The East India Company

We have no idea quite why, but we seem to have been drawn to the East India Company (EIC) or The Honourable East India Company as it was also known, in so much of our research.

Whilst researching Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her family we discovered that her cousin John Mordaunt, the illegitimate sons born to Grace’s aunt Robinaiana Brown when she was the mistress of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough went out to India to make his fortune, as was popular for well to do young men of the time.

John Mordaunt (Jack to his friends) became a favourite at the court of the Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh in Lucknow, where the two men shared a love for the sport of cock-fighting, a brutal and barbaric activity. John had several gamecocks imported from England for this purpose.

Tate
Tate

Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match shows a scene from the Nawab’s court with the two men engaged in this activity. Painted by Johan Zoffany c.1784-86 during his time in India, it was commissioned by Warren Hastings shortly before he resigned as the Governor-General of India. Hastings is not present in the picture, but he was in attendance at John Mordaunt’s cockfight on the 5th April 1784, on which this painting is probably based.  Jack Mordaunt was an easy-going and charming fellow, quite the male counterpart to his cousin Grace. He was in charge of the Nawab’s bodyguards and at the head of all the amusements of the court.

Now, somewhat surprisingly for us, two of Grace’s female cousins also travelled out to India for what appears to have been a ‘husband hunting trip’ – cousins Janet (known as Jessy) and Susannah Brown.

It was a tried and tested method of securing a wealthy spouse. Eligible young girls were encouraged to travel to India by the directors of the EIC who were aghast at their men taking local girls as their wives and adopting Indian custom and practices, in effect ‘going native’ even though the practice did ensure a certain level of influence for the British officials with the rulers of the territories.

If enough British girls could be sent out there, then it was hoped that the company men would settle with them instead. The two Brown sisters had enough male relatives already in India to look after them, and they could expect their Mordaunt and Dalrymple cousins to introduce them to their fellow officers and to the best society that India had to offer.

They lived in Calcutta with Colonel John Mordaunt at his house on the esplanade in the Chowringhee area, formerly a tiger-infested jungle but, since the construction of Fort William thirty years earlier, abounding with magnificent houses built by the British residents. Their scheme worked.

In May 1788 in the church at Fort William, Calcutta, Janet Lawrence Brown married John Kinloch. The marriage, however, was, as was often the case, short-lived. John Kinloch was in bad health and, hoping that a change of air would cure him, he journeyed to Serampore on the banks of the Hoogli River, unfortunately, this trip did not prevent his death which occurred less than four months after his marriage.

Six months later, at the same church in which her now widowed sister had married, on 3 March 1789 Susannah Robiniana Brown married Major Samuel Farmer, an officer in the Bengal army. Samuel Farmer was considered one of the three best officers in the company’s service and he moved in the same social circles as her cousins Colonel John and Captain Henry Mordaunt.

All was not lost for Jessy though, as there were plenty of well-to-do men in India. She remained a widow for over four years before accepting the proposal of John Bebb Esquire, a wealthy EIC director. Their marriage settlement was drawn up on 12 January 1793 and John Bebb promised to pay 100,000 Indian rupees or £10,000 sterling into a trust to be administered by several trustees including the Honourable Charles Stuart of Calcutta, a Member of the Supreme Council of the EIC on their Bengal establishment, and Janet’s brother-in-law Samuel Farmer. This trust would be for his wife’s benefit in the event of her becoming a widow.

Ultimately the couple returned to England where, anticipating his permanent return home, John Bebb had purchased the picturesque estate of Donnington Grove in Berkshire in 1795, the former home of the Brummell family and where the infamous Beau Brummell grew up.

The Regency Dandy, Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell

Once again, whilst researching our Georgian Heroine we found ourselves delving back into EIC on discovering the love our heroine, Charlotte’s life, none other than Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), who held the then powerful post of British Resident to the Mughal court at Delhi.

Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.
Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.

Charlotte met him whilst they were both teenagers, but rather than staying in England to marry her, he sailed for India, leaving a desolate Charlotte, whose life was to take a very different path, but despite this she never forgot the first love of her life and wrote to him in 1821, recounting part of her life story, probably wishing her life had turned out differently. Ochterlony, by this time had ‘gone native’ and had 13 concubines, who he paraded through the streets each evening on elephants – we do wonder whether Charlotte ever knew of this. He clearly never forgot the first love of his life and named one of his children, Charlotte – was this done deliberately? We would like to believe so.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

Whilst researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, who we have recently been writing about, yet again our research has led us to the EIC and her seemingly unknown uncle, brother to Sir John Lindsay, William Lindsay who, before he died leaving questionable provision for his native children.

Dido Elizabeth Belle

Dido’s half brother also, John Lindsay also lived with a native woman, he, on the other hand provided extremely well for both mother and daughter when he died in 1821. Other relatives of Dido also found themselves in the EIC including her two sons, Charles and William Daviniere, Archibald Campbell, who was a company director at the end of the 1700’s.

If the East India Company and life in India during this period interests you then you can find a list of some of the others articles we’ve written which have mentions of it, below.

Art Detectives: The Mysterious Sir Thomas Mills and Lady Elizabeth

Revealing new information about the courtesan, Nelly O’Brien

The miser, his daughter and her lover: Elizabeth Cardinall, 1776-1803

Fanny Williams and the Amherst family of Kent

What happened to Parson John Ambrose and his family?

Henrietta and Caroline Ambrose

The family of Allan Ramsay, principal portrait painter to George III

Featured Image

‘Choultry’, or Travellers’ Rest House, Srirangam, Madras, Francis Swain Ward (c.1734–1805), British Library

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey

How George III’s 1809 Golden Jubilee was celebrated in Bath

On the 25th October 1809, the jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years. It was a grand project instigated – and to a large degree planned – by a middle-aged, middle-class lady living in the Welsh borders, a truly amazing woman who is the subject of our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815
George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives.

