Following on from our last two blog posts looking at Queen Victoria’s connection with the Cooper gypsy family just a few short months before she became monarch, and the fact that we delve into Romany history in our latest book, we thought that today, instead of one of our regular blog posts, we would instead recommend a brilliant online resource for anyone interested in taking research into gypsy genealogy further.
A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History follows two generations of the British royal family’s ancestors, charting their respective – and scandalous – love affairs and unions. The second of these two marriages was between a well-connected young Oxford University student (he was nephew and grandson to two successive Dukes of Portland, great-nephew to the Duke of Wellington and grandson to Marquess Wellesley) and a girl from humble working-class stock who had gypsy blood flowing through her veins.
We have spent many years researching certain Midlands gypsy families and this was how we first stumbled onto the story which sparked A Right Royal Scandal. For any of our readers who, like us, are interested in finding out more we recommend a fantastic site run by expert genealogists Eric Trudgill and Anne-Marie Ford.
Their site, ‘Gypsy Genealogy’, publishes at least two new articles on the first Monday of every month, and they are always full of information. Some give the history of a particular family while others give helpful tips on how to conduct your research for, as we have found, when researching gypsy families you often need to employ different methods to obtain results. So, we’d recommend bookmarking this fascinating resource and popping back to it regularly.
Header image: Gypsy Encampment, 1795 by George Morland
Today we are supplying a little extra information on one of the people mentioned on our ‘sister’ blog, The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman. Arthur Annesley Powell was the husband of Fanny Chapman’s aunt, Jemima Neate.
Annesley Arthur Roberts was born on the 15th April 1767, son of Elizabeth née Powell and William Roberts and was baptized at St George, Hanover Square, London.
In 1774 at the tender age of just 7 Arthur, as he was known, was sent to be educated at Harrow and according to the archivist, Joanna Badrock, this was the earliest case of a child starting at Harrow that she had come across.
In 1784, at just 17 he was admitted to Wadham College, Oxford, so we can only assume that he was quite an intelligent and well educated young man, an important assumption in light of later events!
In May 1783 his uncle, John Powell , owner of Quex House, died, so leaving no wife or children left the major part of his estate for the use of his eldest nephew, Arthur, son of his sister Elizabeth Roberts, on the condition that he change his surname to Powell.
The name change had to be ratified by Act of Parliament and this act confirmed that ‘the fruit of Powell’s body would also be entitled to continue to inherit the estate from him’. This legal change of surname however, didn’t take place until 1789, but he was commonly known as Powell straight after his uncles death.
So those are the facts. We have an intelligent and wealthy young man presumably with a bright future ahead of him, so what happened next?
Well, he was to meet a woman, some 10 years older than himself, Miss Jemima Neate and this is where we begin the story of his ‘irregular’ or clandestine marriage –
We discovered through the archives that on the 15th February 1788 a court action to nullify the marriage was taken by his father who was acting on his sons’ behalf as he was still regarded as a minor as he was still just under 21 at the time. The purpose of the Marriage Act of 1753 which came into effect March 1754, was to abolish clandestine marriages and to introduce the veto by parents on marriages of their under 21 year old children. Both aims were defeated for many reasons, but the main way of avoiding the new law was by marrying in Scotland.
There were four types of matrimonial suits open to litigants in ecclesiastical courts. The first were nullity suits, which challenged the legal validity of the marriage itself. Among those which were void in themselves were unions which involved incest, which usually meant marriage with a deceased wife’s sister, or with a niece or nephew; or an incapacitating state of mind or body—such as lunacy or male impotence (and, very rarely, female frigidity, or physical deformation of the vagina)—which prevented the essential purpose of marriage, namely sexual intercourse.
The allegation being, that whilst at Wadham College, Oxford in 1786, Fanny Chapman’s aunt, Jemima who was aged 28 and conversant in ‘the arts and management of crafty’ (don’t you just love that phrase), preyed on this soon to be exceptionally wealthy young man, described by his father as being ‘a youth of very weak faculties’ , in a nutshell Arthur’s father stated that Jemima was, what we would call today a ‘cougar’ and was after his billions!
The document reports that a plot or scheme was hatched by Jemima and her sister Christiana Chapman née Neate and other members of the family by ‘exercising an undue and improper influence over the great weakness of his understanding to entrap him into the Celebration of Marriage with Jemima, secretly and clandestinely without the consent of his father’.
