ELOPEMENT IN HIGH LIFE – A young married Lady of rank, and highly distinguished in the fashionable circles by her personal attractions, absconded from the neighbourhood of Berkeley-square, a few days since, in order to throw herself into the arms of a noble gallant, the brother of an English Duke. The fair inconstant had shown a restless disposition for some time before her indiscreet departure, which took place by her going out immediately after breakfast, and walking to a street adjoining the New Road, where Lord ____ awaited her arrival in his gig, ascending which, she was instantly driven off to their amorous retreat, which the afflicted husband, Sir ____, has not yet been able to discover. Lady ____, either from hurry or singular design, went off without a single article of apparel besides the dress she wore. Her Ladyship is only in her 25th year, and in the full bloom of beauty; and the only palliation that can be offered for this indiscreet transfer of her charms, is, that “her mother did so before her!”
This salacious titbit of gossip was located in a provincial newspaper, the Bristol Mirror, on the 16th September 1815, on page 4.
Page 2 of the same issue had a refutation of the allegation, interestingly above one which related to the Duchess of Richmond’s ball held on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. The two claims, one spurious and one all too true, had something in common which would have been all too obvious to London high society. They both had a link to the Duke of Wellington.
LIES. – The statement of an elopement in high life, inserted in our fourth page (from a London paper) turns out to be UTTERLY FALSE. – The statement of a Female Conspiracy at Brussels, which has appeared in all the papers, and the object of which was said to be to make prisoners of the Duke of Wellington and his staff, at a ball given by the Duchess of Richmond, – is also a COMPLETE FICTION.
While the rumours of a conspiracy at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball might have been false, the former claim was, in fact, all too true. Let’s fill in the blanks on the names.
Lord ____ was Lord Charles Bentinck, younger brother of the 4th Duke of Portland. He was a widower with a young daughter (his first wife had been the former Miss Georgiana Seymour, daughter of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott and – reputedly – the Prince of Wales, later George IV).
The afflicted husband, Sir ____ was Sir William Abdy, Baronet, reckoned as the richest commoner in England but rumoured to be impotent and unable to satisfy his gregarious young wife. And what of that wife? Lady ___ was, therefore, Lady Anne Abdy, née Wellesley, the daughter of Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley and his Parisian wife, Hyacinthe Gabrielle née Rolland. Although Anne was not exactly doing what ‘her mother [had done] before her’, Hyacinthe Gabrielle had been Wellesley’s mistress for many years before their marriage, and all their children had been born illegitimate. Hyacinthe Gabrielle might, in 1815, have been a marchioness but popular gossip still remembered her reputation as a courtesan.
Anne was the niece of the great Duke of Wellington who had been at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels on the 15th June 1815, when the news that Napoleon Bonaparte was on the march had reached him. He later victoriously commanded the allied forces at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June where some of the officers, having not had time to change, fought in the clothes they had been attired in for the Duchess’ ball, and many young men never returned to waltz in a ballroom again.
Brussels was known to be sympathetic to Bonaparte; a story had spread that Bonaparte suggested to the ladies of Brussels that they should encourage the Duchess of Richmond to hold her ball. It was even rumoured that he had men hidden outside waiting for his arrival only for one of the ladies to give the plot away. These rumours were totally false, the duchess had actually applied to the Duke of Wellington himself, asking his permission to hold her ball as it was known that the French were drawing close to the Belgian capital city.
Charles and Anne’s elopement, just weeks after the great battle, caused a scandal which set the gossip’s tongues wagging; they had been discussing Wellington’s great victory, now instead they tattled about the marital indiscretions of his niece.
Our book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history, documents the elopement and the ensuing Criminal Conversation trial and divorce. It follows the family through to the next generation when Charles and Anne’s eldest son made a marriage which was equally scandalous, if for different reasons.
And why a Right Royal Scandal? Because this is a branch of the British royal family’s tree, ancestors of Queen Elizabeth II, one which has not been researched in-depth before.
Great Tom is the name of the bell which hangs in Tom Tower at Christ Church, one of the colleges at Oxford University. The following print was produced for Valentine’s Day in 1816, playing on the names, with two Oxford men fleeing underneath Great Tom away from a Christ Church Belle.
We were drawn to this print as it relates, in a loose way, to our book, A Right Royal Scandal. Valentine’s Day 1816 found Lord Charles Bentinck, a younger brother of the Duke of Portland, embroiled in a highly scandalous Criminal Conversation trial following his elopement the previous year with the wife of Sir William Abdy. The lady was the niece of the famed Duke of Wellington and the amorous couple had eloped just weeks after his triumph at the Battle of Waterloo. Tongues had not stopped wagging since!