The jubilee was celebrated across the nation, and even on board ships and in foreign territories under British rule. Today, we are going to look at the celebrations that took place in Bath 209 years ago today.

Bath Abbey by an unknown artist
Bath Abbey; Victoria Art Gallery

The Jubilee was this day celebrated here with every demonstration of loyalty. The festival was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and display of flags on the different churches. At eleven o’clock the Mayor and Corporation, accompanied by the Bath Volunteer reg. of Infantry, the Young Gentleman of the Grammar School, the children of the Charity Schools, and the Friendly Societies, (33 in number, containing 2,487 members, each Society distinguished by its particular banner and colours,) went in grand procession to the Abbey Church where an admirable sermon was preached by the Rev Mr Marshall. Part of the Societies went to Walcot Church, where an equally excellent discourse was delivered by the Rev Mr Barry. Collections were made at the doors of both churches for the benevolent purpose of releasing the debtors in the County Gaol.

Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church.
Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church. Victoria Art Gallery

On returning to the Hall, cakes and wine were given to the juvenile part of the procession. The Volunteers marched to the Crescent Field, where they fired a feu de joie; and the members of the Friendly Societies departed to their respective club-rooms, in which they dined together in much harmony; each man received towards his expenses 1s. 6d. from the public subscription for that purpose. The Children of the Blue Coat Charity School, about 120 in number, sat down in their school-room to a plentiful dinner of roast beef and plumb pudding, provided at the expense of a highly-respected and loyal gentleman, a resident of this city.

The Crescent at Bath
The Crescent at Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

The Mayor and Corporation, the clergy, with a select party, dined at the White Hart. In the evening there was a ball at the Town Hall. Jubilee medals, with ribbons having suitable mottos in gold letters, were generally worn.

The 'White Hart' Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs
A slightly later view of the ‘White Hart’ Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs; Victoria Art Gallery

John Jones, esq, of Woolley, near Bradford, gave to 800 poor persons of that neighbourhood, a sufficient quantity of bread, strong beer, and mutton, in the presence of a large concourse of loyal subjects.

Messrs Divett, Price, Jackson, and Co. regaled nearly 500 persons employed in their manufactory at Bradford by giving them three fine fat sheep roasted whole, plenty of bread, and a large potion of good Wilthshire strong beer.

Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805.
Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805. Victoria Art Gallery

The debtors in our city gaol, five in number, were this morning liberated from confinement by the munificence of the sheriffs, Geo. Crook, and Geo. Lye, esqrs, who, from their private purse, settled the creditors’ claims, amounting to 80l.

Mrs Biggs was no radical in her political views, and she initially fought against the jubilee being used for charitable aims; she wanted to see grand and joyous celebrations, with people feasting well and toasting their king with a mug of ale or a glass of wine. Her plans were hijacked to a certain degree and she had to accept that money was put to other uses than celebrating on the day, but she lobbied – anonymously and successfully – for the continuation of her original aims. You can discover how in our book, A Georgian Heroine.

As some of our long-term readers will know, we also host a ‘sister-blog’, The Diaries of Fanny Chapman. Fanny was a middle-class spinster who lived in Bath through the late Georgian and into the Victorian eras, often in company with her aunts. Her diaries from 1807-1812 and 1837-1841 have survived and we were given permission to publish them; they are a wonderful first-hand resource.

Unfortunately, while Fanny heard the jubilee celebrations in Bath, and no doubt was told all about them by the family servants who took advantage of the impromptu holiday, she herself largely stayed indoors, only venturing out for a quick errand. Still, we thought it might be interesting to read her diary entries for the relevant days.

An Account of the Celebration of the Jubilee on the 25th October 1809

Tuesday, 24 October, 1809

A most beautiful day.  My Aunt was so unwell she did not get up till near dinner time.  Admiral and Mrs Phillip calld and sat some time.  He came up stairs.  They were both very friendly and kind.  I went to Mrs Vassall’s to ask if she intended to fulfill her engagement of dinner with us today.  She said she did.  Saw Mrs Horne with her.  I went and ordered a couple of chicken and then calld at my mother’s, but they were not at home.  Only Mrs Vassall and Betsey dined here.  Mr Wiltshire came in while we were at dinner, but did not stay long.  It raind fast in the evening and Mrs Vassall and Betsey went home in a Chair between eight and nine o’clock.  We went to bed early, but were disturbed after twelve o’clock by the ringing of bells and firing of guns to usher in the Jubilee, which is to take place tomorrow on the King’s entering the 50th year of his Reign.  My Aunt heard from Cooper!!!

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey
View of Bath by Edmund Garvey; Number 1 Royal Crescent

Wednesday, 25 October, 1809

A beautiful day.  The whole town was in motion early to see the Processions of the Corporate Volunteers and different Clubs to Church.  All the servants, except Kitty, went out before breakfast and did not return till after two o’clock.  Mrs Gibson calld (for the first time) and sat an hour here.  Miss Workman came in the morning, before we were up, to say she had got a room in the square to see the Procession, where she wishd us to come.  My Aunt P was not well enough to go, but tried to persuade me.  However, I had not the least inclination and was not sorry to be able to stay at home.  I was obliged to go to the Sidney Hotel before dinner to enquire if Mr Gale had heard any thing about the house he mentiond to my Aunt. He told me the proprietor of it was come to Bath and would call on my Aunt today or tomorrow. There was a constant noise of ringing of bells and firing guns the whole day and the bouncing of squibs and crackers in the evening.  I heard from my Uncle James to say all our shares, except one, were blanks and that one was only fifteen pounds.  It began to rain about ten o’clock and continued, I believe, most part of the night.

The Sydney Hotel, Bath
The Sydney Hotel, Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

(To discover more about Fanny Chapman and her diaries, follow the link at the bottom of this page.)

Sources not mentioned above:

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 26th October 1809

Map of Parson's Green, showing Peterborough House and its surrounding gardens.

