March 1806 began well for the Duchess of Devonshire as she held a ball for the social elite. The whole suite of magnificent apartments were 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 were 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 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!!!
You may not be familiar with the name George John Scipio Africanus, neither was I until I recently saw his name on a Blue Plaque in Nottingham and wanted to find out more about his life and family.
George arrived in England from Sierra Leone, aged about three and was raised by the affluent Molineux family. Baptised in Wolverhampton, George was given to one of the family as ‘a gift’.
31 Mar 1766
George John Scipio-a negro boy of Benjamin Molineux’s
He was well liked by the family who arranged for him to be educated and then sent to complete an apprenticeship in the family town of Wolverhampton.
After completing his apprenticeship, John moved to Nottingham, a county where the Molineux family had connections. There he met a Nottingham girl, Esther Shaw, who, according to the marriage certificate, unlike George, was unable to write, simply signing her name with the usual mark X.
Despite the obvious issues of Esther being unable to write and George being non-white, at a time before slavery had been abolished, the couple settled down to produce seven children – Elizabeth, Samuel, Sarah, Hannah, Ann, Samuel and George. Tragically, only one child was to survive into adulthood – Hannah.
In spite of the tragedy in their lives, George and Esther were hard workers, Esther ran a milliners and then together they ran an employment agency, employing servants for the wealthy which they set up early 1793. George had been a servant in the Molineux household, so understood what an employer would be looking for from potential employees. The couple remained in Nottingham for the remainder of their lives, continually expanding their business.
In 1834 George died, leaving Esther to continue the family business until her death in 1853, which was quite something for a woman to do alone at that time.
Esther was clearly not someone to be trifled with as we’ll shortly discover; on 7th April 1838, she was convicted and fined two shillings and six pence, plus twelve shillings and sixpence, for assaulting George Smith, a sweep, aged 9, with a brush.
Their daughter, Hannah, it would appear married unwisely, and clearly not really with her father’s blessing. Her husband was a watch and clock maker from Boston, Lincolnshire, one Samuel Cropper. They went on to have three children, Sarah who died in 1842 and was described as ‘sickly and infirm‘. George Africanus, named in honour of Hannah’s father, who died at just one year, and Esther Africanus Cropper who was born 1840.
George, having become something of an entrepreneur and businessman was to leave a will, in which he left his wife Esther well provided for and also a bequest to his daughter Hannah – for her use only, under no circumstances was her husband to have any control of it. To say he didn’t approve of her choice would be putting it mildly. There could be absolutely no misunderstanding of his views in his will whatsoever.
A couple of years or so after George died, Esther, being a canny business woman took Hannah’s husband to court requiring back payment of maintenance for her daughter and her children. Apparently, Samuel had left the family home around 1825, when their youngest eldest child, Sarah was around three months old. Sarah required nurses to care for her, which presumably Esther funded. When Samuel eventually returned, he said he’d been working in France, Austria and Switzerland during that time. Esther decided it was payback time, and sued him for ten shilling per week for the time he had been away, which amounted to around £290 over the 10 years!
Samuel and Esther met again in the courtroom, this time due to Samuel becoming insolvent.
I would have thought it highly likely that George would have been impressed by his wife for her actions. Samuel’s behaviour clearly explains George’s will and George, it appears was ‘spot on’ with making sure his daughter benefited from his will to the exclusion of Samuel.
Whether Samuel sorted his debts remains unanswered, but for some reason Hannah and Samuel were reunited and produced their second and third children in fairly quick succession.
We now step very much out of our usual era but having disappeared down this proverbial rabbit hole, I wanted to know what became of George’s one and only granddaughter Esther Africanus Cropper, named after her grandmother, and whether any of George’s descendants are still alive today, so the hunt continued.
Esther and her husband to be, Charles Edward Turnbull, the son of a pianoforte maker from London, had their marriage banns read over the three weekends commencing 27th August 1865 at St Paul’s, St Pancras, London. The couple didn’t marry in London, but instead returned to Nottingham and married the following year, choosing however, to settle in London, where Charles was a toy merchant and ran a very successful business, founding Charterhouse Toys in 1872 (probably best known for their doll houses and miniature furnishings and toys).
On his death in 1929, he left Esther extremely well provided for with around £32,000 (just over £2 million in today’s money). The couple had two boys, who worked in the family firm, but who never married, and a daughter, Margaret Hannah (George’s great granddaughter).
Margaret married in 1899, in Surbiton, Surrey and the couple had one son, Charles John Stuart Allen, who emigrated to Canada in the 1920’s, where he married Mary Georgina Stewart Williams in 1925. They had at least two children who, it seems feasible are either still alive today or who may have living descendants.
Charles died in 1960 in New York. It would be fascinating to know if this is the case and whether they know how important their ancestor George John Scipio Africanus was in both Nottingham and British history.
There is a black and white image of a portrait of George in existence, but it would be lovely to know where the original is, but I’ve had no luck as yet, tracking it down.
Richard ‘Beau’ Nash, dandy, Bath’s Master of Ceremonies and unofficial ‘king’ of the city was born in 1674. He set the rules by which Bath society regulated their days, and established it as a resort of fashion. You had to pass Beau Nash’s scrutiny just to be granted admission to the balls and card parties and even the highest in the land had to do as he said.
When Kitty, Duchess of Queensberry, one of the era’s fashion icons, appeared at the Assembly Rooms with a delicate white apron over her skirt (which was against the rules), Beau Nash snatched it away and threw it onto the back benches, where the ladies attendants sat, acidly remarking that ‘none but Abigails appeared in white aprons!’ The duchess good-humouredly played the game and laughing, begged pardon of the Master of Ceremonies.
Even after his death in 1761, Beau Nash’s rules continued to be the basis for the Rules of Bath. The list below is from 1771, as published by Nash’s successor, William Wade and printed in The new Bath guide; or, useful pocket companion (1771).
Bath, October 1, 1771. This day the following new rules were published by the Master of the Ceremonies, and hung up in the Assembly-Rooms.
It being absolutely necessary, that a propriety of dress should be observed at so polite an assembly as that of Bath, it is humbly requested of the company to comply with the following regulations:
That ladies who dance minuets be dressed in a suit of clothes, or a full-trimmed sack, with lappets and dressed hoops, such as are usually worn at St James’s.
It is requested of those ladies who do not dance minuets, not to take up the front seats at the balls.
That no lady dance country-dances in a hoop of any kind and those who chuse to pull their hoops off, will be assisted by proper servants in an apartment for that purpose.
That no lady of precedence has a right to take place in country-dances after they have begun.
The places at the top of the room are reserved for ladies of precedence of the tank of a Peeress of Great Britain and Ireland, it being found very inconvenient to have seats called for and placed before the company, after the ball has begun.
That gentlemen who dance minuets, do wear a full-trimmed suit of clothes, or French frock, hair or wig dressed with a bag.
Officers in the navy or army in their uniforms are desired to wear their hair or wig en queue.
Ladies are not to appear with hats, nor gentlemen with boots, in an evening, after the balls are begun for the season; nor the gentlemen with spurs in the Pump Room in a morning.
The subscription balls will begin as soon as possible after six o’clock, and finish precisely at eleven, even in the middle of a dance.
That no hazard or unlawful games will be allowed in these rooms on any account whatever, and no cards on Sundays.
That in case any subscriber to the balls should leave Bath before the season is over, such subscriber may, by leaving an order under their hand, transfer his or her tickets for the remaining part of the season.
The major part of the company having expressed their desire that the tea, on public ball-nights, may be paid for by every person that comes into the rooms; the managing committee at the New Rooms, and Mr Gyde at his room, are come to a resolution, that each gentleman or lady on a ball-night are to pay six-pence on their admission at the outer door, which will entitle them to tea.
Amelia Maria Frances Elwes, known as Emily, was the only daughter – and heiress – of George Elwes of Marcham Park in Oxfordshire and Portman Square in London. The newspapers were probably over-egging the pudding a bit when they reported that she stood to inherit more than one million pounds, but she clearly stood in line to become an extremely wealthy woman. Of course, with those kind of prospects, Emily wasn’t short of suitors, but her heart was already given, to a man named Thomas Duffield.
Two years earlier, George Elwes had allowed Thomas to ‘pay his addresses’ to his daughter, but ‘some changes in the opinions of the governing part of the family had arisen, and other suitors were strongly recommended to the young lady’. Emily had other ideas, though.
George Elwes owed his immense fortune to the miserliness of his own father, John Elwes.
Known as both an eccentric and a miser, John Elwes was born John Meggot, the son of a successful Southwark brewer. Given a classical education at Westminster School, John then embarked on the Grand Tour, becoming known as one of the best horsemen in Europe and introduced to Voltaire. He not only inherited his father’s substantial fortune, but also that of his uncle, Sir Henry Elwes, 2nd Baronet (John took his uncle’s surname too). Sir Henry was also a miser, and probably it was his influence which steered John on the path which would come to define his life: penny pinching to the extreme. It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to John Elwes’ life. He was said to wear rags and wear a wig that a beggar had thrown away, let his fine Georgian mansion, Marcham Park become so dilapidated that water poured through the ceilings in heavy rain and famously, when travelling, always carried with him, in his pocket, a hardboiled egg to eat. Apart from that, he would rather starve than buy food during his journey. It’s thought that John Elwes was Charles Dickens’ inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge. Although he never married, John had two illegitimate sons who inherited some of his fortune, if not his miserly inclinations. One of those two sons was George Elwes, Emily’s father, who gained Marcham Park.
And what of Emily’s suitor? Thomas Duffield was born in 1782, the son of Michael Duffield of Syston near Grantham in Lincolnshire. He had gained his B.A. at Christ Church, Oxford in 1804 and then studied for his M.A. at Merton College. Following that, from 1807 (until 1811) Thomas was a fellow at Merton. Perhaps the Elwes family thought that Thomas’ income was insufficient, and that he was planning to live off Emily’s fortune?
With Thomas barred from the Elwes house, a plan was hatched with his friends and, it seems, with the lovestruck Emily’s knowledge and consent. Emily’s mother had a female friend staying with her, and one of Thomas’ co-conspirators contrived to be a guest in the Elwes family home in the first weeks of 1810 where he passed in the guise of this unnamed lady’s lover and future husband. One morning – just a few days before Valentine’s Day – he persuaded Mrs Elwes and her friend to go shopping together and once they had departed a chaise and four drew up to the house. George Elwes inconveniently met his daughter and his (un)gentlemanly house guest in the hallway as they walked to the front door; in answer to her father’s questioning, Emily said she was just ‘going to her mamma, who was waiting for her’. It appeared all too innocent; Emily, wearing neither a hat nor bonnet, was clearly not dressed for an outing but just popping out to her mother’s carriage on a quick errand before hurrying back inside.
The lack of headwear notwithstanding, Emily was handed in to the waiting chaise, where Thomas Duffield sat ready to spirit her away. His job completed, Thomas’s friend nonchalantly walked back in to the hallway. When George asked about his daughter’s whereabouts he was told that she had been delivered ‘to the man destined to make her happy; and that she was off to Gretna Green’.
Servants were sent after Mrs Elwes and she returned in a panic. Emily’s parents raced northwards, but having reached St Alban’s with no sight or sound of their daughter they gave up their search and returned home. While Thomas and Emily headed for the Scottish border, the newspapers picked up the story.
An elopement has taken place, which will make a very considerable noise.
The couple got safely to Gretna Green where they were married by the hale and hearty ‘old Parson Joseph’ (aka Joseph Paisley) who ‘drinks nothing but brandy, and has neither been sick nor sober these forty years’. Reputedly, Thomas Duffield paid Parson Joseph 50l. sterling to perform the ceremony.
With the deed done, George Elwes decided to make the best of things. He insisted that his daughter and new son-in-law go through a second marriage ceremony, just to be sure things were legal and above board, and this took place at Marylebone church a month later. In time, he was completely reconciled with his daughter, and grew to be fond of Thomas.
The story didn’t end there, however. Several years before Emily’s elopement and subsequent marriage, George Elwes had made a settlement (in October 1802).
George Elwes conveyed real estates upon trust for the benefit of his daughter; but he declared that, if she married under age, and without his consent, the trustees should hold the estates in trust for him and his heirs.
Emily had been a minor when she married (she was born c.1792 and so was 10 years younger than Thomas), and she certainly did so without her father’s consent. But, Thomas had been accepted as part of the family since then, and had been given possession of the Elwes’ mansion house. Upon George Elwes’ death, he left a tangled legal muddle behind him, as he never revoked the earlier settlement despite the fact that he had verbally made it clear that he wanted Emily and Thomas Duffield to inherit his estates. Emily’s mother, who had remarried to a gentleman named William Hicks, contested her first husband’s will in a protracted and complicated legal case, to the potential detriment of her son-in-law and grandchildren, but the Duffields managed to retain their rights to the Marcham Park estate and Emily and her mother clearly put any disagreements behind them. (Amelia’s will, written in 1824 during Emily’s lifetime, left her daughter and her Duffield grandchildren many personal bequests.)
After bearing nine children (three sons and six daughters) Emily Duffield died at the age of 43, and was buried 18 August 1835 at All Saints in Marcham. Thomas, who was an MP for Abingdon between 1832 and 1844, married for a second time, to Augusta Rushbrooke by whom he had four further children. He died in 1854 by which time he was living at The Priory in Wallingford while his son by Emily, Charles Philip Duffield, inhabited Marcham Park.
N.B.: County boundaries have changed over the years; Marcham Park in now in Oxfordshire, but was then in Berkshire.
Bury and Norwich Post, 14 February 1810
Leeds Mercury, 17 February 1810
New Reports of Cases Heard in the House of Lords: On Appeals and Writs of Error; and decided during the session 1827-8 by Richard Bligh, volume 1, 1829
Will of Thomas Duffield of The Priory, Wallingford, Berkshire: PROB 11/2189/352
Will of Amelia Maria Hicks of Marylebone, Middlesex: PROB 11/2102/386
We looked at Sir Wolstan Dixie, 4th Baronet of Market Bosworth in an earlier blog, and we promised we’d return to him in due course, to take a closer look at the man and his family.
Sir Wolstan was a pugnacious and pig-headed bully, and legend suggests he committed an awful crime.
We mentioned in our previous blog that Samuel Johnson lived with the family at Bosworth Hall for a time, while he was employed by Dixie as an usher at the local grammar school, ‘but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation for which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horror’. At times, it’s difficult to know what is true and what is a tall tale when it comes to Sir Wolstan: he’s reputed to have made his butler the headmaster of the grammar school, purely because he could do so and no-one could nay say him. But, we reckon we can debunk that last one as a myth; we’ll say why at the end of this blog.
Sir Wolstan Dixie also fell out with his neighbours, particularly with Wrightson Mundy of Osbaston Hall and Markeaton. Dixie attacked one of Mundy’s waggoners when he caught the man driving across his park so Mundy disguised himself as a waggoner and repeated the offence. When Dixie tried to pull the waggoner down he got the surprise of his life when the man revealed himself to by Mundy, who then proceeded to deliver one almighty beating to the bemused Sir Wolstan Dixie. Possibly Mundy was the same squire with whom Sir Wolstan came to blows after the latter had closed off a footpath which gave access across some of his land. Shortly afterwards, Sir Wolstan appeared at court and was presented to George II and the king, when he heard that Sir Wolstan’s estate was Bosworth Park, recalled the ancient battle fought in 1485 and asked, “Bosworth! Big battle at Bosworth, wasn’t it?” With the memory of his recent fight fresh in his mind, Sir Wolstan stupefied the king when he replied, “Yes, Sire. But, I thrashed him!”
In May 1735, at All Hallows by London Wall, he married Anna Frere, a young, beautiful and – most importantly for Sir Wolstan – an extremely wealthy heiress. Anna had been born on the island of Barbados in 1711, the daughter of John Frere who, just before his death in 1721, was the acting governor of Barbados. After his death, his widow, Elizabeth, and her young family (there were four daughters, of whom Anna was the eldest, and two sons) returned to London and took a house on Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury. Elizabeth Frere died in March 1735 and just two months later, Sir Wolstan snared his young bride… and her fortune which amounted to over 20,000l.
In our earlier blog we recounted how Sir Wolstan kept Anna a virtual prisoner at his Leicestershire estate, Bosworth Hall at Market Bosworth, while she was pregnant later that year, having given his coachmen instructions that Lady Dixie was not to be driven further than three or four miles distant from her home. He also had Anna’s old family servant arrested and thrown into Newgate on a trumped up charge of theft when she displeased him.
The couple’s first child, born in 1736, was a daughter who was named Rebecca. There followed a son, Wolstan in 1737 and another daughter, Anna born in July 1739. Lady Dixie died giving birth to Anna; she was buried at Market Bosworth on 5 July 1739.
After just over a year’s mourning, Sir Wolstan married again. His second bride was Theodosia, daughter of Henry Wright of Mobberly Cheshire, and the wedding took place on 26 December 1740, at the bride’s parish church. With Theodosia, Sir Wolstan had six more children, one son, Willoughby, born 1742 and then five daughters, Purefoy (born 1743), Theodosia (born 1744), Eleanor Frances (born 1746), Rosamond (born 1747) and Juliana (born 1749).
Theodosia died in 1751. The painting below, of Sir Wolstan Dixie and his family, is dated four years after her death, and shows Sir Wolstan’s nine children. From left to right, they are probably Juliana, Eleanor Frances, Willoughby, Rebecca, Purefoy, Theodosia, Anna, Wolstan and Rosamond, with Sir Wolstan Dixie seated far right.
At Scarborough, in September 1758, Sir Wolstan married for a third and final time, to another wealthy heiress, Margaret daughter of William Cross, a ‘young lady with a handsome fortune’. Two of his children had, however, died since that family portrait had been painted. Purefoy Dixie was buried on 22 July 1757 at Market Bosworth and her sister Theodosia is also said to have died the same year.
Anna Dixie, the younger of the two daughters from Sir Wolstan’s first marriage to Anna Frere also died, and was buried 13 February 1758, aged around 19-years. It is Anna’s death which has given rise to a terrible legend. We can find no corroboration of it in contemporary sources, so give it here merely as hearsay.
