The Theft of the Great Seal, 1784

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

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

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

fitzpatrick-parade-macaroni-in-colour

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

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

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

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

By filching from Thurlow his boasted Great Seal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Moll Benwell

 

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Prince of Wales, the Duke of Orleans, and Friendship

We are delighted to once again welcome to our blog the lovely Geri Walton, blogger and now author. Geri, like us, has long been interested in history and fascinated by the stories of people from the 1700 and 1800s. This led her to achieve a degree in History and resulted in her website which offers unique history stories from the 18th- and 19th-centuries.

Her first book, Marie Antoinette’s Confidante: The Rise and Fall of the Princesse de Lamballe, has just been released. It looks at the relationship between Marie Antoinette and the Princess de Lamballe, and among the people mentioned in the book are the Duke of Orleans, the Prince of Wales, and Grace Dalrymple Elliott, of which more later.

Marie Antoinette has always fascinated readers worldwide. Yet perhaps no one knew her better than one of her closest confidantes, Marie Thérèse, the Princess de Lamballe. The Princess became superintendent of the Queen’s household in 1774, and through her relationship with Marie Antoinette, a unique perspective of the lavishness and daily intrigue at Versailles is exposed.

Born into the famous House of Savoy in Turin, Italy, Marie Thérèse was married at the age of seventeen to the Prince de Lamballe; heir to one of the richest fortunes in France. He transported her to the gold-leafed and glittering chandeliered halls of the Château de Versailles, where she soon found herself immersed in the political and sexual scandals that surrounded the royal court. As the plotters and planners of Versailles sought, at all costs, to gain the favour of Louis XVI and his Queen, the Princess de Lamballe was there to witness it all.

This book reveals the Princess de Lamballe’s version of these events and is based on a wide variety of historical sources, helping to capture the waning days and grisly demise of the French monarchy. The story immerses you in a world of titillating sexual rumours, blood-thirsty revolutionaries, and hair-raising escape attempts and is a must read for anyone interested in Marie Antoinette, the origins of the French Revolution, or life in the late 18th Century.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Orleans first met when the Duke visited England in 1783. The two men hit off because both men were wealthy and enjoyed idling away time. They were known to regularly “drink, bet at races, and gamble with dice and cards.” A second visit by the Duke made in the spring of 1784 had them visiting a variety of race tracks where they bet on the horses, and a third visit by the Duke, in the autumn, cemented the men’s relationship further when they went to Brighton, which was little more than a fishing village at the time.

Louis Philippe d’Orléans, as Duke of Chartres, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, ca.1779, Courtesy of the Château de Chantilly

Despite the Duke (b. 1747) being 15 years older than the Prince (b. 1762), the two men had other commonalities that encouraged their friendship. Both men enjoyed all sorts of vices, such as wasting time and constantly spending money. This caused the Prince’s father, George III, to view the Duke as a bad example for his son. In addition, reports about the Duke’s orgies did not help his standing with the King nor did the fact that George III had already issued a “royal proclamation against vice and immorality, and all kinds of swearing, drunkenness, and licentiousness.”

Despite the King’s proclamation, the Prince continued to live a wanton lifestyle. Similar to the Duke, the Prince also had a number of mistresses. In fact, one mistress the Prince and the Duke had in common was the divorcee Grace Dalrymple Elliott. The Prince first met Elliott when he was eighteen. They eventually had an affair, which resulted in Elliott giving birth to his daughter on 30 March 1782 and caused the Prince to supposedly remark, “To convince me that this is my girl they must first prove that black is white.”

The Prince of Wales, Miniature by Richard Cosway, 1792, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Prince did eventually admit the girl was his although even before her birth, the Prince and Elliott’s relationship had fizzled. With the Prince tired of Elliott, he introduced her to his friend the Duke of Orleans. Despite being married, the Duke was interested in Elliott. (He had married on 6 June 1796 Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, who was sister-in-law to the ill-fated Princesse de Lamballe.) The Duke pursued Elliott, made her his mistress, and, by 1786, she moved to Paris to be closer to him.