Parson’s Green, Fulham: seclusion, secrets and novels

Parson’s Green in Fulham still has two green, open spaces in the heart of its residential area. Back in the eighteenth-century, Fulham was a pleasant rural village outside the bustle of London complete with farms and market gardens that supplied the capital with fruit and vegetables, and Parson’s Green was a hamlet within the manor of Fulham where several fine villas were located.

Parson's Green, Fulham by William Pengree Sherlock, early 19th century.
Parson’s Green, Fulham by William Pengree Sherlock, early 19th century. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Named after the village green and the parsonage where the rectors of St Anne’s, the Fulham parish church lived, it is perhaps best remembered today as the home of the novelist, Samuel Richardson.

Samuel Richardson's House at Parson's Green.
Samuel Richardson’s House at Parson’s Green. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Nearby was Peterborough House, a grand mansion set within large – and once immaculately designed – gardens. The house (originally called Brightwells, or Rightwells) was a large square building with a gallery around the rooftop, many large rooms and furnished with taste; rich frescos decorated the walls and a collection of fine paintings also hung there. Originally a fourteenth-century building, it had been remodelled and rebuilt in the early Stuart style.

Passing through several owners, eventually, it was inherited by Margaret (née Smith), wife of Thomas Carey, second son of Robert, Earl of Monmouth who refurbished the building and renamed it, Villa Carey. By descent, it passed to Charles, the celebrated 3rd Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, and it was under his watch that the house enjoyed its heyday. Alexander Pope was a frequent visitor and a musical academy was instituted by the earl’s second – but secret – wife, the singer, Anastasia Robinson. Although Anastasia and her mother discreetly lived nearby rather than under the earl’s roof, she presided at his side as mistress of the house during entertainments.

Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.
Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) by Charles Jervas (c.1675-1739). Burghley House Collections.

Peterborough House passed to the 4th Earl of Peterborough and after his death, his widow Robinaiana (Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s maternal aunt) leased it to Richard Heaviside, a rich Lambeth timber merchant who was climbing the social ladder.

Map of Parson's Green, showing Peterborough House and its surrounding gardens.
Map of Parson’s Green, showing Peterborough House and its surrounding gardens.

Although now fading into disrepair, the real beauty of Peterborough House, the impressive pleasure grounds which surrounded it, were still largely intact. By the 1780s, some of the land had been leased to market gardeners but there remained much of the former glory of this garden, a pleasant wilderness with shady cypress trees, inset with statues and fountains. Beyond the high brick walls on three sides of the mansion, market gardens dominated down to the riverbank while the front of the mansion faced the green with its picturesque pond. It was perfectly secluded and that was perfect for Heaviside’s nefarious activities. As we relate in our latest book, A Georgian Heroine, he abducted – for the second time! – a young girl who was a neighbour of his in Lambeth, Charlotte Williams and had her brought by boat to Peterborough House. You can discover more about Charlotte’s ordeal by clicking here.

Suffice to say, it was akin to the plot of Clarissa, one of Samuel Richardson’s novels, the irony in the situation was that Richardson had lived, and written many of his works, in a villa which stood close by Peterborough House in Parson’s Green.

View of Parson's Green, Fulham, 1795. The walls are those surrounding Peterborough House, around the time that Meyrick pulled down the original mansion.
View of Parson’s Green, Fulham, 1795. The walls are those surrounding Peterborough House, around the time that Meyrick pulled down the original mansion. © The British Library

In time, and with the house and estate in ruins (part of the house had been torn down) Heaviside sold Peterborough House to John Meyrick who razed what was still standing to the ground and had a new mansion constructed in its stead.

Peterborough House, Parson's Green, Fulham, after 1797.
Peterborough House, Parson’s Green, Fulham, after 1797.

The parsonage from which the hamlet took its name stood on the west side of the green until it was demolished around 1740 and replaced with two new houses. Writing of it in 1705, Bowack said, “the house in which the rectors of Fulham used to reside, is now very old, and much decayed. There is, adjoining to it, an old stonebuilding, which seems to be of about three hundred or four hundred years standing, and designed for religious use; in all probability, a chapel for the rectors and their domestics. Before the said house is a large common, which, within the memory of several ancient inhabitants now living, was used for a bowling-green”.

Cricket matches were also held on the green; two notable matches between teams from Fulham and Chelsea were contested there in 1731 and 1733.

A game of cricket, unknown artist after Francis Hayman, 18th century.
A game of cricket, unknown artist after Francis Hayman, 18th century. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

In later years, Maria Fitzherbert, George IV’s ‘clandestine’ wife lived in East End House on the east side of Parson’s Green

Fair at Parson's Green by Thomas Rowlandson.
Fair at Parson’s Green by Thomas Rowlandson. Sotheby’s

Sources:

Fulham, pp.344-424, The Environs of London: Volume 2, County of Middlesex. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1795

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, Pen and Sword, 2015

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, Joanne Major and Sarah Murden, Pen and Sword, 2017

Singleton, Henry; The Pastor's Fireside: The family of Sir Thomas Acland, 10th Bt, Being Read to by the Vicar of Silverton; National Trust, Killerton

Infamy, scandals and heroines in the Georgian era: read on to discover more…

This is a little extra blog as, for those who have not yet read our books, we would like to let you know of some money-saving offers across our titles.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835If you like eBooks, then Pen & Sword are offering An Infamous Mistress (in ePub and Kindle format) for just £4.99.

A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, 1763, Getty Museum (image via Wikimedia Commons)
A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, 1763, Getty Museum (image via Wikimedia Commons)

We are able to offer a limited amount of signed copies of A Right Royal Scandal for just £8 (including postage and packing) when ordered directly from us. This price is for delivery to UK mainland only. It usually retails at £19.99.

Please contact us for further details.

Berkeley Square, 1813.
Berkeley Square, 1813. © The Trustees of the British Museum

We’re not sure how long the bargain offers are going to be available for, so it’s a case of grabbing them while you can.