It came to Sir Wolstan’s attention that Anna was surreptitiously meeting a young man in Bosworth Park (some sources say he was the gardener). In a cruel plan, Dixie set man-traps, intending to catch his daughter’s beau in one, but it was Anna herself who stepped into the device. Her screams led to her rescue from the jaws of the trap and she was carried back to the hall, bleeding heavily. There she died, and it’s said that her ghost haunts the hall to this day.
We have absolutely no idea how much of that tale is true, if any at all. What we can say, however, is that the portrait below, merely labelled as Miss Dixie and by Henry Pickering, dated to c.1750-1755, must be either Rebecca or Anna Dixie. (We have seen it erroneously called a portrait of Eleanor Frances Dixie, but this is impossible as she is too young to be the lady in this portrait.)
Rebecca Dixie died, unmarried, in 1762 and was buried 19 April at Market Bosworth while Juliana, the youngest of the Dixie children died in the December of the same year. Only the two sons, Wolstan and Willoughby, and two of the girls, Eleanor Frances and Rosamond survived their father, who died in 1767.
Two years later, Sir Wolstan’s eldest son, also Wolstan and, since his father’s death, the 5th Baronet, was declared a lunatic. Willoughby Dixie, the second son, took over the management of the estate, and of the grammar school. It was Willoughby who appointed Joseph Moxon, a waiter at a local pub, to the position of headmaster. This is clearly the origin of the story that Willoughby’s father appointed his butler to the job. Unless, of course, it was a case of like father, like son?
N.B.: The chapel of the Fleet Prison in London was notorious for clandestine marriages. On 19 May 1734, one Wolstan Dixie married a woman named Mary Guest. It’s an unusual name; there certainly weren’t many Wolstan Dixies around of marriageable age in 1734. We’re just throwing it in there, as a possible first marriage to Sir Wolstan… and if it was him, then either Mary Guest died within a year of her marriage or Sir Wolstan added the charge of bigamy to his many offences.
Relevant parish registers
The Baronetage of England, Thomas Wotton, Richard A Johnson and Edward Kimber, 1771
Cases in Chancery: The Attorney-General v. Dixie. Bosworth School, ex parte. 1807
On August 6th, 1724 at St Ann’s Soho, Captain Francis Blake Delaval of Seaton Delaval Hall, near Newcastle Upon Tyne, married Rhoda Apreece, the heiress of Doddington Hall, which is somewhere we have previously written about.
The couple had eleven children and today we’re going to take a look at their eldest, the prankster, money loving son, named Francis Blake after his father. Francis was born in 1727 and as you would expect, was educated, as most young men of his social standing, at Oxford.
In 1749, aged just 21, he married a woman over twice his age, Isabella née Tufton, an exceptionally wealthy heiress and daughter of Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet and Catherine Cavendish. Isabella was the widow of Nassau Powlett, a younger son of the 2nd Duke of Bolton (who had died in 1741).
We thought we would share with you the story of their meeting as it was by no means coincidental, but was totally conceived by Francis. He wanted a wife with money and concocted a cunning plan to hook this extremely wealthy widow. Looks he said weren’t important, which was perhaps just as well, as Isabella was described as extremely plain. Money was his motivator and she had plenty of it.
It was his closest friend and a man of great concern to the family, the actor, Samuel Foote that helped him to hatch this plan. It was common knowledge that Isabella wanted to marry again, and it was also known that she was fascinated by gipsies and consulted with the famous Norwood gipsy. So, armed with this information, Francis surreptitiously arranged for her to see a gipsy who would tell her that she would shortly meet the man of her dreams. She was told to walk in the park the following Thursday where she would meet a tall, fair gentleman, remarkably handsome, dressed in blue and silver and that it was irrevocably fixed by fate that this man would become her husband.
Of course, when the day arrived, Isabella took a walk in the park and surprise, surprise, she met Francis exactly as the gipsy had foretold.
Three days later on March 8th, 1749, the couple were married at St Georges Hanover Square in a clandestine marriage and with that he immediately acquired her large fortune reputed to have been between £90,000 and £150,000 (around 17.5 million in today’s money). It is said that for helping to arrange this, Francis settled an annuity upon Foote which relieved his debts.
In 1751, Francis was elected as M.P. for Hindon in Wiltshire, then in 1754 became M.P for Andover, Hampshire – the latter being assured by Francis courtesy of the firing of a canon which dispensed 500 guineas worth of money to ‘help’ voters make the correct choice of candidate, he even hired the services of a celebrated fire eater to win over one obstinate voter.
At the age of just 25, Francis succeeded to his father’s estates. He inherited Seaton Delaval Hall, with his brother John inheriting Doddington upon the death of their mother, but long after his death young Francis was remembered at Doddington Hall for his frequent visits to the local pubs of Harby in Lincolnshire and the drinking and dancing parties that ensued, but mostly he has been remembered for his pranks, both at Seaton and Doddington.
Whilst at Seaton Delaval he became noted not only for the variety of entertainments given there, but for the practical jokes which he played on guests. Not just schoolboy pranks such as making apple-pie beds and the placing of ducks and chickens in peoples beds but also a system of pulleys which he had constructed so that when visitors retired to their bed they were suddenly let down through a trap door into a cold bath.
On one occasion a gentleman apparently was kept in bed for three whole days as Francis somehow managed to convince him it wasn’t morning yet. On another occasion he created a ‘set’ by using curtains which partitioned the rooms and whilst the people in each room were getting undressed he would suddenly let the dividing curtain fall, exposing them to each other. This was a trick which apparently took place in the Long Gallery at Doddington Hall.
Yet another prank was played upon a young man; Francis managed to persuade the rest of the gathering to go along with. He told everyone that someone known to them had just died. After supper the supposed dead man appeared in the room, dressed in a shroud, his face powdered. A young man of the party saw him, but everyone else declared that they had seen nothing. It gave the young man such a fright that he fell down in a fit and didn’t recover for quite a while. After this, apparently no more such tricks were played.
Returning to his marriage, it was to be short lived as the couple didn’t get on at all well, in fact during one particularly ferocious argument Francis actually told Isabella about his plot to marry her.
Eventually, having had enough of his affair with an actress, Miss Elizabeth Roach or La Roche (as she was also known) who, according to rates returns, lived in Poland Street, Westminster, Isabella filed for a divorce in 1755, but in order for it to happen she had to admit to being unfaithful to Francis.
The couple had no children, but Isabella had a daughter from her marriage to Nassau and it was her daughter who inherited her estate when she died in 1763.
Despite the fortune Francis had inherited from his father and the monies from his marriage, he was a spendthrift and all money went through his hands like water, so much so that in 1755 an Act of Parliament was obtained to either sell Seaton or to mortgage it to pay off his debts.
Despite his behaviour, somehow in 1761 Francis was installed a Knight Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
Francis also retained a property in London, No 11 Downing Street, which is slightly ironic given his obvious inability to manage money that it should now be used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Francis died suddenly in 1771. His body was taken for burial at Seaton with a grand funeral where it was laid in state for all to see. Apparently, so keen were people to have a glimpse of the proceedings, that in the rush, one girl had her leg broken, a gentleman lost his watch and many people had their pockets picked.
The newspapers of the day said that Francis died leaving some £36,000 of which £10,000 was to be paid to his two illegitimate children by Miss La Roche however, his actual will read very differently and shows the benefit of hindsight, so we thought we’d share it with you in full
Foote was said to be distraught at his friends death and retired to his room for three days. Finally, Foote was advised that it would be a few days before the funeral as doctors were to dissect Francis’s head to which Foote replied:
and what in the world will they get there? I am sure I have known poor Frank these five and twenty years, and I never could find anything in it.
The Dublin Penny Journal, Volumes 3-4
Sympson, Edward. Memorials of Old Lincolnshire
Cole R.E.G. History of the manor and township of Doddington : otherwise Doddington-Pigot, in the county of Lincoln, and its successive owners, with pedigrees
Today, we’re taking you back in time to a public breakfast given by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire at the end of June 1802, at her villa, Chiswick House. Public it might have been, but entry was only for those ‘of note’ in the fashionable world. You’ll be mingling with around 700 members of London’s high society so, in order to look the part you’ll need to dress in the latest fashions. Gentlemen should wear boots for practicality as the event is mainly outdoors. For ladies, we’d recommend a simple white muslin dress with an understated headdress (maybe one with just a few feathers as decoration). You’ll have to manage in a pair of dainty slippers, but we’re sure the suited and booted gentlemen will be on hand to offer assistance.
The breakfast rounded off the ‘fashionable arrangements’ for that particular week, which had started with a grand dinner given by the Prince of Wales on Monday 21st June and continued with a variety of musical evenings, routs and balls on every evening. By the time the weekend dawned, on Saturday 26th June, the haute ton were faced with the choice of attending two public breakfasts, one given by Mr Angerstein at his mansion, the Woodlands at Blackheath, or the Duchess of Devonshire’s gathering. No contest, we’re going to the latter!
Her Grace’s villa has long been deservedly the theme of public panegyric; but if it were always inhabited by as many beautiful women as appeared there on Saturday last, it would be a perfect Elysium.
Breakfast it might have been, but this was polite society and they kept fashionably late hours. The guests did not start arriving until the early afternoon, and they were the crème de la crème of society, headed by no less a person than the duchess’s friend, George, Prince of Wales who arrived dressed in green.
We’ll pick you a handful of others from the list of noted attendees. The Duke of Orléans was present (Philippe Égalité’s son) and the Countess Conyngham who would become the Prince of Wales’ mistress some years hence. From a banking family, the countess was a beauty but snootily regarded as somewhat vulgar, due to her ancestry. The Prince’s current mistress, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey is not mentioned as being in attendance… but a Mrs Fitzherbert is, and she is more than likely Maria Fitzherbert, the prince’s on-again, off-again one true love.
Some of the people present were those we know well; they are present within the pages of the books we have written. The Earl and Countess (later Marquess and Marchioness) of Cholmondeley were there; the earl was, for several years, the lover of our ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and he brought up her daughter, Georgiana Seymour, even though the girl’s father was not the earl but the Prince of Wales. Georgiana would have been almost 20 years of age and although she is not specifically mentioned as attending, it’s totally possible that she was there. If so, then she would have seen the man who, six years later, she would marry: Lord Charles Bentinck, a younger son of the 3rd Duke of Portland.
It was a perfect summer’s day and the guests strolled on the lawns and in the grounds. The Serpentine River provided rowing for any gentlemen who wanted a bit of exercise (aren’t you glad you wore your boots now?), and swings and a see-saw had been set up to provide a bit of fun (the latter reportedly ‘afforded much diversion’ and on the former, the ‘ladies assisted one another in swinging’).
Amongst this elevated and merry company strolled the Duchess of Devonshire, arm-in-arm with her eldest daughter, fondly known as Little G, Georgiana, Viscountess Morpeth. Just 20 years of age, Lady Morpeth had married a year earlier, to the 5th Earl of Carlisle’s eldest son. Little G had recently become a mother; her son, the future 7th Earl of Carlisle, had been born on the 18th April 1802, so a little over two months before this breakfast. In a sea of white dresses, the Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter managed to be the centre of attention. They both ‘looked remarkably well [and] wore a new sort of bonnet, with a large lace veil over it, serving as both cloak and bonnet. This was one of the handsomest promenade dresses we saw’.
The day was hot, so the veil which doubled as a cloak must have provided a little protection from the sun while not being too heavy. We wonder if it resembled the fashion plate below, which dates to the same period?
Around 4 o’clock, the company sat down to their breakfast. The tables, set with bouquets of fresh flowers and piled with refreshments, were scattered over the estate.
In the house covers were laid for 200, viz. in the two salons, the dining and green-rooms, and the dressing-room. In the Temple, &c. 100 were accommodated, and in the two Grand Marquees, and the other tents, about 200 more. Tables were likewise placed under the trees at the entrance of the lawn; the effect was cool and refreshing, the situation being impervious to the rays of the sun… the desert of fruit was very fine, cherries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, pines, in abundance.
By 7 o’clock the guests started to drift away and an hour later most had departed, leaving the clearing up operation by the duchess’ servants to begin.
It had been a great success, but we have to note that two very important names did not appear on the list of guests. Neither the Duke of Devonshire nor his mistress Lady Bess Foster who lived with the couple in a form of ménage à trois, appear to have been present.
NB: The images used of Chiswick House are of an earlier date when the house was owned by the Duke of Devonshire’s ancestor, the Earl of Burlington, but give a good idea of how the house and grounds would have looked.
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Sir Wolstan Dixie (1700-1767), 4th Baronet of Bosworth Hall at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire was many things, and chief among them was the fact that he was a bully. For a few short months, Samuel Johnson lived with the family at Bosworth Hall while he was employed by Dixie as an usher at the local grammar school, ‘but was treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness; and, after suffering for a few months such complicated misery, he relinquished a situation for which all his life afterwards he recollected with the strongest aversion, and even a degree of horror’.
On 1 May 1735, at All Hallows by London Wall, Dixie married 24-year-old Anna Frere, the wealthy eldest daughter of John Frere of Barbados (Anna had been born on the island in 1711 and was also one of the heiresses of her grandfather, Tobias Frere). Anna’s mother had died just weeks before. It’s tempting to speculate that Dixie saw his chance and pursued solely Anna for her money (she had ‘upwards of 20,000l.), and probably that’s pretty close to the mark. Along with his bride, Sir Wolstan also took on the employment of Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Barker, who had worked as housekeeper and head servant for Anna’s mother, Elizabeth, for twelve years until Madam Frere’s death in March 1735, and then for Anna until her marriage. The Frere’s London house was in Bloomsbury, on Great Russell Street; John Frere had been acting Governor of Barbados just before his death on the island in 1721, after which his widow and children had returned to England. Betty Barker had worked for the family since that time.
Betty was utterly trustworthy. When, straight after the wedding, she was ordered to quickly pack up all the household belongings, close up the London house and head to the Dixie’s Leicestershire mansion, Bosworth Hall, she followed the instructions implicitly. There just wasn’t enough time, however, to pack properly and Betty ended up opening drawers and throwing armfuls of the contents into packing trunks which she left with trusted friends. She was honest about their contents, saying to her friends as she deposited the trunks with them that she knew some of the Freres’ belongings had got mixed up with her own, and that she would sort them out and return everything to its rightful owner when she was next in London. It was to prove a disastrous mistake, one compounded by the fact that Betty had been gifted so many of the Freres’ cast-offs. (The Frere family quite obviously viewed Betty with great affection; she had cared for them during all their time in London and they held her in high regard.) Betty had also pretty much worked for nothing except the gifts that the family had bestowed on her; by the end of 1735, Betty was owed five years wages. It’s clear that she viewed the cast-offs she’d received from the family as a form of recompense for her labour.
Reading between the lines of what happened next, it looks like Sir Wolstan had been snooping on his wife’s letters in the interim. He had intercepted one from Betty to Anna, Lady Dixie, in which Betty ‘mentioned the names of Capt ___ and a Baronet; and told [Anna] it was unfortunate she married so soon, for she might have had such, or such a Gentleman’. Betty, it seems, already had the measure of Sir Wolstan. He saw his chance in the Frere and Dixie belongings found in poor Betty’s possession, dismissed her and, after Betty had returned to London, had her charged with theft. Declaring he would have Betty hanged before Christmas, if it cost him a thousand pounds, he saw his wife’s servant incarcerated in Newgate prison.
It must have been an horrendous ordeal for Betty who caught gaol fever and nearly died before she even got to court to be tried for theft, on 10 December 1735.
Prisoner: I lived twelve Years with my Old Lady Madam Freer. I kept all the Keys, and was entrusted with every thing that was of Value in the House. After my Old Lady dyed, my Young Lady Married to Sir Wolstan Dixie. In a little time we left off House-keeping in Town, and the Goods were all pack’d up in great haste, to go to Sir Wolstan’s Country-Seat in Leicester shire. And its very likely that I might, when we were in such a hurry and Confusion, put some of my old Lady’s things among my own. The Night before we went away, I would have settled with Madam Freer (my old Lady’s Sister and Executrix) but she said she had not leisure then, and she would settle with me when the Family came to Town again – Sir Wolstan turn’d me away suddenly, and I return’d to London in August last, but Mrs. Freer has never yet called in to settle the Account, and the Five Year Wages and other Money is yet due to mes.
Mrs. Freer: Tis true the Account is not-yet settled and I believe there is five Years Wages due to her
Witness after witness took the stand to testify to Betty’s honesty, and the fact that the numerous items she was supposed to have stolen had been either freely gifted to her, or had been among the ones thrown into the packing cases to be sorted out at a later date.
Mrs. Bainton: I knew her twelve Years when she lived with Old Madam Freer, and, she always behaved in the best Manner and so much to her Mistress’s satisfaction that she left her a Legacy of Ten Pound. Madam Freer dyed the 13th of March and on the first of May her Daughter was married to Sir Wolstan Dixy and they went directly to Lewisham. Sir Wolstan and his Lady came to Town again on Friday the rest of the Familiy came on Saturday. And on Sunday the Goods were pack’d up in a great hurry and Confusion, in order to set out the next Morning for Bosworth in Leicester-shire. The Room was strewed all over with Goods, and the Prisoner was putting them up in Trunks and Boxes, she said she scarce knew where to put things, and believed that by mistake she had put up some of her Lady’s Goods with her own.
Mrs. Collins: I have known her eleven or twelve Years, she was House-keeper and Head-servant , and had the best of Characters from the Family.
When I heard she was in Newgate, I was amazed, and should as soon have thought of hearing the King was there – I live at the Colour Shop. in King’s Gate Street.
Cornelius Maddox, Porter: I assisted her in cording up the Boxes, and Trunks. I said, Here is a great many Things, what must I do with them. Aye, says she, Here is a great many things of my Ladies, as well as mine, I think I will send them to Lewisham. But Mrs. Bingham, and Mrs. Smith, told her she might leave them at their Houses, and accordingly, the Boxes were carried to their Houses publickly.
Mrs. Wright: The Day Sir Wolstan went out of Town, the Prisoner said to Mrs. Freer, Mam, there is a great many things put up, but if in this hurry there should be any thing of my Lady’s intermixt with mine, here are my Boxes, we shall not stay for ever in the Country, and when we return we will put all to rights.
Also among the witnesses were Elizabeth and Rebecca Frere, Lady Dixie’s sister and aunt respectively. Mrs Smith, the Freres’ dressmaker, was also called and asked about a scarlet silk night gown, which was held up in the court.
Mrs. Smith. I believe I made this for my Lady; I have made her three, four, or five such in a Winter.
Prisoner. Would not you have bought that Gown of me when I was going into Mourning for my old Lady?
Smith. She offered to sell me a scarlet Gown before they went into mourning, which was about eight Months ago; and she said, her Lady gave it her – This may be the same for ought I know.
Next, a yellow silk gown and petticoat was held up for the jury to see.
Smith: I made such a Coat and Gown for my Lady.
Question: How many new Gowns might you make the Lady in a Year?
Smith: A great many – I believe a Dozen in a Year.
Question: And what could she do with so many, if she did not give some of them to her Maids?
Smith: The Lady used to give the Prisoner a great many Clothes, and she never denied or concealed them, but wore them in publick – She told me when her Lady married, she had given her all her Clothes.
Question: Is it not usual for single Ladies of great Fortunes to give away their Maiden Clothes when they marry?
Smith: Yes, it is usual – And all these Clothes in Court were made before my Lady married, for when she married she was in Mourning.
Finally, the bombastic Sir Wolstan Dixie took to the stand. He stuck to his story that the goods had been stolen, and also that his wife had become ‘sick of the Prisoner’. Lady Dixie had been called to appear at the trial, but wasn’t present.
Sir Wolstan: She is at my Country Seat in Leicestershire – She is with Child, and in her Condition, and the badness of the Roads, it might endanger her Life to come up.
Council: Have you not said that you had prevented her coming to Town?
Sir Wolstan: No.
Council: Have you not commanded that your Coach should not go above four Miles from home?
Sir Wolstan: I am not to answer all Questions.
Unfortunately for Sir Wolstan, all his endeavours to lock his wife away at Bosworth Hall proved fruitless, as two men took the stand who had talked with Lady Dixie in the meantime.
Thomas Weaver: This Subpoena I served Lady Dixy at Market Bosworth, on Day last. I told her I came from Mr. Nelson, who desired she would come to Town to clear her Servant. She said, she was nevermore surprized; that she believed the Maid was very innocent; and that she would come with all her heart, but that Sir Wolstan had sent her down a Letter, and threatened it should cost her her Life if she came – she said she had been served with one Subpoena before by Mr. Street – I set out on Saturday Night last at half an Hour past eight. I took post at Littleworth, and rid a-cross the Country with the Post-boy.
Robert Nelson: The Prisoner sent for me to Newgate, and I knowing how she had been trusted, and what Character she bore, I took Horse this [Satur] day was a Fort-night, and arrived at Bosworth on Sunday. I told Lady Dixy, that Sir Wolstan had sent her Maid to Newgate. She said I am surprised that Sir Wolstan should offer such a thing, I believe she is as innocent as the Child unborn. He must know that she had a great many things of mine which I gave her. I told her among other Things, that she was charged with stealing a Locket and some China. She answered I gave her the China, and as for the Locket it was but a paultry Thing, that Sir Wolstan gave me, and I bid her lay it by among her other odd Things till I came to Town, and then I would settle with her, for I owe her a hundred Pound, I told her, when I came to London I would send her a Subpoena. She cryed, and said she would come with all her Heart, and would pack up her Things to be ready against next Friday
We said at the beginning that Sir Wolstan was a bully; he had told his wife that if she went to London for the trial he would ‘throw her off, and she shall never live with me again’. Lady Dixie was, effectively, a prisoner in her own home.
It took the jury no time at all to find Betty Barker not guilty on all the charges.
…after a long trial, she was acquitted, with the greatest honour that ever woman was, the jury not going out of Court about the verdict; after he acquittal, her Counsel mov’d for a Copy of her Indictment; which was directly order’d her by the Court, without any Debate.
There was one more prisoner at the Old Bailey that day, and Betty Barker acted as a witness for him. Richard Paine had been Sir Wolstan’s butler, and he too had been committed to Newgate on a charge of stealing two shirts and a bob-wig belonging to Dixie.
Prisoner: I lived with Sir Wolstan from May the first, to June the twenty second. And when I went into his service, I agreed to have his old Cloaths. One day as I was puting on his Shirt, he asked me why I gave him a torn Shirt, Sir, says I, they are all so bad the Maids can’t mend them. Well, says he, I have got some new Cloth, and I’ll have Caps made of the best of these, and do you see that the Maids do not make Aprons of the rest. I told him I would take care of that for my own sake; but Sir, says I. you have got several old mouldy Wigs, what shall I do with them? He bid me take ’em, and do what I would with them.
Sir Wolstan: I never said so.
Elizabeth Barker, (the last Person that was try’d.): He was my Fellow-servant, at Sr. Wolstan’s, where he behaved in a very civil honest manner – Two Weeks before he was discharged, I heard him say publickly, that Sir Wolstan had given him two old Shirts, and an old Wig.
Richard Paine was also acquitted. For the gutsy Betty though, the story didn’t end quite there. She brought a civil action against Sir Wolstan Dixie for false imprisonment and for a malicious prosecution, seeking damages of 2,000l. and, while she won, she was only awarded damages of five shillings. Sir Wolstan was better prepared for this fight; he turned up with his wife (and no doubt she had little option but to reinforce her husband’s words) and managed to persuade the jury that Betty Barker didn’t quite merit the good character she’d been given at her trial. (It’s worth remembering here that not one person other than Sir Wolstan said anything to Betty’s detriment during her trial at the Old Bailey, and their were numerous witnesses.) Betty was outraged and did try to take things further and bring about another action, but Sir Wolstan had taken enough and pulled his weight to halt the proceedings.
Thereafter, Betty Barker fades from sight; we know she was living on Great Winchester Street in the City of London during 1736. Unfortunately, there were many women with the same name in London and it’s nigh on impossible to track her further.
Watch out for a further blog when we’ll delve a little further into the life, and family, of Sir Wolstan Dixie.
Old Bailey Online
National Archives, C 11/321/32
Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate, 1975
London Evening Post, 29 April-1 May 1735
Daily Journal, 11 June 1736
Old Whig, or The Consistent Protestant, 8 July 1736
In our latest book, which is based on our blog and titled All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, one of the 25 true tales within tells of the life of the red-headed actress, Elizabeth Hartley. Elizabeth was a beauty, but not particularly vain; she disparagingly said of herself ‘Nay, my face may be well enough for shape, but sure ‘tis freckled as a toad’s belly’.
Born Elizabeth White, and from Berrow in Somerset, Elizabeth had a sister, Mary, who also had strikingly red hair. Mary made a good marriage to the Reverend, later Sir Henry Bate Dudley, minister, playwright and newspaper editor, a ‘witty and profligate man’ who glorified in the nickname, the Fighting Parson.
While researching Elizabeth Hartley we came across a Thomas Gainsborough portrait held by the Ascott Estate (National Trust), painted in the late 1780s and depicting a woman with red hair. The identity of the subject is disputed: it is labelled as either Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond or Elizabeth Hartley.
This is the painting.
We contacted the estate who gave us some information from their guidebook relating to the portrait.
John Hayes has called this ‘one of the most ravishing of Gainsborough’s late romantic portraits. . . . The enigmatic smile and slightly distant expression heighten the poetic mood of the canvas.’ The supposed sitter was the daughter and co-heir of Charles, 4th Earl of Elgin and 3rd Earl of Aylesbury by his third marriage, in 1739, to Caroline, daughter of the 4th Duke of Argyll. She married in 1757 Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond and Lennox. There were no children of the marriage and the title devolved upon a nephew.
The picture has been called a ‘late London work’ by Waterhouse, and ascribed more precisely by Hayes to 1786–7, when Lady Mary would have been more than 45 years old. In an endeavour to resolve the discrepancy between the sitter’s apparent age and the evident date of the picture, it has been suggested that she is the wife, Lady Louisa Gordon Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, and not the sister-in-law of Thomas Conolly, to whom this picture is said to have belonged, but neither the dark-haired Hugh Douglas Hamilton pastel of her at Springhill, Co. Londonderry, nor the Romney of her at Goodwood, Sussex, bear this out. Yet nor can one detect any resemblance with the equally dark-haired sitter in the Chardinesque Reynolds of Mary, Duchess of Richmond, sewing that is likewise at Goodwood.
Two of the images mentioned of Mary, Duchess of Richmond are shown below and we think you’ll agree that they look nothing like the redhead in the Gainsborough held by the Ascott Estate.
There appears to be no record as to why it is suggested that it may be a portrait of Elizabeth Hartley, other than the obvious red hair, but if it is not Elizabeth, we have another suggestion for the identity of the sitter in the Ascott portrait. We believe that she might be Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. The Fighting Parson was a patron of Gainsborough, and a good friend to the artist. Thomas Gainsborough painted Henry Bate Dudley in 1780.
And, in 1787, he painted a glorious full-length portrait of Mary, Lady Bate Dudley. Did he also paint a second portrait around the same time? We think that the lady in the Ascott portrait bears a marked resemblance to Lady Bate Dudley. The two images below are from the known 1787 portrait of Mary, both unfortunately losing some of the impact of the true colour of the original which was recently exhibited at the Tate. The gallery label at the time said that:
Mary Bate-Dudley was married to Gainsborough’s friend and champion, Henry Bate-Dudley. She’s shown here in a romantic woodland setting, leaning on a classical pedestal and an urn. Her pose is languid yet statuesque and the gesture of her left hand suggests a refined sensibility. Unusually in Gainsborough’s art, Lady Bate-Dudley’s head is shown in profile. This is a dramatic ploy intended to elevate the painting beyond the everyday world of conventional portraiture to the realm of High Art.
Gallery label, February 2016
As an aside to this, Henry Bate Dudley did have a connection to Lady Mary Bruce, Duchess of Richmond as, in 1780, the Fighting Parson was sentenced to a year in prison for libelling her husband. And, you can read more about him and his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, in the pages of All Things Georgian: Tales from the Long Eighteenth-Century, available now in the UK in hardback and illustrated with over 100 colour images.
For anyone not familiar with Harriette Dubochet who used the assumed surname of Wilson whilst alive, (although when buried her baptismal name was given) we would definitely recommend both volumes of her memoirs published in 1825, as they make fascinating reading and are online via Internet Archive.
Harriette lived life to the full and was virtually penniless at the end. Her death certificate gives cause of death as ‘old age’, although in all likelihood a cause of alcohol related disease might have been more accurate. As well as finding religion toward the end of her life, she also found the bottle. She was apparently extremely fond of brandy, to the point of dependency and was reported to have been having a tipple or several just 24 hours prior to her death.
We came across this extract from Frances Wilson’s book, The Courtesan’s Revenge and wanted to check out what became of Harriette’s siblings and possibly find Harriette’s burial.
Harriette’s place of burial has always been something of a mystery, but we can now reveal that she was buried at Brompton Cemetery and the location of her grave is still visible.
The newspapers were not at all kind to her in life as can be observed in this article about her in 1826.
The present appearance of this unfortunate woman makes it difficult to conceive that she could ever have been attractive, either as to person or manner: her features are now ugly and coarse, her person bad and her manners vulgar, with a harsh discordant voice.
A correspondent informs us that the notorious ‘Harriette Wilson’ resides at Chelsea and has become a convert to Popery, and is a very active promoter of the objects of the virtuous priesthood! What next? Is she a candidate for the office of a Lady Abbess, or Principal of a Nunnery?
And even more derogatory about her death:
We have now done with this woman, and we hope no stone will be erected to commemorate her memory and disgrace the place of her burial.
Back to her memoirs, she thought nothing of naming and shaming the gentlemen in whose company she and three of her sisters, Amy, Frances, better known as Fanny and Sophia spent much of their youth.
When Harriette wrote to the Duke of Wellington advising him she was about to publish her memoirs and that to keep his name out she wanted money from him, his famous response was reputed to have been ‘publish and be damned‘, so with that she went ahead and published (the famous phrase is probably not strictly accurate).
We’re not planning to revisit the memoirs in this article as there’s already more information about Harriette and her memoirs online than you can shake a stick at. We will, however, say that in a letter we came across, Harriette was described as being ‘the worst and wickedest bitch in the world’.
Harriette was one of 15 children (11 girls and 4 boys, not all of whom survived childhood), born to Amelia Gadsden, not Cook as previously named elsewhere, Amelia was raised by John Cook and his wife, which is probably where the error has come from and John James Dubochet, a Swiss coal merchant.
We have noticed that John seems to have had several occupations including that of a stocking cleaner, a mathematician and watch maker, but we have found no evidence to support this, on the children’s baptism and in his will, proven in 1826, he continued to give coal merchant as his occupation.
Little is known of several of Harriette’s siblings in particular that of the boys. The family seems to have been of mixed repute.
Rose (1799 – ?)
After her baptism there appears to be no proof that she survived into adulthood.
Known in Harriette’s memoirs as Diana, remained single and taught the piano from her home 34 Chapel Street, in the St Marylebone area of London.
Mary (1784 – ?)
Mary was referred to as Paragon, in Harriette’s memoirs. She married an Irish gentleman, Richard Borough(s), in 1812 in Dublin, and the couple went on to have four children, Mary, John, Henry and Augusta Sophia. At least one child was baptised in France so it looks likely that they remained there at least until Richard died at Calais in 1847.
Charlotte (1801 – 1873)
Charlotte, born 1801, married a surgeon and apothecary, William Jones Percival in 1825. The couple moved about with William’s business, from Poplar to Soham, Suffolk and finally to Birmingham to raise their family, where William ultimately took on the post of surgeon at the Kings Norton and Union Workhouse. After his death Charlotte moved to Aberystwyth to live with one of her three daughters, Mary Sophia and her husband the renowned Dr Charles Rice Williams and it was there that she died in 1873.
Julia Elizabeth (1814-1883)
Like her sister Jane, Julia also remained single and spent her later life living with her, by then, widowed sister and former courtesan, Sophia, Lady Berwick (1794-1875), at 7 Clarendon Crescent, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. After the death of her sister, Julia moved to The Mansion, Richmond (now home to Richmond Golf Club).
Frances (Fanny) (1782-1815)
Also a courtesan who, according to Harriette, produced three children with her lover, then upon his death, moved on to have a relationship with a Colonel Parker, who in all likelihood was John Boteler Parker, the son of Sir Hyde Parker. She took his name as if they were married although they were not. Frances was buried in 1815, at Kensington as Frances Parker, her assumed surname.
Amelia, aka Amy (1781-1838)
Amelia, like her sisters, was a courtesan who had a relationship with George Campbell, 6th Duke of Argyll, with whom, according to Harriette she had a son around 1810, although there’s appear no proof of this and no baptism that we have found so far.
She did however marry the musician Nicholas Robert Charles Bochsa, in 1818 despite him still being married to the Marquis Ducrest’s daughter who was, apparently still alive. Bochsa was both famous and infamous throughout the Georgian and Victorian eras!
He was believed to have been born around 1789 in France, where he studied music at the Paris Conservatoire. Regarded as a child protégé he could play both the flute and piano competently, by the age of just seven. In 1813, he apparently became harpist to the Imperial Court, however, by 1817 he allegedly became involved in counterfeiting, fraud and forgery and fled to London to avoid being prosecuted. In his absence he was sentenced to twelve years hard labour and a fine of 4,000 Francs, so clearly, he was unlikely ever to return to his place of birth.
By 1821, the couple were the height of respectability, with Bochsa, in 1822, becoming one of the founders of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, London together with John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland.
He was however, required to sever his ties with the Academy when news of his previous misdemeanours were discovered and two years later he was bankrupt, but became the musical director of the King’s Theatre, London. Newspapers began reporting that he not only committed the crimes of forgery and fraud, but also that he was a bigamist. We can find no proof of the final accusation, but there was probably some truth in his dubious reputation, as he found himself with a five-pound fine, this time for assault.
On 27th December 1837 Amelia died at her home, 2 Orchard Street, St Marylebone from an inflammation of the intestines and was subsequently buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.
Bochsa eloped with Mrs Anna Bishop, the wife of Sir Henry Rowley Bishop. Frances Wilson, in her book, queried whether Bochsa had eloped with Anna Bishop prior to Amy’s death; the jury’s out on that one, but clearly he wasn’t with her on the day she died as her death was not witnessed by him, but by a John Knight, a collector, who lived there with his wife, Sarah, eight children and their servants.
Bochsa and Bishop left England and reappeared eventually on the other side of the world, having spent the subsequent years touring Europe, America, Mexico and then Australia, where Anna appeared on stage as his protégé. They continued to perform on the stage until his death in 1856, in Sydney.
Harriette’s male siblings were Charles Frederick (1791 -?), Henry Cook , John Emmanuel and George Edward. Very little is known about the first three boys and in all likelihood Charles died during childhood, although there is no evidence of a burial for him.
John Emmanuel (1790-1821)
Apart from his birth and death, the only snippet of information about John comes from the marriage entry for his sister, Sophia, where he was present as a witness.
Henry Cook (1804-1855-9)
After his baptism, there is little known of Henry, apart from one mention of a brother to Lady Berwick in Naples, Italy in 1848. We eventually discovered his death dated simply as being sometime between 1855 and 1859, in Naples (British Armed Forces and Overseas deaths and burials records).
George married Christiana Hadden in 1816 and the couple had 4 children. At the baptism of their youngest child, George was a piano maker, then, by the time his youngest daughter married he had died, but had been ‘of the Treasury‘.
We also wrote a guest post a while ago about Harriette. In case you missed it why not hop over to Mike Rendell’s blog to find out more.
The London Gazette 1839
Berkshire Chronicle, 14 March 1829
John Bull 10 May 1840
Bell’s New Weekly Messenger 06 April 1845
Croome Collection at Worcestershire Archives.
The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1708
In an earlier blog, we looked at the life of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire; Charlotte was brought up in the duke’s household by his beleaguered wife, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. It has proved to be one of our most popular blogs, so we thought it was worth trying to shed a little more light on Charlotte’s mother, a milliner named Charlotte Spencer.
If you’ve watched the film, The Duchess, you will no doubt remember the scene early on when Georgiana, pregnant with her first child, is introduced to her husband’s young daughter, who is brought to Devonshire House in London following the death of her mother. Using artistic licence, the timings are, however, slightly out in the film.
On 7 June 1774, at Wimbledon, William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, married Georgiana Spencer, d/o John, Earl Spencer and his wife Georgiana (née Poyntz). The groom’s parish was stated to be St George, Hanover Square, that of the bride Westminster St James. Charlotte Williams was known to be born a few months before this grand union; just weeks earlier, on 20 March, a little girl named Charlotte had been christened at St George, Hanover Square, her parents named as William and Charlotte Cavendish (and her birthdate given as 22 February).
All we really know of the mother, Charlotte Spencer, comes from one of the Town and Country Magazine’s gossipy tête-à-tête articles which appeared in the spring of 1777; Memoirs of the D___ of D___ and Miss Charlotte S____r. If Georgiana had been in the dark about her husband’s mistress, she would certainly have known all about it when this magazine hit the streets.
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, William Cavendish had succeeded to his title, on the death of his father. Left an orphan, he was raised by three bachelor uncles who sent him abroad on the aristocratic ‘gap year’, the Grand Tour. The tête-à-tête article claimed that while in Paris, Cavendish captured the heart of Louis XV’s maîtresse-en-titre, Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse du Barry, some five years older than the duke but much more worldly wise. The duke’s uncles got wind of things, and rushed him home.
Finding she [Madame du Barry] had built too much upon her charms, influence, and attractions; and, at the same time, that her heart was too far engaged in the conflict, she became the dupe to her own artifice; and the young English nobleman had his vanity so far gratified as to be the rival of the grand monarque.
Returning to London, the duke made the acquaintance of a pretty milliner who had ‘the finest eyes he had ever beheld’. He became a customer, and then her lover. Charlotte Spencer was the daughter of a country curate whose situation had allowed of nothing more than a ‘tolerable education’ for his daughter. After his death, Charlotte travelled to London where she fell into the clutches of ‘a veteran procuress, who, under the veil of religion, prevailed upon Charlotte to be a lodger in her house, that she might take care of her salvation’. It is suggested that Charlotte had at least one pregnancy (and possibly a termination) while lodged in this brothel before leaving, only to fall into the hands of ‘an old debauchee, who pretended to adore her mental, as well as her personal attractions’. This old rake gave Charlotte a handsome allowance and set her up in an elegant house, but she hated the life; after a few months her ‘keeper’ died and left her mistress of a fortune enough for her to set up a milliner’s shop. Where, soon afterwards, the 5th Duke of Devonshire found her…
The duke and Miss Spencer seem to have lived happily together for some years; she left the milliner’s shop behind and the duke provided for her. He set her up in a discreet rented villa.
We may now suppose our hero in full possession of all Charlotte’s charms, and that she was happy in an alliance with a young nobleman every way amiable. Yet a paradox still remains to be solved; which is, that after some years intercourse with Miss S___r, who was now rather approaching the decline of beauty, our hero should marry a nobleman’s daughter, a universal toast, still in her teens, with every personal accomplishment, who gives the Ton wherever she goes, and that he should still be fond of his antiquated (by comparison) Charlotte?
The truth is that the duke needed a male heir, and while he was clearly fond of Charlotte Spencer, the teenaged, wealthy and well-connected Miss Georgiana Spencer (it is an ironic coincidence that the two ladies bore the same surname) was the more suitable bride and prospective mother for a son and heir. Poor Charlotte had only given him a daughter.
Georgiana married her duke in May 1774, and this little scandal broke in the press almost three years later. Popular gossip said that the duke continued to see Charlotte regularly during the first years of his marriage.
There is a caprice in mankind, it is true, that cannot be accounted for – whim prevails more than reason – but that the blooming, the blythe, and beautiful D___ should be neglected for Charlotte S___r is really astonishing!
The duke’s affair with Charlotte Spencer fizzled out after 1778, and all available evidence suggests that she had died by May 1780 when the six-year-old Charlotte Williams was brought, with her nurse, Mrs Gardner, into the Cavendish household.
Despite her unhappy marriage, the Duchess of Devonshire was the toast of the town. Extravagant, vivacious and addicted to gambling, Georgiana was also compassionate and caring; when the young and motherless Charlotte Williams was presented to her, Georgiana took the girl to her heart and brought her up as her own daughter. In time, Georgiana had three children of her own by the duke, Georgiana (Little G) born 1783, Harriet (Harry-O) in 1785 and William (known as Hart, as his courtesy title was Marquess of Hartington) who was born in 1790. (Georgiana suffered many miscarriages during her marriage.)
A couple of years or so after Charlotte Spencer’s death, Georgiana met Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster at Bath; Bess quickly became an indispensable member of the Cavendish household, given a role as Charlotte Williams governess and replacing Charlotte Spencer in the duke’s affections. Something of a ménage à trois developed. Georgiana retaliated with an affair of her own, falling in love with the future prime minister, Charles Grey; in 1792 and in exile from her husband and children, Georgiana gave birth to Grey’s daughter. Known as Eliza Courtney, this girl was brought up by Grey’s family although Georgiana did manage to make secret visits to her. Bess Foster accompanied Georgiana during these years of exile before the two returned to the duke in 1793. Bess, after Georgiana’s death, would become the duke’s next wife.
Town and Country Magazine, March 1777
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman (Flamingo/Harper Collins, 1999)
For a woman who was noted as such a beauty, it has always frustrated us that there are not more surviving portraits and drawings of our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. There is a miniature by Cosway, painted around the time of her marriage with Dr (later Sir) John Eliot, and the two well-known portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, plus a disputed chalk drawing by John Hoppner which may or may not depict Grace.
Imagine our surprise and delight then, to come across the drawing below by the caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson which purports to depict ‘Lady Elliott, otherwise Dally the Tall’. The inscription contains one glaring error; Grace was never Lady Eliot, her husband had divorced her well before he became a baronet but, nevertheless, this could indeed be Grace (her nickname was Dally the Tall, a play upon her surname and height), probably drawn sometime around 1782-1786 and wearing a chemise à la reine. We know that she was famous for bringing the dress into fashion here in the UK.
After her divorce, Grace had been the Earl of Cholmondeley’s mistress, before leaving his arms for the protection of Philippe d’Orléans, then the duc de Chartres (later duc d’Orléans and, during the Revoution, Philippe Égalité). Grace then snared British royalty when, for just a few short weeks, she enjoyed a relationship with the young Prince of Wales (later King George IV). During the summer of 1782, Grace gave birth to the prince’s daughter.
In February 1783, Grace appeared at a masquerade ball held at the Pantheon arm-in-arm with Charles Wyndam, 3rd son of the 2nd Earl of Egremont. Also present were Perdita (Mary Robinson), Grace’s one-time rival for the Prince of Wales, but now with her new lover, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, Lady Grosvenor and Mary (Moll) Benwell with Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.
A few of the Cyprian Corps in elevated life were present – Mrs Elliott’s dress, the chemise de la reine, and Miss Sheppard’s were the most elegant of the whole group. The Perdita and the T__le__n paired off very early. Mrs B__nw__ll, and Col. F___tz__ck were in close Teˆte-a`-Teˆte all the evening, also Mr W___nd__m and Mrs Elliot, Lady Gr__v__r likewise perambulated the circle for a considerable time.
The company were very sociable, and the dances continued till past seven in the morning.
The chemise à la reine, was the height of fashion. A diaphanous white muslin gown with a coloured sash ribbon tied high on the waist, the wearer appeared fashionably déshabillé or undressed; the chemise had, until this time, been used as an undergarment but now it was worn as a dress in its own right with no corset underneath. It was popularized in France during the early 1780s by Queen Marie Antoinette who was painted wearing such a dress by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (to the outrage of her subjects who were scandalized to see their queen dressed in such a simple and romantic way).
Marie Antoinette had sent a few of these chemises to her aristocratic friends in England, in particular to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The duchess and Mary Robinson are usually credited with introducing the fashion to England but Grace was also an early devotee of the style. She had spent time at the French court as the mistress of the duc de Chartres; had she too been sent a chemise à la reine from friends in France?
With the Prince of Wales no longer interested in Grace, and the Earl of Cholmondeley having also moved on, Grace found herself in Paris… and with a new rival: the beautiful and ‘celebrated’ Moll Benwell, a courtesan at least a decade younger than Grace. If Grace wanted to renew her relationship with the duc de Chartres she was out of luck, for Moll Benwell stole her thunder. There began a tit-for-tat game between the two women, played out in London and Paris.
If we may credit our intelligence from France, English beauties are not less admired in Paris, than in their native kingdom – the reigning toasts there at present are, the Benwell, and the Elliot; the former is allowed to be by far the most elegant woman that has appeared there these many years, they term her the Kitty Fisher of her time, from her likeness to that beautiful woman. The Duc de Chartres has made himself extremely ridiculous on her account, following her to all public places; to the contempt with which she treats him and his promises (which that nobleman is but too apt to make) she may attribute his constant attendance on her.
The fortunes of the handsome Colonel Richard FitzPatrick (second son of the Earl of Upper Ossory) fluctuated wildly. He was a close and loyal friend of Charles James Fox (the two men had known each other since their schooldays) and one of the intimate group that included the Earl of Cholmondeley, the Prince of Wales and Charles Wyndham. An ofﬁcer with the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, the dashing colonel was also an inveterate gambler, a solo balloonist, bon viveur and wit.
As beﬁtted such a great friend of Charles James Fox, FitzPatrick had stood as a Member of Parliament, holding the borough of Tavistock from 1774, but gave as little time as he could to matters of business, preferring to devote himself to pleasure instead. He lived on his credit and tradesmen were always denied access to his house when they called to press their bills. Because of her own debts, Moll had left the colonel in the spring of 1783; she couldn’t pay them and neither could he, and so she journeyed to Paris at the same time as Grace.
With an improvement in FitzPatrick’s ability to procure credit, Moll returned to London; Grace must have been pleased to see the back of her and the way to the duc de Chartres left clear once more.
The winter of 1783 found the tables turned and Grace in London with Mary Benwell back in Paris; King George III was on the verge of dismissing the government and so FitzPatrick’s credit would once more be on hold. With her rival once more stealing her thunder in Paris, Grace, in London, exacted her tit-for-tat revenge and found herself a new protector, snaring for herself the Honourable Colonel Richard FitzPatrick.
During the 1784 election, Grace was by FitzPatrick’s side campaigning for the Whigs and Charles James Fox on the streets of Westminster (as, famously, did Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). The supporters of Charles James Fox took to wearing ‘true blue’ colours and favours on the streets, denoting their support of American Independents and their hostility to Pitt and his ministers, and Grace was no exception.
Miss Dalrymple is so azurized, that nothing under the blue sky can exceed her; she wears a blue hat; her eyes are blue, her breast-bows and ribbons are the same colour; her carriage is also blue; and she is called by way of distinction the ‘Blue Belle of Scotland, &c. &c’.
Was the Rowlandson caricature drawn around this time?
In An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, you can discover Grace, and her equally fascinating relations. It is available at all good bookshops worldwide, including Amazon, in hardback and as an eBook.
Courtesan. Spy. Survivor. A gripping and meticulously researched account of the swashbuckling life of one of history’s most overlooked heroines: Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Scandalous Lady W
At the time of writing, you can download An Infamous Mistress as either a Kindle or ePub from our publisher, Pen & Sword Books, for just £4.99.
The Nottingham born artist, Paul Sandby, painted and drew many scenes in and around Windsor and also informal portraits of some of the inhabitants. One of his drawings, held in the Royal Collection, caught our eye: the Miss Isherwoods, the Brewer’s daughters, c.1770-1780. Isherwood is an uncommon surname, and with the father’s occupation, surely it would be possible to track down the forenames of these two young women and complete the attribution?
The father of these two young women was Henry Isherwood who owned an ale brewery which traded from premises on Datchet Lane/Lower Thames Street in Windsor (around where St George’s School now stands on Datchet Road). From the brewhouse yard, you had an excellent view of Windsor Castle.
Henry Isherwood was reputed to be ‘a poor lad’ from Yorkshire who had made his way to Eton in Berkshire where he found work at the Christopher Inn. He married well, to Sarah Kendal (on 5 May 1737 at Hedgerley in Buckinghamshire) whose money helped her husband establish his brewery at Windsor (the town had a thriving brewing industry).
The couple had three known children, a son, Henry (baptized 9 February 1739) and two daughters, the two young ladies in the drawing above, Sarah (born c.1743) and Christiana Maria (born c.1745). The family prospered and grew wealthy on their business’s profits.
Also in the Royal Collection is a drawing by Sandby which features another of the Isherwood family, although the name of the man depicted seems to have got muddled over time. When exhibited at the Royal Academy, the man stood on the far left was just denoted as ‘Isherwood the brewer’, a later mount now attached to the picture claims the man to be J. Isherwood and the notes on the RCT website mark the man out as Henry Isherwood senior. However, this drawing dates to 1760 and the man depicted looks to be very young; we believe that it is more likely the man shown is Henry Isherwood junior, who would have been around 21 years of age in 1760.
The four men are standing on Windsor Terrace; in the middle is Davis, Windsor Castle’s smith and to the right a man identified as Captain Archibald Campbell (the RCT notes suggest that he is possibly the same man who married Amelia Ramsay, daughter of the painter Allan Ramsay, but as Amelia Ramsay’s future husband saw action in the Seven Years’ War, we’re not totally sure about this).
Then tragedy struck the family. Henry Isherwood senior died suddenly in 1773… and it was hinted that he had been poisoned.
Henry Isherwood’s will left his family well provided for. His son took over the running of the brewery and also later – for just a short time – became New Windsor’s MP. Henry junior’s death, on 22 January 1797, cut short his parliamentary career. Sarah and Christiana Isherwood were both left financially secure by their father, each receiving 10,000l. They never married. Around 1790, the Isherwood family built a substantial mansion-house, situated in large grounds, at Bushey in Hertfordshire and named Laurel Lodge. There Sarah and Christiana lived in their old age, often visited by their brother’s children. (Laurel Lodge was remodelled in the late 1800s and has now been converted into flats known as Herne Mansions (formerly Sparrows Herne House); it stands in Bushey Heath down Fuller Close, a short distance from the junction of Little Bushey Lane and Elstree Road.) Sarah died in 1820 aged 77 and Christiana in 1827, aged 81. Both women are buried in the churchyard at New Windsor.
We’ve already mentioned Henry Isherwood senior’s melancholy end. We’ll relate the events leading up to his death and leave you to decide if he was indeed poisoned.
Henry was a member of the Colnbrook Turnpike Commission and on 29 March 1773, he and the other members dined at an inn named The Castle, at Salt Hill outside Slough. The men present were the Hon Mr O’Brien, the Hon Captain Thomas Needham (aged 33 and the eldest son of ‘Jack’, 10th Viscount Kilmorey), Edward Mason Esq, Major Mayne, Mr Cheshire, Walpole Eyre Esq (aged 38 and whose godfather was Sir Robert Walpole, hence his name), Captain Salter, Henry Isherwood, Mr Joseph Benwell, a draper from Eton who was the Commission’s treasure, Mr Pote senior (on business) and Mr Burcombe, the Commission’s surveyor. Over the course of the next two weeks, all but one of the gentlemen were taken seriously ill. At first, the wine was suspected to be the cause; Captain Salter had preferred to drink punch instead, and Mr Cheshire had drunk very little. Both men were only mildly ill. It was initially believed that Mrs Partridge, the landlady, had added a little arsenic to the wine, to ‘refine’ it.
The dinner was turtle soup, followed by fish, jack, perch and eel, spatchcock fowls, bacon and greens, veal cutlets, a ragout of pigs ears, a chine of mutton and salad, a course of lamb and cucumbers, crayfish and, as if you needed more after that feast, pastry and jellies. All was described as:
…plain and innocent, nothing high-seasoned, or that could give cause of suspicion of any bad consequence; the wine, Madeira and Port, of the best sorts. In both articles of meat and drink, the company were moderate, and no excess appeared.
After their dinner, some people were brought in to be examined before the members of the commission, among them a poor man, in a ‘distressed, miserable condition’. He seems to have been in ill-health. Mr Pote, perhaps wisely it seems, had gone out to the gardens of the inn to stretch his legs; he was there on other business relating to the commission but had no need to be present during the examinations. Mr Pote was the only one of the company not to suffer any ill effects, all the others fell ill to varying degrees. Four of the men died: Captain Needham, Joseph Benwell, Walpole Eyre and Henry Isherwood.
Mrs Partridge was horrified and willingly allowed her kitchen and cellar to be fully inspected. Major Mayne’s doctor, Dr James, was of the opinion that his patient’s illness was due to an infection; if it had been poison, he assured the public, the men would have fallen ill within hours, not days. There were reports that a Clerk of the Justices, a Mr Mason who had dined on beefsteaks in a private room in the inn (confusingly, an Edward Mason Esq was said to be present at the commission’s dinner too), was also dangerously ill; the Justices had examined a poor man, brought before them in a ‘dying condition’ from Taplow to be passed to his own parish. This man later died, as did the farmer at whose house he lodged on his journey. Local gossip also claimed that several prisoners had travelled from Reading gaol on their way to London, to be transported for their crimes, and stopped at the inn. Gaol fever could have been the cause.
In short, it appears from the newspapers of the day that there was certainly an outbreak of a contagious fever in the area, but nevertheless, with all the talk of poison, trade at the Castle Inn dropped dramatically and Mrs Partridge struggled for a good twelve months afterwards. And, rumours abounded years later. Years later, Queen Charlotte’s Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe, Charlotte Papendick, in her memoirs recounted the tale and claimed that Mrs Partridge, on her deathbed, confessed.