As time passed, the Duke and Prince’s relationship continued to strengthen. At one point the Prince commissioned a portrait of the Duke, and the Duke ending up buying a house in Brighton because of his frequent visits to England. Moreover, during one of the Duke’s stays in Brighton, the Duke “had 28 fallow deer brought from France as a present to the Prince, who had recently formed a kennel of staghounds in Brighton.” Unfortunately, on the way to deliver them to the Prince’s kennels, a revenue officer seized the deer, and it was only after much wrangling that the deer were released and sent on their way to the Prince.

The two men also forged closeness in other ways. First, the Duke of Orleans invested large sums of money in England, and, second, he embraced everything “English” to the point the Duke made anglomania fashionable in France. Another reason for the men’s closeness was their common dislike for Louis XVI and the French monarchy. The English were “bitterly exasperated against the court of Louis XVI for aiding in the emancipation of America,” and, so, the Prince saw little wrong with the Duke supporting French revolutionaries, who were pitted against Louis XVI and the monarchy.

Despite the Duke and Prince’s similarities and common dislike for the French monarchy and Louis XVI, their friendship eventually began to wane. It completely ruptured after the Duke voted for the death of his own cousin, Louis XVI. Before the infamous vote, Elliott asked the Duke of Orleans, how, in good conscience could he allow his King and his cousin to be condemned by “blackguards.” He reassured her nothing would ever induce him to vote for the King’s death. However, he also noted “he thought the King had been guilty by forfeiting his word to the nation.”

Grace Dalrymple Elliott. Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, 1778. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When the vote was taken, the Duke did not keep his word to Elliott. Later, after the vote, Elliott would say there was no one she detested more than the Duke. The Duke’s vote also caused many people to believe the Duke was attempting to undermine the monarchy and seize power for himself. This belief resulted in him becoming “a hated figure among the exiled aristocrats. He was [also] soon a figure of contempt for fellow republicans, who whatever their political principles, retained a belief that blood was thicker than water.”

Although the Prince of Wales disliked the French monarchy and Louis XVI, he also believed blood was thicker than water. After he heard the news that the Duke had voted for the death of his cousin, Louis XVI, the Prince of Wales became livid. “He leapt up from his chair, dragged down from the wall the portrait of Philippe that he had commissioned from Joshua Reynolds decades earlier and smashed it to pieces in the fireplace.” Thus, the friendship of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Orleans ended forever.

References:

Ambrose, Tom, Godfather of the Revolution, 2014

Bishop, John George, The Brighton Pavilion and Its Royal and Municipal Associations, 1900

Craik, George Lillie and Charles MacFarlane, The Pictorial History of England During the Reign of George the Third, 1849

“London, (Thursday) March 24,” in Derby Mercury, 24 March 1785

Major, Joanne, and Sarah Murden, An Infamous Mistress, 2016

The Living Age, Vol. 74, 1862

 

 

You can find Geri on Facebook, Twitter (@18thCand19thC), Google PlusInstagram and Pinterest and her book is available from:

Pen and Sword Books

Amazon.co.uk

and to pre-order on Amazon.com and other good bookshops

 

The publication date for ‘A Right Royal Scandal’ draws close

We’re now just a few weeks away from the publication in the UK of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history (in the US it will be out on the 14th April 2017). Obviously we are very excited to share our work with you and thought we’d go into a little more detail today about what the reader can expect.

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A Right Royal Scandal starts in 1815, just a matter of weeks after the Battle of Waterloo, with a Regency scandal in London when the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck (brother to the Duke of Portland; his first wife had been Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s daughter by George IV) eloped with Wellington’s niece, the haughty but beautiful Anne Abdy née Wellesley, wife of Sir William Abdy, Baronet. As you might imagine, tongues were set wagging the length and breadth of the ton and, with the ensuing Criminal Conversation case and divorce, the gossip continued into the next year before the first of the two marriages that ‘changed history’. Anne Abdy became the second Lady Charles Bentinck.

Lady Anne Abdy as a Bacchante. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016
Lady Anne Abdy as a Bacchante.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

In time, Lord and Lady Charles Bentinck’s eldest son, Charles Cavendish Bentinck (Charley) fell in love with a girl deemed unsuitable by his family. Sinnetta Lambourne was of humble working class stock and had gypsy blood running through her veins courtesy of her Romany mother. They married, despite the opposition to their union.