If you take advantage of any of these offers, we’d love to hear from our readers; you can contact us via this blog or find us on Twitter or Facebook. And, if you enjoyed reading, please do consider leaving a review online; it’s the best way you can thank an author.

Our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: the intriguing life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is now available. If you’re in the UK, Books etc are selling it at £11.28 (that’s 44% off the RRP) and with free P&P.

A Georgian Heroine, the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

Merry Christmas: Reviews, Guest Blogs and More

We’re now ending yet another year of blogging. It’s true, as you get older time goes faster. It feels like five minutes ago that we were wishing everyone a Happy 2017 and we’re now almost at the end of it. We’re taking our usual break until January to spend time with our families and to draw breath, but of course, we’ll  be back next year with even more stories from the Georgian era – we already have plenty in the pipeline.

We have just launched our third book, so if you’re still looking for that last-minute Christmas present or just a treat for yourself, then you may wish to check out A Georgian Heroine. There’s also a direct link on the right-hand side of the blog to all our books.

The bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man's world. A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

We are delighted with the first reviews of A Georgian Heroine. Regan Walker, author of Georgian, Regency and Medieval romances had this to say:

We authors try and cast our heroines as noble women who overcome great odds to lead significant lives and win the hero’s love. Though she never found true love, Charlotte was just such a woman. I could not recommend a more delightful heroine to you than Charlotte. The authors have done a thoroughly researched job of bringing her story to light in a fast-paced narrative. I recommend it!

You can read the full review on Regan’s website.

We’ve been guest blogging to promote A Georgian Heroine so, if you’d like to discover more about this truly amazing woman, the links you need are below.

Charlotte, as our Georgian Heroine preferred to be known, suffered a tortured existence at the hands of a man she should have been able to trust when she was in her late teens. On Naomi Clifford’s blog, we discuss Abduction and Rape in 18th Century London: The Multiple Misfortunes of Charlotte Williams.

Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa by Francis Hayman, Southampton City Art Gallery.
Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa by Francis Hayman, Southampton City Art Gallery.

Charlotte grew up in Lambeth on the banks of the River Thames and her close neighbour was the Georgian era businesswoman, Eleanor Coade, a lady we looked at in more detail in our post on Sue Wilkes’ site.

Coade Stone Factory, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, anonymous, 1790s.
Coade Stone Factory, Narrow Wall, Lambeth, anonymous, 1790s.

Finally, we headed over to Anna M. Thane’s website, Regency Explorer for a look at a daring scheme to end Napoleon Bonaparte’s life, The Plot of The Infernal Machine, which Charlotte had links to. You can find out more in The Lady is a Spy.

Hortense de Beauharnais - Rijksmuseum
Hortense de Beauharnais – Rijksmuseum

In other news, our first book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is now a bargain £4.99 in eBook format for a limited time (click here for more).

Before we leave you for the year,  we would like to say a huge ‘Thank You’, to all our lovely readers who have taken the time to read our stories and to comment on them and to wish you a very Happy Christmas. We’ve had some lovely comments from people so hopefully, we’re writing things that interest or intrigue you, our lovely readers. We must also say a massive ‘Thank You‘ to our guest writers who have provided us with yet more amazing stories from the Georgian era.

 

 

Eastern Promise: Mughal India and the East India Company

We never initially set out to research Mughal India and the East India Company (EIC) but, time and time again, the people we were looking at took us east. It all started with the eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s family. Grace had a brother and three male cousins who all ventured to India in different capacities with the EIC. Perhaps best known of these is Colonel John (Jack) Mordaunt, who has been captured for posterity in the middle of a cock match against Asaf-ud-daula, Nawab Wazir of Oudh. Mordaunt, a keen cock-fighter, had imported birds from Europe which he thought were superior to those of the Nawab’s.

Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany. The Tate.
Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match c.1784-6 by Johan Zoffany. The Tate.

And as well as her male cousins out in India, Grace also had two female cousins – sisters – who travelled to the country on an ultimately successful husband-hunting trip. The EIC was concerned about its officers taking Indian women as wives and adopting Mughal dress and habits. In an effort to stem this, they encouraged British girls and young women to embark on ships for an Indian adventure and to provide suitable marriage material.

A Sale of English Beauties in the East Indies. © The Trustees of the British Museum
A Sale of English Beauties in the East Indies. © The Trustees of the British Museum

You can find more on Grace and her relations, who travelled the globe, in An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

Our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, looks at the ancestors of the British royal family, specifically Anne Wellesley, her second husband Lord Charles Bentinck and their son, the Reverend Charles Cavendish Bentinck but, first, we examined Anne’s background. She was the daughter of Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington’s older brother) and Hyacinthe Gabrielle Rolland, a Parisian opera dancer whom the marquess fell in love with as a young man. Richard was posted to India as Governor-General but Hyacinthe Gabrielle, chronically afraid of the sea voyage, refused to accompany him, a decision which would ultimately lead to the break-up of their marriage.

A Cheetah Hunt in Lord Wellesley's Park at Barrackpore by Charles D'Oyley, 1802, British Library, India Collection.
A Cheetah Hunt in Lord Wellesley’s Park at Barrackpore by Charles D’Oyley, 1802, British Library, India Collection.

And so we come to our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. Charlotte, as our heroine preferred to be known, fell in love when she was only sixteen years of age with a young lad who left her behind when he sailed to India in search of adventure, subsequently joining the EIC as a junior officer and rising to become a general and a baronet. This man, Sir David Ochterlony, remained Charlotte’s one true love throughout all her many adventures and exploits. Towards the end of their lives, David and Charlotte once again reached out to each other, albeit by letter and from one side of the globe to the other. Ochterlony, like so many before him, had ‘gone native’, dressing in flowing Mughal robes and smoking a hookah pipe while sitting cross-legged on his diwan, watching dancing girls. He could be spotted each evening with his multiple Indian wives, each atop an elephant as they perambulated around Delhi. Did Charlotte dare to dream that the only man she had ever loved would return to England to claim her, in her dotage?

Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.
Major-General Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), Soldier by Arthur William Devis; National Galleries of Scotland.

If you’d like to discover more about Charlotte, all is revealed in our book. A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is out now in the UK (and coming soon worldwide) and can be found at Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later singlehandedly organising George III’s jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life upon her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady?

In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs’ continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

Featured image

Colonel Mordaunt and Nawab Asaf al-Daula of Oudh at a Cock Fight, Company School, Patna, circa 1840, after Richard Earlom’s mezzotint of Zoffany’s ‘Col. Mordaunt’s Cock Match’, via Sotheby’s website.

Cuper’s Gardens, Lambeth’s pleasure ground

Cuper’s Gardens were described as a ‘scene of low dissipation… noted for its fireworks, and the great resort of the profligate of both sexes’. Opened in the late 17th century, they were pleasure gardens (and later a tea garden) in Lambeth on the Thames shoreline and named after Abraham Boydell Cuper, the original proprietor of the land which he leased from Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel (Cuper was the earl’s gardener). In the early days, the site was also known as Cupid’s Gardens.

Last Monday in the Evening, a Gentleman dropt down dead at Cupid’s Gardens, just as he was going to drink a Glass of Wine, having the Glass in his Hand.

Stamford Mercury, 21st May 1724

The ‘Georgian Heroine’ of our latest book, Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, was born in the early 1760s and grew up in a house on Narrow Wall in Lambeth, close by Cuper’s Gardens, but this was after its days as a pleasure ground. Instead, Charlotte knew the land as a scene of industry, the once ornate grounds dominated by a vinegar and ‘mimicked wine’ factory owned by Mark Beaufoy who was a great friend to the Williams family. No doubt Charlotte heard the tales of the great entertainments which had taken place at Cuper’s Gardens, though.

Here are pleasant Walks and Places of great Report, particularly Cuper’s Garden, Spring-Garden, and Lambeth Wells, where they drink the purging Waters. Here, in the fine Season of the Year, a Multitude of young people from London divert themselves; and there is every Evening Musick, Dancing, &c.

The guests to the gardens even included royalty, for Frederick, Prince of Wales was known to occasionally frequent them. (Frederick, the heir to the throne, predeceased his father, King George II whom he was famously at loggerheads with.)

Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his sisters by Philippe Mercier; National Portrait Gallery, London.
Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his sisters by Philippe Mercier; National Portrait Gallery, London.

From 1738 until 1740 Cuper’s Gardens were owned by a man named Ephraim Evans who improved them by installing a bandstand from which he offered concerts in the evening; after his death his widow, Nem became the proprietor. Nem Evans was described as ‘a woman of discretion’ and ‘a well-looking comely person’ and she played the hostess behind the bar during the musical entertainments. Under her direction, the gardens continued their heyday, for a time at least.

We hear that at Cuper’s Gardens last Night, among several favourite Pieces of Musick, Mr Handell’s Fire Musick, with the Fireworks, as originally perform’d in the Opera of Atalanta, was received with great Applause by a numerous Audience.

London Daily Post, 10th July 1741

Map showing Cuper's Gardes, 1746. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Map showing Cuper’s Gardens, 1746. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

There is every Evening a very great Resort of Company at Cuper’s Gardens. The extraordinary Fireworks, which are almost every Night different, are allow’d to excel all that ever were before exhibited in this Kingdom.

Daily Advertiser, 3rd June 1743

View of the Savoy, Somerset House and the Water Entrance to Cuper's Garden (bottom right). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
View of the Savoy, Somerset House and the Water Entrance to Cuper’s Garden (bottom right). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

On Monday next will be opened CUPER-GARDENS, kept by the Widow Evans; where there are great Alterations and Decorations in an elegant manner, and hopes the Continuance of the Favours of her Friends and Acquaintance, who may depend upon good Entertainment of all sorts, with a good Band of Musick, and Fireworks, with great Improvements; and the Bowling Green is in good Order.

General Advertiser, 4th May 1744

On the 1st May 1749, the gardens opened for the summer season with a recreation of the temple and fireworks which had been seen at Green Park to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.

A Perspective View of the Building for the Fireworks in the Green Park, Taken from the Reservoir, 1749. Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection.
A Perspective View of the Building for the Fireworks in the Green Park, Taken from the Reservoir, 1749. Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection.

The extravagant fireworks came at something of a cost, however, and accidents did occur.

On Monday Morning, as four Men were preparing the Fire-works to be exhibited in the Evening at Cuper’s Gardens, the Powder by some Accident took fire, and two or three of the Men were much hurt by the Explosion.

Remembrancer, 2nd June 1750

The Licensing Act came into effect in 1752 and Nem Evans was refused a licence for Cuper’s Gardens on the grounds – which she disputed – that the gardens were no longer ‘respectable’. In the summer of 1753, she reopened them as a tea garden and held occasional private evening entertainments for subscribers.

I dined the other day with a lady of quality, who told me she was going that evening to see the ‘finest fireworks!’ at Marybone. I said fireworks was a very odd refreshment for this sultry weather; that, indeed, Cuper’s-gardens had been once famous for this summer entertainment; but then his fireworks were so well understood, and conducted with so superior an understanding, that they never made their appearance to the company till they had been well cooled, by being drawn through a long canal of water, with the same kind of refinement that the Eastern people smoke their tobacco through the same medium.”—Warburton to Hurd, July 9th, 1753.

By the time of Nem Evans’ death in July 1760, the gardens had closed for good. She was buried alongside her husband in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Newington and changes were soon afoot in her former pleasure ground.

It is said a new Street is going to be made from one End of Cuper’s Gardens to the other, and that each House will have a pretty Garden behind it.