A divorce and a swift remarriage followed and for a while, the Bentincks lived quietly and tried to let the scandal die down.
But it was the eldest son of Lord and Lady Charles Bentinck who we think of when we see the print above. Charley Cavendish Bentinck did not attend Christ Church, instead he studied at Merton from 1837, and he did not flee from his Belle: instead, he ran directly into her arms! In the village of Summertown, just outside Oxford and nestled against the Cumnor Hills, lived the Lambournes, a humble working-class family.
James Lambourne was a horse dealer known to settle disputes with his fists and his wife Sinnetta was a full-blooded gipsy who had left her family and peripatetic way of life upon her marriage. The couple had a daughter, named Sinnetta like her mother, who was a dark-haired beauty, and she captivated not only the aristocratic Charley but a rival too. Charley won her heart but it was a romance which had to be kept secret and one which had devastating consequences for the two star-crossed lovers.
Not a few Oxford men, of nine or ten years’ standing, could tell a tale of frantic passion for a Gipsy girl entertained by two young men at one time, one of them with ducal blood in his veins, who ultimately wooed and wedded his Gipsy love. So that it is no way impossible (the heirs to the dukedom being all unmarried, and unlikely to marry) that the ducal coronet of ____ may come to be worn by the son of a Gipsy mother
And why was it a right royal scandal? Because Charley Cavendish Bentinck is the great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. Our book looks at the Cavendish Bentinck and Wellesley families, at their ‘scandalous marriages’ and shows how our modern history, as it concerns the British royal family, could look very different indeed, if not for a young gipsy girl.
Reviews of A Right Royal Scandal
…Major and Murden keep their text entertaining and light throughout, making for an easy read of a subject that keeps you engrossed from start to finish. This book is brilliant for those who enjoy the scandals of historical television, with the added authenticity of historical fact. History of Royals, February 2017
Awesome real life biography that could be a scandalous historical romance novel. Loved it. NetGalley, reviewed by Nikkia Neil
The biography reads like a saucy Regency/Georgian novel with love affairs, mistresses, illegitimate offspring, elopements and unsuitable (and unhappy) marriages galore. A golden thread weaves through this colourful tapestry of indiscretions leading us from the Battle of Waterloo to the present day, from the Duke of Wellington’s niece to our very own Prince William… Buy it, read it, you won’t be disappointed – a true 5* gem of a book! Amazon, reviewed by Lally Brown
This really is a case of ‘You couldn’t make it up’. The plots may seem to come straight out of the world of Regency Romance but they are all true, and carefully annotated and verified by Major and Murden. Amazon review – reviewed by Nomester
As many of our readers are no doubt aware we’ve been busy bunnies finishing our second book A Right Royal Scandal and are now working on our third and so today, rather than hosting our own blog, we thought we’d let you know that we have, in the past few, days been guests on the blogs of Naomi Clifford and the ‘Georgian Gentleman’ which is hosted by Mike Rendell. We thought you might like to check our guest posts on their blogs – Elopement in High Life and Publish and be damned.
Both Naomi and Mike are Pen and Sword authors, Naomi already has her first book out, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn and Mike’s book, In Bed With the Georgians is due to be published on 30th of this month.
So, with that we would like to direct you over to our articles on both sites by following the links below and we really hope you enjoy them:
Naomi Clifford: In Elopement in High Life: Anne Wellesley and Lord Charles Bentinck we give a little taster on the details of their scandalous elopement in 1815, which is recounted in full in A Right Royal Scandal. Anne was the married niece of the Duke of Wellington, and she ran away with her lover just weeks after the Battle of Waterloo.
Georgian Gentleman: In Publish and be damned we take a look at the Regency courtesan Harriette Wilson and the dandy Beau Brummell, and their links with the people we have written about in A Right Royal Scandal.
Please do also take the time to have a look at the other wonderful articles to be found on Naomi and Mike’s sites while you’re there.
For today’s blog we are going to review a new book by Alice Marie Crossland, Wellington’s Dearest Georgy, which explores the life of Lady Georgiana Lennox and sheds new light on the Duke of Wellington’s character. Alice previously wrote a guest post for us about her new book which you can also read by clicking here.
Our first impression of Wellington’s Dearest Georgy is that it is, quite simply, a beautiful book. From the cover to the clear way the text is laid out inside, and the illuminated manuscripts similar to ones done by Georgy on the inside book flaps, it is clear that a lot of care to attention and detail has gone into this biography and expectations are therefore set high. We’re delighted to say that the book more than met them.
