Martha Gunn (1726-1815), Brighton 'dipper'

Martha Gunn – Brighton Celebrity

We’re not quite sure that Martha’s claim to fame would work in today’s celebrity culture, for Martha, who was born Martha Killick daughter of Friend and Anne Killick in 1726 (baptized 19 September 1731) , was a ‘dipper‘. Much has been written about her already, but we thought we would add a few extra bits.

'A Calm' by James Gillray (1810).
‘A Calm’ by James Gillray (1810). Courtesy of Princeton University Library

What was a ‘dipper’? Well, in the 1700 and early 1800s doctors would recommend that people bath in sea water to restore their health. Needless to say this concept was terrifying for many, so in places such as Brighton people were employed as ‘dippers‘.

Huts on wheels, like the one below were used to allow the bather to protect their modesty, the bather would climb into the hut, change into their swimming attire, the machine was then pulled by dippers into the sea. Dippers were also expected to ensure that people were not swept away by the current, arguably like a modern day lifeguard, so they would need to be very strong.

Bathing machine at Weymouth
Weymouth

This occupation in itself was never going to give Martha celebrity status, but her royal connection to the Prince of Wales, later George IV, did. She was a favourite of his and apparently enjoyed special privileges including free access to the kitchen at the Royal Pavilion.

The portrait of her below, is reputed to show Martha holding the Prince of Wales as a small child, however, this is not feasible as  the Prince did not visit Brighton until September 7th, 1783, he was 21. So despite the annotation at the top of the painting this must have been added at a later stage.

Todd’s print catalogue of 1799 simply described the painting as being with an unnamed child

There was also another copy of the piece produced by William Nutter which is now held by The Met, dated 1797. It does not state that the child was the Prince of Wales, but that the original was in his possession and this one was dedicated to the Prince of Wales.

V0017100 Martha Gunn, a Brighton bather holding a small child that she has just saved from drowning.
Coloured engraving by W. Nutter, 1797, after J. Russell.
1797 By: John Russellafter: William NutterPublished: 1 June 1797

It also appeared in the following catalogue which confirmed the artist to be John Russell – ‘A catalogue of all the capital and valuable finished and unfinished original works of the distinguished artist, John Russell, Esq. R.A where it was to be sold along with other paintings by Mr. Christie on February 14th, 1807.

Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell
Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
The Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV born 1762 and Mrs Gunn

Martha was a large and strong woman and was well respected by the town and she even featured in the caricature below.

A scene at Brighton; some Frenchmen have landed on the beach; others are in broad clumsy boats which have left French men-of-war. In the foreground old women and yokels are dealing with the invaders. A woman resembling Martha Gunn, the bathing-woman, trampling on prostrate bodies, holds out at arm's length a kicking French soldier. Courtesy of British Museum
A scene at Brighton; some Frenchmen have landed on the beach; others are in broad clumsy boats which have left French men-of-war. In the foreground old women and yokels are dealing with the invaders. A woman resembling Martha Gunn, the bathing-woman, trampling on prostrate bodies, holds out at arm’s length a kicking French soldier. Courtesy of British Museum

She died in May 1815 and was buried in the local churchyard.

Hampshire Chronicle, 15th May 1815

Long after her death a plaque was added to the house where she and her family lived.

Plaque on the Brighton house where Martha Gunn lived. It says: Martha Gunn 1727-1815, the original bathing woman lived here.

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British School; Martha Gunn (1726-1815); Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

There’s nothing like washing your dirty linen in public!

Which is exactly what happened in this case.

Portrait of Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, in a garden, a statue of Minerva beyond , 1761. Attributed to Adriaen Carpentiers (1739–1778)
Portrait of Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, in a garden, a statue of Minerva beyond , 1761. Attributed to Adriaen Carpentiers (1739–1778)

Edward Weld, son of Humphrey Weld and Margaret Simeons of Lulworth Castle was taken to court by his wife the Honourable Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Aston.

The couple married June 22, 1727, but according to Catherine her husband was impotent. The trial took place in 1732. The couple had lived together for the vast majority of their marriage, but Catherine confirmed that the marriage was never actually consummated.  Edward acknowledged that she was ‘able, apt and fit for the procreation of children’.