…she considered it right to disclose the secret of the poisoning now it could no longer hurt any individual, and was at the time purely accidental, she would confess that it arose from the turtle having been left in the stewpans cold, and then heated afresh for the dinner. The cook, renowned for the dressing of this favorite luxury, came down from London late the evening before, expressly for this purpose. He said that as the turtle was better for long stewing, he should do it through the night, during which time he would be preparing various other dainties. He didn’t keep to his word. He slept, let the fire out, and heated the turtle soup up again without removing it from the pan… From the acids used in dressing the turtle, the pan was covered with verdigris. When she showed it to the cook he said he wasn’t aware of harm…
In fairness, Mrs Papendick’s account contains many errors, so we’re not at all sure of her accuracy. Another account also blames the soup, however, again attributing the poisoning to an accidental cause. The soup had been allowed to stand in a copper vessel, and the gentlemen died of mineral poisoning. So, arsenic in the wine, mineral poisoning, a bad batch of turtle soup or an infectious pauper? Sadly, we’ll never know the true cause, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sources not mentioned above:
The Bath Road: History, Fashion & Frivolity on an Old Highway by Charles G. Harper, 1899
Royal Academy: 1934 – Exhibition of British Art c.1000-1860, 6 January 1934 to 17 March 1934
Northampton Mercury, 26 April 1773
Reading Mercury, 26 April 1773
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 5 February 1820
The Scots Magazine, vol 35, 1773
Collectanea topographica et genealogica, 1837
Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte; Being the Journals of Mrs Papendick, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty, 1887
This is the third in a series of blogs in which we have taken a closer look at some of the staff and servants of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire. Today we’re taking a look at the 6th duke’s trips to Russia and concentrating on just one man, a larger than life Russian coachman. He certainly merits his own blog.
In 1817, William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (known as Hart due to his former title, the Marquess of Hartington) travelled to St Petersburg in Russia with a whole host of attendants for the wedding of his friend, the Grand Duke Nicholas Pavolvich of Russia (later Czar Nicholas I and Catherine the Great’s grandson). The bride was Charlotte of Prussia (subsequently known as Alexandra Feodorovna); Hart loved St Petersburg and thought it ‘more beautiful than Paris’.
His Grace the Duke of Devonshire is about to sail for the Continent, in company with the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. His Grace has seceded to an invitation from the Grand Duke, to make a tour in Russia, and other parts of the Continent, which will occupy the whole of the ensuing summer.
During the trip, one of the duke’s attendants was his courier, Xavier Faldyer. He was ‘not agreeable, a sort of obstinate old Don Quixote, in an eternal wrangle with the Doctor, who had undertaken to regulate the expences and never ceased to exclaim, “terrible! terrible!”’ From the Chatsworth archives relating to the family’s servants, we can glean further information. Edwin Jones was the clearly long-suffering doctor who accompanied the duke.
Michael Lemm went along as a footman but didn’t think much of Russia, observing that ‘he would rather be hung in England than die in Russia’. Mr Worrall was the coachman.
Another expedition to Russia took place in 1826 when the 6th Duke of Devonshire travelled there to attend the coronation of Nicolas I. George Spencer Ridgway, the duke’s valet and ‘foster brother’ was by his side; George’s mother, Mrs Ridgway had been the duke’s wetnurse and George’s middle name, Spencer, indicates a close relationship with the family. He started at Devonshire House as a footman in 1802 and, when appointed the duke’s valet, Ridgway was his most trusted servant, acting as personal secretary, agent and steward too until 1858.
In Russia, the duke and George were given a Russian coach by the emperor, known as a droshky. They also acquired a coachman who they brought back to Chatsworth along with the droshky. Peter Wisternoff (also Westerney, Wisternou and Ustinowica and born c.1796) was known as Peter the Russian or just the Russian Coachman; his helper was a man named Thomas Hawkins (who seems to have ended up the Porter at Devonshire House). Wisternoff stayed at Chatsworth until the early 1840s, a brilliantly eccentric character, tall and with a fine, intelligent countenance who wore his traditional Russian clothes rather than livery and sported the biggest and bushiest of beards.
He is habited in the costume of his country, which consists of a large coat, generally green, which is gathered in folds round the waist, crimson sash, with an ample flow of black beard.
The Russian Coachman is one of the subjects in Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time by Sir Edwin Landseer, the original of which hangs in Chatsworth. The image below is a very good copy of the painting in tapestry; there are three men with beards but Peter the Russian is the one in the foreground, kneeling with the stag.
In 1832, Princess Victoria visited Chatsworth.
[Saturday 20th October, 1832] … we went to the stables where we saw some pretty ponies and a Russian coachman in his full dress, and the only Russian horse which remained reared at command; there were 3 other horses, English ones, but trained like the other.
[Sunday 21st October, 1832] … Mamma and me drove in front in the pony phaeton and the Duke and Lady Cavendish behind; Lady Catherine and Lehzen going in another little phaeton; while Lord Morpeth and Mr Cooper went in the Russian drotchky. This curious carriage is drawn by one horse (which was the piebald one) in the shafts with a houp over its head, and the harness is golden without and winkers, and the horse in the shafts always trots, while the other, a pretty chestnut one, always gallops and puts its head on one side; the coachman, called Peter, sitting in his full dress on the box and driving the horses without any whip.
Peter the Russian married a girl named Sarah from Clowne, Derbyshire by whom he had at least eight children, one of whom was disabled. He fell foul of the duke’s Steward, George Spencer Ridgway, who forbade Peter from taking beer from the cellar, a disagreement which seems to have culminated in Peter leaving the duke’s service.
In the early 1840s (certainly after the 1841 census when Peter was living with his family at the Chatsworth stables), the duke broke up his Russian establishment and granted a liberal pension to Peter who subsequently lived – rent-free – on a 10 acre farm at Nether Handley near Staveley where, in 1851, he described himself as a ‘retired gentleman’. One the 1861 and 1871 census returns his occupation was that of a farmer of 10 acres. Peter died on Saturday 4th May 1878 at the age of 82 years, having been a pensioner ‘on the bounty of the Dukes of Devonshire for nearly forty years’.
Sources for all three of our blogs on Chatsworth’s staff and servants not referenced in the relevant articles are:
The Eighteenth-century Woman by Olivier Bernier (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981)
Queen Victoria’s Journals (online resource)
Chatsworth: Historic Staff and Servants database
Chatsworth blog: The Russian Coachman’s Beard
Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald, 18 May 1878
Carlisle Patriot, 15 March 1817
If you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.
The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.
In a previous blog, we looked at a few of the staff and servants mentioned in a great new resource from the Chatsworth House archives which has been released online. It documents those who have worked for the family over the years, both at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, Devonshire House in London and elsewhere, shedding light on people who might otherwise have been forgotten. We’ve picked out a few of those mentioned for a closer look and in this blog, we’re taking a peek into the stables, and also examining just a few of the people who worked as a groom, valet, butler, steward and housekeeper.
Starting work in 1773 as a stable hand in the coach house of Devonshire House, Francis Beeston became the 2nd coachman in 1777 before being promoted to 1st coachman nine years later and a wage of £20 paid half-yearly. He continued as the 1st coachman at Devonshire House until 1814.
Francis must have driven coaches carrying Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, her husband the 5th duke and Georgiana’s rival for the duke’s affection, Lady Bess Foster (later also Duchess of Devonshire); Georgiana married the duke in 1774, the year after Francis had begun his employment in the stables.
Besides Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Devonshire House in Piccadilly, the Cavendish family also owned Burlington House and Chiswick House. Both houses were built in the Palladian style and were inherited by the Dukes of Devonshire via Lady Charlotte Boyle, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Burlington. Lady Charlotte, who died in 1753, was the wife of the 4th Duke of Devonshire (however, as she died before he became duke, Lady Charlotte’s title was the Marchioness of Hartington).
Robert Hunter was one of the duke’s coachmen from 1759; from 1760 to 1765 he worked at Burlington House and later he was employed at Chiswick. Ann Hunter, who is mentioned in the accounts books for Chiswick and Burlington House between 1770 and 1774 is possibly his wife.
Devonshire House was also located in Piccadilly, very close to Burlington House. Later, Burlington House was rented out (from 1770 was the London home of the 4th Duke of Devonshire’s brother-in-law, the 3rd Duke of Portland). However, between 1760 and 1765, the Cavendish family clearly had need of a paid coachman at the property to retain Robert Hunter there. The Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire used Chiswick House as a country retreat.
Besides Robert Hunter, one other employee in Burlington House’s stables was John Higgs (between 1759 and 1765) who was employed as a postilion and worked his way up to coachman.
Joseph Marsden began working in Chatsworth House’s stables in 1757 when he was just a boy. Becoming a footman and then ‘his Grace’s Gent’ and ‘travelling gent’, Joseph ended up at Devonshire House as the duke’s Valet de Chambre. He was employed as such until 1798, a career spanning 41 years in the duke’s service.
Grooms, footmen and valet
Another man employed at Devonshire House was David Bovey, or Beauvais, a ‘snuffy old French-man’ according to the 6th Duke of Devonshire. David’s role was Groom of the Chamber, a function he fulfilled from 1774 to 1801. As he entered Devonshire House in the year of Georgiana Spencer’s marriage to the 5th Duke, it is likely that David Bovey was Groom of the Chamber to the new Duchess of Devonshire. The position was considered so vital to the family that Georgiana’s niece, Lady Caroline Lamb, who spent a large part of her childhood at Devonshire House, once remarked on the extreme poverty of an acquaintance: “Would you believe that the unfortunate lady didn’t even have a Groom of the Chamber?”
The duties of the ‘snuffy French-man’ included announcing company, managing the duchess’ invitations and visitors and overseeing her receiving-rooms. He eventually was promoted to the position of Attendant.
Possibly he is the same 28-year-old David Bovey who married Jane Bache, by licence, at St George’s in Hanover Square on the 25th February 1775? Unusually, it was Jane Bache, aged 21 and upwards, who applied for the marriage bond and not David Bovey. And, a David Bovey was paying rates at a house on Little Jermyn Street North in St James, Piccadilly in 1783 so it appears that, as a married man, he lived in his own home, just a short distance from Devonshire House.
David was succeeded in the position by James Lawton, who also was also a Groom of the Chambers and Attendant until 1811; in contrast to the ‘snuffy’ David, James Lawton was described as being very polite.
John Brown was a footman in Devonshire House’s dining room from 1773; in 1784 he became the 5th Duke of Devonshire’s footman. His wages included a yearly sum of 16s 6d for powder and shoes. In autumn 1798, John Brown landed the role of valet to the duke and, from the following year until 1804, when he was last recorded at Devonshire House, he received an annual salary of £42.
John Hawkins was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s groom at Chatsworth between 1793 and 1797. He had started out as one of Chatsworth’s stable hands in 1771.
The 6th Duke of Devonshire’s valet, Robert Meynell, seems to have been something of a rogue. Despite this, he served the duke from 1823 for at least 27 years, abroad and at home. Meynell drank, smoked, gambled and whored; at one Derby inn, the duke had to calm an irate innkeeper who took offence at being called a fool by the valet when he refused Meynell’s request for a woman to be sent to him. The final straw came in 1851 when Meynell was discovered in a London brothel. That in itself might have been overlooked, but Meynell had taken the duke’s dog, Vio, along with him. Even so, he received a pension from the duke which enabled him to live in comfort for the remainder of his life.
Meynell was responsible for getting another of the duke’s servants into trouble. Paul Santi, ‘a very handsome and picturesque person, with clever wicked eye’ was employed as a courier and attendant by the 6th Duke of Devonshire between 1825 and 1838, when he was dismissed, probably for gambling. In 1836, Santi had threatened to do away with himself when he was discovered to have been pilfering the housekeeping money to fund his gambling, a vice he blamed Meynell and George Spencer Ridgway (respectively the duke’s valet and steward) for encouraging.
Butler and steward
The position of Butler was, besides that of the Housekeeper, the most important in the household. Devonshire House’s butler, for six years from 1805, was James Duncan who, by 1811, was paid £80 a year.
Decades earlier, in the 1750s, Devonshire House’s Butler was a man named Thomas Elmes. As odd as it may sound, there was a clear ladder of promotion from starting out as a stable lad to becoming a footman indoors. A footman could aspire to become a butler and this is exactly the route Thomas Elmes took. In 1719 he began working at Chatsworth as a stable hand and by 1730 he was a Stud Groom. He was still there in 1743. In 1751 he became the Under Butler at Devonshire House and by 1759 was at the top of the ladder, as Butler.
John Edwards was the House Steward in 1792 and 1793 and, before that, he possibly worked in Devonshire House’s kitchens for several decades, starting as the Under Cook and eventually becoming the Head Cook. It is mentioned in the notes against John Edwards’ name that House Stewards are usually invisible in the wage books of stately homes, as they were in charge of these and did not often record themselves. But, during his tenure as Steward, John fell ill and the payments for doctors to attend to him are recorded. Sadly, it seems they could not help and John died in 1794; the 5th Duke of Devonshire paid for his funeral (which cost £32 12s 6d).
To leave you, we’ll just mention one other servant who, while just out of our period, merits a mention because the description of her made us smile. In the 1st Duke of Devonshire’s lifetime, Mary Hacket was the ‘angry housekeeper’ at Chatsworth between 1685 and 1697.
In a future blog, we’ll be looking at the servant from overseas who joined the family and became something of a celebrity. If you haven’t already done so, please do consider subscribing to our blog to be alerted to all our new posts.
In the meantime, if you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.
The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.
A wonderful new resource from the Chatsworth House archives has been released online, looking at the staff and servants who have worked for the family, both at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, Devonshire House in London and elsewhere. It sheds light on people who might otherwise have been forgotten; we’ve picked out some for a closer look. In this blog, we’re concentrating on just a few of those who worked as maids, governess and in the kitchen.
Housemaids, laundrymaids, dairymaids and lady’s maids
Mary Austwick began working at the Cavendishes London residence, Devonshire House as a housemaid in 1795; eight years later she took over the duties of laundrymaid before, in 1811 (the year that the 5th Duke of Devonshire died), returning to her former occupation of housemaid at a yearly wage of £16. She was last recorded as an employee in 1814 but was remembered after her death by the 6th Duke of Devonshire with a clear fondness, despite her obvious quirks. He had known Mary for most of his life (the 6th Duke was born in 1795) and described her as ‘the swarthy, venerable, and cross housemaid, peace be to her soul!’. Perhaps, with his ascension to the dukedom, the 6th duke rescued Mary from the laundry?
Between 1803 and 1805, Maria Foley was Lady Harriet’s woman and, from 1800 to 1801, Elizabeth Winchester was Lady Georgiana’s dressing maid. Lady Harriet and Lady Georgiana were the daughters of the 5th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Elizabeth remained with Little G, as Lady Georgiana was known when she married. It was another Elizabeth, Elizabeth Olenrainshaw, who was Little G’s maid from 1790 to 1799. She’s probably the Elizabeth Ollenranshaw who married the Nottinghamshire born Pinder Simpson, a solicitor, at St George’s, Hanover Square on the 23rd July 1799. Pinder Simpson and John Simpson had offices at Burlington Street, Piccadilly close to Devonshire House. The couple’s first child was a daughter who they named Georgiana.
The extended Furniss/Furness family appear to have provided many of Chatsworth’s servants; the surname crops up time and time again over a period of several decades. Two of the earliest were sisters, Barbara and Alice. Barbara was one of Chatsworth’s Dairy Maids from 1793 to 1797 when she left to marry Thomas Pursglove (in London and at St Martin in the Field). She was replaced by her sister, Alice, who worked in the dairy until 1803; a year later Alice married a man named John Thornhill in the same church as her sister had wed.
Governess and nursery maids
Selina Trimmer, daughter of Sarah Trimmer, was the governess between 1789 and 1805, based mainly at Devonshire House.
During 1762, the 12-year-old Lady Dorothy Cavendish, eldest daughter of William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire was tutored in the nursery by a lady named Anne Gibbon. Lady Dorothy would go on to marry William Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland; it is her descendants that we have written about in A Right Royal Scandal.
Mary Griffiths started working at Devonshire House in 1787 as a maid in the Still Room. Two years later she became a housemaid and then, in 1790, nursery maid to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’s children.
A Frenchman worked as a confectioner in the kitchens between 1790 and 1805. Monsieur A Caille (his forename has not been recorded) once rushed to the rescue when a small fire broke out. He did so by pouring on to the flames ‘the contents of the kettle he was carrying’. His kettle contained melted sugar, which only made things worse.
In forthcoming blogs, we’ll turn our attention to the family’s coachmen and stables, and grooms, valets, butlers and stewards. If you haven’t already done so, please do consider subscribing to our blog to be alerted to all our new posts.
In the meantime, if you want to explore the database of staff and servants further, you can find it by clicking here. It lists those who have worked at Chatsworth or on the Cavendish estates going back to 1700, and will be added to over the coming years.
The excellent Chatsworth servants and staff database and associated blog posts on the Chatsworth website were created by Lauren Butler (@HistoryButler), Hannah Wallace (@hwallace24) and Fiona Clapperton (@feeclapperton) as part of a collaborative PhD with the University of Sheffield and is the culmination of many years work.
Sir Joshua Reynolds painted the courtesan Nelly O’Brien twice, between 1762 and 1764. Both paintings were paid for by her lover, Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke, although she was introduced to Reynolds by Admiral Augustus Keppel, 1st Viscount Keppel. (Keppel was the great-grandson of Charles II by his mistress, Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.)
Bolingbroke also commissioned Reynolds to paint a picture of his wife, Diana Spencer, daughter of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough at the same time. Horace Walpole claimed that Bolingbroke had asked Reynolds to give Diana’s ‘eyes something of Nelly O’Brien, or it will not do’. Walpole continued, ‘as he has given Nelly something of his wife’s, it was but fair to give her something of Nelly’s; and my Lady will not throw away the present!’.
Frederick and Diana’s marriage was a disaster; he took lovers and so did she, famously having an affair with Topham Beauclerk (like Keppel also a great-grandson of Charles II, but by Nell Gwyn). When Bolingbroke divorced his wife in 1768, she promptly married her lover.
Frederick and Nelly (whose origins remain obscure) were an item certainly by 1763. Most sources seem to suggest that Nelly bore Bolingbroke a son, born c.1764, supposedly named Arthur and of whom nothing else is known. If she did bear a child by Bolingbroke, it’s more likely that he was born a year or two earlier. It was not Bolingbroke who fathered a child on Nelly in 1764, it was her new love, the splendidly named Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet.
Alfred (not Arthur) Tufton was born 23rd November 1764, and baptised almost a month later, on 20th December, at St George, Hanover Square. His birth was hardly a secret; Nelly was named alongside Sackville in the baptism register. The wit, George James ‘Gilly’ Williams, writing to his friend, George Selwyn on Christmas Day, 1764, said:
I told you Nelly O’Brien has a son. It was christened yesterday. Bunny and his trull were sponsors. Now for his name; guess it if you can; it is of no less consequence in this country than Alfred; but Magill was so drunk he had like to have named it Hiccup!
(Bunny is thought to be Sir Charles Bunbury, who had recently married Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond. Magill, the drunk, was Henry Magill, curate of St George’s.)
A year later, on 4 December 1765, a second son was born; this one was given his father’s name, Sackville Tufton, and baptised at the same church as his elder brother on New Years’ Day, 1766.
After that, things rapidly went downhill for Nelly. Her earl was seeking a wife, and his family would certainly not countenance a union with a courtesan. In the summer of 1767 (on 30th July), Sackville Tufton married Mary daughter of Lord John Sackville. Beforehand, Nelly had been turned out of his Grosvenor Square house to make way for the new bride, although she appears to have moved only a few streets away and taken rooms on Park Street, almost certainly provided for her by the earl as Nelly was once again carrying his child.
Nearly six months after Sackville’s marriage to Mary, Nelly was delivered of a third son. Stanley Tufton was born 18th January 1768 and baptised 5th February. In the baptism register at St George’s, his parents were described as they had been with the older boys, Sackville Tufton, Earl of Thanet and Elinor O’Brien. Presumably, the new Countess of Thanet was fully aware. She was also pregnant herself and her daughter, Lady Elizabeth Tufton, was born that spring. Nelly was, however, furious at having to leave Grosvenor Square. As she complained to anyone who would listen, her former lover had a good precedent to follow: when the wife of Augustus Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton was pregnant in 1764, the duke moved his lover, the courtesan Nancy Parsons, into their London home where they lived together openly. The Earl of Thanet had moved his courtesan out!
A few weeks after Stanley’s birth, realising that she would never reclaim her position as the earl’s mistress and facing an uncertain future, Nelly wrote her will. All her wealth appeared to be in the form of fine clothes and a quantity of valuable diamond jewellery which, besides her three sons, were all that she had been left with. Her star, which had shone so brightly, was looking decidedly dimmed.
I Elinor O Brien do leave to my mother all my best cloaths, to my maid Ann Dixon all my old cloaths, to Miss ?Pyrott one of my best diamond rings, to Nurse Duran such token or legacy as they can chuse out. I beg Lord Thanet will take care of his children and believe them his own. To my children I give my diamonds to be equally divided between the three and I beg my ready money will be sent to my mother and some to poor Molly and I hope all my debts will be paid immediately my ??
Could ‘poor Molly’ possibly be Nelly’s sister? The will is frustrating in its ambiguity. Another mystery concerns the nurse, was she there for Nelly, or for her newborn son. Was Nelly ill? Although still just a young woman, she would be dead before the year was out. While she was afterwards said to have died in childbirth, and in anguish from being abandoned by her earl, the fact she wrote her will, to try to safeguard her children’s future, could indicate that she had indeed been unwell for several months. In March the Public Advertiser newspaper reported her demise, followed by a retraction:
Wed. March 23, 1768. Sunday last died in Park Street, Grosvenor Square, the celebrated Miss Nelly O’Brien.
Friday, 1 April, 1768. The account inserted in the Papers of the Death of Miss Nelly O’Brien in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, is premature; that lady being in perfect health.
Unfortunately for Nelly, the account was not premature. On Saturday 2nd April 1768, Nelly O’Brien was buried at St George’s, Hanover Square (a new burial ground attached to the church had been consecrated in Bayswater three years earlier).
(A burial at St Ann, Rotherhithe on 29th December 1768 is often mistakenly thought to be hers. Likewise, Nelly’s assumed birth year of 1739 is taken from incorrect burial: the Elinor O’Brien buried in Rotherhithe was 29 years old. We still have no true idea of Nelly’s birth date.)
On 4th May 1768, one of her creditors was granted administration of her estate; the whereabouts of her diamonds are now unknown.
The two elder sons, Sackville and Alfred Tufton, joined the East India Company, Sackville in their naval service and Alfred as a writer, based at Kolkata. When his brother Sackville wrote his will in October 1788, Alfred was left the bulk of his wealth.
Stanley was not mentioned and, although we have not been able to trace him further, it would seem likely that he died young. In a later codicil, Sackville left bequests to his half-brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters from his father’s marriage to Mary Sackville, so it looks like he had been brought up as their sibling.
He also left legacies to his O’Brien aunts and uncles (sadly not named!), his mother Nelly’s siblings and to his grandmother (Nelly’s mother) who was still clearly alive in 1794. Sackville died the same year. Alfred lived to 1812; he had been promoted to the position of Judge at Gya but had returned home in the early 1800s in ill-health, and had never fully recovered. He was only 47-years of age when he died. Both Sackville and Alfred’s resting place is a shared grave in the church at Hothfield in Kent, where his ancestors, the Earls of Thanet, have their seat.
In September 1809, almost 41 years after Nelly’s death, a gentleman named Edward Jeremiah Curteis wrote to Alfred Tufton, who had been detained in London due to illness. There had clearly been some conversation between the two, and Alfred had been under the illusion that his long-dead mother, who he hardly recalled, had died around the time of Sackville’s birth.
Mrs Curteis, Edward’s wife or mother, recalled that:
your mother did not die until about the period of Lord Tufton’s marriage, which was more than two years later than you suppose – she was then great with child and the probable cause of death was grief and vexation at the marriage and desertion of the Earl of Thanet.
She went on to say that the earl had been persuaded to marry by his family, but before that, he had previously taken a ‘small but elegant’ and admirably furnished house in Brook Street for his mistress (which Lady Thanet went to see incognita). A Mrs Toke had told Mrs Curteis that Lord Thanet had snubbed Nelly in public which ’caused chagrin and mortification to such a degree as that a miscarriage ensued, and that having miscarried a third infant she died in childbed’.
It’s possible that Nelly had been pregnant again, but her third child was Stanley, born a year before her own premature death. Mrs Curteis’ memories had possibly become confused.
Sources not mentioned above:
George Selwyn and his contemporaries, with memoirs and notes, vol. 1, John Heneage Jesse (1843)
Correspondence of the Curteis family of Windmill Hill, Battle, East Sussex Record Office, AMS 5995/5/8
The Diaries of a Duchess: extracts from the diaries of the first Duchess of Northumberland (1716-1776), edited by James Greig (1926)
National Archives wills: PROB 11/1247/21 and PROB 11/939/51
The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, vol 82, part 1 (1812)
The letters of Horace Walpole (ed by J Wright), 1842
We would like to thank the staff at the City of Westminster Archives for confirming the record of Nelly’s burial for us.
We’re just going to give you this letter, printed in the Reading Mercury on the 25th October 1773, in full. The author has quite clearly had his fill of the fawning sycophancy over the nobility in his morning paper. The article that sparked his ire concerned Charles Bennet, 4th Earl of Tankerville who was a noted cricketer (a good fielder rather than a batter or bowler) and patron of Surrey cricket.
To the PRINTER
It was with the utmost pleasure, and with infinite surprise, that I read the following paragraph in a London paper a few days ago:
“At the cricket match between Kent and Surrey, a few days ago, Lord T__ker__e (as we can assure the public from the best authority) caught two very difficult balls, with his own hands.”
Earth! Air! Water! And fire! Is it possible – what!! Lord T__ker__e! – Lord T__ker__e himself! – to catch two balls – nay, two very difficult balls too – and with his own hands! – Immortal tidings, and more than Elysian raptures, welcome, welcome to our land, and let England ring from shore to shore! Happy for Britain, and very happy for Europe! Why, Mr Printer, if his Lordship is already so alert at catching, who knows but he will in time, instead of catching two cricket balls, catch – three? And if he does this with ease, who knows but he may next attempt the immortal feat of swinging on a gate? And if he swings upon a gate, who knows but he will give the finishing stroke to his reputation by leaping over a stile? And if he rises this length, the L__d only knows where his glories will end.
After all, Mr Printer, and to be serious with you, it gives me pleasure to hear that such actions of our illustrious nobility are recorded as the vulgar dare not, cannot rival them in; for where is the scoundrel commoner that will even pretend to catch two cricket balls? The historian of the day, however, has omitted some very material incidents in the description; such as, whether his Lordship caught the balls with one or with both hands; which parts of his Lordship’s sacred fist the balls first hit; whether they came in a south or north, east or west direction; what was his Lordship’s attitude, &c &c and these circumstances would have certainly made the matter much more important and interesting to mankind.
To conclude I repeat the immensity of my joy. For though some of our nobility have excelled in spitting maggots and burning mice, the act of catching a cricket ball was never before performed by mankind – no, nor the nobility themselves.
While I was ruminating on these things, Sir, it occurred to me, that publishing all such like acts and feats of our nobility and gentry, would be of the greatest service to the community, by inspiring a rivalship among them to excel in deeds of such singular praise; and this scheme I myself begun in the following part of my letter, a careful perusal of which will show at once to you and your readers, both the manner and the merit of recording such important incidents. In humble imitation, therefore, of the T__ker__e paragraph, I insert the following:
Last night, at the door of Drury Lane Theatre, Lord F___ was observed actually to lift his lapdog into the chariot, without once seeking the footman’s assistance.
We have it from the best authority, that his Grace the Duke of St A____s precisely at eleven yesterday morning, picked his teeth without drawing blood from his gums, which is very singular.
Lord T____t was observed yesterday to swallow a spoonful of soup, in the king’s kitchen, without chewing it.
The king actually pares his nails twice a week.
Lord C____e has slept very soundly these three nights past which is a thing he has not done these three years before.
It is not true that one of her Majesty’s right fingers, as was villainously reported, is affected with a pimple. It is one of her left fingers.
This morning S___n F_x stepped over the kennel at Charing Cross, though it is both deep and broad, without being drowned in it.
Lord S_ff__k has of late dedicated his whole time to trap-ball, in which science he has made a prodigious progress. It is said that he will next study the noble game of cricket; and after he has studied it three years, it is not doubted but he will catch a ball with all the dexterity of Lord T___ker__e.
It is remarkable that Lord M____d was not yesterday, when he appeared in the Court of King’s Bench, so close shaved as usual. The reason is not known. Some attribute it to his barber’s razor having been blunt, and other to his Lordship’s chin increasing in wrinkles.
The Lord Chancellor drinks asses-mile every morning for the establishment of his health, his physicians being of the opinion that it is the food most natural to him.
We are informed that the Premier eats a very hearty breakfast every day before dinner.
Lord S____t, the publick may be assured, is come to town: And it is thought he will continue in it – till he goes out of it.
This blog is a little different in so much as it is primarily looking at some sketches that we came across whilst doing a spot of research at North Yorkshire archives. We were looking for a specific 18th-century person when the archivist told us that they had a book of sketches by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton (1740-1807), that she thought we might like to see.
Thomas Orde married the daughter of the 5th Duke of Bolton, Jean Browne Powlett and assumed the name Orde-Powlett in 1795. He was then created 1st Baron Bolton two years later.
Upon opening the sketchbook, we were amazed by who we found and are excited to share them with our lovely readers. These sketches have probably been safely preserved in the archives and rarely if ever been looked at for years.
So, bear in mind these are private sketches, never published as works of art, but merely drawings by Thomas. There are quite a few sketches in the collection which were drawn at an event in Buxton 1777 but they are mainly family ones, apart from one of the Duchess of Devonshire. So far we haven’t found any references to any event that took place in Buxton matching that year, so we can only presume it was a private gathering but presumably he took his sketchbook with him and you can almost imagine him sitting there sketching people. We are aware that other sketches are in the public domain, but we can’t find anywhere that shows these beauties. As to whether the individuals would have been flattered by their likenesses, who can say. Others are not dated, so we have no idea when or where they would have been sketched.
We have put the sketches alongside known portraits of the sitters, we would love to know what you think.
We begin with Emma, Lady Hamilton. This one is not dated.
Next we have Anne, Marchioness Townsend. She looks decidedly ‘matronly’ and not at all glamorous in this sketch unlike her portrait by Reynolds. We’re not at all sure she would have been flattered by this sketch.
Next, we have Mary Isabella, Duchess of Rutland. Note the fashionable ‘high hair’.
Then we have the beautiful Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her sister, Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough.
There’s another one of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, this one is dated and was sketched at Buxton.
To find out more about the child that the Duchess of Devonshire raised as her own, Charlotte Williams, despite the child being the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, follow the highlighted link.
Last, but by no means least we present the actress, Mrs Sarah Siddons.
In the early summer of 1750, the Earl of March (later the 4th Duke of Queensberry and more commonly known as ‘Old Q’) and Alexander Montgomerie, 10th Earl of Eglinton made a wager with Theobald Taaffe, Esquire that a four-wheel carriage (or chariot/chaise), carrying a man, could run 19 miles on Newmarket Heath within an hour. The stakes were high, as the bet was for 1,000l.
Theobald Taaffe was from an Irish Roman Catholic family. Having married a wealthy English heiress and through her gained rights in a Jamaican property and a house in Hanover Square he had a brief interest in politics before setting to in squandering his fortune in high living. During 1750, Taaffe was one of the boon companions of the Duke of Bedford and Lord Sandwich, who were spending their whole time that summer in ‘riot and gaming’. This perhaps gives some indication of the atmosphere in which the Newmarket wager was conceived.
In 1751, Horace Walpole wrote to his friend, Horace Mann describing Theobald Taaffe as:
an Irishman, who changed his religion to fight a duel, as … you know, in Ireland a Catholic may not wear a sword. He is the hero who having betted Mrs. Woffington five guineas on as many performances in one night, and demanding the money which he won, received the famous reply, double or quits. He is a gamester, usurer, adventurer, and of late has divided his attentions between the Duke of Newcastle and Madame de Pompadour, travelling with turtles and pineapples in post-chaises, to the latter, flying back to the former for Lewes races—and smuggling Burgundy at the same time.
William Douglas, Earl of March, was cut from much the same cloth as Taaffe; he too had a reputation as a dissolute gambler and a rake. He also had a keen interest in horses and horse racing and was so frequently seen on the turf at Newmarket that it was almost his second home.
The match was to be run in August; it was supposed to take place in the middle of the month but was pushed back to the 29th. Lord March and Lord Eglinton commissioned a lightweight four-wheeled carriage from Mr Wright, a coachmaker in Long Acre, Covent Garden, to be built in haste. Long Acre was known for coachbuilding and Wright was one of the most noted, along with John Hatchett who also had premises on the street.
The first prototype of the four-wheeled race carriage was not an unbridled success; in trials on the heath two horses were killed and one lamed. Another carriage was built and conveyed to Newmarket which proved much more successful.
It is a most surprising piece of mechanism, and ‘tis said it does not weigh much more than 100 weight.
(Newcastle Courant, 7th July 1750)
This second carriage was extremely light and almost skeletal, and not at all what Taafe had envisaged when he made his bet. The Earl of March was a canny and astute operator and never bet when he thought the odds were against him; he almost certainly had a carriage of his own design – moreover one pulled by trained horses – in mind when he agreed to the challenge.
Even so, in early July, the bets were three to two that they didn’t do it.
Eventually, the date was set, to great excitement. Despite the report below, it was actually run on 29th August 1750 which was a Wednesday.
The Four Wheel Carriage, so long talked of, will certainly be run on Newmarket Heath on Tuesday next, when it is expected there will be the greatest number of nobility, &c that has been for many years at that place.
(Derby Mercury, 24th August 1750)
The carriage had one of Lord March’s postilions seated in it and four horses to pull it. Just before seven o’clock in the morning, they were off, starting at the Six Mile House on the Newmarket racecourse.
The near fore horse was a brown one, named Tawney, late Greville’s; the off fore horse was a dark grey, named Roderick Random, late Tom Stanford’s; the near wheel horse was a chestnut, named Chance, late Duke Hamilton’s; and the off wheel horse a grey, named Little Dan, late Parson Thompson’s of Beverley.
Three boys were assigned seats on the horses while the fourth was ridden by William Erratt (also named as Everett), groom to a Mr Panton, all four of them wearing blue satin waistcoats, buckskin breeches, white silk stockings and black velvet caps. Another groom, dressed in crimson, rode in front to clear the way. The poor postilion, sitting precariously in the carriage, wore a white satin waistcoat, black velvet cap and red silk stockings (although in the picture above he appears to be dressed similarly to the riders).
Immense crowds had come to watch, the ‘greatest part of the Sporting Gentlemen in England present’ and betting had changed to five to three in favour of the 19 miles being covered in less than an hour.
Luckily for the Earls of March and Eglinton, everything ran to clockwork. The first four miles were run in just nine minutes and there was then little doubt in the minds of the spectators but that Lord March and Lord Eglinton would be victorious. In the end, the spectacle was completed in well under the allotted hour (the London Evening Post said in 53 minutes and 20 seconds, and the Whitehall Evening Post had the time at 54 minutes 30 seconds but both newspapers agreed that the carriage could actually have covered 20 miles in less than an hour).
At least three of the horses, Tawney, Roderick Random (named after the eponymous hero of Tobias Smollett’s, The Adventures of Roderick Random which had been published two years earlier) and Little Dan were auctioned off at Newmarket a few weeks later. Perhaps Chance was the horse ridden by William Erratt/Everett, and described below as Evrat’s Horse?
On Thursday last the Chaise Horses were sold at Newmarket as follows:
Tawney, for 110 guineas to Mr Horsley
Roderick Random, for 90 guineas to Sir Thomas Sebright
Little Dan, for 55 guineas to Mr Prance
Surly, for 56 guineas to Mr Vernon
Single Peeper, for 50 guineas to Lord Chedworth
A Bay Horse, got by Fletcher’s Arabian, for 80 guineas to Mr Prance
A Grey Horse, got by Dusty Miller, for 28 guineas to Sir William Beauchamp Proctor
Evrat’s Horse, for 27 guineas to Mr Allen
(Derby Mercury, 12th October 1750)
Sources not mentioned above:
The Ipswich Journal, 9th June 1750 and 1st September 1750
Taaffe, Theobald (c.1708-80), of Hanover Sq., London, published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
We all know of the famous (or infamous) Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Cavendish née Spencer. But, what of the other Duchesses of Devonshire during the long eighteenth-century? Today, we are taking a whistle-stop tour to look at them one-by-one.