Lady Georgiana Lennox, known to her family as Georgy and to Wellington as his ‘dearest Georgy’, was a younger daughter of the 4th Duke of Richmond. Her mother, the Duchess of Richmond, is perhaps best known to history as the hostess of the famous ball held in Brussels on the 15th June 1815, where Wellington received notice that the French forces were advancing. The officers at the ball hurried away, some of them not even having time to change out of their dancing clothes before battle, and many never survived to enjoy another ball.
The 19 year old Georgy was present at this ball and witnessed history in the making. Wellington was a great friend to her family and the young Lennox children had grown up knowing the duke; Georgy in particular was to remain a great favourite of his and she somewhat hero-worshipped the great man. Through his affection for and correspondence with Georgy we are able to view Wellington in a much different light from that in which he is usually seen, a kindly and, at times, even a playful man, ever the gentleman but always ready to offer words of advice or comfort to his young friend. There is never any suggestion of impropriety in the relationship between Georgy and the duke, although Georgy, as a young woman, was clearly a little in love with him.
One of our favourite anecdotes in Wellington’s Dearest Georgy, which perfectly illustrates the playful side of the duke, is a game played by the guests at Wellington’s house in Cambray in the months following the Battle of Waterloo, possibly a game of Wellington’s invention and called ‘Riding the Coach’. The gentlemen, including an enthusiastic Wellington, harnessed themselves and dragged the squealing ladies down the corridors on rugs. On at least one occasion goats were involved! We shall say no more but leave you to discover the rest from Alice’s book…
Georgy’s life is documented in full, and what a long and adventurous life she led for she lived to a grand old age, marrying for love and becoming Baroness de Ros. But it was her ‘unique and special friendship’ with the duke, which endured for the whole of his life, which defined her life. Through Georgy we are able to see the duke not just as a military hero and strategist, but simply as a man.
Using a wealth of unpublished material, this beautifully illustrated book celebrates Georgiana’s and Wellington’s friendship which evolved over time. Together they shared scandals, family tragedies and celebrations as Britain left the excesses of the Regency period behind and embraced the Victorian age. Providing a fascinating insight into the personal life of this most public of figures, Georgy remained, until the end, Wellington’s ‘Dearest Georgy’.
We whole-heartedly recommend Wellington’s Dearest Georgy. It is a fascinating biography of an aristocratic lady but it is more than that. It is the story of one of the most interesting periods in our history told from a different perspective than that usually given and, therefore, one which sheds new light on the events and characters of the age.
We are delighted to welcome Alice Marie Crossland to our blog to talk about the story behind her new book, Wellington’s Dearest Georgy, which highlights a little seen side to the famous duke (we’ll also be reviewing Alice’s book in a later blog post, suffice to say for now that it’s one we highly recommend). To find out more, please visit Alice’s fantastic website or find her on Twitter. So, without further ado, over to Alice.
Wellington’s Dearest Georgy recounts the life and adventures of Lady Georgiana Lennox, daughter of the 4th Duke of Richmond, and the friendship that she cherished with the 1st Duke of Wellington. Georgy first met Wellington when he was known as Sir Arthur Wellesley, in 1806 when he had returned from India and was made Chief Secretary in Ireland. He was living close to the Lennox family as he was working with Georgy’s father who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Despite their twenty-six year age gap, they became close friends and Georgy developed her first teenage crush on Sir Arthur.
Georgy was one of fourteen children, a large and extremely unruly family. They were also plagued by money troubles, often struggling to keep up appearances as one of the greatest aristocratic families of the time. In an attempt to save money, the Lennox family went to live in Brussels in 1814 as living was cheap and a strong ex-pat community was flourishing there. Europe was at the time enjoying a short period of peace whilst Napoleon languished in exile on the Isle of Elba. Little did anyone know that the following year Brussels would play host to the most important and significant battles of the nineteenth century: the Battle of Waterloo. It was Georgy’s mother, the Duchess of Richmond, who threw the now legendary ball the night before the battle, where news that Napoleon had invaded was brought into the event by a messenger who had galloped through the night to reach Wellington. Georgy, one of the belles of the ball, had been privileged that evening to be given the seat of honour next to Wellington. As a sign of his affection for her, he now gave her a beautiful miniature of himself recently finished by the Belgian artist Simon-Jacques Rochard. It was a moment, and a gift, which Georgy would cherish for the rest of her life. As the news of war now spread throughout the partygoers, men dashed away in their dancing clothes, anxious to return to their regiments at the front. Many would never return over the course of the following days.
During the battle as the Allied forces clashed with the might of Napoleon’s army, Georgy and her sisters waited anxiously for news. They tended the wounded, bringing them cherry water to drink and making bandages for the many wounded men they saw returned to Brussels. After victory was declared on the third day, Georgy and her father the Duke of Richmond met with Wellington in the park near his house. Wellington was devastated at the number of lives it had taken to beat Napoleon, and he said to them ‘It is a dearly brought victory. We have lost so many fine fellows’. Despite his sadness, he had managed to secure a lasting peace for Europe, and France henceforth became Britain’s ally.