At this point Catherine decided that they could no longer cohabit; Edward’s view however, was, that ‘many married people live together like brother and sister’. The couple were Catholic and as such deemed marriage to be as sacrament. Edward confirmed to Catherine’s father that it was true, the marriage had not been consummated, the reason for this being that he had ‘an outward defect which prevented him from consummation‘. Catherine’s father recommended that Edward visit a doctor who he felt sure would be able to quickly remedy this problem.

Three midwives were produced:

…that they are all well skilled in the art and practice of midwifery, and have very carefully and diligently inspected the private parts of the Hon. Catherine Elizabeth Weld, which are naturally designed for carnal copulation; and that to the best of their skills and knowledge she is a virgin and never had carnal copulation with any man whatsoever.

Depositions on behalf of Edward were made:

Edward Weld Esq. deposed, that he was of the age of 26, and has all the parts of his body which constitute a man perfect and entire, more particularly those parts which nature formed for the propagation of his species and the act of carnal copulation, in full and just proportion and was and is capable of carnally knowing Catherine Elizabeth Weld, his wife, or any other woman. And during the time he cohabited with his wife, his private member was often turgid, dilated and erected, as was necessary to perform the act of carnal copulation; and that he did as such time consummate his marriage by carnally lying wit and knowing his wife.

Mr Williams, an eminent surgeon, deposed that Mr Weld came to him in June 1728 and that upon examining his penis, he found the frenulum too straight, which he set at liberty by clipping it with a pair of scissors, and on examining that part again the next day, found nothing amiss in the organs of generation.

Five surgeons carried out an inspection of Edward too and agreed that he was perfectly capable of carnal copulation.

Having heard all the evidence, in a nutshell, Catherine Elizabeth was told to return to her husband and, in effect, to ‘put up and shut up’ the wording being that she should ‘remain in perpetual silence’. It was a decision which many felt at the time was cruel and unjust.  In order to save face, Edward decided to counter-sue Catherine for libel and won but could not remarry until Catherine died in 1739.

Burial of Edward Weld December 20, 1761

Edward died in 1761 and his will dated April 17, 1755, makes for interesting reading as he left the majority of his estate to his son, Edward (born 1741), with other beneficiaries named as his second son John (born 1742), third son Thomas (born 1750) and daughter Mary (born 1753).

So, was the marriage eventually consummated? Presumably not, for after Catherine’s death Edward went on to marry Mary Theresa Vaughan (who died 1754) with whom he had the above named children.

Edward Weld (junior) by Pompeo Batoni. Painted days before he died in 1775.
Edward Weld (junior) by Pompeo Batoni. Painted days before he died in 1775.

June 12, 1773, Edward Weld’s son, Edward wrote his will. He made reference to his late wife, the Honourable Lady Juliana (who died 1772) and left everything to his brother Thomas. His will was proven November 7, 1775, just after he died from a fall from his horse and only four months after he married Maria Smythe (married July 13, 1775 at Twyford, Hampshire), who was later to become Maria Fitzherbert, the secret wife of the future King George IV but, as Edward Weld junior didn’t have chance to update his will, Maria was left with nothing at his death.

Maria Fitzherbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, 1786-1788. Courtesy of NPG
Maria Fitzherbert by Sir Joshua Reynolds, oil on canvas, 1786-1788. Courtesy of NPG

 

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Lulworth Castle created by Margaret Weld, mother of Edward Weld senior. Courtesy of SPL Rare Books

 

View of the west side of Berkeley Square; a carriage driving away from the viewer on the street, two men on the pavement to the right. 1813 Watercolour © The Trustees of the British Museum

A Right Royal Scandal:Two Marriages That Changed History

We’re absolutely thrilled to announce for our followers in the US and Canada that our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, has just been launched ‘across the pond’. We have added a link on the sidebar that will take you directly to the page on Amazon, should you wish to order through them. It is also available through other retailers too.

For those who have already pre-ordered it, we have been advised that it should be on its way to you very shortly and we really hope that you enjoy it – do let us know your thoughts and don’t forget we’re always here to answer any questions you may have.