We start with Lady Mary Butler (1646-1710), daughter of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. In 1662 she married William Cavendish (1640-1707), then merely Lord Cavendish, the eldest son of William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire; in 1684 Mary became the Countess of Devonshire when her husband succeeded to the earldom. His support of the Glorious Revolution in 1688 brought him the support of William III (of Orange) and in 1694 the Earl and Countess of Devonshire became, additionally, the 1st Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
Next is the Honourable Rachel Russell (1674-1725), daughter of William Russell, Lord Russell and the wife of William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire (c.1672-1729) (you might be gathering by this point that the Cavendish family weren’t that imaginative when it came to naming the heir!). William and Rachel married on 21st June 1688 and had five children.
The eldest son of the 2nd Duke and Duchess was… you’ve guessed it! William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire (1698-1755). At a young age, he married Katherine Hoskins or Hoskyn (c.1698-1777) of whom little appears to be known.
An interesting snippet concerning the 3rd Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, they are the most recent common ancestors of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer; Charles is descended from the 3rd duke’s eldest son (who we will come onto next, go on, have a guess at his name!) and the second eldest daughter of the family, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish (who married John Ponsonby) was the direct ancestor of Diana.
Katherine outlived her husband by more than 20 years.
Yes, you’re correct! The next to hold the title was William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire who, when Marquess of Hartington, married Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle, the only surviving daughter of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (it was a wedding which had been planned since they were both children, and was a very happy one). Charlotte inherited all her father’s estates and the title of Baroness Clifford in her own right.
Now, strictly speaking, Charlotte should not be included here as she never actually became the Duchess of Devonshire. She died of smallpox at Uppingham in Rutland at the beginning of December 1754, mere months before her husband became the duke upon the death of his father (and tragically, she died just over 8 months after the birth of her fourth child). So, Charlotte was only ever Marchioness of Hartington, but we felt she should take her place on this blog.
And so we come to William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811), who married Lady Georgiana Spencer (1757-1806) in 1774, on her 17th birthday at Wimbledon parish church. It is well-known that the marriage was unhappy; the duke was emotionally cold to Georgiana although he continued to entertain mistresses.
In 1782, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire made the acquaintance of Lady Elizabeth (Bess) Foster née Hervey (1758-1824), the daughter of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol who was separated from her own husband (and three sons). The two ladies became friends, and Bess and the duke more than that; Bess went to live with the couple and something of a ménage à trois developed, reluctantly tolerated by Georgiana (Bess and the duke had two illegitimate children together).
Georgiana embarked upon an affair of her own after having given birth to two daughters (Lady Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish, known as Little G and Lady Harriet Elizabeth Cavendish, or Harryo) and a son and heir, William George Spencer Cavendish, aka Hart (as his title from birth was Marquess of Hartington). Her lover was the politician Charles Grey (later Earl Grey), and the affair resulted in a daughter, known as Eliza Courtney, in 1792, resulting in the duchess being banished abroad for a period of time before she was allowed home to live with her husband, children and Bess.
After Georgiana’s early death in 1806 (she was 48), the 5th Duke of Devonshire married Bess, so she too gained the title of Duchess of Devonshire although the duke died just two years after their wedding.
Hart (otherwise William Cavendish, 1790-1858), the eldest son of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and Georgiana did in time become the 6th Duke (in 1811) but he never married.
After Hart’s death, in 1858, the title passed to the eldest son of George Cavendish, 1st Earl of Burlington who, in turn, was the eldest son of the 4th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Charlotte Boyle. With excellent forward planning, he too was named William Cavendish and, although we’re well out of the ‘long eighteenth-century’ now, we’ll share one last image with you, of another woman who took her place in the Cavendish family tree but who never became Duchess of Devonshire.
In 1829, the 7th Duke, before he had come into his estates and titles (he was, from 1834, the 2nd Earl of Burlington), married Blanche Georgiana Howard (1812-1840), the daughter of George Howard, 6th Earl of Carlisle and Georgiana Cavendish who we have already mentioned above as ‘Little G’, the eldest daughter of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
It was to be a short but happy marriage, engineered by Hart, the childless 6th Duke of Devonshire; five children were born to the couple before Blanche died in 1840, aged just 28. For the last two years of her life, Blanche, Countess of Burlington, was one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies of the Bedchamber.
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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her infant daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish by Joshua Reynolds; Chatsworth House.
14th July 1817 saw the demise of the Swiss author, woman of letters and political thinker, aged 51, Madame Germaine de Staël. She was regarded as a witty socialite and always wore the most fashionable if daring clothing. Living through the French Revolution and opposed to Napoleon, she spent much of the time in exile.
In late June 1813, she arrived in London, with her daughter and was seen at all the fashionable places and social events, proving herself to be exceptionally popular and invited to all the best society parties. The newspapers were full of details of her attendance at events – everyone wanted to meet her.
Little known fact – she had ugly feet!
The presence of Madame de Staël in London has set all the journalists and magazine writers at work, to collect anecdotes of her conversational powers, her age, her appearance, her fine arm and her ugly feet. With respect to the latter, the following story is told. The French are famous for their neat quibbles – Madame de Staël was once at a place in Paris, where there was a pedestal, which, vain of her arm, she mounted, and put herself in an attitude to display it; but unluckily, which in this situation, she exhibited one of her feet. A French wit approached, and pretending to look more immediately at the pedestal, without noticing her feet, exclaimed ‘O le villain Pie-De-Stal!’
Windsor and Eton Express 01 August 1813
During her stay in London, she took great interest in the British education system and the newspapers reported her visits to various schools in London; she also managed a visit to Oxford University in December 1813.
In 1814 Paris had surrendered to the Allied troops and Napoléon, when he saw there was no option left, had abdicated his position of Emperor, surrendered to his opponents on 11th April and was exiled to the island of Elba.
This was regarded as a cause for celebration and we came across a report of her attendance as one of the honoured guests, at a ‘Fete’ in honour of The Peace. The account gave such a detailed description of the venue we simply had to share it with you.
On Friday night Breadalbane House in Park Lane was opened, for the first time two years, with a Fete, given expressly in honour of the late glorious change in the political hemisphere. To this entertainment were invited all the illustrious branches of the House of Bourbon. The most distinguished personages, the most fashionable youth of both sexes were present and exhibited an emulous display of the most superb dresses, enchanting beauty, and refined wit.
On entering, the company were introduced into a hall, decorated with natural and artificial flowers, curiously interwoven, among which the white rose and laurel leaves were conspicuously blended.
Ascending the grand geometrical staircase (a fine piece of architecture), a very pleasing object presented itself to view; it was festoons, garlands and wreaths of white roses and laurel leaves. In the principal room appeared objects of singular splendour, superb mirrors, ottomans, chairs, sofas, fauteuils, and jardinières of burnished gold, exquisite paintings with all the warmth and colouring of the Italian school; bronzes, porcelain and ormolu; inestimable specimens of rare bijoutry and other articles of vertu.
Here the floor was painted in watercolours, in which the artist inimitably described the fall of despotism by allegorical figures, with the rising sun of the Capets, personified by a bust of Louis XVIII. ‘Vivent Les Bourbons’ and the lily appeared on every side.
It is impossible to give a just idea of the charming coup d’oeil presented by the former capacious room lighted by superb chandeliers and filled with elegant dancers. The music commenced at half-past eleven o’clock, with ‘The White Cockade’ led off by the Earl of Kinnoull and Lady Elizabeth Campbell. Next followed the Prince Regent. A double set was increased by four. The spirit and animation displayed were uncommonly gratifying and without prejudice, we may stage, that Lady Elizabeth Campbell excelled.
The waltzing commenced at one o’clock. Here was an admirable display of refinement in that mode of exhibiting ‘the light fantastic toe’. The Duke of Devonshire and Miss Mercer Elphinstone; Lord Maitland and Lady Susan Ryder; Earl of Fife and Lady Westmorland; Countess of Jersey and the Hon. Mrs Fitzroy. At two o’clock supper was announced. The company promenaded down the stairs into the library. On the staircase were the colours of the different Allies – Russia. Austria, Prussia and England.
Here another object of powerful influence rivetted the attention of every individual; it was a display of gold plate, antique and exquisitely wrought. These glittering objects, dazzling the senses into confusion – candelabras, tripods, urns, cups and salvers. A horseshoe table in this room and several long ones in the two adjoining apartments supped two hundred and fifty persons.
The most exquisite wines, the costliest preserves, the finest pineapples, grapes and produce of hot and succession houses, were in abundance. In short, everything that could recommend an entertainment was remembered.
Adding not a little to the effect may be enumerated the lighting of upwards of 200 wax candles, were used. Although the crowded rooms produced heat, the effect was not disagreeable, owing no doubt, to the use of wax instead of oil. The latter is a most pernicious custom, and we are happy to hear, will be nearly exploded this season, the Marchioness of Salisbury having likewise set the example.
The dancing recommenced with reels, at three o’clock and the whole concluded at six in the morning. An elegant dejeune was then served up, and the visitants soon after retired.
By September 1814, Madame de Staël had returned to Paris and was apparently
no longer in vogue. Her literary vagaries found no countenance from the French Court, and as for the middling classes, these persons do not understand, or even attempt to read her works.
We can share with you an interesting comment made by our Georgian Heroine, Mrs (Rachel) Charlotte Williams Biggs, written to a close friend in early April 1814, which conjured up quite an amusing image.
Clearly, Charlotte’s perception of Madame de Staël was somewhat different from views elsewhere expressed about her relationship with Napoleon. Could she see that Madame de Staël would fall out of favour?
Madame de Staël & her disciples will now be out of fashion & I doubt not but that she feels disappointed and mortified – she liked the principle of Buonaparte’s power, and only objected to that portion of it which was exercised against herself – I recommend the sending all these people to Elba, they would be like confined spiders & soon destroy each other.
There were a number of establishments known as Almack’s over the years; today we are focusing on the famous Assembly Rooms on King Street, St James.
Opened in 1765 by a Yorkshireman named William Almack (often mistakenly claimed to be a Scot named William MacCall) the assembly rooms consisted of a ballroom (balls were held on a Wednesday evening during the season), supper room (where a rather meager repast was to be found) and game room. From the outset, Almack allowed his rooms to be goverened by a clique of titled and influential Lady Patronesses; entry to the hallowed inner rooms was strictly policed and good breeding rather than wealth was the key to a ticket. Inside was to be found dancing, gossiping and match-making; according to Captain Gronow, an officer in the guards and a friend to many of the elite including the famed Beau Brummell, Almack’s was ‘the seventh heaven of the fashionable world’.
Today, from one of Captain Gronow’s reminscences, we are going to take a closer look at an account of a Regency ball held at Almack’s during 1815. By this date, the assembly rooms were owned by Almack’s daughter, Elizabeth Pitcairn (her husband, David Pitcairn, physician extraordinary to the Prince of Wales, was first cousin to our ‘infamous mistress’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott).
The image above accompanied Gronow’s reminiscence, although the outfits worn are clearly later than 1815. Nevertheless, it depicts the dandy, Beau Brummell deep in conversation with the Duchess of Rutland. In the centre, the Comte de Saint Antonio, later the Duke of Cannizarro, is leading the Princess Esterhazy, who was the youngest Lady Patroness of Almack’s during the Regency, into a waltz. The princess, whose husband was the Austrian Ambassador to England, was described as being, ‘black, animated, and somewhat spiteful’ by Dorothea, Princess Lieven, wife of the Russian ambassador and an influential figure amongst the corps diplomatique, who nevertheless cheerfully admitted that she got on well with her. Sir George Warrender and the Comte de Sainte-Alegonde stand together on the right. The former was once a great friend of both Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent; a generous host, he gained the nickname, Sir George Provender.
Almack’s in 1815. — The personages delineated on the cover are well worthy of notice, both from the position they held in the fashionable world, and from their being represented with great truth and accuracy. The great George Brummell, the admirable Crichton of the age, stands in a dégagé attitude, with his fingers in his waistcoat pocket. His neckcloth is inimitable, and must have cost him much time and trouble to arrive at such perfection; as the following anecdote shows. A friend calling on the beau saw the valet with an armful of flowing white cravats, and asked him if his master wanted so many at once. “These, sir, are our failures,” was the reply. “Clean linen, and plenty of it,” was Brummell’s maxim. He is talking earnestly to the charming Duchess of Rutland, who was a Howard, and mother to the present Duke.
The tall man, in a black coat, who is preparing to waltz with Princess Esterhazy, so long ambassadress of Austria in London, is the Comte de St Antonio, afterwards Duke of Canizzaro. He resided many years in England, was a very handsome man, and a great lady-killer; he married an English heiress, Miss Johnson.
The original sketch from which these figures are taken, included also portraits of Charles, Marquis of Queensberry, Baron Neumann, at that time secretary of the Austrian Embassy; the late Sir George Warrender (who was styled by his friends Sir George Provender, being famed for his good dinners); and the handsome Comte St Aldegonde, afterwards a general, and at this period aide-de-camp to Louis Philippe, then Duke of Orleans.
The sketch was made in water-colours, from a group of these celebrities at a ball at Almack’s, and was given to Brummell by the artist who executed it; it was highly prized by the king of the dandies, and was purchased at the sale of his effects in Chapel Street by the person who gave it to me.
NB: Gronow talks about an ‘original sketch’ which included other Regency personalities and which had been owned by Brummell and later given to Gronow. For some reason, it would appear that Gronow had the sketch redrawn and possibly from memory? If so, it would be wonderful to rediscover the one which presumably shows those at the ball attired in full Regency fashion.
Museum of Painting and Sculpture, Or, Collection of the Principal Pictures, Statues and Bas-reliefs in the Public and Private Galleries of Europe, Volume 6 by Etienne Achille Réveil, 1829.
Letters of Dorothea, Princess Lieven, during her residence in London, 1812-1834. Edited by Lionel G. Robinson, 1902.
Anecdotes of celebrities of London and Paris: to which are added the last recollections of Captain Gronow, formerly of the First Foot Guards, volume 2, 1870.
Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, formerly of the Grenadier Guards: and M.P. for Stafford: being Anecdotes of the Camp, the Court and the Clubs at the close of the last war with France, Pickle Partners Publishing, 2011
In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information.
We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now and believes that the turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.
Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.
At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah.
We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her.
If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it seems highly likely that it would have been studded with gold and diamonds. You will also note the presence of a black ostrich feather at the back of the turban. Now, this was a fashion statement! It is also worth mentioning that the fashion of the day was to wear rouge and Dido was no exception to this.
Ostrich feathers were all the rage in the mid-1770s and Dido’s uncle, Viscount Stormont bought some back from Paris in 1774. Perhaps he gave one to Dido and following the fashion, she added it to the turban?
Viscount Stormont also presented one to the Duchess of Devonshire on his return, and being the fashion doyenne of the day, she sent the fashion world into a spin by adding it to her hat. This sparked the caricaturists into a frenzy, creating the most elaborate caricatures with the largest of plumes, as you can see above.
It has to be said that the Duchess of Devonshire was mocked mercilessly and according to the British Museum:
Lady Louisa Stuart wrote in her old age of “the outrageous zeal manifested against the first introduction of ostrich feathers as a headdress. This fashion was not attacked as fantastic or unbecoming or inconvenient or expensive, but as seriously wrong or immoral. The unfortunate feathers were insulted mobbed burned almost pelted…”.
When Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, dined with Lord Mansfield in 1779 he met Dido and recorded the following in his diary:
A black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel – pert enough.
We now move on to look at the artist of the portrait. It has long been reputed to have been painted by Johann (John) Zoffany, but this is now disputed, and to this day it remains ‘artist unknown’.
It is acknowledged that Zoffany went to Europe for several years, finally returning to England at some stage in 1779 the very year that the portrait was reputed to have been painted.
From the account of his life, John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810, it tells us that he remained in Coblenz well into the summer of 1779. Although not impossible, it certainly would have given him little time to have painted Dido on his return. So, if we discount Zoffany that leaves only a few other possible artists, two of whom we think were feasible. One would be Allan Ramsay’s protégé, David Martin (1737-1797), who was known to the family as he painted the stunning portrait of Lord Mansfield.
The slight difficulty we have with the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth Murray being painted by Martin is that again there is a question as to whether he was still living in England in 1779 or if he had returned to his native Scotland (although he retained his property in Dartford until 1782). Certainly, we know that in 1780 Martin was in Scotland when he was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers. Again, the dates are tight!
If it was definitively painted in 1779, then it is feasible that he could have at least had some input into the work, especially as Ramsay had severely injured his hand a few years previously which stopped him taking on any major projects.
The other difficulty we have with Martin is that Etienne has checked Lord Mansfield’s accounts. These proved inconclusive.
So, that leaves only the principal painter to the King (George III), Allan Ramsay, and although we don’t have the expertise to validate this, with the research we have done it would appear far more likely that it was painted by him. Why? Well, there are several reasons to suppose this.
Firstly, we understand that the portrait was commissioned by Lord Mansfield, but there is no record in his accounts of him paying for any such portraiture.
Secondly, given the socially precarious position Dido held in Georgian society, then why not ‘keep it in the family’? Especially when you have an extremely distinguished portrait artist as an uncle to call upon, in the guise of none other than the Scottish portrait painter, Allan Ramsay who was married to Margaret Lindsay, the sister of Sir John Lindsay.
Thirdly, despite an earlier family ‘falling out’ over Ramsay being not regarded as a suitable match for Sir John’s sister, Margaret, we know that the family had been reconciled and Ramsay was, at this time, close to Dido’s extended family. Amongst his paintings, there was one, if not two portraits of Sir John Lindsay himself, so again, it would seem natural for him to paint his illegitimate daughter. Ramsay also named Lord Mansfield and Sir John Lindsay in his will, another sign of the close familial ties.
Finally, the posing of the subjects in the painting appears very relaxed and informal as if being painted by someone the girls knew well and were comfortable with.
Hopefully one day someone will be able to validate the artist and settle that unanswered question once and for all, perhaps one for the BBC’s Fake or Fortune to investigate!
To see the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth in situ, it would be well worth a visit to Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland or to the home, where she spent many of her years, Kenwood House (Caenwood as it was formerly known as), Hampstead.
