A chalk drawing dating to around 1782 by John Hoppner, whilst unproven, is reputed to depict the celebrated courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott. If there is a corresponding portrait it has yet to be discovered. There certainly does look to be a good similarity between the Gainsborough portraits of her and, if it is Grace, it dates from the time of her pregnancy with the reputed child of George, Prince of Wales (and the end of her relationship with her royal lover). The lady in the portrait is wearing a chemise à la reine, a diaphanous white muslin gown made popular in France by Queen Marie Antionette and in 1782 the latest fashion. Grace was one of the first women in London to appear dressed in one of these gowns, along with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire and the Prince’s former mistress, the actress and courtesan Mary Robinson (Perdita).
Hoppner was connected with the Court, having been encouraged to paint by George III and eventually becoming Principal Portrait Painter to the Prince of Wales in 1793 after the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Is it just possible that this chalk drawing is Grace, sitting for a portrait commissioned by the Prince and that nothing more than a preliminary sketch was produced following the rupture of their union? What do our readers think?
You can read more about Grace in our book, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, which is the product of many years of research into her life and which is available now in the UK, published by Pen and Sword Books. Containing much information that is new to Grace’s story, and some rarely seen illustrations and pictures too, our book is also a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, interspersed with the fascinating lives her family led across the globe. It is both the story of Grace’s life and her family history.
Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner in France during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris.
Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage-a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits.
The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the history of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men.
Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time.
This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.
The recent trial for crim. con. upon an action brought by Mr. F[awkener] against the honourable John Townshend, for criminal conversation with the plaintiff’s wife, is, at present, the topic of conversation in all the polite circles; but great pains having been taken to suppress the publication of the trial, the incidents of this illicit amour are not generally known. We have, however, come at a knowledge of the whole transaction, and will lay it candidly and fairly before our readers.
So began the article entitled ‘Histories of the téte-à-téte annexed; or Memoirs of the PERSEVERING LOVER, and the FALSE WIFE’ in the July 1786 edition of The Town and Country Magazine.
William Augustus Fawkener was the brother of Mrs Bouverie about whom we have written before. His wife was formerly Georgiana Anne Poyntz, daughter of William Poyntz of Midgham House in Berkshire and cousin to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Beautiful and clever, but with no great fortune, at the age of only twenty years she had been persuaded into marriage by her family to Fawkener, a man she did not particularly like. The marriage, at St George’s in Hanover Square, was conducted by her uncle, the Reverend Charles Poyntz. Sylvester Douglas, Lord Glenbervie later wrote of her, saying that Georgiana Anne had been “in a manner educated in Devonshire House, and continued to live principally in that society of easy manners after her marriage”. After only a year of marriage, while staying at Lord Melbourne’s house, Brocket Hall, the young Mrs Fawkener fell head over heels in love with the handsome Honourable John Townshend, second son to Field Marshal George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend.
Jack Townshend was an intimate friend of Charles James Fox and known as a man of wit and pleasure with elegant tastes; he was also a wicked mimic and could pen excellent verses. He was a regular guest at Devonshire House and the Duchess said of him in 1777 that “Jack Townshend is really a very amiable young man. He has great parts, though not such brilliant ones as Charles Fox’s, and I dare say he will make a very good figure hereafter – he is just twenty now, though he has the appearance of being older”. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was later accused of covering up the intrigues developing between her young cousin and her friend, Jack Townshend. Everyone but Mr Fawkener could see that Mr Townshend was taking ‘liberties’ with the young wife, and when William was roused to action, Georgiana Anne stoutly and boldly denied any wrongdoing, but in doing so she evinced so much partiality to Townshend and contempt for her husband that the pair separated, and Georgiana left her marital home. She must have run to her lover, for her husband had her watched and then when satisfied as to how the thing stood, challenged his rival to a duel. Meeting in Hyde Park, Fawkener fired first and missed; Townshend, conscious of having done wrong, refused to return his rival’s fire, instead, he discharged his pistol into the air.
Monday a duel was fought in Hyde Park between the Hon. John Townshend and William Faulkener, Esq; Clerk to the Privy Council. The gentlemen had some dispute at Ranelagh on Friday night, and they met with their seconds on Monday morning. Faulkener fired first, and missed, the bullet passing only thro’ the hat of Mr. Townshend; the latter then discharged his pistol in the air, and the affair terminated to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
Public Advertiser, 24th May 1786
Georgiana Anne had first run to Twickenham and then she stopped in St Alban’s at the house of her aunt, the Dowager Lady Spencer. John Townshend joined her there and they left Lady’s Spencer’s house to live, to all intents and purposes, as man and wife. The couple kept on the move, to an inn at Staines, then Godalming, Richmond and back to Staines, thence to Lymington before moving to Hampstead and then Chelsea before finally settling at Hereford. At the ensuing trial which began on the 12th July 1786 and at which the Duke of Devonshire was called as a witness by Mr Townshend, it was established that Mrs Fawkener often met with John Townshend when she rode out and the gentleman took ‘several liberties both in action and conversation, which a modest woman could only allow to her husband’; he had been seen leaving Georgiana Anne’s bedchamber in the morning after her separation from her husband. Fawkener was awarded £500 damages for the loss of his wife.