Charley’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter were to sit upon the throne of Great Britain, but it was the tragic life and death of a young gypsy girl which lay behind the greatness.

Although A Right Royal Scandal is something of a family saga stretching from the Regency into the Victorian era and beyond – we also document the life of Lord Charles Bentinck’s daughter by his first marriage (Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s granddaughter) – it is also a thoroughly well-researched biography of two generations of this family, and a chapter in the history of the British royal family which has never been examined closely until now. We also delve a little into the background of Anne Wellesley and her parents, Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess, and his wife (and former mistress), Hyacinthe Gabrielle Rolland. We are pleased to have been able to add a little new information to the Marquess’ story in the addition of some biographical detail on his illegitimate son (by another mistress), Edward John Johnston. The monarchy as we know it now would have looked very different but for Sinnetta Lambourne’s death, and we end our book by looking at the royal family today, Charley Cavendish Bentinck’s descendants.

Hyacinthe Gabrielle Rolland, Marchioness Wellesley by Vigée-Lebrun via Wikimedia.
Hyacinthe Gabrielle Rolland, Marchioness Wellesley by Vigée-Lebrun via Wikimedia.

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

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

Reviews for An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott:

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

An Infamous Mistress is a fascinating read, yet it’s more than that. If anything, it’s a shining example of research done well, presented coherently on the perfect subject: a powerful courtesan that time forgot. – History of Royals magazine

This major new biography explores the life, loves and family of this celebrated personality who ended up as a prisoner of war during the French Revolution. Set for the first time in the context of Grace’s wider family, this is a compelling tale of scandal and intrigue. – Scots Heritage magazine

This tale of scandal and intrigue will not only appeal to history buffs, but to those who enjoy a ripping yarn. As well as being an in-depth social and family history, An Infamous Mistress is simply a great story. – Scottish Field

Reynolds, Joshua; The Earl and Countess of Mexborough with Their Son, Lord Pollington (1719-1778); Doddington Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-earl-and-countess-of-mexborough-with-their-son-lord-pollington-17191778-80642

Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s aunt and uncle at the coronation of George III in 1761

Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the subject of our book An Infamous Mistress, was only around seven years of age at the time of the coronation of King George III on the 22nd September 1761 at Westminster Abbey.

Ramsay, Allan; George III (1738-1820); City of London Corporation; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/george-iii-17381820-50900
Ramsay, Allan; George III in his coronation robes (1738-1820); City of London Corporation

Grace, living in Scotland with her maternal relatives after her father had abandoned his young family, might just have had a first-hand account of the ceremony from her aunt, Robinaiana, Countess of Peterborough, who attended the coronation.

Ramsay, Allan; Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of George III; National Galleries of Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-charlotte-17441818-princess-sophia-charlotte-of-mecklenburg-strelitz-queen-of-george-iii-213105
Ramsay, Allan; Queen Charlotte in her coronation robes (1744-1818), Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of George III; National Galleries of Scotland

As Peers of the Realm the Earl and Countess of Peterborough would have been expected to wear their robes of state and coronets. An Earl’s coronet was a:

 . . . circle [of gold], richly chased, having eight pearls raised upon high points of gold, which spring out of the upper rim, with an equal number of strawberry leaves, formed of the same metal, standing upon lower points between them. It has also a doubling of Ermine, cap and tassel . . .

The Earl of Peterborough’s robes would have been of crimson velvet, lined with white sarcenet and with three guards of Ermine. Robinaiana’s state robe too would have consisted of crimson velvet and ermine, with her coronet having a cap also of crimson velvet turned up with Ermine and a button and tassel of gold on the top. The length of the train of the robe was regulated by the rank of the wearer; a Countess was allowed a train of up to a yard and a half in length.

Form of the Procession to the Coronation of the Sovereigns of England, 1760. (University of Virginia)
Form of the Procession to the Coronation of the Sovereigns of England.
(University of Virginia)

Whilst we know of no picture representing the Earl and Countess of Peterborough dressed for the coronation, there is one hanging at Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire which shows the Earl and Countess of Mexborough dressed for the occasion.