St James’s Chronicle, 17th June 1761

Entrance to Cuper's Gardens, North Lambeth, c. 1750. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Entrance to Cuper’s Gardens, North Lambeth, c. 1750. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

They have for some time been cutting down the Trees in Cuper’s Gardens, in order to build a handsome Street upon that Spot.

Public Advertiser, 11th March 1762

In the 1740s, Mark Beaufoy had established a vinegar and ‘mimicked wines’ distillery near his three-storey house at Cuper’s Bridge Lambeth and, following the closure of the adjoining pleasure ground, he took on the lease, expanding his business.

Beaufoy's Distillery in Cuper's Gardens, c.1798
Beaufoy’s Distillery in Cuper’s Gardens, c.1798

There is a magnificence of business, in this ocean of sweets and sours, that cannot fail exciting the greatest admiration: whether we consider the number of vessels or their size. The boasted tun at Heydelberg does not surpass them. On first entering the yard, two rise before you, covered at the top with a thatched dome; between them is a circular turret, including a winding staircase, which brings you to their summits, which are above 24ft in diameter. One of these conservatories is full of sweet wine and contains 58,109 gallons; or 1,815 barrels of Winchester measure. Its superb associate is full of vinegar, to the amount of 56,799 gallons, or 1,774 barrels, of the same standard as the former.

Besides these, is an avenue of lesser vessels… After quitting this Brobdignagian scene, we pass to the acres covered with common barrels: we cannot diminish our ideas so suddenly, but at first we imagined we could quaff them off as easily as Gulliver did the little hogsheads of the kingdom of Lilliput.

Beaufoy's Vinegar Works, Cuper's Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.
Beaufoy’s Vinegar Works, Cuper’s Gardens, Lambeth by Charles Tomkins, c.1800.

In 1813, part of Cuper’s Gardens was bought for the construction of what is now Waterloo Bridge Road and the Beaufoys relocated to land off Walnut Tree Walk.

We’ll leave you with a little premonition of the future, which was displayed in Cuper’s Gardens.

Mr Moore’s undertaking to make carriages go without horses, having engrossed a large share of public attention, a Correspondent assures us, that something of the same nature was done several years ago by Mr Arthur, the comedian, who constructed a chariot, which went of itself several times up and down the Mall in St James’s Park; and that a person at Trowbridge also contrived a waggon to go without horses, which was shewn to many hundreds of people in Cuper’s-gardens, and for some little time afforded great satisfaction; but one of the springs breaking, the whole machine became disordered, and the mob at length broke it all to pieces.

Kentish Gazette, 12th April 1769

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs is available now in the UK and coming soon worldwide and is available from Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Featured image: View of Beaufoy’s Distillery, formerly Cuper’s Gardens; the site of the Waterloo Bridge Road; a large warehouse on the left with barrels piled up outside, 1809. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Sources not referenced above:

Will of Nem Evans, widow of Lambeth, PROB 11/857/434, National Archives

A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers, and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800: Eagan to Garrett, Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans, SIU Press, 1978

Le guide des etrangers: on le compagnon necessaire & instructif à l’etranger & au naturel du pays en faisant le tour des villes des Londres et de Westminstre. Joseph Pote, 1740

Handbook of London: past and present, Volume 1, Peter Cunningham, J. Murray, 1849

Beaufoys of Lambeth by David Thomas and Hugh Marks, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society

London: Being an Accurate History and Description of the British Metropolis and Its Neighbourhood, to Thirty Miles Extent, from an Actual Perambulation, Volume 4, David Hughson, 1807

Cuper’s Gardens, John Cresswell, Vauxhall History online archive

London; or, An abridgement of the celebrated Pennant’s description of the British capital and its environs, John Wallis, 1790

Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs: A Georgian Heroine

We’re celebrating the release of our third biography, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs which is out now in the UK (and coming soon worldwide) and can be found at Pen & Sword, Amazon and all good bookshops.

"A remarkable story, beautifully told." A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

It has been an immense pleasure to research Charlotte’s life even if, at times, she has frustrated us beyond measure. Her almost pathological desire to remain anonymous in her lifetime tested our abilities to the limit, but we rarely admit defeat and eventually, we managed to piece together Charlotte’s story. And what a story it is!

If we had written her life as a novel, we’d probably have been accused of being too far-fetched but – amazingly – Charlotte’s story is all true, in parts tragically so but she triumphed over her adversities, continually adapted to her circumstances and succeeded in the most audacious ways possible.

Three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust
Three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust. Charlotte came to the attention of the royal princesses.

We are also delighted to have finally given Charlotte ownership of her voice which, while it was heard during her lifetime across the country and in establishments ranging from the Houses of Parliament to royal palaces, was always heard anonymously, or at least so discreetly that the public at large were unaware of Charlotte’s identity. Because of this, she has been overlooked by history and her achievements remain largely unrecorded and, in some cases, wrongly ascribed to other women of her generation. Now we can finally put the record straight with the release of A Georgian Heroine.

 Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs lived an incredible life, one which proved that fact is often much stranger than fiction. As a young woman she endured a tortured existence at the hands of a male tormentor, but emerged from that to reinvent herself as a playwright and author; a political pamphleteer and a spy, working for the British Government and later singlehandedly organising George III’s jubilee celebrations. Trapped in France during the revolutionary years of 1792-95, she published an anonymous account of her adventures. However, was everything as it seemed? The extraordinary Mrs Biggs lived life upon her own terms in an age when it was a man’s world, using politicians as her mouthpiece in the Houses of Parliament and corresponding with the greatest men of the day. Throughout it all though, she held on to the ideal of her one youthful true love, a man who abandoned her to her fate and spent his entire adult life in India. Who was this amazing lady?

In A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, we delve into her life to reveal her accomplishments and lay bare Mrs Biggs’ continued re-invention of herself. This is the bizarre but true story of an astounding woman persevering in a man’s world.