The Town and Country Magazine speculated that, should a full divorce be granted, John Townshend would make haste to marry his lady, and that is exactly what happened despite objections from his father who wrote:
I forgive your conduct towards the woman, I approve of your behaviour towards her husband in the field; but should you marry her, I can never more consider you as one of my family.
The couple married on the 10th April 1787 at Sunbury on Thames. Townshend, known as Lord John Townshend from 1787, stood as M.P. for Westminster and then for Knaresborough for many years. The couple had three children (their daughter Elizabeth married Captain Augustus Clifford, the illegitimate son of the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his mistress Lady Elizabeth Foster, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire’s rival) and seem to have lived out their long lives happily enough together. Lord John died in 1833 aged 76, and Lady Georgiana Anne Townshend lived to the great age of 94 years, dying in 1851.
As for William Augustus Fawkener, he too remarried and had two daughters by his second wife.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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’.
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 there and that is where she met her future husband.
If, as assumed, Charlotte was born 1774, 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. Does that mean that she was actually born earlier than previously thought, or did no-one check her age at 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.
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. Charlotte was to see her son be married by her husband to a Miss Catherine Downing in Barrowby church in 1825.
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.
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, but as to what name she would have been baptized under remains a mystery, if she were baptized at all!
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.
Overall, it would appear that Charlotte led a quiet and happy life and the mystery is now solved, so if you enjoyed this post you may be interested in the bizarre but true story of another Charlotte Williams.
View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake; British School; Government Art Collection
As we all know the ‘well to do’ women of the Georgian era were regarded as objects of beauty that simply swooned and fainted at the sight of a gallant gentleman. They wore stunningly beautiful clothes and shoes and spent hours on their hair and beauty regime. They paraded around Georgian London, Bath, Brighton etc. in their finery and partied into the early hours, but on the whole, they were regarded as fairly vacuous creatures.
STOP RIGHT THERE!
OK, so we’ve done the whole film thing, now let’s move on and dispense with that image. If we’re being totally honest that is, to a certain extent, the stereotypical image held of women from that period as, let’s face it, they had very few, if any ‘rights’ during that time. Only those in what was regarded as the lower class, worked, the remainder were kept in comfort by their spouses or parents if not married, they had no voting rights, rarely any disposable income of their own unless they had inherited money that was solely for their use and their husband could divorce them with minimal discomfort on their part.
Whilst women were maybe not able to publicly ‘have a voice’ in the world around them and how it worked it, appears from reading the newspapers of the day that actually they took more than a passing interest in the arts, science and politics. Many of the names we have become familiar with over the years did, in fact, take a more active role in politics than we had at first assumed with many of them engaged in gathering support for their chosen politician during elections using whatever methods were at their disposal.
One of the most famous election campaigns that took place was that of the 1784 Westminster election. If you thought politics and political campaigning today was vicious then take a look back to the Georgian era when things were far worse! We came across a book written October 1784 that provides a detailed account of all the events during the campaign – History of the Westminster Election from 1st April to the 17th May.
The Westminster election was of paramount importance as this was one of the key boroughs for two reasons – firstly every male homeowner could vote and secondly due to the number of voters it was equally important to both the Whig and Tory parties. There were two seats to be had and three candidates, so the battle was between Cecil Wray and Lord Hood, both Tory’s, and Charles Fox, Whig, therefore the candidates needed to use every weapon in their armoury to achieve success; none more so than Charles Fox. The battle then commenced.
The Duchess of Devonshire led the female canvassers accompanied by her sister Lady Harriet Duncannon, as she was titled at that point, later to become Lady Bessborough. The list of women involved in the election included Albinia, The Countess of Buckinghamshire, the Duchess of Portland, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s wife, Elizabeth née Linley, Lady Jersey, the Honourable Mrs Bouverie and the Scandalous Lady Worsley.
Others including Perdita aka Mrs Robinson, The White Crow, aka Maria Corbyn, The Bird of Paradise aka Gertrude Mahon, Lady Archer, Lady Carlisle, Mrs Crewe, Mrs Damer and the Miss Waldengraves, Lady Grosvenor and Mrs Armistead, the future Mrs Fox, so quite a little collection.
The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser of 6th April 1784 confirmed that the
‘Duchess of Devonshire along with Lord Derby & Lord Keppel are the firm of Mr Fox’s responsible committee.
This seems to imply that her role was a little more than just to ‘look pretty’; presumably, she was there to help to obtain votes however she could. It is reported that she canvassed every day and that she arranged for a thousand coalition medals to be struck, one of which she gave to every voter who agreed to support Fox.
Just over a week later The Bath Chronicle reported that
‘ It was observed of the Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Duncannon, while they were soliciting votes in favour of Mr Fox, on Saturday last, they were the most lovely portraits that ever appeared upon a canvas’.
Like most people we had heard the story that the Duchess secured votes for Charles Fox by offering kisses in exchange for their vote, but until now we had assumed this was simply a myth that has evolved over time due to the astounding number of caricatures of such a scene, but it does seem from this letter written by a certain Duchess to Fox that there was some truth in it*.
Yesterday I sent you three votes but went through much fatigue to procure them. It cost me ten kisses for every plumper. I’m afraid we are done up – I will see you at the porter shop and we will discuss ways and means’.
NB Clare Market is a filthy place – keep up your spirits. I have a borough – you know where.’
The was much printed in the newspapers about her ‘method’ and many derogatory comments made about morals. The reality, however, was that amongst the public she was a very popular figure, not only because of her looks but also because she did actually engage with the public and by all accounts was able to discuss eloquently and put forward information about what Fox stood for.
As a campaigner for Wray we have the much quieter and more demure Duchess of Rutland, needless to say, we don’t have a plethora of caricatures for her!
‘we can assure the public, that the beautiful and accomplished Duchess of Rutland does not drive about the streets and alleys, or otherwise act in a manner unbecoming of a lady of rank and delicacy’.
Despite the mocking and caricatures of these women, predominantly of the Duchess of Devonshire, and the vile abuse they apparently received from Wray’s supporters and the press, the only person who apparently clearly objected to her participation in the election was her mother who felt that she was being used by Fox, no-one else appeared to have any objection which is quite telling; it appears that even the Queen was a supporter of the Duchess of Devonshire:
‘Her majesty has all the morning prints at breakfast every day and the Princesses are permitted to read them. Her eye caught the indecency of that one which attacked the Duchess of Devonshire. She gave it to an attendant and said let that paper never more enter the palace doors. The story got round and the same orders were given everywhere else.’
There were even comments made that women’s participation in politics could result in them wanting to vote – shock horror, how times have changed!
The Duchess of Devonshire suffered greatly at the hands of the press, but she clearly had a passion for politics and felt that the country would benefit from Fox’s appointment. We are aware from The Cavendish Family by Francis Bickley, that she wrote to her mother advising her of how miserable she was, but that she had begun her involvement and that she would see it through to the end. Given that the odds were stacked against Fox winning the election from the beginning, it could be argued that a win from Fox was highly unlikely that without the help of these women!
15th May of 1784 The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser printed the following letter purporting to be from Lady Worsley to the Duchess of Devonshire, whether it was genuine or not we have no idea, but it is nevertheless interesting
Before the General Election in the year 1780, the name of Lady W____y stood fair and respectable; the gay world derives no entertainment from her follies. The forms of decency and decorum had not been neglected, and, therefore men of gallantry felt but little encouragement to make approaches. Sir Richard found not Cassio’s kisses on my lips, for neither Cassio nor Roderigo revelled there. But, Madam in the general Election of that day I acted like yourself – like a woman of life – a woman of spirit, but how unlike a politician! As you set your face against Sir Cecil Wray, I opposed my influence to that of Jervoise Clerk Jervoise. I coaxed, I canvassed; I made myself, in the language of Shakespear ‘base, common and popular’. I was charmed with the public attention I received from the men; they talked to me of irresistible graces; the pressed my fingers; they squeezed my hand and my pulse beat quicker; they touched my lips, and my blood ran riot; they pressed me in their arms and turned my brain. O, the joy! The rapture, the enchanting, thrilling, aching sensations, which beset my soul! They banished in an instant, all ideas of a cold, a formal education; they drove from my mind all decent forms which time and observation had copied there. Your Grace is apprized of the sequel. Before the canvas – Was your Grace strict? So was I. Was your Grace modest? So was I. And if after the canvas, your Grace should find a violent metamorphosis in your feelings; I am ready to confess – so did I.
I am, Madam
Did our favourite 18th-century lady, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, interest herself in politics? Please do subscribe to our blog to receive updates on the progress of our forthcoming book An Infamous Courtesan: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace DalrympleElliott in which we will reveal all.