Wellington and Georgy remained friends for the rest of the Duke’s life, and afterwards, she carried with her the happy memories of her youth and the special position she had enjoyed in Wellington’s inner circle. Through her relationship with Wellington new aspects to his character are revealed which have not been explored in any previous biography of this great hero of his generation. Through the Duke’s letters to Georgy we see a more playful, fun and flirtatious man revealed, quite at odds with his reputation as a rather humourless disciplinarian. The Duke always referred to Georgy as ‘My Dearest Georgy’ in all his letters to her. He never once called her by her formal title, as was customary in all his correspondence with others; even family. This simple gesture shows the intimacy of their friendship, which stretched over some forty-six years.
Throughout her adult life Georgy, of course, had to contend with rumours that her friendship with the Duke was more, and certainly, if Wellington had not already been married things might have turned out differently. Yet Georgy did enjoy her own fair share of youthful love affairs, and her love of partying took her from Brussels to Paris, then Wellington’s headquarters in Cambrai, then London. She did not marry until she was twenty-nine, which was very late for the time, and when she did she married for love. Her chosen partner was William Fitzgerald de Ros, who later became Baron de Ros, the Premier Baron in England due to the fact that he held the oldest title in existence. Georgy and William had three children and lived between London and the family estate in Ireland. Wellington’s Dearest Georgy tracks the de Ros family through highs and lows, always retaining their friendship with the Duke, now an old man. Wellington was godfather to Georgy’s youngest daughter Blanche, and enjoyed having the family to stay regularly at his Hampshire estate at Stratfield Saye, and his seaside retreat at Walmer Castle. It was at Walmer where the Duke finally died on 14th September 1852 at the age of eighty-three, leaving Georgy bereft of a man she had loved and venerated for almost fifty years.
Credit for images used: Alice Achache.
‘Wellington’s Dearest Georgy: The Life & Loves of Lady Georgiana Lennox’
By Alice Marie Crossland
Published by: Unicorn Press
Released: 16th September 2016
Author Alice Marie Crossland specialised in 19th Century British Art at University College London. She worked with the Wellington family on the catalogue of portraits Wellington Portrayed, published in 2014. She has since worked at the National Gallery London and Royal Academy of Arts whilst pursuing her own research projects.
Our blog today is a little different as we have some news that we would like you, our readers, to be the first to hear about. We’re not going back in time as far as we usually do, in fact today we are going back only around a decade to the time when we first met via an online genealogy forum.
From discussing folk we had a common interest in online, we swapped email addresses and then phone numbers and lengthy conversations became the norm during which we delved deeper into the past. As our regular readers will no doubt be well aware, we’ve always been prone to getting a little side-tracked when something piques our interest (you only have to look at the different subjects we’ve covered on here!), and so it was that we became more than a little obsessed not with our own ancestors, but with a particular line of the British royal family’s tree.
These were the people we originally planned to write about. Then we discovered a connection to Grace Dalrymple Elliott and turned our attention briefly, or so we thought, towards her. Grace had other ideas. She barrelled into our lives like a steam-roller and she, and her family, took over, resulting in An Infamous Mistress,but we always planned to return to our original research which now forms a sequel to our first, although it can very much be read as a stand-alone book.
And so, we are delighted to announce that our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: two marriages that changed history, will be available from November in hardback and is now available to pre-order.
Almost two books in one, A Right Royal Scandal recounts the fascinating history of the irregular love matches contracted by two successive generations of the Cavendish-Bentinck family, ancestors of the British Royal Family. The first part of this intriguing book looks at the scandal that erupted in Regency London, just months after the battle of Waterloo, when the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck eloped with the Duke of Wellington’s married niece. A messy divorce and a swift marriage followed, complicated by an unseemly tug-of-war over Lord Charles’ infant daughter from his first union.
Over two decades later and while at Oxford University, Lord Charles’ eldest son, known to his family as Charley, fell in love with a beautiful gypsy girl, and secretly married her. He kept this union hidden from his family, in particular his uncle, William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland, upon whose patronage he relied. When his alliance was discovered, Charley was cast adrift by his family, with devastating consequences.
The book ends by showing how, if not for a young gypsy and her tragic life, the British monarchy would look very different today.
It’s been a very busy few months with the launch of An Infamous Mistress and finalizing A Right Royal Scandal, so we’re taking a ‘blog break’ now until the beginning of September when we will return with lots more blogs from the Georgian Era for you, so please join us again from the 1st September and have a wonderful summer.
On a surprisingly mild day in the October of 1821, in the second year of the reign of King George IV, a heavily pregnant woman sat herself down on the doorstep of a gentleman’s house in Gloucester Street, Queen Square in London’s fashionable Bloomsbury district; she felt suddenly faint and needed to rest. A crowd gathered around her and some people, assuming she was a poor beggar, threw halfpence into her lap. At this point, two officers from the Mendicity Society arrived and took her to their rooms and then conveyed her to the sitting Magistrates at Hatton Garden and attempted to have her charged her under the Vagrant Act.[i] It was discovered that she had been relieved three times before, and on each occasion had been passed back to Birmingham in the West Midlands, her home parish.
The lady then began her defence and told the officers an extraordinary and hard to believe account of her life up to that point.
She gave her name as Mary, otherwise Tom Jones. She had been born a soldier’s daughter and after her father was killed when she was still a child she had dressed herself in boy’s clothes and enlisted in the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment of Foot, serving seven years in their ranks as a drummer boy. It was certainly unusual but not unknown for women to enlist and live as a man; Hannah Snell famously did so in the eighteenth century. Maybe Mary’s father had served with the 47th and the soldiers had taken in the young orphan (if so she was) letting her live amongst them and looking after her? But eventually, it was discovered that she was a girl and discharged. We are given no clue about the years in which Mary saw service in the 47th, but it must have been at some period in the first fifteen years of the 1800s. During those years the 1st Battalion of the 47th saw action in South America and India and the 2nd Battalion were stationed in Ireland for five years before, in 1809, being sent to garrison Gibraltar and they then saw action from 1811 in the Peninsular War. It, therefore, seems possible that Mary spent her years as a drummer boy with the 2nd Battalion during their seven years of garrison duty in Ireland and Gibraltar, and possibly deliberately allowed her sex to be discovered rather than risk her young life on the battlefield.
Shortly afterwards, at the age of nineteen years, she married a soldier in the otherwise known as the 7th Hussars or the ‘Saucy Seventh’, a regiment which was ‘the embodiment of dash and panache for which every cavalry regiment strives’.[ii]
Mary followed her husband’s regiment and was present at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815 where their regimental Colonel, Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge, was commander of the entire British Cavalry force (Paget famously lost his leg towards the end of the Battle and was subsequently created the Marquess of Anglesey). In the mayhem of the day she claimed that she once again dressed herself in male clothing and fought, as a volunteer, by the side of her husband. The 7th Hussars were in the thick of the battle from 5pm (they were not used before that) and were charged more than a dozen times. Mary told the officers that she was wounded three times on that day, slashed across her nose by a sabre, stabbed by an enemy bayonet in her left leg and received a musket ball in her right. Her unnamed husband sadly lost his life on the battlefield.
Staggering from the field, Mary came across a Captain belonging to her husband’s regiment who was dreadfully wounded in his head. She had him removed to a surgeon and safety and he recovered. Mary told the officers of the Mendicity Society that the grateful Captain now lived in Sloane Street and allowed her a shilling a day in return for saving his life. For some time after that fateful day in 1815 she had also received ninepence a day from King George IV, but that allowance had been taken from her on account of her drunkenness.[iii]
But Mary had turned her life around once more and married for a second time, to a soldier in the Guards by whom she was now with child. She asserted that she had not been begging, that she had merely sat down as she was feeling faint and had not solicited the ha’pennies which had been thrown into her lap. The officers could not prove the charge against her and so Mary was discharged.
We thought it was a fascinating tale and tried to prove or disprove the facts within it. Sadly the newspaper report on this ‘Female Soldier’ had not given us much to go on and we were left not even knowing if her alias of ‘Tom Jones’ related to her maiden surname, the surname of one of her two husbands or a name she had chosen at random. She did not give her father’s rank in the 47th regiment of foot, nor that of either of her two husbands. We thought that probably the only person we could track down was the injured Captain of the 7th Hussars who allowed poor Mary a shilling a day.
Turning to the 1815 Army List we found the names of twelve men who were Captains in the regiment at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. We then checked the newspaper reports which appeared in the wake of the battle listing the men who were killed, wounded or missing. From those we found that three Captains in the 7th Hussars were wounded in the battle, Captains Thomas William Robbins, William Verner and Peter Augustus Heyliger. If Mary’s story was correct then her Captain had to be one of those three men. We dug a little deeper.
Captain Peter Augustus Heyliger had been particularly noted for his bravery on the day by the Duke of Wellington, but his injury consisted of being shot through the arm. The wounds suffered by Captain Thomas William Robbins did not seem to be specifically mentioned. We then turned our attention to Captain William Verner who was raised in rank to a Major after the battle.[iv]
Verner, a native of Armagh in Northern Ireland, had left behind some memoirs and had described his experiences on the day. He had indeed received a severe head wound, caused by a musket ball, and had been taken to the surgeon. Later moved to Brussels he developed a fever and his life was feared of. Reputedly the Duke of Wellington visited the badly wounded Captain and brusquely told him that “You are not nearly so bad as you think”. With that Verner was up and about within a month but instead of attributing his recovery to either Mary or to the Duke of Wellington, he instead said it was down to the recuperative powers of Guinness porter. Verner married in London on the 19th October 1819 (his wife was Harriet, daughter of Colonel Wingfield and granddaughter of the 3rd Viscount Powerscourt) and subsequently is mentioned as living at 86 Eaton Square, but if Mary’s story was correct he must be the man whose life she helped to preserve and who allowed her a shilling a day. William Verner eventually retired from the army as a Lieutenant-Colonel and subsequently became Sir William Verner. We have yet to find that he mentioned any part played in the battle by a young female soldier who was widowed on the field.
There was at least one wife of a soldier with the 7th Hussars on the battlefield that day: could she possibly be Mary? If so she seems a little less forward than her tale to the Mendicity officers would have us believe but perhaps, even if she did not fight, she did indeed assist the badly injured Captain William Verner from the field in his hour of need, earning his lasting gratitude and assistance if not his public thanks. From William Verner’s Memoirs:
About this time we heard a person in a rough voice cry out, “What is the matter with you, are you afraid?” Upon turning to see we found that this was addressed by Sergt. Major Edwards of Captain Fraser’s Troop, to his wife, who had accompanied him ever since our arrival in the country upon a small pony. As soon as she was discovered by Captain Fraser, he asked her husband if he intended his wife to go into action with us, and ordered her immediately to the Rear.
Caledonian Mercury, 6th July 1815
Stamford Mercury, 26th October 1821
Heroic Option: The Irish in the British Army by Desmond Bowen and Jean Bowen, 2005
Reminiscences of William Verner (1782-1871) 7th Hussars, 1965
The Waterloo Archive: Volume III: British Sources edited by Gareth Glover
Waterloo Letters by Major General H.T. Siborne, 1993
Wellington’s Doctors: The British Army Medical Services in the Napoleonic Wars by Martin Howard, 2002
WO 65. War Office: printed annual army lists, National Archives
UCL Bloomsbury Project – Bloomsbury Institutions – Society for the Suppression of Mendicity
The Queen’s Own Hussars Museum
Churchill – Home of the Verners (Craigavon Historical Society Vol. 6 No. 3)
[i] The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity (also known as the Mendicity Society) was founded in 1818 to attempt to prevent people begging on the London streets by offering them charity if they left the area immediately.
[ii] The newspaper report on Mary’s arrest said her husband was in the 7th Dragoon Guards: the 7th (the Princess Royal’s) Dragoon Guards did not, however, see action at Waterloo (see National Army Museum) but the 7th (the Queen’s Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars) did. We have therefore assumed the latter regiment was the one to which her husband belonged.
[iii] In an age when a soldier’s pay was nominally one shilling a day the allowance provided by the Captain seems generous. It is of course possible that the newspaper had got its facts a little wrong and Mary received a her allowances weekly rather than daily.
[iv] Vice Major Edward Hodge who was killed at Waterloo.
Header image: The Passage of the Bidassoa, 7th Queen’s Own Hussars 1813
The Battle of Waterloo was hard fought, and hard won by the Allied Forces. In the aftermath, as night fell, the men who were still able to answered the roll call of their names. The women travelling in the train of the army listened for news, desperately wanting to hear their loved ones listed as living.
One such woman was young Mrs Tolmie: daughter of a corporal in the Royal North British Dragoons (the Scots Greys), she had travelled with the army, working as a nurse in Portugal and tending to the sick and injured. One man, whose life she had saved, married her in between battles. That man was Adam Tolmie, either a trooper in the same regiment as her father by the time of Waterloo or an infantryman in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot. As the Scots Greys did not see action in Portugal during the Peninsular War, if Eliza was in Portugal and her father was serving in the Scots Greys, she had travelled independently: the Scots Greys were sent to Belgium following Napoléon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba in the February of 1815.
Later that year Eliza had followed her menfolk to Waterloo, a valiant effort as she was by this time heavily pregnant. The two men fought in the action at Quatre Bras on the 16th June, where her father, Corporal Woods, a veteran of the armed service, was thrown from his horse and trampled under the charge (but survived relatively unscathed) and her husband had his left shoulder ripped open by an enemy bayonet. Eliza spent the evening dressing her husband’s wound by the light of the campfire.
And so the army, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, progressed to the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815. As night fell on the battlefield Eliza, fearing she was both an orphan and a widow, took a lamp and set out to look for the two men, determined to bury them if they were dead or tend to them if they lived.
The majority of the wounded had already been taken off the field, but the dead still lay there. Eliza called out the names of her husband and father as she went, hoping for an answer in return. She passed a platoon of armed French grenadiers nestled in a hovel and forming a guard of honour to a dead general, but they let Eliza pass unmolested. Eliza searched throughout the night and by dawn had found the field where the Scottish regiments had fought, and where nearly 1,200 men had died. She began to recognise faces; finally a young drummer boy who had regained consciousness on the field told her that her husband and father had been on the front line, about 300m distant. Eliza hurried to the spot he pointed out.
There she found the body of her father who had been killed by shrapnel, but her husband, although he was badly injured, still clung to life. With the help of two other women she managed to move him to Mont Saint Jean where his wounds could be cleaned and bandaged and there, as a result of the stresses of the night, Eliza went into labour and gave birth to a daughter who was named Margaret. One version has the Duke of Wellington himself passing by shortly after the birth and, taking the babe in his arms, he kissed her forehead and told his staff officers, “Gentlemen, this is the child of Waterloo!”.
Adam Tolmie did recover, and he returned to his native Scotland shortly afterwards, having done with the army. The family settled first in Cockpen and then in Lasswade, Midlothian, where a further seven children were born to the couple (Jane 1817, Andrew 1819, James 1822, Eliza 1824, Isabella 1826, Mary Ann 1828 and William Edward in 1831).
On the 3rd June 1834, at Ceres in Fife, Margaret Tolmie (whose home parish was given as Lasswade) married James Thomson, a tailor from Ceres. Margaret, who was widowed between 1851 and 1861, followed in her mother’s footsteps and worked as a nurse, surviving in her old age on ‘private means’. By 1881 Margaret was living in Pathhead in Fife and, on the 22nd October 1901, she died there at 11 Commercial Street, aged 86 years, of old age and a fractured thigh. Her unmarried daughter Eliza, who had lived with her mother in her later years, had been present at the death.
The death certificate of Margaret Thomson, née Tolmie, names her parents as Adam Tolmie, a contractor, and his wife Eliza née Wood. Margaret’s death was reported as far away as New Zealand.
BORN ON THE FIELD OF WATERLOO.
Kirkcaldy has just lost one of its prideful possessions in the death of rare old Margaret Tolmie. She had the unique distinction of having been born on the famous field of Waterloo on the day following the historic battle, her mother having been a daughter of a corporal in the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys) and her father a trooper in the same regiment. With other “daughters of the regiment” Margaret’s mother sallied out from Brussels to seek for the living among the dead, though the wounded had already been removed. “Home they brought her warrior dead;” but “Meg’s” mother would not have it so. She searched and searched. And at last she found him, buried beneath a heap of dead. He still lived, and helped by two other women she bore him to a place of succour. But the excitement of the day overcame her, and on the red field of Waterloo the baby “Meg” was born. Truly, Kirkcaldy had cause to be proud of Margaret Tolmie.
(New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXVIII, issue 11848, 28th December 1901, page 2)
Kirkcaldy is some distance away from Pathhead – could this be a clue as to where her parents originated from? Or is it referencing her marriage at Ceres in Fife, where she lived for many years?
Researching Margaret’s life has, however, raised many questions for which we have not found the answers, and we are hoping that someone reading this might be able to fill in the gaps for us. Most sources do not name Margaret’s parents, merely giving the story of her birth. In some, Margaret’s mother is also a Margaret, saying that the daughter was named for the mother, but one source references some French tourists talking to Margaret in her old age, and in that her mother is named as Kate Maborlan, not Eliza Woods. As Eliza is named as her mother on the official record of her death, we have chosen to go with that, but it is possible that her mother did not survive the battlefield birth in 1815, and that Adam Tolmie swiftly remarried and Eliza is therefore Margaret’s stepmother.
And if anyone more experienced than us in tracing military records could locate either Adam Tolmie or Corporal Woods or Wood we would be delighted to hear from you. We have drawn a total blank in trying to find any mention at all which fits the known facts, although Woods is a very common name and Tolmie could easily have been mistranscribed for something else.
William Humbley, an army officer, gave his newborn son a name almost impossible to live up to – William Wellington Waterloo Humbley. Even more than that Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, stood as the child’s godfather. Little William Wellington Waterloo was born on the actual day of the battle, the 18th June 1815, at Sandgate in Kent according to information in the Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900, but was not baptized until nearly a year later.
William Wellington Waterloo, of Eynesbury (now part of St Neot’s but then a neighbouring village), was baptized on the 10th June 1816 at the parish church in Boxworth, Cambridgeshire. His father, William Humbley of the 95th Foot, had served in both the Peninsular War campaigns and at the Battle of Waterloo (the 95th was also known as the Rifle Brigade, made famous by Bernard Cornwell in his Sharpe novels).
William Humbley had been a First Lieutenant at the time of Waterloo, and a note against his name on the Waterloo Roll Call says:
This officer had been present at almost every battle and action in the Peninsular, and when the long-looked-for silver war medal was given, in 1848, he received one with thirteen clasps. Severely wounded at Waterloo. Attained the rank of lt.-col. unattached, 1851, and died 26th October 1857, at Eynesbury.
His severe wound in that battle had been caused by a musket ball in each shoulder, one of which stayed there till his dying day.
Four years after the birth of William Wellington Waterloo, William Humbley and his wife Mary had a daughter, and this child they named Vimiera Violetta Vittoria, Vimiera almost certainly for Vimiero in Portugal, and the battle there in 1808 in which the British, under General Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, defeated the French forces and halted their invasion of Portugal. William Humbley, in the 95th, would have taken part in that battle: Vittoria obviously commemorated the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Like her elder brother, Vimiera Violetta Vittoria was also baptized at Boxworth, on 11th August 1820, her father being named as a Captain of the Rifle Brigade of Tempsford in Bedfordshire. In later life, Vimiera used the name Victoria in place of Vittoria; she married Richard Rickett Wells, son of John Wells, a conveyancer from Eynesbury, in 1840.
Other battles that Captain William Humbley of the Rifle Brigade saw action in included Roliça, Corunna, Barossa, Salamanca, Nivelle, Orthes, and Toulouse; he was, in all, five times wounded severely in battle. He was placed on half-pay on Christmas Day 1818 and remained without employment until he was recalled to the army in 1854, at the age of 62 years, on the outbreak of the Crimean War.
William Wellington Waterloo Humbley grew up to marry, in 1857, Elizabeth Nelson Watson, an heiress from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, although her middle name was not given in honour of the naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson, but in a rather more mundane fashion was for her father, William Nelson Watson, Esquire.
HUMBLEY – WATSON. On the 27th ult., at S. George’s, Hanover square, London, Captain Wm. W. W. Humbley, late of the 9th Lancers, only son of Colonel Humbley, of Eynesbury, St. Neot’s, Huntingdonshire, to Elizabeth Nelson, only surviving daughter of the late Wm. Nelson Watson, of Gainsborough.
Sheffield Independent, 4th July 1857
Still, with Wellington, Waterloo and Nelson amongst the couple’s names, they were a fitting tribute to the military victories of the British army and navy of their time. The couple, who were later to divorce, continued the naming tradition with their son, William Wellesley Humbley, born in 1868.
So, the question remains, did William Wellington Waterloo Humbley live up to his name? It seems he did; perhaps with forenames such as those he had little choice but to follow his father into the British army, and Humbley junior achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (unattached), as his father had before him. Harts Army List of 1888 has this to say of Humbley junior:
Lt. Colonel W.W.W. Humbley served with the 9th Lancers in the Sutlej campaign in 1846, including the battle of Sobraon (Medal).
Lieutenant-Colonel William Wellington Waterloo Humbley lived, appropriately enough, at Waterloo Cottage in his birthplace of Eynesbury.
Perhaps we should also spare a thought for William Waterloo Wellington Rolleston Napoleon Buonaparte Guelph Saunders, born in 1867 at Sutton Courtenay in Berkshire, the son of William and Maria Saunders? Quite what his parents were thinking when they gave their infant son such a mouthful of a name, with both opposing sides of the famous battle covered, is anyone’s guess!
Journal of a Cavalry Officer: Including the Memorable Sikh Campaign of 1845-46 by William Wellington Waterloo Humbley, M.A., Trinity College, Cambridge; Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society; Captain, 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers.
Jackets of Green by Arthur Bryant.
The information that the Duke of Wellington stood godfather to William Wellington Waterloo Humbley is from the West Kent Guardian newspaper dated the 19th March 1842. Additional information on the battles at which William Humbley of the 95th was present is taken from the London Standard, 17th April 1844, and Vimiera’s wedding from the Cambridge Independent Press, 4th January 1840. She perhaps initially married without her father’s permission, with a second marriage to make the ceremony legal: her first marriage to RR Wells took place on 3rd January 1840 at St Peter Cornhill, where she was listed as 21 years of age, and on the 10th February 1840 the couple married once more, at St Andrew Holborn, with Vimeira this time listed as a minor.