Featured image: Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives. Charlotte lived in Bristol in later life.

Bude Haven by Joseph Stannard.

The Ringers of Launcells Tower

The Ringers of Launcells Tower; Frederick Smallfield. This painting was inspired by a poem called 'The Ringers of Launcells Tower' by Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow. The bell ringers who had rung the bells at the accession of George III in 1760, were still alive and able to ring the bells on his Golden Jubilee in 1810. The church of Launcells is midway between Stratton and Bude. As the painting was done 77 years after George III's Golden Jubilee, it is a reconstruction.
The Ringers of Launcells Tower; Frederick Smallfield; Royal Institution of Cornwall

We came across this piece of art whilst researching the heroine of our latest book, Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. The painting was inspired by a poem called ‘The Ringers of Launcells Tower’ that was written, some decades after the event, by Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow and which we thought we would share with you.

Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow in 1864, who wrote a poem called ‘The Ringers of Launcells Tower’.

The Ringers of Launcells

They rang at the Accession of George the Third and lived to ring again at the fiftieth anniversary of his reign.

They meet once more! That ancient band –

With furrowed cheek and failing hand, –

One peal today they fain must ring

The Jubilee of England’s King!

*************

They meet once more – but changed are now

The sinewy arm and laughing brow:

The strength that hail’d in former times

King George the third with lusty chimes!

*************

Yet proudly gaze on that lone tower!

No goodlier sight hath hall or bower, –

Meekly they strive – and closing day

Gilds with soft light their locks of gray!

*************

Hark! Proudly hark! With that true tone

They welcomed Him to Land and Throne,

So ere they die they fain would ring

The Jubilee of England’s King!

*************

Hearts of old Cornwall! Fare ye well,

Fast fade such scenes from field and dell,

How wilt thou lack, my own dear land,

Those trusty arms, that faithful band!

*************

Launcells is a rural hamlet between Stratton and Bude in Cornwall where, during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, there lived six bell ringers. The six men are identified as John Lyle (1736-1832), Richard Hayman (1739-1816), John Ham (1742-1825), Richard Venning (1744-?), Henry Cade and John Allen.

Stratton by Charles Henry Branscombe
Stratton by Charles Henry Branscombe; Bude-Stratton Town Council

John Lyle was the longest living member of the group and was born and bred in Launcells and remained there his entire life. He was reputed to have rung a merry peal for King George III’s coronation in 1760, then again for his golden Jubilee in 1810, then for the coronation of King George IV in 1821 and, as unlikely as it seems, also for the coronation of King William IV in 1831, just one year before he died at the ripe old age of 96. That was quite some achievement. Two others also lived long enough to join John Lyle in ringing the peals for George IV’s coronation, Richard Hayman and John Ham.

George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.
George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.

The only other member we managed to find out anything about was John Ham who began his working life as an apprentice cooper to the Lyle family in 1754 and who married Anna Maria Lisle in 1761 at the parish church in Launcells.

The painting was a reconstruction of the scene as Frederick Smallfield imagined it would have looked, depicting the six bell ringers ringing the bells as part of the celebrations for the golden jubilee of King George III. It was clearly important to Smallfield that he captured everything correctly so he studied bell ringers at his local church as well as visiting the church tower in Launcells.

Bude Haven by Joseph Stannard.
Bude Haven, Cornwall by Joseph Stannard; Newport Museum and Art Gallery

We know that great celebrations were held across the country to celebrate the jubilee of King George III in 1809 as it was our very own heroine who instigated them. References to this painting seem to confirm though that the bell ringing took place in 1810, i.e. at the end of King George III’s 50th year on the throne.

Three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs – cover reveal

We’re massively excited to reveal the cover for our next book A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs which is due to be published later this year, again by Pen & Sword Books. It is now available to pre-order via Pen & Swords Books or Amazon and all other bookshops.

Rachel or Charlotte as she preferred to be known, really has tested our detective skills as she spent her life ‘under the radar’ despite everything she actually achieved in life and remained something of an enigma.

Lambeth Palace and St Mary's Church with St Paul's by William Marlow
Lambeth Palace and St Mary’s Church with St Paul’s by William Marlow; Government Art Collection

This book really has been a long time in the writing, as every time we thought we had found out all there was to know about her, Charlotte threw us another snippet, as if from nowhere, and off we disappeared again down yet another rabbit hole.

Putney Bridge and Village from Fulham, London
Putney Bridge and Village from Fulham, London; Museum of London

We thought we would share with you a little about how we came across Charlotte and what a complete nightmare and joy she has proved to be. We have gone through so many emotions we can’t begin to describe whilst piecing together her life.

Briton Ferry, Glamorgan by Julius Caesar Ibbetson
Briton Ferry, Glamorgan by Julius Caesar Ibbetson; Tate

Whilst researching Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s life (for our first book, An Infamous Mistress) we came across Charlotte’s name in connection with the home of one of Grace’s relatives. Our first thought was that it was a vaguely interesting snippet of information and perhaps worth, at the very most, a paragraph in Grace’s book, but absolutely nothing more than that.

An Account of the Celebration of George III's Jubilee in 1809

We then came across Charlotte’s ‘Testament’, her version of events that took place during her teenage years. At this point we knew her full life story needed to be told – she would either be immensely proud or absolutely furious that we haven’t left her to rest in peace (probably the former, if we’re honest).

Covent Garden Theatre from Microcosm of London, courtesy of British Library
Covent Garden Theatre from Microcosm of London, courtesy of British Library

At first, we couldn’t decide whether her Testament was a work of fiction or a factual account of shocking events that took place during her teenage years. We debated for months about her, swaying from completely believing her account, to thinking it was mere fiction as it read so much like a tragic Samuel Richardson novel.

Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives
Hotwells and Rownham Ferry by William Williams; Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

I (Sarah) was less convinced than Jo that she was telling the truth, but the more we uncovered the more persuaded I became that the majority of it was true, too many of the facts checked out for it to be fiction.