During our research into the life of Dido, we have also discovered NEW information about Sir John Lindsay’s other illegitimate children and NEW information about what became of Dido and her husband John Davinière. To find out more follow the highlighted links.
Following the BBC’s programme Fake or Fortune, you might be interested to read our thoughts on the findings.
The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland by Sir James Balfour Paul
General Evening Post, September 14, 1771 – September 17, 1771
English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, by James Oldham
In our earlier blog, looking at entertainments in Regency London, it was remarked that the Marchioness of Salisbury was unusual in opening her house to guests upon a Sunday. She always held a musical conversazione upon that day during the London season, attended by those of high rank and the best musicians.
Mary Amelia Hill (known as Emily Mary) was born in 1750, the daughter of Wills Hill, 2nd Viscount Hillsborough (later 1st Earl of Hillsborough and 1st Marquess of Downshire). In 1773 she married James Cecil, Viscount Cranborn of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. Her new husband was the only son and heir of the 6th Earl of Salisbury and, just seven years after their marriage, James became the 7th earl and Emily Mary his countess (the couple were later elevated in the peerage to the 1st Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury). Lady Salisbury was known as a prominent political hostess (a Tory and a fervent supporter of the monarchy) and was also a keen and talented sportswoman. It is perhaps unkind to describe her as eccentric, but she certainly paid little heed to many conventional norms as she determinedly walked her own path.
Lady Salisbury was seen as the political opposite to the Whig supporting Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and noted as a model female canvasser.
Her proceedings have been marked with such delicacy and dignity, as to shame the mobbing conduct of her rivals.
A trendsetter rather than a follower, Lady Salisbury was often to be seen in clothes of her own design and she rode enthusiastically to hounds well into her dotage, dressed in a sky blue riding habit with black collar and cuffs, a hunting cap on her head. Her slight frame belied her strength and she had an almost limitless energy. She took over the ownership of the Hertfordshire hounds in 1793 when her husband was forced by ill-health to resign his mastership and moved the kennels lock, stock and barrel to Hatfield House; they were subsequently known as the Hatfield hounds.
Archery was another of Lady Salisbury’s passions and she was also a talented artist.
Described as pretty, witty, intelligent and outspoken, she was married – reasonably happily it would seem – for thirteen years before having four children in quick succession, Georgiana Charlotte Augusta (1786), Emily (1789), James Brownlow William (1792) and Caroline (1793). Sadly, the youngest, Caroline, died in childhood and Lady Salisbury was widowed in 1823.
As the years passed and, well into her 70s, Lady Salisbury continued to run rings around people half her age; she was affectionately known as ‘Old Sally’. Even when her eyesight was failing and she had to be tied into her saddle, she still rode with the hunt.
The manner of Old Sally’s death was just as unconventional as her life had been. She had remained at Hatfield House after her husband’s death, living with her son, his wife and her grandchildren in her own apartments consisting of two suites of rooms. At 6 o’clock on the evening of the 27th November 1835, Lady Salisbury, after dressing for dinner, sat down at her writing desk. It is thought that some item of her clothing, perhaps the feathers she was wearing in her hair, caught alight from the three candles burning beside her but, whatever the cause, an intense fire broke out in her suite. By the time it was discovered (by a needlewoman named Brown who noticed the passageway was full of smoke), the room in which Lady Salisbury had been sitting was a mass of flames and so densely filled with smoke that it was impossible for anyone to enter.
A female servant, and one of old Lady Salisbury’s men-servants, attempted to do so; but the man fell down stupefied by the smoke, as soon as he had crossed the threshold, and was with difficulty saved. It appears certain that the fire must have commenced about twenty minutes before it was discovered; and the apartments being all wainscoted, its progress was terrifically rapid. No vestige of the Marchioness was discovered by any one; nor was a sound heard by those who first approached the room, except the moaning of an old favourite dog who was shut up with her.
Lord Salisbury arrived on the scene and had to be forcibly held back from attempts to rush into the flames and save his mother. The west wing of Hatfield House was destroyed and all that remained of the dowager marchioness were a few fragments of bone.
Spectator, 5th December 1835
Cecil [née Hill], Mary Amelia [Emily Mary], marchioness of Salisbury by E H Chalus, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Courtesan, dancer and – reputedly – the first ‘dumb blonde’, Catherine-Rosalie Duthé was a true eighteenth-century celebrity.
She was born on the 23rd November 1748, in Versailles to Jean-François Gérard, an ‘officier’ or gentleman servant to the king at the royal palace, and his wife, Louise-Rosalie Caumont. At the registration of her birth four days later, Catherine-Rosalie’s father was absent – perhaps away in attendance upon Louis XV – and the official document was signed by her grandmother and Christophe Broilleux, her godfather.
After being educated at the convent of Saint Aure in Paris she was sent, aged 15, to live with an aunt, Madame Duval. It is claimed that Catherine-Rosalie’s aunt introduced her to two well-known courtesans and actresses, Marie and Géneviève Rinteau of Verrières, the beautiful daughters of a lemonade merchant who caught the eye of men such as Maurice, Count of Saxony. (In 1748, the same year as Catherine-Rosalie’s birth, Marie had given birth to an illegitimate daughter, Marie Aurore by the Count of Saxony.)
Marie and Géneviève took the young, pink-cheeked and fair-haired Catherine-Rosalie under their wing, and, at their home on the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, taught her the tricks of their trade. Under their tutelage, she learnt signing, comedy and gallantry. Probably very intelligent, the tag of being the ‘first dumb blonde’ was given as Catherine-Rosalie was lampooned in her day due to her habit of leaving long pregnant pauses before speaking. Soon, the young Mademoiselle Gérard was dancing at the Paris Opera and adopted the name by which she is remembered, Rosalie Duthé.
She had watched Marie and Géneviève profit from their various lovers and determined to follow in their path. Arthur Richard Dillon, Archbishop of Narbonne, the French born son of Count Dillon (an Irish Jacobite), was her first protector; Rosalie was just 17, he was 44.
Many men were then seduced by Rosalie’s youthful beauty and she even captivated the young Duke of Chartres (the future Philippe, Duke of Orléans, Philippe Égalité). With this royal approval, even more men hastened to pay court to Rosalie, and the more lovers she collected, the wealthier she became. Even Christian VII of Denmark, on a visit to Paris, fell for her charms.
With her new found money and fame, Rosalie was painted by many of the best artists in France. The Count of Artois, youngest brother to Louis XVI (and the future Charles X) saw her portrait and hastened to Paris to court the beauty (his wife, Marie Thérèse of Savoy, was pregnant with their first child at the time).
Every night he came to follow her in the alleys of the Palais-Royal, publicly displaying a passion that he should have hidden for the sake of his rank.
Showering Rosalie with jewels and money, Artois conquered her affections and the two enjoyed a six month affair, from July 1775 to February 1776. One story relates that during these months, Rosalie was turned out of the Champs Elysées by Queen Marie Antoinette when she appeared with her carriage and equipage more sumptuously decorated with rare and expensive flowers than that of the Queen. Marie Thérèse of Savoy could not compete with Rosalie in terms of beauty. Playing on her surname (thé means tea in French) critics unkindly remarked that:
The prince, having had an indigestion with the cake of Savoy, comes to take tea in Paris.
Artois commissioned Lié Louis Périn-Salbreux to paint Rosalie sitting naked on the end of her bath, a work of art which the count displayed in the bathroom at château de Bagatelle, his pleasure house in the Bois de Boulogne. Another portrait of Rosalie by Périn-Salbreux, possibly also painted for her royal lover, depicts her laying semi-naked on a bed, her hair loose and falling around her shoulders.
Criss-crossing the Channel, Rosalie entertained a succession of wealthy and influential men both in Paris and in London. Paris was her home though, and it was there that she invested her money is a series of fine mansions but, in 1786, she sailed once again for England, imported, as it were, by George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont whom she ruined financially.
During the summer of 1786, the 4th Earl of Cholmondeley and Madame Saint-Albin were to be found in Kingsgate at Margate. The earl had been the former lover of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, until that infamous courtesan left for Paris and the arms of the Duke of Orléans. Marie-Françoise Henriette, Madame Saint-Albin had supplanted Grace in the earl’s affections and they were taking the sea air in the same house he had spent a summer of pleasure in with Grace almost a decade earlier. The couple were joined there by Lord Coleraine, another disreputable rake accompanied by his new courtesan of choice, Marie-Françoise Henriette’s countrywoman and compatriot, Rosalie Duthé. The two Frenchwomen moved in England, as they had in France, in similar circles. Mrs Elliott was also Rosalie’s contemporary; they both shared a lover in the person of the Duke of Orléans so were rivals, if not friends.
Rosalie escaped the terrors of the French Revolution, remaining in safety in England although she was declared an émigré and her house which she had owned since 1775 on rue du Mont-Blanc (at the corner of rue Saint-Lazare, formerly the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and where she had lived with Marie and Géneviève Rinteau) was forfeit and declared ‘national goods’ in her absence.
She returned to Paris briefly to try to reclaim her property, aided by her friend and banker Jean-Frédéric Perregaux who commissioned a portrait of Rosalie by Danloux which was painted in London during 1792.
Perregaux was the banker of choice for foreign travellers to Paris including Rosalie’s friend, Lord Cholmondeley and of known spies, as well as of courtesans like Rosalie. He lived on the same Parisian street, the rue de la Chaussée d’Antin. It is said that when Perregaux died, in 1808, he did so while contemplating his portrait of Rosalie Duthé who had remained one of his greatest friends.
Rosalie remained in London until 1816, then returned to Paris. She continued to receive many visitors and lived peacefully although in her later years she was almost blind. She died 24th September 1830 aged 82 years and was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery underneath two cedar trees. Rosalie left no will but two of her cousins, Madame Malacrida, a widow living in the Rue Laffitte, and Marie-Angélique Malacrida profited from the sale of her furniture which made 9,000 francs.
Catherine-Rosalie’s father is named as Jean-Baptiste Gérard in many sources, but on the register of her birth, it is Jean-François.
The rue de la Chaussée d’Antin was renamed the rue de Mirabeau in 1793 in honour of the revolutionary leader Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, Count of Mirabeau and then, when Mirabeau was proscribed in 1793, the rue du Mont-Blanc in 1793, but it reverted to its former name in 1815.
Marie Rinteau is the great-grandmother of the writer, George Sand.
Souvenirs de Mlle Duthé de l’Opéra (1748-1830), Louis-Michaud, 1909
Archives nationales, Paris
Registres paroissiaux et d’état civil, St Louis, Versailles
The Morning Post, 15th September, 1786
On Blondes by Joanne Pitman, 2004
Christmas Festivities: Tales, Sketches, and Characters with Beauties of the Modern Drama, in Four Specimens by John Poole, 1845
Once upon a time, there were three brothers, with the surname Barry and with the nicknames ‘Newgate ’alias Augustus, as this was said to be the only prison he had been in. Henry, known as ‘Cripplegate’ due to his club foot and then there is the one we are going to look at, Richard Barry, the 7th Earl of Barrymore, better known as ‘Hellgate’ as this was the gateway he was destined to enter.
Richard was born 1769, the eldest surviving of the four sons born to the 6th Earl of Barrymore and his wife Lady Amelia Stanhope during their short marriage. As the eldest son, Richard naturally inherited his father’s title when he died in August 1773 in Ireland from a fever.
The death of the 6th Earl left Amelia in their London home at Portman Square, to raise alone, a daughter plus the three boys. The youngest, Augustus was born only a few days before his father’s death.
This must have been a dreadful time for her, so she placed Richard under the care of the Reverend John Tickell, Wargrave, Berkshire until he was old enough to go up to Eton which he duly did from 1784 until he was 18. However, in 1780 Lady Barrymore, aged just 31, died in France, after a lingering illness, her body, preserved in spirits was returned to England for burial. This left the four children, orphans, who were in part raised by their grandmother, Countess Harrington, who appeared to have little control of them allowing them free reign to do as they pleased, so of course, they ran wild. The death of both parents must have had a profound effect on the children, especially Richard, which might explain the way he lived the rest of his life, for live his life he did in a way that today we call ‘living life on the edge’.
He rented a house in Wargrave and with his passion for the theatre he borrowed an advance on his inheritance which he would receive when aged twenty-one and had a theatre built opposite the house to indulge his passion. His inheritance was estimated to be around eleven thousand pounds a year, a nest egg which had been accumulating year on year since the death of his father, so around £190,000 when he reached his majority and from then on around £24,000 per year.
Richard certainly enjoyed the finer things in life and was a prolific gambler, lover of horse racing and of boxing and bare fist fighting, both watching and participating in as well as hosting parties for the great and the good of the day including the Prince Regent. He lived at a time when clubs were all the rage and he was a member of most, and if they did not exist he created them, such as the ‘Two O’Clock Club’, which was named for the hour of the morning they met. The ‘Star and Garter’ which was a tavern they met in.
He had an immense passion for gambling and would gamble on virtually anything. One of his more obscure bets took place in 1788 when the newspapers reported a bet between Richard and the Duke of Bedford, that he could produce a man who could eat a live cat. Quite what the sum of this wager was we may never know but he did win his bet two weeks later by producing a man who tore the cat limb from limb and devoured every morsel. Later that year Richard continued with another of his passions, that of the theatre by performing at the theatre in Brighton.
On another occasion, he wagered that he could beat a Mr Bullock in a race around Brighton. Richard left the gentleman to set the course, the gentleman was somewhat rotund and set the course in incorporate a very narrow lane that Richard was unaware of. Richard gave him a thirty-five-yard start, then he set off, assuming this race would be easy to win. However, when they reached the narrow lane he could not pass Mr Bullock and so Richard lost the bet.
To add to his many vices, Richard had a fondness for the ladies and they for him in return, after all what was there not to like him, on receiving his inheritance he would be exceptionally wealthy, he was tall, very handsome, excellent physique, charming, witty, a skilled boxer, handy with a sword and an excellent horseman. He even learnt a language, which he was reputedly taught by the Duchess of Bolton, which was unintelligible to anyone who was not a party to the secret language, thereby allowing those ‘in the know’ to converse about everyone around them without them understanding a word of it.
His love of women led him to have several liaisons with women, married or otherwise including a Miss Ponsonby who had a connection to the Dukes of Devonshire, but her father put a stop to this liaison as Richard was not a wealthy or possibly suitable match for his daughter. He then had a brief, but intense relationship with a Mary Ann Pearce who benefitted from the luxurious lifestyle, living with him in his splendid house and with her own carriage.
Their relationship came to an end when he eloped in 1792, aged twenty-two, to Gretna Green where he married Charlotte Goulding, the daughter of a London sedan chairman and niece to Lady Letitia (Letty) Lade who had made a scandalous marriage with Sir John Lade, one of the inner circle of the Prince of Wales. In 1791, owing a great deal of money, and in order to stave off his creditors, Richard decided to become a member of Parliament for Heytesbury.
He was a Captain in the Royal Berkshire Militia and had been driving a gig which was taking French prisoners of war to Dover when his musket accidentally discharged. He was buried at Wargrave, Berkshire on 17th March 1793, so didn’t quite make it to his 24th birthday. Even after his death, there were rumours that he had been buried in secret to prevent his creditors from taking his corpse until his considerable debts had been paid. As he died intestate his estate was administered in March 1794 and valued at under £5,000, so did he gamble away all his wealth? It certainly would appear to be the case.
Pasquin, Anthony. The life of the late Earl of Barrymore
A Personal Observer. Truth Opposed to Fiction: Or, An Authentic and Impartial Review of the Life of the Late, Right Honourable the Earl of Barrymore
Saint Martin in the Fields, Westminster, marriage register
The Ipswich Journal 18 September 1773
Stamford Mercury 11 April 1788
Ipswich Journal 29 August 1789
Bury and Norwich Post23 September 1789
Theatrical peer of Berks/ Theatrical peer of Berkshire. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
We came across this piece of art whilst researching the heroine of our latest book, Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. The painting was inspired by a poem called ‘The Ringers of Launcells Tower’ that was written, some decades after the event, by Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow and which we thought we would share with you.
The Ringers of Launcells
They rang at the Accession of George the Third and lived to ring again at the fiftieth anniversary of his reign.
They meet once more! That ancient band –
With furrowed cheek and failing hand, –
One peal today they fain must ring
The Jubilee of England’s King!
They meet once more – but changed are now
The sinewy arm and laughing brow:
The strength that hail’d in former times
King George the third with lusty chimes!
Yet proudly gaze on that lone tower!
No goodlier sight hath hall or bower, –
Meekly they strive – and closing day
Gilds with soft light their locks of gray!
Hark! Proudly hark! With that true tone
They welcomed Him to Land and Throne,
So ere they die they fain would ring
The Jubilee of England’s King!
Hearts of old Cornwall! Fare ye well,
Fast fade such scenes from field and dell,
How wilt thou lack, my own dear land,
Those trusty arms, that faithful band!
Launcells is a rural hamlet between Stratton and Bude in Cornwall where, during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, there lived six bell ringers. The six men are identified as John Lyle (1736-1832), Richard Hayman (1739-1816), John Ham (1742-1825), Richard Venning (1744-?), Henry Cade and John Allen.
John Lyle was the longest living member of the group and was born and bred in Launcells and remained there his entire life. He was reputed to have rung a merry peal for King George III’s coronation in 1760, then again for his golden Jubilee in 1810, then for the coronation of King George IV in 1821 and, as unlikely as it seems, also for the coronation of King William IV in 1831, just one year before he died at the ripe old age of 96. That was quite some achievement. Two others also lived long enough to join John Lyle in ringing the peals for George IV’s coronation, Richard Hayman and John Ham.
The only other member we managed to find out anything about was John Ham who began his working life as an apprentice cooper to the Lyle family in 1754 and who married Anna Maria Lisle in 1761 at the parish church in Launcells.
The painting was a reconstruction of the scene as Frederick Smallfield imagined it would have looked, depicting the six bell ringers ringing the bells as part of the celebrations for the golden jubilee of King George III. It was clearly important to Smallfield that he captured everything correctly so he studied bell ringers at his local church as well as visiting the church tower in Launcells.
We know that great celebrations were held across the country to celebrate the jubilee of King George III in 1809 as it was our very own heroine who instigated them. References to this painting seem to confirm though that the bell ringing took place in 1810, i.e. at the end of King George III’s 50th year on the throne.