It was alleged that about 6am on the 8th July 1786 at the house of Jemimas’ father William Chapman, Jemima and her sister Christiana gave him some tea for his breakfast and unknown to him, contrived to mix some drug or unknown medicine with a soporific nature in it. As to what Arthur was doing at their house apart from simply paying them a visit we have no idea and this was never questioned.
Apparently, he drank the tea, became drowsy and was bundled into a post chaise with members of the family who promptly headed off towards Scotland, so that a marriage could take place. It was alleged that he had further drugs administered during the journey, presumably to keep him sedated. When they arrived at Durham or Newcastle upon Tyne, it is alleged that they purchased some porter at an inn which they put into a glass bottle containing more drugs and gave that to him to drink too. So he was comatose throughout the journey!
They travelled onward to Cornhill in County Durham where they arrived about midnight on the 10th of July, Cornhill being about a mile and a half from Coldstream where they alighted at an inn known as The Bee Hive. The women then sent a messenger to procure a parson. A person calling himself Richard Powley and describing himself as the Episcopal Minister of Kelso in North Britain arrived, agreed his fees with Christiana.
Jemima, Christiana, Richard Powley and Arthur, all four in the same chaise proceeded across the Tweed to Coldstream, Arthur being under their control the whole time, although still slightly affected by the drugs he put up no resistance.
They arrived at an inn at Coldstream run by a George Weatherhead, about one o’clock on the 11th July 1786 where the marriage took place in the presence of Richard Powley, who was later described as not being a minister and that he was pretending. This fact was not checked out during the case, as if it were it would have possible to establish that he was actually a minister. They swiftly returned to London after the marriage had taken place.
Both the Public Advertiser and General Advertiser of the 15th July carried an announcement of their marriage, but sadly provided no further evidence of exactly where or when it took place. It also remains a mystery as to who notified the newspapers of this event if it weren’t true and why make such a public announcement of a clandestine marriage?
There is no judgement in this case but we know that Jemima not only retained the Powell surname but received £500 a year from Powell (about £30,000 in today’s money), we also know that a lawyer wrote to Mrs Powell only a month after the marriage, so clearly there was an assumption at that stage that the marriage was legal and everyone knew about it, so, putting all the evidence together the most likely reason for the nullity petition seems to be that Arthurs’ father was trying to protect his sons inheritance.
To a certain extent it did work as the couple only remained married for less than 3 years when they went their separate ways, but Arthur did not marry again, so arguably it did not work out at all well for him!
Arthur pursued a career in the military. The next time we hear anything of Arthur was when he shot Lord Falkland. The newspapers of the day providing us with all the details. Seemingly he managed to avoid prison or death at this time. He lived on until 1813 when he died as a result of a fall from his horse. We know far more about Jemimas life through her niece Miss Fanny Chapman whose diaries are available to read on our ‘sister’ site.
Although we don’t have any portraits of Arthur we have managed to find one for his younger brother John, who, as Arthur had no children, inherited Quex Park in Kent.
So, we are still left with the question of who to believe,
Did Jemima entrap the ‘very weak of faculties’ Arthur or did he go willingly and then regret it on his return?
Did they live together as husband and wife on their return?
Why did his father wait two years before pursuing a court case to have the marriage nullified, what happened during those two years?
Sadly, we have more questions than answers. Certainly Jemima’s family felt that she had been wronged but, given that she managed to receive £500 a year, it does look as if she wasn’t going to disappear quietly!
Well, our summer break is over and our blog posts resume. We hope that for those of you who have had a break that you’re back feeling refreshed and invigorated.
We have been busy working with George and Amanda Rosenberg to finish putting together Fanny Chapman’s later diaries so with fanfares and trumpets we can announce that the later diaries for the years 1837 – 1841 are now accessible by following this link to Fanny Chapman’s Diaries.
As well as having taken an extremely long break from writing her diary, the period moves to the Victorian Era and you will notice that the style of her diaries has initially changed in parts, she simply provides us with people she has called upon that day and then people who have called upon her. Perhaps being older this type of record keeping had become important to her, we will never really know.