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Royal-Scandal-Marriages-Changed/dp/1473863422

In the past couple of days, we have written a couple of guest blogs. We are delighted to be featured on Laurie Benson’s site, talking about The Allied Sovereign’s Visit to England, 1814, and its connection to Lord Charles Bentinck who is featured in our book.

Phillips, Thomas; The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June 1814 (George, 1751-1837, 3rd Earl of Egremont, with His Children Looking on, is presented by George, Prince Regent, to Tsar Alexander I of Russia in the Marble Hall at Petworth with the King of Prussia, Frederick William III); National Trust, Petworth House

Our second blog is hosted by Geri Walton, who covers both the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries on her site, so for Geri we have penned a somewhat later piece about The Marriage of Lord Glamis and Miss Cavendish Bentinck in 1881. Again, it has a connection to A Right Royal Scandal.

Fashion plate from 1881 Revue de la Mode (Historia mody/History of Fashion by Kajani)

If you would like to find out more about either or both of these then please do head over to their blogs by following the highlighted links above.

UPDATE

A Right Royal Scandal is also now available in Canada too so if you’re in Canada please follow this link for Amazon.ca

 

Great Tom the Christ Church Belle: Valentine’s Day 1816

Great Tom is the name of the bell which hangs in Tom Tower at Christ Church, one of the colleges at Oxford University. The following print was produced for Valentine’s Day in 1816, playing on the names, with two Oxford men fleeing underneath Great Tom away from a Christ Church Belle.

A View of great Tom the Christ Church Belle, from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, Ohio State University.
A View of great Tom the Christ Church Belle, from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, Ohio State University.

We were drawn to this print as it relates, in a loose way, to our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal. Valentine’s Day 1816 found Lord Charles Bentinck, a younger brother of the Duke of Portland, embroiled in a highly scandalous Criminal Conversation trial following his elopement the previous year with the wife of Sir William Abdy. The lady was the niece of the famed Duke of Wellington and the amorous couple had eloped just weeks after his triumph at the Battle of Waterloo. Tongues had not stopped wagging since!

A divorce and a swift remarriage followed and for a while the Bentincks lived quietly and tried to let the scandal die down.

But it was the eldest son of Lord and Lady Charles Bentinck who we think of when we see the print above. Charley Cavendish Bentinck did not attend Christ Church, instead studying at Merton from 1837, and he did not flee from his Belle: instead he ran directly into her arms! In the village of Summertown, just outside Oxford and nestled against the Cumnor Hills, lived the Lambournes, a humble working class family.

James Lambourne was a horse dealer known to settle disputes with his fists and his wife Sinnetta was a full blooded gypsy who had left her family and peripatetic way of life upon her marriage. The couple had a daughter, named Sinnetta like her mother, who was a dark-haired beauty, and she captivated not only the aristocratic Charley but a rival too. Charley won her heart but it was a romance which had to be kept secret and one which had devastating consequences for the two star-crossed lovers.

Not a few Oxford men, of nine or ten years’ standing, could tell a tale of frantic passion for a Gipsy girl entertained by two young men at one time, one of them with ducal blood in his veins, who ultimately wooed and wedded his Gipsy love. So that it is no way impossible (the heirs to the dukedom being all unmarried, and unlikely to marry) that the ducal coronet of ____ may come to be worn by the son of a Gipsy mother

And why was it a right royal scandal? Because Charley Cavendish Bentinck is the great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. Our book looks at the Cavendish Bentinck and Wellesley families, at their ‘scandalous marriages’ and shows how our modern history, as it concerns the British royal family, could look very different indeed, if not for a young gypsy girl.

