neighbour for over seven years and that they were very close. She corroborated Mary’s evidence. She too confirmed that Jane suffered from fits and that on occasion she had held Jane whilst she had been fitting. She said that Jane had been in the Dispensary at Preston and in Manchester Infirmary and that Mr and Mrs Scott were always kind and affectionate toward Jane, but were extremely worried that Jane would never be well enough to work for her living due to these fits.
The judge summed up the case for the jury who retired and returned with their verdict of:
Not Guilty due to weak intellect
Jane was however, returned to the prison to await trial for the murder of her mother. During this time, she ate very little and became weaker by the day.
On 20th March 1828, Jane was brought before the court again, some ten months after the death of her mother, having already been acquitted of the murder of her father and feeling convinced she would receive the same outcome. This time the jury took a mere five minutes to reach their conclusion and found her:
Jane sat quietly and calmly throughout the trial until the verdict of hanging was delivered, she sobbed and pleaded for mercy, asking to be transported instead. This request was declined, she was returned to her cell where she became agitated and unable to support herself so much so, that she had to be put to bed by the castle matron.
Finally, when time was running out for Jane she confessed her crimes. She stated that she had been well brought up, but from the age of fourteen she had led a dissolute life and had been seduced by a local man when she was just fifteen. She said her mother and father had always been kind to her and tried to keep her on the straight and narrow, but it was too late, ‘the devil got possession of her’. She confessed to robbing her parents of their property and money before they died.
The day before her parents were poisoned she said that she had met up with George Richardson, who she wished to marry. The couple went to ‘TheThree Tars’ public house for a few drinks then went their separate ways, meeting up later when Richardson tried to persuade her to get money from her father. She refused. Richardson goaded her until eventually she went home and made up a porridge containing arsenic which she gave to her parents. Shortly after this she felt guilty and ran to fetch help from a Mrs Cragg. She said that she was convinced that she could get away with it.
Two days before her death her sister, Mary visited her, accompanied by the prison matron. When asked by her sister whether there was anything she wished to confess. Jane, presumably realising that she now had nothing to lose, confessed to having killed Mary’s child as an act of revenge following an argument that they had had. Jane said that she had taken the baby out for a walk, it was then that she gave it laudanum. Jane said that everyone believed the child died from a fit, but that was not true.
Jane also confessed to having killed her son, as she had hoped the child’s father would marry her, but he wouldn’t, so she bought an ounce of white powder from the local doctor and when the child was sitting at the table, she gave him a kiss, mixed the arsenic with treacle, spread it on some bread and gave it to him. As she watched, the child’s eyes glaze over and he died shortly after. Jane confirmed that there had been questions raised about the child’s death, but these weren’t pursued.
At 10 o’clock on Saturday 22nd March 1828, Jane was helped to the chapel where the sacrament was administered by Rev. Mr Rowley. She was so weak that it took two people to support her, having refused food since sentence was passed and only drank one cup of tea.
A few minutes after midday, the door from which culprits passed on to the scaffold was opened, a deathly silence instantly fell amongst the crowd. Jane was so weak so weak that she had to be wheeled to the gallows using this chair.
The executioner then turned her to face toward the prison, put a cap over her head, hooked the halter around her neck and to the chain that was suspended to the fatal beam and retired. Many places report the hangman as Ned (Edward) Barlow, but this was not true as he died in 1812. The most likely candidate was Samuel Haywood, from Leicestershire, who was hired by several assizes as he was highly regarded for his skills.
The two women supported her for a moment, one quickly left in a state of distress, the other gave Jane a kiss, pulled the cap over Jane’s eyes and left. The rope swung round leaving Jane facing the crowd and she was immediately launched into eternity in less than two minutes. An hour later her body was removed to be dissected and anatomized.
The final twist to this tale was, that Jane’s body was sold for dissection and was purchased by a respected local doctor, Dr Thomas Monk, who ultimately found himself jailed for ten years hard labour. Sometime during this time Jane’s skeleton was sold by public auction. The purchaser in the 1870’s, was reputed to run an herbal shop on Walker Street, Preston, who decided to put Jane’s skeleton to profitable use, by displaying it to the public, charging one half penny to view it. So, there really was no rest for the wicked, but hopefully now the victims have been named and can rest in peace.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 2 June 1823
The Examiner, Sunday, May 27, 1827
Evening Mail 10 September 1827
Evening Mail 24 March 1828
The Times 25th March 1828
Chester Courant 1 April 1828
Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser 1 April 1828
Lancaster Gazette 21 August 1875
Fleury. C. Time-honoured Lancaster
Hurren. Elizabeth T. Dissecting the Criminal Corpse: Staging Post-Execution Punishment in Early Modern England
We had thought about writing about his acting career, but we’re sure there are enough websites that provide all of that, so we decided to take a look at the man behind the theatre – if that’s at all possible. There has always been much speculation about his parents and so, as is our want, went on a hunting trip to see if we could unearth anything new.
His life appears to be a mixture of fact and fiction, some of which he possibly made up himself and the rest which has been ‘tweaked’ then repeated over the centuries with so much of it untrue, so let’s try to set at least some of the record straight if we can.
There is no disputing he was regarded as one of the best Shakespearean actors of his days. He was short in stature – true. His body being well-proportioned but a mere 5 feet 6 and three-quarter inches in height.
Born 4th November 1787, apparently, although there’s nothing to confirm that apart from books written some thirty years after his death, but let’s assume that is correct. His mother – now, the book about his life has this to say:
George Saville Carey was cursed in a worthless inhuman daughter. Ann Carey had, at the age of fifteen, ran away from home to join a company of strolling players; and when itinerant business was at a standstill, she figured in the streets of London as a hawker. It was in the latter capacity that her not unprepossessing face attracted the attention of Aaron Kean, an architect, who took her under his protection, but subsequently abandoned her. Shortly afterwards she became the mother of Edmund Kean.
We have managed to find her baptism, in 1763 at St Bride, Fleet Street which nicely confirms her as George Saville Carey’s daughter.
Mary Ann was one of several children that George Saville Carey (son of the poet Henry Carey*) and his wife Mary Ann née Phipp had, including two with the interesting names of Martha Udosia and Tempest Hazard.
Moving on to Edmund, there is no sign of a baptism for him, but it would appear that he was a child protégé and appeared on the stage when a mere 4 years old, with his mother, Mrs Carey, who we know was an actress and regularly appeared in the bill programmes for the London theatres. In his formative years, Edmund was simply known as Master Carey.
Who could his father have been? Well, we have seen references to it being an Edmund Kean, an architect’s clerk; an Aaron Kean, architect; Aaron Kean, a tailor; and Moses Kean, a ventriloquist who apparently took a keen interest in young Edmund’s career. Yet again, no categorical answer to that question.
We came across this newspaper article below advertising the first stage performance for a Mr Edmund Kean, who couldn’t be ‘our’ Edmund as he would only just have been born. Given the theatrical connections, this could either be his father or Edmund simply adopted the name in later life. There were three brothers, Aaron, Edmund and Moses who were all tailors by trade who lived at No. 9 St Martin’s Lane.
There were also rumours that Edmund’s mother was a Charlotte Tidswell (1766-1841), an actress, but that seems exceptionally unlikely, it’s possible that she may have been a relative, but more likely a family friend who was involved in Edmund’s theatrical education.
On 17th July 1808, Edmund married Mary Chambers at Stroud, Gloucestershire and a couple of years later they produced a son, Charles John, who, after attending Eton, went on to become an actor, although, not in the same league as his famous father.
After Edmund had a very public affair with Charlotte Cox, the wife of a London Alderman. He was then sued by Mr Cox for crim. con and damages of £800 were awarded against him.
Needless to say, this had an impact on his career and his loyal wife, Mary remained loyal no longer and in 1825, she left him and moved in to Keydell House, Catherington Hampshire, which her son bought from a Captain RD Pritchard, who lived there from about 1826 until 1842 and who, coincidentally we have written about before. Mary Kean died in 1849 and was buried in the parish church.