As with the earlier ones we have added some beautiful illustrations that we hope will make it even more fascinating to read including pictures of Fanny and her sister Emma as older women.
George and Amanda, owners of the diaries are busily working on an index for each year which, given the number of people Fanny knew, is no mean feat. As soon as that is complete we will include it on the site. We are discovering new information almost daily about both about Fanny and her family, so it remains a ‘work in progress’, but we hope you will enjoy it.
We would love to hear from anyone who recognizes or knows anything about anyone named in her diaries. We can be contacted either via the blog or on Twitter – @sarahmurden, @joannemajor3 or @chapmandiary.
We are delighted to announce a ‘sister’ site to All Things Georgian, and would like to introduce to you ‘The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman’ which can be accessed by clicking here.
Some time ago we were approached by George and Amanda Rosenberg who had enjoyed our blog posts on this site, and thought we might like to host the diaries that they had painstakingly transcribed which were written by Fanny during the Regency, late Georgian and Victorian eras (George descends from Fanny Chapman’s family).
We were both thrilled and somewhat overwhelmed when he sent us the diaries and associated information, and quickly decided that they deserved a site of their own, for they are quite wonderful to read, and we hope that others will find them as fascinating as we have done. They are still a ‘work in progress’ as George and Amanda have far more information than we have managed to pull together as yet, so please keep checking back for further developments.
Christiana Fanny Chapman was born in 1775 to Henry Chapman and his wife Christiana (Kitty) nee Neate. Her diaries were kept in the form of notebooks and a number of loose pages and cover the years 1807 to 1812 when she lived in and around Bath and in Somerset with her aunts Jemima Powell and Mary Neate (Mary was also Fanny’s godmother), very much dependent upon them. The diaries describe their everyday life, their circle of friends and the social routine of the minor gentry of the time.
A constant presence in the diaries is Fanny’s uncle by marriage, Colonel John Hutton Cooper. He had been the second husband of Fanny’s aunt Phillis, who had been left a wealthy widow upon the death of her first husband, Charles Meniconi. When Phillis died she left everything to Cooper, including the villa in which they all lived, probably upon the understanding that he would continue to provide for her sisters and nieces (Fanny had a sister, Emma). Cooper reneged on that agreement, but George believes, and (after reading the diaries) we agree, that Fanny was more than a little in love with her widowed uncle, at least initially. Emma later described Cooper as a ‘reprobate and a fortune hunter’.
Fanny’s diary ends in 1812, and then recommences in 1837, just weeks after the young Queen Victoria had ascended the throne. With her two aunts dead, Fanny is living in Bath with her sister, finally her own mistress. Her aunts both left Fanny the main beneficiary of their wills.
Whilst the diaries which cover the years 1807 to 1812 are all fully available, the ones covering the Victorian years will be added to the site shortly.
The diaries end in 1841, but Fanny lived many more years, not dying until 1871 at the grand old age of ninety-five years.
Please feel free to share this with anyone whom you may feel will be interested in these diaries. You may also wish to follow @ChapmanDiary on twitter.
We all complain about the taxes we pay, back in the 18th century things were no different, but perhaps government offered a little more clarity about exactly what you were paying for. If it could be taxed the Georgians found a way to tax it!
In this blog we’re going to take a quick peek at a few of these. Most of us are familiar with the existence of land tax and hearth tax, but some of these are somewhat more obscure. Mocking the government was a splendid ‘sport’ for caricaturists and let’s face with some of these taxes they were spoilt for choice! So, here we go –
The Brick Tax
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
This was introduced in 1784 as a means of helping to pay for the wars being fought in the American Colonies. Tax was paid at the rates of 4 shilling per thousand bricks. Clearly this was not going to be popular so the way to reduce this levy was simple – make bigger bricks, so that you wold use less. That went well (not)! The government simply changed its rules and stipulated a maximum size for a brick. As you can imagine some of the smaller companies simply went out of business. The other option was that more timber was used as an alternative. The tax was finally abolished in 1850 as it was regarded as a detrimental tax to industrial development.
Candle or Beeswax Tax
From 1709 the government created yet another tax, this one went further than simply a tax. The making of candles in the home was also forbidden unless you held a licence. As a result an alternative form of lighting known as rush lighting was used as this was exempt. Rushes were dipped in animal fat then left to harden; these could then be lit at both ends, they only provided light for a very brief period of time though, but they were tax free! That could also be where the saying ‘to burn the candle at both ends’ originated.