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Royal-Scandal-Marriages-Changed/dp/1473863422
Available by clicking the link on the side bar or from Amazon and other leading book sellers

Reviews for A Right Royal Scandal

…Major and Murden keep their text entertaining and light throughout, making for an easy read of a subject that keeps you engrossed from start to finish. This book is brilliant for those who enjoy the scandals of historical television, with the added authenticity of historical fact. History of Royals, February 2017

Awesome real life biography that could be a scandalous historical romance novel. Loved it. NetGalley, reviewed by Nikkia Neil

The biography reads like a saucy Regency/Georgian novel with love affairs, mistresses, illegitimate offspring, elopements and unsuitable (and unhappy) marriages galore. A golden thread weaves through this colourful tapestry of indiscretions leading us from the Battle of Waterloo to the present day, from the Duke of Wellington’s niece to our very own Prince William… Buy it, read it, you won’t be disappointed – a true 5* gem of a book! Amazon, reviewed by Lally Brown

This really is a case of ‘You couldn’t make it up’. The plots may seem to come straight out of the world of Regency Romance but they are all true, and carefully annotated and verified by Major and Murden. Amazon review – reviewed by Nomester

 

 

The many faces of George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte

With so much interest in the Royal Collection’s Georgian Papers Project,  we thought we would examine some of the portraits of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who was also patron of the arts. We took a brief look some time ago at some of the portraits of George III’s children, so other portraits of the Queen with her children can be found by following this link.

As you would imagine, both the King and Queen were painted by many of the leading artists of the day so we’ll take a look at just a few of them.

We begin with a miniature of Queen Charlotte by the artist Jeremiah Meyer, who was appointed miniature painter to her majesty.

Meyer, Jeremiah; Profile of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818); York Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/profile-of-queen-charlotte-17441818-7868
Meyer, Jeremiah; Profile of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818); York Museums Trust

Our next being portrait is attributed to Johann Zoffany, 1766. According to John Zoffany, His Life and Works by Lady Victoria Manners and Dr. G C Williamson:

Unfortunately for our artist he was addicted to the practical joke of introducing into his groups ‘without the permission of the original and often in unflattering guise‘ the representations of living persons with whom he had quarrelled or against whom he had  grievance. He is said to have scandalised the English Court by sketching out and showing to his friends a bold replica of his ‘Life School‘ in which he had introduced a portrait of Queen Charlotte before she was married and had placed it opposite to the figure of one of her former admirers in Germany.

As Zoffany’ s Life School wasn’t painted until after this portrait of Queen Charlotte, it rather begs the question as to what she had done to upset him – perhaps she didn’t think he had captured her likeness in this portrait! We will probably never know.

som_hm_a359
Queen Charlotte (1744–1818) Johann Zoffany (1733–1810) (attributed to) The Holburne Museum

In 1789 Queen Charlotte sat for the artist Thomas Lawrence  but, according to the National Gallery,  apparently unwillingly, having recently undergone the shock of George III’s first attack of apparent insanity. The pearl bracelets on Queen Charlotte’s wrists were part of the king’s wedding gift to her; one clasp contains his portrait miniature, the other his royal monogram. Although Lawrence’s portrait was considered to be very like Queen Charlotte, it failed to please the king and queen and remained in the artist’s possession

Lawrence, Thomas; Queen Charlotte; The National Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-115071
Lawrence, Thomas; Queen Charlotte; The National Gallery, London

This next painting is by one of the monarch’s favourite artists, William Beechey. In the biography of William Beechey R.A. written by W. Roberts in 1909, he notes that in 1793 Beechey painted a full length portrait of Queen Charlotte, the Queen in turn honoured him by the appointment of Her Majesty’s Portrait Painter.

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818) by William Beechey; National Trust, Upton House
Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Upton House

Interestingly, there is another copy of this portrait at the Courtauld Gallery, dated somewhat later – 1812 – and with slightly different dimensions.

Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte; The Courtauld Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-207040
Beechey, William; Queen Charlotte; The Courtauld Gallery

Probably one of the most well known portraits of her is the one by Allan Ramsay.

Reynolds, Joshua; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), Queen Consort of King George III; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/charlotte-sophia-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-17441818-queen-consort-of-king-george-iii-29112
Reynolds, Joshua; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), Queen Consort of King George III; Government Art Collection

And finally, a portrait after Thomas Gainsborough.

Gainsborough, Thomas; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Wimpole Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/charlotte-sophia-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-17441818-171645
Gainsborough, Thomas; Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818); National Trust, Wimpole Hall

 

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Fashions for December 1815

The December 1815 issue of Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics featured a design for an evening dress and a walking dress, both the creation of Mrs Bean, a milliner and dressmaker of Albemarle Street, Piccadilly.