Reynolds, Joshua; The Earl and Countess of Mexborough with Their Son, Lord Pollington (1719-1778); Doddington Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-earl-and-countess-of-mexborough-with-their-son-lord-pollington-17191778-80642
Reynolds, Joshua; The Earl and Countess of Mexborough with Their Son, Lord Pollington (1719-1778); Doddington Hall

Horace Walpole mentioned Robinaiana, Countess of Peterborough’s appearance at the coronation, and you can read more about that in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, available now from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops.

 

Sources:

A Faithful Account of the Processions and Ceremonies observed in the Coronation of the Kings and Queen of England: exemplified in that of their late most sacred Majesties King George the Third and Queen Charlotte with all the other interesting proceedings connected with that magnificent festival. Edited by Richard Thomson, 1820.

THE TUILLERIES, 20TH JUNE 1792

Amazing Grace Dalrymple Elliott: courtesan and spy

We are delighted to be featured on the fabulous Amazing Women in History website, with an article about Grace Dalrymple Elliott. We think that Grace certainly qualifies as an ‘amazing woman’ and we very much hope that you do too.

Grace was a born survivor; when she was cast out after her divorce, her reputation in tatters and her options limited, she dusted herself down and determinedly set out on a career as a high-class courtesan. But there was much more to Grace than just her infamy and frequent appearances in the gossip columns.

She showed incredible bravery when she remained in Paris during the French Revolution, hiding a royalist sympathizer at great personal risk to herself and undoubtedly saving his life, intriguing for the ill-fated French queen, Marie Antoinette, and dabbling in espionage. She was the author of one of only a few first-hand accounts of those years written by a woman.

So, without further ado, we invite you to check out our article by clicking here to read more on Grace. Do have a look at the bio’s of the other amazing women too while you’re there as they make for fascinating reading.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

 

Header image: Marie Antoinette with her children and Madame Élisabeth, facing the mob that had broken into the Tuileries Palace on 20 June 1792 (via Wikimedia).

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Our guest post on The History Vault: A Disaster in Bolama

We are delighted to be featured on The History Vault, an online history magazine, with a post relating to Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s elder brother, Henry Hew Dalrymple and the ‘Bulam Expedition’.

Henry Hew was a slavery abolitionist and one of two men who were the driving force behind a project to colonize an uninhabited African island, with the ultimate intention of freed slaves being able to settle there. Many ‘ordinary’ people were caught up in this scheme, and both their and Henry Hew’s stories have been largely lost to history. We cover this in our biography on Grace and her family, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, but we did not have the space to go into greater detail within its pages about the people who travelled with the expedition to settle the island and who suffered tragedy and heartache. It was important for us to record some of their names however, and you can find out more about them and the expedition by checking out our post on the History Vault (click here).

Do take time to check out the other fascinating articles on the History Vault too, while you are there.

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The funeral of Charles Henry Mordaunt, 5th Earl of Peterborough

Charles Henry Mordaunt, the 5th Earl of Peterborough (and 3rd Earl of Monmouth) and cousin to Grace Dalrymple Elliot did little of note throughout his life apart from embroil himself in a couple of scandals with high-born ladies, and if he is remembered at all to history it is chiefly, as we mention in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot, on account of his extravagant funeral.

The Earl had died at his Wiltshire seat, Dauntsey House, on the 16th June 1814 and was buried in the adjacent churchyard.  A description of this funeral can be found in Wiltshire: The Topographical Collections of John Aubrey, which although largely written in the seventeenth-century was never then published. It was brought up to date by John Edward Jackson, including the information on the 5th Earl’s funeral, and published by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1862.  We thought it might interest our readers to hear the details.

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre
Dauntsey Church, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The Funeral ceremonies of this last Earl were conducted on the most expensive scale. The body lay in state in a very large room hung from the ceiling with superfine cloth; eighty wax lights, many of them weighing a pound each, were kept burning. The dress of the body in the coffin was composed of satin and the finest cambric; the coffin, covered with the richest Genoa velvet and escutcheons of Arms: for the silver-gilt nails alone £85 was charged. The pall gorgeous. The body was placed on a magnificent platform ornamented with festoons of black satin, surmounted with a dome lined inside and outside with rich black velvet and covered with ostrich plumes. The platform fringed with velvet and behind it a transparency of the Armorial bearings. Banners and shields round the room and eight mutes in constant attendance. From the room to the Church is about 20 yards: but the procession, in order to be seen, went a circuit of two miles. It consisted of a hearse, seven coaches and six, a carriage and four for the clergymen, six marshalmen, eight mutes, two feather-men, eight underbearers, forty six pages and a grand page on horseback bearing the coronet. Nine servants received two suits of clothes each. The undertaker’s bill was £3000. The executors Sir E. Antrobus and Mr. Coutts Trotter objected. An action was brought at Salisbury: they paid £2000 into Court. Justice Burrough advised a reference and Mr. Moore, a Barrister, finally settled the whole cost to be £2568.

Doom Board, 14th.c., above rood screen, Dauntsey Church, Wiltshire (via Wikimedia).
Doom Board, 14th.c., above rood screen, Dauntsey Church, Wiltshire (via Wikimedia).

David Russell had acted as an assistant to Mr Dore, the undertaker, and said that, in the twelve years he had been in that line of business ‘the funeral ceremonies were on the largest and most expensive scale that he had ever witnessed or heard of.’ Mr Dore had received his first instructions on the funeral ‘from an intimate friend of the late Lord Peterborough, Mr. Smith, who informed him that the funeral was to be conducted in no ordinary way and that he must exercise his own judgment in the preparation of it, on a plan of adequate splendour.’ Mr Smith was Joseph Bouchier Smith, also mentioned in our book, making free with the money of others in planning his friends’ funeral! The ensuing disagreement over the bill took some four years to settle.[1]

Header image:

Dauntsey Park House – you can read more about the house, now a wonderful location for film, television, events and weddings, by clicking here.

[1] The Bury and Norwich Post, 9th December, 1818

What can the reader expect from An Infamous Mistress?

book jacket with promo code

Today’s blog is a little different. Our biography An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott has now been released worldwide, so we thought it might interest our readers if we wrote a little Q&A style piece for anyone who may be thinking about buying our book, to tell you a little more about it.

What made us decide to write about Grace and her family?

Grace simply landed in our lap, we didn’t go out looking for her. The reality was that we were actually researching someone else who turned out to have a familial connection to her and so up she popped. For someone so well known in her day, there still seemed to be huge gaps in what was known of her life and, ever ones to enjoy a challenge, we set out with the intention of merely filling in these gaps and were astounded by how much new information we eventually uncovered.

Being genealogists, we also looked at her wider family and ancestry, particularly her maternal family who had lain undiscovered until now. The only information which was already known was some scant information about her father, and of course her sister Jacintha who married into the Hesketh family, but that was about it.

Her Journal is there in the public domain for all to read, so why write about it again?

The deeper we dug, the more we realized that research into her life has long been muddied by the misinformed biographical information given in the preface to her own Journal of My Life during the French Revolution, which was published posthumously.

Frontspiece of Journal of My Life

Replete with mistakes and half-remembered anecdotes, it was supplied more than two decades after Grace’s death by her granddaughter and a friend. Despite two former biographies on this fascinating woman, the elements which were actually truthful in her Journal were still disputed. For instance, it mentioned a brother, but no brother had ever been identified before (in fact Grace had two brothers which we are able to introduce to her story!).

We have been able to correct this mishmash of information but, more than that, we located previously unconsulted documents, including family ones, which shed new light on the areas of Grace’s life which had formerly lain in the shadows, enabling us to tell her story more completely, and more accurately, than it has ever been told.

Her Journal as it relates to her experiences during the French Revolution is another area we have attempted to illuminate more fully than it has been before. Glaring errors contained within its pages have discredited what ought to have been a superb first-hand account of that period. Grace is placed in confinement in French prisons awaiting the guillotine with notable personalities, when it can be proved that the people so named were not there at that time. Added to the biographical inaccuracies, it has led to people washing their hands of the whole Journal. We set to with a fine tooth comb, to try to establish fact from fiction (a task not helped by Grace habitually misspelling names, either she had a terrible memory for them or the person who transcribed the pages she had written could not read her handwriting).

Slowly but surely we were able to verify much of it, even down to a plausible account of her acting as a courier for the French queen, Marie Antoinette (rumours have ever swirled that Grace courageously worked as a spy). The errors all come in towards the end of the Journal, put there (we strongly suspect) by the over-enthusiastic publisher who wished to have a more dramatic finale to it. The ending we discovered was perhaps a little more mundane, but it is truthful and perhaps, we hope, gives back some credence to Grace’s Journal as an excellent source for those researching the French Revolution, especially as it is an invaluable first-hand account written by a woman.

marie-1783

Why didn’t we simply write about Grace’s life alone?

That would, of course, have been the easy option and for those who regularly read our blog, we rarely take the easy option! We are both genealogists as well as historians and love nothing more than seeking out new pieces of information about the Georgian period. It may be a slightly contentious decision on our part, but the more we discovered, the more fascinated we became by the people we uncovered, especially her siblings and maternal family, and we hoped that the reader would be too for they each had a story to tell, especially one of her brothers!

Were any of Grace’s relatives famous?

 None remain well-known today, although we’d contend that Grace’s eldest brother deserves as much renown as his ‘celebrated’ sister, but some were certainly among the ‘great and the good’ of the day. They made their way around the globe, made the acquaintance of several personalities of the day (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to name but two) and their lives exhibit a snapshot of a strata of Georgian society and offer an invaluable insight into the social history of the period. The fact that they are all but forgotten now does not make their lives any the less interesting and we relished the chance to rescue them from the obscurity they have long languished in.

We also realized that Grace’s actions and decisions became much clearer when viewed in the context of her wider family. For instance, knowing that two of her aunts made their fortunes and gained their social standing by first being mistresses to wealthy and titled men, that one of these aunts was mistress to an earl and ultimately became his countess, what light does this then shed on Grace herself following their path and becoming a courtesan? What counsel did these two worldly-wise women give to their wayward niece? Grace was well-born too, when most courtesans had been plucked from the stage or the London bawdy houses by their ‘keepers’. Only a few, notably Grace, the scandalous Lady Worsley and Gertrude Mahon (aka the Bird of Paradise) were of good birth. But to know that Grace was from a once landed and noble family, you need to understand and be conversant with her ancestry.

Lastly, we believe that charting the lives of her wider family gives a contrast to Grace’s own life. Although she hated her husband, would she have been better, in that day and age, to have survived a few more years of marriage to arrive at a titled and wealthy widowhood whilst still young enough to contemplate a good marriage to a man of her choosing? Grace could have ended her days like her cousin, mistress of both a country pile and a smart London townhouse and entertaining royalty at her dinner table, rather than in her bed.

What have other readers said?

We’re delighted to say that we have received some excellent reviews for our book. You can read more on our Press page.

Where can I buy An Infamous Mistress?

Our book is available in hardback and as an ebook direct from our publisher, Pen and Sword Books, or from Book Depository, Amazon UK, Amazon US and all good bookshops.

 

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The French Lesson: Henrietta Lightfoot’s exploits in Revolutionary France

“I have often wished to enquire, my dear Mrs Lightfoot, how it was you came to make the acquaintance of Grace Dalrymple Elliot.”

Hallie RubenholdWe’ve been lucky enough to receive a preview copy of the respected author and historian Hallie Rubenhold’s new novel, The French Lesson which is launched in the UK on 21st April 2016. It’s a book we’ve been waiting with baited breath to read as it has our leading lady Grace Dalrymple Elliott as one of the main characters.

As Hallie’s work is fictional she had free rein with Grace and we were keen to see how Hallie’s Grace measured up to the Grace we had come to know and love during our many years of research into her life and family. We had high hopes as Hallie’s expertise in the eighteenth-century is outstanding (she also wrote the biography of Grace’s boon companion Lady Worsley which was turned into a BBC drama last year, The Scandalous Lady W, as well as works on the notorious Harris’s List) and we’re glad to say we were not let down. By the end of the first chapter we knew Hallie had nailed Grace.

This is the second book in a trilogy. In the first, Mistress of My Fate, young Henrietta (Hetty) Lightfoot fled from her home and was faced with the ugly realities of the Georgian world but found love in the arms of the handsome Lord Allenham. In The French Lesson, our heroine’s adventures begin in Brussels, with Allenham missing, forcing Henrietta to venture to Paris in search of him where Grace takes Miss Lightfoot under her wing, and further educates her in the ways a woman can survive on her own wits and using her own body.