Edmund moved to Richmond where he spent his remaining years. By all accounts he outlived his fortune and died penniless, whether that’s true or not, like the rest of his life, we may never know.
His death came 15th May 1833 and given his theatrical status, a request was sent to the Dean of Westminster Abbey to have him buried there – this was declined, and he was buried instead at Richmond parish church following a post-mortem carried out a couple of days after his death. The newspapers sparing their readers none of the gory details of the postmortem, which is how we know his exact height.
It would appear though that in May 1833 there was a flu epidemic and presumably they were expecting that to be the cause of death, but having read the details of the autopsy, that seems unclear as to what the cause was. Interestingly his mother was living with him at that time as she too was unwell. Apparently, she took one last view of her son in his coffin and retired to her room where in just a few days, she too died. A request, by Charles, was made for her to be buried with her son, but there wasn’t space.
It seems that we will never know the full truth about Mary Anne Carey’s relationship with the tragedian, Edmund Kean, but at least we’ve been able to add a little more factual information to the myth.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 20 May 1833
Worcester Journal 30 May 1833
John Hoppner, R.A. byMcKay, William Darling, 1844-1924; Roberts, W. (William), 1862-1940
Hawkins F.W. The Life of Edmund Kean in two Volumes 1886
Highfill, Kalman, Burnim, Langhans. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers …
* George Saville Carey was born 3rd December 1738 at Clerkenwell, the son of the poet Henry Carey and his wife Sarah Harrison. Despite reports to the contrary, he was not born posthumously. Henry Carey was reputedly the illegitimate son of George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, but so far we have not been able to confirm this one.
Alexander Roslin (1718-1793) was a Swedish portrait painter who worked in Europe painting the aristocracy, and whose work we have only recently become familiar with. This post, we have to confess contains nothing new and is somewhat self indulgent because we’re ever so slightly in love with his paintings. However, we thought, if you’ve never come cross him before you might enjoy taking a quick peek at his some of his work.
This hope hopefully gives a glimpse into the detail of his work and shows his skill at recreating fabric, jewels and flowers using the medium of paint. We would love to know what you think of his paintings and whether you like them … or perhaps not. Do let us know.
We begin with a portrait of Jeanne Sophie de Vignerot du Plessis, also known as the Countess of Egmont Pignatelli, who hosted a salon which gathered “the literary celebrities of the days”, including Voltaire and Rousseau, and opposed Madame du Barry. The recreation of her dress, we think is absolutely stunning, so much detail when you look at the small image. The idea of her being an edcuated woman being shown with the addition of music and a book. We love the little dog at her side, obviously wanting some attention.
Next we have Anastasia Ivanovna, Countess of Hesse-Homburg, Princess Trubetskaya (1700-1755). Anastasia belonged to the leading members of the Russian Imperial court and aristocratic life, and often hosted the monarchs as guests in her home. She was also appointed Dame of St Catherine, (which is something we’ve looked at in a previous post about Princess Charlotte of Wales),and lady in waiting to Empress Elizabeth. She left for Germany in 1745, and did not return until 1751, after which she became a noted philanthropist. Again, she is accompanied by a book and her little dog, again looking for some attention from its mistress – perhaps a trademark of Roslin’s.
We move on to Reichsgräfin von Fries, née Gräfin Anna d’Escherny (1737-1807). As we haven’t managed to find out anything about this lady we’ll simply focus on the painting itself. Again we have an indication of her love of music, she’s sporting a plumed headdress and wearing a white satin gown with contrasting fur-trim, which is so realistic you could almost stroke it; the sleeves trimmed with the most exquisite lace.
Marie Amelie, Duchess of Parma (1746-1804), was the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I and the sister of Queen Marie Antoinette. This time no sign of music or books, just a fan, but the detailed bead work on the bodice is excellent.
This young woman’s identity seems to have become lost in the mists of time, but the detail in Roslin’s work remains in this portrait, even down to the detail in the corsage she’s wearing.