FASHIONS FOR DECEMBER, 1815

Evening Dress

A crimson satin slip, underneath a frock of three-quarters length made of the silver-striped French gauze; the slip ornamented at the feet with clusters of flowers, and a narrow border of white satin edged with crimson ribbon: the frock has a border of white satin, edged to correspond, and is drawn up in the Eastern style, confined by a cluster of flowers. The body of the dress has open fronts, with a stomacher, which are severally trimmed en suite: short open sleeve, to correspond with a quilling of tull around the arm. Head-dress à la Chinoise, composed of pearl; the hair braided, and ornamented with a wreath of flowers. Ear-rings and drops, pearl; necklace, the French negligé. Gloves, French kid, worn below the elbow, and trimmed with a quilling of tull. Sandals, white kid.

fashion-december-1815-ackermann

Walking Dress

Pelisse of walking length, composed of blue twilled sarsnet, fastened down the front with large bows of white satin ribbon, and ornamented at the feet with a border of leaves formed of the same sarsnet, edged with white satin: the bottom of the pelisse, trimmed with white satin, is drawn into small festoons; sleeve ornamented at the shoulder and the hand to correspond; a French embroidered ruff. A French hat composed of the blue twilled sarsnet, trimmed with white satin edged with blue, and decorated with a large plume of ostrich feathers. An Indian shawl of crimson silk, richly embroidered in shaded silks. The pocket-handkerchief French cambric, embroidered at the corners. Shoes, blue morocco, tied with bows high upon the instep. Stockings with embroidered clocks. Gloves, York tan.

The silver-striped French gauze is a novel and elegant article, which, fashioned by the ever varying and approved taste of Mrs. Bean, requires to be viewed, before a just idea can be received of its fascinating effect: it is allowed to be the lightest and most splendid costume ever yet presented by the amateur to the votaries of fashion.

Mrs Charlotte Bean, the wife of Thomas Bean, was a milliner and dressmaker located at 32 Albemarle Street just off Piccadilly. Her designs were frequently featured in Rudolph Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics, and she was a court dressmaker to ‘Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Kent and also the Princess Charlotte of Saxe Coburg by special appointment’.

Indeed, Mrs Bean made twenty-six dresses and pelisses for Princess Charlotte’s wedding trousseau in 1816. We list a few of them here.

A Prussian blue and white striped satin dress, with a beautiful garniture; above which is a rich broad blond lace, tastefully looped up in the form of shells.

We imagine this striped satin dress to look something like the one Charlotte is wearing in this picture. Brighton Museums
We imagine this striped satin dress to look something like the one Charlotte is wearing in this picture.
Brighton Museums

A full dress over a rich white satin, ornamented with silver, the garniture silver leaves intermixed with full puffings of tulle; this forms at the bottom a tasteful scallop, above which are large bunches of silver double lilacs, the sleeves striped with silver, and finished at the top with a narrow wreath of corresponding flowers.

A train dress of net, richly embroidered with a beautiful border of roses and buds a quarter and a half deep round the train, the embroidery coming up to meet the waist; body and sleeves richly worked to correspond; the whole dress lined with rich white satin.

A beautiful primrose silk high morning dress, trimmed and worked in a most unique style of elegance.

Could this high morning dress, which seems to have defied description, possibly be this one? FIDM Museums
Could the high morning dress, which seems to have defied description, possibly be this one, known to have been worn by Princess Charlotte?
FIDM Museums

An elegant violet and white striped satin pelisse, lined with white satin, trimmed with leaves of violet, and white blond cuffs and collar; bonnet to match, with a beautiful plume of white feather.

Very beautiful clear India muslin dress, most elegantly worked in lace work and satin stitch, forming bunches of wheat ears and corn flowers; at the bottom a waved border of the same, finished with very full rows of elegant English lace; short sleeves, composed of rows of satin, and lace body to correspond, made low to meet the waist, with a satin slip, which forms a very elegant dress.

A very rich evening primrose satin dress, with a deep flounce of blond lace, of a very beautiful tulip pattern, above which is a broad embroidery of pearls, in grapes and vine leaves; the top and sleeves ornamented with pearls to correspond.