House of Commons from Microcosm of London. Courtesy of the British Library
House of Commons from Microcosm of London. Courtesy of the British Library

So, with that one part of her life pieced together, in our usual detective fashion we simply had to find out more, where did she come from and what happened to her after this shocking ordeal? So off we went, desperate to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw.

The Conciergerie, Paris, by Henry Edridge,. Courtesy of The Yale Center for British Art
The Conciergerie, Paris, by Henry Edridge,. Courtesy of The Yale Center for British Art

What we discovered about her was far from anything we could ever have imagined. After a horrendous ordeal, she completely reinvented herself.

The York to London Coach at Bedale, c.1840; The British Postal Museum
The York to London Coach at Bedale by Anson Ambrose Martin; The British Postal Museum & Archive; c1840 (not quite Georgian)

We came across Professor Linda Colley’s book ‘Britons: Forging The Nation 1707-1837’ in which our heroine gets a mention. Colley describes her as:

an obscure, middle-class widow from the Welsh border’

From the Welsh borders – almost true. Obscure – well perhaps, she shunned the limelight, not that limelight was easy to achieve at that time for a woman. Middle class – probably. A widow – well, that’s another mystery which we’ll reveal in our book!

Rather than tell you more about the story itself we have included rather a lot of what appear to be random images, for which we offer no explanation, apart from to say that if you read the book they will make sense to you.

Louis XVI of France bids his farewell to the people of Paris, 1793. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Louis XVI of France bids his farewell to the people of Paris, 1793. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Charlotte was in fact, the instigator of our ‘All Things Georgian‘ blog as we needed to find somewhere to store pieces of information we had found about her, so we have been writing about events in Charlotte’s life in a variety of blogs for quite some time now as we’ve pieced together her life, these include:

Reverend William Dodd

‘Clarissa’ and ‘ Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson

Countess Leonor D’Oeynhausen (1750-1839)

Rolinda Sharples (1793-1838)

Helen Maria Williams

Arabella Williams – Le Petit Matelot

Robert Carpenter, Drury Lane actor

Rehab for 18th-century prostitutes – The Magdalen Hospital

The Dunston Pillar: celebrating the 50 year reign of King George III

Finally, to whet your appetite we’ll leave you with the back of the jacket.

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

Header image: The three eldest princesses by Thomas Gainsborough. Royal Collection Trust.

Chelsea from the Thames at Battersea Reach; Canaletto; National Trust, Blickling Hall

Countess Leonor D’Oeynhausen (1750-1839)

Marquesa_de_Alorna_

In a letter dated March 1812, the heroine of our latest book A Georgian Heroine provided us with yet another piece of tantalizing information to work with pertaining to a christening of a child, which ultimately led us to the Countess D’Oeynhausen. With much detective work and some assistance in trying to decipher the handwriting, we finally established who this lady was.

Leonor was also known as the Marquise of Alorna and upon her marriage, she became Countess D’Oeynhausen. Leonor was born in 1750 in Portugal. She spent most of her childhood and youth in a convent and lived in Vienna, the South of France and London for almost two decades.  While in Vienna, she was a friend of Maria Wilhelmine von Thun, attended Mozart’s concerts and was acquainted with the Counts Kaunitz and Zinzendorf. Whilst in Paris she socialized with the aristocracy and met people such as Madame de Stael and Madame Necker.  Then in London, she moved in the circles of refugee aristocrats fleeing Napoleon, she met the future Louis XVIII and Madame de Stael. She was a wide reader and a poet, and translated from Latin, German, Italian, English and French into Portuguese.

In 1778 she decided to marry Count Karl August von Oeynhausen (1739-1793), a German officer from the house of Shaumburg-Lippe on duty in the Portuguese army. The decision to marry a foreigner, who was also a Lutheran and was in a financially uncertain situation, was made against the will of her father but with the support of the queen,who presided over a public ceremony where Count Oeynhausen abjured the Protestant faith and was baptized having for godparents the queen and king themselves. She and Karl married a year later and moved to Oporto, where Oeynhausen was granted a military post of command until 1780.  In 1793 her husband was to die leaving her a widow with six children.

In 1802, for some unexplained reason, but one which was possibly connected to a secret society,  she left her native country and spent the years 1803 to 1814 in exile, firstly in Spain then in England. It was reputed that she had become involved in political activities against Napoleon Bonaparte but whether this was true or not we can only speculate. We know our heroine was also involved in politics and espionage, it seems feasible that this was their connection.

Ret. Mq. Alorna

Upon arriving in England (according to the London Land Tax records), she was living at Hans Place, Chelsea. If that name looks familiar it is because Jane Austen resided at no. 23 whenever she stayed in London. On Saturday, April 07, 1810, the London Morning Post newspaper lists Leonor as one of the attendees at The Marchioness of Stafford’s First Assembly, other attendees included the Prince of Wales, so it seems clear that she was mixing with the elite of society.

Frnt. Mq. Alorna

We also note from an entry dated Sunday 12th May 1811 in the Journal of Lady Glenbervie that the Countess and her three daughters had taken a property between Lydney Park in the Royal Forest of Dean, owned by the Bathurst family and Chepstow, which very conveniently for us would have been exactly where our heroine also had property, thus providing extra evidence that we had, in fact, found the right person.

Leonor returned to Portugal on the 1st of July 1814, after her brother’s death and then spent a few years trying to clear her late brother’s name after he had been charged with treason. She was also to become heavily involved in Lisbon’s intellectual society until her death on the 11th October 1839. It was not until after her death that two of her daughters Frederica and Henrietta had her work published which included poetry and translations. She was regarded by some as ‘the daughter of Enlightenment’.

Featured image: 

Chelsea from the Thames at Battersea Reach; Canaletto; National Trust, Blickling Hall