To finish, we have a portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828), the Empress consort of Russia as the second wife of Tsar Paul I. Maria was described as ‘tall, fair, fresh, extremely shortsighted and inclined to be stout‘. This court dress, we think, makes quite a statement and naturally she’s wearing the Order of St Catherine. Apparently she dressed like this every day as she loved the pomp and ceremony associated with court life and made the same demand on her entourage – can you imagine being dressed like this, all day, every day?
Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna. The Hermitage Museum
We have written about Samuel Oliver on a several previous occasions and as I keep saying, ‘he just keeps on giving’. Following on from how popular his comments were in the last article regarding the burial of his parishioners, here we go again with some more notes I have just found that were filling the empty pages of the baptism, marriage and burial registers for the parish of Whaplode, in rural Lincolnshire. If you wish to read the images more clearly, just click on them.
Quite a risky thing to do, but we begin with his justification for keeping notes about his parishioners – he thought they would be helpful to future incumbents of his post! I wonder if they were, of whether they were more a reflection on his personality.
He clearly didn’t approve of the school teacher’s morals, describing him as an infidel, so much so that Samuel felt the need to take over the running of the school himself.
Sunday November 8th, 1818
In the afternoon of this day, during the time of divine service, Joseph Blacksmith (Farmer of the great Tythes) and William Heeley (acting overseer of the poor); grossly insulted me, whilst officiating afterwards, Heeley annoyed some of the congregation. But on Wednesday Mr Blacksmith came to me with much apparent contrition and gave me five pounds as a commutation for punishment, which I sent immediately to the Society for promoting Christian knowledge. Heeley also came the same day, but without any appearance of penitence, and gave me seven pounds, which I have appropriated, wholly, to the Poor of this Parish. Dec 2nd, 1818.
The saga didn’t end there though:
On Sunday, December 20th, 1818, Jane Blacksmith, the mother and Staveley Blacksmith, the brother of the above named Joseph Blacksmith; grossly insulted me, the moment I came out of the church, without any provocation or shadow of reason. This I reported to the Arch Deacon, who sent a severe monition to the Church Wardens, which threw the whole parish into consternation; and at two Vestry meetings, after Staveley Blacksmith, Thomas Allen and John Burton, had affirmed the grossest falsehoods, which Blacksmith ad Burton acknowledged themselves to swear in court. After bringing a Holbeach attorney into the vestry to intimidate me, they all to a man promised to protect me from all insult in future. Staveley Blacksmith declared he never thought of insulting me in his life!!! This was the consequence of truth and resolution on my part. Sam’l Oliver, Curate.
or even here:
Thursday October 7th, 1819
This day the aforesaid Joseph Blacksmith came to my house and with much fulsome compliment and pretended penitence for his improper conduct on the 8th November last, he sat and drank some ale; also about half a bottle of wine. When, upon going away, finding no person in the kitchen, he deliberately set fire to some linen which was upon the clothes horse, before the kitchen fire and then endeavouring to run off! But the kitchen door (going into the porch) being difficult for him to get open, and the servant maid coming suddenly upon him; he could not escape, without detection and his diabolical purpose of involving the premises in flames, proved abortive! – Thus was my family miraculously preserved. Sam’l Oliver, Curate.
Thursday July 20th, 1820
This day at the funeral of the widow Delia Rose, the aforesaid Joseph Blacksmith came into the church, walked in a becoming manner up the middle aisle, he passed the pulpit, entered his pew and sat down., but whilst I was reading the lesson he bawled out, in a hoarse voice, ‘aren’t I to speak‘, and shortly after, before the lesson was ended, he said something else, which I could not correctly understand, but he said it in a manner which evidently conveyed an idea of intentional insult. He then followed me to the grave of the said Delia Rose, where he twice attempted to push me down whilst performing the ceremony, by throwing himself with violence against the portable shed under which I stood, made an inarticulate noise to burlesque the service, placing himself before me with a horsewhip in his hand, which he has been in the habit of using upon other people very dexterously and therefore I felt myself extremely apprehensive of experiencing its effects upon my own shoulders, before I could finish the service and make my escape.
I will leave you read in his own hand, Samuel Oliver’ final thoughts on his parish!!!