Dandy in a Droshky, Russia, 1820s

Chatsworth’s Russian Coachman

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.

William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence
William Spencer, 6th Duke of Devonshire by Thomas Lawrence (via Wikimedia Commons)

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’.

The Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796); Russian School
The Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796); Russian School; The Bowes Museum

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.

Miniature portrait of Emperor Nicholas I, 1826-1830; The State Hermitage Museum

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.

Major General Norcliffe of Dalton Hall Riding in a Russian Droshky
This is titled ‘Major General Norcliffe of Dalton Hall Riding in a Russian Droshky’ although it’s very similar to a Russian print from the 1820s, ‘Dandy in a Droshky’ (see next image). Nevertheless, it is exactly how Peter the Russian must have appeared as coachman of the Duke of Devonshire’s Droshky. Portrait by David Dalry; Scarborough Collections

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.

Dandy in a Droshky, Russia, 1820s.
Dandy in a Droshky, Russia, 1820s; The State Hermitage Museum

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.

Tapesty of Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time
Tapestry of Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time; Massachusetts Collection Online

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.

A Russian Droshky (light horse-driven carriage) from the 1820s
A Russian Droshky (light horse-driven carriage) from the 1820s; The State Hermitage Museum

[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.

Princess Victoria by Henry Collen, 1836.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

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.

Peter, the Duke of Devonshire's Russian Coachman, portrait painted soon after his arrival in England
Peter the Russian Coachman, portrait painted soon after his arrival in England; Chatsworth.org

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’.

South west view of Chatsworth House, 1812.
Southwest view of Chatsworth House, 1812. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

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

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View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection

What became of Charlotte Williams, illegitimate daughter of the 5th Duke of Devonshire?

NPG D1752; William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire by John Raphael Smith, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

You may be aware that just before William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire married Georgiana Spencer in 1774 he had had a relationship with a Charlotte Spencer (no relation to Georgiana) and that as a result of this liaison a child was born. This child was named Charlotte, after her mother and Williams after her father, but not until her mother had died in 1781*.

During the early part of her life, she was provided for by the Duke but raised by her mother, a milliner, until she died. At this point, Charlotte was taken into the Cavendish household and lived with him and his wife Georgiana as an ‘orphaned member of the Spencer family’. Georgiana always treated Charlotte as if she were her own child.

NPG D35170; Georgiana Cavendish (nÈe Spencer), Duchess of Devonshire published by Excelsior Fine Art Association, with permission of Henry Graves & Co, after Robert Graves, after Thomas Gainsborough
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Everything went well until Charlotte acquired a new governess, Elizabeth Foster, who later became the Duke’s mistress. Soon after this Elizabeth took Charlotte to France, partly for her own health and partly for Charlotte’s education. Elizabeth was fond of socializing and preferred to party rather than spend time with Charlotte and so at this point, Charlotte was sent to Paris until the start of the French Revolution when she returned to England.

Elizabeth Christiana Cavendish (née Hervey), Duchess of Devonshire when Lady Elizabeth Foster. Image from The Two Duchesses by Vere Foster, 1898.
Elizabeth Christiana Cavendish (née Hervey), Duchess of Devonshire when Lady Elizabeth Foster. Image from The Two Duchesses by Vere Foster, 1898.

So, what became of Charlotte?

This question has been asked numerous times and the answer has always been that she was married off, then simply vanished. Given our love of solving mysteries we simply had to investigate. We had read in Amanda Foreman’s book, The Duchess, that Charlotte married – if that were true, who was her husband? Did she have her own family? What happened to her?

Well, on the 28th February 1793 Charlotte did marry. In fact, she married the Duke of Devonshire’s agent and auditor, John Heaton’s nephew, Jonathan Kendal, at St James in Piccadilly.  The Morning Post of the 1st March 1793 noted that they were both of Old Burlington Street. (John Heaton’s sister Ann, married Reginald Kendal at Romaldkirk, Yorkshire in 1759).

According to his baptism Jonathan was some nine years older than Charlotte and Robert Athol, the Archives and Records Manager at Lincolns Inn Library, says that Jonathan was ‘admitted on 21st February 1784, the nephew of John Heaton, also a member of Lincoln’s Inn. He is not listed in our bar books that list members of the Inn who have been called to the bar, however, nor does he appear in any of the Law lists for the time which suggests to me that although he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, he didn’t pursue a career in law’.