Perhaps the rich evening primrose satin dress looked something similar to this detailed gown, embellished with pearls and finished with a deep flounce of lace?
Perhaps the rich evening primrose satin dress looked something similar to this detailed gown worn by Princess Charlotte, embellished with pearls and finished with a deep flounce of lace?

Possibly Anne, the wife of Sir William Abdy, Baronet, had been one of Mrs Bean’s best customers? Abdy was reputed to be the richest commoner in the land and his beautiful wife would have ensured that she was dressed in the latest fashions. However, if Anne perused the December 1815 issue of Ackermann’s Repository, she would have known that the gowns pictured were now beyond her means. She had eloped from her home on Hill Street, Berkeley Square just months earlier, stepping into a gig with her (somewhat impoverished) lover, Lord Charles Bentinck, and into a new life. By the end of the year she was living with him, pregnant with his child, and awaiting the outcome of the Criminal Conversation case which had been brought by her husband and which had commenced on the 1st December 1815.

Her fateful decision to elope was to have far reaching consequences, as we detail in our latest book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, affecting people as far away on the social scale as the daughter of a Romany gypsy and the British royal family themselves.

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Royal-Scandal-Marriages-Changed/dp/1473863422

Source:

Hone’s authentic account of the Royal Marriage, 1816

Header image: Mrs Bean’s trade card, British Museum

 

If you have already read An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, then A Right Royal Scandal forms a sequel to Grace’s story, continuing the life of her granddaughter through to the publication of Grace’s memoirs (set during the French Revolution), and beyond and the second family of Grace’s son-in-law, Lord Charles Bentinck. But A Right Royal Scandal can also be read as a stand-alone book. It is available now in the UK (and to pre-order in the US and elsewhere) from our publisher Pen and Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

(Readers outside the UK might find Book Depository useful, as they ship free worldwide and have competitive prices.)

Reynards last shift. British Museum

The Theft of the Great Seal, 1784

The Great Seal is attached to the official documents of state that require the authorization of the monarch to implement the advice of the government.

by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1806
Lord Chancellor, Edward Thurlow by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1806 Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

On the night of 23rd March 1784, thieves had entered Edward Thurlow, 1st Baron Thurlow’s Great Ormond Street house and stolen some money, but more importantly they stole the Great Seal, a symbol of royal authority.  A new one had to be hastily made to replace it as it was not recovered and popular opinion suggested that Fox or his supporters were behind the theft.

fitzpatrick-parade-macaroni-in-colour

A satirical rhyme, ‘The Consultation’, made fun the finances of Colonel Richard FitzPatrick and Charles James Fox, referencing the recent theft of the Great Seal from the house of the Lord Chancellor, Edward Thurlow.

Says F__t____k to Fox, ‘Oh how can we ate!

By Jasus you know we have both pawn’d our plate?

Black Reynard replies, ‘We can have one good meal,

By filching from Thurlow his boasted Great Seal

A contemporary print, depicting Fox as Falstaff holding the Prince of Wales on his shoulders with Mary Robinson (Perdita) standing alongside, is thought to show FitzPatrick leaning out of the window of Thurlow’s house handing down the Great Seal.

fitzpatrick-prince-pretty-man
The adventure of Prince pretty man, March 1784, British Museum

Whilst rumours spread, the truth of the theft may in fact have been slightly different, if the Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser (Wed 21 April 1784) was correct:

William Vandeput was on Monday committed to New Gaol, Southwark, where he is now doubled ironed, on a charge of burglary in the house of the Lord Chancellor, and stealing there-out the Great Seal. A Jew in Petticoat Lane was yesterday apprehended, on an information against him for having purchased and melted the Great Seal into an ingot; but while he was conducting to the Rotation Office in Southwark, for examination, he was released from the Peace Officer by eight ruffians. The Jew melted the seal, while the robbers remained in his house.

As to which story was true, we will never know, but certainly William Vandeput was a well known criminal and was sentenced to death eventually in October 1785 and was executed on 1st December 1785.

Just as an aside, in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot, we unmask Richard FitzPatrick as one of her lovers when he was taking a break from his long term mistress, a celebrity in her day but forgotten now, Mrs Moll Benwell.

great-seal-moll-benwell
Moll Benwell