Clock and Watch Tax
In an attempt to generate revenue for the country, in 1797 William Pitt imposed yet another tax – the clock tax. This tax required a payment of five shillings on every clock, even within a private home, two shillings and sixpence on pocket-watches of silver or other metal, and ten shillings on those of gold. As you can imagine this proved immensely unpopular and was scrapped after only nine months. So that went well!
How many of us like the occasional gin & tonic, ice and a slice? Well, in 18th century London the massive increase in the rate of consumption gin aka ‘mother’s ruin’ became a cause for concern, leading to more increased rates of crime and laziness, so the government of the day simply increased the tax on it. As you can imagine, yet another tax that went down well, this increase in tax caused riots in London in 1743. The tax, although not abolished was significantly reduced over the next few years.
In 1745 the Glass Excise Act came into effect. Glass has always been sold by weight and glasses traditionally had thick stems therefore weighed more than fragile thin stems. With this introduction of this tax, the solution was yet again quite simply – glass manufacturers simply switched to making glasses with hollow stems making them cheaper! However, in Ireland glass could be made without taxation meaning that Ireland was better placed to manufacture high quality, thick stemmed glasses as a reasonable price.
This tax was easy, the wealthier you were the more hats you were likely to own and the more expensive they were likely to be, so if you were poor you were unlikely to be able to afford a hat at all, therefore nothing to pay. The hat was required to have a revenue stamp stuck inside on its lining. Hefty fines were issued to milliners or hat wears who failed to pay the tax. The death penalty was available for anyone who made the mistake of forging a revenue stamp, so be warned!
In 1783 a tax was imposed on medicines that were sold by anyone who was not a surgeon, druggist or apothecary. In 1812 this was replaced with the Medicines Stamp Act which meant that the stamp duty paid had to be attached to the packaging if it was not deemed to be of a certain standard or made using a well-known recipe. If the medicine cost one shilling the tax was one and a half pence, it was charged proportionately.
Playing Card Tax
This was certainly one we had never come across, and even more amazing is the fact that the act was still in place until 1960. Playing cards was seen as addictive gambling and as such proved to be an easy source of income generation. In order to prevent tax avoidance the Ace of Spades was held by customs and only issued once duty had been paid by the car maker. (More information about the history of playing cards can be found on the website of The Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards.
Soap makers were charged a very high levy on the soap they manufacture, so much so that many of them left the country and moved abroad to avoid the tax. The way in which the law was worded effectively meant that soap production has to be in batched of no less than one ton. It was even reported that the pans used to make the soap had to be locked at night by the tax collector to ensure that no illegal production to take place ‘after hours’. Soap was, therefore regarded as a luxury item and therefore wasn’t in common use until the mid-1800’s.
This tax was introduced into Great Britain in 1712 as using wallpaper was provided a cheap alternative option to tapestry or panelling. The government saw this as another of generating much needed income, so with that the taxed people for buying patterned, painted or printed wallpaper. The tax was originally levied at 1 pence per square yard, this was increased to a shilling by 1809. The solution to paying this tax was easy – use plain paper and have it hand stencilled therefore no tax to pay. A totally legal form of tax evasion. Needless to say this tax didn’t work and was abolished in 1836.
This tax pre-dates the Georgian period but continued throughout and after the Georgian period. It was comprised of two parts.
There was a flat rate of two shillings per house then, and this where those with larger houses with more windows were penalized, a variable rate was charged for the number of windows above ten in the house. Tax due if you had over 20 windows was a colossal eight shillings! There were of course some exemptions such as people in receipt of parish relief. The tax was amended several times and often regarded as unfair and seen by some as a tax of light and air. The tax was finally repealed in 1851.
Other taxes included newspaper tax, glove tax, perfume tax and hired horse duty. Those who were wealthy enough to own luxury items such as coaches, silver plate or male servants also had to pad specific taxes on these items too.
We just had to share these books, available to view for free via The Internet Archive.
They are a six volume set, published between 1876 and 1888 and written by Auguste Racinet (1825-1893), covering historical costumes, furniture, jewellery, weapons and carriages. Everything including the kitchen sink really!
They are written in French but don’t let that put you off if you don’t speak that language because the pictures within them, lots in colour, are truly glorious and speak for themselves. We should really issue this blog with a warning because you are likely to spend quite a few hours flicking through them when you really should be doing other things. We’ve included a few of our favourite images, concentrating, as this blog is about ‘all things Georgian’ on those years but these books cover much more than just that period.
Volume 1 (mainly text) gives a general introduction and a list of all the plates found across the full set of volumes together with an index, bibliography and glossary.
Volume 2 concentrates on L’Antiquité Classique, from primitive times until the fall of the Roman Empire and ‘Barbarian Europe’ before moving on to ‘the world outside Europe’ starting with Oceania, Africa, the America’s, Eskimo’s and Asia.
Volume 3 continues with Asia and on to India, Africa (again), Turkey and religious artefacts and dress.
Volume 4 covers French and European military wear and medieval Europe through to the 16th Century.
Volume 5 begins with the end of the 16th Century and the dawn of the 17th, concentrating on Europe leading on to our favourite period, the 18th Century.
And so to Volume 6, the final one which continues 18th Century European fashions and takes us into the 19th Century, ending with a look at the Nordic countries together with Holland, Scotland, England, Germany and Switzerland.
For ease of translation, the books can be viewed in plain text format which then can be copied and pasted into an online translation tool.
Have fun browsing these books! We’d love to know your thoughts on them.
Well, who would have believed it, in 1737 a book was written outlining how a woman should behave! It is a fascinating little book as combined with The Duty of a Virgin, a Wife and a Widow we have cookery recipes, modesty, religion and best of all ‘a wife’s behaviour to a drunkard’.
It could possibly have been a Georgian equivalent of a ‘Mrs Beeton’ maybe. The book was written to provide a woman with guidance about how to live her life during all three stages and appears to have been written from a female perspective although whether it was actually written by a woman seems unclear. In all likelihood, it was written by a man and there appear to be some suggestions that it could have been written by a William Kenrick, but whether correct or not we will never know as the book had no author named.
Rather than looking at the duties of a woman in this blog, we are going to look at the cookery section and for those with an interest in Georgian cuisine, it is full of amazing recipes and most notably their immense obsession for adding nutmeg to nearly every recipe! There are recipes for virtually every day of the year, along with meals planners, so no shortage of ideas. Below we offer a sample for your delectation.
Gravy for White Sauce
Take part of a knuckle of veal or the worst part of the neck of veal, boil about a pound of this in a quart of water, an onion, some pepper, six cloves, a little salt, a bunch of sweet herbs, half a nutmeg sliced, let it boil an hour then strain it off and keep for use.
An Oyster Soup
Your stock must be of fish, then take two quarts of oysters, set them and beard them; take the hard part of the oysters from the other and beat them in a mortar with ten hard yolks of eggs, put in some good stock, season with pepper, salt and nutmeg, then thicken up your soup as cream; put in the rest of your oysters and garnish with oysters.
Salmon in Cases
Get a piece of salmon, take off the skin; mince some parsley, green onions and mushrooms. Put your parsley and green onions into a stew pan with some butter , season with pepper and salt then put in your salmon without putting it over the fire again and toss it up to give it a taste; place your slices of salmon in a paper case. Put your seasoning upon it and strew crumbs over all, let it bake to a fine colour. Your salmon being done serve it up with lemon juice for a small entrée.
Fillets or slices of beef larded, marinated with vinegar, salt, pepper, cloves, thyme and onions must be roasted leisurely on a spit and then put into good gravy with truffles and garnished with marinated pigeons or chickens.
Get a pint of fine oatmeal, boil it in new milk and cream, a little cinnamon and nutmeg and beaten mace and when it is about the thickness of a Hasty Pudding, take it off and stir in half a pound of sweet butter and eight eggs (leave out the whites) very well beaten and put in two or three spoonfuls of sack and make a puff paste and lay round your dish and butter it very well and bake it well, but not too much.
Stewed Red Cabbage
Cut your cabbage fine and small, stove it with gravy and sausages and a piece of ham; season with pepper and salt before you sent it away , put in a little elder vinegar and mix it well together which will turn it a reddish colour to serve away hot.
We take a pint and somewhat more of thick cream, ten eggs, put in the whites of three only, beat them well with two spoonfuls of rose water. Mingle with your cream three spoonfuls of fine flour; mix it so well that there are no lumps in it. Put it altogether and season it according to your taste. Butter a cloth very well and let it be thick that it may not run out and let it boil for an hour as fast as you can, then take it up and make a sauce with butter, rose water and sugar and serve it. You may stick some blanched almonds upon it if you please.
Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant’s House
Earl Soham is a traditional village lying in the heart of the Suffolk countryside on the Roman road that leads from the Suffolk coast to Stowmarket and as usual whilst stumbling around searching for something completely different we came across the Earl Soham village website and within it was a link to a collection of diary entries written by the Georgian surgeon, William Goodwin.
They have been carefully transcribed for the period 1785 – 1810 and make fascinating reading so we couldn’t resist adding the link to our blog so that you could peruse them at your leisure. Apart from treating his patients, which entailed travelling long distances virtually every day Goodwin managed to find the time to keep a diary of daily life, national and international events:-
March 28th 1785 Wind W. very Cold; Frost sharp within doors, Therm’tr in Parlour 3 deg. Below Freesing –
The ground cover’d with Snow
For the Rheumatism Take a Teaspoonfull of Aether in a glass of water 3 or 4 times a Day – sometimes add a few Drops of Laudanum – The above is thought infallible
May 1785 On an Average the Amount of our Taxes is 30-000£s a Day… (1/2 page)
86-000£ was produc’d by the Duty on Muslins in the last quarter, wh. was equal to a whole year’s income on that Article previous to Mr. Pitts Smugling Bill –
There were 240£ in Drury Lane at Mrs Siddon’s benefit and twice that amount eager for admission and could not get in – ?What a Symptom of our Poverty!
A recipe for yeast, we have absolutely no idea whether it works or not!
Take a teacupful of split peas, boiling water one pint, infuse them all night, in a warm place, or in winter longer; the froth that arises will answer as Yeast
Also amongst his entries were records of all the carts passing through the village and recorded any possible contraband for example in 1785 he recorded that
‘2500 Gallons of Smugled Spirits were carried thro’ this village in 20 carts within the last six Days
16thFive Smugling Carts past through this Village at 8 this Morning loaded with 150 Tubs of Spirits containing 600 Gallons’
There are some mildly amusing entries and for a ‘Top Tip’ if you’re bitten by a mad dog you should:-
‘Wash the part immediately with warm water – continuing the operation for an hour at least, by which. the poison will be prevented entering the Circulation’
Another extract from his diary, that we would recommend that those with a sensitive constitution avoid was regarding the death of his mother Sarah; presumably, William would have assumed that his diary was private and that no-one would ever read his scribblings:-
‘Friday ye 20th of Sept’r 1793 Died Mrs Sarah Goodwin, my dear mother, aged 81 years and 9 months – She vomited many gallons of bile in the Course of the 8 days she laid ill – suffer’d little or no pain, and went off without a groan’
The Oxford Journal of 18th March 1815 confirms the demise of William, described as ‘an eminent and skillful physician‘. William was buried on the 3rd March at St Mary’s, Earl Soham aged 69.
We have a habit of accidentally stumbling across things whilst doing our research and having found a wonderful online Georgian Newspaper Project that has been set up by Bath Record Office we just had to share it with you. The project contains information from the Bath Chronicle for the years 1770 – 1800. So far we have spent many a happy hour searching it and finding all sorts of useful snippets on information and decided it warranted a mention on our blog as a highly recommended resource for any interested in this era.
When you think of prisoners during the Revolution you are inclined to think of possibly the two most famous women who were arrested and sentenced to death – Marie Antoinette and Charlotte Corday, who assassinated Marat, but there were many other women who wrote journals about their lives during the French Revolution, some written from prison, others were purely about how their lives changed during this period.
In 1803 Napoleon sent out an edict to detain every British citizen living in France at that time; all British persons were to be arrested, imprisoned and interrogated, with some also being sentenced to death.
We know however, that many lesser known women were also detained. From her letters and journal we have found out that our heroine spent from the early 1790s to the mid 1820s travelling between England and France, with part of her life being spent in a variety of French prisons. We also know that Helen Maria Williams, whom we have written about before, spent time in The Luxembourg prison, Paris, from where she continued to work on translations.
Apart from Le Bastille, the main prison used to house British detainees was La Conciergerie, a former royal palace in Paris; between 2nd April 1793 and 31st May 1795 over 2,500 prisoners were sent to the guillotine from La Conciergerie.
During this period in history many women, whether in prison or just trying to continue with their day to day lives, wrote letters and journals which have survived, giving us an insight into their lives at this time.
For those interested in reading about life during the Revolution there are quite a few online journals that make fascinating reading, such as the one by the Duchesse De Duras.
A well known Scottish courtesan Grace Elliott nee Dalrymple was also purported to have been held as a prisoner during the Revolution, however the jury has always remained out as to whether or not this was in fact true, and just how much truth is in her Journal of my Life during the French Revolution (we reveal the true facts in our book on Grace).
Grace is another lady who we have been closely researching, but more of this at a later date.
Another interesting journal was written by Henriette-Lucie Dillon born 25th February 1770 at Saint-Sulpice, Paris. She was the daughter of General Arthur Dillon, who married his second cousin Therese-Lucy de Rothe – Journal of a Woman of Fifty Years. We stumbled across this journal we researching our heroine who was a friend of one of Arthur Dillon’s relatives.
The Great French Revolution is narrated in the letters of Madame J which were edited by her grandson Edouard Lockroy. Madame J had never anticipated her letter being published as they were not written for the public to read, but none the less they give a fascinating account of her life.
All of these journals give the reader a real insight into life in France before, during and after the French Revolution and we feel they are definitely worth a read!
Armed with snippets of information from these journals we set about trying to research French records in the hope of finding the people we were interested in listed in at least one of the prisons we had read about where many of the English women were held during the revolution.
During our research we have came across a wonderfully helpful website set up by Anne Morddel which gives links to the various French Departments.
Anne very kindly sent us a list of women that were listed as foreign British prisoners in Napoleonic France. Sadly, our lady was not on the list, but many others were. If you think that one of your relatives might have been on the list it is worth emailing Anne to obtain a copy.
When reading wills and other historic documents it is difficult to work out when sums of money are mentioned how much it is worth in today’s currency.
The National Archives have kindly provided a currency converter to help with this. You simply enter the amount of money mentioned, select the year and the website does the rest – nice and easy!
So, for example, £100 in 1780 would have the same spending power as just over £6,000 in today’s currency. The website, however, only converts at 2005’s value so it’s slightly out, but it gives quite a reasonable estimate.
One of the more obscure sources of information for family historians that are looking specifically at the 18th century is hair powder certificates. William Pitt the Younger was responsible for a whole series of taxes at the end of the 18th century, including the first income tax, either directly or indirectly to help fund the expensive war with Napoleonic France. The introduction of a tax on hair powder was one such measure.
Individuals who used hair powder were required to purchase a certificate from their local Justice of the Peace for which they were charged one guinea. The list of those that had paid was lodged at the local Quarter Session court and a copy of the list affixed to the door of the parish church by the parish constable. It was common practice also, to fine those who did not pay this tax.
The information included in the list will provide a date, a parish, a list of names and a description being usually the relationship to the head of the household or another role such as servant. So, like a census return, it is possible to piece together some familial relationships.
The lists however will of course be much less complete than a census because most people were not of a status to wear wigs or hair powder and there were also many exemptions such as clergymen with an income of under £100 a year, non-commissioned officers, militia, mariners, officers in the navy below commander and many others. One payment was acceptable for a group of servants in one household.
Contrary to popular belief women did not wear wigs, but simply had the equivalent of today’s hair extensions added to their existing hair. Women mainly powdered their hair grey or blueish grey and from the 1770’s it was never bright white like men. Wig powder itself was made from finely ground starch to which was added lavender, jasmine, roses and scented with orange flower and was occasionally coloured violet, blue, pink or yellow, but was most often used as off-white.
In 1869 the Act was repealed as less than 1,000 people were by that time wearing wigs – maybe it was the cost of paying such a large amount of duty that led people to change their appearance. Certainly, a more natural hairstyle was adopted by fashionable young gentlemen in Regency England.
It is still possible today to find records around the country of hair powder certificates if you contact the relevant archives.