Lincoln's Inn Gate. Picturesque Views with an Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster, 1800. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Lincoln’s Inn Gate. Picturesque Views with a Historical Account of the Inns of Court in London and Westminster, 1800. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

We know from the Land Tax records that the Heaton family were living in a property owned by the Duke of Devonshire on Old Burlington Street so it seems highly likely that Charlotte, shortly after her return from France, moved to there and that is where she met her future husband.

Tantalizingly, the baptismal register for St George, Hanover Square records the birth of a Charlotte Cavendish, daughter of Charlotte and William, born  February 22nd, 1774 and baptised March 20th, 1774 – could this be her? It seems highly likely, as the 1851 census recorded that she was born in London.  If so, she was born just before the Duke of Devonshire’s marriage to Lady Georgiana Spencer on June 7th, 1774.

If we assume that this birth was for Charlotte, then she had not reached adulthood when the couple married, i.e. she was under 21-years. That being the case it is usual to see parent’s permission on the marriage entry but there was no such reference as you can see.

Charlotte Williams marriage

The couple lived at Barrowby in Lincolnshire for the majority of their married life as Jonathan appeared on Polls books and electoral registers in that village for many years.

According to the Clergy of the Church of England Database, on the 10th March 1800 Jonathan became a curate and served in the church for the remainder of his life; the living of Barrowby was in the gift of the Duke of Devonshire who was Lord of the Manor. One interesting entry against his name is that he was also appointed as Domestic Chaplain to the 6th Duke of Devonshire.

William Spencer Cavendish c.1806/1807, later the 6th Duke of Devonshire; National Trust, Hardwick Hall
William Spencer Cavendish c.1806/1807, later the 6th Duke of Devonshire; National Trust, Hardwick Hall

The 1841 census shows the couple still married and living at Barrowby at the Rectory House, along with 7 servants. Their son was born 1797 and followed in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge he became the Rev Charles Edward Kendal, stipendiary curate of Barrowby in 1821, then in 1822 took a posting at Brindle, Lancashire.  Charlotte was to see her son be married by her husband to a Miss Catherine Downing in Barrowby church in 1825.

Jonathan and Charlotte 1841 Census

As the parish vicar and his wife, Jonathan and Charlotte would have led a life typical of any rural cleric, spending time tending to his flock, supported by his wife. According to the parish register at Barrowby Jonathan was buried there on the 11th May 1849.  Charlotte outlived Jonathan by just over 7 years. In Jonathan’s will, he refers to Charlotte as ‘my most dearly beloved and truly affectionate wife‘.

It certainly appears that the couple were happy together and Charlotte specified in her will that she wished to be interred in the vault alongside her beloved husband at Barrowby.

However, after Jonathan’s death we find that Charlotte had moved to Leamington in Warwickshire, and on the 1851 census, she was visiting a relative in Dover. The census recorded her as a widow, aged 78 and her place of birth as London, although as yet no baptismal entry has been found, as to what name she would have been baptized under remains a mystery, if she were baptized at all!

Barrowby_Lincolnshire,All_Saints_Church
All Saints Church Barrowby, Lincolnshire

The next and seemingly final record of Charlotte appeared in The Standard of Saturday 13th December 1856 with the record of her death:

On the 8th Inst. in Newbold Terrace, Leamington Charlotte, the relict of Rev Jonathan Kendal, Rector of Barrowby, in her 84th year.

For some reason her wish to be buried in the same vault as her husband in Barrowby was not carried out and she was buried at Leamington Priors on the 15th December 1856.

Charlotte Burial

Whilst the 5th Duke of Devonshire made bequests in his will to his second wife, his children and John Heaton Esquire, sadly, there was no mention of Charlotte, but overall, it would appear that Charlotte led a quiet and happy life and the mystery is now solved. We know from John Heaton’s will though that he made a bequest to Charlotte’s husband of £100 a year when he died in 1818, which would be worth about £6,000 in today’s money.

For some relatively unknown, private sketches of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire that were drawn by Thomas Orde, 1st Baron Bolton, at a private event in Buxton, Derbyshire in 1777, just a few years after her marriage to the Duke of Devonshire, click on the highlighted link.

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But, if you are interested in the mysterious life of another Charlotte Williams, one who was a Georgian heroine, then click here to discover the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

 

* A burial took place on 8th May 1781 for a Charlotte Spencer at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

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View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection