A humorous scene at the regatta, 1775

The first Thames Regatta, 23rd June 1775

A proposal was made in April of 1775 to hold a Regatta or Water Ridotto on the Thames. It was scheduled to run on a day between the 20th and 24th June, weather dependent. An event to see and to be seen at although, according to the Morning Chronicle of 20th June 1775, the Duchess of Devonshire expressed concerns about ‘being mixed with the mob and asked the Duke why he couldn’t hire the Thames for the day’. True or not, said in jest or not, we’ve no idea!

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1787; Chatsworth House

Nonetheless, plans were made for the event and they went as follows:

Between twelve and thirteen hundred tickets were to be issued and the parties were to supply their own boat or barge and were to congregate under Westminster Bridge early evening.

The centre arch to be left open for the race boats manned by watermen, twelve of which, with rowers each were to start to fix-row against the tide to London Bridge and back again; the three boats which first clear the centre arch of Westminster bridge on their return to claim the prize which would be proportioned accordingly as they came in.

First prize was 10 guineas each, with coats and badges

Second prize seven guineas each, with coats and badges of inferior value

Third prize – five guineas each with coats and badges

Also, every successful waterman would be given an ensign to wear for one year on the Thames, with the word REGATTA, in gold characters inscribed and the figures 1,2, or 3 according to the order in which he arrived at the end of the race.

After the race, the whole procession in order would move on to Chelsea and land at the platform of Chelsea Hospital and from there proceed to the Rotunda at Ranelagh in which an excellent band of vocal and instrumental music would be ready to perform as the company arrived. Boats with musical performers would also be stationed at Westminster bridge and attend the procession on the Thames.

Westminster Bridge by Antonio Joli
Westminster Bridge by Antonio Joli; Parliamentary Art Collection

Applications had to be made to the manager of the Regatta for seats in the public barges which were being loaned for the event by city companies.

The rowers of the private barges were to be uniformly dressed and in such a manner as to accord with someone of the three marine colours, chosen by the marshals of the Regatta – the white, the blue or the red. The blue division was to take the four northern arches of Westminster bridge; the red division to take the four arches next to the Surrey shore and St George’s division, the two arches on each side of the centre.

Ticket for the Regatta Ball at Ranelagh, 1775. Francesco Bartolozzi.
Ticket for the Regatta Ball at Ranelagh, 1775. Francesco Bartolozzi. Yale Centre for British Art

The whole procession to move up the river, from Westminster bridge at seven o’clock in the evening with the marshal’s division rowing ahead about three minutes before the second division; and the same interval of times before the second and third divisions.

The company would embark, using the several sets of stairs adjacent to Westminster bridge, as well on the Lambeth side between five and six o’clock, ready to begin at seven o’clock. The marshal’s barge of twelve cars, carrying St George’s ensign (white field, with red cross) would be to the west of centre.

The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto; Compton Verney
The Interior of the Rotunda, Ranelagh, London; Canaletto; Compton Verney

A circular arrangement of tables, with proper intervals, would be placed around the Rotunda at Ranelagh on which supper would be prepared in the afternoon, and the doors were to be thrown open at eleven o’clock. The several recesses on the ground floor to serve as sideboards for the waiters and for a variety of refreshments.

A band of music consisting of one hundred and twenty vocal and instrumental performers would play in the centre of the rotunda during supper time. The garden of Ranelagh was to be lit up and a temporary bower erected and decorated around the canal for dancing. The platform of Chelsea hospital to be open for the great convenience of those disembarking.

The Royal Hospital, Chelsea by Daniel Turner
The Royal Hospital, Chelsea by Daniel Turner; Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies

The plan at this stage was that the event should take place on the 20th June, but a signal would be given by the committee to confirm the weather was suitable for it to go ahead. A red flag would be displayed at ten o’clock over the centre arch of Westminster bridge and the bells of St Margaret’s would ring from ten o’clock until one o’clock. Without such notification, it was to be understood that due to inclement weather it would not take place and would be postponed until the 21st of June. If the weather continued to be unsuitable then it would be postponed until the following day, i.e. 22nd June.

A humorous scene at the regatta, 1775
A humorous scene at the regatta, 1775. Lewis Walpole Library

Despite the inclement weather, the event took place on Friday 23rd June 1775, with the flag being finally raised at 10 o’clock and yes, despite the earlier report, the Duchess of Devonshire did attend.

 

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Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, c.1778. Formerly attributed to Johann Zoffany.

Dido Elizabeth Belle – A new perspective on her portrait

In our previous blog about the turban that Dido Elizabeth Belle was wearing in the portrait of her with her cousin, the Honourable Lady Elizabeth Murray, we mentioned that the portrait was reputed to have been painted by Johann Zoffany and we promised to give you an update with some new information, so here we go.

We now know more about the turban, courtesy of one of our lovely readers, Etienne Daly, who has been diligently researching Dido for some considerable years now.

The turban that Dido was wearing was not merely a fashion statement but was a gift to her from her father, Sir John Lindsay, so it was not part of a portrait ‘costume’ as had been assumed.

Sir John was invested as a Knight of the Bath in an extravagant ceremony in India on 11th March 1771.

A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King's ambassador to India. By Ian Sciacaluga.
A sketch of Sir John Lindsay KB, Prince Of Arcot (and father of Dido Elizabeth Belle), as he would have looked around the time of his investiture at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, India on 11th March 1771 when he was the King’s ambassador to India.

At that time he was presented with ‘a very rich dress of gold brocade, made after the European manner with the star upon the left breast,’ a ring with several titles engraved on it in Persian and a turban, all given by Nawab Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah. It is also understood that, at the same time, Sir  John was bestowed the title of Prince of Arcot by the ruling Nawab who was an ally of the East India Company.

Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Muhammad Ali Khan, Nawab of Arcot by Tilly Kettle, c.1772-1776. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

We think it seems a lovely gesture that she would wear it as a ‘nod’ to her father, in the only known portrait of her. 

Dido Elizabeth Belle

If you look closely at the turban you will notice that it sparkles; it was studded with gold and diamonds. You will also note the presence of a black ostrich feather at the back of the turban. Now, this was a fashion statement! It is also worth mentioning that the fashion of the day was to wear rouge and Dido was no exception to this.

Ostrich feathers were all the rage in the mid-1770s and Dido’s uncle, Viscount Stormont bought some back from Paris in 1774. Perhaps he gave one to Dido and following the fashion, she added it to the turban?

The preposterous head dress, or the featherd lady, 1776.
The preposterous headdress, or the featherd lady, 1776. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Viscount Stormont also presented one to the Duchess of Devonshire on his return, and being the fashion doyenne of the day, she sent the fashion world into a spin by adding it to her hat. This sparked the caricaturists into a frenzy, creating the most elaborate caricatures with the largest of plumes, as you can see above.

The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.
The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.

It has to be said that the Duchess of Devonshire was mocked mercilessly and according to the British Museum:

Lady Louisa Stuart wrote in her old age of “the outrageous zeal manifested against the first introduction of ostrich feathers as a headdress. This fashion was not attacked as fantastic or unbecoming or inconvenient or expensive, but as seriously wrong or immoral. The unfortunate feathers were insulted mobbed burned almost pelted…”. 

Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman
Massachusetts colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson by Edward Truman. Massachusetts Historical Society

When Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, dined with Lord Mansfield in 1779 he met Dido and recorded the following in his diary:

A black came in after dinner and sat with the ladies, and after coffee, walked with the company in the gardens, one of the young ladies having her arm within the other. She had a very high cap and her wool was much frizzled in her neck, but not enough to answer the large curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome nor genteel – pert enough.

We now move on to look at the artist of the portrait. It has long been reputed to have been painted by Johann (John) Zoffany, but this is now disputed, and to this day it remains ‘artist unknown’.

It is acknowledged that Zoffany went to Europe for several years, finally returning to England at some stage in 1779 the very year that the portrait was reputed to have been painted.

From the account of his life, John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810, it tells us that he remained in Coblenz well into the summer of 1779. Although not impossible, it certainly would have given him little time to have painted Dido on his return. So, if we discount Zoffany that leaves only a few other possible artists, two of whom we think were feasible. One would be Allan Ramsay’s protégé’s David Martin, who was known to the family as he painted the stunning portrait of Lord Mansfield.

William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin
William Murray (1705-1793), 1st Earl of Mansfield; David Martin; English Heritage, Kenwood

The slight difficulty we have with the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth Murray being painted by Martin is that again there is a question as to whether he was still living in England in 1779 or if he had returned to his native Scotland. Certainly, we know that in 1780 Martin was in Scotland when he was admitted to the Royal Company of Archers. Again, the dates are tight.

If it was definitively painted in 1779, then it is feasible that he could have at least had some input into the work, especially as Ramsay had severely injured his hand a few years previously which stopped him taking on any major projects.

The other difficulty we have with Martin is that Etienne has checked Lord Mansfield’s accounts. There is no record of Lord Mansfield having paid him for such a work and it seems unlikely that Martin would have painted it for no recompense. So, that leaves only the principal painter to the King (George III), Allan Ramsay, and although we don’t have the expertise to validate this, with the research we have done it would appear far more likely that it was painted by him. Why? Well, there are several reasons to suppose this.

Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756.
Allan Ramsay, self portrait c.1755-1756. National Galleries Scotland.

Firstly, we understand that the portrait was commissioned by Lord Mansfield, but there is no record in his accounts of him paying for any such portraiture.

Secondly, given the socially precarious position Dido held in Georgian society, then why not ‘keep it in the family’? Especially when you have an extremely distinguished portrait artist as an uncle to call upon, in the guise of none other than the Scottish portrait painter, Allan Ramsay who was married to Margaret Lindsay, the sister of Sir John Lindsay.

The Artist's Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 - 1782 by Allan Ramsay.
The Artist’s Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, c 1726 – 1782 by Allan Ramsay. National Galleries Scotland

Thirdly, despite an earlier family ‘falling out’ over Ramsay being not regarded as a suitable match for Sir John’s sister, we know that the family had been reconciled and Ramsay was, at this time, close to Dido’s extended family. Amongst his paintings, there was one, if not two portraits of Sir John Lindsay himself, so again, it would seem natural for him to paint his illegitimate daughter. Ramsay also named Lord Mansfield and Sir John Lindsay in his will, another sign of the close familial ties.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788) by Allan Ramsay
Captain Sir John Lindsay (1737-1788) by Allan Ramsay; Glasgow Museums

Finally, the posing of the subjects in the painting appears very relaxed and informal as if being painted by someone the girls knew well and were comfortable with.

Hopefully one day someone will be able to validate the artist and settle that unanswered question once and for all.

To see the portrait of Dido and Lady Elizabeth in situ, it would be well worth a visit to Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland or to the home, where she spent many of her years, Kenwood  House (Caenwood as it was formerly known as), Hampstead.

During our research into the life of Dido, we have also uncovered NEW information about Sir John Lindsay’s other illegitimate children. To find out more about them all follow the highlighted link.

Sources:

The History of the Royal Company of Archers: The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland by Sir James Balfour Paul

General Evening Post, September 14, 1771 – September 17, 1771

English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, by James Oldham

John Zoffany, R.A. his life and works: 1735-1810

A View of Chiswick House Gardens with the Bagnio and Domed Building Alleys; Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

How to mock 18th century nobility – The Gardener’s Calendar

83981001
The Caricaturers Stock in Trade Courtesy of the British Museum

‘A garden is a world and every tree and flower are men and women’

The Georgian newspapers loved nothing more than mocking the aristocracy, never more so than in this article we stumbled across in The Morning Herald, January 1781, entitled ‘Vegetable Kit-Cats’, otherwise known as ‘The Gardener’s Calendar’ which attributed trees and flowers to some of the great and the not so good of the day so we thought it would be fun to follow suit.

Firstly of course we have His Majesty, King George III  – The Royal Oak

studio of Allan Ramsay, oil on canvas, (1761-1762)
King George III, studio of Allan Ramsay, oil on canvas, (1761-1762) Courtesy of NPG
Tate; (c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The Oak tree, by Joseph Farrington Courtesy of Tate; (c) Tate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closely followed by The Queena Crown Imperial

studio of Allan Ramsay, oil on canvas, (1762)
studio of Allan Ramsay, oil on canvas, (1762) Courtesy of NPG
(c) National Trust, Dudmaston; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Roses, Tulips and Crown Imperial in a Vase with a Bird’s Nest by Jan van Os c1770 (c) National Trust, Dudmaston; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Prince of Wales, now we’re sure that there must be any number of flowers that spring to mind, but the Morning Herald has chosen Hearts Ease, otherwise known as ‘leap up and kiss me‘. We can’t imagine why!

by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782
by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

 

Heart's ease

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Princess Royal,  passion flower

Princess Royal, Charlotte
Charlotte, Princess Royal

passion flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prince William Henry, Sweet William

sweet william

by Sir Martin Archer Shee, oil on canvas, circa 1800
by Sir Martin Archer Shee, oil on canvas, circa 1800 Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duke of Richmond, Fleur de Lis

240px-3rd_Duke_of_Richmond

Fleur de Lis or Iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Coleraine, Coxcomb

George Hanger, 4th Lord Coleraine (1751-1824) c.1782-92 Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
George Hanger, 4th Lord Coleraine (1751-1824) c.1782-92
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

john-edwards-1795-folio-hand-col-botanical-print.-coxcomb-51490-p[ekm]416x554[ekm]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Egremont, Bachelor’s Button

by John Samuel Agar, published by T. Cadell & W. Davies, after John Wright, after Thomas Phillips, stipple engraving, published 16 April 1810
by John Samuel Agar, published by T. Cadell & W. Davies, after John Wright, after Thomas Phillips, stipple engraving, published 16 April 1810 Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Bachelors Buttons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duchess of Devonshire, London’s Pride

200px-Joshua_Reynolds_-_Georgiana,_Duchess_of_Devonshire c1775
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire c1775 Joshua Reynolds

WSY0041742_14562

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hon. Thomas Onslow, Dwarf Stock. His nickname at the time being ‘Tom Tit’ or dwarf

Hon Thomas Onslow Courtesy of the British Museum
Hon Thomas Onslow Courtesy of the British Museum

 

stock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord Kellie, Scarlet Lychnis

Thomas Erskine 6th Earl of Kellie 1780 Courtesy of the British Museum

 

curtis-1794-hand-col-botanical-print.-scarlet-lychnis-257-90139-p[ekm]416x554[ekm]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Far__n, Sensitive plant

Sensitive plant - mimosa

Miss Farren in the Character of Hermione. Winter's Tale Act V and A
Miss Farren in the Character of Hermione. Winter’s Tale Act. Courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Robinson, Princes Feather

110172075
Prince’s Feather or Kiss me over the garden gate (Polygonum orientale), Polygonaceae by Giovanni Antonio Bottione, watercolor, 1770-1781
Mary Darby (1758–1800), Mrs Thomas Robinson ('Perdita') by Thomas Gainsborough c.1781 (c) National Trust, Waddesdon Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mary Darby (1758–1800), Mrs Thomas Robinson (‘Perdita’) by Thomas Gainsborough c.1781
(c) National Trust, Waddesdon Manor; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Mahon, Drooping Lilly of the Valley

Gertrude Mahon, 1781 Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Gertrude Mahon, 1781 Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

Lily of the Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vestris, The Caper Tree

Vestris and Cholmondeley 1781
‘Regardez Moi’. Lord Cholmondeley and Vestris, 1781. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

220px-Illustration_Capparis_spinosa0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wonder whether you agree with their choice or perhaps had some others you feel could be added to that list. If you do please let us know the person and a suitable plant to match their personality. The list of possible candidates from that period must be endless!

 

Header image: A View of Chiswick House Gardens with the Bagnio and Domed Building Alleys; Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

 

Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

Does this chalk drawing depict Grace Dalrymple Elliott?

Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.
Unidentified lady, thought to be Grace Dalrymple Elliott by John Hoppner, British Museum.

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).

Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as 'Perdita' by John Hoppner, c.1782. (c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Mrs Mary Robinson (1758–1800), as ‘Perdita’ by John Hoppner, c.1782.
(c) Chawton House Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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?

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of the Frick, New York.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Courtesy of the Frick, New York.

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.

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

 

Sources:

British Museum

 

The Persevering Lover and the False Wife, 1786

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.

Portrait of Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend nee Poyntz, daughter of William Poyntz of Midgham, Berkshire by George Romney
Portrait of Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend née Poyntz, daughter of William Poyntz of Midgham, Berkshire by George Romney (via Christie’s)

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.

Brocket Hall, 1795 (© British Museum)
Brocket Hall, 1795
(© British Museum)

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.

Lord John Townshend by Joshua Reynolds (via Wikimedia Commons)
Lord John Townshend by Joshua Reynolds
(Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend, pencil drawing c.1790 (Wikimedia Commons)
Georgiana Anne, Lady Townshend, pencil drawing c.1790
(Wikimedia Commons)

As for William Augustus Fawkener, he too remarried and had two daughters by his second wife.

Sources used not mentioned above:

The Devonshire House Circle by Hugh Stokes, 1917

Lewis Walpole Library

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, 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’.

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 an 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 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?

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.  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!

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

Overall, it would appear that Charlotte led a quiet and happy life and the mystery is now solved.

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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.

 

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

Women in 18th Century Politics – 1784 Election

A Borough secur'd or Reynards resource: a caricature featuring the Duchess of Devonshire and Charles James Fox
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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.

The Duchess of Devonshire and Charles James Fox
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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.  

A meeting of the female canvassers in Covent Garden
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library

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 by Joshua Reynolds.
The Duchess of Devonshire by Joshua Reynolds.

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.

Lady Worsley by Joshua Reynolds
Lady Worsley, Joshua Reynolds

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.

Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.
Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe. Print after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

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.

NPG D9540; 'A coalition medal struck in brass' (Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford; Charles James Fox) by James Sayers, published by Edward Hedges
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

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*.

‘Dear Charles

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’.

Yours

D_____e House

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’.

Procession to the Hustings after a successful canvass.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Duncannon and possibly Mrs Crewe

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!

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. National Portrait Gallery.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. National Portrait Gallery.

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!

Election te^te-a`-te^te
1784 Election Tete a Tete

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

Madam

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

Dorothea W____y

Did our favourite 18th-century lady, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, interest herself in politics?  Discover more in An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott which reveals all.

 

* History of the Westminster Election, 1784