You must not feel shame for your deeds, but enjoy the liberties that have been bestowed upon you.”

This advice is not welcome to Henrietta but Grace, as she would have been in real life, is worldly wise; she knows that to live in any kind of style as an unmarried woman, Henrietta must rely on the patronage of wealthy men. This was Grace’s course in life, and Henrietta would do well to take Grace’s counsel, for Grace had chosen wisely with her protectors.

Thomas_Gainsborough_-_Portrait_of_Grace_Dalrymple_Elliott_-_Frick_Collection

Grace’s old lover, Louis Philippe Joseph, Duc d’Orléans is portrayed with a wickedly vivid perspective, and his lover (and Grace’s rival) Madame de Buffon is brought wonderfully to life, as is Paris and its environs.

We don’t want to give away too much of the plot and spoil the story, which will keep you guessing until the end; suffice to say that the tale romps, twists and turns marvellously while Henrietta does her best to survive and work out just who she can and can’t trust as the shadow of the guillotine grows ever darker.

The French Lesson

We loved The French Lesson. Hallie fully transported us into the streets of revolutionary Paris and the intrigues of Henrietta’s life. Her portrayal of Grace Dalrymple Elliott is real, gritty and uncompromising but a version we could clearly recognise and believe in.

The French Lesson is available from Amazon and other leading bookshops.

 

‘Compelling and operatic…Reads like a modern thriller’ SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE, author of The Romanovs

‘A dark and irresistible historical novel’ LUCY WORSLEY

‘Fast, funny, excoriating, scary, sexy… and such a *very* satisfying ending. The power is in the voice: I’ve rarely read such a powerful voice in fiction’ MANDA SCOTT

Visit Hallie’s website by clicking here for more information.

 

Burglary - banner

Burglary, French servants and Mrs Elliott’s aunt – a 1778 crime gone terribly wrong

Janet Edmondes was one of the constant presences in the life of the courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  She was Grace’s maternal aunt and by the late 1770s was on to her third husband, Colonel Thomas Edmondes.  Janet is mentioned frequently in our latest book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott but the following is a little extra information, especially for the readers of our blog and containing some information not found in our book.

36 Old Queen Street via British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol10/pt1/plate-75
36 Old Queen Street via British History Online

The Edmondes’ London townhouse, no. 36 Old Queen Street was the target of a burglary on the 14th of March 1778. Janet had owned the house before her marriage to Colonel Edmondes, when she was the widowed Mrs Kelly, and she had taken over the house from the disgraced Reverend William Dodd, the Macaroni Preacher of whom we have written before (click here to read about him). Dodd had ended his days by swinging on the gallows at Tyburn, convicted of forgery.

© The Trustees of the British Museum
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison had been hired by Colonel Edmondes in January of that year as a butler and master’s man. The Colonel had discharged the man employed as a footman soon after and had then left London (his brother died this month and it is likely that this is the reason for the Colonel’s departure) and so the only occupants of the house on the night of the 14th of March were Janet, three maids including Mary Giles the cook and Francis Lewis Crimison. Crimison had gained permission to go out and see his wife and he returned around 10 o’clock in the evening with Janet, after which the cook fastened the house up for the night and retired to bed. All was silent until the early hours of the morning when the night watchman knocked at the door. John Wadding, the watchman, had heard a pistol being discharged inside Janet’s house and on calling out heard a man inside the house cry that he had been attacked and was tied up. Constantia Jones, one of the maids, answered the door to the watchman.

Crimison claimed that three men had entered the house and he had fired a shot at one before they had tied him up, but the watchman could find no sign of any such shot in the room. The watchman stated that Crimison’s hands were tied but very loosely to his ankles and he could have easily freed his hands. A pane of glass was broken in a window, the shutters were open and a considerable amount of property had been stolen.

Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762 © The National Portrait Gallery
Sir John Fielding by Nathaniel Hone, 1762
© The National Portrait Gallery

John Clarke, one of Sir John Fielding’s men, soon realised that the robbery must have been committed by someone in the house. By dint of examining the broken pane of glass and the shutters surrounding it, he came to the conclusion that what force had been used had been from the inside of the building and not the outside and, tellingly, a cobweb across the window had not been disturbed. Janet was reluctant to suspect any of her servants but once some of the missing goods were discovered at Crimison’s wife’s house the game was up for him. He took Clarke to the cistern at the Edmondes’ house where the rest of the goods were.[1]

The stolen goods are listed in full at the end of this article. They belonged to Colonel Thomas Edmondes, Charles Henry Mordaunt the 5th Earl of Peterborough (Janet Edmondes’ nephew and therefore Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s cousin) and the Right Honourable Lord George Germain (later the 1st Viscount Sackville), although all were in the house of Colonel Edmondes.

George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760 © The National Portrait Gallery
George Sackville Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville by Nathaniel Hone, 1760
© The National Portrait Gallery

The London Evening Post asserted that ‘Francis Lewis Grimeson’ was a Frenchman and carried the following warning.

We hope this discovery will warm gentlemen against taking into their families foreign, or indeed any servants, without enquiring into their characters, which was the case here.  The superior confidence place by people of fashion, at this time, in foreign servants, is unaccountable, since every day’s experience proves how unworthy they are even of an equality with natives.[2]

Francis Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison, was tried at the Old Bailey on the 29th of April 1778 and being found guilty was sentenced to death by hanging. On the 24th of June 1778 he was taken from Newgate to Tyburn where he was executed.

Burglary - Newgate
Elevation of the front of the new prison, as it appeared before it was rebuilt following the 1780 riot; part of a larger plate with a further view of the New River Office; illustration to Maitland’s ‘The History of London’, 1772. © The Trustees of the British Museum

A little biographical information on Frances Lewis Crimison, alias Grimison and his wife follows. He married, as Francis Lewis Grimeisen, on the 4th November 1777 at St Peter and St. Paul in Mitcham, Surrey. His bride was Ann Ruth Lee of Clerkenwell St James.  Just a month before the burglary, in February 1778, Francis and Ann had baptised a daughter, Anna Maria Christiana Grimeisen at St. Clement Danes church.

Left a widow by his execution, Ann Ruth Grimeisen possibly married again as Ruth Grimeisen, a widow of St. Luke’s, Finsbury to William Gabriel on the 27th September 1780.

Notes:

[1]Old Bailey Online

[2]London Evening Post, 17-19th March 1778.

 

And finally, for interest, the rather lengthy list of stolen goods:

a gold ring, set with diamonds, value £40

a silver pin, set with a diamond, value £10

a silver shirt buckle, set with diamonds, value £10

two pair of silver shoe buckles, set with stone, value £5

a gold neckcloth slider, value 10 s. 6 d.

a silver cream pot, value 20 s.

two silver ragoo spoons, value 20 s.

a silver marrow spoon, value 10 s.

twelve silver tea spoons, value 24 s.

two pair of silver sugar tongs, value 20 s.

eight silver table spoons, value 40 s.

a silver sugar basket, value 40 s.

two silver ale-cups, value £6

four silver scewers, value 20 s.

a silver strainer, value 15 s.

a silver strainer spoon, value 5 s.

a silver fork, value 10 s.

a cork-screw with a silver handle, value 5 s.

a silver tea-pot, value £5

a cane with a gold head, value 20 s.

a silver tea tray, value £50

a silver salver, value £10

two silver waiters, value £10

a pair of silver candlesticks, value £10

a silver sauce-boat, value 50 s.

two silver salts, value 20 s.

a silver mustard castor, value 35 s.

a silver mustard spoon, value 5 s.

a silver bread basket, value £10

two woollen cloth coats, value £3

2 woollen cloth waistcoats, value 20 s.

two pair of woollen cloth breeches, value 20 s.

eleven pair of silk stockings, value 50 s.

a woollen cloth coat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a woollen cloth waistcoat, with gold-lace thereon, value 20 s.

a pair of woollen cloth breeches, value 10 s.

a gilt sword knot, value 20 s.

 

Header image: Attribution: Hallwyl Museum / CC BY-SA

More detail on Grace and her Aunt Janet can be found in our book, An Infamous Mistress, out now.